~~Light dances all around me, spectral beams which pierce my skin, burning off flaky pieces of flesh, causing me to let out a great, heart-wrenching scream. My arms are scarred, my legs are broken, and every single piece of me is splintering like a piece of old wood, as the world has no care for whether or not I am happy.
Then it all stops, and I am numb with pain.
I can't see anything but darkness, which is quite a contrast from the light I have left behind. The air is damp, like water hanging stagnant in a rain cloud, waiting to fall from the skies, like Gabriella's tears.
The girl's dress is the only thing illuminating the room, capturing us all in a blanket of fiery golden light. Aareia and Aisla insisted we leave her, but I told them they were wrong; after all, why take one Leveller, when you can take two just as easily?
"Where should I put them, Kear?" Aareia asks bitterly, her hand wrapped tightly around Laorei's wrist.
"In the furthest corner for your one," I instruct, sighing at her incompetence. Is she really so stupid she does not do the most obvious thing? "And the other can go diagonally opposite. Don't forget the barriers - I know you have trouble with doing things in the correct way."
There is no reply from Aareia, so I smile triumphantly as I exit the cell, leaving Aareia, Aisla and the male to 'take care' of Laorei and Daesia.
Outside, the clouds are rumbling like the beginning of a thunderstorm, rolling across the horizon. My smile glows at the darkness like the sun's rays above, breaking through the twisting, turning spirals of poisoned vapour. This is it, I think to myself. We just need to capture Jadyn, and then my work here is done, so I can save the Levellers and unseat Gabriella. If I even want to.
Seas and oceans shimmer below me like herds of diamond studded sheep, the land green and lustrious in some areas, yellow and cracked in others. Countries rise from the ground like fire rises from the Core's deepest embers, putting on their pretences of strength. Yet they are weak, compared to other Levels; almost too weak to physically function. I find it rather amusing.
Their is a shriek from behind me, and I wince at the sound, before rolling my eyes at my idiocy. Obviously they can never escape. It's an absurd idea.
"Come," a voice whispers in my ear, and I turn around at the sound. Andrestands there, a faint smile on his face, though it is clearly fake. He knows.
"Come where?" I smirk.
His eyes are colder than shards of ice, his smile curving into a shadow of a knife. "To talk."
"Oh, so not that strange mind power stuff? Shame."
His glare is enough to silence me, and his hand will probably break my voice box anyway, from the way it is clasped tightly around my neck. "I might not be able to kill you, Kear," he spits. "But I can still make you feel pain."
"Nice try," I whisper, as I close my eyes and conjure in my mind an image. An image of Humans.
A thrill rushes through me as my feet pound on the ground, my heart soaring - though not quite high enough to reach the darkening clouds. I think Andre may be overreacting a little tad.
"What. The. Hell."
Natalie and Eliza are sitting on the park bench, much to my relief, and are staring at me like I have just dropped from the sky. Which I have, to be fair, but it shouldn't have looked like I fell - more like I transported.
"Oh, my God, Layla what on Earth just happened. You were somewhere, and now you're here, and you started running and you fell out of a tree, and your ankle must be broken, oh God - let me take a look, it might give me an advantage in Biology." Eliza says this all very fast, tripping over her own words every half a sentence.
"Huh, no, I'm fine," I tell her, trying to lie as convincingly as possible. "It was only a small tree."
Eliza raises her eyebrows. "Yeah. Because the oldest oak in the county is absolutely tiny, isn't it?"
"Evidently," I say with a smirk. "Maybe you should check your facts, Eliza."
She glares at me for a moment, shaking slightly with whitening knuckles, before taking a breath. "Sure. Just as soon as I get some wifi."
Eliza and Natalie laugh and I join in with them, though I am not entirely sure what wifi is - I think it is something they use to discover facts. "Good luck with that, Liz," Natalie laughs. "The nearest MacDonald's is something like a million miles away."
"More like a billion," Eliza jokes bas I stand awkwardly, not knowing what to say.
"Make it a little more and you're probably fairly close," I choke out, then glance at the grass. "But anyway, I need to talk to you guys. It's important."
Eliza's eyes light slightly, and she cocks her head, seeming interested. "What's up?"
“A lot," I say. "You might want to sit down.
I tell them a lie obviously - I'm not stupid.
“I’m worried,” I whisper, looking down at the ground. “Someone from my old school got back in touch recently, and they want me to help them get this other girl and her friends in trouble for what she’s been doing, but one of my other friends wants me to help them, and I have no idea what to do.” I bite my lip, hoping that they believe me.
Eliza looks at my cautiously, like she doesn’t believe me. I know Natalie knows part of the truth – which is also why I need to get rid of her at some point. “Can we meet them?” Eliza asks with a sickly sweet smile, eyes like golden syrup.
“Yeah,” Natalie echoes. “If they’re annoying you, I want to batter them so much they turn into a cake.”
“A dead cake.”
I am not sure of the logistics of their words, but it makes me laugh regardless. “Thanks, guys. But I just want to sort it all out. WE’re all close, you know?” It couldn’t be further from the truth.
“Well, I personally think you should get with the first group – get the girl and her friends into trouble,” Eliza says. “It’s what they deserve.”
Natalie nods in agreement.
Even if they are only Humans, they speak wise words, and a smile pulls on my lips. “You’re rright,” I say.
“Of course we are.” Natalie laughs.
“Can’t argue with that, Nat. Oh, by the way, I mught need your help. You know, sort of like a hitwoman.” I smirk, and Natalie seems to understand what I am getting across. Pity she doesn’t actually knows what I will do.
“Whata bout me?” Eliza asks, and I bite my lip. Didn’t think of that.
“Help me talk smart. Even if you lie, it’s fine – you’ll make it sound smart enough.”
“Yay. Can’t wait.”
I lean against a brick wall, vaguely aware of the stone digging into the sole of my foot. There are shouts from the school which is just around the corner – an after school fight, most likely. It should be at least twenty to four by now, so Natalie needs to be here soon, or she will be late. And if she is late, I’ll hurt her even more.
Feet slap onto the pavement, pants of breath between each one. I look up, but lower my gaze when I see it is not Natalie, but a boy with very odd blue hair.
“Who are you?” hre asks, giving me a queer look.
“Me, potatohead.” Wow. He’s a charmer.
“Well then hi, potato head.”
He rolls his eyes, huffing, and they stay there, at the back of his head. “Don’t – stop – they will – crush – hopes – betray – war.” The whites of his eyes glow silver and he falls, nearly collapsing onto the road.
What even was that? What does he mean? What’s his betrayal he speaks of? I know the answer to that, of course – Natalie. After all, I have seen her, which gives me all the more reason to kill her before she can get to me.
The boy stirs and I kick him in to a shadow, trying to hide his body with my own. Finally, Natalie rounds the corner and I sigh with relief, leaping towards her. “You’re a little bit late,” I huff, crossing my arms.
“Only a little bit, as you said,” she coutners, falling into step with me as I tryto forget the boy.
“You’re irritating me.”
“So I’ve been told.”
“You’re irritating enough for me to kill you.”
“Or for me to kill you.”
She lunges for me unexpectedly, and I leap out of the way, pulling a knife out of my pocket in the process. Even if I won’t use it, it would be very useful in terms of frightening her. “Oh, you’re trying to kill me toO? That’s cute.”
“Yeah, I am trying to kill you,” I say with a sneer. “The thing is, I’m immortal, so you can’t kill me.”
“What if I’m immortal too?”
“But you’re not.”
Her fist collides with my face and I fall, face contorting. “Thatw as your death sentence, Natalie.”
A fire is sparked inside of me, licking over my arms. Natalie laughs coldly, grabbing my wrist and flipping me into a wall. I scream slightly, mthen mentally reprimand myself for it. She’s weak. I’m strong. I should not be afraid.
“I think it’s funny how you think you can defeat me, Natalie,” I laugh, striking her with my hand, which is already engulfed in flames.
It begins to devour her, making her skin start to flake off like chipped paint on an old wall. My laugh is even crueller in the silence, though it disintegrates slowly as a gust of wind ripples through to street. Natalie smiles, the flame ebbing away. It is her turn to hit me now, and it stings my cheecks like a toxic gas.
A toxic gas.
“You wouldn’t dare,” I spit, much to her amusement.
“Oh, I think I would.”
There is a blinding light, like the end of the world, and suddenly there is a voice, screaming like a banshee, telling me this is it, the beginning, though of what I do not know.
But I don’t care. I focus all my energy on her, the betrayer, Natalie. Only she isn’t really Natalie – she can’t be. Natalie is headstrong, doesn’t think, and doesn’t have anything over me. She is kind, and brave, but has a sharp tongue that bites harder than a mosquito.
This – this thing – is not Natalie. It is cool, calculated and cruel. It is strong, mayne even stronger than me. I don’t know if I can kill it.
“Say ‘goodbye’, Kear,” it hisses. “You’ll die now.”
I run towards her as she runs to me, both of us with madness in our eyes. “No,” an unknown voice says. “She won’t.”
Natalie smirks and allows the toxin to leave her, poisoning the air around us. I set fire to it, and the air only fuels it, much to ,my opponent’s dismay. “She will,” Natalie says, voice full of malice.
“No! She will not!
“And what will you do about it?” Natalie asks, directing her attention to her.
I let my power drain from me, regathering my strength as she argues. “Dearie, I need to nothing about it other than tell you to stop. Or you shall feel the wrath of the whole of Crust, traitorous fool.”
“You’re – you’re Jadyn?” Natalie stutters, face pale.
“Yes,” she says with a wicked smile. “And you’re dead.”
I take my chance and let all the fire explode from my hands, coursing through my fingertips and out, directed straight at Natalie.
She turns to me with a smile on her face, and it seems some how sincere. “A thank you would be nice.”
“Thank you,” I say like a slave, an image of Aareia flashing into my mind.
Come on, I think, hoping she hears me. I’ve got Jadyn.
“There it is,” she laughs, face generating youth.
Aareia better be here soon. I have Jadyn alone, but if it is me against her, I will be the one who loses.
“So, why did you come here?” I ask casually, stalling for time.
“I saw you were in danger,” she replies quickly, as if the words have been rehearsed. “So I decided to come.”
“Oh. But why? Why help me?”
“Who cares, Kear?” Aareia shouts, from on top of Jadyn’s back. “Trap her.”
Immediately, I form a barrier of fire, and Jadyn screams as Aareia takes her powers from her, agony echoing off the walls. “Let me go!” she shrieks.
“But – but I saved you, Kear.”
“I saved myself.”
“You will pay for this!”
“I doubt it will cost much. You and all your comrades will be under our control.”
“You Levellers are always so self-righteous. Don’t you see, Jadyn? You’re wrong.” I spit at her and turn away, disgust etched plainly onto my face. “Take her,” I order Aareia.
“This means war!” Jadyn screams, voice dwindling into nothing.
I don't even bother to reply - Jadyn is not worth my words.
They are gone, and I smile as rain pours down from above. The Heaveners are crying, and I don’t blame them, because when this is over, they will wish they were dead, even if they are immortal.