Part VI


46


-in which he decides-


you try to take control of your life,
you grasp onto the tiniest hope,
you cling onto dreams,
but why?

-x-

When he woke up, everything felt numb. It took a while for his surroundings to sink into him. Metal walls, bright lights, and the repeated clonking of the engines swirled in his mind, slowly placing themselves back into his conscience.

Eidan groggily sat up, groaning as soon as he felt a stabbing pain in the back of his head. His hand flew to his head; quick to clutch the source of pain. It was hard to think with the constant ache, but he knew that there was something wrong.

For starters, he was back in the airship. Why was he back in the airship? The last thing he remembered was…Well, that was the hard bit. As much as he tried to, he just couldn't think of a reasonable explanation of the recent events.

Take it step by step, Eidan, he told himself, forcing the pain to just be ignored.

Lacie died. He was accused of killing her. He was locked up in the dungeons. Jenna got him out. Soldiers chased after them. They were caught. They were to be executed. And then…

He frowned. His entire mind was a blank-

"Oh! You're awake!"

During his attempt of remembering past events, Mana had somehow slipped into his room without him noticing. Now, the elf was standing beside his bed, carrying a wet towel over her arm. Upon seeing him eye the towel, she handed it to him, sending a small smile along his direction. But, Eidan noticed that the smile was shaky. Her eyes couldn't quite focus on him. And her hand shook slightly.

He stopped himself from frowning at that. Instead, he took the towel from her, muttering his thanks. He wiped his face, feeling instantly refreshed as the damp, warm towel cleansed over him. It woke him up even more, kicking him out of his half-dazed state.

"You know, we didn't expect you to be awake so soon," Mana was telling him, "Ethel said that your body should recover in about a month, considering that you did let a lot of darkness take over you…"

A lot of things struck him in that sentence.

He swung his legs over the bed, staring at Mana with wide eyes. "I let the darkness take over? And Ethel? And wait – how long was I unconscious for?"

Mana fidgeted. Her eyes darted to the door, maybe desperate for an escape out of this situation.

But he couldn't stop the questions.

"And anyway," he added, "why are you here? Weren't you and Zeph meant to go to the Forest of Illusions? And how did I end up-"

Mana raised her hand, silencing him. "The elders in the forest saw a premonition. They told us that you and Jenna were going to be executed and as soon as we heard that, Zeph and I just rushed back to Marniolle. But…"

She paused, her green eyes finally fixing on his. "Then we found you and Jenna in the forest, all fine and alive. She had a few bruises and cuts on her because of the soldiers chasing both of you – but she was… fine. And as for you, you were unconscious-"

"You said I let the darkness take over?" Eidan slowly repeated. "Is… Is that how we managed to escape from the soldiers?"

Silence. Mana's eyebrows furrowed at him, her slender fingers curling into fists. "You seriously don't remember anything?"

He shook his head.

She pursed her lips. "Oh. Well. Well, um, you did let the darkness take over your body… and that helped you and Jenna escape… But the darkness took a lot of your energy, so you had no control over yourself-"

Eidan's eyes widened. "I didn't do anything, did I?"

"No. No, you didn't."

However, Mana's answer was quick. Too quick. And, just like earlier, she wasn't looking at him anymore; focusing instead on her feet.

"Anyway," her voice rose, interrupting his doubts, "Ethel dropped by. She was just making sure that you were okay. Got a bit worried when she found out you let the darkness in. But yeah. She said she'd visit as soon as you're awake."

Eidan nodded. Despite the words that she said, he just couldn't bring himself to believe them. He wanted to believe her, wanted to make sure that he caused no harm at all with all that darkness inside him – but he doubted it.

"How long was I unconscious for?" he asked quietly.

"About two weeks."

He raised his eyebrows.

"Ethel said that you were in some sort of coma. Apparently, the darkness literally stopped your whole body from functioning when you were unconscious – your heart wasn't even beating. We were worried at first, but then Ethel said it was normal because the darkness took-"

"A lot of my energy, yes." Eidan nodded, finally standing up.

Mana nodded back, making her way to the door without looking back. Before she could leave, a question struck Eidan.

"How is Jenna?"

At this, Mana immediately froze. Her hand clutched at the handle of the door, twisting it again and again so that the rattles of metal filled the thick silence.

"She's okay. Just a bit shaken from nearly dying-"

Eidan dug his eyes into her back. "Did I hurt her?"

Eventually, Mana threw her gaze over her shoulder and sent him a meek smile. "We all know you wouldn't deliberately hurt her, Eidan."

He didn't get a chance to ask her anymore questions. She left the room.

Deliberately hurt her? Did that mean that he did hurt her when he had no control of himself?

His heart began to pound. Before he knew it, he was rushing out of his room, nearly tearing out the door from its hinges. His whole body was aching and everything still felt like a hazy dream, but he forced himself to pace through the airships' corridors, searching vehemently for Jenna.

He checked her old room. It was empty. In fact, he checked all of the bedrooms in the current floor he was in; all empty as well.

Where was she? The anxiety was starting to sink into him because never in his entire life had he ever worried about Jenna like this. Sure, they had been through so much over the past several months – but this was different. Before, it was Jenna being in danger because of her misfortune. And yes, he had hurt her before – but even he had to admit that that was usually because of Caelum.

Now, it was him and him alone. It would solely be his fault if Jenna had been hurt.

He wasn't sure if he could live with himself if he did anything bad to her.

Despite apparently being in a comatose state for two weeks, he didn't feel anything wrong with his body – aside from the obvious occasional ache in his limbs. Perhaps it was because the darkness had kindly healed him during that time. However, he did feel different. It felt like there was something stirring within him, something ominous – and more so than usual.

Now, it felt as if any slight movement he made would trigger the monster inside him.

Just as he rounded a corner, he ran straight into Zeph who had been absent-mindedly walking by himself. The thief swore, clutching the foot that Eidan had accidentally stamped on.

"Eidan? You're awake now?" he grumbled, scowling – as usual - at Eidan. "Why the hell are you running around?"

"Do you know where Jenna is?" Eidan demanded, ignoring the thief's questions.

As soon as he said this, Zeph's face contorted into something more bitterly. His eyes narrowed, lips curling into a slight grimace. "Fucking control yourself, Eidan. That girl's been through enough."

Zeph's words stung.

"What did I do?" Eidan reluctantly asked. His fists were shaking. "I must have done something – but I can't remember!"

Zeph blinked. "You don't remember?"

He shook his head.

The thief whistled, scratching the back of his head and turning his head away. He was looking around, checking to see the coast was clear or perhaps to find an opportunity to avoid Eidan's questions. In the end, Zeph sighed and shook his head, muttering something ineligible under his breath.

"You did nothing. It wasn't your fault, anyway." Zeph shrugged. "But Jenna's still a bit freaked out with everything, so it's probably a good idea if you stay away from her for a couple of days. Just let her cry it out as usual, you know?"

Even though the thief was obviously trying to comfort Eidan in his own strange way, it made things worse. "Jenna's been crying?"

Zeph sighed. "Yes, but she usually cries over anything, so that shouldn't worry you."

"Zeph, I'm being serious-"

Raising his voice, Zeph drowned him out, deliberately interrupting his attempts of talking. "Speaking of being serious, Mana and I have decided to save the Earth Kingdom from being crushed by the Air Kingdom! We haven't actually planned it out yet, but we reckon that the only way to get it through the Earth King's thick skull that he needs our help is to ambush Cardamonia's palace and just force him to understand?"

Eidan pinched the bridge of his nose. "I'm sorry, but I don't care about-"

"The Elders said it would take about three or four years for the Air Kingdom to fall, so we have a lot of time to evacuate the people out of there, but I'm pretty sure that it's going to be a pain in the-"

Blocking him out, Eidan merely sidestepped him and walked away. Even though the incident with the fall of the Air Kingdom was treacherous, it had no significance to him right now. All that mattered now was finding Jenna and making sure that she was alright.

Eidan rushed to the elevator, punching the buttons and waiting impatiently for it to take him to the bar. He was certain that if Jenna wasn't in any of the bedrooms, she could may well be in the bar, possibly drowning her sorrows in food.

"I'm surprised you're able to move so easily after your little episode."

He ceased his running, whirling around to find Caelum staring at him with a raised eyebrow. Caelum still wore the black cloak, drowned in the cloth that trailed to the floor. There was something that Eidan noticed though; he was strangely pale – paler than usual. In fact, it looked like he was sick.

"I'm guessing you're looking for Jenna?" Caelum asked, walking towards him. He stopped in front of Eidan, narrowing his eyes as he scrutinised his face. Resisting the urge to frown, Eidan remained still as the God continued to simply stare at him.

"That's a lot of darkness…" he heard Caelum mutter to himself, almost sounding impressed.

Caelum took a step back, folding his arms. "If you're looking for Jenna, then you won't have much luck right now. She's in the forest village with Celeste."

Eidan stopped himself from screaming out in frustration. He took a deep breath, focusing his eyes on a dent on the metal wall instead; a useless attempt to calm himself down.

"Forest village?" he mumbled, clutching onto a conversation that would hopefully not stress him as much.

The red-eyed man nodded. "We're in the Forest of Illusions right now. After that thief and the elf got you and Jenna, they just barged into the inn Celeste and I was staying in and dragged us all here."

Caelum's voice was bitter, laced with irritation that was all too familiar with him.

The only response that Eidan gave him was a slow nod. He had obviously missed quite a lot during his two weeks of being unconscious, but he found that he cared little for them. All of his worries focused on a certain blonde haired princess who was impossible to track down today.

Noticing his silence, Caelum sighed and started to walk into the bar. "Just wait a couple of hours. Jenna should be back soon."

There was nothing else to do anyway. Eidan didn't bother to reply to him again, simply choosing to return to his room instead. Maybe if he had peace and quiet, he could try and remember what he did by himself. Although, he was certain that a large part of him didn't actually want to remember what he did because it was a given that he probably did hurt Jenna after all.

Nevertheless, Eidan returned to his room, collapsing back onto his bed and closing his eyes.

As soon as he closed his eyes, he heard the darkness tiding over him. It was like an ocean, cold ripples of water trying to submerge him. He gasped, shooting up from his bed and snapping his eyes open.

His room looked the same, but it felt colder now. It felt like he was back in Balandria.

Eidan groaned, burying his head into his palms.

What was happening to him? He didn't feel like himself anymore; it was like he no longer had control over his own body and this was just a vague dream. It scared him to think that he had lost control over his own body – without Caelum. To think that he could have done something awful solely just by himself petrified him to no end.

It didn't help that he couldn't remember. By not remembering, he couldn't grasp his head around anything. Everything was swirling around him; events, people, voices, anxiety, everything. And he was trying, all in the space of the mere minutes that he had been awake, to fix everything on the spot, to regain control of his life again.

But it seemed impossible right now.

Just then, he heard a faint rustling in the room. He looked up, setting aside his self-loathing to focus on the strange orb of darkness bobbing up and down in front of him.

Ah.

It wasn't long until that small bit of darkness morphed into the Dark Abyss and as expected, Ethel stepped out of it. Her lips quirked into a smile, but he did not return it.

When had he last seen her? Two weeks ago? He wasn't sure. Her appearance changed little though; still as petite as ever and still clothed in extravagant black gowns that had crucifixes and chains dangling from them. The only difference now was that her hair was loose; waves of dark brown tumbling down her back.

"I see you have recovered quickly," Ethel said, motioning towards him.

He didn't know what to say, so he remained silent.

And as usual, Ethel was not one for small talk. She launched straight into the reason why she was visiting him.

"I have a proposition, Brother."

Eidan watched her, keeping an eye on her expressions.

"You need to control the darkness inside you. Because you willingly accepted it, there's no barrier between you and that power now. If ever you let your guard down, you can repeat your dramatic massacring yet again. And I'm sure you don't wish for that, no?"

His blood ran cold. "Massacring?"

Ethel shrugged apathetically. "Yes, you killed countless people in front of poor Jenna."

To think that Jenna could have witnessed such a horrible thing because of him… Eidan felt sick. Jenna had always reassured him that he wasn't a monster, that despite the darkness inside of him, she knew that he was good – but did she still think that now? He strongly doubted it.

"By that expression you are wearing, I'm guessing that you do wish to control the darkness?"

He returned his eyes to Ethel. Her face was neutral; no pity, no impatience, no compassion.

"What do you want, Ethel?" he said, surprised to hear that his own voice just sounded so tired and lifeless.

Now, Ethel's face did soften. Slightly. "You are family, Eidan. And as family, we stick together. Believe me when I say that you need to control this darkness inside you. There's no point in rejecting it anymore because it's too late. It's already there."

He took her words in like poison. "How can I control it then?"

"There's no easy way. You're just going to have to train yourself in a suitable environment for heaven knows how long."

Narrowing his eyes, Eidan repeated her words. "Suitable environment?"

Ethel sighed, averting her eyes away and gazing out of the window. Light rays of sunlight streamed over her face, and he noticed how she grimaced slightly, bringing a hand to cover her eyes.

"This is where my proposition comes in," she said slowly. "The only way to control the darkness inside you is to familiarise yourself with a similar environment. And you're going to find it very tough to find an environment in this world that holds half as much darkness inside you-"

It dawned on him what she was trying to tell him. His fists clenched. "You want me to go back to Balandria?"

Hearing the malice in his voice, Ethel turned back to him and gave him a tired look.

"Basically, you're telling me that the only way I can control this darkness is to go back to Balandria and train?" Eidan spat. "How long do you even plan for me to stay there?"

Ethel looked like she was tempted to roll her eyes. "You've had that darkness manifesting inside you ever since you were born, Eidan! Of course it would take a while for you to even have the slightest bit of control over it!"

"What then?" he demanded. "Weeks? Months? Years?"

She didn't need to answer. Ethel looked away as soon as he questioned about years.

His first response was to shake his head and downright refuse her offer on the spot, but she sent him a scowl and interrupted him before he could even utter a word.

"That's not the only reason why you need to come with me to Balandria," she told him. "Over the past couple of weeks, I've been browsing the palace libraries and seeking advice from the Gods, and… and well, I think I may have found a different way to get rid of the curse."

She succeeded in getting his attention.

"However, it's a very elaborate and ancient spell, and I can't do it by myself. It needs something as old as the spell itself, and the only thing I can think of that can possibly be as old is your curse. Or, to be more exact, the darkness inside you."

"So, you're suggesting that once I learn how to control this darkness…"

Ethel nodded. "Once you learn how to control it, you could help me with the spell and hopefully break the curse."

He contemplated his options. Although he hated to admit it, Ethel had a point. Not only did he need to control this darkness inside him, he also needed to destroy the curse so that he and the others could at least have a chance of living normally for once. But in order to do that, he would have to sacrifice years training away in Balandria – all for the slim chance of this spell somehow abolishing a ten thousand year old curse.

"Are you even certain that this spell would work?" he asked, keeping his voice empty so that she would not think that he was actually debating on it.

"There's no harm in trying. And besides, it's the only hope you have for now - unless you happen to know of a different way to break the curse?"

Eidan sighed, tiredly running a hand through his hair. "I… I can't just leave this place."

Ethel stared at him with annoying pity in her eyes, as if looking down at him. "But you managed to leave Balandria so easily nine years ago."

She was still bitter about that. Eidan wondered if Jenna would be the same if he left.

Perhaps not. Not after what he did.

That was another reason. If he didn't control the darkness, then there was a strong chance that he could harm Jenna again. What if he had done more to her when he let the darkness take over? What if it happened again? The only thing he could think of that could prevent that from happening was complying with Ethel's wishes.

But was it really right to leave in a time such as this?

He clutched his head, groaning as options spiralled in his mind.

Seeing his distress, Ethel turned back to the swirling abyss of darkness behind her. She looked over her shoulder, sending him a small look of concern before speaking.

"I'll come back tomorrow. Perhaps it is best you think over this."

And with that, she left him all alone in his room.

-x-

The next day, he woke up to the sound of rushing footsteps outside his room.

Rubbing his eyes, Eidan sat up and frowned at the closed door. He could hear coughing and spluttering. By the sounds of it, someone was obviously in the bathroom, vomiting. He was tempted to go outside and see who it was, but he remained seated at his bed, listening to the person choke.

"Again?"

It was Mana talking. Her voice was tinged with worry, and he could picture her frowning, perhaps folding her arms as she stared at the sick person in concern.

There was no response; the person was still retching.

After a while, the vomiting subsided.

"I-I'm fine." A cough. "No need to worry."

His eyes widened. That was Jenna's voice. There was no doubt about it. Even though Jenna and Celeste did have similar voices, Eidan always found it easy to distinguish who it was. And right now, it was Jenna who was talking to Mana. It was Jenna who was sick.

Mana sighed. "When did this start?"

"Just a few days ago. I-It's probably just a reaction to all the stress. It's nothing."

"Are you sure? Are you sure it's not because-"

Jenna's voice rose a little higher. "No! No, it's not. I-I'm sure it's not."

There was silence, aside from the faint sound of Mana humming in doubt.

"You should talk to him."

He could picture Jenna flinching. "I-I'm not sure… I mean, h-he could still be tired-"

"Jenna, he was looking everywhere for you yesterday. You shouldn't have stayed in the village."

Jenna breathed out shakily. "I'm sorry… I just… When I heard that he woke up, I just sort of… panicked. I don't know how I can face him, to be honest."

Her voice pained him. It was rare that he ever heard her like this. Usually, Jenna was stubborn when it came to showing genuine sadness. Usually, Jenna was stronger. Usually, Jenna turned to him for comfort, rather than him being the solitary reason why she was sad.

"Are you scared of him?" Mana asked slowly.

Eidan dreaded the answer to that question.

"I shouldn't be." Jenna's voice was beginning to shake.

"But you are."

There was a sniff. "I-I shouldn't be. He's my best friend – I l-love him."

Jenna's sniffs turned into hiccups. The sound of her trembling voice was already sending clutching his heart painfully, but once he realised that she sounded like she was starting to cry, he could no longer keep his face neutral.

"Jenna, it's not wrong to be afraid," Mana said softly. "You shouldn't have to feel ashamed."

"B-But it's Eidan. We've always, always, always been together – and I-I just don't know what to do anymore! I can't… I can't even think of talking to him because of what he did-"

"Maybe you should tell him."

"No!" Jenna's voice tore through, wavering slightly. "I can't do that! It would destroy him."

"But it's destroying you!"

Jenna didn't reply. Instead, he heard her cry even more. Her sobs were muffled, as if she was covering her face with her hands. But, with every muffled sob of hers, he felt a stabbing ache through his chest. He was the reason why she was like this. There was no denying it. It was his fault.

"Well, what are you going to do? You can't just avoid him forever." Mana's voice was desperate, lowering into a whisper.

"I don't know… I just don't know what to do anymore…"

"Jenna… please just tell him-"

"I need to go," Jenna suddenly said, raising her voice. "I need to think. By myself."

"Jenna, wait-!"

But all Eidan heard was the rushed footsteps of Jenna, running down the corridors and escaping from Mana's presence. The elf groaned, muttering curses underneath her breath before walking away from the bathroom as well.

Silence dawned.

His fears were confirmed. Jenna was afraid of him. And he couldn't blame her; after all this time of believing again and again that he wasn't a monster, he finally proved her wrong. He had destroyed that trust between them.

And he hurt her. Again. As usual.

Eidan wondered how many times he had risked her life because of this darkness now. If he had never barged into her life, there was no doubt that Jenna would probably still be back in her kingdom right now, safe with her family.

It was Grace who had cursed Alexandria. Grace only did that because she followed her mother's orders, in the hope of getting him to return to Balandria. If he only stayed in Balandria, then none of this would have happened. Jenna's kingdom would still be in tact. Her father would still be alive. She would never have had to witness any of the horrors that they endured in this ridiculous journey.

He sighed. He couldn't blame the darkness entirely. It was his own selfishness that made him stay in this world. Not the darkness.

He couldn't be selfish anymore.

As if knowing of his decision, the Dark Abyss swirled once more in his room, engulfing the space in front of him in shadows that reached out. This time, he didn't flinch.

Ethel stepped out, her eyes filled with pity.

"Have you decided?" she gently asked, surrounded by black mist that nearly engulfed her small form.

He pushed aside his fears and doubts. This was for Jenna. There was no reason for him to stay in this world if it was only to cause her pain and misfortune.

"Yes," Eidan nodded. "I'll go back to Balandria."

-x-

time hardly matters
when everyone dies in the end.


Brace yourself for depressing times, people. Brace yourself.

I will probably upload the next chapter soon because I've been so eager to write it. I'm looking forward to the next part of the story because it's very different and just... ugh. Just sad. Angsty. So don't say I didn't warn you that the next chapter will be filled it depressing moments, drama, tension, and fighting. Yup. I'm excited to write it. You gotta love writing sad chapters.

But, as usual, school is keeping me busy as hell. However, thank you thank you THANK YOU for the reviews that people send me because they motivate me to write more. So thank you for the support and I hope you're enjoying the story atm.

Bye bye and don't forget to tell me what you thought of the chapter!

(btw i posted a new story called the altering check it out if you want /shameless self promotion ok bye bye)