“Come on, you guys, it’ll be fun! I swear, you won’t regret it!” Helena pleaded, giving her friends her best puppy dog eyes as they sat underneath a willow tree outside of Alphonse Christoph High School, “Senior parties are the best - guaranteed! Please?” if they weren’t sitting cross-legged in a circle, Helena would have been on her knees begging by now.
Koji sighed, brushing some of his blue-black hair out of his face and looked at Helena with piercingly silver eyes, “Helena, we’re not exactly in the right age group, hell, we can’t even drink alcohol!”
“Legally,” Xavier corrected him, flashing a smile with his strikingly white teeth, “And we’re only a couple years too young. ‘Least we can drive, right?”
Koji gave Xavier a dirty look, “Down, X. I won’t allow you to get drunk off of Budweiser at a senior party.”
“So you’re coming?” Helena asked excitedly.
“Not guaranteed.” Koji said firmly.
Heather Mae tipped her dark sunglasses down her nose a margin, “You know, Helena, if you want to get drunk and watch people grind, we can raid my ‘rents’ alcohol cabinet and watch movies.”
Nova laughed softly, laying her head on Heather Mae’s shoulder, “Sweetie, we’re not going to raid your parents’ alcohol supply, Helena doesn’t need to get drunk off of alcohol, she’s already drunk off of life.”
Helena grinned at Nova, “Forever and for always, my precious.” Helena glanced at her watch, then looked back up, “So we’ve agreed it’s a maybe for the party?” Her friends nodded reluctantly and she smiled happily and stood up, grabbing her purse.
The bell rang and they all said their goodbyes as they walked to class in groups. For first period, Helena and Nova were taking Russian II while Koji, Xavier, and Heather Mae were across the campus in: English IV AP for Koji, he was the only junior in his senior AP class; and Xavier had European History with Heather Mae. The group of three parted ways, Koji heading to the left, and Xavier and Heather Mae to the right.
Koji got into class and sat down next to his friend, Feng Zhou, a quiet, philosophical, Chinese senior that Koji had befriended. “Fancy seeing you here, my little Japanese friend.” Feng said, giving him a polite nod.
Koji smiled back at him, then began rummaging through his bag looking for my notebook. Feng treated him as a little brother most of the time. Koji was on the shorter side for his age, which was one of the reasons he enjoyed being with Helena’s group, as they didn’t treat him any different for his height, unlike at his previous school. Koji had long, blue-black hair that he had styled to the point of him even looking like an anime character, spiked up in the back, with his bangs pared to the side with silvery-grey eyes. He had a serious look most of the time, combined with his pale features and dark eyes, kept those he’d rather not associate with away from him. Koji wore a long, faded, grey trench coat with a black collared shirt, a thin, black scarf wrapped around his neck, and seemingly uncomfortably tight, black jeans with black combat boots to match.
Koji pulled his notebook out of his bag, flipping through it to find his page, he looked up at the board, quickly writing down notes from the lecture.
Xavier opened the door to European History for Heather Mae and she gave a slight curtsy politely in response before he followed her in. Xavier and Heather Mae had grown up together, their fathers had both played on New Jeremiah’s football team together as life-long friends. When their fathers retired, they moved in next door to each other and started families, thus making Xavier and Heather Mae treat each other as siblings. The two of them were both single-childs, making it a great coincidence for their parents. Although, Heather Mae’s and Xavier’s appearances differed greatly, people at the high school occasionally joked that they were dating.
Heather Mae wore tall, stiletto heels, a knee-length blue dress, and enough jewelry to make a gypsy look bad. She had long, white blonde hair, and unnaturally bright green eyes. Whereas, Xavier on the other hand, had short, brown hair, with captivating blue eyes. Xavier’s dress seemed to be Heather Mae’s polar opposite. He wore loose, denim jeans, black sneakers, a graphic tee depicting a heavy metal band, and a dark, leather jacket.
They sat down towards the back of the room and Xavier leaned back against his chair, looking at Heather Mae, “So, are you thinking about going to that party Helena’s talking about? It seems a little unlike her, doesn’t it?”
Heather Mae shrugged, “Maybe she’s just showing her true colors. I always had a feeling she wasn’t the super sweet, nice, and caring person she portrayed herself as. Maybe she’s just the confident, femme fatale, partygoer we’re seeing now?”
Xavier nodded, “Maybe, but that doesn’t seem right. I don’t get why she would lie to us about her personality of all things, you know?”
Heather Mae rolled her eyes, “Plenty of people do it, X. Always expect the unexpected from the one you would least expect it.” Xavier grinned at her, ruffling her hair as her turned back to face the board, and stealthily taking his phone out to text Koji.
Nova opened the door for her and Helena to walk into Russian II, and as they walked in, they were immediately greeted with the sound of traditional Russian music playing rhythmically throughout the classroom. Helena looked at Nova and they both laughed in conjunction.
Nova looked as though she could be Helena’s stunt double. She had dark, scarlet hair, bright blue eyes, and medium-toned skin. Nova wore a white, fur coat, khaki pants, a white blouse, and tan boots. Helena had similar hair color, brown eyes, and wore more simple clothing than Nova; she wore a black jacket with a gray v-neck t-shirt, blue jeans, and black high-tops.
Helena walked Nova to her seat and stood next to her desk, “So you’re coming with me to the party, right?” she asked sweetly.
Nova looked up at her, giving her a knowing look, “Helena, I know you really want to go, but we could always just go to Heather Mae’s, her parents are out anyways, and we wouldn’t have to worry about other - older - people.”
Helena frowned, “Come on, Nova, just this once? Please?”
Nova sighed, defeated, “All right. But one condition.”
“Name it.” Helena replied quickly, not wanting to allow Nova a moment to second guess her decision.
“You get everyone else to come.”
“Deal. Thank you so, so, so much!” Helena said gleefully, hugging Nova before she went to her seat across the room.
The school day finally ended and the group walked out to the front of the school, dodging past hordes of other high schoolers trying to get away as fast as they could, as if the school was infected with the zombie plague.
Helena turned to her friends, a Cheshire Cat sized grin on her face, “Thank you guys so much, I don’t know how much I could thank you!” She hugged them each, “Okay, it’s a costume party - you know, autumn, Halloween’s next week, yada yada - so wear. . . something! It’s at 8 tonight, so at 7:30 we’ll text each other what costume we’re wearing so we’ll know how to find each other, ‘kay?” They all nodded in agreement and Helena tried as hard as she could to contain her excitement, “Love you guys! See you tonight, my sweets!”
They each parted their separate ways, completely oblivious to multiple sets of eyes watching them from the shadows.
Koji glanced at the clock next to his bed. All right, it’s 6:45, I guess I’ll go figure out something to wear to Helena’s party, he thought, I can’t believe that she convinced me to go to her stupid party. Koji flipped off of his bed, landing gracefully at the foot of it. He rummaged through his closet, then grinned mischievously as he pulled his recurve bow and quiver of arrows out of a box. “Damn,” he said aloud, “I haven’t used this ol’ thing since. . . I don’t even know when.” he tossed them onto his bed, then grabbed his car keys off of his nightstand, heading to the Halloween store.
Once there, Koji knew exactly where he was going, and grabbed a heavy cloak off of a rack. He checked the price tag and groaned as he saw the price: $175.00; though the cloak was well-made: warm, heavy cloth, a hood, golden clasps, and a Victorian-styled decoration along the edges of the cloak. Finally, Koji sighed, going up to the register to pay.
“Will this be all for you today, sir?” the clerk asked monotone.
Koji nodded, “Yeah.” he said shortly, digging through his wallet. Giving up, he handed the clerk his debit card to swipe.
“Have a nice day, sir.” the clerk said boredly.
Koji nodded in response, then pulled up a message to his friends, ‘Going as Robin Hood, fear me bitches.” he sent to them, smiling as he pulled into his driveway.
“Robin Hood, hm?” Heather Mae asked inquisitively as she looked at the message Koji just sent out. She put her phone away, then pulled a stitched dress out of her closet, along with a bright red wig. ‘X an I r going as jack n sally.’
Heather Mae went across the hallway to her bathroom and began putting her costume makeup on. As she looked in the mirror, putting fake stitches along her arms and neck, she glanced in the reflection of the hallway, noticing a shadow. She dropped the brush onto the counter then whipped around, but there was nothing there. She twirled a finger through her hair nervously, opening a drawer, she looked for some form of defense, but found nothing, she shuddered, Hopefully Koji’s “self defense class” will pay off for once. she thought. Heather Mae brought her hands defensively up in front of her chest, nervously, she walked down the hallway and throughout the house, but it was empty.
She sighed with relief, “There was nothing to be afraid of after all. . .” not noticing the car driving away out her living room window.
Nova yawned, waking up to text messages on her phone. She rolled off the couch tiredly as she read them. Koji’s Robin Hood, she thought sleepily, X and H&M are Jack and Sally? Go figure. Nova yawned again, she went upstairs to her room to look for a costume.
Nova had a couple costumes lined up for Halloween and she looked through them carefully, then decided on one she liked, then took her phone out of her pocket, ‘I’ll be going as a mysterious Ninja(:’ she messaged to her friends, then giggled softly as she undressed to put her costume on.
Nova yawned again, already 7:15? she thought, Too damn early.
She was in the process of zipping her shirt up when the phone rang downstairs, she groaned and walked downstairs, fumbling with the zipper on the back of her costume. She picked the phone up, “Hello?” she asked, but there was no response, she turned to the window and screamed, dropping the phone on the floor. She quickly zipped up her costume, running to the window to pull the blinds out, “Pervert!” she yelled.
Someone - a man - had been looking in her window, and she knew very well it wasn’t accidental, her kitchen window faced a woodland area, the man was there intentionally. Nova was tempted to call the police, but she couldn’t give enough of a description for them to file a case, anyways. Nova ran back upstairs, slamming her door and pulling her curtains down. She shuddered, “Who the hell would do that?” She grabbed her costume pants, pulling them on and tying the drawstring into a bow.
Xavier was doing pullups in the semi-gym has father had set up in the basement when he heard a glass drop from upstairs, he dropped down, wiping sweat off his face and naked chest, “Pa, you home?” he called, but received no response. Curiously, Xavier walked upstairs, grabbing a weight off of a shelf, he gripped it tightly as he walked upstairs. Although, searching throughout the entire house showed nothing. There was no one in his house and nothing out of the ordinary.
Xavier shrugged, then turned back around to head back to the basement. Behind him, stealthily, a wiry man slipped out the bathroom window, closing it shut quietly.
Helena looked at her phone to check her messages, seeing what her friends were going dressed up as. She nodded thoughtfully, then pulled her outfit out of her closet, laying it across her dresser. ‘I will be the illustrious Mother Confessor Kahlan Amnell for the party. -.^ See you all there! xoxo’ she sent out to her friends, tossing her phone onto her bed, she quickly dressed into her outfit, then headed out the door to her car.
As Helena walked through the foyer, a crash of glass sounded in the kitchen, she jumped, “Mr. Whiskers?” she called out, and a cat’s meow responded, followed by a tabby kitten heading towards Helena. She smiled, picking up the kitten, “You know you have to be careful in the kitchen!” She walked back inside, setting the cat in it’s bed in the living room.
Helena yelped, “Damn it! André!” she snapped at an elderly man standing in her kitchen, leaning on the island.
The man wore black coat, white polo shirt, and black slacks, “Helena, it’s today, you know. The day of the - erm - your... unfortunate-”
Helena interrupted him, “I know. And, furthermore, André Gonçalves-Rodríguez, how many times have I told you to be careful in my house! There’s glass everywhere! I can’t keep blaming all these broken dishes on the cat.” The cat meowed defensively at André.
André sighed, rubbing his temples with his hand, “I know, I know. But have you told them anything about... anything, yet?”
Helena rubbed her arm, nervous, “Um... about that...”
André groaned, “You’re putting it all on me? Damn it, Helena!”
Helena glared at him, “André, I wrote a letter. To Koji. He’s the most vulnerable, he’ll be hit the hardest by my death. He’ll believe anything - trust me.”
“What did you write to him?”
“I told him about their abilities, the Arcanum Vin, their destiny...”
André sighed, “You can’t just bombard them with information-” André stopped, placing his hands on Helena’s shoulders, “Look. Helena. You gave him the incantation, right?” -Helena nodded- “Good. Okay, at least you did something right. They’ll read the incantation, I’ll hear it, and I’ll come explain everything. Have you sent the letter yet?”
Helena nodded, “Yeah. I sent it yesterday.”
The incantation itself was no more than a means for André to know when they were calling for him. He was the Guardian of the Protectors - irony abound - he has super sensitive hearing, as well as the ability to unlock the Protectors’ abilities. The incantation was so André knew what to look out for, and to know when they were ready.
“Alright. Fine. I’ll just... improvise.”
Helena frowned, “Sorry, André.”
André smiled at her, “It’s fine. Just... be careful, as careful as you can, anyway. Good luck.” He kissed her forehead, then released his hands from her shoulders, snapped his fingers and disappeared in a puff of smoke.
The group arrived at the party within a minute of each other; Helena arriving first.
Helena wore a dark, cloth, dress-like outfit. The dress parted at the waist, and had a sewn on hood of the same material. Across her chest was a realistic looking, brown corset that was threaded to the top. Underneath she wore short, black, shorts, and thigh-high black boots. On the sides of her boots were a pair of sheathed long knives.
Koji wore a dark, forest green cloak with the hood drawn, shrouding his face. On his back he had slung a bow. Underneath his cloak, he wore a brown vest, brown leggings with black boots, and on his belt loop was his quiver, full of arrows.
Nova wore a red headband tied carefully around her head with a black v-neck. Halfway down her upper arm on both arms were wrappings, each wrapped around three times. Stretching from her elbows to her wrists, were red sleeves. She wore black tights to match her v-neck, and had red boots on.
Xavier wore a black suit with thin, white stripes going down it. The suit was unbuttoned halfway down, revealing a white shirt underneath. He also had a bowtie resembling a bat. He had put in colored contacts to make his irises black as well, with minor white makeup on his face and hands.
Heather Mae wore a long, stitched-together dress. She had a red wig on that flowed down to her waistline. She had dark, red, lipstick on and had used a makeup pencil to draw stitches onto her arms, neck, face, chest, and legs.
Helena smiled happily, “I am so, so glad you all came! I just don’t think I could’ve come alone; nerves, you know?”
Nova nodded and smiled back, “Yeah. We understand. Now, why don’t we go inside?”
The party was held at one of the seniors’ houses: the Kevorkian brothers. The two lived in a house as large as a mansion. Inside, there was a live DJ, plenty of strobe lights, disco balls, and beams of light everywhere. All of the guests were dressed in every type of costume imaginable, ranging from: mythology, folklore, books, anime, movie, television shows, and more. Inside, the DJ was blasting a song so loud, you could hardly hear yourself think.
The party continued for hours, it was getting close to midnight and Koji was leaning against a wall towards the back of the room; multiple senior girls had attempted to ask him to dance with them, but he turned each of them down without batting an eyelash. He watched the crowd’s wild dancing broodingly. He was soon joined by his friend, Xavier, who slung his arm around Koji’s neck.
“Are you drunk, X?” Koji asked scrutinizingly, he could smell alcohol from somewhere nearby.
Xavier looked at Koji, offended, “Of course not! Christ, dude, I wouldn’t get drunk knowing I have to drive myself and Heather Mae home.”
Koji nodded, convinced, “If you say so.” and Xavier scowled at him, playfully.
At exactly 12:37:06, the lives of Koji, Xavier, Heather Mae, Nova, and Helena changed drastically, as well as the lives of everyone at the party that night.
There was a loud crash heard, as if multiple windows were being broken at once. The music stopped abruptly, the lights continued flashing, but everyone stopped dancing, confused. Then, no more than one minute later, the acrid smell of smoke flooded the house and everyone screamed. Nova left the boy she was dancing with, finding Heather Mae closest to her, they began shuffling through the crowd to find Helena, Koji, and Xavier. They finally caught up with Koji and Xavier, but the group couldn’t find Helena anywhere.
“Where the hell is-” Nova began.
“-I haven’t seen her the entire time.” Heather Mae interrupted, looking around worriedly.
Koji looked at his friends, “We have to find her. I refuse to leave without Helena. Come on, there’s four of us. We can split into groups of two. Heather Mae, you and Nova can check down here, X and I will go upstairs. We’ll meet outside, clear?” They all agreed and split up into pairs.
Xavier and Koji began walking up the stairs quickly, calling out for Helena. Just then, a huge fireball shot through the window, “Koji get down!” Xavier shouted, throwing his smaller friend to the ground, just barely dodging the ball of fire shooting the window. The flaming orb shot at a wall, immediately setting it on fire. “Koji, we’ve got to get out now!” Xavier shouted, trying to sound louder than the roaring of fire that seemed to be getting louder by the second.
Xavier stood up, helping Koji stand as well. “No! I won’t leave without Helena!” Koji ripped away from Xavier, charging through the house. Xavier tried to call for him, but Koji ignored his cries.
Xavier began to run after Koji, but a falling beam stopped him. Xavier sighed, knowing he was defeated, then fled the house.
Koji stormed through, calling out for Helena, looking through every doorway. Then, he heard footsteps behind him, turning around, he could see two burly men charging at him. Koji pulled his bow off of his back, notched an arrow in, aimed, then released the string, shooting one of the men in the chest. Koji threw his bow to the ground and unhooked his quiver, tossing it off as well. Koji instead met the other man head on.
The man made a grab for his pistol, but Koji snatched it out of its holster, throwing it into a room. The man roared, and swung at Koji’s head. Koji ducked, elbowing the man in the chest, then spun back around, aiming a kick at his head. The man grabbed Koji’s leg, flipping him over. Koji fell to the ground, letting out a yelp of pain as he landed. He rolled onto his back, flipping himself backwards, Koji stood up, wincing in pain as he landed on his hurt leg. The man made another swing for Koji’s head, but Koji ducked, crouching down to dropkick the man. The man fell onto his back, and Koji walked up to him, stomping roughly on his groin, and a small pop rung out when he stomped, and the man howled in pain. Koji knelt over him, jabbing two fingers into a pressure point on his neck, knocking the man unconscious.
Koji stood up, coughing; the smoke was getting to be too strong. He walked into the room next to him, breaking the mirror, he grabbed a shard of glass then ripped off his sleeve, tying it around his mouth and nose. Koji ran out, just barely missing a falling beam. Then, he heard it. Helena.
Helena let out a shrill scream and Koji sprinted, trying to follow the sound.
Though Helena was not what he ran into.
Koji ran into a large group of men, cursing under his breath, Koji got into a fighting stance. The first man charged at him, animalistic. Koji leaped up, using the man’s shoulders as a lift, he rolled into a ball into the air, then released, kicking another of the soldiers in the face, making him fall to the ground. Koji rolled across the ground, then spun around, crouched down, he dropkicked another man making a run at him. Koji coughed, making a move for a man across from him. The man uppercut Koji’s chest and he howled in pain. Koji gripped the man’s arm tightly, spun around, then flipped him over his shoulder - barely mustering the strength to lift the heavy man. Koji did a front flip, landing on the man’s spine, he cried out in pain, then fell unconscious. Koji turned to block a punch aimed for him by another man. Koji punched the man in the throat, he coughed, and Koji took that chance to flee.
He dashed through the hallway, then he saw her: Helena. She was lying on the ground in an empty room towards the back of the house. Koji ran in, kneeling before her.
“Helena! Helena, can you hear me? Helena.” he cried. She looked up at him, coughing painfully. “Don’t worry, Helena, I’ll get us out of here. Don’t worry.” He searched her body, then roughly ripped her hood off of her costume. He gently tied it around her mouth and nose, trying to prevent as little smoke as possible from entering into her lungs than what had already entered. He smoothed her hair, his body shaking violently, ‘Helena, don’t die on me. Please.”
She looked at him, still conscious, she croaked, “Koji. . . my time is over on this world.” She swallowed, which hurt her more than helped, she coughed viciously immediately after, then continued speaking, “Koji, you must leave me, let me to die. Please, you have a greater destiny ahead of-” Helena coughed again, “-you. Please, Koji, do this. . . for me.” she whispered the last part, barely able to speak at all.
Koji yelled, “No! I refuse to let you just die here, Helena! I will save you!” He picked her up, slinging her over his shoulders, he ran to the window, crashing through it. Koji’s vision began getting blurry, he could hardly see straight when he crashed through the window. Still carrying Helena on his shoulders, he made his way around the house to the front where police officers and firefighters were arguing about what to do.
Heather Mae saw him first. “They’re alive!” she screamed, running towards them, immediately followed by Xavier, and Nova bringing up the rear. Xavier helped Koji carry Helena. “Over here!” Heather Mae called, and a couple EMTs ran towards them with a stretcher.
One of them began to check Koji, but he waved them off, growling furiously, “No! I’m fine, take her! Please, she’s dying!”
The EMT nodded, then checked her pulse, but he stopped in his tracks, his face went white. He looked at Koji sadly, “I am so sorry for your loss. . .” he began.
“No!” Koji shrieked, “No, she isn’t dead! You’re. . . you just. . . it’s wrong! No!” Koji was about to attack the EMT, but Xavier hooked his arms around his chest defensively.
Koji shook violently, filled with anger, he tried to escape Xavier’s grip, but was too weak from fighting earlier and breathing in too much smoke. By now, he was having trouble seeing things right in front of him. Koji’s breathing got slower, and paternal instincts kicked in for Xavier. He slowly ran his hand through Koji’s hair, trying to soothe the boy. Koji shook less violently now and Xavier held him close, trying to get him to stay calm, “Shh, it’s alright; everything is going to be okay, Koji.” he whispered into Koji’s ear, still smoothing the boy’s hair with his hand.
Koji was barely shaking now, and his vision was slowly clearing. Was that rage, he thought, or. . . something else making my vision blur? Thank God that X is here. . .
Xavier loosened his grip on Koji, but still held onto him as he took a couple steps back to sit on a boulder, Koji appeared to be very dead to the world as they sat in quiet, only the crackling of flames heard in the distance.
“You alright, dude?” Xavier asked quietly, his hands clasped on Koji’s lap, and the boy nodded slowly; Xavier assumed speaking hurt for him right now.
Heather Mae walked over and gave Koji a tiny smile as she rubbed his cheek with the back of her hand tenderly, “We’ll be fine, Koji. Don’t worry, everything will be fine; we have each other.”
Nova nodded, taking a seat by Xavier, “Forever...”, she began.
“And for always.”, Koji finished, his voice barely above a whisper.