His name was Rubin, and he hated love. ---Prequel to Free---


14. One

Rubin could only watch as the stones hit the boy. He was shielding the girl behind him with his own body, and his silver eyes gleamed with fear.

"Please," he cried out. "Please, stop it! We've never done anything to hurt you!"

"You're monsters!"

"You're just like the shadows!"

"You'll kill us all!"

Rubin could have stepped in, could stop the stones with his knives and his mask, could protect the two children from the people, but something stopped him. Maybe it was curiosity: maybe he just wanted to know what they meant by just like the shadows. Or maybe, he realised, he just didn't care.

"Please!" the boy screamed, as the girl cowered behind him. "We won't hurt you!"

A rock struck his forehead, and a stream of blood started to trickle from the wound. He staggered back, crying out in pain.

The girl moved so quickly that Rubin hardly saw her, but she must have moved because she was suddenly standing before the boy and throwing her palms out before her..

Flames. Black, silvery flames.

They leapt from her palms and forced a wall of fire between them and the crowd, and even Rubin staggered away from the intensity of the heat.

As the flames faded, Rubin could see the desperation in their eyes. They wanted to be accepted; they wanted to be a part of the human race, but the people and the stones and the words like knives would cast them away forever.

"Please," the boy whispered. "The shadows hurt us, too! Why do you hate us?"

Rubin tried to move, tried to call out some kind of support, but no words came. Fear, he realised. He was scared, because just like everybody else, he could not help but remember the shadows.


Helplessly, the two children took a step away from the crowd.

"We just want to-"

"Monster!" The cry was taken up by the people, and Rubin knew that he had the power to stop it, that he could stop the hatred and the fear and the hysteria if only he moved; he could save them from the despair and the terror and the pain and the sense that they could never belong.

But he didn't.

The boy grabbed the girl's arm, and suddenly they were gone, and Rubin's chest was heavy with a feeling he thought he had long since discarded.




When Rubin left the request hut, he knew instantly that something was wrong. The thief was there.

And so were three of the murderers.

He swallowed.

"What you did was stupid, kid," the thief snarled. "Nobody messes with me. See? I have enough to hire people."

Deep breaths.

Rubin feigned a move to the left, but the assassins were not fooled. They darted to block his escape with practised ease, and it was only his lightning reactions that saved him.

"We could always try to talk it out-"

"Kill him," the thief commanded, and the assassins lunged. Rubin threw himself aside, and then he did the only thing natural: he plunged his knife through the assassin's throat.

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