A/N: We are heading towards the end...
Gaelan was extremely silent, proving me wrong. When he learnt who Leigh was, I thought he might throw a tantrum or worse, destroy the Summer Coven. But he did none of those. He just politely asked me where Thuban and Elta might be and how to get there if they were in Kelp Confusion.
Even Taurus was stunned by his action. But Leigh just shook her head and led us to the Kelp Confusion. This journey was not something I looked forward to. I had too many memories there. I had ruled the Kelp Confusion after Eltanin’s father. That place listened to me and recognised me as its lord. That terrain itself would have given me an advantage. But not now. Not when I was questioning everything.
I thought my life on earth would be simple, and Mali proved it wrong. If I thought I was the Lord of Kelp Confusion, I was wrong again. I failed to catch Elta in time.
Who else would betray me? What more did I miss? As much as I wanted to know what was happening, I was partly afraid to find the truth. If one more who I was close with had betrayed me, I did not know how to hold myself together.
Taurus inched close to me, so close that our energies combined. In that connection, he sent a wave of warmth. “I am here.”
I knew that. Even if everyone left me, this male next to me will be the one to be with me till the end of times. This kind of trust, I did not even have with my siblings. As much as it stunned me, I was glad to have this male next to me.
The first kelp of the Kelp Confusion greeted us. Our journey was smooth. I was the Lord and Dziban had a Light Pact with the Kelp Confusion. How could it send us away?
When we entered the place, Leigh took the lead. Gaelan followed her, and we both came last. I paused many times. There was a time when I knew each and every Kelp in this place. Knew which Kelp held whom. Even knew which exit would lead me where. Tiny whitish silvery wisps floated here and there. They were the pulse of the Kelp Confusion. Though others may see it, they responded only to the Lord of the Kelp Confusion.
They crowded around me. The further I went, the more wisps came towards me. It was their way of reporting what was happening here. If they knew what was happening here, how did Elta fool them? How was she able to escape them? Or was it something she learnt from her father?
Leigh stopped. “They are right at the heart of the Kelp Confusion. If I move even an inch, they will detect us here. Elta will.”
I commanded the wisps. Without a second thought, they shrouded us, concealing us from being detected. This was one of the perks of being the Lord of the Kelp Confusion.
“I don’t get it,” Gaelan asked. “How did Dave come here? How did Zyon? How can they survive here?”
“Are you sure you want to know the truth?” I asked.
“How are the prisoners here?” I asked him.
“The Kelp keeps them alive?” he said.
“The life of Kelp Confusion keeps them alive,” I said. “It’s difficult to understand… but Kelp Confusion was built to teach the value of life. To those who have no regard for life. That is why it was easy for me in the past to contain the poison here.”
“You mean to say,” Gaelan asked. “You can’t kill anyone here?”
“Exactly,” I replied. “Even if it is Harper, I can’t kill her. But… there are some exceptions.”
“Will you kill Leigh?” I asked.
A murderous aura from Gaelan attacked me. And that was an answer enough. “What did you say?”
“Exactly what I said,” I said. “Your Soul-Bounds become the only reason for you to survive after meeting them. If anything, the only person you can kill is the only reason for you to live.”
“That’s messed up,” Gaelan said. “I would not kill Leigh. No one would kill their our Soul-Bound. That’s like tearing themselves apart. Kelp Confusion is sure confusing.”
I refused to comment on that. We went ahead. Taurus nearly fused with me. “We will kick the people we want to kill out and then kill them.”
“Another exception is when the Lord of the Kelp Confusion gives permission,” I said.
“That explains why a battle took place here during the Bind Wars,” Taurus said. “You gave the permission?”
“I had to,” I said. “It was a war.”
The heart of the Kelp Confusion was right before us. This was the place that I first saw in my vision. Thuban and Elta playing a game of chess.
But now, the place was the same. Even the people were the same, but the feeling was not. Elta and Thuban were in their human forms with Mirfak and Atik. Near them was Dave, who was acting as if he was high. Wait for a second, he might be high. Who knew?
Chained to each Kelp was Nox, Zyon, Alioth, Saiph, Alrakis and Rastaban. While Nox was glaring at Thuban, Alioth and Zyon were frowning at each other. Did they know each other or what?
At our entry, Thuban glanced in our direction. When he could not find who it was, he came near us. I pushed Leigh behind me and I stood in front. Upon my command, the wisps faded away, some going to each of the star bound to the Kelp.
Seeing me, Thuban’s energy weaned. He went back and then just stared at me and then he slowly moved his eyes towards Taurus who was giving out his vibrations in high spirits. Anyone would know he was establishing his dominance here.
He could do whatever he wanted here. This was my place, and this made his place. Who else had the authority here, if not him? I would do anything for him, and that spoke volumes.
Elta’s energy was crazed as she stared at us. It was going out of control as it spiralled down to madness. Just how did I miss this in the past? How?
Was it the right time to ask her these questions? Did I want to know the answers?
“How?” she whispered as she saw behind me. “How could you come in?”
If I was in my human form, I would give her a blank look. “I am the Lord of the Kelp Confusion, Eltanin. You think this measly boundary would stop me?”
She shook her head. “Impossible! Impossible! Mel set the boundary! She is a perfect hybrid. She set the boundary! Unless it is Megrez, no one else can break it. Not even you! Not even Qamar.”
Taurus took his human form as he folded his arms and gave her a lazy smile. “Yes. Melantha is a perfect hybrid. Who do you think can be more powerful than her?”
Alrakis and Rastaban blinked at me while Nox gave us an exasperated sigh.
Elta kept shaking her head.
“Melantha is born to a first-generation star and first-generation pulsar,” Taurus said. “But her parents have not Soul-Bounded. Her soul is taken from the Cycle of Life. If her parents have been Soul-Bounded, this would be a different story. But since they have not, there are many who might be powerful than her.”
Thuban asked in a hushed voice, barely above the decibel in the hearing range. “Y-you have Soul-Bounded with Draco?”
Elta stumbled to Atik who seamlessly moved away. “No! No, no, no! Impossible!”
I sighed and took a human form. “Why is it impossible?”
She pointed her finger at us and kept shaking her head. “You… you both can’t Soul-Bind!”
“Why can’t we?” Taurus asked.
She clutched her hair and looked at everyone. “You can’t!”
The wisps must have given her enough strength. Alioth broke from the binds and summoned her spear. “Is that why you killed my mother?”
Elta did not reply and kept whispering ‘impossible’.
“Is that why you killed my mother?” Alioth shouted, and Dave fainted on the spot, and Atik and Mirfak slightly bowed to her.
I frowned. “She killed Ursa?”
Alioth glared at me, but it would not work. I had seen this little girl grow up. Ursa was a good friend of mine. There had been days when I taught this girl the basics of poison.
“I found her traces near my mother’s killing place,” she said.
Taurus snarled. “I can kill her right, Draco?”
“Not yet,” I said. “We need to understand why she killed her. Need to know if there are more who are involved.”
It was then Leigh unmasked herself and Gaelan followed her actions. “Should you not tell them the truth, Elta?”
Elta snapped from her daze and frowned at her. “W-who are you?”
Leigh took a form that I was most familiar with. That Elta, Thuban, Alrakis and Rastaban were familiar with. Gaelan just gaped at him.
“You killed me,” he said. “And yet you don’t know me?”
“Dziban,” Elta whispered. “Y-you are alive?”
His lips curved into a smile. “How can I be? You kill me, remember?”
Thuban coughed and tried to move closer to him, but Gaelan pushed him far. Then he asked, “Are you my Leigh?”
The cold, cruel smirk turned soft when Dziban’s gaze landed on Gaelan. “Of course. I am Leigh.”
“B-But,” Gaelan began, unable to continue.
“Are you going to switch often?” Gaelan asked finally. “Am I like going to be with two people at the same time? How does this work?” He turned to us. “Has anyone dated or Soul-Binded with a twin star? Can anyone tell me how to make this work?”
Dziban laughed hard. “You are so silly.”
Gaelan shook his head. “No, rose. I am trying to understand how to make this work.”
Dziban sighed. “When you Soul-Bind with one soul of twin star, you bind with both. When you decide to stay with one of us, you stay with both. But… our situation is a bit different. I am dead. Leigh is my cheat life. Dziban is dead. I am just a fragment. I should have entered the River of Souls, but my resentment was too much that I clung on to Leigh. Once it fades away, I will have to enter the River of Souls and Leigh will be the one left behind.”
“Resentment is too high?” Alrakis asked. “What happened, Dziban?”
He just glanced at Elta. “Are you going to tell them what happened, or shall I?”
Thuban glared at Gaelan. “Let go of Dziban!”
Gaelan did not even bat an eyelid. “It was because of you that Elta killed Dziban. Why the fuck would I allow you to get close to her?”
I saw the wisps. They had released everyone from the binds and had healed them under my command. I motioned them towards Elta and they swirled around her.
“Tell me why, Elta,” I said. “What role did you play in Ursa’s death? Why did you kill Dziban?”
The wisps whispered in her ears. As the daughter of the previous Lord of Kelp Confusion, she must know how powerful these wisps were. There was nearly nothing they could not do in the Kelp Confusion.
“She killed me, Draco,” Dziban said. “Not because I was just Thuban’s Soul-Bound. I was going to stop her.”
“Stop her from what?” I asked.
Dziban went closer to Elta. “Stop her from leaking Ursa’s hiding place.”
“How did she know?” I questioned. I frowned at Eltanin. “Why would you want to reveal Ursa’s hiding place?”
The more she resisted, the more powerful the wisps became. Thuban went to her and tried to move the wisps away, but then clung on with more vigour.
“Draco!” he screamed at me. “Draco release her!”
“Not unless she tells us the truth,” I said, not taking my gaze off her. Who knew what she was capable of?
She struggled in vain. Neither Mirfak nor Atik helped her. It was as if they left her to her own doom. If so, why were they standing on Elta’s side? Why were they here?
The kelps swayed gently without a care for what was happening, and they silently let out their soothing scent. No one knew the worth of these kelps. Only Immunes like me would know. They were one of the primordial life of the universe. Minding their own business. That was the reason they could not only withstand the poison but also repel them.
Cosmos and Chaos tried to eradicate all the life forms before their time, but they could not destroy all.
Thuban shouted again. “Let her go, Draco!”
I narrowed my gaze at him. “You are not even her Soul-Bound, Thuban. Why are you getting agitated?”
Nox winced at the side while Dziban gave a lazy smile.
Alioth raised her spear. “Tell us the truth!”
Then it hit me. Why she might do this. “Don’t tell me that’s the reason why.”
Elta screamed, and she did not respond to me. I released the wisps’ hold on her. The second they left her, she crashed down into Thuban’s arms, who rushed to catch her.
“Is that the reason why you betrayed the Kelp Confusion?” I asked her.
She tried to glare at me despite her failing strength. “What reason, Draco?”
My body felt heavy. “Because Ursa killed your father.”
Elta sneered. “You know the reason and yet you ask?”
Taurus blinked at me. “U-ursa killed her father?”
I nodded. “She did.” Alioth took a few steps back. Alrakis and Rastaban frowned. “I thought you knew the reason.”
“And?” Elta asked. “That was supposed to cover up my wound? Cover up the fact that my father will never come back alive? She killed him! She did!”
“That’s because your father was betraying Cosmos!” I retorted. “Your father was the Lord of the Kelp Confusion. I agree. But he did betray Cosmos. That was the reason why Ursa was commanded to kill him! You can’t hold a grudge like that!”
Elta gasped. “Y-you have no father, no mother, Draco. How can you understand?” Her voice kept on rising steadily. “How can you possibly understand?”
Had she said this a hundred years ago, I would have agreed with her. But now, I knew what it was to have a family. What it was to have a mother who would protect you with everything she had. The earth taught me many things. Friendship and family. Peggy and Neil took care of me when my mother could not. Zoya and Kenya were there when my mother could not make it. As much as the world was cruel, there was a hint of warmth down there, and that warmth was worth protecting with everything I had.
I smiled. “If I say, I do, would you understand?”
She shook her head. “You never will. You are a pulsar, Draco. A first-generation at that. Destruction lies in the very core of your existence. How can you understand the complexities of love and family?”
“Hundred years ago, if you had asked me this question,” I said. “I would not be able to understand it. But now, I do. But now, you are not in the right mind to hear me, are you?”
She grinned sadistically. “I don’t want your explanation, Draco. I don’t even want your words of apology. I just want to destroy everything that this Cosmos created. I want to see what she will rule.”
Taurus moved forward a little. “Mirfak, Atik, why are you both here?”
Elta pushed Thuban behind her. “It was Atik who revealed Ursa’s traces. I sent my work through him. What? Surprised?”
Atik replied nothing, but at the same time, he refused to look at Alioth. Mirfak on the other hand looked at us with languid eyes. As if he was fed up with everything.
Nox cleared his throat. “Mirfak! What are you doing there?”
Like he got an interesting prey, Mirfak looked at him. “Nox, son of Rigel.”
Honestly, what was Mirfak doing? Even during the Bind Wars, I saw him on our side. What is he doing there?
Gaelan came forward. “Did Melantha threaten you with your daughter?”
I blinked at him. Not everyone’s situation would be like his!
Mirfak shrugged. “I don’t care if she lived or died.”
This was out of my expectations. Usually, the stars were overprotective of their offsprings. Even if they hated their partner, they would do nearly anything for their children. What did his daughter do to make him tell this?
“Then?” Gaelan pressed. “Why are you here?”
“Why do you care, Gaelan?” Mirfak asked. “Did I ask you why you are standing there?”
Gaelan gestured to Dziban. “Obviously!”
Mirfak sighed. “I owe one to Elijah. I am here to fulfil it.”
Nox brushed the few wisps near him and took out a ball of plain energy. It was not just energy; it had life, and it had a conscience. This was the half-star Nox said he stripped off the body.
“You don’t remember her, Mirfak?” Nox asked.
The star frowned at the energy, and then his features cleared. “R-rekha? What is she doing here?”
Gaelan, the one who could not be silent, just had to ask, “Then what daughter were you talking about? How many daughters you have?”
Mirfak’s eyes blazed. “Let her go, Nox. She does not know what she is doing.”
“You just now said you don’t care if your daughter lived or died,” I supplied helpfully.
He glared at me. “Look here, Draco. Stay out of this.”
I cocked my head. “How can I, Mirfak? How can I when you are in Kelp Confusion?”
He ignored me. “Nox… let her go. And I will go too. Just… give my daughter back.”
Honestly, how many daughters did this guy have? Why was it that he did not care about one and now he looked he would do anything to save Rekha? What was the difference? Why should there be any difference? From what I know, he did not meet his Soul-Bound. Neither did he have one fixed consort.
Nox released Rekha’s soul. “I never wanted to kill her in the first place. When I was fighting her, I found she was benign muddle-headed. Melantha is not a good influence on her. Take her away from her.”
Mirfak gathered his daughter’s soul carefully and gazed at her lovingly. “I should have never sent her to Melantha. Thank you, Nox. I will remember this.”
Before Mirfak could leave, Nox asked, “Mirfak! Do you know where my father is?”
The other star gave a tired smile. “You tried to contacting him to save you, right?”
Nox nodded. “I did.”
Mirfak sighed. “Even if Rigel had not come here, I would not have allowed anything to happen to you. I made that promise to your father. As for where he is, only he knows, Nox. More than I, your father was a good friend of Cathan. He found traces of Cathan’s children in the other part of the universe, and he rushed there. He is there.”
Alioth and Saiph looked at each other. Alrakis and Rastaban, though they did not voice it out, they were interested; after all, Cathan had been a very good friend of mine. Zyon was just in a daze.
Taurus asked, “Cathan has children?”
Mirfak nodded. “What do you think? He did not have one consort… but he has two children. Both are navigators. Pulsar navigator. Rigel went to scout them.”
Gaelan coughed. “This tea is great.”
But before he left, he moved towards Nox and smiled. “If Rigel sees you now, he would be proud. The energy is the same.”
He just vanished with his daughter, leaving behind Atik, a stunned Eltanin and a confused Thuban.
“That was his story,” Alioth said. When we looked at her, she clarified. “Or whatever he told. What is yours, Atik? Why are you here? Why did you pass the news of my mother’s whereabouts to the ones who killed her?”
For the first time, Atik opened his mouth. “I hate her.”
“Hate who?” Taurus asked.
He glared at my Soul-Bound. “Ursa. She humiliated me.”
“When?” Alioth screamed. “When did she do that?”
“She left your father,” Atik said. “After Dubhe was born. I wanted to try my hand. I loved her ever since. But she never gave me a chance. She humiliated me in front of everyone.”
Alioth pointed her spear at him. “Because she never loved you! Because by the time she left my father, she had met someone she wanted to Soul-bind with! Of course, she would turn you down.”
“She was lucky that I loved her-”
Before he could finish his sentence, Taurus punched him. As much as he could not be killed, he could be punched, left hanging by his last breath. I did not stop him. This was ridiculous. Who would think this way?
Taurus was forcing Atik to a corner, rendering him unable to fight back.
“That’s why Atik helped you?” I asked Elta. “That’s why you wanted to help whoever who wanted to kill Ursa?”
Instead of answering my question, Etla began to laugh. “Y-you. You all don’t know who killed Ursa, right?”
Alioth came closer, and Thuban tried his best to keep her away. “Who was it, Elta?”
“Why should I say?” Elta asked. “Aren’t you clever? Why don’t you figure that yourself?”
“Is it Rionach?” Alioth asked. “Is it Cosmos?”
Elta cackled and then looked at me. “Don’t you know who, Draco?”
Did I know? How could I know?
Seeing my confusion, her laughter increased. “Oh! My bad. Your memories have been messed. You don’t know, right? How sad.”
“Draco!” Taurus asked me via our bond. “Give me permission to kill him.”
I could hear him, but I could not respond. I was caught in a trace. So many things flashed in my mind. So much that I could not tell what was happening before me and what I was seeing. Was it my memories? Why was it fragmented beyond any saving?
Then she changed the frequency of her energy, which resonated just like her father’s. I knew what she was trying to do, but that mental block in my brain did not allow me to move. I tried my best to pull myself out of whatever I was seeing, but it was futile.
Only when her energy hit the kelps and they shuddered, I yelped. “Taurus! Pull me out!”
He released Atik and rushed towards me. As expected, he was hanging by a breath. Had he been out of Kelp Confusion, he would have been dead. Taurus touched his forehead with mine and inhaled deeply. His steady energy helped me ground myself to reality. I would revisit those memories to see what it was all about.
I opened my eyes and gasped. How did Elta manage to do this? Was it because her father had been the previous lord? How did she manage to do it?
“Everyone leave!” I shouted, trying to create a barrier between us and the kelps. “Elta managed to release the poison!”
A/N: If there is any mistake, please do tell. I was having a terrible headache while writing this part.
I think we have four more chapters to go! Yes, four more.
As for what Mirfak was hiding, you will see it later in this series or in the next series.