“Cute,” I whisper as I rest my forearms on the fence and stare at them.
“You’ve been avoiding me.”
Hearing Kenzo’s voice, I glance over my shoulder. Things have felt weird since I slapped him, but instead of answering the truth, I lie, “No, I’ve just been busy with training.”
He comes to stand next to me. “Chance says you’re doing well.”
“I try my best.”
Kenzo glances down at me. “Are you still pissed off because I pinned you to the floor?”
“No.” I shake my head and meet his eyes. “Chance told me to focus only on him.”
Kenzo nods. “He’s right.”
I’m about to leave when he reaches into his back pocket. He takes out the picture of my mother.
My lips part with a gasp.
How did I forget about it?
“Where did you get that?”
“In your jeans,” he answers. Turning to face me, he gives me a serious look. “One last lesson before you leave.”
“Chance is waiting for me.”
Kenzo steps into the chicken enclosure and picks up a chick. He holds the baby bird in one palm and the photo in the other.
“Life is all about the choices you make.”
I frown at him, lowering my arms from where they were resting on the fence.
“Choose between the picture of your mother and the chick's life.”
I blink at Kenzo, not sure I heard right. “What?”
“Choose. A photo or the bird.”
I let out a burst of incredulous laughter. “No.” Seeing the determined look in his eyes, I shake my head. “Seriously?”
He lifts an eyebrow at me.
I’m so tired of lessons. Walking closer, I stare down at Mom’s photo, imprinting her features in my mind.
I’ll see her soon.
I take the photo and tear it right down the middle, then throw the pieces at Kenzo’s chest. “Put the chick down.”
Without another word, I walk away from him, glad we’re leaving today.
“The chick will die anyway, kid.” He calls after me.
“Not by my choice,” I yell. “Besides, I’ll find my mother. I don’t need a photo to remind me what she looks like.”
“It’s only a matter of time before you have to kill someone,” Kenzo shouts.
I shake my head as I walk out of the ward and find Chance and Raze waiting at the side of the building.
I instantly notice the guns tucked behind Raze and Chance’s backs in the waistband of their jeans.
Why don’t I have one?
“Finally,” Raze says as I catch up with them.
Chance doesn’t say anything, and we start to walk in the direction he pointed out to me the other day.
We walk in silence for a while before I glance at Chance. “How do you become a leader?”
“You challenge a current leader,” he answers, then a grin tugs at his mouth. “Why? Are you interested in the position?”
“No, thank you,” I chuckle. “I was just wondering about it.”
Raze picks up her pace, saying, “I’m going to go check out the area.”
I watch as she jogs off, then I turn my attention back to Chance. “Who did you challenge?”
“Why?” I pry for more information.
He looks at me and is quiet for a moment before he says, “So I could protect Ethan.”
“Oh.” I take a deep breath, then try to joke, “Instead, you got me.”
“Instead, I got you,” he repeats. “When you came through that hole, I wanted to strangle Ethan for bringing you along.” He glances in the direction Raze ran. “But you did everything I said even though you were scared. You trusted me without me giving you any reason to.”
He looks back at me, and I can see the blue of his eyes clearly today.
“If I have to do it all again, I would. I’d challenge Warrick to protect you.”
Warmth spreads through my heart, and I smile at him.
“Time for a lesson.”
I let out a groan. “I was just starting to enjoy the walk.”
He chuckles, then says, “When we go to war, you can’t try to save every wounded person. If someone falls, you step over them and keep going.”
I feel the blow deep in my gut. “Why? That’s not what Idris taught me.”
“I don’t care what Idris taught you. Stopping to help the wounded might get you killed.” His eyes darken with sadness. “I had to leave Ethan to save you. I would’ve left you if you were injured and Ethan wasn’t.”
“It’s sad that we have to live this way,” I mutter.
“We live in a cruel world, little one.” Chance lets out a sigh. “There’s no place for friends. You’ll only set yourself up for more pain when they die.”
He reaches for my hand, his fingers linking with mine.
“Then why bother with me?” I ask. “Or Raze, for that matter?”
Instead of answering me, Chance just shakes his head and focuses his attention on the horizon.
We’ve been walking for hours. The sun is so hot, I’m sweating through my clothes.
I feel bad about how I left things between Kenzo and me. Even though things turned out the way they did, he was still nice to me. He tried to teach me in his own way.