31.2 | Aftermath

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For two hours, they were questioned. Given no time to come up with a suitable story, they were forced to tell the truth. Not that Ren minded.

He was glad to confess to their secret investigation, glad to reveal the truth about meeting Tatiana, and Nika having been tortured. There was only one thing he hadn't told the interviewers about: the evidence that Emil was guilty of treason.

He'd decided along with Nika and Elliot that it would be Misha's responsibility to either confront his father or turn him in. And according to the relative calm around the Vigil base, Ren suspected that Misha had opted to remain quiet yet again.

Of course, calm was not exactly true. Headquarters was on lockdown, and nearly every keeper that wasn't guarding a Serafi home had been dispatched to scour the town for signs of another invasion or teenagers sneaking around. That meant only a handful of keepers remained at the base.

Ren surveyed the floor, speckled with desk spaces and conference rooms. It was one such conference room that Ren sat outside now, along with Misha, Nika, and Elliot.

They'd barely spoken ten words to each other since departing from Laguna Manor, which left everyone to his and her thoughts.

Ren's gaze absently drifted to Nika, who sat across the hall with Elliot. She'd been staring at her mud-flecked sneakers since the moment she was dismissed from her interview. That had been twenty minutes ago, and now they were forced to wait until the Prime Minister and High Keeper determined their fates.

Ren hoped Nika was wallowing in regret and guilt just as much as he was. If she'd just stayed at home, maybe they wouldn't have gotten into this mess.

His anger notwithstanding, Ren couldn't stop shaming himself for how he'd reacted. He shouldn't have yelled or manhandled her, and regretted everything said and done during that encounter. But Nika had a knack for getting under his skin and tearing him up inside. How had he allowed her to have so much influence over him?

"What's gonna happen to us?" Elliot said, breaking the tense silence.

"Don't worry, golden boy," Misha replied. "Your involvement would reflect poorly on the purist faction, so you'll be free from public consequences. The rest of us, however—"

He was cut short by the intrusion of Rostova, Emil, and Minister Mirza. While the former two whispered inside the conference room doorway, the last approached them immediately, saying, "Come on, Elliot. Time to go."

"But—"

"Let's go. Now."

With a sigh, Elliot stood and followed his father toward the exit.

"Irina," Emil was saying in a low tone, "don't do this. There isn't enough proof, and you know it."

The Prime Minister didn't even spare him a glance as she said, "I don't need proof."

She waited until Elliot was out of earshot before turning to the keepers on standby and saying, "Please detain Miss Dimitrovich and escort her to a holding cell."

The keepers glanced at each other, then at Nika. "Just her?"

"Are you deaf? Yes. Right now."

With a sigh, Nika dragged herself out of the chair and held out her hands. As the keepers strapped on a pair of handcuffs, Ren saw in her face that she wasn't in the least bit surprised. In fact, she'd probably known the minute they stepped inside the base that this would happen.

Ren found himself rising to his feet. He didn't know what he'd intended to do, but he took a step toward the keepers who detained her. And stopped, because Emil put a firm hand on his shoulder.

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