It wasn’t very often that Elize had dreams. Or rather, nice, mundane dreams that put her mind to ease. They were always a break from the almost constant flurry of nightmares that seemed to play one after the other, more so taking her back to her past life of being an experiment than anything else. Although they were in fact hazy fragments of her memory that were beginning to return, Elize preferred to play them off as simple dreams and nightmares. It was easier for her to process, at least.
But by the time the young healer had met Ludger and Elle, a new dream has arisen. It had become somewhat common, replaying and replaying in her mind as if on a loop, but it never failed to bring an emotional response. It tugged at her feelings, making her heart ache. It was a fragment of memory, glass shard that slashed on her skin, never failing to draw tears. Elize tried her best to hide it, especially on those nights she shared in an inn room with the others on their travels. If ever she was caught and asked what was wrong, she was always quick in waving off her friends’ worries, claiming the problem to be a bad dream or even a stomach ache. As much as she hated lying, she didn’t want her friends to have to worry about her.
After all, it was never a bad dream, but it always seemed to hurt.
The dream in question always started with her playing in the snow, running around and laughing. But it was never Elize how she remembered herself; this version of her was much younger and much more carefree. She didn’t clutch onto her pink and purple companion for support, but instead was confident in her surroundings. She didn’t need artes or a booster to protect herself, because she had a family who she knew would protect her at all costs.
“’Tega! I win again!” the younger Elize would always laugh, grinning as she ran into the open space from the place she was hiding. The dress she wore was familiar; it was the same dress that Elize swore to have last worn about a year ago as she journeyed with her friends, but this time with a fleece, hooded cloak worn on the next layer, protecting her from the cold.
The older man playing the little girl’s game simply chuckled in reply. He may have been 5 feet taller than her, but it didn’t stop him from patting her gently on the head. Later in her life, she would know him as ‘Jiao the Immovable’, but for now, he was still Ortega Kitarl. “Indeed, child.”
The child grinned in return, her smile outlined by a minor sense of pride in achievement of winning the game she had set. “Can we play again?”
“I’m afraid not, child. You’ve been outside for a while, and your parents wouldn’t want you coming down with illness again,” Jiao simply reasoned, beginning the short journey back to the house from which they had both came. “Shall we go?”
The younger Elize nodded, hurrying over and taking the hand of the future Chimeriad to whom she began to walk with, singing lyrics she had completely made up on the spot, blissfully unaware as to what could possibly go wrong in the coming months, weeks, days or even hours.
Upon returning, the two were greeted with warm welcomes and whole-hearted smiles by faces that Elize could never fully see or make out. Their faces were often covered with shadows if not blurred beyond all recognition. Their voices always sounded familiar and nostalgic; their voices always sounded warm and inviting, but the same voices never failed to also have a bittersweet element – especially as those voices had not been heard in years. There was no mistaking who this woman and this man were, however, especially as little Elize showed no hesitation in hurrying over to them.
“Mummy! Daddy! Me and ‘Tega played hide-and-seek today,” the young girl began reciting her day excitedly as her mother began to untie her cloak, her green eyes almost glittering with eagerness as she spoke.
“Did you have lots of fun, sweetie?” her mother asked softly, chuckling under her breath as she hung up the small cloak on the hangers by the front door. Ana gave a gentle smile and nod in the way of their house guest before turning back to her daughter. “You must be cold, so sit in front of the fire for a moment, okay, Elly?”
Elize gave a simple nod in relation to the question, before doing what she had been instructed, and sitting before the fireplace. As she watched the fire itself, she supposed it could have been a little scary, but she supposed the element had its benefits; it kept her warm, and it kept her from getting colds all the time.
A blanket very slowly made its way over her shoulders, to which caused the girl to look back, only to recognise her father. Or rather, it was more of something that immediately came to mind – it was something that she knew, rather than recognising his face – which was just as hazy as her mother’s. His voice was comforting, but his words hurt just as much.
“Welcome back, Elly.”