Go read Box: Detach instead!
The pale blond-haired boy in front of me sat in front of me, and it seemed like he wanted to talk. I, too, wanted to talk, but I just didn't feel like it at the moment.
A minute passed without a single word between us. The boy didn't comment, or urge us to start sharing information, and instead only sat quietly while observing me and Roya from his side eye. It felt unnerving to be studied so intensely by another Aerilosac, but again, I didn't feel like thinking about it right now.
Or do I just not care anymore?
I turned my head over to the lone pair of shoes sticking out from behind a closet, safely hidden in his own private space. My body and legs were still shaking, I could barely hear a single thing unless I tried really hard, and there still seemed to be a patch of dried blood on my left eyelid. I could see the flash of red every time I blinked. Still, I could hear Roya's mourning from his corner, the quiet sound still all too deafening for me. It was like hearing the wails of a thousand tormented souls, but in reality, it was just one.
And even hearing one was too much for me to bear.
I brought this on him.
If I'd never come, he never would have been discovered by Samantha, and maybe he wouldn't have been killed by the insurgents after he did their dirty deeds.
Sister could have lived.
Samantha murmured in her sleep, and I had to hold her down just to stop her from rolling off of the bed. Her wound didn't seem fatal anymore thanks to the makeshift plug made out of the golden crystals, but her hand was still a mixture of purple and black. She wouldn't be using her right hand anytime soon, at least not for anything requiring dexterity. Still, I should be thankful that she is still living, and for that...
I bowed my head as far down as I could in my sitting position, my knees refusing to get up once they made themselves comfortable.
"Thank you for saving my sister." The words burned in my mouth as I said it out loud. Never would I have thought that it would be an Aerilosac who would end up saving our lives, and my emotions raged at me to go kill the boy in front of me. It was his people that killed Sister, Roya's true and unsanctioned mother, but at the same time, we would not be here if not for him.
At the very least, I couldn't let my emotions get the better of me right now.
Because we weren't out of the woods yet. They were still looking for us, and in our current states, we wouldn't be able to do anything against them. The boy before me showed extreme and overwhelming power. If I had thought the Aerilosac that we had captured was strong, this boy merely ripped the crystals away from him and sent it back at him with a single flick of his finger. He hadn't even struggle in the slightest.
We had to talk, but I didn't feel comfortable doing that so directly, either.
I decided to ease into the conversation instead of just straight up asking him.
"How is your hideout underneath a restaurant?" I asked loudly, making sure that Roya heard us even from his corner. He needed to know, even though he wouldn't want to do anything at this point.
"I had paid the owner a fair sum of money for usage of the electrical room. It was not difficult to later construct this hideout via the underground sewage systems."
"You mean beyond these brick walls-"
"Is an end wall for the sewers. It would look perfectly disguised from the outside, but in here, no one would find us. Only two other people know, and they will not lead the insurgents here."
"This is stupid." I chuckled and coughed at the same time. "So you just made a fully functioning elevator and piston system underneath the restaurant without anyone above noticing?"
"Yes. If anyone were to try to come in through the door above," he pointed to the rectangular shaped patch of the ceiling that rose up another meter, at the door that would lead to a straight fall into the hideout. "Firstly, they would not be able to. It is always locked from the inside, and only the owner has the key."
"If the owner comes in?"
"Then he would find himself in an unfortunate position. I made certain that he would never come in during my visits, though. Once you offer more than enough for renting a simple electrical room, they will not bother asking about the purpose of us hiding in here for another few hours."
That was the end of the conversation, and I found it near impossible to bring up another topic again. My heart was wrenching and twisting just at the sight of an Aerilosac being so close to me, and coupled with the only intensifying sickness from being so close to Roya, I was having an extremely bad time. It felt like I was going to die any moment now, even though I suffered no outwards injuries during that fight. But whatever I felt, Roya was having it worse. I made sure to keep that in mind, and continued patting Samantha gently on her forehead to keep her from shifting on the bed.
"I don't think you plan on staying here with us three," I said, not looking at the boy in the eyes. Unlike the other Aerilosacs, he wore brown contacts and didn't bother with a contrasting hair dye at all. He's someone special, then.
In fact, I could guess who he was. The Aerilosac had mentioned the name of the current Commanding Officer in this area, and he was saying something before he got chopped up into six pieces.
"No, I do not. I provided you the shelter and assistance you needed to survive immediately, but now, I will provide you with the plan to survive indefinitely." The boy lifted his head and stared at Samantha for a second, before turning back to me. "And this plan must commence at midnight today at the latest."
"What's the plan?" My eyelids suddenly decided to droop, and a wave of fatigue crashed onto me, begging me to sleep and dream the pain away. I bit my own tongue to remain clear-headed. How could I be so tired? I had just woken up a few hours ago, so by all means, I should be up and running at near one hundred percent.
"The wares that you have stolen from the warehouse. The insurgents will flip the entire area up to find it before tomorrow, six in the afternoon. They will move fast and move disorderly, abandoning all search party protocols to retake that crate," he explained.
"So we will take advantage of their sloppiness."
"Do we split them up tonight? What are their numbers?"
"I estimate around forty. Assuming five insurgents serve only as support and backup, there would be thirty five Aerilosacs that we would have to split up. Splitting up in groups of three is tempting, but as of right now, we cannot afford for any one person to be taking large numbers of Aerilosac alone, even me."
"That means we need to split up into two groups. Each of us will defeat seventeen or so Aerilosacs," I mused, propping my head on my chin. "How much more can you take from the other group?"
"I can face off against twenty at most, provided that I have tremendous fire support behind me. And we will not be facing thirty five. Cut the numbers down to twenty five. My two other subordinates will deal with the other ten."
"Then the group without you will take ten, while yours will take fifteen. Is that reasonable for you?" I glanced at Roya, who had stopped tapping his feet on the brick flooring now, listening in on our conversation in his own way.
"Samantha will go with you once she wakes up. Her hand looks terrible, but she can still shoot way better than me with one hand. Plus her five second Parallel Eyes, she'll be able to provide valuable information that could come in handy for you."
The boy didn't seem to believe me, his eyes squinting at my unconscious sister behind me. Of course he wouldn't think her a good shot, but the truth was, I just didn't want to get split up from Roya despite the benefit we would gain from our distance. I couldn't leave him to go pair up with the boy or Samantha. That just wouldn't feel right.
"Look, just trust me. You'd come this far just to save us. I'm not lying to you when I say she's a good shot," I reiterated, and this time, the boy nodded.
"Then you and the other boy will defeat the other ten."
"How will you two Raixiens do that?" he asked, not so much with condescension than worrisome. After all, he had come down to the basement to see us Raixiens losing a fight against a single Aerilosac, and we had let someone die despite our ability. It was realistic and normal to think that just the two of us wouldn't be able to kill one Aerilosac, much less ten of them.
I hadn't forgotten mom's words.
I was no Aerilosac. I don't have super regeneration or the ability to utilize their blinding crystals to chop people up. I don't have the same firepower as them, nor their training and endurance. But I know well enough about my own strengths and weaknesses to not need to rely on any of those. Samantha has her own strengths as well, and if her five second limit was any indication of her capacity, then she'd have an easier than me and Roya just from the standpoint of our abilities.
It was stupid to think we ever could stand a chance against them head on. All the training mom provided us was just the foundation to stay alive, not to beat them down like they could do to us. We were stupid to ever imagine ourselves as hardened soldiers that could overcome any situation through brute force. I know that now. Sister's death is the mark of our foolishness, and it's a mark that will never go away. If I can't beat them in one-on-one fight, then it won't be a fight.
I was always good at playing both the seeker and the hider.
"We will do it." Both of us snapped at Roya, who had finally spoken after sitting by himself all this time. "We'll beat them."
The boy still didn't seem convinced, so I leaned forward and looked him in his eyes. He may have realized this himself that he couldn't trust us two to make it by ourselves, and he might even say he'd send one of his trusted soldiers to help me and Roya. That can't happen, though. He knows the Aerilosac best, and I'd already failed once. I can't fail again. If his plan entailed his subordinates taking out ten insurgents, then they needed to do their job. If his subordinates are weakened because they had to protect us, then the plan might not work.
No, we'd do this by ourselves.
Then, the boy nodded, and as he did, a huge weight seemed to lift off from his shoulders, and he leaned back against his chair.
"I have no doubts in your abilities. If you were incompetent, I would have caught the three of you an hour after you broke in," he said, and both Roya and I scoffed at his acknowledgement of us.
"We lost to the one Aerilosac, though," Roya said with a savage undertone, one purple eye peeking out from behind the closet. "And you'll still trust us and consider us competent?"
"You survived. That is more than I could have ever asked for from a Raixien."
"What does that mean?" Roya grew to his feet, and from the corners where the light didn't reach, his bloody eyes roared at the boy with pure aggression, the likes of which I'd never even seen from Samantha. "You guys think you're high and mighty, so it's only natural for you to stomp down on us ants?"
The boy didn't cave away from his glare. "Nobody ever expects ants to fight back. In that regards, you three hold power that not even I have."
"And what would that be?"
"I suppose I will see when you do defeat the ten insurgents, no?" The boy smiled, and Roya blinked.
Then, he bowed.
"Sorry. You saved us," he slumped back into his corner tiredly, and this time, he pulled his entire leg in so neither of us could see him at all.
"Do not be sorry. I should have been there sooner. It was my fault, and I will ensure that the woman gets a proper burial. This oath I swear." The boy raised his right finger, then placed it diagonally over his right eye. I frowned at the unusual gesture. Does it mean anything among the Aerilosacs?
"Tell us about the strategy, then. How will we finish the fight by tonight?" I pressed on, knowing that everyone in the room seemed to have regained some momentum except for Samantha. Though, from how she was beginning to stir from her slumber, she'd wake up at any time, maybe even a few minutes later. Even while Roya was still mourning Sister's death, I could sense it.
That endless drive between us sending our minds into a brutal frenzy. This wasn't just about survival anymore. To Roya, this was... divine punishment, in his own catholic words. And to Samantha and I, this was something we just couldn't run away from. Literally. Though, I had no intention of running before this whole ordeal is over and done with. As long as the insurgents live, they will remain a thorn by our side, and honestly, I didn't really care for their reasoning for hating us anymore.
"For my group, we will be focusing on direct confrontation. It will be difficult to employ any trickery against fifteen Aerilosac, especially when they will be on supremely high alert against me. As such, my goal will be to distract as many as I can, leave a manageable amount to the girl, and have one of my trusted soldiers assist her as soon as possible," the boy said. "For you two, I will first need to find a map of this area for you. I assume you will be employing guerrilla tactics?"
"Something of the sort. But we will need equipment." I nodded.
"In this hideout, there are sufficient weapons and devices that will help you three immensely." The boy stood up and walked over to the left of the hideout first, where a single long, horizontal cabinet spanned the entire side of the wall. "This is the storage for all the firearms. You will not find normal Earth weaponry here, only ones created by the Aerilosac. There are also three backpacks in here for you to store them. As such, feel free to refer to me if you have any questions."
He walked over to the closet that Roya sat next to and pulled it open. I got off the bed to see for myself what he had in store for us.
"There are three Aerilosac-designed ballistic vests in here, as well as Aerilosac styled masks that we wear for covert operations. They should be decently sized to fit all three of you, and there are other protections in the form of trousers, helmets, and-"
"We won't be needing that." Both Roya and I said at the same time, and I heard him chuckle for a short bit before it died down. I managed to smile at our synchronicity, and pointed at the long trench coats that I remembered seeing on the insurgents. "For my group, we'd only need weapons, unless you have apparel that are flexible and easy to hide."
"Sadly, you are no Aerilosac, or I would have given you the stolen wares for you to utilize. There is not protection I can offer you if you wish to go casual."
"Not a problem," I said as I eyed the many coats hanging still in the closet, and saw in my periphery that Roya was also studying the coats, eyes completely screwed onto their design. They were just like the ones the insurgents wore yesterday, and just like the one we had captured today. It would make a nice fit.
"Then, the last station is the medical station. There is also food and water in here, which will serve as our lunch and dinner, however insignificant it may be." The boy finally turned to kneel down besides Samantha's bed, and pulled on the handle that I hadn't noticed before. Inside the cabinet was a stash of baguettes and chocolate bars, along with ten bottles of water. The boy threw out all of the food and revealed several more hexagonal cubes of the golden crystals that he had used to stop Samantha's bleeding.
"These can be modified to fit most open wounds. There are twenty different sizes of cubes in here, and three of each size. If needed, I can change their shapes now to accommodate for your plans. If not, then we will discuss on how best to split the supplies for tonight later," The boy said while he palmed a cube in his hand. "I will demonstrate how to activate this cube."
Without any warning, the boy yanked out at least a cupful of crystals out from his pocket, shaped it into a large, jagged shard, and stabbed it through the back of his thighs. There was no hesitation, no fear, and not even the slightest bit of emotion on his face. He pushed the shard through until it made a perfectly clean hole in his thighs, then left the shard on the floor as blood started to spurt out from the wound. He looked back up at us with careful eyes, likely gauging at our reactions.
The only thing I did was laugh.
This was unfair, but I had to accept it regardless.
The boy raised an eyebrow at our reactions, or rather our lack thereof. He raised the hexagonal cube high up in the air to show it to us clearly, then popped the cube into the hollow flesh just like how he did earlier. Instead of putting his hand in a prayer, however, he clapped the other end of his thighs to block the tube from tumbling out of the wound, and he winced a little bit.
When both his hands were covering the hole on both ends, a quiet and weak vibration rang and jiggled his flesh, and after another two seconds of placing his hands on his thighs, he let go. I frowned at the same mesh layer of crystals that he had placed on Samantha's palm, noting that the wound was still largely hollow and see through, but the boy dispelled my worries immediately.
"The cube will detect and recognize blood. It does not have to be Aerilosac blood, as you can already tell. When it does, it will expand and release blood clotting agents while hardening the parts of the flesh that are exposed to the air. These are a lot more effective than the one I used on the girl, so they should be able to stop the bleeding and provide support for the hollow wound effectively."
"You can only use these for hollow wounds, then?" I asked.
"They also fare well against slashes and long cuts, but you will have to spread them across your entire length of the wound. Without an Aerilosac to modify them, you would not be able to do it easily."
"So just use it for clean, hollow wounds. Got it."
It made sense in its own way. These cubes were likely designed to keep only the Aerilosac alive, and no one else. Any small cuts and scratches would heal quickly for them due to their nature, and judging by the boy's bandaged arm, even a seemingly large wound like that would probably heal in under a day. The cubes were only for emergencies or damages that their normal healing wouldn't be able to heal. That included pierce-through wounds such as what Samantha suffered back in the church.
I was terrified of the thought of having to use the cube. What would it feel like to have crystals pierce through your flesh? Hell, what would it feel like to have a hole large enough to use that in the first place?
I shoved those thoughts away before it could show on my face. If I got hurt, then that meant I was in a fight. If I was in a fight, then that meant I had already lost. Just don't think about it.
The boy turned back around, pushed in the cabinet, and immediately locked eyes with a waking Samantha.
She was murmuring and blinking softly, her irises flicking around the hideout in search of something. Then, she finally settled on my face, and she smiled.
"I lived," she choked, and I nudged the boy aside with a water bottle in hand. Samantha shot up from the bed and grabbed the water, chugging it down with both hands. She downed the entire bottle in on go, then crumpled the plastic into a tiny ball. That was when she finally seemed to notice the shade of red-yellow in the middle of her right palm. "What's this?"
"He stopped your bleeding with the crystals by plugging the hole," I explained.
"It will hold permanently, but it will shatter if you compress on it too much, so try not to break it during battle," the boy added.
Samantha blinked again.
Her eyes flashed purple, and I caught her hand before it could dart forward and stab the boy in the eye. I gripped her wrist a bit too hard, and Samantha glared at me for a second before launching herself off of the bed, her legs swinging at the boy as she did. He stepped back with his hands in his pockets, watching her movements with an unfazed expression.
I had to physically move in between her kick and the boy to stop her, and her leg connected with my waist. Pain shot through my chest and ribs, though it was nothing too bad compared to the perpetual sickness I now had. Before I could even open my mouth, she had already moved off the bed and past me to stare down the boy in the face.
She's still fast.
But I didn't interfere as she shot her right fist forward at the boy, because in a split second, he had took one hand out of his pocket to point at the half-crimson, half-golden crystals in her palm. Samantha snarled and tried to jerk her hand forward so she could finish the punch, but her fist merely shuddered in the air, unwilling and unable to move. Once again, I felt the overwhelming strength of the innocuous boy before me, but then, it was his turn to be surprised.
Samantha's fist started to move, and the boy couldn't move out of the way fast enough. He managed to widen his eyes just before her fist smashed in his nose, and he stumbled back, blood leaking out from his nose. This time, I took a step forward and slapped Samantha in the face. She recoiled and hissed at me, but frowned when she saw me staring dead at her.
No. Stop fighting within ourselves.
She was breathing deeply the entire time, but I continued to shake my head, and eventually, she seemed to calm down a bit. Her eyes occasionally flickered to the boy - who was fiddling with his nose while trying to fix it back in place - while I guided her back to her bed to sit down. Once she did, I smiled apologetically to the boy. He shook my concerns away when he wiped off the blood on his skin with a tissue that appeared out of nowhere, and sat back down onto his chair.
"Hello," he said to Samantha, and they both had another stare-off with each other. Neither of them relented, so I was once again forced to interfere by placing a hand on her shoulder.
"He's on our side," I began, and gripped her down to the bed when she tried to move out again. "We're going to kill all the insurgents. Tonight."
That stopped her.
With a voice full of scepticism and animosity, she continued to glare at the boy.
"I know you. You're the one who wanted to talk yesterday," she said. "You said you wanted to help us."
"Yes, I did."
I snorted. So this was the Aerilosac that Samantha encountered yesterday while she was being chased? Talk about unlucky coincidences. She never mentioned that he talked about helping us, but I suppose that at the time, anything from an Aerilosac would sound like a ploy or a trap. I didn't blame her for it, because I, too, was still keeping something from her. So far, the voice had been one-hundred percent correct.
"What's your name?" I asked abruptly, just now realizing that I had been referring to him as 'boy' for quite some time now.
The boy's eyes lost its focus.
"I am Losar. Commanding Officer of the Chicago Division. Pleased to meet you all."
After we had explained in tandem what had happened after she fell unconscious, we wasted no time at all updating on her on the details of our new plan. Granted, the new plan wasn't the least bit complicated, since it entailed two very basic directives that even a pre-schooler could follow: Kill and don't be killed. Simple enough to follow, but whether we will get out of it out alive will require a bit more tact on our part.
It took a while, however, to persuade Samantha that this was our only choice. That trusting Losar here was the only way we could succeed. He never joined in to defend himself instinctively whenever I started trying to placate her, and it really became tiring after a while, but she did eventually did come to accept it. That, or she was simply bottling her true thoughts within. I was grateful that Losar never seemed to feel offended by her aggressive jibes, because that would've only made things worse between us.
Right now, we were a four man team. Though two of us may be only half-functioning, and the other can barely hold a pen in her right arm, we still had to stick together. Losar was the greatest power we have right now.
Which is why, while all four of us were solemnly packing everything we needed for tonight into our backpacks, I decided to strike up another conversation with our unlikely ally.
"We haven't told you any of our names yet," I said coolly, waiting to see how Losar would react to this. It was strange that it had been nearly six hours after our arrival, and yet he had not once asked us about it. He looked up from his desk and let go of the bizarre rifle he was cleaning with a rag.
"I noticed." When the conversation grew stale one sentence in, he swivelled around his chair to look at me. "What are your names?"
"Nah, not going to tell you," Samantha muttered, but I disregarded her once again.
"I am Rivin. This is my sister Samantha, and that is Roya." I pointed to Roya skulking away from all of us, inspecting a golden spherical weapon in his hand. Losar had shown that it was a form of incendiary grenade that would detonate with a blinding white flame, and I had thought of several ways to use them when the time comes. He tried to stuff them into his pockets before picking up two wire cutters within the cabinet.
Roya had grown quieter as time passed, if anything. I didn't expect him to be able to recover from the death of Sister so quickly, and frankly, I didn't know what to do to get him back to me. Time was what I think we all needed, but we didn't have that. This fight is happening tonight, and if Roya wasn't feeling up to it, then I won't be able to pull my strategies off.
I had no right telling him that, though, so I kept my mouth shut and let him deal with it himself. I had to trust that he'll do his best tonight and not deviate from plan.
"Rivin and Roya. How would I differentiate you two from each other apart from speech?"
He turned back and continued cleaning the rifle for us, and my eyes twitched.
"We don't know anything about you," I said.
"This goes both ways. However, it is not of any importance right now," he replied, keeping his back faced towards us.
"Because you don't care?"
"Because in twelve hours, after the fight is done, we will all sit together and tell our stories. There is no use telling it now when you will have to do it again at a later time. All that matters now is to be prepared for tonight, and to trust each other."
That last part was definitely aimed at Samantha, and she growled at the comment. She hadn't deactivated her Parallel Eyes since she woke up, and most of her focus was spent on scratching at the bloody crystal in her palm. I wonder if her teaming up with Losar for tonight was going to turn out okay, and if I would need to talk to her privately. It'd be bad if she goes berserk again and started to attack our only ally.
He was right, but I still wanted to know all the same. Why was he helping us, especially when it seemed like he didn't really need us to beat the insurgents?
That single flick back in the basement continued to scare me. Just what can this boy do with the crystals?
Losar stood up and tossed the rifle towards Samantha, who was fumbling through the closet for anything she could wear. She caught the weapon without looking, and my eyes drifted towards the smoothened out crystal patch in her palm. When Losar had first stopped the bleeding by shaping the cube, the patch was crude and jagged. Somewhere along the line, the crystals lost its edge, and is now almost completely integrated with the rest of her skin, save for the obvious colour. Was that another property of the crystals?
"Losar, can you update us on the Aerilosac?" I asked while holding an orange-yellow mask in my hand, made in the shape of one of those Chinese demons. "We need to know what to expect from the insurgents."
"Hm. For you and Roya, they will not likely bring any technical weaponry except for their crystals. Since we will be splitting up with the wares in our backpacks, they would choose mobility over heavy-hitting firearms for your group."
"Because they'll underestimate us two?"
"That is if they even know there are two of you," he pondered. "You should play it safe and assume that they know. In that case, they would still send a sizeable force after you two Raixiens, but will not be sporting armour or any of the sort."
"Good to know. How about your group?" I asked, knowing that if I didn't, Samantha wouldn't either. She was still staring daggers at Losar, but she needed to know the details as well.
"Aerilosacs cannot reveal themselves to humans under any circumstances. For Samantha and I, we will be facing light to medium armoured Aerilosacs, and likely those with more experience and strength comparatively. I do not think they will bring highly complicated weaponry either due to mobility reasons, but it is a possibility."
"Hear that, Samantha? Play it safe, alright?" When all I got was a grunt in response, I sighed and placed my head in my hands. Roya was also minding his own business, studying the area map on his phone in the corner. This team wasn't looking so good.
"You need not worry about your younger sister. I will protect her," Losar said, which made me laugh while Samantha threw a toothpick from her pockets at him. The Aerilosac craned his head to the right to avoid it and frowned. "Did I say something wrong?"
"She's my older sister, not younger," I corrected him.
"Do you mean I look more childish than him?" Samantha fumed.
"Of course not. I simply got the wrong impression of the two of you is all."
The two began to quarrel and squabble like actual children - though it was really only Samantha who started pulling out third grade insults from her vocabulary - so I moved to the side when I saw Roya beckon me over to his corner. I had a slight smile on my face hearing Samantha vent out all of her anger to the Aerilosac, who was just sitting there like an Easter Island statue.
When I had told her about what happened to Sister, she had no reaction, and she had acted that way for the past six hours, unwilling to talk to me nor Roya about it. I knew she had to be dying inside as well, even though we barely knew her. In her own way, shouting at someone would be of help to her. I only hope Losar doesn't get angry back at her and decide to kill her. And all of us.
"Hey," I said to Roya.
"Hey," he replied back, and I sat down before him, still tucked in the space next to the closet.
I wasn't sure what I wanted to say to him, but he seemed to have read that from my face.
"About tonight, I don't want you to worry," he said, lifting his chin up momentarily to show me his alarmingly bloody eyes. "I'll do my absolute best to beat them all. I promise you that."
"What's this about?"
He looked at me with a dead stare.
"We've talked about our plan already," he started.
"Yeah. We're not going to have a fight with them."
"But you know it's not going to work. Something will go wrong."
I froze when he said it out loud. He sounded so despairing that it made my heart jump out of my chest for a second as I remembered the horrific sight we saw this morning, when the Aerilosac raised his unbound hands to taunt us. I breathed in subtly to keep him from seeing my sudden panic, and repeated his words in my head.
Something will go wrong.
That was right. Whatever plan we had, it won't work the full way through. Right now, our strategy was made to deal with ten Aerilosac, and only ten. If for whatever reason, we had more insurgents on us than expected, we'd be sent back into that corner where we could do absolutely nothing. After this morning, I won't ever underestimate them again. I'd need to take precautions when the plan does stop short of its intended goal, but what could I do? Do I pray that things will go smoothly, only to have my prayers unanswered?
My eyes locked onto Roya's, and that was when I noticed that there was purple in the corner of my sight.
When had I activated my Parallel Eyes?
As if he was knocked out of a daze, the purple mixed in with his red eyes also disappeared, and both of us shook our heads to clear up our heads.
Were those my thoughts?
Had Roya's thoughts intruded on mines just now, for a split second?
What did that mean?
Roya cleared his throat to regain my attention.
"Sorry, I don't know what that was," he said sheepishly. "I had no idea."
"Honestly, I don't even care. I'm getting another headache right now."
That was another part of the plan that might not work out so well. Pairing Roya and I up to go defeat ten Aerilosacs in our current states would probably kill us. I wasn't sure if the voice mentioned how long it would be before I would 'suffer and die', but it felt pretty close to me. That, of course, had to do with staying right next to Roya. If we both run out of physical strength during tonight, then we'd die.
"But I get it. We have to do it now, or we won't ever catch them so unprepared again. We need to capitalize on their weakness," Roya continued.
"Are you reading my mind?"
"Yes. I don't know how, but I just hear your thoughts in my head."
"Then what did you want to tell me?"
"I know you're worried about me, but I won't be like this for much longer. I have already made my decision."
"When the time comes tonight, you will kill me."
I glanced at Samantha and Losar nervously, who didn't seem to have heard what Roya just proposed. I whirled back to Roya to glare at him, eyes flaring purple.
"No. What's the point?"
"The plan is for ten Aerilosacs. If there are more, then we'd need more things to distract him. If - When the plan goes awry, kill me and use me as a false lure."
"Then why don't we just plan for more than ten, then? Why are you jumping to death so fast without considering other alternatives?" I said angrily, though Roya only chuckled humourlessly.
"Even ten Aerilosacs is already a bit of a stretch for our plan. If there are more, they'll catch wind of what's going on and defend themselves even more. Once they do that, we're screwed. We need them scared and off guard, which can be done if you killed me. It'll confuse them long enough for you to kill them."
I grinded my teeth together in frustration.
"No. I won't kill you."
"Rivin, I let Sister die. I let my mother die," he said in a quieter tone. "I don't exactly want to live anymore, knowing that it was my fault."
"I know the two of you blame yourselves, but it's really not." He sounded calm. Too calm, in fact, nothing like six hours ago. "I should have stopped the thieving thing before it got out of hand. I shouldn't have went into that damned warehouse in the first place."
Then came the watery eyes again, and I reached behind me to swipe the pack of tissue paper on Losar's desk. Roya didn't use it.
I wanted to say something, really.
But there wasn't anything I could say.
I looked down and thought long and hard about it. We didn't need to speak to know what we were both thinking about. Everything flowed into our minds. The plan to defeat our group of insurgents, every detail about our light weaponry, and the voice that had proposed this exact same solution to our sickness. Had he known that this would always be the final case? Had he known we would eventually resort to one of our deaths to cure the other?
Wasn't there another way?
And did we have enough time to find it?
I loathed the idea of having to kill someone, especially myself.
I don't even know Roya yet.
He still feels like a stranger to me, but there was it again, the nagging voice in the back of my head. It's the only way, it said.
Where was the solution where both of us can live freely and happily together, sort out all our differences, without the pain and the sickness? There's always another way in the movies. I just needed to find it, right?
... No. Just stop.
I squared my shoulders, lifted my head up high, and gave Roya my most brilliant smile yet.
"I will do it."