Chapter 29: Bright Shadow, Part III

Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

Reads: 514


Zidane turned around quickly, his head staying down, eyes locked somewhere beneath him. Jykunn spoke again, more than irritation in his voice this time.

"Are you too stupid to have a tail, too?"

Lance looked back to Zidane, surprised, as he sensed the same emotion dart through Arzo as well. But Arzo's was mixed with something else: fear. Fingertips shaking, Zidane raised a hand, tugging down the part of the robe hiding his tail. The hole slipped back over, and from his mind's eye, Lance caught a glimpse of the miniature limb poking through once more.

For the first time, Jykunn looked to Arzo. It was a rather bored stare, passing through the Spiro for only a moment before drifting back to Zidane.

"Take it on a run," he said, looking down to one of the plastic bags surrounding him and digging out an apple. He bit into it, the crunching sound sending a mixture of confusion and outright fear into Zidane. The crossbreed looked up and behind himself, seeing Arzo begin to walk out of the room. After turning to look back—and then thinking better of it—Zidane followed after him. Lance was teleported into room scattered with clothes, the memory already playing.

Arzo straightened from bending down, draping a shirt over his arm. This was quickly followed by similar articles of clothing— pants, socks, shoes. They were blindly tossed on the floor in a relatively straight line, leaving Zidane to stare in silence.

When the crossbreed made no attempt at moving, Arzo sighed and muttered a word Lance didn't understand. The implication came to him in a thought: useless.

He crossed the room, picking up the small red shirt on the way over. He stopped in front of Zidane, motioning upwards with a hand. Zidane understood, hurrying to hunch over and slip arms out of his sleeves like a turtle in its shell. He began pushing the robe off of him from the inside, Arzo waiting on one knee with the shirt still in his hand.

The room faded into a cityscape again, and Lance looked at the building in front of him. He stood in back of the tall complex, the zig-zag fire escape capturing his focus for only a moment before he turned around. An alley was directly behind him, shadows moving past Zidane and Arzo as they walked down it. An emotion fell against Lance, expanding and deflating deep within his chest as if it were a third lung. The movement was rapid, but the feeling it possessed was something he understood. Fear. Complete, outright fear.

He could see it in Zidane's eyes, knew the emotion had to be coming from him. And it was strange to see the parallel, the polar opposite walking right beside him. A steely expression, one that would have seemed vacant of all emotion if it wasn't for the eyes. A dark color that nearly blended with the alley's shadows until the pathway suddenly ended, the sunlight illuminating the hint of red once more.

The moment they stepped out of the alley, the fear dropped away from Lance. Zidane's eyes lightened to something of a navy blue, a deeper breath moving out of his mouth. Lance turned with them as they passed by, keeping both in his sight as they stopped below the building's fire escape. The large, bottom ladder had been pulled up, its lower rungs out of their reach.

Arzo lifted a hand, a chain shooting out from the sleeve of his jacket. It stayed connected to him as it slipped between two rungs and hung down, swinging for a moment. Lance saw something of a twitch from Arzo's hand and the chain extended, dropping further down. He caught sight of a blade—a knife attached to the other end of the chain.

Arzo moved forward, keeping his arm up as he moved to the side of the ladder. The dangling chain was now long enough for him to reach and, with his hand grasping each side, he pulled down. He stepped back as the ladder dropped. The chain retracted, quickly slipping back into his sleeve. Lance watched the blade disappear as well, and without a word Arzo stepped up to the ladder.

The scene changed; Lance stood on the fire escape's platform, the exact height something he didn't turn to estimate. He immediately felt every part of him becoming touched with an electricity that his muscles recoiled against, as if they could somehow fight back the fear. He kept his eyes away from the edges of the fire escape and the drop below, focusing on Arzo as he stepped onto Lance's level, crouching low.

Soundlessly, he slipped past Lance, moving towards the window beside him. Lance sensed Zidane before he could turn and look, hearing and feeling his footsteps against the last steps of the staircase before he even saw the crossbreed's feet step off. From his kneeling position at one side of the window, Arzo lifted a hand. Lance nearly flinched, expecting the knife to shoot out again, surprised when nothing but a flat palm appeared. Another silent scream for Zidane to stop moving.

The fire escape's rattling halted immediately, Zidane remaining statue-still until Arzo gave two hand motions and lowered his hand. Keeping as low as he could, Zidane moved quietly towards him. Lance felt the small vibrations beneath his feet, the ripples of pressure and sound traveling past him and stopping when Arzo raised a hand again. Zidane obeyed the command, watching as Arzo shifted and leaned back against the wall, still crouched low.

His hand vanished into the front pocket of his hoodie, returning a moment later with a small mirror. With a skillfulness that is only developed from practice, he angled it towards the window next to him, swiftly turning the mirror before suddenly lowering it down. Inside the apartment, Lance watched a woman walk by, passing through the kitchen and moving through the doorway directly in front of them, her steps heavily waddled. She turned to the left, walking down a hallway that reminded Lance of the pale yellow used for Easter eggs.

As soon as she was out of sight, Arzo moved. He turned in front of the window, the knife from before in his hand. He worked the blade in between the middle of the two windows, where the switch lock would be on the other side. Lance heard the quick sound of metal snapping and Arzo leaned to the side, using the knife to easily pry open the window. The knife returned to his sleeve—this time Lance catching a twitch of Arzo's fingers when it did. He watched the Spiro silently open the window, the action calm and slow, but not cautious. Like this had all been done hundreds of times without fail.

He motioned to Zidane, who hesitated before stepping closer. The crossbreed kept low, making little sound as he stopped beside Arzo. Arzo looked away, attention moving to the inside of the apartment, to the kitchen counter where groceries were waiting to be put away.

Holding up one last command to stay, Arzo stood, stepping through the window and into the small kitchen. He moved with a combination of speed and silence that Lance would have previously thought impossible, nearly gliding to the counters near the other end of the kitchen. Lance watched as Arzo stopped in front of the counter, still bent low enough to reach the grocery bags on the floor. The two plastic bags barely made a sound as he lifted them from the tile and brought his focus to the ones on the counter. He took several of them by passing his arm through each handle, raising them together all at once.

The rushing sound of a toilet flushing cut through the silence. With even quicker steps than before, Arzo made his way back to the window. By the time the quiet roar of water faded, Arzo was handing Zidane the last bag, the other six placed outside of the window.

"Quiet the bags."

Zidane nodded, following Arzo's method of supporting the bag's bottom while he held it with the other hand. Arzo let go, turning back towards the apartment as he stood completely upright, and began walking towards the kitchen's doorway, strides long. Lance noticed Zidane glance down at the bag in his arms before leaning forward, panic in his whisper.

"What're you doing?"

A small chuckle answered him as Arzo stopped. He turned back, eyes brightening for the first time. His grin expanded, white teeth seeming brighter with the red of his eyes.

"Cleansing the world."

The word sent a waterfall of ice down Lance's back. He shivered, watching Arzo turn back towards the doorway and walk towards it. There was a new type of calmness to him, a confidence that seemed like the worst type. It glided him across the room like a ghost, soundlessly making him disappear into the hall to the right—the opposite way the woman had turned.

Everything was quiet. And then Lance heard her voice.

"Who are you? What are you doing here? Get back!"

The floorboards sounded, creaks quickly getting closer to the kitchen's doorway. The woman backed up further, tears running down her cheeks. Her arms wrapped around her protruding stomach, embracing it with shaking arms.

"Please." The word was choked out in a sob of tears and snot. She took another step back, half her body viewable through the doorway. "Please don't hurt my—"

The chain shot out, the blade nothing more than a blur of steel. Lance's sight darkened, but whether it was from the partial closing of his own eyes or some change in his surroundings, he didn't know. His hand closed over his mouth as he looked down, feeling a ghost of the stab twitch at the back of his own mouth. The sound repeated, echoing in his head; the quick separation of skin and muscle, the dark red blood pattering against those yellow walls like the start of rain.

He heard the thump of her body fall back against the floor and then the sound of the woman struggling to breathe with liquid in her lungs. The thick choking, a nearly rhythmic noise that eventually stopped.

His eyes opened to the sound of jingling, and looking up, Lance saw that the blade, the chain, had disappeared, leaving only the woman's legs sticking out to the doorway.

With a sound similar to before, the blade was forcefully pulled out. Lance heard the flicks, like paint being splattered against a canvas. The chain was still visible, laying in a long, wide loop near the woman's feet. Lance watched it retract, the blade quickly following the chain's path like the fire on a dynamite fuse. The weapon disappeared from his sight, a tight click silencing the chain.

Arzo stepped into the kitchen, heading towards the counter where the few remaining groceries were still waiting to be put away. He carried them out without breaking his stride, handing Zidane another as he stepped through the window. Seeming to snap out of his trance, Zidane shifted the two bags in his arms, looking down at the contents in a confused wonder.

"You can eat however much you can carry," Arzo said, picking up a good portion of the bags on the ground.

Zidane scrambled, trying to pick up another bag with his wrist and nearly dropping the contents of those in his arms. Arzo reached down, raising one of them by the handle. He held it out to Zidane, who understood after a moment. The crossbreed reached through, and gently the bag was released, completely held by Zidane's wrist. Arzo twirled his own hand, fingers gripping the bag and strengthening the hold.

Zidane copied, entwining the two bags together. Arzo set another on the crossbreed's wrist, his eyes dimming back to their normal nearly-black color. Lance held back the shiver threatening to move through him, shoving the thought of the woman out of his mind, pulling every ounce of focus away from the window, away from the sight of her legs still sticking out of the doorway. He watched Arzo step towards the fire escape's staircase, Zidane turning to follow as the memory faded.

Without truly knowing it at first, Lance was walking down an alleyway with Arzo a few strides ahead. Lance sensed it was one different than the alley near the apartment complex, somehow knew it was on another part of town. Zidane walked beside him, holding a bag to his chest while the other two swayed from his wrist. He finished off the last of a chocolate bar, dropping the wrapper on the ground. He looked in one of the bags, arm reaching in to try and find what was left as Arzo suddenly spoke.

"We have rule with new members." His voice was quiet, tone almost soft. "You've probably realized I haven't asked for your name—and that's because I'm changing it. It's one of the ways we let go of the past, put whatever happened behind us." The smallest of smiles came into his voice, curving his words just slightly. "I think 'Zidane' fits that pretty well."

Lance felt the crossbreed's confusion mixing with his own, but within moments, thoughts sped into his brain. A concept that, upon hearing the word, seemed like he was reviewing it. That name went back into ancient Spiro history, back when they lived on the surface and tried to give reasons for how and why everything worked. In one era, shadows were something to be wary of; they arrived only when the light did, shining down and separating the darkness from whatever the light touched. For some Spiros, however, their shadows never seemed to leave. As long as there was light, the shadows stayed, following them in a reminder their past would always be with them.

Literally translated, Zidane means "Bright Shadow," Lance thought. With no shadow, there is no past.

Lance looked beside him and stopped walking when he didn't see Zidane. The crossbreed was more than a few steps back, standing there almost in shock. A small breeze lifted one of his bags, the fluttering of the nearly empty plastic filling the air's space. The stunned expression seemed to collapse all at once, and Zidane lifted a hand, failing to cover up the frown that sobs were escaping from. His eyes stayed on Arzo, brightening in a way that reminded Lance of storm clouds moving, passing over and revealing the sun again. Revealing a bluer sky.

Lance didn't feel the emotions; instead his own chest and stomach caved inwards, feeling a moment's worth of that happiness, that sense of belonging—something that had been bottled up and locked away finally coming to light full force. Though Arzo's expression did not change, a brighter shade of red changed his eyes. He turned back, continuing out of the alleyway with Zidane running after him, the grin showing no signs of leaving.


A/N: Long chapter, but it was one of my absolute favorites to write! What do you think of Zidane's past so far? Many more characters to come, but which is your favorite so far? :)

Submitted: November 25, 2019

© Copyright 2023 Meaghan Kalena. All rights reserved.


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