In The Web

A warm sensation across Julianni’s skin caused her to stir. It was a pleasant feeling, her body feeling as though it was slowly heating from some unknown coldness that had crept over her. As she opened her eyes, she found herself laying on the ground in the garden of the Degario manor. Confusion beset her as her dark eyes danced across the familiar and comforting scenery. It didn’t feel right, but it didn’t necessarily leave her with a fearful or bad feeling.

She slowly stood, brushing off small bits of grass that had found their way onto her plain clothing and into her hair. A small frown crossed her lips; Lord Degario would be most displeased if he’d learned she’d been napping in the garden. It took a bit of time, but she finally managed to clean herself of debris. Her attention turned towards the sun, letting its beams warm her face. That’s what the sensation was, she thought, and her frown turned into a small smile. Taking in a breath, she noted the strong smell of lavender. But this time, the combination of other flowers coupled with the scent of fresh air overpowered whatever bad memories had been trying to find their way into her mind.

Julianni didn’t let herself get too distracted, however, and soon she moved quickly towards the garden’s labyrinth to exit. She knew the paths well. The dead ends, the twists and turns, and the circles to be made never had phased her. The place was within her memory like a song close to a musician’s heart. Each corner she rounded, she knew she should be getting closer to her destination. However, in the back of her mind, it felt as if she would never reach it.

Time continued for what felt like an eternity. Exhaustion began to overwhelm her, and she felt her feet dragging along in their futile journey. Finally, when it seemed that she would outright collapse, she turned that last corner to the exit. The moment she did, instead of relief, the previous feeling of something not being right developed itself into an outright dread. Her eyes soon confirmed this fact as she looked upon not the Degario manor, but instead a corridor in a station.

The smell of the garden warped itself into one of a sort of metallic origin coupled with dirt and filth that an unclean station would have. Her surroundings had now melded entirely into the place, the comfort of the garden now left far behind. The dread slowly seeped into her very bones, and she knew she had to run. Though it was quite clearly a dream, she couldn’t stop herself from that primal instinct of survival.

All feeling of exhaustion left her as she began to flee down the hall. Like with the labyrinth of the garden, her destination felt unreachable. The hall only stretched and spun, the view of the bridge of a ship barely made out. She could see the other personnel, too. Toroko, Mikar, and the rest of the Internal Watch all were surrounding something. There was no way she could see just what it was, but she knew she had to warn them. They were in danger. It was a trap.

She cried out as loud as she could, but no sound would escape from her lips. Arms waving in the air, she continued running as fast as she possibly could, but it was no use. To her horror, she watched as a brilliant flash erupted from the group’s center, their bodies bursting into an assortment of pieces that could never be placed back together. Julianni screamed out in remorse, her voice now finding its way to carry on the nightmare’s wind.

It echoed softly at first, then began to build its way up to pierce her ears and bring about a pain at the front of her face. Though she covered her ears, it was as if it was instilled into her mind with no escape. A warm trickle of blood began to find its way out of her ears, eyes, and soon enough, her nose. The woman dropped to the ground as a darkness slowly began to envelop her vision, a mixture of blood and tears blurring what little bit she could see. As her surroundings grew darker, a familiar laugh dug its way into her skull and remained there until the nightmare ceased to be, bringing Julianni to consciousness again.

The darkness was still there. Unfortunately, so was the pain, and she groaned out softly from the discomfort of her shattered nose. It could have been a dream, she thought. However, everything felt so much coherent. Real. Memories of what had happened began to find their way back into Julianni’s mind and she grimaced in the darkness of what she guessed to be a blindfold. She tried moving her hands to no avail, seeming to find that they were tightly bound.

Everything finally made sense, and she knew that this scenario was no nightmare. Julianni silently cursed to herself her thoughts now floating towards the others that had been there. Had Toroko and Mikar made it out? And the other Internal Watch members? The mission had been a trap, just as expected. Despite their best efforts to combat it and be prepared, they were still taken by surprise. And now, she could hear that familiar laugh off in the distance elsewhere within…wherever she was. She clenched her teeth, shaking her head.

It was the laugh of Sakala, and now he had the upper hand.

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