"You two look horrible." Tabitha surveyed her friends as they met up outside Ashley's home before school. Both Ashley and Edwin were barely standing, dark circles under their eyes.

"Yesterday took forever." Edwin complained. "We shouldn't have to fight anything on a school day. I'm sooooo tired." He purposely leaned against Ashley, emphasizing his point.

"I can't believe you guys forgot to tell me before you had another fight!" Tabitha huffed, walking ahead of the others.

"I'm really sorry Tabi! I was just… distracted." Ashley's voice dropped as she remembered just why she had forgotten Tabitha. She pushed Edwin off her, the sickly feeling from yesterday returning as she was forced to relive Edwin's judgment when he saw her like… that.

"Hey!" Edwin yelped as he was thrown off balance. "Guess I'll have to take my nap first period. Mrs. Schumacher will love it, I'm sure."

Ashley just grumbled in response, not wanting to interact with Edwin. God, how was he so comfortable, joking around like this? Didn't he feel the least bit ashamed about the day before? Ashley had seen him in just as compromising of a position. Having equal blackmail material relieved her, but she was still mortified around Edwin, knowing that he knew what she didn't want to know about but had been thinking even though she tried not to and-

"Hey, Ashley?" Tabitha had turned around, looking back to her friend. "You okay?"

Ashley blinked; realizing Tabitha and Edwin had stopped walking ahead of her, and were now looking at her, concerned. How long had she been lost in thought? "I'm fine, just tired," she lied.

"Are you sure you're not getting sick? You don't look very good." Edwin said.

"Uh, maybe that's it? I don't know, maybe I'm getting the flu or something." The more Ashley thought about it, the more likely it seemed that she had some sort of sickness affecting her.

"Awww, Ashley, maybe all this fighting is giving you a cold." Tabitha frowned. "Do you think Mateo would give you a sick day? You need to take care of your vocal chords."

"Oh my god, Mateo!" Ashley shouted. "I completely forgot, he did some more creepy stuff yesterday."

"Yeah!" Edwin added. "He yelled at us when we didn't leave the battle site when he told us to. And not like, a parental yell. More like a mean, fox growl-yell. I know it doesn't sound that bad, but it was really intimidating!"

Tabitha glanced away from the others for a moment. "I trust you two know Mateo better than I do, but I'm still shocked something so cute would do anything like that… I hope he doesn't do anything worse to you."

"You and me both." Edwin sighed.

The group went quiet, as the topic of Mateo was recently becoming a pessimistic event. There were so many unknowns in their lives now, and dwelling on them didn't help anything.

"Oh, Edwin, I just remembered a question for you." Ashley piped, up thinking of a good way to change the subject. "I haven't found myself being cold when we were fighting, despite wearing shorts. Are you cold?"

Edwin took a second to sort through his memories. "Now that you mention it, I don't think I was cold at all. That's so weird! I guess it's more magic, right?"

Tabitha chuckled to herself. "Add that to your list of magic powers: insulation!"

"I'm starting to feel like a thermos." Edwin smiled. The mention of thermoses brought up the idea of lunch, and the trio continued discussing food until they separated in the halls of Snapdragon.

"Hey, Edwin." Edwin looked up from his desk to see his classmate Paul walk towards him. Paul placed a hand on Edwin's desk, leaning his weight on the other boy's desk. "Are you up to anything after school these days? We've lost some people from chess club and I'm looking for some more dedicated members. I know you used to be busy with cooking club and all before your falling out with Jessica, and you were really good about coming to meetings-"

"Sorry, I don't know the first thing about chess." Edwin cut Paul off, wanting to change the subject from anything mentioning her.

"Oh no, that's totally fine! I can barely play either. Gulzar runs the show." Paul gestured to another boy sitting across the room, already eating his lunch. "I didn't know anything until Gulzar started teaching me. It's a fun place to hang out, not really competitive."

"I kinda have something after school nowadays-"

"EDWIN!" Edwin and Paul looked up to see Ashley almost sliding past the door to the classroom from momentum. She marched over to his desk, slightly out of breath. "I have a great idea that we need to talk about right now."

"Sorry, Paul. Talk when we get back?" Edwin said as he stood up from his chair.

"Oh, don't worry. I think I understand what's been keeping you busy." Paul finished his sentence with a wink. Edwin rolled his eyes as he left to the hallway with Ashley.

"Why didn't you come over for lunch today? I had an epiphany." Ashley asked, stopping once they reached a set of lockers.

"As you could see, I was talking to a classmate." Edwin sighed. "Who's probably going to start a rumor that we're dating now."

Ashley couldn't help herself from laughing in Edwin's face. "Oh my god, that's hilarious. Please update me as that develops. Anyway, remember how we've been-"

"Ashley, what are you doing?!" Tabitha caught up to her friend, exasperated. "You can't just run out of the room all of a sudden! People might think you're dying!"

"I highly doubt anyone would care enough to assume I'm dying. Except you. Which I appreciate! Anyway, I had this great idea and I just had to tell Edwin about it. So, we've been transforming a lot at school, right?"

"Often enough for me to bring a change of clothes." Edwin agreed.

"So, yesterday we transformed, then went back to our halfway forms, and then got changed." Ashley added.

"Actually, you only changed your pants. I really don't care." Edwin said.

"Enough from you. I thought if we just changed out of our uniforms and then went to our halfway forms, we could meet with Sarah and then immediately turn back." Ashley said.

"You can do that?" Tabitha asked.

"Yeah, I… experimented a little yesterday." Ashley shrugged. "This is better than what we did yesterday, because now it looks like our halfway forms are what we look like normally. And, since we aren't wearing school uniforms, Sarah won't be searching the school for us."

"This is literally just another excuse for you to not walk home in a skirt." Edwin replied.

"I don't see you walking home in a skirt as a guy." Ashley sassed back.

"Touché." Edwin said.

"Sarah still knows I'm connected to you guys somehow, so you're not completely out of the water. But this is a good way to get her off your trail." Tabitha nodded. "But there is one problem here… Ashley, you do remember that we have choir afterschool today, right?"


After the last bell had rung, Tabitha and Ashley brought their books to their lockers, leisurely waiting until the students rushing to make their buses had cleared away. "You're sure you don't have a problem telling Ms. Edwards that I'm 'sick?'" Ashley asked.

"Wouldn't be the first time I'd lied for you." Tabitha giggled. "I told you, I'm going to help you with this hero business. Now, go get some information!"

"Thanks again, Tabi." Ashley pulled her spare clothing from her backpack, leaving the bag behind in her locker. She didn't want Sarah identifying her based on it. "Meet you in the lobby after practice?"

"Sounds good." Tabitha replied before leaving for the music room. Ashley was left to get changed in one of the (disgusting) school bathrooms. Hopefully jeans, a t-shirt, and a hoodie wouldn't give anything away about her identity. Escaping from the bathroom without being seen, however, was quite stressful. She wandered over to the clubroom for the newspaper club, finding Edwin walking from the other direction, wearing one of her unwanted turtlenecks and leggings.

"Fancy meeting you here." Edwin smirked.

"Let's hope this goes well." Ashley replied. They entered the classroom together, finding it bustling with activity once again. Sarah was leaning over one of the sixth graders on a laptop, pointing at something on the screen.

A girl searching through a filing cabinet near the door looked up after seeing the two enter from her peripheral vision. "Sarah, the magic duo is here again!" she yelled over to the other girl. Sarah turned back to see them, a little surprised. She navigated through the mess of people and desks, leading the duo back to the same office.

"Thanks for coming! I think I have some things you'd like to know." Sarah shut the door behind them, and the three returned to their seats from the previous day. "First things first: there are other magical heroes like you. I've been part of an online group documenting them since they first showed up in September."

"You mean there are people tracking us?" Ashley almost yelled. She had paid attention in net safety in elementary school, and knew this was a case of serious stranger danger.

Sarah laughed off the outburst. "It's just a Facebook group of a few local students. We don't know much, either. But we're trying! Anyway, the first two 'heroes' are high school students at Peterson, and they're really forthcoming with info."

Sarah turned to the desktop on the teacher's desk, pulling up an image of two people in abnormal costumes posing for the camera. "This is Onyx Darkness." Sarah pointed to the guy dressed in almost a butler uniform, with short black hair curling at the ends to defy gravity. "Apparently they met with this fox from another world and the fox took them to his home world. Monsters are coming through the barrier between worlds, so the fox is looking for chosen people to fight and defend the Earth. Onyx was the first, and then they got a guy named Drake involved as Diamond Light." Sarah gestured to the girl Onyx was leaning against in the picture. Her white hair was pulled into tightly curled pigtails, contrasting against her dark skin. She wore something obviously inspired by a French maid outfit and a grimace on her face. "They were the only two until mid-October, and they apparently got two more people involved."

Sarah pulled up another photo, much blurrier than the one before. Ashley and Edwin couldn't make out any details beyond two human shapes against a brick wall. "These two are much more secretive, but we know the one has super speed and the other can slow down monsters. All four of them have been seen fighting together."

"So, you think these people are like us?" Ashley asked.

"It's… difficult. While people fighting monsters with magic isn't normal, there are some interesting differences. You two don't seem to know anything about any others, while the other four are a team. Your stories about the monsters are also different, but you both are getting information from a fox. And the monsters are different. The other group fights things that look a bit more… demonic." Sarah shrugged. "We don't have a lot to go on here."

"Thank you so much for doing this research. It's a lot to take in." Edwin awkwardly smiled.

"It's no problem! If you find out more and want to do a follow-up article, you know where I am." Sarah laughed. Ashley and Edwin stood to leave, when Sarah grabbed Ashley's wrist. "Oh, Ruby? Could you stay behind a second?"

"Uh, sure?" Ashley looked to Edwin, silently asking him for a second opinion. Edwin just shrugged, leaving the office by himself. "What do you need?"

"I'm really grateful for your help on this article. Maybe we can even get some readers from outside the school!" Sarah pushed her hair behind her ear, smiling. "And I was wondering if you were doing anything on Friday."

"Uh… no, I'm free." Ashley was nervous about revealing too much about her schedule, in case Sarah would look into it. "Do you want to talk more?"

"Yeah! But not for like, school newspaper stuff. Just to hang out." Sarah stood up to meet Ashley. "Magic Park, the little amusement park half an hour away, is having a student special this weekend for the end of the season. I have an extra ticket from a group deal, and I want to repay you for helping me out. It'll be fun!"

"Oh, that's really kind of you!" Ashley was genuinely surprised by Sarah's proposition. "I love amusement parks!"

"Then, you'll come?"

"Sure. It sounds really fun."

"Great! Can I get some way to contact you?"

"Oh, let me give you my phone number." Ashley pulled out her cell phone and the two exchanged numbers. Ashley knew it was a little risky, but Sarah shouldn't have her number from any other source.

"I'll text you to work out the details later. Guess I'll see you Friday, unless I run into you again?"

"Sounds like a plan!" Ashley smiled at Sarah before leaving the office. She hadn't been to an amusement park in years, and she absolutely loved them. Preoccupied by thoughts of rides and cotton candy, Ashley didn't notice how the rest of the yearbook and newspaper clubs had gone silent, watching as she left. As soon as Ashley left the room, they exploded into chatter.

Ashley untransformed and grabbed her backpack, not bothering to change back into her uniform (school bathrooms were gross, and loose clothes were comfy!). Walking down to the main lobby, Ashley found Edwin sitting on a bench, still in his halfway form.

Ashley stormed up to him leaning over the side of the bench. "What do you think you're doing?" she whispered, looking around to see if anyone was watching.

"Waiting for Tabitha. What does it look like?" Edwin leaned away from her, confused.

"It looks like you're trying to blow our cover! You can't just loiter around here when we're pretending we don't go here! Hell, even talking to you right now is dangerous for me," Ashley said, her whispers coming out more like a hiss.

"It's not that serious! There isn't anyone here, and it looks like I'm just waiting for someone to pick me up."

"That's a horrible cover story and you know it."

"I don't care. I'm not changing back. I thought you of all people would understand."

"What is that supposed to mean?"

"You obviously don't get it, so why bother explaining. Go somewhere else if you don't want to be seen with me."

Ashley huffed, offended by whatever Edwin was trying to say (and assuming she was too stupid to even deserve an explanation). She walked across the lobby, pretending to be interested by the poster listing the values of good attendance.

After five minutes of silence, Edwin spoke up. "So what did Sarah want to talk to you about in private?"

"Nothing serious." Ashley felt foolish talking to Edwin from across the room, so she begrudgingly took a seat next to Edwin on the bench. He wasn't going to be the one to move, she thought, after his prior stubbornness. "Sarah asked if I wanted to go to an amusement park with her to pay me back for the interview."

Edwin's jaw dropped in response. "You're going on a date with Sarah Ortiz? You're joking, right?"

"What? No! It was just a friendly thing!" Ashley was shocked by Edwin's accusation.

"Then why didn't she invite me? We were both there."

"Uh, maybe she only had one ticket?" Ashley realized how bad her explanation was as soon as she said it. "She never said it was a date!"

"It's heavily implied!" Edwin groaned. "I cannot believe you are accidentally going on a date with one of the most popular girls at this school."

"It's not a date! I wouldn't have agreed if I knew it was a date! For multiple reasons!" Ashley paused before continuing, quieter. "Like, it would be really rude given how you feel about her."

For a second, Edwin was stunned by her response, but he soon laughed it off. "It's not like I'm good enough for her, anyway. I'm no superhero coming to sweep her off her feet and save her life."

"But you are! We work as a team"

"But Sapphire is a girl, which means I'll never have the tiniest sliver of a chance." Edwin sighed, leaning back on the bench and looking to the ceiling. "Don't worry about me. Enjoy your date."

Ashley's eyes widened, a sudden realization hitting her. "Sarah's a girl."

Edwin raised an eyebrow. "Yes?"

"I'm going on a date with a girl."

Edwin rolled his eyes.

"This is serious!" Ashley bumped him with her arm. "I've never been on a date, let alone a date with a girl! I don't know what to do! And I'll have to keep up my fake identity the whole time and I couldn't even think of a fake name on the spot-"

"You can just not go if you're already having so much trouble."

"But I really want to go to an amusement park," Ashley pouted.

"Hey guys!" Tabitha appeared from the main hallway, almost skipping over to where her friends sat. "What's wrong with Ashley this time?" she asked, familiar with Ashley's emotional outbursts.

"She's too dense to notice when a girl asks her out on a date." Edwin laughed, earning himself a jab to the ribs from Ashley's elbow.

"You're going on a date with a girl?" Tabitha scowled at her best friend. "Before me? I was supposed to be the gay one! I need five minutes to be jealous before I can be happy for you!"

"Oh, I can get rid of your jealousy right now." Edwin smiled. "She's going on a date with Sarah."

Tabitha could only look at Ashley and blink as a rush of conflicting emotions filled her brain.

"I didn't know it was a date!" Ashley placed both of her hands on her forehead, trying to combat the metaphorical headache her life had become. "She asked me to go with her to Magic Park after our interview and I really wanted to go!"

"Now that sounds like something you would do." Tabitha laughed. "I'd ask if a rollercoaster was worth spending time with my nemesis, but I already know what you'd say."

"But she asked Ruby to come with her. And if it's a date, she'll probably ask me a million questions and I can't tell her anything that could get her to guess the truth." Ashley groaned.

"Then stand her up!" Tabitha replied.

"What does that even mean?" Edwin muttered.

"You know, like when someone gets stood up. The active version of that. Anyway, my phrasing doesn't matter. No Magic Park, no problems."

"But it's a free trip to an amusement park!" Ashley protested.

"It's not free! You should pay for something for your date." Tabitha crossed her arms. "See, this is why I should have been the first of us to date someone."

Ashley sighed. "I need to think this through later, by myself. Can we talk about anything else?"

"The tenors got yelled at today for not paying attention again." Tabitha rolled her eyes just thinking about the boys.

"That's a given for any rehearsal, though." Ashley chuckled, picking up her backpack. She started towards the door, her friends not far behind. Edwin looked to Tabitha in a silent agreement to keep their thoughts about the Sarah ordeal to themselves. Tabitha met his gaze, and then gave him a wide-eyed once-over.

"How long have you been a girl?"

Edwin pushed open the door to his apartment quietly, knowing his brother would already be home from school. He quickly walked through the kitchen and living area, relieved to see Jake playing some shooter game with friends online. He would be absorbed into the television for a while, and his headset blocked out a good bit of his hearing. Edwin went to his bedroom without Jake even noticing him.

Being alone in his shared room was a relief. Today was bad, and it started going downhill as soon as Paul decided to talk to him. Nothing good ever came from talking to his classmates. Of course he had to bring up her as soon as he opened his mouth. All of Edwin's hard work to erase her from his life was useless, destroyed in a moment by a bystander who should know better.

He dropped his backpack in front of his bed and sat down, taking in a deep breath before falling back into his pillows. If Paul had been the only disturbance, maybe things would have been fine. His mood would be sullied, yes, but that could be remedied. But then Ashley had to make things worse. Not only was she going on a date with Sarah, but she also had the audacity to not even realize what was happening! The girl he had a crush on! Could fate be crueler?

Edwin knew he shouldn't be so worked up by it. This wasn't the first time he heard about Sarah's love life, and it hadn't hurt this much before. Edwin knew he didn't have a chance with her, and it was fine. He was content with his unrequited feelings. But this time? He felt so close. Hell, what did Ashley have that he lacked? They were both risking their lives to protect their home! Ashley was a normal person, just like he was! Her personality couldn't have been that obvious through a few short meetings. No, he knew why Sarah had asked Ashley out. The tiny little detail that Ashley got to play superhero, and Edwin was a fucking superheroine.

Edwin stood up from his bed, gathered some casual clothing from his dresser, and sneaked to the bathroom. He looked into the mirror at the familiar-yet-different face it reflected. His neck was framed by two braids Tabitha did for him, the bright blue somewhat clashing with the magenta sweater he wore. Why was he still in this female form, after all the misery it had caused him? He pulled his magic keychain from a sweater pocket, squeezing it as if he could crush it with his fist. Everything was this damn crystal's fault. Perfect sapphire edges dug into his palm as he willed himself back to his original form. A glow filled the room, forcing his eyes shut.

When Edwin opened his eyes again, he expected to find some sort of solace. This was, he believed, the way things were supposed to be. But his new reflection made him feel even sicker. The hair-ties Tabitha had lent him still rested in his hair, only pulling back two small tufts, and Ashley's sweater was stretching to fit his larger form. He couldn't claim a simple crystal caused his misfortune, or even push the blame on Ashley. The root of his problem had always been in plain sight: himself. He had the audacity to believe that anyone, let alone the most beautiful girl in school, could love him? When he was using magic intended for altruism to spend his spare time playing girl with the only two classmates left that didn't know about his past? From a completely objective standpoint, he was pathetic. Edwin gulped, feeling his eyes begin to water. Jessica was right about everything.

Ashley sat on her bed, playing her favorite courtroom video game and procrastinating on her science homework at the same time. It occupied her mind enough to keep any analysis of the day's events from developing. It did not distract her enough to miss the orb of light that blinked into her room, disappearing as Mateo landed on the foot of her bed.

"You are needed at the Hilltop Church immediately." Mateo announced.

"But," Ashley gestured to the window with the hand holding her game system, "It's dark out!" It was already eight, and the sun had set some time ago.

"Justice has no work hours." Mateo replied, his voice flat. "I will be alerting your partner. Now get moving."

"But my parents won't let me leave the house at this time-"

"You won't have any parents if you keep arguing. Make a decision." Mateo disappeared in another burst of light.

Ashley left her game unfinished, slipping on a pair of shoes she kept under her bed. Mateo's point was hard to counter. She placed her ruby keychain in the pocket of her jeans and made her way to the stairs. Getting to the first floor without being heard would be a challenge. She had a general knowledge about which steps creaked, but never had to move stealthily enough to memorize specific location. She took a deep breath, exhaled through her nose, and began her descent.

As soon as her weight transferred to the first stair, it let out a sharp whine. Ashley froze, shocked by her luck. As soon as she reached the base of the stairs, she knew her mother would be watching. Why couldn't her house have more walls? She continued downward, making more creaks, practically announcing her movements. Her cover blown, she decided to walk to the entry closet and grab her coat, as if she was ignorant of her curfew. When she heard no patronizing questions, Ashley made for the front door, only looking back when her right foot was outside. The house seemed empty. Maybe her parents were in the basement? She didn't have time to question this unexpected blessing.

It would be seven blocks to the church, and if Mateo's urgency was warranted, something was going horribly wrong. She started jogging towards the church and pulled out her phone to call Tabitha. This time, she wouldn't get caught up in her own thoughts and forget her best friend.

"Hi Ashley, what's up?" Tabitha answered.

"We have a situation," Ashley panted. "Mateo wants me to go to the Hilltop Church. He didn't say why, but it's urgent."

"I don't know how much I can help, but I'll be there." Muffled sounds of movement came from Tabitha's end of the line.

"See you soon." Ashley said before hanging up. She assumed that there was a monster on a rampage, but she feared Mateo had called them out for something more sinister. Did he know Sarah was snooping around for them? How much was he aware of as a god?

The cold air struck her face as she ran under the street lamps. Luckily, traffic was light that evening and she didn't have to stop at any intersections. She made it to the church in eight minutes, turning down the road that led to the building. A grove of trees surrounded the church, making it look quite serene in the daytime. Currently, the poorly lit area was sinister in its dark seclusion. If there hadn't been the threat of monsters, Ashley would turn around immediately.

A few lights flickered around the outside of the church, lighting the parking lot. All of the windows were dark and Ashley hoped no one was still inside. She especially hoped the monster wasn't inside. Breaking and entering, even in a case of magical vigilante justice, would anger her parents. Checking that she was alone, she grabbed her keychain and whispered "Soul Armor, activate."

A flash of light later and Ruby was shocked by how warm she felt. Even in short sleeves, her magical state was always a comfortable temperature. With a nod of self-confidence, Ruby walked to the church, staying close to the painted brick walls with her sword held close. She peered around a corner, expecting to see something lurking at any moment. But there was nothing.

The silence was terrifying. Only the sound of cars on the main road could be heard, filtered through the trees. Usually, monsters made their presence known immediately by throwing something or screaming. As Ruby rounded the church, the thought that Mateo had called them out to punish them seemed more and more likely.

"Hey, Ashley, you here?" Tabitha's voice called from the parking lot. Ruby ran back to meet her friend and quiet her down. What if the monster heard? Tabitha stood at the edge of the church's lights in a puffy coat. "Ah, there you are!"

Ruby shushed her friend, moving to close the distance. "I can't figure out why Mateo wanted me. I don't see any monsters here."

"Where's Edwin?" Tabitha whispered, looking around her friend.

"I don't know! He's closer than you are, right? He should be here by now. You should hide behind the tree line to be safe. You'll call someone if anything goes wrong, right?"

Tabitha grabbed Ruby's non-sword hand. "I'll have your back," she smiled. "Be safe."

As Tabitha disappeared into the darkness, another figure appeared from the church road. Sapphire was already transformed, walking slowly up to where Ruby stood. He raised his hand, producing a revolver.

"Sapphire, what are you doing?" Ruby asked. In response, her partner shot at the roof of the church. Ruby turned after the water bullet hit, watching as what looked like a chimney sprouted wings and stood. The creature flew up; it's long legs visible in the moonlight.

"I'm doing our job." Sapphire responded. The monster landed in the parking lot, it's clawed feet cracking pavement on impact. It appeared to be mostly a bird, with the long legs and wingspan of a crane. However, it's long neck snaked out with a scaled face, spikes jutting out around its neck. Two beady eyes sat atop a wide mouth, which it opened, displaying numerous rows of teeth. Looking directly at the two kids, it opened a wide frill around its head with a hiss.

Ruby ran towards the beast as Sapphire continued shooting, but it ascended as quickly as it landed. Dark wings blocked out the moonlight, but Sapphire continued to fire. "Why does it have to fly?" Ruby groaned, dispelling her sword and switching to throwing fireballs at the monster.

Disliking their constant attacks, the monster suddenly swooped down, sharp talons aimed at the pair. Sapphire and Ruby dove out of the way, scratching their bodies on the asphalt. The creature returned to the roof, watching its prey react. The kids wobbled onto their feet, Ruby's flames harsher from the pain. When they resumed their attack, the monster flew up once more, launching another talon attack.

"We have to separate!" Sapphire yelled when he got back on his feet. "Then it can't attack both of us!"

"Got it!" Ruby ran across the parking lot, where she could still hit the winged beast. This time, the monster aimed for Sapphire, allowing Ruby to run up behind it. However, she was only able to trim a few tail feathers before it flew out of reach. "We need to keep it on the ground, somehow."

"If it attacks you, I'll try and hold it down with some water." Sapphire replied. The next strike was against Sapphire, and Ruby once again sliced at the monster's tail. This time, her sword cut closer, angering the creature. It turned around, immediately coming at Ruby with a kick. She dodged, and Sapphire took the opportunity to wrap its neck in two tendrils of water. The monster thrashed and began flapping it's wings, breaking its restraints and ascending once more.

"Dammit! I lost it!" Sapphire shouted. He looked down at the remaining water in his hands, and noticed a strange glint. The edges of the rivulets were beginning to freeze in the night air. "I have an idea! If I keep wetting this thing, the ice should stop it from flying."

"I'll keep being bait, then." When the monster flew down again, it was noticeably slower, with ice crystals lining it's neck. It aimed for Ruby, but she was able to jump out of the way before it landed a hit, landing on her feet. Sapphire launched a constant stream of water at the bird, drenching it. It fluttered upwards, but the weight of the water and ice that limited its movement caused it to fall back to earth. Sapphire continued shooting it, and it turned to face him, leaving Ruby out of view. She ran up behind it once more, aiming for the neck as her blade flickered with flames. In one motion, the creature was decapitated. Both pieces of the monster exploded into small, glittering scales, and a mysterious breeze carried them into the night sky.

"Yeah!" Tabitha hooted as she ran out from her hiding place. "You guys did it again!"

"Thanks Tabi." Ashley smiled, untransforming. "Sorry, I didn't see the monster when it was hiding up there."

"It's fine." Edwin responded coldly, untransforming as well. "Since we're finished, I'll be heading home."

"Oh, ok." Ashley replied. Usually they hung out after a fight, but it was late. It was totally understandable that Edwin would want to get back inside. He disappeared into the dark as quickly as he had arrived, leaving Tabitha and Ashley alone in the cold parking lot.

"Doesn't Mateo show up after you fight?" Tabitha asked.

"Normally, but I don't want to wait until he does. He can just teleport into our homes if he wants to talk to us, anyway."

"Yeah, it is pretty cold." Tabitha looked up to where the monster's remnants had disappeared. "I wish we could see the stars better from this town."