Chapter 12 – Questions (1)

Questions – Part 1

      Charlotte pushes the door aside and steps in, holding it open for the rest of us. Kay follows her in, clearly poised for danger. Rose walks in next, head held high, but nerves writ across her face. I’m in next with Mimi following closely behind, very closely. As we all fall in line in front of a rectangularly shaped desk, we’re greeted with none other than the man who started this entire mess with me.

     The door closes behind us and Charlotte speaks up while situating herself in front of us.

     “Master, I present to you the Lord Zeroth and the Valkyries,” she says with a bow towards the man.

     He remains silent, simply running his gray beard through his fingers, as if contemplating something deep.

     He’s much older than I had originally pegged him for. His face is deep and craggy. His eyes are a simple brown, but deep within them carries a lifetime of experience, and maybe more. He’s wearing the weird almost-graduation-hat on his head in a black silken material. Under it lays hair that seems to never end. It’s straggly and unkempt. He’s got on a simple robe of a darker green nature, the front of his chest is an emblem I’ve never seen before. Though it does share similarities with the others’ emblems- a tree with fruit seemingly falling out of it. After what could have been hours, or perhaps minutes, he seems to break from his reverie and looks up at me. Our eyes meet and I feel the jolt in the air that I’m now slowly becoming accustomed to. It’s intense and powerful. It feels “bigger” and yet “deeper” than the previous experiences. It feels dangerous, yet protective. It makes my tongue sting something fierce and I try and fail to cover a wince.

     He picks up on this and says, in a low, but handsome voice, “The look on your face, to see it on one so old…”

     “Are you picking a fight with me? Uh, Sir?”

     No sooner than the words leave my mouth, I hear Charlotte give an audible gasp. To my sides I see all three girls looking nervous as well. This tells me I’ve royally slipped up. But I won’t correct myself. What he said was rude. As Charlotte goes to open her mouth, the man gives a deep, hearty laugh full of so much joviality that I can’t help but smile.

     After he calms down and collects himself, he says very proudly, “I am Domnis Lux, the chairman of the Academy, and serve as Second seat in the Consulate.”

     He turns his deeps eyes to me and continues, “And it is an honor to stand amongst you, my Lord Zeroth.”

     He rises from his seat and extends his hand. I have no idea what to do, so I roll with what I do know. I do know that in this world, to be the Zeroth and bow to any other would be a mistake that I’m not likely to walk away from. It’s b******* to act this way, but I do it nonetheless.

     I extend my hand to his, with its back up. He studies me for a moment, and wraps his wrinkled fingers around my hand and pulls it up to meet his lips- a long journey due to his height. I can hear the breathing of those around me, sharper than ever before. It’s like I’ve been lost inside of the people around me.

     If I thought the world was in colors before, with this, it feels like a portion of my very soul has opened itself to more. Simply, “more.”

     The jolt between him and I could power the very foundation of the world. This is what I feel, and what I know to be true. This man here, is beyond everything else in this world. I don’t know who he is, but he is not who he proclaims to be.

     But before long, our connection ends. My mouth is on fire, and I feel a cold sweat on the rest of me. He looks up at me and says, “So, we are on to business then yes?” as he takes his seat in what can only be described as the exact kind of chair you imagine when you think of an important business man’s chair. With a protest of age, the chair accepts its master.

     “Before all of that, Dom-” believe it or not, Kay actually starts to grab at me in a panic before Domnis gives a wave of his hand.

     “My Zeroth, you tread the line of that which is wholesome”l,” he speaks up, concealed anger in his tone, “But what is it?” His attitude irks me, and I’ll have none of that, but now is not the time.

     “What’s the condition of the man?” I ask, only to be met with a confused look.

     “The injured man brought in earlier before we even entered the Academy,” I say, only for Domnis to give a questioning look to Charlotte.

     “Master, he was but a peasant. He had injuries, yes, but-”

     At this, I finally lose it. I swing around and with both arms, I give Rose a shove- seemingly harder than I meant to because she falls back easily three feet before correcting herself.

     “Zero, what are you-” she gets cut off long before she has a chance to finish.

     She seems dazed and confused, looking up at me. I shake my hand, my knuckles hurt. Charlotte has a hell of a jaw.

     I stare down at her, pure anger in my eyes and I see her touch her nose. She pulls it back with red coloring her fingers.

     “You listen here!” I shout while bending down to her.

     I grab her by the collar of her uniform and pick her up, mostly. She’s still significantly taller than I am after all.

     “Don’t you ever,” I shout, “ever consider someone’s life less important than another’s.”

     I scream at her while shaking her back and forth.

     She seems to come to her sense and before I know it, her gauntlet-clad fist is encased deeply into my stomach. The force was so strong, such a surprise, that I nearly throw up. I let go of her and grab hold of my stomach.

     Before long she seems to gather herself, stands up tall, and with an anxious look on her face says, “I-I was merely defending myself. You all saw it. You’re witnesses.”

     I believe, fully, truly believe, that the only reason she has not been torn to shreds by Kay and the others is the presence of Domnis. Their anger is so palpable that even though they’re behind me, I can feel it.

     Charlotte easily picks up on this and nervously stutters out, “Li-li-sten, I didn’t mean to hit Zero.”

     She looks down at me, “My Lord, I would never hurt you on purpose, I-”

     I cut her off by standing up quickly, and glaring into her eyes while shoving my finger into her voluminous chest and saying to her, anger seething out of me, “And yet you’ll casually dismiss another man’s near-fatal wounds, based on nothing?!”

     She bites back while smacking my hand away, “Not nothing! He is just a peasant. A nothing! You are the Zeroth Knight.”

     Rei is roaring inside of me and I feel her behind my skin, she’s about to come out again, and I’m almost willing to let her. This area would turn into a bloodbath and the thought of that is intoxicating. But Charlotte looks at me, perhaps for the first time since I’ve met her, full on. I’m so mad at her that I’m willing to turn this entire area into a bloodbath if Rei so chooses. Yet when I look into her blue eyes, all I see in turn is a reflection of someone I am not. My red hair is disheveled, my green eyes sunken and depressed. The anger radiating off of them scares me.

     So I reach up to grab Charlotte by the back of her head and she flinches. However, she’s too careful this time, too in control, to risk doing something to me. I gently bring her head down to meet mine, and I lay our foreheads together.

     “Charlie, listen to me.”

     Beneath her blue eyes, inches from her, I see a faint hint of embarrassment. She lets out a huff and says, “I told you not to call me that.”

     However the resistance in her words lacks an edge, so I continue, “I would miss you if disappeared from my life.”

     At this, she tries to pull away, but I don’t let her. We’re so close, merely inches apart; and her smell starts to envelop me. She smells of sweat and dirt, yet over it all is the smell of something akin to apples. The smells blend together to form what can only simply be described as the smell of the woman before me.

     This smell is Charlotte, and represents who she is. These thoughts swirl around my mind and encompass my person. Her cheeks finally break to a shade of red, and I can feel the jealousy of the others behind me. Even still, I continue on.

     “Do you not feel the same?”

     Charlie is clearly taken aback but gives up trying to run.

     “No. I do not feel the same. I mean, I didn’t, but-”

     “But now you do?”

     “I don’t have to answer that, or anything else”

     “But you do, don’t you? Since when?”

     “Since never. I told you Zero, I don’t-”

     “Since in front of the gate right?”

     Charlie’s breath hitches and she puts in a great amount of effort to pull free from me. All this manages to do however, is cause her to tumble backward onto a sofa behind her. With a flop she’s sitting on the comfortable looking sofa. I don’t miss a beat and I move to straddle her.

     “G-girls, please, take the Zeroth away from me,” Charlie begs in desperation.

     However, they don’t make a move. I take a glance at them, and at this point, Mimi is red enough to probably start a fire; most likely that isn’t from just anger. Rose simply looks resigned and agitated. Kay looks like she really will kill Charlie the moment I move; and so, I don’t.

     I refocus my attention on Charlie, who’s now below me, with my legs on either side of her hips. Together we both sink into the cushions and I place my forehead on hers. She struggles and tries to keep her eyes closed.

     “Charlie, I will hurt, right down to the center of my being, if anything ever happens to you. I would hurt terribly if something were to ever happen to Rose, Kay, or Mimi. Now that extends to you.”

     Her eyes split open and go wide.

     “I don’t know how, I don’t know why, I just know that I would.”

      Charlie stares into my eyes, seemingly falling into them. She doesn’t answer me, she’ll remain stubborn until the end it seems. But I believe she now knows, at the very least, that I am serious.

     And so I reach the entire reason I was forced to push Charlie this far. With our foreheads together, and our hearts as connected as they’re going to be, I say to Charlie, in the most somber of voices, “These feelings, the despair of loss… this is what someone else in this world would feel for that man. And indeed, all people who live upon this very ground has someone who would feel such despair if something were to happen to them.”

     With my words finished, Charlies’s eyes are bigger than I’ve ever seen, seemingly stretched beyond their limits.

     I pull my forehead away from Charlie and place my hand on her cheek, while she stares at me in shock.

     “So please, Charlie, remember these feelings, and don’t pass them along to another.”

     I end while moving myself off of her. I turn around to the girls behind me, Rose looks somber, Kay looks everywhere but at me, and Mimi has tears going down her cheeks in a silent cry.

     Before I know it, I feel my eyes grow damp. After a moment of holding back my own tears, a deep throat rings out from the old man- right, he was still here.

     “Peasant or not, if someone is hurt, and right outside our doors at that, I would appreciate being reported to about it Commander Rodiger.”

     Hearing herself addressed, Charlie goes to stand up, seemingly far too quickly. Before she makes it fully, she appears to grow dizzy and crashes back down into the sofa. I giggle at this, and she gives me a glare, though it’s lost most of whatever edge it had before.

     “I’m sorry Master I-” she says while forcing herself off of the sofa at a slower rate this time, “I’ll take whatever punishment you decree,” she ends.

     I turn around to protest against anything of the sort, but the man- Domnis, is simply smiling.

     “Indeed, perhaps if you do it again, you shall be punished post haste.”

      Charlie looks surprised, but relieved.

     “In recent light of information, Zero, I’m afraid I cannot answer your question.”

     He turns to Charlie and says, “Commander, if you would, please request someone to bring us information on the patient.”

     He turns back to us as Charlie makes her way out of the room. “Now, as I was mentioning earlier, Lord Zeroth, you are here for information, yes?”

     He moves his arm, and chairs from all over slide up to the desk. The sofa comes along too, so I sit in the middle of it. To no one’s surprise, Mimi sets on my left, and Rose sets to my right. Kay simply sits on the floor at my knees; seemingly protecting me from every angle. Today must have been rough on them; so many emotions they’ve had to restrain.

     I look up at Dom, “Yes, Dom-nis.” I say, finishing his name. It made him mad last time, perhaps this time he’ll be a little less pissed. He still looks perturbed, but not overly so.

     I continue, “I need to know what is happening to me.” Dom runs his hand through his gray beard in contemplation.

     “What does it matter? You are hail and hearty, with power beyond your kind, and three beautiful wives to bear the best of children.”

     I can sense the pride coming off of the girls as he says this. However, to me, he’s insulting, incredibly so.

     “Master Domnis,” I say while leaning forward, “Things are never so simple. Furthermore, my… wives are amazing women, absolutely, but they cannot bear my children.”

     At this, Dom has finally shown some level of interest in actually talking to me. He lays his hands on his desk and leans over it some.

     “What is that suppose to mean, Lord Knight?” Dom asks interestedly.

     “My Lord, women cannot make children with other women.”

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     He looks at me like he’s seeing someone who needs their mental health checked.

     “I don’t understand-” Dom cuts himself off.

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     “Yes” he says while dragging out each syllable slowly.

     “Yes indeed. Our Zeroth is a woman. That is…” He hesitates a moment, rubbing his beard, before finishing, “Remarkable.”

     Before Dom is able to anything more there’s a knock at the door. After receiving permission, Charlie comes in and quietly closes the door. She walks up to Dom with some kind of report.

     Dom’s eyes flicker around the page while processing the information. He looks up to see that Charlie has taken herself to my side. She stands at attention next to the sofa, with Rose separating us.

     “The man in question is stable, but unconscious. The woman who caused the whole thing is being thoroughly… interrogated,” Dom says tentatively while glancing at me.

     I’m no fool, I know what he’s insinuating. But I’m not going to go off just because of that, much to Rei’s dismay. She’s been so active today, so ready to unleash hell at the slightest provocation. I wonder if it has anything to do with how this place is affecting me. I take in Dom’s gaze and nod for him to continue. He glances back down to the report then back to us.

     Dom sets the paper down and tells us that from what little they’ve gathered from the woman, “She proclaims no idea why she did what she did. Apparently, she and the man were to be wed, and were living a happy life. The woman mentioned that something small and insignificant is what set her off. She also proclaims no knowledge of the sword, and confesses confusion as to how she managed to eviscerate her fiance with a one.” With that, he seems to be done with the report.

     “Now, Zero, I do believe you and I have plenty to discuss, and a story to be told, yes?”

     “With all due respect, ladies,” he turns to the others with me, “Zero and I need discuss something of a more sensitive nature. So if you all would…” He lets the sentence hang in the air. However, no one moves, not even Charlie.

     “Everyone, I’ll be fine. Charlie can surely find you something to entertain yourselves.”

     Kay shakes her head at me. I look down and run my fingers through her head and ask, “Please Kay?”

     She looks up and stares at me in contemplation. I look over to Mimi and touch her shoulder; she’s hesitant as well. So at last, I look towards Rose, the voice of reason. She has a wry look on her face and glances at everyone else.

     “Well, this is the head office of one of the most powerful people in the in our lands. If there is any place safe, this will be it.”

     Mimi looks over at me and with a doubtful look, she glances at Domnis. I see, she’s fearful that perhaps Dom will do something to me. I laugh at that and flick her nose. She leans away and scrunches up her nose in annoyance.

     “Please, I’ll report to you all anything I find out, alright?”

     With doubtful looks, they all stand. Charlie takes one last look at me and walks everyone out. Once we are completely alone, Dom turns to me and says, “Zero, you seem to have things to say, things to ask, and things to learn.”

     “All I want to know is what is happening to me Dom. That’s all. I- No. No, I suppose that’s not all. What I really want is for whoever is in charge of everything, to call my “wives” off. That’s the first thing. It isn’t right.”

     Dom runs his finger through his beard and stares transfixed at me. Before long, he’s waving me over. I hesitantly do what he says, and walk around his desk, then stand before him.

     “May I verify something Zero?” he asks.

     “Um… I don’t like where this is going, but yes?” I asked confusingly. He stares daggers at me, and looks mad with his brow furrowed.

     “I feel like, there’s something different about you. And it’s on the tip of my tongue but it’s as if I have forgotten,” he says. “But I have been around long enough to notice when perceptions are being warped.”

     He holds up his hand and says, “What is different about you, Lord Zero?” With his hand in the air, he seems to stare into nothingness while his eyes glaze over.

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