Rite to Life

-THIS IS A DYSTOPIAN-
In a future, yet illusive world, society is divided into three factions. No one ever speaks of Faction One since the feud between people and the king. Nara is from Faction Two. She has survived sixteen years under the care of volunteers. Sixteen years of living in Faction Two is like living in eighteenth century London, although that place doesn’t exist any more. Nara has dreamed of life in Faction Three, a safe, prosperous haven, a sanctuary, where her birth parents wait for her. Only the Rite separates them. Every citizen at aged sixteen must undergo the Rite to gain access into Faction Three, the land of the perfect beings. The Rite corrects all imperfections and flaws, gives people the Third Eye. A higher level of consciousness. When she finally gets to Faction Three, cracks begin to show. Secrets are soon revealed to Nara and she must do everything in her power to expose them to the population. Faction Three is not what it seems. It is a dark, cryptic place

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11. Chapter Ten - Nara

It was still dark when I awoke. Tears were streaming down my face. I sniffled and wiped my eyes.

            Oh Blaze...

            If only he could lie here with me, in my bed, and keep me warm, make me feel protected and loved. To make me feel whole and patch up the holes in my heart. I thought that by coming here, I would be able to forget my feelings for him and move forward, but the truth was, I would always have those feelings for him. They would always burn deep within me. But if I had stayed, I would have always wondered what life might have been like in Faction Three. So I came to the conclusion, that no matter where I was, I would always feel so empty without Blaze with me. And the only way I could connect with him was through my dreams.

            And then I had a sudden thought. As if a light bulb had lit up inside my head. I grabbed the pair of jeans I had worn yesterday and checked the pockets. Damn. They had taken my phone. After the Rite, when I was unconscious, my phone must have been taken off me before I left Faction Two. It had disappointed me that I did not have my phone. I probably would not have had any connection with Blaze’s phone. Even if I did have my phone with me, his number would have been deleted off my database, surely.

            I threw the jeans across the room in anger and slouched back against the pillow. Crossing my arms, I huffed loudly. There truly was no way out of the mess which I had created. It would always be one of those things I could pretend did not bother me, or even exist, but it would always find its way back to me. It would always haunt me. I had noticed that Blaze was literally all I thought about, nothing managed to distract me, and I hoped to god that Sanctum City would avert my attention for at least a little while.

            I grabbed the pillow from underneath my head and covered my eyes with it, trying to block out everything else. I laid in the dark for about an hour before I drifted back into depths of my dreams. But I appeared in the nightmare again. The same one I had had the night before.

            I ran down a soundless street with cars parked left along the sides of the road. Breathing heavy and fast, I ran as far as my legs could carry me, tears streaming uncontrollably down my cheeks. Something or someone was pursuing me. The lights in the houses that lined the street were off, showing no sign of life. Where had everyone gone?

            Choking on my tears, I flung myself round a corner before realising that I had ran into an alleyway. Panic washed over me in a great wave. I slowed as I reached the end; a large metal fence blocked my path. I was trapped.

            “There she is,” a man hollered as he appeared at the entrance of the alleyway. He pointed in my direction. I tried to hide in the shadows. “Kill her.”

            Troops dressed in black with handguns aims towards me, ran down the alleyway. I pressed myself into the corner, praying they would not find me, praying that the darkness would conceal me for long enough. A handgun fired. I gasped as a bullet plunged into my skin. Falling to the floor, with hands clamped over the wound, my life slowly drained from me.

            I awoke abruptly, and a wild scream escaped my lips and echoed through the room. My heart pounded in my chest, my breathing fast and hitched. Moments past before the bedroom door flung open and Amelia and Elijah rushed to my side.

            “Nara?” Elijah asked, panicked. “What happened? Are you hurt?”

            Elijah checked my arms and legs for any wounds whilst Amelia checked the room for intruders.

            “It...it was just a dream,” I stuttered, still in shock. “A nightmare.”

            “Oh baby,” Amelia cooed as she came to sit on the edge of bed and stroke my hair. “Are you sure you are okay?

            I nodded and said I would be okay. They left shortly after. Glancing at the clock, I saw that it was only 4.00AM. I did not sleep again. Nothing had become apparent. If I continued to interfere with The Black Market, my life would have an abrupt ending. Something warned me that intervening with an illegal network of businesses would get my head on a stick.

                                                                        *

            Elijah and Amelia had left for work, so I took this as an opportunity to go to The Black Market and find out more about the Post. Luckily, I managed to find my way there again, although I got lost in winding streets a few times. I went straight to the stall where the man had been. The people who walked past me, stared at me as if I was a slab of meat, a meal for them. Fear began to build inside me, but I hid it away; I could not show these people how scared I happened to be.

            The stall, situated underneath the hangover section of a boarded up building, seemed darker today. In fact, the entire street seemed miserable and quiet, less people occupied it. The man appeared from the shadows, staring straight at me. You would think that it would freak me out, right? But something about him compelled me to stay. I needed to find out more about the Post and what it was for.

            “Go home,” he seethed. “Get away from here.”

            I clenched my fists to hide the fact that my fingers were shaking uncontrollably. I discarded his threat and continued to walk towards the stall.

            “Tell me about the Post,” I demanded, rooting my feet to the spot. I would refuse to leave until I had answers. “I am not leaving until you tell me what it is.”

            The man raised an eyebrow at me and stalked forward. He cocked his head, as if trying to figure something out, his slightly blonde hair falling into his eyes. But what was there to figure out? I had already told him what I wanted to know. His hands were buried deep in the pockets of his long and dark cloak. I watched him as he studied my face, staring directly into my eyes.

            “Tell me,” I repeated, never once breaking eye contact with him. I felt a sudden surge of courage which wiped away all fear I had earlier felt towards the man.

To my surprise, amusement flashed in his dark brown eyes and his form relaxed slightly.

            “Walk with me,” he mused, lifting his arm out to guide me.

            Slightly shocked, I followed him under the hangover. The table still had the merchandise that had been there two days ago. Only the hand-held mirror had been sold. A small lamp produced the stall’s only light. It sat on top of a stack of books that looked ancient and the pages were probably covered in mould and had a rather unpleasant smell. I could smell the rot without even opening a book.

            “This,” the man said as he pulled out the parchment from his pocket. “Is top secret, and what I am about to tell you must stay strictly between us. Do you understand?”

            “I promise.”

            Hastily, the man grabbed my wrist and pulled me towards a door which I had not seen earlier. The room was small and the stone bricks were wet and were covered in moss. Several lamps were dotted around the room, emanating a bright warm light that illuminated the stacks of books and items that cluttered the room. He pointed to me a chair and told me to sit down.

            “The Black Market itself is an illegal network of businesses,” he began, making sure the door was firmly shut. “And I am in charge of The Black Market Post.”

            “Okay,” I said, digesting what he had just said. “What is it for?”

            “Before I tell you that,” he said, handing me the piece of paper. “You need to sign this.”

            I stared at the piece of paper; it was some sort of contract. I read it briefly, taking in all the important points and scribbling my name on the dotted line at the bottom. Handing it back to him, I waited for him to proceed.

            The man folded the contract neatly and placed it in his pocket. It concerned me slightly that his behaviour had changed so instantly.

            “Okay, now that we have sorted that, we can continue.” He leaned against a table covered in items and intertwined his fingers. “The Black Market Post allows you have communication with the outsiders.”

            I stared at him momentarily, trying to figure out what it all meant. And then it clicked. I had found the answer to my problems. My hopes rocketed to the sky. My heartbeat began to quicken. All the possibilities whizzed around in my mind.

            “You mean, I can contact Faction Two?”

            “Sure thing,” he said with a grin. Why had his attitude changed so instantly? Had it been because of my sudden surge of confidence? I sat on the chair in silence as he stared at me. I supposed he waited for a reply, a response of some kind.

            “How much?” I asked, finally, looking him in the eye.

            The light which beamed from the lamps illuminated the walls and filled the room with slight warmth and I began to feel comfortable. The man cracked his knuckles loudly as he

stood in front of a stack of books. Why was it taking him so long to answer my question? He grinned sadistically, showing his yellowing teeth.

            “Welcome to The Black Market Rebellion, Nara,” he leered. “Perhaps you should read every bullet point before signing a contract as you have just signed a lifetime commitment. You work for me now.”

            What? I gasped instinctively with eyes bulging out of their sockets.

            “What Rebellion?” I challenged. “I did not see anything to do with The Black Market Rebellion.”

            The man cocked his eyebrows before returning to the safe. He unlocked it, grabbed a letter opener and sliced the paper open. I watched in horror as the piece of paper became two. The sly man pulled the sheets apart and revealed a hidden set of bullet points.

            “You sly little man,” I seethed. “You tricked me!”

            “I sign my name as evidence that I have joined The Black Market Rebellion and by doing so, I have accepted the terms and conditions of being an assistant of Matthew Greyner. By signing this contract, I have sworn loyalty and allegiance to the Rebellion. Hereafter and forevermore I am bound to the contract,” he read aloud, grinning mercilessly. “Were you not ever told to never trust a stranger?”

            Shock and anger flooded my entire being and suddenly, I wanted to pin him to the wall, scratch his eyes out and cause any other slow, horrific pain to him. I stood still, however, and glared at him.

            “I will allow you to write letters to whomever you wish, but in return, I ask of you one small, simple favour,” Matthew stated. “Join the army.”

            Whoa. What? Since when had there been an army? And how the hell did the King not know of this? Nothing made sense. Moving to Faction Three was supposed to make life easier, not complicate things. I had no idea what to say to him. I knew at that point that something was very wrong. I had to run, to get out of there and there was no easy way to do that, all I could do, would be to run, and run as fast as my legs could carry me. But even if I did get out, I had a horrifying thought that he would find me anyway.

            “You have got to be kidding me,” I laughed hysterically. “Army for what?”

Matthew opened the door for me and pointed outside.

            “Look around you, Nara,” he said. “The Black Market isn’t just made up of rebels and criminals; they are people just like you. Wishing for a better life. For something more.”

And out of everything, that little thing made perfect sense. Because it was true. I had felt that way for a very long time, always wanting and expecting more, even though I had more than I ever had in Faction Two. Faction Three had improved my life immensely, but Blaze was missing, and I had gone where he could not follow. He had been trapped in Faction Two, but that had been his own decision and his own fault.

            And what if these people felt the same way? What if they had to leave behind someone they loved? I finally understood.

            “I will join you,” I said in a small voice. “It is not like I have a choice anyway.”

            For the first time, Matthew flashed a genuine, warm smile.

            “I promise you this, Nara,” he said honestly. “There is a better life out there, waiting for you, you just gotta find it. Open your eyes and find the light that will guide you there.”

His words were lyrical and poetic. I could not understand how his character could shift so easily, how he could change his personality in a second. How his entire mood and aura could change because of a single word someone else said. It baffled me.

            I had no idea if I was doing the right thing. If becoming a part of an army had really been the smartest move. Amelia and Elijah would hit the roof if they found out. Would they go as far as disowning me, kicking me out of their beautiful, contemporary house?

            “Make it worth my while,” I said directly as I speedily walked out of the room, brushing past Matthew as I did so.

            “If you keep hope alive, it will keep you alive. It will set you free,” he muttered, stepping out of the room and closing it behind him. He produced another key and locked it. “Be here tomorrow evening, without fail, Nara, or I will not let you post your first letter.”

            I nodded and walked up the slight ramp that led out of the dismal street. Turning left, I headed home, and as I did so, thoughts of what to write in my letter to Blaze whizzed around inside my mind. Should I send a letter to Tallulah and Jonathon also? Or would that be a complete waste of time? Sure, they had spent what little money they had to buy me a goodbye present, but they had never treated me like their own flesh and blood. So why should I give them the time of day? I decided against it.

            By the time I arrived home, it was mid afternoon and Elijah and Amelia were still out at their workplaces. This meant I would be able to sit at the table and write my letter to Blaze without them looking over my shoulder wondering what on earth I was doing. Also, I had to try my darned hardest to keep it a secret.

            Grabbing a notebook which I found in a nearby drawer, and a pen, I sat at the table and began to scribble down everything that came to my mind.

            Dear Blaze,

            It feels very strange to be writing this letter to you, and not to tell it to your face. I miss the days when we would tell each other everything. And so easily. Everything is so much different here. The living conditions are better than those of Faction Two by far.

            You will not believe where I am going soon. To Sanctum City! I cannot contain my excitement! At first, I did not particularly bother me, but the more I think about seeing the tall buildings, the multiple motorway intersection, the bright, neon signs and the people, the more I wish to go.

            So far, I do not feel any different from when I did in Faction Two, although my dialect has changed somewhat. I have a feeling that those who live in the city will be the true natives of Faction Three. Something tells me that they are the beings that make up the heart and soul of the island.

            You told me once, that the Rite brainwashes those who pass. But you know what? I feel like the same Nara that you have known for years. Although my appearance has changed utterly, everything else about me is still the same. My personality is exactly the way it has always been. The only thing missing from the new chapter in my life is you. If only you could share this world with me, Blaze. We do not see each other, physically, but I see you in my dreams. In a field where only you and I go. Nothing else matters. You exist in my dreams and it feels so real.

            I think I ought to tell you how I have managed to send you this letter. And you must burn this letter after reading it as I am a part of a Rebellion which must stay secret. By telling you this, Blaze, I am putting the lives of many in your hands. If the King finds out, all those involved in The Black Market Rebellion will be charged with heavy treason and executed without mercy. Including me. Do not worry, however, as I am fully aware of what I am doing

and it may not seem like the smartest move, but I yearn for freedom. I yearn to be with you, and this is the only card I have in my hand, Blaze. You must understand.

            All my love,

            Nara.

            Shakily, I folded the paper in half and then in half again. Rummaging through the drawers in the study upstairs, I searched for an envelope, and when I found one buried underneath a stack of newspapers on the desk, I shoved the letter inside and sealed it.

After wandering along the hallway and up the stairs, I traipsed into my room and placed the letter on the shelf. Now all I had to do was wait until tomorrow evening. Restlessly, I sat on the edge of my bed and fidgeted. Now that I had written the letter, I had to think of something else to occupy my time.

            Deciding I needed a bath, I padded across the polished floorboard into the en suite where I turned the tabs and watched the water fill up the bathtub. The warm and cold water swirled and mixed together and after I stripped out of my clothes, I sat on the edge of the tub and dipped my feet into the water. Slowly easing myself further in, I let out a loud sigh as relaxation flooded over me. Surrounded by the soothing of the water, I felt at peace.

            Without realising, I slipped into oblivion as the water lapped around my body. Sleep had washed over me in a great wave, pulling me deep under. I slipped in and out of dreams, too hazy for me to pick out any detail or faces I might recognise. Every so often, I would slip in and out of consciousness also, resurfacing for a few seconds, noticing that everything appeared blurry, and then I would be dragged under again. I was caught in a restless torture. Sweat began to form along my forehead as I thrashed around in the bathtub.

            My body shook vigorously, jerking me awake. I sighed with frustration and scrambled out of the bathtub, wrapped the towel around my now shivering form and wandered back into the comforts of my bedroom. The hairs along my skin stood on end as my body shuddered. Sat on the edge of the bed, I patted my legs and arms dry, and then did the same to the rest of my body.

            Downstairs, I found Amelia and Elijah in the living room together, his arm loosely around her shoulder. He had come home earlier tonight as the hospital was not as busy as it usually was.

            “Oh, hey, Nara, would you like to join us?” she asked casually, smiled at me.

            “Sure.”

            I sat on the other couch and stared at the strange looking TV without saying a word.

            “I have been speaking to your father, Nara,” my mother began as she tapped her fingers along Elijah’s stomach. It seemed like such an intimate action that made me unsure as to whether I should stay in the room. “We have been discussing whether or not you should be allowed to travel to Sanctum City. We are both still a little unsure, so if you can provide us with information of how you will get there, then I do not see a problem with you going. Oh, and make sure it is okay for Beth to go; I do not want you venturing off to the capital on your own. Anything could happen and I do not want you in danger. Does that sound reasonable to you?”

            “It sure does,” I replied, smiling gratefully at her as she nestled closer to her husband. “Thank you. You can trust me.”

            “We already do,” Elijah interjected.

            I smiled and left the room, deciding to give them a little privacy.

            Scrambling into the pit which is my bed, I lay there; utterly motionless and thought of everything that had happened in my few days of living in Faction Three. I knew it would not

be a good idea to dwell on everything that had happened, so I forced myself to disengage myself from the bed, change clothes and walk to Beth’s house. Amelia had told me her house number.

            I rang the doorbell and waited for a reply. Seconds later, a young woman opened the door and smiled. She knew who I was. Had she been expecting me? She stepped out of the way and welcomed me inside. Happily, the woman led me into the kitchen and poured me a glass of orange juice. I had been drinking a lot of that lately.

            Beth ran downstairs when she heard my voice. She threw her arms around me and squeezed me gently.

            “Oh, it is so good to see you, Nara!” she sang, happily. “Oh, by the way, I asked my parents.”

            Her mother eyed us both as she poured Beth a glass of orange juice, as if eavesdropping into the conversation.

            “What did they say?” I asked, looking at her mother. She smiled instantly.

            “I said,” her mother began. “That it would be fine. Amelia rang me last night telling me that you two were planning on going to Sanctum City and we both decided that you are responsible young adults and we should give you a chance to prove yourselves.”

            I raised my eyebrows, shocked that she had come to that conclusion. In all fairness, I had expected her to say something in opposition. I had expected her to give us a lecture of the risks and dangers of going to the capital city of Faction Three. Clearly not.

            “Look, girls,” she continued, resting her hands on top of the counter. “We, as parents, know what it is like to want to do something badly, we have been teenagers before, remember? We have not had you here long, but we are installing a lot of trust into you and

we hope you will not do anything stupid. Just look out for each other, stick together, do not get lost, and do not, under any circumstances, talk to strangers.”

            “Are you being serious, Jenny?” Beth yelped, excitement blazing in her eyes. She jumped up and down, flapping her hands. “Oh my god! Nara, we are actually going to Sanctum City! This is amazing!”

            I sat there on the stool, and stared at her mother in shock. I could not get over the fact that she was actually letting us go. I had not expected that at all.

            “Um,” I finally said, trying to find the words to utter. “Thank you. This is amazing.”

            Beth yanked me up off the chair and pulled around in the kitchen in a funny, disorganised waltz. We skipped around the room with hair flowing around us, both of us erupting into laughter. She continued to pull be around until we were both out of breath, and when we ended up in the living room, collapsed on the sofa, out of breath and laughing hysterically.

            “This could be the best thing that will ever happen to us, Nara,” Beth exclaimed. “Imagine what might happen! We could meet some awesomely cool people. See some amazing sights. They will be memories made, Nara, and I will cherish them until the end of time and more.”

            I looked her, and for the first time, in all of the time that I had known her, I felt a connection between us. She truly was a friend and she cared about me. She wanted me in her life and she wanted memories with me in them. And, if truth be told, I could not ask for more.

            “I can see it now, Beth,” I smiled at her brightly. “We have so much a head of us and we will go through it all together, no matter what. We need to take a camera and take loads of photos and stick them all in a scrapbook. It will be a trip that will never be forgotten. Ever.”

Jenny entered the living room shortly after with a wad of cash in her hands.

            “Amelia and I have put forward a small amount of money for you to stay in a Bed and Breakfast over night in Sanctum City. It is a rather long journey there and back, and it would make sense if you stayed there over night rather than having to come home early. You will be able to stay there until mid afternoon, I should think, and then it would be time to come home,” she said, methodically and then raised her eyes as she thought it over, checking if she had forgotten anything. “Does that sound fair enough, to you?”

            Speechlessly, Beth took the money from her mother and he father, who I learned was called Robert, entered the room with red rosy cheeks and bright blue eyes that told a thousand stories and had seen so many seen. I knew instantly, that he would be the kind of man who knew what he was talking about, the intellectual, wise kind who always seemed to give great advice. They are the ones who are always right, no matter how much you would wish there were not.

            “I do not know what to say to you guys,” Beth said, astounded. “All that I can think of, that still does not quite cover what I owe you, is thank you.”

            “You are welcome, Beth,” Robert said with a huge smile spreading across his face. “However, if you abuse our trust, it would be hard for us to allow you to venture off again. I hope you understand the importance of that. It has taken us a lot to agree with your trip to Sanctum City. You need to promise us that you will be on your best behaviour and look after each other. It is a large city, larger than you might think, and if one of you gets lost, than I guarantee you that it will be incredibly hard to find each other.”

            We agreed to his terms and thanked him for the money. I would have to give my thanks to Amelia and Elijah, also, as they had contributed to our funds for the trip. Beth and I spent the next couple of hours enjoying each other’s company, talking, sharing stories, the normal kind of banter expected to be shared between friends.

            At 5:00PM, I said goodbye and left their house and made my way to The Black Market for the meeting I was told to attend. I had not been told in advance what the meeting would be about and what topics we would be discussing so it would be a surprise to me when I arrived.

            Upon arrival, I marched casually down the street to the hangover section of the building. A light streamed out through the rustic window almost opaque from the dirt and grime that covered the surface of the glass. In the corners were patches of black mould which had spread itself out along the window. I could not see what was happening on the other side of the window, although I heard several voices, the subject they were talking about, however, I found hard to define.

            I tapped my fist on the small door and waited for a reply. The evening chill of an early spring evening stung my bare cheeks slightly. No birds chirped near this part of Faction Three. Everything tended to be quiet and I bet it had become almost impossible for someone to find it due to the winding streets that had led me here on my first day in Faction Three. And for some reason that I could not fathom, I felt welcome here, and for so long I had wanted to be accepted. Blaze had always accepted me, for who I was, and I never tended to make any effort with any other people, but on this island, I felt the need to fit in, to make people like me and want me here.

Matthew opened the door, and the squeaking noise of the hinges dragged me out of my daydream.

            “I am glad you made the effort to attend the meeting for today,” he said, genuinely as he held the door open for me. “It will be the first of many, of course.”

            I stepped inside, and saw a handful of people sat on small wooden chairs, in a semi circle. To my surprise, Matthew had done a little tidying up since the last time I had visited this place. The stacks of books had been moved to the back of the room and some had been packed away in cardboard boxes that were situated in the corner of the room. Lamps powered by small candles produced the room’s light, illuminating the walls and the faces that filled the room.

            “Everyone, I would like you to meet, Nara,” Matthew said, introducing me. “She is the new member of The Black Market Rebellion. She has sworn her loyalty to us until forever comes.”

            “Seriously, Matthew?” a woman questioned in a harsh tone that made me instantly uncomfortable. “We cannot trust a child!”

            I noticed that everyone who sat on the chairs were considerably older than me. I could tell from the lines under their eyes, the sorrow and stress I found in their eyes. In some of them, I found anger and hate. A desperate need for change.

            A man, in particular, dressed in a pair of long black trousers that were slightly ripped towards the bottom, a plain white shirt and his long black, sleeved cloak, emanated such hate and despise. His hands were clenched in his lap. He looked like the anger inside of him would erupt at any minute.

            “Do not make the girl feel unwelcome!” Matthew ordered, voice rising up a notch. “She has sworn allegiance to us. She is a member of The Black Market Rebellion and will be until I see fit. I am your leader, fellow comrades, and if I feel that we will benefit from her, then so be it.”

            “How could we possibly benefit from the likes of a child?” the woman persisted anyhow.

            “We do not judge our members, Kristy,” Matthew sighed as he pinched the bridge of his nose, tilting his head back slightly. “Do you not remember when you first became a member of the Rebellion? I seem to remember that you were made to feel rather unwelcome, too. So do not put this girl in the same situation.”

            I felt rather intimidated, stuck in between the two of them, arguing their point, neither of them gave me the hint that they were going to drop the argument any time soon.

            “Look, I just do not think it would be appropriate, nor a safe thing for us to do. If we welcome this girl into the Rebellion with open arms, then we are putting masses of trust in her and quite frankly, I do not want to do that. She has to earn our trust, Matthew. Why did you even give her the contract? You fool!”

            I opened my mouth to speak and when Matthew noticed this, he shook his head slightly, as if to warn me that it would not be a good idea and it would just make the situation worse. I did not, under any circumstance, feel comfortable or welcome in the environment and in all honesty, I just wanted to leave.

            “Kristy, I really think you ought to calm down, or I might have to ask you to leave,” Matthew said sternly. “I do not take well to intolerance.”

            She shot a glare at him and then one at me.

            She was a slender, beautiful woman with long and sleek black hair that she had pulled over her shoulders. The sleeves of her cloak had been rolled up, revealing the coloured tattoos covering her skin. She looked utterly breath-taking. There was something in her eyes, however, that confused me, somewhat. A mixture of hate, betrayal, love and loss glowed in her eyes. I did not know what to think of it, other than that she had been easy for me to read. Something bad had happened in her life and her eyes told me that she was out of revenge. For blood. And she would not stop until she achieved it.

            Her open cloak revealed her olive skinned body dressed in a pair of ripped jean shorts and a black tank top, her legs covered in tattoos which reached her ankles. Her left leg rested

on top of the other and as she slouched back in her chair, she reached for a fag from her pocket and lit it with her lighter. She blew out a puff of smoke into my direction, and I fought hard so that I would not choke on it.

            “Well I do not want her here, Matthew,” Kristy stated, callously. “We cannot trust her. We do not even know her. What makes you think she will keep our institution a secret until the revolution?”

            “She has a strong spirit,” Matthew states, simply. “She has no fear. Why am I even explaining myself to you? I am in charge, Kristy, and it is about time you learned your damn place.”

            Kristy blew out a puff of smoke and said nothing. The other members of the Rebellion had sat in silence the entire time, observing instead of interjecting and voicing an opinion. It seemed that no one else had a problem with me.

            "I am sorry about that, Nara, and there will be no further problems or conflict, I give you my word." Matthew smiled, sincerely before offering me a seat.

            I sat between two firm looking men, who emanated a mixture of hate and remorse. It had become apparent that they wanted a revolution against the King. And somewhere amongst all the dissimilarities between us, we had one, vital thing in common. We wanted freedom.

            I thought that by coming to Faction Three, I would have this desired freedom, but of course, I still felt caged. I was still influenced by the King's wishes. I was under his control through the Rite. Now that I lived in Faction Three, I would be classed as one of his many puppets. I had clearly failed to see this sooner.

            The man on my right sat with his legs sprawled out, with his elbow on his knee, his hand supporting his head. I could see the definition of his muscles underneath his coat of greyscale tattoos. Detailed images of a soldier running through the No Man's Land with a dark sky behind him covered his upper arm. Underneath, a zeppelin, a poppy and a gravestone covered the rest of his arm.

            We had learned in school, about the first and second World Wars of the past along with many civil wars of the countries from the Old Map, the map that existed before the destruction.

            "If I may have your attention, I would like to proceed with the meeting," Matthew sighed restlessly. I got the impression that he did not want to be here any longer, although the meeting had not been in session for longer than ten minutes, and he seemed slightly desperate to leave. I understood why.

            The members of the Rebellion did not emanate any sense of friendliness or affection towards him, considering he was their leader, the man who would lead them to freedom. He would be the true hero, he would be making the difference, and I was beginning to appreciate that I would be a part of that. I could help change the future, not just for us, but for the rest of the residents of Faction Two and Three and all the generations to come. I could bring change, and that very thought bestowed a magnificent feeing upon me. It made me feel worthy, needed.

            "Firstly, I would like to thank you for attending the meeting and I understand that you have spent a lot of your time with me and you have all put a lot of effort into making the Rebellion run smoothly. I am eternally grateful for that, comrades."

            The men either side of me sniffed slightly, as if not bothered by Matthew's words. I heard Kristy sigh, impatiently as she picked at the already chipped black nail varnish that coated her fingernails.

            Several times, I caught her staring at me from her seat, turning her head slightly as she did this. She would roll her eyes after every time she stared at me and would move on to find something else to stare at, until her gaze found its way back to me once more.

I ignored her odd behaviour as best I could and waited for Matthew to continue.

            "Today's objective is to create an action plan," Matthew said finally, as he pulled at his fingers in hopes of making the joints crack. "We cannot just recklessly attack. Furthermore, it would be virtually impossible to get into the King's castle, let alone get past the guards and the gates. This will be a tricky and highly dangerous procedure and it must be thought out well before we rebel. We are also low on numbers; we need to recruit more willing people who will join the Rebellion and flight alongside us."

            It annoyed me, somewhat, that we did not already have a plan or at least some idea of what we were doing. Considering Matthew was the leader, it would be assumed that he would have already drawn up a plan or at least have some idea in his brain, at least. Clearly not.

            "And how do you suggest we do that?" I interjected and immediately felt the dozen odd pairs of eyes staring at me. Suddenly, I wanted to crawl in a hole and hide away from everyone forever.

            "You have no right to speak here," Kristy snapped, clearly not willing to let me win my place amongst The Black Market Rebellion. Or even for me to feel comfortable in the slightest. "Do not voice your opinion, kid, 'cause your opinion is not valued, nor wanted."

            "For the last time, Kristy!" Matthew enraged. "If you cannot show Nara the respect she deserves, then there is the door!"

            I hunched my shoulder in an attempt to hide my crimson cheeks. Why on Earth had I even bothered questioning Matthew? I heavily regretted signing the contract, now, as I clearly was not welcome in this somewhat hostile environment. But there would never be a way out. I would be a part of The Black Market Rebellion for the rest of my time in Faction Tree, which would be the rest of my life.

            Kristy stood up immediately, shoving the chair backwards abruptly. With her tattooed crossed, she stared directly at Matthew, not once looking at me.

            "You cannot expect me to sit back and let you allow a child to have vital input on something which could not only affect my future, but the lives of every single member of this Faction and quite possibly Faction Two also, if we manage to abolish the Rite."

            "Get over yourself, Kristy," the man with the greyscale tattoos next to me sighed impatiently. "She ain't going to cause any harm. And who gave you the crazy idea that we would be able to abolish the Rite? You know that there is no chance in hell that that will happen. And to be quite honest with all of you, I think we are all wasting our time. We could get caught at any moment, even when least expected, and none of this will be worth it. Face it, we won't make change. Change does not exist here. Society is being controlled by a tyrant King who wants nothing but power."

            Shocked by his sudden interruption, I sat and stared straight into his eyes, jaw hanging by my lap. He looked at me briefly out of the corner of his eyes without moving his head.

            "Then why are you still here, Connor, sat amongst us if you could not give a damn?" Kristy argued back, digging her nails into the flesh on her arms.

"Because I hope that one day you lot will actually do something about it rather than sitting in these stupid meeting discussing it. We should be out there, making a difference."

            Matthew rolled his eyes as he impatiently tapped his foot against the cold, rough concrete floor. He waved his hand in the air as a gesture to silence the squabbling pair.

Matthew stepped forward.

            "Both of you need to sort yourselves out. It is difficult enough to get things done when you are both arguing over the smallest of things. Nara is a permanent member of The Black Market Rebellion and that is final. I will not be repeating this message again. You have all signed lifetime contracts and you have to obey the rules."

            "I will come back when you actually have a damned plan," Kristy snapped, paced across the room, flung open the door and disappeared from my sight. Unsurprisingly, Connor stood up and left, slamming the door shut behind him. Silence now echoed through the room.

            The other members if the Rebellion eyed the door carefully, for a few moments and then averted their attention back to the tall and dark man at the front of the room. Matthew glared at the crowd of members, clenching hi s hands at his sides.

            "Any more of you want to leave?" he questioned. "Because if you do, expect to face the consequences later on. Connor and Kristy will be punished for breaking a rule of The Black Market Rebellion. It had been stated clearly on the contract that all members must attend all meetings without resilience and without complaint."

            No one replied. We sat in silence, tentatively watching Matthew, wondering what he would say next.

            "I have a headache," he sighed, now pinching the bridge of his nose with one hand and waving his other as a gesture to dismiss the group. "Get out of here."

                                                                    *

            “I can’t believe we are actually here, Nara,” Beth said in awe as she gazed out of the hover car window. I had not expected to ever come across a hover car, nor did I, at one point, believe in their existence. The Audi Shark had been one of many concept cars and when the King got his hands on one of the designs from the early years of the century, he fell in love

with it. He ordered his best manufacturers to build it, considering we had a newly developed technology.

            It was a silver sleek, eye shaped vehicle which hovered a few feet above the ground. The design had been changed somewhat, as originally, it had been planned to be a two-seater sports car. Now, it consisted of two front seats and two back seats. At the back, the vehicle curved up slightly, and on either side were two long red, aluminous lights with a glider underneath.

            The interior had been made up of the finest black leather, imported from the Other Kingdoms. Beth and I sat in the two back seats, comfy and cushy, and instead of the ninety degree angle of the original car seats of the old world, the two sections which made up the seat were now positioned in an acute angle, the angle at the bottom, and curved with a cushion for us to sit on. Our knees were in line with our chests.

            A giant, almost completely blacked out window stretched along the top of the hover car, a strip of metal separated the roof window from the two thin sections of transparent window on the sides. When a specific button was pressed, the entire section would open up, revealing the interior. The front window was also clear, for obvious reasons, displaying long skyscrapers and even if I looked up through the roof window, squinting as hard as I could, I still couldn't spot the tips of the complex looking buildings. Thousands of windows covered the twisted and bizarrely shaped structures.

            "Neither can I," I sighed in amazement as I gazed at what I could see through the sections of window. The driver in the front section of the hover car smiled at me through the rear-view mirror.

            "Welcome to the heart of the island, girls," he said friendly as he slowly landed the car. I watched him as he pressed a small button near the steering wheel and the vehicle made

a low sound as the top of the car unlatched and lifted up, revealing a bright blue and cloudless sky. The sun gleamed its rays down across the land and casted it's shadows amongst the clusters of skyscrapers and other structures. "Sanctum City is where dreams are lived. Fantasy becomes reality here, and don't you forget it."

            "This is perfection," Beth gasped, gawping at her surroundings as she slowly climbed out of the hover car that was now firmly on the ground.

            "Thank you," I said to the driver, grasping my bag and throwing it over my shoulder.

He smiled, although for a second, I thought I saw a flash of concern, or something of a similar nature, appear in the depths of his dark eyes.

            "Make sure you see everything, kid," he said. "It will open your eyes."

            Slightly confused and unsure what to say in reply, I nodded and scrambled out.

            Stood on a grey marble pavement, Beth and I stared, speechlessly, and stared with open mouths, at the multiple motorway intersection not too far off in the distance. Many hover cars vroomed along the roads that would take them to just about anywhere in Faction Three. I wondered what it would be like to just climb into a hover car and drive away, to anywhere I wanted and without hesitation or anyone questioning me. It must feel amazing to know that everything awaited you, to be found, and to be explored. The thought that I could not share any of it with Blaze pulled at my heart strings slightly, but when I sent that first letter to him, some of the pain went away. I had felt the healing begin. And it seemed like a crazy and completely outrageous idea, but there was a slight possibility that I could be happy without him here.

            This contrasted with everything I had been fighting for, and would continue to fight for until Death greeted me with welcome arms and guided me into the dark pits of hell, or whatever else awaited me in the afterlife.

            I just had this funny feeling inside my stomach that everything would work out. Everything would be just fine. Everything would be okay. I felt calm an at peace, comforted by a warm, tingling sensation I felt deep in the pores of my skin, in bones and in my blood. It had crept upon me so unexpectedly.

            "Can you feel that, Beth?" I asked her, looked directly at her. "Or is it just me?"

            "What, the funny sensation I feel all over me? You can feel it too?" she asked, a smile began to appear on her face, creating small laugh lines around her lips. "It must be the atmosphere of the city. T lines around her lips. "It must be the atmosphere of the city. he people and the spirit that makes up the heart of the island. I am falling in love with this place, Nara, and I never want to leave."

            She slowly began walking towards one of the skyscrapers, one that took the shape of a hexagon, in a daze. Compelled by its complex exterior, I followed, never once removing my eyes from the structure. Due to the fact that it was mid afternoon, many people camouflaged the pavement, chatter filled the air and a lull and carefree atmosphere surrounded me. Here, in Sanctum City, I didn't have to worry about a single thing.

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