Lasha woke up with her brain intact again. It took her a moment to realize that everything inside Celeste’s home had been returned to the way it was. Marvyad sat next to her on the couch. Celeste poured them a cup of tea.
“I heard the air deities were rough but that was beyond my expectations.”
“She’s out of our hair for now.” Celeste said. “I believe Marvie’s speech may not have fallen on quite so deaf ears.”
“You seem to have understood her deal a bit better than us.” Lasha said to her friend.
“Both of us have come from a time on Shandi that was very divided and encouraged people to violently enforce those divisions. I fled because I wanted no part of that. She still believes in that system. Even though she was deemed as lesser by it, she thinks she can rise on top by stomping down on those yet below her. Clinging to that little superiority she was granted above them. I don’t think what I told her will fix that.”
“Not on its own. But who knows how often that belief had been challenged already.” Celeste drank her tea. Lasha found it still too hot.
“I know magic users tend to specialize in a certain element. Like fire, or healing. What do you specialize in?”
“I’m sure you can guess. I like to make toys. Simple plushies or intricate mechanisms. It’s a very versatile magic.”
“That sounds nice. Is it because you are a master that you could fix up this place so fast?”
“I may not tell.”
“Why were you chosen to be a demigod?”
“Out of pity perhaps. No, I shouldn’t say that. Why were you chosen? I believe it was something like that for me as well.”
“For how long have you been a demigod?”
“I do not keep track of time. That is for other deities to do.”
“What is it a deity of dream does?”
“We keep secrets.”
Lasha nodded as if she understood. She drank her tea.
“Are you okay, Lasha?” Marvyad asked.
Lasha put her empty cup down. “I’m not any worse.”
“I’m sorry I couldn’t protect you.” Celeste apologized. “I was afraid that if I fought back, I’d only prolong the violence. It isn’t good for me to engage in it… How is the tea?”
“I may not taste it but I like that it warms me.” Marvie answered.
“Let’s get this over with.” Lasha said.
The house, that Midori gave them the address to, was located in a town called Slatewood. That was back in Kekrem, near the border to Maddrak. Again, it did not appear at all special. To all their relief, Duuri was not there. Lasha went to press the doorbell but Marvie stopped her. “Wait.”
Lasha gave Marvie her attention.
“Midori said that we cannot learn anything about these people, right? Only the spell.”
“Yes. Some time stuff. I’m guessing they’re from the future and we aren’t supposed to know about them yet.”
“Okay, but how will we actually do that?”
“It’s only I who has to learn the spell. And I’m great at forgetting.” Celeste said. “Perhaps you could be blindfolded. Or wait outside. I’d rather have you with me though.”
“I hope they don’t have too distinct voices.”
“It’ll be fine.” Celeste pulled two blindfolds out of her pockets.
“You came prepared, huh?”
Lasha and Marvie put on the blindfolds. Celeste rang for them. The door opened.
“What are your names?” The voice did not stand out much. She couldn’t even narrow down the age.
“I’m Lasha Felomi. Celeste here will be the one to learn the spell.”
“And what about the Shandari?”
“She just came with us.”
“Okay. I see you’ve been warned by Midori. Granted, this situation is new for me as well, but Midori wouldn’t have allowed it if it went wrong. Come in.”
Celeste took them by the hands and guided them in. The door clicked into place behind them.
“Sit them down there.” the stranger said. Lasha and Marvie sat down on cushioned chairs.
“Are these our secret guests, dad?” a child asked.
“Yes. Remember, no names.”
“I know! Can I play with them afterwards?”
“I’m afraid not. Please go to your room.”
“I wanna watch.”
“Your fairy kingdom needs her queen.”
“They abolished the monarchy two weeks ago, dad.”
“Look, I just don’t want to ruin the surprise. You might meet these people sometime in the future. Or they you. And that’s a secret only you will know.”
“I can keep secrets!”
“Not if you make them realize who you are. So go in your room.”
“Okay!” Lasha heard steps stomping up the stairs.
“Sorry about that. I’d like to keep this as short as possible. I already have a lot on my hands with her. And I’ve come to despise ever designing this spell.”
“Believe me, I don’t like this either.” Celeste said.
From then on, Lasha and Marvyad didn’t follow what was happening anymore. The stranger only explained parts of the spell but a lot of it was left uncommented. Lasha appreciated having a moment of calm to herself though. She could think with a new clarity. Let thoughts in she had been afraid of before. From the day she was turned nigh immortal, she had wondered what it would feel like to die, or at least get as close to it as she did today. Over time, she had begun to mythify it. It became this looming presence. She started to feel like letting her body die would cut loose all those burdens. That she could return from it with all baggage left in the grave. Was curious what it would feel like. If there was no consequence to it, why not find out?
Now she knew. It changed nothing. If anything it only disgusted her that she thought it would help. How it escalated. Ever since her parents died, there had been a malevolent voice in her head. This had been the biggest thing it asked for yet, and it got it. But Lasha knew in time it would ask again. Try its best to seduce her. Seek her out when she was vulnerable. No one but her knew about it. At least in full detail. Now was not the time to bring it up either. Lasha lied when she said she didn’t feel any worse. But she also felt different. These self-destructive acts never helped her. Always made her feel worse. It was so clear in her head. Then just stop. It only makes it worse. Condescendingly simple. But the sentiment had been translated in her head into a form she understood. One that did not brush away the difficulty, the exhaustion. It fired up a resolve, a new way to channel it. One that would grow weak at times all the same but one that would hold out through those times. One that could keep going even if it broke in places. She always wanted to feel better. But now she wanted to fight for it with everything she got. Not just with fists but with teeth and fingernails, with broken limbs and cold blood.
“I think you grasp it now.” The stranger said.
“My resolve is already weak. I hoped it would not be so taxing.” Celeste said.
“You will only need to keep it up for a little while.”
“Can I ask why you created such a spell?”
“To be prepared for anything. Fortunately, it was never necessary.”
“I suppose we should leave then. Perhaps one day we’ll truly meet.”
“I’m certain we will.”
Celeste guided her companions back out. An hour had passed. After the door closed behind them, they took off their blindfolds.
“That was less scary than I thought it would be.” Marvie said.
“What’s the plan now?” Celeste asked.
“Valyra will go for Kekremu next. She is the easiest to find of the ones left. Depending on how much time she wasted finding Cralvalas, we should reach her first. The moment you see her, you will trap her and we will destroy her soul.” Lasha explained.
“Okay. If I remember right, Kekremu is usually inside the volcano in northwest Kekrem.”
“Right. Celeste?” Lasha hugged her. “Thank you.”
“Don’t thank me yet. We should go. Duuri will come collect us soon, probably.”
Celeste lagged a bit behind. Marvie kept looking at Lasha.
“You’ve been smiling since we left that house.”
“I decided I will no longer hesitate to be happy.”
“Are you happy now?”
“No. But it will grow weak eventually and let me.”
“That sounds good.” Marvie smiled too.
Two can play that game.