Lavender Eyes

Chapter 5: To Grant a Wish

”Arcturus, wake up. ”

Arcturus just stirred in his sleep, refusing to wake up; when he had budged, he felt a soft substance brushing his neck. Since he had expected to be sleeping on ice, it was unexpected; he immediately opened his eyes and found himself greeted by a white ceiling. He felt a warm temperature breezing against his skin. He wasn at Castle Lavender anymore and the thought terrified him that he sat up to scan his surroundings.

The carpet was tan and soft. The walls were a burgundy color with gold stripes and had been ordained with an ornate clock; it was quite late at night. The nightstand underneath it had a small calendar resting at the corner. Arcturus leaned closer to look at the date.

A voice suddenly rang into his ears: ”Its time for bed, you two. ”

His eyes widened as he turned around to look for the source of that voice. It belonged to a man presumably around his late thirties wearing large round glasses. His brown hair was quite disheveled, but he did not seem to pay much mind to his fashion. He had worn a blue sweater over a shirt along with jeans that had uneven pant legs rolled up. He wore two different colored socks as well.

The sight of him almost made Arcturus shed some tears, but he did his best to hold them back. ”Dad… ” He felt joy and sorrow simultaneously. He wasn sure which one was more dominant as he clenched his chest; it was a confusing feeling that caused his heart to ache.

”He can hear you. ”

Arcturus turned towards his left to see Nova sitting next to him as he held onto an apple. Seeing both the Nova and his father, Arthur, in this room made Arcturus know where he was.

”I know…. ” Arcturus whispered, ”My father is already gone from my life. This is nothing more than a memory. ”

”Correct. ”

”Why am I here? Didn you say youd show me proof that Souhait dwells within you? ”

”Showing you Souhait immediately isn fun. Also, this is what I have to do as well. Souhait wants to see if your wish is genuine; if it is so, he will show himself to you. ”

”Another test… ” Arcturus groaned. ”Okay, what sort of test is this? Why are we looking at my memories? ”

”We
e looking at instances of your life when you had wished for something. Maybe a wish will be formed from looking through your memories; maybe you still have one. ”

”My wish won ever change even if we look back in my past. ”

”Wishes are magic formed from the heart. A heart goes through trial and tribulation and shapes a person to be who they are or want to be. As long as your heart is strong, your wish will be too. ” Nova smiled. ”I can sense your wish is a strong one. ”

His smile made Arcturus flustered, but his confidence was unbound. His words felt encouraging as he held his head high. He then fixated back on the memory; his eyes were glued to a bed that had two kids on it—a boy and a girl. The boy had unkempt scarlet hair and the girl had wavy auburn hair. The sight of them made Arcturus smile.

”We don want to go to sleep yet. ” The boy whined.

”Kids have to sleep around this time. ” Arthur had a gentle and soothing voice.

”Then, read us a story as we sleep. ”

”Story! ” The girl yelled.

”Alright, alright. ” He pointed towards Arcturuss direction. ”Go pick one out. ”

Arcturus looked behind him to see a bookshelf filled with books of different sizes. There was one book in particular that caught his eye, but he quickly turned back to look at the kids.

The boy turned to his sister. ”Ariel, lets go pick out a book together. ”

”Book! ”

The siblings slowly got out of the bed and headed towards the bookshelf. An overwhelming nostalgic feeling flowed into him; the young boy was his seven-year-old self from thirteen years ago; Ariel was two years old for she was five years his junior. Although all three shared his eye color, a bright chocolate brown, only Ariel shared a resemblance with Arthur that Arcturus did not.

”You and your sister were such cute children, ” Nova stated.

”Thank you. ”

He saw the young siblings walking towards the bookshelf—his direction. Arcturus moved out of the way, but Nova did not budge.

”You should move, ” Arcturus remarked.

”I don need to. ”

The siblings walked through him, shocking Arcturus. His jaw dropped, but he quickly realized that this was, like he had said a moment ago, just a memory. None of his current actions would have an effect for this was already something that had happened in the past—his past.

He sat back down at his original spot, not looking back at the kids. He told Nova, ”If I remember correctly, I know exactly which book we
e going to pick. ”

”Ariel, you
e going to pick that one? ” the young Arcturus sounded rather exasperated.

”Yeah! ”

”But its too difficult for you to read. You
e only two. ”

”Book! ”

The younger Arcturus sighed as he held onto the book and headed back towards Arthur. Ariel followed him, waddling like a baby duck. The older Arcturus smiled at the sight.

”We pick this book, Daddy. ”

Arthur was shocked at its thickness as he adjusted his glasses. It wasn suited for childrens reading habits. ”The Collection of Souhaits Lore. ” He raised an eyebrow. ”Really? You want me to read this to you? ”

”Yes, please. ”

”Please! ” Ariel yelled.

Arthur could only sigh as he gave in. He escorted his children towards their bed. The young Arcturus picked Ariel up and placed her on the bed first and then climbed up on his own. Once they covered tucked themselves in, they stared at Arthur.

”Where do you want me to start? You guys like certain passages more than the whole story. ”

”Daddy, go to the part where Souhait first grants a wish to a human. What chapter was that again? ”

”The third one. ” He placed a finger to his tongue and then started opening the book; Arcturus noticed how old it was. He glanced over at Nova before he cleared his own throat and started explaining. ”That book is a very old copy of the lore written by the Loreseer, the person who preserved his legacy. I believe its one of the few original copies left in the world. Father once told me he had paid a hefty price just to get his hands on it. ”

”So, its a book that contains the true writing and not an abridged version like what most translators usually do nowadays. ”

”Yes. ” Arcturus noticed Novas slight gaze before he fixated back at the memory.

Arthur got to the requested page quickly. Arcturus squinted and noticed that some of the page corners were folded; he had always wondered how his father had turned the pages so quickly during his childhood, but he now knew. Learning small details from his past felt fascinating.

Arthur read out loud, ”During Souhaits travels throughout the countries, he had encountered a father with a sickly child. The child had an incurable disease and would not live past adolescence. Worried sick, he begged for Souhait to cure his child. The father was a pure-hearted man who cared deeply for his wife and children, so Souhait had sensed his genuine emotions. He had granted the fathers wish—his child became healthy. Because of this news, this was how Souhait became relied upon for wishes. They had revered him as a wish-granting deity. ”

The older Arcturus was excited to listen despite knowing what the third chapter was all about. The book wasn for young childrens reading criteria, but the way his father had read the lore to him despite the childrens inability to comprehend the full meaning behind it. Seeing his younger selfs eyes glistening as he was listening made Arcturus realize the feelings he had as a child and his adult self hadn changed one bit. Nova just chuckled.

”You sure like the lore. ”

”But this is the chapter about the Progenitor! The statue with Souhait and the human facing each other was about the Progenitor, right? ”

”Yes. ”

”Souhait was so benevolent! Out of all people in Terrenter at the time, he managed to find a father and decided to grant his wish specifically! This is proof that wishes are important! They can bring happiness! ”

Realizing that he was being too excited, Arcturus clammed up; it was slightly embarrassing. Arthur started chuckling and patted the young Arcturuss head gently. The older Arcturus couldn remember how his hand felt, sadly; it had been too long.

”Arc, do you believe in wishes? ”

”I do! ”

Arthur smiled. ”Then, if you had just one wish, what would be it? ”

Without any hesitation, the younger Arcturus blurted out, ”I wish for Daddy to come home more often. I want Daddy to be with Mommy, Ariel and me often. ”

The happiness the older Arcturus had felt was no longer present; sadness replaced it. He saw Arthurs shocked reaction as he dropped the book and quickly swept his younger self into an embrace. ”Ill grant that wish for you! Ill try to be home more often from now on! ”

”Really? ” The younger Arcturus was excited.

The sadness started overwhelming the older Arcturus; he had no intention of crying. Instead, a sullen feeling controlled him. He placed a hand to his heart; there wasn any sign of heartache. He wasn even sure if he wanted one. He felt nothing but sadness.

”He lied. He said hed be home often, but he didn keep that promise. He didn come home after that day. ”

His father had disappeared so abruptly; nobody knew where he had gone when he told his family he would leave for Ilacier and come back in a few days. When Arcturus was young, he had to cope with his disappearance with the lore; he was desperate to keep his father alive in his memory.

”Is the reason why you
e so passionate about the lore due to your fathers disappearance? ”

”Somewhat. At first, I wanted to pursue folklore because I wanted to find Dad at first. Now, its more of a personal thing. Im doing this because I want to. Its not because of my dad anymore. Laminans don really believe in Souhait or pusue in folklore and find it more of a niche. I want to break those boundaries. My dream is to be a better folklore scholar than my father. Thats why I came here of my own volition. ”

His words piqued Novas curiosity. Soon, the memory vanished; a black void greeted them.

”Where is this? ” Arcturus inquired.

”We
e inside your consciousness. Normally, your consciousness isn like this. Seeing how its so black shows you have a lot of stress in your system. ” Nova showed the apple that quickly multiplied into five with one glowing. ”These apples are fragments of your memories of the instances you had wished for something. Once we view all of it, the true form of your consciousness will reveal itself alongside the wish you have deep within your heart. ”

Realization came to him as he inquired, ”That means you…searched through all of my memories? ” He became flustered. Nova had seen every embarrassing instances of his past that he did not want to recall. He covered his flushed face with his hands.

”Yes. ”

”Thats an invasion of my privacy! ” Arcturus blurted out in annoyance.

Nova gestured for him to calm down. ”I apologize in advance for doing this, but this is the only way I can do this process. ”

Arcturus knew it couldn be helped. He uncovered his face and sighed. He just hoped this test would end soon. He then noticed the glowing apple disintergrating; its remnants flowed back into Arcturus and another apple started glowing.

The light became brighter, blinding him; Arcturus quickly covered his eyes with his hands.

Arcturus wasn sure how long it had been since he covered his eyes, so he slowly removed his hands and opened them. He found himself walking with Nova across a dark forest. Nova was holding his hand as he was following a small speck of light. Arcturus peered over to see it belong to a young teen Arcturus carrying a lantern and a large backpack while holding Ariels hand. He then scanned the forest once again. Nostalgia came to him.

”This is the Forest of Passing Souls, the place where people go when they die. If you
e lucky enough, you can meet the soul of your late loved ones. ”

”Interesting… ”

”However, it is risky to traverse if you
e not prepared. The forest is huge and there have been rumors about people disappearing when they enter—never returning. The government especially forbids children from entering. Given how Ariel and I were kids back then…we sort of rebelled and entered the forest. ”

”You seem rather uptight, but you are rather rebellious. Is that why you
e an anomaly? ”

”Perhaps. ”

”Though, there is a slight misconception about this forest. This forest actually serves as a gateway to the Spirit Realm, the actual resting place of passing souls. The souls can leave only once a year. ”

Arcturus raised an eyebrow. ”I have no clue what you
e talking about. Where did you get such information? ” He had never heard of such a place; he had read plenty of books about Plasma, but the concept of a realm beyond the forest made no sense.

Nova did not seem to mind his reaction. ”Don mind me. Im just rambling. ”

Arcturus suddenly felt guilty for blurting out those words. He felt awful for disregarding Novas words, no matter how fictional they sounded to him. Nova had vast knowledge of the lore and always respected his knowledge; he even went through motion sickness. Arcturus did wrong. He removed his grip from Novas hand and rummaged into his satchel; he got out his journal and slammed it against his head. The pain was the same as in reality; he wondered if this action was applied in reality. He peered over to see Nova who looked rather confused on why he had such a habit.

Before he could explain, Ariel started questioning her brothers actions. ”Arc, can we really meet Mom here? What people say about souls here is just fake, right? ”

”I don know, Ariel. It can hurt to try. ” The younger Arcturus gripped the lanterns handle tightly, wanting to cling onto some form of hope.

”We
e not allowed to come here, though. Soldiers will find us. ”

Arcturus looked at his sister. ”Don worry. Trust your big bro. Mom always said Im a lucky boy. ”

It was dark, but the adult Arcturus saw Ariels grip on his younger selfs hand tightened. Perhaps, it was due to the memory, but he felt Ariels complete trust in him and it radiated throughout his entire body. He had only been an orphaned twelve-year-old at the time, but he knew that Ariel was all he had; protecting her was a priority.

He had remembered why he had taken her with him in their forest adventure; he had nowhere else to go—no objective. His mothers death was so sudden that he needed answers on what to do next. Ariel could see ghosts and he could hear them; he needed her as much as she needed him.

The older Arcturus, engrossed in his memory, slowly put the journal back into his bag and started walking ahead of Nova to catch up with the kids. He grabbed Novas hand in the process.

”Lets go. ”

Nova seemed rather excited as he gripped his hand tightly. ”Oh my, how romantic. ” His teasing caused Arcturus to become flustered. He turned away and resumed walking with Nova.

With minimal lighting, Arcturus could hardly bask into the forest. All he could see was shadowed trees branching out and covering the sky, not allowing the moonlight to shine through. It felt like an eternal darkness to him.

Remembering what Nova had said about his specific memories, he failed to recall what he had wished for in this memory. All he remembered about this memory was the darkness and the sounds of nocturnal animals moving about and the rustling sounds of plants as the children stepped on fallen branches.

Nova remarked, ”Its amazing how you had managed to traverse in this pitch darkness at a young age with a child much younger than you as your only companion and with only a lantern as lighting. ”

”Well, I had no other alternative. We had no other relatives and no objective. We really needed answers for our future. We had no idea how long this forest was, so we had prepared a lot of food and water just in case we get stuck there for days. We only had each other and our determination to see our mother again. ”

”Your life has been about traversing through the unknown, hasn it? You had traversed through a pitch-black forest and an eternal snowstorm. ”

Arcturus stopped and stared at Nova, taking in his words. He had never realized it until now. His life really had been traversing into unknown territories. Was it because he enjoyed the feeling of being in an unknown place? He wasn sure about the true reason, but he knew it was a subconscious habit and more would come in the future.

”I guess. ”

They resumed walking. As he continued following his younger self, more thoughts about this memory came to him. He remembered he had been traversing with Ariel for three hours. As a child, he had been surprised with how large the forest had been; in a map of Plasma, the forest took about seventy-five percent of the lands space while the rest was living space for humans. The young Arcturus had worries about whether or not they would make it out of the forest alive; they had been fortunate enough to not be spotted by aggressive animals for the past two days.

Ariel started sighing. ”Arc, when will a soul show up? Weve been here for so long, and nothing is showing up. ”

”I can see spirits, remember? ”

”Oh, yeah… ” Ariel was rather discouraged.

Her question started to plague the young Arcturuss mind with worried thoughts.

When will a soul show up? Weve been here for two days and nothing has changed. Is coming here really the right choice? What if the stories we had heard about this forest are lies?

The older Arcturus sighed at the thought of remembering his past thoughts; overthinking and being a worrywart seemed to have been unbreakable habits.

Loud rustling noises were heard from a close distance, startling all four of them. The young Arcturus flashed his lantern at the distance; the source of the noise belonged to a doe staring at them momentarily before dashing off. Ariel started whining.

”Can we just get out of here? I don want to be here anymore! ”

”Not until we meet Mom again. ”

Ariel started pouting as she removed her hand from his and crossed her arms. ”Then I won go any farther. Im going to stay here. ”

”Suit yourself, then. Ill leave you behind. Have fun being eaten by something even scarier than a deer. ” He turned around and started walking.

Novas eyes widened. ”What a mean kid you were. ”

The older Arcturus remarked, ”I wasn being mean. I was just being firm with Ariel since I knew she was frustrated. She can be really stubborn. I had to say those things in order to scare her into coming with me. ”

Like what he had said, his words instilled fear into Ariel as she rushed towards him and clung onto him tightly. ”Don leave me behind, Arc! Im sorry! ”

The younger Arcturus just pat her head and then he reached his hand out; she grabbed it and the two continued traversing. Minutes became hours; he wondered how long it would take for dawn to rise and how the forest would look like in the day.

The young Arcturus stopped; Ariel was worried.

”Are you okay? ”

”Im just tired. ”

”Lets rest for the rest of the day. ” Ariel said as she yawned; Arcturus yawned back. They approached the nearest tree and decided to make it their resting place for the day. The older Arcturus and Nova leaned against the tree across from them.

Arcturus put down the large backpack and opened it. He took out some blankets and covered both of them; the lantern was in between them. He turned to Ariel. ”Its not as comfortable as a bed, but I hope you can sleep. ”

Ariel yawned again as she rested her head against his shoulder. The sight of her sleeping face helped Arcturus relax. As he leaned back and closed his eyes, the scenery started brightening. Specks of light illuminated the tips of the dark branches and started to float towards the area in front of the children. The forest started glowing white. The specks quickly gravitated towards each other and started merging to form a large ball of light; it then started shaping itself. The older Arcturus looked at the scene with awe while the younger one started stirring in his slumber; he opened his eyes and became shocked with his surroundings.

”Ariel, wake up. ” He shook her gently.

Ariel stirred and slowly awakened; she too became shocked at the sight in front of her. She looked straight at the shape-shifting light while Arcturus had no idea where she was looking.

The light completed its shape-shifting process and a woman with scarlet hair appeared before them. This confused the older Arcturus as he blinked several times; he even rubbed his eyes with one hand. The specter in front of him was still present. He got up and went to the direction the children were at.

The specter had disheveled, bobbed scarlet hair and bright green eyes. She had an exhausted look, but it did not deter from her beauty. The older Arcturus recognized her face instantly; they shared a resemblance that was more profound now that he was an adult.

”How unusual. I can see her when I couldn before. ”

He then noticed Novas hand holding his. It all came to him. ”Are you the one making me see the spirit of my late mother in this memory? ”

”Itd be boring to see an empty space. ”

Arcturus became moved. It had been a long time since he had seen his mother, Henrietta. Even if it was just something he couldn see before in a past memory, he felt really happy. He did his best to hold back his tears.

”Mom… ” Ariel was shocked.

”Where is she? ” The young Arcturus asked as Ariel pointed straight at the spectre, allowing him to fixate his gaze at the direction.

Henrietta called out to them, ”Why are you two here? ” She had a stern expression.

Ariel tilted her head; she could see her but could not hear her. To her, Henrietta was moving her lips soundlessly. Her words perked up Arcturus, however.

”Mom! ” The sound of her voice made him emotional; the older Arcturus felt it.

”Arcturus, Ariel, why are you here? The forest is dangerous. ”

The sound of a mothers scolding made both Arcturuses emotional; they were both trying to hold back their tears once again. The younger one took a deep breath and retained his composure.

”We came here because we wanted to see you again. ”

”Leave. This place is not one for children to be in. The mayor strictly forbid you to enter, didn he? ”

The young Arcturus had a worried countenance. ”But we need answers! ”

”What kind of answers? ”

”Please tell us what should we do now that you
e gone! The neighbors are debating on who should take us in. A majority of them don want to take us in. Weve been staying at the mayors place for the past month, but his wife is getting tired of taking care of us! ”

Henrietta became deep in thought and then became surprised; she seemed to have remembered something important. The older Arcturus wasn surprised since he knew she was quite forgetful.

”Speaking of which, I did send an email to your relatives in Lamina requesting them to take care of you. This was days before my passing. Im not even sure if they had read it. ”

The young Arcturus became surprised. ”We have relatives in Lamina? ”

Ariel turned to remark, ”We have relatives? ”

”Your fathers parents—your grandparents. Lamina is quite far from Plasma. I am not really sure how many days it would take for them to arrive here, given how difficult it is to leave the country. ”

”You want us to live with people we have never met? ”

”They
e good people; Ive met them before. I want you two to live your lives to the fullest. You can live freely here. ”

”What if they don come? ”

”Then, find a way to go to Lamina. I know staying in Plasma is more comfortable, but its no longer safe due to the excessive amount of soldiers. ”

The word soldiers made the older Arcturus twitch. Anger slowly welled up within him. His free hand curled into a fist while his occupated one tightened its grip on Novas hand.

”Are you okay? ”

”Im perfectly fine. ” That was a lie, but he did not want to admit his anger.

”Don lie. I can sense your rage. Why are you angry? ”

Hiding anything from Nova was futile—he should know better. He did his best to maintain his composure. ”Its a long story. Ill tell you when I feel comfortable doing so. ”

”Okay. ”

Arcturus wondered if Nova already knew the reason behind his anger. He then wondered how much Nova knew about his memories; he pondered about whether Nova understood his emotions and why he had felt such ways in his memories.

Because he was so deep in thought, Arcturus wasn aware of Nova calling out to him; Nova had to smack him on his cheek for Arcturus to snap out of his thoughts. When Arcturus fixated his gaze on Nova, it went elsewhere for Nova pointed towards Henrietta who seemed to be fading away slowly.

The strike shocked Ariel. ”Mom! ” She yelled. ”Don leave! ”

”It has seemed as if my time is done for this year. I don know when we will meet again, but I am sure it is when you two become promising adults. ”

”Mom… ” The older Arcturus sensed his younger selfs overwhelming sadness.

”Don make that face. ”

”Aren you sad that we have to separate? ”

”Of course. Ill miss you two very much, but Ill be in the company of other passing souls. I won be lonely. ”

Realization came to the young Arcturus as he asked, ”Mom, before you go, can I ask you something? ”

”Yes? ”

”Is Dad with you? ”

Henrietta looked surprised with that question before she maintained her composure. She gave them a sullen smile. ”Your father is still alive. ”

The young Arcturuss eyes widened with shock; he was in disbelief. The older one felt his youngers selfs amalgamation of sadness and joy. He had always thought Arthur was dead until this moment. Suddenly, Henrietta reached out and did her best to embrace her children in her spectral form. Ariel was tearing up while Arcturus remained shocked and speechless.

”If you ever find him in this vast world, don hate him. Embrace him. Please. ”

Arcturus whispered, ”Okay. ”

As Henrietta started to slowly fade away, Ariel yelled, ”We love you, Mom! ” Henrietta smiled as she completely faded away; the lights in the forest disappeared alongside her, leaving the lantern as their only source of light yet again. Nova removed his hand from the older Arcturuss.

Ariel gripped her brothers hand tightly. She wiped a few tears off of her face as she asked, ”What did Mom say to you? Tell me everything. ”

”Okay. ” Arcturus summarized their conversation with words and context that a seven-year-old girl could process in her developing mind. As he was doing so, the adults started a conversation of their own.

”Your mother was quite the beauty, ” Nova remarked. ”You look just like her, except for the gender. ”

”Yet, her looks were the reason she passed away. ”

Nova quickly clammed up. To ease up the abrupt tense atmosphere between them, Nova asked another question: ”Why did you carry around a lantern? Flashlights existed in your time period, right? ”

Arcturus became flustered. He knew the reason why he did so, but found it embarrassing to reveal it publicly. ”Ill tell you when I feel comfortable talking about it. ” He was honestly just making an excuse to not talk about it. He also could tell Nova did not buy it at all, but pretended to do so.

Novas playful demeanor suddenly changed into a serious one. ”I hear something. ”

The older Arcturus turned to see flashing lights meandering. The younger Arcturus seemed to have noticed them too, for he abruptly stopped. He rushed out in front to protect his sister. The source of the flashing lights belonged to two soldiers with large flashlights; the light was so bright that Arcturus closed his eyes shut.

The older Arcturus then noticed a third figure approaching them with the soldiers, a middle-aged man with bright green hair. ”Arcturus, Ariel! ”

Arcturus slightly opened his eyes. ”Mayor…? ”

The mayors face contorted as he approached Arcturus and slapped him.

Appalled, Arcturus uttered while rubbing his cheek, ”What did you do that for? ”

”I told you not to wander off! Why can you listen? You even brought your seven-year-old sister with you! What if you had met aggressive animals? ”

Arcturus glared. ”Why do you care when you
e the one who caused Mom to die? ” The older Arcturus felt his younger selfs bursting anger; a childs rage was quite a force.

The mayors expression darkened; his eyes narrowed, glaring at the young boy. ”Don go there. ”

”You
e the one who allowed the soldiers to kill all those workers and when Mom was the only survivor, you decided to let soldiers have their way with her as atonement for the workers rebellion. Now, you hit me for wandering off when you don care for us at all. Why are you like this? ”

”A mixed blood like you should keep your trap shut. ”

”I also overheard you…talking about giving us away to people who have a fondness for children. ”

”Well, my wife doesn like children. Sending you two to someone who does would be a better idea. ”

The younger Arcturus glared. ”No. You
e not sending us to a loving family. You
e trying to sell us. I overheard you talking about selling in a sexual context. ”

The mayor just glared at him again. ”So, being mixed blood means you
e so smart, huh? ” He turned to the soldiers. ”Ill turn a blind eye again, so do what you want with these kids. Shoot them. Kick them. Punch them. Do whatever. ”

The soldiers looked rather excited as one of them kicked Arcuturus straight in the gut and the other one shoved Ariel onto the ground. The older Arcturus quickly turned around as he heard unslightly sounds of his younger self being physically assaulted by adults. The feeling of being trampled on was excruciating; the feeling of the guns hitting him hurt more than actual bullets. He had remembered how he had covered Ariel, so she would get fewer wounds than him. He did his best to subdue his own anger; all he could do was curl his hands into fists, purse his lips, breathe heavily and bottle everything in.

It hurts. Why are adults like this? I wish someone…anyone…can save us.

Nova explained to him how his past thoughts could be heard because they were his own memories. Once he was done with his explanation, he looked at the scene in horror. ”I don get it. Didn Laminans choose to dilute their blood? Why are they looked down upon? ”

”Thats just how society in Plasma is like. Discrimination against our own people is so common. Pureblooded Plasmians are the highest in hierarchy while mixed-bloods are at the bottom; they look down on us. The government is also the most powerful authority in Plasma for we only have one city in Plasma given how barren it is. The mayor is one of the few pureblooded Plasmians left in the world and he has a superiority complex because of it. The city had become so twisted under his term. ”

Nova then became sullen. ”I had no idea Plasma was in such a state. ”

”The whole world is like this. The world changes with technology yet it stagnates when it comes to human development. ”

Nova closed his eyes because he did not want to see the cruelty. ”I hear additional footsteps approaching. ”

Arcturus slowly felt relieved as he heard a woman hysterically yell out, ”What are you doing? ” He slowly turned around to wince at the sight of his bloodied and battered younger self; seeing the actual sight sent chills down his spine. The woman that yelled out was an elderly one who was accompanied with an elderly man who was recording the scene; they both had brown hair.

The sight appalled the man. ”Do soldiers beat up young children these days? How despicable. ”

”Who the hell are you Laminans? ” The mayor inquired.

”We
e those kids grandparents. ” The woman said. ”Im Caroline Mercury and hes Neil Mercury. ”

The mayor raised an eyebrow. ”Mercury? Like that bastard Arthur Mercury? ”

”Do not speak ill of our son. ” The man glared at him, sending a chilling down his spine.

The older Arcturus noticed the younger Arcturus staring at the elderly couple intensely. Altough it was dark, they looked very bright to him; they had minimal lighting in the form of a flashlight and a cellphone.

Someone really did come to save us… The younger Arcturus thought. My wish did come true…

”Was this incident the catalyst to why you
e so ardent on coming here to get your wish granted? ” Nova asked.

”Yes. When my grandparents came, I thought that wishes really did exist. Before then, I didn believe in wishes at all because my dad left and never came back. Knowing that my wish came true, it felt like anything was possible in life. ”

He then noticed Novas intense gaze on him. Novas stares always caught him off guard; he had a tendency to stare at him with wide eyes and did not seem to blink at all. It was like he was staring into his soul and it made him quite uncomfortable; the fact that he had no idea what Nova was thinking made it even scarier. When he focused back on his memory to distract himself from Nova, the memory started to fade away; the black abyss greeted them.

Arcturus glanced over at Nova; his gaze was still on him. ”Why do you keep staring at me like that? ”

”I just find you fascinating. ”

”Quit it. Its embarrassing. ”

”Am I making your heart skip a beat? ”

”Of course not! ”

Nova pouted as he got out the apples. The second one dissipated and the third one started glowing.

When Arcturus was thirteen years old, he and his sister had finally moved to Lamina after his grandparents had filled out paperwork for their immigration. It was a long and arduous process that had taken a year to complete. Months after the big move, Arcturus had a hard time assimilating into the new country. Laminans did not accept him as their own kind and often ostracized him for his scarlet hair; he had recalled a similar scenario growing up in Plasma where he was ostracized for his lineage—looking like a pure-blooded Plasmian but wasn pure enough for his people. He honestly couldn find a place to belong despite having a family.

For one year, the only friends he had were books. The dates he made were at bookstores or libraries. He vastly preferred books to human interaction; books did not judge his hair or lineage.

”Weren you lonely? ” Nova asked as they observed a fourteen-year-old Arcturus reading a book in a library—he wore a baseball cap to cover his hair. Both he and the older Arcturus were sitting at a table next to the adolescents.

”There were times where I was, but whenever I went to the library, it goes away temporarily. It was like the books were befriending me, soothing my loneliness. ”

The young Arcturus looked up from his book to see librarians walking about with one another, students studying with each other, and parents roaming about with their children. An uneasy feeling came to him.

It must be nice being with others. I don know that feeling at all. I wish I can understand what it means to have friends. Though, I do prefer being alone. This is just wishful thinking.

Nova then started pondering. ”Come to think of it, I did notice that you had a hard time making friends. You basically had zero friends. ”

Annoyed, Arcturus snapped back. ”I wouldn talk for someone whos been stuck inside Castle Lavender. There aren any other people around, so you must be a loner too. ”

Nova clammed up as he turned around; Arcturus immediately felt guilty for responding in such a way. Before he could apologize, he noticed someone approaching the young Arcturus. It was a teenaged boy with dirty blond hair; his outfit was casual—black shirt and jeans—save for one noticeable accessory: a bright green scarf. The sight of him made Arcturus feel rather conflicted.

The younger Arcturus noticed a shadow looming behind him, blocking his light. He turned around grumpily. The boy gave him a meek smile as he raised a hand and wiggled his fingers. The sight of him warmed Arcturuss heart; a smile came to his face.

”Hi. ”

Arcturus groaned as he turned around. The boy gaped at his reaction. He quickly sat down at the seat next to him.

”Hi. ”

”Hello. ”

”You
e Arthurus Mercury, right? The new kid? ”

”Arcturus Mercury. ”

”Arthurus. ”

Arcturus rolled his eyes. ”Arc-tu-rus. ”

”Arcturus. ”

Arcturus nodded. Landon then pointed at himself. ”Do you know who I am? ”

”Landon Heartful. We
e classmates. ”

”You
e smart! ”

”Im not a dumbass who mispronounces peoples name. ”

Nova gaped as he glanced at the older Arcturus. ”Savage. ”

”I still am. ” The older Arcturus radiated confidence.

Landon feigned to be hurt. ”Ow. That hurts. ”

”Tough it out. ”

Landon started pouting. He then noticed the book Arcturus was reading and became surprised. ”Wait, are you reading FMG? ”

”I am. ”

Nova turned to the adult Arcturus and asked, ”Whats FMG? ”

”Its a popular book series. FMG is the abbreviation for Full Moon Games. Its about six people cursed by a sorceress. In order to lift it, they need to kill each other using the powers they are cursed with that only activate under a full moon. There are six books in total. ”

Landon soon became excited. ”What book are you on? ” He quickly clammed up when a passing librarian gestured him to lower his voice; he repeated his question in a whisper.

”This is the third one. ” Arcturus responded back using the same tone.

”Whos your favorite character? ”

”Kagami. ”

Landon looked intrigued. ”Kagami? Interesting. So you
e fond of characters who are determined to achieve their goals—the ones that can be seen as either heroic or villainous. ”

”I guess. ”

”Mine is Rakeji. I like his dedication to keep going despite his amnesia. ”

Nova started sputtering and held back his laughter. ”Rakeji? What kind of name is that? Its so dumb! Who comes up with such a name? ”

Arcturus furrowed his eyebrows. ”Please respect the authors naming choices. She had stated she was drunk when she came up with these names. ”

”So she has more dumb-named characters? ”

”That depends on what your opinion on dumb is. Some people find their names pretty. ”

Nova realized how insensitive he was, so he clammed up and turned around. Arcturus was surprised. I never knew Nova could be like this too. I thought he was always crass.

”Rakeji is a nice character too. ”

Landon seemed rather pleased with Arcturuss responses. His countenance became plastered with a playful smirk as he feigned a thinking pose. ”My detectives instincts tell me you
e a bookworm. You must like books in general. You
e always carrying one around at school. ”

Arcturus was flabbergasted at first, but he realized Landon was just being goofy; he decided to answer kindly rather than his usual snaps. ”I do. ”

Landon seemed happy. ”Can you tell me what other books you like? I want to get to know you more. ”

The young Arcturus raised an eyebrow. Why? He wanted to say it aloud too, but decided against it. Instead, he was eager. He always wanted someone to talk with, especially if it was about books.

”I also like Souhaits Lore. ”

Landon seemed intrigued. He started to ponder. ”Thats the fairy tale, right? I never read it myself, but I do know about it. ”

”Folk tale. ”

”Right. ” Landon quickly got up and approached a passing librarian. He then followed her to an aisle; he came back five minutes later with a large book in hand. He then sat back in his seat and showed off the book he found to Arcturus.

Arcturus read aloud, ”Souhaits Lore: The Folklore of the Worlds Creation. Its written by the Loreseer. ”

”Apparently, this is the recent edition. ”

”The title sure is different. ” The young Arcturus then took out his own copy of the lore from his backpack that rested next to his chair leg and showed it off to Landon. ”This is the edition I have. ”

Landon became surprised at its condition. ”You sure…read it a lot. ”

”It is old, after all. ”

Landon opened his copy and started reading it to himself. Arcturus had honestly never read a recent copy of the lore. Curious about how the newer edition seemed, he put his copy aside and peered over to Landon. ”Do you mind if we read together? ”

Landon slightly gaped, but smiled. ”Sure. ” He pushed the book towards the middle, so both could read it. Since the young Arcturus was reading with his mind, the older one could hear what he was reading; his face sullened as his past self kept reading. He then noticed his younger selfs face contorting into confusion.

”Is something the matter? ” Landon inquired. His interests became piqued. ”It must be a mystery. Lets solve it! ”

Arcturus scooped up his copy of the book and skimmed towards the page with the problem he had; he rested his index finger on it. ”Here. Your copy says that Souhait granted the wish of a woman who wanted to live on forever, but my copy says that he granted the wish of a father that had a sick child. ”

Landon furrowed his eyebrows. ”How interesting. ”

They spent a lot of time skimming through the two books and even found previous copies in the library and searched through them as well; the young Arcturus came to learn that the recent copies were all different from his, despite them all being written by the same person—the Loreseer.

What could this mean? The young Arcturus pondered. A conclusion came to him: the Loreseer was trying to change history.

The older Arcturus stated to Nova, ”From what I remembered, my copy of the book was around four hundred years old—a very old tome. Seeing how there was a difference in centuries, I knew that my copy was one of the few original copies that existed long ago. I also concluded that the Loreseer might be another person because no Ilacian have been recorded to live for over four centuries—the maximum was almost three hundred years. Thats why I concluded the Loreseer must be multiple people taking on the same pseudonym. ”

Nova was intrigued. He inquired, ”Then, which version do you think is the most accurate? ”

”Mine, of course. You had asked me if I knew everything. I know everything. I know that the modern editions of the lore are lies and that the modern Loreseer is a liar. The world is fed these lies and people believe it because they are afraid. If people are afraid, they turn to anything to stabilize themselves. Thats why this world is in this state. Everyone is afraid, so it poisons their mind and makes them irrational. I want to change this world! ”

Arcturus then noticed Novas sad smile as he stood up from his seat and hugged him; he just froze.

”What are you doing? ”

”Im hugging you. ”

”You sure do like touching people. ”

”Its a habit. Also, I only touch those I like. ”

The discomfort he usually had with Novas physical contact wasn as apparent now that he has gotten used to it. For someone so slender, Novas grip was quite tight; it made him wonder why he hugged in such a way. Knowing that Nova liked him warmed his heart, despite them just meeting each other.

He wanted to hug back, but he felt slightly awkward at the thought; instead, he scanned his surroundings as a distraction. He noticed his younger self calling out to Landon and thanking him for helping out.with the research; he even smiled at him, surprising Landon. That was a nostalgic memory to Arcturus. He had always wanted friends, but had no idea how to make them since they had always avoided him. To this day, he and Landon maintained their strong friendship albeit going on different paths in life; his own dream was to be a scholar and Landons was to be a detective.

The heartwarming scene abruptly ended; the library changed into the black abyss in a flash.

”Whats going on? ” Arcturus asked.

”The memory ended, obviously, ” Nova remarked as he removed himself from Arcturus.

”Why so abrupt, though? ”

”The memories I am showing you are only portions of your own memories. I only take snippets of certain memories and show them to you. However they end is up to where I cut them out. ”

Arcturus felt rather disappointed upon hearing Novas explanation; he wanted to bask into his past memories a bit longer; he missed every single person shown in the memories for they happened to be dear to him. Knowing that certain memories contained thoughts he had long forgotten fascinated him as well; the disappointment he had quickly disappeared.

Nova then got out another glowing apple. ”Shall we move on? ”

”Yes. ”

Nova clutched the apple and the black abyss started radiating alongside it; Arcturus closed his eyes as a reaction.

Loud noises rang into Arcturuss ears as he slowly opened his eyes and saw himself in a large ballroom with a lot of people dressed poshly; the peoples ages ranged from teenagers to adults. When he scanned the vincinity, he noticed musicians having a blast playing the background music and men and women twirling around with each other. The putrid stench of alcohol did not faze him. He then noticed a scarlet-haired youth dressed in such attire as well. This boy was Arcturus Mercury at sixteen years of age; he was dressed elegantly for a birthday party he had attended.

”Is this what rich people like to engage in? ” Nova inquired as he covered his nose at the scent of alcohol. ”Socializing in posh outfits that look too stuffy for them to breathe in while drinking alcohol until they pass out? ”

”Not really, but there was a reason for us to dress this way. Not only was it my friends birthday, but also the birthday of his uncle. His uncle was the reason why there were so many people here and why we had to dress up in formal outfits—he had a weird obsession with formalities. ”

”That uncle sounds rather kooky. ”

”Hes a riot. ” Arcturus then pointed towards an intoxicated, bespectacled man dressed in a bright orange suit flirting with women as he kept drinking. His most noticeable trait was his thick-rimmed glasses that looked way too big on his face.

”Im actually surprised hes allowed to host a party with minors in the vicinity. ”

”The Galatica family is very wealthy, so they like to live their life freely; they like to call themselves open-minded. The head is the wealthiest information broker in the world. He is this mans older brother and that boys father. ” He then gestured over to a boy in a wheelchair, chatting with Landon, a girl with a daffodil hairband, and his sixteen-year-old self.

Nova seemed surprised. ”You managed to get some friends. How wonderful. ”

”The boy in the wheelchair is William Galatica and the girl with the hairband is Daffodil Henry; they
e my high school classmates alongside Landon. ”

Nova glanced at him. ”You seem happy when talking about your friends. ”

”I love them, obviously. ”

Nova just smiled as he fixated back at the memory. The young Arcturus started getting dizzy as he excused himself; he headed towards the balcony to get some fresh air; the older Arcturus and Nova followed him.

When they were outside, the sight of the city mesmerized him. Lamina was the smallest country in the world, and it showed with how cramped the space between each building seemed. The building designs were very whimsical for they all looked like a type of plant; the vehicles did as well. One man rode on a leaf-shaped hoverboard; once he passed by, more floating vehicles zipped by; their lighs made them resemble fireflies zipping about in the night. This country looked much different than his hometown, but he still found it beautiful even as an adult; he glanced over to Nova who looked as mesmerized as his younger self.

Nova uttered, ”Lamina was always considered a haven due to how advanced it was, but this place is gorgeous. Ive never been here before. ”

”Im not sure about it being a haven nowadays, but this place is pretty. Thats fact. ”

Nova smiled as he kept being entranced by the sight. Arcturus had more to say, but decided not to; he didn want to ruin Novas enjoyment of the scenery. He kept his own thoughts to himself. Lamina being a haven was a thought of the past; he, too, had thought the same initially, but he had grown rather cynical as he aged. He had met good people like his grandparents and friends, but the bad ones kept lingering in his mind; their thoughts had poisoned him.

If I recall, this memory is the one where…he shows up. His hands curled into fists and he pursed his lips; he wanted to maintain his composure and did his very best to do so.

”May I join you? ” A voice called out to the teenager abruptly.

The sound of that voice made Arcturus pile up his rage even more as he sighed and turned around to see whom it belonged to. A middle-aged man with long, wavy dark brown hair greeted him; he was dressed in a white three-piece suit with a pink tie. He had a cane, which helped him as he walked towards the edge of the balcony, next to the older Arcturus; he had heard Nova gasp slightly, but he was too fixated on the man in front to think about it deeper. Anger welled up within him. Thoughts of telling himself to calm down repeated in his mind like a mantra.

”Sure, ” The younger Arcturus replied, albeit confused.

The man took in the breeze before turning to Arcturus and introducing himself. ”I am Nathaniel Hope, CEO and founder of Hope Corporation. ”

The young Arcturus gaped. He tried to do his best to act proper around him. ”Its nice to meet you, sir. Im Arcturus Mercury! ”

Nathaniel chuckled. ”I know. You
e Arthur Mercurys son. ”

Arcturus was surprised. ”You know my father? ”

”We knew each other growing up. We both liked reading about Souhaits Lore. ”

”I never knew Dad had friends. ”

Nathaniel raised an eyebrow. ”Really? ”

”Dad was a bit of a loner. All I really remembered from him was that he liked reading books and leaving the house often. I never saw him mingle with other people back in Plasma; he only talked to Mom, Ariel, and me. ”

”He was very talkative from childhood. He always had weird ideas, but I think that made him special. I liked him a lot. ”

The older Arcturus just narrowed his eyes. His younger self was oblivious at the time, but, as an adult, he could see through Nathaniels farce; his compliment of Arthur seemed superficial due to his stiff smile. Arthur really did spoke little with people outside of his family; his grandparents even had evidence.

The young Arcturus then asked, ”Could you tell me more about my father? I want to know what hes like from an outsiders perspective. ”

Nathaniel started pondering. ”Well, he once told me that he planned on going on an expedition to Eternally where Castle Lavender is said to reside amidst the Eternal Blizzard. He wanted to prove to the world that the lore was once reality and that Souhait really did exist. I thought he was crazy, but he was gone so suddenly. It was as if he was just a figment of my imagination. ”

Thats what Grandma and Grandpa said about Dad, so his words are truth. However, Dad never went to Eternally and just stayed at Plasma for a long time before disappearing. I wonder how much of this mans words I can take in as credible.

Nathaniel continued, ”Speaking of expeditions, Arthurs desire to find Souhait caused me to start funding them for passionate adventurers. I would like you to go on one, only when you
e twenty or so. I don allow kids to go. ”

Arcturus became very interested in said expedition, so Nathaniel hollered for his secretary, a sharply dressed lady with slick, straight brown hair and dull blue eyes. She entered the balcony and handed Arcturus a pamphlet. Nathaniel then signaled something at her, which caused her to scurry out of both the balcony and the ballroom.

The young Arcturus flipped through the pamphlet that detailed everything about the expedition from the mode of transportation to survival tactics regarding the blizzard. Reading each passage caused Arcturus to become fired up, much to his to his older selfs dismay.

The pamphlet says that this is a feat that no one in the world had yet to accomplish. I wish to be the first to do so.

The older Arcturus could only look on while disgruntled. ”Expedition my ass. The whole thing was just some elaborate hoax that my naïve self bought. Its because of that bastard that I got into this predictament. ”

”On the bright side, you met me. ” Nova had on a cheeky grin; Arcturus wondered where all of his confidence came from.

”Yeah. ”

When Arcturus fixated his attention back on the memory, he then remembered something. Come to think of it, this memory was when I met him for the first time.

The secretary rushed back to the balcony carrying an object covered with a blanket. Nathaniel seemed rather excited as she handed it to him.

”I was originally going to give this to Selenio, but hes wasted; Im also afraid of his brother. I believe that you would be a better fit for this childs owner. ”

The young Arcturus furrowed an eyebrow. ”Owner? Are you giving me a pet? ”

”Sort of. Its a new creation that has yet to be released to the public. This is my very first prototype. Take a look. ”

The young Arcturus eyed the cloth and gulped. He slowly reached a hand out and clutched it. The older Arcturus became excited for he knew what this portion of the memory was.

His younger self unveiled the object and became surprised on what it was: a rabbit. It wasn a real one, however; he could see how mechanical it looked.

Is this a Cobot? It looks a bit different, though.

”What is this? ”

”This is a project I have been working on. I call it Project Shiftie. ”

”Is the project about Cobots? ”

”Rather, its the invention of an advanced companion bot—Cobot—of sorts. Unlike the normal animalistic Cobots we are familiar with, this one can shift from animal to human in an instant. Think of it as a way to help boost up the dwindling population. They have all the functions a regular Cobot have, but more advanced. ”

Arcturus raised an eyebrow. ”Animal to human? This rabbit can become a person? ”

”Yes. See that earring on its ear? Press it and he will change from animal to human. ”

The older Arcturus placed a hand to the earring on his ear. A sullen feeling overwhelmed him.

The younger Arcturus did so. The rabbit started to shake erratically; Arcturus dropped it out of fear. Before it landed on the ground, it started to shapeshift. Its legs started elongating and its hunched body straightened. Its eyes pulled together until they were idly resting aside each other. Their colors changed from black to blue. Its button-like nose started elevating into a nosebridge and its hidden mouth became visible and grew lips. Only its loppy ears remained intact as the robotic rabbit changed from a rabbit to a human boy dressed in casual clothing. Arcturus could only gape at the sudden change. As a human, the boy felt very enigmatic; the older Arcturus was instantly reminded of Nova.

The boy stared at Arcturus with his pale blue eyes and forced out its own smile. ”Hello. ” He spoke monotonously, indictating his robotic nature. ”You must be my master. I am 541-RBBT. Please give me a name to initiate our contract. ”

”Contract? ”

”A contract is the proof of the bond between us. If you give me a name, I will instill a contract between us. I will be with you and protect you with my life, Master. ”

The older Arcturus glanced at Nathaniel; a chill went down his spine. He had remembered how terrified he felt when he saw 541-RBBT shapeshift for the first time. Nathaniel Hope was a madman; his invention might have been bizarre at first, but it became the norm five years later. His invention did help increase the population, yet it came with adversity—there was a debate on whether Shfities were real people or not. They had no laws protecting them and people would abandon them if they did not cooperate with their masters needs. Arcturus had related well with them because he was much different from others, just like these robots. That was why he grew to have an instant attachment towards his own Shiftie.

The younger Arcturus started pondering about what name he could give to his new robotic friend. A perfect name came to him. ”Kori. Today forth, you shall be known as Kori. ”

Koris earring started glowing along with his eyes. ”I have registered Kori into my database. I am Kori today forth, Master. ”

Arcturus then became annoyed. ”Don call me Master. Im Arcturus. Please refer to me as such. ”

Kori registered the information into his database once again as he nodded and reached a hand out. ”Very well, Arcturus. Let us get along well today forth. ”

Arcturus reached his out and shook Koris. The older Arcturus remembered that Koris skin texture felt rubbery and his temperature was cold. He then looked at his own hand. His own body temperature was warm; humans in general were warm. Melancholy took over him as he placed a hand to his earring. The memory ended, leaving Arcturus only memories of Kori. His eyebrows furrowed.

”Kori… ” His chest ached. The sadness he was bottling up was trying to release itself, but he managed to suppress them with his willpower. He did not want to cry at all.

”That Nathaniel Hope is a depraved, insane man, ” Nova remarked. ”He created artificial humans to help the world, yet I can tell he has other nefarious reasons for doing it. ”

Arcturus agreed with him wholeheartedly. ”Nathaniel is ingenuine. Hes nothing more than a liar. Its such a waste, given that he is a billionaire and the CEO of the biggest technological conglomerate in the world. ”

Nova then changed the topic abruptly. ”Arcturus, tell me. Do you see Kori as someone whos alive? ”

”Kori was a living being. He breathed, emoted and behaved like a real human being. Ive been with him for five years, so that is just my own biased opinion. There might be those out there who might not think Shifties aren alive, but I believe they are. ”

”Even if they weren created naturally? ”

”Even if they cannot age or procreate, they
e still alive. They
e still people. Kori is like you, in a way. You
e both mysterious and don seem like real people, yet you both breath, emote and behave like a real person. ”

Nova seemed rather exasperated. ”Are you implying Im a robot? Im one hundred percent human. ”

Arcturus shook his head. ”No, Im trying to say that you and Kori are unlike normal people and thats okay. Its okay to be different. I feel the same way. ”

Nova seemed rather intrigued by his words. ”Does your wish involve being different? ”

”My wish is something that I believe will change the world. I have a hunch that the final memory you picked out is the catalyst of why I want it granted badly. ”

The final apple appeared. With a grin, Nova remarked, ”Lets see if you
e right. ” It started shining and the black abyss started shifting its appearance for the final time.

Arcturus was greeted with a strong tremor as he fell back and collided with the wall of the vehicle he was on. He caught Nova before he could do the same. He quickly scanned his surroundings. He was noticed he was up in the sky, meaning he was in a floating vehicle. The interior was very metallic with a lot of monitors; a familiar scarlet-haired young man occupied one of them.

”I know this from your memories, ” Nova stated, ”This is an airship—a ship that can sail the sky. Technology sure has advanced so much. I never knew such a thing existed in todays society. ”

”This is the control room. ” Arcturuss face contorted as he kept staring at the person typing frantically onto the computer.

”Abort! Abort! ” The voice belonged to Arcturus four months ago. He typed furiously on the keyboard; fear was plastered on his face. He kept yelling into the headset he had before he threw it onto the floor in frustration.

Kori then rushed into the room. ”Arc! I disposed of the corpses into the ocean! ” Despite his ominous words, Koris face looked livelier than in the previous memory. He looked so much like a human now.

”Good job. Now, come help me hack into this computer! ”

Kori rushed towards Arcturus. One of his fingertips bent back, revealing a metallic harddrive; he inserted it into a socket and pressed his earring. A holographic screen appeared in front of Kori at eye level.

”Oh? The screen appears when he touches it. ” Nova remarked.

”Its because hes the owner of the earring; I am able to use it because I registered my fingerpint data. Shiftie owners are required to do so just in case if their Shiftie starts malfunctioning. ”

Kori suddenly gasped. The past Arcturus became worried. The screen disappeared and Koris finger reverted back to its idle state. Kori then stared at the past Arcturus straight in the eyes with his expression full of worry. ”Arc, I am sorry. I cannot break the final firewall. Nathaniel has put in a strong code that even I, his creation, cannot crack. Now, there are only ten minutes until the airships core explodes. ”

In frustration, Arcturus cursed. ”Damn that Nathaniel Hope. He really is intent on killing me! ” Fear became plastered on his face as he questioned to Kori, ”What should we do now? The airship is going to explode and we
e the only ones alive! ”

”Do not worry. I have found a lifeboat and placed it on the deck. Lets get out before the explosion consumes us. ”

They scurried; the present Arcturus slowly got up and followed them with Nova tagging behind. When they reached the deck, there was a lifeboat bobbing on the oceans waves; it was tied to a pole via rope. The past Arcturus was amazed with how fast and efficient Kori handled the tasks he did with his own free will; he did not order Kori to find a lifeboat.

”Arc, this lifeboat is only fit for one person. ”

Both Arcturuses face contorted into fear. The past Arcturus knew who was going to board while the present knew what was going to happen.

”You get on, ” Arcturus said.

Kori shook his head. ”I refuse. You need to survive. ”

Arcturus groaned. ”Look. I can handle an explosion because of my Plasmian blood. You
e just a normal person. Normal people can survive an explosion. Thats why you should get on the boat. ”

Kori stayed firm despite Arcturuss protests. The present Arcturus knew how much frustration he had accumulated during that moment. Kori had never refused a command before, so he had wondered what could be the reason for his rebellion.

”Even if you were to survive the explosion, your lifespan would gradually diminish. You could die days after recovery. Im different. Im created. I can be replaced if I die. ”

The past Arcturuss face contorted into anger. The present Arcturus could sense how much anger he had during that moment; it felt like a raging typhoon in his bloodstream. The past Arcturus lashed out; he grabbed Koris shoulders and started shaking him. ”Don say shit like that! Did Nathaniel program you to think like this? Screw him, then! You have meaning. Your life is important! Have more value in yourself, damn it! The five years we have spent together means nothing to you? Are all Shifties like this? ”

Kori remained expressionless despite being bombarded with questions. He reached out and grabbed Arcturuss arms; he pried them off with great force. ”There are six minutes left. You need to survive. ”

The past Arcturus wanted to retort but did not. He had known that he would be the one to survive; it aggravated him because he did not want to lose Kori—he was important to him.

”Arcturus, ” Kori gave him a sullen smile. ”If you don mind, can I rummage into your satchel for a second? ”

Arcturus gave him his bag; Kori quickly got out the old book and handed back the book. Arcturus was very confused. ”Why did you take that out? ”

”Nathaniel lured you into this trap by feeding you lies about this lore. You love this lore very much. You know all of it without the need to read the contents. It connects you to your father and your friends. However, that connection can be a weakness. You
e so bound to this book—you
e like a slave to it. I want you to be free. Be free to make your own choices. Be free to decide on whether or not the lore or Souhait is real even if you reach Castle Lavender. Be yourself. The way you are now, I like that most about you. ”

”Kori… ” Arcturus did his best to hold back his tears.

”Let me die with this book. Its important to you, but its only an object. I want to die with a part of you with me. ”

He then removed his earring and handed it to Arcturus. ”Here. Take this with you. For us Shifties, our earrings are our life source. It helps us function our movements from animal to human and gives us access to all sorts of devices even if we are separated. Think of it as carrying a part of me with you. Im sure it can help you tremendously in the future. ”

Arcturus clutched onto it as he gritted his teeth. He slung his bag over his shoulders.

”Three minutes left. Arcturus, please prove to the world that Souhait is real. Please prove to society that you have a place here. Make it so that we anomalies can live peacefully. Go get your wish granted. ”

Arcturus took one final forlorn look at Kori and rushed towards the edge of the dock. He took a deep breath and yelled ”Thank you, Kori! ” as he climbed and jumped out of the dock and onto the ocean; the present Arcturus and Nova followed, but they immediately swam to the boat while the past Arcturus struggled. They sat on either ends as they witnessed Arcturuss past self in the sea.

The present Arcturus remembered how cold the water was. No such coldness could be described in words. He remembered how much strength he had to muster in order to move his limbs to swim; he didn want Koris sacrifice to be in vain. Enduring the freezing water was something he did not want to remember a second time. He felt chills down his spine when he remembered how cold he had been. The water was cold, but climbing up the boat and being drenched in water in the cold wind was more excruciating.

Once he got on the boat, he shivered for a brief moment before he covered his ears as the airship exploded. The rope incinerated, separating him from the explosion site. The boat started drifting away, and he couldn go back for the noise left his ears numb; he curled up in order to withstand the pain. The present Arcturus could only watch his past self with a sullen countenance.

Suddenly, the surroundings changed; the explosion sight was gone and the boat was in the middle of the ocean. The present Arcturus started scanning the vicinity.

”I fast-forwarded your memory. ” Nova said as he had his hands in a snapping gesture. ”With a snap of a finger, I can fast forward or rewind your memories. ” He snapped to show an example. He snapped once to go back to the scene where the airship exploded and then snapped again to show their current location—the middle of the ocean. The emptiness made Arcturus remember how empty he had felt too; there were no animals or land at sight.

The past Arcturus was trembling. He was doing his best to stay warm by igniting matches; he gathered several matches and then lit one of them to make a makeshift campfire. The warmth was only minimal as the cold still dominated; his teeth slightly clattered.

Am I going to die here? Am I going to waste my lifespan healing myself from hypothermia?

His lips curled into a smile; instead of clattering teeth, he heard silence. The silence was then broken by forced laughter. ”I see now. This is Nathaniels ultimatum, isn it? Regardless of the circumstance, he wants me dead cold and alone. How cruel. Does he really hate Dad so much? ” His laughter, soft at first, gradually grew louder; the present Arcturus felt a chill down his spine as he witnessed his past selfs countenance contorting into a hysterial one.

A plethora of negative thoughts swirled his mind, Nathaniel Hope, I hope your company goes bankrupt! Curse you and your lineage for all eternity! A bastard like you doesn deserve to live! The cold was making his head ache, yet his pain was not of any concern.

The present Arcturus shuddered at his own thoughts as they became darker. It pained him to rehash the darkest moments of his life—the moment where the passionate and innocent him became the weary and emotionally unstable man he is today. He wanted to avoid it, yet knew Nova wouldn allow it.

”According to your memories, you were supposed to arrive in Eternally in a month, but it took you an additional three months to arrive due to the lifeboat, ” Nova remarked. ”It was all because of Nathaniel, wasn it? He had deceived you about being close to your father and made you trust him. He hated Arthur and since he had disappeared, he decided to take out his hatred on you, his son. ”

Arcturus fixated his attention on Nova and not on his past self. ”You
e correct. I had overheard the crewmates trying to sabotage the computer in order to escape themselves and leave me in the dark so that I could die faster. Kori did his best to dispose of them before they could dispose of me. ”

”He was quite the loyal boy, despite not being a real person. ”

Arcturus narrowed his eyes. ”Hes real. ”

Nova realized his mistake and looked away in regret. Arcturus also felt bad for glaring at him. The silence between them became tense; it was hard for them to be the initiator.

The past Arcturuss thoughts became silent as he sighed. He sat up and stared at the vast ocean; the present Arcturus did the same. The ocean was called the Emerald Ocean due to its emerald green hue; it was one of the four oceans of Terrenter—they were all named after gemstones due to their hues being similar to those minerals.

”The Emerald Ocean is always beautiful, ” Nova remarked.

”It is. ”

”Do you know about the urban legends of the four oceans? ”

”Of course. There are supposedly four large sea creatures in each ocean. The Emerald Ocean supposedly harbors a terrifying whale creature called the DEW. ”

”The DEW? ” Nova seemed puzzled. ”Scientists sure a strange nowadays. Why would they name something scary after a small droplet of water? ”

Arcturus did his best to hold back his laughter. ”DEW is the abbreviation for Despair Emerald Whale. Apparently, the DEW is a whale that can supposedly sense peoples despair and attacks them. ”

”Sounds fictional. ”

”Well, it is an urban legend. We have yet to know if it really exists. I didn encounter it at all despite my despair. ”

”That means you
e lucky. ”

”Im not sure that not encountering a supposed urban legend is supposedly lucky. Im not even sure why we
e having a conversation about this. ”

”I just wanted to initiate a conversation… ”

Arcturus couldn help to burst out a chuckle. The awkwardness was apparent, and he found it amusing how they both wanted to start but didn know how. Laughing it away seemed like a good solution too. Nova responded back with a chuckle as well.

Suddenly, Arcturus heard a slight collision noise and looked back to see a wooden box floating on the waters. The past Arcturus had heard it too, for he approached present Arcturuss direction; the sight of the past Arcturus going through his current self both fascinated and terrified him. It felt unusual for someone to permeate through him.

The past Arcturus pulled the box out of the water and onto the boat. He opened it to reveal some items inside. One was the mechanical knife holster he had right now. It was an older model, but it was better than not having anything to protect himself with; the sight of it made him stare at the earring resting on the palm of his hand.

Am I allowed to assume that this was Kori who had sent this to me as a farewell gift and not one of those traitors that had planned to escape with this in tow?

It had been hours since the explosion; Arcturus had missed Kori very much. He had decided to go with his former assumption just to save his sanity. He placed the device down as he rummaged further into the box. There were many jars of an opaque, cubic substance.

”Wow, thats a lot of iridescent ice. Good thing there are also canned food in here. Its not going to last me long, but at least I won die of starvation. Iridescent ice though…Im not even sure if this will sustain me long enough. ”

That was all in the box. Because of the width of the boat, Arcturus had to put the empty box back in the water. He watched it float away further away from him until it was no longer in his line of sight; he then lied down and stared at the sky.

The current Arcturus then noticed Nova smiling at him. ”What is it? ”

”See? I did say you
e lucky. That box came to you when you needed it most. It gave you important items for survival. ”

”Luck isn absolute, you know. You can just rely on it all the time. ”

”I believe the opposite. Luck can get people far. Sure that it can be a fleeting force, but its inevitable. Luck is a factor to why humans are alive in this world today. ”

Arcturus realized Novas words had a lot of truth in them. Being the only survivor of a trap that was meant for him to be the only casualty really was luck. If he hadn stumbled across the truth, he would have died.

The past Arcturus, however, had different thoughts. The present Arcturus could hear how negative his past thoughts were.

Why am I even alive here? Its obvious that Im going to die. Everyone I care about is far from my reach or gone. Moms dead. Dads somewhere. Koris dead. Ariel is in Lamina. Grandma and Grandpa are in Lamina. Landon is in Lamina. Nathaniel is a bastard.

The thought of Nathaniel had made his blood boil; the present Arcturus felt it with his own body.

I shouldn think about him again. He just irritates me now. The past Arcturus sighed as he continued to feel the listlessness of his situation. The skys so gray. It reminds me of Koris hair when he doesn wash for a few days.

Bringing up Kori brought an overwhelming sadness within him; it was a sharp pain poking his heart. The pinch that the earring gave on his palm when he clenched it tightly was miniscule compared to his loss. He reminisced about Koris last words before their separation.

”Go get my wish granted… ” He muttered. Can it even come true? Will it come true? Is Souhait even real?

Doubt clouded his mind. He felt weak and lost. He didn want to move; he just wanted to stay immobile until the end. He wondered where this ocean would take him and if Eternally really was on the map.

”This sucks. Everything sucks. Why is my life full of misfortune? ”

He then reached his hand out and observed the earring Kori had given to him. It was yellow; its bright hue annoyed him. ”Why is this so bright? Its annoying. ”

Come to think of it, Kori once said that yellow is the color of happiness. Did he give his earring to me so that I can be happy throughout the rest of my life?

The present Arcturus felt warmth accumulating in his body. He knew that this was when he found hope in his despair. He saw his past self sit up and place the earring to his unpierced earlobe. With all the force he could muster into his gloved fingers, the earring pierced through; the pain was brief. When he removed his hand, he felt the new weight on his left ear; it was a strange feeling at first, but he knew he would get used to it.

”Kori, Ill keep going. I will get my wish granted. I will prove to the world that Souhait exists. ” He then grabbed his satchel and rummaged inside to find his journal. Before he opened it, he clutched it with both hands. Taking a deep breath, he slammed the book onto his forehead. The sound of the collision echoed throughout the horizon. With determination, he opened the journal and started writing.

When Kori had asked me what my wish was long ago, I couldn answer him because of uncertainty. Now, I know what I want. My wish is—

The memory abruptly ended, leaving the present Arcturus confused. He quickly glanced around the black abyss and then at Nova who was across from him. ”Why did you cut it out? ”

”I already know what your wish is. Its redundant to listen to it again. That applies to you as well. You already know what your wish is. ”

Arcturus placed a hand to his heart and became reassured of his own certainty. ”Yeah. ”

”Say it aloud with confidence. I want to know of your certainty. ”

Arcturus took a deep breath. ”My wish is for wishes to come back to this world. If people have wishes, Terrenter can transform into a harmonious world like it was once in the past. If the world is harmonious, anomalies like us can be accepted. We wouldn have to be discriminated anymore and live as equals with the others. The worlds future would be very bright. ”

Nova stared directly into his brown eyes; Arcturus could see himself in Novas pupils. Novas lips curled into a smile as he responded, ”I like your wish. ”

A strong breeze greeted them as the black abyss started uplifting like it was fog. A blue sky greeted him. His new surroundings fascinated him, so he took a quick glance around. He was standing on a grassy hill underneath a shade of a large tree; he looked up to see what kind of tree it was. He saw roundish, red fruit dangling from the branches; one of them fell down due to wind pressure, which he caught.

”An apple… ”

”This scenery is the true form of your consciousness. It represents yourself deep within your heart. ”

The strong wind diminished into a gentle one as Nova reached a hand out. ”Its time. ”

”For what? ”

”Lets meet Souhait. He wants to see you. ”

With excitement, Arcturus dropped the apple and reached out to grab Novas hand. He then noticed a lavender door materializing at the bottom of the hill. Nova removed his hand and ran down the slope; Arcturus followed. Once they reached the door, Nova took a glance at Arcturus before pushing the door. Arcturus took a deep breath and followed Nova inside.

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