Chapter 16: Clarity

1172 words. Not bad.

The hospital was quiet as he made his way to the roof. Right now, what he needed more than sleep, was time outside his hospital room, but going to the grounds this late at night was forbidden by the nurses. So he took to the roof instead. It took him a few minutes to look find the right stairs after he came out of the lift. The staircase was dry but very warm; some ventilation shafts nearby was directing hot air to this part of the hospital. Climbing the stairs slowly, he was sweating profusely by the time he reached the locked door. With a gentle touch though, the lock gave way. A gust of fresh air greeted him when he opened the door, tinged with a bit of moisture. He walked out to the roof and saw the lights of his city twinkling in the night sky. Above, the stars shone, but he could not make out the constellations.

Raising his hand to the sky, he opened his arms. The rain fell upon him in a torrent, cleansing him. He revelled in the pure sensation of the moment, getting drenched in the thin hospital robe. There was no thought in his mind, not even of Xis who had vanished a week ago. She had warned him before she left, but he had not expected to miss her that much. The two weeks they had spent together while he was in the hospital had become precious memories.

The rain though, helped put everything into focus. He was here for a reason, for a job, as she was. Right now, his job was to infiltrate the Interpol training schools and seek out a certain person. All he had to go on was a name and a description. She was Giselle, a woman with long, black hair and blue eyes. Feeling the rain wash his cheeks, he reviewed what he knew, opening his mouth to drink in the rain.

His instructions had been precise and simple; find her and report back. It was not an easy job though. Infiltrating the most elite of the elite of elite without giving away that he was seeking entry into that circle was just the beginning. Thanks to his luck though, he was noticed within a few weeks of odd happenings taking place around him and they had immediately taken him in. Once inside, he had concentrated on getting his license and pass so that he would have access to the database. The database itself was to have served as a starting point. What he had done so far had been done by others as well, but locating Giselle was a futile task.

The database gave them a starting point, but the trail often went cold after a little while. Having had access to notes from previous hunters, he came to the same conclusion as some of the recent hunters had. Giselle referred not to an individual, but a string of them. Most were chosen based on certain physical and familial criteria. Physically, they were often young women, late teens, early twenties, perhaps mid to late 20s if the hunter had been late gathering his information. She had long black-blue hair that reached past her shoulders, blue eyes, slightly tanned skin. Almost invariably, she was always the second of three siblings. They could be her blood siblings, but more often they were not.

Her powers were miniscule compared to most, but she made up for it with sheer brute strength and cunning. She specialised in decoy operations; considering the ease in which she appeared and disappeared in the records, he suspected that she was also worked freelance from time to time, and Interpol did not just allow her to, they encouraged it! If so, then the difficulty to locate her made sense. Unless she was on a case now, he did not think he would be able to locate her even if he managed to get access to the database. Straying, he wondered if he would find Xis in the database as well. That alone would be worth taking on this job.

He closed his mouth and brought his head down. The rain was so thick that he could barely see beyond his hands. Turning, he walked back to the door and closed it shut behind him. As he dripped down the stairs, Xis kept popping into his mind. Each thought was accompanied with a sharp pang, because now that the rain was gone, he did not have a ready distraction to stop thinking about her. A near slip on the stairs made him wince, and he finally turned his attention to his wet self. He took his hospital robe off and proceeded to wring the water out of it. It made a sizable puddle under the metal staircase. The water began evaporating soon after due to the heat in the staircase.

All his wringing only made the robe slightly lighter to wear. He hung the robe on the metal railing, then turned to face the way he came, brought his head forwards, and rubbed his short hair vigorously. The exercise made him feel slightly warmer and dried his hair, giving him a “Just-got-out-of-bed” look. The was damp now, but at least it was not dripping any more. The trip back to his room was without event; he managed to avoid the nurses. They did not realise he had stolen away.

As he began to change out of his robe into a drier one, a voice addressed him from the shadows. It was reprimanding but gentle at the same time.

“You know… trying to kill yourself slowly in the rain isn’t going to make me rush to your side,” Xis came out of the shadows slowly. He stopped halfway trying to pull his shirt off.

“Xis…” she came over and helped him out of it, even though he did not need the help, and made him wear a new robe.

Then she took the towel and wiped his hair dry. He was grateful to be lying down on the bed though after a little while. She pulled the blanket over him tenderly, sitting on the side of the bed. His hand she held in her hands on her lap. She played with his fingers, looking down at them for a long time. When she spoke, her voice was heavy and she sounded like she was pushing back tears. “Seo… I won’t be around when you wake up. Not for a long time. Don’t wait for me, alright?” she looked up at him, but he had fallen asleep. She leant over and kissed his lips gently, squeezing his hands. Looking at him as though to imprint his image in her mind, she wiped her eyes and left the room.

He opened one eye to watch her go. When she had left, he raised the hand she had held to his lips and inhaled, trying to catch the last of her scent…