Heading back towards the elevators, Taryn's hand in mine, I couldn't believe how difficult it was to breathe a sigh of relief. After the fight in the lobby, and the reassurance of the Jeweler...I still felt a heightened sense of tension that refused to release its hold on me. People were searching for me. Dangerous people. And the only ones claiming to protect me...were just as suspicious as the ones trying to hunt me down. It was an uneasy feeling to say the least.
I saw his main security officer, Cage, come out of one of the elevators, nearly all of them opening simultaneously, and he was soon accompanied by a horde of armed soldiers. Apparently, too late to get into the conflict. "Sir?" He asked.
The Jeweler set him at ease. "It's all taken care of, Cage. No need for the extra assistance."
"What happened down here?"
"It is of no real concern. At least not tonight." He replied. "However, we may have to increase our security in the weeks to come. Contact Rizzy and tell him that we may need a rather extensive surplus of weaponry from his stock." Cage grunted, and the Jeweler asked, "Problem?"
"No problem, sir. Just...you know I can barely understand a single word that comes out of his mouth, right? I practically need a South London translator to figure him out."
"Then I suggest you get one. Because the surplus is for your benefit, not ours." The Jeweler smiled at me. "When push comes to shove...we already have access to the most powerful weapon on Earth." I can't say that I appreciated being referred to as a 'weapon', but took pride in having him maintain the utmost confidence in my abilities. "Make it happen. I will have someone give you a list. Any price is acceptable, but don't let him take advantage of our resources. Rizzy will swindle you if he thinks he has the leverage."
"Yes, sir." Cage replied, and gave a hand signal to tell all of his soldiers to lower their weapons and return to their positions.
"Justin?" He asked. "Give me a moment to contact a few connections about this matter and we can continue where we left off."
"Oh. Ok." I said, still holding Taryn close in my arms.
We stepped into one of the elevators, Taryn and I, 2 of the Jeweler's servants, and Strings. The Jeweler gave me a subtle smirk as the doors closed, and the elevator began its ascent with a little jolt. The servants never lifted their eyes from the ground. They were completely submissive, their will only focused on serving the Jeweler's wishes. It was slightly odd to witness, but my concentration was broken once Strings began to sling that yo-yo to the ground and back up into his hand again. An obsessive habit that he never seemed to take a break from.
"So...you like what you saw out there? I know ya did." He said.
I told him, "I've never seen anything like that. Ever. It was amazing." Then I gave Taryn a gentle squeeze and I said, "Thank you for keeping us safe. Both of us. I don't know how to repay you."
"Blowjob." He smirked.
"Blowjob. You can blow me. That'll make us just about even, don't you think? I hear gay boys do it best."
What an arrogant prick. "Fuck you, asshole." I grunted.
"Whoah, whoah...hehehe, slow down 'fairy tale'. I just wanted some head. You can save the 'fucking asshole' gameplay for your boy-wife over here." He said.
"It's not like I needed your help. I could have handled them on my own."
"Ummm...you might THINK you could have, but you'd be mistaken. I don't know what petty little vampires you've been dealing with up to this point, but that was a Class 5 vampire hit squad that you saw down there in that lobby. And when Ruby gets involved? Oh yeah...shit gets real ugly. So you're in more trouble than you know, kid. Believe me. Maybe, from now on, you'll stop running around the city of Chicago playing kung fu hero and keep your head down."
"I did what I did to protect myself and the people I care about." I said.
"Won't do you any good, you know?" He said. "Your destiny has already been written a dozen times in dusty old books that have long been forgotten by most. You're just climbing the branches, following the footsteps...floating with the current of a lazy stream until you reach the waterfall. The scriptures are never wrong. But you already know that, don't ya?" Strings was doing his best to irritate me, and it was definitely working...but when he made that particular comment I didn't want to continue any further with our back and forth. Taryn was standing right next to me. And Strings would definitely tell. He'd yell it out and laugh at Taryn's horrified reaction if he thought it would be entertaining enough. I don't know why I thought I was protecting him by keeping the tragic prophecy a secret. Secrets have always done me more harm than good, especially in darkness. But somehow...I stayed submerged in the illusion, telling me that I'd be able to prevent it as long as Taryn didn't know about his possible fate. It was a belief that I was willing to hold onto, no matter what.
Suddenly, the elevator stopped short, and the doors opened to reveal Bookworm standing in front of us. I asked, "What is this?"
Strings said, "This is where you get off. The boss won't take long to straighten matters out, and I'm sure he doesn't want you two getting into anything...'frisky'." Taryn and I both cringed at almost every word that came out of that boy's mouth, but when Bookworm stepped aside for me to get off of the elevator, I knew that we'd have to part ways.
"I'll come up as soon as I can. Ok?" I told him, lightly stroking my fingers against his cheek. "I love you."
"Love you too. Be careful." He said, just moments before leaning in to kiss me tenderly on the lips.
An uncountable number of kisses shared between us since we first met, and every one still feels like our first. Brand new. A gift of beauty that I had to constantly wonder if I was worthy to receive.
Just as the elevator doors were closing, I saw Taryn move to the side and practically press his shoulder to the nearest wall to stay as far away from Strings as possible. I heard the whizzing sound of his yo-yo as he smirked and said, "Nice faux hawk, bro..."
I really hate that kid.
Bookworm led me down a long hallway, down some steps, and into a large white room. This whole building seemed to get bigger and bigger from the inside. My mind couldn't conceive how they fit all of this stuff in one place. Even in a high rise like this.
There were various servants cleaning and polishing the marble ways of the place, glaring white with artistic splashes of grey embedded in the stone. Everything was so quiet. So elegant. It must have taken quite an exhausting effort to keep the room looking so clean. So flawless. I made eye contact with one of the servants in the room, and immediately...he gasped and lowered himself to one knee in front of me. Others in the room took notice, and soon began to bow at my feet as well. It was...a weird experience.
"What's happening? What did I do?" I asked.
"It is not what you did, but what you are." Bookworm replied.
Looking at all of them, kneeling like that...I felt so out of place. One of them, an older woman with gray hair...almost white, wrinkles in her face, and her fingers slightly bent with arthritis...she seemed to be shaking from the misery it caused her to be kneeling on the floor like that. But she held her position regardless. Head down. Eyes to the floor. I stopped walking and said, "How do I tell them they don't need to do that?"
Bookworm looked back at me and said, "Simply speak the words. Their will is your will. If you say it, they must make it so."
I don't think I've ever had a voice that was capable of having such an impact before. The very idea of it scared me. But I cleared my throat and strained my young, unstable, voice to speak loud enough to cover the entire room. "Ummm....ok. You guys? You don't...I mean, none of you have to do this. The kneeling thing, I mean." None of them moved. "It's ok. I mean...thanks. It's great, but...seriously, no need." They all remained perfectly still. Eyes glued to the floor. Bookworm waited patiently for me to figure things out for myself, so I slowly walked over to the older woman on her knees and I offered her my hand. Timid at first, she raised her eyes up to peek into my own. "It's ok. You can get up. Seriously." I saw her tear up slightly, and with a little more prompting...she put some of her weight down on my hand and allowed me to help her back on her feet. "It's ok. All of you. You can get up. Please?" They all gave me a look as though they were committing some crime by not knowing their place. But little by little...they all began to rise. Many still seemed too skittish to look at me directly, but I highly doubt that I've done enough to be idolized in this way.
Even if I had...I wouldn't want that kind of control anyway. It's creepy. And it's just not me.
"The sign of a true king in the making." Came the Jeweler's voice over my shoulder. I turned to see him dressed in new robes, a servant on either side of him to provide his every need. Even after the conflict downstairs, his smile remained genuine. "These daylight humans are avid students of the ancient scriptures that I hold here. They recognize you, and the greatness you possess. They may understand your significance better than you do, Justin."
"I appreciate it...I think. But all the theatrics are unnecessary. I'm just a normal person. They can treat me like a friend."
"No, Justin. I don't think they can." He said, and with a wave of his hand, his two servants and many others in the room got into a single file line and began walking out of the room. The Jeweler looked me in the eye and said, "Don't be afraid of your own glory, Justin. I realize that it takes some adjustment, but your magnificence will be seen whether you enjoy it or not. They don't kneel because they're forced to, but because they choose to."
I felt pressured into the idea, and I didn't like it all that much. So I just said, "I'd rather they didn't."
The Jeweler smiled and said, "As you wish." Then he stepped forward with Bookworm standing by, his lanky arms folded behind his back as his slender frame followed a few steps behind us. "Come. Walk with me."
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