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       Emblaze, p.13

           Jessica Shirvington
 

  „What hides the sun?" I asked.

  „Darkness," Onyx said, without hesitation.

  „What about the other stuff?"

  He shifted in his bed. „I don"t know, yet. I"ll give its some thought."

  He knew more than he was saying, I could tell, and by the look on Griffin"s face he realised it too, but he didn"t call Onyx on the lie, so neither did I.

  „I"ll walk you out," Griffin said.

  I nodded.

  „Yes. Ta ta. Tell the nurse if she doesn"t want me to hunt her down and rip her heart once I"m feeling myself again to bring the damned morphine, will you?" Onyx demanded.

  „I"ll visit in a couple of days," I said, ignoring his comment and subsequent glare.

  „No need. Dapper"s discharging me tomorrow."

  It seemed too early for him to be leaving hospital and I shot a worried look at Griffin. He just shrugged.

  „Dapper says he"ll deal with him."

  „If you really want to help, you could have a few bottles of bourbon waiting for my room."

  I followed Griffin out of the room. "Never gonna happen," I said, without looking back. But as I pulled the door closed behind me I heard Onyx reply quietly, just so I could.

  „I"m sure something will come up to convince you."

  I wondered how much of the poem he did understand.

  Griffin was punching something into his phone as I joined him in the hall.

  „I"m not sure if Onyx can be …" I started, but he cut me off, waving his phone for a moment.

  „Already on it. I"ll have Grigori posted here until he leaves and we"ll monitor everyone who visits him. He won"t do anything we won"t know about."

  I really hoped that would work. But we were both well aware that Onyx was still an unknown. He was with us because he had no better options at the moment, but if a more alluring offer came along …

  Griffin started walking towards the exit. "The Academy called this morning. They"re sending their Vice here," he said, making „Vice", sound dangerous.

  „Who"s that?"

  „Josephine. She"s second in charge at the Academy and on the Assembly. She"s been around for a long time, is very powerful and always gets her way."

  I guess it wasn"t a major surprise. With everything that had been happening Griffin had had to keep the Academy up to date on developments. Now that we had given Phoenix the Exile Scripture I could understand why they would send someone.

  „Who"s her partner?"

  „She is currently partnerless. She had had four that I know of. They are all dead." Griffin wasn"t exactly painting a rosy picture.

  I slowed both my walking and my words. „Griffin, why exactly is she coming?"

  „For the Scriptures, but also to … assess you."

  „Why?" I asked, with an all-bad feeling.

  We pushed through the exit doors to a cold wind blasting outside.

  „Because they know something is going on. They"ve heard the rumours and though we haven"t confirmed that your angel maker is one of the Sole, that won"t stop them from investigating. You are potentially the most powerful Grigori ever to have been created. We still don"t understand your capabilities so they want you assessed and … monitored.

  They"re going to decide if you need to be …" He stopped, looking worried and sorry for me.

  „Griffin," I pushed.

  „They think you need to be trained at the Academy. By them. Josephine will have the authority to make that decision while she is here."

  I stopped mid-stride. „What do you mean?" I asked, louder than I"d meant to. „It"s my choice! What are they going to do - lock me up?"

  Griffin sighed and put his head down, but not before his eyes said Yes. „They have ways to do almost anything they want. There are many Grigori within the Academy - all with varying talents that they will not hesitate to use on you if they believe it is in their interest."

  I let his words sink in and didn"t respond. What could I say? I was being told they were going to take away my choices - force me to move to the Academy. In that moment I knew one thing for sure - I would never willingly allow that to happen.

  „Violet, you know I"ll do everything I can."

  „When does she arrive?" I asked, unable to hold back my anger at him just because he was one of them.

  „In five days."

  We were both silent for a moment, then Griffin put a hand out, but didn"t touch me.

  „Violet?"

  I stepped back, glancing at him briefly. „I know," I said, turning to go in the opposite direction. „I have to go meet Spence," I said, over my shoulder and then took off at a run.

  Yeah, I ran. But with purpose.

  It looked like Dad wasn"t the only one who wanted me under lock and key,

  -

  Spence opened the door with the PlayStation controller in hand. „Where"s the fire?" he asked, standing aside as I barged in.

  I saw Lincoln coming out of his room and the feelings that stirred whenever he was near ignited, almost making me drop to my knees. It just amplified everything and I made a point of ignoring him, despite my body"s screaming cravings, and made a bee-line straight for the sparring area set up at the back of the warehouse.

  „We have to train." I pulled off my jumper, kicked off my shoes and started to stretch.

  „Eden, chill. What"s the rush? It"s Saturday.

  But I couldn"t chill, nothing about anything happening in my life inspired an inclination to chill. I stood on the mats, hands on hips and stared at Spence. Whatever he saw in me, it worked.

  He put the game controlled and pulled off his shoes.

  „Come to think of it - I was actually hankering for a pounding just before you arrived."

  Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Lincoln move into the kitchen area. He didn"t say anything and made himself busy, moving thins about, but I knew he was watching.

  Fine by me.

  Two hours later, Spence was face down on the mat again and I was dripping sweat.

  Griffin had arrived about twenty minutes after we"d started sparring and had insisted on acting as umpire.

  „That"s enough for today," he said.

  Spence moaned and sat up. „Ah - ya think?" Then he lay back down, flat on his back.

  „No, I"m not tired." I needed to do more. I needed to be stronger. I needed to be ready because it felt like there was no one I didn"t have to fight in some way.

  Lincoln was sitting on the couch and I saw him look over. He"d been silent the entire time. Occupying himself with things and never focussing on the session, but I had felt his eyes nonetheless.

  „I"m wasted, Eden. Go hit a wall or something. I"m taking a shower." Spence crawled away on all fours to the bathroom.

  Griffin laughed lightly. „You really are getting stronger," he said to me.

  „No!" I snapped. „It"s not enough! I"ve seen him fight. I"ve seen how fast he is. I"ve seen

  …" I dropped my head and put my hands on my hips, digging fingernails into my flesh, trying to hold back the scream that was clawing its way through me.

  No one understands. I can"t be responsible for any more.

  Griffin stood up and I didn"t look at him until he was standing opposite me. He"d taken his jumper off. And his shoes.

  He didn"t say anything but his right hand went out with lightning speed, straight at my face. I dodged and hit him in his gut.

  For the first time, as we danced around on the mats, Griffin and I sparred and I managed to take him down. He exposed my weaknesses - my tendency to go for the kick - and I worked out that he preferred the distance rather than close-range fighting. But for every time I took him down, he took me down three more.

  I was faster than him and there wasn"t much difference in our strength but he was simply better, and I started to get frustrated.

  „You"ve done enough for today," Griffin said.

  Spence was back on the couch, showered, changed and engrossed in his game, but he paused long enough to yell out,
Girl"s on a mission!"

  I glared at him, but he just gave me a cheesy grin.

  „Again."

  Griffin shrugged and struck out. I dodged but as I did he leaped into the air and right over the top of me. I swung around to try and take him out by the legs but was too slow. He planted the exact same move on me before I had a chance to readjust my footing. I fell, then jumped back to my feet and fake-swung at him with my arm before hitting him with a jab from my right.

  Griffin was clam and though he moved slower than me he kept taking me out. Kicking me in my left side, then hitting me across the face without ever changing position, while I was still looking for a way through. It was like he had eight arms, didn"t move and yet was never where I aimed.

  I lashed out with my foot and made contact. Griffin kicked me square in the chest.

  „For Christ"s sake, stop wasting all your energy!" Lincoln yelled.

  My head snapped up and over to him. He"d moved closer when I hadn"t been paying attention, now standing on the sideline, arms crossed, looking aggravated.

  „Your arms are everywhere, you"re flailing all about. If you insist on fighting, fight properly!"

  Lincoln hadn"t just been watching for the last three hours, he"d been judging me. Picking apart everything I"d been doing.

  I felt desperate, but the anger was stronger and force everything else aside. I couldn"t do it. I"d felt him watching and that was bad enough, knowing he thought I"d been doing everything wrong.

  It"s too much.

  The part of myself I"d been trying desperately to ignore. The part that was broken and constantly bleeding - that was always worse when he was near, exploded.

  „Violet. You"re doing great. Amazing, even. You can"t expect to be perfect all the time,"

  Griffin said, trying to babysit me.

  I bit down on the inside of my cheek and swallowed the lump in my throat. I walked over to the side of the mat and put on my shoes, not bothering with my jumper, and headed for the door.

  „Where are you going?" Griffin said.

  „For a run," I said, letting myself out and not quiet managing to restrain myself from slamming the door behind me.

  Who does he think he is anyway?

  I picked up the pace until I was running faster than humanly possible. I gave a sorry attempt at looking around. No one was watching or yelling, „There goes the bionic woman."

  Because no one cares. Any why should I? why does it have to be me that chases angels who abandon their realm? Why do I have to give up everything? Everyone!

  And then more thoughts started tumbling, the ones that hurt the most. I heaved for air as my throat tightened.

  Why is it so easy for him? How can he just go on the way he does? Why isn"t he screaming or losing it like me?

  It was unfair. I wanted to see him break down, damn it.

  I kept running until I hit the small oval. I ran to the centre and dropped to my knees, panting. Not because I was tired, which I was, but because my throat had closed so tight I wheezed with every breath. I needed to escape.

  But I can"t escape from myself!

  I dug my hands into the grass, my fingers strong, sliding into the dirt as I grabbed tight fistfuls of earth and tried to reel myself in, gain control. I ended up just throwing the soil and starting again, digging small holes until I was surrounded by a trench. My breathing got tighter and tighter and, when I couldn"t force them back any more, the tears started to fall.

  soon my trench would be a moat.

  The worst part was I could deal with all of it - the fighting, the risk, the pain, the responsibility, the sacrifices. All but one thing.

  Why can"t I just be with him?

  Everything would be okay if I had him. If we could be what we were supposed to be, if I could let my soul open to him the way it yearned for me to do.

  The vision of Rudyard"s lifeless body forced its way into my mind. Then the sound of Nyla"s final scream, her soul shattering. Forever lost.

  I imagined what such a loss would feel like. It helped calm me a bit, the though of how terrible I"d feel should Lincoln witness and then have to endure my death.

  Not that I would actually see it. I"d be dead.

  But he would be like Nyla. Forever trapped.

  Lincoln thought the opposite. I knew when he saw these images it was him who dead and the sound of my scream that haunted him. Just like in Jordan, he would dive in front of any attacker to save me. But I also knew that Phoenix had a weapon Lincoln could not shield me from.

  I felt him approaching, slowly moving in on me. He must"ve run to have caught up with me so fast. I closed my eyes tight, digging my fingers into the soil again, so hard my knuckles burned against the small embedded stones, He stood silently behind me. He didn"t touch me, he just waited while I cried.

  It took me a while to pull myself together and when I turned to face him the sun was beginning to lose what little warmth it had been giving. By then he was sitting on the ground, looking out over the field.

  „How many hours a day are you training?" he asked, eventually.

  „I … I don"t know."

  „I was right about your fighting. You"re all over the place. You can"t do this, Violet, not when you"re so busy fighting yourself. You need to focus on beating your opponent. The only way you"ll do that is if you rest, eat and find the right mind space."

  I grabbed a handful of dirt and threw it in front of me. „It"s not that easy. Not everyone is like you."

  His head snapped up and then he shook it, sadly. „You think this is easy for me?" He took a deep breath. "If you want to be better, you"ll listen to me and do as I tell you."

  Lincoln stood up. "Come on," he said.

  I thought he wanted to drag me back to his place or take me home, but when I looked up he raised his eyebrows. Challenging me.

  I wanted to keep digging my trench to somewhere else, somewhere happier, but I stood up and dusted off my hands.

  „Stand still," he said. "Only move to strike. Take your time, watch me carefully and when you move, move fast and with all of your power."

  It sounds simple enough, but it"s not. I like to move around and try and manipulate the fight. This went against my natural instincts.

  Lincoln stood in front of me, arms loose by his side. I mirrored his pose, trying to keep myself still.

  „Breathe," he said.

  When he took a few steps to my right, I didn"t follow. When he came back to my left, I stood still. He moved a few paces back to my right, close to my side and then, from the corner of my eye, I saw his hand flinch.

  My arm went out so fast it caught his in mid-flight and my other hand, fisted tight, did not hesitate to go straight into his now-open body.

  Lincoln stumbled back a few steps.

  „Good," he said, straightening. „Again."

  I nodded and kept my position as he moved in on me.

  He struck out at me occasionally from different directions. Each time I managed to block him and get in a few more hits.

  But I grew impatient and moved from my position to try to finish him off. That"s when he caught me off-balance and spun me into a death grip.

  With my back against his body, we were the closest we"d been in weeks. He"d beaten me, but suddenly all I could focus on was his chest moving up and down against my back, mirroring my own. I couldn"t stop exhaling with the relief that came from having him near me. It was as if my entire being, body, spirit, soul needed him.

  Lincoln rested his chin on the top of my head and we stayed like that for a moment, until he squeezed me and whispered, „I know."

  He released his hold on me and we stepped away from each other.

  „We should go," Lincoln said. „You"ll miss your curfew."

  „You don"t trust me," I said. I didn"t blame him. Right then it took everything I had not to throw myself back into his arms and beg him to commit himself to an eternity of suffering just for me.

  He backed up a few steps and closed his eyes briefl
y.

  „It"s not you I don"t trust."

  CHAPTER SIXTEEN

  „ You hope for light, but he will turn it to thick darkness and change it to deep gloom."

  Jeremiah 13:16

  Over the next three days, I found a better stride. Partly because of Lincoln"s words and partly because being grounded meant I wasn"t out hunting every night. Instead, I brought out my paints for the first time in a while, and realised just how much I"d been missing my art.

  Dad, probably out of guilt, had bought me a new set of paintbrushes and left them in my studio. The strange thing was, everything I painted in some way seemed to reflect the image of a rainbow. It wasn"t until I"d finished three canvases and stood in front of them that I noticed the unnerving pattern.

  Griffin was right. There was still so much we didn"t understand about my abilities. Exiles called me a rainbow, but what did that mean? the Rainbow represented a link between the realms. But what that meant for me was still a mystery and I wasn"t too keen on turning into some magical arch after a rainstorm.

  I"d been doing as Lincoln said and, for the last couple of nights, even managing to get a few hours" sleep. I was eating meals and still training hard, but resting when I needed. I could already feel the difference. My mind was cleared and I felt stronger in every way.

  It was Wednesday and weekdays were proving difficult since I was supposed to be home straight after school, but I"d managed a couple of quick drop-ins to Hades on my way back with Steph to get more research supplies and check on Dapper … and Onyx.

  Griffin still had Grigori posted at Hades around the clock. Officially, it was for security.

  Unofficially, it was to keep an eye on Onyx. So far, no trouble had been spotted but Onyx had pulled me aside and told me he wanted to talk to me. I"d promised to return in the morning, which meant tomorrow I was going to have to break the rules of my grounding and skip school.

  Yeah, well, „for the greater good" and all that.

  Steph had been spending some afternoons, like today, at my place, and some working on the translation with Dapper, who seemed more willing than ever to share his expertise.

  I"d given up trying to help - Steph didn"t come over for my code-breaking prowess, she just liked working on it from my home instead of her own. From what I could gather she hadn"t had a conversation with her mother in days and the last she heard from her father, he"d had no immediate plans to come home. Steph had been working on the Scripture code constantly, trying to decipher what it all meant.

 
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