We All Fall Down: Part Eight
I drew in a sharp breath.
A thick film of golden magic coated Faith's eyes, coloring every part of them yellow.
I could have sworn that she'd left the house through the front door. And here she was, standing right outside the entrance to the bedroom. Before another thought could pass through my mind, the voice of my mother shouted,
"DON'T ANSWER THE DOOR!"
Rubia, who had been standing near Faith, grabbed the red Xweetok's shoulders as the latter gave way to sudden sleep.
The Hissi held her for a moment, surprised. Faith's eyelids had flashed shut, but she didn't scrunch them. Her mouth was ever-so-slightly open, her loose facial muscles forming a natural frown. Both of her arms hung to the ground, absolutely limp.
"Wow," I muttered. "I've never really stopped and looked at her when she'd like this."
"I have... Usually she looks a lot more like she does when she normally sleeps."
I stared at my fellow Xweetok. She was out cold this time. "She's breathing, right?"
Rubia placed one wing on Faith's side, waited for a few moments, and then nodded. I folded my paws and wished that I could get closer, but I remembered how much it stung to move my broken wing. Rubia got her arms tightly around Faith and said, "I'm taking her into the bedroom. I hope that whoever comes knocking on the door doesn't try barging in."
I gulped at the thought of it. Rubia hoisted Faith up enough that the Messenger's chin rested on Rubia's shoulder. The Hissi dragged her through the bedroom doorway; the door was already open, still flung against the wall. I wouldn't have any problem moving Faith. In fact, Rubia would've asked me to do it if I weren't handicapped. But what if... whoever's coming... does try walking in? I can't move without facing pain. Rubia's strong, but what if I have to fight? What if she needs defending?
Rubia came back into the room and coiled up next to me, gently stroking my good wing. Rubia loves me... I'm almost her son... How far will I go to protect her?
We heard the knock from the kitchen.
One, two, three times. After a silence that was louder than anything, the muffled sound came three times again. Rubia's wingtips became stiff. The breaths we dared to take were shallow and expectant.
Faith was dreamlessly sleeping in the room behind us.
The knocking grew to a rapping. I glanced over at Rubia, who moved closer to me and put a hand on my shoulder. I felt her wingtips trembling and twitching, but her muscles tightened with every passing second. I took a deep breath and let it out again.
When did we become so afraid?
Then there was pounding and smashing. Rubia gasped, pulling me close to her. Shocked at the visitor's fury, I clutched her in return.
She suddenly hissed, "Listen!"
The door was creaking open. That stranger outside finally realized it isn't locked. I stared at Rubia and whispered, "I think we're being robbed."
The very next moment, we heard screaming.
It was a male voice that gave way to that staggered shriek. I'd done screaming like that. I whispered to Rubia, "He's falling down the stairs!"
"Ha!" she snorted.
Her amusement was short-lived: the very next second, the scream ended with "Oof!"
Rubia turned in the direction of the foyer and asked, "What do you want?" The intruder's form was little more than a silhouette moaning on the floor.
"Well, what is it? I've been warned. I know I don't want you here."
"Y-you need to come outside i-i-immediately..."
Rubia placed her wings on her hips. The trespasser coughed. I got to my feet, hoping that I wouldn't have to move away from the table, and said, "Whatever you want, you're not getting it. We don't have anything of value."
"Huh? No, it's an emergency..." he said, rose, and entered our room.
I gasped and shouted at the same time. What?! Faith and I are supposed to be the only Creator's Age Xweetoks!
I glanced over at Rubia, who was as confused as I was. She snarled at the green-striped Xweetok.
"What kind of emergency?" she jeered, slithering closer to him.
"A Chix emergen—"
I hastily mentioned, "That Huntress vanished months ago."
"No, she didn't." He turned his head to look at me. "I thought you knew what happened to her. Anyways, she's in terrible danger now. You need to go outside and save her."
"You liar," Rubia hissed. "Thief, that girl's asleep and comfortable in this house right now!"
"N-no, surely you're mistaken – Chix is out there and—"
"Nobody's supposed to know that name. Nobody. Whoever does know it isn't supposed to use it."
Rubia got closer to him. I saw his eyes bulge and his nose twitch. He took a step back, but Rubia suddenly flicked her tail around one of his ankles. The intruder jerked backwards in fear with a squeak, but the Hissi only tightened her grip.
"How do you know that name, and why did you use it?" she demanded.
"I've always known and used it," he said, shrinking away from Rubia as best as he could. But when he tried pulling his ankle out of the Hissi's tail, she kept her grip.
"You mean that you've known her," she mused. "A mildly interesting turn of events."
The intruder took a deep sigh, closing his eyes. And then he punched her in the jaw. She yelled and lost her grip on him.
"RUBIA!" I knew that Rubia was sturdy, but I couldn't help running to her. She moaned, placing a wing to the side of her head. Ignoring the blaring pain in my own wing, I asked, "You're alright, aren't you?"
"Cerulean! Concentrate on—"
The green Xweetok punched her again, and she withdrew, still gasping in pain. He turned to me, but I quickly blocked his fist the moment it shot into the air. He tried kicking at me, but I dodged. I pounced and pinned him to the ground.
He gasped for air as I stood atop him, pinning his shoulders down. I glared him in the face as he struggled left and right. A few seconds later, he glanced into my eyes, and stopped squirming.
"Let me go. I said Faith's in trouble," he fearfully blurted. Rubia slithered to us, watching closely.
"So it's Faith now, huh?" I asked, leaning in to him.
"No, I mean—"
I clamped my paw over his mouth. He rolled his eyes, and then tried punching me with his now-free hand. But Rubia snapped her tail around his arm before his fist reached me.
"What kind of trouble?" I hissed under my breath.
"Hunter trouble." His answer was quick, like it was just a prepared lie.
"You're making this up," Rubia snapped. "If we let you up, will you get out of our lives?"
He furrowed his eyebrows. Doubt. The Hissi narrowed her eyes and tightened her coil on his arm. He shouted, "Alright, alright!"
I stepped off of him and Rubia released her grip. He got to his feet and bolted for the stairs.
That's it? What a coward.
I realized I was gritting my teeth. My bent wing was still in maniacal pain. "Uh... Rubia?"
She gasped and helped me over to the table.
"Argh... hurts so much... Rubia, if you're going to help me again, thanks for agreeing to do it a third time..."
"It'd be wrong if I scolded you now. You got up so you could help me. Besides, it doesn't look that bad... The most I can do is give you a little something to take the edge off the pain."
"You had a painkiller earlier?!"
I was effortlessly floating in the soft darkness, drowsy and secure. There was a thick, sweet scent in the air. I sensed that I'd been stirred to inner wakefulness for a reason, though, so I kept conscious as best as I could. What did the Creator have to tell me?
I saw her mouth and golden eyes appear in front of me. Her greeting was warm, but she said it in a way that reminded me that I was below her.
'Creator... You possessed me, didn't you? But I can't remember what you did...'
'That isn't important now. Rest, my messenger. All you need to know now is that Cerulean and Rubia are going to be safe... Faith, thank you. When I wake up, and tell you the truth, I know you won't be angry.'
'Thanks?... Truth?... I'm... so sleepy... Can't... remember anything... what did I do?'
And then I fell back into darkness.
I scurried up the flight of stairs as fast as I could.
I had walked into the home of people who thought they didn't need a lock. They thought that nobody needed locks. They hadn't known that I existed. I was someone who would have been stopped by a lock.
But maybe they didn't need a lock after all.
They had no treasures. They were valuable enough. They were the reason I'd entered, but also the ones who drove me away with ease. I was a fool... I thought that revenge would have been easier.
I reached the top of the stairs and slammed the door behind me.
Then I sprinted outside and didn't stop. I heard a shout of, "Wait!" as Siana was limping up behind me. "Where are they? You said you'd have them out before you left!"
"Sorry, I'll let you have the red one!" I yelled behind me as I kept running for my home. "Just follow me!"
After a few minutes, we were at my home. I told the Huntress to wait outside.
"Just like last time, huh?" she asked, leaning on her walking stick.
"You can't be serious. You know that you wouldn't fit inside. That's why I said, wait outside."
I walked in and began to cough.
My campfire was smoldering, and the air was thick with the sweet smoke of burning wood. I grabbed a burning stick to light my way, burying my face in my arm.
I started to cough into my elbow as I entered the room I'd left Faith in. Suppressing the tickle in my throat, I yelled out, "Chix? Faith, I mean, you need to come quickly. Your friends are in danger. C'mon, hurry!"
"I said c'mon, or are you already dead?!"
Someone's fist smashed into the door several times.
I ran outside, dropping the torch on the ground. "Siana, what do you want?!" I shouted as I flung the front door open and stepped outside.
"There – there is no prize! She's gone!"
She kicked the door shut, and quite purposefully stomped on my tail.
"Ow!! What's that for?!"
I jumped away as she lifted her foot. Siana stepped in the spot I'd been in, and she aimed her net blaster at me.
I realized what she was doing.
"No! Don't shoot! No, I said stop!"
I turned and ran as soon as the net came around me. I shouldn't have done that.
Siana didn't even chase me until it tightened too much for me to move. I fell. Then she approached me.
"No! Stop! What're you doing?!"
She picked my net up and slung me over one shoulder. She was still limping, but she'd caught me. I'd let her.
"No! Turn around! Put me down!"
"I see no reason to. If you can't give me the winged one, or at least the red one, I guess I'll have to settle with you."
"So who was that guy who walked in our house right after you were possessed?" I crossly asked Faith as soon as she lazily stumbled into the kitchen about a week later.
"...Huh?" she said and turned her head to me.
Cerulean, who still had his wing propped up on the table, looked at her for a minute. His ears twitched with amusement. "Good morning. Just so you know, you've been out for several days."
"It is morning, right?... Or are you messing with me?" she asked, blinking.
Well, honey does catch more flies than vinegar.
"No, it's the afternoon," I hissed. "Faith, who was that man?... The green Xweetok?"
Faith choked on air, jerking forward. "H-him? He got inside?"
"Yes, now who was he?" I demanded.
Alright, I admit, I hadn't slept well the previous night.
"Rubia, you w-wouldn't be angry at me, would you?" she squeaked, stepping away from me.
"Would I now?" I asked, leaning closer to her. Faith hadn't been that nervous around me since we first met. I questioned her, "Tell me, did the Creator possess you by force to warn us?"
"No ma'am, I let her."
"Try not to be so hard on her, Rubia."
I whipped around at Cerulean's voice. "Can you try to keep out of this?"
Faith took a couple of fearful steps towards her fellow Xweetok. I said, "I'm not too fond of our home being broken into. You were sort of wanting the opposite thing to happen, correct?"
"Of course I didn't want our house broken into!"
"You say it like that's obvious." I narrowed my eyes. "Okay, maybe it is a little obvious you didn't want your own home broken into, but only a little. And maybe it really wasn't being broken into... Just walked into. So what's your part of the story? Who was that intruder?"
She glanced away.
"Go ahead. I won't be mad."
"Alright... I... I used to know the guy who broke in... and he's in cahoots with Siana."
"Good grief!" I spat.
Cerulean just stared at her for a moment. He asked, "Was he the one who taught you how to hunt?"
I felt the air around Faith grow cold. After several moments of bitter pain, she gave him nothing but a tiny nod.
"Faith, enlighten me." I nudged her. She looked ashamed and uncomfortable.
"He sorta found me as a Creator's Age Xweetok when I was on the Val mission and, well, he caught me." She winced. "I recognized him, and I had to explain who I was to get away. I don't know how he got to be a Creator's Age Xweetok. He still calls me by my former name in the occasional run-in with him. I hate him now."
Faith looked hurt. Crushed.
"He's always been a broken person. I don't know why I ever liked him." Faith's eyes flitted down to the floor. "Probably because I was such a stupid selfish jerk back then that he was the only person on my level. He used Siana to try and catch me for him... Well, let's just say that the first person who tried kidnapping me did a much better job at it." She took a very deep breath and then let it out again. "His house, just an abandoned one he'd been squatting in, is connected to ours for some reason. I don't know if he knew that or not. I found the passageway back here with some help from the Creator. She possessed me so I could get here quicker and warn you both."
I was genuinely impressed. Maybe Faith had done a lot of wrong a very long time ago, but now, nothing could keep her from doing right. I patted her on the shoulder. "You couldn't avoid it all. You didn't cause it. Don't feel guilty."
"But I—I did cause it all! Rubia, I'm just so... so sorry! I feel terrible, please, forgive me!"
"Calm down, Faith! You're as much of a victim here as Cerulean and me, if not more so!"
She was startled, but relieved. "Sorry, that was probably overreacting. Still... I know I should have told you earlier that there was a Hunter who recognized me."
I noticed Cerulean staring at his folded paws. Naturally, I asked with a hint of exasperation, "What is it, Cerulean?"
"Makes me feel bad since I never properly apologized..."
"For what?" I questioned.
"How rude I'd been to you and Faith a few days ago."
"Well, of course we couldn't be mad at you for that!" Faith exclaimed.
He glanced her in the eyes. "...Glad you're quick to forgive, Faith."
"Come on, how could I stay mad at you for anything?"
Cerulean rested his good wing on her, but I barely noticed. Something was harassing the back of my mind. Unfinished business.
I nailed what the feeling was: guilt. The same thing that Cerulean and Faith had just gone through. Just think, I asked myself, what is it that I did recently that I could possibly feel bad about? I've been comforting Faith and healing Cerulean. What have I done that I need to confess? Thinking about it was driving me mad.
And then it hit me, but knowing what it was felt worse than trying to figure it out.
Rubia... Rubia, you monster! You could've kept Faith out of a very, very difficult situation! You could've prevented her from missing a week of her life! You could've... Could've... Could've let Cerulean know that he wouldn't have to worry about Siana anymore at all!
I gathered my courage, and said, "Siana... Siana could have been gone right now."
"Huh?" Cerulean said.
"Rubia, what do you mean?" Faith asked. "Can you... rephrase that?"
"Siana could have been gone, if it weren't for me."
"What did you do to help that runt?" Cerulean hissed.
"She was stuck. In a crack in the ground she hadn't noticed. She was dangling by her foot and could barely move. I helped her get un-stuck. If it weren't for me, she could have much more than a hurt ankle right now."
"Why?" Faith wondered. "Rubia, what reason could you have...?"
"Simple. She made me feel guilty. And even if I didn't feel much guilt by helping her then, I sure do feel it now. Even if it's right to forgive our enemies, it's wrong to let a dangerous person go."
The moment I finished saying that, my eyes met those of Faith and Cerulean, my children. I realized that we could have prevented each other a whole lot of anguish if we'd only listened to our hearts and each other. The past week could have been painless. If only Cerulean and I hadn't let ourselves be tempted by easy ways out...
I took another deep breath and let it out again.
"I guess... I guess that, since we've all sinned at one point in time... and we'll all sin again sooner or later... we don't have any reason not to forgive each other."
They looked at me and nodded. They looked inviting... sitting down, completely idle... serene... at peace.
I wrapped a wing around each of them. Faith hugged me back, and Cerulean rested his head on my shoulder with a content sigh. We finally overcame our greatest enemies... ourselves.