Chapter 37 ∞ Witness
We lurched forward from the nauseating void Amber had pulled me through. I found myself standing—or floating—under sultry, golden lights. I didn’t recognize this place. The walls were lined with thin, bamboo strips and the floors were lain with soft, plush carpet. Sweet, red lanterns hang on the corners and a familiar scent wafted up my nose. Soft music floated around me, feeding my confusion. I looked back into the void we had just passed through as it faded, watching the distortion of space disappear along with it.
I then turned to Amber. He was already see through and faint looking, but he was fading even more from my eyes as minutes ticked by.
“What happened back there?” I asked. “I’m confused. Did that boy see me? How was he even able to do that?”
“The boy is strong,” Amber replied. He brushed his wrist across his eyes, his complexion paling. So it was possible for phantoms with no physical body to turn pale. Or was it just how it seemed to me? “There are those occasional people who can see far beyond. You have that ability because of what you are, but people like those are rare.”
“Like how I’m an aberration,” I said softly. “Anyway, where are we?”
“We should be back where you live.”
“Where I live?” I echoed. “But I don’t know this—”
The music abruptly stopped playing and I heard a loud clatter—the sound of porcelain hitting the floor and breaking. Voices rose, high and angry. There was a commotion behind the wall.
“Dragons damn you! You dare insult me like this!”
“Try to make your move, Highness, and your body will be relieved of your head.” I recognized Mistress Veronica’s voice ring loud with threat.
Hearing the exchange, realization dawned on me. “This can’t be…” I whispered.
Had we just appeared…into the entertainment hall?
I swallowed my shock.
I hadn’t gone in here ever—except maybe those few times I tried sneaking in to take a look. Nevertheless, I stayed away from this place to respect my mistresses’ wishes. Who knew I’d end up here somehow—just not the way I expected?
I hesitated for a few beats. Amber regarded me tiredly.
“I need to get you back to your body,” he said.
“Just…a moment,” I said.
I floated towards the wall and tested if I could pass through by sticking a finger towards it. Sure enough, I couldn’t touch it at all. Mustering my courage, I slipped through. My eyes landed on a wide and very spacious room. There was a tiered pedestal on the very corner where my mistresses, all beautifully dressed and made up, sat in a straight line. They had on very elaborate layers of clothing framing their delicate figures, no doubt inspiring want and admiration from the men in the room.
However, that wasn’t what it looked like when I came in.
There was anger and tension. Mistress Veronika’s long, beautiful blade was pressed up against the neck of a man who was regarding Mistress Lamia with ire and displeasure. Mistress Lamia was just the snow lady she was—calm, domineering, and lofty. Her white hair spilled down her neck in bewitching curls. Her silence was icy and her eyes were sharp with resolution. The most enchanting blue color lined her lower lids, enhancing her image.
“Do notforget where you are,” said the man whose neck was at the teeth of Mistress Veronika’s blade. He moved forward, feet kicking aside the broken teacup on the floor.
“You should say that to yourself,” Miss Veronika gritted out. The blade was so sharp that it had already cut through his skin, drawing blood. “Not a step farther!”
“You don’t dare!” He laughed. The sound drilled ire into my bones. “Your power is limited by the men you pull to bed. You are worthless and nothing without their support.”
“And you, Prince Thoran?” Mistress Lamia retorted. “What are you without your name, your birth, your position? What are you if not one of the more privileged, older children of the emperor? Aren’t you as much a whore to privilege as we are?”
“You!” His face turned red. “Very good! I don’t know where you get your fangs. You are brave! You do not know when to bow your heads just because you got pumped with a little bit of power. Since you have dared go against me, I’m hoping you know what kind of calamity will befall you! It doesn’t matter what kind of men you’ve lured into your traps. They will all fall by my hands!”
“Veronika, please see our guests out,” Lamia said.
“Yes, mistress.” Veronika pulled back her blade and proceeded to literally kick Thoran out of the room. Her foot struck at his chest, sending him flying. He landed on his back with a wheeze and he skidded back just right for his head to hit the frame of the door. The men around him all scampered to help the prince up, however, he no doubt had lost much of his pride and dignity from that kick. No amount of picking up would help him regain his face.
“The door is behind you,” Veronika told them. Electricity spilled from her fingers and took the form of a whip. It clacked as she lashed it across the floor, letting the sound reverberate in the hall like thunder. “If you have any plans of going against me before you leave to exercise futility, please feel free to step up.”
One of the lackeys impulsively rushed forward with his blade raised. Mistress Veronika let the whip halo above her head before she struck at the man running towards them. The lightning whip struck at his chest, digging into the flesh. The smell of something burning hit my nose, making me gag a little. The foolish lackey, subsequently, was thrown back. He crashed into the rest of his companions and they all regarded my lightning-wielding mistress with a bit of fear and dubiousness.
“Truly worthy of being called Witches of the East,” Thoran spat.
Everyone doubted moving after that.
“You are no longer welcome to Oblivion. Please see yourselves out.”
“Do not forget this, Lamia! When I am emperor, your whore house will cease to exist!”
Prince Thoran and his men proceeded to leave Oblivion in a fit of rage.
“There is no longer any hope of mediating between Thoran’s faction and Oblivion,” Mistress Lamia declared. My mistresses’ attention centered onto the snow-haired woman. “We can only hope Prince Alron’s faction wins this struggle for the throne. Otherwise…” she trailed off. “In case anything goes wrong, make the preparations.”
“But, Lamia,” Mistress Marga rose and turned to the white-haired woman. “We have basically sped up the crumbling of the hill. Instead of five years more…”
“Say no more, Marga,” Kora said. He stood from where he sat and moved to pace about the room. “There’s no use crying over spilled milk. Prince Alron’s faction is strong enough to go against Thoran’s. We have to make use of the opportunity to quickly bring him down.”
“We can’t be rash,” my mother said, brows furrowed. “Thoran’s definitely holding a trump card if he’s this confident. I’m afraid we’ll only fall into his trap if we move without preparing.”
“Hellenia is right. He is hiding something,” Mistress Lamia stated. “Marian…”
“Yes, mistress?” Mistress Marian inquired softly, red lips pursing as she looked over to Lamia.
“Find out what it is.”
“I will take note of it.”
“As soon as possible please.”
“Yes, mistress.” Marian rose to her feet and marched out of the room to do as was requested of her.
I watched on. If I had my physical body, I probably would be drenched in cold sweat right now. I wanted to continue listening in some more but Amber pulled me back to reality and began dragging me away.
“It’s time you go back to your body. I can’t last any longer like this.”
“If you don’t want to stay like this for the next year, then you ought to go back now.”
“Were you aware of this all?” I asked, looking back at my mistresses as we passed through wall after wall.
He didn’t answer me immediately. “I’m sure you already know by now. The best you can do is act like you don’t know anything. You don’t have the sort of power and influence they have to help them with this. Don’t forget you’re still technically a child. You will not be of help, only a burden.”
We appeared in the courtyard. I shook his grip off of me, fists clenching as my fury simmered from my skin. Quite literally. I could see the energies around me turning wild, seeming to reflect my emotions.
“That’s all I’ve ever been,” I said through clenched teeth. “And I’ve been acting like I knew nothing this entire time—about my ability, about my past life, about myself. You think it’s easy? You’re not the one who has to go through all of this, you jerk, so don’t tell me what to do!”
I furiously headed back to my the bathroom where my body was currently passed out while taking a bath. I hurried along, not regarding the guy floating after me as I did. Slipping through one wall and another, I finally arrived in my room. I caught Amber anchor himself to the floor, striding across the room and standing in the corner. He watched me with a raised brow.
Now I knew why his movements always seemed like he had clouds under his feet. In a way, he did.
I tried doing what he was doing as well, anchoring myself to the ground instead of aimlessly floating. I had more control over my movements like this and made it easier to move around in the small space. I entered the bathroom by walking through the wall and finally found myself sleeping in a bath that had gone cold.
I shook my head and debated how I was supposed to return. Was I just supposed to…like…settle in? It wasn’t that simple, was it?
I tried doing what I thought I should. However, no matter how I tried, it seemed I could not get myself to go back no matter what. I passed through my body every time I tried to enter it. It just didn’t make any sense! How was I supposed to return like this?
Frustrated, I left the bathroom and ventured outside to see Amber yawning as he leaned against the wall.
How was he even leaning against it? If that was me, I’d probably have gone through it already.
“Put me back,” I said through gritted teeth.
“I’m sorry. I was told I wasn’t the one going through any of this. Don’t worry, as per your request, I won’t tell you what to do.”
“You bastard!” I yelled. To think he would make me eat my words…this guy was just petty and unbelievable! “You’re so inconsiderate and unreasonable! Fine. If anything happens here, you can forget about saving the world. This place is damned anyway.”
He frowned. “You think I need you for that?”
“I’m not stupid,” I told him. “If you didn’t need me, you wouldn’t have gone to so much trouble doing all the things you did. You wouldn’t be patient enough to explain to me the things I don’t know or don’t understand,” I argued. “We’ll just see how long that body can go without a soul. Who even needs such a useless thing?”
“You’re right. Fine. I’ll yield to you this time,” he told me, rolling his eyes. “You’re technically the only one I can rely on right now. I will apologize for my insensitivity earlier. I know that what I’m asking from you isn’t very simple.”
I stared at him dubiously. “You’re actually apologizing. I didn’t think you would.”
He rolled his eyes. Again. Harder this time. “In spite of how you see me as, I am still capable of sympathy. Being in the situation where you know things can be the hardest,” he said. “I’ve been in this viewpoint for a long time, but you haven’t. You’re actually doing better than me when I first started out.”
“So you were a newbie.”
“Did you think I was born like this?”
“No. It was just that I realized why it felt like you didn’t know how to do your job,” I told him. “Who knows? It wouldn’t be strange if you were like some god born from the universe or something.”
“I apologize and now you insult me. What is it going to take for you blunt that sharp tongue towards me?”
“No worries. I’m like this to everyone. I live for insulting people,” I said. “Now, I think it’s time you return me to my body, right?”
Amber muttered something under his lips. He clasped his palms together and proceeded to move his fingers to different positions. It sounded like a mantra, actually. I couldn’t hear all of it, but it seemed to be in a different language. I couldn’t strain my ears to listen any further either because he took out that towel again—the one he used to swat those Veils with last time—and literally punched my chest with it.
I flew back and found myself gasping for air when I landed. My eyes have shot wide awake. I was back in my body.
“Damn it,” I palmed the part where he hit me. That sort of hurt a little.
Nevertheless, I dared not complain anymore lest he pull that trick on me again. I had a feeling he enjoyed doing that last bit.
I massaged my nape, finding it a little stiff from having stayed in that position a little too long. I then stepped out of the bath, proceeding to my wardrobe to grab some clothes. What I saw tonight continued to linger in my mind. I was worried for my mistresses. I wish I was more capable. I wanted to help them with this problem, but it wasn’t like I had the ability to help them with anything. If ever, I was even the one causing problems.
Just what kind of trouble did I get myself into this time?