Risa was used to seeing the Overcurrent from this height. She’d flown over this landscape countless times in her past as one of the Angels created to guard the people living in those walled cities. The mountain she was currently sitting in had quickly become one of her favorite places to come and think during that life. All of this was familiar to her.
No, she supposed it wasn’t accurate to say that. All of this wasfamiliar to her, but there was one thing about this that wasn’t familiar: the swirling turmoil of emotions she felt while looking at these cities.
She was sitting on a smooth ledge in one of the taller peaks in the mountain range that constituted this border between the Overcurrent and the Borderlands. Was it the southern border? Was this south? She had no idea, actually. Her sense of direction wasn’t bad; she could get herself to any of the places that she needed to go quite easily. It’s just that her sense of direction was all relative and she was never able to communicate directions clearly to other people. When she tried, it usually came out like “Oh yeah, that place that’s that way next to the thing and across the street from that other place with the baller coffee.” Because coffee places were always the best landmarks to base directions off of. Obvii.
In any case, she was sitting on a mountain ledge looking out over the Overcurrent. In the distance to the right was Reinvale. It was the capital of the Overcurrent and, as could be expected, it was huge. The government buildings could be clearly seen even at this distance (they were the over the top huge ones in the middle). The library was also easy to spot. And off to one side was the large, ornate building that housed the Academy of Magic which almost all mages in the Overcurrent took lessons at during at least some point in their lives. The complete polar opposite side of the city housed the building complex belonging to the Guard. It was where those approved to serve as part of the Overcurrent’s army received further training and their assignments. It was also where the Guard stored all of their classified research.
She supposed that the locations of these two buildings summed up the state of Overcurrent society quite well. When they were built, the Academy was an independent organization dedicated to providing an unbiased education that would nurture free thinking individuals for a stronger society. The Guard, on the other hand, taught complete obedience and would not accept being painted as anything less than perfect. The Council, though they had always favored the Guard, had allowed the Academy to continue teaching as per its mission. But at some point within the last 50 years, and despite a great outpouring of opposition, the Guard had taken over administration of the Academy. Anything that was controversial was cut from the curriculum. It was obvious to her that what the Overcurrent intended was to train mages to be soldiers instead of scholars. Or at the very least researchers working to strengthen the might of the Guard.
Thinking about it made her feel stifled. In her human life, she’d valued her education over almost everything. She always made it a point to learn as many different sides of an issue as possible. She valued freedom. That city represented anything but.
The walls didn’t help. Like any large city in the Overcurrent, Reinvale was circled by huge walls to keep out drakes. But unlike some of the other cities, which had demolished and rebuilt their walls as the city’s population had grown, Reinvale had never grown. During its founding, Reinvale was built much larger than it had needed to be to accommodate the population at that point. As the population had grown, it was the houses in the city that were demolished and rebuilt smaller and smaller. But looking at the city now, it was obvious to her that nothing in its architecture had changed since the last time she’d sat up in these mountains centuries ago.
And that’s the main thing that bothered her. And confused her. And pissed her off.
Reinvale used to be the place she called home. Flying back to that city (or, rather, the small lab which was built in the forest just outside the walls of the city) always gave her a sense of elation, of coming back to the place she belonged. She liked when it didn’t change and she hated whenever construction was going on. It was stable. It was comforting.
Now, she would’ve given almost anything to be able to point at one thing in that city and say “Ah-ha! I found x. It’s that thing there next to the other thing that didn’t used to be there.” But no, the city was completely the same. After all this time. After all these changes that she, herself, had been through.
She wasn’t that obedient little Angel anymore, willing to believe anything the humans told her. She didn’t see the humans as inherently faultless anymore. Seeing that city didn’t give her the strong desire to protect it anymore. Things had changed. Time had passed.
But not for Reinvale.
Maybe, in a way, what really bothered her about it was that it made her worry that she hadn’t changed either. Sure, she didn’t believe humans were innocent of all blame anymore. And sure, she didn’t have the knee-jerk reaction to defend them. But was all of that really gone for good? Would it come back to her in time?
And if it did, if she wound up wanting to go back to the Overcurrent, was there still a place for her there? She had threatened the Overcurrent Council in order to protect the demon she loved. One of the creatures she’d been created to kill. She’d chosen him over that old life and the Overcurrent wouldn’t soon forget it. They were suspicious of her now.
But so were the Fey creatures of the Border and Fey lands. The Angels had been the humans’ best weapons. The Angels were sent to interact with the Fey because the Fey couldn’t easily overtake any of the Angels. The Angels weren’t seen as true Fey creatures by anyone other than phoenixes, their original species. And the Angels certainly weren’t human. So what were they? Where did they belong?
Where did she belong? Because it likely wasn’t here. Not anymore. And it wasn’t in the Fey lands.
She curled her arms around her bent legs and rested her chin on her knees, sparing a sidelong glance at the demon sitting patiently beside her. His ancient blue eyes were scanning the landscape casually. She knew that it was just as familiar to him as it was to her, perhaps more so since he’d been alive so much longer. He’d seen so much more of this world and the people in it than she had. He understood more about it than she did. Watching the wind blow his uncombed black hair around, she knew what his answer would be if she were to ask him: that she belonged with him. And this whole time she had believed the same, but now… where was that?
When the two of them and Ami and William had walked the terrain down there almost half a year earlier, all Risa had wanted was to go home to the Mid-grounds and continue going to school. Now that she’d been back in that life for months, she felt anxious. That city was always active. Things and people were constantly changing. It was bustling with life. Everything there felt so fast paced to her. Except for her own life.
Sure, she kept up with the pace of her graduate studies and her admittedly small social life, but under it all, she felt so… motionless. Like the still waters of a deep pond. She’d tried explaining it to Zane recently. He had just chuckled and welcomed her back to being a Fey. Which was totally right, if she thought about it. This was how it had felt to be one of those ageless Angels living among humans. Her own time had stopped again and her body had relaxed into that. She would never age again, physically. Never.
It scared the shit out of her. Because, dude, everyone else from the life she’d wanted so badly to go back to would age. They were doing it right now. While she sat here looking at a city that she remembered from hundreds of years ago. And what was she really working so hard for anyway? Even if she graduated and became a professor like she’d always dreamed of, she couldn’t keep at it for long. People would notice if a tenured professor still looked 24 after nurturing several batches of tiny students to evolve into adults. She probably wouldn’t even make it up to being tenured before the whole not aging thing fucked things up for her.
And for the same reasons, she wouldn’t be able to stay in that city she loved for long. And she couldn’t go back to the other city she loved because she’d grown up in Boston and there would be people there who would recognize her.
So it felt like she was working at the same bullet train speeds that humans thrived in, but every track was leading her to an epic train wreck.
She let out an exasperated sigh and buried her face in her legs. “FML.”
“All this because your best friend is throwing you a birthday celebration tonight?” She could hear the smile in Zane’s voice, but she also heard that same gentle tone he used whenever he helped her to get used to her Fey senses again.
She pictured the ledge in her mind for a moment, judging the distances between her and the edges and her and him. Deciding it was safe, she let herself flop over sideways onto his hand (she wanted something relatively soft for her face to land on, after all). She rolled around in the small space she had, flailing her arms and legs. “Nooooooooooooo. Fuuuuuuuuuuuck.”
He had his hand pulled in close to his chest (out of the danger zone) when she opened her eyes to look. He was twisted slightly so that he could look at her with a raised eyebrow and a smile like he was fighting laughter. “Yes, how very terrible that someone cares for you so dearly that she wants to celebrate the fact that you were born.”
She didn’t get up from her position lying on her back with her knees bent. “Dude, I know. All the social contact and the partying and the happiness and the friendship… It’s so hard.”
Zane laughed. He used his arm to hold his weight as he leaned back to brush some hair out of her face. “Really, though, we should go get your brother like we said we were coming to do and then head back. Ami and William are expecting us to be on time.”
She made a low noise of displeasure and didn’t break eye contact. He continued to stroke her face soothingly. She couldn’t imagine going through this without him, but sometimes he was just not as helpful as she wanted him to be. “So, basically you’re saying I should just pretend that everything’s super perfectly peachy with me?”
“Love, if I had the answers, I would tell you. If I could fix this for you, I would do it in a heartbeat. This is something you have to figure out for yourself.” He shifted and leaned further to kiss her forehead. “And once you decide what you need to do, whatever it is, I’ll give you my full support.”
She wrapped her arms around his neck, pulling him down next to her. She buried her face in his shirt and breathed deeply that familiar scent. She let out a contented sigh. “You’re the best demon, Zane.”
“I certainly like to think so.” He was practically purring when he wrapped his arms around her. “I suppose staying here a little longer won’t hurt.”
“No it won’t. Not at all. Why go out there when we can stay here on this nice cold ledge and cuddle?”
He chuckled, “Why indeed?”
She laughed with him. Later, then. She’d deal with all of this later. After all, she had forever to figure it out.