The Selection

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Chapter 42 - Post Incident - Fallout

“Kai…” Luna calls out to me in a soft voice. Her soft moans throw fuel on the fire. I clench her breasts hard.

Luna!” I exclaim as a euphoric feeling explodes from my body. I loosen my hands, still panting. As the feeling of ecstasy fades from my body, I open my eyes. Marin looks at me with watery unsteady eyes. A tear drips down the side of her face. I open my mouth as I try to say something, but nothing comes out. I let go of her and look away. “Sorry…”

I rest on my side away from her. A light breath of air tickles the back of my ear. Marin wraps an arm around me. “I don’t care.”

I take her arm off me, scoot away, and sit up while facing her. “What do you mean you don’t care?”

I clench my fists and look down. “I used you…”

I look up again when she puts a hand on top of mine. She’s sitting up too. “It’s okay… I…knew this would happen… I used you too.”

I process her words, but I still don’t understand. “What do you mean?”

“Kai… You don’t know this…but… I’ve liked you for a long time…” I widen my eyes. “So I always knew…you liked Luna.”

I pull my hand back and say, “More the reason I—“

She grabs it back and says, “I don’t like seeing you sad… So… You can think of me as Luna.”

I look away and then say, “Thanks Marin…but I’m okay now.”

Suddenly, she sandwiches my head with her hands and turns me toward her. We fall on the bed, lying side by side. “Then… The next time you’re sad… I’ll be here.”

I blush and turn my view toward the ceiling. She rests her head on my chest. “Hey… Can you tell me…what happened…? By the time I got there… Everyone…was already…”

She sniffles. I sigh and put a hand on top of her head. “I’ll tell you everything.”

I do just that. From taking a nap in Emdos’ place, to my trek to the Adventurer’s District, to the events unfolding there, to waking up on a bed, and to what I saw at our inn. While Marin listens the entire time. A few tears escape her here and there.

“I don’t know her anymore,” I mutter.

“There…has to be a reason… Luna wouldn’t do something like that…”

“Yeah, you’re right. Luna wouldn’t… But she’s not Luna.”

“Have more faith in her, Kai. I know…she trusts you more than anyone… If you won’t believe in her…then…” Neither of us say anything for another minute. I only think about Luna the entire time. “We’ll go see her together tomorrow, okay?”

“Alright, but…”

“Don’t worry… I’ll keep this…a secret,” she says and then yawns. We tuck ourselves in and then fall asleep.

I open my eyes slowly, finding a familiar scene in around me. This is…the Residential District… Where am I…?

I look at a familiar building up ahead. I widen my eyes as I remember it was on fire and crumbled.

“Kaister, what’s wrong?” Drugo asks.

“Drugo! You’re alive! How did you…” I pause for a moment as I find Luna, Hiro, and Sitos staring at me. “Everyone…! Wait…”

I look around again, finding myself in a wagon. There are people talking and walking about as usual. No one is injured, and everyone is calm. Sitos says, “You must have had a really bad dream.”

“Huh…yeah… What’re we doing here again? Where’s Marin?”

“Do you not remember? We are going back to the Academy to tell the teachers what happened as we discussed. Marin went ahead of us.”

“Oh, right,” I say, remembering that we had a wild journey starting from the ruins under the Academy.

“Ya look pretty psyched out,” Hiro says and then laughs. “Did someone chase ya with a giant carrot?”

“No, what the hell? I’m not scared of that anymore!”

“Then tell us what ya dreamed ’bout!”

“It was a really scary dream! You, Drugo, and Sitos were all dead…and the city was attacked…and—“

Hiro breaks into laughter. “What the hell are ya talkin’ ’bout? So…a giant carrot attacked the city and killed us?”

“What? No…nevermind…” The wagon rider takes us all the way to the bottom the hill that leads up to the Academy. We thank him before heading up to the entrance. The two guards standing by the main entrance give us a few strange looks.

“Wait a minute. What is with all that blood staining your clothes? You are not 5th-year students yet, are you?”

Blood…? There are blood stains all over my armor that weren’t there before. I turn around to the others, widening my eyes. Hiro, Drugo, and Sitos lie lifelessly on the wagon covered in large amounts of blood. More blood drips from a small spiked mace someone’s holding. There stands Luna smiling while fully nude. I open my mouth to scream, but no sound comes out. She turns her head toward me.

“Kai, come here… Let’s complete our contract…” Luna says with open arms. I turn around and run a few feet. I stop and look down. The two guards lie in two pools of blood. I run past them while never looking back. Somehow I find myself in a forest. Suddenly, something drops from a tree in front of me, and I stop. It’s Drugo.

“Kaister…help…”

No…

“Kai…” Sitos says from behind me. I turn around. He grabs one of my legs immediately and looks up while lying on the ground. “This is all your fault…”

No…

Someone behind me wraps their arms around me. I can’t move. Hiro’s head rests over my shoulder. “Kai, why didn’tcha save me?”

No…

A figure comes out of nowhere. A splattering sound resounds soon after. Sitos is now completely unrecognizable. I realize it’s Luna. “Finally…he’s dead.”

She turns toward me and grins. “I did good, right Kai? We’re finally alone…”

She closes in for a hug. “Kai…”

Nooo!” I scream and sit up. My entire body is sweating.

Marin holds my hand and asks, “Kai, what’s wrong?”

I pant while looking around the room. It’s morning. “It’s nothing… Just a bad dream.”

I stand up and suggest, “As much as I want to make Hiro feel at peace, I think we should inform Alios on the situation first.”

I pick up my clothing scattered on the floor and get dressed. Marin asks, “Don’t you remember last night?”

I turn around to face Marin who is still in bed, remembering clearly. I blush. “Ye-yeah…”

Marin’s face flushes red. She pulls the blanket over her head and hides under it. “I don’t mean…that…”

It takes several seconds for me to recall the conversation we had afterward. “Right… We’re gonna see Luna. I’ll wait outside.”

I go outside and then wait a few minutes. Marin still has not come out. “Hey, Kai.”

I turn around, finding Hina walking toward me. “Hey.”

“Are you tryin’ to show off your scars from the battle?”

I force a smile and reply, “Nah, I just never got the chance to put something on.”

“What do you mean?” she asks and then smiles. “Did things get so intense last night you forgot all about it?”

“Wh-what? No…” I answer and then look away, remembering last night. Footsteps resound behind me.

“Thanks for waiting, Kai. I’m ready to go see Luna,” Marin says as she walks to my side. My hands are sweaty as I turn back to Hina. She gives me a suspicious look and then at Marin. “Oh, hello, Hina.”

“Hey, Marin. I didn’t know you were that type of girl,” Hina says and then turns toward me. “I take it things didn’t go well with Luna yesterday.”

Marin blushes and then turns away. I interject, “Uhh…”

There’s an awkward silence. “Whatever. It’s none of my business what you guys do. I would be furious if I discovered darling doin’ somethin’ like this.”

Wanting to change the subject, I ask, “So, what’re you doing here then? Shouldn’t you be nursing your boyfriend back to health?”

“I’m takin’ on the request by the army. I thought that was what you guys were doin’ too.” I cock an eyebrow. “Haven’t you heard? The army’s offerin’ a few gold coins for helpin’ out around the city since the Adventurer’s District is temporarily closed. They could use the manpower if you’re interested.”

“We don’t need any money. We got plenty from a con artist the other day. Shouldn’t there be more of you?”

“We’re assigned to different tasks. My job’s to clean the place up startin’ with the Adventurer’s District.”

“The Adventurer’s District… We’re gonna head there soon to bury Hiro and the others.”

“I see… I’ll make sure to pay my respects to them if I see them. I’ll see you guys around,” she says with a wave and then walks away. Marin still has her head turned away.

“You can turn around now.”

Marin turns around. Her face is still flushed red. “What do I do…? Hina thinks I…”

I slap her on the back and say, “Don’t worry about it. She’s not gonna say anything. Let’s hurry on back.”

“Okay…” We head toward our inn and then go inside.

“Kai! I’ve been waiting for you!” Luna exclaims with a smile. She’s sitting against the wall by the entrance. She stands up and then rushes over to us. “I’m sorry I made you mad. Can you forgive me?”

“No,” I answer.

“But…why? Can you tell me what I did wrong? I won’t do it again, I promise!”

Several things are going on in my mind, but I figure it’s better to address the first thing. I ask, “Then tell me. Why… Why did you…kill Sitos?”

My heart races. “Because I wanted to.”

“What do you mean you wanted to?!”

“Well, because it was part of the contract.”

I clench my fists and ask, “Contract? What contract…? Between you and who?”

“The contract between me and Sitos. He got what he wanted, so I got what I wanted.”

I grit my teeth. “This again… I don’t understand! Explain better!”

“Kai, why are you mad again? I won’t know why unless you tell me.”

I click my tongue. “Forget it.”

“Kai…why are you—“

“Shut up and come with us,” I demand. Hot puffs of air escape me as I turn around. I start making my way toward the Royal District.

“Okay…” Luna says and follows. “Where’re we going?”

“To Sitos’ place. We have to explain what happened,” I respond.

“I don’t wanna go there.” I stop walking and turn around. Luna stands there with a frown. I pinch my glabella and take several deep breaths. I look at Marin for a moment, but she turns away. I grind my teeth back and forth.

“I’m not gonna forgive you if you don’t come with us,” I declare.

Luna smiles and says, “Okay, so you’ll forgive me if I come, right?”

“Maybe.”

“Yay!” Luna interjects and follows. We continue in silence, eventually arriving at the front of Sitos’ home. The gates are open and two guards stand there. Normally, there are none.

As we are walking closer, one of them says, “Halt. No one is allowed entry here.”

I cock an eyebrow. “Why? Did something happen?”

“An investigation is underway after we received an anonymous tip that—“

“What’s going on here?” an old man says as he walks from the residence.

A guard turns around and replies, “Nothing, Sir Zarus. Just a couple of kids trying to walk inside.”

“Hmm?” Zarus interjects as he looks over to us. “You’re Kai, aren’t you? You’ve come at a good time. Come on in.”

“Sir Zarus, I am not trying to be rude, but you do not have the authority to allow them entry. We were ordered not to let anyone in,” one of the guards explains.

“These kids are acquainted with Alios and one of his sons. We may be able to shed more light on the situation with their help. If you’d like, I’ll go back inside and ask permission from—“

“There is no need for that, Sir Zarus. We will let them through,” one of the guards says.

“Excellent,” Zarus says and then walks toward the entrance. We follow. “So, what brings you youngins here so early?”

“We’re here to see Alios,” I respond.

“That’s going to be a bit difficult,” Zarus says. “We’ll explain inside.”

We? I think to myself as we’re making our way in. The place seems unusually empty. All the doors in sight are open with some people shuffling in and out. Three odd people stand in the middle of the foyer. Zarus leads us to them.

“I brought acquaintances of Alios with me,” Zarus informs. The only man with armor turns around toward us. He has long brown hair, a well-defined frame, unusually bushy eyebrows, and abnormally large hands. An eagle with its wings spread out is engraved on the front of his armor. “These three plus three others, Sitos included, were under Alios last year for their 5th-year Academy experience.”

“When was the last time you met with Alios?” the man in armor suddenly asks.

“Uhhh…” I pause for a second. “Three months ago, during the last request of the 5th-year Academy phase.”

“Where’s Alios’ son, Sitos? He’s a part of your team, right?”

I look down before answering, “Sitos… He’s…passed on...”

“I see, that’s unfortunate. Was he acting strangely at all two weeks prior to his death?”

“No…”

“Did he say anything unusual?”

I look away thinking of his conversation with me before he died. “No…”

There’s a pause before he says, “We’ve found evidence in this household that Castalia and the recent attackers are linked. We have Alios and everyone who was in this building yesterday in custody already…but if you know anything regarding Sitos or the recent attack, let us know now.”

“We don’t know anything. The masked people got three of us… Sitos was one of them. He was completely normal, and there wasn’t anything he—“

“Kai meant to say, Sitos was one of them,” Luna says with anger.

“No I—”

“He was a bigger jerk than he normally was, he killed Drugo, he hurt Kai, and he took away my worth.”

The armored guy turns to me and asks, “Did Sitos inflict this wound on you?”

I look down while small droplets of sweat form on my forehead. I open my mouth to speak but only stutter.

“I see,” the armored man says. “We almost have all the evidence we need. You understand what this means now, right, Zarus?”

Sir Zarus sighs and then replies, “Yes… I will go inform Alios.”

“Wait!” I exclaim and then gulp. “He told me something before he died. He said something about a masked man...a masked man approaching him three weeks ago. He was made an offer by that man, and he refused at the time but Sitos...he said he felt a change from within himself since then that he couldn’t ignore. He took the masked man’s offer a week ago because...because he couldn’t resist anymore… He said he felt like waking up from a dream and realized what he did wasn’t what he wanted. So... He didn’t mean any of the things he did!”

There’s a brief silence before the armored man says, “So, he regretted the actions he took...but that doesn’t excuse him of his crimes. Nor does that excuse the crimes Castalia has committed.”

“What’re you talking about…?” I ask.

“We’ve investigated this household and discovered a hidden passage that leads to numerous points in the city. It would explain how the masked men were able to stay undetected inside the city. We found a few of the white masks with the snake symbol of it inside already, but it’s not enough to draw links between Castalia and the attackers. But it’s only a matter of time before we have all the conclusive evidence we need.”

“No...that can’t be…” I mutter.

“I will take my leave now,” Zarus says with a bow and then leaves.

The armored man turns to the other two with him and then says, “Daquan and Emric, you are to start questioning the household keepers and the guards that work for Castalia.”

“Yes, General Nero,” they salute and then leave. General Nero turns to us.

“You three can leave now too. If you find anything new regarding the attack, be sure to ask for me, General Nero,” he says with a smile and then walks deeper into the foyer. “I’ll need to finish up my work here.”

I stand in place while looking at the ground for several seconds.

“Kai, let’s go!” Luna exclaims while tugging on my arm. I grit my teeth and pull my arm away from her. “Kai…?”

“Why...why’re you still saying that Sitos was with the masked attackers? Sitos...he was our friend… Everything was that masked man’s fault.”

Luna frowns and crosses her arms. “Friends don’t do the things he did.

“It wasn’t his fault he did those things… The masked man made him do it!”

“I don’t understand… How’d he make him do it? He wasn’t there when he was being a jerk…and he wasn’t there when he killed Drugo. He didn’t threaten him or anything… He just...did it all by himself.”

“No, that’s wrong! Sitos said he didn’t want anything to do with it the first time he met with the masked man. But, his feelings went haywire afterward… He couldn’t control himself.”

“So he took some time to think about it and couldn’t wait to do all the things he wanted to.”

“Didn’t you listen to—“

“Kai,” Marin interrupts as she puts a hand on my shoulder. Our eyes meet. “Hiro’s waiting.”

“You’re right…” I respond. I glance over to Luna. “We’ll talk about this later. Hiro and the others come first.”

“Okay!” Luna exclaims. We walk out of the Castalia residence when suddenly, I think of something. I sprint toward our inn without thinking about it.

“Kai, where’re you going?!” Marin asks. Eventually, I arrive at our inn, but it’s too late. There are army people already stationed outside of it. I run inside and go up the stairs. The door to Sitos’ room is open. I look inside, finding all of Sitos’ belongings scattered.

“There’s nothing here either,” a man says from another room.

“We’re done here,” another man says. Four guards walk out of Luna’s room. They walk past me and then go down the stairs. I go to my room. It’s a mess in here too. I sigh as I pick up one of my t-shirts off the ground. I put it on and head out. I notice something peculiar in Luna’s room, so I go inside to check. Our team fund container is on the ground with some of the contents spilled on the ground. I kneel down and empty the entire container on the ground. I knit my eyebrows while counting them.

No way… This is the same amount we had several days ago…How’d Luna pay for my treatment…? I think back to yesterday.

Footsteps and heavy breathing resound behind me. “Kai… What’re you doing…?”

Marin sits against the wall behind me. “Marin, we have the same amount of money as we did several days ago. How’d Luna afford my medical treatment? The doctor said he received the full payment by the team he healed me.”

“Hmm… Oh, Luna took the pouch of coins you gave to Hiro after you went to see Emdos.”

I raise my eyebrows. “Do you remember what I told you yesterday about finding the doctor outside of our inn?”

“Yeah, you said he went in and came out with a pouch of coins.”

“I think that’s the same pouch of coins Luna had… So, she must’ve used that to pay for my treatment, right?”

“Yeah? What’re you saying?”

“So, isn’t it weird that the doctor lied about receiving the full payment when he didn’t have it?”

“Maybe he forgot it or dropped it… There’s no reason for him to lie.”

“You’re right… Sorry, I’m thinking too much into it.”

“Did you run back here just for that?”

“I wanted to check Sitos’ room before they came, but it was too late,” I explain and look around. “Where’s Luna?”

“Oh… I’m not sure… We should go look for her.”

I sigh and then answer, “Forget her. We’ll waste too much time trying. She’ll be back here later. Let’s hurry to Hiro. He’s been waiting long enough.”

We make our way to the Adventurer’s Hub. We discover the reconstruction has spread to the Adventurer’s District already. Nearby, there are people moving bodies onto a wagon. Eventually, we arrive at the center of the Adventurer’s District where the Adventurer’s Hub is. I widen my eyes. A couple guards are stationed right outside the Adventurer’s Hub. I have a bad feeling about this and hurry. Several other guards exit the Adventurer’s Hub. One of them is dragging Sitos’ body across the ground.

“Hey!” I exclaim and run up the guard pulling Sitos by the leg. “What do you think you’re doing?! You can’t take him! He’s my friend! I’m gonna give him peace and bury him!”

The guard continues to drag Sitos. Another guard stands in front of me and then says, “Beat it, kid. He’s going to be thrown with the rest of the conspirators and be fed to monsters.”

“No, he wasn’t one of them! You’ve got it wrong!” I exclaim while walking toward Sitos.

“There’s plenty of evidence that this kid was one of them. Now, get lost!” the guard says and shoves me back. I watch helplessly as they drag Sitos away.

“Kai!” Luna exclaims from the entrance of the Adventurer’s Hub. I clench my fists and my teeth. She grins. “I finally did it! Sitos is finally gonna get what he deserves! Kai, tell me I did good!”

“No…” I mutter.

“Kai…?”

“No, you didn’t do good…you did the worst possible thing you could’ve done!” I scream. Luna’s eyes tear up a little.

“Why’re you mad at me again…?”

“Shut up. Just shut up. I don’t know you anymore. I don’t want to see your face or talk to you right now. Go back to the inn.”

“But…what about Dru—“

Go!” I exclaim and point away from here. Several tears flow down her cheeks as she runs away. My eyes turn slightly watery. I rub my eyes with my shirt, the back of my throat burning. Marin looks at me with a concerned expression. “I’m glad you’re still you…”

Marin blushes and looks away. Someone’s walking out of the Adventurer’s Hub. Hina has her nose pinched and her mouth covered. “It reeks…”

She uncovers her face and then gasps for air.

“Hina,” I say and then widen my eyes. “Did you happen to…”

“Yeah,” Hina replies while still taking deep breaths in. “I heard…everythin’. Didn’t want to get between that…”

I look away. No one says anything for several seconds. “Luna told me what actually happened to you guys.”

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to hide it…”

“No, I understand. It’s not easy to say. I’m really sorry about Luna. I hope she gets better.”

“Thanks…but she probably won’t,” I mutter and then look away. No one says anything for several seconds again.

“Hey, Marin,” Hina says and puts her hand on Marin’s shoulder. Marin looks at her. “Don’t be bothered what I said earlier, okay?”

Hina smiles. Marin reciprocates and replies, “Okay…”

“It’ll be hard for you guys to haul the big one and the monkey by yourselves. How about I give you a lift on our team transportation?” Hina asks.

“But the Transportation Center is closed…” Marin says.

“No one’s goin’ to care if I sneak out our wagon. Look, the door is wide open. Everyone’s doin’ it. I’ll be right back,” Hina says and then runs toward the Transportation Center. I gather Drugo’s and Hiro’s bodies outside the Transportation Center. About twenty more minutes pass. Hina comes out with a worn-down wagon led by a horse. “So-sorry that took so long!”

I put Drugo and Hiro on the back of the wagon and get on. Marin climbs onto the back too. Hina asks, “Where’re we goin’?”

“The Academy,” I answer. Hina signals the horse to start moving soon after. “Is this really your team transport…?”

“Do-don’t worry about it!” I shake my head and sigh. We eventually arrive at the front of the Academy, but there’s something off. The Academy gates are open and no one is guarding the entrance. I look more closely at the front of the building. The entrance is caved in from the top.

“Hey, this looks really bad!” I exclaim and jump off the wagon. Hina and Marin do too. “Let’s go see what’s going on!”

We run toward the back of the school from the right side. The path is completely blocked off. Part of the right side of the Academy seems completely demolished. We switch to the other side where there’s a path available. Eventually, we reach the back of the Academy. I widen my eyes, finding the dormitory building utterly destroyed. Some people are atop the rubble. Moria stands close by next to a row of younger kids lying on the ground. We run up to him.

“Teacher Moria!” I exclaim. Moria turns around.

“Kai! It is good to see you! Marin and Hina too. I heard from Marin yesterday. I am sorry for your loss.”

“Yeah…”

“Where are Luna, Sitos, and Drugo?”

I bite my lip before answering, “Luna’s resting at our inn, Drugo’s sleeping next to Hiro right now…and we weren’t able to retrieve Sitos…”

“Truly a tragedy… It pains me to find out that so many of my students have passed on before me…” Moria says with a frown as he looks around him. There are more bodies here than at the Adventurer’s District. “I was not able to protect a single one of my students…”

I widen my eyes and gape. “Wait…you can’t be serious, Teacher Moria.”

Moria rubs his eyes before responding, “I am afraid so… Every student that was here at the Academy died in the attack. First years, second years, third years, fourth years, and fifth years. A couple of our instructors were bested too.”

I look around as he continues, “Instructor Fulharm was inside the dormitory when the enemy used a devastating Wind magic that collapsed the entire building. We have been trying to remove the rubble ever since. The few we have pulled from the rubble have already passed on. I do not think there are any survivors under there.”

“You can’t lose all hope yet, Teacher Moria!” Hina exclaims. “There might be one student still alive under the rubble!”

“Yes, you are right. That is why we are doing our best to remove the rubble. In any case, I am glad to see that you three have made it out okay. We are thinking about digging one big hole here to accommodate all the students who have died here in the attack. Is it okay that Hiro and Drugo will be thrown in there as well?”

“Yeah, that sounds fine,” I say. Marin nods her head.

“Emergency!” a man exclaims from behind us. A guard is sprinting toward us. He stops in front of Teacher Moria. “Are you Moria?”

“Yes, what is going on?”

“A member of the expedition came back, but he’s barely alive. All of our personnel are not available to help him. My superior told me that you are skilled in Healing Magic. Please, come with me!”

“Yes, I understand,” Moria says. He turns toward us and then says, “I am sorry, but I will be back later.”

“Wait, let me come with you! I’m worried about my parents! They were in the expedition too!” Marin exclaims.

“That is fine. Lead the way,” Moria says.

“Yes, sir! Follow me!” the guard runs off while Moria and Marin follows. I chase after them.

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