CHAPTER 52 - The Promise (5)
The flame pulsed as it emitted a deep, rumbling laughter reminiscent of an avalanche down a mountainside. Quinn shifted from his seated position, slowly backing away on his hands and feet. Treya’s color drained from her face as her entire body froze. Only Alex remained calm while Wrath had his moment.
“Is he done yet?”
ALICE sounded like a kid in the back seat on the way to Six Flags, bored of waiting and wondering how much further they had to go. Her sudden words caused Wrath to pause, and Alex seized the opportunity the silence brought.
“Glad to see you’re amused, but I’m totally serious, dude. Get off your high horse and get on my level. You act like you know all about me, but there’s something important that you seem to have overlooked.”
“And just what might that be, boy?”
“Alex, are you sure about this?”
He nodded, looked away from Wrath and stood. He leaned over and dusted himself of the grass and dirt on his pants and hands. One hand lifted to rest on ALICE’s trigger well. The other extended out to Treya and brought her attention to the bright smile he wore.
“I am, ALICE. I think you know it’s time, too. After all…” He grabbed Treya’s hand and pulled her to her feet before spinning and approaching Quinn. As he mimicked the motion, he continued to speak. “We can’t succeed in our promise by ourselves. Can we?”
“Boy, I do not appreciate being ignored. But you will be forgiven if you tell me of this promise.”
“Ugh, can someone PLEASE shut him the fuck up?!”
Alex laughed at ALICE’s outburst and continued to pretend that Wrath didn’t exist as he put himself between the flame and his friends. “I won’t lie to you. My integrity is too valuable to me, just like the both of you are.”
“You would dare to-“
“I will END you if you do not shut your trap!”
ALICE’s voice rang out with a surprising amount of authority, and even Wrath fell silent. Alex waited to see if it would hold before he resumed his speaking.
“I’ve done some pretty awful things. That’s what a soldier needs to do, to protect those he cares about. I’m not disillusioned, I’m about as unsavory as someone can be. But I think that’s true for all of us, to some extent, ya know?”
Treya stared at him, and the feeling of his calloused hand as he lifted her to her feet remained on her palm like an aftertaste. Quinn’s own hand throbbed with the memory of the blood oath he swore with Alex less than a week ago.
“But ALICE and I have a promise.”
‘If you bring them into this, there might be no escape. Think twice, Fenrir.’
‘I have. And thrice. And whatever comes after thrice, too.’
‘Nothing comes after thrice, idiot. Then you just start saying “four times, five times, et cetera”.’
‘Huh, good to know.’
‘Why did I ever agree to be partners with such a simpleton?’
During this brief mental exchange, the others remained quiet. As if his patience had run out, Quinn interrupted.
“And that promise is?”
“We’re going to find my redemption.”
Aundell stared at Celia for a moment as she mulled over her words and assessed their weight. Celia watched the draconic woman as she thought, her knuckles turned white from the force with which they wove through one another.
“You need to tell him, Princess. That much should go without saying.”
Celia breathed out a sigh of relief. If Aundell had decided she took offense to the princess’s plans, she wouldn’t have been able to prevent the aftermath. She nodded and fell back into her chair before her entire body released its tension at once. These few minutes of conversation drained her almost as much as the entire reconstruction effort thus far.
“I know, but how does one approach a subject such as this? ‘Hello, Alex, I wish to use you to steal unknown treasure and make my kingdom prosper’ does not sound likely to earn him as an ally.”
“Better that than letting him find out on his own accord. If I were in his position, you would likely become my next target, in that situation.”
“Once more, dragon, you assume I had not considered this?! The repercussions could be massive, so the subject needs be handled with the highest delicacy!”
“Or, as an alternative, you go the opposite route.”
Celia blinked. She’d been so focused on her own planning that any other options had not even entered her mind.
“And what do you mean by that?”
“Just as I said. Instead of trying to handle him like something fragile, recognize him for the man he is and use a mallet, instead of a feather. Tell him and pray to your gods that he agrees with your actions.”
“Ah, but what if he does not?”
“What happens if he does not is likely to be the same whether you are ‘delicate’ with him or ‘forceful’. The latter option merely eases the excessive time you’re taking to move forward.”
She stood and moved to the front door, unlatched it and swung it open. Aundell didn’t even bother to look back over her shoulder as she exited the building and left Celia to her thoughts with one last sentence.
“After all, it is HIS choice, not yours.”
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