And here's the next chapter! Not much else to say here, so let's answer some reviews so we can move on:
1) Mr. Haziq:
* Works for me.
* Clearly, Molly passively dumbed down most of the pain he would've suffered otherwise. After all, she knows how fra-weak. How weak he is.
* Luan met Mera before, and even with similar powers, only one person can use one Epithet at a time. So if she saw anybody with a weak body, she'll naturally assume they have something to do with Mera.
* She simply deduced using what little knowledge she had, plus a bit of dumb luck for good measure.
* Except Molly's in on the plan, and she'd definitely make sure a certain best soup can wouldn't burn Luan's tongue away with his legendary Inferno soup recipe as retribution.
And now, to the chapter!
Mera turned around and saw Mrs. Johnson running up to her, stopping to catch her breath once she reached her.
"Johnson?" she asked nonchalantly. "What's wrong?"
"The gym's under attack by what seems to be a Banzai Blaster!" the woman answered. "And she's captured Molly!"
Mera hummed, taking a sip of her coffee. "How bizarre, of all the students in this academy, why Molly? Is there anybody else at the gym?"
"Ronnie Anne and Lincoln! I was going to try bring them with me, but the door got blocked off before I could!"
Mera's eyes widened at the mention of her adoptive son's name, and in the blink of an eye, she put her cup down and began bolting for the gym, passing by the infirmary along the way.
Speaking of which, Lincoln was being tended to by the nurse, who quickly healed him.
"Thanks again, Mrs. Santiago."
"The one you should thank is Molly," the nurse replied, causing Molly to look away. "From the X-Ray and what's known about her Epithet, it seems she dumbed down the pain and damage you would've suffered otherwise."
Lincoln faced the brunette. "Is that true, Molly?"
She blushed slightly and nodded.
"Okay, now swap you two," Mrs. Santiago requested. "I need to see if Molly's injured."
Lincoln gently got off the bed and allowed Molly to sit there. When he went to take a seat, however, he heard someone whisper, and he turned to see Ronnie Anne, who was also gesturing him to come to her.
Lincoln obliged, and the tomboy quickly yet gently dragged him away.
"What's wrong, Ronnie Anne?" Lincoln asked once he was released.
"Listen, I've been thinking about something," Ronnie Anne scratched her chin. "Molly said that she heard your Mom call her for some special training at the gym, right? But she never does that, so why would Molly fall for the obvious trap?"
"She's still new here, maybe she wasn't informed of how Mom did things?"
"She got a front seat showcase of how she works the first day of school, Lame-O."
"Okay, you have a point... maybe she thought the one who called her was the normal gym coach, Pacowski?"
"Except being an Epithet Coach is a double deal: your mother not only trains our Epithets, but our bodies as well. Besides, Pacowski hasn't shown up for work since school started."
"What are you trying to get at, Ronnie Anne?"
"I think this whole thing was staged: the call, Molly going to the gym, her being kidnapped, everything!"
Lincoln opened his mouth to argue back... but he quickly found himself agreeing with Ronnie Anne's points.
"When you put it like that, it does make sense."
"I know it's hard to believe, but-wait, what?"
"You heard right," Lincoln scratched his chin. "Considering everything you just said, this whole gym attack thing seems too contrived. Especially considering who's the attacker."
Ronnie Anne raised an eyebrow. "Your sister?"
"Luan had always been more of a nuisance than a supervillain, but if she wants to achieve something, she can easily move the pieces to benefit her, at the very least," Lincoln frowned. "What I don't get is how Molly would relate to all of this..."
Ronnie Anne pocketed her hands and sighed, "Well, I might have an idea."
Lincoln raised an eyebrow. "And that is?"
"Well... what if Molly and your sister are working together?"
Back with Mera, the woman dashed through the open door and caught her breath as she scanned the situation in front of her:
Indus was not only facing off against Luan's robot, but he was using his Barrier in ways she'd never thought possible: shrinking several of them to use as marbles, throwing a small one that spun around and returned to him like a boomerang, and so on.
"I don't get it! Back when you and Mera worked for the Banzai Blasters, the only thing you could do was create barriers! Where did this variety come from?!"
"Let's just say," Indus smiled. "I'm very proud of Lincoln!"
Of course Lincoln helped him get more creative, there's no way Indus he would've figured it out on his own.
Mera ran towards the man, who smiled brightly as he got an idea. He generated a platform-sized shield, then helped Mera jump off it, sending her flying straight to Luan's cockpit.
Or at least, the head.
"Mera..." Luan said sternly.
Instead of saying Luan's name, Mera gritted her teeth, clenched her fist, reeled back and threw a punch as she tried to embed her Epithet on the glass...
Only to hurt her hand in the process.
"Don't even think about acting like a smarty pants, Mera! I know your Epithet's no longer with you!" Luan narrowed her eyes. "And I, in fact, know who most likely holds it right now!"
The robot shook rapidly, causing Mera to fall right into Indus' arms.
"You know, when I first saw you, I had my reservations. I didn't know what it was, but there was something about you that didn't feel right," Luan spoke, narrowing her eyes as she added, "Even when we worked together, and I got around to liking you, there was still something about you that made me uneasy."
Mera rubbed her arm, staring defiantly at Luan as she added:
"But today, I think I've found out what it was. You didn't adopt Lincoln because you cared about him, did you?"
Mera's eyes widened, her rage surging by Luan's next statement:
"You adopted him so you'd have a guinea pig to put your Epithet on, didn't you?!"
Mera gritted her teeth, just barely holding herself back as Luan promptly reached for her, only for Indus to place a large barrier between the two.
"Hiding behind Indus' barriers again? You really haven't changed, Mera." Luan shook her head. "I just hope my sweet little brother doesn't get corrupted by your bad behavior."
That was the straw that broke the camel's back.
Mera freed herself from Indus' grasp, leapt high and above the barrier, and dived down to attack the robot.
Only for it to catch her with its massive hand.
"Haha! Taunting always works!" Luan chuckled. "But seriously, though, what little respect I had for you was lost when I saw Lincoln with your Epithet."
Luan moved Mera closer to her, remaining calm even as the woman struggled to break free.
"I honestly wasn't planning to bother you. If anything, I'd rather avoid you at all costs."
Luan made the robot tighten its grip, causing Mera to cry in pain.
"But now that I know what you did," Luan narrowed her glare. "I can't let you get away with it scot free."