Chapter 8

Aido half-expected traveling with Rest would be silent, and he was right. Rest truly was a man of few words. Or, he thought, no words at all. But the silence between them was deafening; they didn't need to speak to share their worry about Shmee and Sarita. Were the two still alive, where ever they were?
Momo only took advantage of the fact that there wasn't much conversation; much of their days were spent talking about, well, everything. How to rescue the Spirit of the Wing, what the mountains would look like, what life after the Emperor would be like… So many things were unknown to Aido. Nevertheless, he would figure them all out soon enough.
Overall, the Fallen Valley was pretty. It was nowhere near as vibrant and beautiful as the hike to Blossom City, but this was less strenuous. The forests were just as lush and it was more peaceful, even though their task was more urgent than ever. To make things more lively, Aido would have asked Rest to sing, but neither of them had any music in their hearts now.
The day they reached the coast, the weather was quite appropriate; foggy and drizzling. Aido could only hope that whatever dragonrider had brought this weather wouldn't end up like the Thunder Dragon. He closed his eyes, letting the misty rain dampen his face.
"It's been so long since I saw the ocean," he said.
"Me too," Rest replied. Aido opened one eye and saw that Rest was staring at the distant blue mass. They were too far away to actually be able to wade in it, but they could still see the white caps of the waves. "Unfortunately, going any closer would be going out of our way, or else I'd recommend we stop there."
"It's all right." Aido was surprised at how lifeless his voice sounded. "It's not like I haven't seen the ocean before."
"Oh… yes." Rest's voice sounded rather dead, as well.
"I hope you two haven't lost hope," Momo commented. Aido shook his head.
"I think we're just tired."
Rest jerked his gaze away from the distant ocean to look back at Aido. He smiled weakly. "What's Momo saying now?"
"She doesn't want us to lose hope."
Rest gave a weak laugh. "No… I haven't lost any. Have you?"
"Good." Rest gave one last longing look at the ocean before looking back at their trail, which swooped back into the trees. "Only a couple days until we get to Edge's Cove."
Aido felt himself perk up at the word "cove". "So is this place next to the ocean?" To his dismay, Rest shook his head.
"It's a cove in a lake," he replied, his voice slow and somewhat regretful. "It's still pretty."
"I'm sure it is," Aido replied with a sigh.
Over those next couple days, the two kept catching glimpses of the ocean. Sometimes as they were up on a cliff, other times they could only hear the thunderous crashing of the waves. One day, Aido promised himself, he would go back to the ocean. It would be rather nice to travel around Inaar without worrying about the fate of the world.
Of all the villages Aido had seen, Edge's Cove was the smallest. It was so isolated that very few people probably even knew it existed. The small houses seemed more like huts, and the people who came out of them were all thin and hardy. Even the small-boned children with dark eyes looked wary, seemingly prepared to do whatever it took to protect themselves if these strange visitors were threatening.
"Brother Rest?"
The voice came from an old man who looked like he didn't have a drop of fat on his bones. He walked with a cane and, to Aido's horror, the hand that held the cane was the only hand he had; his other arm was missing.
Rest inclined his head at the one-armed man. "Elder Grel."
It suddenly made sense to Aido; the one armed man had tattoos under his eyes, the same shape and color as Rest's own. This man must be— or must have been— a grace. His arm, he guessed, must have gotten cut off or infected by the soldiers who also sawed Rest's wings off.  Rest must have been lucky.
"What brings you back to this place?" the elder asked, his voice eerily calm.
"I made a grave mistake in leaving," Rest replied somberly. "I got involved in things I should never have even touched… I'm ashamed."
Aido, who had never heard Rest talk like this, frowned. From the way Rest was talking, he might have been a mere schoolboy who was being scolded by a teacher! But the elder, still holding his cane, gently put his hand on Rest's shoulder.
"You meant well," the elder told him. "It did help for a while, you know… Every six months, we'd receive money from the Emperor… I feared the price you must have paid to help us."
"I'm on the right track now, though," Rest told him. "This boy has a shadow, and it is necessary that we find the Spirit of the Wing."
A mix of humans and graces were listening in. The humans eagerly began whispering amongst themselves while the graces stared unrelentingly at Rest. Aido couldn't read the expressions in their tattooed faces; now he could see where Rest got it from. But were these graces angry, grateful, forgiving, or something different? It was unnerving.
The elder's expression, however, changed. It became much more serious as the elder quickly glanced at Aido. "Then it looks like we have a lot to talk about, do we not?"
They were invited to the elder's small hut, where Rest explained their mission away from the scrutinizing stares of the other crippled graces. The elder, much to Aido's relief, was a kind man who heard them out the whole way through. Still, he wasn't without skepticism.
"It is nearly impossible for a human to simply climb up Divernien," the elder told them. "It may have been possible, once, for the graces… but now, even we cannot go visit our great Father."
"We will not give up," Rest told him firmly. "We'll climb as high as we can."
"It may be the death of you, Brother Rest," came the solemn reply. It certainly wasn't heartening, but at least he wasn't calling them crazy. "And have you thought of how to free him?"
Rest and Aido looked at each other. "Well," Aido replied, slowly, "my shadow has been teaching me magic. She's been suggesting ways that might reverse the spell."
"And perhaps, when we get there, Father will suggest something we could do," Rest added. At that, the elder frowned.
"He is… out of mind."
"What?" Aido brows shot up in confusion. Rest didn't seem to understand it, either, for his usually unreadable face curled into one of confusion.
"What does that mean?"
"He is out of his mind… that's why he can't break through the chains," the elder explained. "The inaarans who chained him up knew it wouldn't hold him, so they combined together and made a massive spell that made him rather lethargic."
Aido felt somewhat sick to his stomach. Momo had told him that mind magic was hard to do since going inside someone's mind was complicated. He would have preferred to have only the chains.
"How do you know if you haven't seen the Spirit for yourself?" Rest asked, persistent. The elder shook his head sadly.
"He could escape— I overheard the inaarans discussing it as I bled on the ground." The elder's face grew grim as his hand instinctually went to his missing arm, where he had not only a whole arm, but a whole wing. Aido flinched. The graces had their wings cut off in the massacre a couple years ago, which left most of the graces dead and the rest of the crippled. Rest had similar scars. "The inaarans were saying that the Spirit of the Wing was struggling too hard against the chains and that it was only a matter of time before he broke through. Even though I passed out then, the Spirit is still chained there; the only hint of him is the feathers he plucks off of himself. He's gone mad."
This had to be even worse— how was he supposed to deal with a mad Spirit? Aido looked up at Rest in exasperation, but Rest was staring at the elder intently.
"So how do you intend to free him?"
"We'll figure it out," Aido replied when Rest said nothing. "My shadow is smart. She can help me, I'm sure."
"Don't place too much faith in another person," the elder warned. "The only person who will be around for you is yourself."
Aido scowled. He didn't like the way this elder talked. Shadows weren't like normal people.
He had to admit, though, that the graces were very generous people. They provided Aido and Rest with a small hut to stay in, which was surprisingly comfy for its grungy exterior. There was one large bed made of wood and woven ropes, which Rest and Aido decided to share. Apart from the bed, there was also a very simple trunk and a table, which they quickly started putting things in and on.
After talking with the elder, the pair of them found that they didn't want to leave their hut that often. The stares of the other graces bothered them. Aido didn't like how they gawked at his shadow, while Rest had other reasons.
"I'm ashamed," he told Aido for perhaps the millionth time that day. "My brother and sister graces look at me as though I'm evil. They cannot forgive me so easily."
"The elder seemed to."
"The elder has attained a level of true serenity," Rest replied. "He knows how to forgive and forget. Most of the other graces here do not yet have that ability, especially after being betrayed so heavily by humans. It's only right that they're suspicious of me. And you."
"Why you? You're one of them, and you helped them. They should be thanking you!"
"But I betrayed our beliefs by helping the enemy," he replied with a sigh. "It's doubtful that they'd forgive me anytime soon."
Aido, for one, didn't understand how you could be mad at someone who was only trying to help, but maybe it was a sort of cultural thing concerning graces. Whatever the reason, it didn't make sense. Where he was raised, people were taught to be grateful when people try to help. If there was any wrong in what they did, they'd learn that it was wrong, but overall, refusing to speak to them was over the top.
If it wasn't for the elder, Aido didn't think they would be welcome here at all. It seemed like a hard blow for Rest to take, for the man would behave almost as if he were sulking. At least they weren't being treated with hostility.
That evening, a child came to their little hut, poking her head in curiously. "Serenity Rest?" she asked politely, looking over at the older grace where he sat on the bed. He looked up, startled. Aido also looked over at her; this child had green triangles tattooed under her eyes. He felt a pang of guilt. She looked younger than he was, but her skinny arms had the gnarled scars.
"That would be me," he replied somberly.
"My name is Hospitality Jieva," she told him. "I thought I recognized you. You married my cousin."
Rest's dark eyes widened. "You… you knew Kalamalie?!"
Jieva nodded. "I did. She was my older cousin. We weren't very close, but I still knew her. I…" She bit her lip. "Maybe we could pay our respects to her tonight."
Sorrow flashed over Rest's face. "I…"
"You don't have to," the girl added hastily. "I just mean… you know. Since we were closest to her. I haven't paid my respects to her in a while."
Aido wasn't sure what the girl meant by 'paying respects', but Rest nodded. "I… I would love to."
Jieva led the Rest and Aido out of the hut. It was dark, so most of the other humans and crippled graces were inside huts of their own. It was nice to not be stared at. The girl led them into the woods at a rapid pace, perhaps forgetting that there was a human traveling with her.
Fortunately, it didn't take too long to get to their destination. In fact, Aido didn't even realize they were there until Rest and Jieva came to an abrupt halt. Jieva procured a candle and held it up to a polished stone in front of them. Aido peered closer at it.
This monument stands in memory of those who were victim to a plot most evil.
Though you are buried together, you will be remembered as the individuals you were.
Aido shook his head. So… this was a mass grave? It made sense, since making individual graves for the fallen graces would have taken a long time. It was sad, though. Everyone deserved to be buried with the respect of their own grave.
He walked passed the monument and stared off into space. Knowledge about these people was suddenly blasting into his mind. It was one of the first pieces of magic that he learned, that he could feel how the dead felt before they died, so long as he was near there bodies. He had never felt this many before, and it was giving him a headache. Then he had an idea.
"Kalamalie," he murmured. "She was happy that she got to live such a lucky life."
"What?" Rest's head shot up to stare at Aido hungrily.
"She got to be a teacher— I didn't know she was a teacher, Rest. She felt so lucky to be able to work with children, and her biggest fear was that those children were dead."
Rest sank to his knees. "She… she was a teacher. She loved children. We… we were hoping to try to have children of our own soon…"
"She was also so happy that you were a part of her life, Rest. She loved you so much that I can't even put this feeling into words. She was upset that your lives together were coming to an end so prematurely."
Aido turned back to look at Rest, who looked as though he might start crying. Quickly, he turned away so that he wouldn't have to watch if Rest did end up crying.
Jieva, who was still with Rest, said, "That's a pretty impressive gift. So you are a necromancer?"
"Yes." Aido turned back around to look at Jieva, but she wasn't even looking at him. She was patting Rest's arm.
"I suppose it would be impolite to ask about my parents, then."
"What are their names?"
So as Rest recovered, Aido told Jieva everything he could about her parents. Their last regrets about not seeing their children grow up, how much they had loved Jieva and her siblings… In the end, he had two people in tears: Rest and Jieva.
"I'm going to do it!" Rest finally declared in a shaky voice. Aido looked over at Rest. Jieva wasn't really paying much attention to them; her crippled arms were wrapped around the stone monument as she sobbed.
"What are you going to do?"
"I know I'll be able to do this," Rest mumbled as he wiped his eyes. "The Spirit of the Wing has been plucking out his feathers. I know I can do this."
In a split second, Aido realized what Rest was talking about, and he began protesting.
"Rest, don't be crazy, it's impossible, you'll die—"
"And there's nothing to fear from dying is there?" Rest's dark brown eyes bored into Aido's blue ones. "You taught me that."
"You just can't do that! What about Shmee? She wouldn't be happy that you'd be killing yourself, would she?"
"She's probably already dead!" Rest scoffed. It felt like someone had punched Aido in the stomach. He had been trying to tell himself otherwise, but it was harder to avoid now that Rest was so positive about it! "Might as well join her and die doing a good deed, right? I'd join Kalamalie, too. And Sarita…"
Aido wanted to throw up. He backed away from Rest. "You still can't. Don't do this to yourself, Rest…"
"It's a win-win, isn't it?" Rest demanded, never easing his empty stare at Aido. "I'll be able to get my wings back or die trying."
"Don't risk yourself like that!" Aido pleaded, but it was no use. A crazed grin had slowly formed on Rest's face.
"It's a risk I'm ready to take."

The End

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