27 Feb

It was close to sundown by the time we finished gathering the various materials we needed for our camp tonight. We stayed on the beach above the creature's head so that we could keep an eye on where it was going. Rak joined me, and we began setting up the campsite. 

I shot a fireball at the wood that I had gathered, the wood bursting alight. 

I scoffed. Having firepower really did make this chore a whole lot easier. 

Once the fire was ready, Rak staked several large pikes with skewered fish into the viny root ground close to the fire. As dinner cooked, we gratefully took the opportunity to relax. Neither of us got a chance to rest since the fight with the siren, and my shoulder was killing me. Rak’s face was swollen and turning purple around his jaw where I’d hit him, too. From the miserable look on his face, I could tell that the pain was bothering him too. 

“So what do you think is going to happen once we arrive at the mainland?”  I asked Rak-li.

“I'm not quite sure yet. I’ve never been up on the shore before, but I did see the river dwelling  from a distance. It’s truly massive, sprawling with many rectangular structures made of earth. Some of them looked to be at least five times as tall as I am and full of holes in the sides for entry and viewing the outside,” he explained. 

"Are we still headed the right way?" I questioned. 

Rak nodded. "I checked the currents. We should still be headed in the general direction we're meant to go. Our best bet would probably be to land further down the shore from the dwelling though, somewhere unoccupied. They’ll probably be expecting us to come in from the shore, and I don’t think it would be wise to walk into an ambush.”

“Seems like a solid plan,” I said quietly. It was hard to imagine things like that existed. “How many people do you think live there?”

“Hundreds. Hundreds and hundreds. And it’s still growing too, so many boats come in and out of there. In all of my travels, I’ve never seen something quite like it.” 

“I can’t say I have either. I mean, when I was younger, some of the people of my village left in boats, but none ever came back.”

“That’s… very similar to what happened with my predecessors, explorers who dared leave the reef before me. Their mysteries go forever unsolved. I’ll never know if they died out there, or if they found something worth sticking around and not coming home.”

I stayed quiet for a moment, thinking. “The last of my people to venture out were my mother and father. They’re probably dead now. It’d be foolish to think otherwise…”

“Why do you say that?” Rak questioned. 

“Just look at me. All of the shit we’ve been through since I left the island. This world is unfair and unforgiving. All the odds are stacked against my survival, except for this power and, well, you.”

“Weren’t you just telling me a moon or so back that I should have more faith in you and in humans? Where’s that faith gone in you?”

I sighed into my hands, closing my eyes and really feeling the throbbing ache of my joints. “Sorry. I’m just tired.”

I heard Rak sigh. When I opened my eyes again, he was looking at the moon. “Believe me, I am too.”

It had been dark for a while by the time the food finished cooking. We scarfed the fish down, and before I could blink Rak had fallen asleep. 


I wished I could do that, but my mind was too occupied with recent events: From the rainbow haired woman to this flying empire whose leader also had powers, powers powerful enough that he truly had a chance of freezing over the entire planet. What sense did that make? How was that even possible? Did Hope really give that guy the power in the first place? 

It didn’t make sense. At least not with the information I had. Though they were clearly linked in one way or another.

I stared at the stars, finding brief peace from questions in looking for patterns among them. 

Seemingly out of nowhere, a flash of rainbow light appeared in front of me. It was the mysterious woman who gave me my abilities, floating before me in that same, flowing white dress as before. Her impossibly long rainbow-colored hair was bound up in a braid, unlike last time. Her feet gracefully touched the ground, and she extended her hand out to me and guided me away from Rak-li, who despite the bright light had somehow not woken up.

We walked along the small jungle of Ceterra, her hand still in mine, pulling me along to the opposite shore. It took the woman a minute to speak up. 

Finally, she said, “I feel as if I owe you an explanation.” She took a seat on a raised vine, patting the spot next to her.

“You think?” I said in response, sitting down. 

She chuckled in amusement. “Well I cannot explain everything right now, but I’ll give you some context. About me, and why I did what I did. Sound good?”

“Are you a mind reader or something?” I asked. 

She laughed, the corners of her mouth pulling amused dimples to her cheeks. I had a feeling she didn’t do that often, that it was rare for her to talk to someone like this. 

Her expression soon fell more serious and melancholic as she began her tale. “Your world is a recreation of a world I lived in, a near endless amount of time ago now. My world along with countless like them were wiped out in an instant, at the whim of an omnipotent destructive being. The only reason I survived was because I am the daughter of the being that created these old worlds. 

“I gave a flying human, a Pouli, abilities as a way to help get a new start on this world. Goltri was a promising young Pouli, much like you. He was passionate and creative, and above all else, he saw the potential in everyone. It didn’t surprise me one bit that he’d risen so far as a leader. Though I found out much too late that the person he was around me was not reflective of his character while I was away. King Goltri betrayed me, passing the abilities to every flying human he could find, then using them to form an empire built on fear, bent on complete domination of all the planet’s species. 

“I never meant for this to happen, for him to go so far as to wipe out entire islands off the map. And for that, I am so sorry, Aku.”

I gassed intensely into her impossibly crystal blue eyes. I was sure that she could see all of the conflict, the rage, the loss just by looking through my own.

She looked away with a sigh. 

“The only way to stop him is to completely wipe out the progress he's made. I gave you your power to that end, Aku. Burn it all the ground, and carve out the new future for your world. If you do, the legacy you’ll leave behind will shape this world until its end.” 

I was speechless. Somehow, her explanation left me with more questions than answers. 

The most important of which sprung to my mouth.

“Why me of all people? What separates me from any other person in this world?”

She smiled sweetly. I looked away for a moment, and she was gone with the wind again. I heard her voice once more. 

“This creature Ceterra is taking you where you seek, for better or worse. Good luck, my unfreezable flame.”

And like that, I was left with the stars once again.

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