Jack wrapped his butler jacket around Reza.
“Is jy oukei?” He asked. She said nothing.
“She’s in shock.” Dojima said. “Leave her be.”
“Dis my skuld.” Reza whispered.
“What did she say?”
“She says it’s her fault.” Jack translated.
Dojima sat down by the fire.”When the blizzard dies down we’ll go find the others. Rest for now and recover your strength.” He threw a piece of the wreckage into the flame. “And don’t blame yourself, child. We’ll find whoever did this.”
Reza’s eyes hung low. The chill seeped in through the jacket but her heart was already cold.
Elsewhere, on the outskirts of Perpetuum’s Forest,
“The Jul will not be hospitable.” Jean said.
“My mind has long since been made up.” Beardface said.
“So long as you know what you’re in for, Beardy.”
“Now, are we to walk to Jul or do you have some alternate form of transportation in mind?”
“I thought walking there would be a good way to keep up with our training!” Jean said.
“Hmm! An excellent notion! Then, we’d better…”
“I was kidding.” Jean said. She reached into a pocket and withdrew a beetle-shaped object.
“Could it be!? One of the mythical summoning stones!”
“No.” Jean said apologetically. “It’s a whistle.” Beardface inspected it.
“Which end do you blow into?”
“Oh, not that kind of whistle.” Jean said. She clipped the whistle onto the end of her nunchaku and began to spin it around. At first it did nothing but as she increased the speed of the rotations a high-pitched tune filled the air. It was the sort that made the muscles in your neck tense. The sound continued for a few moments and then Jean stopped the spinning.
“You’ve got to get the speed exactly right.” Jean said as she detached the whistle.
“Huh? Beardface, why can’t you talk simply.”
“‘Twas how I was learned.” he said. “I speak thus as a homage to my teacher.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t realise.”
“You’ve upset me not at all. ‘Tis better to ask and know than to not and not.”
A loud buzzing filled the air.
“Jean! The earth cracks beneath our feet! To the trees!”
“Don’t worry, Beardy, it’s our ‘alternate form of transportation’.”
A large and altogether astonishing insect appeared from out of the trees. It’s large multifaceted eyes glistened about as much as the multifaceted eyes of an insect that was much smaller would. Its body was long and slender and armoured with chitin. It had certainly skipped leg day but its matchstick legs were much redeemed by its four wings that sparkled in the sunlight. It landed before Jean and waited.
“Uh… Gregor?” Jean said uncertainly.
The insect looked down sadly.
“Peter! I meant Peter! I’m sorry, you and your brother look so similar.” Jean said. The insect forgave her and embraced her warmly.
“Now, Peter, I have a big favour to ask of you. I, and my friend Beardface here, need to get to Jul as soon as possible. Do you think you could help us?” Peter looked Beardface up and down and then made what Beardface perceived as the insectile equivalent of tutting. He then lifted his wings and vibrated them incredibly fast. It created a similar tune to the one that Jean had produced earlier. Once again a buzzing filled the air and before long another insect had joined them.
“Peter!” Jean called.
“Nay, ’tis Gregor.” Beardface corrected.
“Ah! I’m just like my mother!” Jean said. “Oh, Beardface, you’re going to meet my mom. She’s really nice.”
“I look forward to it!” Beardface said mightily. “Now, shall we away?”
“Okay, so this is how you ride…” But, Beardface was way ahead of her.
“To the sky, Gregor!” he yelled.
“He’s a natural!” Jean said. Peter did the insectile equivalent of shrugging.
Back on Hat Island,
“This blizzard isn’t stopping!” Jack said through gritted teeth.
“Save your energy Jack.” Dojima said. “You’ll find nothing but your own death out there.”
“Forget you!” Jack said. “Jack will save her alone.”
Jack departed the wreckage.
“Wait!” Heart called. “Dojima-san! Are you just going to let him go?”
“Jack cares very deeply for those close to him. If he wants to show that by foolishly risking his life, so be it.”
“How can you be so heartless?”
“You’re the one known for your heart, not me.” Dojima said.
Jack did not return for some time. Heart paced up and down the wreckage.
“Be careful, you’ll knock snow into the fire.” Dojima said.
“How can you be so calm?”
“Meditation. It’s good for the soul. In fact, it’s the only reason I still have one.”
“What’s that even mean!?”
“I think I preferred it when you didn’t talk.”Dojima said.
Boom. Boom. Boom. The wreckage vibrated with each impact.
Heart dove for cover. Dojima got to his feet, his bō at the ready. Responsibility stood in front of Reza.
An obscure shape appeared at the entrance. Then it spoke.
“How did you start a fire?”
“Zi!” Reza squealed. She ran and embraced the figure.
“Indeed, it’s me.” Siphokazi said.
“Salvatora be praised.” Dojima said.
“Snuey be praised as well!” Siphokazi said. “Now, could you all join me. I’m actually in the middle of a chapter.”
“Snuey?” Dojima said. “The extinct snow bird-hemoths?”
“So I thought as well.” She led them outside.
In the thickness of the snow they could only make out the creature’s eyes. But, judging from the height that they appeared to be floating at it was evident that the creature was rather quite large. Siphokazi hopped onto the thing and beckoned them to follow. The bird closed its massive wing on them and they were enveloped in the warm odours of a bird’s arm pit. It was dark and cosy. The feathers were warm and soft. It was fluffy, incredibly fluffy, so damn fluffy one could hardly resist rubbing one’s face against it.
Siphokazi snapped her fingers and glowing green stardust filled the air. The Snuey’s armpit was softly illuminated.
“Magix? But, you used no incantation! How is that possible?” Heart said incredulously.
“The librarians have long known the secret of wordless magix. The wizards do too, but they are quite fond of melodrama.” Siphokazi said.
The feathers beneath them stirred as the Snuey started moving.
“Where did you find a Snuey?” Dojima asked, still unable to believe where he was.
“Actually, it’s all thanks to the bakawk. She convinced the Snuey to help us.”
“Bakawk!” said the bakawk proudly.
“Ah!” yelled Heart. “What’s that over there!” He pointed to a large crystalline object in the recesses of the arm pit.
“Oh, that’s Jack. We found him just before you. He was frozen stiff.” Siphokazi said.
“See.” Dojima said. “Nothing to worry about.”
“Is Felix ook hier?” Reza asked.
“I haven’t seen him.” Siphokazi said. “I’d hoped he would be with you.”
“What was that thing that destroyed the ship?” Heart asked.
“It was stronger than any magix I’ve ever seen.” Dojima said.
“It was no mortal magix.” Siphokazi said. “It could only have been Perpetuum’s Bloom. Now what page was I on?”
“394.” said her suit.
“Thanks. I’ll turn to it then.”