Chapter 18:

Animus (Part 2).

A Reverie for Another Eternity

Hours passed on by, the monotonous change of weather from its gloomy skies to a more approachable arrangement of cool, morning light. Though, that wasn’t to say that the inside of the building wasn’t cold enough already. Bookmark here

A gentle stirring of heavy blankets could be heard next to her. Mikuta shot up and looked over at the sleeping beauty. What she was met with, however, were the same dark circles under her eyes; a sign of a lack of sleep.Bookmark here

The two met each others’ eyes. With a sigh, Miyori resigned herself and sat up, her legs still under the covers.Bookmark here

“Were you… awake the entire time?”Bookmark here

She gave a weak smile, affirming her suspicions.Bookmark here

“Only after you were about to hit Mr. King. The air suddenly got too cold for my liking.” She paused, stretching out her arms. “Maybe I should go take a look around where we are; it wouldn’t hurt to do so after all.”Bookmark here

Mikuta froze up at the thought of meeting her supposed father. But, a sudden rush of anger diluted her fears.Bookmark here

Yawning, Miyori put on the slippers at the side of the cot and shuffled her way towards the coat rack. Mikuta proceeded to do the same, careful not to slip on the ice.Bookmark here

Slowly, they opened the doors and stepped outside. The glistening snow stretched on endlessly in the castle courtyard. Further, up ahead was the actual castle itself; the walls spanning to heights unthinkable in contrast to the citadel. From below, it was like a giant block within a shorter, open area.Bookmark here

The snow crunched under their feet, surprisingly not cold to the touch. It was actually a little warm to their surprise; their bodies didn’t sink in at all, not impeding on their movement. They quickly made their way to the entrance of the castle. The heavy iron maw opened, inviting the pair into a well-lit cavernous hall decorated with ice sculptures.Bookmark here

Inside, the quality of the ice was different. It was the same feel as hardwood under one's feet, the temperature also being similar. Bookmark here

“Ahaaa,” Miyori knelt down on her knees, putting her hand on the floor, “So this is the fabled ‘true ice’ of the isle. I always wanted to see something like this.”Bookmark here

Her eyes sparkled at the ordinary-looking ice. The lack of coldness shouldn’t be that big of a deal in Mikuta’s opinion.Bookmark here

“Anyways, we should probably get a move on.”Bookmark here

“Yes yes.”Bookmark here

Continuing on down, Mikuta heard voices not too far away. And one voice, in particular, held the same gruffness the king had. Perhaps, no, most definitely, this was where they were. The air felt like gel, the gravity against her, weighting her feet down. But, she ignored all that and ran. Quickly speeding up, she slammed into a giant slab of ice, almost as big as one of the citadel walls. Teetering backward, she saw that it had strange engravings on it, one of which looked like an eye. Ancient hieroglyphics that even her ring couldn’t decipher, much to her surprise.Bookmark here

“Slow… Down… Please…” Miyori caught up, out of breath. Yet in a few moments, she too was enamored by what was on the wall. “Oh my. Oh my my my.”Bookmark here

Tentatively, she reached out and smoothed her fingers over it. A burning sensation to the touch, she held her hand steadfast, seemingly tranced by the slightly glowing characters. Bookmark here

“Who goes there!?”From behind, the same advisor came walking at a brisk pace. His small, beady eyes looked ahead with a scowl. Especially at Mikuta, to which he confronted her personally, his tall, emaciated self looking down from above. “Even if you’re the daughter of the lich king, I don’t suppose you’ve made reservations to meet his majesty in person? You would know this if you really were his daughter…”Bookmark here

Now, that in itself might’ve been a lie, and Mikuta wasn't believing a word of it. After all, why would a daughter need permission from her father to speak? Bookmark here

Grinding her molars at the sight of his disgusting face, she slammed her fist on the door. The blue glowed even brighter, but she was too preoccupied with him.Bookmark here

“If I really am the daughter, then does that mean I also have the power to fire you?”Bookmark here

That seemed to have shaken him quite a bit, causing him to take a few steps back. But he regained his composure soon enough.Bookmark here

“As one of the king's trusted advisors, I would think not; especially without my liege’s permission.” Bookmark here

A vein began to pulse at his snarky rebuttal. She crossed her arms, not noticing the large slab beginning to slide to the right. “Oh yeah? Well, why don’t you just shut up and do as you’re told then you dog.”Bookmark here

She turned to Miyori, her eyes once again fixated on something.Bookmark here

“Why don’t you say something, huh?”Bookmark here

She pointed her finger behind Mikuta. Swiveling her head around, what she saw would forever be grained in her mind. Inside, the empty abyss of a room was filled with magic circles and autonomous computer systems wired to the depths. There was a single person typing away in front of a yellow screen, barely lighting their outline. Bookmark here

The air turned to gel as a part of Mikuta wanted to run, but couldn’t. Their head slowly started turning, inch by inch, centimeter by centimeter. But before she could do anything, the slab suddenly forced itself back in place with a heavy thud.Bookmark here

“What are you three doing here?”Bookmark here

The king stopped short in front of the trio, his frown turning into a lighthearted smirk at Mikuta’s contemptuous eyes. Yet, there was a quality of apprehension in his eyes.Bookmark here

“My dear daughter, it is with utmost importance that you stay safe within the confines of this place, you see. I can’t lose you as I did before when you tried to run away.” His fake smile turned into a solemn lour, his eyes piercing Mikuta’s heart with what might’ve been a pincushion of icicles. “I can’t ever let you leave this place again with other means. Now, if you’d like to talk it out, let’s.”Bookmark here

Mikuta now had a rough idea of what went on before her appearance in the world.Bookmark here

You were one rebellious kid, weren’t you, Adrianne…Bookmark here

Haughtily, she put her hands on her hips and brushed her hair to the side. “Fine then, but you have to answer three of my questions then, dad.” He twitched a bit at this response.Bookmark here

Good.Bookmark here

“Number one: who was behind that door? Number two: why isn’t the ice around here cold?” She hesitated on her third question for some reason, an unbearable pain seeping into her chest. She let out a light cough, pounding her chest till the burn went away. “Number three: why did I run away?”Bookmark here

The old man sighed, looking even more worn out than before. Flicking his wrist upward, the floor rumbled as he summoned four chairs made of ice. He took a seat in one, gesturing to the rest to also sit. They all obliged.Bookmark here

“For your first question: that ‘thing’ is a being who’s been here since the dawn of all ages. You could perhaps say that they are one of the gods who’s been left behind on this planet.” He sighed, rubbing his eyes. “They are also the reason for the never-ending snow on this isle, turning everything around him into what is known as true ice.”Bookmark here

Miyori beamed in excitement, fidgeting at the edge of her seat. “So they are the progenitor of the creatures of ice from the isle? The ones that used to terrorize all of the man until the queen rose to power?”Bookmark here

The king nodded, turning his face towards Mikuta. “See, your friend’s got it, why not you?”Bookmark here

His comments didn’t budge her resolution on getting answers, however. With steely eyes, she made her words as coldly as possible. “I don’t have an interest in this world's politics or problems. Move onto the third question, you inhuman garbage.”Bookmark here

“How dare you-” The advisor stood up but was immediately sat back down by the king’s glare. Alduin’s eyes, however, continued to glitter in malice. “You may be the daughter of my liege, but by the chance, I find out that you are not, you will be swiftly executed.”Bookmark here

“There is no need for that, my good man. I simply would like to clear up any misunderstandings between myself and my precious daughter.”Bookmark here

Precious? Misunderstanding? There was nothing to be misunderstood. He had brought destruction and death to the kingdom she was residing in, almost killing her and Miyori in the process; lest to talk about those around her who had actually died.Bookmark here

It was all too much for her. Her heart was split between intrinsic respect and newfound disgust for this father figure of hers. Stuck in a vortex of the two emotions, she imploded. Before she knew it, she was on her feet, her arm drawn back. In an instant, she lurched forward, shooting a right hook into his face.Bookmark here

Miyori and Alduin were stunned. The indomitable, enigmatic king, had taken a fist to his face without defending himself. His unflinching figure with a reddened cheek only gave Mikuta an apologetic look.Bookmark here

She quickly retracted her fist and sat back down, feeling a little guilty at what she had done. Bookmark here

He took a deep breath, exhaling through his nose, rubbing his cheek. “To answer your question: I don’t remember. You left this place 600 years ago, set out to never return.”Bookmark here

Mikuta opened her mouth again, but before she could say anything, he interrupted her. “I know what you’re going to say, and yes, it has been more than a little late on my end to get you… But, I was too busy dealing with various coups and your mother at the time. Before I knew it, you were simply gone from existence.”Bookmark here

What a careless father. Even she felt bad for the girl whose body she now inhabits. With someone like this to live within a desolate country of ice, it must’ve been unbearable. Bookmark here

And yet, deep down, she couldn’t actually feel this way. There was just a part of her that was relieved to see him again.Bookmark here

Again?Bookmark here

No, she could never feel happy to see this man. The man who killed, the man who destroyed everything to her at the moment. Bookmark here

A haunting image of Helena’s smile flashed through her mind before being flung into oblivion. Her renewed anger caused her to shake uncontrollably. Bookmark here

“Why did you have to massacre everyone?” Her voice, only slightly wavering, gave way to sobbing - something she thought she didn’t have in her. Bookmark here

With tear-stricken eyes, she looked up from her hands. There, he sat blankly, staring ahead. His face then contorted, making him look much older than he was before, almost as shriveled and as dead as a corpse.Bookmark here

“It was the only way, Adrianne. It was the only way for your mother to release you - though it may have been a giant misunderstanding after all this time..." He sighed, looking weary. "For the last few decades, I’ve been searching for you, dedicating every moment of my time. The war took a heavy toll on my people - some of which put their kids on ships to go to lands afar.Bookmark here

“Even now, my titles don’t matter anymore. My role as a king is slowly fading away. I’ve commanded and committed more atrocities than you could ever imagine. I slew people for the sake of people, kept an entire clan alive as livestock to survive in this frigid environment.”Bookmark here

His eyes seemingly sunk into his skull, a black shadow casting over his gaunt and weakened face. Bookmark here

“Perhaps… Perhaps it would’ve been better for me to have died on that hill long ago. For me to have not resisted against that woman who took everything away from me that day.”Bookmark here

The person in front of Mikuta couldn’t even be called the lich king anymore. It was a sad, empty man, destroyed by the cruelties he had to have embraced. It was something lesser than a man, yet more than what she was. He looked up, croaking his next few words.Bookmark here

“So tell me, Adrianne. Who were the people precious to you that I’ve killed. I ought to at least remember their names…”Bookmark here

She should’ve been angry. She should’ve stayed indignant at this hallowed thing of a father. But, from the reactions of his advisor uncontrollably crying and Miyori too, this man was being genuine. He was trying to reconcile with his only daughter, whom he'd finally seen after many centuries.Bookmark here

Many doubts and arguments stayed in her mind, but she decided to keep quiet about them. She decided that she’d say the full names in honor of her few friends.Bookmark here

“Elaina Arce Utgaard and Helena Prullen Blavatsy. Those are the names of the people most precious to me that you’ve killed.”Bookmark here

Mikuta gritted her teeth in anger. Not at her father but at herself; the self who couldn’t forgive Helena over the stupid little incident. The self who couldn’t bother learning recovery magic when she should’ve. And, most importantly, the her who didn’t bother reconciling with someone she didn’t know was a dear friend until she was lost to her. Bookmark here

“Prullen Blavatsky?”Bookmark here

This time, the king began to look even worse than before. The advisor stood up, grabbing the king by the shoulders. When the king fell forwards, the chairs dissipated into thin air. Miyori fell onto the floor, rubbing her buttocks. Mikuta helped her get back up, surprised to see the king so shaken at the name.Bookmark here

“My liege, I believe it's time for you to return to the round table. Any longer would be detrimental for your health.”Bookmark here

The pair walked off into the far corner before they stopped. The king shrugged him off, rubbing his eyes. He turned to face Mikuta and Miyori, his gaunt face filled with a rue. Bookmark here

“It’d do you both well to visit what remains of this isle.” He paused, tentatively. “The Blavatsky household shouldn’t be too far from this castle of mine.”Bookmark here

Mikuta didn’t know how to feel about this father of hers. Bookmark here

Bookmark here

“You know, it’s surprisingly not cold at all once you get used to this temperature.”Bookmark here

Miyori playfully plodded about, heading towards the gates that led outside the walls of the castle. Mikuta was contemplating her thoughts on her father, and to who she really was.Bookmark here

“Still, to think that you’re older than most people is a surprise.” Miyori turned around, her hands behind her back. “Are you an elf or something? Perhaps a half-spawn of demons and the like?”Bookmark here

“I’m not sure myself. Maybe I am…”Bookmark here

Depending on what the queen was, it was most possible that she could be such a thing. Though, it wouldn’t have changed how she felt about this world of hers.Bookmark here

“Anyways, here we are.”Bookmark here

The pair continued to trek through the snow-covered streets. Kids ran amok, adults behind stands selling hot chocolate. Snowmen were everywhere, as were Christmas decor hanging from above. Watching the townspeople laugh and drink without a worry in the world, Mikuta wished that they would all Die. Soon, they arrived at a small cottage. A big sign outside read “The Blavatsky residence.” Mikuta gulped, the urge to run rising. Bookmark here

“Welcome, welcome.”Bookmark here

From behind an old, wooden door, an old brown lady waddled towards them, grabbing them by their hands. The two were ushered in without fail, intoxicated by the homely atmosphere.Bookmark here

A wilting arrangement of flowers sat on a wooden ledge. In front of a crackling fireplace, there was a small coffee table and three stools. Cups of hot barley tea were on the tray.Bookmark here

The three of them sat down around the table, slowly taking a cup. The porcelain softly clinked, and she couldn’t help but be drawn into this atmosphere. The guilt, however, couldn’t be rid of. Bookmark here

For a few minutes, nothing happened. Only the occasional sips and exhales from drinking could be heard. Mikuta didn’t know how to break the atmosphere. The old lady opened one eye, looking up at her.Bookmark here

“I take it you two came here to discuss something?” She poured more tea into her own cup, slowly raising it to her mouth. “After all, it’s not every day that the lich king would send someone over.”Bookmark here

“About Helena-” Mikuta abruptly stops, her hands trembling. She looked down for a few moments, unable to meet her gaze. “I-I’m sorry for letting Helena die.”Bookmark here

No, she had to resolve this problem of her heart. A splattered guilt clogged her emotional capacity. There was just no way around it. She stood up, slapping her arm on her chest. “I-I let her dieBookmark here

There was no change in atmosphere, however, as Mikuta admitted to her guilt. She grimaced for the admonishment to come, the punishment she deserved. She was ready for anything.Bookmark here

“Helena.” The old lady slowly brought the cup to her wistful face. “Helena Helena helena…”Bookmark here

She murmured as she drank. “That girl wasn’t one to hold grudges, only regrets. I wouldn’t worry about her if I were you.”Bookmark here

That nonchalant expression, that posture of hers which remained at rest. Mikuta got annoyed at this. “How would you - How the hell would you know how she felt in her last moments? Do you even understand what happened prior-”Bookmark here

A deafening silence fell as the old lady put down her cup, the sound still ringing in her ears. Looking up, she was met with a vehemently disgusting visage, infuriated eyes ready to kill. Bookmark here

“If Helena was truly left to die like that, then there would be no choice but to kill you here and now.” She slowly stood up, her back hunched. Her resolute expression from such a frail body scared Mikuta. "The worst part of caring for someone is whether you're doing it for them or for yourself. And right now, you are doing it for yourself in her name."Bookmark here

"Do you truly care for the person named Helena? Her every breath, arm, leg, hair? Did you really understand who she was?" Her grip became tighter. "It hurts most to not care deep down, despite acting like you are."Bookmark here

At this moment, Mikuta understood. She understood what she was feeling. It wasn't resentment for the death of her friends necessarily, nor was it a sadness stemming from an inherent part of her ego. No, it was purely because her convenience to normal life was robbed. Bookmark here

Sickening, to be sure, but that was the one true conclusion she arrived at.Bookmark here

"Grandma, there is one thing I will apologize for." She grabbed the granny's hands and lowered them. "I'm sorry about not being sorry. All I ever wanted was to continue a life that wouldn't burden me with awkwardness."Bookmark here

"I just can't seem to care normally for people, and I suppose that carries over to our current conversation, in which I truly do not care for Helena's death. It was all truism for your family's death." Mikuta sighed in relief. "And for that, I do apologize. But you can take that with a grain of salt."Bookmark here

The old lady chuckled and sat back down. "As long as you're truthful on the matter, then it matters not of what you say; whether it is morally acceptable or not."Bookmark here

The atmosphere returned to its relaxed state, but Mikuta couldn’t help but ask a question about Helena. Bookmark here

“I know for someone who supposedly doesn't care for others, I shouldn't have this right to ask, but why did she leave the isle?”Bookmark here

"You're asking this because?"Bookmark here

"Just out of simple curiosity."Bookmark here

The old lady sighed in annoyance.Bookmark here

“You see, it wasn’t too long ago that our people were persecuted for our blood. Our blood could cure any disease, heal any wound. It was the medicine for the ages. Hell, even in this frigid cold, our blood could provide the means to grow crops. And thus, our clan was on the brink of extinction. The blood wasn’t as potent in the later generations, causing more of our people to die. It wasn’t until the king had brought us under his custody that we became safe. With his expansive knowledge, he devised a way to produce foods and clean water with magic instead of our blood, thus relieving us of our duties. Yes, it was all thanks to him that we got to live.Bookmark here

“To answer your question: Helena wasn’t compatible with this place. The frigid cold, the lack of beauty and life; there simply was nothing to be beheld in this place for her. As I have said before, the newer generations didn’t have blood as potent, and if it drops under a certain threshold, they are no longer bound to this place. Mind you, the king had devised a failsafe in the case where the systems had failed to provide food. But, Helena luckily failed the test, and thus was allowed to leave this isle of grudges and decay.”Bookmark here

She chuckled for a bit, a malignant glint still in her eyes. “And to hear that you’ve taken advantage of her kindness, you ought to be ashamed.”Bookmark here

“Ahahaha... yeah."Bookmark here

“No matter. What’s done is done; the past is in the past. All that matters is how you’ll lead your life from now on.” She paused, looking into the empty teapot. “If you feel bad, then you can try atoning for what can never be amended for.”Bookmark here

"Though," she quickly added, "that would probably be an effect from your mother's side."Bookmark here

Mikuta came prepared to be reprimanded, not to be consoled, she felt strangely relieved at these words. It was as if all the problems and regret she internalized disappeared into thin air. Strangely, she felt as light as a feather. Looking back at Miyori, she could see that she too was listening in intently. How quaint. Bookmark here

The old lady walked over towards the door, opening the door. “You should apologize to that father of yours. You don’t know anything about him at the moment after all.”Bookmark here

"True. In the end, it seems as if I align with my father's ideology far more than my mother's I guess."Bookmark here

And in the end, her apology may or may not even matter. And that is fine.Bookmark here

Setting the cup down, she dragged Miyori behind her and out the door, waving goodbye.Bookmark here

The two got as far as the main street, which was only a few miles away from the cottage when Miyori quickly halted, her feet steadfast on the ground. “Hey, I’m going to check out that pretzel stands over there really quickly. You just go on ahead.”Bookmark here

“Alright.”Bookmark here

Without the extra luggage, Mikuta could hurry on even faster. The world around her was a blur as she sped up, but Mikuta didn’t mind. In fact, she felt happy that these people were able to enjoy their lives so much. Happy at the fact that she could care less about what they did or how. She felt as if she grew as a person.Bookmark here

Or so she thought.Bookmark here

Approaching the castle gates, there were no guards to be seen. Carefully approaching the doors, they opened slightly ajar at the touch. Bookmark here

Weird...Bookmark here

Peering inside, giant ice guardians lay broken on the floor. Bullet casings littered everywhere, the walls riddled with holes and slash marks. Bookmark here

She walked in further, wandering the halls. The beautiful sheen of ice couldn’t be seen anymore. Passing the slab and turning a corner, even more, snow guardians were broken. Though, they seemed to be more pulverized than shattered at this point. Yet, she can only wonder.Bookmark here

In front was a door, a door that would lead to the king’s round table. Something told her not to enter, and yet another part of her told her to reconcile with her father.Bookmark here

Her fear sat at the bottom of her jubilant emotions. Mikuta strode towards the door, the time expanding with each step. And with each step, her pace got fast.Bookmark here

Yes, it was as if the world itself was telling her not to go. But, this time it was her turn to go against it.Bookmark here

Her final step reached the threshold of the door, bursting into a room decorated with crimson red and lifeless bodies. In the center of where the table should’ve been, a beautiful lady had staked a sword into the king’s chest.Bookmark here

Ah. It happened again. Bookmark here

From above the broken ceiling, the moonlight shed light on a person who looked much like Mikuta. Though, as she looked at the newcomer, Mikuta could tell that she wasn’t an ordinary person. Wearing a haggard look, her eyes were fueled with hatred unknown to anything she could possibly empathize with. Bookmark here

Mikuta froze; she couldn’t do anything. Her existence was simply too overwhelming. The moment she exhaled, the lady suddenly slid the sword out of his chest, lunging forwards and smashing Mikuta into the wall all in one smooth transition.Bookmark here

A monstrous strength hid behind that small figure of hers. She swiftly slid the sword out of her, Mikuta slid down, her breathing shallow. The lady came closer, teary-eyed, as she pressed her knees against Mikuta's arms. She couldn’t budge as the flat side of the blade began to press down on her throat. Perhaps it was two, maybe three minutes that had passed as the lady kept pressing down onto her throat, squeezing the last of the oxygen that remained in her. The lack of air rapidly caused her brain functionality to deteriorate. Her weight on Mikutas arms prevented her from foundering even while falling unconscious. Bookmark here

Slowly but surely, she could feel her life fading. Gasping, no life-saving air came to greet her dying lungs. Her last moments were spent contemplating into the eyes filled with inexhaustible rage.Bookmark here

Even in another world, in another millennium, people don’t so easily change their nature. But perhaps, in a dream in a far-off future, it may just be possible. A world without prejudices, a purism dictated by the ideals of her own.Bookmark here

Her body shuddered as the last of her precious oxygen left her blue lips, her pallid eyelids too heavy to keep open.Bookmark here

And, eventually, she stopped thinking.Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.