【 Chapter Nine 】
The sun shone through the thin gap between the curtains in Amber’s room, causing strips of warm light to stretch over a side of her face, highlighting her skin and closed eyes that blinked several times as she awoke. The thrill inside her fizzed to life as she sat up in her bed, glancing at the one beside her, where Cressela was already awake and lying on her stomach, flipping through the journal and reading its coded contents with ease. She looked up as Amber shifted and swung her legs off the bed and onto the floor.
“You slept well.”
Amber shrugged and nodded. “Yeah. I guess you don’t need to sleep as often as we do.”
“Not really. Sometimes, when we need to rebuild energy.”
Amber’s golden gaze shifted to the book in Cressela’s hands. “You don’t have to answer, but what’s the book about?”
“It’s my mother’s,” Cressela said. “Was my mother’s. She wrote a journal and her ideas in it when she was alone and me and Zanya were elsewhere in the house. Nothing much, but it reminds me of her.”
Amber smiled and nodded. “Wish I had something like that.”
A light tap on the door caught the girls’ attention, and Ruey came in, looking fairly tired by just as determined as Amber was.
“Did you two sleep alright?”
They nodded, Cressela closing the book carefully and putting her hands over the cover in her lap.
“Good, good. Now, you’ll be driven to the plane at eight this morning. So you’ve got about an hour or so to get ready. Cressela, dear, do you need anything before you go? Amber’s got some clothes and things here if you need to borrow anything.”
“I don’t think so...”
“Well, I’ve got a hoodie if you want it,” Amber agreed, going through the drawer underneath her bed and rummaging through her things until she pulled out a black hoodie with constellations patterning it in silver. “Keep it.”
Cressela took it from her hands, glancing at it and then back to Amber. “Thank you,” she said, seeming surprised by the act of kindness that she was never given to by anyone except her family and friends, a long while ago. Amber nodded and smiled.
“Amber, love, I’ve got something to give you. Come.”
Amber got up and followed him out of the room and into his own, as he opened a small chest on the shelf above his bedside table with a key underneath it. Then he bought out a thin silver chain with an amber teardrop pendant hanging from it, glittering in the morning light.
“It’s real Amber. An amber for an Amber,” Ruey said fondly, undoing the clasp and fastening it around her neck as Amber herself watched in amazement, holding the pendant up to her eyes and marvelling over its smooth, cool feeling.
“Where did you get this?”
“It... it was your mother’s actually,” Ruey told her, and Amber looked back at him in shock, eyes wide. “I know, I know what you’re going to say. I would’ve told you and given it to you sooner, but she’d have wanted you to have it now. She made me promise that I’d give it to you once you were in this situation.”
“What situation?” Amber asked, holding it to her chest.
“Your adventure. She was as sure as you are that you’d have one. Amber... there are things you don’t know about what happened to them, and things I don’t know much about either. But when you go out to do this, hopefully, everything will start to make sense for you. I think it will.”
“So do I,” Amber admitted with a small smile. “But, when you say things I don’t know-”
“I don’t know either,” Ruey responded. “But my guess is that there’s a lot more to this than there seems, but to be honest, there seems to be a lot to this in the first place.”
Amber nodded, pulling him into a hug. “I’m scared. It’s stupid, isn’t it? I want to do this, but I’m scared anyway.”
“Of course you are,” Ruey hummed, rubbing her back and resting his chin on the top of her head. “You’re all I have left, Ambs. And you remind me so much of them. Remember me, when you’re gone. No matter what you do, or where you’ll be, I’ll always be proud of you. And we’ll always be family.”
Then he let go quickly, and Amber smiled, going off to get changed and then staring at her reflection in the bathroom mirror, steadying her breathing and trying desperately to calm her nerves. Celeste came padding in obliviously, and Amber stroked her fluffy fur while she purred in content. There were so many emotions running through Amber that she almost felt numb, thoughts of her past, the possible and unforeseeable futures, every one of them with Cressela by her side, the two of them practically unstoppable.
She wished as hard as she could that her imagination would become reality. She couldn’t see herself and Cressela failing and dying at Insanis’ feet, and she refused to try. Someway, somehow, it was going to work. And she couldn’t wait to see it.
The door opened to reveal Cressela, looking at Amber in slight concern. “You okay?”
Amber nodded. “Pretty sure.”
“Can you keep my book for me?” Cressela asked tentatively, holding it out. “I don’t want to lose it.”
“Yeah, of course,” Amber agreed, taking it and pushing it into one of her pockets, leaning back against the sink as she thought of the past sixteen years of her life. Uncertainty at every angle, so little information about everything it was like reading a book with most of the pages ripped out messily. Ever since she could crawl she had been called different - imaginative, a daydreamer, eager and too adventurous for her own good. An outsider who never fit in with her kind, but might just fit in with another. No one said that was impossible, and no one should. Things that you can only try to imagine or dream of were things that Amber was witnessing from the girl she had found, abandoned and Delusional in the forest that seemed so familiar and open to her. What was it that caused the tree to fall down that night? Did she believe in chance or fate? Did she have to?
“We can do it,” Cressela told her, distracting Amber from her wandering thoughts. “I can feel it, and because I can feel it, I know it. Do you understand?”
“More than you know,” Amber agreed, turning around to face her properly.
“You turned me from my Delusional state. When you first came to the house, I didn’t kill you because I knew there was a reason why you came, and I felt it. It woke me up. Something in you that’s special, and special people can do amazing things. They already have, and they always will.”
Amber gave her a half-smile. “I think you’re amazing. Not just because of your powers. We’re going to save your friends.”
“They’ll be interested to see you,” Cressela commented. “Different reactions depending on who it is. And they each have their strengths, like I do. Well, I have an Unlimited Origin so far, which is very uncommon for my kind. I think that’s why Insanis chose me out of all the others back where we come from. I’m stronger.”
“And by Origins, you mean...?”
“The foundation of our existence,” Cressela explained. “We were made uniquely, very uniquely. There’s Ice Origin, which is based on the cold season and the water element. An Electric Origin is based on energy and lightning, sometimes on extraordinary abilities we have, which are to do with what we have back on our home planet. Unknown or Undiscovered is just what sounds like, until it’s figured out. A Dark Origin is all about darkness and the black period of the cycle - the night? - and Light Origin is the opposite. A Fire Origin is about the element of fire and hot energy, and an Animal Origin is for Spirit Animals, or Whisperers.”
“Sorry, Spirit Animals and Whisperers?” Amber repeated, bewildered.
“Yes. Some of us were born to protect one kind of animal, and defend their species by leading them and keeping them safe. They grow up with them and they and the animal are at one with each other. The animal will protect and do as the Whisperer asks. I don’t remember much about it though. I think that when Insanis took us from where we come from to here, most of our memories of the place stayed there too.”
“That’s awful,” Amber said, taken aback. “We better get them back to you then.”
Cressela nodded, smiling lightly, and Ruey suddenly called their names.
“The car’s outside, girls. Are we ready to go?”
Cressela nodded, and Amber did too. Ruey opened the main door for them, and Cressela stepped out into the sun, breathing in the fresh air while Amber lingered, tucking the amber necklace underneath her hoodie protectively, stuffing her hands in her cargo pants’ pockets,
“I kind of wish you could come with me,” Amber admitted to Ruey, who grinned and shook his head.
“I can’t do that. It’s your adventure, not mine. And you’ve got that same look in your eyes as Miliah did.”
Ruey nodded, tears threatening to spill. “Your mother’s name. Khane was your father’s. My son. I’m... I’m so sorry Amber. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you enough about them sooner because it hurt-”
“You don’t need to be,” Amber assured him. “You’re the best grandad ever. I’ll never forget you, whether I end up back here or not.”
“Something tells me you won’t,” Ruey said softly, stroking her cheek with a light smile. “But when you do this - and you will do this - trust your instincts. Trust yourself. It’s a good skill. Trust yourself, because no matter where you are or who you’re with and facing, you’ll still be Amber Obscura. One known name can hold a thousand hidden glories.”
Amber nodded, hugging him again and fighting back tears. “I love you, Ruey.”
“I love you too, Amber. Now go. I won’t watch you leave. Cressela, you’re an amazing young woman, just like my Amber, and it was an honour to have met you.”
Cressela’s eyes widened a fraction in surprise. “Thank you. Same to you.”
Then Ruey hurried back into the house, leaving Amber and Cressela together, approaching a long navy car with a cheerful-looking man with short brown hair and thick-rimmed glasses, who came opening the back door of his car for them.
“Hello, hello! I’m Brain Quill, and you must be Amber and Cressela. Odd name, that. I like it! Your grandad gave me the location - that’s another thing, weird location, huh? - so we’re just gonna take a short drive to the jet, and we’ll get right on. Must be exciting for you two, right? Ever been on a jet? No? I doubt it. Anyway, anyway, come on in. Let’s go, shall we?”
Cressela slipped inside and set next to Amber, unfamiliar with the vehicle and quiet as Amber explained to her in a hushed tone what it did, and how it wasn’t dangerous at all, unless an idiot was driving it, which made her smile a little as she pulled her seatbelt down into place. Then the car was off, and Amber stared out of the window at Ruey’s bungalow, her almost-home, as it grew smaller and further away.
It took around ten or fifteen minutes for them all to arrive at the jet pad, and the girls stepped up and onto it distractedly as Brain spoke to them non-stop, before patting them on the backs and making Cressela flinch instinctively at the contact as he left them to join the other pilot in the front.
“I’m nervous,” Cressela mumbled to Amber.
“So am I,” Amber said, smiling gently. “But we’ve been waiting for this. And we’ve got each other.”
Cressela nodded in agreement and winced as the jet began running and lifting off the ground, the air pressure not affecting her overly, Amber taking a minute to get past it. Cressela suddenly took hold of her hand, silent as she did, and Amber squeezed it lightly in reassurance. Then the town was behind them, dull familiarity behind them, and new unfamiliarities ahead.
“See you around,” Amber muttered, watching the trees and the forest and houses and shops grow smaller and smaller. “We never suited each other, did we?”