A/N: Hey everyone! It's been a long time, I know. I feel extremely bad about it, but it seems like I'm getting busier and busier. I'll try to update again in the next month, but thank you to everyone who's still reading and reviewing my work!
Disclaimer: I do not own Tales of the Abyss.
Chapter Twenty-One: Contemplating
He stared at me with a totally obvious, yet unreadable expression. "Mi—"
"Don't say it," I warned; my tone was near growling.
"I know," I emphasized, clearly not impressed with his idiocy today.
"Should I get you some ice?"
"…Please," I sighed, before quickly adding, "and some oil."
Luke raised a questioning brow, but thankfully, didn't question me. He nodded, leaving me as I closed the door.
Walking into the bathroom, I splashed my face several times with ice cold water before gazing at my reflection in the mirror. I couldn't help but give another heavy sigh at the deranged looking girl who stared back at me. Turning away, I grabbed a face cloth and proceeded to rub my face again for the umpteenth time. I winced slightly as I touched my disturbingly puffy eyes. A slight chill went down my spine at the feel of the puffy layers of skin that looked horribly like it was stung by a bee. Additionally, it didn't help that the makeup I had on from the night before—the one I forgot to remove—had now blurred, smeared, and dried atrociously all over my eyes and cheeks.
In short, I looked disgusting.
I turned away, sunk down to the ground, and buried my head. I guess I should have predicted that this would happen; after all, it would be a miracle to cry for four hours straight—with makeup on—and not look like a swollen, hideous mess.
Yes, four hours—in addition to staring into nothingness for three hours like a mindless zombie and only getting two hours of sleep.
And by sleep, I meant "sleep".
Honestly, I thought I could handle it. I felt strong and confident that night around Asch. It was like my mind had shut away all of the unstable emotions, and my words and actions flowed effortlessly as if I was on auto-pilot back then.
But as if I was bounded by some strange force field—that is, Asch's line of sight—the moment I left that force field, everything that had held me in place collapsed, and all of the emotions that I held onto for Asch had slapped me awake and back to reality.
And it hurts… a lot.
Yet, what was done, was done. There was no turning back now. I vowed to get stronger, to save Auldrant, to find a way home, and to rediscover the positive side of my life.
To accomplish my goals… at the expense of my heart.
It was a small price to pay in order to see the bigger picture.
"But it's not like it's permanent," I remained myself sadly. "I'll fall in love again; I'm sure. Things will get better." I forced a smile.
Nonetheless, my pessimistic side snickered.
Until you get your heart broken… again.
After using the oil to remove the makeup all over my face and letting the ice freeze burn my eyelids for half an hour, I couldn't wait any longer and came down for breakfast. I paused just as my hands reached for the doorknob.
You can do this, Milee! I took a deep breath and push the door open. I flashed everyone a grin as I walked over to where they were having breakfast—everyone minus Asch.
I felt the tenseness in my shoulders eased quite a bit at the sight of a missing red-head. Smiling, I situated myself down beside Luke and hurriedly grabbed some pancakes. As I was eating, I sensed someone's intense stare at me. I had hope that my puffy eyes weren't that obvious. Sure, they were still a little red and swollen, but I didn't think it was obvious that I cried for hours on end last night.
Desperately trying to ignore her, I continued to eat before she gave an exaggerated cough. "So, Milee…," Natalia addressed, grinning.
"You should try these pancakes," I spoke quickly with my mouth full, attempting to redirect her attention. "It's really good!"
"I'm sure it is," she answered as she took a sip of tea. "But… how was last night? I also noticed Luke was in your room this morning; you two seemed to be getting along well."
We paused and stared at each other. Oh, so it wasn't about my eyes. I was thankful to get out of that situation but wasn't pleased about my new predicament. Wanting to groan but held it in, I turned my attention back to the food as I let Luke handle it. We probably should clarify things before Natalia misunderstood our relationship even more that she had now. As Luke attempted—amusingly—to explain things, but leaving the details of Asch out, I couldn't help but wonder where he was.
I probably pissed him off with the whole permanent marker thing, but he wouldn't leave without telling us, would he?
Oh wait, yeah, he would.
I wanted to roll my eyes, but before I could, the devil himself entered.
And I immediately avoided all eye contact.
No! Bad Milee! Remember, it's over. You don't love him anymore. He's nothing more than a companion now like Luke and Natalia. Focus! My inner thoughts scolded, and I found myself obeying.
"Good morning!" I exclaimed, waving him over.
Hearing my voice, he turned his head towards us and scowled as I immediately slapped my hands over my mouth.
Don't laugh; don't laugh, don't laugh! I inwardly repeated as my eyes loomed over the noticeably red and swollen part of his cheek. To be honest, I was quite surprised that Asch managed to get the writing to fade as much as he did. However, it was still quite noticeable. Man, just how much skin cells did he rub off? It looks painful.
Just as I was about to comment on his face, the others beat me to it.
"Asch! What happened to your face?" Natalia cried, getting out of her seat. He frowned and shot me a glare.
"Milee?" I heard Luke whisper to me, and I feigned shock. This will probably be the last time I get to tease Asch again—or at least for a while. I couldn't deny that my heart needed some time away from him to be able to fully recover.
"Whoa, Asch! That looks painful!" I cried with a mock frown. "You should put some ice on that."
He sat down from across me and glared. "I wouldn't have this injury if someone didn't have to defile my face."
"Well, Asch, you can't say you weren't partially to blame for what happened," I commented, half telling the truth, half exaggerating.
A troubled, almost regretful look crossed his features. "Milee…"
I unexpectedly grinned, breaking the tense atmosphere. "I mean, really? Just how drunk were you last night to get such a ridiculous tattoo?"
"…Huh?!" Everyone cried—all for different reasons, may I add.
"Ta-tattoo?!" Natalia gave a cry, facing the young man with a morbid expression.
Asch's scowl deepened. "You know it's not a ta—"
"I know you're probably upset with how horribly everything's going with stopping Van, but there's no need to get so wasted to the point you get that pretty face of yours defiled," I almost sang, holding back a snicker. "Tell me, was the tattoo artist also wasted when you got it? 'Cause it definitely doesn't look like the person was sober when it was drawn."
Natalia looked mortified, Asch look peeved, and Luke seemed like he understood what was happening. I flashed Luke a wink, and yet, it looked like he wanted to facepalm himself. Instead, he gave me a light kick under the table and a raise of an eyebrow. I didn't say anything but turned back to my latest target who still held the same annoyed glare as before.
"By the way, what is that supposed to be a picture of anyways?" Luke asked, seeming to direct his question to Asch, but it was clearly a question for me. "It looks like scribbles."
"It's not scribbles!" I retorted, not liking my work of art to be referred in that way. "It's supposed to spell loser, except he moved and—" I abruptly shut up, realizing what happened. Good job Milee; you and your big mouth… I mentally slapped myself.
"Milee? Did you…?" Natalia began, looking a little shocked.
"And what are you talking about? That's just scribbles. It doesn't even look legible," Luke pointed out.
"I'll have you know, I have very nice handwriting!" I protested, puffing out my cheeks. I looked back at the writing on Asch's face. Yup, it said 'losex'. What does Luke mean when he said it was scribbles—Oh wait, they don't know the Latin alphabet. Well, now that clearly defeated the purpose of my face defilation. "Agh, I forgot. We have a different alphabet system. Tsk, now no one can read it."
"It doesn't matter if people can or cannot read it!" Asch retorted angrily, rubbing his blackened cheek.
"Milee, why did you do such a thing?" Natalia asked in a stern tone, and I turned away from the princess, not wanting to answer. It wasn't as if she needed to hear 'because your fiancé broke my heart so this is revenge.'
That definitely wouldn't go well.
"Forget it, Natalia," Asch spoke up, unexpectedly calmer. "It'll wash away in a few days anyways. It's not a big deal."
I was taken aback, surprised that Asch still defended me. My chest suddenly felt warm, and I couldn't help but bring out a small smile. Asch…
I knew I could always count on Asch.
Jerk-like, yet sweet and—
I slapped myself. No Milee! Bad Milee! Don't do this to yourself, Milee!
"…You know," Luke coughed, seemingly uncomfortable, and I looked up at him. "I don't think it's very healthy to keep slapping yourself like that…"
The awkward silence commenced soon afterwards, in which no one wanted to be the first to break. Mentally, I released a long, drawn-out groan while trying to cover my already reddened face—and not just because I slapped myself. Way to convince everyone you're still actually sane, Milee. I dared to shoot a look at Luke who held an unreadable expression.
Out of the blue, I felt a cool hand touched my cheek, and a gentle, warm feeling surrounded the area, cooling the throb on my cheek that I didn't notice was present before. I hadn't realized that I slapped myself that hard. I pulled away from Natalia's hand, quickly feeling ashamed of myself. However, the princess reached over and cupped my hands in hers. I glanced up with perplexity written all over my face, but the blonde had a gentle look as she spoke.
"If there's anything troubling you, you can always talk to us." I couldn't help but note Natalia's maturity despite being only eighteen—despite being the same age as me. She definitely wasn't like the spoiled princesses in storybooks except in beauty.
Beauty, brains, and a wonderful personality: it was no wonder Asch liked her more.
Jealousy boiled, but I kept trying to subside the throb in my chest. Give up, give up! You can't win against her! Just forget about Asch—you made a promise to yourself last night, remember?
A lone eye steered away from the princess and towards the knight.
The knight that would make any girl feel like a princess.
I slammed my head on the table painfully. No Milee! Forget! Forget!
"Yeah?" I lifted my head, only to figure out that I had done it again when I noticed something wet slide down my forehead and down my nose. I mentally swore and slapped a hand over top of my injury.
"Milee, inflicting self-harm is not the answer," Natalia held my free hand tighter. "Please talk to us if you're depressed—"
"I'm not depressed," I stated, wanting to groan as I forced down the sudden blush. "I'm just… just, err, squishing a bug?"
"…With your head?"
I felt silly but continued nonetheless. "It was going to eat my pancakes…?"
"You know what," I flashed an insecure smile. "Just forget everything that happened the last five minutes. I think I'm still a little tired. I'm going to go lie down for a bit more."
"But you're bleed—"
"I can fix that." I flashed a quick grin as I stood, getting ready to leave before I utterly embarrass myself even further. However, Luke stopped me.
"But we were going to discuss what to do next, wasn't it your idea?" he inquired.
I paused, thinking. "Well, Iemon still isn't back yet, so I don't see how we can accomplish anything at the moment," I replied. "We don't know when he'll be back, and there isn't really a lot we can do at this point. We can't evacuate St. Binah without permission from the emperor, and even then, I don't know how far the progress of the collapse of the Rugnica plains are currently fairing. There's a chance we may need the hovercraft, and I don't want to take a chance with people's lives. We'll just have to trust the others to aid them and get the emperor's permission first. So I guess we just wait, unless you all can think of something. Let me know, okay? I'll be in my room."
I hurriedly exited the room, mumbling first aid on the way out.
Well, that was certainly embarrassing.
I currently held mixed feelings between wanting to laugh, roll my eyes, and wanting to hide away in utter shame for the rest of my life. The latter seemed like the best option, yet they all would probably be a very bad idea—for very different reasons.
I think by the time this whole journey ends, I definitely need to go see a psychiatrist—assuming I don't die or end up trapped in a mental institution here. I groaned, slamming the door to my room behind me once I retreated to the safety of my empty and enclosed room. Now everyone will think I'm either a liar, depressed, insane, or any combination of the three! I sighed, sliding down to the ground and tilting my head back until in touched the wooden door behind me. Just how in the world did I go from the perfectly, sweet-looking girl to-to… this?!
I tried to be perfect, but I ended up buried under my flaws.
I tried to be Cinderella, but I ended up squashing my only chance at happily ever after.
I tried to help those who were in danger, but I was becoming more unsure as reality started to set in.
I tried to change my life… but look at where that had gotten me.
Nowhere but in the opposite direction of where I wanted to go.
I folded the dress carefully, handling it as if it was a newborn baby. A small smile appeared on my lips as I cradled the garment; the touch of the soft silks of blues reminded me of the gentle feel of water flowing down a stream.
Blissfully peaceful and full of comfort.
Slowly and without hesitating, I placed the dress in a bag, forever ridding it from my sights.
After all, what does Cinderella need a beautiful dress for if she knew her prince would never come for her?
"I never got to say this last night," a voice interrupted my thoughts, and I found the face of my non-existent prince walking towards me. "Well, at least it probably didn't sound very sincere given the situation."
"Luke?" I raised a brow at his somewhat bashful face.
"You looked absolutely stunning last night, honest."
He gave me a smile, but I only scrunched up my face in return and gave him a scowl. "Luke, I know it's not your fault, but can you please not say those things with Asch's face? It's really not helping my situation…"
"…Sorry." His eyes casted downwards, making me feel like the villain.
I sighed. "No, I'm sorry. Anyways, did you need something?" I asked, changing the subject.
"Oh, that's right!" Luke remembered. "Asch wanted to explore some cavern nearby. I think it's called… Or-Ortion Cavern, or something like that. Apparently, there's some connection to Van there."
Ortion Cavern? My eyebrows furrowed slightly. Why does that sound so familiar? I shook my head, frowning. I know I was starting to forget the game, but it seemed like I was forgetting at the most inappropriate of times. A sigh escaped as I glanced back at Luke. "Okay, when do we leave?"
Unexpectedly, Luke looked a little nervous. "Actually…"
I immediately grumbled. "What now?"
"Um… you're not going…?" I heard his voice go up a few octaves as uneasiness was clearly plastered on his face.
I stared at him, waiting for him to continue, but I knew the reason immediately. "Asch?" My lips tightened into a thin line. "Don't tell me he's still angry?"
"No, that's not it. He didn't think you would stay focus with him around, and there's apparently a lot of monsters in the area. It's dangerous."
"Typical," I clicked my tongue without missing a beat. "Then what am I supposed to do while you're all out?" When a shrug came as my answer, a long, drawn out sigh escaped. "Fine, go to your stupid cave. I'll find something much more productive and exciting to do." Hopefully, I mentally added.
"…You're not going to protest?" he asked hesitantly.
I gave a lop-sided smile. "It probably won't work this time, especially after what I did to his face. Besides, it may be best that I distance myself from him for a little bit. I just need some time."
Luke didn't reply except for a nod. Within the next hour, I waved them off as they took sail onboard the Tartarus. I didn't talk to Asch as he boarded, but he did give me some advice—or scowling, however you want to look at it.
"Don't do anything stupid or reckless. Be discrete and stay out of trouble."
I snorted, rolling my eyes as I watched the ship disappear from sight. I turned to walk back into town to figure out what was the best course of action as I waited for them to come back—or for anything to happen, really.
"Well, this is certainly going to be boring. I mean, really, what can possibly go wrong?"
My first stop was departing with the dress. It was kind of saddening to return the most beautiful piece of clothing I'll ever own, but it wasn't like I'll ever get the chance to wear it again. As it stood, it was just extra baggage.
Thankfully, it still looked fairly new, so I was able to get a full refund, and I gasped when I saw the piles of gald being shoved in my face. My heart wrenched with a mixture of guilt and rapture to know Natalia would spend much of our travelling money on me.
After pocketing the gald, I wandered aimlessly around the city, unsure of what to do now. About an hour later, I somehow ended up in front of Iemon's place. I know Iemon and the rest won't be back for at least a few more days, but there had to be some kind of progress. I remember there were two hover crafts; surely, one must be complete or close to completion.
I frowned. "Maybe I'm being a little too optimistic."
"Umm, Milee, right?" A voice called out from behind. I found Noelle behind me, carrying bags of groceries. "Grandpa isn't back yet."
I blushed. "Yeah, I know. Sorry, I just kind of wandered and found myself here. I sort of got left behind," I mumbled awkwardly. "Err, do you need a hand with those?"
"Thanks," she smiled as I grabbed some of the bags, and we headed inside where I heard the sounds of a hammer against metal. I found Ginji working on something as we headed into the kitchen. He looked up and smiled at me.
"Milee! Great timing!" Ginji exclaimed. "I was just going to go get you."
I pause momentarily. "Me? Why?"
"Well, I thought about what you said, and it seemed like an emergency, so I was looking around for parts last night. It just so happens that an old friend of my grandfather's has the parts that I needed. Although, it is a little old, it should still be usable, and—"
"That's great!" I cried excitedly, running over to him. "Ginji, thank you!"
He reddened, stumbling a bit as I invaded his personal space. "It's no problem, really. I'm just excited to complete the Albiore; it's my dream to be able to fly. Anyways, I stayed up all night last night to finish installing it, and I already took it out for a test run before dawn—"
"You did what?" Noelle cried, popping her head from in the kitchen. "It's dangerous to test it by yourself, Ginji! You could have been hurt! Why didn't you tell me?"
"But, you were asleep… Besides, I only flew a few kilometers at a low altitude, but it was awesome! Flying is amazing, Noelle! You have to try it with me later!"
"No way! Grandpa would be furious if he found out!" Noelle replied, looking horrified. "Besides, you should get some rest! I can't believe you stayed up all night," she murmured the last part, sounding both worried and annoyed.
"It's fine. It's safe as far as I can tell. I'm just going to adjust the engine a little and try it again later," he grinned before turning towards me. "Do you want to come?"
My face lit up. "Yes!" Finally, something to do! I beamed inwardly.
"Ginji, you really shouldn't test it without Grandpa here…" Noelle interjected, worried. "Something could go horribly wrong…"
"It's fine. I told you; I ready tested it before, and nothing was wrong. Besides, I'll only be flying just a few kilometers outside the city and at low altitudes again. There's no danger to that so stop worrying."
"…Well, if you say so, but if Grandpa finds out, I have nothing to do with it." Noelle shook her head in defeat as she walked away.
"Anyways," Ginji smiled, grabbing his tools. "I still need a few more hours to complete the adjustments. We can probably test it out after lunch."
I nodded, leaving Ginji to work as I went to find something to occupy my time. After some thinking, I finally decided I should start learning the Fonic alphabet. I managed to convince Noelle in a non-conspicuous way to write down all the letters of the Fonic alphabet and numbers, as well as a few sentences to help me match the Fonic letters to their Latin counterpart. About an hour after writing and rewriting the alphabet, I think I finally got the hang of it. However, there were way too many swirls, and it hurt my head trying to memorize if the swirls go clockwise, counter-clockwise, bent to the left, bent to the right, etc.
I mentally cursed whoever invented the Fonic alphabet before putting it away, and grabbing another piece of paper. I decided to take a chance to jot some things down about the game as a reference to aid my deteriorating memory. I did pause for a moment to consider the possibility that someone might steal the page and be able to translate it, but then again, the Fonic alphabet has no X's, the B's and V's are the same, and the G's and J's are the same, plus they don't differentiate between capital and small letters. Somehow, I doubt even Jade would be able to completely translate it.
In addition, if I don't start writing things down, I'll definitely forget—seeing as how I've already started to forget.
So right now, considering I already screwed up the plot by separating the party, I can't say for sure that things will happen the way they're supposed to… I groaned. Okay, get a grip Milee!
So right now, I think we should be in Grand Chokmah. Everyone's supposed to find out about Guy's past, meet the emperor, go to St. Binah to save the people, find out they need the hovercraft, go to Sheridan… but a third of the party is here now… I frowned. "Oh, that reminds me!"
I pulled up the left sleeves of my shirt, staring at the curse slot that Sync had inflicted on me by accident. "Guy was supposed to get this removed about now… Well, it's not like it has done much harm, but I'm still kind of worried since this is Kamilla's body… Maybe she has some sort of grudge against the party members?" I murmured, deep in thought. "It seems like she really only knows Anise and Ion. Anise: I don't think she bears any hatred for her, and Ion?" I suddenly frowned. "It seems more like Ion has a grudge against Kamilla…"
I rolled down my sleeve and continued writing what I could. I had to grimace a little at how little I actually wrote down, and how much "…" I wrote instead, signaling that something important should happen where I placed the dots, but I honestly cannot remember—not that I really expected to remember at this point in time. After all, if I couldn't even remember the goal of the main antagonist, why on Earth would I remember the petty little details from the middle of the game?
I took out another piece of paper. "Okay, let's see how Kamilla plays into all of this…"
From what I gathered so far, Kamilla used to be a member of the Oracle Knights but disappeared two years ago for some reason. She was forced to join the Oracle Knights in N.D. 2009, so she was in the Oracle Knights for about six years. She was trained to be Ion's first Fon Master Guardian but things apparently didn't work out, and she ended up being a lieutenant some time during her enrollment in the Order before being demoted—who knows how many ranks—to a private by Mohs.
I paused. "She probably dissed the Score really badly in front of Mohs if I had to guess." I shook my head before continuing.
So, during her time in the Order, other than piss off Mohs, she met Ion and did something to piss him off, and met Van and did something to piss him off as well since he did send Legretta to kill her. However, Van didn't seem like he was in a hurry to kill me, and he even said that I wouldn't be able to. Sure, he has a much higher rank, but Kamilla seems like she was pretty good if she made lieutenant before she was sixteen…
"Now that I think about it… Why does it feel like there's some kind of hidden meaning behind those words? I'm pretty sure he said 'You know that you won't be able to kill me,' but usually won't someone say something like 'You know that you can't kill me?'"
I shook my head again. It wasn't as if I'll get anywhere contemplating over this matter. Actually, I think my biggest problem is Ion. From the past few encounters after he discovered that this body is Kamilla's, Ion was extremely hostile—like a complete one-eighty from his usual personality. Honestly, I don't think I'll be accepted back into the group if the most neutral member, not to mention the one with the highest status in all of Auldrant, despites my existence…
"Agh! Ion, why?! Why?! He's supposed to be the sweetest character!" Damn you, Kamilla!
"Ion? As in Fon Master Ion?" Noelle inquired, walking up to me and setting down some hot tea.
"Thank you, and yeah… Fon Master Ion. He's a companion of ours, but our group ended up separating under certain, um, unforeseeable circumstances," I half-heartedly explained. "Actually, Noelle, do you happen to know of anything that happened to the Fon Master between N.D. 2009 and N.D. 2015? Anything relating to a member of the Oracle that could involve um… hostile actions from the Fon Master, perhaps?"
"Hostile?" Noelle asked, confused. "I never heard of Fon Master Ion as being hostile. He's apparently supposed to be a very gentle boy."
"Okay, maybe hostile wasn't the best choice of words, but I mean some kind of scandal involving Fon Master Ion."
Noelle sat down across from me, thinking. "Well, Fon Master Ion didn't ascend his position until N.D. 2011 when Fon Master Evenos died. Actually, there was one incident with a female knight," she said.
I immediately leaned forward. "Was her name Kamilla Velandia?"
"I don't know the knight's name, but it was on the day of Fon Master Ion's succession ceremony. He was apparently kidnapped on his way to the ceremony while she was supposed to be guarding him."
I choked on my drink. "I'm sorry, what? The Fon Master got kidnapped?!"
"Well, I'm not too sure on the details, but I guess everything turned out alright in the end. I mean he's alive and well, and it doesn't seem like the Order made a big ordeal over the whole situation. Although, I don't think the Fon Master held any grudges against her. Apparently, he defended her when the ministers wanted to give her a harsher punishment," Noelle explained. "Sorry, I don't know much of the detail. I just heard about it from my grandfather."
I nodded, thanking her. It probably wasn't what I was looking for, but I could use it as a reference for later. It wasn't possible that Ion would hate someone just because she couldn't protect him—at least this Ion wouldn't.
My lips drew into a thin line. Now that I think about it. What was the original Ion like? I shook my head. Who cares? He's dead, and I'm pretty sure he didn't play a huge role in the game. What I need to figure out is the relationship between the current Ion and Kamilla.
I groaned. The word 'impossible' hung though my mind. One hated my guts and the other was somewhat stuck in my head, currently incapacitated at the moment.
One dead-end after another, huh? I blew a raspberry out of annoyance before a knock was heard. The two siblings looked up, confused.
"Expecting someone?" Noelle asked her brother, but he shook his head.
"Maybe your grandfather's back?" I suggested, hopeful.
"Not likely, and besides, he has a key. Oh, but the neighbour did say she was going to bring us some leftover udon today. That must be her," she declared and left the room to make her way to the door. A few seconds later, Noelle's surprised voice sounded. "Oh, officers, what can I do for you?"
I immediately froze. Looking over, I saw Ginji giving me a confused look, and I placed a finger to my lips in an act of silence. Natalia did tell me that I didn't have to worry about the Kimlascan Soldiers since the war technically hadn't started yet, and there was also the fact that we weren't wanted fugitives at the moment. However, I still held my breath and eavesdropped on their conversation.
"We had several complaints all across town of noise and strong winds coming from something flying last night," the officer spoke. "I know you're trying to build some kind of flying machine, but please do keep it down."
I glanced up at Ginji who seemed embarrassed, and I relaxed my shoulders.
"False alarm," I sighed under my breath.
"Oh, and also, some of these Oracle Knights would like to speak to you as well," the officer continued.
Or not. I mentally swore. What the hell are the Oracle Knights doing here?! Slowly, I reached for my sword, but Ginji abruptly grabbed my wrist.
"What are you doing?" he sounded panicked as he whispered fiercely.
"Sorry, but I'm not exactly on the best of terms with the Order. Trust me, I'm not the bad guy here," I urged him to believe me.
I pressed myself further into the wall as I listened to the murmurs at the front. I felt Ginji squeezed my wrist but more out of nervousness than anger. I didn't say anything, understanding the feelings he must be going through now.
I took a deep breath. It smelt like gas, oil, and grease—typical of a workshop like this. Thankfully, however, it did distract my racing heart.
"I heard rumours that a suspicious female has been lurking around town, and someone claimed to have spotted her coming here," the Oracle Knight spoke. "Brunette, small, and armed with a sword; you wouldn't happen to have seen her, would you?"
I couldn't see Noelle, but I could guess what her reaction would be. I immediately turned to the elder sibling. "Ginji," I whispered, pleading as I shifted my eyes back and forth from the door to Ginji. "Help."
"Go!" I hissed, pushing Ginji out of the room. He stumbled a bit as he exited but immediately straighten himself.
"We never saw anyone like that!" Ginji called out; his voice sounded a little higher than normal. I wanted to facepalm myself.
"But Ginji—" Noelle began, but her brother interrupted straightaway. "I've been here all day, and I never saw anyone like that. No one, right, Sis?"
Noelle seemed to have caught on and agreed. I leaned a little closer to the door, hoping to get a peek at the situation. Another Oracle Knight spoke, asking more questions. I could vaguely see the colour of silver that dangle from the bodies of the soldiers. There were three of them, and they all look like foot soldiers. I tightened the grip on my sword. I could probably take them out—hopefully, I wouldn't have to.
Luckily, after a few more minutes, they turned to leave, and I relaxed. I felt my legs cramping from the angle that I'd been standing in, but as I started to straighten my legs, my right foot gave out, and hastily, I reached out blindly to grab a hold of something.
The good news, I caught myself between a chair and the wall.
The bad news, I dropped my sword during the whole ordeal.
I halted at the echoing that came from the sounds of metal dropping, and my heart just sank. I heard the soldiers stop walking, and the whole house went dead silent.
"…What was that noise?" an oracle knight was the first to break the silence.
"Um… that's…" Ginji began stuttering.
"Cat!" Noelle cried, panicked. "That was a cat we found earlier this week. I grew fond of her, so we ended up taking her in."
"Cat…?" The man's voice sounded suspicious.
"Yeah, a cat," Ginji confirmed. "She's a bit of a troublemaker."
Cat? Really? I thought but played along anyways. Clearing my throat, I meowed. "Meow!"
"Argh, how old is that cat? Sounds like she's dying," a soldier said, sounding disgusted. "Or maybe diseased, you should take her to a vet."
Well, sorry I don't sound cute! I mentally hissed; my face flushed. "Meow! Merr-owww!" I called angrily.
"She sounds hungry!" Noelle exclaimed nervously. "I'm going to go feed her now."
Footsteps retreated from the door, and a second later, Noelle popped in. She looked frustrated and exhausted.
"Are you crazy?!" she hissed; she was a little pale, sounding quite rattled.
"Get rid of them!" I hissed back.
"We're trying! Just stay quiet!"
"Wait! You can't go in there!" All of a sudden, I heard Ginji shout. Three pairs of footsteps came quickly in my direction. Noelle and I stared at each other, wide-eyed. In that moment, it was like everything froze, and Asch's warning rang through my head. I groaned. Too late for that now.
Chaos officially ensued.
Acting on reflexes, I pushed Noelle away, drew a knife from my boot, and slit the throat of the first soldier that came through the door. There was a bit of shouting as the man fell; a pool of blood seeped from his throat and mouth. The other two halted and stared—hesitated for a second, but that was all that I needed as I ran, using the dead body as a spring board, and using the momentum to thrust myself into the other two, knocking them off of their feet. I quickly rolled as I fell and stood. I ran and grabbed my sword just as the soldiers regain composure. They attacked; I parried one of them, but I wasn't quick enough to dodge the other incoming blade towards me. I hissed in pain as it sliced the right side of my body, below my ribcage.
Taking advantage of my distraction, a soldier slammed his blade down on top of mine, successfully throwing me to the ground. I cried out as I fell, grabbing a hold of my wound to stop the flow. They charged, and I squeezed out a lot of blood from my wound and threw the blood towards their eyes, splashing them in red. They stopped, and one of them accidentally dropped his sword as they wailed from the thick liquid in their eyes. Kicking the sword away, I attacked the one that was still armed first. I jumped and thrust the sword downwards, maiming his hand from the rest of his body before angling it upwards and stabbing the man from under his chin.
He fell, and the only remaining one seemed to have noticed that his remaining companion was down. He stared in horror before turning and fleeing the house. However, I managed to catch up to him before he got to the door and slashed him from behind. The last Oracle Knight fell lifelessly as the sticky, red substance pooled around his body, just like that of his fellow soldiers.
I dropped to one knee, panting. Can't believe I managed to kill them all. I looked back up only to see the two sibling staring at me in absolute horror as if they just finished watching the climax of a slasher movie. I blushed, feeling self-conscious since my clothes were undoubtedly covered in blood from head to toe—both my own and my opponents'.
I flashed them a half-grin to reassure them, but they only stepped back in fright.
Yeah, I almost certainly look like a deranged serial killer to them.
"Um…" I began sheepishly. "…I can explain."
It took a few minutes to quickly debrief the siblings about my relationship with the Oracle Knights as I healed my wounds. We managed to dispose of the three bodies and clean up the mess in a fairly quick manner. I found that I would always glance out the window, afraid that more Oracle Knights would pop up out of nowhere and kill me.
"Stop looking outside," Noelle sighed, pulling me away from the window and closing the curtains. "It's making me nervous as well."
"Sorry, but I can't help it!" I frowned, staring in the direction of the window. "I really wish I was with the others right now… At least I would feel safer than I do now…"
I heard Ginji walk into the room, wiping dirt from his hands—probably from burying the bodies. "Where are they? I could take you there," he offered. "It's not safe here right now. Chances are someone will notice that three soldiers are missing by nightfall. It's better if you stay away from Sheridan until things cool down."
"No kidding. That was a little too hasty. You didn't have to kill them…" Noelle muttered quietly.
"Sorry…" I murmured dejectedly. "But they would have killed me first… And I think they said they were at Or-something cavern."
"It's probably Ortion Cavern. Come on; let's hurry."
"Ginji, are you seriously going to fly it?" Noelle asked, blocking the path to the Albiore. "Ortion Cavern is still some distance away. Are you sure it's even ready?"
"Don't worry. It's perfect! Trust me, Sis," he grinned before facing me. "Ready Milee?"
I nodded and gave Noelle a reassuring smile. Ginji and I headed off into the hangers. The moment I spotted the Albiore, I had to wait an instant to stare at it in awe. It was a large grey coloured machine; although, nowhere near the size of the Tartarus. The exterior looked like a modern day military plane except with a futuristic touch to it. It was coated with a shiny metal, maybe aluminum or titanium, and the pilot's front window was made of tinted green glass.
I hurriedly went in as Ginji started the hovercraft and sat beside him. I watched as he flipped a bunch of switches and pushed some buttons, and I briefly wondered if flying a hovercraft was really that complicated. When I heard Ginji muffled a laugh, I knew that he was watching my confused expression, and I immediately reddened. However, once the roof was open, he returned to focus and the Albiore began to float. I gasped, and before I knew what happened, it flew off and out of Sheridan.
"That's so cool!" I grinned, looking out the window.
"Isn't it?" he returned my grin. Gradually, he sped up.
I could see the giant walls of rocks in the distance. I squinted my eyes, trying to see through the bright, blazing sun. I pondered for a second, wondering why that site looked so familiar. Before I could find an answer, the Albiore soared over top of it. From above, I could see kilometres worth of rock and sand—a rocky wasteland, actually.
I jumped, startled, just as Ginji shook and accidentally pull the steering wheel a little too sharply to the left. I left out a short scream as I held onto my seat.
"What was that?" I panted after Ginji got the hovercraft under control.
Turning around, I spotted a box in a corner that seemed to have fallen. I frowned. "Wow that nearly gave me a heart attack. I thought an Oracle Knight snuck onboard. Stupid box."
I turned back around, but I couldn't help but feel like that wasn't just a random happening. Shaking my head, I ignored this sceptical side of me. Don't worry! Unexpectedly, a shiver went up my spine. Why do I have a bad feeling about this? I frowned.
"That's the Meggiora Highlands," Ginji interrupted my thoughts. "I was just thinking about testing the Albiore out here this morning."
I bended over and looked out the window—more specifically, down. I gulped, feeling my throat suddenly go dry. If I remember correctly, this is the place where Ginji got stuck on the cliff and could possibly die.
"…Are you sure everything is working correctly?" I urged; a slight panic in my voice.
"Positive. No worries. I already tested it, and it works fine. It should take us about half an hour or so to get to Ortion Cavern. Don't worry, Milee. They won't be able to find you," he replied, misunderstanding my worries.
"Right…" I nodded, although, still feeling unsure. I started rubbing my hands over my arms as Goosebumps surfaced, and the feeling of dread loomed. I sunk into my chair, silently praying that it was only my overactive imagination getting the better of me and not because I was cursed to have misfortune after misfortune befall me.
It was after ten minutes later that I finally started to relaxed—and at the most inappropriate of times, too.
All of a sudden, the Albiore shook violently. I grabbed the arm rest of my seat violently before fiercely turning to the pilot.
"You said it was perfectly fine!" I cried, panicked.
"…Then why is it shaking?!"
Ginji tightened his grip on the steering wheel. "It's the wind—seems like we came at the wrong place at the wrong time! It's in full force right now, and we just got caught in the middle of it. Hold on!"
He tried to increase the speed to escape, but the wind easily pushed us aside and sent us flying towards another direction. The Albiore tumbled and spun, and unfortunately, seatbelts were not installed as I hugged the arm rest as tight as I could. The hovercraft spun for another minute—although it felt like an hour—before we crashed, and I flew out of my seat and down the aisle, slamming into the back wall.
"Owww," I groaned, overcome by dizziness.
My world was spinning and spinning and spinning. I felt the urge in my stomach to throw up the contents of my breakfast today but somehow held it down. I leaned towards a solid surface, placing my head down on it with both of my hands on either side, attempting to calm down. Taking deep breaths, I counted down from ten before I lifted my head and tried to stand, but Ginji stopped me.
"Milee, don't move!" he yelled.
I turned my head towards the sound of the voice, but my field of vision was still spinning a bit. I squinted my eyes towards his teal coloured jacket, but he was just a blur.
"Ginji?" I groaned; my voice was a little raw.
"Don't move!" he repeated, sounding quite flustered. "Get down on the ground slowly and crawl towards me. Slowly!"
"Wh-What's going on?" I blinked, still trying to clear my vision. It was starting to come together. Ginji had a hand on his seat on the ground. He looked ruffled up, and he was bleeding a bit. Behind him, the glass windows were broken, and I could see the high sun from above, shining through the cracks.
"Hurry!" he urged. "We crashed on the edge of one of the pillars of rock. I'm guessing we are about five hundred metres above ground. We'll fall if the wind picks up again!"
I finally snapped out of my dizziness, and my vision and mind was completely cleared. I furiously looked around. Everything was either scattered, broken, or both. Some of the heavier objects were slowly sliding towards me as I realized the Albiore was tilting towards the edge of the cliff.
Unfortunately, I was on the falling end of it.
I swore—loudly. "It's official. I'm cursed!" I cried as I slowly lowered myself to the ground.
"We can get out through the broken window. Just crawl slowly, and don't agitate the hovercraft!"
I did as I was told. With each breath, I moved closer and closer to Ginji. However, just when I was halfway there, the hovercraft began to shake again, and it quickly started to tilt downwards. I slipped and fell, sliding back down, but I was able to grab a hold of a groove in the floor.
"It's going to fall! Milee! Get up and run!" Ginji commanded.
I rapidly stood and bolted towards the broken window, but as the wind grew stronger, I soon found myself trying to run at a steeper angle. I looked up to see Ginji grab hold of the edge of the window and a hand towards me. Yet, I soon realized that the ship was near a ninety degree angle and had begun its descent towards hell.
I slipped and fell once more; this time, I was unable to recover. I was sent to the very back of the ship, and realization finally dawned on me.
I was going to die.
I almost laughed, but I held on to my sanity for just a little longer.
"Ginji! Jump! Get out now!"
"There's no point in both of us dying! Out!" I cried. I wasn't going to be selfish anymore. If I could just save one person, it was enough.
He looked torn between his options, but eventually, he complied and jumped out of the Alboire just as I went into freefall. Closing my eyes, I wished that I could have done more, could have made more changes—save more lives.
If only I could have been more useful.
A sickly boy reached out his hand towards me as cold sweat dampened his trembling, pale face. I, too, reached out and took his hand.
His cold, cold hands.
I felt something on my face—something wet.
I was crying.
They say your life flashes before your eyes before you die. Oddly enough, I was calm.
"I'm sorry," I heard myself say. "I'm sorry. Forgive me." My soft whispers shook along with my body as I fell to my knees to his bedside.
"You—" he stopped and started coughing violently. I opened my mouth to speak, but he held up his hand to silence me. "You—cough—were my… my b-best friend."
My eyes snapped open. Wait a minute! This isn't my memories! I realized.
"I'm sorry, but it was the only way! I did it for you!"
"I did it for you!"
The memory abruptly ended, and a pain shot through my head. I howled in pain and grabbed my head. What was that? That memory? I clutched my head harder. That boy—"
Wait—what was that? I swore I heard a voice.
"Wha—?" I gasped.
Before I knew what happened, my body shook as if it was experiencing a seizure. A startling pain coursed through my body, and in the next instant, I blacked out.
A/N: Yup, Milee's attracting danger once again. How do you think she'll get out of this? Hint: it's not completely obvious, and it may seem a little random, but it'll make sense in later chapters. :)
P.S. If something didn't make sense grammatically in this chapter, it's probably because I was rushing and didn't edit very well. Please let me know so that I can fix it.
One a side note, it'll try to update by the middle of next month. I'm extremely busy with midterms right now. :( But here's a little preview. I'll probably get the party back together next chapter.
Next Chapter Preview:
People might call me lucky or a miracle child, but I call this a curse… a very, very sadistic curse…