2.55: Meanwhile, elsewhere in Ashana…
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ATUHOR'S NOSE: none of this is supposed to be a "twist" or a "reveal" but we expect some of y'all would like to be reassured so here :p

The rift sparked briefly — then in a blink, it was gone.

"That doesn't seem good," Araceli said. 

Yui was already in a panic. "No no no no — the rift moved, they're gonna be — the ocean‽ Where is that, can Eiri even swim, she's gonna be lost without me — Pandora's gonna be lost without you, Araceli!"

"They'll be fine," Araceli insisted. "I don't know what you mean about the ocean, but Solea have a swimming instinct — and Pandora's a big girl who can take care of herself. She'll keep your sister safe."

Yui stood up and brushed the sand off his clothes. "Still, we need to find them. They'll be worried about us, too." He turned slowly on the spot, eyes closed.

While he did that, Araceli looked around at where they'd landed. It was obviously an oasis of some kind, which was good, because she hadn't actually planned for desert survival, since she hadn't been expecting to come here. More usefully, it seemed to be well-traveled, though nobody was here just at the moment.

"That way," Yui said, interrupting her thoughts. "Nearest town is there, so —" he took a step in the indicated direction, but immediately stopped. "... what do you mean, no? ... No matter what? ... Even with the magic bottles Pandora got? ..." He let out a frustrated growl and kicked at the sand. "Fine! We'll wait for the caravan." He sat down next to Araceli in a huff.

"... You gonna live, kid?"

Yui sighed. "It's... I know it's not as bad as it feels," he muttered. ... And that seemed to be all he had to say on the subject.

After a few minutes, Araceli stood up. "If we're gonna be waiting, we might as well wait in the shade. I don't know if you've got better intel, but from the looks of things, a caravan comes here at least every other day, probably closer to every day." She walked over to a tree with big leaves and sat down under it. "After that kind of stress, I could use a catnap."

Yui remained in place for a few moments, considering the merits of simply staying where he was out of sheer petulance. But after he felt beads of sweat start to trickle down his brow, he decided it'd be a better idea not to, and moved over to sit next to Araceli in the shade. "... aren't comparisons like that offensive?" he asked.

"Not when we're saying it ourselves," Araceli said. "And even when other people do say that kind of thing, it's only offensive if they say it offensively."

Yui pondered that. "I had wondered about the innkeeper... He called me and Eiri Pandora's kittens. But then you said the same thing later. ... Now I'm actually not sure if Pandora fully knows what it means."

Araceli grinned. "No, she doesn't quite know how we use that word. If she did, she'd insist it was wrong. She doesn't have what people call a 'maternal instinct'. But what she does have is just as good."

Yui didn't know exactly what Araceli meant by that, but he definitely believed it.


The caravan arrived about three hundred degrees later.