Chapter 13: And then there was Hope

The next morning Mia kept her word. She got dressed and left me alone to my thoughts after a soft "Thank you". Part of me was happy that she had given up loving me now. It meant she could find somebody that could answer her love for the rest of her life. Part of me was sad. After all, she was a wonderful girl and it pained me that I had to push her away. I got dressed myself and then sank down on my bed again, thinking. The memory of the past night I would keep close to me, but right now I tried to get my mind of it and focus on what lay ahead instead. I wonder where we'd be going. Sail straight to the frozen north? But what about the ice that blocked our path then? Or would the adepts feel the need to go to the continent of Gondowan, were the Magma Rock laid, first? And if they indeed would sail north first, would I be able to get them to visit Magma Rock first? For even if we could get past the ice without the magma ball and cannon, we would not be able to solve the riddles of Mars Lighthouse without the Psynergy Blaze. Sighing I stood up and went outside. When I passed Mia's cabin I noticed that she was inside. Nobody else seemed to be awake yet and I was glad for that. I wanted to be alone for a while. The sun was still below the horizon when I appeared on the deck and the sky was still half dark. The sea was calm. I walked to the front of the ship and stared of into the distance.

"Brother… I do not know what I have to do now… Please give me a clue…" Nobody answered and I bowed my head. "I guess you're right brother, I can't have you answer everything for me."

I heard light footsteps behind me and a well-known voice reached my ears.

"Cloud? Is something wrong?"

I glanced over my shoulder to Mia, then tore my gaze off her and to the sea again, shaking my head. She had put on her traveling clothes again, looking as ready for the day as she always did.

"I thought you'd be in your cabin, thinking." I remarked slowly, not looking at her. I could feel her smile burning on my back.

"I was just getting my stuff. I couldn't sleep or think properly anymore after the night that just passed."

"You gave me your word…" I began, but she cut me off.

"Yes, and I'll keep my word." She caught my gaze and I caught hers, noticing it was different. The pleading look, desperately begging for my love, was gone. It was that gaze she had always had before I saved her life on the island back then after the great storm of my brother. I felt a wave of relief washing over me. She would indeed keep her word.

Mia came to stand next to me, gazing to the horizon as well. For a long while none of us spoke. We simply watched the sunrise. Then she looked at me again.

"Now tell me Cloud, what's on your mind?"

I bit my lip, thinking about if I should tell her or not. "Mia…" I began slowly. "We're sailing towards Prox now, aren't we?"

The Mercury Adept nodded and I sighed. "What's wrong with that, Cloud? We should hurry to Mars Lighthouse, like Hamma said."

"What if our path to Prox is blocked by ice? So far to the north…"

"We have Mars Adepts with us." Mia pointed out.

"True but..." I fell silent. How would I explain this? I felt her gaze on me again. She was silently studying me.

"You know something, don't you...?" she finally concluded. I sighed deeply, but then nodded. What else could I do? Lying to her was no option, since she was right. I got an idea. I took her by the arm and softly dragged her inside. I took the chart of Weyard and spread it out on the table. My eyes scanned the Gondowan continent. Finally I found what I was looking for.

"Look." I said. I pointed to a pink dot in the south west of the map. "There lies Airs Rock." My hand went to the north. "That's Gaia Rock." My finger glided over the map towards a third stop. "Aqua Rock... And finally..." I pointed at a red mark on the Gondowan Continent. "There lies Magma Rock."

She looked at me and nodded, urging me to continue speaking.

"The Rocks hold new Psynergy powers for Adepts that manage to climb them and reach the heart of the Rock..." I fell silent for a little while. "And Magma Rocks holds a form of Psynergy we'll need if we want to solve the riddles of Mars Lighthouse."

She didn't say anything after I had finished talking and that got me worried. I hoped she wouldn't ask just how I knew that...

"I believe you." She finally said. "I don't know how, Cloud, but somehow what you say has to be true." The Mercury Adept looked slightly confused. "You seem to know a lot of things about our quest." Smiling mysteriously, she added: "More then you're willing to share."

"Let's just say I had a vision of the future of this quest, shall we?" I smiled. "I can't explain it in any other way, you wouldn't understand or believe it."

"I don't need to." She assured me. "I'm simply glad you told me. This'll save us time. Now we can first head to Magma Rock and then to Mars Lighthouse. If we had reached Mars Lighthouse before we held possession of this new Psynergy, we would have lost valuable time." She glanced at me. "That's what you were thinking, am I right?"

"You know me too well." I grinned.

"I was able to spend a good time with you." She retorted, her cheeks slightly becoming red.

"My only concern is how we're going to convince captain Felix and Isaac to change course." I closed my eyes and sighed. "I know Isaac, he'll believe me, but Felix… I'm not too sure about him. I get the feeling he doesn't trust me."

"Don't worry." Mia comfortingly laid her hand on my arm. "I'll talk with them."

"I'm grateful." I smiled.

"No problem." She smiled back. "It's the least I can do."

Just then, there was some stumbling and the door that led to the cabins swung open. Sheba entered, still looking somewhat tired, but nonetheless she was awake. Then she noticed us.

"Good morning you two." She greeted. "You're up early."

"Couldn't sleep." I shrugged. "You have a problem with that?"

She took a step back, looking somewhat… fearfully at me. Maybe my words had come out harder than I had intended, I had no idea. The Jupiter Adept quickly shook her head.

"N-No! Not at all. It just surprised me." She glanced at the sea chart, still spread out on the table. "What are you looking at?"

"Just studying the route of our journey a bit." Mia replied softly. She wasn't sure if the others were also awake, but nevertheless she didn't want to awake them by talking too loud should they be sleeping.

"The journey of our group or your journey?" Sheba teased. Mia glanced away, her cheeks slightly red. It was more than I could take.

"I don't know if it is because you're up so early, or maybe you base it on silly ideas" I said sharply. "But regardless you're saying idiotic things. Cut it out, before I get annoyed."

Again the Jupiter Adept looked frightened, intimidated, but I could care less. With an annoyed sigh I went outside, leaving Mia and a confused Sheba. Mia rolled up the sea chart again and laid it back on its place. She shook her head slowly.

"Did I say something... horribly wrong?" Sheba finally dared to ask. The Mercury Adept gave her an reassuring smile.

"Don't worry too much about it, Sheba. But it's better to not say such things in his presence." Mia replied friendly.

"But…" Sheba started, but Mia cut her off.

"Regardless of what you think or how it might seem, Sheba." Mia added. "There's nothing between me and Cloud. Not anymore at least, if there ever was something." A sigh escaped her lips. "His love life is troubled enough as it is, please don't make light remarks regarding the subject anymore when he can hear it."

Sheba nodded slowly. She didn't really understand it, but she had to admit that her comment could very well have been taken offensive by me. How much did she know about the mysterious fifth companion of Isaac, anyway? She didn't know anything about my history or my life. And, to her own surprise, she yearned to learn these things.

"But I can't ask him..." She said to herself. "Maybe I'll ask Ivan... He and Cloud seem pretty good friends." The idea seemed safe enough. "Yes, I'll ask Ivan. It's the safest way."

Smiling to herself, Sheba helped Mia to prepare breakfast. The Mercury Adept saw that the young girl had decided to do something, but she didn't ask what. She felt that it was nothing harmful.

---

I had gone to sit on the lookout again. High above the deck, in solitude, that was when I could think. And I had to think yet again. It never seemed to stop. My surroundings, while they can't help it, they always have to remind me of how horrible my life is, how unforgivable that one mistake is. I leaned back and sighed deeply, for a moment allowing myself to sink into my own guilt and despair. I wasn't angry at Sheba. I was angry at myself. Angry that I had given the impression that I loved somebody else than Selena. It was an unforgivable thing to do.

That girl had given my life meaning, hope, light, everything! And now, only a year after her death, my sin still fresh in my memory, I had given the impression that my heart no longer laid with the white-haired sorceress. It was true that I had set aside my feelings and my punishment for one night, but only so I didn't have to hurt Mia's feelings anymore. For me the past night had reminded me of just how beautiful love is. But I didn't deserve its beauty. How can I deserve it when I allowed that beauty to be smeared with blood?

I bowed my head. The answer was simple: I didn't deserve it. Not until I had corrected my mistake. I am human, and making mistakes is natural for a human. But a mistake is a mistake, and it is unforgivable if somebody loses her life because of your mistake, most of all if that person did so much for you. I realized how pitiful I looked, all drowned in self-pity over and over again, almost every day. I shook my head and sighed deeply. Below, Mia called for breakfast, but I didn't answer. I wanted to be left alone a little longer.

At least Mia's soul had been eased. I had been able to comfort her. She no longer was dying for my love. She had come to understand my punishment. She would no longer suffer because of my mistake. And that was good. She could now move on, find somebody who could always love her, somebody who wasn't going to be hunched under the weight of his own past. Such a somebody she deserved, and no less. Despite my grief, I was able to smile. I had prevented myself from making a mistake again. That was a good sign, I realized. A sign that maybe… someday… I might be able to correct that mistake. I glanced up towards the sky, which was getting filled with rays of sunlight. I realized that if I worked hard enough, my Brother would, in one way or another, give me the chance to do that. Just how I could earn that right, I had no idea. But I was confident that he wouldn't leave it entirely to me to figure it out. He would give me some directions, I was certain of it.

My smile widened. A moment ago I had been so lost in my own grief and self-pity, but now… I felt great. How I could be so sure of it, I had no idea, but my brother would help me to correct my mistake. And that thought… it filled me with hope. It filled me with warmth similar to the warmth I had gotten from Mia's love. I could only smile as I stared at the sky, believing that someday, I might very well be able to hold the purest living being ever born in my arms again. There was a chance, there was hope for me. It would take time, but it could be done, that much I was certain of now.

"Brother, you did nothing and yet..." I bowed my head, grinning softly. "And yet here I am, feeling hopeful again. So... Thank you, Brother."