There was a little jingle in the room to wake up the participants. This time Lera had really fallen asleep. There was no use of her powers to trick the AI. Her head felt heavy as she opened her eyes and sat up. She turned to look at Paroppe who was behind her, partially falling off the bed. She was even drooling on the pillow.
If she didn't wake up in a bit a louder chime will play out. It was customizable, so Paroppe could have turned off that feature.
Lera took the time to get ready, eventually hearing the louder chime and then noticing Paroppe getting up from the bed.
"Lera, how are you feeling today?"
As she was washing her face with some water, she thought about it. Yesterday as she let herself go in front of Paroppe, she felt the walls closing in. Even as Paroppe tried to help her, it didn't change. Though thinking about the stars and seeing them did help, it didn't feel the same as she had hoped. Right now, she was feeling… fine. If she was honest, in a way she still felt trapped, but she wasn't focusing on that. She was just avoiding it like the past few days. Though it didn't feel as suffocating anymore since she talked to Paroppe.
"I'm doing… better."
"That's good to hear. I checked my messages on that SPINE thing and they're having some sort of seafood type breakfast."
As Jev exited his room, Byyuan was there waiting for him.
"Good morning Jev. Can we talk?"
He was planning on meeting his sister and Ayanni, who said they had already left to go eat already. He assumed that Byyuan was already there, so he was a bit surprised to see him. Either way, he did have time to talk to him.
"I know how you feel about Lera. Honestly, I felt like that when I first realized that about her. I won't deny that. I just would like for you to look at who she is, rather than what she could do."
Jev wasn't expecting this, not this early in the morning. He thought they had already talked about this before the trip. He made himself perfectly clear, even if he was 'trying' to speak in a metaphor.
"Don't get me wrong. I know who she is. Just a lost soul looking for friends. When she first went to your city with Ayanni and Paroppe, I had let her go. She promised that she would keep them safe, but when they get back they fight and Paroppe leaves to go on an adventure alone. She failed to keep her promise. Lera does that. Promises mean nothing to her."
At that point he was venting and realized it was better for him to keep quiet before he said something that would put this trip in jeopardy. He didn't like that AI or whatever that always watched them. Even though he had more to say, he didn't need to go on.
"Can you tell me what that promise was?"
"I asked her to keep them safe. To protect them. In the end…" At that moment, Jev thought of something. Lera was the one who got hit by that truck vehicle. He was angry that Ayanni and Paroppe fought, but she was the one to get hurt. He did it again. He got angry at her when she wasn't really at fault. He never talked about her with anyone and even when he was with Ayanni and he brought her up, Jev never commented on her. Lera was just a powerful being that could destroy them at any moment, but he knew that wasn't true. Not really anyway. Lera was someone who wanted friends. He just said who she was, but he still treated her like a terrible monster. What happened then wasn't her fault. He just blamed all the bad stuff on her.
"Ready to go eat?"
"After this. I would like to at least try talking to Lera."
"Each other. I think it would benefit you to talk to her." Jev could see where Byyuan was going with this. Talk to her, get to know her, bla bla bla, become friends. He didn't think he could do that, but he could talk to her.
"Yes. Can we go eat now?"
After breakfast, the gang watched the stars go by and played a few games. Even met a few of the other passengers and talked with them. Eventually lunch came by and Jev found a moment, alone off to the side with Lera.
"I wanted to apologize to you."
He did catch her off guard and that was a mistake of his.
"I'm sorry I should have eased into this. I'm sorry that I caught you off guard…" Now that he got her attention, he was going to say what he should say. "I'm always taking you for granted. Attributing all that goes wrong to you. That was wrong and unfair of me." He did want to mention how she fails her promises, but saying that now wouldn't be right.
He watched Lera for a moment as she took in what he said to her. Then she looked down and away from him.
"But you were right."
"I wasn't right. I was just a child. I stated things in an extreme way." He sighed for this next part. "Look Lera, if you do something wrong, look and see if it was intentional. Otherwise you will end up destroying yourself. The things I said to you and the way I acted, at that time it was intentional. I'm sorry for that."
"I broke my promise with you. I have been trying to be better at not getting them hurt."
She knew that? Based on how Lera acted, Jev had to admit that would be something that would weigh on her mind.
"For now, please have fun Lera. You asked us to take a vacation with you and we have. It seems like you are the one who is still working."
Later that night, Lera was talking with Paroppe.
"… then Ayanni challenged Byyuan to a drinking game. I looked over to see you and Jev talking. Was he being nice to you?"
"Of course." Lera didn't want to talk about it. She knew that Paroppe had been a bit protective of her when Jev was around. "Can I ask you something Paroppe?"
"It's kind of a heavy topic."
"No matter what it is, I can't do anything about it until you tell me."
"Well…" Lera took a deep breath. "Are you happy?"
"Of course, I'm happy. What brought this on?" Clearly baffled by what Lera asked.
"I mean, all those times you got hurt. Remember the alley way? I slowed you down and got you hurt… And I know that you've had fun moments since then, but you have gotten hurt many times since then…"
"Lera, stop there, please. I know you have protected me. Saved my life over and over again. That is not something to feel bad about though. I may make mistakes, but they are mine. Just as the ones you make are yours." Paroppe laughed. "Sometimes we can make mistakes together. You are my little sister, so don't be getting all mopey."
"Are you really happy?"
"I am and I will answer you as many times as you ask."
Lera left Paroppe's room and returned to her room.
That feeling of being trapped wasn't really from being in a small space. Maybe a little bit of it, but it was just all these things that kept piling up.
Paroppe, Ayanni, and Jev were her family. Paroppe more than the others, but they had been there for her. Jev always being strict with here, although as he said earlier not in good faith. Ayanni asking and answering any questions she had.
Then there was her friend, Byyuan. He was a lost soul, brought back from death in a new world. In a way he was like her, that knowledge made her happy. They worked together, played around, and talked. He had shown her what that new world was like, even if he had only seventeen years of extra knowledge.
She couldn't forget Rozaa, Thrann, Ophebo, Carxs or Urenol. She hadn't hung out with the other kids too much, but she saw them a bunch when she was with Rozaa. Since working at her job as a dishwasher, Lera spent a lot of time in that world. She was busy, like Rozaa, but when they planned a meet they would stick together. It was fun being around her.
Sometimes they would bake, watch movies, even read some books with a drink in hand. Lera really wanted to spend time with her, but Rozaa was always too busy.
In the end, Lera's relationship with her was different. She didn't know what Lera could do. So there was this barrier that Lera. There were certain topics that she strayed away. Even when she had talked with her therapist Hemmy, she was vague about anything that wasn't 'normal'. Well she had let some things slip, but quickly reworded it for Hemmy.
In a way, who she was, everything about her, was why she interacted with her family and Byyuan the most. They knew the real her. This body she was using. She had no idea if it was her original or not. She just accepted it was her. What she was really like.
Those extra 'costumes' at home… just masks to the real her. Even if one of them just made her shorter and younger. Maybe it would be best if she got rid of them.
She shook her head.
The real thing she should think about is if she should tell Rozaa about who she is. If she did that, then should she tell Thrann and his friends? Hemmy? Well considering her occupation and their relationship… not the best idea. She wanted to be friends with her, but that wouldn't be the best.
Should she tell Paroppe or Byyuan about this plan? Maybe she should also talk with Jev or Ayanni. They didn't interact all that much with her, but Jev made a big step with her so she could return that in kind.
All that thinking last night wiped her out. Not like the previous night, so she had to force herself to sleep. Over her SPINE, she got a message from Paroppe. Apparently her and Ayanni were going to eat together in their rooms. In the group message, Byyuan and Jev said they would be meeting up in the lounge. Lera replied with her own message saying she would meet the others there in a bit.
She wanted to wash her face… Mainly her thoughts were how to present this idea to the others. Should she even need to ask them? Would they even think it's a good idea?
She and Jev seemed to agree that telling others about who she was, was a bad idea. In truth, she still agreed with that. But she told Byyuan about herself after he told her about himself. Rozaa had been more than open with her about things… Shouldn't she?
She wanted to message Rozaa and set up a time where they could meet and talk. Of course doing that wouldn't be fair to the others. They were going to hold off sending messages to their family, with the AI overlooking them, so doing that herself was a bad move.
Now that she thought about it, what about Byyuan's family. He had mentioned that he would talk to them, but she never said what he told them. Lera knew he cared for them, so it couldn't be anything bad…
'Didn't he say that he was planning to go to college? That could have been his excuse. Maybe she might need to help him with that…'
That was something she could talk to him about later. She wanted to help out if she could.
She had been staring into the mirror for a little longer than she had hoped. She took care of all the normal stuff a human like her was supposed to go out of her room.
She bumped into some causing the other person to fall over. It was another human… Not important right now.
"I'm so sorry. Please let me help you." Lera leaned down to check on the person. First she wanted to heal them, but held off on it.
"I'm fine. It was my fault for not paying attention to where I was going." Pulling him up standing, Lera recognizes the man. "You're Lera right. We met in the gaming lounge."
She and her friends played a match against Drahyun and his friends. Lera's team lost, it wasn't all bad though. A fun game against friendly people.
"No, I should have paid attention. Are you alright Drahyun, should I call someone?"
"Since you insist, we should call some people over here. They need to detain you so you can't run around causing more people to fall over." He laughed, Lera did her best to chuckle around with him. Drahyun cleaned his glasses off, fixed his suit, and smiled. "Don't worry about it. Do you want to join me and my friends for breakfast? I wouldn't mind your company."
"No, I'm sorry. My friends are waiting for me as it is." She did feel bad for denying Drahyun's offer.
"A shame then. Maybe another time then."
"That would be great. I'll talk to you later."
They ended up walking in the same direction after 'splitting up'. There was a bit of awkward silence, but eventually they went their separate ways.
"What took you so long?" Byyuan called over from his seat.
"I ran into Drahyun on the way here. I accidently knocked him over."
Ayanni was lying next to Paroppe in the evening of that day. They were watching a movie after swimming in the pool on the ship. It wasn't like anything he had seen when they lived in Hapho. Even when he was searching on his tech pad all the movies. So it provided both him and Paroppe a wonderful experience. The SPINE was translating the movie, so that did help.
"Want me to get us some snacks?"
"Please dear." Paroppe replied to him.
"You don't have to do that here. I'm sure Jev isn't listening in on us."
"It's fun and it's growing on me. Seriously, just get me food."
"Alright, I'll stop."
They have been saying couple type words for a while to annoy Jev. It had been fun at first, still is really, but when they were alone it wasn't really them.
Ayanni loved Paroppe and she… loved him too. He was nervous. After this trip he was going to propose to her. Not like the last time where he did it to get her to like him, but for real this time. Not for his own reasons, but for their future together.
He didn't want to do it on this trip. Ayanni wanted to be in Suul when he did it. That was a mistake last time.
He had asked Lera to help him get to Paroppe, so he could bring her back.
Back then he still believed that he needed to protect Paroppe. So Lera teleported him there and talked with her. Once she learned that he had help from Lera, things deescalated from there. He proposed to her hoping that would fix it all…
It was a mistake, he knew that. He sent a message back to Lera to teleport him back. Lera never knew why he went there and he doubted that Paroppe had mentioned it. She took the long way back and then she gave him an ultimatum.
To treat her like a person, an equal, a partner. Not something that needed to be protected.
Ultimately he accepted and since then he has been working to be a better person.
"Hurry back, they're going to fight!"
"Just a moment."
He was out of his thoughts and sitting next to Paroppe again with a plate of food in his hands.
Byyuan and Paroppe were on one side and Jev and Ayanni on the other. Lera was just outside watching them pass the ball back and forth with their rackets. She was the referee. The ground beneath was a sparkling river.
It was called the Triaahlle River. It's a sparkling cosmic river that spans five separate galaxies and will lead them to the Skawaad Cluster. It's full of minerals most people would want to harvest, but it was deemed a historical site. It was regularly patrolled in this area, making it a safe route and passage towards the Skawaad Cluster.
Sitting back in her chair, taking a bite of her ice cream, she watched the game do by. It was a wonderful view for her. She also saw a bunch of other beings playing different games around the area as well.
Paroppe just hit the ball straight into the next, losing a point for her team.
"Seriously!" She screamed.
"We can still get them Paroppe. Don't let them get to you."
"I'm gonna beat you Jev!"
Both Jev and Ayanni snickered. Jev started talking about an embarrassing moment in the past about Paroppe. Which she was about to do the same to Jev.
"It was to be expected, Jev."
"Ayanni, don't be changing sides for me now."
Lera listened to them. It wasn't like they were trying to be quiet. Everyone was having fun. Lera herself was only on the sidelines because she would be the odd one out and she really wanted to try the ice cream. It was great by the way.
She turned around to see Drahyun bringing a chair with him to sit next to her.
"I see they're having fun."
Paroppe was fuming at her continued decline. Her teammate was laughing with the other two.
"Traitor!" She yelled at Byyuan. Then she nodded at Byyuan, which he returned in kind and then they started putting extra effort against Jev and Ayanni who were caught off guard.
"What are you doing here?"
"My friends formed teams to play against each other. I was the odd one out… Then I saw you and I thought I would join someone who seemed to be in a similar situation."
Lera just nodded and just watched the game in front of her unfold. Drahyun sat next to her joining in the humor and conversation with the others.
"So what do you do?" Lera asked him after a bout of laughter. She had other friends in different worlds, she could make one here. She did still feel about the other day. Making some light conversation couldn't be too hard. She's had practice talking to new people.
"I'm actually a teacher."
Lera had very little knowledge about this universe, but teachers didn't seem the same compared to the ones where Byyuan went to school.
"It might be hard to believe, but I am. My family were all teachers… So I became one too. Can't you tell by my glasses? I'm told that if I want to look like a teacher I just have to wear them." He laughed after that.
Lera could easily hear his voice change when he mentioned his family. So she skipped over that as he had.
"I mean… What do you teach?"
"I actually go to new planets that are found and help teach the locals. Mainly we teach about our technology. How to use it and integrate it into their society."
"That's wonderful, but must be tough."
"It is… The language barrier is the toughest. We can't just kidnap people and stuff SPINEs in them and hope it will work out." He laughed and then cheered as Byyuan saved the ball from touching the ground. "What about you?"
"Uh, well we are a part of the Talaon Corporation." She had prepared herself and the others just in case it came up. "Mainly we send out ships with food to underdeveloped planets. We want to work on medical aid next, but we're still a new organization."
"I've heard about them. New charity people. So you're all a part of Talaon huh. Helping various beings out there, must feel good."
"Ah, looks like they're calling me back. Let's talk again."
"I would enjoy that very much."
"He seems like an excitable guy." Paroppe commented as she walked over to Lera.
"We should invite him to join us next time. I would like to face off against their group again." Ayanni used a towel to wipe his face.
Byyuan and Jev shared a look that Lera noticed. She didn't know why, but she didn't think about it much more than that.
"I'm going to clean up." Paroppe said.
"I'll walk with you." Ayanni followed along.
"Want to head that way as well?" Byyuan offered a hand to Lera.
"Sounds nice." She took his hand and stood up from her reclined position.
As they started walking Jev asked Lera, "What did the two of you talk about?"
"Did you know he was a teacher? I didn't think they needed people like that here. I guess it makes sense and all."
"What does he teach?" Byyuan asked.
"He said that he helps native beings adapt to technology."
"Oh… really." Byyuan commented in a different tone of voice.
"Yea?" Lera was a bit confused.
"Lera, what flavor was that ice cream? I could go for some right now. I've been staying away from that stuff in school, but since we're on vacation…" He showed a big grin towards Lera.
"Drahyun… What do you think about that guy?" Byyuan had brought up to the group in his room later that night.
Byyuan, Jev and Ayanni were talking about him. They had mentioned to Paroppe to keep Lera busy for now. That part was asked by Byyuan who thought it best to leave her out of it and Ayanni would let Paroppe know what they were talking about later.
"I don't think much about him, but I can't say he gives off a good feeling." Ayanni made his opinion of the man known.
"He has a mysterious feeling. Take his glasses for example?"
"Are you talking about the fact that no one on this ship wears any?" Ayanni asked and Byyuan nodded to that.
"I can't even begin to understand those other beings, but a human or at least a look-a-like, gives off this dangerous feeling." Jev crosses his arms and leans back in his chair.
Byyuan sat on his bed, while the other two were at the table. Talking about Drahyun was something he needed to do with the group. He would have liked Paroppe to be here, but that probably wasn't the best idea if Lera went looking for any of them. She was the distraction for now.
He had misgivings about talking about this whole thing with Lera. Sure letting her know that someone getting close to her might be dangerous is a good idea. Then again, he thought of Lera as a pure child. Like one of his own. He was going to protect as much as he could. Plus he was aware that Lera wasn't doing all too well with this 'vacation' in the first place, so one less thing to worry about was what led him to exclude her.
"Remember when we faced off against his group? They were all in sync. No one strayed from his leadership. At first I believed that he was a good leader and that maybe they practiced it, but then I noticed that even for smaller stuff they didn't stray too far. Then when I saw him talking with Lera today… His intentions didn't seem to be in good faith. I met a few men like that in my time… He wasn't looking at her like a potential love interest, more like prey to a wolf."
"I agree." Jev commented on what Byyuan had described. "We know this is a harsh place. Anything can happen, but why us and her specifically… I don't know. You don't think she told anyone right?"
"I doubt it and if she did, she would have told Paroppe." Ayanni interjected. "If there was a problem, Paroppe would probably tell me."
"Probably?" Byyuan shot a smirk towards him. "Well we know he is after her. Why… I can't say for sure, but it isn't good."
"I agreed that we needed this meeting, and I can't believe I'm saying this, but we should at least warn her. Don't you think?" Jev leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees. "I haven't been great to Lera in the past," looking towards Byyuan and then Ayanni, "I realize that I was wrong. I'm still working on it, but she does need to be protected."
"If something happened to her… things could go very, very wrong." Ayanni brought up a fear all three of them shared regardless of her ideals or self control. He wasn't sure about telling her yet. He needed more time to think about it.
"What do you all want to do about it?" Byyuan brought up. "I think we should have at least one of us near her at all times. And as for telling her, I don't want her to stress out about this. She needs this vacation more than we do." As he paused, no one said anything, so he continued. "Think about it and if you think we should, we can later. Let's keep it secret for now. What do you think?"
"That would work best. I'll let Paroppe know tonight." Ayanni stood and stretched.
"I'll get Lera tomorrow morning." Jev answered after nodding towards Byyuan and then walked over towards Ayanni.
"Good night!" Byyuan waved them out.
He didn't want to deal with this, but it was important to Lera that this trip go well. Including the fact that it was also going to be Jev's birthday soon. Should be around the time they reach the Skawaad Cluster.
Sometimes Byyuan didn't understand technology. It was useful in everyday life, people's lives would benefit, even older people. He was someone who had fallen under that category in the past, so he knew how helpful it was. The SPINE was helpful translating and similar to a smartphone, but it made a lot of other things trivial. It removed the importance of the small things. Everyone was too efficient. They didn't relax.
It made people more alone. Separated and controlled people. He couldn't say he liked it, that part especially.
Also terrible people could use that convenience to pursue their goals.
'Why are you doing this?'
His thoughts quickly went back towards Drahyun.
They were nobodies. Not entirely, but he has no reason to go after her. Could it be Talaon or is she just an easy target? Something else?
Talaon was a good idea, but she made it in a world, universe, of war. His curiosity, before they left on this vacation, got the better of him and he checked it out. Fleets of space ships going all out in a battle. Some of the more 'alien' ships were disgusting, but served no less as a tool of destruction. Then someone is sending aid to people in need. Food. A resource like that cannot be as abundant as this 'cruise' seemed to make it.
Now if he had a violent motive, the AI was always watching. It's not intrusive as Ayanni had pointed out, but there was still a need for precaution. Drahyun wouldn't be able to attack her in any way. She could defend herself with her powers, but Lera was still easily able to be taken by surprise. That was something he had learned when working with her at the restaurant.
Even if that was the case, after this cruise, they would be gone. It was just an avoidance and waiting game at this point.
(Re-wrote that last part to fix a plot point I needed.)
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