Canton chroniclesrising.., p.19
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       Canton Chronicles:Rising Power, p.19

           Faidra-Foteini Petaniti
 
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  “Us?” Henry said, his voice a low growl.

  “Who said about a thing about us?”

  Val took a step backwards, instinctively.

  “Well, I do. You don’t want to spend the rest of your life in a village farm right? Not with your skills. I know, I know… You had problems. We never talk about them, but it’s obvious. So did we all at some point. But you can’t stay here forever. You are a Negator, and a great teacher, although a pain in the ass sometimes. I think it’s about time…”

  “I am not going anywhere.”

  “Henry, you’ve been here way too long.”

  “THAT’S NOT FOR YOU TO DECIDE”, he shouted, completely outraged.

  “There is no US. You know nothing about me, nothing. You think because we spend our nights talking, we’ve suddenly become friends? You think the problems disappear magically, just like that. You are just a kid.”

  “I think I’m done with today’s practice.”

  Henry’s face mellowed at once.

  “I’m sorry…” he started, but it was already too late.

  Val turned around and walked outside the barn doors. Instead of going inside the house however, he walked the full perimeter of it, reaching its back side. The one which faced the desert.

  With her mind’s eye, Val saw Aurelia’s cavern. Facing towards its direction, she felt ten times stronger. She flared up, her blue aura circling every part of her body, and started practicing a few fighting moves, ones she learned from Henry White.

  In a normal day, her routine would have been enough to calm her down. But Val just felt enraged. There had been a lot of times where she’d disagree with Henry, about Powers, Deities, politics, everything. But he’d never leashed out against her like today.

  I’ve hit the nail’s head today, that’s why. The root of his problems.

  The two of them had come to a strange agreement, living under the same roof, a weird partnership by a single thirty-year old man and a twenty-year old girl.

  The fact that he was a Negator and she the most powerful medium of all times didn’t affect their every day life. Henry cooked, Val washed the dishes. Henry cut down the wood, Val cleaned the house. They trained, then watched TV. And then, they talked.

  Sometimes they would discuss all night, sitting opposite one other, passionately agreeing or disagreeing. Val was actually surprised to find out that Henry had a real sense of humour, with lots of ironic undertones.

  Despite their arguments, they always ended up talking again. Because they had a purpose. Or as it turned out, Val had a purpose.

  No matter how funny or thoughtful her new teacher, no matter how handsome his face was when he laughed, Val wanted her friends. She couldn’t imagine how worried they’d be, how sad about her supposed death. Had they believed Vanessa, or had they gotten themselves into trouble by try and find her?

  I only agreed to this because I thought I would be over with it quickly. I let my PA die out, so no-one will find me. But it’s been a fucking month… If he doesn’t want to come along, then I am leaving alone.

  “Valentine?”

  His voice pulled her out of her thoughts.

  “Yeah?”

  “I’m going to town… for groceries. Do you want anything specific?”

  I want you to apologise.

  “No.”

  For a while, they just stood looking at each other. Then Henry sighted. “We’ll discuss everything when I’m back.”

  Then he hurried to his motorcycle, before Val was able to answer.

  ***

  It was the change of the air that gave Val a weird ominous feeling, more than anything else. She sat in the hard desert-ground, tired from her fighting routine, considerably less mad at Henry, but still a little bit sad.

  Her skin was crawling already as she turned her head up and look the sand cloud approaching.

  No, not only sand. There is colour inside this sand-storm.

  She had just enough time to stand up, before Aurelia’s form appeared right in front of her.

  “My God, it’s so good to be able to move again! After so long! I can only go so far, of course, but still… And to think I was mad at you, Valentine, dear.”

  “Didn’t you used to be a blue ball?”

  A Deity, the strongest of the Deities, is standing in front of you, Val and of all the wondrous things, that’s what you ask. Sweet.

  Aurelia took a good look at her, and then burst out laughing.

  “You are funny too, who would have though. The only bad thing about you is your stubbornness it seems. And your aggression.”

  “Aurelia, what are you doing here? Why are you acting like this? We are not long lost friends, and I am not your servant. I slapped you inside your own cave. The only logical reason for you coming here, is to kill me.”

  “Kill you? Are you crazy, sweetheart? You are my chosen medium. I can step out of my cave again because of you, and your talented friends. How are your friends by the way? I guess closing down the Academy was a big shock for them. Your death must have been another one.”

  “What are you talking about?”

  Val was whispering the words, completely out of breath, her stomach a tight knot.

  Aurelia smiled, a cunning, threatening smile.

  “You didn’t know anything about this? Didn’t anyone tell you? The Academy closed down after you death. The Council’s complains were just too great after your “accident.” Your friends were send to their homes. I guess they are heart-broken. Poor things.”

  Rage was painting Val’s vision, which was now bright red. Aurelia was a bitch trying to pass as an angel, true, but Henry… he knew about all of these, no doubt. Or at least suspected. And said nothing.

  “Honey, what’s wrong? You had no idea whatsoever did you? Why are you still here anyway? With a gift like yours…”

  “I have been training…”

  “With Henry White. In all seriousness, Valentine, I hope you haven’t fallen for this man’s lies. He is a deranged individual, always had been. You are too smart to not have yet realized that he wants to use you for his own cause.”

  A bitter laugh escaped Val’s mouth.

  “And what the fuck are you trying to do right now, oh Great Deity? Don’t you try to use me for your own cause? Aren’t you exactly the same as Henry?”

  Her beautiful face turned into an iron mask of disgust.

  “At least you know my intentions, Val. He is a liar, keeping you away from your friends for so long, while they suffer. And when people suffer, they act foolishly. Do you want them sent to the Underground by Aldus Green? Or worse, dead?”

  “What do you want, Aurelia?”

  “Leave this place, find your friends, and take the revenge you’ve craved for so long. And then…”

  The Deity came close to Val, so close, their foreheads connected in a brotherly gesture.

  “Then you come and find me. And then we can talk some more. I’m sure we’ll come to an agreement. With clear heads, away from this wretched man.”

  Aurelia kissed Val’s forehead and turned to leave.

  “Why do you hate each other so much?”

  A shrill laugh tore the air around them.

  “Search his drawers, honey. And you’ll have your reason why.”

  ***

  The sound of Henry’s brakes were heard in the cottage’s front door. He opened the door, a big smile on his face and his hands full of groceries.

  “Sorry to be gone that long. I found some old friends and…”

  “You are a grown-up man, Henry. You can do whatever you want.”

  Val’s ice cold tone was enough to wipe away his smile. He coughed lightly.

  “Valentine, are you still mad? I am sorry, alright? I never meant to talk to you this way. I do like you, and I want you to find your friends as soon as possible. But you have to be ready…”

  “Yeah, Henry. Whatever.”

  Val stood up from the
couch, and walked around it, standing exactly opposite her teacher.

  “We had visitors. Or rather, I had a visitor.”

  “Did someone hurt you, Valentine?”

  She chuckled ironically.

  “A funny thing to ask. No. My Deity was here. Aurelia. She informed me of a few unimportant things. Like how the Academy closed down and everyone’s life was ruined because of our little plan.”

  Henry remained silent, his face whiter than usual.

  “You knew.”

  It wasn’t a question.

  He nodded his head.

  “We’ll fix everything. Together. Just give me a little more time.”

  “Aurelia instructed me to leave immediately.”

  “Val you can’t seriously trust this entity? She is a lying, scheming, murderous…”

  “Why is she murderous, Henry? Have you ever seen her killing someone?”

  Henry stopped talking, staying completely still, his body an electrified wire.

  “What?”

  Val approached him slowly.

  “You know Henry, I never dared to ask. How is a men with your looks, at your age, never married? Even engaged?”

  “Don’t do this, Valentine.”

  “Wrong answer.”

  The photo flew from Val’s hand, straight at Henry’s face. A beautiful woman and a happy, different man.

  “You know I always found it strange, that we never got out of the house, not even for a drink. In the beginning I thought: Maybe I am too young or maybe he is afraid someone will see us. Now I understand. That’s why you kept me here for so long, Henry, didn’t you? You never liked me, neither is your heart pure. I punched Aurelia straight in the face, so you though “Oh nice, here is my change to avenge my wife. My dead wife, taken by a Holy Deity.” Guess what? Your game is over.”

  “You have no idea what is like.”

  “Excuse me, what? I never tried to use anyone…”

  “You have no idea what’s like to be responsible for someone’s death. My wife was depressive, with only purpose in life: to be Aurelia’s medium. I only laughed her thoughts away, saying to myself it’s only a phase. And one night she was gone. She jumped in Aurelia’s void and never came back. And I saw it all. Yes I am a coward and a junkie. But how dare you judge me? You are just a kid.”

  He spat the last sentence directly at Val’s face. She chuckled bitterly.

  “Alice Green put me in the hospital when I was twelve. My father was driving with 150 km/hour, because my life was hanging on the line. Or so they told me. You see Henry, my parents and I never saw each other again. I ended their worries, forever. They died because I liked to play hero. So I stopped the heroic acts, for a long time. Until I realised… stopping is not the answer. Getting better at your game is.”

  Val realized her face was wet, but couldn’t help herself from talking.

  “God knows how many times I’ve been punished by now. Spending my years in this awful place, see Alice obtaining a Power, torturing people with it. My best friend landed in a hospital and I am here. But still. My dumb brain won’t let me cower away so easily, as yours does.”

  Henry was staring at her, seer amazement in his look. Val smiled and jerked her hand. Her little blue flame burst from her palm.

  “Finally, after all these years, I am blessed with this. My salvation. I am leaving now Henry, to do the thing I know best. Wreak havoc. For the sake of me and the people I love and love me in return. If you don’t have the courage to come with me, then stay here and rot.”

  ***

  Val shut the door behind her and, in the midst of the pouring rain, started walking towards the shed’s direction. Henry still had a car, one he never used, with a key conveniently placed under the driver’s sit. She knew a little bit from driving, at least enough to reach her apartment.

  I have to charge my PA. I have to reach the kids…

  The loud thumbing sound of Henry’s staff landing centimetres from her left side made Val jump and shout. She turned around and faced him, her eyes wide.

  “What the…?”

  Henry stood opposite her, his weapon looming threateningly.

  “Take back what you just said. Take it back or fight me.”

  She could have screamed, could have asked him to leave her alone. She could have even take all the accusations back, end it quickly and peacefully.

  You want a fight you bastard. Then that’s what you’re going to get.

  In an instant, Val produced one Power whip and threw it directly at his face. The energy wouldn’t hurt him, of course, but Henry was stunned for a second, stumbling backwards. Finding the chance she was looking for, Val run forward, towards the barn and her own wooden stuff.

  Henry regained his focus and started running behind her, faster than he’d ever seen him run.

  Pretentious bastard.

  Val’s will was stronger than Henry’s feet. She entered the barn and searched frantically for her weapon, which she located in the far left corner, next to a mess of haystacks.

  Val grasped her stuff, just as Henry caught up with her, getting a hold of the edge of her T-shirt. She jerked violently forwards, and when he was ready to strike again, she turned around and lowered her torso and arms, aiming straight at his vulnerably open stomach area.

  The edge of her stuff found the target. Henry doubled up in pain, holding his stomach with his left hand, the staff still on his right. But all sense of superiority had abandoned him. His eyes were watery and his muscles throbbed from pain. I can leave him now and be done with it. He won’t be able to catch me. A kick in the head, and he’ll be out…

  Val was tired of running. And the bastard had provoked her.

  She felt the aura surging from her body, covering her, little flames exploding.

  “Get up”.

  Henry did. Hurt, confused but with an ironic smile on his face.

  “You should have gone, Valentine”

  “You shouldn’t have hit me in the first place, Henry.”

  He charged at her again, going for the same spot she had been aiming, her lower stomach. But Val was prepared. Holding the stuff horizontal with her two hands she managed to counter Henry’s attack. Clank, rough wood on polished one. They hit each other, swiftly and with each clanking sound, they became more restless and aggressive.

  They took their fight outside of the barn, as the rain was falling steadily in big fat drops. Henry was aiming at her sides, but Val foresaw all his moves and counterattacked accordingly.

  Having studied his techniques for a whole month, Val knew when she had to strike. And the moment came… That breakthrough moment she had been waiting for…

  Henry recklessly changed the course of his weapon with a sudden move of his wrist, aiming at her exposed head, instead of her left hip, as originally intended.

  Val held her wooden staff as a shield in front of her head again, but this time with only one hand. Her left hand send a little ball of energy that struck the ground directly in front of Henry’s feet, using the sand and rock turbulence as a momentary distraction.

  Henry instinctively jumped back and stared directly into the ground in front of him, his pole hanging lose from his hand. The opening was there. Val struck at his feet with all her strength, causing him to stumble and fall to the ground on his back.

  The staff left Henry’s hands, and Val kicked it further away from him. And then she let her own weapon fall, and just waited there, breathing heavily, her whole body an electrified cord, sweat dripping from her wet clothes.

  Sweet Victory.

  Henry laid on the ground, and then all of the sudden, he started laughing. A truly joyful laugh.

  “What is so funny Henry? Don’t tell me you are tired already.”

  “I could do this all day, Valentine. That was… amazing.”

  He got up, trying to stand on his feet and failed miserably, falling on his knees instead.

  Shit, I crippled the poor guy.
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  Guilt and sadness were starting creeping up on Val, and she took two steps forward, intending on helping him.

  “Valentine, don’t bother. I am not worth it. I spend a whole year taking drugs to forget my wife’s death. Aurelia took her one night, and from that night I swore revenge. But I was weak and she was a Deity. And then… you came along. And then I truly did think that there is a chance for me.”

  Val could only look at her own feet. She had suspected the truth after the discovery of the picture, but it hurt so much to hear him say the words.

  “You’re wrong about one thing, though. I really do like you. That’s why I want you to turn around, and leave. Go save your friends, the ones who would die for you. I would never do that. I can’t even die for me.”

  His eyes were full of tears and his voice broke as he ended his sentence.

  Val wanted to help the crying man in front of her. Wanted, more than anything, to see him smiling once again, like the old photo. But there was a limit to heroism. And Henry White didn’t want to save himself. He just wanted to be left alone. Val turned her back on him, and took the first step to the car.

  “Goodbye, Henry. Thanks for everything.”

  ***

  14. Plan and Execution

  The New Academy -19th October, 200 A.D

  The sun was setting slowly in the autumn’s sky, giving its way to darkness. The Academy was dark, empty, without voices to be heard. There was only one person sitting in the main entrance’s stairs, silent, lost in thought.

  Vanessa looked at the setting sun, but her stare was a mechanical one. Her mind was absent.

  Where did I go wrong? Which one of my decisions was the worst?

  She would wake up from her sleep, almost every night, the dark rings under her eyes a clear sign of her depression. The same dreams, same nightmares. Valentine Stone exploding into million pieces, in front of Henry’s terrified eyes.

  Vanessa looked at the now abandoned building, and shuddered. She had so many hopes for this Academy, the start of a new era for Canton and her carrier. The false hope that she could control the kids, even after all this incidences of violence and mayhem.

  But what really bothered Vanessa, was her inactivity after Val’s death. She had become a mindless servant of the Council, obediently closing down the Academy, chasing away her students.

  Waking up, going to work like nothing ever happened, gathering a bunch of pity looks from the Counsellors, a recognition of failure. Losing herself in the mountains of paperwork, returning home as late as she could, falling into an uneasy sleep full of monsters and tears, the once strong and determined Vanessa lost.

 
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