Gifted Part Four [Final Part]
Author Allison Ziegler
It had been one week exactly since the Gifted faction had returned to the surface. Citizens of both parties were finding it difficult to adjust, but now that the conflict between them was over and the Ungifted king had fallen, hardly anyone seemed to want to reignite the fight. They were all wholly sick of the needless bloodshed.
The rest of the Ungifted royal family had fled the land, not letting anyone know where exactly they were going. They were never heard from again.
With the royalty gone, the kingdom was left without a ruler, but this state did not last long. Instead, the Gifted king stepped up to take the throne, promising that the factions would be no more, and instead, all people would be considered just that; people. With Christopher and the rest of the Gifted royal staff joining the Ungifted servants who were willing to stay, the castle quickly became occupied once more.
Due to the mass slaughter of the soldiers who had attacked the Gifted hideout, things were nothing short of awkward between the Gifted and Ungifted. Oftentimes, the tension was so thick it seemed almost tangible, but no responses to the battle were ever spoken aloud. Both sides knew that it had been the foolish Ungifted king’s arrogance that had led to the massacre. Though the killings were not quite forgiven nor forgotten, they were begrudgingly accepted--not that anyone was particularly happy about that.
The kingdom still had much to accomplish in the way of pulling itself together, and the first few days were extremely rough, especially for the Gifted faction members that suddenly found themselves in need of above-ground homes. For the time being, they continued to sleep in the houses built beneath the surface, but spent most of their time out in the sun.
Jackson was heavily praised by his peers for being the one to slay the Ungifted king once and for all. However, he wanted none of it. Despite the fact that the man he had killed was an unfair, corrupt leader who had attempted to kill everyone he knew, including his own sister, the boy simply could not stomach what he had done.
“It was just for Mia,” he would say numbly whenever he was met with congratulations. “I don’t want glory. I just wanted to save my sister.” Jackson may have received praise and respect for his actions, but the knowledge that he had single-handedly ended another human being’s life weighed heavy on his mind.
He had taken to sitting alone in the darkest corner he could find under the surface. Jackson would stay there for hours at a time, staring at nothing and letting silence enfold him. The light had all but gone from his eyes, and Mia had even discovered tear tracks on his face multiple times when going to wake him up in the morning.
Under normal circumstances, Mia would have been jealous of Jackson getting all of the attention while she was shoved sideways into the shadows. After all, she was clearly the better fighter of the two; Jackson had simply managed to get lucky in a situation where his target was preoccupied and not expecting an attack from behind. In fact, Mia would have liked very much to have been able to be angry at him for stealing her thunder.
However, she couldn’t bring herself to feel anything but remorse at seeing her baby brother suffering in this way.
Mia approached her brother one day as he was sitting alone and stood in front of him, hands on her hips and eyebrows raised. She cleared her throat in order to get his attention. He did not look up.
She stood there for a time, waiting to see if he would react to her presence, but he did not. Eventually, she heaved an exasperated sigh and said firmly, “Jackson, would you stop being an idiot about this? You’re being praised! Just accept it!”
Jackson said nothing.
Mia frowned, worry that had become all too familiar creeping up on her. She tried again. “Jackson, talk to me here. You wouldn’t give your own sister the silent treatment, would you?”
At last, she decided it was time to swallow her pride. Heaving a deep sigh, she sat down beside Jackson and put a hand on his arm. Suddenly, her voice was soft and gentle, rather than the caustic deadpan she usually used when speaking to her brother. “Jack...please...I just want to talk to you…”
Though Jackson’s posture visibly relaxed at the sound of her calling him by a less formal nickname, he still remained silent for a long moment. When he did speak, it was with the rasp of someone who hadn’t used his voice much in days. “...I killed someone, Mia…” After this, he said no more.
Mia frowned. “Jack...you did, but he was the enemy...the man who forced us all into hiding…”
“He was still a person,” he said tonelessly. “Evil or not, that’s what he was. And I ended his life.” He sighed and looked his sister in the eye. “I’m not a fighter, Mia...I never was...I just went out onto that battlefield so I could help you...and when I saw you about to die, I just...I panicked and...acted…” He trailed off with a shudder, and silence reigned once more.
They sat for what seemed like an eternity.
Then, suddenly, Mia pulled her brother into a tight hug. “You saved my life, Jack,” she whispered, gently rubbing his back in a comforting manner. “You’re not a murderer...you’re a hero.”
Jackson was stunned. “W-Wow, sis…” he stammered in surprise, “I...think that might be the highest praise you’ve given me since...well, ever.”
She chuckled slightly and pulled away with a smile. “Well, don’t get used to it, idiot. Now come on...I know you like it better aboveground. Let’s head up there for a bit, okay?” She stood up, looking down at him with her eyebrows arched.
For one fleeting moment, Mia thought that Jackson was going to refuse and simply continue to sulk in the corner, but to her relief, he stood up with her. A tiny smile appeared on his face, and despite its small size, she could tell it was genuine.
“Yeah…” the boy said quietly, his voice already beginning to adjust to being used again. “Let’s go.”
Then, brother and sister walked to the surface and out into the light they had not been able to enjoy for so long. The fight was over. A time of peace had just begun.