Dare Days

June 2, 2017
By MissZillions BRONZE, Classified, Other
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MissZillions BRONZE, Classified, Other
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Favorite Quote:
"Fill the paper with the breaths of your heart."


Author's note:

Inspired by Celeste Academy series

Author's Note:-

Welcome, readers, to the story of love and hate, suspense and surprise! To all of you, I hope you all have a wonderful time reading this story, where the reality meets fantasy and make both things go KA-BOOM!

(Description)

Not even in her wildest dreams did Katherine thought she'll brought to another world, where sorcerey is rare but element yielding is everyone's speciality. Where monsters roam around freely, but warriors are assigned to kill them. And for those warriors, there are special schools, Impere Institute being one of them - a place where Katherine is invited.

But that's not all. After going to a different school in a different world in a different galaxy, things start to go more crazy. She learns that from milennias ago, future tellers had predicted some kind of 'Dark Days' to come, when an evil soul will rise and take over the world. And when the Protective Sword goes missing, Katherine suspects those days will be soon. And guess what? To prevent causing chaos, a warrior is given the dangerous mission to bring the sword back. And the warrior was Katherine Aeliana de Costa Amica von Aldrich - yes, the same Katherine we've been talking about.

(This book is recomanded for the fans of Percy Jackson, Chronicles of Narnia, Celeste Academy series and such)

Here's a request from the author of this series: PLEASE don't be a silent reader. Share whatever you think of this story in the comments. If you want to complain, that's fine. Go on and complain. If you have some kind of predictment about what's going to happen next, please share. Advises and requests are acceptable, too. So, please comment and share this story with your friends, or people with similar interests.

With love,

The author of this book,

Famita Z

________________________________________

P.S: The story will start from next page.

I was sitting on the chess table's chair with Sam, my close friend. We (or she, I'd rather say) decided to play a nice game of checkers after school. I don't know why, but games in which we have to use our brains makes me relax. Sam told me that this park, Almond Feast Park, have couple of chess boards (with chess pieces) and all the peace you need to play checkers.

Why we decided to play checkers was because I couldn't play chess. I don't know how to, and I have no intentions to learn. Sam tried to teach me the tactics game a lot of times, but I simply refuse. Well, that's me. The stubborn little girl.

"Your turn," Sam said, snapping me out of my thoughts.

I looked at the board. She has moved her knight closer to my pawn. (Pawns and knights? Well, we couldn't get access to checkers' pieces, so we decided to play it with chess') Right. She's trying her best to move her king at my king's place, and she guards her king with either pawn or rook or knight or other. I grinned as I placed my pawn at her knight's place, capturing her piece.

I tutted, grinning. I always win in checkers, and Sam always win in chess.

Sam frowned. "This is boring,"

"You'd say that now," I said, rolling my eyes.

Sam 'hmm-ed' before looking up at the sky. I followed her suit to see an awesome colored sky. The sun was hidden behind dark to light shades of blue clouds, and the rays of sunlight were coming out from behind the clouds so beautiful, I almost took a picture before I remembered that my phone is at home.

"I'm thirsty," Sam declared.

"You better should be - you need some reason to leave the game where I am winning," I joked.

She glared at me playfully. "Oh yeah, of course. Who in the hell can win checkers when you're their opponent, hmm?"

I nodded, playing along with her sarcastic humor. "Yeah, you're right."

She rolled her eyes and crossed her arms.

I waited for a minute, watching her as she stared at the bushes of the park, her eyes unfocused.

"There's a water dispenser by the exit of the park," I informed.

She looked at me and smiled just for millisecond before wearing her I-am-angry-with-you-but-not-really expression again. "Thanks," She said hoarsely.

"Stop being a horse," I made a face she doesn't like. It's always fun to mock your friends.

"What?"

"A horse. You're talking so hoarsely. Or horse-lee, we can say."

She rolled her eyes and gritted her teeth. "You're a very, very bad pun-ner."

I smiled brightly. "Thanks!"

She rose from her seat, gesturing me to do the same. "I'm going to drink water. You coming?"

"Nah," I said, shaking my head. "I'm not thirsty."

"'Kay," She muttered before walking down the stone pavement to public water dispenser.

I watched her go and disappear behind the trees. I moisten my lips and leaned against the chess table. As I sat there, my eyes closed, I felt cool breeze across my face. That made me smile. I so love when it's cool in the end of April days. But suddenly, the breeze stopped. Unnaturally. I felt rays of sunlight coming out of the clouds. The air grew warmer. Suddenly, I felt like summer is here in advance.

I opened my eyes and inspected my surroundings for God knows why. Everything was bright because of the sudden light. I stood up from my seat and stretched, deciding to go check on Sam.

As I walked on the pavement slowly, trying to enjoy the heat of sun - but failing.

All of sudden, a black blur passed from beside me and in to the trees, making a wave of air as it did so. I gasped and stared at the place where the thing went to. Probably it's a dog. But dogs aren't this fast, are they?

I shrugged and kept walking. I focused my mind on the To-Do list for tomorrow. Tomorrow's my fifteenth birthday, and I want it to be so exciting, so exciting, that I remember it for my whole life. I never want to forget my fifteenth birthday. First, I'll do something ridiculous, so ridiculous that I remember my ridiculous-ness for my whole life. Probably swallowing a pebble or something. Second, I'll prank someone important. Like the principal of my school. Or Mr. Roberts, dad's boss. Though I've never really seen or heard him myself, but dad talks about him very much. Third, I'll make myself a birthday cake. I suck at cooking, let alone baking. So if I make a very stupid birthday cake that tastes of poop, I'll probably remember it for a long time. Fourth thing I'll do is get myself -

PHEW!

Another black blur passed beside me, leaving a layer of warm breeze. But it was kind of different this time. It came from the trees' then circled me before disappearing in the thick willow trees' again.

Now this is getting creepy.

I started to walk faster, my sandals making 'click, click' noise across the pavement as I walked. I reached water dispenser to see it deserted. Sam wasn't here. I stretched my neck up, standing on my toes, to see if she's here somewhere. But no, the whole park was deserted. I and Sam were the only ones here. Or it's only me, probably. Sam won't leave me without telling me she's going home.

Probably she's in washroom, I thought.

But she can't be! She hates public washrooms. She never goes in one.

I felt angry. She left without even bothering to tell me. I stomped my foot and looked up at the thick jungly trees' just in time to see a black blur coming straight towards me.

THUMP!

I fell on ground, moaning. The black blur disappeared in the trees' again. But then my eyes widened. Oh. My. God. What's going on? What's that thing? Why it felt so...rough?

Panic surged in me. I gulped before jumping on my foot and running towards the exit.

You can't overrun me.

I jumped, startled. I heard a voice. A male voice, but not human at all. It felt as if a couple of hissing voices are combined to make that voice. Now, I knew that something really bad is going to happen. I ran as if my foot was on fire.

I heard a combined set of hissing, and with a shudder I realized it was that - that thing. It was chuckling.

My eyes widened, but that didn't stop me. I ran and ran hard. I saw the exit. Only at a little distance. I knew I'd reach it in fifteen seconds, fourteen, thirteen, twelve, eleven, ten, nine, eight, seven, and six.... I was almost there. Just a bit is left.

I heard the creature behind me also running straight at my back. Come on, I can do this!

Three seconds, two...one!

PISSSSS!!!

I stopped so suddenly, I almost fell. I took deep gulps of air. My lungs hurt. Why I stopped? Because of mist.

Out of thin line of air, there was suddenly green mist spreading from the doors of exit. It smelled so foul, I knew that it was poisonous.

If you try getting out, the voice said. What will get out of this place will be your skeleton. My mist holds deadly poison.

I panted, panicked. Behind me, the creature didn't stopped following. It was coming slowly behind me, but I refused to look. The mist - Poison - was spreading as fast as a cyclone. It covered all the area I could use to get out of the park. It was so thick, that nobody outside could see me, and I couldn't see them. I doubted they can hear me at all. I was trapped.

I took a deep breath and struggled to stand straight with these all-so-sudden-weakened-legs-which-resembles-jelly-now. Then I turned around.

And screamed.

The thing before me...It was HORRIBLE! It was enormous as a rhinosaur with thick, black whiskers on its body. It had blood-shot eyes and so pointed fangs, that needle looks nothing compared to it. Dark yellow horns started from its neck, going down to the point where its tail was starting. But most horrible was its tail. Darkest shade of black, the thick tail narrowed in to trident at the end of the tail. A sharp, pointed trident, with a blue colored something (that looked very dangerous) crackling on the sharp ends. Electricity.

"W-W-What...W-What are y-you?!" I stammered, shivering like a leaf.

It chuckled and said, Your worst nightmare.

Then it charged, roaring, with the electric tail pointed straight on me. And it was unbelievably fast.

I yelled and ducked behind the nearest thing I saw - a fountain. Suddenly, there was a shadow above me and something behind me landed with a THUD. I widened my eyes as I realized that the creature had jumped over the fountain, and was currently standing beside me.

I kept yelling as I ran with my full speed - which was a snail's speed in front of the creatures.

"ROARRR!!" The creature yelled as it came running after me.

I heard the crackling of its electric tail right behind me, signaling that the thing was close.

Think, girl. Think, I told herself.

An idea plopped in my head, but it was as stupid as the name 'stupid' is itself.  I turned towards the woods, then towards the stone path again, then woods and then stone path. I heard zigzagging could slow big and heavy things like elephants down. I wasn't sure it will work for the current thing behind me.

It growled dangerously - in frustration, probably. Fortunately, it slowed down a bit. But not enough to not to eject me with electricity.

"HELP SOMEONE! HELP ME! SAMERINA!" I yelled, hoping Sam would hear me.

I kept on running. By now, my legs ached terribly. I was drenched in sweat. I wanted air. I wasn't getting enough oxygen.

Like an idiot, I stopped to breath. That was my biggest mistake.

As I was just taking a gulp of air so that I can run again, something terribly pointed hit me. I roared in agony as my whole body went on fire. From my toes to my head, I was shaking. The blood seeping from my back didn't make it any easier. My mind went numb. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't run again. I wasn't in my own control. I felt as if my soul was getting out of my body. My vision went blur.

Then I fell to ground.

As soon as I fell, I knew that it was this tail the creature's got. My body wasn't on fire. It was on electricity. But pain was worse now. My back was bleeding a ridiculous amount of blood. I couldn't breathe. My legs were numb, not responding to my urgent calls of get up and run. I was going to die. Either by suffocation, because of having no breath. Or the lack of blood, because I already felt so weak by the blood my back lost. Or by -

The creature raised its crackling tail again to hit me. Or by electric shocks.

Suddenly, I was on my feet and running. I found this by surprise, but I didn't stopped to find out how that happened. I kept on running, though I weakened more by each step I took. I was slowing down.

You're just delaying your death, dear, Said the voice of the creature.

I ran. And ran. And ran. And stopped, exhausted. I knew I can't run anymore. I don't have the stamina. I knew I'm already dead.

Someone, save me. I prayed inside my head.

As I turned, I saw the creature coming my way, electricity crackling. I didn't think I could bear another electric shock. The creature was right. I can't overrun it. I was just delaying my death.

It was five feet away, three feet, one feet.

THWACK!

Something - or someone - pushed me aside. I groaned terribly as I fell to the left side, near a park bench. I ached so bad, I almost thought that drowning in water isn't as bad as my current situation. I waited for the creature to pounce on me and eat me alive. But nothing came.

Instead, I heard a battle cry.

A voice. Not inside my head. A real, human voice.

I opened my eyes weakly as I saw a figure in front of creature, battling it. The figure raised its hand in which he was clasping a . . . sword? With force, I saw the figure cutting off the creature's tail. The creature roared in agony and stumbled back. Dark green liquid came out of the tail.

"ROARR!" It charged at the figure again, but the person was just too clever and quick.

He swung its sword and the next thing I knew, the creature's menacing head fell off. Green liquid poured everywhere on the stone path they were fighting at.  The creature’s body began disappearing in green liquid, before the green liquid disappeared itself, leaving no mark of a strange animal.

The green mist broke and disintegrated, too.

"Who are you?!" A guy's voice asked me menacingly.

I looked up and saw the same person, pointing its sharp sword on my neck. He looked a year or two elder than me, but his face was far more mature. He looked stern and angry. No, irritated - as if the creature only pissed him off.

He was really, really pale. Like paper. He had jet black hair which were messy because of the recent fight. His cold, stern eyes were of the darkest shade of topaz. He was frowning at me.

But then I noticed his clothing. It was total opposite of a uniform, and it didn't looked like any kind of job dress. And it wasn't obviously something casual someone would wear. He had an Oxford button-up shirt on, on which he wore a deep, blood red coat. It was so red and looked so much like blood, my nose wrinkled. He was wearing a pair of pants with it, and golden - when I say golden, I mean golden, not yellow or something - and same blood red tie. On the left side of his chest was a crest, weaved using red, black and golden thread - but I couldn't see what the picture was making because of the cloak he was wearing on his back hid it half. The cloak. It was of red color, though not blood red. Wasn't bright one, either. This red was somewhere in between bright red and blood red. On the edgings, the cloak also had curving made with golden thread. At any case, this uniform/play-costume/whatever is so attractive, I want to get one myself.

He growled, "You aren't answering me!"

"I am -" I coughed, two times. Then I narrowed my eyes at him. "Who are you?!"

He gritted his teeth. "I'm already in a bad mood. I won't hesitate before slicing off your damn head!"

"Why should I tell you who I am?" I shot back.

He glared at me. "Because I just saved your life,"

"I never asked you to,"

"Are you telling me your name or should I just slice your head off?!" The frown never left his face.

"Katherine..." I moved to stand up but flinched. "Ouch."

Somehow, the bleeding of my wound has stopped. But the pain was still there, though it had lessened a bit.

"Are you in our university?"

"What university?" I asked. "I'm in school."

His frown released a bit, but not completely. "A s-kool? That is what?..." Then his eyes widened. "Are you...Are you telling me you're a human?!"

"Well, duh." I rolled my eyes. "Obviously I'm not that beast you just killed. I'm perfectly normal, sane human."

He narrowed his eyes and took away his sword from my neck, sheathing it in his...wait a min - is that a scabbard? "And you saw it all?"

"Well, you expect me to be blind?" I glared back at him.

He gritted his teeth and tightened his grip around his sword. "Have some respect, girl," He hissed. "You'll fear me when you find out who I am!"

"Who are you, then?" Stubborn as I am, I didn't stay quiet. "By the way you talk, you must be that demon's lord or something,"

"Shut up, you idiot commoner!" He raised his voice a bit. "I should have left you dying by the hands of that Wurzen!"

What a Wurzen is, I had no idea, but I continued.

"Well, as I said, I never asked you for help. I was doing well on my own." I said, though in real I was really, really grateful for his help.

"Good on your own?" He laughed bitterly. "You were just standing there like an idiot, out of breath, with no weapon in hand!"

Ouch. This guy is harsh.

"But still," He went on. "If you really thing you're that good, then I should just call another one.”

He whistled loudly.

My eyes widened as I saw something very big coming down from sky, howling.

"No!" I called as the guy laughed. "Wait!"

"Too late!" He called.

The big thing landed beside the guy, glaring at me. It was enormous, with darkest black eyes. It had a set of wings sprouting from both sides. The dark green scales were as strong as rocks. With a shiver, I realized it was a dragon. A one that breaths fire. What in the hell is going on?

"Go on," The guy taunted. "Fight."

"I..." I trailed off, gulping audibly.

The guy just laughed before taking a few long strides forward to the dragon and climbing on its back. "The next time we meet, don't be rude," He told me. "Hiya, Useshtere!"

With that, the dragon, probably named Useshtere, took off at an incredible speed. I looked here and there to see anyone noticing two big beasts, a girl and a boy threatening the girl with a real, sharped sword. No one gave any attention. Then I looked up at the sky. The guy and his dragon were barely in my line of sight.

What had just happened? It happened so quickly...Did it really happened? Or am I hallucinating? I must be.

The next time we meet, don't be rude - he had said.

"The next time, we won't meet," I muttered to no one.

Katherine got over what happened two days ago quickly. And she really thought she was hallucinating, so she never told anybody a thing. Anyway, who'd believe her single sentence in which she'll tell them that she was in the park when a creature with an electricity-crackling tail showed up, threatened to kill her, jabbed her in the back. Then out of nowhere a guy appeared to save her, and after doing so, he called a dragon and climbed on it and flew away. The tale sounds like a Harry Potter tale or something - Harry Potter probably sounds more realistic than her stupid tale.

What happened after the incident was...well, nothing much. Sam had come to her, rushing. She told Katherine she got locked in the bathroom somehow. When Katherine asked her did she heard Katherine call her, she said she couldn't hear a word. But Sam panicked when she saw her back. She insisted on going to hospital straight, but Katherine just asked her to help her go home. Now that's Katherine being ridiculous.

When she had gotten home, mom had shrieked so loudly, she thought that the ceiling was going to collapse on top of them. And you know what she said next? She jumped, calling for her father and saying: 'Raziel! Raziel, come quick! She just...KATHERINE HAD HER FIRST ENCOUNTER!!!' She have no idea what's that about, but decided not to question her. Her mother looked so excited. By the time her father came, Martha had her laying on the sofa, massaging her wound with some green liquid which she said is 'Homurgus, perfect concoction for wounds like this'. After that, she said that Katherine only have to rest and take a few liquid medicines from her, and she'll be okay in a few days. And Katherine was like 'what'? She never knew her mom is such a good doctor. Martha never really told her about having medicines these good. They were actually working. Her pain was gone in a second, as soon as that green liquid had touched her skin.

The medicine I have to drink, though, taste way more disgusting than anything on this earth - even prawns. There's this yellow, gurgling liquid I have to drink before my breakfast. It tastes like as if someone took banana peelings, mixed them with hot onions, added a whole bottle of maple syrup and squashed them together before filling it in this glass bottle my mom takes it out from. The other one is orange, which tastes fine - like oranges. The transparent one, though, tastes more like rotten cabbage with broccoli. I've got to take this before evening.

Speaking of evening, the sun is going to set soon. My mom would be here any minute with the cup of that awfully tasted liquid she calls 'medicine'.

KNOCK-KNOCK!

I sighed as I took the covers off me and turned in to a sitting position on bed. "Come in, mom."

The door swung open, revealing my more-than-happy mother. She's always cheerful, always so happy. Only sometimes she gets mad. Or sad. Her honey blonde hair was a messy up-do on her head, while her bright green eyes were set on me.

"Evening, mom." I said, another sigh escaping my lips.

"Good evening, love." She said and made her way toward me, sitting on the foot of my bed, the bottle of transparent liquid tightly clutched in her hand. "Why so sad?"

I shrugged. "It's just...That thing tastes awful."

She followed my gaze and then cracked up. "Oh dear! You really don't want to drink it, do you?"

I pouted. "Nah. I've been drinking that for...what, two days?"

"Yeah, two days. But the pain is gone, isn't it?"  She asked, concerned.

"Yeah," I said.

"Hmm...” She hmmed thoughtfully, thinking something. "Normally, we have to give you these drinks only thrice a day, for one day only. I had repeated it, in case you felt any more pain -”

"Mom!" I groaned in annoyance. "Do you even know how bad does that thing tastes?"

She smiled apologetically. "Oh, sorry, love. I just wanted you to be alright."

"Alright? What if there's a side-effect of double-dose?!"

"Nope, love. There's no side effect."

I calmed down a bit, but kept frowning. "Mom...It was really not nice of you."

She leaned in and kissed my forehead. "Have any letter arrived?" She said, changing the topic.

"Any letter? You expect one?" I asked, confused.

Who uses letters these days? Now, we have G-mail and Outlook and Yahoo and others to get messages.

"Well," She said, her bright green eyes suddenly not looking so bright anymore. "I hope for one. It should have arrived by now..."

"What are you mumbling about, mom?"

She looked up and realized I was in the room, too. Her eyes went bright and cheery again. "All in the right time, love. All in the right time."

With that, she got up from my bed and out of the room, the bottle of medicine still in her hands.

|I|I|I|

Katherine got downstairs for dinner, wearing her nylon 'I AM NOT KATE BUT I LOOK LIKE HER' t-shirt and pants. Her dark, shiny auburn hair were tied in a messy bun and her bright green eyes - which she has gotten from her mother - told clearly that they needed more sleep.

"Hi, dad, mom." She greeted as she made her way to dining table. She gave the fourth chair, which was empty, a glance before patiently waiting for the dinner to arrive.

The fourth chair was used to be of Mason, her elder brother. He's currently twenty-two, off for work. Mason is a cheerful (much like her mother) guy with certainly good abilities. He used to taunt and tease Katherine a lot, but now she missed him. Without him, their house was like a forest without a living being. Because of the work he does overseas, he had to go for two months. If Katherine calculates correctly, he should be back the week after next one.

"Kate, are you feeling alright?" Raziel asked, concerned.

"Huh?" She replied, then shrugged. "Yeah, fine I guess. Just need some more sleep."

He knitted his eye-brows together. "Why?"

"I had been up yesterday night. Had to watch Teen Wolf."

He raised a brow. "Had to?"

She smiled sheepishly. "Well, kind of. Curiosity of what's gonna happen next."

He shook his head, a loose smile lingering on his lips. "I don't get what's so important in that series,"

Katherine was just going to reply him with a foot-long speech, but before she could say a word, Martha was there with the dinner.

"Here we go," She said as she placed a dish of chicken and vegetable curry on the mahogany table.

Katherine inhaled the delicious smell. "Yum!"

Martha, Katherine's mother, made herself comfortable in the seat across Katherine's, sitting next to Raziel.

Katherine took out some chicken, mushrooms and potato in her plate before digging in. She didn't had lunch this afternoon because she didn't feel like it, so now she was dead hungry. Seeing Katherine wolfing down her food, Raziel spoke up.

"Slow down, Kate. You're going to choke."

Katherine just pushed aside his warning and continued wolfing it down. After a while of eating, she decided to ask Martha a question she had in her head for days.

"Mom, when will Mason be coming home? April's ending already,"

"I'm afraid not so early, love. His assignment is going to take some more time." She told her.

"Bu' he 'aid he'd come befor' April!" Katherine complained, her mouth filled with chicken. "One shouldn' break 'is promises!"

"I told him that, too. He said that he's sure he'll come back right after the assignment." Her mom explained.

Katherine drank some water to push her food down her throat. "Why's this assignment so important that he already forgot about his family?!"

"The assignment is important, Kate." Raziel said. "A lot of things depends on it."

"Why wouldn't he just tell me what's he's doing? I've been asking him that question for, like, ages." She whined.

"Oh, but he already told us! He's not telling you probably because he doesn't want you to take tension for him." Raziel told her daughter smoothly.

"Which makes me remember the letter. Raziel, it hadn't arrived yet. This is not right. Katherine already had her first encounter, still the letter -”

"Calm down, dear wife." Raziel said. "It's alright."

"It isn't!" Martha said.

"What are you two talking about?" Katherine asked, just to be ignored.

"Martha, dear, it will arrive by tomorrow. I assure you, it will. It has to." Raziel said, though it looked like he was assuring himself rather than her wife.

"But Raziel! What if it doesn't?!" Martha said, her face creased with worry.

"Then we'll just ask for it," Raziel smiled, putting his hand on Martha's shoulder.

"Ask for what?" Katherine piped in again, only to be ignored again.

Martha shook her head. "You don't understand, Raziel. There are millions of people asking for a place in the institute. Only a lucky few gets invited. If she can't make it - if the letter never appears - you know what will happen, don't you?"

Martha looked real worried now. It wasn't surprising for Katherine - she got used to Martha's mood swings.

A sigh escaped Raziel's lips. "We have saved her place from a long time. We've done them good. For sure, they'll pay it back with good. Now look here, I don't want you worried. I take the responsibility for it. I'll make sure she isn't behind. Just...Just don't worry."

Martha nodded, smiling weakly for her husband's sake.

"Done ignoring me?" Katherine asked.

"Sorry, Kate. But there are somethings we have to keep secret from you. But you'll understand all this soon."

"Yeah, OK." She replied sarcastically.

Martha smiled softly. "You'll know everything, love. All in the right time."

(James Moriaty as Falmes Mortimer)

 

Katherine stirred from sleep, opening her left eye just enough to see the source of noise (or music, whatever). It was her mobile.

More Polite was playing on full volume, set as alarm tone by Katherine herself.

"Shut it," She groaned and said.

However, the music didn't stop until she canceled it completely. She felt so comfortable in her bed, she didn't wanted anyone - or anything - wake her up. A small sign of smile traced across her lips as she closed her eyes again to sleep. Sleeping was never an effort for Katherine. She only have to close her eyes, and the next thing you know, she's asleep.

Buzz buzz...Buzz buzz...Buzz buzz...

She opened her eyes. Daylight illuminated the room completely - someone had pulled the curtain while she was asleep. She glanced at the side table where her Samsung Galaxy J7 mobile phone lay, vibrating. Someone's calling, the vibrate means.

She seized it with her left arm just in time when the vibrating stopped. The unlock screen showed a little message in a rectangular box: One missed call from Sam.

Should I call back? Katherine thought. Why'd she call me when she's in school?

Then a thought occured to her like a lightening bolt, making her eyes stretch. It was 10:30 a.m.

School.

She missed the first period. Probably second, too.

She got up from the bed and rushed to the bathroom, taking off her blue flannel pajamas. Glancing at the shower, she decided not to shower this once. She didn't have enough time. Instead, she brushed her teeth in rush and gargled using her default mint mouth wash. After all the face wash and mouth washing and teeth brushing stuff, she rushed to her closet, putting on a random outfit: Her silk royal blue loose top which had 'NOTHING'S COOL IN THIS WORLD' printed with jeans material on it; Her knee-length jeans; Dark blue sneakers with stormy gray colored polka dots and, finally, her jeans torn-off styled hand-bag.

She ran to grab her mobile phone. Automatically, she pushed the power button on the side of her phone and the light came on. She typed her password (which was 'hackitifyoucan') and unlocked the screen to check for any new important messages. She didn't find any, but she found something which she really didn't wanted to right now that she's all dressed and everything. She blinked and kept on staring at the screen. How stupid of me, she thought.

It was the date.

28th April, 2016. (Sat)

'Sat' equals to Saturday. And Saturday equals to weekend. Weekend equals to no school.

She groaned so loudely, she thought her parents downstairs might come upstairs and ask her what's the problem. She threw her bag at the bed angrilly with all the force she could bother before making her bed.

After folding the covers and placing the pillow properly, she went downstairs to her parents. To her surprise, her mother was in kitchen preparing the breakfast.

"Morning, love," Martha said and gave Katherine a big, cheerful smile.

She greeted her back and kissed Martha's cheek.

"Up so early, Kate?" Raziel teased playfully. He was sitting on the armchair (he must've dragged it in the kitchen from living room), reading newspaper.

Katherine shook her head. "You can't believe what happend to me up in my room. I actually thought it was Monday morning already and I'm late."

"That's probably why you're not wearing your pajamas still," Martha said.

Katherine had a habit of wearing her pajames all day at weekend, being as lazy as a snail.

She smiled. "Guess so,"

Martha was mixing pancake mixture in a large bowl. "I came to your room at morning. You were asleep so peacefully, so I didn't wake you up and left the curtains open."

Katherine shrugged. "Yeah, they were open. Anyway, any specific reason for having breakfast this late?"

Raziel said, "You're making it sound like it's twelve or something. It's only ten, Kate. Not too late for breakfast."

"Ten-thirty," Katherine corrected with a smirk.

Raziel snorted playfully. "Ten thirty-nine."

Katherine's smirk disappeared as quickly as it came.

"Katherine dear?" Martha called.

"Hmm?"

"Can you help me in breakfast? Make pancakes while I boil vegetables?"

"Sure," Katherine said and went to make pancakes.

By 10:50 a.m, the breakfast was ready and served. Katherine ate a single pancake with butter and maple syrup. She had Necter's Orange Juice after breakfast, which tasted incredible to Katherine.

***

(Time: 12:37 p.m.)

Katherine was sitting on the couch, watching the boring show ICarly on Nickledoen. There was nothing nice to watch other than ICarly, so she decided to watch this one.

She disliked Carly a lot, but she absolutely ADORED Sam. In her opinion, she's the coolest teen from the show. Other than that, Sam was also nickname of her best friend, Samerina.

TING RING RING TING...DING RING RING DING. Doorbell.

She got up from the couch lazily and called a little, ''Coming!" before going to open the door.

It was a man in his thirties, firm and strong looking one. He was tall and slim with fair skin and black hair and dark brown eyes. He had plump, natural pink lips which were pursed together. He was wearing a dark brown, professional looking, knee-length coat with a tight same colored leather belt fastened around his waist. He had beard and moustache, yes, but it was neatly trimmed. His beard was so short, it was barely there. His eyes held determination and ambition.

He cleared his throat. "This is Aldrichs' place, I assume." By his accent, he was Scottish.

She nodded yes.

"I'm Mr.Mortimer from The Impere Insitute." He said, nodding his head. "May I come in?"

Katherine heard a gasp behind her. Dad.

"SIR! I've been waiting for you for SO long! Please come in, sir. Please come in." Raziel said.

Katherine stepped aside to let him come.

"Why, thank you, Raziel." The Scottish man, Mortimer, said as he stepped in.

Raziel. He know the name. Maybe they've met before, Katherine thought. Raziel led Mr.Mortimer to the sitting area. From the kitchen emerged Martha Aldrich, who gasped audibly when she saw the man.

"Sir Mortimer!" She greeted. "It's a pleasure to see you again, sir!"

"It's nice to see you too, Mrs.Aldrich." Mr.Mortimer said and smiled.

Great, mom knows him, too - Katherine thought. It's only me who's a stranger to this man.

"Please free feel to call me Martha, sir." Martha said. "I'll...I'll get tea,"

She said and disappeared in the kitchen again.

Mr.Mortimer sat on the armchair, while Raziel sat on the couch. Mr.Mortimer looked at Katherine, probably waiting for greeting or something.

"Hello," She said awkwardly.

"Hi, Ms.Aldrich. Please sit down. We have some talk to do." He said pleasantly.

Talk to do? With Katherine? She said nothing and plopped down beside Raziel, who patted her back encouragingly.

Mr.Mortimer sighed. "She's quite grown. How old she was back then? Six? Seven?"

"Six and a half, sir." Raziel replied.

"Hmm...But she doesn't look as if she remember me," He added.

"I don't know you," Katherine said, trying to remember if she has seen this guy before. He didn't look familiar at all.

"You shouldn't," He said. "You were quite young. Anyway, let's come to business. Ms.Aldrich, here's something Headmaster Garvin asked me to deliver to you,"

From his inside coat pocket, he took out a yellowish colored envelope, handing it to Katherine.

It was a parchment envelope, sealed with a golden (not yellow, pure golden) seal, which was really caught Katherine's attraction. There was a golden sword, it's blade burning with golden flames of fire. But it didn't look like as if some opponent had burned the blade. It was as if the owner him/herself has put fire on it so that s/he can easily cut off opponent's blade. Beautiful. On the front of envelope was written 'To Mistress Katherine Aldrich,' in blue ink with neat handwriting.

She shook her head. Is this the letter her parents had been waiting for? She didn't knew for sure, but she hardly had any doubt that this was the infamous letter.

"Open it," Mr.Mortimer encouraged, smiling.

"What...Is it?" Katherine whispered.

"Invitation." Mr.Mortimer replied. "Or 'acceptence', as your father would say."

Slowly but steadily, her fingers traced the sword in the seal. Somehow, it looked familiar. Where had she seen it before?

"Go on, Kate." Raziel said. "You're making me jumpy."

Katherine nodded, but did nothing. Then, all of sudden, her fingers grabbed the golden sword seal and pulled it off, opening the envelope. Inside was a shimmering silver colored card paper, folded in two parts very neatly. Katherine picked it up and opened the fold, revealing beautiful type-writer words written with golden alphabets. No, that wasn't the ink. The words were raised from the card paper, telling that golden sticker alphabets had been used.

She blinked a few times before reading the paper:

Dear Mistress Katherine Aeliana de Costa Amica von Aldrich,

         I am very glad to inform you that you are invited to spend your next five years training at the Impere Institute. We all will be very joyed to have you train with us to become a powerful Warrior at the Institute, and will be very grateful when you graduate and fight for Asterlemnia.

The term will start from first May, two-thousand and sixteen. It's adviced to reach there before the term starts, so that you don't miss anything important such as Parting and Welcoming Ceremony.

The list of books and supplies are written at the bottom of the page, please bring them with you.

All the best,

Headmaster of The Impere Institute,

Master Jessergal Garvin (Signed)

______________________

TEXTBOOKS:-

1) Sir Diskelgin's Guide To Solutions of Alchemy, volume one

2) Various Weapons and How To Use Them

3) Monsters Known To Kill

4) Basic History of Asterlemnia

UNIFORM:-

1) Summer Uniform:

  i - White button-up shirt

ii - Regular no-color pants/knee-length skirt (Will be colored as house color)

iii - No-Color cloak (Will be colored as house color)

iv - Impere Institute crest

v - No color knee-length socks

v - Silver Warrior-Training joggers with no color laces.

2) Winter's Uniform:

i - White button-up shirt

ii - No color sleeveless sweater (Will be colored as house color)

iii - No color pants/skirts (Will be colored as house color)

iv - (For girls) Silver wind-blocking leggings

v - Impere Institute crest

v - No color knee-length socks (Will be colored as house color)

vi - Silver joggers with no color laces (Will be colored as house color)

vii - Wind-blocking no color cloak (Will be colored as house color)

OTHER EQUIPMENT:

1) Regular training weapon (sword, bow and arrows, spear and shield, etc). IT MUST NOT CONTAIN A MAGIC POWER UNTIL NEXT LEVEL.

2) All purpose notebook. MUST HAVE OWNER'S NAME AND INSTITUTE'S CREST.

3) OPTIONAL: You CAN bring a Companion.

4) You're ALLOWED to bring a few of your belongings with you, like your underclothes, make-up and little belongings. DO NOT TAKE MORE THAN ONE BAG.

5) No-Refill pen.

Katherine stared at the way too long letter. What kind of joke is this supposed to be? Yeah, it's April, but her parents had never played a prank on her.

"I see. Miss Aldrich doesn't know who she is," Mr.Mortimer commented.

"Yes, sir." Said Martha, emerging from the kitchen with a tray of tea and cookies. "But we did it for the best."

"If we had told her, she wouldn't have been alive right now," Raziel added.

Mr.Mortimer shrugged. "Whatever you say. But in my opinion, it was not a good idea to come and live at Earth at all."

Katherine scratched her chin, confused. "What are you guys talking about?"

The way they were using these words...it has to be a joke. But why'd someone create so many strange and bizzare words (like Impere, Asterlemnia, etc) just to prank someone. Shrugging, Katherine tapped her fingers on the table where her mom had now placed the tray of cookies and tea.

"It will take a really long time to explain, I guess. I should be going while you explain - don't like to sit around and waste my time," Mr.Mortimer said, rising from his chair.

Raziel rose too, and Martha and Katherine followed his suit. Mr.Mortimer stretched his arm for Katherine to shake. She shook it.

"Well, congratulations, dear." He said. "I'll be waiting for you there."

"Where?" Katherine asked, now really, really confused.

"At the Institute, of course."

Katherine turned to her parents with a confused look on her face. "Mom. Dad. What's going on?"

She waited for them to jump and shout, 'April's Fool!' But that never came.

"You're not human, love." Martha said, smiling.

Katherine gasped. Not because she believed what Martha said, but because getting it the wrong way. Her mother had never used an abusive word for her. And now, here, in front of a guest, she called her a creature.

Martha widened her eyes. "No dear! That's not what I mean!"

"But..." Katherine trailed off.

"Oh, dear! I meant that you're really not human. And me and your father aren't, too." Martha quickly added. "We're Warriors. It's our job to keep Asterlemnia safe from The Dark Days."

"Mom!" Katherine complained. "It's enough! I'm done with this sickly joke of yours!"

"But it is NOT a joke, dear. You're really not human." Raziel piped in.

Katherine kept frowning, her arms folded against her chest. "Okay. Enough. Really. Let's complete this day normally."

Mr.Mortimer chuckled. "There won't be a normal day in your life from now on, Miss Aldrich. Better you prepare for the 'surprises' coming."

But then she noticed something.

Mr.Mortimer's feet were on fire. Her eyes widened and she was about to jump screaming for the fire brigade when she noticed something else. His feet were on fire, unless that's.....purple colored?

"We'll meet again, I hope. Until then, good-bye." Mr.Mortimer said. Hadn't he noticed about the purple fire on his feet yet?

"BUT YOUR FEET - " Katherine stopped short. Because the most bizzare thing happend.

The fire came up his legs with fast speed and covered his head, then vanished as quickly as it came. Only Mr.Mortimer wasn't here now. He had vanished along the fire.

Katherine gaped at the now empty place where he stood seconds ago...

"Well, It seems like our Kate had seen Fire Transport for the first time," Raziel said, grinning.

But Katherine was too busy wrecking her brain for answers to listen to his dad.

Well, thought Katherine. It doesn't really look like an April prank after all. Martha shook Katherine out of her trance.

"Katherine, my love, go change your clothes." Said Martha. "We're leaving right now to get your Institute stuff. Need to get to Asterlemnia before sunset."

"So...Asterlemnia. It's a world I never knew about, yet I belong there." Katherine said, looking at his father, who kept his attention on driving but was answering her as well.

"Yes, dear. Humans can't see a sky other than thier own. And I'm afraid that you were like them, too."

"Until now," She muttered.

"Until now," Raziel agreed.

"You said that this world...Asterlemnia...It's not very far from Earth, yet very, very far. What was that supposed to mean?"

"That meant, my dear," This time, It was Martha who replied. "That Asterlemnia is not anywhere near the Earth."

"So we're supposed to go by a rocket, right?"

Raziel laughed, and Martha chuckled lightly before answering, "No, love, no. If a rocket take off for Asterlemnia, it can't return."

"Why?"

"It would burst as soon as Asterlemnia comes in sight. You've heard about those stories, right? The ones in which a few astronauts take off for exploring outside the earth, but they never return? That's the thing."

Katherine scratched her head. "This is so confusing. Why will the rocket burst?"

"Sorcery power, dear. Magic power is the problem. It can burst anything electronic except the lightening itself. Gadgets like mobiles, laptops, engines, et cetera."

"I'd hate to think, then, how their world works. Boring it would be."

Martha frowned. "Don't say like that, Katherine. Asterlemnia is a wonderful place. If humans get to know about the place, they'd all leave the Earth to rot on it's own. And, after all, how can be a place boring when it has element yielding, magic, solutions, creatures that contains magic in them..."

Solutions. Isn't that word mentioned in one of her to-be text-books? Sir Disk-something's Guide to Solutions of Alchemy?

"What's a Solution?"

"Humans call it po - oh, wait a minute. Why don't you figure that out for yourself?"

Katherine stomped her foot on the car mat. "How am I supposed to?"

"Well, we're going to Asterlemnia. I hope you learn important stuff there. If not, then I'll help you." Martha promised.

Katherine shook her head. Even now, she had hopes that all of this was just a bizzare dream. "All I wanted to know was that from where will we reach Asterlemnia?"

"Patience, dear." Raziel spoke. "All  -"

"At the right time." Katherine finished. "I know. Can you please explain me something I'm dying to know? If you won't, I'm hundred percent sure my brain will turn in to mush with curiosty."

"I was going to say, All will be explained in fifteen to seventeen minutes. We're almost there."

Katherine snorted and glanced out from the car window. They've been driving for one and a half hour now, and as she looked out, she saw nothing but plains. They've crossed the city limits.

"All I can see is sand." She huffed.

"Mm-hmm."

After fifteen minutes, Raziel stopped the car near an old (and only) shack. Katherine got out and slammed the car door shut before examining the building. It was old and dusty, and looked as if it would collapse any second. Made up of wood, the building had many broken part in it, so anyone can easily peek in. The door was made from glass, which was broken. It just needed a blow and it would fall down in pieces. Just a little above the broken door was written 'Jungleboo's Survivol Shop' in red ink, half covered with sand and dirt.

A wind blew, carrying sand everywhere. Katherine had to put her hands on her eyes to protect them.

"What kind of dessert is this?!" She complained loudely.

Her father grabbed her arm and pushed her forward to the building. "Let's go in, dear."

"In that?" She yelled over the sound of wind.

"Yeah, that's the entrance!" His father yelled back.

As they reached the door of the old hut, the wind slowed and eventually stopped. Katherine peered in the glass door, careful not to touch it. From the inside, a sign hung said: CLOSED PERMENANTLY.

"It's closed," Katherine said.

"I know." Raziel said, dugging his coat pockets for something.

"But...It's almost broken. We can't go in there."

"I know."

"Dad...Is it safe to go there?" She peered in the glass cautiously. It looked haunted.

"I know." He said and turned to Martha. "You've got the Entry Card, dear? I think I forgot mine at home."

"Yes, I do have it." Said Martha as she took off her purse and began shuffling with stuff inside.

A second later, she pulled out a reptile green and golden card, saying: BERRYPOOL ENTRANCE CARD. Except the Berrypool name, it had a few numbers printed on it and Martha's full name, including all of her middle names and the last name.

"Thanks," Raziel took the card from her and took a step forward to the survivol shop.

He placed the card on the keyhole, which had suddenly grown in a ATM-like card slot. As soon as the green card touched the metal card slot, an electronic female voice said: "Welcome to the Berrypool Station, sirs and madams."

The glass door opened revealing a HUGE station. It wasn't at all like what was looking from outside the hut. It was thrice as big as Grand Central Station. All types of people going here and there in hurry. Most were wearing professional coat pants (which were exact same copy of the ones Mr.Mortimer was wearing,) and others were wearing uniforms (Impere uniforms, probably) with cloaks. The tiles were white and polished, and, as Katherine looked above, she saw that the ceiling was so high she almost couldn't see it. At a very far corner, there were counters saying 'BUY ELE TICKETS', and on the other side were counters saying, 'COMPANION/ELECTRONICS SAFE KEEPING'. But then she looked right in front of her. It was two large metal detectors, and in order to get in, she had to pass from those. Beside the metal detectors stood guards in black uniform, making sure everyone goes through.

"Let's go," Said Raziel as he stepped through the metal detector. The orange light above the detector went green and another femal voice said, "Sorcery detected."

The Martha went through the metal detector (or magic detector, whatever) and the same thing happend.  Next went Katherine herself. To her relief, the orange light turned in to green and the voice said, 'Sorcery detected.'

Raziel went towards one of the guards and said, "My car is outside." before walking in the station. Katherine had no idea why his father said that to the guard.

Katherine took a few steps forward and joined her father. Raziel smiled down at her, and placed his hand on her shoulder.

"Welcome to Berrypool Station, one of the many stations which take us from Earth to Asterlemnia."

***

"Tickets for three, ma'am." Said Martha as they reached at the BUY ELE TICKETS counter.

"Names?" The woman behind the counter said sternly. She was an old woman with white hair tightly pulled in a bun. She had a stern yet wrinkled face.

"Martha Miamm ve Zenbia Rooya von Aldrich, Raziel Jesus de Costa Unville von Aldrich and Katherine Aeliana de Costa Amica von Aldrich." Martha recited the names as though she was reciting Bible or something.

The stern lady frowned and typed something in the computer. "There's no one registered called Katherine Aeliana de Costa Amica von Aldrich. Is she a student Warrior who's to start her first level?"

"Yes," Raziel spoke.

"Alright." She said, and continued typing in her computer. A minute later, Katherine heard printing noise and the stern lady handed Martha three tickets which were like plane tickets, only that they were made from silver hard paper. "Ele number five, seats six, seven and eight is yours for the journey. Have a nice time." She added sternly, as if she means the exact opposite of what she said.

"Thank you, ma'am." Martha thanked and took the silver ticket. She handed one to Raziel and one to Katherine, who read:

BERRYPOOL ELE NO 5

SEAT NO EIGHT

MISTRESS STUDENT WARRIOR KATHERINE AELIANA DE COSTA AMICA VON ALDRICH

034E87G284H (Serial Number)

((FROM BERRYPOOL STATION, EARTH TO MIJLOCK GRAND STATION, ASTERLEMNIA))

"What's an Ele?" Asked Katherine as they walked towards the COMPANION/ELECTRONIC SAFE KEEPING counter.

"It's a short form." Raziel answered. "For elevator."

Katherine 'hmmed', even though she didn't understood him completely. They can't possibly go to another planet in another galaxy standing in an elevator, can they?

Katherine, Raziel and Martha gave thier electronics for safe-keeping. Katherine wanted to keep her phone to herself when she's going out of Earth. How will she contact his father if she get lost? But because her father insisted (and her mother said that her phone will burst when they're near Asterlemnia), she gave it in.

They went to ELE FIVE WAITING AREA, and sat down on the seats. Katherine couldn't believe her eyes when she saw that so many people (at least thirty-five) were waiting on the seats near an elevator door which had the sign ELE NO FIVE on it. Waiting for an answer to all of these, she sat down quietly. Tonight, at midnight, will be her birthday. She'll turn sixteen tonight. She shrugged, putting the thought at the back of her mind.

After fifteen minutes of waiting, the speakers announced: "Ele number five is ready for take off. Please be seated."

The people who were waiting got up, chatting as they walked up to the little counter just outside the elevator. People showed thier tickets and went in. When it was Katherine's turn, she showed her ticket.

"Have a nice journey," The man who was checking tickets said, motioning towards the elevator.

She pulled the elevator door open and gasped. No way this is an elevator. It was longer and wider than an airplane from inside, with seats, tables and a few beds occupied with little children playing pretend. People inside were reading books and magazines, and some sipping juices and talking with each other like this was the most normal thing for them.

"Go on, me waiting." Grunted a man behind her, waiting to go in.

"Uh, sorry." She mumbled and walked in, finding the seat number eight to sit down. On seat number six was her father and on seat number seven was her mother. As she sat down, she noticed the girl sitting beside her on seat number nine. She had long dark green locks, with parrot green highlights. Her head was buried in a book with brown leather back.

The journey passed way more fast than she had expected it to. There were no windows, so she couldn't see outside for any signs of Asterlemnia. In the whole journey, she was occupied with entertainment. The MAY I HELP YOU? women were going here and there in rush, providing everyone different things for entertainment. Katherine got different books five times and juices and other treats almost twenty times. Because of drinking so many juices, Katherine had to go the bathroom which was so big and luxury one, she thought it's a royality's bathroom. Her mother and father started to explain her a few things about the Impere Insititute. It's a school that teaches swordsmanship, archery, javalin-throwing and many other weapon using. Besides that, there's Alchemy, Healing, History and Survivol classes, too. They said something about Dark Days to come (someone called Teller had seen the future or something) but before those days come, they had to fight with monsters and vanish them from the world. After they were done, Katherine was more than ever confused and frustrated because of her parents' lack of explaining skills. Everytime they began something new, they explain it  5% and tell how they did this and how they did that 95%. They told her that they were in a sword-fight when they had first met and who won and who lose and blah, blah, blah, but they never explained anything useful.

"And so we married." Martha said cheerfully, looking at first Raziel, then Katherine and then Raziel again.

Katherine shrugged, frustrated. "OK. But I don't think that the entrance exam would have the question asking: How did your parents marry? Explain why did they marry."

"And - OH!" Raziel said. "I haven't told you about the techniques I used when I was dueling with your mother for first time! At first I swung my sword, pointing at - "

He was cut short when an alarm blared.

"The elevator has successfully landed." Said a woman voice through the speakers. "Welcome to Mijlock of Asterlemnia."

As soon as Katherine stepped out of the Ele, she felt as If she’s gone back in 1840’s or something. Everything was so…non-electronic. The Mijlock Grand Station was filled with people wearing different capes, carrying old-fashioned trunks. There were no computers or magic-detectors or anything tech-type. Even the lights was to come from the fire lamps (which were not lit because of the warm sunlight illuminating the station).  But, Katherine loved it.

It was as big as that Berrypool station, filled with weird people to gawk at. A guy from Ele Seven had a hawk with him, and the hawk had a tie around its neck. Another lady, wearing silk dress and a fancy royal blue cape on it, had a wolf with her (hey, don’t worry – it looked tame). Some kid even had little saber-toothed tiger with him. Katherine saw so many weird stuff by now, she thought she’s just going insane or something. Even now, after SO MANY things, she hope to wake in her bed, perfectly normal.

There won’t be a normal day in your life from now on, Mr. Mortimer had said. Better prepare for the ‘surprises’ coming.

They got out of the station quickly, her father keep telling her that there’s too much to shop for but not enough time. Once they were out (the weather was very pleasant; warm sunlight with nice cool breezes), Katherine’s father went to get a carriage. Martha told Katherine that she’s going to love a ride in a carriage.

“You’ve never been in a carriage, right?” Martha asked Katherine.

She rolled her eyes. “Mom, it’s been only two or three hours since I got to know about this…weird place.”

Martha squeezed Katherine’s shoulder. “You’re going to get used to this ‘weird place’ soon. Are you liking it so far?”

“I guess. You can’t be bored here. There’s so many weird stuff to look at, you can never be bored.”

“Hmm…” Martha made a thoughtful gesture. “As long as I remember, just an hour ago you thought that Asterlemnia would be boring. Am I right?”

“Uh…”

Martha laughed softly. “And oh, here they comes!”

A huge shadow covered Katherine’s shadow, making her look behind herself. “Whoa,” A gasp escaped her lips when she saw the ‘carriage’.

It was a Cinderella-like carriage, only with glass roof with a window hole. The perfect carriage was milk white, with metallic decorations. But that wasn’t the thing that had caught Katherine’s attention. It was the ‘horse’ that was supposed to carry it. It was a complete golden horse, with shimmering wings sprouting near its waist. It was so beautiful sight, Sam would give her attitude in just to have a little three-second glance at the creature.

“A Pegasus!” Katherine squealed.

“Yes, love. A Pegasus.” Said Raziel as he opened the carriage door and came out. “Shall we go now? There’s not much time.”

Once in the carriage, the driver (a crazy hilarious middle-aged man with bald head) took off. And what a sight it was when they were up. They must be, like, fifty feet up high in the sky. And not just that, the breeze was amazing, too. Katherine thought she would be dead with joy. The cool breeze kept softly touching her face as she flew in the wind, watching people beneath her. It seemed some kind of fashion, the cloaks and capes. Everyone was wearing those. Some were plain, different colored, while others were so fancy, it looked gross. Some ladies were wearing white as paper capes, furry as a squirrel. Everyone down looked busy. There were other carriages up in the sky, too. There were not many, so there wasn’t any traffic. In Katherine’s line of sight, there were only five or six carriages, all far away from theirs.

If Mason would’ve been here, thought Katherine, both of us would’ve been chanting at the driver to go faster. The thought brought a smile on Katherine’s face, a small, sad smile. She wished Mason was here. She missed him so badly.

Something about this place…the whole Asterlemnia…was kind of different. Fresh. Like, if you inhale deeply in Asterlemnia, and then inhale deeply at Earth, you’d feel like Asterlemnia’s air is far fresher than Earth’s. Like there aren’t any factories or cars to pollute the air here. Then, she mentally slapped herself. Of course there aren’t any cars here! How could she forget that an-engine-would-burst-if-it-comes-near-Asterlemnia thingy?! She shook her head at her own stupidity, the smile plastered on her face as she enjoyed the wind and flying.

The sight down, however, was changing. The big road was narrowing and narrowing and narrowing. Still narrowing as she flew straight ahead. There were buildings on both side of the narrowing road, something like shops or something. The road was more crowded than the one near Mijlock Grand Station. Both men and women going past each other in hurry, carrying shopping bags. By Katherine’s mind, they had entered some kind of shopping alley.

The carriage moved suddenly, causing Katherine to yelp.

They were going down. Landing.

***

“Welcome to The Korkrion Shopping Street!” Raziel announced after he paid the Pegasus-carriage driver.

“Korkrion shopping street,” Katherine repeated.

“Why, yes!”

She turned to Martha. “Isn’t Korkrion an odd name? I’m sure that my mobile’s auto-correction won’t take something like that.”

Martha gave a short but cheery laugh.  “Korkrion is an odd name, I admit that. But I bet that your auto-correction won’t take something as Asterlemnia, either.” She laughed again. “Anyway, it’s the name of the heroic guy who used to live here. After he died, giving his life to save others from horrible monsters which had broken their territory lines and came here in Mijlock, the people here named this alley after him. But that was years, years ago. Now, it’s just a shopping street.”

Katherine nodded, the smile still on her face. “Yeah, right. Now let’s just buy my school stuff.”

“University,” Raziel corrected.

“Huh?”

“University stuff. For Asterlemnians, ‘school’ is a strange word. From age one to twelve, kids here are home-schooled. After that, they get personal tutors. Home-schooled again. When near the age sixteen, they go to an Astewarrior university, where they learn to fight and save our city. There are other careers, too, but most people become Astewarrior.”

Katherine frowned. “Did Asterlemnians – “She stopped short. The word seemed so strange at her tongue. “Did Asterlemnians cheated the word ‘university’ from Earth’s people?”

“We call ‘em Earthians. As for your question, no. Earthians copied Asterlemnians. You see, once there was a time when humans and Asterlemnians used to meet each other. When there was no another-world-secret thing.”

Katherine’s eyes widened. “Asterlemnians used to meet Earth citizens?! Tell me about it!”

Raziel waved his hand dismissingly. “Long story. No time. I will talk about it later. Now, let’s shop.”

The first shop they entered was Mistress Marchorate’s Marvelous Clothing shop. Mrs. Marchorate was a woman in her thirties, obsessed with clothing and customers. When Katherine, Raziel and Martha entered the shop, she jumped and came up to them.

“Whatever you need, I have it! I have it, of course I do! I’ve got all the marvelous clothing from the whole world! Lemme see –“She grabbed Katherine’s arms – “Which one should fit you…Aha! The silver and bronze one! Of course! The ball gown is perfect! At any cost, it has to be perfect! I design all the clothing myself!”

Raziel cleared his throat. “Mrs. Marchorate? Um…We aren’t here for ball gowns, but for – “

“Capes?” She offered. “I have those, too! The ones which are the most furry, and sparkly would fit this pretty lady here! I think that brown will suit you, Your Prettiness, but any special color you’d like to wear?”

“Mrs. Marchorate,” Martha said. “We just need – “

“Oh, come on, dear! I know what you’re looking for! I know what you’ve been through. Going from one shop to another, but not finding the perfect cape which should fit your body, right? Right?” Not letting us answer, she continued, “No worries, dears. I’ve got you covered. Just step through that fine mahogany door and you’ll find yourself in a world of beautiful capes and cloaks!”

“Mrs. Marchorate?” Raziel called. “We’re in a hurry. I’d love it if – “

“What?” She glanced at him if she just noticed him being at her shop. “Oh. Sorry, men capes are out of stock.”

Katherine wished this woman would at least loose her grip on Katherine’s arms. They were hurting now.

“We just need – “Martha was cut short.

“ALL you need to do is go through that door! You want me to escort you? Sure, I’ll be glad to!”

“Uniform,” Katherine blurted out.

“Huh?”

Raziel gave Katherine a proud and grateful look before turning to Mrs. Marchorate. “We need girls’ Impere Institute uniform. For Katherine here.”

“Oh.” All the happiness drained from Mrs. Marchorate’s face. “I’ll…I’ll go get those. If you excuse me.”

As the crazy woman left them, Raziel muttered a tiny ‘Phew!’ “Nice job there, Kate. That woman is exhausting.”

Mrs. Marchorate came back to them with a box. She took the contents of the box out (Mostly no-color stuff) and measured them on Katherine. Now did Katherine understood the meaning of those ‘no-color’ stuff. If you look at them from the corner of your eyes, you’ll see there’s something grayish. But if you stare at it, it goes invisible. The more you stare, the more invisible it’d become. Nice stuff. Raziel explained Katherine that not to worry, the uniform will be pretty exciting once she’s sorted. It will be of her house-color. That was a relief for Katherine. Who could’ve in hell could wear a uniform which is so colorless (literally) and boring?! Once Mrs. Marchorate was done, she handed the box to Katherine, forcing a smile.

“Have a nice time. Thanks for stopping by to shop.”

“I…I’ll come to you whenever I’d need a new cape or a ball gown. Or any clothing.” Katherine said, feeling bad that the woman was hurt because of them not buying her ‘marvelous’ capes.

Mrs. Marchorate’s eyes widened in disbelief. “Really?”

Katherine smiled. “I promise. And I’ll come to you to know about the latest trends and fashion, and to discuss about those old-fashioned clothing rotting in my closet.”

Mrs. Marchorate strangled Katherine in a hug. “Oh, dear! Thank you! Thank you so much for giving me this much respect! I won’t ever forget you!”

“Me neither,” She admitted.

After the crazy uniform shopping, they went to the next shop: Hermit’s Library of Books. Katherine rolled her eyes at the name of library. Library of Books. All libraries are of books, duh!

The shop was a big one, filled with shelves and shelves of books. The whole shop smelled of fine and polished wood.

A teenage nerd called Garry helped them to find the text-books, and to get them to the counter. He seemed more worried than even Martha about if they got all the books they need or not.

“Let me check again, sir.” He said, pushing his glasses back up on his nose nervously.

Raziel looked like he was going to burst. “But Garry, you’ve already checked the list for, like, thirty-eight times or so.”

“It’s twenty-six, sir.” He replied. “My mother used to say that we should re-check our stuff at least thirty times. Can I have the list now?”

Raziel grunted and slammed the list of books in his hand, muttering, “I’m sure you don’t need the list; you probably remember them all by heart now.”

Five minutes later, he came back where we stood, a tight grin on his face as he pulled the book cart. “I’ve got it all, sir. None are left behind.” He said cheerfully, blowing a bang of greasy shoulder length hair back.  “Now let’s get to the counter, and we’ll check all the books again for thirty more times.”

Of course, he was kidding, or else Katherine’s father would’ve blown him away from Asterlemnia or something. Or probably snatched his dark green eyes out of their sockets (just kidding, Raziel would never do something like that).

After that, they went to a local stationary shops for note-books and No-Refill pens. When they reached at Blood & Gorgron’s (that’s an armor/weapon shop), it was closed for two weeks. Raziel was pretty upset about that. He said that he had brought his first sword from here, and so should Katherine. But Martha politely said that Blood & Gorgron’s only sell power-forged sword, which Katherine isn’t allowed to bring with her for her first-year. After all the arguments and discussions, they came up with a simple plan: Raziel will give Katherine the money to buy a no power-forged sword from the Impere Institute’s armory.

That left them to a Companion (Katherine still didn’t know what it means) but Martha refused to get Katherine one.

“You see, love,” She said. “A Companion is an animal 99.9% of Asterlemnians get when they’re of age. A Companion helps them with mostly anything.”

“But what is a Companion?” Katherine asked.

“A Companion is what we call wild animals in Earth. Wild animals which are tame, like wolves, tigers, lion cubs, hawks and other animals. A Companion is wild to everyone else, except its owner, for whom it’s the tamest to.” She explained quickly. “And I don’t really think we need an artic fox running around our house.”

As weird as it might sound, Katherine said, “But, mom, I’d LOVE to get an artic fox!”

Raziel smiled politely. “I promise you I’ll get you one when you pass in your first-year. Okay?”

“Yay!”

Martha’s eyes widened. “But, Raziel – “

Raziel shook his head at her. “I’ve just promised her to get one, you see. Can’t broke a promise.” He grinned at Katherine.

Well, that statement meant end of discussion. After the main shopping, Martha wanted to check out some new cape designs, so Raziel and Katherine were forced to tag along her.

By five P.M, they were sitting in another Ele. Half hour after that, they were driving back home. They had dinner and went to bed. As Martha said, they’ll leave for Impere Institute tomorrow. The thought made Katherine so nervous, she couldn’t go to sleep until it was nine thirty.

Tomorrow will be a big day for her. She’ll be going to a boarding school she knew nothing about, in a world she knew nothing about. Crazy as it seems, but Katherine was excited for it as well as nervous.

It was near three in morning when Katherine woke up, thirsty. Her throat was as dry as a dessert, and she needed to drink water. She glanced at the side table, where she always keep a jug with water in it. No jug, no water. Then she remembered that she had taken the jug downstairs to re-fill it, and she forgot it there.

 

Eyes droopy, she pulled the covers back and slipped in her flip-flops to go downstairs. She was so sleepy, she had to focus on each stair step as she went down, careful not to fall. She was half-way down when she heard voices. Her mother and her father were talking, possibly arguing. Why are they awake this late? She thought as she stopped by their door to eavesdrop.

“But, Raziel! Katherine has to go to Impere Institute today! We can’t just leave like that.” Martha said, worried.

“I know, Martha, I know. Mr. Roberts, we have to drop our girl at the Institute today. What about that?”

“I assure you, Mr. Aldrich, that everything will be fine.” It was a new voice. A heavy voice which belongs to a male. “I’ll ask Garvin to send an Astewarrior to get your girl.”

“How can we just – “Martha was stopped short.

“Mrs. Aldrich,” The man said with finality in his voice. “I think you’ve made an oath when you had graduated from Impere? Something about helping Asterlemnia whenever it needs help?”

Martha hesitated.

Raziel spoke instead, “You’re right, Mr. Roberts. I think we don’t have any choice.”

“That’s right.” Mr. Roberts replied.

“But why can’t you use someone else?” Martha asked.

Suddenly Katherine felt a pang of guilt. She was eavesdropping. She shook her head as she went to kitchen, drank water and went back to her room to sleep.

***

Katherine lay wide-awake in her bed, staring at the ceiling. By the sun rays pouring in from the glass window, it must be ten or something. A dream had woken her up. She saw a creature. It was the same creature that had attacked her. The topaz-eyed boy had called it what, a Warzan? Wersan? Wurzen? Something like that. So, the Wurzen/Warzan/Wersan/Whatever was in a forest so thick and creepy, she felt a shiver running down her spine as she recalled the dream. The creature was licking a rock, its blood-shot eyes looking here and there in hunger. Suddenly, Raziel and Martha appeared from behind a tree. Their clothes were torn, hair and face were dirty and some nasty scratches on their body. Raziel had a bleeding claw mark on his shoulder, and Martha had a deep cut on her chin. Both looked tired and hungry. But as soon as they saw the creature before them, they took out their weapons. Raziel had a long sword and Martha had a dagger, the tip of it white-hot. How, Katherine had no idea. Raziel charged at the creature, who jumped on him and made him fall down. Raziel screamed in agony as he lay on the dirty surface of the forest, the creature on top of him, slashing at his chest with both of its sharp claws. Martha screamed and threw her white-hot dagger at it, but the creature simply dodged and glared at Martha with its blood-shot eyes. Suddenly Martha fell on her knees, sucking in air but to no avail. She couldn’t breathe. Raziel stopped struggling to get out of the beast’s grasp. He lay there, also trying to breathe. His chest was completely bloody, no doubt he was having trouble breathing. Martha was now all grey. She continued to suck in some air, but she couldn’t. As long as the creature was glaring at her, she couldn’t. All of sudden, she fell face-first in the mud. She wasn’t moving. She was dead. Raziel’s breath was shallow, too. The creature tore its gaze from Martha and at Raziel. It lowered its head to eat Raziel. As soon as its jaw touched Raziel’s chest, Katherine woke up, drenched in sweat.

She was gasping loudly, sucking in breathe. It took her a moment to realize that it was just a dream, nothing to worry about. Her parents were probably downstairs, her mother preparing breakfast and her father reading the newspaper.

Katherine rolled out of her bed and went to brush her teeth and take a shower. In thirty minutes approximately, she was in front of the dressing table, brushing her long auburn locks. She applied some moisturizing cream and lip balm, then looked at her ready self. She was wearing knee-length jeans with a long and loose half-sleeved dark red top. She had her favorite red and brown shoes on, and she thought she looked real pretty. She opened a drawer at the dressing table and pulled out her golden and red braided bracelet. It was a friendship bracelet Sam had made for her when they were fourteen.

After closing the curtain she had opened for some warm sunlight, she made her way downstairs. As she descended each step, she felt conscious. Kind of feeling you have when you’re home alone. She couldn’t hear a single voice or noise.

“Mom?” She called. “Dad?”

She descended pretty quickly calling her mother and father.

“Are you guys even home?” She called as she checked the kitchen. Empty. “Look, if this is some kind of sick joke, please cut it short. I’m not having fun.”

She looked in their room, in living room, in garden but they were nowhere to be seen. Finally, she gave up and made her way in the kitchen. Just then did she noticed a note on the fridge. She frowned as she took the magnet off to read it. It said:

Dear Love,

I hope you won’t get too much nervous or angry when I tell you that I’m not home. You must have figured it out by now. But, love, I’m sorry I can’t be home. It was this urgent assignment me and your dad was assigned, and we had to go no matter what.

I know we’re supposed to drop you to Asterlemnia, but dear, I can’t. Instead there will be an Astewarrior coming to get you. Mr. Roberts said that she’ll be very nice to you. She’ll arrive straight at ten thirty, so be ready.

Other than that, HAPPY BIRTHDAY! I and Raziel have gotten you a pretty gift. It’s in the kitchen drawer. I hope you get how it works soon. Along with the gift there’s a pouch with 100 Astercoins in it. I hope it will be enough for a year.

We’ll try to come meet you at Impere if we can, which we doubt. This will be a long assignment, but you mustn’t worry. It’s going to be alright.

One more thing: We’ll only accept the best from you. I know that you’re new to Asterlemnia and everything, but adopting Asterlemnian life-style won’t be hard. You’ll get to know everything in this year. Try your best and get great grades.

All the best,

Your loving mother,

Martha

Katherine re-read the letter. Then read it once again. And stomped her foot, frustrated. She went to the kitchen drawer and opened it, revealing a little black jewelry box and a red pouch, fastened with silver thread. She reached for the jewelry box and opened it. Inside was a beautiful amulet, resting on a black jewelry cushion. The neckwear was of golden color, except the locket which was ruby red. There was a tiny button like thing at the side of the locket, and the other side had tiny, barely visible hinges. So, this thing can open. She pressed the little button and the locket opened itself. Inside was a gemstone-like rock. It was a combination of dark blue, dark purple and black color, with little white dots here and there, resembling stars. Galaxy. This rock had galaxy painted on it.

Katherine touched the smooth surface of the rock. This locket sure was beautiful. She took the amulet out of the jewelry box and fastened it around her neck. Then she reached for the pouch, opening the knot the silver thread had. When the pouch was unfastened, she stared inside it. She saw many little gold coins.

Doesn’t Asterlemnia has notes for money? She thought.

Shrugging, she glanced at the kitchen clock and froze. It was 10:27. She had only three minutes to pack before an Astewarrior comes at her door to take her away. And who knows if the Astewarrior’ll wait or not? Probably the coming person is the most cruel and brutal from the institute.

She ran out of the kitchen and climbed the stairs three at a time, rushing in her room. She threw her closet open, and began searching for a suitcase wildly.

“S***!” She muttered when she pulled out a suitcase. “My only suitcase’s zip is broken!”

The navy-colored suitcase in front of her had no zip and a broken handle. She remembered when she last used it, the time when she and her parents along with her brother went to Paris three years ago. On the way back, she had tripped her suitcase, breaking its handle. The zip came off a few minutes later.

She shook her head and jumped up on her feet again, rushing to the attic. She pushed open the old brown door with a brass handle, making CREAK noises. As she walked in the old and dirty room, she recalled any memory in which her mother had put some kind of travel bag in here.

The attic was filled with cardboard boxes, some labeled and some not. Katherine pushed a few cartons aside as she went for the far end of the room, where a box labeled TRAVELLING STUFF lay closed. She patted the dust off the box, leaning in for a closer look.

Compared to other boxes in the room, this one looked far more new and clean. She reached for the side of the box, opening it up. Inside was some old travelling boxes, Mason’s old sneakers, Raziel’s emergency first-aid kit (which was empty, by the way), Martha’s sewing stuff and, finally, a duffel bag.

Katherine pulled out the duffel bag. It looked new, and didn’t had much dust on it. The black and purple bag was useable.

She took it in her room with herself and cleaned it with a wet cloth, a work worth of two minutes approximately. At 10:31, she was stuffing in her underclothes, some outfits, pajamas, toothbrush, stuff she bought for school (or university, whatever) and whatever she thought was worthy.

“You’ll be gone for a year, doofus.” She told herself. “Pack everything you can.”

After a minute more, she heard the doorbell – TING RING RING TING, DING RING RING DING!

“Coming!” She yelled from her room.

She was almost done with the packing. She just needed to add a –

TING RING RING TING, DING RING RING DING!

What an impatient person, she thought. Quickly, she stuffed in her moisturizing cream, shutted the bag and ran downstairs at full speed. On her way down, the impatient person pressed the doorbell button for three times.

Katherine opened the door to see a young lady of her age, stepping her right foot on the pavement impatiently, her arms folded. The girl was fair, but not pale. She had sleek and straight black hair (with a streak of dyed-purple lock) reaching her waist, on which she had a scabbard with a dagger in it. She was wearing the same coat as Mr.Mortimer, only it was dark purple and black with a few studs near the belt. But Katherine was interested in her eyes. The girl had purple irises.

“Hello,” She had British accent. “I think I’m three or four minutes late. Sorry for that.”

“Um…It’s alright.” Katherine replied, making way for her to come in.

“You may be Mistress Katherine Aldrich?” She asked.

“Yes, that’s me.”

“Good, I’m here to take you to Impere Institute.” She said. “Can I come in?”

“Sure.” Katherine said as the girl came in. “Your name is?”

The purple-eyed girl glanced in her direction before spotting an armchair and sat on it. “You can call me Jelly.”

Jelly? Weird name.

“Is…it your name?” Katherine asked, closing the door behind her.

“Nickname,” Jelly corrected with a smile. “But I prefer everyone calling me just Jelly.”

“Uh, right.” Katherine said awkwardly. “I’ve…got to do some packing. You know, it’ll just take a minute, if you’ll be kind enough to wait…”

“Sure,” Jelly replied, smiling brightly. “I’ll be glad to wait.”

Katherine went up to her room and checked if she’s taken everything. Yep. She re-checked her now-clean duffel bag. Everything’s in it. Except the pouch of Astercoins and…just the Astercoins.

She took a deep breath before going downstairs again, saying “I’m done!” as she did so.

Jelly was examining the LED TV, softly touching the screen and checking out the buttons. When she noticed Katherine coming down, she asked, “This is the telesight, right?”

“Television,” Katherine corrected.

The other girl frowned. “They say it’s called telesight in our world.”

Katherine shrugged. “They may be, but its real name is television, or TV for short.”

Katherine fetched her pouch of Astercoins quickly, stuffing it in her last zip of duffel bag to keep it safe.

“Are you done? We should get going, you know.” Jelly said, following Katherine wherever she went.

“We’re going by Ele?” The auburn girl asked as she checked the kitchen drawers for a granola bar, or an energy bar or some cookies. The poor girl was hungry.

“Nope.” Jelly replied. “I came by Ele, it takes a long time. We’re going to water-travel.”

Katherine faced the girl. “Water-travel?” She asked, confused. “Am I going to be soaked?”

Jelly laughed – a simple laughter of pure joy. “Soaked? You really are funny, Katherine.”

“But how are we going to water-travel without being soaked?”

Jelly burst in a fit of giggles. “Do you get burned when you fire-travel?”

“Fire-travel?” She asked, scratching her chin while recalling the way Mr. Mortimer had disappeared with flames. “No, I don’t think so.”

“It’s the same way for water-travel.” Jelly explained. “And earth-travel. And lightening-travel.”

“And wind-travel,” Katherine said, adding another element.

“No, it’s not the same way for wind yielders. They fly, or they travel using hurricanes. Hurricanes takes a lot of energy, so most people prefer to fly.”

“Right,” Katherine said, nodding her head. She was grateful for even that small piece of information about the world where she’s about to go.

Jelly glanced at the watch Katherine hadn’t noticed before. “We should get going.”

“Yeah,” Katherine said, her heart thudding fast at the thought that she’s about to water-travel.

“Now, listen carefully.” Jelly instructed with a straight face. “Clutch that bag of yours tightly in one hand, and hold my hand with the other. I think you haven’t element-travelled before, so here’s an advice: You’re going to feel a bit dizzy, but do NOT let go of my hand. You will be left behind otherwise. And I don’t want to think what will happen to you when you’ll be on some other planet in Sirius or Andromeda.”

“Sirius and Andromeda? They’re Harry Potter characters, yeah?”

Jelly frowned. “No. They’re the names of two different galaxies.”

“Oh.”

Feeling embarrassed, Katherine wrapped her arm around duffel bag tightly and held Jelly’s hand. Water – came from nowhere – began swirling around their legs already.

“Do not let go,” Jelly warned.

And then the world went apart.

***

Katherine stayed all cool while travelling, relaxing herself as she held Jelly’s hand loosely, enjoying the nice cool moment.

Correction: Katherine was screaming on top of her lungs, her only thought being ARGHHHH as she went round and round and round as if she’s in a whirlpool or something. She began to sweat from top to bottom in a matter of seconds, the duffel bag slipping from her hand but she tried her best to keep the bag near her chest. It was only a few minutes’ travel, but hours spent, as Katherine felt.

How the water-travel works is: The water swirls around the travelers in fast speed, taking them from one place to another in a matter of seconds.

When they finally stopped, they water around them disintegrated and the auburn Earthian fell face-first on the hard surface of the road, her heavy duffel bag on top of her.

“Hey!” Jelly whispered to her urgently. “Get up! People are thinking you’re pathetic.”

“Let them,” Katherine groaned in pain, but eventually threw the duffel bag off herself and got up, dusting her jeans before getting her duffel bag from ground.

Then did she examined the place. They were standing in a big station, as big as Berrypool, with lamps for lights and people in capes and cloaks hurrying here and there with different animals as Companions.

“We’re in Mijlock Grand Station.” She decided.

“Of course,” Jelly replied, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. “It’s where everybody starts.”

Katherine’s brows knitted together. “Start what?”

“Most of the things,” Jelly said shortly, before she turned on her heels and began to walk to the left end of the station.

Katherine followed quietly, trying to keep her mind blank because it helps her calm down whenever she feels nervous. Jelly went to a counter, gesturing Katherine to stop where she is. While waiting, Katherine saw Jelly talking to the elderly lady in white polka dot cape on the counter. A minute later, Jelly came back to Katherine.

“She’s saying that the Impere Institute carriage is about to leave. We’ve got to hurry.” Jelly told Katherine urgently and took off to go outside.

Wanting to question about Impere Institute’s carriage, Katherine jogged out along with Jelly. Just outside the station, there was a big bus, except there were no engines. Tied to the front of the bus was two regular horses, neighing impatiently. 

On the bus, which is supposed to be their ride to the institute, had a big IMPERE INSTITUTE written with fake gemstones. The glittering semi-precious stones looked incredibly colored on the white surface of the bus.

“This,” Jelly explained. “is our ride to Impere Institute. People go to Impere Institute from here, sitting in this very bus unless they have something else which’ll take them to the institute in less than ten hours.”

“Ten hours?” Katherine asked, eyes widening. “We’re going to sit in the bus for ten hours?!”

“Yep, Institute is pretty far from here. It’s out in the wild.”

“Can’t you just water-travel us there?”

“No. It won’t work, anyway. People can’t magically transport themselves at Impere. We’ll end up miles away, and we’ll have to walk all the way then. And even if we could water-travel, I am in no position to. I’ve just traveled from Earth to here, which has sucked up a great deal of energy.”

“I don’t have a single idea how am I going to spend ten hours sitting in a bus.” Katherine muttered.

“You can sleep.” Jelly advised. “Or look outside the window until you fall asleep.”

Taking a few long steps toward the bus, she continued, “We must go in now. It’s about to leave in five minutes approximately.”

From inside, the carriage looked same like any other bus from Earth. Only it was kind of long. Students who looked like the age sixteen to twenty were all filed inside, talking loudly. Boys were laughing and joking together, throwing wrappers at their friends’ faces or wrestling while seated. The girls were all talking in hushed voices and giggling, probably gossiping. The scene made Katherine homesick. Back at Earth, she used to go in a bus very much like this, sitting with Sam in the back. They used to talk for what now seemed like hours, sharing their thoughts on the most silly or girly girl of their school.

Sighing, she decided not to dwell about the past and go forward in life. She took a window seat and Jelly sat beside her quietly, a smile loosely lingering on her face.

The journey was terribly long. After two hours of looking outside the window, Katherine decided that she should do something. She found a book beneath her seat. It was about a boy who, with a whole group, went to a tour at Earth. He got lost there, and the group he came with all went back to Asterlemnia without them. The poor boy (his name was Dakota, by the way) cried a lot and found himself a place to sleep in a cave. The book was amusing until the author included the stuff about humans being so mere and believable. Dakota went to a girl and told her that he’s lost and he’s from another world. The girl believed him instantly, and both went on a journey to come back. Katherine stopped reading the book after chapter forty-eight, because it had turned so boring, and took a nap.

After every three hours, the bus stopped at a small bus station. The bus stations had a washroom and a tuck shop. After six hours, Jelly had gotten Katherine and herself some biscuits, chips and juices. Katherine paid for it from the pouch of Astercoins her mother had left.

Near 07:00 PM, when the sun had disappeared and it was almost night, the bus stopped again. Four hours had spent since they had had chips, and looking at her empty bottle of water they’d gotten at four o’clock, she felt thirsty.

Jelly stood up from her seat. “I’ll go get us something to drink, and probably something to chew, too.”

Katherine started to rise, too, but Jelly put a hand on her shoulder and made her sit down again. “I’ll pay this time.” She said and went out of the bus.

So Katherine just stared outside the window. All she could see were thick trees in the darkness. The small bus station was at the other side of the bus, so there was nothing to look at from this window. But, suddenly, a movement caught her attention.

It was a figure. A tall figure, who was wearing a cloak with a hood so dark, it almost blended with the night.

What is that person doing in the trees? Katherine thought as she leaned in the window to get a better view.

The man in robes’ side was facing her. Not a single skin of his could be seen. All of his body was covered with dark clothing. He even had black colored gloves. His black hood was covering his face. By the way he was standing, his hand bent, it looked like he was examining something in his hand. When Katherine tried to focus on his hand, she saw that there was some kind of oval ball in his hands, with the black surface rough.

What could that be? And why the person is examining a ball in trees, at night? She shivered. The atmosphere wasn’t cold. It was the cloaked man. He gave her a shiver.

The hooded man outside, though, seemed to have noticed Katherine’s attention. Slowly but steadily, he turned to her. As soon as Katherine met his piercing black eyes, everything around her seemed to dissolve. It felt as if there’s a vacuum cleaner trying to suck up her memories like it sucks up dirt from carpets. Black spots started to dance around her eyes. She started to black out. Her breathing slowed down.

In a second, she collapsed, unconscious.



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