Chapter 17

Chapter 17

A Chapter by Iron K. Tager
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The seventeenth Chapter

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Fog covered everything around him in a mid-morning blanket of haze, and the cool mist put everything around him through a soft filter of grey and white.  Jeremy stood motionless in front of the shrine, looking at it in silence as he waited.  Something seemed calming to him about the scene, whether it be the silence of the morning or the look of the shrine through the fog.  He let go, for a moment, of the thoughts that had hounded his mind that morning: who the masked figure was, who Verona was, who this Morpheus guy was, and how this all connected together.  Sure he had heard of Morpheus before from the Matrix, even though he was not much of a film buff, but something else about him seemed familiar.  But for this moment, all that fell away.  Nothing mattered during this brief bliss he felt.

“Heya!”  Soro called from the stone stairway behind Jeremy.  “Wait long?”

Jeremy turned around and yawned, suddenly knocked out of his trance and aware of his persisting exhaustion.  “No, not too long.”

“Hmm?  C’mon, it’s exciting!  Be more enthusiastic!  It’s your first training camp!”  Soro exclaimed excitedly.

“Why are you so wound up for it?” Jeremy smiled as he raised an eyebrow.  He may still feel exhausted, but somehow he felt more invigorated from the moment before.  “You aren’t going.”

Soro jokingly looked off and pretended to sniffle his nose.  “Well... I would like to, but I have things to do here and I might just get in the way,” he said pathetically, sniffling again.

“Oh ok,” Jeremy glanced over Soro’s shoulder.

“So, I’m guessin’ no one else’s arrived yet?” he asked, scratching his head.

“Not that I know of,” Jeremy responded, trailing off.  If he was to talk to Soro about the incident last night, now would be the best time.  “But...”

“But…?”  Soro prodded.

“There’s something I need to tell you.”  Jeremy lowered his voice a little.

“Hmm?  And that is?” Soro inquired.

“Last night, I was attacked by someone in the graveyard,” Jeremy explained.  “And they followed me all the way back to the shop dressed in black with a white mask.  We were able to drive her off, but I’m a little worried about it.”

“Her?”  Soro asked.  “And what were you doing in the graveyard?”

‘Come to think of it, where did Verona go?’ Jeremy thought to himself.  “Lance said it was a ‘her’, and I believe him.”  Jeremy looked off to the side. 

He outlined the events of the night before, and Soro listened intently to every detail, all the way until the part of Lucia’s marveling.

“I’m concerned I might not be able to be of much help if anything else comes along.”  Jeremy scratched his neck, looking uneasily away from Soro.

Soro walked next to Jeremy, reeled his arm back, and slapped him on the back. 

“C’mon, have more faith in yourself!”  Jeremy looked to his right see Soro’s face brightly shining through the thin cloud of fog.  “You just have to believe in yourself and condition yourself more.  Do all that, and your bound to come up with something great.”  He threw a thumbs-up at Jeremy.

Jeremy looked away uneasily as a sudden memory came rolling back into his head.  With it being the second large one since the previous morning, with smaller bits that were relatively unimportant at the time, he began to notice that certain memories might begin to surface from things happening around him.  This one was just as powerful as the one that provoked him to leave last night, and he felt he needed to remember whoever it was that came to mind when Soro said that. 

“Something wrong?” Soro sounded worried.  “Did I say something?”

“Well, about what you just said,” He thought for a moment, and then continued, “I just, well, remembered something.  I’m trying to think on it.” 

Soro looked at him worriedly.

            “But, but more about the attack.  I want to know that it won’t become a problem.”

Soro, suddenly imbued with his original fervor, wrapped his arm around Jeremy’s shoulders and pointed with his other hand at Jeremy’s heart, surprising him a little.  “Don’t you worry, it sounded like you and Lance gave ‘em a run for their money, and I think they’ll think twice about comin’ after you guys again.”  Soro leaned away from him a bit more.  “This is your time to train, to become more.  Always listen to your heart, Jay.  Even if things might not seem so easy, always hold what your heart says is dear to you.”  He unwrapped his arm from around Jeremy’s neck and took a few steps forward before turning around.  “And it’s always good to talk things out with people.  You never know how much help someone can be by just a quick chat.”

“Yeah.  I’ll… keep that in mind,” Jeremy smiled back sheepishly.

A stale silence fell as thick as the fog around them as Jeremy’s mind became stuck on two questions.  As he was about to ask, something interrupted them from the fog.  

“Whew, it sure is nice today,” a girl’s voice was heard not too far away.  “At least there aren’t any bugs around.”  Jeremy recognized the voice: it was Ruoiu’s.  Both he and Soro looked around to see if they could spot her.  Turning around, they saw nothing, to either side there was nothing as well, and in front of them was, again, nothing.  A sudden tap on Jeremy’s shoulder came from behind, where they had just looked. He turned around to see Ruoiu’s grinning face say:  “Hey.”

“M-morning,” Jeremy looked at her surprised.  ‘Where did she come from?’

“I flew,” she responded as if she had heard the thought.  “In case you were wondering.”

“Glad to see you can find your way here in all this dense fog.  Seems like it gave you trouble seeing how late you are” Soro laughed as he turned back around to face them again.  “I’d get better time from the next snow!”

“In this stuff?  I’m surprised your eyes are still working,” she joked back.  “And what about you?  Lookin’ all spaced out?” she looked Jeremy over.

“Well... a lot of things have happened, I guess,” he shrugging his shoulders with another sheepish smile.  “Soro, Ruu, do you know of someone named Verona?  Maybe a spirit or something?”

Ruoiu put her fingers to her chin and began to think.  “Well, there’s Velia…”

“No,” Jeremy reasoned, “it’s not Velia.  Rather, I’m sure they’re a spirit.  They called themselves a ‘soul’…  What about you, Soro?”

Soro looked at Jeremy with a still expression for a few seconds before sighing and awkwardly looking up over the shrine as if trying to recall.  “No, can’t say I do.  Maybe Mia knows?”  He shrugged.

Ruoiu paused for a second.  “Well, all that aside, just be sure you’re ready for the training.  I’m not going easy on you, even if you’re new,” she said with force. 

Soro put his fingers in front of his lips and let out a womanly giggle with his eyebrows raised.

“Hey old man, how much voltage do you think you can take?” she snapped at Soro with a threatening grin.

Soro looked off into the distance and started to whistle, slowly walking in the direction of the shrine.  Ruoiu looked like she was about to snap her fingers, stepping towards him, and Soro picked up the pace until he jumped frantically into the air, dodging bolts Ruoiu threw at him as he floated just above the path with every touch of the ground.

“They sure look like they have fun, don’t they?” a woman’s voice said next to Jeremy as he watched.

“Yeah,” he laughed a little at the thought.  Aware of no recollection of there being anyone else, Jeremy turned around to his left, where the voice had come from to see that one was here.  He sighed, “Maybe I’m losing my mind.”

“That’d be bad,” another female voice coming from his right stated. It was different than the one he had just heard.  Jeremy turned to see Mia standing in her usual shrine clothing where Ruoiu was just a moment ago.

“N-no, no, I’m just thinking out loud,” Jeremy tried to explain, surprised again by the sudden appearance and getting caught off-guard.

“Sorry, didn’t mean to scare you,” Mia smiled apologetically.  “So, are you ready?” she asked.

“As ready as I’ll ever be, I guess,” Jeremy shrugged again smiled unevenly as he held up a small, green sack of clothes and provisions that Lance had given him.

“Good, because you’re going to need all the strength you have,” Soro popped out of nowhere to Jeremy’s left.

“Yeah, it’s going to be pretty grueling,” Ruoiu also popped out of nowhere, behind both Mia and Jeremy.  “Don’t be chickening out or anything.”  She laughed.  “And don’t forget anything!”

“Yeah, make sure you have everything,” Soro said as he walked towards the shrine. 

Jeremy adjusted the small pack that was placed on his back.  “I got all I need.”

“Well, have fun.”  Soro was about to leave it at that, but he spun around right as they were beginning to move.  “Oh, come here, I have something for y’all.”

Jeremy, Ruoiu, and Mia walked over to Soro, who was rummaging around in one of the pockets in his robes.  He pulled out a small sack of almonds and handed it to Mia.  “Something for the road.  And before I forget,” he motioned Jeremy to follow him.

Mia and Ruoiu slowly walked towards the tree-line to the left of the shrine while Jeremy and Soro stuck around the veranda.

“I’m going to look into what happened last night a little,” Soro said.  “Any more you can give me on those two as far as looks?”

Jeremy tried, but he could not muster much else.  “No, there was the lady dressed in black with the mask, and Verona was like… A green ball?”

Soro looked at the ground, and then back at Jeremy, but was unable to look him in the eyes.  “Ok, I’ll look around.  Thanks.  If anything else comes up, tell me.”  He met his eyes with Jeremy’s and hushed his voice a little.  “Pro’lly best if ya don’t let the others on to it; don’t want ‘em getting’ caught up an’ curious when y’all’re supposed to be focusin’ on trainin’.”

“I understand,” Jeremy confirmed.

A bolt of lightning rushed toward Soro’s head, and he swiftly moved out of its way at the last second, causing a scorch mark to appear on one of the shrine’s beams.

“Creep dodged it,” Ruoiu grunted to herself.  “Oh well, looks like I’ve got work to do when I come back.”  She spoke up to start yelling at Soro and Jeremy.  “You guys ready to go now, or what?”  She sighed and started walking towards a small opening in the trees.

“Shall we go?” Mia asked Jeremy as she motioned after Ruoiu.

“Yeah,” Jeremy confirmed as he approached the thin opening.  He looked back to see Soro opening the sliding door on the front of the shrine.  He felt kind of bad, leaving Soro by himself, but figured that he would not get lonely, seeing how he knew so many people.

“Don’t worry about him,” Mia said back to Jeremy, who just noticed himself that he had stopped.  “He has plenty of things to do and people to talk to, he doesn’t need us to be there,” she smiled at him.

“C’mon Jay, let’s go!”  Ruoiu yelled from a short ways down the path.

“Right!” Jeremy called back, thinking for a moment that this might actually be kind of fun.  Before long, he was lost again to his thoughts. 

 

The antique shop was quiet, with the only sound audible being the muffling of movement and voices from outside.  Lance stood at the counter on the other end of the display room from the door, where he was wiping the sleek wood surface with one hand and reading a small book with the other.  The shop was lit by the dusty window to his right only a few feet in front of the counter.  He stopped for a second and looked up at the empty shop.

“I sure hope that old man knows what he’s doing,” He commented to himself with a sigh, stepping out from behind the counter, putting down the book and walking over to the window.  As he dusted the plates of glass one by one with a cloth, he noticed a familiar figure on the other side that in turn saw him, and walked over to the door.

Soro opened the door and popped his head in.  “Yo.”  He waved his hand towards Lance. 

“Welcome!” Lance invited him.  “So, how’s our boy doing?” Lance asked, putting down the dusting cloth on a part of the center display.

“Eh, he’ll get there eventually,” Soro said smiling as he closed the door behind him.  “He should be fine as long as those two are with ‘em, if you’re asking about his safety.  They aren’t the most responsible, but they’ll do what they need to if they need to.”

“But is it really all right to send them off by themselves?” Lance asked worriedly.

“It’s not a problem.  Both of them don’t exactly think anything low of him, if you know what I mean.”  Soro grinned at Lance, who sighed.

“No, that’s not what I meant,” he explained.  “From all the stuff Jeremy has been telling me of events happening to him and around him, I’m not sure if it’s the best idea to leave them off on their own.  Even you’re saying to go off somewhere for an adventure seemed a little irrational.  Don’t you want to deal with all of the problems here first before you go off swinging him around?”

Soro shrugged and his smile disappeared as he scratched the back of his neck.  “Yeah... well.  That’s probably not the smartest conclusion to come up with in this situation.”  He slowly walked around the middle display.  “But what can we do?  There are too many distractions around here now that everyone knows where to go for him; he needs to train somewhere else, if only a little.  And it’s especially difficult with the entire anti-transfer stink we have around here; at least this gets ‘em away from that.  And as for him being attacked...” Soro stopped on the other side of the display near a large pot next to a bookshelf.  “I think he should be fine.  Jeremy is a tenacious kid, if not a little clueless at first.”

Soro looked inside the pot, and convinced that nothing was in it, turned back around to face Lance.  “Not really off that topic, but can you tell me what happened to him last night?”

“I only know what he told me, and what happened after he got here.  The masked girl was probably a couple of inches shorter than Jeremy, all in black.  The mask was white with some markings around the eyes and cheeks, mostly red and green, I think.”

“Anything about a green orb?”  Soro asked anxiously.

“No.”  Lance walked back over to behind the counter and sat down in a low stool behind it.  Soro stayed on the other side and leaned up against the book case next to the pot.  “Actually, Jeremy mentioned it, though I didn’t want to pressure him.  He was pretty tired, and he left almost as soon as he woke up this morning.”

Soro looked away from Lance, looking for some way to word his next question.

“You know, you’re spreading yourself too thin,” Lance said as soon as he realized what Soro was leading to.

“Wonder how many times I’ve heard that before,” Soro dismissed.

“I’m serious,” Lance said as a matter-of-fact.  “You are taking on too much.”

“Please, Lance, I don’t have time for this.”

Lance persisted.  “I must go on.  Please, don’t do this to yourself.  You won’t be able to keep up that face with Jeremy if you take on any more.”

Soro remained silent.

“What would things be like if we lost you?”  Lance began to soften his voice.  “Why don’t you have someone help you?  I could-“

“You, Lance?  Please, tell me what you can do.”  Soro was becoming noticeably peeved as he stared at the floor.  “You know no magic, no divine power.”  Just from the stresses in his voice you could tell he was trying to restrain himself.

Lance could not rightly answer Soro’s question, so he opted for suggestions.  “What about Mia?  She’s a priestess; maybe not completely, but she must be able to help.”

“I can’t give ‘em to ‘er because they aren’t her’s, and like you said, she isn’t a full priestess.”  Soro knew exactly what Lance was going to suggest next.  “And I can’t load ‘em onto Cara either.  She’s had enough to deal with, y’know.  I can’t even give ‘em to Ruu.  It wouldn’t be right to shove my problems in their faces.”  Soro turned as if he was about to leave the shop, and spat out his comments.  “Gyan is my fault, and Jeremy is my responsibility.  If not me, who would train him, Lance?  You?  Mia?”

Soro sighed and ran his hand through his hair, and then rolled his shoulders and sighed again.  “Sorry, but this is how it has to be.  I am the shrine priest, and even if I wasn’t, some of this stuff is personal.  You’ve helped out a lot already with agreeing to keep Jay here, and I thank you.  I’ll admit that takin’ on this new threat might be too much if an incident suddenly started.”  Soro glanced at Lance, and then scratched the back of his neck.  “So I’ll see if Cara and Mia’ll help out, at least for keepin’ an eye on Jay.  But everything else… I have to clean up my own messes.”

“Right,” Lance said. 

“We’ve known each other for a very long time, Lance, and that’s why I feel like I can be honest with you.  You know how it is with me.”

“Yeah… Sorry, it was out of place for me to talk.”

“Nah,” Soro wrapped his hand around a staff in the center display and followed its decorative lines with his fingers.  “It’s my fault.”  He dropped his hand and began walking towards the door.  “You’re worried about my well-being and just tryin' to help, and… well, thanks.  But once it’s all over, everything’ll be fine, and we can all have a big laugh over it in the pit.  Just you see.”

“Yeah,” Lance said, relieved that the situation diffused itself.

Soro turned and grinned at Lance as he reached the door.  “It’ll be your treat,” he joked.

“When isn’t it?” Lance followed the joke.

Soro chuckled to himself.  “I think I’ll take a short rest,” he commented.

“I think that’s a wise idea,” Lance smiled back.

Soro opened up the door and stepped outside.  “I’ll see ya later.”

“Have a nice day,” Lance called as the door shut behind Soro.  He sat still for a very long minute before returning to clean the window. 


© 2014 Iron K. Tager


Author's Note

Iron K. Tager
This chapter had some heavy revision, especially during the second part (in the shop), so there might be some weird things left in there. If anyone spots anything weird, please let me know.

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Added on March 26, 2014
Last Updated on March 27, 2014
Tags: Break Down the Unknown, Chapter 17, 17, Jeremy, Jay, Lance, Ruu, Ruoiu, Mia, Cara, Soro, shop, village, shrine, orb


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Iron K. Tager
Iron K. Tager

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Hello! I'm not really that good of a writer at all, but I do enjoy writing. I tend to only write things when I feel like it, so sometimes I go long stretches without putting anything down. I wrote .. more..

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