Salle stared at the woman and bit his lip. He reminded himself that it would not be a good idea to antagonise a goddess. He crossed his arms and shifted his stance to something more relaxed. “You’re sure I can’t trade anything for it?”
“For Mayari’s eye, archer? It would be a steep price, indeed.” The woman smiled sweetly and Salle flinched. A price for a goddess’ eye, for the moon’s light, would probably be something he would not want to give up.
“I need it,” he insisted.
“Do you?” Anagolay tilted her head and sighed. She cradled her head in her hands as she looked at him. “I do not have it.”
Salle cursed then bit his tongue. “Sorry, but, like, they said that you did.”
“Oh, I do have many lost things. Mayari’s eye is not one of them, child of the sun. But, a hidden moon may give you the moon’s light that you seek,” she said. “Of course, it will not be easy.”
Salle nodded. “I can do it.”
“You don’t even know what it is.”
“Whatever it is, I’ll manage.”
Salle froze. The goddess wasn’t even looking at him for the moment, sifting through the treasures behind her and, at times, bringing one up to the light to examine it. He didn’t know if she was joking. She could be but it didn’t seem likely.
“Dying?” He asked.
“Oh, yes, sun-child,” the goddess grinned, a golden comb falling from her hands as she finally deigned to look at him once again. “For the hidden moon you seek lies hidden in the underworld with his husband. If you want your moon’s light, perhaps you might ask him and see if he is willing.”
“And to do that, I have to die?”
“Unless you have another way into the afterlife, child, then I’m afraid, you must.”
Salle stared at the drop in front of him. Dying was both easy and difficult. Just one small step and he would fly and he would die. Just one small step into the afterlife. He looked at the screen of his phone. The missed calls and unanswered messages from Cess were piling up. He should answer them, tell them he failed, that even the goddess of lost things didn’t know where Mayari’s lost eye could be.
He should tell them that they should find another way. A different way than him dying. But, they might not have enough time and what was Salle’s life for the fate of the world. Nothing, really, in the grand scheme of things.
I won’t be home for dinner, he types, his thumb hovering over the button that would send the message. Love you, he adds at the end of the message before finally hitting send.
He placed the phone in his pocket and stands up. One small step and an empty alley below. One small step to meet a hidden moon and the god of death. One small step to the end. He can hear the distant sound of traffic and the faint notes notes of some song coming from an open window. He took the step and he falls and falls.
In an alley down below, a phone clattered on the concrete, sending a stray cat, yowling out on to the main street. The archer, the child of the sun, has disappeared.
He couldn’t remember how he go there. He looked at his hands and wondered if he was dead. He remembered that much at least, remembered the quest for moon’s light to appease Bakunawa’s anger and stop him from ending the world. He remembered taking the step. He remembered falling.
He didn’t remember actually hitting the ground. “Did I fucking fly?”
“Oh, you wish,” Salle started at the new voice and turned to door where a young man stood leaning on one of the thicker branches that ran through the walls of the room.
“And who the hell are you?”
“Someone who can actually fly,” the young man said, an amused smile tugging at his lips. “The flailing you did on the way down was definitely not flying. But, thank you, it was the stupidest thing I’ve seen one of you mortals do in a while.”
“Excuse you, I was doing it for a good cause.”
The young man took steps towards the bed. Salle watched his graceful movements and his elegant features. He found himself watching how the other pursed their lips in amusement, at the graceful line of his neck revealed by the cut of his woven tunic. There were feathers tangled up in the boy’s dark hair. It was the same kind of feathers that made up the cloak he wore. Salle didn’t think the boy was human and that was probably a good reason to stop thinking about kissing him.
“A good cause?”
“To save the world.”
“By dying?” The young man smirked. “Dying does not suit you.”
“And what would suit me, huh? You?”
The young man laughed. “That would be something, wouldn’t it, demigod?”
Salle hummed his affirmative since the beautiful young man was too close now, close enough to kiss, his traitorous mind provided, and he shook his head. He tried to lean back so they were not so close and ended up flailing and falling back to the bed.
The young man laughed once again and stepped back. “I think I’ll keep you,” he said.
“Uh, I don’t think so,” Salle said, frowning as he sat back up again. “I still have a quest to finish.”
“Oh, I know,” the other said with a shrug and Salle found himself following the other’s every movement, every small shift. “I didn’t mean to keep you here. I meant to keep you with me. I will help you with your quest demigod but for a price.”
Salle swallowed. “A price?”
“The child of Apolaki,” the young man cocked his head in a way that reminded Salle of a bird. “You. Do you agree?”
Salle’s mouth felt oddly dry. He didn’t think it was the kind of agreement he was supposed to just say yes to. Nothing was absolutely as it seemed in their world. The gods, the diwatas, and the engkantos all saw things differently and humans or demigods like him found themselves trapped in deals like this all the time. He heard the stories, lived the stories really. Still, he found himself nodding with a grin at the other.
The other’s answering smile seemed oddly predatory and before Salle could say anything else, he found soft lips pressed against his own. Salle closed his eyes and felt the other’s smile, felt fingers run through his hair before it was over too fast.
“A promise sealed with a kiss and our names,” the other whispered in his ear. “Tell me yours.”
“Salvador,” he said, blinking like he had woken up from another dream. “Salle. Yours?”
“Neo,” he said and when Salle looked, he would swear that the other’s eyes had glinted gold.
“Because Apolaki was the reason it got lost in the first place,” Salle nodded. “I know the story.”
“Fighting for the right to rule,” Neo smiled over his shoulder. “The sky is a wonderful place. I don’t blame them.”
“It’s mine too, isn’t it?”
“It is if you can take it,” Neo’s feathers ruffled and suddenly there was an eagle flying in front of him instead of a young man holding his hand. “Do keep up.”
Salle turned and ran. Neo was a powerful creature. He didn’t need Salle not for this. Salle needed to trust him. He still had to find his way to the underworld.
He didn’t look back. He didn’t have to. Neo would watch his back.
“What do you mean?”
“You’re a hero,” the god said. “Heroes don’t survive for long unless they find a good enough reason to come back home. Even Bakunawa fights for love, Salle, remember that.”
“I will,” Salle said, smiling.
“Good,” Bulan said. He placed a hand over Salle’s eyes. “It is time to return. Your eagle is waiting.”
Salle knelt in front of the eagle. “Why? How? How do I?”
“Call out to him.”
Salle looked to the goddess of lost things. Anagolay crouched beside him. “Many things were lost in this battle. He is not one of them.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Your father never did but you should,” she said. “It is not fear or war that have power over us. It has always been love that ruled the hearts of gods and mortals both. After all, it is love we surrender ourselves willingly to.”
“I still don’t understand.”
“He made a bond with you, didn’t he?” She asked, flicking him in the arm like she thought he was being silly. “Call out to him. You have his name, and names are powerful things.” Anagolay gave him one last look before she disappeared from his side.
“Neo,” he whispered. For a moment, he didn’t think it worked but the same light of the sun that he harnessed seemed to burn bright in the eagle for a moment before it was just Neo, the young man that first saved him, gasping for air and the ground in front of him.
Neo looked up at him, and his eyes were still that of an eagle’s and it was Neo. He smiled. “Salle,” he said and Salle was falling once again, falling and falling, except this time he didn’t think he minded it so much. He was falling and he was going to fly.