Xiangming Municipal High School had been famous since the yesteryears of Shanghai's founding as a Britannic Mageocracy Concession. Now, eighty years later, its towering multi-storey structure and generous, blue-lawn campus sat in the Goldilocks zone of Shanghai’s burgeoning centre, in the heart of the Jing-An District, flanked by some of the most expensive real estate in civilised Asia.
It was here that Percy Song, first-year senior and younger brother to the infamous Worm Handler, daydreamed from a nineteenth storey window, marvelling at the vista of Shanghai’s splendour and wealth.
In sharp contrast to the exterior, his homeroom's decor was clinical and austere, akin to a monastery, its atmosphere made insensate by polished concrete floors and pale chalk walls. The furniture, likewise, was ascetic and severe, industrial in its combination of steel and oak.
“Yo! Xiao-Song!” Percy tensed as a heavy, well-muscled arm clasped him by the shoulders. “What's on your mind, Brother?”
“Nothing in particular.” Percy pushed the far-too-friendly young man away. It wasn’t that he despised male intimacy, more so that in Australia, guy-friends were seldom so clingy. “Do you always have to be so close, Shun?”
“Ha!” Tang Shun, also a first-year senior, pulled up a chair, straddling the seat like a saddle.
“So, what’ll it be?” he implored his friend. “Are you going to take Captain Ma’s offer?”
“Of course.” Percy smirked, thinking of Kelvin Ma, a young man whose position he most certainly aspired to one day usurp. “Who would refuse an offer like that?”
“To think you were just a squirt six-months ago,” Shun tsked, tut-tutting with his lips. “How the hell did you get so good, so quickly?”
“I am training double shifts both here and at home,” Percy remarked defensively. “You know I train like a dog daily, and I spar every fortnight with Mages from grandfather's department. At this rate, I am going to become a hermit-Doushi.”
“Ah~, I wish I was a guan-er-dai,” Shun grumbled. “So much resource.”
“YOU ARE ONE!” Percy punched his friend in the chest, snorting with derision. “Your dad’s the Inspector-General of the Pu-Tou District!”
“Doesn’t count, he’s not a 'central' Official,” Shun snorted back.
“Pfft! What’re you missing that I don’t have? Crystals? Instructors?”
"You want to know?"
"Yes, Shun, I do."
“A SMOKING-HOT lamēi for a sister!” Shun’s lascivious grin grew from ear to ear. “Brother Song, I am telling you, I have never in my life seen a mēizi as pretty as Sister Gwen, want to watch that Lumen-cast again?”
“NO!!” Percy attempted to shut Shun down before the others could hear, glancing about nervously. "Nope. Nah. NAW. Shut up!"
"Come on! It's not like she's a secret anymore! Bring her to school! Don't be so selfish. You can't keep her to yourself."
“We’re not having this conversation!”
“Woa, what’s this about Percy’s sister?”
“Percy’s sister’s coming to school?”
“I’ll pay admission, Brother Song!”
Burying his head in his arms, Percy groaned.
The boys in class had known since last year that Percy had a sister in Fudan, and Percy had made it no secret that she was indeed the infamous Worm Handler, famed around Gouding Road. It was a childish thing to do, he knew, one that gave his sister a world of trouble last year. At the same time, it also rewarded him eminence with the seniors, who refrained from bullying him or forcing him to take on chores, as was the culture in a school like Xiangming.
All in all, things had been chill until a few weeks ago, when one of the students returned with a lumen-cast of Gwen duelling a famous Mage from the Tei Clan, going toe to toe with the Abjurer while wearing nothing more protective than a liberal sundress.
"Wait, that's Percy's sister?"
"That's the Worm Handler?"
"Isn't that the Flower of Fudan next to her?"
"Percy's related to the BOTH of them?"
After the lumen-cast made public Gwen's beauty, his days of peace also came to an end. Upsettingly, even Instructor Chew, their popular Transmutation P.E. teacher, subtly enquired if his sister was single until Percy declared very loudly and carelessly that she was seventeen.
Percy knew then that he had screwed the pooch.
The seniors exploded.
The third-years at Xiangming were only seventeen themselves!
How in Mao’s name was it that Percy's sister was seventeen and svelte, enrolled in Fudan, while they moped about, losing hairs over their National College Entrance Exam?
The crowd flew into a frenzy and refused to relent until he gave up every secret on his sister, starting with her Schools of Magic, her Elements, and her three-sizes.
In response, Percy turned deaf and dumb, tuning out all external stimuli until those that bothered him went away hungry. As a little brother, the worst thing in the world was hearing licentious compliments for one's sister. Ofttimes, the awkwardness was enough to make him want to slam his head against the school's concrete facade.
“Mao! You're always like this whenever your sister comes up.” Shun knew there was no talking to Percy while he was in his self-imposed catatonia. “Well don’t just sit there like a sha-bī, come on, Practicals are next.”
Practicals took place on the bottom oval.
As a young bloke, Percy struck a striking figure, positively dashing in all of his uniforms, be it summer or winter, sport or formal. Thanks to proper nutrition and ironically, the lack of training with his Salt talent from an early age, he was now just a few centimeters short of Gwen, sitting at a happy five-foot-eight as he arrived at the cusp of manhood.
Like his sister, he was long of limb, with a compact torso supporting a set of broad shoulders. His face took after Hai's, possessed of a well-chiselled jaw, a sharp chin, a straight nose, and dark eyes affecting a perpetual affability. The most evident difference between himself and Gwen was his honey-tanned complexion, owing to Surya’s Indonesian origins.
Though he'd only been in Xiangming for nine-odd months, Percy maintained a good reputation among both the seniors and juniors, far better managed than Gwen's ambivalent treatment by her old alumni at Blackwattle Bay.
Unlike most schools in China, the school's presiding Principal, Magister Nuì Renji, desired no quotas. Instead, he declared that Xiangming was a place of pure meritocracy, with an intake consisting of the top 0.2% of Shanghai's exam-takers.
The result was that with less than thirty per cent of the senior cohort consisting of girls, the majority of the male student body could only stare thirstily as their fairer counterparts entertained well-spoken days of courtship and bliss. As a direct result of this imbalance, the forever-alone students of Xiangming High took on a cursed moniker - the Thirsty Lonely Monks of Ruijin Road.
As for Percy, he was a certified lady-killer.
Percy waved at the young women greeting him from across the training field. Due to unforeseen circumstances, he was closer to the fairer sex than his same-sex peers.
When he’d first arrived at the school, the local lads had been too snobbish to welcome a stranger into the midst of their well-established cliches - but not so the girls, who found great interest in the exotic Eurasian Salt Mage. When they later found out that he had a sister in Fudan, the university of their dreams, the girls' friendliness only grew.
“Brother, please open a path for us.” Shun saluted fist-to-palm in an archaic gesture for ‘please’, drawing giggles from the gaggle of girls.
“That's right, Percy! Don’t leave us behind!”
The fair-faced boy who intruded was one Percy preferred to punch in the face, but couldn’t find the gall to jeopardise his built-up position. He wasn't Gwen, after all - there are things she seemed to do without effort that would make his life impossible.
“Pei.” Percy kept his greeting short and austere.
“Senior Pei!” A few of the girls warily greeted the newcomer.
The Sword-Mage's skills were well known, though thanks to Percy's prowess at propaganda, the lasses now figured Pei a snake in the grass.
Against all expectation, Pei Li remained the most-likely heir of Huashan despite his catastrophic tussle with the House of Song. As for the boys' friendship, the incident had frayed what little goodwill the two had engendered when Percy began schools the previous year. In a way, it was no loss, as Percy's group of power-progeny friends held little regard for the Clanners. Like their parents, they saw Clanners as parasites sucking on the heart-blood of China’s great resurgence as a central power.
“Mei, Anling,” Percy greeted the girls, ranked by his heartfelt affection for each of them. “Leilei, Ming, Xiao-Jai. It's lovely to see you as always.”
The girls giggled; open compliments were rare. Ones delivered so naturally were rarer.
Of the five girls, it was Mei Yang who held the title of the ‘Flower of Xiangming’ and whose stature and fame towered over the others. She was a scion of the Yangs, a Clan of antiquity, possessing the rare gift of Lightning. As for her craft, she was a Transmuter combining Western Magic with her family's secret arts. To Percy's eyes, Mei was wonderful, for the girl combined a compact and agile dancer’s figure with a pleasing, girl-next-door appearance. A quality he preferred over the heart-stopping visage Gwen assumed; particularly when flushed with Draconic-Essence.
“Percy.” Mei slid closer. “So, are you taking Senior Ma’s offer?”
“Naturally,” Percy flashed a set of pearly teeth, glancing at Pei. “Standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Senior Ma is an honour.”
Seeing that Percy was ignoring him, Pei left the group. Percy watched the boy go, knowing that Lulan and Kusu had taken up with his sister from their adventure together in Nantong. Furthermore, Percy had found out from one of the girls that Pei's faction were the ones behind the siblings' plight. If the rumour held weight, he would see Pei squirm sooner or later.
“Mei, you look p-pretty, as usual,” Shun spluttered. Percy knew his friend had a big crush on the girl, though Mei had told Percy that under no circumstances did she have any interest in the muscle-headed Earthen Evoker. “Are you doing anything this weekend?”
“I am…” Mei wanted to say she was occupied, but she didn’t want to miss out on Percy. “Percy, what are you doing on the weekend?”
“Training.” Percy wondered if Shun could take the hint. “It's sparring week.”
“Oh.” Mei twiddled her thumbs, glancing between Percy and Shun, blinking at him with her glimmering eyes.
“I am… free in the afternoon,” Percy relented, looking away guiltily from Shun. He couldn’t bring himself to disappoint a girl. Increasingly, Percy found pretty faces to be the bane of his existence. Already he had gotten into fights and duels a dozen times because some guy in school wanted to challenge him for Mei, or Anling, or some other girl with whom he was on the level - even though they were just friends.
When he boasted of his popularity to his sister, Gwen had this to say:
“Are you stupid or is your opponent slow? Mei belongs to herself, not to you or anyone. How the hell is duelling you going to get Mei to ‘go’ with them? The fact that you accepted the duel means you've gone down the Path of the Douche. Go and apologise to her on Monday, first thing, you bloody troglodyte.”
And so Percy did, relayed Gwen's message word-for-word to Mei.
Afterwards, the girl's eyes sparkled like anything.
Which was why for several weeks now, Mei had begged Percy for a date - to see his sister, arguably the coolest person Mei had ever seen in a Lumen-cast, a real-life Battle Mage, pretty as an idol, wise to boot, and most importantly, a Lightning Mage like herself!
Naturally, the students had taken the duo's newfound intimacy the wrong way. It was now common knowledge that Mei Yang, the unassailable goddess, had fallen. All in Xiangming suspected that the delicate flower had stuck itself onto a cowpat stamped with the name Percy Song.
“Woohoo! Wonderful!” Mei squealed, jumping for joy, taking Percy’s hands and swinging them back and forth.
Feeling the softness of her palms, Percy took a moment to enjoy his female company, fantasising just how awesome it would be if he had a younger sister instead of a quasi-draconian worrywart. “Thanks, Percy, I’ll buy you dinner after, okay?”
Meanwhile, Shun remained by the wayside, waiting for an answer that would never come. When finally Mei began to swing from Percy like a baby monkey, something shattered in his chest.
“YOU BASTARD! Hands off Mei!” A voice came from the wayside, more bark than human speech.
The speaker was the very devil Percy loathed to see.
“You refused my duel, and yet you dare approach Mei-mēimēi?!”
The crowd collectively cringed.
Alain Yang was Mei’s cousin, twice removed. A brash young man about six-foot tall with the face of an auroch and the constitution of one as well. The boisterous bloke was well known for his excessive passion, for he had inherited a bloodline variant of the Yang’s Fire talent, a fluke of nature that allowed his flames to burn hotter, stronger, and douchier, drawn from the 'heart' of the Plane of Fire. To Percy’s knowledge, Alain was the child of a side family, born in Hong Kong then brought over to Shanghai by the Clan. It was for this reason that Percy suspected his peer’s interest in Mei was two-fold. One, Mei was the catch of the school, and two, marrying Mei would legitimise his claim to the Clan of Yang.
“Mei, get away from him!” The boisterous Fire Mage commanded ‘his’ woman.
Mei rolled her eyes, but said nothing, leaving the bucks to joust.
Percy liked that about Mei. His sister acted shy in front of her elders, but she was as much of a hellion as that friend of hers, Yue, and her confidant, the Scarlet Sorceress Alesia De Botton. Despite having made up with Gwen, no amount of hugs and kisses was enough to gloss over the fact that she had coveted his Amulet.
But for now, the conflict was over Mei, a girl whose tolerance for the antics of people like Alain astounded him. If anything, Gwen had a lot to learn from her junior if she ever wanted a boyfriend.
“Hello, Alain.” Percy turned to face the young bloke with a forced grin. “What’s the matter?”
“The matter?! Stay away from Mei, you Gweilo bumpkin!”
“As you wish.” Percy stepped back -
“Good!” Alain grunted with approval. “If you know what’s good for you...”
- then placed an arm around Mei's shoulders.
The girl took it without complaint, her liquid eyes fluttering mischievously.
“Sunday afternoon at Fudan, then dinner - your treat. Is that alright with you?”
It didn’t escape Mei that Percy had left out some very important details.
“Anything you say, Percy.” Mei bit her lower lip to prevent herself from giving the game away, incidentally multiplying her cuteness. “I can’t wait to see what you’ll show me.”
“I'll show you the largest worm you've ever seen. You can touch it, even.”
“Pfft! Hahaha…” Mei was in tears. She knew Percy was referring to his sister’s Familiar, infamous across the metropolitan schools. That was another thing she liked about Percy: he was a funny guy with a sense of humour, entirely unlike the other power-progeny she knew.
“Fire Bolt!” Alain had just about enough of his fiancèe's public flirting with another man.
“Shield!” Percy’s barrier had half a second to spare.
“INSTRUCTOR CHEW!” Percy cried out in mock panic, his voice projecting across the field with ease. “Alain’s gone crazy again!”
“Alain YANG! I SAW THAT!” A roaring voice poured over the bottom oval. “STAFF ROOM, NOW!”
“I am going to kill you!” Alain screeched at Percy even as two prefects dragged him away. "Just you wait!"
“Sure thing.” Percy wiggled his brows. “I’ll see you at the Duelling Club, reserve member number nine Alain Yang.”
Their audience, a collection of first-year seniors like themselves, burst into merriment. That Percy had previously bested Alain to gain Captain Ma’s favour was well known across the school. It was the reason why snitching to Instructor Chew was a gesture of hilarity, not cowardice.
Percy joined in with the laughter.
Though he had arrived as an ‘import’ student from overseas, aided by family connections, the Salt Mage's growth had turned heads all over campus. In June of last year, the Acolyte was only beginning to grasp his elemental talent, but when he returned to school in the new year, it was as though an Ancestral Spirit possessed him. Not only were his existing spells faster and stronger; he picked up Abjuration and even bits of Transmutation with the ease of a seasoned senior.
Teacher Lu had even joked to the faculty that the boy might have gone through a second Awakening. After a brief investigation, it was revealed that the boy’s sister was the genius girl Fudan had picked up mid-May last year - the Lightning-Void dual-elementalist. When another one of the Instructors pulled a few strings, the faculty was astounded by the fact that the girl had confirmed proficiency in FIVE schools of Magic.
"What are they feeding her?" The head of Spellcraft demanded. "Spirit pills?"
In the old days, elite Daoshi cultivators wielded Transmutation, Evocation and Conjuration concurrently; some had gone a step further and dabbled in Divination and Enchantment. It was only in this age of the Imperial Metric System that multi-school achievements became impracticable.
Conversely, however, none of the Instructors faulted the Westernisation of magic: in the days of yore, a Clan would burn offerings to the ancestor when they were fortuitous enough to produce a dozen combat ascetics. Now, over twenty-thousand Mages graduated from Shanghai’s two-hundred or so secondary institutions per year.
If so, with a sister capable of tapping into five Schools of Magic, why should one be astounded that the brother showed promise in three?
“Okay, now that the eyesore is gone,” Percy grinned at the girls. “Who wants to spar?”
“Please be gentle,” Mei cooed, evidently still in a playful mood.
Beside her, Shun drooled like a fool.
“Look, er... I’ll warm up with Shun first,” Percy decided to do the bro-thing and save his friend from playing the red-arsed monkey. “Come on Shun, show the girls what you got!”
At 3.15 PM, after the academic schedule, students shuffled off to mandatory club activity.
The most popular extra curriculum was the Duelling Club, a place not infrequently visited by headhunters from the top universities. Not long ago, Kelvin Ma, the Captain of Xiangming’s District Competition Team, had received scholarship invitations from Fudan, Tsinghua and Jiantong.
It was highly unusual, therefore, for Percy, who aimed for a scholarship himself, to be absent; enough at least to attract a comment from the captain.
“I’ll go look for him if you like,” the vice-captain, an affable-looking young man with a military-crop, steaming with sweat, offered to resolve his captain’s query.
“More importantly, where’s Mei?” Kelvin Ma scanned the crowd. The girl was a close family friend, and he had promised his uncle to look after the girl.
“Maybe they’re together?”
“He better not be doing what I think he’s doing.” Kelvin scratched his stubble. He trusted Percy, to a degree, but Percy’s father had a reputation. With Mei hanging close to Percy ever since the boy joined Xiangming DC, he got the jitters whenever the two snuck off on breaks. “You know what, Don, go find em.”
Don Li saluted.
“I’ll bring em back safe and sound, or in pieces, if Percy turns out to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”
Kelvin frowned unpleasantly.
"Hahaha, are you jealous, Brother?" His friend burst into merriment. "You could have any of the girls you want, you know."
“Just… bring them back.” The captain pinched his brows. It wasn’t so much that he didn’t want a girlfriend, it was more so that he didn’t dare. His family’s secret arts made no sense in the parlance of Western Spellcraft: what the hell does being a virgin have to do the rigidity of his Mao-damned crystals?
“Ah-Bān, get em!” Alain urged his bodyguard. “A hundred HDMs if you pin him!”
“Alain! Don’t you dare! Ah-Bān, back off!” Mei snapped at her cousin and his henchmen.
“Ha! Hiding behind a woman!”
“Says the man hiding behind a brick-shithouse! Come at me yourself, you little bitch!” Percy spat. “Salt Shard!”
Ah-Bān parried the shard with an infused forearm.
“You dare attack the future heir of house Yang?!”
“Oh, for fuck's sake, what is wrong with you people?” Percy growled, rolling his eyes. “Gwen's right, maybe you are slow. You ambushed us! The hell are you expecting? Should I roll the fuck over?”
“Destroy him, Percy!” Mei’s face grew flushed with excitement. It was always thrilling to have men fight over oneself, more so when it was her self-proclaimed dog-faced fiancé taking a beating. “I’ll take full responsibility. Let’s see Uncle Yang try to squirm out of this one!”
“Master Yang is too precious to have to deal with the likes of you!” Ah-Bān's voice was loud enough to bounce off the walls.
“F- You know what? Suffer in ya jocks,” Percy couldn’t help but revert to a more comfortable slang. “Mei, you sure about this? We’re in public. We only have provisional licences.”
“Mom will take care of it, or one of my aunties will. Don’t you worry!” Mei assured her companion. “This is self-defence! I’ll be our witness. Who would take Alain’s words over mine?”
“Alain, you hearing this?” Percy held onto an half-incanted Shield. “You want to cut your losses, or you happy to play silly buggers? You are fucked either way, buddy, you're a slab of raw fish, mate!”
"Ahahaha, oh Mao," Mei rocked back and forth, shaking with mirth. "It's carp on the chopping board!"
“Caonima! Ah-Bān! I want this sha-bī to die!” The novice Fire Mage exploded.
“Mei, get back!”
Mei Yang skipped back a few steps, safe in the knowledge that whoever got hurt today, it wasn’t going to be her. The other reason she wasn’t worried was that Alain was stupid enough to accost them while she and Percy were getting bubble-tea. With a face full of peevish anger, her cousin had informed them that he needed to speak to Percy in private. When Mei said she would come along as well, Alain told her to go home, which resulted in her locking arms with Percy. Two blocks later, the dead-end alleyway they had arrived at was typical of the old hutongs around Shanghai - a small lot surrounded on three sides with residential apartments. With any luck, a city-guard or a police officer would be along shortly.
"Too slow, asshole!"
In front of Mei, Percy performed one of the most daring manoeuvres she had ever seen anyone execute. Using a combination of Spider-Climb and Enhance Dexterity, Percy flanked his opponent by stepping against a wall then launching himself into the air with 'Jump' so that his path of attack became diagonal and top-down, an angle difficult for anyone but Abjurers to defend with their Shield.
Ah-Bān, Alain’s bodyguard, was a house servant with two decades of service to the Yang’s side branch. From what Mei knew, he wasn’t the brightest Lumen-orb in the Storage Ring. A Transmuter, the man was a good bodyguard for an abusive, impulsive little-emperor like Alain, but made for a terrible source of temperance if Alain’s parents had intended their son to stay out of trouble. To Mei's knowledge, the school forbade students bringing servants and bodyguards, so Alain would be doubly screwed when the matter went up for review. Furthermore, as they were still in schooling hours, the school was accountable for the students' safety, meaning a suspension was all but assured. If Mei herself had to do something as absurdly stupid as ambushing a fellow student, she would have waited until after club, on the way home, after luring them indoors.
Ah-Bān’s slab of whirling stone grazed Percy’s shoulder, snapped away a chunk of pink-salt.
Meanwhile, Percy’s crystalline shard pierced Ah-Bān’s rock-armour, drawing first blood.
Mei felt a wave of impressionable worship firing off her teenage hormones. In the space it took for them to walk from the bubble-tea shop to the alleyway, Percy had secretly buffed himself! To her knowledge, only someone like Kelvin could have had the subtlety and skill to apply something like this, and Percy was almost two years his junior!
“Tough bastard!” Percy formed a Shield just beneath his feet, then used the layer of salt to launch himself away with another Jump. “Salt Smite!”
A blast of powder struck Ah-Bān, covering his defensive armour with blue-grey grains of desiccating residue.
“Don’t let him drain you!” Alain shouted from the side. “Fire Bolt!”
Percy Shielded himself.
“Hey!” Mei screeched from the sideline. “Don’t you dare, Alain Yang! That's unfair! I’ll fry you like a fish!”
Alain’s bolt clattered against Percy's Salt Shield harmlessly.
“Going soft?!” Percy laughed at the pathetic sight. “Good luck on your wedding night!”
“PERCY SONG!" Alain looked as though he was drunk. "Ah-Bān!”
“Come on, big guy,” Percy taunted the Earthen Mage. “First to Shield Break?”
“I'll die before you dishonour Master Yang!” Ah-Bān roared. “Hammer Throw!”
“This isn’t the fucking feudal era!” Percy dodged another blow, flinching as the concrete wall behind him cracked. “You serious, big-guy? You’re trying to kill me?”
Ah-Bān glanced at his Master.
“Get him!” Alain insisted.
“Mei, call the school! They're going too far.”
“Okay!” Mei raised a bracelet to her lips. "You are going to be in a world of trouble, Alain!"
“No, don't!” Alain reached for his cousin. “Magic Missile!”
“Shield!” Mei erected a Lightning Shield, but defensive magic wasn’t her forte. With a sizzling ‘ting!’, a missile found its mark, striking her wrist and snapping the bangle.
Mei stared at Alain in disbelief, clutching her wrist, her eyes watering.
“Cao…” Alain’s sunflower puckered. “S-sorry, I didn't…”
“Body of Lightning!” Mei rushed her cousin with a technique akin to Blink conjoined with Bull Rush.
“Mei, No!” Percy called out. If Mei succeeded in maiming Alain, they would all be in a world of shit. He needed her to be a helpless witness, not an accomplice!
“Master!” Ah-Bān likewise accelerated toward Alain.
“ARRRRRGH!” Alain wanted to flee, but three Transmuters were converging toward him, the intensity of which was preventing him from using his secondary Schools of Magic.
Using his Salt-Shield as a springboard, Percy was the first to arrive. He was confident that Mei would stop as soon as she struck his Shield, and that his barrier was strong enough to hinder the Earthen Mage, at least enough for him to dodge -
Mei struck Percy square in the chest.
“Percy?!” Mei did her best to abort, but her Body of Lightning wasn’t the sort of half-assed technique that allowed for things like mercy. Despite her best efforts, the discharge from her invocation poured into Percy, paralysing her companion.
As for Percy, his mind was momentarily white-hot. Every nerve in his body convulsed as the electricity ate away his Salt-Skin.
What happened to his Shield? Percy baulked. What happened to his buffs? For several months now, he had activated his Abjuration with a thought, as effortless as breathing. Even Kelvin Ma, the Abjuration prodigy, had marvelled at the speed and accuracy of his manifestation, praising it as but a step behind chantless invocation. For Percy, the faultless nature of his secondary Schools was his trump card, his ‘signature move’, it was the means of his selection into the team as a first-year senior.
Next, Ah-Bān's body-slam connected, the man’s surprise equalled only by the force of his collision with Percy.
Like a carcass of cured pork, the Salt Mage rag-dolled through the air, limbs akimbo.
Mid-way, Percy struggled to find something with enough purchase to halt his trajectory. When he flew over Alain Yang, he willed his paralysed limbs to move, reaching out toward the young man so that he could at least anchor himself to something.
Seeing Percy flying overhead, Alain ducked.
FUCKING TYPICAL! Percy recalled himself thinking as he caught a fistful of Alain’s hair.
“ARRRRRGGGGGNNNN!” Alain screamed.
Percy's trajectory continued, now with twenty per cent more hair.
In the next moment, past a few stickybeaked faces at the entrance to the dead end alleyway, he landed in the middle of Ruijing 2nd Road, the main thoroughfare of Shanghai’s golden commercial district.
The last thing Percy recalled seeing was a two-ton cargo truck - that and the fact that for the first time in three months, he couldn’t erect a Shield.