You know what I really hate?
I mean, if you’ve spent your whole life playing one big version of it where you sorta kinda die if you get found, it really doesn’t grow on you.
And, of course, there’s the paranoia. Remember those moments when you’re hiding in a closet or whatever, the seeker’s right there in the room, there’s nowhere to run, and you’re pretty sure you’re about to be found at any moment?
Multiply that feeling by ten, then imagine feeling it all the time.
It kinda makes you not warm up to people all that much.
So my first meeting with Red didn’t go all that well. As in, explosions and houses burning down not all that well. And people getting locked in basements, too. (CoughRedcough)
But let’s rewind just a little bit.
The day I met Red, I was strolling down the street, wading through the pink, blue, and lavender cherry blossoms that are only native to Sapphire City and Greene Wood, pretending to listen to music on my headphones but actually keeping an eye out for any of Argot’s minions. After all, you can never be too careful. Especially when there’s a reward for seven million Lures on your head.
(Really, though? Seven million for little ’ol me? I’m flattered. Not.)
It had been a typical day, so far, really. Went to class, did work, chatted with people, then immediately rushed off any second I got with my cell phone, and its magic detector.
Okay, so maybe I was being a tiny bit too eager. After all, only the Seven, the assassin Argot, and his lab-rat minions can use magic. And I didn’t even know if it still worked, since I’d hadn’t had a single blip of magic, ever. Which frustrated me more than I’d ever admit.
Because really, how hard can it be to find people who may or may not be able to blow things up at will?
I was moping over this serious issue for a while, but when I passed by the crafts’ store a few blocks from where I was living, the owner snapped me out of it, quick.
“Hey, Lani! How’s your grandmother doing?”
Being distracted and everything, I almost responded with, “What grandmother?” But then I caught myself.
“She’s fine. Thanks for asking!”
The response came almost too naturally. I’d been using the lie for way longer than I really should, but as far as I’d seen, the cover was safe. To everyone else but myself, I was Lani Periwinkle, the granddaughter and caretaker of the grumpy old lady on Sandy Drive who never got out of the house and so needed me to do her shopping and stuff for her. She also conveniently hadn’t written anything in ages, so “her” handwriting was pretty easy to forge. Which is why the authorities at the school I’d been forced to go to (so the police wouldn’t hear about some random truant girl and come to investigate) were totally fine with all the signatures and stuff I sent in.
Little did they know that the lady had actually moved to Indigo Island a while ago without telling anybody (she really didn’t like to talk to people very much) and that she was about as related to me as a pig is to a banana.
But, well, when you’re a member of the Seven, it’s the kind of thing you have to do if you want to survive. And it’s actually pretty logical that Mask would want us killed – as the people who are supposed to be the protectors of Spectrum, we’ve all got magic that allows us to kick his butt when fully developed. And when you’re an evil dictator who really doesn’t want the humiliation of having your butt kicked, you first go after the people who have the ability to do so.
But enough about me and my crazy situation – I know you’d rather find out why the heck I went and did something as stupid as locking Red inside a basement.
Well, it was mostly because when you’re a freakishly paranoid person like me, and you open your front door to find some random dude passed out in the house, your immediate reaction is not to smile and say, “Honey, I’m home!”
Who the heck is he?!
The guy who had somehow materialized on my couch was about my age, with unrealistically messy black hair and a tan. He was wearing a charred red t-shirt, along with equally charred black shorts and tattered sneakers. There was a strange-looking scar across the bridge of his nose, and he was covered with ash. All in all, he looked like he’d just taken a leap out of an exploding building.
I didn’t know it then, but it was a pretty close guess.
Who the heck is this wacko, and what’s he doing in the house?!
I decided to take a risk, and very gently, I tapped his shoulder. He didn’t move.
I tapped harder, and he still didn’t do anything. So I flicked him, hard.
Still no reaction.
Is he dead? I wondered. No, probably not. How would a dead guy get inside my house? (But then again, he did look like some kind of explosion victim.) He was probably harmless, but I couldn’t take any chances. What if he worked for Argot?
Actually, you know what, erase what I just said. He definitely worked for Argot. I had to get rid of this guy. Now.
A breeze swirled around my feet, then flew over to him, lifting him into the air. I’d lock him up in the basement until I thought of something better to do with him.
It was a good thing it was an Air day, I figured, because I had no idea how I’d lift up this guy otherwise.
I sent him neatly into the basement, following along with a bicycle chain I’d bought just for this kind of occasion. He was still passed out, which was good, because then otherwise I’d have to call the cops. Not a scenario I wanted to risk, seeing as the cops worked for Mask and would probably figure out Blue’s mysterious secret identity and arrest me right there and then.
(Yeah, no one ever said Spectrum’s justice system wasn’t messed up.)
Five minutes later, he was locked downstairs, and I was cooking dinner. I guess he must’ve been hungry or something, because suddenly, out of nowhere, there were yells from below.
He must not have liked my basement very much. There are spiders in there.
“HEY!!! LET ME OUT!!! I SWEAR, I DIDN’T MEAN ANYTHING!!! I’M NOT A THIEF!!! LEMME OUT SO I CAN EXPLAIN!!!”
I dropped the spatula. What do I do now?!
Taking a deep breath, I said the first thing that came to mind. “Give me your name. Now.”
He didn’t say anything for a second, probably shocked to actually get a reply.
“R-Ryan,” came the reply. “My name’s Ryan.”
Uh-huh, I wanted to say. Sure, your name’s Ryan. That’s why you’re stammering.
“Okay, Ryan, what’re you doing in my house?”
There was a pause.
“I was tired,” he finally answered. “I just… wanted to sleep for a bit.”
“So, why didn’t you go sleep in your own house?”
“Don’t have one.” came the pitiful-sounding reply. “You see, we live on the streets, me and my family, and – ”
I snorted. “That’s not even a good lie, Ryan. Here’s a tip: Next time, make up something believable. So tell me, what’s your real name?”
There was another, longer, more hesitant pause.
“How do you know that’s not my name?” he demanded, sounding suspicious. A corner of my mouth tugged upward – he’d as good as admitted he was lying.
“Well, it’s pretty obvious, now, isn’t it? So, who are you really? Are you loyal to the Seven? Or do you obey Argot?”
His response was an angry one. “Do you honestly think I’d tell you that?”
“You’re loyal to the Seven.” I sincerely hoped my relief didn’t show in my voice. I didn’t want this guy knowing who I really was, even if he did support the Seven. “Only people loyal to the Seven keep their loyalty a secret.”
He didn’t reply. Instead, I heard a huge BOOM, and my eyes widened.
The basement door blew off its hinges, and fire swept across the room. I shielded my face, refusing to let my panic control me, but mentally screaming at myself for being an idiot.
My relief did show. He was lying, and he knew I was Blue. He's working for Argot!
The guy appeared next to me, and I spun around, surprised. The smoke had hidden his appearance.
Before I could react, he had my arm twisted up behind me. His touch burned my skin, and I inwardly groaned – I could’ve easily taken a fire-user on a water or ice day.
“So what if I support the Seven?” he growled. “That’s better than you traitors, standing with Mask and Argot! You’ve forgotten all about what the Seven have done for you. You just want power, you stupid traitors!”
I froze. “So you support the Seven?”
“Oh, it gets better than that. I’m one of them.”
Hardly daring to believe it, I turned my head slightly to the right. My knees almost gave out with relief. His eyes glowed a brilliant crimson red. A Mark.
“Red,” I breathed. “So you’re Red?”
“Yeah, I’m Red. And you’re dead.” He twisted my arm, and I bit my lip to keep from yelping. That hurt.
“Idiot,” I grumbled, unable to suppress my big, goofy smile. “Took you long enough!”
“Huh?” He let go of my arm in surprise, and I spun around, giving him a smile. He scowled, fingers glowing with heat, on guard.
“Hi, Red. I guess I should introduce myself, huh?” My smile grew wider. “The name’s Blue. It’s nice to finally meet you.”