????: […That concludes our plan. Proceed on with the mission as per…]
Not silence. I repeat, not silence.
A conversation was being had near the vicinity.
Keep quiet and continue to observe.
????: […Oh, you say he is awake? Then I shall call her up then. She must have been worried sick.]
Said the unfamiliar voice before leaving with the sound of a door closing behind.
Crap. I had been found out.
I tried to pull myself awake and devise my next plan of action but before I could do any of that, I heard the sounds of loud footsteps rushing up to the place I was in. Right after that, the slamming of a door.
With no escape left, I tried to pretend I was still sound asleep.
I could hear new voices talking to one another but I could no longer comprehend their contents. I was only able to tell that the first exchange seemed to be a question by picking up the small change in tone.
It appears that just when they finished talking, one of them began to close in, judging from the sound of light footsteps coming closer and closer.
Just when the sound of footsteps stopped, I felt a jolt of pain shoot up my forehead.
Yang: […HEY, WHAT’S THE BIG IDEA!?]
Surprised by the suddenness, I was jolted awake. Someone decided it would be funny to head flick me while I was still pretending to be asleep. Then it dawned upon me that I had unwittingly exposed myself.
????: [******, ***.]
There she was, the culprit that had exposed me: A petite figure with skin as pale as snow, wearing a maid outfit that is as speckless as it could be. From her long pointed ears I could tell, she was an Elf, a common race in many fantasy settings.
She spoke to the other figure in the small room that we were in, before standing herself elegantly beside the door, a sign that she would excuse herself from any further interactions.
I could have sworn I saw her snickering for a single split second, before putting back on an expressionless face, one that she seemed too comfortable in wearing.
????: [*~ ******~ ]
The other figure replied to the Elf maid, dragging the last syllable of her every sentence. Once again, I could not understand a word of what the two had been saying. Yet something about the presence of this young girl with golden hair was calming to me.
Incidentally, the blonde girl seemed to be the more mature girl in terms of body development but the elf maid was able to exude an air of elegance unbefitting of a girl looking her age.
Blonde girl: [*?~ *****?~ *********~]
I have a feeling she is now trying to talk to me or ask about me, but once again, I wasn’t able to make sense of her words.
I tried communicating with her in my language, speaking as slowly as possible and making sure to pause after every syllable and enunciate them clearly but was met with their confused faces.
Yang: [Me… from… Earth…Where…you…from…?]
Seeing that words alone wouldn’t work, I tried adding hand gestures, sometimes drawing in the air and other times pointing to refer to us.
Perhaps she thought that I was in distress, the next thing she did was rather unexpected, even for me. She stretched out her arms and held me close to her chest and slowly caressed the back of my head, like a mother would for her child.
Blonde girl: [*~*~ ****~ ****~]
Her voice was soothing and reassuring, as if telling me that all would be alright.
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t the least bit frightened by the sudden change in settings. It was nice to have someone there for me, even when we spoke different tongues, especially having gone through what the impossible mansion and the A. Records had to offer.
Yet the moment was gone as soon as it came.
The Elf maid that was previously standing as far away as possible is now tapping on the shoulder of the blonde girl and is offering what looked like a quill and paper.
Using the writing materials, the blonde girl illustrated the gist of what had transpired, with much flair I might add:
She was taking a stroll in a nearby forest before encountering my unconscious body lying face flat on the ground. She went back to the city and requested the help of the Elf maid to bring me into the city and the two of them had been helping to take care of the fainted me ever since.
Yang: [Thank… you… for… saving… me...]
I tried to convey my thanks to them via my words and action through bowing but they seemed foreign to that too. Although I think the Elf maid somehow understood parts of my intentions and replied with a simple but dignified curtsy.
This whole predicament most definitely brought back unpleasant memories from the A. Records, reminding me of my difficulty in understanding different languages and the subsequent journey into madness trying to find the means of translation.
????: [**, **, ***!]
Before I could let myself dwell in my past any longer, the voice of another lady erupted from below.
Responding to the voice were the blonde girl and the Elf maid as they prepared to leave the room. Before they left, I was sure they were gesturing at me for something but I could not be certain.
Silence descended into the small room as I was once again left to my own devices.
For the first time, I was finally able to get a good look of the room I was in. Though it was simple with little furniture, it was adorned with cute little knick-knacks that made me conclude that this is likely a girl’s room.
It was also due to the silence that I was able to pick up on a faint sound that I would have normally missed: The rhythmic ticks and tocks of a pocket watch. Without hesitation, I reached out deep into my jeans pocket and retrieved the small metallic timepiece.
The hands of the pocket watch that used to be stuck at 10:15 now moved as all timepieces supposed to.
A strange mixture of feelings rose up in my chest: On the one hand, I was relieved to be freed from the clutches of the powers of the mansion that caused me much pain, yet I could not for the better of my conscience let out a smile as if all was well.
I want to go back home.
Yang: [But I don’t even know where to start...]
Lying back down in bed, I allowed myself to drown just a little on the hopelessness and helplessness of this predicament.
????: [******?~ ***~]
Yet the blonde girl barged right through the wooden door leading to my room and refused to leave me alone. Grabbing firmly onto my hand with a strength that made me question whether she is truly human, she pulled me through the door and downstairs into what appears to be a living room.
Dragged alone like a ragdoll behind her, I found myself thinking:
Things would work out after all.
Forcefully invited to a round dinner table filled with food that I had never seen before, I took a seat on one out of the five seats present and took a quick scan at the other four at the dinner table.
Two of them were familiar faces, the blonde girl and the Elf maid, but the other two were faces I had not seen before. Though I was very curious why the Elf maid would choose to have her meal with the ones she was serving.
One of them had the same golden hair as the blonde girl. In fact they looked so alike that I would have mistaken them for sisters if not for her eyes that showed wisdom and maturity that was less apparent in the blonde girl’s. It would be rude to call her “blonde auntie” so I will go with “blonde lady” instead.
On the other hand, the last guest looked like none of the rest that was seated there. In addition, his, or is it a her? Their androgynous complexion refused to shed light on their true gender.
Blonde lady: [*******. ************, ******.]
The blonde lady stood up and said something rather excitedly.
Blonde lady: [****. *******, **. ****. ***********, ***********. ]
She pointed to the blonde girl and the Elf maid, as if introducing them to us, though there was no way I could know what they were really talking about.
Then came the reply that would be my second salvation ever since I had departed from my original world.
The androgynous one: [Once again, I would like to thank Mrs Granhart and her family for allowing a pair of strangers like me and my brother to temporarily reside here. My name is Jyn and I will be forever indebted to you and would ensure I spare no less effort in repaying you in whatever way I can.]
They replied to the blonde lady with politeness and good manners though that was not why I felt saved.
I found myself shouting that out loud as if it was the natural thing to do but could you blame me? I was ready to get by in this world, communicating only through drawings and basic shapes but the person in front of me just spoke a sentence I could understand. They are my Rosetta Stone through this one
Jyn: [I beg your pardon, Ms...or... um... Mister?]
They understood me too! I could not hold back my relief and decided to let slide the rather rude comment they just made about me.
Yang: [Yang, I am Yang. You might be the only person here that can understand me.]
Jyn: [Is that so…? Do the rest of you not understand what he… um, they are saying?]
Pondering for a moment, Jyn asked the rest of the people seated at the table.
Everyone shook their heads, as if replying to his question.
Then it stood out to me how Jyn asked a question in a language I could understand yet the rest who did not understand me was able to respond to him as if he was asking in their language.
I was ready to follow this thought line through but Jyn already began to explain before I could.
Jyn: [Nothing to be surprised at. This is but one of the unique magic I had obtained through my travels. I call it “Translation Magic” and it is still in experimental...]
I shouted yet again, no longer able to suppress my excitement upon hearing the word. The main draw to Fantasy had to be the inclusion of magic, to me at least.
Jyn: [Yes, quite so. Magic. Would you like to...]
Jyn looked at me with a slightly troubled face but I refuse to apologise for cutting his question midway.
I have to know.
Jyn. [Well magic, you see, is the control of the flow of mana to achieve a...]
Yang: [MANA…!?!? I mean, yes, mana. Please continue. Don’t mind me.]
Feeling bad for interrupting Jyn three times in a row, I tried to remind myself to stop shouting out loud any new pieces of a Fantasy setting.
Jyn: [Umm… Back to magic. It is the manifestation of our desired effects to the world by running mana from the surroundings into specific magic circuits that would bring about those effects.]
They explained while pointing our attention to what appears to be a hot pot in the middle of the dinner table. The fire is burning steadily yet there was no fuel source burnt.
Jyn: [For example, the magic circuit for fire that is on the plate below the pot absorbs mana in the air to generate enough heat and fuel to sustain this fire. Most magic circuits you see are drawn or carved like this one here. There are exceptions on magic without circuits but those are more often the works of Inhumans like salamanders and...]
It felt like Jyn had more to say before cutting themselves short.
Jyn: [Incidentally, my translation magic came from this pendant. 300 layers of magic circuits intricately carved by experienced artisans before being carefully layered on top of one another at precise points.]
They took out a small metallic object that seemed like a pendant but they kept it almost as quickly as they showed it. I would have asked for a closer look but from the way they are acting and speaking, this piece of magical technology may be some form of top-secret development they should not even be showing so much of.
It looks like I wasn’t the only one fascinated by the topic. In fact, the blonde girl and the blonde lady, which I assumed to be the “Mrs Granhart” Jyn was talking about before being interrupted by me, were equally curious and captivated by their talk. The Elf maid on the other hand seemed less interested. Is she even a little bit hostile?
Jyn: [Oh right, You wouldn’t have understood Mrs Granhart’s introduction just now. Allow me the honour of introducing them to you:...]
And with that, I no longer had to refer to the blond girl and the Elf maid as such anymore. Instead, their real names are Eliss and Anna respectively.
Mrs Granhart: [*, *****. *****. **.]
Jyn: [Yes, let us all dig in!]
I think Mrs Granhart was gesturing for us to finally have our dinner after all those disruptions beforehand and we finally did.
How was the dinner, you ask?
Well, you would think that since it is my first time having other-world food, it should bring forth a unique taste to my platter but I am sorry to disappoint since food rarely makes an impression on me. I mean, they are just means of obtaining nutrients for the body’s metabolism. As long as food is food, taste does not matter to me.
Of course, I would not tell that to Mrs Granhart and her family directly or anything, I truly appreciate them for taking such good care of me. I tried getting Jyn to convey my thanks over the dinner table. In fact, Jyn and I were even competing to help wash the dishes but she turned the both of us down, insisting on doing it on her own.
In the end, I wasn’t able to help out at all. Instead, there I was on my lonesome seating on the dinner table staring at the ceiling with nothing to do.
Yang: [Aah, I feel so bad for parasitizing off them but they are so nice that they wouldn’t let me...]
I was talking to myself and scratching my hair in frustration before hearing a voice coming from the balcony upstairs.
Curious, I went up, only to find Eliss hiding behind the doorway leading to the balcony. Jyn can be heard talking aloud from the balcony but it wasn’t clear who they were talking to. She gestured for me to stay quiet and join her in whatever that she endeavoured.
Interested, I complied. The instructions were simple enough that I could somehow get the gist of it from her hand signals alone:
On the count of three,
WE RUSH IN AND SURPRISE JYN.
And surprised they were… was what I would have hoped to say.
Jyn: [Ah, Ms Eliss, Yang. Pleasant seeing you here amidst Umbra.]
Instead, they responded with the calmness of a still lake. I began to wonder if anything could surprise them.
I looked to Eliss only to see her looking back at me too. We both sighed at the same time, knowing our mission had failed.
Yang: [So, who were you talking to? I don’t think you are the kind of weird person to talk to themselves without cause...]
I was by no means referring to myself, of course. I have cause to talk to myself.
Jyn: [Oh, right. I have yet to introduce to you, my companion in travel: Glass]
So they said, pointing to a crow.
I was about to dismiss them for saying something absurd but stopped after the crow went up on Jyn’s head and started to peck at it like a woodpecker.
Jyn: [Hey, hey! What do you think you are doing, damn bird! WHat do you mean “Introduce me better”, you are just a damn bird! Ow, stop it!]
Frankly, seeing Jyn losing their cool over the attacks of a little bird was hilarious. I could see Eliss thought the same too as we both were having trouble biting back our laughter.
It would appear that Jyn’s translation magic might apply not only to me, but even animals too, which was a pretty amazing and handy magic.
That was when I started to feel a sense of incongruity around me, as if the world was not right. It wasn’t the same feeling as when I was in the mansion. Speaking of which, in the short time I was with the Granharts, that sense of incongruity from the mansion became near non-existent, just like the powers of the mansion binding me.
I tried looking around to find out what was wrong and it was in the sky where I finally discover the source of wrongness:
In the sky, there was nothing.
No moonlight shining down.
No stars twinkling.
Just plain nothing,
Like the black abyss no different from the feathers of Jyn’s companion, Glass.
Yang: [Where did the stars go?]
I blurted out the question with no intentional recipient in mind.
Jyn: [“Stars”? What are these “stars” you speak of?]
Even if Jyn was able to speak the word, it would appear that for concepts he didn’t understand, the translation magic would not be able to fill in the lapse in contexts and knowledge.
It was an unsettling feeling, no longer seeing the things you grew up seeing almost every day. It might be the mention of magic that made this world one of fantasy but it was this starless sky that reaffirmed one fundamental fact:
We are no longer in my original world.
Yang: [Well, stars… Think of stars as bright lights in the sky shining down. I think they are quite beautiful, seen from a place with little light pollution.]
What am I talking about, there is no such thing as light pollution in this Fantasy world. Well, yet.
Jyn: [Hmmm… Interesting, the phenomenon of bright lights during Umbra, that would be quite the sight...]
It would seem that “stars” are not present in this world. Or so I thought.
Eliss: [*****!? *********, **! ******, ******!]
As soon as Jyn repeated my explanation of stars, Eliss became unbelievably excited, as if preparing for a festival.
Jyn: [Oh, the Festival of the Lights? In seven lux time? We should be able to make it then, these “stars” you mentioned, Yang.]
From their reply, it would seem that stars may still exist in this world, but only during specific occasions. This on its own is already inherently weird for an outer-worlder like me but I would need to accept it as the norm for this world.
Yet, another question arose:
Yang: [What are Umbra and lux? You threw those words around a lot but I don’t think I quite understand.]
Now it was Jyn’s turn to look at me weirdly, as if I was a microcephalic addle-pate.
Jyn: [Umm… even I as a traveller knows what that is. Are you sure you are even from around here? But still, lux and umbra are...]
Long explanation short, lux is the day and umbra is the starless night we are seeing right now. There was even a whole legend surrounding the whole thing but I highly doubt it would be relevant to me.
Seeing it was getting late in the night, oh um, Umbra as this world's people would call it. No wait, we can’t actually see the progression of the night since there is no moon during the night. Instead, the only telling sign of the long time the three of us had spent on the balcony was when sleepiness took over the ever-energetic Eliss. We agreed to call it a day and go to sleep.
As for the Festival of the Lights, we promised to go together in a week’s time.