BOOK 2 // TWO: Crumbling Relic

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            I thought I'd be lying awake for hours that night – tortured by thoughts of all that had happened, not to mention everything to come. It was a recipe for incurable insomnia. Unfamiliar surroundings, unanswered questions... the lingering feeling of danger I couldn't quite shake off. I shouldn't have been able to sleep at all.

But at some point in the early morning, when a sudden awakening jolted me back to reality, I realised I'd proved myself wrong; to wake up so early, I must've drifted off in the first place.

And the first thing I saw was Jace, stood beside my bed.

I scrambled into an upright position, instinctively clutching the covers to pull them closer. The first thing I noticed was his glasses – and more so the fact that he was wearing them again. The force with which he'd thrown them at the wall last night had seemed enough to shatter them into pieces, but they were remarkably intact. In fact, the only evidence of battery was the black tape he'd rolled around the middle to secure the two halves, which now sat as a thick square on the bridge of his nose.

"Sorry," he whispered. "I didn't mean to scare you. I was actually going for a much gentler wake-up call."

"It's fine." I ran a hand through my hair, noticing with a grimace that it felt dirty and knotted; I'd been far too long without a shower. "I didn't realise I'd dozed off. I thought I was going to be lying awake all night."

"I know what you mean," he said. "I didn't get much sleep either."

Though he said it without the deeper meaning, our minds went there anyway. In the beat of silence that followed, I could tell we were both replaying the night before: the words exchanged, and the awkward way things had been cut off by Nova.

"What time is it?" I asked, attempting to break the uncomfortable train of thought. "Have you seen anybody up and about yet?"

"No," he said. "I didn't dare venture outside – plus, I wouldn't know where to turn if I did. But at the same time, it feels kind of weird to stay cooped up in my room, wondering what's going on. I thought coming to see if you knew anything more seemed like the next best option."

"I'm afraid I'm going to have to disappoint you on that one." Swinging my legs over the side of the bed, I moved into a more upright position, letting the covers drop slightly. "I know as little as you do."

"Do you think we should head out?" he asked. He was chewing on his lip, rubbing at a spot that already looked red raw.

It seemed odd that he was asking me for permission, especially when I was just as clueless about our new surroundings, but I guessed it was his attempt to grasp onto a sense of direction. Perhaps it would make him feel better if I gave him what he wanted.

"Well, I don't know about you, but the last thing I want to do is to stay cooped up in here. Maybe we should."

He nodded, spurred on by the agreement. "Okay. Have you seen Nova?"

The question caught me off guard. It could've simply been the mention of her name in his voice that felt jarring, but either way, I found my gaze snapping toward him. "What?"

"Nova," he repeated. "I was just wondering if you'd seen her. We don't have a clue what's going on here, what we're supposed to be doing... I just thought she might be a good place to start."

A completely rational explanation: one that made me instantly regret my reaction. "Oh," I said. "No, I haven't seen her, but you're probably right. Let's go."

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