A/N : So, this is the new version of Hollow as the majority of you voted me to write and I, myself decided to do. It's kinda different, but the plot's the same. Still, I hope this'll be better than the previous one though :)
Standard disclaimer is applied to every chapter : All credit goes to the amazing creators (Fairy Tail as owned by Hiro Mashima, plus any other random bits—which are not mine—as created by their rightful owners)
English is not my mother tongue, so please correct any grammatical or spelling mistakes I might cast, I won't mind X)
The best thing about trains is probably sitting by their windows, watching the journey turn from blurry to steadfast to purely abstract of a painting. Moss green. Emerald. Earthy brown then cyan. Mixing and squirming and shifting in the most uneven way possible.
Plumpy cotton look-alikes of what must be a herd of sheep nipping on grassland passed beneath my finger. They fooled me for a while, whites bulging behind the transparent panes as if I could touch their wool for real.
I retracted my hand back, amused with the dewy trail my fingerprint had left. The cold windows emitted a pleasant feeling under my skin that I missed immediately. Staring higher on the glass surface, I saw the reflection a girl blinking behind rimmed glasses, two balls of brown staring back. It might be the trick of the light, but they seemed less duller somehow. Less from the girl's inside the mirror that morning, at least.
I rested back to the head of my seat, still eyeing the natural television of wonder—it showed a couple of spotty cows—suddenly reluctant to continue the read on my lap.
Whoever said that trains were plain boring out of all aspects of boredom must be gadget addicts without their game consoles. Or hyperactive kids without a room to be sommersaulted around. Or they weren't someone who was locked by her Dad at home for God knows how long...yeah, that too.
Oh. So that was why Mr. Caprico had such confused look in his eyes (not that his pitch-black sunglasses allowed me to see them anyway) when I asked 'what's a train like?' with an excitement that could even rival a toddler given a lollipop, not that I would admit it to anyone though. But well, certain circumstances should have permitted me to be a little awkwardly primitive beyond one's level of childishness. For it felt quite nice actually, sitting in a compartment of minimal passengers of four, despite the society contradicting and grumbling that long-term entertainment-less transportation is a mere medium of tedium. (Ignore the unintentional rhyme.)
Heh. It was fortunate enough that we had cars instead of galloping horses.
The train was quiet, just the way I liked everything to be, yet not really, because it actually rumbled and dinked on each stop in a few miles. But as hours ticked by, the constant vibrations grew to be rather calming, almost unfeeling. They may lull you to sleep even, very much like the snoring kid to my opposite.
Still, if sight-seeing the scenery that came and go was the greatest of all, then observing the passengers in their idle activity was the second best.
No, it was not yet the time for me to be preparing some research thesis, nor I was I a psychologist of some sort. I was never much of a philosopher either, burying myself in lengthy analysis of people's way of life, stating numerous theories out of them. Rather, observing had become a habit itself, coursing like a second instinct of mine. Or probably I just loved that pleasure of figuring out mysteries and piecing up puzzles, albeit simple ones, like what detectives did in suspenseful novel or movies. Besides, in the span of five hours duration, one may take more than just passerby's glance, no?
I sneaked a peek to the left side of my joint seat, finding just the perfect target of my experiment. An aged woman whose whole live and face as if composed of upside down 'u's, burried her slender nose between the pages of magazines. Her hair was unusual oldened pink (too bad I had seen Virgo's) upped so tight to a traditional bun and was tucked in the centre with a long, crescent moon tipped pin. She wore light make-up, a set of blouse in white and ankle-length skirt. Her figure was defined instead of frail and she had the air of 'stay out my way' hovering beyond and beneath. The image of a grumpy granny no one wanted to mess up with. Typical. But was she really?
I could not fathom for what reason, but I remembered Mom asking me about what I thought of people in general, probably had to do with my hesitance of mingling with them ever since I was little. I said with all the simplicity of a child that they were like books that live out their own stories. Readable, though as intriguing as those mythical fantasies, but got a really scary side within. Like the naughty trolls and evil dragons who kidnapped the princesses. Or the poisoned apple Snow White swallowed.
But then, as I grew with time and muddled myself with darkened streaks of reality, I began to wonder. What were the villains' side of story if any were ever written? Were they in actuality a real softie beneath monstrous figures? Were the heroines in as pure and innocent as they were seen?
Most books attracted readers with their cover more than a synopsis ever did. The same way people did among themselves. Self-consious with how we wanted people to regard us as, it was always appearance on top of everything else. It was a sad perception, because first impressions might be the most deceitful of all. A plain book may contain amazing values the same way an extravagant cover might wrap a boring plot. In front of you, a certain person might be all candy smiles and rainbows, but who knows if she had a sharpened knife curled behind her back ready to stab when all backs were turned?
If I were to compare with a book, the old woman would be hard-covered, difficult to penetrate. Classy in the stiffest direction, the one you didn't want to open unless you have to. A very old history book, except with padlocks.
Her outer aspects might have not piqued your interest, or you were just too lazy to find the suitable key. Society tended to act as such. They shut out everyone they couldn't figure out, but find comfort in drinking themselves in cliche. That was why outcasts were common and the odd ones were seldom appreciated.
But even if I wanted to shun them however, those people—keyless or locked or not—had already been open so wide I never had a choice but look.
The old woman was transparent in my case, albeit a thick one. It was easy to point out that her glare daggers was her second skin rather than an exposed anger- her hands weren't fisted, nor her footing was stiff. Her irises were genuine lights behind walls. They felt warm, almost a longing. I could feel it trickling through my throat.
This elicited an inner smirk of mine. Interesting.
I hid my face behind my novel, seeing words sideways yet not reading, gaining an unnoticable angle to examine. I rendered myself to not stare too long, at least, not to seem so painfully obvious. The woman swiped her finger on a spot in her sleek-paged magazine. It was a picture, featured in an article titled "A Fury Life with Furball". A cute kitten lied on its back- a petite body inked in beige and white, a blue necklace around its neck dangling in looseness, a pair of paws were up and lively, a red ball of thread caught in between.
I tore my eyes off the photograph, not missing the glint evident in the lady's hard reddish irises, the colour no more intimidating.
Blend the insights of emotions and minor acts and clues, you'd receive a unique founding of a tsundere, as the Japanese term often stated. Outward, she was 'tsun-tsun' and icy exterior all the way, kinda rough around the edges. But, who could guess that deep within, she was just an old woman who got a soft spot for cats? The longing would explain that she was probably missing her lovely pets at home.
Unexpected much? Not really. It was all in all as applied in the golden saying 'never judge a book by its cover'.
Emotions might be hints of crossword puzzles, a ferry to a life story without having to know someone in person. A clue of a page which led you to another, and lucky chances were, they could be one's main essence.
You would possibly be asking, how could I read those locked books without any key to their padlocks?
I was one of those outcasts. The one that weirded everyone out for defying the rule of cliches. My mind was sharp to inner colours and my heart saw feelings swirl as often as I blinked.
I was different.
Chapter 1 : Greetings, Magnolia
"Good afternoon, dear passengers of Fiore Express!" A voice chirped from the speaker so suddenly I thought there was an announcement to a mass thievery. Shaken out of my groggy state, the elbow propping my chin quickly slid off the metal sills. It let my head drop, right onto the window surface with a loud thump.
"Welcome to Magnolia City," It continued curtly, ignorant to the curses I sent from the deepest of my silent grunt, "Before leaving your compartments, please check on your belongings for we wouldn't take responsibility of any of your loss. It was a pleasure to travel with you and we hope to see you again on the next trip. Have a nice day!"
A couple of musical notes ended the short speech, sequenced by sound of shifting, whirring luggages. I rubbed the pulsing point on my forehead and sighed, avoiding the amused looks my travel companions had offered. Leaning off the long cushioned seat, I bent down to pick up the novel on the carpeted floor which I'd guess had stumbled off my lap somewhere within my clumsy fiasco.
"We've arrived, honey," the redhead woman sitting to my opposite nudged gently in attempt of awaking her son-who looked about ten-out of his makeshift bed that was his soft blanket.
The kid rubbed his eyes and yawned. He reminded me of a sleepy pup. And an adorable one at that too.
"Still wanna sleep," was all the kid whined, maroon hair in messy tangles, as he gripped the soft fabric around him tighter with a clump of petite fingers.
The woman smiled patiently as she gave him another shake, "Oh really?" She sweetened her voice, "So you aren't up for Magnolia's pretty Rainbow Sakura you really wanna see?"
Two bronze eyes snapped open, so bright I could almost see stars in them. Excitement tickled my skin.
"I'm totally up, Mommy!"
The young mother laughed, patting his head affectionately, slightly messing the red locks more than they had already been, as the child released a disgruntled noise.
"You're messing with my hair, Mommy."
"See you later, Miss," a voice quitened my reminiscene, preventing it from flying nowhere. It was the young woman with her son.
I gave her a polite nod, preparing to leave myself as I confirmed that none of my neccesstities were left behind.
"Bye," the sweet boy waved happily which I returned with lesser enthusiasm, "And Granny too," he turned to the old lady who just nodded stiffly as respond, too busy with her own luggage—and was that a broom she was carrying?—before he disappeared behind the automatic compartment doors.
I was going to throw the bag straps onto my shoulder when I heard a jingle. My mind brimmed my realization. Rummaging through the inner pockets of my bag, I pulled out a shiny accessory, its bell-shaped pendant biasing against the sunlight. The necklace didn't fit Plue's neck anymore (guess the dog had gotten fatter) and it was probably childhood sentiment alone that urged me into bringing it.
It would fit a cat's thin neck perfectly, though.
"Excuse me, Madam," I dropped the accessory between the old woman's wrinkly fingers, "Please keep this. Have a nice day."
I waved at her once before taking off, smiling as a hint of bewilderment nipped my back.
Magnolia City was a quaint urbanization with multiple crossing of cultures, undecaying old traditions, and blooming modernity. The line of shop houses I was currently passing were varied with streaks of vintage and medieval, in which they were sticked together like terrace houses and topped with roofs of orange and red. Their brick walls were dipped in pastel paint of colourful hues and tipped with either mini balconies or long, rectangular sills. After a block or two away however, I could see that modern western and even the ethnic Asians were carved into the city's face as well. In fact, the broad water canal to the side of the road had acted as a mini Venice, complete with its stony bridges and little rowing boats on shimmering water.
The city was ruled out with Magnolia flowers (now I knew where it'd got its name from), filling and beautifying the city with various shade of colours. As if were natural causes, blooms of them vined the balconies and wooden fences, while other more artificial ones were planted neatly in the long pots along the cobblestone street.
Another good thing was that the city was not over-pouring with civilization thank goodness, nor that it was too silent either. I wouldn't want myself to be stuffed and sucked with mash and mix of every passerby's emotions that hustled by. Sure, I had learned the method of locking a minority of them away, but still, there would be a time they could became too much to bear. Those situations felt horrible to say the least, as if your heart was beating with the rythm of somebody else's or having your head flowing with thousand of edgy, foreign images.
Well, that issue apart, I inhaled greedily, almost choking due to the over capacity of air stored in my lungs. My nose sighed at the pleasant sensation of smell in the air ; sweet-scented Magnolias, freshly baked bread, and the fishy smell of the river.
Never once in my life I had licked such taste of freedom.
I hopped onto the low wall bordering the water canal, gasping softly as I almost slipped. I chuckled, stretching my arms, letting the seasonal breeze drum through my fingers, slip through the gaps in between, and clap my warm cheeks. A small portion of them penetrated into my bundle of blonde locks, hidden completely inside a knitted hat. In this kind of weather, I wouldn't be any happier to take said hat off and untie my hair loose for all I cared. But then I remembered Virgo's warning to be cautious. Even a slip of disguise could reveal the littlest thing.
"Be careful, kid!" Two fishermen-or were they sailors?-called out from the moat. They were rowing a petite boat.
"Don't worry!" I shouted back, a bit touched by their genuine concern, "But thanks anyway!"
'Fun' probably would not be commonly defined as hopping along a narrow path, and posing like a failing bird with giant backpack may seemed retarded. But I didn't care. For once, there was no one scolding me on my lack of grace, no one telling me what to do, where to step and how to act. It was peaceful in its own strange way.
I may have spoken too soon, it seemed.
A blurry shadow of a built man rushed just below my chest. The force's impact sent a couple of wobbles on my legs which I quickly countered with positioning my arms in linear position, promptly halting me from plummeting into the cold river.
Before I could even respond to the stranger's rudeness, a shrill shriek interjected.
"Help!" The panic-stricken changed form in a woman with stripped shirt and Capri pants. Her mousse-coloured hair was sticking to every direction, shortly reminding me of Medusa of the Greek myth. She was having a bit difficulty of running so fast in her 7 cm-heels.
"The thief took my purse! Please help!" Onyx eyes edged in desperation, she pleaded to anyone who could hear her. There were a few pedestrians on the pavement, but most were too wrapped up with their phones or some other business to care and the remaining merely ducked their heads in attempt of being invisible.
I didn't know what possesed me, but I jumped of the ledge and readied a u-turn. Giving the woman a silent reassuring glance, I held onto my hat then dashed after the retreating thief.
"WHAT DO YOU WANT, MR. FREEZER?"
It was my cue to yank the screeching (and hopefully not broken-speakered) phone the furthest from my already buzzing ears. For I didn't know how many triple-digits-number-of times, I prayed God would bless my auditory nerves with a little bit more resistance to yells of stupidity. No, thank you very much, I didn't want to be deaf for the rest of my life.
"Are you trying to kill me with your girly voice?" Hiding only barely a half of my huge, huge irritation, I dared to retort, once the ear-splitting screech had ended. At this point, I was fully aware of the weird glances I received from the passerbys present. I couldn't pay any less attention to them.
"KILL YOU?" He hollered incredulously. The phone screeched again, "My Geisha has just been bitten by those black-butted monkeys the moment you called! Now, you are saying that I'm trying to kill you?"
Good grief. I pinched my forehead. Had the idiot lost some more neurons to his brain cells?
"How you expertly ducked into the root was quite memorable," a different voice on the line snickered, "And your target is 50 million too..."
"Shut up, Loke! That's because you threw the phone onto my nose!" Natsu paused for a second. I'd wild-guessed he was currently rubbing his swollen nose, "Which means that the death of my Geisha was also your fault!"
News flash, I scoffed sarcastically. It went unheard.
"Cocky much?" Loke emitted a mockery-laced snicker, "Your score hasn't even reached the half of my 10 million record, not even a quarter of it."
"Do those glasses blind you? I got an awesome fifteen million!" Natsu snorted and I cringed. Hearing his annoying snort beyond the phone speaker was as irking as getting him to huff his stinky breathe directly into my ear.
"It's one million and five hundred," a quiet voice piped in.
"Ha! Even Jellal could see how dim-witted you are!"
"Some people just have no idea how to count zeroes..."
"Hey! You're supposed to be on my side, Jello!"
"Now who's the dimwit?"
Getting enough of this endless bickering, in addition to the full acknowledgement of what thing they were nagging about, I rolled my eyes on reflexive habit while keeping my voice as deadpanned as possible, masking the annoyance popping on throughout my veins, "I don't understand how you're all so obsessed in a lame game of escaping from monkeys in an endless freaking temple," I spat out flatly, emphasizing the word 'obsessed' like it was the dirtiest word I could think of.
"It's called Temple Run, frozen peas!" Natsu's smart-assed shriek echoed over the holey speaker which I still kept 5 centimetres away from my ear for safety purposes, "And-Oh! Gimme the Pad, Jello!" A rough set of shuffling swishes, a choked voice of a kind, followed with lines of colourful profanities resounded, "I forgot to post my epic score into Twitter!"
"Don't throw a phone to someone's forehead dammit!" Loke's voice cussed hypocritically (if I may add), before morphing itself into its 'dazzling form' or so he called it, "Hey, what's up, Gray? Miss me?"
"I don't have time for your gayish greetings, Loke," I sighed exasperatedly, mentally asking myself how I could have the sane mind to befriend a bunch of idiots in the first place, "I just wanna say that I am not going to Natsu's today. My sister is coming back from Hargeon."
Realizing how screwed my situation was, his tone turned wary for a while, "You mean Ultear? Are you going to have dinner together?"
"Pretty much," I hummed, biting back an amused smirk on the flirt's sudden change of demeanour, despite he was relating to my own issue.
There was a good minute of silence with only Jellal's and mainly Natsu's loudness at the background yelling something about 'taking turns', before Loke proceeded with his interrogation, "You okay?"
My lips drooped on that query, but I kept my voice convincing, "I'm good."
A heavy sigh was heard, indicating that my lie had been a total failure, "Tell us if something happens alright?"
"Thanks," I strained my tone to be as appreciative as ever. It wasn't that I hated his concern or him being a worrywart, but detailing about my own personal problem was not really my thing, "See you at school."
After a triplet of beeps, I deactivated the call and stared at the numbers lined on the top of the home screen, their static font indicated that it was still 5 in the afternoon.
I exhaled, swiftly locked the phone with a slide of a finger and stuffed it inside my jeans pocket.
Two hours to go before dinner.
I sorted through my location, scratching my neck when I found it familiar yet was oblivious where. Multitasking was not a difficult issue, but walking, listening, keeping my ears safe, and talking to the phone all at once seemed to need extra concentration, especially if you were dealing with friends like...well, those.
Or maybe I didn't mind any destinations, as long as I was out in the city.
Bending both arms behind my head lazily, my sight span widened towards the dual sides of my peripheral vision, both packed with rows of multi-coloured shophouses decorated in such style so that the greyish-coloured street looked like an old village of some sort. But, some unlit fairy lights and the wide glass windows stuffed some senses of modernism into them, telling me that I was not standing in the middle-aged era. Several restaurants were included within those buildings, levelling from the smallest coffee shops, cafes until the fanciest of their kind, the top notches you could find in our city.
They were definitely the choices Ultear would be very content to pick out from, seeing she might not be able to either have or afford them between her busy academic life. She majored medical sciences in the University of Hargeon, taking place in the neighbouring city to the south of Magnolia. It made one of the reasons why the occasional dinner should be attended in the first place. Because transportation fees halted her going back and fro between Hargeon and Magnolia so often, she rented an apartment room not far from the unversity and later made a deal with Mom that she would come home once every two weeks.
It gave me chills. The huge possibility that she would choose that seafood restaurant again this time. Seeing the wooden placate of the shack's name and one of its waitress winking at me through the transparent door right know wasn't helping either. I hoped in the name of all miracles of existence that Mom would forget that it was Ultear's turn to pick and have me or Lyon choose this time. Not that I was so sure Lyon wouldn't take advantage of his chance to aggravate me all the same. I had some blackmails to threaten him just in case, anyway.
But then again, Mom's memory was as tough as a nail. You wouldn't believe how she remembered my chore schedule so perfectly.
I groaned, holding myself back into thinking of those large portions of spicy prawns and smelly squids which I was forced to devour and finish, insisting a certain someone was on a sudden craving for diets like she had done months ago...knowing full well that those cooked sea creatures were on the top of my things-to-puke-at list. And don't even try talking me about the devilish chillies, you wouldn't dare know how evil they could become. The continuation of this pathetic story? Let's just say I ended up in the toilet once I had gotten home for hours with the symptoms of bad bad stomach.
Seriously, sometimes it sucked to be me.
Was this a simple prank the youngest sibling had to endure? I didn't quite think so. Ever since that night four years ago, let's just say our relationship was a bit...strained. It was why I took these walks, bearing the reason of 'cooling around the city' as a golden excuse that was never totally wrong. My head needed a 'cooling off' anyway, from the house's rather suffocating atmosphere. I was only there to create awkwardness in the family after all, for Mom's effort to 'reunite' us was to no avail and Lyon's constant jokes to lighten everything up was getting even older and drier.
"Help!" A scream erupted through the peaceful evening air, immediately pulling me back from my melodramatic anecdote.
I swung my head to left and right, then straight at the tri-junction which a few metres distance to my front, finding none plausible enough to release that high-pitched yell. My confusion was directly forgotten once I stared right through the scenery glorified around me. The checkered-patterned path was illuminated with street lamps, creating a calming combination with the colourful buildings hovering towards the orange canvas of the skies, puffs of pinkish cotton splattering on it.
On habit, my fingers swiftly moved towards my chest where the camera was usually hung, only causing them to touch my bare skin.
Of all times I leave it at home! I cursed grumpily, And where is my shirt too?
"Please help!" Another hysterical yell sounded.
This time, I saw a flash of golden-yellow passing through the path in front of me, oblivious to my presence.
Intrigued by the colour, I chased after it-assuming it was the said 'thief'-the lost shirt and SLR quickly forgotten.
Who's that? An eleven year old tilted his head, curiosity tugging his mind. His mother was crouched down and sobbing, hugging a girl that looked like a mini clone of herself. His brother was on the opposite side, staining two tear splotches on the girl's shirt.
It felt rude to interupt. The boy played with his fingers, feeling left out. But he wanted to know who made his family so sad!
He met his mother's eyes then, they were both happy and sad, weary and bright, beckoning him to approach, and the next second he blinked, he had joined the group hug.
He gained a better look of the girl. She looked a couple of years older, with shiny hair and scrutinizing dark pools so hard it almost render him flinching. They spoke of a silent warning, whatever it was for, and the boy swore the heaving throb in his chest had switched onto his stomach. But then she slung her arms behind his neck as if nothing had passed, a smile that didn't quite reach her eyes playing on her lips.
He could feel a grin within his brother's choke.
"Welcome home, Ultear-nee."
His heart dropped, bewildered eyes widening.
He never knew he had a sister.
What are feelings? Just another chemical reactions?
Temple Run : I'm pretty sure most of you know what Temple Run is. Anyway, it is a game you can play in either iPad or iTouch of escaping from monkeys in a temple. The further you run, the higher score you would get. (Check on wiki for details)
No offence to whoever likes this game. In fact, I am sorta 'obssessed' with it too.
Geisha (a traditional Japanese dancer) : refers to Karma Lee, the only Asian character in Temple Run. I made Natsu called her by my self-made nickname :p
Tsun tsun (turn away in disgust) + dere dere (be lovey dovey) = tsundere (a typical manga/anime character who is shown to be hostile towards others but will gradually show their warm side/ cold outside - warm inside)
A/N : This chapter may leave lots of questions on your side, but don't worry, everything will be explained eventually.
P.s : can anyone guess who's the granny on the train? If you're able to answer (though it might be so obvious), I shall reward you with...sweet virtual lollipops? :9
*Please read my other GraLu fics "Jumbled Feelings" and "Babysitting Issue" X)*
Last edited : December 16, 2012