Chapter 25: Roseline

“Okay okay… let’s roll back a bit…” Stephen chimed in, following up with a question, “First and foremost, where the heck am I?”

“This is your inner abyss, my dear.” her voice tinkled out, “Predatory Fever, huh? A nasty thing for someone who hasn’t yet accepted their true selves, especially if you’re as feeble as you currently are…” her head cocked slantwise, leading to a chock of hair to dangle down as her eyes locked onto him.

Stephen stiffened up. The moment her gaze docked on him a swelling of seamless Encore Power burgeoned in every direction, like a Big Bang going off, spirals of lights shot up and harmoniously twinkled around the crimson heavenly body, sketching the endless dark sky in bright and blinking dots.

The woman’s stare never roamed away from him, pouring down a bubbling pressure upon him as he felt oddly fidgety yet enthralled by her jewel-like eyes, where golden linings swam within and blended in with the purple. Truly a smothering pair of eyes, he had to confess. As if someone spewed molten lava inside two amethysts and then socketed them on a delicately sculpted face.

“You’re weak…”

Stephen deadpanned, not sure if he should feel ashamed or furious. Not that she wasn’t wrong, compared to her previous display of power, he had nothing to gloat about, “Thank you for stating the obvious, Miss. I Like Theatrics.” he tried to swallow back the words but they had already slipped past his lips, “Oh s***…” regret tingled his stomach.

“Yes… you’re not funny,” she arched a perfectly-shaped eyebrow, “Are you even aware of the situation you’re in?”

“Yes… I mean, no… I mean… perhaps?” he replied with a weak chuckle. Thankfully the being in front of him didn’t haggle over his previous rather rude comment, “I only know that I scared the s*** out of my friends, and right now… I’m here, or at least I think I am?”

“Not quite,” she shook her head, “You lost control of yourself, hence your Encore Soul was forced to take refuge here for the meantime…”

“Encore Soul?” Stephen was puzzled, “Now that’s a new term I’m not acquainted with…”

“Encore Soul, yes. It’s your most primal and naked form of consciousness and intelligence. Your true self. No secrets. No locks. Everything here is a manifestation of yourself.”

“Everything? Heh… quite dark in here…”

“That’s what I’m worried about,” her gaze softened, “There’s nothing here… no memories, no personal goods, no colors, just this…” she waved her hands up, beckoning to their surroundings, “… just this… a never-ending stretch of darkness.” her voice lowered to a whisper, “That’s disturbing… and saddening…”

“Mind your own business!” Stephen spat out, the first signs of his acrimony lighting up mixed in with his voice, “I prefer it this way, I don’t want anything more in here…” he wanted to turn around and avoid her face, yet his struggles were never carried out successfully.

“You’re a good liar…” she said after a drawn-out pause, “But that won’t solve our problem at hand, Stephen.” her dazzling shape commenced paddling over, or better, fluttering over, “Stephen…” she reiterated his name softly, her tone sounding out almost apologetic, “We have to–“

“We?” Stephen chuckled, “What ‘we’? There’s no ‘we’! This place should be a manifestation of myself, right?” his tone took on a dangerous edge, “Then what are you doing here? Who are you?” his questions streamed out clear and strong, his previous throbbing hesitation already dwindled out.

The woman halted a scanty few centimeters in front of him. He still couldn’t survey himself out; in that expanse of shadows he was nothing but another black silhouette, not even the newly birthed lights shone upon him, yet her gaze seemed able to descry him with unruffled ease. He felt like every inch of his body was exposed to her, when not even he could check himself out. She already knew everything about him.

Her fingers ever so gently brushed up against his cheek, and despite his growing trepidation and rationality pushing him into recoiling from her touch, like a moth drawn to a flame, he leaned in, “I shouldn’t be anywhere else but here, Stephen…” her enhancing and soul-gripping smile thawed his fears, “I’m Roseline, and I’m the manifestation of your powers.” her alabaster hand grazed his face, her thumb nudging up and down over his skin like a mother would do to her child.

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The sudden invading warmth caught him off guard. His breath had trouble reaching down to his lungs, the close-up stare contest he found himself hooked in left him like puddle in her manipulative hands, “NO!” he forcefully broke free from her ensnarement, managing to waltz a few steps back, “You damn whore!” he snarled, “What the f*** do you want?”

“Now now, that was very rude of you…” Roseline batted her eyes at him, her lips curling up in a devilish smirk as she leisurely closed the gap between them, “Stephen…” she suddenly ebbed away in a puff of red smoke.

“I want to help you…” Stephen trembled when he felt her arms lovingly draping over his shoulders from behind, her head gracefully nesting cozily on the hollow of his neck, fitting in perfectly like the missing piece of a puzzle, “… there’s no need to be afraid of the very same thing you’ve been seeking for all this time.” her sweet voice seeped into his ears like honey, her hot breath delightfully bathing his skin, leaving trails of fire behind. He was unwilling to admit, but some of that warmth had sneakily slithered downwards, getting a small twitch in reaction. The temperature skyrocketed, and it was becoming rather cramped in there.

Thankfully, he had a staggering amount of self-control, “Oh hell no!” he hissed, drawing back another step out of her addicting embrace, “No no no no!” he wagged his head furiously. He whipped around, ready to lengthen the distance between them even more, but his feet were glued on the spot.

“Sorry…” she apologized, “I’m really sorry Stephen… but you don’t realize the danger you are in as we speak right now.” her body zoomed in, Encore Power swirling around her, “Your body is most likely seeking any kind of creature to satiate the hunger, which is… no good.”

“No s***… of course I know that if it wounds up running into one of those powerful motherfuckers I’m as good as dead…” he unconsciously shot back, “You’re a manifestation of my powers? Excuse me very much, but from the way you behave, I’d rather say you’re a scammer. A good one, I’ll give you that, but a scammer nonetheless.”

Roseline rolled her eyes, “Okay, sorry… it seems that using my womanly charm had the opposite effect.” she crossed her arms and pursed her lips, “We don’t have time… a Predatory Fever only springs up when a Predator is under heavy emotional distress, and for the love of god I can’t understand how you could possibly be suffering from such emotions when you’ve been born only a couple of weeks ago…”

“Born!?” Stephen gulped, “Wait…”

“No time, we can chit-chat another time Stephen… it seems you have some memories that don’t belong to this… world?” when she spoke till there a weird glint flashed through her eyes, “Truly curious…” she chewed her bottom lip, “I’ll say it again, Stephen… I’m sorry. You’ll probably hate me by the end of it, but we need to get you back into your body, so you’ll have to fight head-on against whatever is troubling you. Wish you luck, hatchling.”

Roseline quickly covered Stephen’s mouth, and when her hand slid away he was left mute, no matter how much he pressured his vocal cords into releasing the sound he intended. With eyes splayed wide, he witnessed how her hand slowly rested on his torso, and with a soft push he plummeted down.

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However, instead of the solid surface he was used to, his back whacked against a dense liquid. His body was petrified in shackles he couldn’t see.

“Win over your fears and rise stronger than ever.”

He started sinking down, his eyes furiously scampering around in fright. From his toes up to his head, the viscous liquid slowly swallowed him within into the unknown. Roseline closed her eyes, “Sorry…” that was the last sound he heard before he disappeared, unable to utter out a sound in protest.

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