Cressela - Twisted

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【 Chapter Sixteen 】

Amber paused, staring at the dark girl warily. The sentence was so simple, simple to anyone but herself, who knew exactly who 'he' was.

"Insanis... knows we're here?" Amber asked, forcing her voice to stay steady.

"Most likely. After Cressela ran away with Nova and Zanya, he punished us for helping and said he'd let you come back to him. I don't know much about, um, you," Natalia said, glancing in Amber's direction, "but he knows something about you that seems to interest him."

"What?"

Natalia shrugged, shaking her head. "I don't know. He doesn't share everything with us, just what he doesn't mind being said. I just know that he was waiting for you and Cressela to come. But where's Nova? And your sister?"

Cressela choked on her breath and shook her head quickly. silver eyes darting to the ground, her hair hanging in her face. Natalia's eyes widened in horror, eyes burning.

"No... they didn't- they couldn't-"

"They did," Cressela whispered. "They left to try and find us all a way out, but turned Delusional before they could. I'm glad you weren't there to see it, Natalia. They weren't them anymore. They were rabid, tore each other apart."

"I think someone might have turned Delusional here too," Natalia told her. "Insanis likes studying it."

"He's sick," Amber muttered, venom laced in her tone. Her eyes shifted to meet Cressela's. "Did your mum have any leads in her journal about ways to get you all out?"

Cressela shrugged, shaking her head. "Not really. I think she tried to reach out to the other Moon Maiden, but her abilities are weakened when Luna Moon isn't there to balance everything out."

Amber blinked, another wave of confusion and awe hitting her. "There's another... Luna has a sister?"

"Technically, they aren't family of that kind," Natalia clarified, "but they've always been there, together, keeping everything in order. Stella Red wasn't taken, but any form of communication takes a lot of energy. She might live in a moon, but it's not as easy as just floating down from it."

"She lives on the moon?" Amber repeated, and Natalia gave Cressela a knowing glance.

"You know we're not from this world... don't you, Amber?" Cressela said, and Amber nodded slowly.

Of course, Amber knew that this untold species wasn't from a world focused on improvements that weren't needed, a planet revolving around being modern by those who controlled it. It was human nature versus mother nature, just as Rubie had said. But the dark and different, ethereal and elemental race she was standing amongst strengthened the hope she had held all her life. There was still wonder in the world, and now she was a part of it, more than she realised.

But so was Insanis.

And he at least suspected their arrival - Cressela's return, with or without her family.

"Oh - Whitney gave us Kyria to pass on," Cressela remembered, and Amber nodded, snapping out of her thoughts as she handed over the cup. Natalia drank it all in one go immediately, her wings noticeably nourished by the raw power, the webbed strings draped across the frames thickening and toughening slightly. Natalia sighed, fiddling with the cup with a small smile.

"It's like a trace of home," Natalia breathed, and Cressela frowned in interest.

"You remember home?"

"Not really," Natalia admitted, green gaze dropping to the floor.

"That must be awful," Amber said softly. "He really took your memories from you?"

"He might as well have," Natalia responded, an edge of hatred in her voice. "We were never supposed to leave. Our memories belong to where they were born, and they'll stay there until we get back. We have to get back," she added desperately, looking Amber straight in the eye. "I might not remember every detail about home, but I know that I want to go back."

"And you will," Amber said, her confidence surprising her somewhat. "But we'll need to get to Level Six."

Natalia's eyes widened. "You want to get to Cherri? Be careful. She's stubborn, and she's not friendly - especially because you aren't one of us. You're humans, and most here expect you all to be the same as Insanis. She'll need a lot of convincing, but we did all lose something - or someone - when Cressela left. I'm sure Cherri has a sister-"

"Ash Black," Amber finished. "Okay. That's something. Thanks, Natalia."

Natalia nodded with a small smile. "She's in The Rift, the crack separating us from Insanis' level. Just... be careful."

"We will be," Amber said, then frowned in interest. "The Rift?"

Natalia nodded. "It's a separation between us and Insanis. Cherri guards it. Just keep walking until there's no ground beneath you, and you'll drop right into the crack. It goes down from the spot in the ground the floating area Cherri's on - The Rift - and then there should be a gate leading down to the lowest and last level."

Amber nodded slowly, a slight, weary smile on her face. "So we're dropping down again?"

"Yes. Thanks, Natalia. We will see you again," Cressela promised, and Natalia gave them a half-smile, holding Amber's gaze for a moment.

"Thanks, um... who are you?"

"Amber Obscura."

"Thank you, Amber. For coming here with Cressela. Bringing her back. It was very... well, thanks."

Amber smiled at her. "You're welcome. See you later."

And then the girls were on their way again, leaving Natalia Noir watching with vivid, curious green eyes. Amber walked blindly in the pure darkness of the area, her steps cautious and hesitant as she tried to sense where to sudden dip and drop to The Rift might be.

She didn't have to wait for long to find out.

The girls trod down onto thin hair, and caught off guard, Amber lost her balance and fell down into what she thought was some kind of chute, her breath catching in her throat as he let out a slight yelp of surprise. A sharp twist, a side of her body knocking against the firm structure before she landed on the ground, groaning as she got off her hands and knees and sat back on her legs, looking up at the dark inside of the tunnel. Cressela came a few moments after, landing gently down on her feet, which Amber couldn't help rolling her eyes yet.

"Alright for some," she muttered with a small smile, and Cressela raised a brow.

"You're fine. Come on. Watch the edges, or you'll fall."

Amber frowned, standing up and tracing the room with her searching, golden eyes. The walls were a deep purple with flecks of scarlet, as if the paint had been worn off to reveal a different tone on the other side. They ran down from the dark, strong ceiling and ground supporting Natalia's Night Narrows above them, the crack they had plummeted down surrounded by tunnels with no tops to lead them down to the ground. The ground itself was like one massive panel, a square with sharp corners, set firmly in the air, the ceiling high above them and any kind of solid floor beneath them far from the sight. The place seemed to stretch down forever, another fall that made Amber wince, taking a step back from the side.

"This is The Rift, then?" she asked warily, and Cressela nodded.

"Over there," Cressela directed, nodding to the opposite side of the place, to the wall with a gap in its middle, a metallic black gate leading down to the final level open invitingly. A few square panels hovered in a line in front of it, acting as the dangerous journey to the exit, the seemingly never-ending plunge down into darkness waiting to snatch and pull them down with one unstable step.

"That's the only way?"

Cressela nodded again, glancing at the deep descent below them and then back up to the gate. "Yes. But we can't stay here. We need to keep going."

"What about Cherri?"

Cressela shook her head, shrugging. "I don't know where she is. It doesn't matter. Let's just go, Amber."

Amber sighed and advanced towards the gate, the slender metal swirls spiralling into odd shapes before they stopped at the ends, ready to meet in the middle after a tug shut. Cressela seemed a little unnerved by the risky way forwards but didn't stop for a second, taking a large, careful step onto the first panel, then finally pausing to look back at Amber, who lingered at the side of the square ground.

"You won't fall," Cressela attempted to reassure her. "You can do it-"

Two cold hands gripped tightly onto Amber's arms from behind in an instant, shoving her towards the vast bottom of The Rift so she was looking straight down into it, the only thing stopping her from falling being the strong hold. A scream escaped her, and Cressela darted back with wide, silver eyes, a blinding burst of energy directed at the threat, who quickly dodged it.

"Careful," a biting, angry woman's voice spat, her grasp tightening on Amber, who flinched at the pressure. "She will fall. She can't do it."

"Cherri," Cressela tried again, her voice wavering in concern and anger, "please, just stop and put her back down - back down, not over."

Cherri glared at her with purple eyes rimmed with red, and with a snarl, she threw Amber back down onto the square ground. Cressela helped her up, Amber exhaling shakily at the close call and looking over at Cherri in barely concealed aggravation and fear.

"You should never have come back, Cressela," Cherri said, jaw clenched and her words icy. "You've just brought him exactly what he wants."

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