Joe woke up in a groggy state the next morning. He squinted through half-open eyes at his surroundings. This didn't look like his bedroom. It took him a moment to remember that he wasn't at home anymore. He was still at Draylon. But this didn't look like his bedroom at Draylon either.
He hadn't realized what had woken him up until an unusual noise filled the air. His senses slowly came back to him and he discovered he was in the living room of his and Sydney's suite. They must have lost track of time the night before and fallen asleep out here when they were talking.
The strange noise sounded again and Joe became aware of a weight on his chest. He tried to move his right arm but found it held down by something. His green eyes darted down. With a start, his body stiffened and Joe's eyes widened in shock.
Sydney was lying asleep next to him with her head and arm resting on Joe's chest. They must have been exhausted when they finally fell asleep last night. There's no way they would have fallen asleep in this position intentionally. Joe was surprised by how nice it felt to be in this situation with her.
He quickly shook his head and pushed that thought out of his head. Don't think that, he scolded himself. Sydney's just a friend.
Once again, the odd sound arose and Joe detected its source right away. Sydney was mumbling and talking in her sleep. Her face seemed pained. Her eyebrows were pinched together and her whole body was tense. Was she having a nightmare?
"No… please…" Sydney's mumbling continued.
Joe started to wonder whether or not he should wake her up. Would that help her or make things worse?
Sydney thrashed suddenly, scaring Joe and almost causing him to fall off the couch. "Why… he's dead... you monster…"
Joe couldn't take it anymore. What was she dreaming about? Who was he? Who was the monster? Whatever she was dreaming about, Joe knew it was a nightmare and Sydney needed to be woken up as soon as possible. Joe started to shake her.
At first, she wouldn't wake up. Joe had to shake her harder. Without warning her eyes shot open and she let out a frightened scream. The next thing Joe knew, Sydney was thrashing against him, desperately trying to get away.
"Ow!" Joe yelped as Sydney's fist connected with his shoulder. When did she learn to hit so hard? He grabbed her hands and hopelessly attempted to console her. "Calm down, Sydney. It's me, Joe."
Sydney's pummeling ceased and gazed at Joe with fearful eyes, almost as if she didn't recognize him. "Joe? What?" She took in the room for the first time and figured out where she was. Her breathing levelled and she turned back to Joe nervously. "I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to do that. You just scared me." She swallowed and looked away.
"It's okay," Joe reassured her. Her nightmare must have been really bad. "Was your dream really that scary?"
She faced him, her mouth turned down in confusion. "How did you know I was having a bad dream?"
Joe rubbed the back of his neck. Suddenly, he felt nervous, like he had been eavesdropping on a private moment of hers. It wasn't like he could not see her react to her nightmare. She had been on top of him. "You were mumbling in your sleep. It seemed pretty nasty so I decided to wake you up. I was not expecting to get hit for it though." He chuckled warily and rubbed his shoulder where Sydney had punched him. The spot was still sore.
She focused on his shoulder, her mouth going slightly agape. "I'm so sorry! I didn't mean to hit you. Are you okay?"
"I'm fine. I swear. It doesn't hurt that bad," Joe lied. He figured his shoulder would be sore all day. "What about you? Are you okay? That nightmare clearly had a big effect on you."
"I'll be all right." She looked away again. "It was just a dream."
"Are you sure? You were saying some weird stuff." Joe's lips turned down in concern. "What were you dreaming about?" Joe tried to look into her eyes, but she avoided direct contact with him.
"I don't want to talk about it." Sydney's response came quickly.
"I don't want to talk about it." She didn't raise her voice, but there was a dark edge to it that made Joe not want to ask any further. It didn't erase his worries however and he made a mental note to bring it up later after she was able to relax.
Sydney stood and stepped away from the sofa. "I better get going. Nicole and Kayla will be expecting me soon for conditioning. Thanks for waking me up, Joe. I'll see you later."
Joe tried to tell her that it was okay and that he was here for her if she needed him for anything at all, but Sydney silently slipped through the front door before he could get any of the words out.
Joe wasn't able to go back to sleep after that. Whatever Sydney's nightmare had been about, it had been serious. And it showed in her work that day. Nicole had declared that today they would focus on self-defense and counter-attacks. No matter how hard she tried, Sydney couldn't focus. Her moves were sluggish and she had been getting pinned to the ground almost every time they ran through the drill. One minute she'd be keeping her eyes trained on Nicole like she was taught to do, the next she'd be looking at Joe as if to make sure he was still there. Nicole had taken advantage of her distractedness each time it happened. Today was not going well for Sydney.
Joe had been watching carefully to make sure Sydney never got too hurt from it. They had asked him if he wanted to learn some basic fighting skills, but he had declined. He didn't know why he would need them anyway.
Nicole looked her daughter up and down after she had knocked her onto the floor for hundredth time that day. Her eyes narrowed and she lifted an eyebrow with disappointment. "I get that this is your first day doing actual fighting, but even I didn't expect you to do this poorly. What's wrong? Why are you so disoriented today? You've been like this all morning."
"It's nothing." Even her voice sounded different. The usual confidence and energy it carried was gone. Sydney pushed herself to her feet and dusted herself off. Her shoulder's rolled back and she prepared herself for another fight. "Let's just try this again. I promise I'll do better this time."
"I think not." Nicole pursed her lips, her judging eyes never leaving Sydney. "Perhaps we should quit early today. We are getting nowhere and you clearly have some issues to work out before you're able to put forward one hundred percent effort."
"I said, it's nothing." Sydney gritted her teeth. "There's no need to stop so soon. We still have a few hours left. There must be something else we can do if you won't practice self-defense with me. Like, I don't know, maybe there's more you can tell me about my powers? It has to be more than controlling time and firing balls of time energy from my hands. Is there anything more powerful than that?"
"You're thinking of explosione tempore," Kayla spoke up. She had been standing to the side of the room next to Joe, taking detailed notes and observing Nicole and Sydney's fight.
"Explosion what?" Joe looked at her in confusion. The time gods may have been able to understand Latin perfectly, but he had no clue what she had just said.
"It's unimportant," Nicole made sure to answer before Kayla. "Explosione tempore is beyond your skills at the moment. You won't need to learn about that for some time. We don't need you using it anyway."
"Explosion of time..." Sydney paused thoughtfully. "What is it? You've already brought it up so you might as well tell us."
Nicole let out a frustrated sigh. "Very well then. Explosione tempore is the most powerful attack a time god can do. It involves summoning up all of the time energy within your body as well as a significant amount from the area around you. It will destroy any enemy instantly. But it comes with a catch. When a time god uses explosione tempore, they die."
Sydney leaned back, her eyes going wide. "Oh, and how do you do it exactly?"
Nicole dragged a hand over her face. "Why do you want to know that? I know you're having on off day, but I didn't think you were suicidal."
Sydney put her hands on her hips, her usual sassiness returning. "I'm not suicidal. I want to know how to do it so I don't accidentally kill myself."
"You wouldn't be able to do explosione tempore accidentally. Trust me. In order to do it, you must recite a specific phrase. And since I know you're going to ask, the phrase is this:
"Veniat ad me,
Nam nos unum sumus.
Hoc erit finis.
Opportunum advenisse tempus
Pro explosionem tempus."
Nicole place her hands on her hips, mirroring her daughter's brazenness. "Satisfied?"
Sydney's arms dropped and a slight smirk played along her lips. "Yes. Thank you."
"Now that that's over with, I meant what I said about cutting training off early today. We'll never accomplished anything with you in this bizarre mental state. You are free to go for the day, but you will be making up for all this lost time tomorrow. We may be time gods, but we cannot create any more time than we are given. There's still so much to do."
"At this rate, you'll never be ready for the prophecy," Kayla said out of nowhere.
Joe and Sydney had been halfway out the door by that point, but when they heard Kayla speak, they both froze and turned around. "Prophecy?"
Nicole's hands ball into tight, little fists by her sides. Obviously, she was not happy with Kayla's statement. "My, my, Kayla, you are certainly talkative today, aren't you? Any other secrets you feel like sharing with them?"
Kayla jumped and stared at the ground. She shook her head apologetically and remained quiet, probably too afraid to speak or worried that she would reveal something else she wasn't supposed to.
"What does she mean by prophecy?" Just like that, Sydney's hands were back on her hips and she gave her mother a hard stare.
Nicole shook her head in disbelief and annoyance. This was not how she had intended the day to go. "It is the reason why we kicked your training into overdrive. Shortly after we rescued you from the beach in Corfu, a new prophecy appeared in our hall of prophecies. We believe, though we are not sure, that it is about you. Both of you," Nicole added, giving Joe a pointed look.
He shrunk back under her scrutinizing gaze. "You mean like the predict-the-future kind of prophecy?"
"Are there any other types? We weren't planning on telling you about this until after you completed your basic training, but since the cat is out of the bag," Nicole paused to shoot Kayla an angry glare, "I guess we should tell you now."
"What exactly does this prophecy say?" Sydney eyed her mother with interest.
Nicole recited it from memory with ease.
"The beach of refuge is the prime
The boy of the book, and the girl of time
An internal feud to be decided
A kiss of death to be confided."
"What does that even mean?" Joe and Sydney gave each other confused looks.
"Prophecies are very rarely literal. We try our best to interpret them, but we rarely figure them out before they happen. The only thing we know for certain is that they cannot be avoided. Fate is permanent." Nicole pinched the bridge of nose. "Now please leave before I'm forced to explain more things you shouldn't know about."