Chapter 10-Unity and Courage
2 YEARS LATER
“Call them for a meeting. I want it to be scheduled as soon as possible.”
“Yes, I will make sure of it, Your Grace,” Juan says as he passes me another file. I put aside the file I was signing and take the file from my secretary’s hand. I pick up my pen and quickly go through the pages.
“And Juan.......how is the construction going?” I inquire as I sign my name, without looking up.
“The construction is almost complete, Your Grace......They even want you to come and inspect it once.”
“I am planning to. When is my schedule free, Juan?” It should be soon as I always make sure to complete my work ahead of schedule so I can get a week free. Since my work is mostly paper-related and I also have to deal with some meetings every month, I can easily get some free time if there is no emergency. And I know the same case is this time as well.
“I cleared your schedule for the second Saturday of the month, Your Grace.”
“Good, then I will visit the site then. It should not take much time, make the arrangements....” I stop in the middle of the sentence when I hear the knock on my door.
“.......Come in” Door softly opens to reveal Bentley. He first glances at Juan, who gives him a nod as a greeting and Bentley gives him the same respect. His eyes travel to me, he looks at the papers scattered on my desk and books on the floor beside the desk. “I am sorry to disturb you while you are busy but there is a guest who wants to meet you urgently.”
“Miss Ada is requesting your presence, Your Grace. Should I let her in or turn her back?” He asks while standing near the door.
I stop in the middle of reaching for another file. Ada? Why is she here and now? What does she want from me? If there was something, she should have contacted me or messaged me. Did something happen? I think for a moment before removing my reading glasses and looking at Bentley. “Bentley, Let her in. Prepare some snacks. And make bring some coffee for me, I was going to call you for another one.”
He tries to keep a neutral face, but I can still sense his displeasure, “It’s your third cup since morning, Your Grace....”
“It should be fine.”
He looks at Juan who gives him a shrug before lightly shaking his head. I clear my throat on seeing their reaction, “I am still here, Juan, Bentley.”
Bentley doesn’t comment and sighs in return before bowing and leaving the room. I wait till the door is closed before reaching for the file again. I wonder what she wants. I try to think of the reason that forced her to come here without informing but can’t think of anything. She has visited me only two times in the palace, she usually chooses to message or call if she needed something. Five minutes later, as soon as there is a knock on the door, Juan looks at me for dismissal. I wave him off while calling Ada in, “Come in.”
Juan bows and moves to leave as Ada steps in. As soon as Ada stops right in front of my desk, Juan closes the door blocking noises from the hallway. After the usual greeting, I gesture for her to take a seat. While she makes herself comfortable, I lean back and interlock my fingers on the table. “How can I help you? You surprised me by coming here unannounced.”
I watch as a weary smile adorns her face. “Yes, it was something that could only be discussed in person...It is about your duo.”
“What about it?” I hope this conversation is not the same as the one I had before.
“...We found you your duo.”
I press my lip in a thin line and pinch the bridge of my nose, “Ada, I have already told you and others I don’t want a temporary duo. You know it better than anyone else. I don’t want to waste my time on something that is going to be temporary. It would only waste my time.”
“Your Grace, no, Ryouhei, I am talking about your permanent duo...We found her.”
I look up with a jerk, “Permanent?.... Her? My duo is a girl?” I whisper while trying to digest the information.
“Why? You don’t want your duo as a girl?” Ada questions with curiosity.
“No, it’s not that... it is just...I was expecting it to be a boy. After all same-gender duo is more common.” Well, in fact, I was not expecting anyone. I had given up hope of getting a duo a long time ago. After waiting for years, I have given up hope. Though I don’t mind the lack of duo in the slightest since I have always been alone. The Council did try to put a temporary duo beside me multiple times, mostly girls, but I manage to get out of them somehow or the another. But this news is coming out of the blue.
“Are you sure she is permanent?” It is not like the other temporary ones, right?
“I am sure, I found her myself and I evaluated her personality before I asked her to be put beside you. Many did object but...the results were as I expected. And she has agreed to join so I decided to inform you. I didn’t inform you beforehand in case she rejected to join us. She will be at the welcoming ceremony, you will have to receive her.”
“.......I will be there. May I ask what is her power type?” It should be something that will go well with my power type, then only we might be able to work together.
“Fire...She represents fire.”
I straighten myself, I almost asked her to repeat herself. Fire and Water? Is she serious? If she uses fire, I can’t even imagine what her personality would be, since power types are often reflections of their true personality. How are we going to work out together? Our powers are polar opposite.
And as far as I remember there are only two instances of fire and water types being matched together in our long history. Fire and Water duos are so rare because of being incompatible powers that both the duos were mentioned in all the history books about Extanders. Though they were also remembered for their deadly teamwork and powerful combination. And another thing that bothers me is that both the duos were of the same gender. Gender does not bother me, but it is indeed easier to understand each other if you are of the same gender.
“The news will be explosive,” I comment as I think of the reaction of the audience when the news will be announced.
“I am aware. But I want exactly that to happen.” Says Ada. We talk some more before she gets up to leave. Once, Ada takes her leave, Juan comes back in and we get back to work.
As soon as the hour needle ticks past 8, I get up while pushing back my chair. “Juan you are dismissed for today, I will call you tomorrow evening. And makes sure to clean up before leaving.” I snatch my coat from the arm of the sofa before hurriedly making my way out of the room. I hope I could make it on time.
“Your Grace, where are you going?”
I turn my gaze away from my wristwatch while hurrying past Bentley without stopping despite his question. “Your Grace, will you not have your dinner in the palace? Your Majesty wanted to talk to you during dinner.” Bentley shouts from behind. I turn on my heel while walking backward, “Tell him something important came up and express my regret for not being able to attend. I will talk to him tomorrow in the evening.” I say before turning back to the front. I already have an idea of what it is about and it is not important.
“Bentley, take care of it.”
I rapidly climb down the first stairs before stopping right in front of my car. I look at the driver who is holding the passenger seat open and extend my hand instead of getting in. He gives me a glance before reaching into his pocket and placing the keys in my hand. I give him a nod and walk around the car to get into the driver’s seat.
Luckily, there was no traffic so I managed to right on time. I make my way to the backstage, knowing the door should be closed by now. The tangles of wires almost make me trip as I move around the jumbles of equipment and people who are busy running around, getting everything right.
I stop in my tracks on hearing familiar voice mixed with voices coming from the stage. I look left and right, where did the sound come from? Just when I move to take another step, I hear the same voice again.
“Not there, I am up here.”
I raise my head and spot her on top of the ladder. She waves with her free hand, as she is holding the piler with her other hand while providing me with a giddy smile. How is she always so energetic? ” Hey, Mingmei.” I acknowledge before moving to stand right behind the curtains, between the cluster of people watching the show.
The announcements have already begun. I call the girl on my left, “Excuse me, has my name already been called?”
“Yes, Your Grace, your name was called right before this one. That is the girl who was called with your name.” She informs while pointing at the girl with a leather jacket, standing alone in one corner. The girl she pointed at has waist-length black hair and somehow her back looks familiar. Have I seen her before? Is she someone I know?
All the eyes glare at me as soon as I casually walk on the stage, once I stop beside her, I get the urge to look at her but I try to contain it as much as possible. But a few seconds later, I can feel eyes checking me out, so I, at last, decide to face her and satisfy my curiosity as well.
I take a sharp breath as soon as our eyes meet for the first time...in real life.
Why is she here? How is she here? I have always wondered if we will ever meet in real life and it looks like I got my answer. I knew she existed but I was not expecting to meet her ever. I observe as her eyes move up and down before resting on my face. I keep eye contact until we are called. We both flinch at the same time and turn to face Ada.
NADYA SHARMA’S POV
The sound of birds chirping and the scent of dust and moisture grace me as soon as I become conscious of my surroundings. I turn my face away from the light peeking from behind the curtains and open my eyes. I blink and try to adjust to the light while raising myself from under the covers. What is the time?
I glance at the clock before stretching my arms above my head and letting out a yawn. I get down from the bed and start getting ready. I don’t know when Elodie, Alva, and Liana will arrive so it’s better I am ready before they can come. I don’t want to make them wait when they are the ones who are helping me.
On arriving downstairs, I find Ryou watching the TV in the living room and Finlay preparing breakfast in the kitchen. Leaving Ryou alone, I walk into the kitchen. “Do you want any help?” I ask while watching Finlay set up the table.
“No, it’s alright I am almost done” Seeing the table is almost set with steaming breakfast I take my place without another word. “I heard you are going shopping day,” Finlay asks while placing a glass of juice in front of me.
“Thank you, Yes, I have to buy something” I answer as Ryou enters the kitchen and pulls back his chair to seat himself. “But who is taking me, I don’t know the way? Or will Elodie and others will guide me?”
“I can’t take you since I have had to go somewhere. I am sending a driver, he will accompany you. And take this.” He informs while placing a debit card in the middle of the table. I stare blankly at the card and look at his rich face, branded watch, branded shirt before looking down at my own clothes. What a difference.
“I can’t take it it’s yours...” I say while trying to control my urge to grab the card. Why is he handing me his card, why can’t he just hand some money? Though I do want money since I am currently as good as begger traveling in a new world without a ticket, I don’t want to owe the debt. I hate owing others.
“You don’t have to worry about that. Since our salary from the individual cases will be transferred in the same account.” My mouth falls open in ‘o’ and I reach to grab the card without hesitation. If that’s the case then why should I hold back? I will just give him back the amount when I get my first salary. It’s not like I will be spending much, I will just buy what is necessary.
The next second, the doorbell rings. I get up to open the door up Finlay pushes me back to my seat, “I will take care of it. Eat your breakfast, okay?” He pats my shoulder and walks out of the kitchen. I look away from his back and throw my gaze at Ryou, who is eating without care.
I begin my breakfast and a few minutes later, multiple footsteps make their way to the kitchen. As soon as I turn my head, I find Liana peeking from one side with a cute smile, “Hey”
“Hello,” I say back as Elodie and Alva enter the kitchen. They greet me as well before going out to wait for me to finish my breakfast. I quickly finish my breakfast and leave for the living room to join others. As I take a seat on the sofa beside Elodie, I notice a parcel on the coffee table with my name. I grab it and look at it up and down. What is this?
“Oh, you received your uniform and badge.” I raise my head on hearing Liana’s voice. So this is my uniform and badge? I put it on my lap and carefully unwrap the wrapping paper. I like taking out the wrapping paper neatly and without any crease.
Opening the package, I find a uniform with my ID placed on top of it. I run my hand over it as look at the number 13 over the magenta strip which represents my Sequence number. I take out my uniform and place it on the sofa.
The uniform consists of a black pencil skirt that reaches slightly above the knees, a white shirt, and a white leather jacket. I take out my ID and inspect the information before putting it back inside. While putting my ID back in the box, I suddenly notice a golden badge with a pin in the corner of the box.
I carefully take out the badge and get a feel of it. The badge is in a circular shape which looks like a magic circle, with two hands shown in the front, as if holding each other’s hand, with a sword in the middle. I can already tell hands represent unity but what does a sword represent? I turn to ask others, “What does this symbol mean?”
“It represents unity and courage,” Ryou answers from behind. I glance behind to find Ryou standing behind the sofa with his hands in his pockets,” You will have to wear it during a press conference or any important meeting.” Press conference? I even have to attend a press conference?
“.And you wanted to more about our job, didn’t you?” Ryou asks me, “Ada told me about it.”
“Umm...Yes.” I totally forget about that.
He crosses his arms before looking at me, “We call them ‘turned humans’ and now people call them ‘tuhu’. We still don’t know what exactly caused them, the research is still going on the matter and there is not much we know about them even after a hundred years. But if you want to recognize them, you can recognize them with their fully black eye, and even their blood is black. But the lower-level ones almost look like zombies.”
Ryou pauses for a bit before continuing, “For now, we know that they can use magic, but many are suspecting some even have some special abilities. Well, that topic is for another time but another thing you need to know is that you can kill them by piercing at their neck or by cutting their head off completely.”
“By only these two ways? Are there not other ways?”
“Nadya,” Elodie answers my question this time, “They can regenerate unlike us. That is also one of the greatest advantages they have. This is why you have killed them before they can recover from their injuries”
“Oh, then was causes them? You called them ‘turned humans’, so they must be humans, right?”
“Yes, they were before they were turned, I personally think it is because of some kind of chemical but I am not sure. It is not proven yet. We don’t know what exactly causes them.”
“I see.” I nod while taking all in. This is much more shocking than I expected. Thinking about tuhu, suddenly a question comes to my mind, “Are there ‘turned humans’ on the ’other side?”
“There is none on that side, you can rest assure,” Elodie replies, “The Council thought so too so they had some people to check but they never found one so the ‘other side’ is safe for now.”
“That’s good then....”
After a short talk, we make our way outside to begin our shopping. Elodie puts her arm around my shoulder as we are reaching the front door. I look at her. “I hope you didn’t bring Ryouhei’s debit card?”
“...Why?” I question hesitantly. Why is she asking me such a question?
“Because you have then make sure to hide it or don’t tell Liana that it’s Ryouhei’s because she makes you spend so much that you might get a heart attack after checking the balance. She is such a spendthrift. I have learned my lesson after going shopping with her once time.” She says while rubbing her arms with a shudder. “I lost my two month’s salary when I went with her.”
I look at her with pity before looking at Liana’s back. She does look the most excited. Alva opens the front door but I pause in my tracks when I remember something. “You all go keep walking, I will back in a minute I forgot something.” I blurt out and turn around without waiting for their answer.
Walking back to the living room, I find Ryou going through the cabinets on the side alone. I keep standing near the door and call him out, “Ryou,”
He freezes at his place before turning around and looking at me with a slightly shocked face. I blink. Did I say something wrong? Despite my confusion, I continue my sentence. Liana and others are waiting for me, I can’t keep them waiting.
“I wanted to thank you for lending me your card...That’s all.” I say while scratching the side of my neck. I fidget at my place for a few seconds before walking out of the room under his heated and shocked gaze but I am sure I heard him whisper something, but I couldn’t make out what. Because by that time, I am too far away to turn back.