Here, I reintroduce Sol’s friends, Morrigan and Circe. I really wanted them to have larger roles in this story, but I didn’t know how to work that in. I’ve decided to give Morrigan a much stronger role in Sol’s portion of Cullinan Diamond Hunter. I don’t intend to develop another love triangle, but I’ve already made it clear that she has a thing for Sol, so I’m not going to mask that. Her feelings for Sol will be very evident, but Rayne isn’t the type to compete over a guy, so I plan to navigate their relationships carefully.
5 – RE+ASSEMBLY PART 2
Rayne sits with her legs crossed while lounging on Morrigan’s leather couch and staring at the three ladies lying on the floor. The butcher swishes blood through her teeth and wipes a desperate desire for sleep from her eyes. She yawns and redirects her attention to the various bodies again.
She leans her head far back on the couch’s arm to get a better look at Sol. The hunter is slowly walking around the living room, observing pictures of the family of three. Several pictures of the hunter decorate the room. He tries hiding his face in most of the frames, but Morrigan was always great at getting a decent shot when holding him in a headlock.
When Sol passes in front of Rayne for the fourth time, she finally asks, “Who are they?”
“Friends,” he calmly replies.
Rayne pokes out her lips in a pouting fashion and mutters, “Cute friends.”
“What did you say?”
Sitting upright, Rayne projects, “Cute friends! It makes me wonder what Laurent would think of your relationship with them.”
Massaging the bridge of his nose, Sol sighs, “You know that Laurent and I aren’t…”
Rayne jumps forward and presses her finger to Sol’s lips. Shaking her head violently, she says, “To me, you and Laurent will always be. No distance can separate the things I’ve envisioned.”
“Ghost?” Morrigan groans while pushing away from the floor. She straightens her hair while attempting to stand. “Ghost?”
Rayne instantly grabs Sol’s collar and grimaces, “You said ghosts weren’t real!”
The hunter whispers, “Ghost is my nickname.” Then, he helps his friend to her feet.
“What are you doing here?” Morrigan asks.
While helping Morrigan to the couch, Sol says, “I came over after I heard what happened.”
“What happened?” Circe groans while rolling on her back. Unlike Morrigan, she isn’t in a rush to her feet. Circe hasn’t felt this tired since she stayed up for two days in search of a rumored treasure in a dark zone that Sol found after a fifteen minute walkthrough of the cathedral.
However, Circe isn’t able to stay down for long. She notices glass scattered across the floor and their entrance. “What the hell happened?” she shouts while sitting up. “Our door and the window!”
Shushing her friend, Morrigan says, “Relax, Circe. Selena’s still asleep.”
Circe finally notices her daughter. Sol brought the young girl’s mattress and blanket into the room.
While Circe crawls to Selena’s side, Sol explains, “It’ll be difficult for you to relax after you hear what happened, so I’ll spit it out. The city was attacked by ramanga.”
Morrigan recalls, “Ghost! You saved us.” A warm smile stretches across her lips. “You…you broke into our apartment. And we almost shot you, but—”
“Me?” He chuckles endearingly. Rayne notices how quickly Sol’s personality shifts. She hasn’t seen him smile so widely since Celeste disappeared. Yet, the smile is empty. Disgusting. “It was someone else. I got here way after,” Sol says, lying to cover the truth of their rescue.
“I’m not crazy,” Morrigan asserts. “I know what I saw. You started drawing something on the ground right—” She spins around in circles, searching for the alchemic equation, which should be beside the coffee table. “It’s gone.”
Again, Sol lies, “It was a dream. But I’m happy to be the hero in your twisted nightmares anytime.”
Rayne struggles to listen to Sol’s lies. She involuntarily bounces her leg, which produces a squeaking sound on the wooden floor.
Circe lifts her chin, narrows her eyes, and asks, “Who are you?” She visually and intricately scans the butcher’s rugged anatomy, but soon turns her attention to Sol.
The hunter steps between Circe’s judgmental glare and says, “That’s Rayne, a good friend of mine.”
Rayne smacks the back of Sol’s head and dramatically cries, “I thought we were more than friends. That last kiss was special wasn’t it?” Tears swell in her eyes. “But I guess around her,” she points to Morrigan, “we’re just friends.” The butcher storms out of the apartment and slams the door to the stairwell. The bashing metal door adds to the emotional scene.
Rolling his eyes, Sol says, “I’ve cleaned the place, but be careful for a while. You’re the only humans in town for now.”
An icy sensation drills fear into Circe’s spine. “What do you mean the only ones?”
Morrigan continues staring at the open door. She tries repressing a brewing smile when asking, “Wait. Shouldn’t you go after the girl?”
“Rayne?” Sol blows air from his lips. “No. She does that all the time. People make her uncomfortable, so she purposely creates awkward situations just so she can make a quick exit.”
Rayne reveals that she never entered the stairwell when shouting, “The look on Morrigan’s face was priceless.”
Morrigan’s smile evolves into an adorable frown as Sol motions towards the door as a way of saying, “I told you so.”
Still shaken by Sol’s words, Circe waves her hands and repeats, “The only ones?”
“The city was evacuated,” Sol confirms. “Most people say they can’t remember what happened for some reason. It was like a spell was casted over them.”
Crossing her arms across her chest, Morrigan pouts, “I remember.”
“Enough with the dream, Morrigan,” Circe fumes, like an older sister would.
“It wasn’t a dream. I feel it. I saw them pouring from the monument. They were in the stairwell. We couldn’t escape.”
Circe shrugs and shakes her head. “What?”
“Ramanga. Really old ones that smelled worse than anything I’ve ever…”
Hoping to avoid telling more lies, Sol tries excusing himself. He clears his throat and says, “I have to go, ladies.”
Circe runs to Morrigan’s side and bounces on her toes while asking, “Can’t you stay a bit.” She pushes Morrigan forward and adds, “It’s been a while.”
Morrigan squeezes her eyes shut and recalls her last encounter with Sol. She can still hear him screaming to leave them behind. Circe and Morrigan still haven’t talked about the day where Sol sacrificed himself for Selena like he had done with them for so long.
Combing her hair behind her ears, Morrigan admits, “We thought you were dead at first. I cried for hours in the hospital, until some guys from Roche’s team showed up. They apologized for Roche, but it wasn’t necessary. He was bitten not long after.”
Circe adds, “People were horrified of him. He stopped us from hunting for weeks. They say he was stronger than any ramanga they’d ever met.”
“The guards at your complex said that you beat him with your bare hands.” Morrigan chuckles nervously as she recalls Sol bursting through the door.
“We told them they had the wrong coward. You only know how to run,” Circe teases. “Super fast, like Selena says.”
The hunter avoids being drawn into a lengthy conversation with the girls. Instead, he kisses Selena’s forehead while she sleeps. Then, he hugs both of his friends. Morrigan holds him for longer, though Circe wanted to do the same thing.
“It was good seeing you. Keep my little girl safe,” Sols says while pointing to Selena. “I left more toys in her room. Oh! And get rid of that gun. You’re going to shoot someone you love one day.”
Morrigan’s mouth falls open as Sol exits the room. She remembers the bullets bursting into pink flames. The memory is too vivid to be a dream, but she can’t express that to Circe. Instead, she bottles it inside and watches her friend as he enters the stairwell with Rayne. Morrigan can’t help but feel something between the two. It’s an energy that fills the hallway. The sensation and both warm and electric.
Sol and Rayne walk silently through the empty streets of Ordinance. Empty streets don’t surprise Sol. Most people in the province stay out of sight to avoid random attacks by ramanga, so things almost appear normal. Everything except for the alleyways.
Ordinance is infamously known for the burning bins that plague the province. Orphans often remain huddled around the bins with wide, watchful eyes. They are often safest next to the burning bins, but there’s always a story about someone being attacked by a random ramanga because the kid stood too far away from safety.
Yet, with the orphans gone, the buildings appear cleaner. The air is somewhat fresh without the must of sweating bodies huddled around heat boxes. And the breeze sounds much more pleasant than the ticking sounds that the bins make.
Normally, Sol would expect Rayne to talk excessively. Though she refuses to admit it, the butcher loathes silence.
Sol tries sparking several conversations with her, but she responds with short and sharp remarks, if she replies at all. Rayne also keeps a steady pace, three steps ahead of Sol, no matter how quickly or slowly he walks. She walks with a subtle limp. A stabbing pain slices through her left calf with each step, but vows to avoid complaining if it means ignoring Sol.
The hunter finally gives in and asks, “What did I do now?”
“I hate liars,” Rayne responds swiftly. She was clearly waiting for the question. She prepared her answer before they left the apartment.
“You lied about our kiss,” Sol counters. Rayne also prepared for this argument. During their travels, he has learned to prepare Rayne’s assaults. She argues like a thirteen year old. She never sounds rational, hates facts and details, and mostly cares about screaming or shouting at some point in the discussion.
“Or did I?” Rayne teases. She finally slows down just enough to walk beside Sol. Then, she releases the rant that has been brewing inside of her since she heard the name Ghost. “Seriously, you let them think that you’re weak, and you said that someone else saved them. You even let them call you a horrible, horrible name.”
“I do hate that name, but it has a purpose.”
“I can’t see any reason to call someone a ghost.”
“It’s better than my name.”
“No, my good sir. No it is not. Ghosts are,” she shivers to complete the rest of her statement.
“It is when my name is cursed.” Sol’s voice vibrates angrily. He tries masking his emotions with a crescent smile, but the butcher can read into his pain well enough.
Rayne steps closer to Sol as they continue down the avenue. Street lights dimly flicker. They have entered the lower income area of the province. Here, buildings are much lower. Most of the windows and doors are boarded. A significant amount of the homes and apartments are empty for various reasons.
The homes are difficult to maintain and they are too expensive to repair. And the apartments are withering, which makes them unsafe. People mainly live in storage facilities because they are less expensive. This is Sol’s old neighborhood, but he takes no time to acknowledge his history.
Rayne listens to the sound of crows overhead. Their calls are nearly as annoying as the squishing blood in her boots.
She blinks away the haze in her eyes while asking Sol, “What curse?”
“It’s nothing,” Sol replies glumly. However, he wakes up when a sharp punch connects with his shoulder.
With a more grimacing tone, Rayne asks again, “What curse?”
Sol stops and turns back to face the monument. The stone goddess that wears his mother’s face is visible, even through the darkened clouds. It always glows in a way that warms Sol’s heart.
Rubbing the chilling temperature from his nose, Sol confesses, “When I love someone, like really care about them, they die. It started with my aunts and uncles. It made its way to my parents and Celeste.”
Searching for hope, Rayne asks, “Didn’t you say your father was alive?”
“That’s what Kode said, but I don’t believe him.”
“Why not?” The butcher blinks widely and stops walking. “You’re the liar.” She rests her hands on her knees and bends over to gasps for air while holding her abdomen.
Sol tries reaching for Rayne, but she slaps his hand away. The hunter’s voice shivers as he concerningly asks, “What’s wrong with your side?”
When Rayne doesn’t reply, Sol reaches for her again. This time, when she tries slapping hand again, he grabs her wrist and holds it above her head. Rayne wails loudly and falls to one knee. She sobs and begs Sol to release her hand.
While inspecting her ribs, Sol says, “They’re broken. You idiot, you’re still bleeding.”
Once the hunter releases her wrist, Rayne gasps for air and chuckles, “Doesn’t feel too bad.”
He helps the butcher to her feet. “Kiss me, Rayne.”
Rayne’s frown develops into a menacing grin. She throws her arms around Sol’s neck and croons, “Make it special, like last time. Kay?”
Just before she leans in to kiss Sol, someone shouts, “Hey. Whoa. I’m sorry. I didn’t…”
Sol looks up, in search of the familiar voice. Rayne slams her head on the hunter’s shoulder and groans. She was so close.
“Laurent!” Sol cheers when seeing in friend standing beneath a leaning street light. “This isn’t what it looks like.” He points to Rayne, who continues resting her head against Sol’s shoulder.
Laurent’s cheeks flush red as he stutters, “I can go away if you two want to finish or something.”
“I’m just helping her heal.”
Laurent finally steps closer. As though someone else were around to hear him, he lowers his voice and practically whispers, “Are you two together or…I don’t really want to know. It’s not my business.”
“Wait. I know that voice.” Rayne finally stands erect. She pushes away from Sol, allowing the weight of her head to spin her around. “It’s your boyfriend! Awe. You two are always so cute together. Always blushing and what not.”
The butcher takes a step forward and collapses.
While rolling on the ground, the butcher constantly repeats, “Owie.”
Laurent instantly kneels beside Rayne and asks, “Whoa. Are you okay?” As she continues repeating the single word, he redirects the question to Sol. “Is she okay?”
The hunter says, “This is awkward. Laurent, I actually have to finish with her. Just…just wait there for a second.” He motions for Laurent to stand beside a rusted car on the street corner.
Laurent walks away hesitantly, looking over his shoulder as Sol joins Rayne on the damp and cracked cement, and kisses her.
Energy exchanges between the two, a phenomenon that neither understand. Yet, even someone incapable of using magic, like Laurent, can feel their power. A gently shock prickles the skin on the back of his neck. Though the power is soft, Laurent can also sense the underlying danger of this force. For some reason, their relationship is more threatening than comforting.
After only a few seconds, Rayne stands to her feet, fully repared. She points to Laurent and says, “He was watching. I saw him.”
“I wasn’t watching,” the assassin stammers. “I wasn’t watching much.”
“Ignore her,” Sol says while playfully kicking Rayne’s heel. “What are you doing out here?” The hunter looks around and emphasizes, “Way out here.”
Laurent expected to give speak with Sol privately and possibly over a cup of coffee, but he and Kami rushed to Ordinance when they heard that it was under attack. He even had to leave Kami in the car, parked a few blocks away.
The assassin’s heart is still racing. He didn’t know if he’d find Sol dead or alive. Now, he doesn’t know what to say. He’s torn between being a friend and honoring his contract with Blas.
Scratching the back of his neatly picked Afro, Laurent stutters, “I found Celeste.”
Laurent’s words don’t initially register in Sol’s mind. He bounces Celeste’s name around a few thousand times before fully comprehending the weight of the message.
“What? How? How did you find her?” Almost all of Sol’s words merge together, as though there were only four syllables in his entire question.
Laurent professes, “I heard rumor about her near a dragon’s cavern. There’s only one nearby, so I did some digging. Celeste wandered into Mother’s netherworld.”
All this time, Rayne has remained silent. Life has taught her that good news that drops from the sky is often too good to be true. And in this case, she was right.
“Mother’s lair?” With a discerning scowl, Rayne growls, “I’ve never known anyone that wandered there.”
“Bad choice of words. I guess you could say that she was drawn there.” Shrugging his shoulders, Laurent adds, “It seems that Celeste hungers for powerful ramanga. She doesn’t bite humans for some reason.”
“That’s not what I remember.” Rayne recalls the moment that she bit Celeste. Celeste turned on her own brother and raged through most of Ordinance, attacking anyone in sight.
Sol nods, agreeing with Laurent’s comment. “It could’ve happened as she evolved. Her conscious may be present if she’s reached the level of an Asasabonsam.” The hunter is swiftly overwhelmed with joy. He never knew that his friend would search for his sister during all of this time. The only way he can express his gratitude is by hugging Laurent. “Thank you so much,” he cries.
Laurent gives into the warm sentiment momentarily. As he recalls his mission, he pushes Sol away and says, “Don’t thank me yet. We can’t just walk into Mother’s lair and take her back.”
While wiping his eyes, Sol affirms, “Don’t worry. I’ll think of something.”
“I already have.” Laurent’s words send an invisible bullet through Rayne’s heart. She can sense that something is wrong, but she doesn’t know how to address the issue. Instead, she listens as he proceeds, “I made a deal with someone that has a close relationship with Mother.”
Rayne shifts uneasily. She knows that no one has a close relationship with Mother. She lives in her lair, surrounded by maidens. She only outsources to powerful mages at Blas’ suggestions.
The butcher bites her bottom lip, drawing a hint of blood. She rarely experiences fear, but she certainly fears for her best friend at the moment. Rayne doesn’t know why Laurent would turn against Sol, but she is certain that he will kill the hunter if Blas orders the hit.
She shakes her head repeatedly, but not enough for either of the guys to notice. Rayne can feel her voice trapped deep inside, though she wants to lash out and warn Sol about accepting Blas’ help. Many more people will die than a few ramanga, like Marcus and Sherry. Working for Blas is always a deathwish.
Laurent proves her logic when he adds, “We can have Celeste in exchange for the Black Alchemist.”
“My dad?” Takes two steps back.
“The Demon of Payne kidnapped him recently. We’ll need to find him in order to get your father.”
Sol stares blankly at the stone monument once more. He holds his head high and makes a silent promise to his mother. The hunter wants to find his father, but not just to get Celeste back. He wants to make Leonardo answer for Moira Ruby’s death.
Laurent rests his hand on Sol’s shoulder and asks, “Are you in?”
Rayne grabs Laurent’s arm roughly, applying an incredible pressure that causes his teeth to grind. “He’s in. But you knew that long before you arrived. Didn’t you?”