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20

Emilia's first goal is in navigating the convoluted hallways of the 2nd floor. The white hallways, with torches hung up on the walls beside the tapestries, lighting the way with a diffuse orange glow. Her bunny slippers just solemnly squeak while the servants are fetching documents and freshly prepared snackerals.

At the front, she told the guards that she's looking for a washroom. Strangely enough, she half-expected them to tell her that the washroom is just under the stairs. But instead, they told her to head up to the second floor – "It should be in one of the rooms, and if in case you get lost, just ask one of the servants for directions."

The privacy of a washroom will lend Emilia and Lulu the chance to diviniate the layout of the castle, and find out how to reach the Duke's Archives.

"I smell bacon," Lulu tells Emilia.

Indeed, the smell of bacon and other foodstuffs is in the air, and it makes Emilia wonder who are the lucky ones being served tonight.

Speaking of which, she doesn't remember having eaten anything at all in a long while. As an undead, perhaps you miss the inconvenient sensation of being hungry – the pleasure in eating something delectable.

Emilia contemplates stealing a bite or two from the dinner plates, until Lulu points out a vacant washroom, where they manage to slip inside without anyone noticing there's two in the washroom.

They light the incense candles.

Lulu pulls out a turquoise crystal from her pockets. It bears an eerie glimmer from within.

"Make a wish," Lulu goes, notioning Emilia to hold onto the crystal too.

The crystal lights up, and it is as if old, forgotten memories have been freshly unearthed in Emilia's mind. She understands the entire layout of the castle now, where all the chambers and hallways lead to. Even the secret passageways.

Except..

There is a 'blank' in the layout by ground level, in the chamber ahead of the main entrance, as if something is forbidding her from gaining knowledge about that place.

What could it be?

~

Back in the main hall, Emilia notices the foggy doorway up ahead as she descends down the stairs.

"What's over there?" she asks a guard, pointing at the doorway.

"There? That is a private area," the guard says. "The only ones who can pass through the boundry are members of the Royal Family. I honestly don't know what lies beyond."

Emilia feels her chest tingle inside, just looking at it.

"Do you mind if me and my friend have a look?" she asks.

"Why?"

"Because.. erm, I'm curious," Emilia says. "Just wondering how an enchanted barrier feels to the touch."

"Well.. okay, why not," the guard goes. "I've tried it, it feels like you're touching a repulsive force out of thin air.' He leads the two of them up to the doorway, and the sensation grows stronger in Emilia as the distance closes between her and the doorway, until she feels the energies in her pulsate.

She raises her hand and presses it against the door; her fingers disappear through the fog, feeling fuzzy all over, and she pulls her hand back, taking a little of the fog with it.

"What the.." the guard goes, noticing. "Who are you?"

The realisation hits Emilia – this doorway only permits undead to pass through. She takes Lulu's hand and thrusts herself into the grey mist.

(ta-dum)

On the other side, it is grey everywhere. All the colours seem to have drained away, and the very air is thick with a gut-wrenching tension. It feels like they could be attacked, by something.

"This place is giving me the hiccups," Lulu remarks.

Emilia turns around and sees that the misty doorway is white. She attempts to pass through it again, but to no avail as she feels the mist repulse her.

"Damn, it won't let us out.." Emilia goes.

Apparently, they can only come through it one way. And to escape, they'll have to find another way out – if there is any.

Unnatural daylight sheens through the frosted glass, highlighting the six pedestals carrying stone pieces. Each of the pedestals are marked I, II, III.. up to VI. Up close, the fragments bear faint etchings, wavering contours.

The tension begins to gnaw.

"Emmy! Your skin!" Lulu goes.

Emilia notices the skin on her hands is withering away. The wrinkles develop, and some gashes start to appear over spots, itching.

"You too," Emilia says, noticing Lulu's face sagging.

"What do we do?" Lulu limps around, looking for anything remotely resembling an exit. She prods all the four edges of the room – lingering especially by the two doorways on the other side, which are enveloped in white mist also. "We're doomed!"

Emilia approaches the pedestals and takes the pieces into hand. She notices that they all have a smooth, curved convex side with the etchings, and on the other side, they are very jaggedly protruding. Maybe they are fragments of a whole?

"Lulu—" Emilia coughs, her voice hoarse. "Come, help me with these pieces. I think it's our only chance.."

The fey girl limps back to Emilia's side. But halfway through, she stumbles onto the ground and has to crawl the rest of the way there.

Emilia's fingers quiver; she holds a fragment in one hand while she hastily tries meshing the other five fragments with it accordingly, in hopes that one way or another they would piece together (somehow).

Then it occurs to her to try matching them by their surface etchings.

At this point, her hands are no more than exposed muscle overlaying bones.

It itches all over – it takes Emilia all of her mustered will not to scratch herself. She quickly glances at the fragment's contours, before bringing another piece together and making sure that the contour lines match up with each other.

They connect.

"Lulu--!" Emilia's voice is a grotesque whisper. Poor Lulu is fumbling the other four pieces, so Emilia points out the contours. "Connect them by these lines!"

"Okey-dokey."

By the time they connect four out of six pieces, Emilia's hands are just skeletal bones, and her body collapses onto the ground, limp.

"I can't.. move my hands," Emilia goes, straining out each word from her paralysed jaw. She can only stare at Lulu, making progress with the other two remaining fragments. Hurry..

The whole piece is supposed to be shaped like a sphere.

Lulu just manages to fit the fifth piece together before her hands slacken and she drops the incomplete stone sphere.

"No—!" Lulu squeaks.

Suddenly, Pixy comes out from her pockets. He has been overhearing a lot of noisy desperation from his master – so he flutters over to what Lulu has been holding.

"Finish.. puzzle," Lulu wheezes out to Pixy, and the butterfly with all his might (unaffected by the chamber's strange enchantment) lifts up the last piece and slides it into the gap of the sphere, fitting snugly.

The etchings glow; it is a globe of the world.

The tension in the room dissipates, and colour replaces the greyness.

But Emilia and Lulu are still lying on the ground, unable to move. Much of their muscle and flesh have eroded away. Pixy rummages through Lulu's pouch and finding her estus flask, gives Lulu and Emilia a sip of its energies. All at once, their bodies regenerate back to normal.

"We're alive!" Lulu cheers, bouncing herself upright again. She helps Emilia up.

Relieved, Emilia picks up the stone globe. She examines it, not recognising the geography of the world. Scattered landmasses litter the top hemisphere mostly, while the bottom hemisphere is very concentrated as a super-continent.

"Where are we..?" she mutters, and Lulu answers, "Here!" and points out somewhere on the globe's bottom. "That's the North."

The misty barriers have faded away from the two doorways, while behind them the white mist still remains.

"I have a feeling we should keep the globe with us," Emilia says.

~

Taking the left doorway, Emilia and Lulu descend a tightly coiled stairway – they hold onto the walls for stability. It is quite dark, so Lulu gets Pixy to light up his fluttering wings, providing a violet glow that helps them find the way.

A faint, humid breeze blows up from below. Emilia can feel it on her face. It smells like the moments before the onslaught of a rainy storm.

"Squeak!" Emilia's bunny slippers feel unsteady on these steps.

How far down do these stairs go?

"Lulu?" Emilia feels like making a bit of conversation as an antidote to all the stresses that have befallen them.

"Mm hmm?"

"What's your first memory?"

"Hmmm.. I sorta forgot actually. I remember.. I was playing in the glade with the foxies and flowers and everything was changing colour, from blue to purple to green and orange. I must have been playing for what must be a very long time, and I think it was to chase away the flu I had then. Yes, the flu! I remembered someone saying that if you have a lot of fun, you can chase away any bad feeling in the world. This was before I found my Pixy, mind you.

"I was nibbling at all the berries and splashing a lot of water from the ponds, and it felt like I never wanted to leave. Until I started feeling very dizzy – it was like feeling very thirsty and hungry at the same time, but I couldn't wrap my tongue around it.

"I wanted to come back home so my mama could make me feel better, but I didn't remember where I came from.. or who I am. I was very scared. I ran around in circles, up and down, left and right through the woods, and then I tripped on a vine and splashed myself wet.

"I saw what I looked like from the water, and I didn't look very nice at all. I looked like an old prune! It was an awful nightmare!

"And then I heard shouts. They were men in shining armour, but they didn't come to rescue me, they wanted to slay me! They had their swords and pikes up high, and they called me a monster! So I had to flee. I ran and ran, and if I didn't bump into Shen, I wouldn't know what I would've done. Shen scared away those guys good with explosive smoke and his trusty sword.

"I made good friends with him, and he taught me all about living courteously as an undead. That I should never take souls from living people, but slay the hollows who need a good time-out if we ever needed more."

Lulu lets out a small sneeze.

"Are all the undead like us?" Emilia asks.

"Like what?"

"Well.. we're looking to bring an end.. find the First Flame, and then extinguish it. We don't resort to killing people outright, do we?"

"Emmy.. there are actually some very naughty undead ones out there. And they're not very nice to meet. They pillage people's villages, sucking away all the souls that they have for themselves. A lot of people don't like them, and they don't like us too either."

"Hm."

"Shen calls those types the Darkwraiths," Lulu goes. "They wanna steal the First Flame so they could rule the world, and make everyone bow down to them."

"Do you really know what'll happen once we extinguish the First Flame?" Emilia asks.

"The First Flame has kept life going on for ages," Lulu goes. "I know it seems bad.. if we take that away, everything will be cold and dark again. But if you think about it, it's just like going to sleep after a long, long day. You'll wake up feeling refreshed for a new tomorrow. In Fall and Winter, it looks like all the trees and animals have died, but they're just sleeping away until the new Spring comes."

It's a heavy thought. Emilia tries to imagine an existance without herself – and a dread comes over her, of a vast darkness that could not be penetrated by light, because there is no light. It makes her stomach churn, and she has to pause descending for a second.

".. what'll happen to us?" Emilia goes.

"I'm not sure," Lulu says. "Maybe we'll all fall asleep.."

"Don't you mean dying?"

"How do you die when you're already dead?"

"When you stop existing." The words come out of Emilia like bile. Her eyes are downcast, weighed down by that heaviness building up inside. "I'm afraid.. Lulu. I'm afraid that all the things that comprise me, my feelings, my thoughts and memories.. one day or another, they will all have to disappear. I'll never get to see the sun again, or smile with anyone again, or.. love.. I'm just some damn leaf tumbling in the wind."

"Emmy," Lulu goes, holding onto her hands. "Nothing ever disappears. You've smiled, you've cried, and even though happy times will pass you by, they continue to exist. Because they've happened, even if you forget. That's what matters in the end. And.. maybe, they'll all come back, in one way or another. Even if you can't see it."

And Emilia just clutches onto the fey girl, as tightly as she can, bittersweet tears escaping her eyes.

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19

The entrance to Anor Londo sheens with a radiant brilliance. Two stone lions guard the drawbridge, with their mouths open, frozen in mid-roar.

"Emilia," Lulu goes, huddling up by her. "You should be careful.. I have a feeling they don't take kindly to strangers."

Emilia nods. She crosses the drawbridge, looking down at the shimmering river below, leading the group's way.

Right in front is a guard sitting by the gate, wearing an (oversized) mascot head with painted-on red blushes and bright blue eyes. He notices their presence, stands up, a whistle dangling from his neck.

"Who are you people?" he goes.

"We're travellers," Emilia says.

"Say 'We're on our way up North,'" Lulu whispers.

"We're-- on our way up North," Emilia repeats, noticing the guard's arousal. "We just wanted to stay by here for a rest, and.. enjoy Anor Londo's hospitality."

"Well well!" the guard goes. "What possible reason is it that Anor Londo isn't your destination! Here, you'll feel right at home! Festivities, amusements, and lots of pavilions to explore. But first.." He takes a quick glance at the party. "Are you harbouring anyone who has illness?"

"We're fine!" someone blurts from the back.

Lulu stifles a sneeze.

"Alright," the guard says. "I'll take your word for it. Come right in!" And he opens the gate.

~

It's a magnificant city. Lampposts line the streets, their glow radiating over the plazas and buildings – it almost looks as if it can pass for daylight.

The group is gazing around, on the verge of being disoriented by their awe of the place. They keep huddled together amidst the teeming traffic of aristocratic people and trotting horses, carrying elegant carriages here and fro.

Emilia is caught by the sight of a pampered kitten taking a pee by the potted tree, before its owner shushes it away from doing its business.

This place sure is vast.

She can only imagine what she might be doing – dressing herself up as exquisitely as the natives of Anor Londo, sampling the sources of the sweet whiff in the air, the bakery shops, or just taking a walk and exploring the labyrinthine city's depths.

The guard is right. Their stay here might be the best moments they could ever have.

But alors, all of that is interrupted by a sense of urgency that paints the lively streets with foreboding. Twisted Fate, Vayne and Shen are out there somewhere, either in the midst of escaping or they're caught and they are again trapped, perhaps in the deeper cells of the dungeons..

First things first.

"Let's find an inn to stay at, Emmy," Lulu goes, clasping hands.

"Okay."

An inn..

Emilia wants to ask someone about the nearest inn, but for some reason most of the people look terribly busy, their strides unwilling to be distracted by anyone asking their way around.

"Erm.." she mumbles. She tries an approaching couple. "Excuse me, do you know where the nearest inn is?"

They pause. The young man in the suit says, "Inn? Let's see, I think I saw one by that corner avenue over there, called the Pillsbury Inn. Give that a gandy."

"Merci."

The patterns of the street tiles dazzle the eye.Emilia's vision traces the whorls and spirals the shapes take on. "Over here, this way!" she would shout for the group to keep up, as if she is their tour guide, leading them on. She tries hard to spot any sign of the Pillsbury Inn, all the while her eyes are captivated by the bright lights of the place.

Almost like the city itself is designed to bombard people's senses with constant candy.

When she spots the inn's sign, she tells the others to come.

~

"This is an unplanned stay," the inn's receptionist says. "There's 10 double rooms and 7 single rooms vacant, which amounts to 350 gold."

The inn's waiting room is filled with potted flora and caligraphic hangings. Emilia is standing by the receptionist desk, tapping her feet while the receptionist is checking records. She wonders if she should've done a head count first. 10 double rooms and 7 single rooms, that should fit 27 people.

"How many people do we have?" Emilia whispers to Lulu.

"46."

"46 – 27 = 19," Emilia mutters.

"Will you accept the offer?" the receptionist asks.

Emilia will have to find another inn for the rest of the people. She looks through her pouch, fumbling between the contents for the moneybag, before paying the fee.

~

A firework streaks across the sky, exploding into a morass of red flares that fizzle into smoke.

Emilia is danubing down the street when a boy huddled by newspapers is shouting, "Latest news! Latest news! There's been a prisoner breakout from the dungeons! They're on the loose! Read all about it!"

This perks Emilia's interest. She reaches for a newspaper when the boy stops her. "That'll be one gold piece, please."

Emilia hands him one.

The boy gives her a newspaper.

BREAKING NEWS: Escaped Undead at Large
Quinton Groat, reporting from Anor Londo

In an unprecendented show of force, three undead individuals have broken free from Anor Londo's deepest dungeons. The individuals are said to be described as wearing recognisable outfits:

Individual #1: Twisted Fate
Has a signature ferrato hat, with a long jacket and boots. Special powers include (but are not limited to) card flinging, illusion creation, and short-range teleportation.

Individual #2: Vayne
Has red goggles, sleek outfit with numerous bolt quivers on belt. Possesses a talent for landing precision shots with her crossbow.

Individual #3: Shen
Has a facemask, black garb, and two cutting-edge swords. Powers include chi (energy) manipulation, invisiblity and shielding.

All three are considered armed and extremely dangerous to public safety. If you encounter them, do not engage. Report them to the nearest authority immediately.

Along which, there are sketchings of them in profile. They're not bad renditions, except that their faces verge on appearing generic.

~

After a fruitless search for another inn, the rest of the party decides to camp just outside of Anor Londo's walls.

"Now then," Emilia goes, cracking her fingers. "How do we even begin to look for those three?"

"Let me put on my thinking cap.." Lulu goes, as she puts a hat on her head.

They walk down a deserted alleyway, where it is more calmer than the streets. Clothes hang across the mildewed buildings above, and you can smell fresh dishes being cooked somewhere.

"They've escaped from the dungeons.." Emilia muses. "If I were them, where would I want to go? I wouldn't want to be caught out in the open where everyone can see me.."

Suddenly, an insight hits her.

"I'd be looking for the artefact in the Duke's Archives," Emilia goes. "Where is that, really? Lulu, do you know?"

"You could always ask someone," Lulu goes.

They emerge onto an open plaza. There are lots of spectators, surrounding the platforms where the fireworks are launched.

Emilia is captivated by the people who adjust the springing of the rockets, before lighting each of them up, exhaust smoke billowing from the platform.

"Excuse me--" Emilia taps someone by the shoulder. "Do you know where the Duke's Archives are?"

"The Duke's Archives?" The man thinks to himself. "Isn't that a rumour?"

Emilia shakes her head, not understanding.

"Well, you've never heard of it?" he says. "Lemme tell you this, it's supposed to be by the foundation of Anor Londo's greatness. Besides tons of riches, like gold, mithril, there's a rumour that an actual library has been found underneath, and what it holds on its shelves could be worth more than the entire city itself. There's powerful magicks and items that could convey abilities bigger than you can ever dream of.. But like I said.. it could only be a rumour.."

~

They journey to Anor Londo's castle.

Emilia faintly recognises the layout – looking down from the walkway, she sees buildings and streets on a lower level, with shimmering pools between the gaps. Up ahead, the castle is covered with red and white banners.

They pass by huge armours who guard both sides of the entranceway, their pikes' head high – subtle movements from them hint at their animation.

Inside, the castle's main hallway is beautiful. Every sound made is magnified and echoed through the vastness of this chamber.

Emilia is feeling a sense of deja vu.

She has been here before, in her past life.

But her memory of this place is too fuzzled for her to compare what is different in this version of the castle.

Here, the castle's opulence briefly gives Emilia vertigo. She twirls around, absorbing the sights, the ceiling's vast trompe l'oeil effect, her feet clacking on the polished floor.

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18

In this conundrum, the spectral Emilia's first thought is to attempt to break through the sentinels' ranks, proceeding upward.

Her second thought is to have the party vault over the railing, plunging down into the depths. She doesn't know what lies beneath, if they'll go splat on the cold, hard ground, or if perchance there's a pool of water that can cushion their fall.

But hey, with only one arm left on her body, she's open to anything.

Then she sees Shen dash forward, breaking free from the inertia of stalemate; "Follow me!" he demands. He clambers over the railing, and seemingly leaps down – but he doesn't fall. Instead, he is levitating – floating in an energy bubble that has just appeared around him, carrying his weight.

And he is slowly fluttering upward.

Before the sentinels could react, Twisted Fate and Vayne are clambering forth – Vayne is yanking Emilia by her remaining arm when they all jump, joining Shen in shared levitation. The bubble is unsteady beneath their feet.

"Yee-haw!" Twisted Fate exclaims, pulling off his feathered hat.

The entire prison populace is in a cheer.

The sentinels are seemingly at a loss, regarding how to follow the escapees. Then, in unison, they decide to rearrange formation, so that they're now marching up to where the exit is at the top.

For Emilia, it reminds of the hive-mind mentality of bees; there must be someone, an alpha sentinel or the like who is giving out the master commands, feeding actions for the sentinels to execute. Alors.. she has no voice to communicate this insight, so all she can do for the moment is glare at those armours.

As Shen's energy bubble rises – above them, the sentinels swivel from their forward march, turning inwards towards the railing, then--

They dive, towards them. Bouncing off the shield's barrier that is made tangible upon their impact. Emilia notices how with each sentinels' attempt to land, Shen seems to wince painfully, his meditative pose shuddering, as if their impacts were directly affecting him. And the way it looks, this ninja isn't holding up well to their landing assaults.

Vayne seems to be aware of Shen's wincing also, so in tense readiness, she focuses on taking down the incoming sentinels, shooting bolts on their sides which (just barely) deflects their incoming path away from them.

They're almost to the top. The ceiling is a 30-foot dome of stalactite frost.

"We're sure getting there," Twisted Fate goes, as he joins in with Vayne, tossing hooplas of explosive cards at the falling sentinels, pop! He glances at Emilia. "Just gotta hold on for a little more."

Suddenly, there are more, unexpected jolts in the bubble's rise – from the sides and below, the sentinels are swinging their maces at their energy bubble, and like a balloon, the bubble is swung left and right of the spiralling stairway, as each sentinel gets its turn at swinging at the pinata.

"Can't.. hold it.." Shen mutters under his breath. "Prepare.. to jump..!"

Indeed, Shen's energy balloon is faltering, and its outlines are made visible as violet strands, on the verge of being ripped apart at some points.

Twisted Fate decides to leap forth onto a vacant area, and Vayne and Emilia follow him too – Shen also, a second later.

Two spirals upward is the exit doorway. They're surrounded on both flanks by sentinels.

"I suppose we'll just have to wing it," Twisted Fate says, before he tosses a detonator card forward into the midst of them, which in an explosion sends the sentinels flying from the zone of impact – either tumbling down the shaft, or being wedged along the wall.

The walkway ahead of them is fractured, and taking a step, the group finds the walkway portion collapsing down in crumbles. The resultant gap is just barely a leapable distance.

Twisted Fate doesn't falter. He yanks out from his entire deck to lay down and fill the gap with a bridge of cards, and everyone crosses it – stepping on the card surface is surprisingly sturdy, Emilia finds. Once everyone has crossed, Twisted Fate retracts his cards back into his deck, and proceeds to throw another detonator card into the foray of sentinels; this time, aiming more upwards so the walkway does not collapse.

Eventually, they make it to the exit, without pursuit.

"Brrr.. it's freezing in here," Vayne comments. They're ascending the icy stairway, their breaths like mist in the refrigerated environment. "Are you sure this is in Anor Londo?" she asks Emilia, before they emerge into a much warmer hallway. "I guess it's time to find out.."

For some reason, Emilia finds it hard to focus on her surroundings – everything is starting to look blurry to her vision. Then she sees her ghostly hands and arms start to melt. Her spectral form collapses onto the floor, and she emits a muted screech of terror before--

Back at the bonfire, Emilia's real eyes snap open, seeing Lulu.

"Emmy!" Lulu exclaims. "You're awake!"

"I know where they are," Emilia says. "They're escaping from Anor Londo's dungeons."

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17

there she holds onto her mother's breast, clutching onto it, so soft under the harsh light. Suckling onto her milk. It's

Ta-dum.

It feels groggy behind the blackness, like a daze. She isn't sure if her eyes are open, but she tries blinking and she sees the petite embers fluttering up to the night sky of stars, the clouds aglow with a slightly orange haze.

Like this, she lingers for a while, absorbing the sight. They are beautiful constellations upon the night canvas. The stars with their neon glows, scattered over the spaces in a vast pattern.

"LeBlonk!" she hears; it's Lulu's voice. "You're back!"

She pulls herself up. It's a bonfire that's just been set up by the edges of the forest – it seems the entire travelling group is here, soundly safe and resting, and the notion comes to her that they just materialised out of thin air because someone lit the fire. Mm, and Lulu is very cheerful, wandering over to her side with Pixy fluttering about her head.

"My name's Emilia," she tells Lulu, glancing at herself on the grass. "LeBlanc is my last name."

Lulu pauses. "Emilia.. so you actually have your old memories?"

"I don't think.." she says. It's still a fuzzy blur to try to recollect anything before. "Well, if I had any friends, I suppose they'd call me Em for short sometimes."

"Em.." Lulu goes, getting excited. "Emm-- Emmy! Emma! How's about I call you Emma? It's cute!"

"Sure," Emilia goes. "'Emma LeBlonk..' hehe."

"Did you slay the foxy lady?" Lulu asks, sitting down like a child awaiting a tale.

"I think I did.. you died though, right?"

"Mhm." Lulu nods. "But luckily, I didn't get trapped in one of those pesky asylums – I woke up here by this bonfire, me and Pixy. And then you came along."

"Huh." Then Emilia looks around the roiling crowd for those familiar faces; Twisted Fate, Shen, Vayne.. where are they?

"They're.." Lulu goes, pausing for a bit. "I dunno actually. I found you here."

"After I killed Foxy Lady--" Emilia says, "the icy forest was collapsing around us, and we all got sucked into the lake. It's the last that I remember.. it looks like everyone made it out of the Foxy Lady's realm alive."

"I guess so," Lulu goes. "Hey, my biggie spell worked!"

"Yep."

And Emilia glances beyond the crowd – beyond them, that dirt pathway meanders towards an orange glow in the distant horizon. Maybe that could be.. to her, it suggests a lively, bustling city whose light shines eternally bright under the night, blighting the clouds with that orange glow.

"I think we're close to.." (what's the city's name?) "--Anor Londo," Emilia goes. She notions at the signs that hint to the city's presence. "You see it, oui?"

"Yep," Lulu pips.

"Bien." Emilia's bunny slippers are still snug on her feet. "Bien.. I hope when we get over to Anor Londo, we'll be able to find Twisted Fate.. and the others."

But her skin, now that she notices it, it is starting to look a little decomposed under the bonfire's flickering light. Her arm is ghastly white, as if blood has stopped pumping through the veins, giving the flesh some vitality. She..

"I died.." Emilia says, pulling her sleeves back. "I died drowning in the lake's tunnel." She vividly feels that sense of panic, and the lingering image of the bubbles under the shimmering light.

"Did you really?" Lulu asks. Then the fey girl notices the state of decay of Emilia's body, and she gives out an, "Oh. Lemme fetch you some fresh humanities, hold on--!" before skipping over, mingling amidst the other travellers, before she comes back with the bottomless box at hand and--

Emilia still has some humanity, found in her pouch. "I have some already," she tells Lulu, smiling, showing the soft gels in her palm. She heads over to the bonfire where she allows the raw humanity to transmute her back into liveliness again. Then a thought hits her.

"I don't think the others made it out alive," Emilia suggests. "If they've died like me, they should've come back here, but they aren't here.. wait-- Lulu, do you know how to find them? You have more of those red crystals.."

"I do.." Lulu says, albeit hesitantly. "But I dunno if you or I could use the crystals properly – don't you gotta be a cleric to use it? Or else you'd go tipsy-turvy."

Emilia pauses. She's gotta take that chance. "I don't care," she goes. "Give me the red crystal. There's always good time for learning."

So Lulu plops the box on the ground and rummages through the contents, rattling various trinkets. She eventually pops out of the box, holding onto the ruby crystal – the same crystal Odette tried using before.

Lulu's fingers are wrapped around the crystal's facets. Its redness almost seems to shine with a life of its own within.

"What're you waiting for?" Emilia asks, her hand open.

"Emmy.." Lulu goes – her usually giddy eyes seem downcast. "Before you go, I wanna tell you how it works, so you don't rush in blindly."

"Alright."

"I've only seen Odette use it.. you have to picture with your mind's eye what you want to do," Lulu goes. "If you want to find Twisted Fate and the people, you conjure up their essences; the impressions that they've left on you, and it will help bring you to where they are in this world. You'll be like a ghostly spectre, skittering through places. And others can touch you, but you can't touch others, so be careful in that regard."

"Mhm."

"Ready?" Lulu asks.

Emilia nods, and with that, Lulu hands the crystal over – she kneels down as she remembers Odette doing, and closes her eyes.

(focus)

Nothing seems to happen, as she can still hear the chatter outside. She wonders if she might be doing something wrong, but then the images start to pour into her awareness, the outside sounds dissipating away, and she almost imagines that she's right by in their presence.. Twisted Fate.. Odette.. for some reason it's so vivid an experience, and it starts to feel suffocating on the inside – it's the beautiful suffocation when your heart begins to grow overwhelmed by those things beyond, and you start to choke..

ta-dum

In the plaza, there were the birds under the blue sky blotted with silver clouds. They were flying, orbiting, dancing with an awestruck frenzy.

It's so.. hard to breathe.

Little by little, a warm, distant light appears from the heart of the darkness. Its rays reveal an obscure tunnel, shiny and damp in parts but with darkened edges. The white light at the far end draws her towards it. A few blue rays even seem to reach her through the tunnel.

She heads slowly and steadily towards the light, turning in a spiral through the endlessly dripping tunnel. The harsh, ceaseless rushing of wind rumbles oppressively through this tubular space.

As she gets nearer to the exit, the rushing noise gets louder and the walls brighten. She discovers that they are lined with a colourless organic texture.

She walks slowly out into the light.

The wind becomes a calm, majestic breeze, and the light gets brighter, increasingly beautiful. Up to a totality of brightness.

Light particles and filaments suddenly appear, in motion, but amidst the blinding whiteness they can hardly be defined.

In this storm of light particles, all kinds of micro and macroscopic spatial figures bond and split apart, following a chaotic, random, never symmetrical order. As an entirety, they make a kind of visual music that is quite fascinating to absorb.

She thinks she can see all kinds of images, both familiar and strange, constantly shifting in her vision. They form on the periphery of the white light, appearing so fast that it's very hard to identify them.

But a bitter breeze blows from her, disrupting these hypnotic circumvolutions, that vortex losing coherence. The edges of that white is gradually invaded by a light blue; the whiteness takes on a fluffy texture--

She is floating now amidst clouds in the sky. The whole world seemingly before her, visible and clear in sight, everywhere and anywhere within her possible reach. She's drawn towards one particular location – she gravitates down below the clouds, where it suddenly becomes as black as night, before she catches the orange glow of the majestic Anor Londo.

It's a bustling civilisation, where it is constantly lit so brightly that the very darkness seems to quiver before its presence. The exquisite buildings dwell, and the majority of the streets are scattered with people. Pools of shimmering waters reflect all the opulance into the sky, as if waiting for the Gods themselves to acknowledge its beauty.

She finds herself rushing through to the central core of the city, the cathedral and skyscrapers, where she moves through the stone walls into the labyrinthine interiors--

She transforms into a rapide spirit, suddenly picking up great speed in her motions and her presence begins to resemble the tumululous rapids, where she spreads in through every room, searching those confines, the libraries, the bedrooms, the all-encompassing dining hall – never minding the stewards who wander the halls, or the mechanical wolves who await like statues by their guarding posts.

Eventually, she makes it down a claustrophobic icy stairway to the open dungeon below. This subzero environment, where a walkway spirals down the cylindrical depths.Armoured sentinels walk along the path, meticulous with every step, mechanical wolves by their sides like bloodhounds – it's so hard to see the bottom, the winding path almost seems endless..

Her presence hovers down the path, feeling like in a hypnotic trance. She notices prison cells that line the walls – where behind the crystalline glass, there are undead, with the petite bonfires set-up in each of those cells. They'd glance out the glass, maybe waiting for anything interesting to happen in their confines, but mostly to bore themselves by their captors' walking routines. Or they'd be waiting by their bonfires, looking dejected about their fates. Some of them are in more advanced stages of decomposition.

And there is Twisted Fate, along with Vayne and Shen, held all together in one of the middle cells. They're playing cards; Vayne is holding her hand close to her chest.

Emilia passes through the glass without a hitch; nobody seems to notice her.She becomes aware of the instinct to materialise herself into visible form.

So she does.

It feels like attempting to wake up from a dream. A loud whirr occurs in her ears while she lingers by the space beside.First she feels her feet touch the ground, then her knees and torso grow solid – up to the rest of her body.

"What's that?" she hears Vayne ask. "Is that.. LeBlanc?"

She is a pale spectre.

"LeBlanc!" Twisted Fate exclaims, joyeous about her appearance. "How did you..!"

Their voices sound as if they're coming from a distant dream, amidst a howling gale. She tries to talk back to them – but no sounds come out of her lips. Lulu wasn't kidding then; she could only observe and learn with the ruby crystals, and not really affect anything.

She tries jumping up and down, also making no sound whatsoever upon landing.

"You're using one of Odette's ruby crystals, aren't you?" Shen goes. "Just nod for yes, or shake your head if it's a no – you aren't able to speak."

She nods.

"Is everyone alright? The travellers are out of the nine-tailed demoness's realm?"

She gives another nod.

"And you're with them? You're not in the prisons here?"

Mhm.

"Okay," Shen says. "I'll make this quick before the guards notice. We've died and found ourselves in this 'cell.' Odette isn't with us.. There's numerous other undead who are also trapped here, some of whom have tried to kill themselves in hopes of escaping, but are brought back into their cells. I suppose the artificial bonfires do the job of shackling us here. Where is this-- do you know?"

Emilia nods. She wants so badly to tell them it's Anor Londo, but it looks like she'll have to play a game of charades.

"This is.. Anor Londo perchance?" Shen asks.

(Maybe not, hehe.) Emilia grins.

"Really?" Shen says.

She eagerly confirms with another nod.

"At least it's some hope," Twisted Fate goes, rousing from his bum. "You should get everyone to make it to Anor Londo – if you know where we are, it'll be all the easier for us to retrieve the artefact once you can get us all out. But tread carefully; I think this place is why the other explorers didn't make it out."

"Alright," Emilia mouths.

Then she notices something strange by the corner of her eye; she turns her head to the glass door, and one of the sentinels is standing just by outside – he isn't moving.

Twisted Fate and the others follow Emilia's gaze,also noticing this fact.

"Oh.. no.." he says.

If the sentinel has a discernable gaze, it would be either cold or amused about Emilia's presence. (Or a tinge of both.)

Emilia is paralysed; all she wants is out of here – but she doesn't know how to recall back to the bonfire.

The sentinel steps towards the door and holds out its hand against the surface. A kind of electricity jolts through the door's entirety, making it vanish, and the sentinel storms into the cell – it reels its arms up as if to lunge at Emilia, and when it swings its arms forth (so fast) she is slammed onto the ground. What now for the poor girl?

Emilia is pinned by the shoulder and she emits a scream from her lips and only wind comes out while the sentinel lingers, its weight sadisticly unbearable.

"Hey!" Vayne exclaims. She pulls out her crossbow, swiftly cocking its mechanism and plants three shots into the chinks of the sentinel's armour plating. This disorients the sentinel – it wobbles, losing its focus upon Emilia, wavering left and right trying to maintain its balance. "You get off her!"

Twisted Fate also has something to add to that. With a flick of his wrist, he pops a card in hand from his sleeve – it was supposed to be his ace in the hole during Texas Hold 'Em, but now it shall flood the sentinel with stunning charge. He swishes the card onto the sentinel, and it cuts directly, embedding into the armour, and the sentinel crashes against the cell's wall, collapsing there, sending a resonating tremour that makes frost tumble from the ceiling. "Nobody touches our girlie," he goes.

You can hear the entirety of the dungeon go wild as the inmates begin to cheer, noticing the spectacle from this very cell. In a way, it's hopeful and a break from the terrible monotony.

The sentinel lies inert. A little smoke withers from it.

The other sentinels break from their routine patrolling; it had been a slow and teady march, their footsteps pounding in unison along the spiralling path (a thump that is felt more than heard), but now their steps are a shambling chaos as they start converging upon this very cell.

"Now's a good chance to make a run," Twisted Fate goes, notioning for everyone to come. His gaze lingers upon –"LeBlanc.. I dunno how your being a ghost is supposed to work, but I suppose 'tis better if you roll with us outta here. You might know the way."

She is in the midst of recovering, and she's trying to get up to a stand. The arm by her crushed shoulder is very limp though, and with a little effort, leaning on the limp arm – plop! Her entire arm severs, scissoring by the shoulder joint, bouncing onto the ground where it vaporises (with a flash of light) into nothingness.

The one-armed, ghostly Emilia offers her remaining arm for Twisted Fate to help her up with. "Sorries about your arm," he says.

"Shall we go?" Shen asks.

"Well hells yeah!" Twisted Fate goes. "We go."

So they pour out of the cell. On both sides of the walkway, the sentinels have gathered in two-column formation. Their arms are up and ready to land disabling blows upon the escapees. They're standing by though, idle and patient, as if wanting to say, "Go ahead, make our day." Maybe that would intimidate them back inside the cell.

"Damnit..!" Vayne mutters – she isn't equipped to deal with the onslaught.

qdesjardin: (Default)

16

In the beginning, there were her hands. The five petite digits connected to her palms. They could flex and bend at her behest. They have touched and been touched, by others, in an endless variety of moments – tender, sweet, sour, lonesome, curious, entranced.

She remembers holding onto someone's finger when her own fingers barely wrapped around it. Holding onto the plastic and soft fluffiness of her toys and dolls, vrooming her pink bunny in the air like he's an airplane, a superhero – or having a crushed ladybug's stickiness on her fingers, one summer, when her parents were taking her out for a walk.

She remembers clutching onto her knee scrapes when she'd trip on the ground, crying, how it hurt and the grown-ups would bring her along for some band-aids, and she would feel all better after.

Those hands.

She remembers touching and feeling that boy's cheeks, her fingers slowly gliding over to his lips, where she gently and delicately rubs them, left and right to her own content, like skirting the top of creamy yogurt, and soon he would be sucking on the edges of her fingertips, and it would feel good and tingly (how does he find her?), and a little residue of his saliva would be left when she takes her fingers from him.

She'd caress him by the neck; it was quite a hot summer day, and his arm is over by her back, holding her there, and she'd gaze into his eyes – wondering what sort of things she could discern from his pupils, his blue irises.

And slowly, inching closer, they would at last touch their own lips, locking together.

His name is Marcus. She must have been aged 14 at the time, and it was when she was on the verge of graduating from secondary education. In that month, it felt like it was truly summer – the anticipation of the two-month long freedom, and maybe it was the heat in the air that was getting to her. Maybe it was the sparkle the other guys were barely hiding in the last days of classes. Whatever the reason was, she'd felt like kissing someone as a sort of goodbye parting, and it happened to be Marcus. He was somewhat popular, yet had the right sort of a modesty – he wasn't too involved in getting himself liked by others, he kept more to himself, while the girls were picking who to fawn over.

It was a spur of the moment thing, when after she'd finished her Mathematics exam that he was also leaving the exam room, and in the lonesome halls, she went over to him with a sudden fire and cajoled him to touch and kiss.

She had a strange fascination regarding sensuality. When she was in Lycée, she found the school uniform to be seductive in a way she couldn't discern – it was black with white stripes, including a pair of stockings that went beyond her knees. The fabric felt stiff against her breasts whenever she tried turning her upper body around, but she didn't really mind.

It was one day, when she was eating lunch alone outside under the tree,that she spotted a girl, looking around, as if not wanting to be seen. The girl didn't notice her sitting in the shadows, and so the girl went into the brick gazebo – the place usually reserved for outside band practise, or theatre rehearsals.

After she quickly finished her sandwich, she snuck over – what was that girl up to?

She took a peek. The girl was being pressed against the wall by one of the substitute teachers, deeply kissing each other, allowing their passions to go wildly as they moaned in their motions. The instinct was recognisably felt, and she watched the scene as long as she could, without them ever noticing her (she hoped). How tantalising. But the girl never met with the teacher here again afterward.

Amidst civilised society, the base human instincts would occasionally reveal themselves from the facade of politeness. She always adores this truth for some reason. There's a genuineness, a realness that touches her when she gets to see people reveal their naked selves, however briefly in their extreme moods and the sharp reactions that follow.

She's never been one to actively try and get along with others through the stilted courtesies. She knows the need to say hello or goodbye, but where they'd normally want to talk about mundane stuff like "I'm dancing to this overplayed song on the radio by such-and-such, it's so bubbly and addictive!" or the tidbits from daily moments such as "So, my friend apparently is into this game, and his bum is attached to his couch while he's beating this level--"

Instead, she'd perk her ear when the interesting things happen.

Whenever the dramatic moments come, they are treasures. There was a hustler who got onto the same bus she was riding, and started freestyling about Tony Montana and Travis Bickle, and how Anarchy should reign freely over the country, with free love and pot. The bus driver had to force him off at the next stop, even though he made things more interesting than just staring out the window. Then another day, the hustler came on the bus again, this time dressed as a priest, and he quoted passages from the gospel of John, vividly describing the resurrection of the lord Jesus the Savior, and it made the bus riders applaud with tears.

But nobody seemed interested whenever she got her chance to tell her own interesting stories; it always seemed a little off-putting to them, like she would lose people partway through her telling because it was too ludicrous or unusual for their tastes.

She would also have the sudden urge to start dancing, skipping down the hallways where other students would just walk and shuffle to their next period classes. And that was no good, as she started attracting the not-so-goodly kind of attention from people; the jockeys, uber-nerds, generally the sorts of people who had this brotherly love, cliquey instinct running through their very veins. She'd overhear conversations about herself, about how she might have SIDA, or having been loosed from the mental institutions, taking medications with side effects, and that someone should at least have the courtesy to fuck her so to bring her back from the clouds. She was a weirdo, an eccentric.

She had no intention of ever wanting to fit in, and be like them. If that was supposed to be the norm, and where poking at anyone strange was a goodly (as long as teachers weren't looking), then those chivatos and maricons, Tony Montana would say, they'll be meeting his little friend in hell.

Actually, she remembers having to throw punches when two of the debate club members tried shoving her against the wall, and they sniffed her over, all the while smelling like cheap body wash and hair gel. She tried poking one in the ribs with a closed fist, but it seemed that all that did was make him smile, like she'd merely tickled him, and he told her that proper punches involved putting your chest into it, the upper body strength – that which she didn't amply have, and so. She wound up giving his sidekick a nosebleed, before she was reeling on the linoleum floor, just freshly waxed, and she coughed blood while the jocks were running to the mens' washroom.

There was simply no point in trying to report it. One of the other outcasts suffered worse than she did, and when he went the lengths to seek justice for himself, the rumours spread about it, and he eventually landed several of the cool students onto probation – only to have himself effectively excommnicated from most of the other people. He'd mysteriously get poor marks in the class group projects, and the others would come up with nice, rationalised explanations to the teacher.

Lycéewas supposed to be a nice time for young people to get along and learn, to get prepared for the universities and real world. She thought of it more as a human zoo by any other name. It's the kinds of behaviours you'd see gorillas doing in the wild – in an atmosphere of competitiveness, of a kind of terrible insecurity actually, the males would rump their chests, trying to be the alpha males of their declared territories (cliques), so that all the ladies and beta males would flock over and give them groupie love. Those who don't connect with the tribe's norms are scapegoated and rejected; either ritualistically murdered out of example, or left to die outside. Nobody would ever mourn them. They are the same principles that underlie the world of prison inmates and crime organizations.

Even though she wound up withdrawn, and having to hold all the pain and tears inside (nobody would ever understand, no matter how much she'd explain) – she knew not to take it too personally. For they did not truly know her – it was more a projection of their insecurities onto her, that which they feared and loathed. And perhaps her so-called strangeness, that which separates her from those duckies.. it isn't strange.

After all, this ugly duckling was sheltering within herself a beautiful swan, while the other duckies grew to be plain yellow ducks, off and ready to join the corporate world at society's behest. If only there was a beautiful haven in the world for a swan to go to.

The only few people who really seemed nice were the kids that came over during house parties – when family friends would visit during the holidays, summer and winter. There, while her parents would be chatting with the other grown-ups, she'd be showing the kids the interesting things, like her tale on the local bus with the anarchist turned preacher. They had a sort of innocence. They were more open and jovial than the other people at school.

There was petite Pierre, who was five years younger than she – and Andre, who was one grade before her. They were mostly always there whenever the house parties were happening; she didn't really know the others' names – for some reason, she's not good with knowing (memorising) people's names, but she knows their faces and their general sensibilities though.

So she'd acquaint them with her collection of sample perfumes, those small, portable vials of captured scents, from which she'd obtain from the bouquet stores.For the hommes, she'd show them the eaux de toilettes (masculine scents) – one spray upon the neck is a nicely, while the fille counterpart is the eaux de parfumes (the feminine sweetness more suited for women). The kids, they would act like they were in a candy shop, and it delighted her so to be able to find their favourite scents from her collections.

Then Pierre would have his portable game system, where he'd be stuck trying to beat one of the Johto gym leaders in a decisive Pokemon battle. His face would be glued to the little, glowing screen. It's quite cute when he's laying on her bed. She'd practise giving him some back massages –while the other kids were either playing a game on her computer, or she'd put a movie for them to enjoy. Maybe it was no movie theatre (the default speakers had poor bass and tonal quality), but if it kept them enlivened, it's fine. She'd imagine this is how substitute teachers feel like when taking care of somebody else's class – it was actually fun to be able to watch over them.

Her first day in school, it was during the last days of summer, and it happened to be a substitute teacher watching over the class. When she came in, the teacher made her come to the front by the blackboard.

"Who are you?" the teacher asked.

She paused, feeling hesitation as their faces glanced at her. There was a quiver in her lips when she said, "Emilia.. LeBlanc."

And the teacher made her write her name down (so the others won't forget it), and the chalk felt dusty in her fingers as she made it screech over the blackness, and there her name was in shaky handwriting. She had to wonder if she could've wrote her name larger, more legibly, but her name was left on the blackboard for the duration of the class, like an embarassing scar, while the teacher wrote her stuff all around it.

And her cheeks felt blushy when her mama drove her home.

But at least.. it was a very pretty day, and she remembers the railway, the LRT train that always seemed to go by faster than her mama could drive – there was the music that came on the radio, and it would feel soothing just to be able to relax in the seat, seeing all the people on the sidewalks and the vendors, the mime tickling someone by the elbows.

When she rolled down the windows, the brush of wind was very nice, making her hair dance along with it.

Later on in life, she would search up those early songs over the internet – it would surprise her about how much she missed, like who the artists were and what the lyrics were really all about, like love and enjoying the most out of each day, like being misunderstood and gluttonying up on sweets at the store, hehe.

Oui – she'd delight in picking out the nice and goodly sweets from the counter, but as she soon discovered, it gave her a few holes in her teeth and she had to visit the dentist just so he could repair her cavities, as she'd lay down and the buzz and whirring of his drills was unbearable, and it always made her mouth feel a little stiff afterward, though lemony fresh. (She hated it whenever she had to get her gums numbed by injection; that meant it was a major crisis in her mouth, and the pain verged on being unbearable for a few days afterward.)

She'd tell these stories to the kids in her room – even opening her own mouth for them to look. A few of them might be a little grossed out, but the rest were fine with it.

And then, she would take them outside.

"Have them back by 10!" her parents told her, and that gave around two hours for her to take the kids down the neighbourhood.

The sunset.. it reminded her of the ranch on the outskirts of town, where her parents would visit occasionally to discuss some investment opportunities, and she would run through the endless field of grass, her arms wading, outstreched as if they were birds' wings, and she would close her eyes and feel the wind and the air through her velocity – without any fear of tripping or falling upon some obstacle. It would be beautiful.

Here, the sunset rang throughout the homes of her neighbourhood, and the rays would pass through the trees' branches, and she would be telling some light jokes with them while skipping along on the sidewalk. Pierre was still immersed with his portable game system, but he got into the mood of jogging with the others; it was a sort of race they were in now, and they were headed towards the galleria, that mall where there was an assortment of things to see, bouquet shops to visit, and an arcade bustling with young people getting feisty with the controls.

She told her parents that it would only be a walk to the park, but really – the park, there was only so much you could do over there. She'd save it for last, when she could have a bonfire lit and tell the spooky stories under the night.

"Alors!" she said to the kids, when they were by the galleria's parking lot. "Stay close with me, and be sure not to get lost inside."

The mall had a different air; she would usually visit by herself, or when her mama forced her to go shopping for additional clothing and flowers. But with the kids, she felt like she was the teacher who was overseeing the students during a field trip somewhere. 'Tis an exciting feeling, but it also made her more self-conscious of other people seeing her as a doofus.

She would be their tour guide, their leader, and the first thing she took them out to was the Belgian chocolate store – 'La Belgique Gourmade' the sign said above in red lettering. The store was nice enough to give samples of their chocolates, and she told the kids to keep more hushed, as she led them over to the section with hazelnut and almonds.

"Wait, are any of you guys allergic?" she asked them. "Like to peanuts? Chocolates?" and one of the filles told her, "I don't like peanut butter."

"No peanuts for you?" she went.

The store manager said, "If you're worried about peanut allergies, any chocolate without nuts is safe to eat. We make the nutty ones in separate facilities."

"Ooh," she went. "Goodie!"

She wound up paying 20₣ for the chocolates purchased; they'd already fattened themselves up on dinner earlier, but some of them wanted to immediately delight with their purchased sweets, so everyone went over to one of the tables, where they opened the boxes wrapped with gold ribbons, and she took it as an opportunity for a brief rest.

There was something delectable about the taste of chocolates; when they enter your mouth, and you chew them, it makes music upon your tongue. It wasn't just the sweetness though; the same sensation existed when you would kiss someone nice.

And perhaps.. subconsciously, she was acquainting them with the niceities in life – the niceities she'd find herself, that other people didn't seem to be aware about, so that the kids wouldn't grow up to be as dull and repressed as much of the adults she encountered. They'd think of her like a real life faery, with the good moments she could make with them, and it would insulate them against the pressures that would eventually deny them happiness.

She didn't want them to turn into the ugly duckies that populated her school. She wanted to preserve their unbridled joy, that happiness she saw radiating from them. Their innocence. Like Holden Caulfield from the novel Catcher in the Rye, where he would promise to catch the kids who fell from the cliff – they were so beautiful, playing in the rye, and they could fall down the cliff into that grey and dreary world they called adulthood.

At that moment, she was almost verging on being an adult herself. There was the independence – no one could really tell you what you could and couldn't do. There were deeper realms in relationships; what once was cuteness as she cuddled with her teddy bear, it turned into lust and longing for that one someone she could pour herself into, wanting to touch them all over, and be touched herself in ways she'd never imagined.

But there were also the pain and disappointments. Some of the people she once thought she liked, she turned out to loathe them as she saw that their niceness wasn't their true self. There was social pettiness – the rumours and gossip that would shame a person into isolation. There were neurotic people who instinctively hated her presence, for no reason other than perhaps that they find her strange and out of touch with their sense of normality. There was the inevitable boredom of following through imposed instructions, for the assignments and exams, the sake of getting passable grades out of fear of failing and being left behind.

But no matter what, as long as her heart kept beating on, she would promise to live her life through as long as she could. Behind the greyness and ugliness, she felt there were ounces of happiness and beauty to experience, no matter how rare they may be, no matter how obscured those treasures were beneath the facade of dust.

For her name is Emilia, and that is her. ("Emilia.. LeBlanc.")

Even if she has died in the hospital at Germany at the age of 24, forgotten her memories inside another realm, her body a mere replica of itself, she is Emilia, now and always.

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