Monday, October 3, 2016

Mystery Law and Protection Force: Finale

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By: Lime Green Giraffe Event Director, Edie W.

Glacier glared at me, annoyed. “That’s what you woke me up for?” she asked, standing up and brushing dirt from her dress. “I feel like it should be obvious. I’m ice, you’re fire, by definition, we can’t get too close, or one of us is going to get burned.” She paused. “No pun intended.” Crossing her arms, she continued. “Even if I didn’t want to hate you, any attempt at being friends would only end in disaster. Much like that village we found you destroying a week ago.” She looked at me pointedly.
            “Oh, come on. Those are ridiculous reasons and you know it.” I snapped, breaking the quiet. “I’m not fire, and you’re not ice. We’re people, and even if you don’t like it, we’re also a team. That stupid storm cloud is following us! “
            “Following you.” I heard her mutter under her breath.
            “And for us to even have a chance of figuring out what the heck it is, much less how to stop it, we’re going to have to work together.” She shot me a look, and I backtracked. “Or at least not kill each other.”
            It was quiet again, and Glacier looked away. I figured she was ignoring me, and I eventually decided to go back to my sad excuse for a tent and give the conversation a rest. But just as I was turning around, Glacier spoke.
            “Fine.” She said quietly through clenched teeth, eyes on the woods to my left.
            “What was that?”
            “You heard me, Sparky. I said fine, I’ll work with you.” She turned to face me. “But only until this storm thing is sorted out. After that, we’re not talking.”
            I nodded. “I’ll take it.” I said, holding out my hand. After a hesitation, she grabbed it and shook, sealing the deal.
            “Your hand is freezing!” I said, quickly pulling my hand away and clenching it shut. She scoffed.
            “What’s the matter, you can’t take a little cold?” She asked, a glint in her eye. “But I thought I heard you say that we were just people, and that fire and ice had nothing to do with it.”
            “Aw, shut up, Snowflake.” I grinned, punching her lightly on the shoulder. She rolled her eyes, but as she turned away, I swear I saw a smile cross her face.
            I smiled as I turned and walk to my tent, stopping only to call over my shoulder.
            “G’night, Glacier!”
            A pause.
            “Sweet dreams, Sparky.”
-~-
            “Brilliant! Brilliant, wake up!”
            I opened my eyes blearily, and sat up. Dusty stood in front of my tent, and shifted from foot to foot.
            “Geeli says we need to go. Now.” He said, eying the sky.
            “Since when do we all listen to Geeli?” I yawned, but got up reluctantly to stand beside Dusty. The storm was getting closer every second and rumbling ominously. Slowly it was making its way towards our little campsite.
            “All right, fine.” I said, grabbing my pack. I took down my tent which wasn’t very hard, since it was practically falling over already. I stuffed it in my pack, and ran to catch up with the others, who were now arguing in front of Glacier’s ice bridge.
            “ Do you know something about this.” Glacier was saying to Geeli, anger radiating from her body. Dusty looked like he wanted to get between them, but was afraid of what would happen. “You can’t keep us in the dark forever. Eventually…” Glacier trailed off as she noticed me.
Dusty saw the opening and took it. “Geeli, you said you know where we need to go?”
Geeli nodded, smiling warmly at Dusty. “Yes.  We need to head to a town west of here. We’ll be safe there.” Geeli nodded again, once, as if confirming the route with herself, and briskly walked across the bridge. Dusty followed behind, leaving Glacier and me to bring up the rear. I gave Glacier a look, like what was that about? But she just shook her head and mouthed “Later.”
We followed Geeli through the woods, and for a good hour none of us spoke. I tried chatting with Glacier, but she answered my questions with one or two word answers. Dusty wasn’t much better, and I could see through his polite front that he really wanted me to stop talking.
Fine. I thought, staring at Geeli’s back in front of me. Maybe it’s time I got some real answers.
I went to catch up with her, but there was something that made me fall back. I wasn’t scared of her, exactly, but she kind of freaked me out. I don’t know if it was her deep emerald eyes, or her height (She was considerably taller than me, although that isn’t saying much, even now) or the way she just kind of… knew things, like where we were supposed to be going.
            I shook my head. She was just a kid, only a few years older than me. I told myself “There is nothing to be scared of.” I squared my shoulders, I sped up to walk next to her. She didn’t seem very surprised.
            “Hey, honey.” I realized the more she talked, the more natural her accent sounded to my ears. “What’s up?”
            “I…” I looked straight ahead, running words through my brain. “I guess I just have a few questions.”
            “Okay. Shoot.”
            “Who are you?” I began, unable to stop more questions from pouring out of my mouth. “Where are we going? What is going on with the storm? Why is it following us? How are…“
            “Whoa there!” She laughed. “Slow down. You’re gonna have to ask me those questions one at a time.”
            “Fine. Is that storm actually following us?”
            “Well.” Geeli bit her lip. “I’m pretty sure it’s following you.”
            “No! Glacier was right!” I looked back to make sure she had not heard me. She hadn’t. “But how? And why?”
            Geeli sighed. “All I know is that you’re special, Sugar. That storm…” She turned and walked backwards for a moment, inspecting the low, rumbling clouds, and then turned forwards. “That storm’s got magic in it. I’ve seen something like it before, but one thing I am sure of is that it is trouble. A lot of trouble.” Her big green eyes focused on me. “And it’s all heading towards you.”
            I groaned. “Why me? Why not Glacier, or someone older? I mean, honestly. Do I look like someone who should have a magical storm following her?” I held out my arms for emphasis. Geeli paused for a moment and seemed to take in my outfit. I looked down and winced. In my jeans, torn t-shirt, and ratty jacket, I was definitely proving my point.
            “You are very powerful.” Geeli pointed out. “Especially for someone your age. A perfect host for… “She stopped short, and looked away.
            “A what? Perfect for what?” I asked frantically, but Geeli kept her face away. I stopped walking, forcing her to stop as well. “No. You can’t just say something like that and expect me to ignore it. If I’m in danger, I need to know what’s happening, so I can stop it.” Geeli’s fists clenched, but she relented, turning towards me.
            “You sure are stubborn, Sparky.” She said, a small smile on her face. “Fine, I’ll tell you. But I want you to make absolutely certain that you want to know. We might not even have to face the storm, and I don’t want to scare you.”
            “Is this because of my age?” I asked, realizing that irritation was rising in my voice. “Just because I’m younger than most of the others but that does not  mean I can’t handle it.“
            “I know.”
            I stopped, and looked down at my feet. “Oh. Okay.”
            Geeli lifted my chin up until I was looking up at her face. “I haven’t told any of the others, either. Once I realized what we were up against, I thought it would be easier to keep quiet and hope that we could get to safety quickly enough, so that none of you would even have to know. I see that keeping something like this from you was wrong.” She pulled at the sleeve of her sweater. “I guess I’ll start at the beginning. There are four different basic types of magic. Fire, water, earth, and…“
            “And air. I know. You can skip this part.”
            She gave me a little smile. “Now I’m not going to, just because you were rude.” I frowned, and she laughed. “All four of these classes encompass all types of powers, from Glacier’s water magic to Dusty’s air abilities. Some powers fall into two categories, like Castor. Her webs are part air, part earth. My powers fall into three categories: fire, air, and earth.” Putting an open hand out to her side, Geeli focused, and slowly closed her hand into a fist. I heard a low grumbling sound deep underground, and as I watched, a bow began to form in her hand, made of rock and carved with intricate patterns. She grinned and pulled back the bowstring, and an arrow appeared with its tip on fire. She aimed, but slowly let the string go, and the magic arrow disappeared.
            “Anyway.” Geeli let the bow fall to the dirt, where it slowly sunk into the ground. “The point is that the powers everyone on this worlds has fall into these classes.” She tugged one of her braided pigtails. “Or at least, almost everyone’s. The magic that storm produces belongs to another class altogether: plasma. Usually, plasma magic exists only in space, but sometimes, it comes to earth in the form of a meteor. The difference between plasma and the other classes it that while air, fire, earth, and water are by nature creative, plasma is destructive. This is why it infects the nearest available matter. Sometimes it infects a tree or sometimes a person…”
            “Or sometimes a storm.” I finished for her. “But I still don’t understand. Why is it coming after me?”
            “Like I said, plasma is destructive. And in order to grow, it has to act as a parasite, constantly going from a strong host to stronger host.” She looked at me with sadness in her eyes. “You must have been the strongest thing it could find.”
            Geeli was quiet next to me, and we walked in silence for a few feet. I kicked a pinecone, and it rolled into the woods.
            “Are you…okay?” She asked eventually.
            I let out a huff, and jammed my hands into my pockets. “Yeah, I guess.” I said, still looking down. “It’s not everyday that you get told that you’re the reason that you and all your friends are in danger.”
            “I did warn you..“
            “I know!” I snapped and then sighed. “Ugh. Sorry.”
            I couldn’t see her face, but I think she was smiling. “It’s okay. I understand. I was 11 once, too.”
            I smiled a little and gave her my usual response. “I’m almost 12.” Then I looked at her. “How old are you, Geeli?”
            She stiffened up a bit, which surprised me, because this question should not have surprised her. “I’m…I’m18. Six years older than Glacier and Dusty.”
            I laughed, then turned back to face Glacier. “You hear that, Snowflake? You’re not the oldest.“
            I stopped cold. “Um, G-Geeli? Where are Glacier and Dusty?”
            “What?” She stopped and turned. We were standing alone in the middle of the forest path, Dusty and Glacier nowhere to be seen. Thunder sounded in the distance, almost mocking us.
            “Okay, don’t worry.” She looked at me while she was talking, but the words seemed to be mainly for her own benefit. “They must have…gotten lost?”
            “But they were following us the whole time!” I protested, looking at the thick forest surrounding us. I didn’t have any idea when they disappeared; it could have been 20 minutes ago.
            “What do we do?” Geeli wailed, looking panicked. It freaked me out. I didn’t know Geeli was capable of loosing it.
            “Why are you asking me?” I pressed the heel of my palm against my forehead. “I’m not…”
            I trailed off, hearing a noise behind me. Looking at the ground, I noticed a pinecone rolling towards us, and slow to a stop. I looked back at Geeli. “That pinecone gave me an idea. Follow me.” I traipsed to the edge of the path.
            “You’re going off the path because of a pinecone?” Geeli shook her head. “I don’t mean to undermine your authority, Sugarplum, but I don’t think…“
            “Just trust me, okay?” I interrupted and stepped into the woods, leaves crunching under my feet. As soon as I was under the cover of the trees, the light changed, blocking most of the sunlight from the path. I shivered. If I my idea was correct, I wouldn’t have to walk too far.
            Geeli caught up with me, shaking her head the whole time, and I walked a little further, so that the path was just out of sight.
            “What now?” Geeli asked in a whisper. “Do we just stand here, or…?”
            “I’m on it.” I cleared my throat. “Oh no, Geeli! We seem to have gotten lost while looking for our friends, Dusty and Glacier!” I spoke loudly and monotonously, and nudged Geeli.
            “You’re a terrible actor.” She gave her head a little shake. “Oh, Brilliant!” Her southern dialect was gone, replaced with a grandiose speaking pattern that made her roll out the “r” in my name. “I’m afraid to say that we’ll be lost in this wretched forest for the rest of our lives, but I daresay, it is true!” She pressed the back of her hand against her forehead, and I stifled a giggle. “It has been wonderful being your friend; I will remember you for the rest of my life. Nay, forever!”
            She stopped, and the woods was quiet again. I looked up at the trees, squinting. “Maybe I was wrong.” I shrugged my shoulders.
            “Ugh.” Her normal voice was back, which was a relief to say the least. “I can’t believe such a terrible performance was wasted. At least you got to hear it.”
            We stood in silence for another moment.
            “AHHHH!”
            A scream rang out just behind us. Geeli jumped a mile, but I just grinned and spun around.
            “Hey there, Snowflake.”
            Glacier groaned and punched my arm. “Aw, Sparky, you’re no fun.”
            My grin faded to a smirk. “What can I say, I’m hard to surprise. Where’s Dusty?”
            “Right over there.”
            I turned around again, and sure enough, there was Dusty, being yelled at by Geeli. But who was next to her? They almost looked like…
            “No way.” I said flatly. Glacier put her arm around my shoulder. “Yep, he’s right there.” She said, her voice right in my ear. “Standing right next to Castor and Eval.”
-~-
            “I can’t believe y’all would pull something like that!” We were back on the trail, and Geeli was expressing her thoughts. Loudly. “I mean, Glacier, yeah, sure. But Dusty? Dude!”
            Dusty blushed. “It was mostly Castor’s idea. She thought it would be funny to scare you two.”
            Castor nodded fervently, purple curls bouncing up and down. “But then you didn’t notice for, like, ever, so I had to get your attention.”
            “And the best way to do that was to throw a pinecone at us?” I asked.
            Castor giggled. “It wasn’t like I had very many options.”
            We all talked about nothing important for a while. It was nice having Castor in our group, she definitely livened up any conversation. Having Eval back was nice too, even though looking at him gave me a funny feeling in my chest.
            I asked Castor about her sister.
            She grinned. “Oh, Spire’s fine. She and Ira are probably already at the safe town.” Castor stared at Geeli. With her uncanny eyes and spider fangs, I’m sure it wasn’t fun. “It is a safe town, right, Geeli?”
            Geeli nodded. “Yup yup. Brightvale’s pretty much the safest town to be in during disasters and the like. All MLPF members know that, silly.” Geeli ruffled Castor’s hair, and Castor giggled.
            “Okay, you’re right. I just get super worried sometimes.”
            “S-so do I.” Dusty cut in. “That’s basically a constant state of living for me now.” Castor stared at him a moment, then burst out laughing.
            “You’re so funny!” She laughed, and Dusty’s face turned even redder.
            “You… really think so?” He asked, and Castor nodded her head vigorously.
            “Oh yes, definitely.” She said sincerely. Anyone else said that, and I would have thought they were being sarcastic, but Castor did everything sincerely.
            While Dusty and Castor continued to chat, I talked quietly with Geeli.
            “So.” I started. “You said you were a part of the MLPF?”
            Geeli’s eyes went wide. “Oh. I suppose I did, didn’t I?” she looked nervous, and pulled at the collar of her sweater.
            “It’s okay.” I said quickly. “You don’t have to tell me anything else. I’m sure you’ll tell us enough accidently, anyway.” I grinned.
            Geeli smiled back. “Thanks, Sugar Belle. I will tell you that I’m on your side, so don’t you worry about anything.”
            “I wasn’t.”
            “What, you think I’m too nice to be on the bad guy’s side?”
            “Nope.” I smirked. “You’re just a bad liar.”
            “Hey!”
-~-
            We got to the campsite around dusk. I wondered why we kept managing to end up at campsite clearings at the exact right times, but I figured it was a well-traveled path, and the campsites were just conveniently located. I made a campfire, something I do extraordinarily well, and we ate berries and some canned meat from Castor’s bag. Finally, everyone drifted to his or her sleeping spots, until I was the only one awake. I extinguished the fire, but when I stood up, I was surprised to see Eval standing behind me.
            “Eval? What are you doing here?” He had that look of perpetual confusion on his face, so I was a little afraid to ask.
            “Look, Bril.” He hesitated, and ran a hand through his hair. “I just wanted to thank you.”
            Now it was my turn to be confused. “For what?”
            He looked away. “I dunno. You helped me get out of the MLPF building when we first saw that storm, so…” He trailed into silence.
            “Um. Well. You’re welcome. I didn’t really…do anything, but whatever.” It was silent again. Why was it so hard to talk to him? Chatting with Glacier was easy, but Eval seemed like a completely different species.
            After a few more moments of awkward silence, I was ready to head back to my tent. I was going to say something and leave, but that was when Eval reached his arms around me in a hug. I stood still, and felt my face go fire truck red. It wasn’t entirely unpleasant, but I could tell I had done something wrong when he pulled away just as quickly as he had when he started the hug.
            More silence. What was I supposed to say? Thanks? Luckily, I didn’t have to say anything. Eval did it for me.
            “Good night, Brilliant.” He turned away.
            “You too, Eval.” As I watched him walk away, I had the sudden urge to run after him. Why? I shook my head and walked back to my tent, ready to fall asleep.
            Clearly, though, sleeping was not in the cards for me, since I found Glacier waiting for me outside of my tent.
            I yawned. “What do you want?”
            Glacier stuck out her lower lip in a pout. “Rude. I wanted to talk, since we’re supposed to be tolerating each other.” She shot me a pointed look. “But I guess not.” She turned away from me and fluffed her hair.
            I rolled my eyes. “All right, whatever. Come on inside my tent, we’ll talk.”
            She spun back around. “Great!” She clambered inside my tent, and I followed. My tent wasn’t a tent, not really. It was much closer to “a sheet hanging from a tree branch” since, what do you know, that’s what it was. It wasn’t pretty, but it did the job okay. But one thing, my sheet tent wasn’t made for two people. So, when Glacier got situated, there was barely enough room for me. I ended up sitting nearly halfway outside, and even then, my knees were pushed up against Glacier’s as we both sat cross-legged.
            “So.” I said, stifling another yawn. “What did you want to talk about?”
            “Oh, I don’t know.” She put the tip of her index finger against her cheek. “How about boys?”
            “Come on, Snow.”
            “Fine! A specific boy.” She leaned in, grinning. “What do you think of Eval?”
            Even as I answered, I felt my face getting hot. “I don’t know. I’m neutral, I guess?”
            Glacier giggled. “Aw, you’re blushing! So you do like him?” I couldn’t read her expression. Sure, she was smiling, but her eyes were showing something completely different. Was it…hurt?
I shrugged, suddenly uncomfortable. “I mean, I don’t know. Yes? We’re both really young- I don’t know if I can ‘like-like’ someone yet.”
            She visibly relaxed. “Oh.” There were a few moments of silence. I figured I should say something, but I didn’t know what. Man, I thought. So much for Glacier being easy to talk to. Why is she being so weird?
            Glacier must have noticed something about me, because she punched my shoulder. “Don’t sweat it.” She said. “Even if you find out you don’t really like him, or he rejects you, you’re cute. You’ll find someone.”
            I smiled reluctantly. “Thanks, Snowflake.” Then I thought for a moment. “Did you call me cute?”
            She laughed, a little too loudly. “You wish!”
            I laughed too, and then we stayed up far too late talking, until I eventually kicked Glacier out so I could sleep. Her last words echoed in my head: “Sweet dreams, Sparky.”
-~-
            I woke up with the sun streaming on my face, which was an immediate warning sign. Geeli said she was going to wake us up before the sun came up to stay ahead of the storm.
            Climbing out of my tent and yawning, I saw all the others gathered at the edge of the campsite, where the trees gave way to a small meadow, about 100 feet across and twice as wide. I went to stand beside Geeli, and I saw it.
Geeli looked up at the sky. “It’s here.”
The dark, purple clouds that had been stalking us for the last few days had finally caught up. They were close enough that I could practically feel the electrically charged air, and it made my hair feel like it was standing on end. I shivered, and drew my jacket closer around me.
“It’s not that close.” Dusty tried to reason, though he sounded like he was talking mostly to himself. “We could still make it to the safe town.” He turned to Geeli. “You know if we hurry.”
Geeli shook her head. “No. I’m sorry, Honeycomb; it’s too far away to make it now.” I saw her hands ball into fists. “I was stupid to think I could get y’all there in time. I should have prepared you for this.” She unclenched one of her hands and gestured to the sky. Slowly but surely, the clouds were approaching.
I felt my stomach twist. We were supposed to bring down that? How? Was it even possible? I felt my eyes tear up, and I turned away from the group.
“Sparky?”
Quickly swiping my arm across my eyes, I spun around. “Hey, Snowflake. What do you need?”
She tucked a stray hair back into her long braid. “I wanted to make sure you were okay.” She said. “I’m freaked out, and I’m older than you.”
“Only by a year.” I mustered up a grin. “I’m fine, really.”
Glacier smiled. “Good luck out there, okay? And…“ She choked up a little, but tried to pretend like she didn’t. “…And don’t die.”
“Ditto. Seriously.” I said, giving her thumbs up. I heard Geeli calling me, so I walked over to where she stood with Dusty.
“All right.” Geeli said, her eyes still on the storm. “This looks like a pretty strong plasma elemental, so I’m gonna assume that it’s top tier.”
“What’s that mean?”
She looked at me, a bit surprised. “You aren’t very good at waiting your turn, are you?” I gave her a what can you do? kind of shrug, and she went on.
“There are different tiers for all elementals, and top tiers tend to be more destructive than lower tiers. I am not an expert on plasma elementals, much less top tier ones, but I do know some basic facts.”
She took a deep breath. “Plasma elementals can manifest as much smaller physical beings, and the smaller beings are used for attacking. That’s what we’ll have to worry about on the ground. And, since, we’re pretty certain that plasma’s targeting you, you’ll also have to worry about defending your friends from it.”
“Wait, what?”
“A storm cloud’s power is nothing compared to yours, Sparks. Trying to go directly from it to you would be a death wish. But.” Geeli looked at me with cold eyes. “Taking over someone else’s body, especially someone close to you, would make the process considerably easier. The smaller shift in power level coupled with your lowered defenses when fighting a loved one will make you an easy target. That’s why it’s really important that you keep that plasma elemental away from everybody.”
“O-Okay.” I felt my stomach twisting up again.
“Hey.” I looked up. Dusty was talking to me. “Don’t worry. I’ll be up in the air while you guys fend off anything on the ground, so I’ll be able to warn you if anything happens.”
“Why will you be in the air?”
He produced a small glass sphere from his pocket. It was slightly larger than a bouncy ball. He looked at Geeli. “Um. Geeli says that if I find the heart of the storm, I can catch it in here, and that will keep the elemental contained. That is, if I can find the heart at all.” He muttered the last part under his breath.
I was about to respond, but just then, the wind picked up, blowing my hair all over my face. I felt a twinge of envy towards Castor’s short hair and Glacier and Geeli’s braids.
Overhead, lightning flashed, and thunder rumbled. Then the sun was blotted out by angry-looking clouds of doom, and I could see animals start to take shape, formed from wisps of purple smoke.
I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and then screamed.
“Bring it on, CLOUD!”
-~-
            Geeli’s words, among others, echoed through my mind, and I frantically tried to clear my head enough to make a decision. Who was I closest to? That was a no brainer: I thought back the Glacier’s teasing the day before. “So you do like him!”
            “Eval!” I called, running up behind him. As I watched him fight, I had no doubt that he was the one I was supposed to be protecting. His teleportation was useful for getting places quickly, but in the heat of battle, he was pretty much useless. He dodged a shadow mutt and then glanced at me. “Brilliant?”
            I saw a shadow beast behind him and blasted it with a fireball. “I’m going to cover you for a while, okay?”
            His confusion was replaced with a slight smile. “Thanks, Bril’”
            Blasting another monster, I grinned. “Nothing to it.”
            We stayed that way for a while, him dodging mutts and me working my butt off to try and protect him, until I started to wonder if this was some alternate plane of existence, where I would keep fighting forever. Just as my breathing got loud enough to warrant concerned looks from Eval, there was a massive flash of light, and I shielded my eyes with my hands. From up above, I could hear Dusty shout.
            When I looked up, the storm was gone, changed into light, fluffy clouds that were already drifting away with the wind, and Dusty was floating in the air, looking bewildered. A jolt of fear went down my spine. It’s chosen a host.
            I frantically looked around for Eval before realizing that he was right next to me, looking confused, as usual. His hair was messed up and he had a scratch across his cheek, but otherwise, he looked fine. My heartbeat sped up. If Eval wasn’t the host…
            Words were turning in circles in my brain.
‘Sweet dreams, Sparky.’
‘Did you just call me cute?’
‘Aw, shut up, Snowflake’
‘…And don’t die.’
            A cold realization hit me like a freight train.
            Eval wasn’t the host.
            Glacier was.
            I felt the back of my neck prickle, and I instinctively leapt to the side, landing on my stomach. A spray of razor sharp icicles pierced the ground where I had stood only moments before. Standing up, I saw Glacier about 50-feet behind me, completely still.
            “Glacier?” I called, hoping to get a reaction. Nothing. I tried again. “Snowflake?”
            Slowly, she raised her eyes to meet mine. Gone was her intense, icy gaze; her eyes resembled dark, deep pits. She walked over to me. Her posture was erect and each step she took was deliberate. When she was about 10-feet away, she stopped. She looked  at me, it seemed like she recognized something.
            “Sparky?” She asked, her posture relaxing. Aside from her washed out appearance and terrifying eyes, she looked and sounded mostly normal. “Is that you?”
            I felt a sudden urge to go to her, to reassure her that everything was all right. I took a step forward, and Glacier smiled.
            “It’s been a long day, Sparky.” She said, reaching out her hand. “Come here, and we can talk. That would be nice, yes?”
            “Yes…” I trailed off, lost in her eyes. They seemed to swallow everything around them, and as I watched, they grew bigger, and bigger.
            “Brilliant! Brilliant, wake up!”
            The familiar phrase made me blink. I spun around to where Castor was waving her arms and jumping up and down. She saw me looking, and yelled, “That’s not Glacier! No matter what it says, remember: it’s not…”
            Castor was cut off as ice coated her body. She was frozen. My heart was hammering as I turned back to face Glacier. Her arm was outstretched, and her features radiated hate.
            I shook my head. No. It is not Glacier. Its features radiated hate.
            It looked at me, its face changing into something resembling Glacier’s. “Come here, Brilliant.” It cooed. “Come to me.”
            I took a step forward, then another. Its face stayed the same, but I could see in its eyes: It thought it had won. It thought I was going to make a good host. It thought that this had been easy.
            Think again, body snatcher. Then, with all of my strength, I threw a fireball at its direction. It dodged, hissing.
            “I see.” It said. “If you’d like to fight, you may. Just keep in mind that this body is your friend’s, and if you destroy it, she’ll be gone for good.”
            Dang. It knew where to hit so it hurt. I hid my fears and formed another fireball, then lobbed it in the plasma elemental’s general direction.
            By now, it knew what to expect from me. It sidestepped the attack effortlessly, and returned my attack with a barrage of ice arrows. I dodged left and right frantically, throwing flames at her every few second
            For a while, it was fine. It stood still and sidestepped my attacks, while I ran around hers. I kept waiting for Geeli or Eval to show up, but when I looked, the two of them were trying to defend a frozen Castor from the animals made of plasma. I felt myself becomming more and more tired.
            Something’s gotta give. I thought, heart pounding.
            Eventually, it did.
            One of its arrows hit my arm, and I stopped. The pain was agonizing, but when I pulled it out, there was no blood.
            The elemental took that as its chance. It approached me, and as it did, the air got colder and colder, until it was an effort just to stand up. It got harder to breathe, and I felt myself wanting to close my eyes.
            I saw it looming over me, rising from the black spots in my vision. It smiled.
            Sweet dreams, Sparky.” I heard it whisper, but those words sent a sense of resolve through me. I was not going to lose. I couldn’t lose!
            I closed my eyes, and with all my strength, I focused on heat, thinking about it leaving my body and pushing outwards. Cracking one eye open, I saw an orange glow surrounding me, causing it to back away. I laughed; a short burst escaping my throat. My happiness quickly turned sour, though. I couldn’t stop this thing. Not for good, anyway.
            Luckily, I heard a sound above me.
            “Brilliant!” I looked up. Dusty was directly above me. “Catch!”
            He dropped something, and I caught it in the palm of my hand. It was the glass sphere. It was the thing Geeli said could stop this monster for good. I looked up again and gave Dusty a quick thumbs up.
            “All right, Sparky.” I muttered to myself, dropping my heat shield. “Let’s do this.”
            I charged at the plasma elemental, and it seemed surprised, because it took a few milliseconds to respond. It shot sharp ice blades at me, which I dodged as much as I could. One hit my arm, but luckily, it just grazed me. It kept throwing things at me and I kept looking for an opening, until at last I saw my chance.
            It was gearing up to launch a massive snowball at me. I stood still. As soon as it let the attack fly, I dodged left, and ran as fast as I could behind it. I opened my hand to reveal the sphere, and grinned.
            “Hey, Snowflake! I’ve got something to tell you!” With the sphere still in my palm, I pushed my hands against its back as hard as I could, figuring that was as close to its heart that I could get. I don’t know what I was expecting to happen, but when I pushed it, the glass sphere shattered in my hand. I drew my hand back (it was bleeding pretty bad), and valiantly finished my one-liner. “H-have a nice fall!
            It did fall down, but as it did, it made a terrible screeching noise that felt like my eardrums were breaking. The elemental in Glacier’s body fell facedown on the ground, but didn’t get back up. Instead, the shards from the glass sphere rose from their spots on the ground and from my hand, and began swirling in a tiny tornado above the elemental. It would have been pretty, if it weren’t, you know, a glass tornado of death.
            As I watched, a purple haze began to rise from Glacier’s body, slowly at first, but then faster. The smoke blended with the spinning glass until it was one big hazy monstrosity, and just as I was getting worried that maybe that hadn’t been the right thing to do, there was a flash of light. When I looked back, the tornado was gone, replaced by a glass sphere lying in the grass.
            I heard footsteps behind me, and turned around. It was Geeli.
            “You did it!” She exclaimed, punching me on the shoulder. I beamed, and then remembered.
            “Oh no!” I said softly, and spun around again to face Glacier still lying facedown on the ground. I hurried to her side and with some help from Geeli, I flipped her on to her back.
            Her eyes were closed, and when I held my hand above her mouth, I didn’t feel any air coming out.
            “She’s not breathing.” I said, panicked. “What should I do?” Without waiting for an answer, I started pumping my hands up and down on her chest, like I had learned to do in my brief stay at the Mystery Law and Protection Force. I pushed with all my might, but nothing was happening.
            “Brilliant, honey.” Geeli put a hand on my shoulder, but I brushed her away.
            “Stop. I can do this.”
            I heard Geeli take a step back, and I continued to pump my hands on Glacier’s chest. I felt my eyes well up with tears, and I squeezed them shut, trying to keep them at bay.
            I thought of words in time to my presses.
            Please be okay please be okay
            I thought of Glacier punching me on the arm. “Ow!” I’d say, but she’d laugh.
            Please don’t die please don’t die
            I remembered her looking over her shoulder at night. “Sweet dreams, Sparky.”
            If you die I’ll die…
            She gasped. I gasped.
            “B- Brilliant?” her eyes opened, revealing an icy blue gaze. “W-what…“
            “You’re okay!” I shrieked, grabbing her up in a hug. She seemed surprised, but hugged me back. After what felt like a long time, I pulled away, keeping my hands on her shoulders. “Do you remember anything?”
            “…Kind of.” She said. “I remember the storm catching up with us, and the magic animals, and…” Her eyes widened, and a light pink blush spread across her face.
            “What?” I asked quickly, afraid she was going to pass out.
            “You…saved me?” she asked, looking up at me. “From the storm? After I was so awful to you?” She looked like she was about to cry.
            “It was nothing, Snow.” I gave her a half smile. “But you did a terrible job on the whole ‘not dying’ thing.”
            “Oh, Sparky!” She wrapped her arms around me again, and when she pulled away, I helped her up to a standing position. Turning around, I saw all my friends standing together, and none of them were any worse for wear. Well, Castor was shivering a little bit, but that wasn’t a surprise.
            Geeli noticed us looking, and grinned. “We did it!” She said again, throwing an arm around Eval. “I can’t believe we actually did it!”
            Castor nodded, shivering even under Dusty’s coat. “Y-yeah! Even though I was frozen, it was still super awesome!”
            Everyone talked over each other, until I cleared my throat.
            “Hey guys?” I said, linking arms with Glacier. “Let’s go home.”
-~-
            “…And for outstanding performance in the time of a crisis, I am happy to award Brilliant Flame with the Golden Spear, the highest award of its kind.”
            I stepped forward and smoothed my dress, the same one that Ira had lent me weeks ago. As the pin was fastened to my collar, everyone applauded loudly, especially Glacier.
            When we returned to the MLPF building, we were expecting it to be in serious need of repair. However, since the storm was following me, once I left, the MLPF building was fine, and everyone gradually returned. We were welcomed back as heroes, and an award ceremony was scheduled right away. I asked Geeli to tell me why the Force was so obsessed with awards but she just laughed.
            Now, here I was, back at MLPF, walking back to my seat and waiting for the next name to be called.
            “This award is a special one.” The man giving out awards said. “It is in honor of our most successful Guardian, who also happens to be our youngest, at age 11. Please come up to the stage, Gillian Orion!”
            “Gillian?” I whispered, confused. “Who’s that?”
            Then I saw Geeli walking up to the stage, her face bright red.
            “She’s a Guardian?” Glacier asked, surprised.
            “She’s 11?” I exclaimed.
            Geeli rejoined our table.
            “Well hi there, Gillian.” I said, giving her a smirk. “It sure is weird that you lost 7 years of your age within a few days.”
            Geeli blushed. “I- I just didn’t want you to worry!” She said, wringing her hands in her lap. “Guardians are supposed to be wise and scary. You wouldn’t be scared of an 11-year-old, would you?”
            I shook my head. “I was never scared of the 18-year-old, either.”
“Oh.”
As the ceremony dispersed, and we all headed back to our rooms, promising to meet up at dinner. When I got to my room, though, I saw I wasn’t alone.
“Hiya, Snowflake. What brings you here?”
Glacier shrugged, leaning against my doorway. “I dunno.”
“Okay.” I pushed her aside so I could unlock my door. “Come on in.”
She did, and sat on my bed. We were quiet for a few minutes.
“So.” I said, breaking the silence. “What’s a Guardian?”
Glacier looked at me, shocked, then laughed. “Oh, right. I forget that you haven’t been here at all. A Guardian’s someone who’s assigned to watch over someone. They’re usually for quests and stuff, and they train in a completely different area of the MLPF, so we don’t know who they are. The idea is that they can be companions on any quests and things without acting like a chaperone.” She shook her head. “I just can’t believe that Geeli’s one!”
I laughed. “And that she’s only 11!”
We giggled together then trailing off to silence.
“Hey, Sparky?”
“Yeah?”
“I’ve been meaning to ask, what were you doing in that village where I arrested you?”
I looked away and let out a nervous laugh. “Oh, that. It’s kind of a funny story…“
Alarm bells rang out loudly, making Glacier jump. “What’s going on?” She asked, standing up.
I shook my head. “I guess we’ll have to go see!”
I opened the door for her, and she punched me on her way by. “Don’t think you’re getting out of it that easily. If we come back alive from whatever this is, I’m gonna make you tell me what happened.”
“Don’t worry!” I said. “If we do stay alive, I promise I’ll tell you anything you want.”
And you know what?
I did.


***Thank you to LGG writers, Autumn R. and Edie W. plus guest writer Zoe L. for sharing with us the fantastic adventures of the Mystery Law and Protection Force. Our next serial story Dear Diary begins on Friday, October 7 at limegreengiraffe.org.***

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