Here's Chapter 12. Enjoy :3

Chapter 12

(Alph's POV)

The moon has travelled its way to the far west. I was sweating frantically as I kept turning my map right side up and upside down. I should have known better. I was never good at reading maps.

I was silently grateful that Steiner had risked himself trying to get me out of the castle using the back gate, when he knew the castle so desperately needed reinforcements. Deep in my heart, I knew I felt ashamed because I'd left everyone on their own, but I'd have to make it up to them later. The longer I lingered here, the more endangered Lucia would be. But I couldn't see a way out of this labyrinth of trees and bushes.

It was like the first time I'd made my crash into this world. Only this time, I didn't have Lucia with me. I sighed. I hadn't realized how much I was depending on her although I was supposed to be her protector.

I shook my head. I can't lose concentration now. Lucia needs me. I continued studying the map and surveying my surroundings, comparing them to the different locations marked on the confusing map. I had been running all night, and I wasn't about to stop until I'd found Lucia.

This way? No… it can't be right. It leads to nowhere… I groaned in frustration.

'Looking for someone?' A creepy voice said behind me, sending a chill down my spine.

I turned around and had my sword ready, but then I heaved a sigh of relief as I saw who he was.

'Wendell,' I said. 'Thank goodness. I'm having a lot of trouble reading this map…'

'Hmm,' Wendell interrupted, and something in his voice was making me uneasy. He came toward me slowly, held up my hand and gestured at the Engine. 'Did Steiner give you this?'

'Well, yeah…' I said. 'Oh, and speaking of whom, he's looking for you.'

'Ah, Steiner… of course he's looking for me, hmm?' He suddenly gasped and pointed in the direction behind me. 'What's that?'

I turned around abruptly, but I didn't see anything. I looked back at Wendell questioningly and he grinned. 'Just kidding. Haha, got you, Alph.'

My uneasiness grew.

'I believe what you're looking for is right down this road,' he said, pointing in the direction behind him. He took my map and flipped it so that I could see its back. 'Alph, better luck figuring out which side of the map is the front next time, hmm. Well, but you are really close…'

I suddenly had an urge to kill myself right now. All this time I was looking at the back of the transparent map… No wonder I had so much trouble…

'Well, thanks.' I was just about to set out again as something occurred to me. 'Wendell?' I asked.

'Yes?' He looked at me through narrow eyes.

'What exactly are you doing here?'

'Collecting samples for my next experiment.' He sighed and shrugged. 'But it's such a pain. No matter how well you've designed your traps, the inferior insects just won't give up…'

I had no idea what he was talking about. 'Well, thanks for the tip, Wendell.'

'Well, go on, human. I must go back to my work. The insects await me…' Wendell grinned again.

As I left, I felt an involuntary shudder through my body. What was that all about?