Chapter 213:

Homecoming: Hal

The Nonpareil of Resh (Act 1)

Hal stepped off the boat and stared at the capital, Roanoke. He nodded and began his trudge through the large city with architecture best described as a London replica from the 16th century. The construction had been done to follow a path from the channel down a river, and the city stretched in length more than width as it developed.

Bridges periodically connected each side of the city, and buildings were in such significant numbers that they had also been constructed out on the bridges. Hal hitched a trolley ride at the first bridge and rode down the city to its end—where the river naturally ended and the mansion of the Dare was built. To ease a past rivalry between the people on opposite sides of the river, the house was stretched so that it had equal parts on both sides, but Hal always thought it made it way more extensive than it ought to have been.

He stood in the courtyard in front of the glamorous mansion and stared up at a statue of Virginia Dare in the middle of a fountain right in front. Hal nodded to the first of the Dares before walking in to face the current, Feya. He rubbed at his bandaged shoulder and wondered what they would say.

“I have returned,” the Netzian soldier shouted as he opened the door; no sooner had he entered when he received 3 feet from high jump kicks.

“You idiot!” 3 girls shouted in unison. The first, his younger sister, by seven days, Hayleigh, kicked him in the stomach. The youngest two, his twin sisters Gabriella and Isabella, took out each knee. They kicked Hal off stable footing and fell flat on his back as servants calmly closed the door behind him.

“How could you lose an arm?” Hayleigh shouted.

“Look at you! You look so lopsided!” Isabella added.

“I’m sorry, big brother, Hal. The others wanted to kick you,” Gabriella softly added.

The three of them all burst into tears and threw themselves onto the downed soldier.

“We’re so glad you got home safely!” one yelled, but who, through the wails, was unclear. Hal smiled and did his best to return their embrace with his one arm.

They might have continued to pin Hal down, but some clapping and shouting caught the attention of the four. Feya made her way down a gaudy staircase.

“Hey, you three. He’s injured; give him some space!” she shouted, and the three girls’ yellow eyes grew wide with realization. They quickly jumped up, helped their brother to his feet, then stood at his side while Feya walked close. When compared to his sisters, it was clear that they were siblings. Each had the same emerald green hair and subtle facial features inherited from their parents. Feya, on the other hand, was a stark contrast, with green scales on her neck and upper arms and freckles on her face.

The Dare walked close to Hal and looked at him intensely, especially on his bandaged shoulder where he had once had an arm. Her slit eyes immediately welled up with tears, and she suddenly pulled him close for a hug.

“Hal! I’m so glad you’re not dead!” Seeing the Netzian leader’s actions, his sisters joined back in.

“Stop. Stop. This is not how a national leader should act!” Hal shouted as he wiggled out of the unexpected group hug. He did his best to brush his clothes smoothly with his left hand. While Feya sniffled.

“Maybe not a leader, but I at least hope I’m acting like a mother!” she protested.

“Adopted mother,” Hal said under his breath.

“Well, you girls probably should get going to school. I will meet with Hal to discuss his… eventful trip.”

Hal blinked and turned back to his sisters, each wearing their school uniform. He had completely lost track of the days during the trip and hadn’t realized it was a school day.

“Get going, you three. Education is important to your future!” Hal said gently to the trio. They all smiled and waved before heading out for the day. The Netzian soldier nodded. Losing his arm was bad, but it might let him avoid the same fate for a while longer.

“All right, let’s talk quick and get you rested up for today, so you can join your classmates!” Feya said. She got a slight groan in reply. “Don’t be like that. Didn’t you just say education is important?”

“For my sisters, it is, but I am nothing more than a street criminal.”

“Former, that’s the part that counts! Well, let’s get you debriefed real quick and then off to bed. You probably need rest after that long trip.”

“It is morning already.”

“So, we’ll say you’re sleeping in! That’s what I do!”

Hal sighed but knew it was pointless to argue with Feya. He went with her to a private room and told her everything important that had happened in Nun. When she was satisfied with the information, she sent him straight to bed as promised. Despite his protests, Hal fell asleep immediately.