“Being imprisoned in that gloomy castle inspired unparalleled dread in my perfectly joyous derby hat.”
~ Reįglii (The Eighth)
“No. Shut up and listen.” Hëdvig huffed. “Since you can only handle up to sevenfold of Crysanthė’s enhancement, I already knew you’re too green to telecontact eighty people at once. They’re technically all progenitors, no matter how physically weak. Even with your ability, I never considered letting you do it.”
Ashlynne’s eyes widened. “So, when you suggested telepathy, you already had someone else in mind?”
Hëdvig suddenly fell silent and stared at us, hard. Reįglii did the same, though more gently.
“It’s someone that you two are forbidden to mention. It’s another progenitor, isn’t it? My friend is a Gersełna, and she has telepathy. My best guess is that Gersełna has telepathy,” I said quickly. From the way the corners of Hëdvig’s eyes relaxed, I knew I was right. “I’ve only seen my friend connect with up to five people at a time, and I think it was a bit taxing. I know it’s super ignorant to ask, but can Gersełna link with eighty people for long enough to convince Irinea to join us?”
In a split second, hundreds of Hëdvigs stood around me, sat on the castle, and hung on the walls. One even hung on Reįglii’s shoulders. All of their scary black orbs glared directly at me.
I swallowed. “I am so sorry.”
That earned a short laugh from Ashlynne, who’d been tense the entire day. She quietly cleared her throat. “Thank you for the tip. I’d imagine it’d be too convenient if you also knew where she was?”
Hëdvig’s little cheeks puffed again.
“That’s a no, chief. But I can find her as long as she doesn’t also have seventy-nine clones.” I put my hand over my chest. Wishing for Gersełna’s location would drain a little over eighty percent, maybe more if I tried to pinpoint, but that’s a small number to me now. With a deep exhale, I executed the wish. My head throbbed, but only for a second or two. My body was quickly adjusting to my newfound power level.
I see. She chose an incredibly covert area. Just as I parted my lips to tell the others, Hëdvig’s small hand shot up and clapped over my mouth, then pointed upward. Someone, likely Anderson, was coming. Two seconds later, a two clones of Reįglii and Hëdvig appeared. I briskly followed the memo and placed my hands on the clones’ shoulders. Ashlynne set her hand on my arm. As I began to hear the rumbling of the earth above us opening, I teleported the four of us several kilometers up north, far enough away.
“Some twenty invisibility barriers are situated throughout the forest around the estate. Anyone who whisks past one is within my radar,” said the Reįglii replicate, brows knitting. “A moment ago, four of my barriers dispersed; they were nullified.”
Colour instantly seemed to rush from my face and limbs to my heart. My spine shivered, and I felt cold. I could almost feel the entire left side of my face being maimed again.
“About ten percent of our originals’ power was split into us,” said Hëdvig’s double. “It should be much less taxing to teleport us than our originals.”
“Did you find out where Gersełna is, Hazel?” Ashlynne asked.
“Yeah, prepare yourselves.” I deeply exhaled, then silently made my wish. In a split second, we went from a flourishing forest to a snowy, glaciated tundra. “I found her in the middle of a valley in the north most corner of Greenland. Isn’t it great that none of us need arctic expedition equipment?”
Hëdvig ignored my humour. “Let’s move.”
“She’s right below us and started running around. I think she sensed our presence,” Ashlynne whispered. Even with the deafening north wind blowing away our scents and covering our footsteps, Gersełna already noticed us. The four of us hopped into the valley, right on time to come face-to-face with Gersełna, who just pushed aside a boulder and emerged from a cave. Eyes blazing electric blue, she was already extremely hostile. Her hands tensed, nails sharp and pointing toward us. A second before she could pounce, she froze.
“Holy…!” Ashlynne gasped, violet eyes wide. “I can’t hold her for longer than eight seconds!”
Even without enhancement, Ashlynne should be able to freeze even thirty people for ten seconds. Goes to show the progenitors’ power levels, once again. I immediately wished for the ice below us to rise around Gersełna’s legs, immobilizing her a second before Ashlynne’s ability wore off.
Gersełna jerked forward, then noticed the ice sealing her in place. Quietly and without expression, she slowly raised her head, glaring a hole through our skulls. Her eyes flinched, and her hand reflexively raised mid-air before she stopped it.
“Stay alert. It looks like she wants to attack,” Ashlynne warned.
“Good afternoon, Ninth, it is I. We bear no wicked intentions. We seek your assistance,” Reįglii started, but Gersełna’s glare on me hardened. She seemed to conclude that the raised ice could only be my doing.
“We didn’t expect her to be this aggressive,” Ashlynne whispered to me. “How do we talk to her? She’s not listening.”
“You’re right. She’s not listening,” I mumbled. I stepped forward, only to notice that Gersełna’s gaze followed me with a second of delay. I realized, “She’s distracted.”
The other three briskly looked around. “By what?”
I immobilized her using a few thin layers of ice, but she barely attempted to break out. She was wary of something, and she was glaring at something, but it didn’t seem to be us. When Ashlynne discerned that she was faintly out of breath, the realization hit me like a truck.
“I wish you could tune out the invading voices in your head for a minute,” I said aloud. There wasn’t a way for anyone to shut out Hailee’s telepathy; maybe she was the same. All at once, I dissolved the ice around Gersełna’s legs, her eyes shot open, and she breathed in deeply. Then, she screamed into the sky for a whole five seconds. “Those shits finally shut up.”
Now that I heard her voice for the first time, I began to take in her full appearance. Her electric blue irises, face shape, figure, tone, gestures all reminded me of Hailee. Though her features were different, her voice was slightly deeper, and her hair was ginger instead of strawberry blonde. As her vampire orbs retracted, I saw that her neutral eye color was pale green instead of hazel.
She looked me up and down. “You.”
“You shut them up. I like you. You said you wanted my help with something? As long as you can keep my mind quiet, I’ll consider helping you out with the strongest telepathy in the world.” She flipped her full ginger hair. One could hardly believe her fatigued state from ten seconds ago. “I’ve been hiding––I mean, I’ve retreated here for fifty years. I much prefer tropical places, but nobody can find me here, not even that bitch, Anderson.”
I wanted Hailee and Gersełna to be friends. Desperately.
She abruptly yelped again. “He’s back! Nœrlaide’s minions are driving me absolutely insane!”
“I wish you could keep tuning out those voices until I say ’button,” I quickly said, adding an unusual safe word to avoid an infinite wish. My stamina was already decreasing at fifteen percent per minute for helping Gersełna. I never considered how mind-melting it’d be for someone to be a constant receiver of telepathy. Reįglii’s transparency should render Gersełna undetectable, but if she disappeared like that, it’d be too suspicious. They’d know that I was here.
Gersełna sighed. “Better. Okay, so. A long damn time ago, I had enough of living under surveillance, so I escaped. But hot damn! If I’d known that my very own descendants would be brainwashed to fucking harass me every single day for the rest of my undying life!”
Hëdvig patted Ashlynne’s shoulder, saying, “Unfortunately, yes, she’s always like this.”
“Oh, hey! Hëdvig and Reįglii!” Gersełna exclaimed. “What brings you two here, also?”
Ashlynne, Hëdvig, Reįglii, Gersełna, and I sat in the cave. It’d been five whole minutes since I transferred my experience to her. Finally, she groaned loudly and rubbed her eyes. “I was naive. If they could imprison fellow progenitors, they could do that to other vampires.”
“The first thing we need to do is find out their plan,” Hëdvig prompted.
Gersełna sat up straight. “Leave it to me. I can link all of us to each other and to every Irinea on this planet.”
My jaw dropped. “You can connect other people to each other? The Gersełna I know can only link others to herself.”
“My ability is beyond simple telepathy. I create webs of mind links that enable hundreds of people to communicate with everyone at once, no matter the distance. Now, shush.” Gersełna closed her eyes, brows knitted together. Since she linked us first, I could physically feel the web expand and attach to the minds of more and more people.
Five, ten, twenty. My head became a lobby of random, overlapping thoughts.
Thirty, forty, fifty. I had to shut my eyes to focus on my own thoughts.
Sixty, seventy, eighty. I could no longer distinguish individual words.
Ninety, ninety-five. The number finally stopped increasing. It looked like the Irinea clones created fifteen more than the initial amount.
Just as I began to pant, Gersełna announced, “Hey, Irinea! It’s me.”
My shoulders finally relaxed as the chatter of thoughts all died at once.
“...Gersełna?” rang a woman’s voice, calm and mature-sounding.
“You bet your candy ass, it is.”
Irinea seemed to chuckle. “I missed you.”
“Of course you did. But, you know? I was being hunted down for the longest time. I can’t remember the last time my head was clear until today!”
“Hunted? By whom?”
“Nœrlaide’s minions! I left that gloomy house they locked me in, and they’ve been haunting me ever since.”
Irinea fell silent, but somehow, I could envision her trembling with rage.
Gersełna continued, “I learned about what’s actually happening in Nœrlaide and Ceallakánn’s plan a few minutes ago. I realized that just because I ran didn’t mean anyone else in their hands is safe.”
“You learned about it? How’d you find out?”
I swallowed. That was my cue. “Hey, Irinea. My name is Hazel. You don’t know me, but I went through hell and back at the research base. I want to transfer my memories to you directly, but I can’t do that without knowing which one is your original.”
“You can trust her, Iri,” said Hëdvig.
“Reįglii speaking. I second that.”
I could sense Irinea’s eyes narrow. “How do I know you’re not all under Nœrlaide’s control?”
“I thought you’d suspect that. Okay, allow me to tell you what happened.”