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E - Everyone

Chapter 25.2: Veris

by Lightsong

Gael and Veris stood outside of the room. Veris looked down from the balcony to the wide main hall of the ground floor. He knew what was going to happen next – what he should do next. He looked at Gael who was staring at the room’s door, folding his hands, calm.

They were waiting for the others to come back out. Felaris said if they didn’t emerge from the room fifteen minutes later, Gael and he were to leave the place and acted as if nothing happened the next day. If those three powerful girls couldn’t get out from whatever they faced inside the room, Gael and Veris wouldn’t stand a chance. Gael wasn’t a Fighter. Veris wasn’t cut out to be one.

Veris sighed. He also wasn’t cut out to be a spy. What was he thinking when he volunteered to check on the Natron’s office? How could he be so reckless, when recklessness wasn’t in his nature? He could feel the hotness of the tattoo etched on his chest. He hated it. He feared what they could do to him – what they could prevent him from doing. He was so weak. What was the point of being smart if you could easily be manipulated? Stupid, stupid Veris.

Gael took out his watch. ‘It’s been twenty minutes already,’ he said. ‘They’re supposed to be here.’

‘We should go,’ Veris replied, turning his attention to the wooden stick lying on the floor behind Gael. He rubbed his arm. He was the one who had put it there, long before they reached the office. ‘We’ve waited more than we should. If we wait here any longer, whoever stopping those girls inside would reach us.’

‘Or maybe we should help them,’ Gael said. He sounded confident – too confident. ‘With the element of surprise, we can catch whoever fighting them inside off-guard.’

‘I don’t know, Gael. What’s your plan?’ Veris said, slowly reaching the wooden stick. Gael and he weren’t good in fighting, but he knew for sure he was better at it than Gael was.

‘We’re cloaked by a powerful artifact,’ Gael said, his back still on Veris. ‘Even if we couldn’t take down the enemy, we could still escape. I say we take the risk. At least we know what we’re facing against, even if we have to get away from the enemy. Your Lio-blessing and my – ’

‘I’m sorry, Gael,’ Veris whispered as he raised the stick, poised at striking Gael’s head.

The stick was about to reach its target when Gael suddenly turned, his eyes shockingly sharp. Swiftly, he kicked Veris’s stomach, pushing him away.

‘So this is what’s going to happen this time,’ Gael said softly. ‘You can’t possibly think you can attack me from behind – but then again, I can’t blame you.’

What happened? Tears started to dwell in Veris’s eyes as he thought about what he should do to Gael – what he was forced to do. He rubbed his chest. The tattoo was getting hotter and hotter. ‘I’m – I’m so sorry, Gael. I have to do it. Please. Surrender yourself. The church – it’s bigger than all of us. We can’t fight it. I failed, Gael. Can’t you see?’

‘Traitor,’ Gael said, venom in his voice. He uttered a spell. Fire formed in his wand, long and moving.

Veris’s eyes widened, so shocked was he that he couldn’t react to the whip of fire thrown at him, wrapping around him and pulling him towards Gael. All of this – all of this was impossible.

‘H – how?’ he said as he felt the whip tightening around him. He was forced to drop the stick due to the pressure.

‘I’m not Gael,’ Gael said, before punching Veris’s head, turning the world into pitch black.

Veris opened his eyes, then winced. He rubbed his head, soothing the pain drumming there. When it subsided, he opened his eyes again, now slowly. Light came to illuminate the surrounding, and the first face he saw was of Gael. But was he the real Gael? Gael couldn’t summon fire.

Gael glanced at him with disinterested eyes. ‘You tried to knock me out. Thank Xesar we followed Mr. Haifei’s plan.’

Veris tried to get up, but pain pressed down his body. He could still feel the heat of fire. His eyes took the wall of the room. It was painted scarlet. Where was he? Turning to Gael, he focused on Gael’s words.

‘What… what do you mean with Mr. Haifei’s plan?’

Gael paused for a few seconds, then sighed. ‘He told Gael and me to keep it as a secret. It was an emergency plan, in case your plan failed.’

Veris frowned, trying to grasp his words. ‘Gael… and you? What are you...’

‘You’re supposed to be the smart one. I’m Ilami, Veris. Not Gael. Both of us swapped places.’ Gael – Ilami? – stared at the wall. ‘I was against it – there was no sure I was going to let Gael entered the office. But he agreed to it in an instant. What a stupid boy.’

Veris smiled dryly. That was how Gael could sense his attack, something a Scholar fight wasn’t trained to do. The fire spells – of course. He should’ve seen it.

Ilami – he would call her that, despite the disguise – leaned forward. ‘Now, tell me. Why did you attack me back there?’

‘I –’ as he was about to say it, the tattoo on his chest burned him. He screamed as if a drop of hell fire touched the skin. ‘I – I cannot tell!’ he managed to say, before the pain subsided. He rubbed his chest, covered by his shirt.

Ilami was quick to push his hand away and pulled the shirt down. The sight of the tattoo – now turning dark red – was in full view. She kept her silence, as if she’d seen it before. Had she checked his body when he was unconscious? ‘What is this?’

Veris sobbed. He wanted to say this was a curse, put by the Church to silent him, to force him to do whatever they said. He was caught when he tried to sneak into the office. He thought no one was around there when all of a sudden the door was pushed open and a priest quickly bound him with his Lio spells. He shouldn’t have done it. He shouldn’t overestimate himself. Now, he couldn’t do anything. He was useless. In their group, his presence was unnecessary.

Be a Fighter. Make me proud, at least for once. Father’s words, thick with disappointment, rang at his ear.

Useless. Useless, useless Veris.

‘Crying won’t help you,’ Ilami said, watching him humiliate himself. She stood up – the movement so swift and effortless, so unlike Gael – and started to leave the room.

‘Wait!’ Veris said. Ilami wasn’t his favourite person, but he preferred to have a company in a place no one knew. ‘Where are you going? Don’t you worry I could somehow escape?’

Ilami snorted. ‘No, I don’t worry at all.’ Then she left, the door clicking.

Veris fell back on the bed. The room had no window. He could chant a few Lio spells to push the door open… but he didn’t feel like doing it. He was sure guards stood watch outside the room; he wouldn’t be able to take them down. Heck, he failed to bring Ilami – who was supposed to be Gael – to Kestari, but at least he wasn’t within their reach. He was useless to them now, and despite knowing Ilami could make him suffer for his traitorous role in the group, he felt at peace with that. He deserved it. That was the only thing he deserved.

He rubbed his chest. He needed to remove it. He just didn’t know how. No, he did – for every legendary artifact, there would always be its counterpart. Like Haka’s artifacts, Farava’s twin bracelets – one to drain energy, one to supply it. He sighed. The problem was, such counterpart would be in Kestari’s possession. That Natron was one of the few people he knew that had a large storage of artifacts.

And he was Lio’s priest. Veris rubbed his eyes. He didn’t feel good about his god right now. If he were a religious person, he’d worship Xesar or Wermin – those who were blessed by them, like Ilami, Felaris and Seya – turned out to be fierce Fighters.

But Haka is too, a part of him whispered. Urgh. Haka be damned. He didn’t want to think about Haka or what had happened between him and Gael. He needed to think of something else.

At least Ilami managed to stop him before he did something bad. He closed his eyes. He would help her. Hopefully, after all of this was over, he could forget about this and moved on with his life. He was just tired. He was tired being played and pressured by others. He had enough doing what others asked of him.

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323 Reviews

Points: 19055
Reviews: 323

Mon May 13, 2019 10:51 pm
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fraey wrote a review...

Hey, again Lightsong. Stopping by to boot this out of the Green Room as it's been much too long since you've had a review on this. I'm going to go over a couple of things here, just as a more general side of things as I've only read a couple of chapters here and there from this story.

First, I think the view from the traitor is an interesting way to have a conflict between two characters. If Ilami served as the view in this chapter, there could be some interesting realizations in her mind, from realizing Veris was trying to attack her (or Gael in this case) and what it would mean for the apparent mission all of these teens are on. If you hadn't tried out the chapter from her view, I would definitely recommend thinking about how it could go, as that would be an interesting way of growing her character as well, with a direct note from her specifically instead of just a few dialogue pieces.

However, this is from Veris' view, so let's get into it. The discussion about his tattoo is interesting because it makes me wonder 1) if it had been talked about before in any way; 2) if Veris had a view at any point in this chapter, and 3) how long had he had this tattoo? Hmm. I wonder how per se, sketched out this character was before he turned into a traitor, like what type of position did he have with the whole gang of heroes at this academy, since he is very focused on the tattoo all throughout this chapter. I think in the future building on what the symbol is/means/can possibly do to someone in a current situation.

I think that this chapter adds a bit to the overall societal ideas, as that a priest would respond with cursing someone by listening is certainly forms a world that seems rather harsh to kids/teens simply learning about their powers at an Academy. There's certainly a lot going on here, and good luck on more.

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641 Reviews

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Fri Mar 29, 2019 2:34 pm
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Panikos wrote a review...

Hi, Lightsong! Just dropping in for another review.

Small Comments

‘I don’t know, Gael. What’s your plan?’ Veris said, slowly reaching the wooden stick. Gael and he weren’t good in fighting, but he knew for sure he was better at it than Gael was.

I don't really get how Veris can crouch down and reach for this stick without Gael/Ilami noticing. It's not a very subtle way to take someone out. It would make more sense for Veris to have some kind of instrument hidden in his clothes.

‘H – how?’ he said as he felt the whip tightening around him. He was forced to drop the stick due to the pressure.

I'm surprised that you don't mention the heat, given that the whip is made of fire. Wouldn't it be burning him?

‘I was against it – there was no sure I was going to let Gael entered the office. But he agreed to it in an instant. What a stupid boy.’

I don't really get what Ilami means here.

Overall Thoughts

So, this was a pretty interesting chapter! I really didn't expect the character switch, so it was a shock when 'Gael' suddenly started wielding fire. Looking back, I get the sense that Ilami's caution in the previous chapter was your way of hinting that she was really Gael, which is pretty neat. I notice 'Ilami' refers to her mother as 'Ms. Venaria' as well, which isn't something she'd usually do. It's cool that it's only noticeable in hindsight, though I think you could be a little less subtle about it. Maybe you could draw attention to Ilami's fighting skills seeming a bit diminished - nothing too obvious, but enough to make us pause and think 'what's that about?'

It's not a huge surprise that Veris is a traitor, because I remember back in the earlier chapters that I never fully trusted him. I think I expected him to be a willing traitor, though, not a victim of mind control. Well, tattoo control.

It has come a bit out of the blue, though. When did he get this tattoo? Has he been like this the whole time, or only recently? I feel like Gael would've noticed a tattoo on Veris, given that they were a sort-of couple for a while, but I can't remember him referencing one. That makes me think it must be a recent development. Still, it could be a cool way of foreshadowing if, in the next draft, Gael sees Veris's tattoo at some point and comments on it.

I don't think it's helped by the fact that we've never got Veris's perspective until now. It does seem quite late into the story to be bringing in a new POV - but then again, it would've been too much of a giveaway to have this from 'Gael's' perspective. Maybe it's just worth bringing in Veris's point of view earlier. I feel like I don't know him very well, so having some chapters from his perspective might help.

A final note, but why did Mr Haifei suggest this plan? Did he know that Veris was a traitor and wanted to verify it? It seems a long-winded way to go about it. I do like the whole disguised identities concept, but I don't really understand why Ilami didn't just stay with Gael while the others went investigating. Somebody could've stayed with Gael, at least - Veris would've been less likely to attack if the two of them hadn't been alone.

I guess I'm just not sure what the plan was and why this disguise was necessary. I also don't understand what their long term plan for Veris is. Ilami is keeping him locked up for now, but she can hardly keep that up for long. They're at a school. If Veris goes missing, the staff and other students will notice.

So it's just the finer details and clarity that I'm missing in this story at the moment. I'm not sure what everybody's intentions and motivations are. To some extent, that's good, but I should have at least some idea of what everyone's trying to achieve - excepting the people whose intentions are deliberately shrouded in mystery. I think because I've been reading this story over such a long period and the gaps between chapters are quite long, it's easy to lose track of who's who and who is doing what. If I was reading each chapter back-to-back, I suspect I'd be following things better.

Keep writing! :D

But like all lower back tattoos, it is deeply flawed.
— Bill Nye