CHAPTER 4: Awkward Clarifications
April 9th (W)
The view of the dorm room’s dark ceiling greets Zackry as he opens his eyes. The atmosphere is silent and dark, so it can’t possibly be morning yet. His eyes seem heavy and he feels lethargic. He gradually rises from his lying position and sits on his bed, trying to think about what happened yesterday. Zackry notices that he seems to remember what happens in the labyrinth clearly, unlike other inconsequential dreams or nightmares he’s been through, as if it’s really happened in real life. He tries to piece together information expounded by Rayla about the whole labyrinth matter.
“Otherworldly Labyrinth…” Zackry mumbles, “What is the deal with it? And why do I only enter it in my dreams?”
Zackry rolls back into the warm blanket of his, trying to calm down. So much has happened in the last two days that he can’t even tell what is scientifically logical and what is not anymore. His eyes are so wide open now he doesn’t even feel like going back to sleep.
“What do I do in the real life when I was in the labyrinth? What if someone else tries to awake me?” More questions appear in his heads. Sadly, he’s currently unable to reach any satisfying conclusion.
“NPA… PCR… Chosen Ones…” Zackry slowly recalls back all those terms Rayla mentioned. It’s difficult for him to come up with any reasonable explanations on his own, since Rayla has only provided a brief insight of them. But what he does know is…
“NPAs are enemies that kill any Chosen Ones they encounter in the labyrinth. But, the Chosen Ones like me can fight those NPAs with our PCRs, which we receive upon awakening… Blah! Scratch that!”
Unfortunately, there are still umpteen details currently unbeknownst to him. It seems he doesn’t have much of a choice but to ask Rayla in person. He turns his head and faces the shelf, eyeing on the alarm clock on it. It shows 4:31a.m.
“Screw this… I am going back to sleep.” With nothing more productive to do at the moment, he decides to force himself to return to his slumber until it’s time to prepare for school.
The bell rings fleetingly, signaling the end of school. Zackry stands up from his seat and proceeds to the badminton clubroom to practise. Apparently, his performance today seems negatively affected and he has been putting the cart before the horse in his practice, he even gets smacked in the face by a shuttlecock so many times he could get his face flat. This is probably due to the fact that the labyrinth matter is still interminably plaguing him.
“Snap out of it, captain, what’s wrong with you?” An exasperated male member retorts brusquely, his annoyed face rendering him lose his cool. “You are supposed to be our leader, remember?”
“Geez, relax, Rio, he must be down and out if he ever performed this badly…” Another female member adds. Her face almost reflects her optimism and she seems always ready to help others. She faces Zackry. “Hey leader, is there anything we can help you with?”
“It’s okay, Elly, it’s my own fault for being absent-minded…” Zackry replies hesitantly, head facing down as he picks up his fallen racquet from the ground. “Let’s get back to practice.”
Practice eventually ends as everyone parts and says farewell to each other. Zackry goes to the club locker room to change. As he enters the room, however…
“Rayla? What are you doing here?”
“You seem to have too many irons in the fire, perhaps so many that you can even strike while they’re hot!” Rayla smirks as she says.
“What’s with these senseless puns...?” Zackry lowers his head, as if his day at practice hasn’t been terrible yet. “Anyway, you’re not even supposed to be here, you aren’t even a member…”
“Would you please lock the door please? What I’m about to tell you is confidential.”
“Fine, but can you please wait until I’m finished changing?” Zackry locks the door as he walks into the changing room.
“Damn, I forgot my librarian committee blazer in the practice hall… What’s with me today?” Zackry complains, coming out from the room in a disheveled manner, simply wearing a T-shirt with his P.E pants untidily. “Urgh…”
“Uh…” Rayla stares at Zackry, speechless.
“Sorry that you have to see me like this… Left my uniform at the hall…”
Just when things cannot get any more worse, someone knocks the locked club room.
“Zackry, are you there? Please open up!”
“Oh shoot! It’s Ms. Emma!” Zackry whispers to Rayla anxiously.
“Ms. Emma, as in, the club advisor of the Badminton Club?”
“YES! If she finds out you’re here, we’re both dead.”
“Is anyone inside? The door won’t budge!”
“If we keep quiet, maybe she’ll go away.” Zackry and Rayla remain silent, beads of sweat ticking through their faces.
“If no one is inside, I’m opening the door with my key!”
“OH SH*T! CLUB ADVISORS HAVE KEYS!” Zackry feels like his brain has been slapped 50 times for his stupidity. It’s too late for them to do anything, not like there’s any secret exits in the clubroom or anything.
Upon entrance, Ms. Emma is taken aback by the view.
“Zackry, disheveled, with a girl in the clubroom, with its door locked, and remain silent even though you can clearly hear me.” Ms. Emma slowly explicates the situation. “Zackry, you owe me an explanation, you were not doing ANYTHING, were you?”
The atmosphere becomes silent. Zackry and Rayla look at each other, suddenly understanding what the teacher means, and quickly turn away, blushing.
“O- Of course we weren’t doing THAT sort of thing…” Zackry desperately tries to explain. “W- We were just- uh, uh… discussing about, um, uh… club stuffs! Yes, club stuffs!”
Ms. Emma eyes on Rayla, “But she’s not even a member of this club, is she?”
“Uh… She said she’s interested in being one.” Zackry quickly thinks of an excuse.
“HEY!” Rayla murmurs to him as she silently pinches his back.
“Then what’s with that untidy appearance of yours?”
“I left my blazer in the practice hall…” At least he isn’t lying about this part.
“Why didn’t you go get it, then?” The teacher seems to enjoy bombarding Zackry with questions.
“I WAS going to… until you came. I remained silent because I knew the situation would be awkward…” Zackry briefly explains.
“Fine, I will let you off the hook, the next time this happens, you will be penalised severely.” Ms. Emma gives Zackry a stern look as she enters the clubroom’s office to get some files.
“Phew, that was close…” Zackry sighs.
“Sorry about just now… I put you into that difficult situation.” Rayla apologises.
“It’s OK, it’s partially my fault, anyway. Let me go get my blazer in a jiffy and get out of here.”
After changing, the two go to the ASC for a bite. There's a new restaurant opening today. It doesn't take a genius to be able to tell that it's crowded with myriad customers. The two hardly find a place to settle down and order their early-dinner.
“I saw your performance during practice today. I can’t believe Otherworldly Labyrinth has THAT much of an impact to your ordinary life.” Rayla speaks out of the blue.
“You were thinking about the labyrinth during practice, weren’t you?”
“Yes… What is that place about, anyway?”
“Okay, let me continue with my explanation from last night. It’s not known why, but Chosen Ones who die in the Labyrinth also die in the real world.”
“Why do we have dreams about that place? How does the real world interact with that place?”
“Slow down… Geez. Firstly, those aren’t real dreams, they actually happen. It’s just that normal people are unaware of it, since they are not the Chosen Ones. Now, time in the real world will stop every night, and Chosen Ones will fall asleep immediately without warning.”
“What do you mean by time stopping and Chosen Ones sleeping?”
“The labyrinth affects time and space, according to some reports. It is said that whenever Time Shift occurs, the time in the real world will stop flowing, the time in the labyrinth will continue flowing, and vice versa.”
"Time Shift? Do you mean…”
“Yes, whenever Time Shift happens, which it will every night to come, we will fall asleep in the real world and wake up at the Labyrinth. After a period of time interacting with the labyrinth, Time Shift will happen once again, making us unconscious over there and waking up here. It is possible that when we fall asleep in the real world, we get transported to the labyrinth, and the other way round.”
“Oh…” Zackry ponders about the information he has just acquired. “Is this why we fall unconscious without ourselves knowing that? Is it because we were being transported from one realm to another?”
“That’s our current hypothesis, take a look at this.” Rayla points at the watch on her right arm. It says 5:08p.m., with the number 1002 written next to it.
“What is that?”
“It’s a TEW, Time-Estimation Watch. This watch will help us determine when the Time Shift happens. The time on the left is the current time in real life. The number next to it is the countdown to the next Time Shift.”
The time now shows 5:09p.m.,the number 1001 juxtaposing it.
“1001, does it mean…?”
“Precisely, there are 10 more hours and 1 minute until the next Time Shift, which will approximately be around 3:10a.m.”
“How did you even manage to acquire this watch?”
“This type of watch was made by scientists many years ago. They have tried many methods to study Time Shift. This watch is one of the scientific device used.” Rayla clarifies. Zackry takes a look at the engraved ‘PHIS’.
“What does PHIS mean?”
“I really can’t disclose that information now out in the public. Wait until we rendezvous at the Labyrinth tonight.”
#END OF CHAPTER 4#
1- TEW: Short for Time-Estimation Watch. This watch helps Chosen Ones to determine when the next Time Shift occurs, so they can be prepared to enter the Otherworldly Labyrinth.
2- Time Shift: A phenomenon that happens every night. Time Shift allows the flow of time in the Otherworldly Labyrinth and the real world. When one time flows, the other will stop, due to the effect of Time Shift to avoid a paradox.