"I'm getting nervous," Mistel whispers to her husband as they watch the trail of dust growing larger in the distance. They are standing in front of the gate in the quarry waiting as what they expect to be Culvin's carriage approaches.
"Unparalleled grief is what I feel when witnessing the sorrow of a mother torn apart from her child," her husband responds cryptically. He has been stringing words together like this constantly since she came back to the village with Lady Opus over a week ago. It is his coping mechanism for dealing with the sudden change of seeing her every day, coupled with the fact that she has forced him to cut down on his drinking; at least for the moment so he would be prepared to mobilize whenever their children finally came home.
"I appreciate that you still have your one single talent but I could really deal with some sincerity right now," she snaps at him. "That's our son, right? He's coming here to take us to another world. I would not believe it had I not spent weeks reading the notes he brought me."
"You read those notes more than you read the letters I wrote you," her husband mopes.
"Your letters are always so confusing. I don't need you to impress me with big words. I'm a scientist. I make up words whenever I can't find the ones I need to describe what I have discovered."
"Oh, so that's what cancer is." Mr. Caster snaps his fingers. He received a letter from his wife shortly after she begun treating Lady Verdus in which she referenced the disease of which she only heard about from Andre.
"No, I didn't make that one up." Mistel grits her teeth in annoyance. Even when he is trying his hardest to understand her and her work he still somehow manages to say the wrong thing. He could have pricked any other odd word from the letters she has wrote him and he would be right that she made it up; just not cancer.
As the couple continues to argue in their docile fashion, the dust cloud in the distance grows closer until the carriage rolls to a stop just in front of the gate. Both Chessy and Philla rush over to greet their brother. They step backwards cautiously when Eldrie is the first to disembark the carriage.
"Um, hello," Chessy stutters nervously. Eldrie turns to look at her with a blank expression. Her eyes look completely lifeless. Chessy hides behind her sister's shoulder in fear.
"Who's that?" Philla is more curious than afraid.
"How rude of you to forget about my sister, Chessy." Jyp leaps out of the carriage and lands awkwardly on his feet. His hands are stuffed in the pockets of his vest, making it hard on him to keep his balance. After leaning over extremely far to keep from falling over, he reorients himself and marches up to Mrs. Caster. "Good day, Mum," he greets her rudely. "Got a moment to look at a toothache?"
"Oh no, what did you do?" She grabs his mouth and pries it open.
"Um, I'll just be standing over here." Her husband shuffles away. He has no idea what she is doing but just watching makes him uncomfortable.
"Ow, what the hell?" Mistel yanks her hands away from Jyp's mouth just as he tries to bite down on her. "What's the matter with you?"
"Don't know. Seems Markot's not in a good mood," he responds with a listless shrug.
"That stone's cracked. I can't say it's wise for you to keep in contact with it for much longer."
"See, I was wondering, although there aren't many of them, there were spirit users in Rindhall and none of them used imprisonment marks or stones," Jyp tries to casually suggest freeing Markot from his stone.
"Absolutely not. Do you know why there are so few? Because Rindhall refuses to embrace the revolution that is imprisonment. Spirits are proud creatures that are not as easily subjugated as Clooney's pursuers would have you believe. It is their weakness for existence that makes such docile pets out of these dangerous things. Markot is no exception. It was a miracle that you were compatible with him in this state but I guarantee you he is unusable in any other capacity. I would advise you to leave that stone behind when we cross the gate."
"No can do." He shakes his head. "I've only been through the void a few times but I can tell you that I don't like it. There are horrors in there that you can't even imagine. I need Markot for the moment. We ain't making it through there without him. At the very least, I'm not going without him."
Mistel sighs while shaking her head. She knows that there will be no arguing with him. On top of that, she is not sure she even wants to. She has never been through the void and must take his word for how dangerous it is. If he thinks he needs Markot then he is probably right. "Shouldn't you be looking after your sister more closely?" she changes the subject. "Chessy and Philla look like they can't handle much more."
Jyp looks up at Eldrie just as she starts to wander off into the quarry. "Hey, get back here. Khilm, help me!" he calls for his brother's aid as he chases after her. The third triplet emerges from the carriage a moment later and runs after his two siblings without any time taken to introduce himself to those who have been waiting.
Ash shuffles over to the carriage with her hands behind her back. She is wringing them nervously as she anticipates how she is going to react to seeing Isaac. Ever since reuniting with him in Rindhall, she has been incredibly shy around him. She can not even remember how she used to interact with him at all. She used to make excuses to talk to him based around her fantasies. Now she is far too self conscious to say any of the things she used to.
She is just about to poke her head into the carriage when Culvin steps out, knocking her out of his way on accident. "Oh, sorry. You're so light." He catches her before she falls over. She slithers out of his grip by dropping to the ground and crawling away from him. "Um, okay then." He is confused and annoyed by her obvious reluctance to even be touched by him.
"What are you doing?" Isaac asks while leaping out of the carriage. Ash starts to scurry quicker but he manages to lift her back to her feet by her shoulders. "Why are you being so weird?" he asks.
"When has she ever not been weird?" Culvin interjects. He is still slightly upset with her.
"What's weird about me?" Ash snaps at him.
"You're delusional for starters," Culvin spits back. "You think you're from another world."
"I don't want to hear that from someone who really is from another world!" she counters.
"At least when I say it, it's true." He crosses his arms triumphantly.
"Can we continue this bickering match in the other world?" Isaac asks while marching over to the gate. Not surprisingly, the brown curtain that normally covers the gap under the arch entirely has become frayed. Ash watches with gleaming eyes as Isaac takes a deep breath and holds out his hands, letting several thin vines grow from beneath his sleeves. They tangle themselves around the archway and wind their way up to the top.
Ash soon notices that she is not the only one impressed with Isaac's talent. Sasha is watching with a swooning expression. Ash is just about to say something when she looks past Sasha at Mistel who is also watching with a disturbingly loving gaze. She is obviously more interested in Lishes than Isaac though. It takes Sasha a moment to realize what Ash is looking at. She turns her head slowly to look at Mistel and jerks back when she sees her. Soon both teenagers are staring at the middle-aged woman like she is hopeless.
The vines Isaac creates grow until they are covering the entire archway, hiding the inner gap from view entirely. When it has been restored to usefulness, Isaac stomps his foot, creating two roots that sprout out of the dry ground, cracking it and sending dust into the air. The roots touch each side of the arch and begin to imbue it with existence to power the gate.
Chessy and Philla try to focus on what the other three girls see but they find no such interest in watching Isaac exercising his abilities. Instead they focus on Culvin behind him, who is watching with a slightly jealous expression. He definitely misses being able to use a spirit.
Everyone is so focused on the gate that they do not even notice Andrew as he steps out of the carriage. He is rubbing his eyes as if he has just woken up. No one even bothered to wake him when they arrived.
Finally, a large draft of air rushing into the covered arch alerts everyone to the fact that the gate has opened. Even Jyp and Khilm notice it, despite having wandered quite far from everyone else. They return as quickly as possible, dragging Eldrie at first and eventually just lifting her off her feet so she can no longer struggle. She seems determined to examine a sand colored rock that looks exactly like every other rock in the quarry.
"Who's going first?" Mr. Caster asks in a reluctant tone. Chessy and Philla both roll their eyes before each grabbing one of his hands and dragging him through the hanging vines. "Oh my god," he gasps in amazement when he sees the actual void. His voice is incredibly low though as the nothingness has already started to leach on the sound and light just outside its clutches.
Culvin waits for Isaac to enter next and is confused when he does not. With a shrug he marches through, followed soon after by Jyp and Khilm carrying Eldrie. "See you on the other side," Sasha spouts coyly before kissing Isaac on the cheek. She winks at Ash to brag before stepping through next.
"Looks like we're it," Mistel chuckles. Her voice drawls out until she is actually sighing though. "It's quite amazing, isn't it? Halfreed built this all by himself, didn't he?"
"What about me?" Andrew trots up behind Isaac who sidesteps and slaps him on the back, causing him to stumble through the curtain.
"Ash, please guide Mrs. Caster. She's never been through the void before," Isaac gives Ash instructions with a serious expression.
"No wait, I want to examine this arch more." Mistel touches the side of the gate.
"You had the whole time we were waiting," Ash scolds her.
"But now it's actually doing what it's supposed to. I bet I could figure it out if I had ample time to examine it."
"It's the exact opposite of Clooney's," Isaac informs her. "His has seven spirits drain an eighth until it is about to return to the void and takes advantage of the connection."
"Then that means that this one pours existence into the void until a spirit is about to return," Mistel catches on to Isaac's meaning immediately. "Wait a moment." She turns her head toward the void slowly. "Does that mean there's a spirit nearby in there?" she gulps nervously.
"Ash," Isaac's voice is stressed with an impatient urgency.
"I'm going," she assures him while grabbing Mistel's hand and dragging her through the hanging vines. Just as they pass into the void, they hear a loud thumping from outside. It is dulled by the deafening lack of sound in the void though.
"What was that?" Mistel is incredibly curious. "It sounded like the stones shifted."
Ash turns around to stare at the fluttering vines. She smiles when she sees Isaac walking through. She tries to greet him but her voice will not come out. She quickly realizes that she is no longer breathing. All air has vanished. They are now living on the borrowed time that seems to slow down whenever crossing through the void.
Mistel tries to ask Isaac what the noise was but she too can no longer speak. She gives the entrance a fleeting glance and notices that there is no longer any light shining through. The vines have stopped fluttering entirely. There is dust spraying into the void. Mistel's eyes widen as she realizes what has just happened. The arch caved in after Isaac stepped through, most likely due to his two roots that he left outside.
She grabs him by the collar and shakes him. She is screaming in his face without making a single sound. How could he have destroyed the gate that her beloved Rasik spent so long meticulously constructing? How can he have doomed them to never being able to return to their own world? That was not a choice he had permission to make for them.
Isaac brushes her hands off and marches past her. He has every intention of standing at the front of the group in order to protect everyone. As Mistel just realized, there is a spirit nearby that was used to create the opening they walked through. Mistel continues to shout at him silently, cursing him for his selfish decision. He pretends not to notice at all. He knew she would not agree with his choice. That is exactly why he had Ash take her inside first.
Soon Isaac has joined Culvin at the head of the group. He is squinting at the darkness while keeping his hand resting firmly on the hilt of his sword. Although it is pitch black inside the void, he can see Isaac and the rest of the group clearly. They seem to be sources of light themselves, shining brightly with existence inside the abyss that is so lacking in it. There is no doubt that they are clearly visible to any nearby spirits. They stand out like a lighthouse in the middle of the night.
Mr. Caster keeps a firm grip on his daughters' hands as he repositions himself in the center of the group despite being the first ones through. He does not like relying on his son for everything but he is not stupid enough to believe he could do anything if they were to be attacked.
Ash remains at the back, trying to match her pace with the still furious Mistel Caster. She is stomping excessively without making any sound at all, which is unnerving on its own. She does not look like she is going to calm down any time soon.
Sasha tries to catch up to Isaac and Culvin but they continuously push her back to the middle of the group. She can not hear them but she knows they think she will only get in their way when the time comes to defend everyone. She does not understand why they are being so cautious though. Last time she was in the void, all she had to do was hold her breath and run straight forward. Somehow it feels quite different this time.
As usual they are not actually standing on anything. There is nothing below them to act as a floor. For all they know they might be floating and falling. However, they are able to jump which means they are pushing off of something. It is almost like a glass platform. Mistel has gained an interest in it. She has already started to form several theories in her head as to why they can walk and propel themselves forward from one side of the void to the other.
Culvin keeps glancing back at her and rolling his eyes. He knows that she enjoys figuring things out but sometimes he wishes she would not bother. In his experience, walking through the void more often than anyone else, he has come to the conclusion that the void is not something to be explained.
He has never once entered the void with an intended destination in mind. Even if he does not walk in a straight line, he always ends up on the other side. It is as if there is only one place he can end up. Walking is nothing more than an action. He is not even sure they are moving at all. He is sure the void changes shape around them as they occupy their time pretending to be productive by putting one foot in front of the other. He has never tested it but he is sure he would reach the other side even if all he did was sit down and wait.
Of course, this theory is not easy to prove as he always ends up seeing the other end of the void in the distance. He has to run toward it as it gets larger each time. However, it seems to take anywhere from hours to minutes depending, and as time between the two worlds does not move at the same rate, he has no way of ever knowing how long he has been in the void for. This inconstancy is what has led him to give up on ever knowing for sure.
Unlike when Sasha and Ash followed Isaac and Culvin into the void on Sasha's birthday, it seems to be taking a lot longer this time. Perhaps the number of people has something to do with it. Everyone feels like they have been walking for hours. They have already passed several weak spirits that barely glow in the dark. In the wake of the light the group of living and existence exuding people give off, it is nearly impossible to see them until they are right up close to them.
Philla and Chessy are becoming restless. They are getting tired, not from walking but from being drained of existence merely by being inside the void. Chessy is able to handle it better than her sister who no longer has her crystallized existence to rely on.
Culvin is feeling weak as well as he no longer has Evelon, who, as part of the Rindhall bloodline, always imbued him with excess existence. Even Ash and Mr. Caster are feeling the effects. Only Isaac and Sasha seem to be immune. Mistel takes several colored stones out of the pocket of her robe and passes them around to everyone except for Isaac and Chessy. Eldrie ignores her hand though and begins to wander off away from the group.
Jyp and Khilm chase after her as she picks up her pace. She almost seems to be running toward something. The blackness makes it impossible to tell what they might encounter ahead until it is too late. Eldrie slows to a trot just before Jyp and Khilm catch up to her. She holds out her arms welcomingly toward something they can not see. Suddenly, right in front of them, she is snatched up in the air and wisped away.
Both of them shout into the darkness but make no sound. Isaac and Culvin signal for everyone else to stay put while they veer off to see what has happened. When they arrive, they find Jyp and Khilm staring up at a massive praying mantis, dark yellow in color. Something black and smoky is leaking off of it and into the void.
Eldrie is visible hanging from its pincers. Her white dress and pale skin makes her shine brightly. Isaac can not help but liken her to a princess in danger, something encountered quite a lot inside of Mage Craft. She does not seem distressed at all though. Her eyes are still as blank as before. She is still hollow inside.
Culvin's hand suddenly flies up as his sword unsheathes itself and flings itself straight at the massive creature's long neck. It takes Culvin a moment to realize that Jyp has taken control of the weapon with Markot. The praying mantis tries to move but the sword follows it, slicing through its shell of an exterior. Yellowish juice sprays out as it opens its pincers to scream silently.
It also flails its front claws. One of them knocks Eldrie in the side as she falls from its mouth, sending her flying sideways. Isaac grows several vines from his sleeves to catch her but they are unable to support her weight entirely. She still hits the invisible slate of nothing but not as hard as she could have.
Jyp and Khilm have to leap backwards to keep from getting hit by the praying mantis's claws as it swipes at them. Part of the claw still catches one of Jyp's arms and slices it open. Khilm catches him as he is falling over and lowers him to the platform carefully. He rips part of his own shirt and is about to wrap the wound when several staples rise up out of the pouch on Jyp's waist and pinch the wound shut on their own.
The praying mantis is just about to attack them again when Culvin runs in front of them, catching its attention. Its head follows him as he dashes just between it and the twins. Eventually it has to turn its whole body to keep following him. Finally it dives at him. He ducks but one of its pincers still digs into his back. He quickly flattens himself out on the shelf as much as possible. The mantis rears back and prepares to dive at him again.
It barely notices as several vines wind their way around its claws and pull on it just enough to disrupt its path of descent. Its face smashes through the platform as if it is not even there. The spirit is in a much lower state of existence than them. It almost seems like it could fall through the shelf at any moment.
Jyp and Khilm quickly pull Culvin away from the mantis by his wrists, dragging his face along the shelf. He tries to yelp when Jyp pushes several staples into his back to help close his wound. He raises his head just enough to berate them silently but they are too busy dragging him to notice.
Behind them the mantis is doing its best to pull its head out of the shelf. Its beady eyes are still focused on Culvin despite its tangled claws still being pulled by Isaac. It leaps forward, pulling on and snapping the vines. Isaac is pulled off his feet by his own vines, the few that do not break. He is nearly trampled under the mantis's feet as it starts to run. Suddenly the creature stops as the sword in its neck rips out and stabs back into it. The tip even protrudes from one side.
The creature tosses its head back to scream. It is an earsplitting one that hurts twice as much because it was unexpected. Something like it should not be possible, especially inside the void. The creature is wasting precious existence just crying. It is clawing at its own neck, trying to dig out the intruding weapon.
When it finally manages to catch the tip with one claw and the hilt with the other one it does not hesitate to pull on it, slicing out the side of its own neck in the process. Again it screams but this time the noise is gurgled. More yellow juice sprays out, raining down on the four boys. Black smoke starts to leak off of all of them as the barely existent blood eats away at them in order to replenish itself, just like Clooney's tentacles.
Isaac is the worst off as he is the closest. He wipes off as much of the blood as he can but it has already started to fade. He can feel his raw skin beneath though. He feels his own blood welling to the top of his exposed muscle. There is a thick pain that accompanies it though. Something feels like it is digging into his arms.
He rips one of his sleeves off so he can see what is happening. To his astonishment, one of the remaining vines has started to shrivel as his body reabsorbs the existence expended to grow it from a seed. He grabs his stomach and tries not to throw up as he feels the heavy existence traveling throughout his body.
Slowly the skin from his wounds starts to re-grow beneath the blood that has already spilled out. He is in too much pain to move as he stands directly beneath the monstrous praying mantis. It looks extremely transparent at the moment. Suddenly it fades out entirely, returning a moment later without the wound in its neck. It has just reoriented all of its remaining existence, sacrificing solidity to heal its wounds.
It takes a moment for its beady eyes to focus. When they do, they fall directly on Isaac. He is in too much pain to even try moving as the mantis dives its massive head at him with its pincers wide up. Just before it reaches him, its mouth snaps shut again. It rears back in pain again, not making a sound this time. There is something yellow leaking from between its pincers. Isaac looks over his shoulder at Jyp who has his hand extended toward the creature. He has just poured all of his remaining staples into its mouth.
The creature swallows repeatedly as it tries to erase the scraping feeling now sliding along the inside of its throat. It claws at its own neck in a flailing panic. Isaac almost feels sorry as he watches the massive creature swaying above in its distraught fluster. Its claws puncture its own neck as it tries to dig out the painful tacks Jyp has fed it.
Clenching his fist, Jyp pulls all of the staples out at the same time, punching dozens of tiny holes in the mantis's neck. Isaac finally finds the strength to move as yet more yellow blood sprays out. Once again the creature emits a gurgling scream that is silenced when Culvin's sword punctures its jaw from below.
In a desperate attempt to heal itself again the mantis vanishes. The sword is left behind. It falls straight down until Jyp stops it. The moment the mantis reappears the sword flies up again, stabbing its jaw all over again. When the creature rears back to scream, Jyp holds the sword still, pulling it out through the front of the mantis's face, slicing it clean it half.
Isaac ducks to the ground while covering his ears in pain. The mantis is screaming like nothing he has ever heard. Worse, it is the only sound in the entire void. His eardrums ache as the creatures wails in constant distress. Jyp turns the sword horizontally and stabs it straight in the eye before spinning it until the entire oculus has been ground into yellow blood. Once again the mantis claws at itself, trying to dig the foreign object out.
Isaac is torn between watching the creature struggling and keeping watch of Jyp, who is stumbling towards the mantis while holding his injured arm. He is covered in skinless splotches similar to Isaac's from the creature's blood. They have not healed on their own at all though. He is expending all of his existence controlling Culvin's sword. It is the only piece of metal in range. Unfortunately it is as small as a needle compared to the massive praying mantis. It would not even pierce the creature's skin if not for the strength of Markot. As a sword used by Culvin it would have been completely useless.
The mantis has noticed who is causing it so much pain. It has focused its remaining eye on Jyp. Just as it starts to charge at him, Jyp pulls the sword to the side, slicing from one eye to the other. Again the creatures screams but it does not stop charging. Khilm and Culvin have to pull Jyp out of the way so the mantis can trample past.
It does not stop and instead continues running, straight at the rest of the group. Luckily there is enough distance for them to all shuffle out of the way. Finally the creature skids to a halt and spins around. It has noticed that it was unable to destroy its intended target. In a flash it has vanished and reappeared again, healing itself.
Now it is twice as transparent as before. It is obvious it will not be able to do this too many more times. In fact, had it not already leached off of Isaac with its blood, it probably would have already faded completely. Jyp sways unsteadily as he turns around to face the creature again. The mantis scrapes its feet against the shelf like it is preparing to charge again.
Jyp's eyes dart around until he finds the sword that fell again when the mantis disappeared this last time. He flings it at the creature's face again but this time it has wizened up. It bats the sword away with one of its claws. Jyp grits his teeth as his eyes glow bright yellow. The sword stops just before hitting the shelf. It spins around and flies right back at the mantis's face.
The creature blocks with its claws again but is shocked when the sword changes direction. It smashes straight through one of the claws and out the other side. The creature has no time to react before it starts spinning like a propeller. The moment it comes into contact with the second claw, it splits it off from the creature's arm. The lack of sound as the claw hits the shelf below is somehow unnerving.
The spinning blade moves towards the mantis's face again, slicing into one of its pincers. The clawing mouth is split slightly the first time and even more as the blade continues to move closer. Slowly the crack grows until one of the pincers has been split in half.
The mantis seems to be contemplating whether it should try fading out again. It starts to step backwards to avoid the blade as it continues spinning closer to its actual face. Finally it makes the choice. Jyp practically collapses in exhaustion when the mantis vanishes. Khilm and Culvin keep him propped up in anticipation of the monster's return. They can not afford to let him pass out just yet. They have no other defense against the monster.
To their shock, the creature reappears much closer to them than they expected. It is practically standing on top of them. They are unable to react before it has snatched Khilm up in its mouth and swallowed him whole. Isaac is slow to react. He grows out one of his vines and wraps it around the base of the creature's long neck, preventing Khilm from passing into its stomach.
He tries as hard as he can to squeeze the lump in the creature's throat back up so that it will spit him out but he does not have the strength. Luckily while in the void no one is breathing or Khilm might already have suffocated. Jyp is still being supported by Culvin and does not seem to know what is going on.
Culvin looks over his shoulder at Isaac, silently asking what either of them can do now. The answer is nothing. They are out of existence. Even if they survive this, they may not be able to escape the ever draining void in their current state. The mantis is still struggling to swallow Khilm or it would have undoubtedly finished them off by now.
With its restored claws, it slices the vines binding it and finally swallows. The lump vanishes from its throat as Khilm hits its stomach. The look of satisfaction on the monster's face is short lived as it quickly realizes that it has not gained much existence at all. Khilm does not even make up for what it expended to heal itself multiple times over. Its beady eyes travel over Jyp and Culvin with a lack of interest. Slowly they fall to rest on Isaac with a definite expression of intrigue. He may have enough existence to justify all the trouble it has gone through; maybe even enough to aid it in escaping the void.
It steps past Jyp and Culvin with no interest at all, heading straight for Isaac. He simply stares up at it, still unable to move much at all. His limbs feel incredibly heavy as the existence inside him works to replenish his damaged skin. The creature bends forward and brings its pincers close to Isaac's head. He can feel a cold chill running down his spine as black smoke wafts off of the mantis around him. He tries as hard as he can to muster enough existence to grow out another vine but it barely extends at all. The mantis blinks at him with an almost smug expression.
Suddenly it rears back and roars in pain again. Culvin is knocked off his feet as the mantis swings its claws about. He and Jyp tumble along the shelf for several feet until they both manage to stop themselves. Jyp is too disoriented to even sit up and instead remains lying face down. Culvin looks up with spinning eyes and manages to catch sight of what has happened to the creature.
Philla and Chessy are both stranding directly behind it. Philla is holding her sister's hand and directing her palm toward the creature. Chessy's fingertips are glowing yellow with threads swimming around them. The shell on one of the mantis's legs has been cracked. The creature is struggling to keep itself upright but the leg eventually buckles. It teeters to one side awkwardly while continuing to wail in pain.
Chessy looks positively shocked by the destruction she did not know she could cause. Philla drags her sister forward again and tries to touch her fingers to the other leg of the mantis. The creature spins as best in can while lumbering weakly. It ends up falling over itself and toppling down on top of the two girls. Philla is sent sliding along the shelf by one of the mantis's claws as both of its clamoring paws spread out to absorb the impact of hitting the shelf.
Chessy on the other hand is pinned to the shelf by the torso of the massive insect. Instinctively she pushes back against it, digging her glowing yellow fingers into its chest. The creature makes a sickening mewing sound as its whole front opens up. Chessy's eyes are glowing bright yellow to the point that they shine through her closed eyelids. The creature tries to scamper backwards to get away but its damaged leg flounders and cracks further.
Eventually the entire appendage snaps causing the mantis to fall forward again. Its leg is barely attached now, only hanging on by several strands clinging to the inside of shell. Chessy crosses her arms in front of her face as the whole creature covers her. The open wound in its chest practically swallows her. Culvin abandons Jyp and scampers to his feet, rushing over as fast as he can.
He trips and skids on his knees along the shelf and ends up smacking into the side of the mantis's face. One of its beady eyes focuses on him. It tries to move one of its claws to swipe at him but the limb is trapped under its own weight. Its pincers snap in front of him in a last ditch effort to bite or grab anything within range. It is no use though, the creature is immobile.
Culvin clamors over its trapped claw and fumbles his way to its chest. He grabs part of the cracked shell and tries to pry it apart in search of his sister. The moment he touches it, his hand starts to burn. The yellow blood is still absorbing existence from everything it encounters. He winces as he tries to power through the pain. He pulls chunk after chunk of the shell away but only more blood pours out.
Eventually it is too much. His hands have become raw as his skin has been absorbed off of them. He can no longer even grip the pieces of shell. Instead he just tries to punch the cracks and make them bigger. Suddenly, an explosion from inside the shell splatters his whole front with blood. He is knocked backwards off his feet and he bumps his head against the claw he climbed over.
When he opens his eyes again he is staring straight at Chessy and Khilm who are both stumbling through the new gapping hole in the mantis's chest. Chessy is completely covered in yellow blood while Khilm is soaked in what Culvin assumes is stomach juice. He can already feel the blood that sprayed him burning into his skin. Looking at Chessy's face, he can tell that she is in pain too.
After propping Khilm up next to Culvin, Chessy stumbles away from them both. She paces around the creature's trapped claw until she reaches the joint of it. She drops to her knees and crawls underneath it. Philla is surprised when she sees her pop up on the other side. She rushes over to help her but Chessy holds up her hand to keep her from touching the blood she is soaked in.
Wincing in pain, Chessy continues to stumble until she has found her way to the creature's face. Its pincers chatter when it notices her. It would like nothing more than to swallow her right now. It would do no good though. She would simply crawl out of the hole she already made. The beady eyes look like they are thinking. The mantis obviously wants to reset itself again. It does not have enough existence yet though. It needs to wait until both Chessy and Culvin have been completely absorbed by its blood.
Chessy smiles weakly, as if she knows exactly what its intentions are. She does not plan to let it have its way though. She presses both her palms to the creature's forehead, still wincing in pain. They are both raw and skinless by now. The creature tries to scoot backwards away from her but it is too heavy. It lets out a shrill squeak that dies out quickly as her yellow threads tear into its head and drill a hole directly in the center.
What little light is visible in its beady black eyes goes out. As soon as she is sure the spirit is dead Chessy collapses, dropping to her knees first and then falling backwards in a dead faint. Philla leaps to her feet and runs to catch her but stops just short of getting close to the massive insect. She is too afraid to approach it again.
Culvin and Khilm are still leaning against the creature's claw when the entire mantis's body vanishes into smoke. The boys both tumble backwards. Culvin is in too much pain to catch himself as he falls over. He hits the shelf hard and ends up splayed out on his back. He feels like he is about to pass out but a sudden numbing sensation starts to wash over him right before he does. The creature's blood has begun turning to smoke and wafting away as well.
After keeping his eyes clenched shut for a long time, Culvin finally manages to sit up. Looking down at his arms he can see that they are by no means in good shape but at least he is no longer covered in the toxic liquid that was slowly dissolving him. It takes him a lot of effort to clamor back to his feet. He wants nothing more than to rest but the knowledge that he does not have that luxury is keeping him going. Inside the void he is constantly being drained even when he is in perfect health, laying down probably means he will never stand back up.
The black smoke is hanging in the nonexistent air of the void but it is fading fast. Some of it wisps away into the darkness but some of it flows back into Culvin himself. It is what remains of the mantis's existence, including what it just stole from Culvin. It is searching for a new home before it is completely devoured by the hungry void. The blood rising up from Culvin's raw skin seems to callous over temporarily with the new influx of existence but that too quickly crumbles and flutters into the void which is still a constant drain on him and his whole party.
Looking around at everyone else he notices that they are not fairing much better. Isaac is shivering while rubbing his arms. The heavy sensation of absorbing one of his vines has left him feeling incredibly odd. Eventually he notices his friend staring. He is shocked that Culvin is even still standing considering how weak he was a moment ago when he was digging through the shell of the mantis. His hands are still raw, though their bleeding has slightly slowed.
Khilm is lying on his back a few feet away. His face looks rather peaceful considering the fact that he was just inside a monstrous spirit's stomach a moment ago. His hair is dark with sweat if not from some remaining stomach juice. He does not look like he will be standing up any time soon.
Philla crawls along the shelf until she is just in front of her sister. She is incredibly wary of touching her. She does not want to be burned by the yellow blood. She sighs with relief when it too starts to fade into smoke. Philla can see something sparkling underneath it. Chessy's crystallized existence has started to spread out to the rest of her body to protect her. Philla lowers her face to Chessy's and presses their foreheads together. Despite all of the fighting they do, she is still desperately relieved that Chessy is alive.
After realizing that the spirit is finally gone for good, the rest of the group comes running to help. Ash and Sasha both make a beeline for Isaac while Mr. Caster checks on his daughters. It is Mistel who comes to check on Culvin. She has no way of actually asking if he is alright but she places her hand on his shoulder to show her concern.
He is not paying attention though. He is staring off over her head at something barely visible in the distance. He can recognize it though. He is far too familiar with the void and the light that marks the exit. He has been on this trip enough times to know exactly what to look for. At the moment it is nothing but a barely visible splotch. When Culvin points at it, Mistel turns her head to look. She has no idea what it is but she can guess.
Isaac takes note of Culvin's pointing finger as well. He has not seen it as many times but he recognize it as well. It takes Ash and Sasha a moment to realize what he is looking at. Sasha covers her mouth to gasp in relief, amazement and joy. She is trying her best not to be too excited though as she still suspects that this might be a dream. It is impossible for her to keep her tears from streaming out though.
Ash has a much more solemn look. Rather than being skeptical of its validity, she is more concerned about whether their group will be able to make the necessary trek to it. They are in bad shape. No matter how prepared Jyp claimed to have been, even his Markot was not enough to deal with the spirit that had been fed everything of the gate and more in order to open a path.
Without any metal to manipulate and no ground for Isaac to grow roots from, it is incredibly lucky that Petrif does not rely on a particular element. Unfortunately it seems to have taken a toll on Chessy. Unlike Isaac's existence which replenishes itself, Chessy's existence is basically a limited amount of stone she absorbs out of her own bones every time she uses it. There is no way to tell how much she has just wasted destroying the mantis. The lasting effects could be detrimental.
Ash is surprised when she notices Culvin stumbling toward the light in the distance. No matter how injured he is, he can not afford to stop. Every second they spend in the void is more existence that are expending doing nothing. There is no resting. Their wounds are only getting worse.
Everyone else seems reluctant to follow Culvin at first but they know what he is thinking. Mr. Caster hoists Chessy up into his arms and jerks his head at Philla, silently instructing her to follow him. She bites her lip as she does. She is also incredibly tired but she knows she can not ask him to carry her as well. He may not be showing it as much but the void is draining him too.
When Isaac starts to walk after Culvin, Ash tries to assist him by offering her shoulder to him. He gives her a half smile while comparing their heights. She will definitely be of no use to him. Sasha realizes this and tries to take Ash's place at his side but he stops her and points at Jyp and Khilm who are still lying on the shelf completely motionless. Eldrie is standing above Jyp, looking down on him with a blank expression. She seems to be aware that he is weak but she has no idea how to help him.
Ash rushes over and grabs his hand. He struggles as she pulls him to his feet. Unlike Khilm he is not completely unconscious. Sasha gives Isaac a concerned like before trotting over to Khilm and grapping hold of one of his arms. He is too heavy for her to lift on her own though. Mistel takes his other arm and together they hoist him up between them. He is still unconscious though. As they walk his feet drag loosely along the invisible shelf.
Eldrie watches as Ash struggles to be of use to Jyp, who is almost as tall as she is and is probably heavier. Finally Eldrie ducks underneath one of his arms and stands up so that it is draped over her shoulder. Her expression is still blank but she seems to be proud of herself somehow. Jyp manages to turn his head and look at her in confusion. Despite being completely hollow, she is still able to recognize him and show that she cares. He would be happy if he were not so surprised.
As Culvin walks he starts to stumble more and more. His existence is fading and he is struggling just to keep moving. His vision blurs but he maintains his focus on the light steadily growing brighter in front of him. He can not actually tell if it is getting closer or if he is just squinting at it so much that it is becoming more blinding.
Normally, once he has spotted the other side of the void, he just has to keep walking toward it, whether it takes minutes or days. One time, when he was completely alone in the void, it felt like it took him over a week. He was following Evelon's lead at the time and he was sure she was trying to get him lost on purpose.
Due to his exhaustion, Culvin feels like it is taking even longer than ever before. However, he is practically walking in a trance. Every time he looks up, the light is closer still. He wants to shout that they should have reached it by now. Isaac eventually has to take the lead. He even extends a single vine between his wrist and Culvin's just so they will not become separated.
Eventually he is able to muster enough existence to grow it between the rest of the group as well. Slowly each of them wraps it around one of their wrists before passing it on. It is more of a mark of their perseverance than a necessity. Coming to the other world was supposed to save them from an unstoppable war. It will all have been for naught if they do not even survive the journey.
While staring straight at the light, Isaac's eyes become tired. He starts to close them for long periods of time. Each time he opens them the light is closer. Finally he is brought back to his senses when he practically falls forward through the hole he thought was a lot further away. Upon stepping out of the void and into the light, his boots hit the familiar cold crunch of snow. He is not expecting it though and ends up tumbling forward.
His vine pulls on Culvin's wrist, causing him to stumble through the hole as well. He gasps as soon as the ability to breathe returns to him. Immediately his lungs are assaulted by the sharpness of the thin cold air. He starts to cough and wretch and he struggles to spit out the air he so desperately wants to suck in. Never has coming out of the void been this painful for him. He ends up turning and vomiting into the snow. He nearly drops to his knees but Isaac manages to stand back up and hold him up by their linked wrists.
Behind them Mr. Caster has just stepped through the hole as well. He looks a lot better off than either of them. He blinks at the brightness of the white snow that is reflecting the sun. His eyes are still dilated from the darkness of the void. "What is this stuff?" he asks in a gruff tone while crunching the snow underfoot. He is not used to talking. After all it has been a long time since he even bothered to try.
"It's like white sand but finer. It sticks together oddly and… and it's so cold. He breathes out just to watch as the moisture turns to vapor in the air. Neither Culvin nor Isaac has the energy to answer him. He does not seem to expect them to anyway.
His interest in the new world only barely outweighs his own exhaustion. He is barely clutching Chessy to his side with one arm and is still gripping Philla's hand with his other one. His knuckles have turned white and she looks like she is in pain. She closes her eyes rather than trying to even look at the snow. They start to water as the bright light and the dry air stings them.
Unable to hold him any longer, Mistel and Sasha drop Khilm into the snow the moment they step through the hole. Mistel struggles to keep her eyes open while Sasha turns away from the sun intentionally. "Oh my god," Mistel gasps while staring over the tops of the trees of the park they are standing in the middle of. She is looking straight at the skyline of Edgeburn Heights. It is even more spectacular than the massive line of adobe buildings that makes up the sky rises of the citadel. They are bigger, taller and shiner, made of glass and metal. "What the hell have we been living for all this time?" she can not help but cry as a sense of worthlessness washes over her.
Mr. Caster looks up at what his wife sees and adopts a solemn expression. To him, even setting foot inside the citadel was a dream he could never realize. To be in the middle of a city this much more spectacular is beyond comprehension. He finally lets go of Philla's hand as he walks toward the edge of the park, stumbling in the snow but somehow managing not to fall over without looking down at his feet at all. He can not take his eyes off of the buildings that seem to exist simply to mock his entire life in the curtain world.
"If the great spirit were to find it just to strike me down where I stand, I would not blame it. I have gazed upon a sight I should not be allowed to even fathom in my imagination. The punishment for such unworthiness can only be one thing. Please find it in you ever growing heart to spare my unjust soul."
Culvin looks like he wants to complain about his father's bleak spiel but he is too exhausted. He glances back at the void with an expectant expression. He is waiting for the last of their party to make it through. To his surprise Jyp shuffles out a moment later, barely supported by Eldrie on one side and with Andrew on the other. Ash is nowhere to be seen. His eyes are glowing bright yellow and he has a stoic expression.
"Oh no," Mistel gasps as she rushes over to him. "Jyp, can you hear me? Are you in there?" She waves her hand in front of his face. He stares back at her without speaking. He can understand her but he does not care. He is not in control, Markot is.
Finally, after a long moment of silence, he responds. "You have neglected this body," he spouts in an echoing tone. "You are no longer fit to look after it." He turns his stapled arm toward Mistel so that she can examine it. Andrew sidesteps nervously but Eldrie remains stock still. She can not comprehend what is happening.
"You can't have him," Mistel scolds Markot. "He's just a boy."
"He's reckless. He has no regard for his own life. Trust me, he's better off this way."
"Of all the times this could happen," Mistel groans. "We're just about to start a new life too. Look at this place." She spreads her arms to present what little of Edgeburn Heights they can see. "One look at this place and I can completely understand why Isaac destroyed the gate. If I were him, I'd never want to go back either."
Culvin's eyes bolt open as he turns to look at Isaac. He is positively furious. He opens his mouth to shout but no words come out of his sore throat. In fact, he ends up throwing up again instead. Isaac stares down at him sternly, refusing to apologize. Culvin lunges up at him and grabs the front of his shirt. Isaac does not try to fight back and he shakes him. He is too weak to keep it up and ends up collapsing to his knees shortly after.
"So you've decided to give up your reckless life, young one?" Markot speaks to his host out loud. "Far too late though. Now it's my turn to prove what it means to live. The first step to protecting anything is to protect yourself. There is no entity more important. How can you even enjoy the company of others if you yourself are not around to do so?" He is looking straight at Eldrie as he speaks. She cocks her head in confusion though.
Mistel suddenly punches him on the face as hard as she can, which is not very much at all. Jyp's face still turns from the impact. Culvin and Isaac watch as something sails out of his mouth in the wake of the impact. It is a bright yellow stone, square in shape. Jyp collapses immediately afterward.
Mistel scurries over to the spot where the stone fell and retrieves it. Everyone watches as she stuffs it into her waist pouch greedily. "Who knows when I will have the chance to encounter more spirits or stones in this world," she defends her actions. "I still have a lot of research to do if we are going to even survive here." Everyone seems to agree with her.
Culvin takes his eyes off of his mother to look at Isaac again. He is still staring at the void with a confused expression. So far only one person has not come through. There is no telling how long the connection to the void will last. As far as they know, time does not actually pass while inside or they would all suffocate from a lack of air. However, that does not mean the void stays open until everyone is through. The connection can still break.
Inside the void, Ash is staring at the arch shaped hole where Jyp, Eldrie and Andrew disappeared a moment ago. She is trying to muster the effort to walk through as well but it is extremely difficult. Eventually she turns around and stares into the black emptiness that is the void while walking backwards. Something warm on her face causes her to touch her cheek. She does not know why but she is crying.
She can probably guess the reason but she does not think it is one simple thing. She still misses Anara. She almost got back to her world once before but made the choice to stay behind to save one person, the one person that is not with her now. Even Sasha and Eldrie are somehow safe and sound but even if she considers Louina the same person as Anara, she is not here. Louina is going to be the queen of Rindhall; she will never return to the other world.
Andre also chose to stay behind. Ash can not even decide if she hates or loves him. It has been a year since they had a proper conversation. It would be impossible for things to go back to normal but now she will never get the chance. In the end it took Louina to make him act. Ash was never the girl he wanted.
Finally, Ash is leaving behind the closest thing she has had to parents in the past year. Griffon and Bailiff's motives for taking care of her were clear but that did not make it any less meaningful. They fully intended to keep her as their own. She may have been possessed when she turned her back on Griffon but she still feels guilty about it.
She assumed Griffon would be one of the pursuers coming to get her alongside Isaac. The fact that he was not there means he was either too upset with her to come or he was killed somewhere along the way. She really hopes that the answer is the first option. She is too afraid to ask Isaac which it is. If it is the second option, then she definitely does not want to know. She probably could not live with herself if that were the case.
Finally, she steps through the arch shaped hole, still facing backwards. She wipes her eyes repeatedly until her cheeks are red. When she turns around to face Isaac he gives her a concerned look. She bites her lip in preparation for him to ask what is wrong. He senses her apprehension and does not ask. She sighs with relief before marching up to him and hugging him without a word.
Sasha jolts in surprise before clopping through the snow to grab one of Isaac's arms. She feels the need to assert her claim to him as well at the moment. Ash turns an angry glare to her, trying to ward her off. When she does not take the hint, Ash lets go of Isaac and shoves Sasha. "Hey!" Sasha tries to push her back but Ash shuffles Isaac along to get out of her reach.
Sasha glares in annoyance before suddenly bursting out in laughter. "I never thought I'd miss being able to talk so much," she spouts hoarsely while rubbing the outside of her throat.
"You must not be used to keeping your mouth shut," Ash insults her. Sasha is just about to make a rebuttal when Mistel cuts her off.
"So, what do we do from here?" Mistel decides to bring to attention the fact that they are standing in the middle of a snow filled park. Now that Mr. Caster has released her hand, Philla is staring at the white fluff, of which she has never seen before, with a half scared have excited expression. She grabs her sister's shoulder and shakes her but Chessy will not wake up.
"We need to go somewhere," Isaac answers Mistel's question with a serious expression. "It's cold out here and we're all in bad shape. At the very least we need someplace where you can take a look at all of us," he refers to Mistel's experience in medicine.
"Where? It's quite possible that nobody knows who we are," Culvin reminds him while gulping to keep from throwing up again.
"What do you mean?" Sasha asks. "Why would we be forgotten?"
"You're a perfect example," Isaac informs her. "When we went back to get Emi after you were left in the void on your birthday, your parents had forgotten everything about you. They locked your room and avoided the topic of having a kid at all."
"What?" Sasha is shocked. "That's… I wish I could say that's horrible but… I really don't know if it's better this way. Maybe I can start fresh with them."
"Maybe I can do something," Mistel interjects. "I've been researching that purple crystal necklace you gave me," she speaks directly to her son. "It seems to be an amassing of existence with certain memories enclosed within. I believe that when worn by a person whom the memories relate to, they are unable to forget things. It's like a protection charm for one's mind."
"Wait, that explains so much." Isaac's eyes widen. "My mom used to forget me all the time. She only stopped after she started wearing that purple crystal. Was that why Rasik gave it to her?"
"Why would Rasik give this to your mother?" Mistel furrows her brow at him.
"Well, they were… together," he admits nervously.
"Really now." Mistel is now vibrating with anger.
"Now's not the time, dear." Her husband pats her shoulder. "Besides, you said he was already dead."
"Is he?" Isaac is perplexed. Despite assuming that his father was long gone, he never did get to see the notes that ended abruptly or hear the words from Ian's mouth. Culvin has neglected to do him the courtesy of letting him know of his father's fate either. Mistel glares at Culvin until he nods at his friend. "Oh well." Isaac shrugs uninterestedly.
Ash grips his hand tightly though. Despite how much he seems to have hated his father and been indifferent to his fate, she knows he can not be perfectly alright hearing this. Somewhere deep down he is hurting.
"Well, back to more immediate matters, we need a place to stay while I work on duplicating these crystals," Mistel tries to shuffle past the gloomy part of their conversation. "If this was your mother's way of remembering you, we can assume she will not be able to anymore. We need somewhere else. Even if it's not permanent, we just can't stay here while I look at all of you. Honestly, I might not have come had I known it was such a perilous journey."
"I think I know someone who will help us." Isaac's expression changes from gloom to confidence. He is nodding to himself as he thinks about it and the more he does the more he likes the idea. "Yeah, I definitely think he'll at least put us up for a spell."
"Who?" Culvin is curious.
"I don't know how much he has forgotten but he's been asking if there is anything he can do for us for a long time now. Even if he does not recall, I have a feeling he will believe us if we tell him everything."
"Are you seriously talking about the person I think you are?" Culvin's eyes widen when he realizes what Isaac has in mind. Isaac does not answer.
"What is it? You do know it's the weekend, don't you?" Mr. Plasic shouts at his door in response to the bell chiming in the middle of the afternoon. When it rings again, he groans while dragging himself out of his reclining chair. He purposefully elongates the time it takes him to reach the door. If whoever it is really needs him then they can afford to wait a moment.
Mr. Plasic stares straight at Isaac with a perplexed expression for a moment after opening the door. With a shrug he starts to close it again without even acknowledging his visitor. "Hey, wait." Isaac sticks his foot in the door.
"What the hell do you want? For that matter, who the hell are you?" Mr. Plasic sputters.
"Wow, I was really hoping you'd be a little unique," Isaac sighs while shaking his head in mock disappointment.
"Don't look at me like that!" Mr. Plasic snaps at him. "You're a student from Chester, right? Which one are you?"
"We're the two that are always late in the morning," Culvin pushes Isaac aside so he can occupy the doorway as well.
"Caster, Spiller?" Mr. Plasic snaps his fingers. "Why do I know your names? No wait, why did I forget? Oh no, my head's starting to hurt again. What did you two do this time?" He stares over their heads at the rest of their group.
"Hello, Mr. Plasic." Andrew waves to him meekly.
"Sorry, don't know this one." He shrugs.
"And me?" Ash has to hop up and down just to be even slightly visible behind Isaac and Culvin.
"You're familiar," he admits.
"She's the second period librarian," Isaac informs him.
Mr. Plasic suddenly grabs Isaac by the shoulders and shakes him violently. "Okay, I think I know what this is about. You lied to me last time. You said there was no librarian second period. What have you gotten yourself into?"
"Ahem." Mistel pushes her son off of the doorstep so she can speak with Mr. Plasic. "You're my son's physical health instructor?" She holds out her hand to him.
"Caster, I thought you were an exchange student from another country." Mr. Plasic glares at Culvin while cautiously shaking Mrs. Caster's hand.
"Pleased to meet you." She beams at him sweetly. "I'm afraid we're in quite the situation here. I'm not sure how much you can comprehend but I'll assume you understand the direness of our issue."
Mr. Plasic examines the wounds on Culvin and Isaac before responding. "I should probably call you an ambulance." He pulls his cell phone out of his pocket.
"Wait, they won't help us," Isaac warns him.
"That's their job. It's certainly more their job than it is mine," he grumbles.
"You know why they won't." Isaac's expression shows exactly how much he hates having to pressure Mr. Plasic into helping them.
Mr. Plasic glances over Isaac's exposed arm and takes note of its skinless redness. "This is about the missing memories, isn't it?" he asks in annoyance. "I'm sorry, but I'm a fitness instructor, not a doctor."
"I can tend to them, I just need a place to work and… lay low," Mistel pauses as if she finds the term distasteful.
"What exactly are y'all hiding from?" Mr. Plasic crosses his arms. "Depending on your answer, I just might let you in. Just so you know, I'm going to end up forgetting about this as well."
"I'd like you to be my test subject," Mistel suddenly spouts bluntly. Her voice has an innocent ring to it that makes it seem like she does not understand what she has just requested of him.
"Ha." He starts to shut the door again.
This time Mistel is the one to block it with her hand. "I'm experimenting with ways to restore one's memories," she explains in a rushed voice. "Spiller here suggested that you have an easier time recalling things that others push out of their minds. I want to test why and how and then I want to see if I can bring your memories back permanently. I'm sure you understand the scientific obligation you have to assist me."
"Why do you scientists always put it that way," Mr. Plasic grumbles. "If I thought you really had a chance to restore my memory, I'd let you do it without hesitation. I don't like forgetting anything, even something as worthless as Spiller. Why do you scientists always act like you have some kind of higher calling."
"Because science is nothing but trial and error. I can not promise you results only answers. I might only be able to tell you the exact reason why you will never regain your memories. I don't want to promise what I don't have. All I can promise is that as a scientist I will not rest until I have a satisfactory answer."
"I get it," he sighs. "You're promising me that you will actually try. Unlike a kid that will fake test results for their parents' approval, you are morally obligated to actually tell me the truth and not lie and pretend just to make me smile. Understood. Come on in… all of you." He has only just noticed how many of them there are.
"Can we really all stay here?" Sasha is concerned.
"Not, actually," Mr. Plasic admits. "I just don't have the space for… five, six, seven, eight… wow, there are twelve of you," Mr. Plasic takes the time to count them all. "We're going to have to find you guys somewhere else to stay." He soon notices that Chessy and Khilm are unconscious and adopts a worried expression. "For the moment at least, lay them down in the living room. I suppose it will be impossible to move them for a while."
"I wonder if we can go to my place after all," Isaac ponders out loud. "Mom does not come home from work often. It all depends on if Emi is home or not and if she'll remember me. She's never had any trouble before. Though there was that one time she forgot you." Isaac gestures to Culvin. "Why don't I head over there and check?"
"You're not going anywhere," Mistel scolds him. "You like pretending you're so strong because of Lishes but you're actually in the most danger of fading away. If Lishes is not fed properly, he'll go beserk."
"I don't think you have to worry about that at the moment." Culvin gestures outside to the front yard where several stocks of grass have begun sprouting up from the snow which has started to melt suddenly.
"It's summer," Isaac whispers ominously.
"The train conductor said it was still January for another week," Sasha argues.
"Oh my, I did not realize that Lishes would have that sort of effect on this world as well," Mistel is extremely concerned. "I'll have to begin research on that as well as soon as possible. Mr. Plasic, I'm going to need quite a few chemicals if they are available in your world. I'm sorry but I am not familiar with your currency system yet. I will do my best to reimburse you later but for now, I'd like some paper so I can compile a list. I wish I'd had more time to grab supplies when I left the sanctuary. I barely had the chance to grab Rasik's notes."
Mr. Plasic adopts an annoyed expression as he starts to comprehend the mess he has just invited into his home. "Um, if Isaac can't go, then perhaps I should check on Emi." Sasha raises her hand. "It certainly seems like I was not as affected as the rest of you."
"Ash, you go with her, just in case," Culvin orders her while whipping out Isaac's phone. He has been holding onto it for a while, ever since Emi gave it to him. He hands it to Mr. Plasic so that he can enter his phone number. Both Sasha and Ash leave shortly afterward. Ash is slightly more tired than Sasha but she has no intentions of being less useful.
Mr. Caster and Andre carry Chessy into the living room while Mistel and Isaac carry Khilm. She kneels down in front of him and starts to check him over immediately afterward. Mr. Plasic is confused when she takes a stone from her waist pouch and begins passing it over him. He swears he can see it glowing but he quickly blinks away the idea. He is not ready to be drawn that much into the impossibilities that have begun to occur around him.
As soon as Mistel is sure that Khilm is stable, she starts to complie her list of ingredients for Mr. Plasic to buy. Culvin and Isaac each sink down into separate chairs as their exhaustion finally gets the better of them. It is not long before Culvin has passed out. Isaac remains awake though. He is too on edge to sleep.
Eldrie and Jyp sit down in a corner and wait patiently for it to be their turn to be looked at my Mistel. Mr. Caster simply sits next to Chessy and strokes her hair. He has no idea how he can assist anyone at the moment. Even Andrew has begun to help Mistel with what little medical knowledge he has gained.
Although he would desperately like to be of use, Mr. Caster knows better than to get in his wife's way. This is nothing new to him. Ever since Culvin became practically self sufficient after meeting Barburo over six years ago, Mr. Caster has found himself less and less of a relevant part in his family's life.
Now more than ever he is feeling the scorn of being unwanted and unneeded. He knows better than to do anything about it though. His one redeeming quality is being able to identify his uselessness. He knows he would only hinder his wife. The best he can do is watch and wallow in self pity as the fate of everyone he cares about remains in the balance.
His only solace is that now everyone else has become just as useless as him. The fighting is over. Now the only person who can make a difference is Mistel. Hopefully she can solve all three of their problems. It is a lot of weight to place on her shoulders but there is no one else they can rely on.