Laguna walked alongside Cetas as the group was continuing to search for the Wanderers. Runi was extremely focused and seemed to be leading the group, but he was also not communicating very well. He wasn’t telling them what he was sensing and any time Cetas tried to talk to him, he just didn’t respond half the time.
She had a feeling the earlier argument was still haunting them.
“Cetas?” Laguna finally asked as she looked up at him.
“Mhm?” Cetas hummed as he looked back at her.
“What happened when you talked with Runi?” she asked. She kept her voice soft, but Royse and Darya were chatting together and probably wouldn’t listen too closely and Runi was walking so far ahead that he certainly wouldn’t notice.
“What do you mean?” Cetas asked.
Laguna sighed and shook her head. “He’s clearly icing you out,” she said. “And although he’s usually aloof, this seems like something more. What did you say to him?”
Cetas hesitated for a moment, and then shrugged and looked down as he walked. “Darya thought he might be jealous, so I asked him if he still had feelings for Elidi. He said he didn’t, and he was just worried-”
Laguna grabbed his arm and looked at him. “You asked him that!? Cetas!”
Cetas looked surprised at her reaction. “What?”
“You know Runi hates talking about his past, and especially his past relationship with Eli,” Laguna tsked and looked towards Runi’s back as he walked on in the distance. “That was a tough time for him. Why bring it up?”
Cetas sighed and shook his head. “Darya told me that Elidi had told him while they were dating that she liked me and not him. I don’t know, I just wanted to make sure everything was really okay,” he said softly. “He got so angry earlier, I just thought there might be something more to it.”
Laguna shook her head. “Darya doesn’t understand Runi,” she said. “And neither do you, apparently.”
“He’s difficult to get close to, even after all these years,” Cetas said. “What do you think I should do, then?”
Laguna looked at him. “I think we need to clear this up before we find Jeriah and his crew,” she said simply. “And I understand him, so let me be the mediator.”
“I really don’t think-” Cetas started.
Laguna cut him off immediately. “Runi! Hey, hold up!” She grabbed Cetas’ arm and dragged him over to Runi. “Let’s get this all cleared up immediately.”
“Cleared up?” Runi asked, but then he rolled his eyes and looked ahead as he realized what they were talking about. “I already explained myself.”
“Cetas wants to apologize,” Laguna nudged his arm.
Cetas hesitated for a moment. His pride clearly wanted to keep him from apologizing, but he finally nodded. “I didn’t mean to bring up anything to make you uncomfortable. I just didn’t understand why you were so angry with me about Elidi, alright? That’s all. I understand now, I think.”
Runi looked at Cetas, and then he snorted in amusement. “Cetas, you and I are never going to see eye to eye,” he said. “But I’m not jealous of you, I’m not your rival, and I think you’re stupid sometimes. I also think Elidi is stupid. Neither of you have good sense for protecting yourselves. Don’t worry, though. I already texted Elidi and told her she’s stupid, too.”
Cetas looked annoyed, but then he nodded. “Alright,” he said. “So, are we going to be on good terms, then? Laguna seems worried that we aren’t.”
“That all depends on you,” Runi said as he glanced at him. “I may not always like you, Cetas, but I respect you. However, I do not respect the decision you both made to be careless enough to get Elidi pregnant. We’re not in a time of peace, and even if she manages to keep herself safe, what about you? What if you get killed? That kid isn’t going to have a father. As a person who didn’t have a father, I can tell you it’s not a fun way to grow up.”
“Oh,” Cetas slowly nodded. “I forgot that you didn’t have a father.”
“It’s been a long time since we thought about our families, I guess. But being fatherless or motherless is no way for a kid to grow up,” Runi muttered. “And I got mad that you brought up my past relationship with Elidi because I don’t want anyone to think badly of her, okay? She said some nasty things, I said some nasty things. None of it matters. The only thing that matters is our current friendship. So, shut up about it.”
“See?” Laguna patted Runi’s back. “It wasn’t so hard to explain yourself, was it?”
Cetas smiled a little. “You’re much easier to understand when you’re not angry,” he said as he held his hand out to Runi. “I’m sorry for upsetting you earlier. I promise I’ll take care of Elidi, alright?”
Runi glanced at his hand, and then he snorted and punched his shoulder lightly instead. “We don’t have to be so formal. We grew up together,” he said. Then he suddenly stopped in his tracks again and looked around. “...what?”
“What is it?” Laguna asked as her brow furrowed. “Do you sense something?”
Runi nodded. “I see...I see a forest. A sanctuary of trees lending them shade and safety for the moment,” he said softly. “Where would there be trees up here?” he looked around.
“What is it?” Darya ran up to them with Royse at her side.
“Runi senses that the Wanderers are in a forest, or something,” Cetas said as he also looked around. “But this mountain path is barren, and it’s too cold here for any sort of sanctuary of trees.”
“Then maybe they’re not in the mountains anymore,” Royse suggested. “I’m sure they know lots of different paths down the mountain. We might only know this one, but they’ve lived on these mountains for three hundred years, right? Or something like that.”
“Good point,” Runi said with a nod as he closed his eyes. “I’m not seeing more than forest and them all nestled under the safety of the shade. I don’t know where we’re going to find it, but we shouldn’t keep traveling up.”
“Then back down we go,” Laguna said as she turned and began walking back down the mountain path.
It was annoying to have to travel back and forth, but these Wanderers were tricky. They had protected themselves for countless years so it made sense that they would be difficult to capture, but they couldn’t give up. Their lives were on the line, after all.
Laguna just hoped their personal issues were well and truly resolved so they could fully focus on what they had to do here. They were all family even if they had their struggles, and they just had to resolve it. She was going to make sure they kept their pride and tempers in check, because this journey might be longer than expected.