I bit my lip as I waited on the couch. Hop was grumbling beside me about how her day was ruined once again. I gathered she hadn’t heard the news yet. Félix leaned against the armrest on my right, his arms crossed, still wearing his usual attire. From the look in his eyes I determined he did hear about the horrifying sight.
After waiting not much longer General Maas walked into the room. Silence filled the air, a whole new lever of tension soon followed. Even Hop shut her mouth and sat back in her seat. General Maas always had this effect when he entered. Being able to work under his command was considered a great honor back at the academy. It still was. No one dared to go against him. His legend was a well-known one.
“Soldiers,” he said, his low voice gruff but clear. “I had feared this day might come, however, it had come sooner than I thought. As most of you might have heard by now a dead body of one of our children has been found in Paradisum City.” Maas paused for a second, waiting for the information to sink in. “Last week we brought him in to be treated, but a few days ago there has been an attack. Some of our people were stolen from us that night. As much as I wish to keep this a secret from you to cause no further stress than needed, it is essential that you now know what you’re up against.
“The boy of Paradisum was murdered by the Rebellion who are known as Liber. They have been in hiding for a long time but it seems they are finally ready to strike. Not much is known about them yet except for their motive. They don’t agree with our way of life, they want to disturb our peace, kill our children, rule the world that we know to their liking. These people have no limits and are not to be underestimated.”
“Wow…” Hop whispered, her eyes cast down.
“You can say that again.” I clenched my jaw, trying to keep my face from showing any emotion. This was some heavy information. A group of people who want to fight against our way of living. What could be there to disagree with? Our sole purpose was to make everyone happy, how could something that pure be hated? I couldn’t wrap my head around the mere idea of it. These people were probably twisted and mad, why else would anyone murder an innocent child?
“To prevent panic,” Maas continued, “you will be assigned with a day shift as well. Your shift will start at twelve and end at six, this should give you enough time to rest before and after your night shifts. If you see anything suspicious you are to report this to the nearest Nox Knight in your area immediately, they will be there to assist you during your day shift. You are dismissed.”
General Maas walked out of the room. It seemed as if this didn’t even faze him one bit. Even as he walked out the door he wore the same cold, stone expression. Though, it was needed for him to disguise his feelings. Any suggesting that this upset him was enough to cause perhaps doubt or panic, which was to be avoided at any cause.
“Damn, this sucks.” Hop let her head fall back, blowing out a long sigh. “How am I supposed to go on dates when we have a six hour shift during the day as well, we better get paid big time for this.”
“Hop, this is serious,” I said, turning on the couch so I could face her. “That boy got killed by these Liber people, who know what else they are capable of, we need to keep our people safe.”
“Are they really dangerous, though?” Félix asked. “All we know is what Maas told us, but what if they aren’t even sure what we are up against?” He went to sit down in from of us on the edge of the wooden coffee table. “Do you really believe people could be that rotten? Killing a child? No one is that cruel.”
“Then what do you suggest?” Hop leaned forward, resting her elbows on her knees. “How else could that kid have ended up dead and on the streets?”
Félix shrugged. “I just don’t think things are that black and white.”
“I don’t know,” I sighed, shaking my head. I stared ahead at nothing in particular, only following half of what was said. For some reason the kid’s death made it seem like I was responsible. If I hadn’t brought him in he wouldn’t have been stolen in the first place. Who else was taken? These people were vulnerable, Liber could do anything without them being able to defend themselves. They were brought in to be healed, not to be murdered. The thought alone made me nauseous.
“Luca,” Félix said, snapping me from my thoughts. “You did nothing wrong.”
I met his gaze, then turned to Hop, who offered me a small smile and a nod. The corners of my mouth lifted as I tried to relax my shoulders. “Am I that transparent?”
“You have your moments.” Hop poked my arm, a grin on her apple red lips. It wasn’t genuine one, though, she was worried about me. To me Hop was just as transparent as I was to her.
“We should get changed, our new shift will start soon.” Félix gestured at the clock as he stood. Hop and I followed behind him. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting from these shifts. It wasn’t often that we went out in our Nox uniform in brought daylight. How would the people react to seeing us? Sure, the Nox Knights were there on a daily basis, but us Soldiers were differently clothed.
Knights were dressed in white. They wore a long white coat with a hood, crème colored pants, almost knee length boots and gloves. What was underneath the coat was never revealed – they have to wear them closed. It would keep them cooler through the day, and it actually brought ease when one was spotted. They resembled some sort of angle as they gracefully made their way from building to building. Their masks were also a lot more elegant and friendly with no part that would filter out gas.
Us Soldiers were never trained to be graceful nor bring ease. We were to be stealthy, fast and strong. Our entire image was clad in black and mystery. We weren’t to be seen. Still, our uniform was generally speaking only slightly different. We had a similar looking coat but shorter with leather shoulder pads. The boots were just as high and tightly strapped around our legs to give more support. Then there were the pants, gloves and presumably same undershirt that only differed in color.
One thing I was sure of after this morning, however, was that nothing would ever be the same.
“Here is what is to be expected of you,” General Maas said, “you will be assigned a region much like you’re used to, but instead of collecting you and your partner will patrol the streets. If anything suspicious catches your eye find a Knight and report it, they’ll take care of it, so don’t try to play the hero. We don’t want any more people hurt. Also, keep your masks on no matter what, we can’t risk your identity being found out.”
“Yes, Sir,” we said in choir. I put on my mask and pulled the hood of my coat over my short raven-black hair. Admittingly, I was nervous. My stomach was still uneasy, I couldn’t even eat. The scent alone was too much.
Sighing, I focused on my sight through my left eye. Hop and I were assigned to a town named Divaajin in the Svarga Region. Good. I wasn’t sure if I was ready to patrol these streets, the image was still too fresh in my mind. Though, I doubted it would leave anytime soon.
A gentle weight on my shoulder brought my attention back. I glanced beside me, smiling behind my mask as Hop nodded at me, a single look enough to set me at ease for a moment. What would I do without her?
In less then two steps we were falling and all my worries seemed to be left back on the top for now. I stun around, having my back turned to the ground. Hop was only a few feet above me, reaching out. Chuckling, I took her hands, starting to spin us both. Her muffled giggles bringing me back to our time at the academy. The cool summer breeze was more like a whirlpool, dancing between my clothes, taking every opportunity to touch my skin.
Glancing down, I noted the ground approaching fast. A wide grin spread across my face as I readied my aim. The Svarga Region was north from Paradisum. Letting go to soon would send her too far in the wrong direction, too close and she would annoy me with sarcastic comments and jokes in while she waited for me to arrive.
“See you in a bit, Hopper,” I said before letting her go. She shrieked, using the momentum to flip over and glide over the walls around Paradisum City. Using the slanted roofs, I slid down until I stood with my two feet on the ground.
Without a second thought I readied myself to jump when I heard clapping behind me. I turned to see a father and his son. The boy looked amazed and the father approving. I smiled at them despite them not being able to see it before I took off. The scene reminded me of my father and I when I was little. I huffed a silent laugh, a comforting warmth spreading through my veins.
“Still alive, Lucy?”
I scoffed into the mask. “Next time it’s my turn.”
“That is if you arrive in time to finish the shift, Slowpoke.”