“If the situation ain’t gonna get better, you might as well improve.” Serenity’s uncle’s seemingly contradictory advice echoed in her mind. It was the advice he had given Robert many times whenever he’d complain about an impossible situation… which, until backup came, they were stuck in an impossible situation. So she might as well improve.
This entire experience had taught her that she needed to work better with her teammates. It occurred to her that she didn’t really have a very good handle on what the other girls were capable of. She had only seen them fight briefly against Polygal and watched Tenacity get curb stomped by Day LaMode. Even what little training she had done had been focused on improving her tumbling. All she had learned from that was that Angela was a great tumbling coach and that Noriko’s training lead to soreness due to Recoil Issues.
So for now, Serenity decided to focus her eyes on Spirit Guard Charity. She could navigate her way around Cell-celia’s attacks using only her empathokinetic sense… they really needed to come up with a shorter name for that. Maybe she could start calling it empathokinetic perception instead and then they could shorten it to EKP? She’d need to get Vivian to agree to that if that was ever going to stick. She was the only other Spirit Guard worried about terminol–
No. She needed to focus on Charity and studying how she moved. Serenity emptied her mind and let the Shrine Maiden’s instincts take over. It was a simple thing to avoid this monster’s attacks if she trusted the knowledge from her past life’s vast combat experienced. That version of her had much more experience “seeing” with empatho… EKP.
This freed Serenity’s eyes to observe Charity’s movements. She had noticed earlier that her friend didn’t move anywhere near as much as Serenity did. In fact, there were several moments that Charity would get cornered by Cell-celia’s machine gun-like fire. However, she would speak, or more precisely, emote out the words, “Altruistic Barrier!” and the bullet would be met by a wall of radiant light.
The wall would always shatter like a stained glass window struck by an errant baseball, but the projectile would come out the other side smaller and slower than it was before. Much easier to dodge that. Though Serenity couldn’t puzzle out why the projectile would shrink going through the wall. Did the light-wall “corrode” the bullet some?
That research topic would have to wait though as Serenity saw and, even moreso, felt something of much more disturbing import. With each shattered wall, Charity huffed as if she was lifting a weight. Serenity could feel through her EKP some emotional energy drain from her teammate. It made sense. The immaterial wall was exerting a force on the monster’s blasts; that resistance had to come from somewhere and, logically, it was Charity having to provide it.
Sweat ran down Charity’s face as if she was a runner mid-marathon. Despite what one would logically think, that was not normal. The powers of the Spirit Guard tended to keep them looking ready for a covergirl photoshoot no matter how arduous the fight. Why energy would be wasted towards such an effort was a mystery to Serenity, but it was true. Despite doing enough flipping, leaping, tumbling, and spinning for an entire Olympic gymnastics team, she was as fresh as she had begun the fight.
But Charity looked exhausted. Serenity had seen her like this before, after having healed Tenacity’s life-threatening wounds. The nature of charitable empathokinetics required Charity to give of her own energy to have an effect on others. She would have needed to give some to heal Serenity earlier. Plus each wall was taking something out of her. Maybe they had less time to delay the monster than Serenity had thought. Maybe they needed to–
Cell-celia stopped shooting. Serenity stopped staring at Charity and kept all her attention on the monster. Why the change in tactics? She couldn’t hear it, but the monster’s body language was entirely that of a petulant teenager annoyed by their parents telling them to clean their room before they could go hang out with their friends. A text bubble popped into existence over the monster’s head. “U bimbos have another 1 coming? Srsly? >:\ U r like a bunch of cockroaches! >o< Now I have 2 kill 3 of u? U bitches rly r the most annoying! Y cant u just die like good lil victims?" Serenity squinted. Another one? Had the cavalry arrived? Why couldn’t she feel it the– Valor’s aura flickered over the empathokinetic horizon like the rising sun. Her aura buzzed with life, like a well-tended garden. But it wasn’t just a garden of beautiful blooms and fragrant scents… no. Her aura had more. So much more. It was like a magic-eye picture finally coming into focus, revealing something she couldn’t see before. Beneath that aura’s garden was soil and stones that hummed the strength of the earth. They resonated with Valor’s courage and rumbled with her righteous fury. With every leap closer Serenity could feel how purely and deeply Valor’s altruism anchored her aura. But how did the monster feel Valor before Serenity did? Had its “sight” expanded that much? She had felt Charity before Cell-celia, but now it was reversed with Valor. That meant…
Cell-celia pointed both her antennae at the door. A text bubble popped up above the monster’s head: “Dropped Call! >:)” Serenity’s eyes went wide as a ball of static the size of… well it was nearly as big as her now! The last Dropped Call had been about the size of a wrecking ball! This was bad! Valor was definitely coming through the front door. Heaven forbid Valor do something uncouth like use a side door when attacking a monster!
Should she attack the monster and try to dodge? No, she couldn’t dodge something that big at close range. Maybe she should…
A bright yellow bubble sprouted around the monster. Could Charity contain a blast that size? Her EKP told her that her friend was near her limit. How much further could she push herself?
Serenity watched Valor round the corner with her eyes and Cell-celia fire with her EKP. The blast launched towards the store entrance like a heavy load from a catapult. If Charity’s containment bubble had been constructed from the finest china it couldn’t have shattered more spectacularly. Valor turned the corner with her shield already up in front of her. Good. She knew what she was getting into. But could that shield do anything against a blast that size?
Serenity felt so useless. She was too far from the monster to interrupt the shot in any way. She… she had to act.
Her feet moved before she could put a plan together. She wasn’t sure why but her instincts took her in the direction of Valor. The golden-haired heroine crashed through the glass doors shield first. Shards flew everywhere. Good, this meant Valor understood she didn’t have time to politely open the door before Cell-celia’s attack connect.
Serenity’s feet kept moving, taking directly past Valor. Was she moving because she’d have to catch Valor after she absorbed the blast? No… if Valor was moving towards an attack this big, she had a plan. Did part of Serenity just intrinsically know they needed to regroup with their leader?
Serenity turned right for the moment of truth. The enormous ball of static hung over Valor like a death sentence. Undeterred, Valor planted her feet and braced her shoulder against her shield. A purple text bubble popped over her head: “!noiƚuloƨɘЯ ʇo ƨiǫɘA”
Before Serenity could mentally flip the inverted text, molten, purple-ish lava spewed forth from Valor’s shield. In an instant, the lava shaped itself into a giant version of Valor’s shield and hardened into a pale lavender-colored kind of stone. It towered over the Spirit Guard’s leader and had to be at least four feet thick. Surely this could stop…
The stone shield exploded like a boulder filled with dynamite.
Serenity braced herself. Valor would go flying and she’d need to–
The dust, pebbles, chunks of lavender stone, and even shards of Cell-celia’s static boulder hung in the air as if God himself had hit the pause button on reality. As time seemed to hold still, Charity landed next to Serenity and gave her a tired, yet excited smile. The words, “Watch. U won’t want 2 miss what she’s about 2 do! ;),” floated in a text bubble above her head.
A scintillating violet light flashed over the debris field. In a moment, it was all engulfed into the shield as if it were a sponge. Serenity could feel all that stone and static funnel through Valor’s aura like water flowing through a garden. Her body literally vibrated like a jackhammer as it struggled to contain and focus that power. Serenity could feel her own body shaking as her own aura seemed to resonate in wonder at such a display of empathokinetic skill.
Valor took a single, dramatic step, surgering the power into her left leg. She stomped her foot to the ground as if she were squishing a bug. The entire store rattled as Serenity felt Valor channel the extra power into the earth itself.
The store continued to rumble as the few shelves that hadn’t been blown up by Cell-celia’s shots had their merchandise tumble off their shelves. Though the monster’s eyes remained firmly set on Valor, Serenity could swear she felt the monster glancing about the store. Regardless of its attention, Cell-celia’s smugness had vanished. It knew something was about to happen and it likely wouldn’t be good.
Serenity could hear and feel, both physically and empathokinetically, the foundation buckle under Valor’s influence. The carpet ripped open at Valor’s feet exposing a slight crack in the Buy Bright’s foundation. That crack streaked across the floor like a lightning bolt. Cell-celia’s eyes shot wide open as it recklessly dove backwards.
A spike of pure amethyst pierced through the floor at an angle and nearly skewered the monster. The gemstone stalactite merely knocked over an entire metal shelf on top of Cell-celia and still had enough umph to puncture through the ceiling. Serenity blinked. This was what Valor could do? She didn’t have anything even close to that!
Though Serenity did lament that her left pompom had been at the epicenter of the attack and rode the tip of the giant amethyst spike out of the building. She could feel it still airborne somewhere outside of the Buy Bright. “Going 2 have 2 find my offhand weapon after the fight now. -.- Amazing attack though, Valor! Didn’t no u had sumthing that strong! :-O”
“Told u it was cool! ;)”
Valor turned around and glanced at the text bubbles in utter befuddlement. Then she examined Serenity’s closer and directed, “Just dismiss yur weapons and resummon them.”
Serenity blinked again. “I can do that? O.o”
“Of course u can!” Angela emoted incredulously. “Quick! Give me the rundown of this monster. Wut is w/ the comic book speech bubbles above our heads?”
Serenity wanted to point out that comic book speech bubbles looked nothing like this. However she was too busy feeling really stupid if she could have dismissed and resummoned her dagger this entire time. Thankfully Charity took charge of informing Valor on the situation. “Cell-phone monster. Shoots rapid fire blasts of static through its antenna hands. Can shoot the big 1 u blocked 2 but takes a bit to charge up.”
Serenity dropped her dagger and tried to mentally dismiss. To her surprise, it was as simple to do as closing a window on a computer. The dagger hilt morphed into a plastic handle, the blade itself exploded into the various… Serenity didn’t know what to call the frills of a pompom. Then it simply disappeared. She couldn’t feel the pompom outside the store anymore either. She then mentally reopened the computer window and both pompoms were back in her hands. She shook her head in disappointment. Why hadn’t she even thought to try this? Regardless, she needed to get back to the task at hand as she felt Cell-celia stir under the rubble Valor’s attack created. “Calls itself Cell-celia, ftr. XP These names r so stupid. Also, it can sumhow c through walls and behind itself w/ cell signals. Can’t sneak up on it or blind it. It’s getting stronger w/ time thru it’s text virus spreading.”
“Much stronger,” Charity added. “Blasts have gotten bigger & faster. My barriers barely absorb ne of the force now. Got 2 end this fast.”
A text bubble popped up above the rubble. “Very impressive. >:) But a 3rd 1 still won’t stop me. I’m 2 strong for u 3 & getting stronger!” The the shelf flew into the air and crashed into the spike. Cell-celia dusted herself off and raised an amused eyebrow. “oic u all have been discussing me. XD & sumhow the bimbo got her other weapon back? No matter. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ U r all just last year’s model &, 2 bad 4 u, Kessia City is looking 2 upgrade !” The monster clanged her antennae arms together over her head in a challenge and crouched, ready to fight again. “Let’s do this ladies! U r nothing b4 the power of a goddess-in-the making! }:-)”
Valor squinted her eyes and pursed her lips. Did she have a plan? No, that was the expression of someone forming one. Serenity stepped forward. She needed to delay. But how? Then an idea struck her. More of an instinct really, one that she had been fighting ever since transforming into Spirit Guard Serenity. It wasn’t an overriding need or anything, just a constant nagging in the back of her mind that she had always ignored. But for now, she’d give in to the nagging to give Valor a few more moments to tighten her plan.
Serenity began her righteous monologue. “This is sum sort of game 2 u?” She decided to channel some of Valor’s style and lecture the monster a bit. “Phones r used to connect people 2 each other. >:O U use them 2 hurt people and this is something we cannot allow!” She clapped her pompoms together and formed her daggers. She stood dramatically and pointed her left dagger at Cell-celia while trying to come up with cell-phone related puns. “U just went over your data limits & we r here to assess u 1 mother of an overage fee. U may have been able 2 best us alone but 2gether our signal is strong! We r the Spirit Guard & we r putting in the call to end 2 your terrible telecommunications!”
Cell-celia rolled her eyes… then stopped three-quarters of the way. She squinted. “R u just stalling 4 time again?”
Serenity tried to say something witty. “I… no? ^_^;;”
Cell-celia opened her mouth but stopped when Valor walked past Serenity. “.ɘmiƚ 4 ǫnillɒƚƨ ƨɒw yƚinɘɿɘƧ .ƨɘY” Serenity could feel the triumphant grin plastered over Valor’s face despite not being able to see it. “(:< !bɘʞɿow ƚi bnA" The blonde raised her sword high into the air. It radiated a violet light that made the monster pause in anticipation. Serenity wondered what amazing attack Valor had up her sleeve, just glad that sacrificing her dignity during that monologue had paid off. To Serenity’s surprise however, Valor swung the sword at the ground instead. “!ƚiɿiqƧ ǫniƨiЯ”