“No!” she screeched, pounding the sand with her fists. She collapsed on the ground, sobbing. “No, no, no, no. This can't be happening. This can't be. Kasha, Lumina, Opallo. You can't be gone. You can't. This is just a dream. There was no storm. I'm still on the ship, and we're flying peacefully to Shenkuu. Nothing happened. Nothing at all, we're all safe, we're all together.” But she knew that she wasn't dreaming. The pain in her head, the blood flowing from her cuts, the sting of the saltwater against her wounds, they didn't happen in nightmares.
She sat up and screamed, pouring all her grief, all her anger, all her pain, into that one heart-rending cry, before she let her head fall to the ground. She cried herself to sleep.
Opallo sat on the raft, gazing in horror at the ocean. He was a Jetsam, and he was master of his element. Until now. His own homeland had claimed his adopted family, and nearly everyone else aboard the vessel. The flying ship had carried over two hundred passengers, of which barely twenty had survived. All the survivors could fly except him, and most of them were Scorchios. There had been others on the ship who might have been able to live, but they had been fried by the lightning. That idiot captain! He could have saved them, he could have lowered the ship onto the waves, he could have taken a longer route and avoided the storm completely. Instead, he had maintained the same speed and course and flown even higher still. The captain had drowned, and he was the only one out of two hundred innocent people who deserved it.
“Are you alright?” someone on his raft asked. Opallo turned his head and glanced at the Pteri's worried face.
“My three sisters,” he choked, tears streaming down his normally emotionless face. “A Kyrii, a Shoyru, a Yurble. They're gone, all of them.”
The Pteri, who lived by himself and didn't have any family members or close friends to worry about, patted Opallo's fin gently. He didn't try to comfort him, since he knew as well as the distressed blue Jetsam did that there was no way his sisters could have survived.
Then there was a wail that shook Opallo from his grief. He instantly recognized that voice. “Mellani!” he yelled across the moonlit waves. “Mellani!” He made a move to propel himself into the water, but the old Pteri and the other two on the raft, both Scorchios, grabbed Opallo firmly.
“You can't swim after that,” one of the Scorchios said. “None of us can spare the energy to fly to wherever it is you want to go, either, and if we row there, then we won't have enough water to survive. You're only one here can drink saltwater.”
“My sister's over there!” yelled Opallo. “She's there, I have to go to her!”
The Scorchio sighed. “You're still shocked from the wreck. You don't know whether that's your sister or not.”
“That's Mellani's voice!”
“You think it's your sister. Unless you know for a fact, we are not going there,” the Scorchio said, in a tone that meant business. “We're not going to waste our lives on a wish.”
Opallo struggled against their grasp. “I know that's my sister!”
Then the other Scorchio slammed a wing into Opallo's head, knocking him unconscious.
Mellani woke, and the first thing she felt was pain, unbearable pain. The sunlight sent little arrows of pain through her sore eyes; her wounds were on fire from the saltwater; grief gnawed at her heart; her burns from the lightning strike were agony; every movement made her cold, stiff body feel like dying. It didn't help her that Ponkas were trying to peck her half to death and little petpetpets were swarming all over her, giving new meaning to the word itch.
She tried to scream and swat the critters away, but the only sound that came was a hoarse croak, and most of the scavengers just ignored her, or backed off for a second before coming back. That reminded her of her urgent need for fresh water. Painfully, she stood up. After much wobbling, she finally managed to find her balance, and the scavengers left her in search of food that wasn't capable of defending itself.
She flexed her wings to see if they worked. She was a Darigan Kyrii from birth, thus having the sturdiness and stamina of one born a Darigan. Her wings, though scorched, could still lift herself into the air, but the pain was great enough for her not to try again anytime soon. Mellani, finished examining her body, took stock of her surroundings. She was standing on a beach, with the ocean behind her and a tropical forest before her that reminded her of Geraptiku. The awareness of subtle changes in the air currents from being a flying creature assured her that, later on, it would be extremely hot, and that she was on a piece of land surrounded by water. In other words, an island. It would be close to the path that they took from Mystery Island to Roo Island, somewhere in the middle, meaning that even after her wings had healed, she couldn't fly off. Her one hope to leave came from the probability that a ship would come along and rescue her, which might never happen, since she didn't know how much off course she was.
Then the grief poured over her again, the raw grief of losing her closest friends, her only family. But if she had survived, then it was possible that some of the other passengers had survived as well, and they might even be stuck on the same island.
Resolute in her belief that she was not alone, Mellani staggered into the rainforest in search of drinking water.
Opallo regained consciousness in the morning. He was lying on the raft, head throbbing, covered by a blanket from one of the emergency packs. The Scorchio who had hit him was sitting next to the Jetsam. When he saw that Opallo was awake, he gave him some water. “Sorry about last night,” he apologized. “We didn't want you to hurt yourself out there.”
Opallo took the water and drained it in one gulp. He didn't respond, just leapt over the side of the raft. He wasn't going back to his sister, not because he didn't want to, but because he didn't know where Mellani was. They had rowed a long way during the time he had been out, and now he just wanted to forget himself in the water.
Opallo saw land. The city rose up ahead. He turned and swam back to the rafts. He hauled himself up the one in front. “Altador,” he declared. “It's straight ahead.”
There were hoarse cheers from everyone. Opallo ducked under the water again and followed behind the rafts at a distance. The survivors were all happy now, even those who had lost loved ones. All of them except Opallo. Nothing would ever be the same again, knowing that he could have gone back to Mellani. She was still alive, and yet they couldn't be together.
By evening, all the survivors were in King Altador's palace. They had been fed, clothed, washed, and promised a good night's sleep in the guest rooms. As Opallo fell asleep, he kept on thinking about what might have been if they had gone back to Mellani.