Chapter 32 - Pact
Copyright © DenGlemtePrinsesse, 2020
"Don't be all pessimist. There's still a chance that you're still you, alright?" Eric cupped my forehead up in a way that he could see my entire face for I had buried it in my palms.
"Just look at you. Everything in you defines mortal. You're plain, you're dull. You're small, you're very Pria. No powers, nothing special."
My sobs calm down a little.
Eric is right. Even though Jermond's point had me questioning my own existence, at the end of the end, I feel human. I look human. My family doesn't look like they're working with people from Utovaj. Maybe those circumstances are just coincidence. If not, maybe I was really chosen to be their sidekick. To offer them assistance while they're on Earth.
Why did I fail to see the brighter side of what's happening at the moment?
"I believe you." I said.
And while his choice of words might've offended others, I'm not. Eric actually has a point. I'm not anything like them. I don't have superpowers. I don't glow. My voice doesn't sound like music. And I'm not beautiful like the people in Utovaj.
"You see, before all the ataria became unavailable for your race, there was a time when Earth and Utovaj were like neighbors. People come and go freely. Aside from entertaining the gods, your ancestors also served mine in exchange for treasures that could only be found here. Talk about hard work eh?" Eric wiggled his eyebrows.
"What if your family unfortunately served the wicked ones back then? Perhaps your great great great to the nth power grandfather's wealth came from Utovaj. Their dealings were just stop when my kind made the ataria one way. Think about this, when we're sent to the mortal plane, the bad guys needed someone that could do the job for them. Someone that could move freely on Earth. Someone from a bloodline that could be trusted and has already proven their worth."
Of all the things I'd seen in this land, I know nothing else could be impossible. But here I am still getting surprise.
Before all these, the idea of my family and Utovaj are like two poles that weren't destined to meet. Now, I am forced to consider that possibility, even though I can't imagine my family being associated with this magical world—let alone the bad side.
"When they took your soul and brought you here to be instructed, maybe that's when your accident happened. Obviously they're unaware of the fact that mortals' soul could not remember it's journey once it came back from the dead."
"They killed me?"
"Or they didn't. The accident could really happened on its own course that day, and who knows you're suppose to be dead already. Maybe they saved your soul in exchange for the mission they'd given you."
"That's not important. Point is, you could still be you." I don't know what to think anymore. Yesterday, I was just preparing to start my life and meet new friends. But today, I'm questioning my whole life that most of it I couldn't even remember.
My head hurts, but I like Eric's idea better. I'm only hoping that whoever made it possible for my soul to come back has already forgotten me. I'm hoping, they wouldn't show up in front of me one day and demand payment for this second chance.
"Now, will you promise that whatever happens— whether you remember something or not— you will remain on the good side?" I held my promise hand, nodding. I couldn't agree more. That's all I want from the beginning. To be useful to everyone and offer help whenever I could.
Eric is right. It doesn't matter if I died. The important thing is, I was given another chance to live. And I'm going to live it in the right way.
"I'll be watching." He gestured with his two fingers moving from his eyes to mine, warning me.
This is his own way of consoling a friend. In the short time I had known Eric, it has been very clear that he has my back. And with that, how could I not find hope despite all these?
Two knocks on the door caught our attention.
It was Dave, leaning on it.
"Walk with me?" I was smiling at Dave, it was an automatic response to his presence. He smiled back but I notice that his eyes avoided mine. What's wrong?
I got up and tapped Eric's shoulder, waving goodbye at him.
"I'll come. Mortal and I have a pact. Everything you have to say to her, I need to know. We're basically a package deal now."
"Talk to your brother." Dave said to which Eric scowled. He closed the door behind us, leaving Eric inside.
In that short period that he left me in his room, did he talk back to Jermond again because of me? I'm not worth the friction between them. I should do something about that. But first, I have do something about the fact the Dave seems distant to me at the moment.
He led me to a nearby staircase. It wasn't a long staircase, but with Dave being quiet, the path seems dead to me. Regardless if the ceiling was decorated with hanging lavander flowers. With us not talking, it feels like the steps are stretching longer and that it would take us forever before reaching the end.
Usually the silence between Dave and I doesn't bother me, simply because this is Dave. We're already comfortable with each other. But now that we're walking quietly side by side, after what happened earlier, it feels like there's a glass wall between us. And I hate that I have to use my peripheral vision to glance at him. But then through that I saw the longevity bracelet I gave him.
"You still wear it." I'm actually surprised. Not that Dave is someone that would disregard a gift from a friend, but Dave is a magical person now so I just thought that it's kind of odd he still keeps his mortal things with him. But I'm glad, really.
"Of course. Why wouldn't I?" He replied, brushing his fingers on it.
Once I get back home, I'm definitely making more for the rest of our friends. I could even make one for the Moon Princess.
I gathered the excess length of my dress out of the way. I heard Dave chuckled at that, so I glanced up at him and smiled. He smiled back but it didn't take another second before he stared ahead again.
"I haven't told you yet, but my father wants me to transfer to Carlo's place." I didn't want to open this subject, not today at least. But I was forced to because Dave fell silent again and it bothers me.
What's happening? The last time I felt awkward around Dave was the day I moved in with them. That day when we're still testing waters. Why is it happening again?
"Do Aunt and Uncle know?"
"I haven't told them yet." Dave held the transparent door to the balcony for me.
"Maybe when we get home." In my peripheral vision, I noticed that Dave's slightly paused at that, but I didn't comment. Instead I went straight to the railings, and let the cold wind brushed my face.
The ocean below sparkles before our eyes. Dave rested his forearms on the railings and gaze at the distance.
Isn't he going to say something about my news? Won't he be sad? Or at least say sorry to hear about it? Or maybe he thinks, that'll be for the best. The farther I am from them, the less suspicion I'll get. But still, shouldn't he say something?
"I hope Aunt Joyce is okay now." I tried breaking the ice again. It was a pathetic attempt, but I couldn't hold it against myself. I wanted to talk to Dave. I want to know what's on his mind. It feels like he's upset with me, and it upsets me too.
I leaned closer to the railings, breathing in the fresh air, contemplating what to say next.
I saw Macforth and Jermond down the other side of the castle, entering the misty part of the mountain where the trees are dark and tall. They are escorted by soldiers.
"Dave, what's wrong? Am I not allowed to go home yet?" I finally asked, remembering how Jermond wanted to acquire answers from me, and noticing how Dave reacts with the mention of anything home-related.
"I'm sorry." Dave sighed heavily.
"After they raised the possibility of..." He inhaled deeply, searching for the appropriate words. Clearly, even Dave finds it hard to entertain the idea that I'm with the bad side. And that's more than enough for me.
"Your possible connection." Dave cleared his throat, obviously embarrassed of having to say those words.
"The people in this world wanted to make sure that the connection won't be reactivated in any way. So as long as we're not sure yet, they suggested you stay here. It will be harder for the bad guys to get a hold of you, with the elven around, than being on Earth. Well, if that connection is actually real."
"Okay." I appreciate how Dave tried so hard to filter the words to make it sound as casual as possible. That's why even though it's clear to me that the reason why the magical people suggested to make me stay here is that they really wanted to keep tabs on me, I didn't show Dave that I'm scared.
"I'd been letting you down lately, hadn't I?" I flinched at that.
Was that what's going on in his mind? Was that the reason behind his silence? He's blaming himself for what's happening?
"I'm sorry I couldn't do anything for you."
"Dave, don't say that. For all I know Prince Gamette or the soldiers must've locked me up in a cell by now. Or they might be torturing me somewhere for the truth. But none of those things is being done to me because you wouldn't let it."
Dave glanced at me for a second, gazing through my eyes before staring into the distance again.
The way he look at me in that split of a second had my heart pounding. He gaze at me like my metaphorical assumption hit something right. Has someone really suggested to do those things to me?
I don't want to know the answer.
"Funny that you still think that when I couldn't even stop them from coming at you." He laughed, bitterly.
"It's not your fault why everyone is questioning my existence. I understand now why Jermond acted the way he did." I really do.
Truth is, I already bought Jermond's argument to the point that I'd been picturing my ancestors in Utovaj. It's hard because I have to accept the possibility that my family is associated with the wicked ones. Either that, or I'm not really me. I prefer Eric's theory.
And I know it's hard for Dave too. He's torn between his faith that I am still me and the circumstances that state the otherwise. So I'm not going to make things harder.
"I've seen your memories, Privs. I could only imagine the fright you had to go through, and the nightmares that comes with it. I'm holding myself responsible for all the things you experienced on that sacrificial ground. Every second of it." Oh.
Dave's no longer just talking about the incident earlier. Oh no. The memories are flashing back again. The monsters, the cries, the horror. I don't want to remember them anymore.
"But I'm not blaming anyone. Especially not you." I wanted to end this subject quickly. I don't want to remember.
"If something did happened there. I would never forgive myself. You should've experienced none of that. You weren't even suppose to be in here, explaining yourself to anyone for crying out loud. And much as I want to take you home myself, I couldn't. I'm bounded to this world, Pria."
"I know." And I completely understand. He shouldn't have to choose between me and Utovaj. None of them.
"None of these things we wanted to happen. But still, we're here now, aren't we? And whatever reason that lies behind all these, we'll find out later. So, instead of fighting or trying so hard to figure all this out, shouldn't we just let the things get unfold before us?" My copied words made Dave finally glancing down at me.
I figured this would work. A smile, forming on his lips upon hearing the words I borrowed from him. The words he used to me when I was first introduced to the magical world.
Dave's the most logical person I know. So what better way to console him than to offer him an advice from an equally logical person, himself.
"You should listen to yourself you know." Dave's laugher boomed, and I instantly feel thriumpant for being able to break the invisible barrier.
"Is there something I can do to help? Anything to make things easier for everyone."
"Tomorrow, we'll begin searching for Ali. Eric should stay behind with you, and I want you to remain next to him at all times." I nodded. That's not hard at all. Question is, will Eric agree to the idea of being left behind?
"Is the Moon Princess coming with you?" Why am I even curious?
"We're yet to inform her about this. But I highly doubt that Forth would allow her safety to be jeopardize." Of course not.
"Please be careful." What else is left there to say. It's an absolute danger they're putting themselves in. If only there's a way I could protect them, I would.
"Always." Gone were the days when I only tell him to be careful for going out of the house. If I'd known that my time with them will be limited, I should've stayed out of my room more often and talk to them.
The sound of the armors clanging to our direction caught my attention. A soldier stood by the entrance of the balcony, bowing to Dave even if he couldn't see.
"Your Highness, Prince Gamette wants a word with you." Dave turned around, glancing at me. I nodded, gesturing him to go with the soldier. It seems urgent.
"I'll be right there." Dave told the soldier but his eyes remained on my face. He dismissed him.
Instead of following the soldier, he rested his elbow on the railings. It seems like he has something left to say to me. I'm only hoping that the hard part was already done.
"You do know that you can tell me everything right?" Dave is being called, probably for the preparation of their assignment tomorrow, so I was confused why he remained here asking a random question.
"I do. Why do you ask?" Dave was staring right at me, intently that it bothers me. Like he's waiting for something.
For a second I thought he would talk about my mortalness, like what Eric did earlier. But with his eyes that's been trying to communicate sympathy with me, it immediately hit me.
"Did you..." I gulped, looking at my feet.
I can't believe I'm about to have this conversation with Dave.
"...see my father in my memories?" I crossed my fingers behind me, afraid of his response although I basically know what he's up to.
Dave remained still. His silence answered my question.
That foggy room is an outright violation of privacy. I was so focus on Ali that I didn't realize it can also show my memories about my family.
"Have you told on authorities about your father's abuse?" Abuse? No. That is such a strong word.
"That is my father's way of discipline. He wouldn't have to if I'm obidient." Dave, Aunt and Uncle were the last person I wanted to have this conversation with. They're the closest to me, so their words matter. I'm only afraid they would say I deserved it. It would break my heart, because I'm really trying to be a better person for everyone.
"I understand that's technically your upbringing since you remember only the last ten months of your life. But Privs, that's not how things are suppose to be." Is it not? Really?
On the one month I live with them, I did notice that Uncle and Aunt never hurt Dave. As the days progressed, I figured that's only because nothing about Dave requires correcting. Dave is already the epitomy of propriety.
"No one is allowed to hurt you." He put an emphasis to each word.
"But he's my father."
"All the more reason." Really? Father isn't allowed to hurt me? That's odd.
That's huge news. Really, because that's what's been going on for as long as I can remember, so now, learning that it's not how it's suppose to be is like a whole new world to me.
It's like being handed with something that I have to live with for the rest of my life only to find out one day that, that I can actually live without it. It's strange.
"Are we clear on that?" I nodded, so we could drop the subject. I'm skeptical about. No. I actually prefer his idea, but the problem is, how am I suppose to tell father about that? I'm afraid that would only offend him.
"Keep in mind that you can tell me everything. Alright?" I nodded.
"You can tell me everything too." I assured him. If he wanted someone he can vent out his frustrations and pressure that this world is giving them, I'm always ready to listen.
Dave and I started heading inside the castle for we heard heavy footsteps towards the balcony. The soldier must've been summoned again. Either the matter is really urgent or Prince Gamette is impatient.
On our way down, I saw Eric hiding behind a huge pillar on the foot of the staircase. It looks like he's done resting and now he's trying to be playful.
I think he's planning to leap out once Dave reached his side.
But when we reached the bottom of the stairs, Eric remained hidden. Dave and I parted ways, but Eric didn't move.
"Why are you there?" I asked him.
Eric glanced behind the pillar, checking Dave. Like he's actually hiding from him.
Then he went on towing me deeper into the castle, like the moment we arrived here. The only difference is that, he's uttering unintelligible words.
"Is everything okay?" He didn't answer me.
We entered a room that seems to be an armory. Wide white room with only two walls, the other sides were left open, serving as a passage towards the forest, the misty part of the mountain.
On one wall, spears and axes hung. All shapes and sizes. The others were blades, knives and stuff that's unfamiliar to me but seems to inflict pain effortlessly.
And there're drawers and tables with weapons on it.
"I heard your conversation." I didn't bother asking which part. I actually didn't mind if he heard or he listened. Suddenly, I'm comfortable being open with Eric. After all the trust he's given me, how can I not be? I'm thankful of the pact that we unofficially swore to.
"I didn't like what I heard." He hissed, searching deeper into one of the huge wooden chest in front of us. I could basically fit inside it.
"Take this." Eric placed a bow and a thin container of arrows on the table. They were both made out of silver. The bow has tiny diamonds on its body and so are the arrows. It looks heavy, but it's not.
Bow and arrow?
"Do you want me to use these to my father?"
"What are you talking about?"
"I though we're talking about my father." Because he said he didn't like what he heard. So I assumed that was it.
"Yeah. I didn't like that they planned everything without me and decided to leave me out of the picture, so I want you to learn how to protect yourself because there's no way I will be left behind tomorrow. And since I couldn't trust this place enough, you're coming with me... And sure about your father too."
"Are you saying that we'll going to follow them? Eric, that's dangerous." Otherwise, Jermond shouldn't had to be mad earlier about Dave planning to go out.
"Not if we're coming with them. Guarded by the troops." He winked at me and pulled out two swords from the same chest, placing it on the table.
"Carry these. You need my mentoring again." The swords, covered in black leather. They look heavy and when I lift it, they're indeed heavy.
While I'm scared, I actually like the idea. What if they met Ali tomorrow and decide to attack each other without even listening to either sides? At least if I'm present, there's a slightest chance that won't happen.
"Are they going to let us come?" Because earlier, when Dave told me about their plan tomorrow, it seems like it's already a done deal.
"Who cares? We need no one's permission." What?
"Now shut up and come quickly." Eric hang the bow and arrow on my shoulder, before heading out to the misty forest. I was carrying the swords with my other hand.
I was practically crawling my way behind him, because with all the scattered twigs, my long dress, the heavy stuff he made me carry and the fog that blurs our vision, it was almost an impossible trek.
"Eric, can you slow down a little?" I called, because I'm about to lose the slightest portion of him that's still visible to my sight radius. He's walking so fast it's getting harder to keep up.
"We barely started the training but you're complaining already?" He answered from a distance.
"Jesus. This mortal." I think he meant to whisper.
"Yes we are. And we only have less than twenty four hours to do that so shut up and focus on strenghtening your stamina." Eric tried to sound patient but I knew better.
He then continue moving forward, so did I.
"Hurry!" I'm thankful that Eric thought of doing this. I need this. I need to be strong like them. I wanted to be able to protect them and be a real ally to my friends.
"Can you move any slower than that?" Maybe that's why the forest is foggy, an additional obstacle in their training. The talls trees with their dark huge leaves made it harder for the sunlight to penetrate the ground, it challenges their sense of sight and awareness to their surrounding.
"I'm almost there, I can see you." I assured him. I just needed to free my dress from the thick twigs that caught it.
If Eric just informed me first about this training, I would've changed to my own clothes. I could've save a lot of time from all the troubles. Then he wouldn't have to wait for long.
"You arrived finally." Eric glared at me the moment I reached the clearing where he's already settled.
He took the swords from me and turned me around to face the part of the clearing where dark veins are moving, forming together to create a shape of a target board. It left a hole in the middle of it. I'm assuming that's where the arrow should pass through.
"Isn't the target suppose to be far? In movies they are far." I asked because it looks like it's standing just three meters in front of me.
Eric stood behind me, pulling my shoulders 90 degrees in front of the target, so that it would be on my side rather than facing it completely.
His foot pushed its way between my feet, creating a little distance between them. He pulled my shoulders and pushed my back, correcting my posture, and angled my head.
Eric knows what he's doing.
"Those trees know better. They adapt to the capability of the one who holds the weapon." Does that mean that the trees think I could only shoot this near?
Eric walked in front of me. I was taken aback to see his face, all serious now.
He glanced to the bow in my hands then nodded to me. I immediately held it the way I saw people use this in movies.
"Steady." He corrected the position of my hands a little higher. He also corrected my grip on the bow and my fingers on the string. Eric knocked on my elbows and squished my arms, reminding me to stay firm, before putting one arrow in place.
"Shoot." He said, pulling my face closer to the string.
Suddenly I'm nervous because Eric's taking this way too seriously. I mean, I already know this training isn't a joke because my ability to protect myself and the people around me would depend on this, I'm just surprise to see Eric like this.
Looking at his eyes, he's resolve is very clear, I will learn under his mentoring. And now, I'm only afraid to mess up.
So I released the arrow.
"I did it?" I almost clap. Because I couldn't see the arrow anywhere on the veins, so I'm guessing it went straight through the target hole.
Eric stared at me boredly, shaking his head. He glanced down to the ground, showing me the arrow.
"Again." He wasn't pleased.
I picked it up and composed myself. More serious now, I made sure not to drop the arrow this time.
My second attempt, the arrow flew, but to my surprise, the target moved. The veins crawled back, revealing the other side of the clearing.
"Why did it move?"
"Because your shot's only going to hit the veins, not your target. You're only going to hurt it, so it moved away." Really? So they feel?
This forest is alive then, as in the literal translation of living things and not just taking in carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen. Amazing.
"Now, aim for the target. Don't hurt the veins." He handed me another arrow. I nodded.
I tried it again, determined not to mess this time. So determined that I put too much pressure on pulling the strings, I forgot about the rest of my body.
"Ow!" I jerked my hand the moment the arrow was released.
Apparently, I was so focus on the target that I forgot to check if I was holding the bow properly. The end of the arrow flew passed the bow, leaving a straight cut on the side of my forefinger. I watched it bled.
I picked up another arrow and check the end of it. I'm confused. The end was made of feather like material so how come it cut my skin?
"Why did you stop?" Eric asked.
I showed him my hand. He glanced at it for a second then stared at me in a way like I'm just wasting time.
I complied. This time, minding everything that Eric has corrected earlier, my posture, my arms, my fingers, especially my grip on the bow.
The arrow was released, but again, the end of it scraped its way out on the side of my forefinger, adding dimension to the first cut.
"Am I holding it wrong?" I asked, blowing my hands to ease the pain.
"No. You're just overreacting. Again." I am?
While I wasn't expecting him to make a big deal out of the cut—because I'm aware it isn't— I was a little hurt at the way he dismissed it. Somehow part of me was stunned that Eric talked to me that way.
It feels like I was introduced to another side of him.
I shook it off, and positioned another arrow. As I study my grip on the bow, I can see that there's no way I could get my forefinger out of the arrow's exit. Maybe my grip isn't the problem. Maybe I'm actually holding it right. Otherwise, Eric had corrected me immediately. Perhaps, what I need is something that can protect my hands.
I reached for the arrow case, hoping there's something else there that I'm looking for. I was hoping that something to protect my hand, comes with the bow and arrow package, but there's none. So I looked around only to find a disappointed Eric.
"Do I want to know why you stop this time?"
"I need something that can prote—"
"Stop making a fuss out of it. That's just a cut. Shit happens. Now get on your feet and shoot again." Eric.
I was dumbfounded.
I stood straight immediately and aimed again, taking a deep breath before releasing the arrow. It cut through my skin but I only winced a little.
I almost hit the target!
I glanced at Eric to check if he saw how close I got. And it seems like he did, but he doesn't care.
My smile vanished. Apparently, Eric doesn't celebrate an 'almost'.
I wiped the blood on my hand and picked up another arrow. But knowing that it would cut again, I changed the way I was holding the bow. It's effective for my hand but not for my target.
Eric sighed loudly when the veins moved away again.
My seventh attemp, the veins moved again. So does my eighth and ninth.
"Damn it! The target is right there in front of you. How hard is it to get the arrow pass the hole?" I shrinked at his words.
"Seriously? Again!" Stupefied, I watched him pick up another arrow, then handed it to me.
"What are you staring at? Don't tell me you're gonna cry? What? Did I hurt your feelings?"
I glanced back to where we came from, calculating if I could find the exact path we walked through. I wanted to go back inside. But with all the fogs and the darkness, I admit it won't be easy.
"What, you're quitting?" Suddenly, Eric's next to my ears. Looking at the same direction as I am.
"You're planning to walk away because it's not happy here anymore. Go. Save your fragile heart. Runaway every time someone says something that isn't right for you." His voice was calm but wasn't friendly.
Eric didn't really mean that, did he? I'm hoping that this is just a part of his way to teach me. Right, that's got to be it. There's no way Eric would talk to me like this. This is still part of the training.
I won't quit.
On my feet, I stood 90 degrees angled from the target. I breathe in, positioning my arms straight. My fingers, relaxed. I leaned my head closer to the string. My whole body, being one with the bow and arrow.
Then I let go.
"I did it?" I ran to the veins, and peak through the hole. The arrow arrived on the other side.
"I did it!" But I stop jumping up and down when I notice that I was the only one celebrating. Oh, right, I shouldn't celebrate now because I'm still on the easy level.
I went back to my post.
The veins moved and formed another target, farther this time. I'm happy because it only means that the veins have faith that I could hit the new target.
I won't let anyone down.
"I did it again!" I glanced at Eric as I wait for my target to settle farther. I caught him grinning at my little victory.
"You're smiling! You're not angry anymore? Can I talk to you now?"
"I wasn't angry. I was just motivating you. It works didn't it?" He threw me another arrow to which I managed to catch.
"I know you didn't mean any of the things you said."
"I meant all of it!" Eric poked my forehead, hard.
"I'm serious. You don't walk away just because someone is being critical of you. I don't want you coming, crying at me 'coz someone has wronged you. From now on, stand up for yourself. Punch them in the face. Use these arrows. You are to let no one hurt you nor tell you what to do. Say no all the time if you want to."
"Can I really to do that?" Because I can't imagine myself talking back to father.
Just by entertaining the thought I already feel like I'm violating filial piety.
"Gather all the arrows you shot. You have to return the stuff you borrowed in the exact same shape you took them."
"Why? Are we done training?"
"Of course not. We just need to change location. I have to teach you how to knock people out. So hurry and pick up the swords." Eric seems excited.
"I don't want to."
"You don't want to what?"
"Carry the swords."
"I'm exercising my will to say no."
"Yeah. You do that later. And you do that to anyone but me, you ungrateful, wench. Have respect to your mentor."
"Oh. Okay. I'm sorry." Eric picked up the swords and threw them to me, which I managed to catch before they touch the ground.
He started walking to the other side of the clearing.
"Is it okay if you're calling me names and boss me around?"
"Yep. That's how this pact works."