Innocence

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Chapter 2

"You eat more than a wolf..." Risa remarks.

"Well I was hungry," Katya defends herself, running her fingers through her long brown hair. Now that it's dry, it's sticking out all over the place.

"That was an entire meal," Risa points out. I exchange glances with the other guys. Crow looks amused, Roku shocked, and Yuko just a small bit confused. I shrug slightly and drink my water, avoiding everyone's eyes.

"I've no idea how you ate that fast and still managed to not look like an animal," Yuko teases gently, and Katya smiles lightly. I glance over at him and frown. He enjoys trying to read people.

"I've had practice," she says. Her arm brushes mine and I glance at her. She acts nothing like a member of the ruling family. She's alive, free, and not afraid to act how she wants too. If I hadn't been able to sense her at the docks, I never would have guessed.

"So, Katya, I don't think I've seen you before," Roku says as he leans in.

"I don't typically walk around town. I prefer the woods, to be honest," Katya explains. "Avoiding lessons is fun."

"Katya," Risa scolds.

I watch as the girl simply grins, tipping her glass to her older sister. I smile lightly, watching her eyes shine in amusement. She annoyed me at first, but now... I like this, the wildness in her.

"Staring again?" Katya teases, glancing at me. I scoff and roll my eyes, but a smile slips onto my face. Shit, she noticed

"Staring at the sauce on your face," I recover, and she wipes it off with a napkin. Crow nudges me in the ribs and I give him a look, raising my eyebrow. He grins and wiggles his, making me scoff again and shove him. He's never going to let me get away with this one.

"You're the youngest, then?" Yuko asks.

"Yep," Katya responds.

"Mother died after Katya. They said it was a demon," Risa explains. The table goes silent as we all look down. Who hasn't lost a relative to a demon? We lost our parents. Crow lost his older sister. Yuko lost his mother and grandmother.

"The tensions are growing with them, aren't they?" Roku questions. "Are we going to be looking at a draft for a war?"

"I doubt that it'll grow that big, but if it does, we'll take care of it," she reassures him, but I see the way Katya presses her lips together. She doesn't agree with what her sister is saying at all. Is Risa lying to us?

Risa's phone starts to ring. After a quick apology, she leaves the table and steps outside. Katya sighs and leans back, putting her hands behind her head. She looks at me and smiles lightly, winking.

"You're a rebellious little shit, aren't ya?" Crow asks, smiling at her. I glare at him across the table

"You haven't seen the half of it," she replies. He chuckles and shakes his head, throwing a grape past my face to hit her. She catches it lightly and pops it in her mouth, humming happily.

"I see you've recovered from being dunked in the ocean," I say.

"Are you the sassy one of the group?" Katya asks, making the guys laugh. I roll my eyes and shake my head. She looks out the window behind us, leaning on her arms. I watch her as she becomes lost in thought, the conversation at the table fading into a mild mumble.

The midday sun reflects across her brown eyes, turning them a beautiful orange. I blink slightly, my eyes taking in her face. Freckles dot across her nose, and little scars run along her chin and lip. Her eyes flick to mine, catching me in the act. I expect her to call me out for staring at her.

Instead, Katya just smiles.

I find myself smiling back.

"Reiji, are you listening?"

I look to Roku quickly and swallow, feeling my cheeks grow warm. Shit, what did he say?

"Sorry, what was that?" I ask, thoroughly embarrassed. Katya smiles lightly and looks down at her empty plate, blushing.

"Are you considering getting in a relationship any time soon?" Roku repeats himself. How the hell did we get to this topic? I glare at Crow apon seeing his mischievous smile. I am going to hit him later, I swear.

"Oh, uh, maybe," I say, grateful when Risa returns to the table.

"That was Yia," she says. "Tido proposed."

Katya squeals slightly, giggling next to me. I feel the corner of my lips twitch up into a smile as I watch her hug her sister. She has such a pretty smile. I blink as I realize what I just thought. I'm going to smack myself later! Of all the things, why am I focusing on that?!

"You'll be coming to the wedding, of course," Risa says, making it sound like an order.

"Yeah, right," Roku says as he nods.

We exchange farewells outside, and I find myself watching Katya walk away, one final tongue of flame lacing through my throat.

"So, she's pretty, yeah?" Crow teases, nudging my ribs with his elbow. I scoff and roll my eyes, following Roku to the garage.

"I mean, yeah, sure, she's alright," I mumble. I stifle the urge to slap Crow upside the head. He knows, doesn't he? One look at the teasing smiles around me and I know that I'm trapped. They all know!

"For just alright, you were staring at her the whole meal," Roku points out. I shoot a glare at him, making him smile slightly. "You were off in dream land."

"Having naughty dreams?" Crow says. I finally turn and smack him upside the head, feeling my face grow warm.

"No!" I exclaim, lying. "I dunked her in the ocean for god's sake, I doubt she's in any mood to date me."

"Yet you want her?" Yuko inputs, getting his helmet as we reach the bike. Goddamn it, these idiots are smart on the one day that I need them not to notice anything!

"Yes. No... I don't know," I mutter. I reach my own bike and mount it, pulling my helmet on. "I only just met her..."

"And you're already crushing so hard on her, dude! Just go for it!" Crow says enthusiastically as he grins.

"Leave it," I snap, pulling my helmet on.

That night, Roku sleeps in the bed across from mine, but I stay awake. I should not be this infatuated with her after two conversations.

Katya Ratskera is impulsive, snippy, and just outright wild. She's the opposite of her sisters, who retain manners and formality wherever they go. And that... that is thrilling to me; a mystery.

I know that I'm straying on a dangerous path. I can't have what I want. Katya is so far above my station that she isn't even attainable in my dreams. I close my eyes. Let her go, Reiji, let her go.

I can't stand it. How does anyone deal with this?!

I yank at my tie, grateful that I can finally loosen it after hours of standing still. When I get married, everyone can bring their own chairs. Sure, it wasn't exactly required for me to go, and yeah, we got to the wedding late, but I don't think that I've been more uncomfortable in my entire life.

I hover at the edge of the grassy clearing of the Ratskera manor. Roku is drunk somewhere, leaving me once again. I need to find him and take him home, but...

The party is spectacular. Fountains of liquor, live music, and expensive clothing everywhere you look. The people here are like pieces of paper. Colorful, and with minds so lightweight that it's hard to believe that they haven't been blown away. Tido fits right in here. He stands across the clearing with his blushing bride, smirking as if he owns the world. Zeke would be ashamed of him.

I scoff and run my fingers across the wall.

If I could stand the thought of Roku being lured away by some rich girl or guy I would leave him right now. It has to be close to midnight by now. Bored, I decide to move into the house. There are people here too, but there isn't nearly as many.

I've never been inside before.

I sneak up the marble stairs, amazed at the clean white floors. How does anyone keep anything this immaculate? I think back to our dirty bedroom and blush.

Unable to resist snooping around, I crack open a door.

"What are you looking for?"

I turn, finding Katya giving me an amused smile. Her eyes sparkle as she places a hand on her hip.

"I just was, uh, I was, looking for the... bathroom! Yeah, I was definetely looking for the bathroom," I say quickly.

"Right. That's why you were looking in my bedroom," she teases, raising an eyebrow.

"It's not what it looks like," I give up. Katya places her hands behind her back and sways slightly. "It's just really crowded down there."

"I can't stand it either," Katya replies. She reaches down to take her shoes off and sighs. "I also can't stand heels. My feet hurt so bad, you have no idea."

"I feel like I've been wearing a noose."

I tug at my loosened tie again for dramatic affect. She laughs, a musical sound that brings a smile to my face.

"C'mon, let's go somewhere," Katya urges. She takes my hand in her own and begins to lead me down the hall.

"Where are we going?"

"You'll see. Be paitient."

She leads me up to the roof and lets go of my hand.

The sight of Ruka in the night takes my breath away. A thousand lights in the darkness flicker silently. The only sound is the gentle breeze in my ears. The sea in the distance is highlighted by the moon as it washes against the docks.

"Whoa," I whisper.

"I come up here when my sisters get on my nerves," Katya explains, smiling. Her eyes sparkle in amusement as she throws out her arms. "Which is a lot."

I nod and look down at the party below. I hope Roku isn't getting into trouble. Well, I hope that he isn't getting into big trouble. Up here, it feels like a different world. A peaceful world, where there's no political schemers, or danger, or anything harmful.

"I can see why," I remark. "It's beautiful."

"It is. Beautiful and quiet," she replies. Katya settles down on the edge of the roof and sighs. I cautiously sit beside her, swallowing at the feeling of my feet hanging over the edge. "So why did you come to the party?"

"The guy we live with, that's his son," I explain.

"So you didn't come to see me?"

I detect the teasing in her voice and laugh.

"Maybe. Were you hoping that I'd come to see you?" I tease her back. Katya rolls her eyes and elbows me. "Ow, hey,"

"You should come and visit me," she says. "That's what friends do."

"Oh, were friends now, are we?" I reply.

"Aren't we?"

I look to see her giving me that soft smile. Her dark hair curls around her shoulders as it flows in the breeze. Beautiful, I find myself thinking. I flush and look away.

"Hey, hey, don't look at me like that," I scold her. "Makes me nervous."

Katya laughs at me and turns her gaze to the sky. I rub the back of my neck, smiling discretely.

"Sometimes I wonder," Katya murmurs, "Is this all there is? This life, where it's the same every day?

"Everyone is doing the same thing every day, predictable and boring. The priests and my sister playing with their lives like they're puppets, and no one knows or cares," she continues sadly. "I want something more than this."

"I can't stand it either. I want to live, I want adventure," I agree with her. Katya gives me a knowing smile and holds her knees to her chest.

"We should run away," Katya suggests. "Wouldn't that be fun?"

"We?"

"Sure. What could go wrong?"

"Well, I-"

"Reiji."

I stop as my name leaves her lips. It's the first time that she's said my name. I like the way she says it.

"Nothing can go wrong. That's the right answer," Katya tells me. "Don't worry about the consequences. Just do what you want."

"You aren't anything like what I expected," I murmur. She raises one dark brow and turns to face me.

"What did you expect?"

I swallow. Shit, was that the wrong thing to say? Do I tell her the truth? Or do I make some excuse?

"Someone like your siblings," I admit. "But you're... well..."

"Rough around the edges? Rebellious? Fun?" Katya teases. "Well, you have me all figured out, don't you?"

"The jury is still out, sorry."

"Damn."

We sit in silence for a while, listening to the breeze and the faint sounds of the party below.

"I should find my brother," I sigh. "He's probably too drunk to stand."

"Let's do this again sometime," Katya replies. I walk to the door of the roof and look back at her. She continues to stare into the distance, silent and tense.

She looks sad.

For a moment, I think to return to her, to hold her and agree to run away with her. My hands curl into fists before I turn away. It can't happen. We can't happen.

I walk down the stairs, her words still ringing in my ears like a curse.

We should run away. Wouldn't that be fun?

Don't worry about the consequences. Just do what you want.

What I want...

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