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Once I managed to get everyone calmed down, we began the meeting. I seemed to get angry looks from Katarina, cold looks from Raven, and the occasional flirtatious look from Feather. I couldn’t help but sigh. At least Jeri seemed to have no opinion of me at all, other than how I could help her out. Husk and Hunter seemed to fine as well, while Kiera was put back to bed after being too stimulated too much, which was all my fault.
The meeting went forward without much complication. I simply made sure everyone knew their tasks for the next week. The reason for this was because that was how long I intended to be gone. I was a bit worried about leaving again, especially after what happened the last time I was gone for an extended period. However, I had been away from home for too long. I was lucky that Mizuki had boughten me some time with her excuse, but that didn’t mean I didn’t have to return.
“When I return, I’ll be coming back with a lot of supplies,” I admitted.
I wasn’t sure how many supplies I could make in a single journey, but if I needed to ferry them back and forth, that would be fine too. I was going to be going all out with this bazaar plan. It wouldn’t give us a lot of time to set up, but that was part of my intention too. The sooner we had the supplies, the more dangerous things would be. Until we had a proper foundation, I was thinking it’d be best if I got the supplies and sold them just as quickly.
“Katarina, can you join me? Privately.”
I ended the conversation with such a request. Raven shot us a look, but he kept his mouth shut. I was going to have to talk with him. Ever since the Fire Ravens had decided to follow me, Raven had become strangely clingy and judgmental. I didn’t understand what the deal was, but he needed to back off a bit.
Katarina was still trying to shoot me glares, but she seemed satisfied by my request. That satisfaction turned to puzzlement as she saw where I took her. We snuck out of the safety of our building and used the second-story platform to get back into the museum. It was a short trip before we were back in the basement. I pulled everything out of my Perco’s digital inventory and then started to put the complete velociraptor into it. Once I was finished, I looked around the formerly climate-controlled room and gave a nod.
“I don’t understand your fascination with those bones.” Katarina frowned.
“They’re worth a lot,” I explained.
“Maybe in another world.” She responded flippantly. “Daniel, why did you bring me here?”
“Funny you should word things that way.” I snorted at humor that Katarina couldn’t see. “I mean, I don’t think it’s a good idea that anyone knows where I… come and go. If I just disappeared from my room as I did before, it’d be a bit suspicious.”
“I lied to you… about the mirror.” I explained.
I had decided on this even before Katarina had stopped by my bedroom the previous night. She had given me her body. There were a lot of slavers who still valued the virginity of a woman, so a beautiful woman like Katarina giving it up actually could have severe costs down the line. Well, that was presuming she ended up becoming a slave once again. That was something I didn’t want to allow.”
“What about the mirror?” She asked, frowning slightly.
“I had led you to believe that it was some kind of short-range teleportation to my colony. I lied. There is no colony.”
“Come on.” She grabbed her arm. “I’m not an idiot. After everything I’ve seen, I knew that there was no way you were just a colonist. Some of the labels of food you have… say things that don’t make any sense. Places that no longer exist, and dates long past.”
“Right…” I nodded, realizing that I had never been as conspicuous as I thought I was. “The truth is that the mirror led to another world. I come from a place where the pandemic never occurred. There are no mutants, ferals, or bandits. I live in a world that just continued.”
Katarina was deathly silent. That silence lingered until I started to feel a bit worried.
“Can such a place exist?”
It wasn’t a question directed at me. She spoke it so quietly that I could barely make it out, but I could feel the intense emotion within it. To these people who had grown up in a wasteland after the apocalypse, how could they imagine a world free from the plague?
“Katarina, it’s true. My supplies have just been coming from a marketplace down the street. It’s a world that still values gold, silver, art… dinosaur bones.” I barked a weak laugh, suddenly realizing how ridiculous society could be. “Meanwhile, clean food and water are as plentiful as can be.”
At the end of the day, I lived in a society that ignored the things a person needed and put a value on seemingly useless things. It was pretty ridiculous. After seeing these people starve and live in constant fear, all of the excesses of my world seemed kind of laughable.
“If that’s true… the mirror.” Her eyes flashed in horror.
I raised my hand. “It’s okay! I’ve found a way to continue to move back and forth from this world to that one.”
She let out a breath of relief. “I see… so when you spoke of your week-long trip. You’ll be going back… to that world?”
“My mother and sister are there. Plus, it’s where I can get more resources.”
“And also where you can live comfortably…” Katarina responded bitterly.
“If I could take you, I would… but you don’t seem to have the qualifications to go. It seems like few people do.” I explained, watching Katarina slowly nod, but say nothing. “I wanted you to know the truth. I can make this world a better place. I can bring resources here that haven’t been manufactured in decades.”
“I understand.” She closed her eyes. “I’m not angry. It’s just, a bit overwhelming to hear. Does anyone else know?”
“I mentioned it in from of Raven while I was being interrogated by the Cock and Balls leader. He smashed the mirror, and it’s unclear if Raven ever believed the story in the first place.”
“I see… so they know already.”
“You’re the only person I’m trusting with this.” I put my hand on her shoulder, causing her to look up. “This is the spot I’m going to use to come and go. People have to see me leaving and returning. It’s the only way they’ll accept how I bring in supplies. As far as anyone knows, I have a secret colony I get supplies from. It’s a week-round trip to bring back anything. It seems like when I use this, I can only return to the location I last was, so this is the spot. This is something only you will know.”
She reached up and touched the back of my hand, then slowly warped her slender fingers around mine and squeezed. “I understand, Daniel. Thank you for explaining all of this to me.”
“Is it okay?” I asked as her face was still tilted away, and there was very little light in this basement so her face was covered in shadows.
She turned to me and gave a gentle smile. “Daniel is trusting me with something important. How could I not be okay? I always knew you were special. Now, I know how special. I’m only more certain about the choices I made. I guess, my only fear is that one day you’ll leave and not come back. Once you obtain your goal, once you’re rich in that world… what’s the point in coming back here?”
I reached out and touched her cheek. Even a day ago, she would have recoiled by my attempt, but now she accepted my hand.
“I will always return. I promise that. You’re my girlfriend now, an-and that’s final.” The pair of us kissed gently and finally parted. I took a step back and then lifted my Perco. “One week.”
“I’ll be waiting.”
Although I cared about Katarina, I couldn’t help but feel relief as I appeared in my familiar room. The other world was a stressful place to be. Being stressed for such a long time wasn’t good for your health. Sure, there were some ways to relieve stress, like spending time with Katarina. Part of me wanted to just take Katarina to bed and remain in our little world, but even the room where I lost my virginity had signs of a decayed and broken world. The mattress was old, the walls were peeling, and the furniture was dusty. It was still a long way from being called a home.
Plus, Katarina had work to do, and I would only get in the way if I tried to monopolize all of her time. Furthermore, I felt like I needed some time to adjust to the change in our relationship. It had all happened kind of suddenly, but that’s what happened when you both experienced a near-death experience. I had been through literal hell the last few days, and Katarina had to go through a week of it. It was all I could do to hold out that morning.
Although I had acted like I had big plans to return, the first thing I would do is recharge. I flopped onto my bed, planning to sleep the remainder of the day away. A loud knocking on my door broke me from any chance I’d get to relax. With a groan, I sat up and then checked my watch. I noticed that there was a message. It was from Caleb. I didn’t take the burner phone to the other world, but as soon as I returned, the Perco stripped the information that was sent to it. The message was short.
My former boss is coming!
His former boss could only mean one person. With a growl, I launched myself out of my bed and made it to the door. When I opened it, Hazel was standing there with a slightly distressed look on her face. Without saying I word, I moved into the hallway, immediately turning to peer into the kitchen. To my dismay was a familiar face that I had hoped I’d never need to see again. It was the debt collector and his cronies, Caleb’s former boss.