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Julian Avery.

Mizore was trying to remember what she knew about Julian Avery. Because she was sure there was something to remember.

He was nice, she remembered. Complimented her on her art from art class, when it got displayed. A lot of people did that, but it was nice of him to notice when they didn’t really know each other. She got the impression he was someone on the student council, but that could have been completely inaccurate. And now she was wondering about him, because now she was wondering why he had come up to Naoko Raidon if he knew exactly who he was.

Raidon was on his knee with a gun, like a man proposing. And Julian was talking to Raidon like they'd met before.

“Nah, you wanna finish what you started. It's okay, you can say it. I ain't gonna get mad.”

And Mizore was confused, for a moment, for a minute. Looking up at Julian’s soft, sympathetic face. If Raidon tried to kill you before, why did you walk toward him? Are you trying to commit suicide?

But no, that wasn’t it. There was a game afoot.

I ain’t gonna get mad.

The idiot. He was goading him. This Julian Avery had come across the field of dead tree branches why are you here? for the sole purpose of goading Naoko Raidon.

Which is acceptable. He’s a killer. Part of her brain was moral and cold.

But not here. Not now. They were just supposed to sit, for now. There wasn’t supposed to be any killing. Not until Mizore could walk again. Not until she could stop thinking about the pain in her knee, remember Victoria Logan Alice with enough vividness to leave Raidon, make herself a makeshift cane with one of these fallen branches and walk away for good and ever.

There wasn’t supposed to be more death yet.

But here came this kid, Julian Avery, across the field to goad Naoko Raidon, and Naoko Raidon had a gun on his knee, and everything was suddenly terrible and why is he trying to rile him up?

Our twentieth kill was a little bit of justice, or at least that’s what the murderer, Julian Avery, would claim.

Omar Burton. Omar Burton had killed on the first day.

A little bit of justice…

Oh. Hell. No.

“Nobody else needs to get shot.” Julian Avery said. “You think you can make that happen?”

There was a tree branch next to Mizore, a dead tree branch, a bit shorter than her. The bark had rotted and fallen off one end. Perfect.

Mizore pressed the sturdier end against the ground and used the branch to heave herself upwards. There was pain in her knee. She winced and ignored it.

She was angry. It was pressing like a fist on her chest. And the feeling of command, the lightening, angry power she’d felt laying in the cream-and-gold guest bedroom—it was back.

Words spoken. Softly, intensely, hyper-articulated. Make them lean forward to hear.

“If anyone’s getting shot here, it’s me.”

She was keeping her eyes on Raidon and Julian both, narrowed, but not paranoid. She was not going to grab anyone’s wrist if they raised a gun. She was not going to shout, or duck, or pull a piece.

Nope. That wasn’t her style.

Raidon had been saying sarcastic things in the background, mockery to Julian's comments. He had stopped now. Julian’s face was impassive.

One thinks he’s a justicar. One just saved my life.

And the pacifist, the pacifist, the pretty little helpless pacifist, was not against using some pretty stupid emotional manipulation to make sure that no one else got shot.

“One of you is going to put down your gun.” That was Raidon. “The other one is not going to draw his.” That was Julian. “I don’t know what kind of bullshit is trying to go down here, but congratulations, it’s about to choke on itself.”

Fury added an accidental twist to the last line. She could have spit at their feet.

“I’m going to stand right here. If either of you try to shoot each other, you will shoot through me, and I will die. If either of you are okay with that, by all means, go ahead with your killing spree, but I’m being an emotionally manipulative person and banking on the fact that you won't. Moreover, if you try to move and have your stupid standoff of destiny somewhere else, that will just force me to limp after you with a bad knee and fucking catch your bullets for you. I don’t care what danger you think we’re in, or how right you think you are.”

Her voice was ragged. No more sorrow. She was standing, feet planted apart, hair fluttering like a flag in the wind.

She was thinking about Victoria Logan, and she was furious.

And Julian and Raidon were listening.

Alice Boucher was a liar.
Liz Polanski played with fire.

And who the hell is Radio Asuka?
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Broken Like the Sun · The Felled Forest: North