previous: Isekai ch16
I laid in bed by Queen Emma’s side. Like an animal, the creature had taken what she needed, and now in her state of physical exhaustion and mental calm, she was asleep. The room was still filled with waves of black fabric that seemed to levitate on their own. I was safe, but I still needed a way out.
I looked around for a door or a window, but there were only cabinets and other furniture. This means one of these was actually a door. ‘A door that only works with Emma’s magic. There had to be a way to figure this out. I knew she didn’t want me dead: that was my only situational advantage here, in her bedroom. I needed to find a way to use her power without having to ask.
‘Item box.’ My mind focused on the darkness, praying for the glowing cursor to appear. ‘Come on, please!’ the shadows were waving like windchimes, moving just enough to not allow me to focus on a specific surface. Yet there was no wind. Did this mean something? ‘She’s actually awake, isn’t she?’
I carefully sat up, crossing my arms over my chest. I was naked, shivering, but the room wasn’t cold.
I could hear Emma purring like a cat, pretending to be asleep. I attempted to get a look at her face, but all I could perceive was (what looked like) a mound of hair. It was possible she was facing away from me, in an attempt to offer privacy. (Either that or she had powers similar to a certain Japanese ghost.)
With a small amount of courage, I got up, walking towards Queen Emma’s enchanted wardrobe. Obviously, nothing she owned would fit me, but I had hoped she collected some trophies from her previous lovers. I managed to locate heavy leather pants, and a denim trench coat. I ran my fingers through my hair. With how long (and ice-blonde) it was, I kind of resembled a video game character.
‘Now or never.’ I stood for a moment, looking at myself in the mirror. This was Emma’s mirror; my master’s mirror, our owner’s mirror. That was likely why I still couldn’t focus.
I folded my hand, digging my nails into my wound. I could feel the smallest splinter of metal stuck in my skin. (at least I hope that’s what it was.) That was what I focused on; the idea that I had managed to break off a sliver of Becca’s serrated knife. I didn’t even know if I had actually succeeded in my goal of mutilating myself while breaking her property. Hopefully just the thought would be enough (of a connection) to find her. ‘Becca where are you?’ I nearly jumped out of my skin when I heard a sigh.
“You’re really doing this?” Emma appeared behind me, placing her hand upon my shoulder.
“Is there a problem?” I asked, giving my best action hero impression. In the likely event there was a problem (with my escape attempt) I would just have to find a work around.
“No, no problem.” Emma sat cross legged in just her underwear. She reached for her oversized t-shirt, putting it on, to cover herself. it was an act of respect that I appreciated.
“You know I have to go.” I swallowed my nerves, attempting to look as brave as my clothing pieces. “Becca is my best friend and Jay.”
“Jay is something special,” The queen’s words drifted off. Clearly that statement was not meant for me to hear. She stretched her arms behind her back, regaining her composure. “Anyway, you look good.”
“You just need a necklace.” she got off the bed and headed to a different cabinet. The doors opened with a heavenly glow. This was her personal stash of magical relics.
“Why would I take anything from you?” The words fell from my lips without anger or emotion. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to say that out loud.” I would prefer not to get dumped in another prison dimension.
“No worries,” she muttered, still searching through her collection. “As for why you should accept my gift?” Emma picked out a red stone on a plain leather cord. “What if I told you this will all but guarantee your success?”
“Success in retrieving Jay?” I asked. Hopefully that was what she meant. Even if they weren’t friends, she appeared to care about him on a deep, meaningful level. (Or maybe that was just me.)
Emma shrugged. “Success in making it back to me in one piece.”
“So, a tracking device?”
“Much more than a tracking device,” she said with a laugh. “Would you like an example?” Without waiting for an answer, Emma put the necklace over her own head, admiring it for a moment before reaching her hand back in to the jewelry box to retrieve a decorative knife. She lifted her hand, cutting her own palm. “See, this is a real knife.”
“I believe you.”
She slashed at her own chest but no matter how close she got, the knife would only cut as deep as her clothing, leaving her skin perfectly safe (as if wearing chainmail.) “The necklace will act as a chest plate, but without the added weight.”
‘And a tracking device.’ That part did not need to be said. “Can I ask you something?”
“Who were you in that memory?”
“What?” she looked at me with confusion.
“The beach? The boardwalk amusement park? I assume it was your memory since you were able to project it into my head.”
“Oh!” she said with a cheerful, innocent smile. “You’re talking about the last time we met.”
“Is that what that was?” If she wanted my attention, she now had it. Jay and Becca would have to wait.
“You really don’t remember?”
“No, were you my sister or my mother?”
“I was the guy.”
“The hippie, the junkie, whatever else your family called me. I saved you from your sister.”
“You saved me?” I took a moment to (figuratively) pick my jaw up off the floor. ‘How could that possibly be true?’
“Do you want to know what happens next?”
I kind of did. “How do I know you’re not just putting memories in my head?”
“I don’t know,” she replied in a way that seemed indifferent. “I can stop when you start to remember shit on your own?”
“Sure.” That sounded reasonable. (Although it still left room for the possibility of her trapping me with a story that had no end.)
“Once upon a time, there was a little girl.” Emma gently tapped me on the nose. “She lived in a big house with her trophy wife mommy, millionaire daddy, and her older half-sister who wanted her dead. I was a homeless junkie with the face of a model and the body of a porn star.”
“Uh, huh.” I raised my eyebrow, holding back a smirk. I had no doubt she had been a hot junkie in a previous life.
“You saved me.” Emma pulled her knees to her chest, crossing her arms like an excited child.
I was entranced. “I saved you?”
“You were a little girl; a sweet innocent child with a heart of gold. I was sitting on the corner outside your family’s church. with all of my worldly possessions in my backpack. You remember, right?”
“Your daddy and his friends called the police; they were going to have me arrested but not before humiliating me.
“They took your guitar.” I could remember a group of men in suits, many with their families, attacking this one homeless man who was just looking for a place to sleep.
“Aww,” Emma cupped my face. “You do remember.”
Her kindness was intoxicating, but then she kissed me on the lips. Now I remembered everything.
“I do.” As a wealthy ten-year-old, I had apparently convinced a church full of rich people to stop an attack on a homeless teenager. I said something about Jesus and mercy and treating people with love and compassion. My adorable tears were enough to convince my mother to give him a job and a place on our land, where he lived within walking distance of my bedroom.
Emma looked at me confused, her smile fading. “You do?”
“He started out as a friend; someone I could trust.” And then it went all to hell. “He told me he loved me.”
“And he did,” Emma said. She scooted back to give me space to breathe. “I did.”
“He said he’d take me away, but instead he disappeared with my sister.”
“I was going to come back for you.”
Emma pursed her lips knowing exactly what I meant. “There’s nothing I can say to make you understand.”
“You raped me.”
“I was in love with you.”
“The same as you are now.”
Emma looked defeated. With a sigh she leaned back, and waved her hand, causing the black sheets to vanish. The morbidly elaborate bone decor was now visible, but so was a bright silver door.
Without a second thought, I ran out the exit, heading to the nearest staircase. I didn’t even question why the door had been left unlocked until I was a good distance down the hallway. It was pretty obvious; this was all Emma’s plan, she was willing to let me leave, but there was going to be a major catch. (That would be an issue for later.) Running as fast as I could (ignoring all of the strange creatures who were watching me) I hoped to find the roof, but I had to settle for a stain glass window.
I punched the glass with my already injured hand. I really wish I’d found a pair of gloves. My hand was covered in blood, burning with a hellish pain.
Emma wasn’t chasing me, no one was. The army of creatures behind me were just watching with morbid curiosity. Suddenly, there was a sharp stabbing pain in my palm. I opened my hand (as much as I could, given the nerve damage.) I was holding the necklace with the red gem. “Fuck!”
I was sobbing as I rammed the glass over and over, until I made a hole big enough to leap out of.
‘What?’ I could hear the sound of its cries but the mirror was nowhere in sight.
“Mir! A! po!”
Suddenly I fell through another window. It was as if time had reset itself. No, I had fallen through a second glass panel.
“Mirapo?” I awoke teleported to a lush green field covered in wildflowers. For a moment I felt calm, peaceful even, but in the pit of my stomach I knew what I had done.
My yo-kai portal guardian lay in pieces. With what little strength I had, I attempted to approach the pile of broken glass and shattered frame.
The moon was bright in the sky, allowing me to vaguely make out the once comical eyes of the creature. “Why did you do that?”
“Mir…” it struggled in pain.
I opened my hand, revealing the necklace, but that only made it worse. While my wounds healed almost instantly, the gem seemed to be causing more and more damage to the creature. “I’m sorry.”
I managed to stand up, taking a step backward when a swarm of bird-people came crashing down. I dove towards the safety of a nearby tree, covering my head. I was mentally prepared for a fight. Then I saw the blood. Someone was killing these things mid-air. “Becca?”
A purple shape was fighting off a horde of attackers. From where I sat, it looked like a scorpion being attacked by a colony of ants. Except it was all being played out under the haze of the moonlit sky. Did I want to draw its attention? I assumed it was my best friend in her dragon form, but what if it wasn’t?
Apparently, I need not worry since the swarm spotted me first. The massive birds started to dive at me like suicide bombers. Soon I was unable to see anything beyond feathers, and blood. I must have screamed, because somehow, the dragon heard me.
She landed hard, her massive form causing a ripple of power that sent the Harpies flying. “Took you long enough.”
I took a breath, grateful for her rescue. I was about to make an attempt to stand when a new set of birds arrived. These were wearing (what appeared to be) armor made of silver and gold.
I ducked, avoiding an attack. This resulted in a second harpy landing right on my face. She positioned her claws to dig into my chest while screaming in my face. I needed a weapon.
“Inbox,” I said out loud, trying to find a place to focus. “I mean item box!”
My outburst was met with annoyance. “Did you forget to bring a weapon?”
“I have a weapon,” I growled as I struggled with the creature in my face. “I just need to access it.” I needed to focus on a single point long enough for the cursor to appear. This was not likely to happen if (and when) my eyes were ripped out.
Becca seemed to understand. She extended her wings, and with a massive rush of energy Becca executed a spin. It was a single rotation, but that was all it took to send the swarm fleeing for the sky. The exertion appeared to cause her to revert back to her human form. She quickly maneuvered her backpack to hide herself as she threw on some clothing.
“You know I’ve seen you naked before.”
“Well, I prefer to not be completely exposed in the heart of Fae territory.” She put on a bra and underwear, allowing her back and stomach to remain uncovered. Becca in her undeniably beautiful human body stretched her arms over her head, letting the moonlight cascade down her back. Purple and green metallic scales faded in and out of view. That was her trick; apparently, she could make use of all or just part of her dragon form.
“So, did you at least find him?”
“At least?” She tilted her head with a look of annoyance, bordering on rage.
“Sorry, you know what I mean.” With the moment of calm, I focused on calling upon my item box. I needed a weapon but I also needed a way to stop the bleeding. “This place is massive and I’m sure there are millions of caves that look like the one we saw in the,” my mind went blank. Was it an SOS; a call for help, or just a final message? Either way the message had been projected on a surface roughly the size of a strawberry, so my question did in fact hold merit.
“Yes,” she said with an exhausted sigh. “I think I know where to find him.” She took a seat by my side, pulling her knees to her chest. “I’m sorry.”
“You don’t have to be.”
“I don’t have to be?”
That got a laugh. “Who talks like that?”
“Someone who survived getting mind raped by your mom.”
Becca nodded, acknowledging my state of mind. “My dad is trapped in a cave on the opposite side of that trench.”
“Trench?” That was when I noticed where we were. This was a tactical stronghold. ‘Oh fuck.’ We had been attacking the equivalent of a Fae military base. That also explained what Jay had been doing.
“I can’t believe she sent him here,” Becca groaned. She turned to me with a look of annoyance. “Pick out a weapon. We need to get going.”
“Right.” I searched for the first listing under the category of weapons. It was a thick iron blade the size of a kitchen knife. With what I was wearing, I could easily use my arm as a shield.
Becca flexed her back, expanding her wings. “Hold on to my back. I know of a path we can take that will get us close.”
“To where they’re keeping him.
“To where he’s held up.”
I understood. I gripped my arms around Becca, hugging her back. (This which was made easier when she used her magic to call upon her wings.) Her shoulders and back stretched out into a shape that looked painful, but I knew better than to ask. We made a quick hop across the canyon, landing in the shadows of the nearby rocks.
“We need to climb the wall,” Becca instructed. “I’ll go first, you follow directly in my shadow.”
“Why can’t we just fly?”
“Because we don’t fly, I fly and it’s damn exhausting.”
Something about her response felt like a lie, but my determination to locate Jay outweighed any desire to piss off my half-dragon girlfriend. I did as she asked, following close enough to be able to touch her feet. While staying in the shadows. Soon we approached an opening in the wall.
Becca rolled on her side to slip through the odd-shaped opening. “Give me your hand.”
The entrance opened to a massive space which was lit up by veins of glowing white rocks. “Is that fairy stone?” I asked, placing my hand to the warm surface. I immediately jerked away. There was something creepy about the sensation. Was it radioactive? That seemed likely given the warmth and light.
“Hey,” Jay said from the space where he was pinned to the wall. “Don’t I get a hug?”
Jay was leaning against a wall, his chest quivering as he struggled for breath. His mouth as covered in blood. He had been surviving on the harvested bodies of any Fae creature dumb enough to get within grabbing distance.
Given how I’d been attacked I could imagine creature after creature (maybe two or more at a time) attempting to tear out Jay’s throat, only to meet a fate worse than death. I took a moment to look around as Becca ran to give him a hug.
“Dad,” her voice was trembling, “I’m not leaving you here.”
I had been searching the room for other possible exits. There were quite a few near the ceiling. Becca would have to carry him while I followed behind, until we made it to safety.
Becca stood up. “Marcus, what are you looking at?”
“Just wondering how we’re going to get out of here.
“We can worry about that after we get him stabilized.” Apparently, Becca had a plan. She took out a pocketknife and started to use it as a chisel. I watched in awe as she picked off pieces of rock the size of arrowheads.
Jay laughed through the obvious pain. “I hope Emma didn’t try anything.”
“What?” I asked. Part of me was unsure if he was speaking to me or Becca. Judging by his line of sight, (and the fact that Becca was still working,) I opted to give an answer. “Emma told me a story.
“A story? About what?” Jay was still laughing, even as the light was noticeably fading from his eyes.
I reached for his hand. “A story about a past life. She said I was a lonely little girl who made friends with a homeless junkie.” My voice went horse trying to hold back emotion. ‘He’s not going to die. Becca has a plan. And she’s a dragon-witch.’ But why did it hurt so bad?
“He wasn’t a junkie; he was a musician,” Jay said. The words came out calm and clear. “I remember that. I don’t know why.”
“You were there?”
“New Jersey, I think? Someplace with a boardwalk.” Jay’s eyes closed, and then he laughed. “I was a rich mother-fucker from someplace up north; Canada, maybe Iceland,” his voice drifted, “Ireland.” There was a pause, and his smile faded. “I killed that bastard. I killed him.”
“You were my dad?” I looked at Becca to see her reaction. “Wow.”
Becca slammed her fist, breaking off a large chunk of the rock. “He never said he was your dad.”
She was correct, I had just assumed. “Sorry.”
Becca put down her knife, gripping her head in pain. “Stop saying sorry!”
I opened my mouth to speak, my voice uttering the first syllable, “Sor-.”
Jay laughed. His smile was worth any future discomfort.
“I’m mean, ok.”
“Whatever.” Becca rolled her eyes and continued her work. “Just keep an eye on his other wounds.”
The first thing I noticed was Jay’s wings were torn up. Even in his human form, the remains of his once pristine wings were thrown about the room like the pieces of glass. For a brief moment I thought of Mirapo. “Yo-kai can’t actually die, right?”
Becca turned to me. “You killed a portal creature?”
“No, it,” the truth was so much worse; it gave its life to save me and I just left it’s remains behind.
Becca shook her head. “Just give me a hand.”
She had removed enough of the spike to free Jay’s chest, but he also had a badly broken leg. There was no way he could walk on his own. “I’m going to need your help with his leg.”
I was in a trance, staring mindlessly at the carnage. He had clearly been in dragon form when first attacked, because his left leg was in a shape that seemed too large for his current form, but also too torn apart to be salvageable. “What happened to your leg.”
“Let’s just say it’s not that easy to kick those things.” Jay smiled a big toothy grin even as he shivered in pain. His breathing became slow. “You still there, Marcus?”
Jay looked up at the ceiling. He was bleeding to death.
I closed my eyes desperately trying to call upon my item box. Jay had done so much for me, I needed to at least try to help him. Try as I might, nothing was happening. All of my belongings were locked away in a pocket dimension that I could not access. I wanted to scream but no sound would escape. Before I knew it, I was sobbing. I was just a scared kid playing dress up; the same little boy who awoke next to his father’s dead body. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be sorry.”
“What can I do?”
“Be brave, Marcus.” With some struggle he lifted his arm, to pat my shoulder. “You’re a good kid. I need you to promise me,” Jay blinked back tears of blood. “Please take care of my family. Watch over them with all your strength. You will become the man your father would have been proud of.”
I suddenly remembered the pendent. I had it around my neck the entire time. Without thinking, I rammed it into his chest. Something had to happen. ‘What if you’re cursing him with a permanent tracking device?’
At the moment it didn’t matter. If Emma’s magic could save him, it would be worth it. Maybe. Too late now. I gave the crystal a squeeze, holding it until I felt pain. It needed my blood.
‘Why was I not bleeding?’
I could hear Becca yelling at me. Her voice was garbled. In my mind, I was underwater, drowning in my own sadness. ‘This is so unfair.’ I would rather be dead than have to live in a world without Jay. If we both died, there was a chance we’d meet again in heaven. I hadn’t spoken to my guardian angel in a while, but if we were still on good terms, maybe he could pull some strings. we could get assigned to a new place, a new life where we could be together. (Not that I deserved anything less than Hell.)
I kissed his forehead, down his nose to his lips. Jay reached his hand to my face. His lips parted, offering me his last breath. This was all I wanted; not a second chance with my father, or a life with Becca. I wanted to be with Jay. I made a grab for my knife. The once heavy blade felt so light in my hand.
He needed me.
He needed my blood to save him.
next: Isekai ch18