Before you read, be advised that the warning from chapter 5 still applies here.
Also, bring some time, it's 15k words in length :)
Chapter 6: Greenie's grief, Raver's mistake
The fact that none of the kids have interrupted this is testimony to how huge of an impact it must have had on them. Emi had taken a seat between Takari and me at some point and has been switching between hugging Takari and me from the side ever since. We (mostly me though) were telling them about the darkest part of our story and, perhaps, the biggest challenge life had ever thrown at us.
Zekir is wearing a rather blank expression, as if he is still trying to process the things he has just heard. Beakles, despite being the most mature of the bunch, is wearing an expression of disbelief and as for Raver…
...he is actually crying.
"To think my friend… Greenie might be… feeling the same things… horrible, just… horrible…"
That is all Raver can manage to say between his sobs and neither of the other kids seem to have any words left.
"Perhaps this was a little too dark for them?" I wonder, looking at Takari who seems to ponder about something too while patting a rather disturbed Emi on her small head.
"Well, Raver understood what we had to go through; I don't think there's another way to get these abysmal feelings across. I think you're right but I'm sure this is only because they are still pure and innocent while we've seen the horrors of this world."
I definitely have to agree with Takari.
"Indeed, I guess a harsh truth can sometimes be better than a false illusion but perhaps we need to make sure that the truth doesn't give them too many bad sleep stories?"
"Leave that to me, Nishir. Your turn for Emi to hug you."
Without another word, Takari gets up from her position to walk over to the three boys while little Emi snuggles up to me again as she has done a few times before during the story.
"Deciding without even asking me, that is so Takari, jeez…" I sigh half-jokingly as I devote myself to returning the gesture to my new little sister who already seems to have taken a liking to both of us despite the depressing tales that we continue to bring upon them. I'm not really trying to listen to the things Takari is talking about with the boys, instead looking over at the Bright Circle that's getting almost ready to disappear behind the endless body of water that is the Big Water.
To this day, I'm still not sure if Takari's idea of an afterlife is accurate or just a child's fantasy but, either way, it is a comforting thought, having a place, even if it's unreachable, where your loved ones are, watching over you day after day, watching you love and be loved, struggle and, most of all, enjoying life.
Emi eventually breaks my chain of thoughts by cuddling up to me even more. To my surprise, her face is no longer teary. The little swimmer is wearing a happy and content smile now.
"I've always wanted an older brother and an older sister, hehehe," she explains with a giggle when I give her a questioning glance.
"You like to cuddle with others, don't you?" I tease her a little.
"U-huh!" she nods while giggling even more. Honestly, she is quite a clingy and adorable little swimmer but, after going through so much, just having someone to give you a hug so unconditionally means so extremely much to me. Therefore, I am sure to return at least some of the favor to the little goofball as I return the gesture once more.
"I guess you would be devastated if you ever lost someone dear to you, huh?" I ask her in a casual voice, not sure what to expect as a reaction yet but, thankfully, the little girl isn't as sensitive to the thought as I anticipated.
"Of course I would; anyone would be sad if someone they love goes away," she answers matter-of-factly. "But you two are giving me hope because, even if it does ever happen, there will be a day I can smile again and be happy. You are still sad but you can smile again and to smile means to be happy. If you can do that, so can I!"
Emi's answer brings a broad smile to my face.
"Right on," I chuckle, giving her more headpats to which she responds by wagging her tail. Having little siblings isn't as bad as I thought. They're cute and look up to you. After being suppressed by Takari's winning streaks and constantly being ridiculed by my siblings for as long as I can remember, I'm rather used to feeling inferior to others. This is a rather pleasant development, I must say.
"Nishir, Emi, come over here. Greenie is back."
Oh right… I have completely forgotten about her but now it springs back into my focus. We are here because Raver wanted to show us Greenie who had also suffered a terrible loss and, as a result, had lost all connection to reality, only living in a trance-like daydream (just like the one Takari would occasionally suffer from back then). It is so deep that she wouldn't care about bodily needs anymore. We had seen this first-hand when we found her sleeping in her own excrement just a little while ago.
Thankfully, Takari had never been that deep in a trance. I don't know if I would have had the mental strength to deal with that back then. Anyway, if it hadn't been for some elders of the residing herd looking after her, she would have likely died already. The elder who is looking after her today has apparently just returned, carrying a bundle wrapped in a large leaf (I'm guessing to prevent a similar mess in the future) to the entrance of the tunnel in the mountain that the girl used to isolate herself. She isn't any older than my new siblings, around 7-8 cold times, I would guess. Maybe I should ask them at some point but now is not the time.
Emi follows me happily while humming a random tune (and being horribly out of tune at it) as I trot over to the rest. Whatever Takari had done, the gloomy mood had mostly been wiped from the three boys' faces, however Raver remains in a very anxious state. I can only guess that this anxiety is about Greenie or, rather, what is at display is the extend of his empathy for her, now that he can actually understand her.
"Looks like I was right not to complain about you taking the job without asking me about it first," I exclaim, our gazes meeting halfway as I try to tease her in some form despite knowing that Takari was as unteasable as a rock.
"Well, between you and me I think I know pretty well how to handle boys," Takari replies with a rather smug grin and I don't really feel like attempting a comeback when taking into consideration my odds of success. "Besides, Nishir, I had a feeling Emi would prefer you, given how she is used to having brothers but not to having sisters and, my! It looks like I was right!"
Emi and I exchange a confused glance before giggling at each other.
"I have no idea what you are talking about but, anyhow, shouldn't we go see Greenie now that she's been uhm… cleaned?"
"Yeah, please…" Raver mutters, his mental turmoil hard to overlook. Lead by the young boy, everyone is following, crossing the rocky plateau until the entrance of the tunnel is right on front of us. The elder has put the Greenie bundle to the ground, just so that she is leaning against a small rock that keeps her just about upright, allowing her eyes to focus on the spectacle on the sky that is about to unfold. After all, it's about time for the Bright Circle to call it a day - and probably for us as well.
"Ah, I was about to ask you young folk for a little favor," the elder speaks up when he sees our little group arrive at the location, approaching us.
"If possible, that is, I would love to have a little bite while you little ones have an eye on her. That'd work?" Curiously, the old swimmer musters us.
"Sure, we uhh wanted to get to know Greenie a little and try to help her if possible."
I don't know how I found the courage to speak to a complete stranger but, I guess, a lot of things are changing for me at the moment.
"I wish you the best of luck, children," he speaks with an appreciative smile, going on to give us a few more details we weren't particularly asking for. "I've made sure to wrap it all around her this time by the way so there shouldn't be any worry about another mess. Still, considering she had another one just as I was bathing her just now…"
I'm not listening to the old swimmer anymore, being suddenly reminded of the fact that Greenie, in the most literal sense, has been reduced to the state of a newborn hatchling. She is so helpless that, if left on her own, she would surely perish one way or another. It is giving me a very funny feeling, reducing my hope to reach the little girl significantly.
Takari has had long periods of complete mental absence during which she had been completely unresponsive but Greenie is taking this to the extreme. If I already couldn't reach Takari during those times, then how am I supposed to succeed reaching her? Or Raver for that matter, although he hasn't had the experience with Takari that I had, an experience I wish I'd never have to make to be frank.
On another note, as I vaguely overhear the elder regret having her drink too much water, I feel reminded of Takari befalling the same fate on that fateful day, feeling a little shameful about actually being amused by this in retrospect. Finally, he is changing the topic so I'm tuning in again.
"... Anyway, she seems a little less docile than usual. Maybe your chances aren't too bad today. Well, I'll be off to a meal then. Good luck!"
I sigh in relief as the elder leaves for his dinner and so does everyone else.
"What a shitty conversation…" I hear Beakles rant in a light attempt to brighten the mood but, looking around me, I don't think it has worked. Apparently, I am not the only one feeling a little sad at seeing Greenie in this toddler state of existence. Since the girl wouldn't know any of us, I gesture at Raver to start approaching her. Raver seems very upset and uneasy but he responds to my mute plea to try and talk to her. Slowly, he walks up to her until kneeling down in front of her.
"Gr-Greenie?" I can tell from Raver's reaction that she isn't showing any signs of life aside from heartbeat and breath. Quite frankly, Raver looks like he's about to start crying again. I know this is hard on him but none of us could make that first step. At the very least, he'd have to introduce us to her. Even though chances are slim that anything we'd say actually registers in her mind, it'd still be rude not to make introductions - or give Raver a chance to reconnect with his old friend after not seeing her for so long.
"Hey… you don't recognize me, do you? I-I'm your good friend Raver, remember?"
Seeing Raver at the brink of tears when Greenie fails to make any signs of being aware of her surroundings, I decide to help him a little. Quickly, I exchange a questioning glance with Takari who replies with a 'go ahead' gesture. Getting to my feet (we had all squatted down a little distance behind Greenie where she couldn't see us) I am slowly tiptoeing closer.
"Mind telling us a little about Greenie, Raver?" I prompt, immediately receiving a thumbs-up gesture from Takari who is quite apparently impressed by my tact or whatever really. "What kind of swimmer has she been before… well, this?"
Raver seems to be a little hesitant at first, glancing over at his siblings a few times before he makes up his mind at last.
"I still remember meeting her about a cold time ago," he begins, trying to look at Greenie, wrapped up almost entirely in the huge leaf, so much actually that she couldn't move around if she wanted to, not that she was making any signs of discomfort. It seems to bring him great pain, however, so, instead, he looks far away at the distant horizon where the Bright Circle is just about ready to sink beyond it.
"She was being harassed by some bullies which pissed me off. Five boys taking on a girl, can't go more spine-less than that, right? Anyway, so I ran in and gave them my opinion on it."
"Oh, is that how you got the bloody cut all over your forehead back then?" Beakles interrupts him, apparently amused at this.
"And what if it was?" Raver grunts in irritation though he is no longer feeling sad as far as I can tell. "You try fighting five guys at once, I'm sure your fine beak wouldn't be quite as fine after that!"
In all seriousness, he needs to teach me how to make good retorts one day…
"Either way…" Raver continues as if the interruption had never occurred. "She felt bad about me getting hurt because of her and actually tried to find me. Couple days later, we met for real and became friends soon after."
"What kind of girl was she prior to the incident?" Takari asks with a tactful expression.
"She was really shy and quiet, with a hang for drama too," Raver responds promptly and it seems that he's actually quite liking the storyteller role. "And above all, she's a real crybaby sometimes. I mean… I suppose that's how these bullies were always able to pick on her. Anyway, despite being a lot different from me, we got along very well and, uhm…"
"You started to like her?" Apparently, I'm not the only one who noticed that Beakles and Zekir were just eager for an opportunity to tease their brother. Takari beat them to it, thankfully.
"Oh, does that matter?!" Raver shouts but his blushing was hard not to notice. Is this how I always look when Takari… That is when I notice a certain swimmer giving me a very knowing glance.
"W-what?!" I blurt out in her direction, only to be approached by her, wearing a devious grin.
"Oh, nothing. I just felt… reminded of someone I know."
"And who might that be…" I grunt through gritted teeth, causing the girl to laugh at my expense.
"Anyway, Raver, I can tell that you like her," Takari continues as if nothing had happened. "After all, I know for a fact that a certain someone also takes a liking for me but he'll blush at the sliiiightest mention of it and would never admit it. You're blushing by the way, Nishir."
Urgh, I know Takari! Just leave me alone now, we need to focus on getting Greenie to wake up from her trance!
"N-not that it matters but… yes, I might like her a bit… now shut up, okay?!"
I almost feel sorry for Raver for being under siege by not one but three dinosaurs trying to tease him and the worst is yet to come.
"So, when can we expect the eggs to hatch?" Zekir wonders, Beakles giggling in a silly way as that brutal taunt is launched. Well, I guess he's not quite as mature as I thought on second thought…Feeling sorry for Raver who is turning red with anger this time around, I decide to offer a few words of support.
"Hey Raver, perhaps we should just move out? These teasing monsters are too much for me to handle, I swear…"
That was probably the first time I ever landed a joke that genuinely worked on Takari as she, along with everyone else, starts laughing hysterically. Geez, not even a day in and we're already bantering like siblings with each other. It makes me hopeful that the coming time in the new family, while probably filled with obnoxious teasing on several frontlines, won't be a bad time at all.
As to demonstrate my new-found allegiance with Raver, I walk up to him and pose next to him in a protective/aggressive manner which prompts even more laughter. At this point, I do not even mind that it is probably on my expense as always. I am just about to join the laughter myself, since it feels so refreshing to be silly after all the harsh times…
… when I notice Raver's expression freeze, him being fixated on Greenie all of a sudden. Curious, I glance over to the little swimmer. For a moment, it seems as if she has moved in her little cocoon of leaves. After doubletaking, I am certain of it. As if in slow-motion, her arms move to her ears until they are covering them as if to shelter herself from the laughter that is still ongoing. Quickly, I raise my hand to signal to the others to calm down.
"Greenie?" Raver's faint voice addresses the little swimmer. I haven't heard him using such a soft voice yet which is testimony to the relationship these two must have shared before Greenie lost her mother. The boy moves back into Greenie's field of vision, kneeling down in front of her. Everyone is suddenly very quiet and, although I can tell that Zekir and Beakles aren't particularly interested in this, they still possess the decency not to disturb right now.
"Greenie, can you hear me?! It's me, Raver, remember?!" Raver is removing Greenie's hands from her ears so the girl would be able to hear, not letting go of them afterwards. I'm getting a little closer to the scene myself and so does Takari though both of us remain out of sight and quiet as a very heartfelt conversation develops.
"R-Raver?" I have no clue how we managed to wake Greenie from her eternal trance but, putting that aside, her voice has a very quiet and meek quality to it which works very well with the description of her character Raver has given us just a moment ago.
"Greenie!" I'm hearing some muffled gasps behind me as Raver, probably without considering his siblings' presence, pulls Greenie close to him to embrace her leaf cocoon while tears erupt from his eyes. "You're back, I'm so glad!"
Already, I'm kind of expecting a happy end, however I may have spoken too soon.
"What do you mean? I've been here this entire time; it's not like I particularly want to be here though."
I exchange an alarmed glance with Takari. The girl's voice, while still retaining the quiet and sweet tone it naturally seems to have, is completely monotone and devoid of emotion. I have never heard Takari speak in such a fashion but, certainly, I know of the mental state she is in right now. She's just like Takari back then, I can tell from a glance and I don't like it at all!
"If you'd really cared about me, you'd have visited me."
I feel really bad for Raver at the moment. All the girl has left for him is indifference and I can't tell if Raver will be able to see through her.
"Why, I did visit you but…" Raver retorts weakly, however he looks defeated as he finishes the reply. "You never said a thing when I talked to you. At some point, I had given up, thinking there's no point in visiting if you never reply!"
"Then why are you here now?" The sheer amount of indifference in the little swimmer's voice is crushing me a little. What terrors must she have gone through to have arrived at such a state of mind. Not even Takari had gone so far; even during her darkest hours she was still full of emotions, overwhelmed by them, in fact. But Greenie… it almost seems to me like she has no emotion left in her.
"I only bothered to pay attention because your stupid laughter pissed me off. Like there's anything to laugh about…"
So that's how we got her to become aware of her surroundings?
"I came here today because…" Raver is shouting at first but then, I'm guessing, he realizes that he doesn't want to be yelling at his friend, toning down to some degree. "It's a bit of a long story but… I think I finally understand."
"If you understood anything at all, you wouldn't be here. Just leave me alone."
You have no idea how glad I am for Takari to have never been this unreasonable. Raver seems to be on the brink of collapse after repeatedly being shrugged off by his friend so I deduce it is dire time for me to enter the conversation.
"Raver, would it be okay if I took over?" I ask him kindly, offering an apologetic look.
"I'll help too," Takari offers, stepping up. I exchange a glance with her.
"Considering her mental condition, let's not mention anything to her about your darker hours," I whisper in her direction and she nods approvingly.
"Yeah, it seems she hasn't considered doing anything like that yet; we'd better not introduce her to the thought though …" Takari replies darkly. Together, we approach Greenie. As I'm passing a desolate Raver, at the brink of tearing up, I'm giving him a quick pat on the head as if to say 'it'll be alright' though that is something I couldn't promise him even if I wanted to. How did you reason with someone who had abandoned her own body and emotions and didn't even know you on top of that? Was such a thing even possible to begin with? Well, that aside, I owe Raver a serious attempt at least. A little uncertain, I enter Greenie's field of vision, sitting down in front of her as Takari positions herself to my right.
"Who are you and what do you want? Don't you see that I don't care anymore?"
"Hello Greenie, I'm Nishir and this is Takari," I quickly introduce her, Takari attempting to smile at the girl which obviously didn't earn her any sympathy. "We'd like to have a little chat because I think we might be able to understand your feelings." I gesture over to Takari, prompting her to explain.
"Greenie, we heard about your mother from Raver. Truth is, we just arrived here after losing our entire families to fastbiters and we went through so many hardships. We're orphans, just like you, see? When we heard about your story…"
"... We thought we should help you… cope," I finish the thought Takari has explained excellently. "What do you think about it?"
"Don't bother," Greenie says, seemingly paying hardly any attention to the two of us. "Do I look like I'm about to start crying any moment? I don't need your help. I don't need anything because I already found what I'm looking for."
What is she talking about?
"Would you mind telling me what it is that you're referring to, Greenie?" Takari requests formally before I get a chance to voice my own confusion. "Look, there was a time after I lost everything when I thought I knew what I wanted to do to escape the pain of losing my loved ones, only to realize that I was wrong. I thought I had found what I was looking for but, in truth, I just wanted to escape."
Vague enough not to mention it directly but still getting a point across, brilliant Takari!
"I don't care about you, don't bother me with your stupid stories and leave me alone."
My, this will be more difficult than I thought…
"When you say you have found what you're looking for, is it some sort of place that you visit whenever you're unresponsive?" I prompt her and, it seems, she is taking the bait.
"Yes I do. I'm spending my time in the place where she has gone to."
So she is stuck in some sort of deep daydream; I wonder if it was similar for Takari…
"It's inconvenient though; as long as my body is still here, I can only exist as a spirit there. I want to feel her warm embrace again. If only these stupid elders just quit feeding me and just leave me alone but I have no control over this body while I'm there…"
I feel myself swallow hard as the girl finishes her explanation. She is obviously in the same place as Takari on that day but… it seems she is still too innocent to realize that there are much easier ways to achieve what she is attempting by simply abandoning herself to the point of starving. We have to make sure that she never learns about these while she has this mindset…
"So… in other words…" I stammer, trying not to word it wrong. "You're visiting the world of the dead all this time, correct?"
"Yep and I'd like to return there now," she tells me rather bluntly.
Hey, don't make me look like a villain...
"And you don't notice a thing around you while you're there, right?"
"I do notice but I just don't care what happens to me here. Traveling there as well as returning here is extremely arduous so I've gotten used to various things like feeling hungry and thirsty, having an itch or having the smell of my own excrement in my nose. I'm just waiting for the day I can fully go there to be reunited with her."
Takari's face has taken a different colour as she is staring at the little swimmer in complete shock. I can only imagine the things going through her mind right now but, either way, it looks like I'll have to talk to her without Takari supporting me for a while.
"Has there uhm… been a time when you couldn't visit that place anymore?" I puzzle. It is such an awkward conversation to begin with but I have to keep her talking for now while we have the chance to learn what is going on in her mind and while she is content with taking part in the conversation - or at the very least not strictly opposed to it.
"It took a while to reach it," she explains cryptically.
"Were you crying a lot at first?"
I think at this point, she finally begins to see through my attempts to keep her talking.
"How much longer do I have to endure this? Mother must be getting worried because I am gone for so long…"
Suddenly, Takari gets to her feet, covering her face with her arms and leaving without a word. Perplexed, my eyes follow her as she hurries away, probably to cry somewhere. She is still much more vulnerable to episodes of sorrow than I am and I can only imagine how Greenie's talk might have triggered bad memories to surface. I can see the other three siblings follow her but Raver who remains nearby, although looking no less pale than Takari did a moment ago.
"What was that about?" Greenie grunts in irritation.
"Losing someone never ceases to hurt; seeing you the way you are probably reminded her of something sad," I explain with a bit of a sigh.
"I can tell you weren't lying about it but why are you happy? Shouldn't you be forever sad after losing everyone?"
It seems Greenie is actually willing to talk a little more. Maybe I can actually manage to get her to understand something very important that Takari and I only learned the hard way.
"It's true that we never cease to miss the loved ones we lose but please listen for a little bit, Greenie, if you are curious how I can smile again today."
"I'd rather return to the other world."
Ah, I guess she would. She's so brutally honest, just like Takari had been back then…
"Still, aren't you going to give it a try?" I insist with a curious glance at her. "You could have just gone back all this time but you stayed here and answered our questions patiently."
"That's not how it works…" she corrects me and for the first time I feel like there is a hint of a sad emotion detectable in her voice. "I need to be able to concentrate until my mind can be freed from my body but it won't work with all this commotion here…"
"S-sorry about that," I apologize to her but, obviously, since she doesn't really have any emotions left, she also wouldn't hold it against me, right?
"Fine, I'll listen. Just don't expect me to care about it."
"Thank you," I tell her and I really couldn't be asking for any more right now. Preparing myself, I begin telling her a heavily shortened version of our story.
"I used to live in a small secluded valley together with Takari and my family in a small herd. Like this island, it was shut off from the surrounding world by large mountains and the Big Water so it was about as safe a place as you could imagine. However, we weren't aware of a secret passage. As Takari mentioned back when we introduced ourselves, Fastbiters used it to sneak in and we had to witness with our very eyes how our loved ones were hunted down and brutally slaughtered. Did you see your mother uhm… you know?"
"Does it matter?" Greenie questions with indifference and I'm beginning to get accustomed to it as part of her character, not that I'm approving of it.
"Uh, well… yes," I reply nervously. "You see, seeing it happen in front of our very eyes added a lot to the pain, especially for Takari… we're still seeing it happen in our sleep stories a lot…"
Greenie is quiet for a bit, for the first time actually pondering about a response rather than saying whatever is on her mind spontaneously. Patiently, I wait until she makes the decision.
"I did see it…" she eventually answers and the way her voice has suddenly become a lot quieter suggests that some emotions still linger somewhere deep down in her heart. Perhaps, she hasn't discarded all of them yet? If I could tickle them out of her, maybe it would be possible to redeem her and make her care about herself again?
"If it's not too much to ask… could you tell me how it happened?"
"Are you a bully?" she immediately deadpans at my question. "Are you planning to make a poor little girl cry?"
Is she trying to make me feel like a bad guy now?
"I've cried my fair share for an entire life, I need no more of it."
"So have I," I immediately reply to her statement. "Same goes for Takari and she still cries a lot sometimes. But she's also laughing and making fun of me again, just like she used to before all of this happened to us. Either way, I take it you aren't going to tell me?"
"No," she states rather resolutely but something is still on her mind. "I want to forget what my eyes saw on that day so don't remind me of it again. It hurts."
"Yes it does indeed…" I sigh profoundly. "The pictures of my half-eaten siblings as they lay grotesquely in the grass will never leave me…" A short wave of sadness passes but I have dealt with this one too many times to break into tears on the spot, composing myself within a few seconds.
"Well, I suppose I should go on. Takari and I were forced to hide in a dark cavern day and night since our home was swarming with fastbiters. We were crying all the time and extremely depressed. Sometimes, Takari wouldn't reply to me just like you do most of the time; I was really worried about her. I don't know what I would have done if she had died too. I could only bear it… because she was there."
I attempt to underline this statement by raising my voice and speaking very slowly, making a dramatic pause to let it sink in. I can't tell if Greenie picked up my intention though, certainly she has no comment on her beak.
"Eventually, I went exploring and found the secret passage to the outside. After a long and perilous journey, I arrived here, knowing I had distant relatives on this island. My relatives were no longer alive but their descendants took me in without much of a question and Takari as well. You see, despite losing my entire family, I am glad that I didn't give up when all I could think of was despair and hopelessness. Now, I have a family again, I've already started taking a liking to Raver and his siblings as well as this island. Things are improving and I can smile again because I persevered and didn't give up, protected Takari and had the courage to venture outside and try to find this island. If Takari and I were able to do it, I was wondering…"
Greenie looks at me with an expression impossible to read since there isn't much expression in her face to begin with but, subtly, I think she is considering what I had just told her.
"Are you trying to tell me I should leave the place I found where my mother is? Are you trying to tell me I should live in the real world again?"
A bit more than subtly, I begin to feel actual anger radiate off the little girl. With slight worry, I proceed with caution.
"Well, I'm just saying, it's too early to give up on life, I think. You never know uhm… what life has in store for you. You might never know if one day… something terrific would have happened in your life. I wouldn't have thought I could be this happy again like… ever. But now I am."
...but, apparently, I haven't been cautious enough.
"So what if I don't want to wait for some random happiness to happen to me? What do you want to hear? Me saying 'oh I'm happy for you, maybe it'll happen to me too one day'?"
Now she is acting really snappy and even though she couldn't harm me even if she wanted to, I still take a few steps back.
"You are fine with being adopted and betraying your old family? Fine! I don't want any of that; I'll be wherever my mother is because she is all family that I have! And if that's somewhere else than here, well why am I wasting my time with you?"
Raver described her as rather shy and quiet, didn't he? I'm finding a hard time believing him right now and, a quick glance in his direction confirms that he is just as surprised and irritated by her sudden outburst.
"Why would I want to be anywhere where nobody even cares about me? It's pointless!"
Greenie is at the brink of tears now as emotions she had long since suppressed begin to resurface. I realize that I should intervene.
"Some dinosaurs do care about you," I state matter-of-factly. "For starters, would I be bothering to talk to you if I didn't care? Would Raver's siblings come along if they didn't care about you? Would that elder bother to wash your poop-stained, horribly smelly body with his own two hands if he didn't care about you?
"I don't care about them and I don't care about you either and, besides, you only do because Raver is now your brother or whatever!"
"You're only half-right," I correct her with a small smile though she just continues to give me an irritated and slightly angry stare. "I wouldn't be here if Raver hadn't told me about you and your condition, however I'm not doing it because Raver asked me to specifically. Rather… I'm doing it because I know of the darkness that has taken hold of your heart, Greenie. It seems inescapable at first but where there's darkness there's always a light, just like the Bright Circle returns day after day to share its light with us, chasing the darkness of the night away with its bright rays."
She continues to stare angrily in my direction. Apologetically, I carry on.
"It's… kind of like that. For me, that light was Takari's company. It was just a small one but it burned just bright enough for me to carry on. And now there are many new lights to make my life bright again."
"Well sorry for not having anyone to be my light or whatever!"
She practically yells at me now but I know better than to feel hurt about it.
"My only light has always been my mother and ever since that day there hasn't been a single light in my life anymore! You must be sadistic for wanting to keep me here where everything is pitch-black!"
"Raver was a good friend of yours, wasn't he?" I carry on as if I hadn't heard her rant. Tears are now flowing down her cheeks and her voice is close to breaking but now is really not the time to be tactful. If I don't make my point awfully clear now, I'll probably just end up making things worse for her and that is truly not my intention.
"He may not have shown it but he truly does care about you, so much, in fact, that, after learning about the darkness that has engulfed your heart and finally being able to understand your feelings, he started crying for you - and he's by far not the type to cry as far as I can tell!"
I vaguely feel Raver's stare in my neck, reprimanding me for saying such embarrassing things about him.
"You know, I think he could be your light, just like Takari had been mine. If only… you gave him a chance."
"Maybe he's my friend but what is a mere friend compared to a loving mother?! It just doesn't compare!"
Greenie is covering her eyes now as large tears come oozing out of them, as if they had been stored there for an eternity only to break free now. I can't help but agree with her statement to a certain degree. Takari is very important to me but, a friend, even a good one like Takari simply doesn't fit on the scale when comparing it to the amount of love and appreciation one has for family. With a slightly different mindset though, maybe Greenie could still give Raver a chance to be a serious help?
Speaking of Raver, he has gotten to his feet with a rather pissed off expression as soon as he has heard Greenie utter "mere friend" so I'm extra anxious about that now as well.
"If you have nothing, a mere friend can still become someone who can save you, Greenie. He can be someone to make life without your loved ones just about bearable and be there when you need to cry. He can also become your loved one one day when you're older, you know?"
Unfortunately, for everyone involved, Greenie decides just in this crucial moment to act unreasonable.
"Oh leave me alone with this crap! All I ever need is m-my m-mother a-and I know w-w-where she is!"
Now she is crying loudly into the palms of her small hands. Raver is approaching us now.
"I d-d-don't n-need you, g-go away!"
"God you piss me off!"
Raver has arrived and, judging from his furious expression and his harsh words, nothing good is about to happen. I try to gesture over to him to let her be but he angrily shoves me aside despite being a lot smaller, grabbing Greenie's hands so that her eyes would be looking at him before starting to bark at her.
"Fine, if you don't need me then sorry for ever crying for you, sorry for visiting day after day even though you wouldn't talk to me, sorry for taking a beating on your behalf from those bullies, sorry for ever caring about you! Idiot!"
"Raver!" I exhale sharply but the boy is furious, ignoring my warning in its entirety.
"It's your goddamn wish is to be with your mother, right? Well, she's DEAD but you're still HERE. You're stupid if you think they'll let you starve yourself 'till you die; that's how much even some stupid elders care about your sorry ass, Greenie!"
"Raver stop, you're going too far! She's your friend!" I cry at the furious boy but Raver wouldn't even take his eyes off Greenie who, if anything, was crying even harder now that she was under fire from Raver. If that idiot goes any further, he might ruin everything!
"Don't complain about us making you suffer because you're just making yourself suffer by refusing to listen and refusing to be sincere about your goddamn desires! If you don't want my help, fine, if you don't want anyone's help, fine! Just stop being a burden to everyone and use your brain for once to join your stupid mother instead of wasting your time and ours as well! Maybe I should have just let those bullies beat you to a pulp after all! I-idiot!"
Crying, Raver suddenly starts running away from the scene. I am too shocked by his outburst and it happened so fast that I didn't pick up the message behind Raver's words until repeating them another two times in my mind.
Wait a second, did he just… oh Raver you're such a… urgh!
Stirred by the commotion, the elder has returned to the scene now, mustering me with a curious gaze. Takari and Raver's siblings are also approaching us from the distance.
"We managed to talk to her somehow but Raver just had a big disagreement with her over something, they're still young and stupid kids, ehehehe," I laugh nervously at the elder but, deep inside, I am actually furious. I had been awfully careful not to mention anything like it but that blockhead just casually encouraged her to do just what we are trying so sincerely to prevent! I would need to have a serious word with him whenever I got hold of him but, for now, we have to limit the damage. Greenie is weeping, all these repressed emotions flowing out of her now. It is a pitiful sight, one I wish I didn't have to see.
"Well, what did you learn?" the elder asks, Takari (apparently she has calmed down but still looks a little shaken) and the others joining just in time to hear my condensed report. The elder takes the information, especially everything the girl had said about his care, with a grain of salt and thanks me for sharing the information as well as watching over the girl during his absence.
Before we leave, I quickly consider going back to Greenie to apologize about Raver but decide against it eventually. This is something you will have to iron out yourself, Raver… and it will be your responsibility if something bad happens because of this…
"That went well, huh?" Takari nudges me as we make our way back down from the plateau, realizing it's a lot more tricky to climb down without losing footing and sliding down the steep path. "You deliberately didn't mention to the elder what exactly Raver said to her, right? I was still… crying a little bit when that happened so I wasn't particularly listening…"
"I'll answer in a second, Takari," I promise her but there is also something that makes me curious just now. "Why did you cry? She reminded you of something bad?"
Takari doesn't reply immediately and I can tell that she still isn't quite over it and that I would probably see her cry more when we'd lie down to sleep. Only after some time, she answers in a quiet voice.
"I feel so sorry for her, you know? It's like… she forgot how to be sad, only existing, forgetting how to feel… It broke me a little to see her like that. And I thought I was pathetic…"
"Well, thanks to Raver and also thanks to me, I suppose, she, at least, is showing her feelings right now. Whether or not that is a good thing, we'll see…" Greenie's wailing could still be heard even as we'd almost made it back down from the mountain.
"As for Raver…" I quickly double check if it's safe to mention it since I don't exactly want any of our new siblings to be listening in. Luckily, they are engaged in a conversation a little further ahead so I continue with a huge sigh. "Basically, he got triggered by something mean Greenie had said while trying to defend her reasons for not wanting to uhh… you know… Basically, he confronted her with a lot of stuff and bad words but that's not nearly the worst…"
"What else did he say?" Takari inquires quietly.
"Encouraged her to join her mother," I reply darkly. Takari's expression changes as suddenly as a flash of lightning.
"What?!" she hisses just about quiet enough not to draw attention.
"He didn't say it directly but he worded it clear enough for Greenie to understand, I think," I explain. "I think he started to feel betrayed when Greenie said she didn't need him - nor anyone for that matter. I've been explaining to her how I am able to smile today but she accepted very little of it, I'm afraid. This will be tough…"
"Where is Raver right now?" Takari demands in a passive-aggressive tone and I can understand its source all too well.
"Ran away," I shrug at her. "By the time I had realized the meaning behind his words, he had already disappeared into the jungle over where that river was flowing. But he's got to get home by the time it gets dark which is anytime soon. I'll talk to him; you have enough to worry about as it is."
"Good grief, hardly a day here and there's already drama happening. Maybe we shouldn't have meddled?"
"Yes maybe but… can it get any worse for Greenie? She's all alone and lost her will to live, just losing herself in illusions and daydreams and the like. What she needs is someone that's important to her here in the real world, someone she can talk to whenever she's sad, someone to offer their shoulder for her to cry on. That kinda stuff."
"Someone like you, then?"
If this is an attempt of Takari to tease me, then it's awful.
"If she doesn't even accept Raver who is arguably her best friend - to our knowledge, then why would she accept me? Don't be silly!"
"I was just thinking, you're not half bad at being such a 'someone'..."
Takari suddenly walks a lot closer to me so I start feeling a little uncomfortable.
"E-either way!" I exclaim brusquely to wrap up the awkward conversation that was evolving and bring it back on topic. "If we want to help Greenie, she needs to accept help, accept Raver… accept us…"
"As long as she's like this, we hardly have a chance, huh? She'll just shrug us off again if we try again, right?"
"That's… what I'm afraid of," I tell her in all honesty.
As we enter the tight jungle again, my thoughts linger on Greenie's daydreams for a while.
Now that I think about it, they almost seem too crazy to be believable. Could someone really give up on themselves to such a degree that they'd be able to visit the realm of the dead? Hasn't she made all of this up, rather? It's too absurd to believe! It's probably just her making all of this up, isn't it?
At a loss, I decide to ask Takari.
"Say, you've had these trances too, right? Greenie explained hers but I can't quite seem to believe everything…"
"I know, I didn't really think she was being completely honest with us either but she said it too naturally to be entirely made up."
"Yeah…" I reply with a sigh. As we walk a little deeper into the jungle, still following our siblings further ahead, another thoughts enters my mind.
"What were your trances like, Takari? Did you also…"
"Actually, "the girls speaks up with a far-away glance. "I don't remember anything from these episodes. Like, nothing whatsoever. Maybe I had simply shut down due to the shock?"
"Who knows…" I sigh contently. "At least, you didn't get stuck in it for too long… I couldn't have dealt with you if you'd been acting like Greenie all this time…"
"Right, it's horrible, isn't it?" the girl agrees. "I hope we can help her some day."
"Yeah…" But first Raver needs to come back to his senses!
With mixed feelings, we eventually find our way back to our new home. As if by some gut feeling, I have a bad hunch which unfortunately confirms itself as we arrive at last while dusk spreads over the little island.
Raver isn't here!
We're all having dinner quietly, wondering where Raver might have gone to but, even as the Night Circle begins to peek through the trees, he still hasn't returned. Zekir, Beakles and Emi have gone to their respective scrapes in the ground where they are all sleeping by themselves in no time. Emi makes sure to give us a good-night hug before doing so. Of course neither Takari nor me have any spot to sleep at yet so we are improvising for now, choosing a particularly soft spot in the grass that is growing right next to the river bordering the territory of our new family. Back then, my family would always sleep in a huge pile huddled together so this sight of everyone sleeping by themselves with their parents (who aren't home yet) is a tad unusual for me.
Much to my surprise, Takari doesn't cry again. She is snoring contently next to me, just about far enough not to feel any awkwardness. Now that we are more emotionally stable, it seems we're more and more falling back into old habits. Takari and I have had many moments spent huddled together for mutual support and we'd even fell asleep like that a few times. Just thinking about it now, it's making my face feel very warm from embarrassment. For a little while, I watch her sleep completely at peace, her breath going in a calm, steady rhythm, her body gently rising and sinking. I can't help but think that she looks very adorable while she sleeps though that thought swiftly brings another wave of embarrassment and I quickly steer my thoughts elsewhere.
Supported by the gentle sound of water flowing over a rocky riverbed right next to me, I'm feeling unusually tranquil despite the unrest inside of me. My first day as part of this family has been a lot of fun but it has also left me which many things to ponder about, preventing me from finding rest. For one thing, there's the issue of Raver who still hasn't returned home but there's also my new foster parents to shed a thought about. Their scrape is also still cold and empty despite the daylight having vanished entirely (how did the kids go to sleep without even trying to exploit this? My siblings would have tried anything, me included!).
I have only met them briefly during the adoption ceremony earlier today. They're distant relatives of my parents though I had never quite understood just how we were even related in the first place. Nevertheless, they have taken us in without a second thought and, now that I question this a little more thoroughly, I can understand their readiness to do so. My foster father has just become a herd deputy, thus being busy with his herd duties for much of the day while my foster mother has the role of being the "egg advisor" or whatever that role would be called in our new herd. Considering the fact that it is breeding season, she also must have her hands full with no one to watch the kids. Kind of convenient to have two new older siblings to have an eye on them, huh? Not that I'm complaining at all.
Expanding the thought a little bit, it is a task, while being unofficial yet, that I'm quite ready to do and, I think, I might also be decent at it. Despite being on the upper end of childhood physically, I am mentally a grown-up now, with my innocence and carefreeness gone and my thinking a lot more mature than before the incident. Already, I am beginning to adapt to the role of being a big brother which also includes being the one to lecture them if someone (a certain little swimmer suddenly flashes in front of my inner eye) were to act naughty or do something wrong. I think I might be a rather decent fit for the job and Takari seems to enjoy her role as the big sister too.
It doesn't change the fact that I do dread the eventual conversation that, as a new big brother, I will have to have with Raver at some point. Preferably soon.
Around an hour after the Night Circle made its appearance on the sky, my foster parents finally arrive at the nest, looking tired and exhausted from a long day. Both are very kind swimmers from what I can tell and I immediately get to my feet as soon as I see their silhouettes against the clear night sky. The fact that Raver's nest is still empty doesn't remain lost on them and they patiently listen as I give them a brief summary of what had transpired and why it had happened.
As it seems, they are also very understanding and assure me while thanking for the report that it wouldn't be the first time for Raver to sleep away from the nest without further notice. Since there are no predators on the island (and you've got to believe me, Takari and I asked at least a dozen times if it was really safe here), they aren't particularly worried but still ask me to remind him of it if that it would have consequences next time. I wish them a good night before returning to Takari who was still snoozing peacefully.
"Maybe I should just try to sleep?" I quietly talk to myself, lying down in an attempt to calm down but sleep just wouldn't come. The matter with Greenie just wouldn't leave me at peace and I can't help but worry about her taking the hint Raver had hurled at her so brutally.
He probably said all these things because he loves her, because he cares about her so much that he is tired of seeing her suffer too. Didn't I kind of feel like that too when I started yelling at Takari back then?
My thoughts are interrupted when the sound of twigs and leaves rustling under someone's feet reaches my ears. At first am I anxious, however I quickly realize that I have nothing to fear as the one responsible for it reveals themself soon.
"Nishir, a-are you awake?"
Raver is heading straight for me and, for a moment, I seriously ponder to pretend that I am asleep indeed, however Raver is the reason I cannot sleep and the fact that he is looking for me now probably is a good sign that he might be reasoned with now.
"I happen to be," I answer him eventually, using a very reserved tone as anything else would be horribly inappropriate, given that it is in the middle of the night. "What do you want?"
I turn around, my body no longer facing towards Takari as I face a very nervous and sheepish version of Raver, fidgeting around with his crest as he tries to approach me with the right words.
"Uhh… well… you see…I…"
"Let's take a walk," I suggest as I realize that Raver was feeling awfully nervous, dropping the reserved tone to be less intimidating in his eyes. Raver doesn't object so I take him on a walk on the only path through the forest that I already know - towards the mountain. After walking a few minutes in utter silence, passing a few sleeping families here and there, Raver finally finds his tongue.
"Are you mad at me?"
I halt in my tracks as the boy addresses me rather shyly. I could vaguely recall feeling similar whenever I had to apologize for mischief I had caused in the past. As such, I know the extreme nervousness that Raver must probably be feeling right now. Despite indeed being a little mad it him, decide to be less confronting about the matter for now.
"I see you've realized what you've done, Raver, haven't you?" Raver gives a shy nod as I confront him about his misbehavior as objectively as possible. "Whether or not I'm mad at you isn't important now, it's Greenie you need to worry about, not me. I'm old enough not to take an outburst like that personal but you were awfully quick to take her words literal…"
"I'm sorry, Nishir," he admits in a downcast voice, a single tear escaping his eyes as he tries to explain. "The words just came to me before I could stop myself. Even though I can understand Greenie's sorrow now, I just couldn't understand why she wouldn't even want my company and I still can't! What should I do now, Nishir?" He is looking at me with an almost begging expression. "Truth is, I don't want to lose her as a friend but, considering that she doesn't even want to live… it's maddening…"
"At least we're on the same page then," I mention as my hand reaches out to give him a light pat on the head. "I accept your apology and I'm glad that you came here to talk. I also agree that Greenie's current behavior is… hard to accept."
"Could you tell me what I should do now? I… just don't know what to do…" he admits in a sad voice, sitting down on the floor and pulling his legs close to him. "I hurt her feelings even though I just wanted her to get better, I even suggested… that in the heat of the moment. What kind of friend am I even?!"
"You said that not because you wanted her to die but because you couldn't bear her slowly decaying like that, am I right?" I prompt him carefully and he nods immediately. "At least you didn't say it with any ill intent then."
"She's my only friend; I would never want anything to happen to her." There is an awkward pause before he adds. "Please don't tell anyone but, actually… I really like her like… like you and Takari like each other."
"Huh?" I even forget to keep up my serious face for a moment. "We're just friends - well, maybe we are somewhat close due to our shared hardships and being friends since we can remember but we're not… like that…" Or were we?
"I won't tell anyone either," Raver states, seemingly embarrassed about admitting that he had a crush on Greenie. "I can tell that she really likes you. Mum acts just the same around Dad. And you care about her so much, you must like her…"
Irritated, I give him an embarrassed look before reluctantly admitting.
"Well, I might like her a little bit… she's cute and… and funny. But I'd rather die than tell her that!"
"She seems to be quite a master at teasing though, I can't believe you can handle her, Nishir. Beakles may be a bloody know-it-all and Zekir just an obnoxious little brat but I can hardly stand my ground against them!"
Oh, he hasn't witnessed Takari at full teasing power yet… but wasn't I trying to lecture him? I quickly clear my throat to indicate that this little excurse was now over. Thankfully, he catches the hint.
"A-Anyway, about Greenie…" the awkward, sad expression returned to his face. "What should I do now? I know I need to seek a chat with her and apologize but… Nishir, I'm afraid!"
I know too well just what he might be afraid of, considering that it has kept me from closing an eye tonight. Still, I think it is important that he puts what he is feeling into words in order to fully realize what he has done.
"Afraid of what exactly?" I prompt him.
"Well, she might have… listened to me."
Suddenly, a faint cry escapes his throat as the true implications hit him like a solid wall.
"What if she l-listened a-and… uurgh why did say such a horrible thing!? Furious at himself and full of panic, his little hands are clenching into tight fists, clobbering the side of his head repeatedly. "It'll be my fault if something happens to her!"
Kindly, I have to remind him that it is in the middle of the night but, regardless, I also proceed to kneel down in front of him to give him a loose embrace.
"I'm glad that you're aware of it, Raver." I tell him quietly, trying to de-escalate his anger at himself and trying to keep his crying down to a level that wouldn't wake the surrounding families from their slumber. "Unfortunately, as much as we want to, some things we just can't take back once they have been said. If Greenie took these things to heart and managed to think of some way to carry it out, then there is nothing we can do anymore. I just hope that she's still innocent enough not to come up anything. If your regret is sincere, how about visiting her again?"
"Why not?" I wonder with a shrug. "Or would you be able to sleep tonight without checking? I kind of feel like she might be easier to talk to after having had a good cry, or maybe still having it, and rediscovering that there are still some emotions left that she can't lock away behind her daydreams. Maybe she has used this time she spent crying to think about the things that I told her too? She may have rejected the thought earlier but I don't want to give up on her just yet."
"M-me neither!" Raver exclaims, sobering up at the thought and quickly rubbing the sadness out of his eyes. "Come on, we've got to hurry, Nishir!"
"I'll be right behind you."
Climbing the mountain proves to be even more tricky at night but, somehow, Raver and I manage to clear the challenge without sustaining more than a few scratches from slipping. Finally at the top and a little out of breath since we hurried a lot more than necessary (Raver would constantly remind me to walk faster anyhow), I take an overview of the area with the intent to find Greenie. In the dark, a small swimmer like her would be easy to overlook even with the Night Circle and the sky puffies (through their lack of attendance) assisting me in the task.
My heart is beating a little faster now in spite of my physical exertion going down after resting at last, worries about Greenie's wellbeing swimming around madly in my head. I can almost feel a boulder fall from my shoulders when I see something small leaning against the small rock where Greenie had been talking to us earlier.
"She's still there, look," I tell Raver who has become more and more anxious the closer we have gotten to the plateau, pointing in the general direction to aid his vision.
"Oh thank goodness!" he rejoices and I'm assuming rather than just a boulder an entire mountain is just falling from his own shoulders upon hearing the happy news.
"It's too early to rejoice just yet though, we don't know what kind of condition she'll be in when we meet her up close. Let's review the situation and come up with a strategy, okay?" Naturally, the boy has no reason to object to the suggestion so he hunches down next to me. "First of all, there are three possible scenarios."
I have had enough time to come up with some sort of strategy as we made our arduous journey and I am now revealing my thoughts to Raver who is listening eagerly.
"First, she might be crying; second, she might be sleeping; third, she might be back in her trance and likely won't respond. We can try to think of ways to wake her up if that were to happen but for now let's assume she is responsive because, after hearing her explanation how these 'visits' to her mother or whatever she'd call it work, if she was mentally a wreck, she wouldn't be able to focus enough to space out like that. That's just my theory though. She'd also have to wake up first before travelling there again unless she can fall asleep while daydreaming. She never specified."
"Right…" Raver agrees, so I continue.
"We need to decide how to approach her and who talks to her first. It'll probably depend on how she is feeling. Would you be okay if I scout her mental state before you talk to her? I know you have a lot to say to her but maybe I should check whether she even wants to hear it?"
"Oh yeah, that uhh is a possibility, I guess," Raver says with much regret shining through the casual tone of his voice. "I'm fine with you going first, I don't really know how to talk to someone who, well, cries…"
"It's something you learn the hard way one day, believe me," I proclaim with a sigh. "Do you think I knew how to comfort Takari at first? I was feeling too awkward to even touch her prior to the incident and it took me a while until I had enough mental capacity to look after her while looking after myself too. Anyway, don't fret if she does. Try to understand why she is sad and try to be tactful. Anything that could make her remember something bad might make it worse. If she allows it, give her a hug or just stroke her a little… like giving her a headpat or something. If she wants to talk, just listen. Uhh, I still haven't really figured out when it's right to cheer Takari up or when I just need to wait until it passes. Err anyway…" I scratch my head as my little lesson about comforting crying girls comes to an end since I feel myself blushing.
"Before we go… do you know what you want to tell her and how you want to get it across? I can help you with some things but this is something you'll have to do on your own, I'm afraid."
"I was able to apologize to you, right? I'll be fine!" Raver grunts in an attempt to raise his own spirits but I can tell at a glance that he is still nervous as heck, his hand shaking a little as he gestures around.
"Very well then," I acknowledge, my gaze wandering over to where Greenie is residing. "Fingers crossed that we'll be able to do something about this…"
"Yeah, let's do our best…" Raver agrees. A little anxious, I set into motion, the boy right on my heels. Even though the girl's position is just a stone's throw away, it feels like an eternity as we creep closer with every step. Finally, we are getting close enough to gather more information. Greenie has been freed (or did she free herself?) from the leaf wrapped around her. Only now I realize how frail her little body is. While the elders have made sure to keep her alive, she still must have eaten very little to have lost so much weight despite not moving a finger all day.
Her pose reminds me a lot of one that Takari would often make and I've also seen Raver perform it a little while ago when he had cried in worry and anger. She is sitting upright, head buried under her arms while resting on her legs, swaying gently back and forth as if to console herself.
"No doubt, she's awake but probably crying silently to herself," I whisper quietly in Raver's direction. "I'll try to approach her now, you stay behind until I gesture you to get closer, okay?"
Raver just nods, his face contorted with anxiety. I can only imagine that he is refining the speech he is planning to give to the girl in apology. I need to prepare myself for the upcoming chat as well. Certainly, it won't be easy either to reach Greenie this time around. A tight knot sitting in my chest, I advance until I see the little girl once again up close, swaying ever so gently back and forth. Tears flowing from her eyes are streaming down her legs, given that her head is resting on them. So she is crying after all… In order not to scare her when addressing her all of a sudden, I deliberately make a rather pronounced step forward so that the girl would pick up the noise and know of my arrival.
"Greenie?" I speak up with the most gentle and kind voice I am capable of producing. Although she doesn't make any signs of her mind being present in reality rather than travelling places far away, I can tell that she must have heard me since her body ceases to sway. After all, she did mention being able to hear and see even while she is daydreaming and just decided not to bother with these sensations. Either way, I take it as an invitation to get closer to her, squatting down in a respectable distance to her but still close enough to reach out my arm to touch her if I necessary.
"May I have another chat with you?" I ask politely, observing her for any signs of reaction. For a while, there is no reaction but I remain as I am, patiently waiting for a while before speaking up again.
"If you would prefer to be left alone right now, I could save it for a later time too. Just promise me that you give me - and a certain someone too, a second chance to clear up any misunderstandings our first chat has resulted in."
Again, I give her some time to think about my words. Then, finally, there is an ever so slight movement in her body and, before long, she opens her mouth to respond with a very croaky voice which was interrupted once or twice by hiccups.
"C-can you make the p-pain go away?"
Having a hunch what she might be referring to, I answer in a calm, soothing tone.
"Nobody can make it go away entirely but I can try to make it a hurt a little less."
After hearing my words, there is more movement in her body and, soon after, she has risen to her feet. For a moment, a wave of fright enters my body, not knowing where she wants to go. The plateau is falling quite steeply on the side of the mountain that we're residing on, falling off surely causing major injuries from the drop, if not worse. On second thought, it probably isn't a good place for someone like Greenie to reside at while having the thoughts that she is undoubtedly struggling with right now. Putting that aside though, the destination of her journey appears to be me. Our eyes meet for a short moment, her entire face wet with tears she had just smeared all over it while wiping her eyes just now - a rather pointless act as many more replace those she had tried to remove immediately.
"Can I?" Hardly a sound escapes her beak due to how hourse her voice has become. She is gesturing weakly at me and I can only assume that she has understood my vague offer.
"Please do," I invite her with a gesture. Greenie takes another step towards me before sitting down to my right, immediately allowing her body to lean against my shoulder, her sobbing notably increasing in intensity as she does so. With delight, I acknowledge the trust that she is showing towards me, causing my spirits to rise. Our chances of reaching her maybe aren't so bad after all. After an initial moment of awkwardness, I reach out my right arm in order to wrap it around the poor little swimmer and begin to stroke her right shoulder gently. For a few moments, I'm not trying to say anything, just allowing her to get comfortable, starting to cry for real or speaking up if she were up to either of those two things.
"W-were there times when y-you wanted nothing m-more than to see your f-family again?"
She eventually settles with the latter, although one could argue she is also crying a little bit. Occasionally, I can feel some of her tears falling on my skin too.
"If you asked me now what my biggest wish is, I would answer with "seeing my family again," I explain calmly over Greenie's quiet sobs. "I may be content with my new life but, if given the chance, I would go back immediately. No one can replace them, no one."
"B-but how are you not b-breaking apart?" she wails as an abysmal wave of sadness takes hold of her frail body, so powerful that I can feel it spread to myself as well. "I haven't c-cried like this in f-f-forever, it f-f-feels like I'm being t-torn apart d-d-deep inside!" Her dialogue is followed by a loud outcry. Greenie is suddenly weeping against me just like Takari has done so many times before. Compared to the behavior she has shown earlier, while it's much harder to bear a crying girl than a girl with no emotions, I reckon it'd also be a lot easier to reason with her while she is acting like this.
"I know just how it feels…" Momentarily, I consider to give in to the sudden sadness that begins to spread through my body but I'm not entirely forgetting that I owe Raver to create a chance for him to apologize either. Unfortunately, I fear that my lesson about crying girls would come into handy after all. Despite being rocked by heavy sobs and frequent outcries, it seems Greenie had enough on her mind that she wouldn't wait for a better moment to say them, instead uttering a bunch of unintelligible words which I can only put together into a whole sentence with a lot of effort.
"I'm so… s-sorry that… I… hurt… you and… Raver… even though… … care about me…"
So she is sensitive about what happened before? She has probably thought a lot about it and arrived at the conclusion that it was her fault? Oh Raver, you're lucky. She'll definitely accept your apology at this rate…
"Greenie I can hardly understand the gist of what you are trying to tell me. Either way, would you like to speak with Raver directly?" I prompt her, trying to console the heavily crying child to the best of my abilities but to no avail. "You see, I think Raver also has a few things he needs to tell you. Mind hearing him out?"
I can feel her head make a nodding movement against my shoulder immediately after offering the idea.
"I'm sure he'll also give you a hug if you ask kindly." As I mention this, Greenie changes her position slightly, rotating her little body towards me and squeezing me as she continues to cry. Poor girl… she probably hasn't had anyone give her a proper hug since losing her mother, no wonder she has become such a wreck. I should tell Raver to give her one, I'm sure that'll score… I throw a quick glance at Raver to check if he's still there. Awkwardly tapping from one foot to another, he is waiting for further instructions.
"Alright, I'll go get Raver then, he's waiting just a little distance away. Just a few seconds, alright?" I am trying to get to my feet but the little girl seems very hesitant to let go even as I am on my feet, waving in Raver's direction, giving him the signal to get closer. Once again, she is trying to tell me something but I understand even less of it.
"Don't…. go… need… talk…"
"Once you've calmed down, I can't understand anything while you're crying," I promise her in a warm voice. "Regardless, you should let it all out first. Holding it back all this time didn't do you anything good after all…" She is still clinging onto me like a lost hatchling when Raver arrives, throwing a very uneasy glance at Greenie.
"She's… crying huh?" he hisses quietly in my direction.
"Yeah," I reply shortly, pulling him close with my free arm (Greenie was cleaving to the other one) to whisper some instructions into his ear. "Don't worry, she's not mad, just very very sad. Hug her tightly and comfort her, she's extremely clingy right now. I'll be right there if you need me."
"Okay, thanks," Raver whispers back in an appreciative tone. Reluctantly (because she wouldn't want to let go), I de-glue Greenie from me. She has no composure left, all the stored up emotions gushing freely from her now. Slowly, I steer her limp body towards Raver.
"Raver is here," I mention quietly to her. "Open your eyes."
The boy is looking a little helpless as he stands before the crying girl, however the gesture he makes with his arms couldn't be more clear, opening them wide, invitingly. For a few moments, their eyes meet. Then, Greenie leaps forward into his arms, almost strangling him with her desperate embrace, Raver returning the gesture, a little awkward at first but then squeezing her back just as much. He must have taken my word for it as he didn't make any attempts to talk to her yet, probably knowing himself that Greenie wouldn't be able to get a single word out in this state.
With a knowing smile, I sit down a little distance away and begin to watch the night sky while occasionally glancing over to the two younger swimmers. Even though Raver does surprisingly well for his inexperience, Greenie is inconsolable. Even as the Night Circle approaches its zenith, she is still wailing into the night. Raver is sending me more and more pleading gestures to help and I can't ignore them any longer, considering that some serious tiredness is slowly taking hold of me. But why would I be any better than Raver, whose matching size is probably more convenient for her… Still, there is one thing I could try that I could never try with Takari since she'd been too heavy… With a huge sigh, I get to my feet and scramble over to a rather desperate looking Raver.
"I'm probably doing it all wrong…" he wails quietly as he meets me again. "I've tried everything you told me; hugged her so tight that it hurt, gave her my shoulder to cry and wrapped my arm around her just like you did, even tried to say a few nice things. Nothing works… and it hurts so much to see her so sad…"
"She might not improve just yet but it hurts a lot less to cry when you're being comforted. There's nothing worse than having to cry on your own, knowing that no one will ever hear your cries and see your tears, believe me. I'm pretty sure part of the reason why she's so inconsolable is because she doesn't have to cry alone right now. In a way… I suppose she can go all out now and just let all these bad feelings inside her out of her system. Either way, you're being a big help to her right now." I give him a small pat as a 'you did well' gesture. "Although I may have encouraged her to let those emotions out…here, want me to take her now?"
"Yeah, please…" Raver says. I can't fault him for being tired of it; comforting someone isn't exactly a pleasant thing to do after all and Greenie has been at it for hours at this point. Right now, Greenie is half leaning half lying against Raver with the boy holding her close to him. Having an idea how to make her stop crying, I kneel down in front of the two, addressing Greenie in a soothing voice.
"Greenie, would you mind if I took over for a bit? I think Raver needs a break."
I feel easier asking her in advance as I am still pretty much a stranger to her. To my delight, she is nodding.
"Come here then," I invite her. As Raver relinquishes his firm hold on her, I grab the smaller swimmer and lift her into my arms with some effort. I distinctly remember my own mother lifting me and my siblings into her arms and then cradling us until I we would calm down. The difference in size between us isn't nearly as large. Greenie is about two thirds of my size as are my other new siblings and Raver. Considering her frail outer appearance, she mustn't even get up to half of my weight. But, I surmise, it should still be effective. After an initial hug, I shuffle her around until she is resting in my arms.
While she is still somewhat heavy (I indeed could never keep this up with Takari), I'm certain that I should be able to keep cradling her for some time at least, hopefully long enough to get her to tone down her crying a little bit. I can immediately tell, that it has some sort of reaction on her as soon as I start, her muscles relaxing; her breathing becoming a little more controlled and her crying becoming less wild.
"This okay?" I wonder, immediately receiving a faint 'mhm hmm' as an answer, taking it as a yes. "As part of my attempt at consolation, I begin to have a little chat with her, hoping it might distract her from anything bad she might be thinking about right now.
"You took my words very literal, not that I'm complaining," I tell her, chuckling at little at the thought. "Though it is getting late so if we want to chat some more you'll have to try and calm down a bit so Raver and I can decipher your words."
"Don't be, I'm glad you listened to me." Even though it is more exhausting on my arms, I pull her a little closer, allowing her to rest her head against my chest.
"Say, I was right about the things I just said, wasn't I? This must have been the first time in ages you actually had someone to comfort you as you cry."
"Yes… been… all alone… all the time!"
A few pained cries escape her beak and I quickly redouble my efforts to calm her down.
"There, there…" I'm humming a few times, swaying her gently until she calms down a little, elaborating between many sobs on her previous words without me asking.
"Some grown-ups… try to comfort but… only wanted my mother back so I… use hideout… cry day and night… alone…"
"I didn't know where she was hiding for a while, no one knew, actually…" Raver explains before I get a chance to ask why he hadn't visited her then. "Even I didn't know this was her hideout…"
I send an approving nod in his direction and continue to cradle Greenie for a few more minutes. The effect is devastating; in no time her cries subside until only a few odd hiccups and her swollen eyes tell the tale of an hour-long breakdown.
"Alright, I think we can talk now," I eventually announce just as the Night Circle passes its zenith on the sky. It's now exactly the middle of the night and I fear for the next day as we were guaranteed to be very tired tomorrow. I eventually lower Greenie to the ground, her taking a position just between Raver and me. "I think you wanted some words with me, right? Would you like to talk to Raver first or would you prefer to talk to me first?"
"I'll t-talk t-to you f-first," she responds quickly, her voice extremely shaken but I can tell at a glance that her condition is stable, no tears falling from her eyes anymore. "Because… it'll be a quick chat, I t-think…"
"All ears," I say with a smile at her and she doesn't hesitate to get started.
"All this time while… crying…" Greenie acts a little bashful at the thought. "I've thought about all your words and our talk. Even though we're just strangers, even though I was being so mean, you've been so kind to me and even… comforted me just like Mother would always do... "
So is this just going to be an apology for acting unreasonable now?
I'm not quite correct but still close to the truth. Abruptly, the little swimmer approaches me, taking hold of one of my arms and squeezing it tightly.
"I want to apologize and I want to thank you. That is all."
"You're welcome," I smile at the gesture. "I'm really glad that you were able to snap out of it; it was a little hard to reason with you earlier. Speaking of which… you weren't fond of my words earlier. Has your opinion… changed since then?"
A little awkwardly, I await her answer.
"I still want to go where my mother is but… it'd be rude not to give it a try at least… it'd be rude not to listen to you."
"And you can still go to that place when you're on your own as long as you learn to snap out of it at will," I lightly propose before giving her a slight pat on the head. With a mixed expression, she is looking up to me.
"I can't believe you yet but… I want to believe you, I really do…"
"I really appreciate it, Greenie. I think I can speak for Takari as well when I say that we'll gladly visit you again if you need us. Don't give up. Random moments of happiness like this become more and more common until the darkness is slowly driven away by your own happiness. If we have found a reason to live again, then you can do it too. I believe in you!"
"I'll… do my best," she claims, huge uncertainties clouding her regardless but she is putting up a brave face before me.
"And I wish you the best, Greenie," I underline, nodding in Raver's direction who has been patiently waiting for his turn to chat. "I'll leave you two alone to talk now but I'll be in hearing range if you need me, okay?"
Feeling a lot more at ease than when I came here, I retreat to some degree from the scene in order to grant the two little swimmers some privacy, however I am simply too curious how Raver is going to handle the apology to remove myself entirely. On top of that, I am curious what these two are acting like when they're alone. Raver may be about as awkward around girls as I am but Greenie is a lot more docile than Takari. Actually, Takari is on another dimension!
For a brief moment, there is silence between the two children as they both awkwardly look at each other, or rather, somewhat beside each other. I can only assume that, now that Greenie isn't crying anymore, she might feel a little embarrassed about it all and as for Raver… well, I can relate… Eventually, the boy takes the first step and I sharpen my ears to be able to follow the conversation from some distance.
"I'm uhm… glad you're feeling better now…"
"Still as far from 'good' as we are from reaching the sky puffies up there," Greenie says and, now that I'm gone, some depression seems to return. "It made me really when you hugged me though…"
"Greenie, I…" Raver tries to apologize now but Greenie sharply interrupts him.
"Don't apologize, it's alright! You only said all of that because I've been so mean to you in the first place!" Without warning, she embraces Raver who is momentarily surprised before accepting Greenie's unspoken apology by returning the gesture. I have to sharpen my ears even more to pick up the next few pieces of dialogue.
"It's me who hurt your feelings; you didn't hurt mine. It's me who needs to apologize!"
"Let's just forget it," Raver proposes immediately. Greenie is getting really worked up about it and I suppose Raver took notice of it.
"Hhmm," Greenie agrees, her voice appearing to a little shaky but Raver's embrace probably keeps her emotions in check. "Actually, I'm glad that you said what you did…"
"Wait what? I literally told you to… never mind that... but it's a horrible thing to say! I cried as soon as I realized what it might make you do!"
"M-maybe, while I was crying after you left, I had a few… bad thoughts… but Raver, you finally made me snap out if it! Out of this 'leave me alone' thing I mean. Actually, I… I just wanted to be… to be loved and hugged and… not to be alone anymore. I felt so alone that I started imagining I was with my mother again… I stopped caring about everything because she was the only dinosaurs who ever loved me and, in my daydreams, I could feel her love again, hear her voice again, I could see her again. I didn't need anything else, I didn't even need an old friend who would readily cry for me. Raver, I've been such an idiot!"
"Even if you're an idiot, you're still my friend, idiot," Raver jokes and at this point I cannot tell if Greenie starts sobbing from sadness or happiness. Probably both.
"And you are my friend, Raver, and you are n-n-not an idiot! You saved me! You and Nishir did!"
"Well, someone had to save you from your idiocy, right?"
This is getting mildly entertaining.
"Yes…" Greenie is crying again, clutching Raver tightly who continues to tease her in a good-hearted way.
"Good grief, you're crying again, idiot. Didn't you cry enough already?"
"I'm crying because I'm so happy you're here!" the little swimmer retorts weakly, abandoning the hug to cleanse her eyes from tears but Raver clutches her back.
"Never mind that, cry all you want but promise me you'll never think about dying, starving yourself again or pooping all over yourself again. Because that was just horrible!"
"H-hey, blame that elder for stuffing me with all that water, j-jeez! I was asleep when it happened; I didn't do that on purpose!"
Raver breaks into laughter at this and I have to stifle a giggle as well. I'm feeling proud of Raver for realizing that some silly laughter is just what Greenie needs right now.
"Right, I believe you just this once!" Raver proclaims with fake grumpiness. At this point, their hug breaks apart once more and for some moments, the two kids are just staring at each other before…
… a short grunt of laughter escapes Greenie's beak, all the while numerous tears dripping from her cheeks.
"Crying, laughing; geez you're a busy one… make up your mind you little doofus."
"A-anyway! I promise you to try not doing all of those anymore but you promise me to visit lots! I feel lonely even when you're here, Raver, so don't leave now or I'll cry…"
"Says the one who has tears all over her face already…"
"Hey, don't bully me…"
At this point, Raver pulls her back into a hug again.
"Alright, I'll stop being a bully and I won't leave you, alright? It's a sleepover, alright?"
"Sleepover sounds lovely but we can't use the cave, it smells…"
"Thanks to your poopapocalypse…"
"SO much for not being a bully, try a little harder to keep your promise!"
At this point, I can't hold it in anymore, laughing loudly at the hilarious display, Raver toying with Greenie using just the right balance of teases and hugs to ridicule and comfort her at the same time while bringing some joy to the poor swimmer's heart and causing her to become quite lively again. Raver, you're more brilliant than I can give you credit for, you'll definitely save Greenie at this rate, just keep this up!
"Well, I'll be on my way then!" I exclaim as it becomes very clear that Raver wouldn't return to the nest tonight. "I'll explain to your parents, Raver, you keep your promise, alright?"
"Got'cha!" Raver confirms with a thumbs-up gesture before returning his attention to irate Greenie threatening him to sleep in the stinky cave if he didn't start being less of a bully. I chuckle heartily before turning around and making my way back to the nest.
In the end, meddling has been a good decision after all.
In this chapter, we learn about Greenie's grief and her relationship with Raver. Knowing the depths of her depression, Nishir and Takari manage to save the younger girl from her grief and teach her what's truly important in life with the help of their new little brother Raver.
Nishir also has to realize how to act like a big brother towards Raver and aid him in his task to apologize after the terrible argument.
You may wonder why this arc is even relevant. I think Owls put it quite nicely in a recent review: It shows their growth; it shows that they've learnt to cope and enjoy life again. It also shows that their story might help others that are in the same situation. Maybe it'll help the odd person reading this too? While not my intention of the story, that'd obviously be cool :)
Besides, while I didn't want to flesh out all four siblings, not doing so at all felt a little poor so I decided to give at least one of them (Raver) and little side story that's related to what Nishir and Takari are telling them about their past experiences.
This whole Greenie arc, as a matter of fact, kind of wasn't planned in the first draft of the story but I'm so so glad that I came up with the idea and decided to give the four siblings distinct character traits. Writing this kept me busy an entire weekend but it was so worth it! :)
I'm not sure if everyone will come to like such a sudden *filler* but this is arguably the best point in time both from a perspective of overall mood and chronological order to insert this little side story. Greenie will definitely appear again so it's not like some tv-episodes of LBT with stupid flat characters that'll never appear again anyway (rhett, anyone? :P)
Was Greenie's characterization believable by the way? After this chapter, there's actually some context for the things you already saw in chapter 5. Her initial reaction to the loss was to isolate herself which many people tend to do when they're faced with crippling depression in spite of this being an illogical reaction. This led to crippling loneliness. When she was found, she had already begun to get lost in endless daydreams that got so intense that she lost connection with the real world around her despite the fact that she could still interact with it if she chooses to. By the time her only friend Raver found her, she had already gotten used to being with her mother in her daydream which explains her reaction when they reunite.
What did you think about Raver in this chapter? He was being an idiot for some time but he also had a chance to redeem himself.
The last scene took a lot of time as I had to be extremely careful to ensure that the emotions are displayed properly. What do you think about it? What do you think about Greenie and Raver? Was their interaction believable? Was Greenie's sudden switch from indifference to showing extreme emotion understandable? I spent a lot of time pondering how to portrait her grief...
Since I've had people complain about this in the past, I think I should also explain the use of potty humor. The Land Before Time (rightfully) chose to omit a few details of their daily lives, however I'm all in favor of realism and, in this case, unlike in chapter 2 when it was pure comic relief, Greenie's situation prompted me to think her desperate situation to the very end. She had forgotten that she still had some things she occasionally... needed to do in the real world. Like... to eat, drink and poo... The elder meant well but made it worse lol (from a medical point of view, he did the right thing though)
I edited this chapter at least three times by the way to ensure that paragraphs are used properly and shortened some lengthy sentences too. Added some smaller stuff here and there and went over the more delicate dialogues a few times. Probably took another 10 hours or so, considering its length :lol
Chapter 7 will also be set in the present time (we're going back to the mood of chapter 1 & 2, introducing an important character growth arc for Nishir) but after that the tale of Nishir and Takari finally continues, I swear :P
Did anyone ever dare to stretch a cliffhanger over 3 chapters? :o
"Okay, to start this off it is good to see that your long hiatus due to exams is finally over and you've certainly made up for lost time quite fine. I hate to be that guy, but there's a lot we need to go through with this new chapter and not all of it is positive. For politeness sake, I shall go over the good things first and then move to the things I found to be lacking. I would like to add that there's no need to take any of this personally. These are just my honest opinions I wished to voice.
You warned that this chapter would be considerably darker than its predecessors and I don't think you were wrong in that assumption. While the insipid part roughly halfway through the conversation between Nishir and Takari relating to dialogue and narration could have been cut short in creating this dark atmosphere, I believe you've created a fine example of how a person may feel when they've lost everything dear to them. This, of course, comes as a shock to Nishir, but we as readers would have been expecting something bad to happen sooner or later. I have to admit that some of the things Takari said, mainly about how cruel the world they live in truly is, are rather valid points about the circle of life and you hardly can blame her for feeling this way, which only adds in to the realism. However, she was essentially very selfish here, not even considering to stop and ask what Nishir feels about it all, but this all plays into her state of the mind being in shambles.
Time for the less positive things. I know this may sound a bit rude, but I honestly could not find a better way to voice these feelings without sounding at least little bit captious. You've been reminded that some of the paragraphs have been way too big and I hate to bring this problem up again, but I would suggest you use three to eight sentences in a paragraph. This might feel like a relatively small problem but I like to believe that less is more. It is likely because you haven't written fiction in a while, but I feel like there's a considerable gap where the quality has dropped down little from the previous chapter. The best way I can try to explain this is that it feels like you overcomplicate it by making the chapter as long as possible, relating to my previous point about how less is more.
Once again, these criticisms are not to be taken personally. I'm merely trying to point out in where you can improve on. If at any point you feel like I've overstepped my boundaries, then please excuse me. You're more than welcome to contact me so we can hash it out if you have any questions. All in all, I'm happy to see that you've returned to writing fanfiction and while we've been dealt a cliffhanger to keep us in suspense until the next chapter, there are some things I look forward to exploring more, particularly how Greenie's past is going to affect the story. The characters have been pushed to the breaking point, but their road of misfortunes likely isn't over yet."
I'm not going to cross-post my response on the GoF but instead write a new one
After doing some research and asking for some opinions online, I think I can agree with your general advice to limit paragraph length. I've definitely paid very close attention to paragraphs in this chapter. If you still find my paragraphs lacking in this chapter, then I don't know what else to do, really.
As I said on the GoF forum already, I really appreciate your feedback both praise and critique :)
Guest chapter 6 . Jul 31
"Due to the dark nature of this chapter, even by the standards of this story, it was very difficult to adequately describe for a review. Although I don't normally condone the use of the M rating, in my experience it's often used by edgelords to justify gratuitous violence for shock value, in this situation you did the right thing by changing the rating.
Depression seems to be a common theme in your work, and I appreciate how you neither demonize nor romanticize this issue. This chapter also demonstrates how individuals can respond to trauma in drastically different ways. While Takari becomes suicidal and displays psychological regression from her grief, Nishir is concerned with escaping and keeping his only friend alive even though both suffered from the same traumatic experience. It was interesting to see the characters' thoughts about the afterlife, since we as the audience know ghosts and by extension the afterlife exists, as well as how Nashir used this conversation to talk Takari down from wanting to kill herself.
This is the darkest thing you've written so far, but it was nonetheless handled tactfully. Good work Evil Swimmer, I hope things improve for our protagonists."
Thank you very much for the review :)
I'm fairly sure things are going to improve for them, I mean we see them in the present, enjoying themselves and even helping Greenie in this chapter. We've passed the lowest point with chapter 5 :)
I'm glad that I managed to approach this matter tactfully. Thank you :)