184 What do you run from?
"What happened??" Lilith asked while hearing the sound of Detra suddenly screaming out of nowhere and storming into the ring of fear.
Marcus and Ellie just exchanged looks unsure of what to say.
"Something is wrong with Detra..." Ellie responded.
"Wrong...?? Wrong how? What's going on?" Lilith questioned.
"We don't know..." Marcus admitted, "she just started to panic and began to run towards the mist..."
"We need to go after her!" Ellie stated while standing up and getting prepared to enter the mist as well.
She was about to move when she suddenly felt her arm being grabbed from behind. The girl looked back and saw Lilith keeping her from leaving.
"Ellie, wait, hold on..." Lilith asked.
"Wait...? Wait for what??"
Lilith remained silent for a moment and then shared what she was thinking with the girl, "I think this is some kind of trick..."
"A trick...?" Ellie repeated while tilting her head.
"I think this is another one of East's plans to try and use you..."
"What are you talking about??"
"I heard the forest speaking... When we were facing the memory of Mia... East is not planning to stop at the ring of time, she wants to go all the way to the end to reach the core of the forest!"
"The core of the forest?? Why would she want us to do that??"
"The forest said she wants to have you absorb the core with the spell you mirrored from Mia! That's why the forest keeps trying so hard to get rid of us!! It thinks we are trying to kill it!!"
Ellie just remained in silence while processing this information.
"She's tricking us, Ellie... She's leading us into more danger than we possibly need!! If we keep following her, we might actually get killed!!"
"But... But..." Ellie was about to say they should still follow her since she was the one who knew better how to navigate this place and knew what they needed to do to survive, but she was then hit by a couple of thoughts.
Detra didn't know how to properly handle the memory warriors, nor did she knew how to actually prepare Ellie for her battles until Lilith stepped in. The more Ellie recalled, the more she realized that Detra was just throwing her into these dangerous situations with little to no idea on how to come out of it alive.
Ellie had been following that woman so far because she assumed she was her best bet on saving her aunt, but her group was almost decimated because they entered the memory ring unprepared and Lilith ended up losing her sight because of it.
Should Ellie really keep following such a reckless person? Ellie started to question herself but one look at Lilith's eyes was all she needed to clear her doubt.
"... You're right..." Ellie stated, "I was being stupid just following her like this... I'm sorry..."
Lilith didn't say anything and just hugged the girl. Ellie was glad that Lilith wasn't mad at her, but that just made it even harder for her to make her next request.
"But we still can't just leave her..."
"What!? Ellie!!" Lilith shouted while releasing the girl from her hug.
"Well, we just can't! We don't need to follow her to the ends of the earth, but we still can't just let her get lost in the middle of this area alone, right?"
Lilith grabbed hold of Ellie's shoulders, "Ellie, did you not just heard what I said? She's just using you!! She doesn't care about any of us!!"
"I know... I know... It's just..."
"What? What?" Lilith asked with a raised voice.
"My aunt..." Ellie responded with a low voice and shifting weight from side to side, "she doesn't abandon people..."
Lilith had nothing to say in response. She had no desire to take away from Ellie her kindness. At the same time though, she really wished said kindness wasn't directed at someone she despised so much.
Before Lilith could say anything, another voice entered the conversation.
"Fine... I'll go then..." Marcus declared while patting Ellie's head.
"You, Marcus? But..." Lilith stuttered.
"You can't go in your current state Lilith... And Ellie can't enter that place alone..." Marcus explained, "I'll go grab my mom..."
Lilith tried to look for the lad's hand and whispered a few words after finally finding it, "are you sure? What about-"
"My trauma? My history with her? My fear that every time we exchange looks I might get reminded of all the horrible things she did to me?"
Marcus grabbed her shoulder as a sign that he had things under control, "don't worry... I can handle it..."
Marcus then gazed at the direction his mother had rushed off to and began to sprint after her.
"Be careful Marcus!!!" Ellie shouted.
Detra continued to run deep into the inner area of the ring of fear's blinding fog. The visibility was so atrocious that one could be running in a circle for days and never even noticing it.
However, that's not what Detra was focusing on. All she wanted was to get these images out of her head. Images of a girl she didn't recognize but for some reason, every time she thought about her, her heart would start hurting, as if a large blade was slowly advancing inside her chest and getting tighter and tighter.
The woman was running so desperately that ended up tripping while storming across the rocky terrain and falling on her head.
She tried to stand, but all the energy of her body appeared to have been drained from her panic.
"What was that!!?? What on earth was that!!???" she kept asking herself while slapping her head as if trying to make the images go away.
"You seem disturbed..." a voice whispered inside her ear.
Detra turned around in a panic but saw nothing, "who's there!!!?? Show yourself!!"
"It appears that you are the one who is trying to end me, arent you?" spoke once again the voice, and once again, it felt like it was coming from nowhere in particular.
"This voice... The forest!!??" Detra guessed.
"Your people made a mistake trying to enter my domain... I will now make sure that none of you get out of here alive..."
"You... are you the reason I keep seeing these visions?? How are you doing this??"
The mist started to clear out, and the image of a young girl started to reveal itself in front of Detra. She assumed it would be Ellie, or maybe the memory of Mia if she was really unlucky, but instead, it was the same girl from her visions, a child with the same hair and the same eyes as Detra herself.
"What is..." Detra tried to speak, but her body felt heavy.
"You assumed you would be safe inside the ring of fear... But all you did was march into your own doom... If my warriors failed to destroy your bodies... I will now destroy your mind!" the girl spoke while projecting the sound of the forest's voice.
"The ring of fear...? This is all being done because of the ring of fear??" Detra questioned.
"East!! East!!!" shouted a voice approaching from a distance. It was Marcus, looking for his distressed mother after entering the ring as well.
He finally saw her crouching on the ground and staring deeply into the young blond girl.
"East!! What are you doing?? Why did you come here alone??" Marcus asked while trying to bring his mother to reality, but the woman just kept in her trance.
"She couldn't help it... My magic was too much for her frail mind to take..." the forest replied.
"Your magic...??" Marcus questioned, "Who are you?? What did you do to East??"
"I placed her under a spell that will make her come face to face with her worst fears... Every second she spends inside this fog, is a second she spends inside the personal hell that will slowly shatter her heart apart into a million pieces!" the girl continued while tilting her head with her hands behind her back and grinning.
"Her worst fears...?" Marcus asked with a raised eyebrow. He stared at his mother for a few seconds and noticed she was shaking and sweating non-stop. He couldn't help but develop a little bit of curiosity, this was the first time he ever saw his mother like this, "what exactly is her greatest fear?"
The girl's smile became even wider. She raised her arm and a large glow began to come out of it.
"You wanna see? It's the worst kind of fear! The one all rational living beings always try to run away from but no matter how much they try, it always ends up finding them back..."
Marcus felt something strange happening to his body, and before he noticed, the scenario was changing around him.
He looked at Detra and she began to disappear. He stared at his hands and they were also about to vanish into thin air. He took one last look at the girl who finally revealed what Detra's greatest fear was.