Chapter 38 (A guilty secret)
Jekor pressed his face into his horse’s flank and wept. His shoulders trembled as tears soaked into the horse’s hair.
Roffor’s clicking footsteps approached. “You have to believe in Kkaj.” She began massaging Jekor’s lower-back, and her hands worked their way up to his neck, erasing the tension in his muscles. “He’ll save Ikiffar. I can promise you that.”
“I … know.”
“Then why are you crying?”
Jekor turned around to face Roffor. “It’s going to sound stupid.”
“Welcome to life with Kkaj.” She grinned. “I love him, but he has some terrible ideas. Like when he decided to improve the efficiency of his father’s rum distillery.”
“Well, sometime last year, he got this idea in his head that if he rewired the circuits in pairs, that the increased energy would produce more liquor as well as increase the volume of finished products in a shorter amount of time.”
Jekor’s jaw dropped. A long moment of silence later, he burst into laughter, tears of joy joining the ones of loss. “Is that what happened at the Jakka distillery when there was a big fire, and an entire month’s worth of liquor got destroyed?”
He gripped his side, the laughter bitting into his ribs. “Wow.”
“I know, right? So, whatever it is you have to say, can’t be that bad.”
While glancing over his shoulder, Jekor watched Kkaj disappear into the sun like Ikiffar had done earlier.
Roffor rested a hand on Jekor’s shoulder. When she smiled, Ikiffar’s image appeared in his mind.
His insides hardened, and he bit into his lower-lip. “Well, the Lucidity was the final piece of my life’s work. With it gone and the distillery destroyed, my research and detailed report about each of the major liquors will never be finished.”
He reached out and rested his hand on the horse’s side for support. “But Ikiffar’s life is much more important to me.” A lump formed in his throat. He swallowed. The growing regret didn’t budge and began to choke him. “I-I-I-I just don’t know how … I’ll take care of her. My report would have meant fame and fortune. I could have supported her. We could live in peace. Now what can I offer her?”
Roffor brushed her fingers across his cheek then down the side of his left ear. “Your heart.”
“Is that really enough?”
“It’s always enough.”
“I hope you’re right. She’s all I have left.”
“Once she realizes you sacrificed your life’s work for her, she will run away with you, and the two of you can live a happy life together.” Roffor licked her lips. “Like. Like me and Kkaj will.”
“I and Kkaj. Or Kkaj and I.”
Roffor punched him in the shoulder. “Quiet.”
A grin tugged at his lips. “Just trying to help.” He glanced in the distance again. “I guess we should get started.”
Jekor reached into his Drunkzard vest and pulled out his flask of tequila. Only a few shots left. Moonshine. How are we going to make it back with only this little bit left? He opened his mouth.
“Get on your horse before you drink.” Roffor moved over to Ikiffar’s old horse and climbed into the saddle. “I … have a secret technique we can use to get there faster.”
He gaped at her. “Why? Why didn’t you just let Kkaj use that?”
“Because it’ll leave us hungover. And it’ll kill the horses. He would refuse to use it on those grounds alone.”
“If he hates this technique so much, then why didn’t he tell you not to use it?” Jekor climbed onto his horse and trotted forward.
Roffor joined him. “I never said he hated the technique. In fact, he uses it as his secret weapon.”
Jekor’s eyes bulged. “You mean that technique he called forbidden? The one that makes him faster and stronger?”
She nodded. “So, you’ve seen it before.” She reached into her Drunkzard vest and pulled out her flask of tequila. “I guess that means I don’t have to go over details of how it works.”
“Did he teach it to you?”
Roffor stared at the ground as they rode forward. “Not exactly.”
A gasp shot from Jekor’s mouth. “You stole his notes.”
“Steal is such a … strong word. Besides, I only looked through them after I watched him train with the technique.”
Jekor downed some tequila. “So, are we going to run?”
“No. Unlike Kkaj, I can’t actually use the technique on my own body. I doubt you could either.”
“Why is he so strong?”
“I’ve asked him that, but he refuses to speak about it. I guess it’s in his blood, but I’m not sure. Anyway, instead of just pushing the raw water energy into the horse’s body, you need to focus and soak the power into the horse’s muscles. We’ll do it with all five liquors.”
“All five? I heard introducing other types of energy into a horse’s body will kill it outright.”
“It would. Which is why you have to focus and only put the energy into the horse’s muscles.”
“So, Kkaj directly manipulates his own body?”
“Yes.” Roffor placed her hands onto her horse’s neck and pushed energy into it.
Jekor closed his eyes, holding the image of the horse in his mind. Each of the image’s lean muscles flexed then separated from the horse’s body. He could see each muscle individually, and when he released water energy into the actual horse, he focused on its muscles, empowering them.
The horse whinnied. It bucked twice then began to move faster.
“Good.” Roffor rode right beside him. “Now do the same thing with all five other liquors.”
As commanded, Jekor drank and poured each liquor’s energy into his horse’s muscles.His own body screamed in tune with the horse, but with each new addition, the horse increased in speed. The five spirits — Lust, Rage, Pride, Greed and Envy — battled inside his mind as he held the technique. Glowing embers of blue, red, brown, green and yellow danced around his face, displaying their struggle. Luckily, that struggle stayed true possession.
The land zipped by in a blur. Sand and rocks kicked high into the air, creating a storm of debris. The massive crocobear roared as the passed, but it disappeared in the distance and debris a heartbeat later. Trees appeared ahead of them.
“Wow.” Jekor’s words, like the crocobear, were left behind as the exited the wastes.
Next: Chapter 39