Cinnamon and Vinegar: Part Six
Happiest Person Alive
"Cerulean, I can't explain it."
His name sounded so majestic and heroic rolling off my tongue then. I could've cried. Maybe I did.
"I feel like I... I'm obligated to you somehow, but all you've really wanted me to do for the past three months is be myself, so..."
I didn't look up at him as the words spilled out of my mouth. Sure enough, I blinked and felt a tear gloss over my vision.
"But what if I'm not this Faith you know? Would the real one be angry?"
He walked in front of me, turned to me, and crouched down. I could hardly believe the determined expression on his face as he raised his voice.
"You are her! This — this — so-called Master of yours, he — he — kidnapped you! Just trust me!"
Just trust me. Those two words changed everything. I felt like I could trust him, and all I needed right then was that reminder. I felt like I had trusted him for a very long time. But why?
My head ached with confusion and discomfort. I began to step away, but I instead stumbled on one of my chains and fell backwards against the wall, the shackles jangling with the action. Cerulean's attention was drawn to them. He scoffed at the metal links with little concern for me.
"I can't believe that someone had the nerve to do something like this to you! Somebody had the nerve to spirit you away, chain you and toy with you! I can't believe it! I can't believe these!"
With that, he quickly squatted to the ground. My heart stopped for a second as he grabbed my ankle with one hand and a chain with the other, and pulled. Hard.
If my foot was any larger or he was any weaker, then I would have been offended as he tried in vain to remove it. But it was the size it was, and of course Cerulean was Cerulean, so the metal cuff flew off with a pop. Something changed inside of me: it twitched. I felt better than I had in a long, long while, and I had a feeling that it was related to my being with Cerulean, at home, and with Rubia in the next room over. I moaned as I put a paw to my forehead, unsure of what was happening, unsure of why I was relieved to be near the one who was an enemy just days earlier.
And then I realized that I had a soul.
It was an alien feeling to me: knowing that I was a person, with my own wishes and core and... and friends. Not many, but those few were the best allies anyone ever had.
Rubia, Cerulean and the Creator. I loved them, the very people I had tried to push away, but loved me so much that they didn't give up on persisting that they help me find myself. The self that I was discovering right now. I realized that I needed to apologize to each of them for rejecting their well-meant aid, especially to the one who was far, far away from me. The one who I owed deep down inside because I had harmed and terrorized her people in the past.
'Creator, are you there? Please! Please answer me! Listen! Where are you? I'm so, so, so, SO sorr—'
And then I felt a paw on my other foot, and that was followed by another sudden pop. My eyes flew open to stare straight into the determined face of my current companion. He panted, moving away from me a little, his fists clenched in rage because of what had happened so long ago... Did he think I'd be angry at him? A pair of chains and a pair of steel rings lay on the floor, no longer a part of me.
I was recovering from the surprise, so I let a few silent moments pass. Before, I'd felt like a fretful servant who had been under stress because she couldn't accomplish her task, but now I felt different. I was calm. I was carefree. And then, taking another nice, long glance into a certain pair of amber eyes, I realized one more thing.
I was Faith.
And then I remembered Amadeus – Amadeus alone, and just Amadeus. He was not my master.
Amadeus. I hate him. I hate him, I hate him, and I hate him. He's a freak. He came out of nowhere, dragged me all over Creation for me to just end up here again, and traumatized me the whole way there. And the moment he needs me, he sends me off with nothing more than a cheap canteen and his "best wishes." I can't believe that he knowingly programmed me to be afraid of my family! The nerve of that son of a Hunter! And he has my key, doesn't he? I bet that he does; if he didn't, then he threw it away!
I stooped to the ground to pick up one chain, and clenched it so tight in my silent rage that it hurt my hand. A bead of sweat rolled down my forehead as I closed my eyes, letting out an annoyed sigh at the very thought of the man. Then, I finally gave way to throwing the shackle against the wall. Cerulean stepped away from where it touched the packed dirt of the chamber, thinking I'd been trying to hit him.
I would have been offended on any other day. Offended that he thought I aimed like that.
But I felt like I'd been born again, so I didn't care.
"I'm... sorry?" he stuttered, obviously noticing my fury but misinterpreting it. He raised his shaky arms so there'd be something between us. Then, my ears pricked up. I looked up into his face and smiled in wonderment.
"...What for?" I said, still grinning. That seemed to ease his tension slightly. Then, I found myself unable to resist the urge for another second.
I hugged him.
I'm not going back to that freak Blumaroo when I can stay here and live like I had been living before he ruined everything. He can stay on his stupid airborne iceberg with his stupid broken leg, because he's stupid. Really, really stupid. I still can't possibly imagine what putting me through all that unnecessary pain could possibly get him.
"Uhh..." Cerulean uttered with much difficulty.
Then I saw his expression, and burst into laughter. I was laughing. With Cerulean. Again. Finally. His eyelid probably twitched some. He thought I had just snapped. I decided to go ahead and stop teasing him — he didn't know that I had just recovered my entire memory of all I'd ever been through.
"Cerulean, I remember everything!"
Not only did I trust him, he trusted me, as I discovered then. He wildly grinned at me, causing me to burst into laughter again, although I was nervous now. I let him go. At that, he spread his wing over my back as he asked, "What happened?"
The moment after I began to say that, my foot plunged straight through the floor.
The first thing I felt after that was Cerulean suddenly holding onto my arm. His iron grip hurt, but I didn't consciously notice it; and if I did, I wouldn't have objected. He appeared as confused as I was, and was staring at the ground like I had been thirty seconds ago, but for a different reason. A slender, perfect circle of navy was around my ankle.
"Wh-what's happening?" he stuttered.
"I don't know."
He stared as a little bit of my leg was swallowed up in the slowly-expanding hole. I shuffled my other foot away from it as Cerulean tried pulling me out. It didn't work. Discovering there was something his strength couldn't do, he muttered, "You're stuck."
We looked up at each other in wonder. We could think of nothing to say as my entire leg, and then my other one, were both slowly consumed into the clear ring. He bent down and put his hand on the disk.
"It's like glass to me," he muttered. "Faith, is that the sky?"
"Get Rubia! She might know what's happening!" I yelled as I used my arms to straddle the remaining part of dirt floor in the room, as the rest of my torso had fallen through.
Letting go of me for a single moment, he frantically tried to twist the knob to and fro, but it didn't move. "The door is locked!" He then rushed over to me and grabbed my arms.
"None of our doors even have locks!"
That was the last straw. The force was stronger than the two of us combined, so we discovered as I failed at heaving myself out while he pulled and grunted with all his might. I felt wind whipping at my legs as the hole grew enough for me to see part of a dark cloud within. Realizing there was no chance for me to survive, he clenched my forepaw — all that was left of me to hold onto — in both of his.
"Cerulean," I whimpered as my head fell through. I could tell he was holding onto my hand with every ounce of strength and soul he had. "Cerulean," I repeated as my paw began to slip. "Your twin kidnapped me, and he's taking me back now. I'll miss you. Thanks for everything."
I felt the tears in my eyes as I looked up at him. But I tried to be happy — just so that he wouldn't be sad. Things wouldn't be the same anymore. I knew that.
I was willing to do everything I could to save him some misery. I smiled sadly at him.
It was my turn to show him the same kindness that I wouldn't have had without him. And then — as I hung on to his gaze, the wide amber eyes that were my last, slipping anchor — gravity instantly doubled in strength. My heart jumped as his once-firm hold slipped.
I was falling.
He said nothing, his mouth agape.
An infinity of clear, midnight blue rushed around me. Finally, I felt like the world was blurred with my mind. I didn't look down. I looked up at the last fading spark of hope, Cerulean's nose pressed up against the barrier. I saw that little tiny dusty disk up there of our corridor back home.
The corridor that was miles away.
My paws scrabbled furiously at the air, trying in vain to pull me through the night sky. Moisture cloaked my body and vision as I passed through a mass of water vapor, black in the night. And that, I knew, was the last I'd see of Cerulean.
"For great justice," I said to myself as I fell through the end of that patch of mist and looked down. A battalion of clouds completely domed the ground below to my vision, but as I noted the familiarly miserable cold in the air, I already had a good guess as to where I was falling. Seeing Cerulean one last time implanted seeds of courage in my soul. I grabbed Rubia's shawl and pulled it closer to me.
My heart bled a little, and I could have screamed in frustration. I should have returned it to her.
Then I realized that Rubia wouldn't want me to dwell on it, so I shook the thoughts away.
I closed my eyes as I passed through more clouds, and my fur became soaked with the moisture. My boldness was steadfast as I saw my prison from a new angle. Now it was a mass of white on an indigo sea. It seemed like an eternity for me to finally make out the orange and black speck who I knew I'd see there — an eternity possibly because I wasn't scared of him anymore.
Have no fear.
I'd learned a lot of things in life. But everything I knew dissolved in importance in contrast to that sentence. Have no fear. I don't know why I learned that right then.
I realized with a jolt that I had gone as far as being ecstatic to face him again. I was fearless. He could put my soul in pain greater than that which I'd ever felt, he could chain me by my ankles and hang me from a wall, he could lock me in a cold, dark room until the next eclipse for all I cared. But he certainly couldn't scare me, because I had no fear.
Sure enough, I could see Master Amadeus well now. I grinned to myself. He was the only person who'd enchant me like that. Maybe I'd go as far as being nice to him. Maybe the shock would make him a little bit lenient with me.
I then had no fear as I realized nothing would cushion my fall against the ice. You know what? Maybe I would die. I wasn't afraid of it, because I was afraid of nothing anymore. That crazed grin I had put on when I realized where I was falling, a smirk I probably stole from Cerulean, was still on my face as I clamped my eyes shut. When I crashed into that iceberg, it wouldn't be the worst thing I'd ever felt. If I didn't die with the impact, the ice would cave in to the deep gorge I'd make, and Master Amadeus wouldn't bother himself with saving me. Or maybe the ice would hold up better than that — instead, I'd die from the cold.
No matter how I died, my spirit would live on. I had no fear.
As a possible consequence of the 'had no fear' part, I felt my fall stop short in the freezing air. I opened my eyes to see that a familiar paw was raised into the air, and as his owner set it down at his side, my feet gently touched the surface of the ice. It was colder than cold, but I didn't care.
"You broke the spell, didn't you? You're late. My magic returned to me, and I healed that leg on my own. And you don't even have that canteen I gave you; how pathetic. I cannot believe what an epic fail you are at questing."
"Should've known that you put a spell on me," I dizzily muttered, looking up, grinning.
"Yes, it was very specific. By your chains being removed..." Amadeus began to explain, but then noticed my expression. "What's so funny? Hang on, this won't hurt a bit—"
At the phrase 'this won't hurt a bit,' I instinctively thought it to be sarcasm, and expected pain. But there was a very slight sincerity which I didn't notice in the way he said those words. He pulled his palm forward, suspending my nose a mere inch from his, and reached out to grab my forehead.
His hand actually went in it.
I felt something strange, but he was right: it didn't hurt. It's not like when someone says this won't hurt a bit, it'll hurt a lot. It just didn't hurt. Rather, I immediately collapsed onto the ground, the world swimming before me. Every little piece of my head swirled in a different direction; if I were functional, I'd have noticed that Master Amadeus was nowhere to be seen.
My blurry vision clarified as I became capable of basic thoughts. Then I decided that I would've preferred that things had remained vague. I felt something inside my brain. Like someone had put their hand in and started to reach around.
Something at the back of my mind was forced to the front of my mind. It was when Cerulean was chasing me around back when I started what the orange Blumaroo now called a quest. I was running. I was scared of my own best friend. That memory sat for a moment before it hurriedly left.
It was followed by the showing of the events that followed. Rubia. More Cerulean. Trying to escape from them, being afraid of them both, coming home, still trying to escape, and then I remembered remembering.
All of Cerulean's words slowly lapsed through my mind and seemed to take an eternity. The feeling of bumping into him and me dreading what he'd do to me, everything he said, everything he didn't need to say, the blue hole, him holding onto me as tight as he could, being desperate, a relapse of every opinion I ever had about how kind he was, and then falling.
Then a single sequence of ideas was prominent in my mind. It forced itself through me again and again, leaving no space for what I thought now as I lay on the iceberg, ill; forcing me to believe in itself all over again.
I'm not going back to that freak when I can stay here and live like I had been living before he ruined everything. He can stay on his stupid airborne iceberg with his stupid broken leg, because he's stupid. Really, really stupid. I still can't possibly imagine what putting me through all that unnecessary pain could possibly get him.
It was one thing for him to read my mind, but another for him to control my thoughts altogether.
"ENOUGH! I AM NOT STUPID!!" the really, really stupid person screamed, appearing before my eyes again.
"Before you even mention punishment, I'm going to tell you I'm leaving."
"Good afternoon, sir."
"Faith, you are not leaving—"
"I bid you a good afternoon, sir. Or is it evening? The sun sets early here."
He stood gawking for once as I turned my back on him and began to walk off. The obvious option of jumping it into the ocean came to me — if I died, I wouldn't care.
I should have realized that he was bluffing with his confusion. Or maybe it had just taken him a moment to collect himself.
My foot stopped in midair. He had his grip on me already. As he gradually lifted me ten feet into the air, 'have no fear' raced through my mind again and again. I didn't care anymore what he did.
He dropped me.
I lay still on the ground, my soul feeling one hundred times more hurt than my mind. I had been taken over by a sudden, severe migraine, and my limbs ached from the fall.
I didn't cry, just groan. Maybe my master would stay and watch, or maybe let me lie down in the cold all alone. I didn't know which would be worse.
"I choose this moment to inform you that I have reason for my actions, so you can stop saying I have no reason to do this to you," he snidely quipped. I had a sudden surge of gusto.
"Then spit it out," I snapped, doing my best to ignore the pain and remembering to be fearless.
"As you know that I am the exact opposite of a certain person you considered to be your best friend, the more he likes you the more I hate you. I haven't been able to stand you since the beginning, and the moment I no longer have use for you, you will be considered absolutely expendable to me."
Something twitched inside of me. I had understood well enough about how much he despised me, but until now, not exactly why. I'd thought he just hated me because he was mean, but he had a reason. Yet that wasn't all that changed me right then.
He had a purpose for holding me captive the whole time, and once it was fulfilled, I would be disposable.
No... I'd known that part earlier. His previous words echoed in my mind. "Yes, yes, my dearest. You are the absolute perfect gear in my machine, and you shall eliminate the necessity for several others, I do believe..."
But why had I ignored that? Well, no matter. His reminder then was all I needed.
I doubted that he'd ever change his ways.
The constant heartache. The feeling that I'd fallen off the ladder of society. My frustration at it all.
Everything washed away all feelings but my defiance and hope.
I had nothing left but the better part of me, and I knew I wouldn't last much longer.
I was left alone on the ice, too saddened to even notice the cold. All night, until morning, I lay down there, wishing I hadn't taken so much for granted. Every time I turned around, I thought that things couldn't get any worse.
Being a convict was better than a slave, and a slave was better than absolute zero. I sat there, alone with my memories at long last, reunited with even the painful Huntress past that I nearly craved now.
'Creator? Crreee-aaaa-tooooorr... Creator, please, hear my call... Oh, Creator, I'm sorry! I should have listened to you! I shouldn't have tried drowning you out! I should have had an ounce of trust in everyone who I thought was an enemy, or else I would probably not be here! Please! I...
'I know that we've bonded... I remember you joking that you don't get out much... I know that you sometimes say all your maids and warriors hardly understand you... I know that you consider me your... your friend. Is that why? Is that why you hardly ever possess me now? Am I more of a friend than a servant to you? Am I? Huh? If I am, then... then save me now. Alrighty then, I know that minds are more sensitive than ears, so here goes...
'MY CREATOR, PLEASE, HEAR ME! SAY SOMETHING! Your company can heal me more than any magic, even your own powers! Give me words of wisdom so I can rest tonight!
I waited, but heard not a single word. Nothing from the Creator. Nothing from Amadeus.
I realized that being totally alone was far worse than being stuck with an enemy.
I thought of Cerulean and Rubia. I thought of the shawl which I still had on me, and the missing canteen I didn't have any use for now. My head throbbed in pain again and I snuggled deep into the patched cloth. I loved Rubia. I really did. She had given me the single comfort I had now. I did partially wish that I'd returned it when I had the chance, but I needed it much more than she did.
But there was one thing not even the shawl could help me with.
I was awake literally all night. How could I have slept? I cannot describe how miserable it feels to be forced to go a full day without a single precious second of slumber. I was used to being fast asleep eleven hours a day.
Dreams. I wanted so much to escape to my dreamland, where weird and scary stuff happened but not pain. Anything, I'd give so much just to sleep and have one of those blurry experiences where nothing is real.
Of course I couldn't have any luxury but the shawl. My earlier attempts at escape from Master Amadeus had eventually morphed into Cerulean finding me by luck and almost almost almost just not quite getting me home forever — yet Master Amadeus ruined everything, and to punish me for all that I wanted to escape from, I lost my remaining privileges.
Those included my chances to sleep and my false sense of security that he'd never get rid of me. Yet now he removed both those precious luxuries from me, even if one was only for that night. If I couldn't sleep, I'd perish. If he said he was going to keep me around until he used me, then he would have to let me sleep before now and then.
I wouldn't die that night, but it wounded me to know that the time was soon.
I supposed it was actually slightly better that way. Otherwise, I wouldn't know that I'd be done away with until the last second. As for actually preventing my doom, however, I knew I was too far gone over the edge. Master Amadeus was too annoyed with my opinions and behavior to give me mercy now.
Then, another torture was brought onto me. I realized that when he used me, I would be aiding his still-unknown cause. I was already suffering guilt that I couldn't help. Now, I felt like sand had been kicked in my face by a thousand different people.
They say it is always darkest before the dawn. I can laugh at that.
No one ever tells you that there is a point of no return. After all, black holes like the one he dragged me into are completely lightless. In fact, I believed that the saying should really go in reverse. It's always brightest before twilight.
I was the happiest person alive until all this happened.
I would have given absolutely anything to move right then so I could actually do something — namely, get out of there before I ended up helping him. I had a feeling that there wouldn't be a choice of helping him or not. At that single darkest moment, I bowed my head down in private shame. Everything I was forced through made my burdens become heavier, and now they were unbearable packs that I couldn't put down.
I used to carry a few sparks with me. Then I saw the true light, only for it to die before my eyes.
My life was rigged.
But I would take my hope and fearlessness, and willingly get sunk with the ship as I faced the everlasting night ahead.
To be continued...