Cressela - Twisted

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【 Chapter Nineteen 】

“Who are you?” Amber whispered to the girl, who was still grasping her hands tightly, wide-eyed and breaths shaking.

“I... my... my name is Olivia,” she stuttered. “Olivia Olethea.”

“Amber Obscura. And this is Cressela - you might know her already.”

“No, I’ve not seen you before,” Cressela spoke up softly, coming into the cage too and kneeling down beside them.

“He keeps few of us down here,” Olivia responded slowly, her stunned gaze meeting Cressela’s. “Away from the others, for closer observation. I think we’re just... interesting to him, even though we’re... well, I’m no more special than the others. But I couldn’t take it, and... I felt as if I might go insane, like him.”

“So have I,” Cressela murmured. “I’ve been in the exact same state as you. But I didn’t need a cage made of metal bars to feel trapped.”

Olivia nodded slowly, her teal gaze flicking between Cressela and Amber, and she scoffed disbelievingly.

“You mean... you turned me and Cressela back from Delusion?”

Amber hesitated, then nodded, a short, unsure smile on her face. Olivia let out a long breath, staring at Amber as if she was seeing her properly now, studying her tanned skin and golden eyes, the curls that framed her face.

“Who are you?”

“Oh, um...” Amber struggled to find the words, her mind suddenly blank. What could she say when there was so much she knew, but even more she didn’t?

“I-I’m not one of your kind...”

“Then who are you?” Olivia persisted, her expression amazed and curious, blood still spattered on her pale, delicate skin. “I have to know. I’m forever in your debt, Obscura.”

“It’s okay, really-”

“No,” Olivia interrupted, shaking her head. “It’s not okay. It’s unheard of. Once we’re Delusional, there’s no coming back. You’ve fallen so far down into your own mind with no way to climb back up.”

Amber shrugged, smiling gently at her. “There’s always a way.”

Olivia stared at her for a few more moments, then looked to Cressela before casting her eyes down to the ground.

“I remember when you left. You’re a Katarina. Did the others...?”

Cressela shook her head. “They didn’t. But I did.”

“And now we need to find Insanis, Olivia,” Amber prompted. “We came here because we need to get you out of here, and to wherever it is you belong. I know it’s hard to believe.”

“Yes,” Olivia murmured, looking back up at her. “It is. But if you could do this... if you saved me and Cressela, you might be able to save again. Well, there’s no one else left to except you. Whoever you are. You seem like- well, no, there’s something about you that makes you familiar.”

“I’ve never seen you before,” Amber said quietly.

“Neither have I,” Olivia agreed. “That’s not what I mean. I hope you find what it is you’re looking for, about yourself, while you help us find our home. I think, maybe, you will. I miss home.”

“Do you remember it?” Cressela asked her, but she shook her head.

“No. But I miss it all the same.”

“Then let’s keep going,” Amber said with a smile, getting up off the floor and helping Olivia to her feet. “Do we have to go through this cage?”

“Yes. You’ll need to speak to Brennan, who guards Insanis’ rooms beyond the last doors. It’s at the end of the hall. I’d come with you, but... I don’t think I can. I’m still refocusing on myself after it all.”

“Alright. Thanks, Olivia,” Amber said, nodding at her.

“Thank you, Amber. Cressela.”

Cressela moved forward and pushed the end cage door open, and it gave in easily, the long stretch of dark corridor ahead of them, daring them to keep moving.

“He’ll be down here,” Cressela told Amber, as they both started walking down the narrow passageway. “This place... I forgot how awful it is.”

“What did he do to you?” Amber asked in almost a whisper, looking over at Cressela.

“Unspeakable things,” Cressela responded, her silver gaze focused straight ahead, refusing to meet Amber’s. “Insane things. He’s working on something, I know that, but I don’t know what it is. I don’t want, but I’ll have to. It’s why we came. You can practically feel it, can’t you? You can sense he’s close.”

“Can he sense us?”

Cressela’s eyes met Amber’s then, her expression unreadable. “What difference does it make, Amber?”

“He can sense you. He always has.”

A trembling female voice spoke up suddenly from the pitch-black shadows and Amber jumped, whirling around and frowning as she tried to identify it; finally looking in the direction Cressela was staring.

Where the walls alongside them ran down the length of the hallway, what seemed to be bars were carved into their foundation, thick and close together, one either side. Curls of ivy and drooping flowers coiled around the bars, but their colours were faint and dull, the petals weak and leaves crumbling.

The girl who spoke was behind the ones to the left, and Amber made out her blonde tufts of hair and grass green eyes sparkling with fear and tears. Her tears weren’t black, though, unlike Olivia’s. They were the lightest shade of green, a few dribbles of them running down her cheeks, giving her a rakish aura to her seemingly perfect, pretty looks that could be seen from the darkness.

“What do you mean by that?” Amber murmured, her frown deepening as she squinted, trying to see more of the girl’s features. The girl herself stepped back into the walled enclosure, eyes dropping and locks of hair falling past her shoulders, curtaining the sides of her face.

“It’s... it’s like he can see right through me, sometimes,” she continued shakily, her voice quiet and gentle. “He likes to play around with... with emotions. And I can’t help reacting- I really can’t!”

“It’s alright,” Cressela said calmly, stepping toward her slowly. “I know.”

The girl looked back up, staring in apprehension at Cressela, then at Amber.

“You’re here to see him,” she concluded, confused. “That- that’s never good...”

“How long have you been in there?” Amber questioned in concern.

“Long enough,” another voice spoke from behind them, masculine and similarly gentle to the girl’s.

Amber and Cressela turned again to the identical bars to the right, and sure enough, a boy was standing behind them, with sagging, colourless flowers and stems tightly wound around them. His hair was a soft honey brown, some thick wisps of it hanging about his forehead and flopping in front of his gooseberry green eyes. He looked around Amber’s age, staring at both of them in interest, but tiredness evident in his posture.

“I know you two,” Cressela said with a small frown, looking between them in uncertainty, “don’t I?”

“Flora Physis," the girl introduced herself, her eyes dropping to stare at the ground again. "That's my brother, Juniper."

"You're Cressela," Juniper said, nodding at her before he looked at Amber, a brow raised. "But who's this?"

"Amber Obscura. Nice to meet you."

"I hope so," Juniper replied, a small smirk tugging at his lips. "I didn't know we could have visitors."

"We're going to Insanis," Cressela told him. "We'll be back when we're done."

"Done with what?" Flora asked, her apprehension and worry apparent. "Do you know Insanis? He'll... he'll do such horrible things to you."

"He already has, Flora," Amber pointed out lightly. "This is the only way. Either me and Cressela confront Insanis, or you're used by him until he's done with whatever plans of destruction he has."

"We've got nothing to lose except each other," Juniper said. "As long as you know that, by all means, go and find Brennan. He's not always very friendly, though. He's been separated from his partner and children ever since Cressela left."

"Partner and- you mean Valerie Vernana?" Amber inquired, eyes wide.

"Sounds about right."

"Okay. Thank you, Flora. Juniper. We'll see you soon."

Juniper nodded again, retreating into the dark space beyond the bars, and Flora sat down on the cool, hard surface of the ground, hands clasping the bars and fiddling with the wilting flowers and ivy around them. She glanced at the plants, frowning, looking up at her brother as Cressela and Amber continued down the corridor.

"They're unhappy. The flowers."

Juniper scoffed, shrugging. "Everyone's unhappy, Flora."

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