Chapter 37 (A chase for peace)
Kkaj bit into his lower-lip until the coppery taste of blood filled his mouth. His eyes narrowed, but the spec of light that was Ikiffar flying towards chaos vanished into the mid-morning sun. Moonshine! He bit down harder then kicked a stray rock across the sand.
Jekor stood beside his horse, cradling something against his chest and whispering to himself. Scholars were really a special type of crazy. A soft clicking noise stirred between his mumbled words when the foul, sulfuric stink of the wastes rose from the blood-red sand. Steam sprayed from a geyser to their left, and the haze of heat distorted their surroundings.
That time of day again. Kkaj clutched his fists, and a vein in his left temple popped. During the scorch, there is no way we could run the horses at full speed. And with three of us —
A hand rested on his shoulder.
Tears rimmed Roffor’s beautiful blue eyes. “I-I-I’m sorry.”
Kkaj inhaled through his nose and exhaled from his mouth, forcing himself to relax. “For?”
“Telling Ikiffar about the king.”
“I’m sure she would have figured it out anyway.”
Roffor shook her head. “Not about the Empty Bottle Club.”
Kkaj arched an eyebrow.
After pressing her face into his chest, her entire bottle convulsed.
“You … .” Kkaj swallowed. “Is that way Ikiffar said she would seek the vengeance I deserved?”
“Yes.” Roffor’s voice came out as a squeak.
He wrapped his arms around her and patted her on the back. “Spirits, I’m so sorry you had to relive that.”
“I had hoped you had buried that memory too deep to remember. It still haunts me, and … .”
“And it was the reason I didn’t ask you to be my girlfriend as soon as my relationship with Rokar ended. I knew I was toxic and made everyone I loved hate me.”
“You didn’t want to hurt me, so you let my sister start a relationship with you?” Roffor’s voice carried a hint of wry amusement.
“Either way, I’m sorry that you had to go through that whole event. It still haunts me to this day.”
Jekor coughed. “What are the two of you talking about?”
“Our reason to hate the king,” Kkaj and Roffor said as one. They locked eyes then smiled.
“Is that really important?”
“Yes.” Kkaj turned around.
Jekor clutched a bottle to his chest and glanced over his shoulder every few seconds. Had he always had a steel-glass bottle with him? Or was it — He stomped his left foot and screamed. “What is she thinking? Why does she have to do it alone?”
“To keep you safe,” Roffor said.
Roffor nodded. “She loves you.” Her hand climbed down Kkaj’s arm, and she interlaced her fingers with his. “Just as I love Kkaj.”
A bead of sweat rolled down Jekor’s forehead and dropped into his eye. He winced. “I-I-I-I just want to protect her. To be with her. She —”
“Feels the same way.” Roffor led Kkaj forward and cupped Jekor’s chin.
A spike of jealousy ripped through Kkaj’s chest, and he gritted his teeth before squishing the ridiculous feeling.
“How are we going to stop her?” Jekor’s hands trembled around the bottle. There was no label. What was it?
“I will ride after her with everything I have.” Kkaj peered at Roffor from the corner of his eye. “Roffor and Jekor will follow behind on the remaining horse.”
Roffor shook her head. “That will take several days. Even if it were a straight path, unless you kill the horse, she’ll beat you to the city by a day.”
Not a whole day, but yes. “We don’t have any other choice.” Kkaj reached into his Drunkzard vest, touching each of his flasks. Each less than half full. “Though, I think I’ll need some more tequila.”
“What if there were a faster way?” Jekor asked, staring at his boots.
“Do you know a way to manipulate the water energy in a more efficient way?”
Jekor shook his head. “No.”
“What will you do if you catch her?”
“Stop her from making a huge mistake.”
Jekor gulped. “And if she won’t stop?”
“Beat some sense into her.”
“No.” Jekor’s knuckles turned white as he gripped the bottle tighter. “Promise me you won’t hurt her.”
“I may have to fight her, so I can’t make that promise. But I can promise that I’ll save her. She will live through this.”
Jekor tapped his foot and remained silent for a long moment. Then, he sighed. “I guess that’s good enough.”
“For what?” I seem to be asking that a lot today. Kkaj killed the grin that tugged at his lips before it grew too big.
Jekor ground his teeth, and his muscles tensed. Using his left hand, he peeled his right hand away from the bottle. His fingers gave ground until he only held the silver and white bottle cradled in his arms. Jekor opened his mouth, but no words came out. His entire body shook as if this were the hardest decision of his life.
Kkaj licked his lips. “Is that —”
“Lucidity.” Tears streamed down Jekor’s face and rolled into his mouth. A sour expression pursed his lips and wrinkled his brow. “It would have been my scholar’s.” He sniffled. “But if you don’t stop and save the woman I love, scholars’ will no longer be awarded. Only death.”
“If that’s the case, then you could —”
“I may be a Penta, but it takes me years to learn the simplest of elemental manipulations.” Slowly, with trembling hands, Jekor offered Kkaj the bottle of Lucidity. “From the records in the library, you pick up elemental manipulations quicker than any other Penta in JemKej. Plus, you’ve drank Lucidity before.”
He doesn’t want to tell her no. This time, Kkaj couldn’t keep the grin from his face. He took the bottle of Lucidity and unscrewed the cap. “I’ve never had enough to fly, but from how Ikiffar wrapped it around her body, I should be able to imitate it just fine.”
“Really?” Jekor’s eyes lit up as if Kkaj said he could make the sun rise at midnight. “That’s amazing.”
Roffor tsked. “Of course, he’s amazing.” She stood on her tiptoes and kissed Kkaj on the cheek. “This is Kkaj the unbreakable we’re talking about.”
“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.” Kkaj drained the bottle of Lucidity.
The lukewarm liquid tasted like spicy apple juice and melon cookies. The sweet heat made his mouth numb as it always did. Icy fire raced down his throat with each gulp, and an inferno froze in his chest. Ribbons of pure, white energy flowed through his veins. Goose bumps crawled across his skin, and a feeling akin to sex exploded in his mind.
Kkaj became hard and shivered. “I still have to make it there and save her from destroying the world.”
“Simple.” A smirk pulled at the edges of Jekor’s mouth.
Roffor chuckled. “So, do you have enough liquor to fight against her once you catch up?”
For my technique, yes. A lump caught in Kkaj’s throat, and he found it hard to breathe. Goodbye, my love. He choked back the tears. “Yeah. I’ll manage.”
Roffor blinked. “What’s wrong?”
“Just … feeling guilty … about —” Think. Think. Think! “— how I let Saffer die.”
A frown tugged Roffor’s beautiful, soft lips downward, and worry lines creased her forehead. “I see.”
Kkaj lifted her chin and kissed her as the white energy flowed from his skin. Hot. Was it the kiss? Or the Lucidity? He pulled away and smiled. “You two follow as fast as you can. If I’m only able to stall her … .”
“If you don’t hurry, we’ll beat you there.” Jekor clearly forced himself to chuckle. “We’ll back you up.”
“Just last long enough for lover boy here —” With her thumb, Roffor pointed at Jekor. “— to come in and sweep the revenge-obsessed maiden off her feet.”
“But.” Jekor swallowed several times. “But. But.”
He really doesn’t want to confront her. As Kkaj spun the white energy into an armor-like substance, he clasped Jekor on the shoulder. “She’ll be there for you. She’ll accept you.”
“H-h-how do you know?”
“Because love is stronger than hate.” Probably. “And she can overcome her hatred with your love to guide her.”
“And my love will guide you,” Roffor said with a smile splitting her face.
“Yes.” Kkaj wrapped the white energy around his head and propelled himself off the ground. I’m sure your love could see me into the future if I weren’t already broken. “See you there.” He threw himself into the sky. After creating a line of propulsion behind himself, he shot towards JimKar city, flying at a blinding speed.
Next: Chapter 38