Interlude 2 - Mia
Silent watchful eyes stared at the newcomer, as she stepped past the cherry blossom trees, a little blinking device in the human's hand. The intruder—a female, young by human standards —stepped into her little garden, peeping around as if trying to spot something there. She was dressed in a funny way, or at least, so it seemed.
And then their eyes met.
The watchful eyes blinked. Twice.
The human smiled.
And just like that, the spell was broken.
"Ah, a ralts. I knew I'd find one eventually."
The little ralts looked downward, not wanting to meet the human's eyes. The green bangs on her head fell over her red eyes, hiding them from the human's sight. The reddish protrusions on her head told her that the human meant no harm, but then, why didn't she leave? And why were her emotions shining so brightly?
And yet, she'd not go. She'd not leave. She kept staring at Ralts, and Ralts was confused. Ralts had no sense of identity, yet she was Ralts, and Ralts were… Ralts. She wasn't a Kirlia, not yet, and would not—not until she developed into something more than Ralts, yet being a Ralts. It was kind of confusing, but the elders had explained that it would taste of dew and wet grass and petals, but she wasn't there yet, and why was the human staring at her like that?
Ralts didn't know how to curse, so she pouted instead. Perhaps that would send the human away?
It still wasn't working. Her senses told her that the human had no negative intentions. So Ralts was safe. Provisionally, at least. She didn't know how to speed up like some of the other members of her little tribe. Something about pushing the energy in her to somehow move faster. If she were a Kirlia, she could have used it. Why there was even a Gardevoir that used Push. But Ralts was small. She had only seen three summers, and this human seemed far too complex for her to comprehend. Perhaps she could try dancing a little jig instead?
"I am not going to hurt you," the intruder female spoke again. "I just want to be your friend. Do you think I can touch you?"
Touch her? Ralts considered her situation. She was sitting on the lower branches of a cherry blossom tree. Not an ideal hiding location, but in her defense, there weren't supposed to be non-harmful intruders in the first place. Why were these humans so confusing?
Ralts pouted again.
"Hey mom, where did you go and— Whoa, what's that?"
"Shhhh!" The woman hissed agitatedly, and the second intruder stopped short.
Ralts looked up. It was a tinier humanling. A male, from the voice, or so she thought. A little kid—happy—wanting attention—surprise—wish to impress and get attention and—
And she blinked.
Red eyes met red eyes.
Ralts blinked again.
"Whoa!" The humanling with ralts-like eyes spoke out loud. Humans loved to speak out loud for some reason. Emotions were far simpler. Far less complex. Far easy to comprehend. Far less prone to being contorted. The humanling had rather complex emotions.
Ralts tilted her head.
He feels like… pollen.
"Do you want a pastry?"
Ralts blinked. A pastry? She knew of flowers and dew and sunlight, but pastry? She sniffed around. There was a strange aroma— not unlikeable, just strange and new. And delicious.
Ralts sniffed again.
Yes, the smell was still there.
"Here, try this," The humanling extended his hand, and at the very tip, was some kind of… food? Ralts did not know. It smelt good. Maybe it would taste just as good? She slowly extended her left arm outwards, and grabbed onto the circular thing— a pastry, was it?
The humanling let it go.
Ralts sniffed. Yes, the aroma had come from this… pastry. Deciding to trust in the humanling, she pushed herself forward and bit into it and—
It was bliss.
Living in a lab wasn't very fun.
Ralts frowned. Not fun at all.
It had been a fortnight since she had been brought to this new place. A place, not a home. Home had a cherry blossom garden. This one had apple trees, orchards, and big forests all around, but no cherry blossoms. So no, this wasn't home.
The human female came in every day and went back every day. Ralts was allowed to stay in her tiny garden with the other ralts, but she wanted to go back to the cherry blossom tree. There were kirlia there and gardevoir too. Being near a gardevoir felt amazing, The ralts and humans around here didn't feel nearly as nice. Yesterday a man came in that smelt of fresh grass and milk and acorns, but nothing that Ralts liked.
Yes, Ralts definitely didn't like staying here.
"Hey Mom, are you here? I wanted to see if—" The intruder paused, as his red eyes met Ralts' own. This was the humanling that smelled of pollen. Why was he here? Was Ralts going to be taken to a new garden? Did the humanling bring more of those blissful, delicious, baked happiness called pastries?
Ralts felt an odd sensation inside her stomach. It wasn't happiness, but if she had to put a name to it, she'd call it a good feeling.
"Are you… Are you the ralts from the other day?"
Ralts tilted her head. Couldn't he recognize her? She was tiny, but she could tell every ralts apart. Perhaps this humanling was a little dim. She could never tell. Fascinating creatures, humans were intelligent while dim at the same time. Any ralts would have known that she wanted another pastry, but this humanling clearly had no idea.
Dim, with a little honey and pollen. Honey? Missing— Looking for his mother?
The boy was staring at her now, carefully. Ralts covered her eyes with her hair. She did not like being stared at. Slowly, the boy extended his hand forward. Her nose twitched excitedly. It was the same smell from the other day. The good one. The blissful one. Almost afraid he would change her mind, she quickly grabbed it before she nibbled it slowly.
Such things, she decided, must be savored.
"You are the same one," the boy declared triumphantly. "I knew it."
What was the boy talking about?
"I'm Red," he continued. "And you are… are…" The humanling seemed confused. "Ralts ummm… 01?"
Ralts tilted her head at that. Ralts ummm 01? What was that?
The boy frowned in the same way she had seen some of the other ralts frown when they couldn't reach an apple on a tree.
"You don't have a name do you?" The boy asked after a while, the amazed expression stuck on his face, "Why are pokémon named after themselves? Bit odd, don't you think?"
Named after themselves? What else should they be named after? Someone else? That didn't sound right.
"You have no idea what I'm talking about do you?"
This time, Ralts nodded her head. The humanling was not that dim after all.
"See everything's got a name," the child continued animatedly, "like that pastry—"
Ralts leaped a few steps back, as the humanling came dangerously close to her—and the pastry.
"Don't worry," the humanling went on, "I won't take that one. But that's called a pastry, so that's its name."
Ralts was having a hard time following. The pastry was baked happiness that smelt of delicious aromas she'd never smelt before but saying that was a mouthful. Was… pastry a short form for that? Was that what he meant?
"So what do you want to be called?" The child looked at her expectantly.
Did he expect her to think of that? Dealing with this humanling was hard. Well, she liked pastries. They were delicious. Though she was sure she would like other things too. How did humans decide on their names anyway? Red… was he named after Ralts's eye color? And what did Delia even mean? All humans looked so different that she had assumed that each was named after whatever variant they were.
Well, since humans were so good at making these… names, maybe she would just let the humanling— Red —pick. She looked into his wide, expectant eyes carefully. How could she tell him though? They seemed to use incredibly complicated verbal cues to communicate. Being a Ralts was much easier.
"Mmmmm," She tried, the sound all she could manage with her underdeveloped vocal cords.
"Hmmm," The boy mused. " I got it! From now on, you can be Mia"
Ralts felt an odd warmth well up inside her and smiled, the happiness wafting off the boy being almost contagious. She didn't exactly get the name, but she could deal with it if it caused this much joy.
The humanling… was not what she expected. He was strange, and small and ran around her so much that she was starting to feel dizzy.
But he was really happy. And joy was infectious, especially to something like her. Before she knew it, she had a smile on her face and tried to reach out to him.
After the experiment had finished, the humanling— Red, she reminded herself — had insisted that they take her home. It wasn't as good as her cherry-blossom trees, but she liked it here. Back there, she could feel others of her kin, and while the lab did have other ralts, the… kinship was somewhat less. Her primary source of excitement and joy was the humanling—Red, she corrected herself again.
Why couldn't humanlings be happy being humanlings? He didn't have red fur, or red hair. Perhaps he thought he smelled like saffron, but what part of him looked like a Red? Maybe his eyes? Ralts wanted to correct him over that misunderstanding, but she wasn't capable of expressing her thoughts and feelings in human-speech yet.
Plus he seems so happy being Red. I think I'll let him keep that title.
"Let's go play outside, Mia!"
Mia— that was what he named her, and wasn't remembering that such a chore? As if thinking of him as Red wasn't hard enough. Oh no, the humanling had a misunderstanding that she was a Mia. What even was a 'Mia' anyway? Ralts was hardly an expert on human terminology, and neither did she claim a diverse understanding of the world around her.
But still Mia?
If the humanling had to misunderstand, couldn't he at least use a term she knew?
"Come on, Mia."
—Or perhaps she was just hoping for too much. At least he seemed happy about it. Still, it was a lot harder than she thought to get used to it. She had been Ralts for as long as she remembered. Well until she evolved. Then she would be Kirlia. Maybe evolution would help her understand what a 'mia' was?
Not that she could completely blame the hum—Red. He had tried—in his own limited way—to explain the concept of names to her. Which was odd. None of the other ralts had names, and she could tell them apart just fine. Perhaps humans named things because they couldn't tell them apart? The pollen humanling— Red she mentally corrected again —had spent an awfully long time staring at her before he recognized her.
The closest thing that they had to names were titles. Her mother had told her stories of Bond, who had established a link to over five thousand of their kind and of Claw, the gallade who had slain over thirty rhydon to protect their tribes.
But this was different. From what she understood, each and every human got a title at birth, regardless of their achievements. Not only that but the title— name, she reminded herself — was completely random. Or at least she couldn't see a pattern in it.
Impatience—Eagerness— Excitement— Friend?
Red picked her up directly, causing her to squeak before he took her outside.
He was warm, she decided. Warm, soft and really happy. She felt safe, almost as if she was back in her mother's embrace.
She decided she liked the feeling.
Why is he so unhappy?
A single winter had passed before Ralts had become Kirlia, and yet, Red refused to see her as anything but a Mia. He was her favorite person and pastime though, so she had ended up associating herself with it.
Kirlia was now Mia, whatever that meant. Well, she was Mia before, but only recently had she come to embrace it as a connotation in relation to herself. But with evolution came an ability to sense past the superficial, into trenches buried deep within him.
She didn't like what she found there.
Invalidation— Ridicule— Underestimation— Solitude— Lonely—Left Out—alone.
It was almost like holding something all your life, only to find it slowly charring your hand. Her instincts screaming, Kirlia had escaped, not unlike a suffocating man struggling for breath, and avoided Red's presence for days. She had followed her basal instincts and wandered around the gardens of Pallet Town. Near other people who were happy. Where it felt good. Like the cake shop. There was a lot of happiness there.
And for a while, it sufficed. She left when he was unhappy and came back whenever he released joy. But it could not last. Whenever her instincts screamed at her to leave him, memories of herself playing with the humanling came to mind. Red had always taken care of her. Spent time with her. Played with her. And with that, came an earnest wish.
He should be feeling happy too. He should be feeling what I'm feeling. Then why does he look so sad?
While her instincts still instigated her to leave whenever the bouts of unhappiness crossed Red, she found that she could deal with them by actively ignoring his deeper feelings, and focusing on the superficial. But the question still remained.
Why is he so unhappy?
It took a lot of courage on her part before she had ventured into the uncharted waters of his mind. Ignoring the ever-growing feeling of wrongness, she delved deeper. It was a place that should have been full of joy. A place that provided her sustenance. A sanctuary in which she refused to allow sorrow to enter.
Slowly, cautiously, Mia grasped her own bundle of happiness. Of joy. Of the enjoyment she found in every act of her life. She grasped it as if it was tangible.
And then, she pushed it into Red.
Red left me.
The first time the traitorous thought had flitted through her mind, Mia had almost thrown up. How such a cruel thought filtered through her strong feelings, her unshakeable faith, and her bond, she did not know. And yet, the thought hadn't been injected into her. Mia was a creature of emotion, and while a foreign thought could incite strong, natural emotions inside her, her mind would deny it, negate it, destroy it until there wasn't a shard of the original tainted emotion remaining.
And yet, here it was— a simple yet unshakeable idea, like a tiny little pathogen that would initially lie small and low, but would grow into gigantic proportions and devour its host whole. It was a tiny, malicious little thing, but its nature was as dark as the night, and it smelt of decay and rot and charcoal.
She tried to deny it. To ignore it. Pretend it didn't exist—
But it was there. Deep within the recesses of her mind, in the depths of her ever-growing cesspool of emotions, it existed, a little fraction of an anathema, whispering sweet lies, distorting Mia's emotions into a horrid and twisted caricature of itself.
I hate it. I hate it. I hate it. I hate…. And yet.
Red left me.
The vicious cycle continued to deepen.
Come to think of it, it was around that time she had smelt ice and fur, back earlier when she had met the other fairy, that she had sensed something foreign in Red. Through the course of their bond, she was able to ensure that Red was never unhappy, though at times it cost her— sending her into long bouts of sleep. Mia had never shared this with anyone, not seeing how any good would come out of it.
As far as Red knew, Mia only liked to take short naps.
Now, as her precious person, her Red, kept going further and further out of her reach, those little things stood out to her more and more. Mia had been sleeping a lot lately, especially since Red's… traumatizing moment with that electric monstrosity. Mia was a good girl, but something like that was beyond any and all forgiveness. That monstrosity had hurt Red. Her Red.
Kaz may have put it through a sepulcher-lock, but Mia had made it suffer.
How Mia didn't know. But she had wished the pikachu would hurt, and hurt it did. It cried and cried for five days and six nights, throwing out random streaks of electricity all around, before the genial old man that smelt of wood had taken pity on it, and, and…
Mia didn't want to think about it. Those thoughts were anathema to her kind. Some thoughts, some emotions, some truths were better left in the sweet darkness of the night.
And yet, she had been the one that had done it. And it had felt so…. Sweet.
Oh, so sweet.
Like the pastries Red always got for her.
Sweet suffering didn't taste of honey and dew, but Mia assumed it was an acquired taste. As it was, it took a strong emotion from Red's side to transmit his emotions and feelings through the bond. Before his unfortunate altercation with the pikachu, Mia had believed the bond to be one-sided. She'd pour in happiness, she'd keep Red happy, and she'd then bask in that over and over. And when the downpour became too great, Mia would rest. She hated resting when she could have danced, but downpours were difficult like that.
And a little pain, a little sweet suffering, Mia didn't mind, especially if it was for Red.
And now Red has left me.
There went that vicious cycle all over again.
Mia believed Red. When Red believed in something, she did too. It was common sense. Red was her world. If Red thought something existed,it probably did. Perhaps in some remote location far away and Red was just… psychically hypersensitive? Whether he knew of it or not was another thing altogether.
Humans were frail creatures. Best not to overwhelm their minds very much.
With her discovery of the two-way nature of her bond, Mia had waited in patience. Perhaps she'd feel something, anything, from Red. Perhaps he was confused? Excited? Proud, happy or just bored? Angry, enraged, hurt?
Hurt had strong connotations with powerful emotions, even if it was overwhelmingly negative. But hadn't Mia felt like she'd drown in Red's pain when the electricity had consumed him? She had hated it. Prayed for it to go away. For a miracle. She would happily bear the pain so long as he could keep smiling.
And yet, it had been a beguiling euphoria the likes of which had left Mia wanting for more. Not Red's pain, but feeling something that was Red, even if it was nothing but pain. It was wrong and alien and taboo on so many levels but Mia would be… would be…
It was just so sweet.
And now with Red gone with the other fairy, it was this sweetness that Mia craved the most. It was ironic in a way. The last thing she wanted was for Red to feel pain, but with Red away, a sufficiently powerful emotion was required to transmit through the bond. Something consuming. Something overpowering. Something that would occupy his mind to the extent that no other thought could remain. Something like… pain.
At that moment, Mia hated herself for even thinking such a thing. It was contradictory and horrible and Mia knew that she was being greedy, but she was just that…
Was this what Red felt like back when he was a little humanling?
This was all so strange. The spring was here. She was free to dance to the tune of the fresh green leaves. She was free to sing her heart out and perform graceful dances to please the spirits and the elements around her. The world was happy and smelt of sunshine and even the old man's unorganized herd seemed docile enough for Mia to have some fun with them and yet...
And yet, here she was, sitting alone, in front of the broken window— her broken window —waiting for a little sweet suffering to flow in. Such thoughts made her feel worse, made her feel weak, and made her suffer. But despite all this, on some level, it felt sweet.
It was strange and crazy and horrifying all at the same time. This was going to twist and turn into something alien. Those malicious little shreds of darkness were now beginning to taste like sweet suf—
"Mia?" She heard a familiar voice speak its name. Delia—Red's mother. A parent figure for her Red—an absent parent figure— loneliness— wanting acceptance— attention—resignation? The flurry of random emotions flitted across her mind as she instinctively went through what Red thought about her. It was a silly little trick she had invented to ignore Red's prolonged absence. She encountered someone close to Red, she felt what Red had felt in a previous situation. She visited the places Red used to frequent and memories of his prior emotions flooded through her psyche. The true depths of her bond with him were uncharted, and Mia had no wish to delve into their depths. She was happy to skim through the surface whenever she wanted.
"Is everything okay?"
Oh right, Delia. Mom— mother— parent…. Conflicted thoughts— hesitation….
"Li," Mia whispered, more to herself than to the intruder. As if Delia had any business asking if she was okay when she was responsible for everything. Delia was the one that had brought Mia from her cherry blossoms to survive in the lab. Still, Delia was Red's mother. She no longer smelled of honey and sunlight and instead, all she got was dried leaves, but still… She was Red's parent.
In name only, however.
And what did meaningless things like names matter in the world of emotions?
Mia knew Red's mind, his emotions better than he did. She saw the strands, she analyzed the strands, she tinkered with them from time to time. Was this not what all ralts and kirlia did? She wouldn't know. Delia did take her away when she was rather young. She had made… alterations to his psyche when forging the bond— not that there was an alternative. Red would have become a silent, unhappy individual— a dark pit as far as Mia was concerned, and such dark pits were to be avoided at all costs.
Or be altered to something more… workable.
Mia had done exactly that, and then some.
She had twisted the workings of his own psyche, his subconscious. Instead of manipulating his mind to emanate the feelings of happiness and liveliness in him, she had done something else. She had infused, morphed, amalgamated something that was once hers into his own. She had created a link, a passage-way of sorts, one through which she'd be able to channel pure, unadulterated happiness— her own sustenance —into him.
And it worked.
He felt happiness even with his mother being absent. He felt happiness even when the other humans ignored him. He felt happiness when working himself to exhaustion at the ranch. He felt happiness at everything that once made him sad. And soon, his own psyche began to mimic it all.
It hadn't been without a price.
Kirlia were creatures that feasted on positive emotions. To give up happiness was like to draw out her own breath and then hand it over to someone else. It was madness, and it hurt. It hurt and hurt and it hurt so much but hurting meant that Red was happy, and that was sweet.
Suffering was sweet.
So Mia suffered, and Red stayed happy. What did it matter if Delia wasn't present? Red was happy, and Mia had her sweet suffering. What did it matter if he had to be content with staying alone? Mia was there to suffer for him, and thus, he was happy. She'd sink and feast upon Red's own happiness, but when the hurt went beyond her control, she slept. She slept soundly.
And Red stayed happy.
But now… Red wasn't there. He was away. She didn't need to push emotions into him. He was too far away, but she did it anyway. It was second nature. She had grown to survive on her new diet, even if it might kill her in the end. Maybe there would be dew and grass and petals…
Kirlia were empathetic, and not very attuned to rational impulses. How could they be, when they were always swimming in an ocean of unrestrained feelings? So Mia kept sending positive vibes, hoping Red would be receiving them, and in return, feel happy, even though she'd not get anything back. It was killing her from inside, and she could feel herself growing weaker and weaker… Unless he felt great pain and sent jolts of agony through their precious bond, even if it might…
Why was Delia looking at her like she had just seen an otherworldly one? Those that hid in the darkness beyond the world were dangerous, and Kaz had warned her of them several summers ago.
Well, let no one say that Mia wasn't inquisitive.
She dived into the woman's psyche.
Concern—affection—wariness—something like pity —disappointment — urgency —smell of rotten leaves? But the most surprising of all was—
She's concerned for me? But why? She should be concerned about Red. Confusing and erratic and—
Mia did not like being confused. She dug deeper, and the more she did, the more the abnormal feelings began to sicken her—
"I don't understand why he's so… obsessed with being a trainer!" Delia ranted, "he has a sharp mind, something that would serve him well as a researcher, or an analyst. I know my son, and he's damn good at that. Why can't he just do what I say for once?"
"You know you didn't tell him anything, Delia," Oak refuted softly, "You didn't even talk to him about the apprenticeship."
"I sent Kaz," Delia waved off her concern, "you know I was engaged with the Convention. Besides, I was proved right, wasn't it? My son could have been killed, professor. That pikachu—"
"Was an accident!" The old man fought back. "I have apologized for it and I can do so again, but that's not the point. If you want to ensure that your son chooses a different—"
"What good will it do to him anyway?" Delia exploded. "What did the life of a trainer give me? Running into dangerous places over and over, all for the sake of League-sponsored exploration. If not for you, I'd have been stuck there forever, maybe even dead at the hands of some monstrosity."
"Delia, I understand your father had some… strict ideologies but—"
"I don't care, Professor," Delia returned gravely. "I won't allow my son to go through all that."
"Delia, you have barely given him the attention he deserves. The boy has literally grown up in my ranch." Oak responded sadly. "You think you understand him as his mother, but I'm not sure Red thinks the same."
That cut Delia short. She turned away, a shadow falling upon her face. "I know that. I try to give him time, to know him better, but… but my work…"
"Is it really because of your work, or because you weren't ready to have that child in the first place?"
"I love my son" Delia began hotly, " How can you—"
Mia stilled, almost as if paralyzed. Whatever the old man wanted to convince the woman didn't matter. What the woman's reasons were— those were meaningless as well. Only one single thought, a single picture, a single emotion was all that mattered. An emotion that had resulted from what the man had stated.
The idea of a world without Red.
It was unfathomable, incomprehensible, alien and completely taboo to her. For Mia, whose sole existence was subjective to Red's presence, the mere thought of a world without her sustenance, without Red, felt wrong.
Mia almost staggered, as if suffocating from the lack of air, her powers going disarray. It was as if someone was actively choking her, forcing her lungs dry. This was fear, an incomprehensible horror that permeated her entire being, and she knew it'd push her past the precipice of her fraying sanity, throw her into an abyss that left nothing but darkness in its wake.
For the first time in her life, Mia did something no kirlia had ever done. She retaliated.
The concept of a struggle was alien to the Ralts line. They could not teleport, but what they could do was create an emotional outpour in the mind of the intruder, irritating them enough to leave if the ralts felt uncomfortable in their presence. This was the limit of their retaliation. To fight, to cause pain, or to revel in someone's agony— those were anathema to them.
Mia had stopped being a kirlia a long time ago. Now, she was just Mia. whatever that was. She was Mia—an existence that was kept manifested upon the planet because of her connection to one single human.
And this woman dared to conceive of a world without him in it.
Mia let go. If this human could conceive the idea of such a blank world, Mia would inundate Delia's world with nothing but Red. She'd ensure that the woman understood what Red was, that she'd comprehend the utter taboo she had just committed.
The dam broke.
Him staring down the hall, waiting for his mother to see him. The woman closed the door and left— He stared at the closed door and walked away—
Parents Teachers meet— "Mom, will you be able to—?"— "Red, I'll be off for the next two weeks for a convention. Can you eat at Pineco's?"— Indifference— silence— lack of attention— "Nothing mom, I'm fine!"—
"Hey look at that! Even his mom stays away"— "Leave me alone"— "Stupid ranch boy, smell ya later"—
"Come on Mia, I promise I'll get you something tomorrow, you know I can't make pastries like mom does"— Mia dancing— A sudden burst of happiness from the sad boy— Red laughing—
"Goddammit"— a gash ran up his leg— "Stupid nidoran"— "Oh nothing, I just scraped my knee on a twig"— "a really sharp twig"—
"I'll become a trainer. Like Lance. We'd have dragons, who'd be our friends, and then you can dance in front of them"— little Mia was squirming in laughter— "When I become a trainer, I'll take you with me, then you won't be alone like me, I mean, hey what are you"—
Mia watching Red from the other side of the glass—his body blackened and burnt, blood seeping out— pain— Hands shaking— Nerves flaring— Skin burning—Mind shutting down— with pain— burning uncontrollable pain— Red screamed—
Mia broke the gaze and looked away.
The woman— Delia —Red's mother in name, seemed transfixed. Mia didn't know what to think anymore. The regurgitation of Red's emotions— even if they had been negative —acted like an aphrodisiac for her twisted core, filling her up. She hated it, hated herself with her entire being, and yet—
It had been so sweet.
Mia didn't wait a moment longer. She couldn't be bothered with the woman anymore. With a soft grunt, her powers activated. A burst of silvery winds blew all around her, and before the woman even opened her eyes, Mia vanished.
The sound reverberated through Mia's mind as she started moving forward. Where to, she did not know but she knew her goal lay onward. Her little feet crushed through the foliage on the floor, the sounds of shattered glass creating a haunted feel around her. The abyss loomed around her, but all she cared for where the shifting memories filtering through her mind.
A bird melting, blood oozing out of it— Sorrow. A giant spider, vicious acid dripping down upon raw skin— Fear. Red, ralts-like eyes— Despair—Giving up — Acceptance of Death.
Burning flames— pain-filled cries—desperation — smile—
The flames charring the flesh—
Mia tried to shut her ears to prevent the grating sounds from ripping into her head—or was that smell—no, she remembered seeing molten metal and blood—
He grinned. Blood trickled out of his lips, drip by drip. A tooth fell and blood poured out, gushing like a fountain as a venomous screech jarred her senses before biting into flesh—
Mia screamed. What was going on? What— Who was she? A Kirlia— No, she was a… a Mia. Her mind was being surprisingly unhelpful. The red-eyed one. He was important to her. Her entire being said so.
Her head hurt.
Something was wrong. Terribly wrong. She slowly looked around. It was dark and there were trees all around her. Even still her feet kept moving forward. Where to, she did not know.
The forest slowly grew thicker and the path continued onward. She didn't know how she had come here. She didn't know where she was going. She didn't know why she was going. She just knew she had to. It was like the place—her destination —held a terrible secret she knew but was refusing to comprehend. Like an old wound that was beginning to squeeze out fresh, warm blood every time it—
She didn't know how long she had been walking. All she knew was that she just had to, she had to reach there—somewhere in the middle of this ever-expansive abyss, and going there would—
What was she thinking about again. Mia tried to stop. To look around her and try to figure out where she was. Yet her legs moved anyway.
Without her desire.
Without her control.
It was a horrible feeling. As if comprehension was just at the edge of her mind but she simply could not grasp it. It was a wonder she could even remember her name. She was—
What was her name again? Name? Title? She was a—a—
Why is it so difficult to remember?
And what was that sound? Slowly, almost forcefully, she turned her head to a tree in front of her. A red-drop hung off the edge almost like dew. Mia was transfixed as the translucent shard, shone a twisted crimson, as it slowly fell before splattering on the ground.
She recognized the liquid. It was—
Her mind blanked out. Her legs led her forward, as she continued moving into the forest, a sense of foreboding rising within her. She knew that she must reach the end of the path. How she would do that, or why she should do so, did not matter. Such questions had already vanished from her mind.
The pitter-patter of dewdrops— or was it rain? She didn't know, but the noises were coming faster. It was strange, for all she could see was the abyss engulfing her.
Another translucent shard splattered in front of her. Despite the sound suggesting that countless such drops were falling, not a single one touched her.
It shattered into sparkles of crimson, staining the grass beneath a dull crimson. She didn't know how she saw the stains when nothing was visible, but—
Her eyes, almost forcefully, were raised upward as her legs continued to take her down the path.
The eerie feeling of wrongness was going stronger. She was forgetting something. Something important. Mia tried hard to remember.
She needed to remember. It was important. More than anything else in her life. There was something there, deep within her. If she let it go, she would lose it forever. How she knew this, she did not know but somehow, she was sure that it was so.
Red, crystal-like blades of light shone in the distance as the gap between the trees opened up. The forest was getting less dense and a clearing lay before her. Somehow she knew that this was her destination.
The slow-dripping had turned into a continuous pitter-patter as the red liquid fell like rain. Mia felt herself choke, an unreasonable, uncontrollable nausea rising up deep within her. She wanted to sit down and shut her eyes and ears. She wanted to run away from this all. She wanted to vanish from this horrible, horrible place with no end. She wanted to scream her lungs out. She wanted—
Mia came to a halt. Evidently she had reached… wherever it was she was supposed to.
The tempest raging in her mind grew stronger. Feelings of hate, feelings of pain, feelings of… absence, hopelessness—the feeling that she was going to die—
It ripped through her mind, through her body, through her soul, through everything that made her a kirlia. No, not a kirlia, she reminded herself. A Mia.
The queer little blob of darkness festering within shifted and a tendril so dark that it appeared to suck the light out of its surroundings began to rise within her. For a second, Mia thought that she'd die of suffocation. She tried to breathe, but it did not help. She tried to scream, but no sound escaped her.
A prisoner in her own body.
A prisoner in her own mind.
She wished she would die, but even death would not take her. She couldn't move, couldn't breathe, couldn't think. There was only pain, the very suffering she had grown to relish so much.
Mia begged for it to end. For something to happen. Anything. Anything to distract her from the thing inside her.
After several painful, tense moments, another feeling encompassed her. She had thought that nothing could be worse than the pain, but the gnawing sensation had already moved from her stomach and began to encompass her mind.
I... I feel so hungry.
It felt awful— her entire mind submerged in pain. Pain, despair, and sorrow. The feeling of letting everyone around you down. Of failure. Of giving up. And yet within those feelings was familiarity.
Mia grasped it, the sole beacon of light in this endless sea of misery. And the thing retreated. Slowly sinking back into her depths.
Red, her mind supplied.
What was that?
She did not know, but she knew it was important to her. That she could not let go no matter what. Or else it would come back.
It was an instinctive feeling. A repulsive feeling. The feeling one gets when they look at everything about themselves that they cannot acknowledge. All she knew was if that thing came back… she wouldn't be Mia anymore.
The sad part was, Mia didn't— couldn't —care. A part of her wanted to bask in the darkness, wanted to absorb it, become one with it.
During all this time, the little blob— the darkness, it stayed right there, within her arm's reach. All she had to do was grab it.
The hunger was getting worse. Much worse. And she instinctively knew, that all she needed to do… was touch the blob.
Mia couldn't help herself. She wanted it to end.
Reaching out, she grabbed it.
A flood of madness and horror and pain and raw, shrieking loneliness so intense it chilled her to her soul, all running rampant through her brain without her consent or any response to her attempts to fight it off. This thing was not merely assaulting her physical form, it was laying waste to the territory of her soul, the most hideous indignity imaginable.
And yet, that was not all. With the pain came a ravenous hunger. With the hunger, came power. Raw, untamed power. More power than Mia had ever thought could exist. Power that she instinctively knew was hers. And yet she could not touch it.
"Beautiful, isn't it?"
Mia had to physically restrain herself from jumping out in horror at the voice. A familiar voice. She looked around her. She looked above. She looked below.
No one. Nothing.
She was standing in the middle of the clearing, shadows of tall, burnt trees all around her. There was no smoke. How she knew they were burnt, she had no idea. But what was this voice? And what was this familiar pain?
"Are you wondering why you can't remember?"
"I just…." Mia heard herself speak, "I just want to… I just want to go home."
"Home?" The voice seemed amused. "Where is your… home.?"
"It is—" Mia began, frustration and terror rising up in her, "I— I can't— I can't remember. I don't know. I don't—"
"Are you wondering why you can't remember?"
Mia almost felt her ears cringe at the sickeningly sweet tone. "I just—"
"Are you going to cry?"
Mia shook her head furiously.
"Do you want to cry?"
"No!" Mia wanted to say. Instead, she just took a step back.
"I can help you cry!"
"Please…" Mia begged, "I want to go home."
Mia glanced down on the ground, only to find it no longer there. Instead, it was covered with a strange, sticky liquid. A layer that was slowly rising as the crimson droplets continued to fall. Slowly an image appeared in her mind. The red-eyed one along with some others.
There was a metal bird, a small lavender growlithe, a small purple shell, and a small yellow creature— Mawile, her mind supplied. Her heart throbbed. The scene was important to her. Somehow.
A figure formed in the translucent rain. Mia raised her hand and called out to it. It was important to her. Somehow.
The human teen, he did not turn back.
"Li….." She warbled, "Kirli… lia?" Her voice distorted not even understandable to herself.
He did not notice. Instead, he glanced down at the yellowish creature beside him. "Come on Mawile, let's go. We still have to see the world!"
"You cannot speak to him," the voice said cruelly.
"...Lia?" She tried again.
"He can never understand you." A scornful laugh filled her mind.
The teen—Red, her mind supplied—did not listen. He did not care. He didn't… didn't want her.
"There is no place for you." The seductive voice whispered in her ear.
Mia shook her head valiantly. She would not listen to this… whatever it was that was speaking to her. She would not. She would—
Red continued to walk away, while the creature—Mawile, she remembered— twisted its neck and sent a sly smirk at her, before mewling in pleasure, her little steps quickly following his own.
Mia's outstretched arm, her unwavering resolve, faltered.
"Why do you accept this? Why not… take what you want?"
Her arm drooped. "I… I…" Mia mumbled, her voice once again forming distinct words. "I don't have a choice. Red left me. He—"
"You can take it back. You can—"
A shriek tore across the abyss. It was Mawile's scream, and a spray of fresh blood splattered all around her, staining her feet. Mia stumbled.
Another shriek. This time it sounded like the painful cry of a bird, then another soft squeak, and finally a—
—All you have to do—"
Blood erupted like a fountain, engulfing the fresh green grass on the lawn beside the broken window. Mia momentarily wondered how the window appeared there before the voice spoke again.
"Of course, you can always turn him into your toy."
Mia's eyes bulged, realizing who was it that stood in front of her. It was him. Red, and yet not Red. His eyes—they had lost their light, and now seemed dull brown. His face was pale, alive and at the same time, not.
Like a puppet.
A puppet, with broken strings.
This was not Red. This was just an empty husk that was once Red. A human whose mind had been twisted and turned into a horrid caricature that would raise sympathy in the hearts of a psychopath. And within that husk, was Red's childlike mind—trapped, violated, broken.
All for her to play or discard at a whim.
"No…." Mia breathed. "No… No…. NONONONO! I don't want this… I don't want this! You are trying to make me harm Red! Let me go!"
She fell on her back, feeling the sticky, crimson blood staining her body, her skirt, splattering all over her. The red liquid started rising faster almost as if waiting for her to fall within it.
"Doesn't it hurt, to be the one that's left behind… to be cast aside… to have to drink poison when you are worthy of the sweetest nectar?"
Mia shook her head violently, pushing herself backward. The splashes only continued, and puppet-Red floated closer to her. It raised its dead hand.
"I can help you," The voice purred, "all you have to do is go to sleep. Forget everything, forget betrayal, forget loneliness, forget hunger… forget everything. Close your eyes... and let me awaken."
A tendril rose out of the blood beneath her, and coiled itself like a snake around Mia's arms, clenching them in a deathly grip. Another tendril rose and bound her abdomen, pulling her down. Mia tried to move her legs, but they were already bound and sinking into the river of blood below her.
"Just give up. Sleep, and forget. Allow me to end it. You will only suffer for a little while. Suffering…. Suffering is sweet."
"I will never harm Red. You… You MONSTER!" Mia screamed, trying her best to free herself, as the blood rose higher and higher. It was now up to her chin, and slowly crawling into her nose, her eyes, her—
The paleness of Red's face disappeared, and his eyes lit up, only to slowly morph into large, crimson ones, the hair splitting in an extremely familiar fashion. The horned protrusions on the top screamed unnatural, as Mia found herself gazing at a spitting image of herself— only a dark violet where she had green hair and a cluster of shadows replacing what was once a skirt.
"Yes," The darkness grinned, "and you are me!"
The crimson pool started rising, a suffocating scent of iron permeating the air.
Blood, she finally realized, almost as if she was only allowed to as she was drowning in it. The figure in front of her smiled even as it loomed above her.
"Yes," she breathed. "Sleep little one. I will take care of everything."
Red…. Mia's last thought flickered. Please…