16 Jan

A blinding headache seared across my vision.

I’d been going nonstop for three days, traveling on the back of the Psari, the fishman prince himself, Rak-Li. We’d exhausted all of the fish we had hunted for, but even then there was something I was sorely lacking even more: fresh water. 

“I… I can’t keep going. We need to stop on land,” I moaned. 

“Alright friend. Just hang in there, we’re not too far off from an island I discovered during my travels.” He altered his course slightly and continued on. 

Land appeared on the horizon within the hour. Relieved, I let my eyes rest.


“...Aku. Aku. AKU.” 

“Wh- wha?” I startled awake to the sound of Rak-Li’s voice. 

“We’re almost there,” he said. “But something’s wrong.”

“What’s wrong?”

“We’re being tailed.”

I looked behind me. There was only the ocean, as far as the eyes could see.
“I don’t see anyone,” I told him. 

“Not down here. Up there.” 

I followed his gaze to the sky.

“I may not spend much time above the water, but I do know that clouds are not supposed to follow you.”

I saw what he meant. Out of all the calm, fluffy clouds in the sky, one hung much lower and was definitely trailing on our heels. 

“Well what do we do?” I asked. 

“I don’t know. I’ve never been chased by a cloud before.”

“Well no shit. Just, um. Just get to shore, and we’ll figure it out from there.” I rubbed the sleep from my face. “Damn, my head is killing me…” 

It didn’t take long to get to shore. I got off of my companion’s back and waded to shore, feeling wobbly and uncoordinated. Rak-Li, on the other hand, walked up onto the shore with no problem. 

“Seriously, how is it so easy for you to adjust? I live on land, and even I have sea legs from swimming for so long…”

He smiled a big toothy grin. “Psari have the ability to regulate the pressure differences in our bodies and change the equilibrium at will. It allows us to go from walking along the seafloor to swimming freely without any issue. Same goes for walking on land."

“Lucky you,” I grumbled. 

He chuckled. “Hey, I’ll keep an eye on the rogue cloud. You wake up those legs of yours and find some fresh water, alright?”

I nodded my gratitude. “Shout for me if anything changes. Got it?”

He waved me off, and I stumbled further into the brush of the island.

Voraciously, I drank the dew that pooled on the many large leaves. This jungle was not dissimilar to that on my home island. Because of that, I had a good idea where I might find some fruits. 

Without delay, I scaled up into the treetops. 


I was elbow deep in a bundle of coconuts when Rak-Li shouted for me to come back. Quickly, I grabbed what I could and slipped back down the tree, leaving the fruits at the base, and I ran back towards the beach, the cloud cover getting thicker the closer I got. 

As I darted out of the brush, it was clear there was a winged man standing in front of him, and he looked ready to fight. 

I sent a fireball hurling over the man’s head. 

“Woah now, there’s no need for violence yet!” He said, putting his hands up in defense. 

I ran up next to Rak-Li and we exchanged a look. 

The man had intricate clouds etched into his skin, wrapping from shoulder to shoulder across his bare collarbone. He wore a pelt around his waist and beads around his neck. He was doing a weird thing with his hands and breathing too loudly with his eyes closed. 

I groaned impatiently. I was already done with this guy. He was going to be such a pain. 

He came out of his trance with a tired and yet peaceful expression on his face. “Comrades, what troop are you from? I was not informed that anyone would be passing through this area.”

Rak-Li and I exchanged another silent glance. 

“Who are you? What do you want?” I asked.  

“Me? I am the great cloud bearer, Arlo. Our glorious King Goltri stationed me to watch these islands and question all who pass through here. You both bear the marks of power, so again I must ask: what troop are you from?”

Much to my displeasure, Rak-Li bowed his head slightly to the man.

“Cloud bearer Arlo, I am Rak-Li, prince of the Psari. My friend and I are merely travelers, looking to pass through here. We do not know of the man you call King.”


I picked up that there was more between what he’d said than mere curiosity. Behind that was the subtle twitch of the eye, an anxiety, as if he knew what was coming and was not looking forward to it. 

“Yes, so I agree with you, there’s no need for violence. If you just let us go, we’ll be on our way and you won’t have to see us again,” Rak-Li continued.

“People who bear the marks and are not aligned to our reverent King Goltri are not allowed to pass through my waters. Those people are not allowed the same freedom that He provides.”

“That’s not going to work for us,” I said abruptly. “We’re going to pass through here, whether we have your permission or not.”

Arlo smiled peacefully, clasping his hands together at his chest. “I can personally guarantee that will not come to pass.”

I lunged at him, but before I could even make contact, a dense fog descended upon us. I stumbled back, disoriented. I couldn’t see anything; I could barely even see my hands holding them in front of my face.
“Rak-Li?” I called out, looking in all directions. 

“Aku!” Rak-li sounded so distant. He groaned, as if he’d been hit hard.

“Rak-” Suddenly, a fist collided with my jaw. I stumbled again, clutching my cheek. “Rak-Li, where are you!”

I didn’t hear a response. I could hear shuffling in the sand, but I had no idea where it was coming from. I clenched my teeth and growled, infuriated. 

“Stop playing with my senses!!” I went to summon a fireball between my palms, but I suddenly was shoved forward by a sandaled foot to the back, and I fell on my face.

“Stop hiding!” I yelled into the fog as I got back to my feet. 

“Face me like a man, you coward!” 

Just as soon as I said that, the fog faded away just a little, and before me stood the cloud bearer with a panicked look on his face. He looked like he’d already taken quite a beating.I smiled wickedly. He obviously didn’t mean to part the fog like that. 

Rak-Li had done a number on him, and it was up to me to finish him off. I wasn’t going to hold back just because of a fluke of his powers. 

A fire had been lit in my stomach. I was going to make him pay.

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