12.1 | Unexpected Companions

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"He just wants to help."

Jade and Elliot halted before her, the latter looking small despite his lanky height.

Nika took note of his attire. Black jeans, black sweater. He looked like a cat burglar, and she could've mocked him for it. He certainly wasn't familiar with rebellion or troublemaking.

"This isn't what we planned," she hissed to Jade.

"Can't you put aside your resentment for me until we rescue Lu?" Elliot said.

"We? There is no we." She turned to her roommate again. "I trusted you—"

"And you can trust me, too," Elliot interrupted. "I'm not your enemy, Nika."

A cold, cruel laugh escaped her, and she scarcely recognized her own voice as she snarled, "Tell that to your father."

Elliot flinched, dawn-tinted color splashing across his deep skin.

"Nika," Jade warned.

But she didn't listen. Jabbing a finger into Elliot's chest, she said, "You're a purist snake. The only reason you're dating Lu is so you can drudge up dirt on us and use it against my dad and the other equalist Ministers."

"That's not true."

His voice cracked, and his brows twisted up. She had to give him credit, he knew how to play the part of the innocent, heartsick fool.

But Nika knew better. He was a Mirza. His family hated her, all because of her blood status.

There was a simple difference between halfbloods and purebloods. The former was the product of two different Daemonstri races, while the latter was the product of one.

Jade was a pureblood since her parents were both Nefili, and Nika was a halfblood because her father was a Serafi and her mother was a Nefili.

For some unknown reason, halfbloods never displayed the traits of both races. On the outside, Nika and Jade appeared to be equally Nefili.

People believed that blood held the secret reason for this, and one's taintedness couldn't be seen with a naked eye. It couldn't be seen with a microscope, either, and yet, the difference was all the same.

As for Elliot... Well, Serafi were always purebloods.

No one truly understood why, but members of the witch race created offspring by breeding among themselves. That was the only way Serafi came into existence, and because of it, they considered themselves the purest of the pure.

However, Nefili could reproduce among themselves and with Serafi. Volkari could also do it with both, as well as with other Volkari. And a member of the demon race might have bred with a Serafi, a Nefili, a Volkari, or one of their own, and the child would have always ended up as an Inferni.

It was the order of genetic dominance, with Serafi being least dominant because they had one way to procreate, and Inferni being most dominant because they had four ways to procreate.

Nika had toiled and agonized over Daemonstri genetics during biology classes at Konstantin. But not because of their complexities, which she understood after puzzling through a few times.

What bothered her was the horrifying fact that this system of organization was the cause of her infamy: Halfblood Bastard, blight of Daemonstri-kind. People blamed her for being a halfblood, as if she could have controlled it.

People like Elliot Mirza's father, a vehement purist Minister.

And it was for that very reason that Nika gritted her teeth and said, "When I rescue Lu, you aren't getting anywhere near her. Now, I suggest you run on home before I break that pretty face."

"Hurt me all you want," Elliot said. "I can't sleep or eat or even think, knowing that Lu is out there all alone. I need to help her."

Nika started trembling. It took every ounce of restraint not to punch him. She hadn't had a proper fight since the attack, and her knuckles ached to feel the familiar impact of bone against bone.

"Back off," Jade said, tugging Nika's sleeve. She wedged herself between them, forcing Nika to look into those ever-skeptical eyes. "What would Lu say if she was here?"

Nika's anger boiled harder.

"She would tell you that she's been dating Elliot for six months and his family hasn't targeted you or your dad. Not even once. So either Elliot is a terrible spy, or he hasn't given them any dirt.

"She would tell you that, even if he was a snake, she still has feelings for him. And as her best friend—her sister—you should be supportive."

It was true. Every damn word. Lu would have said all of that and more. And as much as it broke Nika's heart, she had to voice the reality.

"But Lu isn't here. And he shouldn't be here either."

"Damn you, Nika," Elliot snapped. He nudged Jade aside and towered over her, a spark of courage in his brown eyes. "You're not the only one who loves her, and you don't get to be the only one who saves her."

Nika blinked.

Love.

Lu had never indicated that their relationship had gone that far. And yet, Elliot spoke with conviction. In his tone, his body language. Surely, he was lying. Lu would never betray her like that.

"If you two don't back down right now," Jade said, "I'm gonna go in there by myself. And in case you've forgotten, I'm the one with the keycard."

She pulled out the squarish piece of plastic—which she'd acquired via methods to which only Jade Ramsay was privy—and waved it mockingly.

Nika shook her head. "I'll never forgive you for bringing him."

Jade flashed a smirk, then swiped the key through the card-reader on the base's back door. With a buzz and a click, it unlocked, and Jade heaved it open.

"After you, Your Dramatic Highness," she said to Nika with an exaggerated bow.

Stalking inside the Vigil base, Nika growled, "When we're done here, I'm beating the shit out of both of you."

Author's Note

For any confusion about the "order of genetic dominance," go to the Reader Guide. Some of the information in this chapter was complex and confusing, so I'm happy to answer any questions in the comments. 

Also, I've decided to change my updating schedule since things are moving faster than I expected. From now on, there will be a new chapter every day, including weekends, unless I notify you otherwise. Be sure to follow me so you receive notifications of my announcements.

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