“Wait, what? You??” I came across rightfully skeptical as this neku before us, devoid of their armor or scepter, was claimed by Barken to be the Princess of Deko. Of course I’d be on the defensive, this random figure standing over us while we slept! How long was she there? She hadn’t encroached on us for a surprise attack, it seemed. “What possessed you to step foot in this wasteland? Are you lost?”
“Lost?” she replied, her tone carrying an angry edge. “Why would I be lost? I came here to find you!”
“No, not-” She loudly grunted, facing away from us.
Barken looked to me before saying, “I’ve seen you. In my visions. Are you Xandra, Deko’s daughter?”
She hesitated before saying, “I am. I think I’ve seen you too...in these odd visions I’ve had.”
“It was you, then. You are the one I healed.” Princess Xandra studied Barken, paying extra attention to his eyes.
I said what hadn’t been discussed. “I must ask, were you responsible for Barken’s capture?”
“No!” She exclaimed quickly. “That is one of the reasons I came to find you - him. I wanted to tell you my side of all this.”
Princess Xandra explained the strange circumstances: Barken was likely captured as a desperate attempt to save Xandra from certain death. Being incapacitated, she knew nothing of the plot. The resulting healing ceremony would saddle her with odd visions, with Barken explaining is the mark of a clairsentient.
“We’re now connected,” he said, “likely for life. You’ve been able to intuitively follow our tracks as a result.”
Princess Xandra didn’t speak for sometime, facing elsewhere. Barken rose from the floor and convinced me to sheath my daggers, an effort to decrease the tension. I didn’t like that our backs were to the cave.
“Is it widely known by your people that descendants can heal neku?” Barken asked.
“It isn’t. Deko would have the heads of anyone who dared make use of descendants in such a way.”
“Yet it’s widespread,” I chimed in. “At least, it had been once upon a time.”
Princess Xandra paced near the entrance, removing herself from the sun’s glare. Being entirely unclothed, I noted the smoothness of her skin, seemingly delicate, coupled with its close resemblance to a large body of water or the night sky with its cobalt blue hue. She was thinner than most descendants, a trait I noticed most neku shared when I’ve fractured their armor, its bulky size hiding well their seemingly fragile bodies.
“You two have uncovered a great deal while you’ve been on the run,” Xandra said. “You’re correct that the healing of neku by descendants was used indiscriminately when it was discovered some time ago. It was reported throughout the ranks that Royal Soldiers within the Tygrus territory were using descendants for healing and it created excessive infighting. Rumors of descendants using witchery to convert Royal Soldiers started to spread among the neku.”
“Witchery?” I said. “That’s bullshit-”
“Let me finish.” She continued, nonplussed. “ The elite gave orders for the soldiers to kill any descendant used for healing as a result, and the descendants of Tygrus revolted. Understand, the Royal Soldiers within Tygrus were already divided. Tygrus’ governing was and continues to be an embarrassment for father, and he quickly made any attempt at using a descendant for healing punishable by death. It’s use should’ve ended, and had that been the case, we wouldn’t be in this situation.”
“Do you think my healing has manipulated you in some way?” Barken asked honestly. “I had no intention of bringing you to this place that you’ve found us. We’re as surprised as you! I’m always learning something new about these abilities I have. I don’t want you to get the impression that I’ve performed some kind of trickery on you.”
“I know you’re not manipulating or deceiving me,” Xandra said, surprisingly quickly. “Your hand was forced, as were the other healers caught in this travesty. Power can make neku unabashedly cruel.” Xandra seemed to be ashamed. It was what I’d seen in Antares after Barken saved him from drowning at sea, a realization that takes over them. Barken unlocks something in these neku that he heals, and for once, I didn’t see an enemy before me.
“If I’m understanding all this correctly,” Barken surmised, “the Royal Soldiers charged me with the crime of using magic to cover up their own crime of using a clairsentient to heal a neku. It was likely their intention to kill me, thereby removing whatever ‘witchery’ they believe I have on you.”
“Since you’re presumed alive and uncaptured, however,” I said, “those who plotted to heal the princess are probably panicking at this moment. Rosco was correct that your association with the Princess makes you a high priority target, and it wouldn’t surprise me if they’ve been keeping tabs on the princess.”
“It is possible that I’m being watched,” Xandra said thoughtfully. “I noticed it in Tygrus. I expressed my intention to find you both with a confidant. But, there’s a chance she informed others. Worst-case scenario, those who plotted this scheme have caught wind of my activities. This...could prove troublesome.”
“Do you believe any Royal Soldiers would follow you here?” Barken asked.
“Possibly. I doubt any would enter the Soren Desert so haphazardly, though. There’s another issue; I intended to absolve you both of your fugitive statuses-”
“Really?!” Barken said excitedly, grabbing me by my arm in his anxiety.
Xandra was less than enthusiastic, even pained to speak further. “Unfortunately, I don’t expect to be given much trust. Not anymore. If word got out that I was healed by you, I will likely be denounced.”
Barken gaped, and I swallowed hard at the realization. The two of us were marked for life as permanent fugitives. A sinking feeling took over us, and Barken swayed his head, smirking bitterly.
“Remember Diego, we’ve also taken the lives of Royal Soldiers.”
“It was in self-defense!” I argued.
“They won’t see it that way. Even with someone as powerful as Xandra on our side, she could be turned into an enemy of her people, and we’ll be labeled murderers. Is this it? Is the sovereignty we seek for naught?” Barken gripped his fists, looking like he needed something to punch. I gave him space. Xandra watched Barken with detached fascination.
“Odd circumstances we’ve found ourselves in,” she said plainly. Barken met her eyes, trying not to be consumed by dread. “We’ve been alienated by our own, forced to alter our lives without a say from us. It’s a hard reality to come to terms with.”
She trailed off for sometime. Though these previous days have likely weighed on her too, Xandra didn’t appear too distraught from it all, and her perseverance showed.
“I still stand here because of you. I don’t want other clairsentients to go through this, I don’t want neku to take advantage of descendants anymore! How can we, especially to a race so intimately entwined to us?” Barken and I made a knowing look at one another. Did Xandra know neku and descendants shared a common ancestor?
“My attempt to change the relationship neku have with descendants won't be easy, and I don’t expect it to be. I’m prepared to make enemies as a result, because I believe in making a change. I can feel your motivation to do the same, Barken. Will you join me?”
Princess Xandra faced Barken as she gradually kneeled to the floor. I could see his overwhelm. Certainly memories of Antares flooded him at the moment, and the thought of Xandra experiencing the same would be devastating. Yet, his reluctance wouldn’t hold him back. He moved gradually towards her, betraying whatever hesitation he might have felt. When he came up to her, he held out his hand. Xandra, after a moment, placed her hand in his, and he lifted her up to face him. Xandra towered over Barken as all neku do.
“Of course, Xandra,” said Barken. “If you will fight, so will I.”
We discussed with Xandra our intention to reach Yureesha and she proved immensely helpful. She flew to the sky and didn’t return for sometime. Once back she said, “We could make it by sunset.” We headed off onward west, and my body was regaining its strength. I attempted to carry Barken during the trip, but it always led to him chastising me.
“Why won’t you let your body heal, Diego!” he fretted. “Do you mean to keel over and leave me to fend for myself in this desert again!?”
Xandra stayed airborne during the journey for extra precaution. Without her armor, she admitted to being vulnerable. “I will have a bird's eye view of everything. I can keep an eye out for potential attackers.”
We succeeded in avoiding most altercations. Barken made use of a warding spell on the few items of clothes we wore, preventing some golems from noticing our smell. Any sign of blood was patched and taken care of immediately. Every battle’s conclusion was met swiftly, us being more prepared and confident during our second go. Barken and I were driven to make it to Yureesha for possibly a new life, though Xandra had her worries.
“Yureesha is not inhabited by neku,” she said. “If I’m seen, I could be met with great animosity.” This had raised Barken’s anxiety as well. I was reminded of the cave dwellers in Kyro and the way they handled Antares.
“If they learn you’ve been healed by a clairsentient,” I said, “chances are they’ll consider you an ally. I have a feeling help will be offered to us, no need to worry too much.” Princess Xandra found this idea bizarre, us descendants finding a reason to celebrate a neku healed by a clairsentient. It gave her some comfort. If I was honest, I didn’t know how these descendants would react to the Princess of Deko. However, if Xandra met Rosco, Zuri, Sapphire, and the others without trouble, I didn’t expect much resistance.
As Xandra said from the beginning, when it appeared as though the sun was fading from the horizon, a city that made even Sol look minuscule in comparison began to take over the landscape. We had arrived at the city of Yureesha.
Small aircraft, beaten up though fully functional, flew in the skies and through gaps in buildings. They looked nothing like the ships of Royal Soldiers, their appearance similar to the dingy, well-worn materials descendants used to create our homes. No descendants operated this machinery. The beings had moon toned faces, gray, bisque, silver, and were generally taller than descendants, though shorter than neku. Once we reached the outskirts of the city, Xandra flew down to meet us.
“It would be best if I had a disguise to keep a low profile,” she said. “They might view a normal neku with no issue, yet my position as Princess is widely known and controversial.”
“Perhaps Diego and I can find you something to cover with,” Barken said. I already expected this to be problematic: Xandra wouldn’t fit most clothing descendants wore. Thinking back to what happened in Sol, who knew what kind of currency these citizens exchanged.
Barken and I embarked on this strange town and nearly got ourselves killed the second we stepped in it. “Watch out!” Barken cried when a hovering machine nearly crashed into us.
“Off the street!” a driver with moon colored skin and a tinted eyepiece yelled out as they sped right passed us. Worrying about these new customs and rules was already a struggle. And the people were enigmas themselves, not to mention the motorist. Barken and I noticed their distinct, ivory hair blowing in the wind behind them, and the grey-bisque tone of their face and hands as though the sun hardly touched them. These new beings each had lighter-toned hair that colored porcelain, beige, or ivory, with clothing that was often layered and covering the entirety of their bodies. Did these people not live in a desert?
We finally came across an elementalist vendor packing up for the day, their remaining clothing laid out in a small booth facing the street.
“You two must have excellent luck finding me before I was off,” the elementalist man said, modifying his selection in real-time. After hearing our story about us having left our hometown, he couldn’t let us go without offering some clothes. We were shocked by his generosity. Around us, the streets and buildings began to illuminate with lights that seemed to come out of nowhere.
“It’s electricity!” The man laughed. “Those lamp posts there are powered by it. You’ll get used to them, they're everywhere! Helps keep the hover cars and bikes on the road. These Victorians… Why can’t they just use fire?” The elementalist sparked a fire in his palms with a snap.
“You mean those moon-faced motorists we’ve seen around here?” I asked.
“You guessed it. They are the children of the Victor Dynasty.” Now they had a name. From the sound of it, descendants coexist among the Victorians here, specializing in abilities Barken and I weren't aware of yet.
“I can conjure a larger sized garment for you, but I don’t understand why you want it so big? This young descendant your buying for is experiencing quite the growth spurt…”
When the vendor asked for payment, Barken offered some of the succulents and cacti he collected in the desert, much to my relief. I’d rather scavenge food for us than eat any more of that bitter, spiked plant. When we inquired about a place to say, the elementalist insisted there were inns throughout the city. Being refugees could even give us a pass on payment, but what do we do with the Princess of Deko accompanying us? The exchange was made, and we made our way to the original meeting spot to find Xandra. Seeing her try on the garments was a sight to see.
“You descendants have the most comfortable clothing,” she said, constantly feeling at her skirt that fell to her feet and simple bodice that exposed her belly. “A change from the heavy plated armor we soldiers are forced to wear...” Along with a hood to cover her head, we were ready to traverse Yureesha together without raising as much wariness.
We didn’t know what to make of this town with towering structures of complex metals that stood sky high. The constant sound of machinery and wild motorists kept me on edge. Barken stood by my side to calm me as the noise became too unbearable. Even the supposed headlights the elementalist told us to look out for gave me no relief.
“If one more motorist tries to run us down, I’ll yank them off their machine and give them a lesson on decency!” I threatened.
And the strange citizens. It was nightfall and none of them seemed primed for rest or anxious to head home. The Victorians and descendants were interspersed in the streets, buying foods, enjoying drinks. Children roamed around seemingly unsupervised, only the lamp posts and building lights as their guides through the town. A few of our descendant brethren stopped us in the street to introduce themselves, overjoyed to see new faces. A select few warmed up to Xandra on occasion when they realized she was our companion. Some had already picked up on her having been healed by a descendant, which was unsettling and intriguing at once. The Victorians tinkered with shiny and metal objects, working with tools that clanked, cut, and burned, tuning the world out. It was though they had ears of steel. The Victorians were a concentrated and reserved people enjoying their reading and tinkering, hardly socializing. When they weren’t in the driver’s seat of those obnoxious devices, they didn’t seem too hard to coexist with.
When the noise became too much, I suggested we take a break in an alleyway. Despite the vendor’s claim that inns were “just about everywhere,” there were often no vacancies. Yureesha was some travel destination for outsiders, an odd realization considering the idea of a place for vacationing was a completely foreign concept to anyone from Orion or anywhere east of the Soren Desert. This town grew stranger.
“Oh my, would you look at that!” Barken, Xandra, and I peered around to the entrance of the alley where an advancing descendant was coming quickly toward us. I nearly attempted to skewer them with my daggers. “How fascinating! A trio of two descendants and a neku?? What a treat!” The descendant started sniffing Barken and myself as though we were familiars. Then he made his way to Xandra. “I hope you don’t mind.” Before Xandra could answer, he was already all over her, gauging her scent. I was amazed at her restraint.
“What is he doing?” Xandra asked, eyeing this obnoxious descendant intruding in her space.
“Don’t be too alarmed,” Barken said. “Some descendants greet each other by smell. Although, usually they know someone well before doing so…”
Barken walked up the descendant who kept taking whiffs of Xandra and put a hand on his shoulder.
“I think she might be uncomfortable, sir. Do you mind?”
The stranger stopped sniffing and turned to Barken. He was grinning. He suddenly yelled out, “Eureka, come here! I found us friends!”
“Friends?!” I spat out. We knew nothing about him!
A woman with silver skin and ivory locks that fell on her shoulders appeared at the entrance of the alley approaching more cautiously than her partner. She wore a floor-length honey yellow dress that extended wide at her hips, white tights on her legs, and a white blouse. She was practically glowing.
“Do you know them?” she asked skeptically. “Hello, you three. Don’t think I’ve seen you around here before. My name is Eureka, and that is my partner Taiko.”
“Pleased to make your acquaintance!” greeted Taiko, bowing to each of us. He spent extra time facing me, a mischievous grin on his face. “Are you new here? Where are you staying? Goodness me, we’re chatting in an alley and I can hardly see your faces! Let’s head back into the street.” Taiko grabbed Barken and his partner Eureka’s arm, much to their shock, yanking them to the alley’s entrance.
“Hold on a minute!” I yelled out, with Xandra rushing beside me.
“It’s okay!” Eureka yelled back. “He wouldn’t harm a fly!”
Once we explained we had nowhere to rest for the night, Taiko once again took charge of the situation and insisted we stay the night with him and Eureka in a shared home. I was already lost as we made constant twists and turns through the city. I noted Taiko’s mauve skin with his shamrock green armlets and anklets that jangled as he moved, along with a black choker that circled his neck. His thick, wavy black hair was kept back in a ponytail that fell down his back.
It was an inconspicuous building they took us to. Its windows weren’t illuminated like the rest of town and the outside of it had a dark tint. One could easily miss it if Taiko hadn’t hauled us here. Xandra, Barken, and I were rightfully suspicious.
“It’s a disguise,” Eureka explained. “Due to the business we conduct, it’s of utmost importance that we attract as little attention as possible.”
“What kind of business are you conducting?” I asked, having a hard time hiding my skepticism.
Eureka smiled toward Taiko. “It’s best if we show you rather than explain it to you.”
With cautious steps, we followed behind Taiko and Eureka into the seemingly dark structure before being assaulted with bright lights. They requested we immediately closed the door behind us, and once we did, we could see why.
It was a metallic looking warehouse filled with weaponized aircraft and driving machines. Though I knew nothing of this technology, most of them appeared unfinished, damaged. Parts were spread about in an unorganized fashion. What did we get ourselves into?
“Excuse our extensive arsenal here,” said Taiko, a hint of pride in his voice though I didn’t understand what he was so prideful of. “It’s best if our activities here are on a need-to-know basis, lest we be exposed!”
“We’ll have more answers for you once you meet our captain, Rittler,” said Eureka, as though that would be reassuring.
“We call him ‘cap’ because he likes to act like the boss of us!”
We spent only the evening in this city and were already being wrapped up in some conspiracy with these shady characters. They were a giddy bunch despite the drab atmosphere, and already they revealed themselves as part of an undercover operation to absolute strangers. None of this ought to be taken lightly, yet the pair could hardly get a hold of themselves with their constant snickering. Barken, Xandra, and I exchanged worrisome glances.
A door to the side of us barged open.
“Have you two been fooling around with the locals again? We have no time for this nonse-” A grey-skinned adult with porcelain colored hair tied into a ponytail wearing a thick, olive-green long sleeve coat, spectacles, and tight, black colored trousers appeared at the doorway, posing authoritatively. He was a Victorian. He hadn’t expected Barken and I when he entered and regarded us with surprise. However, he flew back into the door when he took a look at saw Xandra. “A neku!?”
The Victorian made a panicked search for something in the breast pocket of his coat. What he pulled out was a compact, metallic object that he pointed at Xandra. Eureka and Taiko became even more excited.
“Wait!” yelled out Eureka, throwing her hands up.
“Don’t shoot, don’t shoot!” joined Taiko, also flailing his arms. Xandra’s eyes were bulging at the device. Barken and I were lost, unsure of what was happening.
“What is that?” I asked.
“It’s a gun. Haven’t seen one yet have you? Don’t worry though, Rittler isn’t going to shoot! He’s hardly even a good shot! He just gets carried away at times-”
“Carried away?!" Rittler yelled at Taiko. "Not a good shot?! Dammit, what is wrong with you two?! Do you realize you’re fraternizing with the enemy?”
“She’s not our enemy!” argued Eureka. The three of them got into an argument, fussing loudly with each other and almost ignoring us. Xandra, tiring of the meddling, stepped in front of the two of us.
“It’s going to take a lot to bring me down, Victorian,” she threatened.
Not backing down, Rittler said, “We can test that,” raising the gun toward Xandra’s head.
Barken moved quickly to Xandra’s side and said, “Stop! I can prove she’s one of us!” Barken placed a hand on Xandra’s arm, and his marigold glow emanated from his hand and onto her arm. Taiko and Eureka’s eyes sparkled, gaping at Barken’s powers. The two giggled in their excitement. Rittler lowered his gun as the light shined on his face, using a hand to shield his spectacles. As the intensity of the light lessened, so did the tension.
Taiko and Eureka immediately rushed over to Barken and Xandra.
“How beautiful!” Taiko gushed. “Wasn’t that remarkable, Eureka?!”
“Yes, what a show,” she beamed. “That is the power of a clairsentient. And a neku allowing intimacy with a descendant? Princess Xandra, we have so many questions.”
“P-Princess?” Rittler stuttered. He slowly put away his gun approaching uneasily. “Y-You, what exactly have you two been up to?”
Once Rittler lowered his defenses, Taiko and Eureka were able to explain having found us in the city with nowhere to go. It was completely coincidental that they would discover the Princess of Deko among us.
“A descendant-neku team, Rittler,” repeated Taiko. “Aren’t these the type of recruits we seek? The ones you’d least expect?”
“I wasn’t talking about neku…” he replied dismissively. It didn’t occur to me that we were in the process of recruiting for anything! I was tired of these insinuations. “And what of your ties with the Royal Soldiers?”
Xandra said, “I’m no longer a soldier. I have no scepter or armor to demonstrate my commitment, that enough should be clear.”
“And what of Deko?”
“What of him?” Rittler narrowed his eyes at her. “My father and I may be of the same blood. But we don’t share the same thirst for it. He has his ideas about how our society should be run. Mine appear to be in contradiction to that.”
Taiko and Eureka were enamored by the reformed neku, moved by her shift in morals. They haven’t had the chance to meet many neku healed by descendants, and their attraction was only amplified knowing that it was the Princess of Deko. They brought up again their eagerness for “new recruits.”
“A recruit for what?” I said. “You all keep insisting we enlist in this mystery operation you’re conducting, but we know nothing of what you do!”
Rittler frowned and folded his arms, giving a vicious glare toward Taiko and Eureka. “Didn’t I tell you two,” he said, “no one should be in the warehouse unless they express their commitment to join us. You both are terrible recruiters!”
Taiko sighed with exasperation like the idea of explaining himself was too much of a hassle. “Though it shouldn’t be a mystery, Eureka, Rittler, and I are a part of a resistance against Deko.” I was glad they finally spat it out. That explained Rittler’s intense reaction earlier.
“We’re always looking for members to join us,” said Eureka, “and hoped you three could be a part of the team? We may not seem like much, however, with more of us…”
Barken, Xandra, and I acknowledged each other. Their mission did coincide with our own. Entering Yureesha and seemingly out of Deko territory, the three of us only got a glimpse of life outside of its borders and were already being pulled into this seemingly never-ending war.
“You don’t have to answer now!” Taiko blurted out. “You can sleep on it! We have rooms for you to stay in until you’ve had time to process-”
“Taiko!” Rittler interrupted, “I said already they must be formally part of the team for them to stay here! Aren’t you worried about exposure!?” I didn’t understand what Rittler was concerned for. Who, if anyone, in Yureesha would be worried about a trio of citizens staying in a warehouse full of shabby, broken machinery?
“But they’re so adorable!” Taiko whined, leaning himself into me. I was incredibly uncomfortable with his fawning over Barken and I. And with his persistence, the “captain” gave in. Barken, Xandra, and I became temporary citizens of Yureesha, and Barken and I were free from the restraint of our fugitive statuses. We had the option before us to build a new life, experiencing a great change in ourselves along the way. It was only natural that we’d want to share in our freedom, smashing the chains of bondage that hold our loved ones down. There was more to this world than we know, and now we have the chance to explore it.
Something was alluring about the Yureesha skyline when thunderstorms hit. Lightning struck rods built on top of towers in the city, adding to the amount of electricity that flowed through it. It was a city known to attract more lightning storms than anywhere else around it. Taiko says he’ll take us lightning catching one day, but I was terrified by what that entailed. We’ve been here for a few days, and sharing space with our potential partners was a journey unto itself.
Rittler continues to regard Xandra, Diego, and I with open suspicion, interrogating us whenever we left the warehouse and insistently questioning our real intentions. What he didn’t expect was a duo like Diego and Xandra who have always been opposed to answering to anyone.
“Do none of you understand the meaning of being covert?” he lectured us one day as we were headed out the door.
Xandra didn’t hesitate. “I would think they do. After all, aren’t they fugitives?”
We did have some leverage allowing us to stay. Xandra was the true game-changer here, her presence essential as she was our only connection to the Royal Soldiers and neku. If anyone could influence them, she can. Rittler wasn’t convinced. Eureka, having worked alongside Rittler all this time, knew how to negotiate with him.
“Xandra’s presence here can only benefit us, cap. As the Princess, she could sway other Royal Soldiers to denounce Deko’s rule and end their occupation of our homes. Why would we want to lose out an ally like that?”
Rittler begrudgingly conceded to our stay as long as we pledged not to expose them. And he reminded us of this daily.
I’d been curious as to what led Eureka to join the resistance against Deko in the first place.
“The Ida Dynasty aren’t the only ones to face the wrath of the Royal Soldiers,” she said, a glower on her face. “I aim to correct the destruction that’s befallen the people of Victor. I don’t take Deko’s crimes lightly, and am dedicated to seeing his empire fall.” Despite a peaceful demeanor, Eureka’s focus was an unwavering force. She would be a formidable ally.
Poor Taiko has been a handful. Infatuated with Diego and I, his showing of affection has been more intimate than the two of us were used to. Some nights, I’d be surprised to find him having joined us in bed, much to Diego’s chagrin. Once, I woke up to an extra hand covered in gems pressed against my back. I turned around to find Taiko, his hair free from his usual ponytail knot, cuddling Diego from behind. Diego’s reaction was painfully expected.
“Taiko!” Diego screamed at him, kicking Taiko off the bed. “You need to be sleeping in your own bed! Get out of here!!”
Taiko admits that Diego and I are the few descendants he interacts with, hence his intrigue with the two of us. “My ideas tend to ostracize me. It’s natural for the citizens of Yureesha to forget how fortunate we are to be free. But it won’t always be like this, Barken! We have to fight back or we’ll pay for our negligence!!! Oh? I always get so heated when I talk about this. It’s no wonder others find me insufferable, and it’s up to me to recruit new members!” Taiko laughed at himself. Despite being like no other, Diego and I found something important to us outside of Orion: Another home.
Diego took me to a peak suggested by Eureka overlooking the city. A cool breeze started to pick up. Both of us were facing another mountain in the distance, watching the snowfall on top of it.
“Kind of nice not to be on the run anymore, huh?” he asked me.
“Yes. I’m happy that have this time to rest.”
“You feel safe, right?”
This moment of pause was sent by Ida, allowing us to breathe much easier than we ever had before. We were completely free of our bondage. But our hearts weighed heavily knowing others didn’t get this chance.
“We’ll talk to Rittler soon,” he said, as though reading my mind.
I looked at Diego and my imagination went wild, thinking of the two of us and how far we’ve come together.
“Diego,” I said, “Can you see us now? Joining Xandra, Taiko, Rittler, and Eureka to change our world as we know it? I won’t understate the sacrifices we’ve made and will have to make, but Antares and Pauline didn’t fight for us to do nothing. And if we remain steadfast in our resolve, we could defeat Deko in our lifetime.”
Diego laughed. “You’re very confident, such needed optimism during this time. So long we’ve been at each other’s side, I wouldn’t dare lose out on being with you as we commit to changing this world. I believe in you, and I will follow you wherever you go.”
He held my hand to hold, kissing it. The many times we defied death up until now baffles me. It was as though forces beyond kept us together and brought us to the people who only strengthened our relationship. Rosco, Sapphire, Kalo, they each reminded us of how important we were to each other. It was like he was the one I was meant to spend the rest of my life with.
“Think Diego,” I said, “you have no way of knowing how long we’re going to be doing this. Revolutions don’t have a definite end! One day I’ll have to carry your child and it would be difficult for me to ambulate all the time. Of course, we’ll need a descendant woman to start the process and we can do the “seahorse method” of having her implant the babe into me so she won’t have to carry it to full term and - is this too much for me to bring up?”
“No!” Diego said quickly, his eyes locked onto me. He was picking up Xandra’s speech habits. Diego had a funny look on his face as he stared at me. He turned me around to face him and grabbed both my hands in his. “None of this is too much. I’ve wanted this for a long time...” He opened his arms and pulled me in for a deep embrace. “I’d love for you to have my child.”
We were twined like vines on the ice-cold peak. And a lightning storm began rolling in.
Thanks for reading to the finish, all! I know it's been a long time coming. When the inspiration comes, I'll start on the next book for the series. For now, feel free to check out my story profile every once in awhile. I should be starting on a new story soon :).