Mystic Heart Odyssey
Part 5: The Cult of the Crimson Isles
Wellp, so much for avoiding the cu- er, “Order of the Enlightened”, eh?
Everyone shared a chuckle as Lykou finished telling one of his stories from his youth. And although he was enjoying the chance to talk about home again, the canid eventually caught his friend’s eye and noted his impatient, anxious expression, and smiled sheepishly back at him. “Well, it’s been nice meeting you all, but we should really get going now,” he said as he got to his feet and picked up his bags. “Still got plenty of mountain to climb, after all.”
“Quite right!” Matai agreed, then turned to the other members of the Order and clapped his hands together loudly. “Let’s pack up everyone. Hina, you’ve napped enough, I think.”
Hina jolted up, slightly startled, and ended up falling out of her hammock awkwardly. She got up almost immediately and shot a wary look around, as if daring any nearby villagers to comment on it, then dusted herself off and joined the others.
Tane got up and stretched a bit before turning to leave the village square. “Right. I’ll have Kalei make sure we’re well supplied.”
“Splendid. Koa, round up a tent for our new friends.”
“Will do!” Koa said, then sprinted off around the corner.
“Uhhh…. What?” Lykou asked.
“W-we were… just talking about L-Lykou and I,” Kuna nervously pointed out. “Y-you all don’t need to a-accompany us.”
“Nonsense! It’d be rude of us not to keep you company and aid you on the way up! We’re servants of Tuimana, after all. Fate brought us together for a reason! We’ll make sure you safely reach the shrine without any unwanted difficulties.”
Lykou and Kuna shared an uneasy look, with the latter struggling to hide how distraught he was. “That’s… very nice of you,” Lykou said, putting on somewhat forced smile. “But it’s really not necessary. We-”
“Nonsense, I insist!” he said, then walked over to join Hina in packing up some of the group’s bags.
Anaru approached Kuna and placed a hand on his shoulder, making him jump slightly while the others busied themselves with packing up. “Hey. Let me guess,” he said quietly, eyeing Kuna, then Lykou with a smirk. “You weren’t really going to the shrine, were you?”
The canid glanced around nervously. “W-whaaat? Of course we were! We-”
“Come on, don’t lie. Some of the others might be a little blinded by optimism, but I’m not dense. I’m as devoted to our god as the next Enlightened, but I’m also a realist,” he said, keeping his voice low, almost conspiratorial. He then walked around and placed his arms over both their shoulders. “Relax, I get it. Spiritual or not, you’re desperate to get home as soon as possible. You wanted to be in our good graces while you’re here, looking for your little… magic portal thing.”
“But here’s the thing- that’s all the more reason you should visit the shrine for real. If anyone knows where such a thing is on these islands, it’d be the Speaker. And if even he isn’t sure, he can commune with Tuimana himself and get the answers you seek.”
Lykou and Kuna shared another look. The latter was still clearly uncertain, but eventually Lykou smiled back to Anaru. “I mean... it… wasn’t a total lie, we’re perfectly willing to pay our respects and all.”
Kuna gulped and glanced around nervously, then nodded. “Y-you don’t think the, uh… S-Speaker will mind helping us?”
Anaru chuckled and patted them on the back, then stepped past them to pick up his own bag and smiled back at them. “Of course not. Helping is what our whole organization is about!”
“I… was under the impression you guys mostly just hunted demons all the time,” Lykou replied. “N-not that that’s not important, I mean! Because it definitely is!”
Anaru chuckled. “That’s a big part of it, but hardly the only thing. I can imagine what rumors a couple of outsiders like yourself might have heard down on the coast. I should know, I spend enough time down there. But we really do try and help people out.” He paused to look around, as if making sure nobody else was paying him too much attention, before again getting closer and speaking quietly, “Let me see, given the village you two were first spotted near… you met a certain young lady by the name of Hokulani, yes?”
“Hokulaniwho’sthat?” Kuna quickly spat out nervously.
He arched a brow and smirked. “Noble of you to protect her, or at least think you are. But no need. I know she’s not fond of the Order, and I know she’s a bit paranoid about our activities.”
“...she’s a very nice girl though,” Lykou hazarded. “I’m sure she’s just being cautious.”
“Oh absolutely, I know. She’s my cousin, you see.”
“Wait, really?” Kuna asked, looking him over. He would never have guessed it before, but now that Anaru mentioned it, he could see a very faint familial similarity. “Huh…”
“Yes. And I know her well enough to know that her concerns come from a good place. It’s true, some of the others might at least want to bring her in for questioning and start preaching excessively to her… if they knew her feelings about us. But that’s why I’ve taken it on my own to check in on her from time to time… and not bother the rest of the Order about her.”
“Th-that’s… good to know.”
“Like I said. I know she has a good heart. She just has…. biases,” the raptuva explained with a slight eye-roll, smiling nonetheless. “I’m hoping to get through to her eventually. In the meantime, just don’t let her paranoia rub off on you.” He plucked a small yellow-orange fruit out of his bag and tossed it to the sereva with a wink. “For the hike. Don’t eat the skin.” He then walked off to help the others finish packing up.
“He… actually seems pretty nice,” Lykou commented, scratching his head. “I’m starting to think she really was just being a bit paranoid.”
Kuna looked over the fruit he’d caught, then tucked it away in his bag. He then looked around the village and frowned. “Maybe. Not sure about all of them though,” he said, noticing Tane pausing to bark orders at a few villagers as they frantically darted around, gathering various materials and supplies for him.
Lykou looked around as well, then shrugged. “Well, either way, it looks like we’re stuck hiking to the shrine with them.”
“We… could just sneak off while they’re busy,” Kuna quietly pointed out.
“Under the circumstances, I don’t think that’s a good idea, Ku. Best case scenario, it’d be rude, and worst case, it’d look suspicious. Besides, he’s right- your spell points us in the general direction, but what if it’s another tricky one to get at or find? Maybe this ‘Speaker’ guy knows about it and can help us get to it.”
Kuna sighed and rubbed his head. “Yeah… I guess.”
The konuul rubbed his friend’s arm and gave him a gentle squeeze. “Hey, as long as we stick together, we’ll make it through whatever happens, right?”
After a moment, the sereva smiled back at him, putting a hand on the canid’s. “Right.”
Sunshine swooped down and alighted on a large boulder wedged into the ground on the island Lykou and Kuna had arrived on, overlooking the gap between the two. He looked around and waited, slowly pacing back and forth, and occasionally eyeing a previously fruit-laden bush with hungry eyes.
Eventually, Zynshall appeared, stepping out of some shadows between a tight cluster of trees and bushes. For once, he wasn’t his usual showy, grinning self. He seemed distracted and oblivious of his surroundings, muttering to himself in thought. “I really shouldn't interfere, but... damn. This sure is taking a toll on folks. Surely Inkari knows how... what am I saying, of course she does! She's Inkari! Still, maybe I should-”
The jarzin looked up and smirked faintly. “Oh right. You. Sorry, I was just… thinking out loud about some… things,” he said, then crossed his arms. “So, how are they? Enjoying a piece of tropical paradise?”
The bird clicked and whistled a bit. “Demon hunters. Bullies.”
“...come again? I know there's some weird religious group over there- that who you're talking about?”
Sunshine bobbed his head around and strutted back and forth on the boulder, clicking again a few more times.
“Hmm. Yeah, funny how often that turns to basically bullying. Spirituality is one thing, but it never ceases to amaze me how often it goes wrong when it gets really organized. Are the boys in danger?”
Zyn clutched his head and winced. “Eesh, alright, I get the point already! I don’t know why you guys don’t just talk normally like everyone else.”
Sunshine whistled and strutted over to eye the bush again pointedly. “Yeah yeah, deal’s a deal.” Zyn sighed and used his magic to manifest some more fruit for the bird. Almost immediately, the bird lunged at the closest berries and began gorging himself. The jarzin then walked over towards the nearby cliffside and stared out across the ocean to the larger island. “Well, I’m sure it’s nothing they can’t handle. They apparently dealt with a whole band of bandits back in Clovaria, plus their more experienced magic user boss. I hope Ink’s got them going somewhere nice next though. With as much shit as they’ve been through, they deserve something genuinely nice, with no caveats.” He smirked after a moment as he turned back to his avian companion. “Besides, it’d be nice to have a chance to actually chat with them again and get to properly know them the old fashioned way. Soul-reading is useful, but kind of takes some of the fun out of it.”
“Tuimana!” the bird suddenly said, pulling away from the fruit.
“Hmm? Er, yeah. That's the big spirit those people are giving so much excessive attention to, right?”
Sunshine bobbed his head again. “Kairangi!”
“Aaand that’s the group’s leader, right? She did give me a few hints, at least. What about him?”
“Tuimana! Kairangi! Ko te pūrākau kino!”
Zyn’s arms slowly dropped as his eyes widened. “Oh. Oh I see,” he replied, then looked back at the other island with renewed concerns.
“Kuna! Lykou Kuna squaaawk! E haere ana ki roto i te tāwhiti!”
“Shit,” the jarzin said as he began pacing and fidgeting with his hands. “That’s… definitely a lot bigger than a bunch of mortal bandits or random wild beasts. I’m sure Inkari knows what she’s doing, but… damn! This is bad.” He paused to take a deep breath, then turned back to Sunshine after a moment. “Okay look. I can’t interfere directly. But I’m- rather, they’re going to need your help. I know it’s asking a lot, but if you can just make sure they stay safe over there, I’ll-”
Sunshine suddenly hopped back to the boulder and bobbed his head. “Kuna! Lykou! New friends! Safe! Squaaawk!”
“Thank you. Let me know if it gets beyond your abilities, and I’ll… I don’t know, do something.”
Sunshine clicked and whistled some more, then took off, flying back towards the other island after snatching a small cluster of berries to take with him.
Zyn watched him go, crossing his arms again. “Inkari, I hope to fuck you’re not putting those guys in more danger than they can handle…”
Lykou and Kuna hiked with the band of Enlightened for a good chunk of the rest of the day. No longer having to try and remain hidden, they found themselves making remarkably good time. By the time they stopped for the night, they’d gotten up to the point where the forest was just starting to thin out again. It was still fairly dense, but there was a little bit more of a breeze. And the spot they’d chosen to make camp was a cleared spot just off the trail that overlooked a good chunk of the island- and it’d been used for a campsite many, many times before, with a very obvious firepit already set up in the middle and the trees and shrubs cut way back to allow space for even larger travel groups.
Koa and Matai even surprised the boys by setting up a tent for them before they all settled in for dinner. “Thanks so much for the tent. We, um…”
“We know, you usually have to rely on his magic for that, don’t you?” Matai commented, then chuckled. “I imagine that must get a bit tiresome.”
Kuna smiled a bit awkwardly. “A bit, yeah. N-not as much as it used to, though.”
Kalei and Anaru distributed dried meat of some kind to the group, before Anaru paused at Kuna and suddenly realized something. “Oh, er… did we pack extra fruit for Kuna here?”
Tane shot a glare at Kalei. “Someone was supposed to see to that… did he not?”
“No, unfortunately. Just the usual meats we stock up on.”
Kalei immediately looked frazzled and panicky. “Fuck! I-I’m sorry, I didn’t- we usually just-”
“Enough excuses! I told you to gather resources and that includes fruit for our guest!”
“I… can just use s-some of my own supplies,” Kuna nervously tried to interject, then dug into his bag and frowned as he dumped out the last of his food, which had sadly started going bad. “Er… or maybe not. N-no worries though, I saw a tree with some fruit on it a short way back down the trail, I can just-”
“Kalei can fetch it! He’s the one that fucked up in the first place,” Tane said, then glared at the clearly frazzled recruit. “Just show him where, and he’ll do the climbing. Isn’t that right, newbie?”
“Y-yes sir, w-will do.”
“Actually, I can go help him, I’ve done it before,” Lykou volunteered after swallowing a bite of fish. “I’m a decent cli-”
“Nonsense!” Koa insisted, gently yet firmly grasping the konuul’s shoulder. “Kalei needs to take responsibility for his failure, and you need to enjoy your dinner.”
Lykou and Kuna exchanged a subtle nervous look, then the latter shot a brief glare at Kalei. He wasn’t at all happy about the arrangement, but didn’t want to risk causing a scene. “R… right… okay...”
Anaru caught the look and gently nudged Lykou. “Relax, they’ll be fine,” he whispered. “If they take too long, you and I can both go check up on them. There’s nothing terribly dangerous on this part of the mountain anyway.”
After one last shared glance, Kuna sighed and began leading the equally reluctant Kalei back down the trail.
The hike back down the trail was reasonably short, only about fifteen minutes or so. But the tense, awkward silence made it feel longer. The whole time, Kuna kept looking around, hoping to find some other fruit tree that he’d overlooked so they could get it over with sooner. When they finally arrived at the tree in question, he took a deep breath and began trying to scale it himself, though he was clearly struggling.
“Um, what do you think you’re doing?” Kalei asked with a quizzical expression. “I was clearly instructed to fetch them myself. Although if you want to fall and split your head open, be my guest.”
Kuna rolled his eyes and hopped back down and gestured dramatically to the tree. “Fine, by all means. Do your ‘solemn duty’, newbie.”
The raptuva approached the tree, then suddenly whipped out a pair of short, oddly-shaped knives and stabbed them into the tree, making the sereva frown a bit at the, in his opinion, unnecessary destructiveness. He began climbing up the trunk of the thing, repeatedly stabbing and pulling out the blades to use as handholds as he went up. When he reached the top, he snagged a single one of the fruit, then slid back down and shoved it at the sereva. “There. Enjoy your dinner.”
Kuna arched a brow. “...this isn’t exactly going to fill me up, you know.”
“Oh, a glutton too, are you?” Kalei scoffed. “I guess I should expect that from a tainted outsider like yourself.”
Kuna glared at him, then rolled his eyes. “Whatever. I’ll just get the rest mys-”
“What, and have you whine to the others?” Kalei said, then shoved the sereva out of the way as he returned to the tree. “Fine. I’ll get you some more. Just stay there and try not to corrupt the landscape.”
Kuna rubbed his forehead and grumbled. Of all these people to get stuck with, why him? he wondered to himself.
After a few minutes, Kalei had harvested an arm load full of the things. Kuna eyed him warily. “Hey careful, if you grab too many at once, it’ll make it hard to climb back d-”
“Too many, not enough- make up your mind, outsider!” the raptuva said, rolling his eyes. He then sheathed his strange knives and began trying to awkwardly make his way down with the arm full of fruit.
“I have a name, you know,” Kuna grumbled and crossed his arms, turning to watch some small critter dart around along some hanging vines further out in the forest.
“Yeah yeah, ‘Kuna’, whatever.” Kalei continued working his way down the tree, having a lot more difficulty than he expected. He inadvertently dropped a few of the fruit as he slipped slightly. Suddenly, he let out a yelp, catching the sereva’s attention.
“Woah, shit, be careful!” Kuna warned. “I told y-”
The raptuva suddenly lost his grip and fell from halfway down the tree. He managed to instinctively grab the branch of another nearby tree on the way down, after hitting a couple others and dropping the rest of the fruit. But his grip on that soon slipped as well and he ended up hitting several more and falling through a cluster of thorny vines. When he finally hit the ground, he landed on a rock jutting out of the ground, making him cry out in pain for probably the dozenth time after falling from the initial tree.
Kuna hurried over to check on him. “Fuck! Are you alright?!”
Kalei winced and rubbed his arm, which had landed on the rock. He was absolutely covered in cuts, scrapes, and bruises. He had a number of broken thorns sticking out of his flesh. And the way he was clutching his arm looked worrying. The sereva cringed for a moment before hastily swatting away a large, angry looking bug of some kind that’d already bitten the raptuva a couple times in its confusion.
“Yeah. Just-,” the raptuva started to reply, then clenched his eyes shut and sucked air in through his teeth as he nursed his arm. “-f-fucking great.”
Kuna tried to take a closer look, but Kalei shuffled back away from him weakly. “S-stay back! Don’t think you can steal my blood, demon-!” he started to say, then let out another yelp, curling up as tears stung at his eyes.
“Oh for fucksakes,” Kuna grumbled. “I’m just trying to help, quit with the ‘demon’ bullshit.”
“It’s not-!” the raptuva began to object, then whimpered a bit.
Kuna sighed and pried his good hand away from the injured arm, then winced at the sight- there was a large cut from the stone he’d hit at the bottom, bleeding somewhat profusely. After a moment’s hesitation, he manifested his magic and began using it to try and patch up the raptuva’s arm. It was somewhat slow going- after all, he was even less familiar with raptuvan anatomy than his own or Lykou’s. But at least all he really had to worry about was closing the wound. And examining the in-tact scales on Kalei’s other arm gave him enough familiarity to work with, at least on a surface level.
Kalei tried to pull back, but the pain made him stop. Instead he just shivered lightly and watched the stranger work with a mixture of fascination and apprehension. When Kuna finally released him, he carefully examined his arm.
The sereva got up and dusted himself off, then began gathering up the fallen fruit without another word, trying not to think too much about how genuine Kalei’s fear seemed to be when he was healing him. Between that and all the ‘demon’ accusations, it struck a raw nerve that’d been dormant for a while. ‘Demon-whore’ wasn’t too far from ‘cursed’, after all.
“...thank you,” the raptuva eventually said, mildly surprising the seereva.
“Whatever. Thanks for cutting down the fruit,” Kuna mumbled.
Slowly, the still-aching raptuva got up and helped collect the remaining fruit, avoiding meeting the sereva’s gaze. He was nursing more than just physical injuries. Once they’d finished collecting the fruit in silence, they began making their way back to the camp- a bit slowly, due to Kalei’s soreness. Kuna could have rushed on ahead, but as much as he hated the guy, he wanted to make sure he made it back alright. And anyway, the last thing he needed was to return alone and have the recruit’s disappearance raise suspicions.
“...come to think of it, why didn’t you just use your magic to get the fruit in the first place?”
Kuna stopped dead in his tracks and stared off into space for a moment before clapping his hand to his face. “Because I’m a dumbass,” he announced, then slowly resumed walking. “Somehow certain uses keep slipping my mind.”
“Huh??” Kalei asked incredulously. “You just… forget about your amazing gift?”
“Yes, sometimes, because believe it or not, that’s easy to do when you’re still kind of new to it,” Kuna said, shooting him a quick glare. “I went most of my life until fairly recently without magic, you know.”
“...because you… only recently made a demon pact?” Kalei hazarded, though he sounded less certain this time.
“Oh for- NO! I’m not in a damn demon pact, or anything like that!” Kuna shot back.
Kalei grumbled and rubbed his head in exasperation. “Look. I appreciate you patching me up. I really do. But you used magic- not just any magic, but the green growy kind that only the Speaker knows how to use, and you didn’t even have to spill any of your own blood to do it! Excuse me for being suspicious! Nothing comes for free!”
“You’re right, it doesn’t- it’s just like using any other muscle,” Kuna snapped back, rolling his eyes. “Magic wears me out, just like climbing or running- or this damned conversation.”
Kalei looked away in thought, mulling the sereva’s words over. “...sorry.”
“Yeah, whatever. You’re sorry, great. Let’s just get back to camp.”
The raptuva stopped and took a deep breath. “Before we go any further, just… tell me one thing.”
Kuna sighed and paused to look back at him with an utterly exhausted expression. “What?”
“Just… Can you swear to me, on your life and in Tuimana’s name, that you’ve not had any dealings with demons? I won’t bother you about it again.”
The sereva gave him a withering glare, then once again brought his palm to his face. “...I am NOT fucking aligned with any demons.”
“...that sounded dodgy. You can be tainted even if you’re not working with them directly.”
“I’ve been attacked by them, and if I ever encounter another one again, it’ll be too soon, thanks,” Kuna muttered, then rubbed his head in frustration.
“What, that stupid story you told those kids? I thought you made that up.”
“Most of it. But I was really attacked by a demon-possessed monster as a kid,” the sereva continued through gritted teeth, then turned away and continued hiking up the trail to hide his face as tears stung at his eyes. “It fucking brutally murdered my parents right in front of me. So no, I’m not on ‘buddy’ terms with any fucking demons. Now for the love of ‘Tuimana’, shut the absolute fuck up.”
Kalei stared at the sereva for a minute, then eventually began following along behind him, nursing his arm in silence for the rest of the hike.
When Kuna and Kalei returned to the camp, Lykou and the other Enlightened stared at Kalei’s state. But neither he nor the sereva seemed particularly inclined to comment on it without being prompted. Kuna plopped down next to Lykou and put most of the fruit he was carrying in his bag, but left out a small amount to immediately dig into. Kalei paused and seemed to search the camp for a moment, before awkwardly setting the extra fruit he’d held onto down next to the sereva, then walked away without meeting anyone’s eyes.
After noticing his friend’s somewhat somber demeanor, Lykou shot a brief glare at Kalei before wrapping an arm around the sereva gently. “What happened? He didn’t… attack you did he?” he asked in a whisper, masking it by lifting his waterskin to take a sip.
Kuna just shook his head quietly as he ate.
The other members of the order shared a few wary glances, then Matai cleared his throat. “Did… something happen out there?”
The sereva fidgeted a bit anxiously and was about to answer, but Kalei was faster. “I screwed up again, got hurt, and the outsider used his gift to patch up my worst injuries. That’s all,” he reported quickly, still not meeting anyone’s eyes as he sat off to the side, away from the fire, then began nibbling on a small strip of some kind of dried meat. “I’ll take a double watch as penance.”
“Damn right you will,” Tane said, then looked over to Kuna. “Thanks for fixing his sorry ass up, and sorry you had to deal with that, Kuna.”
Kuna eyed Kalei curiously for a moment, then shrugged. “S’fine.”
Lykou could tell there was something more bugging the sereva, but decided not to press him on it for the moment. “Watch? I thought the mountain wasn’t dangerous?”
“It isn’t, really- the watch is more of a tradition for the Order. To show that we’re always vigilant at all times against Tuimana’s enemies,” Koa explained.
“Ah, okay. Still, if anyone wants company during their watch, I’d be happy t-”
“You’re a very thoughtful young man,” Anaru said with a smile. “But you should rest up. You’ve had a long day, and it’s a burden we’re happy to bare in our god’s honor.”
“Well, alright then,” Lykou said, then side-hugged Kuna again.
For the remainder of the evening, conversation was light and intermittent, and mostly among the Enlightened. Lykou and Kuna were both pretty tired out, and Kalei seemed inclined to try and avoid notice as much as possible, opting to remain at the edge of camp, leaning against a tree and staring out into the dark tropical wilderness. Eventually, the sereva and konuul excused themselves to bed, thanking their hosts once again for their kindness and generosity.
Once inside the small makeshift tent, Kuna sprawled out on the bed mat, seemingly lost in thought. Without warning, he found himself scooped up in his friends arms, which finally brought at least a faint smile to his face.
“Alright, what’s on your mind,” Lykou said softly after giving the sereva a gentle squeeze. “I get the impression Kalei didn’t tell the whole story.”
Kuna sighed and nuzzled into the konuul’s embrace a bit. “Eh, it’s… not really worth going too much into. Didn’t want to worry you, but back in the village we had a little… encounter. Words were exchanged. And that continued this evening. Brought up nasty memories.”
“Oh?” Lykou said with a frown, shooting a look towards the tent exit. He was halfway tempted to go give the recruit a piece of his mind, but decided he was more concerned with comforting his friend for the moment. An idea occurred to him and he arched a brow. “Did… you give him all those-”
Kuna snorted slightly in amusement. “Nope. That was all self-inflicted dumbassery. He fell from the tree, through a bunch of… well, pain. I think he’s had the hostility knocked out of him for a while.”
“Well that’s good. I’d be happy to help dislodge any of it that might be left though.”
The sereva snickered and rolled his eyes slightly. “I’m sure you would. But right now, after today,” he said, then squeezed Lykou’s middle and smiled up at him faintly. “This, right here, is what I need more than anything.”
Lykou blushed faintly and grinned back at him. “Works for me.”
They both cuddled in silence for a few minutes.
“...I hope going to that shrine thing isn’t a mistake,” the sereva eventually said in a soft whisper. Their tent was separated enough from the others that he doubted they could hear him anyway, but he didn’t want to take any chances.
“I don’t think it is. If they really can talk to a powerful spirit of some kind that rules over these islands, it’d definitely know about the arch.”
“Yeah, I guess. I just still feel little… iffy about these people. Or some of them, anyway.”
“Mmm… I noticed Tane seems to like ordering people around a lot. But hey, every group of a certain size is bound to have a hardass or two.”
“That and… something about this whole obsession with a single spirit, even a really powerful one, seems… weird. Kind of… off.”
Lykou thought for a minute, stroking the sereva’s back gently. “You’re not wrong. Even the ursarans have all kinds of spirits and ancestors they revere, even if they do put different ones above one another.”
“Exactly. Seems like Hoku is the only one that even cares that there are other spirits around. I don’t know, something just doesn’t feel right. I know most of them seem… nice enough, but we should still tread carefully.”
“Fair enough. What exactly is that Kalei guy’s deal anyway? He’s the only one that seems openly wary of us.”
“Something to do with us being outsiders, and in particularly me using magic. Couldn’t think of an explanation for why I have the same kind as their… ‘Speaker’ guy without having any connection to Tuimana. So he assumed I got my powers from a demon.”
“Well that’s a pretty big leap. Then again, sounds like they’ve had a real problem with that here.”
“Or so they say.”
“And for all I know they do, but it just seems…”
“Unlikely? Yeah. But I suppose anything is possible. Maybe an island with a powerful spirit watching over it attracts demons looking to usurp that role.”
“I guess.” Again, they laid in silence for a few minutes, then Kuna furrowed his brow. “One thing a couple people mentioned now, especially Kalei… apparently this ‘Speaker’ can only do life magic by using blood or something. That seems… really strange.”
“Oh, yeah. I remember Makani said something about it, but I figured she was just being overly-dramatic. But Kalei did too, huh?”
“Yeah… Ink never mentioned anything like that. I guess maybe that’s how he came to figure out how life energy works, somehow, but I can’t imagine how, or why he’d keep relying on it once he figured it out.”
“I think both Ink and Aelana mentioned blood having its own innate magical aspects, didn’t they?”
“True… either way, it seems… unsettling.”
“Yeah, it does. We’ll definitely have to stay on our toes around him.”
“Assuming we even meet him directly. If he’s really the head of this whole big important organization, maybe he’ll be too busy to meet us?”
Lykou smirked and rubbed the sereva’s head softly. “Now that’s just wishful thinking.”
“You never know.”
“We’re the first outsiders on the island in ages, we don’t look like anybody they’ve seen in many generations, and you’re a magic user that uses the same kind of magic as he does- and apparently more easily. No way he’s going to skip meeting us.”
Kuna sighed. “Yeah… yeah, okay,” he said with a faint smirk. “Fine, it was wishful thinking. Can’t blame me though.”
The konuul chuckled. “Hey, let’s just hope for the best, right?”
“Yeah…” Kuna yawned, then closed his eyes. “Well… g’night Kou.”
Lykou gave him a gentle squeeze. “Goodnight Ku.”