Rosakai’s voice held such hatred…
“A duty?” Zephren asked, wondering if he was prying.
The siren brushed his long white hair away from his handsome face. “Yes. It’s my responsibility as a siren. I want freedom and equality…” Rosakai shifted uncomfortably. “Perhaps, having been a prisoner, you can understand that need.”
Zephren took a deep breath, looking up at the sky. “You know, when I got out of that confinement, I really thought I was free… I’m being hunted—whether it’s for a weapon or to be killed, I’m not sure it makes much of a difference… Now, I just feel… lost.”
The squeeze and stretch of leather sounded as Rosakai wrung his hands together. “It does make a difference… If you do have powers, and Crimson caught you—if the government obtained them…there’s no question they would be used violently for selfish reasons. He burned down an entire city looking for you.”
There was a jolt as a thought came to Zephren’s mind; he looked at Rosakai. “Do you want to use me? Is that why you were looking for me? Because you knew my mother and thought maybe I have her powers?” When the man said nothing, Zephren gritted his teeth, betrayed at even the lack of denial. “So, you knew they were coming for me and wanted to get there first.” Zephren stood, shocked by the fact the even felt deceived. What had he been expecting from a stranger?
Was there no one in the world he could trust?
“I should have known,” Zephren sighed, tugging at his hair. Though his voice was quiet, it quivered with rage. “You bring me here, telling me all these things about my past, about myself. Just so, what, I’ll be on your side?” There was a desperate scoff as Zephren shrugged. “You really got me, being so kind and all—”
“Enough.” Rosakai raised to his feet, towering over Zephren as he stared down at the boy with a cold determination. His intensity was crushing, boring through the boy. “Enough accusations.” When Zeph remained quiet, Rosakai looked at him a little softer, almost sympathetically. “It’s true that I want to stop Crimson, and yes, if I had my way, I’d want you to help me.” He took a step forward, “But, that is not why you are here. If I hadn’t found you, Crimson would have; you might have been dead before then.”
‘He sounds desperate,’ Zephren thought.
Of all the things that Rosakai could have been—this strong, hauntingly beautiful siren—desperate was the last that Zephren would have guessed.
“I want to be clear when I tell you, you do not have to stay here,” Rosakai sounded sincere, though perhaps saddened by the thought. “You can leave, right now if you want, and if you choose to stay, you do not have to fight. I’m not going to lock you away and force you to kill for me if that is what you are implying,” he paused for a moment, stepping closer, so close he could have brushed Zephren’s hand with his. His voice was almost a whisper as he hushed, “If you do stay here though, and choose not to fight, you must be prepared for the dangers you will face.”
Zephren looked away, clenching his jaw. “You can’t expect me to just follow you around and do nothing. You know if I stay here, I’ll have to fight for you.”
Rosakai blinked at Zeph. “Why do you assume you’ll be fighting for me? Why not for yourself? For the world of Sanctus? Why is fighting the wrong thing to do?” His words were soft; questions without preconceived answers.
Raw and vulnerable, Zephren saw the way Rosakai’s eyes sparkled; it was as if they glowed instead of reflecting the light. “I’m afraid of being used,” Zephren admitted.
“Then don’t be. Decide not to be.”
“If only it were that simple.” Zephren shook his head. “I don’t know anything about the world…about Sanctus. I don’t know anything but what you’ve told me. How can I be sure it’s even true? How can I choose violence when I wouldn’t even know what I’m fighting for?”
A sudden darkness passed over Rosakai, his height and build impressive. “Then learn about the world. It’s an important decision you need to make. The person you want to be, the life you want to lead…it’s up to you. I’m just here to keep you alive if you want my help, that is.”
Zephren felt the hairs rise on his skin as he shivered. “Do you really mean all that?”
Rosakai’s face looked pained as he nodded, breathing quietly, “I do…but my words mean nothing if you don’t trust me.”
Sighing, Zephren wrapped his arms around himself. “I don’t know what to believe, and I don’t know if I trust you, but I’ve already decided to stay here. I suppose you’re my ally, for now.” He looked back towards the cabin; two stories of all dark wood.
Would this place be his sanctuary or his downfall?
‘Anywhere is better than what you left behind.’
Zephren’s face went hot as Rosakai grabbed his hand, carefully avoiding the burn. It was a firm, distant grip, willing Zeph to look up at him. Zephren couldn’t, his eyes were transfixed on where Rosakai held him, his sleeve riding up from his gloves.
They had the same inhuman pallor.
Zephren glanced up at the silver eyes, worried that Rosakai would find his embarrassment.
“I am your ally,” Rosakai said, his long white eyelashes blinking, “and that won’t change.”