The Riddle of Witch Flesh: Part 3

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Jarmila's Journal, February 26

So I've just come home, in the morning. Bought this little book, too.

It was an eventful day and night, and my thoughts on it now will probably matter in the future. So, I've returned to writing a journal, like the one I wrote after the contract. In the event that I die, people could misinterpret my words and actions, and twist me into something I am not. Better express myself in no uncertain terms.

I should probably write it down while it's still fresh in my head. Kinda tired, but my left hand still hurts even after I've had it healed, and the head is full of all kinds of thoughts, so I wouldn't fall asleep.Grabbed a snack and got started with it right away.

So. Late evening two days ago, the cat had called me up directly. Said there was a schedule change, that I am not going to be hunting alone. They want me to take an Info-cyte and a full squad of almost fresh recruits in there. But we would still be hunting the same Witch. It had already pissed me off pretty bad back then, but I've needed the rest. So, I just went to the bed right away, to get up earlier, thinking I'd ask Panna about the reason. Because, I thought, it's probably her fault. Taking blame for the necessary evils is her job.


4 AM is actually a very good time for making your way to Prague's Officio Assassinorum. You can use even the most publicly exposed entry points, and nobody will be suspicious. At four, not even the bench-dwelling hobos of the city center are awake yet - and the Old Town close by, that's already a sanctuary which people rarely enter anymore.

Before everything, I went to get Barbara's full file in the archive. Normal Vanus weren't around to help me, but all the Librarians were already awake. Or was it still awake? Either way just can't be healthy. Then again, they don't really go above and see the sun much, so they can lose track of time as something other than numbers on the display. I guess their work schedule becomes much more lax once they advance in rank, so they just become more nocturnal, as it suits them.

I knew who Barbara was well enough, but they don't allow me to take the details home from their bookshelf maze. So, this was the only way to go over it again. The younger girls usually get a less classified version to hand, but I am expected to seek out the full thing on my own, so chances are I may have been the last person on the assignment to read up on her proper.

But hey, it's the bookworm Officio, they only need an Eversor Rank Leader for the smashing. I could go there blind and just purge her anyway, it would just be a lot more messy. They already pretty much pay me for improvisation. That still takes some skill, though.

The worse part is, I guess, that I also improvise when motivating girls and dealing with responsibility. Delegating personnel logistics and paperwork to Panna and Squad Leaders whenever I can. I fully accept blame for the organization being a huge mess this way. If you ask me, though, whoever does the office stuff willingly is also pretty shady.

It's no coincidence that the Twelfth has both a lot of shady people, and a massive Vanus aparate.

Anyway, every speech I'd make to the girls is an ad-lib. You shouldn't want to be a leader, will to power corrupts but power itself doesn't if it's given for free. Or something like that, I don't remember it right. A girl working in the Archive told me that, when I've asked for help with leadership, books on the topic and so, shortly after I've replaced Kamile. Asking that had actually kind of backfired, because now I've got a neat excuse for when I want to keep being the hit-things-hard person. It seems that being cunningly brutal rather than brutally cunning is why I am not considered a Warmaster candidate, so it's working out.

Kamile seemed to think it as well, that warmastering is the worst thing that can happen to you here. She really helps me out with the complicated stuff, even beyond grave. What I say to the girls myself is mostly just the what she taught me. It would be great, if I could also tell them the "Never lie to the cat, but make yourself look dumb when he's around, just learn to act like him". Best lesson she gave me.

Speaking of Warmasters, Barbara, the Witch we were going to hunt, is a former Warmaster of the Twelfth, from since before my time. At this point, it just doesn't surprise me anymore.

I'll write the basic profile down here:

Barbara, Witch of Retribution Card: [A Witch who only wishes to rest, with a tired nature. But, as the storm moves with her, she cannot escape the ruckus. So, she destroys all resting places out of spite. Maybe she should have just sat down in the rain.]

Familiar: Hassan [An image of a honorable gentleman, holding seat for a lady. Only really useful in time of peace. In the end, he always only thinks of himself. They are strong when they fight in her name, but limp in Barbara's pressing presence.]

Ominous. It seems that her Barrier consists of draper, her Familiars are swords hanging on it, and that she uses lightning magic in addition to being deadly in melee. That stood out to me - can Witches actually use their old tricks? Can't they just kind of do whatever they want with their pastel Witch shenanigans? I recall being told that how they manipulate their world and our magic are two sides of the same coin, and that some rare magical girls can interact with the Witch side of things - can it work the other way around too?

I mean, most Witches don't seem to understand their predicament to begin with.

After that, it said that in order to find her, you should follow the rain and splinters. Nobody in the Archive could explain what this means. Only the girl who lived through fighting her, and the Vanus who wrote it down, would know. Big Fish took both. That's a dead end you run into a lot when you track the Twelfth's past.

That new oriental Librarian from Tenth was the one to bring the file and go over it with me, apparently a Japanese. Spoke broken Czech, but perfect German. Still really impressive, if she had transferred on such short notice. Must be a polyglot.

She made a point of telling me, that while I've been around to see the recent events, the Twelfth's history is quite impenetrable and suspicious for outsiders and newbies. I guess she's right. If she's having trouble piecing things together, a new recruit must be completely left in the dark. Our complex classification system doesn't help that at all. I mean, I don't even know how things were during the commie rule, which is just a few decades - not to mention our roots. Is that kind of stuff in the Librarium, or even deeper? Since there's no Chief Librarian, is there even anybody with a high enough rank to look that deep anymore?

According to what this new girl had said, Barbara was going to be crazy strong. And rather entirely unfitting to be anyone's first assignment. Considering this whole thing was decided by either Juunibey or Panna, and how they keep ranting about permanently being understaffed, you would think they would be more incentive to preserve their new troops.

I've hurried to visit Panna's garden before the appointment's time, hoping she would be awake now, too. Damn, this woman's place has the worst elevator music in the world.

Sure enough, the devil never sleeps. She could be found in the lab in the back, mashing some awfully sweet smelling herbs.

Panna Casual1.jpeg

"Are you here to complain that she is too tough for the recruits?" she asked from behind the corner. That's just rude.

"Barbara rarely appears, and only stays in one place within a window of few hours. She requires immediate attention. When it turns out that on the same day, we have an exemplary course planned, with a Rank Leader, it's a good opportunity to show off. To lead by example."

"That's not even my course, though. It's just your bad management. You know too well how bad I am with that stuff. You've even used to discourage me from talking to recruits in the past. You can't be getting senile, right? Let's just postpone the girl's first hunt to tomorrow and scry them up something smaller in the countryside - I can purge mine alone."

That made her actually stop doing what she was doing. Both the concern and the insult got to her for once, I think.

"We could do that, but a part of the course was testing out a new version of the info-cyte. And how it's going to work in a collective. You should know that, did you even read the dossier? Did you talk to the leader of that Squad yet? She would probably know. If it turns out she's beyond your skill, which she isn't, I just need you to burn her whole place down, get out of there alive, and tell me how the girl with the circlet had performed. You are strong, it shouldn't be a problem. I don't see a real risk aside from the potential loss of resources, but letting Barbara roam or losing you would be more costly."

"Goddammit, here you go with treating people like things again. I hate this so much."

"Hang on to that hatred. It will lead you to victory."

"Fuck. Fuck. I am off."

On the ride back down under, I've pondered about how I am going to talk to the recruits. About my leadership skills. Being directly responsible for the actions of other people puts a tiny bit more weight on my shoulders than I am comfortable with. If it was my call, I'd just want to be friends with everyone in the Officio, or I'd consider them a family. Panna says that this is "a sign of the old Slavic social tendency to regress into a tribal structure in a pinch", and that it had historically only hurt us, so it's better to get over it.

"I've been told that I should walk you through your first hunt today. So, I will. If you want to clear something up before we go, ask away." There.

One of them had politely raised a hand. It was the Squad Leader, though, newly appointed, but experienced enough. This girl had a fancy name. What was it, Popelka? Or do they just call her that, because the feathered hat and arbalest make her look like that one version of Cinderella? "Sure. What is it?"

"Excuse me if this is something trivial, miss, but why isn't miss Twardowska running us through this mission? It was supposed to be an exercise with our Rank Leader, and yesterday I am told out of blue that our squad is assigned an Info-cyte, and that our target has changed and we are now hunting a Witch like that, who would normally take several squads? Do you have some insight into these changes?"

Amazing. So, by skipping over their dossier, I've missed absolutely nothing, and even avoided unnecessary confusion."I get it now. Warmaster's Aide didn't even bother telling me you're a Vindicare squad. You see, the thing is, Martina had been reassigned on a high priority mission yesterday. So important, it seems, she couldn't even contact you before going. I know that much. She can't attend today, either, and normally, your first hunt would just be postponed. I'd prefer to take Barbara on alone, but it's not my place to decide. And I can use you girls well enough."

They seemed to tense up, when they've had it confirmed that this isn't a mistake in paperwork, and that it's happening, right now.

"I am going to need a more detailed description of your squad. Weapons, spells, capacities, every ace and joker you have up your sleeve. The cheap tricks and the last resorts"

The new, reconstructed version of Vindicare Squad 8(Libra) was all newbies, amounting to a total of six weapon users, and six of what Martina calls "blasters". We've got a lot in the Twelfth, but that's still a huge number - especially considering that Squad Leader is a weapon user as well. From what I remember, her career had consisted mostly of protection sort of jobs. Why does Panna have a counter-sniping expert instruct people on how to throw fireballs and sparkling neon stars? Shouldn't that be done by a Librarian, who would know better? Or is she trying to make the Squad Leaders into dedicated teachers?

I don't like blasters. They're always full of themselves, needlessly flashy, and Witch out all the time, since they're just that dependent on the juice. I, for one, have been smart enough to bring a weapon or three along, even when I couldn't create one out of magic yet, back when all I could do was set myself on fire. If an Eversor's ability is expensive, she is soon going to feel the results on her skin, and does her best to get good - but Vindicare are just too spoiled. Isn't the first thing that they teach them to run away? Like that, they'll never get into a situation where they have to actually hit somebody over the head with their sparkling wand of love. This isn't a video game, in real life, you've got to cover your weak spots. Is it that much of a bother to learn how to shoot a gun?

With all that said, blasters are what you usually want against Witches. You can't just beat Walpurgisnacht to death with a club. Set the club on fire with your magic, then we're talking.

The last girl, who made no introduction, must have been the Info-cyte, then. Turned out to be a raven haired everygirl, with a wind jacket she must have been freezing in considering the season, an empty stare above the eye bags, and terrible posture.

"Um, Ma'm. She didn't say a word since she came." said the plump girl next to her. "She also threw hands to the sides when she had walked in, like so. Excuse me if it's not important, but I can tell a druggie when I see one." Yeah, we all can.

"That's alright. She's an Info-cyte. The previous ones had to dip their gems in a lot of chemicals before they would put the helmet on, so I bet they just use a lot more of that now. You'll meet a lot Vanus who have a thing for it, too - we've even got a Librarian with powers that work by getting high." It sounds sillly, but she'll be glad to give you a long rant about historical cultural precedents of intoxication in magic arts. "Anyway, somebody will need to hold her hand, and we'll split into four groups from here..."

She really didn't say a word though, even when she did follow. The girl had those flat cheeks, she had no fat on her, it's easy to be distrustful of somebody like that. I could only pray that Panna isn't actually senile, and still knows what she's doing, sending somebody like that along, even if she doesn't let anybody else in on it.

Locating the Barrier was no work at all. It was supposed to appear at the top of a building, apparently. But getting there in so many people was going to be difficult, especially in the morning. That's why I've split them, otherwise we'd look like a goddamned field trip.

Before what turned out to be a whole apartment complex, we came across a commotion of people. Some poor old sod had jumped out of the window. Fortunately, there was just a cop, a guy who might have been a medic, and the morbidly curious neighbors. He lived alone, so it wasn't too dramatic for the girls - imagine if there was a crying wife and kids or something.

The cop had actually asked my group whether we would happen to live there. "It's a party," I've said,"there should be a lot more girls arriving yet."

He seemed kind of happy about that, like he knew what was up. A cop definitely might. I've kind of expected somebody from the building to question us, too, saying they've never seen any of us around, and why aren't we in school on workday morning, but nothing of the sort happened. The presence of a Witch can really mess with normie heads.

I've sent the two girls of mine up with the elevator, phoned the Squad Leader to make a routine sweep for Familiars in the neighborhood with her group, and took the stairs myself, so I could do the same inside. Wouldn't want any loose ends.

As I've covered the floors one by one keeping up a bit with the elevator, it turned out that one apartment had it's door open. I guess it must have belonged to the old man. I've rushed in there - but despite my Witch sense tingling, nothing really seemed out of ordinary. A damn dirty sink, two shoddy paintings, a pair of worn looking sabers on the wall, a soft sofa, two different armchairs, an open book on the table, a cold cup of cofee next to it.

No real closets for a Familiar to hide in, either, and I didn't bring gloves. But just as I've moved to make a few steps into the bathroom, I saw movement on the wall.

Right, her Familiars are swords. I grabbed one of the sabers by hilt, and hit the other with it. The angle was good, didn't even leave a scratch on the wall or anything, and the Familiar had melted right into the black nothingness that it was made of. I've even expected the one I've grabbed to shift it's blade somehow, and try to cut me, but it didn't seem to be able to do anything beyond a low pitched whine. Wanting to be extra careful, I've first carried it outside, then transformed, and burned it to crisp.

The elevator had a good few floors over me now. Getting ahead of it again, I saw that the last Familiar was hanging at its wires. I've managed to cap him with a spiked ball right away, but it still sent chills down my spine, seeing him there. Using the elevator like that wasn't very bright at all.

Meeting up with the girls on the top floor, they seemed shocked to see how I look transformed. It always seems to people that it changes me a lot, but it's really just about losing that boxer nose of mine, and maybe some fat, and straightening up.

Straightening up your spine can do some amazing things for you. It gives me half a head in height. Being huge is actually a lot like being smart or being homosexual. People acknowledge it much easier if they've figured out that part of you themselves, because you didn't shove it in their face.

For that, though, you need some basic humility. And, boy, I've got nothing else about me that I am proud of, so it doesn't even take much to be humble.

Having waited for the three remaining groups, I've gotten that quiet "ooh" out of them three more times.

Jarmila Rank Leader1.jpeg

"Barbara is strong. Purging her is going to be hard. I know that most of you have slacked off on the basic training, so I'd say that some of you will die there. It would be nice if we could avoid that, but don't bet on it. Just accept it.

Once we are there, focus on the Familiars and let me take out the Witch. Prioritize keeping yourself and others alive. Don't ever split, keep others within sight. In a Barrier like this, the Familiars will eventually get us surrounded if we rest. Keep moving. I will carve the path for you.

If somebody is injured so much he would die, but his Soul Gem is left intact, someone needs to pick the gem up and keep it. You've already been taught this in the basic training, but I'll say it again because of how important it is: now that you are Magical Girls, your body is much less important. Even death can be healed, as long as your soul is still in one piece.

If you get killed and lose control of your body, it's easy to panic, but try to calm down instead. Getting a new body will cost you a lot, but it's not like it ruins you. The Officio doesn't need to make you a debt slave like the government would. The Twelfth owns you ever since you've made the wish. That's honestly a pretty bad thing, all things considered, but also very helpful in its own way. You see, if you own something, you want to care for it. A lot of people don't realize this. We want you to be happy and strong and smart. Even if it never looks that way, I guess.

If nothing else makes you feel better about going to battle, I've been where you stand. My first Witch hunt was just as hard, and we have made it. Now I am a dedicated Witch hunter, and as far as I know, the most qualified person for this job, far and wide. You've got a friend in me."

Wow. Did I just make a speech without meaning to?

Jarmila side.jpeg

Now was the time for the Info-cyte to start up. Formerly, it was a helmet, and the Vanus would have to carry it around in a bag, but this one looked much more like a circlet. It was also kind of reminiscent of the crown that Panna wears even in civil, how she wears her gem above her head apparently has to do with chakras. This one, on the other hand, was accented downwards, into the forehead. If somebody in the squad didn't know that the girl with us is a Vanus, they must have figured it out then.

Putting the circlet on, her azure eyes have gotten that empty glint that working Vanus have. "Initializing program Hard Boiled Wonderland. From the throes of death, Blessed Lady deliver me. Orders can now be assigned." articulated she. It was like when a phone recorder is reading a written message.

That... sounded nothing like the Fourth. Panna hates dealing with the Sixteenth. We've always had trouble trusting the Thirteenth on principle. Though I guess nothing is stopping us anymore, if Strauss is really gone. And if sucking the feline phallus had finally gained Panna Incubator technology that she can use in personal projects, then all the bets are off forever.

The most likely version probably is, that only the hardware is comissioned, and one of our slightly less sane Librarians had programmed it.

"What's she going to be helping us with, anyway?"

"I have no idea either. The Info-cytes are meant to weaponize knowledge, since knowledge is all that the Twelfth has. Some of the previous prototypes were supposed to use precognition and tactical manuals in combat, but they've sucked, since you can't reason with Witches. From what I've been told, she's supposed to just observe. Hey, Info-cyte. An order. Focus on recording what's happening. Do not miss anything."

First steps we took on the roof showed us that she had her Barrier already well set up. It was really a bed sheet world, you couldn't see where all the draper is coming from for all the draper getting in way - but in addition to that, it had wooden floor, on which stood a ton of furniture. Mostly chairs and their variations. A few beds, too. There was a giant couch and a sky high bar stool. Man's lair. It actually looked quite a bit like that old guy's apartment.

What was downright bizarre was how the woodwork floor planks were kind of in the right pattern, but twisted in all kinds of ways, and there were plank hills and plank holes.

Then the blades have descended from the knot of a ceiling, every single one with a lengthened finger guard or a basket. The sabers in the apartment were the same - it seemed to be a theme.

Popelka took aim at the closest, hitting it right on the weight center above its guard. The impact force tore it out of the cloth's grasp, and the sword clattered on the ground. That had confirmed her suspiction."Okay, so, you can focus on the cloth. Try not to go near them once they fall down. It's not moving anymore, but it didn't disappear yet, either."

I gave her a nod. "You'd better watch for the ones coming from above, too." said I, materializing my flail. "I'll go on a bit ahead and try to draw the worst of them, don't lose sight of me."

To that, I've made a long leap on the huge barstool's gliding, hit it a few times to produce a good metal clang that the ones not alerted yet could hear, and then jumped from there, to smash the nearest Familiar down.

Barbara w1.jpeg

From there, they've tried to surround me right away, more than a dozen descending all around. While my main skill is made for that situation, using fire in here could get really dangerous, so I had to try being clean and defensive, holding them off with wide sweeps. They did quickly realize they're outmatched, and tried to wait for more to come instead, which pretty much made them target practice for the Vindicare.

Before long, bullets, bolts, arrows, and throwing stars have gotten them. Did they leave defense to the blasters? I'd still better not move too rigidly.

After their initial press, though, it became a cakewalk for me. Further in, I've noticed some of the sheets being wet and dropping water, and waited for the Vindicare squad, to tell them the Witch is probably near. I've noted that one blaster is missing.

"Oh yeah, she caught one through the cloth, right in the back. Couldn't see that one. Then more where that came from. By the time I've nuked the area behind her, they already got her Gem. Shouldn't have gotten so close to the walls since they're not really walls and all."

"I've told you. Some are hiding under the armchairs, too. Or in the stuffed ones." Their formation wasn't too tight, but they've seemed to know what they're doing, so I guess the cover pattern in a place like that must have just been really complex.

"Have you noticed how some of these chairs are broken or burned? One earlier looked like a lightning hit it. This, and the water, mean that the Witch is near, or so I hear. Let's go where there are the most splinters."

The Familiars have calmed down a lot since earlier. Girls would still shoot down any that would get too close, but there weren't any more coordinated attacks. The weapon users would actually miss every so often, since hitting a blade from distance is actually pretty hard.

The draper curtains were beginning to open up a bit, and all of it was wet, even dripping. When we've started to step into the puddles, and finally saw the stormy sky above, rain falling straight on us from it, we saw the tall, thin Witch in midst of it all, cutting a sofa to pieces with one of the Familiars in hand.

"Good morning, Agniezka. Though I probably don't have the right to call you that, since I wasn't around to meet you." She chucked her head to the side, evidently recognizing her past name. A long line of witch letters had appeared in my vision. How do they do it?

"I am sorry, but I can't read that, or speak German too well, for that matter. Anyway, it seems that you have an appointment with the Blessed Lady. Wouldn't want to miss it, would you? We came to show you the way!" I had to yell to beat the storm. Then, I've burned the flail up, and stated whirling it above my head, it's head filling the air with a hiss, as it met the raindrops.

I think that carried the message across well enough. She had grabbed another of the swords hanging around her, and raised them above her head, too.

I didn't waste time and did my best to sucker punch her, leaving an arc of smoke and embers behind. But you can only afford to be so aggressive against somebody wielding two long choppy swords. She was really fast, too. It was troubling how she had no legwork, instead just kind of floating around like a kite in the wind. How do you even fence with somebody who flies? Do we have any flying Eversors? It had occurred to me, only faced with it, how practical it is. Could I learn to fly?

Barbara w2.jpeg

Along with the wind playing with the bed sheets, rain got a lot stronger. The ground was all a big puddle now. Having gained good distance, she had raised her swords above her head. First, I've thought it's a taunt. Then I got hit with a lightning bolt. And kept being hit by it for a good while. It didn't help I was standing in water. That's what I get for being cautious, and not curbstomping her.

By this time, I was long inside the Eversor trance, so I could tell right away that my heartbeat had stopped. Isn't lightning like a really thin, but hot and sharp blade going through you, so most people die of shock? That might be why.

"I'M OKAY" I've yelled back to the Vindicare. "I'VE JUST GOTTA START MY FUCKING HEAR-"

Then I fell face first into the water, not very leaderly at all. It was going to take some time. The hit undid my hair band, so that it didn't pull - probably because of the hilarious thing that electrified hair do. But it meant I had one less sensation to deal with.

I've started entering the true depths of Eversor battle trance. Mind over matter, the mantra goes. My body is a puppet and nerves are but the strings.

The squad that I've still seen in the corner of my eye fought the Familliars. That was easy. Worse thing was, that Barbara had apparently wanted to pick another one off with her lightning. Popelka had thoughtfully hit the basket of her held blade, killing it so she had to pick up another, and gaining us a few seconds of time. The Info-Cyte stood next to her, and was saying something I couldn't hear.

I could guess. She must have been suggesting optimal course of action, because how could a Vanus help here? But what she did was go forward, spreading her hands.

She was drawing some letters in the air with her fingers, I think it was hebrew. Normally, only Culexus can really counteract magic, but I think she was trying to take apart the Witch's spell instead. Somehow. Maybe she had tried to build a barrier against magic? The important thing is-

That wasn't a magic attack, like the profile had said. It's her calling down a honest to god lightning strike. It smashed right through the fancy letters, into the Vanus girl's shoulder, the branches of light running all over her costume. She let out a horrible scream, it must have screwed with the circlet. Well, Panna was going to kill me for this. But, at the same time, wouldn't want her sacrifice to be in vain.

I've raised from the ground, burning bright, and blowing away the Familiars gathered around to chop themselves a piece of me. Done. It didn't take more than ten seconds, but that time could have been critical.

In the hell of magic blasting through the air, water drops, flames, smoke, and steam stinking of ozone, the curtains were all gone. So, the ground was littered with swords. I've picked one, a beautiful, bejeweled khanda, rather than my flail, and toned the flame down so that the sword wouldn't die. Having gone pretty deep already, to take control of my body and secure blood circulation, this setting was perfect.

If I have wanted to end it before anyone else dies, there was just one chance to perform the Mach Lunge right. If that had failed, I had a few more options, but this trick should do it. I've rushed right back at her. A draw-cut, thrust with both hands, a parry, and rather than pressing on, I've taken a step back and changed sword arm to the left, readjusting my stance. Wouldn't want to do this with the dominant arm.

She saw that I am going to be aggressive in this next exchange, and put up her guard.

One step, two steps, and I was in range, with the sword next to my back leg. The final step requires flexing your entire body to allow the joints to form a line. I felt the upcoming pain first as a distant reminder. But, like alarm clock in the morning, it became annoying. And just like that alarm clock, however loud, it had no control over me.

The thunder that rumbled through the storm this time belonged not to her, but me. She did try to parry high, but badly underestimated the force behind my blow. Didn't even move back, so I've cleaved right through her blade and body, and then through the ground, until my sword broke, along with my arm.

The last of cleansing flames that I hold blew away what was left of Barbara, Wtch of Retribution.

Then there was no rain anymore, and and a wave of whelming darkness came over us. Under my feet was a deep gash, and a Grief Seed right next to it. Around us lied a field of laundry poles, since we were obviously on a flat roof now. The Barrier itself was gone.

Taking a look back, I saw the Vindicare with their weapons still raised, one even firing off a shot at a familliar that wasn't there anymore. In the distance, there lied a plump girl's body, with quite a few stab wounds in the back.

"W-what happened? Did you get her? I just saw you explode, and then-" Popelka didn't notice that she'd dropped formalities, which made me glad. She did notice I'm crouching though. "Are you hurt?"

"Yeah, a bit. What you saw, or didn't, was Mach Lunge. You should have seen Kamile use while she was around, it's her trademark technique." Wow, that got me a gasp. It's like all the respect that I get really stands on succeeding her.

"It's called that, because the blade's tip breaks the sound barrier a few times over. Plain and simple, you use your body as a tool, and swing your limb as hard as your body is possibly able to. If you are strong enough, your muscles alone can break your bones. Any Eversor can do some variation of this, I think, she just capitalized on it." Kamile had specialized in enchantment of organic things, though, so she wouldn't wreck her arm like I did just now. And if she did go to the point of hurting herself, she would swing just so much harder than anybody else.

She could make a training sword hard as diamond, and a bone harpoon sharp as razor. Her weapon would never break, and her flesh would never wither. She became a Rank Leader by challenging the person in charge at the time, and beating them up with a broomstick. But, when she did, she found that she could only lead by example. She wasn't very bright, and that's why she had ended up the way she did.

Which brings me to the the other girl standing here before us, with the circlet she wore lying on the ground, split in twine. This, I think, is where this story really begins.

She was looking at her pitch black Gem, it's gliding turning black and crumbling away, rattling, as if her rabid soul was trying to crawl out of the mind's cage. The girls around were looking shocked and terrified, depending on how well they understood what's going on. But she didn't care, she was busy staring into the abyss.

I am sure she also saw it stare back at her.