Garrett wanted to stop Gemma when he saw her entering the air vent. Gemma hated dark tunnels. Nothing but anxiety attacks awaited her in them. Yet he let her go. In a time like this, he had to trust that his twin knew what she was doing. Besides, he had another strong body to face.
"Ooof!" When Jack threw Garrett towards the wall, Garrett hit with such a force that it left cracks.
Dezi faced Kat, and it was hard to tell who overcame whom. Kat could calculate her next attacks better than Dezi could, but Dezi saw them coming well before they could hit. Their combat was more of a dance. Garrett and Jack's was more of a free-for-all.
"You're good," Jack complimented as he walked towards Garrett as the twin struggled to his feet, "but you still lack the years of training I had."
"Training means nothing if you don't know how to apply it," Garrett said, on his feet again.
"You're inexperienced," Jack laughed. "What makes you think you have the wisdom to sat that?"
"I had my fair share of getting knocked around to learn the most important part in any fight is to adjust, adapt, and overcome." Following Gemma's earlier example, Garrett dropped low to the ground and swept out his leg. Jack jumped out of the way, but that's what Garrett hoped for.
Jack crashed into a table by the wall. Although he stumbled, he regained his balance. It was while Jack was focused on not falling over that Garrett took his chance.
With a punch aimed at Jack's jaw, Garrett picked up the stunned guy and hurled him at Kat. The two Migloritas fell over, and Kat begun cussing at Jack to get off. Dezi took the opportunity for what it was, and the two guys ran.
"They will know about the tunnels," Dezi said as he and Garrett rounded the corner. "No sense in trying to hide."
"I believe that," Garrett replied. "Lead the way, prince."
Maybel and Kai maneuvered through the tunnels with ease. The ability to see souls made not losing Seńor de Camilla an easy task. Catching up to him and what they would do when they achieved that, however, was a different story, but they would figure that out when they caught up with him.
"Where do you think he's going?" Maybel asked as they kept running through the tunnels.
"Out the garden," Kai answered. "I helped planned the escape route in case anything went wrong, which it did. Nice performance, by the way."
"I had a great teacher. You taught me well." Maybel gasped. "He's stopping! Do you think he's reached the end?"
"Not possible," Kai replied. "He's probably stopping to catch his breath. It's a bit of a journey. I planned it that way on purpose."
"I can't believe he let you help plan his escape route when he knows full well that you would take my side."
"Oh, he doesn't know I planned it." Kai wore a cheeky grin. "I jumped in with my ideas, telling the planning team what I thought would improve Seńor de Camilla's chance of escape."
"You lying dog. You're the absolute best."
Kai laughed. "Can I get that in writing?"
Maybel then swore. "He's on the move again. We need to hurry!"
However, both Maybel and Kai stopped in their tracks when they felt the ground vibrate. They clutched the wall as they tried not to fall over. Making eye contact, they silently asked the other what on earth was going on.
When Gemma finally made it out of the air vent, it was as if hundreds of pounds rolled right off her shoulders and the tourniquet was removed from her chest. The stab wound had reopened, but it wasn't bleeding as badly as it could have been. Had she the opportunity, Gemma would have taken the moment to be proud of herself, but she was on a time limit, and there was no way of knowing if she had any left or if it was too late. In a matter of seconds, Gemma ran towards the levers in the control room and pulled them all.
The room shook when each lever was pulled. Passageways were being sealed. Now to find out if Gemma closed the tunnels off soon enough.
As the room shook, Gemma heard a whimper coming from one of the air vents. Curious as usual, Gemma inspected the noise after she completed her task. When she found what was in the vents, Gemma smiled.
"Looks as if we have you cornered," Maybel said when she and Kai found Seńor de Camilla cursing at the closed passageway. That must have been what the shaking was about. "Give it up, Cortez de Camilla."
"You address me by my name instead of 'Father'?" Seńor de Camilla shook his head. "Seventeen years gone, just like that. You truly are an ungrateful child."
"You never wanted to be my father!" Maybel snapped. "All I ever wanted from you was love, but you couldn't give me even a proper taste of that. I was never daughter to you, but a tool to manipulate and abuse."
"You're still upset about this, I see," Seńor de Camilla replied. "Women are far too emotional for their own good." To Kai. "As for you, I'm surprised you were able to turn on me. Evan should have broken your mind to remain nothing but loyal to me and the cause."
"Evan didn't get a hold of me until months after Saybel left," Kai growled. "He didn't think he had to override any loyalty I would have for a missing friend. It was merely a matter of finding loopholes and reconditioning myself to believe everything you stand for is wrong. Took a painful amount of time, but I succeeded."
"Fools, the both of you!" Seńor de Camilla snapped. "What do you hope to accomplish by cornering me? I know neither of you are capable of killing me, and you don't have proof that I'm guilty of anything."
"You told me yourself that you created Migloritas," Maybel spat. "I could have revealed all to your supposed adoring subjects. I could have revealed what you did to me and how you used me. Getting Pope Jonathon elected and convincing the king to make Migloritas illegal was all part of your plan to raise an army."
"An army no one would dare challenge when I try again to seize the crown!" Seńor de Camilla exclaimed.
Smirking, Maybel asked, "If they're so unchallengeable, then why did you flee when they began to fight? Certainly they would have come out on top."
"The appearance of your little friends was a calculation I failed to make," Seńor de Camilla answered. "However, whoever we capture will make excellent additions after Evan gets through with them."
"Evan's power isn't foolproof," Kai retorted.
"It's only flaw comes when his victims begin to question what they believe." Seńor de Camilla grinned. "Hardly anyone ever questions what they believe. Nobody can handle that kind of self-doubt."
"Really?" a new voice challenged. Dezi entered the scene, Garrett right behind.
"Garrett!" Maybel exhaled heavily, smiling at her friend. Yet as he looked at her, neither smiling nor seeming as thrilled to see her as she was to see him, Maybel's relief fell.
"You know," Dezi continued to muse, "I think the hardest self-doubt we can face is the doubt we can overcome our greatest mistakes." He shrugged. "Honestly, I struggle with it myself so I won't bore anyone by preaching something I'm not even qualified to talk about."
"You have a lot of nerve showing up," Seńor de Camilla responded, tone even. "You're still a wanted criminal."
"With all due respect, sire," Dezi lay the mockery on thickly, "your first mistake was setting an execution date without first proceeding with a proper trial. Were you so eager to be rid of me that you didn't mind turning a blind eye to one of Inonvouslee's most important laws?"
"There are no trials for assassins, as you should know," Seńor de Camilla replied. "I broke no laws."
"That law only applies in situations the assassination took place in front of a plethora of witnesses, not a small number of people all connected with each other."
"Are you done?" Kai asked, rolling his eyes.
"You can have your political battle another time," Garrett added. "Preferably after we have this man in custody."
"If that's what my people desire," Dezi answered.
Seńor de Camilla took a step back, pressing himself into the wall. "You can't take me anywhere."
"Really?" Maybel rose an eyebrow. "In case you haven't noticed, it's four of us against one of you."
"Actually, you're the ones who are outnumbered," The violet-haired girl from before said as she, a brunette, a greenet, and an Onyxite with white hair came from behind. Garrett and Dezi stepped out of their way, as did Maybel and Kai. The girl walked towards Seńor de Camilla while the others stayed near the teens. Kneeling, the violet-haired girl said, "Have they harmed you, Master?"
"Only my plans, Violet," Seńor de Camilla replied. "What happened after the outbreak?"
"The other Migloritas, although quite strong, were subdued. We had both the numbers and the training to overcome them without suffering much injury."
"Excellent. What of Rosetta? Did you manage to take her to safety before the danger could reach her? Is my daughter all right?"
Violet hesitated a beat too long. "She's safe."
Everyone looked at Maybel. Clearing her throat, Maybel said without any hint of wavering, "The girl is lying. She doesn't know where Rosetta is."
At this, Seńor de Camilla narrowed his eyes. He looked back and forth between Maybel and Violet. It was clear he didn't know whom to believe.
"The soul seer lies," Violet insisted. "She wants to turn you against me."
"Why would I lie about your lying?" Maybel challenged. "I mean, I suppose turning your master against you isn't a poor trick, but what have I to gain from it? He will never, ever side with me. If he turns against you, he will try to replace you." Looking at Seńor de Camilla, Maybel wore the most venomous smile she could muster as she asked, "Isn't that right, Father?"
Now Violet was the one to narrow her eyes at Seńor de Camilla. If she knew Maybel could see souls, then she knew Maybel could also figure out another's motivations and sometimes even thoughts. It didn't matter if Maybel was lying or telling the truth about each of them; those seeds of mistrust had already been planted.
"Any matter," Seńor de Camilla said cautiously, "it's us against you. Unless you plan to kill me here and now, thus truly becoming murderers, then I don't see what you could possibly hope to accomplish."
"How about we accomplish beating these rogues into a bloody pulp?" the greenet suggested. The way he glared at Garrett told Maybel there was some history between these two.
"What?" Garrett challenged. "Are you ready for the second round?"
"Your tricks won't work a second time, strong body," the other girl sneered.
"Tricks? Did somebody say tricks? I love tricks!"
Maybel's knees nearly gave out from under her. She had to turn around to confirm she wasn't imagining things. "Gemma!" she exclaimed, starting to run forward but coming to a halt when she saw who was with the girl twin.
Gemma, alive and well despite the massive dried blood stain on the side of her shirt, walked down the tunnel. In her grasp was none other than Rosetta, scared but otherwise unharmed. There wasn't a single weapon in Gemma's hand, yet Rosetta didn't put up a fight while Gemma herded her like a calf.
"Rosetta!" Seńor de Camilla exclaimed before turning his anger onto Violet. "You lied to me after all!"
"That little snot ran away from me!" Violet argued. "I would have dragged her away kicking and screaming if I could, but she vanished, and I had to make sure you escaped alive and in one piece!"
"I ordered you to protect Rosetta above all else," Seńor de Camilla snarled. "How useless can you be to fail at one, simple task?"
To this, Violet had no response, but she did narrow her eyes as she stared at the man before her. Maybel could see the wheels turning. She and this girl had so much in common, but while Marionette was the kind of girl who ran away, Violet was the kind of wounded animal who would fight predators more than thrice her size.
This made Violet the scariest person in the tunnels.
"Glad to see I closed the passageway in time!" Gemma exclaimed, feigning obliviousness to the tension in the air. Indicating Rosetta, Gemma continued, "And look what I found crawling around in the vents! Isn't she cute? She has such pretty pink and purple hair, too. Garrett, May-May, can we keep her?"
All the while, Rosetta did nothing. She stood there, maintaining her composure almost perfectly. Only Maybel, seeing Rosetta's soul, knew what the young girl was really feeling.
While Violet still knelt on the ground, the Migloritas who appeared with her took a few steps back. They want to watch how this plays out, Maybel realized. She didn't fail to notice whom they looked to, how they regarded their supposed creator.
"Rosetta, darling," Seńor de Camilla began, moving forward.
Garrett stood in the way, blocking father's path to daughter. "No, sir," he began, "this isn't how this works. We have what you want, so we're the ones who get to make demands."
"Anything," Seńor de Camilla pleaded. "I'll give you anything. Just don't hurt my daughter!"
Before Garrett could so much as open his mouth to reply, Maybel jumped in with, "Give us Violet!"
"What?!" said girl shrieked. Garrett glared at Maybel, and Gemma and Dezi both raised their brows. The other three Migloritas watch on, intrigued.
"She seems to be valuable asset," Maybel continued, hoping she played the game right. Gemma would never hurt anyone, including Rosetta, but Seńor de Camilla didn't need to know that. "Have her swear loyalty to us, and we will let your child return to you unscathed. Now, Cortez, do we have a deal?"
Seńor de Camilla didn't hesitate for a second. "Yes, we have a deal." To Violet, "Swear loyalty to them now. And no tricks! Marionette can see if you are hiding anything from her. She will suspect deceit from you if you try."
"With all due respect, are you insane?!" Violet snapped. "You need me on your side. Without me to persuade your army to keep them in line, they will realize that as Migloritas, they have nothing to fear from you. They have no reason to obey you. There's no way you can give me up without giving up everything else you ever worked for."
A vein bulged on Seńor de Camilla's forehead. "I gave you one simple order to follow. How thick must you be to not follow it, you simple child?"
"But Father-!" Violet began.
"Don't ever call me that!" Seńor de Camilla snapped, interrupting Violet. "How many times must I order you to not address me as such? I only agreed to take you in because your mother insisted with her dying breath I was her child's father. Whether or not you are my blood after all does not change that you are a bastard, and in no way are you as valuable as my child with my wife. Now give those dreadful Migloritas what they want so I can have my real daughter back. Are is my request too complex for you to understand?"
Violet blinked a few times, and Maybel noticed how the girl's eyes shone. Everyone was stunned silent. A bastard child . . . Maybel didn't doubt it. She knew she and Violet had the desire for parental love haunting their soul. Like Maybel, Violet was in some position to see Seńor de Camilla as a father figure in order to crave her need for love from him.
With a subtle bow of the head, Violet replied, "As you wish," before she turned around and approached Maybel. Garrett tensed, and Dezi, Gemma, and Rosetta all watched as if they couldn't believe what was really happening. As before, the Migloritas who came with Violet didn't betray anything they were thinking or feeling, or at least not on their faces.
Kneeling to the ground, this time for Maybel, Violet bowed her head and promised, "My services belong to you, Marionette Saybel de Camilla, or Maybel Braille, or whatever name you prefer. Your wish is my command. Search me now with your gift and confirm if it is the truth I speak to you now. My soul is open."
Search Maybel did. Even though it wasn't necessary, she still studied Violet's soul, which was bared as Violet promised it would be.
"Violet is telling the truth," Maybel confirmed after a moment. "No tricks or anything of the sort."
"Now," Seńor de Camilla said, "my daughter. Give me my daughter."
"Hmmm, do I want to keep my end of the bargain?" Gemma mused, tapping her finger against her face. When Maybel looked closely, she realized Gemma was tapping her finger against her ear.
"We had a deal!" Seńor de Camilla shouted, on the verge of panic.
"Quit playing, Gemma," Maybel said, showing the petite girl a knowing smile. "The poor man's suffered enough."
"Okay then!" Gemma let Rosetta go, and the younger girl cried as she ran towards her father.
Maybel wasn't the only one to hide the sting when she saw how Seńor de Camilla embraced Rosetta.
"He's never hugged you that way either, has he?" Maybel asked. Violet's only answer was a glare. Clearing her throat, Maybel said, "Violet, you are released from your vow to me. However you see fit to proceed, I will not stop you."
"Are you kidding me?!" Garrett barked. "After that whole performance, you're going to let her go? Just like that?!"
Neither Gemma nor Dezi said anything, but Maybel did notice how they got close to each other, meeting halfway. Whereas Garrett was furious, and rightly so, Gemma and Dezi stood with caution. The three Migloritas that arrived with Violet continued to watch, awaiting orders. Violet sneered. Maybel waited.
"Get him," Violet ordered. Her companions didn't need to ask whom.
"Wait- What are you- Get your filthy hands off of me!" Seńor de Camilla struggled as the three teens pulled him away from Rosetta and held him back. Rosetta cried out, but she was left alone. "Stand down. Stand down! That's an order!"
"We don't take orders from you," the brunette said. She smirked. "We take orders from Violet, remember? She's the one we're loyal to."
"Same with the rest of our friends." The geenet laughed. The Onyxite still said nothing, but he nodded along in agreement.
"Father!" Rosetta cried, she tried to run forward, but Maybel and Violet both sprung up to hold her back.
"We're not going to kill him," Violet promised, "though I do think some of my friends would like to get a hold of him first."
"No." Everyone stopped as Dezi approached, shoulders back and head held high. Dezi said, "We shall do this properly. Trial and all. However, that can't happen until I'm crowned king, and that can't happen until an investigation is conducted. We shall keep Seńor de Camilla in custody, but for now, that's all we are able to do."
"I will never confess to anything!" Seńor de Camilla snapped. "It's my word against yours! And who will the people believe? Me, or a bunch of filthy Migloritas?"
"Oh, they'll definitely believe you over us," Kai replied. Seńor de Camilla began to grin, but it fell when Kai added, "But you're going to be the one to confess. After all, we have a mind breaker on our side. Five minutes with you, and Evan here should be able to make you feel guilty about all you have done." As an afterthought, he added, "If everyone's okay with that, of course."
Silence lingered, then Dezi said, "Only if Maybel and I can sit in as witnesses."
"Good enough for me," Violet agreed. To the others, "We'll lock the traitor away for now. Clean up this mess. Get something to eat. Take a nap, maybe. Then, Evan, honey, would you mind giving our new friends a little show?"
When Evan grinned, it sent shivers down Maybel's spine. When he spoke, she wished he had remained quiet. "Shall I be gentle, or rip up a few floorboards?"
"Whatever they prefer to watch." Violet let go of Rosetta and walked towards them to give a few quiet instructions.
Maybel knew it was coming before the actions were made. "Violet, step away!"
Wasting no time to question Maybel, Violet jumped back. The blade of a knife barely scratched her stomach. Dumbstruck, Violet looked at Seńor de Camilla.
The man was a cornered animal, and he wasn't going down without a fight. Slashing his knife around, he managed to cut the girl and stab the boy with the green braids. They jumped away to avoid further injury. Now free, Seńor de Camilla turned his eyes on Maybel.
"You," he snarled, both a threat and a promise.
As Seńor de Camilla charged at her, Maybel pushed Rosetta away and stood her ground. Kai called her name, reaching out for her, but he was too far. Instead of fleeing, Maybel prepared for what came next. Just as Seńor de Camilla was close enough to impale Maybel, a shrill cry pierced through the air.
Covering their ears, everyone dropped to the floor. Maybel reached out only long enough to retrieve Seńor de Camilla's dropped weapon before she covered her ears again. She sneaked a glance at Gemma, standing proud as she held the alarm from the train in her hands. There were cloths in Gemma's ears, and when Maybel looked, she saw the cloths in Rosetta's ears as well. Gemma must have struck some deal between them for Rosetta to come willingly and Gemma to give her the cloth.
It had to have been a minute, but it felt like longer when more Migloritas entered the tunnels. Bonnet, Sophia, Ruffas, and others came down the tunnels, all save Sophia wearing ear protection. Once Seńor de Camilla was in custody and being dragged away, Gemma put the alarm back together, silencing it. Maybel couldn't hear what Gemma said over the ringing in her ears, but it had to have been something like, "This thing sure is handy. I think it's my new favorite toy!"
As the other Migloritas dragged the limp Seńor de Camilla away and the rest were waved off by Maybel, the remaining teens sat there in silence for a few minutes. Nobody said anything. Rosetta sat crying. Everyone else all looked at each other, the truce silently agreed between them.
"What was that?" Kai asked as he stood to his feet moments later. He sounded muffled, but it seemed everyone could hear him.
"A cool alarm we found on our heist before this one," Gemma answered, grinning. "Makes it easy for our friends to find us when we need them, don't you think?"
Everyone else rose to their feet. The tension in the air slowly faded. For now, nobody was anyone's enemy.
Seeing the opportunity, Rosetta broke free from the group and ran down the tunnel.
"Rosie!" Maybel called, and the girl stopped and turned around. Tears still flowed freely from her eyes. "Where are you going?" Maybel then softly asked.
"Anywhere away from here," Rosetta answered, voice cracking.
"Let me come with you." Maybel took a step forward.
"Stay away from me!" Rosetta cried, halting Maybel. "Just stay away, and never come near me again. I hate you, and I will never, ever forgive you for everything you did."
As Rosetta stormed away, Maybel placed a hand on her chest. Her fingers curled, balling the fabric of her dress in her fist. Blinking back the tears only succeeded in making them fall.
"I'll keep an eye on her," Violet said. She didn't wait for a response before she stalked after Rosetta. Her friends followed suit. In a matter of seconds, the group vanished just as quietly as she appeared.
Maybel could have stood there for ages watched where her sister went. It was when a familiar voice cried out, "May-May!" that Maybel turned around. She didn't get a chance to react before Gemma crashed into her, knocking them both to the ground.
"Gemma!" Maybel cried, clinging tightly to her friend. "Gemma, you're alive! I thought I was never going to see you again. I'm so happy you're here!"
"I'm happy I'm here and alive too," Gemma replied, laughing. She then hugged Maybel tighter. She winced, possibly in pain from whatever wound caused her to bleed on her clothes, but she held on regardless. "But I'm most happy to see you."
"You never struck me as a hugger, Maybel."
Both girls looked up to see Dezi smiling over them. "May I say you both put on quite the performance."
"You should know better than to underestimate me," Gemma replied. Leaning close to Maybel, Gemma whispered, "Remember Ricardo? That's Dezi!"
"No wonder your soul seemed so familiar!" Maybel exclaimed, looking at him anew.
"Honestly, I'm surprised you didn't know it was me when we met at the manor. I was absolutely terrified when I climbed down that tree and saw you coming. I was like, 'Oh, great. Back up I go.'"
"I was too busy panicking that you kidnapped my friend for me to really see your soul. Strong emotions make it hard to use my gift, after all."
"Mind if I join this little party?"
"Yes," Maybel said, "right. Gemma, Dezi, this is Kai. Kai, Gemma and Dezi." She frowned. Looking around, she saw someone missing. "Where's Garrett?"
Gemma went quiet. Softly, she explained, "Violet told Garrett that you really are Marionette. He . . . didn't take the news well."
"Does he hate me?"
Unable to look Maybel in the eyes, Gemma replied, "That's not my place to say."