Lampetia's sky was shrouded by night. Stars overlooked the dormant volcanic mountain on the globe's southern hemisphere, housing the castle Aganju. This side of the dwarf planet saw few visitors, except for the fifteen renegades who resided in the violet, translucent palace forged from crystal and glass.
The short body underneath the heavy aegean cloak was the only active being Aganju that night; for Segin, daily patrols of the castle were ideal, and, as its sentry, this was the preferred time to do it while there was little commotion from the outside world. Striding through barren corridors, a fountain of precious stone came into view, producing a mournful frown from Segin. The healing water that flowed from it so generously before had dried up many years ago, just after the petrification of their queen.
Across the empty fountain the hall stretched on, leading to what was known as the Tomb of the Stars, an expansive room housing the petrified bodies of the constellations in the Cirque du Peur's clan, where their wounds were rejuvenated through layer upon layer of stone. Not present was the slumbering queen, Corona Austrina, whose body healed gradually as her rock form guarded the pale, dry fountain. Segin passed quietly between the black pillars framing the roofless chamber's entrance, interrupting the eerie silence with the soft echoes of bare feet across the floor. The statuelike bodies of the queen's retinue came to view, passed by somberly in a row. Norma. Circinus. Octans. Mensa. Caelum.
Day after day, year after year, the patrols through the Tomb were unvarying, encasing the personified stars underneath vast skies as they and the castle slept in harmony. But finally, after nearly two decades, something was different. Something that caused Segin to stop and stare.
Between Caelum and Antlia was something that was not there before; or rather something, or someone, that used to be there but no longer was. While everyone else was petrified, a single cavity had been formed, remaining only a broken rock in the silhouette of a humanoid body and handfuls of stone scattered across the floor. As if a prisoner trapped inside the rock burst it apart to be released once again.
"I see," Segin whispered, "so Fornax awoke first."
"Help!" My voice cracked as I cried out in terror.
"Somebody help!" The wail of fear bounced off the empty walls again and again.
"Help!" No matter how much I screamed, no one was there to hear me. No one that is, except for the girl far behind me and her pet hot on my trail. Furiously pumping my legs as hard as I could, I forced myself with every fiber of my being to run with all my might and not look back. Every promising door that would ensure my safety was locked shut, showing that the girl wasted no time to keep me trapped inside.
With another thunderous crack! from her riding crop, the sound of blazing fire from the black tiger behind me became more intense, and suddenly I felt a wave of heat pass over my head in the form of another starry beast that jumped over me to block my path. This tiger was much larger than its companion, and equally eager to attack and maul me.
I twisted my head frantically in the empty mall, searching for any diversion or place where I could run and hide. A clothing store I had been to many times before still had its doors open and I instinctively hurried inside as the monsters snarled behind me. The instant I stepped in the store, my feet slid out from under me and, for just a moment, I was airborne. I slammed down on my back, gasping painfully from having the wind knocked out of me, but now in a position to see one of the girl's tigers soar past me and crash into a display that it wouldn't have been able to reach if I were standing up. For the first and possibly only time in my life, I found myself extremely grateful that the shop's floors were made of such a slippery substance as they were, but that gratitude immediately became resentment as I tried to muster the nonexistent traction that would allow me to easily get up and keep running, leaving me easy prey for the remaining tiger to pin me facedown to the ground with its fiery paw.
I half-expected my clothes to ignite and start burning, but instead I could feel my back starting to cook. The one tiger stood staunchly over me while the other guarded the shop's entrance, signaling to its master where I was once she managed to catch up with me. If I wasn't so scared, I probably would have laughed as the girl temporarily lost her footing on the slick tile surface and casually tried to walk it off as if nothing happened. But even as her riding crop dissolved into a self-extinguishing fire in her hand, I knew that this was no laughing matter.
My fear became anger as she slowly walked towards me. Who was this girl, how did she manage to get me trapped in a closed mall after dark, and more importantly, on what planet did she think it was okay to come after someone with no explanation for her actions? Once she crouched down to my level, I demanded such an explanation accordingly.
"What do you think you're doing?" I snapped with a level of ferocity and vitriol I didn't even know I had. "I told you that I don't even know what you're talking about! Who are you, and what are these so-called 'talents' of mine you want?!"
Cross-legged, the girl looked at me plainly while stroking the tiger securing me to the floor behind its ears. "I told you, I don't have much time," she answered in a flat tone. "Now that I'm rejuvenated, it's only a matter of time before everyone else wakes up too, and we have to prepare in every way we can for the revival of our creator." Her hand found its way from the tiger's ear toward its chin to scratch, as if it were a peaceful lap cat. "That's why I, Fornax, took it upon myself to search for a certain special someone with certain special powers from seventeen years ago ─ powers over the stars and the ability to ward off evil."
The tiger gently butted her shoulder with its head.
"I never did find that person, though," Fornax continued. "Seems like she's decided to go into hiding. But," She paused to reach into her jacket for an unseen pocket, and pulled out for me to see a small, thin shard of crystal; immaculately cut and hanging from a silver chain. "I never stopped looking for her, and it took me a bit of time, but even though I couldn't find what I was looking for, I found out about you. It turns out you've got some of that awesome power yourself. Power that I bet you didn't even know you had, right?"
I gave no answer, too stunned to speak. Either this girl was completely insane or she was telling the truth, and I didn't know which of the two conclusions I was inclined to believe. She swung the chain in circles by her head creating a disk of a shining dark blue blur with speckles of glittering light trailing across. Fornax stood up, and the tiger at the door joined her by her side.
She put the crystal back in her pocket.
"Of course you wouldn't know," she somberly admitted, answering her own question. "You wouldn't even know how to use them, otherwise you could get out of here right now if you wanted to. Even if you did know how, the people on this planet are so inclined to throw aside any ideas that don't add up to how they think things should be." She blew on her finger and a plume of fire came out of her mouth, turning once again into her treasured riding crop. "I've said everything I wanted to say," Fornax stated boldly, clenching the crop between her fists, "and if you're not going to use the powers that have been given to you, I'll just use them to my advantage. Trust me, darling; it'll all make sense when it's over."
The storm of confusion in my head swelled tremendously into a violent typhoon. Fornax and I were using the same words, but not speaking the same language, and her explanation failed to make things any clearer for me. "I have nothing to gain from actually hurting you, but if you can't use your power enough to give it to me yourself, then the best way to take it for ourselves is by beating it right out of your body!"
I could feel the tiger on top of me shifting its weight to its other paw and, answering to this spontaneous surge of instinct, I twisted to my side, grabbed the leg holding me down and ripped it off my back before tearing toward the entrance. On the wall, behind a clothing rack, was a fire extinguisher fastened in place with a hook that I grasped on my way out; I didn't actually know how to use it for its intended purpose so, taking hold of it by the nozzle, I swung it at breakneck speed to slam it across Fornax's face. A sickening, low thud sounded out and, seizing the opportunity by the horns, even before her first cry of pain split the air, I bolted further down the building, carrying the fire extinguisher with me as my weapon. From several trips to the mall before, I knew that a few twists and turns away was at least one elevator that lead to a large parking garage, my idea being that, providing I reached it fast enough, I could go to the ground floor and make it back home if I ran fast enough without being caught. But that was a pretty big "if". Running in silence, the only sound I heard being my heavy breathing, I realized I must have hit Fornax pretty hard to not be able to hear her footsteps and her tigers after me ─ could she have passed out?
I booked it toward the elevator with no interruptions, which brought me to an area sandwiched in by the food court and an electronics store. Across from the elevator, a Subaru Impreza was parked for display, which I jumped over and slid past, reasoning that running around it would take longer to do. Time meant everything to me at this point, and I needed as much of it as possible with no chance of wasting it; however, the balance of fate's sympathies were not in my favor, considering that after slamming the "down" button on the elevator until my finger turned red, the doors didn't open for almost a minute. While waiting, I dug frantically through the pockets of my blue cardigan in search of my phone so I could call for help or for anyone who could take care of Fornax; however, in the midst of my search, I remembered all too suddenly that my phone was still back home on the kitchen table, where I had left it before I began washing the dishes. Until the elevator doors opened, I spent the rest of my time banging my head against them.
When they finally did, I nearly fell in as the source of my headache slid away, but after regaining my composure, I punched the button for the ground floor and huddled as tightly into one corner as I could ─ just in case Fornax did something crazy like blowing off the elevator doors or whatever. As I began to slowly descend, I spun the fire extinguisher in my hands and used this time to read the instructions printed on. The words blurred as my hands shivered intensely, and I only got so far as the caveat near the bottom of the sticker label warning users not to siphon the nozzle with their mouth before I felt the ground stabilize beneath me. Before the doors could open, I scooted from my corner to the door's crack and assumed a runner's stance, prepared to go off like a bullet as soon as I could. Slowly, the doors spread apart, and the light from inside the shaft creeped onto the concrete floor outside, and for just a moment I expected the only thing in front of me to be just an empty parking garage. Instead...
A wave of heat filled the tiny elevator, steadily thickening the air. There was the tiger summoned by "Beta", filling up my escape route. Behind it was a scowling Fornax, covering with her right hand a red and swollen cheek.
"Listen," she growled as I stepped back from the entrance. Her eyes glared stonily at me from underneath hooked eyebrows. "I'm not going to repeat myself, and I won't put up with any more of your little shenanigans. I came here to take your power, and I'm not coming back to my planet empty-handed!"
I didn't wait for her to finish. Stretching one leg behind me and replaying in my mind the instructions I read, I pulled the fire extinguishers pin, thrust the nozzle toward Fornax and the tiger and sprayed. My logic was that since the tiger was made of fire it could be put out with the extinguisher, and then the only one I would need to get past after that point was Fornax ─ and I had already managed to get past her twice in one night. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but by the time I had processed that the tiger was immune to what the fire extinguisher had to offer, it was already too late. Neither Fornax nor the tiger were going to budge, and cold smoky fumes permeated the air contained in the elevator shaft. Chills surged through my body, and a sensation of what felt like insects made of sharp needles tingled across my skin and in my throat, causing me to yield to a violent coughing spell. I ducked down to the floor in hope that the chemicals would be less strong at ground level, but the gas had already filled the entire area. Even Fornax covered her face with her sleeve and tried to fan away the toxins with her hat, and now she and I both knew that I was a sitting duck.
Her gaze lifted from being buried inside the sleeve of her top, and for one brief moment her eyes met mine. She raised her right arm up above her head, and with it her hat; the moment her arm was completely erect, the gas from the fire extinguisher dissolved, like a tornado, swirling loudly into the dark space of her hat’s inside and disappearing within an unknown void, and a powerful heat once again overtook the space. The hat she placed back on her head, and with a powerful swipe of the brim, her treasured riding crop appeared back in her grasp.
My diversion tactic had failed. The path to my safety was blocked. Even if I decided then to escape to another floor, I would be easily tracked down. There was nowhere for me to run, nowhere for me to hide.
"Enough with this nonsense."
As quickly as Fornax came toward me, thoughts in vain efforts to come up with some impromptu escape plan raced through my empty brain, but nothing came of it. I was tired, in pain and afraid, and my ideas had all run dry. For a brief moment, I began to consider that her taking my so-called powers wouldn't be as bad as I thought, even if the idea didn't make the trembling stop and the fear any less real. After all, there was nothing she could gain from hurting me, or so she said.
Suddenly, beyond the shaft was a voice. A loud, rich voice from some unseen person. A deep and mature voice belonging to another woman, not to me or to Fornax.
Fornax, now standing mere inches from my face, suddenly whirled her head back behind her to look for the voice's source, and one of her pigtails slapped me across the face. Before either of us could fully register what happened, a thick stream of burning white light came and nailed the tiger's left side, ripping its balance off its paws as it let out a loud yelp like a startled house cat. "Beta!" Fornax cried, and she ran out of the elevator shaft to come to the tiger's aid, which had now been launched across the parking garage outside of my line of vision. After being left idle for so long, the elevator doors began to slide shut automatically, just slow enough for me to hear a loud boom! and see a thick plume of black smoke with shining stars like the tiger's quietly die out. "Beta!!" Fornax shouted again with a mix of shock and anguish, just as the doors were sealed shut. Silence took over for the first time in what felt like hours as Fornax's running footsteps trailed away, leaving me temporarily alone. My chest and throat were still irritated, but not as badly as before, and my eyes were still itching. My back was hot and sore, and my tired body trembled with fear and residual cold fumes. I sat on my legs in the middle of the shaft and, without getting up, leaned over slightly to press the button for some floor.
I slowly got up to a standing position, my legs tingling with static as blood finally came in contact with them. Suddenly, there was a dense pounding noise on the doors, and I jumped back in fright. The pounding continued in an erratic rhythm, one that I could tell was being made by someone smacking their hand on the doors. From beyond, I could hear Fornax's muffled voice, out of breath and full of energy: "You see? This is what I was telling you before! She came back ─ Lepus came back!"
There was a hollow thump, and Fornax's voice was cut off. For the two seconds that followed, my mind immediately went to work. Fornax had never mentioned this Lepus person before through this whole night ─ who exactly was she? That person she was looking for with "power over the stars", I assumed. A person who apparently decided to finally come out of hiding, as described. I didn't have much time to be left alone with my thoughts, though; a low grinding sound took me out of my trance, and a pair of hands slowly pried open the doors. I could tell right away that these weren't Fornax's hands ─ for one thing, Fornax wore gloves and this person didn't, allowing blue painted nails and a peachlike tan much darker than Fornax's to be seen. The doors were forced open, revealing an older woman with slanted purple eyes and a brown side ponytail stretching down to her calves. She wore knee-length white high-heeled boots and a short umbrella-shaped blue dress with enough frills to rival a princess' gown and decorated sparingly with various gold charms of stars and crescent moons. Something about her was irritatingly familiar, and I didn't know why.
Even after pushing the doors open completely, they were already beginning to close. She braced herself against the door to her right and widened it again by pushing it with her body. Holding the left door steady by propping it with her foot, she held her palm out to me in a beckoning gesture. "This way," she urged quietly.
Without much hesitation on my part, I took hold of her outstretched hand. The jury was out as to whether or not this girl was trustworthy in my opinion, but my goal from the beginning was to make it to the garage and go home, and this way I finally could. As I took her hand, the floor started moving up to take me to the floor I pressed, and I hopped out onto steady ground just in time. The doors closed behind us, with, fortunately, no tigers waiting for us in the parking garage. Fornax was motionless facedown on the floor, her hat crumpled flat, with a shiny metal staff next to her that the older woman stopped to pick up. Recognizing the vine pattern and the crowned mirror orb, it suddenly dawned on me. This girl ─ Lepus ─ was the silhouette from my dream. What was she doing here?
I wanted to ask, but before I could, she took me by the hand and broke into a jog down the garage, leaving me wondering how she was able to run in shoes like those. Her long legs made it harder for me to keep up with her stride and the exertion scratched at my throat, sending me in another bout of wheezy coughing. Lepus' run slowed to a walk until she stopped moving altogether and she looked me in the eye; her expression was vapid but her voice seemed to carry some concern. "Are you all right?" she asked, stooping down slightly and brushing my sweaty hair out of my face. When I didn't answer right away, she slowly took both of my hands and pulled them gently in her direction, then fingered inside her sleeve to show a small, flat vial made of magenta glass and filled with a translucent liquid. "Here, drink this." She pressed the vial in my hands and curled my fingers around it. "This'll make you feel better."
After I finished coughing, I accepted the flask and took down its contents in one gulp. It had the consistency of water yet was sweeter than saccharine, and I tried as hard as I could not to gag. Despite that, my throat and chest immediately felt better, and my eyes weren't as scratchy as before. I played around with the flask for a little bit and inched closer to Lepus. "Thanks. Um..." Suddenly I was at a loss for words. "Do you need this back?"
"Yes," she replied, plucking it from my hands to hold with her staff and gently grasping wrist. "Fornax will probably wake up soon, so let's hurry and get out of here before she does." With that said, she set her stony gaze before and once again broke into a run; and this time I had no trouble keeping up with her. Her large, warm hand pressed against mine, and in that moment this entire night's experiences felt so extraordinary that I felt I would never come across something like this again. That, to me, meant spamming my rescuer with as many questions as my tired brain would allow before we parted ways. Probably the first question that came to mind was how she made it here from my dreams, but knowing that there was no way for me to ask her in a way that made sense, I tried to forget about it before it became an obsession. In the end, the icebreaker ended up being "So do you do this kind of thing a lot?"
Without looking toward me, she answered, "What do you mean?"
"Oh, well, you know..." I fiddled with my braided sidebangs with my free hand. "...running around at night with a big staff and using laser powers to stop psycho mall girls and save people, things like that."
"You mean my superhero work?"
"...Yyyeah, that." This night was just gonna get weirder and weirder.
Lepus turned toward me, but not before long looked back ahead. "Not as often as I used to."
"Really? How often was that?"
"Every day, almost."
"Wow... sounds exciting ─ exciting and scary. Kinda like a good exercise plan too." Lepus only snorted, but didn't say anything. "Seventeen years ago, right? So how come you stopped?"
Again, she said nothing.
Finally, I dared to ask the one other question that plagued my thoughts. "You know," I began, "Fornax told me something about me having some sort of power that she said you had too. What do you think she meant by that?"
Lepus still didn't answer; instead, her only response was a loud sigh, and I could tell that my questions were clearly annoying her. By then, the darkness in the parking garage began to shine with the shadows of moonlight that bled through, and we made it outside. I loosened my hand from Lepus' grasp and tried to catch my breath, while Lepus stood next to me in silence, her eyes fixed on where we just came from. "So she's back..." she mumbled in a voice barely above a whisper. At last she stated, "I'd better get going," turning her back toward me to leave. "You shouldn't be out this time of night by yourself, okay? And..." She looked behind her to face me, as if to make some closing remark, but all she had to say was a quick "Never mind" before running away down the sidewalk.
I continued to watch her as she quickly receded into the background, soon becoming indistinguishable with the black horizon. The way she looked, the way she ran ─ it was just how I remembered in my dream. Once she disappeared from view, I rounded the parking garage toward the front of the mall, forcing myself to keep from looking inside until I reached the gathering of shrubs, then left for home without the ride I came on. My bike had been stolen.
The walk back to my house was long one, and it was going on one by the time I made it to my porch steps. I opened the front door in slow motion, trying to keep creaking to a minimum and risk waking my mom, and tiptoed inside until I reached my bathroom. It was way too late for me to take a shower, even though I was in dire need of one, and I simply flopped fully clothed on my squishy green bed. What a night, I thought.
Even though I was safe within the wall of my own home, the fear of being tricked and chased by Fornax didn't go away; instead it only grew worse. My anxiety became stronger with every passing second, playing with my mind and squeezing my chest to where breathing itself was painful. What if she followed me back home or tomorrow at school? Or what if she came with backup? Would they be harder to shake than her? Would I have the know-how to thwart them? And would the reclusive hero Lepus be willing to come to my aid again?
I tried and tried again to rid myself of this dread, but in this battle with my mind I continually lost as my thoughts pushed their way back in. Staring blankly out my window, I continued to be taunted by my fear, second by second, minute by minute, hour by hour, to where I felt like jumping up and screaming in frustration. This silent struggle continued on even as the sky began to turn blue, and my first dose of peace came once blessed somnia finally overpowered me and lulled me to a state of calm, just when I thought I was too tired to fall asleep.
My eyes jerked open at the sound of my mother's voice. I made no move to get out of bed as my heart thudded wildly in my chest from this rude awakening; instead I lay motionless on my side, stiff and sore from sleeping fetal, and waited to see if the shout actually happened or if I dreamt it.
Finally I slid off the bed and scooted toward my door on faded pink socks to grab the school uniform hanging off my doorknob, consisting of a gingham brown pleated skirt and an ochre blazer. Laying the hanger with my uniform flat against my bed, I allowed myself a brief detour before getting dressed to rife though my drawer in search of the leg warmers I typically wore to school. They were neatly folded somewhere ─ where could they be?
"Yumemi Seiun! You come down here right now! I need to talk to you!" Feeling the pressure of frustration, I hollered back, "Just a minute!" Oh boy. If anything your mom says starts with "I need to talk to you", it's parent code for either "your dog died", "I'm pregnant" or "your grandma is coming to live with us indefinitely". I anticipated the imminent talk with great dread as I continued to empty my sock drawer. No leg warmers. I woke up way before my alarm and there was no rush for me to leave for school, but I knew I couldn't take hearing my mom screaming at me from downstairs much longer. It killed me to leave my drawers this messy, but I promised myself to sort them out once I got back home as I searched in the second-most likely place to find my leg warmers; the mesh hamper underneath my desk. Sure enough, they were rumpled up in a plaid-patterned wad near the bottom, and I gave them a quick sniff. Not exactly fresh, but still socially acceptable, and I quickly replaced them with my clothes from last night to get dressed.
As I stepped through my skirt, a single notion nagged quietly at me; the notion that there was something from yesterday that I had forgotten overnight. But what? It was only when I began to put on my undershirt by my vanity mirror that I snapped out of my morning-after amnesia. When my shirt was only half-buttoned, I caught a glimpse through it of something on my back ─ something that looked suspiciously like a fading dark bruise. I slid the top of my shirt down below my shoulders and peered closer into the mirror. It was a big ol' bruise, all right; covering the top half of my back; however, it looked like it was already beginning to heal. The encounter with Fornax's tigers in the mall immediately came to mind ─ the bruise's area had the same coverage as the heat I felt when I was trapped against the floor. It was definitely no coincidence, I thought, but I had expected there to be at least second-degree burns; a large bruise didn't seem to be worthy of a fire paw's caliber.
Then that was when I remembered the vial Lepus gave me.
This'll make you feel better, she had said as she passed it in my hands just hours ago.
I stopped for a moment as I reflected in awe on what had happened. Right when I first drank that stuff, I noticed instantly a change for the better in my lungs and eyes -- maybe it reduced whatever burns I had to that bruise too. Wow, I said to myself, whatever that is must be some serious medicine.
Getting dressed the rest of the way took only about a minute. Once I stepped out my bedroom to go to the bathroom, I found my mother waiting for me at the foot of the stairs. Noticing her crossed arms and wide frown, I casually tried to pretend I didn't see her and continued to avoid eye contact as I scuttled off to brush my teeth. But Mom clearly wasn't going to accept that. "Yumemi, when I tell you to come here, you do as I say." Her words came out in a near snarl. "Drop everything and come downstairs!"
"Mom, I was right in the middle of getting dressed! Did you want me coming down in my underwear?" I groaned through a mouthful of now-liquid toothpaste. Hopefully that would shut down all argument on its own ─ knowing my mom, she would just send me right back upstairs and yell at me to get changed. Not so, on this particular morning.
"I! Don't! Care! What you say! I'm your mother, and you need to listen and obey immediately I'm talking to you instead of making me wait! Would you treat Kenichi and Tomomi this way if they asked you to listen?" I didn't respond right away, considering I had a cheek full of mouthwash to gargle and a head full of snarky retorts to weed through ─ before I got myself in even more trouble. "Would you?!" She yelled again.
"Sorry, I didn't catch that! The faucet's on!" A completely honest stalling method, in every sense of the word. I put the cold tap on full blast to continue getting ready, all the while wondering what the Sam Hill I had done to get my mom so upset. Whatever it was it would have to wait until I got home from school, which motivated me all the more to get out as soon as possible. Having never mastered the sacred art of taking a short shower, I decided to go the French route just by spraying on some perfume and ran back to my room to grab my phone and backpack. The scent of freshly toasted raisin bread filled the ground floor from the open kitchen as I headed downstairs, but I went straight for my shoes without taking a slice for myself ─ it would only slow me down.
My mother briskly followed me as I made my way to the door, with dress pants whooshing and high heels clacking. Her hair was arranged in a tidy brown bun, allowing her silver eyes to remain locked and loaded on me undisturbed. "We need to talk about this," she commanded sternly. A sharp exhale of annoyance slipped out from my mouth, and I tried as fast as I could to awkwardly slip on my penny loafers while enduring this unwelcome audience; I didn't know how much longer I could take this. "Can this wait until I get home after school?"
"No! We're going to talk about this right here! If you would just listen for even a second and stop trying to resist me you'll have plenty of time to leave. But the longer you drag this out, the longer this discussion will be! Am I making myself clear?!"
With every fiber of my being I tried to stay calm and keep my cool, but as I answered her I knew I was obviously failing. "Mom, I'm going to school, and whatever this is will make me late. I think we should talk once I come back and can give you my full attention."
"I! Don’t! Care! What you think!" Almost an exact repeat of what she shouted not two minutes ago, my mom's answers were hot and angry. She grabbed me by the elbow and tried to pull me away from the door. "Where did learn to think it was okay to─"
Without thinking, I ripped my arm free from her grasp and clutched for the doorknob. "It can wait 'till I get back!" I shouted, finally losing my temper too. The door flew open and I was off.
"Yume─!" Mom started again, but I had already slammed the door in her face and took a mad dash down the cul-de-sac sidewalk. The tidy neighborhood was a small one, and by the time I had run out of breath I was already quite a ways away. Pacing myself to a walk, I felt confident that she wouldn't come running after me and tried to relax. Still, I paused on my journey and poked my head out from behind a midlength shrub-capped wall and stole a glance back toward my house. All was quiet in the neighborhood with not a soul outside, and I slung my book bag over my shoulder to set off once again. "If only she knew I almost died last night," I muttered, "then she wouldn't be so hard on me."
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I'm back from vacation! This has actually been done for a while now but I didn't want to post it until I got back lol..;; Chapter 3 is almost done too, so look forward to that very soon (and maybe some little Heirloom Star animations?!)