Mendoza arrived with the rest of her crew to find Ifriena sitting on the front steps with a distraught look and damp, puffy eyes. Mendoza walked over to her and sat down beside her. "What is wrong tiger?" she asked.
"What makes you think something is wrong?" Ifriena responded through a series of sobs and sniffles that would have been imperceptible if her eyes had not given away her secret.
"Well, for one thing, you are sitting here alone. Another thing is you are still crying, or just recently gained control of yourself. What more do I need to go off of to figure something is amiss with you"
"Yeah, okay. I can't hide it anymore. I can't stand those guys sometimes. It just scares the hell out of me"
"I know you love Torsaine. I have strong feelings for Kyadus as well, but crying about it doesn't make things any better"
"I guess you're right, but it helps me feel better, and that is all I could ever ask for. But why does it have to be them? Why do they have to be heroes? Why can't somebody else do it? I just want him back so much"
"Yeah, I know." Mendoza said as she moved closer to Ifriena and brought her into a comforting embrace. "I don't like it either, but some men are just destined to do great things, and I don't know about you, but I don't want to stand in the way of anyone who is meant to do great things. They deserve our support and love more now than ever. You just have to be strong enough to give it to them. Are you strong enough"
"Of course I am strong enough, you of all people should know that. But most of the time it's a lot easier to be weak. It doesn't take courage or valor to run from the danger around you and find a place that is safe. This time I don't want to hold it together for them, I want to let myself fall apart. I want to lose myself in some other reality where these problems don't exist and stay there forever, but the problem with that is I can't afford to be weak, not for a minute, not while Torsaine is out there risking his life for people he hasn't met and will never know. I know deep down I can never be like him, I know I don't have the strength to be the worlds hero, but I know for damn sure that I have enough strength to be his hero"
Mendoza was floored by this extended monologue and was so confused on what to say. She didn't want to say the wrong thing and send Ifriena's momentarily fragile mind spiraling down into a well of despair, so she simply said all that needed to be said, "That's the spirit"
"We should get inside and take it easy until Kyadus and Torsaine show up." Ifriena said.
"Good idea," Mendoza said as she stood and extended a hand to help Ifriena stand up. Ifriena took the hand and stood up. "There we go honey, let's go in and lay down for a while"
"Alright." Ifriena said as the went up the steps and into Sortami's house. Ifriena was completely against sleeping in Sortami's room, so she opted to sleep on the sofa in the receiving lounge on the first floor. She slept for only an hour or so before she awoke feeling much more stable and rested.
She walked into the board meeting room on the first floor where everyone else was. "Ifriena, so nice of you to join us." Mendoza said.
"Mendoza?" Ifriena asked.
"What is it sweetheart"
"Could you please tell me your first name"
"Of course honey. My name is Jasmine, but most of my friends call me Jazz for short"
"Can I call you Jazz"
"You sure can sweetie," Mendoza replied, "but now I have a question I would like to ask you"
"What is it?" Ifriena asked.
"We all know the first names of the Chaos Triad, but I have always wanted to know what their last names are. Do you know them"
"Yes I certainly do. Kyadus' last name is Sorikumo. Torsaine's last name is Stukyoto. Aerion's last name is Dyseti. So there you have it"
"Kyadus Sorikumo, Torsaine Stukyoto, and Aerion Dyseti, the Chaos Triad. Wow, I really like the name Aerion Dyseti. It is definitely the best power name I have ever heard"
"It is a great name," Ifriena said. "What about the rest of you. What are your first names"
"My first name is Jason," replied Singer.
"My first name is Leland," Smith said.
"I hate to use my first name, but it is Samuel," said Price.
"My name is Tiffany," Jones replied.
"Great," Ifriena said. "My last name is Bristol. Now that we know even this little bit more about each other I think we can meld together as one unit that much easier"
"Yeah, it is great," Mendoza replied, "but now we have a new problem we must face together"
"What would that be?" Ifriena asked.
"You only made a plan up through the prison break didn't you, Ifriena"
"Well yes," Ifriena replied. "As much as I hate to admit this, I am not a psychic. I can not see into the future and know what our enemies will do"
"That's right. But now the prison break is over and we need some new plans, a new strategy now that we have started this all out war. We need to have a nice, long meeting outlining our next moves, but I don't think we should have it here. That would be inviting too much trouble"
"Where are we going to have it then?" Jones asked.
"I was thinking we could have it at my house," Mendoza said. "We could set it up for dinner tomorrow night. I will need your help Jones to prepare the meal. Does this sound good to everyone"
"Hell yeah!" Smith piped in. "Food always puts me in just the mood for planning violence"
"Sounds decent to me," Singer said. "Just please don't make any retarded vegetarian crap. I am a man and I need to eat beef"
"Whatever works for you guys," Price said, "as long as we watch at least part of a football game"
"You can count on me Mendoza," Jones said cheerfully. "I am a whiz in the kitchen"
"I am game," Ifriena added at last. "We will have a great time I'll bet"
"Great, then it is settled. How about six o'clock"
"Great!" everyone said all at once. They all paused for a second before erupting into great bouts of laughter.
Sortami's estate was more than just a leisurely stroll away from this Maximum Security Facility for the Criminally Insane, so Kyadus stole a car from one of the dead guards. He screeched out of the parking lot with Torsaine riding shotgun, and the new guy, Mark, was left sulking in the back seat.
"What were you thinking when you stole this car? If we get stopped we are all going to be screwed." Mark complained.
"Are you fucking serious?" Kyadus said. "I have killed hundreds of men, started a war that will threaten the entire world, and have been the thorn in Sortami's paw for months now, but you are worried about a little grand theft auto. I guarantee you that the guy who used to own this piece of junk car is dead, and even if we do get stopped I will not even hesitate for the blink of an eye to kill them"
"Wow." Mark said quietly as he shrunk back in the seat and went back to brooding over the new situation he got himself involved in.
"That's what I thought, bitch." Torsaine chimed in. "If you are going to roll with us, you are going to have to learn how to flip the on/off switch of your conscience. Sometimes that little pansy just gets in the way of the true greatness that we seek. Exercising a little tact when you speak to people of a superior power or rank wouldn't hurt either"
"Whatever you say, ass," Mark muttered under his breath.
"What was that?" Kyadus replied. "I don't speak bitch." "I said 'Whatever you say guys'," Mark responded in a louder voice.
"Good," Torsaine said. "As long as you understand how things work with us and respect them, you will do just fine"
Mark was not feeling up to making any more smart remarks, and Kyadus had nothing more to add, so the rest of the ride was completed in silence. Kyadus decided not to pull into the driveway, so he parked the car a little more than a block and a half away.
Kyadus got out of the car and opened the door for Mark as he said, "Hurry up son. We have to be quick if we are to stay on top of things"
"Yeah, yeah." Mark said. Marks mind began to churn with fevered thoughts of assassination of his two leaders. He pictured himself as the new leader of the Chaos Triad's legions, he saw himself as the ruler of the world, and he definitely liked what he saw, so he went for the quick stab in the back for Kyadus and planned to slash Torsaine across the throat.
Torsaine got out afterwards and began walking towards Sortami's house with Kyadus to his left and Mark directly behind Kyadus. Torsaine heard a weird metallic scraping noise behind him and whipped his head around in time to see Mark pull a knife out of his belt loop. Torsaine reached for the dagger in his boot with lightning speed and thrust it into Mark's carotid artery and across his throat so fast that Mark didn't even have time scream in pain before his vocal chords were severed. "Dumb bitch"
Mark fell to the ground twitching out his final moments of life as the pool of blood that began to form around him quickly became a crimson lake.
"What the hell just happened?" Kyadus demanded as he turned around.
"Don't blame me," Torsaine quickly threw out. "He was drawing a knife on you, and I just did what came naturally"
"Well, thanks for that I guess," Kyadus replied with a nervous edge in his voice. "Yeah, well, you know how much I hate wannabe assassins. Those little punks trying to be as hard as we are, but they could never be"
"Damn straight man! So, where did you get that bad-ass dagger from"
"I have always had this dagger," Torsaine said. "I just never used it until today. I needed to be swift and efficient in my movements, and this dagger is made especially for speed and deadly accuracy"
"Well, make sure to keep it handy in the future. "Kyadus said. "You never know when someone will turn to betray you, like this jackass right here"
"You sure aren't kidding," Torsaine said as he knelt down and rolled the body off of the sidewalk and into the gutter. He wiped the still warm blood of the ruined man that remained on the dagger off on his shirt and placed it back in his boot sheath. Torsaine stood back up and began to walk with Kyadus to the house once more.
"Now what do we do?" Kyadus asked. "We just killed our man who was to keep things in working order for us when we can't.
"Maybe we should get Mendoza or one of her crew to do it. We already know they are available, and I'm very confident they won't backstab us like any stranger might"
"That is a good point. We'll just have to see who is willing to step up when we get there"
"Sounds good to me," Torsaine said as they walked towards the house once more.
They made it to the house in minute or so and Kyadus knocked heavily on the door. After a few minutes the door was opened and Ifriena stood at the threshold. She opened her arms and said, "Come on in guys. We are so glad you are back." She hugged Kyadus furiously and then moved out of the way so he could get inside. She immediately threw her arms around Torsaine and kissed his neck. "I am so glad that you made it out uninjured." "Of course I did baby," he said as he lifted her off the ground just a few inches. "I am just too smart and too tough to be killed by those morons"
"Don't say things like that. You'll end up cursing yourself"
"But it's true," Torsaine protested. "Why should I have to amend what I say and start spouting out false statements"
"It makes me feel better for one," she said, "and you don't have to say anything about it. Only idiots run around and shout about some thing or the other"
"I'm not an idiot," Torsaine said defensively. "I am just sure of myself and have confidence. I don't know about you, but the last time I checked, having all that stuff was a good thing"
"But you don't want to tempt fate"
"Fate my ass"
"I guess you are right, honey"
"Of course I am"
"You do know that you can but me down now, right"
"Oh yeah, sure thing," Torsaine said as he threw her higher up into the air, causing her to scream wildly.
This isn't funny, ass," she shouted. I'm going to kill you if you don't stop"
"Well, I wouldn't want that," Torsaine said as he placed Ifriena gently on the doorstep, kissed her a little more, and then followed her inside.
When Torsaine and Ifriena made it inside Kyadus was already seated at the table and was discussing the events of past few hours with his allies. As Torsaine entered the room things quieted down for a second. "So good of you to join us," Mendoza said. "We are eager to hear from both you and Kyadus about the state of things. Since Kyadus is already talking, I guess you will go second"
"Sounds great." Torsaine said as he moved to the table with Ifriena.
Kyadus retold the incredible fight and of Aerion's second downfall. He told of the absolute slaughter of the remaining Mozahki Empire troops and of his rousing speech. With nothing left that he needed to tell he gave up the floor.
"Oh," Mendoza said with great interest after Kyadus was finished. "Do you have anything that you want to add to this Torsaine"
"Uh, not really," Torsaine said, but then remembered Mark. "Oh, yes. There is one thing I need to mention. We recruited a man from the crowd to take over our communication with our masses while we are busy, but he tried to back stab us and I had to kill him. His body is lying in the gutter about a block and a half away." Everyone gave him an awkward stare and he added, "Sorry, but I just thought you ought to know"
"You shouldn't just go around killing people, even if they deserve it," Ifriena said with a note of concern.
"Oh boy did he deserve it, though." Kyadus said.
"Hell yeah he did," Torsaine added.
"Oh really? What could he have possible done to warrant a death sentence?" Ifriena wondered.
"Remember when I said he tried to back stab us?" Torsaine asked.
"Of course I do," Ifriena said. "That happened about thirty seconds ago"
"Well, I wasn't kidding." Torsaine replied matter-of-factly He really did pull out a knife with the plan of stabbing Kyadus in the back, and doing something similar to me. I had to kill him to stop him from killing us"
"So now do you understand why we did what we had to do in order to survive?" Kyadus asked, addressing the entire group instead of just Ifriena.
They all just nodded in silence and Ifriena said, "Well, maybe. I just think there is another way to deal with people where you don't have to kill them"
"I'll have to disagree with that." Kyadus said.
"Yeah, I do too," Torsaine added. "In a war like this, leaving people alive who are out for your blood will only cause more violence. They will get friends, and the friends will get friends, and pretty soon you have an entire, and separate, army against you that have a score to settle, and that is never a good thing"
"Yeah! It's kind of like the mafia." Kyadus said. "You mess with the wrong guy, and the entire world seems to come down on your head"
"Exactly my point." Torsaine said. "If we don't kill these guys early, as soon as they cross the line, then we are putting ourselves at greater risk down the road. Now do you agree that killing can sometimes be the only choice"
"Yeah, I guess," Ifriena said as she hung her head a little lower. "I wouldn't want anything unnecessary to happen to the two of you"
"That's so sweet of you," Torsaine said as he kissed her and rubbed her back. "I'm so glad you see it my way, the right way"
"Alright, I got it," she said through clenched teeth. "You don't have to be an arrogant prick about it"
"Come on baby," Torsaine pleaded. "You know I'm just fooling around"
"Well, you do it an awful lot. Maybe we could move on to something else"
"Good thinking." Kyadus said. "We need to discuss who we will have as our communications advisor now that Mark is no longer with us"
"Well, do you think we should trust another person outside of this core group with the task?" Mendoza asked.
"After what happened earlier I think that would be a bad choice that we should not make again." Kyadus said.
"So you think one of us should take this position over?" Price asked.
"That would probably be the wisest course of action." Kyadus said.
"Do we have any takers?" Torsaine asked.
"I guess I could do it," Mendoza replied.
"You already have a lot on your plate," Kyadus stated. "We don't need you to take on this responsibility if you are already busy being in charge of those four knuckle heads"
"That is why I think it would work. I already have the experience with leading others, and whichever one of them took this thing over would have to coordinate with me anyway, so I might as well do it"
"She does have a point," Torsaine said. "I think it is a superb idea"
"Okay, sounds good to me." Kyadus said to the group. He then turned his attention solely on Mendoza and said, "Now I need you to meet up with everyone up at the remains of the prison facility at seven thirty tomorrow morning and gather all the information that they have to present. It should typed or just written down on paper, so all you have to do is collect it and bring it back here for everyone to look over. Does that sound simple enough for you"
"It sure does, Kyadus Sorikumo," Mendoza said with a weird little giggle.
"Who the hell told you my full name?" Kyadus said with confusion coloring his voice more than anger.
"Why does it even matter?" Mendoza wondered. "It's not like it was a highly classified secret or anything"
"I guess you're right," Kyadus sighed, "but I'm just not used to my last name being used, unless I am the one who starts it. Kind of like most military people and using their first names"
"Oh, so will you calling me by Jasmine be just as offensive?" Mendoza asked.
"Only if you take it that way," Kyadus stated before her name fully hit his mind. "Your name is Jasmine"
"Yes, it is as a matter of fact"
"Wow," Kyadus said. "That is the most beautiful name I have ever heard"
"You really think so?" Mendoza asked as her faced flushed a little bit red with an odd, but amazing, mixture of embarrassment and pleasure.
"Of course I do," Kyadus said. "It sounds exotic and I really like it"
"Well thank you," she said with a giggle. "I have always liked my name"
"That's great," he said in an awkward tone and the raising of one eyebrow, "but I think we need to get back to the issue at hand"
"I thought that issue was already resolved," Torsaine chimed in.
"That one point of the issue was resolved, but the issue as a whole is still up in the air. Anyway, after you get the word from the rest of our army we need to meet up and come up with a new plan of action. I think it is necessary to have a group meeting to discuss all points of our operation after we gather more word from the troops. Does anyone have any ideas"
"We could have dinner and discuss our tactics either during the meal itself, or shortly after it is finished." Mendoza said. "I propose we have it at my house by early tomorrow evening. Say 5 o'clock"
"Sounds good to me," Torsaine replied.
"Then it is settled," Kyadus said. "We will meet all of you back at Mendoza's place for a little dinner planning session tomorrow at five in the evening. Excuse me, but I need some time to reacquaint myself with the freedom of the real world. Let's go Torsaine. It was nice seeing you again and thanks for everything"
"It was nothing," Mendoza said quickly, with a little too much excitement in her voice. "See you tomorrow"
"Yes, bye everyone." Torsaine followed Kyadus down the hall and then out of the house.
Once they were back on the street and headed towards the stolen car Torsaine asked, "Where do we go from here"
"Wherever the wind takes us," Kyadus said with a smile.
Shortly after Kyadus and Torsaine departed the gathering broke apart each person said the proper good bye formalities and then went their separate ways. Mendoza was the last to leave Sortami's house, and when she went out to her vehicle she saw Ifriena sitting against the back end, smoking a cigarette.
"I never knew you to be a smoker," Mendoza said.
"I'm not normally," Ifriena replied, "but I feel so stressed that this seemed like as good of an outlet as any, and a hell of a lot better than most"
"I guess I see your point," Mendoza commiserated. "What are you still doing here? Why didn't you go home"
"Being alone right now just isn't an option I feel like exploring. Do you think I could stay with you at your house"
"Of course you can honey," Mendoza said as she sat next to Ifriena and placed Ifriena's head on her shoulder and started fingering her hair.
"Thanks a million," Ifriena muttered as she began to break into sobs.
"It's okay baby," Mendoza said as she rubbed her back. "Just let the despair flow out of you through the medium of tears"
"You speak as if you would know anything about this," Ifriena snapped. "What would do if you were where I am right now"
"For one thing, I am closer to where you are than you want to think. Another thing I would do is suck it the fuck up. Despair is a weight that will drag you to the bottom of a cold and unforgiving ocean, but hope is a buoy that can lift even the heaviest spirit. So I guess I would cling to hope like my world depended on it and not let go for anything, that is what I would do. Now what are you going to do? Are you going to continue to sit here and cry, or are you going to pull yourself out of this funk and stay strong"
"It's not as easy as that," Ifriena said with a faint sigh. "Saying what to do is a world of difference from actually being able to do it. As Ben Franklin once said, 'Well done is better than well said', and I totally agree with that. It will happen when it happens, but for now I think I want to feel the pain. It is healthy to indulge in pain and despair every once in a while, that is one of the things that make us human. Without tragedy life would not be very good at all"
"Well then," Mendoza said as she scratched her head. "I guess I can't make you do those things, so I guess you can do what you wish, as long as it doesn't affect anyone else in a negative way"
"I can not in good conscience promise you anything, but I will try as hard as I can, no, I will try even harder than that"
"Well good for you," Mendoza said with a warm smile. "I don't think I could expect anything more from you than to give it everything you have"
"Good, now let's get out of here," Ifriena said as she finished it off with a final drag, dropped it to the ground, and put it out with the heel of her shoe.
Kyadus went cruising around for a little while, just turning at random with no real destination in mind. It was not long before he reached his old neighborhood, and slowed down as he passed his parent's house. "I want to go there tomorrow," Kyadus said. "I have to make sure they know what is going on, even if they are violently apposed to it. I have an obligation to them, you know. After all they did for me growing up they deserve the truth, no matter how ugly it may be"
"You don't have to explain yourself to me," Torsaine said sharply. "I don't have any judgment for you. Do whatever you think needs to be done"
"I don't know if that was support or disdain, but thanks anyway"
"Yeah, sure thing"
They made it past Kyadus' old house and continued to travel into the waning afternoon. It was only about five minutes more before Kyadus drove into the area of the college Torsaine used to attend with him. They would be early in the second semester of their freshman year by now, so the dorm apartment room he received for the whole year would still belong to him.
"Do you want to go back to my dorm room right off campus and just relax and wait there until tomorrow morning?" Kyadus asked.
"Uh… do we have any other choice?" Torsaine replied.
"I'm sure we do, but I think staying in my old room is the easiest and safest choice we have, it is at least the most certain thing we have"
"Sure, let's do it." Torsaine said,
"Great," Kyadus said. "I haven't even seen that place in months. It should feel good to be at a place I can call home once again, instead of in that stupid prison facility they had me locked up in"
"I hear you there," Torsaine replied. "That was some bullshit for sure"
"What are you talking about?" Kyadus said with disgust. "You were only in there for less than two days. I was in there for more than a week. You don't know how bad things can get in there, you haven't seen what I've seen"
"I guess you have a point," said Torsaine, "but you haven't seen some of the stuff I have seen. Everyone on Earth is a broken, wingless angel, not just you"
"What in the world do you mean by that?" Kyadus asked.
"I am saying that you speak as if you were the only person ever born who hurts, who has seen the horrors mankind can do to itself. You speak as if no one around you deserves to feel anything that you feel. I was simply saying that we are all human, we are fundamentally all the same, you are no better or worse than anyone around you"
Kyadus just stared at him with a glower. "Since when did you become the best philosophy major of all time"
"Shut up idiot," Torsaine replied, "I'm being serious. It is true that you have seen a lot more violence and tragedy than most people do in a lifetime, but that doesn't mean you get to play that card all the time. Everyone has their areas of pain just like you, and they are entitled to their feelings. Basically I am saying stop being so smug about everything, quit acting like you know everything that there is to know about pain and suffering, because you don't, no one can know that, nor are we meant to know such things"
"Are you quite done yet?" Kyadus said in an obnoxious tone of voice.
"Did you understand what I was saying"
"Of course I did," Kyadus said defensively. "I am not a dumb ass by any means, even you should know that you goofy window licker"
"Well good," Torsaine replied. "I guess I am done talking, but now you have to start living what I was talking about. You can still be confident, just don't be smug like I know you can be"
"Sure thing buddy," Kyadus said as they shook hands. "Anything for you, just not in a gay way or anything"
"Maybe you are a dumb ass, you're just in denial"
Both of them busted up laughing as Kyadus neared the dormitory complex. He drove through the parking lot and found a spot near the door to his main wing. He got out of the car and stretched his arms out wide. "It feels good to be back at such a place of peace and anonymity." "It sure does buddy. It sure does"
"This is a place I can go that finally makes sense, I feel strangely at peace with my life here"
"Wow you are such a fag"
"Shut up you"
"Don't 'shut up you' me"
They walked into the wing and found Kyadus' room fairly quickly. Upon entering the room for the first time in months Torsaine saw an ordinary room, but Kyadus saw far more than that. Kyadus saw the last place he was before he his life took a drastic turn, the last place where he held any childlike innocence. He had left this place a boy and returned again a hardened man of experience, newfound wisdom, and courage.