Reaching the Omega Point

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Chapter 4 Dueling with a Goddess

Once Edith and I had left the compound, I was amazed by the rest of the camp. Though, a citadel would have been a more accurate description. There were four towers that surrounded the compound, each reaching to unfathomable heights. These towers also possessed mounted artillery batteries, leading to the conclusion that they were intended for anti-air defense. The air field, which occupied most of the area within the towers, was dotted with several heavier-than-air aircraft along with one lighter-than-air: The Chronostat. I couldn’t help but laugh at how pitiful the smoldering remains of my dirigible looked amidst some of the most ferocious beasts of war fashioned by mankind. Oh, how I desired to observe these masterpieces of engineering, but Edith would not allow it. Fortunately, she restrained me from entering into one of my ecstasies.

“You need to get serious, Conrad!” She yelled. “Don’t you realize that soon you’ll be fighting for your life?”

“I fought for my life several times during the war and came out against the odds.” I shrugged. “What more is another cast?”

Edith stopped and turned to face me. She stared at me with that expression I had only received from her once before. It was that expression of horror and disgust, of grief and disbelief. The only other time I had seen that expression upon her face was when I told her I was going to fight in the war. I closed my eyes and braced myself.

“Look at me!” She yelled in German.

She always spoke our native tongue when she wanted my attention. I opened my eyes. Oh, how dreadful she was in this form. Her eyes were hot with fire as they burned into mine.

“How could you say something like that? You might be able to throw your life away, but I can’t!” She beat against my chest. “You never think about me before you make these reckless decisions! You’re so selfish! How would you feel if I took every chance I had to get myself killed?”

I was taken aback, to say the least. She was right. I had always been so very reckless. As a man working in a competitive business, I took every chance I could to get ahead.

“I-I don’t know what to say, Edith.” I sighed. “I’m sorry. I never knew how you felt . . .”

Her expression changed to one of empathy. “Oh, of course you didn’t, Conrad. It’s fine.” She smiled. “I’ll just have to stay closer to you from now on so you don’t get yourself hurt.” Edith said, locking arms with me.

We continued our walk and arrived at the Hill of Roses. It appeared no different from any other hill. Of course, it probably hadn’t been used for executions or duels in a very long time. Because of this, a massive audience had gathered to witness our spectacle. I could not recognize this hill from our time, though, Edith and I never ventured into the forests around Leipzig when we were children. The city provided enough adventure, as we struggled every day to survive.

The Maidens did not speak and calmly moved aside as we climbed the hill. Once we had reached the summit, we found Daiva speaking with Anwen. At first, I thought they were discussing some strategy, but upon closer inspection I realized that they were, in fact, arguing. As to what, I did not know. Anwen noticed me and smiled. She nodded to Daiva and left us. Daiva turned to face me. She was wearing a ceremonial dress that was nothing like the Maidens’ uniforms. It was long and red, dragging the ground as she walked toward me. It certainly wasn’t an outfit meant for combat. A large ax was hoisted over her shoulder. The ax looked very old, even older than those of my time. Perhaps it had been passed down through her family.

“Your commander didn’t seem very pleased with you.” I said curiously.

She laughed, that shrill, maddening laugh that chilled my soul. Fortunately, she seemed to have very little control over her emotions, and I intended to use that to my advantage. In fact, she was almost the exact opposite of the engineer. She had an abundance of that thing he lacked: Feeling.

“I was unaware that you had a sister.” She frowned. “I do not wish to take you from her, and I am willing to disobey even my Cadwalader. If you consent to bow to me before these Maidens, I will not harm you.” Daiva explained slowly, taking in deep gasps of air between her sentences.

Something was off about her tonight. Up close, I noticed that she did not look very healthy. Her eyes were coated in a glassy substance and her skin looked almost silver. The roots of her hair were also a pale white despite that she was at most, thirty years of age. Her appearance had changed drastically since this morning.

I will not lie. I gave much thought to this truce she had proposed, mostly because I did not want my sister to suffer, but I couldn’t shame Mary by forfeiting. After all, it was for her that I was fighting this mad woman. Then, an idea came to me that would perhaps satisfy both Mary and my dear sister.

“I will agree to your proposition if you also acquiesce to apologize to Mary for your harsh words against her.” I said, holding out my hand for her to shake in closure.

Daiva was quite taken aback by my counteroffer. I could hear the Maidens around us begin to whisper amongst each other.

She laughed. “I would never put myself on the same level as that wretch!” She gripped the shaft of her ax. “I’ll express my sympathy to your sister, but I will never forgive that wicked girl! She’s doomed all of us, and anyone who trusts her is a fool and my enemy! Prepare to die!”

She swung overhead with incredible speed. I quickly sidestepped and her blow rent the earth. I threw aside my overcoat and drew my sword.

She pulled the blade out of the ground with ease. “I can’t tell you how excited I was to find out that you were German. This ax drank the blood of your people long ago, and now, after millennia of starvation, you shall quench its thirst!” She yelled, swinging wildly at me.

I ducked under her blow and slashed at her legs. The blade caught her dress, but she flipped backwards before I could wound her. Her family was Lithuanian, or Samogitian, to be precise. How had I not realized this? Her name, her title, even her weapon, they were all belonging to that ancient kingdom that had warred with an order of German crusaders for almost two centuries.

“What a grudge!” I laughed. “Those wars were even before my time!” Though, her words were quite a revelation to me. This was my chance to gain the upper hand.

“Yes, but your fathers slew my people, and tonight, you shall bewail their evil deeds!” Daiva yelled as she charged towards me with all her wrath.

I flipped over her axe as it nearly bit into my side. I had an opening. I quickly stabbed at her lower back, but she parried it with the end of her ax.

“I should regret my fathers’ deeds? Your fathers left you to perish. No, not only your fathers, but your husbands, brothers, and even your sons!” I could see the fury in her eyes. Now was my chance.

“Shut up!” Daiva screamed as she performed a high, fatal blow at my head. “You know nothing of what you speak!”

I rolled underneath her strike and tried once more to stab her in the side. This time, it tore into her dress, but Daiva rolled to the side before my blade found its mark. However, I did cut her, and I was surprised to see that her blood was not red but a silver liquid, almost like mercury. The other Maidens were shocked to see this as well. Their cheering immediately stopped. The silvery liquid flowed down her side, but she stood tall, ignoring the pain. Despite this, the duel was already over. She was close to breaking. Her entire body was trembling, struggling in vain to hold together.

“I noticed that you grew wrathful, a moment ago, when I mentioned brothers.”

Daiva’s eyes widened at hearing my words. She began murmuring to herself, though whether she was trying to block out my words, or simply going insane, I could not tell. I sheathed my sword as I spoke, displaying the finality of our conflict.

“It all makes sense now. Your brother left you when you were very young, and that is why you wanted to spare me. You did not want Edith to feel the same pain that you felt when you lost your brother.”

Daiva whimpered as tears streamed down her face. She dropped her ax and fell on her side. She pulled her hair and wailed like a child. I had never seen such fervent weeping. I turned and began to walk away.

“Don’t . . .” I looked over my shoulder to see Daiva rising to her feet. “Don’t turn your back on me!” She yelled between large gasps of air.

I turned about-face to see what she would do. To my surprise, her skin began to shine with a silver radiance. I recognized it immediately as the same light that the seren reactor had produced. What could this mean? Her irises changed from yellow to a color that I had never before seen! There was only one way I could describe her eyes: They reflected the wonders of the universe! In them I saw the heavenly bodies of the cosmos! Her hair suddenly became white like snow. What was this phenomenon? It was beyond my comprehension.

The air began to vibrate with intensity. She ran—no, she flew at me! My eyes could not even follow her movements. She had no weapon. She was simply going to strike me with this force that drove her. I braced myself for whatever would follow.

Just when I thought my life was over, a strong hand pulled me back and a woman stepped in front of me. She was quite tall, nearly my height. She was older than the other Maidens. Her hair was long and gray like her skin.

“That’s enough, Daiva. Do not squander your power on him.” The woman commanded.

Daiva abruptly halted and bowed to the woman.

“M-Mother, I’m deeply sorry! Please, forgive me!” Daiva said in shock, hastily wiping the tears from her eyes.

Mother? Was this woman truly her biological mother, or was this their matriarch? The Maidens around us bowed, leaving my sister standing alone. This answered my question.

“He has won this duel. All of you report to your stations! This battle is over!” She yelled, her voice echoing across the hill.

The Maidens rose in unison and began walking back to the compound. Their matriarch turned to me and smiled.

“You are a clever fighter. I applaud you.” She looked over at Daiva. “She is the greatest warrior of all my daughters. You should be proud to have bested her.” She said and clapped halfheartedly. “I hope that you can return home soon.”

With those words she left me. What a mysterious woman. She had the manners of a religious leader, not a queen or something of the like. I looked at Daiva. She was staring at the ground as her blood dripped onto the grass, shimmering as it fell. She slowly returned to her normal appearance, the silvery luster fading from her skin.

“I am sorry I wounded you.” I held out my hand. “If you would like, I will help you return to the compound for medical attention.”

She looked up at me and shook her head.

“No physical pain can compare to the pain in my heart. If only you had slain me, I would have been freed from it.” She murmured as new tears formed in her eyes.

Edith ran and hugged me.

“Don’t ever scare me like that again, Conrad! I was about to run out and stop her myself!” Edith yelled angrily.

I laughed. “I won’t, Edith. From now on, I’ll focus all my efforts on getting us home.”

Edith laughed as well and hugged me once more. Daiva smiled at us.

“I envy you both. I always hated my brother. We hardly ever noticed each other.” She sighed. “It wasn’t until he was gone that I realized how much I needed him. You both love each other. I wish we could’ve done the same.”

“Your brother is still alive.” I managed a smile and spoke with confidence, despite being completely ignorant on her situation. “I’m sure you will see him again.”

“Perhaps . . . Thank you. I am sorry for the trouble I caused you both,” she paused and looked over my shoulder, “and I am sorry for how I treated you, Mairwen.”

I gasped and turned around. It was indeed Mary! She smiled at me and waved.

“Hi! It’s me!”

I laughed. “Mary, you came!”

“Of course I came. I wanted to cheer for you.” Mary said as she walked towards us. “And apology accepted, Daiva. I forgive you.”

Daiva nodded “Then I will take my leave.”

She walked down from the hill, blood still flowing from her side. I was quite concerned for her, though she had completely ignored the wound by now.

Suddenly, Mary wrapped her arm around my neck. “Well, look at you, Mr. Hero!” She laughed. “You bested our greatest warrior, and in front of my mom, too!”

I gasped. “Wait. Your matriarch is also your biological mother?”

She smiled mischievously. “That’s right, and you’ve earned her respect. That isn’t something to take lightly, Conrad.”

“I understand, but what happened to Daiva? She was so different from this morning, and then when she changed into that dreadful form. It was like nothing I have ever seen.” I asked, bewildered.

“Apparently, my sister has been using Daiva as some sort of experiment. None of us knew about it until tonight. I can explain everything, but first, I’d like to make up for yelling at you earlier. Why don’t you come with me to my quarters? I have all sorts of textbooks from the archives. I thought, maybe we could continue our lesson?” Mary suggested as she took my hand.

“Oh, that sounds wonderful!” Edith said, clasping her hands together.

“I have food too!” Mary said happily. “I know you haven’t eaten at all today.”

“That would be convenient.” I laughed. “I am starving.”

Mary, Edith, and I began walking back to the compound. I stared up at the moon. It was just beginning to wax, forming a crescent. It was nice to see that it at least remained unchanged after these ten millennia.

Mary escorted me to her room. There were several books scattered out on a table. By their looks, they appeared very old. There was also a binder that I guessed was some sort of report or journal.

“Have a seat, Conrad, and I’ll get you some soup and bread. I made it myself!” She said excitedly and ran off to another part of her room.

It was quite larger than ours. I sat down on the sofa, behind the table. I immediately began reading a book on seren mechanics. Once I had learned the scientific properties of seren, I could apply it to the other basic engineering principals. It was really all I needed to know in order to build a second Chronostat.

Mary returned with our food. I ate, but not ravenously as my desire for knowledge was greater than that for simple food.

She sat down next to me and sighed. “I suppose I should explain why everyone thinks that this war is my fault.”

I placed the book down on the table and listened intently.

She looked away from me for a moment, placing her thoughts in order. “Well, first of all, the Gaelturi are actually the men who left us.”

“What? But you told us that they were on a journey to reach some paradise!” I exclaimed.

“Yes, but in order to reach that place, they have to destroy us.”

I gaped at her. This couldn’t be happening. The human race was on the verge of destruction, but it wasn’t a war between nations. No, all mankind was at war with itself. “Many centuries ago,” Mary continued, “when we were becoming one people, several wars broke out over who would rule the planet. Millions died and the Earth was marred beyond repair. It looked like there would be no end to the bloodshed until my ancestor, Gwendolyn, discovered seren. Eventually she began colonizing other planets, and seren entered the economy, she saved Earth by practically buying it. The planet needed her seren in order to survive and the other factions had no choice but to submit to her rule.”

“Ah, so that’s how the Matriarchy was formed! I’m guessing that these men hated your ancestor for taking advantage of them?” I asked speculatively.

She nodded.

“Most of them did, yes, but she hated the men as well. Gwendolyn blamed the men for causing such destruction in their fruitless wars and persecuted them. So many men had died fighting in the wars that they could not resist her. The men had become a minority. It was at least a one to thirty ratio of men to women. Over the years, the persecution continued through every generation. However, a discovery was made that would change everything. My father found a way to escape this world. He reached the Omega Point . . .”

The Omega Point? This phenomenon intrigued me, to say the least.

“I’m not familiar with the term.” I said inquisitively.

“The Omega Point is a world where humans become one with the universe and transcend over all things.” She explained.

I could not believe my ears! This Omega Point, though it sounded more occult than scientific, would allow me to understand the universe beyond science, beyond what one could see and observe! If I were to reach this point, I would have feeling again!

“How did he do it, if you don’t mind me asking?” I said, trying to control my excitement.

“Well, none of us know, really, but I have a better idea than anyone else. My father was the only person who truly loved me, and it was always my dream to be a great scientist like him.” She smiled nostalgically. “I wish he were here. You would have loved to meet him and he, you. When I was a little girl, we would always talk about how we would reach the Omega Point together and fix this broken world.” Mary paused to clear her throat. “Well, anyway, my father discovered that seren is much more than just an infinite source of energy. It is actually a sort of receptor for the universe’s power, and if someone were able to absorb those energies, they would prematurely reach the Omega Point.”

“Ah, and there is the problem! When we arrived, you said that our bodies were not accustomed to the massive amounts of seren. The body can only take in so much of this cosmic energy.” I said, crossing my arms.

“Yes, that is correct, but my father even found a way around that, though as to its ethics, I will let you judge. You see, we all have a soul, or an Edain, as my father called it. It’s what keeps one connected with the universe. The Gaelturi, the men, harvest our Edains in order to absorb more seren and, consequently, grow closer to reaching the Omega Point. It’s all in my father’s notes. They’re in that binder if you want more details.”

I sat and pondered this.

“What happens to a person when they lose their soul?” It was a silly question, but I asked it nonetheless.

“Well, they do not die, but they lose their link with the rest of the universe. They usually enter into a coma shortly after. I’ve never witnessed it personally, but my sister has . . . It disturbed even her.”

“How do they extract a person’s soul without causing physical harm?”

“The Gaelturi have special weapons made of some anti-seren element. I’m not sure how they work . . . The Gaelturi, they’re wicked, especially their leader, Gael. He has no decency! He kills whomever he wishes.” Her hands began to shake violently. “The Gaelturi harvest entire planets, Conrad! It’s awful! They drain them of all their life until they’re nothing but rocks!”

“Calm down, Mary.” I said, placing my hand on her shoulder. “This Gaelturi sounds like nothing but a cult. I’ve seen your weapons, your strength. I know that you can defeat them.”

“Conrad, the Gaelturi’s power . . . It goes far beyond any science!” Mary sighed. “What you experienced while fighting Daiva a few moments ago is no different from their abilities.”

“So your sister provided Daiva with a second soul?” I asked confused.

“No, I don’t know the details of her experiment. The source of her power could be something entirely different. All I can tell you is that Daiva was once a very timid and shy person. For some reason, after the experiment she became much more lively and outgoing. According to the reports I’ve read, her power far surpasses the Gaelturi’s.” Mary laughed uneasily. “I suppose my sister wants to fight fire with fire.”

Mary looked as though she would cry at any moment. I decided to leave her alone and read through her father’s notes. This Omega Point peaked my interest. I opened the binder and gasped when I found a diagram laying out the progression of Man from a single-celled organism to the Omega Point. Though, it was obvious that the man who created to the diagram was more philosopher than scientist. There were some parts that the engineer could not comprehend such as unification through love that was apparently the key to Man’s great ascension. The diagram also revealed an alternate route that Man could inevitably destroy itself if selfishness and lust prevailed over love and kindness. Apparently, Mary’s father had circled the point that branched off to mankind’s destruction or to its final level of existence. In a way, the graph seemed to closely resemble Man’s choice to be unified with God or suffer damnation and eternal separation from Him.

Mary leaned over my shoulder. “What’s wrong, Conrad?” She asked.

I quickly closed the binder. I thought it best that she did not see that image.

“It’s nothing, Mary.” I frowned. “It’s simply a lot for me to take in at once.”

She sighed. “I’ve read through that binder several times, Conrad . . . I guess my father knew what he was talking about, didn’t he?” Mary said, managing a smile.

I nodded and stared down at my feet.

“I guess it was perfectly logical to think that we would destroy ourselves. Though, I sometimes wonder if my father knew that his experiment would cause our fall. We had planned to end all suffering when we reached the Omega Point, but we only caused even greater pain!” She cried.

She still had my handkerchief and used it once more.

“Oh, I guess you want this back. Sorry that it’s so filthy now.” She smiled and held the cloth out to me, still wet with her tears.

I shook my head. “Keep it. I can’t remember the last time I shed a tear.” I said amusedly.

Her eyes widened. “Really? Thank you, Conrad.” She displayed a sad smile. “Edith told me about your condition; how you can’t experience feelings or see anything beyond what physically exists . . . I didn’t know what to think. I’m sorry that you have to live in such a state, but now, I think you’re fine the way you are. I really do.”

I stared down at the books, unable to speak.

“Thank you, Mary, but I am not satisfied with who I am. If this Omega Point would allow me to understand the universe beyond science, then I would like to look into it. Though, if it can only be reached through the deaths of countless others, then I will be content with my present condition.” I said solemnly, trying not to sound too zealous about the idea.

“You know, we really don’t have any proof that my father was right about seren bringing one closer to the universe. His ideas work in theory, but not in practice. There is no hard evidence that the Gaelturi are ascending to the Omega Point. The seren could simply be mutating their genetic codes.” Mary said, obviously trying to make me reconsider.

“If what you say is true, then how did your father make the ascension?” I asked inquisitively.

“Oh, well . . . I really don’t know, Conrad. All I know it that one day, my father wanted my help with the last step of our experiment. He said that we would reach the Omega Point soon, and I got really excited! I couldn’t wait to fulfill our dreams of fixing this broken world. Well, we worked for a very long time, and eventually, I fell asleep. When I woke up . . . he was gone.” She swallowed. “He left a note, telling me that I still had something very important to do in this life and that I wasn’t ready to go with him just yet. Being so young, I didn’t understand what he meant. Not long after, the other men discovered what had happened to my father. Gael stole most of his notes and rallied all men who were oppressed to join him. They formed the Gaelturi and he made it off the planet with a few of our ships. Our lives fell apart in an instant. I guess my sister told everyone how I had helped our father reach the Omega Point. I’m sure she accused me of what had happened with Gael. Anyway, I secluded myself for the remainder of my childhood. I knew that I had to continue my father’s work. It was the only way that I could ever see him again. Of course, it was foolish of me to think that way. My father never left me.” She smiled. “No, he’s right here, Conrad. He’s been watching over me all this time. I just wish he would tell me why it is I’m still here . . .”

I pondered what she had said. It was terrible to think that such an amazing discovery could be used to commit such evil.

“I am sorry to hear that, Mary. Your father sounds like a wonderful man. Perhaps I will visit him when I rebuild the Chronostat.”

“There’s no need to pity me, Conrad.” She laughed. “Like I said, my father is still here. I speak to him every day.”

I wasn’t sure if she was being serious or if it was just a means to comfort herself, as one might talk to a passed loved one at their grave.

“Yes, but that does not change how you were treated by the other Maidens.” I said, crossing my arms.

“No, I don’t mind, Conrad, really! I never wanted to have friends until I met you and your sister.” She shrugged. “My father was the only person I ever wanted to be with. My sister was always trying to make me miserable and my mother was constantly yelling at me for not being like Anwen. My mother told me that I would never make anything out of myself if I couldn’t be as smart or as strong as her.”

“What a terrible mother! If I have the pleasure of meeting her again, I’ll see to it that she regrets that!” I yelled, pounding my fist on the table.

“Calm down, Conrad!” Mary exclaimed. “She did what she had to do. Remember that my mother was trying to establish order during the early days of the Gaelturi. She was under a lot of stress.”

I grunted, not at all satisfied with how Mary had been treated. She frowned and rubbed her right shoulder. I immediately thought that she was injured.

“What’s wrong, Mary?” I asked.

Her face reddened. “Oh, it’s nothing!” She laughed. “Well, why don’t you tell me about yourself? I’d love to know more about your Reich and your time period!” Mary said hastily, dismissing the subject.

I knew that Mary was hiding something, but if she did not want me to know then I would not pursue the matter.

I sighed. “My mother died shortly after Edith was born. In his grief, my father dropped out of society and I, being six years of age, was forced to raise Edith on my own. When I was fifteen, my uncle found us and took me in as his apprentice in his workshop. Later, when I was twenty-one, I fought in the Franco-Prussian War. I spent the next four years after the war building the Chronostat. Once it was finished, we arrived here.” I explained, not wanting speak of my past. I spared every detail I could.

“That’s so sad,” she smiled, “and yet very heart-warming. Edith is fortunate to have you for a brother. I’m so happy that you came here, Conrad. You’ve renewed my hope.” Mary said happily.

I laughed. “Well, I’m not sure how that is, but I am happy to have helped.” I smiled as I thought of my sister. “Though, I am also quite fortunate to have Edith as a sister. She’s always been by my side, especially after the war.” I said, flipping through the pages of another textbook.

Mary nodded and read along with me. Eventually, she began to fall asleep on my shoulder.

“Oh, I’m sorry, Conrad!” She exclaimed, awakening with a start.

I smiled and continued reading.

She looked away from me and began to play with her hair in a nervous manner.

She cleared her throat. “Um . . . Conrad?” I looked up at her. Earlier this morning when you stood up for me, it meant a lot. I really can’t thank you enough.” Mary whispered, barely audible.

“Nonsense!” I laughed. “I did what any man of the Reich would have done”

“No, it’s true! I don’t receive a lot of kindness, as you can imagine. I am very grateful for what you did, so if you need anything you can come to me!”

I nodded and continued reading. Little did I know that Mary was becoming frustrated at my oblivious attitude. She was obviously trying to tell me something important, but her efforts were wasted on the engineer. Then she asked a question that caused me to briefly escape the engineer’s mind: “Conrad, do you think I’m beautiful?”

I was utterly shocked to hear such a thing. I closed the textbook and looked at her. For a moment, I could feel a strange feeling, so strange that I could not even recognize it. The alien sensation, it had to have been some sort of emotion, but as quickly as it came, it left and I was restrained once more inside of the engineer.

“I am sorry, Mary, but you are asking the wrong man. I am blind to the beauty that you want me to interpret. I cannot discern one woman’s appearance from the next, just as I cannot differentiate between Edith’s music. Again, I am sorry.”

Mary smiled and took my hand. “If you’re saying that I’m just as beautiful as my sister, then that’s perfect Conrad!”

I smiled awkwardly and nodded. “Yes, I suppose that’s one way of putting it . . .”

“Why don’t we start building our vessel tomorrow?” Mary asked hopefully. “Don’t worry about the resources. I’ll take care of it.”

I nodded. “I suppose that would be the logical step to take next.”

“Wonderful!” Mary exclaimed, clasping her hands together. I’ll take you to hangar eight tomorrow. It’s not too big and we should have it all to ourselves.”

“That sounds adequate. It is getting very late and I do not want to worry Edith. Thank you for your hospitality. I’ll be—”

Mary quickly embraced me, preventing me from leaving.

“No, stay with me, Conrad.” She whispered as she leaned in closer to me. “I already told Edith that I would keep you tonight.”

I sighed. “Well, if Edith isn’t expecting me then I suppose I could stay here with you, but I do not want to trouble you.”

“Oh, you can trouble me all you want, Conrad! Now, where would you like to sleep?” She asked, trying to contain her excitement.

“I am comfortable right here. Thank you.”

“Really? Then I’ll get a blanket for you. Stay right here.” She said disappointedly and walked off.

I could feel Edith’s hand in this. Obviously, she and Mary had collaborated to trap me here. At this point, even I was aware of Mary’s feelings toward me. I quickly prepared some responses for the undoubtable events that were to follow.

Mary returned with the blanket. She sat down next to me and spread it out over us.

I frowned. “Don’t you have your own bed?”

“Yes! We can sleep in it if you’d like!” She exclaimed, jumping to her feet.

I sighed. “It’s astounding how bad you are at interpreting my insinuations.”

To my surprise, Mary did not become angry, but actually laughed.

“I’m sorry, Conrad, but your sister told me to take care of you and that’s what I’m going to do!” Mary said as she lay back against my shoulder and pulled the blanket over herself.

I smiled and leaned against her in return.

“Get some rest, Conrad.” She smiled. We’ll get an early start on building your new ship tomorrow.”

I nodded and closed my eyes. Mary’s breath was hot upon my neck. I felt her shift slightly and opened my eyes. She was staring intensely at me.

“Oh, I wasn’t watching you sleep! I promise!” She stammered.

I could not help but laugh.

“You’re quite direct with your feelings, aren’t you?” I sighed. “I wish I could do the same.”

“What? No, you don’t have to change, Conrad. I think you’re perfect just the way you are!” Mary said, blushing.

She looked back up at me and smiled.

“Thank you, Mary. Good night!” I said and closed my eyes once again.

“Good night, Conrad.” she whispered and kissed my face.

Mary relaxed and leaned against my shoulder before falling asleep. Soon, I too fell into slumber, but I was restless, unable to stop thinking about that strange feeling I had briefly experienced.

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