111 My aunt is being hunted
Ellie was feeling overwhelmed.
She had spent so many hours hearing her aunt's stories about a fantasy land with a group of people with amazing powers that would help a crossbow girl. And now, here these people were, popping out of nowhere, one after another.
The man who could turn into a huge black lion, the kid that could become a sword, the griffin that the crossbow girl would take care of like a pet.
Evlin never imagined that any of them would turn out to be real, and now here they were standing around and chatting like they were in a college reunion.
The girl wanted to simply spend the rest of the day talking with them and asking about more details from their adventures together while playing with the huge creatures.
"I can't believe this is real!! I must be dreaming!!"
Evlin realized her niece full of sparkles on her eyes and realized she had forgotten something important.
"Ellie, you go back to the hospital and call your mother to pick you up with your phone."
The young girl's heart felt like she had just received the stab from a spear. She just managed to meet all the figures from her aunt's fairytales and now she wanted her to just go home?
"Aunt Evie?? But... But..."
"You wanna come with us, right?"
Evlin sighed and rubbed her forehead as if thinking "Oh man... Being the adult sucks...". She then bent her knees and faced her niece.
"Ellie, you saw how dangerous that girl was. I can't let you get closer to her ever again. You go home and stay with your mother until I finish this up, ok?"
"It's for your own good."
There was no way Evlin would let a nine-year-old girl like Ellie go on such a dangerous mission with her. On the other hand, Ellie didn't want to leave her aunt alone. Not only because she wanted to see the famous crossbow mage in action, but she feared that if she let her aunt out of her sight, the next time they met she would have turned into Myriad.
Ellie began to develop a desire to protect her aunt, just as much as her aunt wanted to protect her.
"But... My dream... I saw..."
"Yeah, I know honey... I also used to dream about going on adventures with magic and stuff... But this isn't a game, this is real... And you could be in grave danger."
"Huh!? No! I mean..."
"Ellie... Call your mother... Now!"
Ellie was starting to get annoyed. She used to think her aunt was cool because she always treated her like they were equals. There was no "You're the kid and I'm the adult, so you need to listen to me!" talk. But now her aunt was looking at her and speaking to her in the same way her parents would often do.
She picked her phone and finally tried to contact her mother. Ellie realized that she was probably worried sick after not hearing any news from them for so long.
While that happened, Evlin returned her attention to her old friends. Even though yesterday had quite a number of stressful events, Evlin was starting to calm down a bit while looking at so many friendly faces again for the first time in a while.
She was so focused on Mia that she didn't even realize how weird it was for all her old party members to just be in front of her like that.
"I can't believe you all are really in my world. How did you even get here?"
Lilith took Lance from Daren's arms while he and Marcus would help pick up her armor from the ground and began her explanation.
"West sent us here to punish Mia and Auren..."
Evlin tried to remember the last time she saw the goddess of the west. She was crying like a little girl begging Evlin to help her deal with East while they were in a place filled with nothingness know as the white void. She was a little annoying but never actually tried to harm any of her friends during their time working together. The idea of West trying to punish them felt a tad odd for Evlin.
"Yeah... You know how gods can interact with their champions in order to punish them? Once we found out about how Mia and the dryad had escaped to this world we decided to try and call her attention by stopping with our mission to kill demons. As a result, they agreed to continue their mission if West opened a portal for us."
"You guys did that for me? What if she tried to harm you?"
"It was worth the gamble... You always helped us when we needed you... Of course we would do the same for you!"
Evlin locked Lilith in a bear hug and almost squashed the poor Lance that was in her arms. She was starting to feel bad for acting so cold towards Lilith a while ago considering how hard they were all trying to help her.
"I'm so sorry... I shouldn't-"
"It's fine... It's fine... Let's go get your wooden armor and deal with that little brat."
The two were enjoying their little moment when Marcus and Daren approached while carrying pieces of Lilith's armor with them. Evlin was hoping she could hurry and get her magic back so she could change all that metal into something easier to carry.
She took another look at Marcus and noticed that he had changed quite a lot. He wasn't as well shaped as Daren but was definitely looking much more "manlier" than the last time she saw him five years ago. She noticed that the lad was staring at her face quite a lot.
"Marcus, everything ok?"
"Ah! It's... It's nothing... I'm just... Just glad that you're ok..."
Evlin wasn't really sure if she was truly "ok" right now but she was glad to at least have her old friends by her side to help her.
She then noticed her niece approaching with a dreadful look on her face. She looked like someone had just told her that her dog had died as she could see tears forming upon her eyes.
"Ellie...? Ellie, what's wrong?"
"My mom is not picking up..."
"... What did you say...?"
"My mom... She won't pick up the phone or answer my messages... My dad as well... And grandma too..."
"... No... No, no, no..."
Evlin's relief began to turn into despair at hearing this news. Mia's message started to ring above her head. The words "I'll kill your whole family!" start to repeat themselves over and over again nonstop making her heartbeat accelerate.
"I need to go home now!!"
The group then hopped on top of the two feline creatures. Evlin, Ellie, and Marcus on top of Sphinx while Daren, Lilith, and Lance were on the black lion. Evlin needed to guide them to her apartment so she whispered a few words to her griffin.
"Take us home Sphinx!"
The golden beast then accessed his memories that also contained part of Evlin's past due to them constantly using magic to fuse themselves into one body and remembred the location of her home.
He started to rush with all his speed across the streets while doing his best to dodge the vehicles on the way with the second group right behind them.
The people walking by turned a few curious looks at the sight of two large cat-like figures running around with people on their backs without knowing what to make of the scene.
Some assumed it was some kind of special effect made to attract tourists while others imagined some wild animals had escaped from the zoo.
Evlin wasn't worried about that right now though. Her mother, her sister, and her brother in law were in danger and she needed to save them. She wanted to leave Ellie in someplace safe but she was afraid that unless she locked her niece in a vault, no place could be safe from Mia while she had her red bombs and her ridiculous strength.
"I know Ellie... Me too..."
Evlin could see it in her eyes. The child was scared and filled with worry that something might have happened to her family. She hated the fact that her niece was living every kid's dream of riding a mythical beast and she couldn't even enjoy it.
"Aunt Evie... There is something I need to tell you..."
"Huh...? What is it?"
"While I was sleeping in the hospital... I saw something strange..."
Strange could mean anything by that point. Ellie had been dropped so much information on her head in the last twenty-four hours that Evlin couldn't even begin to imagine how she was processing all that. She needed to make sure her niece wouldn't somehow lose her mind during all this.
"I saw a dream with you in it... And you were- Huh? Aaaahhh!!!"
Before Ellie could finish her line a large object dropped out of the sky and landed right in front of Sphinx making the griffin almost crash with it while Ellie screamed in terror.
Evlin reacted by yelling at her pet.
The animal obeyed his owner's command and managed to avoid the object at the last instant by kicking against a building.
The golden griffin then landed in the middle of the street and the whole group began to stare at the object while the black lion approached as well. The people walking by started to take notice of the situation and began to gather around in a large circle to see what was going on.
Evlin looked at the object and tried to see if she recognized it. It was some kind of large white crystal in the shape of an obelisk pillar halfway buried into the ground as if it was stabbing it. The thing was so big that it could destroy Evlin's roof if she tried to take it home with her.
Evlin whispered two words.
"Aunt Evlin!! What's that??"
She saw her niece pointing towards some kind of figure circling above the crystal like a fly circling a lamp. It looked like a person in ragged clothes dressed in a cloak that was covering its face, but the lower half of its body had no legs and his whole figure was slightly see-through. The thing looked like a ghost.
Daren looked at the figure and acted as if he recognized what it was.
"A spirit!! This is bad!!"
Evlin was surprised by Daren's comment and looked again. The spirit began to circle the crystal even faster until it decided to raise itself towards the heavens for a moment proceeded by dropping like a meteor on top of it.
The crystal began to glow with a strange dark-blue color once the spirit entered its mass and started to shake.
Suddenly, the blue rock started to split itself into two halves. The upper half started to take the shape of a torso with arms crossed while the lower half began to look like four spider-like legs.
The group was now facing a creature made of blue rocks who looked like a cross between a man and a spider.
Evlin simply continued to look at the scene with no idea of what was happening. The crystal monster locked eyes with her and began to talk.
"I bring a message from my master..."
His master? Evlin could only think of one person who could be his master. A little girl who she recently found out had gained access to a lot of absorbing crystals.
The monster then raised his arm and turned it into a spear, proceeded by delivering the message she assumed was from Mia.
"The game has started!"