Chapter 26 - Long Night
Copyright © DenGlemtePrinsesse, 2020
"Nooo!" I yanked myself out of the bed, panting.
My eyes, scanning my environment for any threat. I exhaled when I found none. No blood on the walls, no headless body on the floor. The room was clean, and most importantly my sister — blinkling at me for my sudden movement — was still sitting at the corner of the room where I last saw her, alive. Thank God.
I stared back at the still startled Pie in the corner of the room, wondering if I was already awake or if my mind was just tricking me that I was. I couldn't tell anymore. Drawing a fine line between dreams and reality was already hard for me. And ever since I was introduced to the magical world, it only becomes harder.
I pulled my hair harshly, confirming my waking state. I felt that.
Calm now, I leaned onto the wall, grabbing the mattress to my bare chest. I winced at the pain on my shoulder. Unlike in my dream when I felt nothing after I snatched myself from the bed when Doctor Rales' head was thrown in my face, this time it hurts. The anesthesia has probably worn off. But I preferred the pain if it's what I had to trade for my sister's life and everyone else's around me, I would be more than willing to endure it.
"That's what you get for not praying before sleep." She concluded, understanding the logic behind my sudden action. She tossed a green hospital dress at me, which I easily slip both my arms into.
"How long was I sleeping?" Pie was next to me before I knew it, securing the laces of the dress at my back, knowing exactly I needed help.
"Three hours probably."
"Thank you, Pie." I wanted to utter her name.
"Forty eight stitches and one long ugly scar to be. You had that coming." She smiled at me, disapprovingly. Pie never like scars. It's a big no in her line of work. She always repremand me whenever she sees bruises or cut on my skin.
"Calling the attention of Ms. Pyrene Agras to the front desk." Both of us turned to looked at the ceiling in which the announcement device was attached. For a moment I was confused, but then I remembered I wasn't the reason why we're at the hospital.
Maybe the result was out. Maybe Aunt was finally awake and is looking for us. I hope whatever the reason Pie was called will be a good one.
I jumped on my feet as soon as I saw her moved towards the door. She paused, looking at me with disapproval but I was determined to go out with her. I don't want to be alone and be trapped in a small room, helpless.
"Let me come, please." I wringed my hands in front of her. She rolled her eyes heavenwards and shrugged.
"Carry those." She flicked her eyes towards a tiny eco bag on the bedside table, something I didn't see with her earlier. Regardless I immediately took it with me, running after my sister.
"Pie..." I called, using that excuse to say her name. I matched her pace down the hallway.
"Can we not tell mom about Aunt Joyce? Mom will be worried and would probably decides to take me back sooner so I could be one less burden here." I glanced up to her, wondering if she's paying attention.
"But I won't. I will be a help here and really I can handle myself." If mom did find out about this, I'm certain that's how she would respond to our situation, especially that Aunt was the reason why she agreed to let me live here in the first place, to look after me. Pie exhaled loudly, pausing to faced me.
"Do you really like it here?" Infinitesimally I nodded. She stared at me through her silky bangs for what seemed like a solid minute.
In the middle of that intimidating stare, I had been looking around, wondering what's probably going on in her mind.
"You still haven't remember what happened that day, have you?" I glanced up at her, pursing my lips as I shook my head apologetically. I was bracing myself with the suppose wrath and the usual 'think harder' response, only that none came. Instead, she continued staring thoroughly at me.
"Pie?" I called because it's taking her forever to address me. She shot me a glare before walking again.
"Whatever." She simply said. I was smiling like a total lunatic as I matched her pace again, knowing exactly what she meant.
"Thank you." She didn't pay attention to me after that.
My sister isn't the showy type but she cares. While she doesn't say it, I'm certain she's glad knowing I found happiness living with Aunt and Uncle. I knew she asked Dave to look after me on the day my family drove me here. I also know she secretly checks up on me every once in a while.
Pie cares, like now, when I realized what lies inside the small eco bag I'm carrying were boxes of medicine she probably bought while I was asleep. This was for me, my name was written on the prescription paper inside.
"Girls." Both our eyes widen to see a weary Uncle Jason standing by the front desk. We rushed the remaining distance, practically jumping to hugged him at once. He leaned down between my head and Pie's, squishing us in a tight embrace. Home.
"Thank you." Uncle tried to hide any hint of weakness in his voice but Pie and I knew better. Aunt Joyce is his world. Their relationship is the epitome of marriage, and every bad thing happen to her takes a heavy toll on him, and vice versa.
"Good job girls. Thank you." He tried to sound firm but his last words broke. I felt Pie's arms tightened around Uncle, aware how devastated he feels right now.
He pulled away, probably done composing himself. Uncle Jason stared down at us, smiling at me.
"I came here with your friend." My friend?
I searched behind Uncle, knowing too well that the guy on my peripheral vision was the one he's talking about, I thought he was just a passerby earlier.
My eyes, popping out of its socket.
"Hi, Privs. Can we talk?" I felt Uncle and Pie retreated behind me. Is this real? Errol in front of me?
He took my wrist, pulling me just outside the entrance, away from the listening ears. He steadied me next to a wall. Both his hand on my elbows, he smiled, gazing at me through his long lashes. I bit my lower lip, I don't want to cry, but the picture of him, the existence of Errol right here before my eyes felt like a one in a million chance. Like he never existed, like none of them does. As if all of them were nothing but a portion of a long dream. I couldn't even tell what's real and what's not anymore.
After all the things I'd been through tonight, it felt like they were all out of reach. And now that I'm staring at a familiar face that actually knows how long the night it has been for me, a stone was lifted from my chest. And I wanted to be happy, I wanted to smile too, I wanted to hug him, regardless if we just met. Errol was one of the sight my eyes was longing for. That finally, I can talk to someone who can understand both Earth and the magical world. Someone who could understand what I'd been through. I wanted to be happy, really but I couldn't.
My palms, turning into a fist on my sides.
The scenes at the labyrinth flashed back. The scene where I almost lost my life, where several people actually lost their lives; I remembered our impossible escape from that ground. I remembered Ali's plea for their kingdom and their suffering people.
Staring at Errol smiling in front of me as if nothing bad happened — or happening at this very moment — I couldn't help but get swayed by the heavy feeling that started cloaking me since I was desperately wishing for any of them to find me and get me out of that coliseum. That heavy feeling of abandonment that washed over me as I prayed for any of them to show up and help me, but none of them did. Not even Dave.
I was petrified, running for my life. But it seems like the music in their kingdom might be too loud and their beautiful people might be too welcoming for them to notice that I was gone and was probably lost and struggling for my life.
And while Aunt Joyce is fighting for her life and an evil being from their world is roaming freely on Earth, they're all busy with their magical party.
Finally, I got to understand the frustration Terra made known earlier. Worse even, unlike them I couldn't defend anyone on Earth from their kind. My heart is heavy, feeling I was alone going through all these.
"What's wrong?" His smile, now gone, he must've seen the hesitation on my face. What's wrong? Was that question for real? Has he not has a clue what's going on? Has he not has a clue what happened?
Am I angry? Disappointed? Betrayed? Do I have any right to get mad at them? Were my sentiments valid?
While I'm probably not allowed to feel any of these emotions towards them I couldn't help but wonder, did they even notice that I was gone? While I wasn't their responsibility to bear, I came to that magical land with them, shouldn't they at least check up on me if I was safe? Are they mad at me for what I did to the Princess and the Queen? Did they think I deserved all the things I experienced after how I acted with their empresses?
But I'm their friend right? Even if it was the slightest care, they should still care, right?
"Pria, what is it?" He'd cupped my chin for I'd dropped my gazed. And while these feelings were taking over me, still I wasn't blinded to hear the concern in his words.
"Where have you all been?" My voice shook. I swallowed the lump in my throat, pushing back my emotions.
"Where have we been?" He pulled his head back, confusion was evident on his voice. His eyes digging holes into mine.
"Pria, you're gone for six days and you're asking me where we've been?"
"Six days?" I stared at him in confusion. Errol was still wearing the school uniform like I did when I got back here, few hours ago — not days. His sleeves were rolled up to his elbows, and for the first time I saw his microscopic purple gem, attached to a silver thin bracelet on his wrist.
I notice his tired eyes, his pale skin against the street lights. Remembering how Macforth too appeared weary at the mirrored room earlier, I couldn't help but wonder what they'd been doing these entire time.
"Yes. Everyone's worried sick. We'd been turning the whole kingdom upside down, searching for you." They're searching for me? Of course they would! I am their friend.
I was relieved hearing his words. Now I'm only ashamed that I managed to jump into conclusion that they didn't.
"For what it's worth the Queen apologizes for that night when you ran off, she blamed herself for scaring you. She also said something about a ceremony, that she's sorry you thought she sent you away, but she didn't." Errol took some hair away from my eyes, bringing it behind my ears. He has no idea I particularly let it fell on my face so I could atleast hide the obvious mess in my existence.
"I'm glad to hear that." I wringed the eco bag I'm holding, ashamed of the ruckus I made back in the mirrored room.
"Now how did you get back here?" Errol was suddenly serious. His arms crossed over his chest, his face blank.
"A friend help me get to a passage—"
"The ataria?" His face isn't blank anymore. His eyebrows were pulling together. And his lips seems ready to respond to whatever I would say next.
"Is that what you call to the passage with the whirlpool?" I gestured a spiral movement with my forefinger.
"Yes." His words escaped from gritted teeth. He glanced away. His one hand on his waist the other ran from his forehead down his chin. He exhaled loudly before staring back at me. Errol seems upset, I wonder why.
"Pria, you went out of the kingdom. What were you thinking? Do you know how how dangerous that is?" Oh. That's why.
"I didn't do that on purpose." He stared at me, listening intently to my explanation.
"After you left the dining, the soldiers took me, they said the Queen wanted me to be in a banquent. I thought you would be there so I followed them..." Errol's eyes were piercing me. Evidently I had his undivided attention. It wouldn't surprise me that he's a friend who listens to understand. On my few encounter with him, Errol has shown me nothing but solicitude. I was suddenly frightened if my next words would affect that.
"I was sent to a sacrificial ceremony. Everyone who went with me died that night." Errol's jaw dropped.
"A sacrificial ceremony?" His forehead creased.
I figured he didn't know, for I noticed how casually he say the word ceremony earlier. And just by the look on his face, I'm certain I'm right.
Errol was towering me then, his hand ran to the neap of his neck, clearly disturb. He stared at me in disbelief, waiting for my next words.
I understand if it will be hard for him to believe that, since it's someone from their kingdom I'm uttering unpleasant words about, it's basically his real home so I couldn't blame him for having reservations about this.
"It was a treaty between your kingdom and the monsters who killed them. I met people from other kingdom. They said we're supposed to be sacrificial lambs so the monsters would leave your people alone. And they said it's been secretly going on for years now. That the soldiers who came with us were to make sure none could escape to expose it. Those four guys I met, they went to your kingdom to seek help for their own was being attacked. But someone ordered them away so they ended up in that place with me." And like a lightning bolt I remembered my first purpose for the second life I was offered.
"They badly needed your help. Ali said that Utovaj is in chaos and there're innocent people suffering at this very moment. They need your help, Errol." I watched his face grew darker as he listened to me. And as much as I didn't want to be the bringer of bad news, I have to do it. I promised to do it for the people who wasn't offered a second chance like me.
"We need to get out of here." Errol was towing my wrist before I could ask why we need to leave all of a sudden. Luckily he didn't pick my injured hand to tugged, the last thing I need is to suffer in pain.
We're half running across the open parking lot and it wasn't hard to tell that we're in a hurry.
In the middle of the tugging, my other hand ran up to my nose to wipe a droplet of fluid I suddenly felt. It was blood, but the amount wasn't enough to cause alarm so I didn't mind. We stop in front of a black car, he opened the door for me. My eyes widen when he faced me.
"Errol, you're bleeding!" I watched in horror as blood continues to come out like a waterfall from the long cut on his left temple, which I am too positive that wasn't there a second ago.
"Where did you get that?" Confused, I looked back to where we came from. To the facade of the hospital in which I saw no traces of threat, nor sharp poles or hanging objects that he might've ran into.
"Later, Pria. Just get in please."
"I need to say goodbye to me family." I pointed to the entrance. While I understood the urgency I know nothing about still I can't just go without telling my family. His face lit up at the realization of my request, he must've forgotten why we're in the hospital in the first place.
He nodded. I wasted no time walking fast to the hospital, it's the best I could do for the shaking was sending pain to my back. Errol stayed outside, his bleeding head would only garner questions. It won't be helpful since it seemed we're in a hurry.
I hastened my pace. At the back of my mind I was wondering what happened to Errol. Why was he bleeding all of sudden?
I found my family in the row of chairs that Pie and I had sat earlier. Uncle had his eyes closed, his head was leaning against the wall. Pie was busy with her phone.
I wonder what Uncle will think if I go home with Errol. My family has never seen me talking to a guy other than Dave and Macforth. When Uncle Jason said earlier that he came here with my friend, I was aware there were questions left unasked. If we're in a normal circumstance, I know he would fire the questions right away.
"Uncle." Softly I called, not wanting to startle them. They both glanced up to me, he composed himself. His eyes wincing at the brightness of the hospital.
"Has your friend left?" His voiced rumbled. I shook my head, sitting next to him.
"Errol offered to drive me home, if it's okay?"
"Will you be okay?" He asked back to which I nodded. He smiled weakly and patted by head.
"Go ahead and rest, you did a great job today. Both of you. Pie dear, you may go home as well. Thank you for looking after your Aunt."
"I'll stay Uncle. Don't worry about me I'm on a vacation." His face lightened up, then looked at me.
"Oh yes, you still have school tomorrow. Go home." Upon remembering that I snatched Uncle's hand for his digital watch. 11:08 pm, Tuesday.
I can't believe it's still Tuesday given how many times I'd seen the sun and the moon earlier. Our class ended at six. So all that tiring trek I had in the magical world happened in just five hours on Earth? And Errol said I was gone for six days. My reality just kept on getting twisted, I think I need a break.
"I'll go ahead, Uncle. Please stay strong."
"Always am." He smiled at me. I was lucky he didn't notice the hospital dress I'm wearing, so I walked faster before that realization dawned on him.
"And don't forget to shower!" He called, his voice echoed the empty hallway. I grimaced at that, aware of my unpleasant appearance. I managed to glanced at myself through the glass panels along the way and I wasn't happy about the mess I saw.
But more than my appearance, something on the other side of the glass panelled wall had caught my attention.
I saw him left a room with a sad woman. They were talking as they turned to the corner, vanishing from my sight. Did Pie tell him about Aunt Joyce?
I walked around the glass, entering the corridor. A lot of doors on either side of the hallway. I knocked on the door where I saw them came from and got no response. So I headed inside.
There was a patient, probably in the same age as me. She has a bandage around her forehead and a tube on her nose. Her foot was in a cast and was hanging higher than the bed. A lot of monitor and IV fluid around her.
I walked closer to the girl and notice her pale skin. When I touched her hand her ice-cold temperature surprise me.
I figured, she must be one of the many people under my father's foundation. I was relieved that it wasn't because of Aunt Joyce that he's here. So I immediately walked out of the room to keep it that way. I'm hoping God would make them both well sooner.
I hastened my pace down the corridor. What am I doing, taking a detour when someone's waiting for me?
When I finally made it out the hospital, I paused, my heart rejoices at the sight across the lot. I can feel the happiness instantly radiating through every vein in my body after seeing Errol wasn't alone under the street lamp when I expected him to be. Next to him was one of the faces I longed for.
"Eric!" I gushed, almost clapping as I head towards the parking space, waving.
The two guys didn't stop talking but they did turn to face me as I crossed the lot. I was practically running to them, delighted by our mini reunion. Not minding the pressure I was giving on my swollen back. It was worth it. It really felt like it has been forever since I last saw them.
"You. Are. Dead. Meat." Eric said, poking at my forehead with each word. I had to step back by the last blow where he had put the hardest pressure.
"Privs, Eric will take you home. I have to drop by at my place to pick up few things. I'll see you there." He nodded at Eric and get himself in his car. His face, impassive.
"Help yourself in, mortal." Eric called, already getting himself into the other car in front of us. We're still rushing.
"Are the rest waiting at home now?" I asked excitedly, buckling up my seatbelt. The idea of our friends in our home seems like brand new to me. All the things happen to Utovaj made me appreciate everyone, everything and life per se.
He started driving.
"Are the rest waiting at home now?" I was surprised to hear the same mimicry he did with Macforth earlier at the magical dining room.
"Are you upset with me?"
"Enrage is the word I believe you're looking for, you commotion-maker."
"But I never wanted any of that to happen."
"But it did happen anyway, didn't it? I couldn't enjoy the party — which I think would be the last one — because we're so busy on that manhunt operation you initiated." Eric shot a glare at me before turning his eyes on the road again.
His words made me smile. They did search for me. I'm sorry for the inconvenience I caused but I'm really relieved to know.
"I never intend to bother anyone. I'm sorry if I worried you."
"Oh don't be so full of yourself. I only wanted to find you so I could make you disappear myself. Besides, it's not like I had a choice. Dave's been a pain in the ass these past days. Whose fault was that I wonder?"
"Is Dave angry at me too?"
"Very. The guards wanted to crucify you for all the things you'd done, he didn't even protest. Can you believe that? You screwed up, big time."
"That doesn't sound like him." My fingers curling around the seatbealt.
"That's what I thought first but my eyes witnessed his fury. Lucky for you, you escaped before any of the soldiers find you." I was suddenly grateful Ali showed me my way home when I originally planned to wait by the forest until I had a glimpse of any my friends outside the palace.
"And what about Forth?" He volunteered to ask. Upon the mention of his name, his face appeared in my memory, crystal clear. The disappointment I saw in his eyes, and the fact that he'd seen what I did first hand, I think I already know the answer.
"Let me see. You accused the Queen of something she didn't do, call her names and—"
"I didn't do that, I just asked the Queen a question."
"Basically upset his mother and wounded his fiance, what do you think?" Now I'm no longer sure how I can be a close friend to Macforth. Before all these enchanted things happened I was already struggling to be friends with him. Now after all I'd done, I don't know anymore.
"You're lucky, yet again, that the cut didn't left a mark on her pretty face and that Lunea is forgiving. You could've been burnt alive for all that, just so you know." I stared at the invisible air in front of me, thinking how will I face them all later at home, and Macforth.
"Do they know that I'm with you?" Because I suddenly wanted to stay in the hospital, and wait for a couple of days so they could forget what I did to the two empress.
"Yes, I had to go back and informed them, otherwise they're still looking for you in Utovaj."
"How did you know I was here?"
"We didn't. We're not even searching outside the kingdom. Errol just thought giving it a shot then we saw the ateria. We went to school first thinking you might be there but we got caught by the security, and got questioned why we're still there at this time of the night. They put us in a blotter for violating university rules then we left for your house and saw your uncle. Do you know how much inconvenience you cost?"
"You should be." He breathe heavily.
I'm glad I'm home now. I don't want to think what could probably happen to me if I stayed there for another minute and the soldiers found me.
"Errol told me about that sacrificial ceremony you mentioned." Eric's tune suddenly changed, his volume lowered. I nodded, waiting for him to continue as we pulled to a stop for the red light.
"We have to find out who sent you there and all those who came with you. While the Queen mentioned you suspected her for sending you away, I think she failed to mention what kind of ceremony you accused her of."
"Are you saying that the Queen was lying?"
"Of course not. I could never think less of her, but it made me wonder. If you'd mustered all your mortal courage to stand before her and asked, I think you wouldn't left out that important detail."
"Yes. I did mention that was a sacrificial ceremony."
"Just as I thought. And if the Queen's hands were clean on this, someone on a higher rank must've done it for the soldiers had the audacity to use her name and carried out that vicious thing."
I noticed that both Errol and Eric didn't even ask if I was telling the truth. As odd as this might sound, my heart was ecstatic at the thought of them trusting my words, even if it's their magical home and the people in it that I'm causing them to doubt. I was never wrong about my friends — though I just met them — their hearts are golden. Like they're literally born to uphold justice and kindness.
"Great. Now there's an infiltration on top of everything we're bound to do. The problem's just piling up." He stepped onto the gas then, and I think I heard something crack.
"What's this Alf'ru doing at the moment?" He asked more to himself.
"The Alf'ru..." My tongue hesitated at the foreign word.
"Didn't the Queen say it was gone? That's why they'd thrown the party. But Ali said that there's still chaos in Utovaj."
"The Queen only said that so the people in their kingdom won't lose hope. It just doubled the pressure to destoyed that Alf'ru faster, before any of the people question why they're still not allowed to step out of the kingdom. That's the Queen protecting the lives and the sanity of her people."
"Did you know now how the Alf'ru looks like?" I wanted to know too. I wanted to be useful.
"Yes. They had this castle with a foggy room where a sacred waterfall was kept. They let a few people skinny-dipped there and all the memories they'd ever had about the Alf'ru were presented to us like a slideshow." Eric smiled to himself, like there's a joke I missed. He cleared his throat then continued.
"It was a huge black shadow, whirlpool of some sort."
"Was it a winged man?" He glanced at me, something I consider dangerous because we're at full speed.
"I saw him earlier." Eric hit the brakes abruptly. If it wasn't for the seatbelt I might be rolling down the road by now. With his eyebrows furrowed, he turned his body to faced me.
"There was a tall guy with huge black wings. He's the reason why Aunt Joyce was unconscious, he touched her and she suddenly collapsed. Could he be the Alf'ru?" I was clutching on my seat at that thought. I almost forgot about him. Either he's the Alf'ru or he was really sent to silence me.
Something cracked again.
Eric must've been carried away by that information. Both our eyes whipped to the broken steering wheel on his hand. Literally crushed from the portion where both his hand were gripped earlier all the way to the top.
"Great." He muttered throwing his hands up to the air.
"It's alright, that can still work." I encouraged, staring at the broken steering wheel, but I didn't even know what I was talking about. I haven't seen anyone broke their steering wheel with bare hands. I just figured since a small portion of the it was left on the bottom, I assumed that could still get us home. It's late now and the number of cars passing through the highway is almost next to none. And it didn't help that we're literally in the middle of the road.
Frustrated, Eric pulled the gear stick to start driving again, but to our surprise he broke it in a half.
"You were saying?" Eric gave up. He reached for his phone on the dash board using only two fingers and handed it to me.
"Call, Forth." Puzzled though, still I did what he asked. I put it on speaker and we watched the screen as it rang.
We waited in the middle of the silent road. Literally.
"Damn it answer the phone!"
"Eric, are you okay? Why are you suddenly breaking things?" I redialled.
"Not doing these on purpose, it can't be help. We'd undergone alot of preparation in Utovaj. For the body, mind and soul. It's like awakening of some sort and all the strength this physical body can hold, we still struggle to control." He complained.
Now that he mention it, I did notice the change in his body, like suddenly his uniform was fitting snugly.
"I can crushed you in a snap so don't upset me." They'd been training these whole time, I see. That's what they'd been busy about. I felt foolish, the guilt was crawling back to me that I accused my friends for having just a happy time in that magical world.
"He's not answering, should we try your brother instead?" He hissed at my suggestion. So I redialled Macforth.
"Everyone is just as bad as me. Forth's the only one who can be helpful at the moment."
"Really?" That's new. Macforth's usually the temperemental one.
"Yes. I don't know what's gotten into him. One moment we're all breaking stuff together, the next he's all determined to get a hang of it. He'd basically became the master of self-control overnight." That's good to hear. I'm happy for him then.
"Did they also teach you how to destroy the Alf'ru?" Again, I wanted to be useful. I wanted to know, I wanted to help. Eric nodded in response.
"With this." He's suddenly tossing his green microscopic earring up in the air.
"In a dagger. Stab the heart they say. It doesn't even has a form." He snorted.
"If it doesn't has a form, then the winged guy I saw earlier wasn't the Alf'ru?"
"Was this winged guy one of those who attacked Errol?"
"Errol was attacked? On Earth?"
"Yes. Didn't you see his bloodied face?"
"I did, but how did that happen? We're talking earlier and he was okay then suddenly he's bleeding. How? When was he attacked?"
"At that exact moment, right in front of your oblivious face. What's happening to you? You were conscious while we're using the stones before. What changed?"
Errol was attacked in front of me and yet I was clueless. Was that the Earth's doing hidding us again because there's a threat? But back in front of the bookstore when we first met Eric and Jermond, when he's using his fire power, I was aware about what's happening around me while the rest of the human race was hidden by Earth. I remained conscious back then. I was moving like my friends, that's why Dave said it's as if I owned a gem like them.
"Why was I not aware this time?"
"I don't know, go figure it out. Fix yourself. How are you going to fulfill your sidekick duties if you're unconscious when all these things happen?" I ran my fingers to my temples. I wanted to help my friends find the Alf'ru. I can't be oblivious everytime someone would use their magical powers on Earth.
Back in the university, when Macforth used his gem so he could pulled me away from the metal basket, Dave said I didn't disappear like the rest of humanity. I remained on my post but I was oblivious.
Back in front of the bookstore, when Jermond first showed up and used his gem to burn things on his path, all the people was hidden by Earth too, but I remained visible and still oblivious. Dave had to carry me across the road with Macforth to hide, thinking Jermond would burn me if he saw me standing immobile in front of the bookstore. That's when they still thought that Jermond was the villain.
On both circumstance, I was unaware about the magical things secretly happening on my surrounding, like the rest of the people on Earth. But unlike the humans that became invisible, I remained still in my position, just oblivious. What's the common denominator of that? There's got be a way for me to remain aware when someone's using their magical powers.
The scene in front of the bookstore, Dave said they're waiting for Jermond to leave the ground, because they're suppose to put me back on the exact same position they snatched me from. In that way, when the time is running back again, I wouldn't notice the change. So like the rest of the human, I wouldn't suspect that something bizarre happened in that split of a second. They never wished for me to get involve in the magical world they knew nothing about.
But none of that was accomplished because I suddenly walked out from the unconscious state. Even them were surprised.
So what made me aware that time? What made me conscious then?
I remember I was reaching for my fallen book back then, but suddenly I found myself in Dave's arms and we're hidding behind a car across the road. What's in that circumstance that made a differen—
"The gem. I think it's the gem. I remember Dave's necklace touching my face when I became aware that time." Eric's eyes glistened at my words.
"Plausible. We have to test that theory." Eric was staring at the green dot in his palm. I nodded, unbuckling my seatbelt to turn and faced him completely.
"What are you doing?" His eyebrow arched up.
"I thought we're going to test the theory." Eric chuckled at my response, shaking his head.
"You don't wanna do that." He glanced at my face, aware of the confusion he made.
"We can't just casually use the stones on your land whenever we please. It has adverse effect on your kind. We understand that now."
"How? I thought the people were being hidden whenever you use magical powers. So they're safe."
"Yes. But still, the Earth could only hold so much energy at a time." He exhaled, reclining his seat before facing me.
"Let's put it this way. I'll give you a formula. Elevator = Earth, Weight = Energy, Me = Utovajians, You = Human race. But technically you're not included in the 'You' because your case is different from the rest of your kind. But for the sake of this explanation let's pretend you're a regular mortal that gets invisible whenever we use the stones here.
"Imagine you — the mortals — live in an elevator — the Earth. Now, basically that's a habitat for human race. You all live inside a single elevator car, no mortal gets out. All of you was born there and there you would die." Eric lifted a thumb up to my face, asking me if I could follow his analogy. I nodded.
"Your elevator could only carry a maximum capacity of one hundred kilograms of natural weight. That is the configuration of your elevator. It should always stay in that balance, one hundred kilograms or less. That's the reason why you need to die so the others could get a chance to be born.
"Remember, your elevator car was designed to only carry natural weight. Eighty percent of that weight composition is for humanity to fill in while the remaining twenty percent was alloted to accomodate the weight of other living things that's vital for your existence. The space inside your elevator is only enough to accomodate that composition.
"Now, let's apply that to reality. This land, the Earth was only meant to hold 100% of energy. In which 80% was coming from the mortals and 20% from other unthreatening beings that were specifically chosen to guide or coexist with your race. For your elevator, those were the natural weight. For the Earth those were all the natural energies.
"Now where does I — the higher beings — stand here? As long as we're not using the stones, everything on Earth remains in balance. But what if I use this power on Earth? The energy from this stone and from everyone else's superpowers from Utovaj were like grand canons with radiation for your elevator. Way heavier than what Earth considers normal.
"Clearly, the additional unnatural weight from me is suppose to be unwelcome in your habitat because we would put too much pressure on your elevator. Plus there's no space inside since it's only enough for the mortals and few other kinds to fill in, and the radiation is not good for you. But your habitat doesn't has a say on which visitor gets in. Regardless if my kind will compressed your kind inside the elevator and the radiation is bad for all of you.
"So when anyone from Utovaj decided to go to Earth, it's like a grand canon with radiation hopping in your elevator. Your habitat is overwhelmed.
"What your habitat does is that it takes you out from there. It hides all of you — I don't know where, maybe in the empty elevator shaft above the car — in that way, you won't get squished inside and you won't get expose to the radiation we carry. Except for you because you remained in your post and still be visible for whatever reason, none of our Pantas were able to explain.
"Anyway, everytime the mortals were out of the elevator, the time stops, for you all. And it will only runs again if my kind would stop endagering your habitat and give you back your space inside the elevator. Until then, you mortals remain unconscious.
"You have to know that it's not safe for the mortals to be anywhere else but inside the elevator. And the longer we take our time to use the energy inside your habitat, the longer the mortals need to hang wherever they're being hidden — maybe you're all staying above the car or hanging under it — but the point it, the mortals are still there, just not inside. It only means that even though all the mortals were hanging outside the car, still the elevator carries the mortals' weight. And as I told you the Earth could only hold 100% of natural energy.
"It can only protect its people as much as it can, but even that has a limitation. So imagine if my grand canon alone is twelve kilograms heavy, your elevator is forced to let go as many humans needed that would equal to that weight so its maximum capacity is maintained.
"In short, everytime someone uses his power on Earth, some of you needs to die in order to maintain that balance."
"So those times when Jermond and Macforth used their gems..." People died? Eric nodded.
"Unforeseen natural death, accidents. We regret that your kind has to pay the price. But as long as the Alf'ru is here, and all the ateria remained open and more beings from our land would go here and attack us, using the stones in this land is inevitable. So technically we're murderers here." He laughed bitterly. And for the first time I saw sadness in his eyes. He didn't like this side of their powers.
"Murderer is such a strong word, Eric. You don't mean to kill any of us. You'll be nothing but forced to use the stones so you could defend yourself if you're ever attacked." I wanted to slap myself at the double standard. Earlier I was so upset at the people behind the sacrificial ceremony I was sent to. But now I'm consoling my friend, telling him not to take responsibility of the lives that will be lost once they're put in a situation where they needed to use their stones.
Few shall sacrifice, many shall be saved. Those were Ali's words. I think I'm beginning to understand that now. It seemed to me that as long as that Alf'ru roams around, human lives were unconsciously being sacrifice.
"You don't know that, Privs." He glanced at me and I didn't like the traces of sadness I saw in his eyes.
"While my physical self is not a threat to your kind but still I have a weight right? I still consumed space inside the elevator. That only means, our presence here is still considered an additional enery to this land. Five mortals were forced to give way in order for us to fit in. And since we're staying here — not just passing through — the price to pay required more than just human lives. We're using their space inside the elevator. We'd stolen more than just physical bodies, but the identity and the soul of the five mortals' whose lives we're living at the moment."
"What are you talking about, Eric?" He shook his head, correcting me.
"I am not Eric. This Primeric Yukio Takizaki that you know, my brother, Dave, Forth and Errol, were nothing but borrowed identities. We don't live here. And the five mortals who gave way for us, so we can move freely here to fulfill our mission, they can not be reincarnated as long as we're using their existence."
"Does that mean after you fulfilled your mission here, you have to leave? Forever?"
"We're not supposed to be in this land to begin with." That felt like a sharp blow on my chest. So that's it? One day when all of these comes to an end, they will just disappear? Like that?
I stared at the air in front of me. I can't believe I'll be losing them. I don't want for that day to come.
Now I'm not sure if I wanted them to find that Alf'ru. I shouldn't be selfish, but I couldn't entertain the idea that they will be gone.
"Is there a way—"
"Hello?" Both our attention were turned towards his side of the door. There were girls waving at us. Eric lowered his window.
"Do you need help?" One of the girls giggled. The smell of alcohol spreading fast through the cold air into my nostrils. All three were wearing party clothes.
"Unless you got a spare steering wheel and a gear stick, but I highly doubt it." Eric beamed, his tone suddenly vibrant again. His head was practically hanging out the window. All the sadness I saw in his eyes a second ago, now gone.
"That's too bad we wish to save a prince in distress tonight." I was amazed at their reference for Eric, it was more accurate than they know.
"What do you say?" One of the girl traced the bridge of his nose with her forefinger. I was astound by her action.
"Well, will you girls be willing to take us to our destination?" He asked, unbuckling his seatbeat. There's something weird going on in the way Eric speaks at the moment.
"Yes, but to the destination we'll be taking you, your girlfriend can't come." She slid her hand into the window to unlocked his door. I couldn't stare straight to the awkward proximity of her face to his, something I considered extremely inappropriate.
"That's not my girlfriend." Eric snorted with hand gestures. He's been pulled out of the car. His window was up again, blocking me from their mini gathering. His back was leaning against it, the three girls surrounding him, and it seems like they handed him a bottle of their beverage.
"You're hurting her feelings." They laughed, but I was not offended. I was more astonished at how friendly and touchy everyone behaves tonight, I'd never witnessed anything like this before. While I'm aware how welcoming and friendly Eric is, still I was surprise at how fast things were turning out for them.
Anyway, I tried searching for Dave and Errol in his phonebook but failed, so I went for Jermond instead. It was tricky because it wasn't exactly 'Jermond' that he put in the contact information. I had to checked his call history and found this disturbing adjective he used beside the word brother, so I assumed it was Jermond.
I jumped when I heard a ring from the backseat. Checking it, I learned that Jermond's stuff was right here.
"Eric." I called, redialling Macforth in the process. My voice was nothing against their laughter. I shook my head, getting out of the car.
"Eric, Macforth's not picking up." I approached them, I didn't like how the tall girl stared at me.
"Can we leave now?" She asked Eric, his hand on her waist and he seemed really happy. I walked closer and took the bottle from his hand, I think he'd forgotten something.
"I thought we're in a hurry?" I reminded him. The tall girl snatched the bottle in my hand then pushed me. I think that's rude. Wasn't she taught not to burn bridges while staying here in the country?
"Back off, nerd." She told me, making Eric chuckled. Her gesture was really unnecessary.
"Eric, please. We need to go." I was hoping he had other friends we can call. He doesn't even need to do anything but to suggest a name and I'll call it.
"How can we move? You know the car's broken. Just get inside and keep calling Forth."
"But he's not picking up." The tall girl glanced back at me, her eyes flashed daggers. She mouthed 'back off' to me. I ignored her, I don't need any of that mean things now.
"Then try the others." His focused went back to the other girl who's telling him a story. I really can't believe how easily Eric can be distracted.
"Dave and Errol isn't in your contacts and Jermond's phone—" I was pushed to the ground by the tall girl. Her cold treatment astonished me, her actions were entirely uncalled for. I stared at her in disbelief.
The other girl walked to me, she didn't hesitate to bend over and grabbed my hair, pulling me back to the other side of the car where I came from. I struggled, loosening her grip on me. The tall girl pulled me by my healthy arm — to which I'm thankful — and help her friend dragged me out of their sight. I didn't miss her nails digging into my arm. None of these was good for my neck down to my back.
"Hey stop stop stop stop stop." Eric was laughing. He was quick to held their hands captived but not quick enough to prevent them from coming at me in the first place.
The girls snatched their hands from him. I stood behind Eric, staring at the living evidences why alcohol is bad for everyone.
"She's getting in the way. Let's just leave her, your friends will pick her up right?" Oh no. I gripped Eric's arm upon hearing that, hoping he wasn't considering that idea.
But we're all distracted from the loud horns coming from an approaching van, clearly sending a message to our small crowd. I was smiling to myself as I watched it stopped next to our ill-parked car.
Finally they arrived.
Brave now, I stepped away from Eric, walking in front of everyone in anticipation of our friends. I glanced at the tall girl, feeling triumphant that I wasn't the one who'll be left on the road tonight.
But when the people from the van jumped off, I recognized none of them. Confusion dawned on me, I thought that was Dave's van.
"Maddie, I'm sorry babe. Come on." One of the six guys approached the tall girl. She snorted, walking closer to us, linking her arms to Eric.
"Story of my life." Eric mumbled, pulling me back behind him.
"Seriously, that?" The guy laughed, pointing at Eric. His actions couldn't portray anymore insult towards my friend. Why that's really rude!
"This is why you should never talk to strangers." I whispered those words to Eric, feeling bad that he has to learn that the hard way. My voice was low but it seemed like the tall girl heard. She leaned her head away from Eric's body to peak at me.
"Get in the car." He whispered, tilting his head towards me but his eyes never left the impolite people.
"But you'll be outnumbered." I whispered again and the girl laughed loudly.
"You know what, I'd like to hurt this girl. She's annoying." The tall girl giggled and unhook her arms from Eric's. I stared at her, perplexed.
"Maddie, please." Her boyfriend pleaded. It seemed like they're in the middle of a lover's quarrel and he's making it up to her.
"I'll go with you only if we take her." She walked to the guys and the other girls followed. This time, she hooked her arms on her boyfriend and whispered something.
The next thing I knew, they're all staring at me.
"Get in. Now."