Dimentio awoke to the heat of the sun on his face. He cracked his eyes open, glaring at the bright white of the tent's fabric.
11:47 pm, said his internal clock. Dimentio wanted to roll over and sleep, but the light of the sun simultaneously confused and irritated him.
This world's night cycle lasted no more than three hours, he realized. And the sun is already hot.
Sitting up, he groggily pushed his way out of the tent to see how high the sun had climbed already. To his surprise, he saw Mimi and Merletoph sitting nearby, chatting in the shade of a small tree with wispy leaves. A twinge of jealousy yanked at his stomach.
"Good morning!" Mimi called in her shrill voice. "Isn't it weird? The sun came up already!"
Merletoph patted the grass next to him. "Come, sit," he said. "If this world's day cycle is just as short, we'll be able to sleep again soon."
Without a word, Dimentio sat in the cool grass. He felt Mimi watching him and hated the way her stare made his face heat up.
"Hmm, perhaps Ronan is awake as well," Merletoph murmured.
"Oh, yeah!" Mimi perked up. "We could go exploring! There are lots of cool things here!"
"Do not go too far," Merletoph chuckled as Mimi sprang off toward the tent. "I assume you would like to talk to me alone," he added to Dimentio.
Dimentio threaded his hands through the grass in front of him, a grateful smile tugging at his lips.
"Tell me what is on your mind, my boy. I will listen."
So many thoughts bumped up against each other on their way out of his mouth, he ended up saying none of them. Drawing a slow breath in through his nose, Dimentio met Merletoph's gaze. When their eyes locked, he pushed past his grandfather's stare and searched for his soul. A dull yellow greeted him, fluctuating into grey every so often.
With a gasp, Dimentio let go of Merletoph's soul and leaned backward, only to be drawn closer to the sage by an arm around his shoulder. After putting up a touch of resistance, he leaned against Merletoph's side and said, "You still don't remember me."
"Some of my memories are returning."
A swirl of doubt churned Dimentio's stomach. Merletoph had so few memories of him. It made sense that his mind would recall people he'd known for a long time, like Mimi.
"You have not shared any memories with me yet, my boy. Tell me our stories. Perhaps I will remember as you tell them." Merletoph kept the embrace loose, allowing Dimentio room to move away if he needed to, but he kept one hand on Dimentio's shoulder, drawing slow circles there with his thumb.
It reminded Dimentio of the conversation they'd had right before Aldrik took him away. It reminded him of learning how to be nice. Of sprawling out on the floor of Merletoph's living room, sick to his stomach after making a momentous decision. Of healing Ronan, Kathleen, and Timpani. Vowing to find his mother. Eating lunch in Merletoph's kitchen. His mask left behind on the roof of the castle.
But he didn't want to tell Merletoph about any of it.
Instead, he said, "My mother is traveling the Gateway. She's your daughter. Sha'i."
"Yes. You look so much like her."
His heart lurched painfully. "Are we going to look for her?" He chewed on his lip for a moment before he asked, "Do you remember her signature?"
Heavy silence fell between them. When Merletoph spoke, his voice had lowered to a whisper. "There is still time for me to recover that memory."
Dimentio blinked back tears. They'd snuck up on him. Ashamed, he buried his face in his grandfather's side.
"But until then, my boy, why don't we enjoy this adventure together? We can make new memories. Happy ones."
"You were teaching me soul magic," Dimentio mumbled.
"And that will continue. We will travel, and we will learn, and someday, we will find your mother." The arm around him finally tightened. Dimentio allowed it to draw him closer, relishing in the small spark of tranquility Merletoph's words inspired.
"Someday," he said. "We'll find her someday."
"During the next day cycle, we will pack up and head back into The Gateway to search for a new world," Merletoph said. "We will need to gather more food and supplies, so I suggest searching until we find a world with a hospitable town nearby."
Blumiere offered a bit of his pear to Timpani. She shook her head and pushed it back toward him.
"No, Blumiere. You're still healing. You need it more than I do."
"We all need to rest as much as possible. Especially you, Blumiere," Merletoph said. "We only have three of us out of seven who can use magic. You will need to be at full strength so you can help protect us if need be."
Blumiere nodded. "I will."
"Good." Merletoph pushed open the flap of the tent. "I will see you in the morning."
"Goodnight, Merletoph," Timpani said.
Blumiere finished his pear and set the stem and seeds next to him in the grass. "Merletoph's right. We should sleep before the sun comes out again."
"Yes," Timpani said. "But, Blumiere, would you mind taking a walk with me, first?"
Quirking a smile, Blumiere replied, "It's dark. I hope you're not planning on getting us lost."
"Oh, we won't go far. I saw a tree on top of a hill not too far from here that reminded me of home." She leaned her head on Blumiere's shoulder and gently placed her hand on top of his. "Would you come with me there?"
Blumiere chuckled. "Very well. Lead the way." He stood and helped Timpani to her feet. A light breeze sent tendrils of her hair spiraling behind her head. "Oh, Timpani."
"What?" She smirked at him with a sparkle in her eyes that reflected the stars.
"I love you too, Blumiere," she said, taking his hand. "Now, come on. It's this way."
As she pulled him along, he whispered, "Yes. I love you."
About five minutes away from the tent, a lone tree grew at the top of a hill surrounded by fields of flowers. Blumiere immediately thought of the tree in the meadow on Talanton. Just as the first day they met, Timpani led him to the top of the hill and invited him to sit next to her. For a long while, they sat in silence, enjoying each other's company.
"We made it," Timpani whispered, her voice filled with awe. "Can you believe that we actually made it?"
"All of us," he added. "There were so many moments I thought for sure you were gone."
"We're never going back there. I'm...I'm really going to miss my family, but I'm so glad we were able to escape."
Blumiere hummed. He thought of his father, his brothers and cousins, and even Aldrik. "I think I'll miss my family, too," he admitted. "I've never lived with anyone but them. The fact that I'll never get to see them again…" he trailed off, surprised to find tears stinging his eyes.
"It will be hard," Timpani said. Her voice softened. "It will be really hard."
They fell silent again, joined by a haze of melancholy. Blumiere tilted his head, vision blurring as he studied the sky.
"Look, Timpani. The stars are beautiful, aren't they?" Though sadness still crackled in his voice, he said it with a smile.
Timpani sniffed and joined Blumiere in his stargazing. "There was a tradition in Tiede," she began softly. "We believed that if you made a wish on a star, it would come true."
"Oh, is that so?" Blumiere couldn't help but laugh a little. "Well, in that case, we'd better get wishing, don't you think?"
"I don't need to wish anymore."
Blumiere raised an eyebrow. "Hmm?"
"I already got my wish. We're safe, together, and out on an adventure. I have everything I need." She leaned in closer and pressed a kiss to his cheek.
Flustered, Blumiere looked away into the distance and cleared his throat. "It's rather windy up here. Aren't you cold, Timpani?"
She laughed at him, pulling him closer with an arm around his shoulders. "Not at all, Blumiere. I'm very warm."
"Are you?" Even so, he unhooked the clasp on his cloak and draped it around her like a hooded blanket.
Timpani raised an eyebrow at him from underneath the fabric and bit her lip to hold back another bout of laughter. She lifted a hand to Blumiere's face and feathered her thumb across his cheek. He kissed her forehead and drew her into a hug.
"I love you, Timpani."
"And I love you, Blumiere." She nuzzled into his embrace with a content sigh. "Can we stay like this? Just a little longer?"