previous: Isekai ch14
“Marcus!” A young female voice said in a whisper-shout. She shook my arm with her small hand clad in (what felt like a heavy leather glove. “You need to wake up, now!”
I opened my eyes to find myself laying on the floor, resting under a certain hospital bed. “What?”
The room was lit from an unseen source. (I assumed it was a skylight.) Moving my head caused my eyes to burn, forcing the rest of my body to stay where I was. It was uncomfortably cold, but I had a pillow and a blanket.
“My magic can’t hold for long; you need to get out.”
I opened my eyes to see my middle sister, Noelle. “Oh, hello. I feel like I haven’t seen you in a while?”
The innkeeper looked comically pissed off. “I need you to summon whatever portal that got you here.” She grabbed my arm forcibly pulling me from my sleeping space. “And get the hell out!”
“If I don’t?” There was, of course, the more crucial fact that I had no idea how to summon my exit door (or else I would have done it by now.) Just to screw with her, I sat on the floor, pulling my legs to my chest. I puffed up my cheeks giving my best ‘innocent little brother’ impression.
Noelle started to fish through her pockets. She clearly had a plan. “Can I ask you something?” she said bluntly as she pulled out a blade.
“Sure,” my voice revealed my nerves.
“Why did you take Leah?”
That was a good question. “It wasn’t pre-planned.”
She stretched her neck, in an act of clear frustration. “You could have taken me, or Emily; someone who was better prepared. Why Leah?”
“It wasn’t about being prepared for something; she told me about her past abuse.” I trusted that Noelle knew or at least would be sympathetic. I could not have been more wrong.
“What abuse?” Noelle looked at me with disgust, as if I had the ability to be making this up in the heat of the moment. “You mean from Dad?”
‘From Dad?’ That took my mind to a strange, disturbing place. “She was given to a certain dragon king acting on behalf of an evil witch.” That sounded much more logical in my head. Spoken out loud, the words were the ramblings of an over active child.
“That didn’t happen. I would have remembered.”
“To be fair you don’t live at the castle,” I replied, hoping to regain some credibility.
“Neither do you, and neither does Leah.”
She believes it happened; dad was a coward who presented her as a peace offering, she was taken to a place where she was assaulted by who she believed to be Javaon Lorri. And I asked the guy.
You asked the dragon king, who assaulted our sister, to give his side of the story?
“Yes. And if I recall you were the one who called bullshit. So, you of all people know there are two sides to every truth. He claims that he gave Leah to his sons.”
Noelle’s mouth hung open with a look of horror. “He gave her to his sons?”
“Once he realized what they were capable of, he set her free.” That sounded bad.
“He set her free?”
“He did it by leaving a door open, so it would appear like she escaped on her own.”
“And you believe his words? Anyone can weave together a lie after the fact.”
That was actually a very good point. “If you knew him, you’d know Jay Lorri is a man of his word.”
“I’m sorry, what?” She closed her eyes for a moment, rubbing her temples.
The room shook again; once then twice. The attacks were coming fast and hard.
Noelle shook her head in disbelief. “You need to open your damn portal.”
“I don’t know how.” That, and I was too unfocused to even try.
“Now who’s speaking lies.” Her tone was abnormally aggressive. “You’ve done it before.”
I looked at her in confused silence.
“To escape the prison our father sent you to.”
“Oh.” That would require me to summon the item box.
“Just think of who you truly want to be with.”
Her words made no sense. Was she telling me to escape? Either way, mentally visualizing someone (anyone: Jay, Becca, even Emma Rose, nothing seemed to work.) ‘Could I open my item box? Where would I send myself back to?’
A rumble struck the castle, sending a seismic shiver through the room. This seemed to force Noelle into action. She put her arms around me, holding my head to her shoulder.
We landed in the lobby of Noelle’s treehouse inn. “We’ll be safe here,” she said as she stood up. My sister clenched her fists. This caused the branches of the living structure to crackle and creak like massive limbs, repositioning themselves. Suddenly all of the natural light sources were closed off leaving us in darkness. “Noelle, you there?”
“Give me a second.” She took a step away and slapped a nearby wooden wall. This resulted in a glowing green handprint. “It’s lunar moss,” she explained. “It takes a while to max level, but when it does, we should be able to see again.”
I opted to sit on the floor and wait. “Is someone attacking?”
“Likely the person to whom you’ve pledged your trust.” Noelle was walking around, controlling the flow of the light.
I stood up, and for whatever reason I thought it was a good idea to touch the moss. My curiosity was met with an electric shock. The message was clear; this plant-human symbiotic relationship was not mine to examine, and now the tree was enraged.
A hole opened in the nearby wall. It was a split in the flesh of the tree that looked rather painful. ‘Did I do that?’ The walls were trembling, shivering; it was suffering physical pain, but it was also an opening to the outside world.
I stood up and ran. Why I don’t even know. I needed to get far away. I had an arsenal of skills to play, and an inbox full of stuff that could help me. I just needed a moment to catch my breath.
I got a running start and jumped through the opening. This resulted in my arms getting scratched up by (what felt like) wooden shards.
This left behind an uncomfortable number of splinters in my arms as I dove out. It was painful, but the worst came when my bare left foot became caught in the tree-wound. The plant was attempting to heal itself and in doing so, was willing to amputate my limb if I didn’t move. This resulted in a massive cut from my ankle to my heel. It was the kind of injury that doesn’t hurt too badly until you actually look at it. My heart went into immediate shock. ‘This is bad, this is bad. Calm down; you need to move, force yourself to move!’
With my hands and uninjured leg, I scooted myself deeper in the forest. To the average onlooker I likely resembled an injured animal attempting to drag itself to safety. I made it a point to move towards silence; away from the attack on the crystal castle (if that was even a correct assumption.)
Soon, I found a dark, peaceful place of pure quiet. With the last of my strength, I took a seat under an abnormally wide tree. The odd shape reminded me of a weeping willow; flowing leaves creating a natural private space.
Once I was calm enough to breathe, I raised my hand calling upon my item box. It took a few tries, but eventually I managed to get the computer cursor to appear in the corner of my vision. ‘Item box, search for medical supplies.”
The green letters burned into my retinas. “What do you mean, error?”
The curser added a short explanation: ‘Parameters too vague.’
I wanted to scream. “How about sword or weapon? Can we do that, please?” This resulted in a massive list of over a hundred items. It seems like the search feature considered pretty much anything to be a weapon, but somehow could not help me find a way to sew my foot back together.
I picked out a sword made from one of my custom polymers. It was a heavy piece, maybe a little too heavy. There had to be something easier to hide on my person. I recognized three smaller blades; a dagger the size of my hand, an oddly shaped katana, and a pocket knife. The dagger was fireproof; a project born of my attempt to make a heat-proof handle that connected directly with a non-metal blade. The katana was light weight, but sharp. This was because it was held together by a nearly unbreakable magnetic force. (I had learned that the hard way when I almost lost a finger.) And then there was the small knife; a perfect tool to start a fire.
I also sought out elements that I could use to make a fire, to hopefully stop the bleeding (or kill off enough nerves to help end the pain.) Yes, that sounded like a plan; use chemicals to burn my leg until I was numb enough to be able to place weight on it.
I pulled out a dark purple powder that burned hotter than anything found in nature. Flicking the small knife along the length of the magnetic katana caused a series of sparks. It was just enough to activate the power.
I was reminded of a scene in a movie when the action hero puts gunpowder in his wound. This seemed like a similar concept. ‘Except this isn’t a movie.’
“You’re a survivor, you can do this.” I needed to keep moving, more then I needed to not experience excruciating pain.
I moved my foot to the pile. I could already feel the heat. ‘Fuck! That hurts!’ It was like sticking my leg in an oven. I reached for my knife, and with a scooping motion, I slammed a heaping teaspoon of the powder to my ankle. It sizzled, closing the top part of the wound. I would need to do it again. This was not going to be possible without screaming. “Item box search for cloth, or maybe rope.” I swallowed the lump of nerves and mentally prepared to go again.
“Or you could just let me help you.” The words echoed on the unseen wind. ‘Who was speaking?’
“Who do you think?”
“I don’t know.” I could hear words coming from all around me; the voices of my sisters, my father Tomas, Jay and of course Becca. Each of them were so clear, but so far away.
“Who do you want it to be? Who do you want by your side as you weep? As you sleep?”
I felt a pain in my chest. Was it despair or anger? I didn’t know what I wanted because I wanted it all. I wanted to stop the pain.
A hand touched my cheek. “Let me love you.” The voice was female. “I will follow you to the ends of the earth, even if I’m not the one you want.” The statement ended with a tone of sadness. Was this genuine or was she trying to pull at my heart?
“Who says?” I said with whatever confidence I could muster. If this was Becca, I really did need her help. If not, I needed quick access to a weapon.
“Who says?” The voice repeated this statement over and over.
“Stop it,” I muttered. This was all in my head, I was hallucinating from blood loss. Yes, that has to be it. I dug the knife into the scalding hot powder and slammed a much larger dosage on my foot. I held it there, letting the fire burn. My heart was racing, my vision was fading. And holy fuck did it feel good.
I felt high as a kite, as my mind went blank. I knew this was not death. This was a euphoria unlike anything I’d ever experienced.
A pair of arms held me close. The figure had dark skin, and long wavy hair that shimmered in every color of the rainbow. “I swear to God, if this is Leo,” I said sarcastically. I assumed it was in fact my guardian angel sending me a powerup from somewhere beyond the galaxy. In that moment there was no other possible option.
At first the figure didn’t speak. The arms focused on holding me, pressing her chest to my back. ‘Her?’ I wanted to ask if this was Becca, but I knew it wasn’t.
She pressed her cheek to mine, resting her head on my shoulder like a friend. “The world is going to burn, but you know that right?”
“Are you really here?” I asked. It was Emma Amanar. For the first time I didn’t feel sick or afraid. Nothing had changed about her; she was the same age, the same size, but somehow, she was no longer the monster of my nightmares.
“You’re no longer a scared little boy.” Emma was careful to keep her hands to herself. Even if there was a chance I would accept her, I was not like her fuckboy slaves. Unlike Jay’s sons (and whoever else she managed to feed upon) I did not want nor need her prestige.
“You’re still the bitch who killed my father.”
She nodded. “I acknowledge my past deeds.”
“Your past misdeeds?”
“I never said that,” she said in a thoughtfully, innocent voice, “I could have killed him a thousand times, but you know that.”
Was that a threat? “Because you killed my people and harvested their bones in a mass grave overrun by freaky rats?” My anger turned to cynicism. “I mean, am I really supposed to look past that?”
Emma paused, with her head still resting on my shoulder. She looked down at my injured leg. “I will have to prove myself to you.”
“How?” I kind of hoped she would offer magic in the form of painkillers. As soon as my high wore off, I was going to want to take a hacksaw to my mutilated leg.
“I can start by calling off the attack on King Vladimir’s castle, and then we can work on getting you back to my daughter. Will that make you happy?”
“I guess.” I looked at the knife in my hand. It would have been so easy to stab her, but would that even do anything? I already had King Vladimir out for my blood, I couldn’t risk having to flee from a fully powered angry witch. “Is it true you can’t use the Mirapo portals?”
“The portals are like insects. I don’t need them, nor do I want anything to do with them, but if they piss me off, I can easily end them.” She stood up offering her hand. “You ready to go?”
My brain was, but my body was not cooperating. “I think I fucked up my leg.”
“You think?” she said with a child-like giggle. “So, you don’t know?
“What?” Was she making a student-teacher joke?
“Only one way to find out.” She did not make any effort to offer her hand or even take a step in my direction.
“You expect me to just stand up?”
“Either that or I’m leaving without you, and you can find your own way back to the medical lab.”
“So, you admit I need medical attention.” And she was choosing to be an asshole.
“Marcus, sweety,” she sucked in her upper lip, puffing out her cheeks. “Like I said, you’re no longer a little boy. grow a pair and stand up.”
This was going to hurt. I leaned on the tree, placing my weight on my uninjured leg. ‘So far so good.’ Gripping a nearby branch I pulled myself to my feet. There was no way I would be able to take a step. Then I saw my blades. If I could secure my katana to my leg I could use it as a splint, and then perhaps I could hold the handle like the world’s worst walking cane.
“Prove to me you’re not just Becca.”
“Just Becca? Interesting how little you think of my apprentice.”
“You mean your daughter?”
My statement was met with silence.
“Becca was raised by servants and nannies, under the guise that they were training her for a life of hard labor.”
“I would have never forced my daughter into hard labor. She learned gardening; a gifted love of nature.”
The woman turned to me. In a single swift motion, she reached her other arm, gripping me with a large extended claw; a hand of a dragon. I was almost sure I was right; this was Becca acting on her mother’s behalf. Then I realized the color of her scales. Her bright green hand was less ‘dragon’ and more ‘demonic monster-like.’
As we took to the sky, I attempted to open my eyes. The air was thin, cold, burning my retinas, but I could make out a view of the attack. King Vladimir’s castle was still standing, for that I was (somewhat) grateful. The army of flying creatures appeared to adhere to their Queen’s order and were retreating in the opposite direction. Some took the time to lob a few more projectiles for good measure.
The red fireballs did the most damage, chipping away at the surface of the castle towers. These were followed by halos of gold and green which (while vibrant and colorful) did not appear to inflict additional damage. ‘Red, gold and green?’
She started to hum a familiar song. “Hum, huma, huma, karma chameleon. Come and go; we come and go-o-o. Loving would be easy if the colors realized our dreams; red, gold and green, red, gold and gree-een.” An Earth song. The fact that I recognized it made the situation infinitely creepier.
Emma sang the rest of the lyrics as we arrived on a balcony, that did not appear to be connected to any window. “You good?” she asked as we came to a stop in front of the slate wall.
“I guess.” I had no choice in the matter.
“Good.” She helped me to my feet with one arm while pressing her hand to the stone. With on motion, she pulled me through the wall, landing on a nearby bed.
“Is this a guest room?” I asked. The room seemed unnaturally empty, but at least the bed seemed comfortable.
“Pretty much.” Emma stood up, walking around the room as her dragon features morphed away. “Can we talk?”
I laid back, crossing my arms behind my head. “I certainly can’t stop you.” I did not expect her to take this as a challenge.
“You father had the equivalent of cancer.”
“The equivalent of earth cancer? Does the word Cancer not exist here?”
“Not for a blacksmith working for a witch,” she said with a shrug.
“So, same lack of available diagnosis and medical care?”
“I wouldn’t say that.”
“What would you say?”
“There were tumors growing in his kidneys. The illness spread to his chest.”
I sat up, placing my weight on my elbows. “And how do you know this?
“You can learn a lot from lovemaking.”
“You mean screwing?”
Emma looked at me with the innocence of a child. “Your father was delicious. But what I did to him was out of love.” She took a seat on the bed, placing her hand dangerously close to mine. “He had been sick long before you were born. He sold his body to me, to make sure you’d be protected. He wanted you to stay with me. He let me devour him out of love; his deep unending love for you.”
“Is that why he wanted to kill himself? He’d rather be a pile of ashes than kept alive to be harvested like a cow.”
“He was recked with guilt for what you did to me.”
“Also, partially true.”
“What could you possibly add to the narrative? I was there.
“I was a vicious, cruel woman. Being forced to share a lover will do that to you.”
“Are you talking about your husband or my father?”
“Your father’s relationship with my late husband was a constant thorn in my side.”
“And you took it out on his son?”
“For that I apologize, but it’s not my fault he never let you drink.”
“The purple crap in the wine glass?
“That was a gift intended to ease your discomfort.”
“It was a glorified date rape drug.”
“You could say that.” Emma seemed almost proud. “The basic formula was reverse engineered from memory.”
She was actually admitting to having drugged my father. “Good for you?
“You can’t change the past, only hope to remedy…”
I cut her off before she could bullshit me further. “What did you do to your husband?”
“That is none of your concern. My apprentice will be returning shortly.”
It still bothered me that she refused to use the word daughter.
“Did you kill Jay’s sons?”
“I killed three of Jay’s offspring after tricking them into sacrificing their own mates. Did you know that all dragons mate for life?”
“How does that work?”
“Polygamy,” Emma said as she smacked her hand to her head. “Duh.”
“As for the deaths of three of jay’s fuckboy sons; yes, I will admit to that, but you must also admit to their inferior character.
None of them would have been an appropriate heir to the dragon empire.
“Empire?” was she referring to the value of the mountain? Grant it I’ve never seen it in its entirety but there was no way that place fit the definition of an empire.
“I know you are somewhat aware of the interior; the place is the very definition of larger on the inside. Oh, shit.” Before she could continue the door flung open. Emma vanished in a puff of green smoke, just as Becca entered the room.
“Damn it, Mom!” She looked around but all that was left was a distinct smell of iron and lavender. Technically Emma had kept her word and not confronted me within range of her daughter’s eyes. She rushed to my side. “Are you alright? Did she try anything?”
“No, I’m fine. I think she was just trying to make sure I made it back while I still had all my body parts.”
Becca nodded, her lips parting in a slim, forced smile. “I’m glad.”
Can I ask about your dragon form?”
“You want to know if I can do it at will or if I require your seed?”
“I was going to ask if it required you to be having sex.”
“I’ve had sex before,” she stated bluntly. This was not a topic she wished to pursue.
“Sorry.” I knew she lost her virginity unwillingly. Maybe that was why I was the one able to unlock her power; I was a lesser being. With me she was confident, powerful, in control, and she always would be. We were good together. And that was terrifying.
Becca reached in her pocket, pulling out a sewing kit.
‘No, this was far more terrifying.’ My face must have displayed my hesitance.
“You trust me, right?”
“Yeah,” I forced myself to say, “of course.”
“I’m glad.” She lifted my leg on to a sterile metal tray, and proceeded to sew my muscle back together. The needle was sharper than I thought possible and the thread felt like plastic rather than cloth.
“You don’t have to watch me,” Becca muttered.
It was only then I realize the awkward pose I was in; sitting up, with my weight on my arms. I was causing myself unnecessary pain. I laid back, resting my head on a firm mattress. “What would I ever do without you?”
“Get thrown into a shadow realm prison for a few years,” she replied, giving the plastic thread a firm tug.
‘Ow.’ I bit my tongue to keep from crying out in pain.
“I’ll let you know if I miss my period. Or lay an egg.”
“Yeah, that’d be wild.” Following that with a forced laugh took more effort than most bowel movements. I was nauseous, afraid, but not of being a father. That I could handle (hopefully.) It was the idea of being forever tethered to Becca; it made me anxious in a way I never knew possible.
next: Isekai ch16