One Way: Part Six
When I woke up, Faith was sitting cross-legged right front of me. My mind was thick with sleep. But when my eyes met her face, I yelped and sat up.
"Nice sleep?" She grinned. We were still in the storage room.
"How long?" I muttered, placing a hand on my face. She'd watched me fall asleep. Fragments of memories flashed through my mind: a green Naleap, the sparkle of glass on the floor, the rush of sugar through my blood, holding Faith—
I have to be imagining things.
"Half an hour," she quipped, bringing me back to the present. "You didn't miss anything. Really, I was asleep for a week not too long ago..."
Wordlessly, I shuffled to my feet and stretched, beating my wings.
"I didn't know that sugar did that to you," Faith confessed.
I flinched, the world suddenly rushing into life around me. The just-got-up numbness was replaced with cold reality.
Faith started, "I'm sorry, I didn't mean it like that..."
"It's fine!" I snapped.
She winced, got up, and sat down on a crate farther away from me. I realized my mistake.
"Faith, come back!"
Her gaze washed over me, still calm. I took a deep breath. I let it out again. At first, Faith just raised her eyebrows at me.
Then she approached me and kneeled, wrapping her arms around my body. I felt my face crackle.
I can't believe she can deal with me sometimes.
"I'm glad you're not an angry person," she soothed. I felt my cheeks simmer. She was taking care of me like I was a little kid, and I liked her too much to even have a problem with it.
It's like she reads my mind sometimes. Maybe that's how she'll figure out that I've been looking for her. My robes were making me hot. Faith was warm, too, but I didn't want her to let go. I feel like I've been so lonely without her...
We sat like that a couple minutes longer. And then she let go. Dazed, but not regretting it, I stretched to my feet. "Where's Rubia?" I asked.
Sullen-faced again, Faith explained, "I think she's still on the other side of the wall."
Her left ear twitched as her eyes flitted up to my face. She took a deep breath. "Long story..."
"...And you can tell it to me," I interjected. I feel like I need to make things up to her. I don't even know why. "But listen." I placed a hand on her shoulder. She flinched, but stayed put. "Faith... I know we're in a terrible situation to be in... but don't feel too guilty to even smile, alright?"
She stared at me.
I felt weird.
Okay, you idiot, what did you just say? I asked myself.
She burst into tears and threw her arms around me again.
...We'll sort this out.
Amadeus and I pressed ourselves against the wall. Another pair of guards walked past the corner without glancing our way. I let out a deep sigh. "That was cutting it kind of close."
"So what? We still weren't caught." His eyes gleamed with satisfaction and... fear. "But you do have a point. We can't slink around like this forever. So should we idiotically assume that Cerulean and Faith are still together, or should we avoid getting bitten in the butt later?"
"Well, you don't hold too much back. I get it. You were expecting me to make assumptions."
The Blumaroo hissed, "Come on! Let's not argue. Just think."
"Okay. So what do you want to do? Maybe we should wait for another guard, find some conveniently heavy object like, oh, a vase, and smack it down on his thick skull? And even if that guard miraculously forgot to put on his silly little helmet in the morning, and we actually knock him out, there'll still be another guard to spell our doom. So let's not forget that they come in pairs, okay?"
"That's the way to think, Rubia. You're finally getting why I don't like doing stuff the stereotypical way. See, never go by the books."
"Depends on what kind of books you're talking about."
"Fiction. Strictly fiction."
Another pair of guards came along, but they stopped at the intersection and looked both ways. I gasped, pressing myself against the wall. Amadeus did the same thing right on time. The guards walked on by.
"How stupid can they be?" he hissed. "We just keep doing the same thing to avoid them. They can't even hear our gasps."
"Would you rather they be intelligent?"
We flinched under the crisp silence that followed.
"Listen, Rubia... I've been hating you. I really have."
"Thanks. That really helps my self-esteem issues a lot."
"You have self-esteem issues?"
I gave him a look for a second, but then I gasped and grabbed Amadeus' wrist, pulling him through the wall. Magic shuddered through us as we emerged into an empty, dark closet. He gasped.
"Listen!" I hissed.
An unfamiliar voice confessed, "I thought I saw them go this way..."
"Don't you see? These guards aren't that stupid... Well, most of them aren't. They just needed to get backup," I explained. "And I saw that wall shimmer. Should've figured this place has secret rooms."
"It's probably their safety rules. But they're guards. They're supposed to put themselves in danger and be easy to sneak past."
"Whatever. I'm surprised we didn't notice that seam in this wall earlier."
"...Probably just a flicker in the magic."
"By the way, I don't have self-esteem problems. Just sarcasm issues." I was actually getting anxious, though I hid it well. Every second, I felt a little bit more pressure pile onto me, and the pain had started to blossom. "Amadeus. About that mace dream you had."
"Who was holding that mace?"
"I said earlier, I don't know."
"We need to find the flaming mace person."
"Why? So I can get my skin burnt off?"
"I'm tempted to say yes, but no. We need to fulfill your dream! We need to—"
"THERE THEY ARE!"
A Shoyru sorceress waved her hands, pulling the hidden door open and flushing the room with the hallway light. Two guards were standing behind her.
"How many random guards are there?" I clenched my wing into a fist.
Even though my voice cracked through steady tears, I slowly told Cerulean of how I'd traveled for a few days with Amadeus and Rubia before finding the palace and getting stuck in it. I was patient, answering his questions as best as I could. It wasn't hard... until he asked me how exactly I ended up in the palace's realm.
"You pushed me."
He looked confused. But then he shook his head and breathed, "Faith. I'm sorry."
"I wouldn't want to be alone back there, in our world. Even... Cerulean, even if we never make it back there... Cerulean, Rubia said we could be stuck here. We don't know for sure, though, and we still haven't the slightest idea why we're here."
He folded his hands behind his head as he leaned against a wall of crates. "We have to be brave. We have to get out of here. Think of everybody back home. We can't just stay here and think everyone won't miss us."
"Everybody?..." I glanced up at him. My closest friends were there.
"My mom," Cerulean added.
"Your mom? Oh, right. The Creator." My thinking slowed. I can say anything to Cerulean here, without worrying about her coming in at a moment I'd rather be with Cerulean. It hasn't been that way since... since almost before my life began. "Yes, she is a close friend. But not as much as you and Rubia. I guess... I guess I could live here."
"What?! Why are you, of all people, even considering giving up?!?"
"To be honest? Because I've found you, and you have your soul back."
"But... but... No. Faith, I'm sorry, but you can't."
Cerulean pursed his lips.
"Faith, bringing this up hurts me more than anything, but... I thought you felt like you owed her and owed everyone in that world back home. ... Have you forgotten everything you've built your mind around?"
His words confused me. My mind? What's he talking about?
Then everything hit me.
I was a Huntress.
I owe the Creator who first put a drop of honey in this empty cup. And I owe Cerulean second most of all... I should be doing what he says. Without complaining.
I'm going to be strong. I'm done crying. "I'm with you."
I managed one pained, distressed smile. He just looked at me and nodded, his amber eyes a guiltless comfort.
I rose to my feet. "We've got to leave this place. Before it changes us too much."
We were in for the time of our lives, to say the least.
I sprang at the Shoyru, pinning her shoulders to the ground, but then a Bori guard lifted me up. Rubia was too busy trying to strangle the other brute to help me.
"You aren't getting anywhere," the brown Shoyru growled as she got to her feet. I blinked, realizing that she could only be fifteen or sixteen years old. Her face was covered in golden paint, and she only had one wing. She wore a green blouse with a fluted golden skirt.
"Who are you?" I asked. The guard set me down and stepped back.
"What do you care?" She fluidly moved her arms so that the golden tiles around her rippled like a tidal wave in my direction. The tiny movement was powerful enough to throw me to the wall. "Augh!"
She has magic. Deadly powerful magic. I can't tell what kind it is, but I know one thing for certain: I can turn magic against whoever used it.
"Try that again," I requested from the floor. The Shoyru smirked. Her fingers curled and uncurled in a moment's time, and then she did a totally different move.
"Magicians don't use the same trick twice," she chimed in her ocean-smooth voice as my muscles went limp. No!
She backed away from me with a gentle, cruel smirk. I was useless. But I could feel the coolness of the floor. She'd disabled me, but bothered to save my sense of touch. And I think I know why.
She shouted a quick spell and slapped the ground. A green spark began to glitter towards me, a steady timer of when I'd go into certainly-maniacal pain.
If you're skilled enough, you don't need your lips to do a spell. If you're strong enough, you don't need to use your muscles for basic magic. And if you're focused enough... The spark touched me, but I bounced it back, through the air, towards the Shoyru. She didn't have time to dodge her own spell...You can reflect anything with your mind alone.
She screamed in pain, doubling onto the floor. I felt my strength return. But the guards were still there and they still had Rubia. She was only fighting them well enough to stall them.
Ignore it. Ignore the heroic feeling you're getting. You're not going to do this to save Rubia. You're going to do this to save yourself.
I quickly grabbed the Shoyru's shoulders. She barely noticed, too engrossed in her suffering to do more than wince away a little bit more.
Just as a guard was approaching me, I leeched the pain-spark from the sorceress and used it to stun him. Rubia was still wrenching in the guards' grasps. I grabbed the Shoyru's arm, and a bolt of green lightning flashed out from my spare hand. It forked to hit both of Rubia's opponents.
Yes! They were stunned. Rubia wasn't.
"Right, let's go," I muttered, prying the guards' frozen fingers from her body. The Hissi was impressed. Turning to the sorceress, I said, "What do we need to do to you to get you to leave us alone?"
Rubia shot a glance at me. And then she turned away from me and smiled at the girl.
"Do you want to go home?"
The green sparks that had been playing around the sorceress' hands died. "What... What was that?"
"You heard me the first time," the Hissi chimed. But the Shoyru's brow wrinkled in puzzlement.
"Nobody uses the word 'home' around here. It's forbidden." She wrung her fingers. "Was that a trick question?"
"No. Just come with us and you'll be home soon enough."
She gulped. Her skin prickled with a different kind of pain. But Rubia smiled and slithered closer to her.
"Come with us. You already remind me of a girl I know... A girl we need to find. Hopefully, she's still with our other companion. Once we're together, we'll figure out how to get away. Okay?"
"Rubia, are you insane?! She's the enemy!" I shouted.
"Not anymore." Rubia smiled. "Now... she's the frenemy."
"What's your name?" the red Hissi asked me. I didn't trust either of them, but they could both see that.
"Dromiay," I said.
"Right, how's about we get the heck away from here?" the Blumaroo muttered.
"Who are you?" I asked.
"Amadeus. And the annoying one's Rubia." He acted disinterested. Rubia narrowed her eyes at him.
"How are we going home?"
"I think we just need to find Cerulean and Faith. If that's five of us here from Creation... Well, that's it. Then we'll be home."
I widened my eyes. I can tell she's new. And she's already figured so much out?
But I was stunned by more than that. But it didn't even register with me until after several seconds.
She knows where I lived.
Amadeus glared at her. "You knew the way out earlier?!"
"Yeesh, don't blame me for figuring!" Rubia snapped. "I want home as much as you do. And we were looking for them anyways, right? Basically, we're on the right track: if everyone from Creation completely wants home, we'll end up home. This magical dimension stuff is a bit weird like that."
"But what if I don't completely want home?" Amadeus suddenly asked.
I panicked. They just told me I could go home. Rubia is implying that if we're all together, we'll be in Creation again. And Amadeus is... telling us that he doesn't want to go home?
"Amadeus. Maybe you hardly care about which dimension you're in, but there are people here who do. Three, in fact. Maybe four." Rubia's voice was firm.
"So you mean I should just jump in and go back to the world where I had nothing?"
"For the sake of other people, yes. Jump in and redeem yourself."
"Redeem myself for what?"
"As if you don't know!"
A curiosity, a vague one, was born within me. But then Amadeus grabbed my arm and growled at Rubia. I felt a few ounces of my white magic leave me, but I snatched my forearm away from him. "Hands off! Use your own!" I growled. I hate these two already...
"I don't have any."
"Well, boo hoo! Neither do I, but, news flash, there are things to live for besides power!" Rubia hissed.
"SHUTTUP!" I yelled. Turning to Rubia, I added, "And if there are things to live for besides power, I hope you don't mean anything cheesy like friendship."
"Everyone's a critic." She rolled her eyes.
Amadeus said, "Rubia. How are you so certain that this... Dromiay is from Creation?"
"Easy. According to the eighty laws of magic, you wouldn't have been able to use her magic unless it comes from the same place you do. And the prison spells you messed with? Dromiay or some other person from Creation would've had to have put them on for you to use them."
"I didn't... Didn't..." His voice sounded stunned, and his eyes were startled. "Man, good thing she was from our planet!"
I snipped, "I'm not going to end up carrying your weight, am I? I'm the one with the magic and inside contacts."
"Do you really want to go home?" Rubia's smile irritated me. "Besides, I'm venomous. We'll be fine."
Rubbing my temples, I muttered, "Then let's go. Do you have any idea where they are?"
"Nope!" The Hissi's grin didn't waver.
To be continued...