warning: this is the most awkward thing you will ever read. (since when is keefe not awkward?!!)
"Hey, what did happen the last time you and Fitz tried to kiss?" Keefe teased, smirking mischievously as he heard Sophie's groan. "Aw, come on, Foster. Don't droop your hair over that adorable face of yours and tell me." "Who are you, and what've you done with Keefe Sencen?" She grinned and tilted her head to the side, noticing his visible confusion. "Who's the Empath here?"
"Yeah, but emotions don't tell me everything," he pressed. "Plus, the world's been way too normal these past few days. I like a little weird, you know?"
Uh, more like a lot, she wanted to say as Keefe suddenly pivoted to the side, making her realize that she'd been holding his hand all along. Without his grasp, she suddenly swerved sideways and clumsily face-planted onto the ground.
It wouldn't have been as painful if it weren't so ironic. That was what it'd been with Fitz — he'd relied on her for support and whenever she'd let go, he had sunken into a deeper level of guilt each time.
But he still wanted her back — and she never wanted to repeat that mistake again.
It reminded her of a strategy her mom had taught her back when she was living in the Forbidden Cities. She had told her if she wanted to release someone from her life and accepted that they weren't destined to be, all she had to do was put her hand over her heart, say the person's name, and imagine them flying away.
To someplace better.
But that wasn't something she could do with Fitz. Regardless whether she liked it or not, she had to continue working with him in order to save the Elvin world. If only she could say the same for Keefe... besides, she didn't have much experience with letting her friends go. She didn't have many to start with, and it was something she was surprised with every day.
"Foster?" Keefe's voice held a tone of genuineness and concern, enough to snap her back into reality. "Here."
She reached for his hand and realized how warm it was — a little like mallowmelt, which always had a delicious and sweet edge she'd never be able to forget. She didn't think about pulling herself up, just being with him.
It was a fixed point of steady that was rough at times, but something she could always rely on.
She reluctantly let go of his hold and brushed the dirt off her sweaty palms. "You really want to hear?"
Keefe's voice reminded her of a thoughtful silence. "Duh!"
"It was like this."
Before she knew what she was doing, she was glued to Keefe's murky, sealike eyes that now had something new to it, something more... delicate. She held her gaze as his eyebrows lifted in a calm grin, feeling like she'd ate too much candy as she leaned in, her breath syncing with Keefe's...
Sophie squeezed her eyes shut and braced for impact, pressing her hands against her ears. Tears streamed down her cheeks and she was vaguely aware of someone gently dabbing them away and stroking her hair, wishing the lecture would come already.
But she didn't dare open her eyes, and she doubted she could even if she tried. Her eyelashes felt glued together, and she had a feeling it would take more tugging then she'd ever done to rip their bond apart. Then... she blinked and light was beaming in her face.
Her sight had resumed, and everything was back to normal. Or the closest to normal it could get after you tried kissing your best friend.
Was Keefe her best friend?
It wasn't like she'd made it official or anything, but... still. Dex was her best friend, and she and Keefe had somehow gotten farther and deeper with their friendship than she ever had with Dex. Guilt stormed in her stomach as she wondered how Keefe was processing this — assuming he was reading her emotions, of course.
Lord Cassius raised an eyebrow — a habit of Keefe's, she recognized — and said in a cool tone, "Hello, Miss Foster," as he headed up the steps to his beach house.
"That's it?" She hadn't meant to say those words — and she immediately wished she could take them back. Turning as far away from Keefe as possible to avoid whatever adverse reaction he was going to have meant locking her worried, dreadful eyes with Lord Cassius's increasing glare.
Lord Cassius sighed. "I suppose we could make this easier for the both of us."
She could hear Keefe shuffling his feet in a What-the-heck-do-you-mean way as she resisted the urge to turn around. "What do you mean?"
This time, she spun her head around and exchanged a knowing glance with Keefe, only to realize that he was dumbfounded too. So which one of us said it?
"For the both of us," Keefe pointed out. "I think there's three."
An uncomfortable silence hung as long as his trademark smirk as, finally, Lord Cassius waved his arm in a summon and shouted, "I'm done with this! Get out of here."
Sophie instinctively reached for her sparkly teal pouch — a final gift from Fitz she'd received in her locker at Foxfire — and was just about to lunge for her home crystal when Cassius held up a hand.
"Not you, Sophie."
A vain smile tugged at his lips that seemed to be nothing short of cruel. "My son."
"Get out!" Lord Cassius commanded as Keefe stayed as still as a statue. He held his glower and refused to drop his father's gaze, even as he began to approach him.
Exchanging a quick glance at Sophie, he held on tight to her elbow while saying through gritted teeth, "Only if you promise me you won't do anything to hurt her."
"I wouldn't dream of it in a million years, Keefe. I would never resort to violence."
"That's not the same as 'no.'"
Lord Cassius attempted a lame eye roll that made Sophie almost want to laugh — then regretted it a moment later when his ice eyes met hers in a staring version of a headlock. Keefe immediately nudged her back gently while holding his glare on his father, forcing him to return the look. "If Sophie gets so much as a tear when I check up on her later, I will make Ro give you her poison ball and you will be forced to swallow it."
For a moment, Lord Cassius looked like he was going to crack up — before it registered her that Keefe had said "later."
Way to go about putting off the inevitable.
"She can reach out to you telepathically if, at any point during our conversation, she feels as if her privacy is being invaded," Cassius said simply, winking. "I'm sure she has her own ways of punishing me before you resort to such, ah, unnecessary force."
Keefe still looked hesitant as he pulled out his Pathfinder and mouthed to Sophie, Be careful. Before her chance was taking away, she stepped forward with the same amount of reluctance and wrapped her arms around him, feeling a burst of warmth like the elvin world's warmest volcano — did they even have volcanoes?
"Please be careful," they both said in unison as Keefe added, "Don't be afraid to find new ways to beat the snot out of my dad, Foster. I believe in you."
hi!! i'm sorry that it was a little bit confusing to read, but at this part lord cassius was planning on ignoring the two and just letting them be when sophie goes "that's it?" and it makes him realize that he doesn't want his son's relationship to end up like his and lady gisela's, and keefe's response is supposed to show his confusion. then, one of them says "what do you mean" and they're not sure which of them said it, and the "for the both of us" part is supposed to foreshadow that lord cassius was going to have a talking-to with sophie. i hope this cleared up any confusion you had, and tysm!! <3
Lord Cassius motioned Sophie forward with a swaggering bow, which she suddenly didn't find funny at all. "Was my son giving you a hard time?"
Sophie reeled backward and nearly fell over again. "I— why don't you—"
"Ask him?" He shook his head. "My son has learned to rely on the friends he trusts most. Something I taught him, mind you," he added icily.
"I take it as that wasn't part of your original training program? For him?"
Lord Cassius shook his head sadly again. "Some secrets will always have to be kept, Miss Foster. Why do you think Gisela didn't involve me with her plans about Keefe's legacy?" He dragged the word out so much Sophie found it hard to believe.
"What do you think it is?" She dared to ask.
Cassius exchanged a grim, defeated look with her, strangely reminding her of Alvar. "My son has a lot of potential for good. That's what I see in him — but his mother's idea of good is evil, Sophie. Everything I had in plan for him was to make sure he was on the right side of the divide when our world finally falls."
She didn't want to admit that he sounded right, but he could probably deduct it himself. "Was Lady Gisela good to you— "
"She does not deserve that title!" Lord Cassius snapped, scowling. "I could sense much potential in her, if that's what you wondered. But I didn't care to think about what she would do with it — and what that potential was for!"
There was something deeper in the words and she felt herself sink in, knowing that she had to go even further to finally fall through. "She said she chose you from her match lists because you were an Empath and she needed your help. Why didn't you refuse?"
"That is neither here nor anywhere else," His voice echoed Alden's — telling her that she was close to the truth.
She blinked and tried a different strategy. "You wouldn't have chosen her if you weren't desperate. You pushed yourself too hard at school — too hard for anyone but your Mentors to pay attention to you. Why? You could've been happier if you chose a different route. You would've still been in the same place. You could've had a happy family!"
She tried to make herself sound weak and desperate herself, clinging onto whatever she had left. But her words held an element of truth, as if daring Lord Cassius to counter her or give in — and she waited.
Until Lord Cassius had a tear streaking down his face and whispered, "Keefe wouldn't be here otherwise. And he would've never been your match."
Evil, evil, evil, and Keefe was the result of two evils — Good.
There was a moment of awkward silence between them before Lord Cassius sighed and wiped a trickle of sweat off his face, another good indicator that he had more secrets to hide. "Please come inside, Miss Foster. We have much to discuss — not concerning my love life," he said with a hint of pride, stepping aside to let Sophie enter.
The usual swagger and edge of coolness had returned to his stride, as well as the slightest drop of bitterness and frustration. She found herself amazed with how a person could feel that much at once without needing to concentrate on one emotion, but maybe it was different for Empaths. Shuddering at the thought of who she'd be if she was an Empath, she pretended to channel her thoughts to Lord Cassius's with the repeated phrase You're not real.
If everyone else found every part of her unusual, it was definitely another reason for Lord Cassius to focus on her emotions — especially when her thoughts were somewhere else. She found herself clearing her throat as she took a cautious step into the watery domain as if it were a movie scene.
"You have no reason to worry," Keefe's father smirked reassuringly. "My home is not rigged with booby traps that will temporarily immobilize you and land you in Elwin's Healing Center — that is, if you trigger them."
Just to be extra annoying, he added a subtle wink at the end.
"I'm guessing that's Ro's handiwork," she said shakily, not knowing what to feel.
"Actually, no. It was Keefe's — and I figured because it had the scent of gulon farts from an earlier dare his bodyguard gave him. Keefe and his games."
"What is it with Keefe and the gulons?" Was she really desperate enough for details of what happened in the Great Gulon Incident to ask Lord Cassius, who Keefe wouldn't give a single bit of information to?
Somehow she couldn't bring herself to notice the jewels and the mother-of-pearl walls — they only brought out the darkness of Keefe's traumatic childhood.
Which they apparently didn't deserve, in such a world of lies.
The Black Swan.
And now and always, Keefe's parents.
She looked up at Lord Cassius expectantly, and he gawked back before nodding hesitantly. "I know what you need."
Every word she ever knew vanished from her mind. Bile rose up in her throat and she felt a sickly, syrup-like concoction being brewed up in her throat as she spat the words out — she knew they weren't true, but they would lead her to the truth —"You loved Lady Gisela."
And the word "shock" brought on new meaning to her as his face flushed with shame and he whispered, "Yes."
LOL with great power comes great potential to abuse power and fear of losing your powere and when fanfic authors are in a duel with fanfic authors it will never end well
THIS WILL BE MY OFFICIAL UPDATE LOG FROM NOW ON.
(edited update since this thread is kind of getting big): i fixed the spacing for the previous entree + other things as well, ill be doing another chapter as soon as i finish this chapter of legacy :D (and yes i know it'll end on a cliffhanger)
i wrote it on a google doc but is currently unable to access it due to me being on a restricted school internet service, i'll try to post it as soon as possible! sorry for how short these have been, i'm going to do a super edited version of it later and post it all on one message
AlexJeanEastend wrote: I think you just have to refresh before you click reply. BUT COPY YOUR MESSAGE FIRST or it’ll disappear forever
i copied the contents but whenever i try to send the message (i copy it and then press "reply") the page just refreshes and its not there. do you have any suggestions/has this happened to you before? thank u for your help!
"WHAT?" A surge of dread and anger bounced around her imaginary force field until everything inside was breached by Lord Cassius's fixated glare.
But she stood her ground as her mind flashed to the word, Why?
Would Keefe's father really prefer to be married to one of his matches over being single?
The brilliance of his mind would've compensated for more than enough, certainly more than two individuals. Would it have boosted his status in the nobility, perhaps, assuring the public that he was loveable?
But Councillors weren't allowed to have kids or families — did he not have enough confidence in himself to join their ranks?
Sophie suddenly felt sick. The point of the matchmaking system was to ensure "Progress, Prosperity, Permanence, and Proliferation," as her adoptive father, Grady, had told her. But there was nothing about "real" or "true," as if it should've been obvious from the beginning.
Which, okay, it was. The moment she'd stepped into the hub, she'd known that this was serious business — not to forget that the Matchmakers had trained for this job for centuries. Maybe they never assumed this would be taken for granted or misused in the way Lady Gisela wanted Cassius. This kind of defiance was flushed out by the Council and the Matchmakers themselves, with every step of theirs in sync.
And round and round her thoughts went, until...
Maybe he was desperate, a tingly voice buzzed excitedly in her head. He was desperate for love and Gisela was his only chance.
They both saw potential in each other, enough potential to be on each others' matchmaking lists.
"But potential isn't something it always lives up to, is it?" His indifferent tone of voice tugged her out of her reasoning, like he knew something she didn't — like he'd been reading her emotions.
If there were rules for Telepaths not to invade one's privacy, why not Empaths?
"It's also neither good or bad," she pointed out, suddenly feeling very irritated, "and wouldn't it be better to never know how much of it you have? That way you're not constantly thinking about it?"
Lord Cassius shook his head darkly. "There's a point potential reaches so that, when you cross that line, it's impossible not to notice. That's changed, of course, with people flaunting their talents and trying to show that their potential exceeds what is within their capability. But, yes, very few of us know our true potential, and the person who knows it best — aside from a Descryer, of course— is..."
"Ourselves," she finished, almost smiling.
There was something she was in control of, after all.
"I assume that's why me and Gisela were Counterparts," Lord Cassius dramatically heaved a sigh when Sophie tugged out an eyelash in confusion, "it's when two people are ranked similarly or, in our case, the same on each other's lists. Gisela was my number thirty-nine on my first list, and I was her thirty-"
"Ninth," Sophie interrupted, earning an eyebrow raise in question. "But that still doesn't answer my question. Why did you love her?"
She cringed at the word, not knowing if they deserved "love."
"She chose me," Cassius said simply, "it would've been foolish to refuse. I was quite flustered, really," he added when he noticed her annoyance.
This must've been what it was like for Keefe as a child. He would be running up stairways, desperately seeking answers and some purpose or explanation for why he was doing what he was doing — and he got the simple way out.
"I trust that you'll keep all of this confidential, Miss Foster?" Lord Cassius asked icily, as if he was guessing what she was thinking, "This is only for you to get a better insight into my son's life. I—" The rest of his words were drowned out by her thoughts.
Did your parents push you as hard as you pushed Keefe? So hard you don't know how else to parent him?
Did you try anything Magnate Leto wanted you to do, aside from the Empathy lessons? Maybe Keefe doesn't want to get better at Empathy, no thanks to you.
Do you think I'd take him for granted like Lady Gisela did to you?
Why are you suddenly worried about this now? Couldn't you have talked with him earlier, or is love stupid now that yours was ruined?
What was the promise Keefe made Alden? Don't you admire him?
So many questions — and none of them would be answered.
Except this one.
"Is being a Counterpart... common?"
To her surprise — and his too — Lord Cassius nodded, then winced from the effort. "It's not as rare as you might think, but it only appears to be rare when at least one of the matches has an interest in the other. Being a Counter is much more common, as I assume is the case with Grady and Edaline?"
She thought it might be. "Grady was number three on Edaline's list and Edaline was number seven on Grady's. Wait, so if you're within four ranks of each other, you're a—"
"Counter," Lord Cassius smirked, "It's the closest you can get to a Counterpart without being one, and it stirs up a lot of talk and confusion, more than a typical match."
Her stomach suddenly felt like she'd swallowed a drop of limbium. This felt even more uncomfortable than the talk she and Grady had a few months ago about boys, probably because Lord Cassius was involved. Talk about an unexpected twist.
An idea formed and she collapsed backwards, groaning at the pain — not just of falling but of the thought, too.
"Everything we've discussed in here stays in here, Miss Foster. Do you agree?"
She shut out the rest of the outside world as she transmitted,
Do you think Lady Gisela mesmerized you?
And another thought came to mind...
Would she have the ability to rebel and be a part of the Black Swan if she'd been matched with Fitz or Keefe, knowing they'd have an entire life ahead of them?
They were just genetically compatible, like Lady Gisela and Lord Cassius. And yet...
thank you so much! <3 i noticed the dialogue didn't vary as much and i'm editing it right now
i'm just trying to post mini chapters and then when i'm finished make a super edited version of the story, not sure how long itll take but i hope its within a week LOL
4 pm ET, 2/5: starting another chapter! i can't really seem to get a regular posting schedule going but i mostly post in the afternoon or night, i like staying up late and working on my stories... and then not saving them...
"Do I have permission to enter your mind?" Earning a scowl from Lord Cassius, she refused to back down from the challenge as she clenched her jaw with determination and some part of her brain wondered, Why?
She needed to know the truth. For Keefe and, even though she hated to admit it, Lord Cassius. The Black Swan had made her in part to gain perspective, and it was a different type of skill than everything she'd learned — but just like her abilities, it could be enhanced.
Sophie was ready to retort as Lord Cassius's lips quirked up, and it was hard not to ignore the blink of surprise and astonishment and recognition mixed into a bland stew — even more surprisingly, after snorting and eyeing her for a few moments, he squeezed his eyes shut without arguing.
Even though the only obvious sign of defiance was the contempt in his raised eyebrows, Sophie knew he was up to something. Help and truth didn't come free, a valuable lesson she'd learned from Gisela and several You-Need-To-Be-More-Aware-of-Your-Constant-Lack-of-Security lectures from Sandor; really, they were both right.
But how could she demand for compensation from the people who'd created her and given her life? It was a sign of distrust and dishonesty, but she couldn't just...
"Will you promise me that everything you show me is the truth?" She winced from the sudden twitch Lord Cassius made, a good indicator that her tone was too sharp and she was lowering her chances of seeing what she actually wanted to see.
She could almost feel Lord Cassius's smirk as his expression blazed and he responded in a just as metallic tone, "Only if you agree to the conditions I made you earlier, Miss Foster — that any information we share here stays between us. Not even my son shall be included," he continued, throwing her a pointed look as Sophie opened her mouth ever so slightly to debate. "Being subtle has never been one of your many strengths, I'm afraid," he spoke slowly and in a superior tone, causing Sophie to grit her teeth.
She pressed the edge of her thumbs against Lord Cassius's temple as hard as she could and focused on his face, now blank and devoid of emotion — as if his expression had just been wiped
When Sophie entered his mind, she found it hard to not be impressed. Everything around her glowed a hot neon white and felt scorching to the touch; it felt like being held in a prison cell at the core of a flaring star, so full of light that shadows blinked in and out of sight like the wisps of a blaze that made her wonder if she was delusional. The endless room gave off an aura that screamed a piercing Save Yourself! as she scrambled to find a save haven where she could wait until it was over...
And found, at the center of the disclike room, a memory. She wanted to push past the walls so badly it hurt... but he would know. And all of his memories he was willing to share with her would be veiled.
She entered and immediately found no relief. A younger, wide-eyed Cassius stood in the center of a bedroom the size of hers at her human residence — there were no carved statues of him but rather bouncing orbs that appeared to be floating mid-air, drooping from and dancing free about the ceiling. Each one was a different hue from one angle and the same tint from another as the boy glanced at himself in a puddle of water he'd spilled...
He looked like a slightly older version of Keefe when she'd first met him but was wearing a blue half-cape — the color for a Level Two prodigy attending Foxfire. His somewhat sandy blonde hair swept and drooped over the right side of his face, embarassingly covering the top part of his shallow-pooled light blue eyes that made him seem studious while the rest of his complexion suggested that he was quite... fair. Friendly, even. Sophie managed to sneak another glance at his reflection before he turned away — the left side of his hair was slightly darker and carved the shape of his face perfectly with a few short strands left over, giving the appearance that they'd been cut off. They barely reached down to his shoulders when the sunlight shone through the window, making Lord Cassius shrink as if... as if he belonged in the nature.
But there was something eerie about his demeanor that foreshadowed what he would turn into, and another edge to his eyes that seemed almost sympathetic. Mysterious. Enigmatic.
And very purely Elvin.
"Cassius? Cassius!" A shout came from downstairs and echoed throughout the house. His bottom lip quivered as he smoothened out his cape, like he was trying to make himself seem presentable. He forced his grimace into a tight-lipped smile as he trudged down the steps — Sophie noticed that he was mostly used to looking down instead of paying attention to his surroundings.
It was only until he stepped off the stairway that he averted his glimpse to an elegant robed figure dressed in a bright green, and he looked mildly uncomfortable by the thought as he held on to the railing with a sweaty palm. "What is it, mom?"
"You haven't manifested," she said coolly, which seemed to aggrivate Cassius more than it dissappointed her as he rattled off a string of curses under his breath. "And all this time I thought we'd been training you to be something better."
He clenched his jaw and held his gaze firmly, looking like he would very much like to hurl the elvin equivalent of a tomahawk at his mother — Sophie shuddered at the thought of what could've happened if Sucker Punches existed back then.
Which brought up a very valid point... How old was Lord Cassius?
"I MANIFESTED!" He screamed angrily, somehow reminding her of Councillor Bronte throwing a tantrum. "LOOK AT THIS!"
He grabbed ahold of his mother's hand surprisingly swiftly and laced his fingers with hers, allowing his mother to stare intently into his eyes with a wicked look of exasperation and anticipation.
"You're dissappointed," he murmured to himself snarkily, as if this was news to him.
His mother heaved a loud sigh and pressed into Cassius's knuckles. "And you're still a dissappointment. All that work for nothing. I hope you'll stay out of your sister's way for long enough that she can complete the elite levels."
And there was a moment of admiration as he ripped the cape off his shoulders — and smiled smugly at his mother, standing staggeredly with a withering look of shock that made him seem like he could be Keefe's brother. Followed by an icy blue wall of flame descending on her that shoved her consciousness out of his mind.
tiny update: i have to split the next chapter into 4 chapters because each part is about, well, 3 pages on google docs- also, does anyone know if there's a word/character limit for posts? if u do, that would be greatly appreciated xD
She nearly knocked herself out with her effort of trying.
But with Lord Cassius...
Well, it was different.
He was thrashing and flailing his arms on a ground in a pretty horrible imitation of a gordogon - one of Lady Gisela's gordogons she'd genetically experimented with. Even though it triggered awful flashbacks — it was pretty hard not to laugh, which she tried to only allow herself to do for a few seconds, and then awkwardly offered Lord Cassius her hand. As if on cue, the kicking and screaming stopped as he pulled himself up, shooting a weird glance up at Sophie before dusting himself off, especially his hands.
He closed his eyes again, and Sophie mentally transmitted an Are you sure? plea before he groaned, definitely not in the mood to scowl and pointing to his head with his index finger, which Sophie assumed was giving her permission to read his thoughts.
Yes. The word sparked memories that flew by so quickly she was getting a migraine herself and then floated away, disappearing in the pools of his mind.
She couldn't help but notice that one of them was tinted — and she immediately dove for it and tackled it down, not wanting to let it escape as it took her to someplace so other she was beginning to sympathsize.
But his actions were still inexcusable.
Remeber, your mind has no limitations, unlike your physical self. One step closer to the truth.
Cassius felt invisible and almost as see-through as the glassy, cool, arboretum-shaped glass of Foxfire Academy as he trudged through the halls, shoulders slumping. It was a good reminder to him that while the other prodigies were studying in their respective sessions, he was alone. And feeling… new.
Because he needed to get back his Empathy session. It’d been a stupid mistake to leave his copy of An Elemental Guide to Interpreting Emotions in his locker, but the upside was that he’d get to taste the rich, creamy flavor of raspberry ripplefluffs trickling down his chin again provided he was willing to drool a lot when he licked the DNA strip that would give him access to his belongings... his mother didn’t know how to bake and passed it off with his father’s excuse that baking was a useless task no one should be burdened with. It obscured the life to success, and the apparent sweetness was all an illusion — temporary and stupid, but enough to take some people away from what could’ve been great lives.
What he could say with certainty was that Lady Destina was not happy when she found out one of her most dedicated students had time to meander through the flying hallways, which wasn’t part of his plan — he never intended for it to be.
I like quiet. Somewhat surprised at his own thoughts, he drew back and frowned.
A thought occurred to Sophie, who barely felt present anymore and would be happy to stay in the moment forever: what if she could read the minds of the people in his memories? But in order for that to work, someone else had to be present. And it wasn’t likely she’d be able to manage it anyway, especially since she’d need them to stay completely still and she’d probably be distracted by the moment.
As if on cue, a person appeared.
Lord Cassius — no, just Cassius now — was just as surprised as she was, jerking his arm back suddenly. The girl seemed to have appeared out of plain sight and was wearing dark clothing with a gray cape, but something was clearly out of seam with her. Her hair was messy and tangled, which his father certainly wouldn’t find acceptable on the grounds of Foxfire — and a weariness accompanied her demeanor, making her seem much older than she was. The way she took each step with uncertainty made it seem like she was blinking in and out of sight, but she was awfully young to manifest as a Vanisher, having just entered the manifestation window. Not even her sight was normal — it felt eerie and out of place, which somehow made her seem more relatable.
He recalled back to when he thought everyone was just like him at Foxfire, escaping a fate their parents had condemned them to… even though they made him and all the other children in the very building.
“Hello?” He’d never had to do this before. Never had to be courageous and brave like this. Not in this way.
The girl smiled, or moved her lips in a way that seemed like she was trying to smile. “You deny too much.”
“How would you know?” He wasn’t furious or aggravated — he was beyond it, having experienced this kind of confrontation far too many times. He would simply have to appear curious and knowing, pretend to accept the lesson, and walk away wondering.
Wondering is dangerous, Cassius, almost as dangerous as wandering down the wrong path. Would you prefer to believe in facts or continue to doubt?
She held her hand out in a way that seemed like her last stand, her final attempt at trying to reach for him and pull him towards her. Not that she needed to — the aura she gave off was like a magnet, making him feel spinny and woozy. “I can see it in you. Just like you can see an outcast in me,” she nodded to nothing in particular, maybe the colored glass.
“We have to know about the people around us, don't we?"
What do you mean? Instantly, he was outraged by his own question, a response to an answer that really was a question. He’d been observing for his entire life, because there was nothing else he could do but read and occasionally glance up, listening to every conversation happening in a ten-yard-radius as an outcast, occasionally with acquaintances. There really was no better word for it.
Her eyes flickered, like fire slowly creeping up on someone. On him. “We all have ruthlessness in us, Cassius. And you can help spark it. We can only go so long before unleashing it — why not make it sooner?”
“Why not make it later? Why not let it take its course?”
She threw her hands up in the air in a Let it go! motion, making the room erupt in a swirl of dancing lights that reminded him of the orbs in his bedroom. “You’d be surprised at what we’re capable of. We won’t learn a lesson that way — we can’t be too violent. That has as much effect on our world as no violence at all.”
Bile built up in his throat. Her voice felt as surreal as the glassy dunes of Foxfire, and he suddenly got the idea that maybe, just maybe, she wasn’t there at all.
“It’s all right to wonder, Cassius,” he hadn’t realized she’d taken her hand back until she reached to him again, shifting something in his mood and leaving her outstretched palm there. “We trust that you’ll understand someday.” Her tone was hushed, like it was being carried by a bird.
Then the sparkles vanished and she disappeared in a glimmer of blasting light, blinding him momentarily as he tried to hold on to the last memory he had of her — a girl waving her arms in a swift, sweeping motion that exerted everything behind her into a drowning wave that knocked him over his feet. The movement seemed as clear as the girl’s name itself, which suddenly popped into his head as if nothing else mattered: Glimmer.
It seemed so fitting and so wrong at the same time, and… why couldn’t he remember what she looked like?
When his head cleared of the fog, he sprinted down the way Glimmer had went — coincidentally the same way he had to go to reach his locker. Bolting down, he imagined his disappointment when he found that no one was there… and he was momentarily surprised when a wisp of a shadow that was surely part of his imagination flashed into sight again.
He wanted to reach out and grab it, but it’d be foolish of him to try. The only reasonable option was to give up and go on the same path he’d always been on.
The one that was right.
Clenching his jaw, he felt ridiculous at how he’d responded to the girl earlier. She didn’t deserve to be called a name — it was inexcusable, not by his Foxfire Mentors, not by his father, not by himself. But some part of him knew that it was…
All part of his imagination.
Inexcusable, because he’d been caught up in the moment and forgotten to check her emotions for a lie. Pulling out his Imparter, he whispered into the small speaker that seemed like part of some human gadget, “Show me Avery Sencen.”
He kept walking on the cool stones that would, one day, be an ember in the ashes until he reached his locker, strangely wanting changing his mind about giving up after he'd done it already.
A piece of parchment was waiting for him, waiting for him to make it come into fruition.
There will always be a winner.
He smiled almost terrifyingly, knowing that he was one step ahead. I am the winner, so long as I still want myself to be.
i'm really sorry i wasn't able to post on time, but thankfully i already have the next chapter done!! secret: it (kind of) involves alden and other canon characters ;)) also if any of you have good girl names that you think would be fitting for the next chapter/canon characters that aren't, say, super old, feel free to comment them below tyy <33
The words rang and echoed in his mind, even when he pleaded for them to stop. He could see it written on every piece of parchment, sprawled across every wall, imprinted into his skin using a quill as blood gushed across the floor…
And etched into memory, like it was intended to stay there forever.
The winner right now was the Council, and he couldn’t see that changing.
The girl reached down to touch his cheek and he winced, determined not to flinch. It would show that he was intimidated — she didn’t deserve his true emotions, not when he barely knew her. She turned gracefully and it was impossible to think that she could be ruthless… that she would be willing to kill.
Glimmer. He could see that everywhere now, like a constant reminder of how much his world sparkled — and how much of it was fake, because she would’ve shown him her face if she’d been real.
She’s not here. Not as long as you don’t want her to be. It’s just a memory...
“Cassius, are you alright?!” A terrified voice screamed as a blonde-haired figure reached for his shoulders and clung there for what must’ve seemed like ages while he squirmed awkwardly and tried to detach her fingers. When she refused to let go, he closed his eyes and, after a few seconds, suddenly jerked left in an attempt to put a halt to the public embarrassment — only to realize the girl had stepped gracefully to the right and, with a panicky yelp, stumbled over her and fell in a heap.
“You did not just see that,” he groaned, imagining what his father would’ve said about it if he’d been present in the moment. Probably something along the lines of “Now’s not the time to play hard to get in front of girls, Cassius!” with an amused smirk (on his expression) as he wondered whether her family was part of the nobility… and what special abilities she had.
Wincing from the sharp pain stinging in his knee that triggered a rush of adrenaline, he blinked to see five of his best friends hovering above him — Gabriel, Deneb, Timkin, Javery, and Noland — and tried to frown, scowl, and raise an eyebrow at the same time. The girl, whose eye color suddenly popped into his head — grey-blue with the slightest lens of white tracing the edges of her fair complexion — had stalked off without another word.
Timkin whistled and winked subtly, his eyes flashing. “Looks like someone’s into you. What’s her name again?”
He felt his traitorous lips tug into a smile that only came when he was trying to share his knowledge with others, afraid that his friends would mistake it for embarrassment and attraction. “Adaline.”
The others nudged each other with sheepish grins and broke rank immediately as Cassius exhaled with relief. He hadn’t realized that he’d been holding his breath; his reputation was a fragile thing. His friends exchanged glances as if to ask Who should tell him? before Noland stepped forward with a swaggering stride. It reminded him of how the Council debated telepathically when making decisions to appear as a united front.
“Isn’t it Adeline?” Noland’s teasing words stung in his cheeks, as if he’d been stung by a flareadon. He had a talent for observing the people around him and somehow was able to anticipate what their names would be — probably another complication of being an Empath.
This is why it’s better to show no emotion at all.
“Right. Adeline,” he looked around, desperately hoping for a change of subject before realizing he was still on the ground. “Help me up?” He gestured to the boy closest to him, Gabriel, who was terrifyingly good-looking and one of his only friends his father approved of — naturally, he wasn’t as close to the friends Avery was accepting of compared to the slightly kinder and more real ones, like Noland and Deneb.
Briel smirked with some degree of menace as he pulled him up and slapped him on the shoulder harder than he would’ve liked, something he interpreted as overly friendly. He was very aware of the tint in his cheeks, a flushed pink the same color as a love elixir.
And they clearly weren’t going to drop the topic. After he dusted his hands off and swept his shimmering emerald cape behind him, carefully tugging at the loose strands of hair hanging over his face (hoping to flatten them) that made girls like Adeline drool and swoon—
His first thought was Again? as the dread building up in his stomach seemed to erupt at once, making him feel nauseous and dizzy at the same time.
When you let your emotions control you, you leave yourself vulnerable.
His knees buckled. Tears stung. His own emotions seemed to be the result of everyone else around him… but how could that be?
Then relief seemed to drown him as he realized it was Lily, who stood her ground like a troll in battle… but a sweet, caring, risky troll who waited for his eyes to meet hers. Everything about her radiated breezy, springlike feels as his stomach flipped while she tossed her wavy, floral-like red hair behind her right shoulder that seemed to have leaves and tree twigs weaved in. In one swift, sweeping motion, she brushed off a few hanging eyelashes and mouthed, Are you coming over here? Because I’ll leave if you aren’t.
Adventurous, determined, bold Lily. He really hated that he could tell what she was saying fromtwenty feet away but was vaguely aware of himself stepping forward slowly, walking, jogging now, breaking into a run while waving over his left shoulder with his right hand as he struggled to catch his balance. He halted to a stop in front of her and looked at her expectantly while she twirled a strand of hair and threw her head back, laughing. “That was embarrassing.”
Pretty much sums it up,” he mumbled, and the amusement in his tone snapped Sophie awake.
And she felt like she’d been dunked with a bucket of ice over her head.
Because she’d felt what Lord Cassius was going through.
Felt every emotion.
As if she was him… somehow.
That’s not possible.
But anything was in her mind.
It had no limitations, unlike her physical self.
If she concentrated on a memory hard enough like she just did…
She could be as much a lie detector as an Empath.
But she wasn’t going to let the red-haired girl slip that easily. It would take an incredible amount of strength to gain that concentration again, but it felt as easy as transmitting when she shoved her mental consciousness back into his headspace — but something had shifted somehow, and it triggered a headache for a few seconds before her mind cooled down again and she realized almost no time had passed since she’d zoned out.
And as soon as her vision cleared…
The fiery figure had turned at an angle that barely captured the prestige of the eagle crest, topped with a gemstone nose — but this one was topaz instead of ruby. The Ruewen family pin.
Lily’s gaze averted to the book Cassius was holding in his hand — The Elemental Guide to Conjuring and Translocation — and frowned. “Since when did you manifest as a Conjurer?”
“It’s important to realize the entwining relationships between special abilities,” he responded instinctively and defensively, casting a dark shadow above their heads. “If you realize the similarities and differences… well, one is definitely easier to find than another… euh… uh, it gives you more insight into our world, you know?”
“As much as our elvin history class?” She asked innocently, but her suddenly changed tone revealed the underlying challenge.
Surprised at the confidence and flare in her voice, he decided to step up his game. “As much. Maybe more,” his volume lowering as quickly as his nerve so his sentence ended no louder than a mutter under his breath, “Lily, I know you…”
"Don’t like it?” She said, as quickly as it took for her to snap her fingers and cross her arms. “I don’t understand, Cassy. Sometimes I even wonder why you’re friends with me at all.”
“What I don’t understand is Why?”
He hated not knowing the answer. Everything had an answer, and the questions that didn’t weren’t worth his time. Didn’t belong in this world.
“You can have a little fun and still be on the same path you’re on now. Maybe get on a better one. Be a normal teenager, make friends. Real friends. Get crushes on girls, fight for what you love, and show them that you can step out of your own shadow. Just because our lifespans are unlimited doesn’t mean you get the same opportunities you do now! Things change as you change. So if you really want to spend all your time studying for things you don’t even know will come—”
This was the one time he wished he’d zone out during school. He huffed, resisting the urge to roll his eyes — a gesture his father certainly wouldn’t approve his son of doing and had never, ever dared to attempt it, not once.
Being real is a mistake.
“Just because they’re better than you doesn’t-”
And he realized his mistake.
He’d said it, right in front of her.
How he really felt.
She looked both flustered and angry as she snapped her fingers, bringing down a wave of brown textbooks that slammed down on the table a second after they appeared, requiring no control from her at all. But he felt normal, as if nothing had shifted between them — as if this had gone as expected.
Shaking her head, her eyes were clouded with something that he couldn’t recognize but knew somehow. “I guess this is the end of it, huh?”
He didn’t want to give her the satisfaction of a response, not when she’d brought this upon herself. She wasn’t obligated to be his friend in any way.
And her father wouldn’t have approved of her. Conjuring was a lowly talent that was as close as someone with a special ability could get to being Talentless.
Doesn’t that make her more special? All her efforts to reach out to you…
Because she thought he needed pity.
And he’d had enough of that, being looked down at home.
He wanted to be distracted, and he let his glimpse waver to a quiet boy with teal eyes somewhere in the crowd, not really knowing who he was or whether he was eavesdropping. Suddenly feeling a twinge of regret for not getting to know him better, he turned sideways so he wasn’t facing his ex-best-friend — but not really being able to avoid her, either.
She stood up as swiftly as she’d ever done, but this time slamming a door in his face instead of opening a path — a path that only the two of them knew, a path where they could be happy over secrets.
And swallowed, while tugging at her sleeves.
And he was still mirroring her, still depending on her friendship, watching as she tried to shake her head and nod at the same time.
“You had so much promise, Cassius.”
I still do.
“So much potential.”
Saying it will make it come true.
“But not enough to be happy.”
His face was aghast.
He’d used his real voice in public.
The one he was never supposed to reveal.
Not even to his family.
She smiled apologetically as the sun beamed on her face and left Cassius in the shadow, wondering why he’d been there in the first place.
She still had the sun on her face as she stepped away. Step by step by step.
And he gritted his teeth, using his hair as a floss.
His name was going to be on the cover of one of those books someday — but with a different last name. Enough for his father to be happy, and enough for himself to be happy, too.
An older Cassius stood in the Sencen’s living room, looking grave and defeated… especially his eyes. They seemed to be darker and go deeper somehow, like tears had gathered together and formed pools that were empty after they’d been spilled.
If Cassius had limits, like never resorting to violence and physical harm… she needed to know what hers were. So did all her friends and everyone in the Black Swan.
And she would make sure of it.
Somehow this version of Lord Cassius seemed more adventurous, like he belonged in a human movie instead of the Elvin world. His legs were spread apart in a way that seemed like a battle stance — his hands looked like they were holding onto something invisible, almost like he had a tight grip on a Hunger Games style sword and was ready to charge into battle. He wasn’t going to sit idly by all this.
But he would never have the guts to join a rebellion, which was what separated him from Keefe. His hair was longer and droopier, like every part of Keefe stretched to look bigger and more fitting for his age — more like his brother instead of his dad, which made sense since, well, she was in a memory. One slight twitch of his eyebrows made his bottom eyelid swell with something that seemed like guilt and hesitation, like emotions were being thrown at him and bouncing off at the same time.
He could deflect so many things from him, but not the faults of his own wife. Sophie allowed a tiny drop of sympathy trickle in from a stream for Lord Cassius, then unleashed the rest of it for Keefe. She knew genes didn’t make everything… but the matchmaking system went against that. It was what made most of them in the first place.
Making her even more rare, stand out even more. In this way, she began to understand why people had reacted the way they had when they first heard of or saw her — they simply didn’t know how to react the right way, if there was even a right way anymore. If another result of a genetic experiment stepped foot in the Elvin world, she’d probably lose it as well.
As for the others… It helped them blend in. She wasn’t sure quite how she would manage staring into Fitz’s teal eyes again and seeing what kind of scars she’d caused on him. Being with Fitz made him realize how she’d always wanted to never have a choice in anything and to have a choice in everything she could at the same time.
When there’d always been a balance of both. She didn’t want to choose between the triangle that’d always been a square, and one of her options had already been removed. How much time would pass before another one would be gone, too?
“Conjurers,” Avery Sencen scowled, frowned, and threw his hands up into the air at the same time — followed by muttering something under his breath that made Cassius draw back with a surprised smirk on his face. “Looks like they’re good at something, huh?”
Cassius’s dad’s expression was reproach mixed with disbelief, like he couldn’t believe what his son had done — or maybe that Conjurers were good at something aside from cueing the appearance of random objects. Sophie instantly felt a pang of guilt hit her stomach, because what? She would never think of such a response!
"The girl. What’s her name?”
Cassius stepped forward now, placing a steady foot below an invisible weapon. “What?”
Why was he asking for his… agh, he hated that word. Never heard his father refer to his wife that way — no, that wasn’t the right way to refer to his mother. She was his mother.
"She’s named after a flower.”
It was the perfect response — enough to trick his dad into thinking that his son thought of the girl as a freaky person named after a flower, clearly inferior to an elf — while knowing that Lily was named after something beautiful. Something the elves valued.
Flowers harnessed light. They were alive — how he always felt when he was around her, despite all their arguments and tormenting.
Avery shook his head, not falling for the act. “She’s taking you away from your studies. I guess it doesn’t matter when you’re in the middle of your teenage angst, not thankful to your father for introducing you to success you can find from reading—”
"I like studying! It doesn’t make any difference that you forced me—” He’d made another mistake, blurting whatever he wanted to say without a filter. It was a weakness, not just because his father thought so.
And using his real voice, but what did that matter anymore? He’d been using it at school for the past two years and his father hadn’t known.
An exciting feeling suddenly bubbled up in his stomach. He had kept a secret from his father! He never thought he would be able to—
Avery smiled at his son, the way he’d done through girls, school, and home. It was so startling, like the reveal of his voice or being granted permission to leave the house, that he fell back with clumsiness and bent his arm at a weird angle. A strange thought appeared in his mind: I wonder if he ever did this to my mother.
There was something that was missing, though: in his father’s smile, in his own thoughts, in everything he’d ever known, that had changed with that one look. That one emotion, so powerful and hidden under so many layers of him.
Gently patting his son’s shoulder and swatting away an invisible shield that had wrapped around him, he squeezed his fingers awkwardly and somewhat kindly. “Would you have liked it if I hadn’t forced you into doing it in the first place?”
I… I don’t know. But I swear, I do! I know myself well enough, just give me a few moments… If you know me, you shouldn’t take my hesitation as doubt.
“Ahhhhhh.” The exasperated sigh told his father everything he needed to know, but he somehow didn’t press on and instead addressed the more important matter, “I wasn’t forcing—”
“Of course you were! You never bothered to check up on me. The only time I’ve seen you care is when you send my daily assignments to me every morning! And you’d check them and when I didn’t finish…”
“That’s because I cared about your future, Cassius. I still care. You’d rather have a harder childhood now and success when you grow up than the opposite, I assume?”
The slightest hesitation would give him away. He’d already done that by thinking a second earlier, so Cassius decided to give his father the satisfaction by glancing down at the invisible sword piercing through his blazing red-and-orange striped shoes coated with a layer of yellow, an indicator to his father of his level at Foxfire. “N-Yes.”
“And then you completely—”
“I’M DONE!” He felt his head literally explode and clear for a fraction of a second before a headache came over him. He spun to face away from his father as he imagined light passing through him, threatening to break him apart with the tiny bit of darkness they possessed as he floated somewhere far, far away…
...And came back to the Statue Room of Underdunes with a hard slap.
Avery’s eyes flashed sympathy, pity, knowledge, but were as hard as steel and as sharp as the blade threatening to cut into his skin. “We never love for ourselves, Cassius. The matches on our matchmaking lists? They don’t guarantee eternal happiness. Faith. Devotion. Nowhere close,” he shook his head, glancing up at his son, “We try to focus on too many things with the matchmaking system. Why do you think bad matches exist? Why does each Pathfinder have so many facets, but each light leaping crystal only lead to one place?"
"I suppose this is when being Talentless would come in handy. When we give up everything for love... we are foolhardy. We can't see into the future. Our sight is clouded by something that should exist but not be as important. This is why the matchmaking system is perfect for us."
He blinked, completely unshaken. "So... we'll always wonder who the best person for us is?"
"No. So we know there's someone better out there — and we'll never be able to find them. Or, if you prefer to see it your way," he chuckled, amused, "You'll always have to wonder about who the person is. The thought will never leave you. And since you're wholeheartedly a victim of love, your love will be lessened to the point where it is equal to that of the person you might choose on your matchmaking list."
"We won't be distracted. Our reputations will be raised. We can have a perfect balance. We'll learn to love equally. There would be no more rebellion — all because we don't have the best match."
"Love is the thing behind all this? Seriously?" His father's eyes widened before they narrowed. "You could do a lot better than someone like Mella, you know."
He hadn't even known what his mother's name was before then.
"Now that we've gotten that out of the way," Lord Avery sighed and hooked his wrist through his son's elbow, "Let's get you properly matched!"
Chicken tornado wrote: Wow. That was rly intense. I like it!
thank u sm <33 i was actually planning on including the actual matchmaking process, but it got a little bit too long and i couldn't cut anything else, so the next part has the actual matchmaking part of it involved (adeline makes a reappearance hehehhehehe) and... something else wink wonk
The giddiness seemed to curl Cassius's lips into a tiny look of pure bliss and indignifance, both emotions fighting each other to see which would win as the serenity of Atlantis seemed to reflect his mood if his feelings had been combined. Being in the underwater city had an edge of uncertainty that he tried to hold on to — what if the force field was breached? What if it was flooded? What if a secret hideout was built beneath the very ground?
The unspoken, unsung words by the rebels seemed to hang in the air everywhere as he carefully observed each elf passing by. Knowing that each of them could be it sent chills down his spine as his father patted him on the back, occasionally smiling proudly down at him and saying "That's my boy!" while squeezing his shoulder, first the right, then the left.
Because of course his father wouldn't know that a group of rebels had contacted him last year in the very hallways of Foxfire. He took his son's nervousness as normal because he wouldn't know him well enough to tell his emotions apart; secondly, he wasn't an Empath; also, it was probably normal to be anxious for the match, which meant that his dad had felt the same way several hundred years ago — which was the most unexplainable part of their entire walk, because his father had always trained him to not show any of his emotions.
He suddenly felt guilty about not knowing any of his grandparents and other relatives that his parents had certainly forgotten to mention. Somehow their disapproval of the subject only seemed to motivate him more to find them — it made him more keen and motivated to go to school every day, even, to know that every prodigy had the possibility of being his distant relative. That he might make new friends.
Glimmer. What color was her hair? What color were her eyes? What did her face look like? Was her name real... or had it all been part of his imagination? Somehow he refused to believe that her name just appeared in his mind magically, or the whole memory had been placed there without him actually being present. He remembered how he'd felt during their first and only encounter, and the emotions were so sharp and so real that they were different from anything he'd ever experienced.
And they clearly meant for him to remember if they planted her name in his mind and rooted it so deep, he wasn't sure if he was ever going to forget. The subject made him feel deprived, nauseous, and dejected all at the same time — but also brave and determined and special. None of his classmates had gotten such an offer before.
But why would they approach him? He was a Level Four at Foxfire, the only noble school in the Elvin world. He did nothing but study all day — he didn't particularly stand out, but he still had friends. Typical for his age.
He wanted to think that they'd lost interest in him... but they hadn't. He had managed to erase his memories of... thankfully, he couldn't remember, but he knew that he'd shoved his own thoughts out of his mind simply by... he couldn't remember.
But he also knew that the memories were just within reach if he really wanted to get them back. They were in a pocket so far down, piled below so many other thoughts, he couldn't trigger them unless he had the determination to. It was beautiful, how he had the ability to do something but didn't have to use it unless he wanted to. Maybe he would never have to use it.
It was almost laughable until Lord Avery Sencen grabbed both of his shoulders and whispered into his ear, "We're here, Cassius. Can you believe it?"
Taking advantage of his father's almost-delusional state, his mind whispered, Of course I can believe it. If I'd been left on my own, I wouldn't have been sure of whether I should register for the match or not, but... I guess you made the choice for me. It's not like I could've been undecided forever, anyway. It wasn't purely his own thought, but when would they ever be pure? His father had started it. And he'd continue it a different way.
They now stood in front of a shimmering crystal tower that seemed to reflect all sunlight beaming off its transparent glassy surfaces. The structure was divided into two sides — good and evil, represented by darkness and light — that drew awe and was breathtaking yet intimidating at the same time. It seemed to be the only thing in the underwater city that looked like it belonged above somehow, symbolizing its prestige and importance... his gaze had skipped right over the giant "M" letter represented by twisting strands of DNA that appeared to be moving. The whole sight felt familiar somehow, like he'd been here before when he couldn't go anywhere without his father's permission. All the wrong types of beauty for a building that wasn't the most impressive or tall. Perfect, his father had told him earlier.
"Your registry pendant lets them know you're there right when you walk in," his father's face looked animated as he described it to him. So there's no way of getting out, huh? He felt a twinge of irritation that was almost enough to make him snap at his dad for assuming he hadn't known about the pendants. Was he really that clueless in his eyes?
I'll pretend to be happy about the match. It won't change a thing about me and Lily — I don't care if we're a bad match and ruled out for the rest of our lives. If we're truly meant to be, this'll prove our devotion. We're not doing this to please anyone.
The second he walked in, which he was only vaguely aware of — he regretted it immediately. He felt like the odd elf out (it was a game he'd played when he was younger with his other friends, so there was definitely some irony,) for all the wrong reasons. Even as he tried desperately to observe the people's faces, he could only catch a glimpse of each of their fair complexions as some tossed their hair behind their shoulders, slumped down on the ground with relief, or tried to smile flirtatiously at passing elves... he couldn't see himself doing any of those things.
Couldn't see himself belonging or even fitting in. Their emotions called to him like dancing voices in the starlight, something he so badly longed for it hurt — but he knew deep down that just because he could sense their emotions like he could with any of his friends, they were still just elves he'd probably never encounter ever again. He wouldn't recognize them in the same sea of agony he was drowning in now.
That was probably the saddest part.
"Cassius?" His call felt far away now, like his father was on the shore and he had been alone in the ocean.
And then the blonde-haired girl came sweeping by the tide — his knees nearly gave out with relief and he shoved aside the thought of what his father must be thinking of him as he whispered a silent Thank you to whoever might've be watching him or allowed this to happen, for him to finally notice someone whom he recognized despite their rocky history.
Okay, he barely knew her aside from the fact that she'd had a massive crush on him in Level Four, constantly trying to touch him. Her favorite habit had been grabbing Cassius by his shoulders, a feat that was truly incredible to her that made him blush — just because he was flustered. There was nothing more to the story, nothing else that needed to be known.
Something creeped up on him. What if Lily had known? What if she still remembers?
It wouldn't have mattered to her, his mind assured him. But she would've noticed, especially with all the teasing and imitations his friends had done of the daring girl.
She was waiting for him to mention it to her... and if he didn't, they'd be done. Forever.
With no chance of redemption.
Despite what was at stake, he felt a creepy, sly smile curve on his lips... and it was returned with an expression just as elusive as Adeline vanished out of sight. Dissappeared, reminding him eerily of...
This couldn't be happening.
She wasn't here.
She was never here! She shouldn't be here.
"WHAT?" He fought the urge to scream and faint in front of the crowd of beautiful, flawless elves that would surely take it as a shock.
Especially since it wasn't the real them and they'd dressed up just for the sake of it.
So transparent and see-through. So fake.
It's you, isn't it? He dared to wonder.
It is. A shy voice whispered, sounding so silky and smooth and...
He could see her face.
Not just from what he'd expected — entirely different from anyone here, yet she managed to blend in with a crown encrested with rubies and emeralds resting on top of her hair that couldn't be described.
It seemed to be... changing every second. Changing depending on what made everyone feel confused yet accepting at the same time.
Her appearance simply couldn't be described. No words could come close to summing up what she really looked like — the only way for him to ever know what she truly looked like was by comparing her to others.
She looks kinder and more compassionate than Adeline. More frugal and considerate than that mother hugging her son in the corner. Feistier and braver than his father.
Simply different from him.
His sorting abilities still didn't tell him what she looked like. Yet when he compared her to everyone in the room, there was a similarity she shared with each of them that he couldn't quite explain or describe, not with words.
"There's something else you can use, you know," he hadn't realized he was about to burst with enigma and mystery until then, caused by the girl that he could suddenly see, not just with his eyes. Somehow, he prefered it when he didn't know what she looked like and had to keep wondering for what the answer was.
Her voice could be a thunder cracking the sky, a transmission being sent through his mind, the feeling and detection of emotions, breaking through walls with no harm, controlling water with a simple swish...
It came out harder than he'd expected, but he braced for impact as Glimmer raised an eyebrow, anticipating his question.
"What color are your eyes?"
It was stupid of him to not use his mind, to rely on his instincts. And yet he knew that he'd asked the right question somehow — he just needed an answer.
Glimmer's eyes seemed to, well, glimmer as she stretched out her arms like a frail bird about to take her first leap into the night sky. "They're blue and green and purple and icy and fragile and everything," she winked, sending frustration his way as she took a step toward him. Not really an invitation, but close enough.
"When will you learn to settle for not just enough? You expect me to use your name to show you respect. And the truth is that I don't know your name. Not really. And you don't know your name well enough either," she said, almost accusingly.
What was the point of telling her everything you say is more' clear to me when you move when she wasn't worth his time? He blinked, trying to figure out how to deal with his disgust as the girl's eyes lit up with delight and fire.
Glimmer threw a quick glance at Cassius's father, who he remembered he'd completely forgotten about as the two of them seemed to exchange some kind of secret message. "You deserve answers, Cassius. But that doesn't mean that you get them. For the record, I only glimmer to the people I see potential in — and don't trust enough. For now, anyway," she added, her attention directed to the Sencen crest pinned on his chest.
"You're growing up. At last. I'll wait until you can ask the right questions, alright? And know that I truly know you. Just not in the way you think," she shook his head, practically talking to herself now as he watched her walk off.
Avery waved away a few curious onlookers as his face beamed with something that took him a moment to pick up on — delight. "A Flasher. Someone who has tremendous control and holds tremendous respect, Cassius! This is fantastic," he practically gushed as he waved his right arm in a summoning gesture. "Wonderful!"
Cassius closed his eyes for a second before he nodded, looking particularly pale. "She... was interesting. The girl, I mean," he scrambled to answer as Lord Avery raised an eyebrow and chuckled.
"Which one, Cassy? The last time I checked, there were two of them interested in you," his face reset to a neutral expression as Cassius allowed his tossable hair to droop over his face.
This was the first time when Sophie saw him from a third-person point of view in so long, she almost screamed with relief. Strangely enough, she wanted to remember every piece of this flashback as she could — if she could get Lord Cassius to open up to her, tackling her friends' problems would be a lot easier.
She got slightly worried when Lord Cassius didn't respond to her thoughts the way Keefe could when she and Fitz probed his mind to search for any buried memories. It's probably all fine, she thought as she struggled to hold on to the only parts of Cassius's childhood she had.
Think about something else.
He was certainly adorable in a way so unlike Keefe's — when you looked at him, you wanted to see more. You wanted to know more. You wanted to befriend him, show sympathy for him, and even tackle him with a hug. The best part was that how she felt about him was only for her, and everyone else would see him differently.
Doesn't that apply to everyone? She suddenly felt awakened and stupid while cringing at what her own thoughts were capable of.
Lord Cassius — just Cassius — looked embarassed as he scruffed his shiny, spanking clean shoes against each other. "Yeah?"
Before Avery could go on, a Matchmaker emerged from the crowd of elves that parted to make way for her as she flashed her shiniest, fakest smile. "Cassius Sencen?"
"Yeah. Yeah, that's me," he said, suddenly unexcitedly.
The Matchmaker didn't look disturbed as she made a polite gesture to Lord Sencen, who, in turn, gave a polite dip of the head as she watched Cassius give an awkward glance at his father that seemed to be both apologetic and afraid through her cobalt eyes — clearly fake. At least part of it.
"My name is Leyne," she said kindly and with an unusual amount of determination — her emotions wholehearted, cleansed, and pure. "I've come to collect you. Please, follow me this way," she gestured to a hallway that seemed to appear out of nowhere, though somewhere in the back of his mind he knew that it'd been there all along.
When Cassius didn't move, her hearty lips stretched in another polite smile that seemed to break through his trance as he blinked. "Oh. Yeah. Sorry, I just feel... blurry,"
"That's quite common," he was surprised that it came from his father and not the Matchmaker, who looked equally as surprised. "Go on, son. I know you can handle this."
He felt ashamed and embarassed enough — not to mention the Matchmaker, Leyne, had restated something obvious he'd known when she came. And now his father was encouraging him? No elf near normal did that. His father thought he was nervous.
The worst part was: it was true. So he left without making eye contact with his father and followed Leyne, looking defiant and yet walking with a straightened back.
"Yes," glad that his voice sounded more confident now, he scoured his mind for a subject he could talk to her about. "How long have you been doing this?"
"Four hundred years," she said in an offbeat way that came nowhere close to capturing reality. Seeing Cassius's look of uncomprehension, she smiled. Again. "I wish I could tell you more, but we've arrived."
That was fast. Leyne saw the thought flicker across his eyes before he forgot what he was thinking about a moment earlier.
"Please wait here until Brisa and Juji come for you," she left quietly, as if walking on tiptoes as he nodded blankly.
A moment later, he couldn't believe what he was seeing.
The Matchmakers — named Juji and Brisa — appeared and took every step in sync, making him wonder how much they had in common as he noticed the differences between them. One had dark hair and the other had blonde — it seemed to be all he could register as he pushed the absurd idea that they might be best friends out of his mind. Siblings and twins always seemed to resemble each other and be incompatible for friendship, while with friends... it seemed like the opposite, always.
"Hello, Cassius," one of the two said, nodding out of courtesy and routine. He cringed at how he might've reacted if they'd called him by his full name, Cassius Avery Sencen. "We need to check a couple of things with you first."
A couple. What was wrong with him?
"Erm, yeah, alright," he stammered while twisting his wrists with his left hand and holding on tightly to his Sencen family crest with his right hand.
"Your father is Avery Sencen," she waited for him to glance up at her and nod, which he did after a few moments, "And your mother is Mella Sencen."
So he would've known her name today, even if his father hadn't told him. Something weird and squishy hit his stomach. How long had he been planning this for?
And, weirdly, he wanted to know: what was his mother's last name before she took on her husband's?
And why was there a weird edge of detestation in her voice?
"Oh, sorry," he said, suddenly snapping back to reality, "I've just been super distracted today. I mean, I didn't—" he flushed red when one of the Matchmakers nodded and the other simply glanced up at the wall. It was the first time the two of them had done anything out of sync the entire time. "Yes, yeah, I think that's, uh, right."
He waited for the You don't sound so sure lecture to come, but it never did.
"You attend Foxfire."
"Obviously," he said, without missing a beat. His voice, however, was missing his usual swagger.
"And your name...? We're sorry we have to ask," the Matchmaker who looked like Brisa threw an apologetic look his way, "But it's for verification purposes."
"Cassius Avery Sencen?" He said in a questioning tone.
"Yes," the other one nodded, pleased. "Give us a moment."
The devices they were holding, which Cassius hadn't noticed until then, made a beeping noise and an icon whirled around at the center of their screens... and a thick packet suddenly came through the wall.
Cassius squealed as the Matchmakers coughed to try to conceal their amusement. "That's our depositer," the Matchmaker with dark hair said, smiling now her laughter had been hidden, "and here's your Matchmaking Packet."
"There is no deadline for filling this out," the other Matchmaker chirped in, handing it to him proudly, "But for optimal efficiency and results, we'd suggest that you hand it in by the end of your school year."
"Why does it matter?" He wondered, then looked frustrated with himself when he realized he'd asked the question aloud.
"Many of your peers are doing the same. It's a tradition, in fact. And seeing as many elves prefer to be matched with people around their age, especially now, it's advised. But not necessary, of course," she added and dragged the word out.
He nodded, feeling an enormous sensation of pride and burden as he picked up the packet and flipped through it. It certainly wasn't very polite, but his father could wait.
"Of course, we ask that you answer these questions as truthfully as possible. As we understand that some of your responses will change over time, you are welcome to finish the packet and review it after several weeks have passed. Due to this, we also recommend you pick up your packets as early as possible so your matchees can better suit you — the recommended age for marriage if you choose to go on this early route is twenty-three, though we've had couples marry at as young as seventeen," the Matchmaker seemed to suddenly understand his curiousity.
"And we're always here to answer your questions," the other one added, naturally piquing his interest. "Your father knows where to find members of the Matchmakers Assistance Department."
So he'd have to go through his father if he wanted to ask a question?
"Thanks," he stood up, feeling his jaw unclench as the blonde-haired Matchmaker hurried to his side. "Oh, Cassius? We wish you optimal results."
Do you do this for everyone? "Wish them optimal results?" What will go wrong?
"Thank you," he said as sincerely as he could, feeling the dread already building up in his sweaty palms as he hurried outside to meet his father, only to see Leyne meet him again in the hallway.
He hadn't noticed Leyne's sharp, striking features until then — she certainly looked strong, like someone who'd experienced far too much and lost far too little. Straight jaw, gleaming white teeth, and a knowing smile — what was expected of a Matchmaker. Her hair was golden brown, an unusual combination... but certainly not fake.
"Do you need help on your way back?" She stopped, waiting for him to respond.
All he wanted to do was get out as his angry, frustrated stomps began. In the absence of thunder and rain, he was brewing up his own storm.
"Cassius?" It was far too distant to echo.
When he saw his father again, he could breathe. He silently slung an awkward arm bent at weird angles across his shoulder, and his father patted him on the back awkwardly, too — so funny it was almost laughable.
"Got everything, then?" Cassius pointed at his Matchmaking Packet, not sure what else he was supposed to bring with him. He was so surprised at his father's sudden acts of kindness that he grinned at the prospect that he might be allowed to leave his house to go see Lily. "Your mother will be thrilled. Let's go."
And some part of him knew she wouldn't. He sorted through all the data he had until a theory formed...
What if Avery and Mella were a bad match?
What if my parents were a bad match?
And anything seemed possible as they left, the part no one described because it was the only real part of the journey.
"LILY, NO!" A distressed scream escaped his trembling lips. "That's not what I—"
"Meant?" Her eyes were glassy, but she somehow managed a weak smirk. "Instinctive of you to try to sugarcoat it for me. I take it as that means you've finally seen the truth in your father's words? Having a weak talent means having a weak mind?"
He spat on the ground and threw his hands up in the air. "We've never argued like this before, Lily. Please. Can't you see the reason behind this?"
The flaming, red-haired figure's face was devoid of emotion, to serve as a reminder to Cassius that he didn't truly know what the reason was, either. "We've never argued like this before since our relationship started. I guess that shows me how much you've hidden."
He barely had the chance to cringe at her words. Were arguments supposed to be part of a relationship? Gross. The words sent a tiny shiver down his back — this topic was his worst fear, something that had apparently been eliminated by the matchmaking system. If his father, Lord Avery Sencen, would never use those words, why should he?
AGH. He counted down in his head — ONE, TWO, THREE... EW! GROSS! BLAH!
He heard her words replay in his mind as he tried to shake his head and shrug at the same time. From me. Those words were the leftovers of the sentence that should've never existed in a perfectly harmonious... relationship.
And she'd left them unspoken.
Lily crossed her arms and shook her head that suddenly gave Cassius the urge to laugh sadly. Sadly, because he felt bad for her but couldn't help her. "I know I'm making a mistake, but... Sius," she whispered, holding her cool hand out like one would for a handshake in a way that reminded him so much of...
But her action didn't trigger any memories of the mysterious girl who'd made multiple appearances in front of him throughout the past few years. Instead, it made him remember...
Leaves. A warm-but-cool spring breeze that whisked them away to someplace where bad matches were nonexistent.
Lily handed him a newrose — its petals were light pink, with darker shades streaking down its edges and crisp-cut sides. Without considering that she'd done something against the rules, he gently plucked off two of the petals and tucked one away in her red-orange hair, which concealed it quite nicely. He weaved the other into a strand of droopy blonde hair near his shoulder to serve as a chance of recovery in case it fell — a chance at redemption. To bring it back. He couldn't help but notice that the piece of the flower, a symbol of their forbidden love, was more visible within him.
"Why not a lily?" He had asked teasingly, anticipating her reaction.
Her eyes took on a strange edge that seemed almost teary. "I... couldn't find one. There are so many."
His barking, bitter laugh slipped from his throat. An accident. "You're not supposed to do that, Lily."
Her wide-eyed, innocent, surrendering look and stance slightly infuriated him. "What do you mean? Oh, pluck flowers out of the ground?"
It didn't matter to him, in that moment, why she'd done it — just that she had. One of the many flaws of the elvin world, his conscious mind realized. "You're taking life from something that has no control of its own. That's..."
"Cruel?" Why did she suddenly seem... freeing? Alive, even?
"N-no. Just... it seems wrong." The words tasted like sour newrose petals. Why had he just realized this.
"When are you going to catch on, Sius?" Her lips curled into a wry, tangible smile that was... pure. Serene, even. "Don't tell me you haven't done it before."
He was about to ask Pluck flowers out of the ground? before he realized what she meant. Taking life from living things. Hurting them under the knowledge that they wouldn't feel it a second later.
The girl bent down, grabbed ahold of his wrist with her hand, and picked up a small grain of chalky dirt. She waited for him to look at her before flicking it into the sky, letting the wind carry it away. "Taking a flower out of the ground seems more... obvious, doesn't it? It gives you something to blame. Marks you as cruel. But we all do it every day."
"You look like a bird, Lily," he said in a half-whisper, half-exclaiming voice. "A..."
Something transformed inside her too. Even though she belonged in the sunlight, she suddenly seemed fit for the shadows too — darkness suited her as much as light did. She seemed like a balance of good and evil, always cancelling the other one out.
She looked down at him in a way that made her seem higher somehow, trying to convey the message I'm not like all of you anymore. "You'll forget this all soon, I promise. Just know..." she held her palms to his right cheek and gave it a tiny, reassuring squeeze. "I know you're hiding things from me, okay? I need you to understand that some things are for the greater good."
He closed eyes, willing for the moment to be over. Forgetting seemed like the only thing that would get him through the rest of his days.
"Let's go to school!" She pumped a triumphant fist — first drawing it back the way a human would with a bow, then pushing it in front of her face, angling it in a way that obscured a few strands of hair that was a lot like his.
She was waiting for him to do something — to smile. And he did, eventually.
"Oh, and, Cassius?" She sighed, offering him her hand, "You'll be rest assured I won't trigger this memory anytime soon, I promise."
^ that's actually what i tried to base it off of xD thank u so much!!!
i'm sorry i couldn't post my latest entries/haven't been online for a while, i was at a camp and couldn't access electronic devices ): this chapter will be split into three parts because of its ridiculous length and i'm working on the next sector now <3
"All it takes is the right trigger," the flowing red-haired girl smiled tightly and pursed her lips. It didn't amuse him that she was repeating those words — what other part of him would have to wait to be brought back by someone other than him? What other part of him was completely out of his control?
"One word can screw up everything. Yeah, yeah, I already know," he scratched his clammy palms and distractedly wiped off a pool of sweat that had gathered at his forehead. "What?" He scowled when Lily managed to frown and raise an eyebrow at the same time.
She suddenly appeared so mysterious and enigmatic in a way that wasn't describable. He struggled to understand it himself. How had he not seen this side of her before?
Being looked upon like he was expected to know something.
It reminded him so much of...
He forced himself to establish the connection between Lily and Glimmer. Of course they weren't the same person, and the last time he'd checked, Lily wasn't a Telepath and therefore couldn't erase memories. Almost feeling relieved, he pushed himself further to look for another bit of happy news.
There weren't a lot of places to look. No matter how hard he'd tried, he couldn't completely get rid of his memory of Glimmer, but he'd forgotten enough to only remember that she had a knack for showing up in unexpected places, startling him by trying to enlighten him with useless information, and... tried to recruit him for something. Like he'd written the summary of her mysterious visits down in a journal and was repeating it in his mind while only remembering it vaguely.
All it takes is the right trigger. But seeing as he didn't know what the trigger was, all he had to do was follow his routine and hopefully not find himself cornered by the ever-changing girl again, and he'd be okay. Unless if she triggered the memory herself by deciding to wear the same thing she had in another encounter with him he'd buried at the bottom of a looooonngggggg pile of memories that kept building every day.
Surprisingly, though, he wasn't too scared. He'd be ready.
But what if... what if Lily and Glimmer were working together? The thought was so sudden and so plausible he stumbled backwards, startled. It was certainly unimaginable — the two were so similar but so different, too.
If they could work together... he shivered at the thought that there could be a rebellion forming somewhere.
It finally hit him that Lily and Glimmer, at their purest, were evil. Why would someone ever rebel against everything the elvin world had given them? Fairness. A good life. Balance. Choices. Friends. Safety. Comfort. The only way that life could be ruined was if they ruined it themselves.
And they wouldn't just be ruining it for themselves. They'd be ruining it for everybody. The thought of that had him shivering and angry — so angry. The rebels' lives deserved to be ruined — but was that possible without messing up everyone else's?
What were they rebelling against? And did they think he could be part of that rebellion, too? Even though he disliked some parts of the elvin world and especially some people, everything that was there was necessary. That was the one part Lily had shown him — the one part that was the most right.
But with all that aside... it was nice for his true potential and talent to finally be realized by someone, even if they were... defective.
"You're drifting off again," Lily announced, looking slightly astounded at Cassius's bitter and despising look he was giving her. Pure hate. Locking her jaw, she clenched her teeth tightly, looking furious and defiant. "I'm no Empath, but I can tell that you're very, very angry. And you need some answers."
This was the part when she would dangle something he needed right above his mouth and then take it back. He knew it — and hated himself so much for succumbing to it. But he nodded, powerless. "I deserve them. So give me some."
"Strange that you're not asking for all of them," she pointed out, twisting her wrist, "I guess you've learned to not seek everything you deserve to have, after all. Very well... I'll give you the bare minumum that meets your requirement. One."
"One," he echoed, trying to mimick her childish, sneering tone.
She stood there, waiting for the question to come, crossing her arms. Despite everything that had happened between them, their bond still existed — and so did their compatibility. For now.
There were so many questions he had to ask... and they all seemed to be equally important. If he tried to make one more important, he could make all the others seem the most important, too.
Eventually he settled on asking, "Are you a... rebel?"
She certainly seemed surprised at the casualness of his voice and bit her bottom lip. "Surprising me to try to get more of an answer? So you expect me to be truthful, don't you?"
"Well, of course. That was nice of you to bring up. But even if you hadn't, I still would've sensed it," he said, dramatically flicking his wrists like he was wringing water out of them — he suddenly remembered that he had to grab on to her in order to feel any of her emotions.
He watched as she grumbled something about Empaths, not falling for her trick. "I know you're trying to stall here. But you promised me an answer."
"That promise means as much as all the other promises you've made me. Oh, yeah, I haven't forgotten about those," she added when she saw his crestfallen face — another tactic he was trying to lure her into telling him her genuine answer, "But I'll be nice."
"Doubt that could ever happen," he said — and resisted the urge to kick himself and Lily in the shins. The two people who were responsible for getting themselves into this situation. Why was he purposely and accidentally steering his ship in the wrong direction at the same time?
The Girl pretended to wipe her eyes. "You've gotten so snarky! Good, good," she exclaimed, holding her hands out, "You know, it's almost funny when you try to act like you're the only one with secrets and a hidden side. Or, wait — are you just so oblivious that you don't even-"
"Get to the point!" He snarled.
"Notice that we all—"
"CUT IT OUT!"
"Geez. Okay, fine," she muttered, offering him her wrist. He hesitantly grabbed onto it — the awkwardness in the moment was so pure it almost made him laugh. It was working in his favor, as far as he was concerned.
"Ask me the question again."
What? You clearly remember it! Why?
"I know," she laughed in a platonic way that almost made him wonder what would happen after this day between them. Almost. "It makes it soooooo much more official," she rushed to explain, but took her time with dragging the words out.
"Are you a rebel of our world?"
She snorted, a response that she clearly meant to throw him off guard — and it did, for a moment, before the anger set in. It was supposed to be official and clear and cut to the point, not with any added sarcasm. "It's strange how you think that I'm the bad guy in this situation. You'll probably think of me this way a few hundred years from now. Your word choice is even stranger. But, no," She raised a firm arm up when Cassius scowled and formed fists with his sweaty hands, "It almost feels like I'm the Empath."
"Say it. Say it officially. SAY IT!" The anger boiled in his stomach and he wanted to direct it all towards Lily and watch it sink in. Since when had he ever wanted to unleash so much pain on others?
"Fineeeeee. No, Cassy, I'm not a rebel of our magical elvin world." She waved her arms like she was painting a rainbow across the sky, "I'm not part of any rebellion. And I won't be anytime soon, so long as you're not on any of my matchmaking lists."
It still wasn't as clear and cut to the point as he wanted it to be, but he had a notch that it would be the best he'd get for now — so much so that he almost forgot to check the veracity of her words. No, her vow.
Some irrational part of him secretly hoped that it wasn't. But... it was.
He couldn't feel any part of her lying as the words resonated deeply in her. Rooted to the ground.
He'd learned a long time ago that truth took different forms in different people — but it was hard to differentiate. With Lily, he had to check for whether she was lying instead of whether she was telling the truth.
He'd only done it once before.
And... now, this matter of subject would be dropped.
"Tell me if I'm on any of your matchmaking lists, though I'm sure I'll find out first," he made a gesture to her that told her that he was leaving and wasn't ever going to come back, "I'll go strangle the matchmakers myself. You won't get to help me."
"Because you care more?" She smirked, her voice growing even more distant. It certainly wasn't something he was going to get used to for a while — but he would do anything he could to speed up the process. The only thing he could thank Lily for was all the times she'd betrayed him and taught him valuable lessons.
He stopped to look back for a split second when he held up his home crystal to the light. "Oh, and, Lily?" He called, craving to see the look of confusion and amusement mixed together on her face.
He said in a small voice to make it extra dramatic, "You'll be rest assured I won't make this mistake again, I promise."
Even without any physical contact, he knew by the look of her eyes that she acknowledged what he meant.
She was the mistake.
He wasn't even sure why he'd made it in the first place.
But it would never happen again. It was a promise to himself.
And something about the wild, maniacal motions she was making made him doubt what she'd confessed to earlier, made him question everything for a length of time he would never know again.
She repeated the words to herself again, and again, and again.
They didn't seem to do much... but on the upside, they weren't doing anything bad, right?
She couldn't risk to try anything new.
Get yourself out of here!
She didn't even know who she was, or what she was doing, or why she was there.
I don't even know who you are, she wanted to tell the voice. I just need an explanation. Please.
Sophie, you're not going to lose yourself inside my mind.
Sophie Foster, the most powerful Telepath of our world. Please get yourself out.
It was so funny she would roll on her stomach and laugh for an eternity if she could.
GET. YOURSELF. OUT!
A path was suddenly created with footsteps that faded a second after they were created. But she followed them obediently, knowing that it would lead her to someplace she belonged in.
They dissappeared like tiles, each one faster than the other. She didn't know where it would end.
And she was getting dizzier and dizzier by the second. She tried to focus on the steps beneath her feet, but the voice muttered something that disturbed her for a moment and made her nauseous, thinking that she would never be able to think her way out of this place...
And she was back on solid ground again. Dazed and still shocked, she took her time wheeling over to Lord Cassius for an explanation. When it came time to pounce, she descended on him and demanded, "What just happened?"
Cassius didn't respond. He was as blank as the flaming room she was trapped in earlier, having no emotions or heart of its own.
She really hated doing this, but she bent down and shook his shoulder as hard as she could and transmitted into his mind, Cassius. Cassius!
That was when it dawned on her — the voice that was guiding her earlier belonged to Cassius. He had helped get her out of his mind, and she was going to do the same by rescuing him. If he wasn't going to be fair, she had to be. The deed was exactly the same.
LORD Cassius. Lord Cassius!
She tried sending every positive emotion she could — but with him, there wasn't that much. More than there would've been before, obviously, but she needed time to process those flashbacks. Time that was so valuable. Time she didn't have right now.
Then she realized... what if she tried to bring him back the exact same way he did?
She started creating a mental path.
The footsteps flickered hues of green, blue, and red. When he didn't follow, she made the colors brighter, like the dangling lights in his old bedroom.
For a fleeting moment, she wondered what had happened to the house he stayed in with his parents before the realization hit her that she had to keep the path going. She couldn't get distracted.
She tried making the colors darker, remembering what Mr. Forkle had said about his twin's Wanderling: that they could only survive under harsh circumstances. If that was what Cassius's entire life had been about, wouldn't it make more sense?
And it did — not just for her, but for him too. She could feel him moving and sent the triumph and burst of adrenaline she got into his mind.
Now... the only thing she had to do was somehow lead him out.
How was she going to do that?
What had Cassius done? The path he'd made her take was a straightforward one, though it came with pain and distractions. That was it.
She made him turn around from the diagonal path he was trudging along on and directed him the right away.
Foxfire? You named your most prestigious school after a plant?
It represents a light glow in a darkened world.
And it must've been as bright as it was for her as it was for him, maybe even brighter.
She shivered and couldn't help but recall the time she'd healed Fintan, when he'd told her that he knew that she would come back for him. But this time it was different. It was entirely her choice, not one that had been made on behalf of her.
Her thoughts seemed to make Cassius walk even faster, breaking into a run. That was it! Doubt would power him to go forward even more.
Though she wasn't sure if she wanted to go as far as Kenric dying... as soon as the thought flashed in her head, she knew Cassius had already seen it. It was a tremendous risk.
It didn't seem to do anything bad or particularly good. Maybe he was just taking the time to process it — and she had to take advantage of that.
She flashed a mental picture of Keefe through his mind.
And that made him sprint so fast he literally burst through the mental force field that had trapped him in.
"Cassius?" She cleared her throat, wanting to add an awkward Erm into the mix. "Lord Cassius?"
His eyes were blank, but it was definitely him speaking as he croaked weakly, "Sophie?" while clutching his neck tightly.
And she allowed herself to celebrate for the slightest second before going back to tend to his injuries.
Lord Cassius clutched at his stomach, looking like he was two seconds away from throwing up on Sophie. Under normal circumstances, she probably would've gagged and tried to hold in retching noises — but that felt like a lifetime away. She'd been changed too much for it; it seemed like something impulsive she would do when she first heard of the elvin world.
And he seemed to be okay, just that the only thing he could do was twitch on the ground like some kind of bug that had just been impaled.
And he looked like he was waiting for something.
She wasn't really sure what.
So her mind made the conclusion that he was waiting for her to do something — this was a test of sorts, probably to see if she was paying attention.
She wanted to kick herself for not paying attention as closely as she should've before she remembered that she was entirely focused on every single moment of every single flashback. Why else would she lose herself in his mind?
Lord Cassius was getting paler by the moment.
She clenched her jaw and resisted the urge to pluck out a certain eyelash where her two eyelids met.
What did he want?
She repeated the question to herself again, and again, and again, allowing it to get louder each time.
When she finally came up with the answer, she didn't feel relief surging through her body — more like a pang in her stomach. A realization. A promise. And the words felt like swallowing a dark cube that someone had told her was made of sugar.
I won't let Keefe end up the way you did.
She shuddered and let out a pained wail, surprised at the noise she made that was comparable to Silveny's earth-shattering transmissons.
She had meant to transmit I promise you I won't treat Keefe the way Lady Gisela treated you. Or something along the lines of I won't be Gisela.
But she'd already done it. And she forced herself to look away as Lord Cassius screamed — a pure, simple scream, a noise she never thought he would be capable of making.
Good. She didn't remember asking Cassius for permission to read his mind and didn't even know how she ended up there in the first place. But the wry smirk on his lips told her all she needed to know: that he wouldn't be reporting her to the Council.
Maybe it was because the Council would probably be at a bit of a loss as to what to do, or just that he'd decided to be nice for once, but she was grateful.
Grateful. Never once would she ever have used that word toward the father of her best friend and soon-to-be whatever, but she would make sure it was distributed very finitely.
For once, the thought of Keefe didn't distract her. She just stood there, not really wanting to know what would happen next.
Until Lord Cassius stood up and gave her a very menacing and cool look that made her laugh. And laugh louder. She watched horrifyingly as her laughter kept multiplying, feeling like she wasn't really in control at all.
"Things really haven't changed much, have they?" They both said in unison, and jumped back a little with surprise.
Lord Cassius sighed exasperatingly. "Remember our vow." He said, outstretching his hand and opening his palm.
Sophie didn't shake it. Such simple gestures would never capture how serious her promise was — and she fully intended to keep it. "I don't want to keep your son waiting."
She didn't cover her mouth after she said the words that mattered most, and smiled snarkily at Lord Cassius just to show him that what he had shown her had changed her — or maybe just because his confusion was really, really funny.
Lord Cassius shook his head before she had the chance to get her leaping crystal. "You're not going to ask about why I didn't show you any scenes of Gisela?" He wondered, a little too innocently.
Sophie shook her head, too, in response. "I think I know why."
She had said those words before considering what they actually meant, but she was stunned to find that they were actually true when she processed it. It meant a lot of things, really, but the most optimistic and cautious theory she had was that Lord Cassius had wanted her to be happy and remember her childhood, knowing that she would miss the adventure when she was older and be dying to tell those stories to her kids.
If she ever had kids. That thought horrifyingly brought up an image of Keefe — and made her want to get stuffed inside a verminion's cheeks, also reminding her of the conversations Grady had with her about boys.
Agh. Why did life have to be so confusing?
And what would Fitz have to say about it?
Before she could make her head explode with those what-ifs, she pulled out her home crystal with a firm grasp and acknowledged Lord Cassius. "It's kind of been a weird day...?"
He raised an eyebrow when he realized that she was asking for permission to leave. "It has, Miss Foster," he agreed, returning back to the him before all this had happened.
And she didn't blame him.
As far as she was concerned, things between them wouldn't change that much.
Which just went to show that this conversation hadn't been a waste at all. Maybe they weren't meant to change.
The last thing she saw before she leaped back to the awkwardness-free home of Havenfield was Lord Cassius smiling sadly at her and holding his hands out to the sky. Like he was remembering something — a life where he could be normal, she guessed.
Imagine her surprise when she found Keefe under Calla's Panakes tree at Havenfield, looking both nervous and deep in thought with a face that reminded her of Mr. Snuggles, Fitz's stuffed red dragon, as he waved shyly and awkwardly at her, flashing his half-grinning, half-smirking smile. "Hi...?"
Sophie stood still, trying to decide between doing a million things.
She didn't even know what some of those things were. That was what she found in Keefe — things she never would've expected to find on her own.
Don't you feel the same way with all your friends?
"Are you okay? I'm picking up on some very strange mood swings," Keefe's eyebrows quirked up suddenly as he bit on the corner of his lips. Before he could reach up to his eyelids to try ripping out an eyelash, however, Sophie grabbed his wrist.
Keefe didn't flinch at her firm grip but instead looked straight at Sophie. "Sophie, please..."
If there was anything about Keefe she hated, it was his normally adorably oblivious face twisted with desperation and pain. It reminded her of his father — how much did they really have in common? Better yet, how many of those things did Keefe know about?
Sophie reached down to squeeze Keefe's hand, and he hesitated for the slightest moment before squeezing back. "We can talk about this inside. Okay?" Her arms flew up in the air, pointing to the proud structure of Havenfield that stood tall despite all the grief that had occurred in the house.
Even places can be deceiving.
Keefe nodded and turned his head toward Sophie ever so slightly, smirking shyly when she noticed. "Even now you still manage to be braver than me. I'm not sure how you do that," he said honestly, sounding genuinely confused.
"I'm not brave," Sophie promised, "Just trying to keep my friends safe. And I'm sorry if... if..."
Her heart stopped for a moment when she realized one of the few things the humans had in common with the elves: love. If such opposites could share something similiar with each other that was so powerful... maybe they weren't so different after all.
Keefe smiled at Sophie without any kind of pettiness or silliness in his eyes. Just a pure smile — which reminded her of why she loved the elvin world. Here she could live a life full of love, real love, that didn't have any extra strands attached, if only she was like all the others.
Until she saw the sadness that lurked in the corners of his shaky arms. It wasn't until the sun shone on him that she realized that might've been something more.
"Your emotions are intense, did you know that?" Keefe noted, winking at Sophie when her eyes agreed, "I'm... they're much more intense than usual."
Sophie sighed and glared pointedly at him, glad that they had somewhat returned to normal — even if that only lasted for a few moments. "Okay, Sencen. We need to talk."
Many emotions flickered and waned across Keefe's face, some of them stronger than others — but as Grady had said, they were really starting to be like each other.
Keefe was the one who broke the no-movement rule and placed a firm foot inside the house, turning behind and offering his arm to Sophie. She gratefully took it and stepped through, feeling like she was entering a whole new realm. As if this was all new to her.
Keefe cleared his throat. He looked calm, even peaceful. "I guess I should go first with the confession. And, Foster — Sophie," he corrected, flashing a grin-smirk, "You don't have to do anything, okay? Just react the way you would. Not for me. Not for anyone else. You deserve to be yourself, especially after all of this has happened," he said quietly, waiting for her eyes to meet his.
Sophie nodded, and Keefe placed a steadying hand on her shoulder. She was trying to ignore the question brewing in her mind — what if I don't know who I am anymore? Until Keefe answered with the only answer she needed.
"I believe you're still in there somewhere, Foster. Hopefully I'll help you find her," he added softly, making Sophie catch her breath as she tried not to panic and wonder about what was going to happen next.
Sometimes the only thing you can do is ask questions.
Keefe's breath seemed to catch as Sophie reached for his wrist and let her grip around him loosen when his eyes closed a little.
"I... liked you," he blurted out, his face turning red, "I don't sound like myself right now, but I did. Ever since... ever since I found out about my mom. And..." he buried his face in his arm, leaving Sophie positively confused, "I... Sophie, Sophie, please..."
Sophie didn't let go of his arm but was vaguely aware of her hand skirting past his palm and reaching for his hand as she squeezed. Her breath seemed to catch too as a beautiful blue breeze lingered in her mind, the color she didn't know she needed until now...
Until she realized two very important things.
And a third that would come forward soon.
Liked. Her mind tried to process that — it felt like a hopeful attempt, but she felt like she was at a loss of words somehow, like everything she'd ever known was buried under layers of shock and surprise.
When she finally realized that she couldn't process what the word itself meant, she turned toward another direction and sharply inhaled, feeling like a dagger was piercing through her heart.
Liked, her mind repeated to her, like she was in the process of healing someone, liked, liked, liked.
It was in past tense.
Keefe knew she couldn't miss that.
It's not an accident, her betrayed mind lead her on as she screamed inside her head, feeling stupid for retreating to a place that was so vulnerable and exploitable.
That's when the second realization came... Keefe was reading her emotions. It wasn't even a surprise anymore, but she just somehow knew this new, fragmented part of him would.
So she let go gently, knowing that everything from then on out would be out of her control.
"So..." Sophie tried to repeat, only for the sake of herself, "You... don't anymore?"
Keefe grinned. "This could've been a lot worse, Foster. Thanks for making it easy for me and being so blunt," Through the shock of it all, Sophie tried to figure out if he was being sarcastic — or if he'd simply lost the will to respond properly.
Sophie nodded, meeting Keefe's glance. His eyes weren't sad exactly, but a thoughtful shade of sad... if that even existed.
"I'm so sorry," Keefe gasped and opened his mouth like he was gulping for air and wanted to say something, grabbing ahold of Sophie's elbow, "I... I didn't... I thought it would never come down to this..."
"It's okay," Sophie tried to tell him, tried to see if she did sound genuinely okay. What suddenly scared her even more than how Keefe was acting was the thought that things wouldn't go back to the normal between the two of them. Like it had been before.
Keefe's eyes went glassy and somewhat dark, like they were waiting for Sophie to be patched. I can't rescue you forever, Keefe, even though I'd like to try. Somewhat surprised at her own thoughts, Sophie felt something jolt at her feet as she suddenly jerked her arm back, successfully snapping him out of his trance.
"I don't have much time left," Keefe whispered, leaning in in the way that told Sophie all she needed — that he was really telling the truth, and he wasn't trying to make her do anything, "But I've changed too much, Sophie. I'm... I've held on for too long, and I'm not even sure what the purpose is. Now I'm somewhere between giving up and holding on, not knowing which one is better."
Sophie nodded, close to crying — but something familiar tugged on her stomach, like she'd somehow been expecting this all along.
How much time do we have left? She thought, asking a person inside her head who didn't exist, who flashed pictures of her friends through her memory.
How much time do I 'have left?
"You're different, Foster," Keefe coughed and choked up on something that certainly wasn't his own saliva, "I need you to promise me something, okay? Now that I won't be here for you..." he shook his head very quietly, just once, like it was a hidden gesture.
Sophie shook her head in return. No, her head and heart cried, I can still save you.
"Stop doing things for me," Keefe whispered and blinked furiously, shaking Sophie's shoulders, "You have to promise me! Don't waste your energy..."
Sophie wasn't sure if his voice had trailed off or she'd simply lost the ability to listen. Either way, this was breaking her, but it had to be done. He has to shatter in order for me to come back, she realized with a sickening rumble.
"Be brave..." He leaned in and tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. Sophie nodded and shook her head at the same time, crying, refusing.
"Be my moonlark. Promise my moonlark that she'll be okay, that she'll be intact, when I see her again," Keefe sobbed into her shoulder.
He leaned back again, the very image of a summer breeze about to turn into winter. "You could do a lot worse, you know," he grinned and smirked teasingly like he was deciding between which one was better, in the meantime allowing his hair to droop over his face.
Fitz. Him and his teal eyes.
Lady Gisela. How many people had their hands, had their say, on what their friendship turned out to be?
"Sophie," Keefe said again desperately, like he was waiting for her to roll her eyes or do something stupid. Blinking, Sophie refused to.
"I've..." he coughed, holding onto his shoulders as Sophie squeezed his hand as well as her eyes shut, leaving any open spaces for the darkness to take them over, "Sophie, it's my time. It's too early. I'm so sorry," tears were streaking his cheeks, "Guilt... It can be a wonderful thing. Sometimes you have to break before you can reheal," he swallowed, remembering his mother's words as well as Sophie, "I've tried letting go before. But I didn't have enough to let go of. You gave me that. Thank you."
NO! Sophie felt like she was drowning and being burnt by fire at the same time, tasting flames in her mouth and ashes beneath her feet, and yet nothing was neutralized. Nothing was balancing out.
Nothing goes my way. Keefe didn't believe in the 'rehealing' part of his mother's statement — he knew, somehow, that it was better if he shattered.
"It doesn't make a difference," Keefe sobbed, his face turning pale, "I'll stay here as long as I can. But a place with no pain... a place with no pain sounds wonderful, Sophie," his eyes became animated, as if he was describing a beautiful world to her that he believed she would never be a part of, "But you'll come there too, someday, all right?"
He was trying to reassure her, and Sophie had to fight. "No!"
Even if this was what he wanted, she hated him for it.
His endgame was to do everything he could to protect her — and that was Keefe's fatal flaw.
There's no rehealing anymore.
He needs pain. As much as Sophie hated to inflict on him, no one wanted to come back from a place with no pain, especially not Keefe — so the only way she could get him back was with pain.
"You think there's no hurting in that world?" Sophie screamed like she wasn't expecting him to hear — but he heard, of course, and reflexively shut his eyes, "How do you know, Keefe? You could be hurting more!" As if to prove her point, she grabbed onto his shoulders, digging in as hard as she could.
Keefe smirked playfully. "It's so fun when you think you're hurting me, Foster, but you're our sweet moonlark. You right the wrongs in our world, and your plans fail when you don't do exactly that," he raised his eyebrows like he was waiting for her to agree and tucked another strand of hair behind her ear, "But I've stopped trying, okay? So don't make me try."
When he reached up to his eyelids to pluck out his eyelash for the first and last time, the sorrow and anger — Sophie couldn't describe the feeling — and loss burned at his skin, the raw emotions coming from her gut, making him wince for a fraction of a second until Keefe Sencen closed his eyes and dropped, looking at peace for once as Sophie cried, sobbed, screamed, and tore out her own eyelashes, all of them.
But she wouldn't forget Keefe's last words. She repeated the memory in her head so many times until everything mixed up into a bland stew, but leaving his last sentiments intact.
I could never love you.
He wanted her to choose Fitz, to be happy, all without him.
And Sophie tried so hard to hate him for it, but how could she hate Keefe Sencen if he never truly loved her?
220.127.116.11 wrote: I'm confused...Did Keefe die? What was that whole thing for did he break up with her?
keefe doesn't die, he breaks/shatters due to excessive guilt partially due to the fact that he liked sophie but she only showed feelings for him when he didn't like her anymore (the rest of it is due to his parents and the reasons stated in the chapter, part of it is also up to your imagination!)
i'm sorry for the confusion and questions you have, i'm really bad at writing clearly xD thank you for asking! hopefully that clears it up :D
if it makes you feel better, i originally wanted it to end all sweetly and sappily.... BUT NO I GO DOWN THIS ROAD xDDD
p.s. if this goes the way i want it to, i'll hopefully have a 20-years-later epilogue in sophie's pov (first person) wink wonk
wOw. okay then...i will be waiting... meanwhile im reading the requests/complaints to keep "Keefe Sencen I love you" going and TOTALLY going down the sappy and sweet road (what can i say? it's a crowd pleaser.) xD
Sophie Foster's world blurred as she tried to make sense of who she was. The moonlark? Not without Keefe. The broken girl? Also not without Keefe, though she wasn't as sure. The person trying to fix all the problems in the world? Lost somewhere in the shattered version of Keefe.
The friend? The sister? The betrayer? The liar? They were all gone for good now...
Except the adopted daughter, which she lost, as if on cue, exactly the next moment. Dread tugged at her stomach a second too late like she was about to perform a trick with her telekinesis when Edaline and Grady walked through the door, wondering why it had been left open...
...And saw the blonde-haired, brown-eyed impossibility shredding to nothing crying in her own pool of tears, blood, and sweat.
I don't want to be here anymore, a voice whispered in her head, so exotic and strange she wasn't sure if it was hers, But I also don't want to leave, either.
So she let the shock set in as she slowly followed in Keefe's footsteps, deciding to be lost and remembered than dead and forgotten. The last things she saw before the sunlight slowly faded from her body were Edaline's amber red hair taking on a worried personality like she'd just swallowed an ounce of limbium and Grady's horrified, enraged screams as he hurled something across the room, allowing it to explode midair as it bursted with his outward channeling.
As long as you can be remembered, you can be saved. So how many things had been lost forever?
Hey, Foster. I'm sure you're busy saving the world again — without your favorite Lord Hunkyhair, I might add — but maybe I'm trying too hard.
Nah, I'm never trying too hard. Insert a wink here if you'd like because I'm in one of my superrrr sapppyyyy modes (my dad would probably die if he saw this, but he won't — Ro makes sure of it), but I'm not even sure what the point of this letter is. To many more letters to come! I'm never going to give these to you, but maybe Ro will. I'm not entirely convinced she won't turn on me, so I'm watching her back — I'm sure you would too.
In case you want to know where I am and what's going on (you definitely do, come on), I just finished one of my amplify-my-empathy sessions with none other than The Wonder That Is Him — my dad can be a pretty adorable person when he wants to be, especially when he's giving me talks on girls when I accidentally made a slip about how his feelings are as mushy and oblivious as yours are. Don't worry, though, that just goes to show that no one can be as intense as my sweet little Foster, especially when she's saving the world!
Speaking about saving the world, I have a secret for you that I think you're going to like... yup, if you were here, you would totally...
-words trail off and the corner of the page is ripped-
(In bold, glowing green handwriting on the ripped piece of paper:) The green will always wait for you where you give up.
(In Keefe's messy handwriting on a separate torn page): Can't have our moonlark...
Do you ever wonder about what could've happened? I mean, if you chose us instead of them?
I do every day, and I'm glad you made your choice. I hope you're happy with it. I hope you're always happy with it.
I think we all try to take your choices away from you, Sophie. Even I can't stop doing that, and I can't stop thinking about how many times I've messed up. I know simple apologies don't work anymore, but if there's even the slightest chance it does, I hope you forgive me and know I mean it when I say the words you never knew you needed: I'm sorry.
When we take away your choices, we take away your happiness. I'm sorry if I've done that. I'm sorry if I've just been really stupid, but I could be a lot worse.
Even if I'm shaking my head right now and disgusted at what I just wrote, I don't want to go back and erase it. Check this letter and examine closely when you find it — nothing has been erased. I want this to be as real as possible, Sophie, and don't you wish life was that simple? Isn't that what we're working towards?
I'm not the only person who has flaws, Sophie, and I wish you could ask sometimes. That sounds like I'm jealous, yeah, and I get that it's not totally your fault, and I'm still your boyfriend no matter what. (Yikes, that sounds cheesy.) But since I'm already being too much, I feel like the things I want to matter end up not mattering sometimes at all.
I have so many unanswered questions and I don't know what any of them are.
I hope you'll be an answer to a question I've always known all along, though. Sometimes I'm certain about it, and sometimes I'm not.
So just... stop, okay? No, don't do that. Keep being yourself, and we'll see how this plays out.
JUST FOR EVEN MORE FUN, HERE'S ANOTHER EXCERPT! :D
Is there a difference?
The girl got the information. The girl got the truth, something she'd rarely received before.
Now, he was curious as to what she'd do with it.
And how that could change everything.
That was what he was about — changing the game without knowing if it was for the greater good or greater evil.
And so did everyone else. With a heavy heart, Cassius Sencen pressed his cold palms to his stiffly bent shoulders, having realized that he was not special in the sense that he could play an important role — everyone could. Everyone already had.
Just because you're not standing on the front lines doesn't mean you're not going to die.
He wasn't the only one great with game-changing secrets. Not anymore, anyways. And he'd be waiting for the next person who managed to surprised him and let their shadow grow, always standing on both sides, always being valuable so he could live.
Sophie felt something twist and lunge for her insides as people called her name at her bedside.
The name no longer felt like hers, though she doubted the sense of familarity would ever leave her. She couldn't wake up — just simply couldn't. Somewhere in her half-conscious state, she felt something that was already out of reach walk somewhere even further away, until it simply... dissappeared.
You are Sophie Foster. You are the moonlark, and you WILL NOT give up like this — especially not with all your friends here to support you, one part of her head reminded her, determined to continue, while another bitterly asked of revenge: Wouldn't it be funny if you did give up?
If I give up, we all give up. Sophie was beginning to feel sick after finally realizing how important she was, but she wouldn't know what a significant role she played in the elvin world unless the other elves existed.
When she forced her eyelids open, it felt like a new world with only icy water to guide her and a teal-eyed boy by her side. It wasn't relief she felt, exactly — just a small sense of pride for resisting to urge to fall asleep and never wake up again, knowing that no one else would ever truly understand what she was going through.
Isn't that all you do? She wondered, drowning herself when there was no water, Take risks and end up in a place so desperate no one wants to help you?
Sophie? This voice was different and familiar, all at the same time. It wasn't hers.
Fitz. Her knees almost gave out with something that still wasn't relief, not really. She got the gut feeling that Fitz would be the only one who would come somewhere close to understanding how she felt.
When she straightened her back, the stiffness in her joints and elbow told Sophie Foster, a fifteen-year-old black swan, that she had been asleep for quite a long time. Maybe two or three days, judging by the fact that the soreness hadn't made its way to her head. Yet.
How long have I been asleep? Her mental voice sounded groggy, tired, and she hoped that it would convince Fitz to tell her the truth. Asleep. It sounded too peaceful, like it would never happen again. And she could sense how she was plunging into dangerous territory that would only get more dangerous with each new word, diving headfirst into the freezing water that now filled her head and drowned out the rest of the noise.
Too daring. Swallowing, Sophie looked up at Fitz and waited for an answer. For a moment, it looked like he was going to say it out loud, but he gave a tiny shake of the head and carried his voice using his connection with her, Two days. And a half. You weren't asleep, Sophie — you were sedated.
Sedated because even she couldn't bear the guilt. Her knees buckled tightly. Again, this wasn't relief, but a certain feeling sweeped over her and her gratitude toward Fitz for telling her the truth was enough to keep her from asking any further questions.
Surely he knew her well enough to answer them on his own. But every moment of hesitation really was killing her, impaling her, making her unable to breathe.
She was losing her hold on him.
And on Keefe.
Sophie didn't know that she was losing Keefe even while she was asleep, but she was. Somewhere in the darkness, she'd lost his smirk. Then his grin. Then his broken smiles, followed by his determined eyes. His cries of pain.
Then, finally, in the light, all she had left was the ruthless side of Keefe Sencen, and the only thing she could do was let go.
He wouldn't want to be remembered like this. But Sophie didn't know Keefe well enough to know exactly what he was thinking whenever she wanted to, without having to read his mind.
She felt the drop of emotions in her stomach as something sharp stung in her left temple. Wincing, she reached up to press against her forehead but instead ended up searching for another eyelash to tug nervously at while Fitz dipped a hankerchief with intricate moonlarks sewn into the cloth in icy water and dabbed beneath her blonde hair.
Throwing every trace of her former self behind her shoulder, Sophie exhaled with relief and tried to show as little gratefulness as she could. She didn't have time for it anymore.
"Edaline and Grady have been here since the beginning," Fitz whispered out loud, looking... hurt. It made Sophie feel angry somehow, almost as though she was Fitz — just that their positions had reversed. She was the one feeling the grief-torn rage, and she was seeing herself for who she really was. "I have, too."
Have you? Have you, Fitz? "I'm—" she choked out, trying to find the right words. Keefe would have words to say. Maybe not the 'right' ones, but he would at least have something to say. "Anything else you need to tell me?"
Fitz looked away as soon as their eyes met with a level of intensity Sophie had never achieved before with anybody, not even Keefe. "He's being kept at the Shores of Solace," he told her, somehow managing a straight face, "And the Council's announced his planting—"
"He's at the Shores of Solace?" Sophie snapped, cutting him off as she sat up. Before she was aware, her feet hit the ground as Fitz wrapped a steady arm around her, not letting her fall.
"Sophie, I know you're mad. But I can't exactly—"
"Yes, you can!" Sophie threw her arms up in the air so Fitz couldn't continue, "You can do things about it! When you watch everything I do, does it make you seem weaker than I am?" Her voice grew silent, impatient. "I thought you were supposed to have my back, Fitz." Sophie exclaimed, weeping for her lost friend.
Fitz let go of her almost immediately, shooting her an apologetic glance. "I'm not done. If you can heal Keefe..." He was pleading now, but somehow his face was devoid of emotion and simply a milky gray.
There was hope in his voice. Too much hope, even.
But Sophie couldn't give him that hope or let it live a second longer than it had to.
"I can't," she forced the words out of her mouth, tasting bile, "I can't, Fitz. He... he doesn't want to be healed."
Fitz looked thoroughly enraged and back to his old self as his very prescence seemed to light the room on fire. "What do you mean, you can't heal him?"
His voice was a deadly whisper, the final thing anyone's enemy would say before the earth-shattering blow that would end everything.
"It's a promise." Sophie was surprised at how confident she sounded, "And I can't break any more promises, Fitz. This is what Keefe wanted. You have to believe me!"
Fitz sneered at the childish tone in her voice. "You have to believe me — I believe you because there's no one else I can believe. Sophie? Are you really betraying my trust now? After everything we've been through?" He was shouting now, lowering Sophie's voice to nothing, not even dust.
This is what Keefe would've wanted. But was it just another one of his reckless decisions? "Fitz, this is what Keefe wanted," she repeated firmly, standing her own ground, "And I won't let you change it. If you want to try to heal him by yourself, fine. Go get yourself another Cognate if you'd like," she mirrored him, waving him off with a glare.
Another friend lost, and no friends gained.
The elves wouldn't understand if a golden boy reduced into a red mess of truth didn't.
He wants me to meet him when I'm gone, the cold voice blinked into existence again after the teal-eyed boy stormed out of the room, ready to explode, But he knows I won't be gone anytime soon. He thinks he doesn't deserve me.
The words hollowed Sophie out, probably because she knew that she would never be able to confirm whether they were true or not.
She could heal Keefe, as Fitz suggested.
But... he wouldn't want to be healed.
He would shatter again and it would be a game of tug-of-war until she finally shattered herself, too.
Is this the ending you wanted, Keefe?
Keefe wanted her to promise that she would be okay, intact, when he saw her again.
Promise my moonlark that she'll be intact when I see her again. Sophie had already lost Keefe's voice somewhere in the back of her mind, so she naturally wrapped her arms around her chest and tried to think... Somewhere between her buried layers of desperation, the ground swayed beneath Sophie's feet and she wondered when she would see him again.
And the only conclusion she received was:
He wouldn't see her again.
She wouldn't see Keefe ever again.
She would continue changing until they were too different to remember each other at all.
Remembering is a funny thing.
How many things had the elvin world lost entirely?
All just to create the illusion of peace?
Sophie somehow felt as if that was all part of Lady Gisela's plan — for Keefe to reveal their world's darkest secrets, have the blame and speculation be put on his shoulders until it broke him entirely.
You're more use to me dead than alive. Though Sophie knew Gisela would never have the audacity to say that sentence out loud, what had just happened was fair to her — Keefe wasn't dead. There was a difference between shattering the mind and pushing the body past the breaking point.
Sophie bit the insides of her cheek, knowing that it would take at least six weeks for the first of her eyelashes to grow out again. Blood coursed through her mouth as quickly as adrenaline, and suddenly she couldn't stand the idea of being idle again — she had to be out there and help Keefe if there was the slightest chance he would come back again.
That's what you did with Prentice, she tried reminding herself, and Alden. And Fintan.
But did she really want to save all the people she'd supposedly rescued, or was it forced upon her by her superiors?
You are Sophie Foster. You are the Black Swan's moonlark, and you can turn this game around. Keefe Sencen is part of the game, and... And...
Guilt dropped her back to where she was before, even though this time she was being lifted by a bird. This is what his mom — Lady Gisela — would've wanted.
In fact, the only person she'd ever wanted to save was Alden. He was the only person she wholeheartedly saved, and the reason why he'd shattered was entirely her fault.
She was the only reason why Keefe had shattered, and the similarities he shared with Alden were too many to count. For one, the Council proclaimed both him and Alden 'dead' even though it was only their minds that were really broken.
If I can rescue Alden, I can rescue you too.
Keefe had always regarded Alden as a father figure — as had she.
Where do I stand during all this? An advantage to being so divided herself was being able to ask herself questions she usually wouldn't manage.
The rescuer. A new role was being forced upon her.
But this time, she was willing to take it. Even if this was what she wanted, it was still coincidential. This time, she would win. This time, she would show the Council her power.
Hindsight is a dangerous game.
Power is also a dangerous game. And now she was no longer drowning in a bucket of icy water — she was able to combat it with her own skill to regulate her own temperature. Maybe she couldn't change how cold the water was, but she could change her own attitude toward it.
It isn't too selfish to care about yourself for once, Sophie, she imagined her friends and family telling her — their voices all merging into an endless gray field.
Where are they?
Sophie held onto the corner of her cot and squeezed, trying hard to ignore the question. Fitz had said that Grady and Edaline had been here from the very beginning...
Bracing for the impact, the only thing Sophie got was an answer as the door to Foxfire's Healing Center was slowly pushed open. Her friends and family all trickled in at a speed that was impossibly fast and drainingly slow at the same time.
But only one face was missing.
The only one she could really care about.
The two people she didn't even know she had to choose between three days ago were now both gone. Not wanting to make the confession again, Sophie got a strange urge to repeat her horrifying thoughts to herself under the knowledge that no one else would be able to understand.
You're pushing us away again, Sophie, she imagined the teal-eyed boy telling her, and everything she'd ever remembered about Fitz's perfectly round face simply vanished with a single click while something else snapped into place in her mind.
Sophie thought she knew Fitz so well to the point where she could predict his actions. It was only when Fitz didn't care about her anymore that she lost that ability.
next part coming out in 30ish mins! :D thank you all so much for your feedback, i've been trying to write a ton of chapters in one and post them separately so the next few chapters will be slightly shorter and almost always end on mini-cliffhangers xD
The two people she didn't even know she had to choose between three days ago were now both gone. Not wanting to make the confession again, Sophie got a strange urge to repeat her horrifying thoughts to herself under the knowledge that no one else would be able to understand.
You're pushing us away again, Sophie, she imagined the teal-eyed boy telling her, and everything she'd ever remembered about Fitz's perfectly round face simply vanished with a single click while something else snapped into place in her mind.
Sophie thought she knew Fitz so well to the point where she could predict his actions. It was only when Fitz didn't care about her anymore that she lost that ability.
Tiergan had always wondered whether their Cognatedom could work without sharing all of their secrets. It didn't matter if their trust was gone, which was what was needed to share any of their secrets with each other — the secrets that always became public.
So immersed in her thoughts, Sophie didn't even notice when Grady pulled her into a bear hug and ran his hand through her hair, smiling with all the warmth from the outside world combined. "You have no idea how good it is to see you awake, kiddo," he kept repeating, like he was scared Sophie would go unconscious again if he stopped talking, "You seriously have no idea."
Edaline was the next to approach her cot with the slightest bit of hesitation in her step. Refusing to let anyone else in her life go, Sophie waved her over and wrapped her arm like a sling around Edaline's shoulder. Suddenly realizing that she was excluding Grady, she pulled him in, too, and sunk into their embrace.
Dex — at least, Sophie thought it was Dex — cleared his throat gently behind them. When Sophie turned around and twisted Edaline and Grady's arms together, giving them time to look at each other, she noticed how Dex's face was blotchy and his entire face was covered. With. Pimples. Fierce dark circles that reminded her so much of Keefe's whenever he didn't get enough sleep for her streaked his eyelids, and Dex looked like he was trying to comfort himself by holding onto his own shoulder.
Sophie also couldn't ignore the fact that he was holding hands with Biana and felt a sudden, desperate urge to mention how cute they looked, but it would have to come later.
Before Fitz, even before Keefe, there was Dex, her first best friend. Forever.
"Are you okay?" Sophie winced as her cold feet touched the icy ground, but it didn't matter to her. The only thing that did matter was tackling Dex with a hug both of them needed.
He laughed and wrapped both his hands around Sophie's neck, making a little grunting noise. "Look at you, Sophie. Look at you." A hushed silence fell across the room — as if she deserved it.
What would Keefe do? "Don't start," she warned as she dropped her arms to the side, letting go as subtly as she could to drop the hint that Dex should be holding onto Biana's wrist, not hers.
But it was Biana who jumped out from the side and choked Sophie with a strangling — could she even call it a hug anymore? — gesture that made Sophie gag in a friendly way. Sophie pulled back and tried to examine her face, but Biana twisted away as soon as she realized what her friend was doing.
"Sophie, you look like death punched you in the face," she said horrifyingly without even glancing her way. The old Biana probably thought that of her every day, but it amazed her how quickly the chocolate-brown haired girl who once hated her had transformed into her friend almost as much as how she'd become a brave fighter.
"I've looked worse," she joked, trying to channel Keefe's spirit. It only seemed right.
Biana choked out something between her sobs. "See? You're already different," she turned to the rest of her friends before soaking her face in Dex's shoulder like it was the only place where she could be hidden.
Linh stepped out from behind, giving a shy and almost unfriendly wave as the two of them observed each other, trying to see who would give in first. They both did — at the same time — and hugged, a real hug.
"I wish I knew him better," Linh whispered in Sophie's ear, on the verge of crying, "I wish I knew Keefe like you did."
That was when Sophie broke down. The world blurred in front of her and spun sideways in circles, like it was still trying to decide how to torture her.
That was when the brutal truth hit her, faster than Sophie could've ever imagined: She couldn't forgive herself if she never even tried to save Keefe.
It was the only way she could keep going. It was the only way to keep herself from meeting Keefe — and Keefe never wanted that. For her.
I can't shatter if I try to save you, Keefe, she tried to transmit to the Shores of Solace, but she was sure the only person who heard her was Lord Cassius.
Lord Cassius. He would've wanted the same thing, too. Sophie simply knew it.
She'd already dissappointed everyone enough. She'd already dissappointed herself enough. Now, she had to save the one person she knew was worth saving.
"I'll save him," she cried in her hallucinations, "Just let me go!"
But how could she fight against someone who had already given up?
So she stood up with the last of her energy and watched it drain as she felt around the void for the simple feel of Fitz's mind and transmitted to him, I'm going to save him. It felt like a new kind of determination, the kind of determination that meant the biggest difference.
"You don't have to do this, Sophie," Fitz pleaded as he made a final transmission to her, his mental voice being carried by his draining hope — Sophie couldn't imagine why he had to transmit whatever he wanted to say instead of just saying it out loud until his message came through.
Keefe wouldn't have wanted this, Sophie.
She almost wanted to laugh. You don't know what he wants, Fitz, and I don't think you'll ever know.
Who are you, Sophie? They were making eye contact again. After all the times Sophie thought their trust had been breached, he just had to come back crawling again at the last possible second.
Looking into his perfect, glassy teal eyes that would be a reflection of her life with him if she ever took it, Sophie noticed how she used to be the one asking all her friends if they were sure they wanted to get themselves into another near-death experience.
Now, everything was reversed.
Who are you, Fitz? An hour ago, you hated me for not wanting to save him.
I could never hate you. Sophie's heart seemed to cool down and burn at the same time as a wave of heat swept over her. Those were her words. But they belonged to Keefe.
They weren't meant for Fitz. But before she had the chance to snap back, Fitz continued with his sentimental speech that made Sophie want to fast forward in time six weeks and rip out all her eyelashes again. Come to think of it, she probably could figure out a way to time travel if she successfully healed Keefe.
An hour ago, you didn't want to do this, he reminded her gently and waited for the reality to set in. I didn't mean to force you, Sophie. Really.
You didn't force me! She practically screamed, ejecting her thoughts out of her brain, I would've done this any day, she tried to reassure Fitz in an apologetic tone. Both of them knew that she couldn't choke the word sorry out right now if her life depended on it.
Sophie didn't remember when Fitz's hand was over hers, but he gave her pinkie a tiny squeeze and wrapped her in a hug that surely meant something. Then let me do it with you.
No, she immediately transmitted back.
Why not? He said defensively, rolling up his sleeves as if to show her how ready for combat he was.
Sophie sighed. In order for Fitz to know what the point of her mission was, she would have to show him the memory of Keefe breaking — every single second of it. And she was so not ready to do that.
Mirroring his movement, Sophie decided to grab onto his wrist and force him to look her in the eye. She was surprised that no one in the room snickered — especially not Tam, who was basically a counterpart of Keefe — but then again, maybe they'd changed too much for their old selves already. Just the thought made her feel sad, a different kind of sadness that she wouldn't really understand.
Watching Fitz decide what to do was like watching her life pass by her own eyes. He shuffled his feet to the side and dropped Sophie's arm, hanging his mouth like words were about to slip right from his grasp — and then, he took them back at the very last second.
Listen, he began quietly, do you know what I'm about to tell you?
Sophie was listless as she nodded numbly and twisted her jaw sideways. I might. But it won't change anything, Fitz, so you should back off.
She felt something shift inside of him, something transforming as she took a deep breath and turned away. Sophie Foster had eliminated one of her choices, and the other one was right in front of her — if she managed to bring him back.
Exchanging a quick glance with Lord Cassius, his glowering eyes told her everything she needed to know. Sophie exhaled, reaching for Keefe's temples with her sweaty palms and plunging into an icy sea she never had permission to enter.
She thought it would be cold.
But it was blistering hot and burning with Keefe's punishment for breaking his promise. His voice boomed across this different kind of void as if he was the last thing you saw before death.
irony. when one character is a silent martyr but hides their pain. When one character breaks themselves to keep someone else in tact, and the other character is either unapreciative or unknowing of what they've done for them.
Chicken tornado wrote: irony. when one character is a silent martyr but hides their pain. When one character breaks themselves to keep someone else in tact, and the other character is either unapreciative or unknowing of what they've done for them.
There was a moment before Sophie entered Keefe's mind when she simply... forgot.
Like everything in her mind had to be wiped clean before she could enter.
Then the pain kicked in. Pain, a freezing kind of hot that made Sophie shiver even though her body wanted to sweat, like she was being drowned in limbium and forced to open her mouth. It felt like... no, it was impossible... but everything in Keefe's mind, or what was left of it, was just raw emotion being enhanced by her very prescence.
She was so grateful for how much she was hurting, especially in her shoulders and sides. An irresistable urge to tug out her eyelashes dug its way into her stomach, but she let it aside and filled herself with pain — that was the only way she could continue with the healing.
I'm not giving in. I'mnotgivingin. I'mnotgivinginI'mnotgivinginI'mnot—
Instantly, her memories started trickling in and a hidden pocket seemed to burst after a few seconds, allowing everything she'd accumulated over the years to flood her mind and make her dizzy while trying to sort everything back into order.
Pain brought her memories back. And she would bring Keefe back, too, save him, and drag him back to where he belonged.
Keefe? She asked uncertainly, and everything in his mind drew blank until there was nothing left but soft, dangerous whispers. This was a different kind of Keefe. If his current state could become one of his personalities, it would be the reckless boy trying to save her at all costs — even thought almost everything was silent.
Keefe, Sophie transmitted again, this time more confident as she pressed her palms to the edges of his consciousness like a winged animal, I'm here.
I'm here. I'm here. I'm here.
She could see him trying to make sense of the words.
Sophie pushed again. Keefe, I'm here.
A blistering headache swelled, opening up a pathway to someplace in Keefe's mind that would only bring Sophie more pain. That was how she knew it was the right way. That was all she could concentrate on: What do I have to do next? What am I missing?
These healings are really draining! She was beginning to lose herself as the maze twisted tighter, tighter, and tighter...
Trust the trap. Even though Sophie was ready to give up, she was here for a reason and the only way she could get out of this place was if she achieved her goal.
Instantly, as if on cue, everything that was choking her a moment earlier twisted tightly and almost strangled her until it just let go.
But nothing had changed. She was still in the same trapped, caged room that reminded her of Lord Cassius's mind, how it felt like it was a prison at the center of a fierce, unmapped star...
Keefe, don't give up yet. Sophie was amazed at how clear her words were sounding, as if she'd had weeks of practice instead of a few minutes to make up her mind.
There was so much at stake, so many people she couldn't dissappoint.
Fitz. He would be broken if she failed.
Lady Gisela. Because this was definitely part of some twisted plan.
Even Lord Cassius, who really did love his son.
Their pictures all swirled and swirled as Sophie blasted it toward Keefe, hoping that it would give him some purpose to wake up...
Nothing happened. Frustrated, Sophie screamed and let all her boiling anger erupt and set into the empty boy's eyes, hoping it would somehow... help...
Don't give up yet. Sophie wasn't sure if the words had been said for her sake or Keefe's.
Until, miraculously, all the pictures of the people she couldn't stand to lose, maybe even loved, started forming somehow. Sophie could only watch in awe as they filled up the empty place that was somehow nowhere close to filling up, even with all the people... as if Keefe's head could just be stretched to fit all of them.
This is a sign. A good sign. Clenching her fists together, Sophie blinked and her eyes teared up when she realized that she was also part of the mix — a younger version of her, back when she'd healed Alden in Exile.
I know! Our Foster's been growing up and snarkier than ever! Keefe chuckled... but those weren't the exact words he said...
And Sophie didn't have time to remember what exactly he said when all her friends filling up his mind closed their eyes and marched toward the old Sophie, cornering her and pushing her to the ground as she cried out and pressed her palm against a cool surface she could no longer feel.
Except: Sophie, the new Sophie, didn't feel the slightest twinge of guilt or anger.
Not even pain. All she could do was watch and resist the urge to join her crowd of friends, now blasting her with water and fire and everything in between.
The Sophie thrashing on the ground saw an opening and swiftly broke through the crowd of people, desperately making eye contact with her as they pulled her back by the feet and ripped out an inch of her hair, pulled out her eyelashes with a horrifying rrripppp, covered her mouth and pinched the inside of her cheek with their bare fingers, and grabbed onto her wrist so hard it was going to slit at any moment.
And they had to step aside while the old Sophie was trapped in a force field as she broke down, her cheeks streaking with tears and her eyes clouded with no eyelashes to catch her tears, waiting to be saved.
This new boy sitting in front of Sophie reminded her of how few elves in the elvin world would have icy blue eyes and blond hair that could be mistakened for Keefe's. There were plenty of elves with blue eyes — as if to prove her point, she glanced over at her crowd of friends and instantly turned away with guilt — but none of them would ever be as funny, quirky, and original like Keefe Sencen.
This is why we need him back. Clenching her fists together with a new kind of determination, adrenaline pumped through her as Sophie Foster stepped toward the Keefe look-alike and tried to give him the most menacing glower she could manage.
But all he did was laugh.
And hang his head back, tilting it to the side as if to tell her that she didn't belong here.
When he looked down into her eyes again, Sophie understood why she thought he looked like Keefe. Even now, he seemed like he was shifting form to whatever moderately frightened her — not a second later, his youthful face took on the characteristics of a young Lord Cassius and Keefe combined, twisting as if it was trying smirk and scream at the same time.
Sophie's eyes pooled with tears. She would rather cry than scream herself. It was a sign of her fear, and crying brought her pain — pain was good.
Hi, Sophie, the boy said, managing a shy wave before blending into the shadows. Sophie whipped her head back and tried to sprint toward the young — no, old Sophie — before a figure appeared in front of her, making her eyes sting with the realization that he was actually Keefe.
Is it you? She dared to ask, smiling ridiculously, is it you, Keefe?
When he spoke, his voice was cold and almost sent her plummeting to another room where none of this was present. Why does it matter to you?
Sophie tried to form an answer before realizing that she just couldn't. There was too much to say, too much to risk, and she couldn't lose herself here.
But... this Keefe was just so real. His lips quirked up in a round, hopeful grin while somehow also reflecting how reckless and unconditionally brave he was. And then there were his eyes... icy and blue... glassy after shattering...
This is what he would've looked like after his mind shattered.
Disgusted, Sophie resisted the urge to spit and tried to run over to the younger version of herself before her face slammed into a mirror. Crying out in pain, she sure she was just going to lose herself. Keefe's mind was a place where she was willing to lose herself. She was fine with that. Happy, even.
Biana must've felt the same way after Vespera bashed her face in. Her scars and how she was dying in a pool of her own blood... with a horrible awakening, Sophie realized that the worst part about what had happened was that Biana didn't even know that she was dying before the pain set in.
Pain is how you live. Sophie stood up and pressed her face to the glass, watching poor Sophie crying as she shot one desperate look to her older self.
She felt an explainable urge to take the pain she was going through for herself. It was a sisterly instinct she had adapted to all along. If only she could get there first.
Keefe looked at her as he had the night he found out that his dad — actually, his mom — was part of the Neverseen. Which one will it be, Sophie?
What do you mean? Sophie felt dizzy with the simple effort of using her head. This place plays games with you, she tried to remind herself. No wonder, when Keefe had been played with for his entire life.
His lips scrunched into a tight smile, close to spreading into a grin. Me or her? He mouthed, pointing to the young version of herself closing her eyes on the floor, about to accept eternal pain.
It'll be okay. I'm coming for you! She tried to transmit into her mind, but there was nothing. Not even a barrier, but Sophie knew the message didn't go through. The younger sister version of herself simply didn't exist.
But the rational side of her refused to believe that. I'm tired of choosing, she replied weakly as she held her hands over her stomach, bracing herself for what was coming next. When she didn't die or scream in pain in the next second, she felt the urge to add a Don't do this to me plea.
Keefe's face widened with confusion and fear before it resumed to its normal self. You want to choose me, Sophie, he hissed, his face swirling her surroundings as his head bobbed up and down, I can see it in your eyes.
Sophie gave in and nodded weakly, putting on a fake smile as she reached up to tug out an eyelash that was never there.
So why did you never choose me? There's always someone else, isn't there? The pictures of Fitz, the Neverseen, even Lord Cassius flashed through her head, and a new one was added to the mix... the younger her.
I always wanted to choose you, Keefe, she swallowed, wanting it to be as real as possible, I chose you MANY times. Even when it seemed like I chose someone else, I still chose you. Her heart swelled with warmth when she realized that her lies were, indeed, often times true.
That's my girl. Lying to the very end, he grinned from ear to ear mischieviously as he pivoted from his standing position on to one knee, holding a heart-shaped bubble in his palm.
That's my Keefe, playing games until the very end. It's not your fault, she said reassuringly, patting his shoulder with a smoky hand, You've been played too many times.
A sickening jolt reminded her that was the very reason of the Neverseen's existence. She felt awful about manipulating Keefe, but... she was doing it to save him.
One look on his face told her that she'd hit exactly where she needed to. She paused, cheering herself on mentally and waiting for the next obstacle about to come her way. What do I do next? What am I missing?
And then everything vanished in front of her — some things swirled away while others faded, even danced out of the light. As if they dared to do that.
Sophie knew she was doing something wrong. She wasn't supposed to let her emotions get in control. When she let her true feelings free, everything became a mess and she forgot the reasons behind her motives — she would know, because she just proved that point. And she was more than willing to give up emotion for Keefe.
Keefe, please come back.
She felt something tingle beneath her skin and had to add a hasty I'll always wait for you, no matter what. There wasn't even time for embarassment to set into her cheeks.
When nothing happened, she felt a burst of frustration in her stomach and sent it spiraling into his mind, hoping that it would surprise Keefe enough to respond. When that didn't work, she clenched at her stomach and felt hunger, pure hunger, like she hadn't eaten in weeks.
But there was a skill she had to fix it, and it wasn't appetite suppression. That hunger made her sway with dizziness and confusion, causing her to cry out in pain and forget why she was even there for a few moments — even reminding her of how lost she'd felt in Lord Cassius's mind when his memories had proved to be too overwhelming for them when her head finally cleared.
It made her question something for once that slowly pulled her out of her draining state: What if she wasn't making things better for Keefe? What if... Sophie swallowed, examining the surroundings that were suddenly so surreal, what if this would only weaken her and Keefe because she couldn't handle it?
Like father, like son. But Sophie refused to believe it until her knees gave in, like she'd been eating too much candy and was high on sugar. She felt the sudden urge to drool as she stood up with a heavy heart, trying her best to distract herself from all her, well, distractions.
How do I do that? I focus on my main goal. Sophie tried to put herself in Keefe's position, asked herself what she would do if she were him. The thought was just... overburdening, but it got her closer to her main target with a step missing. Each time she really tried, a burst of a bubble in her stomach rewarded her with pure satisfaction, and she worked feverishly to pop more before the hunger set in again.
Each step she took, Sophie made a mental mark so she would be remembered inside a head that didn't belong to hers and threaded it with her somehow. It was almost magical — all she had to do was recall a specific place on her body where pain had set in, awful pain, remind herself that it was the only thing keeping her alive, and tied a golden string anchoring her steps she would use later to trace herself to the spot on her body.
She didn't even know where she was getting all of this from and it reminded her horribly and vividly of her adoptive mother, Edaline, and her ability. Conjuring. Leaving the thought aside that she might've manifested a new ability, Sophie gave herself a single moment to catch her breath before she continued wading through an endless pit of sand where a broken boy lay.
When she was pushed to her breaking point, intense and powerful things could happen to her. Instincts are powerful things — dangerous, too, she tried to remind herself with her own voice, but it sounded like a younger version of her. The... the girl crying out in excruciating agony earlier. The exiled her, burdened with guilt.
That was all it took for her to shatter, too. One different step. But this wasn't time to confront the past and the millions of possibilities. It was time to face the future — which also held countless opportunities.
Keefe? She finally dared to ask, taking a deep breath as her body moved along. It reminded her of a bird — graceful and swift, which made Sophie Foster almost want to choke out a laugh. She was nothing but clumsy, maybe because her mind was made to be too strong and she was lacking strength in a lot of other... departments.
There was no dissappointment when he didn't respond, but it kind of felt... wrong, like she wasn't ready to accept it, either. But she just had to try one more time.
Keefe, I'm here. If you'll say it, I'll say it back.
She didn't know what she wanted him to say. But it was quickly overriden by an outburst, a freezing scream that made her feel like she was trapped in a block of ice.
Sophie, please — stop!
The words stopped her cold, made her pause in her footsteps. Amy's words. But coming out of Keefe's mind. Her heart ached at how much the two of them had in common, the secrets that drove them to different places.
Her sister. It made sense, the figure she'd seen earlier— the younger version of herself. How easily that could've been Amy.
Instead of me. Sophie Foster had never denied who she was this strongly before, but what made her scared was the sudden feeling that she wasn't alone.
She hated that. Everyone telling her that she wasn't alone, that other people also had their own problems — she wanted to be the only one with problems, however selfish that was. It was like the day she'd realized she enjoyed fighting with her sister Amy, the exact day she had to leave everything behind; she liked not being understood. She liked being unpredictable.
It was the only thing that kept her alive.
SOPHIE, the voice boomed, frustrated and tearing out something with a heavy rip, WHY?
He sounded like he was crying. Like she had just sacrificed his life for him, and she was now in her final stages of life.
WHY? He repeated. Sophie imagined Keefe now — passed out in his own pool of tears and sweat instead of blood. But they were an easily replaceable substitute. WHY? His voice now held a tone of frustration like a long-held rivalry existed between them. It was then that Sophie knew she fully intended to tear down every barrier between her and Keefe. She wanted to see him — even if he was broken. Even if it wasn't real.
WHY, SOPHIE? He screamed, pounding at the walls and kicking the edges of his consciousness like he was trying to break free knowing that there was no escape outside. His voice loomed over hers like a shadow, as if trying to make her feel...
Sophie swallowed, feeling guilty. No, you cannot feel guilty. But this time she could. She had to feel emotion in order to reach her final goal.
AAAAH THIS IS AMAZING BUT MY POOR KEEFE AND POOR SOPHIE! You're too good at this. I feel guilty for loving this amazing writing so much, because of what you do to these poor characters XD But seriously, this is a work of art!
Keefe's humorless laugh drained the last shreds of amusement from the empty gray void that was his mind. Well, not that there had been humor before — Sophie could feel something shifting and tried to figure out whether that was good or not.
Is it you? They both seemed to want to ask that question, but Sophie beat him to the punch.
He gave a tired smile that was worn down by years of being played. You were right, Foster. Are you happy now?
Sophie felt something breathtaking try to sweep her away into a trapped bubble where she would fade away forever, but it was beautiful enough for her to know that it wasn't the reality she wanted. Just like how Keefe wouldn't be there to send green mental breezes flowing through her again.
What am I right about? She wondered. She wondered about how she could ever be right again, whether Fitz was right to suggest that he do this with her.
A secret stopped him from being her friend. A secret stopped him from being what Keefe sacrificed himself for. His dying wish. And a secret was about to be revealed.
He's not dead, she pushed herself into saying, feeling like she was trapped in a cage of shattered glass. But the Council thought him dead, just like they had with Alden. And she'd managed to save him, Sophie thought with a bitter sense of pride.
Keefe sighed frustratingly, making him seem like a fifteen-year-old and a child at the same time. Unless if the two had no difference — which Sophie couldn't even make sense of anymore.
You were right, Sophie, each word bringing him closer to admitting what it was she was right about, you were right. This place is really painful — all the more reason I'm still here. All the more reason I shouldn't have left you alone like that.
Anger melted — maybe boiled — to a deep scar exactly where one of Sophie's threads were. Pressing her skin as hard as she could, she once again wondered how she could fight against someone who didn't even want to defend themself.
Keefe winced sharply, reminding Sophie that this place was still a game. But there were few things she wouldn't do to defend him.
So many questions, and so few answers. Keefe immediately noticed her dissappointment and his lips quirked up into a smile — Sophie felt it. She knew it. He had replaced Fitz.
As if he had the ability to read her mind, the thrashing began as the hopeless Keefe began to emerge. He cried, taking the form of a boy Sophie couldn't stand but still had to break her heart for. How many times did she have to relive his spar with King Dimitar? Watch him die while trapped in a tube filled with icy water? Get tortured for the whereabouts of Sophie by the Neverseen as they pressed a melder into his head and sent him crashing into the floor, his lip flayed open with blood gushing out?
The scenes blurred as more and more started coming in, soaking her tears into nothingness.
Until Keefe's helpless scream came through and everything came flying again. HOW CAN YOU BLAME THEM, SOPHIE? HOW DARE YOU?!
What? Her own face.
Keefe wiped his tears and stood in a stance like he was on orders to kill Sophie. With a heavy heart, Sophie vaguely remembered that was exactly what had happened with him and Tam — was she taking his place?
Woah, you're catching me? The waves crashing into Lady Cadence's houseboat. Riverdrift.
She had told him to remember his happy place. Now she understood how ridiculous that was — there was simply no happy. But there was still good.
Keefe's surprised grin reminded her of the face he'd worn when he almost got tossed over the ledge. You think the Neverseen did this to you — no, me. You think the Neverseen did this to me, he repeated in disbelief, his shaky voice bouncing off the walls.
Of course! Without a doubt, Sophie knew that Keefe wouldn't be here, wouldn't be broken if the Neverseen hadn't existed. Of course, if the Neverseen had never existed, she also wouldn't have...
Keefe's smirk shone through — Sophie could only imagine that this was the face he had put on while working as a double agent against the Neverseen.
Most of them were Pyrokinetics. Most of them were... don't you understand, Sophie? He whispered, shaking his head, BANISHED! FORGOTTEN! Ruy Ignis... you remember him, don't you? Another shake of the head. Desperate. He was BANISHED FROM EXILLIUM, Sophie. Ejected. Don't you understand? MAYBE YOU WOULD, IF YOU WEREN'T MADE TO BE SPECIAL! IF YOU WEREN'T MADE TO BE GOOD!
HOW CAN YOU BLAME THEM, SOPHIE? HOW CAN YOU?! Through it all, Sophie saw the broken Keefe, the side of Keefe that really believed it.
Her heart sank.
It was her imagination.
So when no rush of pain shot up her leg, Sophie knew she was finished.
For everything she'd done along the way to fight, death was quick and even merciful.
The corner of Keefe's lips quirked up — Sophie hated herself for knowing Keefe so well. But one thing was for sure: she wasn't dying. Her sanity wasn't even shattering.
That made her wonder: Was Keefe really gone? It had only been three days...
I love seeing you hope, Sophie, a disgusted voice shone through, Funniest thing of the century! Oh, wait... I haven't been alive that long...
Stop this, Sophie pleaded internally as her eyelids squeezed shut. Could Keefe hear?
Her irrational fears brewed up a storm as things flashed in her mind that would only be possible with her eyes closed. Sophie had never seen things so vivid yet so blurred before.
Keefe's voice boomed and seemed to trigger an earthquake in both their heads. Trying to stop herself from crying out in pain, Sophie tugged at her nonexistent eyelashes and ended up jabbing herself in the eye. Tears started flowing out as she covered her left eye with the back of her palm, waiting for all of this to end...
Done trying to convince yourself that my head is a game? Or are you going to start crawling out right now?
It is a game, Sophie fired back, trying to convince herself more than distracting Keefe, And would you please stop it! I'm trying to... I'm trying to...
An eye roll. Was that her imagination? And what was Sophie really doing here?
She didn't remember... but it was close, right there, and...
Even if I am crawling, Sophie's eyes lit up, I won't be losing.
Confusion seemed to sweep over him — one of the vulnerabilities of Keefe Sencen. Being in his head exposed his emotions, and confusion was the hardest emotion to identify.
Was. Was. Was. The echo... Sophie couldn't think anymore... that was the only thing she knew.
And that gave Keefe the upper hand. YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND! He shook and trembled with anger, stomping his feet like a child having a tantrum, I WISH YOU COULD SEE ME FOR WHO I AM.
Who are you, Keefe? She had to understand. It was... it was too... fascinating.
That only seemed to make Keefe angrier, like the gorgodon at Vespera's Nightfall. He buried his face in his lap and shook with coldness while burning. I'mstupidI'mstupidI'm—
I'm happy, he choked out, looking around in disbelief, I'm happy here, Sophie. You wouldn't understand, he nodded in agreement to himself with a superior and calm tone, I...
Sophie had to clarify. You're happy?
It sounds stupid, doesn't it? A wicked grin flashed. But it's true. I... no one cared about me when we were up there, he pointed above her head and saw that there was no end to his mind. But they've sent their moonlark to save me, even after I told her not to. Even after I made a sacrifice so she didn't have to make any more hard choices. A quiet shake of the head.
No one sent me. I came here on my own, Keefe, and this... this isn't you! You have to listen, she pleaded, trying to reason with him.
Keefe shook his head wildly, curving it from side to side. If you hadn't been lost that day, I wouldn't have met you.
That's not true, Keefe. You played a role in... you're... you have a Legacy, and we were bound to cross paths eventually. Had it been part of Lady Gisela's plan that she would meet him in the hallways of Foxfire that day? Or had it just sped things up for her?
Stop using my name like that! Keefe whined, and it reminded her of Silveny's stubborn neighs. Sophie resisted the urge to snort something out of her nose and instead clutched her stomach to stop herself from rolling over with laughter, but her tears... well, they were from her laughter now, streaking her cheeks faintly.
Fine. What do you want me to call you?
Keefe dodged the question as if it was a dagger, and Sophie tensed, knowing that she was close to something. A breakthrough, maybe? Her head had cleared almost completely, telling her that she was... she wasn't so far away from her goal anymore.
How she could laugh in a shattered friend's mind was entirely unexplainable. What was even more strange was how Keefe was talking to her as if... no, treating her like... like she was the very image of Lord Cassius.
I'm glad I'm entertaining you so much, Sophie, Keefe whispered, pleased with himself, But you're not going to drag me out without a fight.
Even under the ridiculous circumstances, Sophie had to pause and give herself a moment to admire Keefe's determination. It wasn't bravery, exactly... but it was close. Really close.
Let me drag you out, then. You can fight afterward. The adrenaline pumped through her again, making her feel... alert. Tense. Alarmed.
Fight... afterward? Young Keefe surfaced again, as if he didn't understand what was going on.
An image played through Sophie's mind: Young Sophie and Young Keefe fighting side by side as a dagger was hurled at Young Keefe by Old Gisela. Young Sophie screamed at Young Keefe to duck as he stayed still, and Young Sophie leaped toward him and crashed to the ground...
Let me get you out of this place. Then you can decide what to do next. You can shatter again if you want to — I won't come back and rescue you again. Okay? Sophie felt like a different person entirely, a combination of all of her friends.
Keefe's eyes that weren't really there danced with fire and ice. Okay, he whispered, finally giving in.
Sophie gave herself a single moment to exhale with relief before she called the word KEEFE! in her mind, making it as annoyingly bright as she could — as the Old Keefe would put it, it sounded just like Silveny's lovable neighs. Rainbows seemed to shoot across her eyes as she gathered all the memories together, sorting through them at a speed so fast she wasn't sure what she was doing anymore and sending waves of emotion over at Keefe...
And one word sent her spiraling out of his mind, all the rooms closing.
Whaaa? ARGH JAYDEN (am I allowed to call you that?)WHY???? But this is amazing. But the cliffhanger. But it's amazing. But the cliffhanger. But- *continues arguing with self about whether the hate of cliffhangers wins over love of awesome story*
Sokeefer4eva wrote: Whaaa? ARGH JAYDEN (am I allowed to call you that?)WHY???? But this is amazing. But the cliffhanger. But it's amazing. But the cliffhanger. But- *continues arguing with self about whether the hate of cliffhangers wins over love of awesome story*
The great thing about hitting rock bottom was that the only way you could go is up.
If Keefe's mind was the lowest and last place where she could meet him, the only way she could go was down. And right now, down would plummet her into the real world, where she would face the dissappointing reality with people that were dissappointed at her.
She couldn't let that happen. She would rather have this all be a dream.
Pushing through all the barriers that kept them from seeing the true versions of each other, Sophie gathered up all her emotions and forced an earth-shattering scream out of her lungs. Oh, she would show Keefe pain. She would wake him up.
The aftermath of emotions didn't even have time to hit her before Sophie sent them Keefe's way, determined to show him that there was something real in his mind of lies. It was all a game, and the only thing she could do was play in it.
But Sophie did have an idea of what she was feeling — that idea solidified as his mind did nothing to stir as she slammed into a mental wall, matching the very description of ice that almost made her black out.
Frustration. The irony here couldn't be missed — how many times had Keefe been frustrated with his life? How easy was it to identify frustration? And yet it was confusing.
I'm losing you, she sent a whisper running through his head. If the real Keefe was still in there, he would give her another chance. Then again... how many times had she played games with him? How many times?
Sophie vaguely remembered wondering how she could fight with someone who didn't want to defend himself. Now, she was wondering if there was a way to resolve conflict without more conflict, just like she wanted to know how she could beat a game without playing games herself.
I'm losing you. I'm losing you. I'm losing you, she repeated, each plea more desperate. They brought her no relief despite how her thoughts were the only thing she knew were real.
PLEASE! She didn't sound human anymore. She didn't even sound like an elf. She was drowning in the same water tank Keefe's voice was shattering in earlier, and she had gone in his head without thinking only about him.
The realization made her go weak in the knees, if she even had them anymore. Icy numbness swept over her and Keefe's mind as she kept getting pushed farther and father out. Back when she'd rescued Alden from his maddening state that had sent Fitz into his now familiar grief-torn rage, she had done it just for him. She had done it just for Alden because she needed him back, because his family needed him back, because their world needed him back. It was an act of selflessness.
When she was saving Prentice, she had done it for Wylie and Tiergan, for everyone in the Black Swan, for Alden... the list was endless, and there were some people on the list that Sophie wouldn't ever know. A small cache of guilt started building up in her head, a tiny dot, but she somehow managed to purge it out. Maybe part of the reason why she'd managed to heal Prentice was because he had shattered to keep Sophie a secret, but he had loved Sophie, too, and when Sophie repaid that love to him and his family, it brought him back — not without its missing pieces, of course — but they were small matters compared to everything else that was going on.
Even when she was putting Fintan's sanity back together, mending the wounds that were invisible from anyone's eye, she had done it not wanting anything for herself. Maybe it had been forced, but the intention made sure that she wasn't doing it just for her — she was doing it for their world. For the greater good, as the Council must've thought.
She had rescued Keefe without any of these intentions. She was desperate, helpless. Instead of saving him so he could be back, she had tried to heal him only to rescue herself. It was selfish, which explained why she never had to play games inside Alden and Fintan's heads.
Their sanities were precious and fragile, and Sophie had damaged Keefe's by not showing him enough love behind her actions. And now, she was finally right about something — he was broken beyond repair, and if the most powerful Telepath in the elvin world couldn't fix him, no one else could.
A pang of sadness was supposed to hit Sophie and expel outward because no one could understand her, not even herself. But she had no sympathy left for anyone, most of all the person who had broken Keefe. Her. She felt like a different person entirely, like the old her was blaming this new sister that was never meant to exist.
Love. The very thing Keefe sacrificed himself for. The very thing she couldn't show.
Didn't you want everything for him? Instead of gritting her teeth in frustration and ripping out her hair as an acceptable substitute for tearing out her eyelashes, Sophie simply smiled at the side of her that would always fight with her own decisions. It made her see the logic in everything, showed her how truly capable and strong her head was. And how there had to be a reason behind every action, and it was... it was...
In a way, the finality of her actions would make sure that she couldn't damage Keefe even further. But she would start losing Keefe even more, and... she didn't want to become like Fitz with his grief-torn rage but replaced by her grief and desperation. Desperation made people do funny things, as Mr. Forkle once put it, and she couldn't afford that. How clear-minded she was in the midst of the moment would slowly creep out. Crawl out, but not because it was losing.
As if her thoughts, her once powerful thoughts, could respond to Keefe, it blasted her out of the gray place that now felt like a void and back into reality, where she needed to show more love toward everything there was.
(the wanderling planting scene is next! do you think keefe is going to end up being saved by sophie? wink wonk ;)))
also i had to add a few deleted lines in because i couldn't fit it anywhere that wouldn't destroy the plot, but here it is:
There will always be gaps. Everything was multifaceted. And for once, Sophie actually felt herself understand, which was weird considering... considering she'd never felt this way before.
Is this what Keefe felt every day? How could she have been so ignorant? And self-centered? And... ugh.
Here's another deleted line/paragraph (xD): Keefe had always wanted everything from her because he wanted everything for her, tried to give her every piece. And it wasn't fair how neither Keefe or Fitz could ever get the full story — and she wanted to change that.
Fitz gave Sophie's shoulder a reassuring squeeze, as if to let her know that he was there for her if she needed it. His eyes were no longer so teal anymore, clouded by years of milky mist of losing another best friend — it would kill him to admit that they were tears. The New Fitz didn't cry; instead, he replaced the Old Keefe's place in Sophie's heart, and the only thing keeping him together was his determination to fix everything.
She should've seen this coming. But the only thing that streaked her cheeks were tears as she looked for the Keefe inside of her to crack a joke, flash one of his smirks, or just grin at her without the slightest glint of teasing. As far as he knew, Sophie would rather have her vision blur red from the spray of blood coming out of Keefe's shoulder when they sparred with Dimitar at...
—I'm here. Sophie didn't know who transmitted it, just that... just that it had to have been a Telepath.
Her sorting abilities had been enhanced by the day as she tried to make sense of everything around her, the only thing keeping her from going into a damaging mindset that left her unaware of, well, everything.