Chapter 36: Fear

Sneha: “What are you going to do?”

She says as she looks at the silent figure standing to her right.

Sneha: “Those two combined can easily defeat me if it comes to fighting so taking them head-on isn’t an option.”

She says so with a hint of caution in her voice.

Ethan: “Yeah, don’t worry.”

He says while staring down at the ground,

Ethan: “I wasn’t planning to do something as foolish as fight them, much less fight them head-on.”

Sneha: “That’s good to hear.”

She sighs, expressing her relief. Ethan could understand why she would feel especially relieved over his words.

Sneha: “For a moment, it looked like you would lose all rationale and charge them head-on.”

Ethan: “Well thankfully, I’m not a total moron.”

He says with a mild smile on his face.

Sneha: “Yeah, you aren’t. But still, what are we going to do?”

With a serious expression, she brings the conversation to the topic.

Ethan: “I guess we are in a bit of a problem right now, aren’t we?”

Sneha nods. They both understand that their tasks could become far more problematic if Dyne and Walter end up causing too much damage to some people on the island, especially Kais.

Ethan’s goal involves Kais. Sneha had originally planned to use his help to get in the tomb and seeing how Barry may not survive for much long, she may have to get back to that approach. So they can’t let those two bring him to their sides.

Sneha: “Well, any ideas?”

She asks as Ethan ponders while keeping his hand on his chin.

Sneha: “That expression doesn’t really suit you, you know?”

Ethan: “It doesn’t. I thought it would look cool.”

He says smiling as he looks at Sneha.

Ethan: “You know there’s something I have been wondering about for a while now.”

Sneha: “And what’s that?”

Ethan: “It’s about your position in Vermillion.”

Sneha: “You do remember I have quit the organization, don’t you?”

Ethan: “I do. But before you did, you had quite a hard-to-understand position there.”

Sneha: “Hard-to-understand? … yes, I suppose that may be true.”

Ethan: “Might be? Does that mean you never felt that way yourself?”

Sneha: “Well, I never really cared all that much about my position. I just kept on carrying out my orders. Before I knew it, I had become someone whose job criterion was so unique that I easily stood out from the rest of the organization.”

Ethan: “I see.”

He says while lowering his gaze for a second. Noticing that, Sneha narrows her eyes.

Sneha: “So what were you curious about?”

She asked with narrowed eyes as she looked at him with a sharp gaze. This woman is an Aural but was working for a psychic organization. That alone was something that would bring suspicion to what her role in the organization was, but it is also the fact that the reason for that would make her even more suspicious. And she would not want to bring suspicion to herself.

Ethan: “I was curious about why exactly you were sent to bring in Kais?”

However, those aren’t the questions Ethan asks her. The ones he asks are more relevant to the current situation. Hearing that, she sighs as if to say she was worrying pointlessly.

Ethan: “I know Vermillion kept sending someone to him again and again to offer him the chance to join.”

Sneha: “Then why are you curious about that?”

Ethan: “Well, ‘why you’ is what I am curious?”

Her eyes relax and she step back a little.

Sneha: “I was a special kind of agent whose authorities were mainly on the same level as that of an Ember. But when it came to power, I was equivalent to some of the Hellfires. Because of these things, you are wondering why I would be sent on that mission?”

Ethan: “Yeah, that is what I am wondering.”

Sneha: “You should know that mission included a special order the previous ones didn’t.”

Ethan: “The order to force him if things don’t go right?”

Sneha nods.

Sneha: “Before that, all every agent had ever tried to do was trying to convince him to join, which needless to say, ended up in failure every single time. Some agents who tried to force him before despite not having given orders to do so were all defeated by Kais pretty easily.”

Ethan: “Yeah, that isn’t too hard to imagine. Now that we are getting so close to the war, it makes sense for Vermillion to issue the order to force his hand. So it makes sense that someone powerful will be needed to sent on the mission so the same result as all those times doesn’t repeat itself.”

He nods while speaking as if to affirm his words to himself.

Ethan: “But there could have been so many other ways to force him. Larger teams, sending a Volcano or something like that could have worked. Why expose an asset as powerful as you?”

Sneha: “I don’t really like being called an ‘asset’ but I suppose I’ll let it slide.”

Ethan mildly smiles as he remembers Ro saying something like that too when they had gathered on the beach the previous day.

Sneha: “You are right in your concern I would say. I am someone they use for their most difficult missions, so sending me in was quite a questionable decision.”

Ethan nods as he says,

Ethan: “If they considered how big of a threat Kais truly is, they would surely have sent even more people than you three. The fact that they didn’t shows that they only thought of him as someone who might become very powerful rather than someone who already is.”

Sneha nods.

Ethan: “In that case, it doesn’t make sense to send in someone like you.”

Sneha: “Well, pretty much every Ember as well as Volcano was busy in some mission. Sending in a volcano or more than three Embers would inconvenience other missions.”

Ethan: “That so?”

Sneha moved her head sideways in denial.

Sneha: “That’s the front they came up with to send me in. Obviously, there should be more to it than that.”

Ethan: “And do you have any idea as to what more there is to it?”

Sneha: “I did think about it quite a lot in the amount of time I got to freely think about things.”

She says as she looks up at the sky.

Sneha: “And I have come up with some clues that might lead us to that answer.”

Ethan: “Well, what are they?”

Sneha: “Before that, let me ask you.”

She looks straight at Ethan causing Ethan to straighten up a bit.

Sneha: “Should we really spend our time thinking about these things? Shouldn’t we focus on some other things that are actually more relevant to the current situation?”

Ethan closes his eyes as he takes a moment to think about the question she has raised. He asks himself the same question that she just asked him. He does so in spite of having done it thousand times before already.

Ethan: “Yes, we need to be thinking about it right now.”

But at the end, he comes up with the same answer that he has ended up on every single time he questioned this to himself.

Sneha: “Well, okay then.”

Sneha sighs as she agrees to tell him what those clues are.

*******************************

In the forest, a ghost and a psychic are walking. The psychic is considered the strongest man in the world and is wearing black garments from top to bottom and only has his face and his hand uncovered. He’s Walter Schmidt.

Walter: “There’s something I was a little curious about after meeting those two.”

The ghost, on the other hand, is the leader of the army of ghosts wearing a brown robe and black cape with golden helm. He’s Dyne, a Spectre.

Dyne: “And what is that?”

Walter smiles as he asks,

Walter: “That woman back there seemed to know that you are a ghost, furthermore a Spectre. I thought you made sure no one in Vermillion you ever had to work with on any mission found out that you are a ghost.”

Dyne: “That’s true. They, in fact, didn’t even know that ghosts exist. For all they knew, I was a man who led an army of really powerful people. We kept anything further than that hidden from them. But for some reason, she has come to know the truth now.”

Walter: “My guess is that it’s because of the owner of the Eyes of Truth.”

Dyne: “Yeah, that’s what my guess is as well.”

Walter: “Though still, it doesn’t make sense for them to not come to know anything about you guys when they worked for you.”

Dyne: “They could have easily found out that we are ghosts, and Spectres, at that. But Vermillion itself wants to keep things like that secret from their members. Only its leader and the 10 Hellfires know of the existence of ghosts.”

Walter: “Yes, I think I have heard that. I still find it hard to believe no one would find out.”

Dyne: “Well …”

He trails off leaving Walter curious for what he was about to say.

Walter: “Go on, say it.”

Dyne: “The reason why they would not be able to find out is partly also because a particular ability of us Spectres.”

Walter: “Huh?”

Dyne: “Have you heard of people seeing ghosts and then forgetting the memory of that ever happening?”

Walter: “Well, since they just forget it, it’s not that easy to say I have heard ‘stories’ of that. But I have heard a fair amount of rumors and urban legends revolving around things that I know originate from something like that.”

Dyne nods as Walter says.

Dyne: “Yes, I believe there have been quite a few urban legends spreading around because of this ability. In truth, this ability only puts a seal on those selected memories in order for us to keep hiding peacefully.”

Walter: “Okay?”

Walter urges him to go on.

Dyne: “Normal ghosts can’t select what memories they are going to seal away. They just have to use their abilities on the target’s whole brain and the memory gets wiped out. We Spectres, on the other hand, can control what part of the memories we seal away.”

Walter: “So you guys have been doing so?”

Dyne: “Yes. But you know the nature of seals, don’t you? When they are broken …”

Walter nods as he finishes the sentence Dyne trails off at.

Walter: “All the memories are released overtime. Also if anything that may be related to a particular memory happens, that memory comes back immediately.”

This is why when the seal stopping Kais from remembering the fact that the demon that killed Barry was he himself broke, he started forming theories that were always very close to truth as he subconsciously knew something that led to those answers.

This is why after Sneha had come to know about the existence of ghosts, she started remembering things like Dyne being the leader of Spectres, which is the army of ghosts, as if it’s completely normal.

Walter: “So, if Ethan Kales, the owner of Eyes of Truth, knew about all this, he could have broken the seal off right when it would convenience him most.”

Dyne looks at Walter with a look of surprise that Walter is able to sense through Aura Reading despite not being able to see his face.

Dyne: “You think he might be taking advantage of the situation like that?”

Walter: “Well, why wouldn’t he? After all …”

Walter suddenly realizes something and does not complete that sentence. Feeling anxious and curious, Dyne asks him though.

Dyne: “What were you saying?”

Walter: “No, nothing important. Just forget it.”

He, however, asks Dyne to not pay it any mind. “This is something Walter wouldn’t want me to know. Or even if he is okay with me knowing, at least he just doesn’t want to say it yet or he doesn’t want to tell it to me himself. What could it be?” Dyne is left thinking.

Walter: “Hey, I’ll just say this. That man, Ethan Kales; don’t underestimate him, okay? It could become the worst mistake you ever make.”

He says with a serious expression making Dyne anxious as to what he is talking about.

*******************************

Sneha: “The first thing I found is that Vermillion has been transporting something other than war supplies to rest of The Dragon Alliance.”

Ethan: “Huh?”

They both know that Vermillion only acts as a supply unit for The Ghost Nation and The Dragons. They are not going to fight. All they do is supply the other two with best quality weapons for fighting vampires as well as some talented-in-combat members. But,

Sneha: “It wasn’t just the weapons or a few members; they were trying to also transport money.”

Ethan: “Money?”

Ethan widens his eyes in surprise as he hears that. It is not uncommon for money transfers during times of war but it’s a different matter in this situation. The Ghost Nation would have no need for money used by humans and neither would The Dragons use it for any reason. So why would it be transported between them?

Sneha: “It’s strange, right?”

Ethan nods while pondering on what that could mean.

Sneha: “Should I go on?”

Ethan turns his gaze to her while still half in his thoughts and says,

Ethan: “Yeah, go on please.”

Sneha: “Well, the next thing I found out was that Vermillion was trying to set traps around their territory as well as heightening the security to the maximum. In fact, they were hiring some dragons and Aurals as mercenary bodyguards for all the Hellfires as well as the leader, the Phoenix.”

Ethan: “That’s again suspicious.”

He says as he narrows his eyes. The 10 Hellfires and the Phoenix are some of the most powerful psychics on the planet, so why would they need to hire bodyguards for themselves. Are they afraid of an attack? If yes, then by whom?

Ethan: “Are the Vampires that dangerous?”

Sneha: “I don’t know. I don’t think Vampires even stand a chance if the war actually begins. And yet, Vermillion seems to be so careful for some reason.”

Ethan: “Hmm … hey, I have heard that members of Vermillion have some habits they can be recognized for. Do you know them?”

Sneha: “How did we get on that all of a sudden?”

Ethan: “Just answer me, okay?”

She sighs knowing that there’s no point in arguing.

Sneha: “Fine. That is indeed true. We are known for some habits that each of us more or less has. For example, it is a pretty common strategy among Embers to try to gain a mental high ground.”

Ethan: “I-Is that so?”

Sneha: “Yeah. If you want an example, when I, Ro and Mohammed were trying to gang up on Kais, I had hidden myself well in advance.”

Ethan: “Oh?”

Sneha: “When the negotiations failed and it seemed like my help will be needed to bring him in after all, I tried to read the expressions on his face with little help from his aura and act like I was reading his mind. He, in a seemingly fatigued state, started to believe I was somehow using telepathy, so I played along to put more pressure on him.”

Ethan: “I see. And from the results, it worked as well.”

Sneha: “That it did.”

She says while folding her arms and sighing.

Sneha: “So why did you bring that up?”

Ethan: “Well, it might give me some insight into the situation if we know how these habits came to be. I mean, it’s not like you all are trained anywhere. Yet, these habits are found in most Embers, right?”

Sneha: “That can mostly be attributed to the fact that all Embers have their first five missions as assistants to experienced Embers where it is the job of the experienced ones to teach these things to the new ones.”

Ethan: “Well, that certainly explains some things.”

Sneha: “Does that somehow give an explanation as to why they were transporting money or why they needed bodyguards or why they sent someone like me on the mission to bring Kais in the organization?”

Ethan: “Well, not exactly. But an explanation is forming in my head. It’s still not something I can place my bets on and I would like to hear other clues if there are any.”

Sneha: “Yeah, there was one more thing.”

Ethan looks at her as if to tell her to continue.

Sneha: “I also found that there is someone in the ranks of Vampires that the Phoenix himself has marked as a prime target.”

Ethan stands there unable to speak. ‘The Phoenix’ is the title given to the leader of the Vermillion. He is, obviously, one of the most powerful psychics as well as one of the most powerful people in the world. And there is someone so dangerous that he himself has marked as a prime target.

Sneha: “From what I could infer, I think that man he has marked is the strategist of the Vampires.”

Ethan: “I-I see.”

Ethan lowers his head as he puts his hand on his chin.

Sneha: “Huh?”

Sneha furrows her eyebrows as she sees Ethan – with a smile on his face.

Sneha: “What are you smiling for?”

Ethan: “Don’t become so hostile towards me now.”

He says while putting up both of his hands.

Ethan: “I was just …”

He trails off as he smiles again.

Ethan: “There’s someone who can scare the Phoenix, huh? That proves the fact that everyone can be afraid.”

Sneha: “Hmm?”

She wonders why he would need to note such an obvious thing. But she is unaware of how much this “obvious thing” means to Ethan.

Ethan: “If everyone can become afraid of something, then that also means that everyone, no matter how powerful, can become vulnerable.”

He says with his smile growing wider,

Ethan: “That also means that everyone, whether the strongest human or the smartest human, can lose to someone else.”

And that is why, Ethan Kales can keep going. That is why, even when monsters stare at him with hostile intent and every thought in his brain is only of running away, he still finds some sliver of courage within himself.

The fear he feels every time he faces a monstrously powerful person, the fear he felt that day 12 years ago when his eyes showed him a sight that he shouldn’t have been able to see, and the fear he felt when later his life was threatened again because of that very incident; that fear means something. That fear means his humanity.

Being weak and being afraid are two completely different things.

The two things have nothing to do with each other, because even powerful people get afraid. The reason for fear is not weakness or power but the survival instinct. And when because of him, that survival instinct starts ringing in the heads of those very monstrously powerful people who look down on weaklings like him, that is when he can truly prove his point. That is when he can truly believe in himself when he says a human, and is surrounded by humans, no matter if they call themselves a god or a devil.

Ethan: “It’s all thanks to Dyne … and of course, him.”

He says as he remembers the incident 12 years ago that took place after he had seen Barry’s carnage – the incident that truly changed his life.

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