[World Within] surrounds the spark and protects it from the outside world. It contains just enough Mana to keep the Spark alive.
When human being invests too much Mana (which is essentially the energy of their emotions), into the Spark, the Spark itself may refuse to turn into [Crimson Core], and instead it ejects all the [Loose Mana] into the world around it.
[Loose Mana] gives birth to ill-tempered creatures called Shadows that roam the [World Within] and clutter the Spark.
Their goal is to drain every last bit of Mana from the Spark, making it weaker and weaker with every sip, until eventually the Spark gives in and turns into a nesting ground of dark thoughts.
They may take the advantage of The Bridge and spread their disease to other [Crimson Cores] as well.
Spark finds comfort in being weak and recognizes these foul creatures as it’s guardians.
That is why trying to make a change in our lives is so hard.
We enjoy the company of the Shadows.
Dr. Anro Cyn
Cyn put down the magazine that was published by Lotus Medical Institute few years ago. She lit a cigarette near the window and enjoyed the transient company of the sun that was slowly setting behind the hills at far end of the school park.
“I should really quit smoking,” the smoke coming from cigarette fluttered on the gentle breeze.
Shiki was pulling out the pieces of the shell from his left hand using the glow on the right hand and soon built a sturdy bridge to cross the [Voidpool] river.
Ume stood in the middle of the bridge and admired the nature around them. After walking so long through the forest, they finally reached a place where trees refused to grow. Stars were so densely put together, it seemed like one was sitting on the top of the other. This river of [Voidpools] ended with a big lake of [Voidpools] in the distance and it looked like they gave birth to all the stars that twinkled in the night sky.
Shiki noticed that Ume enjoyed the scenery so he stopped building the rest of the bridge and decided to rest for a moment with her.
The noise that has been obstructing his fragile peace ever since they arrived in the forest became intolerable so he pulled small pieces of shell and put them in his ears. It almost completely canceled the noise.
He wanted to test if he could hear Ume’s words, so he reluctantly decided to talk to her even though he had nothing of importance to say to her.
“Every time I pull a shell from my hand, this part right here hurts a bit,” Shiki showed around his heart.
“It’s not your heart that hurts, turtle’s shell develops from ribs, maybe that’s the reason,” Ume said while breathing the hard-earned fresh air that streamed from the distance.
Luckily for him, he finally heard Ume nice and clear.
“You really are smart,” Shiki sighed out of relief. He was worried that his heart was in danger.
“I just read couple’o’ things, just like you did,” Ume said while turning her gaze towards Shiki’s chest.
“The air in here is much better than in the first world, right?” Shiki took a deep breath while massaging his chest with right hand.
“Your ribs won’t fall off if you breathe, hottie,” Ume chuckled gently.
Shiki had something else on his mind. The short conversation they had led when they entered this world. He didn’t like how it turned out. For quite some time he was thinking how to approach Ume about that.
“So you think there will be more snake girls?” Shiki danced around the main subject nervously.
Small colorful headbands that kept her twintails in place loosed up from all the jumping and crouching in the forest, so Ume pulled them out of her hair and gently played with them.
Pale rays of smeared white and grey bathed her long blonde hair that reached halfway down her back. Shiki stole couple of gazes towards her but couldn’t bring himself to act like the last time they were in a train. He was busy swimming through all kinds of subjects in order to figure out how to maintain a dialogue with her.
The truth was that the good old peace and quiet was all they needed.
“I’m sorry I reacted the way I did back at the entrance,” Ume sat down on the bridge.
“No, it was my fault I…” Ume quickly cut down in the middle of her own sentence, “you’re dealin’ with a lot of stuff and I, no, we didn’t even listen to you.”
Shiki dropped down beside Ume and looked straight at her eyes.
“Because I wasn’t talking,” Shiki chuckled nervously, “I had so many things to say, but I was afraid.”
Ume didn't want to reply straight away, which gave Shiki an idea that she is listening to whatever he needed to say.
“Is it possible to enter your own [World Within]?” Of all the things he could say, he ended up blurting the simplest of questions.
“Of course, silly,” Ume smiled, ”remember your first day? You and Ren entered your [World Within] that day.”
Shiki remembered never asking how they had pulled that stunt exactly, so without asking a specific question he stroke his chin with shell-covered hand.
“They told ya how Omi dropped a prism inside your pocket, right?”
“Well ya have Shard type 1, which has the ability to pull you into hmm.. let’s just call them “simulations” for now.”
“That’s why Ren said, simulation over…” Shiki replied.
“Yup. Omi was stabilizing your world while Ren got rid of couple of shades that your raging emotions created.”
“Ok… and the difference between [World Within] and simulation is…?”
Silence sneaked between the two of them and created a challenging feeling they had to endure in order to resolve their issue.
“Simulations are test drives, I guess” Ume decided to finish with the simplest of explanations.
“So is it possible to enter that test drive completely alone?”
“Dunno. That would be really unstable and dangerous.”
Shiki dropped down his head towards the endless [Voidpools] that surrounded them and sighed.
“But hey, ya did that on your own, it probs means you’re really really strong or somethin’ like that!”
Ume surprised herself with the power of her tone. Shiki smiled at her and decided it wasn’t worth it to think about that for now. She jumped quickly onto her feet and distanced herself from him.
“So..who was the girl I transformed into?” She asked quietly.
“I don’t know,” Shiki gave a quick answer.
That was a lie.
Shiki had built the rest of the bridge before they reached the end of the forest. They arrived at big clearing. Green-lit torches surrounded a giant construction that resembled some sort of temple. It was consisted of series of heavy rock platforms thrown one on top of the other. On the temple’s top there stood a statue of a giant lotus flower. In it’s base was a crevice that served as an entrance to the temple.
“We have to reach the top?” Shiki asked.
“No, we have to look at it, until it collapses.”
Shiki detected a heavy dose in her sarcasm but still offered a few looks around the temple in case it really starts to collapse.
“No time to lose, start climbing the stairs,” Ume pushed him towards the temple.
“I’m going, I’m going.”
Shiki calmed down the tremor in his legs as much as he could as he was trying to climb big boulder-like stairs in front of him.
When he turned around to check on Ume, she was simply leaping from one stair to another without using her hands.
Why do I always have to go first, he wondered.
More importantly, loud drumming completely seized when they reached the lotus flower on the top. They looked into the distance and admired the nature around them.
“Why is that forest so…”
They expected to look back at the dense jungle they had traversed for hours before they arrived at the temple top, but instead what prostrated before them were couple of trees and [Voidpools] that were disappearing one by one.
“Can’t do nothin’ about it, let’s jump in” Ume pointed her head towards the crevice.
“Wh…What if I fall down and die?”
“You’re a turtle! Turtles can’t die!” Ume spoke nonsense while slowly pushing him towards the hole.
Shiki gulped down heavily and started to coat his body into a shell.
“There we go, safe travels!” She gave a final push and dropped him inside.
Shiki screamed for couple of seconds as he was free falling into the temple. It was completely dark around him with only few green-lit lights that illuminated his way down.
Shiki passed out.
Tap, tap, tap, tap, tap
Sound of tapping on a smartphone filled a room
Tap, tap, tap, tap
It followed a rhythm of a rain drops that hit the roofs outside
Tap, tap, tap
Even the heartbeat matched the sequence
Two letters to finish the message
Upon clicking “SEND”, a lightning flashed
“Ya actually passed out after dropping like what, one, or two meters tops?”
When Shiki looked up, the crevice he fell through was right above him.
“I swear I was falling for hours”
“Poor turtle, let’s get goin’ come on,” Ume gave Shiki a hand.
They stood in a long cold hallway that had myriad of narrow paths on the sides. The ceiling wasn’t very low so they could stand normally while walking.
“A labyrinth? Again?” Shiki whined.
“Ya know what they say, love is like a labyrinth”
“Who says that?”
Shiki had accidentally hit the wall on the side and created a few green stains that emitted a pale light which started moving towards the nearest narrow path on a side, revealing the symbols on the wall.
“What’s this? Some sort of gibberish?” Ume stared at symbols.
“Touch me,” Shiki said.
Ume jumped away from him while clenching her right fist.
“Ya wanna d.d…die?” She stuttered.
“No, it says touch me. I can read this,” Shiki explained as calmly as he could, but in reality he expected a burrowed fist in his face, or worse.
“Then say it like that in the first place, moron,” Ume crossed her hands and turned her head around so Shiki doesn’t notice red spots on her face.
“We have to abide the rules of the paths?” he asked.
“I don’t wanna! Let’s check the other paths maybe they have something normal written beside them.”
Shiki received a punch every time he opened his mouth. They ended up at the path they chose first, but this time he had far more bruises all over his face.
“What’s with this perverted temple!?” Ume complained.
Shiki treated her question as rhetorical and stood in silence, afraid for his dear life.
“Fine, touch me,” Ume commanded him while averting her gaze.
Shiki nervously grabbed her hand and closed his eyes. Nothing happened.
“Stupid temple! Touch me somewhere else!”
Shiki was on a brink of falling apart. He had already imagined himself as a pharaoh, and this temple being his eternal resting place.
He slowly touched her cheek. Tiny sound escaped from Ume that resembled a boiling tea pot.
The path started shining in bright green nuances and shortened severely.
“It..it’s probably infinite if we don’t do what it says, let’s go,” Ume quickly explained and ran past Shiki.
He stood there for couple of seconds and proceeded as well.
“I’m sorry,” Shiki continuously apologized to Ume.
“Not your fault, just treat it as a game.”
Where all these bruises part of the game as well? He wondered.
They reached a new hallway that had only two paths at it’s end.
“Left one, maybe?” Shiki asked as if he was searching for a permission from Ume.
“I don’t care,” there was still lingering anger in her words, even though she treated this temple as a game.
“Tell me the truth,” Shiki read the symbols after touching the wall near the left path.
“The other one says, lie to me.”
“How imaginative. Now this feels like a [World Within] of a girl in love,” Ume rolled her eyes.
“So which path should we take?” Shiki laughed nervously.
“None, stand in the middle and let’s talk. We’ll see which path turns to green,” Ume said and added, “I’ll start.”
“I love carrots,” nothing happened.
“I like… strawberries?” nothing happened.
“Maybe it needs to be somethin’ specific, relationship related,” said Ume.
“I’ve never kissed a girl!” Shiki shouted, but nothing happened.
Ume ignored completely his confession which shook him greatly, but there was nothing he could do about it. He wasn't sure what he was expecting.
“M... maybe we need to say some.. to each other” Ume gulped down the words.
“I love your hair! It’s gorgeous!”
Shiki shouted even louder than last time and nothing happened except a new bruise beneath his eye that was bigger than the others.
They became aggravated and impatient so they just began to blurt out sentences.
“I like your smile!”
“I like your arms”
“I like how smart you are!”
“I like your strength”
“I love the way you talk!”
“I like how quiet you are”
When all hope was gone and they felt burnt out from all the compliments they gave and received, there was only one thing left unsaid.
“I love you!”
“I love you.”
They both said the words almost at the same time. To their surprise, big green spots started filling both of the corridors and offered the way deeper into temple.
They quickly realized what this meant so Ume silently walked through the left path and told Shiki to follow.
One told the truth, and the other lied.