Chapter 32: Open Arms, Part I

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

Reads: 993

"Feel a violent rage, washing over me
I can barely breathe, bury me alive
All the tragedy becomes a symphony"
- Drown Me Out, Andy Black


It wasn't until Zidane's body had been replaced by the floor of another room that Lance looked away. He closed his eyes, the memory of a bloodied child hunched on the floor burned into the back of his eyelids. The image was faint, flashing and blinking like the way bright light makes spots on the vision. Lance waited for the emotions attached to the image to go away, for the feelings and memories to fade like they had before. But everything remained, and as Lance opened his eyes again, he felt the fatigue weighing his eyelids, his mind, his chest. Everything...


What kind of life is this?


Another image answered this thought. A girl with wind blowing her hair across her face, a small grin that was about to turn to a laugh. The image was just a flash, but it was enough for all that fatigue and doubt to vanish like a powerful, silent explosion. It was enough for that electrifying warmth to explode in his chest and then disperse outwards into hundreds of small, firefly-like currents. In the space of a second, that feeling coursed through him, renewing, rejuvenating. Lance raised his stare to the opposite side of the main room, ready for the door to open once again.


The regular crowd began to fill up the space between him and the door, normal buzz of indistinguishable chatting accompanying it. Lance ignored all of it, and a moment later the door swung open. Arzo lowered his arm as he stepped through, Zidane not waiting for him to go through but instead slipping through the space between him and the doorway. Zidane crossed the room with multiple bags slung over his shoulder, and for the first time, no one seemed to notice he was there. But this was a distant realization, a thought that went into Lance's mind like a faint blip on a radar. All of his attention was capture by Zidane's appearance. Nearly everything about the crossbreed was different; his clothes had changed from bright colors to something more neutral, his strides had gotten longer, more confident. But most of all, the feature Lance couldn't look away from once he noticed, was the eyes.


Night; that's what the color reminded him of. The deep blue that comes a few minutes before the sun sets completely. A dark, cold feeling sank into Lance's stomach the more he stared. Zidane's eyebrows were set into a constant glare, making his eyes somehow appear even darker.


The confidence... Those eyes... He was a mirror of Arzo.


Halfway into the room, Zidane turned, drifting towards the side. Lance found himself a few paces away from a side-door; a beaten thing with a punctured screen and half of a hinge broken. This hinge didn't affect how the door stayed open, allowing bright morning light to come in.


Lance sensed Mungslev before the Spiro had slid off the crate behind the door, a bag of shelled peanuts in his hand. The color of Mungslev's eyes deepened as Zidane walked towards the doorway. When the crossbreed was within reaching distance, Mungslev took a small step forward, one hand extending.




The rest was seen in Lance's mind. He saw how Zidane's head turned towards him, just enough for those dark eyes to lock onto Mungslev's. Their color deepened further, sapphire becoming coal-black even in the direct sunlight. The glare worsened, displaying a silent anger that spoke more hatred than words ever could.


Their eyes locked—Mungslev's expression, the slight color in his eyes, collapsing while Zidane's never let up—until Zidane looked back, continuing on through the doorway.


With a small, shaky inhale, Mungslev stared down at the floor. And then his hand swung, slamming the door shut. The vibration echoed through Lance, but most of all his attention was trained on the door's top hinge. The slam had broken another bolt, leaving the connector


A sick taste was in Lance's mouth, the odd feeling of disgust traveling down the front of his throat and pressing against the skin of his Adam's apple. He closed his eyes, shook his head, tried to swallow the horrible taste away as he felt the room change around him. But the taste still lingered as he opened his eyes again, a city sidewalk stretch out before him.


Cars zipped by, the partial blurs of color barely capturing Lance's attention as he followed the stretch of sidewalk ahead of him, noticing the partial upslope of the road. Arzo and Zidane faded in as Lance's eyes reached them, and immediately Lance looked to Arzo. The escape was short lived; even just seeing those eyes reminded him of what Zidane had become, and the realization that Zidane was now a different person hit Lance's gut harder than he had expected.


Lance's attention was drawn back to the both of them, his focus pulling together as if it were made up of tiny metal pieces and the sight of them was a magnet. Without breaking his stride, without turning to look or even glancing in Zidane's direction, Arzo spoke in a voice loud enough for Lance to hear.


"Get the west side."


Continuing to keep the same pace, Zidane moved away from Arzo and drifted towards the curb of the sidewalk. As he stepped onto the street and in between two parked cars, Arzo turned into an alley and disappeared from Lance's sight. This was something Lance caught with a quick look upwards; most of his focus was on watching the top of Zidane's head pass by the closest car's rear-view window. In the next moment, he sprinted outwards, bounding across the street without even looking.


Once again, Lance's muscles tightened; his hands came up to his eyes, fingers hovering on upper lids like claws as his mind growled out a thought.


God, why don't you look?


The answer came after a moment.


"I didn't think I was worth it."


The panic and frustration dropped away, Lance's hands moving back down to the pockets of his jeans. He watched Zidane make it to the cars parked on the other side, hearing the screech of tires skid as a pickup truck finished its weave to avoid him. Zidane's sprint became to a brisk walk as he stepped onto the sidewalk, moving towards an alleyway before his feet skittered to a halt.


For a moment, for the space of a single second, he stood there, staring into the narrow path lit by sunlight. Lance felt the fear, felt that unseen darkness loom around him with the walls closing tight enough to constrict his breathing.


And then the pressure released; Zidane started up the sidewalk, walking quickly again. His posture was straightened, expression smooth and showing nothing of what had just happened.


Lance found himself walking a few steps behind the crossbreed, passerbys giving Zidane minimal glances if any at all. Lance followed where some of the eyes lingered; reflective tape was around each of Zidane's legs, starting just below his knees and disappearing into his shoes.


"It's still part of training," Zidane said before Lance could ask. "Makes me easier to spot, especially in dark places."


A bitterness twisted Lance's gut. "Is it part of Arzo's 'training' or the whole organization's?" he asked, speaking out loud.


"A little of both." Lance could hear the small smile curving Zidane's voice. "The reflective part was Arzo's idea, but the tape is just another way to tell rank. The more the tape's color blends in with your clothing, the higher your rank in training is. Like for instance, nearly black tape on black pants would signify they're almost done." The crossbreed looked down at his legs, continuing to keep the same pace. "There's other uses for it, too; keeps the pant legs from hitting, helps preventing sagging."


Lance grinned. "So many Americans would be outraged."


Zidane laughed, shoulders and arms rising upwards in a shrug. "Ah, well for us it worked. Helped us survive, y'know?"


Nodding, Lance noticed he felt a large sense of relief the more he spoke with Zidane. The current one. He made a mental note to remind himself of that; how the person he was walking behind now wasn't the same one he was speaking to. Completely different people.


He looked back down to the tape on Zidane's legs. "Was this run one of your early ones?" he asked. "As far as training goes?"


"Uhhh..." Zidane looked up towards the sky, eyes shut tight as he thought. His head came back down. "Yeah. This was probably my eighth or ninth one."


Lance kept quiet, wondering what was significant about this run in particular. As he battled between asking and being patient, the scenery around him changed. He was in the center of a side-yard, a small one story home to his left. Zidane was opening a window, pushing it upwards and quickly climbing inside. He threw his legs over the window's bottom almost as if he were hopping a fence. Lance saw his hands turn, placed behind his back, legs bent outwards in front of him as if he were trying to crab walk.


In the next moment, Lance was teleported into the home, beside the sink Zidane was balancing on. He hadn't moved, and from this angle Lance could see how his foot was pivoted sideways and pressed against the back of the sink's faucet, allowing him enough support to control where he stepped and when.


Anyone else would've just climbed in the window and got right in, Lance thought. But with him, his size makes it so much harder.


As this realization came to him, Zidane set his other foot—the one balancing in the air—down on the small strip of counter behind the sink. There was something about this that impressed Lance, but the most surprising thing was that he had been able to do all of it without making any noise at all.


Walking heel-to-toe, Zidane moved around the sink and to the edge of the counter. He put both hands on the counter's end and slid off, moving more weight to his hands and controlling the impact of his shoes. They landed on the tile flooring without a sound, and it was this action that brought Lance's attention to the room.


This is— The thought never finished as he turned around, taking in the same view that he had only a few memories ago. He was right; this was the same home Zidane had broken into with Mungslev.


Submitted: November 28, 2019

© Copyright 2023 Meaghan Kalena. All rights reserved.


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