Chapter 15

And I finally update. Sorry! But better late than never, right?

The story so far…

After the 2nd elimination round, the date box is passed around. The groups are: 1) Katherine, Jessica, Shirley 2) Sharon, Mara, Jade and 3) the individual date is Ahn. The objects in the date box are a horseshoe, a rudder, and a scented candle.

In the last chapter: Jessica, the stereotypical blonde, has the best success on the group date with Wally, Jade finds out her ex-boyfriend Victor (Cyborg) is back, a mysterious stranger knocks Kory and Tara unconscious, Sharon agrees to keep Wally occupied for Mara, Ahn finds out her "stalker" is Roy Harper, and Jade is caught by surprise when Mara attacks her, claiming that she is Gemini, daughter of Madame Rouge.

Roy Harper nearly choked in fear as he saw the vision of a gorgeous, Asian girl perched atop his chair, who was evidently watching him, simply waiting for him to wake up. Roy instinctively felt the situation for what it was. Not as a situation where a girl voluntarily entered his room, but as a situation where an assassin was getting ready to kill him. Let it be a dream, let it be a dream, let it be a dream…he silently prayed. He rubbed his eyes, opened them, and saw Cheshire smiling in pleasure at his clear discomfort. Oh shit!

"Hello, Roy." The assassin said in greeting, but Roy knew better than to trust the deceptively calm tone of voice. He scrambled backwards, but was stopped by the headboard of his bed. He gulped, and watched as Cheshire slid off the chair in one fluid movement. Her dark almond eyes gleamed with a wicked sparkle. Where's my bow…where's my bow? He reached for his bow by his bedside in panic only to grasp air. He quickly judged the distance to the door as Cheshire strode toward his bed, and cocked her head toward the other side of the room.

Roy's head went into full-panic mode. On the other side of the room, his bow lay in two pieces on the floor, courtesy of Cheshire.

Jade wiped the beads of sweat from her brow as she flipped away from another of Mara's well-placed jabs. She stumbled for a moment, and cursed as the throbbing in her leg worsened. In her ungraceful landing, she had managed to tear through the protective layer of clothing, badly skinning her knee on gravelly rock. Already, she could see the blood that pulsed out of her wound seep down onto the untorn cloth of her jeans.

Trying not to show the amount of effort dodging her blows cost her, Jade's pink eyes shot toward Mara in cold fury. Not only had Gemini caught her off-guard, she was actually toying with her. Watching Gemini attacking her, a little here, a little there, with no full-frontal offensive that she knew that she was capable of launching, she had quickly realized that the woman was playing a game of cat and mouse, obviously enjoying Jade's predicament, she was dragging out the outcome instead of killing her, right then and there.

You're mistake was in underestimating me. Jade's pink eyes glowed pink, and a corner of her mouth curled up in a smirk as huge waves of pink hex energy crackled in her hands, waiting for release. "Ready for a little bad luck?" Powerful pink energy rose up and shattered the ground all around Gemini.

"How many ribbons is that now?" Wally asked, dismounting. He turned, and helped Sharon down off the horse.

Sharon smiled slowly. "Five." He grinned as she flung her arms around him, and began kissing him enthusiastically. She kissed him on odd numbers; he kissed her on evens. A great system, if not exactly efficient. Over the course of the hour, they had only collected five ribbons, due to their extensive…breaks.

Wally pulled back first. "Are you sure you don't want to try for more ribbons? The hour's almost up."

Sharon pouted. "Oh, all right. I do want to win that dinner date with you afterwards." The bachelor flashed her a grin causing her to swoon. He was hott!

Jade was flung through the air, and had barely landed, when she was again thrown backward with the force of Gemini's punch. Jade quietly seethed with anger with the realization that even using her powers, she was getting beaten, slowly but surely. With every hit she took, she felt herself having to pull some inner strength inside her to force herself back on her feet, because as soon as she did, another attack flew out at her from Gemini's relatively safe distance of a hundred meters.

She shot off bolt after bolt of hex energy all streaming with expert precision toward Gemini, only to miss as she swung her elastic body around her blasts of energy with ease. Break up the ground at her feet? The broken pieces of rubble left by her attack only served as more ammunition for Gemini to hurl at her. She flipped out of the way of a barrage of rocks safely only to unavoidably flip into the fist that shoveled into her stomach, knocking the wind out of her. Jade landed ungracefully, tumbling over the ground. She clutched her waist in pain.

"Is this the Jinx my mother respected?" Gemini's mouth twisted into a sneer of disgust. "Unbelievable." At her words, Jade hauled herself back up to her feet, launching her own barrage of pink energy. She felt her heart sink, as Gemini easily avoided her attacks again.

A flash of movement, and Jade staggered backward from a blow to the face.

"Your first attack caught me by surprise, and I admit you have great talent and skill. Unluckily for you," Gemini smiled at the irony, "You no longer have the refinement necessary to use your attacks effectively against me. Long ago, perhaps. Certainly not now. You're out of training, and out of luck, Jinx. No more mercy."

"When have you ever shown me mercy?" Jade snarled, prompting more blows to now steadily attack with fervor. When she finally fell with a dull thud, her entire body felt swollen, bruised, cut-up, and bleeding. She hissed with pain as Gemini hauled her up to her feet, unable to do much more than glare.

"Why are you doing this?" She spat. "You have revealed your identity, and you're risking discovery. Do you think that I would actually keep quiet about this?"

"When you're dead, it's no longer a problem." Mara said dropping Jade back onto the ground.

"So you're going to kill me." Jade said coldly. Her eyes hard as pink fluorite.

"No. I'm going to let your injuries do the job for me. I'd say you have a couple hours to live at the most." Mara chuckled. "Mother told me to finish the job, but I prefer dragging things out. Either way, you'll end up dead."

"I still have one question." Her snarl stopped Mara in her tracks.

"Yes?" She asked, patiently, pulling in the reins.

"Why do you want to kill me?"

"Don't take it to heart. I'm simply eliminating the competition."

"For Wally?" Jade asked in disbelief.

"Clever girl. I am, after all, not above a little cheating." Mara rode away.

Roy was hanging helplessly by shuriken that dug through his clothes and embedded itself into the wall behind him. He watched nervously as she studied him carefully. Probably deciding how she should dismember me. He thought forlornly.

"Still as handsome as ever." Roy was caught off-guard.

"What?" Cheshire shrugged matter-of-factly, and he felt something close to disappointment at her casual gesture.

"So say a lot of girls." He also said, in a matter-of-fact tone of voice. Her head turned, and her dark eyes blinked. Once.

Speedy felt the room's temperature seem to drop 20 degrees. What'd I do now? He thought frantically.

"It was nice meeting you again, Speedy." Her words were pleasant enough, but her eyes were like dry ice, so cold they burned. As they bore into him, Speedy sensed his own impending doom.

"Likewise," he managed to say before he blacked out from a straightforward punch to his jaw.

Wally and Jessica waited by the main ranch house for Mara and Jade.

"Do their ribbons count since they're late?"

"Let's give them a half hour."

"That's not fair!" Sharon whined as she clung to his arm.

"Look at it this way," Wally smiled at her reassuringly, "you already kind of got your individual date." Sharon nodded, somewhat appeased, and Wally looked away in relief, and saw a figure riding towards them, leaving swirling clouds of dust behind her. It was Mara.

She swung herself out of the saddle, looking beautifully confident, without a hair out of place. She held out her final number of ribbons toward the bachelor: 4.

"I win!" Sharon crowed. "I have six!"

"We still have to wait for the last bachelorette." Wally reminded her, causing her to deflate a little. Another cloud of dust steadily came towards them. "That must be her," he concluded.

However, as the cloud of dust came closer, it became steadily apparent that the horse had no rider. "What the…where is she?" He asked in bewilderment. He ran forward to grab the reins of the black horse, whose sides were slick with sweat, and its eyes rolled back in fear. He studied the barren landscape, and quickly made his decision.

He swept into a formal bow. "I apologize ladies. But I'm going to go look for Jade." He resaddled and rebridled his blood-bay horse, and mounted within minutes. "Tell the owner of the ranch house that one of the bachelorettes are missing, and to organize a search," he added quietly, "it probably isn't a big deal, but just in case. Please wait in the ranch house. It should be sorted out soon." They watched in silence as he rode away.

"Mara?" Sharon looked at Mara whose face remained composed; one had to look hard to see the self-satisfaction slightly tracing her features. Sharon felt the euphoria of the date rapidly disappearing into a pool of uneasiness. "What exactly did you do?"

Wally immediately forced his horse into a sprint toward the east, the direction Jade was supposed to have taken. He reached the first post, the red ribbon taken long ago. Where was she? He tied the stallion to the post, and after a moment's hesitation, sped off, still in his civilian clothes. He covered the terrain in wide arcs, at speeds that would put a cheetah driving a racecar to shame. He laughed aloud in delight. How he missed running at the speed of sound! He stopped abruptly as he spied a sprawled over lump in the distance. He sprinted forward, his heart racing with a feeling of dread. The ground in the area had buckled and caved. Parts of the ground had been blasted apart, leaving craters and freshly formed ravines that cut deep into the dirt.

He swallowed as he approached the still figure lying facedown in the sand. It can't be her. It can't be.

He slowly bent down, delaying the inevitable staring up at him through the form of matted, dusty strands of pink hair. The only person he knew with pink hair was…It can't be her. It can't be! He couldn't believe the waves of denial that rushed over him like a tidal wave. He secretly prayed that it wasn't her, that it was another pink-haired girl out in the middle of a deserted dude ranch. He gently turned the body over.