"Rocket punches are more your style than mine,"
Teja answered, easily enough. Truthfully, any
sort of punches wasn't exactly her style. Until the last year or so, she'd always been more of a mid-range fighter. Stahlzahn had changed that... but not necessarily for the better.
Manaria's curiosity wasn't unexpected - in fact, her being anything other than curious would have been unexpected. Teja still wasn't entirely certain how to answer the questions, though. There was a lot tied up in them beyond the obvious, and perhaps not all of them appropriate for seventeen...
But, no. Manaria was young, but she was also a part of the Society. Keeping information from her wouldn't help her face what lay ahead - and softening the blows wouldn't make them any easier to bear. Teja shook her head slightly, lost in her thoughts for a moment.
"It was... bad."
That word did not nearly encompass the scope of things, did it? Volksgeist would have phrased it better. Teja just closed her eyes, and went on.
"Garrick and Hope and Dia were still in the hospital then, from when we'd fought Volksgeist at Krakatoa. Michael had died there. We were all... reeling. And then something happened up in Alaska, with the Foundation. They called it a Breach, and it was bad enough that they wanted reinforcements. Hector went up there. Arno. Frankie. She was... your age, you know. And we all worried about her. I wanted to go up there with them, more than anything. We were meant to fight together. Volksgeist knew that, though. He chose his timing well. He came here. It was... personal."
Of course it was personal. She'd done everything she could think of to try to stop him from resurrecting his wife, after all. And she'd taken Erujaorn
, the Eldest axe.
Teja knew what she should say, the lie: it's harder when it's personal.
It wasn't, though.
"It's easier when it's personal. Too easy. It doesn't cloud your judgment so much as... clarifies everything. Everything seems to make sense. And that's dangerous. That's when you become dangerous. That's how it was, with him. He hated me. I hated him. And both of us were determined to destroy the other. He took advantage of an opportunity with everyone else being gone... but that also meant he chose to fight me here, at my sanctum."
Words. Emphasis. She paused, making sure she was leaving enough space, that it wasn't just a lecture.
"So, I hit him with AMPERE and eventually he went away. I figured he'd gotten the point, and by then there was another crisis, at Duskburg, so I went to go deal with that."
Another pause, this one not deliberate.
"And he went to the hospital and took Garrick. There was nothing left but ash, and I... thought we had lost him."
Her eyes were shadowed; the pain still wasn't gone. Even after a year.
"God, it's been a year."
A year, and it still hurt. A year, and every time she looked at Garrick, she wondered if he was really there, if she hadn't lost him - wondered how much of him she had
lost. He wasn't the same.
She wasn't, either.
Slowly, she exhaled.
"It's not like school, Manaria. If there's a lesson, it's not something easily learned - or maybe there are many lessons, or none at all. Learning a hero isn't like studying. You can choose all the right answers, and still fail. Or you can choose the wrong ones and succeed. Sometimes, there aren't any right answers at all. Just... try to learn what you can do, and how to do it... and what it will cost you, when you do."
Her gaze shifted, over to the girl who would be mad at her.
"And... don't try to think that the best outcome can be achieved by paying the highest cost."