The Divorcee is a Wicked Black Belly Chapter 52: The twins went missing
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An Ning didn't panic until after the morning passed and the twins still hadn't come back. She called Taey and together the two of them gathered some men to start a search. Hippolyta's grove was some distance from the village and between them lie deep valleys and mountains the twins could have explored on their own.
"They don't have phones?" Taey asked An Ning.
"No. We talked about it and they decided they're okay with the laptops for now. Besides, they don't need it yet. Maybe after they start school I'll talk to them about it again."
"Is this the first time they've done something like this? I mean, they don't make a habit of doing this, do they?"
"This is the first," An Ning answered. "Cas usually likes to self-study in his room and Lux...she likes to do artistic stuff life flowers and jewelry. When they go out, they usually tell me where they're going so I won't worry. But this time, I woke up and they're not here."
"You said you slept until nine so they probably didn't wake you up and just went hoping they'll be back before you woke up. Then they lost track of time and are now probably on their way back hoping you won't be angry at them. Kids do stupid stuff, you know," Taey said, smiling. "A lot."
"That must be it," An Ning agreed although she was thinking the twins didn't normally do stuff that were out of the ordinary. "But where could they have gone?"
The men spread out to search. An Ning stayed behind in case the twins return and then she would call Taey. The house suddenly fell into complete silence when the men left. An Ning frowned. Something was not right. She could feel it. And Richard was here again, mocking or threatening her, she didn't know.
She was about to go back to the living room when her eyes alighted on Hippolyta's time machine. It didn't look out of place with the expensive chairs and wooden tables strewn around the room because Han had ingenuously made it part of the room's design by building it as an arc, like a doorway linking the living room with the big kitchen. The controls sat inside a small cubbyhole, looking as harmless as a vending machine. The cubbyhole, however, was open.
An Ning threw the door to the cubbyhole open and examined the controls from top to bottom. It seemed to be okay. No knobs were broken or missing. She extended a hand to touch it and frowned. The metal was still emitting a faint throbbing as if it had been running and was now taking a break. It felt warm to the touch. Her glance settled on the arc which looked graceful sitting in her living room. Nothing seemed to be out of place but the controls bothered her. She switched it on. There was nothing on the panel. No new data was inputted. So why did it feel like someone had messed with it?
An Ning shook her head. She must be imagining things. She closed the door on the cubbyhole and went outside. The sun was on its zenith, the weather warm. She lifted her face to the sun and closed her eyes. When the sound came, it seemed like a part of the sunny afternoon that she didn't even open her eyes. Then she finally heard it, the cry for help.
She ran to the entrance of the maze, straining her ears. Only silence greeted her and the feel of the wind on her face. She called out to the twins. No answer. She ran to the viewing house, screaming at the top of her lungs, but there was no one inside the maze. Even the small pagoda at the center was empty.
An Ning quieted the panic in her heart and listened. The wind again caressed her face but it also came with the sound of a voice. So soft and faint she could barely make out whose it was. But she distinctly heard one word. An Ning left the viewing house and ran to the river. The waterfall was bearing its way down the spring. The sound of the falling water was heavier, the clear water somewhat murkier as it battered against a rock wall.
She waded into the pool and stared at that wall, following the flow of water as it stirred the vine growth. She took out her phone and called Taey's number.
"Where are you?" she asked.
"On our way to village. Why? Are they back?"
"I think I know where they are. Better come back. I need backup in case something happens."
'Why? Where are they?"
"I found some kind of a cave in the spring. They might be trapped in there. I'm going down to check."
"Wait," Taey's voice was stunned. "A cave in the spring? How?"
"It's hidden behind some vines on the rock wall. It looks undisturbed. The kids might have found something that scared them. Come back. I'm going to check it out."
An Ning disconnected the line, throw the phone on the bank then walked towards the rock wall and swept away the vines away. The opening was not that big, just enough for one body to get inside. It was not a downward slope inside but an upward walk that surprised An Ning. The walls were a tight fit but once you pass through it the length and breadth of the cave was exposed.
It was enormous. The ceiling was high and there was a clear pool, illuminated by sunlight that passed through a large hole on the ceiling. On one side of the banks, Cas was lying down as if asleep. Beside him, with his head on her lap, Lux was sobbing brokenheartedly.
"Lux!" An Ning screamed as she hurried down the rocky path.
"Mom!" Lux shouted, crying and laughing as she saw her mother. "Cas slipped on the rocks and hit his head. Mommy, I think he's dead."
With her heart in her throat, An Ning sped up until she reached the bank and took Cas from his sister's arms. She saw blood on his temple. His face was cold and blue but he was breathing. Barely. An Ning didn't hesitate. She bit her finger until it bled then she pressed the finger against Cas' lips.
"Mommy, what are you doing?"
"Giving some of my blood to your brother so he'll be okay," An Ning said, not even bothering to hide the truth.
"You can do that?" Lux was wide-eyed with shock.
"One of the perks of being an Amazon," An Ning said. "You do know who were are, don't you, Cas?"
"I think I have an idea," Cass nodded.
An Ning was about to add something when they both heard a groan. The warm liquid must have awakened something in Cas because he opened his mouth and his tongue licked slowly at the blood on An Ning's finger. With his eyes closed, and his tongue exposed, he looked like a tiny kitten licking at a bowl of milk. At the sight, An Ning furiously blinked at her eyes but her tears flowed and she couldn't stop herself from crying out.
"Mommy?" Cas slowly opened his eyes and looked up at her. His eyes suddenly widened with surprise. "Why are you crying?"
"Mommy's not crying, baby," An Ning sniffed. "I'm just so happy I found you."
An Ning opened her other arm and pulled Lux into her embrace. The three of them embraced each other for a long time, the children burrowing their heads into their mother's body like frightened chicks seeking their mother's warmth. When An Ning looked up, she met Taey's worried eyes.
"Come on, you two. Taey's here. Let's get you two back to the house. I'm sure you've very hungry right now."
"Mommy, Lux found the cave and we were so excited to see it that's why we forgot to tell you. I'm sorry, Mommy," Cas looped his thin arms around An Ning's neck and burrowed his face against her chest.
"We wanted it to be a surprise for you," Lux said, sniffing. "Then Cas got hurt and I didn't want to leave him."
"I know, baby. I know. Let's get you out first then you can tell me all about your discovery, okay?"
The two kids were brought home safe and sound. Sarai, who was staying with An Ning and the kids, started to cook lunch while An Ning helped the kids into the hot shower and into clean clothes. One of the doctors in the village arrived to check on Cas. The young army doctor examined him then told An Ning that other than the little bump on his head and no trauma from his experience, Cas seemed to be alright.
"Don't go out to play anymore today, have a rest then you'll be 100% okay again for another adventure tomorrow," he told Cas.
Cas seemed very interested in him and asked him questions about his work in the military, his job in the hospital in the village and if he liked being a doctor or not.
"My father was a doctor so you might say I followed in his footsteps," he told Cas, smiling at his enthusiasm.
"But do you like it though," Cas asked, frowning. "I mean, it doesn't make you sick if you see blood and people in pain?"
"Cas, I'm sure Doctor Peng would love to chat with you some more but you need to eat something first then rest," An Ning urged patiently.
"Your mom is right," Doctor Peng said. "You can talk to me anytime you want. Just give me a call or come visit me. We're not that busy at the moment. But you need to eat first before resting."
"Okay," Cas pouted but he listened while his mom talked to the doctor some more and waved at him when he said his goodbyes and left.
"Mommy," he said, looking up seriously at his mother. "I think I want to be a doctor when I grow up."
An Ning smiled and ruffled his hair affectionately.
"Why? Because you want to be like Doctor Peng and save lives?"
"I want to be like you, mommy, so I can save lives."
An Ning looked at him stunned.
"I would have died if not for you, mommy," Cas said, looking solemnly at his mother. "If you hadn't been there...."
"Shhhh….shhhhh," An Ning crooned, hugging him tightly in her arms. "I'll always be with you and your sister, baby. I'll never leave you, never ever."
The two of them held on to each other tightly until Lux opened the door to tell them that the food was ready. An Ning pulled her daughter into her embrace and gave her a kiss.
"Thank you for taking care good care of your brother, baby. Thank you for not leaving him behind."
Lux wiggled in her arms uncomfortably.
"Mommy, you're such a drama queen," she said, but she looked pleased and she took her brother's hand in hers and gave it a tight squeeze.
"I know mommy can be too much at times but my baby girl did good today and I just want to tell her how much I love her. And Cas, too, for being so strong and brave and wonderful to his mommy."
"Mom! Ugh!" The brother and sister pair gave a groan and a squeak when An Ning each gave them a smacking wet kiss on the cheek. The three of them were laughing when they came out of Cas' room. Lunch that afternoon was a boisterous affair as the twins forgot about their mishap in the cave and instead chose to remember how excited they were in making their first discovery.
"What do you want to call it then?" An Ning asked, biting into a shrimp. "It's your discovery so you have to name it."
"Hmnn…." Lux said, looking at her brother.
"How about the Capo cave? You know, a combination of our names," Cas said, looking at his sister.
"The Capo cave? Sounds nice," An Ning said.
"The Capo cave," Lux said, rolling the name on her tongue. "Sounds good."
"We can check it out tomorrow and then we can plan what you want to do with it."
"I want it to be a secret, mommy," Lux said. "Only for family. And friends."
"Then we have to make the cave people-friendly then."
"What do you mean?" Cas asked.
"I don't want what happened today to again happen to any of you or to anyone else. Don't worry," An Ning said, when the twins looked as if they were about to protest. "I won't do anything drastic to your cave. I just want to make sure you're safe when you're in there, okay?"
The twins nodded reluctantly and the conversation again went back to the excitement of the exact moment when Lux realized what she had just discovered.
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