Leidra didn't stay for too long, and left me alone to look at everything in the room that glowed just the slightest. I slowly shifted myself off the bed and hobbled towards the door. It had been placed somewhat back in its frame, but it was still lopsided. It looked as though someone had made a serious effort to put it back where it came from, and just made it worse. I contemplated it for a moment before pulling on the doorknob and yanking the entire door over. Sluggish as I was, I was still able to dodge out of the way before I was smashed upside the head with several pounds of solid, splintered wood.

It slammed into the ground hard enough to make the walls shake. I slowly stepped around it, trying to avoid piercing my foot on a shard of wood.

The hallway was just as it has been for ages, with it's ridiculously fancy trim and decor. But now I was armed with the information that it hadn't been there for long—only several years, was it? Of course, now that I thought about it, several years could be anything from two to five hundred. Evil Clay was three thousand years old, wasn't he? They might have a different way of referring to time around here.

I stepped out into the hall and wavered a bit, feeling uneasy on my feet. I had forgotten about that fever of mine, which must have broken some time ago. All it needed was evil Clay's stupid thing to come back and attack me again. I felt a bit woozy and sore, but that was about it. I didn't feel sick in the conventional way.

I wasn't sure what hall I was in, since they all looked the same. I guess it might be time to figure out where the hell I was in this building. I only remembered that it was sort of like a wheel of sorts; did that mean that all the hallway were like a wheel, too?

I took a direction and went down it.

It took me a while to get to a larger hallway, and I continued down to the center of the building, which just happened to be the council room. I didn't walk inside because I could hear voices. It might have been Raeva's interrogation going on, and from what Clay was promising, I didn't really want to be there when it was going on.

I turned around and headed back the other direction. Hopefully, this would just lead out to the front doors, or a hallway that lead close to them. It did, much to my relief, and I walked out into the middle of a mess of people that were leading in and out of the halls, carrying baskets and pulling rickshaws and a whole mess of things. It was the late afternoon, and it was odd seeing the sun after spending so much time inside.

Maybe I could head down to the edge of the city, step out into the fold, and let it take me wherever it wanted to. I had started taking several steps down with that plan in mind, so I decided to go ahead and take a walk. I might come up with something different before then, but who knows? Always have a plan.

I dodged past people on my way down, watching men with giant baskets and crates on their head, women balancing babies in the same place, people hopping up the stairs with springs on their shoes. It was like stepping into a Dr. Seuss book in some manner, except everyone looked distinctly human instead of yellow or green with large fuzzies on their heads. I nearly ran into people once or twice on my way down. It was easier to walk once I got off the stairs.

I didn't know where I would want to go, so I simply made the far gate my destination. If nothing else struck my fancy along the way, I would go out and walk among the folds and get myself lost. It's not as if my condition could get any worse, unless I was found by a bunch of head hunters.

It was getting darker outside, and alongside it the number of people out on the streets diminished. I wondered inside one of the electronics stores that had all the weird things that sat next to televisions and computers that had weirdly shaped keyboards.

One of the ladies attending to the shop looked up and asked me something. I supposed they asked if I wanted anything, and I went through the aisles, just watching and trying to figure out what anything was.

"Excuse me."

It took me a moment to realize that it was English, and another to realize that it wasn't a voice that I heard before. It was the lady at the counter. I remembered her from the last time I had wondered throughout the city. She was floating plates around the room.

"You're the girl that's just been adopted by the council, right?"

I hesitated. Talking to strangers is bad, and ones that spoke English tended to be even worse, as they tended to either want to kill you or want you dead in some sort of manner. How did I know that this wasn't a Tuanan in sheep's clothes?'

Well, duh, because Tuanans have grey skin and black hair. This girl was pale as hell with bright, firetruck red hair that didn't seem all that natural. Did that mean that she was safe to talk to, or did that mean that she could throw fireballs as well as levitate plates around the room?

Wait, I've been adopted?

"I don't know?"

She was leaning on the counter, head in a hand. She leaned forward towards me.

"That's interesting. Are you supposed to be out of the council building?"


I took a step back. I really didn't feel like going back there now.

"Are you going to take me back?" I asked.

"I didn't say that."

Why is she being so dodgy?

"That's not answering my question."

"Oh well, then you'll have to go without your question being answered, now will you?"

Wow, this girl was just a bit irritating.

"How do you know me?" I asked.

"Oh, I'm part of the council. Hi, Escaira."

Escaira? That's an interesting name. I said so.

"It's not as weird as 'Lucy'."

God, does everyone hold that opinion? I swear to god, sooner or later, I'll met some people who take the name "Lucy" as an insult or something to that effect and then they decide to kill me—just like everyone else here.

"So, what are you doing stalking the streets at this hour?"

I had no idea what hour it was, only that it was so far off my normal schedule that it's probably also contributing to my severely fucked up mind at the moment. It was weird not knowing the time at all. I guess I got too used to every part of my life run by some circular thing on the wall that had hands.

I wanted to go home and have my life ruled by some circular thing on the wall that had hands.


I jumped back to reality.

"I'm just wondering around, seeing what the city's like," I supplied. Escaira gave some little shrug, as if it wasn't really worth my time to walk around the city in the early evening.

"Is that all?"

"Well..." No. "I guess, since I've been here for so long, I might as well see where I'm staying."

"You haven't been here very long, for just under a week."

No, actually it was over a week, I'm sure, but I didn't know if she was counting the time that I've been kidnapped by the Tuanans, the Bidjzans, the insane green monkeys...

God, Bidjza was gone, all gone, and it was my fault. I couldn't believe it.

"A lot's happened to me while I've been here, so I guess it feels longer for me than for you..."

She narrowed her eyes at me. "What's wrong?"


"You've got that stupidly mournful, 'Oh woe is me' sort of voice."

Well, that was sort of rude.

"It's just that... well, you know Bidjza is gone, right?"

"Well, yeah they've been out of service for years."


"Everyone knows that."

"Oh." I didn't think it'd be common knowledge just yet, but she was probably there at the council when I said Bidjza was go--

Several years?

"It's been out of service for several years," I said.

"Well, yeah. You know, no longer fighting and all that jazz. You didn't know that?"

"No, they're gone."

"That's what I said."

"As in there's only one Bidjzan left on the face of the planet."

The teen with his brown, blank eyes. I didn't know if he was the only one left alive, but I didn't see any others that survived that... massacre.

Escaira stared at me. "What do you mean?"

"Gone! All the buildings, gone! All the people, gone and blown up into pieces and gone! That's what I mean by gone, as in there's none left."

Escaira kept on staring and blinking.

"And I... I killed them all..."

I shook and lost my balance, falling to the white tiled floor with an ungraceful thud. Oh, my god, I've killed hundreds of people. How in the world could I do that to someone, anyone? When did I get the right to do that?

"What are you talking about?" Escaira asked.

"Weren't you there when I was talking about it?" I slurred. My hands were shaking. It almost felt as if I was back in the mud and grime and rain.

"I'm on vacation."

"Va... vacation?" Aren't they in the middle of a freaking battle or something like that? Why in the world was she on vacation? "There was a meeting that I was forced to go to, and I told everyone that Bidjza was just wiped off the face of the planet!"

With wobbly knees, I managed to get to my feet again.

"I really doubt that," Escaira said.

"But it's true!"

"I don't think some big, comeuppers are going to be able to take out a nation that's been around for eras." Well, at least she knew about the Tuanans. Too bad it didn't seem as though she understood how fucking dangerous they were.

"But they did! I saw them with my own eyes!"

"And next thing you'll be telling me is that Casso Cancia is at the front gates with their stupid shotguns, ready to raid the city."

"Huh??" What the hell was she talking about?

Oh, right, those Casso people. Didn't they only minorly damage the council building? And didn't Tuana come in and decimate part of the city? Where the hell do these people's priorities lie?

"Trust me, Tuana is far more dangerous than those Casso people."

"Do you even know who they are?"


Well, no, I don't. I haven't heard anything about them except through other people in the council building. Everyone treated them like some disrespectful teenager instead of a rival group. If there's a group that's that unimportant, why are they placing more attention on them instead of on the Tuanans?

"If you don't even know about them, then why are you proclaiming that Tuana is more dangerous than they are?"

"Because of the way you guys just disregard what Casso-whatever does! You guys don't spend any attention on them!"

"Whatever Casso Cancia has done is far worse than what Tuana's done to us. Ergo, why do we have to worry about them?"


She does have a point. I don't know what the Casso group has done, but maybe they've already stormed the gates and failed miserably, so Belda knows that their gate-protection system worked. Maybe what they do is much more effective than what Tuana can do.

"Shouldn't you still, you know, keep an eye on them or something like that?"

"We're probably already doing that. There's nothing you really need to worry about. Now, just head on back to the council building and leave all the leadership stuff to those who're more informed, okay?"

Even though it was rude and condescending enough, I left her stupid electronics store, making a mental note in my mind to stay away from Escaira in the future.