Biting the inside of my cheek, I debated rather I should tell Félix. I paced in front of my door. He was the one who started talking about it. He caused me to further doubt my trust in our system. There was something he knew, something he was keeping a secret, yet he trusted me enough to tell me a part of it. Why me, though?
I shook my head, taking in a deep breath. Félix knew what I should do, who that Phantom girl was, and what our next move should be. It was clear he had a connection with Liber, he wouldn’t try to defend them otherwise. Perhaps he secretly supported them. I didn’t doubt the fact that they had supporters inside Paradisum. I had been too naïve to think this world was truly perfect.
Opening my door, I walked down the hall to Félix’s room. I knocked twice, shifting my weight from one leg to the other.
“Door is open,” Félix called from inside. Hesitating slightly, I turned the doorknob, letting myself in. “Hey Luca, what’s up?”
Félix put down the book he was reading, sitting upright on his bed. I went to sit in the chair he had tucked away on a corner. “You support Liber, right?”
The easy expression on his face faded, being replaced by a guarded one. “Depend on why you’re asking.”
“I caught one of their members,” I said, looking down at my hand. Félix froze visibly, which I could see from the corner of my eyes.
“What did you do with them?”
“I tied her up and questioned her.” Meeting his gaze, I found that his eyes were narrowed, his lips pressed together tightly. “Do you know someone named Phantom?”
His eyes widened ever so slightly. “Did you hand her in?”
“No, she got away.” I shook my head, as which Félix relaxed ever so slightly. “Who is she and how do you know her?”
Félix went to sit on the edge of his bed, staring at the floor. I guessed he was debating on how much he should tell me. After a few minutes of silence Félix finally spoke up. “I am a supporter of Liber, and I indeed know Phantom, but I need to know if I can trust you to tell you more.”
“Why don’t you trust me?” I leaned forward, my brow furrowed. “Aren’t we friends?”
He looked at me, confliction clearly in his eyes. “You’re one of them, remember? Everyone here is brainwashed. Just because you made your own decision for once doesn’t mean you’ll keep doing it.”
“Then tell me what you can.”
“How do I know you won’t rat me out?” He stood, running his fingers through his hair underneath his hood.
“If that were the case don’t you think I would have done it by now?” I stood as well, crossing my arms. “You were the one who started about it.”
“I never thought you would go after Phantom,” Félix grunted. “How much did she tell you? Did she mention me?”
“No, she just told me that they weren’t behind the murders.”
Biting at his thumb nail, Félix fell back into silence. He eventually sighed, rubbing his forehead. “Fine, I’ll tell you, but not here and not now.”
“When and where?” I asked.
“After the night shift meet me outside the wall. Make sure you don’t wear your mask.”
“What about the gasses?” I raised my brow.
Félix walked to the door, hand on the knob. “Don’t worry about that.”
He opened it, gesturing for me to leave. “If you say so.”
I glanced back as Félix disappeared behind his door. There was no one else in the hall or downstairs. Most of the others were probably sleeping or eating. I wondered what Félix would tell me that he couldn’t right now. I hoped it was more about Liber and their motives so that I could get a better idea of what was going on and how I could stop whatever was going on. There was just one thing that didn’t sit right with me, which was how I had to go against the government.
As much as I wanted to find out the truth, there was still a part of me that didn’t want to believe that the Hall had been lying to us all this time. Did they really brainwash us? I had been skeptical before, taking their word with a grain of salt. Perhaps it was because of how they took my mother and father without a clear explanation. Yet, I also wanted nothing to change and Liber to be wrong. Life had been hard enough and it had finally gotten easier.
How badly did I really want the truth?
“Luca!” I turned to Hop who just left her room. “I was about to ask you if you wanted to grab some dinner together?”
I smiled, forcing my body to let go of its tension. “Sounds good, what are you craving this time?”
“I heard of a new pizza place right around the corner,” Hop said, looping her arm through mine before dragging me down the stairs.
“Wait, I don’t have my wallet,” I chuckled, pulling at her arm.
“Don’t worry, it’s my treat.” Hop fastened her pace. I chuckled again, knowing there was no stopping Hop when it came to food. “Besides, next time you can treat me, then we’ll be even.”
“Fine,” I said, knowing fully well next time she’ll chose the most expensive restaurant in Paradisum. Honestly, at that moment I didn’t really care. This was the normality I had become used to, and I enjoyed how easy it was to return to it. I would worry about tonight when the time came. Now I was with Hop and I couldn’t care less about the rest of the world.
“All I’m saying is that if I were an alien I wouldn’t visit earth either,” Hop said, shrugging as she walked into the gathering area.
“Why not?” I asked, crossing my arms. “Earth isn’t that bad, didn’t we achieve a perfect life right here?”
Hop waved her hand, dismissing what I said. “But the bugs and cold is still too much, even for aliens. If I were them I would stay up in space where it is bug-free.”
“Space is cold, thought.”
“I’ll bring a sweater.”
I chuckled, but it soon died in my throat when my attention turned to the room. Everyone was staring at me, frowns and uneasy looks on all their faces. Some even seemed to show pity. I cleared my throat, glancing at Hop who had taken notice of the strange atmosphere as well.
“Luca of Jannah.” I turned at the sound of my name, seeing it was General Maas who had voiced it.
“Yes, General?” I said, squaring my shoulders out of habit.
The wrinkles in his forehead deepened as his eyes became stern. His mouth formed a thin-lipped frown. “Please come with me.”
I raised my brow. “But my shift-“
“Now.” I jumped slightly at the slight growl in his voice. I had never seen General Maas this angry, I don’t believe anyone had judging from their reaction. Nodding my head, I followed behind the General, my chest already tightening. This wasn’t good.
The tension in General Maas’ shoulders was clearly visible. We walked down the hallway that led to our gathering and living quarters, only in the opposite direction. We passed the elevator I usually came out of before turning right and going to the said quarters. I had never been this way, knowing very well that going left was forbidden. Hop had tried to convince me, but my death wish wasn’t that big.
We turned multiple corners, passing many doors on our way. The halls were all white, the tiles my boots echoed against a light blue. It was like I was walking in a hospital. I didn’t like it. A shiver ran down my spine, my fingers plucking at the edges of my sleeves unknowingly.
General Maas stopped at one door, giving me a wary, yet apologetic look. He gestured for me to enter. He wasn’t going inside, which didn’t help to ease my nerves. They found out. I was caught. This was very, very bad.
“I don’t know what you did, Luca, but may the Gods have mercy on you,” Maas said, patting my shoulder before giving me a little push as I went inside.
I swallowed hard as I came to stand before a woman who was seated behind a large white desk. The room had glass walls on the right and left side of her, showing all the rooms beside, below and above this one. My eyes widened as I could see right through the white walls of the hallway I had just walked through. I was certain everything was solid back then.
“Luca of Jannah?” the woman said, snapping me from my thoughts.
“That is my name, ma’am,” I said with a small nod.
Her narrow eyes observed me closely. “Please take a seat.”
I did as I was told, sitting down on one of the large, round chairs. “May I ask why I’m here?”
The faintest smile formed on her lips as she folded her hand over each other. Her straight, black hair swaying with the smallest movement, making her appear scarier than she might actually was. “My guess is you already know why you’re here.”
My mouth went dry, excuses already forming in my mind. “I’m sorry but I don’t.”
“Then let me enlighten you,” she said, standing. “Luca of Jannah, you are hereby arrested for treason by conspiring against the government with the rebellion group Liber.”
Blood drained from my face as my eyes widened, the words barely registering inside my head. I opened my mouth to protest but nothing came out. This couldn’t be right. I hadn’t done anything that could resemble treason. Yes, I had spoken with a member of Liber but I wasn’t turning against the government. I just wanted my answers, that was all.
“From this day forward you’ll no longer be a Nox Soldier and you are no longer welcome in this building,” she continued, her high heels clicking against the floor with each step she took. “Tomorrow morning you shall receive the suitable punishment.”
“Do you have proof?” I thought out loud, saying it without realizing I did.
She nodded, that sly smile appearing on her face again. “I would never accuse you of such a horrific crime if I had no proof.”
“Then why are you so damn happy you do?” I gritted my teeth, watching her with narrowed eyes. Now that the shock had settled in it was hard to miss the strangeness of the whole situation. “Who are you?”
She snapped her fingers. Two Nox Knights barged into the room, taking me by both my arms and pulling me to my feet. I tried to struggle but it had no use, their grip too tight. The woman walked up to me, her hands clasped behind her back, the sly smile spreading into a grin.
“I am the person who took everything from you ever since you were young, and yet still praised and thought of as a Goddess with mercy,” she whispered, grabbing my chin with her long nails, digging them into my skin. “Remember my name, dear boy, because it will be the only thing left that will keep you fighting in the end.”
“Then please do tell,” I spat.
She laughed, bringing her face closer to mine. “Maria Paradisum. Remember it well, Luca of Jannah, like your mother and father did.”