previous: Isekai ch11
I looked up to see a man standing over me. It was Jay, but he wore an ash-grey suit. His mohawk was the color of fire, reflecting a hint of gold in his wideset eyes. He looked like the devil. “You can’t be here.” His voice was a mix of sadness and fear. This was not the Dragon King I once knew, but it was undeniably Jay.
I frantically looked around to find Leah. She had landed a few feet away and appeared to be knocked unconscious. My first instinct was to scoop her up in my arms. I removed the weapon from the holster on her back. I’d been expecting to find a sword, or maybe a knife, but to my surprise, it was a gun. Without hesitation, I pointed it at Jay.
“Do you even know how to use that?”
“I don’t care.” If I couldn’t get it to fire, I’d just throw it at his head. My focus was on protecting Leah. I was the one who brought her here, I would make sure she made it out alive.
Jay turned and walked to a large stone table. He clenched his fist, slamming his hand down on his desk. I was expecting a sound, but instead there was a ripple of energy that resulted in dozens of glass items breaking. “That will shut down the security cameras, but it will only buy us a limited amount of time.”
I stood up, still pointing the gun at Jay’s chest. I don’t know what enraged me more. Jay was the man who saved me from a life of servitude. He gave my father free medical care, and myself a chance at a new, real, existence beyond the boundaries of what I knew. He stood by myside, aided and protecting my father’s remains. He was my best friend, but he hurt my sister. “Don’t fucking move.”
Jay looked at me with tired, weary eyes. “I need your help.”
“Well, I need to know what you did to my sister.”
Jay looked down at Leah. he took a step back; his expression was one of shock and horror. “How?” He looked like he was about to puke. “How is this possible?”
“I found my way to my real family.”
Jay shook his head. “No, Marcus. You know not what you’ve done.”
Before I could reply, I heard the sound of creaking bones. The deep, elongated noise was like something out of a zombie movie. Leah stretched her back, opening her eyes. “You!” With the fury of a jaguar she flew at Jay, latching on to his neck.
Jay with his muscular arms, easily threw her off, but not before she landed a swipe to his face. “Calm yourself, please I beg of you.”
“You can beg your way straight to Hell.” Leah frantically searched for her gun.
‘Oh, crap.’ I should have taken the opportunity to throw it to her, or at least drop the item to the floor where she could easily retrieve it.
When she saw I had it, Leah made me her new target. Her movement was so quick I barely had time to defend myself (or curl into a fetal position to avoid getting kicked in the stomach and sent flying across the room.)
Leah fired the weapon but missed, hitting the wall behind Jay.
Jay’s lower lip was torn open. Time slowed as he took a moment to place his hand to the blood, just as Leah was about to fire again.
With less than a second to choose sides, I ran at my sister, tackling her to the ground. I didn’t mean to collide with Jay. Before I knew it all three of us were falling through the newly shattered wall.
I landed on my back, with a perfect view of the outside world. And it was more then a little disturbing. I’d fallen into a crowded place that could only be described as a post-apocalyptic farmer’s market. There were stall selling weapons, dead animals, body parts, firewood, and all manner of armor pieces.
Jay got up, pulling both Leah and I into the shop that sold dried meat. “Stay close to the ground.” Jay looked around, either checking for a path or searching for a person. “I need to explain some things, but first we need to run.”
I stood up, ready to follow him. I could already see security approaching from all angles. Helicopters filled the sky. They seemed to be focused on the broken wall, but that fact did little to quell Jay’s fear.
“I will be forced to leave your side, to show myself as proof of life. If at all possible, you must get her far from here.”
I understood. It didn’t matter where I took her, it just had to be ‘not here.’ Not at Hell’s flea market. I shut my eyes for just a moment, hoping to clear my mind. And that was when my sister shot my friend in the chest. “Leah!” I really shouldn’t have shouted.
Soon we were surrounded by police with their weapons drawn. “Drop your weapon!” shouted a female voice.
I got on my knees, hands on the back of my head. Hopefully this was the international sign for, ‘Please don’t kill me.’
I quickly learned that I had it all wrong. The police were protecting us, forming a shield to fend off the crowd of people trying to grab at us. Someone cut off a chunk of my hair. Then, with in seconds, I felt the same serrated blade cut off part of my ear, leaving behind pieces of my hair in the wound on my cheek. ‘Well, that fucking hurt.’
The security officer grabbed me by my neck, pulling me close. “Where is the female?”
“I don’t know,” I muttered in anger.
“I wasn’t talking to you.”
I was dragged along until she located Leah. Three people with knives were attacking her hair.
“Step away from the captive,” the officer said in a firm, professional tone.
“You know the value!” shouted a voice from the crowd of vendors. “These travelers don’t pass through every day.”
“No, she’s mine. They are both mine.
“By whose decree?
“The queen.” The officer removed her face covering.
“What did you say?”
I was face to face with Becca. She wore her hair in long curls, and her skin a natural tan color. She no longer wanted to look like me; she wanted to embody Queen Emma Rose: her mother. The heavily armed officer lifted my face, catching the light. “Marcus?” Her smile was innocent, sweet, some might even call her trustworthy.
“Come with me.” She reached for my hand. “I’ll keep you safe.”
Not like I had much of a choice. She grabbed me by the arm while her men kept my sister’s body safe from scavengers.
We disappeared into a tunnel, the darkness devouring us. “Keep quiet,” Becca said, guiding me through the passage completely devoid of light. I assumed she (and her soldiers) were equipped with night vision gear.
When we emerged in the light, it took every ounce of strength not to vomit. The room was a little too familiar. There were cages of various sizes. Some looked like they had seen better days (or prisoners who still had fight left.) On top of decorative tables were dozens of colorful glass containers. The decor was a mix of gold, jewels and gore. In short: it looked like Queen Emma Rose Amanar’s lab.
With a clank, I was released to look around. The room was filled with body parts in various stages of decay. Some were preserved via dehydration, cooking or smoking. Oddly there did not seem to be any living specimens present.
“Bring her in here,” Becca said to whoever was in charge of dragging my sister.
I could hear screaming, and cursing, followed by the sound of doors, bars, and locks. Leah was fighting for her life. Either out of fear or cowardness, I didn’t turn around until I heard the main door to the room click closed. “Dear God, or Leo, if you can hear me, please let my sister be alive.” I didn’t mean to say that out loud.
This, of course, resulted in a creepy, cursed giggle. “Genetically she’s your sister,” Becca said as she secured a padlock. “But realistically, well you know.” She turned to me with an innocent shrug.
“Know what?” I asked. I was attempting to hold back my anger, if only to attempt to escape with my sister and my life.
“I’m more of your sister than she is.”
Leah finally spoke. She was stripped of her clothing, with her hands and feet bound. Her shirt had been shoved in her mouth, but that did little to stop her from hurling it across the room.
Becca ducked as the clothing wad hit a shelf of glass jars. “Impressive.”
“Marcus!” Leah growled. “What is she talking about?”
“Marcus is my best friend,” Becca explained. She offered me a hand, helping me to my feet. “I’m certain he knew me longer than he’s known you.”
Despite knowing how bad this looked, I stood up, standing next to Becca. For whatever reason I held her hand. I was taller than her, but in that moment, it felt like nothing had changed. This was where I wanted to be.
“Marcus?” Leah’s voice quivered. She looked up at me with terror in her eyes.
I looked down at the floor. ‘Where was the gun?’
“Marcus say something,” Leah pleaded. “How do you know the demon king?”
Becca leaned on my shoulder, kissing my cheek like a girlfriend. “Marcus has known my father for years.” She picked up the gun off the floor and handed it to me. The look on her face was neutral. What ever happened next was up to me.
I held the gun, pointing it at the ground. They were both looking at me; my sister who trusted me, and my old friend who (most likely) held the key to my safety and freedom.
‘Fuck this.’ In one swift motion, I put the gun in my mouth and fired. The darkness actually felt nice, like a deep pressure massage that washed over me. ‘You just started a war. You know that right?’
I hoped I was hearing my own voice; my own guilt, (as opposed to my guardian angel who was fucking off on a beach someplace.) If this was my mistake, that was a fact I could deal with. ‘I didn’t have much of a choice.’
“Well, that’s a damn lie,” spoke a familiar surfer voice. Leo was somewhere in the darkness.
“I know.” I’d made the conscious decision to not make a choice. “I fucked up, okay? Can I just die now?”
“Wow.” Leo’s calm voice echoed. “You didn’t even want to try teleporting?”
Part of me was ashamed, but a larger part was pissed. “Easy for you to say!”
“Easy for me to say?” Leo’s tone implied he was disappointed in me.
‘What the fuck?’ He had no right to judge me. The level of pain I was in, trumped the fact that I couldn’t figure the right answer on my own. “I thought the Yo-kai mirror-portal creature was supposed to watch over me?”
“It was waiting for you to make the correct move; knock out Becca, grab your sister and wish your way back to the crystal castle.”
That plan sounded like it would have worked, but it also did not sound like something I would have had any interest in attempting. Not that suicide was any better. “Am I ever going to see Jay again?”
Leo took a few steps closer. I still couldn’t see his face, but I felt his hand on mine. “Funny how you ask about Jay but not Becca?”
“You know what I mean.” I tried to lift my hand, desperate to feel anything in this cursed place. “Is this game over?” Was I dead?
“No, not really.”
‘No, not really?’
Leo leaned forward, his face glowing with a heavenly light. “You’ve grown into a mature young man. Better luck next time.”
‘Better luck? My eyes shot open. “No!” I awoke in a bed. My arms crossed over my chest. It wasn’t particularly cold in the room. In fact, it was comfy. There was a fireplace, a tray of food and a figure standing by the door. Was that a nurse? Did I actually shoot myself?
I placed my hands to my mouth. Everything appeared to be where it should be; my chin, my jaw, my lips. Everything was there, but on my lap were bandages.
The door flung open. Hitting the human-like figure with a ‘clang.’ Becca ran in, throwing her arms around me. “It worked!” She squealed with joy. Becca wore a bright orange hooded raincoat; the color was the same as from my previous dream.
‘Except that wasn’t a raincoat, that was a dress.’ My mind began to race. The figure from my dream was charming, and sweet but also looking forward to devouring the flesh of my people. “Where’s my sister.”
She motioned to the figure by the door. “I don’t see what the big deal is.”
My sister was in a cage, hanging by the door. Her eyes were covered in metallic bandages, her mouth was forced open revealing a lack of teeth or a tongue. She had been used (as spare parts) to bring me back.
Before I could curse or scream, Becca pulled me to a mirror. “See you don’t even have a scar. This is what I’ve been working on for years.”
“What?” she asked calmly, walking towards my sister’s body. She cut off a lock of Leah’s hair and placed it in a cup of warm water. “What I do goes far beyond cosmetic.”
I nodded. I wanted to ask her about the past five years. What was she? Was I about to watch my sister die?
“You really don’t miss me?” Becca said, taking a sip of her tea. A rush of golden energy rippled through her hair.
“I never said that.” I reached for her hand, pulling her close.
She moved my hand to her waist, down her clothed leg as she handed me the cup. “Show me you trust me.”
I focused on her face. ‘This is not my sister’s hair. This was just a gift from an old friend.’ I took a partial sip, close enough to feel the moisture on my tongue as I parted my lips. Before I could stop myself, something primal caused me to spit it back into the cup. “Wait, what does this shit actually do?”
“Do you feel it on your tongue?” Becca spun me around as if we were dancing in a Disney movie.
“Feel what?” Was this some kind of recreational drug?
“Is it true you found a place where your kind are still alive?”
Clearly, she already knew the answer to that. “Who told you?”
“My mommy and daddy,” she said in her best baby voice. Seeing I was not impressed or turned on, she switched back to her normal voice. “I was actually here the last time this little warrior princess was a guest in our castle.”
“Queen Emma sent Jay out to plot the area beyond the borders of our land. After a few days he returned with an offering.”
But why? “Does your father share the throne with Queen Emma?”
“No, not really.” Becca took another sip of her cup of tea. “It’s more of a deal struck between good friends.”
I did not believe that. “Can I speak to your dad?”
“Maybe later,” she said, taking a seat on my bed. “I’m sure he wants to talk to you. It’s been years and you’ve grown from a little kid, to a massive giant.” She stretched her leg beside mine, as if to prove her point. She was taller than my sister but the height difference between us was comical. “He’s probably out on patrol.”
“My mother found out about the portal pier.”
That was one sentence that caused immediate physical pain. My chest froze, as reality came to a sickening halt. Queen Emma already had access to the portal pier? She literally would have unlimited access to anything in the known universe. My heart was racing and suddenly I couldn’t breathe. I started to cough, over and over. “You.”
“You told her.”
“It’s not like she can use the Pier, just being around those things cause her to cry blood.”
“What?” I forced myself to bite my tongue. I could feel the inside of my mouth; there were actual stitches holding together my jaw. I was going to calm down, or die trying. ‘The story is going to get better.’ I just needed to breathe. “How?”
“She chased me there, looking for you. She could get as close as the doorway before the,” Becca paused, making a fireworks sign with her hands.
“Are you saying the portals could have killed her?”
“Anything’s possible.” She shrugged. Her once cheerful expression was transitioning from humor to fear. “She was willing to take them on; walking towards the army of light with a morbid determination.”
“She was going to take down the entire cave system.” That was why the portals were not allowed to kill her.
“Yeah, my mother was forced to stop, but she came back again and again.”
I held her hand. “Over five years?”
“No, I’d say it took her less than a year to force my father’s hand.”
“To do what, exactly?” What role did Jay agree to, in exchange for peace?
He volunteered to map the spaces beyond the portals. I mean, at first, obviously he was taking the opportunity to lead her astray.
And then she started seducing my brothers. She made them offers of power, sex, whatever. One by one they gave up their partners for the chance to be her King.”
“Are we talking about murder?” I asked with a hint of sarcasm. All I could picture was the one bitch who insulted my family and my race.
“My mother executed them one by one, harvesting their remains for her personal projects. She actually has their skulls in her bedroom.”
“The males or the females?”
Becca turned, allowing me a view of her charming smile. “Did you just ask if Queen Emma has the empty cleaned skulls of my older brothers in her bedroom?”
“In addition to their bitch wives, or whatever?” I’d like to think the good queen positioned the decapitated heads as sex dungeon décor, forcing each of Jay’s sons to gaze upon the dead partners. ‘Daddy told me never to hit a girl, but I can’t say I’ll miss you, bitch.’
“Yeah, that part was kind of funny, does that make me a bad person?”
“Kind of, I guess.” I continued the soft, sarcastic mood, although in reality I was more than a little disturbed. “Where is she now?”
“I don’t know. I’m not even sure I’m her biological daughter. I’m just trying to survive.”
“And learn the family business?”
“Well, the Queen takes some pride in that.” Becca shrugged. “Apparently, she always wanted an apprentice.”
“Do I want to be here? Of course not, but right now there’s no better hiding spot.”
Hiding spot; that gave me hope; she wasn’t the queen’s pawn. “So, you don’t condone the market place?”
“That’s why I’m out there in police gear.” Becca sat up, sitting cross-legged. “Do you think I want to hurt people?”
Part of me wanted to look towards my sister. What parts was she missing? Was she even still alive? “I forced myself to look at her. There was one last question I needed an answer to.
“So, what’s up with Jay?”
“You want to talk about my dad?”
“All you have left is your father.”
“I am not tethered to the fate of any one person.” There was a truth in her eyes. She had no intentions of trapping me, only to introduce me to her world.
“If I was to leave, would I be allowed to exit of my own freewill?”
“I won’t stop you, but my mom on the other hand.”
“Is that a threat?”
“No,” she said slugging my upper arm. “My mom cut me a deal; she’d take me on as an apprentice and I’d try my best to live up to her expectations.”
“What does that have to do with me?”
“In exchange she is not to come within your line of sight while I am present.”
“Makes sense.” It was a threat; we were joined, attached, for better or for worse, ‘till death do us part. I was so tempted to stay in bed, but outside, I could hear the sound of rain. It was a strong, aggressive downpour, like nothing I’d heard before. “Where are we?”
Before Becca could answer, the rain turned to hail. “This is weird. It doesn’t rain here.”
“Not like this.” She stood up, motioning for me to join her, leaning against the wall. This was an attack. “We need to get to ground level.”
I followed her out the door, to a stone stairwell. A larger projectile hit the wall causing the ceiling to shake. We ducked around the corner and soon we were outside. The night sky was filled with a combination of rain and snow. A figure stood in the darkness, surrounded by an army of soldiers. ‘Were they made of water?’
From where I stood, it appeared as if a single master puppeteer/wizard was controlling an army of sentient projectile attacks. Soldiers were rushing towards us, becoming bullets of hail before smashing into the wall. It seemed like Becca and I could get past undetected as long as neither of us was hit. That lasted all of ten seconds.
An icy bullet zipped by my face, narrowly avoiding my eye before planting itself in my shoulder. The impact stung like a flying knife. I turned to look at my wound, half expecting to see a massive arrow. But it was just water. What was the wizard doing?
The man floated for a moment before appearing directly in front of me. It was King Vladimir. He had been destroying the castle in search of (I assume) Leah. Finding me was just a lucky coincidence.
Our eyes met, but his expression was unreadable. It was a look of sadness that cut to my soul. “I guess I should thank you.” His voice was broken, distorted. He had trusted me, loved me as a son, and I had torn out his heart.
‘But was that even fair?’ I wanted to speak. But Becca pulled me by the arm, forcing me down an escape hatch before locking the door.
“That guy looks kind of like your dad.”
I was taken aback by her friendly tone. “I guess so.”
Becca shut the round metal door behind us, turning the latch, locking us in. “Do you know him?”
“Because all pale blondes know each other?”
She shrugged. “I just thought you might know the ice-powered mega lord who’s taking his aggression out on my mother’s front lawn.”
She just had to bring up Queen Emma. I took a seat on the dirt floor, looking around for a light source. “Why did you lock the door? What if other people need to get in?
“You’ve seen the people who live in this area. Do you honestly want any of them getting in?”
I knew what she meant; it was a crowd of cannibalistic vendors. “What if there’re children?”
There was an awkward giggle, followed by a grunt as Becca lifted a massive switch. The room filled with the soft gold illumination of rusted lightbulbs.
“Wow, in all these years nothing has changed. You’re still as sweet as ever.”
I wish I could agree. For now, I was safe, free to revel in my horrible, terrible, beautiful mistakes.
next: Isekai ch13