Chapter Twenty-Seven: Fateful Preparations

"The Embodiment of Corruption?!" Forbearance questioned suddenly, bringing everyone's startled gaze to him. "You expect Patience to fight Malizar?!"

Elder Teiju nodded. "Yes, Forbearance. Patience's destiny is to fight Malizar."

The young Magician was clearly not alright with that – at all. "No! There's no way I'm letting her do that! I refuse to let her face that… that monster and get killed!" Forbearance was visibly shaking, his ruby eyes wide and filled with a combination of terror and disbelief.

Jhing placed a comforting hand on his shoulder, and Patience couldn't help but stare at him in awe. When had Forbearance become so… protective over her? She knew he was willing to do basically anything for her, but even she didn't know he cared that much.

"I won't let her… I won't." Forbearance's voice had lost its conviction, and he closed his eyes, moisture pooling in them.

Teiju sighed, closing his eyes also. "I'm sorry, Forbearance. I truly am. But, if Patience doesn't go through with this, then Corruption may very well end up reigning over all of us. And that, unfortunately, is a risk we cannot afford to take."

"But you'd be willing to risk Patience's life?!" the Magician-in-Training returned, his voice cracking and tears spilling down his cheeks. "You're an Elder, for Shalua's sake! All of you – you're the strongest warriors this land has to offer, and you expect a little girl to go and fight the greatest evil that's ever existed?!"

"Forbearance, please, calm dow—"

"Calm? You expect me to be calm?!" Forbearance went to take a step towards Teiju, fury blazing in his eyes and tears continuing to stream from them. "Do you have even the faintest idea of what that monster is capable of?! I refuse to stand idly by and let you make Patience do this! There's absolutely no way I'm letting this—"

"Forbes! Stop!" Patience called, stepping quickly in front of her friend and bracing her hands firmly against his chest.

He paused, blinking down at her. "But, Patience… You… you can't…"

The pinkette's emerald orbs locked with his ruby ones. The fury in his gaze had vanished, replaced by a look of horror. She offered him a bright smile. "You're right, Forbes. I might not be able to do this. But… if I don't even try, then we'll never know."

His brow furrowed, more moisture seeping from his eyes. "P-Patience… What… what if you…"

She kept smiling at him, her voice soft and sweet. "It's alright, Forbes. Okay? Everything will be alright." And maybe, if she kept telling him that, she'd end up believing it, too.

Forbearance gazed at Patience for a moment longer, before wrapping his shaking arms around her and pulling her close to himself. The Tribal opened her mouth in surprise, and tried to find something to say, but found that her mind or tongue or some other thing in between must've stopped functioning. Maybe… maybe Forbearance really did share the same feelings for her that she had for him, after all.

Another smile found its way to her face, as she hugged him back, burying her face against him. Everyone else remained silent a short moment, before Patience pulled away from Forbearance and turned back toward Elder Teiju.

The Elder of Ice nodded, smiling also. He addressed everyone in the Temple. "In order for this plan to succeed, we must form three teams. There will be the Elders, acting as the first defense of our land – we shall remain in our specified villages, warding off any Corrupted invaders from there. Then, there will be Patience, Forbearance, and a group of six other Tribals – one from each village – who shall act as our second line of defense here in Centra – taking care of any Corrupted that may get past us Elders. And, finally, the Tana and Jhing, you shall head out together to fight the Corrupted head-on."

Léo was the first to question, "How are we expected to do that, Teiju? Would it really be safe for us to swim across the ocean to the Outlands?"

Teiju grinned. "You shall not be swimming."

Platinus raised an eyebrow. "How are we expected to go after them, then?"

The Elder of Ice gestured to Patience and Forbearance. "These two know a way to the Outlands that doesn't require anything but walking."

The young Magician and Fire Tribal received many wide-eyed stares – from Tana, Elder, and Magician alike. "They do…?" Vakari asked, quietly.

Teiju chuckled softly. "Young Forbearance, how is it you came to Shalua?"

Forbearance blinked several times, apparently surprised by the question. "Through an… underground passageway."

Patience's eyes brightened in both realization and remembrance. "Oh, yeah! I remember!" She stepped towards the center of the Temple, pulling Forbearance with her by the hand. "There's a tunnel from the Outlands that comes all the way here!"

Before anyone could open their mouth to question that, the two of them knelt down, placing their hands on the center circle of the floor and pressing down as hard as they could. The circle shifted beneath them, and they lifted their hands, as it swung down like a door.

Everyone else in the Temple, save for Teiju, gazed in astonishment at the newly revealed doorway in the floor. "This… this must be how Tzung was able to communicate freely with the Corrupted," Jhing realized, his voice barely above a whisper.

Teiju nodded. "That could very well be, Jhing."

Platinus rounded on the Ice Elder, scowling fiercely. "You knew about this, all along? Why didn't you tell anyone?"

"No kidding," Tarja echoed him. "Any Corrupted could have just come through here anytime they wanted! And they would have been well past our immediate defenses!"

"Actually…," Forbearance spoke up, "as far as I know, not many of us, er, the Corrupted are even aware of this passage. To go through this tunnel, you need to first go to the Place of Unending Darkness, and not really anyone travels there."

"Why is that…?" Etrin wondered, frowning thoughtfully.

Forbearance blinked a few more times. "That's, uh… where Malizar lives. Even the Corrupted fear him; no one dares to disturb him."

Platinus seemed just the slightest bit disturbed by that. "Do I dare ask, what in Shalua possessed you to travel there, Forbearance?"

Teiju grinned. "He will have plenty of time to share his tale another day, Platinus. We have more pressing matters to discuss, currently."

"Indeed," Taharus said, giving a nod. "So, now we know how the Tana and Jhing shall make their way to the Outlands. But, what about these other Tribals?"

The Ice Elder grinned more. "Patience and Forbearance already know who they are."

Patience tilted her head at that, asking, "We do?"

"Yes, we do," Forbearance confirmed, stealing a glance at Jhing. "They're the Tribals we've met and traveled or worked with in each of the lands, correct?"

Teiju nodded. "Yep. You got it."

"Oh," Patience said.

"Alright, then," Léo spoke up, giving a nod of his own. "If this isn't set to happen until tomorrow, however, what are we to do today?"

"Our time today shall be used to make preparations," Yulara replied.

"Yes," Teiju agreed. "If the Corrupted are, indeed, preparing for their own assault, I have a strong feeling that their attacks may lessen a bit before then. So, each of you Tana should reserve as much energy as possible and rest well for your mission tomorrow."

He nodded to Patience and Forbearance. "The two of you shall go to each village and gather the other Tribals who will assist you in guarding the Great Temple. When they've all been gathered, bring them back to Centra. You will all rest in Centris Castle tonight, so you may be well-prepared for your duties in the morrow."

"And us?" Taharus wondered.

Teiju smiled. "We do not want to alarm our people. We Elders shall go about our duties as normal. However, I advise that all of us also get as much rest as possible."

"Um… how are Forbes and I supposed to travel to all of the villages ourselves, Elder?" Patience asked. "By the time we gathered all our friends, it would be the middle of the night."

Teiju chuckled, reaching forward and patting her head. "There are two of you. I trust you can figure something out." He addressed everyone else. "That being said, we should all return to our lands now. It would be unwise to stay away from our duties too long."

With nods and words of agreement, most of the Tana and Elders went to go their separate ways, leaving only Jhing, Léo, Vakari, Teiju, Forbearance, and Patience in the Temple. "I wish you all the best of luck," the Ice Elder said, smiling kindly. "May the Great Being guide you."

Léo nodded. "Thank you, Teiju. Same to you." He turned to Patience and Forbearance, as Teiju took his leave. "What do you two plan to do?"

Patience hummed, thinking deeply. "I don't know… I guess we could, maybe, take three villages each, instead of going to all of them together."

Forbearance smiled. "I think that will work plenty well, Patience. Which villages would you prefer to take?"

She smiled back. "You can't take heat as well as I can, so Flamera and Strona are obvious choices. I guess I could go to Luminara, too."

"Sounds like a plan," her companion returned. "I will go to Liqua first, then. It will be faster if I can travel by boat in between the villages, instead of walking."

"Oh, yeah." Patience grinned. "And I can swim between the villages, because I can breathe underwater." She glanced up at Léo and Vakari. "Are we allowed to do that?"

Léo gave a nod. "You have my permission to do so. If any Guard stops you, simply inform them you're on official business for the Tana and Elders."

Patience felt herself grin more and turned her attention to Forbearance again. "Official business, huh? Makes us sound pretty important."

The Magician-in-Training laughed softly. "It sure does." He smiled at her. "I'll get going to Liqua, then. Be careful, alright?"

The pinkette smiled back. "I will, Forbes. You, t—" She paused suddenly. "Wait… Are you sure it's a good idea for you to go to Liqua? Maybe… maybe I should, instead."

"Why would it…" His eyes widened a tad in realization. "Oh… Peace. She doesn't like me very much… does she?"

They both considered that for a moment in silence. "You know what," Forbearance said, smiling, "I think it'll be fine. I'll still go to Liqua. Maybe Peace and I will be able to work something out with each other. Besides, I still need a boat."

Patience wasn't entirely sure about the whole 'working something out' thing, considering Peace's attitude, but she trusted him to do what he needed to. "Alright," she agreed, nodding. "You start in Liqua and I'll start in Luminara. When I meet up with each of our companions, I'll just ask them to come here, so I don't need to worry about them having to travel to the other lands with me."

Léo smiled. "That sounds like a plan, you two."

Jhing gave a nod, also smiling. "It's good to see the two of you working so well together." He hummed. "After I report to Lady Faralon, I'll come back here to the Temple and wait for the other Tribals to arrive."

"Thank you, Jhing," Patience said, grinning widely.

Vakari shifted on his feet. "We should all probably get a move on. There's no time to waste."

"Indeed," Léo returned. "Let's go."

. . .

Patience jogged quickly along the path of Luminara beside Léo, attempting to keep up with his long strides. "How do you feel about this whole thing, fire dancer?" the Light Tana questioned, glancing down at her.

The pinkette hummed, giving that some thought. "Well… to be completely honest, I don't really know if I'll be able to do what Elder Teiju said I'm supposed to. I mean, if it took you, Vakari, Forbes, and Jhing just to get rid of Malizar's influence in my mind… I don't see how it'd be possible for me to take on the real thing…" She smiled up at him. "But… if you all think I can do it, then I'll give everything I have to try and achieve it."

He messed her hair, smiling warmly back. "That's the spirit. I have faith in you, Patience. And everyone else does, too."

"Even Forbes…?"

Léo chuckled softly and nodded. "Even Forbes."

Patience grinned. "I really hope so. I won't be able to do this without him."

The Protector of Light raised an eyebrow. "What? Don't Vakari and I count for anything?"

Her eyes widened. "O-of course you guys do…! I just… I just meant… uh…"

He chuckled again, pulling her up into a noogie. "I'm just picking on you~!"

The little Tribal squealed happily. "Okay, okay~! I get it! Let me go!"

Léo gave a bark of laughter, setting her back down, as they entered the Village of Light. Patience gave him a light punch in the side. "No fair~"

He raised an eyebrow again, as they made their way to Elder Eluminia's hut. "You sound like Vakari."

She giggled in return. "I could always try sounding like Platinus, if you prefer."

That earned another bark of laughter from the Light Tana. "Sure." He grinned. "But, only if you do it in front of Platinus. I want to see his reaction."

Patience blushed a little, then shook her head quickly. "Y-yeah… I don't think I will. Vakari told me that, sometimes, Platinus turns people into ice statues, if they look at him the wrong way. I don't want to make him mad."

Léo waved it off. "Oh, please. He wouldn't dare try to do that while I'm around. Otherwise, he'll be answering to me, and I don't think even Platinus would want to do that." He stopped at Eluminia's door, sliding it open and walking right inside. Patience followed, closing the door behind them.

"Hey, El, we're here!" Léo called, removing his boots and walking over to sit on a cushion.

Eluminia stepped into the front room from the dining area, and took a seat also. "I heard you come in. I'm not deaf, you know."

The Light Tana hummed, smirking slightly. "It's good to see you back to your usual, snappy self. I was beginning to get a little worried."

"I'm not snappy," Eluminia retorted, crossing her arms. "Besides, you're younger. I should be the one worrying about you."

Léo's smirk widened. "Oh, right~ I forget how old you are, sometimes. Guess it's because you're so much shorter than I am."

The Light Elder scowled at him. "I am not old, nor am I short. I'm the tallest female, out of all the Elders and Tana, thank you."

Léo laughed, ruffling her hair and receiving another scowl. "I know. I'm just picking. Anyway, have any idea where I should begin looking for Corrupted today?"

Eluminia messed her hair back the proper way. "I'm tempted to tell you to go find them yourself, but that, unfortunately, wouldn't be Elderly of me. I noticed some activity in the Gardens again, this morning, before I left to go to the Great Temple. Search there, first."

The Protector of Light nodded, standing up. "Alright. I'll do that." He turned to Patience. "You're looking for Poise, right?"

The pinkette nodded, from her cushion next to Eluminia. "Yeah, I am."

Eluminia smiled at her. "I'll take you to her hut, while Léo goes off on his duties, young one."

"Aw, come on, El, I can—"

The Light Elder glared up at him. "I said I'll do it."

Patience giggled nervously. Léo and Eluminia may be related, but they sure didn't get along the best. Anytime she'd ask Léo why, though, he would just say 'reasons'. She suspected it had something to do with the fact that Eluminia raised him, or that Léo sometimes had an issue with authority figures – maybe even both – but she couldn't be sure.

Léo sighed. "Fine, then~ I'll get going." He offered Patience a smile and a wave, grabbing his boots again. "I'll see you later, fire dancer. Be safe."

The pinkette beamed up at him and waved back. "You, too, Léo!"

Once he left, closing the door behind himself, Eluminia stood up. "I should take you to see Poise, immediately. I do not wish to delay your duties."

Patience stood up as well, dipping her head respectfully. "Thank you, Elder. I appreciate it!"

Eluminia smiled, moving to grab her shoes. "It makes me glad that you at least have manners, young one." She rolled her light purple eyes. "Shalua knows why it kills Léo to show people older than him respect."

The Fire Tribal gave another nervous giggle, slipping her boots back on. "I'm sorry, Elder."

She merely dismissed it with a wave. "I suppose I should be used to it, by now. Worry not, young one." She smirked a little. "I have my own ways of getting even with him."

Patience wasn't quite sure how to respond to that, so she settled with a soft, "I see."

Without another word, Elder Eluminia escorted Patience out of her hut, turning toward another specific one and knocking on the door. The door slid open, revealing another adult female Light Tribal. The woman smiled brightly, dipping her head at the Elder. "Good morning, Elder Eluminia. Is there something I may help you with?"

Eluminia nodded, gesturing to Patience. "Since it is the Tribals' day off from school today, our young friend here wishes to see Poise, if it isn't any trouble."

The woman offered Patience another bright smile. "But of course." She turned her head, calling back into the hut, "Poise, dear, will you come here, please?"

Not a half-moment later, Poise appeared in the doorway, a grin etching her features. "Patience!" she greeted. "It's so good to see you again!"

Patience beamed happily up at her. "It's good to see you, too, Poise!" She turned her attention to the woman. "Um, miss, the Elders and Tana have instructed me to gather a Tribal from each land to accompany me back to the Great Temple. Is it alright if Poise comes with me?"

The woman's eyes lit up. "My daughter is being asked on a mission by the Elders and Tana?" She gave an enthusiastic nod. "Certainly! I would be honored to have her accompany you!"

The pinkette grinned, dipping her head. "Thank you, miss!"

She nodded again, kissing Poise on the forehead. "Be careful, sweetie."

"I will, Mom," Poise returned, giving her a quick hug.

With that, the woman gave a brief wave, before closing the door with a bright smile. "So, where are we headed?" Poise wondered.

"You can go on and head to the Great Temple, while I go get some more of my friends. Jhing is waiting there."

The Light Tribal raised an eyebrow. "Are you sure you don't want any help? How are you going to travel between the lands quickly enough, before night falls?"

Patience giggled. "Forbes and I are taking three villages each. He's going to go around by boat, and I'll be swimming between the ones I'm responsible for. Léo gave us permission to."

Poise grinned. "Well, lucky you, huh?" She nodded. "Alright, then. I'll see you later in Centra!"

The Fire Tribal waved, as her friend booked it towards the exit to the village. "You, too!"

Elder Eluminia hummed, watching Poise leave, then turned back to Patience. "So, what Léo told me is true, then? You're special ability is breathing underwater?"

"It sure is!" was Patience's joyful response.

Eluminia laughed softly, patting her head. "I'm truly glad for you, Patience. Good luck in finding the rest of your friends. And, please, be careful."

Patience beamed up at her happily. "I will, Elder! Thank you!"

. . .

Forbearance walked speedily between the Liquan huts, halting in front of the door to the largest one and knocking. Not a moment later, the door slid open, revealing the Water Elder. "Ah, Forbearance, it's good to see you! I take it you're here for young Peace, correct?"

The Magician-in-Training nodded. "Yes, Elder. Would you mind, uh… showing me where she lives?"

Yulara smiled kindly. "That's no problem at all, young one." She stepped out of her hut, closing the door behind her. "Follow me, please."

Forbearance nodded again, falling in step behind her, as she guided him to another hut. When she knocked, the door opened almost instantly. Peace gave a nod to the Elder, as she stepped into view. "Good morning, Elder Yulara. Mother and Father are out right now. Do you want me to take a message for them?"

Yulara simply smiled and shook her head. "Actually, I have someone here who wishes to speak with you."

Peace raised an eyebrow. "And who's that?"

Forbearance stepped to Yulara's side, and Peace visibly grimaced, then gave a scowl that nearly put Platinus' to shame. "What are you doing here?"

He tried offering her a smile. "Oh, uh… Patience and I are gathering Tribals from all over the island to go to Centra, and we were wondering if you would mind joining us? And, um… I was also wondering if I might be able to borrow a boat, so I can retrieve the rest of our companions from Fricia and Windia?"

Peace narrowed her eyes. "You expect me to let you borrow my boat? After what you put Patience through? You can get lost, for all I care. There's no way I'm letting you use my boat."

Forbearance groaned inwardly, his shoulders slumping a little. Her words were just as hard and stinging as her slaps were. "I-if I don't borrow one, though, there's no way I'll be able to traverse the island in time…"

The Water Tribal crossed her arms. "You act like that's my problem." She closed her hut's door, turning to leave the village. "Go bother someone else. I'm going to Centra."

The Magician-in-Training glanced up at Yulara, and the Elder simply smiled, watching the both of them with thoughtful eyes. He addressed Peace again. "Please, I… I really need your help."

She rounded on him, her topaz orbs glaring daggers up at him. "You want my help? You should have thought of that, before you went and hurt my best friend, you jerk!"

Forbearance winced, taking a step backwards. "I-I know what I did was wrong…! I never should have used my Corruption! Patience knows I didn't intend to hurt her like that, though! I… It was… I didn't mean it…!"

Peace stormed up to him, standing so close their bodies almost touched, and grabbed him by the shirt forcefully. "You didn't mean it, huh? Is that what you told her? Oh, sure, using your Corruption was just an accident! You expect me to believe that?!"

The young Magician took a moment to gather his bearings. He gave a shaky sigh, gazing back down at her, his brows furrowing deeply. "N-no… I don't expect you to. I… I know I messed up… and hurting Patience was the worst thing I could have ever done…" He felt her grip on his uniform loosen slightly. "We've… we've made amends, though… All I want is for Patience to be happy… And I thought… I thought me coming here to try and talk to you would… would make her happy."

The blue-clad Tribal eyed him for a long moment, before finally releasing her grasp on him. "Fine. Whatever. I guess I'll believe you." She crossed her arms again, tilting her chin defiantly. "The only way you're going to use my boat, though, is if I'm driving. I'm not about to let you go crash it somewhere."

Forbearance nodded quickly. "Th-that's perfectly fine! Thank you – very much."

Elder Yulara smiled again. "I wish you two the best of luck. You'd better get a move on."

"Thank you, Elder," Forbearance returned, dipping his head.

Important Character(s) Introduced: (none)
Side Character(s) Introduced: (none)

Fun Fact: The initial inspiration to write this book actually came from both replaying a computer game I played as a child and listening to a remixed song from one of my favorite games.