Taint

RULES OF THE SYNDICATE:
Respect Lux
What she says, goes.
Got it? You're part of us now.

Sometimes, there are chances for redemption, if you look in the right places. After the tragic death of her parents, leaving her and her brother orphaned, she is no longer looking for redemption - she's out for blood.

Seven years after the death of her parents, Dawn, under the alias as Lux, arrives back into the limelight to set her vengeance in motion. Dawn isn't about to let anyone destroy her family
again.

If she's going to fall, then she's going to take everyone down with her.

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4. t h r e e

t h r e e 

DAWN STARED out of the window leading to the garden, watching as the wind pulled the leaves in a violent tango before eventually falling to the ground. She had long zoned out of the conversation a long time ago, feeling no need to participate in their mundane conversation. Her eyes became focused on the raindrops, watching as one of the raindrops managed to swallow every other raindrop on its way down, except one. The other raindrop was slow and deliberate, hesitating nearly every few seconds. A grin on her face grew as she watched the hesitating raindrop swallow the other terrorising raindrop, and continued on its path.

"We're going to go on a little trip." She announced.

Dawn turned around, her brown eyes gleaming with mischief. Issie stood up from the table suddenly, whacking the thieving hands from snatching her food with a rolled up newspaper. She passed the plate to Dawn, in the faint hopes that this would stop Raphael's hands from taking her nachos. Before she could even turn around to tuck her chair in, she heard Raphael's deep rumble of laughter, followed by a crunch behind her.

"Where exactly are we going?" Issie asked, sighing once she returned back to her nearly empty plate.

The lone nacho was sitting in the corner, surrounded by the destroyed remainders of the other nachos. Issie slapped his hand away, her hand darting out quicker to save at least one nacho to herself. Raphael was much quicker, unfortunately for Issie, and used his other hand to swipe away the nacho while Issie was distracted.

"You love me." Raphael spat out nacho pieces as he talked and chewed at the same time.

"You better hope so." Issie murmured her breath. "'Cause that's the only thing that's gonna save you."

Raphael stuck his tongue out in response, as he stuck his hand in the crisp packet on the table. "So, where are we going again?"

"Shadowmoon."

*

"What dumbass call his pack 'Shadowmoon?'" Raphael mocked, kicking the city signpost. He rolled his eyes when the stand immediately fell onto its side. "Shadowmoon, so fierce in battle."

Dawn sighed as she picked up the sign, and dug it into the soil, making it sturdier than it was before. She stood up and dusted the mud off her hands by clapping them together. "We're just coming here for a visit."

Raphael was about to make a comment but the sudden rustle of leaves caught his attention. His eyes darted from the trees above as he scanned them for the source of the noise. Dawn carried on walking ahead, kicking the pebbles from the already pristine, paved path towards Shadowmoon's town centre. The leaves rustled again but this time it came directly above Dawn. She slowly put up two fingers behind her back and Raphael hurried to her side.

"Aw, don't you just love the way the stones are laid out around the bushes?" She gushed, stopping to look a bush and stroking the orange petals of the flowers sprouting out from it. "Isn't it just adorable? I'm totally going to replicate this."

In the span of a minute, Raphael reached upwards and dragged the squirming man from one of the tree branches near where Dawn stood. The camera fell to the ground, landing with a satisfying crack on the stone pathway. Dawn quickly turned around, sensing the sudden drop of footsteps on the ground. Dawn quickly pinned a knife to the second man's throat after stalking towards him. The whimpering men, with their backs against the opposite-facing tree trunks, were dressed in black, bulletproof vests.

"Who sent you?" Raphael whispered into the man's ear, making his grip on the man's neck tighter.

Silence. Dawn pressed the knife into the man's throat, making sure not to draw blood. She watched as the man's Adam's apple bob up and down nervously as the sweat beads trickled down his forehead.

"You know, blood's a bitch to get out of clothing." She kept her voice low, watching as the man looked at everywhere but her. "Hope yours doesn't make a mess on my jeans..." Dawn teased, smiling as she dragged the tip of the knife in swirling patterns around his neck.

She let out a childish giggle as she dragged the knife down the man's face, watching the drops of blood trickle down his face. The man's green eyes nervously darted to the gleam of the knife before opening his mouth.

"Alpha Xavier."

The other man's eyes started to roll backwards when Raphael released him from his grip. He fell into a crumpled heap on the floor while he struggled to regain his breath back. The heavy heaving of the man on the floor made Raphael roll his eyes as he stepped away. Dawn took a step back, making sure that she didn't step onto the back of Raphael's feet. She watched as the man winced when he touched his face.

"Where is he?" Dawn asked, narrowing her eyes.

Raphael kicked the other guy in the chest, before his hands could reach out to grab his leg. The man sprawled out on the ground, drifting between unconsciousness and consciousness.

The second man's eyes darted nervously to Dawn and Raphael and to his partner and put his hands out in surrender. "I can take you to him, just don't-"

Dawn smiled, using the bushes' leaves to clean her knife before inserting it into her faux leather leg holster. 'You're so kind. Thank you, that's all we ask for."

*

"It was so nice of you to bring out the welcome package." Dawn smiled, running her finger across the back of the chair, and inspecting her finger for dust. "Do you do this for all your guests?"

Of course, no dust.

He ignored her question, instead sitting back on his chair, and put his feet on the office table. He sent a dirty glance towards Raphael, who was stood beside Dawn. Dawn offered the seat to Raphael, to Xavier's distaste, and he sat down. The chair let out a crack once Raphael put his full weight onto it.

Xavier addressed Dawn, stroking the blonde stubble on his jaw. "Your sudden visit surprised me. To what do I owe the pleasure of your company?"

Dawn chuckled, her laugh void of any joy. "I just came across a special lady of yours and she pointed me in your direction."

Dawn watched as Xavier tongued the names of the many women that he had captured in his grasp. His green eyes looked elsewhere, as if the names were written on the wall behind her. She fought the urge to roll her eyes.

"I haven't found my Miss Right yet. Why do you ask? I can make an exception, if you are interested in the position."

Dawn fought the urge to recoil in her chair. She crossed one leg over the other, thanking the fates that she wasn't wearing a skirt. The pathetic attempt at a sultry tone made Dawn want to regurgitate her food from earlier. Did people actually fall for this?

Dawn saw the way that he looked at her body. Dawn watched as his tongue escaped out of lips, much like the way a snail pops it head out of its shell, then left its trail around his mouth. She wondered whether she could use his attraction to her advantage, and tapped Raphael on the leg, three times. He stood up, and immediately left the room. Just before the glass door closed, Raphael gave Dawn the tiniest of nods.

"And if I were interested in the position?" Dawn's voice dropped an octave as she leant back in the chair, uncrossing and crossing her legs on top of each other.

It had been a while since she forced herself to flirt with someone. Yet, the words rolled off her tongue as if she was being genuine. As if she was interested in this slimy son-of-a-bitch. She made sure that her cropped sweater rode up her stomach, to showcase the bottom of her sports bra. She noticed his eyes drape down her body, as she cackled inside of her mind.

Men are such fools sometimes.

Xavier loosened his tie as he leaned forward. He was clearly bothered by the situation, and she knew that he wanted to do something about it. He stood up suddenly and tucked his chair in carefully, before making his way to the front of his office desk. He half-sat and half-leant against the desk, crossing his feet over one another.

"You would be my prime candidate..." He trailed off, his voice getting huskier.

She stood up, and walked towards him, until they were only centimetres away. She caught a very strong whiff of aftershave, which was probably labelled as 'manly men', and tried not to cringe. Instead, she focused her attention on his tie. She fingered his tie, and pulled slightly onto it, making him lean towards her.

"Just your prime candidate?" Dawn leaned forward until she could practically feel his lips on hers, her voice getting softer and softer.

He was rendered speechless. Dawn knew that all he could think about was his body on hers, and she fought within herself to not kick the guy, even though she was in the perfect position. She told herself that she would forgive herself later.

She let him kiss her. Briefly. His lips were already wet, reminding her of saliva often hanging off the side of a bulldog's mouth. She knew he yearned for more, but she couldn't handle another taste of his lips. At least, for now.

"You know, I'm a very jealous girl." She let him kiss her again, even though she was fighting the torment in her head. "I don't like sharing." She kissed him again.

His hands draped down to the side of her waist, and somehow worked their way to the middle of her back. Disgust. That was the only emotion she felt, and it was the only emotion she struggled to repress.

"You won't have to share me." His voice was huskier, laced with lust.

He kissed the side of her neck, and Dawn rolled her eyes. He was too hard and too forward with his touch. She couldn't believe that people swooned over this man. When he looked at her again, she forced a smile. The lust he felt for her blinded him, so that even he couldn't figure out that this was all pretence.

"Even with people like..." She kissed him again. "Jane, your secretary?"

He froze in her touch. Only for a fleeting moment before the usual overconfident façade returned. He leaned forward again, aiming to plant his lips with hers again. When she pulled her head back, he sighed.

"I only want you."

She leaned forward again, and his lips were so very close to hers. Instead of kissing him again, she whispered into his ear, "Careful, I might be more than what you bargained for."

As much as she wanted to knee him right there, she couldn't. Her methods had changed. She walked out of the door, leaving a very stunned and ruffled Xavier in his office. Once Raphael and her were out of the building, she felt Raphael's mischievous glare on the side of her face.

"Did you get it?" Dawn asked suddenly, once they were completely out of earshot.

He waved the USB in the air. "Of course, did you expect any less?"

*

17:34

Her watch had stopped working miles ago, and the soles of her feet screamed out in pain with each step she made. She had long discarded the idea that anyone might be looking for her, because she knew that having hope would eventually kill her.

She couldn't die now, not after everything.

The voices in her head magnified themselves and she had to stop and pause for a minute. Surely, it was just her, right? It was just the voices that haunted her at night. Right, it had to be? The voices were getting louder now, and apparently much closer. Fear gripped her stance as she realised that footsteps were getting closer to her position.

She had to hide. Hide. Where? She wasn't small enough to hide in one of the bushes. The voices were becoming less and less unintelligible. One of them was female.

"Raphael, I swear if you've led us to the middle of nowhere, I'll-" She recognised that tone. It was the one that her mother had talked at her with during the last days of her residence.

She never realised how much the sky had darkened. What was it? Winter, now? She gripped on the nearest object, and used her hand to drag her body closer to it. Her strength had disserted her a while ago, and she collapsed against the object. The ridged surface comforted her back as she leaned into it.

She hadn't sat down properly in days. The slightly wet mud cushioned her seat, even though she could feel the spiders crawling up her hand. She attempted to swat them away, but her energy disappeared. The webs that they formed around her were more comforting than she realised. Was this nature's way of blanketing her?

"didn't do anything." The voice sounded resentful, but maybe she was mixing that up with her own feelings. "How is it my fault that Shadowmoon has no clear signs?"

The male voice had the slight hint of an accent but she never really attended that many geography classes so she couldn't even put a label on it. His voice reminded her of the boys back home, she wondered what they would be doing without her. She wondered if they would notice that she was gone, or did they forget her existence the minute that she left? Questions like these clawed at her, while she forced herself to think of other things.

She peeked round the edge of the tree, making sure to minimise the amount of noise she made. She was good at that. She had to be. She saw feet first. Two pairs of trainers. One of them was white, and the other was black. The white trainers had three black stripes on the side of the them, but its laces were dragging itself across the muddy terrain. The black ones had a small white tick on the back of them, and its laces were tucked into the shoe itself.

"At least, check if you have signal." The female voice came from the person wearing the black trainers. The person stamps their feet impatiently on the ground before pausing.

There was a bit of movement as she craned her head to see something silver slip back into the girl's back pocket. She could feel her energy disappearing, and the need to sleep struggled to fight its way through but she was too stubborn. She couldn't sleep right now. Not until, they had left.

The sky suddenly thundered, or at least, she thought it did.

"Oh man, I cannot wait for Issie's dish today. Lord knows, I deserve it."

Was that his stomach? The noise that seemed to erupt out of his stomach reminded her of the thunderous roars that she often heard outside her room. She could almost remember how the sky seemed to electrify itself at night, and each time it happened, time always froze for her.

"Raphael, your phone." The female voice seems harsher, more direct.

She assumes that the girl in the black trainers is the leader out of the two. The guy in the white trainers takes a step towards, and it's at that moment, that she realises how much he towers over all the bushes. She hopes, with the diminishing hope in her soul, that he doesn't notice her presence. She doesn't have to worry. It seems that he's more interested in comforting his poor belly. His features were angular, but most of it was shielded by his golden blonde, medium-length hair. A tattoo peeked out as he passed the phone to the other girl, and a dark toffee-coloured hand took it away from him.

The girl didn't even say thank you. She just made a disgruntled noise, somewhat resembling the angry snort of her father, when he didn't get his way.

"Why didn't you just say that your phone's dead?"

She craned her neck again, to see the hint of a grin that showed his right-sided dimple. "I like to surprise you."

"I hate surprises."

"I know." She could almost hear the smile on his face.

She peeked through the gaps in the bushes to see the girl's reaction. To her surprise, there was a small smile on her face. Curly, voluminous dark hair framed the girl's face, as she turned away from the guy in front of her. The girls hand was outstretched in front of her, with the guy's phone in her hand.

"Here, take it."

The guy stepped forward again, but this time his facial expression changed. Before, it was more a light-hearted grin but now his face wore the mask of a wobbled grin. She saw it first – the flail of his arms. Then she heard it. Thud. At least now she knew what a tree falling down in the middle of the forest sounded like. She also never wanted to hear that sound again. Her eardrums ringed as she struggled to pop her ears.

Then, she noticed it. His fingers. His fingers were peeking out of the bush that she looked at them through. He either had very long arms or he was right beside her.

Shit.

*

Raphael body sprawled itself out on the ground, and one of his hands clutched at his chest dramatically. He kept his eyes closed, and his tongue hanging out of his mouth. He had been in the same position for the last two or three minutes.

"Raphael, you can get up now."

A pause. Then a fake-whisper. "Shh. I'm dead."

"You planned your death face?"

"No." He sat up suddenly, and held Dawn's gaze. "I planned my death pose."

"That's so dumb."

"Underlings like yourself will never understand the true meaning of art like mine."

Dawn rolled her eyes, and offered a hand towards him. He shook his head and pushed himself off the ground. Dawn pointed at the phone and watched him pick it up, dust it off and place it back into his pocket. Then, he did a check. He patted his front pockets twice, smiled, then proceeded to pat down his back pockets. He widened his eyes. Then he fell back to the ground, and felt blindly for something lost in the mud.

"Oh, do not tell me that you've dropped the USB stick!" Dawn's voice rose slightly, and suddenly the cold breeze did nothing to dissolve her growing rage.

"I haven't dropped the USB stick?"

Dawn grumbled to herself as she helped him search for the missing USB. She was not about to allow the suffering she went through under Xavier's hands to be wasted, just because Mr-Creative-Expressionist-over-here decided to showcase his first art piece to her.

She searched under the leaves piled together on the ground. Nothing. She searched through the thorny bushes, growing with berries that probably would leave a naïve traveller vomiting profusely. Still nothing. This boy will not be the end of me, she swore to herself as she turned around.

"I think I've got it!"

Dawn's heart raced in anticipation, as she rushed over to his side. His body was hunched over a bush that clearly ripping apart his shirt, and creating scratches on the lower part of his abdomen. She stood helplessly beside him, she could only separate the bushes to help him search through the mud.

"Wait, is that a leg?" Dawn froze at his words. "Oh, I got it! I got the USB!"

His face emerged from the bushes, scratched and deliriously happy. He placed it into her hand and dusted his hands together and started to walk away from the scene.

"Raphael, what do you mean 'a leg'?" She pulled him back by dragging the back of his shirt towards her. "Check again."

"What's the magic word?"

Dawn narrowed her eyes at him, and tightened her grip on his shirt. She pushed him towards the bush. He reluctantly placed his hand in the bush and felt around the mud with his fingers. She watched as his eyes widened again.

"Shit, there's a person...a girl?" He paused. "Definitely a girl."

"Is she breathing? Is she dead? Can you check?"

The bush moved around as he stuck his hand through it again. The blood, from the thorns digging into his skin, made its mark on his skin.

Then a soft giggle emerged from the bush.

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