“H-hello…” I stared out through the smoke, slightly dazed. “Help…”
My voice was weak and hoarse from coughing so much. The fire was spreading over the nearby bushes and trees, creating a smokescreen of sorts. I was hacking up, my head feeling dizzy. I remained stuck in that spot, completely drained, unable to move forward. Brooke laid at my feet, still unconscious. I couldn’t even check her pulse to see if she was alive. If I did, and I didn’t get a pulse, I knew whatever sanity I had left would be gone.
“Help…” I called again, only a little louder this time.
There were shadows in the smoke. Some of them looked like people. Others looked like monsters. I could hear voices, but they sounded muffled. I didn’t think smoke could muffle hearing. It never occurred to me that after that explosion, it was my own ears that were not processing sound properly.
“Get them!” I heard a voice that sounded female.
“Clyburn! Don’t come out… run!” Was that Ashton’s voice?
I heard shouting, screaming, and fighting. There was a fireball that erupted through the darkness of the smoke. My eyes widened, but I still could only stare in a daze. The last few moments that I had seen Mia kept replaying over and over again in my mind. I saw her body as it was consumed in fire. She was… pushed out of the trolley, right? That meant, she had to be around here somewhere, right? My eyes wandered around the ground, but it was getting harder and harder to see as the fire grew nearer.
A dark shape was starting to emerge from the smoke. It was moving closer and closer. Was it a person?
“H-help…” I swallowed, trying to force moisture into my mouth that simply wasn’t there.
Meanwhile, the shape was getting closer and closer, I reached out towards it. It was my salvation. A girl I didn’t recognize stepped out of the smoke. She had something wrapped around her face. That must be keeping the smoke out of her lungs. She looked older, perhaps an upperclassman. When her eyes locked on mine, she froze for a moment. She appeared to be scared to see me.
“Y-you did live…” Her words didn’t sound happy.
“B-Brooke… she…” I looked down at the woman at my feet and then looked behind me. “And Mia…”
“T-this is a good thing. If I bring you to Miss Monic… she’ll reward me, right?” The girl said, almost to herself.
“Miss Monic?” I could only stare, my brain the equivalent of mush.
“They made me walk in here! Okay? You should have run away! Or better yet, just died! I don’t want to do this!”
“Please… help…” I said, falling to my knees, putting my hands on Brooke. “Sh-she’s hurt.”
The girl’s eyes widened, and then she took a step back. But after a moment, she raised her hand. I noticed that her hand had a glove on that had a magic rune scripted on the palm. It wasn’t unlike the ones that Miss Monic had used on me.
“The WRA is making us! The women who fight back…” Her eyes widened in fear. “I’m sorry… I don’t want to hurt anyone, but if I help you, they’ll hurt me too…”
I could only stare up at her, not able to answer. Her eyes grew more intense, and a moment later she lifted her hand. The fire started to form. I could only watch blankly, my brain not wanting to function. My brain was too afraid to function.
“I’m sorry… although there isn’t a lot of air and the spells a little harder to invoke, it’s very hot, so…” She spoke again, closing her eyes. “You should burn up quickly. Just die!”
Just as the fireball started to form, there was a thump. I watched as the woman collapsed like a heap. There was a bit of a look in her eyes as if she was thankful. Someone grabbed my arm and tugged, but I barely could acknowledged it. Instead, I was focused on a new form emerging from the smoke.
“Clyburn, we have to go, now! More upperclassmen are coming, a lot of people are still lost and confused, but once people start taking sides there is no telling how bad things will get.”
“Ash, Rigor…” The words came out of my mouth, as I looked up at her, recognition slowly forming in my brain.
It was Brianna who emerged from the smoke where the upperclassman was standing previously. The left side of her face was a mess.That’s why it took me a moment to realize who she was. There was a lot of blood. She also had various burn marks. As for her left eye, it was completely gone! She had a pained look, but her eyes locked on me.
“They took them,” Brianna said, her teeth clenched.
“M-mia?” I forced out, looking to the person holding my arm.
That person was Syph. She looked away, refusing to meet my eyes. Her arm was hanging uselessly from her side. With her one working arm, she was trying to pull me up, but in my position, I wasn’t moving and was too heavy for her to move in her current state.
“We need to go…” Syph’s voice sounded as raw as mine.
These girls had been closer to the explosion than me, yet they seemed to have recovered better. At least, what they were saying started to make sense. I couldn’t help but think how strong they were. We needed to leave. I couldn’t stay in the smoke. In fact, some of the fire was spreading closer and it was getting hotter. I silently grabbed Brooke and picked her up in my arms. I gave the girls a nod. Syph seemed surprised, but she didn’t hesitate to start moving.
My mind still had a kind of floaty feeling as if I was in a dream, but as we worked our way out of the smoke, I felt it easier to focus. I had to concentrate on what I could. My bodyguards were all injured. I had to get them somewhere safe where we could heal and rest. I probably had a concussion. Given how my brain was working, that seemed like a given. Mia was gone. No, that hurt too much. Think about what you can handle.
Brooke was unconscious in my arms. She was still warm to the touch, and she moved slightly with a whimper when I had picked her up. She was alive. Syph had a broken and useless arm. Magic could fix that. Brianna lost an eye. I didn’t think magic could fix that. However, both women would still be alive. As for Lyra, Ash, Rigor, and Trey… they were all twice the distance from the explosion than me. I was knocked down, and hit my head, but they likely got much less of the blow. However, it sounded like they were attacked and captured. Lyra should be okay. If Ashton is forced to reveal her sex, she should be okay. As for Rigor and Trey, hopefully, their punishments were light. I recalled Miss Monic’s version of punishment for me. Forcing them to cum? It could be worse. For all I knew, while I was trudging along in the cold, they were busy getting handjobs from beautiful upperclassmen.
As I worked out these parts in my mind, I finally started to relax. Things were still manageable. This was just some kind of desperate WRA last attempt at lashing back at men. The cops were probably already on their way, and this whole situation would be resolved in moments. Both girls ended up on either side of me, with their hands holding me. I realized that Syph was shaking, and Brianna had her head down, clearly in pain. The lead Syph had taken was gone, and all three of us started to move forward slowly while holding each other.
The girls were just as shaken up as I was. Perhaps adrenaline had gotten them to take me this far, but both girls were starting to lose what willpower they had left. Fortunately, I had figured out the direction they were taking us. That would have to be the small shack that led to the Matriarch’s underground bunker. That would be where Hannah was. Hannah, I could make it to Hannah. That was a much easier thought to deal with. I straightened up and started moving faster. Syph and Brianna each had a hand on my shirt, holding it and being pulled along, as if afraid to let go of me.
Without realizing it, I had ended up dragging us right into a deep puddle. We had made it halfway to the shack. The burning fire of the trolley station was far behind us. Ice cold water rushed into my boots and soaked my socks. Even though my feet were cold and numb and my body was shaking in the cold winter air, my only thought was to keep on moving.
That is when a group of three girls suddenly came around a corner. My face fell as I realized they were upperclassman. More than that, they had gloves on as well. Weren’t those things supposed to be rare? Miss Monic must have mass produced these just for this day.
“It’s him!” One of the girls shouted.
I gave a howl, causing them girl to flinch as she raised her hand. Kicking back, I threw myself away from where her hand was pointing. The girl didn’t seem experienced at magic, because the fireball shot too early. As I stumbled back, knocking both girls behind me down, the fireball ended up striking the puddle. A giant fountain of water shot up into the sky, and then landed back down around me. Mist caused by the rapidly evaporating water spread out, but it wasn’t like the smoke from before and didn’t seem to obscure my vision. Instead, it just made a strange rush of heat, and then blistering cold.
“Fuck it, I missed him!” The girl cursed.
I rolled over, pushing Brooke off of me. Noticing her sword sitting in the scabbard, I clumsily drew it, standing up. As I looked around, I noticed Syph had landed on her arm, and she was in pain with her eyes closed tight in a silent howl. As for Brianna, she looked completely terrified. If she hadn’t been soaked by water, I might have noticed that she had wet herself. Looking up at the three upperclassmen women, I could see all of them with their palms pointed at me. They were on the other side of the puddle, which had been significantly reduced in size after the shot. They also looked wet, but they ignored it as they glared at me with a fervent desire to kill in their eyes.
Unlike the previous girl, this leader didn’t seem to show any fear of killing. They could invoke their spells at any moment. In fact, they should have already, and I didn’t even know why I was still alive. So, I had to move if I wanted to live. Letting out a scream, I ran through the puddle, splashing with each run. The two girls behind took a few terrified steps back, but the girl in front who had fired the first spell seemed determined to see me dead. Why did she want me dead? I did nothing to her! Fury started to burn through me, and I lifted up the sword and slashed it down in a week imitation of a stance I’d seen in some samurai show.
A look of surprise appeared on her face as blood gushed out, the spell she was invoking never coming. Watching their leader cut down, the other two women screamed. One of them tried to push her palm out on me, summoning magic from her dripping wet glove. She stumbled backward over a bump in the sidewalk and landed on her butt. The other girl turned and ran, not giving it another thought. Without pausing, I targeted the girl on the ground. She desperately held her hand out, there was a slight spark, but it went out instantly. Her eyes widened as I raised the sword up over her head.
“W-wait… no!” She shouted.
I brought the sword down, slamming it into her neck. Blood shot across the ground, some of it striking my face. I held it there as I watched the life go out of her eyes. To the end, she never realized that when the first spell hit the puddle, the flash of evaporation caused the local humidity to change. Or perhaps it was simply that with their gloves soaking wet, the girls couldn’t invoke any spells. The parameters of casting changed, and something like fire was too difficult to cast when combined with water.
I looked up to see that the other girl was long gone. Then, I collapsed and started vomiting. If my body was shaken before, now I was feeling even worst. I felt like I lost every meal I had ever eaten onto the ground. The cold started to seep into my bones now that I was wet. I was shaking uncontrollably, but no matter what I did, I didn’t seem to be able to stand back up. Blood from the corpse next to me spread across the ground, and it started merging with my vomit. My body shook again.
A strong hand grabbed my shoulder. I let out a scream, pulling up the sword only to stumble back and fall on my ass. When I looked up and saw the person there, I broke into tears.
“Brooke!” I leaped up and grabbed her.
Brooke’s face was a bit gaunt, but she had woken up. I realized that she was carrying someone on her back, it was Syph, who had passed out from the pain. Brianna limped over, her head lowered, not saying anything.
“Clyburn, we have to keep going.” Brooke’s voice sounded icy, but her command instantly filled me with warmth.
I gave a nod, forcing myself up to my feet. I kept a hold of her sword tightly, not offering it back to her. However, she didn’t seem to want it back either. She gave a single nod and then the group of us left the two corpses behind. The first girl I had cut… I hadn’t seen her die. As we passed by, I noticed her eyes were still open, staring up in disbelief. The urge to vomit grew, but I knew I had nothing left to throw up.
Rather, I just needed to follow Brooke. That was why I hired Brooke, after all. She was my bodyguard, my meat shield. I felt bitter tears forming again. Brooke had almost died protecting me. All of these girls did. I was the one who decided to use them as bodyguards, and I was the reason they were in this state right now.
Brooke also seemed to have figured out where we were heading. Perhaps Brianna had told her while I was throwing up, I didn’t know. It was only another five minutes when we came to the stairs. As soon as the door opened, several weapons poked out. There were at least five freshman girls at the entrance, holding various bats and sharp objects. Brooke stepped back, but it only took a moment for the girls to recognize Syph and Brianna.
“Brianna! You made it!” The leading girl cried out in relief.
Brianna nodded, but she still didn’t speak. Perhaps it hurt to speak. The girls immediately ushered the group of us inside. I took a breath of relief as the door closed behind me. Had Hannah’s gang been farther away from the male trolley, we might have encountered more groups of upperclassman. As the case, we were actually pretty far away from most of the stuff on campus except the male trolley. It was only about a ten-minute walk, although it had taken my group close to forty-five minutes to get there. As a matter of coincidence, we were nearly on the opposite side of the island as the Magic building, which was the faculty building where the WRA had met and seemed to be mounting this attack.
The inside of the underground complex wasn’t as biting cold as the outside, but it was still unheated and under the earth, which meant I was still shivering to somewhat freezing temperatures. There were a lot more Freshman down here than the last time I had seen. Some of them were crying, while others looked lost. A few, who were probably higher up in Hannah’s gang, walked around, handing out blankets and food.
“Clyburn, oh, blessed be…” I turned my head down a side corridor to see Mako running towards me.
My head ended up in her bosom a second later. She was incredibly warm to the touch, so I found myself holding her tightly.
“Mako…” I said in relief.
I hadn’t even considered feeling the bond to see if she was nearby. I had been so stunned, that my thoughts weren’t on anything of the sort. Mako continued to hold me, and I felt a few tears fall on my hair, which spoke to how worried she was.
“Master… I knew you were alive because of the bond, but I was so worried.”
Unlike me, Mako didn’t know much about my state of being. If I died, the bond would likely kill her as well. She was right to worry about me, especially with a bounty on my head at the moment.
“They’re hurt.” I finally managed to get out, my voice muffled in her chest.
“Ahn… I’ll fix you up.” Mako finally pulled my head away from her bust, but she kept her hands on my head and looked like she wanted to start kissing me but resisted. “Master… come with me.”
As she led us to a side room that appeared to previously be a storage that had been cleared out and filled with cots and chairs, she began to speak.
“There have been WRA terrorist attacks in the past, but never in Amaryllis. I can’t believe Monic would go this far. She’s a teacher! But her word is heavy with the students. I wish I had known how much fear and control she had over the upperclassman. They didn’t just take out the trolleys, they also raided the administrator‘s building and the dorms.
“They set fire to the freshman dorms, forcing the girls to flee. Most of them got captured. We have no clue why. Three upperclassmen and a teacher who works with Miss Monic tried to get into my clinic. Thankfully, I had forgotten to unlock the doors on time. I heard the explosions before I could unlock them, and then they started trying to smash their way in. Had Hannah not told me about an underground access port hidden in the clinic, I would have been caught too. I immediately headed over here and have been taking care of anyone who got hurt in the fire or explosions. There aren’t too many injuries so far, but if things keep going this way, more people will be hurt.”
As she finished her explanation, I recalled the two women covered in blood outside. There were already too many people that have been hurt. However, I didn’t want to cause her any grief or concern, so I only nodded numbly. It looked like she had a few of her first aid things, and quickly patched us up, starting with me. Despite being an unseeded, she could still power several of the first aide devices. I guess one helped with concussions because I instantly felt my head clearing up. That wasn’t necessarily a good thing, because as my mind cleared, I could think about Mia.
While she worked on the other three women, I sat on the couch and fought back silent tears. Syph was put down on a cot. Once she was finished with me, Mako noticed Brianna’s missing eye and wouldn’t stop until she was lying in a cot too.
When she was finished, only Brooke and I were cleared to go. I got a change of clothing, which turned out to be a girl’s long-sleeved track outfit. It fit me fine. I even managed to drink a little bit of water, although I still felt queasy when I thought about eating. Mako looked at the pair of regretfully like she feared this might be the last time she saw us.
“Mako.” I held her hand.
“Just be safe.” She sighed and kissed my cheek.
I nodded. She gave us the directions to where Hannah was, and the pair of us headed outside. I didn’t make it more than a few steps before I stopped and looked up at Brooke. She had been mostly silent the entire time since she had woken up.
“Brooke, thank you for protecting me,” I said, but before I could say anything else, Brooke threw her arms around me. “Ah!”
“You saved me, idiot,” Brooke said, holding me tightly for a moment before pulling back. “You could have left me back there, but you wouldn’t leave without me. That’s what Brianna said.”
“I would never!” my eyes widened, not even being able to contemplate leaving Brooke behind.
She chuckled and looked down. Her hand reached out and touched the sword, now hanging on my hip. “It really does suit you better.”
My hand instinctively went down and gripped the handle. Immediately, I recalled the nauseating feeling of the sword hacking through flesh. I killed two women today… no, girls. They were basically children, and I cut them down because I was too afraid to do anything else.
“I hate this sword…” I said, my hands tightening until my knuckles turned white.
Brooke’s fingers touched my hand on the hilt. It was such a gentle touch, that my finger loosened immediately. Her eyes met mine, and I realized her face was only a few inches away. I was close enough that I could see her lips quivering slightly.
“Good,” Brooke said, close enough that I could smell her sweet breath. “As long as you hate using it, you should keep using it. It’ll keep you safe… when I can’t.”
“Brooke…” I shook my head, my body starting to feel hot.
Brooke stepped away almost as quickly as she had come up. “Come… we have to go see your sister. I have a feeling she’ll know what to do.”
I could only nod dumbly. Like nothing had happened, the pair of us walked the rest of the way to Matriarch HQ. I could instantly hear Hannah’s voice. She had on no voice modulator, no theatrics today. The room she selected was a larger room with wide opened doors. In the middle was a large table, and spread across that table was a map of the school. Without a doubt, it looked like a war room.
“Reports…” Hannah barked.
“They’ve taken the freshman into the Fredrick’s building. Anyone who was believed to be a male sympathizer is being brought to the main courtyard. Most of the Freshman are safe, but a few who tried to fight back or flee are being brought there as well.”
“What about the men?” Hannah demanded.
“Doing what men do best, hiding in the male dormitory. It has several protective runes. They’re trying to smoke them out, but it hasn’t gone well. The dorms are resistant to fire, and as long as no one opens the door from the inside, it’d take some pretty powerful magic to knock down the male’s dormitory. The only men who have been caught so far are the men outside when this stuff went down. They too have been led to the courtyard. We estimate about 10 men and two hundred women are currently being held there.”
“And these so-called punishments?” Hannah asked.
“Haven’t started. Right now, they’re just holding them while they try to consolidate their control of the campus.”
“And Miss Monic’s side? How many girls we talking about here?”
“At least, five hundred strong. Diba Monic must have mass ordered those gloves for fire and for electricity. They all seemed to be armed with them. Very few Freshman know magic. There are no guns on campus and we’re fighting with bats and sticks. Down here, the corridors are tight and we can overwhelm them. Topside, we’re sitting ducks. Fortunately, these upperclassmen don’t seem as familiar with the underground network as we are, that’s the only reason so many girls managed to make it here. We number about 300.”
“Brother… you made it.” Hannah noticed me stepping into the room.
Her whole face brightened and she threw a hug around me. Some of the girls nearby made noises of surprise. Some were surprised to see a man suddenly show up, especially the one with a bounty on his head. The rest seemed to just be surprised that their illustrious leader smiled and acted like a girl around me. Hannah seemed to have been told I was coming, as she took my appearance in stride, quickly recovering from seeing me.
“Sister…” I hugged her back.
“How are you holding up?” She finally pulled away, but I noticed she still kept her arm around me without letting go.
“Mia… she…” I tried to get it out but then chocked, my heart once again feeling a sharp pain.
Hannah put her hand on my chest and then her head on my shoulder, hugging my arm tightly. “I know, brother. I’m sorry…”
“Thank you… if you weren’t here, I wouldn’t have known what to do,” I said, stroking her arm.
Hannah blushed slightly. “Hmmm… well, we’ll show these lipstick sluts what we think of their bullying. Afterward… I… I’ll give you five male babies!”
I could only give a wry smile. “I’m not exactly the blessed one, in reality. I’d need to have 5000 babies to have 5 males.”
“Hmph! Well, I have 2000 freshman beauties right here you can enjoy!” Hannah declared proudly. “And once I whip the upperclassman, they too will take brother’s cock!”
I couldn’t help but blush as the various other women in the room looked away, some blushing, some simply looking embarrassed, as the Matriarch casually offered me their virginities. However, in her own way, I felt Hannah’s words were genuine, and even through my pain, I felt the warmth of her love. I bent down and kissed her cheek. Hannah froze for a second and then exploded in a blush.
“B-b-brother… nows not the time! Is it?” Suddenly she started looking at a cot that had been put in the corner. “Well… perhaps… maybe… if we’re quick. I mean, I’d have to send the other girls away, unless you want them to watch… then maybe…”
“Where are the authorities?” I asked the scout while Hannah seemed to start gibbering nonsense to herself.
“They’re completely cut off.” The girl shook her head, apparently used to Hannah’s obscene tendencies and quick to recover. “I can’t even say for sure they know what’s happening up here. With the trolley’s gone, there is no way they can easily get someone up here. The barrier prevents most entrances. Perhaps an airship could penetrate, but that might be a few hours yet.”
I nodded. “Then, we need to rescue the girls and the guys, and get them off this island.”
Hannah’s attention finally returned to the discussion. “How do you plan to do that then?”
“Not all the trolley lines snapped. Someone should be able to climb or slide down it.”
“We considered something like that. The school has some zip lining equipment that might do the trick.” Hannah admitted and then sighed, “It won’t work though. Not with the rune field preventing anyone from jumping off.”
“That’s why we need to take over the mainframe. You girls know this facility better than them. Take it over, and shut down the barrier.”
Hannah’s eyes flashed, and then she smiled. “That sounds crazy, brother is turning his sister on.”
I coughed, suddenly finding myself not able to meet Hannah’s mischievous eyes. I wasn’t the only one in the room. Several of the other girls started seeing her arm still holding me and jumping to many assumptions about our relationship.
“All of that sounds good,” Brooke shook her head, ignoring the mood. “But not even I can deal with the magic. Without a long-distance weapon, we’re screwed!”
The other girls nodded, and silence started permeating the room. I thought back to my fight outside a moment ago, and instantly, I remembered the girls’ dependence on their magic. They desperately couldn’t cast it because their bodies had gotten wet. A smile formed on my face.
“Clyburn?” Hannah asked, glancing over at me, the spark returning to her eyes.
“I got an idea…” I admitted, staring at the map where the male dorm sat nearby the building where the females were being kept, “But we’re going to need a lot of balloons.”