Chapter 27 - Memories
One appeared inside the Library only to find the floor deserted. He stopped himself from calling out for the elder Dreamer; the library books have always been a bit temperamental, and some of those thicker tomes can really hurt.
As he approached the desk, One's eyes caught on the black leather bound notebook that lay upon the counter. He was curious, but like many of the Elsewhere, One had more than one bad experience from carelessly picking up strange objects. After a quick glance around the Library turned up nothing more than a stray biography flapping around one of the ceiling lights, he sidled closer to the notebook and carefully opened it with one of the many pens lying on the counter.
"I saw him again today." One read aloud, "He dispatched a few thugs at the high school before running off. I tried to catch him, but he always was too fast for me. Why didn't he recognize me? None of this makes sense."
The squeak of a doorknob made him look up from the notebook. He quickly closed the book moments before a door in the middle of a shelf of historical accounts swung open to reveal Teach and the Dreamer known as Karma.
Little sister to Fate and Luck and wife to Teach, Karma is every bit as pretty as the other so-called 'Destiny Sisters'. She is a very modest woman; she wears long, serviceable dresses and speaks in a soft voice that can be heard over the loudest shout. She is probably the kindest, most gentle Dreamer in the entire Elsewhere.
She continued talking to Teach as they entered the Library. "I thought it was a little strange too. Fascinating, of course, but definitely odd to think that given the right circumstances …"
Teach stopped, spotting One. For just the barest of instants, One thought he saw a note of surprise in Teach's face.
Abandoning the notebook, One approached the couple. "Hey, Teach. Hey Karma."
"Hello, One." Karma said kindly as she walked past One toward the private sections of the Library.
One waited until she had shut the door before turning to Teach. "Where did you two just come from?"
Teach answered, "Vinta. I wanted to see Mikaen for myself."
Ignoring the mild indignation that came with the knowledge that Teach was checking up on him, One asked, "Well? How am I doing?"
"Assignment's going well, I'd say. He was with Tirinia."
One snorted. "That was the idea, wasn't it? Speaking of which, I've got a question about the assignment."
"Of course. Anything I can do to help out."
"If you want to help, finish the assignment for me." One replied wryly.
Teach chucked. "Anything save that, I'm afraid. What's on your mind?"
One pulled the list Teach had given him from his pocket and set it on the desk, saying, "If I'm reading this right, I'm almost done."
"Perhaps, or perhaps there's still something else left to take care of." Teach shrugged and started to sort through the stack of borrowed books left on the counter, "Remember, this list is just a guide. I know how much you like to improvise."
One picked it up and looked at it again. "Says I just need to keep an eye on him for one more day. How much improvisation am I really gonna need?"
Their eyes met in the ensuing silence. One quickly raised his hands, saying, "Never mind; forget I asked."
"Speaking of which; have you spoken with Teria yet?"
One glowered at Teach. "Because I forgot about her. Cute ... and no, I haven't."
"Why not?" Teach asked, seeming genuinely confused. "I mean, who better to help stimulate those memories back into place?"
"I know." said One, leaning forward so that his elbows rested on his knees, "It's just … how do I tell her?"
"About losing your memories?" Teach asked. At One's nod, the elder Dreamer looked thoughtful. "I honestly don't know what to tell you. If there was something between you two, she could react in anger or resentment … or she could just kiss you again."
"That's the problem," One sighed. "I loved her. I only have one memory of our time together, but I know we were more than just friends."
"I sense a 'but' coming." said Teach.
One absently scratched the back of his rune hand. He felt awkward talking about this, especially with another Dreamer. It was hard to keep a secret in the Elsewhere, harder still if said secret involved other Dreamers.
Teach prodded, "Go on. You have my word that whatever you say stays between us."
"I know that Teria and I could be as close as we were before. I don't have anything with Luck, but I think I could if I get the nerve up to tell her. The problem is that I like both of them. Half of me thinks I should go for Teria, the other half is rooting for Luck, and quite frankly, I don't know what to do." Chuckling, he added, "and unlike Two, I know I can't have both."
Teach chuckled at this. "Indeed. You've always had a stronger sense of morality than Two … than most of the Elsewhere Incorporate, for that matter."
"So what do I do?" One asked, a sliver of desperation in his voice.
Teach tapped the cover of one of the books thoughtfully. "I'm not sure what to tell you. Being in a relationship with another Dreamer can be both a blessing and a curse given our longevity. On the other hand, a relationship with a norm can tie a Dreamer to a particular world. That too isn't necessarily a bad thing either, but soon or later every norm dies." After a brief pause, he added, "I honestly don't know what to tell you, One, other than to advise not being hasty. Get to know Teria again, spend time with Luck, and think about what it would be like to stay with them for a while, for years, for decades. Consider the possibilities, that's what always advise."
"For the moment, however," said Teach, sitting back in his chair, "You can't just go around avoiding Teria. It wouldn't be fair to her, and ultimately would only jeopardize the mission. For the moment, I believe you should just tell her the truth."
Teach was silent for a long moment. Perhaps he realized the gravity of the situation; perhaps he was taken off-guard by the trust One was showing him.
"For the time being, I believe you should not tell her about your feelings with Luck. It could complicate matters worse than not telling her anything. Just tell her about your memory problem, and try not to do anything that might lead her on for the time being."
"Thanks for the advise." One said gratefully as he rose from his chair. "I'll think on it."
"See that you do, my friend. See that you do."
It was rapidly approaching evening in Muonsol. One admired the sunset from one of the many windows of Muonsol Palace. He wondered idly if Mikaen and Tirinia were watching it together somewhere, perhaps from the balcony of one of the palace towers.
No one paid much attention to him. That was part of the beauty of being what he was; he looked just like a normal Galden. As long as he wore gloves and didn't make a point to flaunt any of his abilities, no one was ever the wiser.
"One? Is that really you?"
Of course, there are always exceptions. This particular exception was Julia Cressia.
"Cygress Julia!" He exclaimed opening his arms. "Long time, no see!"
"It's been so long! Shame on you for not stopping by sooner!" She gave him a friendly hug and asked, "What brings you back here?"
"Business actually." One told her. "You know that Mikaen guy?"
"My husband's old war buddy?" Realization set in her eyes. "Ah, I see; you're helping him."
"Helping him to help himself, actually. Say, have you seen Teria Myssohn around?"
"She was in the library about five minutes ago." Julia chuckled and added, "I had to persuade my son to quit pestering her before she took offense and his head with it."
"Your son." He shook his head, saying, "All my old friends have kids now. I feel old."
"You look fine. In fact, you look the same as the last time we met, though as you're a Dreamer, I'm sure that should hardly come as a surprise. Come on; I'll show you to the library."
They set off down the corridor. As they walked, Julia chatted amicably about various things; mostly palace gossip that One didn't have enough background information to fully comprehend. He nodded his head when he was expected to and said things like, "Uh-huh", and 'Go figure', which seemed to keep Julia from being offended.
As they neared the library, Julia asked, "So, is Teria a big part of what you're doing with Mikaen?"
"Not quite." One admitted. "She's ... well, she's an old friend of mine."
"Oh?" A mischievous grin spread across her face. "I had no idea."
This drew a curious look from the Cygress, but thankfully she didn't pry.
Julia gave him a hug once they reached the palace library. "Make sure to say hello to Jyle after your little reunion with Teria. He's been looking for you to pop in since Mikaen arrived."
"Hey!" One called after her as she started to walk away. "No spreading rumors about me and Teria, okay?"
When she turned the look of innocence on her face looked so genuine that One almost fell for it. ""Now would I do something like that?"
Shaking his head, he approached the entrance to the library. Peeking through the open doorway, it didn't take him long to find Teria sitting at one of the library tables, flipping impatiently through a book.
It was a perfect opportunity to catch Teria without her sister or Mikaen hanging about, and One knew it. Still, he felt oddly nervous about speaking to her; the only memories he had to go on were the night at Yuna Lake and escaping from the Sorceress Ackibar, and even those memories were incomplete. He still had no idea what he was going to say.
"Well, better get it over with," he muttered to himself.
Taking a deep breath, One strode through the open door and approached the table where Teria sat. She didn't look up at him; One had the distinct impression that she was ignoring him.
After a few minutes, One coughed politely.
"Oh, for Creator's sake!" she said, still not looking at One, "Go pester someone else, Jek!"
"Since when have you been a reader?" The words came unbidden to One's mouth, an old taunt meant from a fragment of memory.
As Teria glanced up at him, her eyes went wide.
A sudden awkwardness came over One. Rubbing the back of his head, he said, "Hiya, Teria. Long time no see, huh?"
She continued to stare at him, her mouth hanging open slightly. One couldn't blame her; his words sounded woefully inadequate even to his ears.
His cheeks growing warm, One sat down beside her and glanced at the book she was reading. It was a historical account, one that he knew all too well.
"'The Summoner Ackibar's attempt to conquer Ircandesta was defeated by the combined efforts of Jyle Cressia, Elduran Thistlethorn, and Reyl Val'Cien, although some claim that they were aided by a mysterious fourth man.'" He read aloud. Mild indignation won out over awkwardness for a few moments. "Oh, that's nice; I nearly stop Nocturnes from spilling out across Vinta, and all I get is 'mysterious fourth man'? Talk about unfair."
Without warning, Teria threw her arms around One in a hug that threatened to crack his ribs.
"Uh ..." One stammered as she nuzzled against his chest.
"I knew you'd come back." Pulling away slightly, she looked him up and down. "Didn't think you'd keep me waiting so long, though. What took you so long, anyway?"
She stepped back and put her hands on her hips, giving him her best pout. "I mean, five years? I know you were wanting to make a name for yourself, but come on, Glen!"
"Five years for you, Teria. Closer to five-hundred for me."
"What?" Chuckling, she pushed him lightly. "Yeah, right. Next you'll tell me you're a member of the Eternian Star."
One chuckled uneasily at this; he had encountered members of the Eternian Star on a few occasions, not all of them good. Vinta's superheroes and heroines were not a group to cross, even for a member of the Elsewhere.
"Seriously, Glen, where the heck have you been? What happened the other night? Why are you dressed up like Narrator Number One?"
One could only stare in reply, which was in itself an answer to her question.
Teria's eyes went wide. Standing up from her chair, she said, "Wait, wait, wait ... really? You mean you're actually a-"
"-A Dreamer." One flushed and rubbed the back of his head. "Yeah, well ... like I said, it's been a long time."
One waited nervously for Teria's response. He wasn't sure what to expect, but it certainly wasn't for her to burst into laughter.
"Ha! By the Creator, you never do anything halfway, do you?" She grabbed his hand and deftly removed the glove. Her eyes shone by the faint light of his Anti-ka Maru.
Looking up at him, she said, "Tirinia's gonna flip. She's a sleeper, you know."
"A Sleeper?" Mikaen asked curiously.
"Dreamer nut. Conventions, cosplay, fanfiction, the works. She even moderates a forum on the Weave."
"So much for the Veil of Secrecy." One muttered, making a mental note to have a word with Naomi about the Sleepers.
"Yeah, I think they're nuts." She paused and amended "Well, I thought they were nuts. I ..."
Teria frowned, her gaze on something behind One. He turned to see pretty much everyone nearby staring at the two of them.
Teria's hand grabbed his. "C'mon; let's talk somewhere with less of an audience, hmm?"
They quickly walked out of the palace library and headed down the nearest passage until they were alone.
Teria smiled, punching One's arm playfully. "So, what's with the One?"
"Huh? Oh." One waved it off, saying, "Two's idea."
"Tall guy, a bit gangly, stupid hat?"
One let out a laugh at this unflattering but accurate description. "Yeah, that's Two. He had pretended there was a Narrator Number One for ages, so it just seemed natural for me to take the name. Of course, I only learned later that he used the fictional One as a scapegoat."
"Well, whatever you are, whoever you are, I'm glad you came back." She tried to slip her hand into his, but he pulled away from her touch.
Taking a deep breath, he began, "Look, I have to tell you something that might be a little difficult to accept."
"Oh." Her face fell for a moment, but she quickly recovered. "It's okay."
"Yeah, I understand. I mean, five hundred years is a long time."
She may have spoken in a casual tone, but One could tell she was upset.
Patting her on the shoulder, One assured her, "Don't worry about it. I've got a friend reintegrating the memories into my subconscious."
They walked for a few moments in silence before Tirinia abruptly stopped, giving One an odd look. "Wait, what?"
"Well, if I don't have the memories integrated slowly, they all slam back in my head at once. That's what happened the other night, by the way. He rubbed his head, adding, "Hurts just thinking about it."
"Just what memories are you talking about?" She asked slowly.
One frowned. "My memories of you, from the first time we met."
Teria looked as though she couldn't believe what she was hearing. "You forgot me?"
"Well, no," One said, chuckling uncomfortably. "Technically, I didn't forget. I stored the memories."
"You forgot me on purpose?!"
Before One could reply, she punched him hard enough to knock him into the wall. Steadying himself on a small table of knickknacks, he tried to apologize, but Teria was still fuming.
"When you said you had something to tell me, I expected you to say that you had a new girlfriend or something."
She stopped as One averted his gaze. Her face tightening, she reared back to punch him again.
One barely dodged aside in time. "She's not my girlfriend; I just really like her."
Snarling, Teria took another swing at him.
Avoiding the hit by less than an inch, One decided his attempt to reconcile with Teria had failed and opted for a strategic retreat.
Teria close behind him, he ran down the hallway. As servants and butlers dodged out of the way, One tried to think of a way out. Instantly, a CPD sprang to life on a wall a few feet away, bursting open magically at his approach. Without a second thought or a care for what lay beyond, he leapt into the doorway.
The CPD has always displayed a willingness to aid a Dreamer in distress, providing a quick getaway for those who find themselves in a bit of a jam. Unfortunately, while the door's appearance is convenient, where it leads is always a bit of a gamble. One was reacquainted with this fact when he flew through the door and landed on the smooth metal surface of a long, steep, and especially twisty slide.
His momentum made any question of stopping impossible. The slide ran through a very tall chamber, swirling around and down and even up at times before dumping a now thoroughly disoriented One into a large pit of hollow, brightly colored plastic balls.
It took a minute for him to fight his way to the top of the pile. Breathing a sigh of relief, he started working his way to a door set into the side of the chamber when a sound from above made him freeze. he heard something thumping above him. One looked up in time to see Teria shooting from the slide toward him, claws-first.
With a shriek he barely recognized as his own, One fought his way to the door, Teria missing him by mere inches. A twist of the handle found him stumbling onto the floor of the Elsewhere Mansion known as 'The Bar'.
The Bar is the floor of Narrator Number Two, and looks as he thinks a bar should look: chairs and stools surrounding a polished mahogany counter, plenty of corner booths, an impressive selection of liquors both fine and foul, and a large television in the corner.
The Bar is usually bustling with norms, usually friends and acquaintances Two made during his infrequent assignments. With the aid of a special golden bottle cap, each norm was able to enter the bar from any bar in the mainstream. The actual size of the floor varies depending on how many people are occupying it; at that particular moment, it was roughly the size of a nice restaurant.
One burst through the door amidst a flurry of plastic balls, nearly knocking over Two in the process. What norms were nearby shouted his name, many hoisting up their glasses, tankards, or steins.
Closing the door before the rest of the balls could spill out, Two asked, "What's the hurry?"
"Teria's behind me, and she's a little pissed off." One said, looking for a place to hide.
Two's expression fell. "Teria Myssohn? Daughter of Longshore?"
"Oh boy." Two turned to the barkeep. "Hey, Sam! Let One back there a sec, would ya?"
Teria burst from the door to the ball pit mere moments after One ducked behind the bar.
"Hey, look at you!" Two said, running his fingers along the brim of his hat cap as he sauntered up to Teria. "How about we slip off to The Observatory and take a look around the galaxy, kitten?"
Eyes narrowing, Teria planted a punch on his jaw that knocked into a gruff-looking fellow wearing a Viking helmet.
"Oy!" The man said, grabbing Two by the collar. "You trying to start somethin'?"
A wide grin split the man's face. "'Cause I'm game!"
"No, Thor, I-"
Thor punched Two clear across the bar into a table occupied by a party of space marines. After letting out a collective cry of outrage, the group lifted Two from the table and threw him off of the remains of their drinks.
"Bring it on!" Thor jeered, motioning for the angry marines to make their move. Unfortunately, this left Thor vulnerable to attack from behind, specifically from the little girl with the big hammer whose drink Thor had knocked over as he stood up.
The next few minutes wee a blur of punches and kicks as the brawl steadily grew. Pretty soon the entire bar was involved in the scuffle, save One and Sam.
Sighing, Sam said, "Great. There goes my morning. Last time we had a brawl, it took almost a month for it to finally clear out."
"It could be worse." One clapped his hands over his mouth, but it was too late; Teria's hands appeared above the counter, her face following a moment later.
"Uh, hi." One said weakly as her eyes narrowed. She grabbed him by the collar of his shirt and pulled him over the counter.
"Sorceress Ackibar." She hissed. "Keller Deviini. Granis Markeo. Did you forget them too, or was I the only one not important enough to remember?"
Before One could reply, a man in a tan overcoat bumped into her from behind. His face was mostly obscured by bandages and a large wide-brimmed hat.
As she turned to face the strange fellow, One managed to break free of her grip and make a run for the nearest door.
"Please don't be the hedge maze!" One breathed as his hand gripped the doorknob.
He opened the door and was relieved to see a small pit with a fire pole in the center. Knowing that Teria wouldn't be far behind him, he grabbed the pole and slid down. There was no way to tell how long the fire pole was (length varies depending on the gray room's position within the Elsewhere), so his eventual landing was nothing short of bone-jarring. Staggering slightly, he hurried toward the door at the bottom of the chamber.
Teach glanced up from his reading just in time to see One burst through the door and take off running into the Library.
Teria ran through the door a moment later, only seconds behind him. "YOU GET BACK HERE RIGHT NOW, GLEN!"
Startled by her shout, all the books on the shelves took flight and dove at Teria like a flock of startled birds.
As Teria struggled with the books, Teach let out a sigh and carefully marked his place in the book he was reading. "What happened?"
"It didn't go so well!" One shouted over the din.
"I can see that."
Shielding her head as much as possible, Teria slowly started walking toward One's general direction.
Teach quickly backed away. He shouted something that didn't quite make it over the sound of flapping pages. Teria dove at One, missing him by inches. With a yelp, One ran, heading toward two doors on the far side of the Library.
"Which door?" he asked himself, glancing worriedly behind him. The books had slowed her down, but she was still moving forward.
As he approached, another option appeared; no doubt in response to his desire to get away, the CPD appeared between the other two doors. Without a second thought, One seized the handle and flung the door open.
The CPD opened to the market district in Muonsol. He started to close the door, but something heavy pressed against it from the other side just before it shut.
Struggling, One glanced around for an escape. Everyone nearby was looking at him, some pointing at him as he tried to close a door that hadn't been there a few moments ago.
His eyes fell on the doors to the Celestial Cathedral, distant but reachable. Nodding, he leapt away from the door and ran full tilt toward the massive stained-glass doors.
Teria fell out of the CPD, books still whacking her in the head as she pushed herself up and ran after him in pursuit. Though the books were gradually losing interest and returning to the Elsewhere via CPD, the crowd (much of which was now watching the strange chase) was thick enough to let him get some distance from his tigreth pursuer.
One had just reached the massive doors when he heard the CPD Slam on the other side of the square. Unable to see Teria in the crowd, he quickly ducked inside the church and nearly ran into Mikaen and Tirinia.
One's sudden appearance took them both off-guard.
"One?" asked Mikaen, raising an eyebrow at the panting Dreamer.
Tirinia's eyes lit up immediately. "One the Dreamer? Oh my gosh, I was hoping I'd get the chance to-"
Without a word, One bolted down the aisle past Tirinia and Mikaen and ducked behind a white pew.
Mikaen glanced at Tirinia, his lips pursed to ask One what he was doing when the doors to the cathedral opened again, this time revealing a flushed Teria.
One watched her feet jog toward Mikaen and Tirinia. She called out, "Hey, Tyr! Mikaen!"
"Teria, this is a church!" Tirinia admonished her.
"Yeah, I'm sure the Creator's gonna smite me. Either of you seen a guy in a green and gray-striped shirt?"
Mikaen and Tirinia glanced at each other. Over Tyr's shoulder, Mikaen met One's eyes. One shook his head, mouthing the words, "I'm not here!"
Shifting his eyes back to Tirinia, Mikaen said, "Haven't seen him. Tyr?"
A ghost of a smile on her face, she replied, "Nope, not me."
Teria let out her breath, running a hand through her dark brown hair. She walked toward them, glancing down the pews as she walked.
"Is something wrong?" Mikaen asked as she drew near to where One was hiding.
"Hmm? Oh, no, nothing wrong. I just want to have a word with him. No punching, just talking. Anyway, give me a call if he pops up, okay?"
With a final glance down the pew directly beside One, she turned and left.
Once the doors of the cathedral were once again shut, One stood and walked out from the pew, wiping the sweat from his brow.
Patting Mikaen on the shoulder, One said, "Thanks, man. I owe you one."
"I'll be sure to remember that." Mikaen replied with a grin, "You gonna be okay?"
One nodded, leaning on his knees; he was still a little out of breath. He was a bit out of shape, a fact that he had realized just a bit too often as of late. One of the gray rooms was a gym; he made a mental note to hunt it down when he had a chance.
"Why was Teria chasing you?" Tirinia asked curiously.
"It's ..." One sighed. "Well, it's complicated."
"Well," Mikaen said, putting an arm around Tirinia, "We were about to head off to grab a bite to eat. Hungry?"
"No thanks," said One, walking toward the door, "I'd better get back to-"
Just what he was going to get back to was rattled from his mind as the partially open door abruptly slammed shut, knocking him back.
"What the-" he began when the door rattled again.
Now that he was standing next to the entrance, he could hear shouting from outside the cathedral. The door thumped again as someone was either thrown or pushed against it.
"By the Creator," One muttered, "Now what?"
A crowd of idestan had gathered around the front doors of the cathedral, where two women were fighting. One of the fighters was Teria. To One's astonishment, the other was Luck.
Teria was moved quickly, darting around with the speed you would expect of any champion of the Longshore Melee. As fast as she was, however, she was no match for Luck, who was always just a little bit faster.
The fight didn't last much longer; as Teria stumbled forward after a failed kick, Luck spun behind her and knocked her to the ground.
A look of triumph on her face, Luck opened her mouth to speak when her eyes caught One's surprised stare. Her face went from white to red in an instant. "Oh … One! I, um …" Her cheeks scarlet, she abruptly vanished.
One moved to help Teria up, but she just shoved away his proffered hand. "Get away from me, Dreamer!"
He stepped away, holding up his hands. "I just wanted to-"
"I said get lost!" She snapped as Tirinia helped her to her feet got to her feet. She shoved her sister's arm away, snapping, "I'm fine! Let go of me!"
Tirinia quickly let go, shocked by her sister's reaction.
Teria stomped away without a backwards glance, the crowd instinctively moving out of the angry tigreth's path.
"Teria!" With a quick kiss on Mikaen's cheek, she ran after her sister.
As the crowd started to dissipate, many of the idestan looking at One with interest, Mikaen asked, "You gonna be okay?"
One nodded, but in truth he felt a little numb. Everything had gone horribly wrong, but seeing that look of anger and hatred on Teria's face hurt more than anything else.
"I'm going back to the Elsewhere." He managed to say, approaching a newly-formed CPD.