Ren knew he should have walked away, but ever since boyhood, he'd had a habit of eavesdropping. So he stayed. And he listened.

The rustle of fabric. "Sit down with me?" Markos's voice was gentle. Affectionate. So unlike the way he spoke to colleagues and inferiors.

Movement, footsteps, and the faint creaking of wood followed. The Minister cleared his throat.

"I believe that the robbery, tonight's attack, Luiza's abduction—all of it was retaliation."

"For what?" Nika exclaimed. "Until now, we didn't know they even existed!"

"Shhh. Not so loud. What I'm about to tell you goes against my vow as a Minister. The public was supposed to be protected from this knowledge, and I'm technically committing treason by sharing it. But if it's the Ministry's fault that Luiza was taken, then you deserve to know...

"The Volkari race never went extinct. The Ministry has known about them all this time, and the lie was fabricated a hundred years ago, when my grandfather was a Minister. I discovered it after my appointment to the role."

Ren was glad to have been leaning against the door frame. Otherwise, his knees might have buckled.

He wasn't ignorant to the fact that the Ministry excluded the public from sensitive information, but to blatantly lie about something so significant... It was unsettling.

"Why would you do this?" Nika stole the words right from his mouth.

"Me personally, or the Ministry?"

"Both."

"I did it because that's what was expected of me. It's part of the job. But I take no pleasure in it. As for the rest of the Ministry—especially the purists—it was to make sure the wolves couldn't stir up trouble."

And look how that turned out, Ren thought.

"Like Inferni, the Volkari race has never been regarded as civilized in the eyes of the Ministry. They're more monster than man, and that's why they were annexed from the community."

"So tonight's attack was revenge for being banished?" Nika asked.

"Not exactly. After the wolves had been exiled, they tried to incite dissent against the Ministry, and the Serafi race as a whole. And it didn't take long for Nefili to start agreeing with them."

It was an age-long struggle in the Daemonstri world. For centuries, Serafi had lorded over the other races. They were smarter, wealthier, and more suited for government than the rest of Daemonstri, so it seemed an obvious choice.

But that power was easy to abuse, and the scepter of tyranny often nudged keepers of the Vigil in its desired direction. It was no surprise that dissent had sprouted so easily among Nefili.

"The Ministry feared that a rebellion would occur," Markos continued, "and in order to stop it, they cursed the Volkari of North America."

"Cursed—with magic?"

"Yes."

It was known to all that magic used to be a central part of Daemonstri life. The Serafi race had once mastered spell-casting and other witching practices.

In the modern era, however, Serafi no longer manifested such gifts. Magic had essentially grown obsolete.

"But magic hasn't existed for—" Nika scoffed. "Let me guess, the Ministry lied about magic, too."

"More like heavily exaggerated. Magic has been censored by the government because it's dangerous and unpredictable. And as a result, it has begun to fade over time. The less it's used, the more it dies out.

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