Chapter 8 – Wive’s Tale (1)

Wive’s Tale – Part 1

     I’m dreaming, I think. It’s awfully realistic to be a dream. I’m sitting around a table, adorned in the finest of silken tablecloths. On the table lays all kind of food- some I’ve seen, some that can’t possibly exist in my world.

     My world… right. I was pulled from my world and before I could even begin to wrap my head around the situation I was thrown into a life and death fight against a man who has no equal. I move my head with some effort, finally moving my eyes up and off the table. The first thing I notice makes my breath catch. There, opposite me, sits a woman. A woman I have never seen, but feel as if I’ve known my entire life; and she is striking. She’s pale, with slightly sunken features, but a sharp glare- of which she has focused on me. Which is odd to say considering she has her eyes closed; but I know she’s glaring at me in annoyance behind those closed off eyes.

     “You shouldn’t be here Eve.”

     She says as she brings an old-fashioned teacup to her lips. She is remarkably graceful in both movement and posture. For the first time, she opens her eyes and they shine a deep gold. She places them on me, and seems to stare through me. Without actually acknowledging me with her eyes, she continues, “Eve. Why are you here?”

     I’m in a daze, completely and wholly filled with and trapped by this woman. I can’t make out what she says, and so she repeats herself, with an edge in her voice. My head jerks to the side marginally as if physically pulled on. I stare into her eyes and nearly lose myself. All I want is to fall into them; to give in to the dominance they exude. I want to become one with them and lean forward across the table. With her golden eyes transfixed on the space behind me, she lowers her cup.

     I’m leaning further over the table now, near laying on it. This woman, with solid black hair that rolls in waves down her back, makes a small clatter as her cup meets with a small plate. The sound is like a gun firing and shakes me at my core. I come to my senses and jerk back with such force that I nearly tip my chair backward.

     I’m finding the ceiling fascinating all of a sudden and I notice this “ceiling” is just darkness.

     “What the hell is this? “ I say to the ceiling, expecting no retort.

     “The top is never visible to we so far below,” says the dominating woman across from me.

     I tilt my head to the side and I’m greeted by more darkness and ask, “And the sides?” The woman tilts her head to the side, some of her hair sliding over her shoulder in all of its Onyx glory.

     “To our sides, the unknowable, for we are alone as we now stand.”

     She adjusts her eyes to the center of the table as if lost in thought for a moment. She amends, “Or as we sit, currently.”

     She slides her finger around the rim of her teacup. “You just made all of that up, didn’t you?” I say as my head slides back down and I make conscious effort to avoid her wonderful, intoxicating eyes. “That kind of sophistry is bull. And we both know that’s not what I was talking about.”

     “Why did you just try to take all that I am?” I ask, my breathing irregular. For reasons I don’t understand I slide my hand across the table and I grab her extended finger from the cup. As if it’s the most interesting thing to ever have happened, she stares with fascination as I hold her index finger in my hand.

     “I can do nothing without your permission. That was our deal.” She says and for the first time, I notice a small red creeping across her cheeks.

     “So I’m not crazy. You’re Her aren’t you? You’re the Thing Behind My Door- the Raven.” Her eyes go wide and she takes her hand from mine and for the first time, her eyes meet mine.

     I’m nearly blown away by such pressure. This isn’t like earlier. There isn’t an inviting pull but a dismissing push. She’s glaring at me with full-on anger and sadness. Both of which are reflected in her eyes. I look away and clear my throat.

     “Why am I here Raven? Did I die after my fight with Fennis?”

     She adjusts her look to her cup and I physically feel the pressure lessen. “You should not be here. You need to leave- now.” She jerks her head up and I fly from the table. I slam into nothingness and I feel my world go bright. I realize this for what it is, rejection.

     “Raven what are you doing?!”

     I shout through gritted teeth. Before the world is fully engulfed in white, I hear a small voice follow my consciousness out of this darkness, “Rei…” is the only small word I can make out.

     I awake screaming at the top of my lungs. The pain is mortifying and insufferable. Every part of me is on fire and I feel cold on the inside. I start convulsing as I feel arms all around me holding me down. There’s shouting, and someone’s giving orders to the others. My head jerks to the side and I vomit a thick, dark sludge everywhere. As the convulsions slow, I start making out bits and pieces of the conversation around me. I hear about “patient” and “experiment successful.”

     Amongst other medical and what could only be called “magical” jargon, I can make out a familiar voice. My insides still feel as if they’re frozen but I can tell Nina is here, somewhere. That knowledge alone causes me to relax for just a moment.

     Once everything has calmed down and my breathing has returned to normal, do I finally feel my mind clearing. I can loosely make out that I’m inside of some “hospital” for lack of a better term. It’s a lot less than what I would be used to from my world, but as with everything else in this world, this hospital also seems old.

     I recognize the yellow hair through the crowd of rushing people and I crack out in a loose voice, “Nina…”

     Like Moses parting the Red Sea, the crowd divides. At the end of it lies Nina with some kind of bundle of documents in her arms. She gives a weak smile that betrays her exhaustion and starts her way towards me. I feel profound guilt as she makes her way here as I’m the likely cause of her exhaustion, I just know it. Whatever has happened since I’ve been out, I have a feeling she hasn’t left my side.

     Nonetheless, when she arrives by my side, the first thing she does is lightly grip my hand. I muster as much of a squeeze as I can, but much to my dismay my grip is light. As she stares down at me I feel elated, but tired. The exhaustion wins and my brief reprieve into the waken world falls away, and I am asleep.

     When I awake later I don’t feel too bad. I’m alone in the familiar room I woke up in after I first came to this world. The near familiar ceiling stares down at me as I lay on my back. It’s a quiet moment of contemplation reserved for just me. The first thing to cross my mind is that Raven girl.

     “Rei,” I mutter to myself. She’s still here, inside me. I can feel the low hum of a whisper inside the back of my mind. But when I call, there’s no answer; so I push those thoughts aside for now.

     I wiggle my toes, at least I’m not paralyzed this time. That’s a silver lining. My fingers also seem to move. Check. Now my neck. I slowly, tentatively, move my head side to side as if checking for any possible breaks. In the middle of my little routine, I hear someone clear their throat. In surprise, I jump a little and let out a pathetic squeak.

     I look further to my right than I had previously, and see a woman I don’t recognize. She looks at me with a reserved, awkward smile. Her eyes shine with an amethyst sheen. Her smile dances into a brilliant glow and I have to resist physically looking away. As she bows her head in respect I see her hair, a dark shade of purple, tied in a high ponytail, bobs with her.

     “Good morning my Lord,” she offers as she stands. Her posture is perfect and restrained.

     She takes small steps to me and stops before my bed. I look her up and down, and the first thing I notice is her lithe form, more for mobility and speed than power.

     My eyes travel up the rest of her and I see a small hint of red coloring her cheeks. I’m still half asleep, so I try to correct her misunderstanding, I don’t know why. And so I proceed to promptly place my foot in my mouth.

     “Oh, no. I didn’t mean to make you embarrassed. I promise I wasn’t being a creep. I was only checking you out… no! Wait-” This girl’s face is nearly on fire.

     If I could say for just a moment, as an aside, I could see this girl easily being the kind that people love to tease. I’ve never seen someone go red from their neck to the tip of their ears. But no! That’s not the point!

     “Um! No! I just mean your body is- no. No no. What I’m trying to say is-” I’m quieted by her small finger, laid upon my lips. Her hand is soft in that way usually associated with women, yet it’s callused in just the way I thought it might be.

     “My Lord, my name is Mimelia Gladus. Now let’s start over before we both die of embarrassment. I would deeply desire to know your reasons for searching my body so… intently.”

     My breath catches at her calling me out, and her insinuation. “Err. I’m Evangeline. You can call me Eve. And I was “searching” your body because I could tell from your movements that you did martial arts.”

     Her pretty face turns sour, as if she were expecting another reason. I can’t imagine what else she wanted me to say but that’s a dangerous line of thought, so I dismiss it and go to open my mouth when she- Mimelia cuts me off.

     “Astute, my Lord.” Mimelia says, neither confirming nor denying my statement.

     “Listen,” I continue, “I didn’t mean to upset you. And now I’ve made you mad. I’m sorry Mimi.” She takes a half step back, possibly from my casual comment. “I’m sorry,” I say, “Is that not ok? God, why am I so awkward right now?” I bury my head in my hands.

     I suddenly feel a cool hand sliding through my hair, comfortingly. For just a moment my head pounds. “It’s no issue, my Lord. I simply haven’t heard that name since I was but a girl.”

     Truth be told though, she couldn’t have been older than me and I’m only seventeen. For all intents and purposes, she is still a girl, but I neglect to say that.

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     “I see. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it to be demeaning. I just thought it suited you, ne?” I mentally kick myself for my casual attitude. What’s wrong with me? I’m always on guard and yet I’m being a fool, a jerk even.

     I pull on my red hair and twist it around my fingers. My stomach is in knots and I don’t even know why. I extend my other hand and hold it out in front of me for a handshake. During all of this embarrassing interaction, I’ve managed to pull myself up into a half-sitting position using the headrest and pillows.

     If I’m being honest, even holding my hand out like this is exhausting me. I wish she’d just shake already dang it. Mimi studies my hand for a moment before placing her hand in mine. As I go to shake, she flips my hand over, brings my hand up some as she lowers herself down. Before I have any chance to correct her misunderstanding, her lips connect with the back of my hand and it is like a mix of fire and lightning attacks my system. The sensation is so strong that I can’t even pull away. Instead, it’s as if my hand and her lips have melted into one.

     No sooner then she started, she ended. She raises her head up with a sheepish grin on her face and a touch of red colors her cheeks. “Well met my Zeroth Knight.” She says as she sets on the edge of my bed, far too casually for someone she just met. No one in my world would have thought of doing something like this. She doesn’t act like she felt what I felt so I ignore that sensation for now. “How are you feeling, my Lord?” She says while placing a hand on my head.

     “I’m fine, I think. Actually, that’s kind of important. What the hell happened? How long was I out? What’s happened to Fennis?” I fire off question after question in rapid succession and it’s not long before I notice Mimi’s eyes glazing over. I blush slightly and look down. “Sorry,” I say. Why am I blushing? Why am I sorry? What the hell is going on with me?

     “What happened to you is long and varied. Suffice to say, you were beaten and broken, and we made you better, with no small contribution from your ability to enter stasis.” I hear a voice before I see a person. It comes from the hallway but it’s a voice I would never forget.

     She continues when she appears in the doorway, Nina says, “You were out for the better part of a week.” The words spill from her as her yellow hair bounces with each step towards me. She continues, step by step, “It’s amazing to think of how utterly devastated you were and yet you recovered quicker than you did with the Transcendence. Remarkable really.” Nina approaches my side, much to the seemingly annoyed Mimi’s dismay. Again she continues-

     “Fascinating really. This is new information worthy of research. Is the Transcendence really so destructive? Never before has another, in medical history, suffered for so long after it. Yet then again, women have never been candidates for the Zeroth. Or perhaps you did suffer more in your fight with Fennis; yet due to that amazing power you displayed, you are able to recover far faster than the current research suggests. My, how fascinating. See, the only real way to test it would be to poke and prod you more; maybe a cut here, maybe a cut there, and see what happens.”

     Nina’s eyes flash, and she continues in her machine-gun way, “After all, you’ve already shown yourself to be a glutton for punishment. I mean, how else are we to explain how you allowed things to progress to such a level, ne?”

     I don’t really understand why, but Nina’s mad. I don’t understand at all, but she’s definitely, definitely mad. Fennis was terrifying in his own right, but, and no offense to him, the look in Nina’s eyes is quite possibly the most terrifying thing I’ve ever seen.

     A cold sweat assaults me as the words continue to fly from Nina’s mouth. All she said to me, I won’t repeat here; her rebukes are long, and varied. Out of the corner of my eye I see even Mimi, who looked so annoyed before, seeming transfixed on everything but me. I know we only just met, but come on! I don’t have any other allies!

     Nina seems to be running out of breath because, for the first time, she stops talking, and inhales deeply. Her glare on me is angered, but not murderous- thankfully.

     “I, um, I-I don’t wanna be poked and probed.” I say with my eyes half in fake tears.

     At the sight of this, Nina simply sighs, then giggles. “Of all that was said, that’s the part you feel important to comment on?” Nina laughs. I am barely able to contain my own giggle as I notice Mimi doing the same at my periphery.

     Nina’s expression slowly returns to normal and she gives me a look of disbelief and says in a huff, “And I said prod, not probe.” At that, we all laugh again, even Mimi is no longer able to hold back and joins us. As we recover and wipe the tears from our eyes, I grew somber in my complexion and ask, “And Fennis?”

     At this, Nina’s face is crestfallen, but she recovers- or what she thinks to be recovered- and says, “As was ordered, as was done.” She relays with her head half bowed, and her bun barely containing her yellow hair, with strands sticking out every which way. I am once again assaulted by feelings of guilt over what I must have put her through.

     “Nina, I’m sorry I’ve worried you.”

     I reach out with my hand and lightly grasp her fingers. I’m now realizing once again just how weak I am; again I’m tempted to fall into sleep’s embrace, but I resist as much as I can. I see a hint of a smile in Nina’s eyes before it’s gone, replaced by apprehension. She rotates her head marginally. As if continuing to hide the cause of her apprehension, she only looks out of her periphery.

     But the cause of her actions is clear, behind and to Nina’s right, stands Mimi with shoulders held high, and chest struck out- all of probably five foot, three inches of herself. She’s staring daggers at where our hands meet. She’s bristling with unrestrained anger. Before anything comes of it, Nina slides her fingers out of my hand and turns to Mimi while clearing her throat and saying, “Mistress Mimelia, Zero appears to be in good enough shape, if still sleep-deprived.”

     How did she know? Do I look as bad as I feel?

     Nina continues to Mimi, “Therefore, in the morning you may take her home. Do you have any questions?” Then Nina stutters for a second before seemingly correcting herself, “Questions related to the Zeroth’s health, I mean.”

     At this, the anger on Mimi’s face mostly falls away. She still had an indignant look cast towards Nina but she replies, “That will be all Ninavin.” She spits Nina’s name with such disgust that Nina flinches; and I want nothing more but to scold Mimi. But it’s none of my business.

     Ultimately I’m an outsider here in this place and don’t understand what is going on or why. So I do what I feel I’ve earned the right to do- I run, by giving into sleep’s embrace.

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