With a start, she found herself beside Teen Star Youth and Anahita and some dark brown hair guy. Her eyes began to slowly close again, but Teen Star Youth shook her and said something… oh yeah she should try keeping her eyes open. But what was she doing here? How had she gotten here… Where's here? Something was stirring in her memory… but flittered away when she tried to catch it.
"What's that in your hand?" Amarian asked her.
"Huh?" She looks down… oh, it's a key. "Here ~ this must be yours…" she says weakly while trying to hand the key over to Anahita.
"Uh… no… you know my keys are on a key ring…"
"Oh yeah… Then what's this for?"
Anahita shrugs, Dark Brown Hair shook his head but looked at her with… concern? and Teeny Bopper holds out his hand so he could examine it. But she didn’t hand over the key. She threw him a look of distrust. So he withdrew his hand. Where had she gotten the key from –she was fairly certain that it was the key to Anahita's car. And who was that man in the back seat, anyway? She felt that she should know him, but she couldn’t quite remember how or why.
"Where are we, anyway?"
"… … Where are you?" Anahita narrows her eyes.
Dr. Muzro shoots Anahita an 'are you serious?' look and answers Miwa, "We're at the abandoned inn parking lot."
"What do you remember?" Amarian asks her.
"About what?" She was pretty aggravated with how they were all ganging up on her –with questions. So many questions. Always with the questions.
"About the last thing you did before ending up here." Youth Troop prompted.
Images flashed in her mind, but it blinded her –prevented her from obtaining the answers that she already knew. Something prevented… her from her own memories. But what? Who?
"Name. Give me a name." Her teeth were gritted and her eyes flashed furiously. At least they didn’t flash hazel-y…
"… What do you mean?" Dr. Muzro was confused. He felt that he should help her somehow but she was angry and he wasn't sure that rummaging through her mind in her current state would be… beneficial… Then he realized that she must have meant Feral Eyes and he said as much.
"Feral Eyes…? Feral Eyes…" She kept repeating over and over as though she could almost recognize it for what it was but that not knowing its real name…
"Is that his name?" She demanded.
Anahita answers quietly. "No… We don't know what his real name is…" She vowed to research its name if it's the last thing she would ever do. Miwa was lost and she didn’t know how much time they had to save her… But… they could contact her in her mind, right? She heard Dr. Dark Brown Hair's voice in her mind –"We don't know where she is –if we look for her, we might get lost as well… But… what's more, what if Feral Eyes is there too? He could be listening in on us right now…"
She nods her head in acknowledgment. Good thinking –she had momentarily forgotten.
"You never answered Troubled Teen's Heart." Anahita accuses.
"You too…" He grumbles.
"What?" Miwa asks distractedly.
"[To paraphrase] What was the last thing you were doing; what was the last place you were at before waking up here?"
"I… I had this key because I, we –you me and someone else… but I couldn’t, still can't remember who –were going out somewhere… I was in the hotel parking lot and was heading to your car. I was the only one there and was going to wait for you all to join. Therefore, I unlocked the car doors and turned on the engine to warm up the car for you. But… then I noticed that even though I was looking, I wasn't registering what I was seeing. The details of your car was hazy. That's how I knew something wasn't right. I caught a reflection of myself in the rearview mirror and the word hypothermia echoed in my mind. When I saw that reflection of myself the word just escaped from my lips and I found myself here…"
Anahita and Dr. Muzro shared a look. Perhaps moving her body from the other car contributed to her being lost. Dr. Muzro hoped not, but he couldn’t shake the feeling that he was right. At least they now knew where she thought she was… but if she doesn't remember Dark Brown Hair then it would be a dangerous idea for him to try to help her even though he was more of a quick study with guarding thoughts and throwing red herrings than Anahita was [in case he did encounter Feral Eyes in her mind]… Yet… if she was still 'actually' at the inn they don't know which one she was trapped in –they, well Dr. Muzro was certain that she posed so much more of a threat to Feral Eyes which was why he reasoned that she must be in confinement.
"…Because she prevented him from leaving my body while I was kept in the dungeon..." Amarian was saying. Dr. Muzro shook his head, he should focus a bit more. Perhaps he should damn his misgivings and just go to help her and do so quickly.
"Who are you?" Amarian asked Miwa.
"You know me."
"That sounds like something Feral Eyes would say." Amarian was saying.
Dr. Muzro truly had to… why was it so difficult to focus? He felt dizzy and lightheaded. He realized why it was hard to focus –he was losing consciousness… but why? Her friend was shaking him.
"Hey! We have to get out of this car –it's leaking gas fumes!"
He didn’t know why it would be but it didn’t matter at that moment, he had to get moving. The four were standing outside –Amarian gazed forlornly at the car –their only means of transportation.
Anahita turns to Miwa and lies, "Hey, I need my key."
Miwa seemed to be in a trance –without hesitation she hands over the key. Anahita turns to the other three and indicates that it must be important and that since they were forced to remain –they should return to the inn and find what that key unlocked.
"I think she'll listen to you, so you might have to either tell her what to do or simply lead her." Dr. Muzro says to Anahita. She nods and gravely sighs. He wondered where she was trapped now.
"Hey, when you accused that of being Feral Eyes, he… disappeared?"
"I hope so… but I think he could still be there –I think… when he was trapped in my body –according to my parents it was very obvious it was Feral Eyes in my body –his telltale eyes and his manner of speech… But with her… she had the manner of speech but… I'm not sure that he was as successful as she was… but… we really need to help her…" He finished lamely.
"Ah… what else can you tell us about when you were trapped in the dungeon?" Anahita asks Amarian.
He sighs and thinks really deeply. Then he speaks, "When he was in my body I was very ill –later my parents inform me that he lifted his poison since it wouldn't do well to kill me while he was stuck. But I didn't know this and I was still very much in poor health while confined in the dungeon. In her case… I really think that he is only able to use her voice…?"
"What did you mean by that last statement? Because you're almost raising my hopes…" Dr. Muzro warns Amarian.
"I mean… it seemed that she still has more faculty over her body and mind, just that pieces of her memory of Feral Eyes is missing. And… I suspect that if she knows his real name she would return unto herself in full force with all her memories and premonition[s] about him. But… we would need to know what his name is. When going back to that inn –we would most likely discover more about the original owner and perhaps a little more insight on Feral Eyes' motivation behind adamantly positioning himself here. But… you two, er three, should go ahead. I can tell you where to go from out here…"
"But… what if he's only able to use her voice because she's not really trapped but lost?" Dr. Muzro complicates the matter with that question.
"… Then… we must find her –and since she thought she was at the hotel parking lot…" Amarian trailed off.
Anahita disagreed, "Yet, that was fast crumbling –she figured out that wasn't true –she must still be where we left her last –at the inn… but… if we go in with her physical body… She might be trapped there and not be able to return to her body if we keep moving it… the last thing she probably remembered was that she was supposed to be in my car but you had to move her to yours…" Dr. Muzro thought this as well –he was just glad that she voiced it instead of him. He still felt he had no authority, no expertise on these kinds of things so he shouldn’t be the one to say… but that was silly. Still…
"I think she's better at finding herself if she is lost –I mean that she's got a much better command of herself than I did and do… it doesn’t make sense to me to put her in your car since she's regained some consciousness. We should lead the body to somewhere she can reach –not somewhere she can 'recognize'."
"What's your reasoning behind that?" Dr. Muzro was genuinely curious.
"If Feral Eyes is also cohabitating her mind, using the same place twice is… dangerous for us… I feel like we should always be on the move while on his turf…"
Dr. Muzro was impressed –the kid should stop cutting himself short. He agreed out loud, that they should indeed be moving.
"Which is why you're coming with us. She's always guarded, yes, yet she did actually convince me that I should give you a chance. Sure you will make mistakes but she determined that your motivations were pure. That's enough for me since I trust her judgment. I also see how you think –you're not bad."
Dubious [but quite certain that it would be the best compliment he'd receive from her considering the circumstances… and considering the circumstances he'd take that], "Are you sure? I mean –she did just give me a distrusting glare…"
Dr. Muzro wanted to assure him but realized that it would actually be more flippant –he wanted to point out that she might not have recognized him just as she didn't recognize her new colleague[?] but that would be a lie since he's right –she did pull her hand away from him when he reached for the key. But then a thought occurred to him: what if in that moment she was actually Feral Eyes and had to pull back her hand in the semblance of being her? He was good enough to mimic the actions or 'know' the last thing that the person he's invaded (for that's what it really is) feels about another person. He says as much to Amarian who mulled it over for awhile before carefully speaking, "But… this means he's not a mind reader?"
"I think he knows the last time he's inhabited but not any time after that. As for erasing any memories it seems to only pertain directly about himself." Anahita offers.
"If that's the case, then why would he steal my memory? I didn’t really know anything about him –even with all that I know about him now, I still don't see how that memory would give me any more perspective on him –neither have I seen him directly." Dr. Muzro bristled.
"I know you have perfect recall, but I still must ask if you indeed remember every detail because maybe you didn't know that you saw him –it wouldn’t have registered then but he may not have wanted to take that chance… I don't know. That sounded stupid as soon as I said it. Disregard and I apologize for offending your ability." Anahita expresses her regret.
"Please –don't worry about that. You might have a point. I should try to remember. [Then shooting a message directly into her mind] If it's true that I did directly see him, not knowing that it was him I will send that image to you. Perhaps it will aid you in your research. But for now, let's all go inside the inn. I think we should search for a dungeon."
Anahita shoots a 'Thanks' to him in his mind as they all trudged towards the inn's entrance. Dr. Muzro sends her an image of the blueprint of the inn that he memorized. Out loud he asks Amarian about the structure of the abandoned inn. He admits that he didn’t know. To which Dr. Muzro reveals that during the time they thought they were talking to him in the inn it wasn't really him –but the voice that did speak told them about the extra space [destroyed because it was part of the orphanage or was it the mansion…?] there. They were walking and talking so as to save time, but just as they neared the entrance of the inn…
"Oh! Wait guys –I'm so stupid! Wait..." Anahita runs to her car and takes out two flashlights. "Yeah, it does us no good to have flashlights and not use it." She was out of breath but sheepishly grinning.
"Ah! I brought one too!" Amarian ran back to the rental and got the flashlight they placed in the glove compartment in case of an emergency.
"I think we should use maybe two but definitely just one so as to save batteries." Dr. Muzro warns.
"I do have extra batteries, but good plan." Anahita approved.
They entered, using one of the flashlights, Anahita led Miwa. "To think that I would be leading you." Anahita sighed in her mind. But said aloud instead "Hey, Ms. Glutton, do you remember what you were doing before being in the hotel parking lot?"
"… I… can't remember. I only remember feeling anxious… scared even but I didn't; I don't know why."
Anahita turns off her flashlight and indicates to Amarian to do the same. "Look down this hall. Is it familiar?"
"What about it? I can't see anything to recognize so I don't know why it would spark any kind of memory."
"Shut it –I'm talking to my friend, not you."
"That's no way to speak to one of superior intellect."
"Who had gotten stuck in a vessel. Yeah. So I get it. You're among us –what is it that you want, anyway?"
"I don't approve of your tone. I have your friend. She's safe. You ought to be…"
"Kissing your butt for acting immature. Yeah, yeah. Look. I'm sorry if I offended you by coming off as demanding but you're really testing my patience here. My friend and I would love to return to our normal lives without your interference –thanks."
"Without. MY interference?! I do believe it was agreed that you would lessen my strength in any way you can –is it or is it not your plan?"
"You know, either way I answer that just screws me over –what was the point in asking?"
"… [Cold smile] And here I thought you were the more timid one –the one who couldn’t do anything without the approval or fore planning of your friend."
"The best things about humans is that we change. Take that as you will. As much as I'm enjoying this banter, I have an ass to save so I expect my rewards for saving your sorry life!"
"What?! The only reward you're getting is gas money –you can't save my sorry ass!!" A super riled up Miwa retorted, then giggled. She refocused herself into her body. She still couldn’t remember anything before the hotel parking lot and even that image was fast fading. She was certain Feral Eyes was trying to delete as many memories of the whole event as he could get his hands on… except he couldn’t succeed as long as she kept those hidden in various parts of her-self.
Anahita fiercely hugs Miwa. Miwa returns her hug. "It's not over yet. I still need to know his name in order to get my memories back. We still cannot defeat him until the Other is here."
"Does this mean we should actually allow him to accomplish his goal?" Amarian asks incredulously.
"Don't jump to that conclusion just yet," Miwa warns. "We still want to lessen his strength and by doing so will probably slow the arrival of… whomever is supposed to be arriving. I have a feeling once 'Whomever' has arrived Feral Eyes will actually be easier to ummm defeat? So to say. Why? Aren't all minions no longer necessary once they perform the one thing they were created to do?" She asks half-jokingly. But… perhaps… it seems that way –at least according to all stories ever told -rather, retold.
"Where were you while he was talking to us?" Dr. Muzro inquires.
"Oh. I was letting him occupy that space. I needed to explore… but I found no answers. At least not yet. So… I was going to boot him out a little later but she called me an ass… so I was forced to return earlier than I anticipated."
"Sure, blame the heroine."
"Heroin? More like Crack. I love ya!" She says to Anahita's death glare.
"And your jokes are lame."
"It got worse. I haven't eaten all day." She drudged up her most pitiful expression.
They all just shake their heads at her. She shrugs in a 'hey, I tried' gesture. They jogged down the long dark hall because it's a hall and there's no dallying in a hall that long and dark… even with two flashlights shining. Its beams were more 'look at me, I'm a beam of light!' than 'look at that! I can illuminate!' and so the jogging down the hall. They assumed that the rooms wouldn't be that important to go through –it was an inn… although it had been a mansion… it wasn’t the time for exploration [even though that was their initial intention]. They must find what belonged to that key! Or versa vice. Anahita led the way and 'accidentally' stumbled into a different room that she saw on the blueprint and thought might be a good place to investigate. They quickly and carefully found… nothing. So they exited and moved on.
Dr. Muzro thought he heard something.
"Shh… listen. Do you hear that?"
Everyone stops and listens. It sounded like footsteps and it sounded like it was fast approaching in their direction! With one mind they all quickly and [as] quietly [as possible] continued down the hallway.
"Hey! I know you're there!" shouted a woman.
Dr. Muzro pushed them all on. He definitely recognized that as belonging to Zoiyah. Anahita and Miwa needed no prompting –that harpy was not someone they felt like dealing with in their tired state. They haven't slept all night or had anything to eat all day… "No wonder Anahita was more badass!" Miwa was very proud of her friend. "You can't see it right now, but I'm blushing. Stoooop it~" Anahita elbowed Miwa but nodded for her to continue the praising.
Miwa gave her the side eyes. "Ah, no, I've reached my quota of compliments for the day." Miwa continued conversing with Anahita privately.
"Seriously? You have a quota?"
"Oh yeah ~ For complimenting as well as for gratitude and ass holery which is different from smart assing –I have a quota for that as well…"
"You never cease to… remind me how weird you really are…"
"Ah… dead end… what are we going to do?" Amarian began panicking.
"Ah… hasty retreat at that harpy! We have to get to yet another room! … Considering how big the mansion is… it certainly runs out of places to… hide…? No wonder horror movies suck –if real life horror is this anti-climactic…" Miwa rambles.
"Love of My Life, what the fuck are you talking about? Let's just run at her if we're going to run at her –no need to insult my favorite genre."
"Awww. Did I hit a sore spot Teen Angst?"
"Children! I would appreciate if you bickered elsewhere –she's here now let's go!" Dr. Muzro was exasperatingly amused. During such a short time he's experienced so many emotions… he was getting too old for these kinds of things… He reminded himself not to think that too often –since picking up on that, twin Understatement and Sarcasm were unrelenting –he just couldn’t decide who was more understatement and who was sarcasm since they were both equally both.
"Oy, any time is a good time to bicker. Just ask heroine over there who saved my donkey by insulting Golden Eyes." Miwa pointedly glanced in Anahita's direction.
As they variously ran past or over Zoiyah, Anahita continued, wanting to have the last say for once, "But… that was actually fun. I now understand why you're so reckless!"
"Waaaait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, WAIT!! THAT'S not the takeaway you should be getting from me!"
Success! Amarian stopped. Then he pointed, "This way –we should be going this way according to some voice just now… Er… let's not."
"What choice do we have? Anyway, we came here of our own accord –we have a purpose and we're following through with it." Dr. Muzro said before anyone could agree or protest. And they all head where Amarian had pointed. Dr. Muzro tried to visualize where they were in relation to the blueprint. He thought there might be a 'secret' room but it was covered over by a wall. Fortunately most of it was wooden –he thought if they could somehow break through… but with what? Was there anything back in either car? He didn’t think so… maybe he could chuck a spare tire at it but that wouldn’t really be effective for anything other than humor… and a failed one at that –he had already firmly decided. This was perhaps why he never tried anything new since he already predetermined its failure: "Okay, so I agree we need to break down the wall but stop wallowing in self pity over your imperfect characteristics already." A voice interrupted his thoughts. It was her… he was fairly certain that it wasn't Feral Eyes… fairly. She looked in his direction at least so he felt a bit relieved. "Can we use that sorry excuse of a Medusa –no offense to Medusa –to break through?" Miwa was thinking.
"WHAT do you have against her?" He was unnerved by her line of thought. "Oh –don't be so prudish –she was only trying to kill us, after all so I have no reason to not use her as a mallet." "Oh… Well, in that case… But what if she is Feral Eyes' minion and knows his real name?" "Well, you can ask her if you want since she's barreling upon us right now."
And sure enough, there she was –you could hear her piercing screams preceding her. "Ah, you're right –she is a harpy…" Dr. Muzro remarked aloud. He was slowly abandoning any semblance of professionalism that may have remained. "Still, let me ask her something first."
Amarian looked quizzical; Anahita threw up her hands –she sincerely gave up on being alarmed or surprised about anything; and Miwa bowed and gestured with her hands 'be my guest'. So taking a deep breath he firmly inquired, "Zoiyah? I know your name. But, what does it mean? It's quite beautiful."
"Oh laying it on thick, huh Romeo?" Anahita thought that it wouldn’t work because it was glaringly obvious and utterly un suave. But it stopped her and she seemed to be considering what to reply. Without hesitation he moves in front of the others and closer to her but still far enough to not be threatening or too intimate.
"No one's complimented my name before –only called it strange. [She remarks with a sadness in her tone not lost on him]. It means… I… don't… remember… what does it mean?" She looked all at once alarmed and profoundly sorrowful.
"If you knew your name –you could escape with us!" Dr. Muzro pressed.
"Escape? Why? I owe my life to… to… Ukab-bi I would never leave him!"
Miwa promptly seized the moment to regain her memories from "Ukab-bi~ ! Where are you?" She demands in her mind. But they all hear the voice permeate the hallway, into their very beings,
"Come and find me. As for you –you would reveal my identity..."
"No –No! I didn't mean to, please don't kill me. I would do anything for you!"
"You are nothing to me."
She sank as though she had no will to even live. It was worse than him going to execute her himself.
Anahita felt the stirrings of compassion. Miwa may have… but depending on Zoiyah's answer, would steel her heart and move on.
"Escape with us, Zoiyah –he doesn’t want you." Miwa says with what sounded like indifference but Anahita knew better. She quickly says to Zoiyah,
"Zoiyah –life. Your name means life."
"Yes. I had researched that after our first encounter…"
"Yes, as in what are you going to do with your life –right now, I've got something I've got to do –I'm not going to wait around all day for your answer." Miwa tried valiantly not glaring at Zoiyah… and failed.
"… You go on ahead, then… I'll… I'm … still…"
Dr. Muzro jumps to her defense –"It's always the best idea in movies, we should split up for now and just meet back outside."
"Am I the only one who likes the Horror Genre?" Amarian couldn’t help but whine.
"Alright Lamenting Man-Child and Too Tired to Care –let's get a move on." Miwa pushes them forward, not caring whether it was a trap or not.
Mr. Grousy and Ms. Grumbly both followed an impatient Miwa towards… where were they going again?
"Oh… right… good point." Miwa slows down…
"He's in the dungeon area. He loves how private the underground is." Zoiyah answers. "Oh right! I thought as much." Miwa thinks privately.
"Oh… thank you… are you over him enough yet?" Miwa asks none too diplomatically. No one's ever mistakenly accused her of being tactful –her empathy simply didn’t extend to prudence [yes, synonyms are magnificent].
Anahita looks at her horrified and even Amarian shook his head in a 'you're hopeless why are you still speaking' manner.
But Zoiyah only gives a half smile, "No. I'm not. There are many things for me to sort through. I still want to kill you –but for personal reasons now."
"As to be expected. No hard feelings."
"But… even though I may help you –I… I still will stay with him. To the very end. And I know it's coming soon. I've seen it long ago but I willingly let go that memory to be with him."
"WHY would you do such a thing?" Miwa didn't really want to know –it was just a ready-made question for auto responses to situations that are… questionable…
"You wouldn’t understand the first thing about love."
"You don't know me well enough to make that accusation. And what an awful excuse I always hear from people who also understand nothing of love. Perhaps you're only obsessed."
"WHAT?! How dare you?"
"Simply you admitted to wanting to kill me anyway –there's nothing I'm not afraid to say to you. Besides, if you thought about it instead of defended your poor decisions and actions resulting from that on an improper understanding [or romanticizing notion] of love, then you wouldn’t be in this mess dragging the rest of us with you."
"Stop attacking me! I'm helping you!"
"You attacked us first. Besides –I'm not the one making baseless accusations! Sort your life out and quickly, please! And come back to reality with the rest of us."
Horrified, Amarian steps in, "Isn't that harsh?"
"The truth cares not about hurt feelings. So saying."
"Just back off –she is helping after all…"
"She'll lead us to Ubi-one-kanubi yet still chooses to stay with him to the detriment to both of them yet it's okay because at least she's helping us. Okay, I see the logic to that [derision]. I'll ask you a question though –Did her decision to help us increase the value of her worth in your eyes just now? If so, you're on no high ground to stop me from speaking honestly."
He tried standing up to her and looking in her eyes but couldn't because considering the question and honestly answering, yes. She was 'important' now that she was willing to help them whereas before, he would have just as easily and quickly agreed that she needed to be gotten rid of because she was a problem.
"Besides ~ I recognize that kind words build up a person but I'm no counselor. I have no time for this. That is more your job, right? [She glances at Dark Brown Hair but turns back to Amarian without waiting for any confirmation] That's why he's with her. She's in capable hands. Now, she's told us where he is. Let's go. That is, if you still wish to. That's up to you."
She doesn’t wait for his response –she was already walking towards the staircase with Anahita following close behind. It wasn’t how she would've handled the situation –but then again, it was Miwa. She smiles and shakes her head –never a dull moment. She didn’t need to waste any more time with her own input because quite frankly she just wanted to leave as quickly as possible. She quite agreed that obsession wasn’t really love. She could possibly admire that she would stay with him through thick and thin… but it would've been better if it weren't so one sided.
Amarian did want to follow, but he wasn’t so sure he wanted to. He was actually more afraid of what Feral, Ukab-bi would do to him… Perhaps he was unsure that he wouldn’t also be more like Zoiyah and would want to stay by Ukab-bi's side. He was certainly a sympathetic enough person [in general but more specifically] to Ukab-bi…
"Huh?" He was lost in reverie so was quite startled when Zoiyah spoke directly to him.
"You tried to stand up for me. I mean, you did just acknowledge that I'm only worth being used."
"?! I'm sorry! I didn’t mean…"
She laughs harshly. "Don't worry about it. I know I'm only worth something to others as long as I'm useful. I want to be useful –so I guess I don’t mind being used… Why did I stay with Ukab-bi the longest? Unlike men he let me know from the beginning where we stand, where we would always stand and only used me for simple errands –never mistreated me physically or even verbally abused me like men. But… oh… ignoring me was somehow worse. He would never acknowledge my presence at all. I hoped that one day he would. Just a 'thank you' even. It would make all these years worth it."
"Does he acknowledge you in your premonition…?" Amarian asks quietly.
"I don't remember." She answers quickly. It was clear to Dr. Muzro and Amarian both that she did.
"Wait… so he didn't erase or steal your premonition?" Dr. Muzro asks in disbelief.
"No. I suppressed it myself. It's one of the perks of being his ... minion [she winces at the word]. You have more freedom over yourself."
"So you do remember it."
"I try not to." She sighs heavily.
They were all silent then. It was a nice change.
"There's no pressure. We won't force you. But it would be nice if you would consider escaping with us." Dr. Muzro offers. She looks down. Amarian gazes towards the staircase.
"You could follow them, you know."
"… I shouldn't. Ukabi-bi is there… Oh… who's body less voice, anyway?" Amarian couldn’t complete that thought [even though he felt he could trust Dark Brown Hair] and turns to Zoiyah.
Zoiyah looks confusedly at him.
"This would be the first time I heard anyone describe anything like that… What do you mean?"
"[Heart beats wildly. Choosing words cautiously] … Well, at certain areas we hear a voice directly talk saying to leave… And it feels like it's both in the surrounding area as well as directly in our heads [of course that's a lie but she didn’t need to know]… it has no physical body that we are aware of…"
She shakes her head. She really doesn’t know anything about that. She's been in the abandoned inn for quite a few years.
"But when exactly? I met you at the gas station in town!"
"I don't know why you keep claiming such a thing. I've never worked outside of this inn!"
Dr. Muzro would have to ask Research Queen if she's discovered or can uncover this puzzling mystery for him. Well… but why? He should do it himself –he's the one to have encountered her, after all. He would still ask, but wouldn’t take it personally if she declined. But… she doesn't have to look up his name anymore… they have it! So perhaps she would agree to this little favor…
"What year is this, then?" Amarian challenges.
"… Um… 1962…"
"Why are you wearing modern style clothing then?" Amarian became increasingly alarmed. At the same time Dr. Muzro demanded, "How long have you been alive?"
"… I don't know… I've been with Ukab-bi for so long, I don't even think about it."
"Something's not right…" Amarian began but didn’t finish that thought out loud. He had a suspicion. Why would she give them Feral Eyes' name so easily? Without saying anything further, he turned away from them and ran towards the stairwell. He hoped he wasn't too late.
Dr. Muzro was puzzled, and he sent a thought towards the two girls about the current situation. It dawned on him, perhaps, then the Teen had figured out she was lying –she was most likely trying to stall them, but why? At least he was on his way, he decided to continue to stay with her and question her a bit more.
"Okay, if you've been in this inn the whole time then why haven't you heard body less voice? Does it only address uninvited guests?" She didn’t even pretend to consider the question at all –just continued denying knowing of its existence.
"So you don't know about Ukab-bi's other… 'assistants' either?"
"He uses whomever he pleases; I have no interest in that at all –only in securing his acknowledgment of my presence."
"(Is he keeping you around for his amusement, then? It would seem highly unlikely that he's allowing you to tag along based only on your own merits… but that's not fair. I simply don't know of his motivations… is there really another reason she's here, then?) So… there's no likelihood that you would ever consider leaving him…"
"… You're very sweet. I appreciate your concern… even if you can't turn off your professional mode. Here's a little secret that perhaps hadn't escaped you –even if I wanted to run away with you, it wouldn’t be possible."
He didn’t press –he figured what she had meant. He wondered if they were alright, but he dared not leave Zoiyah by herself. His concern must have reached [Miwa] because he heard her:
"Don't worry, we're at the 'basement' area but haven't actually moved anywhere yet… um… long story short we were bickering [he could practically hear her blush]. Mr. Concerned Citizen has just reached us breathless. Now I'm not so sure we should be confronting Ukab-bi…. There must be something else we're missing… well, of course there are many pieces missing but… you know what I mean…" He did. But he couldn’t go off finding clues himself since he was with Zoiyah. She opened the connection between all of them –he supposed that she felt she didn’t have much a choice. "Okay everyone, [she begins] here's the part where the audience screams at the stupid horror genre protagonists for splitting up. It's always inevitable, is it not? But here we are –we've come to that point." "[Amarian was very surprised at this 'chat room' like setting but spoke] Wait, why?? Do you have a plan?" "Nah. That's why the connection. But we would have to split up [again] anyway –I honestly don't want anyone with me –you will only serve as a distraction. If it really comes to it, I can return at a later time… memories aren't that important…"
"But if you know something he doesn't want you to remember, what would be the point in waiting?" Anahita points out.
"Because… if we go in now we're going in guns blazing with no bullets. I'd rather my party be equipped than throw that all away because of my hastiness and [of] ill timing events…"
"… You know… you two have been arguing a lot… maybe he can see that as a weakness. We can maybe use that as a ploy anyway… I don't know… I'm not good at this strategizing thing…"
"… No… you may have a point… whatever advantage we may have if even a small thing, we should consider using."
"I agree –we did argue a lot… we need to make it look even more convincing and then we can split –you confronting Wild Eyes and Teen Star Troop and I uncovering more clues."
"… You know… the less sleep you have, the more inventive your words become… have you ever considered a career in writing?"
"Neh. The pen is mightier than the sword –you know how pacifist I am." Collective laughing… except from Amarian who seemed to be stewing over his name change. "I'm sorry, I should let her give you the pet names –I just don't know what to call you." Anahita apologizes in a roundabout way. He gives her the side eye but just shakes his head. "[Sigh] Don't worry about it –I'll try to get used to it someday. I only worry about the information that Feral baki has if…"
"The way I see it, if we find anything here –he would have likely already known about it. And you're setting yourself up to fail with that kind of fear. You can guard your thoughts –and of course there is so much that you can do but such is life. Guarding and vigilance go hand in hand, does it not?"
"… [Says out loud] Well what are we waiting for? Why haven't you found him yet?" Amarian demands.
"[Miwa wasn't born yesterday] I'm waiting for Dr. Dark Brown Hair to get his ass down here."
"Eh. But he's with his love interest right now –don't expect him any time soon." Anahita rolls her eyes.
"What? That liar? I would think he knows better…" Miwa huffs.
"Him?! You came down here with reckless abandon! It was a wonder that kid here even caught up to you!" Anahita argues.
"Well I wasn't alone coming down here though was I?" she shot back.
"Guys, ['exasperated' sigh] let's just find Ubik Ubiquitous and get the hell back out."
"What's your hurry??? YOU could leave any time you want! I am the only one who needed to see him anyway since I'm the only one who's 'lost'." [In their 'chat room': "Ubiki ubiquitous… really? You're getting the hang of this naming off the cuff, thing" she laughs. His face conspicuously changes to a reddish color.]
"Ubiquitous?? He's not ever present!" Anahita argues semantics.
"Oh… but I would care to dispute that claim." A voice quiet but firm protested. It seemed to reverberate from the hallway itself.
For better or worse, it did gain Feral Ubaki's attention.
"This doesn't concern you," Miwa says with irritation in her voice. And continuing, "[I could have sworn he had a physical form. This is not body less voice. Is he [body less voice] this abandoned building? No. He's not. I'm sure of it. Anyway: "We must REALLY be careful now, guys –I love understating obviousness" They all agreed.] Anyway, you don't even sound like Ubaka or Body less voice. Who the heck are you? … On second thought –I don't even care. If you're not who I need to see, I don't need to know your name."
A form appears then, it was a human form. But something told Miwa that 'twas only a lump of flesh –Feral Eyes must have a true form… unless she's just been reading too many [no such thing!] stories about 'true' form this and 'final' form that… He indeed had Feral Eyes –he actually appeared rather distinguished… regal even… But those eyes… Anahita shivers because those were the very same eyes [unless other… what could she correctly call this anyway? A demon? Share the same attributes…] that she saw when she watched the surveillance tapes. ["Well… damn… we can't split up now… but there may be a sliver of a chance… I may have to request it… although… no… we'll see" Miwa informs everyone].
"No one summoned you –we were having a private discussion in public." Miwa scowled at him. "Your attitude. Get rid of it." He narrowed his eyes –focused on her, was… daunting to say the [very] least, but as long as her mouth was running, she knew no… fear… or sense –that must be it.
"By whose authority do I have the pleasure of defying?"
"Can you return to your room? I'll get there when I get there." She gritted her teeth.
He glares at her. Considers it but… "No. I would not have you alone face me. You realize how dangerous that is."
"Oh. How kind of you to worry about my welfare, thief. But don't worry about us." She holds his gaze. It was rather dumb of her to use first person which was why he said that in order to verify but she could only roll with her slip-up at that point –she'd HAVE to pay more attention not just to him but to herself… this was all so very new to her despite popular belief to the contrary. She didn't have experience or knowledge –she only always seemed 'put together' so to say. Being honest with herself this was one of the most terrifying moments in her life –to not have certain parts of her memory and others being eaten away –like she was losing herself. The more she had to split her concentration, her self, the more she felt her grip on reality fading. She could not let that happen. Besides, this was one of the craftiest opponents she's had to deal with to date –but, assuming she would make it intact; it would be a good experience to have under her belt.
During this time, Amarian appeared contemplative. Anahita remained silent –she played the casual observer well. Some niggling feeling insisted on accosting Miwa about Amarian: she felt that he would ask something of Ukab-bi, and he would receive an answer that she didn’t like. Before she could communicate anything to him privately or even speak aloud he turns to Ukab-bi and asks,
"Your voice. I heard it. Why were you telling me to go to a certain place?"
"You 'encountered' my underling there, did you not?"
"But… she was following us…"
He shrugs but maintains a steady gaze with Amarian, "Are you sure it wasn’t your own voice?"
This was dangerous, he was casting doubt –as long as he could keep someone from their group always on the fence, he would have an advantage –or so she hoped that that's what he [Feral Eyes] believed. She wasn’t so sure of anything now herself, she could only hope he [Youth Bopper] would do the right thing.
"I have no idea who 'body less voice' is –and I have never heard him speak. Yet only once [do I recall] have I heard a voice. Now, it was more in my head than all around us which means that I'm the only one who heard him and he's led us to 'encounter' your minion."
"So you wish to know 'who' or what it really is?"
"You only wished that I asked that. I just wanted to know if it was [specifically] you. Honestly, I don’t think it even exists."
"Something else's existence isn't predicated upon your belief. What would change if it didn’t exist?"
"Oh. I don't know. I just wanted to see what you were more willing to answer, that's all."
Ukab-bi's face registered surprise. He wasn’t used to honest flippancy. Miwa wasn't at all certain why it would be anything new –wouldn’t he have encountered at least one or two other people who asked questions just to see what he answered? Or was it that they would ask but not be so openly blatant about their… strategy? Perhaps because with this question he didn’t see what knowing the answer could possibly add. But… what if he was re-considering what to do with his former minion… maybe? Miwa was curious and took a 'wait-and-see' approach.
Amarian continues, "Anyway, we're here now. Now what?"
"Why would you even come to me if you didn’t have an objective? It's not really my job to tell you what to do, is it?"
"Ah, but you like making suggestions so I thought I'd give you the floor."
"… You wouldn’t be fond of my suggestion."
Ukab-bi was wary of how the discussion was going. But when he realized that the three were just waiting for him to say something –they were not going anywhere –he slowly states, [turning to Miwa] "You can't reverse it. You won't recover from it. I have you and you're safe with me until after I secure this location."
"Safe relative to what." Venomous sarcasm dripped from Miwa's non-question.
They variously look startled dismayed and angry at that statement. He continues, "Even if you were to not try to 'lessen' my strength so to speak, it would do you no good –you can't stop what is predetermined to happen." He continues, ignoring her glare.
"Well then I shall stay behind –taking the selfish stance –what is most important to me is to reconcile me to myself."
"You're welcome to stay. And try. And as for them?"
"Oh, they're free to go. After all, it's not your job to tell any of us what to do."
He sighs. Anahita and Amarian look uncertain but they [try] to follow her lead and simply look at Ukab-bi in silence. He allowed the silence to stretch unto an incredibly uncomfortable eternity. Amarian supposed that Feral Ubaki had more practice with these kinds of things… although… He still felt that their original plan –well her original plan was still a viable one even though pretty boy here was trying to dissuade them. Stealing a glimpse at her friend, he noted that she seemed to be going to leave –he too would choose to leave. It seemed he was correct in noting her decision because without any acknowledgment they both turned to leave.
"So… that's it?" Ukab-bi recovered from fleeting astonishment [surprise], "So you shall stay behind?"
Held his gaze, and did not answer.
"So when shall I welcome their return?"
"[Responds evenly] They are their own agents –I have no control over what they decide to do or if or when they'll decide to do anything. I just want my self back."
"… You already know I cannot allow that to happen."
"Shall I ego this and assume I'm sort of threat to you somehow? Me?"
"You may believe whatever your heart's desire."
"I'm not here on supposition, neither do I care about what imagination I may foster… I realize that you don't exactly give direct answers, but I did want to know why you're keeping me here seeing as how I want to decide the extent that I should begin to worry about my self."
"There are only two reasons that I require your presence. I didn't 'trap' you here, rather you are lost. If they didn’t remove your body from its original location, you would be leaving with them. You can reunite with your self… Just not here…"
"If what you say is true, then where?"
"I don't have charge of lost souls." He shrugs.
Instead of exploding at him as he half expected, she stared off into the distance. Perhaps if she stared long enough into the abyss… Ah, but that was a horrible idea, and she wasn't desperate enough to do anything so drastic… … and what did he mean about two reasons only? She rummaged through her thought closet for some answers to ponder over… This is not a 'usual' situation and it required not some standard, logical answer. One particularly horrible thought that surfaced, which she tried to drown albeit unsuccessfully, was to replace Zoiyah [Bride or Sacrifice...] she shuddered and felt physically ill. She much preferred the second thought –sacrifice. Who would she be sacrificed to [if that was indeed his intention]? She was so absorbed in solving, and now trying to wipe from existence, the answers to her question that she in fact forgot about his presence at all.
"You have a lack of presence." She murmurs.
"I have enough –you know that I'm still here."
"Don't flatter yourself –it's my awesome skills. [Then quickly] I'm going to explore those other rooms now…"
"Skills… [he sounds bemused. She didn’t see why since it's all she's been affecting] No. You cannot go in that back room."
"Of course not! I'm going back there with supervision."
"… I'm not returning to that room. I have other matters to attend to. Feel free to accompany me."
"I don't know if you realize 'feel' and 'free' are not two words that go together in this situation." That garnered no reaction from what she could tell. Her feeling of dread about the first thought she had, resurged with a vengeance. If she were to be completely honest with herself –she really didn’t wish to go to that room without support. She was truly scared. She didn’t really want to 'accompany' him because... intuitively, she didn’t want to spend more time alone with him than necessary. What would she do in the meantime? Perhaps he was lying… but if he were telling even a grain of truth, she would have to investigate that option… per-maybe… He did seem to be in a… hurry so left her before she could [or would] provide an answer. She didn’t really mind –she ultimately decided that she should see if she could 'find herself.'
*Sigh, if only this existential… literal philosophical searching for her self didn’t plague her. Looking around, she realized that she was actually in the dark… she had forgotten that Anahita was the one who brought a flashlight with her… and the dungeon wasn’t lit by any… fairies or anything…
"Oh… great… perhaps I shall mosey on upstairs if only to be in the… light…" Her intentions were simply to be somewhere less dank, dark and fear inducing. Well… one slightly less evil choice for another. She groused and sprinted upstairs. But slowed when she reached the top so as not to betray that she had been running out of any sort of cowardice or anything. But instead of staying at the edge of the hallway, she found herself returning to where she [recalled] her friends were –that is, if they were still there. They were. In fact, she almost didn’t register the spectacle before her.