Blas Archangels: ASHWINGS (Complete, 28 Chapters) – C. Swallow

Ashwings -3- Atrinite
 
I’ve arrived at my next night shift just on time, with barely any sleep. I had been wandering around the city midday with thoughts of buying milk and tea. When I arrived home, I saw I already completed that shopping list yesterday.
 
Other than that strange confusion and feeling of déjà vu and the fact I was so tired that I passed out at noon, I had at least made it to my night shift at the dot of 11pm, an hour to midnight.
 
Couriers are already filling their bags with mail and packages while Maggie with her usual round spectacles almost falling off her nose, sitting behind the counter, waves me over.
 
“I got a letter for you, Ivy,” Maggies holds up a strangely… familiar letter.
 
I dart past everyone to grab it out of her hands.
 
“Special delivery?” I ask.
 
“No, this is for you,” Maggie nods towards a couch, suggesting I sit to open the high end letter.
 
I take it from her hand with a smile on my face.
 
It had a nice grey wax seal. Maybe this was an intergalactic invitation to join a star ship? Or maybe a college on another planet? I had applied for a few odd jobs and courses just to try my luck.
 
I bound over to the couch and I cross my legs under me. I open the seal and while there is no address of whom it’s from, I have faith it’s something potentially life changing.
 
I’m surprised to find a very delicate letter, hand written in blue spidery ink.
 
Invitation to a private dinner. Address; Lavent Ashwing.
 
I won’t tell anyone if you don’t.
 
Valentine.
 
Who and what now?
 
I find myself staring at the letter for an ungodly amount of time.
 
Who was Valentine?
 
Lavent Ashwing… the infamous E.W. in Ora city? 
 
E.W’s didn’t send letters out, did they? How come I had been gifted with a name I was forbidden to know? Any knowledge of what went on beyond that E. Horizon protecting the Lavent Ashwing wasn’t meant to be in my brain.
 
Without much thought, I get up and check my log from yesterday.
 
I scan the addresses and I find one at the very bottom that makes my heart sink.
 
Oh, shite.
 
I had delivered a letter to Lavent Ashwing last night; the very last address of my shift.
 
No wonder I couldn’t remember a damn thing today!
 
Still, I search my brain for answers.
 
And I find none.
 
I had no idea who Valentine was.
 
I had no idea what happened in the E.W.
 
But… once you left, you could never return. That was the law!
 
But… that is also why the letter said… I won’t tell anyone if you don’t.
 
I was being asked to return?!
 
Why?
 
“Can I have the night off, please? I’m not feeling so well,” I speak to Maggie, who shrugs and waves me off.
 
I leave the courier office, gazing up at the night stars which I once thought were peaceful. Now they seem like a bad omen, lighting the forbidden way towards the E.W.
 
I wasn’t going to cross a second time and break the law.
 
But, I was going to slowly walk there and see if I could remember anything along the way.
 
I read the letter over once more, then I shred it before chucking it in the rubbish.
 
I find myself stopping by a local creek, looking over a bridge and staring at my reflection for some time.
 
“What happened?” I whisper to myself.
 
“Something got you star struck?” I jerk upright when a guy approaches me, but I relax when I realise it’s just a fellow co-worker. Uno was lazy, I didn’t really know him but he liked to slowly deliver whatever he was tasked with. He smiles at me now and looks over the bridge, “Staring at fish?”
 
“What do you know of breaking the rule when it comes to E.W’s?” I ask, “Surely some have crossed the border twice, after forgetting they were there once…”
 
“No one leaves, what are you talking about?” Uno cringes at my weird question and spits over the bridge, “…um… so… you serious… Ivy?”
 
“It’s just on my mind,” I glare at him desperately, “You… I know you grew up on the rougher side of Ora, surely you heard some interesting tales?”
 
“What, you thinking about making the journey into a female fantasy land?” Uno scoffs and starts to laugh… until he realises I’m not going to break out into a smile and chuckle too.
 
“Female fantasy land? How does anyone know that that is what it is?” I ask, “What if it’s literal hell on the other side… what if they hold you captive and torture you and never let you leave? What if that is why no one leaves? What if – ?”
 
“Calm down, Ivy!” Uno grabs my arm and forces me to look over the bridge with him, “Get it out of your head, innocent girls like you don’t ruin themselves by thinking about E.W’s… okay? You’re too cute and smart to fall for that shite, don’t tempt yourself…” I don’t say anything… he’s about to say something useful… please, know something I don’t… say something that triggers a memory. Just like that? My wish comes true, “When I was younger, my older sister, December… left the family after the half-year celebration and never came back. We thought she was dead. I know she was dreaming of more than Ora, she craved adventure. I’m the only one who believes she went into the Lavent Ashwing… but I’ll never know for sure, I never saw her cross. As for what goes on in there? Truly, no idea.”

“What was her name again?” I ask the question before I can think why I’m asking for clarification.
 
“December,” Uno smiles sadly, “You okay now, Ivy?”
 
“Yeah,” I nod, “I’m sorry about your sister…”
 
“It ruined the family when she left, dad never worked again despite the huge debt he has with the Ora government, my mum… she tried to… end it… but she’s okay, I stopped her before she did anything she couldn’t recover from,” Uno quickly blurts out, “But all that was a while back, I’ve been getting in enough money to pay the basic bills since it all happened. Life goes on, doesn’t it?”
 
I give Uno a hug while his eyes have teared up.
 
Bills.
 
Money.
 
I imagine… a hundred thousand pounds of gold… I don’t know why.
 
Hmmm… December.
 
“Why did you tell me all that?” I ask as I pull out of the hug, “You barely know me.”
 
“You asked what I know of Lavent Ashwing and I said what I think I know… honestly… it felt good to just get it off my chest,” Uno shrugs one shoulder, “Don’t use it against me, Ivy,” he winks at me, playfully, “I’m no kindred spirit, I’m tough… a tough guy,” he pretends to weigh his delivery bag up and down with one hand like it’s a bag of rocks.
 
“Very funny… but, Uno…  I have a secret as well,” I whisper this… and as I do… a deep, dark chill spreads through my body. I close my mouth and Uno drops his bag, his face paling as he witnesses my skin.
 
“Oh, shite,” he blurts, “Your skin!” I look down and I’m… pulsing and glowing red, like my blood is on fire, “Ivy, Artinite glows when you’re being hunted -” Uno doesn’t need to say anymore.
 
I turn, aimlessly… and I run into the city streets.
 
I run straight, then left, then right – until I swear I’m seeing a shadow follow me everywhere, yet every time I look up there is nothing there.
 
I run as hard and as fast as I can until my own loud steps block out the other noises of the night. I eventually slow to a stop by a quiet corner and I unbutton my dress top, hot and bothered from the run and sweating already. I puff in breaths of air until I calm down, my back pressed against the wall, my eyes scanning up and down the streets.
 
Uno is nowhere in sight.
 
There are a few people walking slowly, hand in hand, on the other side of the street.
 
I look down to my skin and it’s no longer glowing.
 
Oh, thank you!
 
The shadow was gone too.
 
I look up into the sky and it’s clear.
 
And then I stare across the street and I see a restaurant.
 
A red glow, slightly unsettling, from red flaming lanterns, lights up a warm ambience over leather couches, shaped into curved booths. People lightly chat at tables, being served food… yet they were all unaware of the winged figure, slouching in his side of the booth, his head at an angle, his cheek pressed against his shoulder as he stares right at me… waiting.
 
Behind him, large feathery wings lay across the seat and waiters set out dish after dish in front of him, dessert… cake… ice cream… custard… drinks… wine… mocktails…
 
I glance back at this strange man with the blue eyes and black hair and ash wings.
 
Then I watch as one giant waiter ducks his head through the restaurant front door, heading across the street, shaking out perfect locks of brown hair that reach his shoulders.
 
The waiter approaches me with a look of… disgust… on his face.
 
He stops directly opposite me, glaring me over.
 
Who are you?” I ask, boldly.
 
“Myron…” he blinks as if bored by my question, “Valentine’s waiting.”

I open my mouth but Myron reaches forward and grasps some of my buttons across my chest, yanking the material closed, his smooth fingers close them back together while he is careful to avoid my skin. When I reach up a hand to slap him away, he quickly steps back out of reach… like he is… indeed… avoiding my skin, or something.
 
Myron speaks through gritted teeth, “Ahem?” he jerks his head over his shoulder and waits for me to move.
 
“I thought,” I gulp, “Dinner was at the E.W?”
 
“It was,” Myron doesn’t look at me as he laughs to himself, “…but Valentine isn’t very patient…”
 
“Patience is a virtue,” I speak as I dare to step past him, deciding dinner can be easily attended now that the E.W. wasn’t involved.
 
Myron is shocked by my words.
 
Blue blood indeed –”
 
“Huh?” I ignore him as I focus on Valentine, who is now pouring himself some red wine with a kind of frustrated look on his face.
 
“Purer than holy water… do gooder… but are you… obedient?” Myron asks to himself, and I still have no idea what he is talking about as he is escorting me from behind.
 
“Those are odd fairy wings,” I ignore him because I’m staring at Valentine’s feathers.
 
The moment I say what I do, I get a reaction – but not from Myron.
 
fairy wings
 
I freeze on the side walk in front of the glass front when Valentine slowly turns to me with a raised brow, as if he heard every word I just said and he wasn’t very happy with my assessment of his wings.
 
Myron bursts out laughing and waits for me to walk in the front.
 
“Um,” I had no idea what was going on, but… “…well, it’d be rude to… not accept the invitation,” I speak to myself as I do the unthinkable.
 
I decide I will attend the dinner.
 
Mostly because I want to ask one thing.
 
For Uno, I would find out an answer.

What happened to his older sister, December?
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