Fallen Stars

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Repetition 1.5

They have begun to turn the clockwork.

--They were destined to.

It still is worth recording their actions again, even if they have gone this way before.

--Of course.

Do you ever wonder if we too are being recorded?

-Yes.

Kyosu opened his eyes to find himself tied to a chair in a pitch black room. Only his breathing was audible, and as panic gripped him the breathes became uneven and heavy and his heart began to thump against his ribs frantically, the constant ump-ump, ump-ump joining his breathing as the only other audible thing.

The last thing he remembered was the gang member knocking him out in a room full of hostages, mentioning... something about a king?

No, that was silly. There weren’t kings anymore. But then again, hadn’t they referred to themselves as the King’s Hand or something silly like that? It was the King’s some-bodypart-or-another, he knew that much.

Kyosu smiled for a second. It seemed only appropriate he’d be fighting a group that sounded like it was from a comic book where Elvis Presley was a supervillain.

But it was only for a second; splitting pain ran through his body suddenly, the man letting out a short gasp. He must had been slightly numb until then, it was possible they had given him anesthetics of some sort, but he knew now for sure it was worn off.

“Oh, god,” he muttered before gritting his teeth again, eyes closing slightly as he tried to swallow the pain back down. After what felt like an eternity the pain in his torso began to subside. The young man felt his breathing even out, his heart still racing but not nearly as loud.

He had plenty of time to let his eyes adjust to the lack of light, which apparently wasn’t pitch black – he could make out a few shapes, but he had no way of telling for sure what they were. From what he guessed they were along the walls, and they all were straight lines and angles.

There was a creaking noise followed by a blinding light, a doorway in the distance opening. Kyosu closed his eyes in response to the sudden light, the sound of someone’s footsteps echoed through the room. He tensed with each soft clack of a shoe’s plastic on tile, and when he finally opened his eyes again he found himself facing the silhouette of a man.

“So you’re the guy my crew found out and about. How’d a punk-ass loser like you sneak out of their grasp after our take-over?” The man’s voice was deep, and the door shut behind him. Darkness once again enveloped Kyosu, and silence followed.

The man snapped his fingers and a flame flickered to life from his fingertips. The man’s smile was a perfect, pearly white that contrasted with the darkness of his skin, the flame lighting the room enough for Kyosu to recognize it as a janitorial closet of some sort; the shelves on one wall were lined with cleaning supplies.

“I am Jacques Bryant III, and I am the King.”

“Why?” Kyosu asked himself, watching as Jacques walked closer. With each step he took the flames on his fingertips grew, lighting more of the room. Pipes of some sort or another were visible now, and a few boxes as well. The man smiled at the question though.

“At first, it was just a show of power – to let the world know that I mean business. But when I heard that an Angel host had appeared on the scene...” Jacques laughed and shook his head with a short sigh. “I didn’t expect an utter fool. You just walked into our hands – I was expecting at least a fight from an Angel host.”

Kyosu glared at Jacques in silence, wishing he had a response that would be fitting – surely any of the various superheroes he read about would have had a witty remark to the man’s critique. Now that he was in the situation himself, things were different – fear coursed through his body as he watched the flames dance in Jacques’ hand, and for the first time he realized that these powers were not just an exciting facet of his life.

He couldn’t fight back, couldn’t run, couldn’t even defend himself as he was – tied to the chair he was utterly helpless.

“What do you want from me?”

Jacques laughed and shook his head again. He stepped closer yet to Kyosu, watching as the boy’s eyes locked on the flames. He moved his right hand up and Kyosu flinched – the flames never hit him, though, and instead bounced over to Jacques’ left hand.

His right hand grabbed Kyosu’s face and squeezed tightly, the Asian man closed his eyes tightly. Jacques’ hand was still inhumanly warm, and the flame in his left hand was getting ever closer to Kyosu.

“I’m the one asking the questions – step out of line again, and I’ll make you pay.” Flames came to life off of his fingernails as he smiled down at Kyosu. “I want your Angel. What’s your name, bitch?”

“Kyosu,” he said quietly, glaring at Jacques. The so-called king laughed and threw Kyosu back. Kyosu’s stomach sunk as he felt the chair tipping, and he strained to pull his body weight forward to no success; the chair crashed onto the floor behind him. His head slammed into the hard, tile floor and he let out a shout of pain, head leaning to the side.

“Bring your Angel to me, or I’ll kill you.”

“I don’t understand, how am I supposed to give you my Angel?” Kyosu turned his head to look towards the man looking down at him.

Jacques pointed towards him with his right hand, making a gun with his fingers as he stood over Kyosu. A flame began to flicker to life on the tip of his pointer finger, providing enough life to see the look of pure adrenaline in his eyes.

“I can use my fire to a precision that rivals an industrial plasma cutter, and get it to temperatures that can melt steel. Do you really want to hold out on me, kid? You don’t have the balls to play chicken with me.”

“I-I’m not holding out, I really don’t know what you want me to do!”

The flame grew brighter and hotter; in the center it was clear that there was blue. “What’s your power, anyway?”

The man’s words clicked in Kyosu’s head, and he concentrated as much as he could given the situation on a portal opening from here to Bellona’s apartment; if he could just fall through it, escape would be possible.

No portal opened, though, and he found himself staring into the blue flame that flickered at Jacques’ fingertip.

“Five.”

He gulped, eyes frantically darting across the room for anything he could use; why was the portal not opening? Was it too far away for him to manage?

“Four.”

His heart beat faster as he thought about Celestia – he barely knew the Angel, but perhaps she could come save him?

“Three.”

He begged in his mind for her to save him as sweat rolled down his face.

“Two.”

“Celestia, please,” Kyosu faintly whispered, his mouth dry. His heart pounded in his chest as he stared into the face of death, blood-soaked adrenaline rushing through his body. He jerked his body away from the man, and found the chair tipping over again so that he was now looking up at the ceiling – the rope was between his hands and the floor, perhaps he could use this to help break the bonds...

But the countdown that Jacques was making stopped when the darkness was split apart by a brilliant light. Kyosu turned his head to see a feminine figure forming in the light, and moments later Celestia was standing in the room between him and Jacques.

“So this is your Angel?” Jacques asked, the flames vanished as he crossed his arms. “She’s a pretty girl for a little bitch like you.”

“Kyosu, what’s going on here?” Celestia asked, looking between the two men. “Who is this man?”

“I’m Jacques Bryant III, the King – and you can talk to me from now on, instead of this bitch.”

Celestia turned her head to look at the man and rose an eyebrow. “I’m not sure what you mean.”

“Celestia, why aren’t my portals opening back to Bellona’s apartment?”

“It’s too far away, at the current power available,” Celestia said without a moment’s hesitation, shifting away from Jacques in a flash. “I can start storing energy for a portal back though.” Jacques felt his eye twitch. He didn’t like being ignored.

“Oi, Angel bitch,” Jacques said as he stepped forward and towards Celestia. “Stop hanging around this fucker and be my Angel. Abaddon said that Angels can leave their hosts for new ones.”

“That’s not how it works,” Celestia said sharply, her eyebrows furrowing as she looked at the man. “I don’t know who Abaddon is, but he’s lied to you.”

Jacques pulled his arm back, his hand balled into a fist, and flames began to flicker around his knuckles. Silently he lunged forward, his fiery fist cutting through the air and towards Celestia. The Angel calmly watched as he approached, watching unafraid.

“Celestia!” Kyosu shouted, and willed a portal to open below Jacques. The portal opened between the floor and ceiling of the place, and in a flash the man was on the far end of the room on the floor.

“What the fuck was that?” he snarled, pushing himself off the ground. Kyosu felt the ropes that kept his hands bond give enough leeway for him to pull his right hand through, and soon was pushing himself off of the ground.

“Good work,” Celestia said, glancing back at Kyosu. “I’ll see what I can do to get us out of here.”

“Sounds good,” Kyosu said with a nod, shaking his hands to get blood flowing in them again. “How long do you need?”

“I should be able to within ten minutes.”

“You fuckers,” Jacques said as he started towards the two of them again. “You can’t just run away from me. Fight me like a man.”

“I could do that,” Kyosu said in response as he turned towards Jacques. “Or I could live.”

“You fucking bitch, you’re just a coward – you’ll never use your Angel to your full potential, just give her up to me,” Jacques said as he walked towards Kyosu at a casual, laid-back pace. Flames began to erupt from both of his fists as he walked, illuminating the room in its entirety now. Kyosu glanced around, making a mental note of as much of the room as he could – he could keep himself alive until he could escape.

“If Angels could choose their hosts, I wouldn’t choose someone like you,” Celestia said, stepping in front of Kyosu. “Kyosu, I’ll buy us time – he can’t hurt me physically.”

Jacques lunched forward, though, and Kyosu saw him pull from his coat pocket a knife made of a black metal. Flames danced around the blade as Jacques let out a shout.

Celestia’s eyes widened when she saw the knife, and quickly stepped back. Kyosu had to jump to the side to avoid her crashing into him, and Jacques nearly lost his balance as he found himself only cutting through the air.

Celestia’s inhuman speed had allowed her to easily dodge the attack, but Jacques was hardly deterred from his assault; flames shot out from his hand and he swung them to the side, Kyosu directly in the line of fire. Kyosu fell through a portal as the flames got closer to him, and landed on the floor behind Jacques.

The man turned to lunge at Kyosu; if he could get rid of the meddling Angel host, he’d be able to handle the Angel much better. After all, without a host she would be in need of one – perhaps then she would see his demand as a reasonable one.

Kyosu stepped back and barely dodged the first jab with the knife, sweat covering his body. He had never been so close to a fire, let alone attacked by someone who was using it as a weapon, and wasn’t fond of the proximity he had – but when he found himself against a wall, he was out of places to run.

“Looks like the coward’s route didn’t work for you,” Jacques taunted. “It’s like a game of cat and mouse. And the cat is oh, oh so hungry.”

“I’ll just make a way out then, if I’m the mouse,” Kyosu said, looking at the wall on the other side of the room – he could easily make another portal.

Jacques knew what the man meant though, and thrust his knife at Kyosu as fast as he could. There was a flash of light and Kyosu let out a shout as he felt the hot blade pierce into his shoulder. With a crash he fell to the floor though, the wound cauterized from the heat of the knife. The portal closed and the blade fell to the ground in front of him, still in the black, burning hand. Fear and adrenaline rushed through his head and he felt the pounding of blood through his body.

“God fucking dammit! You cut my fucking hand off!” Jacques yelled, his left hand grabbing the bloodied stump at the end of his arm. His clothes caught aflame as he turned around, the fire that had only been around his fists spreading across his entire body. “I’m going to fucking end you, you fucking bastard! I’ll cut you apart, I’ll burn your dick to a crisp and make you eat it, you piece of shit!” he screamed as his left hand produced another knife from his pockets, just as the fabric holding the pocket onto his body fell off. The bleeding had stopped on his right arm, the flames sealing his blood vessels shut. His once calm eyes were now shimmering from the fire light as he lunged forward.

“Kyosu, open a portal to the apartment now, there’s enough energy!” Celestia shouted as she stepped into the man’s path. She turned her head to look back at the young man that was just now pushing himself off the ground, her stance wide to give her leverage against the oncoming Jacques. “I’ll hold him off here – you just get away, I’ll be fine.”

“But-”

“Go!”

Kyosu nodded and opened the portal – the apartment was lit just barely by the moonlight filtering in, and he wondered just how long it had been since he arrived at this place. He quickly stepped through and turned back to tell Celestia to come with him.

Jacques’ back-up knife pierced into the Angel’s stomach and he kept moving, holding the body up and off the ground as he charged now – not that it was clear that a man was doing it, the flames that roared around his body could easily make him look like a fireball. Kyosu started back towards the portal, maybe he could reach in and get her out-

The portal shut as he reached it, and he stood staring at a wall.

“Celestia!” Kyosu shouted as he felt tears in his eyes for the first time in a long time. He hit the wall with his fist once as he leaned into it, his body shaking violently.

“Celestia...”

The lights turned on as a door opened, and he turned his head away from the wall.

“What the hell happened?” Bellona asked, stepping into the main room of her apartment. “You look like crap. Don’t tell me you tried to save the hostages- and why do you smell like smoke?”

“No, the gunmen captured me and for some reason I couldn’t open my portal back here, something about not having enough energy to do it until now. But the leader... he attacked Celestia, and then the portal closed.”

“What did he attack her with?”

“I’m not sure, it was some black knife...”

“So he’s dealt with Angels before.”

“He had one – he could control fire.”

“Then his Angel has told him how to deal with other Angels – that’s not a good sign.”

“Bellona, what’s going on? What was the knife? Is Celestia going to be okay? We have to go back and help her, he’ll ki-”

“Get some rest and I’ll explain it after I talk to Gabe, he knows more than me. I just know that there is a metal that can fatally wound an Angel – which, usually, is impossible. But apparently this gang leader has an Angel who told him enough that he has his own weapons that use it.”

Kyosu nodded, and stepped away from the wall. “Is it possible she’s okay?”

“I don’t know. We’ll find out. Go take a shower and sleep, alright? I’m not telling you again, so you better just go ahead and do it.”

Kyosu nodded and started towards the bathroom, Bellona watching as he walked. When he had told her that he was in danger she had figured he could easily just use his power to get out of it, but apparently she had put too much faith into his abilities. And while he was hardly someone she considered a friend...

She didn’t exactly want the only Angel host that she was on good terms with dead.

“Of course, the first Angel host that isn’t trying to kill me and he’s utterly incompetent,” she muttered to herself on her way back to her room, shaking her head. “Just my luck.”

The sound of gunfire had stopped some time ago, and as Nihilium and Raelyn reached the train station entrance the night was eerily quiet. Most of the people that had decided to leave their cars were gone now, and other than a few wandering the street it was empty for the most part.

“Sounds like things have calmed down,” Raelyn remarked, and Nihilium nodded with short shrug. “I guess the authorities took everything under control.”

“Must have,” he said as he looked around. His vision had taken place somewhere else entirely, perhaps he had managed to prevent whatever had been chasing them in it from finding them? It certainly seemed that way to him, although perhaps he had seen things wrong.

There was a shout from behind them on the street though, and upon turning around it was clear what was the reason; steam and mist filled the air, but in the midst of the water vapor it was clear that there was someone inside of it and controlling it. A blast of steam erupted from the figure’s body, which from this distance was practically a silhouette from the steam blurring their features.

The blast of steam hit someone, burning them as it enveloped them. The figure continued walking calmly as the body of the victim hit the ground, several people beginning to run away from it.

“What the hell is that?” Raelyn asked, crouching behind a car as she watched through the windshields. Nihilium was also hiding behind the car, the monstrous being that walked through the street paying no mind to them; it was possible it hadn’t noticed them.

“I don’t know, but we have to figure out something,” he said, looking around. “The station maybe?”

“I mean, we could go in there... but if it follows us?”

“True enough.”

The steam coming off the man was spreading through the air further and further from his body itself, the two of them had very few options. They could run down the street, but without a doubt they couldn’t run forever.

The steam man began to run, bounding across the ground at inhuman speed towards the two. Every second he covered the length of a car as he approached the two. Raelyn let out a panicked yelp as she felt fear and adrenaline course through her body, before a flash of light filled the air.

Nihilium thought, for a moment, that he was having another vision, but he realized quickly that he wasn’t – the flow of time was moving exactly as it should have been. The only change was that what had been part of a car door was now a long, jagged sword in Raelyn’s hand. The end started tipping forward and she grabbed the hilt with her other hand to support it quickly, staring at it in shock.

“Did I do that?” she asked silently, before taking a look to see the man drawing closer yet.

“Come on, standing here won’t do any good,” Nihilium said as he grabbed Raelyn’s arm and pulled her towards the entrance to the train station. She let out a short yelp before she too began to run. She didn’t look back as she heard the steam man roaring out, a reflection in the station’s windows showing a blast of steam erupting from him and hitting the spot where she had been standing.

She dropped the sword to the ground as she put her energy into running, the two of them pushing their way through the revolving doors as quickly as possible. A train was stopped in the empty platform. The only light was from the still rising moon, casting the station in a soft, white light.

“Any ideas for hiding?” Nihilium asked as they ran through the station platform, away from the doors.

Glass shattered behind them and Raelyn quickly nodded, running towards the nearest open door on the train. Nihilium followed without a word, the two running as quickly as possible. Nihilium’s breathing was heavy and he found himself moving far slower than the woman as he followed her.

“If I live through this... I’ll put smoking off... for a while,” he muttered as he slammed the door shut behind them, hoping that the steam man wouldn’t have seen them get on the train in the dim lighting.

“Alright, if we can go a few cars ahead before he gets in the train...”

“Right,” Nihilium said as he panted with exhaustion. Raelyn walked up the aisle of the train car, towards the front of it as Nihilium followed slowly.

“What happened with the sword back there... Nihilium, it seemed like it was like the Angel in my dream said.”

“Yeah,” he said as he watched the woman open the door at the front. She walked up to and pulled the door to the next train car open as he walked into the short gap between the cars. “It does.”

She stepped through and to the next car, the aisles dark and empty. There was a shout followed by a loud, muffled bang. Raelyn started walking and Nihilium followed without hesitation, shutting both doors behind him. “You know something, don’t you?”

“Yes. Look, I’ll explain after all this – okay?” They hurried through the train car, the banging louder and louder; thankfully it was not getting closer though.

“I want to know what’s going on.”

“It’s complicated, we have bigger problems – you apparently have the power to transform metal.”

“Like... like some sort of alchemy?”

“I don’t know,” Nihilium said as they reached the next pair of doors, and Raelyn opened the doors to the next train car. Nihilium, once again, closed the doors behind the two as they moved through it. “Look, it doesn’t matter how – you can is the important thing. So let’s find a way out of here that doesn’t involve that guy killing us.”

There was a crash and the sound of metal ripping apart. The sound of metal popping from heat making it expand filled the air, and the two knew that the steam man was following them on the train now.

“We’ll jump off the next point where the cars connect and-” Raelyn didn’t finish her sentence as there was another loud bang and the crashing of wood. Through the windows of the door she could see that the steam man had broken the doors between the first two train cars down, and was headed through the only one between them now.

“Good idea,” Nihilium said as the two began to run. Raelyn threw the first door open as the steam man broke down the next two doors, the steam coming from him filling the car they were in. Raelyn jumped down to the platform, which here was narrower. It was no longer in the section that passengers were supposed to get on and off at, but instead in a section that was for maintenance on the engine itself.

“Follow me, I used to mess around here when I was a kid – things probably haven’t changed much!” Raelyn said with a shout, running towards a door. Nihilium followed as steam rushed out of the car behind him, the steam man just behind him.

Raelyn turned around to see the steam man standing on the connector between the two cars. She found herself throwing her hand out as if to grab something. A flash of light shot from her hand and hit the metal connector. The metal warped beneath the steam man, transforming into a bed of spikes. The two ends of it fell off from the train and the steam man fell with them, letting out a scream as the spikes penetrated his body. Steam filled the air slowly as the man continued to scream, Nihilium glancing towards Raelyn. “Did you...?”

“Come on, let’s go!” Raelyn shouted after a few seconds of hesitation. “That should buy us some time.”

The woman started running again, Nihilium following quickly; it wasn’t as if staying around would have any real benefits, after all.

She threw open a door that revealed a staircase, and led Nihilium down the stairs, careful to not get too far ahead from him. He looked back as the bellows of pain stopped, but didn’t see anything. The sound of the heavy footsteps soon replaced the shouts though. Nihilium responded by moving faster, the staircase ending in a maintenance tunnel that led beneath the station.

“This way,” Realyn said as she took a turn into another hallway, Nihilium following as steam began to drift in through the doorway.

“You went into the maintenance tunnels as a kid?” Nihilium asked, and Raelyn responded with a quick grin back at the man.

“I sure did,” she said with a quick shrug as she opened a door on the side of the hallway. “Just follow me and we’ll lose that creep, alright? I think I got enough in me for one more use of that weird power in me.”

“I certainly hope so,” Nihilium said with a weary glance back, but to his relief steam wasn’t following them close behind. The door remained open behind them as they hurried into a narrow corridor that stretched into the distance at least fifty foot, and from what he saw it looked like the corridor turned off to somewhere else.

There was the sound of gunfire again, and the two froze in place. It sounded like it was coming from down the corridor in the direction they were headed, but surely the steam man hadn’t somehow gotten ahead of them.

Behind them there was an explosion, and as they quickly turned around it was apparent that he hadn’t; steam was pouring into the narrow corridor, and the figure of the steam man was approaching. Without needing to say a word they both began to run, turning around the corner without a moment of hesitation.

The corridor opened into a large chamber, an opening in the distance that was lit up along the edges, showing it as wide enough for at least two trucks to fit through. There were men standing in the light that entered the chamber, and a few closer to the two that were now running into it.

There was the sound of a loudspeaker buzzing to life. “Stop and put your hands in the air, this is a restricted area due to the emergency!”

Raelyn and Nihilium obeyed immediately, throwing their hands into the air as they nervously glanced around. Behind them the steam man was approaching – his footsteps were easy to hear, and they echoed in the chamber. “Move to the front and keep your hands over your head, civilians!”

They didn’t need to be told twice.

Christina opened the door to the bar, Ariel behind her. Despite the various laws against smoking inside bars, a thick cloud of smoke along the ceiling. The lighting was dimmed from the smoke, making the bar seem as if it had a monochromatic filter over it. Ariel’s nose wrinkled as the smell of smoke entered it, but Christina seemed to just smile more at the odor.

“You like this place?” Ariel asked as she covered he nose with her hand, the blond leading her to the bar counter itself.

“You get used to the smoke, stupid – it’s like coffee.”

“It’s hardly like coffee.”

Christina just laughed as she sat down at the bar counter and spun to the side, looking at Ariel. “Look, I didn’t invite you hear because I like you. I did it because I need to talk to you.”

“So why at a bar?” Ariel asked as she sat down in the bar stool next to Christina. “We’ve talked at my house just fine before.”

Christina didn’t answer Ariel, instead waving the bar tender down; when he finally came over to them, the girl quickly ordered: “We’ll have two Tequila Sunrises, please.”

“Certainly. I see you brought a friend tonight, Christina?”

“Yeah, I guess you could call her a friend,” Christina said with a shrug. Ariel shot her a quick glance and then looked down at the counter when Christina smiled at the bar tender. “I’ll take mine the original way, please.”

“Certainly. And will you, miss...?”

“Ariel. And I don’t know, I’ve never gone drinking.”

“Can I see your ID?”

Ariel nodded and pulled her ID out, the bartender nodding with satisfaction before he started to turn. “Wait,” Christina said, and the man stopped. “Just one tequila sunrise; the other should be... hm, how about a Negroni?”

“A bit stronger than your usual, isn’t it?”

“It’s for the girl.”

“Oh, I see. Well, it’s your friend. I’ll get those right out.”

The bar tender “What do you mean, you guess you can call me a friend?” she asked as she put her ID away again.

“Calm down, Ariel – god, how dumb are you?” she asked with a laugh. Ariel looked down again before sighing as she realized that Christina must had been joking. After all, the two of them had been best friends for years.

“So what did you need to talk about?”

“That,” Christina said as she leaned over to look across the bar and towards the bartender, “Can wait for our drinks.”

Ariel sighed and the two sat silently for a few moments, before the bartender brought the cocktails to them. “Enjoy – just let me know when you’re ready to pay.”

“Will do,” Christina said with a nod, and took a drink from her glass without a moment of waiting. Ariel followed her friend’s lead and took a small sip, unsure of how much she should drink. She felt herself shudder at the taste – or rather the sensation of it going down. It was certainly stronger than she had expected, especially when she had seen how easily Christina was drinking hers. The blond girl smirked at the struggle Ariel was having with her drink, apparently satisfied. “So, about that whole... Angel thing.”

“You had to take me to a bar to talk about it? And then get me... whatever this is?”

“Look, I wanted a drink, alright? And you should be thanking me for buying you something high up, it’s a higher proof than this.”

“What does that do with it? I’ve never drank before.”

“Just shut up so I can talk,” Christina said as she put the glass down. “I’ve been thinking about it, and I’m starting to think that there’s something more sinister going on.”

“What do you mean?”

“I’ve been hearing voices that are definitely not from a person, Ariel.” Ariel didn’t say anything, and in the silence Christina took a big drink from her cocktail. Ariel took another small sip before setting it back down, closing her eyes as she swallowed it down. It didn’t taste bad, but it was far more potent than she had ever imagined herself drinking. “I think he’s responsible,” Christina said.

“What are you talking about?”

“Look, he’s clearly... not a good person. He clearly has some ulterior motive. But I don’t understand why he’s messing with me,” Christina said as she looked at Ariel. “I know he’s around your house all the time, but he’s not going to approach us here. You don’t have to worry about him hearing you.”

“You’re making it sound like he’s some sort of monster, he hasn’t done anything bad to me at all; I believe you when you say you’ve been attacked, but I don’t understand why he would.”

“I don’t either, but I know he has.”

The two were silent again for a few moments, and Christina took another long drink – she had already drunk almost a quarter of the cocktail, while Ariel was barely even down from the point that it had been filled to. “I... I don’t like admitting something like this, to an idiot like you, but I trust you,” Christina said slowly, looking at Ariel. “You’ve always been loyal to me – even when I purposely put you in a bad situation. Don’t change that.”

“Of course I have been – you’re the only real friend that I have,” Ariel said with a short smile, glancing down. “I’d do anything for you.”

Christina nodded and smiled, giving Ariel a soft, friendly punch on the arm. Ariel just smiled and put the drink down, putting a hand on Christina’s back. “I’ll look into what’s going on with Michael, alright? I’ll get down to the bottom of it. He might have given me the power to control shadows, but your safety is far more important than me.”

“That’s what I was hoping you’d say. I knew I could trust you to have your priorities straight.”

Ariel picked her glass up and put it out towards Christina, and the blond picked hers up in response. They clinked their two glasses together and each took a drink, Ariel taking a longer drink this time. She drunk hardly as much as Christina, who downed half of hers this time, but was a far bigger amount to drink than just a single sip.

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