Chapter 41 ∞ Nightmare
The night about two or three weeks after my unfortunate incident in the bedroom, my room was fixed, and I’ve completely recovered from my most recent ‘incident.’ All was good. Erenol didn’t make a big deal about me being a Conduit, and we went on with our merry lives.
I moved back in to my bedroom just before bedtime and found the place totally redecorated. I had a hand in selecting new colors, but most of the decisions, I reckoned, fell on my mistresses’ hands. I wasn’t displeased with the results. I was, in fact, quite glad at the turnout. This was a nice change. The new scenery fostered inspiration to bloom inside my chest and I found myself sitting before my new table with hands itching for the craft I’ve been busying myself with all these years—perfume-making. Beside it, a new collection of oils lined up in a tiered cabinet.
Eager, I began with a new project. There were new scents in my new oil collection and I eagerly dipped my nose into them. I came to one bottle that smelled strongly of patchouli and was suddenly inspired with a scent I remembered my mother—from my previous life—concocted before. This was one of her masterpieces and a personal favorite of mine as well. It was an oriental perfume that used a mix Sambac jasmine,freesia, and some kind of rose I don’t remember. The patchouli would be a base along with the musk, topped by notes of bergamot, osmanthus, and one other thing I forgot.
I began with identifying the several other notes I would use in this perfume, looking through my journal of scents and their corresponding counterparts in my old world. I had a hard time figuring out some of them until I realized some of these things were very unique to this world—scents that I have never smelled in my past life before, probably from plants that did not exist or was not discovered yet on Earth. Incidentally, they were also the most expensive lineup in this collection.
I tried substituting on more than one occasion because some of these scents were not the exact same as those in my past life—and they worked out, for the most part. Perhaps I could do the same?
I picked up one bottle of the unfamiliar scents that smelled like orchids and debated whether I should use it on this one. The times I used them could be counted with one hand because I was afraid they would mess up the old formula. But ever since I began my venture in brewing my own perfumes, I had the opportunity to experiment. I just totally underestimated the strength of these things last time and ended up putting far too much.
Each of these aromatic oils had varying degrees of intensity, which would require careful measuring just how much to put. Strong scents tended to be far less in quantity when mixed so that they don’t overpower the other, more subtle ones, especially when one would like the undertones to shine and come through.
I set aside the rare scents I wasn’t familiar with for now and focused on the ones I knew. I didn’t have the gall to experiment when I hadn’t even brewed this formula the way I knew it.
“Evy? Are you ready for bed?” My mother entered with a glass of milk and set it down beside me.
“I’ll finish up soon, mama,” I replied.
“Don’t stay up too late, then,” she said. She planted a kiss on my head and saw herself out.
And I forgot her advice the soonest she said it.
By the time I broke out of my concentration, I saw that the clock was pointing at thirty minutes past one o’clock in the morning. Realizing I had overdone it, I decided I would retire for the night.
Feeling that my room was stuffy, I walked over to the windows. I pulled them open and felt the fresh breeze rush in, taking away the strong scent that had accumulated inside. I rubbed my nose and waved out the air from my room, realizing how strong those scents had become.
I then sighed and turned to retreat under the covers when a strange feeling ran down my spine.
I stopped. My shoulders juddered as the familiar and painful coldness knifed down my spine. I knew this didn’t come from the night air—I was very familiar with this feeling now to know where it came from.
“Shut up,” I muttered. I turned around once more and peeked out of my windows to look at the moon. Contrary to my expectations, it wasn’t new moon just yet but a waning crescent.
I breathed a sigh of relief, but the anxiety came washing back a split second later. The strange, unnatural coldness remained a strong, nagging force that brought itself to the front of my attention like a speck of dirt in my eye.
Last time this happened, Maun ended up on our doorstep.
“What is it now?”
My stomach twisted and squeezed to the point that I sort of had to go to the bathroom to…well, unload. Anxiety had never played well with my bowels. I could feel it wringing my intestines empty. Tapping on my lower abdomen while cursing, I saw myself to the restroom in a hurry.
I closed the door behind me and hurriedly sat on the toilet bowl to relieve myself. Hopefully, my anxiety came along withitand saw itself the hell out.
I heard a thump and, all of a sudden, that biting coldness that was reminiscent of the Veils hit me at full force. I sucked in a deep breath of air and held it tight in my lungs, frozen in shock as I saw shadows moving from under the gap of the door. The faintest tap of shoes landed on the new, Cherrywood floors which gave only a whisper of protest as the intruder crossed the threshold. If that had been my mistresses who’d come to check on me, I would’ve at least heard the door creak and they would’ve already called out my name if they saw that I wasn’t in bed.
I choked on my fear for a bit before forcefully swallowing it. Memories of my past life inched forward and I suddenly felt like my end was near—again. I hadn’t had this feeling since the last time I died.
I pinched the back of my hand. Hard. And bit down on my lower lip as well. The pain helped bring back a bit of composure, restoring a bit of clarity in my mind.
Someone was in my room—they probably saw themselves through the window I opened just now.
Was it Amber, then?
As soon as the thought crossed my mind, I immediately dismissed the idea. I doubted it. That guy’s feet never quite touched the ground—never made a sound either. He was not made of flesh and bones and could technically be considered a ghost. If this was him, he wouldn’t even bother sneaking around because it was near impossible knowing he was there anyway.
The shadow approached the door of my bathroom and the knob did a tale-telling turn. I pulled up my pajamas and hurried to the adjacent door that led to my walk-in closet. I tried not to make a lot of sound as I slipped through. I wanted to close it, but whoever it was that was opening the door earlier had already entered. If I shut the door now, I risked being discovered.
I kept myself in the cover of darkness and watched patiently as a man appeared in my line of sight. His face was covered, showing only his eyes, while his body was clad in black. Like a ninja. The man’s eyes, however, were the most shocking. They shone neon, almost reptilian, and bled a dark red at the sclera, making it seem almost black. I stifled my fear. Knowing I couldn’t stay here, I saw myself to the door that led back to my room.
Should I take the exit that led to the Oblivion’s halls, I risked being caught. I would have to pass by that open door to my bathroom. Considering this guy had the gall to enter the House of Oblivion at this hour of night, I’m sure he had the capability to catch me quite easily.
Right. But there was still that open window.
I eyed it hesitantly, wondering if this was the right decision. I had to make my choice quickly. Slowly, I made my way out the closet.
“Dammit’all,” I muttered. I mustered my resolve. I tried to remain quiet and leaped through the window like a lion through a ring of fire. I didn’t land on my feet properly, even so, and ended scraping my knees in the process, but at least I didn’t hit my head and lost consciousness.
That would be stupid.
My knees staggered and gave in from under me. I looked back through the window of my room and made eye contact with the intruder. Unexpectedly.
A million curses exploded in my brain and my heart stuttered into a sprint just as I did. Adrenalin rushed in my veins, numbing the stinging pain I felt from the scrape on my knees. I didn’t know what else to do—so I ran. My throat, on the other hand, was so tight I couldn’t even muster a sound. I wanted to scream, but fear gagged my mouth.
I made a beeline for the door leading inside Oblivion. My hands grasped at the knobs and pulled, only to realize they were locked. I slammed a fist on the surface and looked around. Should I break a window?
I didn’t know where to go at this point. I looked around warily to find where the intruder was. The sight of him nearly sent my soul flying. He fluidly draped over the roof and stared at me while hanging upside down. He brandished a knife and threw it right at my face. While I managed to evade just in time, the blade ended up cutting a bunch of my hair, leaving me with bangs I didn’t like.
“Hoe my god,” I ended up swearing.
I don’t think that came out of my mouth properly.
I scampered to leave, throwing the outdoor chair at the intruder. As expected, it did absolutely freaking nothing. In fact, I think the chair’s sacrifice was for naught. That was a really good furniture too.
The first thing that was in my line of sight was the shed where Mistress Marga usually locked herself in for her dangerous experiments. I hurriedly dashed for the place and banged on the door. Marga would often sleep here through the night, so I was hoping this night would be one of those.
The door was closed, but it wasn’t locked. I didn’t even look over my shoulder to see where the guy was. I simply opened the door, rushed through and shut it close behind me—just in time to see those seemingly bleeding eyes staring right at my face. Wide, focused with an intent to kill. His arms were so long they seemed to be reaching for me from meters away. What shocked me more was the familiar, dark shadows that hovered around him.
Veils.But why would they be around him?
My shaky hands threw the door shut and pulled down the locks with a bang. Sharp blade came plunging right through the wood, the tip just an inch from my nose. I staggered back, frightened senseless, until I hit the cold wall.
Was this a nightmare?
My weakened knees slid down to the floor and I took a deep breath in an attempt to calm my frayed nerves. My mind couldn’t help but keep replaying that image of that guy. If I turned to look around when I didn’t, I was sure just the sight of him would’ve been the death of me. Literally. Just a moment of hesitation. I would be back, making a similar journey.
“Dayum,” I whispered.
How come he had Veils hovering around him when he wasn’t quite dying? Unless that guy was already dead. But how was that possible? Was this an indicator of sorts? Was he going to die? That would mean Veils had means of foreseeing the future—but I was doubtful of that possibility.
As I tried wrapping my mind around what just happened, I gradually sank to a calmer state and realized I still had to warn my mistresses. In a panic to save myself, I retreated to this shed in a rush. I don’t reckon they heard what happened earlier either.
I stood up and looked at the stairs leading down to an underground room. “Mistress Marga?” I asked.
I rarely went down here. Although Mistress Marga was usually a very calm and introverted woman, she became quite the crazy lady when she was immersed in her specialty. Like Mistress Veronika, she was a Conduit with Balasea as her Deliverer. This gave her the ability to wield and resist flames, which would explain just why, of all the explosions that had occurred to this day, she wasn’t even that injured.
Nevertheless, Mistress Marga didn’t use her ability on combat. There was a reason why she preferred locking herself up in this place most of the time—it was mainly because she hated the conflict. It was never her style to settle disputes with violence or brute force which meant she was frequently in disagreement with Mistress Veronika, whose resolutions almost always leaned towards such scenarios. Mistress Marga, simply put, was a pacifist, so my mistresses’ methods might have not settled well with her on more than one occasion. Considering what happened within the entertainment halls, especially very recently, it would be understandable just why a person of her nature would be this way.
“Mistress Marga?” I called out once more and warily descended the stairs leading to the workshop. I looked over my shoulders and at the locked doors. The blade was no longer there. Just a small, thin hole. Although I was expecting the man after me to be banging on the entrance to break through, there was none of that. Just pure, unsettling silence. Still, the strong coldness that the Veils were exhibiting remained quite potent, which meant he hadn’t left just yet.
Just what did he come here for anyway? The House of Oblivion had top-notch security. The entrances to it were even cloaked to prevent people from easily finding out how to enter it easily.
The workshop was dark. I tapped on the walls, feeling for the pad I could tap on to turn on the lights near the walls. No one was here, by the looks of it. Heaps upon heaps of messy tools greeted my sight as the bulb flickered to life. There was a hearth on the corner and beside it was a lineup of tools turned black from the soot. Some of them still lay clattered on a worktable to the left.
I looked around curiously.
There was an unfinished device on a table in the middle of the room. It glinted a faint, frosty blue and emitted a presence very similar to the things Amber called Forbidden Weapons. Just what was Mistress Marga doing with this thing? Why would she have something like that here? According to what Amber said, these weren’t good for its users in the long run. While these enabled people to fight against what they could not see, it demanded a hefty payment afterwards.
As I stood wondering what it was, I heard a rumble coming from the hearth. My heart picked up its pace once more as the man in black appeared under the chimney like an unwanted Santa Claus. From what I remember, there was a horror counterpart called Krampus—but who cared about this information, right? Why was I even thinking about useless and irrelevant things when my life was flashing before my eyes?
My brain’s way of consoling me, perhaps?
I looked around and found a bunch of sharp tools. I tried picking one up, but found it was a little too heavy for me to lift properly. It made me wonder just how Mistress Marga maintained such a slim form without building too much muscle, especially if she lifted these things every day. I dumped it, knowing I would only be at a disadvantage if I used this against an enemy who clearly exhibited speed and agility superior to mine. And I sucked at melee combat. Horribly. Six years of training with the sword and hardly no progress at all.
“Tsk, tsk,” the man said. He brandished a meat carving knife with a serrated blade and a forked tip, making me panic even more. At this point, I knew I was facing an opponent I probably would never win against. The reptilian eyes regarded me with blood lust.
I backed to a cabinet filled with jars of materials, some soaked in solutions—probably very volatile things, by the looks of it, that would have adverse effects when exposed to the atmosphere.
The man didn’t seem to know just how bad these things could get when mishandled that he just swung that knife forward and tried to cut my face with it. His knife went skewering through a bottle, letting loose the oil that soaked a bunch of rocks inside it. He pulled back his weapon, stringing the half-shattered bottle along and throwing it straight to the ground.
The glass broke completely this time, setting those rocks free. The dull-looking bunch pebbled around and erupted in fire the moment they caught a breath of air. The flames started off as a small spark, but it eventually grew tall and wild. The…Krampus guy, I don’t know what to call him, really…paused at the sight of fire. I caught the hesitance tugging him back upon seeing the thing. Even the Veils that hovered around him like flies tempted by the trash in front of them veered away, avoiding the flames.
I backed again on another cabinet, looking eye-to-eye with the guy across the fire. I looked at the bunch of materials from behind me, scanning the labels.
My eyes landed on one thing. Armorite crystals.
I seem to remember Mistress Marga saying something about how armorite crystals reacted with fire. I don’t remember when it was, but who cares whenshe said it as long as she did? I took the bottle of armorite crystals from the cabinet and something else simpler—a bottle of water. It said so on the label. I don’t know why she would put water in a bottle and put it among dangerous chemicals, but that didn’t matter right now.
I clipped both jars under my arm and picked up a thick shield just leaning on the wall in the corner, long forgotten and collecting dust until I picked it up. Mistress Marga had a bunch of stuff that she didn’t look like she needed, but if I could use these to my benefit, then so be it.
I knew enough about chemical reactions in basic chemistry classes and small lectures from Mistress Marga that no one in the dinner table but me liked to listen to.
Looking at the bottle of water and the armorite crystals I was holding, even the shield, the man’s eyes narrowed somewhat—but it wasn’t the kind that was suspicious and wary, but rather mocking. He didn’t seem to know how much a bottle of water can do.
He seemed to say, ‘What are you going to do? Put up a shield, throw those things at me hoping they would also blow up in flames and keep me away?’
I hoisted the shield to my body and threw the bottle of water on the bunch of burning rocks by his feet. Before it landed, I made haste for the corner of the room with the shield brandished tight against my body. I didn’t know if this thing was going to protect me sufficiently, but it would have to do.
Immediately, a series of explosions echoed. I felt the sheer force of the blast land on the shield on my arm, followed by searing fire that wrapped around me like a cocoon. The shield, thankfully, managed to keep most of the flames away.
I didn’t see what had happened as the explosion occurred, but I peeked out my head when the worst part of it was over. That seemed to have deterred him, threw him back, and scared away the Veils that hovered around him like pesky flies. That wasn’t enough to kill him, by the looks of it, so I made haste for the door with the shield and the armorite crystals on hand. My fingers were shaking as I pulled on the locks. This door opening was longest five seconds of my life.
The soonest I exited the shed, I opened the bottle of armorite crystals and picked one big chunk before tossing it into the fire that was rapidly spreading. I heard these things were terribly unstable with fire, which made them tough to forge. If I just threw the bottle in, that would spell a lot of trouble. If I wasn’t careful, I might just end up flattening the whole kingdom.
Just as expected, the same, earth-shattering explosion echoed once more—but stronger. I suspected the workshop beneath was reinforced with materials that made it sturdy. Whatever explosion happened it would be able to keep stuff toned down to a degree.
Still, that didn’t stop the ground from shaking and the shed from bursting like a blister. Smoke bubbled towards the sky and several debris came flying my way. I raised the shield and heard sharp clanks hitting the surface of it.
The sound of the explosion pierced the silence of the night, causing howls of protest to erupt in Oblivion.
“Marga, what the hell!” Mistress Veronika’s yell resounded.
“That wasn’t me!” Marga replied.
“Then who the hell was it?!”
I dumped the shield and landed on my rear on the ground. A small flame was eating away on the ends of my pajamas. I regarded it tiredly and smothered it by patting it down. I then curled up on the ground where I sat, the whole adrenalin rush tapering off and leaving me just a tired heap of blood and bones. I felt empty inside then, staring off into space as my mind registered the events I just went through in silent horror.
It didn’t take long for someone to come around, I was a little startled with the main door opening, but when I realized it was Kora, I instantly calmed down. I didn’t expect that he would be the first one to arrive, but I nevertheless took comfort in his presence and instantly felt safer.
“Evy? Evy, what happened?”
I shook my head. I didn’t know how to answer that one.
Why’d I have to open that freaking window anyway?