Tali stayed on the first floor. Number sixteen.
Sim knew this much. He walked briskly to her complex and to her door. He’d picked up a switchblade along the way, flipping it open and closed in his left hand as he walked.
Once he reached the door, he cautiously shifted his weight from one foot to the other, then made an internal decision to just kick the door down and let himself in. It took two hard stomps before he could jump in and grab Tali, who was sitting on the couch. He quickly slashed her throat, with no respect for her life at all. Why would he have respect for a girl who could not respect anything else?
The blood frothed from her neck as she held her throat, seemingly in a panic. The Phoenix was trying to say something but her words went unheard as she asphyxiated.
Sim would’ve laughed at her torment and his success if it weren’t for what happened next. A styrofoam box full of salad had been dropped, and a black sleeved arm pushed forward, many wires sweeping toward Sim in what appeared to be a large wrapped bind. Like a metal rope with a frayed end, the tendrils reached for Sim, as if they were alive.
Before Sim could even process what was going on, the wires had already pierced through his gut and out his backside, the tendrils still wriggling like crazy, misplaced earthworms.
The look on the attacker’s face said it all: Remorse. Retribution. Hatred. Justice.
Tali finally slumped over on the couch. Her last raspy breath had been taken. The wires retracted with a lurch from Sim’s body and into Fortenra’s as he ran to save his fallen girlfriend.
â€œTali!â€ he yelled, shaking her once he reached the couch.
Sim held his gut, gasping for breath. He hadn’t expected someone else to be here. Or someone to have a Resonance Soul like that. He tried to get up, blood seeping between the fingers that held his skin. He found his legs wouldn’t work the way he wanted them to and ended up on the floor, hissing in pain while Fortenra fretted over a lost cause.
Except it wasn’t a lost cause.
Before their eyes, Tali’s body burst into flames, burning what was left of the couch, Fortenra’s hands, and the air around Sim. Fortenra screamed in both shock and pain, but just as quickly as the ashes fell, another burst of flames brought back a naked, shivering Tali.
Everyone’s eyes were wide with awe. Tali brought her knees to her chest and wrapped her arms around her legs. She shook. No one had ever killed her before. And she had never in her life thought it possible to die that easily, let alone revive herself.
â€œTali, Tali?! Are you okay?!â€ Fortenra took his suit jacket off and gave it to the girl who returned a frightened nod.
Sim, still on the floor bleeding to death, seemed to melt into the rug, switchblade the only evidence of him ever being there.
The real Sim had stayed behind the door of the apartment. He was still instinctively holding his gut, and gasped for air a few times before turning against the wall to stagger back home.
That doppelganger was practically a transfer of consciousness. It had all been too real, and it was something he decided he wasn’t going to do again.
But what a find.
The Phoenix couldn’t die.
That was something unprecedented. Something unexpected.
She really was like a Phoenix now, being birthed again through flames.
It was too bad she burned Fortenra Askasa’s hands in the process of reviving herself….
Sim glared at the road before him.