Chapter 22

A Royal History


"But . . ."

"My mother was able to control my powers until I was old enough to do it myself. But the damage had already been done. Everyone knew what had happened, what I had done.

"And of course, the abnormality didn't stop there.

"Without a positive side, my powers became weaker than those of my parents. However, just because I was unable to be telepathic or telekinetic didn't mean I didn't have other abilities. I retained the ability to harm people with no more than a thought. If it's in the human body, I can destroy it, squeeze it, maim it. Aneurysms are as easy as a thought. A heart attack no more than a whim." He reached up and snapped his fingers. "Death can happen just like that."

"So that's what you did to Kim?"

Kyro, who had lost a tad of his composure, stood straight again, his emotionless mask swallowing his face again. "Just a bit. Nothing to hurt her, nothing that would last. Just a little pain and blood to put on a show."

"She said something about feeling miserable."

"There's that too. It's a side-effect of my powers, something I can't really control. If I'm hurting someone, they instantly begin to feel the weight of misery and fear. All their negative feelings surface while their positive feelings fade. It's understandable, considering the nature of my powers. However, once I let them out of my grasp, they return to normal." He shrugged. "Usually."

"But you can't just toy with feelings?"

"No. I can only control the physical feeling. Without that, the emotional feelings won't arise."

That made her feel slightly better. So at least the fear and uncertainty she felt right now were her own natural reaction to him, not a direct result of standing near him.

"Some exceptionally perceptive people claim to feel more miserable when they're near me." As if reading her mind, he turned to her with eyebrows raised. "Of course, that could be just because they don't like me."

Shannah bit her lip, looking away.

"You don't have to worry about that. My powers, at least."

"And why is that?"

"I'll get to that. I'm going to continue with my story. You see, not only was I incapable of producing positive powers, but positive emotion as well. This was the true tragedy of my abnormal birth. Positive emotions—joy, compassion, love, comfort, warmth—are just distant ideas to me. I can't feel them or experience them firsthand."

Shannah whipped around to face him, shocked. "But—but how is that possible?"

"However," he continued, ignoring her, "there is a numbness where the joy and love should be. It's a wonderful respite from the fear, the hatred, and the anger. I've always sought out that numbness, though when I've lived in a world full of spite and misery for so long, it's hard to find it. I think the numbness is the only thing that has kept me sane. It is the reason I just don't murder everyone and then throw myself off a building."

"You can't just say that." Shannah was appalled.

"Say what?"

"Talk about suicide so . . . nonchalantly."

"Death isn't frightening to me. Most people don't agree, I find, but to me, life isn't worth much." When she continued to gape at him, he rolled his eyes. "I'm not going to kill myself. I'm depressed, but I'm not dramatic. Perhaps I might have offed myself a long time ago, but you see, I'm needed here. I derive no pleasure from keeping Hune second-in-command, but I do hate him, and I feel a strange sense of justice at knowing I'm standing in the way of what he wants."

There was a small silence. Shannah felt like she should say something, because the quiet wasn't comfortable with Kyro's spindly, dark form standing next to her.

"Well, uh, thanks."


"For sticking it to him. I don't particularly . . . well, like you, but so far you seem a lot nicer than him."

"I wouldn't use the word nice," Kyro muttered. "I'm simply not belligerent."

"Well, whatever. At least you don't want to kill me." She paused. "This story is great and all, but why did you kidnap me? Is there some secret you want to tell me?"

"No secret. And I haven't finished the story yet."

"Okay." Might as well humor him.

"I said there were two children born."

"Really?" Shannah had only ever heard of Kyro. Something was clicking in the back of her brain, some alarm system that was preparing to shriek but hadn't gotten there yet.

Kyro stopped and faced her, those eerily green eyes piercing into hers. "There was a girl born with the opposite problem."

"The opposite . . .?"

"Six years after my birth, my sister was born. She had the inability to feel negative emotions. She could only smile, could only laugh. She knew no hate, no anger, no despair. She loved because it was all she knew how to do. Naturally, she was more popular with the public. And with Kifra. He grew to despise me, but he loved her. She, he was certain, would grow to inherit the throne and continue the family line."

Shannah took a step back, the nagging in her head growing louder. "What happened to her?"

"The Rebellion. When she was five, her mother was killed. No one knew how did it, but I always assumed Hune was the culprit, or at least a mercenary he had paid off. It should have been impossible; Shatisa was telepathic, so she would have detected someone approaching her with the intent to kill. People would have blamed me, but they knew that my powers wouldn't work on her, since they don't work on those who are blood-related."

Shannah stepped off of the running path, the blood rushing in her ears. "And then what?"

"Chaos ensued. Kifra and my sister vanished, assumed dead when blood was found on the bedsheets. I was the only survivor. Of course I'd survive; I had excellent means to protect myself. Who wants to kill the man who can give you an aneurysm without a second thought? Even at eleven, I was an intimdating enemy. So I remained. However, Kifra and my sister disappeared, and have not been heard of since."

There was dead silence. Shannah was pretty sure she had stopped breathing. She knew why he'd brought her here. She knew what he was going to tell her. She looked down the running path, and the foliage surrounding it seemed to shrink, the path recoiling as the blackness threatened to rush up and eat her. She began to walk forward, but Kyro stood still. When she turned and looked back at him, he appeared more ethereal than ever, his stature straight, his pale skin practically glowing. She was afraid of him. More afraid of him than she was of Hune, Holo, and Dired combined. She turned and would have started walking again, but the trees around her began to creak, and the grass around her began to wilt, their edges shriveling and curling. The air grew heavy and thick, making it hard to breathe. She whipped around to face Kyro, whose eyes had gone completely red.

"Stop it," she whispered. "Stop that!"

"Tell me, Sahane'ah. Do you feel any pain?" His voice was soft, almost delicate.

"Stop it!" she cried as a tree branch snapped and the leaves above her shuddered.

"You should be nothing more than exploded organs right now," Kyro continued. "Nothing more than a blood splatter on the sidewalk. Don't you see? These are my powers at their fullest. Even the trees and grass can feel it. Even the air! And yet you stand there, untouched."

"No." Shannah took a step back, shaking her head. "You need to stop this."

"Remember what I said, Sahane'ah? Remember what I said about powers being useless on those who are blood related?"

"You're insane!" She would have taken off running, but the air itself seem too thick to move through, and the darkness even more pervasive than before. "You think I'm her? You're crazy."

In an instant, the world returned to normal, as if Kyro hadn't done a thing. The trees stopped creaking. The grass that wasn't wilted beyond repair straightened. The air swept away, carried away by nothing more than a light breeze. Kyro's eyes gazed back at her, slowly fading to their usual green.

"I'm crazy?" His voice sounded dead, emotionless. "You don't even remember the fact you're the lost empress of Sahorack."

Shannah marched right up to him, shoulders hunched, finger held out in front of her. She used it to jab his chest to punctuate her words. "You are totally insane."

"You know I'm right."

"I know you're crazy. Because there's just one little flaw in your genius revelation. You wanna know what that is?"

Kyro raised his eyebrows.

"You said she couldn't feel sadness, anger, and hate. Well, guess what? I've been fricking depressed out of my mind for the past few months, and I'm pretty sure I'm not imagining it. Where's all that joy you talked about, huh?"

Kyro's expression didn't change, which made Shannah even angrier.

"What is your explanation for that, Mr. Emperor?"

"That's simple: you healed."


"You healed. There have been few like us in the records of our history, but every single one of them healed around the age of ten, slowly regaining their ability to feel the opposite emotion. While they never fully recover from their previous condition, they can at least experience both sides of their emotions."

"Bull shit. How come you didn't heal then?"

Kyro's eyes darkened. "I don't know."

"You're lying. You act like you know everything, so don't play the ignorant card with me."

"I don't know everything. But I know more than you, and I'm telling you that you healed. Don't you remember yourself as a child? I'm sure you do. You would see others cry, watch them frown and hide away, and you'd be confused because you couldn't possibly understand." Kyro took a step closer. "You know what I'm talking about."

"No. Actually, I don't. You're crazy. You're a crazy emperor whose mind gets screwed up from so much inbreeding or whatever."

"At least I remember my lineage."

"Yeah, that's another problem. This empress was five when she vanished. I was living on Earth with my family when I was that age. I remember."

"Do you?" Kyro lifted his eyebrows. "Do you specifically remember being five? How clear are our memories, anyway? You could have been six."

"I would have remembered being an empress at age five."

Kyro sighed and rubbed his forehead, as if trying to explain addition to a particularly dim-witted toddler. It didn't endear him to Shannah, who was getting really sick of being treated like a moron. She wasn't stupid. She got good grades in high school. "You forgot."

"Oh. Okay. Sure."

"I'm serious. Sahane'ah, you have to know something about our minds. They are not your average human minds. They are imbued with qualities even science cannot explain. There has been debate to what gives us these powers, but in the end, you must understand that sometimes who you think you are and who you actually are are two different things. There is a force that lives inside of you that may not always have the same goals and ambitions that you think you do. Perhaps it is that force that brought you here. Whatever it is, it will strive to protect its host: you. It will protect you from physical harm sometimes, yes, but it will also protect you from emotional harm. My theory is that Kifra took you to—you said Earth?"


"Very well. He took you to Earth. He left you there. You were found. By who, I don't know. This force inside of you realized that if you were to remain knowledgable of your past, you would remain conflicted forever. You would never truly be satisfied. So you forgot. It made you forget. The positive side of this force, your brain, whatever you want to call it, was incapable of understanding fear, uncertainty, pain, and anger. It would be like attempting to understand the most difficult mathematics without knowing how to multiply simple digits. So instead of clinging to the past and your knowledge of it, you just let it go. You accepted your Earthling parents as yours. You believed yourself an Earthling human."

"That sounds like a really far-fetched explanation to me." Shannah put her hands on her hips. "Grasping for straws."

"For what?"

"Nothing. So you say I have the Force?"

"A force, yes. You can call it whatever you like: a force, powers, your mind. The real word for it is Crefahnahck, but it does not translate well."

Out of all the things filtering in and out of her mind at the moment, she managed to catch onto the "ck" sound at the end. She recalled Dired saying that it was like a pronounceable exclamation point, a sound attached to something of importance.

"Crefahnahck," Shannah repeated.

"Your accent is awful, but yes, Crefahnahck."

"You'd think my accent would be fine if I were an empress who grew up on this planet."

"Clearly you've forgotten your home language as well. Maybe it will return to you."

Shannah didn't know what to say. She wasn't even close to believing it, but in some ways, it was tempting to entertain the idea. Her, royalty. True, it wasn't the most glamorous royal position she could have asked for. There were no pink princess dresses or royal balls here. Just a bunch of angry Shorackans screwed over by the royal family generation after generation. And a brother who clearly was messed up in the head.

Her mind drifted to the premonitions. If Kyro were right . . . if she were royalty . . . those wouldn't be premontions.

They'd be memories.

She refused to believe that. Kyro talked all this mumbo jumbo about powers called Crefahnahck. He could easily have put those "memories" in her mind. Why? She didn't know. Kyro was a sinister man. He could do whatever he wanted for no reason at all. He didn't look well, physically or mentally. As for his little trick with the trees and grass, that was easy to fake. How could she know that he was actually attempting to kill her?

"You don't believe me," Kyro said.

"No, not really. It's almost flattering that you think I'm some all-powerful empress—"

"I never said all-powerful."

"—but I'm not empress material, trust me."

"You may not believe me, but why do you think Hune wants to kill you?"

"Maybe he's come to the same conclusions that you have," Shannah argued. "I don't know how, but if some empress had the same name as I did—no, that would still be bullshit, because I'm not human."

"Yes, that's a rather curious development." Kyro's eyes scanned her ears, which fell against her neck and blushed a fiery red. "But I'm guessing that since you came from Earth, you were not always like this."

Something fired off shots in her mind. "You!"


"You did this to me!" Shannah cried, jabbing a finger at him. "You turned me into this!"

Kyro only blinked, not affected in the least by her display of anger. She bet she could pull a gun and he'd still stand there like a bored statue. Then again, if she had the ability to kill anyone close with just a thought, she probably wouldn't frighten easily either.

"Don't look at me like that! Someone turned me and my friends into—into this! And you . . . you seem to think I'm your sister or whatever. You brought me here! Why, I don't know. But—"

"Ridiculous accusation," Kyro interrupted curtly. "For a number of reasons. First reason is that I had no clue you were even alive until the first time we met, not so long ago, down in that abandoned prison facility. Second reason is that I would have absolutely no motive. You were the only person I ever liked. If you were happy and comfortable on Earth, why would I ruin that for you? I don't like this job, and I certainly wouldn't wish it upon you."

"I'm the only person you like?"

"You were the only person I did like," Kyro corrected. "How I feel about you right now is up for debate."

"You can't even like me. Not if all you can feel is negativity."

"There is a numbness where joy and love would be. I felt that numbness around you. It is the only respite I receive from the onslaught of fear, hatred, and pain. Obviously I would purposely seek out this numbness by spending time with you."

"Oh." Shannah thought back to those dreams of hers, the way Kyro looked at her. It was different from how he viewed her now. When she was little, he looked at her with this pained expression, as if trying to reach deep within himself to feel something he couldn't grasp. Now he looked indifferent and cruel. Even if she were the empress, it was clear that whatever bond they'd had had vanished with time.

"You're a liar."

"You have to care about something to lie about it," Kyro said.

"If you didn't turn me into this, then who did?"

"I don't know. I can't read minds."

Shannah was growing frustrated. This was not playing out as she'd like it to. "You're—you're evil! You don't need a motive. You would just do it to—to piss me off."

"Of course," Kyro said with biting sarcasm. "Since I certainly don't have anything better to do than screw with the lives of seventeen-year-old Earthling girls."

"You're crazy. Crazy and evil. I'm not the empress. My parents never told me anything about being adopted, and if I had just showed up on Earth, I wouldn't have had things like a birth certificate or—or baby pictures."

"You don't think those can be fabricated? Earthling technology is easy to copy, and Kifra would have the means to do it. Photographs and documents would be all too easy to create. As for your parents, they probably assumed there was no point in telling you if you forgot all about being adopted in the first place. Why make your experience more traumatic than it had to be? And tell me, Shannah: did you look anything like your parents?"

"Not all kids look like their parents. I had a couple friends who—"

"And the eyes? Where did you get those from?"

"My eyes?"

"Certainly an odd color of green."

Shannah grew defensive. "There's nothing wrong with my eyes."

"Has anyone actually believed that they were natural?"

"Sure." Shannah bit her lip. "My parents did . . ." She trailed off when she lifted her gaze to Kyro's. Okay, so his eyes were a similar shade of green to hers, a green that just happened to be kind of rare in nature. So what? Kyro's eyes changed colors all the time, from red to gray to green. Who could tell that those were actually the real color? Maybe it was more of his mental voodoo.

"Have you ever sunburned in your life?"



"What does that have to do with anything?"

"Sahorackans don't burn. A bit of an evolutional advantage, you could say."

"But we are both super pale."

"We must have taken after Kifra. Kifra's mother was Colonian. But we still inherited that Sahorackan trait: the inability to sunburn."

"I've burned before." But now that Shannah thought about it, she couldn't think of a time when she had. She remembered going to the beach with Kim when they were sixteen and lying out in the sun, trying to get a tan. Kim walked away with a lovely browned tan. Shannah's skin was just as deathly looking as usual. Not even a red tinge. Kim had joked about it, ignorant to how much it bothered Shannah. Shannah had wanted to be tan and beautiful like her blonde and beautiful best friend. Instead, she was the same old Shannah.

That proved nothing though. Shannah wore suntan lotion all the time. That one instance had been the only time Shannah tried to get a tan. She was usually paranoid about it, because her mother was always worried. You'll get skin cancer, you're so fair, she'd say. Shannah had always believed her.

There was a long silence. Finally Kyro sighed.

"Perhaps you need some time to think this over."

"I don't need any time, because I know you're a liar."

Kyro shrugged. "Well, it doesn't matter what you or I think. What matters most is what Hune thinks." He cocked his head slightly to the side. "And if he's on a mission to get you killed, then I suppose you should be worried."


"He doesn't try so hard to get me killed," Kyro explained. "Not only am I dangerous even by Hune's standards, but there's no chance of me ever . . . reproducing."


"I suppose I could go through with aritificial insemination or something as equally unappetizing, but Hune knows I have no grand ideas for the royal family. I'd much prefer for our line to simply die out. You, on the other hand, are far more dangerous to his plans. Not only does a second royal child pose a threat to his position, but you have the capability to make more heirs."

Shannah blinked stupidly. "But—"

"So I'd be very careful, if I were you."


"Shh." Kyro held up a finger, his eyes narrowing at a spot over Shannah's shoulder. Suddenly his irises flashed crimson, and the trees resumed their painful groaning. The air grew thick and heavy, developing the vague scent of decay. Shannah held her breath, waiting for some sort of pain or sickness, but there was nothing, only the stench of rot in her nostrils. She whipped around when she heard a dull thud in the distance, followed by a gun clattering near her feet. Shannah moved forward, but Kyro grabbed her.

"We have company," he murmured.

The trees stopped their creaking, but the air still smelled wrong. One of the lights that had flickered out flickered back on, and Shannah saw several bodies lying on the ground. There was still one standing, however. She nearly shouted, thinking it was Hune. But when she looked closer, she knew him to be Holo. A very ill-looking Holo. His eyes were bloodshot, his long mouth gasping for air as his body appeared to collapse upon itself. Whatever Kyro was doing had already incapacitated the smaller people. Shannah recognized one of them.

"Kyro!" she cried, whipping around to face him. "Stop it!"

"All of you kick your guns over here," Kyro said, his voice blank. The order was followed. Kyro ignored the weapons, instead just deciding to clench Shannah's arm in a tight fist. "Now tell me why you're here."

"Shannah," Holo said, doing his best to keep his voice even. It broke in the middle, and warbled toward the end. He gasped, then gritted his teeth when his eyes clenched shut. "Kyro, we're just here for Shannah."

"Oh, really?" Kyro simply raised his eyebrows. He did nothing to remove the sickness he had given them all. "And why does a mere private lik her require the general of an army to come retrieve her? Tell me that, Holo?" Kyro took a step closer. "Is it because you know who she is?"

"I don't know what you're talking about," Holo growled, eyes snapping open to glare at Kyro.

"Of course you don't." Kyro let go of Shannah, shoving her toward Holo. She stumbled but managed to stay on her feet. A gust of fresh air swept past her, and she knew Kyro had lifted the sickness when she reached Holo. He was standing straight again, taking deep breaths of air, the sick pinkish-yellow color receding from the whites of his eyes. His veins were no longer bulgings, nor was his jaw clenched. Everyone else was trying to sit up and stand, Dired included. He must have followed her here. She wasn't sure how, but how else would have Dired and Holo gotten here? They were in the middle of nowhere.

"You can't protect her forever," Kyro said. "Hune's only vaguely amused by her right now, but eventually he's going to want her dead."

"Hune has nothing to do with anything." Holo swept his hair back with one hand while grabbing Shannah with the other, yanking her back behind him. She was free for an instant before Dired snatched her up this time, gripping her arm firmly. She tried shaking him off, but he just glared at her. He looked ready to vomit. Shannah stepped as far away from him as she could, in case he actually did hurl.

"You think you know him so well," Kyro said. "But siblings aren't always so transparent." Predictably, his gaze landed on Shannah. "I suppose there's no talking to her now, and I think I've grown bored of this entire confrontation. You aren't going to stop me from leaving, are you?"

"You can't just kidnap a private of mine and expect no consequences."

Kyro lifted his eyebrows, like one might at an ant attempting to fight off a cat. "Protect her all you like. But this isn't the end of it, and you know it." Then he walked off. Shannah expected Holo or someone—anyone—to shoot or call him back or insult him, but there was just silence. She supposed you couldn't threaten the emperor of a planet with whom you had an already delicate alliance with.

"Holo—" she began.

"We're leaving." He whisked past her. Shannah finally shook off Dired and followed, but not without withstanding a withering glare first. Let Dired glare.

She had bigger problems.

Author's Note: Now that my initial emotional reaction to a stupid flame has gone away (yay for insecurity!), I've decided to keep this up. I did not realize so many people were still reading it. The updates will still be impossibly slow, but it's here for anyone's enjoyment when they want it.

Also, a thank you to Schnitzelover. I usually don't condone flamebacks, but it did make me feel better. XD