The tension reaches its peak as everyone’s eyes settle on the band, sitting on the table like a loaded gun. However, Elli and Almyra maintain their gazes, neither being deterred by it. They stare daggers at each other, like a test of will and who will cave first. However, both hold strong.
“As I thought, you are not easily intimidated. But my question stands, who do you wish to be Elli? I can tell you everything about yourself if you wish, but only if you know exactly who you are. In other words, do you wish to rise above, or will you fall to the temptations. Choose Elli.”
“Mother! What are you doing? Put that thing away, it’s not needed!” Ame stands anxiously.
“Yes, I agree Love, this might be taking it a bit too far. They are our very important guests.”
Liam looks around in a nervous confusion. “I’m sorry, but what’s happening exactly? I think I may be missing something. What’s this talk about choosing? What is she choosing between?”
“No need for alarm everyone, I’m just asking a simple question. I’ll gladly explain everything, but first I wish to hear what Elli has to say. She at least understands the situation, don’t you?”
Elli narrows her eyes and then grins. “Was that supposed to intimidate me? I’m sorry Mrs. Almyra, but that doesn’t scare me, nor does it make me feel differently. I think it’s quite clear that I’m somehow involved with this Community I’ve heard about and it’s related to the Kree, so let’s stop the pretenses on that already. As for your question Ma’am, I don’t know who you think it is I should be nor who you think I shouldn’t be, that’s what I want an explanation for. All I can say for sure is that I want to be me. I am right now in this moment and have always been Ellisia Clara Almont, the little sister of Liam Duncan Almont and now the girlfriend of Amelia Diane Mangier. I’m happy with who I am and I don’t intend to change, no matter what I discover.”
They continue their stare off, neither averting their eyes once, until finally Almyra smiles. “Yes, you are exactly who I thought you were Ellisia and now I can officially say, I have no doubt that you are worthy to stand beside my daughter.” She removes the band from the table and returns it to her wrist. “Now, I shall explain everything to you in detail on your history and the situation with the Demikri Sect. But first, let us continue to enjoy this delicious meal, shall we?”
“Of course, I wouldn’t want such a delicious meal to go to waste.” The two resume eating as though that never happened and soon the others follow suit, though the tension remains.
Once everyone has finished their meal and the table has been cleared, Almyra prepares to speak. However, just before she begins, the doors to the dining hall open. Everyone’s attention turns to the source as Almyra smiles and says, “Oh, the prince has arrived at last. You’re late.”
“Sorry mother, I just got held up. Of course, I take full responsibility and will take any punishment you deem worthy.” He bows to her and awaits her verdict.
“No need for such formality Tobias, not today at least. I wish for things to be casual today, in honor of our guests. This young man is Liam Duncan Almont and this young lady is his sister, Ellisia Clara Almont, who is Amelia’s chosen partner. Please introduce yourself to them.”
The man stands and walks towards them, allowing them to see him more clearly. He’s got golden hair down to his ears, light blue eyes, peach skin and is very tall. He’s got a bit of a baby face, but his features are sharp, making him look like a man. He’s dressed similarly to James, just with less adornments. He approaches Liam first and bows like before as he says, “Mr. Almont.” He stands and turns to Elli and bows as he says, “Miss Almont.” He turns and bows between them. “My name is Tobias Ian Mangier, eldest child of King James and Queen Almyra. It’s my pleasure and an honor to make your acquaintance. Thank you for joining us today.”
“Oh no, thank you for having us today. Elli and I are very grateful to have been given the opportunity to be your guests today, so the honor is all ours. Right Elli?” Liam looks at her.
“Yes, of course. Nice to meet you Tobias…or Mr. Tobias rather. Thanks for having us.” Tobias stands and faces her with a charming smile. He is the very embodiment of what a prince would be and seems to be the type to make all the girls swoon. Elli can definitely see it and if she had been born as someone else, perhaps she too would’ve fallen for that charm, but as she is, he does nothing for her. She also seems to notice a hint of malice behind his eyes, but he masks it well. She’s sure it’s related to her unusual state; one she hopes she will finally understand now.
“You may call me Tobias, as like Amelia, I don’t like to make a show of my status, though I’m certainly more aware of it than she is.” He slyly side-eyes her and she scowls in return. “It’s nice to finally put a face to the girl she writes about so enthusiastically in her diary. It’s so detailed I feel as though I know you as well as she does already. Though I’d be happy to learn more.” He kisses her hand as he side-glances once again at Amelia, who’s become very infuriated with him. She knows he’s purposely baiting her, but she refuses to stay quiet as he soils Elli’s hand.
Standing she shouts, “Get your slimy hands off of her you jerk and stop reading my diary!”
Ignoring her, he returns his attention to Elli. “I’m sorry you have to put up with such an unrefined and immature girl. She may be only five years my junior, but she acts more like she’s ten. We can only hope you’ll be enough to make her into a worthy princess and queen in time.” Elli can see Ame look down and clench her fists, hiding the hurt behind a frown. Her parents say nothing, simply allowing the sibling banter to unfold, while Liam looks uneasy. The more Elli sees of the dynamics between the royal family, the more disgusted she feels, especially when she sees Lia with an expression like that. She turns her attention back to him and snatches her hand from his grip, surprising him, but he maintains eye contact.
With an aggravated tone she says, “What Amelia lacks in maturity, she gains in heart and I love that about her. Forgive my frankness Tobias, but I find your attempts to get a rise out of her just to make her look bad far more immature. You’re a charmer and I’m sure it’s gotten you through life pretty easily and into every girl’s bed, but it’ll take much more than that to impress me and not just because you’re a guy. I like to think I’m good at reading people and despite all that charm, I think you’re a rude attention seeker and greedy opportunist looking for every chance to undermine your sister and depict her as unworthy to rule in the hope that you’ll get the chance to do so in her place. Also, don’t ever speak about her so rudely in my presence again and never assume you know what I’m thinking as I’m not struggling to put up with anything. I love her just the way she is and she’s my queen. I will bow down to none other than her in the future, least of all you, Tobias.” She turns to the king and queen. “I apologize if my words were out of line, but I felt that someone needed to speak the truth and stand up for Amelia. Please forgive me.”
Although she was expecting them to be angry, she sees that they both are smiling. Liam looks distressed, likely thinking about the consequences of her harsh words, but Ame looks at her with eyes full of gratitude and love, which is the only reaction Elli actually cares about. Almyra waves her hand nonchalantly as she says, “It’s fine Elli, I told you before; we are not royalty today, we’re just a family meeting Amelia’s partner and her family. I want you to be open and honest and to tell you the truth, I’m glad you spoke so frankly to him. I know it may seem as though I favor him because of his impeccable manners, but this is not the case. I’ve always been aware of his hubris; it is in fact his fatal flaw. He makes a perfect prince, but until he corrects that, he’d never be a worthy ruler. He needs to be humbled a bit and also…that face is a first for him.”
His face expresses a variety of emotions; shock, embarrassment, anger and disgust. His façade has cracked and Elli can see the true nature behind his eyes more clearly and the malice that they hold. He recovers quickly and in an attempt to redeem himself, he bows and apologizes. “I’m very sorry, I was rude and rash in my words and behavior. I shall be mindful of my actions from now on. Please excuse me.” He stands erect and takes his seat across from Ame.
Feeling rejuvenated and taking the opportunity while she’s got the opening, Ame says, “You didn’t even hit on the best part Elli.” Tobi looks up and scowls at her, while Ame grins. “He’s definitely a charmer and the girls do fawn over him as you would expect, but when it comes down to the truth of the matter…he’s about as straight as a cooked noodle. As much as he looks down on me, you’ll never find him bashing my sexual preference because he’s even gayer than I am and is notorious for stealing all the boy’s hearts, then hitting and quitting them. Despite this however, he’s still beloved by everyone, but if things were reversed and I was like that, they wouldn’t hesitate to call me a slut. The double standards are real, even within the compound.”
“Now, now Amelia, I don’t think it’s appropriate to reveal such personal details on his behalf.”
“No, it’s ok mother, she can say it.” His frown turns up into a grin. “It’s actually great that she brought it up because I just so happened to have recently started seeing someone myself. I know it may come as a surprise to everyone, but I’ve actually come to see the error of my ways and regret the pain I’ve caused many of my suitors. In an effort to turn over a new leaf and become a respectable man, I’ve decided to take my suitors seriously and have a meaningful relationship. As fate would have it, a wonderful young man confessed to me just last week and I accepted. I was hoping I could introduce him to you all as well, since it is a day of meeting new people.”
Ame is surprised, getting caught off guard by the surprise announcement. Almyra looks pleasantly surprised, but James looks uncertain. “Perhaps this isn’t the best day Tobi?”
“I don’t see anything wrong with it. It makes sense to get all the introductions in at once right?”
“Yes love, of course, but I don’t think this is the appropriate time. You understand don’t you?”
“I understand what you’re thinking James, but you need to understand that Amelia is not a child anymore, even if she sometimes acts like one. She has to learn that she can’t be selfish.”
“Don’t talk about me like I’m not here mother, what are you even talking about?”
“Here, allow me to help you understand little sister.” He calls out to someone. “Spencer.” A young man, looking to be around the same age as Ame, enters the hall. He’s wearing what appears to be a school uniform, with white pants, shirt and vest all lined in gold and a black tie is around his neck. The color scheme is similar to that of her own school, but their uniforms are more of the sailor type. Tobi waves him over and once he’s beside him, Tobi introduces him. “Mother, Father, everyone, I’d like to introduce to you my boyfriend, Spencer Leon Borelli.”
“Hello my Lady, my Lord, it’s an honor to be seeing you again under these circumstances.” The brunette haired boy with hazel eyes and pale skin bows to them, doing his best to control his obvious nervousness. It’s clear this is not the first time he’s meeting them, but it’s the first under such conditions. Although he avoids eye contact, he adds, “You as well princess.”
Ame doesn’t respond, but instead looks at him in complete shock, as though she never thought she’d seem him there. Almyra finally speaks. “Welcome Spencer, it’s great to see you again.”
“Yes, hello Spencer. It’s a pleasure for you to be joining us today.” James seems uneasy.
“Spencer, allow me to introduce our guests. Beside you is Ellisia Clara Almont and beside Tobias is her older brother Liam Duncan Almont. We’re happy you could join us, but you two just missed dinner unfortunately. However, I can have the chef whip something up for you both and you can join our conversation. I was just about to explain the Demikri Sect to them.”
Tobi looks excited. “Oh, what an interesting topic. I’ll gladly listen in on this conversation. As for dinner, it’s fine. We’ve already eaten, so please don’t worry about us. Spencer, sit.” He motions to the seat beside him and Spencer quickly does as he’s told and sits. “Good boy.” He pats his head with a smile and Spencer blushes, seeming to soak up the attention.
Elli notices that Ame’s expression has gone dark and her hands are clenched in anger. She can tell that she’s about to blow, but she can’t figure why. “You bastard….” She spits this at him through her teeth. “You just couldn’t be satisfied could you? You just had to steal him from me didn’t you? You knew how special and important to me he was and so like everything else I love you have to take! You’ve now tainted such a pure soul and are using him all for the goal of spiting me. Have you no heart? You evil bastard, I hate you!” Facing Spencer now, she shouts, “I can’t believe you’d betray me like this, even though you promised that we’d always… just forget it!” She stands. “Please excuse me, but I need step out for a bit.” She storms off with teary eyes.
“Lia?” Elli has never seen her like that before. She starts to go after her, but Almyra stops her.
“Leave her be Elli, she’s just throwing a tantrum. Let’s start our discussion now shall we?”
Elli doesn’t like that she’s been stopped, but she also knows she shouldn’t refuse, so although it pains her to know Ame is crying somewhere alone, breaking their sacred rule, she stays. “Yes.”
“Very good. Now let’s see, where to start? Well, I suppose it’d be best to clear up some things first, so that neither of you are too alarmed. I want you to understand that despite what I’m going to say, Elli, you are not Kree. I can say this with certainty because if you were, I’d have killed you the moment my eyes met yours. However, that doesn’t mean you’re not like the Kree.”
“Whoa, hold on a second here. I’m sorry Mrs. Almyra for cutting you off, but I’m really feeling confused about this. You say she’s not Kree, but she’s like the Kree? That really doesn’t make sense and that implies that she’s not fully human or something, which is crazy…right?”
“I can understand your confusion and frustrations Liam, but I think it’d be best if you just listen to Almyra through to the end. I believe you both will understand much better by then.”
“I see. Ok then Mr. James, I’ll do as you ask and listen, but I can’t promise I’ll accept it.”
“Of course, anyone would be skeptical of such a thing, even we were at first, but we learned.”
“Yes, James is exactly right, we’ve learned quite a bit and it’s all thanks to you Elli.”
“To me? I’m happy I could be useful to you, but exactly how did I teach you about this?”
“That’s simple, by being yourself. We’ve been watching you ever since Liam brought you here Elli. From the moment he registered you in our system, we began to track your growth and development. James and I were shocked to have seen a child like yourself, with eyes just like the Kree, yet human. We thought that you were some sort of a hybrid and that humans and Kree were mating to produce offspring that could infiltrate our Provinces. However, we’ve observed actual hybrids and they are quite different from those like you. Hybrids do look human when adequately nourished with the required elements, but as soon as they lose those elements, they become just like the Kree we all know and become true monsters. Also, their genetic makeup is appropriately a cross between human and Kree specific genes. However, your genetic makeup is purely human, down to even the smallest atom, but somehow you can mimic the Kree in ability.”
“I don’t think I understand. You say I’m human, yet I’ve got the same abilities as Kree? How?”
“Well to be honest, it’s just as confusing to us and we still have yet to find a definitive answer. That is why we’d hoped by studying you and your medical history as you grew, we’d learn more. That’s why we had Dr. Wanda, our personal physician, assigned to you and why she’s occasionally had you do extra physical and blood tests. We were trying to study you without making you into an actual lab rat and disrupting your life. The researchers thought that perhaps you were some sort of mutated Kree or hybrid, that wouldn’t manifest as such until you reached an age of sexual maturity, but now here we are, 16 years later and you’re still the same as before. Then they thought that perhaps you were an experimental case, that perhaps someone had been messing around with Kree DNA and perhaps injected it into you post gestation, giving you the abilities without actually becoming the beast itself. However, those experiments failed and so that idea was scrapped. So the final conclusion they’ve made, is that you are a product of natural selection and adaptation. After the war against the Kree all those years ago, the Kree were all but extinct. For the last several centuries, it’s believed that the Kree survivors, who’d been living in secret underground somewhere throughout the world, began to evolve as nature attempted to save a near extinct species. You see, nature isn’t biased against one particular race and natural law states that it will change in order to preserve life. Sensing that a life form was close to dying out, nature likely influenced the evolution of the Kree, making them better suited for the newly reformed world. Our world has been refreshed, natural resources replenished, the atmosphere cleansed and we have since been putting the most extreme measures in to ensure it remains that way, so that the Kree can never resurface due to a lack of the elements of pollution needed for life. However, these evolved Kree that began sprouting up within the last 300 years or so do not need these elements to survive and have genomes more closely resembling humans, though those older than 16 are not quite the same. However, you Elli, you are the first perfect evolution. You are the first successful offspring of Kree, to be born completely human, but retain Kree properties. You seem to be the final product of the Kree evolution and as a result, more children like you are being born. These are the children that have been able to acclimate successfully into our provinces and live amongst us as humans do. You will never turn into a monster, but you can fight against Kree and win, because you have the same abilities, but are superior in your intellect and physicality. Now we know that even from two pure Kree, children like you can be born. You are collectively known as Demikri and Elli, you are the one leading the way to full harmony.”
Both Liam and Elli are stunned and a bit shocked, unable to fully comprehend what they’ve just heard. Liam speaks first. “So you’re saying that Elli was born from Kree, yet somehow turned out human? Also that she has the same abilities and could fight against them? How would she even be able to do that? As far as I’ve always learned, Kree can only be killed by the Valkyrie blade, so ultimately only you or Amelia with your suits right? So how could Elli fight them?”
“You are correct Liam, but that only applied for the Kree, those that actually came down from space and invaded our planet. Those Kree were the ones that the Valkyries fought against as they were the only ones who could. However, after the war’s end, those Kree were very few in number and as I mentioned just now, an evolution began to occur soon after. Although more or less the same, the post-war Kree that were born were weaker and slightly different from the ancient Kree, able to be killed by a blade as long as it was made of the same material as our blades. The suit was not needed to amplify the force of the blade to penetrate the skull. We’ve kept that a secret though in order to preserve the sanctity of the Valkyries and for the sake of upholding tradition. Though soon it’ll be known as we’ll need the people’s aid very soon. However, we still needed to be the ones to kill the ancient Kree, who had become the sect leaders. These leaders became limited, such that only a handful remained and it’s these very leaders, that continue to rule over the sect in each province today. They rule over these sects, mating with Demikri and/or hybrids and even humans who are deserters of the provinces. The ancient Kree are immortal and so the leaders of each sect have been around since the beginning. They are angry and they want vengeance against us for almost eradicating their race. They wish to start a new war and finish what they started back then, but now they are more dangerous than before because they’ve got hybrids and Demikri, who like us possess intellect and reasoning that the zombie-like ancient Kree didn’t. They can be calculated in battle and if we’re not cautious, Demikri like you, or similar to you can infiltrate us and cause an uprising from the inside. Besides this, in the actual sects, these leaders are coming together, gathering all hybrids and Demikri and forming a large attack force to rival our own. This cannot be allowed, which is why we’ve taken such drastic measures against these sects in the other provinces. However, those who escaped have fled here and due to the sheer size of the combined forces, we’re no match alone. The ancients may be sparse, but hybrids and Demikri are plentiful, having years to flourish, and so to face their massive force, all four provinces and its Valkyries, soldiers and citizens must come together and join in the fight. That is what we’re working towards now.”
“So where do I fit in to this? You want me to join your forces and fight in the war?”
“Close, we do wish for you to aid us in the war along with the other Demikri like yourself who are on our side, but unlike them, who will fight in separate Demikri units, you will play a more significant role. Originally, I was intending to have you become the commander of the Demikri units, but after discovering that you are Amelia’s desired partner, I came up with an even better solution that would be even more beneficial to achieving unity and make both you and Amelia happier. You see, Amelia has been saying from almost the very beginning that she was going to choose her own Berserker and we wanted to be supportive of her, but we also were mindful of the need to have a proper heir. So, when we learned that she desired girls, we were concerned because we didn’t want to deny her happiness, but we also couldn’t have her not breed an heir. Traditionally, only men were allowed to be Berserker’s and later become Valkyrie Princes then Kings, and so we were worried about the affect changing that to accommodate her preferences would have on both the reputation of the Valkyries as well as on the quality of the heir. It’s always been that the Berserker must be the strongest in the generation, so that the strongest heir would be born, but if we allow not only a girl, but also a girl who may not necessarily be the strongest compared to the boys become the Berserker, what would become of that? There were so many unknowns and uncertainties to consider, which is why we wanted to meet you. We discussed it over with Amelia and she convinced us to accept the terms that if her choice could make it to the top three or even win the Berserker competition, we would deem her worthy and allow her to become the Berserker. However, now that things have turned out as they have, we’ve come to see that having you as her Berserker may be exactly what we need. If we could have a Demikri, the perfect Demikri at that, be on our side, ruling beside our princess, what greater message could we possibly send? You two ruling side by side would show that Demikri and humans can unify and live in harmony together, but to do that, they must join our side. This would hopefully encourage the Demikri to abandon their sects and come to us. If they do, all that will remain are the ancients and the hybrids, which are significantly lower in number. If we get the Demikri on our side, we can defeat the Kree once and for all and our world can flourish once again. No longer will you or Liam have to struggle, no longer will you be a victim of the bullying and exclusion of your peers. You’ll become an even greater version of yourself and can finally stretch that commanding spirit and determination I can see in you. So what do you say Elli? Will you become Amelia’s Berserker? Will you be the first ever Valkyrie Princess?”
Elli is silent, taking it all in and trying to fully get a handle on all she’s heard. She’s just been told that not only is she apparently a Kree born human, but that she’s basically the Demikri messiah, destined to bring unity of her fellow Demikri. The final nail however, was actually being offered the role of Berserker and title of Valkyrie Prince, or Princess as is her case and be allowed to stand beside Ame and rule, just as they always dreamed about together. It’s all right there for the taking and all she has to do is say yes, yet, what Elli actually finds coming out of her mouth is, “No.” Everyone looks stunned, most of all Liam, least of all Almyra.
“Elli! Are you serious? You can’t turn down such an amazing honor, it’s like one in a million!”
“I’m sorry Liam, I know it’d be a huge deal for us a would help out a lot, but I can’t accept this. I can’t accept the offer as it is now. I’m saying no, not because I don’t want to be beside Amelia, but because I don’t deserve it. I haven’t done anything worthy of proving I am eligible to hold such a high position. You should know better than anyone Liam, as you’re the one who instilled it in me. My pride will not allow me to accept such a large handout, when I did absolutely nothing to deserve it but fall in love with the Princess. It would appear just the way my classmates have assumed, that I only entered in a relationship with Amelia for the status and benefits, which I know we all know isn’t the case, but it’ll be impossible to convince everyone else of that. More than that though, I just don’t want to take the easy path. Amelia and I agreed that I would work hard and train myself to be strong enough to match against the other Berserker hopefuls and beat them fair and square to win her hand. If I just have it handed to me, that’d be extremely unfair to them and worst of all, I’d be letting Amelia down. I’m assuming you haven’t told her about this yet, but I think that if she were here, she’d want me to turn it down too, even if she didn’t say it. Perhaps I don’t have to say it to you, but Amelia is a true princess at heart, even though she has the persona of a prince. She likes cute things, is really sensitive and is really sentimental. She likes all the mushy romantic gestures, all the things she emulates with her prince act around others. I on the other hand, have the persona of a princess, but deep down I think I’m more like a prince than she is. I like looking cute, but can sometimes be a bit insensitive and I’m not very expressive with my emotions and feelings. I’m still learning how to become more romantic for her, since I’m usually not interested in all the mushy stuff. When I look at her, I see a princess dressed like a prince. When she looks at me, she sees a prince dressed like a princess. We’re polar opposites, but I think that’s why we fell in love. We give each other what the other lacks. She’s looking for me to be her prince, charging in on the white horse to save her. She wants me to protect her and our family once we have one. She wants to be a mother, who carries our children and takes care of our home. You may not have realized this part, but the truth is, she doesn’t want to be a Valkyrie. She doesn’t want to fight and risk her life every day. She just wants to be a wife and mother, and I’d be the protector. I want to be her prince; I want to take her burden away so she doesn’t have to fight. If I really can fight alone against the Kree, I’d happily do so if it meant she could be happy. Her happiness is all that matters to me. But if I accept your offer, I won’t be her Prince. I’d just be a sellout taking the easy way in and there’d be no honor in that. I couldn’t stand beside her proudly and know in my heart I deserve to do so. So I’ll become her Berserker and her Valkyrie Prince rather than Princess, not because I don’t think two Princesses can rule, but because I want to be her Prince in name since I can’t be in body. I’ll become this, but only after I win the competition and have earned it. I hope you can understand. It’s not a total no, just a no for now, within this condition.”
Everyone looks at her in awe, amazed at her resolve and impressed by her convictions. Liam feels ashamed, wanting to jump so quickly on the deal without considering her feelings first. James has an impressed grin on his face and Almyra’s lips are turned up into a slight smile. “Yes, I was right about you Elli, you truly are a worthy successor after all. I admire your convictions and I’m pleased to see that you are indeed as serious about our daughter as she seems to be about you. I’ve always known that she’s a gentle girl at heart and unlike me who grew to enjoy the thrill of battle. She’s always been very passive and although she wouldn’t believe so, I love that about her. I may enjoy a good battle, but I dislike senseless violence. I wish for peace just as much as you two do and I look forward to a day where we no longer have to fight and can live truly normal lives such as that you dream of. I’d love for that dream to become a reality for both of you, but the only way we’ll ever have a chance to see that day is for you to join us and help us unite our populations. However, I do understand your convictions and so I will accept them. However, I ask that you be willing to compromise a bit and accept my conditions. They are not big, but they will require a significant change. I will see to it that you are enrolled in the Berserker training program starting this Fall with the new school year. However, as this will be your Senior year and because I’d like you to be on equal standing with the others, I’d like you to live here in the compound, with Liam, and finish your high school education at our academy and then take part in the competition by the end. How’s that sound?”
Elli takes a minute to think it over. Moving to the compound would be a big change and there’s no doubt the rumors would still fly, but moving to a higher class of living is far less extreme than would be her suddenly becoming a Princess overnight. It may not be ideal, but considering the other option, it is a fair compromise. She feels it wouldn’t be right to request to stay in their own home and just commute to the school, especially since her reasoning is plausible. If she truly wants to be considered an equal competitor among the other Berserker candidates, she’ll need to level up somewhere, since her combat training is already years behind theirs, even with her enhanced abilities. She also realizes that if she were to stay at J.S. High, the students and her classmates would torment her to no end, led by Makena herself. It’d probably cause Ame to worry and unnecessary problems for Liam as well. She can’t say being away from Miss Tuffy and her hate wouldn’t be a plus. Finally, they really could use the improved living conditions. Liam works hard at the compound and then has to return just to go fishing and run the shop, making him only get a few hours to sleep and be at home with her. If they had free rent, room and board, leaving only personal expenses, things would be much easier for them both and most importantly, Liam could stop working himself to death and act his age. He’s already lost a good portion of his youth to take care of her, she can’t ask him to waste more. It’s time for her to make a sacrifice for him for a change. As a bonus, she would be able to see Ame a lot more, though they may be under more watchful eyes here rather than at their private home. However, she’s certain they could work around that inconvenience. Finally, having made up her mind, she finally responds. “Ok, I’ll accept those terms, but I’d like to finish out the final weeks at school.”
“Of course. It’ll take about those two weeks to handle the paperwork and make arrangements anyway. Also, I don’t want to rob you of the opportunity to spend a bit more time with your friends. So how about we just have you make the move on the first of August? That gives you a full month to finish out your final two weeks of school and then another two weeks for leisure.”
“That sounds great. I just have one final question. Is Navi some form of Kree or Demikri?”
She seems a bit caught off guard, perhaps thinking Elli had moved on from the subject, but she answers quickly and bluntly. “She’s Demikri, very much like you, but unlike you she doesn’t desire peace, she wants vengeance because we killed her parents, who attacked us first, leaving us no choice, but of course a child would see it differently. Anyway, she’s no good, so stay clear of her.” Elli has no choice but to leave it at that, as there’s nothing more she can say or ask.
*** “The Foster Residence”, Armenia-The West Province, Summer Year 2528 ***
Makena steps out the shower, her soaked red hair dripping as she grabs her towel. She dries herself as she stands in front of the mirror, which has been fogged over with steam. She uses her hand to wipe it clean and then stares at herself, trying to figure out who she is. She thinks back to what Elli had said, about if she could say she was happy with herself. Looking at the girl in the mirror now, she can’t say she is. This girl is vastly different from the Barbie Makena they all know. The girl in the mirror now, with the sea green eyes and pale face unmasked by makeup, is someone who’d never associate with a Barbie like that. However, the problem is; she’s not sure who’s real. Deciding not to think on it anymore tonight, she continues drying her hair as she walks out the bathroom and into her room. She tosses her towel on a chair and proceeds to pick through her underwear drawer, to find her favorite pair, boy shorts. She goes to the next drawer and pulls out a tank and walks over to her bed, spreading them across. She doesn’t put them on right away, instead, she flops on to her bed, her arms and legs sprawled across it and she enjoys the cool air of her air conditioner. This is her usual evening routine.
Outside, someone stares up to the second story window, analyzing the distance and the best way to reach it. Deciding it wasn’t that far and confirming no one was around, they break into a run and then jump up against the wall, allowing them to bounce higher and then they reach out and grab the rail just beneath the window and start to pull themselves up, but it was a bit further than they thought and they just narrowly grasped the rail, their body smacking against the wall. “Shit! That was a fail.” They start to pull themselves up, but then they hear voices approaching down the street. They quickly realize it’s the voices of Liam and Elli, who’d they’d originally been planning to check on, but saw they were not home yet. “What a time to show!” They quickly swing their body back and up, doing a reverse flip on to the small balcony, meant for small plotted pants, not people, but they manage. They crouch down and stay silent, as the two reach their door, just across the street. It’s crazy how close mortal enemies live to each other. They think this as they watch Liam unlock the door. They notice that Elli looks a bit sad.
Makena is enjoying her relaxation, but the she hears noises outside her window, as though someone was climbing on the railing. She sits up in a panic. “Is someone breaking in?!” She jumps off the bed and grabs broom, approaching the window slowly.
The person lies low for several seconds and as they think it’s ok to move, the door opens.
“I promise I’ll be back Sunday morning Liam, just trust me ok? Love you, bye!” Elli runs out her house, with a backpack for the weekend, likely going to spend it with Amelia and realizing this makes them feel sick. They scoff, but realize it was too loud and cower down. However, Elli definitely heard and she looks directly at the spot. Navi? She can see Navi trying to hide, but she clearly doesn’t realize how easy it is to see her. However, Elli wants to hurry and meet Ame, so she just pretends not to notice and runs off. However, as she does, she can’t help but let her mind make all kinds of assumptions. Guess she and Makena hit off pretty well huh?
Navi watches as she runs away and squeezes through the grate beneath the wall. She knows it well, as it’s the same one she uses all the time, which is why she knows where Elli lives. So when she walked Makena home after their first not date, she realized that they were basically neighbors, which makes it worse that they can’t seem to get along, though Navi thinks she can suspect why. She can hear a window open very quietly and then seconds later, she can sense something coming right for her head. She grabs it almost flawlessly and with little effort. “Hey, are you trying to lobe my head off?!” She frowns at Makena, but only half-heartedly.
“Navi?! What the hell are you doing outside my window? You’re not peeping are you?”
Navi looks at the girl in front of her, completely naked and holding a broom. “Am I peeping? Girl, this whole neighborhood is peeping right now with you coming to the window like that!”
Makena looks down and realizes that she totally forgot she was still naked. “Ah!” She runs out of sight from the window. “Well come in already idiot so I can close the window back!”
“Ok….” She wonders if maybe she should be more concerned with the immediate peeper right in front of her, but it seems she’s again oblivious. She really is a bit of air head it seems. Navi enters the room and then Makena quickly closes the window and shuts the blinds. Navi looks around and sees a room completely unlike what she’d expect. She was expecting a total Barbie house, with pink walls and frills everywhere, but what she finds is lime green walls, a grey bedding set, mahogany dresser and matching bookcase. Things are very neat and orderly as well.
“Why do you look so surprised? Let me guess, this isn’t what you expected?”
“Not at all.” She turns to look at Makena, to find she’s still naked. “More importantly, when are you going to put clothes on?! You realize I can see everything right? Not that I mind but….”
“Why does it bother you so much? We’re both girls aren’t we? Megan and Jenna see me all the time and I’ve seen them when we’re trying on new outfits. Haven’t you ever done the same?”
“Uh…no. The only time I see girls without their clothes is after I’ve taken them off myself. I feel like you still don’t really get me. I don’t have girl-friends or really any friends at all. I’ve found life’s easier that way. I do however have girlfriends at times, though I’ll admit, it’s been a while. So seeing you walk around so casually naked like this kind of makes me feel like it’s an invitation, but obviously I know it’s not. So please put some clothes on, for your virtue’s sake.”
“You sound as though you’re a predator or something. What if I don’t, will you assault me?” Navi can hear the humor in her voice, clearly thinking it’s a joke, but she really has no idea how vulnerable she is and so Navi decides to make this a teachable moment. She grabs both of her arms and forcefully pushes her down on the bed. “Hey, what are you doing? That hurts!”
“Do you think they’d care if they were intentionally trying to hurt you? You left yourself wide open and unguarded. Now that I’ve pinned your hands and I’ve put my weight down on your legs, you are trapped and I could have my way with you.” Navi hovers her mouth over her’s, it’s so close, Makena can feel her breath on her lips. She knows she should attempt to fight, but even with scary eyes of ember, somehow Navi still looks…hot. Navi is surprised to see that she’s not fighting back, but even more surprised that she doesn’t look scared in the slightest. Rather she looks…lustful. As Makena’s lips seem to start moving closer, her teachable moment starts to feel a bit too real and she leans her head back. To finish she says, “You’re probably calm because you trust me, but never forget, even your best friend isn’t immune to desire and even more importantly, never underestimate a girl, because they can be predators too.”
“Is that what you are? Are you a predator or are you a normal human?” She can see Navi’s mouth turn into a grin as she finally releases her and stands up, transitioning to a smile.
“I’m human…of course.” She laughs it off. “Seriously, put your clothes on…before I change my mind.” She laughs again. “Hey, where’s your bathroom? I suddenly require its services.”
Makena sits up and rubs her wrists as she says, “first door on the right, right over there.”
“Oh that’s a bathroom? I thought it was a closet or something. Wow, looking at you living in such luxury to have your own bathroom in your room. Well, I’ll be back momentarily.”
Makena watches as she goes in and shuts the door. She finally shivers a bit, as though her brain has finally realized the position her body was just in, though deep down she knew she was safe. However, she did learn a valuable lesson, though probably not the one Navi intended. She knows that in most situations she should fight like hell to break free, but what she’s actually learned from this is that when it comes to Navi, she doesn’t think rationally. Her brain wanted to resist, but she’s just come to realize how hot her body had become and she can’t even describe the desire she had to feel Navi’s lips on hers. Yea, it’s undeniable now, she really is in trouble.
Navi shuts the door and leans with her back against it, losing her amused façade and breathing heavy. She touches her lips, feeling as though the sensation of her breath is still there. That’s not the only place she felt sensations and she feels extremely hot. “Woah, I gotta cool it!” She turns on the faucet and splashes her face with cold water, trying to shock her body out of it. “What is wrong with me, losing my cool like that?” She splashes more water on and then turns it off. She looks in the mirror at herself and looking at the scar across her eye, she somehow feels vulnerable for the first time and actually feels self-conscious about it. “She didn’t shy away from it?” She’s used to most girls being disgusted or turned off by her scar, which is why she doesn’t really stay in relationships long, but it was never something she wanted to be ashamed of. However, for the first time, she finds herself wishing she could make it disappear. She clutches her chest. “What is this?” Deep inside her chest, she can feel a new type of sensation, one like she’s never felt before and she gets a chill and shivers, feeling genuinely terrified.
As Navi walks out the bathroom a few minutes later, she sees Makena adjusting the waist of her boy shorts. She turns around and Navi can see she’s now wearing glasses, which along with her loose white tank and close fitting boy shorts, make her look hella sexy, even more than when she was naked and Navi suddenly feels like she needs to return to the bathroom. However, Makena speaks, snapping her back to reality. “What are you staring at? You said I needed to put clothes on to protect my virtue, but honestly you look a lot more predatory now. What is it?”
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to stare. It’s just…you look really cute.” Navi laughs nervously.
Makena blushes. She’s used to being called cute all the time, so why does it make her feel so bashful when Navi says it? What is this strange feeling in her chest? “Uh, you’re so annoying! You’re making my chest hurt, and stop laughing so much, it’s annoying me. Actually your face is annoying me. If you’ve nothing better to do, then read a book or something.” She tosses one.
Navi catches it effortlessly and looks at the cover. “Carol…hmm, I can feel the irony of this.”
“Oh fuck off, I just thought it’d suit you. Sorry for being so kind.” She sits at her desk to read.
“Wow, we’ve got a badass over here!” She laughs and with one fluid motion, she walks over to her side, kisses her cheek and right by her ear whispers, “Thanks babe.” Then she hops on the bed, kicking off her shoes and lying back with her head propped up as she starts reading.
Makena looks back at her with a beet red face, barely able to breath. “What the hell Navi?”
“Oh don’t be so dramatic, it was just a tease. Your reactions are pretty great though.” She laughs.
“Well save your teasing for someone else. If you don’t like it, you can leave.” She turns away.
“There’s Barbie Makena again, you really are better when you’re honest you know.”
“Well no one asked you. Why are you here anyway? I thought you were going to call?”
“Yea I was, but then I decided to stop by and check on Elli, but they weren’t home. I remembered your place was right here, so I decided why bother to call when I could just visit?”
“Oh, so it was only because you were going to see her first. Should’ve known.” She scowls.
Navi laughs. “Wait, are you jealous Mak? Are you mad I didn’t come here just to see you?”
“Of course not, why would I be jealous? Especially of that loser lezbo.”
“Hey, you really need to stop flinging around such derogatory terms, I’ve been meaning to say it for a while now. Anyway, there’s no need to have such malice towards Elli, she’s not a bad girl.”
“Screw you, I’ll say what I want. Anyway, I never said she was, I just don’t like her. Simple.”
“Why? Is it because her embracing her sexuality hits a bit too close to home for you?”
“What? What are you insinuating? Are you trying to say I’m like her? Not a chance!”
“I only call what I see and I don’t lie. I’m a blunt person Mak, so I’m gonna keep it real. You’re totally in denial about yourself, but I’m not blaming you. I get that it’s hard to be open with it, it took me a while too and I’m sure it wasn’t easy for Elli either, but you pushed it out of her.”
“Why does it always go back to her? I’m sick of talking about her! If you’re talking to me, then just focus on me!” She suddenly feels moisture on her cheeks. “Huh? Wait…why am I….”
Navi gets up and embraces the crying girl in her arms. She lets her head lie against her chest and can feel the tears soak through her shirt as they fall harder. She doesn’t speak, she just sits there silently as Makena cries her heart out as the final piece of her wall crumbles to dust.
Thirty minutes later, it’s silent as Makena lies against Navi, her eyes finally dry. “Off.” Navi lets her go and she stands. “Uh, I probably look a mess now. Why’d you have to do that?”
“Like I said, I only speak the truth and it was time for you to hear it.” Navi stands and returns to the bed and to the book. “Anyway, I’ll be sending my counseling fee in the mail.”
Makena tosses a book at Navi’s head, which she catches with little effort. “Shut it.” She hops on the bed beside her and takes the book back, returning to her previous page. “It’s quiet time now.”
Navi has no complaints and just does as she’s told. They lie side by side, with their back against the headboard reading for hours. Having finished her book, Navi finally says, “Don’t be jealous.”
Makena looks at her funny. “What are you talking about? Are you still on that?”
“I’m saying, don’t be jealous of Elli. It’s not like that, I promise. I’m not in love with her.”
“You could’ve fooled me with your seemingly endless interest in her. What’s your game?”
“No game, I told you earlier didn’t I? I’m only watching out for her, as a favor to my queen.”
“Your queen? Just what are you talking about? Actually, as I asked before, are you human?”
“What makes you ask that? Do I not seem human to you? What does it mean to be “human”?”
“I don’t know; I just think you’ve got a story deeper than us simple humans. Like that scar.”
Navi reflexively covers it. “It grosses you out doesn’t it? Do I look like a monster to you?”
Makena moves her hand and gently strokes across it. “No, I think it’s kind of cool and badass.”
Navi can see the truth in her eyes and suddenly that sensation returns. “You’re really amazing.”
“I know.” They laugh and then Makena lies against her chest again. “Thank you…for being blunt with me.” She closes her eyes. “I’m going to sleep now, so you have to stay till morning.”
She falls asleep within minutes. Navi looks at her sleeping expression and smiles. “If you put on an expression like that, you’ll make me think humans are not so….” Soon after, she falls too.
*** “The Deep Woods Hideaway”, Armenia-The West Province, Summer Year 2528 ***
Elli taps on the door and seconds later, Ame opens it. Elli enters the hut and no sooner than she does, she feels Ame’s head against her back. “Ok, so now will you talk about it?”
She guides them over to the bed, where they sit side by side. Leaning against Elli’s shoulder, Ame finally speaks. “He always does that to me. He waits for me to find something precious and then he steals it away. He stole my favorite doll when I was four. He stole my coloring book when I was six. He stole my yo-yo when I was 8. He stole my harmonica when I was 10. Once I was in middle school, he waited until I made friends and then he told them lies about me and drove them away. I eventually just stopped trying to make friends and instead just played the role he set up for me. He told them that I wanted to be a boy and that I was a pervert. This made all the girls run away from me and the guys made fun of me and ridiculed me, calling me a butch and all sorts of other derogatory things. It didn’t matter that I was the princess, in the academy, princess or not, it was all the same. Only when my parents were around did people treat me with respect, but it all felt fake, so I came to despise it. I’d rather not have people show me respect, because I know they rarely mean it. So yea, I started wearing his old clothes, and I became the “prince” everyone thought I was. Surprisingly enough, once I made this change and basically erased who I really was, people started liking me again, at least at school. But in turn, the nobles and other people of the compound started to look down on me, feeling I was a disgrace to my Princess title. “She’s looks too much like a boy.” “Is she trying to be the prince?” “How unrefined”, blah, blah, blah. It never ended and be it from one side or the other, I was looked down on. The final breaking point was when my mother started to think this too. It was at this point that I pretty much gave up caring. I did what I wanted, when I wanted, which included venturing down here to explore. This whole change happened within my first year of middle school and so it was all right before I met you for the first time. I was spiraling down fast and honestly, I think I would’ve ended up dead one way or another, be it by a rogue Kree, or my own efforts even just months later. But then I saw you, crying in these woods all alone and suddenly I felt like I had a purpose. I wanted to be your savior, but the truth is…you actually saved me and even now, you continue to save me to this day. You are my prince, but you actually are a princess. You’ve already proven that to me, so you don’t have to put in all the effort for my sake. You should just accept my mom’s offer now and then we can officially be one like we want.”
“I appreciate your praise and I’m happy I could be the prince you wanted, but I still can’t accept your mom’s offer. Yes, I want to prove myself in your eyes, but I also want to prove myself to everyone else too. I want to be able to stand beside you and say proudly, “yes, I was the winner and now I’m going to serve my princess to the best of my ability.” That’s what I want.”
“I understand that, but it still seems like such a chore. But, if it’s what you want, then I won’t talk you out of it. I’ll just look forward to seeing you dressed in that cool Berserker uniform.”
“They have uniforms too? I thought it’d be the same as the academy uniforms.”
“Nope! They are these super cool black ones with special technology inside to enhance them, similar to what the Valkyrie suit does. The military uniforms are similar as well, just green.”
“Wow, so now not only do I have to fight the raw talent of these guys, but I’ll have to fight them in these super suits. Maybe I should just quit while I’m ahead.” They laugh. Elli is glad she seems to be feeling better, but she wants to know what the deal was with her reaction earlier. The way she reacted to seeing Spencer with Tobi, it seemed like she was in love with him. “Hey, what was going on between you, your brother and his boyfriend, Spencer right?”
Ame looks down again, but knows she can’t keep it from her. “Spencer is my childhood friend. We grew up together and he stood by me, even with all the hate I’d get from others. He never turned his back on me and even tried to stand up for me. He was my best friend. He still is.”
“I see, so once again, your brother stole something you loved away from you. Was that how it was? Were you in love with Spencer, but got rejected because he was gay or something?”
“No, it wasn’t like that. I mean he is gay and I do love him, but that wasn’t an issue. I only loved him platonically and he me. I’m not sure if things would’ve been different if he’d been straight, but either way, I don’t think he would’ve been my true love, maybe just the first.”
“Couldn’t he have been there for you then? Before you met me, wasn’t he there for you?”
“He was, but it wasn’t enough. His friendship wasn’t strong enough to keep me grounded, not at that point at least. Besides, it didn’t help that he was in love with my brother, for some reason.”
“He’s always been in love with him? Why’d he wait so long to confess then?”
“He didn’t. He confessed way back when, but my brother turned him down flat. He’s a player.”
“So he suddenly changed his mind now? That doesn’t seem very plausible.”
“Yea it’s not. That’s why I know he’s only doing it to spite me. I warned Spencer not to do it, and he promised me he’d never turn to his side, but he broke that promise and he broke us.”
The way Ame says this, makes Elli think there was something more between them. “Ame, I won’t be mad, but have you and Spencer ever…you know…done it together?”
Ame looks immediately guilty and looks away. “I did.” The bluntness of it still stings, even though she asked. “But, it wasn’t after we started dating, it was before, during our three-year separation. I was kind of a mess not being allowed to go see you, or leave the compound at all except to train with my mother. At the same time, Spencer had been finding it difficult to deal with his unrequited feelings for my brother. We were both feeling very lost and lonely and so we decided to find comfort with each other. It was a casual thing and nothing came of it.”
“Did you actually enjoy it. I mean he was gay and you kind of are too, but maybe not 100 %?”
She seems hesitant to say, but she finally does. “I did. Actually, I enjoyed it a lot. Are you mad?”
“No, I’m not. It was before we were official, so that’s not an issue. It’s just…I thought that I was your first. I never expected you to be bisexual or have experience. It makes sense now though.”
“But you were, you were my first…my first love. That means a lot more than sex you know.”
“Yea I know but….” She’s silent for a moment. “Do you ever think you want to have it again?”
“Huh? What are you even saying? I told you, we stopped once I came back to you, so no.”
“No, I mean…do you like it better like that? Like do you wish I had…one of those?”
Ame is confused at first, but then she finally understands. “You mean a penis?” Elli blushes. “No way, I can’t imagine you having one and I don’t want you to. I love you just the way you are Elli, so don’t feel inferior just because you don’t have one. I think we have fun our way too.”
“Yea, you’re right.” Ame hugs her. “But now I’m kind of curious. What does it feel like?”
Ame can see her blush bashfully and she can’t help but laugh and hug her tighter. “Oh you’re so cute! I’ll tell you what, one day, when I can get the tools, I’ll show you myself, but until then, just stay the same as always ok?” She nods and they lie together, happy in their world of bliss.