“Come on! It’s over, Tepes! Your army is defeated, you’re out of magic, and you’re the last one left!” Flame pleaded, looking convincingly distraught.
Jessica growled at her, making sure to exaggerate her staggering motion as she leaned on her fake plastic spear.
“It’s not too late yet… Just put down the mask. Leave the demon life behind. You don’t need to sacrifice your life for–”
“Shut up!” she barked out, silencing the other girl. “Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!” She kept breathing heavily as her glare intensified. “Give up?! Just like that?! Do you think this is a game?! Some kind of theater play?!” There were a couple of chuckles from the audience, making Jessica feel smug for putting that line into the script.
“Of course not! This is no game! But that’s exactly why you have to stop now! Because if you keep going, then…”
“Hmmph!” Jessica heaved herself onto her unsteady legs again as the special effects team flashed some lights around her. “You know nothing, Flame! I have to keep going! I have no other choice!” She then turned into an anguished whisper, which her microphone amplified for everyone to hear. “Even if I don’t want to…”
“But why?!” Flame shouted, probably channeling her real frustrations at not being privy to the infohazard. “Why does it have to be this way? Is he blackmailing you? Is there more to this?!”
Jessica scoffed. “As if I would fall for that.” She readied her spear and fell into a stance. “No. You’re not getting any information from me. All you need to know is that we’re enemies.”
Flame grit her teeth and gripped her sword. “In that case… I–”
And then a loud bang and the sound of a wall crumbling interrupted her.
Heads spun around to the newly created hole in the wall where the door to the auditorium was. From it, a single person emerged. A man clad in crimson armor, sporting large gauntlets. A very familiar man.
Jessica’s eyes went wide even as the man’s found her.
“You!” he bellowed as he launched himself across the entire auditorium straight at her.
She reacted quickly, dropping her fake spear and summoning the real deal before holding it out with both hands and channeling magic.
The loud clang resounded through the auditorium as his gauntlet met her spear’s shaft.
Unfortunately, she wasn’t strong enough to stand her ground like that and was sent flying from the impact, crashing into a collection of tree props.
It only took a moment before the screams started.
By the time Jessica recovered, both Frost and Flame had engaged with the intruder, already transformed. Frost was hampering his movements and protecting people from collateral damage while Flame took him head on.
“Fuck,” Jessica muttered to herself, rapidly realizing just what this situation meant. The stupid rogue demon possessing Forneus had attacked her not only in her civilian guise, but in front of a huge audience. Worse, it wasn’t just her own secret identity; Flame’s and Frost’s were shot now as well.
What the hell was going on here anyway? Why was Forneus here? He was supposed to be out of the game! Had the rogue demon found him specifically because he’d used to be a general?
Not having the time to ponder the subject, Jessica quickly did her pseudo-transformation into Tepes, gripped her spear again and glared at the man who shouldn’t have been here before lunging at him just as he deflected Flame’s sword.
He met the spear with his armored forearm, stopping it in its tracks. But it didn’t matter. Jessica was pissed. Which meant she didn’t hesitate activating the true function of her spear – the imitation of the fifth weapon – and sucked away a portion of his magic into the spear.
The man jerked away with a roar while pushing the offending object away. There was a momentary lull in movement as the disgraced general glared at Tepes before charging once again.
“You!” he repeated.
“Me!” Jessica replied even as she danced around his bulky fist while stabbing her spear into his side, activating the magic absorption once again.
Once again, he howled as he staggered back, this time, right into Flame’s fiery sword, barely managing to block it with his forearm again.
Frost’s attack proved to be too much for him. He didn’t have the time to recover before the icy blast hit him and covered him in icicles.
“Gah! You bitch!” the man continued to howl as he struggled to free himself. “I’ll kill you!”
“Give it up!” Flame shouted as she readied her sword for another round.
Tepes caught Frost’s eye for a moment and they both nodded. The armored man broke out of his icicle prison in a few seconds, but Flame was there to slow him down again. These precious seconds were enough for the general and her minion to surround their target and gather enough magic to unleash their spell.
“Black–!” Frost started.
“-- ice cage!” Tepes finished.
Both Jessica and Devola had been experimenting with combining demonic magic and magical girl powers. The fruits of their labor had given rise to an even more powerful sealing spell than Jessica’s accidental sealing of Iris.
This spell should have ended the fight.
But it didn’t.
Their magic was disrupted moments before a pair of magic blasts hit both Tepes and Frost from the side, knocking them away.
A gasp reached Tepes’ ears and as soon as she recovered, she discovered why.
There were two more people possessed by demonic spirits, both exuding similar levels of magic to Forneus. One of them was an adult woman Tepes didn’t recognize, but the other one was familiar. Emilie, the lead singer of The Sweet Lemons.
What the hell? Why her?
A quick glance around confirmed that while the three of them had been keeping Forneus busy, the others must have gotten most of the civilians to safety. Spark and Bloom floated nearby, their weapons at the ready.
“Zero! All hands on deck!” Tepes shouted out. She didn’t expect this to be needed so soon, but alas.
The four magic girls stood with their weapons drawn as Tepes joined them. Cody, still wearing his minion outfit from the drama play. And lastly, four more figures emerged from the shadows. All dressed like regular minions, but each having a unique symbol etched on their otherwise featureless masks.
An orange zero, a blue eye, a golden snake, and a green rose.
Facing all ten of them were three humans possessed by powerful rogue demons.
One gave them a lot of trouble already. Three would not be pretty. But they had strength in numbers. Not to mention both Tepes and Frost could possibly take on one of them on their own. They could do this.
“M-mother…?” a weak voice cut through the tense silence. When everyone turned to look, they saw Frost standing in shock, staring at the unknown woman on the demons’ side.
That complicated things.