Over the woman's palm, a mass of ice began to manifest and take the form of a javelin. Without a second of hesitation, she threw the weapon.
Before Ragna could react, it had pierced through her chest. She gasped for air, tried to form words, her hands reached for the spear. Blood escaped her mouth and sternum and dripped on the machine.
Ragna tapped her phone, and the video stopped.
If the simulation was an accurate representation of her abilities, Altera needed three seconds to create that javelin, half a second to grab it, and another half-second until it hit her. If Altera summoned the weapon again, she had four seconds to either evade it or find a countermeasure. Assuming she could anticipate Altera's actions in time. Otherwise, she had between three to three and a half seconds to avert her defeat. And even that assumed that she didn’t summon a weapon with a different mass.
Ragna sighed, and the lower half of her face submerged under the water. She crossed her legs and let them dangle over the edge of her bath tube. The water tickled against her skin like a hot breeze and created rings and waves over the surface.
Trying to adapt to the ice would be difficult to near impossible. Too many variables complicated any plan her mind could concoct. If only she knew the mechanism and rules behind Altera’s ability. She could deal with the wings Altera grew. Their variables were consistent, but the ice…In that case, wasn’t it for the best if she concentrated on the wings instead and ensured that dealing with them wouldn’t become an issue?
It wasn’t high-risk-high-reward, but she wasn’t a gambler, and eliminating those wings would rob Altera of the aerial advantage. If she found a way to reach her and cut them off – in a simulation, of course – Altera had to fight her on the ground. And if her timer didn’t run out, she could mess with gravity. Altera would lose at that point. So, how could she reach her if Altera was up in the sky? If she had figured out how to double jump with her gravity device, then it would be easy. Perhaps, the simulation could give her inspiration?
Of course, there was also the issue of Mana. Altera had much more of that magical energy – the human soul could produce – to use her abilities. Whether it was through training or birth, Altera could use such strong magic before running out of Mana. By contrast, she had to deal with her gravity manipulator siphoning her energy. If she had more Mana, she wouldn’t have to deal with the device’s cool down period. But that wasn’t the case, so she had to come up with something else.
Ragna held her smartphone above her head. She swiped over the screen, and the video rewinded again.
Ragna entered the highway. A voice spoke into her ear.
“Vaixian soldiers are invading Midgard. According to our intel, they’ve employed a new weapon near Twilight Bridge. Search and destroy all enemy units and disable the weapon. Do you copy, Cadet Griffin?”
“Roger that," said Ragna. "I will start now. Over and out.”
She raised her legs high in the air, and her eyes shifted towards the mirror. Mist obscured her view off her toes, but she could feel they had shriveled up.
How long have I been here? Better to get out then.
With a tap of her finger, the screen of her phone went black. She stood up, the water rocked back and forth, and droplets fell from her skin into the tube. Ragna opened the drain and grabbed her bathrobe from the mini garderobe. Not bothering to close her robe above the waist, its lines fell over the outer parts of her breasts.
Ragna smirked. And everyone says I don’t have cleavage…
She left the bathroom and stopped at Sven’s room, taking a peek through the open door. He had scattered books, video games, and various other possessions all over the floor, and his clothes stacked to a mountain on his desk chair. Ragna shook her head and walked past it.
When would he learn to clean up after himself? And her father was worse. She wasn’t their mother, and it wasn’t a mother’s job to do that anyway. Though if Sven started calling her mommy, that wouldn’t be too bad now, would it?
Ragna smirked. She entered her room and let herself fall on her bed. The bathrobe’s fabric tickled, and Ragna rolled around. She stretched her limbs, and with her feet, she grabbed the towel that hung over the back of her chair and pulled it over her hair.
Sven had the initiation ritual tonight, and then he had to complete his Bragi. Depending on the nature of the task he had to fulfill for his Bragi, he might leave tomorrow morning. At best, they had one more day so that Sven could pack everything he needed. In the worst-case scenario, it was the last night they spent together. She would never tell him not to go. That would be cruel towards him and the people of Midgard. The more Valkyries existed, the better it was, and for Sven, it was a big dream as well.
She looked at her phone. One more hour until her father and Sven would come back, and four more until she had to attend the peace ceremony.
She had decided then: she would make their last day a memorable one, starting with Sven's favorite food. If she remembered correctly, they had lettuce, tomato, cheese, meat, buns, her special hot sauce – yeah, that would make for some great burgers. If only she could eat them with him.
Ragna poked her stomach.
If she wanted to be a Valkyrie, she couldn’t afford any fat on her body, and tonight she would have to drink and eat anyway. But then, if she didn't become a Valkyrie, what else was there in her life? She shouldn’t have eaten so much pizza. It took her two hours of workout to make up for it and the calories she would gain tonight. Whatever, as long as it made Sven happy. Maybe she should wear a pink apron and nothing under it. If Sven came back and saw her, his mind would explode.
Ragna chuckled, but immediately, her smile disappeared.
Unless her father arrived at the same time…Yeah, no father would want to see that. Well, some do, but the government should execute those. Sadly, most of those still roamed free like her uncle.
A white grin shone within a shadow; teeth sharp as saws; eyes like a snake; words whispered into her ears, dripping like mercury; fragrances fogged into her mind – sweet, sweet like belladonna and delicious like oleander honey; shadows expanded like wings, and…and…
Beads of sweat formed on Ragna’s forehead, her body trembled, and her expression turned into a glare. She grabbed her wrist and counted to ten. She counted to fifteen, twenty, and when she had reached thirty, her body relaxed. Ragna exhaled, but within seconds her glare returned.
Why did she have to remember? That fucking bastard. One day, she would kill him.
Ragna looked at her phone. Two more hours until she had to be at the ceremony. Sven and Drake had already left.
She should leave soon as well. A long night was ahead of her, at when it was over, she would confess to him. Sven was not going to despite his feelings for her, and she had waited enough. She considered herself a modern woman, but some aspects of romance should remain old-fashioned. But after tomorrow, he would be gone, and this wasn’t about her. She would give him a night, he would not forget, and more than anything, she would let him know he had a home. No matter what hardships he would face, Sven could always come back. They were here for him.
She took out the mascara. Her eyes looked up. She placed the wand at the base of her upper lashes, covering them in black. She repeated the process two times and then coated the roots of her lashes once. Surrounded by the coal black liquid, her pupils shone brighter than ever, like an ocean frozen in eternal ice. She put on her earring – a jade green crystal in the form of a rhombus that looked great with the three piercings on her right ear and grabbed her necklace.
Her eyes wandered through her room, and her finger slid across her desk. Not a speck of dust was on it. Her eyes had landed on the framed document on her wall – a court order that said she had to pay the costs for surgical reconstruction, and Ragna grinned.
Ah, she remembered. She had punched a club owner in the face. He had insulted an ex-boyfriend and thrown him out of a club for being a transman. In hindsight, she could have done it without the gravity manipulator, but damn, was it worth it.
Tonight, she made Sven happy, and tomorrow she would defeat Altera. That woman would have no choice but to accept her as a future Valkyrie. By the end of the fight, Altera would kneel and kiss her feet – which wouldn’t be the worst thing to do since she had the cutest little toes – even if none of her ex-boyfriends were into that. If she defeated her, Altera would see how great she was.
Why did it even have to come to this? What did it take to make that woman happy? She did everything Altera asked her to do. And for what? Not once did Altera smile, and when she complimented her, it sounded forced. She had defeated the soldiers, yet Altera criticized her. She had disabled the robot, yet Altera had to sabotage the mission by inserting herself so she could avoid praising her. And at times, it felt like Altera wanted to be anywhere but with her. If supervising her was such a hassle, then why didn’t Alter quit? Someone who liked being around her could do the job. Did Altera think she was beneath her? Why? Because she was stronger? Because she was beautiful and smart? Wasn’t she any of this? Why? Why? W-
Ragna grabbed her wrist, her fingernails ate into her flesh, and the thoughts stopped.
Thinking like that wasn’t healthy. In two days, Altera would be gone from her life. She wanted to become a Valkyrie to make a better world, not to please that woman. Tonight, she would be there for Aura and Sven. She had to concentrate on that.
Ragna looked at her phone.
It was time to go. Ragna had yet to check if her eyebrows framed her face as she wanted them to, but somehow, she didn’t want to look into the mirror.
Ragna exited her room and walked towards the entryway. Her eyes skimmed over her collection of shoes and stopped at two pairs of boots.
Now, the only question remained, should she take boots with high-heels or with flat soles? She could use the extra centimeters the high heels provided. But considering her task tonight, flat soles seemed more efficient.
She sighed, put on the flat-soled boots, and left the building.