Chapter 35: Mask

On a train to an unknown place, Sona was sitting while looking bored. A middle-aged woman sitting next to her looked at her as she sighed.

Sona: “What?”

She gets annoyed by the sighing and asks.

Woman: “Nothing, you just look like you are bored.”

Sona: “That’s cuz I am.”

The woman sighed again.

Woman: “Look, I know you don’t want to go but this is important.”

Sona: “If you say so.”

Sona’s expression doesn’t change at all. Seeing that, the woman sighed again.

Woman: “I give up.”

She said as she turned her attention from Sona to a magazine. Sona, seeing that, had no reaction. Why would she? After all, this kind of conversation was normal for her. That’s how she and her mother had always been.

She stares out the window as she thinks of the days about to come.

“It’s going to be a pain,” she thinks.

Until the day before, the place her family would go for the vacations had not been told to her, so she was fairly excited for it. But after hearing where it is, all her excitement died down.

“Of all the places in the world, it had to her hometown,” she complained to herself in her mind knowing that saying anything out loud will only lead to arguments with her mother that she will need to concede in at the end.

The eight-year-old girl looked out the window of the train with a bored expression. She could see the rocky landscapes of her mother’s hometown coming into sight.

“Great, now I have to deal with all the idiotic rambling,” she thought only to end up depressing herself more.

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Sona’s grandmother: “Wow, look at how big you have gotten.”

Sona looked at her grandmother with a bored expression and sighed. Her grandmother though, much to her annoyance, didn’t mind at all and continued cuddling the girl.

Sona’s mother: “Will you cheer up, girl?”

Sona: “Why should I cheer up?”

She immediately replied. Both of them had gotten used to those exchanges and knew nothing good would ever come out of them. And then,

Villager: “Hey, have you heard? They found the body of a man on the mountains.”

A villager passing by said so to her grandmother.

Sona’s grandmother: “Hey, don’t say stuff like that in front of the child.”

Villager: “Oh, uh, s-sorry! Didn’t see you there, Sona.”

“Then go get your eyes checked,” she said in her mind.

Villager: “But anyway, come with me for a second.”

Her grandmother nodded and left after giving Sona some more unappreciated cuddling.

*******************************

After about an hour of arriving, Sona had gone to a room that she always used whenever they would visit their grandparent’s house and unpacked her bags.

As she looked outside the window, she saw the town with muddy roads and old houses where the breeze kept blowing from time-to-time.

Sona: “The place isn’t half-bad to be honest. If only the people were not so dumb, this would actually be a welcome vacation.”

She said as she stared at the setting sun. She raised her right hand in a way that her palm was facing upwards.

Sona: “Vessel of mercy, bless the world with your light.”

She said as a bright flash of light occurred in her hand. Following that, a spirit in the form of a sparrow appeared.

Sona: “So a sparrow again, huh?”

She says while looking at the spirit.

Sona: “Guess there’s a connection there I don’t know about.”

Every time Sona had summoned a spirit when in this village, it had always appeared in the form of a bird. There could be a geographical or climatic factor that causes it, but she didn’t know what it was.

The spirit looked at her with a curious gaze. Seeing that, the girl smiled.

Sona: “Don’t worry, just talking to myself.”

She said to the spirit with that smile. Sona had never been the type to try to get things done by lying. She hated putting up masks and she hated acting like she cared when she didn’t. So when she smiled seeing the spirit, it knew that she genuinely means everything she said. This is why, the next moment caused the spirit to panic.

CRASH!

A loud noise came and the spirit started panicking.

Sona: “What was that noise? And what’s up with you?”

She knew the answer to both questions would most likely be the same.

Sona: “Do you know what that noise meant?”

The spirit nodded while continuing to panic.

Sona: “What is it?”

Instead of an answer, what Sona got was a message to run. She felt it in her head as if that’s what the spirit was trying to tell her.

Sona: “Why … do I need to run?”

She asked not knowing the urgency of the situation. The spirit however continued to ask her to run without giving a proper answer.

???: “It’s fortunate that you didn’t listen to it right away.”

A voice came from behind. But just as Sona turned around to see where the voice came from, she saw a mask hanging in the air moving as if it’s worn by someone.

Sona: “W-what!?”

Mask: “Don’t be so surprised. All I want is to help you.”

She tried to step back only to find she was already on the farthest part of the room.

Mask: “Be careful now, we don’t want you falling down from the window, do we?”

Sona: “W-who are you!?”

Mask: “Getting to business already? Well, I guess time is of essence here.”

She could see the spirit she had summoned being afraid of the mask and backing away.

Sona: “W-wait!”

As Sona extended a hand to stop the spirit from falling off the window, it disappeared. The spirit went back to where it was summoned from.

Sona turned to the mask in shock and horror. The mask, however, continued as if nothing had happened.

Mask: “Okay then, let me explain what’s going on here.”

Sona, left with no choice, listened to the mask.

Mask: “Your village, right now, is under attack by a dragon.”

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Dragon: “What is it that makes you people so feisty?”

The dragon said as he looked at the tiny creatures known as humans.

Dragon: “I really can’t understand you.”

He said as he looked at those humans trying to kill him; trying their utmost and using whatever means they have to try to hurt him.

Dragon: “Do you really think you can defeat me?”

Shouts of ‘MONSTER’ could be heard as they threw objects of all kinds at him. Mindless shouting could be heard as they tried to cut his skin with any sharp object they could get their hands on.

Dragon: “It’s pathetic.”

He said.

Dragon: “And I don’t mean to disrespect you.”

He said as the cries of the tiny creatures at his foot continued on without listening to him.

Dragon: “Neither do I mean to praise you.”

He said as the village burned and its residents panicked.

Dragon: “I just think that you are-”

He said as the chaos continued to spread and the creatures that were the reason for it ignored it completely.

Dragon: “Utterly pathetic.”

He said as his voice got drowned by the cries of the villagers.

*******************************

Sona: “D-dragon?”

There were a million questions in her head at that moment. Who is this mask? Who is the dragon?

Mask: “That’s right.”

What made that noise? Why was her spirit panicking? What’s going on outside?

Mask: “But don’t worry about it too much.”

Where is her mother? Where is her grandmother? Where are the rest of the villagers?

Mask: “All you need to get out of this situation safely is to do as I say.”

How did the mask suddenly appear there? Is someone controlling it?

Mask: “Are you listening?”

Is this a dream? Is it reality? Or a mix of both?

Mask: “Haaaa! I guess you aren’t.”

A sighing voice comes at her. His words kept flowing in and out of her ears as the questions in her mind blared at her with full force.

Mask: “No matter.”

Regardless, neither was there any anxiety nor fear in the mask’s voice.

Mask: “You will do as I say soon enough anyway.”

All there was in his voice was calmness.

Mask: “After all,”

He said.

Mask: “It’s not like you have any choice in the matter.”

He said as the girl covered her ears.

Mask: “Your destiny was decided since the day you were born.”

He said as she put her head in her lap.

Mask: “And no one can ever escape their destiny.”

He said as she tried to call her spirits.

Mask: “Your life never really belonged to you after all.”

He said as she failed at calling her spirits.

*******************************

Villager: “KILL HIM!!!”

The voices rang out as the arrows were shot and fire was lit but nothing seemed to work at all.

Dragon: “Don’t bother. Some measly fire can’t burn my skin.”

Sona’s Grandmother: “That monster needs to be killed. Bring all the oil you have.”

She shouted at the villager nearby as he immediately started running to do as she said to.

Sona’s Grandmother: “If we don’t defeat this thing, it will repeat.”

Sona’s Mother: “What are you talking about, mother?”

Sona’s Grandmother: “Huh? No, it’s nothing.”

Even if it meant getting a suspicious stare from her daughter, she didn’t have the time to explain anything.

Dragon: “Oh, I finally found you.”

The dragon said as his gaze turned to the eldest of the village.

Sona’s Grandmother: “So you have some business with me?”

She shouted so her voice can reach the dragon’s ears.

Dragon: “You don’t need to shout that much you know. But regardless, yes, I have some business with you.”

As she looked at the dragon with narrowed eyes, the old woman took a glance at the villagers bringing over the oil.

Sona’s Grandmother: “What do you want?”

Dragon: “Your granddaughter is here, isn’t she?”

Sona’s Mother: “What does that mean? He has some business with Sona?”

To the middle-aged woman, it might have been a surprise but her mother already knew that’s where the conversation would go.

Dragon: “I see. So her mother is here as well. Then things should work out just fine.”

Ignoring the large no. of villagers still trying to attack him, the dragon looked right at the old woman.

Sona’s Grandmother: “What do you want with my granddaughter?”

Dragon: “Well, I want to take her to the tomb and let her meet Ozyllus.”

Sona’s Mother: “W-who’s Ozyllus?”

Seeing her daughter panicking not understanding anything, the old woman sighed.

Sona’s Grandmother: “And why do you want her to meet Ozyllus?”

Dragon: “You don’t know, woman? Your granddaughter has recently made acquaintances with a particular really powerful and troublesome psychic.”

Sona’s Grandmother: “What?”

Dragon: “If she is not told the truth soon, she may end up going down a wrong path.”

Sona’s Grandmother: “Tch!”

He clicked her tongue as she looked at her daughter with a questioning gaze only to remember that she doesn’t know anything about the supernatural.

Sona’s Grandmother: “What …”

Dragon: “Huh?”

She turned towards the dragon as she said,

Sona’s Grandmother: “What guarantee do I have that you are not trying to deceive me in any way?”

The dragon sighs.

Dragon: “I’ll allow you to come along if that will make you trust me.”

Sona’s Grandmother: “Don’t bullshit me!”

Irritation had started to build up inside the dragon. Fortunately or unfortunately, he was not at all capable of hiding his emotions when he was in his original form.

Sona’s Grandmother: “Don’t you show me that glare!”

She said while clearly seeing how his irritation had caused the villagers to start shaking in their boots.

Sona’s Grandmother: “What guarantee of safety can an old woman like me be?”

Dragon: “Don’t you bullshit me!”

He said with a voice that sounded like a low roar.

Dragon: “You are capable of rivaling me if you really try so don’t even try to act like that.”

Hearing that, the whole village went silent. Until,

Sona’s Mother: “Mother, just what the hell is going on here?”

As soon as she said that, one-by-one every villager started shouting at the old woman the same question.

*******************************

Mask: “Right now, the villagers are panicking because they have just seen a dragon. It seems like no one in the village knew of the fact that dragons exist.”

He said while trying to focus on the noises from outside.

Mask:  “Well, no one except one.”

Sona: “Just … just what is going on? I don’t understand. Nothing makes sense.”

Mask: “It would be overwhelming for me too if I were in your shoes, so I do understand what you are going through.”

The mask said while Sona kept holding her head as the noises from the outside kept driving her mad.

Mask: “That said though, I can’t give you any time to rest. You must go … and see him.”

Sona: “JUST WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?”

Mask: “Shouting will get you nowhere.”

She realized that very well, which is why it was all the more excruciating when it was spelled out for her.

Mask: “And to answer your question, I am talking about Ozyllus.”

Sona: “What!?”

But even when overwhelmed by the things going on around her, she could not ignore that one name.

Mask: “You need to go meet Ozyllus. That’s the only way you will ever understand anything.”

Sona: “W-what … h-h-how …”

Mask: “Don’t worry about that. Just do as I say.”

Sona looked at the mask with a mix of terror, shock and anger. But regardless of all her emotions, she could not ignore what was being said to her.

Six months before this incident, she had met a man of about 20 who had told her about Ozyllus, the psychic who was so powerful that people started calling him a god. She was being told that she needed to go see that psychic. This wasn’t something she could ignore at all.

Sona: “Ah …”

Mask: “What’s wrong?”

Sona: “Is that all really true?”

She asked in a timid tone.

Mask: “It is.”

Sona knew no matter how many times she would think about it, she would come up with the same answer. So,

Sona: “O-Okay!”

*******************************

As the villagers kept asking the same question again and again, the old woman kept standing without giving an answer and the dragon kept glaring at her to give her approval, Sona was led out of the room. She saw the dragon standing in the village and the fires at various parts of the village as well as the damage caused by the earlier chaos.

Sona: “Are … t-they going to …?”

Mask: “Don’t worry; they are going to be just fine. As soon as you leave, the dragon will also leave.”

Sona: “I … see.”

She said with a weak voice.

Sona: “I still don’t know who you are.”

Mask: “I am … no one you should concern yourself with.”

Sona: “Huh?”

Mask: “But anyway, you should try to walk a little faster. We don’t have a whole lot of time you know.”

She meekly nodded and fastened her steps. He glanced at the village from the corner of her eyes. This was also the first time she had seen a dragon but for some reason it didn’t surprise her all that much.

*******************************

Dragon: “Are you going to agree or not?”

Sona’s Grandmother: “Tell me, does that mean that you’ll silently leave if I tell you I won’t agree to it.”

Dragon: “No, it means I’ll have to force you to agree to it.”

Sona’s Grandmother: “Tch!”

Sona’s Mother: “Hey, answer us already, mother.”

Her voice was the voice of the whole village.

Sona’s Grandmother: “Will you shut up for a second?”

So the reply was also given to the whole village.

Dragon: “Hey, are …”

The dragon stopped mid-sentence when he saw the mask flying around.

Dragon: “What’s going on?”

Mask: “She’s already on her way.”

The mask said causing all the villagers to simultaneously start noticing it hanging from the air.

Sona’s Mother: “J-just … what … is going on?”

Dragon: “I see.”

Sona’s Grandmother: “What the HELL does that mean?”

Mask: “It means exactly what you think it means.”

The dragon closed his eyes and sighed, which caused a small rush of wind to come on the ground.

Dragon: “Guess I’ll be leaving then.”

Sona’s Grandmother: “What the hell is that mask?”

Dragon: “This ‘mask’ is Ozyllus. Are you happy now?”

He said while readying himself to fly away. The old woman went silent after hearing that. That is, until she saw the dragon starting to flap his wings.

Sona’s Grandmother: “Hey, this isn’t how it was supposed to be.”

Dragon: “Oh yeah?”

The dragon said while starting to flap his wings.

Dragon: “If you hadn’t wasted so much time, then maybe it would have been how it was ‘supposed’ to be.”

The dragon then flew away paying no mind to whatever anyone at the ground would say or do.

*******************************

Two days later, after having met Ozyllus and gained knowledge of things she couldn’t even imagine she’d come to know of, Sona returned to the village. More accurately, she was brought to the village – by golden-haired birds, the same ones who took her from the village.

Mask: “Well, now you have been to the island once and if you ever need to go there again, you know how, right?”

Sona: “Yeah.”

Mask: “And did you learn about the special exit that only spirit-users can use?”

She nodded.

Mask: “I see. That concludes our business for now.”

Sona nodded again. She was in no mood to want to see that mask and welcomed the opportunity to finally get rid of him.

Mask: “Okay then, we’ll have to meet again someday.”

The mask left with the birds and Sona was finally left alone. She thought she would rather not meet that mask again unknowing of the fact that it was actually Ozyllus.

She hurried back to where others should be. She had left at such a time that she was worried about them the entire time. Now that she had finally come back, she could not stop herself from running to them.

But no matter how much she ran, she would not find anyone; not alive anyway. She kept running regardless unknowing of the fact that she would only see a huge pile of dead bodies. She kept running right for that site where marks of a dragon’s rampage are the only thing that is left.

*******************************

Two days earlier,

Seeing the dragon disappear in the sky, Sona’s grandmother ran to see if Sona is really gone. However, she is not able to reach it.

Sona’s Grandmother: “W-what!?”

She fell on the ground and found herself in a lot of pain for some reason.

Sona’s Grandmother: “W-what happened …”

She was left in shock when she saw her leg – detached from her body.

Sona’s Mother: “Mother, are you okay?”

Ozyllus (Mask): “I am afraid she isn’t.”

Just as her daughter was about to approach her, the woman’s body started burning. She cried in pain as the ones around her got away from her in panic.

Ozyllus (Mask): “Too bad for you all. But you are citizens of this place, where she was born in.”

He said as fire rained down on the village.

Ozyllus (Mask): “I have to do this, to set her up on the right path.”

He said as it continued to rain down on the village.

In her dying breath, the old woman saw what looked like a figure of a man wearing the mask on his face and releasing fireballs from what seemed like his hand.

Sona’s Grandmother: “Invisibility … by … manipulation of … light; as … I’d … expect … of O … zyllus.”

The fire continued to rain as the corpses piled up.

Ozyllus (Mask): “Well now, I can’t just keep killing them without any strategy.”

He said with a smile.

Ozyllus (Mask): “I need to make it look like his work.”

He said as he decided to create false markings that would suggest that a dragon did the destruction.

Ozyllus (Mask): “Now then, let’s get started.”

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