“What happened back there, Alex? Weren’t attacks only at night?” Eliza’s voice trembled, her eyes wide with fear.
“What was that, Alex? I thought they only attacked at night!” Eliza’s voice quivered, her eyes filled with fear.
‘Alex, what just happened?’ I wondered, needing answers.
Alex’s voice resonated in my mind, ‘Things are changing. They’re attacking even during the day now.’
Feeling lost, I silently pressed Alex, ‘What are you talking about?’
Suddenly, a wave of unease hit me. It felt like something was trying to invade me while another force pushed its way out, making me feel nauseous.
‘It’s time,’ Alex declared.
Suddenly, a forceful pull overcame me, and my vision went dark.
When I came to, I was hovering in an endless white void. ‘Where am I? What just happened?’
‘Roger, you’re just an observer now. Close your eyes to see through mine. If you speak, I’ll hear you,’ Alex’s voice echoed around me.
‘So, we’ve swapped places? Great timing… Or is it? I’ve never felt this kind of fear before.’ I said. It is an insane feeling
‘We’ll discuss it later. We need to move.’ Alex said with clear hurry in his voice.
From Alex perspective; The city’s market buzzed with chaos.
“Alex! Alex!” Eliza’s voice, filled with panic, cut through the noise as I conversed deeply with Roger.
“Be quiet!” I, Alex, snapped back, annoyed by her interruption. Being back in my own body felt right. The timing couldn’t have been better.
Seeing the hurt in Eliza’s eyes, I hurriedly said, “Eliza, we need to get out of here. Now.”
“But I haven’t finished shopping,” she replied, waving her list at me.
“Now’s not the time. Trust me,” I urged, taking her arm.
Roger’s voice trembled inside my head, saying, ‘I can’t handle this. I want to go back. This place terrifies me.’
He continued, his despair palpable, ‘I just want to go home.’
‘We need to stay focused now, Roger. I’ll figure out how to help you once we’re safe,’ I said regretfully.
Without my body’s natural calm, he’s on edge. It’s going to be tough for him in the next few hours. I need to find a way to soothe him once he’s out.
Hustling towards home, the town’s chatter told tales of discovered bodies. I’m not one for idle chat, so I kept my eyes forward and moved quickly.
“You seem like yourself again,” Eliza observed, trying to pull away gently.
“Can you ease your grip a bit?”
I looked into her eyes. “Will you stay close if I do?”
“I promise, Alex. Just let go a bit,” she replied softly.
“We’re staying at my place tonight,” I said as we approached my home.
But stopping dead in my tracks, a familiar face took me by surprise. Sitting sternly outside my door was my sister.
“Sophia! Why are you here?” I exclaimed, panic evident in my tone.
Her eyes blazed. “I waited for you, idiot! I was scared something happened to you!”
Upon seeing Sophia, Eliza instantly knelt, her gaze directed downwards.
“In disguise, Your Highness? It’s an honor to see you,” she said with deep respect.
I couldn’t help but think, I wish she spoke to me with such reverence!
‘Why’s she acting like this?’ Roger’s puzzled voice echoed inside.
‘Just pay attention,’ I responded.
Looking amused and annoyed, Sophia said, “Stand up, Eliza! There’s no need for such formality with me.”
“I must show respect to Your Highness,” Eliza whispered, hesitant to rise.
‘Your Highness? Is she royalty?’ Roger’s surprise echoed in my thoughts.
‘She’s important around here. As for me, I’m just a regular guy,’ I answered.
Rolling her eyes, Sophia said, “Stand up, Eliza. We can chat for a while. There’s no rush.”
Eliza’s eyes sparkled. “It’d be wonderful to spend time with Sophia!”
However, I cut in, “No! Both of you need to head to the palace right away. It’s safe there.” Without waiting for any protests, I guided them in the palace’s direction.
“Father would never forgive me if something happened to you! Even a small scratch on you would mean my death!” I exclaimed, holding them both tightly.
“Let us go!” Both Eliza and Sophia shouted in unison.
Pulling a young woman and a girl through the streets attracted unwanted attention. Onlookers gave me wary looks, and whispers filled the air.
“Why is he acting like that?”, “Is he taking those girls against their will?”, “Someone should alert the guards.”
Amid their protests and the town’s attention, a crucial realization dawned on me. “Both of you, take off your shirts now!” The urgency in my voice couldn’t be missed.
They both stared at me as if I’d lost my mind.
Eliza’s voice dripped with disbelief. “Are you a pervert? What sort of person asks his sister to do that! Especially in the middle of the street!”
Their faces turned to annoyance, their arms instinctively crossing over their chests. “No, you’ve got it all wrong,” I said, frustration evident in my tone. “The victims of these attacks often have a unique mark on their skin, like a tattoo.” I indicated where the mark typically appeared. “From what I’ve gathered, it seems to be some kind of curse that weakens its host.”
“You don’t have to show me here, but once you’re safe, you both need to check for any unusual markings. Understood?” My voice grew stern as the weight of the situation pressed on me. “Until it’s safe, Sophia, you stay in the palace. Eliza, you’re with her.”
Sophia grinned, “It’s kind of sweet how worried Alex gets about me.”
“I’m not worried about you,” I retorted, glancing at the person who concerned me. “If a monster went after a tough beast like you, it’d be over in seconds.”
‘You’re asking for it…’ Roger warned internally as Sophia punched my gut.
The blow winded me, feeling even stronger than any hit I’d taken from Anthony. Wheezing, I managed to tell Sophia, “Look after Eliza.”
Eliza’s moved swiftly to where I was standing. Her hands glowed softly, her healing magic working to soothe the pain of the punch. “Always speaking before thinking, huh?” Sophia teased, half-heartedly threatening with another hit.
Eliza’s calm voice broke the moment, “Thanks, Alex. I know about that mark. My brother even had our maid check on me daily. I’ll make sure Sophia doesn’t have it.” As she finished her spell, the lingering pain faded away.
“Stay safe and return soon,” I implored, shooting them a final protective glance before venturing off on my own path.
My thoughts raced as I retraced the events of the past months. The killings had begun roughly a month prior. Initially, it was a solitary death per week, but the frequency had surged dramatically in the last weeks.
‘Is it really that dire?’ Roger’s voice echoed in my head.
‘It might not be catastrophic on a larger scale, but I’m not taking any chances with my sister and friend,’ I explained.
‘Ok… I leave it to you…’ Roger responded.
‘Sure thing. Hang in there, buddy.’
‘We’re heading to Anthony’s, but not to cower,’ I clarified.
Walking through town, I realized the entire place was on edge. When I stopped a nearby guard, he grimly updated me: ten bodies were found today.
Reaching Anthony’s place, I yelled our usual greeting, “Oi, you little s***! Open up!”
A few moments later, the gate revealed Jane, Anthony’s ever-patient housemaid. “Must you always make such a racket? You are a pair of idiots,” she remarked, thinly veiling her exasperation.
“Always a pleasure, Jane,” I shot back with a grin.
As we entered the mansion, someone inside my head was surprised by the luxury.
‘Impressive place…’ Roger commented internally. Seeing Anthony’s opulent home may be a welcome distraction for him.
Inside a room, Anthony was a flurry of action, weapons, and potions spread around him. As I stepped in, he glanced up, a smug smile hinting at his readiness. “Knew you’d be here soon. I’m geared up and good to go.” His face was a mix of resolve and anticipation, prepped for whatever challenges lay ahead.