Flame and Shadow

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Chapter 41

I couldn’t believe I was doing this. It didn’t feel real, getting suited up with Tsalderek’s uniform. After the man who I had met in the woods found me, he took me back to their headquarters. While explaining the situation, he had told me that I could be perfectly accepted there, as long as I never used my powers. No problem. I was used to them not being useful, so it should be easy to forget that my flames were stronger now. Funny, what I had thought to be a gift, turned out to just be a sign that I was one of the fallen ones that I would have to hide.

The man, who had introduced himself as Isaac Sagar, had told me that my knowledge of Nahalore could help them be defeated once and for all. I agreed to help in any way possible, under one condition: Josie would not be harmed. I would have argued for Todd and Mahsa, and maybe Doshi, but it was possible they would be involved in battle, and it would be impossible to ensure their safety.

Before starting with any of Tsalderek’s business, I was instructed to change into their gear; which consisted of an UnderArmor-like top with a tactical vest, fairly loose-fitting black athletic pants, and boots. It felt wrong putting them on. Not uncomfortable, just…wrong. I had been told to throw away my old clothes. When I went to do so, I couldn’t. They were a part of me for the last six years, and I certainly couldn’t part with the Converse Kyle had gotten me. Instead, I stashed them in a corner locker where I hoped no one would find them.

Sagar greeted me when I emerged.

“It’s…amazing…I can barely believe…it really is you-I mean, it really suits you and…did you tear the sleeves off the shirt?”

I had. It was much too hot wearing that skin tight top, and I felt constricted. I shrugged my shoulders. I didn’t feel like talking too much anymore.

Moving on, Sagar gave me a quick tour of the place, pointing out areas and locations of things without actually taking me there. Eventually, we ended up alone, in some kind of training area.

I was a bit confused.

“Um, is this where we’re going to talk about how to defeat Nahalore? If you want to know how to find their base, I’m afraid you’re out of luck. I always get lost going to or from there, so I couldn’t get you there if I tried. But, there are some folding down trees that let a helicopter-“

“Actually, I had something else in mind.” Sagar interrupted, and gestured to a punching bag. “I want you to do a little demonstration for me. Would you please hit this?”

I cocked my head quizzically. Why on earth would he want me to do something like that? I took a step forward and punched it lightly.

“No.” He chuckled and shook his head. “I mean, I want to you show me what kind of moves you know. I need to see something.”

That’s kinda weird. Why would he want to see my fighting style? I’m sure there are lots better fighters than me here. But, if that’s what he wanted…

I hit it again, harder. It felt good, so I hit it again, then kicked it. In just a few seconds, I was going all out, pounding it with a variety of punches and kicks. All of the pain, all of the burning fury, everything that had been building up through all of these events, I put into every strike. Josie’s mistreatment, Teklos’ attack, the battle in the church, my beating by that infiltrating agent, Kyle’s death, I let it all out. Before I knew what was happening, I screamed a war cry, and unleashed a flame-imbued jumping back kick which caused the bag to catch fire and break off from the ceiling where it was attached.

Breathing heavily, I tried to control my anger. Come on, bring it back in, this isn’t me. It wasn’t really working. I was lit up.

Sagar walked up beside me.

“That’s what I thought. There’s something I need to tell you, but now isn’t the right time.”

I seriously hate when people do that, and I especially hate when they act like they know me. Why does everyone know me already?! Why am I the last person to know who I am?! I somehow managed to internalize my fury.

“Before I can tell you everything, there’s one thing you have to know. Although you might not believe me, it’s the complete truth. That is: you have a twin.”

“A twin? Seriously?!” I exploded.

“Yes. Actually, they’re in Nahalore right now.”

“In Nahalore?! Now you’re spewing crap! How could I have not seen someone running around with my face for the past six years?! How would you even know something like that, when I did even know it?!”

“I knew your name, didn’t I?”

“Stop that! Why does everyone always act like they know so much more than I do?! Why don’t you just tell me what’s going on!?”

“Sera, calm yourself. Flame off.”

I looked at my hands, to find they were blazing with massive heat.

“I-I’m sorry.” I apologized, quenching the flames. “I was just so caught up in all the…the…I’m sorry.”

“It’s alright.” The man consoled. “You’ve been through a lot. More than any girl ever should at your age. I’m not trying to use you, to control you into destroying Nahalore. I want to help you.”

“You’d be the first.” I spat.

“Listen, maybe you won’t believe me now, but someday you will. You’re meant for more than Nahalore, or even Tsalderek. And I want you to find your purpose.”

“There you go again.” I said, rolling my eyes. “More unanswered, mysterious enigmas.”

“I don’t have all the answers, but I want to help you find them. Let me help you connect with your twin. Together, you can discover everything…”

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