13 Lost

The little ghoulie stares up at me, making a small wailing sound.

I feel a sense of deja vu, like I've seen this little one before.

And then I remember, as bursts of memories bundle into my mind. A flash sequence where I first met the ghoulie twins and their wandering family. They were all running away back then. I remember how I protected them when the ghoulie hunters came after them. The ghoulie hunters wanted to steal them and take the ghoulie's essence to sell to those who could craft magic potions.

I reach out, knowing I can't touch the ghoulie but wanting to comfort him.

"Your brother's missing, isn't he?" I murmur.

Abe's head snaps towards our direction and he stops communicating with the other ghoulies, coming closer to me.

"You know this one?" He asks, his fingers intertwine with mine.

"I think so," I respond, my eyes still locked on the ghoulie.

"It's neat how they can materialize just like that," I murmur, as the little ghoulie drifts back to his family.

Abe wraps an arm around me as we watch the ghoulies watching us.

"So, let's help them," I nudge Abe, and he frowns.

"I'm not sure, this could lead us into more danger..." Abe ponders on it and I tug on his arm.

"Come on, whichever way we go will lead us into danger. It's what we choose to do with our fears that determines our destiny," I try to convince Abe.

"Wow, didn't know you could sound so much like a seer," Abe grins.

"Ugh, don't even. Reminds me of that evil Matya seer." I roll my eyes.

"Alright, let's go catch some ghoulie hunters," Abe winks.

The ghosts keep wailing but their wailing sounds less sad, and more appreciative if ever I could understand their wailing language. They back away, floating over the ground before we can't see them anymore.

"Huh, do they disappear whenever they want to?" I ask.

"It's one of their abilities, invisibility," Abe explains.

"They can't come with us to find the hunters, or else they'll get caught," Abe briefs me on the situation as we head through the forest.

"Where would the ghoulie hunters be?" I ask Abe.

"I don't know exactly where, but judging from what the ghoulies said, they've sensed their son's essence is being sold closer to the capital city. So we've got to journey out of the forest first, hopefully we'll be able to catch up to the ghoulie hunters then."

"Alright, let's go!" I grab Abe's hand, tugging him along.

"Such energy," Abe gently holds my hand, upturning it to give my wrist a kiss.

Blushing furiously, I feel the tomato color spreading on my cheeks. I poke Abe's muscular chest and he stops walking.

"No kissing!" I declare.

"Why?" Abe's smile is infectious as he asks. But I don't want to be infected by his charm, not while we have a mission to complete.

"You'll distract me," I splutter.

"Hmm, okay. Let's see who can go without 'distractions' the longest?" Abe challenges me.

"Huh, easy peasy!" I smile, my smile wide as my heart threatens to burst at Abe's cuteness.

"No touching, no hugging, no kissing!" Abe says, and I raise my eyebrows.

"No touching?" I ask.

Abe smirks, nodding as he walks ahead of me, whistling and making flowers along his way.

"Wait for me!" I call out.

"This long-legged king," I mutter, as I try my best to catch up to Abe.

I lose the first second when I run to catch up with him, reaching out to grab his hand.

Abe bends over, laughing when I realize what I've done and every emotion of annoyance must be flashing over my face.

"My queen," He leans down into me, planting a sweet kiss on my lips.

I revere moments like this, when he displays affection with me when he shows me how he loves, how he'll protect me.

"No kissing!" I squawk, even though I find myself wrapping my hands around his neck and trying to get closer to his body.

"You already lost," Abe says, his forehead against mine.

"That I did," I reply.

Abe's eyes darken as I run my tongue over my bottom lip, gazing up at him.

We look into each other's eyes for a heartbeat more. I wish I could get lost in his embrace now, I wish we could spend time together where we don't have to be running, escaping, finding out what's happened to us. We need some calm and chill quality time together. Reality seeps in when a bird flutters close to us, and we both see that it'll be daybreak if we don't move fast now.

"Let's go?" I break the moment between us and something flashes in Abe's eyes, akin to disappointment but his eyes clear and he nods.

"We can't fly now, it'll cause too much commotion in the forest," Abe explains.

So we walk, treading through the forest. The forest is dark at this hour, but with the two of us, we make a path of light. I'm able to conjure some fire for us, and we make a torch. Abe keeps protecting me from tripping and falling by trying to catch me and hold me but I tell him I can walk on my own.

"I'm a strong independent woman who don't need-" I'm about to finish my sentence with a cute roar but that's when I stumble on a tree vine hanging across the forest floor.

Abe chuckles, holding on to my elbow so I don't fall face down on the ground. The cicadas sing alongside croaking frogs and we hear the rushing sound of water getting closer and closer.

"We must be near the river," Abe says.

"Ok, any cause for concern?" I ask.

"Potentially," Abe says, his eyes scanning further than I can see.

"What is in the river?" I want to know.

"Sirens," Abe covers my ears just as a beautiful melody falls over us. But his hands are not pressing hard enough against my ears, because I can still hear the music.

It's the most exquisite song I've ever heard. I find myself entranced as images appear before me, that of myself entwined in an eternal dance with shadows and swirls. The music calls me to go closer to the river. And as the river comes into view, I want to step into the water.

"Come join us, let's dance together. Forever," The voices whisper to me.

Abe drags me away, but I fight against his arms, my fire powers coming out to battle his strength.

"Listen to me, Penelope!" Abe shouts.

With a blast of fire, flames encircle Abe. He extinguishes them easily and comes right after me but I'm already a few steps from entering the river.

Raindrops land on my face and I look at the dark swirls on the river. The water still calls me, beckoning me nearer, to join them, my sisters, my-

Just as I'm one step away, Abe flings a thick branch at the siren's open mouth in front of me. The gorgeous siren is all green, with skin like a tough alligator wearing what looks like seaweed over their private parts. The siren's pearly vampiric teeth snap against the wood. Abe collides with me in a furious roar, knocking me to the side of the riverbank.

The song stops, and the siren sinks back into the river, glaring at us.

I shiver as I realize I had been so close to being seriously hurt just now.

Abe wraps his arms around me, kissing the top of my head.

"I'm sorry," I say, as a single tear streaks down my face.

"Why are you sorry? I'd do anything to make sure you're okay." Abe says.

"I'm...I put us in danger." I say.

"What did a little birdie say about the choices we make in the face of fear?" Abe taps my nose.

I grin at his recalling my words.

"How do we get across the river without meeting more of those?" I ask.

"We'll have to risk flying across the river. Then we'll be near the clearing from the forest. I can sense the hunters are nearby." Abe tells me.

I nod, and Abe checks if I'm ready, making sure I'm not hurt anywhere on my body.

"If that siren did anything to you, I'll rip it apart with my bare hands." Abe threatens.

"Ugh, you violent man." I say, and we both laugh.

"It's okay, I'm okay. Thank you for caring for me," I smile, placing a wet hand on his cheek.

"We're going to get those ghoulie hunters and help our little ghoulie reunite with his brother." I hug Abe and he agrees with a soft grunt.

He hauls me into his arms and bounds into the air, flying us past all the potential teethy sirens.

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