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Kina didn't know what she expected from random thugs who had to impersonate Hakai to get their way, but she still found herself disappointed.

The two guys from the inn rushed her first. The one on the right held out his hand, a pale-yellow lux glimmering along his fingers. "Manifestation Radiance: Heavy club!" The lux flared out, quickly taking shape as a glowing energy club. He lunged forward, leaving his partner behind, and raised the club over his head.

With a snort, Kina raised her hand. The club smacked against her palm, sending a tingling pain through her bones, but it was nothing compared to how hard Ichiro could hit. The thug stared down at her, eyes wide, as he found his momentum abruptly halted. As gravity took over and drove his body back toward the ground, Kina brought her arm back.

"Nice try!" Kina slammed her fist into the man's gut. Her amusement quickly faded as spittle sprayed with the man's grunting yell. "Gross!" Before the impact could send the man backward, she grabbed the collar of his shirt, stilling him. But only long enough for her to jump up and drop kick him.

Kina cartwheeled backward after the kick, landing in a crouch. The second goon had dodged the first, leaving his friend to slam painfully into the ground. Lunging forward, this goon swiped at Kina with a dagger. She dipped under the first strike and sidestepped the second. Her eyes narrowed.

A faint green lux lined the blade, and with every swing, it grew larger. Kina's skin prickled. A charged attack. She stepped forward, but she'd realized it too late. The man danced back out of her range and held the dagger in front of him.

"Wind Radiance: Wind Slash!"

The green lux exploded in size before turning into controlled, green-tinted air, moving fast enough to slice whatever it touched. He brought the dagger down once, twice, then a third time, each attack sending a crescent of wind Kina's way.

The little worry that she'd felt ebbed away. The energy traveled slowly, and the man had been impractical, using every bit of gathered power at one time. She sidestepped the first two and leapt over the final slash. Using her downward momentum, she slammed her fist into the goon's temple. He crumpled to the ground near his fellow goon.

Kina stood over the two, hands on her hips, and raised a brow at the woman and beastkin. "Is that all you guys got?"

The beastkin snarled. "Hold the girl," he said over his shoulder. The woman nodded. Her eyes flicked down, and a smirk played on her lips. Kina followed her gaze, catching the beastkin move his hand out from behind his back.

She frowned. What had that been about? Before she had a chance to puzzle it out, the beastkin charged, drawing her attention to him. She fell into a stance, instincts alert. The beastkin moved with more certainty than the other two had, and from what she'd heard, they were already naturally stronger.

"Serpent Radiance: Venomous Claws!"

Beastkins already had claws, but as the beastkin held his hands out to each side, poisonous green lux made them a few inches longer. Kina blocked his first strike with her forearm and went for a punch of her own, but the beastkin dropped down suddenly, leaving her to punch air.

"Cocky brat," the beastkin mocked as he launched upward, dragging his claws across Kina's chest. Victory shone in his eyes as a smirk twisted his features.

But it quickly vanished when Kina kicked him away. He skidded back, grimacing. "How...?" A quick glance over gave the beastkin his answer, and he snarled.

Four slash marks had ripped open Kina's shirt to reveal what the beastkin should have already guessed. More rock covered her torso, protecting it. The lux-created claws had barely put a scratch in it.

Kina frowned down at the dark yellow cloth. "This is starworm cloth. Do you have any idea how expensive it is to get it repaired?" She eyed the beastkin's claws warily. Starworm silk accepted lux readily, and because of that, it was crafted to be as hard to get through as chainmail. The fact that his claws had sliced through it so easily... She didn't want to know what would have happened if she weren't in Rock Form.

Maybe not all of the Hakai-wannabes were pushovers.

With a growl, the beastkin went back on the offensive. Kina parried and tried to strike herself, but she struggled to land any blows. Her Rock Form gave her ample amounts of strength and defense, and although she was pretty accustomed to the added weight, it still slowed her down. Without the same impairment, the beastkin managed to dodge her attacks while still throwing out his own.

"Everything has a breaking point," the beastkin snarled as his claws scraped her cheek. "And I'll find yours."

Kina stuck out with a side kick, this time managing to catch him in the ribs. He didn't move back far, but it placed his foot less than an inch from one of the Ganji servants.

"Oh no you don't."

The beastkin wore an open vest, and she grabbed one side in each hand. With a quick pivot, she flung the beastkin back toward the opening of the alley. Before she could pull her hands away from him, though, he caught her wrist and yanked her along. They hit the ground rolling.

The beastkin recovered first, but he only rose half-way up before Kina reoriented herself and swept his leg out from under him.

"Noko!" the woman called.

"Don't stop, Aimi," the beastkin—Noko—shouted back.

Stop? It was only then Kina realized there was a slight prickle in her senses. She'd been so focused on the beastkin, she'd only noticed his usage of lux. The slowly growing energy behind near the back of the alley had escaped her.

Kina began to turn, but Noko was back to his feet. He charged toward her. A few yards away, the beastkin leapt upward. She followed his path. The sun silhouetted him. She squinted, but she could still track his movements as he flipped through the air.

"Serpent Radiance: Serpent's Whip!" His lux burst out, cutting a green line through the hair. He extended his leg. The lux gathered there like an aura. It spread further than just his foot, and it had a shape almost like a tail.

And it was descending straight at her head. She threw her arms up in an X to block it.

The force from his leg coming down on her still rattled her teeth. Although she couldn't see the top of her arms, she could feel the cracks form in her earthen armor.

Gritting her teeth, she grabbed hold of Noko's leg before he could pull back. She focused on the lux in that hand, pushing her will on it once more. "Form Radiance: Rock Prison!" she cried.

At the command, the lux buzzed to life. The rock on her arm from her bicep down left her, instead moving to encase the beastkin's foot. Kina shoved the beastkin back.

He landed on the ground, stumbling as he tried to right himself. Even off balance, his eyes flicked to her unprotected side. Fighting to find some form of stability, he hopped forward and slashed at her arm.

He wasn't nearly as swift when handicapped, and it was easy enough for Kina to twist so her arm was out of the way. The same twist provided her power to punch Noko's chest. This was her first full-force hit on him. His face contorted in pain. A spinning side kick right after sent him flying back to the mouth of the alley.

"And that leaves only—"

"Watch out!"

The Ganji girl's cry startled Kina. She spun to face the back alley, eyes wide and mental voice loud as it berated her for getting too caught up in what was before her. At first, it seemed like there was no danger.

Then she saw it: a string of pale-pink lux. It flowed through the air like cloth carried by a light breeze.

Until the moment it reached an inch in front of Kina's chest, something allowed because she'd just seen it. Her own multi-colored lux flared to life for a brief second at the string's contact.

Then the unbearable fear crashed down her.

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About the author

Cross-Warrior

Bio: A dragon disguised as a 25-year-old human. Fantasy fanatic. Jesus Freak. Procrastination Master. Writer primarily on Wattpad under Cross-Warrior but trying out other sites as well. Pfp is fanart by a friend.

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