As soon as I arrived at my apartment, I noticed we had guests. I could hear the children talking in the living room and I moved closer, just to confirm my suspicion that Ethan’s friends were there. I was happy they had visited him, especially because I could tell by their voices and the emotions getting out of the room, that Ethan had nothing to fear about his friends, none of them were blaming him for what had happened, maybe they were blaming me instead.
“Ethan?” I called, to let them know I was about to enter the room.
“Mother,” Ethan looked at me, a guilty look on his face, “we have visitors.”
“I see that,” as I looked around at the curious, but not scared faces of the kids, I realized they knew the truth.
“My friends came to visit, they are not mad at me for what happened, but still, I want you to allow me to explain the truth to them.”
“Why are you asking for my permission if you already told them everything?”
“I’m only covering my bases.”
“I see,” I went to Ethan, and I could feel his friends going on alert, staring at me, they were worried I would do something to Ethan, even if the fear I was expecting wasn’t there. “You did good, I know how hard it was for you to hide the truth from them, and I’m grateful that you understood how important it was to keep the secret while there was the chance that Faakhir’s men or anyone else could intercept the information and endanger us. Now things are different, and I’m glad you have friends you can trust with this. I just want you to keep in mind that you have to be very careful who you trust, especially as some secrets are not only about you, and you never know who can get hurt if you trust the wrong person.”
“I’m sure none of them would betray my trust,” Ethan said confidently.
“We would never go against Ethan,” Hye Ki assured me, “we won’t betray his trust,” the rest of the group agreed on that.
“I know, that’s why I encouraged your friendship with my son, I know, thanks to my visions, that you will be his friends for a long time, and that you will support him. I’m actually glad that my son has you as his friends, but I also know that things can change very easily and you never know what the future can bring, and even if my visions show me a good future right now, that only means nothing will happen short term, but things can change.”
“You say you encouraged our friendship? You were always against us,” Dmytro protested.
“And what better way to ensure that your parents wouldn’t intervene in your friendship that being publicly against it?”
“So you manipulated our parents?” Iñaki asked.
“You could say that, but I did it for a good reason.”
“That’s ok,” Dmytro said, “I get it, even after Ethan saved us from Jonas, twice, my father wouldn’t have accepted our friendship if he had suspected you had a good relationship.”
“My father already suspects that’s the case,” Hye Ki said, “he said it wasn’t a good idea for me to keep being Ethan’s friends, but he IS my friend and that won’t change, he wouldn’t do anything to hurt me, so I won’t either.”
“I appreciate it, and as I said, it’s good to see that he has such loyal friends. Still,” I warned Ethan, “you need to keep in mind that even the people who could at one moment give their own lives for you, those who swear they would do anything for you, could change their mind and stab you in the back without warning.”
“Still mad at William?” Ethan asked.
“With him, and at myself, I should have known better, I should have already learned my lesson, one I hope you don’t get to experiment, at least not for a long time.”
“I know, even those you trusted the most could, and in your case, have betrayed you.”
“I wish you didn’t spend so much time inside my head, you are losing your innocence.”
“You know in my position is better to know so I can be prepared.”
“I don’t know what I was expecting, but this is not it,” Oliver said. “Even after hearing my grandmother’s wonderful tales, I can’t help but think of you as a heartless assassin.”
“And still, you are not afraid,” I pointed out.
“Ethan said we had nothing to fear, and we trust him,” Iñaki said.
“I talked to my brother and he told me what had happened,” Hye Ki said shyly, “and I wanted to thank you for saving him and ask your forgiveness for all the bad things I thought about you.”
“Not sorry for trying to kill me?” I asked, taking the girl by surprise.
“Try to kill you? When was that?” Ethan asked, and it was clear he was mad about it. Hye Ki was blushing, feeling bad about the situation.
“You knew about that?”
“There’s little I don’t know. Your parents also tried that, and they were almost successful, but I have to give it to you, you were the youngest one to try that, and not many people would have thought of something like what you did. The small robot you used to carry the poison was, in my husband’s words, an engineering marvel, but I’m sure you could find better uses for it than trying to kill someone. I suggest that next time you take some time to think about the consequences of your actions. Think about it, what if you had succeeded? Would you have felt better? Or would guilt eat at you? It’s not easy to take somebody’s life.”
“Even for you?” Dmytro asked. “It’s clear now that you didn’t kill as many people as you were accused of, but you don’t seem to have a problem killing people, and I have seen the recordings of Emily’s death, and that wasn’t faked, she is definitely dead.”
“I grew up in a different place, where my options were to kill or be killed. I don’t have a problem killing people who deserve it. You could say I was forced to commit my first murder when I was about your age. But things are different here, and you grew up with a different moral compass, one that says is not correct to kill, and puts a heavier burden on you when you do.”
“Can I ask you a question?” Hye Ki said.
“Of course, but I want you to be sure you want the answer. I hope you already realized that I don’t know how to sugarcoat things, I say things as they are.” She took a minute to think about it, and then asked her question.
“For a long time I have gone over that day, when you let my brother fall in my place. I was sure I was going to die that day, and sometimes I think it would have been easier to let them kill me, to stop my brother before he acted, but you didn’t, why?”
“You are right, it would have been easier to stop him, but it wouldn’t have been easier on your father to lose you. I didn’t know the whole story back then, but I knew your father had already lost a daughter, one your brother was a daily reminder of, and I knew how hard it would have been to lose another. Any loss is painful, but I had the feeling that your father was going to be able to deal with your brother’s lost easier than yours.”
“So you did that for my father? But…” Hye Ki didn’t finish her thought, but I could see that she was thinking about my words, they weren’t what she was expecting, and she was realizing that not everything they thought they knew about me was true, even if she couldn’t see that my motives were actually kind of selfish. “You didn’t know us back then, there was no reason to do something like that.”
“Your father had already gone through a lot, he didn’t need to be tortured even more.”
“When my grandparents disappeared,” Oliver cut in, “when we thought you had killed the, there was a rumor, one my mother ignored, that said that Emily had ordered our deaths, and there was an incident when I thought we were going to die, just a few days before my grandparents’ death. What’s the real story?”
“Your mother was too valuable to die, but since they didn’t assign her murder to me, I asked someone to stop the attempt from being successful, and then convinced Emily that her death wasn’t going to help anyone, and that it would be better to kill her parents, so she could see that the threat was real, and then used you and your brother to control your mother. Since their deaths were assigned to me, I was able to take them to a safe place. I’m sorry your grandfather didn’t survive, but I can assure you, there was nothing we could have done to stop his death, it was his time.”
“That’s what my grandma says. I think that we have to thank you, not only for my grandparents’ lives, but also ours. You don’t know much this means to us, thank you,” Oliver said, with all the formality the fifteen year old could use.
“Yes, thank you,” Iñaki added, copying his brother.
“I also have to thank you,” Dmytro said, “I didn’t know my grandparents as well as Oliver knew his, still I was very sad that they were gone. Having them back and having a second chance at knowing them is a great gift. And I know my father is very happy to have them back.”
“You don’t have anything to thank me for, I was just doing my job, what needed to be done. You are making this a bigger deal than it is.”
“Maybe it’s nothing for you, but it’s everything to us,” Oliver said.
“Well, I know you didn’t come here to talk to me, you are here for Ethan, so I will leave you alone.”
I got up and prepared to leave when I heard a discussion from the direction of the entrance, and then I saw William and two guards walking towards me.
“We need to talk,” William said, his voice full of power.
“There’s nothing to talk about. I already warned you not to look for me.”
One side of the room was made out of floor to ceiling windows, you could see the gardens, and farther away, part of the city. I used my powers to open the windows and then I used them to grab William and throw him out. Both guards ran to the windows and one of them jumped behind William. Ethan’s friends were staring in horror at the scene.
“Did you kill him?” Hye Ki finally broke the silence.
“Your brother survived a fall from a plane and you are worried about a few stories?”
“It would be better for you if you could stop doing reckless acts like this,” the remaining guard warned me, “it wouldn’t be a good idea to keep pilling charges against you.”
“You do whatever you want, I don’t care about the stupid trial anyway.”
“You are lucky the King fell into the pond and wasn’t hurt, or you would be in real trouble.”
“Luck had nothing to do with that. And tell your King that if he dares to show his face in front of me again, next time I won’t be so nice. I can’t stand traitors, and that goes for you too. I kind of respect your loyalty, I know you swore loyalty to the Royal House, but you work for me, and if you stand in my way again, you won’t like it.”
“Understood,” the guard said, walking out of the room. It was obvious he was mad at me and wanted to yell back at me, but he wasn’t dumb and knew he would lose if he fought with me.
“I think that kind of confirms that you are still mad at William,” Ethan said.
“If he thinks he can walk into my home as if nothing happened, he has lost his mind,” just by seeing him my mood had turned sour again, and I wasn’t sure if the fact that Ethan’s friends were actually afraid was making things better or worse. The plan was to be feared, wasn’t it?
“Maybe you should talk…” Ethan started to say, before being interrupted.
“I suggest you stop before you finish that sentence,” Kimball said, choosing that moment to walk into the living room. He was wearing a brace on his leg, and using a cane, for a moment I worried I had been to harsh on him, but then I realized that William couldn’t have gotten inside without someone opening the door to him and got angry all over again.
“What happened to you?” Ethan asked, staring at Kimball’s broken leg.
“I finished that sentence and your mother didn’t appreciate it.”
“And as if that wasn’t enough, you go and invite that traitor into my home.”
“I didn’t invite him, I just arrived behind him. I know you understand the concept of diplomacy, you did a great job using it with the Amazons, and even when dealing with Faakhir, so I don’t get why are you acting like this with William.”
“It’s not the same, I knew what I was getting into with them, I knew Faakhir wanted to take advantage of me, and with the Amazons, it was a mutual thing, both trying to get advantage over the other. But William wasn’t supposed to be like that, he was supposed to be on my side.”
“He feels betrayed, maybe if you explained what happened with Faakhir.”
“He knows what happened with Faakhir, he found me out and attacked me, what else is there?” I could feel the eyes on me, I knew the kids were listening and didn’t appreciate it, I didn’t want them to hear more than they were supposed to.
“All I’m saying is that you should talk to him and explain everything that happened, reach an agreement. You are supposed to be trying to stop a war, not cause one.”
I looked out of the still open window, thinking of throwing Kimball out, maybe he would want to cool off in the pond with William.
“Please don’t throw my father out of the window,” Ethan asked.
“Yes, please don’t,” Kimball asked with a pout and a teasing tone, that instead of calming me down only made me angrier.
“I’m out of here, and I suggest you don’t follow me, for your own good,” I warned Kimball.
“Before you go, I just want to insist on how grateful I’m for what you did for my family. You don’t know how much it means for us to have my brother back,” Hye Ki said, extending her hand for me to shake. I decided to accept the gesture and took her hand, and as soon as I did the world around me faded, throwing me into a new one.
I saw a couple of people saying how they were running out of time, then I watched as they reached an agreement and reached a console, typing some commands into it before leaving the place. The vision changed focus and I saw a young girl, her face extremely familiar, even if I had never seen her before. She was locked in a room, and I saw how she started to work as soon as the alarm went off, going to the pile of blankets she used as a bed and retrieving a series of instruments. The focus changed again and I watched the couple I had first seen walking out of a building, trying to get out of there in a hurry, it was then that I realized what was going on and what I needed to do.
When I got out of the vision I was surrounded by curious faces.
“A vision?” Kimball asked, even knowing the answer.
“We have to go,” I said immediately, I had finally got the information I needed to fulfill a promise I had done years before, thanks to the vision.
“You are under arrest, remember? You can’t leave,” Kimball said.
“I don’t care about that. When are you going to understand that I don’t care about William’s whims? You have an hour to get ready if you want to go with me,” I warned Kimball, who only raised a brow and made a huge deal of looking at his leg, as if trying to remind me he was injured. I ignored him and turned back to Hye Ki who was looking confused. “I don’t know if it was because of you, but if you triggered that vision, then I’m very grateful to you. You can stay here as long as you want, don’t worry about anything and have fun.”
I left the room, and used my powers to reach Thalia.
‘I’m sorry,‘ she said as soon as I made contact. ‘We were trying to stop Sofia from reaching you and William slipped by, we didn’t notice until it was too late. Sofia managed to play us, again. Fatima is not happy about it, and we failed you again.‘
‘Don’t worry about that, we have work to do. I want you and Fatima to meet with me at the airport in an hour, we have a mission to complete.‘
“At least could you tell me what’s this about?” Kimball asked, from behind me. He was moving really fast for someone with a broken leg.
“I don’t know, if I tell you, will you go to your new friend and tell him my plans? I don’t want to risk him trying to stop me, I don’t want to have to kill him.”
“You must know I’m on your side, I really think that it would be a good thing to establish some form of communication.”
“I will deal with Sofia and William later, right now I have better things to do.”