9

Serah

Serah panted as she trudged through the thorny path. His dark pink dress were tattered and smudged with dirt, and her face, clad with fear and confusion.

Where am I?

What is this place I’m in right now?

She thought to herself while still limping slowly. She remembered she and Abigail went out to pick flowers for Joseph, her friend's little brother.

"Ouch-"

Serah stopped abruptly when her toes got cut by the thorn on the side of the road—adding more to her feet injury. Her shoes was torn about awhile ago, and it's been a long while since she's in this forest. As she was limping along the endless path, she finally decided to rest and sat on the side of the road.

She winced when she touched her wound from the thorn earlier.

"What should I do? There's no water here."

All the days that she got stuck in the mysterious forest, she didn't eat and rely only on the murky swamp water that she would find by chance. The time is always night and the surrounding is always foggy that it's hard to find food and clean water.

Serah suddenly reminded of her family and her friends; of how warm the food back home was and how comfortable the sleeping place is. Her family must've been seeking her frantically, high and low. Guilt welled up inside her when she remembered Joseph’s birthday was just around the corner, and it would have to be postponed because thye were searching for her. Her tummy suddenly grumbled.

Along with the guilty feeling, tears also welled up on her eyelids. She’s sick of all of this, she just wanted to go home. A small motivation lifted up her spirits, a motivation that reminded her that her family is working hard to find her, so she must also work hard to find a way back home.

"No, I must not cry."

She quickly wiped her tears and looked around to see if there were any safe place to rest for a short time. Be it under the tree or in the bush, anywhere place so she could survive another day was good enough for her.

"I must go back, and meet Joseph."

While slowly limping towards a less thorny bush, she constantly regretted her decision to not live her life to the fullest. If she had known that she’d become like this, she would've spent more time with her family, if she knew she wouldn’t see her friends anymore, she would've played more with Abigail and Joseph. If she knew that night was the last time she would see that emerald eyes of Joseph’s, she should've...

Serah stopped for a moment.

"If I knew, would I be able to confess to him?"

Serah stared at the cloudy night sky, as she was reminded by Joseph's face, the one that she liked.

She started harboring feelings towards Joseph when they're playing together in his house when he’s 3 and she’s 13. At first, she thought of him as a cute and a lovely younger brother. Then, as time passes by, her feeling of adoration turned to a form of affection towards him. It was wrong, cuz she felt that Joseph was still too young and she thought that the feeling that she got might be just a lingering affection that she felt and will subside sooner or later.

However, given the situation that she's in, even in the darkest wood or on the coldest weather, she still could remember his face clearly.

"I wonder what he's doing right now?"

She stared blankly at the sky after crouching beneath at wide bush.

Suddenly, she heard unfamiliar footsteps. She quietly peeked outside to see what that was.

"What's a small girl like you doing here?"

A guys peeked inside the bush where Serah resided. She flinched and tried to run away but her ankle was grabbed by something big. When she turned around to see her legs, a big, tall guy, with a long braided white hair and pointy ears were looming behind her as he pulled her out from the bush.

"Oh, Raon. She's injured."

The other guys who has the same pointy ears but a  smaller stature and amber short hair spoke as he examined Serah's feet. The guy who were called as Raon earlier glanced at her feet.

"It truly is..."

"Should we bring her back to the palace?"

Raon nodded. Realizing that she was about to be taken to someplace unknown, she struggled more for freedom from Raon’s grasp.

"L-Let me go!"

She shouted as she wriggled her body and frantically flailed her arms. Raon glared at her as his thick, white eyebrows creased, feeling annoyed.

"Just calm down."

He karate chopped her on the back of her neck and she fell unconscious.

"You... The prime minister will be mad if he knew you did this to her."

The amber haired guys looked at him with a troubled expression while Raon carried Serah on his shoulder.

"What? It's better than letting her escape, right? Let's go."

Raon spoke nonchalantly and walked pass the amber haired guys. He heaved a long sigh and just shrugged, before following him suit.

***

Serah slowly opened her eyes. After awhile, she sat up and looked around. She was in a wide bedroom, with a large round bed at the middle of the room, and some weirdly designed furnitures placed here and there.

"Where am I?"

Confused, she turned her head and looked for any presence inside the room. At the door and the space that looked like a study corner was empty, then her blue eyes rolled to the sofa not too far from the bed, when she realized a person was sitting on it, with their back facing her. Their pointy ears perked when they heard the shuffling sound from Serah and they turned around to their back.

"You're awake?"

The person stood up and paced themselves to Serah. It was a.... Man? Woman? She wasn't sure about that person's gender, as they looked very beautiful, with a pair of ashen yellow eyes and caramel brown hair.

"Who are you? Where is this place? Did you bring me here?" Serah bombarded that androgynous person with questions first thing in hand.

The person chuckled.

"Yes, in a way I did bring you here."

They sat on the bed beside Serah.

"My name is Izfar, and this is the Moon palace of Ishtya’. Mind telling me who you are and how did you get here?"

The Izfar person asked. Serah pressed her lips tight, hesitating whether to tell this Izfar person or not.

"Don't worry, I'm not a bad guy. I won't hurt you. Just tell me how did you come here, I might be able to help you return to your home." He smiled kindly, trying not to confuse her.

Serah's eyes lit up at the word returning home, she then scooted closer to Izfar and told him what had happened to her.

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