Monday Club: Fiction Writing

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Greetings from the Writers’ Guild!

The Fiction Writing Club Wing will showcase the writing skills of the club’s members. This wing will reveal the best works from the club.


Reproduction of stories in any form is highly discouraged. Plagiarism is a crime.

The World of Yai

Arcelio B. Fetizanan

Chronicles of Mahikacia

Emman Lorenzo

A Spooky Summer

Dani David

Eternity

Amelia Elizabeth Perez

Dreamer’s Station

Riana Bravo

A Short Story

Rose Berino

Beyond Miyajidake Shrine

Gabriel Chavez

10:03

Ree Torres

Amaranthine

Tracy Marcojos


Reproduction of stories in any form is highly discouraged. Plagiarism is a crime.

The World of Yai

Part 1

            It was six in the morning. Sherman had just woken up. Lying in bed smiling, he was excited for that day but not for school. Today, was the day that the Griffinwere book club was going to discuss his favorite books.

            He got up and had breakfast with his mother. They both chatted about how their day will go. After eating, he got ready with books in hand. He soon bid farewell to his mother and left. Before arriving at school, he decided to meet up with his friends, Ava, and Noah.

            Along the way, he talked with his friends. The day was cloudy, and no one brought an umbrella. Suddenly, it rained. Noah was the only one with an umbrella, but it was not able to accommodate them as it was small. They still shared though they arrive at school partly wet. None of them cared.

            The day went on as usual, very boring for Sherman and Noah. At one point all they could hear in their Geometry subject was, “Blah, blah, blah.” Ava, on the other hand, was quite the opposite during her classes. You see she had a genuine interest in them. She was always writing notes during lectures and listening well.

            The bell rang and finally, after a couple of hours, it was lunch. The three of them sat at the same table. Ava then exclaimed, “You two have lately been beginning to pay attention less and less in class. Why is this so?”

             Noah and Sherman then looked at each other unable to answer. However, they soon both reply, “Well class is all but boring. That’s all.”

            She laughed and said “Is that it? Well, if that’s the case then how ‘bout we form a study group?”

            Sherman agreed but Noah was reluctant. He told her, “Why do I need to? I don’t need help.” His friends then remind him about his D minus on the last test. A bit grumpy, Noah finally agreed.

            Lunch was now over as it was already one in the afternoon. They all get back to their respective classes as they have different schedules after lunch. After a tiring day, they head to the classroom where the Griffinwere book club will meet.

            Everybody attending the meeting happily discussed the selection of books. Their interest in inter-dimensional travel grew, particularly, Ava and Noah. They talked about many books during the remaining moments.

            Time really does fly fast when having fun for it was the meeting’s end, and it was time to go home. Sherman then exclaimed after the meeting, “I knew that you guys would love it!”

            After a few more minutes of saying goodbye, every person left. That night, they all slept soundly dreaming about the different adventures they could take in a different world.

Part 2

            The very next day, Sherman was now curious about if inter-dimensional travel was real. Most people think that it wasn’t as even his mother thought so.

            It was finally Saturday, a break from all that annoying schoolwork or so he thought. After lunch, the telephone rang from upstairs. His mother came to answer the incoming call. It was Ava.

            “Hello there. Who is it?” his mother asked.

            Ava then answered, “Good afternoon, Mrs. Padmore. This is Ava. May I speak with Sherman regarding our study group meeting today?”

            “Of course,” she replied in a cheerful voice.

            “Shermannnnn,” she told her son. “Come up here. Ava wants to talk to you.” Sherman rushes upstairs to talk to Ava. His mother passes him the phone.

            “Sherman, where are you? The meeting is starting!” Ava told a bit cross as he was late by thirty whole minutes.

            “Sorry. I was just eating some lunch. I’ll be there in a minute,” he frantically exclaimed wanting to hurry up eating lunch.

            “Alright, I will see you in a bit. Bye…” Ava sadly said as she hung up.

            She felt bad for shouting so she waited for both her friends. To apologize, she prepared some chocolate cookies and some black tea for later.

            Sherman and Noah came and the three of them sat in the living room studying for an upcoming quiz. The cookies were finished by everyone including Ava’s brother who snuck in for a couple of bites.

            Sometime later, they were done. There was an hour left till five o’clock in the afternoon, the time they went home from the study group, so the three of them waited. Feeling bored, Sherman suggested something.

            He explained to them, “Guys, wouldn’t it be awesome to make a gateway to another world? Just think about it. It would allow us to explore and adventure out from our ordinary lives.”

            The proposition was odd, but it was daring in Noah’s opinion and he liked that. He accepted Sherman’s plan. After all, he did want to venture out.

             Ava on the other hand was not that keen on the idea. “What if we miss some school?” she asked. He needed to convince Ava to go along with them for she was the brains of the group.

            “What if we will never be late to your study group ever again? How ‘bout that?” he proposes confidently. Finally, she accepts but on the condition that this will be the first and last.

             It was now time to go home. They said their goodbyes to each other and left. While going home, however, Sherman passed by a junkyard. It caught his attention. He remembered that in one of the books he read, the protagonist used basic metal to make a gateway to another world. It was tempting. Nevertheless, he did not let curiosity get the best of him as it was already sunset.

            That night, he thought about the possibility of being the first to build a portal. He couldn’t sleep thinking about it.

             He woke up very tired the next day. He didn’t even want to get out of bed. He just wanted to sleep. His mother suddenly came up and dragged him out of bed. After lunch at Giovanni’s Pizza Place, Sherman goes to his friends. He asks them, “Hey, look I found a junkyard near my place. Want to check it out?”

            “Sounds good to me,” Noah said. Ava, for some reason, agreed to Sherman’s plan. Very unusual for her, Sherman thought.

            They head to the junkyard. Both ask him, “Why are we even here? There’s nothing of importance here.”

            He tells them, “Guys, welcome to our new base for our portal project.” Both look at him. Noah then asked, “This is great, but where do we even begin? What do we need to prepare?”

            “I can help with that,” Ava said as she took out a booklet. “You see, I’ve been taking notes on the similarities of portal-building techniques between most of the books discussed in the book club last Friday.” “So, what are they?” Sherman asked. She paused for a moment but collected her thoughts. She answered, “In some of the stories we have read, they used hard material and heat to power their inter-dimensional desires. Then again, others have used soft materials and they did succeed.”

            Noah approached them saying that a mix of both worlds should do well. They tried all day, but all scratched their heads trying to figure out how to do exactly that. They thought of it all afternoon but no luck. Eventually, they decided to just stick with hard material and heat. Thankfully, there was metal and a welding machine just lying around.

            At first, the three tried to make the metal in a ring-like formation but to no avail, it did not work. Many formations have been tested but still no results. Finally, Ava tiredly cried, “Sherman, are you sure this would work? Look I’m tired. Can’t we just go?” Even Noah agreed to Ava’s statement. Sherman was tired too. Although, he thought maybe one last try could do the trick, so he told them to give it one more chance. He convinced them saying, “Guys, if this does not work, let’s never attempt this again.” Ava then responded, “You promise?” Sherman assures Ava that he will fulfill his promise.

            They went back to work and collected everything they needed for a journey. While doing so, Noah kicked a can into one of their failed attempts. “Does anyone hear that?” he said. “Hear what?” Sherman replied. “It sounds like a buzzing sound and it came from where we were building,” he revealed. “Could this be it?” Sherman thought. Did it accidentally work?

            They all excitedly came to where the sound was coming from. “I have a really good feeling about this, guys.” Sherman proudly exclaimed. The three of them came into the room and were met by the portal trying to suck them in. They all held to the lamppost nearby however that was still not enough. The force was too strong for them. It got them into the unknown.

Part 3: A Whole New World

            “Guys, are you alright?” Sherman asked. “Yes, but where are we?” Ava said as she was cleaning herself up. “I do not know, but it seems a majority of the things we packed earlier did not make it through,” Sherman replied. “Hey, at least my notebook made it through although this was a one-way trip,” Noah said. “Well, that’s some good news. We have a notebook but still no way to get out of here.” Sherman told them.

            They decided to wander for some time around the immediate area. The three of them climb a hill and take in a breathtaking view of the mountains. The peaks were tall with snow caps littering the top. It all seemed normal, so they remained positive about being able to go back home. They looked past the trees and saw a town. It was getting dark, so they went towards it.

            All arrive at the village just before sunset only to find that no townspeople were to be seen. Everything was eerily clean, and it looked active. There was even freshly baked bread in the bakery. Because of this, they set up camp there for the night.

            Ava and Noah slept soundly. However, before going to sleep, Sherman heard rustling in the bushes near them, but he did not investigate further. He was tired and just wanted some sleep.

            The next day, they heard someone breathing behind them as they woke up. They looked behind themselves and were immediately spooked. Standing in front of them was a pale-skinned humanoid figure with a long distinctive nose. Its green eyes stared down their souls while pointing its crossbow to them. The figure calls his companions and surrounded the three.

            All of them, at this point, were petrified. They did not know what to do. None of them wanted to move. They feared that this would upset the figures. The stand-off lasted for a few minutes. The creatures come closer to the three. Eventually, Sherman, Ava, and Noah get captured.

            They were taken to a cart wherein they were blindfolded. The road they traveled was rough. Sherman knew this because he could hear the cartwheels bumping the pebbles dotted on the trail. The travel was hours and hours long. The three fell asleep as there was barely anything to do on the journey.

            The trio was rudely awakened when the cart stopped. They did not know where they were. Their blindfolds were taken off while they were going into some sort of room. Noah was kicked in his behind. Sherman looked around and found that they were in a dungeon.

            Concerned about their food supply, Ava asked if anyone had any food. Noah had some bread from the bakery earlier, but it was just a few pieces. They shared every last crumb of it to make it last. They were scared though all of them made the best out of the situation. Sharing stories as they figured out how to escape. They kept track of time through the small opening in the bars. The sun shined through them anyway.

            One night, they were getting ready to sleep when cannon fire was heard from outside. Ava went to see what was happening through the barred window. Outside, it looked like their captors were retreating. She was interrupted by a loud knock on the door followed by someone saying, “Is anyone in there? Hello?” It was a human voice. Finally, this was what they needed, rescue. She woke Sherman and Noah. The door was then busted, and a man took them out of their captivity.

            “You all are not from around here, are you?” asked the man. The three explain their situation about how they were captured and so on. The man then introduces himself as Sou, a soldier from the resistance against the Lor’ themars. Together, with other liberated travelers, they head to the Resistance headquarters.

            While going to the headquarters, Sou tells them about life before the Lor’ themars. “You see…” he says, “We, the Yai, were sky-dwelling people in a sophisticated society. Our people had made cultural and technological progress, particularly in portal technology. Following that, we had discovered two other dimensions for resources. Sadly, we got greedy. The next one though opened a portal that lead to the Lor’ themars who pillaged our settlements and destroyed our glorious civilization. Today, we fight a resistance to free us.”

            Soon after telling his people’s story, Sou and the three talk about portal-construction and how they made it into the World of the Yai. He was intrigued. So, he asks them if they wanted to help him rebuild a portal in the main headquarters. It was broken because of the Lor’ themar air raids. Sherman replied, “We will help you but, only if you help us get back home.” Sou smiles and agrees.

            When they all got to the main camp of the Yai Resistance, Sou introduces them to King Lorince, their leader. He approves of them helping, as many lives were lost after the victory against the Lor’ themars.

            Before the portal to the Laik was fixed, many preparations were made because it was a dangerous place. Everything inside was wanting to kill anyone who steps foot. Things like giant lakes of lava, molten rocks lining the floors, and sharp-pointed brimstone, were just some of the dangers they needed to address. Not even mentioning, the wild tentacle monsters in Wasted Forest.

            After hearing this, the three asked why they even needed to go to the Laik. “What was even worthwhile?” Noah said. Sou’s sister, Lori, then came forward. She was a very skilled potion brewer. She responded that the Laik was of importance because of the Twisted Fungi and Soul Powder reserves it had. It was the basis of potion brewery.

            The portal was now fixed. It was time to enter. Their mission was to reach the Wasted Forest to get the Twisted Fungi, which was the hardest part. They already had Soul Grain farms, so Soul Powder was common. Yet, it was only exclusive to grow in the Laik.

            Finally, they went through and decided to go get the Twisted Fungi first. There were bridges to avoid the lava lakes and brimstone, but it was still risky to take. The Laik was unpredictable, and something could always happen. Nevertheless, the help given by the bridges was still better than swimming in the molten hot lava.

            The walk was peaceful at first. Ava admired the beauty of the hellish dimension. She was amazed by the color of the lava algae and was stunned by looks of the Spiraling tube flowers.

            Things went for the worst though when Ava and Noah heard someone shout. “Ahhhhhh!” Sherman screamed. Sou looked back worried and found Sherman tied up by the tongue of a tentacle creature. They were only a couple of miles away from the Wasted forest, so this was expected. Sou leaped in the air with his crossbow killing the beast instantly.

            They come to the forest and collect the required number of Twisted Fungi as said in the list Lori gave them. All of them play in the Hanging vines to just have some fun. They returned to the safety of the Soul Grain farm at the Laik Main Base. It was tedious but at least there was nothing to hurt you.

            While grinding the newly harvested grain, someone abruptly came to join them. He took a deep breath and said, “Sir, the Lor’ themars they’re invading our main base. Come quickly. We are given orders to evacuate now.” Everybody stopped what they were doing and dashed straight into the portal.

            The base was at a point of disrepair when they came back. The walls were broken down by the siege machines but the three did not even get a very good look at it as it was time to retreat.

Part 4: In the Heat of the Battle

            The retreating resistance regroups only a hundred miles away from the original base camp. It was close to the chaos, but they just needed a bit of time to prepare. Lori brews healing potions in the meantime, while the soldiers were training. The three and Sou were in a meeting with King Lorince discussing the situation.

            In the middle of it, a soldier comes in. “Your majesty…” he said, “You may want to look outside.” The king a bit annoyed goes outside and is shocked by what he saw. In the distance, was a giant stone monster. Everybody else came outside and panicked. Lori came forward and told that it was powered by a totem judging by the amethyst in its back.

            “Was this it?” they thought. “Should we just surrender now?” the king said. “NO! We are not giving up without a fight! I have a plan,” Noah exclaimed to everyone.

            His plan was simple. It was to distract the Lor’ themars while someone was going to destroy the totem of Lord Vardoff, the leader of the Lor’ themars. The distraction was a bloodbath as men went into battle only to be sniped by the Lor’ themars’ crossbows. The strategy was changed to make the loss of soldiers less but, this did not do much.

            Meanwhile, Sherman, Ava, and Noah quickly climb the back of the monster using pickaxes. “Don’t look down,” Sherman says as Ava was afraid of heights. They reach the top and see Lord Vardoff in his red cloak. He laughs and says, “You think you can defeat me with your silly plan? I even saw you all climb the back of my minion. You see, I have eyes everywhere.” “Oh yeah…” Noah responded, “Did you see this coming?” He shoots him with a crossbow, but he misses. Lord Vardoff then proceeds to summon fangs which get Sherman’s leg stuck and bleeding. Ava tends to him. Noah battles fire-breathing dragons that were subsequently summoned.

            Lord Vardoff just laughs the whole fight as he thought it was easy, or so he thought. Even with much pain, Sherman gets up and pins the surprised Lord to the ground. Noah gets the totem in his hand. He is about to break it just when the creature moved to cause him to fall off.

            Noah unable to survive the fall plunges into the ground totem first and shatters it. Though he thought he was going to die, he survives and makes it. Lori comes to him and tells him that the totem was a rare kind that prevented death once for the holder. Slowly, on the other hand, the Lor’ themars disappear never to be seen again.

            Sherman immediately gets cared for right after and recovers rapidly. The Yai celebrate their newfound freedom and thank the three for saving them. Keeping his previous promise, Sou helps them build a portal to get home.             They bid farewell to the Yai and hop in. When they arrive back home, it was still the same time they left, a Sunday afternoon. “See Ava, I told you we wouldn’t miss anything,” said Sherman. They were tired but, before going back to the safety of their homes, they told each other to keep their experiences a secret as they did not want the Yai to ever be disturbed again.


Chronicles of Mahikacia

This land is dying

Its people are mourning

The once great and respected king

Now chaos is all he brings

The sorceress Kiyelo, her children destined

To create the wand for the coming Chosen

the youngest son will sacrifice for humanity

and temporarily put an end to this insanity

The eldest brother who lost the one he holds dear

must find the prophesied, chosen heir

five hundred years, no more, no less

a year a great pandemic brings distress

he will find the chosen right where he is sent

in the land of the Pearl of the Orient

his heart is like stone,

but etched inside is pure gold

An imperfection, like a daisy in a field of roses

He keeps inside, his hidden prowess

A sign, not needed when seeking the one

For his mind is not like anyone

Upon the chosen, to him will bestow

The wand they created with lighting and snow

The magic within this wand can’t be returned,

neither destroyed, nor can be burned

Using it, he will unlock a hidden spell

That only a few Mahikans have beheld

He will be known as the Alpha of the pack

And prepare himself for evil’s attack

for the dark gem shall be rediscovered,

And in darkness, the world shall be covered

You’ve now read the prophecy of the one not by law

For he shall wield the wand named

The Wolf’s Paw…

Prologue

(502 years ago)

It was a chilly night in the land of Mahikacia, an old sorceress laid on her bed, she was Kiyelo, the sorceress of lighting and ice, she knew her time was near, but she had to do one last thing.

“I’m here mom,” a young girl said, peeking from outside the doorway, “you wanted to talk to me?”

Kiyelo smiled and convened her daughter to come closer, Crystal did as she was told and sat by her mother

“I have something important to tell you,”

Crystal quietly nodded.

“Long ago, the great king’s son fell ill and died, and feeling betrayed by God, the King turned to his wizards or mahikans to revive his son. After many failed attempts, they decided to do a forbidden act by creating the dark gem”

“What is it, mom?”

The old sorceress coughed. She explained that the dark gem was a manmade capsule to contain Dark Mahika,

Mahika in general was the magic of this world. It is controlled by one’s abilities and skills. Mahika has many elements like fire, water, and wind, with rarer ones including ice, lightning, and many more.

But dark Mahika was a very wicked element. Its magic engulfs one to do sacrifices and offerings to the demons. Because of this, it was forbidden.

Kiyelo told her daughter that as the grand wizards did this, they thought it would bring his son back to life. But the spell backfired, resulting in the king obtaining dark powers.

Unable to accept his son’s death, he became enraged and placed the kingdom in a terrible state.

Then one day, a prophet foretold that Kiyelo’s children would band together, and recapture the Dark Mahika back into its gem.

Crystal was wide-eyed. She couldn’t believe her family was part of a prophecy. Kiyelo told her that the king was furious when he heard about it, and he ordered the death of the prophet and extermination of all copies of the prophecy.

Then Kiyelo pulled out a scroll from underneath her pillow and said that it was the last copy of the prophecy.

Kiyelo coughed. “Tell your brothers, that I loved you all, with all my heart.”

Crystal took her mother’s hand, tears rolling down her cheek. “I will mother, don’t worry.”

“I’m sorry to leave you like this, but my time has come…”

The sorceress closed her eyes… 

Chapter 1: The prophecy unfolds

(2 years later)

It was a snowy afternoon,

Steve was just an ordinary man who lived in a cabin in Ireland by the shore. He was busy baking potatoes when he heard a knock on the door.

“Come in,” He said. The door opened, it was his older brother, Aldro.

“Aldro, what a surprise, come in,” Steve said welcoming him, Aldro stepped in, he was worried. “Brother, the village needs firewood, but almost everyone is too weak to go out in this weather.”

“Then we shall go, is Alex up for the task?” Steve said. Alex was their friend; they have been through a lot together.

Aldro nodded, saying that he was awaiting them at the town hall “Shall we?”

“Of course,” said Steve grabbing his axe from his table

No sooner had they left Steve’s house, Steve began to hear a soft whisper.

“Steve, can you hear me?”

Steve stopped and looked around, Aldro noticed this and stopped as well.

“Something wrong, brother?” he asked.

Steve shook his head and said that it was nothing.

Soon they reached the town hall, Alex waved. “Top of the morning Chieftain,” Alex greeted Steve as they came nearer.

Indeed, Steve was the chief of a peaceful village beside the coast, but the winter had wiped the village of its resources, and they couldn’t travel to other villages due to the storms.

“Let’s head to the forest and chop wood for the Village,” Aldro said, and before long they were in the woods gathering firewood. Steve was busy chopping when he heard the whisper again.

“Steve, follow my voice.”

Steve looked at his brother “Did you hear that?” he asked. his brother stopped and listened, but all he heard was the howling of the winds.

“Maybe the cold is getting in your noggin” Alex joked around, then he proceeded to go back to chopping wood.

“The prophecy must unfold,” the voice went again.

After some time, Alex began asking Steve about taking a break, but when he and Aldro stopped working, he wasn’t there…

Steve followed the voice until he reached a hill, and called out to see if anyone was calling him. But nobody answered. Steve thought he had gone crazy, and shook his head. He should be helping the lads gather wood, but just before he turned to leave, he heard the voice once more.

“It’s nice to finally meet you, dear brother.”

Chapter 2: Family reunion 

Steve turned and saw a young lass. She wore a pale blue gown and had striking blue eyes

“Dear brother?” Steve repeated, puzzled.

“Yes, I am Crystal, your sister. I’ve come from the realm of Mahikacia to bring you news from our mother.”

Steve couldn’t believe it. He never saw his mother, his father being the only one to tell him of her before he died,

“How is she? Our mother.” Steve asked.

Crystal looked away, she narrated to him the tragic news of his mother’s death. “But she told me that she loved us very much,” she said. Crystal then explained that their mother, Kiyelo, gave her a scroll which is the last copy of the Alpha’s Prophecy.

“The Alpha’s prophecy?”

Crystal then told him everything their mother told her, about the prophecy, the wand, and the dark gem. “I know it’s hard to believe, but it’s true,” Crystal said at last.

“I do believe,” he said. His father told him countless times of his mother’s true identity, of course, people didn’t believe him. Even until his father’s death.

Crystal handed him the scroll, and he read it carefully, then he turned to her. “You want us to create this wand?”

Crystal nodded firmly. “Yes, for mother’s sake, for Earth’s sake,”

Steve was reluctant at first, but he agreed, on one condition… he needed help

Chapter 3: Welcome to Mahikacia

Crystal led Steve, Aldro, and Alex to a place less visited by the locals, then she took out a wooden key with a purple gem stuck to its handle.

Aldro couldn’t believe that he and Steve had a sister, neither did Alex believe in the realm of Mahikacia. Crystal confirmed that, as the prophecy states, they will have to find the Fur of Snow, and she knew where to get it.

“Everyone, hold on tight,” Crystal said. She tapped the key lightly and whispered something, and a bright light flashed before their eyes.

Suddenly, they were in a magical garden, it had crystal flowers, color-changing leaves, and the birds were singing melodies only heard in fairy tales.

“What is this place?” Steve asked in awe.

Crystal explained that this was the garden entrance, which is the only way in and out of Mahikacia, and only the high wizards knew about this.

Steve couldn’t believe it, everything his father said was true, Aldro couldn’t believe it either, it was like living in a fantasy.

“Come on,” Crystal said, “we have to find an inn for the night.”

They followed the trail until they came across a village, “this is Mossystone village,” Crystal said. She told them that they would go North-West, towards the mountains, that’s where they will find the Fur of Snow.

They rested in an inn for the night and began their journey the next day. It was a slow start, the storms in the mountain and the increasingly cold air made it difficult for anyone who climbed it.

“Are we there yet?” Alex complained for the hundredth time, which annoyed Crystal. She told them they were nearly at their destination.

Soon they arrived at an entrance to a cave completely made from ice. Aldro peeked inside and was surprised by the wolves living in it.

“Don’t fear, they’re just wolves,” Crystal said calmly.

“Just wolves?!” Alex panicked, “we’re gonna be eaten alive!”

She told them that not all human beliefs are true and entered the cave, encouraging them to follow her inside.

The cave had several wolves inside, their cold eyes all stared at the group as they went deeper in the cave, suddenly a voice called through the cavern.

“My, my, Crystal… It’s good to see you.” 

Chapter 4: Fur of Snow

A wolf, with snow-white fur and a single streak of ice blue fur on her face, stepped forward

Crystal then bowed, signaling the others to follow her gesture. Everyone bowed.

“Yelo, It’s been a while,” Crystal said,

“I can tell you’re not here for Ice Mahika practice, judging by the fact you brought your brothers and their friend along,” Yelo said knowingly,

She turned to the guys and asked for a private moment with Crystal. They obliged and stayed there, while Crystal followed the Alpha deeper into the cave,

“Crystal, what have I told you about this?” The Alpha scolded as they walked through the illuminating caverns. She reminded her that she, from all people, knew that the prophecy should never be spoken about.

Yelo looked at Crystal with her cold stare. “I know very well what you are up to, young lady, and besides, this isn’t what your mother wanted-“

“It’s exactly what she wanted!” the young mahikan interrupted, explaining how Kiyelo made her promise to help the prophecy unfold.

“I shan’t hear of this,” Yelo said, sternly.

“Please… For mom?” Crystal pleaded, she kept begging until the Alpha couldn’t contain her smile

The old wolf finally agreed, “all right, but never tell a word.”

“Thank you, Yelo!” The girl said, hugging the alpha tight.

The alpha sighed and wondered, from all the Mahikans she trained, she was her favorite.

Yelo then pulled off some of her fur, the wound healed easily. Crystal was overjoyed and hugged the alpha once more, “thank you… nanny.”

Yelo laughed, “I can’t believe you still call me that, after all this time,” then she nuzzled Crystal’s face gently. “Now go, I believe in you.”

Chapter 5: Hidden power

They had just returned to Ireland and went back home. Steve offered Crystal to stay in his cottage for the night, she happily accepted the offer.

“Crystal?” Steve asked as they walked home

“Yes, brother?”

“If you inherited mum’s Mahika, does Aldro have it too?”

Crystal thought for a bit. “Well, no. You see, you are the one who inherited mum’s lighting Mahika.”

Steve was surprised and gazed at his hands. Crystal offered to teach him how to use the Mahika, which he gladly accepted. The next day, he had learned how to make thunderbolts from his hand and make ropes of lightning. Even Aldro was impressed when he saw his brother perform right in front of him.

They needed Fur of snow to be sewed into a sort of wristband, as Crystal explained. Luckily Aldro was great with sewing and quickly stitched it together.

“Now all we need is an object to contain the Mahika in,” she said.

Alex gladly showed his collection of carvings, “maybe you might find something useful,” he said.

As Crystal was looking through his carvings, she caught sight of a carving of a snowflake and picked it up. it was perfect.

Then she asked Aldro to make some sort of pocket compartment on the wristband to put the carving in.

Aldro did as told, and sewed the pocket onto the wristband

“Now there’s only one thing missing,” said Crystal, “the Mahika.”

Chapter 6: The Wolf’s Paw

Everyone gathered around the table, they all looked at the wristband, with its pocket and snowflake carving. It looked pretty hard to imagine.

“it’s time Steve,” Crystal said.

Steve nodded and faced her. Crystal then lifted her arms and swayed them around, gently and swiftly, like snow falling from the sky.

Then an orb of snow formed in front of her, and she nodded to Steve. It was his turn.

Steve breathed in and slammed his two palms together, and very slowly he pulled them apart, lightning was shooting out from his palms until an electric ball formed in his hands.

Slowly, he and Crystal combined their orbs, they swiveled wildly as sparks of electricity collided everywhere. Aldro closed his eyes, hoping not to get struck by lightning

Then, the orbs settled and merged into a green orb hovering in front of Steve and Crystal.

Crystal took the orb and the snowflake carving. She whispered some words and the orb began to get absorbed by the carving until the carving turned into a green crystal. She handed it to Aldro.

Aldro held his breath as he placed it inside the pocket. The moment he did, a bright blue and yellow light flashed from the pocket, and a symbol of a wolf was etched onto the front of it.

“It’s done,” Crystal whispered, “we’ve done it.”

She held up the wristband for them to see. “We have created the Wolf’s Paw.”

But their celebration was short-lived when they suddenly heard people screaming and running. They ran outside and into the village.

“Everything is on fire!” Aldro gasped.

“It wouldn’t be if you hand me the Wolf’s Paw!” A voice boomed.

Through the smoke, a figure stood, his blood-red eyes glowed in the dark of night.

“Just as I feared,” Crystal said, “the king is here.”

Chapter 7: The Fate of Humanity

Quickly, Crystal thrust the Wolf’s Paw into Aldro’s hands.

“Go! Run Away from here! Alex, bring him to safety!”

“Wait!” Aldro interrupted her, “I don’t understand why-”

“You don’t need to understand!” she yelled. She told him that the prophecy foretold about Steve’s death fighting the King and that he was to wait 500 years before finding the chosen one.

At the words ‘Steve’s Death’ Aldro couldn’t believe it. “No!” he protested, he grabbed his sister tightly. “No! That can’t be… Tell me that’s not true!”

Aldro felt a hand on his shoulder. It was Steve. He quickly grabbed his arm. “Please, tell me it isn’t true!” Aldro begged, tears flowing down his face.

Steve looked down, he hesitated before saying the words, “I’m sorry…”

Aldro couldn’t believe it. His little brother, who he protected for years, was now going to sacrifice himself for humanity.

Alex was already trying to pull Aldro away. “Come on,” he said. “Let’s go!”

“NO!” Aldro said, he looked at his brother. “How could you? How?”

Steve couldn’t control himself. A tear rolled down his face “I love you… big brother. Complete the prophecy for me okay?”

Aldro suddenly stopped, the fondest memory of him and his brother flashed before his eyes.

“Brother, I’m scared,” a young Steve said. “I wanna go home.”

“But what will we do?” a young Alex asked.

The young Aldro stood up, “listen up guys! Are we going to be afraid of some forest?”

“N-no?”

“Then we are going in together,” he said, putting his hand out, “no retreat?”

Alex hesitated before placing his hand on top of Aldro’s, “no surrender!”

They both looked at Steve expectantly. He sighed and put his hand on top, “we will always fight.”

“together!” They said in unison, raising their hands to the sky.

Aldro snapped out of his flashback to see Steve charge towards the King of Mahikacia alongside Crystal.

He cared for Steve very much. He even gave up the position of chief to Steve because he loved him.

And now he will never see him again.

Chapter 8: A brother’s Promise

All the way to the escape boat, Aldro thrashed and pleaded to go back, but Alex was able to pull him onto the boat and sail away.

“No! Please, Alex, we need to save him!”

“And how?” Alex retorted. “Look at us! We are humans Aldro. Your brother sacrificed himself for this prophecy, are we just going to let that go to waste?”

“But why, why of all people, him?”

“Because of the prophecy.”

Aldro growled “I don’t care about some dumb prophecy! If it wasn’t for that, Steve would still be alive, and not… not…”

Aldro fell to the floor and cried hard, pounding the floor. “It should’ve been me…”

“You can’t blame yourself,” Alex said

“You wouldn’t understand!” Aldro shouted. “He was my brother!”

“Mine too!” Alex shouted back. “He treated me like one when no one would! Do you think I wanted to see him die?”

Alex sighed. “In a way, we were all brothers. Even if I was different, he accepted me, he cared for me, just as much as he cared for you.”

Then Alex lit the stove they had on board and sat down. “Look, it’s just as hard for him as it was for you,”

Aldro stood up and sat by the edge of the boat. He looked at their once-peaceful village, now burned to dust. It pained him so much he couldn’t sleep that night.

The next morning, he made up his mind. He would fulfill the prophecy on behalf of his brother.

He looked down at the Wolf’s paw in his hand. “I promise, brother,” he said. He wasn’t about to retreat, and he was certainly not going to surrender. No.

He will always fight, forever.

Epilogue

(present time – 500 years later)

“O, heto po sukli ninyo, sir (here’s your change sir),” the balut vendor said, handing the change to Aldro.

“Thank you po,” he said and went on his way. He wasn’t very comfortable with riding a tricycle, so he usually took long walks home.

He heard from the news reports that a virus called Covid-19 had entered the Philippines, which is where he was.

He knew it would be much harder finding the chosen if everyone stays indoors, but he still remembers the promise he made to his brother.

Then, along the way, his phone rang. It was his sister, Crystal, so he quickly answered the call. “Hello?”

“Where are you?” she asked, worried. “Do you know what time it is?”

“I don’t know, 6:30-ish?”

“What do you mean 6:30-ish? It’s like 9:00 pm!” she said in a mother-like tone.

“Okay, fine, I’m coming home.” Aldro said, “Can you put Alex on the phone?”

A minute later, Alex answered. “Yeah, bro?”

“Hey, did you see the news?”

“Yeah I did,” he said, “I’m worried we might not find the Chosen this way.”

“It will only be a bit difficult,” he assured him. “Besides-”

He stopped mid-way. A boy was walking across the road talking to something beside him. It looked like a… plant of sort

“I can’t believe you bought extra spicy noodles,” said the plant thing. “I know I’ve only been on earth for a day and a half, but I’m pretty sure I know what spicy noodles are.”

The boy in turn laughed. “Hey, take it from a professional. Everything happens for a reason.”

“Even the fact that I’m an accidentally experimented plant because you’re such a klutz that didn’t even bother to check if you left the super growth chemical unscrewed?”

The boy looked a little embarrassed. “Well… not everything is for a reason.” He said, continuing to walk down the sidewalk.

“Besides what?” Alex’s voice interrupted Aldro as he was watching the boy.

“Besides…” Aldro said slowly “I think I found him.”


A Spooky Summer

“See you, Mom!”

Spencer dashes out of his mother’s scooter, school bag carried above head. He hurriedly darts through the long hallways and high stairs of the school so he can be settled before the bell rings. The class is in chaos, for seemingly the kids still have some energy excess from the summer break. Some scream playfully, some chat with their mates, some play games with each other before the first period commences. Spencer weaves through the chaotic horde to reach his beloved desk and sits down. It has been months since the summer adventure, but he still cannot shake off the thrill it gives. Though he wants to focus on the lessons— it’s the first school day after a long break after all— his mind can’t help but ponder upon the bizarre circumstances of such adventure. Well, maybe his best bud can help with re-explaining the quadratic formula later.

Lunchtime is the time Spencer loves most. His parents don’t have time in the morning to make him lunchboxes, so oftentimes he just goes to school with a sweet bun, probably some chips and a cup of yogurt for snacks; food isn’t the thing he likes to look forward to, but his friends are. Lunchtime is best if one has friends to share the meal with, and Spencer surely has several. He comes to sit at his favorite corner, waiting for the others to arrive.

There they are, his best bud Jack, with a book never absent on his hand and the ice blossom Himeka, who seems to be hiding a swordsman’s might behind the graceful skirts she wears. Jennifer looks like she has some other matter to attend to, and Spencer knows what it is. He briefly frowns.

“Why can’t Jen see that approval from the popular kids means nothing? Aren’t true friends who will be with you no matter what better than friends who are just with you to keep their face?”

“Some people think differently from others. Also, not anyone has the protagonist mentality like you.” Jack says, munching on a sandwich. Himeka seems as reserved as usual, calmly eating her ham omelet lunch box.

His friends are all the quiet kind, but Spencer never anticipates a quiet lunch time. From a table quite far from the corner where he and his mates are, a perky friend of the trio enthusiastically skips towards them, the blushing Jennifer pulled along. She sits down, lunch on her lap, but she doesn’t eat yet, instead she stares attentively at the trio, a connotative smile on her lips.

“Oh, hey… Maya. What’s up?” Spencer waves the newcomer a greeting while Jennifer murmurs a sorry for abandoning the group at lunchtime.

“What is up, you ask me?” Maya chirps. “How was your summer? Jen told me you had a curious adventure.”

“It was… nothing. We just went to the countryside to help my relative with his farm.” Spencer smiles sheepishly, hoping he can bail out of the retelling. It’s such a long story he doesn’t think he will be able to reach the end by the end of lunchtime himself.

“Don’t lie to me, Spence. What kind of friends lie to each other?”

“We don’t even know each other that much.” Jack glances up from his book and sandwich.

“I’m friends with Jen, Jen’s friends with you, so naturally we are friends. Why can’t I listen to your summer adventure? If you won’t share the tale, I’ll… call my sister over.” Maya grins, her smile seems mischievous.

“No, please don’t!” Jack jolts up from his seat, panicked at the light-hearted threat.

“Sister Arsenia~~ there’s something interesting here!” Maya pretends to stand up and run away to find her sister at the other end of the dining hall.

“You want a story; you’ll get a story!” Jack seems flustered, nudging Spencer to ask for help, to which the latter just shrugs. He sits down again to meet Maya eagerly anticipating the story, who’s looking at him with a pair of puppy eyes. Jack sighs, and begins…

It was sometime in the middle of the summer break when Spencer phoned his three friends. His great-uncle in the countryside was  helping hands for the harvest and thought it would be fun to bring some friends along and call it a vacation. Himeka and Jen were excited about the trip, but I didn’t look forward to it at all, this kind of holiday was never my thing. I would rather spend my summer indoors. But, what can I do, it’s Spencer’s request! So, I accepted and packed things for the trip. I thought I could find some rare butterflies or plants in the countryside.

“No, you literally said ‘No way in a hundred years I’m going’ to my face, but you showed up when I gathered Himeka and Jen to the train station.” Spencer furrows.

“You really have troubles remembering things, Spencer, I never said that.” Jack affirms. “Anyways…”

It was an excruciatingly long trip and… I did not like it one bit. The farm was so deep in the countryside the surroundings had nothing but nature and a few manors of fellow farmers. I didn’t remember much of the details of the first two days, but I’m sure they weren’t pleasant, at all.

“It’s because you spent the whole first day being nauseated from motion sickness and the whole second day sleeping off the motion sickness.”

“My motion sickness wasn’t that terrible, stop saying false things.”

“I like the trip. The work on the field that we were helping gave me the perfect opportunity to train when I’m not in class.” Himeka chimes in.

“Well, in the first few days we just spent getting used to the farm and the work around, nothing much. Himeka stole our shares of the duties because reasons that are too obvious to state, so we didn’t really have much to do aside from cleaning up.”

Spencer and I woke up to find Himeka pulled the clothes drawer in front of our door to lock us in so she could have all the work for herself.

“That’s not true.” Himeka protests.

“Sounds like one of my uncles,” comments Maya, amused.

“You really have an interesting family there…” Jack remarks at the girl’s nonchalant attitude, wiping a cold sweat off his forehead. “If you said your sister is a spy, it honestly wouldn’t sound farfetched at all.”

“Jack, okay, Jack, just sit back and let me handle the next part, alright?” Spencer interjects the banter, hoping he can get to the end of the story by the time the lunch hour ends.

We escaped our room, please don’t ask how. But by the time we got out, Himeka had handled most of the available work. My great uncle has several helping hands on the farm who are around our age, and we sat down together for biscuits and chitchats after the rest of the chores were finished. They told us about the local legends, and one particular paranormal hotspot just around the outskirts of the town.

“As you may have guessed it, our friends the resident paranormal fans Jen and Spencer pestered us to go along on their investigation…” Jack glances at his best friend with a half-lidded gaze, before letting out a sarcastic emphasis. “Which I totally was not fond of. I’m a skeptic.”

“Nah, you told me you liked it, because you wanted to see if ghosts really were real,” retorts Spencer jokingly.

“What was the paranormal thing all about?” Maya chimes in to keep the story going.

“Ah, yes, interesting one. I think you may like how the story’s going to unfold, but fair warning that there are… disturbing notes. For ghosts are real and they have sad tales to tell. I’ve always believed that ghosts are real, but now I’ve seen one with my own two eyes.”

Maya’s eyes brighten up at the curious confirmation to Jack and Spencer’s sighs. Jennifer is still remaining meekly at her seat as an audience, even though she was also a witness to the curiosity.

The locals told of a quaint little manor by the riverside that got abandoned around some decades ago, which has been haunted by ghosts of the people who drowned in this dangerous stretch of water ever since this town was established. The adults advised us to never come near because poltergeists have been spotted in and around the manor. But, eh, kids our age are a reckless bunch, so we came to investigate anyway… along with the farm hands our new friends. Himeka led the way as usual, she added the “fearless” to the dictionary like the cherry on top of the teenage cake, while Jen was between Jack and I because she was deadly afraid of ghosts.

“Hold up, something isn’t right. We just came alone because Spencer is an idiot and [1]  that Himeka could not slice a poltergeist and pulled everyone to the haunted manor after dinner!” Jack pulls his eyes up from the sandwich-crumbed book.

“Did I really?” Spencer replies with a sheepish grin.

“Yes, you did,” comments the ever nonchalant Himeka.

“Et tu, Himeka?” He believes a piece of his heart just broke. “Moving on, although you two are hurting my feelings.”

The manor and the grounds it stands on, are in serious neglect, but surprisingly the old building is still more or less the same as it was before being abandoned, frozen in time. If we ignore the copious amount of dust, cobwebs, more dust, sand, moldy patches, dirt and eeriness it contains, that is. A broken crystal chandelier laid scattered in the lobby, as a reminder of a better time this residence has seen, and a warning for us of the unknown horrors from beyond the cold river. Himeka did bring her practicing sword along just in case some wild animal jumped out on us when we were working, but apparently the sword has a new job now, and whatever she would be cutting in this investigation I’m sure it would be pretty worthwhile.

We went for a courtesy tour around the first floor of the manor–

“Don’t make up details, Spencer. You suggested we split up to cover more grounds in less time.” Jack retorts, to which Jennifer shyly nods in confirmation.

“That was an idiotic move.” Himeka remarks.

“I don’t exactly have much experience as a paranormal investigator… really. But we had Himeka! What ghosts can’t be exorcised with a whack from her sword?” Spencer tries to defend his choices, even though he knows they were not exactly the brightest ones.

I think we did actually split up. Now thinking back at that time, it seriously wasn’t the best idea, I’m surprised you three actually followed any of my ideas. I went with Jack to the dining room and kitchen while Himeka and Jen investigated the living room and the recreation room. We didn’t find anything out of place in the kitchen and the dining room, except for the… extraordinary creepiness. I won’t admit that I clung on Jack for the entire time because I was scared a ghost would jump out, I won’t admit it at all, don’t try to pry. However, about the other side…

All of a sudden, Jennifer meekly puts her hand up to interrupt Spencer’s storytelling. “Are you continuing from where I am?” He enquires.

“Tell us, Jen! Tell us what happened on your side of the investigation!” Maya cheers enthusiastically, to which Jennifer cannot help but agree. And picking up where Spencer has left off, she begins.

The living room was in total ruins, much more run down than the rest of the manor, but it was still spacious enough that we could walk around without having rubbles in the way. Himeka helped clearing the bigger obstacles that were blocking off the recreation room, while I observed around for evidence of . I didn’t know what Jack and Spencer found on the other side, but I discovered a few old letters stuck in the fireplace, and the living room seemed to have experienced a fire before. Then… then… as I turned back to see if Himeka had cleared the way, she was not where I remember she was standing. Himeka disappeared while I heard no footsteps amiss…! I freaked out and ran away to find Spencer and Jack. I found them in the lobby, probably were wrapping up their part, and that was when… when I noticed the cobwebs on the ceilings started falling down. There was no noticeable breeze. The dust on the floor began swirling upwards and the smaller chandeliers were swaying also. I was scared out of my mind after that and… honestly, I couldn’t remember much afterwards. I was panicking because Himeka was missing and .

“One second, Jen. Are you saying Himeka was missing when we rendezvous?” Jack interrupts Jennifer’s narration, one of his brows raised in confusion.

“Yeah, why are you saying that Himeka was missing when we met at the lobby? I remember clearly, both of you two were there!” Spencer corroborates for his friend.

“Himeka… was with us the whole time? But… how… she wasn’t so silent that… I couldn’t notice her presence!” Jennifer falters. She has always been the most attentive one in the group, who will not miss a minute detail in her surroundings, it is unbecoming of her to not be aware of the presence of her own friend, her close friend whom she spends the majority of time with.

“Could it be… it’s the handiwork of the ?” Jack pauses for a short moment to ponder on the facts. “Does it mean… human’s consciousness can exist in a dimension other than this? What is actually ‘spirit’, it is just human consciousness or something else we haven’t discovered yet? What is a poltergeist? Is it a manifestation of human consciousness or–”

“I think you’re thinking a little too overboard here…” Spencer stops his friend’s trance of thought with a nervous smile, for Maya is itching to know what happened next.

“My dad goes to haunted houses for work often. He said poltergeists existed, but they wouldn’t show up to just anyone. You may see them if you somehow are connected to them. In age, in motivation, in dream and wish, I don’t know, but it’s likely Himeka got caught by a ghost in that house. Did you remember anything on your side, Himeka?” The discussion seems to spark Maya’s curiosity in the subject. She chimes right in with even greater enthusiasm, sharing and integrating her own knowledge into the story.

Himeka remains silent, seemingly unwilling to answer the question, until Maya bribes her with a good sword maintenance kit from one of her uncles, a fairly famous sword master in the region. However, she still appears reluctant to recall what happened to her that day, even though she accepts to retell.

I… to be honest, I can’t remember much. I was helping Jen find a way to get to the recreation room, when my mind blanked out. My memories were in fragments, I couldn’t even tell what I was doing, or where. However… I distinctly recall hearing a voice. A voice just whispering in my ears and telling my body to move. I don’t know much in detail what had happened to me, but I likely wasn’t in control of myself.

By the time I regained my awareness, I saw myself standing in somewhere like the pier behind the manor. There was a mossy small boat tied to the pier with a half-rotten rope, and I woke up in the boat. At the other end of the rope there was something looking like a sandbag, but it was submerged under the water, like an anchor. The voice told me to cut the rope and let the boat carry the sandbag downstream, so they could be free from this place. I had no idea any of that meant, but I complied and severed the knot.

“Did you tell the Voice that was a worthless thing to cut?” Spencer peeks in, eyes widened.

“Of… of course not. I’m not one to disrespect the wishes of the unknown, especially when the Voice may be one of the poltergeists that could harm us!” Himeka flustered, turning away as if trying to avoid the topic. “By the way… what happened to the ‘Himeka’ who was tagging along with you three?”

“Oh… that…” Spencer scratches his chin, seeing the wayward question as a cue for him to pick up the story.

That ‘Himeka’ who was with us, she had… little thing out of place, aside from the fact her presence was weirdly supernatural. I can’t put a finger to it, but looking back, perhaps she was a tad too… silent. Our Himeka may be a person of few words, but no way is she silent. We went upstairs after the rendezvous, the stairs were still pretty sturdy, but the corridors were a mess. Eventually we couldn’t go forward further, there was a giant hole on the floor and this isn’t a hidden object game so of course there was no plank for us to find and bridge the gap. And we are a bunch of high school kids, not paranormal investigators. As we came back downstairs, ‘Himeka’ suddenly ran forwards and straight to the backdoor by the kitchen. At that time, we could tell something was really wrong because Himeka never stepped foot in the kitchen and there would be no way she knew of the backdoor. We followed her; she was heading for the river. We were scared that there might be something possessing Himeka and leading her to some dangerous place, so we tried to catch up with her. But before we could catch her, we found Himeka– our Himeka I believe– running towards us with the most confused expression humankind has seen.

“And then…?” Maya gives Spencer a smile of eagerness, looking up to him, anticipating a finale.

“We were as confused as she was, but , and Jennifer was sobbing like no tomorrow out of fear so we got out of that haunted manor as fast as our legs could carry us. We didn’t discover what really caused the hauntings, but apparently ghosts are real. If ghosts aren’t real, then what was it that impersonated Himeka?”

“Ditto?”

“Not the answer I’m looking for but… good joke, Maya.”

The school bell rings, signifying lunch hour has concluded. The students rush to tidy up their trays and tables so they can return to class quickly, and Maya also excuses herself away, satisfied with the curious story, but the quartet still lingers. They have so many questions but so few explanations. Spencer hopes someday he can find the answers to mysteries, but inside he does not look forward to them. Something within his intuition tells him that there are things that perhaps would be better off if they just remained mysteries, and he knows his friends believe likewise.

And for the questions he would like to see an answer for, shall be the torch for yet another adventure.


Wristclock Boys Writing Club

I don’t think I’ve ever been engrossed in a hobby. Until, of course, the moment that it came down to life and death. 

It was Friday. In fact, it was my first Friday at Wristclock College. 

The first few days weren’t as eventful as I would have liked. Although, someone pretended to drown in the fountain to get a laugh out of the students. I sure hope that three-day suspension was worth it.

I didn’t expect to make friends right away, of course. Besides, this school was far from where I lived and from my old school. No one really knew the places I used to visit with my friends. I was a stranger here. Almost alien, really. 

However, I did meet someone on that Friday. We exchanged poems when he noticed me writing one. I hadn’t really paid attention to him in class. Was his name Tonio? Tony? 

“It’s Toby,” he said, snapping me out of my thoughts. 

I raised an eyebrow. “How’d you know that’s what I was thinking about?” 

“Oh,” he paused, “I was right? Sweet!” 

“Hm.” I smiled in return. 

“Harley?” he called. 

I gave him my attention, turning it away from the burrito in my hand. 

“You write really well.” 

I noticed his writing style needed improvement. He relied solely on rhyme to get through the poem, which is something that never sat well with me. 

He continued, “Are you going to join a club?” 

“I don’t think so, I might just write for my free time.” 

Toby grinned. “Well, lucky you. Join the Wristclock Boys Writing Club!” 

I giggled. “What?” 

“We’ve had our eye on you. Well, the president has. He read your entry for the school paper.” 

I looked at him confusedly. “But my entry didn’t get released. It wasn’t good enough for the moderator. Said it was too-…”

“… too loud? Yeah, we heard. Kai, the vice president of our club, is an active member of the school paper. He showed it to us and we’ve all been interested since.” 

“Toby, I may not look like it but I am a girl.” 

He chuckled nervously, embarrassed.

“We just want you to join our club because we think you have something special.” 

“And what? There’s definitely something else,” I said.

“We need one more person to start as an official club.” 

I nodded. “Mhm, there it is.” 

“Please join, Harley. Please!” 

I kept silent, keeping my gaze on him. 

“Fine.” 

And there it was, the worst mistake of my life. 

Entering the room was an experience on its own. The sound of strings and pianos went around the room, creating an atmosphere just as beautiful as the room itself. Statues stood perfect. Flowers bloomed sweetly. It was a different world. 

In the room there was someone listening to music with headphones who looked like Toby, was that his older brother? They had the same fair skin and strong smiling eyes. His brother had hair as white as the moon, though. 

“Is that your brother?” 

Tony responded, “Yeah, that’s Tony, the obviously less handsome one.”

We both laughed. He then pointed to the small boy I’d seen before. He was at the orientation for new students. He’s a student council officer. He had pink hair and sleepy eyes. Cute clips held his hair together. He was all around adorable. 

“That’s Issy, he’s the secretary of the club. He’s, well, he’s a baby. He likes to act cute.” 

From behind me, someone tapped me on the shoulder. I turned to look at him. He was tall and definitely handsome with perfect features and hair that was the shade of autumn leaves. He had cute Band-Aids all over his face. His nose was bleeding. Was he in a fight just now? 

“And you must be Harley, am I right? Of course I am.” 

Toby introduced him. “This is Kai. He discovered your work in the pile of rejects.” 

“And,” Kai began, “it really was like finding treasure in a bin. Your writing is magnificent.” 

“Well, I wouldn’t say magnificent.” 

“Well, you should.” 

“Has she met James?” Kai asked. 

Toby shook his head and we all walked to the other corner of the room, where a dark haired boy in a facemask and glasses sat, quietly looking at a piece of paper. 

“What is it Kai?” he asked, not even looking up. 

“We can officially start.” 

“Hm?”

He looked up at me, getting out of his seat. 

“Oh, you’re Harley, right?” 

I nodded. 

“I’m James, the president of the writing club. We’ve been waiting for someone like you.” 

“Like me?” I asked. 

“You know, someone who isn’t afraid to take risks with their writing. Someone who does it well. Someone like you.” 

Kai laughed. “Come on, Jamesy-boy! You’re scaring the poor girl. She might think you’re behind the creepy stuff that’s been going on.” 

“What creepy stuff?” 

James lowered his facemask and smiled. 

“Oh, just some people in our year going missing and… well, turning up dead.” 

“Dead?” I asked.

“Affirmative,” replied James. 

Toby then asked, “I’m sorry, do you know something, James?” 

“Hm,” he sighed, “are you accusing me, my precious junior?” 

Toby faltered. “No, sorry.” 

James stepped closer, grabbing Toby’s wrist. I tried to stop them before Kai pulled me away. 

“Then maybe you should think,” he paused, “before you ask dumb questions, eh?” 

I watched, dumbfounded. Who was this? James seemed nice not more than a second ago. 

On the other side of the room, Tony was asleep and Issy whined out, 

“I’m bored! Let’s start.” 

James let go of Toby’s wrist and pulled his facemask back up. 

“That’s right, we should start with our game.” 

I asked, “Oh, we have games?” 

James laughed for a long time. 

“Why, yes! A very fun one! If you don’t have fun then, well, that’d be deadly.” 

Issy was lying down on the sofa in front of the seats. I took a seat in between Toby and Tony. Kai stood next to James as they began to explain their game. 

Kai spoke first. 

“Firstly, I’d like to introduce our new and final member, Harley.”

Everyone gave me a small round of applause. 

“To introduce her into our club, we’ll have our first game.” 

“Don’t worry, it’s not a sports game, for I know you’ll all fail miserably.” 

Laughter. 

“Are you ready? Okay. James?” 

James stepped forward to explain. 

“It’s a writing game. The three of you, Toby, Tony, and Harley, write a poem about death. There’s a winner and a loser. Simple, right? I’ll give you thirty minutes.” 

Kai handed out notebooks and a pen. 

I looked at the notebook in my hand. It was covered with leather and the pen was one of those expensive special ones that you could only find in elegant bookstores. 

I looked to the front. 

“Begin,” said James. 

Hm. Poetry? About death? I can do that in thirty minutes. 

I actually finished mine excitedly and quickly. Who knew this would be so fun? I turned to Toby, who looked very nervous. Wait, he was crying. He was sweating profusely and tears escaped him. 

“Toby, are you okay?” 

He didn’t answer and instead cried all over his paper. What was wrong? This was actually fun. Wasn’t it? Maybe this club would push me to get more passionate about my writing. Maybe this was a good choice, I thought. 

Soon, thirty minutes were up. 

“Toby, how about you go first?” Kai asked. 

He sat frozen. 

“Toby? Hey, it’s your turn to present.” 

He stood up, shaking all over. His face was pale and his uniform top was drenched with sweat. 

“D-Death. Er… Death is a friend, it is a foe. It reminds me of Edgar Allan P-…” 

James scoffed. “Edgar Allan Poe? To rhyme with ‘foe?’ Pathetic. Tony, you’re next.” 

The two brothers looked each other in the eye. The look of worry was then passed onto Tony. 

“Death is funny. E-Especially when, er, days are sunny.” 

James stopped him. What was going on? 

I stood up to prepare to present my poem but James stopped me too. 

“Harley, we don’t need to hear yours.” 

I joked, “I can assure you it’s better than those two.” 

James laughed again, loudly and eerily. 

“That is correct.” 

Huh? At that point, I was utterly confused. What was happening? Why did the brothers look so worried? Why did James just laugh? Why were Kai and Issy silent? 

“What do you think, Kai?” James asked, expressionless and monotone. 

Kai asked in return, “Think about what?” 

“Cutting off a finger each?” 

Kai then froze completely, turning to his two friends who now feared for their lives. Kai’s face drained of all life. As did mine, what was going on? Did I hear that right? 

I spoke up, “Excuse me? Is this some kind of joke?” 

James replied, “You don’t have to worry about anything, Harley darling. You won, after all.” 

I looked at Kai. 

I whispered, “Kai, do something.” 

He turned to the brothers, Toby and Tony, mouthing a small apology. 

“What do you say?” 

Kai replied with finality, “Do it.” 

Issy then stood up, with a small knife that he had been hiding.

“Oh, no, it’s okay Issy dear. Let Kai do it.”

Kai looked like he stopped breathing. 

“James, I can’t.”

James patted him on the shoulder. 

“I know you can, Kai! That’s why I trust you.” 

He gave him the knife and locked the door behind us. 

Issy pressed Toby against the table and spread his hand on it. 

Tony began to beg. 

“Sir, please! Don’t! That’s my baby brother sir! Please!” 

“James, stop. What are you doing?”

“Welcome to the Wristclock Writing Club, where you prove your worth…” 

He turned to Kai, signaling him to continue his sentence. 

“… or you die.” 

Kai turned his attention back to Toby’s hand. He pressed the knife down slowly at first. 

“James, please, stop this! Stop!” I screamed. 

“Do it, Kai.” 

He pushed the knife down, causing a scene drenched in blood. 

I looked around, I felt like I was about to pass out. 

“What is this?!” I yelled. 

“Calm down, Harley darling.” 

Toby was now unconscious and Tony was shaking him awake. 

“What’s happening here? I’m calling the police!” 

James lowered his mask. 

“You don’t want to do that.” 

“Why not?” I threatened. 

“Because Kai’s paid off every cop in this stupid city!” 

He laughed maniacally. 

“We can get anyway with anything, darling.” 

He continued, “Even, say…” 

He turned to Issy who nodded and snapped Toby’s neck, killing him. 

I was speechless. Tears streamed down my face and I was choking on my cries and words. 

Toby was now dead and Tony just gave himself up for Issy to stab. This was a nightmare. If I passed out right now and woke up the next morning, would everything be fine? I was about to find out. 

I fainted and woke up in the infirmary, Kai standing next to the bed. 

“You’re awake.” 

I sat up immediately, giving a shot at defending myself. 

“Stay away from me.” 

“So,” he paused, “you acknowledge it wasn’t a dream.” 

“I’m really sorry for dragging you into this, Harley.” 

I was silent. 

“I’m not who I was yesterday. I was the enabler and James said he needed to have you doing the killing for him.” 

“Who is James, really? Why is he doing this?” 

“He’s always been violent. But we entered Senior High School and he just snapped. He’s asked Issy to kill people he’s mad at. He’s asked me to make sure he can get away with it.” 

“But?” I asked. 

“But,” he began, “I can help you catch him. I’ll give you this information and I’m leaving.” 

I looked at him confusedly. 

“Leaving?” 

“The country. I can’t do this anymore.” 

I sighed. 

“You’re a coward, Kai.”

“And for that, I’m eternally sorry, my lady.” 

“So,” I paused, “what do you know?” 

“He’s killed Issy, so you just have to worry about him.” 

“Meet him at the club room, at this time tonight.” 

“Outsmart him. I know you can.” 

“How?” 

“I can get whatever I want, I hope you keep that in mind. I’ve paid off every police officer in this city to go where I need them to when I need them to.” 

“So what are you saying?” 

“I think you know.” 

Oh. I had to stall him. 

He gave me a watch and said, 

“This will vibrate when the police arrive.” 

I nodded, thanking him.

“Good luck, Harley. May we never see each other again.” 

When I found him in the club room, he was feasting on Issy’s organs. I caught him eating his heart. The room was covered in blood and so was he. 

“I’ve never met a cannibal writer, I think.” 

He stopped, looking at me. 

“Hm, I take it Kai left already.” 

I stepped closer, “You know about that?” 

“I know all your plans. You’re gonna kill me right here, right now.” 

“You’re right. And you’re going to stop me, I assume?” 

“Correct, Harley darling!” 

He ran towards me with a knife much bigger than before. He pushed me to the ground. I laughed. If I died here, that’s an interesting way to go. 

“Ever heard of Romeo and Juliet, James?” 

“Of course! But, sadly, I don’t think I’m interested in dying with you.” 

I struggled. The police were not going to arrive in time. I was about to die, wasn’t I? But the watch vibrated, deus ex machina.

“Yeah, me neither, but remember when the police came?”

“What?” 

Then, the police burst into the room, saving me. The nightmare was over. 

I then sat in an ambulance. 

“Are you okay, Miss?” a reporter asked. 

I nodded. 

“Are there any more stories we should know about?” 

“Hm,” I laughed. 

“Well, I was never too enthusiastic about my stories until it came down to life and death.” 


Eternity

Fai always thought that losing a part of one’s soul would be hard and painful. But it wasn’t bad in the slightest. In fact, it was liberating.

No matter who you are, there will always be two equal parts of your soul. One is light and good while the other festers in evil and darkness. These two make up who you are as a person. They go into every choice you make. And as for the ruler and creator of the Ellieverse, where we lay our scene, these two parts stood personified, later to be separated.

Both Fai and El made up Ellie’s soul. However, it was a complete mystery where each part stood. El didn’t like to think about where she stood in Ellie’s morality. Or rather, her own morality. She and Fai were Ellie, after all.

Presently, two rulers stood atop the Ellieverse, the fictional universe Ellie had created in her mind. Two parts of her soul reigned over it. And one was leaving.

“Leaving?” one asked.

“Yes, Fai, leaving,” replied El.

“Why?”

Even with her powers, Fai couldn’t read El’s intentions.

“I want to see the human world-…”

Fai scoffed, “I heard that place sucks.”

El continued. “I want to feel what Ellie feels. I want to experience something real.”

Fai’s breathing hitched. What was that supposed to mean?

“Wait, what are you saying?”

The calmer one sighed.

“I’m detaching from the Ellieverse. You will have to rule it on your own.”

By that she meant she was going to stay in Ellie’s soul no longer personified, like she was before leaving.

Fai was silent, taken aback. Was she happy? Yes. Overjoyed, really. She could taste freedom as it was so close to her lips in a chalice painted with glory.

El took Fai’s hands.

“You can do this, Fai. I believe in you.”

“But?” Fai asked.

“But,” El paused, “you have to think with a conscience.”

“Count on me,” is all Fai could say.

El nodded at Fai, assuming she was nervous. But Fai wasn’t anxious in the slightest. She was excited. Fai pulled away from El’s careful hold on her hands.

“With the power given to me by the conscience of the Ellieverse, I, Fai of the Soul, set El of the Soul free.”

And with one last wish of good luck, El was gone.

Fai sat back down on the throne, setting the other throne away with one magical wave of her hand. There was one throne left in this castle of Ellie’s soul, in this castle of the Ellieverse.

As mentioned before, the two parts of Ellie’s soul were polar opposites. Within El, there was a calmness, something soft and safe. It was the kind of softness that you could rest on and the kind of safety that you could rely on. Her existence was that of goodness. But she was never sure of this. She would never be.

On the other hand, a storm grumbled and roared within Fai. it was erratic.  Inconsistency sailed the seven seas of Fai’s being and covered it with all its scary and untrustworthy being. Fai was something that wasn’t good in the slightest, but she had one thing that she worked on, making it brighter than the stars. She had a conscience.

 And inside her was something truly special. You see, while she holds the place of our protagonist, Fai could never say that whatever she did was good.

Almost everything in the castle was made of pearl and pale marble. It was the most beautiful thing anyone’s ever seen. Fai was going to make it even more beautiful.

The ceiling, which once displayed the portrait of clouds, daytime and angels now was being changed by Fai.

It now held the look of the impeccable darkness, the night sky. The darkness matched what was brewing in Fai’s soul. She wasn’t oblivious to this. Though, she had no idea what it was. All she knew was that the light inside her, if such a thing even existed for soul fragments such as herself, was flickering and its glow was dimming quickly. She was growing more evil by the second.. Not that she’d ever admit it, however.

She looked out the window one day, she noticed the sky was growing darker and darker each day. She was surprised El hadn’t noticed before she left. Actually, she was surprised nobody had noticed. It was almost as if the sky had followed her heart’s movements towards what looked to be a rapid and drastic decline.

Now, the castle. It was a soulless, lifeless beauty of darkness with bright twinkling stars that could stare into anyone’s soul. And, of course, the envious, bitter moon. The figure Fai found most beautiful. Along with everything in the castle, the walls turned dark to match.

‘Finally,’ Fai thought, ‘beautiful.’

“Your majesty,” someone interrupted.

It was Bathal, their most trusted servant.

“Just Fai, Bathal.”

Bathal began, “The Night Hierarchy found something by the entrance of the universe.”

The entrance was the end of a rainbow that starts in the human world. No human has ever thought to cross it. Until that moment, of course that very moment that would cause the end of the world and sweetest pain Fai’s ever experienced.

“Hm?”

“They’re causing quite the scene.”

“Sorry, Bathal, but I couldn’t really care less.”

“It’s a human, Your Majesty.”

Fai raised an eyebrow. “Human?”

Bathal nodded. Panic and curiosity rushed through Fai. They’ve never seen a human in the Ellieverse before. What would a human expect to see? Would they be shocked to see a soul fragment with large butterfly-like wings that had the color of sunsets and eyes that glowed purple?

She looked human enough. She had two arms and two legs. However, her skin glittered. Whatever, she thought. Why would she care what the human thought? It’s probably another lost soul. Immediately, she thought the absolute worst for it. The human would probably end up somewhere dark and cold. Knowing the scum that humans are, it probably deserved to suffer.

As Fai got near the scene, she thought about the suffering of this human. Fai felt a little drawn to the idea of it. A small part of her actually wanted to see this human suffer.

Before seeing what he looked like, she noticed the human had a shy posture. He stood awkwardly; it was a miserable attempt at defending himself against the Night Hierarchy. His eyes were glued to the floor. The unnamed man tugged at his sweater’s sleeves. He was scared and confused. Just like any negative emotion, Fai could sense it off him. She couldn’t read his thoughts, no. But she could sense his fear and his utter confusion from a mile away.

The Night Hierarchy were the group of villains that roamed around the universe in search for trouble and went to enforce evil.

“Wait, Bathal,” she paused, “maybe we should just watch.”

“Watch what?”

Fai smirked. “We can watch some blood be shed.”

“But, your highness, we can’t!”

The Dealmaker, a handsome and bubbly shapeshifter, turned to Fai and Bathal.

“Master Fai! Is that you? I was wondering when I would see you again!”

This caused the rest of the Night Hierarchy to divert their attention from the helpless man to Fai and her servant.

The Smoke, a charming old man with gray hair and scary, bulging eyes smiled eerily at the two. He could appear anywhere he wanted. Even in someone’s dreams.

And lastly, the Villain gave them a polite nod. The Villain was a man who had all powers and used them for evil. He looked normal. If it weren’t for the wounds that grew on his face and bled endlessly.

“Do not refer to me as your master, Dealmaker. I am not evil like you,” said Fai with a sarcastically polite smile.

“I have seen the future, Master Fai. And you-…”

Fai brought a finger to her lips. “Shh, Smoke. That is all I’d like to hear on the subject.”

“So,” Fai began, “what do we have today?”

The Villain spoke up. “This blubbering idiot was found wandering about the entrance. Kept saying how he isn’t meant to be here. He smells human.”

All this time, she couldn’t get a good look at his face. The Night Hierarchy cornered him.  What did he look like, she wondered.

“Who are you, boy?”

And then, he looked up at her.

“Li-Light…” he stammered, what he said being barely audible.

“Your name is Light?”

It made sense, Fai thought, for his name to be Light. He had radiant blond hair. It honestly reminded Fai of sunlight. His eyes were almost the same except they had a tinge of brown. He had no scary features like horns or extra heads that bite. He was human and something about that stirred something in Fai. It was something strong enough to disrupt her world as she knew it.

Could it be, as they called it, love at first sight?

“No, ma’am, my name’s Iris.”

Iris. That suited him just as well as Light did. To Fai, everything was beautiful about Iris. She just hadn’t realized that that’s what she was thinking.

She helped him up.

“That’s our meal, your highness!”

“Not today.”

The monsters looked at each other, looking pleased with what Fai just said or how she said it.

“Giving us orders,” The Villain said, “like you will be.”

“How dare you say that to me?” Fai raised her voice.

“Calm down, your highness. We will see you very soon.”

And just like that, they disappeared in dark mist.

“Where am I?”

Fai looked behind her to see a confused young man. Iris.

“Oh, er, welcome to the Ellieverse. You’re in someone’s soul, boy.”

“I’m not dreaming am I?” Iris asked.

“Sadly not,” Fai replied.

“Do you need a way out?” she continued to ask.

Iris looked at Fai for a second. It looked like there was something he wanted to say but just didn’t know how to say it.

“May I stay for a while?”

“I believe I can make arrangements.”

“No,” he paused, “I meant with you.”

At that moment, it was clear, but confusing as to why, that there was something stronger than coincidence that brought them together. A string of fate connected the both of them and would possibly continue to connect them for all time. Or, at least, that’s what Fai subconsciously wanted.

“Then, how about a tour around the Ellieverse?”

Iris nodded. And thus, their adventure began.

They roamed mindlessly under a changing sky. Yes, the sky was changing. It seemed it was becoming more divided. One side was bright and sunny, and a rainbow also made its appearance. The other side looked gloomier and was becoming more red, the blood kind, by the second.

“Your name’s Fai right?” Iris asked.

Fai nodded.

“Is that what I’ll call you?”

“What do you mean?”

The boy shrugged. “I don’t know, some people have names that they just happen to be stuck with. Do you like what you’re called?”

The question could’ve been seen as simple but Iris asked it because he saw the Hierarchy’s treatment towards Fai. Just by that, and possibly more, he could tell there was something going on.

Fai felt her heart melt. It sounded like he understood. And somehow, she’s always felt that. People had always predicted she’d be the dark part of the soul. She never believed it to be true. Or did she just not want to? Either way, this complete and utter stranger understood her more than anyone has ever had or ever would.

“Yeah, Fai is fine.”

“Well, Fai, earlier you mentioned that you were a part of the soul,” Iris began.

And, there it was. The background chattering.

“There she is,” said a creature of the Ellieverse.

“Which one?”

“The one who’ll bring death to us all.”

Iris heard it. More importantly, Fai heard it.

Fai stopped walking. Her fists curled into balls. She felt hatred bubble up in her chest. She wanted to set them on fire. She wanted to set everything on fire. Destroying everything seemed like the best option.

But there Iris was, with his hand on her shoulder, concerned eyes on the soul fragment.

They walked to some shade where they could pause.

“This probably isn’t much, but I believe in you.”

“Why?”

She didn’t trust that at all.

“I see a lot of good in you.”

“You don’t even know me.”

“I know… but it’s strange. It feels like I’ve known you forever. Kind of like deja vu.”

“And you just decided to trust me? To believe in me? I could literally kill you, you know.”

“Yeah, but you wouldn’t. You’re good and I see that in you.”

She didn’t trust that either. But she took deep breaths and they kept walking.

“Why don’t you believe me?” Iris asked.

“No one thinks I’m good, Iris. No one. You’re a stranger, so it sounds even sillier when you say you see good in me.”

Iris sighed and looked deeper into her eyes.

“Like I said before, I feel like I’ve known you forever.”

Unbeknownst to Fai, Iris was the boy Ellie was falling in love with. This was the boy that made her heart swoon. This was the boy that made her happy on the gloomiest of days.

This was Ellie’s soulmate. And his body was left on autopilot as his soul found its way into the Ellieverse. He was meant to find it. He was meant to be there. Destiny brought him to the Ellieverse. Destiny brought him to Fai.

“What were you saying earlier?”

“You mentioned you were a part of someone’s soul.”

“Okay?”

“Which part are you?”

At that question, sadness wrote itself all over Fai’s face. She didn’t want to think about it. In fact, as they talked and walked, the sky continued to change. “I-I don’t know.”

“Well,” Iris smiled, “let’s find out.”

“There’s the seer who basically knows everything but…” Fai trailed off.

“But?”

“I don’t know. What if I don’t like what I find?”

“Well, I’ll be here to help you handle it.”

They’d been walking for what felt like eternity, though it had just been an hour. They had discovered almost everything about each other and had fallen in love with every single detail.

Fai was beginning to notice a lot of things about Iris. She noticed things like the way he walked. He walked happily, with energy.  It looked like he was skipping, almost.

She noticed that when he talked, his pitch was controlled by whether or not he was nervous saying what he was going to say at that moment.

She noticed that his smile was wide and his eyes would squint ever so slightly and his cheeks would form dimples at the side of his mouth. His whole face would cooperate to form the perfect smile.

Was this love?

“What’s your favorite thing in the whole world?” Iris asked as they journeyed to the seer.

“My favorite thing?”

“Y’know, like, what brings you most joy in the world?”

“Hm, I never really thought about that before.”

Iris replied, “Well, if you had to pick one thing.”

Fai didn’t want to say it, or even think it. Walking with and getting to know Iris was her new favorite thing. She felt herself falling in love and it made her the happiest. Probably the happiest she had ever been.

As they made their way around places, people whispered about Fai. She was the monster of the story, breathing in air amongst the innocent and stealing the sunlight of the pure. But when Iris looked at her, when Iris told her it was going to be okay, when Iris smiled at her, Fai was loved. She felt loved. Being honest, it was her first time feeling love in her heart and love from someone else.

“Is it being with me?” Iris asked.

Fai gasped. “What? How’d you come up with that?”

“I just feel I’ve made you happy. At least, I hope to have made you as happy as you’ve made me.”

“What about you? What’s your favorite thing?”

“Being here, now, with you.”

“Why?”

“I’ve gotten to know you for the past eternity of an hour and I think I’ve fallen in awe with everything I discovered.”

Phew, Fai thought, he didn’t say it.

“I like being with you. I really do.”

“But?” Iris worried.

“But,” Fai paused, “I’m scared.”

Iris answered, “I’m scared too.”

And both were scared of two things. Uncertainty and losing the other’s hand to hold onto.

“Can I hold your hand?” Fai mumbled.

“You want to?”

“If not, forget I said anything.”

“Are you serious? Of course I want to hold your hand!” Iris beamed.

And thus, they had each other.

But something changed along the way. It was his tone and the way he looked at her. Fai tried to decode it. She didn’t have it in her to try and ask. Was it sympathy? Pity? Why? Things were starting to go well. So well, in fact.

It seemed like the love that Fai once hoped she actually saw in his eyes were joined by a look of pity.

But she didn’t bother asking.

Soon, they arrived at the seer’s lair. It took the shape of an eye and there was a waterfall. But Fai knew what that was. Those were tears.

As Fai placed her hand on the front door, she screamed in pain. Her wings turned more crooked and slowly drained of color. Her eyes, once a brilliant purple, were now stone gray. Not only that, Fai now saw her world in black and white.

Figuratively, that’s how she always saw her world. Good and evil. Right and wrong. It was black and white. And now she saw it that way literally as well.

But there was one exception, you see.

Iris was in full color. In fact, he radiated brightness and color. It was beautiful. Fai couldn’t help but to stagger towards him and cling onto him.

And he was there to hold her. And so, they held each other in silence.

Iris felt the good in Fai. He always did and he always would. No matter what.

So while Iris saw Fai as something good, Fai saw Iris as the only good thing in her life. But something in her heart shifted. Fai didn’t know it but it was realization and truth.

She broke away from his loving hold and stared him dead in the eyes. But before she could say anything, the guardian of the seer arrived.

“State your business.”

Fai scoffed, “Do you know who I am?”

Iris noticed her tone was ruder than it usually was.

“Fai, soul fragment. State your business.”

“I am here to meet with a seer over private matters.”

The guardian nodded.

“But first, you must pass the test of truth.”

“What do I do?” Iris asked.

“Pure souls are permitted to enter. Conflicted beings on the other hand, are not.”

“A test of truth? Who do you think you are?”

“It’s okay, Fai, you can do this,” Iris said as he placed a hand on her shoulder.

“Don’t touch me, human scum.”

Before she could angrily ramble on, she was sent in a trance where she could only tell the truth about everything she’s ever felt. She fell on her knees.

“I win…” she whispered.

“What was that?” Iris asked, worried.

Fai looked up at him, her eyes now crimson. Her face looked like she was drunk on her victory. She looked deranged.

“I win! El left and now I can destroy everything!”

She laughed. Her laugh was loud and maniacal. It scared Iris. But he wasn’t going to give up on her.

“Fai, listen to me…”

“Why should I listen to you? I am everything while you are nothing!”

“You are good, Fai.”

“I’m going to destroy everything!”

“No, you won’t.”

He took her hands and held them tightly.

“I believe in you.” he whispered.

And that broke the trance. They both told their truths and passed the tests were now permitted to visit the seer.

The seer was a ghostlike creature. You could barely see her but you could hear her voice. And she could see whoever was talking to her. In fact, she could see everything that existed in Ellie’s universe.

“Seer, I would like to ask which part of the soul I am.”

This was it. The moment Fai’s whole existence had been leading up to. She was good, right? She had to be. As she looked at Iris, she thought, she needed to be.

She realized she thought about this moment more than she wanted to. If she was so conscious about it, maybe she was good.

“You, my dear…”

It all ended here. All her confusion and frustration would end there. From then on, she’d be happy. She’d be happy because she was good. She was good all along. She had hope. But, of course, no hope could prepare her for what she was about to hear.

“… are the evillest thing in Ellie’s world.”

Oh. Okay.  

She felt tears well up in her eyes. But more importantly, she felt anger. Oh, it was all coming together.

“This universe will divide. Good and evil will take their places. One will be a normal world for all who are fortunate, the other a loop of eternal suffering.”

“Stop, seer.”

“You will be the master of this loop, sending misfortune to souls who lose their way in this universe.”

“Stop!”

The world was spinning. Fai was crying.

.

She wanted to scream. Thus, she did.

And Iris held her.

“I still believe in you. I see the-…”

The seer cut him off, “You’ve lied, fellow seer.”

Fai looked up at Iris, shocked.

“You knew?”

Iris nervously replied, “Y-Yes.”

“But why? Why did you stay with me?”

Iris sighed. He then kissed her.

“You have the best in every universe, Fai. I believe that.”

“I love you,” Iris declared.

“I love you,” Fai allowed herself to reply.

She was sure in love.

She was safe in love.

She was happy in love.

They looked up at the sky. The red was spreading and the ground began to crumble. It seemed the Ellieverse was dividing quicker than they thought.

They were running out of time.

Soon, Fai’s wings grew batlike. Her eyes remained blood red. Every negative feeling was bringing itself out within her. But Iris still looked at her like all the good in every star of every universe lied in her.

For a second more, she had to believe she was good. She had to believe it before it would get taken away forever.

She wanted to stay with Iris more. She wanted to be with him for all eternity. But she knew the truth. He’d cease to exist if he stayed.

She wondered what would’ve happened if she was the good part. Perhaps, when he went back to the human world, he could fall in love with her all over again. Because, surely, when he returned, he would forget all about Fai. And if he fell for Ellie, he’d fall in love with El’s part of Ellie. Not Fai’s.

But she wanted to believe that Iris could’ve loved her. She let vulnerability take over her. She sobbed. Everything was being taken away from her. They held each other tightly. Fai began to weep loudly. She’d never really cried before. She was in love and in a while, she was going to lose it. She looked up at the sky as she had Iris in her arms.

“I want, no, I need to stay with you. Please, Fai.”

Fai couldn’t believe it. People were screaming and running from the growing loop of suffering and darkness that Fai would eventually rule and Iris wanted to stay?

“I love you! Please!”

It was apocalypse. A blazing red took its place in the sky as the horror they could see. It was all going to ruins. With the most pain she’d ever felt, she held onto the only love she’s ever had. Just for a second more.

Don’t take my love away, she thought. Let him stay with me and we can be happy.

“I love you, Iris. I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be sorry! Please, let me stay with you!” Iris cried.

“Please!” he begged, “I need to stay with you.”

“I’m sorry for everything, Iris.”

“No, please! I-I can’t go back! I need you. I love you.”

They were on their knees. The good in Fai was weakening and fading. The universe was crashing into ruin. But it was Iris who Fai focused on. Just a little more before everything would be gone. Time was running out, he would cease to exist if she didn’t send him back. She smiled and wiped the tears from his eyes.

“It’s gonna be okay, my love.”

They held each other for just a little more. A montage of happy things that could’ve happened played in Fai’s mind. She imagined him smiling at her every morning. Every little ‘hello’,’ every little ‘I love you.’ They could’ve been happy. Or, perhaps not. Looking at it, they were never meant to be. This was a little taste of goodness that Fai had before turning into her true evil form.

But, she loved every second of it.

Then, as she whispered her first and last declaration of love, she sent him back to the human world.

“Goodbye, my love. Be happy for me.”

Fai took her place on the throne. All good had drained out of her.

The Night Hierarchy was right. She would rule them. She would rule all darkness and all evil.

And as for Iris?

He was sent back to the human world as a boy with no memory of what happened, with no memory of the love that could never be.

He saw Ellie, however, and he looked at her with more feelings than he ever did.

He didn’t know why, but he knew now more than he ever did that he was in love with Ellie.

Currently, Iris was bantering about random things.

Currently, Fai ruled over all things evil.

They could never be. But Fai could still feel the memory of Iris, albeit it’s just a feeling, tugging at her heart.

Ellie was at her club’s classroom. She looked behind her to see a confused young man. Iris.

“Oh, er, welcome to the Writing Club. You’re in someone else’s classroom, Iris.”

“I’m not dreaming am I?” Iris jokingly asked as he walked towards Ellie.

“Sadly not,” Ellie replied.

“Do you need a way out?” she continued to ask.

Iris looked at Ellie for a second. It looked like there was something he wanted to say but just didn’t know how to say it.

“May I stay for a while?”

“I believe I can make arrangements.”

“No,” he paused, “I meant with you.”

Then, Iris and Ellie were at a cafe, talking about anything and everything.

This was Ellie’s soulmate. He was meant to be there, in that cafe with Ellie. Destiny brought him there. Destiny brought him to Ellie.

“What were you saying earlier?”

“You mentioned you were a part of the top students.”

“Okay?”

“Which rank are you?”

At that question, sadness wrote itself all over Ellie’s face. She didn’t want to think about it. But as they continued to sit and talk, Ellie’s heart continued to change.

“I-I don’t know.”

“Well,” Iris smiled, “let’s find out.”

“There’s a list that basically has everything but…” Ellie trailed off.

“But?”

“I don’t know. What if I don’t like what I find?”

“Well, I’ll be here to help you handle it.”

Ellie noticed things about iris. But these things felt highlighted, now.

She noticed things like the way he walked. He walked happily, with energy.  It looked like he was skipping, almost. She’d noticed that before, but she noticed it a whole lot more now.

She noticed that when he talked, his pitch was controlled by whether or not he was nervous saying what he was going to say at that moment. She listened more to his voice now, for some reason. It’s not like she wasn’t already in love with it. But was she more in love with it now?

She noticed that his smile was wide and his eyes would squint ever so slightly and his cheeks would form dimples at the side of his mouth. His whole face would cooperate to form the perfect smile.

Did this love fall deeper?

“What’s your favorite thing in the whole world?” Iris asked as they sipped overpriced coffee.

“My favorite thing?”

“Y’know, like, what brings you most joy in the world?”

“Hm, I never really thought about that before.”

Iris replied, “Well, if you had to pick one thing.”

“Probably watching kids fall down in malls,” Ellie laughed.

“What about you? What’s your favorite thing?” Ellie asked to change the topic.

“Being here, now, with you.”

“Why?” Ellie asked nervously

“I’ve gotten to know you for the past eternity of an entire school year, and I think I’ve fallen in awe with everything I discovered.”

You see, these were repetitions of conversations Iris had with Fai. Although, neither Iris nor Ellie could recognize it. They were just left with a strong, strange sense of deja vu, like they’ve said those things before. And besides that, their love had grown bigger and stronger. It was strange, how it all changed. But neither person was going to complain.

They were in love. Iris was happy. Ellie was happy. It was all perfect.

“I’m, like, the worst person ever,” Ellie joked.

Iris felt his heart pounding in his chest as he said what he was about to say. Like something was there. One thing was for certain though, he loved Ellie. He loved her for all of her. Fai’s fear was that he wouldn’t love the evil that lived within her. But Iris smiled and looked at the girl he was in love with, sure he was in awe of all of her.

“Well,” Iris paused, “I still see the good in you.”


Dreamer’s Station

He quickly walked to his train, the bustling passers-by had their own business to attend to as well. He boarded the relatively silent train, with the occasional mutter of passengers. The train gently swayed and the clack from the rails filled the silence.

Narciso didn’t get a good sleep last night, and the train seat felt like the world’s best bed. He was close to his station, but Narciso couldn’t help but doze off. Drowsiness was winning the territorial battle in his consciousness. 

I’m tired of working… Maybe I can just sleep forever…

The announcer’s voice shooed away the last bits of sleep from his eyes, and when Narciso came to, he realized the train was deserted. It was almost sunset, and the sun’s orange drapery filtered through the windows. He felt like he could stay here forever.

He noticed a man sat across him. He dressed well, the suit he wore fit well, and the dress shirt under was slightly unbuttoned. His black, medium-length hair was gelled back, a few strands framing his face. His most defining features were bright grey-blue eyes and his large, silver hoop earrings. Those charming eyes of his caught Narciso staring. Panic filled his brain and before he could mutter an apology, the man stood up.

He walked towards the open train door. He paused, turned, and spoke. “You best get home. It’s too early for you to decide. Wake up, Narciso.”

As his eyes opened once again, a stray beam of sunlight sieged his eye, making him wince. The train was deserted as he remembered, but no sign of the well-dressed fellow.

“He…What did he mean that he’d see me later?” The train station was empty, and as Narciso walked home, the sun finally sunk below the cityscape. The night was beginning to flit across the sky.

He could finally rest. He slipped off his moccasins and neatly laid them on the shoe rack next to his home’s entrance. The light from the kitchen illuminated the other rooms. He made his way up the stairs, calling out, “I’m not hungry!” to whoever was in the kitchen.

He gave himself a quick wash. He wore a faded tee and some grey sweatpants. He let loose a tired sigh, and his head hit the pillows.

awake in slumber:

Water washed over his bare feet. His eyes opened. Propping himself up, he analyzed his surroundings. It was near the shore, the sun hung low in the sky once again. A lone train station stood as the only mark of man’s touch in this remote area. There wasn’t any train in the station, and the lights were on.

The water brushed up against his bizarrely dry sweatpants legs. He was still in his pajamas. He looked into the water. It was still him. The same black hair that was growing out. The same tired, upturned eyes staring back at his face. Fully convinced that it was him and not Prince Eric from some bizarre, modernized live-action of The Little Mermaid, he could finally clear his head and use it.

After contemplating his bizarre situation, he wasn’t so panicked about it. Why though? He was stranded in the middle of somewhere! He could be all alone, and the train station could be deserted!

“I’ll live in the wilderness behind me, like Bear Grylls. Except, I’m more likely to die than survive,” he mused.

Pushing the thoughts of accepting his fate out of his brain, he trudged towards the train station. Strangely, the train station didn’t have any signs up, so he was left clueless as to where he was. He searched for some employee he could ask help from, but to his dread, nobody seemed to be there.

“Calm down, Narciso.” The smooth voice jumped at his unprepared mind. A small yelp escaped him, and he turned to the perpetrator.

“Y-you…”

The man’s outfit was different this time. He wore a beige turtleneck and black paper bag waist pants. Those hoop earrings still stayed beside his face. “You seemed very tired.” The man seemed so casual about the predicament they were in.

“How do you know who I am?!” Getting more information on this stranger seemed more important than knowing where he was. “More importantly, who are you?!”

“That’s not important. None of your questions are.” As if sensing Narciso’s quiet defiance, he sighed. “You may call me… Ezer.”

“That’s not your real name, is it?”

“Do I even have a name?” He shook his head before starting once again. “I’m not important. What is important is the answer you have to my question.”

A train was at the station. When did it get there? “How about you mull over your answer for a while, and you can answer me when you’re ready.” As they seated themselves opposite each other, the train departed.

The train was silent, with the occasional clack and chuff from the rails.

He started, “Do you want to wake up?”

Wake up… Wait, Wake up..?

“What do you mean, wake up?”

“I mean what I mean. Or let me rephrase it for you. Do you want to keep sleeping?”

A simple question. But it seems to mean so much more. Ezer’s eyes narrowed. “You’re unsure, aren’t you? Is the time spent here not enough?” Narciso looked out the window. It was early morning now, the sky a light blue.

“I… I’m still not sure what you mean.”

“This life you live, do you not get tired of it now and then?” Ezer played around with a cold, canned coffee in his hand. “You sometimes wish to sleep without waking, do you not?” Narciso didn’t reply to him.

“You still can’t decide, can you?” He seemed saddened. A faint crease appeared between his eyebrows, and his eyelids seemed to droop slightly. He sighed out, “Tell me about your answer later. I’ll be waiting.”

He stood up and pressed the cold can to Narciso’s cheek.

decide:

It was early morning, and the sun was just starting to shyly peek from behind Narciso’s drawn curtains. A small ribbon of light greeted his eye a good morning, and he stretched the drowse from his joints. That side of his cheek still felt cold.

It was a busy morning. Running on a wink of sleep, he had to rush down the stairs after bathing, stuffing a sandwich left on the dining table into a little paper bag he happened to have. He saw a small vending machine down the street and decided to get himself a cold canned coffee. All he could throw on was a faded dress shirt and some pants he had lying around his room.

The train stationed was packed from the early morning rush. The other passengers jostled him, and the only thing keeping his eyes from shutting down was the canned coffee he held. He thought he stopped silver hoop earrings through the crowd but convinced himself that it was just his brain. But you sometimes can’t trust your brain, especially after waking up. At least that’s what he reasoned.

The train chuffed itself into the packed station. The doors opened with a “woosh” and the passengers funneled into the empty train. Narciso got pushed, jostled, and shoved. His shoulder felt sore from one rough shove given to him by a rude businessman.

Finally clambering into the packed metal rectangle, he managed to find himself a seat. But his newly acquired peace did not last long. A middle-aged man next to him fell asleep, and his dozed head slid onto Narciso’s sore shoulder. A snore jumped from the man’s mouth and wedged itself into Narciso’s poor ear. The snoring was persistent and very, very annoying.

From the corner of his eye, he swore he saw a familiar face with a faint, knowing smile. When he got a good look, it was nowhere to be found.

The train made a few stops here and there. Upon arriving at a random station, the middle-aged menace took his leave. Narciso heaved a sigh of relief, and the empty coffee can kept his hand company. And once again, the train set off in this never-ending loop of daily life.

And once again, he dozed off.

maybe I’ll keep sleeping.:

He shuffled out of his slumber, cracking an eyelid open. As his eyes came to a focus, he found himself laid upon the shoulder of a familiar fellow.

“Nice nap?” Narciso immediately distanced himself from Ezer. A flush was on his face. “I… I guess.”

“Well? Have you decided?” He didn’t seem to mind that Narciso drooled on his shoulder as he slept. “I’d like to take a walk around before I decide.” Ezer stood up before offering Narciso his hand. The train they were on came to a halt, and the doors huffed open.

It was a train station. The sign was blank once again, and this time they seemed to be in a city. The train station was quiet and empty. It was early morning once again and small sunbeams filtered through cracks in the roof.

Ezer and Narciso seemed to be the only two people in the station. As they climbed down the stairs and exited onto the street, Narciso felt a bit drowsy. The alleyway was empty, and small street signs littered the edges. Stores and restaurants closed in on both their sides. The early morning light illuminated the path in front of them, and a fresh morning breeze lightly ruffled Narciso’s hair. 

After taking a short stroll through the quiet streets, Narciso broke the silence. “Ezer, can we take a break?”

“Of course.”

The road widened, and the stores no longer hung overhead. They found a small bench under the awning of a pastry shop. The cool wind still blew and the sky was a clear blue, with a few clouds scattered here and there. With a tired sigh, Narciso laid his head on Ezer’s shoulder.

“Can’t every day be like this?”

“Life is not always kind, that is why we dream.”

Narciso looked up at him. A quiet life, free from stress. Living in a peaceful city where the sky is blue. That’s all he wanted.

Ezer was about to stand up but Narciso grabbed his hand. Ezer was going to wake him up again, wasn’t he?

“I don’t want to wake up just yet.”

Ezer gently smiled and sat back next to him.

It was getting late, and the train home has not been taken. Narciso’s pajamas still lay on the floor, and the sandwich he packed was still uneaten. Too many worries. He’d rather keep sleeping.


A Short Story

I am currently standing in front of my new school, waiting for my senses to return, but to my luck, it didn’t. My parents, I just moved here a few days ago because of their job and also because of my problems back home. I didn’t have friends in Seattle and my parents thought that if we move to a new place, I can start over and make lots of fun memories. I don’t think that will happen because I don’t like to socialize with other people. Students are already starting to arrive and I needed to move now if I don’t want to be late. I already had the map of the school, my schedule, and all of my books with me so all I needed is to go to my classes. Students were staring at me and I felt uncomfortable, I don’t like people staring at me. I went straight to my first class without bothering to talk to anyone. I was one of the early people in the classroom, there is only one person, he was sitting at the back and he didn’t seem to notice me. I didn’t want to feel the weird stares anymore so I sat at the back as well, only a seat apart from the guy. He looked at me like I just said something then he looked away.

“Hi, I’m new here! My name Ella.” I said to the guy next to me.

“Guess you’re the new kid, that explains why you’re talking to me.” He muttered quietly that if I wasn’t paying attention, I wouldn’t have heard it.

“Excuse me?” I didn’t know if he was being rude or he’s just like that.

“Didn’t anybody warn you to not talk to me?” He asked, sounding a bit amused.

“I haven’t talked to anyone else except you,” I mumbled, my cheeks were starting to heat up.

“You choose the wrong person to talk to, Ella,” He said coldly, looking at me directly.

“Okay then, I’ll talk to someone else,” I said before moving seats. I am still sitting at the back, but I moved five seats away from him.

Just when I sat down, the bell rang, meaning classes are about to start. Students came running in and started to occupy every seat except the seats at the back. The teacher soon came in, and she started class without noticing me at the back. The next three classes went smoothly, teachers didn’t bother to introduce me to class, and no one stared at me. The guy that I talked to never talked to anyone except for two other guys who came to sit by him during the third period. When the bell rang, indicating lunchtime, all the students ran out of the classroom and went straight to the cafeteria. I just followed them. I didn’t want to bring out my map. When I entered, all of the tables were already occupied except for one. I headed for the table and sat on the chair, my lunch was in my backpack. People stared at me like they just saw a ghost. I ignored the stares and got my lunch from my backpack. Then, I finally saw why people were staring at me. The guy I talked to earlier and four more guys behind him were walking in my direction, more like to the table’s direction.

“What are you doing?” The guy I talked to asked.

“Having lunch, isn’t obvious?” I asked, slanting my head slightly to the side.

“I can see that, but do you know that this is our table?” He said a bit annoyed now.

”It doesn’t have your name on it,” I said, looking at him and to my surprise, he looked back. I was the one who turned away first because my cheeks were getting hot.

“Marcus, let’s just eat somewhere else,” One of his friends said, “There are other tables available, see?” He pointed towards a table away from everyone.

“Fine!” Marcus, I assume, said with gritted teeth, then walked away without another word. His friends followed except for the one who spoke earlier.

“Sorry about him. But I’m warning you, it’s better to stay away from him as much as possible.” He said before heading to his friends.

Lunch passed by quickly and the bell rang loudly. All the students, including me, got up and hurried to their classes. I stumbled a few times before finally reaching my class. When I entered, the only seats available were at the back, with Marcus and his friends sitting there too. I swallowed loudly before walking towards the back to sit with them.

“Is this seat taken? There’s no more seat available.” I said timidly, looking at the ground.

“Do you see anyone there? If you don’t of course it’s not taken!” Marcus hissed.

“Thanks. I guess,” I mumbled mostly to myself. I didn’t care if they heard it or not.

The class began a few minutes after I came in. I sometimes shift my gaze to Marcus and then look away quickly. When I casually glanced at him, I was surprised that he was staring back at me. I was quick to look away, my cheeks brighter than a tomato now. When class ended, I jumped to my feet and got out quickly. I only have one last class left before I could finally go home to an empty house. Mom and dad won’t be home that much, they work at the Olympic Medical Center. It’s just a few minutes away but they’re too busy to be home. My last class went by quickly and before I knew it, my first day finally ended. By the time I got out of the main building, the parking lot was almost empty, just a few cars left. I need to walk home because my car isn’t here yet, mom wanted to do something to it. When I was already out of the school grounds, it started to drizzle.

“Oh, just great!” I shouted.

Since I didn’t see any vehicles around, I decided to walk in the middle of the street. When I was only one block away from my house, I heard a loud honk and then I was suddenly pulled out of the streets. I fell on something hard and extremely hot. At first, I thought that I landed on the sidewalk, but then I realized that it shouldn’t be that hot, it is raining for god’s sake!

“What on earth were you thinking?” Someone shouted at me, “Were you trying to kill yourself?” The familiar voice asked again.

“I didn’t see the car you know!” I shouted back, I finally figured out who he was.

“Yeah, whatever!” He said a bit calmer now, “If you were just looking where you’re going,” He shook his head in disappointment.

“Do you have a problem?” I asked, standing up, “Earlier, you were annoyed at me and now here you are! Shouting at me for not being careful!” I glared at him and frowned.

“I’m just annoyed at you, but why do you think that I will just let you be crushed by a car?” His voice was now back to normal like he was just talking to one of his friends.

“Why are you annoyed at me by the way?” Curiosity has gotten the best of me, “You weren’t like that to other students, you just ignored them.”

“You won’t understand Ella,” Is the only thing that he answered me.

“Oh trust me, I will!” I challenged.

“So if I told you that I am drawn to you? What will you say? How will you react? Would you even understand?” He asked all the questions at once that I didn’t have time to process them quickly.

I stared at him, dumbfounded, at his confession. I’m not even sure what kind of confession is that. Who on earth would be drawn to someone who he just met?

“But why?” I asked when I finally found my voice.

“It’s something we can’t control Ella, it’s not like we want this to happen!” He said coldly.

“What do you mean by ‘we’?” I noticed that he used the word ‘we’ instead of ‘I’ which means it also happens to others.

“It’s not just me Ella. Others of my kind also can’t help it!” His stare sent a shiver down my spine.

“Your kind?” I stared back at him.

“You’re shivering Ella, you better get home.” He wrapped his thick jacket, which I didn’t notice that he removed, and wrapped it around me before walking away.

When he was out of sight, I hugged the jacket closer. I didn’t notice that I was cold until now. I ran to the house as fast as I could without tripping. When I finally got in, I was soaking wet! The jacket still helped though, even though it only covered a few spots. I ran to my room and got my toiletries and clothes before running to the bathroom. While I was taking a warm shower, I suddenly remembered Marcus’ words,

“What if I told you that I am drawn to you?”

And what did he mean by, ‘we’? And his ‘kind’? I didn’t bother to eat dinner that night, I was still thinking about the things he said to me. I decided that I just need sleep and maybe tomorrow, I would figure out that it was only a hallucination event. I woke up early today and got dressed quickly. When I came down to the kitchen, mom and dad already left, leaving a note:

We left food on the counter sweetheart, hope you don’t mind that we left early.

Love mom and dad!

I looked for the food that mom said and there were pancakes. I didn’t bother to taste the food, I’m not even that hungry. I quickly washed my plate, got my bag, and ran out the door. If I want to arrive early, I have to start walking now. Yesterday, mom dropped me off so I wasn’t late, but today I have to walk. I just got to school on time because when I arrived, the bell rang indicating classes are about to start. In the first period, I sat down at my yesterday’s seat. To my utter surprise, Marcus sat down next to me and to my utter horror, when he smiled. What does he want?

“Since I already told you that I am drawn to you, there’s no reason to hide now.” He answered the question that was in my head.

“So that wasn’t a dream?” I asked, looking at him.

“You think I will be sitting here with you if it was?” He chuckled, winking at me. I couldn’t help the blush that crept to my cheek, then I quickly looked away.

All of my classes went smoothly with Marcus always being at my side and his friends of course. Student’s stared and whispered, but it was easy to ignore because my mind is still occupied that this is not a dream at all! Lunch came by quickly and I got to meet all of his friends who were not here the day he and I crossed paths. When the day was finally over, homework, essays, papers, and reports were all over the place.

“Are you walking home?” Marcus asked, appearing out of nowhere.

“Yeah. Mom still hasn’t given me my car back!” I pouted, I hate walking.

“Wanna ride with us?” He asked, his hand already extended, he was just waiting for me to grab it.

“Sounds great! Can you take my bag for me?” I gave him my bag without warning, I was expecting him to drop it because it’s quite heavy but I guess he’s stronger than I thought.

I joined him and his friends in the car, good thing there were only three of them here which gives me space because believe me, his friends are huge! They’re not fat, it just seems like they work out a lot.

“Do you know where I live?” I just realized that I hadn’t told him my address.

“Were here already, I don’t need it anymore.” Kyle, one of his friends, said stopping the car in front of my house.

“But, how? Did, you follow me last time?” I was trying to read their faces, to see if they were just joking around or something.

“Yeah, I followed you,” Marcus said, looking out the window, not meeting my gaze.

“But, I didn’t see you!”

“Let’s just say we have our own ways of stalking people.” He smirked.

“You were stalking me?” I frowned at him.

“You have a lot of things to do Ella, you should get going if you want them finished.” He was already climbing out of the car so I can get out.

“Thanks. I guess,” I said when I passed him, “See you tomorrow!” I shouted before heading in.

Night time came by quickly and before I knew it, I was already asleep. In the middle of my precious sleep, someone woke me up by shaking me lightly.

“Wake up sleepyhead,” A voice said, “You’re running a bit late.” He chuckled.

I immediately shoot up from the bed and looked for a clock.

“What time is it?” I nearly shouted at him, “What time did I sleep last night?” I asked him again. “And why on earth are you in my house!?” this time, I was really shouting at him.

“Relax, it’s only 6:00 in the morning,” He smiled, “I came by earlier when your parents were still here and asked permission to wake you up.” He said sheepishly.

“And they let you in that easily?” I was eyeing him suspiciously.

“I sort of told them that…” He stopped for a moment to look at me, he looked a bit smug, “That we’re dating.”

“You told them what?!” I was shouting at him again. Why would he say that? We only knew each other for one day!

“Okay, no time for arguing,” He said heading for the door, ”I need to tell you something.” Then he disappeared.

I quickly got up then brushed my hair and my teeth. I walked towards the kitchen only to see him there, waiting for me.

“What was it that you wanted to tell me?” I asked, sitting down next to him.

“Do you remember the time I told you that I was drawn to you?” How could I forget? It only happened a day ago!

“Yes, what about it?”

“Do you still remember the word ‘our kind’?” He asked again.

This time I only nodded, I was too interested to respond.

“And do y-” I cut him off.

“Enough about the things I remember, just go straight to the point!” I was losing my patience now.

“Okay. As I said, we are not, and when I say we, I mean me and my friends and a lot more,” He looked at me before continuing, “We are not what we seem to be,” His tone turned suddenly cold, “It’s probably best if you knew.”

There was a long pause, he was looking at my face. Maybe trying to read my reaction but the only thing that he saw was curiosity.

“The day I told you that I was drawn to you, I involved you to something that you probably didn’t know existed. I involved you in the world of the werewolves,” He paused for a while to see my reaction, there was nothing to see though, the only thing he will see is curiosity and confusion, so he decided to continue, “When I was thirteen, I learned about this world. We have to be at the right age though, but since things are going a bit difficult at that time, I started to change. My parents told me about it and they helped me, a lot. My parents are involved in this thing where they get to control or help the new ones. They taught me how to phase to my other form, and they taught me how to perform my job as a protector.” He paused again, the continued, “When I said that we can’t control who we’re drawn to, it means that we don’t get to decide. The only way to describe the feeling of being drawn to someone is like, nothing else matters. It’s like you found your other half or something like that. The day I saw you, I felt complete.”

I didn’t realize I was playing with my fingers until he lifted my chin so I could meet his gaze, he was smiling. A smile I never saw before. “You are the only thing that matters now, nothing else will. I marked you as mine, and no one else can get you.” I felt the blush that crept up in my face then I looked down again. I heard him chuckle lightly, “You better get ready, we’ll be late for school.” He said before standing up, “Oh and by the way, you’re not supposed to tell that to anyone.” He said before leaving me.

Did he meant all the things that he told me or was he just jesting with me? Was I really the only thing that mattered to him? That feels weird but at the same time sweet. No one, except for my family, really cared about me. I looked at the clock and nearly jumped out of my seat. I only have fifteen more minutes to get ready! I took a quick shower then shoved all of my books in my bag and ran downstairs.

“About time,” He shook his head in disappointment but he had a small smile on his face. I couldn’t help but smile to myself.

We headed to his car and he drove us to school. We didn’t talk much, I guess he’s still giving me some time to process the new information he has given me. I think our clock is a bit advance because when we got there, we still had plenty of time before classes started. When we arrived, of course, all of the students stared and whispered but I ignored that pretty easily, my head was still revolving about the things he told me. The day went by and Marcus dropped me off at my house. I was surprised to see my parents’ car in the driveway but I assumed that they just forgot something and they’ll leave again.

“Mom! Dad!” I called.

“Living room, honey!” Mom answered.

I went to the living room and my parents were waiting for me.

“What’s up?” I asked sitting down on the sofa.

“How was your day?” dad asked.

“It was great! How was your day? Why are you home so early?”

“It was also great, thank you. There weren’t many patients today so we went home early.” Mom said.

“That’s nice, what do you want for dinner?”

“It’s a bit too early for dinner isn’t it?” Dad asked, “And by the way, who’s Marcus?” He added, the voice he used was the same voice when he wanted me to do something immediately, it means he’s serious.

“A friend of mine.” I didn’t meet their gaze.

“Do you mind telling us why he showed up in our house and said you two were dating?” Dad was trying hard to stay calm, he wants me to have a friend, not a boyfriend.

When I was about to answer, someone knocked on the door.

“I’ll get it,” I mumbled walking towards the door.

When I opened the door, I was not at all surprised to see Marcus.

“May I come in? It seems like I’ve got you in trouble.” He smiled apologetically.

“Well, you can explain yourself to them!” I glared at him before leading him to where my parents were.

“It’s nice to see you again Marcus. Please, have a seat.” Dad gestured him to a chair.

“Thank you.” He said politely.

“Can we talk to you? Just for a few minutes.” Mom said looking at Marcus.

“Of course, you don’t have to ask permission.”

“How did you and our daughter get together? Last time I checked, Mikaella doesn’t socialize much and now here she is, with you!” Dad’s tone was cold.

“Dr. Diaz, I am very serious about your daughter,” Marcus took my hand the looked at me before continuing, “I will not hurt her in any way possible.” His tone was polite but his voice was stern.

“I know that, but I still don’t want you near her! I know what you are Marcus and I don’t want my daughter to be involved in something like that!” Dad stood up from his chair then walked away.

“Mom? What’s wrong with dad?” I faced mom, her face was buried in her hands.

“Honey, how about you and Marcus take a walk outside while I talk to dad?” She said.

“Sure,” I stood up and Marcus followed.

Once we were outside, I faced him and my face had a lot of emotions. The confusion mostly though.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to upset your father.” He placed his hand in my face and using his thumb, he rubbed my cheek gently.

“How did dad know?” I said when I found my voice.

He let out a loud sigh and dropped his hands, “There are a lot of things you don’t know about my world, Ella. I’m not sure if you’re ready to hear all of the things about me.”

“Yeah, that’s true but you haven’t answered my question, how did dad know?” I repeated.

“I’m not answering that for today. I’ll try sometime,” He promised, “You better head inside now, it’s getting cold.” He smiled.

We stayed with each other for a few more minutes before he told me to go inside now, and this time I followed.

“You are not allowed to see Marcus anymore,” Dad said when I entered.

“Why?”

“Because I said so,” You can hear the anger in his voice.

“I can’t do that,” I paused, ”He’s part of me now.” I was looking at dad, my tone was cold, then I ran to my room.

The next day, things were like any other day. Marcus picked me up when my parents left and we hung out. When the school day was done, Marcus said he couldn’t drive me home due to some emergency. As I was walking home, I saw someone following me. I didn’t bother to see who that person was, maybe he or she is just going in the same direction as I was. When I turned to the corner in the direction of our house, that person still followed. Now I was panicking. I walked faster the looked behind me, no one was there. Am I imagining things? shook my head then continued walking.

“Hi there,” A voice next to me asked. It shocked me so I jumped and let out a small squeal.

“Shh, don’t be scared. This won’t take long.” He said before touching me with his ice-cold hand.

“Don’t touch me!” I was trying to get out of his grip, but he’s strong.

“Don’t worry, as I said this won’t take long. You’ll feel nothing at all.” His lips were now close to my throat.

I was about to shout, but I heard a low growl then I was out of the person’s grip. I wasn’t even sure if that is a person. I wasn’t sure what happened next but I felt that I was being carried.

“Ella? Are you alright?” When I heard his voice, I felt safe again.

“How did you find me?” I asked.

“Do you remember that I told you there was an emergency?” He asked.

“Yeah, what about it?”

“That was the cause of the emergency. A vampire visited the city.” A shiver crept down my spine.

“Vampire?” My voice was shaky

“Hey, don’t worry. You’re safe now, the others are taking care of it.” He assured me.

“Yeah, I know.”

“Ella! There you are! I thought something happened to you!” I heard mom shout, I didn’t notice that we arrived and Marcus placed me down, still supporting me though.

“Mom, where’s dad?”

“Ella! I told you to stay away from him!” Dad answered my question.

“Dad, let him explain,” I said.

“Sir, there was a vampire who visited the town,” Marcus said.

“A what?!” Mom and dad said in unison.

“He was after Mikaella, but we got there in time,” Marcus said.

“You saved my daughter?” Dad asked surprised.

“Yes. He did,” I said, looking at Marcus.

“Thank you. I really mean it. Thank you,” Dad said, after a few minutes.

“As I said, she is my priority. Nothing else matters except for her safety.” He smiled at me.

“Marcus,” Dad began, “I was wrong about before. I thought that just because you’re different, that you don’t deserve my daughter. I’m sorry about that, I never realized that you two were meant to be. I hope you understand that I was just afraid that you would hurt my daughter.” Dad’s voice was sincere.

“Does that mean we can be together?” I asked, excited. I heard Marcus chuckle lightly.

Dad let out a sigh, “Yes. But there are rules.”

“Don’t worry, I’ll follow all of them!” I smiled cheerfully.

They all laughed and we all headed inside. Mom and dad chatted with Marcus for a few hours before I practically dragged Marcus to my room.

“How do you feel?” I asked him, we’re lying down on my bed just enjoying our little moment together.

“I’m feel contented being here with you.” He rubbed my cheek with his thumb which caused me to blush.

We stayed silent for a few minutes before he decided to break it.

“I know it’s a bit early to say this but, I love you.” He said facing me and smiling sweetly.

I smiled back at him, “I love you too.”


Beyond Miyajidake Shrine

“How about… we meet this weekend and spend the whole day just like in a date but not really?”  These were the last words of Hamako to Tadaaki before something strange happened. Tadaaki is a 19-year-old college student in Fukuoka Daiichi high school, who lives a simple life with his grandmother Kako.  Hamako is a 25-year-old bank teller in Sumitomo Mitsui Financial group who was about to face a big challenge in her life.  They live different lifestyles, but will be united by an unexpected faith that will lead them to know each other in an unusual way.

Tadaaki is a simple teenage boy who is helpful, caring, loving, and so eager to find a girlfriend, but always gets rejected. But it isn’t such a big deal for him because of his grandmother Kako, who has always been with him. She takes care of him and has raised him to a man he is now. This is also why rejections don’t really bother him.  He knows that his grandmother Kako will always be there for with him.  He doesn’t really need a girlfriend to support him. On the other hand, Hamako, who really wished that she could have a boy best friend who will always listen to her problems, and will always stay with her, but can’t find one because she is too busy to socialize with other people.

One weekend she passed by a shrine where it was very old and it seems that no one goes there anymore. Hamako went to the shrine, said a little prayer, and wished, “One day I hope to meet a boy.  I don’t care if he’s younger than me or older than me, but not that old.  I just need somebody who will listen to all my problems, who will always support me, and will always be by my side”.

Right after her wish, something strange happened. So strange that nobody knows what happened but affected the lives of these two strangers.

One evening while Tadaaki was about to eat, and Hamako was on her way home from the shrine, their names suddenly popped out of each other’s minds. “Tadaaki” and “Hamako”. Names that both of them didn’t really bother to find out. What they didn’t know is, the names will have a connection to the series of events that is about to unfold.

In the middle of the night, both Tadaaki and Hamako dreamed that they’re in a garden filled with different kinds of beautiful flowers, next to a very old shrine in the middle of nowhere. When Tadaaki was about to enter the shrine, he saw Hamako right outside the shrine. When Tadaaki was about to ask Hamako’s name, Hamako saw Tadaaki and felt something strange. Hamako thought that her wish had come true, and was very happy that she met Tadaaki, and quickly asked his name. “Hi! Whats your name?”. “Tadaaki Sugimoto” he replied timidly. “How old are you?” Hamako asked. “I’m 19 years old and still studying at Fukuoka Daiichi high school”.

When Tadaaki was about to ask for Hamako’s name, Hamako introduced herself outright. “Hi! I’m Hamako Watanabe, 25 years old, and working at Sumitomo Mitsui Financial group. My hobbies are reading and making my own manga. I usually sleep during my free time, and it’s so nice to meet you Tadaaki Sugimoto!”

“It’s nice meeting you Hamako”, Tadaaki replied.

When Hamako was about to ask for Tadaaki’s hobbies, Hamako’s dream became black and heard and alarm clock ringing.  It was already 5:00 in the morning. Hamako isn’t in the mood to get up and go to work.

Tadaaki was about to ask Hamako if they can be friends, but the background suddenly turned black. Then he saw a face of a Kabuki actor, dressed in Kabuki outfit, and making funny faces at him. Tadaaki woke up, and when he was about to check the time, he saw his Grandmother Kako gently waking him up, trying not to startle him. “Thank you, Grandma Kako, I’m already up”. “That’s nice Tadaaki, now get up and eat your breakfast, it’s almost 6:00”. “Okay, I’m coming!”.

While Tadaaki was eating his breakfast, and Hamako was on her way to work, they both thought of who was the person in their dreams last night. But again, they didn’t make a big deal out of it, until it happened again the following night. They were both shocked and confused, then both screamed “WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE, ARE YOU EVEN A REAL PERSON?!”

Nights have passed, and both still has the same strange dreams. Both of them still didn’t have a clue why they are dreaming the same dream, with the same person in it.  It has been happening for a month now. Hamako still couldn’t understand why she is with Tadaaki in a strange dream, still asking Tadaaki personal questions, so that when Hamako finds out that Tadaaki is a real person, she can be friends with him. Tadaaki also has no idea but, also tried to be friends with Hamako. After their meetings in their dreams, Tadaaki had developed feelings for Hamako. He wanted to confess to her when the right time comes.  He also wanted to confess to Hamako in person, if she really is a real person.

Tadaaki and Hamako finds it weird at first to meet the same person in their dreams, but eventually got used to meeting each other in their dreams.

Until 5 months later, the dreams suddenly stopped. “Oh no! I forget to ask where Tadaaki lives!”.  After all this time that Hamako and Tadaaki meet in their dreams, Hamako was too occupied with being friends with Tadaaki that she forgot to ask where he lives.

When Hamako had the free time, she tried to look for Tadaaki on the internet,  Sadly, no one popped up.  “I guess he’s not popular, or worst he’s not real!”.  Tadaaki, on the other hand, had been entertaining the idea about Hamako.  “Her name’s Hamako Watanabe, 29 years-old, works at a bank, kind of my type, we have been talking for five months now, I think… I think I’ve fallen for her. Our age gap is only 6 years, I think she’ll make a great partner.” While Hamako is panicking for not asking where Tadaaki lives, Tadaaki is so calm, but was so eager to know if Hamako is real or not.

Alhough Hamako was enjoying her life just meeting with Tadaaki in her dreams, there was one thing that is about to happen to her that will be irreversible. One night when she was so exhausted from work, her mother Mahoko Watanabe came up to her to tell her about a family secret.  The said mystery has been going on for thousands of years, “Hamako, can we talk?” asked her mother.  “Sure, what are we going to talk about?” Hamako replied.  Her mother continued by saying “Do you remember the story that I told you where our family was involved in a magical deal when you were a child?”.  “Yes mom, what about that?” Hamako answered.   

Hamako’s mother then explained about the weather gods.  She told Hamako that Hamako is supposed to meet the weather gods, to stay with them no matter what happens.  She was told that she should be with them at all times.  Even though Mahoko was so nervous to tell Hamako, she had to inform her about it.  “Mom, why didn’t you tell me already?” as Hamako questioned her mother.  The only reply she got however was, “It’s because you wouldn’t understand”.   Hamako was shocked to know that the story her mom told her when she was a child was real. “Why did you have to tell me now?” Hamako asked with anger, “I planned to tell you sooner but I was afraid how you would react”, Mahoko replied in a scared voice while trying to calm Hamako down.

When Hamako asked for proof about her being the chosen one, her mother instructed her to ask her grandmother.  Nervous and afraid, Hamako approached her grandmother.  All her grandmother could say, however, was “Yes, my dear it’s sad to say that it is true”.  Although she already knew the truth, Hamako still questioned her grandmother’s statements at the back of her mind.  She still could not accept the truth.  “My mother once said that he next one in our family will be my grandchild.  It turned out I would be next”.  Apparently, there is no one in our family who knows how to break this curse.  Now in shock, Hamako is not ready to do this but she has no other choice but to agree with her mother.

Unexpectedly, Hamako’s dream happened again. “Hey Tadaaki may I ask you something?” she asked him.  “Yeah, what is it?” Tadaaki replied.  “Where do you live if you’re real”?  Talking to himself, and before replying to Hamako, Tadaaki thought that she must be a real person as she might want to visit him if she knows where he lives.  “I live in Fukutsu, Fukuoka”.  Just before Tadaaki was able to ask Hamako as to her address, she excitedly stated “Hey! I live near Fukutsu, too. I can visit you sometime!”.  

After knowing each other’s address, they clarified if they are both real or not.  They said yes to the said question.  Before parting, they both agreed to meet in person over the weekend.  Tadaaki was so excited that, even if it was just a Tuesday, he already set aside a schedule this coming weekend.  He already thought of a good restaurant for lunch, movies to watch if possible, stroll through the park, visit a museum, and many more things to do.

Saturday came.  And just when Tadaaki was about to go out to meet Hamako, there was suddenly a storm.  Because of this, they had to cancel their meeting.  Tadaaki could only say “Man, what an unlucky day it is today”.  Hamako, on the other hand, thought “Why does it have to rain today. Can’t it wait until after I meet Tadaaki”? 

Hamako’s mother came to her room just as she was thinking about Tadaaki.  She wanted to tell Hamako something that is more surprising than what she told her a few days ago.  “Hamako I’ll tell you the reason why it is raining hard today, are you—”.  But before Mahoko could ask Hamako if she was ready, Hamako quickly answered “It’s because of me right? It’s all because of me, because of this stupid curse.  Why does it have to be our family?” Hamako was getting mad because she has no idea what will happen next.  “Hamako, if you want this crazy weather to stop, go up the old shinto shrine just on top of our house and go pray there.  But before you go there, you need dress neatly to please the weather gods.  After praying, close your eyes, and before you realize it, you will be above the clouds”.  Mahoko tried to hold back her tears she tried her best to explain this to Hamako.

Tadaaki, who’s day and plans were ruined because of the crazy rainfall, was so curious of what Hamako’s reaction will be if he tells her about his feeling towards her. Tadaaki has no other idea as to how he could meet Hamako other than going out in this crazy weather. 

As he was about to make up his mind, his grandmother Kako went inside his room to check on him, “Tadaaki, my dear are you alright? It seems that you are in a hurry, what’s the problem my dear”?  “I was supposed to meet a friend and spend the whole day with her.  Because of the rain, it turned out to be just another unlucky day.  The rain just won’t stop and I don’t think it’s ever going to stop anytime now”.  Grandmother Kako was so curious that she has a lot of questions about this “friend” of Tadaaki.  “Tadaaki may I know the name of this friend of yours?”.  “Hamako Watanabe is her name.  Do you know anyone with that name, or at least her last name”?  “Watanabe?”, his Grandmother Kako further asked.  “You mean the famous Watanabe?”  Surprised at what he heard, Tadaaki exclaimed “Woah, you know about them grandmother Kako?”  

Tadaaki became more curious about Hamako Watanabe.  “Can you tell me more about the Watanabe’s grandmother Kako?”  “Sure dear, but make sure you listen?”  “Yes grandmother Kako”.

Grandmother Kako began to narrate what she knows.  “Well, this first happened about 40,000 years ago.  Once every 3,500 years, one family member must offer herself to the weather gods to make the crazy weather stop.  When one is offered to the weather gods, she can never come back to earth.  And once the weather gods get tired of you, it’s either you’re sent to hell or heaven, depending on how the weather gods liked it. I think that your friend Hamako is next in line”.  Tadaaki was in shock as he doesn’t know what to do.  He even thought “how can one get this more unlucky?’.

Tadaaki made up his mind to see Hamako even with the crazy weather.  After chatting with grandmother Kako, he decided to go out.  Immediately after leaving the house, the weather instantly changed from bad to worse.  The rains became more intense.  A crazy blizzard suddenly hit Fukuoka.  Surprisingly, it was only in the said area as it was quickly broadcasted by the media.  The whole of Japan, and shortly after, the whole world, learned about it.  The incident instantly became popular.  “I have never seen anything like this!!” or “How can this happen??”, were some of the reactions.  

“I think that the curse is true and maybe this is the 3,500th year”.  There are so many comments about the strange blizzard that came from almost everywhere.  Tadaaki was almost at Hamako’s home when a hailstorm occurred.  Its strong gust of winds blew and came towards Tadaaki’s way.  Good for him, he was able withstand the wind.

Tadaaki tried to find a shortcut to Hamako’s home through the GPS.  Sadly, however, there was no signal due to the hailstorm that broke many electrical poles.  After all of this, and when he was about to reach Hamako’s home, he bumped into an old lady who he thinks is Hamako’s mom.  She was in tears.  “Are you Hamako’s mom? If you are then I need to tell you something.  Hamako’s—”, “I already know”, she replied, and there’s no turning back.  Let’s just pray that the weather gods will be happy when Hamako gets there”.  “No, I am going to save Hamako, I have something important to tell her”, Tadaaki’s bravery made Hamako’s mother realize something.  “If you want to save my daughter do it now, time is running out”.  

Rushing to the Shinto shrine, Tadaaki found Hamako dressed in yukata and was doing some kind of ritual.  With just a blink of an eye, Hamako was gone.  Tadaaki was devastated, but did not give up.  He went to the shrine with a prayer and, just like what happened to Hamako, he disappeared in the blink of an eye. 

When Tadaaki opened his eyes, he did not see anything but white.  In the distance, he saw a large pond filled with Coy fishes.  He also saw Hamako feeding the fishes.  Tadaaki went down the clouds to get closer to Hamako but failed.  He instead tried to swim like he was in a pool.  He also tried to call Hamako’s attention but it seems like she can’t hear him.  He tried to scream her name.  “Hamako! Take my hand I’ll save you from this curse.  I promise that I’ll bring you back to earth!”.  Hamako finally noticed him.

“Tadaaki, what are you doing here? You’re not supposed to be here.  It’s forbidden, go back now before it’s too late!”, “I don’t care”, as he tried to convince Hamako.  “Who cares if the weather stays crazy like this forever.  Who knows how this happened, and when it will stop.  It doesn’t matter to me.  You are my sunshine, my rainbow after the rain!”.

Hamako was touched with what Tadaaki said.  She tried to grab Tadaaki’s hand.  When Hamako was about to take a hold of Tadaaki’s hand, they both found themselves back to the shrine.  After waking up, Hamako noticed that there is something wrong but could not put her finger on it.  “Hamako, are you alright?” asked Tadaaki.  “Yeah, I’m okay.  How about you?  How brave of you to do that”.  “I just wanted to be with you longer and you don’t have to flatter me that much. I also wanted to tell you something.”

Just when Hamako was about to ask what Tadaaki was going to say, she saw her grandmother at the shrine.  She was supposed to take Hamako home.  “Grandmother, where’s mom?”.  “I’m afraid my dear that…”.  “What is it grandmother, is something wrong?”  “My dear, you were able to come back because your mother made the decision to go to the weather gods to ask them to take your place.”  “Why would she do such a thing?”, she said crying.  “Your friend right there made her realize something that you’ll do and risk everything just to make your loved ones happy.  This is just like the reason why your father saved you and your mother from the car crash when you were just a little child. I know this is hard to accept but this is reality.  It just proves that your mother really, really loves you.” 

A few days have gone by after the said event.  The weather was coming back to normal.  Hamako regained her composure, and was ready to face reality again. Tadaaki, who was there beside Hamako, was glad to see Hamako doing fine again. 

“Why don’t we continue our date-like hangout this weekend?” Tadaaki asked.  “Sure, I have a lot of things that I want to do with you.” Their plan was finally coming true.

The day finally came and both of them are excited to talk to each other, to know each other more, and to have more fun together.  Tadaaki was supposed to tell this to Hamako a long time ago but it didn’t happen because of the event that happened a few days back.  Now that Tadaaki has the confidence to confess to Hamako, he planned to say this when the day was almost over.

“Hamako, before this day ends, I just want to tell you something, I like you!”  Hamako was so surprised to know, but someone is also hiding a secret all along. “Tadaaki, what you feel towards me is the same feeling that I have for you”.  Tadaaki was shocked, and at the same time flattered, to know that both of them have feelings for each other.

After 5 years since the event, Hamako and Tadaaki are still dating.  When they are together, they would always visit the shrine to give thanks to the weather gods, and to pay their respect to Hamako’s mother for saving her.  

The very old Shinto shrine above Hamako’s house mean a lot to them because this is the first place where they first met, the place where they laughed a lot, cried over a lot, and made a lot of memories, the place that was the reason they got to know each other. This shrine is the Miyajidake shrine.  

And it all began in their dreams.


The Lands Beneath the Water

“Run.” She said weakly as the beep of the hospital machine echoed through her room. I was debating if I should go. I couldn’t leave her here in this state, but I would end up dead if I don’t leave now. I glanced at the caretaker, who was also tearing up. With tears, the caretaker urged me to go, giving me the assurance that she would take care of my mother. I kissed her forehead and rushed to the door. My vision is blurry due to my tears. I wiped my cheeks, but it didn’t really do much with my dried tears.  

I stepped out of the room only to notice a suspicious group of men in a suit rushing to this room. I went to the opposite side as calmly as possible, but it seems like they noticed me as they were running towards me. I ran faster. I know this hospital more than anyone; I could lose them. I turned left and used the emergency exit to the parking lot. I took off my lab coat and threw it in the bin. I immediately went inside to my car and drove off while the men just got off the building.

I didn’t bother going home as I know that someone might be waiting for me. I planned to drive outside the city. The traffic was hectic, but I ceased this moment to think about my next move. Where should I stay, and what should I do? I observed the cars beside me when I noticed that another group of unfamiliar faces was watching me. I gripped my steering wheel tighter and focused on the red light. I need to get out of here fast. 

The moment the lights turned green, I stepped on the gas to make my car run faster. Other drivers were honking me, but I kept on driving. I was moving too fast when there was another traffic ahead. I was already outside the city, which makes me question the traffic. Everyone was going out of their cars and looking directly at the sun with some sort of telescope. I glanced at the rear-view mirror when I could still see them. Run. My mother’s voice echoed. I went outside my car and calmly blended in with the crowd.

The sky was slowly turning dark. The moon was gradually covering the sun. Everyone here was trying to glimpse at this rare moment—everyone but me. I tried to peek at the group of people following me, and I saw that they were searching the crowd. I slowly walked towards the forest nearby to hide, but I accidentally locked eyes with one man. 

I sprinted to the forest while they followed. I almost lost the group, but one guy pulled his gun and shot me. They were really tasked to kill me. I grew weaker due to the amount of blood I lost, and I’ve gone deeper into the forest. No one could find me here, even if I’m dead. As I was about to give up, I heard water rushing, so I continued running. My eyes couldn’t focus anymore, and my vision was spinning. I could only hear to owls hooting and water rushing. The last thing I know, I fell into the water.

The rock ceiling covered in moss was the first thing I saw after I woke up. Where am I? The moment I realized that I was running from someone, I jolted up only to feel dizzy. I let my vision adjust to the light, but it seems like it did not change as I expected. Right in front of me was a group of people dressed as animals. How long was I out? Is it Halloween already? Is this some type of cult? That would make sense; their costumes were creepily realistic. They were discussing something that I couldn’t really comprehend. When they noticed that I was awake, they circled my bed as hard as a stone. Or maybe it was a stone. They gawked at me like I was some sort of new species of animal. The more I look at them, the scarier their costumes are. 

“Where am I?” I asked them. They looked at each other confused. 

“What year is it, and who are you?” I continued asking even though no one was really answering me. 

One of them finally stepped forward to speak. It was a tall man with the wings and ears of a bat. He wasn’t looking directly at me while talking, but it wasn’t my main problem. They were speaking in a language that I don’t understand. It wasn’t even familiar. Are they playing with me? The man kept on talking, but it wasn’t making any sense. I couldn’t even get any context clues of what he was saying. 

The lady with a beak of a bird and a yellow contact lens said something that made the man stop talking. She then offered me a white liquid which I assume is coconut milk poured in a coconut shell. I was so alarmed at where I was that I didn’t realize I was famished. I aggressively grabbed the shell and drank it, not minding that I spilled some of it. I didn’t care if these people were still gawking. I was famished. The lady slowly put another shell, but it was filled with mushrooms. When I was still in school, I used to study different species of mushrooms. The shell was full of mushrooms that I could not recognize, but I ate it anyway. When I finished eating it, I slowly put down the shells beside me, ashamed that I lost my table manners for a second. However, the lady simply nodded and smiled with her eyes. 

“Goli,” the man earlier said. “You’re in Goli. The mainland of this world.”

Goli? I’ve never heard about that place. He talked as if we don’t live in the same world. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see another man with gigantic horns. Horns of a water buffalo, to be exact. His hair was in a man bun, and his upper body was full of dark tattoos. My attention was then shifted to the huge man that entered. 

“Where’s the dayuhan?” His voice thundered. Everyone in the room looked at him and slightly bowed. He seems a lot normal compared to the people I’ve met. His white whole-body tattoos matched his darker complexion. He was wearing a cloth that only covered his right arm and hip area. His costume reminds me of the Filipino’s pre-colonial way of dressing. His horns are covered in gold and had a pair of owl eyes in front. 

Threatened by his presence, I stood up to show some courtesy. I felt a sting in my left stomach and found a bloodstain seeping through my shirt. Right, I got shot.

“I am Harayo. I am the Man of these Dwellers,” he spoke. “If you come to cause harm to my kind, leave at once, or you won’t be able to leave at all.”

“I’m not here to cause any harm. I just accidentally came across a river, and it brought me here. I need to go back. Where can I find the next bus?” I plead, Harayo. The room was filled with murmuring, but I was only focused on what this man in front of me would say. 

“My child, you were not drifting in the water. You traveled through the portal. It opens every time the moon meets the sun.” Is he talking about the eclipse? What does he mean by a portal? 

“You must have noticed the difference between how you dress and how I dress. Dear, we are not like you,” the lady from earlier spoke. “We are Dwellers. We are nothing alike.”

Confused, I closely examined them. Their costumes were so realistic because it was not costumed in the first place. I felt my knees weakened. I sat down on my bed and processed everything. Thoughts were rushing in my mind, but I suddenly remembered my mother. I need to go.

“I don’t know what you people are, but I need to go back. Tell me which part of this so-called Goli is the portal.” I said, panicking. I am not sure which part is making me panic. These creatures or the thought of my mom. “Dear, the portals are close.” 

“I must go back. There must be another way out!” I shouted. The creatures were startled and looked at each other with concern. 

“Of course, there’s a way out,” Harayo spoke. “But it is not as easy as waiting for the meeting of the sun and the moon.”

Anything. I could do anything just to get home.

Alaga, the lady earlier, told me to rest first, but I insisted on starting walking as soon as I could. She was kind enough to offer me food for my journey. She put them neatly inside the basket made of coconut leaves.                   

As I went out, the colorful caves of rocks welcomed me. They were covered in different kinds of flowers and had a massive opening that served as their front door. The Dwellers were working and productive, but they stopped as soon as they noticed me. I realized that I don’t know which way I should go, so I decided to approach a girl carrying a huge basket of leaves. Her hair was white, but she had this comb similar to a chicken. I was about to greet her, but she ran away from me.

“What’s the difference between humans and demons?” A cold deep voice startled me. It was the guy that came in with Harayo earlier. “It has confused me ever since.”  

“I’m looking for the way to the other exit.” I ignored his question. Mainly because I, myself, do not know the answer. Before I could get my response, he started walking away. I sighed, knowing that no one would help me and Alaga already left. 

“Start walking if you don’t want to stay here forever,” the guy said; I took it as my cue to follow him. 

We had walked for half an hour when I noticed a large snake-like human at a distance. It was guiding the gate, which I assume is for the exit of the land.

“Basiliska. The Guardian of Goli. She makes sure no one can go in or out the land that may cause harm to the Dwellers.” My companion said. “One must solve its enigma to open the gates, or you must drink its poison.”

Instead of responding to this fun fact, I mentally prepared myself and quietly asked for His guidance. As we got nearer, I couldn’t hear anything but the beating of my heart. I shouldn’t be afraid; my companion knows what to do, right?

“Look who’s here. Nakita Amora,” the Basiliska announced. I was surprised that she knows my name. She turned around to face us, and I instantly looked down, afraid that once we locked eyes, I would turn into stone. She reminds me of Medusa from Greek Mythology.

“I do not resemble your made-up kind,” the Basiliska snorted. 

Slowly, I looked up at her. I would say that The Basiliska was almost the same height as the basketball rings. Its eyes were entirely yellow and. She had the upper body of a human but a snake’s lower body with a bright green pattern. Its lips were a darker shade of green and a pointy set of teeth. I was about to tell my request to open the gates.

“You wish to travel all the lands to go out?” The Basiliska laughed. “What a brave soul you have.”

“I am merely a stone, yet I can protect,

A piece of stone, no one can suspect.

He, who owns me shall be guarded, 

And those who don’t might be discarded.”

           The Basiliska’s face turned serious while reciting the riddle. I glanced at my companion; he then turned to me. I don’t have any clue what the puzzle means. By the looks of it, neither did he. What stone was she pertaining to? No stone could protect; it would only cause harm.   

The Basiliska laughed. I looked at her, confused. Could she read a mind? She knew my name from the start when no Dwellers really asked for them.

“With a mind as loud as yours, it would be hard not to listen.” She stated. “You have choices, answer the riddle, drink the poison, or you can go back and never return again.”

I looked at my companion once again. Silently pleading with him to help me. He rolled his eyes before stepping forward. 

“Black Obsidian,” he spoke. “It possesses the power that shields its keeper from any harm, emotionally, mentally, or even physically. It is one of the strongest crystals, yet Dwellers calls it molten lava.” 

The Basiliska, satisfied with the answer, opened the massive gates. She did not say a thing but handed both of us a shiny black crystal.

I was inspecting the rock closely, that I did not realize that my companion was already walking ahead of me. I ran to catch up with him, afraid that the Basiliska would close the gate. 

The land beyond the gate was so different. Goli was made up of colorful stones and flowers, while this place was all green. Rocks with green moss and few trees. There were fireflies as well, even if it’s not dark yet. As I was being mesmerized by this place, my companion sat down on a giant rock nearby. I looked at him questioningly. 

“The sky dusked. Traveling would be hard.” He said without a look at me. He was leaning to the rock while his arms were crossed. I decided to sit down on a rock near his. 

“I’m Nakita.” I started even though he probably already knows this due to the Basiliska. “I just want to thank you for helping me here.”

“I’m not doing this for you. Your kind should not be trusted. I am Gahala. Guardian of Threats. I am tasked to guard you.”

I was offended that they considered me a threat; however, I thought about people chasing me to find the cure of a cursed sickness. Maybe he was right. Maybe my kind is a threat, especially to these creatures. 

           I couldn’t help myself but be fascinated by how this world works. A firefly was circling me, and I followed it with my eyes. It flew up, and I noticed that there were hundreds, if not thousands, of them. Even though there was no vast source of light, the fireflies were enough to see my surroundings. Before I noticed, I already fell asleep. 

           I woke up when I could feel someone throwing small gravels on my face. That, someone, was Gahala. He was already up and seemed like he was ready to go. Fireflies were already gone except for a few ones who were still roaming. I could see their sky clearly. I don’t know if I should call it “sky” since it looks like deep blue water floating, which I assumed is the river I fell into. I wonder what’s the science behind that.

           “About time,” he commented. “Let’s go. We have a long road to tackle.” I stood up and dusted myself. My back hurt from my sleeping position, but I did not complain. Gahala already doesn’t like me for who I am; I don’t want to annoy him more.

From afar, I could see that the next land would be just gigantic mushrooms in different shapes and colors. I couldn’t see any guardian, so that’s a good sign. I waited for Gahala to explain the land, which he did not disappoint.

“That’s the Land of Troop,” Gahala explained. “They are just the mushroom Dwellers. They won’t physically hurt you. However, some of them are toxic.” 

“That’s not too bad. We can just avoid contact with them,” I told him. Gahala scoffed. “They are attracted to what’s new to their eyes. If they notice you, they will definitely catch and hug you.”

Well, that’s the problem. Their poisonous characteristics were secreted through their skin which makes most of them toxic. There were around 10,000 different species of mushrooms, and even though I studied them, there’s no way I’ll know every species present. 

“Well, you know most of them, right?” I asked him. He must know them! This is his world.

           “I’m a guard,” He rolled his eyes. “Someone is tasked to study every kind of Dwellers there is, and that is not my job.”

           As we arrived at the land, we hid behind a rock nearby. I peeked at them; and they have arms and legs that match the color of their body, and they were roaming around aimlessly, playing with each other. They are gigantic, yet they remind me of babies. I couldn’t recognize if their caps were their head or their hats.

           Gahala nudged me and pointed to a tree near the mushrooms, indicating his plan, which is to climb up and land on the nearest mushroom, hopefully safe. We ran towards the tree, and I was silently praying that the mushrooms did not notice. 

           I was having a hard time climbing the tree, but Gahala pulled me up without even trying. I looked at the mushrooms nearby, and I noticed a white fan-shaped mushroom. 

           “That’s an oyster mushroom. People- my kind used to eat that.” I explained to him which he nodded in response.

           Gahala jumped first and waited for a while to see if the mushroom noticed. When nothing happened, he signaled me to jump, and I did. I outbalanced and almost fell when the mushroom moved suddenly but luckily, he caught me.

           I observed the troop again to find a nearby safe mushroom. I was kneeling to keep my balance since the mushrooms are moving all the time. Gahala looked at the reddish-brown mushroom with conical and expanding cap. 

           “That’s Conocybe Filaris. One of the deadliest mushrooms,” I spoke. “But that’s a Chanterelle Mushroom. They are common in certain lands in my world.” While I point at the yellow trumpet-like mushroom.

           Gahala rolled his eyes once again before jumping at the mushroom I pointed to. I followed him, and I just kept on explaining different mushrooms that are safe to land on. I could already see the exit. We were almost done; however, on our way to the exit were mushrooms that I don’t know the species. I tried hard to remember which mushrooms are safe, but I couldn’t even remember if I studied them. To make the situation worse, a more enormous yellow mushroom with flat caps noticed us and made its way to us. 

           I could see the panic in Gahala’s eyes. I pulled my hair, frustrated that I couldn’t remember, but then the scene from Goli flashed into my head. Alaga was offering me a shell of unidentifiable mushrooms. It was black and looked like a dried flower which looks very similar to the one nearby. I didn’t bother telling this Gahala; I grabbed his wrist and jumped to the mushroom. We then jumped outside the Land of Troop and ran as far as we could, and luckily, the yellow mushroom didn’t follow us.

           “You seem to know a lot about mushrooms,” Gahala stated. We are on our way to another part of this world. It turns out that this is the first time Gahala has traveled this far since, according to him, I am the first traveler for the past 104 eclipses. 

           “Why are you so devoted to going back to your world?” He asked without looking at me. “Waiting for the portal would be so much easier and safer.”

My thoughts then wandered to my mother’s state. I hope she’s doing well. I wanted to answer him. I want to tell him that after years of finding the cure for cancer to help my mom, the government tried to kill me because of it. They don’t want the treatment. They want the money of these dying people. I want to tell him that the reason I was here was that my own kind wanted me dead, but I know he wouldn’t understand.

“Why do you hate my kind so much?” I asked him instead of answering. It took him a minute before he could finally form his answer.

“16 eclipses after I was created, a man traveled here using the portal.” He started. “My father was really fond of the man. He called himself a Researcher and studied every kind of Dweller there is. Unlike you, he waited for the portal to open, and he visits often.” 

I was listening intently to what he was saying. His voice was cold, yet you could feel that he has been holding his emotions for a long time. He kept his eyes forward while talking. This was the first time he spoke without insulting me and probably the longest one yet.

“One eclipse, he was not alone. He brought his friends with him. My father, as usual, greeted his friend, but instead of greeting him back, they beheaded my father and caused chaos to our land. My father’s brother, Harayo, killed the travelers to prevent them from spreading the knowledge of our existence. It never happened again, until now.” 

I couldn’t find the right words to say. I was speechless but mostly ashamed. People could be so ruthless that I loathe my own kind. But before I could comfort and respond to him, we noticed a rushing of lava coming our way. 

Our first instinct was to run away, but the flow was so fast that we had to climb over the huge rocks. Gahala successfully did it at his first attempt while I was struggling, but he helped me again. From a distance, I could see a volcano in a giant human form. Its body was made of lava, and its face was made of flames. The rock we climbed was getting hotter, and we had to move to another rock to exit. 

“We have to be fast,” Gahala said breathlessly. “This is the Land of Olayak. She’s very territorial.” 

Gahala held my hands as we jumped from stone to stone, not minding the heat. Oyalak kept on firing her lava to a random area while she was clearly looking for us. We try to lay down as possible, not wanting to get her attention. 

Oyalak passed us, but she was still throwing lava. This was our moment to go as fast as we could. When we were jumping, the black crystal given by the Basiliska fell to the lava. Gahala and I both stopped our tracks while Oyalak turned around. When she saw us, she was furious and directly attacked us. Gahala pulled me to move. We weren’t hiding anymore. We jumped to the safest zone and hid behind the trees, which, for some reason, wasn’t affected by the fire. We successfully escaped Oyalak.

As I was catching my breath, Gahala was inspecting the area. I noticed that the trees were past the water above, and lights were seeping through the land. 

“This must be the Maze of Subanon,” Gahala spoke. “We should start moving.” 

We had been walking for hours, but it seems like we weren’t moving at all. We kept on coming back to the same entrance. Go away. I don’t know if I was just tired or someone really did whisper to me. I looked behind me to find no one. Gahala must have noticed my behavior.

“They say that these trees will speak and move just so no travelers can successfully go back or enter the lands.” He said as he was looking for something. “Alaga used to tell me stories. She said that there are clues everywhere that may help the lost.”

Exhausted, I slumped to the nearest tree when an apple fell. Gahala noticed this and told me not to eat the apple, so I decided to place it on the ground. The moment I let go of the fruit, it turned rotten. Shocked, I stood up immediately. 

Gahala, who was intently inspecting the rotten apple, seems like he got an idea. He continued walking and tapped every tree he passed. As he did, apples would fall into his hand. He then placed the apple on the ground. Some of them turned rotten, while some stayed with their form. He gave me the red apples while we were following the path that the perfect fruits were made. Not long after, we could hear the hooting of owls and rushing water.

When we finally made it out of the forest, I could see the most beautiful body of water in my life. It was the shape of a waterfall, but the water was going up instead of falling. I could clearly see fishes swimming up to the sky. This part of the world was brighter compared to the others. I glanced at Gahala only to see him as astonished as I was. He noticed that I was looking at him. He got something from his pocket and handed it to me. 

“You need this more than I do.” He said as he gave me his black crystal. It was a little different from mine. It had a string connected to it, making it a necklace. “I can’t enter the water. You must go alone.”

I wore the necklace. So, this is goodbye. I glanced at the water before bringing back my eyes to him. I offered my right hand to him. 

“In my world, we shake hands to say thank you,” I told him. It wasn’t really true, but I have to thank him somehow. He accepted my hand, and we shook hands. “Not to ruin the moment, but expect that there are Guardians of the Waters that will try to manipulate into drowning you. Don’t believe anything they will say. Focus on your goal.” He spoke. I laughed and showed him the necklace he gave me. 

I went close to the water. I didn’t bother looking back. I touched my necklace, and I went inside. I instantly floated, and as I went deeper into the water, I could see a half-fish and half-human approaching me. She was beautiful. She whispered something into my ear that I couldn’t understand. Instead, I followed her. It was as if I was hypnotized. A larger group of her kind approached me. They were all beautiful, and I couldn’t help myself from staring at them. 

My vision started to dim, and I could hear a ringing. I felt like passing out and falling deeper when I could see the necklace float to my face. The faint ringing started to sound like my mother’s hospital monitor. I woke up and swam up faster. The creatures didn’t force me to stay, but I could see them hissing at me. I went to the surface and caught my breath. Without missing a beat, I ran to the roadside and waited for a car. 

April 25. It had been a month since the eclipse. I’ve been lost for a month. I borrowed the lady’s phone, who offered me a ride. I instantly typed and posted to every social media platform I have the cure for cancer. I flooded my account for everyone to see. I directly went to the hospital while I was still soaking. Everyone’s eyes were on me, but I couldn’t care less. I went to my mother’s room only to find it empty. I grabbed the nurse on duty and asked her about the patient in this room. 

“Doctor Amora? You’ve been missing since last month!” She exclaimed. “Your mother passed last week, Doctor. I’m sorry.”

The ringing in my ears became louder that everyone’s voice wasn’t audible. My knees grow weak, and I collapsed to the floor. My heart was shattered, but no tears were formed. I couldn’t cry, yet I am in pain. I felt like fate was playing with me.

“Where have you been, Miss Amora?” The therapist asked. “We’ve been looking for you for a month. You didn’t even attend your mother’s funeral.”     

I stared at the glass of water in front of me. It had been 3 years of asking this same question. I don’t know what to say. I couldn’t remember where I’ve been. I could recall that I came back with soaked clothes, but I couldn’t remember anything about what happened before that.

Knowing that they won’t get a proper answer from me, they let me go. Hopefully, they would let me go permanently. I went back to my apartment to pack my things. I need a break. As I packed my things, I noticed a black crystal necklace sitting in my messy drawer. I inspected the unfamiliar necklace that somehow gave me nostalgia. I stopped packing and went to my car. 

I found myself driving to the same forest I found. I walked deeper as the sky grew darker. I looked up to see the moon meeting the sun. I suddenly heard a hoot of an owl followed by a rushing of water, and on the rock near the river was a creature with a buffalo horn. He looked at me and smiled. Instead of being afraid, I felt that I was not alone for the first time in a very long time.


10:03

It has been three days since Hiraya’s arrival on the island her grandmother lives, and so far, she did not have any problems adjusting to the island life. Hiraya has been taking photographs of the places she went whenever she had free time, wanting to commemorate the beauty of her surroundings. One could say that the once monochromatic scheme of the photographs she had taken before is now full of vibrant colors. Born with a gold spoon in her mouth, but even inside the lavish world her parents introduced her to, she still found herself feeling confined and unable to break free from the invisible chains her mother and father made. Bound to be someone else she knew she did not desire, a doll meant to follow every order of her owner. To say that her grandmother and her parents rarely get along well, she found her trip to the island unexpected. But then here she was, spending her long-awaited break in the place her mother grew up because her grandmother insisted on giving her granddaughter a time for herself, one not planned by her parents.

Today, Hiraya’s destination was the lighthouse by the ocean. She was looking forward to seeing the breath-taking scenery presented by the vast emerald ocean. Yet, the sound of the brisk wind and crashing of the waves made her feel unsettled. The sky began to look gloomy, and soon, the rain began to pour heavily. She quickly approached the shed nearby to seek shelter, trying to cover her camera from the rain. While waiting, Hiraya decided to photograph her surroundings. She was trying to focus her camera when she suddenly spotted a man, drenched in the rain but seemed unbothered by his situation. Clearly, the thought of seeking shelter did not even cross his mind.

The more she gazed at him, the more she was enthralled. The man is wearing simple clothing, yet even with these plain garments, he looked effortlessly beautiful. Though somehow, the way he is conscious of his surroundings made her feel bothered. Surely, some person who walks around in the rain barefooted, looking like they are trying not to be unnoticed is quite peculiar for an island with quite a moderate number of inhabitants. She did not realize that she was just staring at him with her camera in hand, intrigued by the man. And the moment she knew it, Hiraya clicked the shutter button of her camera right when the man suddenly looked in her direction. To hide her embarrassment, Hiraya quickly turned her attention towards her camera, pretending to browse its content.

However, while looking at the pictures she took, Hiraya noticed that something was strange. The photo she accidentally took earlier, was just the scenery, and the guy was not seen. She hastily glanced in the direction where the guy was located, yet he was nowhere to be found. Soon, the rain came to an end, leaving Hiraya all alone in the shed, frozen in her place.

“If he wasn’t real, then what does that make me?” she said to herself, still puzzled by what she saw, and couldn’t help but be alarmed. He did not look like he could be a ghost nor anything, in fact, he looked more like a heavenly being. Not knowing what she was thinking, Hiraya decided to head to the place where the guy was located earlier. She did not know what she wanted to prove, but she couldn’t just brush aside what had happened. After looking around, she then noticed a pocket watch lying on the ground where the guy was standing. The pocket watch looks vintage but well-kept, but something is odd about it. The hands of the watch are moving, but it’s turning counter clockwise.

“If he was an angel, then I’ll gladly rest my case.” Her random remark made her feel like she was really out of her mind. She could’ve just run away when the rain stopped but she still approached the place where the guy had been.

“So what if I am an angel?” said the person behind her in a snarking manner. 

Hiraya was startled when she heard the voice. She turned to see who the owner of the voice was and noticed that the guy was wearing the same clothes as the man from earlier, a white dress shirt matched with brown pants. Now that he is closer, Hiraya could not help but notice his appearance. A delicate nose, reddish-pink lips, and enticing light brown eyes, which accentuate his elegant demeanor. She could say right there and then that he could pass as an angel, but she did not want to make a fool of herself.

“So, what if I am an angel? What will you do?” The guy repeated his question with a more serious tone from before. His sudden appearance made Hiraya anxious. She did prove that the guy from earlier was not just her hallucination, but now that he is in front of her, she’s at a loss for words.

***

“Are you?”

After hearing her response, the guy let out a chuckle. He could notice that she was wary of him, but her tone made him amused. She seemed innocent, but he perceived she did catch onto something.

“Will you believe me if I say I am?” the guy said.

“No,” Hiraya sternly replied. 

“I see, your parents taught you well.” The guy then flashed a smile, a sarcastic one.

When the guy sensed that he was not alone earlier, he decided to look for a more secluded place. He did make sure that he was not visible, but there’s still a chance that a human could see him. Some humans are just gifted to be able to see such beings like him. Although it is a rare case, one should always be cautious. But then again, here he was, standing in front of the girl because his pocket watch found itself into the human’s hands. He knew that he would break the rules in approaching her for he is forbidden to interact with a living being unless it is a part of his duty, but the presence of the girl felt too unsettling to disregard, and, well he needs his watch.

“Is this yours?” the girl then showed him his pocket watch. i

“Indeed, it is mine.”

The young lady was thoughtful enough to hand over his watch without asking about its condition. However, the guy noticed how the clock is turning. And although it was his, it was the first time he saw it turning opposite of its intended direction.

***

Hiraya noticed the guy’s frantic eyes when he saw the watch. She saw how anxious he looked and wanted to ask what was wrong, but what he said afterward caught her off guard. 

“Forget about what happened here,” the guy said with a stern look.

“I’m sorry?”

Hiraya was confused about the guy’s sudden change of attitude. She thought that he must be one of those people who pulls pranks on everyone. But seeing his expression, something is telling her that what he said just now was not a joke. Looking back at what she just witnessed earlier, there is an odd vibe going around the guy. She’s not one to believe in superstitions but she is in an unfamiliar place after all. And once again, she was left dumbfounded in her place when the guy excused himself hurriedly.

***

He did not know what she just saw, but what he did was careless. He was sent on an errand by his supervisor and talking to a human being was not included in his task. To top it off, his position as an angel is also on the line, because of a random girl he encountered. But was she really a stranger? or so, he thought.    

“Ugh, I’m doomed again,” he mumbled to himself.

“Excuse me?” Hiraya swiftly grabbed his hand, causing him to flinch. The young lady indeed does not know how to give up, he thought.

“Oh, I’m sorry.” She noticed how the guy winced at the sudden touch, so she quickly withdrew her hand.

The guy was still startled by the sudden sensation. He did have contact with human beings before, but there was no strange electric shock involved. To top it off, he was bewildered to see that the girl looked completely normal as if she never touched an angel just now. 

In cases wherein a human and an angel had contact, it is usually the human who is more vulnerable. Once a human touches an angel, there could be a side effect. Some even recall their past lives because of an angel’s touch. Thus, angels are taught to be cautious when there are human being’s in sight, as a single touch could ruin a human’s life. Yet with the wincing pain her touch brought onto him, it seems like he should be the one to avoid the girl. The guy did not think that Hiraya would come after him, but he was more shocked by the effect of her touch. He knew that an angel shouldn’t be capable of feeling that way.

***

“Can I take a photo of you?” Hiraya asked with a hopeful smile.

Hiraya did not know why, but a part of her was telling her to do so. Perhaps, her confusion was still left unresolved. In her eyes, he does look like a fine young man, but she felt that there’s still more to it. His words, how he did not appear in the photo she took, how he possesses a clock that turns counterclockwise, everything about him was strange. She knew that there could also be a mistake on her part, but it couldn’t hurt to check once again, the girl thought.

Hiraya wasn’t lying about what she said, however, it wasn’t really her real intention. She could just forget everything and pretend like she did not see anything just like what the guy had said, but then she felt that if she did, she would regret doing so.

The guy suddenly smiled widely, he did look charming with the smile and all, yet even with the beauty he possesses, she knew he was being pretentious.

“I’m flattered but I’m afraid I don’t have the time to be your model.” The guy replied.

“Then, may I at least know your name?”

She sure indeed is one persistent girl, and Hiraya knew it herself. She’s not the type to give up, because after all, it’s what her parents taught her so.

“Dos.”

***

For some reason, Dos felt as if he had been duped. He told himself that he needed to avoid the girl but look at him telling his name. He did not know what he had gotten himself into, but he sure got caught in the trap. 

“I’m sorry for bothering you. I’ll get going now then.” Hiraya smiled at him and turned around to walk away, completely unaware of what effect she had given to the poor angel. Dos was left dumbstruck in his place, until his pocket watch suddenly alarmed him. At the end of the day, no matter where he goes and who he encounters does not matter at all, because, above all, he has to get moving and go back to where he belongs.

The watch serves as a companion for every angel out there. It is in charge of reminding them of their impending deadline. Every angel has a set task given to them, some are in charge of guiding human beings to the other side, some for animals, and some to guide the lost souls. That being said, Dos is in charge of guiding human beings to the other side, or what humans call the ‘Grim Reaper’. Just like any other angel, his mind is completely set on the task he was given, though his soft-hearted nature sometimes gets him in trouble. An angel shouldn’t interfere with the life and death of the living, but he’s not too cold-hearted to be able to ignore a plea from someone that is suffering. 

***

Dos managed to arrive at the chapel where the chief had decided to meet him. The Chief, or what every angel calls him, is the overseer of every angel like Dos, a Grim Reaper. He is in charge of ensuring that every angel fulfills their duties, as well as following the rules. And so at the sight of his supervisor, Dos could not help but feel intimidated and anxious, afraid that his chief would find out what he had gotten himself into. He tried to mask it off with a smile, but his chief was too quick-witted.

“What trouble did you cause, again?” his chief asked while narrowing his eyes at the poor angel. 

Dos just stood there in front of him, with an awkward look plastered on his face.

“My pocket watch,” Dos said after much contemplation, and showed the watch in his hand to the fellow angel, still turning counterclockwise.

The Chief looked shocked at the sight of the angel’s watch. “What happened?” his chief concernedly replied. 

“I made sure no one could see me, but strangely enough, she saw my presence and she managed to hold my watch.” The angel said in a trance. 

“So, the time has come for you.” The chief said, furrowing his brows.  

“What do you mean?” the angel confusedly replied.

“I know you already know that every angel out there has their reason for becoming one. For example, to those angels that grant blessings, they are given with such duty for they were once one of those humans overflowing with gratitude, those that are too good for the human realm. To angels of death like us, they were greatly different from us. We were punished to collect souls for committing a sin that could not be forgiven at all, making us unable to go to the other side nor be resurrected allowing us to repent about the sins we did when we were still mortals. But then, if someone has an overwhelming amount of resentment, they also have a high chance to become an angel of death.” The Chief paused and looked at Dos’ eyes.

“But then at some point, our duty does come to an end too. No one knows when it would be, but the moment someone has made your watch turn counterclockwise, it signifies the key to exit this oblivion, and also the reason why you are in your place right now.” Dos looked at the Chief with a conflicted look.

“Soon, the memories will come to hunt you, and it is fully up to you if you will seize the key or let it pass by.” The Chief added, reminding him about the implications if he does choose to seize the key.

As an angel of death, Dos knew the responsibilities and rules he should abide by. He knew that with every wrong step he takes, comes a consequence, and that includes having to realize the baggage he must bear after he was reminded of the very first day he was given the title of an angel. The moment he saw the pocket watch turned counterclockwise, he knew right there and then that his biggest challenge right after he was given his responsibilities, will soon take place. He still does not know what awaits him, but one thing is for sure, the once journey he thought was suffocating, will become even more tormenting.

***

Days passed, and the memory of what happened that day stayed with Hiraya. With much contemplation, she decided to visit the lighthouse once again, since the last time she went the weather was gloomy and she could not fully admire the view. The island is a small one and there aren’t that many residents, so there was no one around. She felt somehow dismayed, but she proceeded to take out her camera and take a photo of the beautiful scenery. She was completely astonished by the view, that she did not notice she was not alone anymore. Hiraya was flustered when she felt that someone was looking at her, but her face soon lit up when she realized who it was.

“Dos?” she asked, trying to hide her delighted face. Their encounter was short from before, but neither did Hiraya even once forget the guy. She knew that her attitude could be strange sometimes, and their encounter was one of those. It was the first time she encountered someone of her age on the island who does not seem to know about her identity. She found the presence of the young lad somehow relieving.

“Sorry, you are?” Dos asked, trying to feign ignorance.

“Oh, we met here last time but I wasn’t able to introduce myself. It’s Hiraya.”

Hiraya tried to mask off her disappointment when she heard the response of the person in front of her by trying to sound positive, but to no avail, he just stood there and looked at her. Hiraya did not know what to do afterward, so she offered her hand for a handshake. She thought that he must’ve been weirded out by her action when he just looked at her hand. Hiraya decided to withdraw her hand when he showed no signs of returning the handshake, but then he suddenly held it, causing Hiraya to be startled.

***

Dos wanted to see how she would react to his touch, but her reaction looked normal, except that her cheeks are getting red. Hiraya was the first one to let go, completely flustered by his sudden action. She looked away to hide her flustered face, but it seems that there’s no way she could hide it.

“Are you okay?” Dos innocently asked. 

Hiraya nodded. “Are you free today?” she decided to change the topic as his gaze makes her feel conscious. Hiraya is an alluring young lady. She does look a bit aloof, but no one can deny the fact that she is easy on the eye. Hair as black as charcoal, lips as red as blood, eyes as sharp as a knife. She does look like she is more of a villain material rather than a princess, but she is a gentle person, which most people often overlook. Most people who associate themselves with her are only so engrossed in her background that they fail at knowing who she is. Hiraya knew that she wasn’t bad looking, but when Dos looked at her, she could not help but be conscious. Perhaps, he is so striking that she felt small beside him. 

“I did finish my task today already, so I am free for the day.”

“Then, will you accompany me?” Hiraya did know where her confidence came from, to invite a stranger whom she had a weird encounter with is sure to cause a misunderstanding. Still, given that he might find her strange for asking such a question, the thought of taking back what she had said did not once cross her mind, even though there is a high chance she might get rejected. 

***

Seeing her eyes, he could not help but sense the loneliness she was trying hard to hide. Somehow, he could not bear to reject the young lady. Today, Dos wanted to take a breather, think about what he should do about the right choice to take. He wanted to be alone, but when he arrived earlier, he could not help but notice Hiraya. He wanted to back away, but seeing her look at the scenery like she was on top of the world, Dos found it hard to take his eyes off her. As if for a moment, he was bewitched.

She might be the reason why Dos is in his position right now, but the more he thinks about it, he realizes that it would be an unselfish act of him to want to exit this oblivion when he is someone not worthy enough of such a chance. He knew that the more he gets closer to Hiraya, the higher chance that he might not be the only one to regain his memory. He knew that remembering her past life would only conflict her, but he kept on wanting to see her. At least just for today, he wants to see her smile, after a long time of not being able to see the face of the person he loved.  

“Sure,” he replied.

Dos did not expect her reaction at all when he agreed. In his eyes, she looked like a little kid who has finally found a friend to play with after playing all by herself. He could not help but smile at the sight of her, but deep inside, he felt conflicted. He does not know if he is making the right choice, she is someone tormenting for him. But for today, somehow, he wanted to be with her, even just for a while, until he finally could find the answer he is looking for, or so he thought.

***

Hiraya did not expect that he would accept her sudden invitation. But hearing his response, she felt somehow elated. It was rather the first time someone from the island accompanied her, so she was happy that she wasn’t finally alone.

“Where are we off to?” Dos asked.

“The seashore,” Hiraya cheerfully said.

Hiraya could not stop smiling, even when he turned his back on her to go first. She wanted to take a photo of him and the scenery, but she can’t find herself to do so, afraid that he might turn out to be just her hallucination. She smiled at him when he waited for her to walk side by side, but he could see that something was off about her eyes.

“Are you a local here?,” Hiraya asked. 

“No.”

“Are you here for vacation then?” she asked, trying not to sound so interrogative.

“You could say so.”

Hiraya could not help but chuckle at his responses. He seemed as if he had no intention to keep the conversation going, so she just stayed silent. The presence of a person other than her was enough to make the lady contented, she did not ask for more, just someone to make her feel less deserted.

“You?”

“Me?” Hiraya pointed to herself.

“Are you a local here?”

“No. I don’t belong here,” she replied, trying to hide the glint of sadness in her eyes.

He could sense that something was off about her response, but he did not want to pry, after all, he shouldn’t be by her side in the first place. Both of them did not know what to say, and so the walk to the shore was enveloped with silence. Even though they found both of their companions unexpected, it was enough to lessen their burdens. Shortly after finding a perfect location, Hiraya decided to take out her camera to photograph the view.

“Why do you do photography?” the angel asked, trying not to sound intrusive. 

“It was the only thing I was allowed to do as a hobby,” her response came out as a surprise to Dos.

“Do you like to do it?”

Hiraya smiled weakly at Dos. “At some point, I did not, but now that I came here, I was thankful for being able to photograph such sceneries. I was so enclosed in my world that I disregarded my surroundings, and to be able to see such beautiful places, it made me realize how beautiful it is to be yourself, just like that flower.” Hiraya said, pointing at a deserted flower that sprouted near their position.

“Are you just like that flower?”

“No, I am still far away from being able to blossom like that one.” The young lady chuckled at her response with a hint of bitterness.

“You know you can actually take all the time you need. Until you can blossom all because of you, and finally have enough courage to be you. Someday, the time will come where you can finally be yourself, just like that flower.”

***

As much as Hiraya was comforted by the angel’s words, Dos was reminded of his actions and their consequences. By being with the young lady, he realized what he chose to set out to do. He knew that being with her would only be tormenting and that the more he wanted to be with her, the higher possibility of him not being the only one to regain his memory. Dos did not want Hiraya to remember what their past was. After all, whilst guiding a lot of human beings to the other side, he was shown what a memory of the past can do to a person.

To seize the key implies that he would be able to get out of oblivion, but the moment he chooses to, Hiraya’s memory from the past will come back. Dos did not want her to remember that horrible memory, and to him, it was enough if he could see the person he had loved from before finally be happy, even if it meant it was not because of him. Even if it would mean he is bound to be an angel for eternity.  

***

Dos did not expect that such time would come so soon, and like what his chief had said, the memories did come back. And so, he regretted his choice. Dos remembered the memory of how the look in her eyes changed after the blood splattered on her face. The memory of how her eyes changed from the happiness at the sight of him into sadness. Her eyes tormented him for a long time, making it unbearable for him to live. He remembered the very first day he saw her up until the last moment as if everything happened yesterday. He was filled with remorse because of her family, yet she was different. She was the only person who brought colors in his monochromatic life.

Notwithstanding the fact that he had loved Hiraya in the past, the fight between both of their families was uncontrollable owing to the egotistic ambitions of both clans. All because of the greediness of both the heads of the families, vying for more power. Trampling those that are impoverished to get to the top, trying to be the greatest. They wanted all the power to themselves, not realizing they were becoming the monsters in their children’s nightmares. Both the past Hiraya and Dos knew about why both of their families hated each other. Their family considered each other as competitors, but neither did their children. Both knew that their relationship would cause both clans to be aggrieved, and so they tried to hide the fact that they had liked each other. They were happy to be together even though it was in secret, but unfortunately, every happiness always comes to an end.

Dos tried to protect his relationship with the young lady, but the moment their families knew, they could not do anything. They were forced to separate their ways, but both could not be stopped. So much wanting to break free, he did everything he could to get out of his family’s wrath, and that includes defying them. Dos lived his life trying to teach the monsters who were to blame for his nightmares a lesson, but what he did not realize was that he was also becoming a monster himself. He did not know when everything went wrong, but before he even knew it, and before he could break free, he saw the body of the lady he loved lying on the ground, covered with her own blood. All because he wanted to be with her, and all because of his family’s greed. With that, so much resentment made him who he is at the present, an angel of death.

***

Dos was so engrossed with his thoughts that he did not realize, Hiraya was just looking at him. To her, he looked like someone she could never reach no matter how much she wanted to, like someone who does not belong to her world. Yet somehow, even in his otherworldly presence, she was not afraid. He was someone who could give her solace, and to Hiraya, it was enough.

“Can I ask you a question, again?” Dos asked after contemplating and looked at Hiraya.

Hiraya was flustered when he turned to look at her, but she quickly regained her composure. “Sure.”

“Between being able to remember the person you loved from the past, someone who you were happy to be with, but was also a person who hurt you. And living like you are now, with no hints of that person, as if he never existed. Which would you choose?”

“I’m sorry, it’s rude of me to ask, it’s okay if you do not want to answer my question.” Dos apologized awkwardly after realizing what he had asked.  

***

Hiraya smiled at Dos. “Did he love me?” The young lady asked after pondering.

Asking such a question, she must have thought it was weird, Dos thought. Still, hearing her ask that question as a reply, he was relieved to know that she did not think of it as strange.

“Yes, so much,” Dos replied, and then looked at the young lady’s eyes.

“If he loved me, then that is enough reason. For me, I would choose to remember that person. If he really was someone I loved, someone I was happy to be with, and even if he did hurt me, I do not think I could blame him. One might think it is foolish of me, but, I would rather choose to remember him than live as I am now. I know my choices would have consequences, but still, I would choose to cherish every memory we had together, even if it meant I would be reminded of the pain.” After Hiraya answered the angel’s question, Dos took a quick glimpse at her and smiled weakly.

“Thank you for answering my strange question.”

Having chosen to let go of her, somehow, her answer was enough to comfort him. He knows that he should not be confused with the person he loved from before. She is someone with the same face, but with a different fate. So rather than choosing to leave his responsibilities as an angel, and letting Hiraya remember everything, he wants the present Hiraya to live her life choosing herself and be happy. 

***

Both Hiraya and Dos stayed silent until the sun had finally set. There was no reason to stay anymore as it was getting dark, but both of them remained seated in the sand, looking at the sky.

“Thank you for accompanying me,” Hiraya said, breaking the silence.

“You don’t have to thank me. After all, you also accompanied me.”

“Can I ask you to accompany me from time to time when we come across each other then?” she cheekily said. Dos could not answer her question and just smiled at her.

“So, is it a goodbye now?”

“Goodbye,” Dos replied, looking at Hiraya.

This time, it really is goodbye for them. Finally being with her after such a long time, he was content. He thought that if this were to be the last, then the time he spent with her was enough for him.

***

To Hiraya, every encounter with someone would always end with a farewell. She was no stranger to goodbyes. Except for some reason, Dos’ goodbye felt different, like it really is the last time. Indeed, he was a stranger, and Hiraya did not know him well enough, but having to talk to him earlier about the things she could not even talk about the people she knew, she expressed her gratefulness by wishing him well. Hiraya watched as the angel turned his back on her, wanting to keep the memory, the young lady took out her camera. Along with the moment Hiraya clicked the shutter button, Dos disappeared, forever in her memories.

***

“I will always wish for your happiness, my love.”


Amaranthine

Chapter One

The automatic doors of the airport parted open. I stepped outside with my luggage following behind as I dragged it onto the pavement. 

Breathing in the fresh air, a twinge of calmness ran through my nerves.

After living nearly six years in Australia, Aunt Marissa finally decided to go back to the States. I had tried to convince her numerous amounts of times. And gladly, she had agreed.

We rode a taxicab to the apartment we rented for the time being.

 “What do you think of the city?” Aunt Marissa questioned.       

“It’s nice… a lot of things changed, I guess,” I answered, pulling out my phone. There had been newly built infrastructures I saw on the way. Back then, there weren’t as many buildings as I remember.

“Great. I’ve already enrolled you in a school near the apartment — a small distance from there. Although you’re starting a bit later than the others, I’m sure you’ll catch up with the lessons fast.” The woman informed enthusiastically, “Are you meeting with Arya this weekend?”

I only nodded, too tired to keep up with the conversation.

The ride to the hotel was taking longer than I’ve imagined. I had been scrolling through social media when I passed by a post that had thousands of likes. It was a drawing of a car that was severely damaged. The bumper was crashed into a post, two unconscious people inside. It had been well drawn and I was about to like it when I heard a loud honk coming from my side. I looked up, eyes widening at the speeding truck towards us.

“Wha—”

My shock was cut short as the car recklessly swerved out of the way, bumping into a lamp post. I heard the truck slip on the road, wheels turning to every which direction as it lost balance. 

I harshly jolted in my seat, the seatbelt preventing me from leaning any further. Aunt Marissa hit the back of the driver’s headrest in surprise. I managed to unbuckle my seatbelt despite the pain of my neck.

“E-Eliana, are you o-” Aunt Marissa struggled to finish her sentence. 

“I’m okay,” I whispered. I looked over to the driver’s seat. The man sat unconsciously.

“I…I’ll get help, wait here.” I got out of the car, teeth gritting as I reached for the back of my neck. The pain was too much for me to handle. As I rounded the car, I saw how the aluminum parts were falling off. The bulb of the lamp post was blown out, too; the impact of the crash made the post bent, threatening to fall onto the car’s roof. 

I succeeded in walking a few steps before my body finally gave up. Dizziness flooded my senses, my perception becoming unclear.

A bleary image of a figure was the last thing I saw before I completely slipped out of consciousness.

Chapter Two

I awoke from my dream, eyes squinting from the white fluorescent light on the ceiling. Only then did I realize it wasn’t a little nightmare. I blinked away the drowsiness, gathering the energy to sit up.

The monitor beside the hospital bed beeped consistently, the sole thing that resounded the whole room. The door opened to reveal a nurse carrying a clipboard. She looked up.

“Oh, you’re awake! Hold on, I’ll go get the doctor.”

And with that, the door closed once again.

I pursed my lips. I couldn’t stand the quiet. Nor did I fully remember what happened before I even got here. My eyes bounced from one corner to another. The walls were painted white, one side was decorated with wood wallpaper. The curtains were half-closed.

The door creaked open. I diverted my attention. Instead of a hospital staff I’d expected, a sophisticated-looking woman entered.

“…Do I know you?” I spoke, my voice was still raspy and low.

The woman smiled. She adorned a floral white dress that stopped below her knees, paired with plain wedge heels. Not my style, but it looked good on her. Somehow. Her lips were tainted red that accentuated her pearly white teeth whenever she smiled. 

“You can see me.”

My forehead creased in slight confusion. It didn’t sound like a question; it was more like a confirmation. Nevertheless, I nodded. 

“Who are you?” I asked. My hand subtly reached for the nurse call button. 

The woman only chuckled, her eyes averting from mine to my fingers that hovered in the air. 

“No need for that, dear.” She said.

My arm limply fell to my side. I narrowed my eyes, warily watching as she neared the edge of the bed. She looked quite intimidating. I tilted my head at the eccentric woman.

“The car accident,” she began nonchalantly.

I furrowed my brows deeper than I intended to, causing the middle of my forehead to wrinkle a bit.

“You didn’t foresee it, did you?”

Confusion grew in my system hearing her words. My heart pounded against my chest, somehow feeling uneasy under the woman’s gaze.

“What are you talking about?” 

“You didn’t see it coming, yes or no?” She ignored my question once again, retorting another one back to me. 

Thinking back from last night, I remembered the drawing I came across with. It was detailed the same as I saw when I checked the car. The same broken bumper crashed into a post, the truck thrown onto the side at the exact street I read from the sketch.

“The drawing,” 

I looked up to the woman who held an unfathomable expression.

“—it’s gone.”

Chapter Three

It had been two weeks since me and Aunt Marissa got discharged from the hospital. Even until now, she disturbs me with a handful of worry in her gut, asking if I was okay. It had also been long since my encounter with the vaguely eccentric woman. 

The day after I left the hospital, I immediately searched for the drawing I was sure was posted on different social media platforms. But indeed, it was gone.

I heard Arya calling me. I was with her for the very first time in six years. And having a lot of stories to catch up on, we decided to hang out today.

I got up from the bench of the bus stop, quickly tailing behind the blonde girl. A yellow taxi cab was driving near us, the hectic crowd of people rushing to and fro to get to the vehicle first. Thankfully, it was easier for us to reach, and so we ran up to it. 

But as I was about to open the car door, dizziness rushed through me again. The world was spinning; my stomach churned as if someone tied it into several knots.

I closed my eyes, panting lowly. Then, I saw a blurry vision of a scene that I was sure never happened.

Car… blood… accident…

I shifted my weight onto my other foot, still tightly gripping the door handle.

Death… crowd…

“El, are you alright?”

I fluttered my eyes open, gasping. Looking around, I saw the annoyed faces of people. Their mouths opened and shut, yet their words were all muffled to my hearing. 

I took a step back.

“A-Arya, let’s wait for another taxi.”

“What?”

“Just trust me, please.” I practically pleaded, baffled by the sudden vision I saw amidst my dizzy state.

Arya nodded, putting a hand on my back as she carefully directed us to the bench again. I breathed heavily.

The person who lowly cursed at me entered the cab, a frown on her face. I couldn’t care less as I was too deep in my thoughts to even notice—

Just then, the loud screeching of tires was heard from a distance. I opened my eyes widely.

“Oh shoot,” I heard Arya say, standing up on both of her feet.

I, too, stood up. It took a while for me to stabilize myself, but once I did so, my eyes unknowingly flickered to the figure from afar. My dilating pupils immediately locked with his. 

Though he was meters away, his expression was clear as daylight: face contorted into distaste. 

Chapter Four

Nearly a week had gone by after I had the odd prediction of the accident. Confusing would be an understatement. I had told Arya about it and she seemed convinced enough with my brief explanation. But I couldn’t help but consider it as a rather weird coincidence. Coincidence, well, because none of it made sense. Like at all. Nonetheless, I knew I had to meet one person and it was the woman from the hospital. I was positive she knew what was going on. 

It was the 4th of August I decided to walk my way home instead of taking the bus. Say, I was being cautious this time. Car accidents seem to be… attracted to me.

Ahead, was the wide concrete path. I looked down at my feet that moved alternately as I walked.

When I finally looked up, someone oddly familiar caught my attention. He was walking to where I came from, hands in his jean pockets. 

I stared at him longer than I intended to.

Under the dark strands of hair were eyes so alluring with a hue of red. Crimson. His lips were lightly tainted pink — not that I was directly staring at it — but it contradicted his fairly pale skin.

“Where have I seen him before?” I quietly mused, head tilted to the side.

He stopped from a fair distance. He seemed to notice that I was staring him up and down. He resumed walking. Crimson eyes glowed under the setting sun, a scowl on his face. My stomach twisted.

I walked farther from him. But it was no use as he instantly caught up to me with his long strides. I gulped, stepping back to create distance from the little space he had made.

Though I was highly taken aback by his sudden action: he tightly held onto my throat, eyes glowing a taunting shade of red. My eyes widened. I placed both of my hands above his, trying to break free from his strong grasp. But it was useless as I started to suffocate from the lack of oxygen. My chest tightened and my throat started to hurt from the pressure of his hold. 

“Who are you?” he interrogated between gritted teeth. The boy glared at me, “My father sent you to spy on me, didn’t he?”

“N-no.” 

He strengthened his grip on my neck for the last time before he let go of me. I choked between breaths, heaving for air. My vision blurred from the tears that lined my eye. 

“Forget it.” 

And just like that, he disappeared into a pit of black smoke.

My jaw dropped. Nervously coughing, I turned around in every direction but he was nowhere to be seen. I shivered from the sudden coldness that nipped at my skin. Gulping, I went home, fear striking my every nerve.

Chapter Five

The next morning, I went to school like any other day, but with dread filling my whole system. Too many things have been happening since I’ve arrived here. It was… overwhelming.

I sat in class, jotting down random words while Mr. Elfire’s voice was loud in the background. I could hear whispering from behind me but I ignored it.

“Ah, look who’s here to join the class.”

At the sound of this, I looked up but regretted it immediately once I saw the figure come in. Eyes wide, I watched as Mr. Elfire motioned for the person to sit, scolding them for being late. 

“I’m so sorry,” the person with sleek black hair said. But insincerity was evident in her tone. The strands that perfectly cascaded down her back were adorned with bright violet highlights. 

She sat down. And at that moment, our eyes clicked together. I glared at her as she bitterly scoffed. 

It was Veronica Enright, my lifelong enemy since kindergarten.

The bell rang, indicating that it was already lunchtime. The corridors were packed by students racing to the cafeteria. I quickly exited the classroom but was pulled back by a hand on my wrist. I yelped.

Turning around, I was met by a harsh glare from the one and only Veronica. 

“What are you doing here?” She narrowed her eyes.

“I should be the one asking you that,” I glared her up and down, “What are you doing here?”

“My father transferred me here. Since when did you-” 

I cut her off by raising my hand in front of her face, “I won’t bother you, okay? So just leave me alone for once.”

Rolling my eyes, I roughly yanked back my wrist.

She was the worst. Undoubtedly. 

Veronica had hated me since we were five, yet there was no rational reason for her to loath me, in my defense. Instead of confronting her, I played along, and ever since then, we both hated seeing each other’s faces.

As I rounded the corner, I was startled by a sudden tap on my shoulder. I looked behind and sighed in relief. It was just Arya.

We both stepped inside the wide cafeteria filled with chattering students. With trays in our hands, we neared the table where two – no, three boys sat. 

The brunette boy, Kale Archer whom I met just a week ago from chemistry class, looked up from his phone. He smiled at us. He was nice and polite. Quite frankly, every girl in this school was head over heels for him.

Beside him was the blonde boy, Zeph Harris. He didn’t look up from his plate of food and continued munching on them.

I had met Zeph through Arya when we were at a boot camp. Honestly, he was the most mature amongst all of us.

My eyes landed on the boy who was two seats away from Zeph. I gasped when I was met with those familiar crimson orbs. 

“You,” I pointed at him, my tone laced with exaggeration. I strode towards him, glaring directly into his soul. 

“Why are you here?” I whispered, loud enough for only him to hear.

He stared blankly, unfazed. Before I could ask another question, he stood up, towering over me. He didn’t say a thing yet I gulped from his intense glare. 

“Guys,” Kale rubbed the back of his neck, “let’s settle whatever you both have going on. You don’t want to make a scene, trust me.”

Chapter Six

I almost burst into a laughing fit. 

“Him?” I pointed towards the black-haired boy across me, “The son of death?”

Arya gestured me to lower it down a little when the others glanced my way. 

“Yeah, and we need your help.” Kale genuinely spoke. 

I looked at each of their expressions, no hint of them joking visible on their faces. Arya, for the first time, looked dead serious. Kale seemed worried, and above all was the fidgeting Zeph who was nervous in his seat. When I diverted my head, I was greeted by his unfathomable expression again. 

 “What?” He deadpanned.

I shook my head, clearing my throat. 

“So you aren’t joking about this grim reaper guy here?” I half-mocked.

“Grim re-“ His eyebrows drew downwards, obviously offended. “For the last time, it’s Zayden.” 

He didn’t miss to emphasize it.

I looked at him, tightly smiling. 

“Whatever,” I turned to the others, “You’re joking, right? If he is then why is he sitting with us? Isn’t he dangerous or something? What if he kills us without us knowing? Why are you telling me all this-“

I was cut off by a slam on the table. We all flinched.

“You know what,” Zayden glared at me, teeth gritting as he leaned forward. “This is useless. Even if you beg this idiot, she wouldn’t do any help.”

And with that unhesitantly said, tone everything but considerate, he stormed out of the cafeteria, leaving everyone wide-eyed and shaking in terror.  

“Reaper has a bad temper,” I pursed my lips.

Chapter Seven

I jumped off of the bus, hearing the door close then it drove off. My mind was elsewhere, far away from reality as I thought back to what happened during lunch. I didn’t want to go home yet, not wanting to face my aunt in such a sullen mood. And so, I roamed around the neighborhood to kill time.  

It was when my phone rang, I felt dizzy. Again. 

My perception of my surroundings was replaced by a blurry scenario of a kid and a mother. The ear-piercing screams made me uneasy. It felt as if I was actually there when, in reality, it was just my hallucinations again. 

Or maybe…            

My body wasted no time before I sprinted off to the familiar road-crossing. Hand and head shaking frantically, I swallowed the lump down my throat. I could feel beads of sweat trickle down my face, strangely feeling hot despite the coldness of dusk. I wasn’t even wearing a jacket, to begin with.

In no time, I arrived, immediately seeing the two victims I saw from earlier. I took a sharp breath, hearing the bus even though it was still a distance away. 

The mother and her son walked up to the middle of the road, totally unaware of their surroundings. And as if on cue, the loud beeping of the bus echoed. 

Without thinking straight, I bolted towards the innocent family. My hands hovered in the air, waiting to push the two of them.

Everything felt like it was on slow-mo. But at the same time, it was too fast for anyone to comprehend; too fast for me to act impulsively. 

The wheels screeched onto the asphalt. I peeked through one eye, startled by not only the bright headlights but by the boy in front of me, his face dangerously close to mine. My eyes flickered between his. Only then did I feel his arm encircled around my waist. I gulped, feeling my stomach churn again.

But something went with it… I just couldn’t tell what.

Before I could say a word, he let go of me. I lost my balance and stumbled back on the ground. Rubbing my lower back, I gawked at him in disbelief. 

Zayden looked back at me with a stern expression. Something that says ‘you’re so careless.’ Or somewhat between those lines. I huffed, standing up with my hand clutching where it hurt. 

Ahead of everyone else approaching, he quickly walked out of the scene, leaving me stood there in the middle of the crowd.

Chapter Eight

Another day passed rather quickly. I avoided Zayden at any cost, and it was obvious that neither did he have the guts to confront me.

I was walking down the hall when I received a message. An address sent from an unknown number. 

I eyed it carefully, reading it and realized it was just the café near the school. It was a couple of blocks from here if I remember correctly. 

 I bit the insides of my cheek as I mentally debated if I should go or not.

Something was off about this anonymous text but my conscience was telling me to go to the café.

And out of curiosity, I did. 

The bell above heads chimed when I pushed open the door. I stepped in, admiring the displays hung on every wall. The bittersweet aroma of coffee beans infiltrated my senses as soon as I reached the counter. The jazz music that was playing gave the place a light atmosphere.   

I ordered a medium cup of strawberry frappe and went ahead to sit on an empty stool. I was on my phone, reading the news articles about the accidents happening in the city lately. It was terrifying to see an ambiguous amount of death and events that occurred over the week. Something felt… odd.

However, I was driven out of my thoughts when the bell chimed again. Someone had come in.

I looked up, almost gasping at the sight of the woman who had entered. It was the woman I met at the hospital. My jaw dropped. I choked on my drink, turning into a coughing fit. 

What was she doing here?

My question was promptly answered as the woman neared the table I was at. 

“Hello, dear.”

I stood up, greeting her politely before sitting back down. She took the seat opposite mine.

“Were you the one who sent the text?” I nonchalantly asked in which she smiled and nodded at.

She took a sip of her tea before sitting up straighter. 

“I’m sure you’ve met him already.”

My eyebrows raised, confused about who she was referring to.

“Alarie,”

Oh. I nodded. 

“He’s giving you a hard time, isn’t he?”

I grimaced just thinking about it.

The woman slightly chuckled, “He’s a hardheaded kid, but you’ll grow fond of him in no time.”

Silence took over us. I sipped on my frappe awkwardly. 

“I’m certain you have a lot of questions.”

I looked at her.

“But unfortunately, I can’t answer any of them.”

Of course, I saw that coming. I slightly bobbed my head up and down.

“But I do have a piece of advice,” she placed her cup down, red lipstick visibly staining the white mug. “Stay close to Zayden and you’ll get your answers soon.”

I stayed quiet.

“Help him and he’ll help you.” She looked at me straight in the eye, “Nothing is a coincidence, Eliana. Everything going on has a reason behind it.” 

Chapter Nine

It was August 29, 2019, two days after my meet-up with the woman, and three weeks away from my 18th birthday. I stood in front of the gates, mustering up the courage to at least ring the doorbell. Swallowing my pride, I rang it twice. I waited until a lady in uniform went outside.

I told her Zayden was expecting me, which he actually wasn’t. But she seemed convinced of my little lie as she led me to the living room. I sat in the middle, my body on the edge of the sofa. 

My eyes roamed around. Everything looked expensive. Rich and dark. From the chandelier above accentuating the sleek black furniture, to the marbled floor beneath my feet, all of it looked lavish. 

My eyes then darted toward the spiraling staircase where I heard pattering footsteps. I quickly jumped off from my seat.

There stood Zayden in a grey sweater; his hair disheveled as if he just woke up. For a mere second, he looked surprised to see me, but his expression immediately turned into his usual cold one. 

“What are you doing here?” He asked, raised a brow as he sauntered near me. 

I rolled my eyes, fully losing my left ego. “I came here to help with whatever your problem is.” 

━━━━━

“So you’re telling me… we have to find whoever is behind the accidents happening?” 

The others nodded as if it was something casual. We were sprawled in the small library at Zayden’s house. Zeph, Arya, and Kale quickly came over after I called them to meet up. 

“Glad your brain isn’t peanut-sized.”

I glared at Zayden, hearing him grumble incoherent words. The three were clearly suppressing a laugh. 

“At least my class rank isn’t 70, grim reaper.” I retorted back. Though I still didn’t fully believe him as the ‘son of death,’ it was funny to call him by that.

A slight smirk tugged up my lips when he scoffed, looking away. 

“Anyway, back to the problem, we heard you can predict um… future accidents,” Kale said.

I turned to Arya, wide-eyed. 

“You told them that?” I whispered in which she nodded dumbly. 

I whipped my head to the front, huffing. “Look, this is all a misunderstanding. I don’t even know how and why I see those kinds of stuff. It just happens randomly without warning.”

The others looked at each other. I felt an uneasy tension between all of us and I was sure they noticed it too. But before it could prolong, Zeph decided to cut through it.

“That’s why we need your help, El.” He said.

My eyes warily danced around the room, seeing their faces contorted with worry and unease.

“Why?”

“Because there have been too many deaths lately. It’s unusual for all of it to be a coincidence.” Zayden answered monotonously, “Someone’s behind it.”

I squinted my eyes. I was a bit far behind from the others, the information not clearly processing in my head.

“Do you know who it is? Do you have a lead?”                           

Arya, Kale, and Zeph looked at each other timidly while Zayden sat back, gaze not leaving the window behind me.

“We think it’s Zayden’s father.” 

Chapter Ten

Here we go again.

I gripped my hair, feeling dizzy. I swallowed the dryness of my throat; sweat beginning to form on my forehead as I panted heavily. I held onto Arya for support. 

We were both taking a stroll in the park since we were free, and not for long minutes later, my vision started to blur. 

“El, are you okay?”

Arya led me to a nearby bench, seating me carefully. I massaged my temples.

“It’s happening again.” 

From my peripheral view, I saw how her blue eyes widened.

“What should we do?”

I regained my senses not long after.

“It’s a few blocks from here. I think we can get there beforehand.”

I stumbled on my feet. Arya held me tightly until I stood balanced on the ground. We both went to the street with paced steps. However, as soon as we rounded the corner, my eyes widened a fraction from the sudden sight I saw.

A knife.

“Arya,” I halted. 

“What?”

“It’s dangerous-“

An ear-piercing shriek echoed from the alleyway. I looked at Arya with dilated eyes. I gulped, holding onto her wrist as we carefully backed away. 

“What are you doing?” She asked, completely unaware of what I was seeing.

I didn’t answer her, though, and continued stepping back.

Quiet, soft footsteps until… crunch.

The leaves under my shoe sounded crisp. Loud enough for anyone in the alley to hear. It echoed through the isolated and cramped area and I was sure someone heard it besides me and Arya. 

“Call Zayden, quick,” I demanded as a silhouette neared the entrance of the alley. 

“What do you mean? What are you looking at?”

“Just dial it already, Arya.” 

Once the man stepped out of his shadow, the first thing my eyes caught sight of was the dangerous glowing of his eyes. It was red like the blood that dripped down his knife.

Impulsively, I sprinted off with me dragging Arya by the wrist.

“My phone-!” 

I knew it.

We shouldn’t have come here without thinking. I should’ve had ignored it and minded my own business. Because of my stupid visions, I had put my and Arya’s life in danger.

Behind us was the towering figure covered in black clothes. No matter how we fastened our footsteps, he easily caught up to us. The stack of crates I had thrown in the way was no use as he jumped over it without any effort exerted. 

We turned around the corner, losing sight of him. I placed both of my hands on my knees, crouching slightly as I gasped for air. 

“Why did you run? What did you see there, El?”

Despite the shortness of my breathing, I managed to look at her in the eye. Confusion bubbled up inside of me.

“You didn’t see him-“

Just as I thought we were safe, I was proven wrong as a sharp metal came in contact with my neck. I gulped, eyes widening as the knife grazed over my skin. I struggled under his grasp.

“El? What happened?” Arya stared at me, eyebrows furrowing deeply, “What did you see?” 

My forehead creased in bewilderment. The man holding me captive evilly laughed in my ear. 

“She couldn’t see me, nor hear me. But you…” he stated, “how can a mere human like you see me?”

What?

He pressed the knife closer to my throat. I felt something cold drip out of my neck. I winced.

Building up the courage, I gritted my teeth. I kicked him right on the spot when he seemed to be oblivious about it. He quickly let go of me as he hissed. I stepped away, my hand reaching for the wound on my neck. 

“You’re bleeding!” Arya exclaimed, eyes wide. “What-! How?”

I stared at the crimson liquid staining my hand. For some reason, rage fumed inside of me as I looked back at the man who regained his balance. I neared him.

“Eliana, your eyes-“

I ignored Arya’s audible gasp and strode towards the man. He snickered, throwing the knife on the side. It made a metallic sound once it hit the concrete. 

In a blink of an eye, he attacked me. Both of his hands found their way to my scarred throat, choking me to death. 

“What are you?” He narrowed his eyes. 

 I didn’t reply.

Without another thought – not that I even thought about it thoroughly – I wrapped my fingers around his neck. My nails dug deep into his skin, a feeling of outrage rushing through my nerves. But I couldn’t understand why.

I saw how his face contorted into pain and he strengthened his grip on me as I did. 

My brows knitted together when he began to arise from… my force? He let go of me as his legs dangled in the air. My arm was outstretched up-high, still strangling the man. 

However, my grip loosened when he flew over to the other side, harshly crashing into the brick wall. But I was sure I wasn’t the one who did it. 

My eyes widened once I turned around.

“Zayden! Thank God, you’re here.” Arya exclaimed, “What in the world is happening to her?” 

There stood none other than Zayden Alarie, an enigmatic look on his face as his arm was directed to the wall the man just crashed into.  

Chapter Eleven

We went to Zayden’s house shortly after he arrived on the scene. I was in the bathroom, cleaning the cut on my neck. Well, trying to. 

I winced looking in the mirror. The wound was painful, still freshly red on my pale skin. Thankfully, it wasn’t deeply indented and the bleeding somehow stopped. I looked around to find a tissue. 

Suddenly, I heard a light scoff from the door. I tilted my head up to the mirror, seeing him leaning on the doorframe. 

“You don’t seem as careless now as you were earlier.” Zayden cocked a brow up. 

I ignored his presence and continued to dab the cotton pad on my skin. I winced. Groaning, I let my arm fall onto the marble, completely giving up. 

Tsk.

I heard shuffling from behind me but I didn’t dare look up. I just ignored him as if he wasn’t there. Although without any warning, he put his hands on my shoulders, turning me around. I looked up.

He reached for the disinfectant on the sink, applying it onto a new cotton pad. I slightly shivered from the cold touch of it, hissing as pain struck my nerve.

“Told you,” he said, dabbing it onto my skin, “you should’ve gone to the hospital instead.” 

I huffed, blowing away the hair that was all over my face. 

“I hate hospitals.”

He scoffed, applying pressure onto the wound. 

“Ow!” I glared at him. 

“What are you? A baby?” He snickered. 

I didn’t reply, just deadly glared at his way. 

Looking at him now, he seemed calmer – more serene. It definitely creeped me out.

As he finished cleaning the wound, it was at this moment I realized how near he was to me. Under the bathroom light, his features became more prominent. His lashes batted whenever he blinked; his pale skin somehow shimmered from the orange light. But above all those were the crimson eyes I was starting to grow fond of. The bloody specks of his irises glistened in the light. My stomach churned once again. 

“There,” he stepped back and I was pulled back to reality. 

My eyes flickered between his.

“Don’t just attack anyone so carelessly.” 

I subconsciously nodded and with a last glance at me, he stepped out of the bathroom.

I turned around to see my reflection; I was red as a tomato. 

Get over it El. 

I shook my head, slapping myself as butterflies erupted in my stomach. Eyes traveling down to the bandage on my neck, a smile unknowingly crept up to my lips. 

Chapter Twelve

The five of us were sat in the middle of the library, again. It was a Sunday afternoon and we all decided to discuss the upcoming plan – if ever we actually have one. 

“You should be really careful, El,” Zeph said, worry evident in his voice.

“I am-“

“No, you’re not.” Zayden kept a blank expression. 

I raised a brow at him for cutting me off. 

“Since when did you start to care, Mr. Arrogant Grim Reaper?” I tilted my head to the side. His attitude right now was more than pissing me off. I knew something was up with his behavior yesterday. Does he have a personality disorder?

“Just because I said that doesn’t mean I care.” He defended.

We watched as he stood up, nearing the table where files and books were settled. Zayden picked up a black folder, an unreadable expression plastered on his face again. He handed it over to me, jaw clenched.

I didn’t open it. Yet.

“The man you came across with yesterday,” he sternly began, “was a grim reaper with an evil soul. I’m sure it was my father’s right-hand man.”

At the sound of this, all four of us looked up.

“If I hadn’t arrived on time, he would have killed the both of you. Specifically you, Eliana.”

My brows furrowed. I was utterly confused.

“What do you mean? El was the only one who saw him.” Arya interjected, “And no one’s going to kill no one.”

Zeph shut her up with his hand over her mouth, the girl’s words being muffled. 

Zayden ignored it and motioned me to open the folder. What baffled me were the words I was yet to read.

“You’re his target.” 

Chapter Thirteen

Taking in a sharp breath, I left the warm covers of my bed. The ticking of the clock echoed through the bedroom. Streaks coming from the sun beamed through the window blinds.

6:39 AM, an hour before school starts.

I went to the bathroom, preparing myself for school. Looking at my reflection in the mirror, I scowled at the nest of hair on my head. My eye bags were more prominent because of sleep deprivation. 

Last night, I had been constantly thinking about what Zayden said. I brought and studied the files about me compiled in the black folder. There was nothing much contained except for the basic information. But what got me awake all night were the words written in bold font, followed by a question mark.

While untangling the matted strands of hair, my gaze traveled down the necklace that I never took off. It was given by my mother when I turned 8 — before the accident happened. And ever since then, I cherished it as a remembrance of my parents. The ruby gemstone that went with it glowed under the bathroom light.  

Pretty.

In no time, I stepped out of the bathroom, all dressed up and ready to go. I was closing the door of my bedroom when I heard Aunt Marissa’s voice.

“It’ll be easier to find her then.”

My hands coldly remained on the doorknob.

“I already did. Yeah, okay, bye.” 

I stepped into the small kitchen space. Aunt Marissa quickly ended the call with eyes widened; it was as if she was startled by my presence. My confusion only grew.

“Who was that?” 

Curiosity got the best of me. I bit my lip, realizing the question that slipped from my tongue. 

“Uh, no one.”

I watched her anxiously smile. I shrugged it off instead of asking any further.

“By the way,” she scooted closer to me, “I’ve never seen you wear that necklace before.”

My nose scrunched up, “I’ve always worn it, aunt.”

She nodded, clearing her throat. I was taken aback when she suddenly held it in her hand, the ruby gemstone radiating on her open palm.

“…What are you doing?”

“Huh? Oh, nothing. It looks pretty on you.” She smiled, “Finish your breakfast and go.”

I forced a smile, slightly creeped out by her actions. 

After having breakfast, I immediately went to school. The unspoken tension between me and my aunt was too much to bear.

I arrived shortly before my first class starts. I walked past the noisy students and headed for my locker. But before I could even get there, I bumped into someone.

I looked up to see an unfamiliar face. 

The girl in front of me had curly hair, perfectly accentuating her features. Her skin was a little tanned compared to my pale skin. Above all, she looked pretty in her daisy dress. 

“I’m sorry, but do you know where the main office is?” She asked.

“Turn to that corner and it’ll be the second door to your left.” I smiled, giving her the directions.

She kindly smiled back before blending in with the crowd of students.

As I walked toward where Arya was, I couldn’t help but feel weird from the stare the girl gave me earlier. I shook it off, thinking that I might have misunderstood it. Maybe it was because she was new…

I reached the group in a few. A sneaky plan in mind, I tip-toed my way to the tall figure who stood facing me back.

“Boo.” 

I jumped on Kale’s back, making him slightly stumble forward. He shrieked, squirming around under my grip. The others burst into laughter from the oblivious boy who huffed. I chuckled, getting down on my feet. From the corner of my eyes, I saw the unimpressed face of Zayden. I nudged him by the elbow.

“Hi.”

He only stared at me before saying, “How can you be so calm in a situation like this? Someone is literally after you.”

I beamed, “You’ll be there anyway. Don’t be late if ever I need help, okay?”

He gawked at me. I didn’t know what just slipped from my tongue so I spun on my heel, walking to class. But before I could step any further, he stopped me by the wrist. I didn’t turn around, just listened to what he had to say.

“Meet me after school.” 

Chapter Fourteen

I walked toward the black car outside the school gates. From the looks of it, it looked luxurious and… dark. So I figured it was Zayden’s. I was right.

Opening the door, he tilted his head upwards and averted back to his phone.

“Hey.” I greeted with a smile. Silence. 

I straightened my lips, already sensing the awkward atmosphere. Though we were slowly breaking the ice between us, there were more times he’d be his usual self. Which was not a surprise for me. We had progress nonetheless. 

I quickly sat down on the passenger seat.

“Seatbelt.”

 “Huh?”

He harshly sighed, leaning towards me. I leaned back, wary. He stretched out the seatbelt – the one he was referring to. It crossed my torso and he locked it in with a faint click. When he looked up, my breath hitched. The proximity between us was too close. Too close.

He smirked, leaning away and gripping the wheel. I nervously gulped, feeling my face heat up as he drove into the wide pavement. 

I stayed quiet the whole ride. Butterflies were flying around my stomach and I couldn’t bring up a topic to talk about. He still had a smirk on his lips whilst he drove. One arm resting on the window in which his head was tilted to, and the other one stretched onto the steering wheel. 

I noticed him glancing at me occasionally.

“You okay?”

“Huh? What?” I looked up.

“You seem a little… red.”     

My eyes widened automatically. Cheeks flushed, I could sense him holding back a laugh. 

“No, I-I’m…” I shifted on my seat, “I’m fine.”

The car turned a curb. On either side of the street were modernly built apartment complexes. 

“Are you sure you’re seatbelt isn’t suffocating you?”

I gulped. It was clear that he enjoyed seeing me flustered, more so seeing me all red and tense on my seat. I inwardly gritted my teeth, closing my eyes in annoyance.

“No, I-“

Before I could finish my sentence, he stopped the car in front of the building. I immediately unbuckled my seatbelt and opened the door.

“I’ll see you upstairs.”

And with that, I got out of the car, flustered as I heard him burst into laughter. 

Chapter Fifteen

I knocked on the white door. Zayden was behind me, solely on his phone. After what happened at the car earlier, an awkward tension lingered between us. I pursed my lips, stepping back before the door opened. Though I didn’t know who we were visiting, Zayden had told me that I’ve met this particular someone before. 

Once the door opened, it revealed the familiar eccentric woman. 

My mouth fell slightly agape as I wasn’t expecting it to be her all along. She ushered us inside the spacious apartment. 

“Hey, Serah.” Zayden smiled warmly. 

I froze on my spot. It was the first time I saw him smile so… genuinely. I looked at him with a suspicious look, eyeing him up and down. 

We both sat on the sofa, watching as Serah – if I heard correctly – went to grab some water.

“You know each other?” I said above a whisper. The tall boy only nodded.

“What brings you two here?” Serah smiled as she placed two glasses on the coffee table.

Zayden and I looked at each other before he cleared his throat.

“It’s about dad,” he stated, “and the bombing incident.”

When those words rang in my ears, I stiffened on my seat. I felt the tension between me and Zayden getting replaced by another one. A heavy unbearable one. I noticed Serah’s smile dropping and she, too, stopped moving from hearing his sentence. 

“W-what do you want to know?” Serah stammered in the slightest, smiling tightly.

“Everything,” Zayden sat back, eyes boring into the woman and me.

━━━━━

The black folder that Zayden told me to bring splayed on the table. The words written in bold font emphasized something that didn’t make sense.

A Mortal (?)

“What does this mean?” I asked, straight to the point. I eyed the details written on it. My birth date was there, the names of my parents; everything that I had known and happened was imprinted on a sheet of paper. 

Serah cleared her throat before she began with, “I was friends with both of your fathers.”

“We grew up together, watching life and death from afar. It was not long until they come of age and had needed to fight for the throne. Hadeon, Zayden’s father, was eager to win it no matter what. And because of something so vague, he broke his friendship with your father.” 

She looked at me. 

I didn’t get it. I knew my father well but I’ve never heard of anything of this before. I turned to Zayden, seeing him close his eyes. Was he even listening?

Serah cleared her throat, “I think you need to know who your real father is, Eliana.”

I whipped my head too quickly. I reached for my neck, the wound was still healing. 

Narrowing my eyes, I stared at the sophisticated woman.

“I know who my father is. It’s Daniel-“

I stopped myself from talking when Serah vigorously shook her head. 

“He isn’t. He’s your stepfather.” 

She continued,

“Adryan is your real father.”

From the corner of my eye, I caught sight of Zayden’s eyes fluttering wide open. 

Chapter Sixteen

“Adryan married a human, despite knowing that it was highly forbidden. Especially when he was one of the upper hands in the underworld back then. It was when he was hailed in the throne, he and Diana had you, the first half-born of a mortal and an immortal.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. All this time, I was living a lie corrupted and fabricated by my parents. 

It had been over an hour and Serah was still bringing us back to the past. Well, bringing me back to the past. Zayden was fast asleep, his head placed on my lap. I was startled by the action but seeing his eyes only halfway open, I gave in. Although, he doesn’t seem to be sleeping at all. It was like he was listening carefully.

Serah chuckled slightly, looking adorably at us.

I straightened my lips into a line, awkward from our position. I softly played with his hair, scoffing in amusement as his face scrunched up whenever I ruffled the dark strands. 

“What about the visions I see?”

Serah nimbly bit her lips. She seemed to be contemplating whether she should say the next words or not.

“I don’t know any of it. For all I’m guessing is, maybe, it’s part of your system being a half-blood. You are part of us after all.”  

I let out an exhale before tilting my head up.

“Then how about the incident?”

“That, I can explain.” Serah smiled sympathetically, “After Adryan took over the throne, Hadeon became outrageous. Months after and the latter formed a troop of evil spirits wandering, lost on earth. It was pathetic. I tried to stop him but he never listened. When your father found out about it, he was quick to think of a plan. The day they battled, together with Hadeon’s little minions, Adryan locked them up in a gemstone forever. Unfortunately…”

I furrowed my eyebrows when Serah gulped.

“That,” she pointed at the necklace adorning my neck. “Instead of Hadeon getting locked up in there, Adryan was the one who got swirled in. 

When you turned three, your mother remarried Daniel and protected you from danger. But we all knew you’d find out sooner or later out of curiosity.”

I looked down at the ruby gemstone. It glimmered, but for some reason, its color was starting to change. Starting to fade…

“He’s out there to get you, Eliana. He wants that gemstone to introduce evil in the world.”

“But it was given by my mother.”

“Exactly, she gave it to you because she knows you’ll keep it safe. A week from the incident, Diana knew about Hadeon’s plan. He plotted to kill your family, especially you. But when Diana had told me prior the incident, I had saved you before the bomb exploded.”

My head was starting to hurt from too much information filling up my brain. The whole room was spinning. And when I stopped playing with the boy’s hair, he sat back up. 

“So what you’re saying is that dad is out to get Eliana to claim the gemstone back. And by doing this, he’s causing accidents in the city as bait?”

Serah nodded, “I’m sure of it. And I’m also positive that he’s aware of the girl’s abilities.”

As I was about to say something, the ringing of Zayden’s phone resonated in the living room. He excused himself before stepping outside. 

“You have to be careful, El. We don’t know when he’ll strike this time. Also, you’ll have to take that necklace off before he easily finds you.”

I nodded.

A few minutes later, we sat in silence. Not until the door opened with a bang, a frantic Zayden rushing in.

“Kale got into an accident.”

Chapter Seventeen

We both ran to the hospital’s emergency room, panic-stricken and distressed. 

Everything was in turmoil.

Stretchers were scattered everywhere as everyone was in a frenzy. Nurses and doctors were rushing to and fro, occasionally bumping into someone and some other things. Shouts and cries bounced on every corner of the mint walls, bloodied and bruised people groaning.

“What happened…” I let out, breathless. 

Zayden sprinted furthermore into the room. I followed him but quickly lost sight of the boy in the sea of people. I looked around frantically until a hand on my shoulder prevented me from going further insane. Behind me was the blonde girl, her eyes bloodshot as a couple of bloodstains were on her dress. 

“Arya!” I pulled her into a hug. 

She sniffed. 

“What happened?”

“I-I” She choked in between sobs, “We were… strolling near the river when a b-bomb exploded.”

I froze.

━━━━━

A couple of hours after everyone had settled, I went to the hospital canteen to grab a bite. Kale got confined in his own room after he was treated and checked. Thankfully, nothing serious happened except for the bruises that would definitely leave a scar on his skin.

I neared Zayden who sat defeatedly in the hallway, his head hung low. I smiled consolingly, feeling bad for the boy. With a water bottle in hand, I walked. 

“Hey,” I outstretched my hand, holding the drink in front of him.

At his lack of reply, I pursed my lips and continued.

“Just a small hunch, but what if your father caused the incident again-“

He stood up abruptly then walked away. I stood there, dumbfounded.

“Hey! Where are you going?”

I quickly caught up to him, grabbing his arm. He turned around to face me, his eyes puffy as he wiped his face. 

And that was the night I first saw him vulnerable.

“Even if he did, he isn’t the only one at fault.” He harshly retracted his hand back.

“All of this is happening because of your stupid father and that gemstone.” 

He neared me, directing me to the side as I stepped back.

“Just know that if ever something happens to Kale, you’re the one to be blamed.” 

My back pressed against the wall. I pushed back my pride, trying to be empathetic towards his fragile state.

“It’s your fault.”

I couldn’t hold it in anymore.

“Look, I know you feel bad about Kale but he’s my friend too. I’m trying to understand everyone here and we all are worried about him but you don’t have to accuse me of everything that’s been going on directly to my face.”

He clenched his jaw to the side. My hands balled up into fists.

Looking him in the eyes that glowed dark red, my ego took over me. “What did I do to you?”

“You,” Zayden sneered, “You survived that incident when you should’ve had died. And now my father is out there killing innocent people who have nothing to deal with all of this, just to catch you and steal that stone!”

He shouted. Tears continuously rolled down his cheeks.

“You’re nothing but a bothersome who gets in the way with everyone’s business.” 

My heart dropped and a slap echoed through the hall.

Tearing my gaze away, I looked at the side as a tear escaped from my eye.

“Well I survived, and it isn’t my fault that I did.”

Chapter Eighteen

September 13, two weeks after what happened at the hospital. Within those times, I refused to leave my bed, refused to go to school, and had completely shut everyone out. Aunt Marissa and Arya had urged me to leave out of the house but I closed all doors. Even on them.

Maybe I’ve overreacted but, no- I didn’t do anything wrong. I had every right to shout at him back. 

My gaze was fixed on the ceiling. Rays of sunlight seeped through the window. I got up from my bed and entirely closed the curtains so no light can come in. I was at rock bottom.

My head was full of thoughts. From me going back here to me finding out about my real identity. I was troubled. Stressed. It was hard to believe that everything of this was real: the boy who happens to be the son of the god of death that I unintentionally grew fond of over a short period of time, and me being a daughter of both mortal and immortal. 

It felt as if it were all a dream; it felt surreal. But it wasn’t. It’s all from reality and I couldn’t bring myself to believe it was all true.

Just what have I gotten myself into?

I turned over the other side, my one hand under my head and the other clutching the blanket. I faced the mirror. 

I jolted up from bed, however, brows furrowed. Legs dangling on the edge, I quickly stood up and neared my reflection. I let out a shaky breath, taking in the sight of red and gold orbs staring back at me. 

━━━━━

I sat on the sofa, the familiar scent of vanilla candles infiltrating my senses. I was at Serah’s apartment again after I had called her for help. I pushed back the sunglasses over the bridge of my nose. 

“Tea?”

I politely turned her offer down. She sat beside me and worriedly smiled.

“Lemme see.”

I cautiously removed the glasses and I heard Serah gasp. But it wasn’t only out of shock because her face looked somewhat happy.

I scratched my head. Was this something to be glad about?

“It’s starting.”

What?

“Your powers. It’s beginning to activate.”

Chapter Nineteen

“It won’t budge.” 

Right now, we were trying to get this necklace off of me. Attempted several times but it won’t unlock though how small it is.

Serah was literally close to snapping my neck, her putting pressure out of stress. 

“Ouch.”

“Oops, sorry.”

I glanced through the corner of my eyes, seeing her struggle while I sweep away the strands of hair. A thought suddenly came across my mind.

“How come you look so… young?”

I felt her fidgeting finger stop. She let out a chortle.

“I don’t age dear, remember? I’m immortal.” 

I pursed my lips, “Then how many years have you been here?”

Silent as if she was contemplating.

“Say, I was born older than your father who should be 500 years old by now. So maybe about 700 years?”

“That’s long,” I looked up to the ceiling, doing math. I wasn’t the best at it but still.

“Hey,” she hit the back of my head playfully, “you’ll be here forever, too.”

Forever

I dwelled on the thought of being here on earth for a long time. To watch both life and death of a mortal person… I was afraid of seeing it. Afraid to stay here forever and not being able to come face to face with death.

Seeming to notice my silence, Serah awkwardly laughed, gaining my attention. 

“Of course, if your powers would activate fully.” 

I casually hummed, nodding. 

“By the way…” I trailed off, earning a ‘yes?’ from the woman.

“If I can see the accidents in the near future… why didn’t I see the one Kale got involved in, coming?”

I hissed when another pang of electrifying pain rushed through the veins in my neck.

“Sorry, sorry,” Serah apologized in a panic.

“I don’t know, dear. Maybe it was because you were far away from where it occurred. Your powers aren’t that strong yet since you’re still a human in form.” 

I only nodded in acknowledgment.

Serah sighed, “I give up. It wouldn’t unlock and it’ll only hurt you more.”

I looked down at the necklace. It was faintly losing its glow, the ruby hue turning into a lighter pink.

Serah disappeared into the kitchen once a knock on the door was heard.

“I’ll get it!” I jumped on my feet, rushing to open the door.

It creaked open, a girl with curly hair greeting me.

I slightly widened my eyes. As I recall, she was the one who asked for directions at school. But what was she doing here?

“Amara!” 

━━━━━

The girl named Amara looked at me, observing the necklace that won’t unhook without me getting hurt. 

Apparently, she was a witch in training that Serah had called over to help with the little problem.

Her green eyes flickered between me and the woman who sat at the kitchen counter.

Amara gulped, appearing to hesitate with her words before stating,

“You’re glowing purple. Someone cast a binding spell on you.”

Chapter Twenty

The three of us sat in the living room, nail-biting, fingers fidgeting and eyes darting to nowhere. Dusk was starting to fall, the city lights below the 10-floor apartment lit up the streets outside the window. 

“Who could’ve done it?”

I thought back to the many odd encounters I had during the first two weeks of my stay here. But none of it seemed to click. 

Then my mind wandered back to the time Aunt Marissa acted weirdly. I stopped from biting my nails, head tilting up.

“What?”

“My aunt,” I looked at Serah with wide eyes, “she was acting weirdly the other week. She grabbed my necklace and eyed it for awhile.” 

“No,” Amara interjected, shaking her head.

“If possible, witches don’t act so impulsively. There are more times that they’ll cast a spell on you without you knowing.”

I slumped back on the couch, biting the inside of my cheek. 

“You’re aunt is Marissa Rose, right?” Amara asked. I nodded.

“She and my mom are friends. I happen to hear their conversation while they were on the phone the other week. Something about your necklace having a faint glow…?”

I nodded and showed her the gemstone that was starting to lighten. Amara tilted her head to the side.

“This magic spell doesn’t seem too powerful…” She looked me in the eye, “but it’s dark and dangerous.”

“What do you mean?” I questioned, leaning forward.

“Someone must have cast a spell so you won’t lose the stone, El. So he can reach you sooner.”

Amara nodded in agreement before offering, “My mom can help you get rid of it.”

Chapter Twenty One

I came to school today. Kale was also back from his recovery, all giddy and healthy. The five of us were all seated at lunch. The unspoken tension between me and Zayden was definitely still there. I had told them what I discovered about the necklace and they were all worried. Except for the boy who was back in his cold usual self. I couldn’t stand the glares he was giving my way and I knew I had to do what’s right: apologize no matter how much pride I had. 

So I grabbed his wrist before he could turn the corner, pulling him out to the schoolyard. 

“What?” He deadpanned, crimson eyes boring into mine. He tucked his hands in his jean pockets.

I inhaled sharply, “Look, I’m sorry for whatever reason you had to be angry at me. But this really isn’t the time to fight about what happened nine years ago. Your father might cause another accident without me predicting it. It’s been hard to focus lately and it’s all because of the dumb thoughts in my mind. I know you’re worried-“

I was cut off by me yelping. My eyes widened when I realized he had pulled me into a hug. I froze in his arms, taken aback. His chin rested on the crown of my head. Only then did I notice the huge differences in our height.

“Yeah, yeah, shut up. You talk too much.” He scoffed slightly. 

“…I’m sorry…” he whispered nervously.

A small smile crept up to my lips and I reluctantly encircled my arms around his waist. I looked at him.

“Are we okay now?” 

He scrunched his nose, “Sure.”

Pulling away and ruffling my hair, he went back inside with me trailing behind, butterflies erupting in my stomach. 

Chapter Twenty Two

“Where were you two?”

Zeph spoke up once we entered the empty classroom. We had agreed to meet there to come up with a plan if ever Hadeon will strike, unannounced.

“Probably cuddling with each other,” Arya smirked in my direction. I gulped, feeling my cheeks heat up.

“Stop joking-“ Kale gasped, eyes flickering between me and Zayden. He, too, had rosy cheeks. 

“No way.” Even Zeph stood up from his seat. 

I glared at them, stepping further into the room.

“Stop it,” Zayden grumbled.

Suddenly, a note on the table caught my eye. I neared it and picked it up.

“What’s this?”

All of them turned their heads toward me.

“Oh that. We were just about to tell you guys. I think it’s… a warning.”

I read the sentence written on it. Harshly swallowing the lump that had formed in my throat, I looked at Zayden and handed it to him.

“The Lune River, 091601.” He loudly read.

“That’s my birthday, September 16, 2001. And the place where the incident happened.” I informed them, hands shaking in fright. 

Just then, when my eyes darted toward the door, I saw someone’s figure quickly running away. 

“Guys,” I widened my eyes, bolting out of the classroom. 

We ran through the isolated halls, our shoes squeaking on the tiled floor. My eyes were only focused on one thing. And it was the figure trying to get away from me. I raised my leg, removing my rubber shoes, and immediately aimed for the girl who was starting to run down the stairs. It hit her head. Harsh.

“Eliana!” I heard Arya’s voice from the other end of the corridor. Mustering up the courage to walk forward, I neared the girl whose foot got stuck in between the gap of the bar railing. She looked up and I felt my heart dropped.

It was Veronica, with short brown hair. 

Chapter Twenty Three

           “What do you want?” Veronica glared at us.

           She was currently tied up in a chair back at Zayden’s house. After helping her remove her foot from the gap, she promised to help us. In which I was beginning to think of it as a lie.

           “You know something, don’t you?” I stepped under the chandelier. 

           “No, I do not.” She said, sternly. 

           It was obvious that the others were losing their patience. But it’s Veronica so what did I expect. Kale lifted a threatening arm but quickly put it down when I glared knowingly at him.

           “Spill or I’ll break your newly manicured French nails.” Arya threatened. 

           Veronica’s eyes widened, whining and kicking her legs in the air. After a few seconds of her act of immaturity, she slumped on her seat defeatedly. 

           “Fine!”

━━━━━

           Veronica sat crossed-leg on the sofa, checking her nails every now and then. We decided to untangle her from the rope and waited impatiently for her to speak up. But she had one condition. 

           I closed my eyes in annoyance as I placed the glass of water in front of her.

           “Is there anything else you want,” I forcefully grinned, eyes deadly staring at her, “ma’am?” 

           She bitterly smiled and sipped on her straw, lips puckered and eyes roaming around the living room. 

           “No thanks,” She settled the glass back on the coffee table.

           I sat beside Zayden, huffing in irritation. His hand stroke my hair in a comforting manner.

           Veronica stared at us before clearing her throat, “I get that my beauty is out of this world and that you’re totally out of my league, but seriously, her?” 

           I pursed my lips, shutting my eyes from the rather offensive comment.

           “She isn’t a brat like you.” He remarked, “Just get over it and get straight to the point.”

           Zayden leaned forward, elbows on his knees, “What do you know, Enright?” 

           A brief silence went with the unbearable tension in the air.

           “The day I was late for Mr. Elfire’s class, I saw someone whispering behind Eliana.” Veronica began and we all listened attentively. 

Her head tilted and she closed her eyes as if she was thinking, “I saw something in their hands. It was purple, I’m pretty sure.”

Purple…  

I jolted up from my seat, eyes wide.

“Did you see the person’s face?”

Veronica flinched, “Geez calm down. And no since I didn’t pay much attention to it.” 

“Why, El?” Arya asked. 

“When I met Amara at Serah’s apartment, she said that I was glowing purple like someone had cast a spell on me. Because of it, I can’t take the necklace off without feeling any pain.”

“How will you get rid of it then?” 

I turned to face them, “There are three options based on what Amara said: One, if the one who cast it broke the spell themselves; two, if someone stronger than the one who cast it breaks the spell or,” I gulped, feeling uneasy, “three if the person who bound me in it died.”

Chapter Twenty Four

It was the afternoon of September 15, a day before I knew everything would come crashing down. I walked out of the school’s perimeter after turning down Zayden’s offer to give me a ride home. I told him I wanted to be alone for awhile and reflect on things. In which he momentarily agreed and drove off.

I walked down the sidewalks. The leaves were starting to turn orange since Autumn was just around the corner. I turned to my right, an alleyway ahead. Something felt off. Felt eerie. But it was the only route home so I disregarded the goosebumps on my skin. 

I heard a clank from the other end.

Yup… no. I spun on my heel, jogging back to the busy streets. Upon reaching the entrance of the small pathway, a hand found its way over my mouth, pulling me back. 

My screams were muffled and soon my eyelids became heavier from the intoxicating scent of the cloth.  

The last thing my senses perceived was the low whisper of a familiar voice.

“Happy 18th birthday.” 

━━━━━

My eyes fluttered open, greeted by the harsh light above my head. I tried to move but my wrists and ankles were tied up. 

I stared at the wall facing me, the shelves dirty with old boxes and books on top of them. I was in a storage room. The door opened widely. I averted my head and my jaw dropped once I saw the person come in. 

My eyes traveled from her shoes that I had bought for her 17th birthday, to the clothes that fitted her style, up to the face I knew all too well. 

Arya smiled, a fake one displaying her lips. 

Chapter Twenty Five

I stared at her unbelievably.

 “Why?” I blurted out, still in shock. The girl seating in front of me was far different from the Aryanna Mellie I knew. 

She scoffed, crossing her arms above her chest, and lifted a brow, “Because of your father, my mom got involved in their useless fight and died. Eventually, Zayden’s father took me in and turned me into a witch.” She irritably brought her hands above her head, messing with her hair.

 “Hadeon told me to track you down and if I did, he’ll bring my mother back to life. I had no choice but to put a spell on that necklace of yours, so you wouldn’t lose it and I won’t lose my chance to get my mom back.”

“Why are you telling me this?” I drew my eyebrows down, confused by her sudden confession, “You know that’s impossible, right? To bring back the dead.”

She leaned in, elbows propped on the table, “It was worth a shot. And knowing you, you’ll be asking anyway, so I went ahead.” 

“So you knew about my identity all along.” I glared at her.

Arya shrugged, sitting back and clicking her tongue, “You found out about it sooner than I imagined but whatever. It was naïve of you, honestly.” She scoffed, then continued, “God, it was so hard to act all friendly around your annoying personality. Don’t you think I should receive an award? Hmmm… maybe like an Oscar, yeah?”

I fisted my tied hands on my lap, “Does Zayden know about your deal with his father?”

She placed a finger over her lips and shook her head.

“Unbelievable.” I scoffed, slumping back on the chair. 

“Stop talking,” she demanded, “I’ll take that necklace off of you and hand it to Hadeon. So cooperate, will you?” 

I stared at her before saying under my breath, “You were the one who caused the incident Kale was involved in, weren’t you?” 

She froze on her seat. I considered her silence as a yes. 

“S-shut up,” she stuttered, “I knew it was the only way for you and Zayden to argue, judging by how he knew the accidents were all caused by his father just to get that stone from you. He was clearly getting in the way and I had to think fast. But I didn’t expect for you both to make up so easily.”

“So you kidnapped me instead?”

“Sure, take it as whatever you want.” She dismissed the topic and glanced at the clock.

It was nearing 10 PM.

“Let’s go.”

Chapter Twenty Six

“Stop!” I whined as Arya dragged me near the bridge. My wrists were still tied together.

It was around midnight, the streets were coldly isolated and not much people were wandering around. From afar, I could decipher a familiar bulky figure standing right in front of the railing. The person was wearing a black cloak, a hood above his head. I gulped when Arya pulled me to him. 

“We’re here.”

Slowly, the man turned around. 

My breath hitched from the sight of his menacing auburn eyes. 

He smirked and looked at the ruby gemstone beaded on my necklace, “Let’s start before my son gets here.”

━━━━━

Under the moon, at the bridge where no one heard my grunts except for the man and a friend I used to trust, I kneeled, weak and defeated. Anger was fuming inside of me but I felt the pain more as Arya binds me in a spell.

“It won’t work,” Arya’s forehead creased. Groaning, she attempted again, lifting her hand up and her eyes glowing purple. 

“What do you mean, kid?” Hadeon growled, obviously growing impatient.

“I don’t know how to do this. I barely know how this magic thing works.” She admitted.

I scoffed.

“Just try whatever you know.” 

“Fine.”

After long minutes of failed attempts, Arya gave up. Her hands limply fell to her side as the purple radiance lowered down. 

“Forget it.” Hadeon hissed, stomping towards me. 

He grasped the necklace in his hand, making me jolt in surprise. As his eyes pierced onto the ruby, a fire flickered over his other palm. My eyes widened. 

“What are you doing?!” Arya shrieked, eyes wide, “You’re going to kill her! She’s still a human!” 

Hadeon sneered, “She’s going to die, anyway.”

And in a breath, a scream left my lungs as he fired it directly to the necklace I was still wearing.

However, it made a thundering sound as it backfired in their direction. Hadeon and Arya flew in the air from the impact. Breathless, I heaved for air as I felt sweat roll down my face.

What just happened?

“The ruby is protected, it isn’t that strong… but your tactics won’t work.” Arya panted, feebly on the ground as she leaned her head on the railing. 

Hadeon stood up, striding to my way., “Then we’ll make it work.”

Something rushed through my nerves, but I can’t discern what it was. I tried to stand up, stumbling a little before my feet stood their ground. 

Half way to me, Hadeon halted. 

“…Your eyes,” his face looked surprised but was immediately replaced by a scowl.

Opening my palm and lifting it up like something forced me to do it, a purple fire flared. 

Chapter Twenty Seven

It had struck 12. 

Another flame came rushing towards me. Eyes widened, I mustered up all my energy to shot back. I didn’t know what I was doing; I was just trying to survive from death itself. I also didn’t know how in the world I was able to shift fire but I went along with it. 

Arya was watching on the side, her eyelids threatening to close shut. The purple of her orbs was starting to die down as her breaths were noticeably becoming short. She continued on grunting from the strong impact of the fire earlier. But that was the least of my worries as Hadeon glared at me. His flame was obviously bigger than mine and I tried to avoid it as possible. 

“El…” I heard Arya cough out.

Though the feeling of betrayal was still in me, I couldn’t help but glance at her in worry. I was distracted, stressed, frantic. And bolting to my direction was the flame that I didn’t see coming.

Eyes dilated, Arya shouted, “Eliana, look back!” 

Once I did, my eyes widened a fraction. My body unwillingly rolled to the side, on the concrete surface. I coughed. In a crouched position, I wheezed as my right hand supported my frame and the other reaching for my throat. 

Unexpectedly, the familiar voice rang in my ear, together with the fast beating of my pulse.

“Eliana!”

I looked up to see Serah, Amara, Kale, and Zeph running to me. My eyes darted behind them: Zayden glaring at his father who stood meters away. 

“Arya,” Zeph worriedly crouched down beside her. But she sat unmovingly. Her eyes slowly fluttered open, immediately diverting to me.

I stared at her, angry, confused, and distraught.

The lump in her throat bobbed up and down and her eyes glistened, 

“I’m sorry…”

And with that, they closed. Her arm fell floppily before she could even reach me. 

I felt the necklace on my neck getting unhooked and it fell on the ground with a faint clink. 

Chapter Twenty Eight

Arya was out of the picture. 

Zayden and Hadeon were fighting fire against fire in the back. It was clear to me that the boy held a deep grudge against his father.

Being forced to watch people suffer to death at a very young age, I couldn’t blame him at all.

The others, including me, were in front of the railing. With the ruby necklace in both of my hands, Amara and her mother were casting a spell to unleash my father. Him and only him. It was a dangerous attempt since one wrong move and they can release all the evil spirits locked in the gemstone. And so they were wary; wary of their words and intentions. 

“You’ve grown stronger son.” 

Behind me, I could hear the conversation going on between the two. Glancing over my shoulder, I saw Zayden bent on his knees, his hand on his chest, and the other on the post as he stabilized himself. By the sound of Hadeon’s monotonous voice, I was sure he was smirking.

I wanted to help. But I couldn’t as I was much needed here. And so I kept myself distracted from the thought. Besides, Serah was there to help him. 

When I averted back to the ruby, its color had completely been drained. It was crystal clear. 

“Oh no.”

“What?”

We whipped our heads to Amara’s mother, Dhara, who gulped. 

“It isn’t supposed to do that.” 

With all of our eyes widened, the gemstone in my hands shone brightly. 

And swirling out of it were the so-called spirits. 

Chapter Twenty Nine

After a brief explanation of what was going on, Adryan stood in front of me, smiling. My father, the man who I inherited most of my features from was looking directly at me. He had the nose and twinkling eyes I never saw from Daniel.

“Eliana,” he quickly pulled me into a hug.  

Fighting back the urge to cry, I hugged him back, longing for the loving warmth of a father. 

“My little girl,” he sniffed, patting my head lightly. 

I chuckled. Though I only met him now, I felt secured in the man’s arms. It felt as if I had known him all my life. Pulling back, he smiled determinedly and glanced at the chaos from behind. 

“Now, let’s finish this at once.” 

━━━━━

           The gemstone was in my hand while fire hovered the other. I was starting to get the hang of this. Somehow. 

All around me was chaos. Turmoil yet no mortal were there to see it. The spirits wandered around endlessly, a mischievous smile on their lips for they were finally free.

The only goal was to put them back in the ruby with Hadeon, who was still fighting with his own son. 

           I battled with fire against fire. Serah, an obvious threat to the evil souls, gathered them around as they were all shaking in fear. It was evident that the sophisticated woman, who I began to trust with my whole life, was powerful.  

           Zeph and Kale were with Arya, far from the chaos erupting. After the necklace had fallen off from my neck, she never opened her eyes again. She was lifeless. Dead.

           My head was spinning, overwhelmed with what had happened today. I saw it coming. I saw a vision of Arya dying when she whispered my name. But I was too engrossed with fighting Hadeon. I felt guilty no matter how betrayed I was.

           I gritted my teeth, fisting my hands, and closed my eyes. If there was one person to blame, it was Hadeon. 

           I stomped in his direction, eagerly determined to take him down. As I outstretched my arm, my eyes burning and a fire flaring on my palm, I glared at him. I could see Zayden’s eyes widening from my peripheral view but I disregarded it. 

           Just as I was about to fire it to the man who caused all of this trouble, someone whispered in my ear.

           “Hello,”

           I flinched, turning around frantically, I was met by the man who I saw at the alleyway.

           “I-“

           “Eliana, watch out!”

           I shrieked when I was suddenly forced to roll down on the ground. Peeking through one eye, my breath hitched when I saw Zayden straddling me. I gulped, eyes trembling to the fire that came through above us. 

           “AHHHH!”

Chapter Thirty

He weakened.

We all watched as Adryan attacked Hadeon without the latter seeing it coming.

           I intertwined my fingers with Zayden as he stared blankly at the scene.

           Just how much did he loath his father to keep a blank expression on?

           He tensed up a little but then relaxed as he gripped my hand tightly. 

           “You’ve done enough damage, Hadeon. Now go to where you and your rats should belong.” Adryan stood in front of Hadeon who kneeled down. For his old age, it was clear that he accepted defeat. After hours of battling with us, especially with my father, Hadeon looked drained and frail. Father tossed the ruby above heads and it glowed under the moonlight. 

           The spirits roaming around, oblivious of what’s happening, got swirled in. Their cries of protest the last thing we heard before they disappeared. Hadeon faded away, vanishing into firey bits until he, too, got swirled into the gemstone.

           With the ruby – which turned back to its original shade – in my father’s hand, he neared the boy next to me and handed it to him. 

Zayden gulped before cautiously lifting his free hand. A flick of his wrist that ignited fire, the gemstone was gone. 

“We’re all safe now.”

Epilogue

A month had passed after the gemstone was out of our sight; out of our lives. We were living more peacefully now. No incidents happen every too often and I was glad I did not foresee any as much as before. 

Father became the king of the underworld – just like he used to be. Serah was lavishly living life as a sophisticated woman. Oh and she and Aunt Marissa definitely went along well.

Zeph, Kale, and Amara were still there. But Arya wasn’t. We had grown to accept the girl’s death. And I had explained everything that happened prior to the fight at the bridge. At first, they were all surprised that Arya would do such a thing, outraged even. But there was nothing we could do but forgive her, for her soul may rest without any regret, quoted Serah. 

Veronica and I had made up, though there were still times we would annoy each other, but not to an extent where we would be at each other’s throat like before. 

And Zayden…

I averted my gaze from the sun that was setting, and looked at the boy who had me in his arms. His eyes glimmered from the sun, the crimson hue I had grown fond and familiar with. He looked down at me. 

“I learned a new word the other day,” I smiled as he scrunched his nose.

“What is it?” 

“Amaranthine.”

“What does it mean?”

I sighed as I leaned my head on his chest, shifting slightly. I felt him tightening his arms around me.

“Hm… it was something like immortal.” 

I heard him scoff and I playfully glared at him. He sheepishly smiled.

We both stared at each other for awhile, seemingly lost in each other’s eyes. Putting a finger on my chin, his head tilted forward. My eyes flickered between his and I fluttered them close. Inches now, I felt his lips on mine. I smiled before wrapping my arms around his neck.

I didn’t know when I started liking him. But at that moment, I just knew we would be wandering on earth for a very long time. But as long as he was there by my side, I can go on and live forever and ever.


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