Toke could feel something cold and hard clamped around his body. He groaned softly as consciousness began to return to him, bringing a sharp, throbbing pain with it. It felt like his entire face had been hit by a wrecking ball, but the worst of it was in his nose. When he tried to breathe through it, he felt blood drip down the back of his throat, and he coughed.
“Open your eyes, Juryokine,” a stern voice commanded him. He took a minute to collect himself, and then did as he was told.
Toke was in a room with walls made of polished, mirror-like metal. There were no windows that he could see, just a door set in the far wall, sealed shut so tightly it almost looked like a part of the wall itself. There was nothing else to see, just bare walls where his warped reflection stared back at him. It was because of these that he was able to get a grasp of his predicament.
Toke was in the center of the room, clamped to a table by four metal strips around his neck, chest, thighs, and ankles. Two more kept his wrists pinned to the cold table, which was angled so that he was facing forward. He saw a white smudge move in the reflections, but wasn’t able to turn around and look. Fortunately, his captor didn’t keep himself hidden for long.
“So, I was right all along,” said Sir Klevon, stalking around the table to where Toke could see him. He had removed his hood, letting Toke see his face and shaved head for the first time. The look in Klevon’s eyes was as cold as the table Toke was laying on. “You’re the Juryokine.”
There was no point in denying it. Klevon had caught him interrogating Virkhul. He had probably seen the brief fight immediately before, too.
“Which makes Zashiel Kal’Brynden your partner in crime,” Klevon concluded, looking immensely proud of himself.
“I’ve never heard that name in my life,” Toke blurted out. His words sounded thick, and he felt dried blood crack when he opened his mouth. His nose flared with pain again, and he decided it must have been broken.
Klevon gave him a patronizing smile. “I highly doubt that. But please, tell me who it really was that turned you into an abomination.”
“It was…” Toke paused, trying to desperately to think of an answer. Zashiel had never told him another Sorakine’s name. Except… “Miron!” he exclaimed. “His name’s Miron.”
Klevon’s humorless smile fell from his face and he took a step up so that he was standing face to face with Toke. Then he reached up and put a finger on Toke’s broken nose.
“Miron Tarivangelon was my friend,” he said, and pushed slightly with his finger. It was a gentle movement, but it still made pain erupt in Toke’s skull. “He was a Seraph, just like me.” He pushed down harder, making Toke gasp. The young man tried to move his head, but he was secured too tightly to the table. “I find your accusation very… offensive.”
He pushed a little harder, and Toke moaned. A fresh stream of blood began to spill down across his lips, and Klevon finally let up.
“It doesn’t matter anyway,” he said taking a step back. “I heard you say Zashiel’s name when I landed. You were expecting her. That’s all the proof I need.”
Oh, smite, Toke thought, spitting blood out of his mouth. He had pulled Zashiel into the fire with him without even realizing it.
“What are you going to do to her?” he asked.
“The same thing I am going to do to you,” Klevon answered. He walked around to the opposite side of the room, and swiveled the table around so that Toke could see. Now Toke was facing a tank full of clear liquid. A tiny hose ran from, and ended it a needle. Toke’s heart began to beat faster.
“You are a criminal by Sorakine law,” Klevon explained. “And Zashiel is a traitor to her people. You are both to be executed by lethal injection.”
A ragged gasp broke free from Toke’ throat, and he would have shook if he weren’t strapped so tightly to the table.
“Don’t- don’t I get a trial or something?” he asked, looking at the Seraph.
“The trial was held while you were unconscious,” Klevon said, picking up the hose and inspecting the needle. “We tested your blood and found copious amounts of juryo in it, so much that it could only be because your body is producing it. The fact that you called Zashiel’s name was enough for them to sign her death warrant as well.”
A shiver ran down Toke’s spine. This was exactly the kind of thing he would have expected from Zashiel, before he’d earned her friendship. The cold, brutal justice of the Sorakines.
“You don’t have proof of any of this,” he said, barely able to speak through his fear. “It was just you and me down there.”
“I am a Seraph,” Klevon drew himself up proudly. “I do not lie. I am completely dedicated to my duty. My word is as good as any evidence that could be shown.”
“Smite,” Toke whispered to himself.
Klevon turned to inspect the tank of poison now. As he did that, he said, “Unfortunately, Zashiel has not been found yet. Do not think she has gotten away, though.” He turned and gave Toke a withering glare. “We’ll find her, and she will share the same fate as you.”
There was nothing else for it, Toke decided. Klevon was convinced he was a criminal, but as a warrior and a peacekeeper, he had to listen if Toke said that Yasmik was in danger… right?
“Hey,” he said as the Sorakine began making adjustments to the pump the hose was attached to. “I know you don’t have any reason to believe me, but would you let me say something in my defense?”
Klevon stiffened. Without turning to face Toke, he said, “It is not required of us to offer you any last words, but now that you have requested them I cannot refuse.”
Last words. Well, it was better than nothing.
“Zashiel made me a Juryokine for a reason,” he said, talking as fast as he could. “She thought that somebody was causing the Gravity Storms on purpose.”
“Zashiel is blinded by the loss of the one she held affection for,” Klevon replied while still fiddling with the tank. “I might be sympathetic, if she hadn’t resorted to illegal means to deal with her grief.”
“But it wasn’t just a crazy theory!” Toke argued. “She was right! The Gravity Storms aren’t natural, they’re being caused by that man you saw me with. If you hadn’t interrupted me, I would have killed him and ended the whole thing!”
Klevon stopped what he was doing and chuckled. Actually chuckled, like he found what Toke was saying amusing.
“I would call you an ignorant human, spewing nonsense about things you know nothing of,” he said, turning around to face him, “but you’re not a human anymore, are you?”
A chill ran down Toke’s spine when he saw the look in Klevon’s eyes. “What do you mean?”
“We, the Sorakines,” he motioned to himself, “discovered the cause of your Gravity Storms months ago. You’re right about one thing, they aren’t natural. But they’re not a case of large scale terrorism, either.”
Toke lay there in silence for a few seconds, absorbing this. “Tell me what you mean,” he said, at last.
Klevon set down the hose. “If you and Zashiel have come as far in your investigations as you claim, then perhaps you understand what happens when you mix juryo with jidoryo.”
“Kaosuryo,” Toke answered.
“Yes. But what the humans don’t realize about their new, advanced technology,” he rolled his eyes when he said this, “is that the jidoryo doesn’t stay trapped inside your wires and grindstones. It escapes into the air.”
“Power leakage,” Toke replied, recalling a lesson Navras had given on the subject. “What does that have to do with anything?”
Klevon extended his wings so Toke could see them clearly. “The same is true of a Sorakine’s wings, but to a lesser extent. The juryo that gives us our powers leaks out through our feathers. That is why they glow yellow.”
Comprehension dawned in Toke’s mind. “So, the Gravity Storms are caused by the jidoryo in our air being mixed with the juryo in your wings?”
“Precisely,” Klevon answered, and went back to the tank. “The destruction of your country can only be blamed on yourself. That is why the Sorakines have pulled back here, into Hashira. We will protect this land from any danger we see, but this is a threat we can only fight by staying away from it.”
Toke stared at Klevon’s back in astonishment. His theory… it actually made sense. The combination of the two energies might be enough to cause a Gravity Storm. But…
“No, that can’t be right,” he spoke up. “Only one Storm ever happened in a city. The rest were all out in the countryside, where there is no jidoryo.”
“I have given you your explanation,” Klevon said without turning around. Toke watched him raise the needle, and a quick spurt of the clear liquid shot from the tip. “Expect no more of me.”
“And what about the spearman?” Toke demanded his ire rising despite the situation. “Zashiel and I both fought a man wearing armor that could control the Storms!”
“Oh, indeed,” Klevon agreed, his voice dripping with sarcasm. “And I’m going to let you leave this room alive.”
He finally turned around and took a step towards Toke, holding the hose and needle in his hand. Immobile as he was, Toke only able to watch as the vengeful Sorakine rolled up the sleeve of his jacket, exposing the skin of his arm.
“Y- you’re making a mistake,” Toke said, the fear beginning to take hold of him. “I’m not lying. Yasmik is in danger. You have to believe me!”
“If there was a plot to use the Gravity Storms to destroy this country,” Klevon said, inching the needle closer to Toke’s forearm, “the Sorakines would handle it. We would require no assistance from an abomination such as yourself.”
“No,” Toke protested, struggling as hard as he could against his restraints. They were too strong, though. He couldn’t even move an inch. “Don’t!”
Klevon was enjoying this, Toke could see it in his eyes. He was getting some sort of perverse pleasure from seeing an alleged criminal meet his end. And there was nothing Toke could do about it. When he had told Zashiel that he was willing to die to save Yasmik, he had meant it. But not like this… Not like this!
The needle pricked his skin, but Toke couldn’t even feel it through his terror. Once it was inserted all the way into his arm, Klevon stepped back to inspect his work, and then returned to the pump.
“According to Sorakine law,” he said, putting his hand on a lever, “I find you guilty of being a Juryokine. By the power invested in me as a Sorakine Seraph, I do hereby sentence you to—”
A knock came from the door, and Klevon froze. His eyes narrowed. Toke let out a breath he hadn’t even realized he’d been holding.
“Who dares interrupt an execution?” Klevon called out. His hand was still on the lever. “Name yourself!”
“Erra Tynshuin, Class D Warrior,” came the reply. It was a feminine voice. “I have a message from the Council for Sir Klevon Nikkondyle.”
Klevon’s hand slowly rose from the lever, and drew one of the silver sticks he wore behind his back.
“Not likely,” he said under his breath. With a flick of his wrist, the stick extended into a spear as tall as he was. He walked to the door, out of Toke’s sight, and a couple of seconds later Toke heard the door hiss as it slid open.
“I knew it!” Klevon roared, and the sound of metal colliding with metal filled the room.
What? Toke thought, desperately trying to spin the table around so he could see. What’s going on?
“I’ll get you out of there, Toke. Just hold on!” the voice called to him. Without the door to muffle it, it was suddenly very familiar.
“Zashiel!” he yelled, his heart leaping with relief. She’d come to rescue him!
“You’ll be joining him,” Klevon retorted, and Toke heard their weapons strike each other again. Then there was a dull thud, and Zashiel gasped, making Toke’s blood run cold. Klevon was a Seraph, while Zashiel was only a common warrior. There was no way she could beat him in hand to hand combat.
I have to help, he realized, desperately looking around for something, anything he could use. His hands were tied by his sides, though. What could he possibly do?
“I,” he whispered to himself, feeling a warrior’s determination rise up inside of himself, “am a Juryokine.”
He reached out with his powers, and instantly felt two large objects moving behind him. Klevon and Zashiel. One was bigger than the other, which he determined to be Klevon. He anchored himself as strongly as he could to him, and was immediately pulled back even harder into the table. Klevon, not having expecting Toke to intervene, was thrown off balance. Even though Toke wasn’t able to see what was happening, he heard the unmistakable FWISH of Zashiel’s chakrams as they sliced through the air, followed by a cry of pain from Klevon.
“Traitor!” he screamed, and Toke heard two more punches land on Zashiel. While she was recovering from that, Toke felt Klevon shift to look at him. A moment later, the lever to release the poison shook— and then went down.
Smite! Toke thought as the toxin entered the hose, drawing closer to him, closer, closer…
Then there was a flash of silver, and a chakram buried itself in the wall beside the tank, slicing through the rubber hose in just the right place to cut off the flow of poison before even a drop of it reached Toke’s arm. He breathed a sigh of relief.
But the fight wasn’t over, yet. Behind him, Klevon roared in anger, and Zashiel cried out in pain. It wouldn’t matter that she had saved him from the injection if Zashiel died before she could free him. And, judging by how the fight sounded, that didn’t seem likely. Suddenly, in a bright flash of yellow, Zashiel went flying over the top of Toke’s table. She collided with the wall and crumpled to the floor in a heap, knocking over the tank of poison in the process. The glass shell cracked, spilling its deadly contents onto the floor. Zashiel put her hands underneath her, trying to pick herself up, but slipped on the liquid and ended up back on her face.
Broken glass on the floor, Toke thought, surveying the scene. Poison too. Even a small cut could kill her.
Before she could try to get up again, Toke’s table shook as Klevon jumped on top of it, balancing like only a Sorakine could. Two silver spears glistened in his hands now, and he raised one above his head to end Zashiel’s life.
“Oh no you don’t!” Toke yelled, thinking quickly. He anchored himself to the wall in the corner of the room, and the odd angle caused the entire table to spin around. Klevon yelped in surprise and lost his balance, falling to the ground. Toke manipulated the table so that he was facing Zashiel again, and saw that she was still on the ground.
“Get up!” he yelled at her. She stirred. “Without you, we’re both going to—”
Klevon cut him off with a roar of anger, getting back to his feet and backhanding Toke across the face. His nose lit up with pain again, and his head spun. Through the confusion, he saw Zashiel get up, but Klevon thrust a leg out behind him, kicking her in the stomach. Zashiel stumbled backwards a few steps until she hit the wall a second time. With her momentarily incapacitated, Klevon flicked his wrist again, causing one of his spears to retract into itself again.
“You’re not getting away from me that easily,” he growled, shaking his head as a thin trail of blood snaked its way down his forehead and into his eye. “It doesn’t matter how hard you fight, I am executing you!”
He raised the short spear, leveling it with Toke heart. Zashiel was still sitting in the corner, probably unconscious. Toke’s brain kicked into overdrive, trying to think of a way to save himself. In his panic, he noticed something about his friend. Even when she was out cold, she still kept a firm grip on her weapon. Her chakrams… No, he realized, one chakram. Where was the other one?
There! Still embedded in the wall from when she had cut the hose to the poison tank. More importantly, Klevon was standing directly between it and Toke.
The void… I need the void!
Klevon thrust his spear at Toke, and things seemed to slow down as he focused entirely himself on the task at hand. Just like during inventor’s class. Just like when he’d spied on the politicians. Toke lashed out with his powers, faster than he ever had before, and grabbed the circular weapon. He anchored himself to it, making himself as heavy as he could. The chakram yanked itself out of the wall, flying towards Toke, and…
Klevon screamed when the blade struck him, burying itself in his leg. The impact was so strong that it threw him off his feet, and the tip of his spear missed Toke’s face by a fraction of an inch.
In an instant, Zashiel leaped back to her feet and swung her other chakram. The flat of the blade struck Klevon on the side of the head before he had even hit the ground, propelling him away from her and into the wall. He fell to the floor and, after a weak attempt to get back up, fell still.
“Are you okay?” Zashiel demanded, limping as quickly as she could to inspect Toke. “Did any of the poison get into you?”
“No, I’m fine,” he answered as she pulled the needle from his arm, and then wrapped a strip of gauze she’d taken from her jacket around it. “What about you?”
“I can fly,” she said grimly. “And we’re going to need to wing it out of here if we want to live.”
After she was done binding his wound, she went to the back of the table. A moment later, the metal straps holding Toke came undone with a hiss, setting him free.
“Thanks,” he said, stepping down and rubbing his wrists to get some feeling back in his hands. Zashiel wasn’t listening though, she’d already gone to the other end of the room where a cabinet stood against the wall. After quick search inside, she pulled out his axes.
“Take them,” she said, limping over to hand them to him. “You’re going to need them.”
A pit formed in Toke’s stomach. “It’s all over, isn’t it?” he asked, taking his weapons and securing them to his back. “They know who we are now.”
Zashiel hesitated, and then nodded. “We have to go into hiding. Both of us. But that’s—”
Klevon groaned and rolled over.
“Time to go!” Zashiel said, and wrapped her arms around Toke. Before he could even put his hood up, she ran for the door, her steps awkward because of the wound in her leg, and launched herself into the air.
NEXT TIME: Toke and Zashiel have narrowly avoided being executed, but they’re not out of danger yet. They still have to escape Hashira, and don’t think for a moment that Klevon’s just going to let them leave.