Shabina had looked right at the two of them and smiled. Zana put her hand to her face to keep the water from expanding it. The Potential was always pushing them to make their relationship formally official, but Jair was concerned and to tell the truth, so was she.
Yes the Spiritai were close with Agnoste, due to their years of diplomacy and peacemaking efforts. Generations of Spiritai Mathlabs and Agnoste Interprets had always been the ones smoothing over the bombast and damage caused by the Royligio and Vibulare leadership. It was never simple; why couldn’t it be simple?
Her parents were so proud of her, as she had risen high within the ranks of the Mathlabs. The only downside of the job was that Corina was The MultiFacet Connect in training: she had just been put there by Seleto Pieroz. Negotiating with her was distracting because Corina just wanted to know more about Arsin!
Jair’s career was really unfolding well. From what he told her, Thalina was no easy person to deal with and wanted to prove herself as The MultiFacet Liase to the Vibulare in training. She worried for him, but he was always so meticulous in his work.
Despite the Rhung twins and their aspirations, she and Jair had been incredible understudies and had helped negotiate some amazing treaties over the last several years. Together they had stopped skirmishes before they had even started. Even when battles had been full blown, their negotiations had often swiftly brought them to an end. No one had handed her anything. She couldn’t rely on her looks to get ahead in life! She had never felt so water foul as when she stood next to Corina.
It was no wonder that she and Jair got along with Shabina so well. The three of them truly had peace in mind. It wasn’t a perfect peace but The MultiFacet, Spirtai, and Agnoste she truly felt could make it work, even if it was uneasy.
Shabina seemed to think that their union could create a staying of hostilities. Shabina also ignored the failure in the Sanctuary, and said they should just join MultiFacet instead. The little matter of not being able to use green spectrum aside, there were so many complications!
The problem was Grand Khieder Kaylin. The leader of the Royligio was a very frustrating man. Even though the Sub Facets were supposed to be equal, the Religai had for decades consolidated power through him. Kaylin had installed a puppet leader for the Faithi and would have done so for the Spiritai but her parents had resisted fiercely, and due to their diplomatic clout and necessary function, the Religai had backed down.
Jair had told a similar story about the Agnoste and the Secule. Sometimes she wished their two Sub Facets were in charge so they could make it work.
She knew it wasn’t as simple as that. Surely others in the Royligio and Vibulare had thought about peace as much as her and had dreams of a different future. Especially those whose families had been ripped apart by the divisions. That was why The MultiFacet existed. It waded into that divide, and when needed, it had teeth.
She looked in front of her to see the stunning Lavindra (more feelings of ugoness about herself), her green hair shimmering where her Potential Hood didn’t obscure it. Lavindra was deadly when needed to be. So was Shabina but Lavindra just felt more ruthless.
Her use of Inter Spectrum was so skilled that even the three in the Centre would have a tough time against her. Many people had always speculated who was the strongest up and comer, Zana did as well, but also hoped they would never have to find out.
Zana watched Shabina force a smile for Lavindra and though she couldn’t see her face, knew that Lavindra would be surprised. It was very sad; those two used to be such amazing friends. Zana frowned, why did power and ambition always come between people? It was like there were so many line knots that would have to be undone for those two to ever be friends again!
Depending on who became Seleto between Lavindra and Shabina, the relationship between The MultiFacet and the Royligio would be very different.
For starters, if Lavindra won, it would become the InterFacet and that was the tip of the Line. Under an InterFacet administration Roy and Vib diplomats would have little to no contact. It wasn’t as much as she would like even now. but it would be much worse.
The InterFacet was very different than The MultiFacet approach of consistent interaction. No, there were some real lawks in the Wraze’s and their aggressive approach. Some of them had even gone so far as to say that if the InterFacet were in charge they would allow the Roy and Vib to fight and make terms with the winner. There were still some crazier ones lobbying Oppose Pedram to attack the Roy and Vib!
It was madness. The Royligio were 10 to the power of 10 larger than the MultiFacet and InterFacet. The Vibulare were the same size as the Royligio! It always fascinated her how these green spectrum users were so confident. The size equality between the Roy and the Vib was the main reason they each didn’t try to take the Well from The MultiFacet in the first place. Shabina would bristle at that notion, but The MultiFacet (while extremely powerful) stayed the distributor of water because the bigger Facets couldn’t defeat the other without destroying the water supply in the process!
She shuddered at the thought of the Roy and Vib going to war.
It would change everything for her and Jair! She wouldn’t see him again! They could even end up in battle against each other. She wasn’t a fighter, neither was he, but there wouldn’t be much use for a negotiator then, would there?
She shuddered at that thought. She desperately wanted to look at him. All she had to do was turn her head to the right. Pull yourself together, Zana, you’re working! Could they actually be together? Unless one of them crossed the line to the other’s Facet, or joined The MultiFacet somehow as Shabina had suggested, it seemed impossible.
But both of those options meant that she and Jair would have to give up everything they had worked hard for, or maybe only one of them would……. she shook her head she couldn’t ask that of him, could she?
Instead of looking at Jair, she looked behind Shabina into the Religai and Secule seats to see Zian and Mimeen. It had ended so terribly for them and had caused Rydin so much pain. Arsin and Billen too, although those two dealt with it differently by destroying everything their parents had created in Sanctuary.
She missed Rydin, missed him always teasing her and Jair. Whenever Jair and her had been at an impasse, he had always broken the tension with his jokes. He had always stood up for the two of them. He called people out for their Roundism against Jair. He never made her feel for a millycle out of place amongst the beautiful cousins Shabina, Corina, Lavindra, or Thalina.
Shabina had quickly looked into the Religai and Secule seats as well, and she swore her friend had teared up a bit.
She didn’t want to end up like Rydin’s parents, but Rydin and Shabina were somehow even worse.
Were all tough relationships fated to expire?
She and Arsin had headed down the hallway and were half jogging. They would be late.
“Zana, do you think I should apologize to Corina?”
She couldn’t believe him, “Arsin you need to focus.”
He scrunched up his face and looked offended. So of course she relented and said,
“Look, obviously you should apologize to her, but you may need to hold off on private conversations for a little while.”
Zana wondered if she was trying to give advice to herself, or Arsin? After Rydin had interrupted the ceremony, there was no way that she and Jair would be able to meet alone. She would see him down there with everyone else.
Arsin glanced at her as she was lost in feelings, and he smirked, “Thinking about someone are we?”
Zana nearly tripped over her feet right there, she recovered water expanding her face in embarrassment. “I don’t know what you are talking about.”
Arsin didn’t stop (neither did she) but he laughed, “Zana, I see the way you look at Jair, plus your face is as big as a qurell with tunsays in its cheeks.”
Her eyes widened but he patted the air with his hands to reassure her, “don’t worry I will keep your secret.”
Yet his smile grew sombre, “But I will warn you, Zana, look at what happened to my parents. Royligio and Vibulare relationships are stacked to fail. It is even worse on their kids (he literally flinched but recovered). Unless of course he is willing to come to our side like I did?”
She opened her mouth to answer but closed it. Did she herself even have an answer to that?
She decided not to answer as the levator was just around this curve of the wall, and it would take them to Holding Area 3. They had passed a number of Royligio sentries who were strategically placed in the Red corridors of the Chamber. Once they went down the lift, they would have to slow down as the detention level was patrolled by MultiFacet sentries, and even Arsin wouldn’t want to unsettle things by sprinting in like a mad person.
They rounded the curved hallway together…
…and immediately halted in their tracks.
Standing between them and the levator were a group of 20 or so men. They were dressed in a deep crimson that looked somehow like it was shining. The trims of their attire were a vivid red. Each man had an extremely large red prism dangling from his neck. The weight of those prisms must have made their neck muscles bulge under the strain but she couldn’t tell. Their collars were so high the neck was obscured, only the red resin chain that held the prism was visible.
The men had all sorts of skin colours, but that wasn’t the colour that mattered. Inside the prisms they each had was a red substance flowing rapidly back and forth glinting as the light washed over it. The substance almost looked like water.
It wasn’t water.
It was nothing like water.
A man with brownish hair and a very black full-length beard approached casually.
Arsin didn’t take his eyes off the man but said to her softly, “Do not worry. I have this.”
Arsin fingered his own prism hanging near his chest.
Zana was not reassured.
The man kept walking towards them until he was nearly face to face with Arsin. He continued to smile. A deeply unsettling smile. Even though his smile touched the eyes it still somehow did not look genuine.
She knew his name but she knew his reputation even more. Kaffhan. The name made her feel a wave of revulsion.
“Pasam Arsin,” Kaffhan said.
Arsin didn’t return the Royligio greeting, instead he stepped forward literally going nose to nose almost. “What do you want, Kaffhan?”
Unfazed, Kaffhan continued, “Why, to discuss the punishment of your brother, of course.”
In a flash, Arsin leaned his forehead into Kaffhan’s so they clashed. If it hurt, neither man showed any indication.
Arsin was menacing when angry, “Do not mention my brother.”
Kaffhan, “Well your middle brother is in quite the predicament is he not? From our understanding any user of Full Spectrum is subject to immediate Full Dehydration.”
Arsin, “I will not allow that to happen.”
Kaffhan, “Really? Will you bring war down upon The MultiFacet then?”
“If I need to yes.” What was Arsin saying!
Kaffhan smirked, “Well then, Arsin. Why don’t you get him turned over to us? The Fanata have some interest in him.”
Arsin looked like he would swing at any second.
“Oh you mean because he writes some deeply unflattering things about your group every week in his line letter.”
Arsin followed up quickly from his own words, “Yes I believe he called you a ….”
Zana quickly intervened tugging Arsin’s arm back, “What Arsin, means, Daia Kaffhan, is that we are well aware that Rydin has stepped out of place, we are in fact just on our way to ensure that it is noted in his punishment. As you know, it is not in our hands alone, but I will ensure that affront he has caused you will be raised with The Believed Kaylin.”
Kaffhan smiled at Zana. “Trainee Zana, you are being schooled well by the senile Kenbo I see.”
She bit down the retort that had formed on her lips, (insulting her teacher like that!) and she merely nodded and said nothing further.
The line tension was so tight in the air.
Kaffhan turned and began to walk away, and Zana breathed a little easier.
“Do remember Arsin, that without the Fanata the Roylgio is nothing, and will never have The Well. Maybe you should learn from your eldest brother on how he treats the Ul–”
Arsin cut the sentence off and reached for his Prism. The 20 men smiled along with Fakhir. They wanted this.
Zana grabbed his hand.
“You cannot beat them with no backup, and only a Pass Through Prism when they all have PAUSE PRISMS!,” she said, “please let it go.”
For a second she thought Arsin would challenge all the Fanata right there!
Kaffhan laughed, “You would be best to keep her, Arsin, and if not, she would be welcome with us.”
Zana needed to end this, “Daia you are too kind. Pasam and The One Believed.”
Kaffhan looked at her, it was a deeply unsettling look, a hungry look. She didn’t need this kind of self esteem.
“The One Believed,” he said as he departed.
The Fanata moved down the hallway, and in a split lycle, all that remained were she and Arsin, and two Royligio sentries who looked like they were going to pass out.
Zana called out to the two men, “It is okay they are gone.”
She jabbed her finger at Arsin, “What is wrong with you?”
Arsin looked angrier than ever, “My brothers are my concern, and none of theirs.”
Zana shook her head, “Arsin, you aren’t a kid anymore, the Fanata are beyond your reproach. I hate them more than you. They think the Spiritai are worse than the Vibulare! I know what they are capable of…”
Arsin grew alarmed, “Zana I am sorry for putting you in danger.”
She waved her hand, she needed to focus her emotions.
She spoke to Arsin, “You need to be ready for whatever comes next, the Fanata aren’t done scheming, not by a long shot.”
Arsin put a resolute face on and they hurried to the levator.
Billen was Arsin’s bitter rival, but the Fanata were what truly made her fear for the future.
What would they do to Rydin, if they ever got a hold of him?