The Aftermath Academy - CH44 (Olivia)

This sucks ass. I’d imagine. I’ve never done such a thing. But it’d probably be about as bad as this. Seriously, how do squishy people deal with feeling this vulnerable all the time?

A stupid feeling at the moment, I’m all too aware. I’m terrified, the fear welling up inside me involuntarily, pushing aside almost every other thought. It’s so bad that I can barely force myself to keep my power suppressed, which I have to. Because as vulnerable as I feel, the reality is that the God of the West can kill me at full power with a stray thought. She’s more likely to, because she’ll see it as a challenge.

And I refuse to die here. I refuse to be turned to dust because a madwoman feels like it. So if it means forcing myself to submit and suppressing my power so she’ll hear me out, then I’ll freaking suck it the hell up.

Even if it means I’m too scared to move, or talk, or pay much attention. Way less attention than I would like to be able to pay, given my position. Like, was that Valkyrie trying to cut off my head a second ago? Because shit like that is part of why I hate not having my Pride running. I swear I saw a giant sword swinging down, which would be horrible timing, but it’s gone now so maybe I was imagining that.

Fortunately, The God of the West can read my mind, so I shouldn’t have to say much. Oh crap, hey guys, if she hasn’t already started, you should stay quiet! Like, really quiet. It shouldn’t be hard for you, given our past history together. Not like you ever talk to me, or are real or anything. But in case you are real somewhere, I’d be sad if she kills you. You should be out of range, physically, but she’s chained out past her radius in the past. So…shhhhh.

“Oh don’t worry,” The God of the West tells me. “I won’t hurt your little friends. And if you think being given the silent treatment is bad, my imaginary friends tortured me for what felt like forever. Now please, call me Alysa!” Her words cut through the fear like a knife, burning themselves into my mind. And cutting parts out, I’m guessing, given I suddenly have no idea what I was calling her besides Alysa. She’s…she’s… I don’t know. Alysa Killjoy, obviously. She was pretending to be some girl named…something or other.

Anyways, Alysa has a point, I really appreciate that you folks never try to tear me to pieces. Literally. Krieg says she had a rough childhood. Like, worse than mine rough, which is hard for me to imagine right now given how much of my childhood I’m remembering and how nonfunctional the flashbacks are making me.

“Now, I’ve reviewed your plan, at least your understanding of it, and I have to say the end result would be quite amusing,” Alysa says, cupping my chin in her hand and looking at me with eyes shifting colors between blue and vermillion and gold. “But it puts people I love in danger, so I’m having a hard time deciding why I shouldn’t just turn your intestines into a pretty scarf and call it a day!” Her tone is cheery.

“If you’re worried about the risks, help us,” I tell her through gritted teeth.

“Oh, that would be ill advised. I tend to have such a morbid imagination that things go the wrong way for sure most of the time. Usually only useful when things can’t get much worse in my range. Then I can spend some time getting it right. But for something like this? No, no, you’re on your own.”

On my own implies she hasn’t decided to brutally murder me. Yet.

“How’s my dear Lilith?” she asks. She already knows, I’m sure. I haven’t thought about any of the details of the plan, which means she’s already imagined she knows everything I do. Her ability to access someone’s long-term memory as if it’s her own remains unparalleled. From what I’ve heard, it’s the only reason she clings to even the vestiges of a sanity, borrowing other people’s ability to function. She can probably convincingly be me now too, so hopefully she doesn’t decide to just kill me and take my place for laughs and giggles.

“Lilith’s good, no thanks to you,” I spit out. I think of Lilith’s smiling avatar. I hope she’s ok, if Krieg’s taking her to fight the extinction level threat. I shouldn’t have said the second part, but I want to know. “Why did you abandon her?”

“Abandon her?” Alysa asks, head cocking to the side in puzzlement. “No, no, I sent her to live with Krieg so that brother wouldn’t kill her. He would have for sure, if he’d realized what I did. She might be able to cause another Purge. When Lilly died, I was so distraught. But I can’t bring back dead people for some reason, just like I couldn’t fix her because of her own powers. Even my powers aren’t totally unlimited. But I tried to make a new one, only she came out a little wrong. Not a lot, but brother wouldn’t have let her live, no matter how much I love her. ‘Might kill billions of people’ he’d say. ‘Would dishonor Lilly’s sacrifice’. Blah blah blah. Of course now that so much time has passed since the last Purge, he can’t risk her dying and setting one off.”

“If we succeed, he’s even less likely to,” I tell her. As long as he doesn’t figure out that she might not need to die to cause another Purge, courtesy of the differences between Lilith and the original Lilly. Especially if we kill Void in the process. If that bastard has priority over Lilith’s abilities, then Jared could have Void safely execute her if he learns she exists.

“What a peculiar world. No matter what option I choose, I risk someone I love killing another person I love eventually. If I stop you, it’ll be an intentional execution that the executioner won’t forgive himself for. If I let you go, any casualties will have been by accident…” Alysa says, her cheeriness fading into a more serious melancholy. “My father burned the world for me. And he burned the world to protect it from me. A controlled forest fire, so that the chaff didn’t ruin me and cause the whole thing to turn to ash. So that I wouldn’t become like the ones you hate so much. And I couldn’t even save Lilly from his plans. Very well, little destroyer, if you think your designs will save my precious Lilith then you can bring this peculiar world to its knees for all I care. Speaking of, I suppose I should I go save the world before Krieg gets our dear Lilith killed.”

Alysa stands up, and I feel my power roar forth as she forces me to stop suppressing it. Oh hell yes, that feels much better. The memories and fear retreat, barely any trace of them left as my Pride surrounds my body again. The ground shatters beneath me as I rise, returning to my normal hovering position.

“Your prize,” Alysa says. She waves over a prone form, Bone and Chain trapped unmoving in a bubble. With a snap the bubble dissipates and Bone and Chain slumps over unconscious. She also waves over the prone form of that Reinforcements kid. “I’ll also be taking this one with me for now. I’ve grown rather fond of him as a friend during my time as Allie. It’d be a shame for him to die in the crossfire.”

I’m still a little cross with him, given his projection was such a pain right after I saved his life. I knocked him out myself though so he probably wasn’t actively directing it. Still… I think that makes him subconsciously an asshole. Just saying.

I turn a little and see Valkyrie hovering with a stupidly shocked look on her gorgeous face. Alysa’s forced most of the armor to retreat, only allowing Valkyrie to maintain her modesty. Her crimson hair glows softly as it falls down past her shoulders. I run my fingers through my chin length black hair. Ugh, I need a mirror, damn hair’s gone all straight without my Pride keeping it in the right spike positions.

“What about her?” I ask Alysa. Her smile comes back, something about it not quite right.

“In twenty minutes she’ll be free. You won’t be able to harm her until then, and I don’t recommend hanging around to try. I’ve blocked her from learning anything that could inherently put a kibosh on your scheme, or saying anything even if she figures it out. But I do so hope you two clash again. It will be so fun to watch.”

With that she and Reinforcements disappear into a column of rainbow dust that shoots into the sky, arching towards the horizon in a split second.
“Why?” Valkyrie chokes out. Poor girl looks traumatized. I wonder what’s eating her? I dig my hands into Bone and Chain and haul his ass up. I think about it a second and relieve him of his arms and legs. He’s not likely to die of blood loss given his abilities, and Krieg can grow him new ones later. It’ll be horrifically painful, but can’t think of why I should care about that. In the meantime, he’ll be a lot more manageable this way. I’m glad he has enough power resistance for me to transport him at all for that matter. Would have been a pain if my hand just traveled through his body like tissue paper.

“Do you think me the kind of villain that reveals all of her plans prior to winning?” I ask her, raising an eyebrow. “But why? Revenge, love, wealth, respect, the future. All of it. Why do you train to be an executioner? For some ideal of saving humanity by executing its most dangerous elements? I am not so simple as you guard dogs. I will not risk my life for a notion. We are playing at a different level than you, Valkyrie. Next time you get in my way; I can’t promise you’ll escape alive again.”

I fly off, not paying attention to any reply Valkyrie might have. I think my parting words sounded pretty badass, and I got to get to the transport Krieg arranged. If I don’t make it soon I’ll have to go underground and drag Bone and Chain behind me for half a continent. That would suck.