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Three magic attacks, two lighting strikes, and a fire blast shot at me from below the stage. Since my invisibility proved difficult for them to detect where I was, none of the attacks were aimed at the same place. Magic and fire spread through the air three feet above where Epson lay on the stage.

I dodged a bolt of lightning that arced around me. A stray electric tentacle struck my arms and left a burn mark. My arm went numb for a second before it started to tingle as the nerves began to wake up. Luckily, the lightning was from an E Mage. It hurt, but it wasn’t fatal. A moment later, a C ranked fire blast hit the right side of the stage and exploded in a hot boom that evaporated all the fake fog within three feet of it.

In the middle of the stage, Epson threw his hands over his head and gasped like a pansy as magic struck around him. I guess he was fine when it was orchestrated as part of his show, but in the middle of a real battle, he lost his cool. Well, he did say that he wasn’t made out for being a Hunter. But after twenty years, you’d think he’d grow a pair? Then again, maybe that’s why he stole from unconscious victims.

The artificial fog left on the stage swirled around my feet as I skipped out of the way of the magic, bending and twisting as I needed to stay safe. Stealth made me invisible for now, but to anyone paying attention, the movement of the fog was a dead give away to my position. I landed on my toes and ducked under another arc of lightning.

Before I could recover, a fire blast shot toward me. I threw up my arm and formed a mist barrier half a second before it hit. The attacker’s magic and my barrier connected with a deafening boom. The force threw me back. I gasped as I flew into the dark curtain that spread across the back of the stage. They ripped off their support beam and tangled around me as I continued to fly backwards. The material slipped over my body and fell away seconds before I slammed against something solid and flat.

The impact forced the air from my lungs and sent my head reeling and spinning. The wall I slumped against vibrated slightly. A second later, a large metal cylinder landed on my shoulder. The lid popped off and something wet, cold and sticky spilled down my hot body.

I gasped in pain and for air as a strong paint smell covered the stink of the artificial fog. My eyes cracked open and came into focus. God, that one blast shot me back over thirty feet to the space behind the stage and took out thirty percent of my HP — and that was after my barrier took the edge off the actual attack. I glanced down at my body and the royal blue paint that spread from my shoulder to hips. The paint revealed my torso and completely negated the reason why I had Stealth activated in the first place. Well, I might as well not waste the MP to maintain it then. I cancelled Stealth taking comfort that my identity remained concealed behind the mask I still wore.

The four Hunters leapt onto the stage. The two women went to Epson who struggled to his feet. From the way he tottered as he stood up, the effects of the airborne drugs were getting to him, now that he didn’t have a mask on. The women held him up on each side, leaning over to check his condition.

The two male Hunters shot at me. I jumped to my feet and dodged to the side as the tallest Hunter attacked me with dual daggers. The serrated edge of the black blade struck the metal wall behind me. It sparked as metal hit metal and a gash was left as stainless steel yielded to the Hunter weapon. I twisted out of the way and kicked out, aiming for his face. My heel hit his forehead.

He gasped and staggered back as his mask cracked and warped. The top half of his mask fell apart and revealed a face that I recognized. I would never forget a nose like that. It was Beak Nose, one of the hitmen hunting me.

My eyes narrowed. So then the Mage that just hit me with fire must be Beak Nose’s companion from the rainforest, Mage Buddy. I knew they were the men who were hunting me, but for the moment — thanks to the mask — they had no idea exactly who their target was.

Before I could attack Beak Nose, a whip of fire arced toward me. I dodged out of the way and the fire struck the ground, searing the concrete black. I flipped around and lunged at Mage Buddy, my kindjals out. He staggered back as I closed in on him, obviously not expecting me to go on the offense so fast.

I stabbed at him. He dodged to the side, and flicked his fire whip at me again. I dodged to the right and swung out with my left kindjal. The blade hit the line of fire and sliced through like hot butter. The fire that had been cut off evaporated in the air. I moved to attack him again, but paused and jumped backwards last second.

A bolt of lightning stuck where I had been standing. The taller of the women was guiding Epson off the stage. But the other woman stood on the stage, hand out with lightning still crackling between her fingers, obviously ready to join in the fight. She was an E, completely over her head, but I respected that she wasn’t backing down. It reminded me of myself. But that didn’t mean that I was about to let her stand there and zap me every time I took my eyes off her.

I closed in on her in a second. She gasped, her reaction time a million times slower than mine. Before she could move, I kicked out and caught her across the chest. She flew back and landed on the floor below. She didn’t move, but I could see that her chest was rising and falling. I didn’t have a big beef with her, she was mostly just in the way, so I didn’t exactly want to kill her. If possible, I wanted to turn her into the police alive.

A tingle of awareness shot down my back. I spun around and blocked Beak Nose’s sneak attack with my kindjal. Our blades collided and sparks flew. “Are you the police?” he gritted out, trying to overpower me.

My arms started to give way under his pressure, after all he was stronger than me. My boots slid slowly across the polished floor of the stage even though my rigid posture didn’t change. My eyes narrowed. Man, he really needed to brush his teeth better. “No. Just a pissed off girl who’s gone through too much shit because of you.” I slashed up with my left hand.

He bent back to get out of the way and responded with his own attack. We exchanged blows in rapid succession, both trying to take a chunk out of each other, and coming up a hair too short. It was a little odd to me, since all of my battle experience was against monsters and not Hunters with familiar weapons, but Beak Nose seemed like he was in his element. His moves were practiced and methodical, attacking me with two daggers. After ten or so exchanges, I finally started to pick on his rhythm and worked to throw it off. His hissed as I left a long cut from his left shoulder to his elbow, leaving a long gap in his brown robe that slowly turned red with blood.

A long whip of fire cracked in my direction, forcing me to back up before I could pressure Beak Nose more.

Beak Nose grabbed his bleeding arm and scowled at me. “Who are you?”

I jumped out of the way of another snap of fire. Almost casually, I reached up and pulled off my mask. I tossed it out and used it to block the next whip attack. The fire hit the white masquerade mask and it cracked in half then fell to the ground, blackened and smoking. Instead of answering with words, I simply glared at the men. If they didn’t recognize me, they were truly failures as hitmen.

They gasped in unison, obviously shocked. “But you’re an E,” Mage Buddy denied. “How can you …” he trailed off.

I smirked. “Your information is out of date.”

The two men gave annoyed growls at almost the same time, giving a messed up sense of surround sound. They attacked in sync — the Mage flicking his fire whip and Beak Nose lunging for a kill. Between them, there was very little room to dodge. Instead, I went on the offense.

Poison Fog filled up the air so thick, they were blinded. They were so startled that the trajectory of their attacks shifted. Beak Nose missed completely and I cut the fire whip again. They still had their masks on, so they had air filters on, so I didn’t know how damaging the poison was to them. But I was pissed off enough to find out.

The fighting escalated quickly, the two men against me. They were higher levels and a team, but I was faster than them by a hair and Mist gave me enough of an advantage to dodge their most powerful attacks. I continued to go at them, leaving cuts here and there. I couldn’t seem to get any good, solid hits in, but I noticed that they were dripping blood more than a normal cut should. They must be inflicted with Bleed.

I, of course, wasn’t able to dodge everything they threw at me, not by a long shot. My own HP was nickel and dimed down until my HP was in the orange. What I had going for me was that I didn’t have a status effect.

“Just die already!” Mage Buddy hissed and threw out a huge fire blast, completely ignoring the fact that his partner was right next to me.

I dodged to the side and threw my right kindjal at Mage Buddy as I solidified a wall of mist in front of me. The Mage’s fire blast hit Beak Nose and exploded. He didn’t even make a sound as he was blown through the air until he smashed against the back wall with a horrible crunch. The outer rim of the explosion hit my shield and shattered it. I was knocked off my feet and fell back, rolling a couple feet before I stopped.

My whole body hurt from the long battle, the dried paint irritated my skin and stuck my clothes to my body, and I was too hot from the fire, but still I struggled to my feet. Breathing hard and ready for another attack, I looked around but couldn’t see the two men.

The curtains and framing on stage had been destroyed in our fight and scorch marks dotted the stage and backstage area like a toddler on Red Bull with a black paint brush. Some marks looked like they were still hot, but they hadn’t lit on fire just yet.

Unconscious people remained slumped against the floor around the open space below. Since I purposefully guided the fight away from the crowd, it didn’t look like anyone was hurt and the fog was starting to clear up. Hopefully they’d start to wake up soon.

The kindjal I threw at Mage Buddy returned. I now held both at the ready as I walked to the back of the stage where Beak Nose had been blown to. I turned my head and paused. There was no reason to go any farther.

He was crumpled against the back wall like a broken doll, bent nearly in half, his head down in his lap. The wounds on his body had been seared shut so there wasn’t a lot of blood around him. Smoke rose from his back and limp arms. Without a doubt, he was dead.

I stared at him, frowning. I considered myself a good person. Too good, in most cases. I wanted to be an example for my sister to look up to. But I couldn’t bring myself to feel bad at all that Beak Nose was dead. In fact, I think it was for the best. As a hitman and thieving cultist, he was a danger to the public.

A moan followed by a gurgling sound came from below the front of the stage.

I turned around and hurried in that direction. I thought I’d kept the fight away from people. Did someone get hurt after all? I stopped at the edge of the stage and looked down.

Mage Buddy lay spread eagle on the floor below, just a couple feet away from an unconscious female cultist. A line of blood leaked down his cheek from under his mask. The left side of his chest was covered in blood, the red liquid puddled around him.

So my thrown kindjal had hit him after all. The force must have knocked him off the stage and Bleed was still plaguing him.

His chest shuddered as he gasped again.

And he was still alive.

I jumped down to his side and stared at the dying man. “Who hired you to kill me?” In my mind, that person should be Blake Hans. But after the mixup with Bethany, I couldn’t be sure and wanted to hear a name.

His mask had slipped to the side, but I could still see his eyes flutter open from the eye slots. “Wou … ldn’t … you … like to ...”

“I don’t think you're in a position to be cocky.” I reached down and pulled off his mask. “Who wants to kill me?”

His head tilted to the side from my rough handling, the blood leaking from his lips smearing across his pale cheek. His lips stretched in a distorted sneer. “You … should … die.” The life left his eyes.

*****

 

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A note from MichelleRReid

This marks the last chapter with my editor T. She’s been amazing to work with, always there to talk to and plot with. (I’m not going to lie, this arc gave me a run for my money.) Someday, I hope you get a chance to read her amazing stories. She’s so dedicated and thorough. Man, I hope I can write like her someday … which is funny because she’s said the same thing about me once. Haha, silly woman. It’s cases like that I wish I could catch the extremely talented person hiding in the shadows and shake them until they finally understand their worth. Well, she’s one of my buddies, so I still have time. ;)

Next chapter is the end of the Rainforest arc and the first chapter my new editor C does. She’s amazing! And I’m so glad for her help. :)


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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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