I open my mouth,waiting for something clever to come out of my mouth but shut it again when I realize that it has taken too long. Codian blinks at the door at nods at it. "Quit being a cherry and come on. I have something you need to know." He stands and holds out a hand. I take it. His hand is both warm and rough on my skin. He pulls me up and frees his hand gently. Leading me out of the door,we walk to another hallway. "Monsters,creatures exist all over the world." He opens a set of oak doors. I manage to control my tears but a few drip out of my eyes. "Welcome to the world of the shadows. The real world."
The light of the sun passing through huge glass hemisphere-shaped ceiling. A gold ring is formed around the end of the glass. Paintings hang on the walls like the ones in the hall but these are scary. Monsters from children's nightmares. Phantoms from the other world.
Under each and every of the paintings are framed with gold and gold plates with words scripted across each of them. I walk slowly,scanning over them. Those aren't words at all. Just twists and curves of lines twining together. "What does this mean?"I stop in front of a random painting and ask silently,pointing at the words. This creature has pale skin,almost like Kyo's, but much paler. Her skin is scaly and it sticks to her bones. Literally. Her nails are replaced with sharp claws. Long, sharp teeth crawling out of her mouth and a long thin strip of tongue sticking out from the sets of teeth,like a snake's. Her tangled hair covering her bare chest. The body of a human, and a long tail of a fish. She looks like The Little Mermaid in a much scarier version.
"The words of the Lightseekers,"he answers behind me.
"Yeah,but what does it mean?"
"Arians, meaning 'once the beauties of the ocean'."
"Beauties?"I repeat the word,staring at the painting. Does he even know what that means?
"Trust me when I said beauties. In English, they're called mermaids. Before Arians,they were Glasen. They were beautiful creatures until one of them wanted to be the only beautiful one among the race and eventually,her vanity brought her to seduce the only male Glasen who had magic and he granted her request by turning the rest into Arians. But as soon as he found out she was only setting her eyes on his powers,he turned her into the hideous creature,"he explains. His fingertips skim the plate.
"Are you afraid?"I murmur.
"Of being ugly? Yes."
"No. Of being a Lightseeker. How can you face these creatures? You're not afraid of their figures?"I don't believe that people don't have fears. But he is a Lightseeker after all.
"We Lightseekers are born to be fearless. As a child, I was trained to fight them."He gazes at his fingers that are touching the tangled lines, seemingly to dive deep into his story. "I got used to seeing them. Alden told me we looked exactly the same as humans. I was never allowed to set foot outside the school. But there were a few occasions when I had to be out. The first time I went out on a mission,I was afraid of the humans more than Phantoms. I met a homeless man and a beggar that night and they were begging me for money and food. I wanted to put a knife through their heads so badly at that time."This time,he looks me in the eye. "What are you afraid of?"
I shrug a shoulder. I was afraid of spiders and cockroaches and clowns. But now,considering that there are much more scarier things out there,I am afraid of the world. "I don't know. I guess it's the real world. Why are you showing me this? Aren't you afraid that I might get a word out on all this?"
"Nope. That will make you an idiot and maybe someone will bring you to the mental hospital."
I laugh dryly. "You got a point there."
I move to the next one. A skinny,small, black creature crouching. The spine almost breaking out of its skin. Its ears are pointy and large like a bat's. Its red beady eyes watching me."What's this one called?"
"Zydeor. Very nasty creatures." He curls his fingers near his arm in a gesture. "They cling onto you and suck you dry then take your body to feed the young ones."
"That's revolting,"I say,nodding as I agree. "Where is everybody?"I walked in hallways but there are just us five in the whole building. Could it be that the four of them are actually having this place for themselves?
"There is just the five of us left but we have recruited a few more and we let them stay in the dorms. "He grins the large smile of the Cheshire cat and that makes me feels uneasy. "And you,"he points at me,"will be staying with us as well. You do not have to question me."
He nods. "Staaaaay here,"he repeats."Besides I'm offering you a place to stay. I bet that your place is the first place the Phantoms will check and probably wait for you to get back. An ambush."
"I don't want to stay. I can stay in a hotel till it's safe."
"Even if you stay for a thousand days,what makes you think they'll be gone or they won't find you and rip you to shreds?"he says with such certainty of what they'll do to me. "So stay. That's the only option you have left anyway. And as for your parents,call them. Lie to them."
I almost forgot that I lie about having parents. "They won't answer my calls anyway. They're busy with work. They don't even care if I got shot in the leg. "I shrug like it's nothing when it's deeply hurting me. "And you have a point there. I'm not safe there."