Early in the morning, like Grey said, we left the cabin. As early as that time, everyone in the house prepares for their routine. This time, Grey will be taking his days off from work to accompany me to the town.
“Packed everything you need?” Johnnard’s looking well despite his condition. Must have applied healing cream from the night before.
“Yes…” I nodded.
The living room, still dark and cool in the morning’s eve. Insects chirp from somewhere in the forest. Their music, soothing as ever, calms my pounding heart, reminding me that everything will be fine.
What will the villagers react upon seeing me for the first time? Will they be provoked? I don’t want to trouble Grey if things didn’t go the way we planned. The thought of having pitchforks raised and torches blaze from the furious mob lingers in my mind. What a nightmare.
Through the sound of my pounding heart, I feel a soft, yet firm, reassuring grip touch my shoulder. Once again, I’m back in reality. I hear a soft sigh coming from my side.
Grey must have noticed how troubled I am, reaching to embrace me. He glances over me looking mildly annoyed and consoling.
“No need to be nervous,” he said. “Save your heartbeat later once we reach town. For now, stay here with us. Don’t wander without asking my permission. Your pounding heart is mildly irritating my nerves.”
“Wait, you can hear my heart?” well, that’s something I just know despite being with him for roughly nine months.
“Grey’s always like that, only when you sit right next to him,” Johnnard stifles a chuckle, shoving some supplies into his bag. Shoving them like he’s not gonna have a hard time searching for what he needs later. “He’s just embarrassed to admit he could since it’s a shared condition he inherited along his Wolf bloodline.”
“Grey Matthias Wolf… oh now I get it!”
“Tch, you don’t have to.”
Glancing outside after twenty minutes, the sky soon paints vivid shades of green. Through the open window, the cool, morning breeze kisses my cheeks. Cool with the morning dew.
Once we’re all set, it’s time to leave. Johnnard leads the way outside through the backdoor. Though, it would be convenient if we used the other way instead.
“Wait!” I called.
Johnnard pauses halfway through the door glancing back at me. “Is there something you forgot to pack, Ruelo?”
“Would it be more convenient if we took the wandering door instead?” I pointed at the door across the dining table.
The door could lead us directly to town instead of walking needlessly with heavy bags on our back. Grey also said we’ll be staying for only a day. Only for a day! He made me pack that would probably last me for a week!
“Ask Grey about that,” he turns towards Grey who stands behind me.
Without looking back, I can feel intense aura emanating from him, undermining me.
“Is there a problem, Ruelo? Do you wish for the villagers to eventually discover you here?”
I spun around and immediately denies his claims.
“I-uh I was s-suggesting!” I waved my hands at him defensively in denial. “Arctic was right about your strange humor, Grey!”
Grey sighs. “Let’s move it, we’ll reach the town at dusk if we don’t scamper off.”
With his cue, we start to trail along the dirt path. This path lies opposite to the one Arctic uses when he goes to town. Now that I mentioned it, I just realized Arctic almost to never use the wandering door.
This path… this isn’t the one they always use. I wonder what Grey has in his mind. Where in the world are we going?
I couldn’t muster the courage to speak Grey about it. He might react badly again, his temper is unbearable but he soon recovers his composure once he made his point.
The forest is cool under the shades of the branches and dense leaves. My eyes can’t help but wander and feel familiar with the setting. Like I was in here before but I cannot remember how or when. Likely, another memory I cannot shovel off the ground.
Johnnard is surprisingly talkative to Grey today, which is a good thing honestly. I could not bear a prolonged period of awkward silence if nobody spoke.
Bunch of forest critters dashed from in front of me. A fuzzy little Aulken rabbit hops across the dirt path to get to the other side. Nearly made me scream in alarm there.
We continue walking along the path for another thirty minutes. It’s a good thing we hadn’t trample on some beast’s nest. I’m not wishing though.
The sound of crashing water gradually loudens as we walk deeper. The air is strangely warm and humid. I can see the end of the tree line from up ahead. Soon, we’ll be out of this forest.
“Are we here?” I asked.
Only silence. It’s either they did not hear me or ignored me. I’ll just wait until they tell me.
The open ground welcomes us as we exit the trees. Sand? Coconut trees line at the forest’s edge like a barrier. Then, up ahead, stretches the endless blue ocean. Waves gently crash on the pearly sand then recedes and repeats the very same action from time to time.
The sun had risen already. Assuming its position, it’s about eight in the morning. This place is isolated as well, like a forsaken island.
“Not yet,” Johnnard confirmed.
“The village… is it sunken?” I joked.
“You could start swimming now,” Grey grumbled. “Report back if you registered yourself by the underwater commission. Maybe you’re Element will be water-based by then.”
Grey’s remarks are always blunt. Jabs hitting right through you. Maybe humoring him right now isn’t the best choice after all. He’s serious about something, but why here?
Shortly after a brief pause, we continue tracing along the shadow’s edge by the sand. I quietly trail between the two of them not minding to talk. Johnnard hadn’t spoken since we start moving. Grey also sinks into silence.
Bear with this Ruelo, it’s better this way than having them talk needlessly. After all, it will be for a day and it’s over… I hope.
The ocean breeze sure is different to the ones back home. The mountain breeze is much cooler compared to the sea breeze. It’s damp and heavy like Arctic’s morning breath.
There were untouched coconuts lying beneath the trees on the sand. By the looks of it, they look fresh-looking and I don’t mind bringing one home and make coconut milkshake for us. Reggie will be pleased for sure.
Johnnard suddenly disappears behind a bush. Swallowed in a blink. His arm suddenly pokes out, reaching his paddy palms facing up. I held his paw and then pulled into the scratchy brush.
And then, I was taken to another world. So mystifying, surreal, and dreamlike. Lying on the sea’s edge, ruined through the streams of time.
An ancient ruins, one that I haven’t seen ever since, yet strangely familiar. Grey follows and lingers behind me. His huge paws on his waste, scanning the surrounding, huffing a big sigh.
“We’re here,” he confirms.
Here… my eyebrows furrow in confusion.
It’s some sort of rubble marble platform. Pillars erect like gnawed lollipop sticks. Debris still evident and some are powdered into dust or weathered into rocks and stones.
What once was a place of gathering or worship became among the wonders in history. Their stories, forever written in books, or passed down from one ear to another.
“Here… what is this place?” I followed behind Grey, pacing gently with his arms behind him. The energetic cheetah hops from every tumbled walls as if he doesn’t have any wounds. If he gets himself hurt, I’m not tending for him again.
Grey folds one knee and reaches a paw onto a slab on the floor, brushing off the dirt aside revealing ancient texts.
“Behold, Ruelo, the most ancient, lost foundation of the ancient world, in the Kingdom Dust Polvuro: Daratex Nexus!” Johnnard introduces with glee.
Grey raises a finger to his lips, shushing Johnnard to silence.
“Quiet down, we came in tranquility,” Grey stands. “We do not want to draw attention to ourselves, don’t we?”
“Sure, Master Grey,” Johnnard chuckles. “Whatever does the leader wish, is his followers’ command!” Johnnard playfully dances around Grey.
Grey frowns and scoffs at his behavior.
I chuckle softly and secretly to avoid Grey’s glare. Only an audible growl rumbles from him.
Grey exhales another heavy sigh. He turns to me earnestly holding both my shoulders with his paws and stares directly into my eyes. His eyes, glow in orange under the shade.
“Ruelo, to answer your question yesterday, I came to realize you deserve to discover the truth. Behind the ideas of how you came here to us. And I know you do not demand, but it’s been nine months and the thought of not telling you haunted me. The Giver wishes for you to see.”
“The Giver?” I raised a brow to his statement.
“You may not realize this soon, but hopefully you will.”
Grey guides me along the floors of the nexus. This is where they found me. Johnnard and Grey accompanies me to the very center of the circular monument. Grey stares at the round slab in the middle. Pointing his clawed finger at it.
“This is exactly where we found you,” he said.
“Oh…” I murmured. “Then, what do I look like when you guys see me for the first time?”
“Johnnard and I are both consumed in perplexity. Making out what you really are. The thought came to me that you are some hairless ape but the scent tells me you’re something rather unique.”
He places a paw on my shoulder as he explains.
“According to the history books in the village, the Nexus is once a hub for communication between distant worlds. The ancients use arcane magic to disperse and retrieve information. There were also rumors they attempted to use it to link two worlds directly, but their plan failed. Centuries have passed and eventually, they abandoned the shrine and left it into ruins.”
“Do you think I am an otherworldly being?” I asked.
Grey turns to me in concern. “Yes, we think so. Remember the Armaggons? They descended from the heavens in their mothership claiming themselves as omnipotent beings. It turns out they are just beings like us that eats, drinks, sees, and lives. Undermining us with their superiority complex. Unlike them, you are one of a kind and look different to them. We were thankful to the stars you look the same as us, only fragile. You closely resemble us, distant to the thick-skinned aliens.”
“Wow, so you think my memories being erased has something to do with this nexus? About it being a side-effect from being delivered?”
“Perhaps,” he scratches his chin. “Wherever you came from must have been far. Light-years across time and space. Our fates bound ever since the beginning of time. Remember this Ruelo, if you think you do not belong here, just remember you are sent here for a reason. You just have to discover it yourself. Let the reason enlighten you and others. A prayer from the Giver itself.”
“Yes, I will keep it in mind.”
“Still, we need to know where you actually came from so we could send you back to your original home.”
“Of course! With the latest technology, thanks to the Armaggons, I reckon there would be a way. Just have faith in it. Unless… do you wish to return?”
Grey’s eyes had never been this sad. Nine months under his care, he seems to be reluctant of releasing me. Is it because he’s grown attached?
“Whatever it takes to get my memories back,” I tell him.
He chuckles, ruffling my hair like a child. This is the first time I see his heartfelt smile. The memories of the past months slideshows in my mind. The hardships, the fun, sorrow, and bond we all share. I may have my friends and family in my previous life, but this fate, has given me another.
To the universe that knit our threads intertwining, I am grateful.