Disclaimer: Do not own Tales of the Abyss or anything related to it. I only own Sam, Will and Shio.
Figured It Out
"Why do I have to do the dishes? Can't you do it yourself?" Luke complained as he leaned against a counter top, watching me drop the pile of dirty plates into a sink.
I gave the pile a dismayed stare, being reminded of a tower with how high the dishes piled up were. I pointed at the now full sink. "You think I can do all this on my own? My Go-" remembering midway that I was about to say 'God' when I'm not supposed to again, I quickly changed my wording, "-goodness… I just realized how many people there are…"
"Then ask someone else," he suggested with a shrug that essentially said 'none of my business'. Then, with something in his tone that I wasn't able to identify, he continued, "But no, really. Should you really be doing this? Doesn't it hurt? Get someone else to do the dishes."
"Everyone else has other things to do," I reminded him, turning to face him with a tired look. "This is no small port, after all. This place and the wounded needs all the help it could get, none of which we would be able to give." I forced on a smile. "Really, all things considering, we have the easiest job to do, so why not?"
"But why me?" he asked again, looking just a little irked. Which is really surprising, 'cause I expected him to have a full-out conniption fit by now. "I never have to do things like this before, so why should I start now?"
I took in a deep breath, letting it slowly back out in a long drawn out sigh that sounded just as exasperated as I'm feeling inside. I'm really not in the mood for this… but I don't want to start screaming at him for his inconsideration. I was never the type to show how ticked I'm feel when I am, so I'm not about to start unless I really can't help it.
"Because," I started calmly, "your mansion, I'm sure, has more than enough people to do it for you and plus, they're paid to do so. Sure, we have plenty of people here too, but they all have other jobs to do so obviously they can't do this. Which is why, as a show of good camaraderie, we're helping them out in a time of great need. Come on, don't you think it feels good to be of help to someone?"
It did not take long for him to answer that. "Not really."
I placed a hand over my mouth and dragged it down with another sigh, nearly rolling my eyes in the process. Time for a different approach. "Luke… the next time we have a meal… do you want to eat on a dirty plate?" I asked.
Luke's face twisted into a disgusted expression at the image. "Ew, no."
I smiled. "Good." I turned on the tap and tossed him a rag with my free hand. "Then get over here and help me out. Or would you rather Jade come in here and drag you off to help with carrying heavy building materials? Maybe even with the burials. Either way, I don't think you would like to have either of those two jobs. Really, this is one of the easiest things to do besides cleaning when you put all those things into perspective."
"I still don't want to touch those dirty stuff! My gloves will get messy!" Luke complained, holding up both his hands to show me the aforementioned gloves.
"You can get them washed when you're done, you know," I pointed out, my patience quickly wearing out. I shouldn't be surprised really, considering the kind of person Luke is right now, but… dammit! After all the death and destruction, I would figure that he's at least compassionate enough to help with cleaning up: not lay on a bed all day in a room that the people here are considerate enough to let us have for free!
With that said, you need to understand my annoyance towards this kid for his reluctance about lending us a helping hand.
I have an injured arm. But I'm still helping, aren't I? Luke is fine. He has no excuse for not helping these unfortunate people. Especially when said people, as I just mentioned, are letting him use their faculties for free.
"But it's too much trouble!" he protested once again. "And I didn't come in here to do all this, either!"
I felt my eyebrow twitch and I had to refrain myself from letting out a frustrated sigh. "Then what, pray tell, are you doing in here in the first place?"
"First of all, don't use that tone with me!" he commanded, reminding me of the true royalty he is. You should be grateful I'm not screaming at you despite my annoyance right now, Young Lord, I thought sarcastically as he continued, "Second of all, I just want to ask you about that."
"'That?'" I repeated, having already turned away from him and started on the laborious task of scrubbing allll the dishes clean. "That what?"
"That… that thing," Luke answered vaguely, a note of bother in his tone. "Anise's giant doll… thing with the weird name. Um, Toto-something… I think."
"You mean Tokunaga?"
"Yeah, that's it." I could see him nod from the corner of my eye. "How does that work?"
"Isn't that something you should ask Anise herself?" I pointed out, not looking away from my work.
"I did," he answered with an exasperated huff. "But she told me it's a lady's secret. Tear didn't know, so I thought you would. Guy didn't know either, and he's the fon machine master!"
I hummed at the back of my throat and just shrugged, mentally tucking away whatever information I knew about Tokunaga to the back of my mind less it accidentally slipped past my lips. After all, as far as the others are concerned, I 'don't know anything' much about them other than what they had already told me up until now.
It doesn't mean I don't want to, though. I mean, I would enjoy being seen as someone a little intelligent, and giving a 'hunch' about how Tokunaga works might greatly help with that. Still, I'm too paranoid of revealing anything I'm not supposed to know: it's too risky. It would just give me questions that I'm not sure I could answer from the rest of the party. After all, if a fontech maniac like Guy doesn't know, then what reason should I? Well, that's my thought, anyway.
So instead, I just said to Luke, "I dunno. Beats me."
Oh yeah, speaking of which, that reminds me. Remember when Ion mentioned that an Oracle soldier had thrown Anise out a window of the Tartarus to fall thirty feet or so to her death while it's still moving? Yeah, the main reason why Anise did not get killed, or at least fatally injured from the drop was because Tokunaga saved her life. Seriously.
As she fell, thanks to her quick-thinking and reflexes (and despite her anger, as she was swearing revenge on the one soldier that threw her out), Anise had pulled out Tokunaga and enlarged it: using its soft body to cushion her fall when she hit the ground. It was an amazing feat. When Anise told us about it while we were making our way here, even Jade was impressed. He even complimented her quick thinking, which put the young Fon Master guardian in a good mood for the rest of the day (which also resulted in a hearty dinner later on that night, which we all were pleased with).
Luke did not say anything following that, so I assumed that the kid's probably sulking in silence by now, so I just continued with washing the dishes.
When he did spoke up again, it was something I didn't expect to come out from his mouth.
"You're hiding something."
I froze for a second, then forced myself to continue scrubbing this one particular greasy plate clean.
"Huh? What makes you say that?" I made myself ask, pushing down my unease.
I heard his footsteps against the floor as he moved to stand right next to me, jabbing a finger into my upper arm accusingly.
"You had that look!" the red-head claimed confidently.
"What look?" I demanded, shrugging his hand off.
"You know what I'm talking about," he insisted. "That look in your eyes! That 'I know something but I'm not telling you' look! I know one when I see one. I see those all the time back at the manor!"
"What are you talking about?" I asked once again, doing my best to keep my face neutral. I really didn't want him to be aware of how spot on he actually was. "Seriously, what do you think I'm hiding?"
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Luke pointing a finger straight at my face again. "You know how Tokunaga works, don't you? Come on, spill it! I want to know how it works now!"
…Why did I get the feeling that he was more offended at me not answering his question immediately than the reason of why I was lying in the first place? …Oh yeah, because he's used to getting what he wants for the most part. Silly me.
Already at the end of his short patience, Luke gave me a shove in the shoulder. I stubbornly ignored it in order to continue with my work. "Why aren't you telling me?"
"It's stupid," I finally replied with a clipped sigh. Suddenly getting an idea from my airless response, I bit back a smile and continued, "It's just a guess anyway."
"Tell me anyway," he ordered firmly.
I bowed my head slightly so that my hair would fall forward to hide my face from him because oh, this would be hilarious. "Mind control."
His voice was so flat, I almost giggled right there. Fortunately, I didn't. I nodded in confirmation to my previous statement and repeated, "Mind control. Anise can control Tokunaga with her mind."
I could practically feel the noble's stare burning a hole into the side of my head, obviously trying to figure out if I was serious in my claim or not. I was then glad that my hair was hiding my face from him, or he would see my lips twitching from my attempt to keep myself from smiling.
After a few more seconds of silence, in which the only sound in the kitchen was of me scrubbing the plates clean, Luke finally spoke again.
"What?" he asked, more out of incredulity than from lack of understanding. "That's stupid."
"And now you know why I didn't want to tell you," I sang with amusement. "Or, oh, it could be voo-doo."
"Voo-doo?" he repeated. "What the heck's that?"
"It's… um…" I paused. How can you describe what voo-doo is anyway? "It's like… um… a cursed item that people make. Usually in order for bad stuff to happen. Sometimes to other people."
"Oh, that's really helpful," he muttered sarcastically.
Still, I did not let his response get me down. So in a jovial tone, I continued on with my false theory. "Still, I really do think it's voo-doo. I… oh! I just remembered a story I heard before that sounds almost similar with Tokunaga."
I'm lying now obviously, but I don't care. My mood was slowly being steadily brought up from this conversation alone, and I'm having more fun with this than I thought I should.
"Yeah." I smirked. "There was a circus, see? This circus was known for moving from place to place for their performances. The man of the story was one of the performers that dresses up as that circus' mascot, which was a giant and cute smiling honey-colored bear. The kids loved him, and he enjoyed making them smile and laugh."
"Uh… okay…?" Luke sounded confused. "But what does that have to do with this… voo-doo, or whatever?"
"I'm getting to it." After forcing a serious face on, I continued with my false 'real' story. "Anyway, so everything was perfect until one day. The man whose job was to walk around everywhere in the mascot costume was told by the ring leader to ride a unicycle while juggling balls-"
Luke quickly interrupted. "How is that ba-"
"On a thin rope. While being a good fifty or so feet high above from the ground," I finished.
"Oh. Ohh…" He sounded hesitant now. Even he could tell where this story was heading. "B-But… there's no way he could be that stu-"
"He agreed to do it," I went on, trying not to laugh when I sneaked a glance to see Luke's horrified expression face, all the while still doing the dishwashing as I talked. "The ring master was so confident in his skills; he did not think that a safety net was necessary. Anyway, when the mascot man was doing his act in front of an audience, he lost his balance and fell down all the way to his death."
Luke made a distressed sound at the back of his throat at that.
"After his death, that circus got a bad reputation from that accident alone, and no one goes there anymore. But the ring leader, being a stubborn and greedy man, refused to throw in the towel just yet. Using dusty forbidden tomes he found from who-knows-where, he tried to resurrect the mascot man. He intended to bring his most popular performer back and make up a lie to the public about how his death was actually all part of an act."
I shrugged. "Technically speaking, it was a success. But at the same time, it was also a failure. He did not revive him per say, but just managed to summon his spirit from the astral plane. So he needed a new body in order to be brought back to the world of the living completely since his old one has long been decayed. So the ring leader put the man's spirit into the mascot costume he often wore so many times before. But then the mascot brutally dismembered him: killing him instantly."
I took in a breath. "The ritual the ring leader performed was dark in nature: it warped, twisted and tainted the man's soul and turned him into a rampaging, bloodthirsty monster."
"Oh, but that's not all." Both Luke and I jumped with short simultaneous yells as Jade suddenly joined in our conversation, his tone decidedly sinister. "Despite being a monster in spirit, the man still somehow retains his fondness for children and adolescents. It is said that he wanted to by a child's side and protect them from harm, but really, he just wanted to sate his hunger for killing. Which was why he chose young people with dangerous jobs. And as of this moment, that child today is Anise herself."
Oh dear God, Jade is actually joining in on my ruse? Whenever it comes to trolling the heck out of Luke (he enjoys doing it to the rest of us too, but Luke's his main victim for the most part), the guy sure is all gung-ho about it. And now, with another person 'confirming' the story, Luke looked outright terrified now. I could see beads of sweat starting to gather on his forehead.
The redhead's face went pale with realization. He stammered, "S-So… T-Toku… Tokunaga… is…?"
"The vengeful spirit of the man who used to work in that circus," Jade confirmed. "I would suggest that you not get on Anise's bad side, or else she would not protect you from Tokunaga. The reason why we all are alive now is because Anise has no desire to kill us… and Tokunaga follows her wishes."
The necromancer suddenly clapped once, and his voice went back to its usual jovial tone as he said, "Now that that rather frightening real life story's done, it's time for you to get back to work, Luke."
"O-Oi, w-wait a second! Are you just going to leave Anise to carry that thing around by herself if it's a real monster?" Luke exclaimed.
"Don't you know?" Jade asked knowingly. "If we try to separate Tokunaga from Anise, then we would all get killed in our sleep. It can't be helped. For your own safety Luke, I would advise against talking to Anise about this, or Tokunaga would be aware of your plan."
Yep… Jade's seriously going along with my prank. I don't know whether to burst out laughing or give him a weird look for his trouble.
"H-Hey! Let go!"
Blinking, I watched as Jade grabbed Luke by the shoulders and then proceeded into dragging the younger boy out the kitchen door.
"I believe we could put your muscles to use. If you have enough time to talk to Samantha while she's working, then you should spend that time helping us. Excuse me Samantha, but I'll be stealing him from you now."
"Sure, go ahead," I said casually with a smirk, turning back to continue working on the dishes. "Have fun you two."
"What's so fun about this? I don't want to help! Let go!"
I listened to Luke's angry yelling until his voice faded away. As I went back to doing my own job, I realized that I was all alone again. Sighing, I frowned. Without Luke or anyone else around, I was left with nothing but my own thoughts.
While normally I don't dislike being alone, today's just an exception. It's hard to be perky in a ruined place where a lot of people got killed just a few hours earlier with me there to witness it.
Don't get me wrong... I'm really upset with what had happened but... I didn't want to brood. Brooding alone like I did earlier about my injured arm makes me think of unpleasant things and puts me in a foul mood, which would then give me a heavier heat along with a pounding headache. It may be a shallow reason I know, but I... just didn't want to be sad.
Is it not better to smile and stay optimistic during times like these so that we could give hope to everyone and encourage them to hang in there? To do their best, and that everything will be okay now matter now bad it looks now? I want to be that kind of person, but I'm not. As it is, I could already feel my depression for today returning to pull me into its dark hold.
It's sad that I need to rely on other people like Guy, Luke and the others to cheer me up and distract me from reality, even if it's just for a while...
"There you are. I didn't think that you'd be here the entire time."
I blinked out of my daydream, immediately looking out of the closest window in the kitchen at the sky. From the coloring of the sky and the amount of light now out there, I believed it was late dusk. How long have I been in here anyway? The whole time, I was robotically doing the same repetitive movements: wet plate, scrub said plate with a soapy sponge until nothing was left on it, wash then dry it out, put the plate in the 'clean' pile and repeat. I kept doing this until I was finished... some time ago, and was sitting around in a daze since then. Hence why I lost track of time. Since I was not allowed to do anything else too strenuous since I would be stopped by someone like Tear or the other, I was left with nothing to do. I didn't want to bother anyone while they were working, so I did the next thing I could do: daydream.
...Hey, it succeeded in fending off my boredom quite well, so why not?
"Oh, it's past dusk out there already," I commented on the obvious fact, more for conversation than anything as I patted my hands against my pants absentmindedly. I turned to face Tear, who was the person who entered. "What time is it now?"
"Almost six, last time I checked," she answered. For some reason I didn't understand, she was giving me a disapproving frown. "You were washing the dishes? With your injury, is that wise?"
I held up my right arm to show her my cast. Compared to earlier, it did not hurt as much now, as only a stinging pain remained. It had nothing to do with the fact that I had swallowed more Apple Gels than what was probably considered necessary when no one's looking! Nope! No siree!
...I did actually, if you can't tell from that blatant lie of mine.
"I'm good, really," I assured her. "Didn't want to just sit around while everyone's hauling ass working."
"In this case, I'm sure that your reason is understandable." Tear beckoned me to come out of the kitchen with her as she walked back out, so I quickly followed. "However, didn't I tell you earlier to keep your cast away from water?"
I frowned. "Yeah, you did. I know too, of course, so I made sure to be careful about it, so it should be fine."
We made our way through the dining room until we came across the table that Tear had left her bag on. She motioned for me to take a seat after she did, and then opened her bag to pull out a roll of bandages and a Lemon Gel to place them on the table top.
Earlier, before she patched up my arm in a cast, Tear had applied a Lemon Gel directly on my wound, which hurt like FRICKKEN hell. She explained that when spells like First Aid could not help much, that was when gels can be used. A Lemon Gel should be used, since it's somewhat stronger than an Apple Gel, and Apple Gels can heal as much as a single First Aid spell could: minor tears and destroyed tissue that can be healed from the surface.
Since it is stronger, a Lemon Gel is more effective to use when dealing with deeper wounds and more serious injuries. Though gels are not as quick-effective as spells, they can do wonders just as well. Even more useful if you don't know a healer like Tear nearby. So to common people here, I believe that it's better than nothing.
Though it will take a bit of time, if we applied a Lemon Gel directly to my injury twice or trice daily, then its gooey liquid could seep deep down into my wound and repair the broken tissue further inside, hasten the healing of the fractured bones, and mend the outer skin of my arm all at the same time. Something that a simple First Aid spell is not strong enough to do due to its simplicity.
Eating Apple Gels like I did earlier can only numb the pain. That's the one main difference between apply a gel directly to a wound and eating them. Though eating gels can help with the recovery process as well, it won't be as quick as applying them directly to your wounds.
On that topic, let me explain about gels that, in the game, recovers MP. Obviously, MPs do not exist in the real world here, so what are MP-restoring gels- like an Orange Gel- used for? I indirectly got the answer for the entire question from Tear earlier when I asked her about her not using the Melange Gels we got from Glinn back at St. Binah. She explained that though Melange Gels can heal as much as Apple Gels, Melange Gels can also cure mind fatigue- a term I remembered Glinn himself mentioning when he talked about those gels back them- and she believed it would be best to save those for Jade and herself and, if necessary, the melee fighters that uses artes as well.
At the time, I was practically half-asleep when he mentioned it so I didn't give it much thought at the time, and then forgot about it later. It wasn't until earlier today that I remembered and asked Tear about what mind fatigue was like.
'Mind fatigue' is basically what ALL fonist and strike artes users (though more of the former, since fonic artes requires more time, fonons and concentration than strike artes) suffer if they use too much spells than their mental strength can achieve. A fonist's mental strength can become stronger through training and adapting themselves to be used their own fonic artes: pushing themselves to use as much as they could, otherwise they'll be screwed in battle.
Drawing fonons from one's surroundings into their body, turning them into elemental destructive power, directing them to their weapons, and then unleashing them onto their opponents can slowly but steadily put a strain to one's mind. One would know if their mind is seriously starting to be strained when their head starts to hurt badly from a headache. Orange Gels and Melange Gels are some of the gels that could instantly cure that mind fatigue.
In the worst case scenario, a fonist that tries to cast more fonic artes than his mental capacity could allow him to handle would cause his mind to snap from the pressure and suffer permanent brain damage.
And that's how it is.
Tear brought me back to the present when I heard her telling me something. "Show me your cast," she instructed as she removed her gloves and placed them on the table.
I complied, and she gingerly held it between her hands as she examined it. Her visible eye then narrowed. "Look... it's a bit wet," she pointed out, disapproval clear in her tone. "Try not to do any more work for the time being, or you'll just slow the healing process."
I nearly winced at her scolding. Though Tear did not raise her voice and spoke to me in a cold manner, her displeasure was clear in her tone and expression. Despite that though, I felt inclined to protest.
"It's just a little water," I insisted. In my mind, it wasn't as bad as she's making it out to be, and she's just over-worrying about it. Not only that... "And like I said, I just wanted to help. I would really feel left out if everyone's working and I'm not lifting a finger to help."
"You can't help if you make injury get worse due to you neglecting your own well-being," Tear lectured sharply. "Tell me, even if you were able to help us now with your current state, would you be able to help us again later when we expect you to fight again? Can you fight your best despite having a still injured arm?"
This time, I did wince, seeing the truth in her words. Suddenly feeling very foolish, I wasn't able to maintain eye contact any more with her. Amazing how Tear could make me feel like a little kid in front of a stern mother. She definitely gave off that kind of vibe every time whenever she's displeased with someone's attitude. Now that I was on the receiving end of her ire for once instead of Luke, I felt that more clearly now than I ever did before.
"I-I'm sorry," I apologized, still looking away when I did.
I saw her shake her head from the corner of my eye as she removed the bandages that were wrapped around my forearm. I was glad that I was looking away when she did, because I did not want to see the gruesome mess that was my wound.
"...Considering how you're not in pain as you were earlier, can I ask how many apple gels you've taken to numb the pain?" she asked after a brief moment of silence as she- I'm assuming- inspected my wound.
I froze up upon hearing her question, still refusing to turn and look at her in the face because I did not want to see the irked expression that's sure to inevitably cross across it from what I was about to tell her.
I bit my bottom lip and fidgeted in my seat uncomfortably. "Um..."
The younger girl before me sighed. "Samantha..." Tear's tone was both stern and expectant. Despite my reluctance to do so, I caved in.
She sounded understandably shocked. "Five?"
At the very least my mind said, but my cowardice at the idea of facing off against one PO'd Tear forced my mouth to instead finish with, "I think."
"You think?" Tear repeated and, despite my attempt to soften her reaction a bit, she sounded rather ticked. When I sneaked a look, she had a look of pure exasperation on her pretty face. My glance quickly darted away again when our eyes caught. "Didn't I tell you earlier not to take too much? Please remember that the rest us may need them as well later. And considering our current position right, we need to conserve as much money as we could."
I winced again for two different reasons: the first one of course because of her scoldings, and the second reason being the sensation of her rubbing a Lemon Gel a bit too hard directly onto my wound. I hissed sharply through my teeth as my eyes watered, trying my best not to scream from the pain. Probably seeing the look on my face, Tear eased up on her handling a bit, though it still hurt having the medicine applied directly to the torn flesh and having the gooey substance seep into the opening and further into my arm.
After she was finished and was in the process of wrapping up my arm with a fresher roll of bandages, I still felt really stupid. I felt like I should have known better instead of just looking out for my own interests over the entire group as a whole. I knew everyone minus Luke and I had brought enough money to preserve themselves during just a short trip... not a longer more arduous journey that involved more people than they expected to have to watch over.
With that in mind, I slumped further into my seat and dejectedly mumbled, "I'm sorry. It just really hurts... and I just couldn't help it. Sorry..."
Finished with her work, I turned to look at Tear just as she started to put away the stuff back into her bag. She did not look happy, but at least she's less angry than she was just a minute ago.
"Did you take only Apple Gels?" she inquired.
I nodded. "Yeah... just Apple Gels, I swear."
She let out a sigh as she absently brushed her bangs away from her face with a hand, only for it to fall right back over her right eye again.
"Well, what's done is done. I suppose it was a good thing we stocked up on supplies back in St. Binah," she said. "Still, try to bear with the pain and don't take any more gels than what is considered necessary. Remember, we're on a dangerous journey and we have five other people as well as a cheagle to consider as well. We need to use our group money and supplies sparingly for future possibilities."
"Yeah, you're right," I agreed solemnly, resting my arm on my lap. "I'm sorry, it won't happen again."
Tear smiled a bit in approval. "I won't complain any more if you take up your word on that. Keeping that in mind, you should take it easy for a while. I think you've helped enough with the cleaning duties and plus, I also think Luke was worried about you."
I jerked back a bit, my eyes widening as I stared back at her incredulously. I felt my lips then curling upwards into a smile and I laughed. "Ahah, I think something's wrong with my hearing, Tear. I could have sworn that you just said that Luke- Luke- is worried about me." I raised my eyebrows to show my skepticism. "Riiight... like that is true."
Her single visible eye narrowed slightly. "I'm serious. Earlier today, he argued with me about my inability to completely fix your arm. 'You're a healer! You're supposed to get it done right!' was what he said," she recited with a slight smile.
With my eyebrows still raised, I continued to stare at Tear in blank disbelief, trying to get the idea of Luke actually being worried about me to wrap itself around my mind. Though I knew that Luke's not actually a bad person, being actually told that he's concerned for my wellbeing is a great surprise. With the exception of that one time when I broke down after my first kill in the Tartarus, Luke was never actually open with his real feelings towards the rest of us. And in addition to that, his loud mouth, hot temper and his tendency to be rather abusive both physically and verbally, it's easy to forget that he actually cares when push comes to shove.
In response to what Tear had just said, I shook my head. "He didn't say anything when he was with m-"
"But no, really. Should you really be doing this? Doesn't it hurt?"
I froze when I remembered that part of our conversation. Earlier, I didn't pay much attention to it, since I was too busy trying to convince Luke to help me with the dishes, but now I noticed it. I then realized what the tone in his voice was when he said that.
Concern. He really was concerned about me.
How the hell could I have missed that?
Closing my eyes, I pressed the palm of my good hand against my face at the realization. "Oh," I mumbled dumbly. "Scratch that. He did say something about it." I blinked when I realized another thing. "Huh... come to think of it, he does that often."
Naturally, Tear was puzzled as to what I was talking about. She tilted her head to the side a bit. "What do you mean? Luke does what often?"
"Showing his concern for someone and then brushing it off by acting like his typical jerky self. Or give a transparent excuse, whichever came first," I clarified with a knowing smirk. "That kid... he did it for everyone. For me, for you, for Jade, obviously with Ion, he even did it to Mieu at one point back at Cheagle Woods."
"Hm, indeed..." Tear agreed after giving a nod. "Now that you pointed it out, honestly, I was rather surprised with how he acted towards me when I got wounded by that Oracle soldier. Before that, we've only argued with each other..."
"And you just totally blew him off when he asked if you were feeling well," I reminisced with a smirk.
She faltered a bit, looking unsure. "I-Is that a bad thing? I thought that I should just behave like normal... should I have thanked him for his concern?"
But I waved the idea off with a hand. "Nah. Ion does that all the time with him, and it only gets him flustered and embarrassed like heck."
Besides, it was kind of Luke's fault that Tear got injured in the first place. I'm not holding it against him or anything, nor did I look down on him for his error, because really? I'm not any better than him at all. I won't fault Luke or look down on him for his hesitance and fear of killing people. On the contrary, I actually like that about him, even when I still saw this whole adventure as a game. The fact that Luke forces himself to fight despite his true wishes shows how strong his resolve is and its own way.
Though I had killed two brothers, I still tried my best to forget about it. I still hated what I did. Don't get me wrong, I still would have done it again if time was repeated since my life was in danger but... it would still hurt. I would still hate it, loathe it, even.
I... I could understand the reasons for one to kill. What I could not understand is the apathy of a person when they kill. You can ask me to kill, but you can't expect me to feel nothing about it. It hurts... that's why I try my best to push it to the back of my mind and move on.
That is also where Tear and Jade are different. I know that Tear felt something every time she kills a human being, even though she hid it behind a brave and stoic mask. But Jade...? I won't take back my fear of that man. He. Is. Frightening. Even despite that smile and the sarcastic but jovial attitude.
I shook my head harshly to clear my thoughts.
Again... why am I thinking about things like this again?
"Is something wrong?" Tear asked, having seen me shake my head.
I pinched the bride of my nose with my good hand, squeezing my eyes shut. "Ugh... sorry, sorry. I'm... just... you know... thinking unpleasant thoughts again."
"Death," Tear stated with a knowing nod.
I was obviously shocked at her correct deduction but, at the same time, I was kind of relieved because it meant that I can be more open with my feelings easier since she might understand.
"Ugh... I'm sorry... it's just... today and... all these deaths..." I confessed with a heavy sigh, shifting about so that I was leaning back against the table. "I... I dunno... being surrounded by it and all this destruction made me think of it and... ugh... I'm getting depressed in my own thoughts."
"No one is asking you to force yourself to be happy after something like what happened earlier occurred," Tear pointed out, frowning and narrowing her eyes at me.
I ran a hand across my face wearily. "I just thought that if I stayed optimistic, then maybe people will feel better and be encouraged to do better getting through this disaster."
Tear's expression softened into one of understanding at my reason. Oh, guess I worded my previous statement wrong. "True, that kind of optimistic thinking will help in raising morale. Anise believes the same thing, too. But if your heart is not in it, you shouldn't force yourself too much for anyone's sake, I think."
"Hrn," was my only response to that. Seeing that I didn't want to talk about it any more, Tear deemed it fit to change the subject.
"Speaking of Anise, that reminds me." Tear suddenly had a look of interest in her face, causing me to blink at her. "Earlier, Luke said he was going to ask you about Tokunaga and how it could possibly work. Do you have any idea on that?"
Seizing the much lighter topic with eagerness, I enthusiastically repeated my made-up horror tale I told Luke earlier to her with a grin. Poor Tear had actually gone pale around the end, and now she looked absolutely terrified. What made it more funny besides the fact that she actually believed me, was at how she was attempting to try and look nonchalant (and failing rather badly) when it's pretty obvious what her true feelings were.
"Th-There's no way a tale like that is actually true," Tear declared a bit shakily after I was finished with my story. Poor dear... she still looked scared as hell despite her vain efforts to hide it. "There's also no way that Tokunaga is..." here she briefly shuddered, "what you claim it to be."
"Oh?" I raised my eyebrows at her. "Even though Jade himself had vouched for the validity of that story?"
"That's..." she squeaked, looking away. She attempted to hide her face from view using her long curtain of brown hair, probably aware of her own fear visible on her face. When I saw her do that, I couldn't help but feel bad for her. She really looked rather... pitying when she's acting like that. I knew she was terrified of ghost stories, but oh man, she seriously does get disturbed from them.
...Come to think of it... didn't she faint that one time in the game because of that?
...Oh... oh dear...
I sighed as I finally dropped my act and confessed, "Alright, you got me. I really did make it up on the spot, since Luke kept bugging me about my idea on how Tokunaga worked."
She was so quick as to turn to face me with wide eyes that her hair flew up a bit before settling down once more across her shoulders and flat against her back. "What? Then... the colonel..."
"Joined in one the lie just so he could mess around with Luke's head," I finished for her. "...Again."
The relief that washed across Tear's face was palpable, and I thought for sure that she would collapse with relief. Instead of that however, her relieved expression had turned into one of annoyance as she scowled at me.
"That wasn't funny... nor a kind thing to do." Clearly since she wasn't scared anymore, Tear was more quick into putting back on her usual no-nonsense mask back on her face to chastise me. "You should admit that you were lying to him."
"I couldn't help myself about making that story up," I said, shrugging. "Even if it was an idea, he wanted to know what I thought about Tokunaga. And he got really pushy when he was sure I had an idea, I really couldn't help myself. It's all in good fun, so no worries, right?"
Tear let out a sigh, shaking her head. "It's not good to spread around false stories like that, since people would believe them and get the wrong idea." She seemed like she wanted to say more, but I was so annoyed by what she just said that I cut her off.
"It's just Luke I'm having fun with. I'm not spreading anything," I protested, my voice rather clipped. I quickly tried to push my offended feelings that stirred from her assumption down the best I could. Did she really think that I'm the kind of person who would spread lies around? I mean, really! I tell one little horror story for fun, and she's lecturing me about how I shouldn't spread false stories? What the hell? There's a difference between pulling a person's leg, and spreading rumors!
Besides, don't all horror stories have to be told in a way as if they're real in order to make them more scary? I mean, look at the Slenderman myth! That thing never fails to give someone paranoia fuel because it's depicted in a way that makes it real, and not just a fake horror story that some guy made up and started in the internet, Not only that...
"I was going to tell Luke that I was just fooling around later anyway," I muttered sourly.
Apparently choosing to ignore my annoyance, Tear merely nodded to my statement. "Please do so," she said before noticeably pausing, as if listening for something. Her eyes narrowed. "Do you hear a commotion from outside?"
I blinked, giving my surroundings more ear. Now that she mentioned it, although it was muted due to the fact that we were indoors, I could hear yelling coming from the outside. "Uh, yeah, there is. Is there, is there a leftover monster or something?"
At the prospect of a monster attacking, Tear was on full alert as she grabbed her staff and stood up, quickly making her way outside. I also got up and, ignoring Tear's protests, rushed out of the building with my good hand hovering over one of my daggers tucked into a pocket of my pants in caution.
Fortunately, it turned out that we didn't need our weapons after all. After Tear and I had stepped out into the evening air, we saw that the commotion we heard was just a group of engineers speaking all over each other in loud voices as if trying to be heard from their fellow co-workers.
Facing the entire group with an annoyed-looking Anise standing protectively in front of him was Ion. It seemed that the group of engineers were trying to convince him to do something, but what, I could not tell since they were yelling all at once. I could see the men of our party- Luke, Jade and Guy- on the other side of the group, already in the process of making their way towards us.
"What's going on? What do all those guys want with Ion?" was the first question that Luke immediately asked when he and the other two had reached our sides. He was staring warily at the huge crowd present.
"Your guess is as good as mine," Tear answered, her brows furrowed. "Should we step in to intervene?"
"I don't think it's a riot of any kind. They're not acting violently," Guy noted, putting his two cents in. I noticed that Mieu was cradled protectively in the crook of his arm, probably to keep him from being accidentally trampled upon.
"It's not," someone confirmed as a new voice joined our group. When we turned to see who it was, I saw that it was the guy that I talked to earlier, Will.
"We're not rioting," Will repeated, looking a bit upset like we would ever think of them doing something like that. "Everyone just wanted him to go save the chief."
"Chief? You mean the head engineer that Arietta took?" Guy asked.
Will nodded as he fidgeted from where he stood, looking worried. "Sh-She said that the chief will be killed if the Fon Master and the person called Luke don't go so... we..." he trailed off, giving us an apologetic and somewhat guilty look. He missed the wince that Luke just had, who now also looked a bit guilty at the fact an innocent life could possibly be lost partly because of him.
"Everyone, PIPE DOWN ALREADY!" Anise shrieked loudly, finally fed up with all the simultaneous yelling from the group of engineers. Amazingly, the entire group settled down. Anise blew up some of her bangs from her flushed face. "Now, one at a time! How can you expect the Fon Master to even understand you if you keep talking all over each other like that? You-" she pointed at a random person at the forefront of the group she's facing, "-speak on behalf of your friends. State your business with the Fon Master more properly!"
The man she pointed out stepped forward, holding his hands out beseechingly to Ion as he started to make his- their- case heard. "Fon Master, if you would kindly recall earlier today, a man was taken away by a griffin for ransom. The man Arietta the Wild kidnapped is our maintenance chief! Please, Fon Master! You have to save the chief!"
"The chief faithfully upholds the Score!" another man behind him added, earning him an annoyed glare from Anise. "He's a devout follower of the Order of Lorelei. He was relieved when this year's birth Score stated that calamity would be avoided."
"Please!" the first man said again, his voice desperate. This prompted the other engineers to start up a mild ruckus again, until Ion raised an arm up straight into the air for silence.
Ion's face looked determined, and it was clear what decision he came to. "Alright," he stated, causing the entire group of engineers to start cheering and roaring in joy. Will left our side to join his friends and co-workers as they started giving Ion their thanks and well wishes.
"W-Wait, he doesn't plan on going alone with just Anise, is he?" Luke questioned, looking distressed.
"Looks like it," Guy responded with a nod. "He basically just promised them all that. I don't think there's turning back for him now."
"Fon Master Ion is also my responsibility," Jade reminded them. "Obviously, I will be accompanying them, don't you worry about that. Luke?"
"What?" the red-haired noble asked, looking uneasy. "What do you want from me?"
"Arietta's demand entails for you to come as well," Jade pointed out. "Surely, you won't be so cold-hearted to risk the man's life by refusing to come along, would you?"
"He's got nothing to do with me!" Luke protested, but he looked torn. It was clear he half-wanted to go, but is still not completely willing to actually do so for whatever reasons he may have in his mind. "If I go, Arietta will kill me!"
Tear gave the noble an unpleasant glare in response to that, while Jade merely shrugged. "As you wish. I doubt you will have the same answer after a few minutes anyway," he said knowingly before walking away from our group to be by Ion's side.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Luke demanded as he stomped after that brunet male. The rest of us exchanged looks before following after them just as the last few engineers were giving their thanks to Ion, Will included, who was in the middle of apologizing to Ion for the scene his co-workers' caused.
"I'm so sorry we had to-" Will suddenly hiccupped, proof of his nervousness, "-had to make a scene. I-I know it may be a bit -hic-much, but...!" He visibly swallowed, clearly trying to keep his hiccups under control. Will looked dejected as he continued, "But the chief has kids and a wife and... and he's a good man. He taught us a lot and we... we can't just-!" Will was cut off, both by Ion's raised and by another one of his own hiccups.
I tilted my head slightly, wondering if his hiccups were because he's nervous, or if he was just this close to crying. He certainly looked upset enough. Heck, most of the other engineers are once I got a good look at them. Arietta had clearly taken a good friend from them.
"It's alright. I understand," Ion said kindly with a soft smile. The engineers remaining then murmured apologies of their own, along with more of their thanks occasionally thrown into the mix. "Don't worry," Ion continued. "We'll bring him back safely."
Jade placed a hand on Ion's shoulder, looking down at him with a frown. "Are you sure?" he asked.
The green-haired boy nodded, looking up at him. "Arietta told me to come."
"I agree with Ion," Tear said, causing Luke to turn to stare at her incredulously.
"And you called me soft," he accused.
The melodist shook her head. "If we abandon one the Score has foretold will be saved from calamity, we will be ignoring the Score. That would go against Yulia's teachings. And..." she trailed off.
"And...?" Luke pressed.
But Tear shook her head once again, looking away. "...Never mind."
"It is true that the Score should be upheld..." Jade confirmed when he noticed that Luke seemed ready to blow up at our current healer again, effectively keeping the young noble a reason for not doing so. Ticked, Luke only let out a huff and looked away as well, his arms crossed.
"Um, I think we should go to Choral Castle, too," Anise said hesitantly, scratching her cheek as she kept her gaze low.
"If you're going to Choral Castle, I'll go with you," Guy interjected, drawing a shocked look from Luke. Seeing this, he explained, "There's something there I'd like to investigate."
"Arietta's female, you know," Jade said teasingly, poking fun at Guy's phobia.
Said blond grimaced in fear. "D-Don't remind me!"
Mieu looked up from his place in the crook of Guy's arm. "Are you going too, Master?" he inquired curiously.
Luke snorted in disdain. "...No way am I going. Even Master Van said we didn't have to."
"Arietta said for you to come as well," Ion reminded him gently.
Realizing that the red-haired boy with us is indeed the one called Luke that Arietta had asked for, one of the engineers stepped forward and grabbed Luke by the shoulders desperately, startling him. "Please don't abandon the chief! He has a family in Baticul!" he pleaded.
Annnd that was the last push that Luke needed for his stubbornness of the issue to break completely.
Luke quickly shoved his hands off his shoulders and pushed him back, exclaiming petulantly, "Alright, alright! I'll go! Are you happy now?" he made a show of sighing loudly. "Why do I have to bother with this...?"
Luke's displeasure passed completely over the man's head as a look of relief took over his face. "Th-Thank you so much!"
"Choral Castle is southwest of here, along the coast," another engineer piped up. "Please take care."
"Well, you heard him," Jade said as all the engineers left to return to their work. "Shall we get going tomorrow?"
Luke raised an eyebrow at the older male. "I thought you were against going to Choral Castle."
Smiling, Jade raised his arms up in a shrug as he cheerfully replied, "Nope! Either way's fine by me."
Luke jerked back, his eyebrows raised high. "What the..?" he started, but then sighed in defeat. "I don't get you at all..."
Clicking his tongue, he looked away grumpily as he started with his usual complaints. "But man...! This means we have to walk again! We're actually going to be going against what Master Van told us to do. Why can't you guys just trust him to deal with Arietta alone? Give him five seconds top, and I'm sure he can knock her down in one hit! We'll just be wasting our time since he'll have everything under control by the time we get there!"
"Enough," Tear reprimanded him curtly. "You already promised that you would go. You can't go back on your word, Luke."
"It doesn't mean I have to like it though!" he shot back heatedly. Reaching a hand to the back of his head, he grabbed a fistful of red hair as he usually does whenever he gets annoyed. He'd always messed with his hair one way or another. In the past few weeks, I've noticed that Luke treats his long hair as an outlet for all his rage and annoyance if Mieu's not the cause of them, otherwise he would have no problems hitting the cheagle.
I've noted that the more pissed Luke is, the more violently he would treat his hair. It's a good way of gauging how high his anger was. Luke's mood is, therefore, the most obvious to me compared to the rest the group... and I'm sure they all probably felt the same way. We would all know when to back off and give him time to cool down.
Huh... maybe that's the reason he grew his hair out to be that long?
Luke continued to grumble underneath his breath as he removed himself from the group and headed towards rest facility that Tear and I were in earlier, slamming the door behind him as he entered.
Shaking his head, Jade turned to look out at the horizon. "I think it would be best if we leave as early as possible tomorrow. So be prepared to leave at dawn. Be sure to get plenty of rest... well, I can imagine how tired you all are, either way. It's been a long and strenuous day."
Tear nodded, folding her arms. "Agreed. Let's not push the Fon Master too hard by leaving immediately. Now, if you'll all excuse me, I'll go check on the wounded."
"Again? You sure work hard, Tear," Guy remarked. Smiling, he then held a hand out. "Well, not that's always a bad thing. I feel inspired just watching you. But be sure not to push yourself too hard either, alright?"
"Thank you, but I'm perfectly fine," she assured him, a faint blush on her face. She quickly walked away, probably to try and keep it hidden from us. Haha, Guy's offhanded compliments always works!
"And I suppose I should tell the young master our plan, less he decides to go to bed late," Jade said in a melodramatic way as he, too, left with a loud sigh.
"Stupid Gloomietta!" Anise boomed as soon as she was sure that Jade was out of earshot. I felt my shoulders jolt in surprise as Guy jumped a bit (almost dropping Mieu in the process), and Ion only had the widening of his eyes as his reaction to her outburst. "If she would just mind her own business, we would have been on our merry way to Kimlasca by now, and finally get some peace between the two nations!"
Inhaling sharply, a red-faced Anise held clenched fists in front of her chest as she blew some hair out of her eyes in frustration. "But no~! For someone who claims to care about Ion, she's not only ignoring what he wants, but is also slowing the process of it!" She stomped a foot to the ground. That's not how it works, Gloomietta!"
Guy let out a sigh as he shifted from one foot to the other. "I could kind of see where she's coming from, though," he admitted. "The mother that she loves was recently killed, and she's still heartbroken about it. So her mind's so filled with thoughts of avenging her family that she's willing to do whatever it takes to make it happen."
His green eyes widened in alarm and he scrambled away when Anise ran up to him, dropping Mieu in the process. The cheagle let out a startled sound when he landed on his rear.
"But it's not Luke or the other's faults!" she insisted, conveniently choosing to ignore his violent tremblings and his backpedaling until he's a good fifteen feet or so away from each other.
She let out an irritated-filled sigh, shaking her head in annoyance. "She's just taking things out on them! She never sees the ones she likes at fault whenever something that she doesn't like happens! She never gets her facts straight! I mean, look, she hates me for being Ion's main guardian despite Ion picking me himself! It's the same with what happened in Cheagle Woods! Her mom's the one that attacked for no good reason! Any idiot can tell that what they did is just self-defense!"
"Arietta... makes it sound like it's the other way around," I agreed as I crossed my arms after a second of hesitation. "I... um... I won't say we're not guilty of anything, 'cause we're really not, so I can get her point of view there, but..." I bit my lip, "is it... is it really necessary to kill innocents just to get to us? Like what she did today?"
"Actually, she said it was Asch who wanted it done," Ion pointed out, probably in an attempt to lessen Arietta's faults. I never did understand why Ion's always talks to and about her with kindness or consideration. The game never did delve into his relationship with her. Perhaps it's just him being the normally nice guy he is but... I don't know...
Still, whatever his reasons, I can't say that I agree with him regarding the pink-haired girl. "She went ahead with killing people by letting her monsters loose on them though. If all she wanted was a reason for you and Luke to go to Choral Castle, why not just kidnap the head engineer and be done with it?" I questioned. "Or, hell, maybe just take away a group f them if it's too hard. I don't doubt they have a cage or something else like that ready. Why willingly choose a massacre instead?"
Anise pointed at me with a finger, looking like she more or less shared the same sentiments as me. "Exactly! She acts like she's such a victim, but she's just as bad as she accuses us to be, if not worse! She's just being a bully again!"
Wide-eyed, I looked over to Anise after hearing her last statement. What did she mean by 'again'?
Guy noticed it as well, because he was also staring at Anise with something akin to befuddlement. "'Again'...?"
Anise's brown eyes widened when she realized what she let slip in the heat of the moment, looking between the both of us in shock. Keeping her arms straight by her sides, she looked away with narrowed eyes.
"I don't hate her for no reason, you know," she muttered darkly, her tone leaving no room for protests. Her hands clenched into fists as she shook her head sharply. "No. Forget about it. Seriously. Never mind. It's all stupid, anyway."
I exchanged an unconvinced look with Guy, but we both wordlessly decided to let the matter drop as Anise wanted, less we make her upset. Besides, the answer that we wanted seemed to be pretty obvious anyway.
Ion winced and guiltily gave his guardian an apologetic look. "Anise, about that, I'm-"
Anise quickly cut him off with a waved hand, scowling. "I know, I know. Don't apologize to me again about that, Ion. If anyone needs to apologize to not just me, but to everyone she caused trouble for, it's Gloomietta the Whiny." Despite her now sour mood, there was no malice in her words except for when she said her degrading name for Arietta.
An awkward silence followed after that. I did not know what to say, but I didn't want to not do anything either. Is there anything I can do for Anise at the moment? Would a comforting hand on the shoulder be too much? Sure, we got along well during the past week and the half or so, but since it's clear she wanted the current matter to drop, would that be overdoing it a bit?
My thoughts seemed to show on my face because as I considered the pros and cons of the gesture, Anise gave me a smirk that's probably meant to be both reassuring and teasing. And her happy-go-lucky attitude was back.
"Don't give me that look, Sammy," she chastised lightly, her smirk growing. "Don't forget, I might probably have the chance to get back at her at Choral Castle for everything she's done. I've been wanting to slap some sense into her for a long time now, and now that I finally got the chance to do it, I'm gonna do it!" For emphasis on her last words, she punched a fist into an open palm, still wearing that eager smirk of hers and making Guy shudder.
"U-Using Tokunaga?" he asked fretfully.
"I'm just being even, since she would obviously have her monsters by her side." The brunette girl shrugged. "Sorry Ion, but you can't say she doesn't deserve some discipline for the things she did."
The Fon Master's shoulders slumped in resignation. "I know I can't stop you or the others if you engage in a fight with her, but please don't hurt her too much, Anise," Ion pleaded. "Truthfully, I don't want anyone to fight her at all, but considering the circumstances this time around, I have a feeling that it can't be helped. I'll talk to her more properly once we're finished with everything."
"Even if you tell her to not to, I don't think you can stop Anise anyway. Feels like there's too much bad blood in between the both of them," Guy noted to Ion with a solemn expression. "Also, if by chance we let her go, I don't think Arietta will stop here anyway. When you think about it that way, it's probably best that we stop her now, or more problems will happen."
"You got that right!" Anise exclaimed, fire burning within her brown eyes. "I won't forgive you for all this, Gloomietta!"
I let out a sigh of contentment as I stepped out of the shower and wrapped a towel around myself as I walked over to the sink, glad that I was somehow successful in not getting my cast wet this time. It was strange and uncomfortable washing myself with just my left arm while my right arm is held out of the way of the shower spray. But I managed.
Now... to the issue of brushing my teeth with my left hand. I frowned at the though. This... is going to be a problem... Obviously, I had no experience whatsoever with brushing my teeth with my left hand before. Just thinking about doing it feels weird already.
Drat, I guess it can't be helped. I shouldn't be that hard, right?
...Yeah, this definitely feels weird. But hey, it's not as bad as I thought it'd be, I decided as I brushed my teeth, staring lazily at my own reflection in the mirror.
Oh yeah, speaking of which, did I mention that before we left St. Binah back then, I stole some stuff from the inn's bathroom? I did that because there is no way I'll be traveling for who-knows-how-long unwashed. The only time I can clean myself is any time we would stumble upon an inn, but I didn't want to rely on those lucky breaks. Especially when I would get mud or monster blood on me every single time we fight, an even when I start to smell from said blood mixed with my own sweat.
Only if we were given a lucky break we would stumble upon a large pool of water attached to a stream. When Luke had asked my unasked question about it, a stream is necessary because we need the dirty water to wash away from not just when we bathe, but when we washed our clothes and dishes as well. Even then, when we do find something like that, there's still the issue of the lack of privacy among all of us. Obviously, neither the guys or us girls can just strip off of our clothes wherever and whenever we could (Except Luke, but that's a funny story for another time). If we could, then what should we wear while we wait for our washed clothes to dry?
Point being... I knew I was being a bitch by stealing (again), but I just couldn't help myself. I'm far too used to be able to shower every day at any time I want. I never knew I could lose that privilege, and now that I did, I wasn't so eager to let it go.
Huh... I sounded spoiled. Maybe I am.
Still, though I do feel bad for stealing from the inn, I also didn't regret it. Unless I mooched off of someone (something that I would absolutely loathe to do), I don't have a stable enough income that I should spend it on whatever items I may need. I need to save myself every coin whenever I can.
After I was finished with washing out my mouth, I slipped on the bathrobe (another thing I took from St. Binah's inn) I left by the sink and walked out of the bathroom, looking over to my just-washed clothes that were laid out to dry on a chair. I sighed: I really need a second pair of clothes... maybe I'll get something at Chesedonia. Being the city of trade, it's bound to have a ton of things for sale.
I jumped when there was a knock on the door.
"Samantha, are you there?" It was Jade, surprisingly. Out of all people to be at the door right now, I didn't expect it to be him. "I have something I need to discuss with you. May I enter?"
I frowned at the door, self-consciously hugging myself with my arms even though I have already locked the door earlier.
"I'm not decent," I called out. "Can you come later?"
"I'm afraid not," came the unexpected reply, making me blink in surprise. "It's important, and I'd rather talk about it with you alone." A beat. "And I assure you that I have no interest in underaged girls such as yourself."
I felt my eyebrow twitch. "It may not be a big deal to you, but it is to me. I'm not comfortable with that kind of thing. Later, Jade."
There was silence from the other side of the door. I would have assumed that he left, but I didn't hear any footsteps walking away from the room.
What I did hear however- to my shocked horror- was a clear click of the door's lock being released. Not even a second has passed before the door swung open to reveal Jade standing behind it, his passport held up with two fingers. It was obvious that Jade had slid his passport into the crack of the door to undo the lock. A simple but effective trick, considering the locks in these facilities are nothing complicated.
Loudly shrieking in embarrassment, I bolted straight back into the bathroom and slammed the door shut, my face hot.
"JAAAADE! I told you I'm not fucking decent! You can't just- FUCK!" I roared in pure frustration. "You fucking pervert! Get OUT already!"
"Now now," I heard him sing annoyingly, causing my anger to spike. Really, only he would find other's discomfort amusing, that uncouth man! "It's rather rude to kick out a guest after you had already invited them in."
"Invited them in-" I repeated incredulously, choking midway. I felt my face grow even hotter. "Invited guest my ass! You just strolled on in after-!"
"That's enough of your temper now," he interrupted sharply. Suddenly, it was gone. All the humor and amusement that was there just seconds ago were gone, as if they weren't even there in the first place. His tone was now curt and cold: allowing no more room for nonsense.
What...? Did his personality just perform a one-eighty degree turn? I was astounded.
In that eerily calm voice, he continued, "I'll get to the point if this bothers you that much. However, I would prefer if you come out. What I wanted to discuss with you needs to be done face-to-face. Now, would you mind." His last sentence was worded more like an order than a question...
I winced to myself from the tone he just used. Despite the fact that I tried to convince myself that I had the right to be angry in this situation, something in Jade's voice had zapped all the anger out of me. And suddenly, in its place, I was left with a feeling of dread and uneasiness.
For some reason, I got a bad feeling about this.
A very, very bad feeling...
My hands tingling with nerves, I opened the bathroom door slightly so I could peek out into the bedroom. There, I saw Jade with his back to the door, staring at... my wet clothes? Even my red slippers were clutched in one of his hands.
Fuck... I forgot that my clothes were still outside. When Jade came in, in my panic, I didn't even think about grabbing them as I ran into the bathroom. Meaning, I can't hide in here forever in order to protect my decency, as the prospect of a man seeing my clothes and undergarments (Oh, God, please don't let him see my undergarments! I would die!) is just as bad. And Jade can be stubborn when he wants to be.
With a heavy groan in my head, I inhaled and rolled my eyes skywards befor pushing the door open wider in order to step out. As I did so, I noticed that Jade had shut the bedroom door, something that I am both grateful and uneasy about. Grateful, because no one could look into the room and witness this awkward and innuendo-filled scene and uneasy because I'm now alone in a room clad in nothing but a bathrobe with a man.
Even though I'd like to be able to trust Jade not to be that kind of person, I still feel defenseless the way I am right now. This is not the kind of scenario any woman would like to befall upon her.
"What?" I finally asked wearily, keeping my arms crossed tight against my chest. Might as well get this over with so he would leave faster. "What do you want to talk about? And could you... could you please get away from there? It's embarrassing..."
Thankfully, he obliged: turning to face me and making my face grow hotter under the scrutiny of his piercing red eyes. He did not release my slippers however. He looked down at them and flipped them over in his hands once before lifting his gaze up to look at me again. I shifted uncomfortably on the spot.
And then... and then... and it was then that I finally understood why I had that bad feeling when he said:
"Tell me where China is located."
Those six simple words... those six words alone made all the feelings in my leg leave through out the window and nearly causing me to fall to my knees right then and there.
How in the world did he know? I stared at Jade's unreadable expression, my heart hammering quickly within my chest. I swallowed- when did my throat go dry?- and opened my mouth to say something, but no words would come, and I closed it again: feeling helpless and starting to panic.
Could Jade read English? Can that even be possible?
Wait, no... of course he could. I don't know how or since when... but he showed that he could read English just now. No! Maybe it's not even the country China! Maybe he just meant some ordinary china! Why he would is irrelevant! One part of my mind tried, wanting to deny the possible truth.
Before I could even voice out the first question that I could think of, Jade started to speak again before I could.
"Perhaps I had confused you," he said calmly, holding up my slippers before placing them back down. "I meant the place called China where your slippers were imported from. If you don't know, how about... Indonesia? That's where your shirt was originally made, wasn't it?" He paused, staring me down and effectively making me feel small. "Oh, forgive me. I just realized that I'm not as interested as that as much I am about where you truly came from."
Before I could even try to defend myself, Jade went for the killing blow. "Your home. The place that could not be found on any map of Auldrant. Tell me about the entirely different world where you came from, Samantha Loy."
It felt like I just got punched right in the stomach with an heavy iron-clad fist. I choked on thin air, finding it hard to breathe normally all of the sudden as I felt all the blood drain away from my face. Losing strength, I stumbled close to the closest wall and leaned against it.
I finally found my voice. "Wh-What are you talking about?" I rasped out, barking out a forced laugh. "You... you've lost it, Jade."
"Perhaps I am with the conclusion I've reached to," he replied, still in that calm voice. With his free hand, he pushed up his glasses. "But you know when they say a picture is worth a thousand words? Your reaction told me all that I needed to know."
"I-I'm just in shock, idiot!" I lied vehemently. "P-Proof then! Where's your proof? You got something tangible to prove your claim with?"
Jade let out a tired sigh, as if not wanting to explain his reasons but knowing he has to. "Very well. I'll indulge you if you still insist on denying it."
He pulled out a piece of paper from one of his pockets. "Remember this?" he asked, stepping forward to me and holding it out for me to see. I only needed to take one look at the indecipherable scribblings before shaking my head. Jade raised an eyebrow at me. "It's Anise's receipt for the dinner we had back at Kaitzur. The one I wanted you to check for me. You made quite the irked face when I asked you to do so."
"Because it's stupid," I responded sourly. "I don't think you're as blind as you portray yourself to be without your glasses, Jade. You would be bumping into walls otherwise."
"True, I can see just fine without my glasses," he admitted coolly. "But you remember this, correct? It is a cooking recipe, correct?"
He took a step back, staring down at me. "It is indeed the same one. But... forgive me. I lied. It's not a recipe. It's a page I ripped out from a trainee instruction book from the Tartarus."
I gaped at him incredulously. "You can't read the Fonic Alphabet, can you," he stated more than asked.
"So what?" I barked, looking away. "So I'm illiterate. There, happy? But that has nothing to do-"
"On the contrary, it has everything to do with you not being from Auldrant," he cut me off as he pulled another paper from his pocket. "This one, I'm sure you'll recognize for sure this time. I'll have to ask you to forgive me again, since I took it from your bag while you were busy conversing with the Fon Master and the others earlier."
"You went through my stuff?" I fumed as the paper was handed to me. I looked down at it, and felt my eyes widen despite myself.
It's the list I made for converting the letters of the Fonic Alphabet to the English alphabet. I've been working on it since after Mieu's spelling test back in Kaitzur.
"Truth be told, I was interested in this ever since the first time I saw you writing away in it," Jade admitted. "For someone to seems be illiterate, you seem to have no difficulty when you wrote in this paper. That confused me a bit until I read this list." He gave me a look. "Also, when I saw those little notes on the side in your home alphabet, I noticed that you have a very neat and tidy print. A big difference whenever you try to write in the Fonic language."
He then tilted his chin in the direction of my clothes. "The tags on your clothes and the inscriptions in your slippers are another supportive proof of my claim when I checked just now. The fact that you didn't deny that I was correct at what they said is another thing."
"How can you even read them?" I asked. I was shocked. I thought I was careful but... not careful enough, obviously. Jade has all the important in his hands, and now that he had chosen to show them to me, I was impressed. Impressed... and scared. I don't know what I could say to deflect his valid explanations.
Jade waved my list in front of my face by his way of explanation. "Your list was very helpful. Though it can indeed help someone not from Auldrant the Fonic Alphabet, the same could be said for the other way around as well. For getting the entire thing accurate, you have my praise for that. I've more or less memorized your home alphabet the first time I've read it. And, again, the fact that you didn't deny that I was correct when I mentioned both China and Indonesia more or less confirms that I've grasped it well."
I gaped at him in shock, before I was once again pinned in place by those red eyes of his.
"Now, are you going to deny it any further? And don't you dare claim that China and Indonesia are shops, because no one would have such a horrified expression like that one you made earlier if that were true. Nor would they try to enthusiastically keep it hidden for this long. And I've never in my life seen the alphabets you used until I saw your list for the first time," he finished.
Dammit! I was going to go for that as a desperate last attempt, too...!
Under his stern piercing gaze, which was further intensified by the deep frown on his face, it felt I could no longer keep anything hidden from him. He knew the truth, and had all the evidence to back his claim up.
And... I didn't want to fight any more... I'm half-naked, I want to cry and scream with frustration, I felt emotionally drained from his interrogation, and I have nothing else to defend myself with without looking like I'm grasping for straws. If there was, it's sure not coming to me at the moment...
My shoulders slumping in defeat, I let out a heavy sigh as I kept my head down. I tried my best to hold my tears back. No... I'm more mature than this, dammit! This can be handled rationally! I will be in control of myself, at the very least!
"Okay..." I admitted, all of my figurative chains falling. "Okay... you... you got me." I licked my lips, just realizing how dry they were. "I'm... yeah... not from... from Auldrant."
"So you finally confess," Jade murmured. His tone was as unreadable as it was from the start of this conversation. "My assumptions are true, then?"
"Yeah... you got it," I muttered, rubbing an arm. "I... I'm from-" I hesitated: is there really no other way to hide the truth? No... it's too late now, I think.
Especially if it's Jade who figured it out. He would know I'm lying. Ever since from the beginning, even I'm aware that it's impossible to hide from him. How shameful... this early in our adventure, and he already knew. I'm more careless than I thought.
He figured it out.
And he's sticking to it unless proven wrong. Something which I doubt I could do now. He won this chessboard battle of ours.
I took in a deep breath and let it out as another sigh. "Earth. I'm... where I came from. It's called Earth."
"Another world, then?" he asked, probably more wanting to hear the truth straight from the horse's mouth itself than out of doubt.
"Another world," I confirmed, gripping an arm tighter. "It's... crazy, I know."
"I would have believed so too, if the evidence didn't prove otherwise," Jade stated, his arms folded. "Take a seat. This will be a long conversation, no doubt."
Numbly, I nodded, feeling an itch of gratefulness towards him. He stepped back as I walked pass him, carefully taking a seat of the edge of one of the bed's and making sure he wouldn't see anything indecent. Jade, on the other hand, chose to stand against a wall a good distance away from me. Far enough probably not to feel uncomfortable, but close enough to see my face clearly.
Now he chooses to be somewhat polite, a childish, more bitter part of my mind snarked. I tucked the thought away. This is not the time for sarcasm. In retrospect, I should admire and respect Jade for zeroing in on the truth so quickly. But for now...
"Let me ask you this first," Jade started. "How did you arrive to Auldrant?"
"...That's even crazier," I confessed, rubbing the back of my neck. "I don't know how it happened, exactly. I was at home, right? I was just trying to fix, um, take something out of an electrical output. I got shocked, fell unconscious, and when I woke up... boom. I'm at Cheagle Woods."
I saw Jade's widened an inch, probably the closest to genuine surprise I've seen him yet. "Just like that?"
"Yeah... that's... that's it, actually," I said with a nod. "I don't understand it, either."
I'm not sure if I should tell Jade about Shio yet, even though she more or less admitted that she was the one who brought me here for reasons I've yet to understand. For now, maybe it's a good idea not to tell him about her, since I don't get her at all.
"I see," was all that Jade said, and I looked at him in surprise.
"What? You believe me?" I asked incredulously.
"You say you passed out in your home, but woke up in Cheagle Woods, correct?" At my nod, he continued. "That was how Ion found you. Your testimony matches up to his that much, so I'm inclined to believe it as the truth. Afterwards, you went with him, Luke and Tear to face the liger queen?"
"Yeah," I confirmed once more. "When he found me, that was the first time I arrived to Auldrant."
"And that explains your lack of supplies and weapon," Jade stated with a nod. "About the story you gave, while being robbed is a strong possibility that could occur at any time, especially to those weak and inexperienced, the only point I found odd was how you had no weapons of your own at the time. I find it doubtful that even a person traveling for the first time would put their only form of protection away in their bag instead of on their person. At the very least, you should have had your weapons with you."
I could only made a sound of agreement, feeling a bit embarrassed. "W-Well... I did make it up on the fly. I mean, come on Jade, if I told you the truth from the get-go-"
"We would not have believed you, and would have believed that you are a few screws loose in the head," Jade finished for me with another nod. "And we would have. I can understand your hesitation there. No doubt anyone else would have done the same. Does your world have fonons?"
"No," I replied, shaking my head. "Earth doesn't have fonons. Or monsters, for that matter. Unless someone would go out of their way into a jungle or a swamp, which they won't since we have a lot of public transport, then they won't have any problems with wild animals. So we don't have artes of any kind, much less magic."
I tilted my head up to the side a bit. "Actually, if you even claim to have magic or powers or special abilities, people will think you're either lying through your teeth, or crazy. It's like that. It's... taboo, you could say. And unless they're soldiers, people don't even fight, either. Not with weapons, anyway. And it's even illegal to possess a gun unless you have a license."
"Sounds like a peaceful world," Jade remarked, causing me to scoff loudly.
"I wouldn't say 'peaceful'," I said dryly, rolling my eyes. "It's not bad, but we have our own problems too. Some countries still has wars going on last time I checked. Pollution, overpopulation, political issues... the works." I shrugged. "Buuut I guess it has its good points too, so I shouldn't complain."
"Fair enough," he said, pushing up his glasses. "Does your world have its own Score as well?"
"No, we don't have a Score," I answered. I then remembered something, and my eyes widened. "Well, not like the one here, at least. Um, we have religion too. But it's up to people whether or not they want to follow, um, the bible."
"The bible?" he repeated, looking interested.
"Well..." I scratched my head in thought. "Um, some people believe that a God is watching over all of us. The more strict followers would attend Church and live their lives according to the bible. The bible is seen as a holy book with God's teachings written in it."
"It's not mandatory?" he asked, to which I shook my head to.
"Like I said, it's up to a person how much they want to follow," I replied. "Um, like me for example. I believe in God, but I don't consider myself strict enough to attend church or force my claims down other people's throat. The are also people who don't even believe in God back home. Atheists." I licked my lips. "Um, but your Score here... it's very strict. It's basically a... 'do as the Score tells you to do or be at fault for screwing humanity over' kind of thing to me, no offense. It's not like that back home, but it does remind me of the stricter followers of God."
"No offense taken," he said, his eyebrows raised slightly in intrigue. "I must say, listening to all this explains a lot about your behavior about certain things."
I only sighed, giving him a shrug. "Well, now you know."
Jade tilted his head slightly to the side. "On a more personal level, tell me about your family. I'm sure you're not an orphan now. Who is your father?"
"My family?" I blinked. "Eh, nothing glamorous if that's what you're thinking. My dad is the boss of a construction firm. My mom's just a housewife. She just sits around, naps and watches TV all day- uh, I'll explain that later," I quickly added when I saw his eyebrows pinch in mild confusion when I mentioned the TV part. "Anyway, my younger sister and I are just your regular high-school students. Rest of my family lives in another country. Don't see them unless it's summer vacation."
"I see." Jade stared at me, and I made sure to keep my crossed arms tight against my chest and my legs stuck together to avoid flashing him by accident. "...Is there anything else I need to know about? Something that would affect us and our journey?"
I looked away, biting my lip in thought.
Well, this is it. This is my chance to reveal that everything is a game and that I'm aware of everything that would happen later on. The only thing is... I don't want to.
No. Never ever. Not if I can help it.
I know that... if I was told I was a fictional character, that my existence was a lie and my future, thoughts and actions were all predetermined from the start just for the sake of entertainment purposes, then I... I wouldn't take it well. At all. I know for sure I'll fall into a depression, questioning my life, my meaning of existence.
Who am I to give them thoughts and emotions like that? Doing something like that... feels so... so arrogant: informing them that everyone's existence except my own is just a lie. And... they'll hate me for that, won't they?
I've already accepted long ago that this is not a game anymore. These people are just as real as I am. And though I've only known them for a few weeks, to me, it felt like I've known them much longer than that. I won't even deny that I see them as friends. Luke and Ion's pure-heartedness, Tear and her matronly concern, Guy and his empathetic kindness, Anise and Mieu's social cheerfulness... even Jade and his hidden desire to protect and look out for everyone. Sure, they have their faults, but doesn't everyone?
And... it would be sad... so so sad... even to me, to now see them as people who have never existed in the first place. Verbally acknowledging them as fictional characters feels the same as doing that.
Even if I'm cornered like this again, even if they see me as crazy, even if they're aware I'm lying about it, even if they don't trust me for hiding it...
I'm taking that terrible truth to the grave with me.
Sorry Jade, but you won't be getting that one truth out of me. The impact after hearing about it is nothing compared to knowing about me coming from Earth.
Unable to help myself, I laughed, covering my face with my hand and noticing Jade tense from the corner of the vision.
God, I'm so pathetic...
It shouldn't be this big of a deal, but it is. Oh well... At least I know why I'm feeling this way. And I'm betting that Shio knows as well.
I wiped at my eyes with a hand, just as my chuckles had subsided. "Sorry. Just thinking of something I didn't like."
"I'm assuming it would affect us directly?" Jade asked, not relaxing in the slightest bit, I noticed. I guess me chuckling put him on edge more than I thought. And considering his last question...
I opened my about, ready to tell him that it was nothing and I have nothing else to hide, I froze when I suddenly remembered one certain thing.
At least a thousand lives would be lost if no one does something about it. Since I'm aware of its imminent destruction, should I really be hiding about it? The only problem is, I don't know how, without telling the full truth-
I paused at that thought.
Full truth... what about half truths?
An idea came to me then, sudden and unexpected. It's stupid. It's really really stupid, probably a bit hypocritical of me considering what I had just promised to myself and won't work out that well, but... it's the only way I could have a chance at saving all those innocent people without denying anyone's meaning of existence.
"I... um... Jade..." I started, covering my mouth with one hand as my heart started to beat faster. "Um... there is one thing." I had his full attention now. His eyes were straight on my and his mouth set in a firm line.
"Um... I..." This is it. The start of a long lie that I will have to hold up till the end of this adventure. God, my stomach... think I'm going to be sick...
"I... I..." I licked my lips nervously, swallowed, and then forced myself to at least look up at his face or else he wouldn't buy it. "I can... um... see... the future."
And like that, it's out. No way to take it back now. Telling something that big can either make things better or worse for me- for all of of us.
His eyebrows shot up in surprise. Huh... I guess he can be genuinely surprised after all. But unlike my revelation about Earth, he wasn't expecting to hear about something like this.
"What?" he asked sharply. "Didn't you say earlier that Earthians have no special abilities?"
"Earthlings," I corrected weakly.
I knew this wasn't going to be easy... already I could feel my stomach flipping in over itself as I start to have doubts about my own plan. No... I need to push on!
"And, er, funny thing, I could never see the future back on Earth. But when I'm here in Auldrant," I took in a deep breath, "I... suddenly know. I... get flashes of when big important things are going to happen. Oh, and not just that, but I would also get flashes on insight on certain information of this world. I can't explain it..."
Jade's face was as unreadable as ever. I can't fathom what he could be thinking about at all. Does he call bullshit on my lie, or is he considering what I said at least?
When he spoke again after a pregnant pause, his tone was one of cool neutrality.
"If this is true... then tell me what prediction has come true so far that would convince me that you're not lying."
"The attack on the Tartarus," I answered immediately, keeping my gaze on him. "While I was onboard the Tartarus I... got the image of it being attacked by griffins and soldiers. That was why I stole those-" I motioned towards my weapons on a table, "daggers. I wanted to be able to defend myself. Luke's wooden sword won't help me much in that situation."
"Is that all?" Again, I can't read his tone. I searched through my mind for another incident where I had put my meta-knowledge to use while having proof to back it up, but I found nothing else.
"So far, yeah," I said. Having a feeling that he won't choose to believe me, I quickly added, "B-But! It's the truth! If you want more proof, I can tell you about one of my vision that will happen in the near future. If that came true, then you can decide if I'm lying or not."
Jade raised an eyebrow at me, and I once again cursed his perfect stoic mask since I can't even name the look he had in his eyes.
After a moment of silence, he gave me a nod. "Very well. If something occurs exactly as you predicted it to be, I will feel inclined to believe you, at the very least."
"Okay," I said breathlessly. "At Choral Castle, somewhere along the way, Luke will be kidnapped and taken away from the group. They will put him in some kind of huge machine that you will recognize and be shocked to see."
The brunet male closed his eyes, seemingly in thought as another moment of silence followed. Then, he asked, "Just to make sure, tell me exactly what is that machine and tell me what they did to Luke."
"Um..." Should I tell him? I guess I should. If I wanted him to believe me, and be an ally for Akzeriuth, then even if he's skeptical of me, at least he will help.
"It's... it's a machine related to fomicry." I paused when I saw him inhale sharply. "It... um... they just wanted to open Luke's fon-slots with it."
"Does Asch the Bloody has anything to do with it?" he questioned, his eyes still shut.
...Ah, I get it. He's testing me to see how much I really know. And if what I claim will happen come true, then there will be no other doubt about it. At least... that's what I thought.
"Asch is..." I hesitated, then pressed myself to carry on, though that doesn't mean I'm comfortable with doing so. "He's... Luke's... um... original. And he's... um, his... replica. They wanted Luke's fon-slots open so Asch could telepathically connect to him."
The Necromancer nodded, turning his head away and finally opening his eyes. For some reason, I'm getting the vibe that this was the end of the conversation.
I let out a breath. Looks like until after everything at Choral Castle is done, Jade won't believe me about my 'future visions'. Looks like I have to wait to tell him about Akzeriuth's fate until then.
"About Choral Castle..." he started, causing me to look up at him. Guess I was wrong about it being the end of the conversation. "I think it's best that you stay here while the rest of us go rescue the chief of maintenance."
I felt all the blood drain from my face. No way, I can't believe I'm hearing this. "...What?"
Jade sighed, pushing his glasses up his nose. "It's been already decided. You are not going to Choral Castle with us."
I knew it. He really doesn't trust me about this. No... he never trusted me from the beginning, or else he wouldn't have been going through my stuff to find out more about me.
As if reading my thoughts, Jade turned to face me and said, "It has nothing to do with what we just talked about. You're handicapped at the moment, and we all agreed it would be best if you stay here to recuperate."
I let out a heavy sigh, running a hand over my face wearily. Our conversation sure took a lot out of me. "I wanted to go with you. Not just for what we talked about either, but I wanted to at least give Arietta a hard slap around the face for what she did today."
"I'm afraid you'll have much difficulty fighting with just one arm," Jade pointed out. "Now, do you intend to tell everyone about Earth?"
"Who would believe me?" I whined, shaking my head. "No, scratch that. Even if you vouched for me... I dunno... I, I just don't think it's that important. I... don't feel comfortable about it."
"I saw," Jade quipped, though he wasn't smiling. "Understandable. You can tell them at your own time. It's not that important for them to know."
I looked up at him dryly. "...Then what's with all the interrogation just now?"
The brunet just raised his hands up, shrugging. "Oh, I just don't like being kept in the dark about anything, that's all."
I coughed. "Why am I not surprised...?"
"One more thing." He quirked up an eyebrow. "Why haven't you chosen to go home yet?"
I shook my head, sighing. "You talk as if I know how to get home, Jade..."
"Ah, I figured," he ruminated, rubbing his chin. "So you stayed with us this entire time as a last attempt?"
Using my free fist, I punched the mattress beneath me as I gave him a glare. Somehow, how he worded his last statement hurt a lot more than I thought.
"What do you want me to do, Jade?" I cried, frustrated tears springing to my eyes. "If you want me to leave, why don't you just admit it? I know you wanted that even more now after what I just told you, right? Don't bother to sugar-coat it! I won't bother you any more-!"
"Samantha." Hearing his stern voice, I forced myself to settle down in order to listen to what he has to say. Jade let out a sigh as he shook his head. "I don't see myself as a shallow enough person to ask you leave the group mainly because of circumstances beyond your control. Do you have enough income for food, clothes, long-terms stay at inns and other necessities you may need?"
I only looked away, not wanting to answer that. He continued, "You also are not familiar with the Fonic Alphabet, nor do you know anyone from this world. Though you could easily find a job and earn money, you still have to find a way back home, correct? Your family would be worried about you. You trying to make your way alone the way you are now would be excruciatingly difficult, no doubt. And though I question your claim that you could see the future and your reasons for telling me that, and I will also not give you any promises, but I will try to see if I am able to assist you in getting back home."
Whipping my head around so I could stare at him incredulous, I saw him smirk. "Don't think I'm doing this out of the goodness of my heart however. I'm interested in seeing what your world is like. Helping you find your way back to your world will also satisfy my curiosity. I will also not spoil you: you get what you earn. All you have to do is ask, and I will see if there are any jobs I could make you do that could also allow me to keep an eye on you, less you go and get yourself into trouble." He made a show of rolling his eyes skywards. "Plus, it would be boring to not be able to see your amusing reactions every time we bicker."
I found myself coughing into a fist in a vain attempt to hide my relieved laugh. "...I... I don't know whether call you nice, or... or a sadist, or what... but, uh..." I found myself smiling. "Well, thanks Jade. That... really means a lot."
"Whatever are you talking about?" he asked lightly. "I'm doing this for my own benefit, I assure you."
I held my hands up in a resigned manner. "Okay. Okay. You are a cruel, horrible, horrible man who will always be greedy for knowledge." I gave him a smirk of my own. "Your personality sure is a work of art. Um..." I looked away, my hands quickly falling in order to make sure my robe is still fastened tight around myself. "Now, would you please leave if you're done here? I don't want anyone walking in and seeing us like this."
"Yes. For now, I'm done," Jade agreed as moved towards the door and opened it. "Thank you for telling the truth, Samantha. Now I don't have to consider killing you anymore, at the very least."
"What?" I gasped, but the sound of the door closing and his muted footsteps were my only response.
And the scary thing? I couldn't even tell if he was joking or serious...
Now that Jade was gone, I allowed my entire self to fall back on the bed, my hands over my face as I let out all the emotions I was feeling into one loud groan.
"You should have told him the entire truth," a voice that I have not heard since that one night back in Kaitzur commented. Not expecting the newer visitor, I jolted in surprise and rolled over to my back to face Shio, who was sitting cross-legged in the opposite bed.
"There's no need to," I insisted, frowning. "Were were you this entire time?"
"Though we did not communicate at all, don't worry; I'm always aware of what you're doing," the lavender-haired female said. There was a look of displeasure on her face. "I stand by my previous statement. Things would have been easier if you had told the entire truth."
"You might think it's okay, but I don't," I groaned, rolling over again so that I was lying flat on my back and staring up at the ceiling. "It's... it's not right."
I heard her sigh. "You're so weak-hearted, you know that?" I couldn't help but smile bitterly at her remark.
"Tell me something I don't know. You know all about me, right? You should know how I feel."
"Yes, I'm quite aware," Shio responded. She then paused. "You were quite the lonely child, weren't you?"
I covered my face with a hand, my bitter smile still on. "Well there you go. Those guys... they're... the first friends I've had in years..."
"...Ch'. You're too soft for your own good," Shio muttered. "But do as you wish. As long as you're alive and well, anything else you do doesn't matter, even if I disagree with some of your thought process."
I removed my hand from my face, craning my neck so that I could look at her. When I saw her upside-down visage staring at me, I asked, "Hey... when are you going to tell me the reason why you brought me here?"
"When everything is over, I will then tell you," she responded. "If I tell you now... then you wouldn't get it. Until then, imagine my reasons to what you will."
I snorted, returning to my original position when I felt my neck start to strain. "Fine, fine. But... about Choral Castle..."
"Don't worry," she spoke before I could even finish. "You not being in the main party is actually convenient, believe it or not. We can still make it work."
"Is it that important that I absolutely need to go to Choral Castle?" I asked, knowing the answer before I even asked but wanting to make absolutely sure anyway.
"And you think I can go all the way to Choral Castle and back while fighting monsters with one arm," I guessed dryly.
"Don't worry," she repeated, this time with a knowing tone. "Think of it as training. Also, you won't be alone."
I blinked in confusion. "Huh? Who?"
"Tomorrow. You'll see."
"Don't be so vague!" I grumbled, rolling around once again so I could see her. "Give me a straight ans- oh."
I allowed myself to faceplant right there on the bed. Hopefully, things won't be bad as she implied them to be.
Tsundere Oji-san (Soft Meanie in the English version) Jade, anyone? XD If anyone could find out the truth first, it's him. And despite how he may act, he can actually a reasonable person. Hopefully I did him justice here.
Anyway, for those who're interested, I have written a short snippet of the Ant Lion Man Sidequest should Luke choose Samantha as his most important person in my deviantart page for those who are interested. Link is below, but without the spaces. Further comments about it is in the comment box there.
loy142. deviantart #/d4sajyr
Next chapter: On our meeeeeerry way to Choraaaaaaal Caaaaastleeee~!
Leaving a review on your way out is always much appreciated.