“CIRO’S IN DANGER!?” Zero sprang up from his seat in shock.
Syferr jumped up from his seat as well, “WE GOTTA GO NOW! WHY HAVE WE BEEN WASTING TIME HERE!?” he glared at Han.
“Calm down you two, I understand—" Han was interrupted.
“BUT THIS IS CIRO WE’RE TALKING ABOUT!” Zero shouted as he threw his palm through the air to the right.
“YEAH IT’S CIRO!” Syferr joined in.
“I understand! Just sit down a minute and I will explain!” Han snapped at them both, his face sprouted a scowl. He seemed to finally get their attention. Syferr and Zero were still freaking out but they managed to sit down.
“Uhm … who is Ciro?” Seren inquired in a soft tone as her eyes and head osculated between everyone, she was trying not to cause anymore strife.
“Who is Ciro!? Ciro is …” Zero hesitated, his uncertain eyes glanced at Han.
“It’s okay, Zero, she can know. Seren is part of the mission as well.” Han caught his glance and reassured him.
“He’s Mother Gaia’s … lover.” Zero looked at Seren as finished his sentence.
“What!? *Gasp* No! That’s not good at all!” Seren covered her mouth with both of her hands.
Han looked at Seren, “Yes, it is unfortunate. We received a letter from Ciro yesterday. In it he requested Mother Gaia come visit him in Bell Town where they usually meet, the Red Rose Inn. The thing is, in the letter he insisted that she come alone.”
“Okay, but what’s so wrong about that?” Seren asked.
“Ciro would never ask that of Mother Gaia. That would compromise her safety and the entire mission she is behind. We believe it is a trap.” Han explained.
“I agree, Han. However, what makes you think Ciro has been captured?” Zero asked.
“It’s his handwriting and his signature.” Han replied.
“Oh no … so someone is using him to get to Mother Gaia.” Zero held his chin in-between his thumb and forefinger as he looked down and stared at the ground.
“AAAGGGHHH!! Well they can’t have her or him! We’ll go there and save Ciro!” Syferr roared and stamped his way towards the door, his clenched fists were steaming.
“I’m with you, Syferr, but we can’t take any action until we have all the details, so just wait and sit back down!” Zero commanded Syferr from his seat, breaking his thoughtful gaze.
Syferr turned around, clenched his teeth then yelled back, “Ugh! We don’t have the time!”
Zero stood up, “Well if YOU know where to start looking for him then by all means, go!” Zero extended his arm and underhand towards the door, he was scowling at Syferr.
“Ugh! Damn it! Fine, what do we do!?” Syferr’s body was now steaming from anger, his fists still clenched together.
“Just give us a minute.” Zero said to Syferr. He then looked to Han, “Okay so what are the mission details?”
“Okay, listen closely. Ciro asked Mother Gaia to meet him at noon, two days from now, at the Red Rose Inn in Bell Town. You three are to go to there and investigate. Ask the townspeople about Ciro, if they’ve seen him or know anything. Look for any suspicious people lurking around, if it’s a trap they will be waiting for Mother Gaia. Be sure to stay near each other but don’t be too obvious about what you are doing there. When the Clock Tower strikes noon, be there at the Inn and see if anyone shows up.” Han explained.
“Hmm, alright. What freedoms do we have to pursue any leads?” Zero inquired.
“Full. Squad Zero just passed the evaluation exam so I believe you can handle yourselves well. If you find a lead pursue it, however, you must stay close together at all times. We’re not sure who we are up against but with Mother Gaia being the Mother of Prithivi, the power she holds could be desirable for anyone. Be weary and very careful …” Han paused for a few moments. “Mother Gaia sends her regards and apologizes that she could not talk to you three in person about this. Honestly, it was just too close to heart and she needed someone to give an objective explanation on things. That’s where I come in.” Han continued.
“Objective …? Is that really true, Han?” Zero raised an eyebrow at Han and turned his head a little to the right. His gaze was stern.
“Very.” Han met him with his own bold gaze.
“Alright, well if you say so. When are we to leave?” Zero relaxed his look.
“Immediately. I have mounts ready for you guys at the stables outside of the Eastern Outer Wall of Gaia. Ijneg will be joining you guys on the ride, he knows all of Prithivi very well and can guide you to Bell Town. He’s also very skilled in combat which can only be helpful for you guys. I hope everyone is okay riding horses?” Han asked and split his gaze between the three of them.
“Ijneg coming along sounds great. He’s always been a great companion to journey and work with. But wasn’t he helping you with the Night Class? And sure thing, horses should be fine.” Zero said.
“Yes but that was only for the first night. Remember his sole duty has been to aid you, Zero.”
“That is true, well alright then.”
“Horses, huh? I’ve ridden a few of them since I’ve been here, they’re nothing compared to the Spiked Salamanders back home!” Syferr boasted. He had calmed down a bit and the steam he was producing had stopped.
Seren awed at Syferr in amazement, “Spiked Salamanders …?” She the turned and looked at Han, “Uhm, actually I’ve never ridden a horse. Unless it’s like a sea horse?”
“It’s slightly different but it’s very simple, just ride with Syferr or Zero. All you’ll have to do is hold on tight to one of them.” Han suggested.
“Okay, that sounds good.” she grew a small smile and nodded.
“Alright so there should be some fresh fruit packed in the satchels on your mounts. Eat up first and head towards the Wolves Den. You will meet with Grandmother Gaia, she will provide you shelter for the night. I’m trusting you guys, save Ciro and find out who’s behind this!” Han spoke with a little bit of passion in his voice.
“Right! Thank you, Han. Let’s go guys!” Zero took command. He put his hands in his coat pockets and started marching towards the door.
“Alright, let’s go, let’s go!” Syferr charged through the door.
“Oh! Wait for me guys!” Seren got up and headed towards the door as well.
“Thanks, Han!” she looked back at him with a smile as she went through the door.
Han smiled back at her. You guys can do this, we believe in you, he thought as he watched them all leave the morning classroom.
Ijneg was sitting cross-legged on the ground quietly across from four saddled horses. His hands were folded together as if he was praying; It seemed like he was meditating.
“Oi! Ijneg! We’re here, let’s go, let’s go, let’s go!!! Hehehehe!” screamed a loud voice coming from the distance behind him. It was Syferr and way behind him was Zero and Seren running at a slower pace.
Ijneg lowered his hands and inched up to his feet. He turned around and Syferr was right in front of him panting.
“*PANT* We made it … *PANT* no time to lose … *PANT* let’s get going …” *PANT* *Plop* Syferr was so out of breath he had fallen to the ground on his back. Zero and Seren had just finally caught up.
“This boy …” Ijneg examined Syferr. “… is a liability. Are you sure you wish to take him with us?” his gaze shifted toward Zero and Seren. Ijneg had the same face mask covering everything but his eyes and his gray hair. He also was still carrying the short sword on his back.
“Yes, we are sure. While Syferr is a bit… careless, he has a passion like no other and will push through to accomplish his mission no matter what. Especially since Ciro is a friend.” Zero reassured him. Seren looked at Zero in awe.
“Then we shall proceed.” Ijneg accepted his assurance. He looked at Syferr on the ground and offered him his hand. Syferr took Ijneg’s hand and was gripped up to his feet. “We’ll need to be a bit more careful from here on, Syferr. Carelessness is a weakness and one our enemies will fully exploit. If not for yourself, do it for us. If you endanger yourself, you endanger the squad — it’s important to remember that.” Ijneg’s eyes grew bold as he looked at Syferr.
“Right, haha. It’s just, it’s Ciro you know? He’s one of our own.” Syferr matched his look.
“I understand.” Ijneg opened up a satchel and pulled out some Papayas. He threw one to Syferr, Zero and Seren. “Sit down and eat, we’ll need to be strong and hydrated for the long ride ahead of us. We should be there by nightfall if we leave soon.”
Everyone sat down and started to open up the Papayas they were given and bit into them. “Does everyone have Star Pieces or Jewels? You’re going to need them in Bell Town to trade for food, rooms and maybe even some leads.” Ijneg looked at each of them.
Syferr had already ravaged his papaya. *BURP!* “Nope, I don’t even know what those are!” he said while licking his fingers. Zero looked at him and shook his head. Ijneg and Seren’s stared at Syferr as their eyes began to grow wider.
“You’ve never heard of Star Pieces or Jewels?” Seren interjected before Ijneg could speak. She was finishing up her Papaya.
“Uhm.. Well I think I’ve heard of Star Jewels before. Something about my father using them to trade sounds familiar. But I don’t know what Star Pieces are. Are they used to trade too?” Syferr had crossed his arms and started scratching his head with his left index finger.
“Yes they are a treasure used all throughout Eden by each Elemental Land… Syferr, did you live under a rock?” she finished eating and threw the remaining fruit skin on the ground.
“Haha no! Its just I was always given food, shelter and clothing and everything else I needed from Arthur.” Syferr smiled.
“Who is Arthur?” Zero questioned. He had just finished eating his Papaya as well.
“Arthur was my caretaker! He watched over and trained me!”
“Oh? I’ve never heard you mention him before.”
“Haha, I guess it never came up!”
“Yeah I guess… but wait, are you saying you never once spent any Star Pieces or Jewels while at Gaia?”
“How did you get food!?”
“From the farms and kitchen!”
“So it was you! Mother Gaia said she thought we had a shortage of food somehow, we thought it was maybe some birds or the trees just weren’t producing as much fruit.”
“Haha… well that’s what I did on Tejas and nobody complained so I thought it was okay!”
“Well of course, you are Draco’s son! They were your farms!”
“Oh yeah, I guess that’s true haha.” Syferr smiled and rubbed the back of his head.
“Anyways, Star Pieces are worth less than Star Jewels.” Seren explained. “For example, Fifteen Star Pieces will buy you a meal and One-Hundred and Fifty or so will get you a room to stay. However, weapons and armor will cost you a lot more, anywhere from Fifty Star Pieces all the way up to many Star Jewels.”
“Oh wow! So what can a Star Jewel get me?” Syferr asked.
“Well it takes Ten-Thousand Star Pieces to make a Star Jewel.”
“WHAT!?” Syferr’s jaw dropped open.
“Yeah, actually there are five different types of Star Pieces too! Each of them worth a different amount of Star Pieces. Pearl Colored Star Pieces are your Basic Piece.
Pearl Colored Star Pieces are your Basic Piece.
Then you have Emerald which are worth fifty basic pieces.
Next up is Sapphire which are worth two-hundred.
After that is Ruby which are worth five-hundred.
And lastly, Amethyst which are worth one-thousand.
This makes it easier to carry them around if you don’t have any Star Jewels.” Seren concluded.
“I see, wow! That is pretty cool! I could see how that makes things easier to trade.”
“Yeah…” Seren said with a soft voice, her face grew a small smile.
“Well now, we know Syferr doesn’t have any. How about the two of you?” Ijneg interjected.
“Oh? Uh, haha well you see… I had a deal with Mother Gaia that got me free food since I was leading the Ether Research Team. And I always got any extra materials I needed sent to me from Father Om.” Zero rubbed the back of his head as he revealed an awkward smile.
“Oh? So we’re not too much different, huh?” Syferr jabbed at Zero.
“Hehe… I guess I spoke too soon.” Zero admitted.
“What about you, Seren?” Ijneg looked at her, hoping for a different answer.
“Actually… my sister never trusted me with money. She always thought I would spend it on something stupid like First-Edition Mythology books instead of just using the ones we had and investing in food or clothes…” Seren looked down and pinched her lips as she twirled her white-blond hair around her left index finger.
“All three of you…” Ijneg paused as his voice emboldened.
They all froze still as they waited for him to conclude.
“Are spoiled kids.” Ijneg has crossed his arms in front of his chest as he shook his head back and forth.
All three of them hunched over towards the ground, as if a little piece of themselves had just died inside.
“Here.” Ijneg had pulled out a small pouch, reached into it and pulled out what looked like a Pink Gem Surrounded by Silver Crystal. “This is a Star Jewel.
I’m giving each of you one. You shouldn’t need so much for a mission like this but honestly, all of you need to get on your feet. Invest the rest wisely." he put his pouch away and handed each of them a Star Jewel.
“No way! We get a free Star Jewel!? AWESOME!!! WE’RE RICH!” Syferr had shouted with his arms stretched out towards the sky.
“Wow! Thank you, Ijneg. This is highly appreciated, we’ll be sure to use it wisely.” Zero said bowing to Ijneg.
“*GASP* No way! This is so cool! Imagine the books I could buy...” Seren’s star-spangled eyes highlighted her excitement.
“Wisely, young ones.” Ijneg looked at Syferr and Seren.
“Hehehe, of course! Wisely!” Syferr smiled with a big wide grin on his face. He put the Star Jewel into his pocket. I’m gonna buy so many puzzles and tons of food! Syferr thought to himself.
“Haha, I guess my sister had good reason.” Seren smiled then stuck her tongue out.
“Don’t worry, Ijneg, I’ll make sure they use it properly.” Zero butted in.
“Thanks, Zero. Alright, we should get going. Let’s mount up.” Ijneg commanded. He walked up to the four horses he had tied to a post. He grabbed each of their reins and brought them over to the group. “Alright, each of these horses are pretty well tamed; They all have a calm manner. But even so, choose the horse that you feel most comfortable with.”
“I’ll take the white one.” Zero claimed.
“I figured you would.” Ijneg responded. “Here you go." he handed Zero the reins. Zero took the reins and mounted the horse.
“Wow, that was quick. Do you like the color, Zero?” Syferr asked him.
“Oh no. Our breath patterns are similar. So we’ll be good partners.” Zero answered.
“Ohhh, that’s right! I forgot you could do that, haha!” Syferr laughed.
“Can you do that too, Ijneg?” Seren asked.
“Who do you think taught him? Haha.” Ijneg’s eyes smiled at her.
“Oh, I see!” Seren put her hands to her mouth, “Hehe.”
“Oh don’t take all the credit, Ijneg.” Zero smiled.
“Oh.. Uhm.. I don’t know how to ride a horse.. Han said I could ride together with one of you though?” Seren pulled away after speaking up. Her gaze jumped between the Squad and the ground.
“Oh. Well let’s see.” Ijneg looked at Seren and then at the horses. He then looked at Syferr and then Seren again. “Okay, you two ride together. Your breathing patterns are similar. Which is a little odd, usually Fire and Water Elements have completely opposite breathing patterns…” Ijneg said.
“Oh, well they’ve spent a lot of time together, muh.. maybe that’s it?” Zero voice broke up a little as he pitched his thought. Ijneg looked at him and then looked back at Syferr and Seren.
“That’s probably it. Alright, well take Symbol, she’s the tan one." he handed Syferr the reins. Syferr took them and then jumped onto the horse’s saddle. He moved forward a bit to make some room behind him for Seren.
Seren walked up to the horse and eyed it all over. “This does look kind of like a seahorse…” she said trying to figure out how to mount it. “WHOA!” Seren had shrieked a little to the feeling of being picked up from below. Ijneg had picked her up and put her on the horse.
"Hehehe." Syferr laughed a little at her shriek. Seren quickly grabbed Syffer’s waist to steady herself. She then looked up at him and smiled a little.
“Alright, I’ll be leading us to the Wolve’s Den. We should be there by nightfall. Just follow my lead, we’ll be following the road east.” Ijneg said to each of them. He then walked up to his horse and mounted it. It was a black horse. “Before we go, start getting broken into your horses. It’s best to learn their groove before a long trip, especially when two people are riding one. Take about five minutes to ride around. I’m going to scout the road ahead.” Ijneg rode off towards the east.
Zero and Syferr started riding around a bit, they had quickly gotten used to riding the horses. “Awe, good Symbol! You’re such a good horse!” Syferr started baby-talking to Symbol. He noticed Zero and his horse were walking closer to them.
“Zero.” Syferr had called out to him.
“Huh, what’s up?” Zero rode up beside him and Seren.
“Why didn’t you tell him about my Specialty?”
“Oh you mean… the breathing patterns.”
“Yeah, that makes more sense right? That’s why we’re more of a match, isn’t it? Why not just tell him?”
“What are you two talking about?” Seren looked back and forth between them. “Specialty?” she further inquired.
“Uhm, it’s nothing. It’s probably best we don’t tell anybody about this right now. I don’t know what Ijneg would do if he found out about you.” Zero explained.
“What do you mean?” Syferr asked.
“Yeah, what do you mean?” Seren joined in.
“Look, let’s discuss this later. I already planned on telling you, Seren. But Ijneg… I don’t know what he would tell Father Om. And I don’t know what Father Om would do if he learned about it.” Zero whispered. “He’s a little bit controlling and Syferr you are my biggest lead right now… I don’t want to risk it.”
“Alright, if that’s how you feel, Z! I’ll keep it a secret!” Syferr spoke.
“Right… you’re already doing a good job.” Zero said as he scowled a little at Syferr’s volume.
“Wait, what is this secret? When are you guys going to tell me?” Seren pushed one final time.
“Okay, really quick but we have to drop it here. I’ll inform you more on it later but Syferr… he’s a Double-Bender.” Zero whispered.
“WHAT!?” Seren shouted, her mouth hanging open in shock.
“SHHH! Guys, keep it down for Om’s sake! Literally!” Zero exclaimed while whispering.
“Yeah, I can bend Fire and a bit of Water!” Syferr cheered.
“NO WAY!” Seren exclaimed.
“GUYS!” Zero thrust both of his fist towards their mouths and air had hit their faces at an exceptionally fast speed. “Keep it down, we’ll discuss it later. Ijneg is coming back.”
Syferr and Seren both looked at Zero and nodded at him with their eyes bulging and in unison spoke a “Mhmm.”
Ijneg rode back up to them. “Alright, did you guys get enough time riding around?” Ijneg looked at Syferr and Seren and saw their eyes bulging out and their hair massively wind-blown backwards. “What in the… did you guys have a hard time with Symbol? That’s odd, she’s the most tame of them all.”
“Oh this, uhm no! I just got so excited riding a horse for the first time, I told Syferr to go really fast! It was just, uhm, so much fun!” Seren exclaimed. “Right?” she nudged Syferr in his side.
“Oh. Yeah! It was a blast, hahaha!” Syferr joined in on her ridiculous reply.
Zero couldn’t help but laugh at the two of them trying to cover their tracks. He giggled a little silently with his hands covering his mouth.
Ijneg looked at all three of them. He closed his eyes and shook his head back and forth. “You kids are weird." he said with a blank tone. “Alright, so are you three ready to go?” he asked them.
“Uhm, yeah!” Zero said.
“Uhuh!” Syferr joined in and Seren nodded to Ijneg.
“Alright, let’s go!” Ijneg started heading towards the eastern road.
“Yah!” Zero shouted as he whipped the reins down in front of him. His horse started following Ijneg.
“Let’s go save Ciro!” Syferr shouted. His horse Symbol started following Zero.
“Right!” Seren joined in afterward.
A few hours had passed and Squad Zero was approaching what looked like a stable and inn. The sun was getting lower in the sky; it was evening. “Do you guys want to stop for a break!?” Ijneg shouted back to Zero, Syferr and Seren. “We’ve got about another hour until we make it to the Wolve’s Den! It might be a good idea to walk and move around!”
“Yeah that sounds good! I could use some stretching!” Zero shouted back at him.
“Yeah us too!” Syferr shouted for him and Seren.
“Alright!” Ijneg responded. He steered his horse in the direction of the stables which was on a dirt road that branched off of the main road. The rest of Squad Zero followed him. They rode up to some open posts and dismounted their horses. Ijneg beckoned them for the reins of their horses and he proceeded to tie them all around the posts. Everyone started stretching as soon as they got off of their horses. The inn was a circular wooden building with a thatched roof. It looked kind of like a home and a barn combined into one. On one side of the inn was a horse stable and fencing that kept a few horses. The other side of the inn also had fencing that kept a few goats and some chickens. There were a few men walking around outside of the inn, they were dressed in short sleeved beige cloth tunics and matching long cloth leggings. Both men were barefoot and looked as if they were people who took care of the stables. Ijneg gestured for everyone to follow him as he made his way to a window outside of the building, it seemed to be a service window. “Hi there.” Ijneg greeted a young woman at the window.
“Greetings! Welcome to the Baabakaw Inn and Stables! How you folks doing today?" she had long black hair down her back with trimmed bangs and tan skin. She was wearing a greenish brown short-sleeve cloth tunic and she seemed quite muscular and fit.
“We are just stopping for a quick break, we’re on our way to the Wolve’s Den.” Ijneg told the young woman.
“Oh the Wolve’s Den, huh? Gonna pay Grandmother Gaia a visit? Maybe have your fortune told?” she smiled at them.
“Fortune told?” Seren asked aloud.
“Oh you don’t know? She has the gift of foresight. She can see into the future! Everyone ‘round here knows that!” the young woman answered her.
Seren looked at Zero and Syferr, “Foresight?” she inquired.
“Yes, actually. Grandmother Gaia has the gift of seeing what will come about. It’s not always specific but she definitely pinpoints the general idea.” Zero explained.
“Wow, that is so cool!” Seren clapped her hands together.
“Foresight? No way, so cool!” Syferr jumped up and down.
“It sure is! It’s been a while since I’ve gotten my fortune told but she definitely helped inspire me to build this here inn and stables. We’ve been very successful and I’m happier than I’ve ever been!” the young woman said with a big smile on her face.
“That is so great!” Seren said in support of the young woman. She seemed to light up to this news. Maybe she can tell me my fortune… Seren thought to herself.
“Awe, thanks hunny! Well anyways, don’t let me talk y’all to death, how can I help y’all?” she leaned on to the window sill.
“Do you have any drinking water available?” Ijneg asked. “For us and the horses, actually." he added.
“We sure do! There’s a fresh water stream right behind the stables, do you mind gathering it yourself?” she asked him.
“Sure, that’d be great.” Ijneg said.
“Alrighty, well that’d be 100 Star Pieces please! That includes the horses as well.”
“Of course.” Ijneg said as he reached into his pouch and pulled out two Emerald Star Pieces. He put them on the counter of the window.
“Thaaaank you!” the young woman said as she took the pieces and put them into what looked like a clay pot. “Alright here y’all go!” she pulled four empty clay mugs out from underneath the counter. Ijneg took them and passed them all around to everyone. He took his and gave it back to the young woman.
“I prefer to use my hands, thank you.” Ijneg spoke with a soft tone.
“Oh? Mr. Natural here huh? Haha, that’s fine by me. Y’all enjoy y’all selves!” she said as she took his mug and gave him a very bright smile. “Oh and when y’all are finished drinking just leave the mugs on the sittin’ stump back there, we’ll gather ‘em later.”
“Thank you.” Ijneg replied. He went over to the horses and untied them at the posts. He started to lead them around the inn to the stream she had allured to. The rest of the group followed him.
“This is new.” Seren said.
“Oh? Never gotten water from a stream before?” Zero asked.
“Nope. At least, not from a wild stream. Our water is always filtered from the ocean around us, on Lemorias." she said.
“Lemorias… that’s your home Island in Apas, right?” Zero asked.
“Mhmm." she nodded at him.
“I’ve always heard that Lemorias was an ‘island that moved’. I know it’s silly but is that true?” Zero teased.
“Kind of." she said.
“Oh? What do you mean?” Zero looked at her.
“Well to put it simply, Lemorias is a man-made island that is more like a ship. It floats on the water." she said.
“No way! That is incredible!” Zero jumped around as he spoke, “And brilliant at that! You could use that to move all throughout the Realms of Water… not to mention all of the waters in Eden.”
Syferr was looking back and forth at them both.
“Yeah that was the idea behind it.” Seren nodded.
“That is so cool! So your home is a moving city?” Syferr grinned.
“It is, heheh.” Seren blushed from all of the attention.
“You guys should drink up, we don’t want to stay here too long if we want to make it to the Wolve’s Den by nightfall.” Ijneg said as he tied the horses to another post next to the stream. The horses began to drink.
“Oh were here!” Zero said as he refocused upon the world in front of him, the idea of Lemorias had seemed to consume his attention. He took his mug and dipped it into the stream, it filled with fresh water. He lifted it back up and took a big gulp. “Ahhh." he then proceeded to sit on a stump next to the stream.
“Oh, haha.” Seren, too, had zoned out. She also took her mug and dipped it into the stream. But unlike Zero, she didn’t immediately drink. “Eww…” her shoulders shivered as she saw some pieces of freshly eaten hay in her drink. She looked up the stream and remembered that the horses were drinking from it as well.
“Oh? Don’t like a little dirt?” Zero smiled as he drank some more.
“I’m used to pure water…” she said. She put her mug down and started waving her arms around it. The water rose into the air in front of her. Zero watched her. She shook her arms very abruptly down and immediately pulled them back up to where they were initially. The hay residue and some dirt fell out of the water. She then carefully guided the water back into her mug. Finally, she picked up her mug and started drinking from it.
“Wow… that is impressive!” Zero cheered. “It’s always interesting to watch other types of Benders. I only have experience with mostly Air and Earth Benders. And of course a little bit of fire over here.” Zero looked at Syferr and noticed he was playing in the water. “And… that’s not saying much.” Zero smiled as he took another swallow of his water.
“Hehehe.” Seren said as she laughed at his remark. She looked over to the horses and was watching them drink. They are so serene… such beautiful creatures, she thought to herself. She noticed Ijneg next to the horses, she smiled at how peaceful he looked beside them. He was knelt down as if he was going to take a drink of water from the stream. He then took his hands and removed his face mask. *Gasp* Seren breathed in a little shocked at what she saw. His face was severely burned, it looked as if some of his jaw bone and teeth were revealed through his cheek. He cupped his hands and sipped the water from the stream. Seren was shaking a little. What… happened to his face!? she thought to herself.
Zero was finishing his water when he glanced over to Seren, he noticed she was shaking. He then saw that she was looking over in Ijneg’s direction. What’s got her all worked up? he thought to himself. “Are you okay, Seren?” he called out to her.
Seren jumped at his call. She turned around and faced him. “Oh? Uhm, yeah I’m fine, heheheh." she tried to play it off.
“You were shaking. Are you sure?”
“Yeah, I think it’s just from all the riding. My legs aren’t quite used to it yet.” I don’t want to talk about it in front of Ijneg, that could be hurtful, she thought to herself.
“Oh I see. I guess that makes sense, you’ve never ridden a horse before.” Zero said affirming her.
“GET BACK HERE!!!” Syferr was shouting at the water. He was chasing what looked like a lizard in the water. *Splash* *Splash* “I’ll get you! Hahaha!” he shouted as he was chasing it around the stream.
“Alright everyone. It’s time we mount up and continue the journey. Did you all get enough to drink?” Ijneg had put his mask back on and walked up to them with the horses.
“Yep, all filled here!” Zero rubbed his belly.
“Mmm.” Seren nodded as she looked away. She was still a bit afraid of what she saw.
“Awww! I almost caught the little guy!” Syferr frowned.
“We’ll have time for fun later tonight, the people at the Wolve’s Den have bonfire dances, Syferr. Very much like the ones on Tejas.” Ijneg said.
“No way, REALLY!?” Syferr’s frown turned upside down.
“Yes, so let’s fill up our water pouches and get moving.” Ijneg headed towards the stream with his water pouch.
“WOOHOO! I’m dancing tonight! Ahahaha!” Syferr shouted as he ran up to the stream with his water pouch and started filling it. Seren and Zero looked at Syferr and smiled.
They all proceeded to fill up their pouches with water. Seren filtered hers once more causing Zero to chuckle a little then they all mounted back up on the horses.
“Alright we should be there in about an hour, we’re a little bit behind so we might have to ride in the dark for a bit. Just keep your eyes on the horse in front of you and we should be able to stick together.” Ijneg said.
Seren looked up to the sky and saw the sunset. She took a deep breath in and slowly let it out. She then looked back up towards the sky, “It’s going to be a full moon tonight. So we should have some light as well.”
“Alright, good that’s even better.” Ijneg said looking at her.
“How can you tell it’ll be a full moon?” Zero asked.
“Oh, right I should explain. The moon affects the water on all of Eden by creating a push and pull effect and since our bodies have water and I’m a Water Bender, I can feel it. The stronger the pull usually means it will be a full moon or no moon. But they have slight differences and I can tell it will be a full moon tonight.” Seren explained.
“Amazing! I think there’s a lot I could learn from you, Seren.” Zero said with another smile on his face. Seren smiled with a little blush, the attention wasn’t something she was used to.
“Let’s talk moon stuff later, let’s get going! I’m ready to start dancing!” Syferr cheered.
“Sure, Syferr.” Zero looked at him while guiding his horse behind Ijneg. Syferr and Seren followed his lead.
“Yah!” Ijneg said as he guided his horse back to the dirt road. The rest of Squad Zero followed behind him.
*Knock* *Knock* “Come in.” Mother Gaia responded to the person who was at the door. Han walked in and closed the door. They were in her personal study. She was sitting at a desk that had a few books open and two candles lit on the surface. There was one big window on the wall to her left that was letting in the moonlight. It was just after sundown. She had a feather quill in her hand to an blank page; She was writing something.
“How are you?” Han asked in a soft tone.
“I’ve been better, Han." she was frowning a little. She paused her writing and looked at him. She didn’t say anything.
“Ciro will be okay. They will find him. They passed their squad test near flawlessly… and they have Ijneg with them as well." he tried to reassure her.
Han was still standing at the door. “Is there anything I can do for you?”
“No… don’t ask me that, Han." she said as she glanced away for a moment. “You know what I would ask.”
“And you know I would do anything to help you and those you love.” Han responded gripping the handle of his sword.
“It was her. I bet you, no I know it.” Mother Gaia looked away again and gritted her teeth. She began to chew the nail on her thumb.
“We don’t know that for sure.” Han inserted.
“It’s a feeling, Han." she looked back at him with fierce eyes.
“I see. Then it was her." he acknowledged her claim.
“Regardless, we must let Squad Zero handle this. I can’t risk sending you, Han. You are Gaia’s grounding rock. Without you, I don’t know if we could accomplish our goal. We need to unify this world, like it once was.” Mother Gaia took a deep breath in. She stopped chewing her thumbnail.
“I understand. If there is anything though, let me know.” Han bowed toward his mother.
Mother Gaia slowly grew a smile on her face. “Your father would be proud, Han.”
Han twitched a little. He finished bowing and stood tall once more. He turned and opened the door. “I must go, the Night Class awaits…”
“Right, of course, Han. Thank you for checking up on me. I love you." Her eyes turned soft as she looked at him.
“I love you too, mother." he walked outside the door and closed it behind him. He clutched the handle of his sword once more but this time a little harder. “Ciro…” he whispered to himself as he clenched his teeth together.