One more chapter left to Arc 6 after this!
I slid down into one of the chairs, setting my coffee cup down and unrolling the newspaper I’d just gotten.
It was barely 7am, and I’d slept about thirty minutes for the entire night. I’d spent most of it making calls to get my case for a magic trial approved. I’m still not a fan of the idea, but the quicker it gets done, the better. Xavier let himself be taken in for now, but the few counter measures we have at the police station won’t be enough to hold him if he decides to leave.
Even if James Whitelight has assured me that it wouldn’t happen, I’d still rather get him out of the station as soon as possible.
Sending him to the Hans is a horrible way to go about it – because sending him to the magic trial is essentially that. No matter how much they advertise how ‘neutral’ they are, it doesn’t change that the Hans were the ones to install this judiciary method. And it’s not uncommon knowledge that I don’t trust them. But I can’t deny that their methods are effective, and the police have access to their prison facilities.
More articles about the Talent Troupe.
They’ve delayed their tour here to August, because of some complications in another town. They should keep delaying to the point of stopping it altogether. Doesn’t matter if it’s tradition for them, it’ll cause complications here too. After the attacks and the bombing, the town is waiting for the supernaturals to counter attack…and the arrival of the Talent Troupe is a perfect event for this. The circus group are just entertainers, but it doesn’t change the fact that they’re comprised of some of the most talented supernaturals around. They could tilt the scales if they were inclined to participate.
My clock reached exactly 7am and the door to my guest room swung open. Nikolas came out with a strong stride.
“Good morning!” He said, sounding much too awake. Oh no, he’s an early bird.
“You can get yourself some cereal.” I said. “Near the sink.”
“Ok, thanks.” He said sliding into my kitchen and grabbing himself a bowl. He flipped his spoon and caught it, and tried to also be acrobatic with the milk, but nearly dropped it. “Heh, sorry.” He said with a nervous chuckle as he placed the milk carefully back into the fridge.
“For the amount of coffee you ingest, I’m surprised you don’t have a fancier machine.” He said, commenting on my perfectly fine coffee maker.
“It does the job.”
“You’re always so picky when you ask me for coffee though.” He noticed, still looking at the machine.
I turned the page on my newspaper.
Nikolas sat himself in front of me, glancing back at the roman numbered clock behind him. “I like your clock.” He said.
“It was a gift.”
I didn’t even have the time to take a sip of my coffee before he spoke again.
“Thanks for letting me sleep here again. The place is really empty though.” He added, slurping his cereal.
I let my newspaper droop down enough to look at him. “Empty?”
“I just mean…it seems kind of too clean you know? Not very lived in. You probably spend most of your time at the station though.” Nikolas shrugged, looking more like he was talking to himself than me.
I flipped the newspaper back up.
“Oscar should be coming out soon, he was trying to see if he could plug himself into your wall.” Nikolas said after I didn’t reply. He took two more spoonfuls before he looked up with the intention of talking again.
“You sure have a lot of energy. You slept well I gather?” I cut in. It was certainly a very different attitude to yesterday. The kid had been silent the entire way over. He’d looked like he was dragging his feet everywhere.
“I didn’t really sleep at all actually.” He admitted. “Spent most of the night just thinking.”
I glanced at him again, but the boy looked refreshed not tired. Which I probably looked like.
“I also didn’t sleep much. I was making calls about your father. His case was accepted for a magic trial.” I revealed. The teen’s movements slowed.
“Can you tell me more about…a-a magic trial? On how things happen?” He asked.
“Sure. Your father’s case will be brought to a jury – 14 neutral people, 7 naturals and 7 supernaturals. The case will be presented to them by me and your father to defend his case. I have to convince the jury that what your father did to you, 1) did happen and 2) is worthy of a sentence.”
“Don’t worry, they don’t have the right to offer death as a sentence. Most of the time they’ll offer the guilty a place, for a set period, in their containment facility. It’s a place made to restrict magic.” I added. Nikolas nodded absently taking another spoonful. “I’m going to call in some of your family to support my case. I don’t need to call you to testify in front of the jury if you don’t want to. If you’d prefer not to be involved that’s okay. Your father will probably be present.”
“They’ll have a restraint on his powers however.” I continued, thinking he might be scared his father might be tempted to cast a spell on him again. “Whatever your decision, I would like you to come back to the station with me. Some of the representatives of the magic trial are coming down and they have a machine that can tell if you’ve had a spell cast on you recently.”
“Ok.” He nodded glomping down several spoonfuls as we heard a crash from the guest room.
“SORRY. IT’S FINE. GOT A LITTLE SHOCKED.” A robotic voice exclaimed.
A conscious talking robot…better not to think too much about it.
I had the time to take a single sip of coffee before Nikolas shot to his feet, his bowl now empty. He headed straight for the dishes to start washing it. “When are we leaving for the station?” He asked.
“Anxious?” I asked, watching him switch to rapid mode.
“I really want to head home and check up on everyone.” He said. “Oh and get dressed too.”
“I can always pass by your house in the afternoon if that’s better.” I suggested.
“No, I’d really rather get that done with as soon as possible.” He affirmed, his eyes fixated on the sink and his jaw set. I should’ve seen this coming…after his father called the station to scold us for letting Nikolas slip under our noses that time he broke in.
I see this happen too often in the station. Kids who get the rug ripped out from under them by their parents. Doesn’t matter if it’s emotional, physical, psychological, short or prolonged: abuse is abuse, and it’s painful to witness.
“Nikolas I’m not much a talker, but I’m a good listener. If you want to talk about what your father did to you, I’m here.” I offered, getting up as well.
Nikolas shrugged. “Thanks for the thought, but I’m…”
His words drifted off mid-sentence and I frowned at him. His gaze had gotten attached to something behind me. He’d apparently seen something that had struck him silent.
I glanced back, but I didn’t spot anything out of the ordinary.
When I looked back at the boy, he still had a stunned expression on.
“What is it Nikolas?”
“Can I…would it be okay if…” He attempted to ask, gesturing vaguely at my living room. I agreed with a wave of my hand.
He made his way over to my desk, and to my surprise, gestured vaguely at the picture beside my computer.
That seemed to stun him even more. He gaped, glancing between the picture and me. I crossed my arms.
“Woah!” He laughed. “You know I can actually see it now.”
“You’ve met her?” I asked, trying not to get too serious. I knew the answer, but I was hoping for the opposite.
“Actually, uh, this may sound weird, but she appeared in my sleep-induced dream yesterday.” He admitted.
I sighed internally with relief. That I knew. She’d called me last night to tell me about it.
“And I think I saw her last night too.” He added. “…Not in a dream.”
At that I froze.
This time I sighed outwardly. I told her not to come to Ridgevalley. I told her to be patient. I don’t want her attracting unwanted attention here, or in general being in this on the fence city.
But wait, the only way she could’ve made it here was-
“Not in a dream?” I asked. “But not physically either?”
“Ah! So you know about it! I wasn’t sure if you knew or not, I didn’t want to reveal anything that I wasn’t meant to. I call it astraling!” Nikolas exclaimed as he began enthusiastically gesturing.
“You can do it too?” I thought it was something unique to my daughter.
“Yes!” Nikolas grinned. “I’ve actually only discovered it…about a year ago? Maybe more? Has she been able to for longer? I was sure I was the only one who could!”
“Has she told you anything about it?” I narrowed my eyes, wondering how long she’d decided to visit last night.
“We didn’t really get the time to chat. We only spotted each other for a few seconds. She was disappearing, which I think might be a reaction of our bodies. Like maybe if we’re gone for too long from our bodies it gets dangerous and we get pulled back. Maybe it’s a mixture of time or distance? But then again I’ve spent way longer times in astral mode than I did last night, like when Oscar was still in my mind, so maybe my theory is wrong, maybe I got dragged because she was there in astral mode, like what happens to Z-a friend of mine, but then why did she-”
“Woah, woah, I’m going to stop you there. I’m already confused enough when she tries to explain it to me.” I cut in.
Nikolas chuckled nervously. “Sorry, I got excited. I didn’t think there could even be someone else who understood.”
“No that’s fine.” I said. “How about we head down to the police station? We can get that over with.”
Nikolas nodded. “Ok, Oscar we’re leaving!”
I crossed my arms as we waited for the robot to…unplug itself from my wall I suppose.
“You were all the way in my kitchen, washing a bowl, and you spotted and recognized a picture of my daughter on the other side of the room?”
Nikolas shrugged. “It kind of stood out.”
I raised my eyebrows as the robot came bursting out of the room.
“You should get your wall plugs fixed Mr.Detective they’re loose!” He said.
I grabbed my keys and left. I need to give my daughter a call after this.
“Nato buddy! I missed you!” I exclaimed dropping to enthusiastically pet my grown puppy. He barked, pawing at my arm and wagging his tail.
The test was surprisingly quick. They hooked me up to a machine, I got a few small electric shocks, and then they packed it up and that was it. Good thing to, cause I was starting to feel anxious in the station. I knew dad was in one of the cells, even if I couldn’t see him. And I knew he could sense me. They told me they were going to move him right after I left however…so I doubt he’s still at the station now.
“Took you long enough.” My sister muttered. She’d heard the car come in and had come out to greet me.
I sighed as I got up. The tone in her voice made it clear I wasn’t going to like this conversation. “It’s 8 am, I’m surprised you’re up.”
“Surprised? I was up all night with pa. Where were you?”
I rolled my eyes. She knew where, I’d called before going to Sebastien’s place.“I’m gonna go upstairs and get changed.”
“Oh! Oh okay then, so you weren’t planning to say hi to pa? Or me? It’s just head on right up? Can’t you spare a moment to come at least check on how we’re doing before you go off to isolate yourself?” Nikita asked.
“Where the hell is this coming from?” I snapped.
“Look, we didn’t sleep over here. So sorry if I get a little cut and dry. We’re still not quite over what happened. Now come on, pa wants to see you.” Nikita insisted.
“Let me just go take a shower first.”
“Nikolas…” My sister began with a tone that made me grimace. Sounds a little too much like dad.
“Hey!” Oscar cut in. “Niko stinks! Let him take a shower! Puberty requires lots of cleaning.”
Nikita shook her head at us and went back into the living room.
“What, Oscar do I really stink?” I asked, sniffing my own armpit.
“Well not that I’d know really. I haven’t figured out yet if I have an olfactory system, but I’m guessing you do.” He admitted. “I’m not sure those bedsheets you slept in had been cleaned recently.”
I snorted and headed up the stairs.
I got out of that shower a freshly cleaned revived version of myself. There were clean clothes on my shoulders and my headband around my forehead. My body was just begging for me to go and take my morning jog now.
It feels like I haven’t had a normal start to a day in too long. But it’s only been…a couple of days? It was just the other day that I went into the game to check up on Salandra. Feels like a small eternity has gone by. Too much got crammed into too little. And it’s not over yet.
“A lot of shit’s happened in the last few days.” I told myself. “So let’s just take today to, you know, breathe a little.” I missed all of my finals, but school is pretty much over now. I have work today, but I don’t think they’ll get too much on my case if I ditch. My dad’s arrest is probably going to hit the news pretty fast.
I just want to put this behind me for today. Not think about what happened. And really not think about my dad being in jail – indirectly by my fault. Though really, it’s his own fault isn’t it? I didn’t make him cast the spell. He did that all on his own.
“-my jog. You guys are welcome to join me. The more the merrier.”
“Ah, I don’t know how my joints would respond to that.” Oscar said, looking down at his robotic legs. “I mean I guess it wouldn’t hurt to try, but…you have to promise me that you’ll repair me if my legs suddenly unscrew themselves from under me.”
I laughed. “Promise! This is temporary! We’ll get you a better body eventually.”
“Oh yes please! I have a few modifications to suggest, namely the addition of another set of arms-”
“Nikolas! Finally.” Nikita sighed from the archway. “Come on.”
With an exaggerated release of air, I dragged my feet over to my unhappy sister.
“Really? On top of getting dad in jail you have to bring out attitude as well?” Nikita snapped.
I recoiled. “Getting dad in jail? You’re really blaming me for this?”
Nikita sighed and shrugged. “I’m not blaming you…it just can’t be ignored that it’s this kind of attitude that got dad into this.”
I gaped at her. “Fuck this, I don’t know what kind of pain killer pill you took this morning, but I’m not hearing this.” I said, spinning around.
Nikita groaned loudly. “No Niko, sorry, I didn’t mean it like that.”
“Oh you didn’t? Really?”
“It’s been a tough night.” She sighed, rubbing her temple. “Pa took it really hard, blaming himself and everything. Especially since he was sleeping for the whole thing. Oh and Tyzel threw a fit and stormed out on me. It hasn’t been easy for us. You should’ve been here.” She added, giving me sad look.
I softened. “I…No. I don’t think it would’ve helped.” I feel emotions might’ve run higher last night.
“Maybe not, but you’re still part of this family. Whether it helped or not, your place was here.”
I scoffed. “Part of this family huh? Doesn’t feel like it, with dad locking me in my own brain and my sister getting pissed at me that dad got himself arrested.”
Nikita groaned. “There’s already so much going on, I don’t need my brother acting like he’s the center of the world as another bullet point. Yes, it must’ve been horrible what happened to you. Dad should’ve let you out sooner, but that was yesterday Niko. Now we have to deal with dad being in jail.”
“Look who’s talking…you’re queen of being the center. Poor you, I wouldn’t want to be another problem in your life. I’m what…5 lines under your busted knees? If I’m lucky, slightly under fuck I dropped my eye contact again.”
“God look at you, trying to make this about yourself.”
“Sorry you’re right! There I go again! It’s not about me, it’s about you.” I gave her an emotionless smile.
“What’s gotten into you?” My sister grimaced as a knock caught both our attentions.
“Presenting!” Oscar declared, his robot arms coming up to gesture. “James! Your grandfather!”
James in question gave Oscar an odd look before giving me a slight wave. I squinted as his hands began to move. ‘wondering…wanted to hang…today’ Or at least that’s pretty much what I understood.
I guess I could view this as a pity act…since I’ve never spent time with my grandfather outside of the house. Thinking about it…dad always seemed to make sure it didn’t happen one way or another. Maybe I’m just trying to apply bad actions to him now, but I can’t deny it’s peculiar that dad always found a reason for his father to leave, as if he was chasing him away.
Nikita made a face. “Sorry, no one here can understand what you’re saying. There was dad but…”
“Actually I kind of know a bit now.” I said, casting her a grin.
“Since when can you understand sign language?” She scoffed.
“Since yesterday. Just a few words here and there.” I shrugged.
“Yeah, I’m going to go out with grandpa. If, of course, you don’t mind.” I added, the smirk still stuck on my face. I gauged her expression. What are you going to do sister? Are you going to try and keep me here like dad? I’m a jailed man let free, and I’m in no mood to stay.
“I do mind.” She said, narrowing her eyes at me. I sighed internally. She’s my sister, she knows I won’t stay if I can help it right now. Especially not after our little exchange.
“Fantastic, I’ll see you later. Say hi to pa for me.” I gave her a careless wave and made to leave. Oscar dragged his feet a little.
“Oh Niko, would you mind if I…don’t come along?” Oscar tempted. “Not that I don’t like hanging out with you or-” My eyes widened.
“That’s totally fine! I don’t want you thinking you have to hang out with me. Go out! Familiarize yourself with your new body! Try not to freak too many people out. Robots aren’t really common around here.” I chuckled.
“OKAY GREAT! Cause I’m not worried with your grandpa around, he’ll protect you I’m sure.”
“Yes well hopefully I don’t keep needing protection.” I muttered.
Oscar smiled, putting his cold metal hand on my shoulder. “Your dad is in jail. I see lots of bright things in your future.”
Nikita scoffed and rolled her eyes. “Pa! Niko’s going out!”
“…already?…alright then.” I faintly heard pa’s sullen voice from the kitchen. I really don’t regret running off right now. Plus, somehow with Niki’s accusations I get the feeling my presence would only help spread the pity and the sadness. Better to quarantine that.
My grandpa actually seemed really pleased that I’d accepted his offer. But that’s not what really surprised me, it was the place he’d had in mind.
He got us a taxi – which we didn’t pay for heh – and when I asked where we were going he told me it was a surprise. Adding something along the lines that if he’d known earlier, he would’ve already convinced my father to get me some. Actually with most of the things he said, it really sounded like dad had done his best to keep my grandpa away. Probably related to the fact that grandpa was a known criminal with murders on his record…another ‘attempt’ at protecting me.
And for the longest time, you know, James was dad’s dad. Dad would drag him into conversations and let him go when it was time for him to leave. Sometimes our grandpa would give us little looks – like mischievous smiles – especially when I’d just done something trouble worthy.
What I’m trying to get to I guess is…Xavier was a real debby downer through and through from keeping our grandpa from interacting with us more. Because guess what? The taxi brought us to Dealer’s Avenue. I can just imagine the face my dad would make at seeing me back here.
And here was my grandfather, acting like we’d entered your normal neighborhood. What a change of attitude. Though I guess, something like Dealer’s Avenue probably doesn’t incite any kind of worry from him.
Honestly though, it’s not the destination itself that surprised me the most.
He brought us to one of the many stores in Dealer’s Avenue – one called The Green Dragon. Represented by a statue of a green dragon out front, and a heavily tattooed pale woman waiting inside.
We got in, James gave her a look and she brought out something from under the counter.
“No way…” I shook my head in disbelief, now holding the object in question. My grandfather nodded.
I looked at the katana in my hand and then back at my grandfather. “This is really for me?”
I mean it’s not like this was a replica or anything. This was the real deal. It was a REAL sword with a real blade. A true ninja’s weapon.
Come on, this is as dangerous as it gets. Handing me, troublesome kid that I am, a real weapon. Yet, my grandpa doesn’t seem at ALL concerned that I could go around accidently hitting people with this – or who knows, hurting myself somehow.
He nodded, smiling as if he were pleased that I was pleased.
“A katana. You’re really giving me a sword?” I asked, just to clarify one more time. It was different handling it in real life. I don’t feel as confident as I did in my dream – certainly didn’t feel the need to start whipping it around to wildly. Still a katana, a real one, in my hands, and it’s MINE.
My grandpa shook his head and held up two fingers.
The lady bent down and took something else from under the counter.
“Two katanas?” I exclaimed, my voice going a little higher than expected. I couldn’t help it, I got excited!
“They’re dull currently, but if you want them sharpened we can have that arranged.” The lady explained, taking out two sheaths and setting them on the side.
I grinned at my grandpa. “Thank you! This is awesome!”
He gave me a wide smile in reply, motioning for me to try them out a little.
I hesitated. Of course I did. This isn’t a dream. These are REAL swords. I’ve never held real swords before, let alone be encouraged to wield them. But hey, since they were both urging me on, I swung them a bit, getting the feel of their weight and length.
All those years of wanting to try out swords of my own…so far I’m not disappointed.
I heard the lady chuckle a bit behind me and I turned around.
“Well, he’s got a natural way about it.” She said looking at my grandpa. “Not a lot of people give lessons for swords around here. It’s not a very popular weapon.”
“It’s fine!” I said. “I can learn on my own.” I affirmed, testing to see if I could throw them up in the air and catch them real quick.
“I’m sure you could, but if you want to learn quicker I can offer lessons.” It’s once she suggested this that I finally noticed it – the bracelet on her wrist.
The dragon design was awfully familiar. I leaned over the counter.
“Are you part of the Dragons?” I asked.
She showed the bracelet to me. “Good guess. I know you, because you’ve been a bit of a legend over there. You don’t know me though, but you’ve met my son.”
“Your grandpa over here had his amusement in controlling my son as it happens.”
James’ only response was a slight raise of his eyebrows.
The image of a pale, nervous, teen carrying Assaria’s dead body passed through my mind.
The lady stood up. “If you want any tips, I go to the cave three times a week. We’re bound to cross paths again.”
I sheathed the katanas with a grin. “Good to know.”
James and I walked around Dealer’s Avenue a bit – me constantly sheathing and unsheathing my new swords – until we reached a food stand. We grabbed some food there and found some okay looking benches near the river.
The morning air had pretty much disappeared at this point and the city was getting noisy with life. Our little spot of what seemed to be a gathering of abandoned seating furniture was quiet however, save for some squawking birds.
I’d set my katanas on the ground and the comfortable silence had made my mind drift to unwanted thoughts – namely about my father. And also my grandpa. How I’d talked and interacted more with him now than I’d ever done in my life.
The support, the sudden gift…I really couldn’t help but wonder if I was being pitied. Logic told me my grandpa wasn’t the type of man who’d waste time with pity…but for once my emotions were over-riding it.
You know the ones that make me feel at once guilty that my father had gotten himself where he was and scared at the idea that he could be let out of jail. It seems ridiculous, my father never beat me, he never did anything to warrant this fear I have. He locked me in my mind yes, but I was scared of him before that happened. Scared of his reactions… scared that my actions would be belittled again.
“This is probably a very ungrateful question considering you just got me swords – once again the coolest thing ever – but…is this all an act of pity?” I asked.
I’m just not too sure what to think…after all, Xavier is James’ son. But he’s taking my side.
So, I’d expected a yes-or-no answer, not a speech that took 2 hours to decipher. Not that I’m complaining. I don’t think there’s ever been an adult who talked to me as honestly as my grandfather did just then.
‘I understand your doubts. I haven’t been very present and it’s no one’s fault but my own. I hadn’t talked about your father’s birth much last time. By my own stupidity his mother was killed before she could birth him. He was locked inside a book by Assaria. It took me too long to finally free him. I’ve carried a lot of guilt from that. I didn’t think I could be a proper father to him and I gave him up. He’s angry at me for that. He’s always been. He had trouble coming to terms with me being his father. I don’t blame him. In a way, I’ve also had trouble with him. But it didn’t matter, he was my son and I gladly accepted the blame for all the pain and suffering he went through.
I still feel guilt over that, but now I feel shame as well. I’ve let that guilt blind me. Your father’s gone through a lot, that can’t be denied, but it doesn’t justify his actions. There’s no reason for him to take it all out on you. These last few days have made it clear to me that Xavier still hasn’t dealt with his past. He clings to it and his fear of reliving it. It makes him irrational.
Xavier never liked the idea of me being near you and your sister. He thinks I’m not a good influence, and I’ve never wanted to impose myself. It’s not a good excuse, I know.’
‘Nikolas, I promise you, I won’t make the same mistake again. I’m sorry it took so long for me to notice my son’s actions. I completely support you and I’m sad that your father felt the need to impose such extreme restrictions on you. I can see you’re a bright boy with good intentions. You deserve a lot more.
You can count on me, whenever you need me. I don’t ask for forgiveness for my negligence. I just want to let you know, you’ve got a powerful vampire on your side.’
He finished with a smirk.
I laughed, a weird kind of maybe a little choked chuckle, and hid my face on the pretext that my nose was getting itchy. I didn’t know what to say.
So I didn’t say a thing. Some of the best things are said in silence anyway.