24. The Next Handler

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Elisa hurries to the commission's grounds, leaving Five alone. His eyes stay on her, though. His lips are forming a thin line. He isn't liking this idea a little bit. No one knows how long this search for Vanya at the commission will take-if she's here. Plus, if the handler finds out the real reason why Elisa came back to her, then who knows what can happen.

Only when she's out of his sight, he turns around. His feet drag him away from the commission-from Elisa-in a slow pace. He can't protect her like this, and she might not know it, but she needs his protection. They both need each other's protection. Only then the two succeed to get through everything. Now, they're splitting up . . . again. This time, with better reasons, but it still hurts.

Two days. That's all Elisa has. If she hasn't contacted one of the siblings by then, or if she hasn't returned by then, the siblings will come to get her. They'll know her plan failed.

While Five will continue looking for Vanya everywhere with his siblings, Elisa will search for her at the commission. If she's correct, then Vanya is there somewhere, waiting for someone to help her-to rescue her. If it's true that she's locked up there, an awfully lot can have happened already. Everyone who walks into the commission changes. Everyone. How would Vanya fare?

Five makes fists with his hands, trying to stop worrying. It doesn't work-not even when the blue light appears. Part of him will stay here, with Elisa. He can't wait until she's back into his arms. Until his hand is protectively around her body again.

-

The amount of blue costumes overwhelms Elisa every time she enters the commission. You'd think she has gotten used to it after growing up here, but she has not.

Desperate to see a familiar face, Elisa scans the hall she's in. There isn't any-well, not the one she's looking for.

Having to, Elisa continues to walk again. She's headed to the handler's office. That's the first step of the plan. She must go to the handler immediately, and she has to tell her that she's back-for a while, at least. Hopefully, the handler will believe her. Elisa thinks she will. At least, she'll believe Elisa quicker than she ever would Five. There's no doubt in that.

Blue flashes in front of Elisa's eyes as she urges herself through the crowds. She doesn't stop a single time, having to get to the handler. It's unbelievable how many times she has walked this path since a few weeks ago. For a year, Elisa thought she'd never return to this place. How very wrong she was.

Only when Elisa is in front of the door leading to the handler's office, she stops in her tracks. Taking a deep breath, Elisa reaches for the handle.

Put on an act, Elisa orders herself in her head. Put on a damn mask. Make her believe. For Vanya.

The door opens slowly. As always, the handler is properly behind her desk, signing some documents. She's fully concentrated-even when Elisa closes the door behind her.

"Ahem," Elisa quietly mumbles, looking at her feet.

Immediately, the handler looks up. The v on her head disappears when Elisa sits down in front of her. Her jaw drops a little, showing Elisa that she's surprised-too surprised.

"Elisa?" the handler says in a confused tone.

Act. Mask. For Vanya.

Elis forces the corners of her mouth to lift up. She's trained at it-that much is clear when the handler seems to believe it's a true smile. "I'm back."

"I can see that." The handler smiles, but Elisa can still see the confusion behind the teeth-showing smile. "I didn't expect you to be here, little one." The papers get shoved away quickly. The handler focuses on Elisa completely.

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