magic: the use of magical spells and weapons to fight opponents. Kirara had also skipped on giving any combat lessons—which made Hitomi consider this was done on purpose. "Do you think that, if I poof up a sword or something super sharp, I can defeat Kirara and save that Lupe?" Hitomi wondered.
Erika watched the Lupe continuously leaping away from Kirara’s chain. "I dunno. It’ll depend on the weapon, I guess."
The Lupe continued avoiding Kirara’s attacks until the chain whipped his left arm. Wincing in pain, he stopped and knelt, rubbing his wound. Kirara smirked at him. "Are you done already, Mr. Scaredy Pants?" she crooned, twirling her chain.
"No way." The Lupe glared up at her. "I’m not finished yet."
"Oh please, stay down!" Hitomi insisted. "You don’t need to fight anymore. I’m sure she’ll leave you alone now."
"Yeah right," Erika sputtered.
"I’ll have to agree with your friend, Hoshizora," Kirara sneered. She took a few steps towards her, still twirling her chain. "Now then, where were me? Oh yes, now I remember." She smiled slightly. "You were going to surrender your Spell Charm to me, am I right?"
Hitomi shook her head. "No way!" she exclaimed, squeezing her eyes shut and clutching her Spell Charm close to her chest. "I’ll never, EVER hand it over to you!" Hitomi opened her eyes and gasped at her surroundings: everything was completely yellow—including Erika, who was standing as still as a statue. In fact, everything else around her was silent and unmoving, except for herself and Kirara. "What-What did you do?" she sputtered.
"I stopped the flow of time." Kirara smiled slyly and tilted her head to the right. "Isn’t this spectacular? You and I are the only beings in Neopia that are aware of what’s happening. Once the spell wears off, time will continue and nobody else would know of this brief break in time flow."
"But why?" Hitomi wondered. "Why in Neopia would you want to stop time??"
Kirara narrowed her eyes. "I want your Spell Charm, Hitomi Hoshizora. As long as you refuse to obey my commands, then I would just have to keep pushing your buttons until you finally give in to my demands and then—only then—will you be able to live a peaceful, boring life." She grinned, exposing her glossy, white teeth. "Do you honestly believe that you were my first ‘student’, Hitomi? I’ve been around for centuries and I’ve mentored many young witches, just like you. Yet for some unprecedented reason, you decide to be the first ignorant witch I’ve ever had the displeasure to encounter. And then, to repay me for ALL of the hours I wasted teaching you all about magic, you decide not to reward me for my services?"
"I can’t," Hitomi said firmly. "I can’t and I’ll never hand over my Spell Charm to you! Yes, you were my mentor, but that doesn’t allow you or anyone else to claim they have the right to take my powers as soon as I was able to acquire them! So," Hitomi gulped, "my answer to you is no—"
Kirara snapped her fingers and, as the flow of time returned to its normal state, she vanished. The starry Lupe, despite his critical condition, scurried away. Hitomi collapsed to the ground, breathing deeply. "Let’s go…home," she sighed. "We can have udon some other time, okay?"
Erika nodded. "Yeah, good idea," she said, pulling her friend up. "Let’s just forget this crazy episode ever happened."
Hitomi glanced down at her Spell Charm, which she was clutching in her hand, and sighed again. "I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forget all this."
Monday morning, Hitomi sat at her desk and confided to Rina what had happened during and after her coronation ceremony. She quickly swiped her eyes with her sleeves and sobbed, "I can’t believe Kirara would do such a thing! I thought we were friends!"
Rina laid a hand on her shoulder. "It’s okay," she said softly. "Yes Kirara is still a dangerous threat, but everything will be fine…maybe."
"Maybe?" scoffed Erika.
"What? Dark Witches like Kirara don’t give up so easily," Rina insisted. "Once they’ve chosen a victim, they’ll literally lock their sights on only them until they get their hands on their Spell Charm."
"But why?" asked Hitomi. "Why do they want our Spell Charms?"
"Because they serve as vessels for our magical energy," Rina explained, "and, if a Dark Witch can absorb all of the energy, they’ll remain fine." She folded her arms over her chest. "Dark Witches are a completely different species of witches: though they have Spell Charms, they depend heavily on the magical energy of other witches for sustenance. That’s exactly why they take the time to mentor up-and-coming witches: they want to target and befriend these girls so that, when their coronations arrive, they’ll be able to take their Spell Charms with no fuss."
"Sounds like something this ‘mystical Witches Council’ should check up on," Erika remarked.
Rina nodded. "Agreed. Unfortunately Dark Witches are VERY hard to track down, so the Witches Council has to remain ever-so-vigilant if they want to protect a girl from a dangerous foe."
"Say, Rina," Hitomi said hesitantly. "You said that your Spell Charm was stolen, right? Who…uh, who took yours away?"
"An Ixi named Telulu," Rina explained. "Like Kirara, she befriended me and taught me everything about witchcraft. But then…" She shook her head. "Enough about her; she’s old news. What you need to worry about, Hitomi, is your own safety. Kirara’s still out there in the world, and I’m sure she’ll strike very soon! Why, I’ll bet—"
Ms. Sakuraba clapped her hands. "Alright class, settle down now," the faerie Kau ordered. After everyone was seated, she directed everyone's focus to a tall, starry Lupe standing to her right. "Class, I would like to introduce our newest student: Kyuske Tsukino."
Kyuske bowed. "It’s a pleasure to meet all of you," he murmured.
[I don’t believe it! It’s HIM!] Hitomi felt her cheeks burn. She couldn’t believe that fate had brought this bushy haired Lupe—the same Lupe that had fought Kirara two days ago—into her classroom! And when Kyuske turned to glance at her direction, Hitomi couldn’t help but feel that he was looking at her. she thought anxiously.
Hitomi wasn’t the only one fascinated by the new student. For the first three blocks, Kyuske was adored and admired by many of his fellow peers. Everyone commented on how smart he was, how athletic he was in sports, and—from the girls—how handsome and mysterious he was. By lunchtime, Kyuske was already offered to join four different sports teams and had become the most popular boy in school. "Isn’t he amazing?" breathed Hitomi. "He’s super smart and really good at everything!"
"He’s alright," said Erika. "Though, to be honest, I prefer my dreamboat Hiro over Mr. Coolridge any day."
At lunchtime, Hitomi took a few deep breaths as she strode towards Kyuske, who was seated on a bench in the courtyard. Gripping her lunch bag, she took a seat on the bench, inching herself as far away from Kyuske as she could. "It’s…uh, a lovely day, yes?" Hitomi stammered.
"Eh," said Kyuske, plopping rice in his mouth.
"There you are!" Erika bolted towards Hitomi and sat down on the opposite side of Kyuske. "I thought you were going to the school roof again. But instead, I find you next to the new kid! Unbelievable!"
"Erika, please," Hitomi murmured.
"So, is he the same dude that had that fight with Kirara?" asked Erika. "Did you ask him yet? Huh? Huh?"
Kyuske closed his lunch box and turned to Erika. "Is this why you and your friend are accompanying me today?" he asked briskly.
"I’m only here because Hitomi’s here," Erika explained. "But since you brought it up, then yes, do enlighten us with an answer."
"It’s true that I was the one that tried to protect your friend here from that witch," said Kyuske. "I had to; that ‘Kirara’ you speak of is evil and she most likely has no intentions to back off her quest for a new Spell Charm."
"H-how do you know about Spell Charms and witches?" Hitomi asked.
"Because I’m a wizard," Kyuske explained, "and I’ve dealt with evil witches like many times before."
To be continued…