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I huddled under the wreckage, my barrier like a small cocoon just big enough for me and Marco. As someone who hates touching people, it was like torture. He was sweaty and badly needed a piece of gum. Distorted ceiling beams, bits of wall, and half a light fixture pressed down on my barrier. Through the rubble, I could see the flicker of a fire, but for the most part, the fire was put out when the gym collapsed.

I didn’t dare push out of the rubble just yet. I could hear yells as people drew closer to my location, but I didn’t know if the hitmen were gone. Which was why I had Stealth on. For all I knew, I was burning MP for no reason, but it was better safe than sorry.

“Oh my god, I think there’s someone in there!” A woman’s voice gasped.

“Get them out!” Henry yelled, his voice cracking with panic. “Water mages, get on that fire. Where’s Nora? You need to heal them until the ambulance gets here.”

The rubble shifted on my left and a piece of burnt sheetrock — lifted by several men — let in a blast of fresh air.

One of the guys was Marco’s friend. He gasped. “Marco! What the hell is going on? Ah, hang on, you’re that girl!”

Since they could see me, there was no reason to keep Stealth going. Between my barrier and them holding the sheetrock up, there was just enough room to crawl out of the wreckage. I wiggled forward and grabbed Marco’s arm to drag him with me. As soon as I was close enough, many hands pulled us from the hole. Once we were clear, the men holding the sheetrock let go and I released my barrier. The whole pile collapsed with a crash and a spark of electricity arched ten feet in the air.

I dropped to the ground, gasping for fresh air. God, I thought Marco’s smell was going to kill me. If he couldn’t afford deodorant, I would gladly buy him some.

“Jyn girl!” Henry howled, his gaze frantic. “Are you hurt? Where are you hurt?” He patted my shoulders, stomach and legs, looking for injuries — he was short enough that I didn’t have to stand up for him to check me. When I didn’t show any signs of intense pain, he sighed and grabbed my arm. “How? Wha … What happened?” He looked at the wreckage.

The gym was a total loss. There wasn’t a single wall, part of the ceiling, or piece of equipment that wasn’t on fire or twisted like a pretzel. Even the metal door was bent in half, inside a dilapidated frame. Two Mages stood next to the fire, hands outstretched and shooting water on the flames. As Es, the water they could summon was the equivalent of a garden hose. In the distance, I could hear sirens wailing, their sounds echoing off the builds around us, and getting closer.

I tipped my head back and looked in the direction the attacks came from, but the roof was empty. I didn’t really expect them to hang around. Hopefully they just thought that I was dead, and would leave it at that.

I glanced at Henry. “I-I don’t know,” I said, finally answering his question and pretending to be confused.

Nora, the Healer, dropped next to Marco’s side. She reached out and gasped, widening the lapels of his blood covered shirt. “Oh my god! He’s been shot!”

Everyone within hearing distance froze and looked our way. Guns weren’t necessarily banned in Eden. It’s just, for the most part, they were pretty ineffective weapons on this side of the wall. They didn’t work in the Gate at all, no matter what material they were made from. And anything ranked upper B or higher, be it Hunter or monster, was fast enough to dodge the bullet. Even most upper C Hunters could move fast enough to prevent a fatal wound from a gunshot.

For that reason alone, any gun shot in Eden was a big deal, because it just didn’t happen often.

Marco’s friend knelt by him. “Is he dead?”

The Healer shook her head. “No, not yet.” She reached out and started healing him. I wasn’t an expert on magic, but I could tell how weak hers was. Maybe I’d just been spending too much time with powerful people.

Henry shook my arm, pulling my attention back. “Jyn! What happened?”

I looked up at him with big eyes and decided to play dumb. “I don’t know. We were talking and suddenly Marco screamed and fell down. The next thing I know, the whole building blew up.” I loosened the control I had on my muscles and let the after effects of an adrenaline rush take over, making my arms and legs shake.

“Who did it?” Henry looked sympathetic but didn’t let up like I’d hoped.

I shook my head. “I don’t know.”

At least that much was true. I think I knew what they looked like, as long as Beaked Nose and his Mage buddy hadn’t died in Josu Rainforest. But I didn’t know their names and I had no way to prove who sent them after me.

The siren grew closer, it’s blaring howl made me flinch and cover my ears. On the other side of the hostel, a bright light pulsed as a fire engine drove between the hostel and the neighboring building. There was barely enough room for the engine to maneuver, and it was in a hurry. Henry’s garden didn’t stand a chance against the large tires.

The fire engine was followed by an ambulance and a police car. Another police car tried to join, but there simply wasn’t enough room. Between the three automobiles and hunters, the basketball court sized space between the hostel and the rubble was completely filled. The second police car stopped in the lane, right on top of Henry’s thrashed garden.

Henry groaned and covered his face.

“Your garden!” I gasped.

Henry dropped his hands with a sigh. “Yes, but it’s not as important as someone's life.”

I glanced at him. It was that mentality that made me glad that Henry didn’t go in the Gate anymore. The younger generation would eat him in there.

Firemen burst out of the truck, Mages wearing black and red heat resistant robes and headgear. They pooled their water powers together, creating a giant water ball in the air the size of the rubble. They carefully lowered the ball of water over the burning steel and debris. A loud sizzle permeated the air and was cut short as the water settled down. A minute later, the Mages raised their arms and the water levitated, leaving a completely dry and cool pile of wreckage behind. Another wave of their arms and the water disappeared. Just like that, the fire was put out.

At the same time, the A ranked Healers rushed out of the ambulance. They wore white robes with a thick dark blue stripe all the way down the left side of the robe, just like the black and red Firemen robes, with a Hunter’s Association logo on the left breast. Two of them went to Marco, and shooed the E Healer to the side. One reached out and cast a green glow over Marco. The other cast a gold, healing magic. His injuries healed at a visible rate, but he didn’t wake up. It probably had something to with the green magic on him. Once he was fine, the two Healers stepped back. Another Mage stepped up and cast a levitation spell. Marco lifted into the air and flew over to the back of the ambulance.

Two other Healers came to my side. They looked at me as critically as I looked at them. “How are you feeling?” Man on the right asked and reached out. He carefully touched my shoulder and cast Heal. Immediately, I felt the uplifting warmth of the spell.

“I’m fine, I think. My body aches and my lungs hurt from the smoke, but I don’t think there’s anything really wrong.” My natural body strength was enough to prevent me getting too injured, even without my arm. Or maybe I was just too used to such extreme injuries that this didn’t seem like a big deal. If I had taken a direct hit by either the gun or the exploding fire magic, it would be a different matter entirely though.

The Healer hummed and released me after I was a hundred percent healed. Then he opened his Guide and started to ask me questions like my name and other identifying details. He recorded my responses on his Guide, his fingers flying over the blue screen, before he paused and read something. He glanced at me.

I stared at him. It was times like this that I wished I could read other people’s Guide screens. What did he see? Did it have to do with me?

Henry stood at my side the whole time. “What’s wrong?” he prompted.

The Healer looked Henry up and down. “Are you related to Miss Dehvro?”

Henry stilled and shook his head. Without another word, he turned and walked away. I watched him go, without needing to ask why. If there was something personal to discuss, the Healer wouldn’t be able to say it around Henry anyway. Then again, with other high leveled Hunters around, there was no audible privacy. “Is there something wrong?” I asked the Healer.

He glanced at me and shook his head slowly. “No. You are a rank E Huntress, aren’t you, Miss Devhro?”

“Yes,” I said without guilt. I was. Maybe E wasn’t my literal rank, but that’s what it was on record.

He tapped a little longer on his screen. “Well, Miss Devhro, you were lucky. There’s no lasting effects of your run-in with a collapsing building. But if you feel any discomfort or sharp pains, it would be best if you check into the hospital to see if there’s any embedded shrapnel that I didn’t notice.”

Just then, a pair of police officers approached me. They wore green police uniforms, nearly identical to the navy ones in Garden City. The difference was, the green material was magically enhanced so it wasn’t just normal cloth. It was much easier to make armor, since the cost of making material that acted like platemail was ridiculously expensive and difficult, but the Hunters Association thought it was better to match their sister city’s public authority to create unity. Even though the two cities were kept as separated as possible.

The younger of the policemen, who had a badge that read Officer Nix, spoke up. “You are not in trouble, Miss Devhro. But you’re going to have to come with us and give a thorough account of what happened.” There was nothing kind about his expression at all. It was obviously just a job that he was going through the motions with.

Inside the Gate, it's a free-for-all. It's expected that people, especially weak people, will die. And sometimes, those deaths were caused by Hunters. As long as there was no evidence, it didn't happen. It was just one more missing Hunter on the growing list.

However, the rules were different in Eden. There were laws and codes, ones that were expected to be followed. The mentality from the Gate often spilled over into Eden, but if something was done, it had to be done quietly. Blowing up a building — a Hunter’s Association owned building — didn’t count as quiet.

Add a gun wound on that, and it was guaranteed to be investigated.

I stood up and brushed the soot and grime off my clothes the best I could. “Can I go change?” I asked Officer Nix.

He shook his head. “It won’t take long.” He motioned to the police car parked in Henry's garden. It seemed almost sacrilegious to sit in the car that desecrated Henry’s precious garden.

The firemen were already back in their fire engine and the Healers were loading up already. The police man and woman that had been in the other car were talking to the hostel inhabitants and writing down statements. Henry had the policeman nearly by the ear, demanding to talk to the Hunter’s Association President about the collapsed building, as the poor Hunter reassured him over and over again that Incident Management was on their way over right then.

There really was nothing left for me to do so I followed the officers to the car and sat in the back. At least they didn’t make me sit on the side with a cage around it. I was a good girl growing up. My family had enough going on, I didn’t want to pile more on top of it. Needless to say, this was my first time in a police car. Even though I ‘wasn’t in trouble,’ I felt like it.

The ride was relatively short, but in the suffocating silence, it felt like it took forever. The older officer drove to the Hunter’s Association building then parked around the back side. The police station, a box of a building that was missing all the grandioseness of the Association’s building, was tucked up against the back. The car was parked and Office Nix opened my door.

He gave me a thin smile. “This way.” He motioned to the front door.

I followed the older officer and Officer Nix followed me, his eyes boring holes in my back.

*****

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About the author

MichelleRReid

Bio: I am an author, mother, wife, and jack of all trades. I mean, every mom is, but I’ve found that through my research for different stories, I’ve picked up a lot of random (and sometimes actually useful) knowledge and skills.
I’ve had a vivid imagination since I was a child. And as much as I wish I could actually live in the worlds in my head, the closest I can get is with the words I put on the page. These characters are like real people to me. The funny lines they say, their emotions that make my heart bleed, the amazing things they can do that I physically can’t, the adventures and sights that I can see in my head. I love sharing those things with my readers and hope that they can feel at least a part of what I do.
I do have other works that are published through Amazon. They are not LitPRG, but I'm still really proud of them. Check them out if you have the chance.

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