Cory shook his head. "You're incredible. I know I won't be playing video games for a little while."
Robert snorted as he sat at his desk. "I'm not playing. I just missed my guild's PvP night. I'm one of the better players. I can't just ditch without an explanation."
"Kind of missing my point."
Robert logged into Aspect Realms. His character, a female Deviling Windwhisper he named Bluster, loaded onto the screen. People always asked him why he played a female character. Though he felt like a lech for it, it was because he rather stare at that exaggerated, unrealistic depiction of the female body than a male avatar."It's my computer. If it was going to try and kill me, it would have already."
The details of the game-world Bluster lived in took a long time to load up. The capital city always took a long time to load. His graphics card was outdated two years ago when he built the computer. In gamer terms, it was just ancient. "Besides, worrying about the fact that one arcade game tried to kill us makes no sense. There are handhelds, cell phones, and consoles all around campus, let alone the dorms. You worry about that and you'll become a paranoid basket-case. What's done is done. Worrying about it won't make it go away, so why worry?"
"So you're not shaken up. Not even a little bit? We almost died, dude!"
Robert began typing up a quick message to his guildmaster. Obviously he'd leave out the part about a monster attack and magical cheerleaders. A simple witness of a robbery would do. Easy to explain why he never showed up for PvP. "But we didn't die. We just have a bunch of cuts and bruises. Those heal." Mentioning the cuts made Robert think about the deep gash Polygal had cut into his own face. Thinking about it made it sting a little.
Cory shook his head again. "Yup. You are incredible."
Eli hurried into the room. "I drew up the image of what was on your forehead when you were glowing. I tried to find a blue pen but I couldn't find one."
Robert sent the message in his mailbox then logged out of the game. "Thanks Eli. Black ink will be just fine." A dot encased by a circle. Part of another circle enjoining the smaller circle.
Cory leaned forward. "What do you think it means?"
Robert wondered that too. He squinted, looking as if he was trying to will the scribbled image to give up its secret meaning. "Not sure. Never seen anything like it. You?"
"Doesn't look like anything I ever saw."
Robert bit on his thumbnail, a bad habit he always resorted to when he was thinking. "Well it meant something. At least it meant something to Polygal and the Spirit Guard." Robert still had a hard time believing gorgeous cheerleaders that turned weapons into pompoms and battled with fantastical monsters wasn't a story he had heard before. "So tell me, who are these so-called Spirit Guard? You said they've been here for a year. How come I've never heard of them?"
"You're from across the country, dude. They're a Kessia City thing."
"Yes, but they can manifest, by my count, arrows of pure light, energy shields, pink fireballs, red electricity, and are super-humanly fast! Oh, and they run around in tight revealing cheer uniforms and are absolutely stunning. That's got to at least make the 9 o'clock news somewhere!"
Eli nodded. "I thought the one in yellow was the hottest. I think she's Charity."
Cory gasped. "Charity? You blind? The one in red! Tenacity! Her legs went on forever!"
"Tenacity? No way. I mean, yes, I'll admit she is attractive but I didn't think she was 'hot' per se."
"You're blind man!"
Robert groaned. "Guys! Let's focus here. Regardless of which is hotter, they should be national news, right? We agree on that?"
Cory and Eli paused, thinking about it. "You know, I guess I never really considered it. But yeah, they should be bigger news."
"Especially when you consider all the destruction their battles with the monsters cause."
Robert nodded, obviously glad they moved onto that subject. "Yes, and on that note, these monster attacks are common enough you know about them. How often do they happen?"
"Every few weeks or so, I think."
Eli plopped down on the empty, uncovered bed of Robert's yet-to-arrive roommate. "Yeah, and I think every monster has been some sort of weird, female monster that's fused with some item or theme."
"So, where do these monsters come from? The one that called herself Valor said something about 'minions of Platicore.' That ring any bells?"
Eli shook his head. "Not a one."
Cory crossed his arms, thinking. "I think it sound familiar, but that might be because he sounds like a poorly named Saturday morning cartoon character."
Robert sighed. "Guess that was a far stretch anyway. Let's focus on what Polygal said than." He stood up and started pacing. "She said she thought I was their 'aloof protector' at first, but then she saw the symbol and said I was something else. Something she thought was impossible."
Eli nodded. "So then the glowing meant one thing, but the thing on your forehead meant something more."
"Yeah," Cory said with a disbelieving tone, "and Polygal said something about you having an 'Ardent Resonance' or something."
"No," Robert corrected, "it said that I was 'radiating Ardent Resonance.'"
Cory shrugged. "So maybe 'Ardent Resonance' was what you were glowing or what the glowing is called?"
Eli nodded. "And Valor asked if Polygal drained," he made quotation marks in the air, "your 'investiture.' When you responded a little confused she changed it to 'energy' that you were drained of. Maybe this investiture is what the monster was after and when we lose it, we get all slow and tired."
Robert bit his thumbnail again. "Yeah, but whether we call it glowing and energy or Ardent Resonance and investiture, it doesn't really explain what it is. It's just different names for the same thing we know nothing about." It galled Robert. The more he tried to figure it all out, the more questions seemed to come up.
"Maybe not," piped up Cory. "I mean, let's think about this one word at a time. Ardent just means passionate or intense or something like that. When something resonates it, I don't know, is in-tune with it. So your glowing means something about maybe being passionately in-tune with something."
Passionately in-tune with something. That would indicate there was another thing that he was resonating with. So what was that thing? Eli interrupted Robert's thoughts, "And investiture is, at least in a legal sense, the power an official of the government has. Or at least that's what I think it is. But if that's the case, maybe there is some sort of, I don't know, investiture or power every person has that the monsters are after. And without it we get sluggish like those kids and Cory were. That would explain why Valor changed the word to energy as that would be how people feel it."
"A good theory." Eli's and Cory's ideas had some meat behind him, but something kept nagging at him. The image on his forehead. "But Polygal commented on the Ardent Radiance before she ever saw the thing on my head so they aren't connected. And if this 'investiture' is what the monster was after, and Cory and a bunch of kids got drained of it, that means everyone has it and it's not what made Polygal or the Spirit Guard react to me in such a strange way. The symbol on my head must be something else entirely... so what is it?"
Eli and Cory shrugged in unison. It made Robert chuckle inside himself. They were so different yet so similar at the same time. "So maybe the answer lies in what is different. Cory, when Polygal drained you, what did it feel like?"
Scratching the back of his neck, Cory walked forward and looked at the picture Eli had drawn. "But, what was it that happened? I mean, when she touched me I just instantly felt tired and..." He trailed off, obviously not sure how to explain it.
"And what?" Eli inquired.
"I don't know. Just... I just felt... meh. I mean, yeah, I knew she was taking something from me but I didn't care. I think I even kind of liked it."
Robert turned around, examining Eli's drawing. "You liked it?"
"Not in a, 'this is awesome' kind of way, but just a, I don't know, like a bug being drawn into a bug zapper's light kind of way. What about you?"
Robert frowned. "When she went after my, I guess, 'investiture' I could feel Polygal inside me. Like, her, I'm not sure how to describe it, presence was in my body or something. But not my body, but some part of my body that wasn't physical but still my body." Cory and Eli blinked at Robert. "I know, makes no sense."
Cory nodded. "Yeah, I didn't feel anything like that."
Eli tapped his chin. "But you could feel her. So, what was that like? What was she doing in that part of your body that wasn't your body but still part of your body." He paused. "Wow, that does sound ridiculous."
Robert laughed again. "It wasn't like anything I've felt before. She was looking for something, that I'm sure of. But she, after a quick search, found it."
"And what was 'it' that she was looking for."
Robert shook his head in dismay. "It's the damnedest thing. I still don't know. It was a piece of me, some... some Facet of me that she wanted. But when she went for it... remember how I told you that I was having waves of icy chills in Loose Change?" Cory and Eli nodded. "Well, I, and again, I know this doesn't sound normal at all, I somehow took control of that icy feeling in my bones, turned it into water, and defended my Facet with it."
Silence hung in the air as each boy blinked at the other. Cory finally breached the silence. "Yeah, I didn't have any of that happen."
Three sharp knocks echoed through the front door. Before Robert, Cory, or Eli could get up to invite the person on the other side in, the door opened. "Elijah? Cory? You here?" The voice was concerned and female.
Eli groaned. "Crap. It's my sister." Robert gave a reproving eye. "I didn't tell her anything about the attack!"
Cory seemed to forget all about the serious conversation they had been having, chuckled, and hopped out to the door, his limp noticeably absent. "Mallory! What's the occasion?"
Robert smirked. "Lot of pep in his step for someone who was gimping around earlier."
"Oh he was totally milking the injury for all it's worth. He's a drama queen." Eli shuffled off the other bed and headed out of Robert's room. "Mallory, what are you doing here?"
Robert sighed and glanced back down at the picture of the icon that had been on his forehead. One blue circle with a dot in it. Another circle interlocking the smaller one. It sort of reminded him of ripples in a pond. But what did it mean?
"What am I doing here?" It was clear that Eli's sister was not happy. "Elijah, I heard about a monster attack at an arcade. An arcade that you work at. On a night I knew you had a shift! And then you don't answer your phone! I came here to make sure you weren't killed by a monster!"
Robert thought about going into another PvP match, but realized that Eli's sister probably would ask about the attack. Cory and Eli had been smart and not mentioned the glowing or the symbol to the cops when they asked them questions, but he had learned family can loosen tongues really fast. He exited the room and saw Eli blushing sheepishly. "Oh, um, I think I may have dropped my phone in all the excitement." He coughed. "Sorry I made you worry, Mallory."
Mallory shook her head, her high, brown ponytail swaying with dismay. "Dad's going to kill you if you lost that. That is if I don't kill you first for making me worry myself sick over if you were alive or not!" Robert had never met Eli's sister before and was impressed at her height. She was around six feet tall and had a well sculpted body. His eyes lingered on her long, athletic legs and...
Robert hadn't noticed but there was another girl behind Mallory. She was so short that until Robert had let his eyes dwell on Eli's sister's beautiful legs, he hadn't noticed a second pair right behind her. He moved over a bit more and saw this girl was maybe five feet tall and that might have be generous. Regardless, she was very cute with shimmering black hair that hung straight down to the back of her knees. Cory chuckled. "I think monster attack would be an acceptable excuse for a lost or broken phone Eli. Even with your father." Cory put on his most dashing smile. "But I'm sorry Mallory, I didn't get a chance to introduce myself to your lovely friend. My name is Cory Frost, and who might you be?"
The girl giggled and glanced up at Mallory, practically craning her neck to do so. "Wow, you were totally right."
Mallory's face lost all hints of anger and she smirked. "I know Elijah and Cory like the back of my hand."
Cory grinned nervously, obviously uncomfortable not being in on the joke. "What do you mean?"
The raven-haired girl stepped forward, each stride as confident as a cat. "Oh, Mal here told me you'd be the first to try to introduce yourself and give a cheesy compliment. I told her that you and her brother have two other roommates that might beat you to the punch but she guaranteed you'd be first." Cory slouched a little and that caused her to giggle more. She had a really cute laugh. "It's okay though. I like cheesy compliments. My name is Vivian Joyce. But my friends just call me Viv. It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance." She bowed in a mock display of formality.
Cory straightened right back up. "The pleasure is all mine, madam." The pair shared a laugh and he relaxed. "So how do you know Mallory?"
Mallory pulled a chair out from the table and sat down. She gave Robert a glance, her eyes lingering on him for a second. It wasn't long, but it lasted long enough that Robert could tell she had been sizing him up for something. Vivian shrugged. "My parents and I attended a lot of volleyball games last year. We actually met though after a set of matches and got to talking and started hanging out." Vivian giggled seemingly for no reason. "Made senior year of high school a lot more fun to be hanging out with a college girl!"
The conversation didn't involve the arcade attack at all. He should start doing some research on the Spirit Guard. Wasting more time with idle chit chat wouldn't be productive. He needed to know more about who these mystical cheerleaders were. Robert pushed off the wall and turned towards his room.
"So what about you Twinkle Toes? What's your name?"
Robert froze. How did she... no, it was because he was sneaking back to his room. That's why she had called him Twinkle Toes. "Robert Dreese." He decided that sounded to abrupt and stand-offish. There was no way calling him Twinkle Toes would have made him get so tense. He needed to soften up his introduction. He decided to add in, "Nice to meet you. Both of you I mean." He winced internally, he had waited too long to throw the last line in. Sounded stilted and fake. He hated sounding fake.
Mallory shot Vivian a quick glance. She still wore her smirk. "Robert, huh? So were you at the arcade too?"
Robert nodded. He was surprised how much he tensed up at being called Twinkle Toes. He could tell the girls had noticed he tensed up too. Deciding to borrow a page from Cory's playbook, he attempted to act casual and throw a joke in. "Yeah. Wild times. Didn't know you people grew video game monsters out here."
Vivian pointed at Robert's face and practically skipped towards him. "Wow, you have quit a few nicks and bruises! What did you do to piss the monster off?"
Robert stepped back, not comfortable with how close she was. He was less comfortable in how interested she was in his injuries. "It's nothing really."
The short girl rolled her eyes. "You were attacked by a monster. I can see your battle scars, dummy. So spill the juicy details!"
Eli tried to ease the pressure off of Robert. "There was a lot of debris that cut us up."
She held up a finger. "Indeed, but he has bruises and a large gash on his cheek that says he received it much harder than you two. This indicates he was more intimately involved than just getting cut up by debris."
Cory frowned. "Hey, I was in the machine when Polygal attacked too!" Robert shot Cory an angry look. "What? She wasn't going to let it go. Might as well just admit it."
"Aha!" Vivian pumped her fist triumphantly. "I knew you were hiding something!" She circled Robert like a shark. "So the monster called itself Polygal! What else are you hiding?"
Robert sighed. "Why are you so interested?"
Mallory leaned forward, her elbows on the boys cheap table. "Because if you had a close encounter with a monster, as close as your cut on your face suggests, that means you met the Spirit Guard."
Robert shrugged. "Yeah, they showed up and saved the day. From what these two tell me," Robert gestured to his friends, "that's old hat around here."
"Old hat?" Vivian seemed indignant at that suggestion. "How can magical cheerleaders that destroy monsters be old hat? That is, by its very definition, awesome and can never get old!"
Mallory leaned back. "I'm more interested in the monster myself. What did you do to piss it off so much?"
Robert paused, unsure of a good explanation that avoided the glowing subject. Eli butted in, "Well, Robert's too modest, but he taunted the monster."
Mallory raised an eyebrow. "Taunted the monster?"
Robert squinted at Eli, not sure what he was playing at. Luckily, Cory jumped in, recognizing where his friend was heading. "Well, I mean, I don't want to put words in your mouth, Rob, but I kind of got the idea you were doing it to let those kids escape."
"Right, the kids..." Robert had forgotten that was originally why he held his ground. Even at the moment he knew it was stupid, but had felt like the right thing to do. Now he hadn't taunted the monster, but it would at least keep the story going and sate this Vivian girl's curiosity. "Well, I mean, there were a lot of kids the monster could have gone after that ran away. So, I may have talked back to Polygal to get the thing to focus on me and not them."
Mallory nodded her head, her eyebrows furrowed high in on her head. She looked blown away."Wow." She scratched her cheek. "That, uh, yeah. That takes some stones."
Vivian seemed to explode with excitement. "Were you scared?" She hopped on her feet with a level of enthusiasm Robert only thought children had. "Did you panic at all?"
"No." Robert response came quicker and with more force than even he expected. His words hung heavy and seemed to ground the buoyant attitude of Vivian. He chastised himself for responding so curtly. Still, he now realized he really wanted to make sure they knew he wasn't afraid. Why was that so important to him? But there was no time for introspection. He could do that later. "I mean... well I wasn't scared. I mean, I was worried for sure, I knew that I could die but..." Why had he stood up to the monster even though it was sure death? He was worried about keeping the kids safe. That was true. But something else had helped him to stand tall in the face of that danger. "...I just knew everything would turn out all right somehow. I knew I was doing the right things."
Mallory and Vivian shared a look that Robert had no idea how to read. Something was communicated in the look but what the message was, Robert couldn't hazard a guess. "That's really impressive. To stare down danger like that I mean. Hard to stay..." Mallory paused on her next word. She looked at Robert, obviously unsure if what she'd say next was wise.
Robert leaned forward a little. "Hard to stay what?"
She bit on her tongue and side. "I guess... I guess it's hard to stay... serene under that type of pressure." She put extra emphasis on the word "serene" and squinted her eyes, as if that should have some meaning.
Robert squinted his eyes back. What on earth was she trying to get at? "I wouldn't say serene... I admit though, looking back that is, that I am surprised at how I kept my cool." He leaned against the wall. This conversation had gotten a lot heavier than he anticipated. Why was he telling this to complete strangers? Sure he knew Mallory was Eli's older sister and that probably meant she was trustworthy. But this Vivian was an unknown quantity. Why did he feel comfortable talking about this in front of her? "I suppose you never know how you'll react under those types of circumstances until you are there."
Mallory sighed and looked away from him and out the window. "No, I suppose you don't."
Vivian chuckled. Robert swore he could hear a nervous tinge to the chuckle but he might have been imagining it. "But still, pretty huge gamble, buster. What made you feel like everything would turn out right? You knew the Spirit Guard were coming, did ya?"
"No. Not at all."
Vivian's giddiness deflated out of her like air in a balloon. Eli stepped in to explain, "Rob here hadn't even heard about them until today."
"He's not from around here," Cory added.
Robert nodded. "Yeah, I'm from back the South. Regardless, I don't know, maybe they have some weird calming effect or something around them. Because I just felt that help was coming."
Mallory gave Vivian a quizzical look. "Huh, I had never heard that in any of the stories I read."
Robert tossed up his hands. "Well, hell if I know anything. The entire ordeal made as much sense as a screen door on a submarine."
Vivian giggled and the vibrant attitude returned. The girl was like a ever-flowing fountain of spunkiness. "A screen door on a submarine. I like that! Where did you hear that?"
Robert smiled despite himself. He always thought his Uncle's saying were so corny, but now that he was away, here he was, using them himself. "Something my Uncle always says. Guess I just picked it up."
"Well," Mallory said leaning back and facing Eli and Cory, "What I want to know, is what you two chuckleheads did when the monster showed up?"
Cory puffed his chest out a little. "We didn't run." Mallory raised an eyebrow. "I mean, we didn't taunt the monster the way Robert did but..."
Mallory's eyes darted from Cory to Eli. They narrowed menacingly. "You didn't run? You're idiots! That thing could have killed you!
Eli backed up defensively. "Hey, we were worried if we ran she'd come after us. Plus, we couldn't leave Robert behind to fend for himself. A man has to stand by his friends."
Mallory rolled her eyes. "First of all, you two are barely men at all, and only by a legal technicality saying you're men at the age of eighteen."
Vivian winced comically. "Ouch!"
Cory winced, but not with any humor. Through clenched teeth he pleaded with Mallory, "Kind of cutting us down in front of your cute friend, Mal."
"Secondly," Mallory continued, "You do not stand behind your friend if he's an idiot who has more guts than brains." She turned to Robert and nodded her head. "And I try to mean that in the kindest way possible. No offense intended."
Robert smiled and waved her off. "I've come to terms with the fact it was a dumb thing to do."
"Friend or no friend, you let the Spirit Guard handle the monsters. We clear?"
Cory shrugged. "Doesn't really matter. What are the odds we'll ever see one again anyway?"
Eli groaned. "Must you tempt Fate like that?"
"What? I'm just saying the odds are extremely low that we'll ever see one again."
Eli smacked his forehead. "And there you go again! Begging the universe to prove you wrong! You do realize we hang out a lot. When the universe proves you wrong I tend to be in harms way."
"You're being paranoid again."
Mallory rubbed her temples. "Robert, you sure you can handle living with them?"
Robert smiled. "You have been putting up with them since their kid years and you seem to come out all right."
Vivian stamped her foot. "Okay, enough chit chat! You have to tell me, what did you think about them?"
Cory and Eli stopped their bickering. "Them?"
"The Spirit Guard, dummies!" She tossed her hair back with a huff. "We've spent a lot of time talking about Robert here but he's not the interesting one. No offense intended."
Robert snorted. "I'm beginning to notice a pattern here."
"But you saw the Spirit Guard." Vivian was practically bouncing like a basketball. "Tell us what they were like!"
Cory cleared his throat. "Not to sound like a complete pig..."
Mallory rolled her eyes. "And here it comes."
"In a word: absolutely gorgeous! A shame they never can seem to get video on them because I could watch them all day. I don't know whose idea it was to fight evil in cheer outfits but I definitely approve."
Vivian giggled madly while Eli sighed. "And that was you trying not to sound like a pig?"
"Oh, right, because they fight evil in tight cheer outfits that cling to their curves I'm a pig for noticing."
"You're a pig because you're talking like that in front of..."
Robert decided to interrupt them. "While they were, all four of them, quite beautiful, I was more interested in how they fought with logic-defying weapons and abilities."
Mallory squinted, a wry twist of the left side of the mouth indicating she was amused. "Logic-defying, eh? Most people just say magical."
Robert shook his head, obviously a little annoyed. "There is no such thing as magic."
"Said the boy saved by magical cheerleaders," giggled Vivian.
"No," Robert stated firmly, but tried to keep his tone neutral, as he didn't intend to offend anyone. "Magic is a word for the unexplainable. Once magic becomes understood, it can't be magic anymore because you understand the underlying principles or techniques behind it. 99% of the world doesn't really, not really, understands how a computer works. But we don't call that magic because we know that, though we can't explain it, we understand the system's underlying principle of zeroes and ones and know how to utilize the technology even if we don't understand it."
Robert thought to the Spirit Guard staring at his forehead, Valor saying it had a meaning but being unsure of what it signified. Like some sort of mystic error message. They didn't know what it meant because they weren't masters. No, someone else had given them their technology and abilities. Why didn't he figure that out before? "There is clearly some system they know and use. The technology and principles behind it don't defy science, but rather there must be some underlying facet of reality we don't understand that they take advantage of. Maybe they don't understand it either. Either way, that's what I'm intrigued by. Whatever the system is that lets them shoot pink fire and red lightning."
Mallory smirked. Did she know something? "You a scientist or something?"
"Mechanical engineer. Well, I'm studying that anyway. It's why I came here to Adamson U. One of the better ME programs in the nation."
Vivian chuckled. "Well, you certainly sound like one."
Mallory pulled her phone out of her pocket and sighed. "We better get going. Girls aren't allowed in the boy dorms after eleven and I have early morning practice."
Vivian stretched, exposing her midriff a little as she did so. It didn't escape the notice of any of the boys. "Eh, I have early morning film class anyway."
Cory perked up. "Eight o'clock with Dr. Wallace?"
She smiled. "Yeah! You in it too?"
"Darn tootin'. Should I save you a seat?"
"Well that would be just divine." Vivian turned to leave. Cory hurried past the girls and opened the door for them. Vivian laughed and performed a mock curtsey. "What a gentleman. See you in the morning then, Cory."
Making sure he was as cheesy as ever, Cory bowed. "Looking forward to it, madam."
Mallory stood and gave Eli a hug. "Glad your safe, Elijah."
"Me too, Mallory."
She let go of the hug and abruptly smacked him across the back of his head. "Ow!"
"Next time run from the monster, you dingbat!"
"Fine, okay. Next time we'll run."
She chuckled and turned towards the door. She gave a casual two-fingered salute to Robert. "Sorry I said you were an idiot."
Robert shrugged. "Facing down a monster is kind of idiotic."
She paused at the door. "Maybe. But then again you did it for the right reasons. You were trying to help." She grinned. "Who knows, maybe you'll be able to help more with that cool as a cucumber mindset."
Without another word, she departed and Cory shut the door behind her. He was grinning from ear to ear. "I've got a date with a hot girl!"
Eli groaned. "And that, after all the stuff that has happened today, is the strangest thing of all. Besides, it's just class. I wouldn't call it a date."
"Whatever. You're just jealous because with the arcade blown to smithereens you probably won't be seeing the Hop Dance Mania girl for a while."
Eli rubbed his eyes. "Don't remind me of that. I have no job and no chance now. That's just depressing."
Robert rested his chin on his left fist. "Maybe I'm onto something with comparing what happened today with a computer. What if the thing on my head was, I don't know, like, an error message or something."
Cory squinted. "Error message? Error message for what?"
Robert shrugged. "No idea. But error messages pop up all the time with vague numbers that nobody knows what they mean. I think the Spirit Guard are using their weapons and super abilities the same way we know how to use a computer. We don't know how it truly works, but we can still use the tool. That way, they would still think of it as magic. And it would explain why they didn't know what it meant when the symbol on my forehead glowed. Glowed? Is that the right word? Glew? Gleamed?"
Cory looked at his feet, pondering. "I think it's glowed."
"Regardless," Eli interrupted, "what does this magical error message mean? That you're allergic to magic or something? Just seems a bit of a stretch?"
Robert held out his hands, obviously at a loss for what to say. "Any more of a stretch than a woman coming out of a video game, trying to kill us, being burned alive by mystical cheerleaders, and Cory getting the attention of a hot girl?"
Eli nodded. "Touché."
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