Bart and Trevor got back to their room 20 minutes later. They both started getting ready for bed when Bart noticed the troubled look on Trev’s face. “Something the matter man? Look if it’s about earlier I was just messing around.”
“Huh? Oh what? No, no.” He answered distractedly as he sat on the edge of his cot.
“Then a what’s up.” Bart got into bed and pulled his blankets up.
“Do...do you think that Rena likes dancing?”
A laugh burst out of Bart before he could control it. “Beasley? Dancing? I don’t know but that sounds hilarious. Why do you wanna ask her to the dance or something?” Bart said jokingly.
Trevor’s expression looked glum.
“Oh.” The smile fades from Bart’s face. “Oh you do. Sorry dude, I didn’t mean anything by it. I mean, I never really have thought of her that way you know.”
Trevor sighed. “Yeah I know.”
Bart had to fix this. “Look, I mean she seemed to like the idea when Hope brought it up. I mean, today she was giving me advice on askin-” Trevor looked up at him. “O-on asking Mr. Parkinson for more training time. Sorry random thought, not important.” Bart tried to recover quickly not sure how his roommate would react to Bart wanting to ask Hope to the dance. “Maybe you should ask her dude! You’re a good guy, any girl would be lucky.”
Trevor still sat there a little glum but he seemed a bit better. “Thanks. anyway, g’night.”
Sunday came fast. The campus was on its usual buzz as everyone filed into the stronghold stadium. Trevor, Sor, Garrett and Rena got into their seat. “Alright, Hunters vs. Mages are up first. Hope you’re ready to pay up Beasley.” Trevor states with a smirk towards the dark-haired girl.
Rena smirked and shook her head “I don’t think so. You’ll be the one who has to pay up Johnson.” She turned her attention to Garrett who sat next to her, an unreadable expression on his face “So, you did sit with us last game. Are you a big fan of stronghold?”
Garrett shrugs “You can say that.”
“Alright guys lets huddle up.” Sonya announces getting the team’s attention. “The Architects play a big defensive game. But I don’t think it should be a problem for us. They’re smart, so stay alert. We’re running our new roster today, going heavy on the attack. 5-2-3-1 got it? 1 attacker and 1 utility go on each side, and then 3 attacker’s straight up the middle. Bart and Jón, you go right. Alexos and Myself with go left. Emilena, you take the other two attackers and head straight up the middle and pull as many defenders as you can to you. Bart and Alexos are going to flank from both sides and get the treasure got it? Watch for traps, just because someone isn’t in an area doesn’t mean you’re safe. Defenders, work together and communicate. Everybody know the plan?” The 10 hunter nodded in agreement. “Alright then, let’s get to it then hunters.”
The whistle blew and they went into action. Bart started right with Jón as they made their way up the side of the forest. The trees had started turning color and leaves were falling to the ground. Piles of leaves were covering the grass. They approached the boundary line. A small stream that cut right across the middle of the field. “Stay alert.” Jón said softly.
Bart pulled an arrow out and set it on his bow as they moved across the stream. Jón pulled his triangular shield off his back and gripped his spear. They moved slowly through the forest from tree to tree, looking for any signs of the Architects or their traps. They could hear shots being fired in the distance, the middle team must have made contact. Jón advanced. Bart noticed a thin string dangling from a tree. “That shouldn’t-... Jón Wait!”
Too late, the string brushes the top of Jón’s head and 10 feet in front of them a turret came alive out of the leaves and sent a blast at the boy. It hit him in the shield and he flew 5 feet back landing on the ground. Bart dashed behind a tree right as the turret turned towards him and fired, taking a chunk out of the tree behind where he was standing. Jón dashed behind another tree right as the turret fired again. He looked at Bart and said “Now what?”
“Okay okay. Think Bart. How is it tracking us? Body heat maybe?” Bart pulled the arrow back in his bow, and said a simple enchantment. The head of the arrow burst to flames. He turned and shot the arrow diagonal where the turret could see it and sure enough, as soon as he released the turret blasted it out of the sky.
Bart heard a rustle across from him. An Architect with a hammer as big as a sword appears out of nowhere and was fighting Jón.
Jón’s spear got knocked out of his hand as he was trying to defend himself. Before Bart could react, the Architect tackled Jón into the open and tried to get back behind cover but Jón wrapped him up. The turret fires and they both were blown back 10 feet. Neither of them moved. They both lay unconscious in the leaves
Bart took a second to process what happened. “Okay.” He nocked another arrow and said another enchantment. His arrow went ablaze once more. He fired it in the same spot, stepped out while nocking another arrow. The turret shot the flaming arrow out of the sky and as soon as it turned Bart shot his arrow straight down the barrel.
The machine shot and the barrel imploded leaving the turret useless. Or that’s what Bart thought at least. After a few seconds, the top of the turret popped open. 4 drones came out of the top.
They were round, no bigger than a tennis ball and had helicopter wings that let them fly out of the opening. Bart’s eyes opened wide. He nocked an arrow and took out one of the drones before having to dive out of the way as the other 3 drones opened fire, spraying where Bart once was. The drones followed Bart as he darted between the trees avoiding their fire.
He pulled a tiny glass cylinder out of the strap of his quiver and tossed it into the middle of the drones. The cylinder exploded open like a flashbang blinding the drones for a few seconds. Bart took his opportunity and stepped out of cover firing 3 arrows right after the other destroying the remaining drones. Bart leaned against a tree trying to catch his breath. “Where do they come up with this stuff?” He huffed.
Bart’s heart leapt out of his chest. Sticking out of the tree inches from his neck was a 9 inch bolt. He looked in confusion to see none other than Hope advancing towards him, aiming a crossbow at him with a confident and mischievous grin on her face. “Hey, Bart. Fancy seeing you here.”
Before Bart could even pull an arrow out or move a rope shot out of the bolt next to him and wrapped itself around his neck and the tree restraining him to it. Bart reached to his neck and tugged at the rope but it was no use. The restraint was too tight and too strong to pull off.
Rena grumbled and handed Trev a money bill. He victoriously snatched from her hand “Thank you very much!”
Bart grabbed another glass cylinder from his strap and squeezed it. It broke and white smoke exploded out of it covering Bart. Hope started firing her semi-automatic crossbow into the smoke. When the smoke cleared, all she saw was 6 bolts sticking out of the tree where Bart was and a rope cut in half on the ground. Hope looked around in a panic. “Wher-” there was rustling in the branches above.
Bart ran across the thick branch above her and jumped off grabbing another branch and swinging into a kick, knocking Hope to the ground sending her crossbow skidding away from her. Bart short 3 arrows right after the other but Hope rolled out of the way and jumped to her feet and ran behind a tree close to Bart and came around the other side punching Bart in the chest. Bart stumbles backward as Hope advanced. The two started close combat, blocking hits, attempting counters. You could hear the ′smack′ every time Bart’s bow came into contact.
Finally, Hope threw a punch that Bart caught with his hand. He counters by swinging his bow, it made contact with Hope’s left cheek. Bart uses the momentum of the swing to spin away from Hope. As he took steps back and spun back around to face Hope he pulled an arrow out and nocked it aiming at Hope.
Trevor’s eyes went wide at Bart’s last move. “Oh God. Bart’s dead.”
“What’s your sister gonna do, Trevor?” Garrett said, never removing his eyes from the action.
Hope was bent over holding her face. Bart’s eyes went wide as he subconsciously lowered his bow. Hope slowly looked up at Bart with fury in her eyes. Any softness that might have existed in her face was now gone. A long, thick, and pink welp was forming on her cheek from where the bow hit. “That was dumb,” Bart said to himself as Hope started forward. “Hope let’s talk about this. Use your words.” He took a step back every step she took forward while pulling his arrow back once more.
She took off in a sprint and threw something in the air. It was a drone that started up and turned towards Bart as she sprinted towards he had no choice but to shoot it. He released his arrow knocking the drone out of the air but before he could mock another Hope was already upon him.
A knee slammed into Bart’s chest sending him and Hope to the ground rolling. His bow flew out of his hand as he wrestles to gain control but before he knew it he was on his back and Hope had her knee in his chest. She hit him twice in the face before he could get his hands up to shield it.
She cocked her fist back ready to hit again. “YIELD.” She said loudly. Yelling and cheering could be heard close by. Hope looked up to see Alexos sprinting back towards the Hunter’s base with the treasure in his hand. He was flanked by Sonya and Emilena and then 2 architects. The sight distracted Hope. Bart reaches across with his right hand and wrapped it under Hope’s left arm, grabbed her back and flipped her over him. Hope struggled to get to her feet but Bart was faster. By the time she was standing he was standing in front of her with his pistol aimed at her chest.
“Match over, Brains” Bart said with a wide grin on his face.
Rena groaned in disappointment as the winning whistle blew in the air “Ugh I really thought those architects were going to take it!”
Trevor’s mouth hung open in shock at the turn of event. Even he thought the Archs would win.
Bart holstered his pistol. “Oh man what am I gonna do with all my extra time since I won’t have to do my history homework?”
Hope picked up her crossbow and glared at Bart as if she was contemplating shooting him with it. Apparently, she decided against it since she turned and walked towards the field exit without saying a word.
“Oh come on! Bart yelled after her. Have some sportsmanship.” His grin faded as she got farther away. “Yeah I might pay for that.” Bart said to himself as he picked up his bow and headed off the field.
“Wow she really looks ticked off.” Sor says glancing over at Rena who now had a wide grin on her face
“Oh yeah. Bart’s so in for it.”
“That was...very exciting.” Garret said with a slight smile.
“She’s just super competitive. But yeah, Bart is gonna pay. If I’ve learned anything from 16 years of having a genius for a twin is that they can get you back in some of the most sadistic ways possible.” Trevor shuddered knowing what his sister is capable of.
Trevor, Rena, and Ali sat at the eating table. Rena and Trevor sat across from each other arguing about Stronghold while Ali “helpfully” added comments into both sides that fueled it. Hope sat on edge of the couch by herself watching tv. She was watching an American Football game. Tennessee Titans vs Oakland Raiders.
“OH COME ON.” She yelled every now and then.
Ali readjusted the ice back at the crown of his head. “Listen, I hear both sides. But if I haaaad to pick, I would say backloading the defense is crazy. You want to be aggressive out there.”
Rena crossed her arms and gave Trev a smug look “Told ya.”
Sor saw Bart first and smiled brightly at him. “Hey Bart, how did you sleep? You’ve been out for a couple hours.”
“Huh? Oh yeah. It was much needed.” He walked past the dining table and said hello to his arguing friends. He thought about joining in, but he had something else to do first. Walking into the area that the couches separated from the rest of the room he approached Hope. “Hey.” Bart said nervously. “Is it safe to come in?”
Hope looked up at him. Bart couldn’t read her expression. “Enter at your own risk Hawkeye. The game is on.” Her welp looked like it had gotten worse. The pink welp had turned into a purplish bruise.
Bart sat on her left next to her. “I was just making sure that we were cool.”
Hope stared at him expressionless. “Why? Because you hit me across the face with a glorified stick leaving this hideous sucker-punched me when I wasn’t looking?” Her voice was cold.
Bart’stongue-tiedd up. “Uhhh.... Well I- ummm..”
Hope let out a laugh. “I’m kidding.” Her voice was soft again. “We’re good. What happens on the field stays on the field right? It was a well-fought match. Won’t happen again.”
Bart let out a sigh of relief. “Okay good. Still tho, sorry about the face. I didn’t mean to honestly, just instinct and heat of the moment.”
Hope rose a . “Oh, so your instinct is to hit me across the face with your bow.”
Bart laughed “I- no. You know what I meant.” They both laughed for a moment, and then went silent. Not knowing what to say next.
“So... uh... I was wondering.. uh.”
Hope looked at him curiously. “Mhmm?”
“Wou-would you maybe want to go to the dance with me?” Bart’s face was burning up.
Hope’s face instantly turned pink. “Oh. Wow. Umm.”
“If not it’s fine. I just thought I’d ask.” Bart shot in really fast suddenly feeling very embarrassed.
“No. No, it’s not that. I just wasn’t expecting it.” Her face turned into a large grin. “Yeah. I’d love to.”
Bart’s whole insides left out a sigh of relief. “Awesome. It’ll be a lot of fun.”
Hope’s smile hasn’t faded yet. “Well it better be or I’ll give you another bloody lip.”
“Now go get us a couple of bottles of root beer, and I’ll teach you about the second greatest sport in the world.”
Bart felt his swollen lip as he stood with a grin, he had forgotten about it but winced when he touched it. “Oh yeah. You have a mean right hook.” He walked off to get their drinks.
“What’s got you smiling like that Winchester?” Rena asks walking into the kitchen with a large grin as he reached into the fridge for the root beers “Hopey really did a number on you huh?” She points at his swollen lip with a chuckle.
“Yeah, she really slugged me. I’d bet on her over Ian in a fight any day.” Bart said nonchalantly forcing the smile off his face.
“Anyone could take Ian.” She rolled her eyes and leaned her hip on the counter “Sooo, did Hope say yes to the dance?”
Bart choked on his root beer in surprise causing Rena to let out a laugh.
“Aye, Maybe next time it can be her on the receiving end of pure baboon rage.” Ali opened up the bottled and chugged.
Rena let out a laugh at the interruption “Still pissed that he landed a blow on you?” She rose an eyebrow before giving Bart a look that said ’We aren’t finished here.’
“Isn’t he an orangutan?”
“Yes, But after I left two bright red marks on that arse of a face he has he may want to reconsider”
Bart laughed. He headed for the exit. Rena tried to grab him but he slipped away. “Bar-” She started.
“Sorry Rena can’t hear you my lip is hurting too bad.” As he walked way briskly disappearing into the other room.
Rena sighed and rolled her eyes “Boys.”
Bart walked back towards the couches. “Finally!” Hope exclaimed.
“Sorry.” Bart handed her a bottle. He sat down next to her and leaned against the back of the couch. “So, I’ve seen this game before but have no idea what’s going on. Why the heck are they wearing pads?”
Hope rolled her eyes. “Not all sports involve arrows and swords Bart. She leaned back, Bart was very aware that she was now scooted very close to him. “Listen up, you’re about to learn some stuff.”
They sat there and watched Hope’s team get demolished. Despite Hope’s yelling and fury, Bart actually learned about the game and was somewhat fond of it.
“Hey O’Malley, what do you say to a Halloween party?” Rena asks jumping up to sit on the island in the kitchen, swinging her legs back and forth. “Halloween is coming up and I say it’s the perfect time for some shenanigans.”
“Yes! Of course! The school holds a special event every year just for that. Perfect for Spooky shenanigans!”
“Did I hear Halloween Party?” Trevor pokes his head into the kitchen.
“Yes you did, Trev, and it’s amazing! There are games out in the courtyard and a maze and the Grims ‘haunt’ their dorm. You really don’t even have to dress up...you know, considering we’re magic and what have you.” Ali pulled out his phone to look for some of the photos from last years event. He had grown up going to them, but his first year as a student was by far the most fun.
“Oh. So no costumes?” Trevor looked less excited. Halloween was his favorite holiday, ever since he was little.
“You can,” Ali said while still looking down at his phone. “Most people do. I know some over-sensitive people that get mad at how normies do witch or zombie costumes. But you don’t have worry.”
Trevor’s mood cheered up again. “Awesome. I love Halloween.”
“See, check this out,” Ali showed the phone to his two friends. “That’s Garrett and I last year, as Sherlock and Watson.”
“That looks like a blast!” Rena was super excited but thought of something that dulled her mood “Do you think they’ll still have the celebration with the vampire still on the loose?”
The group grew quiet once more “Not with a celebration this big! Besides, I don’t think the creature is dumb enough to attack with everyone out in about! Let’s not worry about vampires shall we?”
“What are we talking about guys?” Bart and Hope walked In together. Bart reached in the fridge and grabbed another root beer.
“Spooky things! Come look!” Ali motioned for them to look at the old party pictures.
“Ooooh okay, now I’m excited.” Hope has a large smile on her face. “What should we dress up as?”
“When I was younger I went dressed as a lobster,” Bart said simply.
Hope busted out laughing. “Can you please dress as a lobster for Halloween.” She put her hand on Rena’s shoulder to support herself as she laughed.
Rena threw her head back laughing “Oh I would pay some serious money to see that!”
“Forget it. Not happening. I have some self-respect you know.”
“You’re not fun.” Rena pouts then turns to Hope with a grin “I was thinking of a classic costume, Little Red Riding Hood.”
“Never knew that little red riding hood carried a sword.”
She rolled her eyes “Whatever. What are you guys thinking of dressing up as?”
“Oh I’m absolutely going as a Mob Boss.” Ali states rubbing his hands together.
“I’ll go as a female cop!” Hope said excitingly. “Officer Johnson reporting for duty!”
“I was thinking of going as a Greek Goddess.” Sor adds in softly with a shrug of her shoulders.
“I guess I should figure something out then huh. Since everyone is dressing up.” Bart grumbled knowing he would have trouble coming up with ideas.
“You’ve got a couple of weeks to do so Barty boy.” Rena states jumping off the counter.