A loud clanking sound reverberated throughout the ship's musty little kitchen - and when I meant kitchen, I meant something as close to a vile creature's anus, as the place I was currently in gave off an immensely putrid smell. The room was barely even enough to enclose the wooden cupboards that lined the walls as well as the cleaning tools tossed on the corner; not to mention me and Leo and Reyna. From time to time the ship would rock due to the sea's current, and my butt landing on the dusty floorboards was an act predicted within half a second the aforementioned event would occur.
It was unfortunate that while every room of the Princess Andromeda was as luxurious and grandiose as any five-star hotel, the area that catered the nutrients each member would consume was miserable.
Hence the fact that I'd rarely eat. I wasn't Narcissus, but I was pretty sure that I'd gotten thinner than before. The puffy sleeves of the lovely uniform (do take note of the sarcasm) clung hopelessly to my arms, and my jeans had obviously gotten loose. My hair was longer than the original longness: I was still very much tempted to chop it off. The weather was abominably hot, therefore the only solution to relieve me of that pain was to remove the factor contributing to that heat.
The first time I attempted to imitate Britney Spears, it had been three days prior our arrival at the Princess Andromeda. I had been sweeping the main deck under the scorching sun, my whole body understanding that I would eventually melt into a big puddle of human flesh. Leo had passed out the minute he had stepped out into the wilderness. Katoptris had been in my pocket.
I couldn't exactly remember what happened next, but Reyna was able to witness it; she had just woke up that time, and she said that I looked like a possessed badger.
"What the hell," Reyna said. I snapped, focusing on her. Nearly a week on this ship and one couldn't deny how much Reyna had changed, too. Her black hair had gone lanky, and the cool dark eyes I had been accustomed to was now big and wild. "This . . . this . . . I can't - Gods, what the hell."
Apparently the clanking sound mentioned in the first paragraph (my narration was quite long, so I feel the need to remind you) had come from her broom. She had thrown it harshly in front of her. "What are we doing here!" she screamed hysterically. She thrusted a hand to her forehead and slumped back on a wall.
"It's . . . it's been months - "
"Five days," I corrected immediately.
" - and we're doing nothing." Her eyes flew to me, her expression wild and psychotic and, frankly, horrifying. "Fuck. Who knows what could have happened to Jason by now?"
"Do you mind finishing your share of work?" Leo snapped. "So that, you know, maybe we could actually spend our extra time looking for clues to finding this guy the both of you are so obsessed about?"
Under normal circumstances I would have gotten irritated at Leo for being such a girl, but even I couldn't not understand his sassiness. Reyna and I were just extra baggage; Leo had been the one Smithers asked for. I had only followed out of what mortals call instinct as well as the underestimation of my friend's capabilities. Leo wasn't supposed to be bothered by Jason's disappearance - he couldn't even remember him. And that plus the fact that Reyna and I kept talking about plans of escaping was driving him crazy.
Still, we all changed. I rarely saw his admirable innocence anymore; whatever I saw in him right now was something I couldn't exactly point out.
"This place is already spotless," I said calmly. The kitchen was clean, but the stench couldn't be driven away, so what could we possibly do about that? I hardly doubt a crate full of Lysol would cut it.
As if reading my mind, Leo said, "Of course, you're giving up. You were always that way, Piper." He had said it in a leveled voice, with his eyes meeting mine, unwavering.
Something in me twitched. I met his gaze with the same hardness.
"I thought you wanted to leave early?" I retorted. "Well, we've finished our work here. Let's go."
I crossed the kitchen, which was actually strange, since the room was small, and so it only took me two steps to reach the other side - to the place where the sink was. I twisted the metal knob, and a blob of something yellow poured out of the pipe before water streamed out. It took all of my restraint to not turn into a possessed badger again.
I washed my hands, my fingers wiggling around in annoyance. There was tension sizzling throughout the place, too thick for us to not pay attention to, and we couldn't notice anything else until Reyna loudly said, "Hey, your watch!" and I immediately pulled my hands back from the sink. I was in post-delusional mode from the yellow substance I had seen, so the way I recoiled in alarm must have resembled Gollum.
Leo cursed first. "What now?" he growled in Reyna's direction.
Luckily, Reyna wasn't completely lost to the dark side or what is known as her having a questionable mental conduct, so she glared at him in response, as if he had been the one who was careless just a few moments ago. "Her watch could have gotten broken, as she didn't remove it before washing. Everyone knows clockwork malfunctions when in contact with water, unless it's waterproof, which I hardly doubt given that it's beginning to rust."
I still didn't know who her parent was.
Leo's eyes flitted to my wrist, where they speculated mechanically. The petulant expression on his face slowly shifted into careful interest.
"Well," he began slowly, "that's a rather nice wristwatch. I mean, rust is forming, but the windings are pretty good."
"You made it for me," I said, carefully.
His eyebrows shot up. "Yeah?"
Ever since we'd been on the Princess Andromeda, I had felt the duty to tell Leo whatever he should know. It was true that he couldn't readily accept what I would be telling him - and it was a really tedious task to execute to a doubting sixteen-year-old - but nonetheless he tried to absorb the information. It seemed appropriate to be feeding him the facts slowly, otherwise he'd be acting like he was on PMS.
"Uh huh," I agreed. Reyna was watching the psychological process quietly.
"That explains the swell handiwork, then."
Apparently there were some information that Leo could easily accept.
"Aren't we going to grab books?" I demanded. We were moving at a fast pace through the gargantuan library. Tall and hundreds of bookshelves were arranged in an intricate pattern, and they weren't even consistent, so there was that probability where we could have gotten lost for decades. The library had approximately three floors: the heart of the library held all the study tables, and it was what we used as our meeting place, as from that spot one could see the antique railings of the remaining floors.
We entered one of the library's sections and were immediately surrounded by darkness. As I've mentioned, the shelves were tall, so it loomed over us until any source of light was diminished. However, there were candelabras hanging on the russet, regal walls, serving as our guide.
Reyna abruptly stopped. She turned to face me, her features as if in a Chiaroscuro technique. "We don't need them," she said in a tone that gave away nothing.
"Well, then, why are we here in the first place?" I raised an eyebrow, very much irritated. Just because she was Jason's childhood friend didn't mean I - Leo, too - didn't deserve to know her ideas.
She ignored my question. "Can you remember the last time you've seen Jason?"
"Yes." I crossed my arms over my chest.
Reyna turned around again and began walking through many bookshelves. Leo and I struggled to catch up. We kept turning around corners, entering, walking ahead, and then turning again. The library's scent - old papers and a hint of pepper mint - whipped around us as we moved quickly. Reyna's eyes never left the bookshelves as she passed by them; she read every single spine, considering that there were lots of levels on the shelves.
"What were you guys doing?" Reyna's eyes flitted to mine, and then back to the shelves.
I was panting. "Sleepover. We had a sleepover."
At the mention of the last word I'd said, Reyna's nose crinkled. She definitely wasn't fond of the idea of slumber parties.
We continued through the vast library. Leo didn't seem bothered by the pace; in fact, his eyebrows were furrowed.
"And what did you do during the sleepover?"
I was beyond baffled and outraged. "I don't see how this can - "
"What did you do during the sleepover?" Reyna whipped around so fast I staggered back and tripped on the carpeted floor. I managed to regain my previous composure, and gave her a full-on glare.
"Ate. Played stupid games. Slept." I gritted my teeth. She was more impossible than Drew, and I didn't even think that was possible. It seemed petty to get angry at Reyna for thinking that I must have messed up before this whole conspiracy happened, but I couldn't help it. And why couldn't she just tell us immediately what she was thinking, so as to get things faster?
"Can you just tell me what you're - "
"Gods, Piper!" she exclaimed. "Just. . .just let me think first." This time her hands flew to the books in front of her, pulling and pushing and setting them aside. The books flipped past before us at an inexplicable rate.
"What are you even looking for!" I yelled.
Reyna took a deep breath, organizing herself. "Games. You mentioned games. What did you guys play?"
"Uh." I couldn't think straight. Something about her frantic look made my heart pound. "I can't. . ." I furrowed my brows. "I. . .Truth or Dare. Yes, we played Truth or Dare."
The books being moved away, the beating of my heart, Reyna, everything.
I couldn't see her face properly in the dimness of the library. "What did you people ask him to do?"
The voice that came out was measured, but nonetheless haunted. It was strained and cautious; the kind of tone that was always used in films - the part where the victim would realize that the person she was with and who was currently helping her was actually the suspect. It was the kind of tone that made Leo look surprised for the very first time since we'd been on the boat.
For some stupid and irrational reason, I blushed. "N-nothing. Nothing personal, I mean. The guys just ordered him to tell me something. 'I love you'." My cheeks felt warmer. "That kind of stupid stuff."
I wasn't sure, but something in Reyna's face softened. "Are you sure that's it?"
I nodded. I shifted slightly to look at Leo. He was smirking.
"Oh, shut up," I grumbled.
"I didn't think you were the gooey type." Leo was thoroughly amused. I motioned to strangle him. His mouth twitched.
I thought we were going to search again for books, but Reyna slumped on the floor and sat down below one of the candelabras. Confused, I sat down, too. Leo resigned to merely leaning on a shelf.
There was silence. The only sounds were our breathing as well as the fires flickering.
"Theories?" I asked.
Reyna bit her lip. It was evident she was having some kind of inner struggle. "It's risky."
Her dark eyes landed on her hands, which were positioned on top of her lap. "The theory itself."
"How risky?" I was tired of all these riddles.
It took her eons to reply. "We need to leave tonight. That much is - "
"Do we have a deadline?" I asked. "What's going to happen once we escape? What is happening?" My voice was shaking. "We. . .we - we don't even know what we're dealing with. Does Jason have some kind of nemesis that decided to kidnap him? If not, why did he leave?"
"You're asking these questions to the wrong person." Reyna shook her head.
I had had it. "I was stupid to bring you along with me, then," I said tightly. "Just tell me your idea - "
"I can't. I'm sorry." And she was sorry. It was in her eyes.
"This - " My throat was thick and hotness was spreading through my chest. "We don't even know where to start."
Reyna sat up. She started muttering, "If I can't tell you, then someone else can."
Leo was horrified. "Woman, what the hell are you - "
"I'm not crazy," she shot back. "I have an idea."
"Oh? And will you tell us this one?"
She nodded. "We can look for Themis."
I raised an eyebrow. "Themis?"
"Goddess of divine law." Leo stood straighter. He looked dead serious. "She. . .I mean, where can we find her?"
There was a ghost of a smile as Reyna said, "Well, where else? She's Lady Justice."
A/N: I'm super sorry if it's short :(( I promise to make the next one longer! It's just that you guys wanted a chapter so bad that I was like, "Oh, hell, Ima write now" despite the fact that I'm busy at this moment. :(
Anyway, I hope you like this one! Tell me what you think of it!
THANK YOU FOR STICKING UP WITH THIS STORY! I LOVE YA'LL TO DEATH!