Humiliation? I choose not to dwell on it. Instead, I decide to see this differently. I decide to view my unexpected predicament as an opportunity. Fate rears its ugly head in different ways. I've long learned to accept that fact. However, I still refuse to accept the inevitability. Defeat.
I'm tied to a hospital bed. I recognize it as the same one Aislinn had been on a mere half hour ago. The irony.
My top hat is off and on a small table at the other side of the room. It seems like my opponents had learned since my last scenario. They had lost a teammate because of their recklessness then; I'm sure they didn't want that to happen again. I'm unaware of my Blaze Cane's location, though I'm also sure that it is around. The time on the clock is not so far ahead that one could have time to go away and come back. In fact, all members of the current team are here. Watching me. Waiting for answers.
I almost decide to nod off again in the hospital bed as none of them spoke. I had even begun to let my head lean downwards when one of them suddenly stepped forward. It's Vytanni. Etlo's and Nikko's dear sister. I smile under my mask. Too easy, I think to myself.
Then Etlo walks up after her, a large metal can in his hands. He holds it up for me to see, it has my name scribbled upon it. I realize what he's doing before he does it, but I graciously let him do it first. I couldn't stop him anyway... He crushes it with one hand, then mashes it with the other. I expect him to toss it dramatically, but he just leaves it on the edge of the bed for me to see.
Vytanni speaks, "Xonos..."
I don't answer.
"Why?" she asks, "Why are you here again? Come back to haunt us?"
Again, I refrain from replying. I stay still as to enjoy the pained expressions on all their faces.
"Do you even remember us? Do you know who I am?" she says.
I decide to speak, "Of course I do. Why? Have you forgotten?" I grin.
She sighs, "Why the funny face, Darkgrate? Something to laugh about?"
I cough and let the quietness fill the room, then I reply, "If you see me smiling, it's because I'm thinking up a new plan. If you hear me laughing, it's because I've already done it."
I watch as Vytanni's face changes in confusion and annoyance, "Then what have you done? Tell us, Xonos."
"If I wanted to tell you," I say, "I would have done so already."
Vytanni sighs again, "You need to tell us, Xonos."
"On the contrary," I say, "it's not me who's bounded here. You just need to look a bit closer to see."
She shakes her head, "May the Scarlet Man forgive you, Darkgrate."
"May he indeed..."
She turns around and walks back to the watching group. She speaks to them, "This is hopeless" in Russian.
I answer from the background, "An understatement, I assure you all, but being honest is a good thing right?" None of them bother to reply, I speak again, "Reality's starting to sink in, isn't it?"
They all turn to me and approach the bed on which I was held. None steps forward. I speak before one does,
"Vytanni, if things could've been done differently in the past, I would have tried, but we both know the truth don't we?"
"Etlo, it hurts doesn't it? The fact that you aren't... real."
"Aislinn, it's interesting to see you up and running again. If only things turned out differently."
"May, it's time you forgot the old team. I know I have."
"Annaliese, better luck next time."
"Emily, how's your brother?"
"Ariella, I bet you're feeling quite triumphant. Seeing me defenseless here. I think it's time you consider the fact that maybe I want to be here."
"Nikko, I'm sorry about Keenan. He seemed like he was a great friend. It's a shame that he had to be put down. Don't you agree?"
All my comments are met with grumbles and mutters, but I know that all of them had the same reaction deep down. I look to Matthew Bonnetfolly last. "Matt Bonnetfolly," I say, "The alternative exists..."
"So expect the unexpected," he says in answer. He walks forward to the bed and removes a key from his belt. The remaining group watches in horror as I get up from the bed and gently slip my top hat back on. Bonnetfolly hands me my Blaze Cane as well as removing his own weapon from his belt.
I don't bother igniting my own, but rather, I open the door to the room and step out. Bonnetfolly does as well. "I'd say I'm sorry," I say, "but you know that I'm not."
Both Bonnetfolly and I activate our weapons and release a short burst of fire into the room. I witness the flames already beginning to scorch the interior. Bonnetfolly closes the door, and we both exit the building. Heading to locations unknown...
It's some time later in a dark alley that I speak to Bonnetfolly. Both of us standing face-to-face in the darkness. "No thanks are needed," he says.
"And no thanks will be given," I answer.
"Where will you be going now?" he asks.
"Wherever the I need to. The mission isn't over yet," I say.
"When will it be?" he says.
"I should hope never. I quite enjoy my job," I reply.
"Well, then. I best leave you to your business," he says.
I hand him a small file, "As agreed."
He eagerly took it, then he spoke, "This job was rather a long thing to finish, but the prize makes it worth it." He wiggles the file in his hand, "If you ever have need for another set of eyes, you know how to contact me."
I nod. He walks off into the shadows of the alley, and I walk into the light of the street.
I feel the desire to leave. To forget everything. To just... be free. But I can't. I have to go back. To finish. To complete my task. Why, I ask myself. I've said it before, and the subsequent reply does not fail me. The mission isn't over yet.