Memories of Gaia: The Edge of Despair

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Chapter 12 Sailing to Nova

A hazy, gray mist had settled over the steel village like a cloud falling to Gaia. Valeena had been jerked from her dreamless sleep by the sounds of construction as the men continued their work on the village. Hammers pounded loudly against heads of nails as saws cut holes in sheets of metal. Several of the men took the sheets to be attached to the wood of their homes. The light of the sun was reflecting off the steel in bright, painful beans, giving Valeena a dull headache.

A large man wearing a white button down shirt demanded a ticket when they reached the docks. He was in a bad mood and continued mumbling about stow-a-ways under his breath. He set down a stack of papers as he spotted Valeena, his face paling over. His beady eyes began darting about the area as he searched for any signs of the Queen.

“R-right this way, it’s on me!” He stuttered as he lifted the blue velvet rope that had blocked them from boarding the ship. He then gestured widely for them to enter, sweeping his arm in the air.

“Costa Del Lágrimas is only a day’s trip away.” An attendant announced, smiling a wide, fake, sparkling smile. She was wearing a mint green, snug fitting uniform dress with the dragon symbol on the front breast pocket. She had a badge that was pinned just under the Queen’s symbol that declared her name was Daphne. There was an image of her on the badge smiling the same fake smile. She had her sandy blonde hair that was tied up in a side bun with a mint green pin holding it in place. She stood with her hands clasped tightly in front of her. Her painful looking smile never seemed to reach her light, green eyes.

“Join us as we journey to the new world!” She continued speaking through her teeth. It as though she were trying to remember a script that she had memorized the night before.

“It is not the new world,” Aira informed her, ignoring the flash of anger that danced on Daphne’s face.

“But of course, it is.” Daphne countered, straining to keep her already forced smile in place.

“There are cities on the Nova continent that are far older than any that are here,” Aira said in a tone that suggested Daphne was a bit touched in the head. “Cyan Falls is at least five hundred years older than the Star Kingdom.”

“I’ll show you to your quarters,” Daphne said as she rushed away from them, her smile completely gone now. She strolled quickly down the crisp, red carpet, not bothering to wait for her guest.

“Must you?” Valeena asked exasperatedly as she walked slowly behind Daphne.

“I will not listen to her foolishness and not correct her. It is asinine to believe they discovered the ‘new world’.” Aira said, glaring at Valeena as they made their way to the room. Daphne waited until they were almost to her before turning and leaving them behind. Valeena chose not to answer Aira. Instead, she rolled her blue eyes and entered the room, hoping to find some type of snack within.

The room was bigger than she had anticipated. It had two full sized beds covered in pale blue sheets with a matching couch beside it. An oblong honey oak table sat next to the bed. Its four legs were attached to the floor with heavy looking bolts. Three chairs were sitting around it with soft cushions that matched the couch. Large, circular windows lined the walls, giving a lovely view of the foggy gray water.

Elden, deciding to be a gentleman, walked over and plopped down onto the blue cushions of the couch, declaring it to be his spot. He swung one leg over the back of it and tucked his hands behind his head.

Valeena was in no mood to stay in the room with them and instead, decided to tour the massive ship. Without a word to the others, she left the doorway, ascending a staircase that she hoped would lead her to the deck of the ship. ‘Or, at least to some type of food.’ She thought as her stomach growled.

The stairs lead her to a new level of the beautiful ship, one that looked like it was reserved for those well to do in this world. The area was a rich, honey color and contained a live band playing a loud, upbeat song. A silver three tier chandelier that was covered in sparkling jewels hung from the center of the room. Its reflective glass sent glittering specks of light around the room. A circular, sage colored couch rested underneath the chandelier, where two women in identical yellow dresses sat. They were gossiping quietly to each other as they rest on the cushions, drinks in hand.

A stout woman dripping in gems sat at the bar, drinking a glowing pink beverage that gave off short puffs of pink smoke from its surface. She was engaging in conversation with a tall, handsome, man who was holding a round glass full of a dark, brown liquid. His eyes narrowed at the sight of Valeena, and he snapped his fingers in the air as the woman turned her nose in the air. A timid young man in a mint green uniform rushed the man’s side, listening as he complained.

The attendant then ran over to Valeena, nearly tripping over his feet as he began prodding her to leave. He was a thin man with red wavy hair and appeared to be younger than she was. The badge on his uniform told her his name was Thor.

“I just want to find the deck!” Valeena announced in irritation as the pushy attendant poked at her to leave. The couple at the bar were still sneering at her as the two women on the couch giggled loudly. Thor did not say a word as he pointed a long finger at a door to his right that Valeena had not noticed before. He then began flipping his hands in the air to shoo her away.

“Valeena, where are you going?” Aira asked, appearing behind her with a sour look on her face. Thor’s face paled over suddenly as he appeared to be ill, realizing who was standing before him. His eyes finally noticed the blue crystal on the girl’s forehead as he peered around the area for any signs of the Queen.

“Va-Valeena? I’m so sorry I didn’t recognize you. Please, let me personally walk you up the deck!” Thor stuttered as he prepared to exit the lively room.

“That will not be necessary. I think I can find it on my own.” Valeena said, hating the way people became nervous around her. She had never left the castle before and it startled her when people knew who she was. It made her wonder if the Queen spoke ill about her and what she said.

“I do not understand why the people here treat me as if I matter.” Valeena pondered out loud, noticing Elden falling in line silently behind them.

“Perhaps it is because they are scared of the mighty Queen, and you do hail from the same castle.” Aira speculated, opening the door and ascending a staircase that finally led them to the deck.

“I am a nobody,” It pained Valeena to say these words out loud as she hung her head in defeat.

“Being a nobody is not a bad thing. It means you make your own rules. You live by no one’s standards and you are free to live the life you chose!” Aira said in a manner that suggested she was talking more to herself than Valeena.

Valeena nodded as she took her words in, noticing Elden nodding from the corner of her eyes. “Thank you,” She said as she pulled open the door, allowing the morning sun to spill into the area.

The sun had burned off most of the morning fog as the last passengers boarded the ship. The three of them chose a quiet spot near the bow, settling into some wooden chairs with squishy, red cushions. The chairs were overlooking the blue-green waters of the calm ocean, giving them a wonderful view of the sea.

A loud horn blew twice, indicating that the ship was finally ready to set sail. Valeena felt her heart skip as she realized that she was actually from the Zula continent and heading out at sea.

Valeena felt restless and hopped to her feet. She rushed towards the stern, leaning on the rail as she watched Star Harbor move further and further into the distance. It was a wonderful sight, one that she watched until the city was no more than a speck on the horizon. Valeena could not help but smile, a true smile, as she leaned on the rail, breathing in the salty air of freedom.

A strong gust of wind swept passed Valeena, nearly knocking her into the sea. Several women shouted in protest as they placed their hands on their heads to keep their over-sized sun hats from being carried away. Valeena sighed as she turned and walked briskly back to where she had left Aira and Elden. As she approached, she could hear them shouting at each other, their voices rising over the harsh wind.

“You do not know anything!” Aira was shouting, pointing an angry finger at Elden.

“It could happen!” Elden shouted back, leaning closer to the elf, “I don’t see why she wouldn’t!” He continued, his face reflecting her anger.

“What is going on here?” Valeena questioned bewildered. She had been gone maybe fifteen minutes and these two were at each other’s throats again.

“This Amar-gwad claims your idiot mother will bomb my homeland!” Aira shouted, pointing her slender finger at Elden again.

“I suppose she could.” Valeena immediately regretted joining the argument as the wind rushed passed her. The gale force wind nearly snapped a large, red table umbrella in half, the metal brackets straining to keep it in place. Valeena took a step back, her waist hitting the rail of the ship. She grabbed the metal tightly and faced them, thankful it was not raining as anxiety danced in her heart.

“What about Kingyosou?” Aira was asking, looking out at the waters passed Elden’s shoulder where a pod of dolphins had begun to play. “I have heard no news that it has been bombed.”

“She did not bomb Rose Grove or Vaughnstein.” Valeena chimed in glad the elf was calming down as the wind turned to a crisp breeze. “And she did not absorb those towns either, as she did with Juno.” She tried not to think of the sheets of steel covering the once-beautiful wooden buildings.

“She has nothing to gain by adding those places to her kingdom,” Aira informed Valeena as though she were pointing out the obvious.

“She gains people for her army, food for her citizens and more workers to build her bombs.” Valeena countered, annoyed at the look of disgust on the elf’s face. Aira waved a hand at her words, huffing loudly.

“Vaughnstein is a farming town, the people there are not bred to fight and do not produce enough food to even feed themselves. And as for Rose Grove, it is a dying village that no one will remember in years to come. So no, she has nothing to gain.” Aira ended her sentence with the rolling of her silver eyes. Valeena thought back to the large fruit that grew heavily on the vines. One strawberry could easily feed ten people, if not more. She opened her mouth to offer her a rebuttal but shut it again knowing it would do no good.

“We are on this ship together for an entire day! Let’s try and make it a peaceful one, please!” Valeena asked. She looked from Aira, who had her mouth set in such a way that Valeena sensed she was fighting back an insult, to Elden who merely shrugged.

“Fine,” Aira said as she climbed to her feet, preparing to walk away. “Enjoy your time on the ship, spoiled princess.” She smiled as her words slapped Valeena in the face. Valeena turned to Elden to find him walking in the opposite direction, shoving past the other passengers as he moved.

Valeena rested her arms on the metal rail and sighed, peering to her left. She smiled as she saw a buffet table being set up, the scent of food teasing her. Valeena wandered over to the table and filled a plate with various treats. She ignored the startled looks on the other passenger’s face’s as she took more than her fair share of food. She knew she was being rude, but her growling stomach told her it was alright.

Night had settled in, casting the sky into darkness save for the bright, twinkly stars that danced across the cloudless canvas above. Valeena had ventured to the deck once more. The air in the room was thick with tension, suffocating her. Elden and Aira had not spoken two words to each other but continued to huff. It was like being a room with a couple of three-year-old.

Valeena strolled over to one of the painted red benches that lined the ship’s deck, facing the beautiful dark waters. She laid down on it, placing her hands under her head to protect it from the wood where many bottoms had previously sat. She embraced the sound of the ocean waves as she closed her eyes, letting the salty air wash her tension away.

“Mind if I join you?” A smooth male voice questioned, startling Valeena who had begun to let her mind slip into a daydream about Elden.

Valeena sat up abruptly, her cheeks burning red, looking in the direction of the sudden voice. Her eyes fell upon a handsome young man that stood casually near her, smiling softly in the pale moonlight. His hair was set in the increasingly popular faux hawk style, the color of an orange with red tips. He had a nice, oval, mocha colored face with lovely almond shape eyes.

He was wearing an ebony blazer with a white button down dress shirt and nice suit pants. Around his neck, he wore a red tie along with a chain necklace that had dog tags dangling from it. Valeena knew he had wandered off the rich level of the ship, more than likely the same one where Thor guarded the door with a feeble fist of authority.

“There are other benches.” Valeena pointed out, pretending to be irritated by his intrusion, but she could not help but stare at his handsome face. He scratched the back of his head, a nervous gesture and continued to smile at her.

“Yeah, but this one looks like it has the best company.” He replied smoothly, sitting down on the bench beside her without an invitation.

“I’m Seto Yoshida, by the way.” He extended a hand to be shook, a polite gesture that few people used anymore. He looked hopefully at Valeena as his hand hung in the air. He obviously expecting her to reach out her hand and give a name in return. Instead, Valeena smiled and shook her head as she kept her hands holding onto the front edge of the bench. She turned her eyes skyward, pretending to be interested in the stars.

“Okay, well, I’m still going to talk to you,” Seto informed her. He retracting his hand, sitting with his elbows on the back of the bench, crossing one leg over the other. Valeena chuckled to herself and lowered her gaze to meet his briefly before darting her eyes skyward again. She felt her face flush and she bit her lower lip.

“I am Val- just Val.”

“Alright,” Seto nodded, scratching the back of his head again as he opened his mouth to say more. But instead, he said nothing as he closed it again, sighing. The roaring ocean waves were the only sound between them. Valeena dared herself to glance at him again, finding that he was looking in the direction of the stern with a determined look set on his handsome face.

“Where are you from?” Seto asked, tilting his head to the right as though he were deep in thought.

“Does not matter, I am not going back!” Valeena informed him firmly with a short nod.

“Oh, and why is that?” He asked, indicating she should go on as he turned to face her, raising his brows. Valeena thought for a second then shrugged, not sure what to tell him.

“I felt trapped. There were days where the walls seemed to be closing in. I could not breathe.” Valeena laughed softly to herself. “It sounds silly when you say it out loud.”

“No, I understand completely.” Seto began as he leaned forward, his elbows on his legs now, hunched over. “I’m from Kingyosou. There, all the boys are raised to be warriors, ninjas or Samurai. I felt the same way as you. So I left and never looked back.” He smiled halfheartedly, sitting up straight, his chocolate eyes meeting hers.

“Don’t try to escape your past, embrace it. It’s what makes you stronger.” Seto informed her, pounding one fist over his heart. His words were firm but his eyes contained flecks of sadness in them. Valeena wondered if he had truly embraced his past as he stared at her.

“I will not rest until I am free of my prison for good,” Valeena said, breaking their staring match by looking skyward. She met his eyes briefly once more, confusion setting in as she noticed a look of pity flickering across his handsome face.

“Look, when we reach Costa Del Lágrimas run. Don’t ask, just run.” Seto suddenly climbed to his feet and strolled away. He bumped into a man wearing similar attire, except he looked like he had slept in it. The second man had long, dark, red hair pulled back loosely, and a thin closely shaved beard. A faded tattoo of a smoky skull was visible on his neck.

“Did you find her?” He asked, putting his hands out to prevent Seto from leaving.

“No, she’s not here Trevor. Maybe Steel was wrong.” Seto replied as a hint of irritation crept into his voice.

“Hey, hey, slow down,” Trevor demanded, trailing after Seto who had shoved passed him and proceeded down the stairs. Valeena stared at the door for some time, trying to process what had happened. She knew Trevor was looking for her, that much was obvious, but why had Seto lied? And who was Steel? Valeena felt the list of unanswered questions growing as she climbed to her, suddenly not feeling safe.
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