I know it’s getting to a confusing point, but the plot is exciting and AWESOME and everything.
It was the constant scratching noise that woke Lawrence up.
“Stop doing that, will you?”
Lawrence heard the scratching stop, and then a clatter as the sword was gently dropped back onto the worktable. That was it – Ryan’s obsession with swords. Even back during training, Ryan’s favourite tool was the sword. Nobody used those anymore – and he was quite proficient with a gun – but Ryan just preferred swords.
There was a perfect, still silence.
“You’re awake,” said the low, rasping voice.
Lawrence opened his eyes and looked up. “Yes, I know that, Ryan.”
Ryan’s sharp features were thrown into harsh, contrasting shadows by the bright light to their side. If it wasn’t for the haunted eyes, the pained expressions, and the scars on his face, Ryan would have been quite handsome; however, the training programme can do that to a person, strip away any proud features and leave behind a ghost image of the original individual.
Ryan’s dark skin shifted with the light – a remnant of his last fight, Lawrence knew. That life-changing fight Ryan had suffered, in that time that he had fallen at Lawrence’s hands. Lawrence could remember it like it was yesterday…
“Sorry, sir – I didn’t get the message so…”
Lawrence’s sentence was left hanging as he took in the blood, the knife wounds, the fallen bodies. This couldn’t be happening; who was it that infiltrated the command room and killed off some of the best fighters the academy had ever known?
“You’re quite late,” said a crisp, familiar voice.
Lawrence wheeled around, trying to find the source of the voice. There! On the windowsill, Ryan perched dangerously, as though he were a bird moments before flight. Lawrence’s eyes were drawn towards the silver spinning in his palm. Ryan’s skin… his skin was splashed with blood, an ugly mark of his deeds.
“You – what – why – Ryan!”
Lawrence was at a loss for words. Why had Ryan attacked the masters? What the hell was Ryan doing, anyway? None of it made any sense – however, spying the wicked look in Ryan’s eyes, there probably wasn’t a logical reason anyway.
“Why have I killed them?” finished Ryan pleasantly. “It’s simple. They were incompetent, lazy members of the academy, always getting the rookies to do everything for them. You know, right, Lawrence? Remember Leo? Remember how he died? Remember how they pressured you into taking his place? Huh, Lawrence? You remember, don’t you?”
Lawrence clenched his fists. Of course he remembered; that was his best friend, his first relation, the first one that actually cared, that was there for Lawrence to speak to, the firm shoulder for Lawrence to cry on when things got too hard, the reassuring voice that told him everything was going to be all right… how could he forget?
Ryan didn’t reply. He jumped down from the high perch, landing neatly on the bloodstained wood. “Don’t you feel it, Lawrence? These people; the masters, the teachers, everyone; they didn’t care. They barely lost any sleep over Leo’s death. Why? Because we’re just pawns to them. We’re expendable.”
A tear rolled down Lawrence’s cheek. He looked down at his feet, avoiding Ryan’s eyes… knowing he would lose the little self control he had left if he saw Ryan’s piercing eyes.
Ryan continued his torment, coming ever closer to Lawrence. “Don’t you want to fight back? Get revenge on Leo’s death? Because these are the people, Lawrence, and now’s your chance. Together, we can change the world, and we can get rid of this tyranny once and for all.”
Lawrence opened his mouth to speak, but no words came out. His throat had tightened up, as though a large hand had taken his neck and was squeezing tightly. Lawrence couldn’t breathe, no matter how much air he tried to push down his lungs, no oxygen seemed to be diffusing into the blood.
Ryan took Lawrence’s hand in his own.
And that was when Lawrence struck. With one blow, he summoned all his energy into his muscles, pushing with all his might. The masters had done a good job training him; he could feel the strength actually working, Ryan’s grasp failing as the fist looked destined to make contact.
An arm passed in front of Lawrence’s punch, stopping it neatly before it hit Ryan’s body.
“You’ve improved,” said Ryan heavily. The wood was carved from the force of the impact, but Lawrence didn’t care; he swung his other arm around, knowing that Ryan would have absolutely no time to react. This was one of the secret techniques trained to only select members of the academy; Ryan was obviously not privy to this information.
Another limb grasped Lawrence’s second arm, knocking it off course and sending Lawrence flying past Ryan, who had stepped aside quietly.
“Then again, I didn’t expect you to keep the sad moves that all juniors were taught,” said Ryan sadly. He simply slid to the side as Lawrence attacked again. And again. And again. “That would have been extremely disappointing.”
Lawrence panted deeply, trying to keep his pulse even. None of his blows seemed to be having any effect; Ryan dodged them as easily as if they weren’t there. He didn’t dare increase the speed of his attacks, fearing he might injure Ryan permanently, but he couldn’t let Ryan do it. Too many had died.
With a roar, Lawrence made his decision. He was never permitted to do this; this move was for extreme emergencies only, and even then, it could only be used under specific circumstances. The entire danger and complexity made it difficult to perform; everything had to be in place, there could not be any variables, and if anything went wrong, Lawrence’s life would be at risk.
The blast cleared its way through six feet of carved granite, the wall collapsing behind Ryan.
Lawrence leaped backwards, away from the falling rubble. He could see Ryan’s shocked face as he receded, the entire building crumbling to pieces and destined to fall on Ryan’s transfixed body. Even as he watched, Ryan disappeared under the dust cloud, the grey smoke hanging in the air.
A hand pushed through the sea of destruction, dripping with red blood.
Shit, Ryan. Why won’t you just die?
“Remember the last fight?”
Lawrence sighed, a pained noise that hung in the motionless air. He leaned back in the chair, or at much as the binds would allow him to. “How could I forget?”
Ryan didn’t say anything, but just stood there, frozen. “Why did you do it, Lawrence?”
“Why have you been running away all this time then?”
“I haven’t been running away – I’ve just been…”
Ryan did not finish the sentence. Lawrence grasped his opportunity and spoke.
“You just won’t come home, would you? Everyone thinks you’re insane. Base, the academy, headquarters… nobody even trusts you anymore.”
“Do you still trust me then, Lawrence?”
Lawrence hesitated, knowing that he would regret if he said the truth. Because he did trust Ryan; but the problem was, Ryan was going to come back and haunt him if he said it. The entire operation would be sabotaged; Lawrence would suffer another unacceptable failure. After that, Lawrence’s entire team – himself, Evan, Ethan – would be eliminated to protect any informational leaks. He couldn’t live with that.
Ryan just smiled and left, the lock clicking knowingly.