A/N: I have had a severe fever for the last days and couldn’t get myself to focus on writing. I’m getting back to shape now and the schedule is going back to what it was. Once I get free time I’ll add a chapter besides the regular two in order to make up for last Friday’s chapter.
Have a good read!
They ambled relentlessly though the mountain path. An unusual humming sound vibrated in the air. It sounded like a swarm of bees.
The buzzing transferred to the rock beneath Theodore’s feet. It traveled through his body and he felt a tingle that ran up to his fingertips.
Theodore didn’t mind the walk. Everything was irrelevant in front of understanding his past. He had to know how and why his happiness and life was ripped out of him, and after long years of inactivity, he was now taking his first steps toward it.
They rounded the corner and the source of the sound revealed itself.
It was a whirruping waterfall. At this distance, it looked like silver tear tracks on the wrinkled face of the mountain. It was tiered and plunged into the depths of a paradise-blue pool.
Theodore’s emotions were slightly stirred for a moment, but he regained his calm and cold determination instants afterward. Only one thing mattered to him now: answers. The others were left agape though, with Lucy smiling proudly at them. She frowned though, seeing Theodore’s apathetic expression. He smiled wryly at her.
She had been the one to take them here, claiming she knew of a natural paradise untouched by Man’s hands. For now at least. Theodore took in the view. Such a place must be another result of the Freezing and the climatic changes.
As they began to get closer, the noise of the cataract increased. It was growling and rumbling. Then it foamed into lather at the base. The waterfall seemed to fuse itself into distinct threads of watery fabric as they approached. Mia whispered in a mesmerized voice:
Lucy beamed at that and responded enthusiastically:
“You didn’t see anything yet, much better is still coming”
The others smiled at her. Theodore furtively watched Anna Belfry as she scrambled through the rocks. He had to wait for a proper opportunity to approach her.
Anna was a fairly tall girl. She measured about 1.70 meters, which made her the tallest girl in the class. Her brownish hair came curling down a bit further than her neck. She was a pretty flower of the class, with an oval face making her facial features have a special place in it. Her half black moon brown eyes were covered by a pair of elegant black glasses.
She was an intelligent girl with a a very outgoing demeanor. He had never paid much attention to her or to her whole group.
He averted his gaze. He knew enough about manners to not stare at another girl while Mia, the girl who invited him and maybe got a crush on him was around. That would give birth to meaningless misunderstandings.
The sound of the waterfall was cacophonous now. The spout was hitting the cavernous hollow of the pool like a thunderclap. It rushed down the mountain, roiling and bubbling, boiling and churning. The pool fed two other smaller waterfalls, but they were not as deafening.
They walked along the edge of the rocks, leaving the swollen noise of the large pool behind. The sounds changed to a gentler swoosh-plunk and hiss-plop. It was still a salvo of sound, but it had a gentler slushiness to it. The two waterfalls streamed into one infinity pool of bliss. From it, the last spillway flowed, as smooth and fluvial as silver dew. It spilled over the gravelly bed with the honeyed sensuality of a lover’s kiss. It was chiming as it slid, svelte and slinky, past their feet. The chinking, tinkling sound was caused by its languid slickness echoing from rock. It looked like the sleek robe of a water witch as its glassy brilliance pinged and plinked. Its edges were seamed in silver and glinted in the aureate light.
Wonder was on their faces as they took the view. It was unearthly, a paradise on earth.
He felt a gaze watching him intently, and he turned his head, only to find Mia watching him furtively. As their eyes crossed each other, she showed a small smile and turned her head away, focusing on the waterfalls. He then noticed the gaze of Bryan who standing next to her. A buff but slightly short guy, being at 1m65, with short cropped brown hair and honey colored eyes.
Bryan narrowed his eyes and asked:
“Theodore, you seem to be worrying about something…”
He left his words there, trying to seem nonchalant about it. Theodore could feel some hostility in his voice. Hoping to avoid conflicts, he tried to divert the subject.
“Nothing important”. He could feel the gazes of the group gathering on him. “You guys seem very close. Since when do you hang together?”
They all looked at each other for a moment. Wry smiles appeared on their faces. Three girls and two guys, him not included. It was Anna who answered:
“We’re all childhood friends. After the fire had hit the city when we were ten, we had ended up living all close to each other, and things went up from there”
Theodore widened his eyes. Many people had new homes after the disaster that had hit the city. What surprised him was that they had let him join them even though he was close to a stranger to their little closed group.
They had been his classmates for two years now, and he had always seen them together, and never did someone get inside their circle. At least in his knowledge. He hadn’t paid a lot of attention to them in the past.
A smile appeared on his face as he looked at Anna. His social skills sucked. He had to find a way to gain her trust. He answered absentmindedly:
“That’s nice, staying close since childhood. It’s rare”
His childhood friends had completely forgot about him that day, like every single person in the city did. Except Eduard, he reminded himself.
Lucy looked at her watch, and with a giggle she said:
“Brace yourself, it’s time”
Just then, the sun came out from between clouds. Its rays caught the watery slide, giving it a trance-like quality. It turned it a-glitter, like shreds of silky silver. The airy sparkling of its spray was magical. It looked like a spritz of fairy dust, flickering in the slanted light. It had the dreamy and illusory facade of a Renaissance painting and the same shimmering sorcery a mirage brings. The drizzling spray created a filmy mystique above the pool, dazzling even Theodore with its beauty. It gurgled from the depths and tinkled on the surface, swishing with a sylph-like melody.
He could only watch agape the scenery, the others mirroring his expression. It was beyond wondrous. For a moment, he felt like he had been missing out a lot of the beauty of the real world, always looking for virtual games. His emotions stirred uncontrollably for a moment, as though releasing all the pent up lassitude he had amassed lately.
He wished he could have visited this place with his parents. A single tear twinkled out of one of his eyes unknowingly, before he blinked his eyes in haste, uncomprehending the show of emotions. He turned his head toward them, hoping nobody had seen him. His hopes crashed, as all their confused and surprised eyes were fixed on him.
‘Shit’. He muttered in his head.
Lucy was the first to break the silence, letting out a surprised laughter and saying:
“So the iceberg finally shows some emotion. I thought you were already a lost case”
The others chuckled, still surprised. Theodore lifted a brow as he retorted incredulously:
Bryan explained sarcastically:
“You never take the initiative in interaction with people, and even when people take the initiative, your response is cold and dismissive. I think you can teach an iceberg about what the word cold really means”
Theodore frowned. He could feel the not so subtle hostility in these words, and couldn’t keep backing off. He shouldn’t create problems with this group, he reminded himself.
“Bryan, you shouldn’t put it that way. It’s not that bad”. Lucy retorted with a small frown.
Bryan was about to open his mouth, when the hand of his friend Gary clamped on his shoulder. He then closed his mouth and slightly bent his head.
Gary was the nice guy of the group. Tall, with a lithe athletic body and a very charismatic personality, even Theodore had a good impression of him.
Mia caught the sleeve of his shirt, asking him with worried eyes:
“Is there something wrong?”
Theodore looked at her with kind eyes, and showed a small smile. He was thankful for her worry. His problems had nothing to do with them though, and thus he answered:
“It turned out more beautiful than expected”. He flashed a smile at Lucy, who beamed with pride, before looking at Mia’s eyes. “Thanks for inviting me”
Mia smiled prettily, her face full of contentment. Theodore noticed the annoyed frown that crossed Bryan’s face as he looked at their exchange. He sighed. It was obvious now that Bryan got some liking toward Mia.
He hoped he won’t be involved in such a drama.
Lucy clapped his hands, getting their attention. She then said:
“Enough with the blabbering. There’s a small wooden house some paces of here. Let’s get there first before the useless banter”
Her words gave them some relief, as they were tired from the mountain climb. Theodore asked:
“The wooden house is owned by your family?”
Lucy hesitated for a little while before answering:
“It’s my father’s house… He built it a year ago to have his vacations here”
Gary continued after her:
“Her father is a geologist and weather forecast. He got quite the reputation around here. I’m very surprised you don’t know about him”
Theodore only blinked his eyes at them. This was interesting to know.
“Um…” Lucy started, getting his attention. “I hope you won’t tell anyone about this place, else my father will kill me”
Theodore lifted a brow at her. She was stating the obvious. He remembered that he was a stranger to this group. It was only natural they wouldn’t trust his natural judgment this soon.
“Don’t worry about it. Nobody will know”
As they walked further inside a maze of small caverns full of pooling crystal clear water, they made it to a small wooden cabin.
Sighs of relief were released by them as they all fell down, sitting either on the ground or on rocks. A refreshing smell was in the air, purifying their lungs and slowly energizing them. It was very different from the polluted air of the city.
Lucy went inside the cabin and took out a rocking chair. As everybody eyed her enviously, she sat on it, grinning at them gleefully. Mia played with her thumbs as she asked:
“Aren’t there more chairs for us”
Lucy replied with faked nonchalance:
“No, rocks are enough for you plebeians”
She added a dismissive wave of her hand for dramatic effect. In that same moment Anna got out of the cabin carrying a wooden stool under their wide expressions of surprise, as nobody had seen her get in. Anna then said with an apathetic expression:
“You will find more stools inside”
She then ignored their gazes and sat down on her stool. She fixed Theodore for a moment, a profound look in her eyes, before turning around. The others scrambled inside the cabin looking for stools, while Lucy mumbled something about the stools being meant for other uses.
Theodore looked with the side of his eyes at Anna, wondering about how to approach her subtly, before getting a stool for himself.
As he settled down, a hand gripped his shoulder. Lifting his head, he saw Gary smiling at him amiably. He lifted a brow quizzically and Gary started:
“What game are you playing right now?”
Theodore frowned, finding the question abrupt and a bit suspicious, considering the last events related to Origin. Before he could think of a reply, Bryan exclaimed, exasperated:
“Are you going to start about games again? Can’t you enjoy the moment properly?”
Lucy chuckled and said:
“Leave him be Bryan, Gary doesn’t always get to talk so closely to our virtual games star”. She noticed the confused expression on Theodore’s face, and she said, incredulity in her voice: “Theodore, you do realize that you’re famous in the local gaming community right?”
He stayed silent for some instants, before slowly nodding his head. While he didn’t think even his classmates would notice him, he had indeed gotten some fame in gaming, as he sometimes uploaded videos of his some of his quests.
He turned his head toward Gary and asked him his same question:
“What games do you play?”
Gary appeared embarrassed for a moment, which was uncharacteristic of him. He then finally said:
“I played Yggdrasil and other similar games before, but right now I was thinking if… If you could recommend a good game for me”. He stopped to think for a moment, seeming unsure of himself, before finally adding: “Or you can just tell me what game you are playing now. It would be a pleasure to play the same game”
Theodore ignored most of his words, only Yggdrasil registering in his mind. It brought many memories back to his mind, some good and some bad. His right hand unconsciously scratched his left arm, his expression one of reminiscence.
After mere moments, he snapped back to reality, and looked at the whole group. Gary was still looking at him expectantly. Lucy appeared to be paying some bit of attention to their conversation. Mia was engaged in a discussion with Bryan, though she sometimes would look furtively at Theodore. Anna seemed lost in thought as she looked at the waterfalls. He asked a question that had suddenly appeared in his mind:
“Do you guys all play virtual games?”
Gary, surprised at the question, shared a look with Lucy and then answered:
“Just some of us”. He waved his hand toward Lucy. “She is a dabbler. She played a few games, so she got the basics at least”. He chuckled as he pointed at Bryan and Mia, adding in a low voice. “Those two doesn’t seem very interested in games, though I can bet there won’t be long before Mia gets interested”
Theodore nodded his head, not reacting to Gary’s subtle hints about Mia’s feelings for him. Gary dropped his head disappointedly and then continued:
“And then there’s Anna. She only started playing her first game some months ago, so I don’t know whether to call her a dabbler. Her choice of the game though…” Gary cringed. “I don’t know if you heard about it, but she started playing a hardcore game called Origin even though she has zero experience about games”
Theodore’s mind went numb. Anna, daughter of an executive of Arason, was playing Origin.
He was sure it wasn’t a coincidence.
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