With a strange empty feeling in his chest, Ben Carmine was staring into the horizon ahead of him. He was standing on a side of a cliff, not too far from where the Shadow Mass bombs had went off two months ago. He wasn’t wearing his armor anymore. It was a dinner that was put together to celebrate the end of fighting. The peace treaty was not signed yet, but they were close to it.
He felt weird standing in an official looking suit. He wasn’t used to it. His feet would not stop squirming in his shinny black shoes. He would much rather stand in his sturdy boots while wearing the heavy armor. But that…was just weird. He looked down at his chest. A shinny red star was almost glowing on his suit. He smiled and rubbed out a spot which wasn’t even there. It all came down to that, all the struggle, all the fighting, all the pain, all summed up in a shinny metal star. Ben knew that he made his family proud. Hell both of them did.
He remembered Clay. He wished that he was standing next to him on the edge of that Cliff, just like before. Sadly he was not….Clay was still in the hospital. He barely made it through surgery, but the doctors promised that he should recover fully from it. Still it would take a lot of time.
He looked back.
In the distance he saw a King Raven circling around a landing pod, trying to approach it at the best angle. Closer to him was set a massive table with all sorts of food on it. It was remarkable how fast they managed to cook it all up…and where did they find it?
Soon his eyes set on Marcus, also in a suit which made him look even stranger than Ben. Anya was standing with him, also in an official outfit. Both of them seemed to be caught up in their own conversation and did not pay any attention to him. Not far from them were, of course, Cole and Baird. They always seemed to group together. No matter where they went, the two always ended up together. Over the years they became as close as brothers to one another. Baird’s continuous rants and Cole’s natural charisma and good spirits always balanced each other out.
Ben smiled as he watched Cole try to fix Baird’s tie, a move which he tried to fight off, but eventually gave up.
The raven had landed.
Before he could turn around, Ben felt a hand land roughly on his shoulder.
“So,” – said Danny Carmine as he finally lined up with Ben, - “How you holdin’ up little brother?”
“Fine,” – answered Ben with little interest, - “How about you? How’s that iron leg of yours?”
Danny raised his right foot and rolled it back and forth, each roll was followed by a gentle clank of metal.
“Meh, it’s alright. It works…” – he looked towards the horizon.
“Anyways,” – a strange grin appeared on Danny’s face, - “What is this I hear about you and some Locust chi..”
“For god’s sake, Dan, not now.” – Ben cut him off. He wasn’t sharing his brothers enthusiasm about the conversation.
“Oh come on, I’m your bro, you can tell me…” – his grin grew larger.
“Seriously, man, cut the ****.” – Ben was still unmoved by his brother’s cheerful attitude.
“Oh wait…hold up.” – Danny’s tone became serious in less than a second, - “Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow-wow, wow…wow...you’re serious?”
“What?” – Ben was still lost as to what got him so spooked up.
“You guys are actually…uh…like…” – with the lack of words, he formed a ring with the index finger and the thumb of his left hand and stuck out the index finger on his right hand and started moving them closer to each other.
“You’re sick, Danny.” – Ben bowed his head in disappointment.
“Hey, I’m not the one fooling around with Locust chicks…wait…is she at least hot?”
“Will you just drop it already?” – Ben turned around to look at the King Raven that landed not too long ago. The blades ha stopped spinning, but nobody gotten out yet.
Ben watched as the hatch door opened and two Locust troops stepped out of it. (Oddly enough) But his attention was transfixed on the next person to come out of the chopper. The long, shinny, dark robes were slowly dragging behind her and a bright silver crown resting on her head. It seemed as though she herself was glowing in the setting sun.
Nila noticed Ben and a small smile grew on her face. She said something to the Locust on either side of her and proceeded forward. The soldiers did not follow her.
“Wow…” – Danny finally blurted out, - “I take it back, dude. You go for it, man.”
“Wow, you’re a dumb ass.” – Ben slowly dragged his palm down his face.
“Imma leave you two love birds alone. You kids have fun.” – said Danny with a chuckle and walked away from Ben.
Finally Nila reached Ben. They hadn't seen or talked to each other ever since they got separated after the detonation of the bombs. It was strange seeing one another in “normal” outfits.
“Your brother?” – she asked as she watched Danny walking towards Cole and Baird. Cole himself had already noticed the newly arrived Locust Queen and was frantically waving to her. She rewarded him with a slight wave as well.
“Unfortunately.” – Ben put his hands in his pockets. He felt his right hand touch something rectangular. He then remembered that he kept the book that he found in an abandoned house. It became sort of a talisman for him. However when he showed it to Baird he said that it looked like Locust writing. He wanted to find out for sure.
“I can’t believe it’s finally over,” – said Nila before Ben could take his hands out of his pockets, - “Never thought I’ll see this day.” – There was a note of sadness in her voice.
“Yeah…same.” – Ben shuffled his feet a bit.
“How’s your brother?” – she looked over at him.
“He’s fine. I mean not fine, but…he’s gonna recover soon.” – once again he forgot to think about his words before saying them.
“He’s a brave man. We owe everything to him.”
“Guess so.” – he looked at his shoes.
“You know,” – her tone became slightly more cheery, -“Even though I’ve said some things earlier…I…I’m really glad that whatever happened had happened. We all learned a lesson from all of this.”
“Which is?” – Ben once again looked up just to notice Nila starring into the horizon.
“Life is very…brittle. You never know when your world is going to change in a blink of an eye…and when people you love are going to be gone.” – she gulped down, - “But still. There’s always hope. Hope dies last…hope was the only thing that kept us going even through our darkest times.”
“Yeah…” – Ben scratched the back of his head. – “Hey, listen. I found this in that old abandoned house.” – he pulled out a small red book with a Locust insignia engraved on the front.
“Baird said that it’s written in Locust, but he can’t understand it… I thought maybe you could make sense of it.” – he handed her the book.
Nila opened the first page and quickly ran her eyes across it. Her eyes opened wider for a second, but then returned to normal. With a weary sigh, she closed the book once again.
“So? What’s it’s saying?”
“It…” – she looked away, - “It doesn’t matter anymore.” – she handed him the book.
“What do you mean? What’s in here?” – he opened the book again and starred blankly into the pages.
“It’s some old Locust stories, nothing serious.” – she lied.
“Oh…You wanna keep it? I mean I really have no use for it.” – Ben handed it back to her.
“Um…sure.” – she took the book once again, this time with much more caution, like it was going to explode.
Before Ben could say anything else their conversation was interrupted.
“Hey, Miss Locust.” – they both turned around to see Marcus walking up to them. He was in no hurry to get to them and his voice didn’t sound like anything was wrong. Among the three of them, he looked the strangest in his official clothes.
“Yes?” – asked Nila still examining his attire.
“The Chairman wants to talk to you.” – he was blunt and straight forward with his words, yet they didn’t have the same ‘it’s an order’ feel to them.
“Alright, I’ll be there in a second.” – she tucked the book away in one of the folds of her dress.
Marcus nodded and without saying anything else walked off again. Once again they found themselves standing in an awkward silence. It seemed as though every time they tried to have a private conversation they would always get interrupted by something or somebody. Be that an explosion, a friend, and even a simple notice, nothing could wait, everything had to be done right away.
“I guess,” – she began cautiously, - “this is a goodbye.”
“You’re leaving?” – she was caught slightly off guard by that statement.
“Well, yes. I’m a queen you know.” – she put on a weak smile, - “People are counting on me and my leadership. I might as well say goodbye to you personally rather than letting someone else have to deliver the bad news.”
“I guess this is a goodbye, then.” – Ben shrugged his shoulders.
Before he could react, Nila put her arms around his shoulders and squeezed him in a tight hug. After he recovered from shock, he put his hands on her mid-back as well. They simply stood there, not saying anything…just standing. However their moment didn’t last forever. Eventually they both had to let go of each other. She was the first one to budge and he followed her. The smile on her face grew slightly, but Ben could still tell it was not completely sincere.
“Good bye, Ben Carmine,” – she said softly.
“Good bye, Queen Nila,” – he smirked cause that did have a special ring to it.
He watched her walk off as his stomach did summersaults inside of him. Still he knew it was the right thing to do…wasn’t necessarily what he wanted, but surely the right thing to do. He didn’t have to stand alone for too long because soon, Danny came back.
“Ouch man,” – he was as cheerful as ever, - “Friend-zone huh?”
Ben only sighed in return. He really didn’t want to talk to anybody right now, let alone his wise cracking brother. He knew that there was nothing left for him to do. No more fighting, no more sleeping in fear, no more screams in the night. Strangely the newly found peace was not as glorious as Ben pictured it. Sure it was relieving to finally not to be afraid anymore, but it just felt strange. Somehow he used to find stability in all the chaos that used to happen around him, but now it was just tranquility. There was no anxiety anymore, just a day to day routine.
With that thought he took one last look at the bottom of the cliff and then walked away from the edge, not saying anything else to Danny. He just wanted to go home, or at least the place that was called home now. He was done with it all. It was all over and meant nothing to him….