Phoenix

Peter, an average fifteen-year-old boy, must choose between life and death when he is hit by a runaway car outside his house. When he wakes up in hospital as a ghostly form of himself, he must use what little information he is given by a Raven-haired teen to make his choice. Between sinister plots, a mysterious Werecat and not knowing who he can trust, he soon learns that choosing to live, may end up killing him.

This is the first of my Journals, detailing the last few years and all their events. This particular journal is more a collective of Peter's experiences, his coming of age you could say. Though I'm obviously not Peter, I'll try to convey his thoughts as best as I can. I hope that you will read, enjoy, and understand. Understand that the world is never as it appears.

All the best,

Aegean Brahyeux White-Fang

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6. Chapter Five

Somewhere on Earth—March 26th It didn’t take long to pack a few things before I left. I couldn’t take everything, so I made do with only a few items of clothing and a picture of me with my mum on a ski trip we went on two years ago. It was the only vacation we had been on, seeing as my mum was always working. I specifically remember the trip because I had broken my wrist. It wasn’t exactly the best way to end the vacation but at least it was memorable. I’m still not entirely sure how I’m going to cope without seeing her again. I know Raven said my connections had been broken, but I still hoped. I’ll never be able to come home at the end of the day to smell dinner cooking and her cheerful voice calling me from the kitchen, looking up from the stove or a pile of paperwork to give a warm smile just for me. Nothing. “Do you have everything?” Raven was on lookout, peering down the hall to make sure no one would come by and see a pile of clothes floating around the room. “Yeah, I’m pretty sure I have everything. “Good. Now, are you absolutely certain this is what you want?” I nodded without hesitation. “Here, take this.” He handed me another pill, this one was a minty green. “This one is the last one, take it and you’ll one again join the land of the living. Woo.” He waved an imaginary flag in the air. I swallowed the pill quickly, flinching at the bitter taste. “How are we going to get out of here without being seen now? “Oh right, whoops.” He unclipped the clasps down the front of his cloak, palming a metallic disk from his pocket. He threw the cloak over to me and I stumbled at the weight of it. “The cloak makes us invisible to humans, it’ll hide you and I could easily pass as a moody teenager visiting his Grandma.” Out of everything I’ve heard today, that was the one thing I thought was a little over the top; he would stick out in a crowd wearing all that black. Then again I suppose nearly every teen wore black these days, it’s hard to tell whether they’re emo or just couldn’t be bothered to wash anything. “Wow, what is this thing made of it weighs a ton?” It was a struggle just to lift it enough to get my arms in the sleeves and It was at least an inch or two too big. Now that I was wearing it I could see all the intricate details clearly. The cloak was made of leather that looked brand new and felt like there was a layer of chains inside it. It split down the front from the neck to the ground, its trim encased in silver. The silver trim ran from the neck to the floor, and pulled shut from some invisible force, possibly magnets. The clasps were round silver buttons which were engraved with a Raven’s feather. On the first clasp towards the base of the neck, the letter R was engraved. I fumbled with them for some time, getting frustrated. Raven, while laughing at my expense, finally came over and helped with them. “It’s quite simple. You have the loops on the right side, they’re a bit hard to see because they’re thin and made of the same material as the cloak. They go in front of the split and around the…yes that’s it around the clasp. Good, now do the same for the rest of them and when you’re done we can head off to HQ.” I wonder what the headquarters will be like. Maybe it was a huge castle or an underground lair. Then again it could just be a normal house or office. Before I could ask him, Raven firmly put his hands on my shoulders, forcing me to look him in the eyes. That’s another thing I didn’t notice about him, his eyes were jet-black as well. It was a little creepy. “Just saying’ but it’d be nice if you didn’t decide to run off after all of this, it’d be nice to have someone closer to my age to talk to.” A sly grin crossed his face. “Well, that and I have a lot of money riding on you. What can I say, I like to gamble a bit.” I knew there was some sort of catch, he was just like Jason. “Jerk.” He chuckled and headed for the door, leaning out slowly to check if anyone was coming. “Shall we go then?” I nodded. We made our way through the tiled corridors that smelled oddly of antiseptic and gravy, trying not to raise too much attention to ourselves. While I easily avoided being seen thanks to the cloak, Raven managed by the skilful art of sweet talking the nurses. At one point, he was stopped by the supervising nurse, a burly looking woman, who pushed everyone else aside to get to us. As she approached, she looked over Raven sceptically. “Visiting hours were over at six. Care to explain yourself, or do you feel you can do whatever you please?” “I’m sorry nurse, I was just visiting my grandfather. He was hurt whilst on duty in Afghanistan. I know visiting hours were over but I snuck in to make sure he was okay” That and the most over the top smile sent her into hysterics. “Well now, there’s a young man who knows respect. When I was a nurse in the army I would have loved to bring you along. Too many disrespectful youngsters in the world today it’s nice to see a proper gentleman.” “Thank you, nurse, I just hope that my sight clears up so I can join sooner, I was born with cloudy vision in my left eye so it’s a bit useless.” I couldn’t tell whether that was true or not, he had said it convincingly, but without a doubt, the stout nurse took it in completely. “My dear don’t give up hope, there’s plenty of need for aid other than fighting. Are you good at cooking? How about talking on phones?” It was clear he had chosen the wrong person to sweet talk. One long discussion later, Raven’s phone began to beep loudly and he used this distraction to his advantage. “I’m sorry, I’m pretty sure that’s work calling me so I need to take this.” She made her apologies and busily rushed off to yell at a nurse who had apparently filled in a patient's discharge papers incorrectly. Raven continued towards the front doors of the hospital, talking quietly out of the side of his mouth. “I’m glad she’s not my boss.” He picked up his phone, looked at the name, and groaned. “Speak of the devil…Yeah that’s right, devil. What do you want I’m kind of busy ….what do you think I’ve been doing all this…yes…yes, he’s coming to HQ…I don’t know, fourteen or something…that’s because he’s wearing it…” He grinned at the receptionist as we headed out the two glass doors from the ER. “…yes, it does…Ok, we’re on our way now…yeah boss. Whatever.” He hung up. “So…you seem to be on pretty good terms with your boss.” He laughed. “Yeah, we keep things informal, once you hear more about what we do you’ll see why. It’s just nice to come back from a mission and have a little normality that’s all. Besides, that guy’s a jerk” “Gee, I wonder if he’s the only one.” Raven frowned. “I’m not a jerk, I just have an unusual personality.” Yeah, a jerk. “So what was that all about before?” “Oh right, you see the cloaks are made of a fabric that’s woven with magic and a piece of hair from the person its’ made for, this way it automatically adjusts depending on what we need and it also sends our vital signs to the Cloak Department. I know, ironic name for it. Sam runs that department as the head technician and the head of the Science Division, you’ll meet her when we get to HQ, but don’t try anything.” “Try anything?” He grinned. “She’s dreamy but she’ll turn you down quicker than you can even think of asking.” “Sounds like you’re talking from experience.” “Now who’s the jerk” he sulked. A black car like the one the royal family rides in pulled up. It was polished enough that I could see my face in it even from the pathway but its tinted windows hid anyone that might’ve been inside. I half expected to see two policemen on motorcycles escorting and a chauffeur wearing one of those cool hats. “So because I’m wearing the cloak, your vital signs wouldn’t register?” “Bingo! That’s why the boss called, they thought I had died” “Ok so why did you look at me weirdly while you were on the phone?” He stopped short, holding the back door open. “The boss asked me if the coat suited you.” He looked me up and down again. “A few inches taller and it wouldn’t be half bad shorty.” I jabbed him in the shoulder as I slid into the back seat. “You’re one to talk, you must only be two or three inches taller than me.” “See here’s where we’re really different, I embrace my shortness” “Yeah well I’m fifteen anyway.” He looked confused. “On the phone you said fourteen. I’m fifteen.” "That’s not helping your case shorty.” The car ride was pretty uneventful after that and we sat in silence most of the way. I was not in the mood to talk to that jerk. My resilience didn’t hold too long though before I had to ask a question. “ Raven can I ask you something?” He didn’t look up from some paperwork but answered with a short grunt. “You said the cloak was weaved using magic, but there’s no such thing. I mean you can’t seriously make me believe in something that's made up and only in kids’ stories.” He signed a page and set the papers down in front of him. “I was wondering how long it would take you.” His grin was just visible and his voice sounded odd. “There are, among the creatures I’ve briefly talked about, many things unknown to humans in this world until they leave it. Magic is one of those things. It’s like a second life force that you can tap into. Now while usually beings that aren’t human possess it, there are some humans that have traces of it in them. Have you ever noticed how some people are luckier than others, or that some people have a natural affinity to some elements like a pyromaniac?” I didn’t exactly know what he meant but I nodded anyway. “Then you have already seen the effect of magic. However, for those of us who aren’t exactly human, we don’t just have an affinity towards an element. If we practice enough, we can begin to control that element.” He gently pressed a finger on the window for no more than a second before pulling away. Where he had touched the glass, it had begun to fog. The fog slowly grew until it was impossible to see out of the window at all and the faint sounds of cracking filled the silence. Tiny shards of ice crawled along the window until it was a solid sheet of frost. Before I had a chance to say anything the frost on the window began to change. First the shards of ice disappeared, leaving the window blurred, and then they began to spiral and join to spell out my name. As if this was nothing, Raven turned to me. “I can spell out curse words too?” Still speechless I just nodded and, noticing my mouth was hanging open, closed it quickly. “As you can guess by now unless you’re completely oblivious, my element is ice.” I kept staring. Would I be able to do that too? Would I learn to use magic like that? I wonder what my affinity could be. It was all very much like I had died and suddenly woken up as Pikachu or something, this was crazy. “Helloooo, anyone home?” Suddenly broken out of my daze I said the first thing that came to mind. “That’d be useful on a hot day I guess.” After a second we both leant back and laughed. For the first time, I finally felt like I could laugh about my situation. It felt good. After what seemed like an hour later, we were sore and had tears coming out of our eyes. Raven turned to me and gently punched me on the shoulder. “I don’t get you. By now most people have either freaked out or have a million questions, but you just sat there like it was normal. I mean, useful on a hot day? Never has someone ever said something like that.” I felt a little embarrassed but I didn’t know what else to say, I just blurted it out. What could you say? “Yeah sorry, I wanted to say something cool but then that happened. I can’t believe that you can control ice that’ so cool. Oh god I can’t stop, help.” Raven just laughed. “Now that’s more like it! I think with a little bit of work you’d fit right in, and believe me I’ve never said that to any of the candidates. I once had this little woman who wouldn’t even leave the hospital, she just kept screaming ‘El Diablo!’ She seriously thought I was coming to take her to hell or something. Then there was one guy who just stared at me blankly until he disappeared. I swear the boss just sends me out to all the crazy ones because I…well let’s just say I was quite rebellious when I first started out and I’m still paying for it.” “Oh, so I guess that makes me crazy as well huh, El Diablo?” “Well let’s see, a little shaken at first but despite knowing nothing at all about who I was or what I do you willingly went with me and then openly laughed when I showed you magic. Yep, I’d say you’re as crazy as they come.” I hit him. The rest of the ride I spent asking Raven to show me his ice magic and was awed by what he could do with it. In seconds he could make exact replicas of any building I could think of including the Sydney Harbour Bridge, complete with little icicle fireworks. Finally, we arrived outside a busy shopping square that closely resembled Chinatown. Men and women in business suits walked about in groups of three or four, searching for a place to stop on their lunch break. Kids who had just gotten out of school ran with either their parents on their way home or with friends to go to the shopping centre down the road or to just hang out. People who I guessed were locals walked around trying to sell their food, various sorts of Asian cuisine including noodles, sushi and what looked like curry. Every now and then someone would stop to buy a little plastic tub of food and then hurriedly get back to wherever they were going. Down at the far end of the square there were some street performers dancing and handing out fliers while people on stilts walked around and handed out balloons to anyone who wanted one. It seemed like a completely normal scene as I got out of the car, hardly a place for a secret headquarters. “I know what you’re thinking, trust me this isn’t where the HQ is, it’s just the closest entrance. You can take the cloak off, just hold onto it for now and please don’t lose it.” “How big is this place exactly?” “It’s actually not that big, there are just entrances all around the world so no matter where we are we can get back.” At first I thought it was just a national thing but I guess it’s worldwide. We made our way through the growing crowd until Raven stopped to speak to a little Chinese lady at a noodle cart. She greeted him like an old friend. Either that or a valuable customer. “Hello Ai Daiyu, how’s business?” She immediately dropped what she was doing and ran to greet Raven who, strangely enough, hugged her. “Ah Ben, it’s been a long time since I last saw you. Where have you been? Wait! You eat first, come!” She rushed off towards her cart leaving Raven to sigh and slowly follow. “Before I died, Ai Daiyu looked after me. She’s a little fussy and loves brussel sprouts way too much, but she cares for everyone she meets.” “So does she know that you’re, you know?” He laughed. “No of course not, she just thinks I moved away for work. It’s against the rules to tell anyone you’re dead. Well, technically it’s not, but it is against the rules to interact with anyone from your past. ” “So, you’re breaking the rules.” He smiled. “In the words of my favourite actor, I like to think of them as guidelines.” “Still paying for it?” “Yep.” “Does your boss know?” “Yep” “Worth it?” “Hell yeah.” Ai greeted us into her little store on the other side of the square, stopping a moment to tell one of the employees dressed in a red mandarin collar suit to pick up the cart and bring it back to the shop. At least that’s what I figured she’d said, she was speaking Mandarin. She sat us down by the counter and started to put noodles and an assortment of meat and vegetables into a bowl. “It’s been so long since I saw you last when you were in town for work.” She indicated towards me. “Is this a friend of yours? She gave a warm smile and I don’t know why but I felt like I just wanted to hug her. She sort of reminded me of an old aunt. “Yes this is Peter, he’s thinking of working with the company so I’m going to show him around.” “Oh, Ben that sounds like the boy I raised, still as kind as the day you left. Well, then Peter nice to meet you. I’m Ai Daiyu but that’s a mouthful so most people just call me Aunt Yu.” “Thank you Aunt Yu.” She clapped her hands together and put them on my face affectionately. “Aren’t you the sweetest thing! You must be pretty smart to be working at your age. You can’t be older than fourteen how old are you?” I could feel myself blushing and Raven tried to hide a laugh by shoving food into his mouth. “Uh, fifteen actually” I mumbled. She clapped her hands together again. “Fifteen, that young? You must be quite good then. Please eat up, I must go serve a few more customers but it was good to see you again Ben and nice to meet you Peter.” Raven reached into his pocket for a second, then finally found a small envelope that he handed to Aunt Yu. She almost jumped as she opened it to take out a large wad of hundred dollar bills. “Oh Ben, no this is too much, I can’t.” Raven stood up and pushed his bowl forward. “Of course you can Aunt Yu. I won’t take no for an answer it’s the least I could do after you looked after me all those years.” She quickly ran around the counter to hug both Raven and me before making her apologies and attending some customers who had just sat down. “Well, then I think we should head off.” “Wait, you must get paid heaps to be able to give money like that!” He just laughed as we headed towards an alley at the back of a Thai restaurant. “If you think this job pays well then forget it. I had to save up all year.” We ended up in front of a rusted green door with no handle. After a few soft knocks, the door swung wide open to reveal a dimly lit corridor that seemed to go on and on. “That was quick, sometimes they’re not watching the doors and you can wait up to an hour to get in this way.” Like I thought, the corridor did go on and on. Raven spent the time updating me on exactly how big the battle against the monsters, Fae he now called them for ease, was and how the organisation came to be. “Believe it or not but this, organisation I guess we’ll call it, has been around for over two hundred years. It was originally established by a powerful mage who was half human and half spirit. It’s said that he created the organisation because he had a vision from God about the future of the world, a future where the Fae would take over. Now back then the organisation didn’t really go by any name, either that or it has long been forgotten like the name of the mage, and so after seven or eight generations when the organisation had grown to global proportions, the boss at the time decided to categorise each branch into numbers depending on their size.’ I just nodded. It was hard to believe that this organisation went back that far. “So each branch was given a number from one to nine, one being the smallest and nine being the original and biggest branch. One is located in Antarctica believe it or not, that’s why it’s the smallest and I think there’s only a handful of people who work there on a daily basis. I’ve been there once, nothing much there except for cold air. Two is in Brazil, Three is in Africa and Four in Korea. Four sits on top of the North and South Korean border so it’s easier just to call it the Korean branch rather than to decide which side it’s on. If you ask me it doesn’t really matter they both have the same problems. Five and Six both are stationed in North America, the one I visit most is more commonly known as Disney World, not all those costumed characters are human. Seven sits roughly off the coast of Western Australia and often services the rest of the world more than itself; quite a nice spot if you don’t mind the heat in summer. Eight is in Russia, which also services all the bordering countries, and Nine, the big HQ, sits directly under people’s noses in Tokyo Japan.” “Why in Japan?” “I remember when I joined I asked a member of the Australian branch. He said that Japan has a deep history of spirits and demons, Yokai they call them, so it seems normal that the largest District would be positioned there.” That seemed reasonable. “I Don’t really know much about the origins of District Nine and quite honestly neither do their staff. However, I can tell you that in light of their name they only have nine members that do what I do. They’re notoriously picky when it comes to choosing members and they only take the best of the best.” I was starting to get a better idea about what my future had in store. “Ok so apart from this mysterious Nine, you talked about the members who actually fight the Fae. Does that mean that not everyone does and also how do they fight them? I mean, it seems impossible for someone to easily take down something like demon, at least that’s what I’m guessing.” “Well yes it takes quite a bit of effort and every day you’re fighting for your life…” His face was expressionless and he seemed to stare off into space. “…but when you think about it, how many people get a second chance at life so they can help others? One life for a thousand seems reasonable, don’t you think?” We came to a junction with ten possible routes. Raven paused for a second before heading down the third tunnel. “Each headquarters only has a certain number of members who actually fight, those are the ones who have developed their elemental affinity to a point where they can call upon it in a blink of an eye. They are also the only ones who have had a second chance at life. The other staff help in their own way despite having little or no magical affinity. We have receptionists and administrative teams that take in calls and any strange reports that could be useful to us. Then we have the science division, their main goal is to assist us by making and upgrading our technology. Then, of course, there’s us.” ‘So everyone who isn’t a fighter is--” Raven cut in. “Correct, they are in fact as alive as they come. They have had a brush with death or the Fae so they can actually see glimpses of them whereas we can see them clearly. Every one of them volunteer for the job of their own free will and get paid quite modestly for it too.” “Ok so that sort of makes sense, how do you fight though, you can’t just walk up to one of them and ask it nicely to stop.” Raven laughed. “Well, that would definitely make the job a lot easier, but where's the fun in that. We use our elemental magic, hence why only people with strong affinities can become fighters. Each type of monster has an element they are strong against and an element they are weak against so we are given jobs that ensure our element is at its strongest. Think of it like Pokémon and you’ll be fine. For instance, a Shahn, which is sort of a shadow-like creature that can change the shape of its body to resemble anything, is naturally weak against light magic because of its dark nature. In comparison, light magic would do nothing against a Werecat whereas fire magic is its weak point. You see?” With the more information I learned, the more I was beginning to regret my decision to come with Raven. After what felt like a whole hour we arrived at another door, this one more ornamental in design with dancing dragons intertwining themselves above the door. This door also didn’t have any handle. Instead, it had a small round hole. Raven picked off the first clasp from his coat and placed it perfectly into the opening. A small beep emitted from a speaker on the wall. “You’re late Raven, I’ve been waiting for you.” “Yeah yeah Sammy, just let us in.” There was a slight pause and the voice sounded like it took a big intake of breath. “You mean he actually came? I wasn’t expecting that. You must have told him about the bet and agreed to split the money, didn’t you? You knew everyone betted against it so you would win heaps if he came along.” She seemed outraged and Raven quietly apologised. “Uh Sammy, he can hear you.” The speaker went silent and after a minute the door unlocked, swinging open to reveal a lavishly decorated foyer with three story high windows. Outside was a bustling city road lined with trees. Businessmen in huge groups of at least twenty hurried along the jammed streets, trying to get across the road before the lights changed. No one seemed to pay any attention to this lavish building in front of them. An ornate Chandelier, nearly a story high itself, hung from the tall spire that was its’ roof. Along one wall was a line of polished silver elevators, each one with a plaque stating which floors it went to positioned above it. The wall opposite was completely taken by a long marbled counter and eleven staff members, dressed in the same coloured grey suits. They answered phones and typed on slim computers, occasionally standing up to hurry paperwork to the other side. Throughout the foyer people moved about, their shoes making noise on the polished white marble floor. An enormous emblem hung above the glass windows, heavily ornamented with symbols I couldn’t really make out. In the centre of it all, both on the emblem and embedded within the polished marble floor was a number. Raven put his hand on my shoulder and quietly reminded me that my mouth was still hanging open. “Welcome to Nine Peter.”
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