Xorsis : Invasion\Lost
“No, I’ve seen them plenty of times, but I’ve never rode one.”
“Never? So, did you walk all the distance if you ever wanted to visit Pensylan? All this distance?”
“Of course I did. What, don’t underestimate me. You two are chubby little kids. I was a soldier, I had a great physique, unlike you too.”
“Soldier, huh?” Aez eyed Mers with interest, “Soldier, right. Another new detail. Well, I may be chubby, but Nia certainly isn’t,” Aez laughed, “I never got enough time to work out to build my body like that. Not that I cared - I wasn’t going to be a soldier, ever. I’d be a scientist. My brother has given up on so many things just so that I can make my dream come true. Yes, and that’s why I worked hard in academics.”
Mers, Nia and Aez were heading to the southern districts by horse carriage. It wasn’t too big, but it wasn’t small either - it seemed like a perfect size, as if it were made for them. Nia always wanted to ride a horse carriage, and Aez too, they were never seen in Dottonex after all - though they never thought they would be riding one in such a situation. Unlike Dottonex, the other small vehicles seemed like quite a rarity in Cridelford. So, people still had to rely on carriages.
Just like I read in history books, Nia thought, just like those days.. The images of her parents flashed in front of her eyes again. “We’ll dedicate our hearts for our nation, and you remember it Nia, your parents are strong.” Her father had said, hadn’t he? Those days…
She shook her head. Maybe I shouldn’t be thinking about them now.
“You still dream about being a scientist? Dottonex is under an undead invasion,” Mers said, surprised at him.
“So what?” Aez furrowed his brows, “Look, Dottonex is a country which came out from all those wars just fine. And do you think these weird creatures are going to do something? They aren’t intelligent. Just some great soldiers, and yes, we can wipe them out easily. And yes, Dottonex has the best soldiers in the world, and no one can doubt that. It’s just that - on that night - we were unprepared. No one expected that attack. But with enough time in preparation, we can drive them off easily - back to wherever they came from.”
“Aren’t you really optimistic,” said Mers, sighing.
“Figured out you are the exact opposite of us,” said Aez, giving a short laugh.
“Of course I am,” she replied in a cold voice, an unreadable expression clouding her face. “When you see too many things in life - you’ll know how I feel. Well. I hope you don’t have to get through anything like that,” she said, looking away from them, “Those days… those things… no one deserves them. At all.”
Nia wondered just what she had faced; it seemed as if she couldn’t feel okay with the way her life was at all. Then again, accepting the tough things - it was difficult. Nia still felt like she was in a dream, that maybe soon enough, this too would end, and she’d wake up in her bedroom, clutching her favourite book - she had fallen asleep reading again. And then she’d come down to talk to her grandmother - Leo would look for Aez and want the special biscuits. She could picture it all inside her head. If only… if only she could turn back the time and go back to those days…
“Nia, you wanted to be a librarian, didn’t you?”
Aez was asking.
“That was just a part time job, maybe when I’d be studying in college. And then, I’d become a teacher. At least - that’s what I had in mind.”
“Hang in there,” Aez’s face bore that kind smile, the one Nia loved so much, “We’ll head back to Dottonex soon. And I’m sure - things will be fine.”
Are you really that optimistic about that? Or are you making up things in your head again, because you want them to be true so much? Just like you used to do when we were children?
But she knew there was no point in asking him that, he wouldn’t appreciate that now, not in front of a stranger. So Nia smiled too. “Yeah. I sure hope so.”
“Mers, so you are from Estoyca. Is it your family you are visiting now?”
“Family?” Mers bore a strange expression. “Oh no. There’s no such person now.” Then she looked at both of them and laughed, though it didn’t sound happy. “You two didn’t see any of those days, so of course you don’t know. Or even if you know - you don’t believe it, you believe the history in your books is just an exaggerated version of what happened. But it’s true, you know? Pensylan burnt down the three holds - completely. Not a single one was left alive. And my home-” she paused, as if thinking, then smiling to herself - if that could be called a smile - it was pain disguised as so, “My home- it was there.”
There was an unbearing silence.
“I wish they burnt it down. But they didn’t.
“No. They didn’t burn, they - they did worse things,” her voice was grave, “I- I wish I -
“Damn it. Is there any point thinking about it now? If only I was smarter,” she said, the pain in her voice was there, but her strong voice tried to cover it up, “I wouldn’t have done it. What was I thinking again? Freedom. There’s no such thing for us. I wish I could tell myself that.”
“I’m sorry-” Aez mumbled. “I-I shouldn’t have asked you about it.”
Mers didn’t reply. For the rest of the journey, she continued to look out from the carriage.
The sun in the west had turned pink. Nia looked at it, dreamily. Those sunsets with Leo and Aez, and those early mornings with her grandmother - those days like dreams - they too, were burnt down…
When it was almost night, they had reached the southernmost district of Cridelford. It took a long time, and they took multiple pauses, changed carriages too. But there was no more conversation. As if now, their voices were stolen by an unknown entity. But it was okay. There was a comfort in that silence, and Nia embraced that. The headaches seemed to calm down. Aez had a thoughtful look on his face. If the scenery changed and they were in that field, the sun setting in the horizon and lavender flowers everywhere, a cold sweet wind caressing her face, her hair, and Aez sitting still by a tree, as if dreaming - the place they ran to so often - if that place appeared now, they’d return to that world, wouldn’t they? Then soon, her grandmother would walk to the field, ask Aez to have dinner at her house, yes, it was completely okay, no, he wouldn’t have to cook today. Then Aez’s face would light up - a gentle ‘thank you’ to them, and he’d share his plans to Nia about how he hoped to tackle the entire syllabus of first year of college, before they even passed the school final.
It felt as if she had almost returned to those days.
To the hometown they had left. To the days they had lost.
Nia sighed as a shiver ran down her spine. It was windy, but it wasn’t cold, was it? The breeze in that field back then was cold, but it calmed her down whenever she felt upset. This wind wasn’t cold, but it still brought her a feeling of unease that she felt so often. A sense of no one, nothing being there. But on those days, everyone was there, right? And now - it’s such a vast world - but there’s no one anymore. Except Aez. Except Aaron. But there’s no one named ‘family’ anymore.
When it was dawn again, they walked to the sea. Maybe it was because of the current situation, there weren’t any guards or anyone in particular at the seaside. Nia wasn’t sure if there were guards before though, she expected there to be, and was grimly looking forward to another ‘conversation’ about why three of them wanted to go to the sea at this moment. But, fortunately enough, it was empty. There weren’t any huge buildings in this part of the sea too, maybe for some reason, Cridelford considered this part to be not much of a tourist attraction, neither useful; though Nia wasn’t sure why they would think so. There wasn’t a single person anywhere, there was no chatter, nothing. The grey sea was roaring, and some seagulls were flying around. The dawn had settled in just, a few smaller birds were flying here and there, chirping, though their sounds were barely audible next to the sound of the waves.
Mers had an unreadable expression on her face. She looked around - did she expect to see the remains of the once familiar civilisation that was here? Maybe her mind still wasn’t adjusted to the thought that thirteen long years had passed. And even though, somehow, she didn’t look that old, everything around had aged, changed to something new, entirely unrecognisable to her. Behind that undecipherable face, was there agony, or was there slight ‘lightness’ - that there wasn’t anything to hold her back anymore? Nia had read in books that in the seaside, maybe there still were places which held the signs of the old nation - Estoyca - here. If she wanted to see that - maybe she and Aez could ask around - though, they were running short on money now, and they would avoid visiting anything like that now. It...just… wasn’t the right time.
But Mers didn’t ask them anything. Wordlessly, she moved towards the sea, heeding no attention to the red crabs walking on the sand, or the seagulls flying at a distance. Nia and Aez saw her and before they could even ask, she had run and leapt into the water - leaving both of them shocked.
A few moments passed in silence.
“That… wasn’t a suicide, right?” Nia asked Aez weakly, nudging him with the elbow.
“I… I sure hope it wasn’t-” Aez barely answered, and then stopped midway, pointing at a certain position in the sea. It wasn’t far from the place where Mers had jumped in. The water was swelling up there. Something…
And before they could realise what happened, Mers had leapt out of the sea, as if a fish jumping out from water. She swam to the shore and stood tall, looking at the surface, as if waiting for something. Then, from the depths of the sea - it came out.
Aez gasped next to her, and Nia could only stare breathlessly.
A huge, maybe fifteen - or twenty feet tall something - something which resembled a sea-serpent had emerged out of the sea. It had vibrantly coloured deep blue scales, paired with lighter ones all over its body, though they were covered with red blood. The gills and fins were of lighter blue, and they seemed to glow faintly. It opened its mouth, and sharp white fangs, red in many parts, were outside, shining in the faint light of the dawn. And above its mouth, on two sides of the rectangular face, there were two gleaming black eyes.
But unlike them, Mers wasn’t surprised. She waited, as the serpent drew closer to the shore, bearing its fangs at her. It was roaring and hissing, and Mers appeared to speak in a very low voice, though Nia couldn’t understand anything about it. Was she speaking in Estoycan? What can she be even saying right now? Goodbyes, before that serpent tries to bite her head off?
No. She won’t let another life go to waste like this.
Not when she had the power to stop it right now.
And so, breaking out from the astonishment and fear, she moved fast. She brought down the rifle from her back, and pointed it at the large serpent. Her hand was shaking, and she held the gun tightly, trying to stop it. No. There wasn’t any time to think. If she didn’t shoot fast, the serpent would devour Mers alive. There was one chance. Maybe two. If she could get the hit in.
With a grunt, she pulled the trigger.
There was a loud sound, and the next moment she hit the ground. “Nia!” She heard Aez shout and trying to run at her, but then his eyes shifted forward - and without any more thoughts, Nia quickly sat up, pointing the rifle at the serpent again. Another shot went out from the point of the rifle, and Aez quickly held her shoulders before she could fall down.
But that had done it.
Mers was still standing at the shore. The serpent was falling down, down, and it disappeared into the depth of the sea. Mers turned back at them, her eyes wide with horror.
“Don’t -” Nia spoke, finally lowering the gun, and then dropping it, “I-I can’t let you die like that-”
Mers was walking towards them, slowly but steadily. Her face was lowered, her hair covered her eyes. Nia stood straight, and slowly walked towards her, Aez following her. Will the words ‘it’s okay’ suffice? Or will she have to say something else? It was awfully dangerous - and she got lucky that the bullets didn’t hit Mers. If it had…
Mers came near them, and before she could speak anything, Mers slapped her in the face. Nia looked at her in surprise. Mers slapped her other cheek and this time Nia noticed her blue eyes. There wasn’t a trace of gratitude in them. Instead, there was horror, pain, and the lost look in those eyes - they reminded Nia of Aez’s eyes, back when they were children - when they had first met.
Mers grabbed Nia’s coller and thrust her to a nearby tree. Her fist raised, she looked at Nia, and Nia shivered at the bestial look on her face.
Aez ran over and threw Mers away from her. Nia could feel his hand on her shoulder trembling, but still he stared at Mers’s blue eyes and said, “Stop it!”
“You - murderers!” Mers spoke through gritted teeth, anger reflected in her eyes.
“What are you doing?” Aez shouted, defending her. “She tried to save your life, that thing - it’d have killed you!”
“You don’t understand! I told you to stop butting your nose in other people’s businesses!” Nia saw with surprise, there were tears forming in Mers’s eyes now, “it feels good now, right? Playing your little detective games - now - there’s no one left-” her voice was trembling, and she was fighting back her tears with viciousness. “There’s no one I can call family anymore. It feels good right? Playing the ‘heroes’ no one asked you to?”
Nira had no words.
“Well, thank you,” Mers spoke, rage squirming in her voice, “thank you a lot, your service has left scars again which I can’t change anymore. Leave me alone, and if I ever see any of you again - I can’t say that you’ll see light again.”
There was a ferocious look in her eyes. Nia staggered back in fear, her heart was beating too fast now. This...wasn’t supposed to happen, right? Why?
Aez wanted to speak, but Nia stopped him. Mers shot them a nasty glance and ran, away from the shore, away from the two of them. Nia’s eyes followed her, until she faded from her sight behind the carriage stands.
“I… I don’t understand it…” Nia stammered as she looked at Aez, who had a worried look on his face now, “That serpent - that thing had blood all over its body. It - it would have killed her. Why did she-”
“I don’t know.” Aez gritted his teeth, “That ungrateful -”
“She called me a murderer. Hey, don’t look away from me. Am I… really a murderer? Am I… such a cruel person who can take away lives that easily?”
Aez’s face had a strange look. He picked up Nia’s rifle from the sandy ground. “Of course you aren’t, dumbhead,” he whispered as he put it on his back, “people who kill others - they don’t-”
He shook his head and held Nia’s hand. Turning away, he started to walk. “Let’s head back.”
But Nia didn’t walk. “Hey, Aez, do you think,” Nia spoke weakly, “my parents… did they kill anyone?”
There was a moment of silence.
“I don’t know.” replied Aez calmly. “But even if they did - it would be out of danger. It was part of their jobs as assassin-spies. To protect themselves, if they had to - they wouldn’t hesitate killing.”
Nia was quiet. Aez turned to look at her.
“Then, they weren’t good people, were they?” Nira almost whispered, “And I have… always… thought that they were patriots who went to give their lives for the sake of their dear country. But- it’s hilarious,” she laughed painfully, “I can’t believe I never tried to think that way. They were probably taking people’s lives too, weren’t they?”
Aez didn’t say anything.
“If they knew what happened today, would they be mad at me? I’ve started to become a bad person, haven’t I?”
“No.” Aez spoke firmly. “You aren’t a bad person.”
Then he tugged her and started to walk faster. “You don’t understand! This isn’t the time to think of those… things again!”
“Stop right where you are!”
At once, silence fell. Aez and Nia both looked at the direction the voice came from, and what they saw wasn’t pleasant. There were a dozen policemen gathered at the spot, scrutinizing them. A bulky man, presumably the chief constable, the one who had just yelled, loomed over them, speaking in broken Dottonexan, “We heard two shots from the sea. There wasn't a single person around,” he said, his expression growing stern, “except you two. It was you, wasn’t it?”
Nia stammered to reply, this sudden situation paling everything she was thinking before, “It-it’s me, actually. Aez had nothing to do with it,” she said, smiling the same apologetic smile again, “Aez just happened to be there. He-”
“Girl,” the chief constable squinted his eyes and spoke roughly. “To the point. Whom have you killed?”
Nia gaped at the question, her eyes widened, and her legs trembling.
“No one!” Aez spoke quickly, “Do you really think she looks like someone who’d kill people?”
“Hmph,” the chief constable had a sarcastic smile over his face now. “Well, you see, we live in a time where we can’t tell the good from bad by simply looking at a face. Do you know - well, you are to know, you look like students to me - when children were recruited as soldiers, made into assassins and spies, that time wasn’t long ago, was it?”
“What are you trying to imply?” Nia spoke, her voice trembling.
“The way this situation has become,” he spoke roughly, “if there was someone within our society trying to cause a distraction through an apocalypse, and meanwhile trying to seize control of the already weakened nations, it wouldn’t be difficult, would it be?” he sniggered, “Well, we know what to do,” he now looked at his subordinates, “People are striving for the truth. Cells, and beating black and blue will be enough. I command-”
“No!” Aez spoke, “There isn’t any proof of us committing any crimes against anyone!”
“And there isn’t any proof of you not committing any!” the man growled, “but the way you are behaving - it’s suspicious already! In this situation, why would you two want to come to such an isolated place? This place is infamous in Cridelford! Gangs used to stay here before the police acquired power, and every ship we’ve tried to sail through this part has always sunk. This place is out of bounds in this situation, do you not know that? Besides, we clearly heard gunshots, and you two happen to be carrying rifles. The carriage driver told me you were having strange conversations. I swear - no one is to be trusted- ”
Both Nia and Aez shared a glance, hoping the other had something to say in defense. But none of them spoke anything. Aez muttered a curse under his breath.
“I think that’s enough, officer.”
A familiar voice talked, though the tone had changed, Nia could still recognise it.
“Brother!” Aez whispered. Nia’s eyes searched through the crowd, till she finally found him.
Dressed in officer’s clothes, Aaron was almost unrecognisable. He walked through the guards, and stood before the chief constable.
“You are from Dottonex, I suppose?” said the chief constable through gritted teeth, “Here to take your criminals back to your damned nation?”
“That’s my brother and sister you are talking to,” Aaron replied sternly, “And I can provide enough documents to prove that they are not part of any terrorist group.”
“There have been enough instances of people committing crimes right under the nose of the government, and they still weren’t caught red-handed,” the chief constable said furiously, “What proof is there that, you, too, aren’t trying to terrorise our nation while yours is devastated? Your nation hasn’t taken part in any of the wars. You have the most resources and manpower. It should be relatively easy, if you wanted.”
“Dottonex has always believed in freedom,” Aaron said, “And that doesn’t change no matter whom we are talking to.
“Listen, officer. We have to set our personal enmity aside when this world is in danger,” he continued, “Yours, and ours - both of our countries have been harmed in that invasion. And that’s why, we have to work together to put an end to this damnation. Unless you are not informed yet, there have been arrangements in the higher ups yet. The TDC pact will be formed by today or tomorrow, after the discussions.
“And so, if you’ll excuse us,” Aaron said, “We’re representatives of Dottonex, and clearly, we don’t have time for any of these.”
The chief constable was gritting his teeth and about to speak in protest, but Aaron didn’t give him any chance. He looked straight at Aez and Nia. “You two,” he said in the same stern voice, “Let’s go. It’s taken long enough already searching for you.”
He turned to walk. Nia looked at Aez, whose face was very pale now. He gulped and nodded at Nia, and they both followed their brother.