Chapter 15 - Farther Away
“You should’ve thought of this sooner,” Jomiko complained.
“You could’ve thought if it sooner, too,” Arata pointed out, childishly.
Back at Stormdream, the group had transferred their mounts from the stables into the ship. When they were roughly one day from catching sight of land, it occurred to Arata they could lift off with them and cover the rest of the way faster.
Kazuki rode alone. Jomiko rode with Miyabi and Pixa with Arata, as she had before, and Sanpu was driving the griffin that carried him and his sister. Both Pixa and Fuun’na were holding on to the driver, holding bags of supplies in between them, outside of those tied to the beasts themselves.
“I’M THIRSTY!” Sanpu shouted out at the air. He bent his head back to rest it on Fuun’na’s right shoulder. She uncorked a cantil to give him some water. He gulped and gurgled, all pleased, before spewing it at Fuun’na’s face.
“ACK!” She winced back and smacked Sanpu, pushing him to sit straight. “Idiot!” She smacked him again.
“Watch it, guys, you’ll fall,” Pixa pointed out worriedly.
“Oh yes, better be careful… we can faaAAAAAAHH…” The griffin dove down, abruptly, and Fuun’na screamed while Sanpu amusedly yelled as if he wasn’t in control.
Near the water, he pulled up, breaking loose a loud laugh. When the griffin returned to their side, they could see Fuun’na had turned her back on her brother. She was dumping her bag of supplies down to the water and Sanpu had his cheek bruised, giggling in silence.
“What’re you doing?!” Miyabi asked, appalled. “That’s all your food and drink for the day!”
“Not ours, just his! Let the bastard starve!” Sanpu still giggled away, more silently, but audibly.
Arata rolled his eyes, slightly amused. Kazuki observed, silent. One of the great mysteries he had yet to solve was which of the Blood’s nature… was their true one: the goofy and childish happiness they demonstrated whenever playing with each other or the bloodthirsty and merciless savagery they manifested whenever doing anything else.
Whatever the reality, he only hoped he wouldn’t be paired up with either of them, again.
As much as the idea of flying off to get to the Aellea’s island was good, it sure wasn’t all that comfortable, socially speaking. As soon as Fuun’na and Sanpu retreated themselves into whispering in each other’s ears, the silence became particularly awkward.
Arata never liked awkward silences.
“So, have you two ever been to Aellea?”
Sanpu and Fuun’na looked at him.
“Yeah,” Sanpu replied, “on a job or other. Pretty place,” he added, allowing Funn’na to finish the sentence. “…though a bit too touchy about its wildlife.”
“Haha, yeah. Well, we’re kinda half-beasts ourselves so it stands to reason we’d have some respect for them.”
“Letting them take a dump in the middle of a living room isn’t my idea of respect,” Sanpu jested, making Fuun’na laugh, “but a’ight.”
“Well, extremists will be extremists,” Arata shrugged, “still, if they’re heading there, then they’re doomed. We have some contacts there, don’t we, Jomiko?”
“Really? I was under the impression I’d punch them all already.”
“You punch me often enough, I’m still here.”
“Yes but you’re stupid,” she glanced to the side.
Arata rolled his eyes, shaking his head as he looked back at Pixa “Don’t we, Pixa?”
She giggled. “I dunno, do we?”
“You’re letting all Lan people down, guys. Where’s the unity?!” Arata beckoned, raising his arms in desperation.
“In strength, of course!” Jomiko replied, throwing up a fist.
“No, no, Jomiko. Strength in unity. That’s the saying.”
“Pff. Come at me with your unity, then we’ll see which fairs better.”
“C’mon, that doesn’t make sense. It’s what we’re doing right now. We’re…’going at them’ with our unity.”
“That is in our strength!” Jomiko flexed her left arm.
“And blade!” Sanpu drew his sword unexpectedly.
The group held its silence for a few seconds.
“And magic!” Pixa said, amid a giggle, shooting off a small light beam.
“And more blade!” Fuun’na complimented, drawing her greatsword.
They looked at Arata who raised an eyebrow with an amusing grin on his face. “What?”
They took that as an answer and looked to Kazuki. He leaned back a bit, looking troubled and annoyed. They opened their eyes into pressuring stares.
“And…smarts?” Kazuki put out, with a mild shrug.
Sanpu laughed with Fuun’na, along with Miyabi who enjoyed ridiculing him. Jomiko scoffed.
“What? Intelligence is important during combat.”
“It cannot compare to the guts and instincts of a veteran warrior!” Jomiko argued.
“Or just rage!” Sanpu agreed.
“Hm. Whatever you say…” Kazuki shrugged it away, leaving Jomiko pleased with herself.
After a few moments, it all reverted back to the awkward silence. Arata looked up, again feeling the breeze that refreshed the sun’s heat on his skin. It felt great.
But he still didn’t feel fine with the uncomfortable silence. He tried to think of what to say. Looking at the distance, though, something occurred to him.
“So…nice weather we’re having, huh?”
After almost a full day, when night had long since emerged and only the moon lit their way, they finally crossed over the coast. They didn’t go to a harbor town since they had flown straight. Instead, they flew over a cliff which plummeted into the stormy waters that made a coastal site. The hill-side was tall enough that it made them ascend even higher to fly over it.
The air was thinner there.
“Still no word from Leaf?” Kazuki questioned, sounding a bit tired.
“Duh,” Miyabi said, spiteful, “if there was, I woulda…I would’ve said so. Idiot”
Kazuki breathed out noisily, keeping himself in check.
“So we head for Aellea?” Kazuki proposed, massaging his nose to try and ignore the spite. “It’s at the center of this side of the island anyways so it’s our best bet.”
“Agreed,” Arata and Jomiko said in a chorus. “Sorry!” Arata immediately said, to avoid Jomiko’s reaction.
“Yeah…like…same here,” Sanpu stated, his head trying to bow down with closed eyes.
“Let’s just hope they’re ok,” Miyabi commented, massaging her eyes to keep herself awake, “and didn’t die or something. You know, on this suicide mission you sent them on.”
“Heeey…” Arata protested, waving his arm around. “Don’t call it a suicide mission.”
“And nobody sent them on anything. They took the quest of their own voluntary volition.”
“Whatever helps you sleep at night." She gave a very clearly fake yawn "… murderer.” Her casual tone was infuriating.
“That… is completely uncalled for,” Kazuki stated in a threatening voice.
“Guys guys…let’s all chill,” Arata of course, “we’re all sleepy here… we’re all grumpy…ehm…here. Let’s just, ya know, talk about sports or something, or tell jokes. Let’s tell jokes.”
“Gods no, Arata,” Jomiko pleaded though she was heavy-eyed already. “Not that.”
“No no…listen,” Arata bent around and then noticed Pixa was drooling over his shoulder.
“Ewww, Pixa,” he shook it. “Wake up, you’re…you’re drooling all over me!”
“Eh?” She opened her eyes in a very slow realization that she had fallen asleep. Then she became aware she had fallen asleep on Arata’s shoulder, and finally, she became aware she had been drooling. “Eh?! I-I-I…I’m sorry, this has never happened before, really!”
“Pfah, try every time you’ve ever been in a…in a…”
“Stakeout?” Miyabi suggested.
“Stakeout! Aw…so sleepy,” Jomiko waved her head in a circle.
“They’re lying Kazuki, really!” The scare woke Pixa up completely. She had looked back at Kazuki who heard her but didn’t really react.
Except for an awkward: “ok?”
“Arrgh, so embarrassing!” She dug her head into Arata’s back. He didn’t mind it, he lifted a finger.
“So two grains of sand are crossing the desert…”
“Here we go…” Jomiko groaned in complaint.
“SUDDENLY!” He shouted, waking up Fuun’na.
She yelled with a jerk, squeezing Sanpu out of a sudden fear of heights.
“Ack…gahk…calm down, sis!”
“What was that?!” Fuun’na asked, scared.
“My joke” Arata said, triumphantly. “I’ll start again.”
“Well now I’m scared,” Jomiko put out, her head leaning towards him.
“What did you call me?” She straightened up but Arata ignored her. They were in the middle of the air, not even she was that crazy.
“So two grains of sand are crossing the desert…when SUDDENLY!”
He waved in such a way Pixa reacted as if to grab him so he wouldn’t fall but he was just a bit wobbly and out of focus.
“When suddenly, one of them turns to the other, and tells him…but like…in a serious whisper, you know? It’s serious, he tells him ‘hey man…I think we’re being followed!’”
A moment of silence… preceded two instantaneous face-palms, by Kazuki and Miyabi.
Pixa snorted before them and was still giggling when Jomiko face-palmed herself, followed closely by Fuun’na.
After all of that, Sanpu finally react.
“OH! I GEDDIT! ’Cause they’re crossing the desert, right?”
And he bawled in laughter.