Chapter 11:


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

Pieces of conversation drifted into Caisey’s ears first as he came to. The sounds were all jumbled together, so he couldn’t make sense of who was speaking or what they were saying. He was also unaware of where he was, but he was beginning to notice the crackle and warmth of a fire nearby.

Without even moving, Caisey was aware that his body was unbearably sore. With his eyes still closed, he felt that he was lying on his back somewhere with something soft cushioning his head. He felt a slight pressure on his chest as if something small were lying there. There was a soft breeze tickling his nose and disturbing the hairs which lay against his forehead.

I’m outside, Caisey thought, and caught the sounds of laughter, the clink of metal against metal, and musical instruments playing notes into the air. Along with the instruments, he heard singing. Very beautiful, familiar singing.

Rina, he thought and slowly opened his eyes.

He was lying face-up on Rina’s lap where the goddess sat, legs outstretched, on a lavish picnic blanket in the middle of the festival grounds. From what little he could see without much movement, the picnic blanket was familiar to him in a way that shouldn’t have been possible.

I’ve dreamt of this before, Caisey said to himself and was overcome with emotion at a vision of himself and Rina, relaxing under grand elder trees on a night much like this one. The wind had been more aggressive that day. Periodically, the wind would catch Rina’s long tresses and dance with them on the air. Caisey was entranced by the sight of Rina, always, and watched as she smiled down at him as he lay on her lap; listened as she hummed a hypnotic tune, just as she always did. Inspired, he’d hummed with her that day, their favorite melody.

Now, Caisey looked on with a softness in his eyes he couldn’t contain. He watched Rina sway to and fro in time to a flute which played a hypnotic melody. Her eyes were closed as she felt the rhythm and matched her voice to the voices of others that Caisey was only just now hearing.

For him, it was as though Rina was singing alone.

As though it were only the two of them left in the entire world.

“Rina.” Caisey said aloud and listened to his heart thump loud in his ears as Rina became aware of him and stopped singing. The other voices continued in the background, accompanied by that beautiful flute.

Looking into Rina’s mystic blue eyes while at the mercy of that song did something to Caisey’s heart. Everything around him seemed slowed down.

“Hey, you.” Rina said softly. Her thick hair fell over her face as she looked down at Caisey. His eyes followed the movement of her hand as she used her fingers to tuck the strands behind her right ear. He became keenly aware of her hand coming back down to rest against his chest. “You were out for six hours. Glad to see you’re awake.”

Yeah… Caisey thought but didn’t say. He had no words on his tongue; only thoughts of interlacing his fingers with Rina’s and holding her hand tight against his chest, which he did.

As if on autopilot, Caisey reached his right arm up towards Rina with no thought of stopping himself. Eyes focused on her surprised expression, he threaded his fingers into her hair at the back of the head and gently nudged her down towards him. As she dipped closer to him, her eyes closed in anticipation and the sight caused Caisey’s heart to tap dance his chest. He used his left elbow to prop himself up a little after extracting his fingers from Rina’s, meeting her halfway.

Their lips met in a slow and careful, but powerful, kiss.

Caisey breathed her in and, in return, let her have all the words and feelings he’d wanted to give to her for over a year. He felt like he could suffocate himself here and be happy about it—because kissing Rina felt so natural. Comfortable, like he’d done it before or like he was always meant to.

By the time their lips parted, Caisey felt like this kiss was the beginning of everything that mattered. His mind was a haze. He was satisfied and yet knew that this would never be enough. The Festival of the Gods was over, and he stared at his goddess now, with longing and at a loss. He didn’t know what the future held for them, especially after failing the one task he had promised never to fail for Rina’s sake.

I can’t lose her. He knew now why he existed.

Caisey’s heart ached with a love for Rina so timeless, he was certain that he had loved her before. And he bet that his spirit could be reborn to love only her again and again.

And again.


Fourteen hundred years ago, Caisey Legna was a different man, his spirit housed in a different body. This was his first spirit, the original. His hair was long and black, tied loosely against his back with a handwoven band rather than a short and boyish, wavy brown. His body, at this time, was a few years older and sturdier. He had spent years developing himself into a man fit enough to be a general, though his real passion was in poetry, drama, and song.

Back then, his name was Aesa.

The land in which Aesa lived was barren and dry. He had grown up in a nameless town, raised in one of the few shanties that had been messily erected by tired settlers unwilling to go any further. By now, both his parents were gone, and he was master of the rusty shack he’d been born in. The town itself? Home to one hundred or so inhabitants overall.

Each night, the town fell quiet enough to seem completely desolate, devoid of life. This silence hurt Aesa’s ears more than the ruckus caused by a vicious thunderstorm. It jaded his heart, beckoning a loneliness so deep that he soon found himself seeking comfort in imagined realities.

It had never occurred to him, though, that passion and talent were separate things. This lesson he learned the hard way when a messenger came from the capital.

One warm afternoon, while Aesa walked along the town’s single dirt avenue, he noticed a small—very rare—gathering of people staring at what seemed to be a bulletin posted up on a dilapidated wooden fence near the edge of town. Interest piqued, he hurried to read over their shoulders.





Reading this, Aesa knew his time had come at last! For the next three days and nights, Aesa hummed and imagined a captivating musical, writing until his hand stiffened and his back ached. On his final day, he cried out in delight and made the hellish four-day journey to the capital.

Upon entering the Noble Estate, Aesa was hit with an overwhelming sense of pride and excitement. He believed luck was on his side after having made such an impossible journey on foot.

There is no doubt that Sir Mitus will adore my drama, he thought. Thus, he presented a stack of rough, sweat-dried, crinkled papers to the nobleman of the estate.

Sir Mitus, in a tall, bejeweled headpiece that made up for his short stature, took the crinkled papers gingerly in hand. He turned them over, folded them back and forth, shook them out—heavily scrutinizing their quality. Only after several minutes did the man set the papers straight to read.

Few minutes passed before, “Ptoui!” Sir Mitus had spat and laughed in Aesa’s face. He waggled the noisy papers before Aesa who stood slightly bowed before him. “You call this art, you talentless rat?!” Then to his guards with a fervent wave of his hand, he ordered, “Take him away.”

Needless to say, young and ambitious Aesa was shaken. It was great sadness and desperation that brought him to a small temple just east of Sir Mitus’s Noble Estate. Despite being quaint with no abundance of worshippers, the temple was well kept and felt welcoming.

Aesa dropped to his knees on the stone floor, filling a small, silver dish with the water of a well protruding from below at the center of the temple. With great desire, Aesa held the dish outward with both trembling hands.

“Nine Muses of the Upper Realm, oh goddesses who bless the arts, please hear my prayer. Come to my aid. With your blessing, I will become a masterful writer, the talent of the century. My Muses, I will be forever in your care. I will be devout forevermore.”

He raised the silver dish to his dry, cracked lips and took long, hopeful sips.

Hours later, Aesa found himself cheap lodging at a rundown inn in the capital. More tired than he’d ever been in all his life, he fell immediately into bed and dreamed the most vivid dream about a striking girl wearing expensive, sky-colored fabrics. She danced as she walked, sang as she talked, and smiled with the grace of the heavens.

For days, years, a lifetime, Aesa dreamt about the girl with the thick black hair and smooth melanin skin. He wrote about her in stories and sang about her in songs, becoming a prolific writer—the talent of the century. On his deathbed, he prayed to be with his Muse in spirit, his alluring goddess.

His Ballerina, he called her, with the captivating ocean blue eyes.

Always, he promised. Forevermore.