B3 — 53. Hazardous Limitations

POV:  Maria Espinar (our Sunlit Unicorn takes the stage at last!  What will her few days be like?)

Recap: Maria is back in town, and we’re headin’ to Seattle!  She had some one-on-one time with our Master Sergeant, Zawnté Clay, where he grilled her on how hard the media would go after her.

After some bonding time, they met up with Doctor Jasper and the successful businessman, Reed.  He offered her 30 million dollars to heal his grandson’s genetic illness while schooling her on the powers that would be coming after her, but if she was able to heal him, he would put his full support behind her.

Can our foul-mouthed girl do it, though?

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Maria looked up at an expansive six-level hospital building that stretched across multiple areas as the limo came to a stop.  Large groups of people could be seen coming in and out, yet military personnel kept the roads clear.

Reed took a deep breath while eyeing her.  “If I have this clear, the more you heal people, the stronger your healing will become?”

A lump dropped down Maria’s throat as everyone stared at her, and the pressure hit her chest; this was a once in a lifetime opportunity that could change the lives of everyone she knew.  “I mean, yeah, I guess … that’s how it’s worked so far.  I heal people, and when I need somethin’ new, then I ask, and most the time I can get it.”

He nodded with a serious expression.  “Good, then how about this … if you can heal my grandson by the end of the night, I’ll add another eight million to that reward.”

The news put Maria a bit on edge.

Freak … just how bad is his grandson?  If he’s goin’ this hard … dang.

Maria forced a laugh.  “Aye, aye, no need to be tryin’ to get my butt movin’!  Chill, hombre, I’ll work what magic I can.”

Dr. Jasper cleared his throat.  “This might not mean much to you, Ms. Espinar; I am the President of Enmass General Bright’s Program, which has strived to tackle the world’s most challenging problems in medicine since its founding in 2008.

“The reason I am here is not a single-minded venture, young lady.  I am here as a witness to the extent of your powers, be here for my friend, and build a conclusive report on the effects these new abilities might have on the medical world.

“If there was ever a time to wash your hands of this whole thing … it’s now.  Once you step out of this car, you’ve committed to having a target on your back, and you’ll be seen as a public figure…”

Maria licked her lips before shaking her head.  “I told ya … I ain’t backin’ down!”

Jasper and Reed gave each other meaningful looks.

“Well, old friend,” Jasper pushed out a sigh, “things are about to spin out of control.”

Reed’s sad eyes fell to the table in front of them.  “It’s worth it … how can I expect Ms. Espinar to take such a risk if I’m not willing to bet my own life on it … my family’s no stranger to media harassment.”

Master Sergeant Zawnté Clay’s serious expression hadn’t faltered throughout the conversation.  “Very well, then, gentlemen, it’s best we keep a tight schedule.”

“Right,” Dr. Jasper whispered.  “Ms. Espinar, I have a lot of influence in this hospital and have been given access to the entire building after explaining the situation to the hospital board of directors.  Where would you like to go first?”

Maria’s stomach shook with silent laughter; the entire exchange felt straight out of a movie.  “Aye, look, I don’t know flip about this place … yo, I’ve never even been to Washington, my güeyes!  You lead the way to the peeps, and I’ll just heal what I can as I go.  Chill?”

“If that’s how you wish to do it,” Reed chuckled.

They exited the vehicle and moved through the crowds.  Reporters already crowded the car, having been alerted of their arrival for the initial coverage, but the military stationed around the area kept them at a reasonable distance.

Questions and shouts rained out, but the noise slowly died down as the Master Sergeant moved to the left side of the clear path leading into the hospital.  Maria could hear him telling them about their purpose here and a little about her as a Unicorn Mythickin.

Flashes and news recorders were trained on her as she walked with the two elderly gentlemen on either side of her, and they seemed to be captivated by her glowing horn, radiating light as she fixed any ailment or wound within reach, causing more than one reporter to note the effects with astonishment.

A few journalists in the crowd were carrying a few gashes or cuts, and almost all of them had minor genetic defects that she was able to cure.

The warmth of the flower radiated between her breasts as she drew upon its power to replenish her reserves, doing her best to stay in the sun as much as possible.  It was a bit difficult to keep within the light’s unfiltered rays with Washington’s slightly overcast weather.

Maria did her best to stay relaxed, but the salted wind was making it a bit difficult to paint the picture she’d like, forcing her to tame the long, lilac-white locks as they whipped to the left.

I should find a hat that’ll work with my horn…

Her coat helped with the chilling breeze, but she couldn’t wait to get back to Miami; Maria was done with the cold northern part of the U.S.

Over the next few hours, she went from the waiting room, the emergency rooms, and packed hallways, healing everyone she could as they moved through the hospital.  Just as she expected, the quests gained from all the requests and pleas, mixed with her passives that reduced the cost of her healing spells, she managed to get enough Skill Points to increase the Level, Grades, and Ranks of her skills while gaining a few others.

Achievements:

Miracles of the Immaculate Branch:

Title:  Light in the Darkness I: (Cooldown: N/A; Cost: N/A; Duration: 5 Seconds; Range: N/A) Passive, Solar-Type, Level Four, Novice Grade, Rank Max.  Reduces the cost of all abilities by .2% for every person healed or purified, stacking to a max of 15%.

  • Buff duration will reset if healing a new target; the internal clock of a person counting for a duration extension is one hour.
  • It takes 75 new persons being healed to reach the max reduction cost.
  • Gained by healing one-hundred people in quick succession.

Lighthouse V:  (Cooldown: Single Use; Cost: N/A; Duration: 30 Minutes; Range: 2 Mile) Active, Solar-Type, Level One, Novice Grade, Rank Zero.  A large globe-like sun will be created that repeatedly casts Heal II and Purify II upon anyone within the radius.

  • Will not affect someone who feels negatively about Maria.
  • Will harm Scarlet and drain Rachel.
  • This single-use skill will become unavailable after use until unlocked on its own.

Base Unicorn (Race) Abilities:

Base Hearing:  (Cooldown: N/A; Cost: N/A; Duration: N/A; Range:  40 Meters) Passive Cluster Set, Physical-Type, Level Two, Novice Grade, Rank Max.

Base Vision:  (Cooldown: N/A; Cost: N/A; Duration: N/A; Range: 140°) Passive Cluster Set, Physical-Type, Level Three, Novice Grade, Rank Max.  This includes a standard level of Night-Vision that helps her navigate in the dark.

Focus Sight:  (Cooldown: N/A; Cost: N/A; Duration: N/A; Range: 140°) Passive, Physical-Type, Level Three, Novice Grade, Rank Max.  Makes Maria’s field of vision come into partial focus, allowing her to run fast while seeing potential threats.

Base Smell:  (Cooldown: N/A; Cost: N/A; Duration: N/A; Range: N/A) Passive, Physical-Type, Level One, Novice Grade, Rank Max.  Maria can smell a bit better than humans, but not by much at this level.

Beacon of Light II: (Cooldown: N/A; Cost: .4%; Duration: N/A; Range:  2.5-Meters) Reactive, Magical-Type, Level Two, Versed Grade, Rank One.  Maria’s horn that appears based on specific triggers and releases a soft golden light.

  • Activates upon any healing or purifying skill, excluding most Passive Skills.
  • If Maria’s horn is disrupted or broken, she’ll be locked out of all non-life essential Skills for 24-hours.
  • Only people that are bathed in the light released by her horn can be healed.

Ambassador of Truth I: (Cooldown: N/A; Cost: N/A; Duration: N/A; Range:  N/A) Reactive, Control-Type, Level Six, Rookie Grade, Rank Eight.  Maria cannot lie; if she chooses to respond, it will always be the truth.  This skill has two functions.

  • She cannot deceive a person.
  • She can detect lies.  There is a limit to this that is decreased as it is leveled.
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Radiant Purity I:  (Cooldown: N/A; Cost: N/A; Duration: N/A; Range:  N/A) Reactive, Control-Type, Level Three, Novice Grade, Rank Max.  A light golden glow surrounding Maria, providing a weak calming buff.  Is only active above 90% Solar Pool.

Purify II:  (Cooldown: N/A; Cost: 2% Per Debuff; Duration: N/A; Range: Light of Horn) Active Aura, Penetration-Type, Level One, Novice Grade, Rank One.  It can purify a wider array of toxins in the body than Purify I, such as alcohol consumption or decent-sized blood clots that might block a vein and remove infections.  Purify can remove lesser curses.

Base Sunlit (Kind) Abilities:  

Solar Pool II(Cooldown: N/A; Cost: 2.5% Weekly Cost of Life; Duration: N/A; Range: N/A) Passive, Solar-Type, Level Five, Versed Grade, Rank Six.  The source that gives Maria the energy to heal and, to a large degree, sustains her.  She can go without Solar Energy inside her pool, but her Health Status would begin to decrease, and given enough time, she would undoubtedly die because of Sunlit Body.  Works off percentages instead of raw numbers.  Solar Energy and Lunar Energy counter each other, meaning if hit by an infinite source, like the moon, Maria would keep being drained of her Solar Energy.

Sunlit Body I:  (Cooldown: N/A; Cost: N/A; Duration: N/A; Range: N/A) Passive Link Skill, Solar-Type, Level Five, Rookie Grade, Rank Max.  This grants Maria a form of immortality; she has the appearance of a corporal body, but if cut, she will heal almost instantly, using her energy.  This has a few functions:

  • If Maria sustains an injury larger than a gash, it forces her horn to activate to heal herself; its light does not have to touch the affected area.
  • If she has energy, Maria can regenerate, but to what degree and speed depend on the Level, Grade, and Rank of this Skill.
  • If Maria is in sunlight, she cannot completely die and will return unless blocked from sunlight before regenerating.

Benevolent Heart I: (Cooldown: N/A; Cost: N/A; Duration: N/A; Range: N/A) Ractive/Active, Solar-Type, Level Five, Rookie Grade, Rank Max.  Changes Maria’s mental-state by making her think of someone else’s situation, but doesn’t mean she has to do whatever they ask.  This simply holds back potential prejudice.

Thankful Hearts I:  (Cooldown: 1-Hour; Cost: N/A; Duration: 2-Minute; Range: N/A) Reactive Stock Skill, Solar-Type, Level Five, Rookie Grade, Rank Max.  Mitigates Maria’s healing cost by 1%, stacking up to a maximum of eleven people that are thankful for Maria’s presence.

  • Maximum of 11% Cost Reduction.
  • Reduction cost comes in effect after other mitigation skills; this does not stack with other reduction skills.

Diagnosis II: (Cooldown: N/A; Cost: N/A; Duration: N/A; Range: Light of Horn) Ractive/Active, Penetration-Type, Level Three, Versed Grade, Rank Four.  This skill allows Maria to identify different illnesses in the people around her that she can cure, given her current Solar Pool.

  • Even if she would die doing so, it will tell her if she can cure or dispel a wound/debuff.
  • Active use will give her an understanding of every wound or debuff within her power to heal or dispel.
  • Reactive is triggered when an immediate life-threatening issue comes in Maria’s sensing radius, forcing her to be aware of the hazard.

Heal II:  (Cooldown: N/A; Cost: 2% Per Wound; Duration: N/A; Range: Light of Horn) Active Aura, Magical-Type, Level One, Versed Grade, Rank Two.  Allows Maria to mend wounds.  This heal will work on almost all medical surgery cuts and even scar tissue.

Miracles of the Immaculate Branch:  Tapping into the extraordinary feats of a Unicorn, Maria can access a source of miraculous purity and recovery, granting her the ability to use more wondrous feats than is available at the Sunlit Base Tree level.

Restore Appendage I:  (Cooldown: N/A; Cost: 19% Per Regrowth; Duration: N/A; Range: Light of Horn)  Active Channeling Skill, Magical-Type, Level Five, Rookie Grade, Rank Two.  Allows Maria to regrow lost minor appendages like fingers, toes, and ears in their perfect, reconstructed condition based on the purified DNA of an individual, meaning that even if there is a defect from birth, it will be cured.

Solar Mitigation I:  (Cooldown: N/A; Cost: N/A; Duration: N/A; Range: Light of Horn) Passive, Solar-Type, Level Five, Rookie Grade, Rank Two.  Any skill that is used within the light of the sun has its cost reduced by 5%.

Cure Defect II:  (Cooldown: N/A; Cost: 5% Per Defect; Duration: N/A; Range: Light of Horn) Active Channeling Skill, Magical-Type, Level One, Versed Grade, Rank Zero.  Repairs the damaged DNA in someone’s body; it is limited to the scope of the issues, but she managed to reach the second stage by focusing on it.  She can repair a person’s impaired vision and many other problems with the body’s DNA.

Liberation of the Light Branch:  Maria’s movement or escape type skills; she didn’t particularly like this branch, saying she doesn’t run from things, but liked the idea of being able to teleport into banks…

Solar Traveler I:  (Cooldown: 1 Day; Cost: 3% (x2 out of Sunlight; x3 in Moonlight) Per Mile; Duration: N/A; Range: Light of Horn) Active Skill, Solar-Type, Level One, Novice Grade, Rank Three.  Teleports Maria and those caught in her light to a location she’s been before.

  • Cannot be used if Maria’s intent is to do harm (such as a volcano), and it will not work to teleport into a wall.
  • Maria can observe the place she wishes to teleport to, but half the skill’s cost will be initiated upon doing so.

Light Feet I: (Cooldown: N/A; Cost: 1% Solar Pool Per Mile; Duration: N/A; Range: Light of Horn) Active, Solar-Type, Level One, Novice Grade, Rank Five.  Fortifies Maria’s body with her Solar Energy to run at an accelerated pace, linked with Stats.

Maria breathed out a long sigh of relief as she finally hit her goal, Cure Defect II, and the best part, Diagnosis II picked up the heart defect within Mr. Reed’s DNA; it was curable.

The Unicorn chuckled internally, choosing to let the tension build to play a little prank on the man, but this was it, her ticket to getting her people out of the slums.

The sun had broken past the clouds, and after the suggestion, Clay had organized large groups of people to make the process as seamless as possible outside, where she could feel the effects of the sun.

Maria slid her fingers underneath her unfastened coat top and flower necklace, rubbing between her breasts; her body was feeling the stress of healing over a thousand people and her chest hurt, seemingly from absorbing too much of the plant’s Solar Energy so fast.  Sweat was forming at her brow, and surprisingly, the chilly Washington breeze helped.

So … there’s a limit to how much Solar Energy I can take in a day, huh?  Freak … I feel like I’ve been out hustlin’ all weekend … without a bit of sleep, but the pay is just too good!

Turning around to smile at Reed, Maria puffed out her sore chest.  “Aye, I just hit Cure Defect, Stage Two!”

Instead of jumping up and down, Paul Reed just nodded, eyes creasing.  “Let’s hope the second stage does what the first couldn’t.”

Maria followed him and Dr. Jasper toward the hallway, exiting the outside field as people cheered her name or cried out in worry that she wouldn’t be coming back.  Clay was jogging over to see why she’d broken off from the structured lines he’d created for her to walk past.

“Well, flip, sorry the first time didn’t work…”  Maria mumbled, shooting a light glare at Reed’s back.

Dr. Jasper sighed, glancing at him to apologize.

Reed responded before he could chastise him.  “No, you’re right.  That was rude of me … I’m tense about this whole situation, and it’s counterproductive to be chastising you for something no one can do.  I appreciate the effort you are putting in, and not just for my grandson.”

“Agreed!”  Jasper followed.  “I’ve never seen anything like it; blood pressure cured, not treated, but gone.  Fingers grown back out of seemingly nothing … ah, right, you said a substance you live off of called Solar Energy … how fictional, yet fantastical!

“How soon do you believe you’ll be able to cure diabetes?”

“How the flip should I know … not right now, but maybe at like Stage Three or Stage Five.  What category would that even be in?”

“Healing and Defect, most likely … probably a combination of the two,” Dr. Jasper theorized.  “A person’s pancreas becomes unable to produce enough insulin…”

He trailed off as Clay caught up to them.  “… Is there a problem?”

Maria proudly turned, giving him a beaming smile.  “I leveled up!  We’re going to see if I can heal Mr. Reed’s grandson.”

“… ahem,” Dr. Jasper cut in again, examining her more closely, “Ms. Espinar … how are you feeling?  I know you said that healing so often was becoming a bit stressful on your body…”

Maria waved her hand dismissively.  “I’m good!”

Clay released a low hum, dark brown irises not missing the light perspiration touching her clothes.  “I think that’ll be enough today … you’ve literally healed thousands of people, and at the expense of your own life.”

“Woah, woah, woah,” Maria frowned, “you actually told people that?  Yo, that’s important info!”

“Hmm,” Reed turned to face them as they came in front of the elevator.  “That was actually an excellent PR move, Master Sergeant.”

Maria sucked on her lower lip, silver eyes glancing around the much emptier space on this side of the hospital; most of the patients and groups that had initially come had left after being healed.  “… I don’t know…”

Clay calmly explained his decision to leak the news to the press.  “How many people do you think will get angry with you for not healing them?  Think about how many people were crying out as you just left, worried they’d missed their chance at free medical attention.”

“Okay…”

“You’re bound to get people accusing you of just being in it for the money, and that you’re a horrible vampire … basically, everything they attack the medical industry and doctors for already.  They don’t care about the complexities of the medical field; all they want is to be treated without having to give anything in return.

“Now that we leaked that bit of information, you can fall back on the defense that you’re literally giving up your life, dying to heal people.  It’s not a lie, and it curbs a lot of those toxic people that will do nothing but point fingers at you for not being Christ or something.”

“Eh … I see your point,” Maria mumbled.

Dr. Jasper sighed.  “Sadly, humanity is always the same, claiming the moral high-ground if it benefits them and doesn’t put an ounce of the burden on their own shoulders.  It’s easy to be liberal with other people’s lives and money when you care nothing for them.”

The elevator door opened, and they entered the large space meant for transporting patients.

Mr. Reed nodded, whispering, “Indeed … humanity is rife with hypocrites and thieves that will claim any position to achieve power over another.”

No one followed the topic, and once they arrived on the sixth floor, they exited, heading to his grandson’s room.

They stopped outside, where two private security guards were stationed, turning to give Reed a quizzical stare as he paused.  A nurse noticed them and hurried to join the party, but she slowed once reading the atmosphere.

The elderly man’s eyes were on the tiles.  “Ms. Espinar, no matter the result … thank you for your efforts.”

Maria’s lips lifted into a half-smile, feeling a little embarrassed while brushing back her hair.  “Geez, I haven’t been doin’ this crap for free!  You offered me a bunch of cash, remember?  Hey, I ain’t perfect, and I gotta get the cash to help my block.  Is what it is, and I gotta be thankin’ you for trustin’ in me, too.  Dang, I don’t know if I could do that if I was in your position, ya know … it’d be tough.”

“Heh,” Reed strode forward, and the guards opened the door.  “You do have your own way with words.  It wasn’t easy, and for you to realize that even though many would view me as some rich guy that cares for nobody is … you are quite the woman, Ms. Espinar.”

“Tch … makin’ me feel bad…”  Maria mumbled, cheeks burning as she entered the room.

The boy had been induced into a medical coma for some reason, lying on the bed with medical equipment beside him, pumping away.

Just as she thought, her horn flared, and the defect was righted, taking care of Reed’s own ailment in the process.  To speed up the reunion, Maria purified the drugs in his system and healed what wounds she could sense on him.

Reed’s eyes widened as his grandson opened his eyes, and the nurse that had followed them jumped in surprise, rushing to get the doctor, but Dr. Jasper was already moving to remove the equipment; the boy was panicking a little after finding the restrictive gear attached to his mouth.

“Joey…”  Mr. Reed breathed with tears gathering in his eyes.  “Maria, does this mean…”

“Yup,” Maria held up her thumb with a wink.  “Aye, I’ll be takin’ that check, yo!  I got rid of your own heart defect in your genetic code, too … although, I doubt you’ll be havin’ kids at your age,” she chuckled.

Her laughter died as the man’s arms began to shake.  “Ms. Espinar … I won’t … it’s not appropriate, but I … I want to cry at your feet.  My daughter is … my whole family will demand to thank you in person.”

He cleared his throat, took one more glance at his recovering grandson as Dr. Jasper helped the boy before returning his moist eyes to her.  Holding out his hand, he said, “Ms. Espinar, I will help you with whatever vision you wish to create for yourself, family, and friends.  Thank you for this miracle.”

Maria took his hand, feeling awkward again.  “Aye, you know … uh, I knew before that … nevermind,” she sighed with a weak smile.  “I’m happy to see a family reunited, ya know?  Aye, I know, how about we have a big barbecue back in Miami, huh?  We get everyone together and chill, crack open a few good ones, and party!”

Clay’s neutral voice stepped in.  “I read that you can’t eat meat.”

“Dang it, Clay!”  Maria shot a glare at him.  “Aye, ruinin’ the mood, güey … geez.”

Reed chuckled, and Clay’s lips twitched.

“Yeah, you knew what you was doin’!”  Maria huffed, folding her arms under her chest before wincing.  “Argh … crap.”

Clay’s serious features returned at her action, but Reed seemed to have missed it as he went to his grandson’s side.

“What’s your energy level at?”  Clay whispered, nodding his head back to the hallway.

Exiting with him while gently rubbing her sternum, Maria shrugged, leaning up against the wall.  “Eh, 34% … it’s not that that hurts, though … I don’t even know if I have a real heart or not, but … if I heal too much, then I guess it’s bad for my health or somethin’.”

Jaw working around as he examined her, leaning against the wall while stretching out her neck.  “Okay … your solar reserves are in acceptable shape, but what about your Health Status?”

Maria’s lips became a line.  “Dude … didn’t know you guys knew about that stuff.”

“I read up everything I could on your performance and other Demi once I got the clearance.  As far as I’m aware, there’s Excellent, Good, Normal, Unhealthy, Very Unhealthy, and Hazardous.  Which are you currently at?”

“Uhn … you’re pretty sharp, Clay, flip,” she whispered, scratching above her left ear.  “I can’t lie … uh, very unhealthy, but I got a plan for tomorrow, okay!  No need to go crazy.”

Clay’s brow creased with concern.  “… You should have told us sooner.  What’s the cause?”

Maria’s lips became a line, vision focusing on the wall.

“Please, Maria,” Clay urged, and she couldn’t detect anything but concern for her wellbeing in his tone.  “We need to know if we’re going to move forward.”

“Aye, fine, fine,” Maria grunted, rubbing her left arm, and almost as an afterthought, she recalled her horn.  The bright light illuminating the space lessened as she explained, gently tugging the flower out of her shirt front.  “It’s this little guy’s fault…”

Clay’s eyes narrowed, darting left and right to make sure no one was around to see the seed of a Negative Triple-S Tier item.  Maria carefully slid it back between her breasts while trying not to wince again at the stinging, cold pain of the petals touching her skin.

“What specifically about it?”  Clay pushed, moving closer to whisper after confirming the door guards were inside, receiving Reed’s orders to contact his family.

Maria pulled around one of her long locks of hair to play with it.  “It’s just like … I don’t know how to say it.”

“Try, please…”

“Fine, freak, it’s not that big of a deal … geez.  Umm … so, it’s like the energy in the flower’s too concentrated, okay?  I’ve only got a small pipe, and I’m tryin’ to force all this energy inside my Solar Pool, but if I pump it faster, then it’s goin’ to put stress on the pipe.  Get it?”

Clay’s eyes fell to the floor for a moment before nodding slowly.  “So … we were rushing you to continue healing hundreds of people, and you couldn’t possibly refuel fast enough, which meant putting more pressure on your body.”

Wait, that actually makes sense … my body is made of Solar Energy … but he doesn’t know that!  Must be a lucky guess … maybe.  My skin contains my Solar Energy, and it can only filter through so much…

Maria’s eyes widened.  “Aye, I’ll be right back.”

“Wha … Maria!”  Clay called out as she darted down the hall, stopping halfway down.

She turned, shouting, “Yo, where’s the bathroom?”

“The wha…”

Finding a nurse walking out of a room two doors down, she tuned out the Master Sergeant.  “Aye, you … yeah, you, where’s the bathroom?”

“Uh … uh … t-that way?”  The woman mumbled in utter confusion as she saw Clay running after her.

Maria darted around the corner and entered the bathroom, only three doors to her right, locking it behind her.

Clay stopped at the door.  “Maria!  What is it?  There’s something you’re not telling me.  What was that look on your face for?”

Maria glanced around the single-use bathroom with a sigh of relief, ignoring the man.

She winced, taking off her jacket as her body told her muscles not to move like that, and she got the first glimpse of her fears.  It was faint, but a light glow was bleeding through the long-sleeve white shirt she was wearing.

Crap…

Forcing herself to remove the piece, she tossed the article on the counter with a low groan.  Her body was starting to feel a lot worse now that she wasn’t focusing on other things.

Sure enough, cracks had formed along her skin, releasing solar energy, and she began to notice the very consistent loss of her lifeforce; it was only a fraction of a percent every minute, but when she’d continuously healed, lost energy, and recharged through the flower, it hadn’t been noticeable.

“Frik…”

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She tucked her lower lip under as she grasped the edges of her tank-top and slowly pulled it off to stare at herself in the mirror; the yellow glow was clearly visible through her black sports bra, and there was even evidence of the material beginning to melt.

In the most painful action yet, she suppressed a cry and reached back to remove the clip holding her bra in place.  Setting it off to the side, she released a few puffs of air while staring between her chest.

The amount of light cracking through her sternum was bright and right where the flower petals nestled.  The jagged glowing fissures faded as it cut lines across her breasts, falling just above her abdomen.

I’m breaking apart…

Maria moaned.  “Son of a…”

“Maria, talk to me!”  Clay urged.  “What’s gone wrong?”

Taking a deep breath, Maira pulled her hair to the side to view her sore back; there was evidence of more breaks in her skin, but nothing like where the flower sat.

Closing her eyes, Maria ran her fingers through her hair with a low groan.

What do I do?  Will Rachel or Scarlet even be able to get near me like this … no, probably not.  My skin is my barrier, and I’ve damaged it by forcing Solar Energy through it too quickly.  If I don’t somehow fix this, and I keep losing energy … I’ll die.  My skin’s already overloaded, too.  So … what do I do?

Mara lightly backed up against the door, wincing while sliding to the floor.  “Hey, Clay, umm … yo, I’ve got a problem.  Low-key … I’m dying.”


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