Shadowfall

It's the year 2013 and Mother Nature has decided that she is tired of the humans mistreating her Earth. She takes all the polution and bad energy and throws it back at the humans. Some humans are not able to take the energy and they die. Some become... different. They change into something else. Some gain powers. Some become dark. Many people take out on their own, but other survivors ban together. A small group of survivors ban together in an attempt to fix the Earth. Can they fix this Hell they have been brought into...?

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17. Chapter Sixteen: The Truth Revealed

 

 

                I yawned as I sat up stretching. I looked down at Duo and smiled. My mind was still baffled. I wasn’t sure what to think about this necklace. It hung on my neck and dangled under my shirt, hiding from the world. I stared down at it. What did it mean? What was its purpose? Why give it to me of all people…? I sighed and adjusted my shirt. I was a restless sleeper, my dreams always something new, something to make me unhappy. But last night was the best sleep I had gotten since this started, despite the excitement yesterday.

 

Vaann had appeared in my dream last night. He showed up as the others slept, kneeling down before me. He grabbed my hand and stole me away. We ran through the night, hand in hand. I remember asking where he was taking me, why I should trust him. His only response was pointing at the necklace. I should trust him because he’d given it to me.

                “Vaann, where are we going?” I snapped pulling away.

                He gave me a heart stopping smile. “It’s a surprise. Trust me.” He held out his hand.

                I hesitated, reaching for him. The necklace on my chest seemed to vibrate with life. And I knew. I could trust him. I took his hand, giving in. He smiled as he pulled me to his ‘surprise’. He stopped in the fronds of a big willow. Leaves! Green! My heart thumped loudly in my chest. He pushed the leaves open like a curtain. He pulled me gently through the leaves.

                What I saw was like magic.

                I gasped, my breath coming to a halt. It was beautiful! A big meadow stood before us. I dropped Vaann’s hand, stepping forward in wonder. Where had it come from? How did he find it? Vaann leaned against the trunk of the huge willow, just barely visible as he watched me. The grass tickled my bare feet. It was so soft and green. The sun beat down on my face; funny, wasn’t it supposed to be night time? The sky above was a beautiful blue, something that eagerly warmed my soul. The flowers bloomed all around, a parade of colors. Lose rose petals flew through the wind, the red and white mixing together as they danced around each other to the singing of nature. Animals were everywhere. If I had to name this place, it would be…

                Heaven.

                I giggled as I dropped to the ground, lying in the grass.

                I could stay here forever.

                But something was missing. I sat up, staring around. Vaann was smiling as he watched. I stood, walking over to him. He stared down at me. I smiled and took his hand and pulled him. He kicked off the tree, coming closer. He ran his hand down my arm until his hand finally found my hand, entwining his fingers through mine.

                “There’s more,” he said pulling me toward the flowers that swayed through the wind. I followed easily as he pulled me, not really thinking, just doing. He stopped to pluck a small blue flower and tucked it into my hair. I blushed. He sauntered forward dragging me along. I caught up to walk beside him.

                I stared up at him in surprise. He was the Vaann I remember, but his appearance was slightly different. His hair was down around him, framing his warm face. His hair, which had been so dark and alluring before, was now a light brown, almost blonde that looked soft and very comforting. His eyes seemed to have less life, but as he met my gaze, that light brightened a little. Even his outfit was different. A clean cut black trench coat with brown fur on the collar with a clean white t shirt. Dark skinny jeans clung to him flatteringly, big black boots tying his whole outfit together. I probably looked dirty with matted hair compared to him. And I felt different. Whether this was a dream or not, I felt comfortable. With Duo, I felt like I was burning. I had an odd sensation, one that drew me to his side, like I was being called there. With Vaann, I felt like this was where I was meant to be. Not supposed to be.

                Vaann looked away, stopping us. I followed his gaze, my eyes widening. A sparkling clear blue lake spread out before us. Vaann laughed at me as he helped me over the rocks toward the shoreline. I followed gratefully. He sat us down on a dry rock and stared out at the water. I stared up at him in a daze. I couldn’t look away from him.

                “Why did you go…?” I begged quietly.

                He turned to look at me, his smile disappearing. He was leaning back on his elbows squinting up at me through the bright sunlight. He sighed and licked his lips as he sat forward, meeting my eyes. “Believe me, Kate. I didn’t want to.”

                I stared down at my hands, unable to meet his eyes, afraid of the tears, afraid of what I would find in his eyes. “Then, why?” My voice was small like a scared child.

                He used his thumb and forefinger to take my chin and pull my face up to meet his eyes. “Kate, I did what I thought was the best for the group.”

                “Leaving us for dead is what’s best for us?” I choked out. “I thought you cared. I thought we were all a big family!”

                “We are! I can’t explain now. It’s too soon. I’ll explain it though, I promise. I do care. Even if I act like I don’t, I do. Alright? Now stop crying. You know I hate it when girls cry.” He said reaching to wipe the tears. I didn’t even realize I was crying.

                “Why later? Why not now, when we’re…”

                “Alone?” He finished for me. “Because, it’s too soon.”

                I stared down unsure. “Vaann…”

                “Don’t give up on me yet.” He said making me look up. “Don’t count me out; I’m still in the running.” He looked to my neck and frowned, his eyebrows furrowing in confusion. Leaning toward me, he took the chain in his fingers dragging down my collarbone slowly. I felt my cheeks burn. He pulled the necklace out of my shirt and placed it down with a smile. It hung out in the open, the gem sparkling. His eyes flickered back to mine. He was so close. If I just leaned forward a little bit…

                With a sigh, he leaned away and stood. I stared up at him, fingering the necklace quietly. As he stared out over the water, his face looked grim. I stood and walked to his side taking his hand in mine. I’d wait for him. He said he would explain. I wouldn’t give up on him. Ever. As if he sensed my thoughts, he looked down to me with sad eyes. A breeze whipped out hair out around us, a slight chill in the air. I shivered and stepped closer. I looked around as a splotch of red came to the water at our feet, spreading out through the water.

                “Not yet…” Vaann whispered.

                The flowers began to shrivel up and die as the grass turned a sickening brown. When I turned back to our lake, our safe haven, it was all red. The sky darkened and the animals scattered. The wind got stronger, pulling me away slightly. Vaann gripped my hand tighter dragging me to him. He wrapped his arms around me, wrapping me in his trench coat. I wrapped my arms around his waist shoving my face in his chest, folding into him.

                “What’s happening?!” I yelled over the roaring wind.

                “It’s ending!” He yelled back.

                Across the lake stood a figure. Her long hair blew out in the wind. She looked afraid as she fought the wind watching the Earth around her. A large wave of blotchy blackness crashed around her as she screamed. Vaann tried to turn us away, but it was too late. I watched the girl as she collapsed to the ground. My sister stepped from the trees, staring down at the figure. She leaned down to slip something into the girl’s pocket.

                Unconsciously, I brought my hand to my pocket in my skirt. My hands wrapped around something cold. I pulled out the object to stare at is as Vaann watched me. There were little charms around the golden chain in my palm. One was a crystal heart that sparkled with joy. In certain angles, it shot out rainbow beams from the light. The next charm was a bow and arrow, lying across each other. The last one that hunger there was a small circle, half white, half black. It was almost like the Yin-Yang symbol, but inside the black half was a red dot. Inside the white was a blue dot.

                As Anisa left the girl lying in a heap on the ground, realization hit me. Vaann tensed at my sudden intake of breath. The girl was me. I stared in horror as the shadows pulsed and drew closer to my form. I was left there, left there to be consumed by darkness. But when she stood, the shadows flinched away. She stared around her looking a bit disoriented. She looked so broken and lost. As I watched, I realized, this is how I woke up. This was me losing my memory. I was watching it from the sidelines.

                It was me…

                I tried to hold onto Vaann as the wind blew harder. He held me. But it wasn’t enough. I was thrown away as the wind blew me and the dream away….

 

 

As I stared around the camp, I noticed Lyllina was still gone. Riley and Marissa were off to the side, fast asleep. I lifted my hand to brush my hair out of my face, only to find a flower. I grabbed at the stem, pulling it out of my hair to stare at the blue lush petals. I moved and dug a small hole, planting it into the ground. I smiled at my handy work. I stopped, thinking, bringing my hand to my pocket. I pulled out the bracelet. With a cringe, I dropped it. How was it possible? I picked it back up staring at it. With a sigh, I slipped it on my wrist.

                I stood up and looked around. I was the only one awake. “I hope Lyllina is okay…” I said voicing my thoughts. I saw Duo open one eye. “Duo?” I whispered.

                “Hmm?” His open eye shifted its gaze to me.

                “Watch the girls, please.” I told him. “I need to find Lina.” He nodded as he stood stretching out from head to toe. I looked around for my boots, realizing I was still barefooted. A large crashing sent Duo and I a few feet off the ground. “Screw the shoes!” I said running out of the clearing toward the noise. “Lina!” I called repeatedly.

                “Hello?”

                I started toward her voice. “Lina, where are you?”

                “Over here!” Her voice was echoing through the rocks to the west.

                All of a sudden, tears filled my eyes. I leapt through the trees, nearly hitting a rock. The moment I saw Lina, the tears fell. I threw myself into her arms. “L-Lina!” I shouted.

                She stumbled back a bit but held me looking slightly stunned. “Did anyone die? What happened?” She pulled back to arms-length to look into my face.

                “I-I… its Vaann.” I stuttered.

                Her eyes got dark. “Tell me. Now.” She turned to start back toward the camp as I sniffled.

                I grabbed her arm, now was my only chance to ask about the necklace. “Wait! Don’t go back yet! I need to talk to you.” My voice got smaller, suddenly shy.

                She stared at me for a second before yanking me back, passed the rubble. She sat down gesturing for me to join her. I did so, staring at her, not sure where to start. It was quiet for a long time as she waited for me to begin. She took a deep breath, almost as if to calm herself. “Tell me, I’ll listen.” She said gently, though her eyes were intense.

                 I sighed nodding. “Promise me you won’t get mad until I completely finish what I have to say. I think I know what’s going on, but I’m not exactly sure…” I trailed off, at a loss for words.

                She looked uneasy as she nodded. “Alright.”

                I looked down. Might as well get it over with… “Vaann…. Wen with the Mother.” I saw Lyllina open her mouth to speak, but I held up my hand to stop her. She snapped her mouth shut. “One, you’re the leader now. And two,” I brought my hand to the necklace beneath my shirt, not sure I was ready to reveal it. “I saw Zack and he told me some stuff about your Village. What do the guys crosses mean?” She was staring off. “Lina!” I said waving my hand in her face. “Listen to me!”

                “I-I am…” She said shaking her head to clear it. Her mind must be everywhere right now. “Well, um, the guys gave away their crosses to people in their lives that were special to them.”

                Special? Was I special?

                “What do the girls have?” I asked out of pure curiosity.

                “They have a unique kind of bracelet. One that you can’t find anywhere else.”

                I threw my hair back off my shoulders so it fell down my back. I pulled the cross out of my shirt and reached back to unclip it. I was quiet as I held it out between us.

                “Kate… did Vaann…?” Her eyes went pale blue as she trailed off.

                I just nodded. It was quiet for a while, our breathing slow and even. “What does it mean?” I asked, breaking the silence.

                She let the silence took over as she stared at me in thought, trying to find the right words. The silence seemed to drag on forever. At first, I thought she wasn’t going to answer. Then she blinked a few times and spoke. “It means he loves you.” She smiled but it didn’t fully reach her eyes. I felt myself flush. But I thought…. And Duo and I… and… Well, love was such a strong word. He couldn’t, he didn’t! “Where the hell is he?” Lina asked when I didn’t reply, bringing me out of my stupor.

                “He’s with Her. But I’m not sure I actually believe that,” I said diving into a rant I’d been dying to let leave my lips. “You know him better; he wouldn’t do this, would he? I think this is just another one of his dumb stunts, but honestly, you can’t tell with him. We should get back to the others. They’re waiting.” I said not bothering to wait for her answer. My mind was going in a thousand different directions, forming my own answer. “Oh… Lina?”

                She stood looking dazed. “Yeah?”

                I sat in the same spot, staring down at my hands. “I-I know you’re the leader… but please, don’t make him leave…” I said looking up at her pleadingly.

                She seemed to snap back into reality. “Who? Duo? Kate…” She sighed and placed her hands on her hips impatiently. “He’s a survivor, thus making him a member of our group. I can’t kick him out just because I’m not particularly fond of him.” She turned to start walking back.

                I jumped up quickly to follow her. Neither of us spoke the whole way. I clipped the necklace back on my neck, leaving it out in the open. I felt exposed this way. I smiled when we reached the camp. Marissa and Riley came over to us happily. Riley gave me a hug and stared at the necklace.

                “That’s really pretty!” She said before running of toward Duo.

                Rissa hugged me as Lyllina leaned up against a tree. “That is pretty. Didn’t Vaann have one just like it?”

                “Um, maybe.” I said with a sheepish smile.

                “Deti,” I heard Riley say. “We should prank someone!”

                I turned around to pat her on the head. “No pranks! I have a surprise for you guys!”

                “No pranks,” Rissa said nodding in agreement.

                Duo grinned, meeting my eyes with a loving smile that I could help but return. “This surprise is good.” After a moment, I averted my eyes, looking down with a small smile. A small laugh escaped my lips.

                “But pranks are good! And so are ice cream bars!” Riley said as she sighed dreamily.

                “What is it?” Marissa asked with a giggle.

                I knelt down to dig through my bag until I found what I wanted. I held up the candy and water bottles with a smile. “Awesome stuff!” I saw Riley’s jaw drop. “Don’t drink too much or eat too fast, our bodies aren’t used to it. You could get sick. I have plenty more water bottles, though.” I walked to riley and handed her a piece of candy. I repeated the process with Marissa. Then I walked to Lyllina holding out the remaining water bottle and last piece of candy.

                “Thanks!” Rissa chirped.

                “Sure thing,” I said smiling over my shoulder at her. Duo was watching everyone with a smile on his face. He really seemed like he was getting comfortable with us.

                Riley stared at the stuff in her hands before waltzing over to Duo and holding out her candy. “Here!” She said sweetly.

                “Oh, no,” Duo said shoving her hand back gently, “you keep it.”

                I set the candy and water down beside Lina with a smile when she didn’t take it. I walked back to the others. “So, what do you think? Good breakfast?”

                “I may be allergic to it. There is no telling what is in there.” Riley said. Then she turned to me. “That reminds me!” She took a long sip of water before placing the cap on the water and placing the hand with the bottle on her hip. She used her free hand to point at me. “Where is Vion?”

                I felt my stomach drop. “Oh,” I looked down sadly. I didn’t want to hurt Riley, but we had to tell her eventually. “R-Riley, come here.” She stepped closer, confused, taking Lyllina’s hand. Lina gave her her candy silently. Riley smiled and began to nibble on it like a tiny bunny. I knelt down in front of her so I was eye level with her before I started. “You need to forget… Vion…. He isn’t one of us anymore. He’s with Her now. We all have to forget and move on.” I said glancing around at everyone individually as I held onto the cross, begging for it to hold me together, to keep me in one piece. Marissa walked over to hug Lina. Lina hugged her back with her free arm.

                Riley dropped Lina’s hand, bringing her hand up to cover her mouth in shock. My heart hurt as she began to shake, tears filling her eyes. “You… you have to be kidding!”

                I didn’t know what to say. I pulled her into my arms as she let out an agonized sob. “I’m sorry, Riley.”

                “Maybe he thought it was safer for us if he left,” Rissa cut in. “You know he gets those ideas in his head. That we are safer if he leaves. Maybe he will come back. Maybe this is all part of some big plan he has.” Even she sounded a bit panicked.

                Riley suddenly pushed from my hug, looking like I’d slapped her. “You-you have to be joking. H-he wouldn’t do that…”

                “Riley, we will get him back. I promise,” Lina said turning to look at Duo. “Right?”

                “R-Right.” Duo said softly looking a bit lost.

                I stepped closer to Riley holding my hand out to her. “I wouldn’t joke about something like this. I hate it just as much as you do.”

                “He has his mind set to killing her, not joining her! You shouldn’t lie!” She started to sob again, her whole frame shuddering with each sob. “He would never betray us, never betray me! He made me a promise! Promises should never be broken…”

                Lyllina walked closer to look Riley in the eyes. Marissa held her arms out to Riley but Riley cringed away. She looked up to Lina meeting her gaze. The heart break she was feeling was clear in her face, almost like had been printed on her forehead. She turned on her heels suddenly and ran from the camp. I lurched forward to grab her arm, my fingers just brushing the fabric of her shirt. I saw her disappear into one of her illusions.

                “Riley!” Marissa yelled chasing after her.

                “Oh, god…” Duo said taking off.

                I stared at Lyllina as we both stood there. I knew the pure shock and confusion was etched into my face. She looked totally unaffected as she sipped her water. She placed down her water with a sigh. “Come on, Kate.” She said rushing after them. I rocked forward on my feet to scoop up our small amount of stuff and slung my own over my shoulder before breaking off into a run. It only took a few seconds to catch up.

                “I can’t catch her thoughts anymore…” Duo muttered.

                “Allow me,” I said stepping to his side. I peeked around looking for the ripples that seemed all too familiar to me.

                “Wait, I got her!” Duo’s sudden outburst made me jump and turn as he ran off to the left. He stopped with a blank expression. “Lost her again. I can only catch her thoughts sometimes…”

                “Maybe she’s looking for a resting place.” Marissa suggested.

                I felt my head begin to throb as I spotted Riley’s illusion. A ripple spread only a bit, but it was enough for me to find her. “Riley…” I said stepping forward. I felt the cross begin to burn at the base of my throat. I wrapped my fingers around it in an attempt to keep myself from giving into the pain that coursed through my veins.

                Duo stopped beside me. “Did you find her?”

                I ignored him, clutching my support. “Riley, drop the illusion. Let me in.” My vision suddenly went blurry before I lost color. I felt like my brain was turning into mush. My sight was like an old TV. Black and white. I heard the ringing in my ears and grabbed at my head. “L-Lina! We need to get Riley and go! The Army is close!” I felt my knees buckle under the burst of pain.

                “Riley, come on!” Rissa called in a panic.

                “Peek-a-boo, I see you!” I heard Riley say in a sing song voice. I couldn’t see her though. My eyes were tightly squeezed shut.

                “Rissa, help Kate! Riley! We need to hide, can you make another illusion? To hide all of us?” I heard Lina ask.

                I felt Rissa kneel down beside me and try to heal me, though it was no use. The warmth started in my cheeks, flowed through my head and down to my toes. I could feel Marissa’s energy running through me, but the pain was winning in the fight for dominance with ease. I felt sick as they mixed. I could hardly hear Riley as the sounds of pain and energy whooshed in my ears! Yes, they had sounds. Does that make me crazier?

                “Yes, everyone needs to be in a group hug.” Riley sounded too far away.

                “Marissa, now!” Lyllina shouted.

                I gasped as the energy pulled away and I felt the pain spread. I tried to stand as Rissa attempted to pick me up. She was pulling on me, trying to be gentle with much difficulty.

                “Here, let me.” Duo said. I felt his arms wrap around me and pull me to his chest, cradling me like a baby. I was writhing and struggling in protest. His touch was just as painful now. Pain coursed through me as my brain screamed out. But my body was too weak to bring the screams to my lips. They just bubbled in the back of my throat as I struggled in his arms. “Shh, Kate, it’s alright. Where do you want her?”

                “Both of you come stand with us,” Lyllina said.

                I felt Duo walk over and then struggle to sit, cradling me in his lap. The necklace was on fire, though I could barely feel it compare to the pain in my head and the burning of my body in Duo’s arms.

                “Duo, just hold Kate. Marissa, Lyllina, take hold of Duo with one hand and then take my hands.” Riley ordered.

                No! I screamed internally. I clamped my mouth shut, grinding my teeth. It was so unbearable! But I had to bear with it. I had to stay quiet. For my friends… for the sake of my family. Instead, I let the silent tears run down my cheeks.

                Next thing I knew, everything was dark…

              

“I wonder if she can hear us.”

                “Maybe, who knows?”

                “She looks pale.”

                “I hope she’s alright.”

                I can hear you, I’m fine. But I couldn’t make my thoughts leave as words. I couldn’t move, couldn’t open my eyes, couldn’t speak.

                I felt something cool touch my cheek. “She feels hot.” 

                I felt the heat of what was left of the sun beating down on my face disappear. Duo’s arms placed me on the ground and my pain was gone almost instantaneously. I heard the sound of a water bottle being thrown and caught like an echo through my head.

                “She’ll need it more than I do.” I could just barely make out the concern in Lina’s voice.

                There was a small tearing sound. What was it? I sighed internally as something cold came to my burning forehead. Ugh, a fever. I could feel my hands clutched to the cross again. It was my rock. It kept me going. No, this was a token. My rock was Lyllina. She kept me going physically. Marissa was my support, she kept me going emotionally. Riley acted as a nerve that kept me going mentally. Duo and Vaann were a big part in who I was now.

                Duo was like…. A Guardian. I felt safe around him.

                Vaann was everything. Heart, soul. But… I thought…

                Ugh!

                Damn, I’m confused. I thought. You can’t love him. It’s impossible, Kate. Stop.

                “Duo, take care of them for a bit, okay?” Lyllina said. I heard her run off.

                “Um, alright…” He sighed.

                Someone added more cold water to the cloth and I could feel alive again. My eyes fluttered, flooding me with blinding light. “Hnn…?”

                “Hey,” Rissa said with a gentle smile.

                “Hi,” I muttered pushing off the ground in an attempt to sit up.

                “No, stay lying down! You have a fever.” She said gently pushing on my shoulder to make me lie down.

                I shook my head, resisting. “No, I’m fine.”

                “No, no, Kate, you’re sick. You need to sleep.”

                “I can’t,” I said cringing. “My visions will give me nightmares. I don’t want to see them any more…”

                “Then, please… rest.” Marissa’s voice was demanding but still begging.

                “Alright…” I sighed lying back.

                As I closed my eyes, I saw myself. My friends were dead around me. Vaann was standing before me, but I was the one holding the knife….

 

Vaann’s POV:

 

The hallways of the base were dark and seemed like a labyrinth to me. Others walked around easily, knowing exactly where to go. They would laugh and smile as they walked passed. The new kid who had no idea. But I walked with my chin up, trying to look as confident as I could manage.

                “Where am I now…?” I asked myself.

                I was alone. I was safe. I let my feet drag me forward as I wandered. It was nice being alone. Without Anisa or Damien, the guards and without my brother. But I did miss being with my friends. It made it easier. But no, there wasn't any time. I felt like I was slamming my head into a brick wall repeatedly every time I thought of them. They probably hated me now.

                I paused at a window staring down at a building as it crumbled down. They were getting close. “She’s at it again, huh?”    I heard the door behind me open. In the reflection of the glass, I could see a short blonde girl. I spun around to Kate, but stopped. My heart dropped. Not Kate. My mind was at it again. Anisa. She was humming to herself as she skipped about. I sighed and pulled put the black katana, trying to distract myself. I ran my hand down the blade, smirking as flames appeared. I watched them burn as I spoke. “What, Anisa?”

                She came to a sudden halt in mid-step as she turned to look around. “Huh, what?”

                “What do you want?” I asked.

                “Just passing through.” She said crossing her arms across her slender figure.

                “You always sought to annoy us. I figured it would apply here, too.”

                She shrugged. “It’s my nature to annoy those who keep me from Kate. You aren’t a threat now. Only Duo is.”

                I felt rage flair through me as a feral growl released from my chest. I slammed Anisa back into the wall, using my arm to block her airway. Her eyes widened and I caught a glimpse of myself in their reflection. I looked wild, animal-like, crazy. She began to claw at my arms, drawing blood with her marks. “Duo is not a threat! Kate would never-“ A sudden feeling of an electric current up my arm made me gasp and step back. “Sorry, I don’t know what came over me…” I touched her… I couldn’t do it before… I touched her!

                She suddenly shoved me causing me to stumble back. I caught my balance quickly. “You’re crazy!” She yelped as she ran off.

                I stared after her as my mind wandered. I touched her. The bond. She knew it too. She would take action. She would go after the group and find a way to stop it. We both knew it was too late, though. The bond was strong and would only get stronger. Kate could handle herself against her sister, she’d done it before. Marissa and Riley were strong. And Lina could help. Duo could help. They’d be fine.

                “They will be fine with her in charge…” I muttered.

                My brothers sudden voice behind me made me jump. “Wondering if you didn’t the right thing?”

                “Yeah…”

                “I can’t stay whether it was or not. But this is what we were meant to do.” I could tell Zack was urging me to stay strong. And I would.

                “I hope you’re right.” I sighed.

                He placed a hand on my shoulder, trying to fill me with the feeling of calm and drag my thoughts away. Its better if they are not involved any further.”

                “But-“ I started to protest and stopped. He was right. I sighed as I let out an agonized, “You’re right.”

                He shrugged it off but eyed my bare throat. “Hey, where’s your necklace?” He asked curiously.

                “In a safe place.” I replied simply, not wanting to bring up the subject at all.

                “Around the Daughter’s neck?” He smiled raising an eyebrow.

                I glared down attempting to keep the blush from my cheeks. “Shut up!”

                It was silent for a moment. Zack sounded somber when he spoke. “Do you want to see them?”

                “No,” I said turning away.

                “You have to face them eventually.” He spoke each word softly and individually, as if I would break into a million pieces. With how I was feeling lately, that might be just the case.

                “That is, if we survive, dear brother.” I said not bothering to look back.

                “You doubt our powers?”

                “They are against out nature.”

                “We can’t let it happen and you know it. It’s the only way!” His voice rose suddenly, echoing down the hallway. This time, I did turn. I gave him a hard scolding look. So much for staying quiet, I thought.

                I grabbed at my hair angrily, growling a bit. “You think I don’t know that?!”

                “Then get your act together!” He snapped. I felt like he’d slapped me in the face. I cringed back.

                Before I could reply I forced myself to turn away. All the anger, stress and sadness that was held in my chest flowed down through my veins. It dripped passed my elbows, ran into my wrist, coursed through my palm and throbbed in my fingertips. A pulse of energy released from my fingers as I walked, sending the long line of beautiful stain glass windows along the wall into a shattering rain of sparkling colors. Zack took the glass head on, letting it bounce off him. I felt myself disappear into the shadows.

 

                                                                                                ****

I’d walked away. I needed air. If I didn’t clear my head, I’d have to smash more windows. Zack had followed me. We stood on top of an old house, myself at the edge of the roof, Zack leaning against the chimney. Riley had run off, pulling an illusion around herself as she cried. I kept my face emotionless, but I felt gross as I watched the groups threats slowly come lose. I watched the ripples of Riley’s illusion, Kate standing in front of it, staring. She was holding her head. With a sigh, I dropped off the roof, creating my own illusion with the shadows as I walked to Riley. She looked up at me in astonishment. I gestured for her to stay quiet.

                “I didn’t forget my promise,” I whispered to her.

                She whimpered looking up at me. She looked so heart broken. “Are you ever going to come back?”

                I gave her a small nod with an impish smile. “Protect everyone for me, okay? Especially Kate. She’s important.”

                “Promise!” She whispered harshly. “Promise me you will see the good side of Mother Nature and not get caught by her inner darkness!”

                “I’m going to do my best. Zack and I are going to end this soon. We will come back after that.” I dropped to my knees in front of her until I was eye level. I stared at her until she locked eyes with me. “I promise. Now drop the illusion when I leave.”

                She puffed out her cheeks as she wiped the tears from her eyes. “Fine. Don’t change, please. You are like my brother.” She said. I felt my heart throb. She saw me as part of her family. These people were my family now, too.

                “I won’t,” I promised. “Stay strong for me, Riley. I’ll be alright.” I said more to myself than Riley. I would be alright. I turned back toward the building, feeling myself turn into a shadow. “You can drop the illusion now.” I told her. I walked back to the building. Zack was on the ground, leaning against the building. “Zack, are you coming?”
                “Yeah, let’s go.” He said gesturing me closer. We jumped back onto the building. I turned just in time to see Kate crumble to the ground. She looked so broken. “Want to have some fun?” Zack asked.

                “Wont the Mother know it was us?” I wondered glancing back to him.

                He flashed me a cocky smile. “Not if we are fast enough.” I looked around again, seeing Duo holding Kate closely in his arms as he carried her toward the group. I felt my eyes narrow into a glare. Zack shook his head as he clicked his tongue. “Harsh.”

                I pulled out the sword and ran my hand down it, drawing out the flames. I let out a low hiss. “She won’t notice.” I jumped down and swung my sword, forming a large wall of black flames to keep the Shadows away, but I knew only Zack and I could see it. “Let’s go, now.” I walked back to Zack feeling my molecules vibrate as they pulled apart. They separated and we completely disappeared from the spot.

                I sighed in relief as we reached the base. I couldn’t help it or stop it as my thoughts went back to Kate. Kate in Duo’s arms as he held her. His hands on her, his lips…. I growled as I punched the wall. Zack acted like nothing had ever happened.

                “That was a big group She sent after them.” He muttered.

                I nodded as I rubbed my bloody knuckles, twisting my wrist. “But Riley can do it. She’s stronger than she looks.”

                Zack reached up to place a hand on my shoulder, speaking gently. “Vaann…”

                I shook him off walking toward the training room. “I’m going to train…”

              

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