Hey guys! Back with the next chapter!
So I know that you've been dying to see what happens next, especially after the cliffhanger I left you on. But first things first:
KayMacD: Of course you didn't see that coming. That mean's it's a good plot twist :)
Anyway, way before actually writing the chapter, I somehow imagined that when Zane and Astrid encountered Victor, he'd end up calling Zane "brother," though I was debating on whether it was because they actually were brothers or because that was his way of messing with Zane's head or something, as a way of mocking him. But in the end, I figured that the second option just didn't fit well, so as you can guess already, he isn't lying (which you were about to find out anyway).
On another note, as I've stated in the previous chapter, I will be doing April Camp Nanowrimo, so I'll be super busy and most likely won't update.
There is a line in this chapter that pretty much alludes to the title- it was sort of where I got the title from.
Finally, please do review, 'cause in the case of all authors on this site, reviews make me happy :)
My automatic first reaction was disbelief, and I was about to open my mouth to object to what he'd just said. He had to be lying, he just had to. There was no way that what he said could actually be true. I didn't even have—
But before I could even finish my thought, I remembered that it wasn't true, not really. It was so long ago that I just barely remembered it, but I did, in fact, have a brother at one point. I couldn't really remember a face, just the knowledge of having a brother, and knowing that something happened that resulted in his not being there anymore. I'd asked about it once when I was about five years old, and I remember the anguished expression on my dad's face as he patiently explained that I wouldn't really be able to understand until I was much older. It wasn't until much later that I figured that my dad most likely meant he was dead, and as the years passed, I just about forgot that I even had a brother, to the point where I didn't think it was lying when I informed people that I was an only child.
But this wasn't the case anymore, because now I remembered.
I took a step back, refusing to believe it. As far as I knew, my brother was dead, and even if he wasn't, there was no way he could be… this. It simply couldn't be true, or so I told myself. I was willing to bet that he was lying about being my brother, just as he had undoubtedly lied about countless other things.
But even as I told myself this, I couldn't ignore the overwhelming desire to check anyway. I had to know for sure that what he was saying wasn't true; believing that it wasn't true wasn't good enough, no matter how much I knew I probably wouldn't like the truth. I still had to know, once and for all, what was going on, whether this guy was truly lying to me through his teeth or he was telling the truth and was actually my brother.
"Turning on" my gift, I was quickly overwhelmed by his mind, filled with cruel, cunning thoughts. It was horrifying, and it lasted only for a few seconds before I was shoved out of his head, unable to hear his thoughts anymore. When I tried to get back in, I was met with an impenetrable steel wall blocking my way in.
How the hell did he do that?
But I had still managed to get my answer in the brief time that I was able to hear him, and I found that I didn't like the answer at all, just as I was afraid to find out. Even though he lied about a whole bunch of things, I was forced to admit that being my brother wasn't one of them, which, in all honesty, was what stunned me the most.
He smirked. "What, did you really think I was lying to you? I'm hurt that you didn't believe me."
"You're not my brother," I growled. "You may have been my brother at one point, but not anymore."
He shook his head, that smirk still on his face. "Disown me all you want, but one thing you clearly haven't learned yet, Zane, is that blood never lies."
"What the hell's that supposed to mean?" I demanded.
"Who are you?" a soft voice asked from behind me. It was Astrid. I could hear the fear in both her voice and her thoughts, as well as her struggle to keep her composure. She'd grown stronger as a result of what she'd been through, and though I wished she didn't have to be put through any of that, I loved her all the more for it.
Of course, I was still intensely worried about her, afraid that what was coming would break her as easily as a piece of glass, especially now.
He gave her a mocking smile. "Oh, I'm so sorry about that, princess. I just about forgot to introduce myself." He bowed in such a way that made it clear that he wasn't doing it to be sincere, that he was making fun of her. "Victor. At your service."
"Leave her alone," I snapped, making sure to angle myself between him and Astrid, in case he decided to try anything. Brother or not, I knew I couldn't trust him nearly as far as I could throw him. Glaring at him, I continued, "If you so much as lay a damn hand on her, I swear I'll make sure you'll regret it."
"There's that anger," Victor mused. "I knew it was in there somewhere. Now if only you'd realize the full potential behind it…."
"Fallen," Astrid blurted out.
I turned to her. She had a cute look of concentration on her face, like she as trying to remember something. Which, in fact, she was.
"In the visions," she whispered, the memories fluttering through her head. "Back then. There were—still are—others like you. People kept referring to those like you as having fallen."
Victor snorted. "A bit ridiculous, don't you think? If you ask me, I haven't fallen. If anything, I'm flying higher. Metaphorically speaking, of course." Now his smile went from being mocking and cruel to an outright cocky grin, one that said, I am far more superior to you than you can ever hope to imagine. It made me want more than anything to punch his stupid, arrogant face, wiping the smile off of it with nothing but my fist. I only just managed to control myself, if for nothing more than Astrid's sake.
"It probably means that you're going to Hell," I replied, doing everything I possibly could to remain calm. "After all, it is down below, and where else would a monster like you deserve to end up?"
"Oh, don't act so high and mighty, brother. Father may have tried to teach you the pathetic ideals that the majority of our kind believes in, but deep down, you know that you aren't meant for that kind of life. That's what makes us so alike as brothers."
"I am nothing like you," I hissed. I wasn't an obvious monster like he was. At least, I didn't think so. I was never going to end up like this. Was I?
I think it might have been his gaze, reminding me of how hard it was to keep myself from snapping at him, because all of a sudden, I wasn't so sure anymore.
"Oh, but that's not true at all," Victor replied. "You know that, don't you? We are, in fact, alike, if only in the sense that we are set apart from the majority of our kind. If "falling" means becoming superior to all of Aviankind and the pathetic ideals that they refer to as morals, then you and I? We were destined to fall, brother."
"You may say that, but that's not going to happen to me. It just won't." Even as I said this, I was afraid. What if it did happen, regardless? What if I did inevitably end up like him, no matter how much I promised myself otherwise?
Worse, what if I ended up hurting Astrid in the process?
Before he could say anything, Astrid spoke up again.
"What do you want from us?" she asked.
"Good question," I said. Why was he insisting on bothering us? Didn't we have enough bad guys to worry about already?
"Do I need a particular reason to be here?" Victor wondered aloud. I almost scoffed at that. With guys like him, there was no such thing as doing something like this without an ulterior motive. "Maybe I just wanted to see the future queen of Aralia and my younger brother for myself. Maybe then I could understand what Orris has been making such a huge fuss about."
I felt sick to my stomach when he mentioned Orris. "What are you—are you working for him?" I sputtered in disbelief. It was bad enough, knowing he was the kind of person to find a puppy getting hit by a car amusing, but a traitor to his own people? That was a whole 'nother level of sick and twisted.
And this guy was supposedly my brother.
Victor looked shocked at the accusation. I couldn't decide whether it was feigned or not. "No! Of course not!" he insisted. More calmly, he added, "Though you could say that we have a bit of an... arrangement."
"An arrangement," I repeated slowly. "What, did you offer to do his dirty work for him? In exchange for what? I highly doubt that there's anything that you could want from him that he'd be able to give you."
"Ah, but that's where you're wrong, Zane. There's always things to be offered, even if one doesn't mean to offer something. My little arrangement with Orris will ultimately benefit me whether he realizes it or not."
"Something to do with us, I suppose?"
He smiled. "Well, you could come with me if you're so eager to find out. Though I would hope you have the sense to join me anyway. You can't unlock your full potential surrounding yourself with such weak-hearted people, brother."
"Stop calling me brother," I snarled.
"Back to this again, are you?" Victor shook his head. "And here I was beginning to think we had actually made some progress. But clearly you're still very much in denial about who you are."
I don't think it was his words that did it so much as the entire conversation itself. But just then my anger exploded, having been set off like a land mine. Suddenly, all I could think about was kicking his ass from here to Timbuktu, to beat the crap out of him and make him sorry for doing this to us- because how dare he? How dare he come here, for whatever reason he decided to come here, and bother us as well as openly admit to betraying his kind and that he was currently fraternizing with the enemy? How dare he tell me I should be siding with him? How dare he so casually throw around the word "brother" as if it meant anything anymore?
I'll show you who's in denial, I thought.
But before I could do anything in my blind rage, I felt a slender hand gently touch my arm, barely enough to get my attention. I turned, and saw Astrid, her big blue eyes looking at me pleadingly.
"Zane," she whispered. Please, she begged silently. Don't. That's exactly what he wants.
I realized she was right, and it was just enough to cool my anger, which was soon replaced with horror.
Oh, no. Oh, God, no.
"Such a shame you actually listened to her, brother," Victor murmured, tsk-tsking me like I was a child who made a stupid mistake. "That would have been quite an impressive display. But instead you had to continue to play the fool."
But I didn't listen. I was more than done with him and his mind games.
"Leave us alone," I muttered, grabbing Astrid's hand and stalking off. I tried to ignore it, but I couldn't shake off the feeling of those eyes boring into my back even after we got home.
Victor watched them go, musing to himself about the whole encounter.
He hadn't seen his brother in such a long time, when Zane was just a little child, no more than four years old. It was when he'd found a way to elevate himself above the rest of his kind, above the curse, even. His parents were less than happy about his decision—of course they had to stick to the traditional way of thinking, rather than so much as attempt to see things his way. And so he'd left, not looking back once, barely thinking about the family he'd left behind until the day he'd learned that his brother had pretty much entangled himself in this whole mess.
He was rather disappointed to find that his brother still clung to the ideals that the majority of Aviankind had been clinging to since the dawn of time—the very same ideals that had nearly gotten them extinct in the first place. No doubt his pathetic attachment to the princess was clouding his judgment—if she had not been there to stop him, he surely would have snapped, giving into his anger—and would have certainly realized how powerful he had become, But instead, she'd intervened, and the moment she did, he went soft once again.
Soon, though, he'd understand that he'd screwed up. Zane would find that what Victor was planning was brilliant, and that if it had been thought of a thousand years ago, their race would still be thriving today, instead of being so few in number. He'd realize that there was no other way, not if he truly wanted to survive.
The moment they disappeared from sight, Victor turned and left, flying away into the night sky.