Chapter 21:

A Return

A Tour of the World Between Worlds

I was greeted by a familiar grey sky when I opened my eyes. My back was pressed firmly on the ground, and a recognizable grey cottage came into view when I turned my head. I quickly sat up and looked around. I was back in the strange world by the base’s campfire. The others tended to their own business before they noticed I had woken.

Orrin was the first to approach. Though approach alone makes it sound like he moved slowly. As soon as he saw I was awake, tears began to well around his green eyes, and he shouted my name.

“Kiko! You’re not dead!” he dramatically shouted as he ran up to me. Pale arms wrapped around me in an embrace, and I shrunk from the unexpected show of concern. His words alone were enough to gather the attention of the others. Lerato and Enas set down some grey lumber they were carrying, and Casey stopped carving something out of wood—likely a new spear. Pythagoras’ head popped out from his cabin; I suspect he was working on his machine again.

“What happened?” I asked. I could recall falling, but nothing happened after. My memory was clouded with the scene I had witnessed while plummeting and the vision that may have come from my memory. They were starting to blur together when I tried to call them back in my mind.

“Are you okay? No concussion or anything? Follow my finger with your eyes.” Orrin began to move his index finger around my face; I swatted it away like it was a fly.

“I remember falling,” I added.

“We had to jump in after you! You were soaked, and you’ve been asleep for a day even after we got back!” Orrin frantically explained.

I looked around the scene; the cups we had bought were nearly sitting off to the side. They had incurred no damage. Somehow they leaped off a building into rushing water, and we all came out of the world, okay? I’m not sure how they managed that, but I suppose I should be happy to be alive.

I looked down at my clothes; I had changed from my pink kimono and dark undersuit to some loose clothing. The many blades I carried were missing, making me feel uncomfortably light. I quickly inspected the camp and saw the clothes hanging on a drying line. The knives were set to the side on a table. I hope that Casey was the one to take the wet clothes off, but there was no point dwelling on it now.

I pushed myself up and shook my head.

“Careful, you ought to take it easy,” Casey said.

“That's okay; I will be fine,” I replied as I found my footing. The ground felt unsteady as if it was water, but I managed to hide the shakiness enough for the others to not suspect anything.

“That’s a relief!” Orrin said as he dramatically moved his arm like he was wiping sweat from his brow. “Well, we are about to head out for the day; why don’t you come with me, and I’ll show you around!” he added.

I might have stayed and rested longer, but I didn’t want to show any signs of weakness. The shakiness likely would fade once I walked it off; at least, I hoped that was true.

I nodded and made my way to grab my stuff. After quickly changing in my room, I emerged back out in my pink getup. My two larger blades were back at my side, and all the hidden blades were tucked under my kimono.

“Well, we’re off!” he shouted to the others. They nodded and headed in different directions out of our small camp. I followed Orrin into the woods. My steps remained steady, but I stayed focused on keeping my balance just in case.

We walked without speaking for a moment. It wasn’t total silence as Orrin happily hummed some song and the leaves and sticks of the woods made noise as we moved past and over them.

“Where are we going?” I finally asked after a long moment.

“I had nowhere in mind. Do you want to see something in particular with the world?”

“What is there to see but grey?”

Orrin’s green eyes seemed to light up.

“That’s right, you don’t know much of what’s around here! Well, let’s get moving!”

His voice sounded chipper, like a child whose about to show off his favorite toys. I sighed. I might have spoken too openly. A stance of staying quiet was best in these cases.