Actually, I have an idea

Hello,

Okay, so here’s chapter 14. i did promise to post it earlier but the internet was no cooperating and exams are coming up – I’m Asian. Enough said. I have a plan for Deus Ex Machina, actually, and I have actually fallen in love with the story even though I have never written this kind of story before. It’s fun to write the suspense scenes and make up mysteries, and I hope you like to read them too. So anyway, there will be an announcement post along with chapter 15 next. I can’t really promise when it will be posted but keep in check! Enjoy!

Deus Ex Machina

14 – Aut viam inveniam aut faciam

 

Jenny felt like she was dreaming – or was she? There was no breeze at this time of the day and that made her head reel in the escalating heat; she should’ve stayed inside.

Deanna would never talk to her out of her own will, let alone look at her properly in the eyes. Their hate was mutual, but even despite their horrible thoughts on one another both of them would at least act civil. As civil as they can be, at least.

Dea overshadowed her novel, and it looked like she had no plans on moving. Jenny placed her clip-on bookmark on the top side of the left page, closed the book gently and placed it on the empty seat beside her. It felt like the sun was going to trace back its steps and sleep in the east. Even the trees were still. “Deanna,” she greeted curtly.

“Jennifer,” Dea returned.

“What did I do to deserve your rare visit?”

Dea looked troubled for once. This must be serious. “It’s about my university option.”

“Oh? And what about it?”

“I want to change it to my first option.”

Jenny quirked an eyebrow – so very Erin-like, Dea thought. “Do you hate me that much that you would move to the far end of the world? What about the others?”

“I make my own choices, Jenny. I think the first one will benefit me more,” Dea said shortly, “Anyways, make sure the others know; I don’t want them to dub me a traitor.”

Jenny nodded slowly. “Make sure you eat your meals, though, and clean your bed before leaving.”

“What are you? My mum?” Dea snapped, but it sounded playful. Jenny’s mouth twitched upwards briefly in a ghost of a smile. As said before – as civil as they could.

The Mario tune broke them out of their reverie – Jenny’s phone. Sometimes Dea thought Jenny had some sense of humour in her; she is, after all, related to Erin. Jenny snatched her phone out of her dress pocket and looked at the caller ID. “Annette. She usually texts me,” Jenny murmured. She pressed the call icon and brought her phone to her left ear. “Hello?” A sudden burst of gibber made Jenny recoil and distance her delicate ear from the hazard. She turned on the speaker option instead to safe herself. “Annette – hey, talk slowly. I don’t understand you.”

Annette’s voice was laced with phone static, but it didn’t hide the fear in her voice. “Jenny, it’s…it’s Erin – she’s – oh God – it’s really bad –!”

“Erin? What happened?” Now Jenny was, metaphorically and literally, on the edge of her seat. Dea, too, felt uneasy.

“She…” Dea and Jenny grew anxious at the sob. Alright, this was no prank. “She’s hurt – badly. She was shot.”

Jenny was on her feet in an instant. “What?! You – Erin – wait, what?! How – how did that –?” Jenny was baffled. Dea’s face drained in colour. Cornelius.

“It’s a long story…please, just come. We’re at the town hospital, the one near the mansion. Ace and Michael are here, too…And Erin’s in the ICU.” A deathly pause. “…They said she may not make it.”

Jenny wasted no second. She marched towards the garden gate leading to the outside, Dea at her heels. Jenny wrenched the gate open and slammed it close before Dea had a chance to slip through. “What the –”

“Too many people, Deanna,” Jenny explained, fixing her a steady gaze. “I’ll see her and sort this out.”

“But you don’t understand –”

“She’s my daughter, Deanna. You don’t understand,” Jenny snarled, but it sounded desperate.

“No, I mean, I…I know what happened,” Dea said in a low voice.

Jenny’s eyes narrow. “What on Earth are you talking about?”

Dea didn’t check her surroundings – she just blurted out her thoughts then and there. Jenny needed to know. “It’s Cornelius! He’s still alive and he’s planning to kill us all – no, his true plan was to kill Zach, and we’re just a lure and –”

“I’ll – I’ll deal with you later, Deanna. Take care of your other siblings for now,” Jenny cut in. Dea could still protest, but the look of urgency on Jenny’s face was genuine. Erin is her daughter. Dea nodded in understanding, Jenny returning the nod before leaving in a hurry. She could hear Jenny’s barks of demands to the gardener to get the car ready with or without the chauffeur, whichever was quicker. With a task on her mind, Dea went back inside the house.

Since the day Abel showed her the documents, Dea had been feeling more on edge than she had ever since she knew about Cornelius. Dea had dashed out of the study, ignoring Abel’s calls. Her mind was reeling with thoughts about Zach, about her family, about herself. She knew it was selfish but she had to get out of the town, the country if needed. She just hoped all will go well.

* * *

Jenny’s summer sandals made soft hurried footsteps as she approached the ICU, hands moulded into white-knuckled fists. Before she rounded the corner, the three children heard her approaching and straightened themselves for a hurricane. Sure enough, Ace dealt the first blow. Jenny backhanded her son with not enough yet very powerful slap across his wretched face. The other merely watched on the sidelines.

“Where did you take her?” Jenny asked, her voice frighteningly calm.

Ace’s eyes were trained on the ground, never meeting his mother’s. Though if it was in shame or fright, only he knew. “We visited someone near the outskirts of the town –”

“Who is this someone?”

“…Uncle Pietro.”

“Ha! That man brings trouble!” Jenny spat spitefully, “And what is your purpose?”

“…I can’t tell you.” Ace’s blood tuned down a few degrees when he saw his mother going still and blank. “No, really Mum, I can’t tell you –”

“Cornelius, isn’t it?”

Ace’s eyes widen to the size of dinner plates. Annette’s fingers twitched noticeably. Michael let out a garbled gasp, body going rigid. Jenny narrowed her eyes, nodding. “Dea was right, then. Sounded impossible but she just proved me wrong. Tell me, then – how did this start?”

Ace heaved a heavy sigh. “A letter was sent from Uncle Pietro not long ago to meet him at the place we were going. There, he told me all about Cornelius’s plans – his plot against the whole Naitt family, especially Zach. He told me to not let anything go in or out of the house that may be Cornelius related, but we were too late. On the other hand, Erin said she was the first to know out of all of us; I don’t know how, but as soon as she found out, she told Dea about it.”

Jenny clicked her tongue at the mention of Dea’s name. “So that’s where she got it from…Continue, then.”

“At first, Dea and Erin were working together on making sure the place was safe, but Dea lost her trust in Erin and discontinued the investigation. When Erin found out about my knowledge, she asked me to join her. Later on, Annette and Michael joined, because they were threatened too.” After Ace finished, Jenny dived into deep a thought, plunging the corridor in silence save from some nurses and machine sounds.

“Does this…have anything to do with Brian?” Jenny said.

“…Yes.”

“And you never told me anything,” Jenny snarled.

“If we were to tell anyone, we’d –”

“And you never told me anything!” Jenny repeated, her voice louder and harsher, “You children told each other but not to a single adult, who could possibly end all of this. And now look at what you’ve gotten all of yourselves into!” Jenny turned to Annette and Michael, both flinching from Jenny’s freezing glare. “Annette, I expected more from you. I expected recklessness from Ace and Michael, but I thought you were logical enough to warn me about this kind of thing.”

Annette wished the ground would swallow her up at that moment. She bowed her head in shame and murmured “I’m sorry…I was scared…”

“We all are,” Michael added, “The reason Brian died was because he told Dea information about Cornelius. Now that probably all of us know, we’re most probably doomed.”

Jenny nodded stiffly. “Right,” she said tightly. They were all doomed, Michael said. Jenny wondered if he was right. She remembered Cornelius and the reputation that waved about him, how her family and she had always feared him. Now that she thought about it, there was no one who could possibly like the man.

The mother’s shoulders sagged tiredly and she proceeded to rest on one of the waiting seats. As the tension slowly leaves her body, she let her suppressed emotions take over; tears fell, cries let out, body crumpling. Ace dropped down next to Jenny and wrapped his arm around her, his own share of tears blurring his eyes. All of them prayed to God that their little trickster would make it out of the godforsaken room alive.

It seemed like aeons since Jenny’s arrival; though deathly silent, all were tense and riled up like a tangled fishing hook inside. No one dared to make a sound lest they break their blissful (albeit momentary, they all feared) peace. Out of habit, Michael tapped out a rhythm with his fingers on his knee, though it was a subconscious action. The first time gained him a glare from Jenny – the second gave him a slap on the back of his head from Annette. Though no one admitted it, that little scene lifted their spirits up a tad bit.

The waiting went on and on, until their heads nearly nod off and their back became sore. Even Jenny started to wonder if Erin will never make it, and the thought itself was horrifying.

As if on cue, a doctor burst out of the room, sweat slicked forehead glinting under the neon lights. His round glasses were threatening to slide down his hawk-like nose but he pushed it over his nose bridge just before it fell. His thread-like lips were firmly pressed into a thin line, bringing the impression that the doctor was trying very hard to suppress whatever emotion he was having. The white lab-coat (or in this case “doctor coat”) hung loosely from his bony shoulders and draping his skinny form like a lampshade to a pole – he looked more like Grim than a saviour.

Jenny bolted up and strode over to the doctor as calmly as she could which, by this stage, was not much. “How is my daughter?” Jenny all but demanded.

The doctor, surprised by the sudden approach, brought his hands up in a surrendering gesture. “She’s alright, ma’am. Healing slowly, but otherwise alright.” Jenny’s shoulders sagged in relief, but the doctor’s next comment made her knots tighten again. “However, she is currently in a coma. It seems that her head hit a very hard surface – say, a wall or the ground – and had caused a pretty bad brain trauma. Also note that the bullet that shot her only missed a couple of inches from the heart; she was lucky, to say the least.”

“A…coma?” Jenny said, keeping her voice as neutral as possible, “And…when will she…wake up?”

“That is undetermined, ma’am. Best a couple of weeks – her wounds are not that fatal to make her dive into a decade-long coma.”

“You think this is funny?” Jenny sniped.

“No, ma’am, I’m not. There has been a case that the patient had stayed in a coma state for a decade, give or take, but that’s because the said patient had dealt severe brain trauma.”

“A few weeks, then,” Jenny sighed, a mixture of relief and remorse. “You’ll be taking care of her, yes? The hospital, I mean.”

“Yes. We just need to get some things straight and agree to documents relating to your daughter’s caring here. Follow me, ma’am – and, err, your other children can wait in the waiting room, if that’s alright with everyone.”

The said “other children” were Ace, Annette and Michael, of course, though only the term correctly applied to Ace. Jenny looked at the three of them blankly and then nodded to the doctor in agreement. So while Jenny left in brisk strides with the doctor, the three Naitt children dragged themselves to the waiting room, weighing the information carefully in their heads.

“Okay, it’s official – we can’t do anything that is Cornelius related,” Ace declared firmly.

“But then he’ll just do whatever he wants!” Annette protested, “Yes, we’ve got a man down but we still have to continue interfering with Cornelius’s plans. Don’t deny it Ace – if it were one of us, Erin would’ve said the same thing.”

“So you’re okay with sacrificing our family? You do realise that the more we get involved, the more people will die. And I still don’t get why any of us has to die! Zach’s the target – why’s he not dead yet? All he cares about is his job and reputation. I bet when Mum dies he won’t even bother to come home to see her casket!”

“Ace calm down, you’re getting it all wrong,” Annette said in a collected tone, “The reason for the deaths may simply be to eliminate the remaining Naitts, but there could be an underlying truth beneath it. Unless someone stops the scheme, the killing will continue, and so we will day sooner or later. We don’t know who will be next so we have to make sure no one dies in the hands of Cornelius.”

“Annette’s right,” Michael agreed, “If we stop that would leave a hole that Cornelius can tear. Besides, Erin would seriously chop our heads off if she finds out we’ve been slacking off while she’s out cold.” Michael gave his trademark lopsided smile at Ace and Annette, bringing out ragged giggles from the two. They all agreed that they needed to keep the operation going, no matter how terrifying the meandering road looked or the amount of loss they would leave in their wake. One way or another, they would be obliterated, so why not die trying? It’s better than dying a peaceful life.

The children spent the rest of their waiting time watching some random TV program on a silent rabbit-eared TV that hung from the ceiling on a black-painted beam. Other waiting clients either watched the program, entertain themselves with outdated magazines or play games on the cell phone; some chose to just twiddle their thumbs happily, or slouch down their seat. Occasional tune would ring out and the TV would momentarily flash out a number indicating a customer – some would get up and leave while some numbers would be left unnoticed. Sometimes they would see some patients arrive and leave, some in healthy states while others in a pitiful pose – some relieved to finally be able to be part of the everyday life once more while some looked glum in acknowledging their ongoing hospital care. Nurses or doctors would wander down the corridors saying some complicated medical terms or just talking away about their families or interesting events. The receptionist herself, a youthful woman in her twenties, was chatting on the phone and handling customers all at the same time; Michael seemed to admire the skill of multitasking. Annette, on the other hand, was more interested in the crappy TV show. But both their minds were only focused on a certain girl

Ace was jittery and alert since he had left their previous post. When he heard approaching footsteps his head would whip around to check if it was Jenny, only for his heart to deflate in disappointment and worry. A few weeks, though better than a decade, was worse than a backhand from Jenny. What will happen to Erin during her time in the hospital? What if her condition was to suddenly drop? What if the doctor was wrong – what if she was to never wake up again? The more he thought about these things, the more he was becoming suspicious of the things around him. He then concluded:

I can’t trust anyone.

When another set of footsteps approach, Ace was happy to see his mother and the wiry doctor. Ace marvelled at the strength of his mum, how she hadn’t shown any major weakness to anyone except the children ever since she stepped into the building. Even the doctor radiated an air of respect around her; Ace wondered about the things they were talking about when they were away (probably some work things and the like). Jenny beckoned to all of the children to get up and leave just after she had exchanged short pleasantries with the doctor.

The ride home was silent to the point of maddening. No one said a word, the only sound that can be heard being the car wheels grazing the road and the low rumble of engines. No one dared to touch the radio. Jenny kept her eyes fixed to the road, pointedly making her point that she was extremely upset, both because of the situation and the children’s actions. She continued this attitude until two weeks after the hospital visit.

The car parked inside the garage smoothly, its engine dying off with a final sigh before Jenny got out of the driver’s seat and waited for the others to exit before she locked the doors. Jenny didn’t leave the door open for the three children to get in. They had to go out and enter from the front door.

Ace quickly discarded his blood-soaked shirt and pants and took a long scalding shower. With Erin seriously injured and in a coma, they had lost their main source of information. How will they go against Cornelius like this? There were questions circling around Ace’s head – how did Erin know about Cornelius? Why didn’t she tell them the story from the beginning? Was it really Cornelius, or was it just a codename? What kind of person was Cornelius? Why would he want to kill Zach? The unanswered question made the hot water feel freezing.

Dinner was immensely thick with emotions and the clinks and clanks of cutlery didn’t help ease the tension. Dea was first to retreat, followed by Abel and Hiero, then Michael, Annette and Ace. Unfortunately for the redhead, Jenny held him back to have a word with him. “Alone,” she had emphasised.

Ace took a seat four chairs away on Jenny’s right (Jenny sits at the head because she’s always in charge when Zach’s not around). He fidgeted – which was an unlikely action for him – and waited as patiently as he could for Jenny to speak. Jenny seemed to relish in Ace’s obvious discomfort, finishing her meal deliberately slow and washing everything down with water as if it tasted like gold; Ace swore that he saw Jenny’s eyes sneering at him when Jenny wiped her mouth for the sixth time that evening. Ace was starting to think there really was nothing to talk about, and so he let his posture relax just a fraction –

Jenny cleared her throat to gain attention, “Well, I suppose you can already guess what we’re about to discuss then, Arthur?” That bliss dissipated as quickly as it had come.

Ace gulped thickly, “Is it about Erin?”

“More than that, sweetie.” Jenny would only call anyone that when she’s furious.

“Then…it’s about that thing?” Ace quipped, voice a few pitches higher.

“Yes, that thing,” Jenny said.

“But we can’t talk about it here!”

“Why not?”

Ace scooted closer to Jenny and said as lowly as he could “We’re bugged.”

“Well, then I’ll just have to lecture you about your attitude then,” Jenny said, “Seriously, Arthur, you can just tell me everything and we’ll work this out.”

“But we can’t!” Ace said, exasperated, “No one can! We were told to not tell anything, and look at Brian now – he’s six feet underground! What difference will there be if we do something or not? And I bet he knows we know about him already.” Ace said the last sentence in quiet whisper and continued in the same volume. “We should keep this to ourselves or else there will be more casualties.”

Jenny kept her eyes on Ace’s, lips in a grim thin needle. “I want to help,” she finally said in a soft tone. Ace smiled and held her hand in his.

“You don’t have to ask,” he said.

* * *

Dea took out her broken bow and caressed it lovingly, like she would always do when distracted. Music played soft ballads from her laptop and the curtains were drawn, making an artificial night. Dea hadn’t bothered to turn the lights on because she couldn’t feel calm under the scrutiny of bright lights (which was why she has stage fright and preferred to work backstage when there’s school plays). By now rain clawed weakly on her window and the occasional groans of thunder and momentary flashes of lightning did nothing to break her out of her thoughts.

Erin was down. Maybe the reason was because she knew too much. If it was, then Dea would be probably the next target. Dea lightly scraped her bow with her blunt nails, wondering – if this was the old Dea, she would stand her ground and fight with all she had. But the Dea right now thought otherwise. She needed to live; she still had things to do. She couldn’t let herself die in a piteous state, like a weak warrior or a daydreamer. It would be better to live as a coward, Dea had thought, because the brave would sometimes be seen as the foolish.

Hopefully the others would understand. Or at least know half of her reasons.

Feeling useless, Dea hauled herself up and stored her broken bow back inside her property chest. She grabbed her new one (the Ocean sisters’ bow) complete with thirty arrows, her emergency tool (a small purse full of face paint, drinking straws, nose and ear plugs, baby wipes, snack bars and some first aid equipments), a simple raincoat and boots, and then made her way outside and to the woods. Hunting had always made her feel better but now, ever since she stepped into the dark realm, she would feel uneasy at best. Shaking the feeling off, she climbed a nearby tree and made herself comfortable until something worth shooting comes along.

Two hours have passed and still there was nothing to see. The rain didn’t subside either and if seemed like it was getting heavier. Seeing no point in continuing, Dea climbed down safely to make her way back to the mansion. The ground was too soft and mucky, making her walk back filled with squelching noises and a few instances when she had to pull her foot (or feet) from muddy pits. Her bow and arrows were safely tucked beneath her raincoat where she had made sure to be dry.

A thunder grumbled overhead and Dea made haste. Her bangs were plastered onto her forehead and face but whenever she brushed them off they would always find a way to fall back into their previous positions. Without the occasional thunder, the rain itself was already unbearably loud.

So loud she nearly missed the footsteps.

Dea only noticed the footsteps when she had stopped to pull her foot from an especially deep pit. She stilled, like a deer under the eyes of a hunter. The person seemed to sense her fear and so the heavy squelching stopped. Taking her chances, Dea lifted her feet one by one and made a slow, silent trek towards the mansion. This time, she could hear the footsteps more clearly.

But because of her slow pace, the footsteps were getting louder. And louder. And louder. And faster.

Dea leaped behind a nearby tree and rolled herself onto the mud, covering her swap green raincoat in wet slimy soil. Camouflage would work best in this kind of weather and place. The footsteps came closer to the tree she was hiding from. Dea scooted further back so the person couldn’t see her. She took out a straw, a nose plug and a quick-drying face paint. The first thing she did was spray her face with green paint and then haphazardly buried the can under the ground. Next she placed the nose plug securely over her nose. Her bow and arrows were carefully wrapped around the raincoat, the bundle then buried deeply beside the tree. She showered herself in dirt and then laid herself as flat as she could on the ground, sinking her body deeper into the muck and then carefully covering her face with mud to top off her deep green face. The result was a perfect replica of a lumpy wet ground, with a straw sticking out of it.

The footstep slowed down when it went to her tree. Dea slowed down her breathing as best as she could so that her straw wouldn’t make its usual dry slurping noise. When she heard the loud squelch of a boot just a foot away from her, she held her breath. The person stayed where they were standing by the tree – according to her instincts, they were looking around or possibly wait for any sign of life. It seemed like ages since the person arrived. Dea couldn’t hold her breath for much longer. Silently and slowly, she sucked in as much wet air as she could before exhaling the waste air just as slowly. Admittedly, it was painful, but that suffocating pain was what kept her alive.

Just as she was about to feel light-headed, the person turned and made a slow trek towards the direction he came from. Their feet carried him downwards to the town, leaving a wake of boot prints. When Dea couldn’t hear them anymore, she waited a good few moments before she gathered her things from their hiding places, leapt up and raced up the slope. By the time she had reached the front gates she had lost both of her boots, but all she cared about was to get to the safety of Olympia – screw everything else, Dea was scared out of her wits!

Dea all but jerked the door open and slammed it back, gasping and feeling hot tears warming her frozen cheeks. She heard Jenny’s complaints as she approached the front door; she wasn’t surprised to see her red as a tomato topped with hot sauce. “If it isn’t you,” Jenny grumbled.

“Okay, I have a good explanation for this –”

“You’ve gone out to the woods, rolled yourself in mud and return home with earthy feet. Where are your boots? Oh, wait – I shouldn’t have asked; they’re stuck in the puddle, aren’t they?” Jenny deadpanned; she was close to accurate that it was as if she was there herself. “I would have kicked you out right now if I hadn’t noticed you were a human.”

“As I said, I have a good explanation for this.”

“That is?”

A loud crack resounded through the rain. Splinters showered Dea from above, a bullet missing her by two heads. The family picture that was hung on the wall where two stairs met had its top blasted off, leaving an ugly hole in between Timothy’s and Vincent’s heads.  Dea and Jenny stood frozen. They would’ve stayed there rooted in shock and amazement if Abel hadn’t yanked Dea to the side and Ace pulled Jenny behind a display cabinet containing different kinds of bullets and mini missiles.

All of them expected another shot. The hole that was made was probably as big as – or bigger than – an adult thumb. Silence. The four of them stood up tentatively and waited for any sign of more threats.

A sharp thump was head outside the door. Dea shrieked in surprise and tried to shrink further towards Abel. After what felt like hours, Ace decided to check what was outside. Jenny had insisted to call the police but everyone agreed that it’s better to see how the culprit looks like to make things easier for everyone.

Ace pulled the door handle downwards and let the door swing inside just for a fraction. With an umbrella, he gingerly let dull light in and made sure no one was in the light’s way. Nothing. He poked the umbrella outside and waved it around. Nothing.

It seemed like the culprit ran away. When Ace peered to outside, he noticed an arrow embedded into the aging oak door. On it he noticed a dirty piece of paper skewered through it. Ace pulled the arrow free from its spot and carefully removed the crumpled letter. Abel stepped forward to Ace and asked “What’s that?”

“A note, apparently,” Ace said distractedly. After he had read the note, his eyes widen and mouth clamped shut. Abel snatched the letter from Ace’s slack hands and examined it. It said:

It’s a pity there is no more little lambs in the Naitt family. But that will
make the murders far less guilty to commit. Mind if we borrow some
people later on? Please take note that we will take what we want with
any way possible. Any varmints too smart for our liking will be
eliminated. Four rats have been exterminated. Who’s next?
Oh, and by the way…

I WILL COME AND KILL YOU ALL IF YOU DARE SPREAD THE WORD ABOUT MY EXISTENCE. THIS IS A WARNING. YOU CAN RUN AND FORGET EVERYTHING AS LONG AS I CARE, BUT IF ANYONE WAS TO KNOW ABOUT THIS OUTSIDE THE FAMILY, IT’S YOUR FAULT THAT YOUR WORLD WILL BE A TWSITED WONDERLAND.

If you wish to leave, contact us to this e-mail address:

corncob4444@chainmail.com

If you leave without telling, we won’t hesitate to disqualify you from the game.

We will look forward to your participation in the event.

Have a nice day.

 

If it was just another day, Abel would’ve brushed this off as one of Erin’s prank. But the scarring reality made these superficial words turn into steel claws. However, the last part was the cool water to a burn. Anyone can leave. There will be a chance they’ll be safe!

But what about Zach? They can’t just give him up to the predators that easily.

…But can they?

Dea ripped the paper from Abel’s grip to read it herself. Jenny stood behind her and skimmed through the note. Not long after Annette, Michael and Hiero dashed in and gave their own set of reactions to the attack. “Jenny, Dea,” Hiero asked, “what are you reading?”

The two snapped their attention to the young boy – so young and full of opportunities, being the only one who’s oblivious to the situation. Jenny quickly snatched the paper and crumpled it under her shaking hand. “Just one of the letters of university acceptance,” Jenny nonchalantly said.

“But…why did you destroy it?”

“Because Dea had decided to go to her first choice of university instead,” Jenny shrugged. That was probably the worst thing to say.

Everyone’s head snapped up to look at Dea as if she had grown horns and fangs. Betrayal. Desertion. Her out of all people.

“…What?” Ace whispered.

“Uh…isn’t it good?” Hiero piped up, “I mean, that university’s really good and stuff, and they also have –”

“What were you thinking?!” Ace bellowed. Dea flinched as the accusation in his tone.

Dea simply shrugged half-heartedly, “Hiero’s right; the university’s way better than the second choice. Besides, I plan on being a doctor –”

“What were you thinking?!” Ace repeated, louder than before. Jenny didn’t even bother to stop the commotion. “What, just when the situation’s at its worst you’ve decided to chicken out? You were the one who insisted that he was real – that he was a real threat! You – oh God – And you call me the reckless one?”

Dea turned to look at Ace in the eyes. “I still need to do things –”

“We all still have things to do! We all want to live! What about your own twin?! You’re just going to leave him in this godforsaken place –”

“I am!” Dea screamed. Ace fell silent at her reply, face a hardened mould of anger and betrayal. Dea continued on a softer – and more broken – tone. “I will be leaving. But do understand this is for the better, I promise. I…I have my own reasons, but I can’t tell you.” Dea looked towards the left staircase. Before she turned to leave, she added “I’ll be sending him an e-mail now. The graduation will be in a week; I’ll be leaving in the evening.” Without another word or a last look, she left.

-rookieMANGAKA

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