Guardians of Elpis
By Sokai and Evilness321
Disclaimer: Never will the series, W.I.T.C.H., ever be claimed to be owned by us - because then we'd just end up in jail and could no longer write for you nice people. However, where the NEW plot, characters (including one new one/'replacement' of sorts)/attacks/anything else that doesn't seem familiar to the original series are concerned, we DO own - so back off. LoL.
Note (from Sokai): This chapter will be largely recognizable to those who'd first read it back when I'd posted it a few years ago, back when it was still "Eos," since honestly nothing had been taken out, added, or altered within any fashion. So, on that note, please to be enjoying the debut of the remaining two, soon-to-be Guardians of Elpis!
This story was first created on May 6, 2006, and 'canceled' within mid-2011. It has been revamped November 2011.
Chapter Three: Ironclad Rejuvenation
The Summer sky was clear, the breeze which blew by a nice, cool temperature drifting through the line of trees along a local street. Its particular neighborhood was filled with the standard one, two, or even three-story houses of mediocre color and nature.
The late afternoon, early evening sky continued to be cloudless, with its warm orange hue providing an inviting ambiance to all partaking within outdoor festivities. And on a day such as this, everything seemed to simply come alive with vibrancy.
Living within the mostly French-based city of Quebec, Canada, things just usually seemed like a lot of fun, especially with all of its local festivals coming up every now and again. And, as a result, neighborhoods all around were currently congested with one type of merriment or another, despite the day coming to an end.
One house in particular, one two-story and light gray in color, was of no exception. Complete with an elegant balcony and spacious backyard, the abode's four inhabitants were all gathered upon said balcony for another one of the many barbecues they had already shared together that summer.
A black, flaming grill was set up within the middle of the fairly sized platform, with several plastic chairs set up around a nearby, elongated table covered with various edibles and condiments.
"Okay! So, who wanted the medium rare?"
Stationed in front of the grill was a tall and slender, Chinese man with raven colored hair, a plate in one hand and pair of tongs in the other, and busily turning over the multiple hamburgers and hotdogs cooking before him.
Seated behind him was his only son, Mark, a young, thirteen-year-old boy with short, messy hair the same shade as his father. He sat, wearing a rather bored expression upon his flax hued face, punching away at his cellphone in order to distract himself from the brewing hunger within his gut.
Nonetheless, the young teenager was rather accustomed to go wanting for a slightly unreasonable amount of time (even with the various treats already laid out before him upon the table), as it wasn't the first outdoor cooking event his father had presided over, after all. He was used to the man's makeshift rule of insisting that his family wait until absolutely every last hamburger, hot dog, or spare rib was cooked, and all of them seated before diving into the meal.
And while his son may have respected this request, it didn't mean that it did not secretly vex him, primarily whenever approaching near starvation. Regardless, Mark was a boy of few words, quite usually preferring to observe and allow the chips to fall where they may before making any sort of course of action.
He was also perhaps a bit "special," as was the only member within his immediate family whose name did not reflect its traditional roots. Of course, that could have perhaps attributed to the fact that his mother, Wei, had been mildly "obsessed" with the writings of Mark Twain, near the approaching time of her son's birth.
That was something Mark's only and older sister, Shin, seemed to take from their mother, rather than he, ironically: Writing. It wasn't something that he, himself, could honestly sink his teeth into; however, Shin seemed to rather enjoy doing so, and had done for the last four years or so, now.
Which was something which worked out, honestly, given that the young teenager was wrought with natural talent for the craft. Her writings would revolve around a few short stories here and there, but mainly consisted of poetry. Those were usually quite insightful, and sometimes pretty dark, in Mark's personal opinion, and he would say so to his sister, upon the fairly rare occasion that Shin would allow him to read them.
He was really the only one she would let do so, beyond the random teacher and associated school assignment they'd give to her for it, anyway. But then, the two Tseng siblings had always been rather close, in that way. . . .
Shin currently sat across from her little brother, softly making clicking noises with her tongue, while he continued to provide his own sort of 'clicking' with his cellphone. She was notably taller than her only sibling, with shoulder length, raven-colored hair which was currently still slightly damp from the pool party the pair had returned from an hour and a half earlier on.
Light brown eyes previously fixated upon the floral decorated paper plate set in front of her, the eighteen-year-old, recent high school graduate then idly glanced sideways at her father, Zhi-Hong, as he tried to flip a hamburger currently sizzling upon the grill with expert precision . . . and then let out a noise of distress once it slipped through the greasy bars and straight into the roaring fire.
"Better make that one well-done, Dad," Shin kidded, smirking playfully as her father tried to save the hapless burger, via shoving his spatula into the grill bars' gaps. "Mark likes 'em that way, anyway."
At this, Mark only spared a brief glance up from his mobile device, where he was no doubt currently texting with yet another one of his obnoxious friends. As if the group of four that met with him at the pool party hadn't been one, rather large handful of oddities, enough.
But then, Shin had never honestly cared for the majority of her brother's friends, really, and quite often found it her job as his big sister to keep them in line, and watch over the lot of them. Still, Mark, at least, was a good kid, with a just as good head on his shoulders, though; she knew that, if ever the time came to it, he'd make all the right choices.
But that still didn't mean that Shin could comprehend, for the life of her, what he saw in those numbskulls he called 'friends,' regardless.
The entire pool party, itself, had been an utter disaster, in the girl's opinion, and not simply due to the fact that she'd spent the majority of it keeping a watchful eye upon Mark and his pack of minions.
No. That had vexed her greatly, sure, but it hadn't been the sole reason.
Unfortunately for her, Shin had had to stomach a bit of brief, but no less horrifying one-on-one time with the neighbor hosting said party: Charlie Dibson.
Even the man's last name was riddled with weirdness.
Shin wasn't really sure what had freaked her out more about him: The fact that he smelled like well-aged cheese upon a constant basis (earning him the nickname of "Stinky Charlie," which the majority of the youth within the neighborhood secretly called him), even after having gotten into his pool and wet (which had also made her rather uncomfortable to continue swimming within it, herself), that he liked collecting various wine corks, nail clippings and mold as a solid hobby, or, the unmistakable, greatly regrettable fact that he lived right next door to her.
It all honestly weighed in as a unanimous tie, within her opinion. . . .
After a few moments pause, Mark let out a soft yawn, breaking through Shin's thoughts, as he then replied, a bit distractedly, "Better than fish, that's for sure."
Shin made a face as she then suddenly remembered the main, albeit a tad peculiar course that was due to arrive any second. True, she was feeling just as hungry as her brother no doubt was, as well, and the various array of foods (especially macaroni salad, an absolute favorite dish of hers) set out in front of them that they could not yet touch didn't exactly help, either.
However, the young teenager suddenly felt herself slowly losing her appetite and able to forgo the coming meal, if it meant that she'd have to eat a single bite of the dastardly Codfish that her mother had tirelessly prepared.
Shin hated fish, and so too, did Mark.
But everyone who knew her was well aware that her personal detest ran significantly deeper than the young boy's, hands down. She never really could understand why she disliked the dish, any dish related to it, so much, but also didn't honestly care.
All Shin knew for sure was, she loathed fish, never would like fish, and certainly didn't want to deal with it at the moment. Not now, during one of the last remaining meals that she would share with her family for a long while. . . .
Shin supposed that that was most likely one of the reasons that her mother had made the macaroni salad at all, along with the other various treats which were also her favorite (absolutely not counting the Codfish, of course).
The slender girl, therefore, had a funny feeling what would be coming next, once the four of them finally sat down to eat. After all, it had already become quite obvious to Shin earlier on that day, when her father had curiously suggested that both she and her brother head over to Charlie's and join his pool party, "rather than stay cooked up inside," as he'd put it.
He might have viewed it as being "cooked up;" to Shin, however, she'd seen it more so as staying indoors on purpose, as she was busy packing up the last of her belongings, courtesy of the 'Cultural Exchange Program' that she had signed up for during the previous Spring.
Within a matter of days, now, the high school graduate would finally be off to Tuscany, Italy, ready to experience quite possibly one of the greatest adventures of her young life.
At least, to date, anyway.
The program, itself, was a rather popular one for the youth within the city, and thus competition was pretty fierce to sign up for, let alone be chosen. And yet, by some profound miracle, Shin had succeeded in doing precisely that.
Even though she hadn't any expectations in being chosen, she nonetheless thanked her lucky stars that she had been rather undecided for which university she'd wanted to attend upon graduating from high school.
Of course, now that things, preparations, were finally beginning to slow down for her, Shin fleetingly recalled that she had actually signed up to journey to Spain, not Italy. . . . At least, she was pretty sure that she had, anyway.
But then, even if she honestly had and there had been some sort of glitch within the system, it was obviously far too late to do anything about it now. At least she hadn't somehow ended up having to go to France, instead.
It wasn't to say that Shin had anything against the country; on the contrary, she thought it was rather intriguing. However, she admittedly had had her fill of trying to decipher whether or not to speak in either French or English to any random stranger she would initially bump into, there within her hometown.
She definitely needed a long vacation from that, alone.
"Make way! Make way!"
Looking up in surprise, both Tseng siblings' eyes then fell upon their apron-clad mother, as she carefully walked through the open doorway, as though on cue. Wei's silky black, elegantly pulled back ponytail bobbed up and down from behind her, as she balanced a large, beautiful ceramic plate within both hands and made a beeline for the awaiting table.
And, of course, resting atop the plate, and surrounded by chopped up carrots and a wreath of rice, was one of the biggest Codfish either Tseng child had ever seen, very much to their dual chagrin.
"Speak of the devil," Shin moaned, the wafting stink of fish mixed with whatever sauce her mother had used as an accented garnish instantly hitting her nostrils.
I know that Mom likes to be a bit of a 'daring cook' every now and again, and enjoys trying out new approaches to liven up the dining experience, the raven haired girl thought to herself with a mild grimace, and so, it really shouldn't be that much of a surprise that she's presented the fish, still very much whole, and complete with its slimy looking tail, head with its disgusting, bulging eyes, and mouth agape. But it still doesn't make this moment any more 'adventurous' for me, personally. God, is it really gross looking. . . .
Mark made a face at the ghastly dish as his stomach churned with newfound queasiness, so much so that he'd effectively then lost interest within his 'sacred' texting for a few moments, in addition to eating at all, while Shin fought the urge to gag as the smell came closer and closer.
Their mother then, with a proud smile, placed the dish down onto the center of the table, with its fish head oh so conveniently facing her eldest offspring.
"There we go," she gushed, straightening up her posture. "I've been working on this fellow all day -"
"- Just you?" came her husband's mockingly innocent query, from where he still stood, in front of the flaming grill and beginning to shovel the assortment of meat off of it and onto the serving dish he had in hand.
"Oh, all right, fine," Mrs. Tseng huffed, although playfully, before taking off one of her flower-printed oven mitts and moved over to her spouse to bat his shoulder with it. "Correction: I've been working on the fish all day, with your father's help. At any rate, I'd thought it was rather fitting, to make something extra special, more than just burgers and hotdogs. . . ."
Wei then shot Zhi-Hong a look, as he bent over to give his wife a small peck upon her cheek as he then passed, setting the aforementioned wieners and hamburgers by the revolting Codfish. The three, distinctly different aromas began to mix into something, within Shin's honest opinion, which was perhaps even far worse than what it originally had been when the fish was previously simply by itself.
It had taken supreme effort, on Shin's part, not to scoff at the last of her mother's words. She was abundantly aware of its hidden meaning, well beyond the woman's apparent, simple desire to branch out her taste buds.
And it begins again, she fleetingly mused, exhaling heavily within mild annoyance.
After all, it certainly wasn't the first time that either one of her parents had made little, colorful comments like that, in order to try to express their mostly negative opinion upon their only daughter's choice to partake within the Cultural Exchange Program. And it also wasn't the first time that the pair had done what they could to indirectly make Shin feel at least a little guilty for it, either.
In fact, now that Shin thought upon it more, ever since she, all of them, had first found out that she'd been selected, her parents really had been against it from the very start, pretty much. They had each flipped out at the idea of their "baby going halfway across the world, to live with total strangers, go to a completely new and rather different school, and would be away from home for a full year," she could still recall the two of them venting during that first day.
Shin's mom, however, had been, to be fair, a bit more understanding than Shin had honestly expected or even thought she could be, regardless . . . despite the continued ranting and raving. Her dad, on the other hand, had, for lack of a better word, 'spazzed out' something pretty fierce, even to the point of threatening to somehow find a way to cancel the trip, altogether.
Still, Shin supposed that that was to be a bit expected of the man, as she was, admittedly, 'Daddy's Little Girl,' a tad. But it didn't mean that she wanted to be kept under lock and key, forever.
Mark had really been the only one within her immediate family to be rather accepting and understanding, and still was, even now. But that was of no surprise, since again, the two had always been rather close, with Mark having always been aware of his older sister's dreams to travel.
It was true. Shin had always wished to travel the world, even if it ultimately meant being able to only journey to just one place, for the rest of her life. She thrived for adventure, especially before she'd properly go away to university, and be unable to do any sort of traveling for a long while, she figured.
That was why this program, this opportunity, had truly been a blessing. . . .
"Ugh . . . it seriously won't be forever, you guys," Shin heard herself saying to her family with a very uninterested tone just then, for what honestly felt like the umpteenth time that summer. She'd remembered when she'd first said that very same line to her parents, on the same day that she had gotten her letter of acceptance. It had done absolutely nothing to quell the duo's growing consternation at the time, and did not seem to be doing much for the pair, once again, now, Shin silently noted.
Pausing, she continued on with, "Look at it this way: Whether there, in Italy, with this program, or somewhere else in the world for university, I'd still be leaving home. At least with this, it's only for one year, rather than four. In any event, a year will fly by before you know it, you'll see. And then, for a little while, anyway, you two can lock me away, back inside my bedroom, safe and sound. . . ."
I wonder if the person I'm swapping with is having this much trouble with their family,the raven haired girl wondered, choosing to avert her eyes away from the rather tense and uncomfortable stares from the both of her parents. She'd then made the mistake of locking eyes with the deceased, and honestly forgotten codfish (if only for a moment, sadly), which 'stared' back at her with its continually vacant, large and soulless eyes.
Shin made a sour face just then, feeling a grand shiver slither down her spine, at the same moment that her mother awkwardly cleared her throat.
"Sooo. . . ." she weakly began before trailing off, apparently choosing to bypass her daughter's previous statement. Her fairly unique gray eyes then began to sparkle, as she focused them upon her two prized children, although they lingered a tad longer upon her daughter. "Did you kids have any fun over at Mr. Dibson's?"
Rolling her light brown eyes, Shin then began to will herself to ignore the codfish's continued presence, something which was rather difficult to achieve, considering the toe-curling stench she also had to battle against.
"Can't you tell?" she answered her mother with another question as she finally was able to reach for the bowl of potato chips set before her, now that the family was at last seated together.
Mr. Tseng, seated next to his wife, warily glanced over at his daughter, catching the edge within her voice that she'd apparently tried to mask behind false pleasantness.
"Nooo," he spoke slowly, as he passed the plate of hamburgers and hotdogs around. "That's why your mother just asked you, Shin."
Shin merely dumped a handful of chips onto her plate as her initial response, before handing the bowl over to her younger, silent brother, who had finally put his cellphone away. Even though he had been quite enthralled within the various text message conversations he'd been sharing with his friends, Mark had also been mildly privy to the current discussion developing around him.
He briefly caught the current look within his sister's eyes in that moment, after having seized the potato chip bowl from her, and immediately understood what she was currently feeling:
It was now time for another one of the girl's rather infamous mood swings.
Normally, Shin was a pretty 'happy-go-lucky' sort of individual by default, with a pretty decent sense of humor, to boot (a trait which admittedly came in handy around the time of April Fool's day, for sure). But Mark, as much he loved her, could also attest to the fact that his sister was, more often than not, rather moody about certain subjects . . . and when and if it ever came to doing something against her will, especially, her dander tended to rise rather dangerously.
And so, because of this, and their natural closeness, it was pretty easy for the boy to take note of the telltale signs of an oncoming 'Rage Attack,' as he'd privately refer to such moments, as well as spot the brewing annoyance currently within the girl's eyes which burned like smoking embers, waiting to violently ignite. . . .
"It was . . . fine," Shin finally replied, rather simply and with a light sigh, reaching for the Macaroni Salad next. "Just ask Mark, if you don't believe me."
"Oh, we believe you, sweetie," Mrs. Tseng said, trying to get comfortable within her plastic seat as she lightly shifted herself. "It's just that, well, you haven't exactly been really talkative lately. . . ."
"Well, I guess it's because I'm just hungry, is all," Shin answered her mother without missing a beat. She didn't bother to look up at her or her father, who, like Mark, was now becoming keenly aware of his daughter's mounting vexation a bit more swiftly than his wife, perhaps. "Famished, really. So, maybe we should just eat within silence, or something, and -"
"- But I just wanted to know how your day went, that's all," Mrs. Tseng continued with a seemingly casual air, ignoring the food as she then gave her daughter an expression that, in all honesty, mothers were rather famous for. Their standard "you really can't hide anything from me, because I'm your mother," look.
The sight honestly made the woman's husband softly chuckle underneath his breath, a bit. Perhaps she was just as up to speed upon the currently unfolding matter, after all.
"I feel so bad letting you go off on your own, but then again . . . I guess I'll be getting used to that within the general sense, since you'll be leaving in a few days," Mrs. Tseng continued on, still not bothering with her food.
Shin could barely mask the scowl which was beginning to form upon her flax, otherwise unmarred visage, just then.
"Then why did you bother to send me off to 'Stink - I mean, Mr. Dibson's house, if all you wanted was to spend more time with me so badly?" the teenager asked, a bit too smartly.
Mrs. Tseng seemed to be taken aback slightly by her daughter's undeniably sour tone, which gave her father a chance to speak up upon the matter, the laid-back expression that he wore just momentarily before shifting into a rather stern glance.
"Your mother and I only thought that you should enjoy yourself a bit more around here, with your family, before doing so over th-" he began to explain with a frown, but was rudely interrupted by his continually emotional child in question.
"- Oh, sure. Because it's not like there won't be any swimming pools or beaches, or whatever over in Italy, y'know?" Shin retorted dryly, her grip upon the plastic fork she'd had in hand tightening. Something within her curiously started to boil right at that moment; however, she merely figured that it was due to her temper steadily rising within greatness. "Don't think I can't see what you're doing."
"We're not 'doing' anything, Honey," Mrs. Tseng objected, looking genuinely surprised by her daughter's words.
Yeah, right, Shin thought, jabbing her fork straight into her hamburger, as she then clenched her fists underneath the table.
"If it isn't some type of guilt trip, or 'creative' comment over my leaving, then it's ramming as many random activities as you can think of down my throat, as a way to 'bond' with me, and maybe make me regret my decision! You both have it within your minds that I'm gonna be leaving for Hell within a few days, or something, and I'm sick of it! I mean, you do know that I'm coming back, right? It's not like this is the last time you'll ever see me."
Shin then winced inwardly when she saw that her outburst had brought an extremely hurt expression to her mother's face right at that moment, while her father suddenly looked one degree away from being outright volatile, himself.
The both of them were quite used to their daughter's emotional fluctuations, sure; however, that didn't mean that they had to look the other way whenever she'd say something out of line, like right now.
"A year is a long time not to see your family, young lady. And frankly, no, I still don't approve of this whole thing," Mr. Tseng said to his daughter, looking her straight into her eyes. "Living with strangers isn't an easy idea to get used to, especially with what you hear on the news nowadays. And while you may think that we're overdoing it, can you really blame your mother and I for caring about you so much?"
The barely accusatory words had nonetheless struck a chord within Shin, which then forced the simmering feeling she'd been feeling within the pit of her stomach to die down a bit the moment she saw the look within her father's eyes. He was upset, clearly, and so, too, was her mother. But, she'd also seen the concern which was blatantly underlining his irritation.
At that same moment, Mark could be heard clearing his throat, before finally speaking up after having watched the entire squabble unfold, accordingly.
"You know that Mom and Dad are just worried, Sis, that's all," he said quietly, grabbing his big sister's attention, to where he was then leaning against the table with his scrawny elbows and glancing between the three remaining members of his family. "If anything were to happen to you while you're over there, God forbid, they wouldn't be able to immediately be there for you . . . and besides, sometimes, phone calls just don't cut it."
Mark's dark gaze then locked solely onto Shin, before lightly nodding at her.
"Remember when I was away at summer camp two years ago, and stayed for almost a month? Mom, Dad, and you kept counting down the days when I would come home," he continued on, lightly smiling at the memory. "And then, there was that time that I'd called home from school because I'd gotten sick during class. If I remember that correctly, as well, both Mom and you wanted to go and pick me up. . . ."
Shin gave a slight start, her heart lurching with remembrance. She did recall that particular school day years ago, as well as the summer her brother had gone off to camp. It certainly hadn't been the same within their house without him around, even with her friends and other various devices she'd used to help distract her at the time.
And it was definitely one of the longest months that Shin had ever experienced (up until now, at least), wondering if Mark was all right by himself, and being unable to be there to look after him as she always would, in case he really had needed her. . . .
That was when yet another truth had finally hit her.
Shin wasn't just going to be away from her family; they were going to be away from her, as well. Just like Mark had been unable to do while away at summer camp all those years ago, she wouldn't be able to see any of them, either.
And even when she could and would be able to call her family to speak with them via video chat and the like, she was quite sure that it just wouldn't be the same. Shin wouldn't be able to hug her mother or kiss her goodnight; she wouldn't be able to spend hours staying up with her brother, talking about the latest video games coming out as he, specifically, so often enjoyed doing; and she wouldn't be able to sit with her father, and watch whatever football game was on the television, despite her overall indifference towards that particular sport.
She wouldn't be able to do any of these things anymore. At least, not for a long while, anyway.
Shin had honestly been so profusely excited and consumed with the sole focus that she would be able to fulfill her dream of traveling abroad. She'd been busy spending a great majority of her time buying maps and other guides, and studying the Italian language quite rigorously, in preparation for her grand adventure . . . that she hadn't truly bothered to once step outside of herself, and stop to realize what she was going to be losing, in return: Her family.
Shin really was going to miss them, just as they'd made it abundantly clear that they were going to miss her. . . .
Her genuine regret and delayed realization must have then shown upon her face quite crystal clear within that moment, because the facial expression upon Shin's father quickly softened as he reached over next to him and laid a strong hand upon her shoulder.
"We just want you to remember this place - Remember us - when you get to Italy," he said gently, with a soft twinkle within his eye. "Memories to keep and hold onto to get you by, while you're off forging new ones over there. And then, memories for us, for after you leave and we won't see you for the whole year. . . . That's a long time to wait, baby girl."
Shin bit her lip, trying very hard not to start tearing up at that moment. She'd been such an honest . . . witch, for lack of a better word, and drama queen during that week, alone, and all because of her family's seemingly 'pushy' schedule.
It was a shame that it had taken her that long, just days before her eminent departure, to fully realize the true motives behind it.
"The holidays . . . your birthday . . . the annual festivals around here . . . we won't be able to celebrate them together within the coming year, and certainly can't as properly over the computer, either, honey," Mrs. Tseng gently added, smiling, with great difficulty, at her daughter, as the tears within her own eyes threatened to fall. "That's why we tried our very best to get in as many good times with you under our belt as we could. . . . But, at least, we still have a few days left to share together, after all. After which . . . you'll be sure to email us, though, right?"
"If Mom can work the computer without my help, that is," Mark suddenly teased, grinning at his older sister knowingly, and winked.
Shin was truly at her breaking point by then, absolutely ready to start crying now, as she curiously began to feel the same sizzling heat which had been inside of her while she had been upset earlier, now slowly morphing into a warm, bubbly feeling which seemed to flow throughout her entire body.
Her family really was the best . . . even if she was sometimes a bit blind or preoccupied to readily take notice. After all, they had to be great, if they still found themselves able to care for and love someone as admittedly emotionally nutty as she sometimes would become.
As she sniffled a bit, in order to keep herself from outright bawling, the familiar, miraculously forgotten stench of codfish then slammed harshly against Shin's nostrils like a battering ram, causing her to regrettably return her attention back onto the temporarily ignored meal.
Now, if only we didn't have to eat that vile fish, then this would be the perfect family moment,were her exact thoughts as, still feeling the churning warmth inside of her, she focused upon the 'threatening' sea creature for a few moments, and wished more than ever that she and her family didn't have to worry about eating it.
And then, it happened.
In what she could only describe as a 'popping' sensation, the warm sensations inside of Shin's body seemed to abruptly vanish and, for the briefest of moments, she'd thought that a faint, dark crimson flicker had licked over the codfish's sauce-drenched scales.
It was gone a second later, however . . . and was replaced by a sudden jerk of inexplicable motion, as the fish's formerly immobile body began to spasm and start bucking about the plate it was decoratively laid upon.
Giving a squeal of shock, Shin almost fell backwards out of her chair as her light brown eyes widened, watching as her father immediately jumped to his feet and stared down at the codfish . . . which had been dead just mere moments before, however was now floundering around upon the plate, its flapping tail kicking up rice and flicking seasoned sauce every which way.
"Ahh!" Mark cried out within alarm, his plastic chair grating against the Tseng's balcony floor, as he then pushed away from the table. "I-It's alive!"
"Wei, I thought that you'd cooked it well enough!" Mr. Tseng questioned his wife, voice barely above a whisper, as his disbelieving eyes continued to gaze upon the uncontrollable and very much alive codfish.
A very stunned Mrs. Tseng, who had been just sitting there within her seat, her own eyes gaping madly, and almost as widely as the fiercely gasping fish's own were, silently watched as it managed to get its front half off of the plate before bumping into the jar of pickles which was in front of Shin's partially filled paper plate.
"I . . . I . . . I guess not," the woman finally managed to stutter, shakily getting to her feet in that moment, alongside her husband, as the both of them continued to try to figure out how they were going to handle the current situation . . . or, moreover, how it had occurred, in the first place.
Shin, meanwhile, ironically now found herself quite unable to look away from the desperately suffocating codfish. How was it that, only mere moments ago, it had been deceased, she was pretty certain . . . and yet, now, had somehow managed to come back to life, even after having been cooked within her mother's oven?
Had she simply imagined that brief, very odd glow which had encased the fish prior to its curious revival? Shin swiftly began trying to convince herself that it had just been a mere trick of the light, from the blazing sun overhead, in fact.
Anything to keep her mind from thoroughly unraveling.
However, the strange light and the reanimated codfish weren't the only things the young girl was currently doing her best to ignore. For, as she'd noticed just then, the warm feeling which she'd experienced prior to the overall incident was eerily gone, as well . . . as though it had never been there at all. . . .
"There! I think that's the last of it! Aww . . . I still can't believe that you're going all the way to Italy for college, Mel. What'll I do without you?"
Twenty-year-old Melody Casey smiled softly at her best friend, neighbor, and honest to goodness, 'sister' for the last fifteen years, Brit Walker. The two were currently seated, upon the fluffy, teal carpeted floor of her rather large and comfortable bedroom, and surrounded by a sea of various cardboard boxes.
The young woman felt her hazel colored eyes begin to gently water as she continued to gaze at the blonde seated before her, who cradled the box she had just sealed up against her chest as though within comfort.
". . . . We've shared some pretty good times within this room together, haven't we, Brit?" Melody murmured within question, averting her eyes away from her friend (who also then seemed like the desire to cry had just stricken her as well), and looked about the now mostly empty bedroom.
She tilted her head to the side ever so slightly, causing her long, bone straight and dark brown hair to freely cascade over her shoulder, just as a curious, dark red smear upon her otherwise lime colored wall had caught her eye.
Now that the majority of her things were now packed away or moved out, including the desk which used to be propped against that same spot, Melody could at last take notice of the mysterious, honestly out of place mark.
". . . . Mel? What is it?" she could hear Brit ask out of curiosity of her own, as the brown eyed girl watched the other girl slowly begin to crawl towards the wall.
Upon closer examination, Melody realized that it was dried up blood; however, rather than grow alarmed at such a rather disturbing discovery, she merely smiled within fondness.
"Heh. . . . Hey, remember when you and I were nine, and we watched the Olympics for the first time together? The Summer one, I believe," she began softly, settling back down onto the floor and gazed at her companion momentarily, before turning her attention back onto the stain upon her wall. ". . . . And then, after watching all those gymnasts do their impressive flips and routines so flawlessly, we were hooked! We wanted to be exactly like them, learning gymnastics, and doing the same routines they did. . . ."
Brit nodded eagerly and grinned within amusement, as the memory came rushing to her, as though it had only happened just yesterday.
"Y-Yeah! Only, everyone kept telling us that it'd take years for us to become half as good as they were, if we were lucky! But, that didn't stop us, anyway, since we just kept right on practicing, and teaching ourselves those crazy flips every chance we got, even though it probably could've gotten us killed. In retrospect, we probably should have just gone with the actual lessons, from real, certified instructors," she added with a light chuckle, making her way over to her good friend. She then slowly reached out to touch the dried up blood spot, before giggling once more. ". . . . Sorry for having executed that cartwheel so horribly, and bashed my knee up pretty good for it, Mel. But, at least I've apparently left my 'mark' with my gymnastics in someway, right?"
Melody, too, began to laugh heartily alongside her greatest comrade at this, the two of them getting lost within their fits of merriment for quite some time. It wasn't until the both of their insides absolutely burned for mercy that the two found that they could stop, and collapsed onto the floor within a tired heap.
Neither woman could speak immediately afterward, the both of them secretly hoping to cite their previous tittering as the cause, however knew better.
This was really it.
After so many years of being at each other's side without fail, Melody was moving away.
She knew how crushed Brit was going to be the moment she had found out, perhaps even more so than Melody's parents, Selene and Nathan, or her sixteen-year-old brother, Corey. Both girls had been through the world together, and were thick as thieves for it. They'd shared the majority of every milestone a young teenager, or moreover, a young woman can personally experience.
The first love.
The first kiss.
The first heartache.
Even, the first, dreaded period. . . .
And whenever either of them was in trouble, the other was never far behind to lend a hand, or provide backup, if needed. When Brit's mother, someone both girls had been quite close to, had died of illness when they were only twelve-years-old, Melody had never left the blonde's side. The two had never known greater pain than that before within their young lives, and admittedly had grown up a little bit for it, and a lot faster than most other children their age at that time.
Still, through all of their mourning, celebration could be found, for both girls were able to solidify their friendship within a much more deepening manner, as a result . . . to become the 'sisters' they still were today.
And then, there was Melody's big shock, or 'woe,' which hadn't happened until years later: Her parent's separation. After her parents had gotten divorced around five years ago, she was absolutely crushed. And to make matters worse, her mother had gotten remarried shortly afterward, to less than a man, within Melody's honest opinion.
Melody just couldn't imagine how a couple which had always seemed so perfect and true, so grounded, could have suddenly strayed so far away from the promises that their wedding vows had entailed.
And to add injury to insult, to have traded in all of that for a man Melody's thoughts and feelings for were something less than to be desired? Although generally a rather levelheaded, smart, and caring young woman, the only person she could ever recall honestly associating the word 'hate' with would be her stepfather.
Michael. Even his name, alone, invoked such feelings of rage within Melody. Only Brit, naturally, was readily aware of the girl's extreme animosity for the man, and while she accepted it, would used to always try to lighten the mood by passing it off as a joke.
However, it was always anything but funny to Melody, and still was. If it were ever up to she, and she, alone, to save him from eminent death, Michael would surely perish, that was how strong and how deep her distaste for the man ran.
But, at least, Melody was aware that Brit couldn't entirely blame her within her most soured sentiments.
A beer-guzzling, darts-throwing, pool and air hockey playing load, Michael was anything but a model father, or citizen, for that matter. A former construction worker, until an on-site injury rendered him unable to continue, he now spent the majority of his days at the bar, blowing a good chunk of his Workers' Compensation and Disability checks upon miscellaneous, and unimportant investments. And then, during the evenings, he would come home, and wallow, down within his precious, well furnished basement, where his various games and refrigerator stocked full of beer awaited him, within self pity for having been abruptly cut down within his prime.
In effect, Michael was nothing more than a giant child.
No. A child would perhaps do far more than he did on a day to day basis.
No. To Melody (and perhaps even to her brother, Corey, with whom she was close, as well, but could not honestly tell how he felt for their stepfather, as he was of the quiet, thoughtful kind by nature), Michael was a fantastic, and glorified loser.
However, to her mother, who was undoubtedly blinded by her love for him (and had to be, the way Melody perceived it, considering how otherwise intelligent and independent the woman had always been), he was the world.
And it was only for that reason alone that Melody continued to keep silent within regards to her extreme choler towards the man, and had made it an active point to avoid being around him at all costs if she could help it. . . .
Indeed. It honestly had taken quite a while for her to emotionally heal and accept the fallout between her parents (despite the blatant unpleasantness which was Michael), but Melody at last had.
And, of course and as always, with Brit's help.
If it hadn't been for her, staying up all of those nights to listen to the brunette rant and rave over the telephone, or to give quiet and calming advice while offering her shoulder to cry upon, Melody would most likely still be sizzling over the entire ordeal, rather than be genuinely happy for her mother . . . or rather, tryto be, anyway.
Besides which, just because they were no longer together did not mean that Selene and Nathan did not remain in touch, and became the closest of friends as a result, in fact. And so, it wasn't an honestly picture perfect family, but it was Melody's, nonetheless.
And it may have also honestly paled within comparison to the permanent loss of a parent, but Brit was still there for Melody, regardless, just like she was there for her . . . and always would be.
But . . . will I? Will she? We've never been away from one another like this, before, Melody thought to herself with much chagrin, blindly reaching out to softly stroke the blonde's curly, short hair with one hand, while tapping her own, flat stomach with the other. I mean, we'd always gotten so depressed whenever our families had taken separate vacations, and that was only for a couple of weeks. . . . How will we manage, now? Maybe this was a big mistake. . . .
". . . . You're ready, you know," Melody suddenly heard Brit whisper at her side, effectively breaking through her worrisome thoughts, as though having somehow been privy to them. She then slowly sat up, and looked at her long time friend, brown eyes surprisingly firm.
Melody, too, rose from her place, and suddenly found herself unable to hold Brit's gaze, as her insides became knotted up within conflicting emotions.
"W-What? I don't underst -"
"- Yes, you do understand, Mel. Moving. Leaving good ol' Columbus, Ohio, and winning that full scholarship to Tuscany is one of the greatest things that's ever happened to you," Brit interrupted with a raise of her small hand, before gently seizing the both of Melody's. "You worked so hard for it, too, especially after delaying college for a bit, until you'd figured out what you wanted to do with the rest of your life. . . . And you could've easily taken your dad's money to help you get in, too, but you chose to take the harder path, proving to your new school that you deserved their scholarship and to be there. . . ."
Melody felt her cheeks flush with embarrassment as she continued to listen to her friend's ongoing praise. True, she hadn't really known what ultimate career choice she wanted to make, as many, various things honestly interested her all at once. And it was also true that her family (or at least, on her father's side, anyway) was rather well off . . . and it showed within the house her father used to share with her mother, but let her keep within the divorce.
A white colored, three-story cottage, with its finished basement, four rooms upstairs and two downstairs span, including an in-ground pool, large deck and privacy fence which surrounded the entire backyard, money was certainly something the Casey family was not lacking.
However, despite this, Melody found that she wanted to forgo her father's assistance once she'd finally settled upon a definite school and career, and work her hardest to get in. And Brit was absolutely right, she couldn't deny. She did deserve it, after spending the last year and a few months or so, attending as many classes as her chosen curriculum at the nearby community college would allow her at one time to take . . . and honestly sailing through each as a result of her fierce dedication.
And now, it was finally time.
Melody would journey to Tuscany, scholarship in hand and courage within her (or, so she hoped), in order to pursue her dream of becoming a chef. It really was an absolute dream come true in and of itself, just to be able to go at all . . . even if it meant saying goodbye to those she loved so dearly.
The now profusely emotional brunette at last looked up at Brit and smiled genuinely at her, just as a lone tear escaped from her hazel eyes and trickled down her pale cheek.
". . . . What happened to 'What'll I do without you?'" she lightly joked, before swiftly wrapping her arms around the other girl, who then let out a tiny chuckle before beginning to cry, herself.
"And I still don't know what I'll do . . . except maybe give gymnastics another try," Brit jestingly replied, herself, in between soft sobs. "But, hey. This isn't the 'Stone Age,' right? We'll call each other every day! Okay, well, maybe not every day, for sake of our phone bills . . . but we'll also send letters and e-mails, too! And you'll come home for the holidays, as well, naturally. . . and, before that, we can use that video chat program, 'Skippy,' which I'd set up for you on your computer. So, see? It'll be like you never left!"
Melody nodded lightly within agreement against Brit's left shoulder, already feeling a little bit better, as she always would whenever listening to the other girl's words of reassuring or wisdom. She silently thanked the Heavens that the blonde was the more technologically savvy between the pair (and, moreover, was currently also going to school for it); otherwise, the two really would had to have waited until the holidays to visually see each other again.
With a dual, small sigh, both girls gently pulled apart from one another and stared at each other within silence for a few moments, before bursting into another fit of giggles at the sight of their now bloodshot, and puffy eyes.
"Wow, do you look like Hell, now," Melody began in between sobbing hiccups and laughter, reaching out to brush away some of her best friend's tears from her face. "But, maybe you're right, Brit. . . . I mean, change is always good, right? Maybe this is just another one of those 'milestones' of ours to go through. But, do try not to lose your mind without me around to keep it sane, as always, all right?"
Brit rolled her brown eyes at this, pulling away from her friend's helpful hands before suddenly rising to her feet.
"Well, we'll never know that until you're gone. And you'll never be gone, unless we finish putting the rest of these boxes into the rental truck outside," she remarked with a grin, giving a few lasting sniffles within the aftermath of her shed tears, before bending over to pick up the cardboard box she had previously sealed. "On that note, I'll go on ahead and bring this one down, all right?"
Melody, a small, appreciative smile now caressing her rosy lips, merely watched in silence as her childhood companion left her bedroom and vanished from view.
The greatest, that one is,she mused with another, tiny chuckle to escape past her lips, before climbing to her feet, as well.
"Well, better do like she says and get -" the brunette lightly began to herself, before abruptly stopping the moment a familiar, very unwelcome voice could be heard from the hallway.
"Honehh, I'm hoomme!" the deep, and ridiculously drunken-slurred voice of Michael called out into the atmosphere, as he began to make his way down the hallway towards his shared master bedroom with his wife . . . which, unfortunately, required him to pass by his stepdaughter's room, first.
Realizing this, Melody swiftly dropped the box she had bent over to pick up, and whirled around to race towards her bedroom door to close it in time . . . but was too late.
"W-Whoooa, thur! Heh . . . Where . . . Where's da flyer, 'Lil' Lady?'" Michael slurred in between chuckles of unknown amusement, after swiftly slapping a thick, hairy arm against his stepdaughter's door, and preventing her from closing it all the way.
Melody immediately winced and turned her head away from her stepfather, the moment his profusely liquor-sodden breath hit her nostrils and nearly burned the various small hairs within, as a result. She instantly felt her blood beginning to run cold, just as it always would whenever faced with the abominable man . . . however, something inside also sort of felt a bit different this time, as well.
Something . . . 'extra,' almost.
While trying to put her finger on what it could be, Melody, with all of the inner strength she'd possessed within her, did her best to bite back her natural anger towards Michael as she replied, ". . . . I'm assuming you mean 'fire,' not 'flyer,' Michael. And there isn't one. I just wanted some privacy while I finished packing up my things - That is what doors are for, after all. . . . And I thought I'd asked you multiple times not to call me 'Lil' Lady?'"
At this, Michael let out a high pitched, long whistle, which honestly caught Melody by surprise and caused her to back up, as she could no longer handle any further inhaling of the man's foul breath.
Unfortunately, however, he seemed to have taken this action as an invitation to enter her bedroom, as he'd then done precisely that before she could stop him.
"Man, do you . . . do you haf a mouf on you! Sasseh, j-jurst like yer mama can be!" Michael spoke with a grin as he continued walking into Melody's room, and very lopsidedly so, due to his inebriated state. "C . . . Cayn't a fathurr come home early, say hyehllo tah his daughter an' spend some time wiff her, before she heads off tah collidge?"
The heavyset scowl which had placed itself upon Melody's face from the very start of her encounter with the unpleasant man immediately deepened in that moment, as Michael's choice of words, no matter how mostly incomprehensible, sent a cold shiver straight down her spine.
Michael, her 'father,' or she, his 'daughter?' And wishing to spend time with her, when the only actual 'time' the pair had ever shared was during his unfortunate wedding to her mother?
What a laugh!
And I'll be damned if I ever spend any more time with him than that. He will never be my father, nor come anywhere close to my real one,Melody thought angrily, her focus upon the ire brewing inside of her completely overshadowing the previous, 'extra' feeling she had mildly observed earlier.
For, as her rage grew, so too did the curious, tingling and tepid sensations which had begun within the pit of her stomach, and was now slowly flooding the rest of her body within surging waves. Moreover, at the same time, a soft, but growing rattling began to sound from behind Melody, which continued to go unnoticed by her . . . but not by her stepfather.
Michael, who had been previously smiling, with his usual drunken expression of half lidded, blue eyes, slowly began to widen them within alarm, as the simper effortlessly faded away and his attention abruptly shifted. He then shakily raised a thick finger into the air, and pointed it over Melody's shoulder, and towards the girl's now curiously vibrating and now more loudly rattling iron-made, king sized bed.
Stripped of its usual two mattresses and coverings, it was quite easy, then, to see that it was indeed shaking on its own, somehow, as though having been caught within an earthquake . . . or perhaps even resembled merely one of those coin operated beds usually found within cheap, and sleazy motels.
But neither was the current cause or culprit . . . so how was it otherwise possible?
"U-Uh . . . Lil' Lady? W-What's up wiff yer b -" Michael weakly began, his intoxicated and hazy mind utterly baffled by both the current happenings, as well as to why his stepdaughter did not even seemed phased by it one bit.
He was cut off abruptly by the girl in question, however, who had at that point reached her absolute fill of his presence for one day . . . or, within an infinite amount.
"- I thought I just told you not to call me 'Lil' Lady,' Michael!" Melody snapped viciously through her bouts of anger, not once breaking her continued gaze upon the now shivering man, as the quaking behind her grew dangerously louder. "I am not your daughter, and you are not my father! You are just some horrible mistake my mother's now unfortunately stuck with! Now, I have to finish packing, so just get out!"
As though the last of her words had been a trigger, the front and back supporting iron boards to the brunette's bed suddenly collapsed and toppled over, while one of the underlying beams inexplicably flew into the air and sailed straight for Michael's head.
"Ahhh!" both he, as well as Melody screeched within alarm, simultaneously ducking and falling to the ground for protection, causing the careening beam to just miss his balding, red colored head. It then settled, with tremendous dissonance, several feet behind him and within the middle of the long hallway, halfway to the man's master bedroom.
As though formerly within a trance, prior to such a terrifying event, Melody then seemed to have come out of it completely, as all of her previous fury miraculously (considering Michael, her usual trigger, was still very much within the room) left her within that moment . . . and the rattling of her previously constructed bed at last ceased.
W-What . . . was that? she thought weakly, blinking her hazel eyes rapidly, as the curious, prickling sensations which had also been going on inside of her had also evaporated.
As Melody slowly rose to her feet once more, Brit, in that moment, came barreling into the bedroom within alarm.
"I-I heard a crash! Is e-everyone all right?" she asked in between shallow, shaky breaths, looking from a now balled up and openly sobbing Michael still very much upon the floor, to her best friend, and back again with mixed concern and confusion. Her brown eyes then rested upon the mysteriously dismantled bed, before slowly turning around to gaze upon the lone support beam resting within the hallway. ". . . . D-Do I . . . even want to know?"
Melody, in between deep, uneasy inhales of her own, moved from her spot and walked right past her crying and still drunkenly stupefied stepfather, whom she'd once again chosen to ignore, honestly thinking it to be the best course of action for that particular moment.
She then stepped out into the hallway and looked at the beam for a few moments, herself, before swallowing quite hard within reply, ". . . . I . . . I'm not really sure that I'd like to know, myself. . . ."
- To Be Continued. . . .
(A.N. from Sokai: Yayyy, my personal fave chapter of the overall story thus far, both back when it was "Eos," and now, as "Elpis." Definitely add Melody's power debut, indeed, her overall scene, to my top favorites list, as well, next to Katie's within the previous chapter. ….Could've killed her poor, unsuspecting stepfather, woman. Oh, well, as far as she'd be concerned, or wouldn't be, rather. LoL Speaking of 'killed,' I remember how fun it was to had written the blurb between Melody and Brit a few years back, about their little gymnastics escapades, because it's precisely what I, myself, used to do, damn near every day whenever I'd watch the original Power Rangers, just as I'd revealed in my 'Eos' A/N for this chapter when it was first posted years ago. LoL Seeing as Kimberly, the Pink Ranger, had been my fave Ranger, and watching her do all those cartwheels and other impressive moves, me, having been a mere nine-year-old and slight 'Miss Know/Do-It-All' at the time, used to use the side of my parents' bed as a support as I'd teach myself to do cartwheels, as well...Again, like Brit had said to Melody, in retrospect, definitely, I'm lucky I hadn't broken my neck, let alone anything else while attempting such fast paced, and sloppy executions, all while usually unsupervised, to boot...Woooo, was I ever lucky. LoL BUT, plus side? At least I'd managed to end up teaching myself how to do a real cartwheel, as a result, anyhow. LoL =)
ANYWAY! Both Mel's and Shin's scenes were real fun for me to have written years ago, and just as fun to re-read now, before re-posting it for both old school "Eos" 'fans,' and new "Elpis" readers. At least it was a nice mini vacation for Evilness, anyhow, not to have worried about helping to write anything for this chapter, eh? LoL Which is good for her for right now, I guess, since that gal, as always, is currently brimming with a million and one other projects and ideas simultaneously running at once. HeHe
Oh, right, and Brit's blurbie about she and Mel speaking with 'Skippy' was obviously 'Skype,' but we can't name names here, of course, not unless you wish to be sued. The usual. Plus, it's always been what I personally call it whenever I'd use it to call my hubby 'back in the day' before he moved to the States, and now, more commonly, whenever I'm calling to speak with my sister and my jumbo baby nephew, 'Lil' Gavi' in FL =)
But, annnnyway! Here's to hoping that both she, and I will get the next chapter out to you, those reading this tale, as soon as possible! =) )