There was an ear shattering roar from the street and then a tawny blur leapt back through the window shattering a little more glass.
This time Kyle was ready. He fired off his ball of light and caught the manticore in the right shoulder while it was at the apex of its trajectory. It was like an explosive had been implanted there. There was a flash, a popping sound, and a huge divot was ripped out of the beast. It would certainly have killed a human, but the manticore had a lot more flesh to lose.
Kyle jumped to the side letting it pass. The monster hit right where Kyle had been. Its injured shoulder couldn’t take the blow and again its leg folded under it. It went down in an ugly sliding tumble that carried it across the floor, leaving a bloody streak as it slid, and ended hard against the wall.
Seeing his opportunity Kyle stepped forward until he was almost directly over it and slammed out a shield that pressed it even more tightly into the floor. He summoned another ball of light almost instantly afterword then stepped forward and yelled, “Yield!”
“Die Magus,” the manticore yelled back in that same room shaking voice and whipped its tail, a weapon Kyle had forgotten about, directly at Kyle’s head.
Kyle fell over on his butt losing his mental hold on the light spell as he did so. Fortunately, from its trapped position, the manticore didn’t quite have the dexterity to reach Kyle. Again, the tail with its dozens of poison barbs missed him.
Kyle sprang back into a crouch just as the shield vanished over the manticore. The thing was faster than it had any right to be getting to its feet. “Die,” it screamed sounding half out of its mind with rage, and leapt apparently planning to crush Kyle based on shear momentum. Kyle had instinctively fallen into a block when the creature yelled and so was able to cast a shield almost instantly, “Dùnpái!”
It hit the shield head first. Again there was no noise and the shield didn’t so much as wiggle even though it was just a glowing section of air apparently hanging unsupported. However, the blast of heat that rolled off it was enough to make the air around it visibly glow like a flame. There was a meaty crunch and the manticore fell, limply, to the ground. The monster’s head had a pronounced flat spot. Kyle couldn’t tell if it was breathing and he didn’t much care.
He summoned another ball of light and looked back toward the fight between Jun and the female manticore. It had developed a lot more slashes including a couple across its pretty face which was now twisted to near unrecognizability with rage. Its tail in particular was cut so deeply it wasn’t moving right any more. Jun’s sword was stained with blood, and he was sweating. He was also favoring one foot, but he didn’t look significantly weakened.
Screw a warning, Kyle thought, and blasted the manticore’s paw when it fell into a guard position a moment later. The shot wasn’t perfectly lined up, so it still had a paw after Kyle was done, but it wasn’t going to be doing much with it for a while.
It howled. Its scream was just a bit higher than the male’s and Kyle thought his eardrums would rupture before it ran out of voice. It did, however, run out of air and that’s when Kyle, who had summoned another ball of light, yelled “Stop!”
The manticore looked over at him. Pure rage animated its face. Its tail swept back and forth. Its mouth was open and Kyle saw it too had the hideous triple row of teeth. That decreased the cuteness of its features somewhat. “Why? You think you can beat me just because you’ve blooded me once?”
“I think your partner is laying on the ground with a shattered skull, and I think Master Shen can turn you into cutlets. So, yes.”
It growled, and Kyle wondered if he should have been so antagonistic. The sound shook his chest.
“I don’t know why you’re trying to kill me, but we can both walk away from this if you’ll just see reason! Your…” he trailed off not knowing if the two manticore were friends, partners, or somehow romantically involved- assuming Persian monsters had romance. In the end, he just went with, “partner probably needs medical attention. Just quit trying to kill me and I’ll call 911.” It occurred to him that having thumbs gave him an oddly solid bargaining position on that last count.
“He will live without any aid. Do you suppose this is the first time he’s cracked his head open? Our magic is strong and will heal us.”
That may well have been true. The male manticore’s head looked better than it had immediately after hitting the shield. Kyle was trying to come up with some counter to that point, and he was toying with, “then I’ll shoot him again” when sirens rose in the distance.
They all listened to them for a moment, before Jun spoke, “There’s the police. How many enemies will you try to stand against?”
The manticore growled loudly, then its tail (which was also looking a lot better than Kyle had seen earlier) flicked out and wrapped around the injured male. Without another word it turned and hurried down the hallway dragging its companion with it. Presumably it would exit as it had arrived. Kyle hadn’t realized how strong the tails were. It would have been a very bad idea to take a hit.
“You had best go as well.”
Kyle looked at Jun in surprise, “What? And leave you?”
“It will be well. I will tell the truth, mostly, then lie a bit. My student came by the Dojo late at night and asked for a ride. I gave him one. We came here. We were attacked. We fought back, he knows magic because he is a mage. I know magic because I am a hobbyist. The enchanted who did the damage were driven off. When we heard the sirens they ran. You ran as well. I don’t know why.”
The police cars were pulling into the lot at that point. Kyle might have stayed; with the adrenaline of the fight fading he was almost too tired to run. However, he still wanted to try to go after Thomas. He didn’t know how, maybe Suma would have a guess at getting into her email, but he couldn’t do that in a jail cell or even in a non-suspect interview room. “Okay. I owe you!”
“Give the Steel Dragon a good Yelp review. You know it’s very important site.”
Kyle grinned then took off running down the back hall. As he went he looked for the manticore, but they had vanished. Once he was in the alley behind the store, he cast shield several times and used them like a portable ladder to get over the wall into the neighborhood behind his office park.
His head throbbed from all the magic use, and he was almost ready to pass out, but he felt safe.
He also felt totally defeated. He doubted Suma would be able to get into Jessie’s email. He was stuck.
Then his phone buzzed in his pocket. He pulled it out and looked at the message. It was a text from an unknown number. He opened it with tremendous reluctance almost certain it was a new threat of some sort.
Kyle, it’s me, Jessie. Are you getting this?