Hearing the name Matriarch left me with a complicated feeling. Her name had echoed throughout the campus, and I suspected that she had some connection with me. Those two girls, Syph and Brianna, had helped inform me of Madison’s bullying when she was in trouble. This Matriarch had shown no malice towards me, which would have been easy to do after the rumors had spread about the rape scandal. Plus, the cloak and dagger tactics really did seem like my big sister’s modus operandi.
I sighed. “Can you at least tell me how she’s doing?”
“Who?” Brianna asked.
Brianna froze for a second and then let out a forced chuckle, “Hannah? I don’t know a Hannah. Maybe you’re mistaken.”
“…” It seemed like the girls here weren’t going to give me any information.
Thus, I had no choice but to continue to follow them through the campus. The direction they lead was actually away from most of the main buildings were classes were held. We were reaching an area a bit out of the way that had a lot of the more supporting and administrative buildings nearby. I took the small shack we were approaching for an electrical station or perhaps a water station. I had taken it for granted that these floating islands had both electricity and water, but all of that would have needed to be sent from the ground level, possibly along one of the various trolley lines.
Upon opening the door, the station led to a stairway which headed down underground. This was clearly an area that would have been off limits for students. However, both girls didn’t hesitate to barge right in with a practiced behavior. At this point, many of the other women who had tagged along like an honor guard were sent on their way. I guess I was in Freshman territory now, whatever that meant.
With a loud gulp, I followed the two escorts down into the dark abyss below. There were lights on at the bottom, so this wasn’t an abandoned area. Rather, this looked more like a base of operations. I saw several other girls sitting or standing around, and I started to see similarities to this place and a certain factory I had once been kidnapped to. My expression only tightened the farther I went down. There were several large tunnels lined with various pipes and ducts. I started to realize that this underground utility station wasn’t a station at all, but an underground complex.
“What is this place?” I finally asked, my voice echoing down the vacant hallways.
“Ah? This is an unmonitored, abandoned part of the island’s mainframe.” Brianna explained, looking around with a smirk. “These tunnels run throughout the entire island.”
“It was Boss that found this place after steal- ahem, borrowing the island’s architecture plans from the library. They likely shut this area down to save power since it was nonessential.” Syph nodded.
“A Mainframe?” I was still rather new to the idea of floating islands, so this information didn’t come as easily to me.
“Oh, you know… where the island’s daily functions are maintained. Power, gas, sewer… that kind of thing. That’s also where they maintain the controls that keep the island flying. Those formations need to be maintained daily. Although a computer does all of that, someone needs to watch the computers and maintain them.”
“Wait…” I froze. “You girls have access to the formations that keep this island afloat!”
“No!” Syph responded with wide eyes. “That section is heavily monitored. Those formations are essential, so it’s not easy getting anywhere near them without alerting the entire city of Amaryllis!”
Brianna nodded. “If Boss wanted to take over the island, it’d take cutting off all the trolley lines, jamming communications, and then staging a coup against a force of armed guards!”
“You’re saying that like the Matriarch’s put some thought into this!” I cried out.
The two girls turned away with wry expressions on their face that said more than I wanted to know. I could only shake my head in disbelief and worry about the next generation. This Matriarch was definitely crazy! To think, an entire generation of this city’s best and brightest women were growing up essentially as gang members, I couldn’t even laugh about it. My memories told me how stupid kids could be, and I could totally see Hannah playing around with island controls and sending the whole school spiraling down to Gaia!
We didn’t need to travel much farther through the bowels of the island, as a turn later I was brought up to a room. The door looked more like a hatch than a door, matching much of the inside of the complex which was composed of iron, concrete, and steel.
“She’s in there.” Syph pointed.
“The Matriarch is waiting for you.” Brianna gave an encouraging nod.
I sighed, and then pushed open the door and entered inside. There was a cloaked woman sitting on a chair like she was a queen. Her hood was up, and the lighting was kept low so I couldn’t see her features very well. The room was somewhat barren, with only the seat and a carpet laid out. There were a few candles on the floor, but they weren’t lit at the moment. They gave the place sort of an occult feel.
“Hello, Clyburn, we meet again.” A voice spoke, using a voice distortion device not dissimilar to the one Faeri had used.
Everything here felt just like that time when I had been captured by the Primrose. Any doubts I had that this was Hannah were already all but confirmed. The only thing I couldn’t figure out was why she went to this extent? I would have gladly hugged my sister the second she revealed herself to me. Instead, she had hid at the school for almost two months, and only brought me to see her after a particularly rough night. While I was having such thoughts, the Matriarch’s eyes looked me up and down as if appraising me.
“Matriarch, sorry, I could be better dressed,” I responded wryly.
I was still wearing the tattered remains of the girl’s school outfit. The blouse was torn open, the bra was absent, the skirt was ripped, but it was still essentially the outfit. Admittedly, it was nothing to look at now.
“Hmm… your panties are showing.” The woman’s voice sounded cold through the voice modulator.
I thought it was a comment on my skirt until I realized that a certain pair of panties had slipped out of my belt. Yes… they were Becky’s! She didn’t seem to want them back! So, while everyone’s eyes were elsewhere, I slipped them into my belt. While our relationship was a little odd, it still was meaningful, and thus needed to be added to the collection! The Matriarch didn’t have to give me such a glare. Even though I couldn’t see it through the shadows, I was certain it was there. I hid the panties in my belt a bit better, letting out a sigh.
“Sorry,” I finally said with a blush, but then added. “Although, the panties of yours I have are still the best!”
The cloaked figure took a step back as if they were surprised, and then after a moment. “Wh-why would you think you have my panties?”
I looked up at the Matriarch, “I know who you are…”
“Is that so?” The woman cocked her head, seeming amused.
“Hannah, stop playing these games. I want to talk to my sister. I’ve missed you.”
“Hannah…” The woman spoke the name with some familiarity as if savoring the taste. “Yes, I suppose it would make sense if I was Hannah. Regrettably for you, I am not.”
“…” I didn’t know what to say.
Was this just a silly lie Hannah told to keep up the illusion? Was there truly someone else there entirely? I didn’t know, and that was bothering me. I had been so convinced it was her, that I actually felt a tinge of anger at the thought that it wasn’t her. If it wasn’t Hannah, then where was she? Why had she been hiding from me all of this time? This line of thinking was crushed a moment later by the next thing the Matriarch said.
“As far as talking to your sister… I’m sorry, I won’t allow that to happen. At least, not until I’m ready.”
My eyes snapped up to the hidden face within the hood of this woman. “So, you know where my sister is? Where?”
“I just said…” The woman sighed. “She’s safe… out of your reach.”
“Out… of my reach?” My expression grew insolent, another spike of anger shooting through me. “What the hell does that mean? I want my sister!”
The woman spun away, looking agitated. “Of course, you want your sister, but it isn’t always your choice, is it? Perhaps if you men didn’t always act so insolent and impulsive, you wouldn’t be having the troubles with WRATH that you’re having right now!”
Her words seemed to snap me out of my one-minded focus. I found myself regretfully nodding at her words. That’s right, there were bigger fish to fry than the location of my sister. In a week or so, I’d be under trial. They had just gotten more fuel on me to boot. Even though I felt like the victim throughout most of this night, I had dressed as a woman and snuck around campus. It wouldn’t take much thought to tie me to the guy who snuck into the dorm a month ago either. This trial was always a farce more tied to public opinion than any laws. I was the public whipping boy, and they had just caught me in another scandal, like a pop star who just couldn’t catch a break.
“Alright… Matriarch, why did you call me here?’ I asked, forcing my voice to sound calmer than I felt.
The Matriarch turned back to me, seeming relieved that I was moving on. “I’ve decided that the WRA is pushing things too far. I’m here to officially offer support. Not just my own, but all of the Freshman women.”
“Isn’t it a bit late for that?” I scratched my neck and sighed. “The case is in less than a week.”
She shrugged. “It’d have been nice to know you were sneaking on campus. I would have approached you sooner. I suspected Clarice had some secrets, but I only learned it was you for certain after my kittens noticed the commotion going on at the WRATH meeting. I’m sorry we came so late. We needed Mako to approach first, or we would have risked an even greater confrontation with Diba Monic.”
“Although, I’m appreciative that you saved my ass… ahem… what I mean is… I don’t plan to come back to school again until after the court case… so…”
“Do you think you’ll be safe after the court case is settled? That’s presuming that the case even falls in your favor? You’re not the blessed man, after all, they won’t overlook these charges on you just because you have a pretty face.”
“I’ll manage with the case…”
“And after…” The woman cocked her head. “If you get out of this with nothing but a slap on the wrist, there will be many angry women in Amaryllis. While WRATH is a rather small group, the number of women who feel men get away with too much crap probably equals close to half. They will all be gunning for you to face the punishment the courts didn’t give you. At that point, believe me, you’ll want my kittens on your side.”
“If you want to help, then help. I’m not sure what you want from me…” I narrowed my eyes.
“I can’t help if I don’t know what you’re doing…” The Matriarch growled. “I need to be kept in the loop regarding your actions at all times.”
“Then what are you asking for?”
“I want my best girls guarding you. They can work under Brooke, but I can’t have you sneaking around in a skirt into the female dorm”
“Hannah, if you wanted to protect me, just say it clearly!” I said stepping forward. “You’re my sister, right? That’s the only reason it makes sense as to why you’d want to help me. You’d help me far more right now just by being my sister. I need you by my side! I need your support!”
The Matriarch remained in stunned silence for a moment but finally gave a wry chuckle. “Hannah, again… is it? You’re going to break a girl’s heart if you keep on with this kind of stuff.”
“If you’re not Hannah, then who are you? Who else would do so much to help me? Why?” My voice was loud and angry, but I didn’t seem to be able to bring it down, even though the Matriarch seemed considerably calmer.
“Do you really want to know who I am?” She asked, her body shaking slightly. “You won’t like it. You might even… hate me.”
I gave her an incredulous look. Hannah was still playing this game to the bloody end. Or… she was telling the truth, and this truly wasn’t my sister. As that possibility finally started to grow in me, my eyes narrowed. I had to know the truth.
“Who are you?” I demanded.
“You asked me why I wanted to protect you…” She said wryly, reaching up to her throat, and playing with the voice box until it came off. “The reason for that is very simple. Guilt. The last time we had met, things ended badly. I had been full of anger and malice. I blamed men for everything. I was just like those WRAs.”
As the collar came off, her voice started to change, forming into a much more feminine voice. I recognized it, but I still struggled to put a face to it.
“Who…” I spoke as her she reached up and slowly lifted off her hood.
“Of course, perhaps the reason I protected you, is because you can never forget your first.”
My expression fell as a face appeared before me. She was a pretty girl, with light brown hair and brown eyes. She looked a bit older now. There was a noticeable scar on her lip, but it didn’t seem to diminish her beauty by much. I shook my head in disbelief.
“No… that’s not possible.” I took a step back. “You… it can’t be. You’re dead.”
“Hello, Clyburn.” Tinya smiled, pulling against the scar and causing it to turn white.
Tinya was dead. My mother had shot her while trying to shoot at Hannah. She had died in my arms! Tinya was the woman who brought me to this world! She raped me when I was only twelve, and it was that rape that awakened me to this world of women in the first place. That scar on her lip, as to who gave it to her, that would have been me. I punched her nearly to death. It could be said to be a testament to the skills of this world’s magic that this was the only scar remaining on her face. My only conclusion was that it was something she deliberately left as a reminder.
Seeing her face was a complete shock, but to my surprise, rather than anger, I suddenly was filled with happiness.
“Tinya…” Unable to stop myself, I took two steps forward and then kissed her on the lips.
“Mm!” Tinya’s eyes widened, completely lost at being suddenly kissed by a former enemy.
She shoved away from me, her face full of confusion. Of all the responses I could have given over finding out Tinya was alive, suddenly kissing her was probably the farthest on her list. It was for me as well. Had I been told Tinya was still alive, I never would have predicted how I would have reacted. However, in the end, seeing her face, a great deal of happiness exploded through me, and it was so strong that the only thing I could do was kiss her.
“Wh-wh-why did you do that?” She looked incredibly flustered, her eyes disordered like her entire world was a lie.
“I’m sorry… when I saw you alive, I was suddenly overcome with joy.” I wiped the tears from my eyes, “That was just my kneejerk reaction, I’m actually very angry at you.”
“…” Tinya was at a complete loss to how to respond to that since even as I said I was angry, I was still smiling a bit.
“Hannah… you’re keeping Hannah from me,” I said, finally calming down, getting my emotions back in check.
Tinya nodded, pretending the previous thing didn’t happen, as this was easier to understand. “Hannah is around. If I let her, she’d have run straight to you the day you arrived at academy. I caught her and we made an agreement. If she stayed away, then I wouldn’t become your enemy.”
“Why would you make those demands?”
“Hmph! Just because the person I love wants another, that doesn’t mean I’m willing to just accept it simply. I need time!”
I blinked, completely taken aback by those words. However, they did make sense. Tinya loved Hannah. How could she easily watch Hannah run into my arms? It would certainly hurt her on an emotional level. Maybe, she just needed some time to stop hating me, or to let the idea grow on her. So, it had been Tinya from the beginning keeping the pair of us apart. Somehow, knowing my sister was yearning to see me, but being forced not to, made my heart feel contentment. I could imagine the frustrated, pouty expression on Hannah’s face as she watched me from afar.
“Besides, Hannah hasn’t been completely gone. Those two delinquents Syph and Brianna are her underlings, not mine.”
That was another thing that surprised me. Although, as I thought about it, I realized that the two had never specifically said they worked for the Matriarch. In fact, they seemed to say Boss and Matriarch as if they were two different people! It was something I hadn’t noticed until now.
“What about Mia?” I asked.
Tinya suddenly tripped as she was walking back to the chair. “W-what about Mia? I mean, who’s Mia?”
I gave a flat look. “I’m not a complete idiot, she disappeared shortly after I slept with her. She was a Freshman girl, so I know she’d have been under your watch.”
Tinya sat down, suddenly lifting her chin and putting on a stubborn look. “She’s fine. I have her and that Nippon girl in a secure location.”
“Aiko too?” I let out a cry of surprise.
While Mia was a Freshman, so I at least understood that she was involved with this crazy cult of Tinya’s, Aiko didn’t even go to this school. At that point, it was just kidnapping! Three girls I had slept with and all of them were stowed away by Tinya!
“Maybe if you didn’t go around knocking up women, I wouldn’t have to go behind and clean your mess…” Tinya sniffed.
“Knocked up? They’re pregnant? Even Aiko? But we used a condom! N-nevermind that!” I said excitedly, taking a few steps forward. “Tinya, I have to see them!”
Tinya’s expression looked somewhat agitated. “You’ll see them when you see Hannah! When I’m good and ready!”
I let out a dumb expression, having not expected to be rejected with this request so firmly. When it came to Hannah, I understood her feelings. She didn’t want to see Hannah running off with her brother. However, what did that have to do with Aiko and Mia? If anything, Tinya should be pushing my relationships with Mia and Aiko so that I’m closer to them and less close to Hannah. I really didn’t quite get this woman’s mind.
“Tinya? What do you take me for?” I demanded, closing the distance between us until I was leaning right up to her.
“D-don’t get me wrong. It’s not like I like you or anything!”
“Like? Who’s talking about emotions?”
The pair of us were right in each other’s faces, but neither one of us seemed to be having the same conversation. I pulled back, scratching my head in confusion.
“You’ve… changed,” I said, looking somewhat awkward.
Tinya snorted. “Having your face bludgeoned in and then being shot by your lover’s mother can do that to you… I’ve had a lot of time to think. Your heart changes… once a bullet pierces through it.”
“Clyburn, I have my reasons for holding onto Mia and Aiko. You can call them… my trump card.”
“Trump card? Against me?” I frowned.
“I wonder?” A dark smirk returned to her face.
Realizing that she wasn’t likely to be any more forthcoming, another thing she had just said triggered me.
“Hmm… what about her?” Tinya didn’t look pleased.
“She’s in jail for murdering you!” I said, “You need to let them know so I can release her!”
“Let her rot.” Tinya crossed her arms.
“What did you say? That’s my mother!” I cursed.
“That woman shot me! I almost died. She tried to kill her own daughter. She deserves to be in jail. I’d consider 4-years light for attempted murder!”
“4 years…” I shook my head, “But she’s there for the wrong crime?”
“Why? Had the bullet been a millimeter different trajectory, she wouldn’t have been able to save my heart? Is pure chance the difference between what she deserves and what she doesn’t deserve? She should be lucky she was pregnant and got off with such a light sentence!”
“Light!” I shouted back. “Do you know what I had to give up to get that sentence!”
Tinya’s eyes widened, but I decided I didn’t want to clarify that with her. I spun away. The deal I had made, I’d still honor it to the end. That was how I felt. I wanted to be angry at Tinya, but she wasn’t wrong. Just because my mother wasn’t a murderer had more to do with random chance than any difference in her actions. As is, a four-year sentence for attempted murder could be considered just. It also seemed like Tinya’s reasoning was a bit more complicated, and there were other things I didn’t understand, both regarding my mother, Mia, and Aiko.
Tinya really was different. It wasn’t just that her anger was decreased. There was something in her eyes that hadn’t been there before. It was a subtle thing that was very hard to describe. I supposed you could call it sincerity. I didn’t feel like she was doing anything with malice. I found myself wanting to trust her. Even if I had my doubts, I didn’t exactly have a choice here. I had no clue where Aiko, Mia, or Hannah were. My own searching had come up short. With the entire Freshman army on Tinya’s side, it made sense that my information stream was deprived. As far as Tinya, she was all but a ghost. Officially dead, I couldn’t even guess who had resurrected her and kept her a secret. Even if I wasn’t in the middle of her base of operations, going against Tinya now seemed daunting.
Given my situation in the school, Tinya appeared at just the right time. She was my lifeline at the moment. I had no choice but to take her as my ally. I looked back at Tinya, having finally made my decision. She seemed to notice the change in my eyes, nodding in acceptance.
“Very well, I’ll do it,” I said. “We’ll work together. Just understand that I want my sister and my other women back… as soon as you’re done with whatever plan you have.”
Tinya’s expression fell slightly at those last words, but she grudgingly nodded. “Very well, then we’re in agreement.
“So… how do you want to do this?” I said awkwardly. “Seal your agreement with a handshake?”
“Hah? Oh, right… I suppose we should.” Tinya suddenly glanced down, looking shy while pushing her index fingers together. “Actually, if it’s an agreement we want to last… sh-shouldn’t it be… a…. k-k-k…”
Her voice drifted off, her cheeks suddenly growing pink. I scratched my head.
“You mean a kiss?”
“Ah!” She blushed again, nodding even as she wouldn’t look me in the eyes.
I could only shake my head at this. The Tinya I knew was somewhat cold, so seeing her shy side was extremely odd. As to whatever happened to her, she truly had changed after her near-death experience. A woman who once raped me to extract seed now blushed at the thought of kissing me. Well… I didn’t hate it.
I leaned forward before she had a chance. Her eyes barely could widen before my lips once again pressed against hers. The first time, I really didn’t get to enjoy it, so this time my lips lingered. It was then that I noticed her lips were slightly parted. Since she left the gate open, I don’t mind if I do. My tongue slipped into her mouth. She let out a surprised, muffled sound against my lips, but was helpless as my tongue explored her mouth.
Tinya tasted cool and refreshing, more minty than sweet. Her lips weren’t big and soft like Mako or Lyra, but they had a timidness to them that felt welcoming all the same. I could feel the scar on her lip, but rather than feeling gross, it seemed to make her lips more interesting to explore. I finally parted away, our kiss lasting perhaps a minute or so. If Tinya was blushing before, he face was complete glowing now. She was also breathing hard. However, as she recovered, her face hardened and she narrowed her eyes.
“Who said you could use tongue, you… you… stupid man!”
Ah… so this was the start of our alliance. Former lovers made strange bedfellows, that was for sure.