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Old 01-24-2020, 06:03 AM
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Thank you! I did, sorry it's taken me this long to post though.

Ivan

A thousand thoughts raced through my mind as I watched Ellia materialize out of thin air right in front of me. Shock, and fear, and something so bright and unexpected I did not recognize it at first. Something almost like... hope.
"So we're the same," I said, almost to myself. I allowed my hand to move off the hilt of my sword, and assumed a less aggressive stance.
She relaxed slightly from her tense fighting pose, though she still looked guarded.
A little bit of the terror was draining out of me. If Ellia had wanted to expose me, she could have at any time. But she had protected my secret, even lied to Nate for me.
"Why did you reveal yourself to me?" I asked, unsure what to make of her.
Ellia lifted her chin. "Because I've never met anyone else who knew what it was like, and understood the truth. That, what the two of us are... it's unnatural. We shouldn't exist. But I'm here now, and despite what I am, I'm going to remain with the Dai Li and follow our cause. I didn't think there was anyone else like me. Then I met you."
Her words echoed the thoughts that had passed through my mind a million times. Finally... finally, I'm not alone. Someone understands.

"Besides," Ellia added with a smirk. "If you didn't take it well, I could just take you down like I did earlier today. Either way, it's a win for me. Either I gain a new ally, or I get the satisfaction of beating you twice in one day."
There was clearly bravado in what she was saying. I knew I had not imagined the fear and nervousness she had not been able to hide completely.
I scowled. Still, losing the fight to her earlier today was nothing short of shameful. My pride as one of the elite agents chosen to fight at Captain Darklighter's side had taken a serious hit.
"I was brought in for questioning earlier today," I said coldly, feeling the many aches and pains still present from that brutal interrogation. "I was still feeling the effects of that, which no doubt affected my performance today. Don't be so sure of your chances against me at full strength. I was chosen as one of Captain Darklighter's elite forces for a reason."
A flash of fear crossed her face before she could hide it. "You were - questioned? And you managed to hide your Gifts from them the whole time?"
I gave a short, bitter laugh. "Of course. I've been doing this for years, after all." I frowned. "In fact, I never would have slipped up and exposed my telepathy to you if I was not still feeling the effects of that interrogation." Still, it was an inexcusable failure on my part.
What was more inexplicable was her decision to reveal herself to me like this though. It would have been far more beneficial to expose me to Galadriel - she would have won a lot of favor and likely a promotion, especially after the Ansell incident. The King would have loved to have a Gifted found among his ranks to be exposed and executed, to save face from his recent humiliation.
And yet she had decided to expose herself to me instead. The knowledge of that made me bold, and I found myself speaking far more openly than I would normally allow myself to.

"So... what are we to each other now? Co-conspirators? Allies?" I asked.
Ellia smirked. "Partners in crime?"
"Well, if we are going to keep each other's deepest secret, I must know. Who are you really, Ellia?" I asked. I chose my next words carefully. "Are you... a Clann defector, perhaps?"
She immediately tensed up, and I mentally cursed myself. Of course she'd be on edge, with all the Dai Li agents being detained, questioned, and even "disappearing".
"Because I am," I said, before she had a chance to reply.
Ellia looked shocked, at both the admission and my willingness to volunteer such information.
I shrugged. "We both know too much about each other already. If we are to become..." I hesitated. "...allies, we must disclose some truths about ourselves, at least. So yes. I did live at the Clann, for a short time." An image of Hanna suddenly appeared in my mind, but I shoved it aside. "When I came here, I pretended to have come from a family of Clann sympathizers, which was where I got all my information about them. But in reality, it was me who used to be part of the Clann. In fact, the girl who escaped with that Clann spy yesterday - she was my oldest friend." I folded my arms. "Now your turn. Who are you, really?"
There was a pause as she scrutinized me, clearly weighing how much to reveal. "You might as well know. My name isn't actually Ellia - it's Tori. And yes, I'm a Clann defector too."

I raised an eyebrow. "Decided to trust me?"
"Hardly." Tori snorted. "I just figured, if we know the same amount of information, we can't use that again each other. Besides, if you've already been questioned, I can at least trust that you don't talk easily." There was a pause. "About that... what's the questioning like?"
I winced. "Standard interrogation stuff - they use any means necessary to try and get information out of you. Physical violence, mind games, threats, bribery... Anything they can think of."
"And you managed to keep your secret." She looked almost impressed. "And you don't even look as bad as some of the others who have come back... though at least they were lucky enough to have returned. Some have just disappeared."
"Those people haven't disappeared," I informed her. "It's most likely that they've been disposed of. The King would purge anyone who's even suspected of being a Clann spy. He won't allow for even the possibility of there being another defector, not after Agent - I mean, Ansell Vaile."
Tori couldn't quite hide the terror in her eyes at that revelation. Surely she had at least suspected that was what had happened, but hearing it spoken out loud was something different. I frowned, remembering that she hadn't been present that day at the meeting... and it was so soon after she'd come here from the Clann.
Could she have something to do with their escape? Maybe she knew Ansell from the Clann? No. I mentally shook off the thought. Her fear must have come from the fact that, as one of the accursed Gifted, she would be immediately joining the ranks of the "vanished" if her secret got out. It wouldn't even matter if she said she had defected from the Clann. The King and his Dai Li would never trust the word of a Gifted.
I supposed some of Captain Darklighter's paranoia was wearing off on me. I was seeing spies and traitors everywhere. She had been especially brutal and vicious to the entire squad at training today, even by her usual standards. I knew Galadriel was absolutely livid that the Clann spy turned out to be none other than Ansell. That annoying, smirking nuisance who was the bane of all our existences had not only betrayed us all, but had been playing us for fools all along, and somehow managed to slip through our defenses and escape.

"And you're okay with this?" Tori asked. "It doesn't seem like you are."
I wavered slightly, waiting a breath too long to reply. Her sharp eyes missed nothing.
"It's not my place, or yours, to question the King," I replied. "In fact, what we've already said could be enough to get both of us imprisoned."
"I can tell you're afraid, you know," Tori said quietly.
"Of course I am." I sank into the nearest chair, and she did the same. "If either of us reveals our Gifts, it's over. The King would never trust the words of a Gifted, no matter how much we swear our beliefs align with his. And... I am not sure the threat of another spy is worth doing all this to our agents and citizens."
Tori stared at me, and for a moment I worried that I was letting on too much. It was so strange to have an honest conversation with someone who did not hate me for once. Memories of that last conversation with Hanna came to mind. Before that, it had been a long, long time since I had been able to speak honestly with anyone.
"I'm not trying to downplay the threat here," I added quickly. "But rooting out spies is supposed to be for the safety of our citizens. That's why we've been trying to destroy the Clann and the Gifted this whole time, isn't it? So how can we justify dragging them out of their own homes like this?"
It may have been foolish of me to expose my real thoughts like this, but I could not keep them silent any longer. I had never been conflicted like this before. I didn't doubt my loyalty to the King and the Dai Li, of course - but I had always been firmly convinced that we were in the right. Whatever harm we did, it was to those depraved monsters, the Gifted, and the Clann who sheltered them and participated in their crimes. But now, our actions were against our own citizens. How much longer would these interrogations continue? Could I just sit here and let it happen? But what would I even do, if I could do anything at all?
"No, I agree," Tori said quietly. "But what are we supposed to do about it? We only know a small portion of the story. There probably is more to it, and the Ki - he no doubt has a perfectly good reason for his actions that we're not privy to."
"Yeah, you're right. Of course," I agreed, trying to brush off the worries.
"So what was the questioning like?" she asked hesitantly.
I grimaced. "I would rather not talk about it. Thoroughly unpleasant, and painful." I changed the subject. "There's one more thing I'd like to know I will not try to pry into your past, but I want to ask this. What is the real reason you came to us? I know you believe in the Dai Li and our cause, but you had another reason to come to the Capitol, don't you?"

She hesitated, weighing how much she wanted to reveal. "I'm looking for someone," she said at last, giving me a description of the pale, pointed man. "He stole something very precious from me, and I have reason to believe he's here. Do you know who I'm talking about?"
I gave a start. "That - that's the man who exposed Ansell, at the meeting." She hadn't been present there that day, due to having been too new to the Dai Li. "He is also the one conducting the 'questionings'. I don't know who exactly he is, but he must be a very high-ranked agent. Even Galadriel answers to him. In fact, I believe she is the only one who knows who he really is. Her and the King." I also knew he was powerful, on a scale far beyond the rest of us. It was a palpable threat in the air when you were in the same room as him.
For a brief moment, a look of murderous rage flashed in her eyes, so intense I almost took a step back.
"Well. Thanks for telling me what you knew," Tori said tightly. To my surprise, she then gave me a smile that seemed like it was actually genuine. "Maybe we'll talk again sometime. After all, we're... allies now."
"Yeah. Sure," I replied, cracking a returning smile for the first time in what felt like forever.

(Alexa, let me know if what I did with Tori is okay! I'm also working on a post for FFA, hoping to get that up sometime this weekend.)
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