Chapter 10 – Hopeless
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I woke up, there was nobody in my surroundings… Something didn’t feel right… But what was it? I wasn’t sure…

“You should come over here.” A voice said in my head, somehow I knew the direction the voice was coming from, I felt tempted to go… But uhn... For some reason I thought I really shouldn’t go, it was confusing.

Oh gods, the sun is this high already? I’ll be late for class! I hurriedly dressed up and got on my broom then flew from my room’s window all the way down to the second floor, I entered through the classroom’s window and it seemed like the professor wasn’t here yet… Safe.

“Good job, Aria, you’re barely on time.” Rose said, I smiled when hearing her voice.

“Teehee, I did my best!” Then I hugged her and approached our lips… And stopped… Something wasn’t right… My head hurts…

“Aria, you alright?” Her voice was distorted, I took a step back, her smile turned into a frown, her body caught on fire… I ran, I got into my broom and flew away, far from her, far from that deceiving piece of… Deceiving? Why was I thinking of Rose as a deceiver…?

“This way.” A voice called, I made a turn, the forest was dense, but I somehow was making through, I had to get there… There? No, I didn’t have to get anywhere, I had to be with… With whom?

The tip of my broom hit the ground and I flew away from it, rolling on the floor, my body hurt, I heard laughs, everyone in the courtyard was laughing… Somebody help… Somebody take me away from here…

“It’s okay Aria, don’t mind them.” Rose said and extended her hand… I’m glad, she’s here to save me… I caught her hand and got up.

No, it’s not right… She’s not the one to save me… My head hurts… Why is it hurting so much? “Run, run from all those people, they don’t deserve you.” The voice said… Get out of my head!

I put my hands in my ears, I felt something hard going inside the left one, it hurt quite a bit… Just what was it? I took it out with my hand and then looked at the thing I was holding, it was a rock. A shiny red rock, it felt really precious, wouldn’t this be worth a fortune?

No… I need to deliver this… Deliver to… “To me, you should send it back to me, come here.” Yes, I should deliver it to you…? No, what in gods’ name is happening!? Get out of my head already!

This thing is… An important… Part of… My job… “Yes, the job to deliver it to me.” No, shut up! My job is to deliver this to… Iris! I should deliver the relic with Iris to the king!

Everything shattered, as if I was inside a big mirror that was suddenly broken. I was now surrounded by darkness, and in front of me was a big Wild Rose, the relic the king wanted… I felt the shard in my hand calling for it, trying to draw me to its core. Trying to become one again.

“Come closer, I can help you.” What was that? This was… The relic is speaking in my head? Then this is… A dream? “Correct, and it can be much better.”

Just what is this relic talking about…? “I can make your dreams come true.” And having something inside my head is pretty darn annoying! Why don’t you get out of it and just come back with me to the real world instead!?

“Stop thinking of the real world and let your dreams be dreams, let your truest desires come forth, and I shall grant them to you.” My what? As if I need a stupid dream when I have Iris!

“Yes, Iris, that fairy… She isn’t here now, is she?” No, but… “And she won’t be in your world for long, will she?” How do you…? Get out of my head! “She’ll leave, she’ll leave you all alone and tell you to find someone else.” Shut up shut up shut up shut up shut up shut up! “You can’t have her, not in your plane, not without me… But I can make your wildest dreams come true, I can let you have her.”

I said, shut up you useless piece of broken glass! Don’t you dare try soiling my thoughts of Iris with your dirty words!

I focused my mana on my eyes and let it flow through them, as the concentration stabilized, I could see the mana link between the shard in my hand and the core right in front of me. I put my hand in that link and could feel the outrageous amount of mana there was in this relic… No wonder it came from a divine being, there is no way a mortal would ever be able to handle this much. However… Even if there is a lot within the main body, its external link should still be fragile.

“What are you doing?” The voice asked.

“Getting you out of my head!” I screamed and moved my mana to my hand and then to the link between the small shard and the relic’s main body, and then used a large chunk of pure mana to sever the link at once.

 

“Aria, please open your eyes!” Iris screamed, and open my eyes I did. She started crying on me again… It will be hard to cure the burn marks if she keeps crying on me… Not that I mind though.

“What happened this time?” I asked, the one to reply was a nearby mage.

“You held the gem in your hand, then you suddenly fainted, your fairy shouted a few times and then you woke up.” He explained… Wait, that was it?

“… For how long did I sleep?” I asked while holding Iris carefully, she looks so fragile at those times… I wanted to get out of here and comfort her in our room… I didn’t want those people to see her like this…

“A few seconds maybe? I don’t think it reached a minute even.” That dream definitely lasted longer than just a few seconds… This is pretty weird alright. “So, what happened?”

“I had a dream of my past while my memories were super fuzzy, then I realized it was a dream and the surroundings shattered, I saw the relic right in front of me and it was speaking to my head through the shard in my hand. I ended up getting annoyed at it, so I broke the mana link between the Wild Rose and its piece that I was holding… Then I woke up.” I summarized.

The mages had a horrified look in their faces, “You… Were right in front of the royal relic… And instead of bringing it back, you… Broke our only link to it?” Oh… I messed up.

“It was reading my mind and saying some stuff I couldn’t forgive…” Yeah, even I would get angry if someone gave me this kind of excuse…

He sighed, “Just go home… Seems like it was a stupid idea to rely on a hero.” Then he paused, hesitated for a moment, looked away and said, “Thought you were better than this.”

I wanted to argue back, but… What was I even supposed to say here? Was there anything I could say in the first place? I was disheartened, to fail right on my first job like that… It didn’t feel right.

Iris seemed to notice how I felt though, as she flew to the top of my head and played with my ears, it tickled and I had a hard time suppressing my tail from wagging… “Come on, Aria, let’s go home.” She said, making me go from consoling her to being consoled in one instant… I guess I’m not the most reliable person to be around, but I’m happy Iris is the one that is cheering me up.

I left the now glowless relic shard and left the room, I could hear the sounds of the counselor waking up… As he did not make any beastly sounds, I guess he was cured from having a rock hitting his face? A pity, he deserved to be mad forever.

We left the castle and walked back to the inn… To… ‘Home’… It’s been so long since I last had any place to call home… It was funny to think both that mage and Iris used this word…

Even with Iris trying to cheer me up, I still felt bad about just happened, so I told her my feelings on the matter, “Sorry, Iris, I really messed up this time around.”

“What are you talking about? You did great.” She answered happily… Now I was confused, just what did I do great? “You confirmed that the relic was the one draining people’s life force from them, discovered there were severe mental backlash effects if one were to be forcefully taken away from it, and found out that severing the link between relic and the afflicted person allows them to wake up normally again, you got more information in two days of work than those mages got in months! Be proud of yourself!”

… There were a bunch of deductions without enough evidence to back them up in this speech, but… “You know… You just might be right.”

“Of course I am, trust me! You did an amazing job out there!” It’s amazing what Iris can do to me, in one moment I was thinking the job was totally over, and now I’m already excited about how we’ll clear it… Wait… There is still a big issue here though…

“Even if all that is right… How do we continue moving forward? It’s not like we have a shard nor the counselor to go to anymore… Aren’t we stuck?” I asked her.

“About that… We ask Thalia of course, the counselor wasn’t the only person that fell asleep after all, right?” Oh… She certainly said there were more… I love you, Iris, you’re so smart.

“Guess we have a plan.” I smiled, and she smiled back, her smile shone brightly, brighter than the sun above us… She was so beautiful… I could look at her all day and never get tired…

Iris blushed a bit and started fidgeting, “Just why are you staring at me so intently?”

I was about to say it was because I loved her, it was the truth, the honest truth, but… Our talk from this morning was still in my head… Should I tell her? Should I not? I don’t know what to do…

Iris seemed worried… “Aria, are you alright?” I am, I’m just unsure on how to express my love to you, “Aria, you’re looking pale.” No, don’t worry, I’m really fine… “Aria!”

I bend down and started coughing, I felt a big pain in my chest… Already? I should have some more time…

Iris looked at me worriedly, I wanted to tell her I was fine, but I couldn’t speak, the pain was overwhelming me… However, I couldn’t let it show, it was not time yet, I could still hang on for a while longer… I took a deep breath, forcefully suppressed the coughs and slowly got up… Iris seemed to be hesitating a bit, I don’t think she wanted to say the words, she knew what my reaction would be… Yet she needed to, for my own sake she had to. And so she asked, “Aria… Shouldn’t I go back?”

“No!” I knew it was coming, yet I couldn’t stop myself from shouting. I lowered my tone and tried again, “No… I’m fine, really. I have been holding back these last few days after all. I think my throat didn’t heal from that counselor’s maddened attack yet.” As I spoke each of those words, a different kind of pain filled my chest, not the pain of my body, but the pain of my heart… The pain of a liar, the pain of deceiving the one I loved the most… I hated myself whenever I did it, yet I couldn’t stop doing it time and time again… I’m horrible.

Iris was still clearly worried even after I reassured her, but that was understandable… How could she trust someone that always lied to her when our time came? “Are you really sure?” She asked.

 “I think so, mana deficiency is pretty easy to recognize after all.” I gave her the best smile I could, the pain in my chest was nauseating, but I pretended to not have it… Please don’t notice.

Iris didn’t seem like she wanted to believe me, however, she eventually gave in and smiled, “Alright, you wouldn’t lie to me on this again, would you? Let’s just get this over with before I have to head back.” Her words hurt, I’m not sure she really bought it or just accepted that I wouldn’t step down from those statements even if it only made things worst…

Still, I wonder how I ran out of mana so fast, I didn’t even fly to the castle today to economize… Did I spend that much when severing the link between the relic and its shard? Wish I had held back a bit…

“Let’s do our best!” I cheered on.

“By the way,” Iris suddenly said, for a moment I thought she would bring my mana up again, but it seems like she had something else in mind. “What did the relic tell you that made you break the link it had with its shard?”

“That was…” I hesitated a bit, still uncomfortable with the talk we had earlier today, but decided to say the truth, “It said that it could make my dreams of living with you come true. I couldn’t accept a relic coming out of nowhere, reading my mind, and deciding it would make a dream copy of you to fulfill my desires… As if I would be satisfied with any fake! I could not forgive the heresy of daring to say you could be substituted by anything built of my memories!”

Iris blushed heavily, “Oh you… You’re hopeless!”

I giggled and replied, “Hopelessly in love with you.”

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