previous: Isekai ch15
I fell asleep in Becca’s arms. For the first time since childhood, I felt safe, wanted, and loved. I opened my eyes to catch a glimpse of her long curls. Her hair was always so soft, acting as my emotional support toy. All I wanted was to stay here; to act as her baby brother and best friend. The room was so quiet, awash with a sense of calm.
The bed had only a firm mattress with a fitted sheet, giving a cold, sterile appearance. Right now, it was just what I needed. I rolled onto my back, taking in the sensation of the clean fabric against my neck. This was a vacation away from drama, bullshit and pain of the past few days. I didn’t need the backhanded family love of my ‘other family.’ My father, my sisters; their compassion was born from seeds of lies. ‘Why did the world even work like that; did everyone have an alternate family, or was it just me?’ This was all I needed; my real family, even if they were a tribe of dragons and witches.
I was about to close my eyes again when I was awakened by an alarm. Actually, it was more like a series of screams accompanied by church bells announcing the arrival of something. A single voice shouted an urgent statement in a language I didn’t understand.
“Code Green light?” Becca groaned. “Seriously?” she rolled over, planting a kiss on my cheek. “I got to go.” The words were said but her sleep deprived body refused to move.
“What’s going on?” I placed my arm around her, as if to say, ‘You don’t have to go anywhere.’
“A Code Green means I have more injured soldiers to look at.” Becca sat up, looked around, as she reached for the coat she had dropped on the floor. “I have to go earn my free room and board.”
“You’re in charge of all the injured?” In all of the Amanr estate? Or perhaps all of the military as well? That seemed like a lot for one apprentice. Was Queen Emma trying to cause burnout?
“Oh, absolutely not,” she laughed. “Even if I had that level of mastery over my skills, there is no way the good Queen would waste her time rehabilitating potentially disabled cannon fodder.”
“Cannon fodder?” That was an unusual choice of words.
“They exist mainly as my test subjects,” Becca explained as she stood up, checking her appearance in a compact mirror. “You can come with me.”
Her words caused me to flinch. “What about my leg?”
“What about it?”
I looked down at my foot; the wound was completely closed, and I regained full range of motion. “Wow.”
“When are you going to stop doubting me?” Becca held out her hand, as if we were about to go on a tour of a local country fair. “Come on!” She seemed egger to have me by her side, as if this was her idea of fun.
What we entered was a bloody emergency room filled with rows of metal beds. I turned to Becca who seemed to be counting the patients. “I think I’ll work left to right.”
While she did that, I stood frozen in place. The wounded were a variety of species; lizards, felines, winged creatures and even a few humans.
I watched as Becca took down notes from each patient. Some bodies had notepads by their feet while others did not.
After the first twenty or so, she yawned, stretching her back in exhaustion. Becca walked back to my side.
“What now?” I asked. Did it fall on Becca to treat all of these patients?
“Now, we get to hang out at my lab.” Becca shifted the pile of papers in her arms, as we walked to a nearby elevator. “Hold this for a second.” Using the hand crank she manually took us up a floor.
“I could have done that.”
“Crank the elevator? Oh sorry. I’ll let you try it next time.”
Soon we were back in a familiar room filled with all manner of preserved body parts, magical chemicals and other things used as medical alchemy tools.
I took a seat on the bed, the same one where she had fixed my face post-suicide attempt. “Do you treat all your patients in here?”
“In my lab? Oh, hell no!” she said with a laugh. “My mother’s foot soldiers would gladly rob me blind.” she pulled down a series of shelves, removing a few dozen items. “You can wait here. I’ll be back when I need refills.”
“Are you experimenting on injured patients or is that actual proven medicine?”
“Proven?” she asked with a smirk. “Pray tell, how does something become proven without experimentation?”
‘And that’s why you’ll always be the smart one.’ I stood up, helping her with her trays before sneaking a kiss. “I’ll just wait here.”
Becca turned like the world’s most talented waitress. “Please do.”
I sat back on the bed as I watched her leave. ‘This was kind of nice.’ I reclined on to the pillow, taking in the smell of Becca’s sweat. ‘Did she sleep in this room?’
I sat up, coming face to face with a head in a jar. Needing a different space to mindlessly stare at, I stood up and looked around, until I came across a drawer of gemstones, one of which looked kind of familiar. She had become a master of magic, and yet she still kept the necklace her father had given her.
I picked up the polished black gemstone. Holding it in my palm I felt a sudden sense of sadness; a raw, intense pain in my chest.
I blinked my eyes, focusing on my breathing until I saw a computer cursor. ‘Item Box: Skill set: trans-dimensional alchemy.’ A smile crept across my face. “Really, you don’t say?”
I started to look through the samples; solids, liquids, and powders. There were a few clean, empty petri dishes I could screw around with, but I needed to be extremely careful.
Using a small spatula, the size of a toothpick I placed a pill sized pile of silver powder on the glass surface. I then placed a drop of a green liquid. This created a small spark.
‘What exactly are you doing?’ I could picture Becca walking in on me. I very well could be screwing up an ongoing project. I wanted to stop, but the necklace was vibrating. It wanted to be in the petri dish. I was about to touch it with the sharper part of the spatula when the whole thing simply fell. The metallic silver began to coat the pendent, creating a mirror surface. Except it wasn’t reflecting the room. In the stone I saw flashes of motion and light.
The scene went dark, before revealing a human palm. I could see Jay sitting against a wall. His mouth was moving; he seemed injured, terrified, and he was trying to speak.
I hovered my hand over the stone. Sure enough, I could hear whispers.
Jay was coughing, pleading. “Don’t hang up, please. I just don’t want to be alone.”
I touched the surface, and I could hear Jay muttering to himself. “Jay? Can you hear me?”
“Yes, keep one finger on the stone. And whatever you do, do not let go, or the signal will be lost.” Jay repositioned his body, revealing something large and metallic protruding from his chest.
“How far away are you?”
“Let’s just say I’m close enough to feel the fires of Hell, but far enough to watch the world burn.” He laughed, a deep, melancholy chuckle. “Emma Amanar is carving a path to the north. She has no goals beyond her own twisted amusement; obliterate, harvest or enslave.”
Jay sounded oddly defeated, prepared to accept death. And I needed to know why. “Are you stuck?”
“Yeah, maybe a little.”
“Should I get Becca?”
He shook his head.
“I could try to walk without dropping it.”
“Not worth it.” he placed his hand to the wound in his chest. “I don’t know how much longer I have.”
“Okay,” it was time for plan B. I closed my eyes and focused. Could the item box bring Mirapo? Keeping my hand as stiff as possible, I attempted to focus on Jay. That was how I got to his office, the first time. (And how I nearly got my sister killed.)
“Are you calling for a portal?” Jay asked.
“Sort of.” I had forgotten he could see me. I was hoping to summon it via the item box.” I assumed Jay of all people would understand.
“Don’t bother. They can’t appear within the boundaries of the castle.”
“Queen Emma’s dark magic; it would be like you or me volunteering to step into a live volcano.”
That made no sense. “Then how did I find you before?”
“You’re talking about when you landed in my office.”
“Even if you could find me, I would not want you to come here.”
“And why is that?” There was no way I was leaving my friend and mentor to die in a cave. ‘Was that even a cave?’
“Fairy stone,” Becca’s voice said from directly behind me.
“Fairy stone?” My hand shook so badly I nearly lost my connection.
Thankfully Becca’s fingers caught mine. “Fairy magic is the direct opposite of dragon magic.”
“Is that what’s sticking out of his chest?”
Becca nodded. “He was stabbed in the chest with a stone sacred to the Fae people.”
“How do we find him?”
“We?” Becca asked, as if it was obvious, I was not invited.
“Yes,” I replied, dragging out the word into multiple syllables.
“You will stay here as bait for my mother. If you leave the castle grounds, she’ll be tempted to track you.”
I saw her point, but there was another side to the coin. “Why can’t we ask her for help?”
Becca bit her lip in contemplation. “I guess we can. Or you can, anyway.” She stood up, looking towards a spot in the corner of the room. “Queen Mother Gaudian, your royal highness, Emma Rose Amanar. I bow to summon you. I invite you in.”
The corner of the wall began to bleed a bright purple hue. The liquid pooled together to form a figure; Emma Rose, but completely nude and soaking wet. “What?” she asked Becca.
Becca rolled her eyes, clearly this was common behavior. “Mom?”
“You’re the one who summoned me.” She suddenly turned to see the mirrored rock. “Jay, is that you?” her voice was a little too cheerful. Did she send him on a suicide mission? Or was she just reveling in the fact she was naked in front of the three people who would find her behavior annoying. “How goes your venture into the crackled realm.”
“A little fucked up,” Jay replied.
Emma turned to me. “Marcus, sweetie, as the one holding the connection, you’re the only one who can actually hear him.
“Oh, sorry,” I looked at Jay. I knew I couldn’t ask out loud, without drawing the attention and ire of Queen Emma, so hopefully he knew my hidden question.
“You want to know what to tell the Queen Bitch,” he muttered with a cocky smirk.
“You really are from Earth.” Unfortunately, the words came out loud enough for Emma to hear.
“What the hell did he say?” Emma scoffed like an offended schoolgirl. She waved her hand, producing a robe that appeared to be made of pure darkness. With only her head neck and shoulders exposed, she looked like a portrait bust sculpture.
“He says you look like a floating head,” I said with a laugh. I wanted so badly to see Jay smile.
Jay leaned back, laughing out loud. He looked truly happy. “How’s my little girl?”
“Becca’s good.” Actually, I wasn’t completely sure of that. “She’s in the room, you can talk to her.” I already knew he didn’t want to.
“I’m good. Becca knows what she means to me.” Jay flinched in noticeable pain. “In the coldest hour, I can hold on to the notion of truth.”
“What?” I couldn’t tell if he’d meant to be that cryptic or if he was truly that far gone.
The spear of stone shifted in his chest causing a mouthful of blood. “Fuck,” he said with an ironic chuckle. “Looks like I’m getting out of here one way or another.”
“Oh.” I forced a reply through the pain in my chest. I genuinely felt sick. Was he giving up?
“Hold on a second.” Jay sat up. He swatted what looked like a small child diving out of the sky. Gripping the creature by the neck, he lifted the body to reveal a bird-like animal with the body of a hawk and the face of a screaming woman.
The creature flailed its claws, scratching at Jay’s neck and chest. Jay readjusted his grip and easily broke the creature’s neck.
“What was that?”
“A harpy, a fae; whatever you want to call them.” Jay then proceeded to take a bit of the creature’s neck. “Their blood is the antidote to the effects of the stone.
“Okay,” I swallowed the vomit in my throat. That was a small glimmer of hope in an otherwise dire situation.
“You can tell Queen Emma that I can take care of myself. Not that I even expected her to care.”
“Sure.” I bit my lower lip, for a moment of contemplation, before turning to Emma. “He says to tell you he’ll see you soon after he consumes all the spoils of the Fae.” In my mind Jay would carve a bloody path through these creatures, but apparently, I was the only one who thought so.
Becca placed her hand over mine, disconnecting the call. What happened next, she did not want her father to witness. She turned to her mother, bowing her head in an act of submission. “Your royal highness, Goddess of all, I humbly ask for the opportunity to retrieve my father’s remains?”
Emma placed a finger to her lower lip. I had seen that expression before; she had something devious in mind. “You, my dear daughter, yes you have my blessing. But I demand something in return.”
It was glaringly obvious Becca had been completely correct; I would be required to stay behind. I stayed silent; this was between Becca and Emma to negotiate. Only after knowing my fate, could I start to make a plan to escape.
“What do you demand?”
“Lift the previous oath and allow me unrestricted access to your special friend.”
“No.” Becca stood up. “I’m done playing princess. If you think I would ever allow you to unrestricted access you are insane.”
I placed my hand upon her shoulder. “It’s ok.”
I reached for her hand, giving her palm a squeeze. Again, I was putting my faith onto the idea that Becca could read my thoughts. “You need to find your dad.” I sucked in my lips, choking back tears. Jay was all that mattered.
Becca nodded. “We owe it to him.”
Emma was waiting patiently. She pulled her legs to her chest, disappearing under the shadow robe. “So, are we doing this?”
Becca reached for a petri dish mixing a few powders before handing them to me. “Add a drop of your blood.”
Emma crossed her arms, looking immediately concerned. “It didn’t require blood before.”
“Actually, it did,” Becca replied in a confident tone. “I just took it from him during his facial reconstruction surgery. Now, he needs to give it willingly.” She reached into her pocket, fishing out a folded knife. She gave it a flick, exposing the serrated blade. “It needs to be a decent amount.”
I nodded. I took a breath and glanced over at Emma. My hatred for her would give me strength to do what was necessary. In one quick motion I made a slice with a turn. This resulted in not only blood, but a chunk of flesh landing in the potion.
“There.” Becca waved her hand, causing the contents of the petri dish to combust, creating a bright blue flame. “Now you can have unlimited access to each other without fear of reprisal.”
Emma stood up, allowing her robe to drop to her waist. The way she caught the fabric seemed odd. She was about to put Becca’s promise to the test. And it was going to be painful.
She leapt on me like a feral cat, tossing the robe over my head like a captured animal. I fell backward on to my ass, hitting my head on some kind of metal box. Emma only laughed. “Well, color me impressed.
I sat up. With my head throbbing, the details of the room slowly came into view; a purple rug, metal nightstand bolted to the wall. My eyes were drawn up the wall, to a massive collection of skulls.
“Hey, are you alright?” Emma asked.
I didn’t answer; I didn’t even look for her location. My eyes were following a path of bones forever immortalized in the form of room decor. There were so many I couldn’t try to locate Jay’s sons even if I tried.
I had to think about Jay. I needed to figure out a way to escape without having to resort to sleeping with her. “I’m kind of hungry.”
Emma looked down and smiled. “You’re a bad liar.” She walked to a nearby cabinet, opening it to reveal rack after rack of clothing pieces; normal skirts, t-shirts and dresses. “And I’m not stupid.” She selected an oversized t-shirt that hung loose off her shoulder, pairing it with pajama pants covered in characters from a certain cartoon show about ponies with upper thigh tattoos.
“Where did those clothes come from?” I asked, a little creeped out. It was like we were two players in a videogame.
“Where do any clothes come from?”
“A store?” I immediately realized my sheer stupidity. No, an item box. I was witnessing Emma access her personal pocket dimension.
“Close,” she said with a genuine smile, “These are memories. What do you remember of Earth?”
“War, famine, I think I watched a few people die.” My last memories of earth were seared into my mind.
“That would be your latest incarnation. What did you do before that?”
“How am I supposed to know?” I knew I had lived multiple lives, but the memories were blurry at best.
“You know words to American songs.”
“What does that mean?” I raised an eyebrow. Was she that dense? “How is that possible if I died in a warzone? Is that really what you’re asking?” My mind began to flood with memories; I could hear songs on old cassette tapes, interlaced with bullets and screaming.
“You also know American curse words,” Emma added. She was pulling small jewelry items from a neon pink plastic box (a toy that had been trending in the late 1980’s.) “I bet there are so many things you can remember.”
She wasn’t wrong. ‘How did I have so many memories of retro American culture?’ I leaned back, lost in my own thoughts. Before I could realize what, she was doing Emma gripped my injured hand, sinking her nails into the open wound. Needless to say, it hurt like all fuck.
I felt myself pass out from shock. My eyes burned and my head was throbbing. I could feel my body in a new space; warm sand, live music, and drifting garbage. I was on a beach looking up at a clear blue sky.
A teenage girl ran towards me. “Come on! Could you at least try to keep up?” The image was blurry. Either I had hit my head or? I patted the sand, looking for a pair of glasses. In the distance I could see a girl with blonde hair running towards the shore. Just as she entered the waves a shirtless man emerged like an underwater sea dragon, splashing her.
They both laughed. The blonde girl pulled her hair back, using a rubber band from her wrist. She kissed her boyfriend again, letting him life her out of the water. They kissed again, this time with the girl placing her arm around the boy’s shoulder. “Sorry I have to babysit.”
Was she talking to me? I picked up the glasses, hoping to catch a glimpse of my reflection. I looked to be a thin, awkward girl. If I had to guess I would say I was eight, maybe ten.
The older girl turned to me, locking eyes with a death glare. “My half-sister; my mom’s baby trap, ugh, she’s such a creep.”
‘Better to be a creep than a wannabe mean-girl-bitch.’ Was this girl my sister? No, that didn’t feel right. “Sorry,” my voice said out loud. I was a little girl wearing a plain blue one-piece swimsuit. ‘Was I related to any of them? Where were my parents?’
The music changed to a new song; a live cover of a country song about an unimpressed female. “That don’t impress me much,” I sang along in my innocent voice. “You got the looks, but do you got the touch?” I wasn’t sure of those were the words, but it felt right; a sweet tempo that rolled off the tongue like ice cream on a hot day.
The boy and girl started to dance, spin and grope each other as they walked further into the ocean. The girl shot me one last glare, to further drive home the fact that she hated my very existence.
‘Whatever.’ I watched them go under, and then nothing.
“Now, don’t get me wrong, I think you’re all right, but that won’t keep me warm in the middle of the night.” The waves became calm. If anything alive was in the water, I should have been able to see it. ‘Were they dead? Did it matter?’
I turned back towards the pier. There was a nice shady spot hidden in the shadow of an overhanging walkway. I took a seat next to a metal trash can with no lid. It smelled of soda, popcorn and discarded candy. I closed my eyes, blinking for just a moment, but when I opened them, the sky had gone dark. I pulled my knees to my chest. It was cold. “Mom?” I had a mother, that I knew. Someone was out there looking for me.
Suddenly a series of flashlights appeared in the distance. I raised my arms. The police came closer, followed by a weeping couple. The woman scooped me up in her arms. Between sirens, and shouting I could only hear part of the story.
“He killed her,” the woman said through sobs. Apparently, my sister and her boyfriend went missing. “That junkie strangled her, I just know it.”
No trace of them would ever be found. I fell asleep on my mother’s shoulder, but I awoke in Queen Emma’s bed. The world around us was covered in black satin fabric. The walls, the floor, the bed, and even the ceiling was a sea of darkness without the previously seen bone decor. The air smelled of sea salt and popcorn. “What was that?”
“You have no place in my collection,” Emma’s voice seemed to be coming from all directions. “But you have a place in my reality.”
“Were you my sister or my mother?”
“It doesn’t matter.”
“I know Jay was the boyfriend.” The room shook. Did she not expect me to pick up on that?
“Why?” her voice was now an echo. “Because he’s so perfect?”
She yanked down a single black curtain, appearing in front of me like a ghost with a taste for nostalgic fashion. “See, I’m not so bad.”
“Can I get something to drink?”
“I thought you were hungry?”
“Maybe I’m just tired.” I gripped my hand. The wound itself had stopped bleeding, but the skin was wide open.
“Then let’s go to sleep.” Emma moved on to my lap. She took my hand placing it to her tight stomach. Every part of me was attempting to hold back vomit. ‘You can do this. Just think about the people on Earth who would call you a lucky bastard for getting raped by a beautiful immortal witch.’
I reclined, resting my back as she went to work. I assumed my body reacted the way it was supposed to. Not that I cared. I only needed her to expend her energy; to put us on an even playing field for what was to come.
next: Isekai ch17