“This is ridiculous, Petunia,” Poppy pleaded. “You can’t expect things will get better for you just because you take his orders this time.”

“No, perhaps not,” said Petunia. “But I know things will become much worse if I resist. You know they could just take Hallia in outright and I wouldn’t be able to stop them? It took me half an hour to get Chicadino to even consider compromising. But he did, and as long as you stay away from Eggton until this matter is resolved, she won’t be charged and everyone here gets to keep their homes without incident.”

“They aren’t going to ‘resolve’ anything,” said Poppy, shaking her head, “they’re trying to find and destroy the only evidence we’ve got!”

“So what?” Petunia spat, spinning back around on her heels. “You think evidence means anything at this point? He’s Prime Minister, Poppy, and even if he wasn’t, he commands a small army of loyal men. Some shady documents weren’t ever going to faze him.”

“Then why would he need to pit you against me at all?” Poppy pointed out, and Petunia’s breathing faltered, so slightly that she wouldn’t have noticed if she wasn’t looking for it. “If he’s resorting to threatening your entire town, he has to be scared of something we’ve got. If not the evidence, than the idea that we’ll join forces and fight against him.”

Petunia did not respond, simply standing her ground like a statue.

“So that’s it then?” Poppy asked. “You’re just going to give up without even trying, and then pretend you had no other options?”

“Poppy, I’m sorry, but I’m not going to risk my father’s- risk Eggton’s safety for your little crusade, especially if you’re actually stupid enough to suggest physically overpowering his operation.” Petunia paused, scanning up and down Poppy’s form. “Even with all my training, you couldn’t stand a chance against me, let alone everyone he can put between you and him.”

“You think so?” said Poppy, spreading her legs into a grounded stance. “Well then, you beat me? I’ll leave, no fuss. But if I prove you wrong and win, I don’t think Chicadino’s gonna give you the option of running away anymore.”

“Very well,” Petunia said. Her voice was barely above a whisper now.

[Image 1, text reads: “click”]

“Allow me to teach you the final lesson my mother imparted to me.

[Images 2+3+4, text reads “CRUNCH”]