The bus pulled up to the stop just outside of the train station. The sign hanging over the entrance had no words written on it but the gold dragon logo told them all they needed to know about what route the train would take. They got off the bus and went inside to wait on the platform.
Given the time of day, it was strange to see the platform empty. Not a single person was waiting there, not even any of the uniformed transit enforcers. Hana and Dionne exchanged a glance, reflexively grasping at the pendants they still wore beneath their school uniforms.
“I’m getting a weird feeling about this,” Hana commented.
“Me, too,” Dionne added.
“Do we want to look around or get out of here?”
“Personally? I vote for running away, but if there’s danger here we should take care of it.”
Hana sighed. “Then we should find a spot to change that isn’t monitored by security cameras.”
It took a few minutes to find such a spot. Hana Dawson and Dionne Archer once again assumed their sehashi identities as Pyre and Archer. Together, they went back out to the platform to take a look around.
“Nothing,” Pyre grumped.
“I don’t get it,” Archer said, leaning on one of the support pillars. “This feels bad but I can’t see anything.”
A deep laugh echoed around the platform, jerking both girls upright.
“Poor little sehashi,” the voice said, coming from everywhere at once. “So confused and so lost!”
“Where are you?” Pyre shouted.
“More to the point, who are you?” Archer demanded.
“You haven’t earned the privilege of knowing my name.” The shadows near the ceiling moved and then a woman landed in front of them.
She was taller than Pyre and Archer by a couple inches at least. Her long hair hung to her knees and was two different shades of green. The hair in front was darker than that in the back. The navy of her top and Capri-style bottoms was identical to the shade Pyre and Archer were wearing. The woman’s legs were wrapped in blue and purple cloth and ended in clawed feet, suggesting a reptilian species, as did her small wings and long tail. In her gloved hands, she carried a blue staff topped by a wickedly hooked silver blade. Even at the distance they were standing from her, they could see the etching along the edges of the blade. She tucked her wings in and planted the bottom of the staff on the ground beside her.
Pyre and Archer each took a step back. “Let me guess, you’re the new threat we have to deal with.”
“That depends on what you do next,” she replied. “Hand over what you stole from Vulturia and walk away. You won’t be harmed if you do. Persist in this and you will suffer the consequences.”
“What will you do with that stuff?” Archer asked.
“This is none of your concern.”
“Actually, it is. If we’re going to make an informed decision, we need to have more information.”
“That is a private matter.”
“If it was so private, then why was it so easy to get a hold of?” Archer challenged. “You should know that we’ve already decoded part of those documents and it won’t be long before we finish the job.”
One of the dragon woman’s green eyebrows arched. “Is that so?”
“Do I look like I’m lying to you?”
She narrowed her solid green eyes. “Those documents will allow us to finish Vulturia’s work. She believed she knew the location of one of the five keys. She was killed before it could be confirmed. We were sent here to do so.”
“And if one of those keys is here?”
“We will take it and leave in search of the others.”
“So, if I understand correctly, you expect us to let you walk away with one of the keys that will help you unlock the cage the Ssu-Ling are trapped inside?” Archer asked and the woman nodded. “You must be out of your mind!”
“I advise you to consider your options carefully. Is this worth your life?”
“If the Ssu-Ling are ever freed, our lives won’t be safe.”
“You’ll forgive us for turning down your oh so generous offer,” Pyre added.
The dragon shrugged, her small wings opening. “I was prepared to offer you and this pathetic hole in the ground some degree of immunity when our Lords are free, but I see now I was being too generous. You give me no choice but to kill you and take what I want.”
“Go ahead, but you’re going to have a hard time finding them.”
“Rest assured, we will do so eventually.”
“Elysium Valley is a large place,” Archer said. “How do you propose to search it?”
“You know so little about the Lords of Chaos. We can track the things which belong to us.”
“So…it gives off a smell or something?” Pyre asked.
The dragon swung her weapon forward, the sharp blade mere inches from Pyre’s throat. “This conversation bores me.”
Pyre jumped back, hitting a pillar. “So are we going to fight now or are you just going to glare and shove a pointy stick in our faces?”
A sinister grin spread across her face. “My pointy stick as you call it is the least of your problems. Fierce Dragon Illuminate!”
Flames erupted from the ground around Pyre, coiling around her like a dragon. Smoke appeared where it made contact with her skin. Pyre screamed in pain.
“Golden Arrow Flash!” Archer shouted. The points of yellow light hit the dragon square in the chest but it had no visible effect.
The fire around Pyre dissipated and she slumped to the ground. There were angry red welts on her skin.
“You defeated Vulturia’s cell with abilities as weak as that?” She sneered. “Pathetic.”
“We’re just getting warmed up. Blazing Arrow Barrage!”
“Phoenix Fire Ignite!” Pyre added, pulling herself up into a crouching position.
The two blasts of fiery energy merged, but the dragon blocked it with her weapon before they could get close to her. “An admirable try, but not good enough. Divine Punishment!”
Pyre and Archer got out of the way as a pillar of light formed where they’d been standing, scattering in opposite directions. “Blazing Arrow Barrage!” Archer shouted again, managing to hit the dragon’s tail this time.
She whirled to face Archer. “An interesting strategy-“
“Phoenix Fire Ignite!” Pyre shouted, attacking her from behind.
She turned slightly to face Pyre with her weapon still pointed at Archer. “I suppose you feel clever at putting me in this position. Very well. Enjoy your little victory while you can as it will be short lived.” She walked away, vanishing after a few steps.
Archer ran to Pyre’s side. “Are you ok?”
“Fine, I guess,” Pyre replied, wincing. “These uniforms protect better than our old ones did.”
“Even so, that looked like it hurt.”
Archer helped Pyre to her feet. “Do you want to keep going to the library or do you want to call it a day?”
“I’d like to just get home,” Pyre admitted. “I think we learned more from that dragon lady than we would have from any book we could get our hands on. Nice bluffing by the way.”
“Thanks. I’m surprised she bought it. Come on. Let’s get you home.”
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