A Peaceful Dream
I felt warm. Warmth wrapped around my body and covered me like a cocoon. I wasn’t totally aware of my body or my surroundings, but I was conscious enough to know that I existed, that I had form.
I could feel the heat of bright sunlight on my face. I opened my eyes slowly, revealing a clear blue sky. My back felt wet, my body felt like it was floating.
I found myself floating naked in the middle of a river that was crystal clear. I righted myself up, frantically trying not to drown, and make my way over to the river bank close by. Crawling out of the water and off the bank, I laid down on the grass—breathing hard.
I sat up, looking at the water I was floating in. It was still and serene. I pause for a moment and look at the various trees and vibrant undergrowth around me in the endless garden. I looked down at my body; a slight breeze nearly caused me to jump out of my skin. I needed some clothes.
Where was I?
I heard the sound of rustling bushes. Something transparent—a freaking ghost!—popped out to greet me. I tried to grab something to cover my naked self but realizing I had nothing good to use, I had to settle on an arm and a hand.
She looked like an alien—or at least I thought it was a she. The being had white glowing eyes and a body like a bombshell, showing visible misty swirls constantly moving on her skin like a bunch of typhoons. Or was it beneath her skin? She was transparent after all. Ridiculously long and ghostly deer antlers were connected to her head.
“Who are you?” I whispered. “What the hell are you?”
The spirit woman made a sound akin to a giggle.
“I am Nature,” she said. “The Elder God responsible for creating the Seven Realms.”
What. I mean what?
I couldn’t really tell but judging by her slight smile, she seemed amused. “Do not worry. I will explain. I am an Elder God. One who maintains and watches over the realms with the other two Elders, Death and Karma.”
My mind was blank. Gods? Elder Gods? Everything she had just said turned what I had learned about the afterlife and religion on its head.
My mouth ran dry. “So you’re a god then? Am I dead?”
Nature shook her head. “You are still of the living, my child. I am not a god in the way you think I am. Come.”
Nature beckoned me with her hand To follow her through the tree covered fields.
“You’re not?” I asked, walking quickly—almost jogging to catch up with her.
“I’m the creator of the Seven Realms along with Karma and Death, but we are not The Most High. That would be a more accurate term for the one you and most humans on Earth believe to be God.”
I frowned in thought. “So you guys are like… lower gods then.”
Nature chuckled. “In a way. We all come from The Most High, The All-One in the end.”
As we walked, I observed the environment in front of us, taking the time to admire the trees rustling in the wind and breath in the crisp air. I could feel the soft grass between my toes as I looked at the clear river next to us.
“So…” I said. “If I’m not dead, why are you here? Heck, why am I here? Whatever here is.”
Nature didn’t respond right away, silently guiding me through the fields. She found a nice spot to sit, under a tree next to the river bank—providing shade from the sunlight. Nature sat down and I followed suit, sitting cross-legged. I stared at Nature in silence. She looked at me quietly, unoffended as my eyes traced over the stormy swirls I saw in her body. Nature was so… fascinating.
Lost in captivation, I sat in peace for a while; Nature didn’t disturb me. Soon my attention was drawn elsewhere. Ahead of us—where there was no undergrowth in the way, I could see the fields in the distance being cut off by a wall of giant, no—freaking huge—burning swords. Fucking burning swords!
“This is the Realm of Conception,” Nature said. “The first one we created. It was a test run of sorts. Here we hold the Tree of Life. Those blades you see prevent beings from acquiring what lies beyond. “
My brow furrowed. “And what lies beyond?”
Nature smiled. “My, my, such an inquisitive child. Beyond the blades of fire exists the source and paths to other dimensions. The omniverse if you will.”
Well, that sounded like a pretty big deal.
Nature nodded her head like she had read my thoughts.”It is. Alas, discussing the creation of the Seven Realms is not why I called you here. Like I said before, you’re not dead: I only wanted to talk to you.”
Some god who created the freaking universe wanted to talk to little ole me?
“Of course,” Nature said. “I wanted to personally speak to you because of the events that may happen in your future.”
Suddenly, I felt an uneasy feeling in my stomach. I hoped this wasn’t the part where the mysterious god gives the main character a grand prophecy—in which I had to save the world or something. That wouldn’t be good.
“What do you mean?” I asked, slowly.
“Soon you will come into remembrance of who you really are.”
“Is that supposed to be deep or something?”I asked. “Or easy to understand? Because that’s pretty vague.”
Nature actually laughed. “You and your sister were created in The Most High’s and our image. The half of a creator and a messenger.”
She knew about Tiffany? Of course, she did, she made everything. But I still didn’t understand what she was on about.
“That’s still vague,” I said.
Nature smiled mischievously. “Is it?”
The edges of my lips lifted upward slightly. It looked as if that would be all the information I would get out of her on that. I was kind of annoyed she wouldn’t give a straight answer, but I couldn’t stay that way for long. Her peaceful, joyful demeanor was infectious.
“I am sure Kazuya will explain everything to you in more detail. In due time.”
Kazuya? The fox guy?
Nature nodded. “Now that he has realized who the both of you are, he will probably have a vested interest in protecting you and your sister. But I want to talk to you about Tiffany.”
My posture straightened as my face became serious. She had my full attention.
“I ask a favor of you,” she said. “As I see it, the future may become a struggle for you both. You may have to face the darkest parts of yourself, great trials and tribulations. Even death. But you will come across old allies. Ready and waiting to aid you.”
I inhaled deeply and then let go. Trying to take everything Nature had dropped on me.
“I need you to protect your sister and keep her on the right path no matter what happens because you both will need each other more than ever before.”
I snorted. ”Of course. I promise.” She didn’t even need to ask.
Nature gave me a warm smile.
The world started to fade. I was pulled back through a black void, looking at Nature still sitting on the grassy fields, her face still smiling. It was like I was looking at a television screen from afar. Soon the image of the endless garden disappeared only leaving pure black.
I felt myself floating through the darkness. The void of space.
I opened my eyes. Tiffany and the injured Kazuya were hovering over me as I was lying on the grass. I sat up with a start, looking around. We were next to a river, close to a bridge a few feet away from the sidewalk that went under it. It was still night.
Was all that a dream? I mused.
“Ems! You’re up!” Tiffany exclaimed, hectically grabbing a hold of me. “Are you alright?”
“Tiff…” I muttered. I was still disoriented from that dream. Kazuya was inspecting his gaze, looking at my body. I looked at Kazuya’s injuries—he still didn’t have any damn clothes on! I could feel the blood rushing to my face as my eyes wandered downward; I hurriedly shifted my gaze upwards, focusing on his muscled chest so as not to stare at his dick. Christ. I wasn’t a prude but that didn’t mean I wanted all that waving around in my face.
I shook my head and then looked down at my own body. The shirt I was wearing was torn to pieces, my bra the only thing shielding my upper body from the elements. Two long lines that looked like scabs traveled from my shoulders to the abdomen, crisscrossing at the middle of my chest forming an ‘x.’
That was surprising. I was pretty sure that Tartys guy had nearly sliced me in half. My wounds didn’t feel deep. Heck, I didn’t feel them at all.
“Ems, are you alright?” Tiffany repeats, worried as she hugged me tightly. This girl was going to kill me. “How could you be so stupid?”
I gave her a soft smile. “What happened?”
“You were an idiot,” Kazuya growled. “That’s what happened. You stepped in the way of that Arcadian’s attack.”
“Yeah. To save your ass,” Tiffany snarked.
“I don’t need saving, especially from little girls.”
Tiffany rolled her eyes. “Says the guy bleeding all over the place after nearly getting his head put on a pike by that ninja angel woman. Great. Not only are you a useless cannibal who walks around butt-ass-naked like a degenerate, but you smell like a wet dog, and worst of all you’re sexist!”
It was Kazuya’s turn to roll his eyes. “Really child?”
“If you’re gonna be a fucking douche, I’ll be one right back. “
Kazuya smirked. “How uncouth.” He muttered something else about acting like humans before looking back at me.
“That guy cleaved through me with his sword, right?” I asked. “Why wasn’t I cut to ribbons?”
“You should have been,” Kazuya said. “If I didn’t have enough energy to stabilize you, you would’ve bled out. Nine times out of ten you would have been killed instantly by that kind of attack. Fortunately for you, you’re more durable than most.”
“You healed me?”
Kazuya nodded, briefly. “Something like that. I used magic.”
Kazuya ignored her but continued his explanation since I looked skeptical. “Do you remember what I told you of vapor? I don’t have much left so I did the next best thing. I manipulated the natural vapor of the environment. Unfortunately, I’m too tired to properly control it. Magic is dangerous to use when low on spiritual energy even if you’re controlling an external source. An inexperienced caster can kill themselves. I was barely able to revive you.”
“Hmm…” I mumbled looking down at where the scars left by Tartys’ twin blades.
“You heal rapidly,” Kazuya says. “In a few days, those will be nothing but light blemishes on your skin.”
“That’s not what I was worried about,” I said. “I’m trying to figure out what excuse we’ll give to Mom when she sees us come in the house with torn up clothes.”
“That’s the last thing you should be worried about,” Tiffany said, still holding me firmly.
“How did we get here anyway, where are those… Arcadians?”
Tiffany titled her head toward Kazuya. “Fox-boy saved us. He threw his spear down and made it explode. Like a flashbang.”
“A diversion, yes,” Kazuya agreed. “Then I carried the both of you as far I could.”
“Won’t they come after us?”
“Yes,” Kazuya said, pinching the bridge of his nose. “I won’t be able to hold them off this time. A problem that could have been avoided if someone didn’t jump in front of an attacking Arcadian like an imbecile.”
“It was to save your life!” Tiffany said.
I grabbed her shoulder, holding her back before she could launch herself at the Valterian. “Stop! We’re in too much shit to fight among ourselves. Kazuya, you’re right I was stupid, but I didn’t just run in there on a whim. Well, I kinda did. But still. I have a strange feeling about you. You know us. Right? Nature told me about you.”
I felt apprehensive adding on the last few words about Nature. What if she wasn’t real, only part of a dream world? Kazuya would think I’d lost it.
“Nature? What do you mean Ems?”
Kazuya gaze changed, his golden eyes became sharp pupils like a fox. He stared at me solemnly.
“She mentioned me, hmm? Interesting,” Kazuya turned his back toward us. He looked up at the dark sky. “We need to move. The Arcadians will probably track us to this place soon.”
“Why?” Tiffany asked. “They’re only after you. Why don’t you go and leave us here?”
Kazuya shook his head chuckling. “I already told you. They would assume you’re accomplices based on how much I’ve protected you and the fact that your sister attempted to stop one of them. Besides, I know they wouldn’t leave you alone anyway.”
He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “It seems we still have means of an escape. They haven’t noticed your vapor signatures, and my vapor is at an all time low. I don’t have to put in that much work to hide it from their awareness.”
“Then it’s settled,” I said, standing up. “Kazuya, will you come home with us?”
Tiffany looked like she swallowed a frog. “Are you crazy, Mercy?”
I had to stifle a laugh as I looked at her expression, but managed to put on a stern face. “He knows something about us. More than we do, and I want answers. Think about it. We could be Hallowed!”
Tiffany shook her head. “You think by taking him home and asking nicely he’ll answer for free?”
“Ladies,” Kazuya said, cutting in. “As much as I find this conversation amusing, I must remind you that time is of the essence.”
Kazuya changed, his body getting smaller. He morphed. His skin rapidly grew fur as his hands turned into paws. Within seconds, the tall man before us had transformed into a small fox, with abnormally fluffy tails. He was still wounded, but there wasn’t as much blood coming from his body as before.
He turned to face us. “I take this form when I am at my limit and need to recover out of sight. The Arcadians will not notice me like this.”
Kazuya spoke, not through his snout of the fox, but through our minds.
“You’ve gotta be shitting me,” Tiffany muttered.
I huffed. “This actually works better for us. We don’t have to sneak a half-dead naked guy into our basement.”
Tiffany shook her head with a smirk. “This is freaking crazy.”
I grabbed Kazuya from off the ground and carried him, ignoring his complaints. Tiffany and I walked to the main road away from the river bridge, noticing we were only a few blocks away from our suburban complex. Only a half an hour until I could relax in a nice warm bed.