Anna couldn't move. Shock radiated through her body as she stared at Shang, her vision beginning to blur. The world around her was spinning.
"Is that even possible?" Rene asked, her voice incredulous. The idea that someone's power, especially someone like Anna, could just disappear was ridiculous. Magic was a part of each sorcerer, entwining with their soul the more that they used it. To lose ones magic was akin to losing one's very essence of being.
"I have to go," Shang said, finally breaking eye contact with Anna and moving to leave the room. She grabbed his hand before he could escape.
Their gazes met in that instant, both of them sharing a moment of clarity into the others mind. Anna was in a panic, unwilling and maybe even unable to let him so, and Shang was attempting to reassure her, promising that he would come back. Anna simply shook her head.
"Get Will, Rene." he said, momentarily breaking away from her.
"But I thought that you-"
"Go!" Shang said, his voice raising in frustration. Anna was surprised at his outburst, it was certainly out of character. For a moment she wondered if he was so worked up because she was upset, or because her magic was gone. But she shook that thought away, determined not to doubt him.
"I have a question," Shang said after some time had past, casting a worried look towards Anna. That was strange, what could he possibly ask that would cause him to be so unsure at her response?
"What started your magic?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, infants can't be sorcerers."
"What I mean is, something sparks it later in life. What did it for you?"
Anna had to concentrate on that one. When did her magic really start appearing? It had to be around the time she had left the orphanage, around the time that Shang had been taken away, around the time that she had met...
"Oh that idiot, what did he do?"
"No, not you."
It was around the time that she had woken up from that first dream, the one with the bright golden hallways and silver suits of armor. Where a little boy had reproached her for showing up uninvited. The day that she had met Drake.
Sure she had been a pretty quick healer before he came around, but not to the extent that she had been that morning. Her body had been mutilated and all she had woken up with was a headache and a bit of soreness. After that she could sense her surroundings like she never had been able to before, she had been able to project her mind away from her body, and it all started after the first time that she saw him.
It couldn't have been her, cutting the line. She had been able to protect that entire city when they were disconnected, wielding some of the most powerful magic that she had ever willfully manipulated. That meant it had to be something on his side of things. He must have somehow broken some rule, some law that was keeping them connected even after she severed the direct line. Like a back up system that kept the flow of power between them even though they weren't directly in sync.
This was bad.
"What?" She had gotten so caught up in her own thoughts that she hadn't even realized that Shang was speaking to her. His hands were grabbing her arms, and he was shaking her in an attempt to get her attention.
"You completely zoned out."
"I was thinking."
"Apparently." He looked at her expectantly, waiting for an answer to his question. Anna felt a moment of apprehension. It was like a thousand of alarms went off in her head, warning her not to divulge anything.
But this was Shang, she could trust him. Couldn't she?
"I think it was-"
"What is so important that Rene had to barge in my quarters, practically drag me out of the bath, and push me all the way down to the infirmary?" Will shouted as he stormed through the door. He was wearing a black robe, his hair still wet and small drops of water still dripping off of him and creating a small puddle on the floor.
Despite the dire situation, both Anna and Shang burst out laughing. It was probably just the stress of the whole debacle finally getting to both of them, but they sat there and cackled like a bunch of madmen for a moment, some of the tension lifting off their shoulders.
Will's face flushed in embarrassment, and Rene shifted awkwardly by the door waiting for the two of them to regain composure. It took them a little while, but finally they calmed down enough to speak.
"Her magic's gone." Shang said, his face becoming abruptly serious. Will's eyes looked like they were about to pop out of their sockets.
"It was gone when she woke up."
"Does she know her Spark?"
"She was about to tell me when you walked through the door."
They both turned to her, looking at her expectantly for an answer. But Anna kept her lips sealed. Now that Will was in the room, she found herself unable to share her secret. She may trust Shang, but there is no way that she would even consider telling Will. Her whole being seemed to fight against it.
"I was going to tell Shang that I couldn't think of anything," she said, keeping her eyes locked on Will's. If she were to look away, to shift her weight uncomfortably, or even touch her face then he would know that she was lying. Shang stiffened beside her, but she wouldn't dare spare a glance his direction. He already knew that she wasn't telling the truth, Anna just hoped that he would keep his mouth shut.
"Bring her to the tower," Will said, turning on his heels and leaving the room. Rene tried to give Anna an encouraging look, but she failed to conceal the fear from her eyes. She turned on her heels and followed Will out of the room.
"The tower?" Anna asked, turning to Shang. His face was grim.
"Why did Rene looked so scared?"
"Why did you lie?"
They were at a standoff. Shang was unwilling to let her get away with keeping that particular secret, and Anna had rethought her decision to tell him about it. Every cell in her body was fighting against the idea, and so they sat there in silence, a gap suddenly opening up between them.
And neither of them were willing to bridge that gap.
It was Rene who finally managed to break off the silent battle of wills. She came running back in the room, apparently worried that the two of them had lost their way. When she saw them there simply staring at each other, her face turned into a scowl.
"You're joking right? The fate of Cahaya hangs in the balance, and you two are making cow eyes at each other?"
Both Anna and Shang turned to glare at her.
"Oh I see we are using our serious faces today."
"We're coming," Shang responded sharply, turning his gaze back on Anna.
"I said, we're coming," he said, his voice deadly calm.
Rene looked like she was going to rebuke him, but after a moment her face softened, and she turn and once again left the room.
"What did she mean, the fate of Cahaya?" Anna asked, struggling to remain in control, her temper spiking. She was tired of all the conspiracy and secrets. She understood why the Order had analyzed everything about her so much, but now the Society was taking her loss of powers as a world wide catastrophe. Anna suddenly doubted that Shang finding her in that outpost was really a coincidence. They had been looking for her.
"It was nothing."
"Don't lie to me."
"You would know all about that, wouldn't you."
Anna had never fought with Shang before, and it was not a very comfortable feeling. But really, they had been letting the time that they spent with each other as children cloud their judgment on each other. Anna had never asked Shang how he had found her, why he had brought her here, why he and Will seemed to have so many problems with each other, and what exactly had happened to him and the other orphans all these years. She had never really cared to ask. For the first time Anna realized just how blind she had been.
"I have to go."
"You can't leave."
"I can, and I will." Anna moved to stand, the world shifting out of focus for a moment from lying down for too long.
"No, you can't," he said sadly, reaching out to grab her arm.
"Let go of me," she spat, trying to pull away from him, but she was powerless. In fact, she could already feel the bruise starting to form on her arm where he was holding her. The more she struggled, the more pain it caused.
"I'm sorry," he said, and looking into his eyes, it seemed like he really meant it. But his apology didn't faze her. She continued to try and tug away from him, attempting to kick his legs out from under him, or injure him to the point where he would release his hold for just a moment so that she could escape.
The truth behind the matter was, she didn't really want to hurt him, and she found it that she was unable to. Finally, she stopped struggling.
"How could you do this to me?" she asked, accusation clear in her eyes.
"Why didn't you come for me?" He threw her to the ground, his eyes shifting to a shade of black. A sense a shock went through Anna, and there was a new fear in her eyes- she had seen those eyes before. Without her magic, she didn't stand a chance against Shang. His fighting style was more advanced than hers, and she had always used her powers as a crutch- her one advantage over him was gone.
Her eyes flashed to the door, weighing her options. Shang was faster than her, but she might have an element of surprise. He wouldn't expect her to go for the coward's approach, not when she had just been thrown to the ground like she was nothing.
When she looked back to Shang, she saw that she had waited too long in making her decision. He knew what she was considering now, and he was already moving to block the door. It was pointless anyway, and without being able to sense the earth she wouldn't be able to find her way through the complicated maze that the tunnels presented. She was trapped.
But then something happened. Shang's face changed, his eyes flashing back to their normal brown. They continued to flicker between brown and black, his face stuck in a mask of concentration.
"Run as fast as you can. If you put your left hand to the wall it will take you to the portal that leads to the surface. No matter what you see, no matter what you hear, keep running. You will only have a minute or so before I start to follow."
It was probably the most Anna had ever heard Shang speak at one time.
She got up slowly from the floor, watching him with cautious eyes. Hesitantly, she made her way towards the door, careful not to make any sudden movements.
"Go!" he shouted at her, and then suddenly she was running. She couldn't move very fast, her energy was depleted, and her body was weak. But she kept moving, determined to escape. She heard a crash behind her, but she still propelled herself forward, moving as fast as she could.
She concentrated on her breathing and her hand on the wall, directing her through the expansive network. Occasionally she would pass some of the refugees from the town that had been destroyed. They watched her, confused and even a little scared. Anna wasn't sure if they were afraid for her, or if the fear in their eyes was because of her. Still, she moved forward, leaving them behind. When she had finally managed to make it to the surface, she stopped in her tracks, taking in the environment around her with wide eyes.
There were birds littered on the ground everywhere, and everyone single one of them was dead.
Finally, she understood what everyone had been telling her. Listen for the birds they said. Listen because silence falls soon after. Silence, true silence- there was nothing to hear.
Then someone grabbed her from behind.
"You can't escape me," they said, their voice was familiar, but off somehow. Anna turned to face her assailant, surprised at the face that she saw.
It wasn't Shang.
"No!" she yelled, her voice laced in a paralyzing fear. She struggled to get away from him, pushing and shoving against his body, determined to get away.
"Poor Anna, no magic to help her now. What will she do? What can she do?" he taunted, squeezing harder on her arms, making her cry out in pain.
"Get away from me!" she yelled, her mind frozen in a state of true desperation.
His response was to hold on tighter, digging his nail into her skin, drawing blood.
She let out a truly tortured scream, her body starting to fight against her, and her initial spark of energy beginning to fade.
And then the sword on her arm came back to life.