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Mother - Chapter 14.1

by Zoom


14.1



When we breach the crest of the incline some hours later, the galaxies overhead have started to fade, the inky black swallowing the colours in preparation of daybreak. The flat terrain feels odd underfoot after marching uphill for so long.

“I’m tired.” Conrad says. He nests himself in the grass where a green tinge casts onto his sleepy face. His flying rabbit curls up in his lap.

The woman strides onto the level plain without breaking rhythm. “We cannot stop.”

“We’ve been walking all night,” I huff, doubling over. “Not all of us have the legs of a racehorse.”

She stops and sighs. “Sounds like you wish to be dragged again.”

“We just want a break. Is that a big deal?”

“The closer we draw to Kitsune, the more the land will be swarmed with Sentries. Among other things. So yeah. It’s a big deal.”

I scan the flat, barren terrain, exaggerating the gesture to make a point. “Looks clear to me.”

“Don’t trust your tainted eyes, kid. It’s a death wish to stay out here in the op—”

“I would like a safe place to sleep please,” Conrad says. As usual the world is quick to respond. A rectangular portion of grass sinks into the ground with a crunch, followed by another adjacent to it, then another, each section descending further than the last. This pattern continues until a steep set of stairs has formed.

Conrad flips his legs over the top step and plops onto the next one. He pokes his tongue at the woman before disappearing underground.

She shoots me a look of scorn.

“Well what do you expect me to do about that?” I say, shrugging.

“Have I been unclear? If your brother continues to flaunt his magic then it’ll be a matter of time—”

“Before Kitsune learns what he is,” I interrupt. “Like I said, I don’t know what you expect me to do. Maybe you haven’t noticed, but Conrad has a bit of a listening problem.”

“Then you really don’t serve much purpose.” In a flash, she unsheathes a needle and draws it upwards, stopping with it pressed against my jugular. If the movement didn’t take me by surprise, I might’ve marvelled at the skill needed to reach this position so quickly without drawing blood.

“Alright, I get it,” I say, backing off. “I’ll talk to him.”

She returns the needle to its sheath and descends the stairs. A breeze wraps around me, seeming to tug me in after her.

The stairway leads beneath the field to a tiny square cavern. The walls are smooth like marble, as if cut by a laser. Conrad is curled on a glowing bed of grass in the corner, his rabbit next to him, one of its bat wings extended over his shoulder in a protective embrace.

We have to crouch to fit in. Once again the world shows clear intent to only provide for Conrad's benefit. The woman squeezes beside him and sits with her back to the wall, leaving a small space for me to sit opposite, where I’m forced to stare into her face.

We stay like this for a minute or two. There’s so much I want to ask her. Where is she taking us? What does she plan to do with Conrad when we get there? Each question forces the previous one out of my mind, demanding to be asked first. Then before I know it, words are spilling from my mouth.

“What does it mean to be tainted?”

The corner of her lips curl into a fleeting smile. “You've damaged someone's vessel.”

In my mind, a streak of crimson flashes across snow.

“And . . . and what does that mean for my soul?”

“Depends what you do next. Your soul is stuck at a crossroads. You live with violence in your heart, kid. Sooner or later that will lead to a choice. Always does.”

“Can I choose to be pure?”

“Nope. You gave that up the moment you committed a cardinal sin against nature.”

“I don’t understand.”

She raises a hand and tucks her thumb in. “There’s four states of being. Each state dictates the value of your soul and what will happen to it when your vessel dies. First, is pure. We’re all born pure but we don’t all stay that way. It’s a one-shot deal. You give it up, you don’t get it back. The world protects the pure. Feeds them. Shelters them. Looks out for them. And it also imbues them with spirit magic. Think of it as a mark of the world’s trust in you to act for the good of others.”

She lowers a finger so there’s three remaining. “Next, we have the tainted, those who have committed a crime against nature. Remember that trust the world had in you? Gone. You fend for yourself now.”

Another finger falls away, leaving two. “And now we have the choice of the tainted. Either path is difficult to choose and even harder to follow. If you give up the fight in your heart, your soul can heal. When it does, we call that state ‘clean’. You won’t get your spirit magic back, but the world will start looking out for you again. And when you die, your soul will move on.”

Just one finger remains now. Her voice gains a heavy, grave quality. “Or you can make a different choice.”

“Is that what you did?”

“I committed the ultimate sin,” she confirms. “By killing, I’ve forfeited my connection to this world. My soul is eternally severed. It will never know peace.”

If she hadn’t threatened me repeatedly, I might’ve felt something for her position. Instead, something else stirs within. A question I never thought would be answered has come to light.

“That means I haven’t killed,” I say. Blood pools in my mind, saturating the snow around the broken body of the boy I left for dead.

“Nope. But that’s not for lack of trying. Your eyes look pretty dark, kid. You messed someone up real bad. Was it for business or pleasure?”

The question sends a shiver down my spine. Perhaps because I don’t know the answer. “I was protecting Conrad.”

The mention of his name makes him stir, grass ruffling beneath him, drawing our gaze.

Something softer shades her voice now. Though the change is so minute I might be imagining it. "In this world, protecting Conrad won’t be easy. Eventually it will require you to make the same choice I did.”

Silence fills the space between us. Is she right? Will the dangers ahead be so great that murder is my only way out?

“What was your reason for killing? Who were you protecting?”

Her eyes stare over my shoulder, into another time and place altogether. “Who said I was protecting anyone? Perhaps I just enjoy it.”

“I don’t think so,” I say.

“What makes you so sure?”

“Nothing, but . . . I guess it would be easier to trust you, if you had a good reason.”

“There are no good reasons. Whether we kill for love or hate or just for the fun of it, there's no difference in the end. I still have to carry the weight of my soul for eternity. Perhaps until l forget what my reason was in the first place.”

Another silence falls.

“Still want to kill Kitsune?” She asks.

The question evokes a flutter of nerves in my stomach. I’ve never voiced this desire to anyone. Not even in my own head, and least of all to the stranger sat before me with a knowing smirk. Yet somehow it feels as though it was there all along. Of course Kit needs to die. And if I’d ever taken the time to follow my plans through in my head, I would’ve known I intend to be the one to kill him. Was that not the promise I made on the rooftop, to win, to beat him in the most final way possible?

I weigh this new information in my head until my entire reason for coming to this world is fractured with uncertainty. Things were easier when everything ended with Kit's death. At least, easier to ignore until that time comes. Now it's different. I need to know, to be absolutely certain. Can I kill Kitsune, knowing I’ll forever separate my soul from the ones I’m saving?

“I don’t know if I can do it,” I answer truthfully.

A satisfied smile curls the woman’s mouth again. She leans back against the smooth wall of the cavern and her eyes close. “If you stay with me, maybe you won’t have to.”

#

A/N: In an earlier chapter, Kitsune told Henrik that his soul is "forever" tainted however I'm retracting this now. Being tainted isn't final, as descriped in this chapter.


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153 Reviews


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Sun Jun 30, 2019 12:17 am
Horisun wrote a review...



I can't believe I didn't read this, I completely missed it!
Well, at least I read it now. :D

I LOVE this series so much, it's so good! In my opinion, the best part of this series is the characters, they're really just great! (Sorry, just needed to say that)


I have a theory about the women, I haven't read this in awhile, so I'm struggling to remember if she introduced herself or not, I'm going to have to reread this a bit.


My theory expands upon the theory that she's Tami. If she was kidnapped, she would've tried to escape, wouldn't she? And in trying to escape, especially from a magical world like this, there's always the chance that she'd have to fight someone in the attempt to escape. Idk, that's my theory. I can't wait to see what actually happens!




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Sat Jun 29, 2019 10:45 pm
Horisun says...



Omg, Omg, Omg,
did I miss this?




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Mon Jun 03, 2019 5:09 am
Tuckster wrote a review...



Hey again Zoom! Tuck here with one final review to finish off this binge

“I would like a safe place to sleep, please,”


As usual, the world is quick to respond.


One section that I found at odds with other established facts is when she pulls a knife on Henrik and threatens him with it. She can't kill him—she would lose Conrad if she did because he would almost certainly not cooperate, but Henrik doesn't seem to realize this. Henrik has shown that he is smart and able to think rationally under pressure, so I'm a little surprised he doesn't call her bluff and still allows her to threaten him. He seems to have lost his drive for protecting Conrad and is instead entrusting him to this stranger who has revealed that she has killed before and is willing to kill again. His trust of her seems bizarre, misplaced, and out of character.

Once again, the volleys back and forth in the dialogue would be improved if you added some small cues as to how each person is reacting. For example, if they're displeased, they might fold their arms; if they're happy, their eyes might light up. Small cues like this help the reader to get more of a sense as to what's going on and not be left guessing as to how both of them are reacting to the news the other one gives them.

Furthermore, their "plot" to kill Kitsume seems a little strange, considering they've come to the conclusion that Conrad is stronger than Kitsume for reasons that were not discussed. It seems to make the most sense for them to tell Conrad that Kitsume is going to hurt them somehow (which is true), and then guide him and train him. They should both know Kitsume well enough to know that they won't be able to take him down; he is, after all, incredibly powerful and used to be the most powerful being in the world.

Hopefully those suggestions were helpful and you didn't find this review too harsh! I'm writing this fairly late and I tend to be more raw at night, so I apologize if any of it comes across as bitter. I liked the interactions between Henrik and this woman and I'm starting to like this little rag-tag group. Please publish more soon!

All my best,

Tuckster




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Wed May 22, 2019 3:35 pm
Liberty says...



Bravo! This was a good chapeter and I can't wait to see the next! This is so exciiiiitinnnng...!




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Mon May 13, 2019 2:56 am
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Dossereana wrote a review...



Hi @Zoom just sore this chapter, and realised that you did not tag anyone for it, so here I am to review the next one.

About The Chapter

So I really feel like this chapter was really good, you are getting better at all you description, and things I can see a lot of things happening, also maybe work on hearing a bit more, I think it this chapter that can do with a bit of work, I also feel like there is a lot of talking and not much else, and that can get a bit #boring after a little while, I have learned this from past experiences, and this hole thing with the talking can draw the reader away a little, so if I were you maybe put a bit of something in between all the talking, or even better take some of the talking out, because I feel like all of the talking in the story is not really necessary it just feels like there just arguing.

Funny Lines

“We’ve been walking all night,” I huff, doubling over. “Not all of us have the legs of a racehorse.”

I thought that this line was really funny I think that you did a great job with putting this line together.

little things

When we breach the crest of the incline some hours later, the galaxies overhead have started to fade, the inky black swallowing the colours in preparation of daybreak.


Okay so the word in bold is not making sens with the line, I think you meant not say, break, or reach. Okay and have, I think that should be changed in to had, in stead, now I just think that, that would make the line better, also colours is spelt wrong I think you meant colors.

So that is all that I can say. If this review was a bit harsh and hard to follow I am really sorry I will try to improve on how I review things. So keep up the great work this chapter was great to read I in joyed ever bit of it, and I am shore with a little bit more work you can make this chapter ten times better. :P I look forward to the next chapter. :D

@EagleFly Out To Seek And Kill




Zoom says...


Thanks for the help Eagle. I was starting to get a bit worried about the constant talking so I'll make a note to trim that down in draft 2. Thanks for saying that.

Also I live in England - we spell colour with a u in it haha. Just thought you should know for the next chapters that you might see more of our spellings.

-Zoom



Dossereana says...


Oh I see, I completely understand that Lol.



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Sun May 12, 2019 8:16 pm
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SweetRabbit wrote a review...



Hiya @Zoom

You know I'm a diehard fan of this novel so let's get cracking with my first official review.

Absolutely loved it. It was short and sweet and just what we needed to recover from the adventures of the previous chapters.

Your descriptions are as beautiful as always. The cavern one was particularly good. I could see it forming before my eyes.

Conrad!!!! I love how he says 'please' even though the world is compelled by magic to honour his request. His friendship with the rabbit is the best thing ever. You know I awww-ed out loud at 'one of its bat wings extended over his shoulder in a protective embrace.'

Hen is bittersweet for me right now. I'm glad he dialled back his cockiness, but at times I find him a bit too subservient. I feel you might want to make him a bit edgier cause I'm feeling sorry for the kid.

Good and clear description of the states of being. I love that we have Conrad and the girl at the extremes and Hen in the middle with a huge choice to make. Speaking of...you don't have to retract Kit's idea of tainted. You could twist it and make it seem like he lied to Hen making Hen's decision whether to kill him or not even harder.

There's a slight overuse of the word 'chirp' in the last 3 chapters.

Not really keen on "Is that really a big deal?” Maybe ' is that too much to ask ' would work better?

Great stuff, as usual.

Keep writing!!




Zoom says...


Thanks SweetRabbit. The next chapter should hopefully deliver what you want for Henrik :) I totally agree with the whole %u201Cchirp%u201D thing. Thats my favourite tag haha. Thanks for the review! Love you




“Hope” is the thing with feathers - That perches in the soul - And sings the tune without the words - And never stops - at all -
— Emily Dickinson