Chapter Nine: Balto
Shiro yet again awoke, this time to the sound of crashing waterfalls, he felt the touch of water drops on his face, he opened his eyes and raised his head. He had fallen onto a mat of moss, not far from the water’s edge, a small wave broke out against the current, the water swept along the strand, bathing his legs.
Unexpectedly, the water was not cold, Shiro lay there on the moss and let the waves wash against him, the Petrichor smell of the lake water surrounded him, something about the smell of blood. So the next surge flooded his knees, the water drop falling churned up his skin.
"This deep scent of the lake" Shiro fought as he looks at his feet, the water lapping his body was stained red, he glanced at the gray surface, up at the wide the cypress swamps trees that covered the sky, he looked down again, the water was indeed red.
He searched for the source, “ah” he said.
His legs, the crimson streams were washing from his skin, he bolted to his feet, his hands and feet were stained red, even his Garrison uniform or whatever left of it, had turned a dark maroon.
“Blood” he moaned, the whole body was stained with blood, his hands were black and purple on his right arm is sticky with the gore as were his face and hair, he cried out, splashed down amid rainwater. The water rushed in muddy gray and receded crimson.
He scooped up the water in his hands to wash his face, as much as he scrubbed at his hands, he’s starting to recover the natural tone of his skin.
However, he notices a piece of his skin was peeling off from his face, he rips off the dead piece of skin as the surf rose to his waist, a pool of the color purple spread out around him, scarlet beneath the darkness-charcoal sky.
Shiro again raised his hand, his right arm to his face, in front of his eyes, his arm has started to show glowing swirly marks. Lengthening, vines on the skin as he is
“What?” Shiro said.
He touches his face again, there was a multitude of small cracks started to form, a fragment of his skin peeled off, wafted away in the wind, and tumbled into the water, beneath the skin was a mat of glowing-swirling purple skin.
“No, I don’t believe this” Shiro said, shouting in horror as he brushed his hand against his purple arm, more skin glow or flecked away revealing purple skin. Every time he moved, he shed flesh.
A light wave swirled surrounded him, his uniform shredded as if melted away by acid, water washes away the skin and the lake ran magenta into the darkness.
The swirl on his hand, the glow on part of his body, he was turning into some kind of beast or worse, the galra.
“No, no, no” Shiro sobbed, his uniform fell to pieces, along with the glowing, both his eyes flashes into a different color, one black, one white.
"What’s going on is, it the blood or the arm making me this way." Shiro thought.
It not possible, Shiro screamed, “ahh”. In his own ears, he heard no recollection sounds, not the meditation rain, only the roar of a beast.
Shiro’s eyes snapped open, Romelle were leaning over him, with concern all over her’s face.
“Romelle!” He whispered as he starting to wake up.
“I’m glad you’re okay”. Romelle said.
“Romelle what happened?” Shiro asked, slowly sitting up, head whacking like crazy.
“We were at Sendak’s Base, facing certain death with him” Romelle replied, turning her eyes in annoyance on Keith, who was also there, like a cool guy loitering, “And also we develop in this crazy light”.
"Crazy light" Shiro thought as he looked to the pale blue sky, his whole body hurts like hell, like his head.
“And there’s also something else, so don’t freak out”, Romelle said, trying to remain calm as possible, this makes Shiro realizing something about his hands, holding them up, his eyes went suddenly in shocked.
“Whoa, what happened to me” Shiro said, he has two different arms, one normal human arm and the other, a completely alien arm, the exact same one in his dream, except it isn’t glowing or swirly.
“Yeah, It’s not that bad,” Romelle said, ” I don’t know why he would do that but at least you’re having two arm again.”
“Not that bad, I just survived a horrible experience evolving scientists and needles, you think that you’ll be okay!” Shiro cried.
“No”. Romelle said.
“Ahh, what a shocker, as long as you’re not brain damage,” Keith mocking.
Shiro sighed to himself, he tilted his head, noting that the light that in his right hand gave off was quite similar to that of the quintessence Crystal. In fact, it was the crystal in the palm in his hand, trying to remember what happened.
All came into a flash, it back to him, Sendak, Ulaz, the experiment performed on him and Sokka, Sokka.
"Sokka, can’t believe I forgot about that" Shiro thought as he about to clamber his feet but his muscles were so stiff he could barely move, normally his muscles become sluggish and hardened to the core but it wasn’t like that, it was regular pain.
He lay there taking a few stretching exercises after another, little by little the pain subsided, some kind of motion returning from his body.
He sat up, spiling off himself a blanket of moss, moss, it certainly looked like moss, he glanced about his location and saw a forest of cypress trees in bodies of water, showing that they were really in a swamp, looking up, the tops of the trees were snapped off, revealing the brown wood underneath, they must fall from those trees.
“Where’s the quintessence Crystal?!” Keith barked.
Rather than answer Keith’s irritating question, Shiro made his way standing up, while examined the rest of everybody’s body and found no serious injuries, just a few scrapes, and bruises, nothing out of ordinary it seemed, with that out of the way, he notice the crystal in his hand, indicating that he’s the one that grab the crystal first but not wanting Keith to have it, so he put it into his pocket.
“Here’s an idea, Keith, how about we find our way out of this swamp.” Romelle protested as she looking for a way out, a light haze drifted across the setting sunlight, she peered into the distance and then consulted her display pad.
"I can do this, I survived a base I can surely survive this“. she thought.
“Hey...where is the Crystal!” Keith said.
“Hey, you do realize that we are a place that we have no idea where we are.” Shiro said.
“Yeah, I know...but I have survived worse.” Keith said.
“Yeah, I’m sure you survived worse.” Romelle replied. “Come on, guys. Let’s go”.
But as she started walking, she almost fell in, over the edge of the trunk, where the water is. “Oh!” She said as she stopped.
"Ok" Romelle thought.
Taking deep breaths, she jumped on the next tree branch which Shiro soon follow. While Keith went the other way around.
“Hey, where are you going!” Shiro said.
“Finding my own way, you dick!” Keith grunted in a mocking tone.
“Well, we will find our own way, loser.” Romelle replied.
Then out of nowhere, Keith’s arm suddenly glows up again in the exact same way that pushes Keith back to Shiro.
“Oh man, I forgot about the mark again.” Keith said, struck the ground with his fist in frustration.
"Mark" Shiro thought as he wondering about Keith on what he said, he looked at his left arm, and notice that It was glowing, ”the Mark, how could I forget the Mark“, Shiro remembered that he is a d-user so he and Keith are connected.
Despise Keith’s protests, the pull was too great, after minutes of agonizing pain, Keith accepted his fate.
“Okay, lead the way” Keith says.
Romelle smiled, she really enjoyed this, the mood in her really brings out the joy in this situation that they were in.
“Let’s go”. She said.
Minutes later, Shiro, Keith, and Romelle continue their trek, hopping onto the next branch on to the next.
“You’re positive we’re going the right way, Romelle?” Shiro asked.
“I know what I’m doing Shiro!” Romelle snapped.
But Shiro and Keith could take that she was confused, she kept staring at the sky, hoping to find a sense of direction on her pad and mope.
Between Romelle’s hits on the situation and Keith’s reluctance, Shiro had just been thinking about getting home as quickly as possible, to the home where Adam, Sam, and the others were waiting to the world where he originally belonged. To earth.
Today he’d gone to that well to see whether or not there was a way home. If he hadn’t been abducted by those soldiers and that brute, Sendak. He would have jumped in the well, Yes, he could have been relaxing at home right about now and he would have been thinking, wow, what a crazy thing happened to him.
“Hey,” Keith said, “Are you okay”.
“I’m fine.” Shiro said. “I never expect this to happen to me”.
“Well, what else were you expecting?” Keith questioned.
“Well, I expect to go home, focused on my work, and eat some chocolate on the usual cheat day!” Shiro answered.
“Oh, cry me a river,” Keith said, sarcastically. “I haven’t tasted chocolate”.
“Fair enough,” Shiro concerned. “Since I remember you said, earlier that you bring terror to the hearts to enemies who wanting the crystal”.
“Yeah, l have.” Keith said before he turned back to Romelle, but for some strange reason, Keith never view her as an enemy, sure she can take a punch and act like a badass, but had a bad sense of direction.
“You know she’s no sense of direction, right?” Keith asked. “How can you follow her? We have no idea where we are”
“I know, but we just have to trust her,” Shiro asked.
“Trust her, well if I’m being honest, she’s not exactly the explorer type”, Keith replied, shrugged. “Or the survivor type”.
As if on cue, Romelle let out an angry scream and continue hopping on the tree’s branch yet again.
"See?" Keith thought.
Shiro smiled. “You never got out more, have you?”
Keith shook his head, “Well, I have been sealed to a tree for years.”
Romelle gasped and Shiro and Keith hurried to catch up to her, she was frozen in place, staring at the remains of what they assumed had once been a village. It was scorned black.
“What happened to this place?” Shiro asked.
“It was the galra, they are vile creatures and enemies to all free people,” Romelle said. “The same ones that abducted us almost got killed and give you that arm”.
“Why?” Keith questioned as Romelle grabbed Shiro’s arm and led him to a broken-down sentry. Painted on the side was the unmistakable logo of the Galra empire.
“They are heartless destroyers,” Romelle said, tears glistened in the corners of her eyes.
As Romelle walk away in tears, Shiro wondered this is more than he bargained for, he knew that people were after the crystal but it felt more than that and soon the group continues on their merry way.
Later into the night, “Is this swamp so possible to navigate,” Romelle frustrated, she was right, it the night as she surveyed her surroundings, the moon was high and the stars were around the halo of the moon, even though it was beautiful, the water looks like completely black, minus a few stars, the swamp crowded whatever land they could find but some dry land that is.
“Hey, don’t worry, we’ll try to find some way,” Shiro said, ensuring her, he was right, they were alive, no life-threatening injuries, that was the sum of it, it did not seem to be any enemies nearby.
“Yeah, if we make it back all right!” Keith said, “But between you and me, you’re a completely stupid girl”.
“You think I wanted to be here, stupid.” Romelle protested, “Especially with you who enjoys burning out buildings.”
“Seriously, you’re still on that!” Keith said.
“Everyone on Aurs still on that!” Romelle yelled. “And I’m trying to find your way back home?”
“Well, you’re not doing a good job”, Keith yelled with a sarcastic laugh “far from it”.
Romelle jumped to her feet, “do you think I wanted to be here, to be stranded in a swamp, do you think I wanted to taken to Sendak, the Galra are monsters and you no better than they were, half-breed.”
Keith’s eyes widened by the comment, “half-breed? You are a half-breed and the monster, especially your Priestess decided to seal me for years.” He shouted.
“Whoa, everybody chill!” Shiro said, standing up and separating them, “Romelle, he did save us!”
“I don’t care I had to deal with soldiers while he was off doing his own thing.” Romelle said. “We can’t trust him, especially after everything he’s done!”
Keith’s glare softened when Romelle began to sob, however, she quickly wiped away her tears and dried her eyes.
“We need to find a way to get there before dark, Coran is probably worried about us!” Romelle said as she walked away from Shiro and Keith.
Now it just the two of them now.
“Hey, so.” Shiro said, trying to not make this all gloomy as possible. “Thanks for trying to save us by the way”.
“Okay, well, I didn’t save you, I just wanted to get the crystal.” Keith said, rolling his eyes.
“Are you sure it’s not because you secretly like us?” Shiro teased, leaning closer to me.
Keith chuckled and backed away him, “Wh—? I don’t like you. You already has a random guy I just met”, Keith turned around and walked away from him.
“Sure”, he said following him.
A few minutes later, Shiro, Romelle, and Keith came to a spot where a small marsh had strewed upon them but had many flowers, like lotus and moonflowers, plastered on the water against the thicket of Cattail.
“Ok, we camp here for the night!” Romelle exasperated.
Keith look around the place and see a serpent hissed before them, before hissed back at it, then turned around to Romelle and Shiro.
“Are you sure this is safe!” Keith said.
“It’s not ideal but we on a long journey.” Romelle replied.
“Whatever!” Keith said before he turned and stormed out. “I’m going hunting!”
“Okay!” Shiro said as he walked over to the marsh where beyond the marsh was a large stone over the marsh.
Shiro approached the edge of the stone, closer, it was standing at the top of a tall mountain that reminded him of the desert where ride his hoverbike to the nearby locations to look at the stars, what he saw was amazing.
It was not the sheer height of the stone, it was the water and the reflection of the pond, black as the night sky, almost blue and violet in its blackness, even in the light of dawn, the marsh looked like night.
But then, he followed up into the sky, he realized that not the water itself but the sky itself, it was perfectly clear, how far are they, he could not believe to imagine, the sky must be so vast and so beautiful that no light can surpass it.
Vertigo overcame him, he sat down, wondering “I don’t recognize any of these constellations. We must be a long, long way from Earth! ” He’d every constellation from memory to books, stars, nebulas, and galaxies, reaching out below him had made him forget that he was not in his own world.
Shiro gasps as he hears the voice in the hinges rustling among the marsh, something glowing. Shiro jumps.
“Who’s there?” he repeats.
Cautious, Shiro left the stone to bent closer and studied on what hiding in the bushes, two tiny, terrified eyes stared up at him, “come out I won’t hurt you”.
Coming out, it looked just like some type of larva, not like the ones that you see from Earth. It had a large head but its body appearance is fairly small, only just bigger than Shiro’s hand. He has blue glowing skin, white eyes, and large webbie arms, and the weirdest part of all, it was floating on the water’s surface.
“Stats” it whimpered in fear. With one webbed arm raised, it took a hesitant step toward Shiro, moving ever so slowly, like a frightened puppy or animal.
Shiro was deeply touched. He wondered if the creature had been separated from his home or misunderstood. Those were feelings he could easily relate to. He crouched down closer to leaned in, then stretched a hand out to the glowing creature.
A thought came to him, reaching out to his bag, he got out a granola bar and open its wrapping. The creature looked at them curiously before Shiro gave it a piece of a granola bar and eating it. As the creature ate, the glow eased around them.
“Stats”, it playfully shot out loud, Shiro was surprised, he has seen a lot of dangerous stuff out here since came from the well, moments like these makes him feel happy and safe. So is not a big deal.
“Whoa! You were hungry, weren’t you?” Shiro said, looking at the creature’s appetite, “I wonder where you came from”.
“Stats”, snuggled in the crevices of Shiro’s lap. The small glow went out in the other areas of the march. The wind crept up behind Shiro, he sighed, the moments he had just shared with this beautiful creature had been... magical.
“This place is truly amazing, a great view of the sky?” He whispered to his new friend.
He turned his head and glanced over his shoulder, the stars looking, even more, bluer than before, “do you want to know about the universe” Shiro said to the creature, “No? Nothing?” The creature just stare with its black beanie eyes “Hmm, should I know what that means?, I’m in another universe”.
Then the silence between them was interrupted when Keith appeared, carrying a dead bird.
“Dinner!” Keith deadpanned as shortly one after, the bird was pluck and skillet to eat.
Shiro and Romelle had eat some of the bird while Keith was eating a bird leg.
“What?” Keith asked as he was being stare at by Shiro and Romelle.
“Nothing!” Shiro said.
“Do you have something to say, just say it!” Keith barked.
“Thanks for dinner!” Shiro said, politely.
“Huh...oh yeah, you’re welcome.” Keith said.
In a lot of minutes later, after the fire was out and nothing left of the bird, Shiro, Keith and Romelle had falling asleep. However, Shiro was not. Instead he was tossed and turned on the spot, trying to sleep but the images of Allura, the Samurai, and the strange voices pounding in his head.
Shiro gasped and sat up straight in the spot where Romelle and Keith were sleeping on the left and right while Stats curled up at Shiro’s stomach asleep.
And finally, Shiro couldn’t take it anymore, so he got out from his spot and standing on his feet. As he looked around to recognized where he was.
Then suddenly, Shiro notice something glowing in the trees on the edge of the area. But what was in the center of front of us, amazed him.
It was a silver-colored sword stuck in the ground, vines and roots wrapped around it as a light shone over the blade.
“Cool”, Keith said as he went over to the sword, admiring the amazing find, reaching out to touch the sword, but as he placed his fingers on the tip of the handle, he gasped as a bright light covered him all over.
"Balance must be restored by the light!"
So many things, coming out of the flash of light, a strange white and purple stone, the sky shining with little stars, an old building, a sword, a group of young people in while and black.
“Hey, dumbass.” A voice shouted.
Shiro’s eyes fluttered open, a soft pain in his head as he noticed Keith hovering over him.
Shiro looked around and saw that he weren’t in the same place we were before as Shiro.
“Keith? What happened?” Shiro asked.
“I don’t know...why!” Keith answered.
Shiro looked around frantically, “Wait, where is it? Where’d it go?”
“What?” Keith asked confused.
“There was a sword, lt was right here, I tried to touch it, but it got really bright, you saw it, right Keith?”
“Huh...I...” Keith said as he was interrupting by Romelle came running out of the bushes, shouting about something big coming.
When Keith asked how big it was, the ground rumbled and a large monster with the appearance of a bulldog, prominent ears, no tail, and whiskers like a seal or otter but have the characteristics of a bunny.
“So, pretty big then”, He said while Shiro and Romelle sat on the ground.
It screeched, heading right for them.
“Watch out!” Romelle yelled, about to get smashed by the monster, moving onto a nearby branch before jumping onto the monster and whack it with her staff into its eyes.
She pushed off the monster and landed next to Keith and Shiro, but the monster didn’t stop, it charged at them, its razor sharp teeth bared and cracked the earth, Shiro backed away but he got his foot caught in a crack in the ground.
“Shiro!” Romelle yelled as she tried to help him to get his foot free, but she couldn’t, the monster was coming closer when Keith throwing his dagger at it, upon impact, the dagger obliterated parts of the skin, near the mouth.
Shiro turned to Romelle and Keith, who looked up cautiously at the monster, Shiro looked around frantically and saw the same glow.
“Hey, get out of here!” Keith said.
“What!” Shiro said.
“You only get in the way!” Keith said.
Shiro nodded and run away, with the monster being too occupied at the moment with Romelle and Keith.
Shiro ran and ran as fast as he could away from Romelle and Keith, away from the monster but he stop, hearing something nearby and seeing a bright light nearby, Shiro knew it had to be the sword that he found.
Shiro walked towards the light, pushing the leaves and bushes away until I saw it again, the sword caught in the vines and roots, it was glowing just as brightly as before.
Shiro kept walking until he was close enough to touch it, but he stopped when he heard two voices coming from the trees.
Just then, Romelle and Keith emerged from the forest and knocked into the clearing with the monster.
Keith looked at Shiro, “Hey what are you doing here!” He said as he got up, then at the sword before running towards it.
Shiro removed the sword from its spot, “Hey, bug brain!” Shiro shouted at the monster, holding up the sword and falling miserable to steady it.
“Come on, magic sword, oh, where’s a blinded flash of light when you need one?” Shiro begged before screamed at the sight of the monster heading towards him.
Shiro fumbled with the sword one last time before he held it up and stopped the monster’s teeth before it hit us.
Then there was a blinding flash of light. Images passed quickly through his mind.
Altea floating in space.
A comet crashed into a forest.
A sparkling building shining underneath the moon.
A portal and the sound of a crying baby.
All seen whole hearing that weird man say total concentration breathing.
Finally, Shiro saw a man holding something very shiny in the air.
“Total concentration breathing?” The voice asked, echoing in his ear.
“Constellation breathing?” Shiro cried, holding the sword up high, “First Form: Aquarius.”
Shiro slices his enemy, the monster dropped to its knees, into the ground, head and all.
Moments later, the light faded and Shiro landed back to the ground. Keith, Romelle, and Stats were staring at him.
“Keith?” Romelle exasperated
Keith said, open-mouthed “Yeah, I see him, Romelle”.
“Okay. I wanted to make sure it wasn’t just me”. She said
“Stats” Stats said.
Shiro stood there for a moment before he looked down at the monster as its head along with it’s body started to disintegrate, Shiro’s eyes widened as he screamed and fell to the ground.
As he soon he fell, the sword still in Shiro’s hand as he panted.
Keith shook off his shock and rushed to Shiro and grabbed the sword, only he didn’t let go and pulled the sword back towards him.
“How do I do that!” Shiro demanded.
“How did you learn the breathing techniques?” Keith questioned as the two of us rising to their feet and struggling to take the sword from each other.
“A breathing technique, what is that!” Shiro questioned.
“Well, I don’t know I only heard it from the samurai, before he died!” Keith answered. “I never expect to see this sword again!”
Silence fell beyond the marsh, the sun shine on a new day, “you know, I have given up on myself after I lost Takashi, I lost all reason to fight back, and yet you’re here now, just different”.
Shiro walked towards him, “Hey, I’m sorry I’m not Takashi from your world, but I want to help you!”
“Well, I do want to stick out my neck for you and her!” Keith said as he turned to Romelle, before with all his strength, pulled the sword away from Shiro.
Just then, the sound of splashing water, Romelle, Keith, Shiro, and Stats froze as stamping was coming closer to them.
And soon, an unknown group, riding a horse like creatures, approached them.
“Oh, boy” Romelle replied, looking forward to the unknown fate that waits for them as the voice had stopped ringing in Shiro’s head.