The average number of times Merkaba is used in a month was one to two at the most. To go beyond the norm was allowed only when the situation called for immediate attention. Arturion couldn’t stay away from Merleina. Karina was far too important to his people, the Devatas, and him. He had readily agreed to the plan to visit her weekly to ensure that her energies are balanced. Sara had given him a pálon to keep the fatigue of travel at bay.
The pálon’s reservoir of energy contained in the tube had been depleted two weeks ago. His foster grandmother would be furious with him when she learns of it. He had not the time and energy to replenish the device.
There are three ways to refill a pálon. One, expose its positive pole under direct sunlight for seven full days and the negative under the moonlight for five nights. Arturion had tried refilling the apparatus the first week and only succeeded by half.
Two, visit the Ohm Order responsible for energy production and one of the departments in quality control of energy-consuming devices. They would surely ask questions. Out of well-meaning intent, one of the members will make inquiries with the Gate Keepers. Sola would manage to cover for him only to a certain extent. Eventually, it would reach the Council.
Three, buy a spare pálon from the trading center in Tari at the northwest and risk being seen by his fellow Keepers. It would taint the Commander’s reputation for having one of his members relying on such a device.
In the end, Arturion gave in to his biological needs. The moment his head touched the pillow he shut down.
Natural sleep is still the best, he thought, still half-asleep. Arturion’s mind registered the tense atmosphere around him. It aggravated his more sensitive senses that he came fully awake. He bolted upright and saw Karina. Her cheeks flushed scarlet and her eyes glittered. She was definitely the source of restrained anger.
“Thirty-six,” Karina said.
Arturion could not make heads nor tails on what she was referring to. She would have to give him further details if she wanted an explanation for whatever wrong he has done.
“Thirty-six Merkabas, Arty.”
So she had made queries from Kala about the cause of his fatigue. He did not know if this was worse than Sara’s scolding.
“You need not worry. Sara gave me an energizer—”
“Which has emptied four weeks ago,” her voice rose. “Three if you’re conserving it. Stop lying to me. When was the last time you used the pálon?”
“Two. What were you thinking?” She shoved him hard. Outbalanced, his elbow hit the table’s edge sharply. “Does Sara know how many times you come here?”
“If I were her, how many times would I ask you to be here?”
“Once a week.” Breathing was becoming a challenge for Arturion. The air was thickening as she threw her questions at him. He had been caught off guard and his protective barriers were down when he woke up. His brain was still muddled with sleep that he had not been able to pull it up.
“Are you trying to kill yourself?” She pushed him again. Darkness crept at the edges of his vision. He fell back and remained in that position, making an effort to breathe.
“Arty?” Karina noticed the length of his silence. The air lightened considerably. “Arty. Are you alright?” Her worried face peered at him, her anger forgotten.
Karina fanned him with her hand.
“I’m sorry. I forgot your kind easily gets affected by this.”
Arturion propped himself up on his good elbow.
“And sorry for that.” She pointed at the injury and grimaced.
“I deserved it.” He rubbed around the tender spot.
“Why did you do it?” Karina asked quietly. “It was stupid. Why do this all for me? We barely know each other and literally worlds apart.”
“You’re important to all of us.”
“Right. It’s because I’m a Liyanna,” she said bitterly. “I’ve been hearing a lot from the trees and the wind; the way everybody treats me; and the Council, especially. You don’t receive special attention from the Elders just because you’re ascending. Sara and Kala hid it from me and I can guess why. I don’t have to know until I come out of this alive; or, I might change my mind and think it better to die rather than fulfill their expectations.”
“Would you rather die?” Arturion swallowed.
“Of course not,” her voice was indignant. “That’s just idiotic.”
“Your position is significant to us but it is not the primary reason I go to such lengths.”
“What is it then?” Karina asked exasperatedly. “How do I make you stop pushing yourself to the limit? I can’t lose you. You’re all I have, the only one left of my other life.”
Arturion felt his chest expand. He wondered at the strange sensation stirring inside him.
“I cannot bear to lose you, too. Losing your friendship is enough to tear me apart. Your death would be the end for me,” he confessed, avoiding her eyes. Her hand came up to his chin, forcing him to look at her.
“What are you saying?” Her eyes glistened with unshed tears.
“I think,” he stated, weighing his next words. “I think I like you, Karina.” Arturion felt a weight lift from his chest as he realized the truth for himself.
Her mouth formed into an “o.”
“You like me?” she half-laughed and half-sobbed.
“Yes,” he said.
“If you like me that much, you should know I don’t like my friends dying because of me, silly.” Karina punched him lightly on the chest.
At the spur of the moment, Arturion took her in his arm, tucking her head under his chin. She quieted and returned his embrace.
“Remember our lesson about the energy exchange?”
“We can do that by hugging.” He loosened his hold to look at her. Karina did not meet his gaze, intently studying the collar of his shirt. “It doesn’t require us to focus on the energies so it is less taxing than our usual procedure. It can become,” he searched for an appropriate term, “awkward when prolonged. You will tell me if it reaches that point?”
“We can’t risk compromising your ascension.”
“I know. Swear you’ll rest before your return to the – third dimension.” It was a day of promises for Arturion. He gladly made his vow and secretly made another.
“Wouldn’t it be contradictory for you to want to forget your home world and still keep the connection alive through me?” he asked.
Karina still refused to look him in the eye.
“I want to but I can’t let go yet.” She rubbed her forearm unconsciously. “And it wouldn’t really matter to me whether you’re my link to my past or not.”
He took her arm and tentatively lifted the sleeve a fraction. When she didn’t object, he pushed up to the area which bothered her. A yellow-green spot marred the pale skin.
“Reno should be more careful.” He was annoyed with his friend.
“The Elders aren’t complaining.” She looked up at him with steely determination. “I don’t want special treatment. I sometimes see him decorated with cuts and bruises when he comes straight from the training grounds. I like the way that he treats me like one of his trainees.”
“Should or shouldn’t. I’m glad of it. Don’t confront him with this, Arty. Please believe me. He’s holding back his strength. He could easily snap me like a twig if he didn’t.”
They stared down each other. A contest of wills, neither wanted to yield to the other. The beads at the door parted. Kala swept over them.
“Good evening, Arturion,” the girl said sweetly. “I trust all is well again?”
“Good evening, Kala.” He had not realized he had slept throughout the day. No wonder Karina had been angry with him. Arturion brought his gaze to the newcomer and saluted her in the informal greeting. Kala returned the gesture.
Her right check dimpled when she smiled. The dimple deepened when she was up to something, as it did now.
“The Commander of the Black Guard has called me twice in the afternoon and just before you woke. He said to remind you of your appointment.” She stared pointedly at him. “Oh!” she exclaimed. “Sara wanted you to have this.”
From her sleeve’s pocket, Kala produced a fully energized pálon. She held it out to him, saying: “Sara won’t reprimand you this time. Someone else has done a good job of it for her.” She glanced at Karina. “The high priestess would like to have the empty pálon returned as soon as you may.”
“I will.” Arturion initiated his Merkaba. The high piercing note rang in his ears and the white glare temporarily blinded him. He felt Kristina reach out to keep him in Merleina and finish their discussion. It was too late.
His Merkaba had already transported Arturion to his bedroom in the third dimension. He hurriedly took a shower and a change of clothes, unsure of when he will have another opportunity to do such a trivial task. Reno, at times, brought Arturion to his office and stayed there overnight when necessary. He was taken aback when he saw the Commander flipping pancakes in his kitchen at nine in the morning. The third and fourth dimension’s timeframe did not match; either it was a few days ahead or behind of the other. Thus, the side effect of using Markaba can be compared to jetlag.
Reno pushed a plate stacked with pancakes on the stainless table in his direction. There was already a table set for two, complete with coffee, water, butter, and honey. The Commander was in a reflective mood. He always did mundane activities when he was deep in thought. It was better to keep silent and let Reno start the conversation.
They ate breakfast in comfortable silence. Arturion’s annoyance with his friend vanished. He had overreacted earlier. If he had let his initial reaction overrule his judgment, Reno’s pride would have been hurt.
“The Liyanna is improving,” the Commander spoke after filling his second cup of black coffee.
Arturion bobbed his head in agreement. In spite of Karina’s acquisition of superficial injuries, she was not suffering from an abnormal amount of energy.
“She has talent. When she completes training, Karina would be a formidable opponent in the field.” Arturion’s mug halted inches from his lips. “I plan to recruit her after the peak of her ascension has run its course.”
“She is a Liyanna,” he reminded the Commander.
“In name only. She hasn’t accepted the position yet,” Reno said confidently.
“You’ll be hard-pressed trying to convince the Devatas of that notion. They value the Liyanna more than we do. Her acceptance of the title is merely a formality.”
“Liyanna is Liyanna, a creature of light and so forth. They can have what they want from her. Abundance, is it not? Either way, I want her in my Order.”
“Will she accept it?”
“I don’t know.” She wasn’t in her best disposition when she spoke of it, Arturion thought. “She was ambivalent when she mentioned it.”
“Nothing is settled then.” Reno shrugged offhandedly. He collected the dishes and washed it in the sink. “What did you do that pissed her off? You have this look written all over you.”
“Want to talk about it?”
“We’ve straightened it out.” Arturion didn’t want to discuss it. He had no desire of repeating an episode in which he had to explain his actions. Moreover, the conversation was too personal for his taste. “Where are we going, anyway?”
Reno turned from the sink, drying his hand with a towel.
“We’ll be driving around Makati with someone. You wouldn’t mind, would you?” The Commander looked sheepish for a moment.
“Family?” Reno’s human mother had kept her blood ties intact by attending family functions. She was clever in avoiding her relations’ queries about their personal lives.
“A distant relative.”
They went to the driveway and got inside a custom-made yellow Wrangler jeep. Its interior was spacious with ample legroom for Merleinans, their average height being six feet. In ancient times, their people were as tall as ten feet; but as generations passed, they became more compact to adapt to the constantly changing world.
The vehicle’s exterior was impressive. It was made of solid metal, designed to withstand collisions and abuse. Reno’s jeep would leave a car accident unscathed. Hence, cars and public utility vehicles like jeepneys gave it a wide berth.
The Commander had apparently put a lot of effort to be allowed to operate the vehicle in the field. The engine under the hood looked ordinary. Underneath its casing, fourth-dimensional technology has been installed. It was green technology capable of running without gas and battery. The coil at the heart of the engine absorbed energy from the ley lines, invisible lines of energy covering the entire earth’s surface. At the wrong hands, the coil could be used to blow up half of the Philippines. It was one of the reasons the Council discouraged travelers and Gate Keepers from bringing advanced apparatuses in the third dimension.
Reno had taken pains to make the vehicle blend in with the human-manufactured ones to have the Elders finally give their approval.
Arturion couldn’t help but appreciate Reno’s driving skills. They could have been riding a limousine and he wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. He had to engage his friend in a conversation before it lulled him to sleep.
“Who are we meeting?”
“You’ll see.” The jeep pulled over in a friendly neighborhood. The person they came for exited from the house behind them. She walked over to the driver’s side.
“Hi, Uncle. Thanks for freeing your schedule for me.” The woman’s face was partly concealed by Reno’s profile. Her long hair was pin-straight. Arturion could hardly recognize who was in front of him.
“Arty?” Her brows shot upwards when she saw him.
“Hi. Mindy.” Arturion managed a weak smile.
Mindy’s eyes darted from her uncle, at him, and back.
“You know each other?” Mindy and Reno spoke simultaneously. The Commander was feigning innocence.
“Hah! Small world.” Reno grinned. “At least, I don’t have to make introductions. Get in. We can swap stories on the way.”
The niece rode behind the driver’s seat.
You could have told me, Arturion told his friend telepathically.
I needed you to act surprised, Reno replied.
Wattpad code: 58366003
©MC Babasa 2014
A/N: Feel free to post your feedback as this is the first book. Your comments and suggestions may influence the story as it progresses up to the second book.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.