The Nightmare

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Chapter 29 - Fairy tale

Copyright © DenGlemtePrinsesse, 2020

"What?" Eric started raising his voice too, I didn't like it. This isn't right. They shouldn't be fighting. This has to stop.

"If that's what secures our safety, do it! Tie her up and bring her back to Utovaj." I'm shaking my head, pleading them not to accept that suggestion.

"Do you hear how sadistic you sound, brother? This is still Pria we're talking about."

As much as I don't want them to fight, I wanted to hug Eric. While he's clearly disappointed that I have a talis, still there's a part of him that believes I'm not one with the bad side. And I will do everything to prove that to all of them. I'll earn their trust back.

"We're not even sure if she's whom she says she is. Before you defend her, Eric tell me how long we've known her?" Jermond stared at his brother, making a point.

And then he turned to glanced at our friends, gesturing them to answer the same question.

"I'm not lying." I stated.

In our small population in the kitchen, I'm the only one that doesn't came from Utovaj and doesn't own a gem. I do understand Jermond's sentiment. But in that short time I'd been with them, did I fail to make it clear that all I wanted to do is to help?

I would never join the bad side.

"She said she didn't know it was a talis. Until we confirm that, at least give her the benefit of the doubt." Thank you, Errol.

His words are still kind even though I can see reservations in his eyes. It's evident that despite the convincing reason behind Jermond's point, there's still part of Errol that's willing to let me prove all the assumptions against me wrong. And I couldn't be grateful enough for that.

"Seriously? We're not even sure what she and her collaborators are planning for the night. We don't even know what she's capable of, but you're all willing to let her on loose?"

"This house is surrounded by Muijr, Jermond. The talis won't work here to summon anyone. Even the Ada's prah isn't working."

"Look at you, Errol. Look at all of you. Still believing in this weak mortal facade she'd put up. Can't you see? She managed to fool you all." Facade?

"Not gonna lie I almost fall for it too. Until tonight happened. Until everything simply got connected." Jermond glared at me again.

"How those attackers knew our location? Why she can see the stones? Why she's different from the rest of her kind? Think about it. In the few days we'd spent in Utovaj, it should be very clear by now that there's no such thing as coincidence." He glanced at Dave.

"Instead of wasting time, debating whether she's telling the truth or not, we should be in Utovaj right now finding answers." I can't believe I'm hearing this.

There's a long moment of silence in the kitchen. I couldn't stare at them in the eyes anymore.

The idea of me putting up a facade, are they even considering that? Why is everyone quiet? I'm their friend. I did nothing to hurt them in the past. Why are they having second thoughts on me now?

I kept my gaze down, aware that they're glancing at me every once in a while.

I stood awkwardly in front of them, avoiding any kind of movement that will bring even their slightest attention back to me. I wanted to stay very still that I would eventually camouflage with the walls behind me. I badly want to disappear at the moment.

The silence is deafening.

My face is hot and so are my eyes that never dared to glance away from the ground as I wait for their verdict. Whatever they'll want me to do, I will comply. I will do it. My resolve is to prove them my innocence.

"Alright. Pack everything you need. We'll leave after twenty minutes." Dave said, but more to me than the rest of our friends. I dared to glanced up at him, and in his eyes I saw a hint of hesistation.

Dave's torn between his responsibility to their world and his trust on me. I wouldn't make it harder for him or for any of them. I will comply to whatever they needed me to do to prove them that I'm a good person.

"Don't even think about running away." Jermond said before I could take a step outside the kitchen.

"Oh shut u—"

"I'm not going anywhere. I promise." I assured him.

I also managed to send Eric a smile, telling him it's okay, and that he doesn't have to be hard on his brother. I'm not worth causing a gap between them.

I walked out of the kitchen, heading straight to my room faster than I'd ever managed, leaving all the doubts on me downstairs. I wouldn't take this against any of them. I shouldn't.

I closed my door behind me.

My lungs craved air. It's like I'd been sealed inside a box while I was in the kitchen and this is the first time I was introduced to breathing.

We're not even sure if she's whom she says she is.

I shook my head and started doing what I was told to do.

My hands were shaking but they're compliant, knowing exactly what to gather. My medication, my clothes, more clothes. I wasn't sure how long we'll be staying there so I tried to compressed as many clothes as possible in my bag.

Facade she'd put up...

And I figured it might be wise taking my first aid kit with me since Errol and Eric need to be treated for their wounds.

She managed to fool you all.


I headed to the bathroom for my toiletries, but when I turned on the bathroom lights, the first thing I saw was my reflection, and I lost it. My tears bursted out.

I couldn't hold them back anymore.

Staring at myself, still in a hospital dress, with my hair sticking and pointing everywhere, I couldn't help but feel the weight in my chest.

There're tiny scratch marks everywhere on my face and my forearms that I probably got from the gigantic, sharp grasses I'd walked through to and from the sacrificial ceremony. The mud's still all over me.

I'm physically and mentally drained from all the things that happened tonight and yet here I am being doubted for my intentions, when all I did was to try to stay alive tonight.

I can't believe Jermond said all those words. Would he prefer if I was harmed? Would he not suspect me if I came back injured?

My heart aches that I have to explain why I wasn't dead when I barely made it out alive.

I swallowed the lump in my throat and blinked hard so the tears would stop.

"We'll be downstairs." Dave knocked on my door.

I turned on the faucet so my ugly sobs would be consumed by the sound of the running water.

"In a minute." I responded. My voice, composed.

I'd never been humiliated like that. I'd never had to stand in front of people and got questioned like that. I'd never harmed anyone, and I would never intend to. So why did I have to experience being treated like I'm a suspect? I believe that's not fair.

I really am not a bad person. Do I really deserved to be questioned that way? Am I not worthy to be given a chance to explain my side first? We could talk things through. In a calm way. Jermond didn't have to yell at me as if he's so sure that I am really their enemy.

At least my father, whenever he's upset with me, he always summoned me privately. He never let other people see whenever he confront me.

Other than my father, I am not used to anyone else raising their voice at me. And it's not because I'm spoiled, it's only because I never have that much interaction with other people. And because whenever I do, I am always careful around everyone, even with my own family. I am always cautious not to upset anyone.

"I'm okay."

I pulled myself into the tub and took a quick shower, taking extra caution for my swollen back. The water below me was quick to turn brown. The soap effortlessly stripped all the dirt away from my body together with my tears.

This would be the last. I won't cry anymore.

Once we step back to Utovaj, I will find Ali. I will ask him about the talis. Regardless if I'm clueless where to start finding him. I have to set this misunderstanding straight.

I rinsed immediately the moment I realized it'd been taking out my frustrations on my skin, rubbing my arms roughly with a loofah, extra hard.

I dried myself quickly, before putting on a red hoodie on top of a white shirt and jeans. I felt the urge to stay covered.

I glanced one more time at the mirror before heading out of my room.

"I'm okay."

"What's taking her so long?" I heard Jermond from downstairs.

I immediately doubled my steps, tucking my bag to my side and rushed to them. My hair, dripping.

"You packed everything you need?" Dave asked, taking my bag. I nodded.

"Where are they?" I have to ask because the house is quiet, Dave and Jermond are the only ones on the sofa.

"They're already in Utovaj making arrangements. We have to search through your memories about this Ali, and we have to go to a place that can do that."

In my peripheral vision, I am very much aware that Jermond's digging holes into my head as I stood next to them, but I kept my eyes to Dave so I wouldn't have to meet his glare.

And I didn't miss the fact that Jermond stayed with us when he could go ahead with the rest of our friends. He must be making sure there's no way I won't be back to Utovaj. The lack of trust. I felt a little pain at that thought.

Jermond pulled out his necklace. I closed my eyes as soon as I heard the sound of the wind started forming, knowing exactly what will happen.

One second, I was surrounded by cold air, my hair was being tossed. My body was one less thing to worry about since I was fully clothed and covered unlike the first time I'd been to Utovaj when my university skirt caused me so much inconvenience.

Another second passed and everything stops. The bright light penetrating through my close eyelids.

"Aluthio Heldreth." A soft voice called.

I opened my eyes and found myself in a small empty room. Here I am again, on the magical land of Utovaj. The very place I promised myself not to step back onto.

I exhaled, looking around. The four walls of the room are made of huge white bricks. A tiny opened window on top of the wall. This room looks like the part of the palace that I'd walked through when the soldiers took me for the sacrificial ceremony.

"Is everything ready?" Dave asked, taking the clothes offered by the enchanced girl.

"Yes, Your Highness. Everyone is on thy feet, waiting." Dave nodded. The girl bowed once and left the room.

"Change into these. You shouldn't be drawing attention." He handed me a brown fabric and shoes before he and Jermond left the small room.

I took it as a cue to undress. It's a two layered dress. First one is a sleeveless white dress made of silk. It was cut before it reach my ankle. The cloth is smooth and very comfortable. This could work on its own but I'm afraid the people in Utovaj would consider that inappropriate.

So I moved on to the second clothe, the brown velvet one. I struggled to put my head through the v-neck opening for the fabric is utterly heavy, but I managed. The velvet texture is soft on my skin, and seemed expensive to my eyes. The long sleeves are loose from the elbow down to my fingertips. The upper portion is fit. Golden thin lace on the waist helped in keeping the dress close onto my skin, then the rest of the cloth down to my feet was loose.

"Dave?" I called, putting my human clothes in my backpack. I didn't change my white sneakers. I'm thinking, if we're going for a long walk of searching, it might be better if I'm comfortable with the shoes I'm wearing.

"I'm just here." He responded.

I picked up my bag, together with the excess length of the dress. It is too overwhelming for my height. Both my hands and my feet struggle to move freely.

When I opened the door my jaw dropped at the beauty that's in front of me. Dave's wearing a dark green long tunic on top of a dark pants. His sleeves were cut before it reach the elbows, revealing a light blue longsleeves underneath. His wrists up to his forearms were covered by a dark leather material for protection, I assumed. Dave was wearing a leather black boots just below his knees. He also has a long dark green cloak with a hoodie, fastened over his shoulders with a golden brooch.

Seeing Dave in these clothes than the ones I usually see him back at home is absolutely different. It reminds me of the first time I saw the Queen and the Moon Princess.

Now that I'm staring at Dave with no traces of Earth on him, he no longer look human to me anymore. He's literally tranformed into an enchanted royal being.

"Here." Dave attached another fabric on me. He tied a heavy grey cloak over my shoulders. It's velvet too and very thick. I wanted to sank on the additional weight he'd given me.

"This way." He took my backpack and headed to the small door at the end of the empty bricked hallway.

I picked up the excess length of my dress and followed him outside.

"She'll be here soon." It was Macforth's voice, I couldn't be wrong. But was he talking about me? Did they tell the people in here what happened on Earth? Was he assuring their people that I wouldn't run away?

My eyes adjusted when we step outside. The sunlight is blinding, the wind is friendly but cold. We're outside the castle, the part that I'd never been before.

Our friends were gathered in a distance, talking to the soldiers. They have their huge backpacks on their own. Apparently, all of them were ready for this trip. They might be planning to go back here even if tonight's incident didn't happen.

It looks like we're at the back part of the castle for the view is very different in here. I couldn't see the forest that surrounds the kingdom. And the lawn is neat with tamed white grass on the side of the pavement. There's a huge silver opened gate in a distance.

"Dave, are we going outside the kingdom?" I had to ask since everyone is talking about the danger of going beyond the borders.

"No. Just outside this palace. And try to see if anyone looks familiar to you." He replied, staring at the soldiers before going towards them. He sounded so serious.

I knew exactly what he meant. The soldiers that brought me to the sacrificial ceremony. But they're impossible to recognized. They're all covered from head to toe.

In front of us are armored horses. Five brown, four black and a white one. I glanced back to my friends, and since they're still occupied, I figured I could wander a little. I went for the horses. I couldn't help not to adore the beauty of the white horse. It stood out from the others.

The color is so vibrant, extremely alive that it appears like it's artificial coloring, so I have to see for myself.

I found myself astonished again. It's silk hair was soft and smooth on my palm. A smile on my lips formed while staring at a character that's pulled straight from fairy tales.

"Do you like it?" Errol popped up next to me, towering me. My eyes are yet being feed again by another magical beauty this world has to offer.

"Are you not upset with me anymore?" I asked, hopeful. I'm actually surprise that he's smiling at me now, after witnessing his disappointment at me earlier.

"Who said I'm upset with you?"

"Earlier..." I struggle to find the words, trying to forget his image on my mind when we're in the kitchen, few minutes ago. That image of him when he's staring blankly at me, that I couldn't tell if he's suspicious too or worse.

I haven't known Errol for so long, but in those few times I'd been with him, he has shown me nothing but kindness. In the short period that I'd known him, he gives me nothing but warm smiles and welcoming vibes. So earlier, when he's stared me in a totally different way than what I used to, it actually made me sad, it almost hurts.

"I'm sorry about that. We didn't mean to come at you like that. I'm sure Jermond didn't mean what he said. He's probably just too overwhelmed with the whole mission. We all are that we might've vented it out on you." Errol's being modest.

He's taking an equal blame on what happened earlier when he didn't even utter a single word against me. He's apologizing even though Jermond really has a valid reason for all the suspicion.

"For the record, I'm not upset with you. It's the whole situation I'm disappointed about. And at myself also, for being carried away with his Jermond's logic."

"But he really does have a point."

"Sure, but I'd like to believe that you're not lying to us, to me. Are you?" There goes his autumn irises again, trying to communicate a thousand words I'm not able to comprehend.

"I will never." It was an automatic response. That strange need again to be totally honest with Errol, took over. I felt this weird feeling before when we first had our conversation back in the parking lot. This feeling that's urging me to earn his trust. I don't know where it's coming from, or maybe because I really felt like I was indebted to him.

"Then that's all I need." He dimpled. And I stared at everywhere but his eyes.

Errol's wearing a blue tunic, dark pants and black boots emphasizes the complexity of his autumn irises. The windy day, tousling our hair to one direction, but it only does Errol a favor. Like Dave, he doesn't look human anymore. He is an ethereal prince, no one could question that now.

And then I noticed something's missing.

"Your forehead." I pointed, for looks like it was never wounded hours ago. I saw it bled like a waterfall back in the hospital earlier but now, his forehead is fine like nothing happened.

"Courtesy of Eric. I'm surprise he hasn't brag about that yet." Errol grinned. He glows with just a simple gesture. I can't believe he could still be more immaculate than my eyes can hold.

"How's our blacksheep doin'?" My smile went wider upon hearing that cheerful tone again. I turned around and was surprised to see him in perfect shape.

"You're healed too." I concluded, seeing his fine figure. No blood, no bruises, no scratches. Again, like nothing happened.

"Part of my abilites. I offer healing, but limited to physical wounds for now. I'm still learning the advance stages. It weakens me." I'm happy for him then.

Eric has been complaining that he wanted to control something. It's a good that he has found what he's capable of. I guess I wouldn't be needing my medicine kit after all.

"Are you not upset with me too?" I'd been dying to ask him.

"Still depends on what we'll find out later." Eric crossed his arms. His already narrowed eyes turning into slits, clearly joking. I smiled at that.

"Dave said we need to search through my memories. Will that hurt?"

"Hurts like hell. Especially if you're lying—"

"Don't worry it won't hurt. It never did. You won't feel anything." Errol said, staring disapprovingly at Eric.

"I'm not lying. All I said back home is the truth. I will always be honest with all of you." I held up my promise hand to them. I was thankful to finally have this chance to speak, not that I didn't had my chance earlier, but it's different, because with Jermond there, it felt like my intentions had already been concluded, and that there's no point explaining.

"You should be, or I will personally crucify you." Eric poked my head with the last word.

I nodded cheerfully in agreement, almost clapping. My heart rejoices, knowing exactly he would never hurt me and that they still trust me. It means the world to me.

I inhaled the cold air. It feels like this is the first time I'm breathing since we left home. It feels like the sun is shining on me again.

"Lunea Eiluthea." My eyes widen when a soldier in front of us announced, glancing behind me. He bowed down, the rest of the soldiers followed.

I gulped. My soul left my body.

I turned around to face her and immediately drop my gaze to the ground the moment our eyes met. My guilt, crawling back up again.

Everyone fell silent, thrilled at the grace of her divinity in front of us.

I never dared to look up again. My heart races as her footsteps continue to the direction I'm wishing she wouldn't pursue.

I'm hoping I was wrong. But her footsteps are getting closer.

Seconds later, her celestial gown was caught in my peripheral vision. Standing next to me. I wanted to step back and ran. I really wanted to, but I couldn't. That would only make me look guiltier than I already am.

"Lunea, your presence never fails to bring life to the boredom, my dull companions have to offer. It is an honor to go on this journey with you." Eric tried to sound poetic as he walked to her, kissing the back of her hand.

She giggled softly, amused at Eric's ever welcoming persona.

It seems like her attendance is expected. I wanted to glance at Macforth to see his reaction, but I couldn't lift my gaze for the Moon Princess blocks my view to him.

"How is it that Aluthio Kira utters nothing but kind words. The honor to protect my princes will always be mine."

Errol then walked to her too and kiss the back of her hand.

It looks like my friends are already familiar conversing with the people in this land. They seemed more relax with their actions now compared to the first time we'd been here.

I'm happy for them then.

"Aluthio Valin." She responded. Her voice, music.

"Mortal." My head snapped up to faced her, reluctant.

For a moment I forgot about why I'm so tense at the moment, until she called me. I have no idea she would address me. I'm not even sure if I'm allow to stare at her directly but she talked to me first so perhaps glancing at her might be appropriate? It was the initial reaction of my body.

Here I am, face to face with the Moon Princess. I gulped. Her forehead is flawless. No scar, just as Eric said. That's a good sign right?

I glanced at Errol, he's just smiling at me, encouraging. That's a good sign right?

My heart races, waiting for her next words. Would she bring up what happened back in the mirrored room? Will she ordered the soldiers to arrest me now? Silly, it can't be. Eric said I was forgiven. And besides my friends are here, they wouldn't let that happen. Would they?

My eyes widen when the princess suddenly smiled at me. Why?

Does that mean she's not angry at me anymore? I wanted to asked but my tongue cowered. The princess nodded to Errol and Eric before turning around. Her escorts followed.

Her gesture is kind. After what I did, I can't believe she acknowledged and smiled at me.

"Of course she does. I told you she's nice." Eric reminded me.

Did I utter my thoughts out loud?

"Am I allowed to talk directly to the princess?" If I could get a chance to talk to her later, I would thank her for her understanding.

My eyes searched for her again. And there she is, greeting Macforth.

A smiled formed on his lips the moment she addressed him. I wouldn't believe it if I didn't see it for myself. Macforth's face lightened up as he took her hand to kiss the back of her palm.

How can one stare at the Moon Princess and not get lost? I couldn't even find the proper adjective to describe her presence alone. Like I'm being bless just by standing in the same room with her. I think more heavenly adjectives will be created once my race lays their eyes on her. Until that happens, there's no way I could be able to give justice to her existence.

"Nah who cares, you'd been breaking all the rules since day one."

I know I shouldn't be watching but I can't take my eyes off of them. They complement each other. She's all white and glowing while Macforth's wearing all the dark colored clothes with his dark aura surrounding him — dark but in a good way.

They just matched.

The princess turned, and is happily chatting with Jermond now. Even Jermond, she managed to make him smile. Like he wasn't all grumpy at me just minutes ago. Her personality, I admire.

Macforth remained next to her, chatting with the princess' escort. He's occasionally glancing at the princess as her escort continues to speak. I couldn't be sure but it looks like they aren't coming with us, so they're probably giving Macforth some pointers about her.

It's cute how he watches her move. His irises are watchful, like the princess is in danger when she's just talking and is surrounded by soldiers. It's like she's a fragile vase that's placed on an uneven platform that making Macforth alert as he stares at her. He seems like he's ready to throw himself at her at the slightest presence of danger.

The way he gazes at her, I wonder if he realizes that.

"Let's get going. Shall we?" Dave asked, walking in front of us. Still looking serious.

Is he still angry at me? But more than that, I didn't miss the unfriendly stare that the other soldiers gave me when some of them walked passed us. Still, I'm unwelcomed.

"Do you like to ride this one?" He asked, looking at the white horse in front of us.

"I don't know how to make it move."

"Of course you don't." Dave chuckled.

He smiled! My heart rejoices at that sight. He's not angry anymore? I'm really not comfortable with him looking so serious.

"Why?" He inquired because I'd been gawking at his smiling face. I'm happy seeing that brightness in him again.

"Nothing." I didn't want to remind him the reason why he's being serious since we left home.

Errol climbed onto the white horse and the picturesque it gives my eyes blinds me.

The horse is enchanted, equally of course its owner. A celestial beauty riding a white horse. I found myself dreamy again, staring at a paiting coming to life before my eyes.

"Give me Privs. She'll ride with me." Eric called, climbing up to his brown horse. It's entirely covered in an armor that the horse appeared to be golden.

He whipped his horse and it began running fast, crossing the very short distance between his location and ours. The horse neighed to stop in front of us, showing us a beaming Eric.

I immediately shook my head, aware at what that grin meant. Fortunately my friends and I are all in the same page. None of us wanted me to ride with him.

Dave lifted me up, unannounced that it caught me off guard, but I immediately understood what's going on. Errol's waiting hands got me. He steadied me in front of him.

Once properly seated, I steadied myself, but the horse's little movements below us bothered me. It's breathing was making me dizzy. And the slope of its back that we're sitting on is not as stable as it appears to be in movies.

And there's no handle. How does one suppose to not fall once the horse started running?

I didn't let go of Dave's hand. I'm feeling light-headed. So I look around, searching for support, but I only found Eric next to us, glaring at me. Clearly not happy that I turned down his offer. I mouthed the word 'sorry' before glancing away.

In a nearby distance, I saw the Moon Princess. Her white heavenly dress stood out in her environment. Her beauty is so hard to be missed.

Jermond lifted her up by her waist, and steadied her behind Macforth. They're up on an intimidating black horse. She seemed small next to Macforth.

Macforth glanced over his shoulder, checking up on her if she's settled. She didn't notice because she's talking with Jermond.

Apparently, in that short period of time that my friends stayed here, the Moon Princess had successfully penetrated two of the toughtest walls I'd been trying to break in. And while I wanted to ask how, part of me already knows the answer.

The princess wrapped her delicate arms around Macforth's waist as Jermond started walking towards his black horse.

I notice that Macforth didn't object at her action. He didn't even seem surprise at her touch compared to the first time that the Moon Princess had boldly shown her affection to him. I wonder why is that.

In that short time they stayed here, does his forgotten feelings for her finally resurfaced?

"We'll try moving, okay?"

"Oh!" I gasped when the horse moved.

I wasn't prepared yet, my mind was somewhere else when Errol tried to make the horse walk. If it wasn't for his quick hand, I might be rolling down the road by now.

"I'm sorry. Are you okay?" Errol laughed at my struggle, but Eric's laugh was louder. He's still taking my choice of not riding with him, against me.

I shut my mouth, composing myself, aware that all eyes were on us.

"Can we try again?" I suggested immediately, not wanting to be the cause of delay.

I didn't let go of Errol's arm that caught me, for it became evident that the horse's movement will be a struggle to maintain balance. I only hold on to his arm tighter.

But before our horse could move again, another horse neighed loudly, catching all our attention.

It was Macforth's. His horse started galloping, as if they're in a race. He didn't even tried starting in moderate mode.

I saw his face looking so serious when they sped in front of us, towards the gates.

My eyes followed their fleeting figures. I found myself staring at them again, more intently than I should.

The princess' long blonde hair, floating with the wind as they paced farther from us. Her white dress was given emphasis by the gallant black horse, equally of course by it's dauntless owner.

Watching them from a distance, Macforth looks like a knight, chivalrous and all. With their pace, it seemed like he had just rescued the princess from the highest tower. Like they're just escaping from the abandoned kingdom before it completely collapse. They look like the last page of a book, where the phrase 'Happily Ever After' appears. Or the last scene of a movie before the screen goes black.

I exhaled, watching another characters from my fairy tales come into life before my eyes.

Another black horse galloped from our side. It was Jermond's, keeping up with Macforth's. They're immediately followed by three soldiers. Dust from the ground flies everywhere as their horses step roughly on the soil.

"Someone has to show off." Eric beamed then he himself started racing with them.

And now that I'm staring at everyone, I realized that I am indeed inside a fairy tale. That I am living with real life princes, and that I had been brought face to face with a real queen and a princess. I'd also walked through the halls of a real castle.

And while I may not be the main character, still I should be thankful that once a upon a time in my life, I was pulled into my dream world. A world where magical things exist, where fairies live and flowers move on their own. And while there's danger that comes along with this gift, and that I'd once skate on the thin ice between life and death, still I should be grateful, that I was chosen to witness this side of reality that my race doesn't know exists.

"Let's try again?" I nodded.

Errol pulled the rein gently and the horse moved as it was commanded. With the help of Errol's arm I found myself steady. I also tried to balance myself so we could hasten our pace and catch up with the others. I'm causing so much delay now.

Our horse began trotting in no time, and I'm getting a hang of it. I'm just worried that I'm giving Errol a hard time since one of his arms was constrained by me. I'm grateful that he's being considerate and not saying a word about it.

"I never got to ask you about the guys pestering you in the university."

"Oh." I gasped, startled when he suddenly spoke.

I glanced at Dave to check if he heard Errol. He kept his pace beside us, and so are the other two soldiers behind us, guarding.

Fortunately it appears like he didn't hear anything. It would only worry him and I'm not even sure if those guys are really after me.

To be honest, I'd actually forgotten those people. It feels like eternity had passed since that happened. Like a trivial thing in the past that the historians didn't bother to record.

"I can't be sure if it's intentional or I just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. I really don't know them. They're not even in my class, I see no reason why they would come at me. So maybe it's not really me."

"Hmmm." He nodded to himself. Errol's probably thinking I'm weird. But I really see no connection between me and those guys.

He signal the horse to move faster.

My hands, gripping to his arm as we cantered down the road, and everyone changed pace to matched ours.

I was practically pinning myself on his chest as we sped. The wind brushes my face, harshly that I have to keep my hair in one place so it wouldn't bother him.

"I'm worried they might come after you though." I said, trying to take my mind off of our movement. It still feels like I'm going to fall anytime.

"That's the last thing you should worry about. Our sole focus now is finding the Alf'ru. School will just be a hindrance for that."

"What do you mean? Are you not going to study anymore?" I tried to glanced up at him, but I only found his chin. I'd sank into his chest so deep and my hands had clung onto his hand so hard that I practically constrained myself from moving.

"Human routine is no longer for us, Privs. Not anymore. This responsibility of ending centuries of dark ages we barely knew is just getting more serious and dangerous as time ticks by. We have to stop it. It isn't just Utovaj that's at stake here. The mortal plane might be safe for now, but who knows until when."

"Oh no! Is that possible? Earth will be in chaos too because of the Alf'ru?"

I can't even imagine them not going to school anymore, but more than that, the idea of Earth sharing the chaos this world is enduring? That's just too much. Should we warn the government now?

"Remember when the Duke said that no one could meet their other self in the parallel world?"

"I do."

"He said that wasn't suppose to happen, but it happened anyway, right? My kind shouldn't be in the mortal plane but we're walking in and out of your land, weren't we? As long as the Alf'ru isn't back to the Underworld, who knows what could happen next?"

"There is an Underworld?"

"There is. And that's the one place you wouldn't want to get lost in." I can't believe it. Underworld exists. After being introduced to Utovaj, I shouldn't get surprise anymore. But I can't help it.

"Have you been there?"

"Of course not. Stepping outside the kingdom is highly discourage by the authorities in here, remember?"

"But Eric said you were searching outside the kingdom for my traces when you're looking for me. That's how you find the passage to the Earth."

"Sometimes it's worth breaking the rules." Oh.

Does that mean I'm worth breaking the rules? Or was it a general statement and doesn't really mean anything at all? How do I respond to that?

Why is my mind in chaos? I shouldn't be thinking like this.

"I would really appreciate if you don't tell the Duke about that." Errol joked, saving both of us from the sudden silence.

I should say something now, anything.

Part of me doesn't want our conversation to end. There's something thoughtful and comforting about Errol, I wanted to return the gesture.

"On the second thought, if it wasn't for Eric's urge to do things that shouldn't be done, we might not find that path in the first place. I guess I'll just have to tell the Duke that Eric's the mastermind." He teased and I like the sound of his laughter close to my ears.

"I'm glad that you're all getting along now." I knew this would happen. And I am the happiest person on Earth that my friends are now okay with each other. Especially after the bad introduction I made back at the parking lot, when Macforth didn't return Errol's politeness, and Eric didn't make Errol feel welcome. I'm glad everything turned out fine.

"Well, after we learned the weight of what's really at stake here, it's an automatic response that we set aside our differences to fulfill what we're bound to do." I sighed at his words. Part of me is feeling the gravity of the responsibility that's given to them. What can I do to at least lessen that?

"Where do we start finding the Alf'ru? Earth is too big."

"It's in Ciopova. At least that information we already have. When the Alf'ru crossed the border between Utovaj and Earth, the White Witches didn't let us go after it unprepared. They conducted rituals to make sure we landed exactly where it is. They made sure that the mortal lives we borrowed would served us great purpose. It wasn't coincidence that Dave happened to live in a house surrounded by Muijr trees."

Coincidence. That word again.

Everything must really have a reason then. I truly understand now why Jermond acted the way he did earlier.

"So everything must really be planned." But does that mean Ali purposely gave me the talis? Was he up to something? How? They didn't even know who I am back then. And they made it clear that they needed my friends' help. So why would they attack them?

I really don't think that Ali's thee bad person here.

"Not everything. Unfortunately the White Witches were oblivious that we have to lose our memories in order for us to be on Earth. Imagine the disappointment of the Utovajians once they find out that after our centuries of hiatus, we still came home empty-handed." That tone again.

And this dilemma is making everything worse. It's bad enough that they haven't destroyed the Alf'ru yet, but to tell their people the otherwise is on a different level of pressure. Although Eric was clear that the queen only lied to their people to not make them worry, but still, it has a heavier toll on my friends. Like Eric said, they have to double time their efforts to find the Alf'ru before any of their people ask why they're still not allowed to go beyond their kingdom.

"Don't say that." I shouldn't be surprise hearing Errol sounded sad because of this, since I heard it first from Eric, whose personality is ever cheerful. If this topic can make Eric sad, it definitely can make my other friends feel gloomy. But they shouldn't be too hard on themselves.

"It's alright. Don't worry."

"The place we're heading, is it far?" I was quick to asked.

I have to keep in mind not to touch that subject whenever I'm around them. I don't want any of them getting sad.

We really have to find the Alf'ru sooner.

"Not at all. We'll arrive there soon."

I stared ahead, to the glimmering land in front of us. On the sides of the road are coconut trees, only that their leaves are white and there's really no coconut. I can see dark mountains, slightly covered by grey clouds, miles and miles aways from where we are. I can see a chronium bridge to where we're heading. Its sparkles so it's hard to miss.

The cold air, brushing my face as we sped.

I couldn't see the others in front of us, thinking how fast they'd been moving and how far they'd already reached.

I'm exited to see the place we're going. I'm sure that's magical, for it can show people their memories.

"Have you tried searching through your memories?"

"We did. We tried to remember our lives before we step into the mortal plane. Unfortunately, the pond only shows what the conscious mind remembers."

"Oh. I see. It would be so much help if it can also show you the memories you'd forgotten."

"It's alright. There're people in this kingdom that has a memory of us. Somehow letting us take a glimpse of our past lives."

"Really? What did you find out?" I wonder how that feels. That must be odd. Seeing yourself living your life in a time you can't remember, surrounded by the people you knew and yet none of them you can remember. It's probably like watching a holiday video tape of yourself years and years back.

"Would you believe that I wasn't the original keeper of the lightning stone?"

"Oh, really?" So the purple gem represents lightning.

"Yes. I'm nothing but a protector of the princess who's next in the royal bloodline once her father abdicate the throne."

"I didn't expect that."

"Neither did we."

I heard a horse neighing in a distance.

Seconds later I saw Eric ahead, speeding his way to us. His body was leaned closer to the horse, moving so fast. He looks like he's trying to outrun someone.

Why is he in such a hurry?

"Is Eric okay?" I hope they're not in any danger. Dave and Errol's horses slowed down to matched each other.

While they might be as clueless as I am, I'm hoping they have the ability to communicate telepathically with one another, to ask Eric if everything's okay.

"Poor horse." Errol said. He and Dave laughed.

So that means there's no danger. Right?

"Could you pace any slower than that?" Eric complained, circling at us then matching our direction and speed, something he pouts about.

"Have you reached the palace?" Errol asked.

"Have we reached the palace? How can we be at the palace when you're still here? Did you plan to arrive tomorrow?"

"Why are you still here then? You should proceed now and take the time to rest a little." Dave said.

"As if the dark lords will cross the bridge without you. Can you move faster? I'm the one suffering from your tardiness." Eric rolled his eyes. His eyebrows furrowing.

"You don't have to wait for Dave. Go straight ahead the palace. Gamette is expecting your arrival." Errol said.

He and Dave are fighting a laugh, clearly enjoying Eric's complain.

"Yeah. Tell that to them." Eric snorted.

"It's bad enough that we're back in his castle. Worse is, we need his help. And with the ego of those two, we're going home with an unfinished business."

"What's wrong?" I asked.

"Let's say Prince Gamette isn't very welcoming. And that doesn't sit nicely with them." Errol answered, nodding towards Eric's direction.

I see.

Apparently, my friends could not get along with all the people in Utovaj. This Prince Gamette is an example. I thought everyone rejoiced when they returned. I personally saw the VIP treatment given to them by the people of the palace.

Oh right, Terra has utter unfriendly words towards my friends too. But he's an exemption because I know where his anger is coming from. But the Prince Gamette they're talking about, does he knows too about the situation outside the kingdom? That's why he's not welcoming to my friends?

"I see now what's with the loser's pace. Give the mortal to me and we'll arrive there in no time. Come on." Eric blocked our horse, glaring at me.

Errol just laughed and our horse walked around him, leaving Eric behind.

He complained that we're moving in a slow pace but this is already fast. Eric's idea of fast lies between danger and lethal.

"You baby her too much, you know!"

My cheeks turning hot. I never wanted to pinch anyone but I wanted to be violent now with Eric.

I glanced everywhere but them.

The ground changes. It became like a chromium tiled floor rather that the white natural ground we'd been through earlier.

We're crossing the bridge now, and the sunlight reflecting the ground is magical.

At the end of the bridge our friends stood, waiting. The closer we get to them the clearer I see Macforth's and Jermond's annoyance at our tardiness. No wonder why Eric felt the urge to come back to us.

Our friends and the soldiers stood in anticipation for our arrival. Macforth offered a hand to the Moon Princess, helping her get down from the horse. I don't want to think that I made the princess wait.

We stop in front of them and the scenery before my eyes had me dreamy again.

In front of us is a vast ocean. It's the clearest ocean I'd ever seen. Wide and transparent down to the bottom of the white sand that it appears shallow.

The ground we're stepping on is the last piece of land, probably an indication that this territory has ended.

A narrow chromium bridge lies before us, offering us a path to the place I assumed we're heading.

I couldn't see the other end of the slender bridge for the thick fog covers our destination. Zero visibility for what lies on the rest of the bridge, but since my friends had been here before, I think I shouldn't worry about anything.

Dave help me get off the horse. I watched the others started crossing the bridge, leaving their horses behind for the width of the bridge could only accomodate a feet at a time.

"Let's go." Dave called. He stepped onto the bridge first, his hand extended to me. I don't know if I should look straight ahead to the fogs or to the ground to make sure I'll be stepping on the right path.

I gathered the excess length of my dress before taking Dave's hand and we moved. Errol and Eric followed behind us.

While the sound of the ocean is calming to my ears, the picture it offers is way too calming for my mind that it started making me both dizzy and sleepy. And now that I'm thinking of it, I realized I haven't gotten enough sleep that my body actually requires.

For all I know, it's still Tuesday and I haven't fallen into a proper sleep yet.

"Dave, is the ocean deep?" I wanted to speak because my eyelids are getting heavier. The deeper we walked to the foggy bridge, the more comforting the ocean becomes.

I can see the pebbles below the transparent waters. Something glowing caught my eyes, moving solemnly underneath us. It swam away from my sight radius but the above surface of the ocean remained unbelievably still.

Now there's nothing to see but my reflection.

"It is. And don't stare at anything that can show your reflection." Oh! My head up snapped in front of me. He's warning wakes me up a little.

"Why? Is it bad?" I asked, trying to stay awake. Maybe I wasn't sleepy at all. Maybe it's the ocean hypnotizing me.

Is that possible?

"Everything is bad for you!" Eric called from behind us.

Somehow the embarrassment his joke offers awakens me a little more. His joke didn't even made me feel awkward. I wonder if it's because I'm feeling sleepy or because I'm getting more comfortable with him and I know that he's joke meant no harm.

I squished Dave's hand, I don't know why.

"This place occasionally offers visions. It can either show you one's soul, the past or the future. It's tricky because you wouldn't know which is which."

"It means this place is not for the weak!" Eric yelled, laughing.

"But we are here to see my memories. Is that bad too?"

"That's two different things. Searching through your memories is what we aimed for, not this place casually giving you something you didn't ask to see."

"But keep your eyes open! It might show you something interesting!" Eric called again. I can hear his grin through his words.

I didn't look back at the waters after that, and just remained focused on Dave's back. I should've known better.

In a world where everything lives and has power, something cute and adorable can also be dangerous. I wouldn't be surprise if this water starts moving on its own.

The fog's getting thinner now.

I started hearing other things. Waterfall, birds chirping, trumpets playing. The sky is getting clearer. And I can now see our friends in the front, already at the other end of the bridge.

The wind gets colder and stronger.

And there, straight ahead is our destination. A grey castle in the middle of the wide ocean.

There are people at the end of the bridge, waiting for our arrival. They're pausing as Macforth and the Moon Princess walked pass them, bowing to them, as they went inside. They offered carrying the bags.

I glance back to the ocean and my eyes popped out from their sockets.

I froze.

My stomach twisted.

I squished Dave's hand harder that sent alarm to him.

"What is it?" He asked, worried.

My other hand, let go of the excess length of my dress to comfort my shaking knees, steading them.

I wanted to just kneel down the ground and crawl towards the castle, but I couldn't move anymore. It feels like with the wrong blow of wind, I would get wipe off from the bridge.

I feared that the thick clothes I'm wearing is just giving the wind more surface to push me off the bridge.

"What's the matter?" Errol asked, catching up behind me.

I pointed to the impossible height below us.

All my sleepiness suddenly vanished, together with the fogs that made me finally see the perilous space between the bridge and the ocean underneath us.

There's a huge opening in the middle of the ocean. So huge, I couldn't see the bottom even though the water is clear. The ocean isn't one solid body of water. Two waterfalls below us, separating where we came from and where we're going. It is two different territory, the waterfalls made that very clear. And the bridge is the only thing that connects them.

We're literally walking above a massive blue hole. The water from the falls are being sucked by it.

The space between the bridge and the ocean itself is unbelievably higher than a building, when I don't even remember we climb.

My body trembles as I stared at the impossible height I'd never wanted to find myself onto. I'd never ride a roller coaster nor a Ferris wheel before. I'd never join Pie in her hiking trips and bungee jumping activities. I'm always careful not to put myself in a situation where my elbows and knees are jellies and my teeth are chattering involuntarily, like now.

I wish the fog just remained, blocking our vision. Knowing something does really changes everything.

"Alright. Close your eyes then." Dave nodded, understanding my situation.

I immediately followed, while I didn't want to take any further steps, I know I couldn't stay in here forever.

Dave pulled me up. He held my hands tighter than earlier.

"I got you, alright? Walk with your eyes close. Errol's behind you. You're not gonna fall." I nodded. My eyes, shut.

"Or I could carry you, upside down. Your choice." Eric yelled from behind. His joke calms me a little. I can do this.

Errol put his hand over my shoulders as we continue moving forward. His presence is an additional assurance. I couldn't be thankful enough to my friends.

"Dave, do you know that Pria is being bullied at school?" What?

"What?" Dave exclaimed.

I felt him turn around to look at me. I didn't open my eyes but I shook my head, denying that.

This is why I didn't tell him about that incident. Or maybe because I actually forgot. But either way I really didn't mean to tell that to anyone because they would only worry. Besides, I wasn't even sure about that.

"Who's bullying her? No one bullies my mortal but me!" Eric called.

"Group of guys. I saw them framed her up against Professor Belle. Then pestering her at the parking lot."

"I think they didn't throw that ball at the professor on purpose. They might've pointed the blame on me, but I think that's because they're scared too, to be blamed."

"I saw them did it." Really?

So they really did that? On purpose? But why? What did I do to them? Or maybe, anyone can be their victim and I just happened to be the available one at that moment?

"Worry not, Privs. I'll teach those bastards a lesson when we get back to Earth." Eric promised.

"No!" I gasped.

He shouldn't. Has he forgotten what he almost did to the bad guy at home? He hurt him so bad he almost endanger the guy's life, because he couldn't control his strength.

"I'll handle it. I'm just going to report them to the admin." I assured them, so none of them will take action.

While my friends are strong enough to protect themselves, they're way too strong to stop themselves from hurting the humans around them. And I couldn't just casually bring this up to Eric. He will just be too hard on himself if he remembers what he did to that guy at the highway.

"You never sounded that nerd before. Everyone, let's pretend she never said that." I'm not suppose to tell on them but he's giving me no choice. I think that's the best option. That way, no one gets hurt.

"And we're here." Errol announced, sounding triumphant.

He suddenly turned me around that shook me to my core, knowing the bridge offers limited space, and movements like that are extremely unwelcome.

My heart's racing as I opened my eyes, thinking I would find my feet stepping on air below us, but the only thing I saw is his smiling face.

We made it to the other end of the bridge. Safe.

Did he purposely brought that subject up to take my mind off the heights? Because it works, and I couldn't help the smile on my lips at his gesture. That's very thoughtful.

I was smiling at him until my eyes couldn't stare back at the depth of his irises anymore.

I glanced away. Looking back to where we came from, I finally manage to appreciate the beauty of the path I didn't pay attention earlier.

The castle is positioned on a rocky mountain steep in the middle of the vast ocean. There's no other body of land around except this one that the castle is sitting on and the one that we came from.

The ocean sparkles as the sunlight hits its clear surface. The bridge looks like a straight rainbow, but the other end of it couldn't be seen because of the fog that's in the middle of it.

"Come with me." Eric was tugging me inside the castle before I can ask where we're going, not that he would bother to explain in the first place. So I just let go and see where we're heading.

It's a huge white castle on the inside with gigantic tapestry on the walls, and archways after the other. It's still open inside though. The only thing that has ceiling are the hallways and bridges. The stairs are left open. It's like the nature is part of the castle. Or the castle is caraved out from this very mountain. And it's giving us a light tower's view of the ocean around us. The castle has its own waterfall inside and there are blue glowing butterflies around it.

Hallways are connected by bridges — wider this time — and decorated by trees and their flowers. Diamonds and other colorful stones are scattered on the untouched rocky walls, reflecting their hues throughout the palace with the help of the sunrays.

It's like Eric is giving me a quick trip inside the castle. Only that he's not offering me a chance to pause and admire the beautiful nature that embraces the palace.

"Hurry!" He complained as I tried so hard not to trip with my dress.

Our other friends that's the first ones to enter the castle are watching as Eric and I entered the room they're settled in.

My eyes revolved around the room as he continues dragging me to the middle of it. It's open, the arches on the sides are direct paths to the green forest. The air is fresh. But upon the sight of the wall in the far end of the room, I suddenly wanted to vanish.

The long wall is covered by mirror. Again.

While this room isn't anything like the mirrored room I'd been into, and the mirrors in here seems to be regular ones, I couldn't help but remember what happened back then. Especially that Macforth and the Moon Princess are here with me.

"Stare at this." We finally made stop. Eric put my palm on the mirrored wall. A huge one that's crosses the space between the ceiling and the floor. Tiny golden symbols are written all over it. My fingers, tracing them.

In my peripheral vision, I can see everyone staring at us. Even the Moon Princess seems curious what Eric is up to.

"Eric, what are you doing?" Errol called. He and Dave were running after us, I was watching them rushed to our side, through the mirror. Both of them doesn't looks happy.

"Go." Eric encouraged, ignoring Errol.

Go, what? Does he really wanted me to do it? Dave said I shouldn't stare at anything that could show my reflection.

"Pria." Dave called, he didn't need another word. The tone of his voice was enough for me to immediately take my hand back, no questions asked. I sent Eric unfriendly stares, for dragging me here and making me do something I wasn't suppose to.

Dave is upset. I don't like it when he sounds so serious and disappointed.

"You guys. Don't you wanna know what she might see? Privs represents the mortals, maybe the Tuar will show her what'll happen to Earth. Aren't you curious? Even a little? There's a probability that the Earth's state depends if we succeed destroying the Alf'ru or not, right? So if this mortal sees a pulverized Earth that means we're doomed. If not, that means, we're okay. Let's all be open minded and give it a shot. Shall we?" Eric explained, waving my palm up towards them, waiting for their response.

"Have you tried it?" I asked.

"Of course we did. Don't you think that's the first thing I would do when I found out about this place?" Right. And I suppose they're not satisfied whatever it was that's been shown to them.

While Dave doesn't like getting me involve more than I already am, I can see the acknowledgement in his eyes that there's a chance that Eric might be right. So I think I should make this decision for him, knowing Dave would never want to put me purposely in any kind of danger.

"It's okay, Dave. I wanted to help." I assured him, placing my palm back to the mirror. I didn't wait for Dave to answer because I'm so sure he wouldn't.

Eric is happy.

I'm glad that I was offered another chance to be useful. Besides, this isn't dangerous. All that will happen are purely vision, right? Nothing physical. Eric wouldn't let me do it in the first place if this could hurt me.

I stared back at my reflection, waiting. My fingers, tracing the tiny scribbled symbols on the mirror.

I'm hoping that whatever it is that the mirror will show me will be a good news, for the Earth and for my friends. I hope there's no ruin nor chaos, I don't think my world is prepared for whatever danger this magical world can give.

The dark side of fairy tales.

I glanced back at Eric, questioning.

What am I suppose to do other than placing my palm on it and staring at it? Because there's nothing happening at the moment.

"Eyes on the mirror." He gestured with his two fingers.

"Alright, that's enough experimenting." Already? I glanced at Dave, questioning.

Why are we giving up when the mirror hasn't shown me anything yet?

"Why is it taking so long?" Eric complained, looking around the room for assistance. So apparently I wasn't suppose to wait this long.

"Maybe it's not working for humans?" I told them my theory. I glanced back at the mirror, then a loud scream shattered my eardrums.

My eyes widen at that sight before my eyes.

"Pria!" Dave called.

My shaking hands finally flew to my mouth to stop myself. I realized I was the one screaming, frightened at the white lady in front of me.

She's wearing a black gown. Her body is corpse white, her eyes are nothing but black and pure evil. I can practically see the anger radiating from her.

She wanted to touch me but the mirror won't let her. My heart's racing as she glared at me, the moment she realized the barrier between us, her eyes turned into slits. Her aura grows darker.

Furious now, the lady screams, very loud that the mirrors cracked. Ear piercing screams that sent me to my to my knees, covering my ears until I felt a fluid coming out from them.

I was panting. My heart is alarmed. My body's pinned on the ground, I couldn't move away from the mirror. I want to move away!

She's reaching for me! Hhher fffist. Her fist are slamming the mirror, they're bleeding.

She wants to go out!

"Daaave!" I cried for help, but even I couldn't hear myself. Her high pitch screams consume the other noise around us.

Suddenly I'm frozen, motionless. Nothing in my body I can control. And with one look at her, I immediately figured she's the one responsible.

"Daaave!" I still tried again.

Why is no one doing anything?

The lady's eyes widen. She knows I'm trying to step away. She knows I am calling for help.

She banged the mirror, harder, ferociously that the cut on her fist went wider turning the mirror red.

"Heeelp!" I tried to screamed but lips remained sealed.

I need to move! I need to regain my body. She's moving faster, she wants to get out before I can control myself again. The mirror is cracking!

The mirror bursts, unleashing sounds that hurt my ears. It crashed just in time for my arms to regain control and cover my head, but I wasn't fast enough to prevent the broken pieces get to my face. Shattered glasses cutting through every inch of my exposed skin.

I drop myself to the ground. Her cold hands on me, shaking me.


"Pria, calm down." I was panting.

I muster all the courage that's left in me to take my hands down and open my eyes.

To my utter surprise, the mirror is still standing perfectly fine. It wasn't broken. Not even a single crack.

"I... I sss-saw the mirror shh- shattered." I uttered, glancing back at it. I watched myself through it, cowering on the floor. My chest hurts. My forehead sweats. Dave's crouching next to me, I'm not sure how long my nails had been digging into his arm.

The mirror shattered, I saw it. I saw her crashed it.

Three people walked into the room, I watched them get closer to us through the mirror. The man in the middle stares at me.

"Destruction then."

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