Sheba wakes up on Idejima drifting at sea, before Felix does. Jenna and Kraden stand over her, gently waking her. Saturos, Mendardi, and Alex are nowhere to be seen. Felix lies still, several feet away. Sheba doesn't know if she wants him to wake up. He's the last thing standing between her and freedom. It's a terrible thought, she realizes, even as she thinks it.
He risked his life for her—more than once, probably, she doesn't really know how many of Saturos and Menardi's threats were empty, but distinctly, memorably, recently by leaping off a crumbling lighthouse. The sea had looked as distant and blue as the sky, and he followed her down. Sheba had fallen from the sky once already, but he wasn’t willing to risk that she would be okay and he had followed her down.
He risked his life for her. They always expect something in return; Babi, to teach him as much as she could about her mysterious powers, to do something about a mysterious prophecy. She had a job in Lalivero, helping the townsfolk, her family, looking after her little brother with her mysterious powers. That hadn’t been bad, that had just been part of being included in a community. Her captors had kept telling her how they had freed her from a life of servitude—true, technically, but an incomplete message. She had already been freed.
The coughing gives away Felix's return to consciousness. He hacks up a bit of water. Sheba's waking had been gentler, but it had been a close thing. The lighthouse's sudden wash of Venus psynergy as she hit the ocean shook the breath from her lungs as much as the impact did.
Felix stands, frantically glancing around the peninsula—now an island. His expression settles when he makes eye contact with Jenna. “Are you hurt?” he says, turning toward Sheba. She takes an involuntary step backward, toward Jenna.
“It’s okay, he’s a healer,” Jenna says.
Sheba shakes her head. There’s a scrape on her hand, but she barely feels it. She can’t accept any help, not without knowing the cost. Felix relaxes in response.
“I thought—“ His eyebrows scrunch and he pulls his cloak, still sopping wet, closer over one shoulder. “I’m glad that you’re safe.”
“Wait!!” Kraden says. “Are you going to check yourself for injury?"
Felix looks down, shakes one leg, then the other. Waves his arms. Jenna giggles, and Sheba finds herself snickering, too.
“Idiot,” Jenna mutters fondly, watching Felix snore through the open flap of his tent. They’re sleeping as armored as they can stand to be tonight. The wildlife has been rowdier since they lit the Venus lighthouse.
Sheba checks her staff over for any kind of permanent damage, but she hasn’t really been utilizing it for anything up close and personal. Felix keeps most of the monsters at bay, focused on him. He had to reset his own broken arm today and then heal it. Wouldn’t that be handy, Sheba thinks. Wouldn’t it be nice not to need so many damn herbs all the time?
“He doesn’t have to do everything himself. Why doesn’t he just ask for help? Of course I’ll help. I’m not a hostage anymore.” It’s not the first time Sheba has referred to herself as a free agent, but it still feels strange to think of. She could go home right now, if she had a ship. If she could bring herself to abandon Jenna and Felix to their quest. If she wasn’t needed. If she hadn’t felt the pall of Venus energy over her when the lighthouse was lit, sapping her energy from her very core. She needs to know what the Jupiter lighthouse will feel like. She has been powerless for so long, and she gets to choose for once. Sheba wants to see the world.
Jenna shrugs. “Manly pride. He was never good at asking for help when we were kids, either. He was the oldest, you know. Not just my brother, but older than all our other friends. He thought he had to look after all of us. Sometimes Isaac could bully him into sharing the burden.”
“I’m sure Isaac would help, too, if he asked,” Sheba says, softer this time. She doesn’t want to wake Felix to this kind of talk.
Jenna’s expression falters. “Isaac doesn’t know… a lot of things. I don’t think Felix wants to take the chance that he might not go along with us. He’s already given up so much. Our home. Our parents. He’s taken on this whole quest by himself. They used to be best friends. I don’t think he could handle the rejection."
“You didn’t hear them on the lighthouse that day…” Sheba sets her staff on the ground, starts on inspecting her boots for damage. “Garet and the others kept acting like they were enemies, like Felix was this great betrayer,” Jenna flinches at this, guilty, “like if Felix didn’t move, they’d all fight him to get at me. To rescue you and Kraden. Isaac wouldn’t have fought Felix. Not unless Felix raised his sword first. I could feel it."
“I thought your psynergy was weakened at Venus Lighthouse?"
“It was! Especially after it was lit, but I could still feel it. Isaac wanted to save Felix, too. I could feel his thoughts when Felix jumped after me."
Jenna continues looking at her expectantly. “Well? What was he thinking?"
Felix shifts, almost imperceptibly. His breathing is still level. Sheba plows on: “He wasn’t even thinking in words. It was just anguish, and then silence. He was so afraid for us, so angry at Saturos and Menardi, he wasn’t even thinking."
Felix rolls over when she finishes, his back to them and the campfire. Sheba can’t make out his face in the dark, but the movement of his eyelashes in the shadows suggests he’s not asleep.
“I’ll take first watch,” Jenna says around a yawn. “Get some rest.” She pats Sheba’s hair.