Chapter 18 – Breakthrough (3)

Breakthrough – Part 3

      “Ninavin, the stories surely do not do you justice,” he tells her- seemingly impressed with whatever it is he reads.

      She gives him a wry smile and says, “All that matters to me, Master Domnis, is getting Zero home.”

      Dom gives her a long stare before letting a weary sigh escape and turning his attention towards me.

      “You would leave us then, Zero?”

      “I would.”

      “You’re brilliant, but I suppose it’s not in my best interest to stand against you on this, not after your rousing scolding earlier. But I only say this as I know there is something… not quite right with you, that I can’t put my finger on.”

      He says with a degrading laugh. This causes Nina to send me another confused look. I just give her a smile and a weak shake of my head.

      “Well, I’ll leave the two of you to it then,” I say before moving in and giving Nina a hug. She stiffens up and tries to protest, but I ignore her.

      I leave the room having decided that my next visit would be to Charlie. I’d like to talk to her before the news reaches her. That’s assuming it hasn’t already. I cross the courtyard and make my way to the training area.

      When I peek inside, I see Charlie there, giving instructions to what looks like to be new recruits. She’s magnificent in the way she stands and directs the novices with an experienced hand. Before too long she notices me, just in time for the others to as well. The recruits start to fall out of sync and she snaps at them to continue their drills, before making her way over to me.

      She stops in front of me, and with her back to the recruits, a smile overtakes her entire face. She pulls her arms up for a moment before thinking better of it, and dropping them. She gives a crooked smile and asks what I’m doing here. I request her attention outside and she obliges me, but not before screaming at the recruits to keep at their drills.

      The moment we’re outside and the door is closed, she’s pulling me in for an embrace. After returned hugs, she lets me go with a look indicating she’s waiting for me to start speaking. I stare up at her, mesmerized for a moment before remembering myself. I give her a smile, and recount most of my time with the Consulate to her.

      Her face is frozen. She’s leaning up against the wall, staring off into the distance. Eventually, she remembers that I’m here and gives me a weak smile.

      My heart drops, “Was that a mistake? I thought you’d be amazing in the Tenth seat. I’m sorry…” My sentence hangs between us.

      It takes a minute but Charlie lifts my chin up- staring into me. “It’s not that,” she says with a shake of her head. Her emerald green hair distracts me as it bounces from one shoulder to the other.

      “I can’t believe even this far in, in a place where your safety should be guaranteed, you were almost lost to me.” She engulfs me in another embrace and strokes my hair.

      “I-it’s not like that. That’s an exaggeration.” I protest weakly.

      “No.” she says sharply. “I will take this gift you have given me, my Zero, and I will ensure something like this never happens again.”

      I give a weak nod into her chest, and return her hug again. She lets me go and asks me some other questions related to everything that happened.

      A chime signals the lunch period. Charlie turns down my request to join me, in order to speak with Dom about everything. She gives me a wave goodbye, but not before jumping onto the recruits for starting to pack up. With a laugh, I leave her. I’ll go and meet the others and decide what to do from there.

      Per usual nowadays, Kay is nowhere to be seen in the group. An alarm rings and guards pour out of the barracks around the Academy and make a beeline to the gate. The others don’t appear to know anything more than I do, so we follow the guards- so much for food. I’m exhausted from the lack of real sleep over the past few days.

      At the gate, is a mob of people. Their voices are filled with malice as they strike out at the guards with makeshift weapons. The scene before me quickly turns into chaos as the guards try to dismantle the riot without actually hurting anyone. But it’s as clear as day that this won’t end without bloodshed unless something is done.

      I chew on my bottom lip in agitation before deciding my course of action. However, Mimi grabs me and tells me to stay out of it. I protest to her with all I can, trying to convince her to let me go- her grip is like steel. I’m not sure even ripping my arm off would lessen her it on me. I look towards Rose for help.

      Her face is pale, her demeanor one of a scared girl- seemingly much too young to be my Rose. She reaches over and cups my cheek. Her actions, her demeanor, all of it is scaring me. “Rose what-” she cuts me off by speaking over me, yet so silently, “Please don’t hate me,” is all she says. I give her a confused look, but she backs away from me and walks into the center of the riot.

      I yank from Mimi with all of my strength, but she doesn’t budge. “Mimi, damnit. This is no time to be like this. Rose is going to get hurt!”

      But Mimi shakes her head, almost violently. She pulls me into her and a “bubble” of electricity sparks around us. Before I can even think to ask what is going on, she envelops me with her arms, and all around us, the crowd starts to fall. One by one both guard, and civilian alike, begin to drop like flies. In only a few seconds a couple dozen people lay on the ground, with Rose standing stock still in the middle.

      When they’re all down, Mimi releases me and I run over to the closest person, a civilian. I check his pulse and let out a breath of relief. “He’s alive,” escapes me as I fall over onto my backside. I meet Rose’s gaze, a sheen of sweat leaks from her forehead, and she looks flush. Then before I know it, she stumbles forward.

      I attempt to stand up, but a gust of wind- that is to say Mimi- forces me down. Mimi catches Rose and supports her gently with a worried look. “Stupid,” Mimi says to her. Rose gives her a small smile before turning a sad, but embarrassed look towards me.

      “Please don’t hate me,” she says again, before going limp. I can’t help but stare at them in shock.

      “What just happened?” I asked. Mimi shakes her head at me, and tells me that it’s not her place to say. I guess I’ll have to question Rose more when she wakes up. Mimi carries Rose like a princess back to the Academy as guards flood out of it, amazed at the scene they find. I can’t blame them. This is getting more bizarre by the minute, and naturally, Kay is still missing.

      Kay appears again just before midnight. We’re still at the Academy with Rose, who still hasn’t woken up. The moment she enters the room, I spring out of my chair, and tell Mimi to watch over Rose for me. I stomp towards Kay and grab her by the arm and drag her confused ass out of the room. I don’t stop until we’re in the courtyard where I was attacked the day before. I turn her to face me and finally release her arm. She stares at me with daggers.

      “Kay. This ends now. Rose collapses and you just leave? I get ditching me. I really do. But this? This is too far.”

      Kay stares at me, before attempting to walk away. I shove her back again, harder in my anger. She opens her mouth to say something when a crow-like bird lands right between us. This damn bird is the cause of everything. Its feathers carry a dark-blue hue meeting beady red eyes and ending in a long, sharp beak of black.

      The bird cocks its head towards Kay expectantly. “What’s wrong Kay? I already know what’s going on. I followed you before you know, watched you break into that nobles house through his window.”

      She gives me a pained look but ducks down to the bird. She fiddles with its leg for a moment while the bird squawks a complaint to her. She pulls off some sort of small capsule; and with a pop the top comes off and a note slides into her hand. She studies the note with intensity as it lazily unrolls in her hand. After a moment she closes her eyes, as if in prayer, then stands up.

      She opens her eyes, gazes at me, and turns around. I deny her by shouting at her. She stops and looks back at me. “Have to go,” she says quietly, worry writ across her face in a way that perhaps only I could notice.

      “No.” I tell her. Then I demand she hands over the scroll.

      Kay shakes her head at me and takes a step back. “Kay. This ends. I don’t know who you think has the authority to order you to kill people, but they don’t.”

      I approach her one step at a time, keeping a distrustful eye on her every movement. Every breath she takes, every flicker of her gaze, I catch it all.

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      I hate feeling like this towards Kay but I can’t help but be cautious of her. I reach out and take her hand, prying the paper out of it. Kay doesn’t stop me, but her face falls when she sees me open it. The words are short, but to the point. A single name stretches across the paper with a demand of execution- “Ninavin Von Vvesson”.

      I snap my gaze towards Kay just in time to see her fist flying to my face. I shift my weight to my right to avoid it, only to shift my weight again to bring myself down and dodge another, wider blow. I distance myself from Kay but before I know it, something changes with her.

      Kay’s countenance had changed into one I did not know. She stood before me, still as Kay, but more similar to the woman I first met that hectic day, so long ago.

      She lightly shakes her head at me and said, “Go home.”

      “So you can take yet another life? And Nina’s at that? No. Kay, what is this? Who’s telling you to do this? That’s who we should be focusing on. They’re the ones in the wrong.”

      Kay just stands there, staring at me. “Kay, if I have to take you home by force I will. But please don’t make me.”

      I plead with her. In a rare show of emotion, both of her eyebrows shoot straight up in apparent surprise. And yet a chilling smile dances across her mouth with a sparkle caught in her eye. A shiver goes down my spine; I pull up my arms to block what’s coming. Yet Kay doesn’t move.

      Her eyes gain a light glow, and the ground around me softens, throwing me off balance. In that opening, Kay dashes at me- not Nina quick, but quick enough to slip through my defenses. She swings her fist like a club and lands it squarely into my stomach. I don’t really remember anything after that. I fell to my knees, the air gone from my lungs, and my vision darkens.

      Bile tries to work its way out of me but I hold it down with everything I have. I’m forced to study the boots in my line of site. They’re dirty, and perhaps black if they were cleaned. I see a foot raised off the ground some- but only a moment before it’s planted on my face. I fall backward and admire the stars. The pain is terrible but the fate of the stars is all I can focus on. With that, my world goes dark.

      “Eve.”

      She calls for me. “Eve.” Again she calls for me but I try to ignore it.

      I look all around me but no one is there. Yet from the nothing in front of me, she walks out. Her onyx mane is tied up in a ponytail and drapes down her shoulders, blanketing what I can see of her. She’s in her battle attire from before. She stands resolute with her piercing glare- aimed at me of course.

      “Eve.” She says, not so much with her voice, but something more. Her eyes pierce the darkness with golden radiance, matched only by the sheen of the sword on her hip.

      “I’m so glad you’re alive Rei.” I utter weakly.

      “Debatable.”

      Shes says to the point- crisp and clear. I attempt to take a step closer to her, only for her to move a step away. She makes no actual movement, simply seems to slide away as I approach. The distance leaves me hungry but no matter how I run, I know I won’t reach her. With a heavy heart, I ask what it is she wants.

      “You’re learning,” dismissively, she continues, “But it’s almost time, you have to stand up.”

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      I want to cry out at her, tell her that I don’t understand what she’s saying, but I don’t. Anything I say, she’s just going to snidely rebuke. So instead, I ask what’s been on my mind, “Where have you been Rei? I’ve called for you so many times, and yet… I was afraid you wouldn’t- or couldn’t come back to me after what happened before.”

      Her gaze pierces me, the pressure is demanding. I haven’t felt this for so long. My knees grow weak and threaten to buckle under me. Yet there is a sick pleasure in it.

      A pit develops in my stomach and threatens to rend the soul from my body. I’ve missed it. The feeling is maddening, but familiar and comforting. I don’t look away, expectant of an answer. Before long, Rei blinks and looks away from me. The pressure instantly dissipates and I am left with a longing.

      “We all have a stage to prepare for you, Eve, and it is almost time. But you have to go now or Silence will fall on Moderator.” Rei is as cryptic as ever.

      “Can I touch you?”

      It seems I caught her off guard because for once, Rei loses her serious demeanor as confusion envelopes her. I can’t help but laugh, “Your face is priceless!”

      I shout across the chasm that separates us. Rei can’t help but smile at me- a dazzling smile that permeates through me. Rei rolls her eyes and with a small movement, is in front of me.

      “You have to wake up as soon as-” she doesn’t get to finish before I’ve pulled her into my arms. Her aura envelops me and I breathe deep of her scent- a tinge of oranges. Before she can recover, I’ve released her with a big smile.

      “Right! Recharge complete!” I give her a mocking salute and everything goes black.

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