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He swung his bow, his finger arched over the strings, and the bow’s tip slid across them. The strings vibrated; sounds emitted from the violin. It raced within the room. Invisible for the human eye, they had manifested and bounced off from one wall to another, and to the next. Yet, they didn't disappear like sonic should. The sound waves collided with each other, merging into a new noise, which travelled across the room.

The computer screen broadcasting Princess Aurelia's speech disappeared, and the Fiddler closed his eyes. The sounds of his instrument intensified as darkness surrounded him. And in this blackness, patches and dots appeared. There were yellow and green and red and blue and flashed in front of him – be it as squares or rectangles. They formed rings: One ring, two rings, three, and more. From a circle, they expanded, increasing in their diameters. The colors moved and jumped around, their actions synchronizing with the music.

He could see. Even in absolute darkness, the sounds of his music would gift him light.

Most people saw the creation of music as a high art form that was a display of raw chaotic emotions. Was that what they would call common logic? But as it often tended to be with common beliefs, knowledge, and opinions, the majority was wrong. Music was not chaotic. It was structural and mechanical. It required precise techniques, and rigid practice to work. Behind every piece of musical art were hours and hours of methodical experimentation, analyzations, and more than anything, order and harmony. What others saw as the raw chaos that the musician unleashed upon the world, was merely the end product of structure and methodology. Most people were consumers. They didn’t understand the craft and hardship behind it.

But everyone could appreciate art and music. As long as one fit the loose definition of being alive, they possessed the ability to process the sounds and vibrations that rang through one’s ears. Music was neither a gift from Twice, nor was it the privilege of the cultured and intellectual elites. It was a simple, holistic rearrangement of sounds and noises. Humans and animals alike could enjoy and create music.

The movements of his bow increased in speed, the sound waves echoing from his violin grew in number. They raced and raced and clashed against each other. Impact after impact distorted their forms and twisted them around. They spiralled around him. Flames erupted on the ground, spreading like a sun.

The gears turned.

For some, hearing these opinions about music was a great offense, a disrespect towards the art itself. In truth, it was nothing but mere arrogance. Why would the quality of music diminish because those of lower standing could enjoy, consume, and create it? Music was beautiful. It was transient and ever-changing. It didn’t matter what or who one was. If they existed, they could enjoy it. And yet these elites tried to abuse this brilliance and turn it into a weapon to strengthen their power, to widen the gap between them and those they saw as beneath their feet and elevate themselves into higher highs.

The gears spun to the rhythm. For the human eye, they have become grey blurs. Their rotations creaked like drills. Clocks were ticking, and behind everything loomed a being. Its figure was unable to fit into the scene. The being clinked and beeped with every passing second. Each movement was a new sound. It opened its mouth, and its voice resounded through the scenery.

֎

“Aaaahhhhhhh.”

Clockwork opened his eyes. He was breathing heavily. Sweat had glued the duvet to his skin. A throbbing pain came from his left shoulder. Clockwork winced. Instinctively, his hand felt up the source of the pain, and he turned his head. He was shirtless. Blood had soaked the bandages that covered his shoulder and the duvet. He groaned again as his hand touched the part of the bandages with the darkest hue.

What had happened, and where was he?

Clockwork looked around. He was in a featureless room. There were no windows, no tables, or chairs. Not even a door was here, which begged the question of how he had been able to enter the room in the first place. Or how he could leave. But considering the pain he was in, he might collapse if he walked too far. All this room had was the bed he was in, he himself, and a source of light that kept the place from becoming dark. Unless darkness was missing too. Who said the rules of logic and physics were present here? Nothing could provide him with a clue about his current situation.

Why was he wounded, and where was everyone else? Wait...no…this Ragna brat…and then…that stag monster…it had chased them…and something...a spear…maybe…? Something...had pierced his shoulder…and the others…? Eris…his crew…nothing…

Clockwork rubbed his eyes.

Slowly, his memories were coming back, but parts were still missing. His mind was in a daze, and his guts told him that what had happened wasn’t good. He had to get out and find his crew. It was bad enough that he had lost their golden ticket to a life without worries, but if something had happened to his men, he could never forgive himself. If something had happened to Eris, he would kill himself.

Clockwork looked again around. There was nothing that could help him, and he had no idea what this place was. But he could worry later about that. First, he had to get out. Assuming this place operated under the physics and rules he knew, then there should be a door through which he had entered the room. If he inspected every corner, he might find something. Perhaps there were some hidden doors or mechanisms?

He stood up, but pain ran through his body. Clockwork grimaced and fell on the bed.

Dammit.

A hole in the wall to his left opened.

The walls turned baby-blue, and windows appeared on them. Around him, a table with chairs, a cabinet with a mirror, and a wooden floor manifested.

Eris rushed inside the room.

Eris? Thank Twice, she was okay.

Clockwork sighed in relief, and Eris hugged him, tears building at the corner of her eyes.

“Au,” Clockwork winced, and Eris jumped backwards. She was wearing a red-and-white nurse costume, and with her, she carried a white purse about as big as her head.

So, this was her world. This explained a lot. That must have meant that Eris had saved them from the stag monster, teleported them here, and nursed them back to health.

“Thank you for saving us.”

Eris shook her head. She opened her purse and took out two bottles. One was a bottle of water and one full of pills.

“Thank you,” Clockwork said again. He opened the bottle with the pills, popped several inside his mouth, and rinsed with the water, emptying the entire bottle.

He must have been thirstier than he had realized. How much time had passed?

Clockwork put the bottle of pills on the commode next to his bed and glanced out of the window. Outside, the sun was setting down. The water surface reflected its colors and had turned the sea, the sand, and the sky orange. The first stars were already shining.

That confirmed it. This was Eris’s world. Just how hazy was his mind that he didn’t recognize it immediately? But it didn’t help to answer how long he had been here, or what time it was.

Clockwork looked back at her. Her face was pale, were it not for the reddened cheeks, and the eyebags that were visible enough that one could mistake them for smudged mascara. Her face was drawn and weary. There was not an ounce of levity on her.

Just what had happened?

“Are you okay?”

Eris nodded and sniffed, wiping away the tear droplets from her eyes.

This wasn’t good.

“Where are the others? Are they okay? Are they awake?”

Eris sniffed again and shook her head.

Clockwork grumbled. “How bad are the injuries? Let me check on them.”

He was about to stand up when Eris crossed her arms. She pointed at his bandages and pulled out a new set from her purse.

Fine. She had a point. But after that, she would search for his friends.

Clockwork remained on his bed, and Eris began to remove the bandages. Clockwork looked to the ceiling. But when the texture of cloth on his skin was gone, his eyes instinctively shifted to his shoulder.

He gulped. His left pec had a hole the size of a heart, just next to his nipple. His flesh and muscle pulsated within it as if they were entities that had come alive – all wobbly and...

Why was he still looking?

His face turned green. Suppressing his gag reflex, his eyes returned to the ceiling.

It was probably only thanks to Eris that this heart-sized hole didn’t cover his heart. Yeah, once they had all recovered, he would buy her whatever she wanted. And if she didn’t want anything material, he would fulfil any wish or depravity, even if she desired the death of Twice, he would see that her request would become reality.

He heard and felt that Eris had sprayed something on the wounded area, probably a solution to prevent infection. She started to wrap the new bandages over his shoulders.

He didn’t feel anything. The pills were already working. Still, he would have to take things easy. It would take a few weeks until his shoulder would recover, and he could return to full function.

Still, the entire situation seemed strange. Why was Eris avoiding his inquiries? A sense of dread loomed over everything. He couldn’t shake up the feeling that a horrible event had transpired when the stag monster had attacked them – besides the obvious fact that a horrible stag monster had attacked them. He had to talk to the others. Perhaps once that was done, he could be at ease.

Eris had finished her work. She opened her purse and pulled out a pack of cigarettes and his silver zippo.

“Thank you,” said Clockwork and smiled.

Eris returned the gesture.

She walked towards the cabinet, opened it, and left through the door. It closed and disappeared. There was no more door, just a wall. He couldn’t leave.

Was Eris trying to lock him up? No, that couldn’t be. And even if that were the case, she would have his best interests in mind or at least what she thought his best interests were. The entire world might turn against him, – and one day it would – but his friends and especially Eris would always be at his side. It might sound cliché, but friendship was magic. They lived in a cruel, unforgiving world, but with friends, it was less cruel and unforgiving. Would he still be alive without Eris and the others? No. He would have been long dead - either by someone’s hand or his own. If he ever had to pity someone, it was the poor unfortunate soul who had no friends.

Clockwork inspected the room. Everything had remained, and only the exit had disappeared.

So, Eris was less than a meter away.

Clockwork shook his head.

No, she wasn’t his jailer. There was no way that could be the case.

Shouldn’t she look after the others? Unless they were all fine or had recovered. No.

Clockwork stood up and inspected the room. A door had appeared on the wall behind him. He opened it and saw a bathroom.

The others would have visited him by now, and he remembered…the stag…its stakes…they had gotten…No, that couldn’t be. They should all be fine.

More memories returned to his mind. Clockwork rubbed his eyes and walked to the cabinet. Inside it was his entire wardrobe – and all his other belongings.

Had Eris picked it all up from the temple? It was understandable if she had taken one set of clothes and just the materials they needed at this moment. But all of it? Why would she do that to this extent?

Inside his head flashed images. They all ran away from it. Three pillars rose like spears from the ground, all about to attack his friends.

But if Eris could save him, she could have saved the others as well, right? They were like a family to her. There was no way she wanted to get rid of them.

His hand was shaking.

Yeah, he needed a smoke. But first, he would shower. Nothing was better than a cigarette after a shower while listening to some Ludwig Van. He would enjoy the shit out of that one. And then, he would start to think.

Clockwork took a towel from the cabinet. He walked to the bathroom and turned on the shower. Making sure that the water didn't come in contact with his wound, he let it wash away the sweat.

Strange, Eris always had refused to give him cigarettes whenever he had asked. None of the crew was around, and Eris didn’t let him look after them. And then, there were the memory flashes he got about what that monster had done.

His hand trembled, his breath increased in its frequency, and even though steam had enveloped the entire room, with every droplet that touched his skin, his body shuddered at the cold sensation.

The indications were piling up, and the more he thought about it…no.

Clockwork grimaced, his hand hammered against the wall.

He couldn’t even think about that. They were his friends. If there was even a one percent chance that they were okay, then he had to assume they were. One didn’t think of their friends as dead for even a second. Unless one knew for certain, they were. Yeah. They were fine. They had to be. Yeah, he had gone delirious. That’s all. He had barely escaped death, there was a hole the size of a heart in his chest, and his brain was hooked up on morphine. If he took a smoke and relaxed, he could start to think. He would be able to come up with a logical explanation for everything. Yeah.

He turned the shower off, put on his clothes, and stuffed the pack of cigarettes and his zippo into his jacket pocket.

Just a few minutes, and then he would smoke one.

From his belongings, he took his mascara and applied it to his right eye. After a decade of practice, he could do it without looking into a mirror. Still, he should check just to make sure. He looked into the mirror on the cabinet. Instead of his face, its reflection showed the bark of a tree. The leaves and branches were beyond the surface area.

Had Eris forgotten to remove the exit when she had constructed the room? That wasn’t like her.

Clockwork’s finger touched the mirror, and trees surrounded him. They reached far up into the sky that he couldn’t see their tips.

He was in the Rising Forest. Next to his feet shimmered an object. He picked it up. It was Eris’ makeup case. Through its mirror, he could see the bed on which he had rested. Clockwork put the case back on the ground. Without Eris around, it was better if he didn’t touch anything. Who knew in what realm he would end up?

He looked around, and his eyes widened. He dropped on his knees. His lips trembled.

No, this couldn’t be.

Three ivory pins raged into the sky. Blood spiralled down from them, and impaled on their tips were the bodies of his comrades.

------------------

Ludwig Van Mozart – A Vaixian musician who lived around 400 BR. He is hailed as the greatest musician of all time and known for his eccentric personality. Among his most famous compositions are the 5th and 9th Symphony, "Ode to Joy", "Ode to Elise", and "Ode to the Joy to shit on Elise's face and lick it".

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A note from YAK Edge

Anyway, this chapter starts the "Sideshow symphony" arc which will be an interlude arc between part one and part two of the story. It shows a bit of what has happened around Midgard and won't feature Ragna and her companions. Content-wise it will be shorter than the previous or the following arcs. So what's your opinion on Clockwork's and Eris' return?

That's from me for now. Thanks, everyone for reading. You are all awesome,


Support "Ragna: A young girl's failure to become a hero"

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YAK Edge

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