Chapter 5:

At the Mercy of Rina... and Her Preparations

I Became the Plus-One to a Party of the Gods

“Where are we going?” Caisey asked.

He and Rina were walking through the west wing of her palace, which Caisey thought was probably the same size as a small city. Behind them were the five attendants who had earlier brought Rina the silver bowls of colored liquid. Frequently as he walked, Caisey glanced back to watch the attendants flutter along the hallway.

Like him, they each had wings. However, their wings were the size of two hands put together while his wings were larger than his own height. The attendants’ statures were also small—around four feet—and a little stubby. When he looked at them and racked his brain, the word that came to his mind was:

“Cherubs.” He muttered aloud.

“Huh? Oh right, yes. Cherubs. Each god in the God’s Realm has a team or several teams of cherubs at their sides. It all depends on who the cherubs wish to serve. If you can win their hearts, then the cherubs will forever be devoted to you. At least, that’s the agreement.” Rina answered.

She turned her head suddenly and smiled up at Caisey, who inhaled sharply and briefly looked away. That’s not good for my heart! He thought and returned her gaze once he’d regained his composure.

“What?” He asked, a helpless smile curving his lips.

Rina shrugged, “Nothing. Just lookin’.”

“Well, stop!” Caisey said through self-conscious chuckles which made Rina giggle, too.

This moment felt unreal to Caisey. He recalled that day Rina had taken off, so suddenly, promising to never come back. It had been soul crushing. He thought he’d never see her again. And now, here he was. Here she was, right in front of his eyes, looking hands-down better than ever. His heart felt light again, like it had for those six magical months with Rina.

But… His face grew serious, and he looked forward now as they continued walking.

He heard Rina sigh loudly beside him. “Something cannot be wrong again.”

“Rina.” Caisey stopped walking. A couple more steps and Rina stopped walking as well. She waited. “Tell me something.”


“… Why do I have wings?”

At least five beats of silence passed between them before Rina started cracking up in the hallway of her palace. Caisey glanced, concerned, at her attendants but found that they were doubled over with laughter, too.

“I thought it was—! I thought it was something more serious!” Rina screeched.

Caisey’s face grew red. She’s always laughing at me! And now she’s got these little folks laughing at me, too! He cried internally, then said, “It’s just freaking weird, right? When I got here, I saw a minimal number of winged people flying around the city. But even then, I’ve seen no one else around here with wings as large as mine.

“Stop laughing, Rina!”

“BAhahahaha!” Rina laughed harder at Caisey’s outburst.

Wasting no time, Caisey turned around to face the attendants. “I’m leaving. Cherub people, show me the way out, please.”

Suddenly, Rina was choking and gasping behind him, and Caisey could tell she was forcing herself to stop. Caisey felt laughter tickling his insides and thought, She hasn’t changed. No matter how many times he had tried to be mad at her, he was never able to fully commit to it. She was silly yet endearing, wild but caring, strange but alluring.

Everything. She was everything, all at once.

Still choking, Rina cried, “No, wait. Wait, I’ll stop. Just give me a minute to—” She swallowed a few deep breaths and then said, “Alright, we’re good.”

Caisey smirked. The moment he turned back around, Rina jabbed him hard in the chest with her knuckles. “YOW!” Caisey cried, rubbing his chest. “Felt like a needle stuck my heart. What was that for!?!”

“Don’t say you’re leaving, you punk.” Rina had her lips scrunched together, all angry like. She looked freaking adorable.

Caisey was the one who laughed this time, feeling weak as he gazed at her. “Alright, alright.”

A few minutes’ walk and a couple corners later, they reached another towering set of double doors, both with diamond-encrusted blue knobs and a matching door knocker. It was the most ridiculously expensive-looking doorknob set Caisey had ever seen. For a second, he expected Rina to tap the knocker against the doors and request entry.

But then she ceremoniously shoved the doors open herself and strutted in like she was on the catwalk. Caisey remembered, for perhaps the eighth time, that this was her palace, and here, she was more than just his Rina from back on Earth.

In her usual flourishing way, Rina spun on tiptoe and yelled, “Ta-dah!” She stood at the center of the room with her arms thrust up in the air. “This is your room. Come in!”

My room?!” Caisey said, astonished.

It was as magnificent as Rina’s room and was definitely not a room someone as plain and simple as he should be allowed to have. Caisey was almost lost for words as he walked in to stand before Rina who had both her hands up for double high fives.

“You like?” Rina asked, beaming. She waggled her eyebrows playfully, and Caisey wanted to kiss the movement away but held back with everything he had, remembering with some regret that they’d never shared a kiss of any sort before.

“Yeah, yeah, I like.” Caisey answered, double ‘fiving’ her. “But I’d be lying if I pretended not to notice all of this…” he paused, looking around.

“Ah, yes! My preparations!” Rina squealed, her eyes totally gleaming, and called the attendants to their places.

Someone brought over a silver and gold chair that looked heavier than necessary. Rina pushed Caisey down into it, leaving him momentarily impressed that his wings could bend that way. “Uhm…” Caisey said but was drowned out by Rina’s enthusiasm.

His new bedroom was filled with at least seven lengths of mobile closets with various styles and colors of outfits on each one. The clothes were practically glittering and looked untouchable to the common and impoverished hand. Very Caisey repellant. In the far-right corner of the room was a beautiful folding screen that showcased an intricately embroidered mermaid with a blue, silver, and green assortment of gems.

“Uh…” Caisey said again. This time, Rina and the cherubs heard him. “Let me guess, I’m gonna be trying on some of these?”

“Some? Case, you’re trying on all of them!” Rina twirled away from him and over to the first rack. “Let’s get started.”

Rina snatched a dark red, sleeveless hoodie off the rack while explaining, “We are nicknamed the Cerulean Palace, the color of my spirit, but for the pre-ball festival—and maybe even the dinner party—we’ll be throwing blue to the curb!” She then snatched a pair of tight black pants off the spot next to the hoodie. “Come try this on, Caisey.”

Caisey, blinking blankly, rose from the gilded chair and walked over and grabbed the outfit from Rina’s hands. He held the hoodie before his face, turned it backwards, and forwards, and backwards again, then said, “I don’t know if you notice, but this thing won’t fit me.”

Rina made a face and looked Caisey all over. “Yes, it will.”

“No, it won’t. Did you forget already that I have wings? What can I do with these things?”

“Well, put them away?” Rina replied in the most ‘You’re a dumb dumb’ sort of way.

Caisey arched an eyebrow. “Put—Put them away? I can do that?”

“Well, yeah, of course. Like this!”

Suddenly, massive, sparkling, unbelievably golden wings sprouted from Rina’s back with such force, it blew Caisey back several steps while the poor little cherubs went tumbling backward through the air. Rina’s wings were so large, she had to hover at least nine feet in the air for them to fit comfortably inside the room. With her arms outstretched—her flowing blue gown billowing in an unseen breeze, her long and full black hair, and her blinding, golden wings—Rina looked majestic.

There was no doubt to Caisey that she was his goddess. His heart had almost seized up looking at her.

Rina lowered herself down as her wings shrank and disappeared. She gave a little twirl at the end and said, “And that’s how it’s done! All the gods and their Chosen Ones have wings. Some a little more magnificent than others,” she flipped her hair and chuckled, “They’re just usually hidden.”

Caisey couldn’t help but laugh through his astonishment. “You didn’t really teach me anything, though.”

She tapped him twice on the shoulder. “You’ll figure it out. And it better be fast. We have at least fifty outfits to get through before tonight.”

Caisey felt a sudden case of whiplash. He held his neck as he asked, “Tonight? What’s the rush?”

“Why, it’s the choosing ceremony that’ll determine which pair of gods will lead tomorrow’s festival, of course. And I’m betting it’ll be us! We’ll need to pair up with another god, so obviously, we’re going to look our best.” Rina then made sweeping motions toward Caisey with both her hands, urging him behind the changing screen.

At the thought of meeting and interacting with a realm full of gods as soon as tomorrow, Caisey couldn’t meet Rina’s enthusiasm. The prospect was so intimidating, he was having trouble keeping his bowels under control.

Dear god of gods, whoever you are, Caisey prayed, PLEASE don’t let us be picked tonight. I won’t survive it.

Have mercy.