Chapter 12, Part 1

Alessandra stood on the roof of a building with her arms crossed, gazing across at the Vanmorzen manor in the distance. Torea was crouched down next to her, her gaze focused on the same thing. It was the first time Alessandra had laid eyes on the manor since her disastrous job there, and she was surprised at how little the sight affected her. She had expected to be flooded with vivid memories of Ahlen, Veloran, Nieshata and Breska, but instead she felt…nothing. It was just another building, just another target to be robbed. Except that it wasn’t. She couldn’t let herself forget that.

“I still think this is a bad idea,” Torea said, as Alessandra crouched down next to her.

“As does Meela, and Meachen, and Vegora,” replied Alessandra, her gaze fixated on the manor.

“Generally, when all four Clan Leaders agree about something, it’s a good idea for the Clan Master to listen,” Torea said gravely.

“I have listened,” Alessandra said. “It will be fine. The worst thing that will happen is that I die. Nobody else will be at risk. If that happens, you will chose another Clan Master, and life will go on.”

“And what if the Storm Corps traces the box back to us?” Torea asked. “Meela’s right. If the full force of the Elder Guard comes down on us, we won’t survive.”

“That won’t happen,” Alessandra said firmly.

“How can you be so sure?” Torea demanded. Alessandra sighed and turned to her.

“Look, you know about my speed and my strength, right? Well, I have other abilities you don’t know about, too. I can turn invisible, and even mask myself so people can’t see me or touch me. I can also teleport. Trust me when I say that, no matter how strong inoval armored soldiers are, or how many there are, they won’t see me.”

“That explains how you were able to get into the clanhouse without being seen the day you challenged Bezzum,” Torea muttered. “But how is that even possible?” she asked in a louder voice. “You suddenly being much faster and stronger is plausible, if highly unlikely. But how can you make yourself invisible?”

“I promise I’ll explain it to you someday, Torea, but it’s a long story, and we don’t have time.” She turned back to staring at the manor. “Now, you’re certain you remember all the details of the plan?”

“Alessandra,” Torea said in a flat voice, “you’ve got to be kidding me. This is the simplest plan I’ve ever been a part of. How could I not remember?”

“Humor me, Torea,” Alessandra replied, not looking away from the manor. Torea rolled her eyes and sighed.

“I will wait on the roof of Inskara Building and watch the exterior of the manor,” she recited in a bored voice. “If I see any unusual activity outside, I will fire off one mekuvise. If I see extra troops entering the manor, I will fire off two mekuvise. That’s it.”

“Not quite,” Alessandra said disapprovingly, turning to look at Torea again. “You’re missing the most important part.” Torea gave her a highly unamused look.

“Once I have given a signal, if needed, I will withdraw and return to the clanhouse,” she said, her voice even more flat and unimpressed than before. “Under no circumstances will I attempt to enter the manor.”

“That’s it,” Alessandra said with a satisfied smile.

“You know, not everyone is as stubborn as you are,” Torea said.

“I’m not going to risk losing you over this job,” Alessandra replied. “I know that I’m doing this to stroke my own ego. I’m not stupid. I will not put anyone at risk aside from myself. I want to make absolutely sure that you and everyone else who is helping me with this job is perfectly safe.”

“And how do you think I feel, watching you put yourself at risk in order to pursue this…this…vanity project!” Torea shot back. “Dammit, Alessandra, you’re important, even if you don’t think you are. You’ve only been Clan Master for two months, and I can already tell that you’re a much better Clan Master than Bezzum ever was, plus you’re likable! You’ve changed the opinions of virtually everybody in the clan. You’ve gone from being the one that everybody hates to the one that everybody loves, practically overnight! You are an amazing person, and we would all be much poorer if anything happens to you.”

Alessandra blushed, and it took her a moment to gather her thoughts and respond. “Are you trying to make me cry?” she said in a husky voice, and she smiled as she said it.

“No, I’m trying to make you think,” Torea said firmly. “You’re not putting the clan first right now. You’re putting yourself first, and you know that’s not how it’s supposed to be. Even for Clan Masters.”

Alessandra was silent for a moment again, and then she said with a sigh, “I know that. But I have to do this. I know it’s dumb. I know it’s a bad idea. But I have to. I’ll never truly believe in myself until I know I can pull this off.”

Torea took a deep breath and started rubbing her temples. “Can you promise me one thing?” she asked.

“What?”

“Will you promise that if you come back from this job alive, that you’ll never do anything like this again? Because if you don’t promise, I might have to challenge you, even though I know I won’t survive.”

Alessandra stared at for a moment, and then she nodded. “Yes. I promise. I will never put myself ahead of the good of the clan ever again. After today.”

Torea stared off into the distance for a minute, and then she sighed. “Fine,” she said. “Go do this thing. Get it over with. And make sure you come back to us.” Alessandra grinned, then she made herself invisible and leaped off the building that she and Torea were standing on.

To be continued…

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