Another scream in the night unsettled it, though it was nearly first light.
Yuri had her hands over her face and writhed where she lay.
When her mother couldn’t get the girl to show them what was wrong or stop panicking, her father grabbed her wrists and pinned them to the couch.
Everyone retreated a step or two, either from the smell or gruesome image. Sooyoung, too weak at the time and not knowing that her friend’s injuries ran much deeper than they appeared, had not healed Yuri well. The muscles in the witch’s forehead and temple had melted under her skin. Her skin had started to bubble up too. Some of it had dripped down her face.
Mrs. Hwang was first to react; if Yuri’s eye dissolved completely, then her brain wouldn’t be far behind it. Hovering a hand over the chemical burns, the Guardian sent almost everything she had within her toward Healing the girl.
The group sighed in collective relief when the bubbling stopped and the inflammation started to recede.
The eldest Im sister used that breath only to scream and flail again. Major problem solved, others made themselves known; all of her injuries from her fight with the demon were the same as the one on her face.
Sooyoung saw the boiling scratches on Yuri’s arms and was quick to tear the clothing from her friend’s body to check for more. She tried to heal the small cuts that were rapidly growing but was ordered back to bed by her mother. Guiltily, she obeyed. But her large eyes never left her friend’s disfigured face even to sleep; she lay on the floor beside Yuri.
The intensive Healing effort switched from Mr. Lee to the eldest Im child.
She survived, but just barely.
The subgroups left the cabin at daybreak in reduced numbers. The turmoil of the night hadn’t allowed the Guardians to recover much so they decided to leave the dead weight behind.
Areum bound Mr. Kim’s still-unconscious form. She had Hoon Bless the ropes in spells that would keep him from moving or making a sound even if he did awaken.
Yeong, knowing her husband’s passion for scrubs and feeling herself useless in anything other than care-taking, opted to stay in the makeshift infirmary as well. Yuri particularly needed extra care so the woman devoted herself to that task.
The leaders of the second-generation witches concocted a plan to which most of the able-bodied cabin-group members readily agreed to realize.
Chaerin with Minji Boosting her, put her hands on the floorboards and pumped them once as though giving it CPR chest-compressions. A basement formed before the young pair was directed into it ahead of everyone else to rest again.
Mrs. Hwang carried Mr. Kim down the newly-created steps while Jessica and Yeong moved Sunny, Taeyeon, and Yuri into the basement too.
The four cousins resisted, begging to be allowed to go to the forest.
“They’re still unGuarded!” Sooyoung reasoned yet again.
Jessica and Hyemi hardened against her puppy eyes.
“I already failed Yuri-yah. Please don’t make me fail Hyoyeonie too. I’m meant to protect her; it’s the whole reason that I exist! ...And Yoongie! Juhyun too!” the Guardian turned her plea on Jessica. “Do you really want your cousins near demons with no pr-”
“Alright, fine. But-”
Her mother caved too, cutting in with, “As I said earlier, if you’re one second-”
“I won’t be! Thank you!” Sooyoung lit up the room with her smile and Beams.
Her sister followed her lead.
“Please, Umma? You let Soo go and she’s the youngest! We wanna fight too! We’re fine! We can’t just let-”
“You ‘can’t just let’? You? Who is the mother here, Choi Miyoung?”
“Y-you are, Mommy... but- please! We-”
The woman slumped with a sigh. She, like Areum, was much wearier than she wanted anyone to know. “...Fine.”
“Thank you, Umma.” The small brunette approached her mother slowly, reaching for a hug.
“You will be careful, won’t you, Sweetie? For Mommy?” her mother half-shook, half-squeezed the life out of her daughter.
“Yes, Mommy. ...Unless Jessi’s in danger; she’s really clumsy and accident-prone, you know.”
“Somehow, you are not one to talk, Dear,” Mrs. Hwang spoke over Jessica’s indignant remark.
Before BomDara could plead their own cases, the cabin was rocked by a large blast.
The rescues into the Guild were entirely in vain.
It was only Sulli’s reverse influence, for the hostages’ sakes, that had kept the demons from turning on the Gathering as soon as they entered the Guild. Once the council had started beating the Lees, the Hellions became like barely-restrained piranhas at the blood. The Top Dog stabbing Grandfather Lee was the council’s own death blow; the demons slaughtered the Gathering in a frenzy. Then they went out into the Guild to fulfill their true plan: decimate all Guardians and leave their witches unprotected.
All of the scrubs had been killed where they cowered in the dirt. The rest of the non-governing Guardians had either fled or died by the time the sun rose.
The Top Dog, having chosen to join the demons rather than die, went along with the massacre. He even led the ambush that stopped his most hated enemy as he made his way back to the tunnel.
Woojong Lee stood in front of his charge but was struck down. He did not rise again.
Areum, halfway across the Guild, felt her ex-husband die the second that his life had been snuffed out. She Beamed to him without thought but with her two passengers.
While she was keeping the rabid Top Dog from turning his knife on her or any of the others in her group, Mr. and Mrs. Im used the same spell on him that Hyoyeon had used to Disable her parents.
His face contorted in fury and then fear. “No!” He hurled his knife at the couple.
Blood from two generations dripped from it as it gunned for more, but Areum Deflected it effortlessly. She focused instead on getting the three witches out of the Guild while the demons gleefully devoured her ex-husband’s remains and tore the defenseless Top Dog limb from limb.
The Ims’ transportation potions took them back to the portal.
Areum followed with Mrs. Kim but unwanted passengers horned in on her Beams and drained the Guardian to the brink of her strength.
Two young girls, taken by surprise at the sudden influx of demons, got hit by blistering acid from the first Hellions to materialize in the clearing. Their hair, skin, muscle, bone, and brain matter dissolved in seconds. Juhyun and Hyoyeon fell to the forest floor with their arms wrapped around each other.
The witch-mothers came through the perforation just as their children lost their lives and threw themselves at the demons that had committed the murders. Mrs. Im lit them up before they could do much more than grin in triumph.
The demons were too strong and did not burn right away, however, and their king wore on a rare amulet protected him from all witches’ powers.
Insane with grief, the Pyrokinetic woman lit herself on fire as well to release all the power that she held within her being. Mrs. Kim saw it happen but did not let go of the demon whose back she had jumped on. She gripped it tighter, holding onto the bracelet that Taeyeon had returned to her, and too was immolated. They formed part of the meteor shot toward the cabin.
The evil king guided the blaze’s path and followed it.
Mrs. Hwang, wedged under rubble, did not move.
Bom crawled over to her aunt to check her pulse and sighed when she found one. She then eased the woman into the basement to be caught by her little maknaes and said the chant over the trapdoor to hide it completely while their hands were full. Her body provided an extra means of protection as she succumbed to the darkness pressing her consciousness out of her head.
The last thing she saw through the thickening smoke, the last thing she wanted to see, was her sister.
Dara stared back at her without blinking.
Numb, shaking, Mr. Im yanked Yoona to himself. Since she was too shocked to do much on her own, he used his Tele-materialization to bring the second group of talismans into his hands instead.
The demons still inside the portal incinerated as it closed.
There was no way in or out now for anyone now. It was kill or be killed.
Minji screamed in mindless anguish, as did Chaerin.
No one opened the trapdoor though so they couldn’t get out through it; Chaerin was too weak to Beam anymore. The only blessing from their entrapment was that no smoke could get in either.
Yeong held both of her daughters close.
Three demons remained behind their king to finish off the portal-protectors.
Yoona charged at them, shaking with a sudden fury that ignited her being. She tried to throw herself onto them as her mother had done, but Mr. Choi and Mrs. Park tossed potions at the demons and vanquished them before she could get herself killed too.
Her father grabbed her face and called her name many times. Unable to get through to her, he dug his fingernails into Sooyoung’s shoulder. “Take her some place safe,” he begged the Guardian. “She needs you.” He shook the youngest Choi as well.
“Soo, listen to Daddy. There’s nothing more either of you can do here, and Areum is nearly dead. Take them and go,” her own father spoke gently but firmly to her.
Beautiful eyes unfocused, Sooyoung nodded through her tremors. She Beamed out with her love and neighbor to the basement.
Mrs. Park mournfully called forth branches and undergrowth to envelop HyoHyun’s bodies, hiding them. She, her brother, and Mr. Im then made a break for the cabin.
Grinning, the demon king advanced on Jessica as she ran out of options.
“I’m fine!” the witch screamed at Tiffany though she was clearly cornered. Distress not for herself radiated from her being. “Don’t you f-”
The monster used her distraction to backhand her so hard that she was lifted off of her feet to hang in the air and then collapse to the floor.
A shrieked “Jessi!” rung in her ears in chorus with the rest of the things clanging and vibrating in her head. Lungs burning from the inside for a second time in her life, she saw a black, blurry shape move over her. It blocked out the sun but held something bright over its head in both hands that seemed to replace the sun anyway.
Another white light seared her eyes before she could react.
A second blur lunged straight for the demon’s throat, making a low sound from its own. A pink bubble burst from it just before the second moon was smashed over its back.
The Shield and fireball disappeared.
Shadows shifting back and forth, the blur swung with it and came into focus. It did not let go even when it got clawed because it could not reform its Shield fast enough.
“Steph!” Jessica screamed, staggering to her feet unsteadily. Just as the demon threw the bleeding Dalmatian aside, his necklace going with it, the witch sent a blistering bolt of electricity into his gory throat and blew him up. Her left hand then shot out and caught Tiffany in a gust. “I told you not to!” she cried as she held her Guardian in a death grip.
“C-couldn’t help it, Jessi!” The younger girl tried to laugh but could not breathe for the pain or stranglehold around her body. She went limp in her charge’s arms.
Jessica, not about to lose people in the smoke again, used her Wind power to cast the cabin’s roof aside and absorb the foul air into a mini-tornado. Then she caused it to rain.
Unable to hide or retreat, the remaining demons were struck with potion and lightning; Mr. Choi, Mrs. Park, and Jessica. The battle was over.
But there would be no celebration.
|Author Notes||Please note that this is the ending of a story. It is to be expected if you don't know who the characters are or what's going on, how, and/or why. I have included the character chart for your benefit anyway. This is basically chapter 23 of a full-length novel. If you wish to write a review of this chapter, then please keep your comments relevant to this chapter. Thank you.|
Dara crawled into her sister’s sprawled arms.
No one saw her.
Bom still lay unconscious on the floor over the trapdoor.
“Unnie,” the younger woman whispered, pulling the taller’s arms tighter around herself, “wake up.”
No one heard her.
“No, I don’t want to,” the redhead murmured back, pulling her little sister closer to herself and trying to breathe in her scent.
“But you gotta, Unnie.”
“No!” Bom’s voice caught in her throat.
The Park sisters hugged the small blonde warmly, Bom whispering, “I couldn’t imagine losing this little twerp,” in Jessica’s ear as she ruffled Dara’s hair.
“May you never have to,” Jessica murmured in kind.
“Unnie, open your eyes. Look at Umma. ...Please.”
Unwillingly, obediently, only because Dara requested it, did Bom slowly crack one eye open.
Mrs. Park was holding her younger daughter and sobbing. “My daughter is dead; my child is dead,” she repeated as she rocked.
“No!” the taller woman whimpered when the younger started to pull away from her.
“I love you, Big Sister!” Dara’s sparkling tears and teeth hurt Bom’s eyes.
Bright Heaven lights only hurt them more, but Bom did not close them again. She watched over her sister until she was sure the smaller woman was safe. “And I love you, Little One,” she choked. Then she crawled to their mother and held the woman. And she cradled the real but hollow figure of her sister.
All across the cabin’s basement it was the same.
The death toll was high, but no one dared speak the names of those lost. Two Ims, two Kims, two Lees, a Park, a Choi; another Park, two Chois, along with the three Jungs in the more distant past; the fight had been won but so much seemed lost.
Some of the living group members had still not yet awakened. Two Lees, a Hwang, a Choi, two Ims, a Kim; perhaps they were better off staying asleep. Others still were awake but not present, minds and hearts far away, closer to those lost.
Then everyone slept. Slept as if they would never awaken.
Sunny came out of her great Sleep first, long after she had first fallen unconscious. She reached for Tiffany who filled the space in her embrace immediately.
Having been holding hands with Jessica, the youngest girl flopped over into Sleep as well and pulled her charge with her.
What is this place? Jessica wondered days, months, or years later. She couldn’t tell.
Everything was blurry and shadowy, even time.
It’s a place of Healing, Mommy. Harabeoji and RiRi made it together. She was waiting here when we got here but left quickly. She told us to just to rest, since it fully restores your mind, strength, and powers. It doesn’t heal physical injuries very well, though.
Jessica noticed at that moment how her skin was tingling, and then not just her skin, but her blood, bones, organs, and mind too. She looked to Tiffany when she remembered that she had eyes.
The world around them was of pink and blue clouds set against a purple sky. Everything felt just right to their skin- not too hot, not too cold, cozy, soft. Sweet music played, and the scent of rain after a storm tickled their noses.
Mm. Jessica smiled and closed her eyes once more. I can see why you guys have stayed here so long.
What do you mean? Taeyeon made her presence known, cuddling up to her love while still clasping her Guardian’s hand.
It’s only been a few hours, Mommy. Sunny tilted her head in curiosity.
The younger witch reached out and ruffled white-blond hair. Sweetie, you’ve been here for days.
What’s been going on? Is ev-
Ssh, Jessica pressed gentle fingers over the tiny pair’s lips. Let’s just stay here. We can stay here forever.
No, we can’t, Tiffany sniffled but kept herself resolute. We have to go back, Jessi.
But why? You know what’s waiting for us-
What? What’s waiting for us? Taeyeon blinked between the two taller girls.
The Demons- No, Jessi! Let me talk! They’ve taken over the Guild and either wiped everyone out or sent them into hiding. They got into the forest too!
But we cleared them all out, remember? Ev-everyone’s safe in the forest...
Everyone alive, Jessi! We have to go back or-
We are. Gently but firmly, Sunny wrapped her arms around TaengSic to pull them back into consciousness.
The elder Guardian bit her lip before lightly pushing Tiffany away. You should stay here. You’re hurt most of all; I can feel it.
I’m fine! I-
Just for a couple days, Steph... MiMi. The world will still be in chaos then; don’t worry. Jessica smiled as she retreated to join hands with Sunny.
Mild sardonic humor twitched Jessica’s lips. Siiiit! Stay! she imitated Mr. Choi.
Tiffany pouted but obeyed. But you don’t get to call me ‘MiMi’ anymore! she added petulantly.
Jessica only smiled.
Sunny hesitated a moment more. You were ready to trade me before, right, Tae? she tried to smile. Let’s do that now, temporarily. Stay here.
The eldest girl caved under the others’ silent pleas.
The parents quickly sent SunSica back to the Healing plane as soon as the girls told them about it anyway, however. Everyone was taking at least a few days off, the adults said. They followed with most of the rest of the group moments later.
Minji pulled away from them all. Crawling across the basement and dragging Chaerin with her, creating a sort of human chain by extension, she paused only a second before laying partially on top of her bound father.
He completed the circle on the Healing plane but knew enough to stay out of sight of the other members. Something changed within him as time dragged on.
The unprecedented number of people in the realm drained it, making it work even slower than usual. Once no one was in mortal danger any longer, decisions had to be made about who would stay on it and who would go back to the Guild. Those who would fight needed as much Healing as they could get, after all.
Areum, Sooyoung, Yuri, and Yoona were in no condition to fight and had yet to come out of their trances on the Healing plane or otherwise. Yeong and Mr. Kim could do nothing but tend to the unwell. Among the rest of the group, arguments sparked once more.
“I’m going, Umma!”
“You absolutely are not, Park Bom! I’ve already lost-”
“I’m not letting the monsters who killed my sister get away with it! I am a fire-starter, Mother! I have more ‘juice’ than almost anyone!”
Mr. Im stepped in for Mrs. Park, trying to help her. “My wife,” he said softly, “my wife was a fire-starter as well. Killing herself was the only way-”
“Your wife helped lead to my sister’s death!” Bom threw back at the man.
Yoona woke up then. “Yah!” she spun the older witch around when Bom didn’t whirl around on her heel fast enough. “Don’t you talk about my mother!” The girl actually slapped the woman. “She died trying to save us! Righ- Righ- af-after Juhyunie- Oh, Juhyunie...” The middle sister did not care about the horrific condition her sister’s body lay in; she had not let her little sister be buried with Hyoyeon and Dara. Again, she crawled into Juhyun’s cold embrace and cuddled there. She had never felt anything but warmth from her sister and refused to start then.
The witch-mothers’ bodies having burned up without a trace, and her only living sister still in too delicate a condition to be touched, Yoona needed something to hold onto.
Bom paled, pressed a hand to her reddened cheek, and backed away. She could not bear to look upon the dead girl. “I-I’m going, Umma,” she choked nonetheless.
“Then I’m going too,” her mother pledged.
“But Umma, you-”
“I said I’m going.”
“I’ll go with you,” Mr. Choi volunteered as well.
“No!” his sister screamed back. “We cannot go together! I told you! If- If Bomie and I- I don’t-”
“You will,” Mr. Choi pulled her into an embrace to calm her, as he often did with his wife. “You’re staying too, Jagiya,” he addressed Mrs. Hwang. “You know that, right?”
The woman blanched. “You- I? One of us must go with the children, Yeobo! Our-”
“Younger daughter needs us. As do Areum and Yuri. You are our best Healer, my love.”
“Then you must go! Seolhee, let Hoon go in your place. One of us-”
“I’m not letting my baby go without me,” Mrs. Park shook her head as she backed away with her arms still around Bom. “I already lost my husband defending Jinri-ah th-the first time! You should have protected that girl! She- You- And now- now...” She and Bom dissolved into tears as they clung to each other.
“I’ll go,” Mr. Im said surely.
“No! No more of my family!” Jessica explosively joined the debate. “Stay with your children! Do you want them to end up orphaned like me? They already lost their little sister too, just like me!” Her eyes burned into his.
Wincing, he set his jaw. “We will not die, Little One. And even if we do, I’m not letting you die alone.”
Shaken, the blonde backpedaled into Tiffany. Her never fully-healed lungs nearly gave out on her.
“Hey! You weren’t supposed to say that!” the Guardian held her charge and frowned at the man. “Jessi, we’ll be fine! This’ll be easy! We already got the demon king, and the Top Dog is gone too! We just-”
“We’re not doing anything, Choi Miyoung!” Several memories suddenly came back to Jessica. “You’re stupider than I thought if-”
Pale and weakening further, Jessica still kept her face and voice hard. “No! I mean it, Steph-”
“Children, go back to Sleep... Sleep!” Mrs. Hwang nudged and then shoved the pair back towards SunYeon until JeTi touched them and instantly slumped into the Healing plane.
Yeong did not protest or argue as the other parents did. “What do you want to do, my love?” she asked her daughter.
“We gotta fight, Umma,” Chaerin said solemnly, ever dutiful.
“Then go. I believe in you and have every faith that you will accomplish all that you seek to do; both of you. ...Sweetheart, don’t look—” she turned Minji’s face from the window through which tombstones could be seen‚ “Never look back, Sweetie. Only go forward. I love you.” She pulled both her children’s faces down to kiss their eyebrows. After a few moments, she finally sobbed, “Co-come back quick, you hear? Umma’ll be waiting for you.”
“Yes, Umma,” ChaeJi promised their mother tearfully.
Mr. Kim took a leaf from the woman’s book and snuck over to his eldest daughter unnoticed. “Wake up,” he whispered.
Taeyeon stirred but did not awaken.
“Honey, you have to-”
Eyes fluttering open, the eldest Kim child then squeaked and tried to scramble away from her father. “No! No, please!” she yelped. “Don’t; I’m sorry!”
“Sweetheart,” the man cried, reaching for her, “Honey, I’m sober now, in every way,” he murmured. “Honey, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. ...Y-your mother would have been so proud of you, T- ...I am so proud of you, Taeyeonie!” He caressed her cheek.
His daughter only stared at him, shock and disbelief blanching her already pale face and widening her already large eyes. “My, my mother?” she asked nearly inaudibly. It was the first time that Taeyeon had woken up since first going to the Healing plane.
“Yes!” he cried, breaking down and sobbing right in front of her. “Y-your sister too. No, she is! I know she is!”
“Unnie!” Minji sobbed, crawling into her sister’s arms as Yoona had done to Juhyun. “Th-they’re dead! Umma’s dead! U-Unnie-d-deul are dead, D-Dara-unnie and Hyo-Hyoyeonie-unnie... They-”
“No!” Taeyeon shot to her feet and yanked Sunny up with her. Banishing the connection to the Healing plane before it could affect her, she set her jaw. “We’re going.”
Jessica, Tiffany, Taeyeon, Sunny, Chaerin, Minji, Mrs. Park, Bom, and Mr. Im would return to the Guild to rid it of evil. Rather than going through the tunnel that the demons obviously knew about now and in which they could more easily be cornered, the nine opted to go through the Gate. They said their goodbyes in the cabin’s basement in order to not be distracted at the forest’s edge. Never again would they use a portal within their own protections.
One of the talismans had been turned into an amulet while the rest remained as they were.
Jessica led the group almost happily in her silent fury. When they got to the forest’s edge, where demons were waiting for them with grins reflecting her own, she said, “Let me go first. And don’t put a Shield up, Guardians. I don’t want to bust it, and I want to do this alone.”
“But-” Several mouths shut at the determination and confidence in her face.
She turned her back on them. As soon as her hands crossed the barrier, great bolts of lighting shot from them. She took out the two demons closest to her immediately.
Five more charged forward, but her charge was stronger.
Using the idea from Minji’s portent, she sent out even stronger bolts of Lightning but let them separate into tendrils.
Every Hellion of the second wave was destroyed before they could send out their own attacks. Seven demons had fallen in seconds; the rest retreated in panic.
“Aw!” She pouted. “Come back. I’ve barely gotten started.” With a shrug she turned around to face her companions, who had shock written all over their faces.
“What happened? Put your fingers in a socket?” she teased them. “Come on.”
The group followed in silence.
Of course, that didn’t last long for one of them. Bounding over to her charge, Tiffany covered her in a big hug. “See? Easy! I knew you could do it, Jessi.” Still, she pulled all of Jessica back into the forest.
Taeyeon had something to say, the brunette could feel it. “Hey.” The orangey-blonde smiled weakly. “Perhaps we ought to send the kids back, huh? You obviously don’t need a Boost.”
“I agree!” Jessica grinned with flinty eyes. “Bye-bye, Babies.”
All for it as well, Bom shoved her maknaes backwards. “Stay here like I told you back in the cabin.” Her eyes blazed when they tried to get past her.
“We’re going,” Chaerin said with her quiet authority. “Our place is with you; it is our duty.”
“In case you didn’t notice, transportation was a problem last time, and you only have two other Guardians on this mission trip.
“We have transportation potions!” Bom shouted. “Umma, Samcheon, and I made lots! And we have healing potions! We... we don’t need you!” the woman screamed at the youngest witch in particular, knowing she was hitting a very sensitive spot for the girl.
Minji collapsed to the grass with her hands over her face, sobbing. “Unnie, please don’t say that!”
Glaring at her unnie, Chaerin quickly bent over to tend to her charge.
Bom threw Taeyeon over her shoulder as had often done to Dara, grabbed her mother’s hand, and made a break for the boundary. The amulet around her neck glowed but permitted the trio passage.
Sunny hesitated only a second before following them. She blew a kiss to her half-sister but left her behind. “If they try to follow us, Taeyeonie, then Banish them,” she stage-whispered so that everyone could hear her.
Jessica and Tiffany were already out in the clearing. They pulled the white-blonde and Mr. Im across the boundary.
Then the seven were gone.
The group sprinted across the great meadow to the border of the Guild.
Jessica used her Wind to send demons spiraling through the air and some well-placed sparks to disarm the protections on the realm’s entrance. Then she gave the talismans to Tiffany to hang over the unmanned Gate.
Sunny was ushered into the Guild first, followed by Jessica’s uncle and the other witches.
“No one in or out but us.” The blonde grinned once more. “We finish this now.”
Only one of the demons she had blown away didn’t know not to follow her. It was vanquished quickly by the talismans when it tried to cross them.
“Thank you for the volunteer. Kisses!” She blew fake kisses at the rest of the Hellions who were glaring at her and sent them toppling once more. “Meh, you aren’t worth the energy it’d take to electrocute you. But if you’re dying for a shock, feel free to come and get me like your buddy tried.”
“Jessi!” Tiffany pushed her shoulder, nervous.
“Let’s go,” Mr. Im, similarly pale, urged his companions.
Once they got past the Gate, the view beyond it supernaturally changed. Dark clouds hung in the air as a distant field burned. What the group could see of the land between it and them looked like a war zone.
“No!” 2Ny’s cries resounded; the two had been unable to fully believe Mr. Im about the utter annihilation that the failed missions faced last time. Their homes were up in smoke, completely empty and hollow.
JeTi briefly flashed back to the Jung house and their own cabin while they stood frozen.
The older two of the pair came back to herself first. “Hmm, I feel like exercising my other powers again. Ohhh, little target practices,” Jessica sung. “Thank you!” She gestured to the first demon who came running.
It Blazed up immediately, surrounding itself in a fire that formed a sort of Shield.
The witch covered it in earth until its flames were completely extinguished and then drowned it in water. “Well, that was fun.”
Again, the rest of her group stared at her.
“Feel free to join in at any time, Guys!” She raised her eyebrows at them.
“We’re wasting our time with these ones,” Mrs. Park spoke. “If what your mother told me is correct—” she indicated Tiffany— “then we need to go to the Gathering Point.”
“So, which way do we go?” Taeyeon looked around in increasing anxiety.
Many more demons were closing in on them but kept a wary distance back too.
“I know the way!” Sunny almost smiled before her eyes filled with tears again. “Harabeoji used to... bring me to ‘work’ sometimes.”
“Lead the way, Little Love.” Jessica relaxed her macho stance and attitude to pull her dear friend close and nuzzle their foreheads together.
Suddenly smacking the witch’s cheek with a kiss, Sunny took off to the left.
Mr. Im used his power to redirect the Fireballs shot at them toward their originators while 2Ny covered the group in a thin Shield.
Bom and her mother fought at the edges of it too.
Sunny sent up her full Shield as soon as the group crossed the threshold of the destroyed government building.
Nothing happened. The Gathering Point was even darker and quieter than the rest of the building was. Flickering lights cast an eerie glow, and evil seemed to emanate from the walls. Hushed whispers echoed across the floor.
Almost everyone shivered.
Jessica rolled her eyes and put a hand to a wall to power the place with electricity. That not working, she looked to Sunny in uncertainty.
The younger girl shrugged and then froze.
In their midst, bright lights suddenly circled and glowed like fireflies.
“Wait!” The Guardian grabbed Jessica’s wrists and threw her Lightning bolts off-course.
Chaerin and Minji appeared before them.
“I told you, our place is with you,” the other white-blonde said with a hard tone of voice. “We made another replica of your talismans.” Chaerin pulled one on a string from under her blouse.
Jessica wordlessly assessed the pair.
“He was my grandfather too...” Chaerin’s confidence uncharacteristically faltered before solidifying again. “So I too am next in line to complete the Gathering legacy. This isn’t a trick. I watched your conversation with him, remember?”
“Unnie, wait!” Minji held up her hands in a mirror image of Taeyeon. “Instead of Banishing us, Banish them out of here so we can see them all and fight them together. ...Please!”
“No!” Fireballs shot from various points near the walls toward the group.
Sunny’s Shield widened to include the newcomers.
“Send it out again, like with the Gathering,” Jessica whispered to her, adding a layer of electricity over the Shield.
Grinning, Sunny charged up.
Taeyeon added a layer of Banishment over both.
With their combined powers, and Minji Boosting the others through a sort of group hug, their force exploded outward.
The Banishment became unnecessary; the entire government hall exploded.
Great flames and shockwaves spread outward, sending bodies in its wake.
Mrs. Park fell on top of her daughter while Mr. Im used his body to cover them both.
Once the initial force had rocked through the Guild and dissipated, the three witches got to their feet, trying to see their companions through the smoke.
The other part of their group came toward them under cover of a pink bubble.
Mr. Im almost collapsed in relief.
“Keep fighting!” his niece cried. “Look out!”
The pink Shield, overextended when its maker tried to include the other three people within it again, fizzled and disappeared.
Sunny’s still needed to recharge, and Chaerin’s could only cover herself and Minji.
Jessica tackled Tiffany just as a demonic Fireball whizzed over their heads. When the younger girl tried to stand up straight, the older was reminded immediately of Soojung and forced her Guardian to the floor. “Don’t you fucking dare!” she hissed.
The brunette froze, surprised by the foul language before relaxing in understanding a second later. “I’m okay, J- I mean; it’s okay!” Her face paled further when she caught sight of something Jessica did not. She swiftly rolled her charge under herself before leaping up once more.
The blonde’s heart stopped. When it restarted, part of it was missing.
“Jessi, I really would protect you. You know that, right? I’d never let anything hurt you.” Tiffany’s voice was a soft whisper for once in the dimming light...
“Stephanie! Stephanie! Y-you’re dying! Don’t! Stop it; please!” Jessica begged the younger girl...
Tiffany rocketed down the hall. “I’m going hoooome!” ...
“You will still need a new Guardian.” The Top Dog grinned wider...
Jessica’s eyes snapped open and she tossed aside everyone who was on her. “Put your Shield up when I tell you,” she choked. “No excuses. You rested long enough in Sulli’s dream world, Soonkyu.”
Choking back sobs as well, Sunny nodded.
The demons put up their Fire Shields as the grins melted from their faces; the entire atmosphere within the Guild had changed.
Jessica threw her hands outward and put every single one of them under premature graves with a wave of dirt. Then she thrust her hands straight up toward the Heavens, shooting Lightning up after them.
“What are you doing?” Bom howled.
The sky darkened. Smoke from the ruins turned the clouds black, and they all almost magnetized toward each other and Jessica’s Electricity.
“That.” Once she was sure she had generated enough of a storm, Jessica moved her fingers as if playing an accordion, causing Wind and Lightning to swirl in front of herself. “Give me your Fire,” she gritted through her teeth without sparing a glance in Bom’s direction.
Faintly, nervously, the older witch complied.
“You’re going to have to do better than that.” The emotion in the blonde’s voice was hard to place. “Don’t you dare move. Stay where you are!” it then commanded Minji. “We’ll get to you later. Chaerin, help your sister with the Shield. 1-2-3, go!” With an almighty shove, Jessica unleashed a flaming, Charged tornado on the Guild.
Demons that had and hadn’t yet escaped the earth joined it in the Burning, Ionized Wind while Sunny’s Shield faithfully covered her group mates.
“Alright, well, since Bom can’t be much help, and we’ll need Minji later, Grow me some trees, Mrs. Park... Do it!”
The woman numbly complied, still stuck in her awe.
One hand still guiding the tornado, Jessica used her other to shoot Electricity into the grove and set them aflame. Then it sent more Wind to help join the fire with the vortex.
Bom jolted back to attention and added more flames to it too.
Within minutes, the entire Guild seemed to be reduced to nothing.
“Chaerinie, give Samcheon your amulet so that he can deactivate the talismans; help him. When that’s done, bring them to me,” the blonde then directed her lover. “Get up off her, stop your damn sniveling, and do as I tell you, Taeyeonie! Conjure every last demon standing guard outside the Guild so that we can go home. Minji, now it’s your turn. Help her. Keep giving me those trees, Auntie, and Sunny, keep the Shield up. We’ll use the potions to get us home. Give me everything you got.”
Her orders were obeyed without her supervision.
Jessica then turned her back on the storm, picked up Tiffany, and walked resolutely toward the Gate.
The rest of the group followed, someone looking out each way as they went.
There wasn’t much need. Every last demon on the Guardian plane had been vanquished. The few outside of the Guild soon joined those dead within it.
“Hold her! H-hold her!” the blonde allowed an emotion other than anger into her voice.
Sobbing, shaking, SunYeon took her limp brunette from her.
Jessica turned around one last time to dissipate the tornado. Impatient, she threw dirt onto it once it was small enough to contain. The last thing she did was cause it to rain.
A great downpour fell onto the Guild to put out all remaining fires as tears finally fell down her face.
Her own inner fire extinguished, she then slumped unconscious into her uncle’s arms. She was sent to the Healing plane upon returning to the cabin and stayed there for many days.
“Aw.” Sooyoung pouted at the broken sieve that her mother had dropped. She turned to her father and asked, “Daddy, when’s MiMi coming home?”
No one moved or spoke.
Her parents stared at their child, white-faced.
Their daughter’s entire countenance brightened before she sprouted her tail and wagged it excitedly, as she had always done when her older sister returned from visiting the Jungs. “MiMi’s coming home! I can feel it! Come on! Let’s go greet her!” She laughed, Beaming to the edge of the forest. “Where is she?” Sooyoung pounced on the group as soon as they stepped foot past the talismans. “Hi ...MiMi?” she cried.
Her mother grabbed her from behind and bodily lifted her away before she could touch her sister. She held on tight against her younger daughter’s flailing. “...No! Baby, no! You can’t! You can’t!” she screamed when she felt the shift in her taller child.
Reality hit hard and fast, but had the possibility of changing. “I can, Umma! I didn’t get to save Hyoyeonie and failed Yuri-yah! I have no more purpose!”
“What about me?” Yoona whispered as she appeared behind Mrs. Hwang.
“Yoongie!” Sooyoung launched herself onto the thin girl instead. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry, my love. But I-”
The witch, having learned all about Guardians from her father and seeing the pain in her lover’s eyes, nodded against the lump in her throat. “Juhyunie and Hyoyeonie don’t have- can’t be- They- ...You can save her...” she indicated the small brunette still in their friends’ arms. “Go to her.”
“I- I’m sorry. I’m so sorry,” the older girl repeated once more, holding fast to the love of her life.
“Don’t be,” Yoona gritted her teeth. Looking back at where her sisters lay underground, she swallowed hard. “I would do the same thing if I could. I understand.” Then she started to shake.
Sooyoung hugged her tightly, shaking just as badly. “I love you. You know that, right?”
“I love you too. Now go; hurry up!” The raven-haired girl pushed the Guardian before either of them could change their minds.
“P-put MiMi down,” Sooyoung told Sunny, Taeyeon, and the Parks.
Taeyeo obeyed in a daze, having no idea what was going on.
Sunny snapped out of it. Leaping over Tiffany’s body, she threw herself at Sooyoung as well. “D-don’t,” she choked. “Y-y-you don’t have to do this. She ...She made her choice, Sooyoungie.”
“Then let me make mine,” came the warm, gentle answer. “I love you too. You know that, right?”
“Y-yeah... Love... Love you too.” The much smaller girl slipped into shock. Still, she answered Taeyeon’s unspoken questions, nearly inaudible as well. “All Guardians can lay down their lives, usually for their charges. We never outlive them in their presence. But she can’t do that for your sister. Hyoyeonie, her head- She can do it f-for her sister, though, for Baby... Baby...” Then Sunny said and saw no more.
Taeyeon caught her before she herself collapsed as well.
Sooyoung made a final detour, to where her father was holding back her mother, even as her mother stopped struggling.
“Honey,” the man addressed his daughter, “don’t. I trust you to do what’s right, you always do, Sweet Girl, but-”
He gripped her shoulder as if physically holding onto her then could prevent her from being taken from him some time later.
“But I gotta, Appa... I love you!”
“I love you too,” he said hoarsely before his throat closed.
Mrs. Hwang said nothing, letting herself be caught in between the two’s embrace and joining it full-force.
Many silent, long moments later, their child slipped away from them to turn toward her sister. “Silly MiMi,” she murmured as she crawled the rest of the way to the other Guardian. “Umma told you to be careful. You pro-pro... You promised her.” Her fingertips lightly caressed her sister’s pale temple and cheek. Her arms went around Tiffany to embrace her as hard as she could one last time. “Use this second life well, will you?”
It was another several long moments until she lay her sister on the forest floor again.
Then her hands slid to Tiffany’s sternum, where they interlocked as if to give her chest compressions. With one thrust, light tingled around Sooyoung, hung for a second, and then went into the brunette. The younger girl fell to the side, dead, as Tiffany sat up with the gasp of one who had been drowning.
“Soo!” Her eyes widened. “Soo, no! Oh; oh, no!” She then held her little sister, crying harder than she ever had in her life.
Yuri stared without seeing, as she had long ago and would for the rest of her life. All of her closest friends had perished, even her baby sister, even her mother. And she had missed all of it, been a tax on their resources, and made things harder on them, had-
Yoona jostled her. Stop thinking like that. ...I didn’t do anything either and I was r-right, right there; and still...
Their burden of guilt lightened marginally for virtue of being shared.
Blocking her middle sister out momentarily, Yuri looked across the way with her one good eye to see that Tiffany felt very much the same way that she did.
The Guardian lifted her head to try and smile at Yuri through her own tears anyway.
The eldest Im daughter could not return the expression and did not think she would ever again.
She and Yoona finally allowed their little sister be laid to rest in the earth, burying their voices with her.
Rain, lightning, thunder, and darkness pressed down on the fragmented group.
The ceremony passed in a blur for many of the attendees.
Everyone went back from the Healing plane for it, but their minds were still far away. Mothers, fathers, sisters, daughters, friends, and neighbors all mourned the lost.
Benevolent Grandfather Lee.
The group tried to decide living arrangements days later. No one could bear to leave the forest; no one could bear to stay in it.
Jessica would likely go with the remainders of her family.
Yeong and Chaerin wanted to return home to the Guild to help rebuild it, as Woojong would have wanted, while Areum internally debated ever wanting to see it again.
Near her, Mr. Choi and his wife resolved to not step foot in it again; they would probably live with his sister and niece in the human astral plane.
Mr. Kim blushed but offered to open his home to the woman whom he had felt a sort of bond with since the moment she had attempted to comfort him by sharing her status with him. “I... I hear you’re quite the mother,” he told Yeong’s feet, “a-and I’ve seen it! ...My, my girls could really use ...a mother... And you’ve been a great one to Ji- Minji-ah; fantastic! She’s a great kid... Would you...?”
“Yes,” she answered with a tearful smile until it drained away into uncertainty. “If- If it’s alright with you girls—” She turned to her two children and found that as ever since the great storm, Minji and Taeyeon could not let go of each other while Chaerin had a gentle hand of each of their backs. Mother and daughters’ eyes met as they nodded.
Sunny smiled at her charge with sad acceptance. “You have a family again, Taeyeonie... I. Umma and I-”
One arm still around her sister, Taeyeon launched herself at her Guardian. “No!” she cried. “Don’t leave me; please!”
Sunny looked to her mother, even as she cried and held tightly to her charge.
Areum’s lips pressed into a flat line but did not release any words.
Jessica lightly smacked Tiffany upside the head as the younger girl stared at her parents. She wrapped her arms tighter around her Guardian as she told her, “Now don’t you go getting any stupid ideas, Steph. I already lost you twice now. If you think-”
“Don’t worry, Jessi!” Tiffany spun around and hugged Jessica closely. “I’m not thinking of anything!”
The witch scoffed. “That can’t be new.” Then she ruffled her friend’s hair with a sad smile until Tiffany was grinning as best she could.
The Guardian’s heart was torn between her charge, her sister’s grave, her friends, her love, and her family. “H-hey!” she suggested, “how about Chaerinie and I whip up a place? We’re great at building stuff!”
Jessica snorted and rolled her eyes, but even her amber eyes shone with longing for everyone to stick together, at least temporarily.
“That would be better, actually,” Hanjae realized. “My home is not much of a place to go back to...”
“Let’s all go back to the Guild. Please!” Yeong pleaded. “There’s so much to be done and... I wonder if I will be able to get back in,” she then pondered. “I’d never left it before, and I’m no Guardian...”
“Yes you are, Umma,” Chaerin murmured back.
“You are a Guardian. And you have a home.” Areum came forward once more to embrace Chaerin with very little prodding from her daughter. Her hug even expanded to Yeong as well. “You all do.”
The storm finally passed. Mature, selfless love took its place.
|Author Notes||*Why yes, that last line does directly contrast the story title. Agape love is as the final sentence defines.|
You've read it - now go back to FanStory.com to comment on each chapter and show your thanks to the author!
|© Copyright 2015 AshelinaB All rights reserved. |
AshelinaB has granted FanStory.com, its affiliates and its syndicates non-exclusive rights to display this work.
© 2015 FanStory.com, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Terms under which this service is provided to you. Privacy Statement