By: Shmeilia Rockie
Chapter 5: And So It Begins
* * * *
A/N: I publicly retract the flamer comment I made earlier, as it turns out the person was joking. I've changed the ending slightly. Comments are welcomed and appreciated.
* * * *
"You asked for me, Lord Hades?" Julie's mother appeared before the tall man clad in black.
"Yes," he said curtly and offered her a chair. "I was recently informed that your daughter has her powers now, is that correct?"
She nodded and did not relax in the high backed, velvet-cushioned chair. "She received them about two hours ago. Then she left to join her brother in protecting the girl."
He folded his hands and rested his elbows on the desk in front of him. "I'll be honest with you, Ivy, her powers may not work. As Gaia grows stronger, your daughter's powers will weaken. Soon, there will be nothing she can do to help the others."
Ivy's temper rose, and so did her voice. "Julie's got brains! She'll figure out some other way to help them if it's the last thing she does!"
He held out his hands, easing her to sit back down. She hadn't even been aware of standing up. "It may very well be the last thing she does. It took the entire pantheon of ancient gods to defeat Gaia the first time. They're just kids, naïve and ill prepared. I'm afraid she'll obliterate them, unless they get lucky."
"You underestimate them, surely, Lord Hades. Besides, Tybalt knows exactly what he's doing. He's been preparing for this since he was eight."
"Still, one teenager against Gaia and her minions? If they die, it will mean we will need to choose some other Champions."
This was her children he was talking about, so naturally she became even more upset. "They will not die, Your Highness. I have absolute confidence in them, and I assure you they will not fail!"
Unfazed by her words, he stared at her over his hands and said coldly, "For their sake, I can only hope you are right."
* * * *
"Next week," the history teacher announced with glee. "We will learn about the Salem Witch Trials. Tybalt, that's your hometown. Care to enlighten us on anything?"
Tybalt smirked and laced his fingers behind his head and smirked. "Yeah. You know, it's funny. They hung so many people, yet they didn't get a single one of the real witches."
This was met with a stunned silence and many incredulous looks. Tessa couldn't tell for the life of her if he was joking or not, and it frightened her. Then the bell rang, and nearly everyone in the class jumped in fright, and tore out of there like their lives depended on it. Tybalt merely laughed. "Gullible! Sheesh! Oh, hey Tessa, it's good to see you back in class." He touched her arm once they were out in the crowded hallway and lowered his voice. "How are you?"
She shrugged. "Okay, I guess. My grandmother… She passed away."
"Oh, I'm so sorry."
This caused her to grimace. "There's nothing anyone could do about it. She was already gone before my brother found her. At least I know she's in a better place."
He smiled sadly. "That's the spirit, Tessa. She wouldn't want you dwelling on it."
A chill ran down Tessa's spine, accompanied by that familiar nagging feeling of déjà vu. She felt like she'd had this conversation with him before, and it didn't help that he sounded as though he'd known her grandmother personally. But as she opened her mouth to ask him about it, Ryan approached them, clutching his books as though they'd protect him from the strange stares kids were giving him. He threw Tybalt a suspicious glance and asked Tessa, "Who's this?"
"I'm Tybalt. You must be her best friend, right?" He held out his hand, and Ryan had to shift the books to the other hand before giving him a firm shake.
"Yeah. Name's Ryan."
The three of them stood in awkward silence before Tybalt leaned in toward Ryan and whispered, "Forgive my curiosity, but what was it like to be hit with lightning?"
Ryan rolled his eyes. As if I haven't been asked that already today. "Painful," he admitted in a dead, dull sort of voice. He recited it as though it were a speech he'd memorized for class. "My necklace and class ring melted to my skin. It was a miracle that I didn't need my finger amputated. They said I'll have the scars forever. But you know, I'm alive, so I guess I'm okay." The finality in his voice made it clear that he didn't want to talk about it any more, so Tybalt held out his hands defensively.
"Sorry, dude that was way out of line of me."
"Yes, it was."
Sensing that his presence was no longer appreciated, Tybalt adjusted the weight of his backpack on his shoulder and took a deep breath. "Well, I'll see you around."
Tessa looked hurt. "B-bye, Tybalt." He walked off, and immediately she rounded on Ryan. "What was that for?"
His eyes bugged out momentarily. "What are talking about, he was prying into my personal life! I have every right to be angry, he doesn't even know me. YOU haven't even asked me that."
"You disliked him from the moment you lay eyes on him, you didn't even give him a chance!"
He rubbed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose. "Whatever, Tessa. I don't want to argue with you right now."
After a beat she asked, "What's gotten into you lately? You haven't been yourself at all."
"Oh, gee, I don't know. Let me just touch your face to remind you what's gotten into me. Not to mention the fact that I almost died last week. But you know me; I'll bounce back just like that. Come on, I'm only human." He seemed almost to be talking to himself more than to Tessa. "I didn't ask for any of this."
She took his free hand and held it with both of her own. "I understand why you're bitter, Ryan. I wish it had been me instead."
He squeezed his eyes shut. "Don't you dare say that."
"But it's true. I don't like to see you hurting."
He looked into her eyes, now brimming with tears, and felt his heart warm slightly. "But I would gladly suffer in your place, Tessa. I care too much about you to let you take my burden. I'm sorry I've been so nasty lately."
The bell rang, and the hallway began to empty. Still the two stood there. Finally, Tessa threw her arms around his neck, causing him to drop his books. "You're my best friend, Ryan. I don't know what I'd do without you!"
He patted her back cautiously, making sure to keep her away from his exposed skin. "And vice versa, Tessa."
The rest of the day passed with the two of them pretending that the previous conversation hadn't happened. Neither one knew what to make of it, but they didn't really want to find out. So they walked home in an uncomfortable silence. Sunshine drenched the two of them in its golden glow, but still the air felt somewhat chilly. A nervous tension hung in the silence, and it didn't really have anything to do with their awkwardness. Something was going to happen, and soon.
"So…" Ryan started.
"So?" A pink flower petal fell off the tree overhead and landed on her shoulder. She picked it off as an excuse not to look him in the eye. Some part of her mind recalled that cherry blossom petals were used as a sign of romance in anime, but she shoved the thought away. This was Ryan she was talking about, after all… Desperately, she tried to change the conversation. "Did you get harassed all day long?"
He sighed. "Yeah, I did. Suddenly I'm some freak of nature, and everyone I meet feels the need to remind me of that. I just want them to leave me alone, but no, that's just too much to ask."
Okay, the choice of topics probably wasn't the wisest. She smiled at him as best she could. "Well, just think: in a couple of weeks, they'll have forgotten all about it."
"I hope so." He laughed, without a hint of humor. "Then maybe I can pretend that I'm normal again." They walked on, both feeling they should say something, but not knowing what to say. This was so different than what they were used to; they could normally discuss anything without feeling uncomfortable. Something had happened between them, besides the obvious. And neither one liked it a bit. Ryan took a deep breath. "I'm sorry."
She furrowed her eyebrows. "What for?"
"I've been acting like jerk. I just…" He made a random motion with his hands. "I don't know. I feel so different now. I want to go back to the way things were before, but… I don't think I can."
"What you went through was horrible, Ryan." She retorted. "Don't try to down-play it. It's only natural for you to feel differently now. You know, I read somewhere that people who live through traumatic often come away with a whole new look on life."
"Yeah, but they normally appreciate life more, don't they?" He stared at her, daring her to answer. She shrugged and averted her eyes. "I almost wish I hadn't survived."
"DON'T SAY THAT!" Tessa stopped dead in her tracks. "Have you no concern for those around you? Your poor mother would have to burry her son! No one wants to outlive their child, Ryan. Not to mention everybody else-"
"You mean you." Both had their voices raised now.
"Yes, ME! I would miss you, okay? I mean, heck, my grandmother just died! If my best friend had too, I don't know what I would do with myself. I… I don't think I could go on without you two. You and she are the two most important people in my life. I didn't want to loose her, and I don't want to loose you either." Her throat tightened, and she choked on her next words. "I care about you and believe it or not, I AM concerned about you."
The comment took him by total surprise. They stood staring at each other, the tension dangerously high. The air crackled with it, as though it could spark and ignite at any moment. He expected Tessa to dissolve into tears again, as she seemed to be doing a lot of it lately. However, she did not, but stared at him ruthlessly in a way that really didn't suit her. He couldn't stand up to that stare, he realized, and so gave up fighting it. He was just so tired… "Tessa-"
Before he could even finish forming the thought in his head, he stopped. Something in the back of his head screamed a brief warning, manifested by a white-hot burst of pain behind his eyes. He squeezed his eyes shut and when he opened them again, the look in Tessa's eyes told him she'd felt it too. The semi-fight flew from their minds with this new whatever it was. His senses amplified drastically, to almost painful levels and he felt adrenalin poor into his veins. Time seemed to slow down by a fraction, and a wave of power washed over him that if he hadn't been feeling the Fight or Flight Response, he would have been drunk with it.
Then the rumbling started.
The ground shook in a mini earthquake, threatening to throw them off their feet. Tessa grabbed his arm for balance and he nearly jumped out of his skin. All his senses were screaming at him "Something's terribly wrong!" He felt his heart would explode from the pressure.
Just when he thought it couldn't possibly get any worse, the ground opened up and regurgitated something. The thing was tall, standing at about six or so feet and looking like a cross between a small T-Rex and a Venus Fly Trap, neither truly plant nor animal. It had black eyes that radiated an insane hunger. It turned that gaze on Tessa and her blood turned to ice.
Ryan instinctively put himself between her and the monster, but then froze. How could he stop something like that? The monster took advantage of his slight hesitation and merely shoved him out of the way. Tessa screamed. It was upon her-
A strong gust of wind blew the creature off its feet and into the trunk of a near-by tree, stunned. Tybalt ran up to Tessa. "Are you okay?"
"Huh?" Her eyes widened even farther with the shock of it all. "Tybalt? What's going on?"
He didn't answer but rounded on Ryan, who was still lying face down in the grass. He pointed to the creature, which by now was getting to its feet again. "Don't just lie there; use your power on it!"
"How do you-?"
"NOW! Before it recovers!"
Ryan leapt to his feet and removed his gloves. He wouldn't hesitate again, not when she had almost been killed. In a feat of daring he didn't realize he was capable of, he tackled the monster. He put his hands over the creature's eyes and let loose all the energy swimming in his system. It flowed out of his fingertips, into the monster, and down into the ground where it could no longer be conducted. The creature went into a fit of convulsions, and then… It was gone. A cloud of smoke hung in the air, giving him the distinct impression he must have vaporized the thing.
Tessa's eyes were as wide as saucers. "R-Ryan!"
He opened his mouth to explain, but couldn't find the strength to. She turned to Tybalt, who still hovered at her elbow. "Who ARE you? WHAT are you?"
"No!" She began backing away from him. "No, you just stay away from me!" And then she was gone, running away as fast as her legs could carry her. He started after her.
"Leave her alone!" Ryan swayed on his feet, exhausted but in no way defeated. He picked up a glove and tugged it on. "If I see you near her again, I will hurt you."
Tybalt laughed, a harsh barking noise coming from deep within him. "You can't hurt a fly now." He waved his hand and a gust of hot wind toppled Ryan onto the grass again. Tybalt stood over him. "You wasted your energy on it. If there were another attack, you'd be useless. You need to learn moderation, if not for your own sake then for hers."
Ryan glared daggers at him, no small feat considering that his vision was so blurry. "I don't even know what you're talking about."
"You'll learn soon enough. This was the first attack in daylight. There will be more to follow, I can tell you that already. The time is coming when you might need to give your life to protect her. Can you do that?"
He was so tired…
"Go away," Ryan closed his eyes and curled into a fetal position. No longer able to fight it, he gave in to the overwhelming urge to sleep.
"Well, that didn't go as I had planned…" Tybalt pulled out the necklace and stared at it as though he expected it to give him all the answers to his problems. It remained stubbornly silent, however, leaving him to deal with things himself. He gave a long-suffering sigh and put it back away. He then turned his gaze toward the sky and closed his eyes. The sun warmed his face and a gentle breeze ruffled his hair in weak encouragement. Give it time, it whispered. Give them time…
This was enough for Tybalt.