Become a Book Nerd
When you’re not reading books, read our newsletter.
“I’m sorry?” I ask, dumbfounded.
“I meant it exactly as I said it. Bring Arwin Carelli to the Illuminance base so that this war will finally be over.”
“But, sir,” I plead, “If that were easy, wouldn’t we have done it before? How am I supposed to get there? The distance isn’t a concern, but to get to the base without being injured or killed… It’s nearly impossible.”
Why me? I wish I could add, but one look at him and I know. I’ve done nothing wrong, but Chesler’s had it out for me since the beginning.
“You’ll just have to find a way, won’t you?” he says. “Take your comrade with you if you must. I could care less. But find a way to do it soon. My life is awfully boring, and I could use some excitement to wake me up.” He examines a fingernail.
I clamp my fists so tightly that my nails dig into my palms, but I don’t trust trust myself to speak. Telling Chesler to risk his own life instead would be treasonous, and because I may have a very small chance of surviving, I grit my teeth, sling Kenzo’s pack over my shoulder, and give a small bow before leaving.
Kenzo is still on the bench when I pass him.
“Don’t,” I choke out as he begins to speak. “Just don’t ask.” I keep walking and wipe at my eye, which has, annoyingly, begun to tear up. I head for the one place I don’t feel like an outsider: the gardens. Years ago, when we still had plant life, the founders of Illuminance planted flowers in indoor gardens inside our base. They still thrive every year to this day, small reminders that maybe things will turn out to be more like they were before.
Right now, however, I feel anything but hopeful.
Only I know how much.
“Zitha?” Kenzo’s voice calls. He finds me kneeling on the ground, my face in my hands. “What happened?” he asks softly.
“Chesler happened,” I say. “That, stupid, slimy-”
“Woah, relax. Tell me the whole thing from the beginning.”
I explain General Chesler’s request. Kenzo listens silently until I’m done.
“It would be suicidal,” I finish. “We both know he wants me dead. I don’t want to go, but I can’t risk my title, either, and…” I trail off. He knows the real reason why I refuse to present myself to the leader of Obscurity. And to bring Arwin Carelli to the Illuminance base would mostly likely mean capturing him against his will.
I lock eye contact with Kenzo desperately. “What can I do? What would happen if I refuse? I’d probably be kicked out of the entire organization and left to fend for myself. So then my only option is to go. But I’d never make it alone, so I’d have to take someone with me, but I can’t ask you to put yourself in that position…” I can’t help rambling, but Kenzo wraps me into a hug.
“Hey,” he whispers, “We’ll figure this out. I promise you, I’ll do everything I can to help.”
What did I ever do to deserve a friend like you?” I ask, finally able to breathe.
Kenzo pulls away to meet my eyes once more. “Whatever it is, it must have been pretty incredible,” he teases. “After all,”- he glances around to make sure no one else is close enough to hear- “we both know that I’m the best fighter here.”
I slap him lightly on the arm, but the truth is, he’s right. I’m not bad in combat myself, but Kenzo is the true warrior. We balance each other out with our skills.
“Yeah, well, I’m the best at gathering.” I cross my arms.
“Also true,” he agrees. “Not much competition for the others between the two of us.”
I shush him in case anyone heard his statement. We fall into quiet laughter.
My smile drops off my face once I remember that both of us may be dead within the next two weeks.
Kenzo’s expression softens. After all the years we’ve known each other, he can practically read my thoughts. “Come on. Let’s head back to the chambers, alright? We both need to do some thinking- away from the rest of this chaos.”
I nod. We leave the room hand in hand, knowing that tonight will be our last peaceful one for a while.