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Perhaps there had been a certain pull behind her decision to take the offer to study in Evermore, she didn't know what it was about the city that she had zeroed in on exactly but she did know it felt like a home here. With the money she had earned working the past few years she was able to afford the rent to an apartment on the edge of the city, the commute was long but it was hers. She liked being able to create a home of her own, even if was small, it was the kind of freedom she had never experienced before having always lived her life on the run.
She had headed out early this morning to make her way into the city, she had classes in the afternoon so her plan was to do some shopping before then. She'd been having a weird feeling in her stomach all day, like it was reminding her there was a place she was supposed to be and so she was letting it guide her a little. Freyja knew better than to ignore her instincts by now, they were usually right after all. Travelling on the subway was easier than she expected to be, though she did get a lot of people stare when they noticed the blue tattoos which spiralled all over her chest, arms and legs. Naturally, she tugged at her sleeve and avoided eye contact until she finally reached her stop.
Heading out she looked around at the familiar shopping district of Evermore city, she had been here several times to get supplies and generally explore, she enjoyed it very much, just getting lost in a crowd. She didn't have many friends here in Evermore yet but she hoped when she did that maybe she could go out shopping with them and get a coffee or something, normal things everyone did, but seemed so incredibly foreign for her. The sound of a car screeching to a halt took her attention as she was walking, someone had stepped out in front of a car and the driver had only just managed to stop in time.
She looked up towards the pedestrian crossing noting that the light was red and the guy who had almost been hit looked rightly annoyed by the near-miss. She was so shocked by the whole thing but without thinking rushed over to check if everyone involved was okay. She blinked several times when her face finally met the gaze of the man who had almost been hit by the car and then she shook her head, pressing her hand against her forehead "Am I seeing things now?" she questioned more to herself than anything. It wasn't possible to just randomly bump into her friend from all those years ago was it? "Dae?" questioned in disbelief.
He just got back from his previous mission which was to track his client all the way to Rome. It was a good trip, if he wasn't so distracted by being a tourist himself. Long story short, he gave him a day to enjoy what he thought was his freedom before dragging him back here and voila, his payment was transferred and he's here burying his face in his pillow. He could've just slept but he was bored and he had already slept for the past 14 hours straight.
The clock on his phone indicated he has been mulling over what to do for the past half an hour which aggravated the Niveis to no end. So he decided to see if he could get some supplies at the local apothecary Mirae used to visit for some of her herbal remedies. They were useful when he got into a fight and took a bit of a hit that bruised his body. It definitely helped with the healing. It was also one of the only things he even bothered to pay attention to pick up from his sister. The trip to the apothecary didn't take longer than 20 minutes because it was just around the block, and thankfully he came at the time where most people would venture there. Dae didn't like being around more people anymore than he needed to unless he wanted to be there. And his definition of liking people around him involves said individuals who could potentially warm his bed.
After putting things in his basket, he went ahead and paid for it at the counter before rushing out to exit the store. His left hand was holding a paper bag filled with the ingredients he needed as he whistled silently to himself, waiting for the traffic light to turn red and pedestrian green so they could cross the road safely. But then he saw a female walking right into the road, which had him confused because the light was clearly still red. He knew he shouldn't do it, it's not his business he should just leave her to do whatever she wanted. But then his conscience wouldn't let him live it down if he knew he could do something about it and didn't. The pale haired male stepped forward to stop the car from running into the lady who didn't seem to realize her surroundings. It came at a cost though.
One, he was very annoyed at the near-miss because he wasn't sure if he could hold in his temper if the guy actually hit him. Two, now he's out yelling about how he was being reckless and stupid which only had the Niveis gritting his teeth, trying his very best not to let his temper take over. After all, he did do this on his own accord. To make things worse, the one he saved prance away without even saying thanks. But that wasn't what he noticed, no. Not the stupid driver. But the lady that came into his view after that. He thought he was just seeing things but then he heard her utter his name. "No fucking way… Freyja? What the hell are you doing here?"
Admittedly she had stood there looking a little dumbfounded for a moment as she stared back at her friend, they had known one another for such a long time and yet it felt like forever since she had seen him. She had been trapped in that snowy bunker Coldren left her in for over 100 years and while she hadn’t had to suffer that time awake, it did feel like a lot of time had passed when she awoke. Everyone was gone by then, she was alone and honestly, for a while she questioned if anyone had even made it out alive.
Her lips parted in shock before she threw herself forward, not caring about anyone around them before she wrapped her arms around him in a hug. She just stayed there for a moment, taking deep breaths as she tried to gather her composure. She had missed him, she had missed her people and him being here meant something, it meant that her people must have survived the storm which had come over Ukyak. “I thought you were dead” she spoke softly before she pulled back from him.
She bit her lip because she knew how Dae wasn’t usually one for emotions or hugs but she hadn’t been able to help herself, this changed everything and honestly she wasn’t sure how to feel about it. Was there a whole tribe here? Were they free now? She shifted on the spot “I know you must have a lot of questions…” she trailed off, she wondered if he missed her, did he look for her? Did Coldren hurt him too?
He didn't expect to find her here. Of all the faces he thought he would've seen, Freyja's surprised him the most. But would anyone blame him? Daehyun only knew that she left the tribe and never came back so he never searched for her, probably due to the hurt still settling in his heart that time. In time, he kinda forgot about it. But upon seeing her again today, right in front of his face, he couldn't grasp the reality of it. It wasn't until he heard the sound of a car honking that he was able to snap out of him. How long has it been since the last time he saw her? A century? It felt longer, that's for sure. She looked different but not that different. Honestly, he was thinking about moving away and ignoring her because his head is really filled with unnecessary contents and he's already annoyed by what happened earlier.
However, the niveis barely had any time to process anything when she suddenly launched herself on him, leaving the pale haired male to hold her awkwardly. He has never felt so awkward in his life like he felt right now. "I thought you were gone" he muttered dismissively, his tone sounded gruff but it was clear that Dae was confused to use the disappointed or upset tone. "No shit" he scoffed when she told him he probably had plenty to ask her, he definitely did. He didn't even know where to even start. "We thought you left. I thought you left. So I'm a bit surprised to find you here instead of everywhere else." He narrowed his eyes at the female standing before him, "I don't even know where to begin with asking questions… but we probably shouldn't stand here idly by…" he hesitated for a moment but eventually dragged her to the side road.
It was an impulsive thing to do, she knew that, but it had been over 100 years since she had seen someone she cared about and while it didn’t feel like 100 years to her, she knew a lot could happen in that time for someone else. Honestly she was just overwhelmed with the feeling of knowing he was okay finally. He was alive, he looked healthy. He was a niveis, she could sense that because of her leader gene. The way he stiffened up a little made her feel a little hurt though, she knew Dae was never one for affection but she was so happy to see him and now she wasn’t sure he was happy to see her “Me too” she spoke softly. She honestly never expected to find her way out of that underground bunker.
She finally let go, stepping back with a concerned expression on her face as she tried to read Dae’s emotions, when he spoke next she went quiet, almost shocked that was the conclusion he had assumed when she disappeared all those years ago. Honestly for a while she had hoped someone would find her but then her body had began to shut down and all she could do was lay there, in the darkness. She never really expected to escape. She shuffled alone still confused when he guided her over to the sidewalk and pressed her lips together “You thought I left?” there was a sad expression on her face as she watched him.
“Dae don’t know you know me better than to think I would do that?” she tilted her head slightly but the harsh expression told her all she needed to know, he really believed the lies “I have the leader gene...I was supposed to be the one to take care of the tribe but Coldren...he…” she was visibly upset by the memories of what happened because not only had he trapped her and left her to starve but he had taken the people she cared about away from her and now 100 years had passed and she felt like she failed them.
Had it been anyone else, he would never have let them hugged him like this and come out unscathed. Nobody would dare to hug Daehyun Stormwind like this unless they really do wish for their death or know they're immune to his threats. But it was Freyja, how could he tell her off? Though he was taken aback by the sudden action and was still furious by her disappearance, he didn't push her away. Whatever warmth he was able to feel from her through that hug reminded him of their friendship. She used to be the only person he could ever turn to, especially when his sister argued with him, leaving the niveis with no one else to talk to him. One that's brave enough to poke him, of course. She looked… different, to say the least. A part of her felt similar but another screamed something else that he wasn't able to pinpoint. But one thing was for sure, she is just like him. A niveis. Where had she been all these years? How come he couldn't find her?
There was practically no trace of her anywhere else. So he was very curious to know what her explanation would entail. When she left, he could recall the bitter sensation he felt, the betrayal in his bones made him so furious and upset, so much he used that emotion to focus on something else instead of wondering what he did wrong. "I thought I knew you better" he didn't bother to filter or sugar-coat it. He said it the way he meant it. "Maybe I was just in the mood but everything pointed to you leaving because I couldn't find you anywhere else… I should've known to search somewhere closer." Obviously he had been reckless and missed that. Dae is a good tracker, he knows how to hunt down someone and pinpoint their location; to where they've been and where they are going. But this made him feel like a fool. "Did he betray you too?"
He should've known she was close by. Coldren tried to divide them in the tribe, anyone who isn't loyal to him, he made sure to push them away, so nobody would be united enough to defeat him. That's the reason why they have been under his rule for a whole century without change. "What do you mean you have the leader gene?" He frowned, though it did make sense for him to take out the weed before it even grows out to eliminate the potential threat to secure his future. "Where were you… all this time, Freyja?"
Honestly Freyja was shocked to see him, her expression evidently showing realization, perhaps this was why she had felt such a pull towards Evermore, because she was supposed to be the leader of the clan and they had found themselves here. Though Dae being here wasn’t evidence enough, she’d always known the male was the type to prefer to be alone, it wouldn’t be entirely impossible for him to go out on his own. She had so many questions but she bit her tongue because of the look in his eyes told her there was more important things to say right now.
She sucked in a breath when he said he thought he knew her better so harshly, her expression showing the hurt that had come over her at the thought of a friend thinking she had betrayed him “I wouldn’t do that...my people were everything...you know that” she tightened her jaw and dropped her gaze for a moment. She shuffled a little on the spot when he asked if Coldren had betrayed her too, not because she couldn’t handle what had happened to her but because the word ‘too’ meant Dae had been through a betrayal “Too?” she spoke softly as she reached for his wrist.
She pressed her lips together when he asked her what she meant “Well Coldren didn’t exactly explain it but when he saw that” she pulled up her sleeve to reveal the fact that her tattoos came all the way down to her hands “He freaked out...saying how I couldn’t be the leader because it was his destiny” her only conclusion from that was that she was different somehow. “I could sense you were here Dae...I mean I wasn’t sure but... I had a feeling” she was looking at him with a worried expression “In a bunker out in the wilds” she responded pressing her lips together and forcing a smile.
He would lie if he said seeing her again didn't bring all the former memories they shared together, especially up to the point where she suddenly disappeared. Coldren told them she fled, that she chose to leave them and while it was something that he himself found to be extremely suspicious considering the tyrant would never let any of them go, he dismissed it. "I don't even know why I'm surprised… Coldren would've never allowed anyone to leave the tribe alive" he muttered under his breath, things were that bad. Upon hearing the added question after her words, Dae shifted in his spot uncomfortably for a brief while, he didn't like to recall those bitter memories. Not when he spent almost a century by his side acting like a loyal lap dog when everyone knew all he wanted to do was leave. Honestly, despite his growing resentment towards the older male, Dae knew he couldn't bring himself to stab the tyrants back, but betray him? That, he could do.
He thought it was only right to make amends with the rest. "You weren't the only one to suffer the short end of the stick, Freyja" he sighed, he was one of the first to die and become a Niveis and even then, he still felt lost. "He was adamant to make an army of niveis… a species that was different from our former selves, a species that… still has yet to exist until he died that day, and he was as tyrannical as a tyrant would be." Being a personal soldier acting as one his plenty security personnel meant Dae had a front row seat to see what's going on hence why he made the perfect spy. "And I let him… we all did. There was a resistance formed at some point but it failed a lot of times" the one they built up were due to all those who gave their lives for the cause. "I tried to leave the tribe when he proposed to plan to make us all niveis like him… I didn't want it and he allowed me to leave. Well, that's what all of us thought." He chuckled bitterly and shook his head, "You'd think given the soft spot he formed for me, he'd allow me to leave peacefully." Clearly, that didn't happen.
His eyes rake the entire markings and pursed his lips in surprise, those marks she bore seemed very significant and it didn't take a genius to figure out what makes her different compared to the rest of them. "Of course he wanted to get rid of you, someone who would be able to challenge his regime and undermine his authority. He can't kill you and make you a martyr either… so he locked you away" everything made sense now. "For now, let's talk somewhere more… private. I know a good place that serves good coffee." He beckoned for her to follow him and while they were walking, he turned to face her momentarily and asked, "How were you able to escape?"
Honestly, despite all the negative possibilities that came to mind about what Dae must have endured through the years, she was relieved to see him and to know he was alive, that proved to her that there was a way out of Unyak and if Dae made it out maybe the others did too. “It’s crazy to me...to think we’re talking about the same guy who led the phoenixes all those years” he had been a good man and leader, always kind and patient, he understood people and listened to them. She never saw it coming but after he lost his wife there was a darkness hanging over him that none of them could deny. She’d heard of phoenixes being driven mad by power and she could only assume the same was true for Coldren.
She pressed her lips together and nodded when he said she wasn’t the only one to suffer at his hands “I really wish I had been” she responded, feeling small because she felt like she was the only one out of the loop of what happened. She wasn’t even angry that people didn’t come to find her, though she kept hoping they would. “He wanted vengeance against those who wronged us, the Initia” she commented nodding her head, he kept saying to her how they would be unstoppable if everyone was like him, that they would never need to fear again. “Selfish bastard” she cursed in a distasteful tone when Dae described what happened, he didn’t say the specifics but she could deduce what happened to him “This wasn’t your choice” she spoke in a soft voice, she felt for him deeply, that had to be hard for him to face...to accept.
He seemed surprised to see the markings on her which meant he either hadn’t seen them before or he knew what they meant “I think he was hoping I’d die” she confessed with a soft voice “But turns out time can’t kill a niveis, go figure, all that happened was that my body shut down from the lack of sustainment...after a while I couldn’t move and then my consciousness left me altogether” she bit her lip and nodded when he suggested they go somewhere more private and she fell into step behind him noting he walked quite fast and she needed to skip a little to keep up with him. “Someone found me, one of the locals on the island ran into the place while ice fishing, didn’t speak a word of the same language but they took me in, gave me food and a place to sleep” they had no idea what she was but simple human kindness had inspired her that day.
It was the sad reality that he had to believe the same guy he used to respect and love became the same guy he grew to resent and hate, "I feel like it's ironic how I respect and resent the same person." Coldren was pretty much like a father to him because he fled his home at a young age. He stayed with the man for 11 years before things changed. "I guess losing someone you love… could really take a toll on you. Not that I condone his unjustifiable behavior… he became a cruel tyrant in the end so…" but a small part of him could understand why he became that way. It was scary how a person's heart could change in a split second when they lost their anchor. "I just thought he'd be different you know… different from those phoenixes that were power hungry but apparently he was worse" he became another species, as if the phoenixes weren't already being viewed as abominations.
Dae could only give her a sad smile when she said she wished that she would have been the only one to suffer at his hands, "He has done so many things that I couldn't simply let go anymore. I still loved him, you know. Even after he betrayed me and forced me to stay by his side…" he didn't know why he felt like that, it could be because he wanted to believe that somewhere deep down, Coldren was just misguided. "But his rule was too much, I couldn't sit down and let those happen anymore… ironically I was the one who betrayed him too." It was like a two-way cycle considering the other male was the one who did it first to Daehyun. "Though it wasn't my choice to stay, it was my choice to dismantle his rule and betray him the way he did to me. While I tried telling myself it was for the better sake of our tribe, I think I was just trying to remedy the feelings in my heart… to tell myself that I did that for the tribe and not because I wanted him to feel the same way I did."
Because in all honesty, Dae wanted him to feel it. He wanted to know hoe she survived all of that but it seems that even Freyja may not have an idea about it so he kept it to himself, perhaps he'll go and find out himself. "Freyja, things have changed… we… I mean we're leaderless and the tribe, they're settling here in Evermore. But I'm leaving." He felt conflicted because here she was, standing right next to him, the person he missed so much but just when he got to see her, he wasn't going to stay after all?
She nodded in agreement because she could understand exactly how they felt “It feels like we’re talking about two different people because it’s impossible to see our leader as...that” she sighed under her breath, she couldn’t believe how dark Coldren had turned when he had been hurt like that. She almost wanted to excuse him because she knew the person she was before all of this happened but she only knew small parts of the horrible things he did “Grief is really such a damaging thing, it can spiral out of control” she nodded sadly, it was such a complex thing for them to feel and yet at least they were able to share it.
Freyja nodded slightly in understanding, despite the fact he had locked her away from her people and left her to die, she still remembered all the good things he had done, the understanding he showed her, the things he taught her and the clan he had brought together. She missed the man she remembered not the person he became “It’s okay to feel conflicted, it was a morally grey area...the world never really tells you how you’re supposed to feel” she nodded sadly “I miss the life we had in the mountains, before all of this became” they were happy back then, as happy as a phoenix could be anyway. She pressed her lips together and reached for Dae’s shoulder, squeezing it softly because the way Dae was talking was guilt spiraling “Dae...you need to forgive yourself for the part you played” she spoke softly, she could read it from him easily.
She widened her eyes and pursed her lips when he confessed they were leaderless “There wasn’t another chief?” she questioned softly, she honestly expected them to have moved on without her because when else could they do? They couldn’t remain locked away on Unyak forever right? But then his other words registered with her and her expression turned sad “You’re leaving?” her voice was weak because that was the last thing she expected for him to say “But I just found you again” she couldn’t stop the pout that appeared on her lips.
"You know what they say… you haven't lived until you've seen what desire could turn people into… in our case, it's that. And that's not even considered that bad…" he mumbled, it is all said and done for anyway, if possible, Dae didn't want to think about it anymore because it would just make him feel guilty because he betrayed the person he never thought he would betray. But if he didn't do that to you first, you never would've done it either. If only those words could give him a peace of mind. "You want to blame someone even if you know the blame shouldn't be on that person. Or even if you blamed that person and got justice, it still wouldn't quench that anger that's been building inside you so there was no difference in vengeance anyway." The moment you let that negativity in you, you were already a victim to it. Nothing would save you from it if not yourself.
When she said she kissed the life they had before this, Dae couldn't help but chuckle, "You're not alone. I miss that too…" things weren't as hard then. And boy were they young. Dae knew she was trying to console him, to alleviate whatever he's feeling and convince him that he wasn't at fault for what he did. But he knows better than to believe that, the fact is that Daehyun knew exactly what he did and went along with it no matter how many times he tried to make himself feel better. And that's why it hurts even more. He can't blame anyone but himself at this. "It's easier said than done, Freyja. But I had time to think about it… like 40 years, that's plenty of time to think about what I did and I didn't regret it. Not one bit." The part he played ensured the tribe wouldn't be destroyed even further by his tyrannical ways. They were no longer chained.
The pale haired male shook his head as a response to her question, "There was no one to pick up the mantle after he died. It wasn't easy to just elect someone, you know. Even the Elders decided that they would share responsibility rather than anoint someone else. Admittedly, at that time, everyone was still… going through the process of that and nobody was ready to take charge for it. So we left it at that. We phoenixes-" he bit his lip and sighed, "Sorry, we niveis have always been leading a life of seclusion ever since we were turned anyway." Coldren wouldn't allow them to get close, fearing people would rebel and lead a coup against him. Well he wasn't wrong but still. He smiled softly and stroked her hair, "I was never going to stay for long. I just stuck around to see if Mirae was doing well adapting and of course she did. Once I realized everyone was doing fine… I knew I had to go my own way" but the pout she was sporting was making it really hard for him to deny her. "But that's a story for another day. I'm not in a rush… so we can spend today however you like."
She nodded slightly when he said people could easily turn when they gave into their own desires “It’s a good job power has always meant very little to me” she commented shaking her head slightly, she could understand the appeal sure but there was a certain emptiness that came with it, because the more power you gained the lonelier you became. “Sometimes being angry...helps to process” it was a natural emotion and while it often brought negative things, sometimes you needed to process your way through it in order to come out the other side. “But you’re right, if you take it too far, it consumes you and leaves no room for anything else” she had been angry about what happened to her but she had to let it go to move forward.
“I still wish I could see him just one though, so I could make the bastard face me” not only had he locked her away and left her comatose for the best part of 100 years, he had clearly hurt and destroyed others too “Things were so much simpler then, just a bunch of phoenixes trying to figure out how to live now we were among our own kind” it was hard to go from being a phoenix to a niveis because they were quite literally the opposite of one another. She nodded slightly when he said he didn’t regret what he did when it came to Coldren, she couldn’t say she blamed him for making the decisions he did “Sometimes we have to make the hard decisions for the best of everyone” even if it felt conflicting because of what they had experienced and known in the past.
She pressed her lips together, the way he explained it made the niveis wonder if people wouldn’t be accepting of a new leader, it wasn’t like she could change what she was, there was a part of her that was supposed to lead but what was the point in a leader if there was no one there to listen “Don’t we...owe it to ourselves to figure out how to embrace what we are?” she asked curiously and pressed her lips together “This is our identity now, whether we like it or not” she commented in a soft mumble, she had to believe that they could be a species that were proud...not in hiding like their predecessors. She pouted her lips slightly when he stroked her hair and gave a heavy sigh “But you’re the only one I know how to talk to” she commented in a soft voice but she understood, Dae had always been the type to go his own way.
Her expression did light up when he said they could spend today together though “Then perhaps you’d come fly with me?” she asked with a small grin “It’s been so long since I’ve stretched my wings” she missed it honestly.
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