“You really do look like her,” Ami all but purred, her violet eyes appraising me curiously. Her body language was relaxed, but the sort of relaxed you’d seen in a wild animal, ready to pounce at any moment.
I felt a sort of burning, envious feeling as I looked back at her. She was so flawlessly pretty, almost inhumanly so, like something out of a fantasy novel. I found myself taking an immediate and irrational dislike to her.
“Well, I’m not.”
The shadow of a smirk played across her lips, and she began to circle around me, slowly.
“So hostile. Have I offended you?”
Her voice was so gentle, almost soothing. Her movements were graceful, but purposeful like a dancer. Warning bells were ringing through my head.
“You don’t belong here,” I said softly.
“On that, we agree,” she said with a smile. “This place is a dump.”
I hadn’t expected her to agree so readily, or so enthusiastically. There was a flicker of pain and fear in her tone.
“Do you have a plan?” I asked. “For getting back?”
“Yes,” she said, without hesitation. “Finding Haylie.”
“Who?” I asked, then frowned. I thought she was the only one of the invaders I’d yet to meet. Now there was another one? “There’s more of you?”
Ami shrugged, and I was a little caught off guard by her lack of defensiveness. Everyone else had been so mysterious and aloof.
“There should have been four of us, plus Zoe,” she said. I did the math in my head. Ami, Gabriel, now Haylie… that meant there could still be another.
“Are you going to try to capture her again?” I asked, feeling strangely defensive of Zoe.
“No,” Ami said bluntly. “I don’t care about her, not like Gabriel does. I just want to go home.”
I recalled something Zoe had said about him, and something he’d said about her. They referred to each other as brother and sister, though they bore no familial resemblance.
“Kind of. It’s complicated,” Ami said with another shrug.
The two of us stood there, not quite sure what to make of the other. Here I was, standing in front of some kind of… superhuman, from another world, and I had nothing to say. No questions to ask.
I realised, with no small degree of alarm, that despite how I felt about Charlie, I agreed with her goals. We did want the same thing. We wanted to protect our city.
Unlike Charlie, though, I didn’t immediately suspect Ami of being dangerous. She wanted to go home. Zoe just wanted to go home. The others probably did too. We didn’t need to fight them.
Envy appeared without warning, a look of withering disdain plastered across her face. She folded her arms, glaring at Ami.
“Attack her,” she hissed, and I felt her fear and anger wash over me. Despite my best efforts to resist it, I could feel the temptation prick at the corners of my consciousness.
“What? Why?” I demanded, forgetting for a moment that Ami would notice my reaction. She looked bemused, if not surprised by it.
“Why? Because she’s the enemy,” Envy said, almost shrieking. Ami tilted her head, at first curious, then, without warning, livid.
“Who are you talking- wait. No, no way.” She stomped toward me, her finger pointed at me accusingly. “Who are you, really?”
Envy’s fear was quickly replaced by my own. Ami felt electric with dangerous energy, her tone thick with a deadly purpose that sent a chill down my spine.
I felt invisible hands grab me by the shoulders, lifting me into the air, slamming me against the wall.
“What did you do to them?” Ami demanded, crossing the distance between us and drawing a short sword as she did. The blade flashed in the moonlight streaming in through the window.
“See? She’s violent and dangerous!” Envy said, racing through reflections to stay near me. “Fight back!”
I did my best to ignore her, focussing on Ami.
“I don’t know who you’re talking about,” I told her, somehow manage to wrest myself free from the ghostly grip that held me against the wall. I fell to the ground, landing with a grace that was not my own.
“Exxo,” she said. The sword was held by her side, not pointed at me, but the threat of it was anything but forgotten. “I can feel them, hear their echo in your mind.”
“Exxo? I don’t know who that-” I realised suddenly what she was talking about. There was only one possible explanation. “Envy. You can hear Envy.”
“A voice in your head,” Ami said, and I noticed her hand tremble. “This power isn’t Zoe’s. She couldn’t have done this. Ugh! I need Haylie.”
Envy’s fear hadn’t subsided. She haunted the peripherals of my vision, begging for attention.
“Ask her what she’s going to do with you now.”
“Let me go,” I told Ami, not much feeling like asking for anything.
Ami looked at me, an internal war waging behind her eyes. She shook her head.
“No. No, I need to find Exxo. You’re my only clue.”
I took all of Envy’s fear, and all of my own, and I crushed it, turned it into fury. When Zoe’s power was running through my, rage came easily. Almost frighteningly so. It was a good thing I’d thrown away the fear already.
“Let. Me. Go.”
The threat in my voice didn’t escape Ami. The phantom hands assaulted me once again, hurling me away from her, back into the wall.
“Tell me where you got your power!” she roared.
“No!” I shouted back, breaking free of her invisible grip and landing on the balls of my feet ready for a fight.
If she thought she could bully me, she had another thing coming. I would tear her head from her shoulders before I let her take Envy.
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