When Orlando came awake finally, it was early morning. The sunlight broke through the blinds and warmed his skin. It seemed that he was back to normal…and a little chilly.
His head was resting on a pillow, and he was lying on the cold wooden floor. It seemed that Felice had already started the day without him. He stood and stretched out his sore limbs. After letting out a big yawn, he turned to find Felice in the doorway.
No longer was she wearing the Kaminari Academy uniform. She wore a loose cotton top and pants in an eggshell white hue. In her arms, she held some folded clothing in the same color. Her long black hair was pulled back into a French braid. Without preamble, she placed the clothes on her bed without its pillow and turned to walk out.
“Meet me outside in ten minutes,” she told him over her shoulder.
He guessed the clothes were his for the day, so he replaced the clothes he had gone to work in yesterday with those.
When he arrived on the deck over looking the shoreline, Felice was standing on the beach, her back to the house. On the railing, he spotted scrambled eggs with toast, bacon, and apple slices. A glass of orange juice sat beside the plate. He ate the breakfast as Felice had intended. After he had downed the glass of juice, he strode to the sand where Felice stood, barefoot.
“How are you feeling?” she asked simply.
He hesitated, then replied, “Different.” He looked at her sidelong. “Did you sleep?”
“I slept,” she assured him. “I wouldn’t worry about me.” She turned to face him. “This is going to be rigorous training. It usually takes up to a year to train a Fire Child. But this time, I’m giving us a week.”
Orlando’s eyes widened. “A week?! Are you out of your mind? How do you expect to condense a whole year’s worth of training into a week?”
“That’s my problem, not yours. You just follow my instructions.” She paused. “Besides, it’s mostly repetition. If we had the leisure, we’d do it that way. But we can’t. Are you a fast learner?”
“Good.” Felice gestured to the sand. “Now, for our very first exercise. Sit.” He did so, and she in front of him. “There is someone I want you to meet.” She unfolded a picture and gave it to him. “This woman in this picture is Amanda Latona, known to me and my future allies as Fujin.”
Orlando recognized the woman and remembered the way she treated Angelia. Fury rose in him, just as Felice expected.
“Calm yourself for a second. I know the sight of her brings back memories of when Angelia was captured.” He took in a deep breath and held it. “Alright. That’s better. Now. I don’t want you to destroy the picture.”
“I don’t know how I’m going to manage not to do that,” Orlando muttered, exhaling.
“If you focus, you can. Now.” Felice took the picture from him and held it at his eye-level with his head raised. “Your goal here is to burn out her eyes in the photograph.”
“Just her eyes? You don’t want me to get rid of it all?”
Felice stared at him. “I think you want to burn my hand.”
“I do not!” Orlando insisted.
Felice kept on staring.
“Fine, fine. Her eyes it is, then.”
“Good. Close your eyes for a second and concentrate on the sound of my voice.” He obeyed. “I want you to think of two points. See them in your mind’s eye. I know this is quite odd, but I want you to stare as hard as you can on those two points.”
Although it seemed impossible, Orlando tried to do as she said. When he was about to give up, the two points he had begun to visualize began to glow until he couldn’t hold his eyes closed any longer.
A second later, the photo of Amanda Latona had no eyes.
Astonished, Orlando leapt back. Felice lowered her arm and the picture. The faint facsimile of a smile was on her face.
“Very good, Orlando,” Felice remarked. “Now that we’ve gotten past that small ordeal, we can move on to the bigger targets.”
“Bigger targets?” Orlando climbed to his feet. “Fine. I am ready when you are.”
* * *
In the outside world, Danie resumed her life in the spotlight. She felt back to her old self again, and she threw herself into album promotion for the Fray and was extremely shocked when she got a visit from Brian Littrell and Kevin Richardson at her office a couple of days after Orlando and Felice went missing.
The younger man seemed chagrined, and his blue eyes were weary. His cousin was grim. Danie held no sympathy for either of them.
“If you have a reason for visiting me, I think you had better reveal it within the next five seconds,” Danie said evenly. She moved a stack of papers around. “I have work to do.”
Kevin crossed his arms. “I’d like to know why we were left out of the current situation,” he snapped. “We’re a part of this superhero thing, too.”
Danie rolled her eyes. Superhero thing? Whatever. “Spare me the tongue lashing, Richardson.” She backed off her anger because she knew that it wouldn’t help Angelia if she argued with her own ally. “Look, Kevin, we thought your loyalties would be compromised. After all, you and Alex have been friends for years, and I know it hurts to see him…on the, eh, dark side.” Danie looked pointedly at Brian. “Not to mention we didn’t need any attempts to try and save Angelia until we had a concrete plan.”
“I’m not that reckless, Danie,” Brian insisted.
“Right. Sure you aren’t. And I guess stringing the poor girl along while you were engaged to another woman—a woman, I might add, was planning to use you in the manner Amanda is using Alex—wasn’t reckless at all, was it?” She tilted her head as Brian looked at the floor. “Hm. No. I’d call it dumbass stupid.”
Kevin stepped forward. “Stop badgering him, Danie. It was a mistake, and Angelia forgave him.”
“Good for her. But my point is, we didn’t want you to have to choose between us…and your good friend. I think you would appreciate it.”
“We’ve learned the difference between good and evil, Danie,” Brian told her. “We helped you defeat our girlfriends when they became exposed to the white evil.”
Danie considered that. “That is true.”
“So how can we help you girls?” Kevin demanded.
Danie shook her head. “This is about Amanda and Alex.” She paused. “But I would keep an eye on Howie and Nick. Especially Howie. If Amanda loses Alex, she might try to turn another one of you.”
“We’ll watch our backs,” Kevin told her.
“That’s all you can do.” Danie stood. “I have some appointments to keep. I’ll be sure and contact you boys when we find Angelia.”
Kevin nodded. Danie came out from behind her desk and hugged the both of them, which was quite odd. With a glance over Danie’s shoulder to each other, Kevin and Brian figured that Danie was out of her mind. She turned to leave when…
“Heero!” exclaimed Danie. She spied the four men behind him. “Um, hi guys.”
The five ex-Gundam pilots weren’t as disconcerting as they had been some two years ago when they appeared in Gracia for the first time to search for peaceful lives. Unfortunately for them, they had been sucked into the battle between the Sailor Senshi and the Legion of White Evil when their leader, Kevin’s ex-girlfriend Kristin, had discovered that Heero was the predecessor to the Prince of Infinity, and his wily friend Duo was the past version of Queen Angelia’s younger brother Bennett Sanford and the present Angelia’s blood brother. After Duo, assuming his role as Angelia’s brother, kicked Brian’s ass down Gracia Row (well, that’s how Nicole had put it), the two male troops never truly became friendly.
Duo ignored Brian and kissed Danie on the cheek. “Hi, gorgeous. Um…the guys and I were talking…and um…”
“You told them?!” Danie sighed and found that Heero was glaring at her with those dangerous Prussian blue eyes. “What? Heero Yuy, don’t start with me, today. I’ve got things to do.”
Heero crossed his arms over his chest. “I think Amanda walking around here alive is our business, Danie.”
Quatre sighed and stepped up before the Princess of Burning Ass and Mr. Infinite Hell could start fighting and cause another spectacle. “I think what he means is that we care about you girls, and we don’t like to hear when one of you gets hurt.”
“Especially when Trowa and Jennifer’s wedding is on the way,” Duo added. “I’m sure Trowa here isn’t going to say it, but he’s ready for the wedding night.”
Danie rolled her eyes and sweatdropped as Trowa himself tried to figure out a way to kill Duo while no one was looking.
“Look,” Danie began, “we can’t do anything until Felice appears with our, eh, Sun Prince replacement. So sit tight for a couple of days. I will let you all know when he arrives.” She shooed them out of her office. “Now go. I’m already late.”
The boys, all grumbling, drifted out of Danie’s office. Thinking, Danie grabbed Heero’s arm before he could exit the room. He looked at her, puzzled more than mad.
“What’s wrong?” Heero inquired.
Danie glanced around. Duo and the other guys were walking down the hall and were out of earshot. “I want you to do me a favor. I want you to keep an eye on Duo. I know he’s trying to play off the fact that he’s upset that Angelia was taken. I don’t know how he would react if—”
Heero held up a hand. “I understand, Danie.” He turned and ventured after his friends.
“Arigatou gozaimasu!” she called. Heero didn’t turn back, and she glowered. Muttering to herself about wondering why she never kicked Heero Yuy’s ass, she locked her office up and went off to her meeting.