Rei's eyes slowly began to open. Everything was too blurry to see. She blinked a few times.
Using her left arm, she began to support herself and she sat up. She rubbed her eyes and blinked again. Her sight began to focus. She was in a room that was unlike anything she had ever seen before. Most places are usually built with various forms of metal or glass. The room she rested in was made of what appeared to be wood, like that of a log cabin. There was also a small hearth that burned with a small fire.
"Ah, I see you're finally awake."
A smiling face familiar to Rei entered the room. It was Bard. She threw the bed sheets aside and rushed toward him. Bard raised his arms in defense and braced himself. But rather than being attacked, Bard felt himself being wrapped into a tight hug. Rei buried her face into his chest and began to cry.
"I'm s-s-so sorry-y!"
All she could manage were those three words. His smile never leaving his face, Bard returned her hug.
"It'll be alright, kiddo."
"B-but I --!"
"Shhh. It isn't your fault. I understand you're only getting worried about your parents."
"How can you act like everything is okay? What I did was unforgivable…"
Bard almost laughed. "Haha. Keena and I bear no ill will toward you. Neither of us wanted to hinder you in any way. But without proper rest and diet, it along with paranoia clouded your judgement."
"Thanks for coming back for me. I wanted to find you…because I needed to tell you how much I appreciate everything you did to help me, even though I attacked you. And…there is something else I need to ask you that I want to get off my mind."
As Rei's crying had calmed, she began to slump a bit. Bard helped her back into bed.
"So what's bothering you?"
Rei took a deep breath. She hesitated at first, but she recounted her vision from earlier. From her seemingly hostile father to her changing reflection. She also included the change in scenery when Bard was included.
"Hmm…that's certainly interesting."
"I wanted to ask you what it meant. I feel like I'm supposed to see some sort of message within what I saw, but I don't believe I understood it."
"I'm no Joseph*, but from what I've heard, it seems to me like your inner self was telling you that you weren't being…'you'. Perhaps the reason behind your father's reaction to you was because he had seen someone else rather than seeing you."
"How would he have not recognized me? Surely I don't look any different than I did."
"That may be the point. Remember that it was a dream, so it might not be your appearance that is in question. But your personality may have changed so drastically that you could pass off as a different person entirely. What still lives of your old self is trying to tell you that you don't have to change who you are just to reach your goals or solve your problems."
Rei pulled her knees to her chest. "That makes sense, but what was the significance of seeing myself change suddenly?"
"Well as I said, the image of you may represent your old personality, and it changing was presumably to show you who you are now from your own point of view. You mentioned that it frightened you, did it not?"
"Your father was probably sharing that same feeling. He was afraid of what he saw, because it wasn't the 'you' that he knew. When your alternate self spoke to you, it asked you a question concerning your humanity. From the day I met you you've announced that you have little tolerance for human beings. This only leads me to further believe that your father wasn't seeing 'you'. It's as if you weren't even human to begin with."
"Then let me ask you this -- Why are humans so flawed? Why do they think such dark thoughts?"
"That's where the message surfaces. Are you listening to yourself, Rei?"
She looked down. She knew exactly what he meant. Rei neither wanted to admit it out loud nor to herself, but the more she thought about it, the more her dream made sense. She tried to justify humans as evil creatures, only to find herself in the spotlight of what she loathed. An evil and destructive low-life.
"Don't look so sad, Rei. You remind me of someone else I once knew. I learned from him that the past doesn't matter. Let it go and walk toward a brighter future."
"How? I might could try to forget, but the police won't so easily."
"There's not much escaping that, but it is better than making it worse for yourself. Humans have some loose wires, yes. But that is what makes humans…human. The people you despise aren't exactly human in my opinion. You're no less human than anyone else. That's not a bad thing at all."
Rei sighed. She held her hands in front of her and stared at her open palms.
"…but…why am I so different? I've got power beyond even my own control. Why am I possessed with such a dark skill that a normal person would never have? Am I destined to kill and destroy?"
"Not at all. The reasoning behind your power is unknown, but don't let the fact you have it make you think you're completely different. I know you well enough. You aren't someone to be a slave to destiny, Rei. More importantly, I know deep inside you have a kind heart."
Rei huffed and slumped down in bed.
"Thanks, Bard. I'm glad you aren't mad at me. I want to start searching again but I'm so…" Rei yawned. "…tired."
Her eyes began to close unwillingly. Bard pulled the sheets up to the base of her neck.
"Rest. You've earned it."
Rei held her hand above her eyes. The morning sun was bright and warm.
"Ready, Rei?" Bard stepped out and closed the door behind him. He held her cutter out to her.
"Yeah." She said as she took it from him. "I can't thank you enough. And I'm sorry for everything."
Bard laughed. "I heard you the first few times. I have no hard feelings toward you."
Rei nodded. "Alright. Let's go."
A voice spoke from somewhere. "Leaving without me? I knew you were cold, but not to this extent."
Rei and Bard looked up. Keena was crouched on the roof. She descended, only to find herself nearly tackled by Rei.
"Keena, I'm so sorry!"
"Save your apology, and the water works please. I never said anything was your fault."
Rei sniffled and fought back her tears. "I couldn't have asked for better friends. I'm glad you two came back. I thought I'd never see you again."
"I'd seen Bard carrying you yesterday, so I decided to stick around in the area. I already felt bad enough about leaving you back there."
"Thanks again, Keena."
She smiled. "No problem. Just don't make me regret it."
"Now that we're past this, I suppose our first step is getting out of the woods. Bard?"
He pointed toward the left of where they were standing. "The quickest way out of here and back into a main road is in that direction. We need to proceed with caution, however. It gets pretty thick. And I doubt you like briars. Keena probably doesn't, seeing as how she doesn't wear clothing."
She glared at him. "All that's visible is my arms and my belly in case you didn't notice."
"Do upper thighs count?"
She rolled her eyes. "And so the fun begins again…as a word of advice Rei, never wear any kind of low-cut or revealing top. This reason is exactly why I don't."
Rei gave a bittersmile and scratched the back of her head. "Mom gave me similar advice before. She and Dad said she had hospitalized one of his friends that had gotten antsy after they had spotted her in exercising apparel…said the end result wasn't pretty. But anyway, are we ready to go?"
Bard and Keena nodded.
"Great. Lead the way if you please, Bard."
The trees were growing thicker as they walked. It was only noon, and the woods were already growing dark.
"Not to question your judgment Bard, but are you sure you're going in the right direction. I'm getting a rather empty feeling in my chest."
"Certainly, Keena. It's thick yes, but it's the quickest way out. And you feel that emptiness in your chest because everything is on it~♪."
"I'm honestly surprised it's taken you this long to finally make a boob joke. I feel empty because I'm next to you."
Rei kept her gaze forward. "I can feel it too. It's almost too thick for the sun to get to the forest floor. And is that fog? I don't like this."
Before they knew it, fog hung around them. The very trees around them seemed to almost disappear. Bard looked around.
"Odd…I usually don't see fog of this magnitude, especially one that renders nothing else visible."
"Let's just keep walking. Maybe we'll walk out of the end of it."
Rei heard someone speak. "Rei, you're walking rather stiffly. Are you feeling ok?"
"Yeah I'm fine." She answered. "Do I really seem stiff?"
Bard and Keena stopped. Keena spoke first. "What? Who said you were stiff? What does that even mean?"
"But you just said I was walking stiffly…right?"
Bard and Keena turned back around and continued walking. Rei heard her speak again.
Rei stopped again. "Yeah, what's up?"
"Rei, I don't get why you keep stopping. We didn't say anything." Keena said.
"Are you sure? I just heard you."
Keena faced away from Rei again and looked around. "What? But no one else is here, and I didn't say anything."
"Rei, I'm talking to you."
"There it is again. You just called me again."
Keena faced Rei. "I'm sure you're hearing things. I never did."
Rei looked at Bard. "Huh? Did you say something."
Bard frowned. "No."
"What's wrong with your voice? You don't sound too fine."
"My voice?" Said Rei. "What's wrong with it? If this is some kind of prank, Bard…"
Bard's expression was serious. "I never said anything."
"Come on Rei. We need to keep walking. The Gem is close."
"Bard, cut it out!"
"No…I never spoke. But…I thought I might have heard something too."
"So I'm not going crazy?"
Keena shrugged. "I don't hear anything."
"What is wrong with you? You've been acting strangely for the past couple of days."
Rei turned to her. "I'm fine. I know I was acting strange, and I said I was sorry."
"Rei, I didn't say that, but I definitely heard it!"
Bard nodded. "I heard it too!"
Everyone looked around hastily.
"I appreciate your concern. But I'll be taking that Gem. You no longer have any part of it."
Bard suddenly fell to the ground, as if something had ran into him. Then Keena hugged her midsection and doubled over, gasping in pain. Rei felt a strange force wrap itself around her neck and lift her into the air. She struggled to breathe.
"What's -- happening?" Rei choked. She felt herself losing her vision. While she could still think clearly, she started to kick forward with all her might. Although she couldn't see anything, she felt her foot hit something hard. She dropped to the ground, just as Bard and Keena had regained their balance. They all drew their weapons. Rei aimed her bow, trying to find their attacker. She noticed something start to materialize before them. It was just a strange dark mass at first, but then began to assume a large humanoid figure. As it cleared, it resembled a black knight, with a pointed horn on the front of the helmet. Sharp, scythe-like blades lined the outside of its forearms. Behind it were a large pair of bat-like wings, and a scaly tail. It held a large sword beside it. The only thing visible underneath its visor were two piercing red eyes. When it spoke, its voice sounded bass-pitched and metallic.
"Hello, Rei. It's good to see you again."
Keena struggled to hold her weapon. "It's…it can't be…!"
Rei had never seen this character before, but he oddly felt familiar.
"Who are you? What do you want?"
"What do I want? I want you. I told you we would meet, didn't I?"
"The voice that spoke to me days ago. That was you?"
"Precisely. I need your help, Rei. Without you, I cannot continue what I started."
Rei was at full draw with her Trinity. "Me? You don't know me!"
The knight laughed. "Oh, but I know you all too well. You are, after all, my own daughter!"
- Joseph: Biblical character in the Book of Genesis who was known to interpret dreams.