Elementalists: Nine United

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Time

October 24, 2316

Salt Lake City, Utah, United States of America

She sat in a bus terminal in downtown Salt Lake. The city still warm in late October, but the nights cold. Snow became a regular friend to the city. She wore a black jacket with the hood up. The woman pulled out her phone and unlocked it with her fingerprint. She scrolled through an open playlist and changed the song playing through her headset.

She pushed the hood of her jacket down and pulled her long blonde hair free of the clothing until it cascaded down her back. She pushed a few more annoying strands out of her right eye before she looked up and down the street. She wondered if the bus planned on coming to the stop at all.

She drummed her fingers against her leg to the beat of the music as an older woman took a seat next to her on the bench. The blonde clicked a button on her phone, and the screen lit up again with the time imprinted at the top.

Ten minutes late.

She didn’t want to draw attention to herself, but because of frustrating public transit she would be late for work. Not a rare occurrence with the busses lately; they regularly put her job on the line. She hit her head against the glass of the terminal and let out a low huff of air.

“You seem to be anxious about the bus arriving, dear.” The other woman smiled at the blonde.

She slowly removed a headphone. “The bus is making me late to my job, again.”

“You remind me of myself in my younger days. Years ago, people used to live into their eighties or older. Can you believe that? I’m thirty-eight, and I keep wondering when my day will come.”

She didn’t have a response as the woman reminisced.

“What I want to say is: your job is important, but sometimes there are more important things in life. I wish you luck with getting there on time. My name is Eren.” She put out a hand and the blonde stared at her. Strangers didn’t typically impart wisdom on her in bus terminals while talking about a job.

Slowly, she raised her own hand to meet Eren’s. “Kristen Delvenah.”


October 26, 2316

The Academy, Elementōrum Patriam

“I am going to die,” Ethan’s head hit the table in the library.

Scott’s eyes drifted momentarily from his perusal of an English to Spanish dictionary.

“Are you having comprehension problems with the text?” Eilene climbed the ladder on one of the aisles and continued to reorganize the shelves while putting away texts they finished studying. Once the books stacked neatly on the shelf, she descended the ladder again and picked up a new stack.

“It’s not comprehension necessarily—I hate being told to read something. As soon as it’s treated like a necessary assignment, it makes it ten times harder to read the book. I like choosing my own material and considering suggestions or recommendations from friends or online. I do like reading, even if I don’t do it often.”

“Ah, a common problem that stems from being a student.” Eilene nodded. “I know several people, because of reading assignments, they claim they don’t like reading. It is a matter of finding the right book.”

“This isn’t so much the matter of finding a right book, though—I just need to buckle down and read without complaining because this is government stuff. It’s just boring.”

“A harsh truth of our day to day activities—I don’t think any of us wanted to be politicians when the offer came through.” Eilene let out a short yawn. “Do you want me to summarize the material for you? I’ve read them all a few times over.”

“That would be appreciated, actually. I can help you reorganize the shelves while we work.” Ethan hopped out of his chair and lifted a stack of books to Eilene high on the ladder.

“The first book Luana assigns us to read is by far the most boring.”

Scott snorted in the back of the library, and Eilene rode the ladder to the end of the aisle to peer curiously at him. He cleared his throat and refocused on the book in his hands. Ethan smothered a laugh with a short coughing fit.

“The book gives an overview of the role Council members take upon themselves. It also talks about the events the Council took part in over the course of world history. Of course, the only names of Council members anyone has access to are the original nine.

“Those nine members played key roles in founding Elementōrum Patriam. Vasha tore Pangea apart after the Council lifted our country into the sky. Nine of the cities are named after them to honor their sacrifice during the first several wars waged with the humans. Those wars were brutal, one-sided massacres if you managed to have the elementalists on your side. Sometimes, we split into factions opposing each other, and the wars were incredibly bloody. There’s a long history of them included, but most of the issues are long resolved.

“In turn, deities started to crop up around the world for various peoples. Some of them tried to adopt the elementalists as their gods, but we are not deities. We come from the same genealogical branch as humans, but we have a few extra special abilities.” Eilene twisted a ribbon of water through the air as proof before it filled Scott’s empty glass. He gave her a short nod of thanks and took a sip. “Around two-thousand BCE, after the deification of our powers got out of control, the Council members adopted the red robes to help separate themselves and paint us as the bad guys. The Council is long viewed as an opposing and violent force who could end the world as we know it.

“The tricky thing about religion is: we didn’t want to be identified with only one single expectation or aligned interest. Freedom of religion and the ability to worship that religion without argument is something we put a lot of focus on. We don’t believe it should be forced on anyone, it’s a matter of personal belief. If we tied ourselves down as gods, we would be expected to act as deities do. It would force our people to follow a false belief system.

“For us, the robes are symbolic of blood we spilt while building our country. It is a reminder of the sacrifice of the elementalists who came before us. It’s a completely different view from the one our people have. For them, the robes are a symbol of fear and expected respect—not something solemn. It’s important to keep these differences in mind as we work to move forward laws which will affect our country.

“Once the book covered a fair amount of history, it talks about how the Council moved to a seven-member system, but there are no more names for the elementalists.” Eilene concluded her monologue on the book and reached for the next stack Ethan offered. They managed to rearrange four full rows of shelves while the blonde spoke. Her words easily captivated her listeners, and Scott set aside his own book. “Ethan, do you have any questions about the material?”

“Not many, you make it more straightforward than the book itself.” He smiled, and the woman laughed. “What specific duties do we have as Council members?”

“There’s several books which cover the answer to that question. It all depends on where you want to start.” Eilene stroked the soft spine of a velvet-covered book, the title embossed in gold, before she slid it home on the shelf. “The ones I most recommend are: Duties of the Council, Laws of the Country, The Importance of Identifying Rogue’s, Why the Uns are Uns, A Country Divided, The New Glory, among other titles. Each one has its own insights and individualized areas of research. Each of them approved directly by a Council member, not of the present Council. Is there one in particular which stands out to you?”

“Because of more recent events, Why the Uns are Uns sounds like the most interesting one.” Ethan pulled the noisy ladder around to join Eilene in the higher shelves.

She smiled at him and dived into the next bout of exposition. Scott stood from his own seat in the library and took up helping them sort—they felt content to listen to the her weave images and stories in their heads.


October 27, 2316

Series twisted and turned in her covers. She often struggled to get to sleep since she took frequent naps during the day; a terrible downside to her ability. Her throat ached, and Series decided to get a glass of water—provided the sheet wouldn’t continue to tie her to the mattress.

She groaned and pushed her face into the flat pillow as she attempted to caterpillar crawl out of the blankets. When she managed it, her feet touched the cool tile floor of her room, and she shivered. Series asked the room to heat the floor, but it would take a while to adjust. She made to stand, but lost her balance as her vision blacked out. She fell backward, but instead of hitting her bed, she fell into a pool of mud. The dark skies and stars occupying her walls and ceiling vanished, and in their place, a cloudy sky.

Pouring rain cascaded from the sky; her hair fell flat into her face. Her clothes soaked and coated in mud. Series pushed herself out of the pool and tried to gain her footing on the wet grass, but the bodies writhing around her made it hard. Gunfire rang out around her. A blast of air passed over her and several humans went flying. She heard a bomb impact the ground nearby and saw the spray of mud into the air. She pulled herself up, despite the ringing in her ears, and tried her best to focus on the fight.

You can’t kill me. You don’t know how many times I’ve tried to do it myself.”

The shout surprised her, but it helped ground Series in the vision. She turned and found a small clearing in the fighting bodies where two men stood face to face, mostly covered in mud like her, weapons held out in front of them. It reminded her of her vision where Scott wielded the nine elements. Perhaps, a different part of the same battle?

The younger of the two in the middle of the ring had dark brown hair; she didn’t recognize him on first glance. He held dual gracilis lāminae lūcis in his hands. The other, she knew: Kim Rolfe. The father of the child they most recently removed from the surface.

Series stumbled forward and shivered at the cold feeling of the rain on her skin. She had to see the fight—she needed to know what would come.

I’ve been forging this for months,” Kim grinned; mud stained his teeth, “it will destroy you.”

He lifted the weapon in his hand, it resembled a medieval style claymore made of shimmery gold metal. When he pressed a trigger on the hilt, it burst into flames—against the rain’s every effort. Kim pointed it at the man across from him.

Series pulled back to her bedroom in the Council chambers with a sharp gasp. It felt like surfacing for air after trying to swim the depths of the pools in the Academy to reach the hideouts of mostly Water elementalists. She coughed violently and rolled off the bed onto the floor. Several minutes passed before she managed to catch her breath and push herself onto her feet.

In the past, she always had to sleep to catch any glimpses of the future. As the first time she had one while fully conscious, she could control her movements to a certain extent. A different experience altogether. Exhilarating. Her random intervals of naps during the day always in the vain hope of catching something all seemed worthless compared to that night. The glimpse didn’t show her much, but it told them who would be a major part of the war on their doorstep.

Series grabbed her phone off her nightstand and made her way into the bathroom for her glass of water. The light clicked on automatically, and her eyes dragged up to her reflection in the mirror. Her hair, a mess from her unease in bed, needed to be combed. Her sleeping tank top had one strap falling off her shoulder, almost far enough down to reveal her breast. She pulled the strap back into place and reached for her water glass. She downed the cup of water in a couple swallows and placed the cup back where it belonged. Series gazed at herself for a long while in the mirror and willed her dreams to bring more visions.

She cupped her hands in the sink, caught the auto-falling water, and splashed it across her face. She took the hand towel off the hook on the wall and pressed it against her skin. When Series’ eyes met her own again, her vision swam; her legs gave out. She faintly recognized her back hit the wall. Her head connected with the corner of the shower before she landed on the muddy field.

This time, the brunet kneeled; one lāminae lūcis still clutched in his left hand, but the other on the ground, broken underfoot of the pressing crowd around them. A piece of the hilt stood straight up in the mud and made half-hearted sparks.

I’m just getting started.” Kim took a step forward and held his weapon out in front of him. Blood trickled down the younger man’s right arm. “Once I kill you, I’ll move to the rest of the Council. From there, the rest of your kind will fall at my feet. None of them have any knowledge of the real world.”

The younger man lifted his lāminae again and light stretched out between them. A couple hard hits from Kim parried the weapon across the crowd; it landed somewhere neither of them could see.

You’ll never touch them.” The brunet spat.

Series blinked and found herself back in her bathroom. She winced in pain and scooted across the floor until she laid comfortably on her back. She felt around the floor for her phone; when she found it, she noticed a small crack on the corner from where it fell to the ground. She pinched her lips to the side of her face and opened her messaging app.

Dwayne, if you’re awake, can you make a trip to my room?

Series brought her legs up into a bent position and tried to decide if they would be strong enough to stay under her long enough to make it to her bed. She decided to brave a sitting position. She used the loosely anchored towel rack to pull herself up from the floor until she could safely drop on top of the closed toilet.

She rubbed the point between her nose and eyebrows and tried to process what happened. As a member of the Council she would be stronger than normal Fortune elementalists, but they had no record of anyone previously experiencing waking visions of the future.

When she closed her eyes, her mind settled on another scene—wildly different from the battles. Dwayne stood on a sidewalk, a jovial smile on his face, as he stared out to the street where someone she couldn’t see stood.

Want me to stand up and say I don’t want you two to get married?”

Her phone buzzed in her hand and jolted her away from the scene. She stared down at the return message from Dwayne and pondered who he might know who would be getting married.

What’s wrong?

I hit my head on the shower when I fell. Having a hard time walking.

Series hoped he would hurry, but she also wanted time to process the scenes. She didn’t receive a text back and settled for leaning against the shower wall for support. She didn’t know what to make of her newfound power, let alone how to harness and control it.

Her mind started to slip into another day of fighting when she heard her bedroom door slide open and keep her in the present moment.

“Junior?”

“In the bathroom.” She replied.

Dwayne pushed open the door and crouched in front of her. He held out his hands and they let off a faint glow as he assessed her injuries. “How’d you hit your head on the shower?”

“I had a vision while awake and my body gave out.”

“That’s not normal.” He held the back of his hand to her forehead. “When did it start?”

“Tonight. I don’t know how to control it. It’s like my body immediately tries to go into a sleep state to process the vision.” She leaned into his touch, and her eyes fluttered closed.

Dwayne scooped her up into his arms and carried her back to bed. “What are you doing in the bathroom?”

“Getting some water. I was having a hard time falling asleep.”

“It looks like you had quite the fight with your bed.” He shoved his hands into his pockets and watched her curl up under the sheets.

“Does anyone really use the top sheet anymore?” She let out a low laugh and pulled a fluffy pillow under her chin. The Life elementalist took a seat on the edge of the bed where he could still see her face. “I wish my visions would just come in my sleep again.”

“Do you need any more water?”

Series shook her head.

“What did you see in your vision tonight?”

She opened her mouth to respond, but another flash into the future caught her off guard. Her mind focused only on Luana’s form. The woman stood with her back to the room. To the right a large map of Elementōrum Patriam, and battle plans sketched on paper pinned over it in different places.

What are we going to do without him?” Eilene’s voice echoed from somewhere behind Series, but she couldn’t turn.

We move on and win the war,” Luana pushed her hair out of her face and turned to face them. The dark strands messier than Series remembered, and she saw the tear tracks stained on the brunette’s face.

“Junior?” Dwayne shook her shoulder, and her eyes rolled back to her bedroom. The Motswana’s face filled with concern.

“There’s going to be a war. I keep seeing it.” Series whispered.

“With who?”

“The humans. Kim Rolfe was there—the parent from the Fire elementalist extraction. He had this weapon. It’s different from anything I’ve seen before. He was fighting someone.”

“Someone is really descriptive.”

“I don’t know who it was. They had brown hair, but I couldn’t make much else out about them. Kim is coming for us. He wants to eradicate the Council.” Series sat up and placed a hand on Dwayne’s arm. Her grip left behind small crescent marks on his skin when he coaxed her hand away.

“We’ll have to tell Molelo in the morning. We don’t have much we can do tonight.” He stood up. “Promise me you’ll get some sleep.”

“I’ll try.” She laid on the pillow and closed her eyes. As he opened the door to exit, she stopped him with his name. “Do you know anyone who is getting married?”

Dwayne’s eyebrows knit together. “No. Did you see something about a wedding?”

“In one of the visions you asked someone I didn’t see if they wanted you to stand up and stop the wedding.”

“Well,” he gave her a small grin, “that one might just be a dream. As Council members, we aren’t allowed to attend silly things like weddings. We’ll talk to kgosi. Next time I’m here, tell me about a good dream you had instead.”

“Sure.” Series echoed his laugh as he closed the door.


October 29, 2316

Key West, Florida

“Tall Caramel Macchiato!” Ryan Everton set the togo cup on the end of the counter.

Late October filled the coffee shop with more pumpkin based flavors and floods of tourists—the busy rushes showcased how few employees they had. The particular customer who collected their drink became a more recent regular of the shop. At first, Ryan assumed the man a tourist like almost every other person in town who happened to stay close by. Once his stay bordered on long vacation and recent move to the city, Ryan figured he could start to plan on the customer arriving and have his coffee ready to go for when he walked into the shop—no questions asked.

In fact, that morning, when the man approached the counter, he stated the price and started to fill the coffee cup almost immediately. The visitor looked impressed and forked over payment. He took his eight o’clock coffee and found his usual seat near the front window where he would remain until about eight thirty.

Ryan moved to Key West about three months after his daughter’s death. The busy city made it easy for him to get lost in the crowd and shuffle. As such, no one nosed into anyone’s business because, even for the locals, it neared impossible to tell who visited most days. The job market boomed in the area, a good thing about being busy. Ryan didn’t go to school or earn a degree in barista arts, but the job got him away from his thoughts most days. He liked the challenge of it.

Over the years in the city, he worked his way up the chain and became an assistant manager for the privately owned coffee shop. He helped run the store. He often took responsibility to open or close and balance books in the back. The owners put him in charge if they decided to take a vacation.

Their particular shop didn’t stop their range of food products at coffee. They sold a variety of confectionaries which required a team of bakers in the early morning to make all their product fresh. Once the morning rush finished, the cooks focused on sandwiches for lunch before they would be released to go home. At night, they offered their leftover desserts and sandwiches for late night coffee drinkers and dates. Anything left at closing time, sometime around seven, the closing manager would gather the food together and donate it to the local homeless shelter. It provided them with sweet treats most days and Ryan grew familiar with the workers at the shelters and the particular things they liked in their donations.

Occasionally, they’d serve an extra plate for him; he would sit with the kitchen staff and talk about their work days. They never asked or shared anything personal unless the person felt comfortable with it.
He liked life in Key West.

Ryan faced away from the customers to hide his yawn. He set a cup of coffee to drip fill while he headed into the back to collect the freshly baked food and arrange it for display. The lack of customers disappointed him. The quiet allowed him too much time to think. He became more nostalgic as years passed.

He yawned again as he fixed a plate of brownies and remembered how much his son liked baking with his little sister. They would make some of the most horrid messes, but he knew in hindsight, every one of them would be worth it. At home, he had a stack of bills still charging him for services rendered while Melissa lived in the hospital suffering from pneumonia—the disease to take her life.

Ryan received a lot of bad luck in his life.

Directly after receiving news his wife Adelyn died in a motorcycle accident, his son, Scott, headed out with the elementalists. He made a lot of mistakes the night they took him, and he regretted all of them—particularly knowing his son would be killed by the same people who took him away a few short days after Melissa. It frustrated him to know he lost everyone and would be paying for it until the day he died. If Ryan picked a time of day he hated working, it would be the night shift. Most couples came in late at night for sips of sugary and watered-down coffee with sweet cakes. Every one of them would whisper fantasies to each other about a “happily ever after”. An ending that would never exist in their world, but sappy chumps still bought into it.

Despite all his hard troubles, Ryan had a hard time saying who he disliked more. A lot of things about the elementalists caused issues and left him as a lonely man—but they couldn’t be blamed for his wife’s or daughter’s deaths. He held partial responsibility for at least Melissa’s, and it cut him to the core everyday recognizing it. If he had one goal, he wanted to bring the world to the attention of how easily the elementalists hurt those they sought to protect. They stole children away, and if deemed unsuitable, they killed them. He wanted to highlight their practices and have them change. He couldn’t start a revolution, and he didn’t want to try.


Biloxi, Mississippi, United States of America

Kristen cupped her hand over her eyes as she stared up at the sky where the Elementōrum Patriam floated stationary above the Gulf of Mexico. The land itself filled the gulf before the split of Pangea. A large waterfall cascaded off the far side near the south east where it didn’t disturb any of the land or islands below it. She turned away from the country aware she would be unwelcome. In 2310, they labeled her a Rogue—one of the few to make a clean getaway after her powers presented—after she killed somone.

Robert Hatchbrooke.

Robert’s mother, an elementalist, married a human who also had an older sister living at the Academy. She recognized Kristen’s abilities when they first appeared. The woman instructed her to keep her abilities hidden, but as she grew older, the task increased in difficulty. At the age of twelve, months before she turned thirteen, she accidentally killed Robert when her powers exploded from restraint for too long. Similar to the pressure releasing along a fault line and causing an earthquake.

She ran from home—no longer able to whisper to herself her family would be okay and she could hide her true self. She had to leave them behind to protect them; it hurt her to make the decision, and it hurt her parents too.

Kristen stood on the precipice between life and death. If she followed through with her plan to travel to Elementōrum Patriam, she would most likely be killed. Instead of feeling scared about the decision, she felt drawn to it. Somewhere, in the back of her mind, she knew it would be the right decision to visit the country.

She had to get there by any means possible.


In the nearest public library, Kristen found an abnormally long queue waiting to use the computers. She pursed her lips as she sized up the wait and the number of computers available for public use. She pulled her new library card from her wallet, closed her eyes, and harnessed her abilities the best she could to slow time and shove herself to the front of the queue. Time triggered to a normal speed for a single second before Kristen slowed it down again; she saw someone leaving one of the units. She grinned and slid into the chair behind the patron and time returned to normal.

Groans, as the next hopeful in line realized they wouldn’t get a computer, echoed around the room. She ignored them and input her card number to access the system.

A quick search into the online browser brought up basic tour options for visiting Elementōrum Patriam. None of them advertised as options for elementalists, instead for humans to visit and catch a glimpse of the country. Kristen rubbed a hand over her face and browsed past the ads for complicated tour guides and vacations.

Every travel location she researched led to the same location into the City of Joy. The Visitor’s Center, the only place the elementalists allowed vacationers, advertised on a forum as a great opportunity. Through several other searches, she found discussions as to why they could only visit one local. Many believed it functioned as a safety precaution, as it reduced the mixture of regular humans with elementalists. The country would be held responsible for any accidental crossfire.

Kristen frowned and searched for the cheapest rates to travel to the country. All sites hosted the same one-day round-trip ticket for only a few hundred dollars. She would violate the ticket, of course, because she had no plans to leave the country once there. She didn’t want to stay where she could be found. They offered no one-way tickets.

She chose a ticket for late November, the soonest opening, and pulled out her wallet for the second time to charge the ticket to her credit card. Kristen printed the confirmation and left the library.


October 30th, 2316

Miami, Florida, United States of America

Kim climbed off the plane in Miami, impressed by the warm weather—a nice change. He still had a four-hour drive south to Key West, where he believed one of the people, whom he wanted to join his main rebellion, lived. He wanted anyone with a grudge against the elementalists on his side.

Finding his luggage took longer than he wanted, especially as he only had three bags, and it delayed him getting to the car rental for the night. Jet lag settled over him. He knew he shouldn’t drive drowsy, but he wanted to push through. The car rental saved Kim from making a dumb decision by announcing they ran out of rental cars for the night and wouldn’t have more until check-in next day.

He found a set of benches nearby where he could push the arm rests up and worked to make himself a temporary bed. Kim didn’t want to waste money on a hotel for a single night when he needed enough to stay in Key West for an extended period of time. He most likely had more than enough from the elementalists “settlement”, but he didn’t want to take unnecessary chances when he planned to develop an effective weapon.

Kim arranged his bags on the bench first and considered laying on top of them, but decided they didn’t provide enough support for his full body and instead tried to arrange them similarly to a body pillow. He squeezed onto the bench with his things (using the smallest bag as a pillow) and did his best to sleep among the rattle of wheels and announcements of flights overhead.

In the morning, the car rental provided a Toyota model hover car. He packed his bags into the seat and set his location for a hotel in Key West where he planned to stay while searching for the mysterious ‘Everton’ family member. He had a generic description of a tall man with blond hair, but other than knowing he lost all of his family in tragic accidents (or to the elementalists), he didn’t know much about the man. In the past, he worked as a genetic scientist who modified food, but he fell into unemployment after his wife died.

Kim spent the four-hour drive devising a plan to search effectively for his target. He devised several different ways he hoped would convince the man to join his crusade.

Once in Key West, he returned the rental car to the appropriate company and hauled his bags down the sidewalk as he searched for the hotel he made a reservation in. Kim planned to walk around and explore the city while looking for Everton.

The hotel gave him a room on the third floor, and he spent time setting up his things before he broke for lunch. He took his laptop and charger with him in a bag around his shoulder. He used his phone to find food near him, and he picked a smaller, local place instead of a corporate chain. Kim used the map to direct himself through the crowded streets and inside, he placed his order with a worker at the front counter.

He took his time to explore his surroundings; the walls painted a pale orange, with cream curtains hanging at the edges of the windows, gave off a soft, burning effect. Hideous brown ribbons tied off a few of the curtains, while others hung limply onto the edges of the tables. The tops of them appeared covered in dust and Kim wondered how often they cleaned the dining room. The floor, made of a crappy, yellow linoleum, had water-stains under most tables which didn’t have table cloths and their worn wooden surfaces had splinters sticking up in random places.

“We’ll call your meal when it’s done. Pick it up at the end of the counter.” The employee vaguely waved down to where the cooks worked.

Kim pursed his lips. He didn’t like self-serve. Instead of complaining, he chose a seat at a two-person table near the window. He pulled out his laptop and set it up, but they didn’t offer free Wi-Fi. He set up his phone as a mobile hot spot and started to lay out a plan for how to threaten the elementalists effectively.

“Six-inch classic sub with a black coffee and two chocolate tarts.” One of the cooks called out. He set a plastic basket with the food, as well as a mug and plate, onto the counter and Kim stood to collect the meal.

The man turned back to him briefly as he picked up his food and he nearly dropped it on the floor. He had a name tag with RYAN EVERTON printed in bold.

“Is something wrong?” The man looked down at Kim’s food and checked the order ticket.

“No—it’s just—you haven’t happened to have lost a son to the elementalists, have you?” He gripped the basket a little harder.

“People around here don’t nose into other people’s business.” Ryan’s cold voice matched his glare.

“Sorry—it’s—they took my daughter from me recently and I’ve been looking for people who experienced the same thing. She is my only family.” Kim picked up his plates and turned away from the counter.

“I’m off in a couple hours once the lunch rush ends. If you feel like talking, you can stay.” Ryan’s words barely loud enough to reach him.

A smirk bled onto Kim’s face. He gave a fake, sharp gasp and made his voice sound choked up. “Thank you.”

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