True Deception, Chapter 21

All of a sudden, I woke up surrounded by metal bars! It bewildered me as to how I got there, and it mystified me as to how I would get out! All I saw around me was a sea of pitch black until a faint green light illuminated a figure that turned out to be Birsha! She leered malevolently and then jeered, “So, you thought you could defeat me, huh? I’m about to show you what a grave mistake that was!”

            I swiveled my head to view Violet’s reaction to this, and I realized that I had grown so used to having her by my side that it took me a while to notice that she wasn’t there! With Birsha’s emphasis on the word grave, I began to worry about Violet’s fate! “Where’s Violet?”

            “Oh, you’ll soon find out! First, I wanted to have a little talk with you…” She leaned against my enclosure and more seriously asked, “Why did you cause so much trouble?”

            “Because people are suffering!” I answered emphatically. “I wanted to fight for a better future!”

            Birsha coldly stated, “All you did was break into a few buildings and get into a couple of clashes! Actually, that’s not true… You also caused a lot of structural damage too! And for what? What good came from all of these stunts?”

            I felt remorseful for the negative outcomes of our endeavor, but ultimately, I didn’t regret a single minute of it! “I got the satisfaction of doing the right thing! At least when history books will look back on what I did, they’ll see that I made the morally correct choices!”

            “You really think historians will compliment an outlaw who achieved nothing?” Birsha prodded me.

            “What do you want? Why don’t you just kill me already?” I had no desire to end my life, but I refused to allow her to subjugate me to this mental torture before she enacted whatever plot she intended for me! Plus, if I was meant to die that day, I wasn’t about to go out sniveling from fear or regret! If I had to perish, I would insist on doing so with dignity and honor!

            Birsha’s eyes lit up with a demonic delight usually only found in an animal planning to play with its prey, and she maniacally told me, “Because I’m a Fallen- I’m not here to murder you, you deserve a punishment! You wanna know what it is so badly? Well, let’s get started then!”

            The rest of the lights in the room came on, and to my horror, I saw Violet laying on the floor bound and gagged! She looked absolutely terrified as Birsha approached her, and it became clear that she was going to penalize me by hurting her! That was more than my heart could stand, and I ran to the edge of my cage to shout, “No!” I wanted to reach out to her, but she was far out of my range! There was nothing I could do to help her, and that drove me crazy!

            Birsha cackled, “Aw, what’s the matter? Did you love her? Well, you should have thought about that before you crossed the line with me!” She raised her hands to strike her with a hex, and I basically jumped out of my skin as she executed her magic…

            I bolted up with my chest panting and my whole body sweating! It took a moment for it to register to me that in reality, I hadn’t left the healing clinic of that Buddhist temple, and although it relieved me to learn that none of those dreadful images I had just witnessed were real, the experience still disturbed me! Even the mere concept of seeing Violet in agony rattled my senses! I gazed to the makeshift bed next to me, and it comforted me to no end to behold her slumbering safely! Obviously, that sleeping draught that Lama Malva gave us worked on her! I could hear snoring from the men who slept on both sides of our curtained room, so apparently, I was the only one who was awake at that hour! Well, not counting the person who was guarding the entrance to this space. Luckily, he was too busy watching the outside to pay attention to my animation! Even if I wanted to tell someone about my vision, I couldn’t do it because of all of the secrets it contained! I would tell Violet about what occurred when I got the chance, but unfortunately, we hadn’t gotten an opportunity to be alone since we got here! We couldn’t’ even privately have a discussion with Samaya to learn all she knew about the resistance to Birsha’s Army since these two meditation pupils fell ill! As I laid back down, I inwardly prayed that our prospect for success would feel less grim and that we would get to pursue our mission again soon!

            “Did you hear something?” Violet opened her eyes to whisper that question to me.

            “No, I just had a bad dream,” I quietly informed her. As I spoke to her, I observed a lot of red lines that marred her beautiful eyes, so I surmised that she had a bout of insomnia as well, which made me a little sad! She was such an amazing person, and she had been through so much that she didn’t deserve to get deprived of a period of peace like that! “How come you can’t sleep?”

            Violet explained, “I got woken up ‘cause I needed to go to the bathroom, and I couldn’t relax after that! My mind kept racing about all of the things we gotta do, and I wondered if we’ll ever get a chance to do any of it…”

            I firmly reassured her, “We will! We’ll find a way to make it happen one way or another!”

            “How? Even if we overpowered the people supervising us, we would still have to contend with the Fallens patrolling the perimeter! How could we get past them without a weapon? I don’t wanna use the last of my life force on those jerks!” Violet stared out into the distance with an expression full of worry.

            “No, you won’t have to do that!” I assured her. “There’s gotta be more than one way to leave this property! Lama Malva said they were pretty much self-sufficient, so I doubt she would say that if she didn’t take every single measure possible to secure it! She must have some sort of emergency exit! She did mention that we could explore the area when we felt better, so maybe tomorrow we can search for this backdoor.”

            Violet seemed a bit mollified by this notion. “Yeah, or we can try getting a one-on-one with her to get her take on the situation. If she is a Guardian, she could get convinced to help us!” She faced me once more and smiled broadly. “Thanks! You always make me feel better when I’m feeling down!”

            I can’t describe how much this sight elated my spirits! Additionally, her admiration of my character flattered me in an incredibly intense way! I tried not to show her my enthusiasm in case it freaked her out, so as casually as I could, I responded to her, “I feel the same way about you! I couldn’t have gotten through this without you!” I gave her a friendly pat on the back, and the warmth of her body felt absolutely soothing! I didn’t believe my nightmare had any truth to it until right then, one accusation Birsha made seemed accurate… I always had faith in a positive outcome for our quest, but what if it didn’t end well for us? It would burn me up if I never got to do anything passionate with her! I denoted how close she was to me, how easy it would have been to kiss her… I pondered if this was my only shot at doing this…

            Lama Malva burst into the room unexpectedly, and I grew mad at myself for my hesitation with Violet! I acknowledged that it was still plausible that I would get another opening to go for it, but I felt skeptical of that premise because my gut suggested we wouldn’t get another slow interval like that again for a long time! Lama Malva asked the attendant of this clinic, “The kitchen has breakfast ready for any early risers, has anyone…?” She answered that by surveying her surroundings, and when she spotted us, she remarked, “Oh, I didn’t expect you two to wake up so soon! Do you feel strong enough to walk? If not, we can bring some food to you.”

            I hadn’t considered whether I had the physical strength to complete that task or not prior to her bringing it up, but for the sake of our vital operation, I was willing to force myself to get off the ground if I had to! We had to unearth a route out of this establishment, and it seemed unlikely that anyone would volunteer that information to us, so the only possibility for us to discover it was to explore the area for ourselves! I confidently conveyed to Lama Malva, “I’m sure we’re well enough to do some walking now!”

            With a little wobbling, I managed to lift myself up! Lama Malva came over to assist me with the finish, and we both supported Violet as she got up. Once we were both firmly on our feet, Lama Malva invited us, “Well, shall we then?”

            As we crossed from one building to the next, Lama Malva purposely travelled in a manner that covered us from the detection of whatever Fallen lurked on the street. I certainly appreciated her intentions, but this sort of annoyed me. I wanted to see for myself what we were up against! Right before we entered the main hall, I finally caught a glimpse of one of them! He gave me a malicious grin, and I got the impression that he wanted to communicate to me that we could take as long as we liked to vacate this vicinity since he had a masterplan all worked out! I hoped the expression I bore let him know that Violet and I would not get intimidated by their antics!

            The dining hall of this community had several low-reaching tables all lined up in one row. It felt strange to park myself on the floor to eat, but the meal made me forget all about my discomfort in this event! It wasn’t anything fancy, but it was refreshing to chow down on some naturally grown food for a change of pace! Violet and I got disappointed that we weren’t the only ones eating at this early hour, which meant we weren’t able to discourse with Lama Malva pertaining to anything that involved the revolt against Birsha’s regime! After our meal, we were invited to attend her worship session, and we could hardly decline in order to wander the premises alone, so we agreed to join them. The sizeable hall contained lengthy mats and an ornate altar but no visible means of a secure departure. Lama Malva consented to give us a tour of the facility afterwards, but she got so bogged down by tending to her guests’ needs that we had to skip it and go straight to lunch! Thankfully, lunchtime wasn’t a total waste…

            “My brother got arrested for voter fraud!” one patron glumly announced. “It wasn’t his fault though! No one ever explained that you gotta cancel your old voter registry if you move somewhere else! They claimed he was gonna vote twice! It’s such garbage!”

            “It seems like they’re just looking for an excuse to throw everyone in jail!” someone else complained. “I’m so tired of this bull! Why isn’t anyone doing anything about it?”

            Lama Malva very as-a-matter-of-factly stated, “Oh, people are! They keep their strategies a secret for their own protection ‘cause they would get tried for treason if they got caught, so we may not know who they are, but trust that we won’t have to endure this suffering forever!” She garnered the utmost attention of Violet and me with that insight! Was she referring to us, or did she have her own tactics of defiance against Birsha in the works? Either way, I took that as a promising sign of her reaction to our basis for disappearing from this territory!

            After we cleared our plates, Lama Malva notified us, “I got to harvest some of our crops. You two are welcome to-.”

            Violet proposed, “Jack and I can help you!” Lama Malva appeared reluctant on permitting us to engage in an activity so strenuous, so Violet ensured her, “If we start to feel sick, we’ll stop and go rest, but we would really like to do as much as we can so we can pay you back for your hospitality!” Her logic was effective- Lama Malva allowed us to participate in her gardening!

            Without saying it out loud, we both highly anticipated this endeavor in the expectation of the occasion to talk to Lama Malva by ourselves, but to our dismay, many individuals had beaten us there! We pitched in anyways and crossed our fingers that sticking this chore out until its conclusion would grant us the circumstance we desired! We ended up not even coming close to her though! At one point, we worked besides Samaya, and we almost initiated a conversation with her, but then somebody else jumped in to chat! We nearly deemed the entire day as a total loss, but then…

            As I approached the edge of the temple’s greenery, I stumbled across it- a gate! A gate that led to a pathway in the woods behind the property! It was our way out! I covertly nudged Violet and ushered her to it, and I could see the light of comprehension dawn on her face! She nodded, and we wordlessly concurred that as soon as we could, we would make our way there! We got the window to do that during her evening meditation session. Everyone else closed their eyes and concentrated inwardly, so Violet and I snuck out through the exit facing the plants during this exercise!

            “Too bad we never looked up where that school is!” Violet articulated when we got out of the congregation’s earshot.

            “We’ll figure it out!” I reassured her. The closer we got to the gate, the more nervous I became! I didn’t look forward to giving a plausible rationale for our venture if we got caught in the act! “It’s kinda hard to believe we got to finally move on! I mean, I know we only stayed here for a day, but still…”

            Violet shared my sentiments, “Yeah, it felt like we were gonna be here for an eternity! I have no idea how we’re gonna get into that school, but one step at a time!” When we were reached the gate, Violet posed to me, “Care to do the honors, or should I?”

            A voice from behind us pronounced, “I’m afraid I can’t let either of you go anywhere!”

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