THIRTY-SIX (Part 2)

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Once everything was settled, and the three were in the ship, Ferrix said, "I will inform the captain of our arrangement," and headed for the captain's cabin.

Morita whispered to Laptus, "I'm going with him."

Laptus nodded. "I'm going to find a room for myself."

The deities parted. Morita caught up to Ferrix. She could see that he wanted to ask her something. "What is it?"

The comte glanced back at her. "I'm sure Lance has already asked you many questions. Unless you haven't told him that you are..."

"He knows."

"Then, why are holy deities heading for Qín Rianco if their influence is in Melbaysín?"

His words reminded her of something, an uneasy feeling swirled in the area of her stomach. Surely, Lance had published his article in the newspaper by now. Could Stalver use that to take control of Melbaysín even easier?

If the word of a spotted deity was spread, well then it would only make the Melbands' fall faster when Stalver appeared.

Morita said, "There are people in Qín Rianco that we need to talk to."

"People," he echoed.

"Deities."

He opened the door to the captain's cabin. It was a small room with chests and barrels pushed against the wooden plank walls. Tiny chandeliers hung from the ceiling, holding lifeless stumpy candles. One wall held a map that showed from Melbaysín and the Karvic Empire to Asere and Qín Rianco.

An old man in a ship captain's uniform looked up from his messy desk. Morita tensed, preparing herself for a scrutinizing stare, but the captain's eyes didn't linger on her long.

Comte Ferrix gestured to her. "This is..." he faltered when he realized he didn't know her name.

She stepped forward, nearly knocking over a globe. "I am Morita, a deity from Verotz." She felt the comte's surprise that she would reveal her identity so carelessly.

The captain slowly stood without caution and gravitation toward the hidden blade somewhere in his desk. She couldn't decide if he was brave or foolish.

Ferrix said, "Morita and her companion are coming with us." He continued as the captain started to walk to him.

Seeing that she was no longer needed in the discussion, she moved toward the desk. She found a sheet of paper and a pencil, and she started to write.

Lance.

My world is in trouble. I'm going to Qín Rianco because there are people there that might be able to help me. But I need your help. Come to Qín Rianco, I'm on the ship with your father. Find me when you arrive. Or I'll find you. I'll explain everything. I understand if you don't want to come, but I have a feeling you've always wanted an adventure that might kill you. Lance, if you've ever wanted a story that will change history. This is it.

M.

She folded the letter once, twice, and then interrupted Ferrix and the captain. "Ferrix. Get this to your son."

The comte pocketed the letter and the captain said, "You're very lucky, miss. A day later and we would have left."

Morita left without a word It's not about luck. It's what Fate had in mind.

She was just about to unfold the paper that Scioren had gave her when the door to her cabin opened with an alerting creak. She glanced up and was surprised to see Laptus wearing new clothes.

"You look different," she said.

"I convinced one of the crew boys to wash my clothes while I borrowed some of his. When we land in Qín Rianco, the first thing we're going to do is get new clothes. The colors of the Dishonoreds and the Heavens don't suit us anymore."

Laptus's new clothes didn't either. A large sand-colored coat hung on her athletic but lithe build, bunching at her wrists where she had obviously tried to keep the sleeves at bay.

"I think I'm going to keep my uniform for the trip. But yes, we need new clothes."

Morita shifted on the small bed when Laptus sat down on the chair facing her.

"Morita," she said seriously, "Aruma and I have been talking for the past few weeks." Morita felt a small, sharp tang of jealousy run through her, but she ignored it.

Laptus continued, "I remember hearing about you, a deity who could resurrect an entire army. When I got the chance to not only meet you, but train you as well, I knew it was my chance to hopefully end the war. I noticed that you didn't know anything. You tried to keep a façade of loyalty for the Dishonoreds but you were open to new opportunities. But I didn't know what to do so I pretended to be just another Heaven.

"Then I met Aruma. He was always quiet, but when I questioned him, he was always distant and cold about the Dishonoreds."

Morita said, "So you thought it would be better to have him as an ally."

Laptus shook her head. "Yes, but more importantly, the two of you were always together."

Morita was glad she couldn't blush. "Getting to me through him."

"Precisely. We talked in secret. We both agreed to subtly put ideas in your head. I tried on my part, but I never could muster the words. I always seemed to say the wrong things. Aruma and I talked about the plans we had for you. But today—" she cut off, looking through the window at the night sky. "Or rather, yesterday, wasn't planned."

"The only ones that had a plan were Scioren and Corvid." She paused. "Why are you telling me this now?"

Laptus looked back at her. Her eyes flickered down the paper in Morita's hand. "So you know that I've been with you since the beginning. Decide what you want to do."

Laptus stood up and just as she was about to leave, she added, "We will try to help and guide you, but none of us can do what you can."

The deity left, leaving Morita to take in her words.

She looked down at Scioren's note and quickly opened it. The writing was rushed.

Find yourself in Lihared. Remember Falor, Alorza, and Volo

The rest of Volorial's name was a mess of lines and swirls. Morita frowned. Find myself in Lihared? What does that mean? And this is the last place I want to be remembering those three.

She dove into the Underworld and sought out Scioren's spirit. There was a spirit in front of her, but it wasn't Scioren.

Aruma.

She nearly shouted.

What do you treasure the most, Aruma? I need to bring you back!

His spirit gazed calmly at her.

Can you hear me?

He didn't respond.

What do I need to resurrect you?

The white, transparent wisp formed arms that gestured to the dome of spirits around them. She looked around. What are you trying to tell me?

She looked back to it, but Aruma's spirit was gone. It was clear that he had shown all he wanted to say.

Godsdamn you! Why do none of you ever say what you want me to know? Why do I have to uncover and decipher all your words?

Morita left the Underworld frustrated and more confused than she had been going in. She shook her head and stared at the note in her hands like the words would shift and reveal something more obvious.

She stared at it, flashbacks to the chaotic day before running through her mind, until the text started to blur and ripple. She laid down, crushing it in her palm. She covered her eyes with her arm as her mouth opened in a silent sob.

She fought the urge to curl up and mourn her friends. She wanted to cry and scream. Breathing slowly to control herself, she calmed for a second, only for another wave of emotions to crash into her. 

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