I groomed myself especially well and curled my hair into tight ringlets that stuck plastered to my head as was the fashion at the time. The person who stared at me in the mirror as I lanced the curling iron through my hair seemed to be another person with alien eyes and a faintly malicious curve to their lips. It wasn't something nearly as strange as Altima's queer and malevolent influence. No, it was something altogether different. The foundation that I was had been fundamentally changed through my recent experiences. The Wendy of a year ago had died sometime in the past several months.

Would I even recognize myself had I through some black magic traveled through time? I doubted it. Even the way that I seemed to carry myself was different. My posture was better and my reflection regarded me with cool confidence, even though my heart was fluttering like a bird in a cage.

It disturbed me, but I was grateful for my silent and terrible metamorphosis. It was in all likelihood the thing that would save us all from a fate that I shuddered to think of.

I emptied my school bag and filled it select tomes from the library of her madness. I made certain the first issue that was secured was the one that started it all. The relatively thin and worn field journal written by a man who long ago succumbed to the silence of the grave, perhaps by her guiding hand. It was strange to think that such an inconspicuous thing had driven Hanz and Gerald to the brink of Hell. But there it was, it's weight in the mind ether which I trawled heavy and solid.

The mess hall, recreation area and enlisted barracks were often occupied by noisy soldiers. So we met in the nearly abandoned medical barracks. It was Ilythia that I found first, fidgeting next to an empty cot that her brother had been occupying the past week.

"Wendy! Hi." She greeted with a warm smile and a wave. "I love your hair!"

I smiled absently and took a seat next to her, asking where the boys had run off to.

"Oh. Aeolus and Wind are in the examination room. You just missed them. He's just in for a check up and a dressing change. Nothing serious. They'll be out in a little while."

Of course. Had Altima arranged such a strange coincidence? If she was capable of temporarily possessing a drunkard into stabbing a man that didn't seem too far a stretch of the imagination.

"I'm kind of glad they're weren't here." I started before swallowing a lump in my throat. I was growing increasingly nervous, but I hid it beneath a cool facade. "I wanted to talk to you."

The book bag was discarded between the two of us. I fiddled with the latch and slowly produced the field journal that started it all. To her it was would have been some ugly book, but to me it had become a monstrous and vile thing. Her eyes seemed to glaze over as they made contact with the stenciled title.

I slipped it into her waiting hands.

"I know you're never in one place for very long because of Aeolus. But I figured that while you're here you might as well get some use out of our library. I just checked this out. For you."

She ran her thin fingers over its cover and breathed in deeply. She looked from the book to me innocently and a weight settled on my shoulders. It was a crushing ton of bricks that I feared would never leave me.

"Wendy," she started as she cracked the cover. "Thank you so much. That's.. sweet."

The scent of leather and ancient paper wafted up to our nostrils and we breathed in the intoxicating intellectual scent. She turned the first page and immediately her eyes shot to the strange red scrawl that was the catalyst for her madness.

"I've seen it before, though." She looked up with a confused expression on her face. "At my boyfriend's place."

I smiled knowingly and placed my hand on her bare knee.

"I know."

She gasped and closed the book in surprise.

"I'm not going to tell Aeolus or Wind, don't worry. I've seen you with them. It's my college too, you know.

"It'll be our little secret." I squeezed her knee as I stretched into her mind, groping more or less blindly. The innards which I touched were soft and supple but the biggest sensation that I gathered was a warmth that I hadn't experienced in more than two decades. It was how one would imagine the womb.

Was that what attracted Altima's gaze? The girl was like an open book and she gazed at me dumbly as I gingerly touched everything from her earliest memories to her more recent emerging lust for Gerald's body and Hanz's soft lips.

I retreated and she sucked in a breath loudly.

"Promise?" She said, suddenly in reality.


"...am I doing anything wrong?"

"If your brother had two girlfriends, would his men think him immoral? Or would they call him a hero? No. Ilythia, what you're doing is perfectly natural. You don't need to explain yourself, especially to Aeolus or I. It's a stupid, old fashioned double standard that people stick to, even in these times. You have your fun. you have a right to it."

She smiled. I couldn't help but crave another trip into that beautiful mind of hers. I wanted to experience what she did those nights she laid with my Hanz and Gerald. Not out of morbid curiosity, but out of my own vanity. I wanted to see Aeolus' face when he was a mere boy. Above it all I wanted to sit amongst the museum of memories and just rest.

"But you should read the book. When you're done you can go through these." I returned to the reason why I had hauled the sack of literature into the camp. I began fishing them out of the bag and stacking them on the floor beside her.

She cracked open the field journal again with her thumb, flipping absently through the pages. I had to strain to hear it in the mind ether, but it was there. A faint clockwork heart ticking away.

It didn't live within me or some temporarily possessed stranger. The faint and ominous noise came from Ilythia's wide open mind. I smiled sadly as her eyelids fluttered and unbeknownst to her a tiny smirk formed in the corners of her mouth.


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