Chapter 3 – Let Truth Expand

Juliette made her way back toward the Deliverer’s league absentmindedly, a memory laced with gold looping in her mind. She kicked a small stone down the road until it bounced off a crate of fruit.

“Would I get a vision from you too little pebble?” She mumbled to herself.

The sense of urgency didn’t wane in the slightest. In fact, the idea of idleness sent a prickling up her spine. She should be back with Jane right now, studying the stone and trying to figure out what this all meant, not out making a delivery. But before she could convince herself to turn back, the league’s building came into view.

It was a huge space, but not an impressive looking one. The building was constructed for function, not form. It needed to be large enough to hold the massive amounts of packages, letters, and materials that went from one place to another on a daily basis. An entire industry, built around the fact that people were too lazy, or too busy to carry their own items. Juliette climbed the stone ramp leading up to the entrance and sidestepped a few other Deliverers speeding out the door. They were all carrying boxes strapped to their front or backs, and looked to be headed in the same direction, though some opted for the street route, while others took the upper route, bounding across rooftops and sliding down ramps thanks to their Proficiencies.

Juliette had tried her luck at the upper route a few times, but without a Proficiency of her own, each trial had ended with broken packages and bruised body parts. She now kept to the cobblestone street, left to battle against the flow of traffic on a daily basis.

She finished her climb up the long ramp and entered inside. It was even busier within. Rows of desks lined three walls like a massive horseshoe. Each desk had a number carved into the arch above it, and was surrounded by an extensive storage and racking system carved into the clay walls. The storage areas reached back at least ten paces for each desk. Efficient. Efficient was a good word to describe the Deliverer’s league. In fact, speed of delivery is why most used the service and relied on its members to carry their wares. Each Deliverer was assigned a particular desk, and just to the side, was a list of all open and assigned deliveries to be made for the day.

Juliette walked up to the sign corresponding to her father’s allotted desk and found ‘Hastings’ written on parchment. Next to it were five deliveries scheduled to be completed by the end of the day today. No small amount of work that would be. Even with an injury like her fathers, the league didn’t take favorably to people asking for fewer jobs. To them, it meant slower deliveries and unhappy customers. If one lowered their workload, it could take months or years to get back up to the level of work they were at before. This is why Juliette’s father had agreed to continue taking as many as possible. The downside though, her father would never be able to finish them all himself with his bad leg, leaving Juliette and her mother to offer to take some of his workload. Since Juliette wasn’t an official Deliverer with a Passion, she wasn’t on the register, but they knew Alton and Juliette well enough that they let her take on one of his deliveries per day.

The desk agent saw Juliette lingering near the schedule board and waved her over.

“Hello Juliette, here for Alton’s delivery today?” She said.

“Yes please.” Juliette said.

The agent nodded and slipped back into the storage room behind her. Juliette set her elbows on the desk and looked upon the piles of letters, crates, and goods ready to be picked up. Most were destined for various locations around Exden, but there were a few with destinations halfway across Lesnor. The packages looked to have been sitting there for some time. Those would take a tremendous amount of time to complete, unless a truly high rank Deliverer took on the job, or the customer payed up for the Mage’s league to teleport the goods. Yes, it was prohibitively expensive for most, but for perishable or time sensitive items, there were few faster ways.

The agent returned with a small stack of letters wrapped in twine. She slid them toward Juliette and began scribbling on a register with some of the finest handwriting she had ever seen. It was difficult for Juliette to read even as she leaned forward to get a closer look.

“Your destination is the Jun district,” the agent said, “making delivery to a merchant named Valentin Sellers. The deadline for delivery is,” the agent craned her neck to look at the clock above her, “four hours from now. His delivery should be made to his home located in the eastern section of the residential zone, across the street from the entrance to the district’s Heart. His home will have a sign with his last name. Will you require a map?” She finally looked up from her registry and stared at Juliette.

“No map, I’ll be able to find it. Thank you.”

She nodded and slid Juliette’s wooden identification badge across the counter. The badges were attached to a braided cord and worn around the neck by all Deliverers while on an assignment. They helped to reduce the number of stolen packages and missed deliveries. Since Juliette wasn’t a Deliverer with a Passion, she was forced to wear her father’s backup badge, rather than one that had her name and membership on it.

The agent spun the registry around and Juliette signed her name, took the badge, and grabbed the delivery from the counter. Before heading out, she stopped at the supply desk near the entrance, purchased a set of cheap leather gloves, which appeared to have holes in them already, and slid them on.

“There you go hands, no more complaining tomorrow.” She spoke to herself.

Jun was around a 2 hour walk from Senov, center to center. If she ran, she could make it in under an hour. She needed to be back at her home by noon to meet Jane, which left her 3 hours to get to Jun, find Valentin’s home, deliver the package, and get back to Senov. Instead of postponing any longer, she stretched her legs and set a course for the Jun district.

Juliette’s run was mostly uneventful. Aside from a few traffic jams at busy intersections, and a persistent seagull that decided either she or her package looked like fresh seafood, she made it to Jun’s central market in great time. She stopped at the large natural spring fountain found in most of the busy parts of Exden, sat down her delivery, and plopped down on the rim to rest. Her face was flush from the rising heat of the day, and sweat had started dripping down her face. She wiped her face with the arm of her tunic and glanced around while she caught her breath.

She was in the center of the brightly colored Jun district, which had the highest density of Merchants in all of Exden. The wealth disparity in this part of Exden was notable, in that shanties mixed with mansions. Jun was a place where someone could find anything, from some of the rarest artifacts ever discovered, to the essentials like food and pots. The rarity and demand of certain items let certain specialist Merchants make a fortune, while many still scraped to get by. Most large cities were setup in a similar way to Exden, those with similar Passions congregated together and formed districts. There had been attempts by Leaders in the past to fix the wealth gap and cultivate a more diverse population throughout Exden, but they all failed in short order for one simple reason; those with a Passion wanted to rank. There was no faster way for someone to rank, than to directly out-sell or out-make their competitors with the same Passion. No matter how much incentive the City Leadership tried to offer, people still gathered together, scrambling to get the most Para and rank up as fast as possible.

The area where Juliette sat was not setup with merchant booths, for it was more of a crossroads, where people not busy selling would go to collect water, have meetings, and commiserate before they shoved their merchandise down each other’s throats again. Each road that emanated out from her location was vividly lined with countless stalls, stands, and shanties of Merchants, all fervently pedaling their goods.

Juliette stretched her arms over her head and let out a soft sigh of relief.

“You don’t look like an Alton to me,” someone said.

Juliette twisted her head to see a leg perched on the rim of the spring. This leg was connected to a body, which was then connected to a head that was smiling back at her. He looked close to her age, but with lighter, wavy hair that was a bit longer, and more unkept, than most around this district.

“Excuse me?” Jane asked, raising her eyebrows.

He pointed at her chest. Her eyebrows furrowed.

“Your badge. It says,” he tilted his head to read it slowly, “Alton Hastings.”

“Ah.” She said.

She reached for the stack of letters she set down and stood up to leave.

“You aren’t Alton though, are you?” He continued. He took his foot off the rim and stood facing Juliette still smiling. “I’ve heard his name before while in the league building.”

Juliette tightened her empty hand into a fist. “Oh yeah?” she said turning to him, “And what did they say about him?”

He kept his smirk and said, “That he was one of the harder working Deliverers in the league. He got injured not too long ago but didn’t stop him from keeping up with his deliveries. That colored me impressed. Do you know him?” he gestured again at the badge she was wearing.

Juliette let her grip loosen and calmed her shoulders. She was ready to defend her father from rumors if need be, but she preferred they both left this conversation unhurt, not just herself.

“I see. Yes, I know Alton, he’s my father.” She said.

His eyebrows raised slightly, and Juliette looked back toward the direction she needed to go for her delivery. She started to strap the bundle to her front so she could run, while he kept staring at her.

She let out a puff, “is there something you needed?”

His grin widened. “Me? I’m just a fellow Deliverer, see?” he wiggled the wooden badge around his neck, then dropped it back down to his chest. “I’ve got a delivery to make to the Heart in Jun, and was just stopping to get a drink when I saw you were on an assignment too. It’s good to meet fellow members.” He said, nodding his head toward Juliette.

“Is it, now?” She asked.

“Absolutely! We’re all part of the same league and need to watch out for one another. Some of my best friends are people I met while on a job.” He looked surprised someone could even consider not being friends with every Deliverer on the street.

Juliette rolled her eyes. “Well, it was a pleasure to meet you…” She tilted her head to the side to read his badge. “Abel Runson.” Trying to lay it on as thick as possible, which, unfortunately, didn’t seem to be deterring him. “But I really must be going, this delivery won’t deliver itself.” She plastered a fake smile on her face and tapped on the letters now strapped to her chest. “Good luck with your visit to the Heart.”

She started off toward the busy market street that was the most direct route to the residential district, but looked back when she heard the sound of feet hitting the pavement behind her. She let out a sigh.

Abel waved his hand as he sped towards Juliette.

“Hey!” he shouted, “I’m headed this same way, we can fight off the panhandlers together.” He nodded ahead toward the congestion. “Plus. You never told me your name, daughter of Alton.” He said, glancing sideways at Juliette, that goofy smirk still stuck on his face.

“Juliette.” She responded and increased her speed.

Abel fell behind for a moment, until he adjusted to her new pace, seemingly unconcerned, while Juliette’s breath became more labored.

“Wow, you set a good pace! It’s nice to meet you Juliette.” He smiled as he reached out a hand.

Juliette considered sprinting off and getting lost in the traffic, but he’d been genuine enough, even if his pickup lines were dung. She took his hand.

“Nice to meet you,” she said.

They ran for a bit in silence, dodging tables and silks draped across the street, until Abel realized he might die if he didn’t fill the silence.

“So, do you deliver to Jun often?” He asked.

Dung. Smelly, awful, cow dung.

“I don’t do too many deliveries, just help out my father when he needs a few extra done.” She tapped on Alton’s badge.

“Ah. That makes sense why you don’t have your own badge then. You seem pretty capable for a part-timer though, I’m surprised the league hasn’t given you your own badge yet. For record keeping sake if nothing else.”

 “That’s because the league only recognizes those with a Passion for Delivery. I don’t have that.”

The sentence slipped out of her mouth before she realized what she was saying. She was so used to the conversations with Jane or her parents, whom all knew about her lack of a Passion, that she thought that would end the line of questioning. She groaned audibly at herself for making the mistake, and made a mental note to stop by an Animal Trainer on the way home to buy a muzzle.

“Ooh!” his eyes widened in curiosity. “A non-Deliverer making a delivery! I haven’t seen that before. Usually people are so wrapped up in their Passions, they don’t have time to do anything else.” He paused for a breath, “If not Deliverer, what is your Passion?” He said with eyes gleaming of interest.

Juliette Hastings did not think of herself as a stupid person. At the moment though, she wondered how intoxicated she might have been when she came to that conclusion. Surely, an intelligent person wouldn’t step into this trap of a conversation.

“I don’t have a Passion.” She said.

He looked perplexed. “What do you mean? How old are—”

“I’m seventeen.” She interrupted, clenching her jaw and accelerating her run.

“What? No one waits that long to receive a Passion.” His eyebrows furrowed in confusion.

Instead of responding, Juliette pointed her thumb at herself and raised her eyebrows, daring Abel to push this topic further. He seemed to get the hint, because his mouth turned into a frown and his eyes narrowed.

“Wait a second.” He slowed to a stop behind Juliette.

Juliette could keep running. She could complete the delivery, get back to Senov, and spend time studying the glowing stone with Jane. She should do that, but instead, she slowed her run to a halt, paused in the center of the busy marketplace, took a deep breath and closed her eyes. She knew Abel knew who she was now, and she couldn’t bring herself to run away and let the rumors spread any further. He seemed like a nice enough person, but Juliette hadn’t been the most… pleasant in return. The last thing she wanted was more gossip from the Laborers, or stress on her parents from people talking about their defective daughter.

“Yes.” She said. “I am the daughter of Alton. Juliette Hastings, the girl about to turn eighteen without a Passion. Any more questions?” She said with her back still facing Abel. Her fists were clenched and her shoulders stiff. A few nearby merchants glanced up at her, but none approached. They had enough sense, or Proficiencies, to know when a sale was hopeless.

“Wow.”

He didn’t say anything for a few more moments.

“It must be great not being stuck with a Passion.” He said, sounding genuine.

That caught Juliette by surprise. She whipped her head around to look at Abel, eyebrows still knit together.

“What do you mean it must be great? Are you mocking me?” She asked incredulously.

Abel leaned back and put his hands up in surrender.

“Woah. Hey, I was being serious.” He dropped his hands. “Anyone I know with a Passion is so caught up in their focus they have no time for anything else. Any task is a waste of time when they could be gaining Para. Or they are this close to their next rank,” he held his thumb and pointer finger close together, “that they ignore other things to focus on ranking up. Myself included.”

For the second time since they met, the smile was missing from Abel’s face. Juliette felt a pang of regret at snapping at him. She’d been so used to people thinking she was stupid or broken in some way, that she assumed he’d be the same. She stared at Abel, not sure what to say.

“I know it’s important to focus on your Passion,” he said, “but it makes you forget about all the stuff you used to love doing before you had one. Racing through the streets for fun or playing tricks on the merchants, or just spending time with people you care about.” He shook his head slightly. “You though? You don’t have that gnawing push to rank up, you can just… choose what you want to do.”

Abel let his arms hang, but a sideways smile crept onto his face. Juliette finally said something.

“Well according to everyone else, I’m committing a capital offense by not receiving my Passion. That I won’t contribute to Exden to my fullest potential and will weigh the city down.”

She looked up at the sky and paused for a moment.

“I didn’t mean to blow up at you. It’s been a… difficult day today, and I assumed you would be like everyone else in this city and get up in arms about my business.”

She glanced back to Abel, his smile came fully back.

She continued, “and it’s not great, because, like I said, everyone thinks it’s their problem that I’m Passionless. You could imagine what would happen if everyone in town keeps asking your parents ‘what’s wrong with your daughter?’”

He nodded and stepped back to Juliette’s side.

“Yeah, I could see how that would be tough.” His arm closest to Juliette twitched like it was going to move, then settled back to his side. He looked up the street toward their destination. “Well, what do you say, want to keep going? I’ve got to get this delivered to the Admins before they start marching down the street to find me.” He smiled and shook the package he was holding.

Surprisingly, Juliette felt her shoulders weren’t as tense as when she started, and her hands were relaxed for what seemed like the first time today. Night and day different from after the morning’s conversation. Finally, someone didn’t judge her right off the bat and assume she was some lazy beggar who didn’t want to work for a Passion.

“Sure. Let’s go.” She said.

Juliette started jogging at a strong pace. Abel kept up with little to no effort.

“This pace is nothing to you is it?” She asked.

“Well, I have been making deliveries for a while and am a level ten rank.” He smiled broadly and glanced to Juliette.

Proud much? Juliette thought.

“And what does one get with a level ten rank?” she asked, expecting to get a runaround answer like everyone else gave her.

He laughed and said, “Nothing spectacular. A few durability and endurance boosts. I got a nice speed boost last year which lets me make twice as many shipments as before. “

“Surely not twice as many…” She said, not convinced.

“No, you’re right. A little bit more than twice as many.” He grinned at her.

“What!?” She asked incredulously. “There’s no way!”

“Ha! You asked!”

“How is that even fair? What, you ran at your normal speed one day, paid a visit to the Heart, and came back running literally twice as fast?”

“Pretty much” he chuckled again. “It was actually a bit faster than double because I increased my endurance at the same time, but it’s not the rarest of Proficiencies. Double Step, if you were curious.”

No one talked about their proficiencies. Juliette’s parents didn’t even talk about them. It was something most people kept a secret, partly because of the culture in Exden, but mostly because they wanted to keep their competitive edge a secret. It was similar to persons keeping their wealth or earnings a secret, it was not something that was shared.

Evidently, Abel didn’t seem to harbor the same feelings. Or maybe he just hated silence that much.

“Can you show me?” she asked?

His eyebrows raised, “Double Step?” he shrugged. “Sure.”

It was like a spark ignited. He went from jogging at what was a faster than normal pace for Juliette, to, in every respect, sprinting as fast as she’d seen a human run. He flashed past the merchants causing their fabrics to flutter in his wake until he was out of view. Juliette saw the flash of Abel’s light blue and white tunic on the busy street. In half a breath, he was back jogging beside Juliette, looking not at all winded.

Juliette punched him in the shoulder.

“Ow!” He reached to rub at the spot she punched, and narrowed his eyes at her. “What was that for?”

Juliette had seen people move that fast. It was rare, but she’d seen people sprinting past intersections like a blur. What she didn’t know, was that Double Step was only a rank ten Proficiency. She’d thought it would have been a rank 30 or 20 at the very least with how powerful it was. In only a few years, someone could quite literally double their efficiency. It shocked her.

Juliette shifted her weight from side to side. “It’s just not fair.” She took a deep breath. “I wake up early, work my body until it’s sweating blood, then do it all over again every day. But you? You just wander to the Heart one day, and now you can literally run circles around me.” She swatted her hand and let it drop back to her side.

“Hey now. It took me years of doing nothing but deliveries to get to this point.” Abel said, a tad defensively. “Yeah, I received a strong boon, but it’s not just me. Anyone can do that. You could do that if you wanted. So it is fair, but you’re choosing not to play the game.”

He locked his gaze onto hers. Juliette paused at that. She knew a Passion would make her life easier, but thought it would take decades to see any noticeable results. Abel just ripped that theory up and showed how quickly her life could improve.

After a while of jogging at Juliette’s pace, in a rare silence, they finally approached their destinations.

She spotted the entrance to the Heart first, complete with two Administrator greeters. The Administrators all wore the same pure white hooded tunic. No embroidery, no emblems, just white thick fabric that draped nearly to the ground. All of their hoods were down at the moment since the weather was pleasant. On rainy days though, they opted to wear their hoods when stationed at the entrances.

No matter which entrance you went through, they all dressed the same, and nearly all districts had their own entrance. Rather than walk for hours to an entrance in the center of the city, then walk hours down to the heart, the public could find a local entrance and have an Administrator escort them down to the Heart. Juliette didn’t know for certain it was hours of walking, but that’s what she’d heard from Jane and others that had made the trips.

The entrance they were positioned in front of was simple, given how much importance the place held. Just a single stone arch, half-again as tall as the men standing in front. Through the arch, a stone stairway lead down at an incline, then turned just out of view. Glowing red mage-light lit the corridors where it became too dark to see naturally.

Directly across the road, conveniently nearby to the entrance of the Heart, Juliette spotted the Merchants home, complete with his last name “Sellers” painted on a sign next to the door. It was a luxurious wooden and stone home, freshly painted brightly with colors popular in Jun. Much nicer than anything found in Senov. The premium Valentin would have paid for this location would be astronomical.

They both jogged closer to their destinations when the Administrators seemed to recognize Abel. One of them waved to Abel and stepped out on the street to meet him. Abel nodded his head toward the approaching Administrator, and invited Juliette to join him.

“Mr. Abel! What a pleasant surprise.” The Administrator looked at Abel with a bright smile, took Abel’s hand and brought him into a hug. They both patted each other’s back firmly and then broke apart.

“Hello Administrator Zul, I hope you’re well today?” Abel asked.

“Every day is well with Paragon smiling upon us.” He continued to smile at Abel, glanced at Juliette, then turned his head back to Abel. “What brings you to the Heart today? Would you like me to check on your Para for you?”

“No thank you, I know I’m not ready for a rank quite yet.” Abel shook his head and tapped the box he was holding. “I have a Delivery for Administrator Hux.”

“Ah, perfect timing!” The man clapped his hands together. “Administrator Hux was just inquiring about the supplies he requested. Thank you for making it here so quickly Abel child.”

Abel nodded at that and opened his mouth to speak. The Administrator turned away to look at Juliette. She swallowed. Her shoulders tensed slightly as her eyebrows knit together.

“Forgive me for not making introductions sooner!” The Administrator smiled at Juliette.

He lowered his head into a bow, then placed his open hand across his heart as he bowed fully with his body. “My name is Administrator Zul of the Jun district.” He opened his arms to the area surrounding them. “Whom do I have the pleasure of meeting?”

He held out both of his hands together, palms up to Juliette.

“Hello, I am Juliette.”

She didn’t reach out to accept his open hands. The administrator glanced down at her Deliverer badge, paused and furrowed his eyebrows. “Juliette… Hastings…” he raised one of his eyebrows. “Are you the daughter of Katherine and Alton Hastings by chance?” the Administrator asked.

Juliette paused. She swallowed again and shifted her weight from foot to foot, glancing at the Merchant’s home.

“Yes.” She said hesitantly.

“It’s an honor to meet you!” He reached for her hand and before she could pull away, felt him grasp it up to her wrist with his two hands.

Immediately, like he’d been bitten by a snake, he snatched his hands away from her. For the shortest of moments, his eyes were wide with shock and his jaw was left agape. He blinked several times in succession, then quickly recovered and continued on like nothing had happened, though now he was rubbing at his hands like he’d been struck.

His smile returned, though Juliette could sense it didn’t seem as authentic as when the conversation had started. “You might just have the strongest willpower of any of Paragon’s children, to refrain from gaining Passion for so long Juliette child,” he chuckled, rubbed at his other hand, “and I have seen many, many people come through these tunnels. Paragon’s blessings offer enhanced willpower and determination to all who receive, but you may still have them beat! I must introduce you to Administrator Niv, She will be beside herself to finally meet you!”

He waved his hand, beckoning her to follow. Juliette fidgeted with the seam of her tunic.

Did everyone in Senov talk about me? She thought.

 “Unfortunately,” she said, Zul paused, “I have a timely delivery to make, and really must be going. It was a pleasure to meet you Administrator Zul” She tried to make her smile seem authentic. It came easier when she turned to Abel. “Thank you for running with me today Abel.” She nodded to both men and then started off.

“Woah, hang on!” Abel jumped in, eyebrows knit, getting in front of Juliette so she had to slow. “You still have some time before your deadline, right?” he asked.

Juliette nodded a fraction.

“Administrator Hux is usually right inside the entrance, and she’s actually a really great person.” He said.

“That she is Abel!” The Administrator said, cutting in. Abel smiled and nodded back. “I’m sure your letters will not wither away after a few moments of chatting. Come on back.” Zul grinned at Juliette.

She felt herself stop completely and turn back to face Zul.

“That’s it, no need to run off child.” He said, glancing at Abel and patting him on the shoulder. “Administrator Hux was eager to meet you and learn more about you Juliette. It would be an opportunity for you to discover more about the Heart. Aren’t you curious at all to learn what it is like?” Zul tilted his head to the side.

She paused. Yes. She wanted to ask about her Para, why it was different than everyone else, know what the heart was like, yes, but she also knew what it did to people. Knew that an innocent boy could become a… monster. She steeled her gaze and clenched her fists.

“No Administrator. I’m happy with my life. I’m contributing to Ducania in my own way. I don’t need the Heart to tell me what to do.”

She stood tall with her back straight and stared at Zul. He furrowed his eyebrows tighter, but added a slight smile.

“The Heart doesn’t force you into anything child, it only amplifies your true Passion, what you were born to do for this world. Would you not want to be able to contribute to a higher degree, and to know what you are truly capable of?” He asked curiously.

She shook her head.

“I understand what I am capable of, I don’t need confirmation of what I already know.”

He knit his brow tighter, and eyed her.

“There is something else isn’t there? Something stopping you from seeking Paragon’s blessing.” Zul said.

Abel looked between the two of them, and Juliette felt her throat tighten. Her nails dug into her palms and she refused to open her mouth. She turned her head off toward the house that she should have been completed with already. She didn’t say anything.

Softly, the Administrator said, “You can tell me child, go ahead.” His eyes were piercing.

Juliette’s lips parted, and before she could stop it, words came out.

“Oliver didn’t deserve his fate.” She blurted out. Juliette could feel tears welling up. “He was a child. Innocent. She croaked. “I—” Juliette swallowed the knot in her throat and stopped herself from continuing. Her knuckles were white from her clamped hands.

Abel stood taken back with wide eyes, his smile no where to be seen, and his eyes darted between the Administrator and Juliette. He took a half-step toward Juliette, but her eyes shot daggers at Abel, and he retreated.

Juliette pointed her finger sharply at Zul, “You are supposed to protect things like that from happening. You are supposed to turn those away who are not ready. But instead, you let him feel the Heart, let it destroy his mind and turn him into—”

Juliette’s heart was pounding in her ears. She gnashed her teeth and glared at the Administrator.

“Why?” she said, gut-wrenching heartbreak overtaking her, to the force of months of unanswered questions.

She clamped her mouth shut, forced herself to stop from going any further. Tears racing down, staining her cheeks. She took a shaking breath and turned away.

Several moments passed in silence. Abel, still as a statue. Zul dipped his head and raised his eyes to take in Juliette.

“Juliette. Child.” The Administrator said softly. “I don’t know what you might be feeling, I truly don’t. I don’t know if anyone honestly could, save for Paragon himself.”

He locked his eyes onto hers as she flicked her gaze to him.

“What I do know, is that I’ve seen your passion. Not the Passion received from the Heart, no. But your drive for this world, it’s one unlike any I’ve seen before, and I know with certainty that you will be blessed, Juliette. It is without question.”

His face was stone serious, not a flicker of the cheerful face from before. Juliette wanted to believe him, wanted to follow him and see the Heart for herself. Surely, of all people, Juliette would not let a Passion change her, turn her into something not meant for this world.

“Come. You’ve nothing to fear child.”

“No.” she said.

Administrator Zul looked shocked at her response.

“I want nothing to do with it.” She said, barely above a whisper.

Abel reached his hand out toward Juliette, but she spun on her heel and sprinted toward the merchant’s home. Not turning back to see the look on Zul’s face, attempting to convince her to stay. Not turning back to say goodbye to Abel or to thank him for making her day a little bit brighter. Her red eyes stung in the wind. She wiped her tears on the arm of her tunic and sprinted toward the sign which read, “Sellers”, ready to be back home. Back with Jane. And far away from any Administrators.

One response to “Chapter 3 – Let Truth Expand”

  1. Talenel says:

    Definitely seeing some similarities with The Wandering Inn. Though, there are some major differences of course.

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