Everyone’s going to be enlightened!

Hello,

So, well, a little bit of enlightenment on Ace’s and Abel’s part – Hiero and Annette’s will be revealed in later chapters, but Erin’s and Michael’s will be soon.

…That’s all I have to say. Enjoy!

Deus Ex Machina 

8 – Sub rosa

Ace strode down the corridor, down the stairs and out the door in a breeze. He wasn’t practically running, but he walked as fast as he could (though he’s brash and often disoriented, his upbringing made him refuse to drop his grace when in the property of the Naitts; his mother’s always watching). Once outside the gates, he sped up to a sprint down the hill and towards the town centre – he needed to see them.

* * *

Abel didn’t know what he was aiming for when he snuck into Zach’s study. Everything was eerily neat, the furniture placed as it had been when Zach was here and that was New Year two years ago. He wondered whether or not Zach was actually busy, for a two-year absence was just over board. Except for the books lining the grand mahogany bookcase, there was nothing in the room to entertain someone. Zach must have brought his home work with him, then.

He had missed Zach. When was the last time anyone praised him for his musical prowess? When was the last time anyone openly supported him in his decisions instead of trying to correct him? When was the last time anyone complimented his archery skills instead of criticising his flaws? Even Abel could get tired of Dea’s dive personality. If he were to put Dea, Vivianne and Jenny in a diva contest, then the result would certainly be a tie. Annette was no better at times; she just wants everything to be precisely black and white. Well, there goes another candidate for the contest.

Truthfully speaking, Abel had been scared – if not bordering to terrified – of Ace since the incident. When near the brute, he’d have millions of possible scenarios that could happen if he were to simply breathe. At least Ace had been trying to look as harmless as he possibly could, which was not much, and Abel did try to loosen up around him like he used to. Hiero was probably the only person Abel was cool with, but the young man had lost the fight Abel liked so much in him ever since recently.

The other Naitt children? Vivianne’s a true pain in the neck; Vincent’s some kind of sensitive melodramatic artist that would speak in riddles; Michael and Brian lives pretty far away, and the others were just too old to understand him. Oh, wait –

Then there’s Erin. It’s not like he had never talked to her before (he did, once or twice at least), it’s just that he felt as if Ace might rip his limbs off without hesitation and make Abel watch them being eaten by pigs if he were not careful. Erin’s pretty cool, actually – she loves good jokes and pranks and was infinitely less stressful than the other Naitt girls. Sadly, she had been avoiding Abel to avoid any confrontations between him and her brother.

He was lonely, to put it simply.

And when he’s lonely he would go to the tree house, but Dea had been warning him to stay away from it. Maybe she’s been hiding a stash of snacks up there…No wonder; she likes her food. Since he couldn’t go there for the time being (or ever again) he decided to find peace in the next best room around: Zach’s study.

Jenny was watching her daily dose of drama so it had been a piece of cake for Abel to snatch the keys to the study from the bedside table drawer, and scurry away like a chicken chased by a dog. On the way away from Jenny’s bedroom, there were odd stares from the staff members (“…’Sup?” Abel tried to act nonchalant about the whole running away thing but the staff merely nodded and hurried off to do their duties, faces of curiosity and amusement present). He poked his head into the living room to see if Jenny was preoccupied and upon finding her completely engrossed in her drama, Abel walk briskly towards the rarely used study.

The smell of wood, old paper and ink soothed Abel a little bit. The great mahogany desk stood in front of the matching giant bookcase and on it was an ancient desk lamp and a desk organiser filled with pens and sharpened pencils. Behind the desk was a grand leather chair and in front were two less expensive-looking leather chairs that nevertheless would provide comfort for visitors, and between them was a small table with an empty petite glass vase. On the right were four arched windows draped with heavy scarlet curtains and on the left was a long table that would usually contain delicacies and beverages. The dull dark green Persian carpet lied gracefully upon the polished wood floor like an oasis among a vast desert. Zach had once told him that Jenny was the one who mostly decorated the study, but he had had a suspicion that he took part in half of it at least.

The light in the room made it feel as if it was nightfall already, what with the bulky curtains blocking any sunlight. It reminded Abel of when he was a child, when Dea and he used to go to Zach’s study to listen to his stories (mostly conquest of women) and later be carried into their respective rooms. Of course the other Naitt children have had their own share of memories with Zach, but the study was the Peters twins’ exclusive place, mostly because they were the ones brave enough and actually able to get in without permission.

Abel went behind the desk and sat in the great chair, palms smoothing the unblemished surface of the desk. He hummed contentedly; feeling far more relaxed that previously. All was quiet and that meant he could hear that faint beeping –

Beeping? Abel was confused. If he strained hard enough he could heard extremely faint beeping sound from somewhere in the room. As far as he knows, Zach kept no clocks in here because he would always have his watch with him. Abel pushed the chair back with his body and tensed. A bomb? Don’t be ridiculous, Abel – that only happens in cartoons! But anything could happen to you if you’re a Naitt… Abel got off the chair and squatted under the desk, looking for a hidden object.

Sure enough he found it. It was a small bug-like object stuck at the roof of the desk cave, dim red light flashing in a regular rhythm with the beeping. Abel attempted to take the thing out of curiosity but when it revealed a wire, he was thoroughly interested. Gingerly he pulled the bug-thing and so it was pulling the wire too. A click resounded in the empty room; it sounded from above. Abel drew his head back up over the desk to find nothing. The drawer? Abel drew the drawer open and found that the base of the drawer looked loose – he could see a sliver of white paper beneath the base. A second door?! Maybe this was where Zach kept his important paper works! Excite, Abel carefully lifted the lid and marvelled at the amount of documents beneath it.

Actually, the papers were filled into paper folders and some papers poked out of its folder like a mole. There were no notes about what the papers were for but Abel took them anyway. If anyone was here, he won’t live to see the next second. He took out the first page of the pile and read it carefully.

What he found out made his turn to ash.

* * *

He was in the right place, Ace was sure. He had asked people nearby about the address and all of their answers led him to a neighbourhood of abandoned houses. He wasn’t sure on what they were planning but if it’s a prank, they’ll regret ever being born.

The doors had no numbers or any kind of sign whatsoever so Ace had spent the last hour going around checking every door there was. No answer. Were they trolling? Just as he was about to give up, he discovered a small graffiti by a set of stairs leading to a house. Ace moved closer to the neon green writing, curios and intrigued, and it funnily enough said “House 14”. Ace checked the note: “House 19”. But he didn’t know which way the numbering goes: one row even and the other odd, or all rows in normal number order? But then he saw two arrows going the opposite direction under the writing. Seeing it closely, Ace found out that the graffiti was drawn recently. Arrows back and forth…this guy must be a huge detective fan.

Then even row it was! Ace went to the house opposite of House 14, namely House 15, and walked down the path counting from fifteen. It was a house he had checked before, the same layout as the others except for the lilac paint and the hideous moss green door. Remember what Zach would always say: “If the front door’s not working, try to sneak up through the back door – girls love surprises.” It might not be the appropriate time for that but it was somehow right.

Ace rounded over to the backdoor and knocked firmly thrice. A click. The door swung open independently, revealing a dark kitchen plus dining room. Ace entered the house tentatively, mind and body ready for any kind of ambush, his hands already clenched into fists and his eyes darting about rapidly. There was a hallway separating the kitchen and the living room; as soon as he stepped in, he could make out two figures.

A silhouette of a woman lounging on the sofa while a man was sitting at the armchair beside her, legs apart and elbows resting on knees. There was a low whistle of acknowledgement that sounded patronising, like as if they hadn’t expected Ace to arrive at all. Ace stepped up and squared his shoulders. “Well? I got your note; make it quick.”

The man chuckled, “Why, you haven’t changed at all, Arthur.” The man stood up and walked towards Ace. Slowly, his features were revealed: dark eyes and equally dark hair, lanky figure, sharp cheekbones and thin grim lips, like an older male version of Erin. He was the person Mum would always compare Erin to. “You seem to grow to be more and more like your mother every time I see you, nephew.”

-rookieMANGAKA

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