For You I Call – Episode 1: Arachnids Part 1(7)

Previously:

I take a seat across Vert, who sits right behind the driver side. Once I’m seated, she closes the door and orders Rosalys to go.

“You can go now.”

“Yes, lady Vert.”

Rosalys ring a bell, and the coach moves, accompanied with the pegasuses snort and flap of wings. Nobody stops us from leaving the inn


“We will take the main road and head to the north. On the next town, we will use the train to head south east, where my home is,” Vert says, continuing her explanation from before. “There will be a checkpoint, of course, but it should be fine with our disguise.”

“Won’t they know my face?”

“I doubt it. It’s easier to tell people to look for a white haired young man than distribute a portrait they may have or not have. Besides, you look very different from when I found you. Nobody would recognize you—not immediately.”

“That’s a relief. What should I do at the checkpoint?”

“Just play as a visually challenged nobleman who has a really sore throat; let me and Rosalys handle the conversation.”

Visually challenged. That’s one way of putting it. In other words, sit tight and don’t do anything. Simple enough.

“Speaking of visions, your sight has come back, right?”

“Yes, but it’s a little bit dark. I can’t see very well.”

“Maybe you need more light. Hold on, let me turn up the lantern.”

Vert leans sideways to reach the lantern placed on a small plank fastened between the seats. She turns the knob, and the room becomes much darker.

“Vert, you got it wrong. You made it darker,” I say when Vert makes no attempt to fix it.

“No, I didn’t. I made it brighter.”

“But it’s darker for me,” I say, earning a frown from Vert.

“Perhaps…” Vert reaches the knob again and turns it to the opposite direction.

“How’s this?”

“Better.”

Vert turns the knob further.

“And this?”

“Much better. I can see very well now.”

“And I can’t. I think I know what’s wrong with your eyes now. They’re weak to light.”

“So I can see when it’s dark, but not when it’s bright?”

“Yes. That’s probably why you can suddenly see. It’s night now. When you woke up, it was noon and the room was bright from sunlight.”

“I see.” It’s a good news, but troubling. How am I supposed to do activities on daytime? It’s not like I can turn off the sun.

Wait.

That’s it!

“I need sunglasses.”

“Sunglasses? What’s that?”

She doesn’t even know sunglasses? On what century is this place?

“Glasses with dark lenses. Lenses are plates of small glass that you can wear on your eyes.”

“I know what glasses are,” Vert says with a huff. “I just don’t know what sunglasses are. But it’s a good idea. Perhaps we can fashion one at a glasses shop.”

“Yes.” I hope it won’t be like grandpa Cor’s round and old fashioned glasses. The lenses are too big and he looks like a mad doctor when he wears it.

The conversation ends there. Vert adjusts the light so both of us can see. After that, it’s silence between us.

It makes me think. Now that the hectic-ness subsides, questions surface in my mind. Where am I? Somewhere far away from home, that’s clear. But where—or when—exactly? The past? No way, they have pegasuses and back at home pegasuses are only a fantasy creature. Another world? Most likely, since there’s another Vert and another me here. But how did I get here? And why there are people looking for me?

Or maybe the explanation is much simpler; I am still sleeping and this is all just a dream. But no. This is too lucid to be a dream. There’s no way I can replicate the sensation of riding a coach in my dream—because I’ve never rode one—and there’s no way I can imagine Vert’s adult version face in this much detail.

Speaking of Vert…

I sneak a glance at her. She has closed her eyes and appears to be taking a nap. Now that she relaxes, she looks even more like the Vert I know. She still has some baby fat left and only now I notice how stern and mature she looks when she’s awake. Now, she looks like an ordinary girl sleeping.

And I’m disillusioned with how she looks in her dress. Sure, she’s wearing a cream colored, long sleeved blouse paired with a green, two layer skirt and black high-heeled boots, but she does not look feminine at all. It’s like I’m looking at a pretty boy dressing up as a girl. How did she manage pulling that off? Is it the boots? The short hair? Her face? Or is it the way she crosses both arms and legs?

Vert opens her eyes. They’re green like pine’s leaves.

“What is it?”

“Nothing. I just thought you really look like Vert—my sister, I mean, you look better with pants.” I lie straight away.

Vert sniggers. “And you too, like my brother’s long lost twin.”

Boy, does this Vert eats my lie raw too?

“By the way, what’s your name?”

“…You’ve been calling me brother and only now ask my name?” I ask incredulously.

Vert shrugs. “It just occurred to me that you may share the same looks, but not necessarily the same name.”

“Right. It’s Argent. Same with your brother?”

Vert sighs. “Yes. Why you’re not my brother again?”

That question is rhetorical, but I answer it anyway.

“Because we think memories and blood ties are necessary to be brother and sister.”

Vert goes still. No wonder, even I’m surprised by myself.

“Are you saying that we can pretend to be brother and sister if we want?” Vert asks, voice tight.

“Yes. Not as a replacement for each other though,” I quickly say.

“Sounds interesting, but I’ll have to think about that.”

“Me too.”

“Why you too? You’re the one who suggested it.”

“Yes, but on the spur of the moment. I need to prepare my heart to handle another Vert in my life,” I say, half serious half joking, which earns me a raised eyebrow from Vert.

“Surely my counterpart is not that bad.”

“She’s a dirt magnet. Everyday she comes back as if she has rolled a hundred times on the ground and thousand times on the mud.”

“Oh, then I’m as bad.”

I want ask what that means, but I notice the coach slows down to a stop.

“Checkpoint time?”

Vert peeks through the curtain and shakes her head.

“No. It should be further down the road. Rosalys? What’s wrong?”

“There’s a huge line in front of us, lady Vert. I have yet to know what is wrong though.”

“Can you see the front?”

“No, milady. It’s too dark. Please wait for a moment; I will inquire what’s wrong.”

Rosalys comes back a minute later.

“The army is sending reinforcements to north-east defense line. The road is closed to allow them to come through.”

“The reinforcements should be taxied by the pegasus riders. What do they need the main road for?”

Vert’s question is answered by a tremor.

“…oh, right. I forgot. There’s that.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“Why don’t you look outside? It’ll soon pass.”

Another tremor. I lift the curtain and look forward. At first I only see other coaches, pulled to a stop for the same reason. Then the sky shifts.

No. It’s not the sky. It’s a lizard. A giant, around thirty stories high and several blocks long freakishly over-sized lizard. Its torso is shaped like a round bread, but its skin is like cone shaped rocks put together, especially on the back. Its tail is short; only half of its torso’s length, but its end is shaped like a club—with spikes. Its head is like a turtle’s but with scales and two short horns.

I close the curtain and face Vert.

“What is that?”

“A stone dragon called Groundsweeper. Cute, isn’t it?”

I look at the lizard again. Yeah, it’s cute; if it was palm sized and weighed several hundred grams instead of several hundred tons.

“And you’re saying that that overgrown lizard is the reinforcements.”

“Nah, that one is the reinforcements’ weapon of mass-destruction. The real reinforcements are the army escorting it. You can only see the pegasus corps from here though.”

Vert is right. There are tenths of pegasuses flying alongside the dragon. Some maintain their altitude close to the dragon’s head, wings flapping only once or twice as they glide beside its unblinking eyes.

“Amazing. How do you put something that big under control?”

Vert hands me a spyglass. “Here. Look at the top of its head, between the horns.”

I do as instructed. I see several uniformed people riding on their pegasuses before I find the spot mentioned. There are silhouettes, people sitting in a circle between the horns.

“See those people? They’re its summoners; the only ones who can give command to it and bring it under control.”

“If it’s a summoned being, why make it walk? Why don’t you just summon it on the battlefield?”

“It’s not that simple. To summon a grand class familiar like Groundsweeper, you need years of preparation and tremendous amount of resources, so you can’t just dismiss and re-summon it as you like. Of course they summoned it near the battlefield where it’s stationed. But now they’re being moved because there’s another battlefield that needs its assistance and they can’t wait for years.”

The noise grows outside as Vert explains the situation. People are getting off their coaches to see the dragon better. There are ‘ooooh’s and ‘aaah’s accompanied with excited finger pointing; a complete opposite to Vert, who isn’t fazed by the sheer scale and grandiose of the dragon. She just stares at another direction, looking concerned.

“What’s wrong?” I ask.

“It’s strange,” I give Vert a questioning look, and she elaborates. “The Groundsweepers are the west Ulrika base’s familiar. I heard they’re planning to send one to the northeast Geneche base, but I see two.”

“Two?” I look out again and yeah, there’s another Groundsweeper, quite far behind the first one. There are less pegasuses around it. “What’s wrong with two?”

“Think about it. How much resources and time will it take to move a creature of this scale across the country? The answer is two battalions of combined corps and three weeks. That means for three weeks, the whole border defense is one familiar and two battalions short. Anything can happen within that span of time.”

“If they’re that concerned, why send the army too? Don’t you have it under control?”

“To keep the creature in line in case it goes berserk of course. Groundsweepers may appear calm, but they’re actually very sensitive. If they accidentally acknowledged a city as an enemy because some idiot provokes it, then, well, it’s hard to change its mind.”

I look at the dragon again. It’s blinking again, so slowly. Yeah. I think it can flatten a city or two before it can be convinced otherwise.

“Long story short, moving a Groundsweeper takes months of planning and calculation. You can’t just plus one when you feel like it. Even if you’re desperate.”

“Perhaps they have no other choice,” I say, trying to make sense of the reason behind.

“That’s what I’m afraid of. In any case, this works for us. It’ll take around three to four hours to let the dragons pass. The checkpoint will be lax with the growing line.”

“And the patrols?”

“Won’t come. They trust the checkpoint guard to do their job.”

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For You I Call – Episode 1: Arachnids Part 1(6)

Thank you for reading and the likes! Here’s a new chapter!


Previously: 

“One of the patrols left their baton here,” Vert explains. “That spooked me. I thought they’re here for another inspection.”

“Me too. Hahahaha.”

“What’s so funny?”

“I almost got a heart attack because somebody forgot their baton.”

That earns a snort from Vert. “Yeah. That lucky guy didn’t know how close he was from getting injured. I almost attacked him when he got so close to the closet. You did a good job keeping silent.”

“Yeah, we’d be screwed if that was a real inspection. We should leave as soon as we can.”

“Not immediately though, it’ll only raise suspicion. Speaking of which, I should tell you the escape plan I prepared.”


The plan is pretty simple. We wait until it’s night before checking out of the hotel. We will then act as a pair of noble siblings who got their vacation interrupted by an urgent matter. Rosalys will leave earlier to check on the train station. Depending on the situation, she’d either come with us or go separate ways.

“If it’s too dangerous, she’ll rent us a coach and pick us up at the hotel,” Vert finishes.

“Coach? As in horse drawn one?”

“Yes.”

“Why not a car?”

“Like I said, we’ll use the train if it’s safe.”

“No, not train’s car. I mean the four wheeled car,” I say, before it occurs go me that if this Vert doesn’t know soccer, then she might not know what a car is. “It’s like a coach, but moved with machines.”

“Oh, you mean a mechanical coach. Nobody rents that. The price is too expensive; and it’s a horror to maintain.”

I wonder what could be so horrible in maintaining a car. The worst it can do to you is make you dirty and smelly.

“I’m talking about the price of the spare parts and its fuel,” Vert says as if she could read my mind. “I admit it’s cleaner and less smelly than a horse, but who needs one if you can fly with a pegasus.”

“Fly with what?”

“Pegasus. We have them as taxis—until they’re all conscripted for the war.”

“I-I see.”

After that comes the preparation. Vert dyes my hair to black—it was, apparently, turned to white while I was sleeping for ten years—and asks me to strip so she can put on the change. Fortunately my furious refusal works, so here I am, back in the closet, struggling with the clothes.

I am in the middle of figuring out which end is the dress pants’ top when someone knocks the closet door.

“Need any help?” Vert’s muffled voice comes through the door.

“Nope! I’m fine! I’m on my last garment here!”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes!”

Even so, I take approximately fifteen minutes to put the pants on. Fortunately I don’t take a second longer because Vert opens the closet door right after I finish zipping the pants.

Vert gives me a once over and a hum of approval.

“You look good in it. Like a real noble,” she says, with a hint of awe. “How does it fit?”

I move limbs around to test for any tightness. “The shoulder part is a little restrictive,” I say as I rotate my right arm.

“It is supposed to be like that. Now wear this.”

Vert helps me putting on a jacket coat on top of the dress shirt; the end result, as she describes, is me looking like a born and bred gentleman.

“What are you going to wear?” I ask.

“What I’m wearing now. I’m already dressed as a noblewoman before you woke up.”

“I see.” Wait a minute. If she’s dressing as a noblewoman, then, “Are you wearing a dress?”

“Yes.”

“With skirt?”

“Yes. What kind of dress that doesn’t have a skirt?”

“Oh my God.” Vert is wearing a dress. A DRESS. A dress, damn it. The Cross family’s biggest mystery is standing right in front of me now and I can’t even see it! Arrgggh! Why do I have to be blind right now?? This is so unfair!

Distracted by my own misery, I don’t notice Vert leaving the room until she comes back.

“Come on, our ride is ready.”

The disappointment of not seeing Vert in a dress makes me forget my fear of going outside. I don’t even notice we are outside until Rosalys calls out to Vert.

“Lady Vert!”

I look up and my jaw drops. Not at the coach, but what’s pulling it.

They’re pegasuses. Real, living, organic winged horses.

I thought she meant another type of transportation called pegasus. But I see that she meant it literally.

“Thank you, Rosalys. Come on, brother. Let’s get on this and go to our way already,” Vert says as if two dark skinned pegasuses pulling a coach is a quotidian sight.

“They’re pegasuses,” I say, finding myself unable to say something more intelligent.

“Yes, they are. But not the ones which can fly. Their wings are too small—probably a cross with a wingless horse,” Vert says, explaining why we have pegasuses pulling the coach instead of the normal horses. “Wait, you can see now?”

“Huh?” Now that she mentions it, yes—I can see the pegasuses, a grey haired maid sitting on the coach’s driver seat and a slightly childish looking adult with Vert’s face, her signature short hair, and… green eyes? I don’t know. It’s too dark to make out the color. “Yes, but why?”

“I don’t have any idea. Let’s ponder about that in the coach. Hurry up and get on,” Vert says before getting in herself.

I follow Vert into the coach. To my relief, the coach is a closed type coach with windows and curtains. Not to mention the seats are cushioned leather seats that looks like a sofa. I can close the curtain and pretend we are in a moving house instead of being outside. If it doesn’t work, I can just lay down and sleep. It’s wide enough to contain my upper body.

I take a seat across Vert, who sits right behind the driver side. Once I’m seated, she closes the door and orders Rosalys to go.

“You can go now.”

“Yes, lady Vert.”

Rosalys ring a bell, and the coach moves, accompanied with the pegasuses snort and flap of wings. Nobody stops us from leaving the inn.

For You I Call – Episode 1: Arachnids Part 1(5)

Thank you for reading and the likes! Here’s a new chapter!


Previously: 

The footsteps resume. Then disappears.

I let out the breath I didn’t know I held. Vert too.

“Phew. Good thing I reserved the room below beforehand.”

“Won’t anyone come and check here?”

“Most likely not. Their number is small, so they’d have to do systematic search from the first floor. They don’t have time to check twice too.”

True to her words, no one comes even close to the door for what seems like a long time.

“They’re leaving,” Vert informs me. “They’re searching the next door. Not on our side, but we should stay out of the window just in case.”

I slump in relief. It has been a while since I experience that kind of fear and they’re not nice to my heart. “Why do we need to hide? Did we do something bad?” I ask. 

“Something like that. Don’t worry. You’re the guiltless one here,” Vert assures. Not effective, but now that the situation has calmed down, a more important question surfaces.


“About my memories—you said it might not be wrong.”

“Ah yes, I did. What about it?”

“You never explained why you think so.”

“Right.” I wonder if I should have kept my mouth shut. Vert sounds totally disheartened. “I was saying, it could be because you’re not my brother—at least not the one I know.”

“What do you mean?”

“…Come here,” Vert says, pulling my arm. She makes me sit down on the bed before sitting down beside me. She let out a long sigh, and I wait for her to speak.

“I lost my brother ten years ago,” Vert begins wistfully. “Then I found you at the place where I lost him. You’d have to forgive me for assuming you’re my brother. You look just like him, at least if he’s grown up to twenty four years old. But now I’m not sure if you’re really him.”

I blink. “Twenty four?” Where does that number come from?

“Oh sorry, it’s just my approximation. He was fourteen when I last saw him, and it’s been ten years, so I assume you’d be the same age if you were my brother. I apologize if I get it wrong.”

“No, you’re probably right. My body feels weird. Me growing big must be the reason.”

“You don’t know you’ve grown up?”

“If there’s one thing you’re right about me, it’s the ten years sleep part. I was fourteen before I woke up,” I joke, but Vert doesn’t share my humor. I can tell she is staring at me.

“What is it?”

“Nothing. I just thought you’re so calm for someone in your current situation.”

I can’t help but I laugh at that. “Honestly, I don’t know what to feel right now. My sister died yesterday—at least that’s how it seems like for me—and I’m not even sure if that’s true or just a bad dream. The next thing I know I’m blind and ten years older. On top of that me and a person who sounds like an older version of my little sister are now a wanted person for reasons unknown. I suppose I’m just too confused to panic.”

Vert takes a moment to come up with a response. “Understandable.”

“Right. But enough about me. You’re still unsure if I am your brother or not, right? You should ask me questions that you know how your brother would answer. Something like preference or hypothetical question. My memory doesn’t seem to be reliable after all.”

“True. Let me think about it.”

Vert really takes time on thinking that I almost fall asleep when she finally asks her question.

“What did you give me on my fifth birthday?”

“Huh? But that question—“

“—is a memory related question. I know. Sorry. I can’t come up with any preference or hypothetical question right now.”

“It’s alright. I understand,” I say—and I’m not saying that for politeness sake. She doesn’t show it, but she too, must have much thoughts and worries in her mind right now. Who wouldn’t, if you just discovered your long lost sibling might not be your sibling? She has to think about getting away from the patrols too.

I search my rusty memory and get the answer.

“An old soccer ball. Mom and dad hate me for that. They said I turned you from skirt hating tomboy to mud loving tomboy, even though it’s you who asked for it.”

Vert snorts amusedly. “That’s what you say, but it’s actually because that was the only thing you had when I asked you for present, right?”

“Exactly.” No shame in admitting it. Vert already knows about that. Wait, if she knows, “Then—“

“But you didn’t give me that.”

Aaaand, the bird of hope is struck down before it can take flight.

“I don’t know what soccer is, but it’s definitely not a ball that you gave me.”

“Oh? What is it then?”

“A wooden sword.”

“A wooden sword? Why would I give you that?”

“Because that’s the only thing you had at that time.” Woah, deja vu. “But of course you won’t admit it. You said—”

“—this is a legendary item used by heroes of the past. Use well,” I finish, channeling my inner wiseman, then wait. I know I’ve just stunned Vert to silence with that line.

“You remember that?” Vert asks when she finally finds her voice, half astonished half hopeful.

“No. But I’ve always wanted to say that once, if I ever give someone a sword—not that I ever,” I add quickly.

Vert sighs in disappointment, but then chuckles.

“I think you two would get along just fine,” Vert answers. “You and my brother, I mean.”

“…Yeah.” It’s already clear that her brother and I, although similar, are two different people. But I still want to make sure. “Sorry, but I want to ask a question too.”

“Sure.”

I take a deep breath and ask.

“Who ate the cherry tomato cake on the table?”

“Huh?”

“Don’t remember that? Then what about ’is your red-head friend with you?’”

“I do have a red-head l-friend, but she’s not with me right now. But how do you know I have a red-head friend? I didn’t meet her until a year after the accident.”

“Well, that’s another memory difference. My Vert had been friends with a red-head since she entered school, but that’s not why I ask you those question.”

“Why then?” Vert asks, demanding for explanation.

“Me and Ver, used to ask those questions before we open the door for the other.”

“That’s… a unique way of greeting,” Vert says, but it’s evident that she doesn’t understand yet.

“It’s not a greeting. It’s our safety password. For example for the first question, if you’re alone, you answer ‘there’s no cake on the table.’ If you’re bringing a friend, you’ll answer ’you mean the strawberry cake?’ And if you’re with a bad guy, you’ll answer ‘I did.’ That way we know if it’s safe to open the door. Of course we change the question and answer every now and then, but this is the first one we used.”

“I see. But why go through all that trouble?”

“Because there was one time where I opened the door for Ver, who turned out to be forced to ask me unlocking the door for a robber. We don’t want a repeat on that accident, so we set secret questions and answers. That didn’t happen on you, right?”

“It didn’t.” Vert sighs. “So we really are not each other’s brother and sister then.”

“It’s—“ I pause to find the right word “—too bad.”

“It is,” Vert solemnly agrees.

No further words exchanged between us. Of course the dead won’t come back that easily. I wonder if Vert regrets asking me those questions, because I do.

“What now?” I ask after gathering myself.

“We escape from here,” Vert answers. “But after that, I don’t know. I didn’t exactly plan for the alternative.”

The alternative which is I’m not her brother. Understandable.

“Do I look like him that much?”

“Too much. Like a grown up version of him and more. So rest assured, I won’t just leave you here if that’s what you fear,” Vert says jokingly. “Besides, I can’t exactly return you to where I found you either.”

“And where is that?“

A knock on the door stops Vert from answering. Who could that be?

“My lady, it’s me.”

Oh, it’s Rosalys.

“Quick, hide!” Vert hisses, pulling me up from the bed I’m sitting on.

“Eh? Why? It’s only Rosalys,” I ask, keeping my voice low just in case.

“Me and Rosalys have a code, just like you and your sister!”

And what Rosalys said just now indicated to Vert that she wasn’t alone. Great.

Vert shoves me through a door—probably a closet, judging by the woody smell—and orders me to stay quiet before answering the door. I can hear her talking with Rosalys, but it’s not clear. Not knowing what’s going on makes me tense, even more than when we were hiding from the pursuers above us.

Two sets of footsteps approach. I freeze when they stop in front of the closet.

“There it is!”

I squeeze my eyes shut in reflex, fully expecting the door to be opened. But it doesn’t happen. The two footsteps retreat and the room’s door is closed. I don’t dare to breathe in relief until Vert tells me it’s alright.

“One of the patrols left their baton here,” Vert explains. “That spooked me. I thought they’re here for another inspection.”

“Me too. Hahahaha.”

“What’s so funny?”

“I almost got a heart attack because somebody forgot their baton.”

That earns a snort from Vert. “Yeah. That lucky guy didn’t know how close he was from getting injured. I almost attacked him when he got so close to the closet. You did a good job keeping silent.”

“Yeah, we’d be screwed if that was a real inspection. We should leave as soon as we can.”

“Not immediately though, it’ll only raise suspicion. Speaking of which, I should tell you the escape plan I prepared.”