“Well?” Indah asked, arriving at the Firstborns private sitting room.
They were stood outside, waiting as a few Reincarnates tried to get proper answers from the girl they had brought from the Surface Tier.
“She’s not saying a word,” Nimue, an early Reincarnation of the Mage class said, shaking her head, “We spent over an hour interrogating her. I’m sorry Merlin. It would be easier if you could convince one of the Spies to do it instead.”
“Woah- interrogating? Isn’t that a bit too much?” Tara asked.
“It’s just a word, Tara. We’ve been civil with her,” Nimue assured her, “I just wish she’d return the gesture. You should have heard the stuff she told Albert to go do with his… manhood.”
The Firstborns exchanged looks while Beast simply said what they were all thinking.
“Why am I not surprised she’s friends with Rogue?”
“Why don’t we try to talk to her?” Siren suggested gently.
“Maybe not all of us,” Merlin said, “It may be a bit overwhelming with five of us.”
“I’ll sit this one out,” Robin said, stepping back.
“Me too,” Beast said, “I’m no good with this kind of delicate matters,” she pointed out.
The Masters decided it was best to leave it to the Reincarnates as well.
“Pierce- don’t distract the others from their homework, okay?” Siren called after them.
Pierce scowled but didn’t answer.
Meanwhile, Beast and Robin headed back to the gazebo.
In the room, Lis was curled up on a chair, scared witless at her situation.
What on earth was going on? What did they want? They kept asking her about the companion that had been in the holding cell with her the other day but she refused to sell out Xiang.
The door swung open again and Lis scowled, clamping her mouth shut and glaring.
“What do you want?” she snapped, “You guys keep asking me questions but you’re not telling me a thing.”
“We just want to know a bit more about that friend of yours,” Godfrey said calmly as he poured her a drink of water.
She glared at him.
She needed to contact someone.
Even if it was just her mum.
But at the same time she needed to know what was going on.
“Sorry, but I don’t think you’re her type.”
“That’s-… that is not why we’re asking.”
Lis scowled at him, not wanting the conversation to go anywhere near Xiang.
Xiang sighed to herself, waiting.
She was tapping into whatever abilities she could muster on her own in order to break into the institute.
Not, of course, that it took much effort.
After all, she had started the institute with the others.
They had build the city together.
The Surface Tier belonged to her, which was why she had come to know it so well, including the old hidden passages under the city and the old, abandoned sewers.
It made each ‘business’ she started for herself in the early parts of her lives so easy to run.
She glanced round again, waiting for the right moment to slip down the corridor. It had taken a little bit more effort for her to steal the robes from the laundry room.
The footsteps she was listening to faded away, letting her step out of the shadows of the tower. She slid down the worn, heavy shingles of the roof before swinging off the edge into an empty corridor through one of the opened windows.
Just as she collected herself, she spotted a group coming round the corner.
She didn’t recognise any of them which meant they were Masters.
So she simply stood to one side and started tying her shoelaces.
Seeing how they were only Masters and not Reincarnates, they would not sense her.
But as Xiang headed further down the corridor she spotted her next challenge.
It was two members of the Knight class whom she recognised at once.
Xiang ducked back round the corner again and breathed.
She wouldn’t be able to change her form entirely as she could under a competent Master.
But it should be enough to obfuscate her aura.
She wouldn’t be able to fool the first few generations of Reincarnates- but she could manage these two perfectly.
Taking a breath, she ran over to them, half running and a little breathless, “Oh- wait, could you help me?” she asked, her voice suddenly softer and shy.
Trust the gallant souls of the Knight Class to help a person in need.
“Well… you see- I have to ask Siren something important before curfew. Have you seen her at all? She hasn’t been with the Sirens all day,” she said, her tone lilting and sweet.
She saw the Knights falling for it at once.
“Oh- I’m afraid the Firstborns are busy at the moment. They’re talking to a girl they brought in today,” one of them told her apologetically.
Xiang cast her eyes down, looking worried, “Oh… no- I…” she breathed, “I guess, I could speak to her tomorrow.”
“Well- I’m sure it’ll be fine if you try and see her now. You won’t know unless you try, right? They’re in their private parlour right now,” one of the Knights told her.
Xiang smiled up at him and nodded, “I’ll give it a try, thank you,” she told them with a small polite bow before trotting off.
“The Siren class are so sweet,” she overheard one of the Knights telling his companion.
“I much prefer them over the Rogue class.”
Xiang shook her head.
She remembered an old servants corridor that led to the private Firstborn quarters.
They weren’t in use anymore of course as it was built back in the time when they actually had servants working for them.
But their abandonment suited her just fine for the moment.
It took her awhile to remember just how to access the corridor.
They hadn’t bricked it up quite yet because she had seen the use of having them as an escape in case of emergency.
She found the brick to push, allowing the door to swing open.
“Oh this brings back memories,” she murmured to herself, slipping into the cold, dark, musty corridor and shutting the door behind her.
It brought back memories of her first life.
Back when she used to sneak through the palace to meet…
There was a sharp pain from the growing darkness over her chest.
They never trusted you.
“Shut up, shut up, shut up!” she hissed through clenched teeth, grimacing from the pain.
The pain stopped her in her tracks as she leaned against the wall for support.
They never trusted you.
“No, I assure you, we don’t mean to harm her in any way,” Siren told Lis, “It’s just, we know her and need to speak to her.”
“Well, if she wanted to speak to you, she would have come done it on her own. You guys are the worst if you think kidnapping me will give you leverage,” Lis snapped.
“We didn’t kidnap you-“
“You sicked your crazy beast thing at me! I’m not going to tell you anything! I need to go home!”
Godfrey shook his head, “Please, we just-“
“You heard her, Godfrey,” an icy voice spoke.
The voice sounded- chilling.
Like the voice heard in every sleeper’s mind within the darkest dream, lulling them to fall willingly into their worst nightmare.
Godfrey felt something cold and glance down to see the blade of a flick knife at his throat.
Merlin and Siren had jumped back in surprise but Godfrey didn’t have such a luxury.
Xiang released him and shoved him aside and tossed her call crystal at Lis, “Call your mother.”
“Wha- Xiang, what the hell is going on?”
“I’ll tell you when I’m done, okay?” Xiang said, “Trust me.”
Lis looked at her for a moment before nodding, “You better let me know or I’m going to tell the others about your rating system,” she said.
“Go ahead, it’ll probably give them the initiative to work a bit harder,” Xiang shot back lightly as she left the room with the others.
Xiang decided to return to her old bedchambers. It was easier to speak there considering how she had papered it in spells during her First Reincarnation to stop eavesdroppers.
It was still fairly well kept despite her absence of about a hundred years.
“Look at all this junk,” she said to herself, looking at all the items that littered the room.
Some were paintings and books but there were jewellery, old letters and expensive looking knickknacks.
Godfrey found himself feeling hurt at the statement but couldn’t remember the reason why just yet.
“Where have you been, Rogue?” Merlin asked, impatient at his old friend, “You stopped your rebirths without any reason.”
“I had a reason- that reason being I have no interest being a Reincarnate any longer,” Xiang said, looking at the dusty books on the shelves.
“You can’t just choose not to.”
Xiang held up a hand to silence them for a moment as the door opened.
Beast and Robin stepped into the room, the latter looking surprised.
“I told you I smelt them,” Beast told him.
Robin scowled and paid her ten credits.
“Meanwhile,” Xiang said impatiently since they were all present, “Why did you bring Lis here? Her father is scum. And with the blackmarket on the Surface Tier still alive and thriving, did you not think for a moment how her mother would panic if she were to suddenly disappear like that?”
“Well- if you hadn’t disappeared on us in the first place, we wouldn’t have had to go around questioning people,” Godfrey told her.
“Then take learn to take a hint,” Xiang said, “Great Spirit- you’re still so damn dense!”
“What’s going on?” Robin asked.
“I have no interest in continuing as a Reincarnate. That was why I stopped my rebirths,” Xiang said flatly.
“But… obviously, you were reborn…”
“I cut a deal with the Great Spirit. I’m good at that,” she said in the same flat tone.
“Why do you need to know?”
“Whatever one of us decides to do, effects us as a whole, Rogue,” Siren pointed out gently.
Meanwhile, Godfrey was watching her.
With the others he had felt and immediate kinship.
But with Rogue, he longed to feel something.
But he felt nothing at all.
It was as though there was an invisible wall between her and the rest of them.
He couldn’t gather any memories of her. Not any names or faces.
“No, it isn’t,” Xiang said, “What I do is my business. I have a lot on my plate as the Rogue as it is.”
“We have our responsibilities as well. You forget that we each have a role we need to play and we need to do it together, Rogue,” Merlin told her, “We each represent an aspect of human nature. Bravery. Wisdom. Beauty. Resourcefulness. Instinct. And-“
“Darkness,” Xiang finished coldly.
“Rogue, we’re not going to drop this. You have to come back,” Godfrey told her.
Xiang said nothing, not looking at them.
She didn’t like being driven into a corner like that.
“I need to go check on Lis,” she said, pushing past them to head back to the parlour.
Beast stopped the others from following before going after her on her own.
Xiang stopped and looked round.
“Oh. Beast,” she said, “What is it?”
“You did something to the others, didn’t you?”
It wasn’t exactly a question.
Beast already knew the answer and Rogue was aware of this.
The Great Spirit probably failed to do the same with Beast simply because she had the same stubbornness as Rogue herself.
“What if I did?”
“Well, I don’t really care much since it doesn’t effect me,” Beast said honestly, “But it’s been over a hundred years. I remember what happened- we admitted out mistake and we changed things to make sure something like that never happens again.”
Rogue scowled, “What happened could heave easily been avoided had the rest of you just stopped for half a minute to listen to me,” Xiang told her angrily, “If you guys had just fucking listened.”
“I know and I’m sorry I didn’t stand up for you,” Beast told her quietly, “Especially after what you did for me and my kin during the Blood Moon festival those lifetimes ago.”
That made Xiang stop.
Beast was just as proud as she was. Apologising like that was something incredibly difficult for her to do.
“The others may not understand but you should know that you’re not the only one who feels like an outcast at times. My people were seen as a disease. People today still think of us as monsters,” she pointed out, “I’ve known you for too many lives, Rogue- it isn’t like you to take the coward’s way out like this.”
“I’m not,” Xiang snapped at her before looking away, “I’m… I’m just so sick of this.”
Beast looked at her before placing a hand on her shoulder.
“It’s going to be alright,” she told her, “You’ve always pushed through the greatest of hardships.”
“I’ve never been the optimist,” Xiang said.
“And you think I have?”
She shook her head and left while Xiang simply went to the parlour again to check on Lis.
“Hey, what did her ladyship say?”
“Well, mum was yelling again but I calmed her down. Xiang, what the hell is going on?” Lis demanded.
“I’ve got some things to explain to you,” Xiang said, dropping onto the day bed with a frustrated sigh.
“Like why the Reincarnates are after you?”
There was a short silence before Xiang said, “They want me back.”
She shrugged, sitting up again, “I’m the Rogue,” she explained calmly.
“You’re from the Rogue class? Well, no wonder.”
“No, Lis- I’m not just from the Rogue class. I am the Rogue.”
There was silence as Xiang watched Lis, half amused as her brain slowly started putting things together.
And with a little click, everything fell into place.
Lis did what any friend would do and grabbed a book to hit her.
“Ow! Lis- knock it off!”
“NO! You idiot! You bitch! Why didn’t you ever tell me!?”
Xiang blocked her other attempts to hit her, dodging the hardcover book.
“Because- I didn’t want to be the damn Rogue anymore!” she said, jumping away from another attack, “I was sick and tired of it! I didn’t want to come back!” she told her.
“Then why did you come back?”
“Because- I don’t get a say in it! I rejected my rebirths for the past two lives! The Great Spirit was pretty much ready to shove me up the vagina of some unsuspecting woman at that point. So I came back on my own terms after cutting a deal with Her. Now put that book down- OW!”
Lis tossed the book aside, “There- now I’m satisfied. “But what’s going to happen to you?”
“Well- I don’t know. It doesn’t look like I have any other choice but to stay. Now that they found out I’ve been reborn, they’re not going to leave me alone,” she said, sitting down again.
“I don’t get it,” Lis commented, “If you don’t want to do it- then why are they forcing you into it?”
“It’s just the way things are,” Xiang told her with a shrug, “It’s a shit deal but with us, the world continues to go round- until Chaos is dethroned and the Great Spirit returns to power, that is.”
“It’s a really long story. Leave it alone.”
Lis sat down on the chair she had planted herself on for the past few hours. “Well… it’s going to suck without you.”
“You’re going to have to stay here with me, I’m afraid,” she said looking worn and guilty.
There was a pause.
“Lis- do you know how the Reincarnate powers work?” Xiang asked.
They taught it in school, but Lis didn’t go to school.
Xiang shrugged, “In order to access our own abilities, we need a Master. This makes sure that when we are in a new Reincarnation, we don’t accidentally abuse our abilities. This Master exchanges spiritual energy to feed our abilities and for each life we have, we’re born to a different Master. You, unfortunately, are mine.”
Lis sat there, frozen.
Xiang watched her for a moment before speaking, “Lis- I need some kind of reaction out of you. I’m not used to this kind of treatment,” she said.
She found her tongue at last, “No,” she said shakily, “No chance, no way. Xiang- we’re friends. Equals. I can’t boss you around!”
“Okay, first of all- I don’t get bossed around. Not by the Great Spirit, not by my previous Masters and certainly not by you,” she said, “And it’s going to stay the same. The only problem is; you have to stay here- in the lap of luxury. Well fed with four meals a day, a bedroom the same size as all the rooms in your house combined with central heating. But you have to attend lessons and let the teachers boss you around,” she told her, “But your family will receive an allowance every month if deemed necessary so you don’t have to worry about your mum anymore.”
Lis’s ears pricked up, “Allowance? How much are we talking about here?”
“Not enough if you father gets his hands on it- but if it’s just Emma, she can move up to the Second Tier and retire comfortably.”
“Do I get a say in it?”
“No,” Xiang said flatly, “That’s why I was trying to make sure you wouldn’t get caught either. I’m sorry- I screwed up. You can hit me again if it’ll make you feel better.”
Lis tossed the book and Xiang let it hit her.
“Not really,” Lis said, “But still- at least I’m not doing this alone, right?”
“No- you’re not,” Xiang told her at once, “I’m going to stick by you.”
“Good- now I need to call ma again.”