I’m almost sorry that I’m not the slowest. Almost, but not quite. At the same time, I’m concerned about the extent of Ms Pink’s loss of powers. Just how much weaker is she now? I am determined to protect her, no matter what. I won’t allow anyone to lay as much as a finger on Ms Pink.
“It looks like I’ll have to punish you, Tiffany,” I say, laying on the tease thick.
Ms Pink’s eyes flash with a dash of challenge. “As you wish, Erika.”
A curious tickle accompanies the burst of fire that hits me deep in the guts. This is my chance to return the favour. The teasing. The “torturing”. Images of Ms Pink spread across her bed take over my mind and for a moment, I forget what we are here for.
“Gerant is waiting,” says Seo with her lime green eyes sparkling and I am pulled back to the dark present immediately.
“Bring us,” says Ms Pink and we follow Seo’s lead.
I can see patches of unevenness in Gerant’s fur and it makes for an unkempt appearance overall which unsettles me to the core. Gerant the most ancient of the ancients looking like an old dog with lost fur. It’s not right.
“Gerant,” I begin saying but the other words end up clogging up my throat as I throw my arms around one furry limb. “Gerant, I’m so sorry.”
Gerant’s words lift my head from the fur I’m wetting with my sudden tears. “Why are you thanking me?”
Gentle eyes smile into my wet ones. “You kept your promise.”
Shaking my head, I refuse to take the credit. “No, I would’ve been useless if not for you.”
“As the saying goes: It always takes two hands to clap. I helped you and you were the Erika that we all needed.”
“I did what I had to do.”
“An admirable quality that should not be taken for granted. That is why I am thanking you.” Gerant gives me another smile before turning to Ms Pink. “You have been brave and strong for a long time. But you will need Erika’s support for what is to follow.”
Ms Pink’s hand slips into mine and holds it tight. “We will be together forever.”
Gerant raises a shaggy brow. “It is unlike you to speak of forever.”
Ms Pink smiles. “I can see forever with Taeyeon.”
“Taeyeon has made a difference indeed. I am comforted to see more life in your eyes now than in all the past centuries.”
The hold on my hand tightens, making me smile as Ms Pink says, “Thank you, Gerant.”
We are back in the car when Ms Pink nudges me. “What are you thinking about?”
I smile and lean back against the sleek leather seat. “Gerant. And our journey down the huge tunnel. It was so big and scary inside. And so many turns. I wouldn’t have been able to find the Pratikan without Gerant. But I don’t understand why the Pratikan hurt Gerant so badly. I remember Gerant digging into the ground and the next thing I knew, Gerant had collapsed.”
“Taeyeon, do you know what you were in?”
“The tunnel? Caves or something I suppose?”
“No,” says Ms Pink, her head shaking slowly, “You were in a network of lava tubes formed before the ancients existed.”
“Lava tubes,” I repeat, eyes widening upon the realization. “Where lava used to flow?”
“Millions of years ago.”
“I don’t understand how lava tubes are an explanation for anything though.”
“The energies that lurk in them are potentially fatal to ancients. They come from a different time, a different space.”
“So the ancients are . . . vulnerable to that energy?” I am shaking my head. “Energy so complicated.”
“Energy has existed from the very beginning. Everything in this universe runs on energy. Therefore we will not understand everything about energy. But the more we know about it, the more power we can manipulate. You will understand better as time goes by.”
I find myself nodding in agreement. “I can sense things that I couldn’t before. Layers and fields and spheres. I feel you in a new way too.”
“The energy that runs in me and all the supers is the same. Our energy is supernatural. But I don’t know what yours is anymore. Before your conversion, you were the Erika as mentioned in the books. But now your eyes are blue, and it appears you have become immortal. I do not know how that has changed your energy.”
“Whatever my energy has changed into, I know one thing that hasn’t changed.”
“What is it?”
“My love for you.”
Ms Pink’s laugh is light like a ballerina on her toes. “Stupid human.”
Feeling cheeky and a little frisky, I stick my tongue out at her. “How do you like losing the race to a stupid human?”
“Insolent tongue. Keep it in your mouth.”
“But I like sticking it out,” I tease, deliberately sticking my tongue out again.
It must be enticing to Ms Pink because she swops down on me and sucks my tongue right into her mouth as she pulls me right into her arms, locking me down tight. My instinct has me retracting my tongue but the suction she’s apply on me is strong and my instinct melts into realization that this is actually quite pleasurable.
Mmm . . .
A moment later, the pull is gone and I open my eyes with a little sigh.
“You liked that.”
“I liked that.”
“You are becoming the devil.”
Looking at Ms Pink and her bold black eyes, I can’t resist licking my lips. “I’m only just getting started, Tiffany.”
I swear a dash of pink streaks across Ms Pink’s eyes just then and my lips curl up into a grin. The pink is lurking somewhere inside. The pink will return.
My jovial, teasing mood fades into sombreness as soon as we get out of the car. It is hard to be merry when the clammy air greets my skin with an eerie chill and drags its slimy fingertips across my face in place of a handshake. I do not feel welcome here and I can’t shake the feeling that something bad is about to happen.
“Did you sense something?” Ms Pink asks me.
I nod with a shudder. “It’s eerie. Like haunted eerie.”
“That is to be expected.”
“But I’ve been to a few dungeons and none of them are like that.”
“This is not just any dungeon.”
I simply stare at Ms Pink. “Huh?”
I turn to Seo as she steps forward to explain, “The most evil of the supers are locked in the Dungeon. But what makes it known as the Dungeon, are the drekons that guard it.”
My hand flies to my mouth and my eyes widen to their limit. “Drekons?”
“They are actually ancient beasts from the Late Cretaceous period as humans like to call it.”
“Late Cretaceous. It is the name of a period in the Mesozoic Era, another wondrous term that humans made up.”
“I’m not sure I understand anything you’re saying right now.”
“Stupid human,” says Ms Pink, impatient as ever. “Don’t you know your history?”
“I know my history spanning back a couple hundred years but I’ve never heard of the Miso Era or Late Crater period.”
Seo grins. “Well, have you heard of Jurassic?”
“Er, Jurassic Park?”
“Yes, the dinosaur period.”
I stare at Seo for a long moment before shifting my stare over to Ms Pink. Neither of them seem to be joking. “You’re telling me that the drekons that guard the Dungeon are dinosaurs?”
Seo nods as though knowing a dinosaur exists in this day and age is a norm. “They are millions of years old. Scientists found some fossils which helped us to figure out how ancient they are.”
I am speechless and I’m pretty sure my jaw is loose.
Ms Pink laughs. “Their names are Yoolong, Yooling and Yoolung.”
“Are they big?”
“A little bigger than Gerant.”
“That’s . . . not as big as I thought . . .”
Ms Pink smiles. “It’s not the size that matters.”
“Do they have special powers?”
“Their energy is far beyond the modern supernatural’s.”
“Moder—” I suppose a couple thousand years in history is modern when compared to a couple millions years . . .
“Not a single super has ever made it past the drekons.”
“But why do they guard the Dungeon? Why don’t they roam around as they wish?”
“Some say the Dungeon is where their nest was. Some say the Dungeon is the source of their energy. But nobody knows exactly.”
“Wow . . .”
“Look, The Dungeon is on the island across from here,” says Seo, pointing at the isle sitting in the middle of the vast lake. A single rectangular block of ancient stone sits on the isle, tall and imposing.
“Wow . . .”
“Stupid human. Follow me.”
The waters that surround the isle aren’t the kind I ever want to dip my fingers in. Murky and eerie and definitely haunted, I’m thinking as our boat takes us over the waters.
“Are there dead bodies in the water? Will they attack us or something?” I ask, remembering scary scenes from movies that feature deadly monsters lurking in ominous waters.
“There are dead supers and beasts in the water but they are well and truly dead. They can’t attack you,” Ms Pink deadpans.
Ms Pink’s little smirk unsettles me but I decide not to pursue the topic anymore.
Once we get onto the isle, Ms Pink grabs my hand and we blaze down the path to the great stone door. It towers something like two Gerants over me and just when I wonder how we’re going to open it, it yawns open by itself. Charming.
I am put off by the swirl of energy in this place. It makes me uncomfortable. It makes my hair stand.
“Shield yourself,” says Ms Pink.
Obeying her, I cast a wall between the swirl and myself and the tension around me dissipates at once. With the pressure off, I begin to look around. Everything is cast in stone. This place looks like it was carved out of one gigantic rock the size of a stadium. There are no windows, no openings and the only light in here is streaming in through the door.
That light source is cut off when the door yawns shut and for a second, we are standing in utter darkness. Then light blinds me when a sudden blast of fire whizzes over my head, making me duck to save my life. The energy is intense. I can sense it. A kind of energy far beyond my grasp. An energy I find foreign to mine and the supers. Will I be able to contain this kind of energy?
As it turns out, the blast of fire was meant to light the row of torches mounted on the stone walls and there is no need for me to contain anything. That also means the fire was from a formidable body of energy and even as I turn to look, I know it must be the drekon.
Interestingly, its head is similar to the human depiction of dragons in art and film. But its body is stout, not long and reminds me more of a gigantic komodo dragon with a bigger, spikier head and bat wings.
“Yoolong, we are here to see Tatua,” Ms Pink announces.
A snort and a growl later, a stone wall rolls away and a line of fire shoots into the darkness beyond it.
Ms Pink takes my hand and I follow her into the cell with Seo behind us.