Assured that Dariya was on their side and had more allies on the way to help them, Nadezhda and Sof made their way back to the hotel. As they walked, Sof started up a conversation.
"Well, she seems to want to help..." She commented, a little more trusting of Dariya and her support now. "What about the other one, though?"
"Diana?" Nadezhda questioned. Truth be told, she wasn't too sure about Diana. The woman had no explanation for her sudden change of heart, except possibly some element of hatred for her brother. The two had definitely had an odd kind of relationship, but Nadezhda couldn't be totally sure that the letter was genuine and Diana's hatred of her brother was enough for her to put aside her dislike of her.
"Yeah... Where do you think she stands on this?"
Nadezhda shrugged. "No idea. But at least she won't try anything with her mother around."
Sof looked unconvinced. "Look, maybe we can trust Dariya, but I don't like the fact that our only allies seem to be Volkovs. She's not in control of them, is she? She's just using their factional hatred of one other to get them to take Vasily down... What happens if they decide they would rather fight one another again?"
Nadezhda sighed. She wasn't too sure about that either. But at least Dariya had allies. They didn't, so they couldn't do this on their own. "I trust Dariya. As for the others... Maybe we can't trust them, but we don't have a choice, do we? What else have we got?" She replied.
Sof looked over at her and for a moment, Nadezhda felt her face flush and her heart speed up. There was an unusually tender look in her friend's eyes as she murmered, "We have each other."
The moment of gentleness passed suddenly and sharply, though, leaving her with tears bubbling up in her eyes. Because since she had first noticed her feelings towards Sof developing, she had wanted something like this to happen. But it was so bittersweet it was painful, because she knew that, however precious those sweet words were, it wouldn't be enough to safe them in this terrible situation.
The tears rushed over her cheeks before she could stop them, "I know, and I love you! But that's not going to stop Vasily, is it? I wish it was enough, I wish that you and I could take on all the world's evil together and win, just like that, but that's not how it works!" She cried out desperately, losing all sense of restraint and speaking from her heart.
Sof stopped in her tracks, turning to her with an expression of total shock. "What did you just say?"
Nadezhda came to a sharp halt too and her world seemed to stop around her. What had she said? It was suddenly hard to remember, and she stood stock still, staring at her friend.
"At the start, what was the first thing you said?" Sof prompted her.
She started to breathe again as it came back to her, "I love you. I said I love you." She whispered.
Sof didn't answer her immediately, but simply threw her arms around her and pulled her in close, hugging her tightly. "I knew it!" She cried at last, "I knew when I met you we were meant to be more than friends," Her words made Nadezhda blush again. She had taken all this time to work out her personal feelings and hadn't realised that, all these years, her best friend had been in love with her. She rested against Sof for a second, enjoying the moment and letting their current situation fade into the background.
It couldn't last, of course. Sof pulled back slightly and raised a hand to wipe her tears away gently, then spoke again, "I love you too. And I promise I will stand by you throughout this. I know it won't be enough. I know this will be hard. And I'll be here for you all the way anyway. I'll even let them into my life again, if they're the best way to help you," She vowed.
Nadezhda smiled, knowing Sof's words were sincere. She hated the Volkov family in all shapes and forms, so tolerating them was an act of love for her. As for things being hard... They had met in the midst of her first struggle against the Volkovs, and she knew from that that Sof understood what they might have to go through to survive this. "Thank you," She replied softly, planting a small kiss on the other's lips.
"You don't need to thank me for loving you," Sof answered, before moving away, "But we should get back," She added.
Nadezhda nodded reluctantly, not sure she wanted to let this moment go, but knowing that she needed to, "Yeah, before my mother gets worried and deploys the search parties," She joked, taking Sof's hand in hers and setting off on the walk back again.
The walk back was a lighter moment, compared to recent times. They talked about their feelings for one another, and joked about old times together. But when they reached the hotel, there was no time for jokes.
Maria was standing outside, looking around. Nadezhda realised, with a sense of dread taking over her sinking heart, that her aunt was standing there, waiting for them. And why? Because she was supposed to be embarking on her honeymoon today, but she was here instead, looking desperate and miserable.
Something had happened. Something was very, very wrong.
She dropped Sof's hand and ran towards Maria, shouting out to her in a panic, "What? What's wrong?"
"Nadya!" Maria looked up as she came running towards her and set off as well, meeting her in the middle. "You haven't seen the news, have you? They've shut down Yaroslavl main prison! There's a riot going on there and now the prison officers are going missing..."
Nadezhda's blood ran cold as she met her aunt's gaze. "It's Vasily, isn't it?" It wasn't a question. She knew what he was doing. He was putting hundreds of people in danger to lure her in, knowing, as she did, that if there were officers and prisoners dying there, it was her fault. And that if she went to save them, she was walking into a trap.
What could she do? She couldn't leave people to suffer for her. But even with Dariya's support, there was very little chance that she could walk into and take on a whole prison full of desperate, angry rioters. She looked at Maria's pale face as she nodded, glanced over to Sof's expression of anger and felt complete helplessness set in.
What the Hell could they do now?