"Will you return to Cloral?" Uncle Press asked.
"I don't know, man," Spader said after some thought. "I don't have any family there, and most of my friends are dead."
"You've still got Yenza for company," Bobby said jokingly, bringing on a round of laughter. "She'll be more than happy to have you back."
"Speaking of which, did Yenza survive the attack on Grallion?" asked Gunny.
"Of course," scoffed Spader. "Yenza'd survive anything."
"Spader and Gunny, you guys should go to Eelong," Kasha said. "You guys rebuilt Black Water before, you could do it again. Eelong would flourish much faster with your guidance."
Gunny shifted uncomfortably. "I kind of wanted to go back to the Manhattan Tower Hotel, resume my old job."
"The Manhattan Tower Hotel may not be there anymore," warned Uncle Press. "Part of New York was probably a Ravinian Conclave, and that's one of the most likely spots for one. Not to mention that the Ravinians tore down everything and rebuilt it to their liking."
"Are Dodger and Mark Dimond's parents still safe?" someone asked. It was Patrick.
"As presidents of the Dimond Alpha Digital Association, naturally, Mr and Mrs Dimond were Ravinians," Uncle Press said. "They didn't want to, but I persuaded them to stay on the safe side for themselves and for Mark."
"From what I know, he got through based on his wit," Uncle Press said. "That Dodger's a smart fellow, he stayed alert and he survived. In any case, Gunny, First Earth is no longer what it used to be. All of you should remember your homes or jobs are probably nonexistent now. Gunny should be free to decide which territory he wants to help rebuild."
"I think I want to look for Dodger," Gunny said. "I never did get to thank him for everything he did to help me."
"He helped Courtney, Mark and his parents stay safe and try to stop the dados," Patrick added. "You should go to First Earth."
"Spader, you coming?" Gunny asked him. They'd been friends for a long time, when they'd been fighting to save First Earth and when they'd been trapped on Eelong together. In a way, they were almost best friends.
Spader looked at Kasha. "Sorry, Kasha. I'm sure Eelong'll develop in its own time, without the need of our guidance. I'm going with Gunny."
Bobby felt a strange sense of trepidation. He and Spader had been through a lot together, up to the point where they'd searched for exiles on Cloral and Zadaa and created the giant flume to save Third Earth. He wasn't ready for Spader to depart so quickly from his life.
Spader and Gunny weren't either. "I'm not ready for this," said Gunny softly. "We'll seriously never see any of the others again?"
"You will all become a part of Solara after your deaths," Uncle Press said. "Throughout your lives, though, you will not be able to travel. The aim is to restore the natural order of Halla. You will live as beings of Halla, not illusions."
"I can go first." Siry spoke up. "I need to return to Ibara and find out if any of my Jakills are still alive." He turned to the others. "Thanks for everything, especially Bobby." He looked at Bobby, and mutual understanding was reached. Bobby recalled the first time he'd met Siry – a juvenile delinquent, adventuring with his bunch of friends. Siry had matured a lot since then, but he was still the same brave and adventurous spirit.
"I'm going with Siry to Ibara," Aja said. "It's up to me to restore my vision of Ibara as the salvation of Veelox. Has Lifelight been destroyed?"
"When the Ravinians came, everything was destroyed," Uncle Press said. "Lifelight existed only for the Ravinians. The others were forced to do menial jobs outside the conclaves. Returning to Veelox, you could mold the future of the world. Now that Saint Dane has passed, there are only 7 worlds in Halla. You can return, but there's no telling where the flume will take you. It will bring you to the time where you are needed."
Farewells were said. Bobby knew almost all the Travelers better than anyone else, as he'd spent time with each of them at their own territories. He thought back to the time where he'd first gone to Veelox, and experienced the amazing technology known as Lifelight. Aja Killian had come close to saving the territory just on her own genius. Though ultimately she hadn't succeeded, she'd managed to salvage something from the ruins by creating a future. Without her, Siry would probably have never existed. As he held her in a tight embrace, he could hear Aja's sharp, serious voice in his ear, now gentler. "I'm sure I'll see you again someday."
They stepped back from one another, and she seemed to be handling her departure a lot better than Bobby was. It was strange, how in spite of everything, he was still the least composed, Bobby thought to himself. He spun around. Everyone was staring at him, Loor's eyes unfathomable.
Veelox. Said Uncle Press, and the flume came to life with its familiar musical notes that Siry and Aja would hear for the last time as they both stepped into the flume.
"I'll return to Earth with Pendragon, Gunny and Spader," said Patrick. "It has always been my home."
Mentally, Bobby agreed with him. Patrick certainly seemed to feel a stronger sense of belonging to his territory than any of the others did, so much so that he seemed to be out of his depth when he wasn't there. This helped them in the end, when Patrick sacrificed himself to save his home.
Press seemed reluctant to let the Earthbound travelers depart first, instead turning to Elli Winter. She was noticeably at peace ever since she'd gotten release from fulfilling her destiny as a traveler.
"Elli, I assume you will return to Quillan?" he asked.
Elli surprised everyone by shaking her head. "I haven't got much of life left to live," she said. "Indeed, there isn't much I ask for from life anymore. I'd prefer to return to Solara, as a spirit, and relinquish this form. I've already held onto it for too long."
There was understanding in Uncle Press' eyes. It was as though he'd been expecting it. "Then return you will," was all he said, and turned to look in the far distance. Bobby, along with the other Travelers, turned to follow his gaze. They were still standing in the valley of rolling hills. Now, they could see the distinct outline of gleaming ivory gates, rising from the ground, in the distance. Even as they watched, sunset-colored clouds were rolling into the sky, a glittering golden. Aquamarine water was sparkling somewhere. Rocky, ice-capped mountains were soaring – on a sunny day? The strangest thing was, the place whispered of life. It was glittering in the air, shining on its slopes, gleaming from its waters. None of it made sense, but it was a sight too beautiful to behold. The same look of awe was imprinted on every face.
Elli started walking towards the paradise, across the hills.