True Deception, Chapter 22

“We have to go!” Violet insisted. “We can’t let the ugliness that’s taken over society carry on another minute longer than it has to!”

            “I agree, the Fallens’ evil must stop,” Lama Malva responded, “but it shouldn’t get stopped by the two of you! I admire your willing spirits, but you’re not physically capable of taking on their forces! A couple of weak Guardians can’t take on a whole army of Deities!”

            I corrected her, “I’m not a Guardian, actually.”

            She blinked in surprise when she heard this. “Really? I could have sworn…” I shook my head to iterate my point, and when she finally accepted this fact, she exclaimed, “That’s all the more reason for you two not to do this! You got lucky when I found you, you may not be as lucky next time around!”

            “We’re not going into this blindly,” I assured her. “We know there’s a chance we may not live long enough to see our mission get completed, but if we don’t continue this, we could end up dead anyways! We already crossed the line with Birsha, so it’s not like we’d stay safe if we quit right now!”

            “You would be if you stayed here,” Lama Malva argued. “We have everything you need to survive, you could remain with us and keep yourselves alive for a lot longer!”

            Violet debated her, “What kind of life would we live if we could never leave the premises? I know you spend most of your time here, but when you need a break, you have the freedom to leave! If we decided to hide here forever, we would live like prisoners ‘til the end of our days!”

            Lama Malva differed, “You wouldn’t have to do it for years! I’m sure once they realize you plan on leaving them alone, they will give up their pursuit of you and you can roam where you want to!”

            “Birsha isn’t gonna allow us to exist on this planet knowing all that we do!” I contended. “Besides, we’re getting framed for murder, so if we did decide to camp out with you, eventually the police would figure out where we are and throw us in prison! Then they’d take you down for assisting us! You’re probably already in trouble for what you’ve done already!”

            “Don’t you think I know that?” Lama Malva shot back. “Haven’t you noticed that I haven’t once asked either of you for your names? I knew who you were when I took you on!”

            Violet challenged her, “So, it’s okay for you to take risks but not us?”

            Lama Malva reasoned, “I thought I could change how the world sees you. They would observe your reformation and would forget their previous misconceptions about your character!”

            “Birsha will never let anyone forget!” I retorted. “The only way to clear our names is to destroy the stronghold that Birsha has over the world! If we don’t do this, we’ll be hated as long as we’re permitted to breathe!”

            “That’s not true!” Lama Malva dissented. “There are others who are embarking on this quest! You’re not the only ones who are fighting this battle! Why can’t you wait for somebody more capable to prevail?”

            I asserted, “That person might not be in any condition to fight! Look, we’re not trying to obliterate Birsha’s entire army ourselves, that would be lunacy! We’re not able to do that, but someone out there is! We’re looking for the Arch Deity- they have the power to save us all from this reigning evil! No one has a clue what’s holding them back from doing it immediately, but Violet and I are gonna find our why they haven’t already acted and persuade them to do it! After they get going, our role will be finished, but this cause is too important to not have every individual who can scout for them out there trying to flesh them out so they can do what they were chosen to do! Listen, we appreciate you giving up some of your life force to revive us, but you can’t prevent us from doing what’s right!”

            My words seemed to have had a profound impact on Lama Malva! She hung her head low and appeared incredibly guilty for her actions, but despite all that, she still come across as ready to give us permission to go. She mulled it over for a minute, and then she concluded, “You’re not wrong, but it would be irresponsible for me to have you two venture out alone! You wouldn’t do well on your own!”

            “You could join us,” Violet offered. “Your powers are probably much stronger than mine!”

            “They are, but I couldn’t leave my temple,” Lama Malva relayed to us.

            Samaya entered into our proximity and inquired, “Lama Malva, I wrapped up that meditation session for you! What are you doing out here?”

            Lama Malva recommended, “Samaya can accompany you.”

            “Accompany them where?” Samaya replied.

            “They’re trying to unearth the Arch Deity’s location,” Lama Malva informed her.

            Samaya’s eyes grew wide with alarm. “I assumed you wanted me to take them somewhere on the temple grounds! You want me to guard them on a dangerous journey? How can I do that when I’ve dedicated my whole being to non-violence?”

            Lama Malva assured her, “You do not have to do harm to anyone! They need protection, and we can’t maintain a clear conscious if they leave under their present condition! They don’t need you to participate in any combative measures, they simply need a watchful eye until that task can get passed on to someone else.”

            Her rationale obviously made sense to her, so she obliged, “Okay. I can take care of them until they find somebody else to do it.” She turned to us and asked, “Ready to go?”

            “We’ve been ready to go for a while, we just got caught in the act!” Violet wryly answered. Samaya giggled at her quip and then used her watch to shine a small light on our path.

            “Good luck, you three!” Lama Malva bade us.

            I responded to her, “Thank you for everything!” She smiled warmly at us, and we returned her gesture. We then faced the forest behind the gate again. This was it, we were finally on our way once more! Her impression of our well-being daunted me slightly, but I couldn’t succumb to my anxiety at such a critical juncture! We not only needed to ensure that Samaya returned to this facility intact, but we had to achieve victory while we still had an iota of strength left in us! I took a deep breath and opened the gate. I sort of expected to instantly get ambushed by sinister entities, but nothing heinous occurred to us! I was reminded of my many other trips inside of Sylph’s Hollow, and I told myself that this walk the woods was no different! And with that in mind, we set off onto the treelined trail!

            During the onset of our trek, we all walked in silence. Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t have had any problems making small talk, but since we embarked on a potentially dangerous journey, it hardly seemed appropriate! How could we chitchat about our favorite movies and television shows when we had the possibility of getting attacked at any given moment! I didn’t think that we would have much to discuss anyways- she was half our age and devoted her life to religious activities, so she led a very different lifestyle before Violet and I first fled from Birsha’s Army! Violet and I would have loved to go over our operation, but not in front of Samaya! She already could have potentially gotten herself in peril for the little she did so far, so we really didn’t want to add more motivation for our adversaries to hunt her down! Besides, at the first opportunity we had to do so, we planned on sending her away. Violet and I clearly didn’t converse about this out loud, but I got the sense we were on the same wavelength on this issue. We may have wound up spending years scouring the land for the Arch Deity, and I doubted that Samaya anticipated accompanying us for that much of a stretch, so, for her own good, we needed to separate as soon as we had the opening!

            “Where are we going?” Samaya abruptly broke the quiet.

            “Huh?” I heard her perfectly, I just needed a second to pull myself out of my trance! It slowly registered to me that we had come to a fork in the road, so naturally, she wanted to know what direction we were heading. A part of me didn’t want to mention it to her for her own safety, but neither Violet nor I had any inkling of what route we ought to take, so I supposed that I didn’t really have much of a choice in this instance. “We’re trying to get to Monico Elementary School. Do you know where it is?”

            Samaya confidently verbalized, “Of course! It’s not far from here!”

            We turned left, and Violet reacted with a slight disbelief, “Really? All I can see is trees in front of us! Is it kinda hidden?”

            “Not at all. Maybe it just seems shorter driving there. I’ve never actually walked down Sentinel Expressway! I know this path goes alongside it even though I haven’t actually gone this far before! I mean, I went into the woods plenty of times to gather firewood and wild berries, but I haven’t traveled this far until now! I’m pretty sure this trail will take us all the way there! It’ll be fine!” Samaya rambled in a manner that very much showcased her nerves.

            “You’re darn right it’ll be fine! There’ nothing too drastic in the forest!” I meant to give Samaya some reassurance, but all I did was make Violet give me a reproachful look! I didn’t understand it initially, but then after a quick memory jog, I recalled what prompted her to do that, “Oh, well, there’s some bears and stuff, but I can’t imagine that they would put a pathway through a bear’s territory! The construction crew would get eaten alive!”

            Samaya chuckled at my bit of humor, and then I expected her to expound on her newfound confidence. Instead, she shocked us by stating, “Oh, I’ve dealt with plenty of bears! Wolves too!”

            I rapidly blinked for a beat, and then I remarked, “And you claim you never went this far into the woods!”

            “I didn’t! They come around the temple a lot, especially at night.” Samaya observed my horrified expression, so she clarified, “Lama Malva did a spell around the compound so they can’t hurt any of our visitors! We make sure people don’t go out the backdoor once the sun starts to set too. That’s how Lama Malva caught you leaving.”

            I could have delved more into how that system worked, but a tune popped into my head that I couldn’t get rid of! After listening to it for a moment, I couldn’t help but share my status with my companions, “That reminds me of a song…”

            Violet exclaimed, “I knew it! I knew you would bring that up!”

            “Bring what up?” Samaya wondered.

                        “She caught me leaving, leaving out the backdoor!

                        The darkness can’t hide me anymore!

                        I didn’t wanna end things in such a bad way,

                        but now she knows, she knows I can’t stay!”

            I sang this ballad enthusiastically in hopes that she would recognize it, but her blank face only heightened by my demonstration, so I explained, “It’s from Luke Ladon! Please tell me you’ve heard of him!”

            To my relief, she recollected that reference! “Yeah, duh! Everyone’s heard of him! He’s a legend! But I don’t remember him doing that track! I guess he did a lot more than just ‘Don’t Stop Dreaming’ and ‘Freaky Dance!’”

            I excitedly filled her in, “He did so much more! Did you know he once had a number one record on the country charts? And he worked on the soundtrack for-!”

            “Jack!” Violet interrupted me.

            “Sorry!” I apologized. “I didn’t mean to-.”

            She cut me off again, “Shh! I heard something…”

            We all froze and became eerily hushed as we concentrated on hearing what was occurring in our surroundings. I detected the faint sound of whooshing, and originally, I attributed this noise to the wind, but to my dread, I realized it wasn’t a mere breeze, and it was getting closer! “Run!” I directed to the others.

            The three of us sprinted towards the temple, but then we spotted a figure on a hoverboard barreling at us at full speed! We switched back to our former course, but then we spotted a couple of people coming from that site too! We attempted to dart into the trees, but one of the invaders held his hand up to us and ordered, “Don’t move!”

            “Don’t hurt us! We’re cooperating!” I held my hands in the air and prayed that this armored trio would show us mercy.

            “Yeah, right!” the female of the group spat. “We know what you did to our comrades, you’re not gonna fool us so easily!”

            The man behind us interrogated us, “Who’s your friend?”

            Violet commanded, “Leave her out of this!”

            “Look at you! You really think we’ll obey you!” the first man snickered.

            “Fine, don’t reveal her identity! If she wants to fight against us, she can die with you!” the female decreed.

            Samaya turned to us and fretfully uttered, “I’m so sorry, but I have to do this…” My pulse raced infinitely faster as she raised her arm and shot a hex at us before we could even attempt to escape…

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