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Elys – Chapter 3: In Another World with My Emotional Baggage
Lucas stopped tapping the desk. The bald one with the scar was staring at him again. He and a dozen others sat in a heavily guarded meeting room on the Albatross. The Augur’s lecture continued, with the occasional points at various spots on a map hung on the wall. A high school teacher giving an overlong description for a field trip.
Some of his “classmates” were having a harder time. That giant of a man, balded and scarred across the face, jumped at every sound and looked like he was one good scare away from making a scene. A young woman with shaggy white hair took notes, then looked over them as if she couldn’t understand the strange language they were written in. And then there was the fellow in the back, still waving his arms trying to cast a spell. It took a good ten minutes for the guards to convince everyone that it was impossible to use magic inside the ship.
The old man cleared his throat, a cold glare directed at the boy.
“Yes, sir?” His throat was dry.
“It seems as though you have a solid grasp on the mission. Please provide for us a summary.”
“Okay, so… first we’re going to arrive in Elysia. You’ll give the address to all the, um, the people who can use magic. The Sublime, yeah. Then we’re all taking a caravan to… Flagratia?”
“Right. And that’s where the labs will instruct us on how to do the experiment.”
The Augur furrowed his brow. “Correct. Though it was quite… concise.”
“You’re right, he forgot the part where we’re your prisoners,” said someone near the front.
“You are not prisoners. If you all succeed in this mission, you will be pardoned from the crimes you committed during previous fits of mana delirium.”
“But you’ll kill us if we step out of line,” another Sublime said.
“There is a difference between stepping out of line and endangering innocent lives.”
“This experiment is putting our own lives in danger, isn’t it?”
The timid bald one stood up. “What happens if the mission fails? What if… what if we can’t purify the dark mana?”
“Lady Galvana has informed me that they have many trials to conduct. She is confident that at least one will bear results.” His eyes flashed toward the guards at the door.
“B-but what if… what if nothing works?”
The Augur could not meet the man’s gaze. “Your crimes must be paid for. If this is all for naught, Lady Galvana may be merciful enough to at least hold you in Favilla’s dungeons. Otherwise…”
Lucas gulped. “Otherwise, we’ll be executed.”
“I know it must seem unfair, that the hope we offer may become false. But please be confident, just as we are in you. Lord Angelo of Flagratia brought his family to the mainland, adamant that we pursue research of the dark mana. Something is happening in Elys. We must learn what it is and how we can respond.”
The white-haired woman leapt to her feet. “Unfair? Yes, it is. Can’t… you can’t do this to us. We won’t let you. No!” She raised a trembling fist. Lucas heard chair legs scraping back, as three others stood in protest. The guards readied their swords.
The Augur cleared his throat. “Peace, men. There is no need.” He stared into the woman’s sunken eyes. “You’re willing to fight for your freedom? All the more reason to cooperate with us.” He turned to the rest. “And you all. I have no doubt that even now, some of you are planning an escape. Must I remind you that you are aboard the royal vessel, in the middle of the Yceian Sea? For the future of Elys, for the safety of those who have come of their own volition, and for your own sake, I suggest you think carefully about how you conduct yourself from this point on.”
The woman refused to comply, pointing a bony finger at each of the guards. “How can we trust you when you hide behind these weapons?”
“Then let us negotiate without them.” He motioned for the guards to leave, and stepped forward. “I am an old man who has strived to give hope and inspiration to each and every Elysian. Countless attempts have been made on my life, and every time I feel nothing but regret for the souls lost before they could direct their passion to a righteous path. I will fulfill my duties to the chosen people of Auros.” He held out his hand to the woman. “And you are among them.”
She slapped his hand away. “Auros be damned! We are not blessed. We are cursed!” She struck him across the cheek. Her lips curved into a smile. She looked around the room in triumph. But those who had stood with her were now seated, eyes wide with terror. Slowly, the woman shrunk back into her seat.
The Augur simply nodded. “You will now be led to your sleeping quarters.”
One by one, the Sublime were escorted out into the halls. Everyone was silent. Lucas was led separately to a medical room. Unlike the dark and rugged décor of the rest of the ship, this room was white and bare. Even the air felt devoid of some spirit, a sensation he had only barely noticed when boarding the Albatross.
A nurse looked up from her papers. “Are you feeling any uneasiness from the ventilation?”
“No, I think I’m fine.”
“Well then,” she said with a smile, “it seems you’re even better off than we thought.”
“Does the ventilation make people sick?”
“Only if there’s a problem. We ventilate airborne mana and send it to the generator. It’s mostly to prevent magic use, but it also helps keep the lights on. And this kind of room is where we examine Sublime for mana delirium, so the ventilation is in high gear. If you were like the less fortunate souls in the meeting, you would probably feel quite light-headed or nauseous. Symptoms of withdrawal are signs that mana delirium has started to have long-term effects.”
“Y-you mean I’m gonna end up like that if I keep using magic?”
“Well, no. I’d say you’re pretty lucky to be in the state that you are right now. Actually, my job is to figure out why you can use magic in the first place since you’re not an Elysian. I’ve been told you’re from a different world entirely?”
“Yeah. I know that probably sounds crazy, but it’s the truth.”
“Compared to a lot of things I’ve heard from other patients, I’m inclined to believe it. Could you take off your clothes, please? We’re not in any hurry but I do have quite a few more patients coming in soon. Something to do with the Augur bringing in every Sublime under the sun.”
Lucas had a sudden thought as he removed what remained of his tattered rags. “Here’s something you might find strange. When I came here – to Elys, I mean – I woke up inside this body that isn’t like the one I used to have. I think I’ve been… reincarnated or something?”
“Well if you’re looking for theories on that kind of reincarnation, I’d ask some Outlanders.” The nurse checked his pulse. “They have a different view of it than we do. For us, reincarnation is like… like repeating history, I suppose. Like a son following in his father’s footsteps.”
“I think I understand.” He tried to sit still as the nurse inspected his nose and ears with various instruments.
“I’m sorry, it really isn’t my strong suit. You ought to visit the library in Favilla if you want to get expert insight on our beliefs.”
“Sounds like a good idea. But could you… I don’t know, run some tests on my blood or something to find out what this body is? Like, if this is just an Elysian body?”
The nurse laughed. “Unfortunately, there’s no such way to do that. And besides: black hair, blue eyes, pale skin? You look like your typical Southeast Outlander . Even if you were biologically Elysian, I don’t know if you’d fit the spiritual requirements to be a Sublime, you know? Maybe if you can find a spirit medium or a seer… Oh! The seer of Flagratia will probably be a part of this operation. You could ask her whenever you meet her.”
“Yeah, I’m sure she doesn’t have anything better to do.”
“She’s got too much time on her hands if you ask me. Here, put this on.” She handed him a bundle of clothes.
The brown tunic and trousers were surprisingly comfortable. But the more remarkable part of the wardrobe was an olive green vest. It was light as a feather and smooth to the touch, with a slight rubbery texture. It’s like those things we used to wear in gym class. What were they called? Pinnies? God, I really hope this doesn’t get any more like school. He kept replaying the Augur’s words in his head.
“Huh? I’m fine.”
“I don’t know. You’ve had this look about you. Like something’s been weighing on your mind.”
“It’s… it’s nothing.”
“I’m going to have to contend that point.”
“Well, it’s something the Augur said.”
“He has a habit of making people think. And let me guess, he quelled some kind of mutiny without resorting to violence.”
“How did you know?”
“My mother told me Rhad considered words to be the strongest weapon, capable of disarming the mightiest of warriors, and even turning an enemy into an ally. She gave up her old life as a raider captain and lived the rest of her life working here. I’d say that speaks volumes by itself.”
“W-Wait, there are raiders here?”
“Yeah, I’d say about a third of the crew is. We Norsheerans take pride in the skills we’re raised with. We’ll keep on doing what we’re good at, even if it puts us at a disadvantage. It’s our greatest strength, and it’s a damn outrage what Lord Dolgusi has done to it.”
“Well, not all Norsheerans are raiders, right?”
“Sorry to say, but with the way things are, almost every working citizen has a part in it. Our home is a barren wasteland of ice. There aren’t nearly enough resources, so the only option is to take what other lands have, one way or another.”
“What about trading?”
“That’s how it used to work. But that bastard Dol gave up as soon as things got rough. Slavery returned for the first time in centuries, cutting the costs of labor and encouraging raiding as a profitable endeavor. Even harmless traders are turned away by mainland ports. And the worst part is, it’s working. Norsheere is more wealthy and prosperous than it ever has been.”
“And that’s why nobody is fighting against him?”
“Oh, we’re fighting against him alright. But right now, all we can really do is defend the mainland from raids. The Augur has decided to fight in our stead, to find some way to negotiate peace. So no matter how much we want to take down the bastard, we can’t risk a declaration of war. And if the dark mana really is Dolgusi’s doing… I don’t even want to think about it.”
“Do you think the Augur can reason with him?”
“I don’t know. Rhad knows how to appeal to reason and hope. Dolgusi has given up on both. He’s dragged the whole land into the icy depths of despair.”
# # #
Leaning out over the deck, Allie stared into the big, blue hell her home had disappeared into. She pulled her father’s white naval jacket around her.
Not mad. Don’t deserve to be. He hadn’t done it, would’ve been me. One day.
She sighed. Now she was in the mood for people. If Lucas came up, she’d either talk to him or hit him. Probably both. She spat into the sea and headed down below. A wave of nostalgia washed over her as familiar faces of old greeted her. But they only knew little Al. Half the size, double the trouble.
“Long time no see,” came a deep voice. A smile spread across Allie’s face before she could even see him.
“Jonny! How’s my partner in crime?”
“About as well as you’d expect me to be in these uniforms.” He squirmed under the tight fit.
“Nah, you wear it well. Got handsome while I was away,” she said with a wink.
Jonny crossed his arms. “Got married, too.”
“Say when you’re not.”
“Al, I’m not getting locked up. Not even for you.”
“Saying I’m not worth it?”
“I’m saying you’re my cousin.”
“How’s it go? ‘Sun with moon begat earth’, right? Still goes down on her every night.”
He stifled a laugh. “You’re the only one who has the guts to talk like that around the Holy Order, you know that?”
“Very aware. World needs more people like me.”
“Speaking of which… I heard about your friend. Is he okay?”
A smooth, sing-song voice said, “That’s something I’d like to know as well.” A very short man with blonde curls strode up to them. He wore a permanent smirk and carried himself as if his very presence was a gift from the heavens.
Allie looked him up and down. “The hell are you?”
“Oh, so many questions. So many secrets,” he said, hopping with glee.
“Weird. There’s the answer, right.”
“Ah, but that wasn’t my answer! Pray tell, how is this friend of yours?”
“Better than you’ll be, you don’t shove off.”
“Oh my, what a threat! To think I’d be in a worse state than a boy who hasn’t been seen outside his room for over a day.”
Allie paused. How’s he know that?
“My dear, it seems you’re in quite a shock. Perhaps I should have started with how I espied an intriguing young couple boarding the ship with the Augur’s personal guard, shortly after a village was… destroyed? Demolished? Hmm… destrolished! Yes, destrolished by fire magic following a sighting of the Will of Darkness.”
“You’re spying on us?”
“Such a strange series of events playing out so quickly? Why, the inspiration for retellings on the stage are practically writing themselves!”
Jonny crossed his arms. “The stage? What, are you some kinda-“
“Shut it,” Allie said, covering his mouth with her hand. She squinted at the strange little man. “You’re Brandish.”
“Right you are. Velin Brandish, in the flesh.”
Allie gasped. Her eyes lit up. “Never thought I’d get to meet you. Huge fan of your plays. Just the scripts, I mean. Never actually been to a theater, and Tarpaul is- well, you know.”
“I’m always delighted to run into fans of the Brandish Troupe. Never been to a theater, you say? Today is your lucky day, girl. How would you like tickets to my next show? The debut of my most recent work, Augur Heliv!”
“Historical fiction on Heliv?”
“Well, there may be a few embellishments here and there. That’s why I came aboard, hoping to visit that quaint port village. Surely you’ve heard the rumors? Word on the street is there’s a killer, a quite dashing one at that, who stole away from the mainland a few days ago.”
“Never heard that. No murders either, thankfully.”
“That’s a relief,” he said. His voice carried a hint of disappointment. “Rumors are rumors, I suppose. But even so, I simply must continue my research on dangerous individuals.”
“Got your share here, thanks to the Augur.”
“True, true. But the boy with you, the one I suspect has quite the story to tell, is the one I wish to speak to. Alas, there is but one place on the Albatross I have yet to investigate. A private sleeping quarters, locked and warily guarded. If even the unstable Sublime freely roam here, what must be kept under such watchful eye?”
Jonny tore Allie’s hand from his mouth. “We’re not allowed to tell you anything.”
“Perhaps not,” Velin said. He flashed a toothy grin at Allie. “But I think you will be more willing to… make an agreement.”
“Do want those tickets. I tell you, I get them?”
“I believe that’s a reasonable deal.”
Jonny sighed. “Allie, I swear to Auros-“
“You’re allowed to do that?” she said.
Velin laughed. “You wear the navy’s jacket yourself, girl, but I can tell you have no intention of following their code. I can read you like a book.”
“Read all yours,” Allie retorted. She dug her hands into her pockets and matched Velin’s smirk with one of her own.
“Are you seriously going to do this?” Jonny groaned, rubbing his temples.
“Damn right I am. Brandish? Haven’t kicked that gambling addiction, right?”
“At this point, I don’t think that’s even a possibility.”
“Well, when I was little, promised this priss I’d kick your ass. Warden’s Revolt, I mean.”
Velin turned to Jonny. “Is she telling the truth?”
“Yeah. She wants to take down everyone she looks up to.”
“Well then, girl, you’ve got yourself a game.” They shook hands, and began to make their way toward the game room. “I assume we’ll be wagering your information and my tickets.”
“Please, Allie. This is insane. He would have given you the tickets if you just told him what he wanted to hear.”
“Now you’re saying break the rules!” She shook her head. “Don’t get you, Jonny, not at all.”
The game room had far fewer patrons than usual. Allie figured some passengers were intimidated by the idea of getting close to an unstable Sublime. She found a small table in the corner, a deck of cards stashed inside.
“May the best man win,” Velin said with a wink as he took his hand of the star suit.
Jonny turned to leave. “I want nothing to do with this.”
“Jonny,” Allie called out. “Get me a drink. And another when I win.”
“If you would be so kind, my good sir, I could go for a drink myself.”
Allie turned over the first prize card: 5. Her eyes darted to Velin. Did he react to it? No? Damn, of course not. Prize card is only worth five, so… just bid with the inverse. She threw her 9 face-down. Velin put his own card down. Their bids were simultaneously revealed.
“It seems you like to follow the common strategy,” Velin said. Both had bid their 9 card. “But I’m afraid this will be nothing like playing with other backwater children.”
“Wasn’t the kids I was beating back then.” She turned over the next prize card, the one that would resolve this tie. An 11? She suppressed her excitement. Calm and control. Even easier with no mana here. Okay… third highest prize plus five. Got a feeling he’s gonna try and win this one. Do I play the 1? No. Gotta save it, right. But would he use his? Probably expects me to save it since it’s so early. Common strategy says never use it unless you have to. Common strategy would be to play 3. Comfortable with that. Still have 2 and 1 left over for other big scores. But damn, bet he expects the 3. Either he’ll match me again, or play 2. He plays 1 now, I can use that to my advantage if another big one comes up. In that case... 2 it is!
“Come now, girl, at least pause for a moment or two to pretend that you’ve put some thought into your moves. Are you sticking with the common strategy, or did you just randomly play the first card you could reach? Or do you play some strange house rules on your little island, where the first card down wins?”
“Less talking, more losing to me.”
“Fine, fine. I won’t keep you waiting any longer.” He tossed his card onto the table with a grandiose sweep of his arm.
Allie turned over her card, careful not to show her elation. But her hand stopped as it touched Velin’s card. Something was off.
“Let me tell you something, Allie. Warden’s Revolt isn’t about the cards. It’s about the players.”
“Cut the shit. You’re just nervous.”
“And so are you. Because you know I’m right. On a small island village, a young girl realizes that everyone has patterns when they play Warden’s Revolt. So she reads The Bettor Man, learns all the little tricks and techniques that let her win against all of her friends. Before long, she’s the best in the village. She knows who plays well and who plays poorly. She even knows who started to use the same strategies she used. So she learns to play against the opponent, not the opponent’s cards. And no one around can seem to stand up to such a bright girl.”
“W-what’s your point?”
“My point is that you’re very good at this game, Allie. Unfortunately, you’ve convinced yourself that you don’t have a strategy yourself. But you do. You’re a very reactive person, aren’t you? You’re like a deadly mirror, bouncing things back with such force! But a mirror only reflects what’s on the surface. It can’t see through a disguise.”
“So… what’s that mean?”
“It means that you’ve been playing as if I’m a very good player. You know that gambling is my vice, and that I’ve written an entire play about Warden’s Revolt. But what if I told you that I was actually very bad at the game?”
“You’re… bad at it?”
“Most of what’s in The Bettor Man comes from extensive research and input from actual expert players. Players I had no chance of beating.”
Allie wore a hollow smirk. “Makes me as good as them, then?”
“That remains to be seen, starting with when you turn over my card. Speaking of which, why have you waited so long to do so?”
“Y-You’re talking too much.”
“Oh, so I’ve gotten under your skin with something?”
“Shut it,” she growled, furiously revealing his bid card. Her mouth hung open. She stared in shock at the 13 which faced her. Shivers ran down her back. Scared? No! Why should I be? Won the round, right? He’s throwing the game away, right? Nobody plays like this. Nobody. But then… what’s he planning? Don’t know. Just don’t know.
“My my! It seems you’ve won this round. Oh well, there are still eleven more rounds to go. Perhaps I still have a chance of winning against such a formidable opponent.”
Allie sat speechless, staring at her cards. Jonny returned with drinks, nodding in approval at her apparent victory.
“By the way, would you mind picking up the pace a little?”
# # #
Lucas lay in his cot, staring up at the flickering light. Unlike the other Sublime who could go mostly wherever they pleased, he was forbidden from leaving this room. Several times now, food and drink had come through a small window near the door. Otherwise, there was no way to indicate how much time had passed.
For my own protection, Lucas repeated to himself. He was being kept separate not to protect others from him, but to make sure their pristine specimen of a Sublime Outlander remains in good condition. I’m just a lab rat to them. A convenient addition to their research.
And yet, he couldn’t resist the excitement coursing through him. He was already being set apart for some mysterious purpose. He had power, and only needed to learn how to properly harness it. I’ve even met a girl who’s going to help me on my journey. Okay, maybe she isn’t exactly like what I imagined, but still. She can’t be that bad… right? It probably won’t even be long before another-
There was a knock at the door. Lucas derailed his train of thought and called out. “Is someone there? I’m not allowed to come out.”
He heard a click, and the door swung open. Allie stood there, covering her mouth and nose. She sniffled. “Allergic, I think.”
“Allie? W-What are you doing?”
“Letting you out,” she said, dangling a key in front of his face.
“How did you get that?”
“A friend. C’mon. Been in there long enough.”
“But what if we get caught?”
“Won’t do anything to you.”
“Yeah, but will you be okay?”
“Glad you’re worried, but no need. Night shift, right.”
“Wait, it’s nighttime?
“Of course it is. So you’re part of the crew? I guess that explains the jacket.”
“Nah, just Pa’s from way back,” she said, showing him the back of the open jacket where Sero’s name was stitched. “See you got your own new get-up. Much better than those rags. Wait, that Spiderweed?” She pointed at his vest.
“Spiderweed?” He kept a cautious watch on it, trying not to imagine spiders crawling around inside.
“Yeah, it’s a plant. Makes these threads that are real strong and light. Like a spider’s web. Spiders in your world?”
“Unfortunately, yes. But ours are usually pretty small. I’m guessing yours are as big as a man.”
“What? No! Horrifying, that.”
“Yeah, about as horrifying as telling me that my clothes have something to do with spiders.”
“Relax. Just the name. Now c’mon. Wasting starlight. You’re coming or not?”
Lucas sighed. “Fine. I was getting tired of being alone with my thoughts.”
“Never thought you’d get tired of that,” she said, disappearing down the hall. Lucas shook his head and followed after her.
The tight interior of the Albatross opened up to a beautiful starlit sky. Lucas stopped to take in the view. He wondered if Elys had different constellations from his world. A dark grey planetoid with glowing veins of magma hung overhead.
“You’ve never seen the moon before, have you?” said a man behind him. Lucas jumped and turned to see a man in naval uniform.
“Calm, Lucas. Jonny’s alright.” Allie tossed the key to him.
“I’d say I’m a little better than ‘alright’ for keeping quiet about this.”
“Aww, c’mon. Would’ve gotten my hands on it one way or another.”
“Yes. Yes you would have.”
“Don’t get in my way, things are a lot easier. See, Lucas? …Lucas?”
“Huh?” Lucas blinked. His eyes had wandered back to the ominous moon.
“Terrifying sight, that.” Allie said. “Nothing like that in your world?”
“Well we have a moon, but it’s a lot less… menacing.”
“Void Mother for you.”
“Void Mother. Mother of Elys, wife turned sworn enemy of Auros. Likes to watch you while you sleep.”
“Allie,” Jonny scolded. “Don’t go trying to scare him.”
“But it’s true.”
“Don’t worry, Lucas. As sure as the sun rises, Auros is always protecting us from the Void Mother. Now if you don’t mind, I’d like to get some sleep.”
Allie guided Lucas across the deck. “Half-assing two shifts gets him tired,” she said once they were out of earshot. “All right, everyone. He’s here.”
Lucas was met with a group of about twenty young men and women in naval uniform. They each waved greetings to he and Allie.
“Is this the guy you were talking about?” one asked.
“He’s an Outlander, no doubt,” said another.
Allie pushed Lucas into the talkative circle. “Go on, then. Tell them about you.”
“I-I’m sorry, what is going on here?”
“Al told us you were from another world but you can use magic.”
“Well… yeah, that’s true.”
“What was your home world like?”
“It was, uh, it was… nice I guess? We don’t have magic in my world.”
“No magic? That’s probably for the better, if you ask me. I bet your world is a hell of a lot safer than-”
Another stranger interrupted. “If they don’t have magic, how does he have it?”
“Al said that’s not his real body.”
“But that one’s Outlander!”
“Don’t look at me like that, Bram. I’m just as confused as you.”
Lucas shrunk in his seated position on the deck. Everyone was looking at him, talking about him. He wanted to get away from this. But he was surrounded. A hand touched his shoulder. He jumped. Allie flashed a grin.
“Shut it, shut it,” she said. “Or I start singing.” The deck fell silent. “Ten years since I last saw you all. Not feeling too welcome.”
“Sorry, Al. It’s just all this Sublime business. We’re a little uneasy about sharing a boat with them out and about.”
“That how you see me? Dangerous and unstable?”
“No, of course not.”
“Damn liar you are, Emma.”
“I’m not lying.”
“Still afraid of me from that time at the beach, right.” A few familiar with the event smirked.
“You froze me in waist-deep water!”
“Ankle-deep. And thawed you out after.”
“With fire!” Laughter erupted from the group.
Allie shrugged. “Was the fastest way.” She glanced to her side. Lucas had managed to slip away.
Emma’s face was bright red. “Maybe I really should hold a grudge.”
“It’s fine, Em. It’s not like anyone else could use magic.”
“Yeah, I don’t know how we would have made through more Al than we already got.”
“From most of the other Sublime cases we’ve gotten these past few years, we were lucky to all survive.”
“Saying I’m the deadliest thing you’ve faced?”
“At least raiders know when to quit,” Emma said, causing another round of laughter.
# # #
Allie stumbled through the dim-lit halls. A decade away had made it difficult to navigate her second home. Lucas’s room was just ahead, past the examination rooms. She felt an uneasiness in her stomach, something that had nothing to do with the ventilation.
She shook her head. Too much to drink. She pulled open the door. Lucas stood still in surprise, his arm outstretched.
“I was… I was about to come back and-“
“Almost ran into me.”
“Don’t apologize. You’re always apologizing for everything. Stop.”
“Sorr- I mean… okay.” He shut the door and sat against it. Allie sat on his bed.
“Listen. Gonna be with you for Auros knows how long. You’re struggling with some things.”
“I’m just not much of a people person, you know? It was a pretty big group and I got nervous.”
“Figured that much out already. You’re new, we all knew each other. Don’t blame you for it.”
“Thanks. But… I was like that in my own world, too.”
Lucas sighed. “I dunno. I guess it was just hard for me to connect with people. I felt like I didn’t know what I was supposed to talk about, or that I wasn’t a good enough talker.”
“Talking right now, right?”
“This is different. I think.”
“What do people talk about in your world?”
“I don’t know… sports? Television shows? Celebrities?”
“Then what’s the problem?”
“The problem was that I wasn’t following the things everyone else was. I didn’t know anything about what everyone else was talking about.”
“Because… because I didn’t want to, I guess. I wasn’t interested in those things.”
“Saying you’re the only one in your world like that?”
“N-No… I wasn’t the only one. It’s just… you wouldn’t understand.”
“Shut it. You’re the only other Sublime I’ve met. Magic’s the one thing that makes me feel different, in a good way. Most Sublime I heard about, they’re leaders. Heroes. Folk I imagined myself as. On the Albatross, saw more than ever. And most are trying their best to stay in their right mind. Wanted to be different. Wanted to stand out any way I can. But you… you make me feel normal.”
“No. Don’t want to be normal. You do. So listen. You’re normal. You’re not anything special.” She clenched her fists. “Nothing special.”
“Allie.” He wanted to apologize. She was trying to comfort him, but he could tell how much she hurt from her own words.
“Listen. Lucas. What happened last night. The fire? Don’t apologize for it.”
“What? But what I did was horrible.”
“Maybe. But it’s nothing special. You’re Sublime. Magic’s dangerous. Caused plenty of damage myself back in the day. Didn’t apologize and swear never to use magic again. No, I learned how to control it. Not the most powerful magic, but less worry about mana delirium.”
“So you’re saying I should just ignore what happened?”
Allie sat in silence for a moment. “When you used lightning magic. What were you thinking of?”
“I wasn’t really thinking about anything. I was just afraid of dying.”
“You’re really afraid of death. Makes sense. Must have a lot you want to do before you die.”
“I-I guess so. I’m not ready to die. I haven’t done enough with my life.”
“Says the one who died once already.”
“Not funny,” he said. “It’s not like I wanted to die, but when I was in my own world, I desperately wanted to escape it. But ever since I’ve been here I’ve felt just as trapped as before.”
“Maybe because you’re trapping yourself. Sounds like you’re always talking yourself down because of who you were in your world.”
“Why shouldn’t I? I wasn’t exactly a great person.”
“And haven’t changed since you got here, right. Don’t have the same body, and your old world may as well not exist anymore.”
“My past is real! I have to remind myself of where I started before I can move-“
“Keep dying and waking up in different worlds. How many will it take to say you’re not where you used to be?”
Lucas didn’t have an answer. He stared at the floor.
“Said you wanted to be a hero, right? Maybe couldn’t in your world. Elys doesn’t care about your world.”
“I… I’m not so sure. I feel like my past followed me here. You remind me of… someone I used to know.”
“She was, well… she was a friend.” He could feel his face turning red.
“Have a feeling I’m not the only one who brings back memories.”
“W-What are you talking about?”
“Talking about the Will of Darkness. Saw how it changed shape to get at you. A young girl. Know her from somewhere?”
Lucas bit his lip. “No.”
“Fire magic and a worse case of mana delirium says you’re lying.”
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Fine. Won’t ask who it is. Saying it did that specifically to get you angry. And worked.”
“I just wanted to forget about it all.”
“Did you now?”
“I know, I know. I’ve done a shitty job of starting over. Every time I think about this situation I’m in, I keep telling myself I don’t deserve to be here. I don’t deserve this… this destiny.”
“Before I came here, I was always reading stories about ordinary guys like me who were chosen by a higher power to start a new life as a hero. They’re usually nice guys who do something good in their last moments of their previous life.”
“One time doesn’t mean you’re good.”
“I-I know. That’s why I kept thinking that there was no way I deserved to be chosen.”
“Doesn’t matter if you deserve it. You’re here. Maybe it’s just dumb luck, but it’s happening.”
“I know that. Regardless of whether I really am here for a purpose or not, there’s no going back. So I want to change. I really want to. I’m living my dream, but I’m turning it into a nightmare. So… is it really okay to just forget about the past?”
“One time doesn’t mean you’re bad. Maybe. You’re Sublime for better or worse. When we’re in Elysia, I’ll start teaching you magic. Start small, learn control. See if you’re a ‘hero’ from there, right. Sound good?” She held out her hand.
Lucas shook his head. “Allie, why are you doing all this for me? I’ve been nothing but a burden to you.”
“Doing it because you asked, rukshit.” She smiled. “And maybe I like you. Ever think of that?”
“Why would you like-“
“Shut it. Don’t wanna hear it. Always words with you. Talk is talk, I wanna see you back it up. Now, can I come along for the ride?”
“Yeah,” he said, taking her hand. He hadn’t come to Elys with a mystical weapon or convenient technology. He was a stranger in a foreign land, taking nothing from home except his thoughts and memories. This is my escape. He wanted so badly to believe it. He wanted to believe he could completely rid himself of the past. But always, in the back of his mind. Those haunting eyes. That face, half-formed, illuminated in the fire’s glow. A message from hell to this heaven that in the end, Lucas would only save himself.
Allie fished around in her pocket. “Got tickets to a play, by the way. Sound fun?”