08 May

The rest of the night went by pretty quickly. There was some talks about what our lives were before this war, which was mostly Leesa our new companion probing us with rather personal questions and Rak and I giving only brief acknowledgement to them. Neither of us felt much like opening up fully to her it seemed, but she didn’t seem to mind.

Rak mentioned how he used to live on a coral reef in a trench that was well sheltered from predators and from the naked eye, deep beneath the surface of the ocean. Upon Leesa’s insistance, he gave up that his people came in a multitude of colors, patterns and markings, all to better camouflage and hide among the corals.

When it seemed he would offer her no more information on the subject, she turned to me and my homeland. More specifically, to my people and culture. I had to bite my tongue to keep from telling her off, to leave well enough alone, and eventually she took a hint.

Leesa spent a majority of the night trying to fill the silence that fell between us. Her lightheartedness rubbed off on us eventually, and I’m really glad we did. She asked us about our home territories and the food brown there, and she was actually able to summon a variety of plumfruit native to my home island, the one thing that I was comfortable enough to talk about- the jungle I knew so well.

The taste was an approximation off of my description, as she had never encountered it before, but it moved me to tears.

Not because of the flavor per se, but because the thought that I’d never return there, to the safety of my jungle hut where most of my time was spent foraging and living off of the land.

She summoned fruits from Rak’s homeland too to try, which he seemed to enjoy immensely. I don’t know that I was much of a fan though; the small red fruit no bigger than a gull egg had the pervasive taste of brine behind the sweetness that I found quite disagreeable.

Nevertheless, we were all doing our best to ignore the feeling we could be caught at any moment.

As the sun set, we inevitably started getting pretty tired, even more so than usual. It had been a long day, and Leesa told us whatever herb she passed around would make you incredibly tired after a while. 

I fell asleep right as the crescent moon passed over our little hole.

The next day I awoke to a shake of my right arm. It was Leesa with a cup made of wood, steaming brown liquid harbored inside.

“Mornin’ hothead, you two were going to sleep through the whole day so I thought I'd wake you up with another new experience. These special beans, when made just right, can give you a day's energy in a snap!” She said as she placed the cup on the ground next to me.

I rubbed my eyes and sat up right. Rak was already awake and peacefully sipping the steamy liquid. He smiled at me from behind his cup.

I still couldn't believe we had survived that whole experience together. I honestly believed that those moments in the cave, strung up by our wrists behind our back would be our last. Leesa seemed to be making herself another cup of bean water, wrapped herbs lit in her mouth. It must’ve been a regular habit for her. 

I blinked a few times. But how did she light it?

“Fun fact, apparently if I poke your hand in your sleep, it lights a small flame,” she said, noticing me staring.

“Huh,” I said. “Good to know in case anybody tries to attack my hand in my sleep.” 

That got a chuckle out of both of them.

I grabbed my cup of steaming brown water, sipping on the bitter drink as Leesa passed around some of the herb. She made sure that we only inhale it once or twice, as she repeated about three times as we were waking up that we “Just got our wings.”

All three of us finished our cup, then Leesa took the last few puffs from the leaf. Now all that was left for us to do was erase the evidence we were here and figure out where we would go from here.

I burned all the cups and leftover bits of dead plant from summoning the non-native fruits while Leesa covered the cave with vines and moss to conceal any trackable ashes or black bits.

Once that was settled, we sat down to talk.

“Before I rescued you guys, I knew we would need to head straight for an island across this mainland and over the ocean. I've got a sizeable group of rebels from various species waiting to keep you guys safe while we gather up the necessary numbers to storm the ice palace where the royalty lies and bring King Goltri down. But we’ll have to travel by foot so as to not draw attention from any scouts who I am certain are still searching for us. ” Leesa explained.

“Sounds like a solid plan to me, but what do we do if the scouts find us?” I asked.

“We will fight them, same as anytime you've guys run into their forces,” She replied.

That satisfied me well enough, but then Rak-li opened up with a question of his own.

“I believe the waters on the other side of this land are where my colony is. If so, I'd be able to visit it, correct?” 

“Oh sure, I'd love to go there! I've never been there before, I can’t say I’m a strong swimmer either… would I be able to see it from the surface?” She asked.

Rak chuckled. “You’ll be able to see more than just the surface, don’t worry. You too Aku.”

“What? How?” Leesa questioned. “You know I can’t breathe underwater, right?”

“You’ll see.”

“You really aren’t going to elaborate any more on that. Huh?” I asked, amused. 

“A man can have his secrets, right?” Rak replied.

“Hmph!” Leesa said. “Well let’s get going then! I think I’ll explode if I have to wait too long to figure out what you mean.”

“Yes, let’s! I've missed my family so much, been rather homesick I can’t deny.” Rak said.

“I’m sure you have, I can’t imagine how many moons you traveled before you even met me,” I said.

After taking a moment to think on it, he explained. 

“Countless. I do know at least two season cycles have passed so far. But in that time I've discovered creatures and seas never before seen by my people. The legends I'll tell them and the maps I’ve carved will blow their small-reef minds.” He grinned widely, his signature toothy grin.

“Well c’mon then, we should get going. You’ve got me excited!” She said, poking her head out to look for any threats before climbing out of the hole. 

Rak and I smile at each other, glad not only to see friendly places but also to finally have some hope of winning this war.  

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