Canton chroniclesrising.., p.18
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       Canton Chronicles:Rising Power, p.18

           Faidra-Foteini Petaniti
 
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  “JOHNNIEEEE!”

  Missy and Denver run towards John’s direction, practically jumping from joy. They hugged him tightly, and he kissed their little heads.

  “I missed you very much, little monkeys.”

  Mike laughed instinctively, feeling overjoyed, before reminding himself that he has pissed at him.

  John walked towards him, grabbing his shoulders tightly.

  “What are you doing here? How did you find me?”

  “How many times have I picked them up from school, Mike? I know we fought, but come on.”

  “Why are you here, John?”

  “Because your PA is out of reach. You should really charge it from time to time.”

  Mike turned pale.

  “Is Amy…?”

  “She is close to waking up, Mike. And no matter our differences, we have to be there for her. I have to be there. I already lost so much time, because of my guilt. Are you with me on this?”

  All those pain, all those sleepless night, full of tears… What would have happened if they hadn’t been separated? What would have happened if they hadn’t left the girls alone, easy targets for a maniac?

  Now Amy was bound to wake up, and Mike had, at last, a chance of redemption.

  “That doesn’t mean I believe you, John.”

  “I don’t need you to believe me. Just to forgive me, at least for the time being.”

  Mike nodded. He mustered all his lost courage and said determined

  “Let’s do this.”

  ***

  Ladies of Mercy Hospital-East, 20:00 - 25th September, 200 A.D

  The stars were beautifully bright, floating in the dark night sky. It was the beginning of autumn, and the chilling breeze made Amy’s skin crawl. She felt the cold creeping up her body, a thin hospital dress her only cover.

  Her face felt colder somehow. Amy touched her wet cheeks. Her tears were hot, freezing in her face, looking like little pearl diamonds. She didn’t make a sound, didn’t scream or shout.

  Amy stood still on the roof’s ledge, her pain cutting her deep, like a sharp knife. Happiness was an unknown feeling to her, a feeling she didn’t deserve. She was sleeping, as her best friend, one of the very few she had all those years, was dying.

  It wasn’t your fault, the voice of reason whispered to her. You didn’t pull the trigger or pushed her over a ledge. Alice Green would be haunting you anywhere you went.

  But I made it so easy, so goddamn easy. Instead of calling for help, I charged at her. It was my fault, all along. Everything I touch, dies.

  The tears kept coming and coming, no end in sight. An endless cycle of what ifs. What if she didn’t want to follow the abandoned trail? What if she didn’t want so desperately to see the family files? What if she wasn’t so fucking stupid?

  The doctor had informed her of Val’s death with a professional, matter-of-factly- tone.

  “It happened unexpectedly, mrs Wyatt. Maybe the shock of the accident, your comatose state. Who knows? The fact is you are alive and well, and in the course of a few days, you’ll be able to go home.”

  Of course, doc. Life is so fucking amazing, when you’re alive and well. But I have no home to go back to. I am a murderer, and there is no love to be found for someone the likes of me.

  Amy could already feel them… Poisonous fingers crawling in her skin, under her thin dress, touching her everywhere… everywhere. At least we are here for you, we are going to be with you, always.

  A malicious voice in her head laughed. And she laughed with it.

  My true friends. Welcome.

  ***

  “What do you mean she is perfectly safe in her room, you pathetic piece of shit? She can teleport!”

  Mike was lashing out against the doctor, beating Seb for a few seconds.

  “Mind your tongue, young man, everything is under control”.

  “Do you have a single cell in your brain, you numbskull? You throw Seb, her only friend, out of her room and then tell her that Valentine Stone is dead? How can she be ok? I would have jumped over a window and I am not even close in being sentimental.”

  John came out of Amy’s room. His physician’s clearance had allowed him to gain access in the station where Amy was staying.

  “She is not in her room”, announced John, clearly running out of patience, too.

  He faced the doctor, his eyes burning.

  “Happy now?”

  “I will call the security. We’ll begin the search immediately.”

  The doctor stumbled to the exit and John shook his head.

  “They will be too late” said John.

  “John, you have to try.”

  Seb’s hands were on his shoulders, his eyes begging.

  “Find her, please.”

  John concentrated hard, sweat coming out of his forehead.

  “The terrace” he said, certain.

  “Seb, you have to hurry. She is losing her mind.”

  ***

  The wind kept blowing, harder and colder, swinging Amy left and right. The hands were rougher now, scratching her, tearing her apart. She didn’t care. She deserved it. It would soon be over, anyway.

  I should have been dead instead of you, Val. I hope I get to see you once more.

  The stars were so beautiful and the sky was calling to her. She let her body move forward, trying to reach for it.

  “Amy, don’t do it, please.”

  Hallucinations was the last thing she needed.

  “Amy, turn around. I am here. I was always here, right outside your door.” Sebastian was really there, thank the Deities. Too bad, Amy didn’t deserve his pity.

  “She is dead, Seb. I killed her. She was the only person who knew the truth, and that killed her.”

  Sebastian closed in to the ledge, with small quiet steps.

  “You didn’t kill her Amy. You got lost and Alice ambushed you. It’s not your fault.”

  And what the fuck do you know?

  Amy turned around and faced him.

  “You think I am a little angel, don’t you, Seb? Because you have this silly, pointless crush for me. You would do anything to save me, wouldn’t you? So you can get what you want? Guess what, I am not a little princess you can just save. If you knew the truth, you wouldn’t even want to touch me.”

  Sebastian looked at his feet. Surprisingly, he was smiling.

  “What if I told you, I know exactly who you are, and I still like you, would you stand down? Or do I have to come there and rescue you like the little princess we both think you are?”

  He extended his hand to her, but she continued standing hesitant on the ledge.

  “Amy, do I really have to beg you? I don’t want to lose another precious friend in a week. Quitting is not the answer. We all have demons, things you can’t even imagine. We’ll fight them together.”

  Is there really a salvation?

  Amy jumped, and fell, thankfully, on the safety of the terrace.

  “I am sorry Sebastian, I am sorry for everything.”

  His hands were around her, protecting her from the freezing cold.

  “Seb, do you forgive me?”

  He put two fingers in her lips, silencing her.

  “There is nothing to forgive. And you don’t have to lie anymore, Amy. Not to us. I know it’s hard, but we all have our stories. The only way to heal yourself, is to trust the people who love you. Otherwise… you know what happens otherwise.”

  She nodded slowly and crawled closer to him.

  “SEB!!!!!” John’s and Mike’s collective screams shook the air.

  Mike opened the door and darted towards them.

  “Is she ok?”

  Without waiting for an answer he turned to Amy.

  “Hey, Ice Queen, wake up. Today is not the day you die. I will not allow you to die. You are an idiot for even thinking about it. You gave us a scare and I’ll never forgive you, hear me?”

  Amy smiled at
him, returning back to reality. John fondled her hair.

  “You should be really proud, about the whole rescue operation we organized for you. But you are still really cold. You wouldn’t mind if we took you back to your room for a second? I swear no doctor will come to you, except me. From now on, I am your private physician.”

  ***

  Amy was once again in her bed, covered by three blankets under John’s orders. They all sat silently, without talking. She had to be the first one. She had to come clean.

  Amy poured her heart out to them, confessed her deepest secret. Slowly at first, and faster, almost frantic as her story came to an end.

  “Jesus, Amy why the hell didn’t you say anything? You seriously need help,” said Mike and gained a rib nudge from Sebastian.

  But Amy looked at her friend, acknowledging the truth.

  “I do need help. There is no use denying it, after all those years. But you were my psychotherapy. Those two months in the Academy … I know I always look grumpy, ironic, and perhaps even cold but those were the happiest days of my life, after a long time. And Val… she was the first one to learn the truth. That’s why she followed me down the path. To help me in my personal quest.”

  “What happened really in there, Amy? How did the whole thing start? Can you remember any details?”

  “The bitch waited us at the elevators. She burned our PAs immediately, and Val begged me to get help. I stubbornly tried to fight back, but she was faster. A lamp hit my head and I passed out. After that it’s only bits and pieces, glimpses.”

  Amy looked at the trio of friends, and noticed their embarrassment.

  “Why is it so important? Has something happened between you?”

  “I see her, Amy. Valentine. In my sleep, I dream of her. But you know my dreams are more often than not, real.”

  Mike sighted.

  “John…”

  “And the whole story of her “death.” So sudden, without any cause whatsoever. No explanation. I believe she is still alive somewhere, hiding.”

  “Sebastian what do you think?”

  Amy’s sweet voice echoed through the room.

  “Ten days ago, I agreed with Mike, completely. Vanessa was indeed heartbroken, as were the other Instructors. But then I started wondering myself. So I went back… at the Academy.”

  “WHAT???”

  John and Mike stood up from their chairs, and Amy’s eyes were wide open.

  “Bro, are you out of your mind? Why didn’t you mention anything?”

  “I had no reason to. It was my own personal thought. You know there are cameras everywhere in the Academy, installed after the very first Alice incident? I took the liberty and checked them out. And I found this.”

  Everyone’s face came glued together as they watched the video from Seb’s tiny PA. In it, Vanessa and Peter ushered Val in a tight corridor, hidden behind the Training room. There was a low humming sound, and the video ended.

  “I followed their trail, and manged to get inside the well-hidden room. I found lots of devices, all-white, smooth in surface.”

  “What kind of devices?”

  “I can’t really say, since I avoided touching anything. But… I found some plans, some prototypes of some kind of a chamber, looking extremely much like a human coffin… It was a little harrowing, to be honest.”

  “And? Did you find it?”

  “No, but there were two words written in that thing’s plan. NO SIGNAL. See, this idea started forming in the back of my head. Mind you, it’s only a theory, but… The Greens were hunting down Val, and Amy was here, also vulnerable. What if Vanessa…”

  “Tried to hide Val?” Mike completed his friend’s thoughts.

  Seb nodded.

  “Protect her.”

  “That doesn’t mean she is still alive, Seb.”

  “But it means there is a chance. A small one but still… we have to search. Everything. The Academy. Val’s PA signal. The Tower.”

  “The Tower? Are you serious?”

  “A hundred percent. Remember what our Instructors told us in our trainings? Teamwork is everything. We are connected, united. If one of us in in danger, then we should eliminate that danger. Period”

  “Seb, you are giving me the chills, man. What happened to the coward runner from school?”

  Seb smiled.

  “He is gone. A new brave runner has taken his place.”

  “I am in.”

  Amy’s voice was low and deadly.

  “Wow, missy, you haven’t even healed completely…”

  “I don’t care. Sebastian is right. We are on this together. We’ll search, until we are absolutely sure. I cannot rest otherwise.”

  “Alright, already. Gee, seems the Powers have gone over your brains. But Val was my friend, and my behaviour was most than un-friendly these past few days. So…”

  “We need a base of operation, though.”

  “My parents are in their second honeymoon. Travelling around Canton. It will be a while, before they’re back.”

  John informed them of the fact, and Mike’s eyes shone.

  “Perfect! We’ll all get to live in a mansion. With servants and everything. Trust me, Princess, you are going to love it.”

  “I was born and raised with servants.”

  “Oh yeah, right, I forgot I am the only poor guy in the bunch now.”

  Mike let out a sight, shaking his head.

  “I think it’s time for me to hit the road.”

  He kissed Amy’s forehead.

  “Sleep tight. And sweet dreams.”

  John was next in the affection marathon. He hugged his friend tightly.

  “If you need help, don’t hesitate to call me. Ok?”

  Amy nodded, tears in her eyes.

  “Seb, you coming?”

  He turned his head and smiled at Amy.

  “In a while.”

  ***

  “Do you think Mike and John are cool with my back…story?”

  Amy’s eyes were stuck on her blanket, as Seb swiftly moved beside her, his arms around her shoulders.

  “No, Amy. We all had secrets, and problems. Yours kind of takes the cake, but still… we accept everyone, no matter what.”

  “Thanks, by the way. For the help you gave me, back on the roof. Even if you had to lie.”

  She chuckled and Seb looked at her, surprised.

  “Lie?”

  “You said you know who I was. That can’t be true, can it?”

  He hugged her even tighter, and Amy shuddered.

  “Remember the story about my parents, Amy? How they threw me out, once they found out about Mike’s trial?”

  “Yes, of course.”

  “I started staying at his place, but money was scarce and hard to come by. I was always good in computers, creating fake stuff. You know photos, licences, IDs, those sort of things. I started working for those forgers, creating fake papers.”

  “Sebastian…”

  He squeezed her palm.

  “My last job was my biggest one yet. It was a big case, rich young girl trying to escape her violent, powerful family. The girl was so desperate, she even thought of faking her death. And did other things too. The man who asked for the documents was very detailed in his descriptions.”

  Amy felt dizzy for a second, her tears fresh and hot. Seb pulled her closer to him.

  “I felt so sorry for the girl. I did my best to forge some really good papers, so that she had a change of escaping. And I picked a new name. A cute one. Do you like it?”

  “I do. A lot.”

  “It was my last work. Your father is a really dangerous man, so if he ever traced anything back to me, it would mean real trouble. Mike had his own job by then, the timing was perfect. But… I always had you in my mind, even though I’ve never met you. I was really happy when I heard you were doing ok.”

  Seb caressed her blonde hair, gently.

  “I am glad I helped you, Amy,
even in that weird sort of way. But you seem really tired. You have to go to bed now. I’ll leave you in peace, and we’ll talk again in the morning.”

  He kissed her forehead and started for the door.

  “Seb, I am sorry about all those nasty things I told you. You knew all this time, and you didn’t judge me. Not in the slightest.”

  “You were right about the crush thing. I did have a silly crush on you. Sometimes I thought, you would find out about me, and magically fall in love. Isn’t that the cheesiest thing ever? Just stupid.”

  “It’s not stupid, it’s…”

  “No worries, I am over you now. You have nothing to worry about. Sleep well.”

  He smiled sweetly and Amy felt a knot in her stomach. In a few seconds, he was gone. And, at last, so did the hands that’d tormented her for so long.

  ***

  13. The Girl and her Teacher

  Harmony Village – 18th October, 200 A.D

  One… slash, two… slash, three… slash, four…slash, five…

  The throwing and slashing went on and on, until Val lost count. She was tired from all the training. She was tired of slashing balls in half. She was tired of him.

  Her concentration faded for an instant and she missed the ball number 35. Or maybe 36. She wasn’t sure anymore. And she didn’t care.

  “Again” said Henry, sternly.

  He was covered in sweat, and only wore a t-shirt and a pair of gym pants, his ripped body a sight for sore eyes.

  You are so fucking attractive, White. If only you weren’t such a damn perfectionist.

  “Henry, I’ve cut a trillion balls in half. I can’t do this anymore. I am tired. And seriously now, who is even going to try to hit me with practice balls?”

  Henry faced her, nothing but strain and disappointment in his face.

  “This is not about the ball, Valentine, this is about you taking our training seriously. About controlling your mental focus. And yeah, sometimes the enemy hits you with the most unexpected weapon imaginable.”

  He threw a ball at her, trying to catch her off guard.

  You can’t surprise me anymore.

  She raised her hand and send a small energy wave to the ball. It exploded into million pieces.

  “That’s not the point of the exercise…”

  “Well, I suppose you are right, war veteran”, Val interrupted.

  “Now, tell me, in how many wars have you fought? No, wars are a little too much. Tell me, how many actual enemies have you fought?”

  “The basic principles are the same, war or no war.”

  Val sighted.

  “This is pointless. There is no reasoning with you, Henry, is there? I have reached the highest level possible, just about a week ago. From then on, it’s just the same shit every single day. But you still keep me here so I can train more. It’s almost like you don’t want us to leave this place.”

 
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