A year has passed in Russia, it was February of 1978, despite the weather, hearts were full, The teens grew more powerful than the last year, but also more feeble, According to Hertzog’s research, Hybrid children didn’t last longer than twenty years, Each year grew more tiresome but the children studied nevertheless.
Hertzog didn’t have another mistake to the student’s knowledge, Throughout the year the children nearly forgot about the incident, except for Asen, he still kept a cautious eye, every time he thought he saw something, he was debunked, Eventually, Asen stopped trying to find the bad things and forgave Hertzog, because that was his father, the closest family he had.
Z had been showing up less and less to Swan Hall, he often ate by himself and was gone most nights, most didn’t question it since he was rather unpopular by the other teens. Renata was in the Swan hall during dinner hours and noticed Z walking past the window, She got up hastily to walk out before Hertzog entered the Hall, blocking her path
“Hello Renata” He smiled down at her
“Hello professor, I’m sorry I didn’t mean to stand in your way-” She spoke,
“No problem at all Ice flower, but where are you going, Dinner has just been served?” He questioned
“I was going to check on Z, He hasn’t shown at the hall lately-” She spoke before Hertzog placed a hand on her shoulder
“My little Renata, you care so much for others, but Z has been going through a tough time lately, it’s best to give him space..” He instructed
“But--” She protested
“No Buts, I promise I’ll make sure to save him a plate and you can offer to him later, alright? We don’t want to force him do we?” He explained
“Well no, but-” She started
“Good, Now come sit, while it’s still hot” He walked her back to the table where the other teens were eating, clearly bothered Renata sits beside Asen and just eats quietly, On Asen’s other side is Vera, noticing Renata’s trouble
“What’s w-wrong Renata..?” She asked, nudging Asen to look towards his sister. He picked it up as well,
“Everything alright?” He asked, visibly concerned for her
“Yes, I’m fine.. but it’s Z, he hasn’t been to the Hall in nearly two weeks now, I finally had a chance to talk to him and The Professor stopped me” She huffed
Vera and Asen shared a puzzled look and looked back to the elder blonde,
“Well, maybe it’s something private..?” Asen suggests, Vera nodding in agreement
“But Z used to tell me everything, it doesn’t make sense in why he’s keeping me in the dark... Lately, he’s barely spoken to me..” Renata sighed, playing the food around with her fork, not finding the appetite to eat,
“Maybe he’s just in a mood, You know how he gets-” He rolled his eyes, Renata shot him a cold stare
“I’m serious Asen.” She snarked
“I am too! He seriously is unpredictable, who knows why he’s cut you out” He grumbled out
Renata softened and looked down to her plate “He hasn’t cut me out..” She defended
“I don’t know why he’s acting like he is, but go by the Klyuv, see what’s going on..” Asen suggested,
Renata simply nodded, deciding to use Asen’s plan.
After dinner She prepared a hot plate of food before walking towards the Klyuv cabin, knocking on the door gently, no answer, the other members of the cabin were all still in the hall,
“I know you’re in there Z” Renata called, knocking on the door again, silence. Renata, once again knocked on the door persistently before a voice called out
“Go away, Renata...” Z said in a strained voice
“Let me in, I have a plate for you,” She said stubbornly, the wind outside starting to pick up. No response. Renata once again knocked on the door
“I’m going to freeze out here if you don’t let me in!”
“I’m not hungry” Z argued
“Yerunda- don’t lie to me, you haven’t been at the Swan Hall in weeks-“ she argued back,
Renata was probably the only person as stubborn as Z was, which is why he eventually let her in. She made her way inside into the pitch-black cabin, it was only just a tad warmer than outside,
“Z you need to have a light on in here you’ll freeze,” she said worriedly. The white-haired kid just scoffed, snatching the plate from her, walking towards his bed to sit and eat, only a shadow of him reflected in the dim moonlight.
“You can leave now,” he told her
Renata looked at his silhouette worriedly, fumbling around the cabin for some matches,
“What are you doing??” Z questioned
“I’m lighting the fireplace so you can keep warm”
Z immediately panicked and shot up, rushing towards Renata,
“No stop- don’t-“ he protested as she stubbornly went to light the match, he tried to snatch them away, the two struggled
“Z stop it! You’re gonna hurt yourself!” She shouted, eventually successfully lighting the match,
The bright orange light illuminated Z and herself, the subtle warmth emitted from the match, it was then she noticed it, her eyes widened at the sight.
The teenage boy was shirtless, covered in bruises, little pricks all over his torso his eyes looked cold and saddened, immediate shame and frustration covered his expression. Z furrowed his brow and blew out the match, letting the thin strand of smoke rise between them
“Keep it off-…” he ordered
Renata without a second thought lit another match to look at his damage, Z, now offended had a scowl on his face
“What did I just say!!” He barked,
“I’ve already seen it so there’s no use in hiding it Z!” She huffed. Z fell quiet after that and reluctantly sat back down
“Fine…” he grumbled
Renata gave a small nod and lit a fire in the fireplace. Letting the light and warmth soak up the room. She gazed at Z sorrowfully, the silence was thick, not even a knife could cut the tension in the room, even so, Renata spoke up
“What happened to you..? You look like you’ve been struck by a porcupine…” she muttered, walking up towards him, Z’s eyes soften as shame filled his expression once again
“I’m fine..” he mumbled out
“No you’re not, Who did this to you- was it an animal?” She questioned
“No-“ Z responded curtly
“Somebody is harming you?? Z who is it?” She pleaded
“No-! No, you don’t get to ask- I refuse to talk about it alright?! Just- please...stop asking…” he turned away, his back to her now
Renata watched him, examining his back. It had so many bruises, his wrists had rope indents, his whole body looked to ache in pain.
“Alright…I won’t pry…” she finally spoke
“Thank you..” he mumbled back
“-on one condition” she crossed her arms
“Renata- no-“ he protested, turning to face her
“Just- let me take care of you- please..” she grabbed his hand
“I won’t ask or pry, we don’t even have to talk if you want…but I want to heal you, please let me tend to your wounds, and put food on your plate,” Renata begged
Z watched her carefully, memorizing her expression
“Why? Why do you care so much..?” He stuttered out, his stone-cold expression softened, almost looking like tears were threatening to fall from his face. Renata gave a sad smile and sat beside him, cupping his cheek tenderly, despite her being slow, Z still flinched upon the touch, this made Renata ache with guilt, her entire body was now even more gentle upon touching his, afraid to spook the once stone-faced boy.
“Oh Z…I wish I could make it all better...” she whispered, stroking her thumb against his cheek, the fire reflecting on his pale and bruised skin. The Albino kid found himself shedding tears at that point, they rolled over her thumb, although he didn’t cry, he was silent. For if he were to, he’d feel way weaker than he already did.
“Yeah- w-well you can’t” His voice cracked as if he was trying so hard not to tremble, he looked as if he could crumble away against the touch, Z didn’t like being weak like this, being vulnerable, it hurt, it pained him that he couldn’t stand up for himself.
Renata softened and took his hand, locking their pinkies together, This caused Z to raise an eyebrow, Renata looked him straight in the face and locked eye contact,
“Swear to me you won’t give up, From now on don’t run away, I will always take you by my side, for we deserve to live a happy life, This is the Oath I give to you” She spoke, not breaking eye contact, she wanted to promise to Z that they were in this together.
Z hesitated but eventually wrapped his pinky around hers, looking back to her with a pained smile,
“I swear to you, I won’t give up, From now on I won’t run, I will face my troubles head-on, for I know you will always take care of me, and be by my side, for we deserve to live a happy life”
Renata smiled happily and kissed his cheek, gently cupping his hands in her own, “The Oath is set, you can’t break it now~” She said cheerfully
“I know...” Z let out a soft sigh
The two bask in the warm light until the fire dies out, Renata ended up leaving after Z had passed out from exhaustion, it had been a few hours, she properly tucked him in and left the Klyuv cabin, she walked back to her cabin lacking the energy, she opened the door to an empty room, Asen must have been with Vera, that was common. Renata felt the ground get heavy, she fell to her knees, sobbing, hard, she gripped herself tightly, it frustrated her that someone in the Orphanage was tormenting her partner, and there was nothing she could do about it, she prayed, hard, she clasped her hands together in the darkroom, her eyes cool from the brisk air touching the streak of tears on her face, she begged and pleaded, for a god, any god out there, the four lords, or anyone to look after Z in his fight, for there was nothing she could do, and it tore her apart from that she couldn’t save him.
Renata spent the rest of the night in tears, praying for a miracle to save Z