The Nightmare

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Chapter 28 - Suspicion

Copyright © DenGlemtePrinsesse, 2020

"What's that suppose to mean?" Eric raised an eyebrow, voicing out my thoughts.

Apparently I wasn't the only one who heard the edge in Jermond's voice, and I wonder what prompted that.

I sniffed the last blood in my nostrils, waiting for his answer.

"Nothing." Jermond's expression remained unsettlingly blank. His gaze never left my face until he closed Eric's door, and walked around the car to his seat.

That's odd. The way he stared at me, it's utterly different. Was there a message he purposely left unspoken?

"Don't stain my seat." Macforth glanced at Eric through the rareview mirror before he started driving.

He successfully stopped Eric from leaning on the headrest. And distracting me from overthinking at the same time.

"I'm still breathing. Thanks for the concern." Eric rolled his eyes, shifting his weight so he could sit up straight instead. All those tiny movement he made with the slowest motion, and yet he's still twitching in pain.

"You're welcome." Macforth smirked, as he basically made the car fly through the empty highway.

Listening to him, I couldn't help but to smile. I like seeing this talkative side of Macforth. Talkative in the sense that I'd heard him use more words tonight than an entire 24 hours with him—or atleast when I'm around him.

It feels like he forgot that I'm with them, that somehow, he's letting his guard down a little bit. I like it.

"Ugh." Eric quit moving, waiting for the pain to subside. His hand, clenching into a fist next to me.

"Shouldn't we be taking you to the hospital?" I'm worried that he's losing so much blood. I can almost feel his pain just by watching him grimaced with each movement. But to my surprised Eric just gave me a scornful laugh, to which he regretted immediately. Even that small gesture sent hurt to his system.

"Humans." He chuckled before resting his neck on his seat.

I don't get what's funny. Isn't he concern about his health?

Everyone fell silent after that. Aside from myself, I could sense exhaustion inside the car.

Eric has his eyes closed.

Jermond remained silent on his reclined seat in front of me.

And I could see how Macforth tried so hard to keep his eyes open while driving.

"Eric." I tried to make him stay awake. I'm worried whether or not it's okay for him to fall asleep in that condition, but he just dismissed me with his hand.

When we finally entered our village, my eyes automatically scanned the environment, searching for traces of the winged guy. Unlike ealier, I finally had the courage to glanced everywhere in anticipation of his presence. Brave even since my friends are with me now, I feel safe.

I can finally see our home, our gates were wide open. When Pie and I left the house earlier, with all the rush and panic I think we did forget to close them. When Uncle Jason left after receiving the news from our neighbor who volunteered to stay in our house, I believe he also forgot to close the gates. And so did Macforth and Jermond when they learned that Eric needed help. Apparently everyone was too preoccupied tonight.

The two brothers woke up the moment the car slowed down to enter our gate.

"Can you just carry me inside? My body hurts like hell." Eric asked his brother. I got out and made sure to close the gates this time, the last thing we need is an intruder. I also took my ecobag from Eric's wrecked car.

"Let him rot there." Macforth called, heading straight towards the house. Jermond paused for a moment, contemplating Macforth's suggestion. He eventually followed him inside so I rushed to Eric, offering him help.

"Douchebags." Eric murmured. He extended his hand to me and I started pulling him up.

"Seriously?" He scowled, watching me flounder to get him out of the car. After several seconds of not being able to lift him, I stop trying, scratching my head.

Eric rolled his eyes at me before hooking his hand on the door, getting himself out. His other hand was on his stomach, and I couldn't help but cringed to see him in pain with each movement. He shut his door and rested his arm on my healthy shoulder.

"Dave!" Eric shouted the moment we stepped into the house. His voice echoed next to my eardrum. He pulled himself towards the nearest couch, wincing at the pain his entire body was enduring.

"Kitchen." Bliss shoots to every vein in my body upon hearing that voice. It felt like it has been forever since the last time I heard it. So long it seems he had never existed at all. My eyes glanced towards the kitchen, my lips summoned a smile. And again, I'm home.

"Blacksheep is here! Guillotine you say?" My eyes darted to Eric for that. I was hoping they would forget about my trip outside the kingdom. I was hoping they would forget what I did to the empresses. I actually had completely forgotten it a second ago. It helped that it had to be Errol that informed everyone about it so they had time to internalized it, calmed down a little and eventually forget. With all the happenings tonight, I was hoping I could get away with all the things I did but Eric just reminded him.

"Go fetch me a glass of water." Eric was laying down on the couch, smirking at me. I stood next to him, staring at the kitchen. As much I wanted to see Dave, I don't want to witness his furious self. I'd never seen Dave got very mad and utterly disappointed so I wanted it to stay that way.

"Do I have to remind you, it's your fault that I got beaten? Now go. Water." His hand gestured me to leave.

I exhaled, heading straight to the kitchen, knowing exactly I was indebted to Eric. If it wasn't for him, those guys might've taken me. I was probably suffering what he'd gone through tonight, but in the hands of those girls.

I headed to the kitchen, realizing that I still would've to face Dave no matter what happens so might as well get this over with now.

"Oh no." I gasped. My eyes wasn't prepared for the sight that greeted me.

Five pairs of eyes darted to my direction.

He's back.

All the tiredness and fright I'd been suppressing throughout the night had finally took their toll on my knees, making me fall on the tiled floor.

I'm listening to my loud heartbeat, horrified, as I watched him walked towards me.

His huge black wings bended a little, confined by the height of our ceiling. His wings were being held back as he made his way through the kitchen isle and the counter.

I stumbled backwards, trying to push myself out of the kitchen, trying to escape, but it's too late, he's already seen me.

My heart pounded as soon as I realized the picture in front of me: Shredded pieces of plates and broken glasses on the floor and on the table, defeaning silence in the kitchen, and my four immobile friends, staring down at me.

Are they being held captive? In our own house? Is that what's happening now?

I tried to find Eric in my peripheral vision, I don't want to give away his location. At least, I could still warn him to run, but I couldn't find him.

"Mortals." He sneakered, standing up.

I gulped, pushing myself backwards until a wall stop me.

He crouched in front of me, but his figure, still towering me. My eyes automatically shut the moment I saw his hand reaching me, knowing too well what will happen once his fingers touched my skin. I'd seen him did it to Aunt Joyce, and now to me. My only hope is that it will be painless.

"There's always one." His hand cupped my chin to bring it up to him, checking both sides of my face. My fingers curling into a fist beside me.

"But throughout the centuries I'd stayed on the mortal plane this is the first one that didn't even blink at the sight of my presence." My eyes shot wide open.

I'm still conscious. I'm still okay. He didn't make me sleep like what he did to Aunt Joyce. Why didn't he?

"And this is the only mortal I know that could see the auvejios even when most of the Utovajians couldn't. That's new." His bright brown irises were scrutinizing me with so much amusement his pale pink lips couldn't hide. His eyes were literally glowing on top of his unearthly white complextion. He took his hand back and ran it through his silky black wavy hair down to his shoulders.

He rested his hand on his chin, thinking. His naked torso's an intimidating sight for my eyes I had to looked away.

"I was stunned earlier, you made me messed up on the one job I had." And I couldn't help but notice how natural his words were compared to the people in Utovaj that seemed to be talking from a medieval era. But he's wrong, I was startled by him earlier. I was just late to realized that he wasn't human.

"I'll see what I can do." He glanced back to my friends, obviously continuing a conversation I unintentionally interrupted the moment I entered the kitchen.

He held both of my arms, bringing me up with him as he stood up. I was still shaking. My hands, clasping onto the countertop for support. He let go of my arms once I was settled.

"That's what I'm talking about." He grinned, satisfied at my body's response to his presence.

My eyes wandered around the kitchen. Macforth, Jermond and Errol were eating, Dave's just standing casually by the counter. So that means we're in no danger. Right?

"I'll get going." He left, just that.

So he's not bad?

"Privs." Dave called pulling a chair between him and Macforth for me to fill in.

Looking at Dave, he doesn't seem furious like what Eric said earlier. Or maybe he's no longer angry?

In our rectangular table, Macforth was settled on the head seat where Uncle Jason usually sat. On his left was Jermon, and then Errol, all were attentive to the foods on their plate.

"Hi." Errol greeted. I smiled back at him as I sat in front of them. The cut on his forehead earlier now covered with gauze.

"What the f—" Eric swallowed. Probably shocked at the winged guy that walked in front of him towards door. Our friends laughed at his reaction. We all glanced at the kitchen's door as we heard Eric's footsteps rushing to us.

"The hell was that?" He stormed in, demanding. His hand never left his battered stomach.

"That's Eros. He came to return Aunt's soul. Now he's heading to the hospital to give it back." Dave explained, handing me a clean plate from the table.

"He took Aunt's soul?" I panicked. Who wouldn't? When one's soul is taken didn't that mean death?

"Accidentally. He was suppose to take Mrs. Tipton's but you startled him so—"

"He's going to kill our neighbor?" I gasped, wondering how Dave could take the subject lightly. We should prevent Eros from doing that. Though I wasn't close to Mrs. Tipton but Aunt and Uncle are. So it'll only going to break their hearts if that ever happened.

"Privs, death is natural for humans. It's her time to go." Oh.

"So he's a grim reaper?" Eric asked, taking a seat beside Errol.

"He's a death deity, keeper of souls—"

"So he's a grim reaper."

"You shouldn't be disrespectful to him, Eric. Eros is basically a God. Just demoted for the meantime." Dave chided, the three guys in front of me suppressed a chuckle leaving Eric and I confused.

"Why was he demoted?" Eric asked, mirroring my curiosity.

"He probably made a mistake on his original job so he got punished by the higher Gods." Dave explained.

"Imagine what kind of demotion he would get this time when his boss finds out he almost killed a mortal tonight." Eric chortled, instanly catching up with the others. Although Dave's giving him a disapproving stare, and Eric's covered by blood, and Eros' demotion isn't a laughing subject, I couldn't help but smile with them. I find them all cute at this very moment. This picture of my magical friends casually eating human food, together at one table, in a non magical world, is a memory that I will cherish forever.

Eric said that once their mission is complete, they will have to go back to their world—forever. And as much as it makes me sad, I'm happy that I was given a heads up. Knowing that they will be gone any minute made me appreciate every moment I am with them. I promise not to take any second with them for granted.

When I transferred here in Ciopova, I asked God to bless me with friends, even just a few, but instead, He'd gifted me a family. And with that, how can I take it against Him, when He'd given me so much more than what I originally asked. I don't know what I did to deserve them. So I figured, I should just be thankful that I crossed paths with them. Instead of grieving in the future, I should just be thankful that our friendship happened.

I will just enjoy it while it lasts.

"Will Aunt be okay now?" I asked. Relief washed over me when Dave nodded. That's all I need.

"And you remained conscious despite Eros presence on Earth because?" Eric asked me, all heads turned to faced me and him.

I contemplated for a moment due to the randomness of his question, but then I understood. He's testing my memory.

"Because Eros is one of the beings that is chosen to coexist in my habitat. His job is vital for human race?" His face lit up at my answer.

"My work everyone." He smirked, satisfied at my performance.

"You'd been busy." Errol commented.

"Nah. It's my duty to share wisdom. Don't mention it."

"Eros is not dangerous." I said to myself. I feel bad because I was so quick to judge tonight.

Eros was demoted, probably forced to do something that isn't his calling. He was tasked to fulfill a hard job. To take souls and watched everyone around that person suffer in sadness as he carries out his mission. That must be hard, having to witness others' sorrow over and over again. I couldn't help the guilt build up in me, because I feared him earlier for something I didn't understand. I was unfair.

"Danger is going out of the kingdom when you're not suppose to." My hand stop scooping the rice. Dave's tone was suddenly deep.

This is the moment I'd been trying to avoid.

"I'm really sorry. I'm not going back there I promise." I held my promise palm to let everyone know I meant it.

Dave reached the remaining clean plate on the table to give it to Eric. I jumped when it bursted in his hands. Literally.

"My bad." He said.

Right, the strength they still struggle to control. That's got to be the reason why the plates crushed in his hands, right? It couldn't be because of Dave's disappointment in me. Could it?

I was quick on my feet before Dave could stand to get a new plate for Eric. I didn't mind since I was the closest to the countertop. Well actually Macforth is, but since he didn't move, I figured he wasn't bothered if Eric wouldn't eat tonight.

My eyes were met by the empty shelf where we kept our dishes. All that's left were spoons and forks so I glanced to the sink but to my disappointment, all I saw were more crushed plates, broken pans and bended utensils. Then I realized, all the shredded glasses around the kitchen wasn't because they tried to fight Eros off, but because of their inability to control their physical strength.

"Don't bother, Privs." Eric announced when he realized there's no other plate available for him to use. Instead he picked up a hotdog from the table with his bare hand and ate it nonchalantly.

"You should've showered first. How can you eat with all that blood in your face?" Under the bright kitchen light, Eric's bloodied face was indeed highlighted. But he just stared at his brother, munching his food, unbothered.

I lowered my gaze the moment I realize I was in an unpresentable state too. I'm thankful that my friends are considerate and none of them commented on my state.

I sat back and quickly ate the food that Dave probably cooked. No matter how simple our dinner is, everyone is attentive to the blessing. Like me, the guys seemed hungry too. And tired.

"Would you remember the soldiers that took you out of the palace when you see them again?" My head snapped up to face Dave.

"Will I be going back there?" I asked, worried. I shook my head no, trying to influence his answer.

"Why not?" Dave simply asked.

"Because your people will going to crucify me."

Eric was suddenly choking with his food. He was pumping his wounded chest for a second. The following moment, his laughter boomed through the air, bouncing on every walls in the kitchen.

And then it dawned on me. No one's going to crucify me.

"Classic." He said, wiping his eye.

So I'm assuming Dave isn't really furious at me. Because he doesn't even look angry at all. So everything Eric said earlier was just a joke? But what he said about Macforth? Was that a joke too? Is he still angry at me?

I tried to peak through my peripheral vision.

"Privs, we need your help to identify the soldiers. We have to stop what they're doing." Dave explained.

"Maybe you could find Ali instead? He knows about the ceremony and his kingdom badly needs you too. Maybe you can help each other?"

"Who is this Ali anyway? Why do you take his words so much? We're not even sure if he could be trusted." Eric asked me.

"Ali is a good person. He and his friends saved me from the galiamas and help me get hom—"

"You saw a galiama?" Eric's eyes widen. And I believe the rest of our friends paused to look at me.

"Yes. At the colise—"

"Man, this mortal is golden! She saw a galiama! And that Eros even before we did. She'd seen things and been to places more than we did in our ten days there. Someone has to get all the luck!" I gaped at Eric as he said that.

Why does the word galiama sounded like a casual thing when it came from him? He spoke about those creatures like they're some beings that don't take lives.

"I'm thrilled to go back to Utovaj! You are not leaving my side, mortal." Eric beamed, staring at me. His current enthuasiam is frightening.

"And that too... your world is dangerous. Wasn't my existence only designed for Earth?" I'm taking Eric's lecture very seriously. I don't want to find myself in a situation where my life is on fifty - fifty again.

"Don't worry I'm not leaving your side this time." I didn't need to know what Eric is planning. His wide smile was enough to figure it wasn't anything around the word safe.

I looked back at Dave, shaking my head infinitesimally so he would reconsider.

"I know you're scared, Pria. But so were those innocent people who were — and will be — brought there as offerings. We can still save them. We can stop whoever it is behind that ritual. But we need your help to identify those who are involved. You don't have to worry. You'll never be left alone this time. Not a second." Errol stated. Every word was laid out with an assurance that it'll be indeed alright. That it's okay to let my fear go. And that I can trust his words. I already do but there goes his eyes again. Staring at me in a way that only he could do.

"That's basically what I said." Eric complained.

"Alright. That's enough for now. We'll talk about this later." Dave gestured us all to continue eating.

In my mind, I was comtemplating if I still need to break down the reasons I'll be giving to Dave later so he would agree with me. Or if I just tag along with them back to their world. Errol has a point, if I could prevent other people from being sacrificed, if I could give them the escape that was first offered to me, I shouldn't be hesitating to do it.

"Is that the one from Lunea?" Eric asked Macforth. He's referring to the silver bean on the countertop behind Macforth. It's an inch in size but it's sparkling so it's hard to missed.

"Yeah." Macforth answered absentmindedly, stretching his arms before resting his back to his chair, obviously sleepy.

Now that I'm staring at them, I did notice the changes in their size and body. Like they grew taller and their bodies leaner in such a short period of time.

Eric took an empty mug from the table and we watched him left the kitchen in a rush, leaving all of us puzzled, but I can feel his glee. I was about to ask Dave but Eric returned immediately with a wider grin.

The mug is now filled with soil and I don't want to know which of Aunt's flowers suffered because of that.

He took the sparkling bean before he settled back to his seat. Eric put it on top of the soil then water it a little.

I found myself staring intently to the seed, knowing whatever plant will grow there would be magical because it came from their world.

The sparkling bean moved and five tiny golden veins immediately sprouted from its center, sending the bean deep into the soil. The golden veins twisted upwards, merging with each other and started moving a little higher up to the air before bending to one side like a candy cane. But it didn't exceeds the height of my palm.

It stop growing for three seconds, then the mug started shaking, sending out sounds like chimes. On the tip of the golden vein, something white was struggling to come out.

"What plant are we waiting?" I asked, excited too.

"Not a plant, we're waiting for Tinkerbell." Eric answered, his eyes still glued on the shaking candy cane.

"We're waiting for an Ada. Forth received one from Lunea." Ada?

I panic at Dave's words. All the excitement I felt earlier's now replaced by worry, remembering exactly what I had endured at the hands of those tiny stars.

"Is it safe to have them here?" I gulped. They might be small but their abilities we're not something to be taken lightly.

"Relax, mortal. This is just one Ada and it's different from the ones you'd seen. This one is from the moon." Eric answered.

I nodded, relieved a little. After all, my friends wouldn't let something dangerous be here on Earth.

I glanced back to the magical plant. Its white fruit finally made its way out, hanging on the tip of the cane like a street light. It looked like a white pumpkin in the size of my fist, and there's a tiny rectangle in front of it that looks like a glass door. I can't believed it grew before my eyes.

The tiny door opened and blinding white lights emitted from its interior. I couldn't help the smile when an inch-sized fairy step out of it.

She is so cute!

The fairy stood on top of its small house, looking around her. When she saw Macforth, she immediately flew across the table towards him, allowing me to have a closer look at her. Silver dusts were falling as she moves.

The fairy is like a translucent, glitery purple and blue in color. It's wings, dress and hair were all short and in the same color of her skin. Her eyes occupied most of her heart shape face and still in the same color. She bowed to Macforth.

"Can we call her Peach?" I asked, staring at the cute fairy in front of me.

"If you would base her name from her house, it's far from being a peach. Call her squash or tomato." Eric retorted, staring boredly at me. He has a point though. I'm not even sure where Peach came from.

When I glanced back to the fairy, her one hand was extended to me like she wanted a high-five. It looked like she agreed to be called Peach. I smiled at that and extended my forefinger to her hand, but she flew closer to Macforth. Now both of her hands were held up, but still stretched to my direction. So I lifted both of my forefingers too.

"Stop that." Errol said. The fairy and I immediately withdraw from the high-five, glancing at him.

Slowly I retreated to my seat, waiting for his next words. Am I not allowed to touch her?

"What were you trying to do?" Dave asked the fairy. His eyebrows furrowing a little.

Why? What was the fairy trying to do? Weren't we just having a high-five?

The fairy glanced at me before looking back to Dave.

"My apologies, Your Highnesses. A mortal stood before thou. I am bound to protect the princes, but my prah works not in this land." Her voice is small and squeaky, but its clear.

"You're in the mortal plane. Her kind lives here so don't go around blowing your pixie dust at them. They're not dangerous." Eric said.

My eyes popped, glancing back at the fairy. Was she really trying to use her powers against me? But why? I thought she's different from the others. Eric said so.

"I understand not, Aluthio Kira. If the mortal poses no threat, then why do I see a Talis in its possession?" In my peripheral vision, I saw five pairs of eyes turned to looked at my direction in that exact moment.

I glanced up, blinking at them, confused.

"Is something wrong?"

"I knew it!" I jumped when Jermond slammed both of this palm to the table making all the dishes tinkled. His chair was pushed roughly against the ground when he stood up. He reached across the table. I felt Jermond's fingers on my chin but Dave was quick on his feet, pulling me backwards to stand behind him.

"Get your hands off of me!" Jermond's jaw clenched as he uttered the words through his gritted teeth. I watched him struggle under Errol and Eric's grip.

What's happening?

Everyone was moving fast and simultaneously before my eyes, leaving me dumbfounded.

Was Jermond trying to reach me? But why?

We're all okay a second ago, but now Dave was standing alert in front of me. On the other side of the table Jermond was staring at me with obvious hatred and accusations. Eric and Errol were trying so hard to calm him.

A moment ago we're all okay, eating peacefully, but now, all of a sudden we seemed to be in a brawl. Are we in a clash against each other? But that couldn't be because Macforth remained calm, resting on his chair, gazing up boredly at all of us. That must meant we're all okay, right? That we're not in some sort of an argument, are we?

"Man, what are you doing?" Eric demanded, struggling to keep his brother steady.

"You heard the Ada, she has a Talis!" Jermond glared at me with so much intensity that I started shaking my head in defense for whatever it was he's accusing me.

I am absolutely positive I don't have a Talis. I don't even know what that is.

"Dave, what is going on?" I glanced up him but he didn't answer, he just hid me behind him. His eyes are vigilant, watching our friends' movement.

"Come at me, you'll see what's going on!" I shrinked at his words. My mouth fell open, wondering why his volume raise, especially that his words are clearly directed to me.

He's angry, but where's that coming from? It seems like I triggered a long bottled up emotions, that he suddenly snaps at me. But I'm certain I didn't do anything bad to him, nor to anyone.

And isn't he even curious if I know what a Talis is or not? He could've ask nicely, I would've answer everything he wanted to know.

"Calm down, Jermond. The Ada might be wrong."

"Wrong, Errol? We just got back on this goddamn mortal plane, but those beings already showed up thrice. We were already attacked thrice tonight! On three different occasions, but she's there when all that happened! Was that some kind of a coincidence or someone was giving away our goddamn location!" All of them stared back at me, realizing that Jermond has a point.

I see.

I understand now what's happening.

He's suspecting me to be a friend of those who attacked them tonight. But that's just plain impossible. I couldn't do that to them, I would never. And besides, I wasn't even aware when they're being attacked.

Jermond's eyes were shooting daggers at me. That suspicion must be the same reason why he was staring oddly at me earlier in the car. Now that makes sense.

"I'm not a bad person." I defended myself but Jermond snorted at my words.

"You were out of the kingdom for days. What were the odds that you came back unscratched when even our most trained soldiers struggle to come back alive?" I pushed myself closer to the counter — pulling Dave with me — when Jermond almost escape from their grip.

"I had help." And that's the truth.

"Of course you do!" Jermond laughed, smiling unfriendly at me.

"You're so lucky to had someone just in time to saved you from that sacrificial ceremony that none has proven yet to exists, even though it has been going on for years now according to you!"

"It might be bb-because it's a secret treaty that not everyone knows. Ali said that the soldiers had set perimeters tt-to make sure no one could get out to tell about it—"

"And yet here you are." Jermond stared at me with amusement. I can't believe how he stares at me. It seems like he's already concluded that every word from me is nothing but lie and he's being entertained at how long I could keep up with my story. But everything I'd said and will say are the truth.

I stared back at him, forcing myself to understand.

He's just probably pressured from all the responsibilities that suddenly dawned on them. Maybe he's been so stressed, tired and bombarded because of their mission that he couldn't think straight anymore. I shouldn't take it against him.

I should be one less burden.

"I was fortunate they knew the way out." I glanced at my friends, wondering why none of them has intervened yet. Dave, Errol, even Eric. They're all just staring at me, listening to what I say.

Why? Are they too doubting my words now?

"For the sake of the goddamn argument, let's say that treaty was real—"

"It is real." I insisted. He nodded disdainfully at me.

"Then tell us, how come your friends knew just the right path to escape and managed to evade the soldiers, assuming they had no clue about it since, according to you, it's a secret."

That left me silent.

I don't know the answer either. Even I wondered how Cirga and Ali seemed to be knowledgeable about the ceremony, about the labyrinth and the perimeter. But that doesn't mean I'm doubting them now. Just because they knew the way out doesn't mean they're bad people. They saved me. They helped me get home. Those guys and their kingdom are suffering too. They are asking for my friends' help. They couldn't be bad people.

Jermond smirked at my lack of response. Everyone was silent too, staring at me.

Eric and Errol finally released Jermond, for he'd calm down.

I gulped, scared that my friends were probably having second thoughts about me now.

"I am not a bad person." I whispered.

"Yeah. Keep telling yourself that." I clutched onto Dave's shirt. That made him glanced down his shoulder and sighed when his tired eyes met mine.

I couldn't blame any of them if they would believe Jermond. His arguments were valid, and he really has salient points, I can see that.

But that doesn't mean I'm lying.

"Where is the Talis?" Dave asked the fairy.

She flew in front of Dave and put her fist into her chest. Everyone switched their gazes to me in anticipation.

I nodded, ready to comply.

My hand flew quickly to my chest, knowing exactly what to do, confident I wouldn't find a Talis, whatever that is.

I moved quickly, determined to prove them my innocence so we can go back to our peaceful dinner, but I immediately froze when I felt something under my dress.

Oh no.

In my neck, hung the necklace Ali gave me.

I gulped.

All my blood was drained from my body.

Jermond's lips curled to one side as he watched me turned corpse-white, cold.

I can't believe it. Ali's necklace was the reason for all these suspicion. It shouldn't be. This is a token of friendship and there's no way he could use this to hurt my friends. Ali is not a bad person.

My hand fell back to my sides, I couldn't take the necklace out. It would only make me a liar, and Ali a bad person. We're nothing like those. Our intentions are good, so why is this happening?

I glanced towards the door. I wanted to ran away, far from here.

"So?" Jermond smirked.

I couldn't let them suspect me. I have nothing to do with this. But I couldn't accuse Ali too. In that short period I spent with him, I had a good glimpse of his heart. I am certain he's not the bad guy here. None of us. So why is this happening?

My hands were shaking as I finally took it off from my neck.

"Pria!" Eric called with so much disappointment when he saw the necklace. He retreated to his seat, staring at me in disbelief. And I feared that he regretted stoping his brother earlier when he came at me.

I handed the necklace to Dave and immediately shook my head. My hands, waving in front of me, dismissing whatever it might be that they're thinking about me now.

"I d-don't know anything about this, I promise. I thought it was an ordinary necklace. I didn't know it could be use against anyone. Please believe me, I'm really telling the truth." I couldn't afford to let any of them down. I'm suppose to offer help, not bring them doubts.

"You better be, Pria. You better be." Eric said, his tone was deep. His usual funny side was nowhere to be found. I don't like seeing this side of him. I don't like seeing them like this.

"Where did you get that?" Errol asked.

I couldn't tell if he's suspecting me, he's not giving anything away. He just stared at me, blankly.

"Ali gave it to me. I thought it's just a friendship token. I really didn't think this could be use for bad deed." My hands, wringing in front of me, as I explained my truth again.

The kitchen was dressed in silence once more. Everyone was scrutinizing me.

Dave didn't speak again, but his gaze never left my face. His hand didn't even move since I put the necklace on his palm.

There he goes again, his irises are on me, but he's not actually staring at me. He's in deep thoughts again. I wonder what's going on in his mind. What is he thinking of me now?

The silence is defeaning, I wanted to run out of the kitchen, and lock myself in my room. It pained me seeing them like this, watching my every movement as if I'm someone that couldn't be trusted, as if I'm someone that'll do something upredictable, and bad.

"Where's this Ali from?" Errol asked.

"I can't remember the name, but they said they're from a neighbor kingdom."

"We have to go back to Utovaj. You have to lead us to him. Do you understand?" The corner of my eyes heated when I stared at Dave's irises. They were still solicitous at me, I wanted to cry at that. There's still a part of him that believes I'm not capable of anything wicked. It makes my heart calm a little.

I nodded at Dave, more than willing to comply. If going back to Utovaj is the key so my name would be cleaned, I am more than willing to do it.

This situation still has a bright side. If we're going to look for Ali, it only means that we're going to their kingdom. My friends could finally help their people from danger. This might be for the best.

"What, that's it?" Jermond was raising his voice again.

"Don't tell me you're gonna fall for that?" I can't believe his stares could be anymore intimidating and condescending.

I thought it's over now. I already agreed to go back to their world and find Ali. Why is he still angry?

Jermond sighed in frustration when no one answered him.

"Damn it. Are you seriously going to believe her?"

"What do you suggest, brother? Tie her up and lock her away?" Please don't fight.

"Do it."

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