Excalibur ~ World from Ashes

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Chapter 24

It was four days after my apology to Tristan and our make-out session. I caught myself day dreaming about kissing him often because of that and kicked myself for it because usually I was in the middle of training and Jace would smack the back of my head every time. I finally managed to pull myself together enough to get through the rest of the shooting practice and hand to hand fighting with Zak.

At the end of the day, I ate with them at the large dining room table. It was rice, a noodle soup and chicken. Dinner consisted of lots of chicken, mostly because a lot of it was frozen and stayed good for a while. As we ate, the conversation turned to what we were going to do about Alik and Titan. My personal opinion was probably a bit to vulgar to voice, but I couldn’t help it.

“Kill him,” I answered coldly when the question arose.

Silence met me immediately after and I could feel every pair of eyes upon me by then. I didn’t mind though, it was my honest answer for the dilemma. Anything less than that would be unsatisfactory for me. I wanted that bastard dead, diced up into a thousand pieces and unable to make any sort of freaky revival. Hell, I’d burn him to a fucking crisp too just to be sure.

“And how would you go about that?” Ahmeil’s voice asked from across the table.

I ignored the condescending tone as best I could, remembering Tristan’s words on how he owed her a lot for saving his life. I bit my lip for a moment before I answered, “Actually, it’s quite easy. The fucker likes me for some reason, so if I walk around town for a bit, he’s sure to show up. Then I’ll fry his ass.”

“No.”

“Tristan!” I turned and glowered, “Why?”

He frowned at me, “Because. I said no. You’re not going to go wandering around hoping that he finds you. What if you end up fighting his men instead?”

“I can handle myself.”

“I didn’t say you couldn’t, but that doesn’t mean that his men don’t have Excalibur as well. How could you possibly stand up to more than just one? It’s too dangerous, and I won’t lose you. My answer is no, and I’m not changing it.”

“I-”

Next to me, Jace reached out and flicked my ear. Giving a small sound of protest, I clasped my hand over my throbbing ear and glared at him, who only returned the look and shook his head.

“If Tristan says no, it means no, Valkyrie. Deal with it.”

“Well you’re no help.”

Jace shrugged as he stabbed at the chicken with his fork, “Since when have I ever been helpful to you?”

“That’s mean…” I muttered as I turned and glowered at my food now.

“Why not just go to where he’s staying?” Ahmeil suggested as she took a sip of her water.

“Too heavily guarded,” Tristan responded evenly.

“Like I said, I’ll play decoy and he’ll come running. Seriously, why are you not listening to me?”

“Valkyrie, I just said no. It’s far too dangerous for you and I’m not putting you in that position,” Tristan argued in return.

“Why not?” Ahmeil asked suddenly and I felt a cold shiver down my spine. There she went again. She really didn’t like me at all. I frowned a bit, although she was hopefully going to help my case here.

“W-why?” Tristan sounded astonished at the question, “Ahmeil… You can’t be serious.”

She stared at him with her cold gray eye for a long while before she turned her look toward me, “Just because you’re in love with him doesn’t make him any less of a tool to use to help achieve a goal.”

I went frigid, my heart nearly stopping at her words. She wasn’t serious, was she? Of course, she didn’t look like she was joking in the least though. Bitch! Fucking bitch… I swear to God… I cursed to myself but managed to keep hold of my tongue, for the most part anyway. Even Jace next to me went still, his eyes watching Ahmeil for a long while.

“Ahmeil… He’s not a tool,” Tristan’s tone took on the commanding one he used with his underlings. I was surprised to hear it being used at her, but since our conversation, Tristan had promised to pay a bit more attention. It was one of those times it seemed.

“So then what is he? A pretty ornament in this house? A little puppy that mewls and begs when you want him to?”

I couldn’t remember a time where Tristan was ever truly angry. At least, outwardly toward someone. He usually had a freakishly tight lid on his emotions, especially the negative ones and he’d only yelled at me a few times, but even then he hadn’t gone into ‘rage mode’. This was different though. He stood up so quickly that I almost wasn’t sure if I’d seen the movement at all. The chair flew as it was knocked over by the force of his sudden change in position.

Both hands slammed against the table, launching several dishware into the air before they all clattered down upon the table again. I was in shock, as were Jace and Zak behind me. One glance over my shoulder at them told me all I needed to know. They hadn’t seen this before either and both of them were wide eyed, shocked. Tristan’s face had turned from his usual carefully placed poker face, to that of a twisted monster and it frightened me, making my blood run icy cold.

“Out, all of you,” he growled as he set his flaming gaze upon the woman who sat calmly at the table and took another bite of her food.

I didn’t question it, neither did Zak or Jace. All three of us, including the other few that were in the room left without a word and quickly. Once I was in the hallway, I felt the rush slowly die down and I leaned against the wall, Zak and Jace not too far ahead of me.

“Never seen that before,” Zak said softly as he and Jace paced the hall before me.

“T-that… was scary…” I managed to get my voice to work again as I panted slightly, my chest tight from the fright that I’d experienced.

“I’ve never seen him so pissed off before,” Jace said, though his tone said he wasn’t happy either, “Where the hell does she come off saying those kinds of things?”

I looked up at him, slightly shocked that he was angry at Ahmeil. It seemed to me that no one really said anything to her, or about how she acted because of how Tristan respected her. Although right about then, I wasn’t too sure how much respect she had left after that remark. I shook my head as I sighed heavily. I didn’t know either. All I knew was that she just didn’t like me for one reason or another.

“Tristan will take care of it,” Zak said, trying to comfort Jace’s fuming irritation. If anyone jumped off the handle at the drop of a hat it was Jace.

“She just doesn’t like me, I guess,” I answered with a shrug.

“Doesn’t make it okay to go saying something like that. You’re his lover, the fuck is she thinking?!”

I blushed at that. Lover hu? Yeah… guess we are. Wow, that sounds so much more erotic than ‘boyfriend’. Ah! Wait, wait… where the hell did my mind just go with that?! I shook my head and cleared my throat to help clear my mind of… other things.

“It’s fine.”

“No, it’s not. Have a little more respect, Valkyrie. Especially for yourself. Tristan better rail her good,” Jace snapped back.

For once, I really didn’t have anything to say back to him. I was trying to keep my promise to Tristan that I wasn’t going to go off on her again, and here Jace was telling me the opposite. She had really struck a nerve with everyone. I swallowed thickly, unsure of how to deal with the situation as it was. From behind us, there was another loud slam! I jumped, turning to watch the doors to the dining room. I could hear Tristan’s voice, but only his voice, no words.

I wasn’t sure how long we stood out there, but it was for quite a while. When the doors opened, Ahmeil strode out with her usual stony features, her cold gray eye landing on me for a mere moment before she brushed past all of us in the hall. I watched her go, a little ticked off that she didn’t express anything else other than that stuck up look she always had plastered on her face. A tug on my arm grabbed my attention and I turned to see Jace as the one who was doing it.

He motioned for the dining room, “Come on, let’s see what Tristan said.”

“If he’ll say at all,” Zak commented softly only for the two of us to hear him.

We entered the room to see Tristan with his elbows up on the table, hands clasped together and his head bowed against his hands. I felt a pang of guilt and anger rush through me. I wasn’t sure why I was feeling guilty, but I was. Maybe it was because Ahmeil had chosen me as the target? No, that wasn’t it. Then it hit me. I had originally suggested that I go out and serve as the distraction to draw out Alik. Ahmeil had latched onto that. Once I figured out my guilt, I felt even worse.

“So?” Jace asked as he sat down next to Tristan, leaning on the table too.

I kept my place, standing near the chair that I had occupied a little while ago. Zak leaned against the wall, arms crossed on Tristan’s other side. There was silence for quite a while before Tristan answered Jace’s question. I felt a lump fill my throat, my stomach dragging up to try to clog it.

“Valkyrie,” he said softly, his hands tightening together and shaking with the force he put on them, “You’ll draw out Alik for us. Ahmeil is going with you.”

“T-that b-… She’s… What?” I stuttered, unable to comprehend what had just happened. I stared at Tristan for a long while as he sat there, unable to look at me, “B-but you said… No.”

“I know what I said,” he countered, anger in his tone and I flinched. Tristan took a deep breath and looked up at me. His hazel eyes were full of turmoil. I couldn’t read him properly, hell… not like I could have ever read him before, “She won’t back down. She’s not giving any ground on this, I don’t know why. It’s so irritating.”

“But… You trust her right? Then it should be all right.”

“That’s not the point,” he muttered and looked away over to the left, right past Jace’s shoulder.

“What about what she said about him?” Jace asked, his eyes narrowing.

“She won’t say it again, or anything like it, but she didn’t apologize for it either.”

“We should be careful,” Zak said softly.

Tristan froze, “What do you mean?”

Zak frowned a bit, “I’m not saying that I don’t trust her, but she’s forcing your hand and putting Valkyrie in a very dangerous spot. All I’m saying is, we should be careful.”

“She’s just testing me,” I responded, straightening my posture and crossing my arms, “Fine. I’ll take that challenge and I’ll kick her ass at it too.”

***

Back in my room, I had felt a little off. After the discussion on when and how we were going to draw out Alik, everyone had been dismissed. Tristan looked like a wreck and I really wanted to do something about it. However, no matter what I tried to think of, I just couldn’t come up with anything special enough to help make him feel better. I frowned as I threw water on my face from the sink.

“She’s such a bitch… Pushing Tristan like that,” I muttered to myself and I rubbed at my face.

The cold water felt good across my skin, waking me up slightly even though it was getting pretty late into the night. I replayed the conversation in my head as I reached down for more of the water and threw it up into my hair too. Though Tristan had been very upset about it, we planned anyway. Heeding Zak’s words of warning to be careful, Tristan was going to send not only Zak, Jace and himself, but another group of men as well to trail behind Ahmeil and I.

I was to go first into the city, wander around a bit and catch Alik’s attention. I already knew how I was going to go about that in the first place. Ahmeil would follow after me, keeping her distance so as not to tip Alik off. Once he came running –which I figured he would seeing as he was obsessed with me, sick bastard- then the group would jump in once I got him engaged in a fight. As much as I wanted to obliterate him, I was ordered not to, only so that Tristan could get some information from him. Not that I cared all that much about information, but I didn’t fight with Tristan on that.

As I splashed another wash of water across my face and ran my fingers through my damp hair, I opened my eyes to look down into the clear water. I was feeling really odd still, a bit of a headache, sort of weak and sick-ish. My stomach didn’t feel right in the least and I felt as if I just didn’t have any energy. Just tired.

As I reached for more water, the clear liquid suddenly turned red. I paused, my hands still dipped in the water. The thick red drop swirled outward, right over where my hands were and tinged the clear water a light orange color. A few seconds later and another drop of red plopped into the water, adding more color. I took a shaking breath and looked up into the mirror.

My nose was bleeding.

I never got nose bleeds. Never. What the hell was this!? I freaked out a little as I pulled my hands from the water and tilted my head back. Pinching my nose, I could feel the warmth build up at the back of my nose and throat and I winced at the metallic taste. I pulled my head back to face the water and let go of my nose as it was starting to hurt. My heart skipped as a spew of blood flooded the water. I gave a short coughing choke of horror and reached for a hand towel. Pressing it up against my nose, I held it there as I tried to figure out what to do and how to deal with it.

Each breath was growing faster as I stood there, terrifying myself with my thoughts. Finally, my head got light and I couldn’t stay on my feet anymore. With a groan, I dropped down onto my knees, one hand holding onto the sink for dear life. My breathing slowed and I watched the floor in a daze.

Shit… This is just great. Tomorrow we’re going out to get Alik. How the hell am I supposed to do that if I’m dumping buckets of blood from my nose? What the hell is going on?

I coughed, and dry heaved right after, wincing at my body’s attempt to throw up and failing miserably. A series of coughs came next and I finally settled. Taking deep breathes; I tiredly pulled the cloth from my face and looked at it. It was soaked in blood, a good section of it completely stained red. I grimaced, feeling the toll of such a blood loss. Forcing myself to wait a little longer, I gingerly touched my nose with one hand, wiping away the remaining blood that was there.

“Stopped?” I wondered aloud and after a few more minutes of checking, I was satisfied that it had stopped.

Rolling my eyes, I threw the bloodied cloth into the trash and stood up slowly. Turning to the mirror, I gazed at my reflection. Little bits of blood smeared my face, over the top of my upper lip and nose. I was afraid to touch my nose to much so I left it alone. I would shower in the morning anyway. My pale blue and green eyes were unsteady though, showing my fear and uncertainty right back at me. Narrowing my gaze, I turned away from the mirror.

“Stupid. Got all worked up and had a fucking nose bleed,” I chided myself and went to bed. It was nothing to stress over, nothing to worry about. People got nose bleeds all the time… Right?

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