Genre: fantasy, superpower
Patricia thought she could do it. Really, she did.
Her first kiss wasn’t as special as she hoped it would be, but that didn’t stop her from treasuring the rest. If she was going to kiss someone, she wanted it to be meaningful.
Inna thought she was silly. Patricia thought they had different values.
After much stubborn persistence, she managed to substitute the price for her power with a kiss on the cheek, and later a kiss on the hand. With her greatest barrier gone, she used her superpower more freely, and her skill grew. She learnt to ‘store kisses’ so she could use her power even if she collected the price hours before. She became more efficient, so one kiss could power two minutes of illusions instead of just one.
Her superpower alter ego changed as well. The price was still one kiss for one minute of illusions, but she had more freedom in how the price was paid and could even give ‘discounts’. No more kissing little kids (she wasn’t a cradle snatcher), no more kissing girls (she didn’t swing that way), no more kissing married men (she wasn’t a family breaker).
She could live with that.
Genre: family, slice of life
It would only be there for one week, but one week was a long time time to endure crawling through their own house just to get to the front door.
‘It’ was an obstacle course made out of strings, modelled after the web of laser sensors in spy movies. The course was great, but there was one problem.
They allowed her little brother the living room. He had taken most of the ground floor instead.
Fortunately for him, he had a wonderful, understanding family.
But once his birthday party was over, those strings were going down.
Genre: family, fantasy, slice of life
Luciano snapped awake with a strangled gasp.
Two months had passed since the ‘heirloom fiasco’, as they had started to call it. The Turnery and Sharoon houses had done a great job at restoring everything that had been damaged, but there were some things that even the Turnery’s miraculous rewind ability couldn’t reverse.
Everyone had their own fears and demons. He had learnt to deal with his, or at least, ignore them at the back of his mind. What Minnie had done was drag those nightmares into reality and spice them up to make them even more terrifying. Thanks to that, his old nightmares had spawned new ones that continued to haunt his dreams.
Luciano sighed. Minnie had really gone full out. She always did. Small tasks, big tasks, she tackled them all with everything she had. It was only this time that her vigour had ended up hurting them so badly.
And he couldn’t even be mad at her.
He crossed his forearms over his face. Tears of frustration trickled down his cheeks.
In the end, there was no true enemy he could direct his turmoil at, just a bunch of misguided people who accidentally got in each other’s way. Anyway, at the end of the day, they were all family. Hating family was like cutting off his nose to spite his face.
Something soft nudged his arm. His breath caught and his heart jumped, then he remembered the plushy his sister had left on his bedside table. He dropped his arms down beside him on the bed and turned his head. The puppy plushy watched him without a word.
Ever since finding out about the nightmares that plagued him every night, his sister had left the plushy at his bedside. Some nights, he sent the animated plushy to his sister, too terrified of the
hidden threats shadows to seek the comfort he needed. The rest of the time, the plushy went to get her anyway. It didn’t matter what time it was, his sister always came over to his room.
“I’m okay. Let her sleep,” he told the little puppy.
The plushy hopped back onto his bedside table, then jumped off and dashed out of the room before he could stop it. For something without muscles, that plushy could run.
Not long after, the plushy returned in the arms of his only sister. Eyes still half closed, Lilibeth clambered into his bed.
“You didn’t need to come. I’m fine,” he said.
“Don’t kick me out now. Meanie,” she grumbled and burrowed under his blanket.
“Of course not.” He pretended to be insulted, but his sister had already slipped back into sleep.
His sister never complained, but she must be as tired as he was from the interrupted sleep. He was older, so he could deal with it better, but what she lacked in age she made up in stubbornness. And a touch of guilt.
He didn’t understand where the guilt came from, but like everything else, it faded day by day. With a content sigh, he closed his eyes and dreamed eagerly of the day when shadows went back to just being shadows, and people laughed easily again, freed from their self-inflicted burdens.
Genre: fantasy, family
It took them the better part of a month to fix everything. Even then, the cracks were still visible to those who knew what they were looking for, but with enough time, even those would fade away too.
Each family had held their own gatherings, both to update everyone on the current situation and to make sure everyone was alright. Wilfredo had never seen so many Beauris in one place at the same time. Not even during Chinese New Year. But even that paled in comparison to this gathering. Read the rest of this entry
Genre: family, slice of life
“Is that so?”
That was the Sharoon head’s response after Darius completed his tale. The words were as bland as her face, hiding any emotions she had, if she felt any at all.
Darius was sure he looked pretty bland himself from the outside, but on the inside, his newfound memories and emotions churned within him. Months had passed since his last encounter with the woman, who had only been the family heir then, but to him it felt like only hours ago that the two of them were locked in a furious battle.
“I understand. I will release them to you in exchange for my heirloom,” said Minvera Sharoon.
Darius bit back the urge to shout that she had no right to demand anything. She might have abused her powers, but he was the one who fired the first shot when he stole the Sharoon heirloom.
Between the two family heads, they soon settled the details of the exchange. The Sharoon family would bring the victims out to the Turnery house next to the Beauris main house. There would be no violence allowed from any side, and the heirloom would only be returned after every single prisoner had been set free.
“Where is Amaya?” Baldemar asked.
“Aunty Amaya is in the main house.”
So the previous head was still alive. Darius had expected the worst when he realised the Sharoon family had a new matriarch.
“Will she return to her position after this or will you continue to be the head of the family?” Baldemar asked.
“That will be decided after we finish this matter,” Minerva said.
“I ask because the Sharoon family will need to compensate our families for what has been done. The details will be discussed between the family heads and heirs in a private meeting before we announce it to the rest of the family.”
“Regarding that,” Minerva said, “I will take full responsibility.”
“That’s admirable, but you don’t need to shoulder everything. Your whole family was involved.”
“But I was the one who brainwashed everyone. Every. Single. Victim. Is mine. I knew what I was doing. I already decided that I will atone for the rest of my life.”
The room fell into silence. Darius kept his face carefully blank and his words locked tightly behind his lips. Going into this meeting, he had been fully prepared to force the Sharoon heir to admit her crime if necessary. He never thought they would need to convince her not to punish herself so seriously.
“You are still young. The rest of your life is a long time to atone,” Baldemar finally said.
“I am ready.”
“You’re too young to remember this, but your grandmother decided that as the family head, it was her duty to apologise on behalf of every Sharoon member for any wrongdoing. She was twice your age when she became the matriarch. She died with a broken heart at the end. There is a difference between atonement and self-punishment. Which are you doing?”
Minerva didn’t answer, which was an answer in and of itself.
“I won’t tell you how to lead your family, but talk to them. See what they think. Being the family head doesn’t mean you’re responsible for everything or that you have to make all the decisions. It just means you have the advantage during tiebreakers.” Baldemar cracked a smile. Minerva’s lips quivered, but remained stubbornly flat.
“Thank you for the advice.”
“You’re welcome, Minnie.”
Minerva ducked her head. In that moment, he remembered that she wasn’t that much older than he was.
Crap. Now he was worried.
“We went to our house next to the Beauris main house right after the mission. The Sharoon family must have followed us there and assumed we were part of your family,” Esther finished.
The Sharoon heirloom laid innocently on the table. To think such a small item would strike such discord between their families.
“What now?” Uncle Tobiras voiced the question on everyone’s mind.
“Is it safe to return the heirloom?” her father asked.
Darius’ mother hummed as she considered the question. “Little Missy Minnie is the new head now. It doesn’t look like she was involved with her predecessor’s deal. Maybe we can negotiate something. What do you think, dear?”
“I agree. Regardless of Minerva’s stance on the situation, leaving things as they are is not an option. Normal workers are being brainwashed to keep things secret. I’m surprised no one has called the police yet, but it’s just a matter of time,” Darius’ father said.
“If we’re going to make contact, make the meeting place one of our houses. Any of them would at least dampen her abilities. We will also keep the heirloom somewhere else,” Darius said.
Lilibeth sat back and watched the discussion unfold. The Darius who actively participated in the discussion was worlds apart from the Darius who meekly watched from the sidelines. Everything about the new Darius (or should she say old Darius?) was different, from the confidence in his movements, the weight of his words, even his stance when standing still. Seeing him now, it was obvious that the quiet man she met before was just a shadow of the real thing.
That was what her cousin had done to him.
That was what her cousin could do to her brother.
Lilibeth curled her fingers against her thighs.
She should have been the one to stay behind as a decoy. Her brother was the Beauris heir. He was more important and so much more powerful than her. If their positions were reversed, he would have already saved her and ended the family crisis by now.
By the end of the day, they decided that Darius and her father would negotiate with Minnie in one of the Turnery houses. The Sharoon heirloom would be guarded by another team in one of the Turnery family’s other houses, which would be kept secret from Darius and Baldemar, just in case. At her father’s insistence, Lilibeth was left out of the team.
“I have a different mission for you,” her father said later when they were alone. He took off the Beauris heirloom and looped the necklace around her neck, just like her brother did the last time they were together. “Keep this with you at all times. If anything happens to me and your brother, this pendant is yours, so don’t lose it.”
The memory of her brother’s words that day and the dark implications behind the heirloom’s change in ownership made her eyes water. Just like last time, she could only nod as she held back tears. The jumbled words she wanted to say sat unspoken in a pile behind her lips.
Her father drew her into a hug and pressed a kiss into her hair.
She pressed her face into his chest.
Please come back.
Once upon a time, there were three siblings. While playing together outside, they found some hidden treasures. The oldest brother picked up a pendant with a design of a strange creature he had never seen before. The middle sister chose a giant hairpin bigger than her hand. The youngest brother lifted a chain with letters woven into its long body. Read the rest of this entry
They didn’t fulfil the mission objective of finding the Beauris heir, but everyone who went out came back unharmed.
The two extra people stood side by side before the team. The sound of a chair scraping over the floor made Darius turn his head to find his housemate on his feet.
“Esther?” The name left Wilfredo’s mouth like a gasp.
“That’s me,” a familiar voice said.
Darius turned his head back to face the two new faces. Was that…
“Hello, Beauris. I am Esther Turnery. This is my husband, Roger.” She gestured at the man beside her. “Thank you for your help. As promised, I will tell you where the Sharoon heirloom is. But first, I need some time with my son, Darius.”
That was the same voice as the person who made a deal with his housemate. So this woman was his mother. And the man beside her…
His breath caught at his throat. Darkness crept in at the edges of his vision. His fingers shook.
A hand clapped his shoulder. He jumped, but it was only his housemate.
“Something wrong?” Wilfredo asked.
The shroud of unexplained panic pulled back. Darius shook his head, not trusting himself to speak. His housemate didn’t look convinced, but didn’t press the issue.
Wilfredo led the family of three to an empty room. Darius kept his distance from his father. He didn’t remember his father at all, but his body did. The reaction didn’t bode well for his relationship with his father.
His mother broke through his thoughts with a gentle hand around his.
“Sit here.” She sat on a sofa and pulled him down beside her. When he sat stiffly at the edge, she pushed him until his back rested against the cushioned back of the sofa.
“Relax.” She hooked her fingers under his jaw and tilted his head back until it also rested against the sofa back. Her palms passed gently over his eyes and he closed them automatically.
“You have amnesia,” she said, “I can bring your memories back, but it might be uncomfortable, and no matter what, you can’t fight me. We can both get seriously hurt. Understand?”
“You are my son. I won’t harm you, so trust me and let me in.”
“The easiest way is to sleep. Let go of your fears and let me do all the work.”
Darius released a short laugh that was equal parts nervous and bitter. “Easier said than done.”
“I’m your mother. I know you more than you know yourself. Just trust me.” Her hands moved to run through his hair. She hummed a tune that he had never heard before but tugged at the forgotten corners in his mind.
He forced his body to relax and emptied his mind of all thoughts but the wordless song. The rest of the room faded away until it was just him on the sofa with his mother. Eventually, even that faded away as he slipped into a daze.
~To be continued~
Lilibeth wasn’t as strong or as talented as her brother, but that didn’t mean she was weak. Every Beauris had the ability to bring things to life, but the ability manifested in different ways in each person.
Her brother could take any material and twist it into any form he wanted with just a touch and a thought. She could only animate something that already had a form, usually statues and drawings, but the things she brought to life could take basic actions on their own.
In this case, it meant that she could bring a whole army with her and just throw them at her opponents. All she needed to do was point them to the right targets and make sure they didn’t kill anyone.
With her were four uncles, all chosen for their ability to create and get out of mischief. Together, they were the decoy team. Their job was to draw all attention to themselves and away from the other teams, who would do the actual search and rescue.
As she advanced through the building, part of her attempt at sowing confusion was to randomly throw doors open. If they were locked, she left it alone. If they weren’t, she threw them open with a bang and jumped in for a quick hit and run. She didn’t linger, and neither did her uncles. They just kept running around until they received the signal.
She was in a room when she heard the order, so her first reaction was to turn and head for the door.
She bumped straight into someone else.
“Excuse me,” Lilibeth muttered out of reflex.
“Help me,” the woman she bumped into said.
They already decided they wouldn’t rescue anyone, but it was hard to actually say that to the face of someone asking for help. Even if she could muster the words, the other woman didn’t give her the chance to say it. She grabbed Lilibeth’s arm and pulled her in one direction.
Uncle Tobiras clamped a hand on the woman’s shoulder before she could take Lilibeth any further.
“Let her go.”
“My husband is in here. Help me free him.”
They couldn’t stay. They needed to move before the confusion wore off and the Sharoon family got their act together.
“If you free my husband I’ll tell you where the Sharoon heirloom is.”
“I’ll tell you everything later if you help me now. It won’t take long.”
Two lions lunged at each other behind the lady. Lilibeth made a decision.
“Where is he?” Lilibeth asked.
The lady turned to run but Lilibeth pulled her onto her stone dragon.
“It’s faster this way,” she explained.
Now the decoy mission was an escort mission that was part of a rescue mission. Lilibeth gripped the dragon with all four limbs and shot down the corridor. Her battered army cleared the way before them. Her uncles guarded their flanks and rear.
After some twists and turns, they finally stopped at an ordinary door. The woman jumped off the dragon and threw it open.
The Beauris braced themselves for a fight, but there were no guards inside, just docile servants staring vacantly ahead. The woman walked up to one of the men and pulled him to his feet. He didn’t resist as she led him out of the room.
They were too slow.
Lilibeth grabbed the lady, Uncle Tobiras grabbed her husband, and they dashed out of the Sharoon estate with the Sharoon family’s conjured minions snapping at their tails. Uncle Kostoli threw his favourite bombs behind them and the bombs exploded in a thick cloud of colours.
Without a sound, they disappeared into the neighbourhood next door to where their cars waited. They would only consider the mission over when they regrouped with the others. But before that, they better make sure they weren’t bringing a spy into the group.
“Who are you?” Lilibeth asked.
After a pause, the lady said, “Hello, Wilfredo’s niece. I’m Esther. Nice to meet you again.”
~To be continued~
Genre: fantasy, action
Was it only yesterday that Darius thought he could actually make a difference? He needed a time machine to go back and lock himself somewhere so he didn’t join the rescue team because he was only slowing people down.
The problem wasn’t that he was weak. Physically, he was in great shape, better than a lot of the people around him, but a fit body could only do so much when his competitors were conjured Gods and marble giants. In the face of such destructive power, his homemade staff was just a glorified toothpick, good only as a weak deterrent. His best and only move was to not get hit.
He dodged a bat as big as a human and jumped out of the way of a swing from an arm stuck to the wall.
Before entering the building, they had familiarised themselves with the layout of the estate. Unfortunately, old floor plans couldn’t tell them how the space was being used, or if any changes had been made since then.
To increase their chances of finding Luciano (and everyone else), they split up into small groups to cover different areas using different routes. It sounded like a good idea at the time. In practice… he personally thought it worked even better because it was easier to stay together when it was just three of them in a team instead of ten.
He ducked under the swipe of the largest praying mantis he had ever seen. Its claws sparked as it scraped the wall instead. A guardian lion tackled it to the ground before the giant bug could launch a second attack.
“Next?” Darius asked.
“Go,” Wilfredo said.
From the moment Darius’s team faced their first encounter with the guards, Darius knew he was so outclassed he was like a bug trying to join a battle between war tanks. He abandoned all intentions to fight and looked for other ways to make himself useful. After some clumsy attempts, they settled on Wilfredo and Augustine acting as guards while Darius focused on finding people.
Dodging a stray blast, Darius threw another door open. It was empty.
“Empty,” he announced and ran to the next door, “Next?”
The moment the door opened a minotaur attacked. Darius shot out of the way just in time. As the beast turned to deliver another blow, a guardian lion pounced and smashed it back against the door frame.
He felt like a character in a game, dungeon crawling with his party. Except no one wanted to kill anyone, their loot could actually fight back, and they didn’t have the super handy communication system that would let them talk to each other even when they weren’t in the same room.
Between Wilfredo and Augustine, they distracted the two guards enough that the prisoners within could fight back. They then moved on to the next door and continued their search.
The estate was not designed to hold prisoners, but it was designed to house a large multi-generational family, so there were plenty of large rooms and some isolated wings. Without proper cells, the Sharoon family turned these rooms into little prisons, each with their own guards. In reality, the rooms ranged from real prisons to massive sleepovers, depending on the guards and prisoners.
Door by door, they searched the whole estate, occasionally crossing paths with the other groups. Towards the end, they were basically running a rescue mission in the middle of a fantasy war zone. They abandoned all stealth and tore the doors down as they ran from everyone and everything. Darius had dropped his staff ages ago. It only slowed him down.
Finally, they covered the whole estate. Twice.
They didn’t find the Beauris heir.
“We need to go,” Augustine said when the mansion floor turned wild and the crumpled bodies of creatures that didn’t exist threatened to completely clog the corridors.
“We haven’t found Luciano yet,” Darius said.
“You won’t help him if you get caught. Let’s go.”
Wilfredo grabbed Darius by the arm and hauled him onto the back of his guardian lion.
~Go to the next part here~