Chapter 26:

Fade to White

The Melancholy of a Whimsical Half-Elph


“Did you just say… mother?” Enne asked. Dewy nodded.

Her scent is like mine, he replied.

“He did hatch from an egg, so—” Alejandro reminded.

The heavy wings flapped away. Gray clouds hid the mighty creature as it let out another guttural screech. Dewy whimpered, cowering slightly. However, Enne stood firm. Her ears tracked its whereabouts. Alejandro narrowed his eyes, wondering what she thought.

“En?” he said.

“It's our ticket out of here,” Enne said before directing her sights on the possessed Siesta. “You’ll leave her body if I do this?”

“I’d let her regain control, yes,” she replied.

The snallygaster circled back and struck from their side. Enne tried to catch it, but it sped away. Alejandro felt a little mana course through him. Dewy summoned the courage to chase after the flying beast. He swung to the higher branches before timing its leap. With a single swipe, Dewy struck the dragon. Its massive body tumbled toward Silesta and Alejandro before it stood. It thrashed about in its cluttered surroundings. Enne dashed toward it and slid under when its enormous wings swept in her direction. Its feet inadvertently kicked her away. Her fingers dug into the dirt, preventing her from hitting the tree.

Dewy leaped onto its back and tore against its spine. The snallygaster shook him off and focused on the dogman. Dewy caught its beak when it tried to bite him. The tentacles sprung out and began wrapping around him. Enne thought on her feet as she uprooted the tree. Dewy bit at the tentacles while slowly being pulled in. His life began to slip, and his strength waned. The half-elph sprung with an overhead strike that loosened the creature’s grip. It staggered away while Dewy collapsed from exhaustion. It let out another high-pitched screech before it attempted to fly away. Enne slipped when she tried to catch it. Alejandro used the bit of mana to summon vines wrapped around its feet.

“Allie!” Enne gasped. “Let go! You’re going to hurt yourself.”

“Now’s your chance!” he replied. He withheld his pain as mana began to tear at his skin. “Go!”

Enne was conflicted but made her run toward the beast. His strength dwindled rapidly as he collapsed onto the ground. She pivoted against a nearby tree as it flapped its mighty wings. Before it could fly high enough, she landed on its back, immediately fighting off the sensations she had experienced. She dug her clawed hand into its spine. Pain pulsed throughout her body. Before she slipped into unconsciousness, she saw the small figures below. Silesta came to Alejandro’s aid, looking up as the snallygaster flew away.

“H—hey,” Silesta panicked. Alejandro barely kept his eyes open. “Allie?”

“Silesta?” his voice cracked. “You’re back… That means…”

The fog cleared. Time passed as the sun began to set. The lingering rain did away with the stale scent of their other world. Silesta glimpsed Dewy’s reverted form. When the wanderer looked into Silesta’s eyes, she no longer seemed confused or distant by the events. Tears rolled down his face while gritting his teeth.

“She’s gonna be mad I did that,” he added.

Silesta nodded. He struggled to stand, eventually sitting beside the fallen tree. His body racked with pain, but he knew time was of the essence. Silesta walked over to pick up the slime. Alejandro understood what he had done but wondered whether the witch remained within her.

“Hey, Silesta,” he spoke. “Are you all right?”

“I should be asking you that, Allie.” Silesta looked over, finding his pained smile.

After a blinding white flash, Enne found herself in a different setting. The lab stretched the entire room with cluttered tables of equipment. The monotonous environment had a few pops in color. A glass ceiling revealed a set of suns slowly drifting north and east. She continued through until she reached a set of stairs. The distinctive atmosphere switched to something homely, glimpsing the fireplace ahead. The aesthetic reminded her of her library back home. She looked around when she couldn’t hear anything. Her eyes happened upon an open book across the radiance. It was a picture of Nuri and her father. Her father had a semblance of a smile. One she rarely saw.

“Boo!” Nuri shouted. Enne perked up and turned in her direction.

“That’s not a way to greet someone,” Enne replied. She remained disengaged as the woman in red strolled toward her. Despite the woman’s underlying friendliness, she could feel the concentrated power. Nuri looked fondly at the picture.

“Your father… He has a nice smile. How is he doing?”

Enne’s lips reflexively tightened. Nuri knew immediately as she nodded while fixating on the picture. She wiped away her tears before asking the question.

“The passage of time tends to escape us,” Nuri said. Her voice turned cold yet somehow sentimental. “How—Did he pass?”

“A broken heart?” Enne replied. Nuri sniffled.

“So, his heart finally belonged to another.”

“What?”

“Your father and I were… close. He was my closest advisor and—”

“And?”

Enne found her reluctance surprising as Nuri examined the picture. A closer look at her elegant qipao revealed her family’s emblem. Nuri’s eyes slowly trailed toward Enne, ignoring the tears that ran down her cheek. She chuckled before placing it down.

“How—unbecoming,” Nuri’s voice cracked. “All I ever wanted was his happiness. At times, I knew he could never find it through someone like me, but my heart… The thought of him….”

The Elphynian scoffed as she turned to the flames.

“History… It has a way of changing what was to what it is. Sentient beings need the reassurance of this. Someday, you’ll find out more of the truth. I’m just a simulation of Nuri’s wishes.”

But you act so… lifelike. Enne didn’t respond.

“He and I belonged to the same house,” Enne said. “We were distant cousins in different positions of power.”

“Distant cousins?”

“Is there a problem? Didn’t seem like much of a problem in the human world. Japan or Alabama?”

“Alabama is such a specific example,” Enne shook her head while withholding her laughter. “It’s just… He brought none of this up.”

“Sounds like him. He could bury the past, but he’ll always know where it is…In his heart. Between us two, he was always the sensitive one. Always guarded. I always had to bring him out… Much like that human you’re dealing with.”

Enne froze up. She looked into the woman’s hazel-pink eyes and saw her smile.

“I forgot to mention the other things attached to making contact with my creatures. I can see what you see, but not what you think.”

“So—”

“Perhaps you have a predisposition for the quiet ones, too? Nothing wrong with that.”

“That’s kinda intrusive.”

“I don’t think you get it.”

“Get what?”

“Do you recall our first interaction?”

Enne nodded while Nuri passed her. Nuri handed her a stack of notes from the nearby table. The Elphynian insisted as she handed it over. A swelling uncertainty arose in Enne as her eyes skimmed through the first page. Her curiosity brought her to an end. When she finally looked up, Nuri hadn’t changed her expression.

“What I said wasn’t metaphorical,” she said. “You and I are the same. Your father never realized it. Perhaps the woman he married shared some physical characteristics, but—”

“N—no,” Enne’s voice shook. “She is my mother. My father loved her.”

“Which is all well, but she was merely a vessel. Her eggs would’ve only been but a template. The process was a mild success considering you show some human characteristics.”

Nuri’s lips pursed as she leaned toward Enne. She rested her hands on her shoulders. Enne didn’t realize the tears rolling down her face.

“You’ve blossomed into a beautiful woman, Enne. You are the perfect experiment. Your father’s sense of justice and my curiosity….”

“No. I’m not—”

“Hm? Put it into perspective. Any time life is given a chance, and it turns into a huge social experiment. What becomes of this if left for the community to handle?”

Enne gently brushed Nuri’s hands away and turned to the fireplace. After taking a few steps, she turned slightly to look back. The Elphynian remained expressionless.

“So?” Nuri asked.

“Why?” Enne replied. Nuri nodded at her straightforward question.

“I didn’t know how to let him go. I knew he’d betray me, but not without a good reason. If you knew my reputation, you’d understand. I wouldn’t play ball. I knew they’d try to kill me, so I needed to thrive in some sense. This place we’re in now is but one of many constructs my original self created to preserve… Just for you.”

“Why?”

“She’d figure her offspring would seek the truth. It’s in a Bouvire’s blood. She couldn’t store all her powers in one vessel. You and one other share part of her powers… As insurance. One cannot be more powerful than the other. Even after we depart, you’d only absorb part of Nuri’s original part. There are several more.”

“Absorb?”

Nuri brushed against Enne and observed the crackling fireplace. Nuri sympathized with Enne’s plight. The revelation wasn’t easy to come by as she wiped away her tears. The truth dismantled everything she thought she knew. Enne turned to Nuri, who returned a subtle smirk.

“Our lineage exists through us,” Nuri said. “It’s more than blood and physical characteristics but the visceral nature of what defines us. By absorbing me, you come closer to what you’re looking for.”

“Isn’t that kind of convoluted?”

“Ever the receptive one. Yes, and no. This was necessary. Even when they deposed her, she wasn’t even at full power. She had already parted her power, but she also bared a child.”

“What? So… That means.”

Nuri nodded.

“Though you may feel your journey has gone for so long, it’s only just beginning,” she smiled.

Nuri reached for Enne’s hands and looked into Enne’s eyes. The eccentric Elphynian’s eyes were captivating and intimate. It oozed a mother’s warmth familiar to Enne. She felt a strange power overtake her. Everything around them disintegrated down to Nuri, who turned to dust. Her smile never wavered.

Then everything faded to white.




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