I woke up once again in a strange place, except this time I knew where I was: I was in Ringos' room, with Popoi at my back. I once again lay there without opening my eyes, just dozed for a bit, with the light from the gap on top shining down through the lids of my shut eyes.
Eventually, I heard Popoi turning behind my back and say 'it's time get up Rider, big day today.' It struck me because of how he sounded so sad in a way, with his low tone of voice. I didn't comment however; he would hate that.
I went to sit up after nodding my head at him, then stopped just in time to not bump my head on the lid. I looked through the gap in the lid, getting my first real look at Ringos' room, or at least her roof. It looked pretty, but really unlike my own, with posters all over the roof, nearly hiding the light blue wallpaper. The colour reminded me of the blue in Tarutarus' room. I couldn't see the rest of the roof without taking the lid off, so I listened and waited, alert for any noises that meant Ringos' parents were back again. I heard nothing so I lifted the lid up slowly, just in case. Nothing was there, so I leant over the side of the toy box and looked at the walls. More posters decorated them, though the wallpaper had changed somewhat, having swirls of other colours through it now. The wallpaper was not much different from Tarutarus' room, but I couldn't start thinking about him. I'd only just woken up- it would be bad of me to start crying again this early.
I heard Popoi moving backwards from the light, he sniffed, as if certain that now the parents would walk right in and catch us. I wasn't that silly, I was keeping my ears out for them.
Looking down: I found the heavy things that could have held the lid down last night. It was a bunch of thick books that I'd once heard Klug refer to as "Doorstoppers" as well as what looked like a really thin and foldable television-like thing connected to a cable. I looked closer at the books; they were all about math things from what I could tell from the titles, except for a few novels, once again judging by the titles.
I looked to my right; there was a bed where the girl, Ringo, was. She was sleeping, from the way she had her eyes shut. Above her was a window, which explained where the light was coming from, as there was only this one large window amidst some tinier ones to the sides.
She stirred; I ducked down. I heard her yawn and heard the bed squeaking as she presumably got up. Footsteps approached the bed.
'Hello there Rider, it's a bit early isn't it?' She asked me, looking over the toy box at me. I tried to shrink back further, but there's only so low even a small person like me can get before it's impossible to get lower. 'Besides' I said to myself 'She's not a bad person, she's helped me out a lot apparently. I shouldn't be frightened of her.' I stopped trying to make myself smaller after that. Then I blinked and remembered she'd asked me a question.
'Umm, yes, it is a bit early.' I said in reply to her. She didn't respond, even after waiting. This made me feel pretty uneasy, most people would respond when talked too, even if it took a little while.
'I'm sorry if I woke you up early. I-I was just looking around at your room when I woke up.' I blurted out to her, maybe this was why she wasn't talking to me, maybe she thought I was horrible or something.
She looked at me. 'Oh, sorry. I'm still kind of asleep, what were you talking about?' She asked. I blushed and Popoi sniggered behind me. I felt so silly, she wasn't upset with me or wanting an apology; she was just tired.
She yawned again and looked around at the door. It was shut, as well as looking the same as the roof. I wondered why she'd shut it.
'Well, I guess my parents haven't made any late night visits here. Thank goodness for that anyway.' She whispered, turning back to me. 'Anyway, probably time to get ready; Popoi and Rider. It's still pretty early, maybe mum and dad aren't up yet.' She went over to a cupboard, opened it and started taking out clothes quietly.
'Wait a minute, Ringo.' Whispered Popoi, climbing onto the edge of the toy box. 'Your parents start work earlier than this though, Don't they? Wouldn't they be up by now, then?' He asked her, and jumped out of the box, walking closer to her. I hoped they wouldn't be up like Popoi said; they might be like my parents, who would come in and wake up their children instead of using alarm clocks.
'It's the weekend, they don't work now.' She murmured, not looking down at Popoi.
Instead she grabbed more clothes out and dumped them on the floor. They were of all sorts; skirts, shirts, school uniforms, shorts, cardigans, jumpers and jackets. None of them looked really well cared for, from what I could tell. I saw when they were on the ground that many of them had patches sewn into them or had rips and tears. Even I didn't think they looked very good, and I wasn't even good with fashion sense myself. How many times had Raffine pointed out flaws in my clothes to me again?
I looked to Popoi, wondering what he was thinking. He was looking at the clothes like I had been. Unlike me, he asked a question: 'Ringo, what are all the clothes for? Are they perhaps disguises?' He asked, then looked back to her, awaiting an answer.
'Yeah, they are disguises. After all, if we leave here like planned, then when my parents wake up they're going to start searching for me.' She answered. 'After all, it isn't that often I go missing.' After saying that she winced, then muttered 'I hope I'll not be away for too long though, I don't want to worry them too much.'
She stopped after that then she pulled out the last garment, dropped it in the pile and started rummaging through them. She stopped sounding sad as much and changed to a more leader-like voice. 'Rider, grab whichever clothes you think will hide your most prominent features.' She said, looking up at me for just a second. I took a little bit to realise that she was talking about my horns and ears. I wondered why she said that, wrapping my hair around my horns had been okay in Primp Town, and nobody commented on my ears. After all, people with weird ears aren't that uncommon in Primp Town. I'd gotten teased about them, but that hadn't been happening recently, neither had the teasing about my horns.
"Still, maybe this world is different'' I thought "after all, Ringo was really concerned about her parents finding me, and so was Popoi. Maybe people like me aren't all that common here,wherever here is..." I wondered to myself.
I decided I would ask her where I was. Asking about whether I wasn't or was common here would be silly when everything was making it look as if I'm not.
'Miss Ringo, where exactly am I?' I asked her.
'You're in my room, in my parents house, above the Andou Greengrocers and in Suzuran Shopping District.' She answered simply. Then seeing that I wasn't grabbing any clothes for myself, she searched through the pile and grabbed some for me, placing them on my lap. 'Try these on. They are some really old clothes from when I was little, maybe they'll fit you.' She then wandered over to the other side of her cupboard and dragged out a backpack that looked to be from school, as well as a slightly newer looking one.
I looked at the clothes- they were really old. A hooded jacket and skirt were there. Both of them had faded colours as well as rips and tears.
'Well, put them on so I can see if they fit.' She said.
I didn't want to get changed into them, mostly because she was looking at me. Couldn't she at least turn away from me? I waited for a bit longer to see if she would. After all, wasn't it creepy to look at others when they 're changing? Even when my class and Accords class combined for HPE, when getting changed we wouldn't stare at each other.
She didn't turn away. I grabbed the clothes and went to put them on, regardless. I was just going to have to try and ignore her, after all, she wasn't turning away and Popoi wasn't going to help by the looks. I tried to ignore him not helping as well.
Soon, we were on our way to wherever we were going. I'd changed clothes, as had Ringo, we'd snuck down to the fridge to fill bottles of water and grab a few snacks that Ringo said wouldn't be noticed gone, and I still had no idea what was going on. It was annoying me; they were keeping secrets from me I guess, or just hadn't taken the time to tell me anything important. Ringo was walking in front of me, leading the way through the streets. Not many people were up, and no body noticed us walking away. I was glad not many were up as Ringo hadn't found a disguise for Popoi, just saying that he'd look like a doll and nobody would notice him.
I couldn't be annoyed for long however. From my shoulder, Popoi decided that now was the time to start speaking about what I had been missing:
'Okay, what we're going to do is search through Ringos' city or even further, and look for any magical phenomenon that's around.' He whispered in a rush.
I didn't think that this idea would really work, because Cadel and the classmates could be anywhere, wouldn't it take ages to find them? I didn't say anything about it however. I could see from the way Popoi was looking around that he was pretty stressed over everything. I'd ask him later, maybe.
Still, I was happy I was told something, even if this something wasn't much. And the scenery was pretty too. There were so many huge buildings in the city where Ringo lived; most of them had some kind of decoration on them and all of them looked like something special, at least to me. They looked completely different to how the buildings in Primp Town looked.
I'd been so busy looking at all the things around me that I didn't realise that Popoi had jumped off my shoulder and onto Ringo's until it was too late. He had already been in mid jump by the time I felt him moving. He must have decided no one was watching him.
I looked away from him and just continued walking. I felt a bit left out though, even though I didn't want to admit it. I'd been asleep for a few days and left out of the decision-making, which I would have liked to be in even if I didn't contribute much, and Popoi and Ringo were now a lot closer, almost like friends…
I shook my head, it wouldn't matter so much if Tarutaru or Amitie or any of my friends were with me. But they weren't. I sniffed. I hated it how I was always on the verge of crying over everything. It didn't change anything- Amitie was who knows where and Tarutaru could even be dead by now, if he couldn't get away or walk back through the woods, or if a creature got him…
I sighed and stopped thinking about it. Either way, it didn't matter. I'd just have to stop thinking about it and focus on what we're supposed to be doing. If I focused on Tarutaru, I might get upset and go red faced, or even worse, start crying.
So I stopped focusing on him, or tried at least. I continued to look at all the buildings and surroundings, not as much for their prettiness, but looking for any magical phenomenon around, as Popoi worded it.
We walked for ages, and still kept walking. My feet were hurting again, just like when I was walking through the woods. Neither Popoi nor Ringo suggested stopping for a break, so I stayed silent. If they didn't want to stop then who was I to make them? I could hear them talking up ahead, but I didn't want to listen and eavesdrop on them.
Eventually, I heard Popoi saying to both of us that he'd felt something magical nearby. He'd turned around and started looking for it. We waited. Ringo turned towards me slightly, and mouthed 'what's happening to him. I thought he could just tell where people were.'
I pretended not to hear her. I just wasn't in a good mood.
After a while I heard him say 'this way' and saw him point to his right into an alleyway. Ringo walked in that direction, resuming her conversation with him and I followed. We passed many of buildings similar to before, except they were now looking a bit more…wild in a way. They looked like some of the houses seen back on the outskirts of Primp town, but at the same time different. They reminded me of my own home in a way, in that most of them were double story. We passed through the streets and ended up in a park.
Soon we had found what Popoi had been looking for.
Amitie was curled up on a park bench underneath one of the old trees. I could only tell it was her because of her hair being the same as it always was. Popoi and Ringo went closer, and I followed. Amitie appeared to be asleep on the bench; she was lying down with her hands and hoodie acting as a pillow. I wondered what Amitie was doing there. I figured she must have escaped from Cadel somehow, or been abandoned.
Still, I was glad to see her. Or at least I was.
Because when we got over there and tried to stir her, she wouldn't wake up. She just lay there. From what I could see of Ringo from behind her, she was getting frustrated. She shook her some more and was muttering things under her breath, about how Amitie must wake up and some other things I couldn't understand. Popoi was now on Amities' neck, looking at her weirdly. I wondered why she wouldn't wake up, and whether it had anything to do with that dream I'd had.
I shivered, hoping this was a coincidence and that she'd wake up soon.
Ringo was getting even more flustered. She stopped shaking Amitie and turned to Popoi: 'what is happening to her, why isn't she responding? Is she like how Rider was?' She asked quickly.
Popoi looked over Amitie for a bit longer, then answered Ringo. 'I don't know really. I can guess though.'
He turned to me. 'Rider, do you remember what Raffine was like?' I nodded. How could I forget?
'Well' He continued, 'one of the people in the cave, either Cadel or Mistress, was saying something about hypnosis wearing off early on Raffine due to her magic not being "native" to her. I think they were referring to her pouch; she uses magic from that, not from her soul. But at the same time, I should have been able to sense her just like the others, except her pouch was gone…'
He looked around, from me to Ringo. From his look, it was to make sure we understood him. He still waited, as if unsure how to say what he wanted to. That confused me; Popoi was almost never lost for words.
'…Well, I think Amitie was placed under the same hypnosis, which is lasting longer for her because she her magic is from the soul. At the same time, I think that Cadel was taking magic from the students for some kind of deed, and ditching them when all their magic was gone. This would be why Amitie cannot be sensed anymore; with her magic stolen, nobody could think she's more than an average human girl.'
'Now hang on!' Exclaimed Ringo. 'You said you can't sense her, yet you found her by sensing magic. I think your theory is wrong. Either she has magic or she doesn't have magic. She can't be both states at the same time unless this is like Schrodingers cat, but with magic.'
Popoi shook his head, then focused on Ringo. 'I couldn't sense her. I could sense something magical around here though. Magical power does not always come from a human, sometimes it comes from residual magic left over from a match, puyo or otherwise, or when some large phenomenon has happened, like teleportation or similar things.' He finished, then went back to Amitie: 'I wonder what we could do to wake her up? She might be able to say something really interesting about what is happening to the others, or what happened to her at least.'
We just were silent for a while. I go a bit closer to Amitie, but not too close. She was my friend, but I wasn't sure if she would try to hurt me again, like in that dream. She could be faking, waiting for me to get closer. She didn't move however.
Ringo backed away a bit, and turned to ask Popoi a question. 'So what are we going to do with her? I mean, if she's asleep then we're going to either have to stay here or take her with us, and that won't be easy. The only advantage I can think of is that it's still early morning and not many people are up to see her.' She said quickly.
I thought that she was being a bit silly then; did she think we actually could carry Amitie? Maybe she could, but I was certain that I couldn't, and Popoi wouldn't be able to help either.
'I don't really know what we're going to do really.' Popoi said. It didn't worry me as much anymore, him saying that, because Popoi didn't seem to know much about anything anymore. Most of what he was saying was guesswork, something that could be wrong and leave us with no idea of where to go or what was happening.
Ringo, however, did look a bit worried from what I could see. 'Well, I guess we should move her out of the way. People might walk by soon, see her and assume she has run away from home. If they do, then they might try to get the police involved.' She leant over Amitie and I wondered what she was doing until I heard her say; 'could you please help me, Rider.' and grab her feet.
So I did. I was surprised when I picked her up that she wasn't as heavy as I thought she would be. My thought that I wouldn't be able to carry her turned out to be false.
Or at least kinda did. I was still dragging behind a bit, my arms were hurting before long and Ringo was still doing most of the work of making sure she stayed in the air. Still, when we did manage to carry her to a nearby forestry-like place, which was too small to be an actual forest.
After that I was feeling better than usual. I'd done something useful and what's more, Popoi said that I'd done well too after thanking Ringo, which was nice, even though I hadn't been much help. I'd said, 'you're welcome.' The only problem was that after hiding Amitie in the trees, we weren't sure what else to do:
'Well, we've found Amitie, should we go out and look for others that could also be here, or just stay here and wait with her?' Asked Ringo, looking at Popoi.
'I'm not sure; maybe there are others around…' Said Popoi. Then he turned to me. 'Rider, would you like to stay here with Amitie for a bit.' I looked at him strangely; I didn't want to be left behind with Amitie, even if the attack was only in my dream. Ringo also looked at him, and she decided to start speaking:
'Popoi, Do you think it would be okay to leave Rider behind? Would she just leave Amitie and wander off somewhere? Would she panic and go looking for us?' What if anyone did find her, would she be able to get out of that situation?'
I looked down. I didn't like the way she was discussing me. It was as if I wasn't there, or was not able to hear what she was saying. Even though I didn't want to stay with Amitie, I still resented the way Ringo was talking. She hadn't even known me for a day, and here she was making guesses about me.
I took a breath and wondered just how I could be so annoyed. It wasn't like me to be like this. Those things are all things I wouldn't usually get tooupset about.
Popoi then decided to answer her question, after taking a jiffy to think. 'Well no Ringo, I've known Rider for a lot longer than you and I think she'd be okay with Amitie by herself. Besides, I can't go by myself, and no one can sense magical presence like me.' I heard him shifting, presumably towards me. 'Rider will be fine here, won't you Rider?' He asked.
I didn't answer for a jiffy; I felt as if backed into a corner. On one hand, Ringo was saying that I'd be incapable of staying here with Amitie, on the other hand, Popoi believed that I could. And it didn't matter that I didn't want to stay here- I'd prefer to prove Ringo wrong and Popoi right, even if that meant staying here.
I looked up and answered: 'Oh, I-I'll be fine staying here Popoi.' and wanted to hit myself for stuttering. It made me look like I was lying, which was true, but I didn't want Popoi to know that.
I waited while he looked at me strangely. After a bit, he turned away and said 'well, if that's okay with you then. Come on, Ringo. We ought to be going then.' He then jumped into her hands and she put him in a smaller purse-like bag she was carrying over her shoulder.
She looked back at me, then walked away.
I was left with Amitie.
The only good thing about that time I can remember is that Amitie didn't suddenly burst back to life and try to kill me. However she did wake up.
I had been sitting there, wondering what Ringo and Popoi were doing. Maybe they'd found another classmate, or even just another person who went missing from primp town? This thought wasn't one I'd be thinking about for to long, without answers. I'd usually get bored of not being able to figure it out and stop. But I preferred to think about it than think about what Amitie could do when she woke up, or about what could've happened to Tarutaru, or how my parents were going without me...
And then she woke up, and nothing happened. She just lay there, looking at the treetops. She made no noises and no other movements than opening her eyes. I didn't even know when she woke up; I just noticed her eventually with her eyes open. It was scary seeing her like that. It made me start thinking about how she could have woken up and gone for me, would I have noticed she was awake then?
I could only hope the answer was "yes."
Pretty soon, however, I stopped being scared by Amitie being awake. If she wanted to attack me, she would've by then. I got a bit closer and focused more on listening out for people, and for thinking when Popoi and Ringo would be back.
They didn't come back for a long time. Towards the end, I'd stopped thinking about important things like Amitie, Popoi and Ringo, Cadel and what he was planning, and started to think about Tarutaru, hunger and how I was going to return home.
At that time, I instead started imagining that I was already home. That me, Popoi and Tarutaru had found Raffine like the real life version, but instead she'd been reasonable and we'd gone on a nice adventure that involved playing puyo with a variety of people who gave us clues on where to go to find the rest of the students. I was just starting to imagine why the students had gone there when I heard rustling in the bushes nearby. I stopped thinking about my silly fantasy and realized just how long I'd been sitting in the same place. I felt like I was going numb.
I looked to them after turning around and waited for something to happen. I was sure whether it would be Ringo and Popoi or something more sinister.
I looked away when I heard Ringos' voice- it was just her and Popoi coming back from their journey. After a few seconds, their voices cleared up and I heard them scrambling through the closest bushes
'Well, that was absolutely pointless.' I heard Ringo say. The tone had a sarcastic ring to it, even though it probably wasn't.
Popoi just murmured something back to her that, even though he was relatively close, I couldn't understand.
The next instant, they were sitting down nearby again, having said a rushed greeting to me. I raised my head and said hi back. After that their attention was quickly turned from me to Amitie. I decided to tell them about what she had done, even though it was basically nothing. They might think afterwards that I was more interesting to talk to.
'She woke up between about halfway through the time you had left and returned.' I said. I tried my best to sound confidant, but I don't think it worked, because they didn't look at me or anything, just at Amitie.
After that, everyone went silent. I thought maybe I'd made a mistake in speaking to them. Had I done something wrong? I was about to ask them about that when Ringo spoke up:
'We found nothing out there. Every time we found some magical phenomenon, it was just residual from a long time ago. No other persons were found, and when I went to visit Maguro and Risukuma to see if they knew anything important, they couldn't help us either.' She looked down, looking disheartened. 'Even now they can't help us.' She murmured.
It was like the temperature had dropped by a few degrees, my hands felt strangely cold without the sleeves covering them; even though I wasn't feeling that kindly towards Ringo, I still felt sorry for her. I wondered if she were friends with those people mentioned. I wanted to ignore what she was feeling, like I'd tried to when she was talking to me, but it didn't work.
I looked at her and tried to smile convincingly. 'It'll be okay Miss Ringo. They might not be able to help you now, but maybe they'll help you later.' I knew it didn't sound like much, but I had to try and help make her feel better.
She looked back up at me and smiled. It wasn't a huge smile, but at least I knew then that she was trying to believe what I said. 'Thanks Rider, though I'm not sure how…maybe in a chemistry project? But then again, I'd probably be helping them more.' She giggled after that, and I did too. I didn't get the joke; but some laughs are contagious. The only one who didn't laugh was Popoi. I looked over to him to see if he was angry about something, but he looked happy- or at least happier than he had been.
Ringo seemed to jump a bit, even though she was still seated. She clicked her fingers and said; 'oh, I forgot. It's just after lunch time isn't it?'
I couldn't answer, as I didn't know what time it was. I could guess it was around lunchtime, but that was all. I couldn't even see where the sun was in the sky. Even though there weren't many trees in the forest, they were very thick. Ether way, even if I knew the answer I wouldn't have got time because Ringo decided to answer her own question:
'I'm pretty sure it is.' She said and grinned. Then she dived into her backpack and grabbed out three packages. I could smell that they had something interesting in them, though I couldn't place what it was.
Ringos' grin seemed to get bigger as she placed one of the packages in front of me then said 'one for you', then placed one in front of Amitie after shuffling towards her; 'just in case she wants to eat', and then she sat back where her back was and placed one in front of herself; 'and one for me.'
I stopped looking at what Ringo was doing and focused on my package. Whatever was in it really did smell nice; though I wasn't able to figure out what it was by smell. I had a feeling this was the lunch we were supposed to have. The box was covered in funny looking cartoons that didn't have any clues about what would be inside.
I looked back up at Ringo. She had already opened her box and had taken out a plastic fork to eat with. I assumed mine would have one too. I wasn't sure if by asking her about what was in mine I'd be disturbing her. She didn't seem to notice I was looking at her, though Popoi did. In the end I decided to ask, even though I wasn't sure whether it would be considered rude by her.
'Excuse me Miss Ringo, but what kind of food is in these boxes?' I asked her. I'd been careful to phrase it so she couldn't answer something like "it's food obviously" like Raffine once had said to me.
After I said that, she looked up at me and answered my question. 'Well in my lunch, I have some apple pie, my only problem being they didn't also pack a knife with the fork.' She rolled her eyes. 'Anyway, I got you some ham, cheese and tomato sandwiches because I wasn't sure what you liked. I also got the same for Amitie as well.' She finished.
At least I know what the smell is now. I said to myself after thanking Ringo. I opened up the box and had a look in. True to her word, some ham, cheese and tomato sandwiches were in there, about two rounds of them. They kind of reminded me of the sandwiches I would sometimes take to school if Mum had run out of other things to eat. I was glad that this was something I was familiar with- I thought it would be something really weird at first.
Soon I was eating the sandwiches. It even tasted the same as I remember it. Ringo continued eating her pie, Popoi just looked at us while lying on Ringos' bag, and Amitie continued to lay there, her sandwiches going untouched.
After lunch, Popoi wanted to go out looking for classmates that could be nearby; the only difference from last time being that I was taken with him, not Ringo. He'd said that he had a pretty good idea of how to get back, and if he got lost he could just follow Ringos' magical presence. It was fun walking around and looking at everything again. I felt a lot better than I had earlier, whether just because of the food or because I didn't have as much of a problem with Ringo anymore. I smiled and thought that it probably was because of that silly fantasy before. I didn't change anything; Tarutaru would still be out there or hurt and my parents would still be missing me, but the fantasy made it go away fro a bit.
But anyway, the things I'd thought so annoying and rude earlier were… I don't know, not as important. We weren't friends or anything; I still hardly knew her, but I felt better.
When we were walking along, looking around for anything magical, he decided to talk about what I'd just been thinking about: 'It's nice that you're not being so distant to Ringo now, Rider. She'd asked me while I was with her why you were being so different to what I'd said you'd be.' He commented from inside my hoodie. After all, having a Puppet cat out would be a strange sight here if I was.
I didn't answer for a jiffy; I wasn't sure myself why, even though I'd been thinking about it. That's the thing about thinking about why you or I or anyone does things- you never know if your mind is telling the truth or lying just to mess with you. And even if you find the truth, it's mixed with a bunch of other "truths" and I really don't know which is which.
That's why I couldn't answer.
I looked down a bit, while still keeping my eyes in front of me looking ahead. 'I'm not really sure why I wasn't nice to her Popoi.' I looked around- I swore I heard something to my right. Popoi looked too, then we must have decided it was nothing and continued walking. We walked in silence for a while.
'Anyway, I'm just glad you're getting along with her now.' Said Popoi, moving forwards a bit so I could see him without anyone else being able to. 'I'm also glad that you're behaving so mature too. For a while, I thought I'd have a whiny brat on my, metaphorical, hands.'
I looked away from him for a second, focusing on the buildings to the side and the footpath ahead of us. I hadn't been behaving that badly. I'd been a bit cold, but that was it. And wasn't I trying to be nice when I first talked to her in the morning?
Before I could ask him about that, he decided to answer first. 'I know you're going to be thinking I'm being a bit harsh, but last night you were being a bit rude. I know it was because you were scared, but I still expected better. What's more, Ringo did too. And then you started being rude and distant when we left too…. I wasn't sure if that meant you had problems or anything- you never say when you dislike something or have a problem with someone or something, you just stand there and say nothing. And this isn't just a "here" thing either, this goes on at school too.' He stopped talking, and took a breath, though it might have just been a fake sigh. 'What I'm thinking is that now, you being nice to Ringo, is it just a temporary thing? You didn't have time to talk about what was wrong with her, so at first I thought you'd just compromised with yourself, but even now you could be hating her and hiding it. Is that what you're doing Rider?' He asked, sounding as if he almost forgot to whisper.
I still kept looking ahead, but answered a lot quicker this time: 'No, that isn't it. 'I said to Popoi. 'I was angry because of, well… A few things really.'
I didn't really want to talk about it to him; I figured I would just be whiny then. So for a while, neither of us talked, until he said; 'go on, if there's something bothering you anyway.'
I sighed, and looked forwards so that I could walk and not draw any attention to myself. 'Well there is a problem: Tarutaru- we just left him there, What if he never managed to get back? We've been here for days, if he was still there then he could have dehydrated or been killed by the animals, and that's not even mentioning my parents…what could they be going through? They thought I was studying, and then I just don't show up. They could even think I'm dead by now, they probably do even… And what about Ms Accord? What will happen to her if we never get back to Primp Town? What will happen to us if we never get back to Primp Town?'
I looked at him, for a second. He needed to have the answers to these questions, because I didn't have them.
After a second, he did at least try to stop me worrying: 'Rider, I'm sure Tarutaru will be fine. He wasn't hurt so badly that he couldn't walk, just that he couldn't run after Raffine. That's why he was left there, not because he was too injured to move. And your parents? When Tarutaru got back, he would have explained to your parents that we were looking for students and that me and you chased after Raffine. While this wouldn't stop them from thinking you're dead, it does let them know some of what was going on. He wouldn't have kept it a secret if it would cause others to be in pain, he isn't like that. Accord? She'll know that we'll be fine, and if she doesn't, I'll explain when we get home. And we will get home somehow Rider. Even though I'm not sure how at the moment, you just have to trust me on this, okay?'
I nodded, hoping he could see it under the hoodie. He was right, but it would still be difficult not to worry about these things. I would just have to trust him to solve these problems, as well as try to not let my bad mood rub off on Ringo.
So we continued walking along after that. Popoi stayed silent about those issues, instead only commenting when he felt something, or when he heard something weird. I did the same, except I didn't sense any magic or anything.
In the end, we'd been walking for ages. My feet were hurting and the sun was setting again. We'd found nothing. The only magical things were just from previous things, not from anything recent. Then again, if Popoi was right and he couldn't sense them anymore, then we wouldn't be able to find them easily anyway.
Eventually, he whispered to go back to the forestry place, giving me directions under his breath. We got back after a while and I was able to rest my feet. We just had some snacks Ringo had taken for dinner. I looked over at Amitie; she still wasn't awake. I hoped she wouldn't wake up when we fell asleep. I said so to Ringo.
'Oh, don't worry, I've thought about this situation before leaving.' She said, after finishing her snack, which was a chocolate bar. I'd finished mine even earlier than her, which was odd; other people usually beat me at eating food, not the other way around.
She grinned at me, and unzipped her bag, reaching inside and drawing out a ball of twine. The stands were about half as thick as my pinky.
'We'll use this to tie around both our wrist, then tie it to Amitie. That way, if she wakes up, we'll know because we'll feel tugging with the twine.' She said. She unravelled it and held up a bit for me to see. 'You first.'
I hesitated for a jiffy, wondering why I was first. Ringo decided to clear up that question before I'd even asked it. 'Because if I tie a bit around your wrist first, I'll then tie a bit to Amitie's, and then you can tie a bit of twine around my wrist. Amitie will be in the middle of the thread, and we'll be at the ends. This will be better if she wakes up and is frightened; we'll be able to handle her easier. Besides, there will be enough thread between us so that we can move a bit- I won't tie anyone too close.' She said.
I figured what she said was true and let her tie my wrist with the thread. I trusted her. It was tied loose, which I was grateful for, but not loose enough that it could slide off easily. She did the same for Amitie, then I tied her wrist with the opposite end to me, just like she'd said to do.
For a minute we just stood there, looking around. The sun must have been really low on the horizon from the lack of light.
'Well, I guess we should try and get some sleep.' She said, then reached into her bag and grabbed out a sleeping bag. I knelt down and got mine out too, but stopped just after to ask a question.
'Ringo, why don't we just go back to your place for the night? It'd be safer and it isn't that far away.' It would also be warmer, but I didn't add that.
Ringo opened her mouth to speak, but Popoi answered for her. 'The reason we're not doing that is because we may have to go very far away to find other classmates; this way, we've got a bit of an advantage. Also, the longer you and me try to stay at Ringos' house, the more likely that her parents will find us.' He said. Instead of continuing talking, he crawled over to between Ringo and me, sitting between us on the bag. 'You get some sleep.' He said as if to explain. 'I'll keep watch over everything, okay?'
I looked at Ringo. We both nodded a yes. Amitie still just lay there. We set up the sleeping bags. I knew not to ask further about it; it wasn't often Popoi took quite that tone; though I'd sometimes hear him take a similar tone to deal with naughty students and to rant at me.
I lay back after climbing into my sleeping bag and turning to my side. It was a bit uncomfortable. Even though I'd looked out for rocks, some had managed to get underneath. I looked up sideways at the treetops. I guessed from above me, Ringo and Amitie would be making a strange triangle around Popoi and the bag. It was a funny thought and I smiled as I fell slowly into sleep.
I woke up again feeling like it wasn't much later. I'd been dreaming about weird things again. That fox boy, Lucky, had been back, I was sure. Even though it didn't look much like him.
'Why did you disappear last time?' I remember him asking over the top of soft music. It sounded like a flute was playing in the distance. 'You missed all of the interesting stuff that happened.' I didn't have time to ask what interesting stuff before I woke up.
For a jiffy, I didn't know why, except I could feel a tugging at my wrist and could hear the same music from my dream. I'd still been thinking about this dream, wondering why it was happening and what had been happening in it. Eventually my brain decided to wake up too and I remembered something- a tugging at my wrist meant someone was up and moving around.
The only thought that registered before I opened my eyes was 'I hope it's not the Amitie-thing from my dream…'
Instead I saw something worse after my eyes adjusted to the dark: Both Ringo and Amitie were up and walking away slowly. From their close distance I figured they'd only just started, but it was still weird. The tugging increased, as they got further away.
I sat up and looked at Popoi, or at least where Popoi once was- he wasn't there anymore. I spun around in the sleeping bag, looking all around me. Where was he? Didn't he say he would keep watch? I wondered what to do- if Popoi was gone, should I follow them or stay here? Which would he tell me to do if he was here?
I got up and followed the two girls, the tugging stopped once I got closer. Even after making that decision I wasn't sure if it was right. I still didn't know what Popoi would say, I didn't know what to do to stop them, and I didn't know where this strange music was coming from…
I stopped: Ringo and Amitie were following the weird music. We hadn't left the forest-thing yet, but when we did I was sure they'd go to the music, wherever it is. The question was, why were they following it?
"Maybe that had been what was hypnotising the others…?"
The thread started pulling at my wrist again; they must have begun walking a bit faster. I had to continue moving towards them, being dragged by the thread, but at least I was still on my feet. I looked down at them, looking to make sure I wouldn't trip up. If I tripped now, I'd be dragged along the ground. The strange music continued to play.
Soon, we were out of the forest. It was a lot lighter here; so I could see up ahead that Popoi was sitting down just behind where the girls had been walking. What was he doing there? Was that where he was on lookout?
I walked closer, no longer needing to be dragged behind. 'Popoi, what are you doing here?' I asked, keeping my voice to a whisper. The way the music was playing was like an enchantment in a way; I felt speaking loudly would break it.
He looked up at me and responded: 'I was out here seeing what this music was like. It sounded like the music I heard in Primp town that night four days ago ago. Still, what are Ringo and Amitie doing up, are they going somewhere to get food or something?' He said. I could see from his face that he was tired. I hadn't thought he could get tired really- I just thought he faked sleep to fit in with humans. Maybe he didn't.
I looked away from him to where Ringo and Amitie were. The thread was slowly getting tenser as they continued to walk away. 'I'm not sure.' I said. Even though I had an idea of what was happening, I wasn't sure if it was right. Maybe they weren't following the music, what if I was wrong? Wasn't Popoi the one with most of the answers and theories? I wasn't sure what to do.
He shook his head and seemed to wake up a bit more, but only a bit. 'Well, I should untie you anyway Rider; if they are just going to get food then you should be staying here.'
I nodded, and he jumped up onto my wrist, just above the knot Ringo had made earlier. He started untying it, though it still took a few seconds where Ringo and Amitie kept moving forward. After they had gone about a meter, he'd managed to untie it.
I decided against my ideas that I would tell him what I thought was going on: after all, If he really was tired, maybe he wasn't able to make decisions properly. If that were so, then I'd just have to do that myself and hope that I get it right.
'Popoi, I'm not sure about this, but I think they are following the music. I also think the music might be what could be hypnotising them.' I said to him, hoping he wouldn't suddenly wake up and be annoyed at me for suggesting it. Instead he looked at me with his head tilted to the side. He looked a bit confused. I waited for a jiffy, keeping in mind that the girls were getting further away as well as how cold it is.
In less than 5 seconds, his face turned from confusion to dread. 'He must have woken up.' I thought.
'W-we've got to follow them.' He spluttered out, then jumped up on my shoulder from my wrist. I looked ahead. Thankfully they were still in sight, not being out of the park yet. I nodded and ran after them, passing the empty benches and gazebo. The thread danced around on the ground, as I got closer. "Well, at least I'm not going to be cold now due to running." I thought to myself as I continued to run.
It wasn't long until we'd arrived at a building. A tall building with stairs going up the side to the roof. A building that's red bricks looked as old as time. A building where many people were either heading to or going up the stairs, not just Amitie and Ringo. Popoi and me stayed back, not even trying to stop Ringo and Amitie anymore. All the other time we tried were simply shrugged off by them: They'd ignored us. The only thing we'd been able to do was untying them, otherwise if something happened to one, it would also happen to the other, or so Popoi said.
Instead, on Popoi's whispered direction, we hid underneath the first staircase alongside a rusted dumpster. We hid behind it, just in case, and stayed in the shadows where we could see others, but where they couldn't see us. The people kept going up the stairs, and in the middle of the crowd were Ringo and Amitie. I wondered why Ringo was going with Amitie? Maybe she was hypnotised too?
We waited. Soon they had vanished from our sight, leaving us to watch all of the people we didn't know, some of whom seemed a bit familiar.
I heard Popoi shuffling around on my shoulder, where he had hidden himself under my hoodie. I looked down at his general direction and he started whispering to me: 'Rider, I don't know what's up there. I have guesses but that's all. If they are right, and Cadel is the one who put classmates and everyone under a spell of hypnosis, then he would be the one up on top of the building playing the instrument.' He then turned away and I could see the silhouette of him leaning out of the hoodie. 'I don't know what we should do though.' He stated. 'Should we go up there and face him or wait here for a chance to strike?'
I thought about it for a moment, looking out at all the people. Still people were arriving at the building; still they were trying to climb the stairs. It was what my teacher might call surreal. The entire thing was surreal, the way they were allbehaving the exact same way.
Maybe surreal situations call for surreal solutions?
'…M-maybe there's another way up to the top.' I said to Popoi.
He turned the silhouette of his head towards me again. 'Maybe there is, but why do you say that?' He asked. It was unspoken between us that he was wondering why I was actually suggesting things instead of leaving it all up to others.
For a while I didn't answer, eventually muttering some like '…I just thought that you might be tired and things.'
He kept looking for a second, then turned away to face the stairs. '…I'm glad for you, you seem to be becoming a bit more mature.' He said. 'I'm glad I'm not the only one doing some mental footwork now. You were doing some before, then must have decided to leave it up to me somewhere down the line.'
I didn't know what to say to that, maybe I could have good ideas like Popoi and help a bit more.
'Still, we'll move out to take a look around this building when the crowd has died done a bit, okay?'
This seemed like a bad idea to me- if we moved now we would be hopefully unseen in a sea of people. As well as that, there would be more of a chance of finding Amitie and Ringo somehow if we didn't wait. At the same time, I wasn't sure whether to say this, would I just be annoying Popoi by questioning, or would he think I was being "mature"?
I looked out at the crowd. Even in the small time we'd been talking, they had started to thin out a bit, thought there was still a large amount of people waiting to go up the stairs. What happened to them once they went up the stairs?
'Popoi, shouldn't we go up there now?' I asked. Before he could ask any questions, I continued. 'Because if what you guess is true and Cadel is up there, then he could be teleporting people away right now, even Amitie and Ringo…'
For a minute it was silent, then after I'd started getting even more wrung up, he decided to speak: 'Well that sounds like a good choice. Let's go then.'
Then I was glad; I crept to the edge of the stairwell and looked around. The only people around were those going up the stairs, at least going by their looks. I paused for a jiffy, wondering if I could really do this. It wasn't the way I would usually do things. Then I stopped thinking about it, because I couldn't wait around thinking about it and wasting time, and partly because I already knew the answer: I could because I had too. Just like the other times, even though I was scared.
I took a deep breath and ran around the corner, still not being sure if the people were able to understand and raise an alarm. Keeping close to the building, I looked for other ways up to the top. I ran around from the back to the front door before seeing an emergency ladder, which looked like it was glowing under the streetlights. It started about halfway up the ground floor and went to the top. I stopped after that and had to start thinking- I was too short to climb it, even reaching it would only be done if I jumped really high.
I looked down at Popoi; even he looked as if he didn't know what to do. Did this mean my rescue mission was over? I felt like an idiot, both for thinking I could in the first place and for not being able to come up with a solution now.
So for a little bit I just stood there, waiting for a sign as to how I would get up there. I'd looked around the building- there didn't seem to be any boxes around except for moldy cardboard ones, and they wouldn't support me no matter how light I was. Once again I looked down at Popoi who surprised me: He looked up at me into my eyes and then jumped down to the ground. I looked at him and backed away as he seemed to… shift in a way, though shifting might not have been the right word for it. Instead he got bigger and wider slowly, ending up towering than me.
I looked up at him and he looked down on me. Nether of us said anything for a second; I wasn't sure what to say anyway. After all, it isn't often your friend that is also a puppet the size of a hand decides to become the size of an adult, and there are no guides of what to say when that happens.
While I was thinking this, the music stopped. I wasn't sure what this meant, unless all the people were already up there.
After that time he must have decided that he should speak to me: 'I know this is odd, but now isn't the time to question it or stand there stunned.' He mumbled at me, his mouth moving weirdly. 'I'll explain later, after we've done this.' He finished, and then jumped up onto the ladder, grabbed my hand and pulled me up too.
I grabbed hold of the sides of the ladder when he let go of my hands so I wouldn't fall. Keeping true to his word, he didn't start telling me about how he could be like this, and I didn't ask him. Instead I wondered just what would happen when, or if, we reached the top. Would Cadel be up there? Would we win any fight with him? Would he …kill us?
I shook my head. It was no good asking questions like that, even to myself. I couldn't answer them, and I was sure Popoi couldn't either.
Soon we'd reached the top, Popoi stopping as he reached the edge of the rooftop. I wondered what he was thinking; after all, if he were able to see things up there he'd be able to make a plan. The next thing he did was surprise me by jumping up there and disappearing from sight. I hesitated, then climbed up to the edge as well, keeping my head below it so I wouldn't be seen. I was wondering whether I should just climb down and give up, say it was too dangerous, until I heard Popoi whispering to me.
'Rider, where are you? Look where I am. It's hidden from where Cadel is, so it's safe to climb up.' He whispered from wherever he was. I inched upward, letting my eyes look over the edge. It was as he said. There was a small building, maybe housing an elevator or staircase to the roof. My less charitable side was complaining that maybe they shouldn't have as many rooftop entrances. Did they want to get robbed? After realising that Cadel was on the other side and couldn't see us, I dragged myself up there and tiptoed over to where Popoi was. He was slowly creeping towards the right with his back to the wall. He would have been trying to peek around it. I wasn't sure what to do, so I waited there. I didn't want to be seen. If I was hidden and Popoi was found, there was a chance Cadel would be merciful. If I was there…
I shivered. Even when I was trying not to be scared or think about it, I still managed to remember and be scared.
Just after that, however, Popoi doubled back and poked me in the arm. 'He isn't looking this way, so take a look at what's going on.'
I was hesitant, but still snuck over there to have a look. I could see Cadel in a light post that spilt over the floor, up until the elevator room. 'They must really want to be broken into if they have lights to guide people.' I said to myself. After thinking that, I turned my attention back to Cadel. He was standing within a group of people, holding what looked like a shell. Could that have been where the music was coming from? The only reason I could see him was he was standing taller than everyone else; maybe he'd grabbed a box to stand on? He was talking to them all, the many, many people who were on the building.
The next thing, a portal appeared behind him, spreading out until it was taller than a person. The people waited for a jiffy, until he pointed to it and started speaking words that must have been a whisper, because I couldn't understand them. After he pointed, they started walking calmly towards the portal.
I looked on in horror. Where would this portal take them? Back to that place that the weird girl, Mistress or something, called Infinity?
Popoi was also thinking something, though I wasn't sure what.
At least until he decided to speak. 'We've got to stop this Rider. These people, they may be magical, even if they haven't realised it. Even if they weren't, this couldn't be allowed to happen.' He finished; his voice had been dropping to a whisper steadily throughout the speech. The people had started walking towards the portal. 'We need to stop them from going into the portal. Especially Amitie and Ringo.' He whispered.
Then he did something weird: He bolted quietly out of the cover and tacked Cadel over from his makeshift podium. I wasn't expecting him to do that; I was expecting a kind of plan or at least him telling me about it. This wasn't right.
After he'd tackled Cadel, Popoi started fighting with him, clawing and biting in an animalistic way. Cadel was fighting back, and the crowd and me were standing around like mannequins. At least the crowd had an excuse for not fighting- they were hypnotised. My only excuse was being scared. Like always.
Even though Popoi had said he'd always be by my side, shouldn't I be helping him the same way he'd help me?
If only there was a way that I could help without getting too close, so that I wouldn't be afraid, but wouldn't be useless as well…
Then I figured it out: Magic, the same thing I'd been learning in Primp town. How could I forget it?
I stayed behind the elevator room, but peeked around so I could see where Cadel was. Because of Popoi, he wasn't watching over towards my way. I wondered if he'd even recognised him? Probably not.
After Popoi had swung away from Cadel's knife, I played my part:
After whispering that, a storm started raining down on them. Popoi jumped back, but Cadel didn't. I guess he didn't realise what was going on.
Soon the storm was throwing lightning as well as a bit of hail. I gulped and decided not to use it again, because while it wasn't hitting Popoi, due to him staying back, it was hitting the crowd of people, who didn't know to get away. They just stood there getting hurt.
Cadel however, like Popoi, was figuring things out, he ran away from where the storm was focusing, darting away from Popoi towards where I was.
I gasped and draw back against the wall. How had he figured out I was here?
I heard a thing landing on the flat roof of the elevator room. It would be Cadel, though why hadn't he just looked around the side if he knew I was here?
…Maybe he didn't know I was there and was just there so he could look around to see who's using magic from a vantage point.
I shivered and hoped he wouldn't find me, shutting my eyes just in case.
I heard the footsteps creeping over the roof and heard him say 'found you, little horned girl.'
I opened my eyes and looked up. He was leaning over the roof, looking down on me. I could see the knife shining in his hand.
He opened his mouth as if to say something else but couldn't. Popoi must have followed him, and tackled him off the roof, sending both him and Cadel to the ground just in front of me.
I stood up, wondering whether I should move. They weren't that close, but their fight was vicious enough- What if they got closer, with them biting and clawing each other?
"They weren't even concerned about the others anymore were they…?"
After thinking that, I started running. The crowd, what would it do when left alone? Would it continue into the portal or wait for more orders?
I rounded the corner, and saw the worst. They took the first option; continuing into the portal. There was about half left. They must have started moving as soon as Cadel jumped away, and very quickly.
I ran into the crowd, looking for a way to stop them. I grabbed at there hands, I tried to convince them not to. I t didn't matter what I did, even if I tried to heard them away, they would still continue towards it.
I stopped. It was impossible. I needed to focus on a smaller target, not a huge crowd, even if it was slowly getting smaller.
I needed to find Amitie and Ringo.
Once again I darted through the crowd, but instead of trying to stop everyone, I was just trying to find two. I just hoped they hadn't already gone through.
I sidestepped all the adults who could squash me, ran around all of the others who were in the way. I wasn't sure if I were heading in the right direction or even sure if I'd find them, I just kept trying anyway.
Eventually, I found them, or at least thought I had. I'd seen Ringos' curly ponytails and followed that, thinking Amitie would still be with her. After getting closer I realised she wasn't. Whether they'd gotten split up by the surge of the crowd or just drew apart naturally, I didn't know. But it didn't matter. Amitie still needed to be found, and I had to keep Ringo with me.
I grabbed her by her right hand and called out to her. 'Ringo, please stay with me. You don't want to go in there.' I knew she heard me, but wasn't sure if she understood it, all I know is it got her attention. She turned towards me and I thought I'd succeeded- until she grabbed my hand with her other and threw mine off. She then started walking away again.
I tried again, grabbing her wrist and attempting to drag her back. She was getting way to close to the portal for comfort; I could feel it pulling at my skirt, sleaves and hoodie.
This time she didn't throw my hand off, she just kept walking, going around the box Cadel had been standing on before. Instead of me dragging her back, she dragged me even closer towards the portal. Now it wasn't just pulling at my clothes. I started to panic; we couldn't go in there. There had to be a way to stop this.
I continued to try and pull her away: She continued to pull me forward. It was hopeless; this wouldn't work.
'What about magic, it nearly worked against Cadel. Maybe it'll work against the portal?' I said to myself. It might work? What would Popoi do?
'Arcobaleno.' I muttered to myself, focusing on the portal. At first I thought it wasn't doing anything, the attack was usually visible by now. Then I saw the portal turn dark, in the way a rainbow would look except without the colour, instead of its pink and purple shades.
Then it exploded; the shock wave crashing into us and throwing us back, sending us back into the crowd, which also fell. The sound wave was even worse; I felt like my ears would burst, it was so loud.
Once the ringing in my ears was getting quieter, I looked to my right for Ringo. She was just sitting there, as was everyone behind and in front of her. I guess with the portal gone, they had nowhere to go anymore.
I heard a yell to my right, back towards the elevator room. It wasn't Popoi making that noise. I hoped this meant that Popoi was winning.
The next second those hopes were dashed as Cadel jumped onto the roof. I could see from here that, even though he was swaying, he was still dangerous.
''MaybePopoihadn'twon...?'' I shivered at that thought. What would happen now?
What happened was a second roar that came from Cadel. Then he looked at me; the one yellow eye I could see filled with rage.
Then he ran towards me. I could see the knife in his hand and shrank back. I guessed it was a little too late to run away; even when he was only on the roof it was too late. Even knowing that, I stood up, grabbed Ringo's hand and pulling her up too, then backed away towards the edge of the buildings roof, trying to get away regardless. Before long, he was right in front of me, staring done on Ringo and I.
I waited for a jiffy, looking away from him, wondering when he'd get me. I knew I couldn't get away, we were on a roof who knows how many stories high, and Popoi didn't seem to be coming to rescue me anytime soon enough.
'Why are you always messing with my plans, little horned girl?' He asked of me, an undercurrent of anger running through his voice. This was strange for me, how even when before he'd been yelling, he tried to look under control now. It wasn't working. He looked even scarier than he had back in the antechamber, if that's even possible.
'I-it's because you take my friends away …where are they anyway…?' I asked him back, wondering whether he would even bother replying to it.
'They're in Infinity.' He said after a moment. 'But you won't be joining them there, or ever seeing them again… You should have listened when I said stay away. Too late; goodbye.' He said, raising the knife and preparing to strike.
For less than a second, I didn't know what to do. Then just as he was lowering the knife, I dragged Ringo backwards off the edge of the building, both of us falling towards the ground. It took all of my effort not to scream or panic. In this case I wished I were like Ringo; she wasn't panicking, even if it was only due to hypnosis.
Instead I focused on the ground, knowing if I didn't get it right then I probably kill both Ringo and me, and said 'Vento.'
At first, I wasn't sure if it worked, I didn't feel anything. I shut my eyes, thinking that soon we'd both be flat on the pavement. Next thing, I realised we'd been hanging in the air a bit too long and opened my eyes. Ringo and me were about two meters away from the ground, suspended in a tornado. I stopped the attack and we fell to the ground. I wasn't sure how Ringo landed, but I knew I landed on my hands and knees once again. It hurt, but it could've been worse; we could have fallen from who knows how many stories.
After rubbing my hands on my skirt to try and rub away the pain, I looked to Ringo. Unlike me, she'd fallen onto her side. I mentally kicked myself for not thinking about it more- in her hypnotised state, she might not have been able to land properly.
I stopped thinking about that: I could hear something jumping down the flights of stairs. Cadel was following us.
I looked around, wondering where I should go. I didn't know. The forest? The dumpster? The roof again? To Popoi? I still didn't know.
I could hear the thuds getting closer. I guessed he was about halfway down.
I tried to grab Ringo and drag her with me. Even if I didn't know where we were going, we had to get out of here now! She didn't respond. She didn't try to get up, or even open her eyes. I gasped, what if I'd killed her?
I pushed that thought out of my mind and instead started thinking again about where to go. If Ringo weren't moving, then it'd be best to put her somewhere safe I could find her again, assuming nothing happened…
I settled on the nearby dumpster. I dragged her over to it, being as quiet as possible, then pulled her behind it. I didn't have the strength to lift her into it.
After that, I ran, leaving her behind. I wanted to get back to Popoi- he'd said he'd protect me after all. I rounded the same corner again, and saw a problem:
I slowed to a walk and my hopes died. I wasn't a fast runner, Cadel was probably right behind me, and I was too small to climb this ladder. I wasn't going to get to Popoi, he wasn't going to save me, I wasn't going to see my family or Tarutaru again…
I sobbed and tried not to cry and not to panic. It was too late; I'd already started both of them.
I shook my head and tried to focus. Behind me I could hear running footsteps. Cadel was closing in. Could I attack with magic and win against him? The other time it hadn't worked…
I thought of a plan, it was a long shot, but it could work…
'Vento.' I said again. This time, the tornado appeared below me, raising me up past about 5 rungs of the ladder. I grabbed a rung and started climbing as fast as I could. Soon I was getting out of breath, and my arms and legs were hurting, but I put the thought of that out of mind, focusing instead only on climbing.
When I was about halfway up, I heard the running footsteps stop. I tried to climb even faster; Cadel would soon be here too. I needed to get to the top now.
Soon after I reached the top, scrambled onto the roof and started looking quickly for Popoi. I couldn't see him anywhere. I nearly started crying again, until I heard him calling to me:
'Rider, I'm over near the rooftop building.' I heard him say.
I ran over, wondering when Cadel would arrive at the top. 'He was back in his usual form now, lying on the ground. 'Popoi, what happened to you?' I asked.
'He won.' Popoi said. Standing up in the way he does, and grabbing at my sleave. 'I can't help you Rider, he already won once, he'll just win again. I guess he's following you, right?'
I nodded, and sat down beside Popoi, facing out to the ladder. I could hear he was almost at the top.
I didn't talk though. There was nothing left to say. I was too tired to keep running anymore.
'Rider' said Popoi, I turned towards him to see him looking at me. 'What if we both attacked with magic at the same time, do you think we'd win?' he asked. His eyes were looking at me with the same confused look I'm sure I would have given him many times.
'I'm not sure…' I muttered. 'I hope it works though.' He looked away again, back at the ladder.
Cadel was staring over the top at us:
'What are you going to do now, little horned girl?' He asked in a sarcastic way. 'Are you going to fall off the building again? Or maybe try and blow me up with that strange magic that collapsed my portal?' I grabbed Popoi in my arms and stood up, backing away slowly towards the elevator room. Cadel followed, pulling himself over the edge of the building's roof.
Soon I was back at the wall. I wasn't sure what to do or where to go from there. If I ran to the sides, he'd catch me for sure.
"I guess the only thing I can do is hope Popoi's plan works."
Cadel kept coming closer, going a bit slower now. His balance looked like it was working against him and he looked like he'd fall over soon- just not soon enough.
I could hear Popoi whispering from my arms. 'One…two…'
I flinched; I didn't know when we were counting to for the attacks. '…Three!' He said then jumped out of my arms and yelled 'stardust whip.'
I hesitated, then called out 'Arcobaleno' just like before. The stardust whip had hit first, knocking Cadel back to the very edge, then the rainbow arrived and instead of exploding him like had happened with the portal, it instead started burning him. I choked at smelling the burning flesh.
But the weirdest thing was that he wasn't screaming or even doing anything to show that he was hurt besides slouching. I wasn't sure if this meant he was dead or what.
A second later I still wasn't sure. While the attack had finished, he still wasn't doing anything other than standing there. I tried to step back a bit more; was he invincible or something?
'…Rider' I heard Popoi whisper after a while of waiting. I still didn't take my eyes off Cadel. 'We need to see what's going on. I'm not sure if he's dead or something else…'
I didn't know what he meant by "see what's going on." Did he mean going up and having a close look at him…? I asked him that and he said '…that could be the only way.' I shivered, even while inching towards Cadel.
As I got closer he continued to do nothing. I hesitated and started walking again towards him, wondering when something bad would happen, or even if it would.
Soon, I was right in front of him. I looked up to his hidden face; none of his eyes were visible anymore. The smell of burnt flesh was even worse this close. "IwishIdidn'thaveanose." I thought to myself.
I waited for a second, looked down at Popoi who nodded to keep going, then reached out my right hand to touch him. I figured that if he were still alive, he'd react. I was really hoping he wouldn't react. My hand touched his arm's sleeve, and I thought that there would be no reaction.
Then Popoi called out 'Get back Rider!' and I felt the knife slash my right arm. I wheeled around to my right, knocking him away with my left arm. For about a second or two I felt pain where I'd been slashed, but then it turned numb.
I heard Popoi running over somewhere and looked up to see him staring over the edge. He turned back to me then asked me a question in a panicked voice. 'Are you alright Rider?'
'…I think so.' I answered him. 'Except my arm's gone numb, I-is that normal?' I asked.
I looked at him instead of continuing to look where Cadel had been. He looked a bit confused himself, though it was getting a bit hard to see him because weird green dots were dancing around in front of him.
'…I don't think that is normal Rider.' He then jumped down to my arm. I cringed. Even though it wasn't hurting, I still didn't want him to touch it just in case it did.
He looked back up at me: 'Don't worry Rider, I'll make sure to be careful.' He then started tugging at my sleeve, trying to look in the cut part of the sleeve to the skin. When the green dots moved away, I saw that it was fairly bloody. I turned away quickly- I didn't want to look at it.
'Rider, are you okay?' I heard Popoi ask. I didn't say anything, I couldn't think of anything to say. The green dots continued dancing in front of my eyes, except there were more of them
'It'll be okay Rider, you have nothing to worry about.' I could hear him saying to me. When I didn't respond he continued '…Okay, maybe it won't, I'll try and fix it okay.' He said, possibly trying to reassure me. Next thing, he'd grabbed my sleeved and pulled it up around my elbow. I could feel it running against the cut slightly. After that, I could hear a faint ripping sound then felt something being wrapped around the cut.
I shook my head, trying to get rid of the strange circles and looked down. Popoi was tying part of ripped fabric around the cut in my right arm. I looked away again, back towards the ground. I didn't feel too good and slumped forwards a bit. I just wanted to lie down for a bit, I was tired and hadn't had a very good sleep after all.
'Rider.' I heard Popoi call out. 'Rider, you'll be okay. I'll just finish tying this up and you'll be okay. It won't bleed as much anymore, I'm sure.' In response, I tried to turn to him, even though my head felt like it was made of lead.
He looked at me with his head tilted to the side, just like a real cat. 'Okay, where's Ringo and Amitie, Rider. They must be somewhere, did you hide them before coming up here?' he asked me.
'Umm…there's no Amitie, just Ringo.' I told him, feeling sick in my stomach. 'She's behind the dumpster we were hiding behind.' I finished. I wasn't sure whether to tell him about the green dots or anything else that was weird. I still felt really tired, as if my eyes would close any minute.
And then they did.
A/N Well another chapter is up. Sorry about it taking so long, though it is a lot longer than usual, which took longer to write.
Anyway, happy Christmas to anyone who reads this and a happy new Year.
Also, I went through and think I fixed up all the cases of italicized writing running together to form one word, but there might still be some left. Hopefully I found it all.