As always please rate and comment. This is the sequel to the Eternal Awakening story, and for those who feared that the story had ended, think again! All the characters are coming back as Richard's journey continues!
Richard stood out in the cold snow at an intersection, the Do Not Walk sign staring him in the face. Traffic slogged through the dirty snow covered streets and kicked up slush that nearly landed on him where he stood on the sidewalk. As he waited he raised his left hand to his face and balled it into a fist, reaching down deep within his body to locate the power he knew was there. He couldn't find it though. It was like he was just a normal person again. He was weak, hated by everyone on Earth, and horribly lost.
Two and a half months ago he hadn't even been there. He was on some strange world and the wielder of a powerful magic that seemed to have always been with him, just lurking under the surface. He had friends, a fiancé, and a family. Now he had nothing but a tiny apartment and a horrible high school life that made every day a living hell for him. Some days Richard actually had trouble believing his scary and wonderful adventure had actually even happened. It was just so surreal. But he knew in the back of his mind that it had been real and he hadn't just gone crazy.
It had all come to an abrupt end though and Richard was still trying to figure out what exactly had happened. Queen Lystia had been murdered in an attack on her palace and Lady Aura had been badly wounded trying to protect Princess Reiea. Richard, his 'aunt' Lythia, and his fiancé Princess Daiya had set off to save Reiea from her kidnapper. They had managed to catch up to him but someone else had gotten in the way and Richard and the girls got separated. That's where things had gotten really crazy. The mystery attacker that split them up turned out to be his best friend from Earth, May, and she could cast magic and used the same focus as Richard did; a golden bracer with a sideways 8 etched into it to symbolize infinity.
She kept telling him that he didn't belong on that world and when his friends had come back after saving the princess she attacked them as well. In the end she cast some kind of powerful spell that sent him back to Earth alone, still dressed in the odd clothes. Now that Richard thought about it he realized that both times he had teleported like that May had been in close proximity to him. He knew the first time wasn't her doing as she hadn't cast any type of spell, but it was still strange. It was a question he couldn't ask her about though. When he had gotten home he found that she wasn't there and any time he tried to search for her he came up with nothing. It was like she didn't even exist, which was strange.
To make matters even weirder Richard found that while he was gone his own existence on this planet seemed to have been erased as well. He was gone for a little over three months but no one seemed to notice. His apartment was still there waiting for him and there wasn't a pile of bills in his mailbox. His place in school was also there and when he came back after winter break he found that everything was the same as when he had left. Not a single person on the planet had known that he was missing for three months and the minute he reappeared they treated him like he had never left. Their way of treating him like he had never left was to continue bullying him like they had for his entire life.
So after three months of strange, amazing, and crazy days spent attending an academy for magic as a first year student and the fake son to one of the schools professors and second in line to the throne he was back to his normal life. When he had first gotten to that strange world he wanted nothing more than to go home, but after getting used to that world he honestly couldn't say that he didn't want to go back. But May had probably been right, he didn't belong there. Because Queen Lystia had him pose as the son of a royal so his strange magic wouldn't be questioned too much, Richard had been set to marry the Dark Elf Princess Daiya against his will. If that had happened he didn't know if he ever would have been able to leave and he would always know in the back of his mind that he was nothing more than a liar pretending to be a Lord.
One good thing about being back on Earth was the weather. On the other world winter had come a lot earlier than Richard was used to and after two months there was more snow on the ground than Richard had ever seen in his entire life. The temperature during their winters were also pretty bad and he had a little trouble trying to adjust to it. Being back in Washington was a totally different thing. There was still snow and cold weather, but it wasn't nearly as bad as the other world and all he had to watch out for was being drenched in slushy water as a car sped past.
Richard arrived at his high school and avoided the commotion in the hallways, seeking solace in his first class of the day which was English. He arrived earlier than anyone else, including the teacher, and just sat as his desk with his head down trying to wrap his mind around everything. It was harder to adjust back to normal life than he had ever imagined and he still found himself trying to carry out tasks he didn't have to do anymore. The first two days back home he actually waited in his room alone thinking his breakfast was going to be brought to him. Those were two lonely and hungry days he would rather just forget about.
His first two classes of the day crawled by and were filled with the things he had once been used to; like being picked on by the teacher, having students throw bits of paper and erasers at him when he wasn't paying attention, and being verbally abused by everybody and their dog. This was probably the toughest thing to get used to again but he really had no other choice. This was his life and always had been, expect for a strange couple of months that felt more like a dream than anything else. Sure, he could transfer schools or find another apartment to live in that his parents would pay for just to keep him out of their house, but it wouldn’t change anything. No matter where he could go on this planet he would always be bullied and looked down on. It was the curse he was born with and he could never understand why it happened to him.
When lunch came Richard surrendered himself to a full forty five minutes of continuous bullying and didn't even bother to grab the sandwich he had packed himself for lunch that morning. No matter where he went in that school the students who were in his classes would track him down and torment him during their free time, so Richard usually just sat in the last class he had been in and let them do whatever they wanted. If he tried to fight back he would be outnumbered severely and without the ability to use his magic he had no hope of winning. He really didn't want to walk home that evening covered in his own blood and bruises.
So he sat as his desk and weathered the insults being hurled at him and the bits of food people didn't want to eat. For the most part they didn't exactly interact with him but they did enough to make him wish he had just never come to school. After coming back from Alysia Richard had changed slightly and he had a hard time not fighting back now a days. With the power he once held he could have easily taken out every single one of the people who tormented him in the blink of an eye. But he didn't have his magic anymore. A problem that vexed him to no end. Richard had felt real power at his finger tips but it had disappeared like it had never existed.
'Holy shit!' some douche bag with his collar popped yelled and ran into the room where his friends were currently talking about Richard loudly while he sat there, 'You guys have got to check this out!'
'Dude, calm down!' one of his douche bag friends groaned and leaned back in his chair until the front two legs left the ground. 'Did Rachel's bra snap again or something?'
'Fuck Rachel, the girl I just saw is a million times hotter! You gotta come check her out!'
Richard had been planning to tune out the idiots talking at this point but they were speaking too loudly to allow him to manage it. It was hard to believe these morons were considered the cool crowd at school and Richard bet there wasn't four brain cells between them. Take an idiot, add some good looks and a pinch of money they didn't actually own and anyone could be considered cool.
'What's her name?' the idiot in the chair asked.
'Fucked if I know,' the one with the popped collar guffawed like an orangutan, 'I've never seen her here before and I think she's looking for someone. Anyways, I need you to come and be my wing man! I am so gonna hit that!'
Richard really hoped this idiots friend decided to go help his buddy out because their conversation was really starting to grate on his nerves. Most of the other students in the class room seemed to be ignoring him, so if that asshole left then Richard might be able to spend the rest of his lunch in relative peace. It would never happen though and Richard knew that. Whatever caused people to hate him also seemed to cause the worst things to happen in any situation.
'Naw man, I'm eating lunch. Go hit on your mystery girl by yourself.'
'Come on man! She's just in the hall, you don't even have to move more than ten feet!'
'Dude, I'm hungry though,' the idiot in the chair said and tossed a pickle from his burger onto Richard's desk. 'Besides, you have bad taste in women so I doubt she's as hot as you're claiming. So I think I'll….. damn!'
The last word of his sentence caught Richard by surprise and he found himself looking up from the book in front of him to see what was going on. Every person in the class had stopped talking and eating and were staring intently at the door where a tall and extremely beautiful woman was standing. She had long brown hair that passed her shoulders and big brown eyes that were shimmering in the headache inducing fake light pounding down on everyone from the ceiling. Her body was drool worthy and had curves in all the right places topped off by a decent pair of breasts that seemed to be defying gravity. She was dressed in a white dress shirt, dark brown leather pants, and heavy leather boots. Everything looked out of place and yet very familiar to Richard.
'Didn't I tell you?' the popped collar idiot whispered to his friend and nudged him in the ribs as he stood up. Their words fell on Richard's deaf ears as he was totally focused on the gorgeous face he saw standing in the door. He was sure he had just lost his mind completely now. There was no way this should be possible.
'I'm looking for Richard,' she spoke and her voice was soft like velvet, her brown eyes scanning over the crowded classroom.
'Daiya?' he breathed and her keen elf ears hidden under her hair picked out her name and her eyes locked onto his as Richard found himself standing in shock.
'Richard?' the second moron said in confusion and then noticed who this stunning beauty was looking at. 'Oh, you mean Little Dick? Forget about him beautiful. Why don't you come and have lunch with me instead.'
Daiya completely ignored the idiot and walked slowly into the classroom, her eyes never leaving Richard for even an instant. Richard wanted to walk towards her but found that he was rooted on the spot and he couldn’t form a complete sentence to save his life. How the hell was she here? Why was she here? He wanted to ask all these questions but he just couldn't force himself to. It was almost like an out of body experience and his head was swimming.
'Did you not hear me?' the asshole said a little more aggressively and stepped in front of the Dark Elf Princess who was someone you didn't want to mess with. He smiled at her in a way that would usually get a girls attention but it seemed to have no effect on Daiya as she continued to stare at him, so the moron grabbed her by the wrist. 'Hey! I'm talking to you!'
In a flash the high school student was slammed face first into the desk his burger had been abandoned on, the arm that had been touching Daiya pulled back behind his body until you could hear the bone creak from ten feet away. He wailed in pain and tried to shake the powerful woman off him but only succeeded in twisting his arm further than it already was, and Richard was sure it was a few seconds away from breaking cleanly.
'What right do you have to touch me without my permission?' Daiya growled and tweaked the guys arm a little harder. 'You do it again and you won't get off so easy!'
Daiya released his arm and pushed him away roughly, her right hand clenched and ready to raise up at any moment if need be. On her right wrist was a beautifully wrought golden bracelet that acted as a focus, allowing Daiya's immensely powerful magic to flow through her body into the real world. If she used her magic now Richard didn't have any doubt that the school would burn down and there would be no hiding what happened. The man she was staring at angrily rubbed his shoulder with his good hand and stood up, eyeing her with contempt. He had probably never been treated by anyone like that before, and for a stupid jock who was better at sports than school it was a hard thing for him to swallow.
'What the hell do you want with Little Dick anyways? He's just some loser that no one likes! Are you part of his family or something?'
'Daiya…' Richard said trying to get the woman's attention but she was solely focused on the man before her.
'What is he to me? He is my fiancé and an extremely powerful man!'
Suddenly the room was full of laughter and Richard hung his head, averting his eyes from everyone around him. The laughter was so loud that people out in the halls came to see what was going on and they surrounded the open door, whispering back and forth about who this strange and beautiful tanned girl was and why people were laughing at her.
'You're fiancé? That's rich!' one of the idiots laughed and now even the people at the door were beginning to chuckle. 'Did he pay to you say that or something? No one would marry Dick even if they were forced to!'
Something deep in Richard's mind suddenly snapped and before he knew it he was upon one of the worst bullies he had ever met. His hands grabbed him by the collar of his shirt and tossed him back onto the desk, the hamburger being crushed and squirting ketchup onto his designer shirt. Richard lifted his right hand and balled it into a fist, wanting to slam it down into the assholes face over and over again until he had learned his lesson. But he was denied that release as he suddenly felt soft fingers wrap around his wrist and stop him from hitting the man who was actually cowering under him.
'Leave him be, Richard,' Daiya said softly and she gently tugged him away, 'he's not worth it. Come with me.'
Suddenly Richard was being pulled from the class as Daiya pushed through the crowd of stunned people who had gathered. The further they walked down the hall the more aggressively Daiya began to pull him, her hand around his wrist tightening its grip. He was nearly dragged up two stairwells and tossed through a door until he landed heavily on his ass in the cold snow of the roof, the winter air making him shiver as he wasn't wearing a jacket.
'Ow!' he groaned and rubbed his butt from where he had landed on it I, 'What the hell was that about?'
'Don't move!' she demanded through gritted teeth and began to move closer to him, her leather boots crunching on the slushy snow and ice. Her eyes were hard and her face almost angry looking which made Richard want to move away from her, but he was frozen on the spot in fear of what she was doing.
She raised her right hand towards him and for a second he thought she was going to smack him or incinerate him with some Fire Magic, but instead she placed the hand heavily on the back of his neck right under his shaggy hairline. She closed her eyes for a second and moved her lips over some strange words that Richard recognized. A moment later he felt something warm against his skin and then Daiya's face relaxed as she took a step away, a small smile returning to her lips.
'It wouldn't have been good for Lythia to see you with that rune, she might have just killed you.'
'Uh… what?' he asked in confusion and reached behind his head where Daiya's hand had been a moment ago; he didn't feel anything there though. 'Do you mind telling me just what the hell is going on here? How are you here? Why are you here? What did you just do?!'
'I'm here to see you,' the usually stuffy girl giggled before turning suddenly serious again. 'It's strange though. That rune on your body was powerful magic so just how did you get it and who gave it to you? It was a unique bit of magic I've never seen before.'
'Wait, what are you talking about? What rune? You're not making any sense, Princess!'
'Don't worry, I just removed it from you. It was blocking the flow of magic in your body and had the added bonus of making people near you hate you. It was almost overwhelming, I felt like hitting you myself but thankfully I figured it out quickly enough.'
'Okay, hold up here,' Richard groaned and held both hands in front of him, 'we'll get back to this rune thing in a second. But first, how are you here?! And what's this about Lythia being here too?!'
Daiya reached into a pocket on her leather pants and pulled out a small golden coin with the crest of Alysia on one side and a profile of a middle aged man on the other. 'We used this. It was found in a sealed off portion of the Royal Vault in the palace. When flipped and fused with Arcane Magic it can teleport the holders to this world. We weren't sure it was going to work though. It's over two thousand years old and had never been used before. Lythia and I took the risk though, to find you.'
'And where is Lythia?' he asked and looked around the empty rooftop but only found the two of them up there.
'We split up to find you and agreed to meet on the roof once we had searched the whole building. She should be here soon. You have no idea how good it is too see you again.'
'And just how did you find me?' he asked and cocked his head to the side a little at the question. 'Compared to the academy or the capital this city is a hundred times more complicated. Yet you found me at school…'
Daiya smiled slightly and held up her right hand, using her left to point to a faint golden mark that shimmered in the weak sunlight. It was under the skin and was the official seal of the Proud Family, a large and flourished P with a large lion roaring in the background. Richard had a similar mark on his left hand, only it was an intricate crown with a dragon breathing fire. His was the official seal of the ruling family of Elothia, Daiya's mark.
'These aren't just to show others that we are promised to one another,' she answered and Richard tried not to roll his eyes. 'It's a mark given only to royal couples by the church to signify not only the promised union but also the bond. If you let a bit of magic energy flow into it can sense where the other mark that is linked to yours is to within a dozen or so meters. When you first disappeared outside the palace that night I tried to use it to find you, but it was like you weren't even on the planet anymore. You were just gone…'
Richard opened his mouth to say something but suddenly the door back into the semi-warm school opened and a small, lithe blonde girl stepped into the snow with an exhausted and bored look on her face. It had been a long time since Richard had seen Lythia but she looked the same as ever; like she considered herself above everyone else. Richard knew this was just a mask though and on occasion he had seen her show feelings to other human beings. He believed that deep down she was a nice girl, but it was very deep down. And that was proven with the first words she spoke to him after two and a half months apart.
'Do you have any of the local currency? I'd like to get one of those weird snacks from the mending machine but it keeps throwing my coins back at me.'
'Mending machine?' Daiya asked in curiosity.
'She means the vending machine. You put money in then press a few buttons and it spits out what you want. But that's beside the point here! I have a lot of questions that still need to be answered! Like why the hell are you here?'
'Yeah, yeah,' Lythia sighed and still had her hand out in hopes of getting some money. 'We all have questions that need to be answered. Food first though! We've been on this world for a whole day already and haven't eaten anything!'
'Lythia!' Daiya hissed and swatted the younger girls hand down, 'We can worry about food later. I think we should find somewhere warm and secluded to speak though; we didn't expect it to be cold here too. Do you know of any place, Richard?'
'My apartment, I guess. But I still have classes,' he answered and could feel his mind starting to slip as everything was left unsaid.
'Skip them. We're cold and hungry and since we are not from here we are your guests, so you have to take care of our needs! Now let's go!' Lythia commanded in her normal annoyed tone. Richard looked over at Daiya and she simply shrugged her shoulders and tilted her head towards the annoying fly hanging around.
'Fine… let's go. I guess we do have a lot to talk about.'
Richard walked through the school halls with the two women in tow and picked up his coat and bag from the class he had left it in. After that they left the school and began to long walk back to his tiny shithole of an apartment. They talked quietly along the way but it wasn't anything about the really pressing manners. Mostly one of them would notice something interesting and ask him what it was, like cars, computers, bicycles, and other such items that didn't exist on their world. He just gave them a generic explanation knowing that trying to explain it in great detail would cause everyone headaches. The technology of Earth was at least six hundred years ahead of where they came from, where there was no concept of harnessing electricity for anything other than a form of magic.
They arrived at his apartment an hour later and climbed the stairs to the small room he occupied. The moment Lythia saw where he lived she groaned in disgust and gave everything a wide berth, preferring to standing the middle of his living room/bedroom and eyeing everything like it would attack her at any moment. There really wasn't much there to be afraid of, just a small bed, a small television, a couple of small tables and lamps, and a kitchen that barely had any food in the fridge.
'Well, isn't this... quaint,' Lythia sighed and turned back to face Richard as he closed the wooden door behind them. 'You actually live here?'
'For four years,' he answered and tossed his back pack on the ground before going into the kitchen. He opened up the fridge and grabbed two cans of pop, tossing one to each girl a moment later. 'There's not much food in the house but help yourself to whatever you can find. I wasn't exactly expecting guests.'
'Then go out and get some more food,' Lythia growled. 'You're missing for two months and you forget everything I taught you about attending to the upper class. Such a disgrace!'
Both Daiya and Richard ignored her scathing remarks and moved back into the small multi-use room. Richard sat down on the edge of his bed and fidgeted a little with the covers, trying to smooth them out considering who his visitors were; the crown princess of an entire kingdom and a cousin to the crown princess of another nation. They had probably never been in a place as small and dank as this before, but it was all he had.
'So, let's hear it,' he said and looked at both women intently. They were alone and somewhere warm, so they had better open up about why they were there on a foreign planet.
'I want to ask you something first,' Daiya countered in a serious tone and she crossed both arms over her chest as she stared him down, 'and please don't lie to me. Are you or are you not the son of Lady Aura Proud?'
'No use hiding it now,' he sighed, 'I am not her son. I actually have no relation to Aura. The Queen made that up when I showed that I could use magic so no one would ask where I came from. For the record, I never wanted to go along with it but I didn't have any other choice. We couldn't tell people the truth, that I'm from a different world and just suddenly appeared in the palace one night buck naked. Where we are now is my world, my home.'
'Then how exactly did you get to our world? The coin Lythia and I used only has two uses and wasn't found until three days ago.'
'I don't really know,' he admitted sheepishly and grabbed the golden bracer on his nightstand, 'but when I put this on by accident it just happened. Aura and the Queen thought it had something to do with a spell being placed on it; that when it was worn the spell would activate and teleport the wearer to your world. Once the spell was used though I became stuck and that's why I was made Lythia's attendant for a while there, to give the Queen time to find a way to send me back.'
'I knew there was no way we could be related,' Lythia said after a few moments of silence and Richard couldn't fault her for her attitude. She had been lied to for over three months by not only him, but her older sister Aura as well. He would feel pretty relieved if their roles had been reversed.
'Thank you for not lying,' Daiya said and ignored the younger woman entirely as she still stood in the center of the room. 'After you disappeared Aura told us everything and said that you had probably gone back to your own world. I just wanted to hear it from your mouth. I have one more question though, and then I promise I will answer all of yours.'
'What is it?'
'Who was that woman that attacked us outside the palace? She seemed to know you.'
'That's a bit complicated it seems,' he answered and reached into his pocket. He pulled out a small Smartphone in a pink case and held it towards them, pressing the button to wake it up. A picture of Richard and his best friend May appeared on the screen, their smiling faces showing no hint to what was going to happen between them a few days later. 'Her name is May, and she was a friend here on Earth. I've known her since I was thirteen and she was the only person on the planet that was nice to me. As to how she got to your world, well I have no clue. Same goes for why she attacked us or how she was able to use magic. I haven't seen her since the day she sent me back and I figured she was still in your world.'
Daiya reached out and took the phone from his hand, holding up to her face until her nose was touching it. 'What is this device?' she asked and Richard chuckled a little.
'It's a phone. Or more specifically a cellular phone. I found it in my apartment when I was sent back here and it belonged to May. Here's an interesting fact for you two, that small device holds all the accumulated knowledge of mankind within it. Sadly, most people use it to look a cute pictures of cats and start arguments over nothing on the internet.'
In a flash Lythia rushed over to Daiya and snatched the phone from her hand, flipping it around in her hands as she peered at it intensely. She ran her fingers over the smooth touch screen and her eyes lit up when she saw the picture changed to a menu and she sat down on the 'dirty' floor totally mesmerized.
'How does it work?' she asked and tapped the screen a few times.
'I'll tell you later. First I think I deserve some questions answered now, right?' he asked and Daiya nodded softly. 'Okay, I know how you got here but have no idea why you are here. I doubt it's because you wanted to hear the truth from me personally, so spill it. Please?'
'A lot has happened since you disappeared,' Daiya began and sat down on the bed next to him, 'and the world has changed quite a bit. Queen Lystia was killed during the attack on the palace and the military searched for the culprits that managed to escape. They never caught up with them though and had to stop pursuing them when they crossed the border into the Principality of Zygog to the north. That’s when things got even worse; the government of Zygog denied that wanted criminals were hiding in their country at first, but over the course of a week their stance changed and they claimed to be providing asylum to the criminals. The Alysian Council of Lords did everything in their power to get these murderers released to them for trial but all they ended up doing was antagonizing Zygog and relations ceased.
'Four weeks ago a small Zygog invasion force pushed south into Alysia and attacked a small village near the border of the two nations. There was no declaration of war and they didn't heed any pleas for peace. They kept advancing. So the military was sent to force them out of their lands and protect the borders in case they tried to attack again. After that battle though it became apparent that Zygog was not backing down and the skirmishes quickly escalated into a war.'
'Wow,' Richard breathed in disbelief. 'That really sucks, but what does this have to do with you coming here?'
'I'm getting to it. With a state of war looming over them the country was in dire need of a ruler. At first it was decided that Aura would assume the throne as many believed Reiea wasn't mature enough yet. However, Aura refused to become the new Queen for personal reasons so Reiea came forward and was crowned three weeks ago. Apparently Queen Lystia had left her a letter explaining everything about you, so Reiea confronted Aura about it to see if it was true. Aura told Reiea, Lythia, Coni, and myself the truth about who you really were. It was then that Reiea had every vault in the palace checked for anything that might help her find you. We're not too sure why, but when she found the coin she asked if Aura would go to your world and bring you back. Aura refused to do it though; she said that our problems had nothing to do with you and we should just let you live your life in peace. But Reiea wouldn't take her advice and actually planned to come and get you herself. As the new Queen we couldn't let her take the risk, so Lythia and I volunteered to go in her place.'
'Volunteered? You're joking right?' Lythia growled with her eyes still glued to the pink phone in her hands. 'If I remember correctly, you and Reiea woke me up in the middle of the night, forced me to dress, and then the next thing I know I'm here in this strange and smelly world!'
'I couldn't very well go alone, could I?' Daiya shot back but Richard held up his hand as he wasn't done asking his questions yet.
'But why? Why did Reiea send you and why did you come?'
'Queen Reiea said she would only talk to you about it. I'm sure that this is a lot to take in, but-'
'Oh, I forgot to ask,' Lythia interrupted and pulled something out from her pocket, 'What is this, Richard? Some kind of wand?'
Richard's eyes bulged in his eye sockets as he realized what the strange looking metallic item Lythia was holding her in hands awkwardly. 'JESUS CHRIST!' he screamed when the gun started to point towards him. In panic he leapt at the small blonde girl and knocked her over, ripping the gun from her hand before she could do something stupid. With it safely in his hand he jumped to his feet and stood back, letting Lythia get up as she fixed him with an angry glance.
'You didn't have to attack me, you brute!' she seethed but Richard shook his head.
'This is a handgun! You could have killed one of us if it went off in your hands! Jesus Christ that gave me a heart attack!'
'Is it really that dangerous?' Daiya asked from where she sat on the bed, one of her eyebrows raised in curiosity.
'Of course it is! It's my world's most used weapon. Just point it and squeeze the trigger and whoever you are aiming at will most likely die, or at the very least be seriously wounded! Where the fuck did you even get this Lythia?'
'Last night a man pointed it at us in an alley,' she explained like it was nothing to get mugged, 'so I attacked him thinking it was a wand and then took it away from him. I highly doubt it's as powerful as you say it is though. It just looks like a hunk of metal.'
Richard groaned and held the weapon out at arm's length, two fingers holding onto the grip. He flashed Lythia another angry gaze and then went into his bathroom. The fan in the ceiling that was supposed to stop steam from building up had never worked and Richard had found that moving it aside unveiled a pretty clever hiding spot; this is where he put the gun where he hoped he would forget all about it. Just having it in his apartment without a permit could get him arrested, especially if it was used in a crime somewhere. He really didn't need that.
When he came back out into the living room/bedroom he found Lythia kneeling down in front of his television and pressing random buttons. Hoping that her attention would get hooked on it instead of revealing any other deadly weapons, Richard picked up the remote and turned it on. The second the glass screen flickered and came to life, Lythia jumped backwards with a gasp as if she expected the people she saw to come popping out at any moment. It was so strange being on the other side of this. Usually is was him that was seeing new and fantastic things that didn't make sense.
'Richard,' Daiya said his name and he looked back to find her standing up beside him, 'about what we were discussing?'
'Right, you've come to get me but you don't know why. Am I correct?'
'Yes…' she answered slowly and her brown eyes left his face. 'I know I can't expect you to answer right now, it's just too much to ask. We're on a pretty tight schedule though and we will have to leave tomorrow evening at the latest. After that there's no guarantee the coin will work anymore. It seems that being in this world isn't good for magic and the effects of spells and magical artifacts is a lot weaker. If we wait too long we might get stuck here. Also… it only has one more use left. So if you decide to come with us you will most likely be stuck there again.'
Richard sighed and looked at his friend/fiancé. It was so strange having this Dark Elf beauty standing in front of him in his apartment. First of all, she was currently the only one of her kind on the entire planet. More importantly though, things hadn't been very good between the two of them before he had been sent back to Earth. He had panicked when he had learned that they were being forcefully engaged. He had been mad at her because she never mentioned anything to him, but even more so he had been mad at himself. At that time he was expecting the Queen to find something to send him home and he hated that he would end up hurting Daiya by just leaving without saying a word. She didn't deserve that. So to have her standing there while all of that was still unresolved was awkward. And to have her asking him to come back to her world was something he couldn't even fathom right now. It felt like his brain was about to explode and he wished he hadn't used the last of his painkillers the night before.
'This is my world, Daiya. This is where I was born and where I have lived my entire life. I don't belong on your planet, I never did. I'm sorry, but I can't go back with you guys.'
Daiya sighed now and took a small step closer to Richard before stopping herself. Her powerful eyes were once again looking at him and Richard found he couldn't read her expression. At the very least she didn't seem mad, which was probably a good thing because he didn't want his home being burned down in a fit. She slowly raised her hand as she was lost in thought for a moment and she pushed some loose strands of hair out of her tanned and gorgeous face.
'Lythia and I will be leaving tomorrow evening, so you have some time to think your decision over. I really hope you will reconsider,' she said softly after a few moments of near silence, the only sounds coming from the television that Lythia was glued to.
'I don't think I will, but thank you,' he answered and found that now he was the one who couldn't meet the other person in the eyes. 'You two can stay here tonight, if you want. There isn't much room but the bed is fairly comfortable, so you can share it while I take the floor. I'm uh… I'm gonna go have a shower and then think about what I can do about dinner. Make yourselves at home.'
Richard had spent nearly an hour in the shower just trying to clear his mind, but to no avail. By the time he got out the water had turned cold and the tension in his muscles had returned from earlier. He really didn't want to leave the bathroom but he knew he had to; there were two girls out there who didn't know one thing about the new world they found themselves in. It wasn't something they could easily adjust to, as Richard knew full well.
When he came back out into the living room he found Lythia and Daiya a foot away from the television watching some stupid reality show about a group of people who were too stupid for their own good. They didn't even notice him come out of the shower until he started opening and closing cupboards in the kitchen, looking for something he could make for dinner. He barely had any food left and it would be that way until his parents got off their lazy asses and sent him this month's money. He had just enough pasta in the cupboard and some tasteless sauce in the fridge to make up some spaghetti for everyone.
As they ate both women asked him questions about random things around his apartment, like the alarm clock that fascinated both of them for a good five minutes before they realized their food was getting cold. Thankfully neither of them brought up anything to do with him going back and Richard was able to have an awkward and odd night with two friends in peace. In the back of his mind he was taking stock of his life though, and he didn't even realize it until later that night when he was lying on the floor with a coat for a blanket while the girls slept on the bed.
Both Daiya and Lythia had been really tired and they called it a night around nine, nearly falling asleep where they sat on the floor watching the television. It was a little strange being in such close proximity to them while they slept, but he had once shared a room with Lythia so it wasn't that big of a deal. Being this close to Daiya was a totally different situation though. He found that when she slept she had the most peaceful and relaxed face in the world. Her hair hung over one of her eyes and her lips were parted slightly as she breathed slowly, in and out as sleep claimed her. It was truly a beautiful sight and it amazed him that he had once been considered her fiancé.
He couldn't take just lying there on the floor looking at her sleeping face so he quietly got up and opened the window to outside, climbing out on to the tiny fire escape. The night air was cool, but not too bad, and in the distance he could hear the almost constant chorus of sirens that were as much a part of this city as the people were. It was overcast but it didn't look like it was going to snow, and the moon could barely be seen through the veil of clouds high above him. If he had been in a better mood it might have been a pretty good night, but he couldn't focus on it. His mind kept wandering to those two girls a few feet away in the warmth of the bed and why they had come here.
Hoping to clear his head some more, Richard decided to climb down the fire escape and take a walk in the cool winter air. He had no direction in mind and just let his feet carry him wherever they wanted. His brain was working furiously on what was really going on right now. The peaceful country of Alysia had been thrown into a war that almost seemed to come out of nowhere, and for some reason the new Queen, Reiea, wanted him to come back. That was the question he really wanted answered the most and it vexed him that neither Daiya nor Lythia knew. Sure, on the other world Richard could cast magic and he had made it pretty far in the tournament before he left in the middle of a match, but other than that there was no redeeming quality to him. He was just one in seven billion walking his planet and nothing made him special. Well besides his magical strength, the fact that he had teleported to that other world, and that his friend May had someone how found him, there was nothing else special about him.
'What the…' he said when he realized he had stopped walking and found himself standing in front of a rather large two story home in the nicer part of town. He had been walking for a while but never once stopped to see where he was, and he was completely stunned to find that he had come to his parent's home. It was somewhere he hadn't been in close to four years and he was surprised his feet still remembered how to get him there.
Richard just stood there for a few minutes, looking up at the dark house and wondering what had possessed him to come here. This was one of his least favorite places on the entire planet and he always avoided it, like it had the plague or something. It shocked him even more when he found his hand reaching out to open the gate that split off the front lawn from the nicely shoveled sidewalk. His hand stopped about half way though and he sighed in relief as his body seemed to be obeying his orders once more. It wasn't that he was doing something against his will, just that his brain was working things out on its own. It wanted to go in there for some reason but every time he thought about that, violent images of his past assaulted him and he realized that going in there would do no one any good. That house no longer held anything for him.
'Are you not going in?' he heard Daiya ask from behind him and he spun around to find her standing a few feet away and shivering in the cold. 'Who lives here?'
'My parents,' he grumbled and took of his jacket to give to her, 'and no, I'm not going in. What are you doing here?'
Daiya gratefully took his offer and threw the light coat around her body, sighing at the warmth it held. 'I saw you leave and I'm sorry I followed you. I just wanted to make sure you were okay. If this is your parents home then why won't you go in? Do you not get along well?'
'Get along?' Richard snorted in derision and couldn't help it, 'Not likely. They kicked me out when I was thirteen and have been nothing but assholes my entire life. I hate them just as much as they hate me. Come on, let's get back before Lythia wakes up and wonders where we went.'
Daiya regarded him thoughtfully for a moment but then turned to walk beside him as he passed her. The walk back to the apartment was a very long one and Richard told Daiya some stories about how he had been treated growing up. She was appalled when he said both of his parents would hit him if he even so much as looked at them wrong and Richard could tell she was fighting the urge to turn around and go set them straight. She was a very proud and strong woman who believed in morals and fairness, so for her to hear that these kinds of things went unpunished for years really upset her.
To help her cheer up a bit he stopped in at an all night fast food joint and spent a considerable portion of his pocket change on a hamburger for her. She seemed to really enjoy it but was more interested in how they prepared entire meals in a matter of a minute or two. She was pretty stunned when Richard told her that at fast food places most of the food was already precooked and they simply put it in a warming tray before giving it to the customer. She said it still tasted good regardless so at least that was good. She had probably never had anything like it in her life.
'Listen…' he began to say but stopped as his courage started to wane. Daiya looked at him curiously and nodded for him to continue, which he did after a deep breath that nearly caused his lungs to explode. 'I… I wanted to apologize for treating you the way I did after we got engaged. I was a jackass and I really regret pushing you away like that. But you can kinda see now why I did it. I was a fraud.'
'I'm glad to hear that. I thought you might have hated me or something. I didn't know what to do.'
'How could I have hated you? Sure, I was a little mad that you never told me that you were going after my marriage rights, but I blew it way out of proportion. Besides that, there was no other reason to be mad. In fact I thought you and I could be really good friends.'
Daiya smiled at him and then finished off the last of her hamburger as they continued to walk through the city at night. They remained silent for a little while before Richard thought of something that had been nagging at him in the back of his mind. He subconsciously reached up and touched the spot the rune had been before Daiya removed it earlier.
'You said the rune was stopping me from using my Light Magic, right?' he asked.
'Yes, as far as I could tell. I'd never seen that type of rune before so I can't be sure. Why do you ask?'
Richard didn't answer. When they stopped at a red light he closed his eyes and mentally reached down inside him, grasping at whatever he could find. The power that had been gone for the last two and a half months was suddenly there again, a raging river that ran through his entire body. He grabbed onto it with all of his strength and held out his hand, trying to get a ball of pure light to appear. He could feel it moving through his fingers but it never appeared in the world and he sighed in frustration as he released it and let it go back to where it flowed from.
'You need your focus,' Daiya said when she noticed what he was doing. 'It's what allows you to channel your magic out of your body and into the world. Without it, casting magic would be impossible.'
'I don't even know if mine will work anymore,' he sighed and together they walked across the street, 'It took a direct hit from that weird red magic when I was fighting against May. It won't even stay on my arm if I don't hold it in place.'
'I'll take a look at it when we get back to your home. Maybe I can fix it. I have been learning how to create a focus from the Master of Fire. In fact I made the one I use right now.'
'I'd appreciate that,' Richard said and meant it. Which was strange, he thought he didn't care about that stuff anymore.
They reached the fire escape outside his room forty-five minutes later and climbed up it as slowly and quietly as they could, so they wouldn't wake anyone up. Richard quickly entered though the window that was cracked slightly and grabbed his dented focus from the bedside table, noticing the Lythia seemed to be still sleeping and hogging all the blankets and sheets. He immediately brought the focus to Daiya who was still out on the fire escape and hoped that there was something she could do about it. After having to wear it for three straight months he sometimes felt naked without it. It had become as much a part of him as any other body part was.
'It's pretty damaged,' she admitted and Richard felt his heart drop, 'I should be able to fix it by tomorrow evening though. It won't be that great of a job because my magic is weaker in this world, but it should do the job well enough.'
'Thank you so much, Daiya,' he breathed a sigh of relief and leaned up against the cold steel railing that cut into his skin like a knife. 'When I first got back here I felt so lost without it.'
'Can I ask you something, Richard?'
'I know I should just respect your decision, but I'm having some trouble doing that. Is your life here so good that you don't want to leave it behind? Everything I've seen so far doesn't support that hypothesis.'
'It's not about my life being better here,' he answered softly and realized she had asked the exact thing he had been mulling over in his mind all night, 'it's about where I belong. The life I was living in your world wasn't mine. I didn't earn it or get born into it, it just got thrust onto me by the Queen. I'll admit, it wasn't bad. In fact I kind of liked it. But I always knew in the back of my mind that it wasn't mine and I was just out of place.'
'How can you say it wasn't yours, Richard? So what if you weren't born into it, it was given to you by the Queen of Alysia herself; so it was yours!'
'Was it really? I was taking the place of Aura's real son that died at birth! I can't imagine how she felt having to look at me every day and be reminded of the precious gift that had been taken from her! Some stranger was thrown into her family and automatically given the title of Lord. How is that right? Do you know how much it hurt me to be such a bad reminder for her?'
Suddenly Daiya was next to him, a tense hand on his shoulder as she spun him around until their faces were less than a foot apart. Her eyes were almost angry looking and her mouth was a hard and cold line across her dark face.
'Don't you dare say that!' she growled and Richard took a small step back under her furious glare. 'You might not have been her blood but Aura loved you like a son! Everyone could see that just by looking at the way you two interacted! She took in a scared and strange boy and treated him like just another member of her family, and all you were doing was feeling sorry for her! I don't know all the details about how she came to take you in, but I do know that you became her family. When you disappeared three months ago she cried for you! Before we realized you had been sent back to your world she led the search party that was looking for you for three straight days, while her aunt and Queen was being prepared for burial! As far as any of us are concerned you were her son! So I ask you one more time, what would you be losing if you came with us? Because it sure as hell wouldn't be family! You'd be going back to your family!'
Daiya's angry words slammed into Richard like a pickup truck and he had to hold onto the railing to his right so he didn't fall over. There were thick tears in the girls eyes and she stared at him like she had just been slapped. He had no idea what to say in that moment, being faced with that kind of expression. He tried to open his mouth to speak but only stuttered words and letters came out.
'What about your friends? What about Karo, Lisbeth, Coni, and Queen Reiea? Do you have replacements for them here? What I saw at your school was a group of people who did nothing but torment you, and yet you will choose them over the ones who were by your side through the good and bad times? Were those plebeians watching you fight in the arena and cheering as hard as they could? No! It was Karo and Lisbeth! Did you know they actually came to me before our match and asked me to take it easy on you, just in case you got hurt?'
'They… they did?' Richard forced out through a tight throat.
'And what about Lythia? She used to be an insufferable and entitled girl who never mixed well with others, but then you show up and change all that. Not only did she become strong enough to make it into the second day of the tournament because of your help, but she also made friends with Karo and Lisbeth as well! Did you know that you were the first person I ever heard her thank? She might not have liked the idea that you were supposedly related, but you had a big impact on her life and how she interacted with other people!'
Richard found himself looking back through the open window and onto the face of the pretty sleeping blonde on the bed. He and Lythia had always had their problems but he had noticed that she was opening up more to the people around her. When he first saw her with Lisbeth she had treated the poor first year girl like a piece of trash stuck to her boot, but over a few months they had actually come to be pretty good friends. You rarely saw one without the other. He just never figured that he was the reason for that sudden change in her attitude.
'And what about me?' Daiya asked and Richard turned to see her again. 'You ignore and avoid me and then just suddenly disappear when I thought things were going to get better. Are you just going to toss me aside like everyone else and live your mundane and uneventful life on this planet? We never even got to finish our duel! So tell me, can you honestly tell me that you belong here more than with all of your friends and the ones who call you family? You made a life for yourself there that you can never have here!'
The thick tears that had been threatening to fall from her eyes were running down her face now and her lush lips were split in a silent sob that rattled Richard right down to his soul. Everything she had just laid on him cut him deeply, but the words that really hurt him the most were the ones about her. She was right. Of course she was right. She was the smartest and strongest person Richard would ever know. He had been nothing but an asshole towards her before May sent him back to his own world, could he really leave things as they were? For that matter, could he really abandon the only people who had ever accepted him and thought of him as their family?
Without thinking he reached out and brushed a few tears from Daiya's eyes and kept his hand where it was, his cold skin in contact with hers. 'I'm sorry, for everything,' he said softly and found his brain and heart were speaking for him, 'I don't know if I can ever make up for how much I have hurt everyone. But I want to try.'
'Richard?' Daiya whispered and suddenly her hand was over top of his on her cheek.
'I'll go back with you.'
Daiya's crying face lit up in a big smile and she pulled him into a hug, wrapping both arms around his back like she was never going to let go. Richard let the warmth of her soft body fill him up and he knew that he was making the right choice. Everything Daiya had said was true, his life had been nothing until he had gone there. It just took her poignant words to get him to realize that. He had been so caught up in how he had been living a lie there he didn't stop to wonder what other people thought about that lie. He had heard that if a person tells a lie enough times it eventually becomes the truth for them, and he wondered if that was what was going on here.
'Thank you,' the beautiful Dark Elf Princess breathed into his ear.
The hug began to release a moment later, but even as they slowly pulled away their arms still remained around one another. Richard had no idea who started what happened next, but as their heads began move to one another with their lips almost touching he really didn't care. Their lips were less than an inch away and he could feel her warm breath splash against his face as his mind began to slip and he gave himself over to the feelings welling up inside of him. They were so close he could almost taste her lips.
'I hope you both know that I'm awake and can see everything you're doing,' a voice flitted out through the open window and instantly the moment was broken. Richard and Daiya quickly released one another and looked in opposite directions as Lythia groaned in disgust from the comfort and warmth of the bed.
'I… I should probably get some sleep,' Daiya said in the next moment and her voice was surprisingly filled with both annoyance and embarrassment.
'Yeah, same here…'
Richard spent most of the next day going through everything he owned and deciding what he should take and what he should leave behind. Most of the items were electronic in nature and it was pretty easy to decide to leave them behind as there would be no place to plug them in. Other things, like clothes, weren't so easy to make a decision on. While he would have access to clothes in Alysia he realized that having to get rid of all his normal clothes wasn't that easy. They made him feel comfortable but they wouldn't fit in with what the people of the other world wore, so he ultimately had to chose a few shirts, a couple pair of jeans, and as many pairs of boxers he could fit into his backpack. He refused to wear what passed for men's underwear there as it was usually nothing more than a pair of tight fitting cotton granny panties.
He decided he was going to bring the smart phone that had once belonged to May. Even though it was an electronic he hoped that a lightning mage at the academy could charge the battery up every once in a while. It was the only link he had to his friend May, a person he had once thought he knew everything about. There were still so many questions about here that he wanted answered but it most likely wasn't going to happen on Earth. For all Richard knew May could still be on the other planet and one day he might run into her. He just hoped it didn't go the same way the last time they saw each other did. She had been extremely strong and he didn't want to get his ass kicked so easily again.
While Lythia tried her best to convince them that they needed to bring the television (even though Richard told her that bringing it would do nothing because there were no TV channels on their world) Daiya busied herself with trying to repair Richard's golden bracer with her arcane magic. She seemed to be having trouble with it and even had Lythia pry herself away from the TV to help out as much as she could.
While they were both occupied with it, Richard took that time to go into the bathroom and retrieve the handgun that had been stashed in the ceiling. At first he was just planning on leaving it there, but the more he thought about it the more he came to realize what an advantage it would be in a world where magic and swords prevailed. He did a quick check of how many rounds it had in it and then stashed it into his overstuffed backpack, making sure to wrap it up in a pair of his underwear so no one would find it.
The sun had begun to set before he even realized it and the time to leave was quickly approaching. He did one last sweep of his apartment and made sure he had everything he wanted to bring, then wrote out a small note that said he would never be coming back and placed it on the front of his door. If anyone realized he was gone this time then at least they would know that it was for good. Hell, his parents might even been happy now that they wouldn't have to pay for his apartment or his food anymore.
'This is still what you want to do, right?' Daiya asked him as they all left the room and he closed the door behind him, dropping his keys on the floor right in front of it.
'Yes,' Richard answered without hesitation.
Because they didn't know how the magic coin was going to react to the spell being activated, they decided to go up onto the roof of the apartment building just in case. That way if anything did happen there was enough open space that there shouldn't be too much damage to the surrounding area. To be truthful though, Richard didn't care if they did end up destroying the apartment building, what had anyone there done for him besides bully him. That thought scared him though so he pushed it from his mind and focused on following Daiya and Lythia up the stairs. Maybe this world had never been his home.
They stepped out into the cold air and closed the door tightly, not even caring that it locked behind them; they wouldn't need to use it again. Daiya led them close to the edge that overlooked the white, brown, and black streets below and then turned to face them. She fished the gold coin from her pocket and then held it out, fitting her thumb under it so she was ready to flip it. Lythia stood on her right side and placed her hand on the older woman's shoulder while Richard went and stood on the other side. He was about to follow Lythia's example but found that Daiya had entwined her free hand with his and squeezed it softly.
'Did anyone forget anything?' Daiya asked and Richard shook his head.
'The picture box,' Lythia grumbled and both Richard and the Dark Elf groaned as this had been the eighth time she had brought it up in the last half an hour.
'It's impossible, Lythia! It won't work anywhere but here!'
'How do you know until we try?!'
'Enough, both of you!' Daiya growled and both youngsters shut up immediately. 'Hold on tight!'
Daiya flipped the coin high into the air and Richard could feel a powerful magic grip hold of his body before it even began to fall again. His eyes were locked onto the small spinning gold disk and he stared in amazement as it began to glow brightly, all the colors of the rainbow shimmering into existence before being snuffed out by the overwhelming darkness that surged around him. Immense pain wracked his entire being and it felt like he was falling over off the edge of the building. This was the third time Richard had ever felt these sensations before and he didn't think he could ever get used to them. Then again, he didn't really need to. This would be the last time he ever set foot on Earth.