Chapter 42

“I need to train more,” Roy said, shaking his head in disbelief. “I need to train a shitload more.”

“That echoes my sentiment nicely,” Thomas agreed.

The class was filtering out now that the show was over, a progression of people going down the concrete steps in a state of excitement and wonder. A fight like that was something rare and beautiful, seeing two incredible competitors go at each other full-force. For some, it highlighted the gap between themselves and the top of the mountain. For others, it merely inspired them to climb all the higher.

Roy, Alice, and Mary had joined up with Vince, Thomas, Violet, and Alex, after the enough of the crowd left to allow them to meet up. Will had gone over to talk with Jill, and Shane had headed downstairs to presumably congratulate his sister. The tone in the remaining group was one of subdued enthrallment as each person replayed the battle over and over in their head.

“I still can’t believe how versatile her power is,” Alice commented.

“No kidding, I thought Shane’s shadow manipulation was impressive, but Angela’s ability is even stronger,” Vince said.

“Hang on,” Roy requested, a strange tickle moving through his brain. “That seems familiar.” He delved into the recesses of his memory, trying to place why such a combination would stand out to him, however he wasn’t able to place it. Accepting the loss, he made a note for Hershel to try when he took over. Hershel was always better with that sort of stuff anyway. “Never mind, I can’t think of what it reminds me of.”

“It reminds me of a kick-ass fight,” Violet said, still standing on the balls of her toes in unabashed excitement. “I mean, shit, that was awesome. Fuck, now I want to fight. Someone new. Mary, care to have a go? Vince? Shit, I also wouldn’t mind a rematch with you, Alice.”

“Maybe another time,” Alice said. “I’ve got some homework to do.”

“What about later tonight?” Violet pressed.

“Mary and I are actually trying a different sort of training already,” Alice said cautiously. She didn’t want to give away too much about her friend’s ability. It wouldn’t be in good taste to spill someone else’s secret.

“Oh I definitely want in,” Violet declared.

“It’s not that sort of training,” Mary clarified. “I’m trying to replicate my dream-walking ability without being put under by Rich, so Alice and I are going to tie our hands together then sleep in the same area. Hopefully I’ll enter her dreams.”

“Seriously? A two-person slumber party? You gals really suck at this,” Violet commented.

“We aren’t having a party,” Mary replied.

“Not with two people you aren’t. Don’t worry; I’ll get Camille and Jill on board at the very least. Good idea, though, even if the execution sucks. We can do it at our place, since we have an entire house and all. Plus, and I mean this nicely, I don’t trust you two to stock beer and liquor, and I’m not hauling all that shit across campus.” With that, Violet bounded over to where Will and Jill were speaking in hurried whispers and proceeded to take over their conversation.

“Sorry about that,” Thomas apologized. “She can be a bit overly determined at times.”

“I feel like she could have at least waited for us to say yes,” Mary sighed.

“Honestly, I think if we tried to decline we wouldn’t have had any more luck,” Alice said. “Oh well, I guess a little bonding might be fun. Besides, as long as we sleep in the same room then the experiment shouldn’t really be altered.”

Mary mumbled something indiscernible to the rest of the group, though the sentiment of the words came through quite nicely.

Vince turned to Thomas, Alex, and Roy. “So, should we go do something?”

“I’m in,” Alex replied immediately.

“It does seem like my home is about to be uninhabitable,” Thomas agreed. “I’m equally certain Will would like to get away from the ensuing antics.”

“Seems to me that Hershel would do well to have a little fun,” Roy said. “Y’all mind waiting till I turn back?”

“Sure, we’ve got to grab dinner anyway,” Vince said.

“Good, that will give me time to help you put together a game plan,” Roy said, his smile turning somehow more mischievous than usual, if that were possible.

“Let’s keep it somewhat tame,” Thomas requested.

“No can do,” Roy assured him, giving a firm pat on the shoulder.

 *              *              *

Angela wasn’t surprised to find Shane waiting outside the women’s changing room, leaning against a wall and doing his best to look nonchalant.

“Get what you wanted out of that?” Angela asked, running her hands through her hair that was still damp from the post-fight shower.

“Very much so. Did you?”

“Even more so,” she said, flashing him a smile. “Not going to lie, I haven’t been cornered like that in ages. The blood-whips thing came out of nowhere.”

“I had no idea Chad was working on such a technique,” Shane said, a small trace of sadness in his tone. “And with it goes the only advantage I ever had over him, a greater reach.”

“Don’t look so glum, chum. You’ve got almost two years of growing up left to do. Hell, you think I could have pulled off all that shit a year ago?”

“The flaw in your logic is that while I’ll be getting stronger, Chad will undoubtedly be doing the same,” Shane pointed out.

“You’re right,” Angela agreed. “You’re trying to catch an opponent who advances faster than you and already has a head start. It’s a pretty much impossible task.” She paused to walk over and lean on the wall next to him. “But you’ve already been trying to do that since you were five.”

“That’s different,” Shane said. “We weren’t that far apart at times.”

“No, we weren’t. Closer than you think, to be truthful. Still, you’ve never quite made it. You never manage to catch up to my skill, let alone surpass it. But you keep trying. Since we were old enough to start, you’ve always been trying. I sort of admire that about you. If the roles were reversed, I don’t know that I’d have had your determination not to give up.”

“Your admiration means the world to me,” Shane said, his tone flat and even.

“Play sarcastic all you want, I know deep down you look up to me,” she shot back. Angela lifted herself off the wall and began heading down the hall. “Love to chat more, but I’ve got a date to get ready for.”

“So it seems,” Shane said. “Just be careful. Please.”

“Why Shane, I’m surprised at you. When am I ever anything but fore-thinking and methodical?” Even though he couldn’t see the grin on her face, Shane could picture it perfectly, and somehow that just annoyed him all the more.