Chapter 12:

Chapter Eleven – Who is Alec?

The Guardian: An Unfortunate Wish

“What do you think you are doing?” I screamed out loud. Jean-Luc threw my scythe towards me and pulled out his own long sword. Without any further notice, he started chasing me around the training site. Apparently, this would not only help me learn how to use my powers but as well as teach me how to use my double-bladed scythe. I stopped running and turned around. I was holding my scythe in both hands, ready to face Jean-Luc. However, Stefano was quicker to reach me. He was carrying a bucket. Before I could see what was inside, he splashed its content on my face. It was ice-cold water.Bookmark here

“What the hell?” I yelled at him.Bookmark here

“It was a surprise attack. I thought maybe your powers will show themselves if I ambush you,” he explained his actions. Jean-Luc joined us and high-fived Stefano, saying it was a brilliant idea. Both stopped laughing after they saw my upset face.Bookmark here

“You better run, or I’ll break every bone in your bodies,” I warned them both. Bookmark here

They looked at each other and started laughing again. General Claw walked over to us to hand me a towel. He had a smile on his face, telling me that he found it as funny as those two idiots. I dried my face and hair as best as I could, but my white tee was still wet. My body was trembling from the cold wind that was blowing. Bookmark here

“I think Ari has had enough for today,” he said to them.Bookmark here

“You think?” I asked him angrily. Bookmark here

After that day, Jean-Luc and Stefano kept trying to make me use my powers but to no avail. No matter what they tried it did not work. I, on the contrary, was focusing on my scythe training. Jean-Luc was the one who took over Stefano’s place because Stefano used a flail as his weapon, and he told me he would not be much of a help. It had been now two weeks since I started using my scythe and I was getting better by the day. Today I had the day off, meaning I was spending my time with Gene. She wanted to go shopping with me for a long time and today was the day I was fulfilling her wish. Annoyingly, Jean-Luc decided to accompany us. Bookmark here

The weather was still chilly but fortunately, no wind was blowing. The sun was shining but its warmth was not reaching us. I was wearing my usual training clothes and added a jacket to keep me warm, but Gene and Jean-Luc were wearing heavy coats with a big hood to hide their faces. It was to prevent people from recognizing them. There was nothing I wanted to buy but I still agreed to go with Gene. It was nice to go out now and then and see other people. Gene was walking between me and Jean-Luc holding each one of our hands. I felt uncomfortable walking like that, but I could not say no to her. It was noon and the market was getting busier by the minute. We made our way outside the market to the nearby bakery. Gene was eager to try their newest chocolate cake. She simultaneously let go of my and Jean-Luc’s hand. When the bakery was in near sight, she sprinted towards it. Jean-Luc and I rushed after her. That girl was too enthusiastic for a chocolate cake. She was not paying any attention when crossing the road and missed the carriage that was heading towards her. Jean-Luc noticed it too and ran at full speed to reach her in time. Too many people were standing in our way. I was afraid that we could not make it in time. Bookmark here

“Gene!” I screamed from the bottom of my lungs. The next thing I remembered was holding Gene in my arms. I looked down at her who had tears in her eyes. It seemed like I startled her. I was standing with Gene in front of the bakery store. Jean-Luc had just crossed the road. He scolded her for crossing the road on her own. Big round tears were running down her cheeks. She buried her head into my jacket. I tried to calm her down and console her by saying that if she promised us that she would not do it again, we would forgive her. She nodded her head. I looked up to see why Jean-Luc was not saying anything. His eyes were fixated on me, and his mouth was wide open. He placed his hands on my cheeks and pulled me closer to his face. Bookmark here

“What the hell are you doing?” I yelled at him embarrassed. People were looking in our direction while walking past us. Bookmark here

“Your eyes. Your eyes have changed color,” he told me.Bookmark here

“What kind of nonsense are you talking about?” I asked him.Bookmark here

“If you don’t believe me, look in the bakery’s windows,” he said and let go of me. Even Gene got curious and showed her hidden face. Her teary eyes were looking into mine. Her pupil dilated. I turned around to see myself in the window. My reflection was not showing brown eyes but golden. I blinked my eyes a couple of times and stepped closer to the window to have a closer look. My eyes were indeed gold and not brown anymore. It seemed like a golden fog had appeared in my eyes, covering the brown. After some time, it dissipated, and I was left with my normal brown eyes again. Jean-Luc found it fascinating.Bookmark here

“Ari, I know what this means. Your powers must have been awoken. There is no other explanation. You were running behind me but the next second I saw you holding Gene in your arms in front of the bakery. You accelerated your own time without noticing yourself,” he explained overjoyed. Bookmark here

“Maybe,” I reluctantly agreed with him. We bought the chocolate cake and went back to the castle. Jean-Luc could not wait to tell General Claw what happened today. Gene was her happy self again after eating the chocolate cake with me. She kept asking me why my eyes turned into such a pretty golden color. I told her that even I was not sure why it happened exactly. Bookmark here

The next day General Claw told me to figure out how to activate my power at my own will. He said that it could be possible that my eyes change their color every time I use my powers. And when I would figure it out, I should try and integrate it with my fighting techniques. Jean-Luc and Stefano had pushed some logs into the ground and hung some of them up by a rope for me to cut them. I had gotten used to my double-bladed scythe, but I still had to learn a lot about how to fight properly and strategically. General Claw told me that I could use my powers as an advantage by accelerating my arm or my whole body. Or I could slow down the time of my opponent. Either way, I could easily gain the upper hand in a real fight. Bookmark here

I was standing in front of one of the logs. The sky was black, and the moon was hiding behind the clouds. Jean-Luc and Stefano were watching me from a distance. What I needed to do was concentrate and decide if I either wanted to accelerate my own time or slow it down for my surroundings. I decided to do the latter. I closed my eyes and slowed down my breathing. The sounds slowly disappeared around me until they were completely gone. It felt the same as back then. I felt like I was in a bubble. I opened my eyes. Time had stopped before my eyes. I managed to do it. I looked over to Jean-Luc and Stefano. I could not see any visible movements. I ran towards the log and cut it easily in half, like a piece of butter. The top half did not fall down because the time was still slowed down. It felt like I was cheating on an exam. Stopping time would be very favorable in those situations. I stepped behind the log and snapped my fingers. At that moment time sped up and the upper half of the log fell on the ground. Time had returned back to normal, but I felt dizzy and my legs were shaky. I could hear celebratory screams. Jean-Luc and Stefano came running towards me while clapping their hands. Bookmark here

“Nice Ari. I could not see your movements with my bare eyes. You were standing with your eyes closed and the next thing I see was the log falling and you standing behind it. And it seems like your eyes do change to gold whenever you use your power, like Jean-Luc said,” Stefano said amazed.Bookmark here

“I guess they do,” I said smiling. I continued to cut all the logs in half. After my training was finished, I was exhausted. Manipulating time sure took a toll on my body. Or maybe it was because I was still new to it. General Claw changed my training after hearing about my success. I got fewer days off and had to train from sunrise until sunset. He also informed me that I was going to join him and his team of soldiers for an actual military operation in a couple of weeks. Additionally, he gave me an individual mission. To escort his wife on one day the following week. He told me that his wife would tell me what it was about on the day.Bookmark here

And so, the day had come to meet General Claw’s wife again. I was waiting for her near the entrance of the training camp. I did not have to wait long before she arrived. This time, she was wearing a green dress with frills on the bottom and on top of it the same cardigan she had worn on the day we first met.Bookmark here

“I am sorry if I am interrupting your training, but I asked him to lend me you for a day,” she explained herself.Bookmark here

“No need to apologize. I owe General Claw a lot and I hope I can repay him a bit by escorting his wife for a day,” I said smiling.Bookmark here

“It is not something big you have to do. You just need to stay next to me and that is it,” she told me in an innocent voice.Bookmark here

I did not understand why she would want me to accompany her, but I did not question it. We walked around the market. It seemed like she was looking for some furniture and other household essentials. I did remember her talking with General Claw about a new house. Maybe they were moving, and Mrs. Claw saw the chance to buy a new interior. Whenever she bought something, she told the shop owner to deliver it the next day. She finished her shopping around the afternoon and invited me to a cup of tea. We chatted a bit about random things and then left. Our last destination was an old house. It was located near a river that went through the kingdom. It looked shabby compared to the other houses. Bookmark here

“We have to wait for the owner of this house. She needs to give me the keys,” Mrs. Claw said.Bookmark here

We sat down near the riverbank and watched people on the other side of the river. After a while, a woman in her forties approached us. Her light brown hair was made into a bun, and she was wearing a light-yellow dress. Her eyes were the same color as the grass. She greeted us with a smile and did not say anything. Mrs. Claw greeted her and so did I. She handed over the house key and left. As we were walking back Mrs. Claw told me that the woman’s name was Eileen and that because of an accident she lost her voice. I nodded my head as I listened to her story, but I could not help myself but think that I had seen her before. Her name was strangely familiar as well. But according to Mrs. Claw, that woman lived alone. Maybe I was mistaking her for someone else.Bookmark here

We arrived back at the training site. Mrs. Claw said her goodbyes and left with a carriage. Stefano told me that there would be a briefing session for my first military operation in a short while. I followed him to where everyone was waiting. The team was made of twenty soldiers. I was surprised to see Jean-Luc, but he proudly told me that he would gladly join the operation for my benefit and protection. I ignored him and sat down on one of the chairs next to Stefano. Bookmark here

“Listen carefully soldiers. This operation must be performed smoothly without any complications. Our goal is to capture one of the Caede and to kill the rest. The location is the laboratory near no man’s land. In that laboratory, every Caede has its own name. You might be wondering why. It is because Caedes were created by humans. Therefore, every one of those creatures has a name. The one that we need to capture is called Alec. No matter what happens, you will not kill him. You can differentiate him from the other very easily. He is smarter than the others and will most likely hide in the dark and not attack you. Another physical difference were his eyes. He will have green eyes. Not blood-stained eyes. I repeat not blood-stained eyes. This operation will be carried out within three weeks. That is all. Soldiers dismissed,” General Claw explained to us. Bookmark here

The other soldiers left immediately after he dismissed us, but I was still sitting in my chair. I got nervous after hearing the details of the operation. I remembered the last time I went to that laboratory. Things did not end well. Stefano looked at me concerned. I told him what had happened in the past.Bookmark here

“Don’t worry. Nineteen other soldiers are going with you this time. And we will have General Claw. You aren’t weak anymore either. You have that badass power too. It will be fine,” he reassured me. Bookmark here

“And if you still don’t feel confident, just remember that Stefano and I will be there to protect you,” Jean-Luc added.Bookmark here

“Thank you and you’re right. I am not weak anymore and I have a proper weapon. Worry about yourself and not me,” I said laughing. I did not want anyone to protect me. Not after what happened to Reiker. I still had three weeks to train and boost my confidence. I trained for a bit and then returned to the castle with Jean-Luc. As usual, Gene was already sleeping. I headed to my room, took a hot shower, and laid down in my warm and cozy bed. Bookmark here

#Bookmark here

Someone was playing the piano. I opened my eyes and saw a living room before me. Everything was engulfed in warm, orange light. The furniture seemed so big. A woman was playing the piano near an open window. I walked over to her. I was curious to see who that woman was. Standing next to the piano made me realize that I was the one who was short. The furniture and the rest of the interior were normal-sized. I grabbed the woman’s white dress.Bookmark here

“Mother?” I called out to her. My voice was the one of a little girl’s. She stopped playing the piano and gave me a warm-hearted kiss on my forehead. I smiled at her. This moment seemed so peaceful. She continued playing the piano after giving me the kiss. Bookmark here

“Ari. Ari?” Someone was calling me. But who was it? I looked around the room to see where the voice was coming from. I saw a shadow next to the door frame. Bookmark here

“Ari,” the shadow called out my name again. I squinted my eyes to see better who it was. I took a step closer to it. Bookmark here

“Who are you?” I asked it. Bookmark here

“You don’t remember me?” the shadow asked sorrowfully.Bookmark here

“No. I’m sorry,” I replied. Hearing the shadow’s sad voice made me feel sad. It pulled at my heart. But why? I walked towards it but with every step I took, it went further away from me. Without realizing it I started running, holding my hand out to it. As if I wanted it to grab it and hold it. Bookmark here

“Please wait. Don’t go away!” I begged it. Tears filled my eyes. I felt heartbroken. It appeared as if I was losing someone who I loved.Bookmark here

My eyes opened. It was morning. I shifted to my right to look out the window. I was having the same dream over and over again. I started having this dream after the day General Claw had talked about the operation. I did not think it was important but after finding out that I was dreaming about my past the last time, I could not ignore it. No matter how much I tried to link the two dreams, I could not find any connections. It was frustrating. I shook off the thought about it for the time being. I needed to be at my best and focused today. After all, today was my first military operation. Bookmark here

I got out of my bed and got ready promptly. I wore my mother’s necklace as a good luck charm. It would rarely I wear it. The times I would not, Gene would ask about it. I grabbed my scythe and left my room. General Claw allowed me to carry it around with me. It had a convenient strap on it, so I could carry it on my back. I went to find Gene to say my goodbye. The General said that this operation could last for two days. If I did not tell Gene and was not at home by the end of the day, she would cry her eyes out. I found her in Jean-Luc’s room. It looked like he was saying his goodbye as well. Gene did not look happy. I hugged her and gave her a kiss, as well as Mr. Fluffy. Bookmark here

After we said our goodbyes, Jean-Luc and I headed to the docks. The meeting point was Spiegel See, the massive sea underneath Deonion. Everyone was waiting for us. Apparently, we were the last ones. Four jeeps were prepared to take us through the Schwarz Forest and then through the no man’s land to our goal, the laboratory. Two soldiers would sit in the front and three in the back. To no surprise, Jean-Luc and Stefano sat in the same jeep as I was. As we were driving towards the Schwarz Forest, I remembered the first time I met Daiyn. I smiled as I imagined how I looked like when I was stuck on one of those trees. Bookmark here

We arrived at the laboratory quicker than I thought. General Claw told us to build a camp next to it. Five soldiers would be on standby, just in case if something happened. The rest of us would go in and carry out our tasks. We were divided into five groups, resulting in three soldiers in each group because the laboratory was so big. I informed General Claw of the big arena and that the gates and doors to it were still working. He instructed us to get ready. We would start the mission in five minutes. I was getting more and more nervous. Two soldiers were breaking a metal chain that locked the entrance door. It was probably Daiyn and the others who did this. If I correctly remembered Edwin and Benjamin destroyed the lock with their guns. Bookmark here

“Are you ready?” General Claw asked me.Bookmark here

“Yeah,” I squeaked. He placed a hand on my head and smiled.Bookmark here

“Don’t worry. I’m here to protect you,” he calmly assured me. I nodded my head. I was surprised he would say such things, but it made me feel more composed. He walked over to the other soldiers to tell them that we were going in. The door to the laboratory was open. General Claw instructed the soldiers who were on standby to keep an eye open for any of the Caedes that may try to flee. Bookmark here

We entered the building and disbanded into our respective groups. Stefano, Jean-Luc, and I were in the same group. The laboratory was the same as the last time I was here. Only a small ray of light was coming from the boarded-up windows. Stefano was leading the way. We were instructed to search in the right-wing of the laboratory. It was located the furthest away from the entrance. I let Stefano and Jean-Luc know that I only knew the way until the arena. I did not know what was beyond it because I was attacked and passed out the first time I came here. We were very careful to keep the noise down as we were walking through the hallways. The entrance to the right-wing was just before us. I was relieved that we did not have any encounters with the Caedes yet. Stefano pushed the door open, and we went in. It smelled rotten and moldy. The windows were sealed shut with wooden planks here too. It was hard to see. Jean-Luc tried to turn on the lights but to no avail. The electricity was turned off and even if it was not, the bulbs of every light were broken. We slowly made our way through the hallway. Bloodstains were covering the walls and the floor. If General Claw’s information was right, the scientist’s individual labs and offices should be located on the right-wing. Bookmark here

“It would be quicker if we looked into each room separately. This way we can cover more ground in a shorter time,” Stefano suggested. Bookmark here

Jean-Luc and I agreed and started searching through rooms that were part of this hallway, on our own. We were still in close proximity, so even if something would attack us, we could easily regroup. Every door had the scientist’s name written on it. All I could find were defective computers, the scientist’s notes, and reports, and dusty old equipment. I had one more room left to search. The door was broken, and the nametag ripped off. As I made my way into the room I stepped on some broken glass. The noise from the glass pieces being cracked underneath my weight startled me. The room was bigger than I thought. I was bewildered to see a piano in the right-hand corner of the room. Some music sheets were laid out. Without realizing I started playing the piano. Cher was the one who taught me how. She would always drag me along to her piano lessons. The piano keys were rusty and off-key, but the melody was still pretty. I had heard this song before. I was certain. It gave me a warm and cozy feeling. I again, heard glass cracking behind me. Thinking that it would either be Stefano or Jean-Luc coming to see where the music was coming from, I did not pay much attention to it. I stopped playing the piano and grabbed the music sheets and folded them neatly, so they would fit in the pocket of my pants. I turned around to apologize for making so much noise but instead of seeing one of them, I saw a Caede standing in the door frame. It was taller than me. Its body was very thin. It looked exactly like the others, except this one had green eyes. Bookmark here

“Are you Alec?” I asked it without hoping to get a response. The Caede took a step closer, and his eyes opened wider. Did he understand what I just said or was it recognizing its own name? I noticed that his eyes had the same color as the poison. Was it this Caede who bit me? It did not seem that it wanted to attack or hurt me. Rather than looking aggressive, it looked curious. Bookmark here

“A…” it articulated in a rough and scratchy voice. Was it trying to say its own name?Bookmark here

“Alec,” I repeated his name to encourage him to try saying his name again. Bookmark here

“A… A…,” it repeated. I waited to see if it managed to say it.Bookmark here

“Ari.” It said my name. Not his but mine. How was that possible? How did it know my name? Before I could say anything, it ran away. I wanted to respond to him. I rushed out of the room to find Stefano and Jean-Luc. I explained to them in a hurry what had happened. It escaped in the direction of the arena. We immediately pursued it. Our goal was to catch it. But how? I grabbed my scythe from my back to be ready for the next encounter. On our way to the arena, we met up with some other soldiers and briefed them about the situation. Bookmark here

Alec was standing in the middle of the arena, surrounded by the other Caedes.Bookmark here

“Should we go in?” I asked Stefano.Bookmark here

“No, not yet. We have to wait until General Claw arrives and gives us orders on how to proceed,” he explained.Bookmark here

I had an uneasy feeling. Alec seemed to be in trouble. The other Caedes were acting hostile towards him. He was being cornered towards the wall. The situation might get out of control if we waited too long. I entered the arena, still keeping myself at a safe distance from them. Why were the rest of the Caedes acting this way? Did they know that we were after Alec? I saw around fifteen Caedes. The number was off. I was sure that there had to be more. What happened to the rest of them? I hesitated before taking a couple of steps closer to them. One of the Caedes shrieked out loud and the rest began to attack Alec. It happened so suddenly. I did not know what to do. Their claws were tearing his skin apart and their teeth were buried into his flesh. Blood was splashing onto the surroundings. He would die. If we did not do anything he would die. Alec’s eyes met mine. His eyes were filled with tears.Bookmark here

“Ari. You don’t remember me?” I recalled a voice asking me.Bookmark here

That was when realized. How could I have forgotten? My body was trembling. My eyes were filled with tears. I did not listen to Stefano nor to Jean-Luc who tried to stop me. There was no force in this world that could have stopped me at that moment. My body was trembling. I was so angry. Angry at myself for erasing my memories. My scythe went through the bodies of the Caedes. They never saw me coming because I accelerated my own time. Without having any doubts, I was cutting them into pieces. One by one. Their arms and legs. Bodies and heads. Their long, painful cries were echoing in my ears. Nevertheless, I could not stop myself. My clothes were soaked in their blood. My hands were painted red. Body pieces were lying around me, scattered on the ground. In an instant, all of them were dead. Slaughtered by my scythe. Except for one. And that was Alec. His body was pressed against the wall. His hands covered his face. Lumps of flesh were hanging from his arms, legs, and stomach. I could see his bones through the holes where they bit him and torn apart his flesh. I slowly walked over to him and placed my both hands on his chest. I let out a deep breath and rewound his time. His wounds started to heal and after a couple of minutes, he was completely healed. I stumbled back and fell on one of my knees. I was out of breath. Maybe I was still not ready to use my powers on others. Stefano and Jean-Luc who had watched silently came running to us. Alec was cowering next to me. Bookmark here

“It’s okay. They are nice people. You don’t need to be scared Alec,” I calmed him down while petting his head. Bookmark here

“What were you thinking Ari?” Jean-Luc yelled at me. Bookmark here

“I wasn’t. If we would have waited any longer, he would have been killed,” I explained to him my actions. But to save one life I killed fifteen. Was that not injustice? After all, they were humans before they were turned into these monsters. General Claw joined us. After seeing the mess I created, and Stefano explaining what happened, a worried expression hushed over his face. Bookmark here

“What’s so special about this Caede? Why are we only capturing this one and not the others?” I questioned General Claw. Alec was standing behind me. The other soldiers were agitated about seeing him standing so close to me. But I was not.Bookmark here

“It’s simple. Alec can be saved. The other ones are lost. I tried to find a solution to rescue them as well but there is none. Therefore, I decided to kill them for their own good before they harm anyone else,” he firmly explained. I was not completely understanding what he was saying but I obeyed his orders. I had killed all fifteen of them. And here I thought I was not capable of doing it. But what was already done, could not be undone. Even with the powers I have, I would not be able to do it because I was too weak. Soldiers reported to General Claw that they had eliminated the remaining Caedes throughout the building. It was time for us to return to our camp. Alec held my right arm and walked next to me. I could hear whispering from the other soldiers. It looked odd to them that I was nice to Alec and that he in response was holding on to me like this.Bookmark here

“Why are you being so nice with this Caede?” Jean-Luc whispered into my ear who was walking to my left. Bookmark here

“Because I felt pity for him,” I answered him. There was another reason, but I kept it to myself. I thought it was the best for the time being. He shrugged his shoulder, showing me, he did not understand it. I just shook my head and did not explain it further. We walked out of the building one after another. When it was my turn, Alec swiftly pulled me back. Out of nowhere, Stefano was standing in front of me. I was looking at his back. He raised one arm up to his face and with the other hit someone with his flail. Whatever he hit fell to the ground. It was a Caede. Jean-Luc cut his head off before it could get up again. My heart was racing. How could I have missed it and where did it come from? The other soldiers came back and saw what happened. Bookmark here

“The ventilation shaft above the entrance. I guess this one was waiting for us,” General Claw pointed out. I looked up and saw the shaft open. Bookmark here

“You were lucky that Alec pulled you back in time or else you would have been wounded badly,” Stefano said to me. I nodded my head and looked at Alec. He was smiling. Bookmark here

We packed up and loaded everything into our jeeps. Alec joined our jeep and was sitting opposite of me and next to Jean-Luc, who did not look pleased. I noticed Stefano holding his left arm. Bookmark here

“What happened?” I asked him.Bookmark here

“The Caede from before scratched me a bit,” he said while showing me his arm. His jacket was ripped, and you could clearly see the three deep cuts. Bookmark here

“Why didn’t you tell me, you idiot?” I yelled at him. Bookmark here

“Because it is not a serious wound,” he laughed. I slapped his head and rummaged through one of the backpacks to find a first aid kit. After finding one, I treated his wounds and bandaged his arm. Alec became curious and came closer to us to see what we were doing. Bookmark here

“He is a nice guy,” Stefano said smiling and patted his head.Bookmark here

“Yes, he is,” I agreed. Bookmark here

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