Chapter 19 – Criss-Cross (2)

Criss-Cross Part 2

      I leave the cafeteria, disgusted at the ideas Gabe was spitting out. I’m going to find Nina and talk to her. That’s my only thought as I move through the institute. However, my searching ends quickly as I run into her, literally, as I turn the corner into the next hallway.

      She falls backward and I wrap my arm around her waist to keep her upright. Nina is quick to apologize before falling silent when she notices my arm. With a blush to match hers, I remove my arm and clear my throat.

      “I was just coming to find you Nina.”

      She smiles and tells me of what a coincidence it was, she was looking for me as well. So I link my her arm in mine and escort her back to her lab. Once inside the lab, she seems to grow more hesitant. I lead her to her seat and pull out the necessary items to make us some tea.

      “What a sad host I am,” she scoffs when I hand her some hot tea.

      I flick her nose before she takes a sip; she comically tries to stop from spilling the tea.

      “That was dangerous!” She chides me, causing me to laugh despite myself. I can’t help but ask, though I know it will ruin this nice atmosphere.

      “Are you alright after last night?”

      Nina heaves a sigh and sits the teacup down. “I am.” She tells me while holding her arm up in a mock flex. Her gesture is so cute that I can’t help but reach my hand out and drag my fingers across her cheek.

      “I really am Evangelina-sama.” She coos into my fingers.

      “I saw you cough up blood even though Kay missed you.”

      She looks shocked for a moment before smothering her face back to neutral. “Things happen. I’m not as young as I once was,” she giggles. I decide to call her on her ‘joke.’

      “Indeed. You’re in fabulous shape.”

      She grins bashfully, “Thank you.”

      “I’d imagine being over three centuries old takes its toll on you though.”

      Nina, whose face immediately hardens says, “And where did you hear of such a thing?”

      “I don’t see you denying it.”

      Nina shifts her gaze off into the distant past with various emotions dancing on her profile. I catch sadness, perhaps in memory of those she’s lost. Yet I see happiness behind her eyes, possibly for those she had.

      “Nina.”

      I call her name before resting my hand on her knee. She glances my way and says, “You wouldn’t understand…”

      “But I’d try,” I assure her.

      “And you would fail.”

      “Then I would try harder.”

      She glares at me, a look those beautiful green eyes so rarely direct my way.

      “Why were you coughing up blood? And what is it that you did to me and the others exactly? And to Azrael and the others back then?”

      I shoot off question after question. Nina physically lurches from my words. In a near-panic she demands to know how it is I came to know all of that. Yet I ignore here and ask something else that’s been on my mind.

      “And one more thing Nina… who or what is Silence and Moderator?”

      Nina stands up immediately from her chair with eyes wide. If she was shocked before then she’s absolutely flabbergasted now. Her voice raises an octave, “Where have you heard all of this?”

      Nina walks around the desk and roughly grabs my shoulders and demands me to answer again. I’m so surprised that I don’t even know what to tell her. Do I play my cards, or keep them close to my chest?

      Perhaps I’ll go fifty-fifty- “After seeing some of your notes last time… I…” Her face falls with shadow.

      “I’m sorry you had to see that,” she drops her arms, and her head follows along as if her strings had been cut.

      She asks the floor, “But that doesn’t answer my question.”

      I lift her chin with my fingers and stroke her lips with my thumb. Seeing her so sad hurts me, but knowing she has secrets hurts me more. She’s trying to maintain an aloof, perhaps angry attitude, but the teary sheen in her eyes diminishes the effect.

      “Nina, all I want is answers. I can… accept basically anything if it’s you. I’m sorry I ran out back then. I meant to apologize this whole time, but I never had a chance. So, I’m sorry.”

      I slide my fingers down her neck. I know I’m playing dirty here, and I hate it. But I need answers.

      Nina’s eyes fill with more than just tears, and I can see her attention wavering, her eyes glazing over. I put a small amount of force in my fingers, gently leading her towards me with the promise of potential highs. Nina’s breath speeds up as she tentatively approaches me. Her face is closer than it’s ever been and I can see the world she sees, reflected in those emeralds of hers. Her lips are inches from mine, trembling. Her breath is ragged and at some point, she grabbed the hem of my shirt, white-knuckling it. It’s arrogant, but I believe that at this moment, she’s never wanted anyone more than she wants me- not even that fool Azrael. That fool of a man who did not know the value of the jewel he possessed.

      That fool of a man who gave into the darkness, gave in to the power he possessed. But I’m different, I’m in control. I can demand this jewel to do as I see fit, for I know my limits, I know what is right- what is wrong. I’m the Zeroth, and this woman is mine, as are all the others. They’re so simple to bend to my will, don’t you see? She’s begging for me. Her lips are but a breath away, and yet all is lost in her eyes besides me. I am her whole; I am the truth, the way. My form is perfect. In her eyes are the proof, for there I am.

      I stand perfect, with my smile wide, from ear to ear. My teeth are wonderful, capable of devouring what I wish. My eyes burn, with a desire for all things. I am magnificent, and I am terrifying. Yet Nina closes her eyes as our lips are just about to meet; and like the arctic wind has graced us, I grow cold. I push Nina away from me, and she stumbles backward. Her lustful face, so twisted before in its desire, regaining some semblance of the woman I’ve grown to know. My own desire, my own form wavering in her eyes.

      “Nina… Just what is going on with me? Just what am I?”

      I ask, unable to fight it off. The fear I’ve felt for so long consumes me and the dam breaks. My tears flow freely as I come back down unto myself.

      Nina looks just as shocked as me. As if coming down from a blissful euphoria, she lets her eyes wander. All around she searches for answers, yet seems to find what it is she needs when she takes notice of my crying form. Her face clears and her eyes regain their focus in full.

      “Evangeline… sama,” she whispers with a hint of fear.

      Through my own hazy vision, I can see it clearly writ across her face. Nina is scared of me, scared of whatever it is I was just becoming, perhaps whatever it is I have already became. Her look burns me and makes me want to flee, so I do- or I would have had Nina not grabbed my arm.

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      “Nina, please let me go.” I whine through my tears.

      “No. You can’t keep running Evangeline-sama. There are things you know, things to be known, and things to remain unknown, but you may know nothing if all you do is run!”

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       She berates me, breath ragged, in her machinegun way of speaking. I’ve only heard her talk like that when it comes to research or health. Never would I have imagined that charm applying to me or my situation. It’s so adorable that I can’t help but break a smile.

      “There’s that beautiful smile, my Evangeline-sama,” she says before pulling me in for a hug. She holds me for minutes as the tears fade away. The warmth from Nina is enough to ground me, to make me feel like myself again. The cloud around my mind, one I did not know I had, seemingly clears despite its wishes.

      I pull out of her embrace when I’ve calmed down and we stare into one another. Her face tells me she plans to keep her secrets close. But before I can argue, I feel my strength growing weak. 

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