Carpathia III: Epilogue 16 - Passing Through

Rune Lake, Jaze's House

The same streets. The same houses. The same shops. The same cars. The same life. And yet, it all felt so strangely unreal. Was Yseri a dream, or is this the dream? Getting back to a normal life seemed like it should be easy, but nothing felt quite right. These are the sorts of things that Adell thought about as he raised his finger to the doorbell of Jaze's house. First footsteps, and then the door swung open, revealing Tier.

Tier: Oh, hello Adell. Jaze is still at the cabin, if you're looking for him.

Adell was not, though he was surprised to hear the news regardless.

Adell: Really? How long has it been?

Tier: Four days, so far. We're going to visit him later today...

Tier suddenly stopped and stroked his chin.

Tier: Or were you here for someone else?

Adell nodded.

Adell: I heard Artemis and Azrael are here.

Tier stepped aside, swinging the door wider, and beckoned Adell to come inside.

Tier: They're both out back. Maybe you can cheer Artemis up a bit. He seems a bit grumpy.

Adell stepped over the threshold.

Adell: Thanks.

Tier: You know the way, right? I'm busy cleaning up the kitchen if you need anything. Oh, and you can come with us to see Jaze later if you want.

Adell stopped, not expecting and invitation, and considered Tier's offer.

Adell: I might do that.

With that, Tier closed the door and returned to the kitchen, leaving Adell to find his way to the back door. Before he could go, he heard a voice from upstairs.

Kaoru: Is that Adell's voice?

Soon after, hurtling down the stairs, came Kaoru, smiling proudly and brandishing his shiny, golden arm.

Kaoru: Hey! Check me out! I got ten fingers again!

Kaoru flexed his shiny new fingers and flexed his elbow several times.

Adell: Looks really good, Kaoru. How does it feel?

Like a kid with a new toy, Kaoru did not stop playing with his new appendage as he continuously moved it and gazed at it.

Kaoru: I only had the surgery a couple of days ago, so it hurts like hell, but I don't care. I got a new arm!

Adell winced at the declaration that it hurt and tilted his head out of curiosity.

Adell: If it hurts, then why do you move it like that?

Kaoru: I can feel everywhere, including my arm! Lianne said something about nanosensors, but I don't care.

Kaoru started rubbing his hand up and down the metal and glass of his new arm.

Kaoru: It even feels like I have little hairs on it. It's weird because my real hand feels metal and glass, but my new arm feels like it has a bit of fuzz.

Adell shrugged. Regardless of the pain Kaoru mentioned, Adell was glad that he was happy.

Adell: Well, it looks great. Did you pick the design?

Kaoru: I did! Lianne said that most people prefer something natural, but how boring is that? I have one chance to have something awesome, and I'm gonna take it!

To the side, the door to the study opened, drawing the attention of both Kaoru and Adell. A somber Reuli emerged from the room and headed over to a high-backed chair where he whispered something. Wolfram, who Adell hadn't noticed before, stood from the chair and shuffled into the room from which Reuli just emerged. Reuli then sat at the upright piano by the wall and played a melancholy tune.

Kaoru: Therapy day. They're doing three times a week.

Together they watched Reuli play the piano, not sure if he noticed their presence. Roose entered the room from the dining area in the back of the house and sat on the bench with Reuli. For a moment, he sat and listened before extending his wing and then wrapping it around Reuli.

Kaoru: Lianne is still working on the part for Roose's wing. It's a little tricky, he says, because he's never made anything like that before.

Adell: Not a lot of demand for bat bits, eh?

The doorbell rang again, diverting the attention of Kaoru and Adell to the front door. Tier trotted out from the kitchen, wiping his paws on a tea towel, and opened the door.

Shuichi: Am I late?

Tier stood aside and beckoned his guest to enter.

Tier: Just in time. Come in.

Adell watched with raised eyebrows as Shuichi entered the house and spotted them immediately and approached, pointing at Kaoru's new arm.

Shuichi: I see my brother's work. Looks good!

Kaoru beamed and waved, wiggling his fingers enthusiastically.

Kaoru: Thanks!

Adell: So what are you doing here?

Shuichi raised his head and glanced at Reuli and Roose at the piano before answering Adell.

Shuichi: Lynx thought it would be helpful if I came over a few times a week to work with Reuli on his music.

Shuichi looked around, as though someone might be watching, then kneeled, beckoning Kaoru and Adell to lean in close.

Shuichi: There's not much I can teach him. He's already way beyond me. To tell the truth, I'm a bit of a fraud. When I was young, I thought I was god's gift to rock stars, but I know now that I only got popular because I was already famous to begin with. I'm average talent, at best. People like Reuli are way more talented than I am. If he wants to be a star, he can be, and I can help him do that and stay out of trouble at the same time.

Kaoru nodded.

Kaoru: As his brother-in-law, I approve of that plan.

Shuichi stood again and patted Kaoru on the shoulder.

Shuichi: I hoped you would. Now, if you'll excuse me, duty calls.

Shuichi left Kaoru and Adell behind, joining Reuli on the piano bench.

Adell: I guess I should go find Artemis and Azrael.

Kaoru held his golden metal fingers up to his mouth and giggled.

Kaoru: Hee hee. It's quite a sight out back. Enjoy!

Kaoru grinned and rushed back up the stairs, leaving Adell alone again, listening to the sound of dishes clanking around the kitchen and Reuli's piano playing. Now wondering what Kaoru meant, Adell hurried out the back door.

What he found was unusual indeed. Zet was on his left, perched upon a large red and white egg and playing the fiddle. Farther down was Artemis, sitting on the ground with his chin in his hand and a scowl on his face, and covered with birds, squirrels, and various other cute, friendly animals. Azrael sat on the end of the wall, looking out over the bay. Adell approached Zet first, trying not to giggle.

Adell: Is that what I think it is?

Zet held one final note on his fiddle long before he lowered it.

Zet: Ryuu says music is good for the baby.

His face straining from giggle supressing, Adell knew he couldn't stay long and he asked his next question right away to speed his departure.

Adell: How long till it hatches?

Zet: Luckily, only a few months. I thought it might take years. I suggested an incubator or something, but Ryuu says the natural way...

Zet threw his hands up in the air so suddenly that Adell feared that his fiddle might come flying out of them. Fortunately, Zet kept his grip.

Zet: Well, I don't know, do I? I never thought I'd have to be a father, much less to a giant breakfast. Just go ahead and sprinkle me with pancakes and bacon, why dontcha?

Zet rapidly brought his arms down and folded them across his chest, still clutching his fiddle tightly, and said no more. Adell took this as his cue to move on.

Adell: Okay, I'll just see what Artemis is up to, then.

Adell backed away awkwardly. As he headed toward Artemis, it was clear that he was just putting himself into another awkward situation. Artemis hadn't budged from his position since Adell came out, still with his chin in his hand, still with a scowl on his face, and still covered in critters like something out of a children's cartoon.

Artemis: Somehow, back on Yseri, I was able to tell the razorbears to go after Wishmaster. I wish I could figure out how to tell all these damned bunnies and squirrels to fuck off. No matter where I go, everything follows.

Adell: It's not that bad, is it? Look at how cute they all are!

Artemis looked up and glared at Adell.

Artemis: It's cute for about a minute. A deer followed me onto the subway and, after that, I had so many animals tailing me that traffic got stopped completely.

Adell anxiously rubbed the back of his neck.

Adell: I didn't think of that. There's a dragon helping Jaze with his abilities right now. Maybe the dragons can help you learn to communicate with the animals.

Artemis cocked his head slightly.

Artemis: Hopefully. Until then, I need to concentrate to see if I can figure this out on my own. Now, shoo.

Adell backed away, granting Artemis's request for space.

Adell: Alright. I'll go talk to Azrael, then.

Saying nothing, Artemis resumed his previous stance while Adell turned his attention to Azrael, still sitting on the back wall. Adell was sure that Azrael knew he was near, not being one to be taken off guard, though he did not budge as Adell drew close.

Adell: Azzy? Can I call you that?

Azrael turned slightly, so that Adell could see only one of his piercing, green eyes and then immediately turned back. Adell thought for a moment that Azrael might be angry with him about something, but then Azrael patted the wall next to him.

Azrael: Please, Master Adell, have a seat.

Adell climbed onto the wall and sat next to Azrael. Guessing that Azrael had something on his mind, Adell decided to wait for him to speak first. For a time, neither spoke, sitting in silence watching the small waves of the bay lap at the sandy shore.

Azrael: Before I met you, nobody ever asked what I wanted. Nobody asks what demons want. It's just orders. Do this. Eat that. They call me whatever they want. Now, I am asked what I want all the time.

Adell had not often hear Azrael talk quite this much, and so he remained silent, allowing Azrael to speak his mind. After a moment of silence, Azrael finally turned and looked Adell in the eye.

Azrael: You may call me Azzy. It pleases me to give my own consent for you to do so.

Adell smiled, for though he already cared for his demon friend greatly, he could never quite tell if the feelings were reciprocated.

Adell: So, how have you been doing?

Azrael turned again, back to observing the bay.

Azrael: Another question that does not get asked of demons. This is a peaceful place and though I find warmth, I do not find purpose. There is little in need of protecting.

Adell: May I offer an idea, Azzy?

Azrael turned to face Adell once again.

Azrael: By all means.

Adell: I'm considering joining the Carpathian Exploration Academy. They go into space, survey planets, explore new worlds, and learn about the universe. Perhaps you might consider joining too. You might find a purpose for yourself there.

Azrael raised an eyebrow.

Azrael: Is it dangerous?

Adell: It's not exactly safe. There's always risk when you go out into the unknown.

Azrael: If you join, then I believe I shall as well. In the meantime, I intend to go with Master Tier to the cabin. I wish to meet this dragon with whom Jaze is training.

Adell: In that case, I will go with you.

Together, Adell and Azrael sat upon the wall and awaited Tier to call them.

Commissioned art in this episode from:

All city pictures from SimCity 4

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