Mercenary Magic Page 19

Kai didn’t look amused. “These glyphs were buried under so many cloaking layers that I couldn’t find them. You did. I’ve never felt magic like yours, and we are going to talk about it. Right after we figure out where this gateway leads.”

Before Sera could come up with an answer to that, a burst of magically-charged lightning split through the sky and crashed down between them. A moment later, a trio of mages stepped onto the parking lot. And they sure didn’t look happy to see them.

CHAPTER NINE

Elemental Circus

HALOS OF LIGHTNING and fire encased the three mages. As they walked across the parking lot, a second burst of lightning split through the magically-charged air. Kai bumped Sera aside, lifting his arm to catch the lightning. Blue-purple sparks slid up and down his arm, then fizzled out in his hand.

“You absorbed it,” Sera said, her voice cracking.

“The lightning bolt was more flashy than powerful,” he replied calmly. “I can absorb low-quality magic.”

“What are you calling ‘low-quality magic’?” demanded the lightning mage. The tips of her spiky blonde hair sizzled with pink sparks. Her nose ring would have made a bull envious.

The two male mages on either side of her remained silent, their arms folded across their chests. They each wore an identical hoody featuring a peculiar arch over a string of symbols. They could have been sweatshirts from one of the magic fraternities. Their electric companion wore a leather jacket over purposefully torn jeans. From the looks of it, she was the one in charge.

“Either your magic is low quality, or I am a mage you really don’t want to cross.” Kai shrugged. “Take your pick.”

A haughty sneer bounced off her coral lips. “You’re in my way, hotshot. Either get lost or get hurt.” The sneer spread further up her lips. Electric sparks crackled in her smokey-blue eyes. “Take your pick.”

Kai didn’t blink. He stepped forward, flipping his hands over. A layer of golden sparks spread out from his palms, quickly consuming his hands.

In response, Miss Lightning arched back, throwing her hands over her head. A swirling ball of electrical energy formed between them, its sparkly tendrils snapping at the air. She hurled it hard at Kai. He ducked, and it smashed into the building behind him, tearing a concrete chunk off the corner.

The hooded mages moved in front of Sera, cutting her off from the lightning duel. In unison, they spread their arms open. Rocks and gravel rose from the ground all around her.

“Telekinetics, huh?” she said.

The mages grinned, manic delight dancing in their eyes. The stony bits formed into a chunky river that began to orbit around the parking lot, like an asteroid belt on earth. Sera looked down at the sword in her hand. It suddenly felt horribly inadequate.

“Step aside,” said telekinetic twin number one.

“You are no match for us,” added number two.

“You are weak.”

“And we are too powerful.”

Hit someone hard enough, and they’ll go down—well, except maybe a vampire. Damn vampires. Sera hated vampires. They had skulls of steel. Hitting them was like punching a wrecking ball.

Assorted signs tore off the fence and joined into the home-brewed asteroid belt, which continued to spin like the apocalypse was upon them. One of the signs shot out of orbit. Sera ducked, narrowly avoiding what would have been the most bizarre beheading in the history of the world. Rising up again, she glared at the mages. Telekinetics weren’t much better than vampires.

“Give up.”

“If you want to live.”

They sounded like a pair of robotic henchmen out of a cheesy science fiction movie.

“Thanks, but I think I’ll take my chances.”

Sheathing her sword, Sera picked the battered ‘Private Property’ sign off the ground, keeping her eyes trained on the twins. Most mages had a dead giveaway that they were about to do magic, even when they were trying to be all stealth about it. In the case of the telekinetic boys, that giveaway was a twitch in their noses that made them look like they seriously had to sneeze.

She eased forward toward them. She made it three steps before Telekinetic Twin Number One’s nose wiggled, and a wad of something stony shot out of the belt. She lifted up the sign in front of her, using it as a shield. A hollow, heavy clink echoed as the stone bounced off. She peeked over her shield, only to find a flock of stones swarming toward her.

She looked back at the building, then at the smirking mages in front of her. There wasn’t time to be smart; she just had to hope that being fast was good enough. She sprinted for the twins. The stony swarm changed direction to intercept her. Sera pushed herself faster. Her sides burned. Her lungs were screaming out for oxygen. She couldn’t stop to give it to them. She stopped, she died. The end.

The swarm dove low and hard. She threw herself forward, stones spitting against the ground, ricocheting at her heels. She landed and rolled, angling toward the twins. If she could just get to them, she’d win. Mages like these—ones who depended on their magic to keep them safe—were total lightweights. They couldn’t take a punch. And for the hell they were putting her through, she’d be sure to gift them a few extra punches.

She was almost there. The swarm changed direction again. The backs of her legs felt like they were on fire. The swarm dove. Just a few more steps…

An ice umbrella formed over her head, then spread up like a rainbow, encasing the entire swarm. Sera looked up, her eyes following the frozen arch speckled with stones—then pivoted around to Kai. He was standing over the unconscious lightning mage, brushing snowflakes off his hands. It was a regular elemental circus today.

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