Chapter 25 - Eyes of a Healer
Since Miyabi had stayed behind, it wasn’t difficult getting Persephonai room in their griffens. He first rode with Arata, working his healing on the Ram Lan to the best of his ability. It took him the better part of the sunrise to make sure he could survive the flight, and though he still needed it, he had to change patients to focus on the twins.
He first healed Sanpu, who was a bit uncooperative, going as far as pushing him off the griffen on a spasm at one time. He had wings, though, so it wasn’t that serious. His sister, Fuun’na, was remarkably more cooperative, though she did tease him about his masculinity, or rather, lack-there-of. The twins were unpleasant and quickly made him miss Arata who was surprisingly good spirited and, in a simple word, nice.
He filled Persephonai in on the remarkably random circumstances that made them be involved in this and felt kind of bad about not being able to tell him about his own motivation about Danatcia. It was, though, too embarrassing to talk about.
“I assure you. I’m not up to anything evil.”
“As expected from a Xia,” Arata replied with an easy smile, and that kind of made Persephonai fell better. More confident.
They managed to make good time and reach the border between Aellea’s territory and Spellgate’s side of the island. They were divided by a row of mountains that reached so high they were visible hours before actual contact.
They did reach them, though, when the sun was setting. But the griffens had a hard time with the altitude and it was obvious they wouldn’t be able to fly over the mountains. And going around would take too long so they decided to land, camp for the night, and then proceed on foot when the day dawned again. Cross straight through.
“Sounds like a plan, my thighs are killing me!” Jomiko agreed.
“Yeah, the griffens do look in pain, we better cross on foot.”
Kazuki wouldn’t be cold, being a Rei. Persephonai was, by the contrary, shivering. His clothes were too light for that snowy weather.
“Alright, lead us down, please.”
Kazuki nodded and did so. They descended to land on the snow, and in good time, too, since winds picked up a lot once darkness started falling, and that happened mere minutes after they landed.
The griffens were so tired, however, that they didn’t really land but rather allowed their torsos to plane into the ground. It made for a kind of a rough landing that, in Pixa’s case, threw her off the saddle.
She landed face first on the ground, right next to Jomiko. She had fallen too, but she threw herself off as she landed. They groaned with relief at allowing their body to lie down, even in the icy cold snow.
“Oh maaaaan, I’m so tired.” Jomiko rolled to face up and, in seconds, found herself shivering. She stood up in a jolt, “argh! So cold!”
Pixa pushed her face off the snow and smacked her hair gently to get it off. She immediately sneezed, already sporting a runny nose.
“We need to find shelter,” Arata suggested while dismounting, “and grab hold of your griffens, we can’t lose them.”
It was vividly obvious how tired they all were. Arata smiled but his shoulders were slumped. Kazuki was silent but his eyes looked on with contained scorn and impatience. Jomiko groaned every so minute, her head still bothering her, and though her shoulders and posture seemed well awake and livid, her every step screamed hesitation, and Pixa was tired of not knowing what to say to improve the mood. The awkwardness was visible on her face.
Even the twins were oddly quiet. Not that Persephonai could tell how differently they were behaving, but they were keeping themselves apart and whispering to each other. It made him nervous. Fuun’na, though, was looking actually worried.
After several minutes of treading through the snow, they finally found a small cave, inside which they made a shelter. They sparked up a fire to generate warmth and arrayed the grifens around them to further contain it.
The silence that plagued the place was uncomfortable, though. Persephonai was starting to think they weren’t actually friends but adventurers and mercenaries that happened to have banded together to defeat Danatcia’s allies.
And Danatcia herself…
His heart ached whenever he thought of her. So much so his happy face accidently drew a frown.
“C’mon, even Persephonai’s in a bad mood, now,” Pixa complained, wiping her nose.
Persephonai opened his eyes, remembering where he was. He smiled and shook his head, about to deny it.
“We’re just tired. We didn’t get enough rest,” Arata pointed out with an easy shrug.
“And I’m not in a bad mood, just a bit sleepy,” Persephonai nodded with an earnest smile.
“I miss messing around,” Pixa said, lying against one of the griffens, who was already fast sleep. His body was warm and his breathing rocked her gently.
“Not a smart thing to mess around…” Jomiko replied, from the spot on the ground that she had claimed. She had her head on top of her arm. “…when you’re neck-deep in crap.”
Sanpu and Fuun’na couldn’t help but laugh out loud, and even Arata giggled. Jomiko didn’t find it funny, obviously, since she wasn’t kidding.
“Messing around is exactly what you should do,” Sanpu argued.
“Just standing still in it is exactly what they want us to do,” Fuun’na put in, “but I mean, we’re already in it, we should have fun!”
“What they want us to do is die,” Kazuki, who had picked a spot near the entrance, interrupted. The cold didn’t bother him so he just sat and leaned against the wall, enjoying the fresh air. “They didn’t before, but they certainly do now.”
“Oh, so what? People want us dead all the time,” Sanpu casually waved the concern aside, “you just keep not dying, and every time they fail to kill you, you go back. Eventually, they trip and make a mistake, which is when you win. Until then, they worry,” he laughed in enjoyment which allowed his sister to pick up the thought:
“You think they’re sleeping peacefully, Kazuki?
“They’re not,” Fuun’na pointed out, happy and not really allowing for an answer, “they’re worried, they’re losing sleep and they’re as tired as we are.”
Kazuki scoffed. “I doubt that.”
“And I care why?” Fuun’na spat, followed by a joint giggle with Sanpu. They were lying together next to the fire, on their sides so they faced each other.
“It doesn’t matter,” Arata commented, also lying down next to the fire, with Persephonai sitting next to him. He had picked up on healing him. “We’ll have plenty of time to rest once we get paid for this quest.”
“Quest,” Jomiko asked. “Ha,” she scoffed a laugh, “it certainly has developed into one, hasn’t it?”
“And to think this all started with slaying that giant belly monster,” Pixa reminded.
“Wooow… that seems so long ago now,” Arata complained with a bit of nostalgia.
“Arrgh, was it even last week?” Jomiko asked.
“I’m…” Pixa looked up in an effort to remember. “I’m pretty sure it was, yeah.”
“We should’ve just split,” Kazuki said with a shrugging tone of voice. “Left it alone as a loss.”
“No,” Jomiko said, with a remarkably energetic voice. “No, we couldn’t. We were used, used like…mere pawns. Or minions.”
“Bad guys will do that.”
“Only to the weak, though,” Jomiko pointed out, “that’s what got me so upset. We let stuff like this happen and pretty soon nobody’s taking us seriously.”
“Yeah, we normally kill them if they don’t pay us,” Fuun’na interjected.
“Especially if we actually did the job,” Sanpu added. They giggled through a few seconds of uncomfortable silence at the insinuation that sometimes they did so even when not completing a job.
“I just…I’m not just some minion, ya know?” Jomiko sat up, “I’m a warrior, dammit! We’re warriors. Getting us to solve your problem should be a big deal.”
A statement that actually got silence out of the whole group. Even the twins thought on that for seconds on end. Eventually, Arata scoffed in a whisper so low only Persephonai heard it. Because he heard it, he was the only looking at him to spot Arata shaking his head ever so slightly. He then, again inaudibly, breathed out.
“Damn right,” he said, forcing himself to sit up. Persephonai backed up his hands and watched Arata looking at Jomiko and her back at him. Jomiko had a look of renewed energy to her. “We’re not pawns in a game.”
“We’re players!” Pixa yelled, happy.
“Bloody players,” Sanpu added.
“Major players,” Fuun’na put in, lifting her hands in enjoyment.
“That’s right. They were beating us, sure, but now we know why, that it’s the stones. All we have to do is change our strategy. Approach this differently, make it a fair fight!” Jomiko punched her palm.
“We take the stones,” Kazuki proposed, a bit of interest in his voice.
“We take their advantage,” Arata nodded.
“We take the power!” Sanpu said, liking the idea.
“How will you ever catch them by surprise, though? We have no stealth,” Persephonai questioned, concerned.
“We have intelligence,” Kazuki nodded.
“Ingenuity! Imagination! Most of all,” Arata put his hand on Persephonai’s shoulders, looking at Jomiko, “we have our heart back.”
She turned around, lying down again to fall asleep. After a second of pause, she yelled out: “just get to sleeping! We’ll cross to the other side in just one day!” She sounded annoyed and anxious.
Pixa giggled happily and looked at Kazuki just as he was looking away from them, with a slight but firm nod.
And Persephonai was suddenly no longer surrounded by hurt people. A healer knows… he can tell and see as clear as day when sick people are actually hurt. When they are, there’s little he can do. When they aren’t…well, what little he can do is more than enough.
And Persephonai would do just that. As ever, at least that, he would do.