Rain. The rain had always been a comfort to him. It reminded him of the last time he had seen his parents, the last good time. He looked up at the sky and let the rain fall gently onto his face. His hand outstretched, he collected it, and let it slip through his fingers. The sound as it fell on the bamboo around him relaxed him. Let his mind clear. Let him think. He tried to remember. He tried to get his mind to focus on those half remembered memories, those times before now, before his life was like this, before he had been alone. Every rainfall brought him out here, into the quiet of nature, so that he could think, could remember, and every day, nothing more was revealed. He only had the fragments of something that didn’t exist, that couldn’t exist, not on this world, not in this time. Dragons and angels were myths, but he remembered a time when they weren’t. So were they half remembered memories, or dreams? He couldn’t ask, couldn’t reveal this to anyone. They wouldn’t believe him, or worse, they would lock him away. So he sat and tried to remember where he had been, when he had been, and most importantly, how he could get back there.
Reniko awoke to a blinking cursor on a screen. She didn’t remember falling asleep. She glanced at the time displayed in the corner of the screen and yawned. It was so late that it could have been considered morning. She glanced briefly at the screen, saved her progress, and then made a gesture for the console to power down. She stretched as she stood and caught herself yawning again. Malik must be worried, she thought. She headed toward the door of the Archives and back into the castle that she now called home. The hallways still brought back painful memories, but they were a year in the past, and Sentralon was the only place on Vespen that had the resources intact that Reniko needed. Clearing away the gloom and sadistic pleasures of the Rük had helped brush away the painful memories, but Trokar had left his mark permanently on Reniko when he had tried to alter her memories. The nanites still left a frosted web on her face and were a permanent reminder of Trokar’s presence. Reniko flexed her wings instinctively at the bad memories. She could hardly remember a time now without them. To think that only two years ago she had been on Earth thinking she was merely a human. No wonder she had always felt incomplete. She had been after all. She had been a Levanith without wings, her genetic structure suppressed to hide her among the humans. Dertrik hadn’t told her about her lineage or past, even though he was a Shidenen, a Watcher, and it had been his duty to teach her. She understood why he had kept her lineage a secret. He didn’t want to give her the burdens that came with the knowledge of her past. She was, after all, the last of her race and the supposed saviour that the entire planet of Vespen had been waiting for.
It had been a lot to take in, especially since she had found out the hard way. She had been on Vespen for nine months before she and Malik had reached Tordaskar, his home, and she had taken the serum that had awakened her true self. It wasn’t until after she had awoken with wings that Dertrik finally had a chance to make up for his error in the past. Reniko wasn’t sure if it was an error though. She thought that most likely she wouldn’t have believed Dertrik on Earth. There had been no proof to offer her while her memories of Vespen were traumatically suppressed. With wings on her back, there was no way she could deny him, though it had been hard to realize that even Malik, the one person she loved without question, had looked at her differently, with distance, because she was the last Levanith, and of the royal line. Reniko, however, had not let Malik treat her different. She had helped him through the loss of his goddess and she did it again when she became that goddess that he had lost. Reniko knew that she wouldn’t have survived Trokar without Malik and was forever grateful for the love they shared.
Rounding a corner, Reniko saw Malik’s half-asleep form coming toward her. She smiled and grabbed his arm, startling him slightly as she pulled him back in the direction he had come from.
“I was getting worried,” Malik said. He casually brushed Reniko’s chocolate locks from her eyes.
“I’m sorry. I just got caught up,” Reniko replied, followed closely by another yawn.
“You can’t keep doing this, Lyss; you’re going to wear yourself out.” She leaned closer into Malik as he used the Levanith term Lyss. It had been a jibe at Reniko between Malik and his best friend Orric when Reniko had first arrived on Vespen. It was a word that described her unbreakable spirit, the meaning of which she had used as a bargaining chip when Malik had proposed marriage.
“I have to, Malik; it’s because of me, that they are all like this.” Her thoughts strayed to the Rük, a source of constant torment and confusion for her.
“It’s because of you that the people of Vespen are free. They rely on you for guidance; you can’t stretch yourself this thin. Your people need you.” It was not something that Reniko wanted to be reminded of. Dealing with a scientific problem felt more natural to her than being the leader of an entire world.
“I know you think that the Rük were nothing but heartless oppressors, but even so, I can’t condemn them to this fate.” She thought again of that fateful blow she struck to Trokar, severing whatever connection he had with the rest of his kind and condemning those left behind to either a coma or insanity.
“They would not share your same kindness, Reniko.”
She tensed against those words and distanced herself from Malik’s warm embrace. “It doesn’t matter. If I leave them like this, than I will have become as heartless as they are.”
“You need your rest regardless. Come to bed. Tomorrow will sort itself out,” Malik said leading Reniko down the hallway toward their bedroom. Reniko glanced at an open doorway where the still frames of two Rük lay. Orborok and Agger locked in the prison of their minds, an endless coma since the day that Reniko had killed Trokar. She had done this to them, and she was determined to figure out why.
When Malik woke up the next morning, he could feel that something was wrong. Reniko was not lying beside him in bed; instead she was sitting on the corner of the bed staring at her hand, a dazed expression on her face.
“What’s wrong Reniko?” Malik asked as he made his way closer to Reniko and eased his arms around her waist. This intimate embrace seemed to break the spell she was under and she suddenly turned to Malik, a smile on her face.
“It’s nothing, Malik. I just had a strange dream.” Reniko looked again at her hand. She could still feel the cold drops of rain falling onto it.
He emerged from the forest onto a dirt road. There seemed to be no one in sight. He breathed in the cool air deeply, wishing that he was still up in the mountains, away from real life. He heard the footsteps of fellow travelers coming up behind him and grimaced as he recognized the small footsteps running to catch up with him.
“Arashi-san,” a small voice called, as the twelve year old girl it was coming from caught up with him. When she was at his side, she smiled coyly. “Right on time.”
“Stop calling me that, Mikomi-chan, my name is not Arashi,” he said trying to walk faster to avoid conversation with the small girl. Mikomi matched his pace, however, and he was left putting up with her.
“Riumi-san,” Mikomi said instead, giggling as she did.
“Can’t you go bug someone else for once?” Riumi asked gruffly.
“If you don’t want me following you around, Riumi-san, why do you always come and go from the mountain at the same time every week?”
“My life does not revolve around pleasing you, Mikomi-chan. I have my own reasons for going up the mountain.”
“I don’t understand you,” Mikomi said as they rounded a corner and headed deeper into the city. “Why do you go up that mountain? All you do is sit on a rock. Can’t you do that in one of the gardens in town?”
Riumi stopped and sighed. Mikomi was full of questions today and it didn’t seem like she was going to leave him alone until he answered at least a few of them.
“Unlike the gardens in town, the mountain offers at least a small amount of peace. I go up there, Chiisai, to rid myself of people like you.” Riumi resumed his walk down the street leaving a rather annoyed Mikomi in his wake. The small Japanese girl looked after him with frustration and turned and walked away. Riumi, realizing he was finally rid of her, cast a sidelong glance in the direction she had fled, and resumed his trek deeper into the city. He could already feel that it was going to be a long day.
When Riumi entered his home, it was quiet. All he could hear was Ayumi, his foster mother, cooking breakfast. Riumi set down his backpack and ambled into the kitchen. Ayumi turned when she heard him shuffle in and smiled.
“Mikomi was around looking for you,” she said as Riumi took a seat at the table.
“I know. She found me,” Riumi said with a sigh. “I wish you wouldn’t tell her where I was.”
“I thought you would have come home early when it started to rain last night,” Ayumi said ignoring his comment.
“I like the rain,” he replied uncomfortably. “Where is Eiji-san?”
“He’s still sleeping. I thought I would let him rest a bit longer,” Ayumi replied. Eiji Takahashi was Ayumi’s husband and Riumi’s foster father. They had taken Riumi in when he was six, eleven years ago. Riumi could never understand why they had decided to care for him. Of all the orphans at the home, Riumi was the only foreigner. He didn’t even look like he could have been born in Japan, not with his platinum blond hair and steel grey eyes. He had always kept to himself, shied away from the other kids, and they made no attempt to try and befriend him. Riumi hadn’t minded. He knew he didn’t belong, and not just among the Japanese, but among the rest of the people on this planet. He remembered, not much, but he did remember, a time before Japan, a place not on Earth. When Riumi was taken to the Takahashi’s home, he had thought that they would send him back to the orphanage, but instead, despite Riumi’s aloof nature, they had accepted him and let him stay. Their kindness had confused him, although he realized later it shouldn’t have, because they couldn’t read his thoughts and therefore couldn’t possibly know how different he actually was.
Riumi’s thoughts drifted back to Mikomi. She too was an orphan, a ward of the same home that Riumi had lived in. It was there that they had met. The orphan house was not far from the school that Riumi went to, and he had taken a path by it for reasons still unknown to himself. He couldn’t help but think that maybe it was so he met Mikomi, but he didn’t really believe in fate, and besides, the girl was nothing but a nuisance. Nevertheless, he had walked by the orphanage and Mikomi had been out in the yard waiting for the rest of the orphans to come out so they could go to school. She had seen him and had chased after him, fascinated by the colour of his hair. As far as Riumi could remember, they had shared a conversation of Mikomi’s unending questions followed by his curt replies. He had seen her nearly every day since, despite the fact that he tried everything to rid himself of her.
“Is he still feeling unwell?” Riumi asked.
“He’s better. Well enough to help me enforce the rules around here,” Ayumi said.
Riumi grimaced. He knew what she was alluding to; Riumi had not been attending classes at school and, despite Ayumi’s earnest pleas for him to go, without Eiji’s firm backing, she would always fold to Riumi’s depressed looks.
“I have been doing the work,” Riumi replied. “I do more than just sit when I’m up there. But I’ll go, if it will make you feel better, Ayumi-san.”
“It’s for your own good, Riumi.”
“You keep saying that,” Riumi replied. He tried to smile. He was beginning to think that Ayumi’s empathy was wearing off on him. He couldn’t stand to tell Ayumi that he was bored at school, or that he hated the kids as much as they seemed to hate him. There was always Kendo. He always took pleasure in that, and he had missed practicing since he had been avoiding school.
Ayumi set a plate of food in front of Riumi. He gave her a half smile, it was all he could muster, but it seemed to be enough for her. Footsteps could be heard coming down the stairs moments later, and Ayumi set another plate on the table as Eiji entered the kitchen.
“I thought I heard your voice, Riumi,” Eiji said as he sat down opposite of Riumi.
“Did I wake you?” Riumi asked lowering his eyes.
“No it was nothing like that. It was Ayumi’s cooking that woke me. Who could resist such sweet smells,” Eiji replied as he looked at his wife fondly. Riumi picked at his food as Ayumi and Eiji engaged in conversation. Riumi tuned them out as he thought about his trip up the mountain. Something had been different this time. He remembered something, or had for a brief moment; a dark room, heavy breathing behind him. It had only been a moment, but it was a charged one. He had more questions now than ever, and he wished with every fibre of his being that he could go back and finally remember.
He realized suddenly that both Eiji and Ayumi were staring at him questioningly and he dropped his chop sticks with a start.
“What?” he asked.
“You just looked a little lost. Is everything all right?” Ayumi asked.
“I’m fine,” he replied.
“You’ve hardly eaten anything, are you sure you are all right? Maybe you’re getting that flu bug I had,” Eiji said.
“Really it’s nothing.”
“You keep saying that,” Ayumi mimicked and Riumi sighed.
“We are always here for you if you need to talk, Riumi, remember that,” Eiji said. He was just as concerned as Ayumi was.
“Just lost in thought I guess,” Riumi said and excused himself.
“I’m starting to think those thoughts of yours are dangerous,” Eiji said.
Me too, Riumi thought, but instead of replying, he just looked plaintively at his foster father and plodded up to his room, backpack in tow.
“Hey, Reniko.” Reniko heard a voice call behind her. She turned around and watched as Rimca weaved her way toward her.
“Reniko, I think I finally got it running,” she said as she halted beside Reniko.
Reniko looked at her excitedly. “That’s the best news I have heard in weeks. The reports from Arkon, Takka’nui and Callum have not been reassuring.”
“I’m sure that the micro gates will help. Working with the hologram at Reflaydun, I’ve managed to get them running in Tordaskar, Lrac, Manaker, Trenasa, Crado, Porsshash, Onerdiswane, Inonalore and Nemel. I can send teams through the gates and they can help repair the towns with moderately intact ones.”
“You’re sure that they are safe?” Reniko asked.
“As sure as I can be. Reflaydun is monitoring the micro jumps and calibrating as needed. Besides, I’ve tested it myself,” Rimca said beaming. “I just got back from Tordaskar.”
“Rimca, you didn’t? You could have been killed, or worse,” Reniko said. “I can’t believe you did that. I didn’t think you were that reckless.”
“It was Reflaydun’s idea,” she was waving her hand at Reniko in a gesture that was meant to wipe away Reniko’s worries, “besides you worry too much and I didn’t want to bother you. I couldn’t tell you until I was sure it would work. You have too many projects on the go as it is, and I know how you are, Renny. If I told you it may be working, and it wasn’t, you would stay and help me until it was, and I couldn’t do that to you. You stretch yourself too thin.”
Reniko sighed. “Malik has been saying the same thing. Maybe I should start listening to the both of you.”
“We’re just concerned. You can’t feel guilty forever. There was nothing you could have done differently, Reniko, it was them or us.”
“You really believe that? Truly?” Reniko asked.
“I have to,” Rimca said. Her face was stern and there was a haunted look in her eyes. Reniko remained silent.
“Come on, we can visit any place you like,” Rimca said trying to change the subject.
“I just have to tell Malik,” Reniko said and began heading down the hall once again.
“I’ve already sent Eric to get Malik and Dertrik. They’ll meet us there.” Rimca grabbed Reniko’s hand and pulled her briskly down the hallway. Reniko had to smile; it was nice to see Rimca so energetic again. She had missed the sixteen year old that seemed to reside in Rimca’s hundred and eleven year old body; it was, after all, the Rimca she had first met.
After Reniko had killed Trokar there had been a more extensive exploration of the castle. The Archives, as they soon discovered, had multiple levels. The top most, the one that Reniko had accessed when she had served under Trokar as Shylaya, held the archive library, as well as a small emergency medical chamber and a communications device that linked all over Vespen. Below that there were four more levels.
The second level was the medical lab. This area was more extensive than the emergency medical chamber and was where Reniko did most of her testing and research on the Rük. The computer system in the lab linked directly with the Sentralon library and therefore Reflaydun, and so Reflaydun was a constant help in Reniko’s endeavours.
The third level was where Rimca had been spending most of her time. She and Reniko had discovered an interstellar bridge on this level. Reniko had been interested in it, for she thought it would provide her with a link back to Earth, but her ideas had been misguided. The interstellar bridge on this level was small, only able to support one or two people at a time for each jump, and as Rimca soon discovered, was made for transport only to various places on Vespen via micro jumps. Because of the high calculation of error that these micro jumps created, it had taken Rimca, with the help of Reflaydun, six months to get it calibrated for use and another six months to get other gates active to receive the jumps. This was the level that Reniko was heading to now, tense with anticipation.
“Do you think now that you have the micro jump system running, that the full scale jumps on level five will be able to get fixed?” Reniko asked.
“It’s hard to say, Renny,” Rimca said, she was biting her thumb nail nervously. “It was easy enough with the micro jumps because we were able to calibrate the coordinates accurately. Without an accurate address, and a gate to link to on the other side, we’d just be jumping wildly. The odds of getting to another planet successfully are one in billions, and getting to Earth without the correct address is even higher.”
Reniko sighed. “They have to be somewhere. I mean, I jumped to Vespen from Earth using an unguided bridge, so we know that there is a gate on Earth. I’m sure that the address is in the archives somewhere.”
“Why are you so anxious to go there, Renny? You still don’t feel at home here?” Rimca asked. She had a pained look on her expression.
Reniko responded by shaking her head. “It’s not that, Rimca. Vespen is my home, but my foster family, the Dorsalin’s are on Earth. I just want to see them again, make sure they are all right and let them know that I’m okay too. It’s been two years since I have seen them, and it’s not like I got to say much of a goodbye when I left.”
“We’ll figure it out eventually,’ Rimca replied, giving that same gesture with her hand. This made Reniko’s brow furl in response.
“Another thing to add to the list,” Reniko finally said as the lift settled gently on the third floor.
“Well at least this project is one to strike off the list. That’s something,” Rimca said. Her lithe Le’a’to frame hurried across the corridor, leading the way into the micro jump room. The Le’a’to, in Reniko’s mind, had always reminded her of the elves from all the fantasy books she used to read back on Earth.
Malik was leaning against a wall somewhat impatiently when Reniko and Rimca arrived, which made Reniko wonder how long he had been waiting.
“Finally, I was just about to go looking for you two,” he said as they joined him beside the micro jump controls. “Anyone seen Dertrik?” he asked.
“I’m here,” they heard a voice say behind them as the older man moved from the lift into the room.
“About time. I guess I’m the only one that can actually be on time?” Malik replied.
“Or the only one that has nothing else to do,” Reniko said playfully. Malik glared at her and responded to her jibe by squeezing her hand gently. Reniko returned the gesture with a grin.
“Okay you two,” Rimca said impatiently, “who would like to choose the destination?”
Everyone looked at Reniko.
“Why me?” she asked.
“Well you are the ruler of Vespen free after all,” Malik replied.
“Funny,” she said and hit Malik gently on the shoulder, “you are co-ruler you know.”
“That worries me a little,” Dertrik replied and got a shove from both Reniko and Malik. “You just proved my point,” he added. Rimca seemed to be the only one not joining in and when the three of them looked at her they realized that she was not amused.
“This is my moment, and you’re ruining it,” she replied, giving a childish stomp of her left foot.
“Sorry,” Malik and Dertrik murmured.
Reniko just smiled, suppressing the urge to point out that Rimca often acted like a spoiled teenager rather than a woman over the age of 100. From what she had learned from Rimca, Le’a’to aged slowly, living centuries, and this made their equivalent of adolescence last for nearly 200 years. Reniko had a feeling that Rimca greatly exaggerated this point so that she could get away with tantrums and other childish behavior.
“Okay, fine. I’ll pick. Lrac. I haven’t seen Callum in a long time. Besides, the problem seems to be the worst on Mo’an Delar,” Reniko said.
“It’s only bad on Mo’an Delar because more than half the Rük on Vespen were there trying to get to you in Tordaskar,” Malik said. “So even though the casualty rate was high, a lot also survived.”
“This will be the first time I’ll get to see the Rük awake, since –” her sentence trailed off, but they all knew what she meant. Since Trokar’s death. Since then, the Rük of Trokar’s high court had all fallen into comas and the others – The others had gone insane. Something in them snapped when their leader was killed.
All the yellow and green Rük had gone crazy, bestial, and they began slaughtering one another and anything else that moved in their path.
In Sentralon, the slaughter had been the most intense; all the Rük had destroyed each other in a matter of days. The only explanation that Reniko had was that the Rük who lived in Sentralon had had a closer link with Trokar than the others. Regardless, she was just glad that on the other continents of Vespen there had been survivors, though few. A lot of them were being contained, each separately, quarantined like creatures with an infectious disease. It was the only way to keep the violence sedated.
A lot of the Rük now roamed the forest and other uninhabited places on Vespen, terrorizing anyone who happened upon them. It had become dangerous to travel, worse now than when the Rük had ruled.
Sometimes Reniko thought that what she did had been more harmful to the people of Vespen than helpful. She was constantly reminded, however, that despite the danger the Rük now posed, it was more important to the people that they were now free, and no longer slaves. Every hardship they had to bear now felt light in comparison.
“Lrac it is then,” Rimca said as her hands worked busily on the console. A few feet away, a metallic arch, the size of a doorway, stood. It flickered to life with a shimmer that vanished before Reniko could decide if she had actually seen it. The only tell-tale sign that the device was active was a low hum that was filling the room and the glow of the metal which was charged and superheated. “Who wants to be first?” Rimca asked. She was beaming with excitement.
“I think you should go first, Rimca. It’s your device,” Malik said. He gestured for her to move towards the device while taking a few steps backward.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” she replied.
“I’ll go first,” Dertrik said and stepped toward the arch. “What do I do?”
“Just step through the arch,” Rimca said.
“But there is nothing there,” Dertrik said as he looked through the arch and saw the other side of them room.
“There is, trust me. The jump should be nearly instantaneous. It will feel like you just took a step forward and then you’re there.”
“Whatever you say Rimca,” Dertrik said. He took a deep breath and stepped through the arch, vanishing. It was a startling sight for Reniko and Malik, for like Rimca had said, one moment Dertrik was there and then with one step he disappeared.
Reniko took a deep breath and headed to the Microgate. She had, of course, done this before, but it hadn’t been the best experience. Falling from the sky tended to make one cautious of what was on the other side. She stepped through vanishing like Dertrik. One minute she was standing in the micro jump lab in Sentralon, and suddenly she was in another room completely. Her skin prickled with the temperature change, raising the hairs on her arm. She shuddered and hugged herself, trying to erase the strange feeling.
Dertrik was standing there waiting for her, as was Callum, who had been alerted to the Microgate’s activation and had rushed down to meet them. The room Reniko now found herself in was run down and old. Bits of broken wood littered the floor and the stone walls were broken with loose stones and the remains of dead plants that had long ago grown there. Buried in the basement of Lrac’s castle it was a wonder it had survived at all.
Reniko stepped away from the Microgate and joined Dertrik down the small ramp. Malik and Rimca were not far behind them. Reniko noticed that Malik had the same response as she did and he came down the ramp rubbing his arms and shivering slightly. The tension Reniko had been holding released when all of her friends were through the gate.
“You’re going to have to try that sometime, Cal,” Malik said to his brother as he gave him a warm embrace.
“You have way more courage than I do, Mal,” Callum replied. Looking to Reniko, he bowed deeply, “your Grace, a pleasure to see you again.”
Reniko’s cheeks redden in response. She was still unused to the treatment that she received from the citizens of Vespen.
“Please, Callum, I hardly think that is necessary,” Reniko said. She gave him an uneasy smile. “I’ve come because I’ve been worried. How is everyone here handling the situation?”
“As best as we can,” Callum said standing erect once again. “It’s been difficult, but the violence has been mostly contained. We’ve been worried about the Rük that have escaped into the forest. We haven’t been allowing any travel in or out of the city unless it’s a sanctioned caravan. It’s too dangerous to go out of the walls alone. We arm those in the caravans as best we can, but what we have is limited.”
“I was afraid of this,” Reniko said and sighed. “I was hoping it wasn’t as bad as I was hearing.”
“I’m sorry, Wayann,” Callum said.
“What have you got to be sorry about?” Reniko asked. “It’s not your fault that this has happened.” It’s mine, she thought. Malik, seemingly sensing her thoughts, put a hand on her shoulder in reassurance.
“I thank you for all your efforts in the matter,” Reniko continued. “Would it be possible to see the Rük?”
“Of course,” Callum said. He gestured for the assembled party to follow him. The five of them left the confines of the castle and headed to the outskirts of town. Reniko felt the same uncomfortable feeling she had jumping through the micro gate under the stares of the townspeople, who all stopped and bowed to her as she passed. The cold autumn weather wasn’t helping either. She was starting to be able to see her breath. The thought of winter coming made her wrap her cloak more tightly around her shoulders, only hindered by the bulk of her wings. She tried to ignore her discomfort and instead smiled to anyone who would meet her eye. Most still held the belief that she was the goddess incarnate. Despite her protests to that claim, she could not rid the people of a thousand year old religion in a matter of days. Seeing as Levanith lived for thousands of years, instead of the mere hundred that a human did, she was starting to think that she wouldn’t be able to rid them of their false beliefs in their lifetime; the thought made her uneasy. The children were the only ones that did not seem to be intimidated into obeisance and they whispered amongst themselves while their parents scolded them. It was the only thing that made Reniko genuinely smile.
Reniko knew they had reached their destination when the crowds dwindled to nothing and the sounds of the Rük could be heard. She had never been this close to conscious Rük since Trokar’s death. They sounded bestial, and as Reniko was led into the place they were being kept, she realized that the sounds were not the only things that were ferocious. Reniko had thought the Rük vicious creatures before the murder. Now though, it was as if she had never seen the likes of them before.
“They look rabid,” Reniko mumbled under her breath as she glanced at a nearby lime green Rük. He looked at her with savage eyes, tearing at his bonds and slamming up against the walls of his prison. The Rük was foaming slightly at the mouth reinforcing Reniko’s thought that it was rabies. The effects were the same, but Reniko was doubtful the cause was the same. It couldn’t be rabies, not when only the Rük were affected, and it had happened across the world at the very same moment to every Rük. No, this was something worse than rabies. Dertrik, however, was nodding his head in agreement to Reniko’s words.
“What is rabies?” Callum asked. It was the same question that was on Rimca and Malik’s lips as well.
Reniko looked at the three of them and decided she wished she hadn’t brought up the subject.
“Rabies is a disease on Earth. It’s a viral infection that attacks the brain. If left untreated it results in death. Animals got it a lot a long time ago on Earth and went insane; they foamed at the mouth and attacked anything that moved. When a human got it-“ she hesitated thinking about the diseases history,” it paralyses you. Those who contracted it died when their lungs stopped working. The incubation period was short, death merely seven days after showing symptoms. So although this may look like the same thing, the fact that it has been a year since this happened, and the fact that it is localized to just the Rük, makes me think it’s something completely different,” Reniko explained.
Callum had a strange puzzled look on his face. “I don’t think I understood all of that. But, it doesn’t sound good.”
Reniko laughed. She kept forgetting that the general population on Vespen didn’t understand its technology, and their knowledge of science was limited at best. She was planning on changing that, soon. “No, it’s not good,” Reniko said. She pulled open a pouch on her belt, revealing a syringe. Rimca looked at her doubtfully.
“I hope you are not planning on doing what I think you are going to do,” she said leaning toward Reniko, trying to grab the syringe. Reniko pulled it out of her grasp and glared at her.
“I need a blood sample. I finally got the equipment in the lab working and I want to check for abnormalities,” Reniko said.
“I think that Orborok and Agger’s samples will be enough,” Dertrik said.
Reniko looked at him with a frown. “Excuse me? I don’t think so and I’m the one running the tests. Orborok and Agger have completely different symptoms. I also happen to be the only one that has done the research regarding this type of work, so if you will, let me do my job.”
Malik grabbed the syringe from Reniko and she yelled in frustration as she tried to grasp it once again.
“You’re job, Wayann, is to keep yourself safe so that the people of Vespen have a leader. If you need the sample so bad, someone else can get it,” Malik reminded her.
“No one else knows how to draw blood,” Reniko said.
“I’ll do it,” Dertrik said grabbing the syringe from Malik.
“Dare?” Reniko questioned.
“I’ve done this before, believe me,” Dertrik said, “on you in fact.”
Reniko looked at him with an incredulous stare. “I don’t recall such a thing.”
“You were rather sick at the time,” Dertrik replied.
“I don’t understand,” Reniko said.
“Well, we couldn’t exactly let you go to a real doctor now could we,” Dertrik said gesturing to Reniko’s wings. She flushed. She had never thought of that before. Of course her blood would not be the same as a human’s.
“In that case-” Reniko stepped aside allowing Dertrik to get close to the door. “Wait a second,” Reniko said. Digging in her pouch, she pulled out another syringe, this one full of a clear liquid, “you might want to give him this sedative before you withdrawal the sample.” Dertrik looked at the Rük, who upon seeing the close proximity that Dertrik had to his cell, lunged at him, knocking against the cell door and shaking the foundation. Dertrik looked back at Reniko and nodded his agreement.
“I think I’ll take you up on that offer,” he said and with both syringes in hand he headed for the cell door.
Riumi woke up before dawn. He had slept restlessly all night and decided to stop trying. Something was troubling him, and it was more than the fact that he had to go to school today. Something had changed when he had been on the mountain. Something was changing now. He could feel it. His alarm went off a few minutes after he had woken and he flicked it off, removing the blankets from his bed at the same time. He drudged around his room getting ready for the day. His uniform was tucked away in the far corner of his closet. He had thought that if he had removed it from sight he would never have to use it again. It smelled a little musty from disuse and was slightly rumpled. He shook it slightly and ran his hand on the fabric trying to smooth it out. After a few minutes of this futility, he decided he didn’t care enough about it, and instead just got dressed and packed his work in his school bag.
Ayumi was in the kitchen and Riumi could smell the food cooking as he went down the stairs and into the kitchen. Ayumi smiled at him. Riumi figured it was because he was going to school today and tried to hide the scowl that was threatening to emerge onto his face. How he longed to be old enough to take care of himself, then he could live on his own, go where he pleased, and best of all, he would not be forced to do things that he didn’t need to do. Like school. He would miss the Takahashi’s though.
“How do you always manage to get up before me?” Riumi asked. He was always amazed by this, and he had the suspicion that Ayumi didn’t actually sleep at night. She did too much in a day to warrant rest.
“Routine,” Ayumi said and set a plate of food in front of Riumi. They both turned as Eiji entered the kitchen.
Riumi finished his breakfast and grabbed his bag just as Eiji sat down. “Thanks Ayumi, I better leave, don’t want to be late,” he said and was surprised when he realized he meant that. Eiji and Ayumi smiled warmly at him and bid him farewell. Riumi walked out the door and onto the street. The sky looked threatening today and Riumi couldn’t help but hope that it would rain. As he felt the first few drops fall into his hair, he smiled. Maybe the day won’t be a total loss, he thought as the rain intensified. He watched as the other pedestrians either opened their umbrellas or ran for cover. They all looked at him curiously as he walked down the street at an even pace, relishing the rain. He could never figure out what people were so afraid of; it was only water.
He arrived at school fifteen minutes later, thoroughly soaked. This caused a general stir in the students as he walked to his locker. He removed his outside footwear and pulled out his indoor sandals, as well as taking out a dry pair of clothes. He always kept a spare set of clothes at the school just for these occasions.
Once again clothed in dry attire, he made his way to the classroom. His chair was at the back and he went to it immediately. He wasn’t sure if, in getting the back seat, he had drawn more, or less, attention to himself, but he had decided a long time ago that it didn’t matter. As he sat down, one of the boys that sat close to him came over to talk. Hiroshi. That was his name.
“Hey Takahashi, you haven’t been here for a while, everything all right at home?” Hiroshi asked. He was uncomfortably close to Riumi, leaning on his desk top and Riumi sat back against his chair to avoid the close proximity.
“It’s fine Hiroshi-san. And I’ll be fine in class today, don’t worry.” It seemed to Riumi that people worried an awful lot about him and he could never understand why.
“You, um, going to go to Kendo Club after school?” he asked hesitantly. Riumi looked at him curiously.
“I was thinking about it,” Riumi replied.
“So is that a yes?” Hiroshi prodded.
Riumi sighed, reluctant to answer, and then nodded.
“Great. The girls are going to love this,” Hiroshi said with a mischievous gleam in his eye, it worried Riumi.
“What girls?” Riumi asked.
“Oh, you’ll see,” he replied.
Maybe I shouldn’t have said yes, Riumi thought as the bell signalling class’s start rang and the rest of the stragglers piled into the room. Their teacher, Matsumoto-sensei, entered moments later and stared directly at Riumi. Riumi shifted uncomfortably in his seat, but did not say a word.
“I see you have had the thoughtfulness to once again grace us with your presence, Takahashi Riumi,” Matsumoto-sensei said with a glare.
“It seems I had time today,” Riumi said with a shrug. This irritated Matsumoto greatly.
“Well it’s nice to know that you can fit us into your busy schedule,” he replied and Hiroshi gave Riumi a warning glance. Riumi already knew that he wasn’t doing the smart thing, but he didn’t care, he hated the way the teachers treated him.
“I do what I can, Sensei,” Riumi replied which got a few giggles out of the girls to Matsumoto’s annoyance.
“Well, I hope you came prepared, Takahashi. You’ve just volunteered yourself to answer all questions today.”
A smirk twitched at the corner of Riumi’s mouth. He was actually enjoying himself at school today, but he didn’t want to let Matsumoto know, as it would cause him even more trouble than he was about to get into. “What happens if I don’t answer any questions wrong?” Riumi asked.
“You won’t have to find out, I’m sure, but this will be counting towards you’re final grade, how many questions you get right determines you percentage,” Matsumoto replied with a sneer. He opened the history text book intent on finding a question Riumi was sure to get wrong and finally fail Riumi.
He smiled when he found the perfect question. “On which island did Dutch traders live during the Edo Period?”
“Dejima,” Riumi responded without hesitation, which set a frown on Matsumoto’s fac. He tried again.
“Which city did the Ashikaga clan rule from in the Muromachi Period?”
“Why here, in Kyoto of course.” The frown deepened.
“Who established Edo as the nation’s capital?”
There were a few more questions that Matsumoto asked before he was angry enough with Riumi to send him into the hall with the words, “I’ll deal with you later,” following Riumi as he left the classroom. As Riumi entered the hallway, he had the sudden urge to just leave all together, but instead, he set his bag near the wall and slumped to the floor to wait, only to have Matsumoto open the door and yell at him to remain standing. Riumi gave a sigh, somewhat regretting that he had made a fool of the teacher, and stood. He couldn’t help but feel a smug satisfaction. He loved history and had soaked up every book on the subject that he could find in the Cloud. Not a lot of people understood Riumi’s interest in history; in fact, Riumi was the only one that knew why. His reasons were, of course, more personal than people would think. He was searching for his own past amongst the history of everyone else. As of yet, he had not found anything that pertained to his fragmented memories and he was beginning to think he never would. That strange change Riumi had felt the night before niggled at the back of his mind, burrowing into him like a worm.