“Attack of the White Clouds” Chapter Six Part Two

As we climbed lower and lower down the grassy knoll, Ch- began to speak. “I understood you,” she said softly. “You wanted to investigate this village, and especially the deer. For signs of the White Clouds. Am I correct?”

I nodded hastily, my teeth clattering in my haste. She nodded curtly to herself in satisfaction. A sneaky smile flitted across her features, then vanished. She lowered her voice. “I trust you to tell you this: that I do not trust that seer, and I do not trust the others for trusting her. They are fool-hearted for doing so.” I startled at her divisive thoughts, and suddenly realized that she was seperating me from them for a reason. Her head dipped closer to me. “And I also know you could not tell them of this, even if you wanted to. So listen to me.”

I gaped, my legs slowing. Her hand gripped my shoulder and dragged me along. “Someone must have sacrificed that deer. It is no animal or beast who places things in such ways, or who does rituals of the kind. Do you follow? That means there is someone alive who did it- in the wake of the White Clouds, in the wake of our people’s disappearance. Look at it! It is not that old! A week at most. That is plenty of time for that seer to have found her way to where we met her.” At that Ch-‘s eyes drew narrow and her jaw set. She released my shoulder as we began to wade into the murky and filthy waters towards the body of the deer.

I fixed my eyes upon the deer. True, all the trappings of ritual lay about it. A hasty sacred cord, the throat slit the proper way. Yet how could one person have conducted it alone? A ritual such as this required three: a hunter, a butcher, and the prophet. I shook my head as we neared the animals’ hoofs. The beads in my head rattled and I touched Ch-‘s shoulder gently with the tips of my fingers. Her scales were warmed by the sun. Immediately, as if i had branded her with fire, she whipped around ready to defend herself. I held her gaze and shook my head purposefully. Then, slowly miming the speech she had taught me, I told her that we should not cross the sacred cord. Illness would befall us. Then, I lifted up the three fingers and pointed to the sacrifice. “Th-th-three,” I blurted.

“Three what?” she asked harshly.

“Th-three,” I insisted. But I did not know how to mime these words. I did not know how to force them out right now either, or how to convince Ch- that it could not have been the seer, and that the poor seer probably never came here because her robes were neither soaked in mud nor blood. And that meant that we were not alone. There was at least three out there- leaving sacrifices to spirits which were not eating. And what did that mean of our gods? Had they too been eated by the White Clouds?

I wrung my hands over my trident at that. Could it have eaten the gods as well? Were we truly that alone?

Ch- scowled. “I wish you could speak,” she snapped before wading away. Over her shoulder she said snarkily. “Gurgle or moan if you find something, you fish!”

The insult bounced off my careless scales and left me unmarked. Instead I wrung my hands and watched the floating and bloated body before me. What if… My mind scurried to conclusions and possibilities. What if the sacrifice was not done to our gods but to some other spirit? There was only one way to find out.

Wading around the corpse I stepped onto the jutt of earth it was perched upon. Someone had scraped up this earth so that the body would appear to float above the waters. Certainly not the work of one person. It would have taken a single person days to set up this alone!

Ch- would not have known this, but in these sorts of ceremonies the symbol of the deity to which the animal was sacrifice was inscribed upon a leaf. That leaf was then stuffed into the wound in order to summon the deity to their feast. That leaf, right now, was poking out of the deer still.

I bit my tongue. There was no crossing the sacred barrier. However, the leaf looked loose. With a sweep of my leg I sent a wave of water crashing over the body. The leaf trembled, wobbling in its spot. Again i swept my legs. On the third try the leaf came loose and swept away from me. I scrambled around the sacred circle and sloshed after it. It skirted away as if hoping not to be seen, but I caught it in the prongs of my trident as it rode the current away. Scooping it towards me, I could finally see it.

A deep green still, it was covered over its entirety in wax that protected it from the elements. Even the blood of the offering had not clung to it too tightly. Yet the symbol that was inscribed into it remained, burned magically so as to never be erased. It was one that was foreign to me.

Carefully, I scooped it up. Perhaps the seer would know, I thought. Perhaps Ch- would comfort me and scoffingly say it was one of the desert’s benevolent gods. Anything would be nice, I supposed. Because if it was not one of the gods of a tribe, then this cloud with an eye inscribed in its center could only mean one thing.

After that i did not go far. I could easily see Ch- angrily battling against the knee-deep waters and exhausting her fury against them. By the time she returned her legs dragged against the water’s hold and her shoulders slumped. “I did not find anything,” she called out. “But thanks for not looking.”

I held up the leaf I held carefully in both hands. “I looked. I found.”

Ch-‘s jaw dropped. She sloshed forward in a hiss of angry splashes and curses. I held the leaf aside as she floundered towards me, then offered it as she stood before me with water dripping down her face. Ruefully she wiped her face with a hand and snorted aside before looking at what I held.

“What is that?” she asked, but there was no anger to her voice. Only the cold tinge of fear could be heard.

I pointed to the deer. “Sacrifice.” I had had time to calm myself, to rehearse and choose my words. “In the deer,” and I pointed again urgently.

Chaos & Kuryo (Novel 3) Chapter 4 Part 1

Chaos’s POV

With a thud I landed in a blurr of brown and beige and green. My feet dunked down into slushy mud. I lost my balance and toppled over, arms flailing. I landed face-first in mud.

Ugh. What an entrance.

Spitting and cursing I propped up on my elbows. Before me, a breathtaking view of valleys and farm houses stretched in spring hues with mud spattered here and there. It was where Bella had once taken me to see the view – except now it was spring.

A lump rose in my throat. I crawled up to my feet, feeling betrayed by myself. I just had to come back here, didn’t I? Well, bugger it all.

I looked down at the black box in my hand, cursing myself and my squishy sentiments. I would go back and – something appeared behind me. My hairs stood on end. My magic senses went ‘warning! Warning!’ and I whirled, swords out.

Sparks skittered as I struck a magical shield. It shimmered with pastel colors in a bubble around a very un-pastel person. Lucifer.

Lucifer was all decked out in horns and black robes and the usual tall-as-hell-was-deep high heels that levitated above the mud. There was even the semi-permanent smug look to his face.

“Oh, it’s you,” I said, lowering my swords. I picked up the black box that I had dropped to defend myself. I wiped the mud off of it, then looked back up. Those crystal-like blue eyes were shimmering with amusement.

“Chaos, Chaos,” Lucifer tutted, bending over as if dealing with a child. “What are you doing here, hmm?”

I held up the box. “It was a mistake. I uh- just – wrong place. Don’t worry, I’m leaving.” Like I wanted to stay around here!

Lucifer held out his hand amiably. “Need help? I’m pretty good at fixing things.”

“Really?” I held out the box without thinking twice. Or rather, I thought too late. It was when the box left my fingers that I thought -hey, wait a minute.

“Thanks!” said Lucifer so cheerfully as he straightened, taking the box with him. “And thank you so much for coming back.”

“I need to go,” I said in a blurt “my friend-” but Lucifer was giving me that pitying look he reserved for… unfortunate people. I gulped, feeling screwed.

Lucifer snapped his fingers. Behind him in a semi-circle appeared a whole host of angels. “Take him,” he ordered, a nasty grin sparkling across his face.

I cursed under my breath. There was no way I was fighting my way out of this.

//////

Kuryo’s POV

“Hey,” I was dangling in nothingness, still. Time had passed, and yet it hadn’t. I’d dozed off – or had I?

I wondered if the other bodies that were dangling around were conscious. “Hey!”

But my voice didn’t seem to go far, nor to even echo. It was just absorbed by this lifeless darkness. No answers. Except- a twinge of amusement that came down the umbilical chord.

“You’re alive,” I mumbled, looking up at the thing that was above me. At the dark mass of the Academy’s depths.

A sliver of laughter came down the chord to ripple out through my mind.

Hi, I thought dryly.

Welcome to my world, the voice cooed in my head.

I squeezed my eyes shut, trying not to think of everything and anything. I needed to find a way out of here!

Laughter echoed in my mind. There is no way out, you sad little thing. We will digest you. You will end.

And, like the proverbial villain who never shuts up, the rant began.

It was a mistake, incorporating you so quickly last time. This time, we will do it slower. Yes, yes,.

That was followed by a whole chorus of sighs and laughs. Like every single piece that was shattered up there had its own voice for an instant. It gave me the creeps- yet I somehow understood it. I’d felt that shattered before.

“You do?” asked a tangible voice. I startled so bad, looking up.

A silvery head looked down at me. The skin was silvery translucent, the hair was white and thin, and its torso was child-like, the waist hidden in the darkness that was above me. Thin arms jutted from shrunken sockets to grip at the chord.

“Do you know what this feels like?” and that word, ‘this’ had been said by a million voices.

A strange eagerness was rippling from the being, from this infantile version of the Academy. It was like a heat oppressing over me. But I nodded, feeling a strange sort of sympathy within myself for it.

A sympathy that was noticed the minute I felt it.

“You like me!” the figure squealed, clasping its tiny hands together. It tapped and toyed its fingers together in excitement. “I like you too!” it blurted.

I laughed at this -creepy- but almost charming innocence.

The figure ducked back up into the darkness. Then, weilding a knife, it ducked back down. Knife held in its teeth, it swung down, gripping the umbilical chord with ease. I gasped, suppressing a wave of horror as the region beneath the hips swung down. It was a mess of octopus tentacles, all white and silvery and translucent like the rest of this body.

The being swung down straight before me, the tentacles wrapping around my stomach so the head was just a little above me. The knife was drawn out from the teeth and pointed at my throat. “I’ve got a knife!” the child giggled.

O-kay? I forced myself to stay calm, neutral, pushing all other feelings aside. “I don’t have one,” I said lamely.

The being giggled. The knife was waved in my face. “Just remember.” Then the knife was swung around and planted straight into their octopus hip. It jutted out, the skin torn but not bleeding.

“Now,” the being looked at me, tilting its head to the side. A sigh came from its lips, but I felt a rush of voices in my head. Questions, probing eyes, as if all my thoughts were being sifted through. A question was pulled out of me.

“Who am I?” squealed the being, as if so excited to have someone to talk to. “Well I- I never thought of that!”

“Ah?” I half-laughed, feeling giddy from my senses screaming danger.

It leaned in so close our noses brushed. Its fingers toyed with my ear, the one with the split lobe that had been so long ago. The being grinned. “I remember this. Your escape. I remember you. I remember everything, except -” it took in an angry breath, then hissed in my face. “I am nothing. I have no voice, I have no time, I have no feelings, no agency! I get no friends.” It leaned back, hands locked behind my neck as it arched back, back, back, until all I saw was the tip of its chin and its chest.

“I am alone in my multitude,” it crowed, half sobbing. “I have no friends.”

A feeling radiated from it, raw emotion that invaded me. It was wounded, miserable, shattered, and weak. Frightened, lonely.

I found myself pitying it. Hadn’t I felt that way after surviving the Academy? I’d had no one, not even Charr with me for the first little while. Even then, Charr could only understand so much. I collected partners, but they never filled that strange void within-

“Exactly,” cooed the spirit, drawing me out of my thoughts by rising up again to look down at me. “I’m so alone.

I gulped, not liking how I was seeing myself echoed in this being, this part of the Academy.

Chaos & Kuryo (Novel 3) Chapter 3, Part 1

Chaos’s POV

“Okay, but we’ve got to do something,” was the most constructive I could get.

Aaliyah and Jade had tried summoning the principals. I’d even tried praying to the great beyond. No such luck. No magic was manifesting. We were just – here. Stuck.

But we were running out of steam. It was now early afternoon. I should be finishing my work shift. Kuryo should be coming home from school. Charr- should be telling us all that we were lazy.

I wanted to bawl. My little family was in tatters around me. If there was something, anything, that I could do, I’d do it without a blink. But there was nothing to do.

“For fuck’s sake,” groaned Jade, who never swore. We were all around the coffee table, heads in our hands. Aaliyah had just given up on pacing. I was still holding off on the whole crying thing, but why I don’t know. There was nothing else to do!

“We should pick up the blood,” said Jade. “It’s not like the cops are going to come looking.”

Aaliyah frowned. “If they do, we really do need to pick up the blood.”

None of us moved.

Then, behold! Ask and ye shall receive!

Wham! There was a crackle in the universe! Pow! A ripple just moved through the air and I nearly barfed, it just felt so weird inside of my skin.

Someone appeared, landing on the edge of the coffee table between it and the wall. Someone with blue hair and a blue jacket and –

“Kuryo?!” we all yelled, jumping up to our feet collectively.

The figure straightened woozily. My heart pounded. Same haircut, different clothes but – the face was older by a few years. And plus, you know, he had a giant pair of crow wings he was stabilizing himself with as he staggered.

Jade and Aaliyah slumped. “Oh,” Jade said as we all realized at about the same time that this wasn’t our Kuryo.

“Uh?” he asked as he looked around at us. There was an anger, a tightness to his face. He was frowning like it had been cut into him to be that way.

“Who the fuck are you?” I practically, well, okay, did, yell at the top of my lungs. Everyone startled and got my point.

“Isn’t he-” Aaliyah asked.

“No he’s not! It was another one!” I hissed. This one didn’t look like he’d hit a gym for six years straight. This guy had shorter hair like our Kuryo and his clothes were… looking like a mix of high fashion meets space station. Yeah, and he had gloves on. Not that that meant anything but – “So who the fuck are you?” I demanded, furious. I’d had it! Someone was giving me answers!

This new kuryo – let’s call him V2 for the sake of simplicity – lifted a hand at me with the assurance of someone who was used to being listened to. “Calm down,” he ordered.

“Oh yeah?” I yelled, flicking my wrists so my swords flicked out.

V2 yelled wordlessly, jumping back. His giant wings flashed out and he was now in a crouch, ready to vanish.

“Chaos!” Aaliyah yelled. Then, in a blurr of gold there was this giant dragon before me, between me and V2. Or more like, there was this dragon with one foot in the coffee table, a wing nearly bashing out the lightbulb, and V2 was crushed up against the wall, emitting a small “Fuck!”

Jade’s voice floated over “Alrihgt, everyone just calm down.”

Aaliyah swung her giant head from me to V2, snorting. I nodded and sheathed my swords.”Okay, okay,” I muttered, holding up my hands now.

V2 muttered curses under his breath as Aaliyah returned to her normal harmless looking self. He stepped off the wall and shook his wings out.

“Okay, now you.” Aaliyah pointed to V2, then to the sofa. “Sit down.”

V2 did just that. Aaliyah looked at me and pointed to the other side of the smashed coffee table. “You sit too.”

I dropped down so hard it hurt. Crossed my arms and legs in a huff. There! Now what?

Like a coach scolding us, Aaliyah looked me and V2 over. Jade was like an aggravated parent, there for backup but not sure either what was going on.

“Alright,” Aaliyah said sharply. “you,” to V2. “Who are you and why are you here?”

V2 looked her up and down. With a sharp exhale he said “I’m Kay. Senior member of the Rebellion, shooter squad, and husband to Charr, the senate leader. I was just killed.”

“You’re obviously alive!” I yelled out.

“Chaos!” Aaliyah hissed. “Let him finish!”

V2’s eyes were growing wide. “Charr! They’re after her!” V2 was jumping back up to his feet. “I’ve got to get back! I’ve got to- there’s got to be a way to save her,” and he turned to us. “Send me back!”

We all looked at each other. You could have heard a penny drop.

“We didn’t summon you,” said Aaliyah.

V2 flapped his arms. “I don’t have the power to dimension travel! Someone sent me here! Whoever it is- send me back!”

“Hey,” Aaliyah said. “Our Kuryo just went missing yesterday, along with Charr. Maybe you were brought here for a reason.”

V2 glared at her, his voice rising a notch. “I don’t give a shit! I’ve got to get back to my wife and baby!”

I frowned and tightened my arms across my chest, hugging myself. Both Charrs were pregnant. There was another Kuryo who wasn’t Kuryo. Where the fuck was this going?

“Hey,” Aaliyah held up a hand. “You’re Kay? The version who tried to kill our Kuryo a few years ago? Through the rebellion?”

“Yeah, that’s me?” snapped V2.

“Then who was here yesterday? Who’s the third Kuryo?” Aaliyah asked. “I thought Kuryo had only met one version of himself before.”

“Don’t know, don’t care, send me back!” V2 nearly yelled, flapping his arms again.

Aaliyah gave him a dead serious look. “Check yourself for a black box.”

“Why would I have the black box on me?” snapped V2, but he began patting himself down. His face dropped as he patted one of his jacket pockets. Out he drew a black box on a black leather strap that looked suspiciously like the ones Charr and Kuryo used to have.

“Oh, shit,” moaned Jade as V2 paled.

“What?” I wailed. “What does that mean?” Because, obviously, I was the only one who didn’t understand.

////

“When the principals send out people to do their bidding, to fix screw-ups in this dimension, they give them black boxes to time and dimension travel,” said Aaliyah.

We were now all sitting around the shattered coffee table, passing around a bottle of whiskey. Jade took two strong gulps before passing it around. V2 sniffed it then handed it over to me with a repulsed look. I gulped it, swallowed the burn, then handed it to Aaliyah.

“So?” I croaked.

“So,” she took a swig of whiskey. “Our Charr and Kuryo were the ‘fixers’. Now they’re not, which tells us that they’re in trouble or dead for good. Also – there’s a new fixer, which means something is wrong. He was sent here, which means we’ve got something to do with it.”

I blinked and tried not to absorb the bad while still getting the point. That meant I pretty much ignored the whole thing. “So?” I repeated like an unhappy parrot.

“Kuryo and Charr are in serious trouble and someone actually needs to go rescue them,” Jade snapped. “That’s what.”

I smacked a palm onto the table. “Then let’s do this!”

V2 looked at me like I was a dumb, dumb, plum. “The Academy is coming back to life,” he said deadpan. “It’s probably got them by now.”

Jade snorted whiskey up her nose. “What?” said Aaliyah.

“It sent something to attack us.” V2 paused. “I’m not sure what they are. But,” and he fiddled with a chipped piece of the table. “They bargained for Charr. They offered a peace treaty in exchange for her.”

“Charr?” I barked.

V2 nodded miserably. “Just her.”

“And what did you do?” I asked.

V2 glared at me. “We declared war. And I’m quite sure we’re losing. I was just hoping Charr would be able to give birth before we were captured.”

There was a heavy pause in the air. Aaliyah looked down into the whiskey bottle as if it was a source of wisdom. “So – you think the Kuryo who was here yesterday, brought our Kuryo to the academy?”

“Pretty sure, yeah,” V2 nodded.

“What’s up with the pregnancy though?” I asked. “The other Charr was pregnant too. What’s that got to do with anything?”

V2 looked around. “I don’t know,” he admitted. “The baby was kind of a surprise for us. We’d stopped taking sperm sponsors a while ago-”

“Sperm sponsors?” I asked loudly. Maybe the whiskey was hitting a bit.

V2 made a face at me. “Well yeah!” he snapped, bristling. “I can’t really father the child, now can I?”

I just sat there, deadpan confused. “Why not?” Testicles blown off?

“Because I’m, transgender?” said V2 testily. “Like your Kuryo?”

My jaw hit the floor. “Kuryo is what?” I shrieked.

Chaos & Kuryo (Novel 3) Chapter Two, Part One

Kuryo’s POV

I walked into the apartment with a clear mind. A calm soul.

Alright, part of me wanted to freak but – I was me. I had defeated the Academy. I could take this.

Then I saw my other self.

Kay looked older. His hair had grown out and he had gained muscle mass. But there was still that resting bitch face. He was standing with his arms crossed, planted between Charr and – a very pregnant Charr in a black dress.

I figured that was a good place to start. Considering that a) she was actually still alive in this reality and b) the baby and her had both made it.

“You’re pregnant!” I cheered, dropping my bag to the ground and stepping forward. “Congratulations!”

“Thanks,” that Charr and Kay said, deadpan and without cheer. My Charr gave me a warning look, but I wasn’t sure what it meant. So I walked into the living room and leaned on the counter that split it from the kitchen. “So?” I asked.

“I’m pregnant,” said Charr, stating the obvious.

“Congrats,” I said, gesturing at her with a fake grin. Something was wrong. Her and Kay had been wanting a baby, last dimension ago. Hadn’t they?

A look of meaning was passed between that Charr, Kay, my Charr, and then to me and then – to Chaos. Who was standing beside me with a bright smile, completely missing out on the gravity of the situation.

Charr form this dimension cleared her throat. “Chaos, maybe you could go to AJ’s?”

You know things are bad when she used that dumb acronym. Chaos’s cheery face fell into dismay. I nodded. “Why don’t you?”

Trust Chaos to take a hint like a sledgehammer of drama. “But I’m part of the situation too!” They wailed. “I’m not just -”

“Just go,” snapped Kay.

“Please,” I whispered.

Chaos stormed out, slamming the door shut behind him. I sensed that I’d get an earful of this later. But that was another battle. For now, I looked around expectantly. All eyes landed on Charr, the pregnant one.

“I’m pregnant,” she announced.

“Con-grats?” I offered for what, the third time?

Kay and her speared me with their eyes. “I’m not the dad,” Kay announced angrily. “I can’t be.”

“Well, yeah,” I muttered awkwardly. I was trans, Kay was trans, it seemed to be a cross-dimensional thing. But uh? So?

The pregnant Charr gave me a nasty look. “I don’t know who else it could be,” she said savagely.

Well this uh, “Okay?” I managed, glancing at my Charr. Help? This sounded like a couple’s fight about to break out?

“They don’t know who the baby came from,” said my Charr calmly. “And someone’s trying to kill it.”

“It’s not a normal baby!” the pregnant Charr hissed. “I can hear it thinking!”

“Wait, wait, someone’s trying to kill it?” I asked.

“The baby is special!” Charr-from-another-dimension began crowing, in an anxious and wound up kind of way. Her arms wrapped around her belly. “It’s got powers!”

“Uh-” I said.

“I think it’s evil,” said Kay flatly. “And we think it might be from the Academy.”

The pregnant Charr burst into tears.

“Uh,” I said, awkward as could be.

“If you could-” Charr was trying to catch her breath as she sobbed. Tissues were passed along and she took one. Then two. “If you could feel the baby! You can tell us who it is?”

I just stood there. That Charr pointed at herself. “Come into my body! Feel it! Tell me who it is!”

I glanced at my Charr, who made a non-committal face. “Okay?” I said gingerly. “I uh,”

Kay, now perched beside Charr, glared at me like I had better hop to it and do it, and do it well. Or he’d butcher me.

So I did. I stepped gingerly to Charr’s side and sat on the armrest of the couch. I put a hand on her shoulder. “I’m just gonna,” I said softly.

“Do it!” she fairly yelled at me.

I stretched a part of myself into her. The presence that radiated from within her was nearly overwhelming. How I hadn’t felt it before- it was dormant was why. It wasn’t fully awakened. But it was there, powerful and present.

It didn’t take a genius’s head to recognize it. I drew back as quickly as I could, slipping wholly back into my body.

“It’s not the Academy,” I said with relief.

For a second, I swore I saw Kay smile. Charr exhaled, a hand resting on her stomach.

“Then who is it?” asked the other Charr from the kitchen.

I grinned at her. Chaos was going to be so happy. “It’s God.”

Chaos & Kuryo (Novel 3) Chapter One, Part Two

“We’re all going to die,” said Aaliyah firmly. She was sitting on the couch, dripping snow. She hadn’t taken her hat or boots off, and didn’t seem to realize what was going on around her.

We all sat crowded around her, listening intently. Chaos was on the floor stirring a pot of hot cocoa they’d made, serving it into mugs. Right now, there was fat chance of anyone drinking it.

“I dreamt it,” Aaliyah said softly, hugging herself. Her gaze drifted off at the TV, not really seeing it. “We all drowned.”

Chaos offered her a mug of cocoa. I shook my head at them, but Aaliyah took it.

“We all died,” she repeated softly. “But I can’t remember how it happened. There was just all this water and you,” she nodded at me “Couldn’t keep your head above it. There was a shark and -,” she shook her head. “We all drowned.” She looked at Chaos. “You had a wooden crucifix that floated. That was all that was left behind.”

Chaos looked down. We all lowered our gazes. No one knew what to say.

Maybe now’s a good time to say that Aaliyah, being a golden dragon, had rare predictive dreams. She dreamed of the future. Needless to say, dreaming of all of us dying had never happened before, and wasn’t a good sign.

Chaos cleared their throat. All eyes turned to them and I cringed inside, expecting something, well, cringe-worthy.

“You know,” Chaos said, swirling the coca in the pot. “In my realm when one god made a prediction, it was basically taken as a challenge by other gods. A sort of ‘hold my beer’ kind of moment.”

“This was a dream,” Jade said sternly. “It,”

“Was sent by someone,” said Chaos flatly. “And someone else somewhere is probably taking it as a challenge to make it not happen. So-”

“Our world is not populated by zillions of gods like your world was,” I interrupted.

“It’s not written in stone!” Chaos interrupted me back fiercely. “Just because someone says it, doesn’t make it true. It’s a warning, not a death sentence. And how many people have avoided the death sentence?”

“Not a whole lot,” I bit back.

“They’ve got a point,” said Charr quietly. “We can maybe do something.”

Chaos pointed the chocolatey spoon towards her. “Avoid water.”

“I’m thinking something else,” said Charr.

“Like what?”

“Well,” Charr gave me a meaningful look. “Maybe we should contact, you know, the principals.”

There was an unhappy silence. My stomach did an unhappy flip. I looked grudgingly at Charr. I knew she was right. Of all the times, this was as good as any to travel to meet the principals. But – I didn’t want to. “Can it not be tomorrow? I have an exam.” I said grumpily.

“You always have exams,” Chaos said.

I glared at them. “I should be studying right now, thank you. This is important for me.”

“So is this!” said Aaliyah sharply, near tears. “We might all die!”

I cringed. “Okay, let me do my exam first. I have to go study. But I promise, tomorrow when I get home, we,” I looked pointedly at Charr. “Will go visit the principals.”

///////

Chaos’s POV

Well, I was late for work by about ten minutes, spilled a latte on some jerk’s lap, and that was just the start. It was a long shift, I was bored, and every minute felt like drudgery. Really, I couldn’t wait to get home. Kuryo and Charr were going to visit the principals! Kuryo’s exam was in the early afternoon so when I finished my shift, he and Charr should be ready to go on their little dimension trip.

Well! I rushed home through the snow and buses, climbed up the stairs in a rush, and let myself into the dinky apartment that smelled like home.

The moment I stepped inside, I felt an energy. It wasn’t magic per se, but it was… a presence.

Well I didn’t have to look far, it was right in front of me in the living room and staring me in the face.

“Hi?” I said, my brain doing that dumb thing where it refuses to acknowledge what it’s seeing.

It was Kuryo, but not. In fact, take Kuryo and imagine he hit the gym, fronted a heavy metal band, and put on a medieval tunic and that’s what was staring me in the face, long angry hair included. Charr was sitting on the couch beside him, wearing a black dress that I had never seen her wear before.

“Who’s that?” she asked.

“Temporary roommate,” said another Charr, this one wearing clothes I knew, from the kitchen.

Mind. Blown.

I shut the door behind me, just in case the world needed to not know about this. Yeah, something juicy was happening. I could feel it.

So, being me, I started talking. “Uhm, hi, I’m-”

“Why don’t you go get Kuryo?” Charr said, stirring a mug of something and handing it to the other Charr. “Tell him Kuryo has arrived.”

My mouth may have hung open for a minute while my brain just finished exploding in my head. Say whaaat?

Then the metalhead Kuryo gave me an angry look. I nodded and let myself back out.

I met Kuryo, the real one, at the bus stop.

“I need to tell you something!” I blurted as we met. Heads turned and I cleared my throat. Kuryo looked tired. He’d been up all night studying for this exam. For a moment, I felt bad for him. But then I remembered what was at the apartment.

“Okay, so, don’t freak, but,” I looped an arm around his shoulders and ducked our heads together.

“Is this a love declaration?” he asked hopefully, trying to make light of the situation. He really did look tired.

“Charr told me to tell you that ‘Kuryo is here’. Has arrived. Something like that.”

Kuryo looked at me, so tired. Then he sighed heavily. “Are you serious?”

“Yeah!” I nodded, eyes wide. “And there was this guy in the apartment, and he looked just like you! Except, I mean, he works out, and there was another Charr-”

Kuryo cursed and began walking towards the apartment building. Little flurries of snow were falling through the sky, floating delicately down. They peppered his hair.

“Do you – you know, you don’t have work or somewhere to go? Feel like doing groceries or something?” he asked me as we neared the curve in the street where our block was.

I took it like a traitorous punch to the gut. “What? You don’t want to include me?”

“No, that’s not it,” groaned Kuryo. I took his shoulders, and he drew to a stop, exasperated. “It’s just – this doesn’t concern you.”

“Doesn’t – but I’m, I’m a part of your life! I was in the dream too, wasn’t I? I’m involved!” a whole well of hurt began swelling inside of me. Charr had called me a ‘temporary roommate’ … were they thinking of getting rid of me?

“Yes but,” Kuryo said. A lot of meaning was in his eyes. “You’re,” and he searched for words.

My heart broke. “Are you dumping me?”

Alright it came out a bit louder but, mercifully, there wasn’t anyone around but the snow to hear. My eyes got all misty and stupid. “Are you?”

“No, but-”

“But?” I nearly shrieked.

Kuryo lifted his hands, trying to placate me. I was having none of it, scrubbing angrily at my tears. “I just don’t think it is wise for you to meet him.”

“Who is he?” I barked, knowing already the answer. A twin. A relative of sorts. Okay, alright, I get it. I’m not the type that you can bring home all proud and Charr was probably already invited home-

“He’s me,” Kuryo said flatly. “But from another dimension.”

“What?” My mind skipped a beat.

“See? This is too complicated,” he said. “Just – go to the grocery store or something.” and he began walking away. I rushed after him.

“He’s you? From another dimension?” I asked as I kept stride with him. He walked fast, trying to shake me off, but who was the one who did all the cardio huh? Me, that’s who. Little old student here didn’t do a whole lot of exercise.

“Yes, and we didn’t necessarily get along either,” Kuryo said as we crossed the street to our block. “Now if you’re going to stick around, you’re going to want not to cross him. Okay? Just – silent observer, okay? Just that. Don’t say anything.”

“And the – she’s another copy of Charr?”

“Charr is here as well?” he asked, whipping around to me. “You didn’t say that!”

“Uh,”

Kuryo hissed some curses and rolled his eyes. “Okay, well, don’t cross any of them, okay? Just – zip it. Okay?”

“I can do that,” I said confidently. Since when was I the chatterbox around here?

Kuryo gave me a nasty look, then drew the block’s door open for us both.

“Just More Chaos”; Chapter Ten, Part Two

creature tree1.jpgOne smack later, we were still faced with a dilemma. Or really, we were just stalling. The question of ‘what is it?’ and ‘what did you do, Chaos?’ was passed around a few times, with little results. Finally, I just started walking.

“What are you doing?” Bella called after me as I tramped through the snow, heading towards ‘the thing’.

“What do you think I’m doing?” I snapped. “I’m going to get Kuryo. And you can all stuff it!” I would have said something ruder, but I was out of breath. My boots were sinking in the thick, crunchy snow. It was slow going, and my stomach was jabbing at me with every step.

In a rush of crunches, Aaliyah and Jade were beside me, walking far easier and faster than I was. I struggled to keep up with them, not wanting them to reach the creature before me. Why? It was just pride, I guessed. There was nothing I could do to the creature, no way I could defend them from it. I was probably about to get myself eaten, if I was to stop and think about it.

As we approached, the smell of Kuryo intensified. The ‘feel’ of him was so tangible that it was makign my skin crawl. When I looked at the thing, my mind kept expecting to see Kuryo.

But instead, I saw a shape in the tree’s trunk. As we came closer and closer, it took the shape of a woman’s body, shining lime green in a sickly way, with fins and thorns jutting from it.

Five feet away from it, the scent stopped. So I stopped. So Aaliyah and Jade stopped as well, looking at me as if for directions.

I took a good look at ‘the thing’. I’d never seen anything like it before.

Yeah, it was shaped like a human woman, but there was no eyes, only sunken craters. Fins jutted from the head like a crown. Its arms hung limply at its side, tied out of the way with a vine. Out of its spine, straight up as if the body was part of the tree, was the tree’s trunk. And the bottom half of the legs? Beyond the knees was the writhing roots, as if this was some sort of tentacle monster.

The body arched, writhing feebly, the head lolling. “Free me,” whispered a voice. Kuryo’s voice.

Aaliyah and Jade jumped forward. “Stop!” I shouted, grabbing at them. Yeouch! My stomach felt like it had ripped. Mercifully they did stop. I doubled over in pain.

“That’s obviously not him!” I gasped through the pain, cradling my stomach. Ow, ow, owww. What was this thing? I’d never seen something like it in the realms of hell… Could it be it wasn’t from this dimension?

“But!” Jade protested, looking from me to the thing.

“Kuryo! Are you there?” Aaliyah called out.

There was crunching of the vampires arriving, with Bella safely cocooned among them. No bravery from her today, eh?

The creature moaned, twisting on itself. It’s head dropped forward and the body arched, then slumped forward. The root/tentacles twitched restlessly.

“Help,” Kuryo’s voice whispered – but the lips weren’t moving. Where was his voice coming from?

Just as I wondered that, the presence of Kuryo hit the air again. This time it was so strong that everyone reacted, bending over a little and gawking.

“We have to do something!” Jade said frantically.

The body shuddered. “Chaos,” it whispered, the lips still not moving. “Chaos…”

My heart wrenched. “Yeah? I’m here?” I said sharply.

The head flung up. The jaw snapped open, a brown tongue lolling out. Three creases on the chest snapped open, revealing large blood-shot eyes. On the chest!

I shreiked, jumping back.

“Are you?” The creature hissed, and this time it was it speaking. The tongue flickered and flapped about, tasting the air. “Is it you? Part two?”

It began sliding forward, the body swinging from side to side as the roots/tentacle things crawled forward like caterpillars. I stepped back, gawking.

“What are you?”

The head snapped to the side, the tongue flapping around. “An excellent question,” it laughed while, in the background, Kuryo’s voice began calling my name.

“Chaos! Chaos! Chaos!”

And the creature advanced, still crawling towards me. I skittered back. “Kuryo?”

The creature lunged, bolting three feet forward before returning to its crawl. “Chaossss,” it hissed, the head swinging as it lurched side to side in that strange gait. “I – feel you. Chaos, come to me.”

“Uh,” I shuffled to the side, towards the vampires. They scattered like dominoes. So brave. Slowly, the creature swung towards me. I looked ot my other side, but Jade and Aaliyah weren’t rushing to my rescue either.

Great. I was the slowest one in this group, and I was the target. Now what?

The creature shuddered, and Kuryo’s essence flooded the air. His voice rang out. “I miss you -” and there was a wordless groan. The creature swung side to side.

Alright. As some jerk once said, the best defense is a good offense. So – I braced myself, plantin gmy feet in the snow. “What are you?” I demanded. “What do you want?”

The creature moaned. The eyes flicked around as if searchign for me. Okay, maybe it was near-sighted. Maybe I could –

The feel of Kuryo wafted out again, so strong. It was a sense of panic, of fear, of agitation and ‘do something!’.

I blinked, and for a second I thought I saw Kuryo instead of the tree. He was standing there, giant crow wings spread out from his back. “Do something!” he was saying. In his hand was a black box, held out to me.

I reached for it without thinking. Kuryo was there, right there. He was reaching for me!

One step, two step- I could now smell the rank of the creature. It had stilled, and smelt like some shade of rotten perfume mixed with chai. But Kuryo was within, and I could see him. The tentacles twitched on the snow.

“What are you doing?” Jade shrieked. “Get back!”

I gulped, but took the last step. I was so close that my fingertips brushed the rotten texture of the trunk, at the collarbone. Kuryo’s hand seized mine.

In a flash, I realized that he really, actually, was in there. And through him, I felt so many other souls. All alive, all screaming so loud that I couldn’t make out one or the other.

The tentacles were coiling around my feet. The head was lowered to my chest height, sniffling and grinning. No, not grinning, opening its jaw wide and wider and wider, revealing rows of shark-like teeth. Through Kuryo, I knew that it was going to eat my heart. Just that. Through him, his palm so firm and solid in my grasp, I felt power like a current.

Just like before, when he had been ‘eating’ me, I felt us merging. I felt him reaching through me, twisting something inside, unlocking something that I never knew I had.

And snap! I saw the world entirely differently. I felt the energy, the vibrations, the life in everything. And I could control it.

With a yank I pulled Kuryo out of the creature and pushed on that thing.

With an unearthly gurgling shriek, the creature was shunted back. But (duh) it took its tentacles with it, yanking my feet out from under me.

I landed smack on my back on the earth. Graceless! My head swam but I was already scrambling to my feet, boots slipping in the mud. I felt different though. Heavier. Thicker.

“I’m here,” said a voice. Kuryo’s voice.

I spun, expecting to see him right there – but nothing. Just a bunch of cowards to my left and right, watching.

“I mean I’m in you! Or you’re in me – this is my body, you know.”

“Oh,” I said, suddenly feeling a wave of relief. Kuryo was safe. He was with me.

“Well not for long, you dummy! Turn around!”

I whirled and, yeah, the creature was coming back for the charge in that loping, swinging, gait.

“Give me this,” said Kuryo sourly. “I know what to do.”

Hnh, I thought, wondering what the hell he was going to do that I couldn’t.

“Are you kidding me?” and just like that, I was shunted aside, clear out of the body.

“Fuck!” I exclaimed, looking down at myself as I hovered an inch above the ground. Angry, I looked at Kuryo.

Kuryo who, suddenly, was radiating power and energy. I could just see it in his eyes that whatever it was that I had stolen from him when he’d been shot, he’d gotten it back. He lifted his arms and through him, I felt him grab control of the creature’s very soul. And then, just like that, he tore it apart.

There was an unearthly shriek, but I barely heard it over the feeling of thousands of souls rushing free → and straight into Kuryo. They absorbed into him, and like a seive that was also a portal, they passed through him into – a galaxy? I just caught a glimpse of this shining vision of stars, and then it was over. Gone.

“Just More Chaos”; Chapter Nine Part Two

It was magic like I had never seen before. There were no sparks flying, no magic rippling through the air like heatwaves. In fact, there was – nothing? They were just sitting there before the table, meditating and breathing deeply.

I coughed. Aaliyah glared at me from the corner of an eye.

“Done yet?” I asked sourly. This was boring as all hell.

Jade opened her eyes with a sigh. Aaliyah opened both her eyes and met Jade’s gaze. “I know what to do,” Aaliyah said flatly. “We have all the ingredients.”

“Ritual magic?” I asked hopefully. I missed the sparks and fun of magic, okay? I wanted to see… something other than two people meditating for half an hour.

Jade nodded. Then they both looked at me.

“Come here,” said Aaliyah, gesturing to the space between her and Jade. Jade offered a sympathetic smile. “We’re going to do a basic return spell.”

“You guys, Bella is going to be squealing for me back in no time. Just wait and I’ll be out of your hair.”

Aaliyah’s dark eyes narrowed dangerously. “Get here,” she ordered, pointing to the floor beside her.

Rolling my eyes I made my way over. Which was pretty painful, come to think of it. Getting up and down from the chair was pretty hard.

Once I was plopped down onto the floor, wishing for something to rest my back on for the life of me, the two of them took a hand of mine each. Instantly I felt magic course through me. The energy was nearly overwhelming.

In a rush, I realized two things. One: I had seriously underestimated these two. Two: Kuryo had badass friends who were willing to go get him back, and I was insanely jealous of this fact.

The world slipped away from us. We were floating through stars and wisp-like worlds that were like layers around us. But who was holding on to me?

I would have screamed if I could. There was an asian-styled dragon that was completely golden, and a jade colored western beefy dragon.

Two! Dragons! Two!

They seemed to know where they were going, flying together in sync as they soared past stars, through realms and – poof. We entered a world. The hot scent of beach filled my lungs as we crunched down in an all too familiar place.

“Oh hey!” said the orange-eyed woman who was standing on the sand in her sparkling suit. “So soon?”

I was thrust forward between the two women who were no longer dragons. “We’ve come to return this,” said Aaliyah tartly. “And we want Kuryo back.”

The orange eyed… goddess? Deity? Mega-important-spirit? Anyways, she grinned and looked to her partner, who was watching it all with an amused air. “All this traveling,” she said. “Something might get unbalanced somewhere.”

“We’re trying to fix it,” said Aaliyah, hand gripping my shoulder tightly. “We want Kuryo back home, where he belongs. Not this.”

There was a shadow of a smirk on the man, and a glowing smirk on the woman. She just couldn’t hide her glee, could she?

“Well, many happy returns then,” she said cheerfully with a clap of the hands. “Tell the loose one I say hi.”

“Lucifer?” I said.

“Yes, that one. Hi,” and she clapped her hands again. “Go now. You have our permission. But be careful. You never know what happens when you travel this much!”

There was a pause. Everyone waited on someone else to do something. Finally, looking around, Aaliyah spoke again. “You need to send us. We don’t have the powers to go there.”

“Oh!” and the woman laughed. “Yes, yes. Do go now. Ta-ta!” and she waved again.

The world lurched. I felt the sand rise up and bite me in the face – and the world turned black.

It was a slippery, different, kind of darkness. It felt – alive?

But then it was gone. Poof.

Wham! I landed on snow. Wind bit into me. Hands seized me and held me up and away from the snow as it careened around me.

When I felt my head settle, I realized that Aaliyah and Jade were standing still like boards, not at all affected by the transfer. Was that… because they were dragons?

Then I took a look around. This setting was becoming way, way, wayyyyyy too familiar.

This shitty victorian house must have been planted upon a portal or something. It was seeing more action now than it probably ever had in its whole life.

One by one, vampires came out of the house. At first one startled, and darted back in. Then the whole herd came out, sniffing and snarling like they were on their periods and had no chocolate. Behind them, bow in hand and scowl firmly on her face – Bella. The one and only.

Her face brightened at the sight of me. “Oh,” she crooned, walking forward. The vampires had formed a circle around us now. A werewolf was scuttling out of the house – Munch? – and those had guns.

Jade and Aaliyah gripped my shoulders. I cradled my stomach, still feeling like the victim in all of this.

Bella came to a stop before me. “Hello,” she said sweetly, chucking me under the chin. “Are you okay?”

I glared at her. Thankfully Aaliyah spoke, completely blowing everythign out of the water. “We’re here for Kuryo. The real one. Take this guy back and give us Kuryo. That is all.”

Bella looked at Aaliyah, then Jade, and she sniffed. It was very light, delicate, and I even wondered if she’d actually done it. But then she grinned widely.

“You must be his friends? Family?” she asked, looking from Aaliyah to Jade. “I’m really sorry about Kuryo. Why don’t-” and she looked around at her vampires. “Let’s take them in. It’s so cold out here. And you have no jackets, poor things.” And she waved for us to follow her.

“No!” I blurted, bracing my feet in the snow. I mean, yes it was cold. Yes I was freezing. But no to Bella being suddenly nice. This was a trap.

Bella gave me a petulant look. “Chaos, can you just -” and she sighed, looking to Aaliyah and Jade. “I’m sorry, but Chaos and I have backstory.” and she gave me a nasty look. “He’s my ex.”

“Oh?” Aaliyah asked, and I felt a tide turning somewhere.

“He was stalking me, and I had to have a guard in my bedroom to keep him out. Eventually he did break in and my guard, well, got angry and staked him.” Bella sighed and gestured at me. “So that’s why he’s mad at me. My bodyguard killed him. But,” she gave me a pointed look. “that wouldn’t have happened if you’d just left me alone. Instead of coming back three times!”

I gaped. Uh-oh, as the saying goes. It dawned on me that nothing I said would really help right then – but that didn’t stop me from trying. “You’re the freaky cult leader!” I burst. “You wouldn’t be where you are right now if I hadn’t helped you!” And then, before I could stop myself “I killed for you!” Those vampires hadn’t deserved to die, and Bella set me up for it!

Bella looked at me like I was a rabid wolf. She actually looked frightened, and took a step back. She shook her head, visibly upset. “They were my friends! You were just jealous – you know what, maybe you should just stay out here.” Then, to Aaliyah and Jade she said “You two can come in but, I’m sorry, he’s going to have to stay outside.”

I gaped, feeling I’d just fallen through a trapdoor in the floor -> onto a pile of stakes.