18. A World Without Hope

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Autumn thought for sure that the worst and hardest thing he ever had to do in his life was to kiss Spring goodbye and leave on that subsequent rickety bus back home. He thought his heart could never sink as low is it had the further the distance between him and Spring grew, and not once that entire bumpy ride alone to the gates of the dome did he think that he would ever feel this sensation of drowning under again. As he trudged through the lobby of the main tower and melted against the wall of the elevator, he was sure this was the worst he could possibly feel. But he was wrong.

Standing outside of his father's office with his hand hovering over the doorknob and his throat caught somewhere between a swallow and a scream, he figured out quickly just how low he could sink in his depression. Autumn shut his and sighed. Technically, he wasn't wrong about his decision; he planned to keep Spring by his side forever, even now. They just needed a break so that he could fulfill his destiny... Except, that all equated "you were wrong, and I was right" to his father. It was the last thing he wanted to hear. But it was necessary.

With a defeated sigh, Autumn turned the knob and let the old mahogany door creak open. It was something he had done thousands of times since he was a child-- stepping into that large office filled with portraits of their forefathers who occupied the Earth with their grand destinies and staunch victories-- but as his feet touched that now foreign wooden flooring, he felt as if this was the first time. His heart was quivering almost as much as his hands. He swallowed upon setting his eyes on the man sitting at his desk.

Dr. Raynecaster looked up at his son when he was halfway to him, looking down his nose and reading spectacles at the boy as he made his way across the dark wood floors. Autumn gave him a nod, of which he returned before turning back to the files sprawled on his desk. He had no idea as to the intensity of the boy's thoughts on his way. And Autumn wasn't about to show him; instead, he stayed as calm and collected as he usually was and sat himself in one of the seats in front of the desk. After some time of silence, he cleared his throat.

"Yes, Autumn?" Dr. Raynecaster replied begrudgingly; though, he continued marking the papers with his quill pen.

"I," Autumn paused for a moment. He had to be careful not to stutter, not to stumble on his words, in case it alluded to fear. This was his decision. This was his choice. It was what he wanted and decided to do even if it would mean his father would see it as a failure. It was, at least, his own. "... Need to talk to you about my protector."

Now, his father glanced up from his paperwork and set both his pen and glasses down on the desk below him. Folding his hands with that egotistic glint in his eyes, he then raised a single bushy eyebrow at the boy. Autumn knew just by that look in his eye that his fears were a reality, and any moment then he would be telling him that he knew this would happen and that he had tried to warn him. The gloating, the patronizing that always came when the boy failed, eventually found itself in his ears every time.

"I've been waiting for this moment," Dr. Raynecaster began. Autumn looked down at his lap, clenching his teeth so that he would not snap back at the man. "I knew from the moment I saw that boy he was no good for you. He did not even lift a finger to help you when you were attacked by that miscreant." He leaned forward. It seemed scolding was his favorite part of their conversations. "Well, you've seen where your little teenage rebellion has gotten you. Are you're ready to be a man now?"

Autumn swallowed and nodded. Just the passed few days, his father had been so proud of him. Except, now he didn't even know if that was true, considering his present feelings on the manner of his choice. He could never tell what his father really felt about him. Even when he was smiling, Autumn could never see anything more in those eyes that looked down at him than disappointment. When he looked back on the hug they'd shared, he wondered if that was only for show. The boy swallowed again, but this time it was to hold back his growing chest pain.

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