There are ants in my Lucky Green Boots Circulation: 188,728,398 Issue: 529 | 20th day of Sleeping, Y14
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Possibility: Part Four


by virtuosoe

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I'm finally home. I feel terrible about it.

      After talking it over with the four Draiks, we reached a compromise. I would be presented first to "the guard", taken by the palace to express ersatz, sentimental goodbyes with my father and sisters, and then taken to a dungeon. Jules has to stay in a dungeon for a while, too, for being an accomplice. He doesn't have to stay for nearly as long as I do. He'll even get to go back home in the desert. For the rest of the night I get to stay at a hotel. After that my exciting day will begin.

      I'm through crying by the time we get to the hotel. Jules shed maybe a tear or two before we got there.

      I meet Siri, the conductor of the Draik crew. She was the Darigan Aisha who knocked me out at Jules's house. To direct a group of bounty hunters, Siri has to be a bit on the evil side; and, boy is she. She seems like the type of person who pretends to be elite to feel better. I don't talk to her much after our brief exchange.

      At the hotel, Jules and I are left alone sans for the shadow Draik. The hotel is dingy and disheveled, but I don't care at all. Jules and I sit on our beds.

      "Could we maybe devise one more final plan?" Jules asks.

      I can't help but smile. I remember that our first list of objectives is currently being torn to shreds. "One last scheme. One last list of possibilities before my imprisonment."

      "First: We visit the guard, Galtof, and ask him what's up." Jules groans a bit. "It's so weird that you say he didn't make the posters. But the crew swears by it."

      I just stare. "I don't know, maybe Galtof did make the posters. Maybe the crew is completely right." I take a deep breath. "Step two: We submit fully to the crew and allow them to take us to the palace. Once there, we break off from them."

      "That would be awfully difficult, don't you think?"

      "We could do it. We could. And we can find someone to give us answers. Like my father."

      Jules nods. "But how will you know where your father is?"

      I laugh a little. "Don't your worry your pretty little head about getting through the palace because we'll be just fine."

      I don't even know what happens next. We become a mess of tears and hugs and warbled messages. I don't know if Jules understands what I'm saying, but I sob it out anyway. "I never meant to rope you into this mess. It's all my fault. It's all my fault for coming to the desert and letting you take me in and telling you everything and stranding you here. I'll do whatever I can to get you back."

      Jules is saying something, too, but I can't make it out.

      After five minutes of this, we both decide it's smart to sleep. Tomorrow will be so life-changing, I don't even know if it's reality. I think that these sorts of things only happen in dreams...

      I wake up because I have a horrifying dream. My father was torn away from me by the fingers of guilt. My whole life was. It was terrible. The sun is shining now, and a familiar Shenkuuian air fills the room. As much as I miss this atmosphere, I can't bring myself to say I enjoy it. Jules is already up, as likely. He's peering outside the window.

      "Good morning," I say. He grunts in reply. "How's our Draik guard doing?"

      "Asleep." Jules turns to me. "If we run now, we have a better chance of making it."

      I shake my head. "Smart idea. But I want answers from Galtof."

      "If he's as thick as you say he is, he can't give us any answers. But I suppose running off to the palace is no good, either."

      I take to the bathroom, which is mindless because I don't have anything with me. But still there's a mirror. A fleeting thought about the unkempt hotel being nicer than my home under the palace crosses my mind, but I push it out immediately. I look terrible. I haven't bathed in quite a while, I've had no access to grooming material in quite a while, and I'm not feeling well either. I splash some water onto my face and dry it with a towel, but I look the same.

      Apparently the shadow Draik has awoken when I emerge from the bathroom. He's standing in the doorway, motioning us to follow him. "Today is going to go by quick. You'll be in a dungeon by sundown if things go smoothly."

      For the first time neither Jules nor I say anything nasty to him, which doesn't seem to disconcert him. He leads us to a small house in the lower hills of the city. "First stop," he says quietly. "Your beloved guard's house."

      We knock. At the door stands the big, brown Lupe who has subjected himself to the emperor by pretending to be the father of a mystery daughter whose long day has not yet begun. He opens his arms and I run into them. He and Jules shake hands. The Draik stands outside why Jules and I walk inside.

      "Galtof, you don't know how happy I am to see you," I say. But I can't cry.

      Galtof sits us in the couch. "I got news you two were coming. It seems unfortunate what you have to go through."

      "We're going to try to prevent it," I say cautiously. Then I ask slowly, "Galtof... did you release my missing posters?"

      The Lupe blinks and opens his mouth. After a while he says, "No. That was your father."

      Two reassuring comments in one. I feel triumphant for a few seconds. "Listen. The crew was trying to convince me that my father wasn't actually my father, and therefore I wasn't really the princess. Clear this up for me?"

      Galtof considers this. "As far as I know, you're the princess. The emperor is one-hundred percent your father."

      Yes! Another uplifting statement. Then I say, "Wait. Why is my father trying to put me in a dungeon then?"

      "Your father is trying to put you in a dungeon?"

      There seems to be an invisible chess piece in the way of our game. I know things he doesn't know, he knows things I don't know, and there are some things neither of us knows. And sadly, we may both be wrong on some matters.

      I nod. "That's what I was told. I'm hoping dearly it's false."

      "Your father was devastated when he found out you had left. Two daughters to leave him? That's preposterous. And now, here you are." He smiles.

      He's avoided the topic, but he is making me feel better. I smile as well. "Galtof, I don't know what to do. According to you I shouldn't be put in a dungeon, and—"

      "I never said that. Why are you going to a dungeon?"

      I'm taken aback slightly. "Because. I was told my father was so outraged with my stupid stunt that he arranged for me to have a one-way trip to a dungeon. That's the only reason I'm here today."

      "That's a lie," Galtof says. "About your father. He'd not allow you to go to a dungeon."

      "Are you sure?"

      Galtof nods. "I'm positive. He has such a loving in his heart for you that he'd die of heartbreak if you'd go a dungeon." He leans in. "Go to the palace and alert him immediately."

      "I'll try." I give my best effort in not crying. "Galtof, thank you so much. You were never someone I took for granted." I say this because it feels fitting and because it's true. We hug and I leave because the shadow Draik has come inside and is calling me.

      Outside, we walk through the fog of the morning slowly. I take into account what Galtof has told me. Get to the palace and alert my father. The news Galtof has provided me with has elated me. I'm filled with naïve hope. I realize that I'm changing standings quite frequently; one minute I'm the princess and the next I'm not. One minute my father loves me and the next he doesn't. This trip to the palace that we're now taking is likely my last step. For now I'm fiddling around in the middle, which isn't very reassuring.

      We're awfully close to the palace when I notice that the shadow Draik is the only person of the crew who's with us. If we're truly going to make an escape, it should be easy.

      Commoners begin to play music. I always liked listening to their tunes. I wave to some of the music players with affected enthusiasm, only because some of them wave at me. Jules has the energy to do so as well.

      The music continues as we approach the castle. My heart is beating, thank goodness, but I feel numb to it. The Draik passes by the guards effortlessly. Before we enter the palace that I've come to know so well, the Draik faces us and whispers, "You have approximately ten minutes—actually, less than that— and then I have to take you away from here."

      I'm stunned; we don't have to escape.

      Jules thanks the Draik, and I nod at him. I wonder briefly if he's been "on our side" all along. I know he hasn't; he wouldn't have filled my head with doubt if he had been. Or would he? I can't ponder it too long because Jules is pulling me into the palace and I'm being torn away from the Draik's gaze.

      Inside, it's exactly as I remember it from the transitory glances I'd gotten from it before. We're on the bottom floor (Father is on the top floor) where trading and selling still continues. The people here aren't commoners, but they also aren't royalty. A grand silver case of stairs is to our left. I direct Jules to it.

      "What are we looking for, Astrea?" Jules whispers.

      "Someone—anyone that I know."

      On the next floor I see, through the slim crack of a door, a green Ogrin studying with a mentor.

      It's Terrana.

      I race in, probably breaking many rules.

      "Terrana," I mumble as both her and her teacher, an elderly Tonu, sharply turn their heads.

      Terrana stands immediately and races to give me a hug. This is probably the first time we've hugged in... forever. "Sister," she says darkly as she pulls away from me. "You're back. Where were you?"

      "I was in the Lost Desert. I wasn't kidnapped or enticed or anything. I went willingly."

      "Father is going to be so excited." She turns her piercing stare toward Jules. "Who is this?"

      Jules steps forward. "I'm Jules. I helped Astrea in the desert and helped her get here. It's very nice to meet you."

      Terrana doesn't acknowledge his comments much. "What are you going to do?"

      "I only have ten minutes. I don't know what I even should do."

      "Get in contact with Father immediately."

      I groan. "Is that even possible? I'm sure he's so far away from here. Terrana, after I leave here I'm going to a dungeon if I don't find him."

      Terrana breathes sharply. "Father won't allow that any more than I will. Find him. He should be up there."

      I really am crying now. Terrana's never been so kind to me, and now that it's crunch time she's added just the lethal amount of heart to her directions. I'm two years older than her, but her soul is much wiser than mine, and it shows.

      Before I can leave, her Tonu director asks who I am.

      Terrana turns to him and replies curtly, "My sister."

To be continued...

 
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Other Episodes


» Possibility: Part One
» Possibility: Part Two
» Possibility: Part Three
» Possibility: Part Five
» Possibility: Part Six



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