Chapter 4 (Escape)
Rio shook her head and stumbled forward, stomping on the gun-holding guard’s neck as she passed, snapping it in two. This is impossible. Beside Leo’s lifeless body, she dropped to her knees and turned him over. “Please. Say this is a joke. Say you’re still there. Say I’m stupid. Please. Just say anything.”
A gaping hole stared up at her where his face should have been. Spurts of blood still fountained out of the wound and clung to her favorite shirt.
The shirt didn’t matter. It was worthless. Without Leo, she was worthless. He always knew how to keep her in balance. He knew how to help her overcome her fears and reservations. He was the perfect older brother. He … .
The entire room blurred. Her entire body began to shake, and her shoulders sagged.
This couldn’t be happening. This was the worst. This was … .
Her nose clogged, and she sucked in labored breaths through her mouth. Agony and grief beat against her heart, and a fire burned through her veins. She wanted to die. To curl into a ball next to her brother’s corpse and die.
She shouldn’t. But what should she do? What could she do?
Someone shouted from below.
The staircase? No. Outside.
More voices reached the hole she had made in the hole, growing closer with each second.
Shatter! The cat-crafted gauntlet on her right hand shattered, purple energy dispersing into the air around her. Perfect timing to add to the shit mess.
Glancing at her other gauntlet, it didn’t have much time before it vanished, as well.
The voices grew even louder.
Despite the hot blow flowing from the wound, Leo’s body became cold. Stiff.
Why did this have to happen? Leo was so kind. A bit arrogant at times, but he didn’t deserve to die. If she’d only killed that guard earlier.
Her fault. Leo had died because she was weak. She screamed, and her mind went blank as rage tinted her vision red.
Crunch! Rip! Splatter! The violent sounds washed over her.
When conscious thought returned, Rio found herself cackling atop a mound of mangled corpses. Her breath caught.
Had she done this? Killed every last guard in the wide corridor?
She shook her head.
No. That couldn’t be it. Yet. Yet, she was the only one here, and they all deserved it. They deserved to be ripped into chunks of meat and fed to rabid squirrels. To have their families mutilated. To — Focus!
Gripping her rage tight to stop her from going on another rampage, she glanced back at her brother.
His body would be too heavy for a crow’s flight, and she didn’t have any ants left. How could she carry his body out of this mess?
Footsteps and shouts echoed up the staircase.
Should she leave his body? For the Untalented to burn in some uncivilized ritual. No. But —
“Guns,” a commanding voice from below said. More than four floor lower.
She hobbled over to Leo’s corpse. “Brother. P-p-please forgive me. I should have been harder. Stronger. Willing to do what must be done. Instead. I failed. And. And. And you.” She dropped to her knees, weeping into her hands. Convulsions two-stepped through her body, and vomit caressed the back of her mouth. She was going to be sick.
How could she have messed up so badly? She was so stupid. Stupid. STUPID.
“Why couldn’t it have been me?” She laid her face against Leo’s icy chest. “Why couldn’t I have been the one to die for my mistake? Why did you have to pay? Why? Why?”
“Slowly,” the commanding voice said from the staircase. Less than two floors away.
Frustration and time took the decision from her. She grabbed his power-forged items and stuffed them into the waterproof backpack with the flash drive. After swallowing the crow and cat from her orbed necklace, she stuffed it into the backpack and slipped Leo’s orbed necklace around her neck. His three remaining spirits comforted her as the crow fell into her second socket. The cat into her fifth.
“As soon as we make it to the top of these stairs,” the commanding voice said, “open fire.”
“Yes, sir,” a cacophony of voices said.
Hugging her brother tight, she moved to pick him up.
Why was she so weak? She should be able to carry him. She —
“Three,” the commanding voice said as a creaking sound came from the staircase.
She dropped her brother back to the ground and spun towards the hole. I will come back for you, Nii-san. I promise. She took a step forward and froze.
Had Leo brought his wallet like he always did for jobs? Even after she had told him several times not to?
He couldn’t be that much of a fool, could he?
Rio forced herself to smile, salty tears rolling past her lips.
Yes. Yes, he probably had his wallet with his insurance card in it. A card which had their address on it.
Returning to Leo’s side, she patted his body down as she froze her second socket, crafting the crow into a pair of wings that attached to her shoulder-blades. The ice in her veins fit her mood and eased her stomach.
Something bulged in his left pocket.
“One,” the commanding voice said. Clicking noises followed.
She shoved her hand into his pocket and snatched his wallet out then bolted for the hole. Before reaching the hole, she glanced back at her brother.
Rio sniffled, sliding to a stop at the edge of the building.
Should she try to take his body anyway? Maybe — No. That was beyond foolish. She would be killed beside him if she tried. But would that be such a bad thing? She deserved to die, right? She wanted it, too. She — No. She wanted to at least kiss a boy before she died. To kiss Zack.
Her stomach turned, and she wondered if she deserved anything good in her life. “I’ll live. But I promise I’ll be stronger in the future. Even if.”
The mound of corpses came to mind, and her heart sank.
“Even if I have to kill again. But —”
The guards filled into the corridor, guns aimed at her.
She dove into the night, wings beating against the wind.