Responsibility

Continued from ‘Accusation

Sweat slides down the back of my neck. My heart races, pounding in my chest like it’s trying to get out. Tears trickle down my cheeks, removing the dust from my eyes and fear screams for me to run. Yet, my body remains immobile. I can’t move except for the strange spasms of my muscles.

The man looms over me. Anger and vengeance dance in his eyes like the reflections of the firelight.

He’s going to kill me. I had nothing to do with the murders, the deaths, any of it, but he’ll kill me anyway. He just wants someone to pay for what happened, no matter who it is. 

I try to swallow, but my throat doesn’t respond.  Spit pools in my mouth, threatening to drown me before the man has the chance to kill me himself.

He extends his hand above me, fingers splayed, and deadly intent in his eyes. “This is going to hurt,” he informs me, a curl tugging at his lips. His hand races towards me.

My muscles clench in an attempt to protect myself, to throw up my arms, to block the attack, but they don’t react. Nothing moves. I don’t move as the hand slams into another hand mere inches from my chest.

Sparks blast in every direction, splitting through the air from the impact of the two hands.

Shock flashes through the green eyes of the man as his attack is blocked while I still remain on the ground.

“What do you think you’re doing, Aric?” Authority holds the voice of my protector as they push his hand away from my chest.

He pulls back, drawing his gaze from my face to meet his aggressor.

Feeling returns to my body as the tingling sensation drifts away.

“I’m teaching this city blood a little history,” he snarls.

“And who gave you the assignment of teacher?”

Regaining control of my limbs, I lift myself to a seated position. Kalla stands next to me; my protector.

“This boy did when he screamed ignorance in my face.” Aric jerks a hand in my direction like I started and wanted the fight.

Kalla doesn’t even look at me as she gestures at me, too. “You mean him? The water adaptation? The boy who’s known for not being a fighter?” Her challenge is obvious, threatening him to step forward. Yet, she says it like he’ll back down.

I can’t imagine why he would. He’s older than her, bigger than her, and likely stronger than her. If it came to a fight, he would win hands down, but she acts like she would win the fight without even trying. I don’t understand.

Aric draws himself up. “Yes, him. The boy. The one you’re so protective of for no reason. Or do you have a soft spot for weak city bloods, Kalla?”

Kalla advances. Her feet stomp into the ground as she closes the space between them, her chest bumping into his. “You better hope I have a soft spot, Aric, or you’ll be the one lying on the ground.”

The corner of his lip draws up in a sneer, as if amused by her. “You couldn’t beat me before, Kalla. What makes you think you can now?”

Her hand slams into his chest.

He jerks his arm towards the sky.

Electricity blasts from his fingers, cracking through the air towards the stars while his shirt sears away.

“Really, Kalla?”

“You afraid to fight a girl, Aric?”

His smile vanishes. Seriousness washes over him, and he rolls his shoulders. “Fine. Two-person duel. First person knocked flat loses. Deal?”

“First person knocked flat?” She returns. “This’ll be quick.” Stepping over the bench and into the open area of the clearing, she peels off her jacket, exposing lean arms.

Aric follows her, along with the rest of the people.

I jump to my feet and rush after them, but my legs give way beneath me. I crumple to the dirt. My arms shake as I place them beneath me, bracing myself on the ground and trying to climb back to my feet. My elbow bends, dropping me back to the dirt.

“Oh, come on, city blood,” an exasperated voice grumbles as someone laces their arm under me. “This is your fault. So, you have to watch.”

Dragging me to my feet, Julian draws me towards the crowd, shoving between people to make room for us. In the center of the crowd, Kalla and Aric stand a few feet apart. Their arms hang in front of them as if ready to clap, just like Alice when she tried to fight me.

“What do you mean it’s my fault?” My throat is still parched, but I manage the words around the soreness.

“Kalla is defending you against Aric.”

“Why?”

Julian shifts next to me, turning to face me with an expression that says I’m an idiot. “Aric was going to kill you. Rayna gave everyone orders not to harm you, but more importantly, Kalla and I rescued you from the Unknown, which makes you our responsibility while you’re in our camp.”

“Responsibility?”

A heavy sigh slips from Julian as he turns back to face the two opposing forces. “Because Rayna gave orders not to harm you, it falls to us to make sure you don’t get killed.”

“But why would Aric try to kill me if he was ordered not to hurt me?”

“This isn’t the city, city blood,” Julian scolds. “Orders are guidelines. We live by the laws of the Unknown, kill or be killed. Besides, no one would blame Aric for wanting vengeance after what happened…” He trails off, watching the blonde man.

I open my mouth to respond when the sound of clapping, followed by the crackle of electricity, draws my attention away.

Aric attacked first. The only way to tell is in the shift of his position and the way Kalla points to the sky. Yet, the electricity moves too fast to see.

And here I thought my battle with Alice was fast-paced. This is insane. How do they even know how to block the attacks if they move too fast to see?

Kalla steps forward, clapping her hands in front of her.

I try to follow the line of electricity as it snaps towards Aric. Yet, by the time my eyes reach Aric, the electricity already flashes across the sky above him.

“How can they react so fast?”

“Training, city blood,” Julian explains, his voice not insulting for once. “It’s why you’re not safe here. It’s why you can’t stay. Even young electricity adaptations can’t protect themselves against attacks. Imagine what would happen if you, a water adaptation, got struck by lightning.”

I inhale as Aric and Kalla attack mere seconds apart from each other. The sky explodes with light. A scream pierces the air. Kalla’s scream.

Next Installment: Building Electricity

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