Chapter 186

Shane had been approaching quietly, trying to get in range to take down Vince once more. He wasn’t certain how the silver-haired student had gotten free: likely with help from his teammates. Still, he’d put Vince down once and he would do it again. That had been the plan, at least. As soon as Chad was sent rocketing off into the horizon, Shane found himself locked in a moment of indecision. There was still time to act; Vince was still vulnerable. Yes, the cloak of flames would impede Shane’s shadow attacks, but parts of Vince were still unprotected. It wasn’t fear or lack of strategy that stalled Shane’s advance. It was friendship.

Logically, he knew Chad was okay. This was Chad, after all. No one knew him better than Shane; they’d spent the last two years working out, training, and generally hanging around with one another. Of course he would be fine. There was no tactical reason to go scurrying after him just because he’d taken a solid blow. A solid blow that had blasted him beyond the distant tree line.

“Goddamnit,” Shane muttered under his breath. He shifted trajectory and tried to estimate where his only friend had landed. It was all manner of stupid, but he supposed that was part of the bargain one got with friendship. Oh well; it wasn’t as if he were holding an orb anyway.

*    *    *

“Holy crap,” Mary said as she watched the blonde figure go sailing off. “I didn’t expect that.”

“I doubt Chad did either,” Alex chuckled. His mirth was cut short as a sudden piercing wail sliced past his eardrums and began carving up his brain. He didn’t have time to deflect or react, only to fall to his knees in pain. Through bleary eyes he saw Mary do the same, then noticed most of the combatants in his line of vision dropping one by one.

The exception was Amber, walking confidently forward with her lips puckered in what appeared to be a whistle. There was no cheerful springtime tone, only this hellish audible assault tearing through them. It didn’t take a brilliant intellect to make the connection, but many of the students were in too much pain to spare the brain cells it would require.

One exception was Alice, floating above the crowd with an excellent viewpoint for what was about to transpire. Amber’s ability was good, but it had limits. If she’d tried to cast her painful sound all the way up to Alice then it would have been weakened in the area as a whole. Instead she allowed the supposedly useless girl go unaccosted and focused on her perceived threats. This would have been a vital mistake had it ever had the chance to become one.

The sound reached Vince and at first it seemed it would affect him just like the others. His fire nearly extinguished as his knees began to buckle. The ground loomed before him and a collapse looked inevitable. He glanced at his attacker, undisguised hatred etched in his face, and made a motion with his hand.

The sound, all sound, in fact, was immediately gone. Instants later the crackling of wild fires and general din of battle reasserted itself; however, for one brief instant their world was completely and utterly quiet. It was for that reason that no one heard the stretching of muscle or creaking of bone as Vince pulled himself back to a standing position, eyes locked on the woman who’d tried to bring him down.

Amber was stunned, both figuratively, then moments later literally as she was struck by a high voltage of electricity. A fireball on its heels smashed into her shoulder, burning her left side and sending her rolling back several feet onto the ground.

*    *    *

Thomas slowed his approach. His energy armor had protected him from Amber’s noise, after he’d taken some damage before he reoriented it to keep out sound. The energy was malleable by its nature; however, in the middle of a fight there was usually no advantage in stopping sound. In fact, such an action would be detrimental. It was because of this protection that he didn’t notice the shock of quiet, nor did he understand the implications of it. Instead all he saw was Vince momentarily succumb to the pain then rally his strength and fire back at Amber, ending her attack and taking her out of the fight. This was strange, but Thomas had known Vince for years. The silver-haired boy had shown impressive depths of strength and resolve before. These actions still fit within what Thomas considered possible.

This mistake, unlike Amber’s, would very much come back to haunt him.

*    *    *

“Did you know Vince could absorb sound?” Camille asked as they hauled themselves up from the grass.

“Not specifically, but I never saw any reason why he wouldn’t be capable of it,” Nick replied. He picked up Rich with as much care as he could; their captive was having trouble reorienting himself after Amber’s attack. “There’s not much principle difference between sound and some of the other energies he uses. Once we found out kinetic was on the table I assumed there were other things Vince either didn’t know about or wasn’t using.”

“Would have been great in his fight with Selena.”

“Agreed.” Nick looked at the recovered form of his friend. The flames had increased back to their blinding point, making him hard to look at directly. “Still, I was expecting more.”

“More than this?”

“Yes, actually. This exceeds what most people would have considered possible from Vince, but not me.”

“Why would you expect something beyond what you considered possible?” Camille asked pointedly. Nick almost forgot that the small girl had honed instincts where Vince was concerned. That was good: the big dope needed looking after, and once this was done she’d have more of it to do.

“Never mind that for now,” Nick replied. “Follow me. There’s one last thing we need to do before this is all over.”

Camille didn’t like it, but she followed anyway. She’d come too far to turn back now.