Asphodelaceae The House of Vera By: Koi Fei
The view of darkness alternated to the ceiling and back. A few flickers of the eye arose an uncomfortable feeling. Aloe pushed aside the toasty covers, laying bare on the mattress. Her hands grazed the wooden planks that made up the floors as a cold prick returned her touch. Groggily, she pulled herself up, staring into empty space. Something was missing, she thought, drowsy, yet refreshed by a brisk breeze that had seeped through the windows. A spark of signal finally hit her and transmitted a reaction. Chilled by this dilemma, she forced her limp body to drag along the planks towards the front door. Thump-thump went her shaking heart, a hoarse throat croaked an incomprehensible sound, attempting to form cohort words. It was not what was missing, but rather who.
Launching the door open, its hinges screamed, unveiling the outdoors. She leaped out of the cabin’s premises in her nightgown, resembling white lilies. The gown fluttered with the gentle winds, and unshod feet struck the sand that took off into the sky. Eyes locked on the rock far front with a familiar figure. Sheets of snow mimicked his hair, in a brief moment he was brighter than the moon’s radiance. Without a doubt, it was him. Grandfather was stargazing, not noticing that his granddaughter wasn’t far behind even though the sound of sand crunching beneath her feet was as loud as a siren. The waves crashed against the rocks of the coast where only two resided.
With a tight chest, she approached her grandfather and exhaled. Without a moment to waste, she asked, “Why aren’t you in the cabin?”
“...” He peered into the distance with his usual warm smile, but his facial expression stiffened. His eyes glimmered in the moonlight and the glistening of the sea. It was as if he was awaiting someone or something’s arrival. Gloomy vibes ended up overtaking the beauty of the night.
He finally responded with a faint sigh, “I’m only admiring the view. Not often do you see the full moon on such an occasion? You can return to the cabin and sleep for the night. I’ll join you soon after, ok?”
Aloe had countless questions to ask but resisted the urge as the obedient side of her topped her lingering thoughts. The consternation was sufficient to shake the calm foundation she built around her. She took one last glance at the serenity and stepped away, vanishing in the darkness of night.
Back to the warmth of her blankets, she went, and so did her mind, returning to pure silence.
【 — STATUS — 】
➭ received +20 health! (80→100)
➭ received -10 mentality! (90→80)
The sun’s luminous light shunned the shore’s night and gave an orange hue. Seawater undulated lightly, submerging and revealing boulders. The epipelagic zone was often the prettiest, complimenting daybreak. Tick-tock, it was time to get to business and take care of the plants behind the cabin. Drowned in the humming of cheerful tunes, she went with the rhythm. The plants danced happily in the sun, absorbing all the nutrients and love to bud. Contently, Aloe paced around and watched the water bounce off the foliage, as the rest infiltrated the soils. Dashes of herbs and spices were sprinkled into the mortar and pestle with the other hand.
She jumped in quite the fright. The water inside the watering can splashed from side to side along with her.
“What’s wrong, lost in thought?”
“Something like that,” she replied.
It was grandfather, who was a natural at keeping his composure. His snow-white hair had diluted into a more soft gray without the moon’s illusion. Yet, Aloe had known him enough to counter his unusually calm demeanor. She had done this much too many times when she was younger. Whether it was guilt-tripping or…really just that. It was as if nothing could stop her perceptive nature from the answers she sought. The solution was obvious: attack with guilt-tripping questions until he took ample emotional damage to let her in on the secrets. A hidden grin on her face said everything, in a subtle manner.
“I–” she ended up getting interrupted immediately…
“Unfortunately, I have to cut you short. I have something important. And I mean important,” in a stiff voice, returning a light smile. He had caught on fairly quickly.
“At the very least, monetize my words. They’re worth some sum of respect,” the back of her head mischievously thought, unknowing of how valuable the conversation was.
In his sleeve, contained a letter which he swiftly whipped out. There was an official, fancy stamp imprinted on it with bold red wax; fitting for the mysterious and chilling nature of the letter. Almost royal-like. Those who seemed to be the worst are all the ones with fortune and fame. May as well make a royal decree to directly shame the people valued as youth and beyond for all the times fairytales had lied about their innocence. On the back bottom-right corner, there was a familiar marking, grandfather’s family symbol. It was always a very attractive shade of blue. One that hit very close to home.
“It’s the emblem of The Duke. He has invited you to assist in the back lines of the welfare department. You must travel past the dense flourishing forest surrounding us to get into town with this very letter. Never Lose It. I’ll provide you with a map to get going.” Grandfather said nonchalantly.
Aloe’s forehead wrinkled and her eyes sharpened, tempted to cover her ears.
“Going? Going to leave? Leaving you? Never! Are you kidding me? Why would you send me off all of a sudden? Why does a man I don’t know want me working in some kind of department?!” She argued and argued in defense of herself as if her life depended on it. In reality, it was a mere attachment that was holding her back.
Her grandfather lifted his hand, laying it on top of her head. He patted her consolingly in hopes of comfort and calming her down. A soft face appeared to have been disheartened. It is such a pity indeed that a spectacularly bewitching porcelain face was torn down into shattered pieces.
“There is no way I’m abandoning you, but there’s no way around this. Not only do I want you to survive– I want you to live and thrive. Make sure you get there safely without my help. I’ve sheltered you for far too long. I know you have the ability to venture out into the unknown, even if it’s scary. I raised you to be proud and capable. I didn’t train you in the morning every once in a while for no reason. All those lessons of using herbs we grew for medicine and learning independence from cooking to fighting off wild animals. You can even refer to your hard work in the notes that you were advised to jot. Now then, let’s prepare our items for departure, shall we?”
She remained silent with a bitter expression. Her hefty heart fell to her feet and frustratingly decided to reside by the seaside to cool off.
【 — STATUS — 】
➭ received -10 health! (100→90)
➭ received -20 mentality! (80→60)
Extra Food and Water x10
Sleeping Bag x1
Weimao (veiled hat) x1
Lumine Coins (currency) x100
Book ???’s Words of Wisdom x1
The sun started to set below the horizon, leaving a warm light that paired well with the breeze rising from the sea. The clamping claws of crabs were most noticeable during this time, as they scurried to return to the waters before it got too dark. Trees rode with the passing wind, and the several variations of seeds took off to sprout a new life. It was the last day.
“UWaA,” squealed Aloe in sudden fear of the hand that lightly tapped her shoulder. She rushed to back up from the mysterious person, looked up, and–it was grandfather, with that came an immediate sigh of relief. “YoU SCareD mE!” exclaimed Aloe while she tried to catch her breath to recover from such a jump scare.
He cleared his throat, trying to hold back a grin. “Yes, yes, that was an oversight on my end.”
“Isn’t this whole journey idea an oversight,” pouted Aloe.
“You’re going to be fine. It shouldn’t be that hard with my directions. Here’s what I packed, and make sure to wear the weimao when you reach the kingdom. That’s absolute. Just remember, blink twice if you need help. I’ll come flying to save you.”
“Are you serious?”
He recomposed himself before it ached his heart any more than it already did. “Ahem! On a more serious note, I suppose, please take care of yourself and make it there safely. Send me a letter when you arrive, and you can include all the things you encountered along the way. Whatever you do, look straight, head up high, and don’t come back.”
“Huh, don’t come back? What do you mean–”
“Hush now, we don’t have time to chit-chat any longer after all the time we wasted. Get going. Now.”
It was bewildering why he was suddenly in a rush. Aloe’s grandfather pushed her into the path that started her journey to the dense forest ahead, dropping everything he packed on her. Aloe struggled, squirmed around to lose his grip and get a proper explanation but lost in the disorientation, she was bid farewell. Before she knew it, her grandfather disappeared from her sight with the sound of a clashing sword followed from behind. The forest shifted and protected her from any harm by forming a border until everything was covered by wildlife, closing off the entrance. She had been swarmed by vegetation. The moving environment shook the grounds beneath her, causing waves and riffs similar to an earthquake. She stumbled, falling to the floor as she muttered to herself, “why, why, why, why, why…!?”
【 — STATUS — 】
➭ received 0 health! (90→90)
➭ received -30 mentality! (60→30)
Rivulet to Tributary
Oblivious of how much time has passed, Aloe continued to seek answers in a hopeless state. The sun had reached its end and rose all nocturnality to roam free with the night. Bushes rustled, eyes flashed throughout, footsteps grew closer. The creatures glared at each other to investigate the audacity of who dared to trespass on their territory. It was the beginning of a feast, starting with the uninvited guest. A single sensation can be used to describe the situation:
f e a r. Aloe’s presence had undeniably bloomed a new series of problems.
She spoke not a single word. Sweat glands were acting up, both sides unmoving. This was not the time to be lost in thought, so a plan was conjured, titled: “How Not to Die.”
Step 1: Grab the lighter with as minimal noise as possible.
Step 2: Activate said lighter.
Step 3: RUN.
In one breath, gripping the soil, Aloe gulped and blurted one last thing that was on top of her head: “oLD mAn YoU DiDN’t TeLl mE ABouT THIs! IT’S A BATTLEFIELD OUT HERE, NOT A WALK IN THE PARK (inaudible).” And thus, she took off into the night.
Sticks and leaves flung off the trees while soil and stones dispersed from the vigorous footsteps. The items inside her bag clacked left and right, swaying with her movement. Ahead was a cliff in the distance, and this was the chance to lose the entirety of creatures following not far behind. It was all for nothing, initiating the last sprint. A vine to the left tempted Aloe to swing off of it, but she wasn’t about to become Tarzan of the jungle. Hence, she advised another idea to herself, which was to commence the most reckless action. Considering a bird’s-eye view, she observed her surroundings to map out the environment with roughly 30 seconds to get past the cliff without getting mauled. One and two, finally, target spotted, the lighter was dismissed. Three and four, she carefully slid down the side of the cliff and gripped the rocks to bring herself out of view. Five, six, seven. eight, “Don’t look down, don’t look down,” she chanted in terror, letting go when she reached the platform she aimed for. Luckily, the ledge on the side of the cliff a few meters below was strong enough to hold her weight as she had hoped. Twenty, twenty-one, she covered her mouth with her hands and prayed.
The footsteps approached, louder and louder, shouting to the world around them. Until the various animals had arrived at the cliff and gawked in confusion. Upon examination, they had lost their target, visually at least. One companion used their keen sense of smell to sniff around. Even though a certain scent lingered, the bunch had no way of identifying where Aloe was. They cautiously avoided close contact with the ledge and fled, losing appetite in disappointment, eventually returning to the woods.
“PhEWw…hah…hah…(What a scary thought to be eaten alive)” Her eyes closed serenely after all the trouble she went through just to survive the first trial. Yet, a sharp pain struck her, redirecting her focus to her knees. It was scraped from the rush to hide.
(I can’t do anything on this ledge; it’s too dangerous. I’ll die from this height if I mess up. I’ll take the bag and climb back up, then use my herbs to make medicine.)
Gripping the side of the rocky wall, she clutched the gaps and pulled herself up. Built-up sweat motivated her to go quicker, or else one slip of the finger would put all effort into the void. For every ascension, excess debris declined to the bottom, plop, bursting into the stream, creating light ripples. The creek had resembled a venomous python, consuming energy until one’s will could not handle the pressure. It was neither hideous nor gorgeous in its scenery but enough of a menace to set trepidation in the name of life and death. With the concluding pull, an illuminating light flared before Aloe’s eyes, blinding her from doing anything else. In a single moment, sore muscles gave up in unity. The miscalculation caused a slip in movement and off went with one hand’s grasp. Demoralized, yet desperate, she persevered from the strain’s crushing pain. Until an unknown force pulled her dangling body up on the surface.
Flat ground, without a crater…at last. Aloe flopped on the ground, discombobulated, whilst her body fell into pieces. Heavy eyes observed what was above, stars twinkled like the individual gems they were. Her stomach churned at the thought of the ordeal. Abruptly, a head appeared out of nowhere, ruby eyes piercing through the soul with long, luscious locks of hair dripping down. A sweet scent of berries and flowers floated around, wafting in the air.
“Hello,” said the mysterious girl.
Without any energy left to spare and because of the emotionally drained state Aloe was in, she indifferently replied in a soft voice, “What is it now?”
“Hm. No respect for the person who saved your life, I see. How. Annoying.”
Aloe instantaneously sprung up from the ground to catch a glimpse of her supposed savior, widening her eyes to a majestic sight. A girl with a ribbony light puffy dress about the same height or taller stood directly in front, making eye contact. It was an awe-inspiring masterpiece as if someone as meticulous as Van Gogh had painted a paragon of virtue. It was: immaculate and blinding all at the same time.
“Pssh, just noticed?” scoffed the girl once more.
“...Thank you?” Aloe responded with uncertainty.
“Get up. How did you even get here? No one is dumb enough to venture here all of the places, especially during this time. Oh, and of course, you’re injured, great.”
“I’m not sure…everything happened in what felt like a blink of an eye. You’re not the only one who’s perplexed by how I got here in the past few hours. Speaking of which, where am I?”
She clicked her tongue, irritated by the bothersome question. “So you fatigued your body to scale a steep topographical object? Tch. Give me a map. Surely you have one on you?”
Rummaging through her bag, a long, dignified scroll found its way into her grasp, and she handed it over. “I came from the coast, sent by my grandfather to reach the Estelle Kingdom and deliver something, but that's all I know.”
“Hmm… you’re a peculiar one, come with me, I’ll take you to the Amaryllidaceae Households.”
“Don’t. Just don’t bother. By the way, just call me Aka.”
【 — STATUS — 】
➭ received -15 health! (90→75)
They walked in awkward silence until curiosity got the better of the cat. Aka paused and tilted her head, squinting her eyes in the process.
“Tell me every detail about how you randomly show up from what seems to be nowhere. The whole area is a forest with no coast around here. Even if there was, it’d be far from a few hours to arrive–days at the very least. Besides, your appearance leaves an impression too. I haven’t seen anyone like you and I’m sure others haven’t either. People will want their hands on you for the sake of market sales.”
Aloe pondered deeply to make a sensical response, “It was true, what she uttered has logically explained everything on this conundrum. She had the right to judge me and everything, seeing that I could very well be a menace…”
“I may have nothing to defend myself with, but I swear I’m not here to cause trouble. I just…don’t know enough…” she said in desperation.
“Yeah–yeah, I can comprehend that much. You seem pretty harmless either way. Plus, earlier didn’t you say that you were going to Estelle Kingdom? What part of it? It’s pretty big from what I know.”
“Don’t tell me you don’t know that either!!” Aka was losing patience. “Ok, who then?”
“To the Duke?”
“We’re getting somewhere, lovely! Then you have to go to the central part of Estelle and then keep walking straight up near the mountain range…sort of, it’s pretty complicated”
“Speaking of where we are, are we making any progress to The Households? Not to complain or anything, but I feel like I’m walking in circles,” she complained.
“You’ll just have to see the magic behind it. Florio.”
The ground shifted from below, only slightly this time, and fog formed in the next blink. Mist covered the area, with the inability to see, one couldn’t do anything but remain stationary in their position. Lost, unable to pinpoint a location, and of course, without a place to return. It was dead silent, suffocating, trapped in an insane asylum. Any normal person at that…
“Vuala! Hah, what do you think of that? Isn’t it cool? A place where you can’t go anywhere, be anywhere, have anywhere, nowhere if you will! It’s what I call the home of the lost and never to be found. Basically no different than a graveyard. It is no face of calamity or adversity, but a fortunate stroke of serendipity.”
“What happened? I don’t see a change.” Aloe said, muddled by the apparent sudden change in behavior and randomly spouted words.
Aka spoke not a word. Nothing crossed her mind that someone could possibly unsee the thick haze specially made to put others in trance. Fooled by such a miracle, she was the one tranced. “You…transparent eyes of Aspholdelaceae, was it? You people are practically a myth!”
Aloe shut her eyes, glued shut, and looked down, pleading.
“Light green hair, snow-white skin, and pearl eyes, perhaps? It’s not like I want to make enemies with you. I’ll bring you now, hold my hand.” She reached out and waited for her to make a move, but Aloe didn’t budge.
“Augh… I’m sorry alright? Just get this over with, my arm is getting sore.”
Reluctantly, Aloe accepted her offer and peaked at her surroundings once more. Not a single hint of the dense forest remained.
“See? Wasn’t that bad right? I’ll show you around tomorrow morning, I’ll let you stay in my room for now.”
A huge mansion loomed over the two individuals, as Aka sprinted in through the front entrance, unfazed. Aloe’s sloppy body was practically hauled across the grand floor until they reached the corner where a specific room met her eyes. Faint scents of fresh apricot and honey filled the corridors. In front, screamed leisure and spectacular opulence. Cushions, vanity, walk-in closet, a king-sized bed, decked with anything you could imagine. But the most exciting part, fluffy plushies.
“Come, come! This is the first time I’ve had someone over, so exhilarating! I’ll bandage your scraped knee, then you can sleep on the other side of the bed, next to me.”
Aka pulled Aloe’s arm over and plopped her on the chair.
“Woah-woah-woah, why are you inviting a stranger into your house and treating me so well?” Aloe exclaimed in great astonishment.
“Mmmmmmm…I’ll explain later…done! Wrapped all ready to go. Now sleep!”
She flicked the lights closed before Aloe could say another word and released her on the cloud-like bed. In mere seconds, both had fallen asleep from the sheer shambles their bodies were in.
【 — STATUS — 】
➭ received 20 health! (75→95)
“Your highness, everyone has followed through as planned,” whispered a dull maid to a concealed figure.
“Good. We shall prepare to meet the glare of the raging fires. The fireworks wait for no one after all and I have to witness their misery in person. Once that pesky family is gone, I’ll celebrate my victory with a bit of wine. What is it that they say? Ah yes, My Condolences.”
To be Continued.