With Ai and Mai’s magic, a stream of water could move rapidly enough to cut steel, bind you like a cable, or plunge into your lungs to asphyxiate you. None of these things happened. I was too late noticing the spell forming behind Alma which turned their weapon to steam. I threw a spell in front of her eyes to blind her and a kick at her head, but she managed to step back before my foot connected. In the split second I distracted her, water crashed through all the windows and plants crashed through various parts of the walls. Shards of ice shot from the floating water at Alma while vines moved to trip her. A spell was forming quickly, so I did my best to steal the energy from it. She barely resisted and flipped backward, weaving her body around the ice in midair. Of all the times to be distracted, I couldn’t help staring stupidly for a moment when I realized this was the first time I ever saw her not wearing a dress. When a ball of fire came hurtling at me, I barely managed to jump out of the way. I somersaulted back to my feet and saw water descend on her from all directions, like giant waves crashing through the air. Drowning wouldn’t be a swift way to go.
A large chunk of the water turned to steam, and Alma came flying through the air with a kick aimed at my head, which sent me stumbling backward as I barely blocked it. I quickly found myself fighting for dear life as her assault continued. Vines, roots, and other plant parts started attacking Alma from behind, but she blocked them and severed them with magic while maintaining her assault on me. I tried throwing her backward with a spell, but she kept interrupting the magic. Then the twins were there as well, attacking from two sides while Emma’s plants continued to attack Alma from behind. The girl was unbelievably fast. I did my best to interrupt some of her magic, but she was countering the twins, physically and magically, and my own attacks while casting additional spells to handle Emma’s plants and to attack us. Before we managed to overwhelm her, a powerful blast of air threw me backward, knocking me into a pallet of toys. The twins didn’t appear to have been moved, but Alma had jumped onto a pallet and was throwing fire down at them. A wall of water intercepted the fire, hissing when it hit, and more plunged down at Alma from above.
Again the water near Alma turned to steam, but trees had sprouted beside her, swinging their branches like clubs. She leapt between the branches, and the pallet on which she had been standing went flying at Mai. When a wall of plants shot up in front of Alma, I realized where she was heading. “Emma!” I yelled, darting after Alma and throwing my own fire at her. The spells were ineffectual, save that they gave Alma another thing to fight. Despite how fast Emma’s plants regrew, Alma seemed to be getting headway. I barely caught sight of spells flying at Alma, a telekinetic force meant to slice through things, but Alma was deflecting those as well. A giant block of ice dropped from the mass of water, and I helped it gain momentum with a spell, hurtling it at Alma. Vines twisted around her, grabbing her arms and feet. I thought we had her, but the ice suddenly shifted direction, flying toward Ai before becoming water once more. Alma cut herself free of the vines and started cutting through the plants once more. A giant fist of water came down at her, forcing her to jump to the side as it cracked the cement floor where she had been. Then more fists of water kept her moving, occasionally darting to the side after her when she dodged. Emma tried to trip Alma up with plants as I did similar with telekinetic spells, but the girl almost seemed to dance in the chaos.
I tried to encase Alma in walls of fire as one of the fists of water plummeted at her. My spell was moved and intensified, boiling the mighty fist as it hit the fire over Alma’s head. “You need to be careful when playing with fire, James,” said her voice, booming through the air, “and I see someone has been playing with my enchantments.” The fire above her grew larger, blocking more fists of water, and I realized that I no longer was seeing her cast anything. Her skin was now glowing with magic, similar to the twins but even more intense. “She can control fire like you control water!” I yelled at them, realizing only after that this was probably obvious to them as well. The twins clasped hands, and the enormous body of floating water started spinning, creating an upside down whirlpool. Other spells formed rapidly around them, some of which I recognized for controlling airflow. Most I didn’t catch at all. The fires above Alma started moving upward, into the whirlpool. I tried taking advantage of the moment, creating a spell to throw a pallet of soil at Alma as she gazed upward. Emma must have had similar thoughts, because a tree appeared to catapult the pallet with greater force as vines lashed out to capture Alma’s feet.
Alma tore threw the vines as she jumped, turned, and started to deflect her body off the pallet I threw. Emma’s tree ripped through the pallet and bags of dirt to wrap a branch around Alma’s legs. As the branch swung Alma at the ground, I thought again that we might have her. Alma’s hands touched the ground, and she casually flipped upright as the tree became ash. The fire in the whirlpool exploded outward, vaporizing the entire body of floating water and then continuing down the sides of the building. I heard a brief scream that sounded like Emma and saw her body roll across the floor moments later. When I looked up, Alma was calmly examining a tear in her pant leg. Then she stood, took a stance as if to fight, and waggled her fingers at the twins. They moved to attack her as I never had seen them move before. I felt queasy trying to watch the blur of motion and knew I would only be in the way if I tried to assist. I didn’t even have the faintest hope of catching what spells were being cast with them forming and disappearing in the blink of an eye. When Ai’s head put another crack in the concrete floor, I stared in horror. I never really believed there was someone who could keep up with the twins. They always seemed so haughty and invincible compared with the rest of us.
Mai paused, staring at her sister, when Alma punched her forehead with a closed fist. If the world was just, the fist would’ve broken. Instead, Mai went flying backward and bounced off a pallet with enough force that the pallet shifted. I stood there, staring at her, with clenched fists and the certainty that there was nothing I could do to defeat this girl. She casually walked toward me, and I saw spells cleaning her of ash and soot. As she stepped closer, I noticed that we literally didn’t even make her break a sweat, and then I berated myself for checking out the girl who was about to kill me. The hellish blaze lighting up the building moved closer, creating a sphere of fire around us. I reinforced the spell I made before we left which helped protect me from heat. I wasn’t such a fool as to think such a spell would help, but I didn’t want to be dripping sweat while she got to look like a fashionista on her way to an exhibit. She didn’t attack me, though I stood ready. She just looked me up and down with those magnificent, violet eyes. I gazed in Emma’s direction, unable to see her body through the flames, and felt my muscles tighten.
There wasn’t a thing I knew that could stop this girl, but I wasn’t going to die without fighting. I charged her and tried to kick her. She was so short compared with me that I felt almost like I was fighting a child. The girl seemed to move like Aaliyah now, teleporting from one spot to another more than moving. Eventually, she attacked back, putting her hand to my chest and shoving. I flew three feet back and landed on my backside. The sphere of fire had parted, making her appear to have wings like an avenging angel. What horrible world was this that a psychotic killer could be so unearthly beautiful. I stared up at her, awaiting my fate. I should have gone to see my parents one last time. Alma smiled at me, and I knew this was the end. Remembering the communicator, I said, “Jarod, if you can hear me, run.” My voice already sounded lifeless to my own ears. Alma took a step forward, and then I saw a shadow fly over me and heard Aaliyah’s voice yelling “ALPY!!!” I knew I was gaping as I watched my tiny secretary hugging the psychotic beauty, but I couldn’t get my mouth to close. Alma, the crazy killer who burned people alive, was the infamous cousin, Alpy? What was going on here?