Portrait of a woman

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Hitomi's abnormal behavior was soon noticed by those present in the Council Chamber.

Worried, Van and Merle ran up and tried to make her regain consciousness, in vain. The young woman was there physically, but her mind was elsewhere.

Elsewhere, in a black void, with Yiris.

"What am I here? Why do you do that to me and how you can?" The young woman asked, anxiously.
"I've already shown you my medium talent, right?" The general said, amused.
"Yes, but ... I feel ... Now it's clear, you're not a normal human, isn't it?"
"Yes, but I'm not quite another creature ..."
"What do you mean?"
"You are here to understand it, because through you, I hope to convince His Majesty to open the tomb and discover if Alexandre is Folken."
"But why do you do that?"
"I want to know if the dead people can really resurrect on Gaea, in other words, if what happened to me would have happen to Alexandre too ... I just want to understand ..."
"What? You are dead?"
"Listen to my story, it will answer to your questions."

Yiris stretched her arms upright, then, descended them slowly on each side to place her hands on her hips, discovering behind her images: her memories.

"My name is Yiris Aryenciapolos, I was born on August 4th 1969 in Thessaloniki, in Greece. My father's name is Philippos, he's a professor of history in a faculty, my mother's name is Olga, she wasn't working at the time of my birth, but she had studied to be a teacher.
Before I was born, my parents had twins, Iris and Constantin, first of the name, born on November 6th 1959, died on June 7th 1966, staggered by a truck driven by a drunk man. They were on the sidewalk, my father, a little behind, remade his shoelace, he saw the drama without being able to do anything.
After that, my mother plunged into a deep depression, she kept intact their rooms. After two years, she began to recover, thinking working again, but then she was surprised to discover that she was pregnant, with me.
Despite the disagreement of my father who voluntarily made a mistake in the civil status, by adding a letter upsilon at the beginning of my first name, my mother gave me the name of my deceased sister. For her, I was her second chance, pampered, adored, venerated, a heavy weight on my shoulders.
After a while, seeing that I had no freedom, my father suggested to my mother to have a fourth child. It was a boy who also received the morbid baptism, but this time, without error because verified by our mother, Constantin born on November 20th, 1975.
The last member of our family, whom my mother was surprised to have in spite of her forty years, Nikaia, born on July 3rd, 1980.
My relationships with my parents were not simple. Slowly, I came into conflict with my mother because I didn't look like my sister, as much by the physical as by the character, but my father was always there to calm the situation.but my father was always there to calm the situation.
Our last dispute was about my dress on the occasion of the ritual of passage that my grandmother, of Catholic faith, called "communion", sacrament that don't know the Orthodox people.
Many years ago, my mother had designed a model, perfectly adapted to the circumstances, for my deceased sister, and wanted me to wear it. However, her idea didn't please me, too lace fabric, with flounces ...
The day before the party, I voluntarily spilled some very dirty fruit juice on the model she had sewed as a sign of rebellion. Again, my father intervened and noticed that it was up to me to choose my dress, dissatisfied, my mother resigned.
This teenage stupidity offered me my last real walk. Finding a dress ready at my size was not easy, but we succeeded and I could be as I wished for my big day.
Nevertheless, I had another problem with Constantin, on August 10th, 1982, we wanted to follow a soocer match of the Athens team, so we took the battery-powered radio with us. The festival took place in the Meteora Mountains. As we try to follow our game from a rocky crest, a vertical flash has fallen from the sky.
Irresistibly, Constantin and I were attracted to it, and we went to its point of impact where we found a pink stone in a stream.
In contact with our hands, it began to shine. Then a pillar of light was formed, taking us into the sky ..."

Yiris paused for a few moments, what she was going to speak about was the burden she was carrying which poisoning every day of her life.

Hitomi deeply felt her uneasiness and made the choice not to interrupt her.

"We touched down in the Lake of the West, near Irini. We were surprised when cat-men came to save us. Constantin and I were adopted by the very nice people towards us, even if the exile was difficult. My brother was still young and crying a lot. To appease him, I promised to bring him home, even though I had no idea how to do it.
Our days were calm and simple, we helped the cat people in their daily tasks, such as gathering, taking care of the little ones...
We were sad to be away from home, but we were appreciated."

Observing the vision of the past, Hitomi noticed a little pink-haired cat girl gambolling near Yiris and Constantin.

"Merle?"

Yiris nodded, then continued her story.

"One day, the calm ended. The village was bombarded with inflamed arrows. Most of the inhabitants fled to secret caves, but the escape was delicate in the flames and smoke.
While Constantin and I were on the right track to escape the fire, we saw Merle crushed under the burning rubble of a house that had collapsed.
Difficultly, we managed to disengage her, but it was too late, the poachers entered the village. Some people had adlready spoken about them, they killed the cat-men and sold their fur to crazy collectors.
We had to hide Merle from then, that's when we thought of the well in the village, closer. We threw Merle in with a bucket to float, begging her to stay there without making a sound."

Again the young woman needed to pause, she could hardly contain tears of emotion.

"For us it was too late, the poachers were already threatening us. Surprised to find humans, they left us alive, but carried us away as prisoners.
In a camp farther away we were introduced to their leader, a certain Dirken, a man of whom we were immediately afraid. Seeing my brother, he directly decided to enlist him in his army, as a soldier's assistant.
And there ..."

Time for hesitation, Yiris took her breath, hardly. She had to say all at once, if not, she would be unable to finish. Hitomi perceived her distress and was afraid to discover the truth.

"And then I interposed. I yelled that my brother was only seven years old, that he had not to become a soldier. Amused by my rebellion, the chief asked me for my age, and I replied that I was soon to be fourteen, which gave him a mean smile.
He replied me that I was old enough to receive a "good lesson".
He went to a tent and his men took me following him, I began to understand ...
I was pushed into his tent, he was already removing his armor. Shirtless, he came in front of me, and wanted to kiss me by force, I managed to escape. He tried to block me, I struggled as much as I can ...
Once again he leaned towards me, and there I tried a last chance, a head-butt that stunned him as much as it hurt me, but it was not enough to escape.
He grabbed me, and made me fall to the ground.
Then, spitting me salacious words in the ear as he was going to master me, he pulled up my dress and forced me to open my legs. He was too strong, I couldn't resist.
Suddenly I saw that he remained a dagger, the scabbard of which was hung on his hip. A few seconds, I stopped struggling to get hold of it, and without thinking too much, I planted the blade in his flank.
The pain stopped him. He rolled on his side, I tried to regain my senses. I had managed to escape rape, but I knew I wouldn't get away.
Hearing his cries of the soldiers broke out and began to beat me, he interrupted them, announcing that he personally wanted to "beat me up".
I don't know how long he struck me. The blows were of great strength, his rings tore me the flesh, his kicks broke my ribs. At the end of this torture, I was only a sanguinolent flabby doll.
As a last blow, holding me by the hair, he decided to administer a laceration on my face with the dagger I had used on him. Cutting me slowly from the temple, passing through the nose to reach the corners of the lips, he pierced my right eye.
Considering that he had let off steam enough, he ordered his men to put me in a dungeon of a little neighboring fort they had conquered, and to let me die there."

Sighing, the general paused for another moment to recover.
The nervous tremors were followed by a strange serenity, reflection of a certain fatalism.
Hitomi always followed the narrative, silent. She couldn't help to think that she had been lucky enough to meet good people on Gaea, a chance that Yiris hadn't had.

"The night was there, I was cold. I had curled up to keep the little heat I had. There was a lot of blood around me, my stomach was swollen and painful, I understood what was going to happen to me, I was going to die there. At this point, I just wanted it to end quickly because I was suffering a lot.
Through the basement window of my cell, I saw the sky, the earth and the moon shining. Fixing them, I tried to think of nice things but I couldn't. I was thinking of Constantin who I was going to leave alone with these crazy men while I had promised him many times that I would bring him home, even if I had no idea how.
It was then that a voice from a wall spoke to me and was dismayed by the state in which I was "Poor little creature, no one should be treated like that. Dirken has no limit to his cruelty."
I watched in the direction from which these words came, I saw nobody. I dared a "Who are you?"
In response, a humanoid figure emerged from the stones, emitting an unpleasant odor. It was an individual with purplish skin covered with colored lines with long gray hair, draped in a red cape.
He stretched out his arm and grabbed a bar from the window that he snatched away without difficulty. Then he lifted me up and made me pass the window, then sneak in, with an unbelievable facility.
He continued to carry me to the edge of the lake. There he stopped and put me down gently.
Then he goes to pick up a bag, hidden in a bush, and he pulled out a blanket from which he covered me, telling "Your condition is seriously bad, the remedies will do nothing. All I can do is help you to suffer as little as possible."
Then he made me drink a little potion and kept me in his arms and I immediately felt less pain. I was serene, calm, I was going to die and I totally accepted it.
The sun was beginning to rise, my last strength abandoned me, I murmured a "thank you" to him who had at least allowed me to no longer suffer. Intrigued by my calm in front of my imminent end, calm only disturbed by a few tears, he asked me, "You leave without regret?".
I told him no, that I was going to abandon my brother but rebelling myself would change nothing. I don't know why, but my answer seemed to move him and he asked my name that I gave.
Then he asked me a strange question "If you were offered the possibility of another life, would you commit yourself to respect the sacredness of this gift by promising to never take another's life?".
The request was strange. I have difficulty to answer "I already consider life as sacred, but I also think that no one can prejudge what he will do, nevertheless, one can always do his best. But in any case, we don't save agonizing persons".
He smiled at me and replied, "I love your frankness, even in the face of your own death, you may be the person I was looking for."
I wanted to understand, but my last breath went away while I felt for the last time the rays of the sun rising on my face, making like shining my hair which people said they have the color of the petals of sunflower."

The rest of the story, Yiris didn't comment it, the pictures spoke for her. A hand on the mouth, horrified, Hitomi attended a scene of nightmare.

The false-person checked the wounded for no pulse, then slashed his wrist with his own teeth. He tore the top of the robe to the level of the heart and drew a strange symbol, when he placed the last point, the body trembled.
He then put his bloody arm over Yiris' mouth, a few drops fell.
And suddenly, her eyes revolted, she straightened up and began to drink compulsively the blood. He gave her several sips before pushing her back.
Curled up on herself, the teenager convulsed with pain.

Her terrified look betrayed her misunderstanding.

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