Amber thought, if Delusional was the name given to Cressela’s kind that was in such a horrific, insane state, the word didn’t even represent a fraction of the sight that she could ever unsee. The state that Cressela was in when Amber first encountered her - that was terrifying and traumatic also, a form so unlike anything seen before by any human. But the girl behind the strong, cold metal bars that separated her by inches from Cressela and Amber - the contrast between her state and the usual appearance of Cressela’s species was so twisted, it made Amber’s stomach churn and face grow a little paler, made more of her innocence degrade into experience in a cruel stroke. But the fear passed strangely quickly, and Amber’s reaction switched to horrified to calm in a matter of moments.
“Amber!” Cressela’s voice came through as shocked and fearful, with a hint of worry. “Don’t! She not the same - she’s fully turned Delusionist!”
Amber nodded, breathing in deeply through her nose and letting air escape from her mouth in shaky breaths.
“It’s okay,” she replied, her gaze not leaving the girl, “it’s okay. I know what I need to do.”
Cressela put a hand over her mouth and watched with an agonized expression, readying her powers in case of failure. She stood a small distance away, watching Amber slowly approach the cell.
The girl locked inside let out ear-piercing screeches and glared at Amber with glowing white eyes, red marks staining her pale face and her hair sparking with energy and electricity. Still, Amber approached her slowly, unlocking the cell and beginning to step in.
“Amber!” Cressela’s warning cry came out as a faint whisper, as she watched helplessly. The girl screamed at Amber ferociously, her muscles tensed and ready to pounce at any moment.
“Believing is the most important skill you have to activate,” Amber said quietly, her breathing becoming more even as the girl hissed and screeched at her threateningly.
“You have to to think of what you want to do,” Amber continued, closing her eyes and inhaling more deeply, "believe that you can do it... imagine it in action..."
The girl shrieked and snarled one last time, before taking a step back and readying to attack. Cressela watched with her eyes wide.
Amber put her hands out towards the girl, trembling in effort as she concentrated, her eyes squeezed shut. The girl hesitated, shaking and leaning against the bars in tiredness as her blank, white eyes dimmed and dyed to pure black, like ink spreading on a tissue. Amber opened her eyes, gasping for air and falling to the ground at the same time the girl stumbled down, looking dazed and forlorn.
Cressela's mouth was hanging open in awe and shock, and her lightning fizzed and crackled out. Amber breathed in as much air as she could, beads of sweat trickling down her forehead as she looked up at the girl through her ginger-brown locks.
The girl met her eyes, and sat up in alarm, noticing Cressela watching spellbound. Amber sighed and smiled in relief, pushing herself up and pulling her hair away from her face.
"Who are you?" the girl questioned, brushing away white and silver strands of hair from her eyes and brushing herself down.
"Amber Obscura," Amber replied, smiling at her, "and this is Cressela."
"You..." Cressela started, awestruck, "you turned a Delusional back to their normal state?!"
Amber glanced at the girl, then back to Cressela.
"I just took Natalia's directions."
Cressela shook her head, opening the entrance to the cell and letting them out.
"No one's done that before," Cressela told her, "ever. That... that was amazing!"
The girl frowned, her eyes round.
"I went... delusional?"
"You were. Amber here, she turned you back.
The girl's surprise was evident, and she smiled gratefully at Amber after a moment.
"You turned me back? Thank you," she said genuinely, clasping Amber's hands tightly in hers, "thank you so much."
Amber nodded, half-smiling.
"Of course. But now, I need your help. What's your name?"
"I'm Olivia," she replied, "Olivia Olethea. What can I do for you?"
"The guardian of Level Seven is just down, through here," Olivia told Cressela and Amber, walking with them through the dark stretch of corridor that brightened nearer the end. "He will be hard to pass, Amber. But, if you succeed, the large gate at the end, that's where Master Insanis' block starts."
Olivia shook Cressela and Amber's hands, smiling warmly.
"Good luck. Thank you, for restoring me. There hasn't been anyone... in so long..."
Amber nodded, and the pair ran on ahead, Olivia watching with a nervous look in her eyes.
Cressela pointed to a shadow in the distance, the figure darkened by the lighting as they stood opposite.
"Uh, hi," Amber started, "are you the guardian of the last level?"
"That I am," a male's voice replied smugly, and his figure stepped out of the shade to reveal his true form. His skin was quite pale and his hair a graphite-grey colour, flopping about his eyes and framing his face messily. His eyes were dark, red outlining his pupils, and his arms were crossed as he eyed the girls judgementally, eventually looking at Amber.
"A human girl," he said, rolling his eyes and smirking. "That's new."
"Brennan," Cressela said, stepping forward, "we need to go to Insanis. We're here to free all you, to get somewhere safer."
"You make that sound simple," Brennan commented, amused. Then he scowled viciously, glaring. "No, not happening. Others may have been weak enough to let you both pass, but not I."
"Please, Brennan," Amber went on determinedly, "this is our only chance. We're not giving up. Don't you want to be free? Surely you can't be happy here, alone?"
"I wasn't always alone," he growled back, fists clenched. "I have a partner. I have triplets, you know. I can't see them now - and definitely can't see them if I let you pass."
"Triplets," Amber repeated to herself, then looked up with wide eyes in realisation. "You're Valerie Verana's partner, aren't you? Father of Mia, Tia and Lia?"
Brennan's eyes flicked to her instantly, a small spark of hope in his expression.
"Valerie," he said, smiling slightly, then looking to Cressela, "Valerie let you pass?"
Cressela and Amber nodded in agreement.
"This is the only way that you two can be together... and not be parted again," Amber told him, "please, you just have to trust us. You have our word. We will make sure that you can all stay together, freely."
Brennan shifted slightly on the spot, shaking his head.
"You don't know what you're getting yourself into, girl. Once you go in, there's no going back. Once you've seen, there's no unseeing. Once something's been done, there's no rewind."
Amber nodded confidently, looking at Cressela. Cressela nodded too, and Brennan sighed.
"I admire your determination," he said after a few moments. "Make sure it lasts. You're going to need it. Just promise that me and Val, and the triplets - we can all be together after this."
"I swear," Amber agreed, "you've got my word."
Brennan nodded, raising a hand to the door as it trembled underneath his power, opening inwards in silence. Amber glanced at Cressela, the two girls pressed side by side.
"Chin up," Amber whispered to her, as Brennan pushed them gently and walked behind them, "the time's here."
Cressela gulped, nodding and walking in with Amber. The room they entered was wide and spacious, dark, natural-looking night light filling the place. Amber glanced around, her hazel eyes wandering over colourfully bubbling liquids that filled beakers, all stacked on tables to one corner of the room. Two doors, one at the left and one to the right were closed, and the floor was a dark red, the walls pitch black. Brennan stood by the entrance, his head bowed and expression anxious as he stared at the large, red-tinted glass sliding doors at the very front of the room, smoke from above drifting down and swirling about them. It thickened, then cleared a little as the glass doors opened slowly. Cressela took a step closer to Amber, fear creeping into her mind as Amber glared at the clouded, clearing smoke before her. Lightning bolts crept across the floor, zig-zagging closer to the doors before turning into bright, silver-white hissing serpents - but still, Amber's gaze was fixed on the man's figure that came closer.
"So long, since I've had visitors," it spoke in a chilling, bittersweet tone, "but to have a living human in my presence... you complete my crusade for karma... ingeniously."