Café Destiny was truly the best luxury coffee shop in the area surrounding Kennard Academy. Angel took a long sip of her custom strawberry iced coffee and swung her dangling legs back and forth as she sat before a high table placed at the shop’s front windows. Humming in delight at the taste of the coffee, she leaned her chin into the palms of her hands, staring through the glass at the streets outside. Though Angel preferred lively or crowded places, this was one of the few exceptions. It was nice to be able to relax and process things there, especially because it was quiet and, somehow, not many customers would come to ruin the vibes when Angel was there.
She sighed, and her mind returned to her earlier predicament of the exam rankings. She tamped down the near-physical sting of her wounded pride. It wasn’t that she was so petty and caught up in ranks that she would throw a fit if someone happened to beat her, but someone happening to beat her just didn’t happen. That would be as if some great force decided to throw off the entire balance of the world.
Angel glanced down when she noticed the empty cup accompanied by a hollow, crackling air sound. “Already gone,” she muttered. She considered buying another custom order (the barista always marveled about how her orders were more expensive and extraordinary than the most expensive regular item on the menu), but she remembered her original intent in leaving campus and decided to head out towards the Vermillion Hotel.
After returning the glass cup to the barista, Angel said her goodbyes and stepped outside with the door’s bell jingling behind her. The sun was just starting to set in the sky, and Angel stopped to admire the rosy colors gilding the pillowy clouds. However, in the moments that followed, shouts and crashing noises captured her attention.
The noises sounded like they were coming from the side of the café building. Angel cautiously tiptoed over to the corner and peeked around. The sight she took in was even crazier than she was expecting.
Angel had just caught Jhémes beating up a whole group of burly, grown men. She stood and watched wide-eyed as he dodged, spun around, and threw punches in the midst of the whirlwind of people. What was even going on? Had there always been a gang like this in peaceful and ritzy Valley City? And why was Jhémes having a full-on brawl with them?
“Hey!” a man shouted behind her, and both Angel and all the people she was watching—including Jhémes—stopped their fight and turned their heads at the sound. It was a group of double the amount of men he was fighting. Then they all glanced at her.
Her eyes met Jhémes’s, and she could see his luminous eyes narrow as their gazes rested upon each other for a minor eternity. His lip was split and bleeding, and she could see that his cheekbone was a purplish red. He had changed out of his school uniform and was wearing a black leather jacket with a plain white t-shirt tucked into a pair of dark jeans. His black combat boot-clad feet were poised to spring back into the fight at any moment. His fists were still raised, and Angel could see a thin leather cord wrapped around his wrist right under the sleeve of his jacket.
“Why are you all just standing there?” bellowed one of the men, smacking his forehead. “This isn’t some romantic action movie!”
At last, Angel blinked. “Oh no,” she whispered, realizing what kind of situation she was in. She took a step back, and then another. Clutching her purse, she turned tail and ran.
“Get her!” he yelled, and the collective thundering of their shoes on the pavement behind her from two directions was enough to send a jolt of fear tingling up her spine.
Her heart nearly pounding out of her chest, Angel panted as she put one foot in front of the other. She swerved around buildings in parts of the city that she had never even bothered exploring before, and she thought she could almost hear some of the gangsters shouting to another from somewhere behind, “Why is this girl so fast, even in heels? Is she training to run in the Games?”
“Why do so many people think that?” panted Angel.
She decided to risk a backward glance, and she nearly stopped in surprise when she saw that the gangsters were way behind, gasping and wheezing with reddened and sweaty faces. As she had expected, Jhémes was not in their ranks. She shook her head and kept running, and she wondered what had happened to him now.
After weaving through a few more streets being chased by the gang, the road suddenly began to look familiar to Angel. Hope surged within her, and she set her course towards the Vermillion Hotel. Surely, they wouldn’t follow her down a nice street and barge into a five-star luxury hotel.
To her relief, they seemed to slow and disperse a little as she neared the hotel and burst through the grand doors. Angel ran past the hotel staff bowing to her and rode the elevator up to her suite on the top floor. As soon as she was alone inside, she pulled out her phone and called her family’s secretary.
“Hey, Geraldina,” said Angel without preamble, “this weird gang was chasing me down the streets of Valley City. Could you send some people to help me get my things from the Vermillion Hotel and deliver them to Kennard?” She breathed heavily.
“Of course, Miss Aynnhailleah. Do you need me to take care of the gang as well?”
“No, no,” replied Angel lightly, peeking down through her window to look at the streets below. “I think I just need to wait it out until they get tired and leave. Don’t tell Dad and Mom, okay? Thanks.” She hung up and sighed, covering her eyes with a hand. She crossed the room and collapsed on the massive bed. Her heart still felt like it was about to leap out of her chest. Staring at the ceiling, she asked the air, “What exactly is going on, here?”
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