it all started when I was on holidays in a wooden house somewhere lost in the mountains. The weather was not too hot and the vegetation blossomed all around the area. It would have been the perfect place to relax and meditate all day, diving deeper into one's consciousness and linking with nature. The perfect occasion to forget about other human beings for weeks… However, I was not alone.
This journey had been planned many years ago, but circumstances of life had made it so that only this year I was free from any duties and could finally enjoy summer. I always liked mountains; the trees, the cool weather and the wild fauna were what appealed me the most. On the other hand, living in a small house made of wood was my dream ever since watching the animated move "Heidi". Sheep and a Saint Bernard dog were just an optional luxury I did not need though.
I finished working in early June and started packing soon afterward. The train was booked, the location had been picked and everything seemed to be going amazingly. At least until my mum, an anxious old woman with too many years to travel with me decided I could not go unless I found another person to bring with me. Had it not been for her weak heart I would have fought that decision and left the next day anyway. Yet, since dad passed away, her health has steadily been growing worse and I did not want to cause her more pain. Not that I gave up on my vacation, indeed I quickly checked out which houses offered the chance to have a housemate and moved my booking to one of those which already had one occupant.
Having soothed my mum's worries I left her to the care of my younger sister and embarked on my journey on a sunny day with nothing but the essentials. Travelling by train took longer than taking a plane, but I quite like being in moving carriages while listening to music or writing. I find it helps my mind unwind and relax, letting my thoughts flow freely. After one full day of travel, I arrived at my destination and effortlessly settled in without any trouble. Luckily, my housemate appeared to be a calm and affable person.
We both shared the same tastes in music, food and novels. In the first few days I spent there, we talked a lot and cooked together several times; we also went hiking into the woods and shopping at stores in the nearby village. To me, it felt as if we had known each other for a very long time and thinking back on it now I suppose she also felt the same way. It all seemed perfect, except the occasional times when she would glance at me with an expression I could not decipher. Unable to interpret her looks, I was left uneasy about them and more than once I considered asking her about it.
However, I soon decided to drop the subject. It was partially because I was not sure if I wanted to investigate the matter further and on the other hand, she seemed to avoid the topic whenever I tried to bring it up. I assumed it was just a habit of hers to intensely observe people around her and that it made her feel embarrassed to be questioned about it. As it turned out to be, it was the wrong assumption but at the time, I did not know.
A few days after I arrived, while we were in the kitchen cooking, she had casually revealed to me that she had booked a house for two because it was larger. However, she had hoped that no one else would pick that house since she did not feel comfortable around people and preferred being alone.
'Oh, I am sorry,' I had apologised, even though I knew I had done nothing wrong.
'No, no. Don't worry about it,' she had replied with her strong northern accent waving her small hands in front of her. 'I like your company. I was just talking in general'. She had looked away, her eyes fixing on the carrot she had been peeling until a moment earlier.
Sensing her uneasiness, I had added, 'I can actually relate to what you just said. My mum forced me to live in a place with someone else, but I originally had planned to stay alone as well. Taking some time off work and being on my own seemed to be the best idea, but I don't regret ending up in the same house as you'. I had smiled, hoping that would make her feel better.
Then, her inscrutable look had briefly appeared on her face again, if only for a mere second, before being wiped away by a sincere smile. My stomach had clenched at the sight, a familiar feeling of curiosity mixed with something else I could not put my finger on. I had turned to stir the chicken which was frying in a pan in front of me, but then the words had slipped past my lips before I could stop them, 'You know, sometimes…I get the feeling there's something you're hiding from me'. I had briefly interrupted my speech to glance at her. 'You're always-'
Suddenly she had jumped to hug me, her knife dangerously close to my throat. 'The chicken is gonna burn,' she had said turning the flame down and taking the wooden spoon I was using from my hand to complete my task.
Stunned by her sudden closeness, I had not replied to her. Instead, my brain had appeared too busy analysing her scent and storing it into my brain as a pleasurable memory.
That is how she avoided the topic and before long, I gave up. As I finished recalling the experience, I looked outside of the window with my legs hanging loosely from the windowsill upon which I had sat myself. It was raining and I found the sound of water droplets splashing onto the grass relaxing. Layla entered the room, stared at me for a few seconds and then went to sit on the bed with her legs crossed. Aware of her stare, I did not turn; Time flowed slowly as I pondered ways to start a conversation. Surprisingly she was the one to talk first.
'It's raining so much one would think the heavens are set against us going out to explore the forest'. It was a casual statement; nevertheless, as I turned to look at her I noticed a veiled sadness into her eyes as if it hurt her to think that she was unable to leave the house.
'It might stop soon,' I hypothesised wrapping my arms around my legs.
She nodded and said nothing more on the matter. Instead, her onyx eyes focused on my neckline and I felt my heart speed up. 'Is something wrong?' I asked her.
'I thought you might like some hot milk with chocolate,' she said getting up and coming closer.
Surprised, I took a moment to reply, 'I would really appreciate something warm right now, thank you'. I glanced at the rain as if to imply that cold weather stirred a longing for warm food in me.
'I knew…' she whispered, her fingers playing with my hair. Her gaze became unfocused and she seemed lost in thought. 'I'll go make some then'. She finally moved away and walked off to the kitchen. I looked at her as she left the room and then turned back to stare at the rain, my mind was feeling fuzzy.
A crashing sound coming from the other side of the house attacked my attention. I jumped up and, worried about Layla, I ran to the kitchen where she was supposed to be. While I walked through the house, successive loud noises hinting to a fight could be heard coming from the direction I was headed into. I could not see her anywhere, the table and chairs had been upturned, several plates were broken into pieces onto the floor and there was a circular hole through the wall from which rain was entering the house.
Lightning illuminated my face as I launched myself forward and frantically searched for Layla outside, yelling her name now and then. Had it be some wild beast who had made it into the house? Maybe a hungry bear? Or was it an attack by humans? I wondered. But then if it had been a human to breach into the wall, he would have needed some sort of heavy weapon…who would go to such lengths to just enter a holiday cottage in a lost mountain? To kidnap a young woman nonetheless…
There were too many things I did not know, too many variables…
A scream reached my ears and as I got closer to its source, I saw a flashing red light and then silence fell. I carefully approached the area under a tree where the beam had come from, the rain was less strong there and I could see better. Layla was laying onto the fallen leaves, her chest raising and falling at abnormal speed. Getting closer I smelled blood and soon noticed a deep cut into her side.
'Layla!' I screamed, throwing away all of my precautions. In the blink of an eye, I was at her side. Examining the wound I added, 'We need to take you to a hospital right away. I don't know how to treat such injuries'. Inside of me, I was hoping she would not die of blood loss, but I did not say that out loud.
'I-it's fine'. She gasped. 'I just need some rest and dry clothes'. She tried moving but I firmly pressed her shoulders onto the ground.
'How can you say "It's fine"?' I said a bit louder than I had intended to. 'Look at how much blood you've already lost and it's not stopping. I'm calling an emergency ambulance right now. I won't let you die on me, you hear?'
Her eyes widened and she did not say anything as I picked up my phone and started dialling the number. 'Reina'.
Looking up from the screen, I met her gaze. 'Yes?'
'The blood is already stopping and not all of it is mine'. I looked at where her hand was tracing the edges of her wound and noticed it was looking much better now, only a few second later. Raising my eyes, I saw another figure laying onto the ground a few feet away. It was too dark too see clearly, but it looked like a man.
'Is he dead?' I asked in a whisper.
She nodded, her eyes carefully scanning my face. 'We should go inside,' I grimly said, ignoring her look. 'But I am not letting you walk'. That said, I picked her up with some effort and then walked to the house.
I repaired the wall by using some spare wooden planks I had found a week earlier and started cleaning the kitchen while Layla rested onto the bed. We had both gotten changed and our muddy, bloody clothes awaited to be washed. I just hoped I would not catch a cold after all this.
She did not made any attempt at enlightening me on the situation and I did not ask either. I was too busy fixing the house and cooking dinner. However, once we finished eating she unexpectedly said, 'I suppose I owe you an explanation of some sort'.
I looked up from my plate and simply waited for her to continue. 'I…I have been the target of assaults like the one which happened earlier for all of my life'. That was more like stating a fact than giving an explanation for it, but I nodded and encouraged her to continue. 'If you were anyone else, I wouldn't even bother telling you this, as it will sound like madness to your ears. However, I trust you to believe me'. She took in a deep breath and then straightening her arms she said, 'I am not from this world'.
Sure thing, armed men who tore down a wall to raid the house of two defenceless women were not a common event. Yet, I would have expected her to confess she was the heir of some noble family more than claiming to be an alien descendant. However, all I said was, 'Oh'.
Casting her eyes down, she revealed, 'I am actually the only living heir to an important line of priestesses which was thought to have disappeared long ago. For centuries, we have battled with demons and other supernatural powers, we grew in number and had warriors and healers come to our place. However, some humans hunted members of ours sect as witches and heretics due to our abilities. I think you must have noticed already…' She gestured towards her healed side.
My eyes widened a bit, but I kept my mouth shut. She had been right about this sounding utterly ridiculous, but it made sense. At least to my ears. 'Do you…' I looked at her face as she spoke, 'Do you not have any doubts about this?'
'Oh, I surely do,' I said lying my back against my chair. 'For instance, who was the man who attacked you? Was he alone? Do you expect another one to come? And why am I trapped in all of this?'
'The threads of our fates have been entangled together for a much longer Time than your own mortal life,' she replied. 'As for the attacker…I do not know if he was alone, but I suspect there will be others. I have no idea how their organization found out about me, but they have been chasing me for a while'.
'Are you implying to be immortal with that statement?'
'I am of mortal flesh, just as you are. But my spirit will never die and endlessly reincarnate generation after generation, once my Time in an era is ended'.
'What if your Time is cut short then?'
'I will suffer a violent death and be reborn either as a murderous or vengeful spirit, or I could end up in a limbo for a few centuries'. Her eyes assumed a darker colour as she said so. For a moment, my heart stopped at the sight in front of me.
'Are you talking from personal experience?' I dared ask, knowing full well I was walking on shaky grounds.
'You should know,' was all her reply.
'Ah'. I assumed the answer was yes, judging by her sombre tone. 'Anyway, I understand that you trusted me to believe you after what I witnessed, even though it was a bit of a gamble. However, why did you endanger me in the first place? There was no reason for me to know all of this if you had not been so careless. Pardon me if I sound rude, but don't you know better than wandering off on your own with such dangerous people after your life? What about your warriors or whatever they are? Can't they protect you?'
'They can'. Again, her puzzling gaze was set on me. 'But just like me they aren't entities of this world anymore. Most of them were wiped out and the few spirits that remain are too weak even to materialise. All I can do I is go look for the only human who was the first to trust me, as they will have enough power to be in a body made of flesh at least'.
'Still, it was reckless of you to drag me, a powerless human, into this battle of gods and monsters, if what you said it's true. How do you even know I won't sell you to the enemy for my sake? Or abandon you right now?' I was angry, because it was her fault if now I was in danger as well and honestly leaving did seem like the wisest course of action.
'I know you won't betray me'. The firm tone and that ancient look sent shivers down my spine, as if an order had been spoken to me and my body was reacting to it.
'You won't know for sure. All humans are cowards who will prioritise their safety above others'.
'Not all of them. You are free to walk out of this house and not turn back, though. Not that your presence here would change anything,' she said with a condescending look.
I felt something sting my heart at her words. 'Fine,' I said getting up. 'I'll go wash the plates, you should rest a bit more'.
'You shouldn't treat me like an average human being,' she said, her eyes glowing with a hint of a red light.
'Oh, so now you're openly showing me your nature then. Are you suggesting you could take care of house chores for the rest of the day?' I would have been more than happy to jump into bed and rest after all that had happened. Especially with the knowledge that we were expecting visitors at any point.
'I could take half of the share, if you really want me to,' she grinned and I noticed her white, extremely sharp teeth.
'Why, thank you, for stepping as low as to help a human. Is there any appropriate term I should use to address you, Your Highness?' I asked sarcastically, still hurting about her earlier comment. Something in the pit if my stomach was burning and I told myself it probably was my hurt pride.
She frowned and for a moment I thought I had stepped too far. 'My name is just fine, Reina. I thought that's what you'd use with friends'.
I wouldn't call a stranger I met just a few weeks ago a "friend", even though we spent a great time together. Yet, there's this feeling... 'Ok then, Layla'.
After we finished cleaning the table, however, my initial anger had somewhat calmed down. Sitting on the couch next to her I asked, 'I know that you have powers that go beyond my understanding, but can I still have a look at you wound to make sure it's actually healed and you're not lying to me?' I could hear my heart pounding into my ears as she calmly considered my request.
'Mmm, if you wanted to see me naked you could have just asked to bathe together earlier, you know?' she said with a sly smile.
My face turned red like a tomato. 'I did not mean….you don't need to remove all of your clothes,' I replied panicking.
'Yeah, yeah'. She moved as if she was going to take her shirt off, but I stopped her.
'Here, lie down on the sofa for a bit'. She followed my instructions without questioning me, but her eyes showed a curious expression.
'I can just raise up part of your shirt so that I can look at where the wound was,' I explained exposing her lower belly and looking for traces of blood or half-healed cuts. I found nothing, only the ghost of a scar on her hip, but mostly the skin had already fully regenerated. I traced the edge of the darkened area and a small frown appeared on her face, 'That will soon disappear'.
I looked at her face, my hand still resting on her hip. 'Do you dislike war trophies so much?' I enquired with a puzzled look.
She pursed her lips together and shook her head, 'What trophy? It's just a scar a dying man left on me and it will soon be gone'. She got up and pulled her shirt down again.
'Will his memory be gone as well?' I asked.
'Never. As much as I need it for my survival, I dislike killing'.
I nodded; again, a cold feeling down my spine caused me to shiver a bit. She was powerful and I had even had the guts to try and start an argument with her earlier. I wondered why she was trying to get close to me if she could have handled that man alone just fine, or almost.
'Speaking of which, did you use magic there? I remember seeing a light flare up and then nothing else'.
'I assume your kind would call it magic, but all I did was materialise my internal energy to hit him'.
'Wow, is that something I can learn?' My eyes lighted up with excitement.
She rose an eyebrow, questioning my sanity probably. 'Why would you want to? It's a technique which greatly weakens me now that I have this young human body with little energy stored in it. If I had had a weapon of any sort I would have used that instead, and probably got close to no damage'.
'Oh so he hit you after you had already taken him out basically?'
'His blade reached me when he was falling as he had already initiated the strike a few seconds before my attack took place. I should have dodged better,' she said looking at her hands.
'Still, it's a pretty cool technique, if you had the right means to use it. Why is that you are running low on energy?' I asked.
'I haven't had the time to store enough recently as I have been on the move for so long'.
'I see…,' I said stroking my chin and asked, 'How exactly do you do it?'
'Mainly it's meditation and then…other ways which aren't really available at the moment; like having followers for example'. She waved her hand around, implying there was more but she did not want to discuss about it.
'Oh, so if I became your follower and prayed to you, you'd get more power?' I said in a joking manner.
'Yup,' she confirmed.
'I thought praying was your job as a Priestess'.
'I may be a Priestess, but my role is to operate miracles, not to pray for them'.
'Ah. Your task sounds awesome, I'll give you that. However, it seems that your powers are limited right now, and you have no followers nor warriors. Aren't you worried you'll die?' Somewhere inside my head, I felt something click in response to my own question. I did not want Layla to disappear, even though I did not know why she felt important to me.
'Of course I am, otherwise I wouldn't be trying to recruit you as a follower,' she said.
'Ah. Finally, you show your true colours, I knew there was something strange to you being so kind to me since we met…' I pointed my finger at her. 'You were brainwashing me into a fanatic worshipper!'
Not one bit fazed by my accusation she moved my finger to the side and leaned closer to me, so that our faces where a mere inch apart. 'It was you who tricked me into worshipping you, I believe'.
'What?!' I fell backwards onto the soft pillows and looked at her from below, my face heating up again.
'That sounded like the perfect reply to your ungrounded claims,' she nonchalantly said tugging a loose strand of her hair behind her ear. That simple gesture caused my mouth to water, and in order to avoid her eyes, I inadvertently looked down. Unluckily, my gaze fell on her slightly parted lips and I stopped breathing worried she might notice the hotness of my breaths. She can probably smell my thoughts from my body scent, though, if she really has superpowers.
'There's no need to be so flustered'. Her hands were each at one of my sides, trapping me below her as she lowered her head. 'Human bodies' reactio…'
'Don't be silly, I have no interest in you,' I cut her off. 'Not the kind of interest you're implying at least'. I sustained her look and, although she did not show it, my words had hurt her; I could sense it. However, it was a natural thing to say in my situation, even though I knew it was not entirely true. I was affected by her actions and in a way that I did not want to admit even to myself.
'A pity, for you to be chained by your own prejudices,' she commented retreating on her side of the couch.
'It can't be helped, I am human after all,' I reminded her pulling myself up as well. 'Besides, I thought you were joking…?'
She glanced at me. 'Of course, you wouldn't expect a transcendental being such as me to be so easily captivated by a human like you, with no sense of styling nor proper manners'.
'Ouch. That hurts you know'.
'Mm,' she mused.
'Yeah fine, I am sorry for what I said. I did not mean to offend Your Eminence Greatest-Priestess-of-Jokes. Wanna watch something?' I added to light up the air.
'Sure, why not?' she said, her eyes glittering. 'But I pick'.
'Fine, fine. But I get to reject your choice twice at least,' I said as a precaution.
While the music of a trendy anime played in the background my hand went to stroke her hair. Not too long after we had started watching TV she had lied down next to me, placing her head on my crossed legs. The position made it a bit difficult for me to grab the popcorn, which had been lying where now her head was until she had moved it to the side. However, ruffling her soft curls was much more entertaining than eating the salty food. Occasionally, my eyes would fall onto her jawline and then lower. I would then avert my gaze before she could notice. Not that I was in any danger of her suddenly realising just how provocative the whole situation was, I was sure she was doing this on purpose. Out of curiosity, I went to lightly massage the skin between her neck and her shoulders, a sensitive spot for many people.
'Mmmm, yes there…' a high school girl in the anime moaned on cue.
'Fujii-san, you should lower your voice or they will hear us…' another high school girl nervously said.
'But it feels so good!' Fujii-san replied.
'Remind me why I agreed to watch this,' I said removing my hand from her neck at once, but still letting it rest on her head, occasionally stroking her cheek.
'Because you like it and begged me to let you watch it with me lying on you to add more effect?'
'As if, it was you who proposed we should watch this, I just agreed…since…I, I don't know!' I said getting flustered. In truth, I had rejected it, twice.
A soft laugh shook her body. 'You should have specified I could not suggest the same thing over and over again'.
'I am too tired to play any mind games with you tonight. Too many things happened'.
'Indeed'. She shifted her position. 'Why don't you just enjoy the show and relax then?' She smiled at me.
'Oh my God, you look gorgeous!' The younger girl said. 'I love to watch you come'.
'This is exactly why I cannot relax,' I said gesturing towards the television.
'Oooh, too much passion for you to handle it?' She smirked.
'All I see is a licentious anime with underage characters. Nothing which could lead me to a good night of sleep'.
'Will their voices keep playing into your dreams?' she said in a suggestive tone, making me wonder if what I had just said actually sounded like what she was trying to imply.
'No'. It was a brief and dry answer, one which should have silenced her.
'I don't dislike your body'.
'Well. Thanks'. I was at loss of words. That had totally come out of the blue. Suddenly, she pocked my breast. 'But you're not allowed to touch!' I said, hastily removing her hand, careful not to hurt her though.
'Does that mean I am allowed to see?' She asked.
'No, not even that. In fact, I am going to sleep. I am tired and the anime has ended'. Indeed the soundtrack had already started playing on the screen.
She did not move, but intensely stared at me. Hence, I could not get up. 'You know, you should be more honest with yourself. There is no one here,' she lowered her tone while slowly getting up, her warm breath on my neck. 'I know things even you don't about yourself, so I can tell exactly what you want right now,' she whispered.
'A shower and sleep'. I abruptly got up and before she could stop me, I left the room.
Apparently, for safety reasons, we needed to share the same bed. It was because if someone attacked us she would be closer to me and her magic-energy would protect me better. I did put up a fight against it, but lost when she said she would move my body as soon as I fell asleep anyway. Rather than being woken up during the night I preferred agreeing to her request.
'Why do you trust me so?' I asked in the dim light cast by the moon.
'Mmm, why not? We are friends,' she said in a sleepy tone.
'We are strangers,' I objected.
'We are not'.
Deep down, I knew that to be true, but I did not want it to be so I denied it.
'Say what you wish. Our destiny won't change,' she said lightly, eyes staring at the invisible ceiling above us.
'I don't believe in fate'.
I felt her shift in the bed next to me. Her onyx eyes locked into mine and I couldn't avert my gaze. She got closer and with every inch, my heartbeat gained speed. My bent arms were pressing against my own chest in some sort of protection, my hands closed in fists, but I knew it was all in vain. Her scent filled my nostrils setting off fireworks into my brain. She whispered my name, her nose brushing against mine, then her warm lips were on mine and my world exploded.
My first impulse was to break the kiss and I did just that. Panting I looked at her flushed face, my own heated flesh urging me to continue where I had cut off. I couldn't resist, I claimed her mouth and using my hand to pull her closer I deepened the kiss. Needing air, I had to part from her again, but her body remained firmly pressed against mine. "I-..." my broken voice failed me. I wanted to tell her about the burning need which was devouring me, the obsessing thoughts I had been having since meeting her and the dreams...
Calmly she put a finger on my lips simply stated "I know". She smiled and Time stopped, it was just the two of us in a bed, no millennial-old wars to be fought, no mystical enemies to send off. I looked at her in awe and I could not help smiling back. 'You might not believe in Fate,' she said. 'But it was Fate and a bit of Luck that we met, my first and only one'.
Suddenly, her words sparked realization upon me and fragments of memories from different lifelines reached me. Blinking, I gathered some breath to say, 'It was you who fought to find me again'.
She giggled and I revelled into the sounds she made. 'You sure stay true to yourself, forever'. She briefly kissed me again, her hand slid along my back and my eyelids fell shut. The sharpness of her teeth was real as she drew blood from me when she bit down on my shoulder. 'Ah'. It felt both oddly good and painful at the same time. I scratched her skin with my fingers, too strong emotions playing in my heart. The kisses became more passionate, things quickly escalated and from my lips she moved to my neck, to my bleeding shoulder and then down.
Her tongue seemed to know just how to stroke every inch of my skin to stir a response out of it. And what reactions she got! My back arched every time her wet appendix explored the area between my breasts, my fists clenched the sheet of the bed as I begged her for that sweet release.
'My, my. You sure lack patience. And I thought I would pay you back for all the teasing,' she commented licking her lips with a smirk.
'Teasing…?' I asked out of breath.
'Exactly. You can't really believe I wouldn't notice the way you looked at me, the way your eyes lingered on my body…and how it made me feel,' she said using her fingers to emphasise her words.
'Please,' I cried out, putting a different note on each letter. She moved upwards, then, nearing her lips to my ear she whispered, 'Let me hear you cry my name with that same tone then'. Stars exploded on my retinas and I heard the chants of heaven's angels ringing in my ears as I complied to her request. Exhausted, I hugged her and then asked, 'Is this another way to replenish your spiritual energy or whatever?'
'Yup. How did you guess?' she said with a smile.
'Oh I've got you now…I can finally read you mind,' I said poking her forehead with my finger. My eyelids felt heavy and my head lazily rested on her shoulder. I happily fell asleep, not before hearing her mutter, 'You're so selfish'. She stroked my hair one last time and then she too fell into slumber.
Lights sparkled around us, we were in hell fire and I could feel my skin burning. Layla was in danger, I could feel it through my veins; the way my heart pumped blood into my body urging me to take some action. I darted forward, slicing past two shadows who vanished as my holy jewels left scratches on them.
My Priestess, Layla, was in front of me. Too far for me to reach and save her. Too many of our enemies were falling onto us from the sky. The torrid ground released noxious gases, which caused my eyes to bleed. Yet, I did not stop. Even in this unfamiliar environment thousands of light years apart from Home, I still strived forward to save her.
'I'll come and find you, you hear me?' I shouted at her as she was disappearing, her light dimming second by second. 'Even if you're a spirit, even if you're trapped in a limbo, I'll tear you out of that!'
A black smoke engulfed me and I was wrapped into darkness. The last image I remember before I lost consciousness, was my stretched arm trying to reach for her. Then all realities faded.