Growing Tides

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Let the Show Begin

Bubbles stepped into the room. The purple energy still swirled around his fingers, pulsing with the shine in his eye, sparking in that single step. Ponitius and Squall grunted and Olivier could now see the purple coursing under their skin. Bethilius suffered the same, as did the pink and silver orbs, doused in purple, all burning bright as their muscles tensed, as they fought to be free but were forced to lax. It seemed only Olivier was untouched, but he might as well have been snared as well, glaring at the Itchyoman.

Bubbles continued laughed as he took another step, made louder as Olivier reached for his sword.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” Bubbles said, and the purple energy started to dim to black. Olivier’s gaze shot to Ponitius, and he watched as it changed in him, too, to that dark ooze. His grunts turned, wincing, hissing before they quickly turn to wheezing and rattling, eased when it brightened back to purple. “If you care about them, you’ll come along. Nice and easy like. We have an unfinished date, you and I. Oh, yes. We have to face Destiny, at long last. You’ve had your taste of freedom while I suffered, so it’s about time you paid that debt.”

His laughter rose with each step after, shaking the walls. The baubles and books trembled and tried to dance off the shelves by the time it hit its full timbre, standing before Olivier. It stopped, however, allowed to echo while he flipped his dagger back. He held it by its ball end in between the folds of his pinky and ring finger, and offered his hand. “Come, now. Once we are out of the town’s limits and very, very much alone, without any potential of being interrupted, I shall let them go.”

Olivier let his sword go, but refused to raise anything towards that hand. He looked passed Bubbles, at the window by the entrance, and saw Bethilius. His gaze was fixed right into his, eyes watering, running down his long muzzles and along the pink energy, but it was the knowing in those eyes. There was an understanding between them, in that moment, that made Olivier hate himself, but he knew what he had to do.

He took a step around the couch, every part tensing as he passed Bubbles, and headed for the door. He waited there, not even looking back as he simply heard Bubble’s feet plod across the timb-

“You will not hurt my Olly!” Fili shrieked, and Bubbles cried out. The room was engulfed in light, stopped at the doorway, keeping its searing edge from touching Olivier, but it soon faded. Bubbles was on the ground, smoking. His back, once gray like the rest of him, now was a nice, charred black, but that didn’t keep the Itchyoman down. And that wasn’t the only thing black on him. The energy around his hand had shifted as well, the others around gurgling and spluttering, but the blue Natorei burned bright, almost white, as she readied another heavenly orb. “Leave him alone!”

“Fili! Stop!” Olivier said. “Look at what he’s doing to your mom.”

The orb faltered, and the light around the Natorei dimmed as she looked upon Strix, engulfed in black. Fili let the orb go, and hung there, defeated, watching as the darkness turned back to a dusky hue once again.

“I didn’t realize there was another Natorei in here,” Bubbles grumbled, slowly getting to his feet. Another line of purple snaked free from the cloud of it around his hand, slow, languishing, but that changed quick. It lashed through the air, thinner than silk and faster than a blink, leashing the blue Natorei. She fell onto the desk, pulsing purple with the others, while Olivier could only look on, red filling his gaze. Bubbles focused on him again, chortling, but hissed as he rubbed his back. “That’s going to sting for a few weeks. From a ‘lamp’, no less... Well? Get moving!”

Olivier scoffed, and looked out the door once more. He refused to look at Bubbles again, simply standing there until he was prodded in the back, and only then did he make his way down the suspended paths. Slowly. He wasn’t going to make this enjoyable for his captor, his would-be executioner. He will languish, and any attempt to prod him along was pointless –even when he started to use the point on the blade. Olivier was no stranger to pain, and those minuscule jabs were nothing compared to the lashings he received back home --his first home. They meant nothing to the mental anguish his father put him through, treated him as if he was worthless in both senses of the word, as something so easily discarded yet irreplaceable. Unvaluable yet invaluable. As Bubbles was treating him now. As Bethilius treated him. As Strix used him.

And he was sick of it.

His right hand shook, clenched so hard in his pocket, hidden in the drapes of his sleeve, while the rest of him remained stoic. Even his gaze, once filled with red, aside the edges being crimson, bordering on black, remained fixed, locked towards the entry and the trader’s path-

Forced to look away by Bubbles.

He wrenched on his sleeve, on his left arm, and pointed his dagger towards the mountainside path, instead.

“Do you think I’m that stupid?” He said, and slammed the flat of his blade into the back of Olivier’s shell, knocking it forward. Olivier stumbled a step as it rocked over his eyes, but he managed to get his footing, slinging it back in place as he did... and smirked, hearing, feeling it hit into Bubbles. It had made a nice crack, and given how the Itchyoman snorted and sniffed, and how nasally his voice got, how could he not smile a bit wider? “Get moving! No one from the tavern can save you, either.”

Olivier did, still going as slow as ever, but Bubbles had asked a rather perplexing question. How smart did he think the Itchyoman was? How far would he go before he would let the spell last? As a matter of fact, how did he get the time to cast it, without interruption or suspicion, and would he spill it on his own as some sort of showing of power and intellect or would Olivier have to prod? But that returns to the question how how smart Bubbles truly was.

“I’ve got to thank your friends,” Bubbles blurted as they entered the mountain path, answering every single question in those six words. “If they weren’t so busy jabbering, I would have had to do some serious guesswork. However, because they stated that you were the only Cephamorian there, it made it easy to simply filter out all but your kind. Well, half of you, anyways. From there, it was simply estimating how many others were in there –though I screwed that up with the ‘lamp’, didn’t I?” He chortled. “Ah, no matter. That’s in the past, where this all should have been to begin with, but now I’m rectifying that now, aren’t I! In fact, you should be thanking me. Your life must have been absolutely horrid. A freak, an outcast no matter where you went, given pity or scorn. To be honest, I don’t know which is worse, though I bet you had your share of fetishists. Even Natorei, from the looks of it... but now? I’m giving you eternal life. I’m making you into a Divine, my Divine, giving me control over two species. An act to rival that of Cao’Thugar or any of the Dark Ones, and it pales whatever the Divines truly had done. Through your sacrifice, a new world shall rise. You shall be the sparks that ignite the great flame and blaze a new future for those I deem fit to serve- and live, but I repeat myself.”

Just a bit longer, Olivier thought. He kept his focus ahead, the red in his eyes so heavy, the darkness becoming harder to contain with each word that slithered out of the Itchyoman’s maw.

The top was in sight. Light gently streamed through it. A breeze crept down from it, caressing his face, soothing him, telling him that what he did, and what he was about to do, was okay. That he will be okay. That his friends will be fine. He opened his right hand in his pocket, and now he could feel something with it, within it. Something that he thought was heat of the moment back on the Scylla, with the pirates, with the monster thereafter, but there was no denying what it was.

Hunger.

They reached the top, and Olivier stepped out into the light, edging towards the side of the cliff. He turned around slowly as he sidled along, glancing down at Bubbles’ hand every so often, waiting. He had picked up the pace, a bit tricky as he finally fully turned around, walking backwards. Below, the land slowly ebbed to sand and then ocean, a dull gray, matching the clouds gathering in the sky above. It churned and frothed and roared, louder than the blood pounding away in Olivier’s ears. Every part of him was tense, ready, anticipating Bubbles to give his cue.

Which he did. Bubbles finally held up the dagger before him.

“This is far enough.” He stated.

Olivier stopped, then nodded to his other hand, still wreathed in purple.

“Well? Are you going to let my friends go?” Olivier said, and black consumed his vision as Bubbles smiled wide, the energy- Olivier exclaimed drawing his sword with his left hand. It was slow, crude, which gave Bubbles enough time to block its initial cut, pushed away.

Just as he wanted.

The Itchyoman gasped, though, as Olivier almost fell over the side, catching him. Olivier shrugged him off, and his right hand flew at last, aimed true. Even as his dagger bit into it, he couldn’t feel it anyways. Even as the blackened blood rolled from it, he smothered the gauze with it on the side of Bubbles head...

Yet nothing happened.

Olivier simply looked on, eyes... blank. The darkness pulsed through his arm. The red lines under the purple flesh flared, but it refused to touch Bubbles.

The Itchyoman didn’t even have to push too hard to remove Olivier’s grip, but simply looked down on the arm, chuckling.

“What’s this, then?” Bubbles said, rolling up the sleeve. “This wasn’t a part of you the last time I saw ye. What sort of new tricks did you learn?” He let him go, and dug the dagger under Olivier’s chin, clucking his tongue. “Ah, well. None of that will matter soon enough. Get on your back; my ritual will be d-”

Glass flew from around Bubble’s head, its shattering splitting the air louder than any crack of lightning. Bubbles’ eyes went blank, and he fell to the side. Only the bottle’s neck still remained in one piece, clutched in Claire’s hand. She was panting, her fur drenched in sweat, making her white top cling to her and showing A pale blue dot of light shining through on her neck. The light faded with the Itchyoman’s consciousness, replaced with a soft, tinkling sound.

Claire huffed as she pulled the bottom of her shirt free from her fur, and fragments of silver fell from inside. She undid a thin, copper necklace from her neck, hidden so well with the colors of her fur, and tossed it into the sea.

“You all right,” she asked, still panting so hard.

“I d... I guess,” Olivier mumbled, still looking at his hand. “Thank you... How did-”

“A prize I won a while back from an enchanter. Shame; I really liked that pendant, too.” She took another step towards him, and what strength she had left was gone. She tumbled into him, and he caught her. On his left shoulder. “Whoopsie! That spell was a doozy. Even with only feeling a fraction, I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.”

“The others!” Olivier blurted. “We have to go back.”

“No need. They’re on their way.”

“How do you know?”

She smirked as she pointed to her soft ears. They were perked, their soft, white tips twitching against the still air, turning.

“The one’s footsteps are like bricks... Think his name was Betty?” She tittered, but her smile faded as she looked down on the Itchyoman. “Question is what are we going to do with him... Well, captain?”

“I... I say we just leave. Go, before he wakes up.”

And that was the best he could muster at that moment. His mind was too far gone, too lost in its wondering to give anything more, to say or give anything else. He repeated it again as the others arrived, and he simply stared at his arm, not able, or not willing, to answer or talk about anything else along the way back to the Scylla. With Claire in tow. However, one question, one wonder above all others, plagued his every step and into the dusk aboard the ship: Why didn’t it... whatever it was work on Bubbles?

Just when Olivier thought he was caught up, when he had sense of it all, he was still behind- no, that’s not it. He had caught up. He was on the same page with everyone else. It was simply that it had moved to the next one, the ink still wet, written as everyone tried to keep up. And now, as they lumbered onto the sea, glowing brighter than any fire, it was if the world was lighting up its stage, preparing for the next act. The show had only begun.

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