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Guiding Star

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Guiding Star

CHAPTER VI : Roads Ahead


Anya stared at the form that Professor Henderson had handed them. The frightening form required students to write down the wishes of what they wanted to do after Eden College. Most of the students had already written their first wish, without even thinking of a second, their minds made since childhood, by their families more than themselves.


As for Anya, she couldn’t figure out what to write. What did she want to do with her life, after Eden College? What studies to pursue, what life to shape? She was free to do as she wished, she knew her parents would support almost any work she’d choose… but how was she supposed to know what she wanted when all she’s ever done was follow her father’s footsteps? As a child, all she had wanted was a home and a family, people who would always come back for her, wait for her… Then, all she had wanted, to preserve that family, was to help Mission Strix become a success. That operation had ended years ago, and she vaguely remembered that in-between time when the threat of bombs and death had floated above their heads when she had wondered what would happen to her, to her Eden education… but then peace was signed. War never came. And she pushed to the very, very back of her mind, the very idea of growing older, losing her family, of leaving them behind.


Now what?


The bell rang, startling her to attention. The last few minutes passed quickly: she walked out of the buildings, lost in thoughts, she waved at Becky at the end of the school day.


“You’re going to help your father at the hospital, right?” Becky asked.


“Yes, I’ll see you tomorrow, Becky!”


To Becky and everyone else at the school, Anya went to her father’s hospital to help the children in recovery twice a week. For her parents, she went only once.


When all the different truths of her family had come to light, they had promised each other to never have any more secret. To be honest with one another.


But Anya lied. And she’s kept a new secret life from her parents.


Instead of going to the hospital, she turned around a different street and walked, and walked, until she arrived in a café. She went to the counter:


“I’ll have a peanut butter and chocolate muffin, please!” she asked the waitress with a bright smile.


“Of course. On the go?”


“Yes, please. It looks like the rain will fall soon, mm?” Anya continued, ignoring the bright sky and warm sunlight, the waitress was not the slightest bit disturbed.


“Thank goodness, I brought an umbrella,” was her answer.


Anya grabbed the muffin, then walked to the back of the café. She went in the direction of the toilets and after a quick look over her shoulder to make sure no one was seeing her, she turned towards a staff entry. Once inside, she ignored the piles of flours, sugar, and other products, to make her way to what appeared to be a simple cupboard. She opened it and found baking tools. She grabbed one and pulled. A small trap door clicked on the floor. Anya bent down, and while munching on her muffin, she made her way down the unknown stairs.


Once deep underground, she saluted the few WISE agents she knew. Then, she found the Handler in her usual room.


“Report?” Sylvia asked, standing tall and elegant as always.


“The muffins are delicious as always,” Anya answered.


“Be serious, Agent Starlight.”


Anya’s smile wavered a little, before she forced it on her face once more.


“Nothing to report, madam.”


Sylvia let out a sigh, looking a little disappointed.


“You have yet to perfect your lying skills, Starlight.”


“I’ve never been very good at lying,” she admitted, and Sylvia knew it well enough.


Anya sat in front of the Handler, who was also her spying mentor.


“We haven’t found anything strange regarding your professor’s death. Your father may be out of service, but he isn’t dusty yet.”


Anya didn’t answer, looking down at her half-eaten muffin. How was she supposed to explain to the Handler that she had a bad feeling? This woman only dealt in facts that could be proved, not suspicions and gut-instinct.


“Are you ready for your training?” Sylvia asked, turning a little colder.


Anya finished her muffin, nodding enthusiastically.


“Very well.”


And so Anya trained for a few hours.


Years ago, after the truths were revealed and her parents found out about the experimentations that had led to her mind-reading abilities, they had asked WISE to help her. To find out if there might be a solution, a way to help her when it became too much. No information was recovered from the institution, as Anya could never remember anything from her very early years. And when the WISE experts confirmed that Anya’s health would not be endangered by her abilities, despite the occasional headaches, Sylvia proposed that she was trained as a spy.


Loid refused.


It was the one thing he had always refused his daughter. He had become a spy himself to keep children from crying, he knew the weight of constantly changing faces, he knew the pain of lying to everyone, he knew the sacrifices that would be necessary… and he refused that his daughter was ever taken in by WISE. He never explicitly said it, but obviously, Anya knew that it was part of the reason why he had decided to retire. He didn’t want WISE’s grabby hands to get onto Anya and train her to become a spy, the best spy since Twilight. After all, what better method to spy on people than read their minds?


At that time, Anya had thought the question solved, but a few weeks later, while she was settling into her life as Loid and Yor Forger’s daughter for good, as she was getting used once more to a time of peace… Sylvia Sherwood came to her, without Loid’s knowledge.


“Anya Forger. You could do great things for WISE, for world peace. I know your father is adamant that you keep on living as an innocent and carefree child… but you were never one, Anya. You have been through too much to be ignorant of the way of the world. And you have been through too much to not wish to help. Would you ignore people in need? Would you want to help the people you care about? Would you abandon orphans to suffer?”


And that speech, to an impressionable ten-years-old who was lost, confused and desperate to do good to never be left behind, was enough for Anya to agree. She wasn’t an official agent of WISE yet. She was too young still and between her studies, and the need to not let her parents suspect any of it, Sylvia kept her training to the minimum. Languages, the art of lying, self-defence, how to shoot and kill in the most efficient way… Her parents were training her discreetly as well, only so she could handle herself if she ever were in danger, and so they never suspected that her new reflexes were strange. She was doing much better at school, but she was studying far more than before, and so they never suspected that WISE was providing secret lessons in key areas.


Whenever her parents smiled and laughed, more honest than they had ever been, to each other, to the world, to themselves, the guilt of lying to them threatened to crush her heart… but she convinced herself she did it all so that one day, she could save them the way they had saved her.


And so, her secret training had continued until she had reached high school.


As Anya went home that night, (her parents thought she had arts club activities that day) she was dragging her feet. It wasn’t the exhaustion or soreness that made her steps so heavy. It was the piece of paper, that simple form, in her bag that seemed to cause an increase of gravity.


What now? What was she supposed to write? She couldn’t put down “spy”. Even if it were a conventional career to pursue, the very idea of putting it down somehow felt wrong. After witnessing up-close her parents’ sacrifices and suffering, after hiding that training for years… how could she become a spy and never let them know?


“Are you okay, Anya darling?” Her mother asked half-way through dinner.


“Oh? Uh! Yes! Of course!” she exclaimed, and from the way her father caught her lie, she immediately knew he was going to interrogate her.


“Did something happen at school? You look a little down. Is it still that professor’s death that’s weighing you down?” Her father asked, his eyes vivid enough that she knew he was unconsciously analysing every small gesture and micro-expression she’d reveal.


“I… It’s just the post-Eden College form that we received today,” she said.


It wasn’t entirely a lie, although she couldn’t reveal the whole truth.


“Ah, yes, you are growing up so quickly. Three years seems like a long time, but it will fly by. So, what would you like to become after Eden?”


It seemed like such a simple question.


Anya looked down at her plate of half-eaten dinner, turning it around with her fork.


Her silence grew longer, heavier. Loid lost his smile, staring at his daughter, a little stunned by her unusual indecision. Yor glanced between the two. Then, she leaned over to put her hand over Anya’s.


“Don’t worry, you still have time to think about it. The form won’t be your final decision.” She said with a reassuring smile.


“I… I guess… I don’t know what I want to do.”


I want to remain a family.


“I’ve always thought you’d choose a career to help people,” Loid commented as he picked up more food.


Anya blinked, glancing up at him. It was so close to Sylvia’s words so many years ago. “Would you ignore people in need? Would you want to help the people you care about? Would you abandon orphans like you to suffer?”


“It’s in your nature, you’ve always been kind and willing to reach out a hand to others, even if you had no reason to. And with your mind-reading abilities, you will immediately know how to help in the best way.” He continued with a proud expression on his face.


“You could become a doctor, a psychiatrist like your father! You would be wonderful as such!” Her mother exclaimed with a delighted expression.


“And your biology grades are great. With your results as Imperial Scholar, you would have no trouble entering medical school.” Loid agreed.


Anya nodded, pondering the option. She wished she could help people like her father did. But she had been helping him at the hospital for years and she knew she could never be a psychiatrist like him. As much as she liked the idea of it, and as much as she liked the idea of pleasing her parents by following into his footsteps, she hated the smell of hospital halls. It reminded her of her time before escaping the facilities that had experimented on her.


And her father helped so many depressed people who were deeply, deeply hurt from invisible wounds… but they weren’t invisible to her. She knew everything. She couldn’t help but empathise, she wanted to help, but it was such a strain on her mind and her heart… she often found herself feeling helpless and not good enough.


“Thank you,” she answered with a smile to dissipate their worries.


“No matter what you choose, we’ll be proud of you, Anya,” her mama continued with a soft expression.


It warmed Anya’s heart and her smile widened.


“As long as you don’t become a spy or an assassin, of course!” her father joked.


Yor joined in the laughter. Anya forced a half-hearted chuckle, but it only made her chest heavy again.


She would break their hearts if they ever found out.


That night, after her bath and homework, Anya was staring at the form that she needed to give back soon. She thought back on everything her parents said, on what she wanted, without quite knowing if her choice was dictated by her own wishes or the wish to not lose her family.


  1. Psychiatrist Help people.
  2. Art?


She was only half-satisfied with these answers, and more confused than before.




At Eden College, Damian sat down at his desk to fill in the form. He had turned the words into his head times and times again since receiving the paper earlier. He knew perfectly well what he wanted to become, what he had always wanted to be. He wrote it down in a quick, slightly messy handwriting. He should probably put more care into his handwriting, but ever since he’s read that mess handwriting was a sign of intelligence, he’s liked seeing his letters stretching in such a way, set down on paper too fast for his hand to keep up.


  1. Politician.

He put down his pen, smiling to himself as he thought back on the years and years and years he had worked so hard to get there. Just a couple more years and he would follow into his father’s footsteps.


Emile had decided to become a professional luxury baker. Ewen, as the heir of the Egeburg family, wanted to study Law to become a High Judge, like his father. Damian vaguely knew of some of his classmates’ objectives. Most would go into politics, law, or finance. He’ll probably stay in touch with them. After all, one of the advantages of studying at Eden College was to build a life-long network. Even if they all went their separate ways, they’ll always know each other, they’ll always go to the same parties, be invited to the same events and galas…


Damian’s smile wavered as he realised that, when thinking about Anya’s future, he had no idea what she would become. She had never mentioned it to anyone, except maybe Becky but to him, her life-long goals remained a mystery. If she decided to make a career related to what either of her parents were doing… she’ll probably go to a different road than the one he and so many of their classmates would take in the near-future.


Did it mean that he might never see her again after Eden? Did it mean… that their time was ticking?


All he could think was Anya walking away from him, out of his life, and the very idea rattled his heart painfully… even if it had always been meant to be this way. After all she was a commoner, he was a Desmond. It was a miracle she had even joined Eden College to begin with, and for a long time he had assumed she didn’t belong there…. But she had risen above all obstacles, all expectations, and soared proudly, becoming an Imperial Scholar.


She had become such a pivotal part of his everyday life, he couldn’t imagine what it would be like to always look for her in a crowd that would always reject that brilliant, beautiful commoner girl who had somehow managed to be more noble-hearted and better educated than most elite families in Ostania.


He glanced at the only family picture he had put in a corner of his desk. His parents, his older brother and himself, ten years before.


In a rare moment of emotional vulnerability, which he only allowed himself because his friends were already sleeping, he took the framed picture to stare at it.


Demetrius was as cold as ever, his mother had the same silly-looking smile plastered on her face, but the corner of her eyes answered to that smile, making it a real one. He hadn’t seen his mother smile like that in years, although she gave a good imitation nowadays. His younger self was looking proudly at the camera, standing as tall as he possibly could, chest out to show his five Stella Stars. Damian just knew he has never smiled like that since that day. His father was as emotionless as could be, staring at the camera as if there was nothing to look at.


Damian had spent his whole life seeking his father’s approval and love. Everything he ever did was to make his father proud, to bring honour to the Desmond family name. After his father’s death, Damian never wondered what to do with his life, the answer was obvious: he’d make his father proud, even beyond death. It didn’t matter if he never received the praise he had craved for… He’d do it anyway. For the memory of his father, for his family, for all the Desmond.


His fingers reached for the pen again, brushing it. He looked back at the single word written.


He had never questioned what he’d become, what he’d do with his life. Was it hesitation he was feeling now? Now that he was so close to his goal?


No. I’m not hesitant, I’m not a coward. It’s just the nerves of being so close. Finally.


If he repeated those words often enough, perhaps he’ll convince himself to become a politician, like his father had been. It was the life he had built for himself; it was the only life he would allow himself to have.




A few days later, after giving the forms back to Professor Henderson, the students of Cecil Hall were told there would be a reception for their parents, in a month from now, to discuss family by family, with the professors, their goals’ intentions.


Among all the excited emotions and anxious thoughts, there was a gloomy one that Anya reacted to the most. She turned around, looking over her shoulder to see Damian staring out of the window. She was the only one who seemed to notice that Damian was not looking forward to that reception. For a short moment, she wondered if by any chance, another mind-reader would feel the same heaviness coming from her thoughts. But unfortunately, she was the only one with such powers.


And she was reminded that it was a lonesome burden.