Chapter 24 – Where The Heart Lies

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Where The Heart Lies

     The plaza is packed with a surprising amount of people, considering the time. I stick out like a sore thumb, being one of the few young people here and not in school. I scan the crowd as best as I can, all in the belief that I’ll know who I’m looking for when I see him. I know I will. He’s how this all started.

     It’s only during my distraction that I fail to notice someone else heading my direction. We collide into one another. I’ve survived so many fights, yet this has probably spiked my heart rate higher than anything that has come before. To run into someone… I’m not going to get away from hours upon hours of paperwork. And that’s if they don’t sue.

     I immediately start to apologize but a voice cuts me off.

     “Sorry about that. I was looking for someone and-“

     The owner of the voice stops. I stop. The world stops. The people around us keep going yet everything is frozen in an infinite world. Because there’s an arm around my hip, gently supporting me from our collision. It moves up into a chest, obviously. But that chest is connected to a head. Yes, of course. What else would be there? No, I don’t want to know, after having seen that monster from before.

     But I’m rambling. I’m rambling because my brain is unable to process what’s happening before me. The owner of the voice, the person I crashed into… Grandpa was right… it took this moment for me to truly realize what I wanted in life. But this not-chance meeting has forced all bricks into place.

     “Rei…” My voice comes out in a dreamy whisper.

     “Well, I’ll be. You know me? Have we met before?” Her voice lacks the edge I’ve come to know.

     “I-I-I-” I stutter relentlessly like a child in front of a crowd. This earns a small laugh from her- and her arm is still around me. When she notices me looking, she still doesn’t move her arm. Instead, she simply raises one eyebrow.

     “My, you are a pretty little thing aren’t you? Now let ask you a strange question. If it doesn’t make sense to you, just write it off as the ramblings of a madwoman.” She tightens her arm around me, pulling me closer. My heart thumps in my chest at the contact.

     “Are you Eve?”

     I can’t help but stare dumbly at her. She seems to take my silence as refutation and, with a “Sorry,” she goes to remove her arm. I refuse to lose this warmth, and grab her hand holding on my waist. She gives me another cocked eyebrow and in return, I give a pathetic little nod.

     “So, you are Eve then?” I give a nod.

     “Can’t talk?” She asks.

     “I-I’m sorry. You don’t know how much I’m, um, going through right now.”

     “I’d imagine I could give you a run from your money. But I never thought I’d meet you. Jamie really did explain you to a tee. Though I’d say she didn’t do you justice.” Rei gives me a charming smile and, more importantly, she’s flirting with me.

     “Um. I’m confused. So you’re who I was supposed to meet?”

     “Supposed…? I see.”

     “What? That doesn’t answer-” My lips are sealed in a kiss, instantly halting everything within me.

     I’m pretty sure my heart isn’t even beating right now. I can hear the people around us gasp or otherwise cry out in disgust at our actions. After all, if you’re not allowed to touch, imagine what this must look like.

     But I don’t care. I swing my arms up and around her neck, pulling her closer to our kiss. Her tongue darts into my mouth, and with it, she marks me. Yet it’s over well before I’m ready for it to be.

     “I think I’m in love with you Eve.”

     “I… “ my head is cloudy from the kiss, my emotions are a wreck. “You’re so much different from before. More alive.”

     Her beautiful face twists. “Before?”

     “When-” Rei holds up a hand.

     “My life hasn’t been easy. Maybe it can’t hold a candle to yours, but your suffering doesn’t lessen mine. I didn’t exist before, you see. Even now, I can’t be sure that I do.”

     She takes in a deep breath and continues, “Then Jamie found me and told me about you; and the moment she mentioned you, it was as if my world came to life. Colors became more vibrant, my tongue stung with a prickly electric feeling.”

     That… doesn’t sound right. This world doesn’t have magik. She picks up on my mood and pushes her fingers through my hair. We may be standing in a crowd, but to me, there is no one else in this world besides Rei and I.

     “I… why are you here?”

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     “It’s strange, don’t you know. I was given a message from a man with a bald head- a massive man.”

     What? Just, what? How? There’s no way. It’s official. Grandpa knew, or knows. There’s no other explanation. But how could that be possible?

     “The Moderator declares as thus: The path is clear. Silence will fall, Knight will break, Temper will falter, and Mother will wither, lest Queen returns.”

     Surprise after surprise.

     “How could possibly know those names?” I ask. My nerves burn and I take a half step away from Rei, much to her disapproval.

     “That’s what the man told me. Then he said: ‘Null equates to Zero. The Void comes. Ye who search, she is waiting.’”

     “No.” I cry out. “No. No, no, no. Not now.” I start to have a panic attack. Rei grabs my shoulders.

     “I don’t know what’s going on but you have to pull yourself together Eve.”

     “No. This isn’t fair. You’re here now. I don’t even know where or who He is. I don’t even know if he was real anymore. But I have you now. Why can’t I just be happy?”

      Rei gives me a strange look.

     “He? You have a boyfriend?”

     “No. I mean, no. It didn’t get that far. About… six months ago I was going to meet Him here. But then everything happened.” I blabber on about what is tantamount to nonsense to Rei.

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     “Wait. What? Is that why you’re here? You came to meet a guy?” Her face tells me she’s hurt.

     “No. I mean, yes. I mean…” I’m so confused as to what it is I want. What I’ve been trying to accomplish this entire time.

     “You know. About six months ago I actually did see you. It was an incredibly brief interaction. Then you just sort of disappeared. I figured the crowd ate you up. I called out to you, but to no luck.”

     I stumble further backward, lightheaded.

     “What are you saying?”

     The area around us starts to take on a slight shimmer. No. No no.

     “I refuse to go back. Not now. None of this makes sense.”

     I try to plead with literally anything that will listen. But the look on Rei’s face isn’t a what it should be. Instead of confusion, she looks at the shimmer in familiarity.

     “Rei do you… know what this is?”

     She seems to falter herself now. “I see. It makes sense now.”

     “What? What makes sense?”

     She’s making me nervous. Please don’t tell me anything more. I don’t want to hear it. But she isn’t so kind to me.

     “You have to go Eve.”

     “No. I change my mind. I’ll stay here with you.” I try to take a step toward her but, she takes a step back.

     “If you do this, If you stay… you can’t imagine what will happen.”

     “I can’t imagine what will happen if I do go.”

     “But that is how things have to be.” Rei looks forlorn as she sentences me.

     “This isn’t fair.”

     “But can you really stand by and let people get hurt? I don’t really get everything, but it seems you know, right? That I’m not the one who you love, Eve.”

     I almost do a double-take. The air around us starts to form cracks, yet no one else takes notice.

     “What could that possibly mean? I love…”

     “My, I’ve never known myself to be the jealous type.” Rei gives a small laugh.

     But that’s wrong. It has to be. I love… I struggle to think of who it is I have feelings for. So many people pass through my mind. Nina, Rose, Charlie, Kay, Mimi and… Rei. But the one I love is…

     “I…” My words continue to fail me. She gives a shrug.

     “My name is Reimiel. And until now, I have never met you.”

     “No. That doesn’t make sense.” I shake my head violently.

     The cracks grow larger around us, and I can hear the sound of metal striking metal.

     “Maybe it’s not meant to?” Rei says with far too much casualness.

     “But… this is cruel. You’re telling me to give you up, to go back to that world. To suffer as someone I am not, all for some vague premonition that could end up meaning nothing. I don’t care if you’re not exactly who I met before. I could stay here with you. That’s still an option.”

     “Is it though? Really?” She steps to the side to avoid a tear opening in the space next to her. The sound of battle blares through.

     Now this, catches Rei off guard. With a worried look, she slides up next to me, and wraps an arm around my waist.

     “Ultimately, the choice is yours. But all in all, I’ll always be with you. So you wouldn’t exactly be without me.”

     Her sincerity catches me off guard, and I choke up. Even if she isn’t exactly the same as before, whatever the hell that means, she’s still spouting the same nonsense.

     “What happens if I lose this fight, and I become another?” I can’t help but ask, giving into the distant nostalgia.

     “Deep down, you are always you, Eve. That is what I believe. So I will always support you.”

     I can’t… I just…

     “I can’t win against you, can I?”

     She looks over at me and tries to ask, “What does that-” but she doesn’t get a chance to finish her question. I’ve moved in front of her, and plant my lips on her’s.

     Regardless of who she is, she’s still my guardian Raven. I owe her this much; And my motives might have just a touch of selfishness to them as well. Her lips are soft, and warm. My tears drop to the concrete below us as the shimmering light reaches its apex and separates the space behind me.

     Rei has no hesitation in returning my kiss, and runs her hands through my hair to get a stronger hold.

     Then with the gentlest of touches, she pushes me backward. But this is my will, my choice. I’m no longer going to run, because I have people I love, that I have to help. If I am to live with pride, then my own happiness is meaningless.

     I guess this is where my heart lies.

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