Chapter 2:

Reunion with a Future Goddess

To Know You

Florence wielded healing magic, as expected of the head of the medical facilities at Cavity Combs. What was unexpected was how she wielded healing magic. She just raised her hand for a moment, a soft green glow emanating from her palm, and his arm stitched itself back together on its own. Shane flexed his arm and rubbed the spot where the wound had been. Not even a trace of pain left. “How did you do that?” he asked. Normally a healer had to have direct contact with the person they were healing for the magic to have its full effect. This could be worked around with a staff, but she didn’t use one.Bookmark here

She laughed, the sound light and refined. It sounded almost practiced. “Well, I developed my healing magic enough that I can use it on people over various distances. I could heal you from an hour’s ride from here, or even half-way across the continent.”Bookmark here

“Is it not weakened at all?”Bookmark here

“Not by much. Maybe five percent, and even that, I’ve been working on whittling down.”Bookmark here

He had never seen such long-range healing magic. It could potentially mean that healing could become universal. No matter where you were, you could be treated. What a place of terror the battlefield would be, if a fallen warrior lay at your feet defeated only to rise again to spear their sword through your back. Bookmark here

“Are you able to use it with offensive magic too?”Bookmark here

“Maybe,” she said noncommittally as she sipped her tea.Bookmark here

“I’d imagine it would be quite slow,” he tried again.Bookmark here

She raised an eyebrow at him. “I said, maybe.”Bookmark here

He raised his eyebrow at her back. “My apologies. I didn’t realize Lady Florence needed to hide her abilities for fear they will be rendered ineffective if discovered.”Bookmark here

She laughed, not rising to the bait like he expected. “I mean it though? Offensive magic is not my forte, so I can’t be sure. As for my secrets being revealed…if I shared my healing technique with someone like you, surely I would not be able to keep up in a contest of magical ability. Maya has always been vocal about how talented you are in combat.” Bookmark here

“She didn’t tell you…?”Bookmark here

Florence and Letitia both tilted their heads. “Tell us what?”Bookmark here

He ruffled his hair. “Well Maya wasn’t exactly lying, but. I’m terrible at controlling my fire. My combat prowess has more to do with my fists.” He let a burst of flame come from his feet, spiking and waning with little consistency. “See? I could probably learn something good from someone like you." Bookmark here

This new knowledge seemed to confuse Florence, a kind of awe in her voice as she asked, “How do you fight with only your fists? Do you use enhancement magic?”Bookmark here

“Maybe,” he said, an innocent smile on his face.Bookmark here

She put her hand to her forehead and sighed. “You and Maya both…I can see why you are engaged.”Bookmark here

“I know, right? He even threw a fish at me at the entrance,” Letitia huffed.Bookmark here

“I said it was a gift.”Bookmark here

“Don’t take me for stupid; you were angry at us and tried to get back at us for it.”Bookmark here

“I won’t deny that—but Maya would never do such a thing. She often told me I was too interested in getting back at others. I’ve improved a lot since I met her.”Bookmark here

“This is an improvement?” Letitia said skeptically.Bookmark here

Florence studied him for a moment. “You think Maya would never get revenge or be petty, do you?” Bookmark here

“Never.” Bookmark here

They both gave each other a look he couldn’t quite decipher before Florence poured herself another cup of tea. “Well, you haven’t seen her for a while. I guess you can see her for yourself figure out if that’s true or not.”Bookmark here

He frowned at the insinuation that he was missing something about Maya, but before he could argue, Letitia clapped her hands together with finality. “Come, Sir Shane! Let’s get you prepared for the ceremony.”Bookmark here

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Shane shifted uncomfortably in the hard pew, his hand moving to loosen the tie around his neck only for Letitia to smack his hand away. “Stop that. You managed to walk around in armor that weighs two hundred pounds—you can bear wearing a tie, can’t you?”Bookmark here

“I’m not used to it,” he grumbled. “I’ve never worn one of these before.”Bookmark here

“Never?”Bookmark here

“No,” he responded. “I’m a Fishing Master. I don’t need to wear ties.”Bookmark here

“You know you really—wait, shhh! It’s about to start.”Bookmark here

“I didn’t say any—”Bookmark here

“SHHHHH!”Bookmark here

There, gently floating down on the platform, was Maya, accompanied by an old woman and a few other important looking priests and priestesses. Bookmark here

Her dark skin glittered with gold, and she held a gold scepter in her hand. Her hair was braided and swept up in the back elegantly, and she was draped in soft, white fabrics. Some were translucent, like the veil she wore on her head, and a more solid white color for the rest of the robes wrapped around her torso.Bookmark here

If he just tweaked the circumstances a little bit in his mind, he could imagine this was their wedding. Shane waiting for her in anticipation. Her father walking her down the aisle. A little girl from the village throwing flower petals. Their friends and family laughing together at the reception where they’d be feasting on the rarest fish he’d ever caught. It brought tears to his eyes, just the thought of the beautiful future that was robbed from them. Bookmark here

With little regard for the proceedings, he stood and walked into the isle. “Maya,” he called, his heart filled with joy. Bookmark here

Maya’s head snapped up, their eyes meeting for the first time in three years. “Shane,” she cried, her eyes filling with tears. She handed the scepter to one of the priests and ran to him. He caught her petite figure in his arms and spun her around before hugging her close. She clung to him just as tightly, much to his relief. “I missed you so much," she as she cried.
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He knelt before her so that they were eye level and pulled her into his chest. His tears soiled her beautiful white robes, but he couldn’t bring himself to care. “Thank you for being safe. Thank you for being here,” Shane cried, his body racked with sobs.Bookmark here

She sobbed and clung to him even harder, burying her face in his neck. “Thank you for coming for me. Thank you for not forgetting about me."
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Her skin was warm against his, and all of his fears about whether she was still out there, or if he would ever see her again, were swept away. Maya was more than the wisps of her voice or the feel of her hair that had been fading from his memory with each passing day. She was real, and his memories paled in comparison.
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There was a chuckle from the staircase, and the two pulled away from each other reluctantly. “I’m sorry for taking her away from you, Sir Inoue. But you probably lived the past three years with a passion for someone that people could only dream of, and she turned out to be alive. It could have been worse.”Bookmark here

Shane gripped Maya’s shoulders. “So it was you who…” he gritted his teeth. “Why?” he snarled.Bookmark here

“To fulfill the prophecy.” Though it was Master Terra he had asked, it was Maya that answered him. She smiled up at him, but it wasn’t the smile Shane had grown used to. It wasn't the sweet one that made his heart feel like it would combust and leave a Maya-induced whole in his chest. It was twisted somehow. Almost sinister, and his previous joy at their reunion evaporated in an instant.Bookmark here

“The prophecy…that a human will overthrow the gods?” Shane asked slowly.Bookmark here

She held his large hands in her smaller ones. “Yup! It turns out the human in the prophecy is me.” Her eyes sparkled. “I’ve found my destiny, Shane. Isn’t it wonderful? Master Terra really opened my eyes to my true calling.”Bookmark here

He didn’t think it was wonderful, no. He eyed Terra warily. She had hair down to her ankles, her hunched over body looking almost akin to the hunch of a goblins. She didn’t seem phased by the simmering resentment she undoubtedly knew he held toward her. In fact, she’d even allowed Maya to invite him. Shane didn’t understand her motives. He also didn’t know if she had brainwashed Maya, or if this was something that Maya had chosen for herself. This was a cult—he had a right to be suspicious of their intentions.Bookmark here

He swallowed uncomfortably and turned back to Maya. “Will fulfilling this prophecy…make you happy?”Bookmark here

“It’s not about my happiness, silly,” she said, swinging their arms playfully. “It’s about the people around me. I want to help the people of Cavity Combs, and the people of this land who have been neglected by the gods. If they can’t do their jobs properly, I might as well become a god and do it for them.” It sounded perfectly reasonable, even selfless coming out of her mouth. In different circumstances, Shane was sure it might even be seen as admirable. There was just one problem. Bookmark here

Maya had never been a selfless person. Forgiving, yes. But never selfless.Bookmark here

“You don’t have to do any of that Maya. I came here to rescue you,” he explained. “This prophecy... you don’t need to bear something like this.”Bookmark here

She lowered his hands slowly until their fingers were just barely entangled. “Shane…did you think you were my knight in shining armor or something? That’s not what this is. A god doesn’t need saving.”Bookmark here

How could he get through to her? He didn’t know. Bookmark here

“But I…you were kidnapped and I…”Bookmark here

“The only reason you’re here, is because I wanted you to be here. Not to rescue me, but to finally be with me again. I want you to take this next step into godhood with me. “Bookmark here

Sweet Sasha, she had a god complex. What was he supposed to do now? Just go along with it? He didn’t know how to deal with this new Maya, her answers and her mannerisms unpredictable and not in line with the woman he fell in love with. He stepped away first. Their hands fall limply to their sides. "I appreciate that you want me to be with you…but—”Bookmark here

“You think I brainwashed her,” Terra finished.Bookmark here

He glared at her, his eyes dancing with barely restrained flames. “Well, it’s not as if you can do anything even if I did such a thing—except, of course, get revenge. She scuttled into the middle of the kaleidoscope of light in the middle of the room. Terra grinned, the small magical stones inlaid in her teeth shining brightly. “What do you say? Care to kill me?”Bookmark here

Shane lunged at her. She didn’t move a muscle as he held her head in his hand, the pressure strong enough to break even steel. Terra gasped at the pain before he relented, returning his hand to his side. Bookmark here

“Sorry,” Shane apologized. “Murder is too extreme. First, how about I do this?” He snapped his fingers and in an instant, Terra’s long hair was engulfed in flames. In the next instant, without any time to even perceive the heat of the flame, her hair was gone, the only remnants of it the ashes at her feet. She felt at her scalp frantically. Once she felt that there was nothing there, she cried out in dismay, staggering back and forth. Bookmark here

Shane couldn’t resist laughing at the way that the light played off her bald head. Bookmark here

As Shane continued to revel in her dismay, he noticed Maya slowly backing away from him before hiding behind a pillar. Bookmark here

“What are you doing?”Bookmark here

“Trying to avoid getting caught up in the disaster you’ve gotten yourself into.”Bookmark here

“I thought you said you wanted to help people?”Bookmark here

“Well, I can’t help people who are already dead.”Bookmark here

There’s a hand around his neck. He’s forced to his knees. Bookmark here

Master Terra looked down at him with fury, her previously hunched back straightened, making her look much less feeble than before. Bookmark here

Once he caught his bearings, he scrambled to remove her hands from his neck. To his relief, he managed to break free quite easily. She smirked at him, and the magic stones in her teeth glowed again. “You may be strong, but sometimes, foreknowledge is stronger.” Bookmark here

Responding to the glowing stones in her teeth, the kaleidoscope also started to glow. Shane didn’t have time to do anything as the kaleidoscope of light bound him with its magic, tethering him down like a beast with tendrils of light. Bookmark here

Flames seemed to be coming from every pore of his body now, lashing out in rage at the magic restraining him.Bookmark here

Master Terra looked down at him in amusement, clearly enjoying her superiority. “You walked right into my trap without a thought. You really are a blockhead who’s only good at using his fists, eh? Well, that has its own charm though.”Bookmark here

“Let me go.”Bookmark here

“Why should I? If anything,  you tried to kill me! I should have you executed for such disrespect against me." Bookmark here

“You won’t though,” Shane said, voiced strained. Even though he was still struggling, there was something wrong with his body. Despite the constant struggle to get out of his binds, his body seemed sluggish, fighting something internal as well as external. His vision was beginning to get fuzzy, but for the sake of Maya and his own survival he couldn’t afford to look away.Bookmark here

“Oh? And why not?”Bookmark here

“Because your hair will grow back. My life won’t. If you really don’t feel like waiting though, I have a hair potion on me I can give you if you want. I got it for free when I was selling fish.”Bookmark here

She looked at him, blinked once, and then cackled like a hyena. She slapped her knee, near hysterical, yet without a word the binding on Shane disappeared. The sluggish feeling didn’t fade, but it was a start.Bookmark here

“Maya, you’ve got a real interesting fella here, don’t you? I can see why you love him. He’s got an interesting way of thinking.” Terra looked down at Shane and nodded her head in approval. “I think you would do well as her second-in-command. Sometimes the conventional answer is not the right one, or vice versa. She could use a fresh perspective like yours on her journey." Bookmark here

Master Terra held out a hand to him. Bookmark here

“What do you say? You don’t have to care about the prophecy. I’ve dedicated my whole life to doing that. You just support and love Maya like you always have. How about that?”Bookmark here

Could he really do that? Maya was…changed. While he was confused as to why Master Terra would encourage Maya to have him as her second-in-command, he was even more confused about how he should feel about Maya herself. Brainwashed or not, she had changed. Was this the kind of life he envisioned for himself? As part of a god-slaying cult dedicated to his fiancé?Bookmark here

He looked back at Maya, who was no longer hiding behind the pillar. She looked at him with hopeful eyes.Bookmark here

He made a promise to Maya that he would love her no matter what. Even if she never returned to the person she was before, he couldn’t just leave her here. If she was going to go on a dangerous quest against the gods, he wanted to protect her.Bookmark here

He stumbled to his feet and took Terra’s wrinkled hand. “I accept.” Bookmark here

Master Terra smiled. “Welcome to Bai Hu, Sir Shane.”Bookmark here

Real Aire
Taylor Victoria
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