“Are you two okay?” a woman with a wheatish complexion, a soft jawline, and a short but trim body gazed at me with her light gray eyes full of concern.
“We’re fine, just tired!” I bolted out of my seat to portray myself as alert and ready to work. She had an aura of gentleness to her, but I didn’t want to take any chances at such a critical juncture! She surveyed the two of us with great interest, and since I had no way of knowing whether or not her intentions meant well, I gruffly asked her, “What do you want?”
Her tone became more formal as she answered, “Well, when I was setting up my classroom for our next project, I noticed my window was open. It looked like it was forced open from outside! I was just wondering if you any video of it happening.”
It never occurred to me that I should prepare for this possibility! Sitting in the camera room and watching the monitors didn’t bother me, but I had no idea how to pull up past footage! I turned to Violet to see if she had any clues what to do, and her blank expression indicated that she did not. I fretted that the inability to do this customary function of the job would blow our cover, and I prepared myself to fumble my way around this equipment in hopes of figuring it out on the fly, but luckily, this teacher proposed, “Perhaps you’d like to take a look at the window?”
I tried not to appear too relieved as I agreed to her suggestion, “Okay, we’ll check it out.”
With all of the discussions that went on over the weekend, it struck me as odd that no one brought up what room that intruder we found tried to break into! I should have realized that a person breaking into the art room, the one slice of individualism and creativity in this school that led me to believe that a Guardian or maybe even the Arch Deity occupied this space, was highly significant! I had nearly forgotten about my curiosity of the name I found in there, and now that I stood in her vicinity, my whole perspective on this situation changed! Instead of striving to maintain appearances, Violet and I could delve into the inner workings of the Fallens’ scholastic scheme! I suddenly grew very excited- I wanted to learn the truth when school resumed, but I didn’t expect it to happen so soon!
Violet and I peered at the damage that the trespasser had done, but our attention didn’t linger there long since we already knew what went on at that spot. We quickly diverted our focus back to Gabrielle Vinetra, and I inquired, “Do you store anything valuable in here that might attract thieves?”
“The only thing in here with any monetary value would be the microphones they hide in each room,” Gabrielle replied as she pulled out a piece of paper from her desk and began scribbling something down. I used her temporary distraction to cringe; I always knew that the school could be bugged, but it was a huge disappointment to confirm this chance as a fact! How would we question her about the Fallens’ involvement at this establishment with our adversaries’ ears all around us? “I mean, my kids’ work has value to me, but I doubt anyone else would wanna keep them!” She pushed the paper towards us as if she wanted us to take a peek at it…
“Do you have any enemies?” Violet posed to her as we read what she wrote. It shocked us to see her enquiring if her brother was okay! Why would she mention something like that to us? How would we know about his well-being? Unless…
Of course! That man who we apprehended resembled her in so many ways! “I have an abusive ex-husband, but he moved to the west coast…” As she went on, we jotted down that he was fine, but then we gave her the largest inquiry that presently burned in the forefront of our minds- why would her brother break into her classroom?
Violet probed, “Have you seen anything strange go on around here lately?” As she talked, Gabrielle doled out a written reply. Apparently, he wanted to disable the surveillance in her room even though she begged him not to do it.
“Nothing out of the ordinary…” Gabrielle responded as she read what I was writing, which was a wonderment as to why he would do that. She scribed her explanation, and it floored me to read that she wanted to discuss the mission to locate the Arch Deity with Principal Shaton! She relayed that nowhere was safe for them to do so as she voiced, “Maybe a homeless person just needed a place to rest and picked my class at random!”
“Maybe…” I hardly knew how to react to her written statement! Lama Malva mentioned that other people were embarking on the same quest as us, but it never dawned on me that I might possibly meet up with any of them! It felt incredibly noteworthy to run into a person with the same vocation in the same area that we suspected the Arch Deity could have an association with! However, my interest still gravitated more towards another aspect of this conversation, so I penciled my issue to her- How did she know we were searching for the Arch Deity?
Gabrielle state, “Well, there is one other thing… Some of the teachers have accused me of being disloyal to the school’s cause, but it isn’t true! My only allegiance lies with my commitment to teaching my students!” As she expressed this opinion, she covertly advised us to leave this place immediately!
She thought we should depart from Monico Elementary? I had to scan over that sentence a few times to make sure I understood it correctly! It stung quite a bit to meet a peer who bore the same calling and have that ally insist that we should break ties straightaway! I had absolutely no inclination to heed her word, not when we got so close to getting some much-needed guidance for the vital duty we had in saving our society! I yearned to know what information she obtained from her own experience in this field, and I pondered how far she and the principal had gotten in discovering the Arch Deity’s true identity! I considered that she may have grown some apprehension of our presence in quarters with so many members of Birsha’s Army roaming freely throughout the vicinity, but she should have gleaned by our outfits that we were well aware of their stronghold over Monico Elementary! This past weekend enlightened us as to how dark their misdeeds could be, but we managed to avoid getting involved in the worst of it! Nathair hadn’t given us any hints in anyone shifting their trust in us, so there was not likely any tentative troubles on the horizon for Violet and me! I tried to relay all of this to her, but then…
“Hey, Gabby! Have you…?” It stunned us when the teacher we encountered at the factory burst into the room! She had been so full of pip and vinegar when she originally entered, but as soon as she saw us, her mood changed completely! “Oh, you have company…”
“We’ve heard some reports about this one being a dissident!” I brusquely asserted with my husky speech. I knew that she would recognize me if I used my normal tongue since I used it at Nerium Night Ware, and I also remembered her high level of dedication to Birsha’s regime, so I crossed my fingers that a show of force would throw off any suspicions she may have possessed about the two of us! “We’re taking her to the front office for interrogation!” Violet and I each grabbed an arm, and as we brushed past her and escorted Gabrielle down the hall, I got the impression that we may have landed ourselves in the clear…
When we stepped into the door labeled “Principal Shaton,” we saw portly man with a bald head, russet skin, and a nose that I swore I had seen somewhere before pacing back and forth across the room under the guise of tidying up. It was one of the most organized offices I had seen in a long while, so clearly, this man had some underlying anxiety that had begun to surface! When we walked in, he froze like a deer in headlights and nervously asked us, “Oh, hi! Is there a problem?”
I shut the door and took off my helmet before I answered him, “We heard you were looking for someone. We’d like to help!”
“You…?” Principal Shaton gazed at Violet, who had also removed her headwear, and me in confusion. I could only imagine how this impacted him! Going from expecting to receive a couple of surly Fallens only to behold their number one foes had shown up instead must have been completely trippy, so I waited patiently for the reality of this situation to come to him. When it finally did, his mannerisms changed completely! “Oh, yes! That ‘historical figure’ has been of great interest to me for years, and I believe learning about them would greatly benefit the school and the entire city for that matter!”
“Do you have any hints as to where you might locate them?” Violet probed. “Do you have something that might be helpful to our investigation, Principal Shaton?”
He shook his head. “I’m afraid not. I haven’t had a lot of free time lately! Running this school takes most of my day, and my nights have been taken over by caring from our recent agreement to care for my grandmother! It’s fine certain days, but then sometimes, her memory problems kick in! She’ll forget what she was doing and break things or get lost while wandering around my neighborhood!” He sighed and then added, “Oh, and please, call me Alfred.”
Violet related to him, “Alfred, I totally get it! My grandma had memory problems too!” I recalled Patty getting a little confused when I spoke to her, but it surprised me to hear that she had more comprehensive ailment than that! Violet never really discussed it prior to this occasion, but then again, we never really got as many openings to chat as casually as we could have liked! I wistfully pictured Violet and I having long talks about our pasts on a typical date type of setting, and I sincerely hoped that we would get a shot at making an ordinary like that come true in the future!
“Yeah, so you know time-consuming that can get!” Alfred remarked. “On the same token, we’re also running out time to pinpoint this person! The longer we wait, the more that…”
“They’re in here, Leonard!” Kora shouted from the sector that bordered Alfred’s office! Violet and I swiftly put our helmets back on and tried to keep our cool! We hadn’t left on bad terms with that crew, but since they were actively seeking us out, we became nervous about this encounter! Last night, we were so weary that we didn’t fuss over Nathair’s lack of communication, but with this development at out feet, I instantly regretted not addressing it! If we had simply notified Nathair to inform him of our status, we wouldn’t have gotten ourselves into such hot water! We had no evidence that they had any unfriendly intentions with us, but their abrupt arrival made the air fill up with the same energy that a person experiences as a storm begins to brew…
Leonard, Kora, Alastor, and Jinn burst inside of these chambers in the most unceremonious method imaginable! Obviously, they were angry enough that common courtesies were entirely abandoned! Alfred and Gabrielle backed into a corner behind the desk, but Violet and I stayed up and pretended as though we were simply carrying out official duties. I attempted to offhandedly break the ice with them, “Oh, hello! Nice to see you guys made it out of the-.”
Cutting me off without a shade of goodwill to his message, Leonard growled, “Cut the crap! We know the truth!”
“What are you…? What do you…?” I stuttered. I wanted to feign as though I had no inkling as to what he was referencing, but my nerves were getting the better of me! I surmised that they must have gathered some unfavorable intelligence about us, and all I could do at this moment was knock on wood that what they obtained could get explained away and remedy this dilemma easily!
“We found Sam and Amy tied up in the woods!” Leonard grimly revealed. “Apparently, Nathair was under the impression that they were going to this school to search for dissidents! He was baffled as to why they didn’t take care of that intruder! He had never heard of any new hires named Harvey or Sabrina! Ugh! And here we were worried sick about losing you guys at that dangerous scene! We were losing our minds about your disappearance! We were all prepared to rescue you from jail, and then we find out that we were deceived! How dare you pull at our heartstrings like that!”
A bout of silence followed that oration, and it was incessantly unsettling! I knew they were livid, and I knew what they usually did to those who betrayed their ranks, so I didn’t have to guess what they had fated for Violet and me to endure! It astonished me as to why they didn’t capture us and carry it out right away, and I greatly desired to use this lull to work out an avenue of escape, but I blanked out! We were stuck in a small space with four powerful Fallens blocking our only exit, so I couldn’t fathom how we would get out of there alive! This feeling only increased when, to my horror, Alfred stepped forward with his palms up, ready to strike the Fallens with a spell! Leonard derisively cackled at this gesture, “You’ve gotta be joking! You must be delusional if you think you can beat a group of Birsha’s Soldiers by yourself! We’re all wearing armor, how can you hurt us?”
Alfred bravely assured him, “I may not be able to get through your silver, but that’s not the only way to damage you! Your power over my school is over! This ends now!” Out of both trepidation and curiosity, the four Fallens stood perfectly still and prepared themselves to witness the magic Alfred would emit as he held his hands to the sky…