Cooperation – Part 2
You will “allow me to help?” Dom says with a snarl. “Your hubris is ghastly, girl.”
“Yet you are not uninterested, are you?” I retort. He falters for a moment before giving a reluctant nod. It takes a moment more but I nearly do a double-take when I think about it- “Girl?” I ask disbelievingly.
He looks at me and asks, “What?”
I give a slow shake of my head. It doesn’t matter. I know what I heard. In his anger his… subconsciousness? Was able to see through to the real me. I’ll have to make damn sure to remember that. I start explaining to Domnis what I do know of Nina’s work for me and tell him I’ll let Nina know when I see her next. With reluctance, I decide to return back to the student side of the building in order to attend my next set of classes.
Naturally, I paid no attention to the classes. My mind was all over the place from what I read in Nina’s lab. I… died? That’s basically what it said? Or more like, that is what it said right? Cessation of life is none other than death. Of course I’m the “Z subject.” There’s no other way for this to play out. I didn’t make it, not fully at least. Through the Transcendence, Nina found a way to save me- or revive me.
“Soul tethers on others,” echoes in my mind. That means others were involved, doesn’t it? Does this have something to do with the runes carved on the souls of the Valkyries? Rose and the others very clearly know something about Nina. They even called her a “monster” for what she’s done. Has Nina somehow hurt them in order to save me? My god, my existence brings more and more pain to their lives. I have no right to be here, alive or dead.
These thoughts crush my mind as the lessons of the day phase through me. I’ve always known Nina had done something to get on everyone’s s***-list but this? On me? I can’t even imagine what it really means- I can’t understand the ramifications of what I’ve learned. I need more knowledge; I should go back to that library and consult with that man- Kyle. I don’t know why I never thought to question it before, but now I’m going to.
The moment the bell rings for lunch I make my way to the library, ignoring my lunch-date with the others. With some difficulty, I manage to find the library again. Upon entering, it’s as if I’ve entered another world. It’s dusty and smells of old inks and papers as before, yet the silence is deafening. I can tell there’s no life in this place, and yet I guarantee Kyle is in here somewhere, just like before.
I clear my throat and call out his name. It’s not long before he comes meandering out between some shelves. “Ah. Girl from before. It’s a pleasure to see you,” he says while running a hand through his disheveled, streaked hair. The pink parts dancing through his fingers.
I hear another person clear their throat and look behind Kyle to see another man snake out from between the shelves. His hair a bit messy and auburn; he carries a shy, wry smile on his face. He walks up to us and places his hand on Kyle’s shoulder, gives it a little squeeze, and leaves, giving us his goodbyes. Kyle’s face carries professionalism but his eyes follow the man’s stride. That’s… curious. Before I can say anything, however, Kyle’s eyes refocus on me and with a charming smile, he asks what brought me here today. I suppose it’s none of my business after all.
“I was hoping you could help me with some research,” I tell him. He nods and asks what it is I’d like to find information on.
My stomach is queasy and I shift my weight from one leg to the other. I don’t know whether or not Kyle can sense my apprehension but he doesn’t press the issue. He simply stands there with that beautiful smile on his face. But part of me feels like this is wrong. It feels like I’m spying on the inner secrets of my friends- discovering things best hidden, or things best laid bare by the persons in question. But all around me, people have kept things hidden. At every step, I’ve been dismissed and not told what’s going on. So I steel my resolve and ask Kyle, “Do you have any material on… Ninavin Von Vvesson?” For a moment Kyle seems taken aback, as if that’s the last thing he could ever have expected to fall from my lips.
“That’s a rare question… unexpected even.” He looks off in the distance, over my shoulder, as if reliving a story from the past.
He uncharacteristically, nervously shifts his weight to his other leg while rubbing his hands on his trousers. “Why are you wanting information on… her?” he asks me.
“Is that really any of your business?” I shoot back with more anger than I meant.
He lets his smile falter for a moment, but only a moment, before responding, “No. No it is not. However, we have approached an impasse. The Ninavin files are… sensitive and not something I’m allowed to simply allow any random person to review. However, were there a person of import, perchance, seeking to, perhaps, broaden their horizon with knowledge of the past,” he says with his hands as much as his words, “Only then could I, perhaps, be made to recall where those files were. But if, on the off chance, some random civilian is wanting to explore such curiosities with idle desires…” he lets his sentence hang in the air. I let out a sigh as understanding comes. I was hoping to have at least some place where I could simply be Eve. But it appears even here, the Zeroth is required.
I open my mouth but am cut off with a wave of his hand. “I’m of a minority in opinion you see. I don’t condone that poor girl and what she’s done, but neither do I condone the way her… sacrifice has been met by others. I’m simply a librarian you see,” Kyle says while gesturing to himself and continuing, “Politics is none of my concern- and frankly, neither are people much of my concern. The present is simply the past to our futures, destined to be ink on my tomes. The past is where my concerns lie; often concerned that the past will not disrupt the future to come. But were the past lead to lay where it lies, without disruption of the past to come, perhaps I could be persuaded for the right reasons.” His words are confusing, but I think I understand what he’s getting at.
“I… care for Nina. Above anything else, you can believe that. But I can not allow my affection for her to blind me to the truth of what I am.” I tell him honestly. I see Kyle’s eyes crinkle in apparent happiness.
He let’s out an audible sigh and gives a weak shake of his head. “You may not take them with you, but the files are this way.”
Without waiting for a response from me, Kyle turns around starts walking. I start after him as he bobs and weaves through the shelves. This library extends much further back than I would have imagined. After what seems like a solid five minutes of walking in silence, we finally come to a small area partitioned from the rest of the library. Kyle reaches out with a glowing hand and moves the partition of wood to the side. He must have expected my reaction because he preemptively says, “I’m aspected to earth, favoring the trees,” without turning around and leading me into the area.
If the places we came from smelled of ink and dust, then this area burnt your senses as you breathed in. The air was so stale that upon entering it, I was accosted by scorching heat. My lungs burned and my eyes stung.
“You’ll get used to it”, Kyle says with a face of mock concern. I can’t help but laugh and give him a small slap on the arm.
He gives me a wry smile and pulls out some tomes from a dresser. “These are what you’re looking for,” he waves me over. “They chronicle the time of the Zeroth before you, and up until the Aetherical Anchoring Procedure, amongst more.”
I immediately react to “Aetherical Anchoring.” That sounds exactly like what I read in Nina’s paper. I try to swallow, but find it difficult; my throat is constricting with unease and doesn’t want to cooperate with me. I’m standing there stiffly until I realize that Kyle is giving me a peculiar look. I give him a nod and my thanks and he simply returns a nod in kind. He informs me that he’ll be excusing himself, giving me time alone to absorb everything I’m going to read. It’s only when I give a stiff nod again that he reaches out and clutches my shoulder.
With a look that I can’t decipher, he gives my shoulder a squeeze and then makes himself scarce, leaving the room to do what it may with its sacrifice.
I stare at the book and feel as if it’s staring back at me, judging me for my desire to know more about what happened to turn everyone against Nina. The book is looking through me and I want to scream, but instead, I walk over to it. I run my fingers over its old spine, and feel its coarse leather tickle my fingers. I could swear it feels cold to the touch even as the room burns my senses.
I move around the lone table and pull out its chair- perhaps being used for the first time in a very long time. I slump down into the chair and it protests me with dust and heat. It creaks a whine into the air but eventually settles with me on it. It takes me for the master that I am, in full knowledge of what is to come. I slide the tome toward me and the book’s face stares back at me- a nondescript brown cover that wouldn’t be out of place on the outside, yet destined to spend its time on the inside. I rub my fingers over it and feel a tingle on my tongue. I let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding, and open to the first page.