Progression of Power
28 August 2007 - Intercontinental flight Brussels - Kinshasa
Johan looked up. There was a small girl standing next to his seat, looking rather put out.
“Yes?” he asked, dragging up the most cheerful smile he could manage.
“I want to sit by-” she said in broken English, then frowned and looked at her mother. “Het raam?”
“The window,” her mother replied.
“Ja,” the girl said. “Yes, I want to sit there.”
“No problem,” Johan said quickly, getting up so he could switch places with the girl and her mother. It didn’t matter where he sat. In fact, he even preferred the aisle seat. He’d be able to get off the plane faster.
“Thanks. She loves looking at the clouds,” the child’s mother said once they’d all switched places.
“No problem,” Johan said again, sitting down and preparing to spend the entire flight in silence. The girl didn’t give him the chance, however.
“I am Liesje!” she said slowly, sticking out one small hand. “Who are you?”
“Johan,” he said quickly, and she repeated it in such a way that the ‘h’ almost disappeared. Her hand was warm and tiny in his. How could she be so cheerful?
Liesje smiled brilliantly and let go as a flight attendant passed by to remind everyone to fasten their seatbelts. She looked fascinated by the safety instructions the attendants gave and giggled as the plane took off, leaving Brussels in its wake.
“Bye bye België!” She waved as Belgium became little more than long rows of tiny lights beneath them. Soon enough she grew bored of the clouds, and out of the corner of his eyes Johan saw her fish out a tiny bottle of candy out of her mother’s purse. Her mother, engrossed in the book she was reading, didn’t notice.
He closed his eyes. Where was Amethyst now? From the second they’d first met, they’d always had a connection, but now it was gone. The other Gem Beasts had told them they still felt her, and that they felt something strange coming from Kinshasa, but he didn’t have a single thing to go on. His family was broken and he’d been utterly powerless to stop it.
The events of the night before kept replaying themselves in his head, like a movie he couldn’t turn off. Whatever was attacking Juudai had tried to hurt him, and Amethyst had taken the hit for him instead. And then she was gone, disappeared without a trace. If only he’d been stronger… If only he had powers like Juudai. He could’ve protected her. The frustration and anger was almost tangible, almost breaking the dam holding it in, and he was surprised that it hadn’t burst yet. How much more could he take? Oh, if only there was something he could do.
But no, he was just an ordinary kid. For a moment, he felt a wave of irrational hatred towards Juudai, who could so easily protect the ones he loved. He had nothing. Whatever powers Yubel claimed she saw in him, he had no access to them. It wasn’t something that would happen to him. He was too ordinary to ever possess the gifts Juudai did.
“Johan, I swear we’ll find her,” Sapphire Pegasus whispered. Johan opened his eyes to see the horse standing in the middle of the aisle, invisible to the other passengers. A flight attendant walked right through him and he pulled a face that Johan would’ve found comical in any other situation.
“I don’t know what to do,” he muttered. Liesje’s mother glanced up for a second, but decided that her book was more interesting. Liesje was still eating candy, though now at a noticeably slower pace.
“We’ll find her,” Sapphire Pegasus promised. Johan saw they were thinking the exact same thing: not finding her was not an option. No matter how long it took, and no matter how far they had to go or what they had to do, they would find her.
The screen in the back of the seat in front of him showed that they were now flying over France and veering towards the east. Their destination was still several hours away. He closed his eyes and felt Sapphire Pegasus disappear again. At least he was still there, a comforting presence at the back of his mind. But without Amethyst Cat it felt wrong. His mind didn’t feel like his own anymore, and he was tired, so tired…
He had to have dozed off for a few minutes, but when he woke up again, it was to commotion and frantic shouts of “Liesje!” followed by a lot of words in a language that he didn’t understand. He didn’t need to. Panic was a language he understood all too well.
“What’s going on?” he asked, immediately wide awake.
“Johan, the girl,” Cobalt Eagle whispered from some point behind him. He didn’t need more information. Liesje was unconscious and breathing irregularly, and her mother’s best attempts to shake her awake proved useless. Johan immediately went for the alarm button above his seat.
“What happened?” he asked, once, twice, thrice before Liesje’s mother stopped calling her daughter’s name long enough to tell him.
“My sleeping pills,” she almost cried, and Johan paled as he saw the bottle he’d seen Liesje steal, now nearly empty. “She ate them all!”
He jumped out of the way when a flight attendant came hurrying down the aisle. The woman took one look at the situation and immediately called for reinforcements, as curious onlookers were trying to catch a glimpse of what was going on.
“Make her vomit!” someone was saying, a suggestion immediately shot down by Liesje’s mother.
“She’s unconscious, you idiots! She’ll suffocate!”
The other passengers were getting up, trying to catch a glimpse, and several more flight attendants tried to herd them back to their seats. Someone was calling for an emergency landing. But Johan had long stopped listening.
He’d seen her take the bottle, he realized, white spots dancing in front of his eyes. He clutched the armrest. He could’ve stopped her. He should’ve seen it wasn’t candy. He should’ve known and now the child was going to die. He felt it, could feel her breathing grow weaker and weaker with every passing second. They wouldn’t land in time. They wouldn’t find help. She would die.
Another family torn apart.
And it was all-
And the dam holding in all his anger, all his frustration and despair, burst.
He wasn’t Johan anymore. He was a being of power, pure power flooding through every cell in his body. And he must have been screaming, only he wasn’t making any noise but he didn’t need to. He knew words. Words that said no and not again and Amethyst and live!
“Out of my way,” he said – did he say it? It didn’t matter. He pushed past the obstacles. The girl would live. He knew he could make her better again. The last obstacle was resisting, wasn’t letting him close, but he was so much stronger. Was it malicious? Was it trying to stop him? No time now. There was a child, and the child was dying.
And then it was so easy to just touch her, find the source of her illness and chase it out, then eradicate it like he would eradicate whatever had taken Amethyst. The girl had to live. No more broken bonds, no more destroyed families. The girl lived because he wouldn’t ever face any other alternative.
“Johan, calm down!”
His family. They were here too, and he had to protect them. He’d already failed once. He couldn’t fail again.
“Johan, she’s fine, let it go.” There was a soothing voice and gentle prodding at the back of his mind. Emerald Turtle.
It was as if something snapped back in place. Johan slowly opened his eyes and stared in amazement at the bright light running from his hands over Liesje. The girl was still unconscious, but breathing normally now. Her face, once white as snow, was regaining some of its normal color.
“What happened?” he whispered, before being roughly pushed aside by Liesje’s mother; She took one look at her daughter, then rounded on Johan, her face streaked with tears.
“I don’t know who you are, or what you did, but thank you,” she said, voice cracking. “You saved her life. Thank you so much.”
“No problem,” Johan said shakily. He let her pass him and sank down in his own seat under the incredulous stares of the flight attendants. More passengers were trying to see why the commotion had suddenly died down, but at least no one else seemed to have witnessed his little display.
“What happened?” he asked again, the question directed only at the Gem Beasts. Ruby curled around his shoulder and nuzzled his cheek.
“I think,” Sapphire Pegasus said, sounding just as shaken as he did, “that that was the power Yubel was talking about.”
08 September 2007 - Bergen
It was raining. After everything that had happened, that only seemed fitting to Johan. He smiled with grim satisfaction as he made his way through the streets of Bergen. There were very few people outside, and no one spared him a second glance as he followed the familiar roads to his house, jacket slung over his shoulder even though the rain was soaking him to the bone. Too much had happened. He had completely lost track of Amethyst, Athena had been no help whatsoever, and worst of all, it was now clear that he was losing contact with the members of his family one by one. Right now he could only maintain the connection to Amber Mammoth and Ruby. How was he supposed to solve all this?
He closed his eyes against the surge of anger welling up. Why him anyway? This was Juudai’s job. His family wasn’t supposed to get involved. He wasn’t supposed to get involved. The strange light powers running through him were making him uneasy, throwing his mind in a constant state of chaos. What was he supposed to do with them? Light and Darkness were enemies, so did that mean he had to fight Juudai? He shook his head so vehemently that a passing woman threw him a strange look. Never. He would never.
You will lose them if you don’t.
He shook his head again, just to get rid of a voice that couldn’t be his own. Juudai was his best friend. No amount of light or darkness would change that.
She will be destroyed. It will be your fault.
“No!” he said out loud. Ruby made a soft noise that was probably meant to be reassuring. Johan passed a school and turned a corner. He couldn’t let Amethyst be destroyed. He’d do whatever it took-
“Give it back!”
Johan stopped to watch the scene in front of him. Two kids, both of them no older than thirteen, and one spirit, unnoticed by either of them. A Feral Imp, Johan saw. It had been a while since he’d last met one, but he remembered them as cheerful monsters. Not this one, though. It looked at him, eyes wide and fearful, and Johan immediately realized why.
Its owner was on the ground, begging the other boy to return the card. The other boy only laughed and held up the card, slowly bending it. Johan could almost see a tear appearing in the cardboard.
He saw white. There was a card, and that card housed a spirit, and that spirit was going to be killed.
“Stop it,” he said, voice only barely louder than the falling rain. The boy holding the card didn’t react.
“Stop it,” he said again, louder this time. The boy looked up. He didn’t look all that impressed by someone who could only be a few years older than himself.
“What’s your problem?” he demanded. His victim looked on the verge of tears, but Johan didn’t pay attention.
“Give the card back.” He struggled to keep his voice level. Ruby chirped a low reassurance, but it didn’t help.
“It’s none of your business,” the kid said, casually tossing up the card and catching it again. The Feral Imp, helplessly tied to it, cried out in fear.
“You have no idea what you’re doing,” Johan said coldly. “Give the card back now.”
“Make me,” the kid said. Johan took a deep breath. His duel disk was in his bag, but he didn’t need it. Didn’t want it. The Feral Imp cried again, but Johan didn’t see it anymore. Instead there was Amethyst, tied down and being engulfed by that thing - Chaos-
She will be destroyed. You cannot save her.
It took only a few seconds to cross the distance between him and the children, and the first punch made the bully hit the ground hard. Johan picked him up and pushed him back against the wall.
“Do you have any idea what you’re doing?” he hissed. “Murderer. You’re nothing but a murderer.”
“Let me go!” The boy dropped the card, and his victim quickly snatched it up, then backed away. Johan paid him no attention. He knew people like this kid and he knew what they’d become. They would continue to torment innocent beings, destroy them and destroy the bonds they had with their friends.
With their family.
Just because they thought it was fun.
“You disgust me.” He closed his eyes, only to find the world brighter when he opened them again. He caught his own reflection in a nearby window and wasn’t even surprised when he saw silver. Light. Of course. Maybe it could actually be useful for once.
“Johan, he’s just a child!” Sapphire Pegasus tried to reason. Johan didn’t listen.
“Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t kill you right here.”
“Johan, stop!” Sapphire Pegasus shouted. Johan spared him a quick glance.
“People like him tried to steal you and Topaz. People like him took Amethyst! They have no right-”
The child’s eyes widened in fear when he saw the white glow that had enveloped him. There was a loud crack as one of the pavement stones broke under the onslaught of power.
“Please stop…” a tiny voice pleaded. The other child gave him a scared look, the Feral Imp card clutched safely against his chest. “Please stop. He doesn’t deserve that.”
For a second, Johan saw himself through the eyes of both children: a monster. It was enough for him to release the kid he was holding. The children ran off in opposite directions, and Johan sat down and buried his head in his hands. The rain was still falling, but he hardly felt it. It sizzled out before it touched him, evaporated by the white glow surrounding him. He suddenly hated the Light with everything he had.
“Johan, are you alright?” Cobalt Eagle asked tentatively. Johan shook his head.
“I would’ve killed him. I wanted to kill him so badly.” He absently traced the crack in the pavement. His fault. The Light could only destroy. “He was only a child.”
“You’re not yourself right now,” Sapphire Pegasus said.
“No, I am!” Johan laughed. It was not a happy laugh. “Don’t you see? It was all me. He deserved to be punished, but I shouldn’t have…”
“A death for a death is never the answer.” Sapphire Pegasus scraped his hoof against the pavement. “But you didn’t kill anyone. No one died. The spirit is safe, thanks to you, and that kid will never do anything like this again.”
“All I do is cause destruction.” Johan got up. He wanted to go home so badly. He wanted to make everything right again, and he couldn’t even do that. It was so completely unfair. Was this really who he was? Would he really have to be like this to get Amethyst back?
“It will be fine,” Cobalt Eagle said.
Johan tried his hardest to believe that.
10 September 2007 - Bergen International Airport
“Do you really think Jim will be able to help?” Topaz Tiger asked, glaring as they passed the security agent who had insisted that Johan take off his deckholder before going through the metal detector at their boarding gate. Johan had almost refused, and only handed over his deck with extreme reluctance. He’d barely managed to stop himself from panicking when the scanning machine didn’t give back his family as fast as he wanted it to. As an internationally known duelist, he usually had little trouble with security, but the scans were unusually stringent today. All worth it, though, if it would get them back Amethyst. And he hoped Jim could bring them one step closer to finding her.
“He knows more about geology than I do,” Johan said. “Perhaps it’ll help us find her.”
That wasn’t the only reason he had for searching out Jim. After Juudai, Jim was one of his closest human friends, and he knew he could count on the Australian to keep a level head. He needed someone who could think of a logical course of action, because he couldn’t do it himself anymore, and Juudai wasn’t an option.
Speaking of Juudai… Johan fished his cell phone out of his backpack with some difficulty. Several messages, like he’d expected. Juudai hadn’t stopped trying to call and text him, and while Johan read every message, he never replied. If he did, the temptation to see Juudai again would be too great, and right now he was far too dangerous for Juudai.
Light and Darkness are destined enemies. Why fight fate?
Was it the Light itself trying to change his mind? Whatever it was, Johan refused to listen. It didn’t matter if they were supposed to be enemies. Juudai was his best friend, and nothing was going to change that.
And what if it’s the only way to get her back?
Johan swallowed. The choice was terrible, but so incredibly easy. For all he loved Juudai, the Gem Beasts would always come first. However much the idea of having to hurt Juudai pained him, if he had to choose between him and the Gem Beasts, he’d attack without hesitation. He only hoped it would never come to that.
He hurried past several tax-free shops - overpriced things he would never have any need for - and arrived at his gate just as the plane started boarding. He was cutting it close; the security checks had taken longer than expected. He followed a family of four onto the plane and quickly found his seat next to the window. There was a pillow that was far too small to do anything but get in the way, and a blanket that could probably power the overhead reading light with all the static electricity it generated. Johan discarded both and pulled his jacket closer around him. Times like these, he really envied Juudai for his teleportation powers. It would make his search a lot easier. But Juudai was not an option, would never be an option until he either got rid of the Light or learned to control it. At least with the plane taking off he had an excuse not to look at Juudai’s messages.
He sighed and Cobalt Eagle appeared, perched precariously on the seat in front of him. Johan cast a quick look around, but no one seemed to have noticed the giant eagle sitting in the middle of the plane. He sighed in relief. While seeing spirits wasn’t exactly a common gift, in a plane with a few hundreds on board, one or two were bound to have the ability and not everyone reacted well to it.
“What’s wrong?” he asked. Two weeks ago, Cobalt Eagle could’ve easily told him telepathically, but now they could only talk like this. Another trick of the Light? Whatever it was, he wanted to get rid of it, in whatever way possible.
“You know Amethyst isn’t in Australia, right?”
Johan laughed bitterly. “No, I don’t. How could I? I haven’t known where she is since-” He didn’t finish the sentence. Cobalt Eagle understood him perfectly well anyway. “I don’t even know if she’s still alive or not.”
“She is.” Cobalt Eagle sounded completely sure. “We told you that she’s alive. We don’t know exactly where she is either, but she’s alive. It wouldn’t make sense for her not to be.”
“How do you figure?”
“She’s bait,” Cobalt Eagle said with a bluntness Johan usually would’ve expected from Topaz Tiger. “As long as she’s alive, Chaos knows we will come, and,” here he hesitated for a second, “it knows Juudai will try to follow.”
“You know he will.” Cobalt Eagle cast a meaningful look at Johan’s cell phone, which he hadn’t put away yet. Johan had to acknowledge the truth in the eagle’s words. If Juudai hadn’t stopped trying to reach him after several days without a reply, he wouldn’t stop trying to help him either. Juudai was nothing if not stubborn.
“He still shouldn’t.” It sounded weak even to Johan’s ears. As if he would ever be able to tell Juudai what to do. If only, for once in his life, he would take a hint and stay away. He didn’t want to choose.
But you will, you will, you will.
And yes, he would. If he had to, he would choose and he would always choose Amethyst. He’d do anything to get her back.
To save a cat, you’d kill a king.
His life would be so much easier if the voices in his head weren’t actually right.
09 October 2007 - Bergen
It had to have happened before, Johan thought, but this was the first time he actually noticed it. He spent two minutes staring dumbly at the cut in his finger and the way the Light danced around it without actually doing something. Then he rinsed off the blood, made sure the cut didn’t start bleeding again, and left the kitchen. It was no use putting on a band-aid. The cut would heal by itself and he didn’t want to deal with any of the awkward questions that would undoubtedly come.
Juudai was in the living room, watching a movie Johan had seen before. He was squinting at the screen, as if that would miraculously make him understand Norwegian. Johan had asked him about it once, and Juudai had told him he couldn’t understand TV or newspapers in the same way that he understood people. The papers and TV sets possessed no mind for him to read.
“I can do it through other people, though,” he’d said. “As long as someone nearby sees it and understands it, I can too.”
Indeed, when Johan entered the room, Juudai’s face suddenly cleared up and he stared at the TV with renewed interest. Hane Kuriboh, sleeping in his lap, shifted slightly and opened one eye as Johan sat down. He made sure to keep his cut hand out of sight.
“Where’s Yubel?” Johan didn’t need to ask about the Gem Beasts. He hadn’t lost track of any of them since they’d found Amethyst again. Right now she was sleeping in the backyard, with Ruby between her front paws.
“Yubel’s looking over the area with Cobalt Eagle.” Johan clenched his hands. Juudai grimaced and said: “I know, I don’t want them to be out there either. But Yubel insisted that Chaos can get to them just as easily in here as outside, and you have to admit that she has a point.”
“Doesn’t mean I have to like it.”
“No, I don’t either.” Juudai ran his fingers through the feathers of Hane Kuriboh’s wings. “But they’re almost back at the house. Yubel just told me.”
Johan smiled. “Alright. I’m going to make dinner.” He turned on his heels and ignored Juudai’s sputtering as the movie once again became incomprehensible for him.
“Johan! I wanted to know how it ended!”
“He ends up all alone.” Johan closed the kitchen door behind him, but not before hearing Juudai’s angry complaint. He’d have to deal.
“That wasn’t very nice.”
Johan looked at where Yubel was sitting on the windowsill, toying with the knife he’d cut himself with earlier. When Juudai had said she was almost home, he hadn’t been kidding. Johan raised his eyebrows. “Neither is sneaking up on people.”
“I didn’t sneak up on you. You just need to watch your back.” Yubel said. A year ago, it would have been an threat, but now her words lacked heat. Funny how Juudai had a gift for making the most unlikely people get along. Of course, that weird connection they shared also helped.
Johan let it drop. “So why are you here, and not with Juudai?”
Yubel held up the knife, as if that explained everything. Johan realized, with a sense of resignation, that it actually did.
“You hurt yourself.”
“Yeah.” It was no use lying to Yubel when she felt all the pain he did. “It’s okay now, though. It’s healed.”
Yubel gave him a long look. Johan refused to show her his hand. He was pretty sure she noticed, but if she did, she didn’t say anything about it.
“The cat will be fine,” Yubel said eventually, just as the silence went from awkward to oppressive. “She’s strong enough to recover from whatever Chaos did to her.”
“She will be,” Johan agreed. “No thanks to me, though.”
That last part was mumbled, but Yubel caught it anyway.
“Are you always this hard on yourself? You really think you didn’t save her?”
Johan fought the urge to just walk out on her. “I didn’t save her, did I? If you hadn’t used Take Flight-“
“A card you gave me in the first place,” Yubel said. Johan ignored her.
“If you hadn’t used Take Flight, she would’ve been killed. And even though she’s still alive, what about all those people? What about Mihir and Chandran and Jiya? They’re dead, and it’s because of me.”
“Chaos killed them, not you,” said Yubel. “It was brutal and cruel, but it was not your fault. There was no way anyone could have prevented it.”
“If I hadn’t been there-”
“It might have still done so anyway. Don’t you see how it works? It does whatever it feels like doing, and nothing or no one can change its mind.”
Wasn’t that a cheerful thought? Johan looked out of the window and saw Amethyst Cat and Ruby Carbuncle, both asleep, with Ruby cradled between Amethyst’s front paws. From here, he could just see the long cut that ran over Amethyst’s chest and disappeared under the crystal she wore there. It had started healing, but despite his best efforts he wasn’t sure if he could prevent it from turning into a scar. Healing the cut took much more effort than healing ordinary wounds, and he didn’t know if it was because she was a spirit, because Chaos had inflicted it, or both.
“So if no one can stop it, how do we even fight it?”
Yubel shook her head. “I don’t know. It’s far more powerful than me or you, or even Juudai. We don’t know what it wants, what its purpose is, or what it’s going to do next.”
“So we just hope for a miracle.”
Johan waited for Yubel to elaborate, but she didn’t. Instead she just handed the knife back to him, handle first.
“Be careful with those things. Some wounds take a long time to heal.”
Johan shrugged, taking the knife from her and tossing it in the sink in one movement. “I’m supposed to be good at healing.”
“You better make sure you’re good at it,” Yubel said, getting up and walking towards the living room. “If you get hurt, Juudai will be sad, and I don’t like people who make him sad.” She paused for a second in the door opening. “I’m starting to like you, Johan. Don’t make me change my mind.”
And with that she swept out of the room, leaving Johan with a half-prepared meal, a throbbing finger, and the knowledge that now there was one more person he’d inevitably end up disappointing.
3 February 2008 - Dark World
“I didn’t think it could be benevolent, you know,” Johan said conversationally as he righted the leg of the little girl and healed it in one smooth movement. Juudai, who had been relegated to just watching after being too enthusiastic and dropping several pots and plates, nodded.
“Yeah, I kind of figured.”
“Be careful with that leg, don’t run around too much,” Johan told the girl, then, in the same breath, “From what I’d heard and seen, the Light was, well, evil. And I spent most of my time blowing up things. Do we have any aspirin left?”
“In my bag. And yeah, with Chaos talking to you and everything…” Juudai tossed him a box of aspirin and Johan passed it on to the little girl’s mother, a woman called Eldeen. This was a village that had escaped mostly unscathed from Haou Juudai’s reign of destruction, and therefore relatively safe for Juudai to be in. Not that they wouldn’t be able to fend off any attackers, but they were here to make the place better, not worse.
“I didn’t even realize it was Chaos at the time. I figured it was the Light of Ruin. It just kept taunting me and telling me I wouldn’t be able to get Amethyst back if I didn’t turn on you. It seemed like something the Light would do.”
“Not really,” said Yubel. She landed next to Juudai. The little girl looked slightly scared, but her mother put a comforting hand on her shoulder. “It would’ve made you think you were making your own choice, without outside influence. Probably wouldn’t have been so obvious about it.”
Johan shrugged good-naturedly. “Point taken. It’s not like I ever had much experience with it. I just listen to what you guys tell me.” He turned to Eldeen. “Use it if the fever returns. She should be fine now, but keep it just in case.”
“Thank you,” she said. The child slowly tried to put weight on her leg and smiled brilliantly when the expected pain didn’t come. “Don’t run!” Johan shouted after her and smiled when she ignored his words completely and ran off, Eldeen right behind her. He stretched. They’d had a long day. This was the third village on their journey, and just a few days before they’d arrived, a collapsing house had hit a number of people. Most of the wounds had been superficial, and the villagers had already taken care of them themselves, but a few others had needed more treatment. The girl whose leg Johan had just healed had been running a high fever.
“So how about now? Better?” Juudai asked.
“Yeah, it feels a lot more natural now.” To demonstrate, Johan made a small sphere of light, the same way Juudai often did. I think it started flowing better once I decided to stop fighting it. Still-”
“It’s certainly useful, but I can only be in one place at once, you know. And I’m no doctor.” Johan frowned. “There are only so many people I can help, and it’s never enough.”
“Too small a scale for you?” Juudai teased. Johan shrugged, embarrassed.
“A bit, yeah. I mean, you’re the force of creation. Healing one person at a time kind of pales in comparison. I keep thinking that that can’t be it.”
“Obviously it isn’t,” Yubel said. She shared a smile with Juudai, and both looked at him with identical, smug expressions.
“Enlighten me,” Johan said. In his mind irritation was fighting a furious battle with fondness for the two of them. Fondness was winning.
Juudai and Yubel laughed again, but Juudai took pity on him: “Me and Yubel were talking about the same thing a while ago, and we have a theory. Remember when you told me how you wanted to connect humans and spirits?”
Johan remembered. That had been before he’d found Rainbow Dragon, before Yubel and Chaos and the Light of Hope. It seemed a lifetime ago now.
“Well, connecting things is kind of like healing something that was broken, right? So maybe that’s what you’re supposed to do.”
“Not only can you heal people, but you can also heal the bonds between them,” Yubel said, then, with a smile, “Good enough for you?”
Johan considered it. It did make sense, and at least he would have the means to fulfill his dream. “I think I can live with it.”
“So are you going to be okay?” Juudai asked. He didn’t try to hide the worry in his voice, and even if he did, it probably would have been useless. They all knew each other far too well.
“I think so. I’ve done some things I’m not proud of, though,” Johan said as Topaz Tiger wandered over to where they were sitting and sat down on his haunches. He looked at the three of them, trying to pick up the thread of the conversation.
Juudai smiled a smile that wasn’t exactly bitter, but by no means happy either. “I think your crimes kind of pale in comparison to ours.” He looked out at the horizon, eyes shadowed, and Johan didn’t need telepathy to know what he was seeing.
“That’s why we’re here,” he said gently. “We can help these people now. It won’t change what you did, but we can make the world a slightly better place for them.”
Juudai’s smile tilted a bit more towards the happy side, and Johan smiled in return. Yubel gave him a considering look.
“So, with all the healing you’ve been doing, how about yourself?”
“He’s doing a lot better since he got out of the hospital,” Topaz Tiger said, but Johan knew that wasn’t what she meant. He grinned at her.
“Why don’t you see for yourself?”
“With pleasure,” And lightning-fast, before Topaz Tiger could interfere, Yubel raked her claws over his right arm, leaving four lines of blood in her wake. Topaz Tiger let out an outraged cry that would surely alert the other Gem Beasts, but Juudai just sat back with a calm smile. Johan took a moment to prod at the marks and feel the sting of them, and then watched with Juudai and Yubel as bright sparks of light danced around the cuts, erasing them neatly and leaving only rapidly drying blood in their wake. Johan looked up.
“You know what? I think I’m going to be just fine.”