XI. (RE)

Stein and Aren went into the elevator, and Stein cranked the lever next to a crown symbol. After getting out, they continued to walk through the halls until they reached a door with a small golden plating labeled 0451. The doctor tossed a pair of keys to Aren, pointing at them with his pipe.

  “This is your room until then. Go on, open it,” he said.

  Aren nodded, opening the door and hurried inside. His eye sparkled in glee upon seeing his new quarters. The “condo”, or so Stein stated, was large enough to be a home: a living room with a luxurious couch and fireplace, stairs on his left which led to a kitchen, and a short hallway to the bedroom. He wanted to go straight in, but Stein stopped him, telling him to take his slippers off.

  “They waxed and polished the wooden floors here. Don’t want it to get messy with your walking shoes, yeah?”

  Aren smiled awkwardly. “Is that a Damorian culture thing?”

  “Nope, just courtesy to those who worked their asses off on this place. Come on, you don’t got to be a noble to understand this.”


  Stein toured Aren the place, showing him every section of his condo. The living room was furnished with red velvet couches, dark brown wooden end tables, and a cozy fireplace. The floor was covered with a giant black shaggy wool carpet. A large bookshelf was to the left, housing many books of different genres.

  “Woah, this is luxury-tier to me,” Aren remarked.

  “Wait ’til you see what the noble folks have. You’ll faint in a heartbeat for sure,” Stein said, chuckling. “Rightie-o, let’s get on with it. Follow me.”

  Next was the kitchen. There was an iron stove with white birch cabinets and black marble counter tops. There was a small dining table with chairs nearby, enough for four people to sit. While Stein was explaining the design of the room, Aren was fascinated about the stove and more importantly, the tall steel box next to it.

  “Oh, a stove! We had these back then, but we made them of clay and stone.” Aren pulled the stove door and peered inside. “So, you place firewood here to keep the top hot, right?”

  Stein put more tobacco on his pipe and began smoking again. He shook his head and spoke after exhaling. “I forget that you lived in a time where it’s the norm. No, that’s for baking things, like bread. This stove is using a fire magic crystal for the heat. You see those knobs there? It controls the heat. Don’t go crazy with it.”

   Aren took out his notepad, writing the information. He turned to the tall steel box next. “Fascinating. And this one?”

  “This is a refrigerator. Damore’s latest technology. It uses ice crystals from the north and transfers their magical energy to produce cold air.” Stein opened it and cold air flowed out. “See? Now, top cools, bottom freezes. You can put a full stack of raw, packaged meat on the bottom and chill it. Lasts for weeks.”

  “So, I don’t have to salt my food to preserve it anymore? Ah, no more salty food!”

  “Yup, you got that right. Let’s continue.”

  The two proceeded to the shower room and magical stones lit up the proximity. There was a tub with sliding glass doors, a sink with a small tube and levers, and a what seemed to be a marble chair. Aren pushed the lever near the tub. Water instantly came out of a metal pot.

  “A system of drainage and pipes. Looks like it pours water in. Is this a well?”

  Stein laughed out loud. “Now that’s a first. No, this ain’t a well: it’s a toilet.”

  “Toilet? Is this another Damorian invention I do not know of?”

  “Yup. I hear you guys back then dig large holes and crap’ n’ piss there. Same thing, but the valve you pushed makes the mess go away in a cleaner fashion. Don’t throw things that would get stuck in the pipes: it’s a pain in the ass to fix.” Stein pointed at the tub with the glass doors. “Now that’s a shower. The lever there controls the temperature of the water: left hot and right cold. The housekeepers give soap once a week, so make do what you have now.”

  Aren massaged his neck. “I don’t think I deserve this type of treatment. I’m pretty sure if I was a normal guy—”

  “But you ain’t. Dickus wanted you to be treated well, considering his unwavering admiration for you. This is his way of expressing it to you.” Stein grunted. “You know, the non-nobility members have to go to public baths. I’m part of that bunch, unfortunately. I’m pretty jealous my own pal won’t give me this luxury.”

  “O-Oh, I see. Is that everything I need to know about this place?”

  “Well, there is the bedroom, but I gotta oversee a test tomorrow.” Stein waved his pipe and made his way to the front door. “I’ll leave the rest to you. Have fun, Mr. Hero.”

  Aren was left alone. A rotten smell was coming out from somewhere, and when he took a good whiff on himself, he shuddered in disgust. The odor of travel most likely stuck on him for a long time, so a bath would be nice.

  This would be a good time to try out that shower, he thought.

  He walked back to the bathroom and after sliding the glass door to the side, he turned the lever. Water quickly spurted out of a metal head, filling the tub. He waited until the tub was enough to soak his entire body. Steam filled the room, and he sighed in relief as he bathed.

  “These personal, privatized baths must be the work of the Gods. Technology is sure advancing at a fast rate. Man, I can even talk out loud with no care in the world! This is amazing! Still…” He touched his chin, remembering Dickus’ eerie smile. “There’s something off with that clown. He knows my true identity and no doubt he would use it to blackmail me into doing his deeds. I really done it now, huh?”

  Aren spent some time in the tub before letting out an enormous yawn. The steaming bath made him sleepy, so he decided it was time to dig in. He dried himself out using the rolled towels on the rack near him, then wrapped semi-wet cloth on his hips and walked to his bedroom. The room wasn’t overwhelming, but was large enough to contain a king-sized bed and an extensive wardrobe within. There were two windows at the end of the room and with the curtains open, moonlight shined through the glass panels. He closed the curtains and fell to bed, asleep.

  Meanwhile, in another room, the curtains were open with a candlelight still lit. There, Layette was sitting in front of a mirror, combing her unbraided hair. The bedroom door opened, and she turned to see her personal maid, Aigis: one of the two servants trained to serve her since she was young. She was average height with short blonde hair and a pair of blue eyes. She could not express her emotions properly, so she always spoke in a cold, cynical matter. Layette knew she spoke with good intentions despite the unwelcoming tone.

  “Milady, I have your night gown ready,” Aigis said. “It is properly washed and everything.”

  “You can leave them on the bed right there. Hmm…”

  “I insist you wear them as soon as… Layette?” Aigis noticed her staring off into the distance. She came close, then tapped her shoulder. “Are you even listening?”

  Layette yelped. “BWAH! O-Oh, Aigis, it’s you.”

  “Yes. You are dilly dallying again. What is bothering you?”

  “N-Nothing’s bothering me. Nothing.”

  “Then look at me and say it.”

  Layette sighed. She stood up and quickly dressed in her gown. “Yes, yes, you caught me red-handed. It is a trivial matter: a waste of your time.”

  “Stop being an idiot. To ease your pain is my duty as your maid and as your friend.” Aigis held Layette’s hands. “Spill it: hiding it won’t do any good.”

  “Sheesh, fine. If you say so…” Layette was silent for a moment before she spoke. “Do you think I can be a hero, Aigis?”

  “At this rate, no.”

  “The truth hurts, doesn’t it? Was, um, hoping for comforting words.”

  “I didn’t say you can’t be, but if you keep causing havoc, it looks more of a fading dream than reality.” Aigis shook her head. “That’s not the Layette I know. Usually you do not ponder upon such things. What caused you to think this way?”

  Layette turned away. “An afterthought, that’s all.”

  “I see. Then I shall take my leave.” Aigis glanced at her for a moment. She then bowed and opened the bedroom door. “Layette… you’re always hard on yourself. Idiot.”

  She closed the bedroom door, and the room became silent. Layette rummaged through her drawers, taking out her precious necklace, and sat on her bed. The sound of raging fire became audible as she glazed her fingers over it. Her attention turned elsewhere, finally realizing the entire bedroom was on fire. She got on her feet in a panic, trying to figure out what was going on.

  A thundering voice shook the entire room. “The answer you seek lies within that pendant.”

  Layette turned to the voice’s direction, seeing a strange man in front of her. The man was wearing a spectral-like black cloak and from his hood, only a glowing yellow left eye was to be seen. The flames parted when he approached her, standing some distance away.

  “Who are you and what happened here?!” Layette questioned.

  “You sought for guidance, Miss Hawkwood. The pendant shall lead you to your destiny.”

  “Enough with this talk about destiny and fate. I want answers, now! What does my necklace have to do anything about this?”

  The strange man sighed. “All will be revealed, eventually. For now, you must prepare.”

  Layette threw her hand to the side, expressing her frustration. “Prepare for what?! I’ve trained my entire life: what more can I ‘prepare’ for?!”

  “Fate itself. You will face your greatest fear and possibly your greatest foe. That is all I have to say.”

  The flames flared around her, spreading at a rapid pace. The strange man stepped back, allowing the flames to consume him. Layette reached out to him, but it was too late: the stranger was one with the surrounding ash. Another voice echoed, calling out a name unfamiliar to her.





  Layette shot up from her bed, breathing heavily. She looked around and noticed her bedroom was back to normal. After becoming aware what she witnessed was a nightmare, she let out a sigh of relief.

  “What in… who’s Marcella?” She looked at her pendant, seeing it sparkle in moonlight. “Was that all a dream? Hmm… No matter then. More rest will clear up these thoughts.”

  The candle on top of her small table was lit and with a quick puff, the flame dimmed and she fell asleep. On top of the rooftops, a shadow gazed down upon her window, seeing the light fade.

  “In due time… In due time.”

  Like the flame from a candle, the shadow, too, dissipated.

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