Cressela - Twisted

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【 Chapter Eighteen 】

Cressela and Amber were silent on the walk down the winding steps, the darkness seeming to overshadow them wherever they went. Fogging their view, choking their breaths, misting their minds so that their thoughts were scattered and unsure. Amber thought of Ruey back at his bungalow with Celeste, Marcel with Jax, while she was in the delusional depths of Insanis' lair. It was a crazy thing to realise, but it was happening, and there was no going back now. There was no quitting, no way back up the seven twisted levels to freedom - or the sliver of freedom the world offered her.

The darkness rolled up and over from the ground and curled around them, lifting steadily like curtains and revealing a long, narrow corridor, with what looked like a large metal cage hallway through, blocking the way from the ceiling down.

And in that cage was a girl.

Her white, delicate skin stained with dark crimson. So dark, it almost seemed black. That same blackness welled up in her eyes, running down her cheeks and dripping down her top. Long white locks tangled, spattered with the dark liquid. A black gash that ran down an eyelid, just like Tia's, a shocking contrast to her pale, milky gaze. A gaze so dead, yet so alive. So dull and pale, yet so bright and meaningful.

She had only seen it once before.

And, all of a sudden, the girl's stare snapped to meet Amber's, who jumped, taking a step back with her breath stuck in her throat.

"This is Delusional Domain," Cressela murmured, her expression struck with horror and sad familiarity. "And... that's a Delusional to prove it."

Amber shook her head, her mouth open but refusing to form any words. She inhaled sharply, staring at the Delusional in silence, unmoving. As if she were in a trance.

Amber took a step forward.

"Amber- what are you doing?"

Amber didn't respond, taking a second, then a third step onwards, eyes dropping to look at the cage door in front of her and at the back, acting as the only way to get through. But to get through, they had to go inside. And the only way to open the door was from the outside, taking hold of the metal ring that kept it secure and pulling it up and to the side.

So simple. Too simple.

"Amber," Cressela's wavering voice rose in trepidation, and Amber glanced back. "What are you doing?"

"She's still one of you, Cressela," Amber whispered shakily, reaching out to touch the ring, and the Delusional hissed in a chilling, high-pitched harmony, making Amber shiver impulsively. "She's just... trapped."

"In the cage?"

Amber shook her head slowly, trying to reach for the ring again without the Delusional jerking into a hysteric. "In her mind."

"Amber," Cressela insisted, a worried edge to her voice. "It worked with me, but you don't know how long she's been like this, or if it's different. Insanis controls everything here, but he lives on the seventh floor. She's guarding the way to him, and... it's not a good idea."

Amber stopped, turning back around to look Cressela earnestly in the eye.

"Cressela... do we have any other choice?"

Cressela let out a slow breath, not responding, her silver gaze flicking to the girl, then back to Amber. Very slightly, almost unnoticeable, she nodded once.

Amber turned back to face the cage, hand clasping around the cold metal as she tugged it up, then left, a sharp click sounding in dangerous confirmation.

The door swung open, and the Delusional watched intently, red dribbling down her face, her appearance rabid and sickeningly blank. No sense of right or wrong, just a meaningless lust for destruction, with no hopes of earning satisfaction from it. This is what she'd become. This is what Insanis did to her.

She was almost gone.

In many ways, the girl was suffocating inside her own body. But, in many ways, Amber had no idea what it was she was actually doing. But what she did changed everything.

The sounds were muffled to Amber as the girl snarled and screeched, the Delusional throwing herself at Amber and smearing her with damp red, the smell of pennies poisoning her thoughts and making her stomach flip uneasily. The close-up of the girl's glaring white eyes was like a horror movie, pure terror flooding her system, but she wasn't concentrating on it. Cressela stood at the door with wide eyes, attempting to come in and spark her lightning, but Amber shook her head.

"Don't," she breathed, as the girl shoved her against the grey bars that dug into her back harshly. "It's okay. I know."

It wasn't the seeming hopelessness and terror of the situation that Amber's thoughts were directed. She didn't panic or flail. Instead, she breathed in as deeply as she could, flooding her senses with the metallic tang of unnatural blood, and forced herself to stare back at the girl. Her hands trembled, loosening their tight grips on the bars and moving to grab the Delusional's - but instead of trying to push her away, Amber linked her fingers through hers and squeezed them.

Cressela watched in shock, body frozen and eyes unblinking, as Amber started crying silently, tears spilling from her eyes and slipping down her cheeks, tainting the girl's blood with warm, watery salt.

Amber stared into the cloudy voids of the Delusional's eyes and saw past the insanity inflicted on her, the insanity that broke down everything that made her who she was, her personality crumbled into forgotten ashes. She didn't look at a Delusional. She looked at what could have been before.

What could have been before, in a world she belonged in, a world familiar and beautiful that loved her, before she was snatched from its protective clutch. Who she could have been, what she could have seen, what she could have wanted. The friends and family that held her when she cried and were there when she felt alone, before insanity pushed her into loneliness.

Amber used the strongest tool she had, her imagination, to believe in what was before. It still mattered. This wasn't a Delusional. This was a lost, tired girl who just wanted to go home. A girl so powerful and unique and capable, but still a girl who belonged with her family and friends. Family and friends who still needed her. Because although her personality seemed crumbled into forgotten nothingness, no one is ever truly forgotten.

And Amber could see exactly what could have been, what was, because deep down, she knew it too. She wanted family more than anything. Maybe that was why she wanted to come with Cressela too. For found family. Family that saw things the way she did, noticed the tiniest marvels of nature in a planet taken over by modern technology and parties and shallow pleasures. Things that made her doubt whether any wonders were left on her world, and where she could find more, neverending wonders.

Family that she had lost before she could call them her family.

Family that seemed distant, but a mother who wanted her to have an adventure. Who knew she would.

But she would never hear her tell her. She would never feel the comfort a mother gives to her daughter, or the jokes and wisdom of a father. And the girl wanted it back as badly as Amber did herself.

A loud gasp sliced through the teary silence, and the girl's clouded eyes came into focus, pupils darkening, iris' a mystic teal.

She was back.

She was found.

Cressela's mouth gaped in absolute astonishment at the scene playing out before her. Amber had done it again. Saved a Delusional. Made the phrase 'lost cause' practically meaningless.

The girl's green-blue eyes searched Amber's, then glided down to see hands entwined with each other's, blood and tears sprayed on delicate skin.

She looked up again, no words, but gazes saying everything, before she burst into tears herself, wrapping her arms around Amber's neck and wetting her shoulder. Amber hugged her back instantly, and the dark rolling fog thinned and dissapeared.

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