If I was my normal self, I would have immediately backed away and started talking really fast. But instead of doing what I normally would do, I just sighed and looked back down at my dangling feet.
“What do you want?” I said defeatedly.
No answer. His hand was still on my shoulder, and for some reason, it felt... soothing. It felt like the hand could easily carry away my hurt… No Ilayne, you’re going too far. This is the Scarlet Man who’s standing over you, for Aethasia’s sake!
There was silence for about a minute. In the meantime I was boiling inside with resentment towards the man standing over me. Why couldn’t he have chosen another place to hang out? I was not in the mood to talk and I still had a lot of tears to cry -
“Don’t be afraid. I know what you’re feeling.”
The voice that came from the cloaked figure startled me from my thoughts. It was a deep voice… A voice that made me shiver. It sounded so pure and trustworthy. In fact, his voice alone astounded me so that I didn’t even think about what he actually said until moments later. And when I did, I was confused. The Scarlet Man? Did… Did he really know what I was feeling? His comment sounded so relieving, and made my heart stir - did someone actually care about me? Was I wrong about him? I was about to give in and pour out everything to him, but I caught myself just in time. My face, which had softened, hardened once again.
“Oh yeah? I bet you do.” I mumbled sarcastically. My hands, which were grasping the end of the dock, hardened their grip. I figured he would probably get angry at me and leave, and when his hand left my shoulder I thought for sure he was gone. But to my surprise, as I looked over to where he had been, he was still there - sitting right beside me. His presence made me take a big breath, and I forced myself to remain calm.
“Don’t push me away. I can help you,” he said softly. All in one moment, I went from mad to… well… really mad. Boiling.
“Help me? Oh yeah, I bet you can do that too. But I think you’ve done quite enough so far, don’t you think?” I snapped. “All you’ve ever done is “help” me by making things worse. Actually, you’ve been making things worse for everyone! If the Great Engineer hadn’t disappeared and if Lucky hadn’t taken over and if you hadn’t revolted against him, my life would be absolutely perfect! So don’t even think about trying to “help” me more! My life is shattered and I don’t need a few more broken pieces, thank you very much!”
Silence. Again. I was breathing hard, and as the wind suddenly picked up, I felt it cooling down my burning red face. I was still looking at him straight on with hatred in my eyes. But… He… didn’t seem angry. Though I couldn’t see his face, there was no presence of anger about him. I immediately felt ashamed of what I said, and embarrassed, I turned my head away from him, down at the water below. But I felt his gentle, gloved hand touch my chin, and he turned my head towards his. And at that moment, as I stared into his face, I felt… was it?... Assurance. Assurance that it was going to be okay. Assurance that I could trust the mysterious man sitting beside me. This was the feeling I had longed so much for. I didn’t feel the need to be strong anymore. I could finally be myself. Relief surged through my body, and I couldn’t contain it any longer. My head dropped onto his shoulder and I began sobbing uncontrollably.
“I’m… I’m so sorry…” I choked. To be real with myself, this was one of those rare times when I actually said sorry. And I wasn’t just saying sorry for what I said earlier, but I was also saying sorry for everything I had ever done. “I-I… I was wrong, so v-very wrong…”
“We all are wrong sometimes," he soothed.
“B-but… I was really wrong,” I cried. “Fate made my parents die to get me back for what I’ve done! I’ve messed up too many times, I…”
“No one has messed up too many times, dear heart,” he seemingly smiled under his mask. “No one is beyond the reach of forgiveness.”
I sniffled again. “If that were so, who would even want to forgive me?”
I lifted my head from his shoulder and stared up at him. Did I really just hear what he said? Did he just say… he would forgive me? I blinked several times, the leftover tears escaping my eyes.
“But… why? Why would you want to forgive me?”
“Because I care for you, Ilayne. I always have.”
So someone did care about me. And this whole time I had been thinking I was alone. I softly smiled, and I felt another batch of tears coming on.
“I… I don’t know what to say.” I whispered, baffled.
“You don’t have to say anything. All I want from you is to join me.”
“Join the Resistance. I have a plan for you, and I want you to join me.”
I couldn’t believe my ears for the second time that night. He - the Scarlet Man - wanted me to join him?
“I-I...” I stuttered. I didn’t know what to say! “I… I will. But I have so many questions, like about why my parents...”
“They will all be answered. In time. I promise.” He put a reassuring hand on my shoulder again. I breathed in deeply and let it out, and if there was any anxiety left, it was completely gone now.
He stood up to leave, but as he did I stopped him.
"Sir… I want to join you. But I know I’m going to make mistakes again, and I know I’m going to doubt you sooner or later. So how can I help?”
He turned back to me, the moon gleaming off his goggles, his cape billowing in the rising wind. He only answered with these two words: “Trust me.”
And in that moment, as he disappeared into the night without a sound, I decided to take his offer… As crazy as it sounded. The Scarlet Man chose me out of all the people alive and breathing in No Man’s Landing, and I would not let him down. Or so I was determined to.
The encounter that had lasted a mere ten minutes would change my whole entire life - and little did I know that even though I would make mistakes along the way, I would not stray from this amazing new purpose. The Scarlet Man gave me purpose - and even though I still had so many questions and wondering what I got myself into in the past couple minutes - I would live out that purpose or die trying.
What a totally redirected course for me to take in one night!
“Ilayne!” I suddenly heard someone loudly whisper. I turned, but saw no one. I stood up from the dock and slowly walked near the buildings, and it was then that I saw a hand motioning urgently to come into the alley. Hearing the sound of an automation, I dared to risk it and rushed into the alley.
“Vytanni?” I raised my brow, but she motioned for me to be quiet. After the troubleshooter marched by and down the street, she stood in front of me.
“What are you doing out here by yourself? It’s dangerous here at night,” she asked inquiringly, still keeping her voice low.
“Uh… Getting some fresh air,” I said. It was close enough to the real thing. “Why are you out here?”
“I came looking for you. I’m afraid I have some grim news for you,” Vytanni bit her lip.
“Oh goodie. What is it?”
“You’re not going to like it…” She cleared her throat as if looking nervous, then leaned in closer. “I found your sister.”
“You found her?! How is that bad news?! Thank the Great Engineer!” I loudly whispered. “I-”
“Hold on. It won’t seem so great in a minute,” she continued. “When I saw you for the first time, I knew you looked familiar. I finally realized that I had seen your face in the person I was interrogating for spying on us... Your twin. But she escaped the day you found Grace and I. We haven’t been able to find her though… And I’m afraid something has happened. Something dreadful.”
As I contemplated what she was saying, suddenly it all clicked. My eyes widened and my jaw dropped in realization.
“No…” I muttered, shaking my head.
“It’s alright, we’ll search farther. I promise,” Vytanni reassured, misinterpreting the look on my face for the reaction to her comment.
“No!” I grabbed her shoulders and stared wild-eyed into her grey eyes. “The Imperial search party! They found her on that night! They mistook her for Grace! The Empire has my sister!"
End of Account 12
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