Summary: After months of planning and preparation, the five kings finally embark on their quest to the Nether to retrieve Geoff’s soul. At the same time, worlds are beginning to collide as Midas sets about his mission to return from the End.
A developing relationship promises peace between the kingdoms - but when old fears return to haunt them, it threatens to set the kings in conflict with each other once again.
Ray stepped through the portal into the Plains with practiced ease. His stomach no longer lurched at the transition - he moved as easily as if he was stepping into another room rather than travelling thousands of kilometres into an instant.
He emerged into the throne room of the Plains castle just as Gavin arrived through the Wild portal opposite him. Their eyes met as they appeared at the same time, and they shared a smile.
“Hey,” Ray called out, “I wondered when you were gonna come. You know what Geoff wants us here for?”
Stuff I like: Thunderstorms. Anything artificial grape flavor. Michigan—especially my hometown, Grand Haven. Fall weather. Tacos. Playing pool with my dad. Sitting on the beach and watching the waves. Going backpacking. My family. Being a dog mom (HI MOLLY, I MISS YOU). Bike rides. Traveling to new places. Building projects out of old pallet wood. Overcast weather. Movie marathons. Warm towels. Seagulls (they’re very underrated creatures). Painting. Talking to my mom about life. Eating chips and guacamole. Hanging out with my cousins. Listening to the rain. Staying in bed all day (especially when I’m listening to the rain). John Carney movies. Oversized sweaters and hoodies.
The beautiful mordernist Villa Stone, in the
neighbourhood lovingly dubbed ‘yellow villa’ was built in 1940 by a family of
stonemasons. The cobblery was exploited in the house next to Villa Stone and on
the grounds behind both buildings. Villa Stone is the cobblery’s calling card,
as it were. Upon stepping through the front door, one is immediately
overwhelmed by the presence or marble. Marble floors, marble stairs and even
marble paneling on the walls. The luxury is ephasized by the beautiful stained
glass windows. In May 2016 the property with the two buildings and the
surrounding grounds was publicly sold. Admirers of the villa fear that the
buildings will be demolished to make way for a new building project…
You know how when we were kids we used to build blanket and pillow forts? As a kid, I was excited to have a secret space of mine (although it wasn’t so secret) and that idea held with me until now.
I decided to start my new project by building a fort. I used a space around 2,5x2,5 meters big and using tables, curtains and blankets started my construction.
The fort consists of a small entrance that leads you to a short labirint/tunnel. The tunnel is dark and it ends with a bigger space full of light, beside a window. The bright space at the end represents, for me, some kind of relief after a bit of a confusing period of mine.
Also, when I built it, it kind of reminded me of a heart, or maybe a brain.
The construction is somewhat organic and is built with stuff I found on the attic.
More on it later.
Hey there Archy! Can you tell me about the LEED system? I stumbled upon a certificate in our office, thought you might give me (and for the others) some insight :)
LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a certification program focused primarily on new, commercial-building projects and based upon a points system.
To receive LEED certification, building projects satisfy prerequisites and earn points to achieve different levels of certification: Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum. You can read more about it here.
Sorry, Portland, but you brought Californians and gentrification and everything else you hate on yourself. You practically demanded that things be this way. See, there’s a detail about the Portland gentrification problem that lifetime residents consistently leave out when demonizing California for all of their city’s woes. In 1999, home builders in Portland pressured the Oregon Home Builders Association to lobby the state senate to impose a ban on something called inclusionary zoning. What’s that? Oh, just a type of zoning regulation that requires developers to dedicate a certain percentage of any new construction project to building affordable housing for residents. … The only other state in the nation that bans inclusionary zoning is Texas, if that gives you any idea what realm of progressiveness residents entered into when they decided to “keep Portland weird” by preventing poor people from moving to the hipper areas of their eventual Utopia.
Eyesore - The People of the MACDA Housing Project, Makati, Philippines
From a distance, illegal settlements or squatter villages can be an eyesore. They are grossly overcrowded, unsanitary and often unsafe in times of typhoons, flooding or earthquakes. They continue to thrive however, as large numbers of poor continue to stream into Manila from the outlying provinces in search of difficult or unwanted manual labor jobs to support their families.
The MACDA Housing Project is an illegal settlement that is built on vacant land within Makati, the heart of the business district of greater Manila. As the settlement has become more densely populated, government officials have determined that it is time for it to be demolished.
MACDA has become unsightly, potentially dangerous and city officials are insistent that the property can be used for more profitable ventures.
The Vice President of the Philippines and his family have been running Makati for the past several decades. Over the past several weeks, the Vice President has been investigated for potentially skimming a percentage off the top of all new building projects in the city of Makati. If true, some of the much needed money that could have been used to develop infrastructure, housing and eduction projects around Makati over the past twenty years may have gone into the pockets of the Vice President and his family.
I have been photographing the people in the MACDA neighborhood for the past three years. Most of the residents don’t want to be relocated, but realize that they don’t really have much choice in the matter as city officials control the property where their housing development is located.
They will be moved into more substantial housing in Cavite, a city that is located between 60-90 minutes away. But that’s in a country where access to economical and reliable transportation is difficult. They welcome the better housing, but job prospects in Cavite are dim to nonexistent. As a result, most will return and find other squatter villages around Manila.
From afar, MACDA most definitely is an eyesore. But closer up, it’s the people oozing out of the cracks that bring it to life.
Here, life is difficult, but it doesn’t mean that it can’t be enjoyed. Resilience, humor and resolve are a part of the DNA of the residents. Neighbors look after each other in order to make their shared existence more manageable.
Close-up, the MCDA Housing Project is far from an eyesore, instead it contains something that those that look at it from a distance quickly lose sight of – our shared humanity – that critical bond that should link us all.
Basically, she is part of one of four big cultures in her world, and in the culture she comes from they believe that the path to ascension is “perfection”. They still haven’t really figured out what that is though…
They like black (it’s what you get if you mix all colours, so they think it’s the ultimate one), metall and stone.
I might write something more detailed about this if I feel comfortable with it.
Tell Her You Love Her: Step Five: "Don't Be Just Everything She Wants..."
Here is step five. I really hope you enjoy it! Reviews and critiques are welcome!
Tell Her You Love Her
Step Five: “Don’t Be Just Everything She Wants…”
Letting the cold envelop me; letting it envelope us. I couldn’t keep permitting him to play recklessly with this fragile heart. Not anymore.
“I love you. I really do.”
“I don’t believe you.”
You should have seen it through, Namjoon. Right from the moment you kissed me…
“I don’t care,” his hands were back on my shoulders, turning me around, pressing me into the door with his weight, “It’s true. I’ll show you.”
His breath was warm against my icy lips; lips barely skimming mine as he whispered against them, making me shudder involuntarily. That gaze penetrating right through my own, leaving me breathless and vulnerable before him. Hands slid up from my shoulders to cup each side of my face tenderly, as if he were holding a brittle treasure, like I would break in his hands just as he had always been afraid of. Plump lips were hovering just over mine; our eyes already locked in an embrace of their own, I was drowning in their obsidian sea; drowning in him.
I needed air. I needed to break from his hold on me. I needed to breathe in anything but the scent of him. My heart though—that little instigator—kept me there, fluttering my eyelids closed, parting my lips just slightly, wetting them with my own tongue in anticipation.
Then, after what felt like an eternity, I felt those familiar warm lips covering my own, melding together like they had so many times that now distant rainy night when the leaves still held some color, and snow was not blanketing our surroundings with white. I felt his fingers under my chin as the pad of his thumb brushed over the skin just beneath my lips softly; his lips coaxing mine gently with chaste little kisses, eliciting small sighs from my own. My body was shaping to his on its own will, filling into the spaces and shapes, trying to become one with the heat that was him.
Our breaths were becoming one as our kisses became more and more frenzied, lips brushing longer and promising things that I didn’t want to consider again with him—not now. Tiny lace-like snowflakes continued their descent over us, powdering our shoulders and hair in white before melting against the warmth that proved to be too much for their icy exterior. My heart too, found that it was much too warm beneath the rapidly beating one above it and began melting, like all those tiny snowflakes.
Pulling away finally, he pressed his forehead to mine, and brushed his nose against mine, looking me deeply in the eyes, “I’m so sorry that it has taken me so long to get here—to really get here.”
And, just like that, I felt a wetness on my cheeks, not from the falling snow, but from burning tears, “Are you really here?”
I looked down, embarrassed that I had been succumbed to a tearful mess again, not able to meet the strong one above me. How could he unravel me this way so easily? Like a ball of yarn before a pawing kitten, I was left vulnerable before him again. I thought I was stronger than this. I thought I promised myself I wouldn’t let him in again—to break this heart into those millions of irreparable pieces. But, as I stood there wrapped in those strong arms, I felt all my fragile strength disappear.
“I’m here for you, bucket,” he affectionately used the childhood nickname—designed by my “crybaby” syndrome Namjoon always teased me about—that he had bestowed me with many years ago, to which I gave an indignant glare.
“Don’t call me that.”
Chuckling, he kissed my nose sweetly, rubbing his hands over my arms, “I’m sorry, but old habits die hard,” then, with sincerity, “I’m not leaving; not again. So, you better tell pretty boy to step aside because you are mine,” he whispered, lifting my face toward his, those spellbinding eyes glowing in the light of the streetlamps, promising something my heart longed for, “Forever.”
My heart was beating to that same rhythm it had the first time this scene had transpired, but I knew how this story ended, and I would not let myself get pulled in again by empty promises and kisses. I had someone who genuinely cared; someone that liked me for me. I could love him the way I loved the boy standing before me in the sea of white, couldn’t I?
“Forever is a long time,” I replied, ice edging my tone again, as I stepped away from his grasp, leaving him in the cold.
My phone suddenly vibrated, buzzing loudly in the silence between us, grabbing it from my pocket, I smiled lightly at the text: You looked beautiful tonight. I cannot wait to see you again. Sweet dreams. Yours, ‘Fancy Pants’.
“You’re choosing him?” his voice was filled with utter shock, his brow furrowing in confusion as he stepped toward me.
“I’m choosing not to hurt myself,” the words bit through the chill in the air, and I watched him take one step back, clutching his chest with one palm.
His eyes were now the ones filling with glistening tears, reflecting the dim light of the streetlamp behind him, one hand raking through white blonde hair, brushing off the flakes of snow and ice that had collected there. My heart screamed, but my head was content with his suffering. Turning, I reached for the handle of the large metal door of the dorm lobby and opened it, stepping into the warmth with a strength I didn’t know I possessed.
But, it was not enough to stop his advance. When Namjoon was on a mission, or wanted anything, there was no obstacle to big or impossible that could stop him. I had learned that when I was a kid. Anytime he delved into a new project—building a playhouse, or writing music—he wouldn’t give up even when the odds were against him and it just seemed like a ‘suicide mission’. I was always the one giving up when the going got rough; running away was my specialty.
“I’m not going to just give up. I can’t,” his eyes were pleading now, “You’re everything.”
His words were buckling my knees, making my heart stutter as my stomach did flip flops and somersaults. How long had I been waiting to hear those words? No, stop. You can’t do this to yourself again. Think of your heart…
I was. But, my heart still wanted him. Still needed him like I needed air to breathe. It still longed to beat beside his.
I was so torn between my head and heart—they were at war within me, firing missiles back and forth, exploding within me. I decided to side with the logical part of me—sorry heart. I looked through him, unable to look at the gaze that I loved so much, and the lips that taunted mine to kiss him until the end of the earth, my voice was shaking, “You already gave up. You had your chance, Namjoon, and now it’s Noah’s. This isn’t fair to him, or me,” then bitterly, the cruelest words slipped from my lips, “When’s enough, enough for you? How many times do you want to break my heart, Namjoon?”
His face sunk, lips pulling into a frown, his eyes shocked and then teary. It was as if I had physically slapped him; I may as well of with such a cruel phrase. Still, he regained that unerring confidence that was so typical of him, stepping up one stair toward me at the first platform before the second set, “Don’t run from me. Your heart is mine to mend, not someone else’s.”
“My heart is mine. It belongs to me, not you. Don’t you dare treat it as your property. It is mine to give away to whoever I trust with it, and I have to say, after your previous performance with it, it sure as hell isn’t you.”
It felt so gratifying to say what I actually wanted to say; to finally release some of this pent up frustration. He was right about one thing: I couldn’t run anymore. Not from this. I’d been running far too long, and my feet were killing me. It was time to face the music; to face him.
“Well, mine belongs to you,” his voice was soft, barely reaching mine in the lone stairwell, “I never wanted to hurt you. You make me crazy though, I mean, I never stop thinking about you. I wake up from dreams about you. I just—it scared me. After that night, I realized that I was in too deep; that my heart was making me dream of things that I could never give you with my lifestyle.”
“So, let me get this straight, you ran away after you told me you loved me because of your career?” there was that anger again, its storm raging inside me.
“In part. It wasn’t just that though, it was more about the fact that my career wouldn’t let me be what you wanted. What you deserve. Mostly though, it was the fact that I couldn’t handle this feeling in my heart,” he grasped the front of his coat with one clenched fist, looking at me desperately, “This feeling of my world collapsing in on itself. It was like it was the end of life as I knew it; like I could never care about anything else so strongly. And, it scared me. It really scared me.”
I knew exactly what feeling he was referring to, it was the same one I had experienced all those years ago when my heart fell in love with him. It was terrifying, to think that you could adore something so much, and that that something was another human being that was as unpredictable as the wind. His eyes were sincere, those full lips trembling like a leaf, “Please, I know I made a mistake, just let me fix it. Let me show you that I can be everything you want.”
Thump. Thump. Thump.
My heart was ringing in my ears, the only sound I could hear anymore; the only thing that made sense in this fairytale moment. Here he was, my true love, standing in the stairway of my dorm, vying eternal love—what should I do? What was my answer? It came, like a lightning bolt to the heart, shocking even me, “I…can’t.”
What?What are you doing?!
My heart was begging me to run down that flight of stairs, to kiss him and pledge my own undying love for him. To finally be with the one I had desired for so long, but my head just kept clambering it with “NO!”, over and over again. The memory of him coolly ignoring me kept flitting through my head; of how he left me in silence, my only solace taking form in a tear stained pillow every night.
I grabbed the railing of the stairs to support me, pulling me forward up the next flight as his steps closed in behind mine.
“Don’t do this. Please,” he begged, something not so customary of the strong-willed Namjoon I had always admired.
One hand was holding my free one dangling by my side, looking up at me with pleading dark eyes, imploring me to stay with him. I couldn’t. I just couldn’t.
“Namjoon, you have to let me go,” I glanced down at our intertwined fingers on the railing, pulling away, “We can’t do this. We are just not meant for each other, not in that way,” as the words escaped my mouth, I felt my heart screaming ‘liar’, etching it painfully in the pumping organ that was beating so slowly, as if it had lost its will to go on.
Tears were threatening to spill from that obsidian gaze as he gripped one hand on the railing, bone showing white beneath the golden skin of his knuckles; his jaw clenched, he choked, “I can’t. How can you say that after what I just said?”
The tears were flowing heavily down his cheeks, unstoppable, “I know you feel the same about me. I know that it scares you too, but you don’t have to be scared anymore. Let me love you; let me take care of your heart.”
I could feel warmth gathering in my own eyes and throat as I stepped down toward him, embracing him with my arms, “I’m so sorry, but I can’t do that.”
Sobbing, I felt his body crumple beneath my fingers, his whole torso shaking with each cry. Never, had I ever, seen my best friend cry like that, until that night on the stairs. The night that I took his heart in my hands and crushed it into a million irreparable pieces.
“Ok, so you just sit here and I promise we will be done soon and then we can go and grab some food,” his voice was cheerful, but his face was exhausted; gray bags painted under his eyes from lack of sleep.
I was becoming more and more worried as the weeks passed. Was he sleeping? Was he eating? His clothes were fitting more loosely than before, hanging off of him in unusual places. Well if he isn’t, we know who to blame, don’t we? Ok, seriously heart? Stop it with the guilt trip.
Setting down my bag, I settled into the metal chair, watching as the group rehearsed the same dance repeatedly until everyone was in sync and flawless. I had been hanging around Nanjoon again, more than I had in years. We were inseparable again—the way we had been as children. Since the incident in the stairwell, we had both decided to just pick up things in our friendship as they were before, but I still found myself tempted to kiss those plush lips anytime we were alone.
Stupid hormonal urges. My phone suddenly lit up in my lap, a new message from Noah appearing: Hey, so are we still on for tonight?
Sighing, I face palmed. How could I forget that we had set up a date for tonight? This would be the third time in three weeks that I had blown him off. He was going to think that I didn’t care about him, but I couldn’t very well blow off Namjoon either. Choices, so many choices.
Biting my lip, I replied quickly: Hey fancy pants, can we reschedule for tomorrow night? Sorry, on best friend duty this evening.
His response was immediate, understanding and sweet as always: Of course! I’ll see you tomorrow then, my beautiful girl.
Heat crept up my neck as I read the message, lighting my cheeks afire with its blazing path, leaving me to look like a red crayon. I never got used to that nickname. Ever.
“Alright, that’s enough for now. Good job,” one of their managers raised one hand, signaling the end of the rehearsal.
The boys all collapsed on cue, as if it were practiced too, and laid there crumpled upon the floor panting for air. Sweat was pooling on each of their foreheads—and God only knows where else—and I silently thanked God for the invention of deodorant that was masking the smell of B.O. The first one up was of course the devoted leader—Namjoon—who began a rather serious looking discussion with his manager.
The other boys simply followed suit, all of them rising to grab drinks and bags to leave the cramped studio for the night—a well-deserved break after the amount of butt-shaking I just witnessed. I sat quietly, waiting patiently for Namjoon to finish up his conversation, playing with a strand of loose hair. Suddenly, Jungkook made his way toward me, smiling friendly, as he always did, calling me noona in a way that I knew would make every girls hearts stop.
“Hey, good hustle out there, kid,” I teased as he grabbed the strap of his gym bag, tossing it over his shoulder with ease.
“Thanks,” he grinned cutely, “So, back again? You better be careful, if you keep showing up for rehearsals our staff is going start putting you to work, or making you practice with us.”
Shuddering, I shook my head vehemently, “No, they would see me try to dance my way with no coordination through one song and kick me out. Trust me,” laughing, he shook his dark head at me as I added, “However, I wouldn’t mind being productive and helping out with something less hand-eye-coordinated related.”
“I’m sure you’re a wonderful dancer. According to Namjoon-hyung, you do everything beautifully,” a light blush tinged those pale cheeks as he waved his hands frantically before him, “Don’t tell him I said that!”
Blushing my own shade of pink, I glanced over at the white haired boy across the room, smiling to myself, “He says that?”
Confused, Jungkook cocked his head to the side, “Well, yeah, he does nothing but praise you, noona,” then, he added more seriously, “You guys still aren’t together though? Why is that?—no, I’m sorry! It’s not my place to ask. Please, forgive me.”
Looking at me apologetically, he bowed his head lowly, sending dark hair flying forward. I chuckled and waved it off casually, pretending that the question didn’t boggle my mind too, “It’s ok, Jungkook. Don’t worry about it.”
Exhaling a sigh of relief, he nodded, and then looked over his shoulder at Namjoon’s lanky form before glancing back at me, frowning and phrasing simply, “I’m worried about him.”
So, everyone noticed the difference in him? It wasn’t just me. God, what have I done to this poor boy?
Scratching the back of his head with one hand, Jungkook looked at me with kind, caring dark eyes, “Listen, I know you and Namjoon aren’t a thing, but could you maybe watch out for him. Talk to him. Make sure he’s ok? I feel like he’s always looking out for all of us, but he refuses to let us do the same for him; but, I know he’s different with you.”
My heart sank in my chest, “Of course I will. He doesn’t lean on me either though, you know? That’s just Namjoon’s way—the macho man.”
“I think he leans on you more than you think. He talks about how he feels like he can come to you for everything; like he can just be himself with you.”
There it was again, that familiar fluttering in my heart, I pushed it aside with a small sigh, “Well, lately he hasn’t come to me with anything, so I don’t think that is necessarily true.”
Jungkook’s shoulders sank heavily beneath a soaked t-shirt, “I really hoped he was…he’s just not even himself anymore. I think maybe he is just overworked and exhausted. I wish he’d let go of some of the burden.”
All at once I realized exactly what Namjoon was getting at that night in the stairwell: he could never be what I wanted because it would kill him. I was draining his battery dry, leaving him to run off of pure fumes. I was his burden.
“I’ll talk to him. Don’t worry, Jungkook. I’ll take care of, Namjoon,” patting his shoulder with one hand, I jerked my head toward the door where the others had already exited, “Now, go get some rest. You need it.”
Looking relieved, he smiled and waved goodbye, stepping out of the studio with quick, long strides. My attention re-averted back to him. Standing there slumped over his bag I could see the struggle in his eyes to even stand back up, and the way it took such strength to lift the duffle bag over one bony shoulder. It was exhausting just watching him like this.
Namjoon, why are you doing this to yourself?
My heart whispered, because he loves you.
Slapping that pesky voice to the side, I watched as he approached me with long, lean legs, smiling cheerfully, mustering up an inhuman strength to continue on, “Ready?”
“Namjoon, go home. Get some sleep, ok?”
Confused, he raised one eyebrow, adjusting the strap on his shoulder, “What? Why? Do you not want to hang out? I was looking forward to spending time with you.”
It was so hard to say no to those eyes, but I shook my head anyway, “I want to spend time with you too, but not when you’re so exhausted you can barely stand. Namjoon, look at yourself,” I gestured largely to the mirrored walls of the studio, “You’re wasting away. And for what? Me? I can’t let that happen.”
“You’re worth the suffering. I don’t mind it,” his eyes were sincere; a small smile lighting his face.
“I do,” I sighed, running one hand over his arm, I felt warm skin prickle with goose bumps under it, “We can’t do this, Namjoon. You and I need to go back to seeing each other infrequently because you can’t handle it otherwise.”
“How many times are you going to reject me?” his eyes were teary, looking pathetically into my own as he grabbed my hand on his bicep and pulled me into a tight hug.
“I’m sorry, Namjoon. It’s for your own good,” I stated, ignoring the stabbing pain in my chest.
“Stop telling me what’s good for me. I know what is best for me because I’m holding it in my hands.”
I couldn’t look at the wreck before me any longer; I couldn’t watch this car crash for one more second. Pulling from that warm embrace, I walked toward the door, making my way into the snowy blizzard that was howling down the streets mercilessly. Never had I felt so one with my atmosphere—cold and destructive.