I can’t help but laugh. She looks truly horrified as Carrie and her friends bow in an ancient gesture used to publicly recognised those you believe to be great warriors.
‘It’s a mark of great respect,’ Anya explains, glaring at me as I struggle to keep the belly laugh at bay. ‘It was used in more ancient times to recognise our greatest warriors and heroes.’
‘Okay, a cultural thing. Cool,’ Gwen mutters as Carrie’s group stands tall. I doubt Gwen noticed, but there were a whole lot of people around the caferia who bowed with them.
‘I’m truly hoping you can forgive us for our behaviour back at the canyon. It was dumb and it was childish. It won’t happen again,’ vows Jarrod, and it most certainly is a vow. He all but glowed with power as he said the words.
‘Whatever you need, whenever you need it, just shout out. We’ve spent every moment in training since the attack and you can always find us in arena 318.’
And with a nod, they walk away. Gwen just stares at them as they leave, and it makes the situation that much funnier. It’s a rare thing indeed for her to be at a loss for words.
‘Red,’ Blaine’s gruff voice breaks the silence as he puts the smoothie in Gwen’s hand. ‘Where to now?’
‘The apartments, I suppose,’ says Anya. ‘It’s been a big day and Gwen probably wants to rest.’
Gwen snorts, making a show of dropping the smoothie into a nearby trash can and glaring at Blaine.
‘Not a chance. I just spent three months locked in a cell with nothing to do but lay around. Let’s find an arena, I’m gunna kick this big oaf’s butt.’
‘Ha! Game on, Red!’ Blaine all but runs out the door, never one to turn down a challenge, while we just stare at Gwen in shock.
‘Seriosuly? You want to sparr?’ Squeaks Olly.
Gwen follows Blaine out the door and we shuffle after them, catching them just as they turn down the end of the hallway, Blaine apparently already knowing where he wants to go.
‘Are we really going to let them fight?’ Anya asks.
‘Yep. Unless you want to be the one to tell Gwen that we think she’s too weak to sparr with Blaine,’ Oliver winces at his own words.
‘Uh, no thanks,’ Anya says. ‘I will never, no matter the circumstance, be the person who tells Gwen she’s too weak or incapable of doing something. I choose life.’
‘Sounds like a smart decision.’
I all but jump out of my skin as Hank comes around the corner, closely followed by Jasper who is glaring at me like I’m personally responsible for every bad thing that has ever happened. We stop, letting Gwen and Blaine keep ahead of us and losing them as they turn the corner. It’s no problem, I can find them easily enough when we finish speaking with Hank.
‘Care to explain what the hell is happening here?’ Jasper growls. ‘Why are we only now discovering that Gwen has left her room? You should have come to us so we could handle her.’
It takes a lot of restraint not to punch him in the mouth.
‘Handle her? If Garret and an entire army of Recruiters couldn’t handle her then I highly doubt you can. She is free to do as she pleases, and it is not my job to report to you about every move she makes.’ I speak calmly, not letting letting my anger show.
Every not and then I catch myself thinking that Jasper is a good guy, and then his arrogance and self-importance jumps back down my throat and I’m forced to gag on my own stupidity. Good does not equal nice or kind. He is ruthless in attaining his goals and, since the moment he realised how powerful Gwen was, his goal has been to make her his greatest weapon. Sure, it’s for a good cause, right? He must defeat the Recruiters! If ‘at all costs’ wasn’t the unspoken rule of his entire existence, then I wouldn’t be so apprehensive of his intentions.
‘You aren’t reporting to us about her,’ Hank tries to diffuse the situation, obviously exasperated by Jasper. ‘I just would appreciate you letting us know how she is doing.’
’Then you should talk to her yourself,’Oliver scoffs. ‘Honestly, stop acting like she is an object to be observed. If you want to know how she is doing, then ask her. She isn’t going to kill you for it…well. I don’t think she will kill you for it.’
He shrugs and turns around, presumably heading off to catch up with Blaine and Gwen.
‘I’ll be sure to do that,’ Hank smirks as Oliver disappears around the corner. ‘It’s good to see his attitude coming back. It’s disturbing to see him so miserable.’
‘We have Gwen back. We all needed that,’ Anya smiles. ‘We have to go. Gwen and Blaine are sparring, and I wouldn’t miss watching that for the world.’
Anya grabs my arm and drags me off down the hallway, only talking to me again once we’re too far away for them to hear us.
‘Jasper is going to be a problem for Gwen. He’s going to want to get her into training immediately and send her into battle.’
‘Good lick to him,’ I say. ‘The day Jasper actually has something to teach Gwen I’ll eat my knives.’
It’s not hard to find Gwen and Blaine. One of Blaine’s axes is stuck into the wall, having smashed straight through the arena door.
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