Chapter 30: Within, Part I

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

Reads: 481

"There's something I don't get."

Zidane looked up from unwrapping a packaged cupcake, waiting for Lance to continue. With his attention going across the room, ignoring the weapons hanging from every wall, Lance focused on Arzo. The Spiro continued to sit, one arm on a bent leg, focusing on the floor.

"How is it that Spiros are here? They can't teleport at all, right?"

Zidane shook his head. "It happened a maybe a decade or so ago; Spiros tried to revolt again, start another war by entering the neutral zone and slaughtering whoever they could find. This didn't go over well with the mechanism that'd been placed at the zone's entrance. It's like a wide, invisible metal detector, almost, but instead of picking up traces of metal, it picks up your true intentions—what you go to the zone for. If your intentions for entering the zone are good, then you're allowed to go in. But in this case, those who wanted to hurt and cause harm were rejected and sent to the surface." He tapped the floor beneath him. "It's the ultimate prison for anyone non-human."

Lance suppressed the slight offense the statement gave him, looking at the logic of it. "Because there's no getting out."

Zidane nodded. "Right."

Staying quiet, Lance thought for a moment, feeling an idea brew in the back of his mind. He didn't want to ask, didn't feel like he knew enough yet. But... Assuming at one point, Zidane had the ability to teleport and he was still in contact with these Spiros... Couldn't they go back?

The crinkling of plastic dissolved the curiosity away, and Lance stored the thought away for later. He looked up to see Zidane taking the first bite out of the cupcake. The crossbreed's eyes rolled back along with his head, a hum of pleasure emitting from him.

"I forgot how good these are."

"Isn't that just purely processed?" Lance asked.

Zidane nodded. "I threw it up an hour later, but I can still remember the good parts of it, y'know?" He turned, pulling out another cupcake and tossing it to Lance. "Here."

Lance caught it, ignoring the fact that he wasn't hungry, the fact that in reality he was somewhere entirely different pressed against his mind like a ghost. He let the feeling fade, splitting open the package with a flash of childhood nostalgia. He looked to Arzo, a question surfacing.

"Is it common for them to be walking around in plain sight? Like, have I passed by people like him without even knowing it?"

Zidane chewed for a moment. Tossing the empty package to the side and sweeping the crumbs off his palms, he said, "Depends on your city. But even then there's not too many of them; I only know of about twenty different groups set up across the country, and that's just from overhearing people talk."

Lance picked up on the present tense. "Do you still do this? Thieve?"

Zidane only smiled. "It's another story." He looked to Arzo, then back at Lance. "Anything else before we move on?"

Lance flicked the crumbs off his thumb, motioning to Arzo. "What's the deal with him? Was he part of that raid that happened?"

"With Arzo?" Zidane returned, turning to pull an orange out of a bag. "He would've been around nine when it happened, but some recruit young, use them as body shields if they have to." He quickly shook his head as if trying to erase the thought. "But to give you an answer, I really don't know if he was part of it."

"You never found out?"

"Never wanted to. It was an attack on my own race—and even if I did, Arzo's really not the friendliest guy to talk to." A slight grin came to him, settling down as he said, "But if you're asking about if I ever found out more about him specifically, then that's also a 'no.' He kept to himself most the time, and even then he didn't say much aside from telling me what to do."

Lance nodded, noting how casual he was about this. He watched Zidane's thumb dig underneath the orange's peel, adding to the pile of strips and patches on his pants. A few moments passed before Arzo stood, rising from his place across the room.

Zidane looked up as he started moving across the room, thumb immediately freezing mid-peel. When Arzo stopped in front of him, the crossbreed stayed seated, entire being attentive. Arzo bent down, reaching for one of the plastic bags as his other hand moved, upturning towards Zidane.

"Dodge this."

The blade shot out suddenly, the chain's releasing jingle the only indication of movement that Lance heard. The knife embedded with a solid thunk as Lance found himself at a better angle, across the room and behind Arzo. Slight relief fell into him as he saw the dagger beside Zidane's head with a collection of blonde hair shavings on his shoulder. Zidane kept his eyes closed, entirely silent as a trail of bright blood slid past his ear. Arzo reached forward, taking the knife out of the wall with a few scraps of paint.

"At least you know something," he mused, the blade ascending back into his sleeve with a twitch of his finger.

Lance watched him continue across the room and turn out the door, the anger capturing his tongue.

"That guy's a fuckin' maniac..."

He sensed a light smile on Zidane's face and turned to see the crossbreed's eyes had darkened further.

"You probably don't want to see what's coming up next," he said, looking up to Lance.

"What, why not?"

Zidane shook his head, that small smile still there as he opened another package of food, continuing to hold Lance's gaze. "Just try and get some real thick skin, alright?"

He faded away, the weapons room changing after a moment. Lance now stood in the center of the main room; the large one Zidane and Arzo had first entered. Like before, it was populated—Spiros sitting on empty crates, old chairs and the floor.

Conversations buzzed around, each one in a language Lance didn't recognize. He looked to his left and then downwards, seeing Arzo was sitting at the edge of a crate. The wooden box was large enough for Zidane to also sit on it, facing the middle where he continued snapping apart the shells of pistachios and sorting the nuts from their casing. He suddenly stopped, leaning over the side of the crate and holding up a large, bulk supply bag of shelled pistachios. Lance watched him grab a handful, adding it to the pile in the center of the crate.

The front door swung open, a flash of tension speeding through the air before vanishing. Lance looked towards the entrance, seeing a boy not much older than Zidane stroll in, numerous plastic bags slung over one shoulder. A few steps in, someone blocked his path, one large hand outstretched in waiting.

Someone close by spoke up, sounding tired. "Let's make it easy this time, Mungslev."

The boy's dark eyes swept around the room, the slight glare in his features never letting up. He made a ticking sound with his teeth. "I stole the food," he said. "Why should you idiots get half of it?"

From the corner of his eye, Lance felt some Spiros clench their fists; a few of the women raise their hands to their face. And then a gruff voice sounded amidst the silence.

"Boy needs a few cuts to that mouth."

Mungslev looked in the voice's direction, eyes darkening to a near black as the anger on his face deepened even more. Lance saw the hand by his side move, his fingers curling towards the knife in his pocket.

The large Spiro still standing in front of him gestured with a twitch of his fingertips, motioning for the bags. With a heavy sigh that finished as a growl, Mungslev swung the bags off his shoulder, separating four of the eight into his other hand and handing them over.

The bags were carried off without a word, and in a matter of moments the conversational buzz had returned. Mungslev remained sulking, the heavy glare on his face showing no sign of leaving. But then, his eyes stopped on a spot near Lance and the expression faded. Lance turned, acting on the impulse to follow his gaze and see Zidane. The crossbreed hadn't looked up and, from what Lance could tell, hadn't paid much attention to the confrontation, either. He remained focused on the shells, and in the brief spaces of time where his fingertips were empty of both shell and nut, Lance saw the rawness of his skin. He tried to hold back a shiver.


Submitted: November 26, 2019

© Copyright 2023 Meaghan Kalena. All rights reserved.


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