From Toledo to Detroit
Toledo Station, 8 am
The morning in Toledo was beautiful and cold, with the sun still partially hidden by clouds. Morgan removed her backpack from her shoulder, sitting in the waiting area, leaving all her belongings between her legs. Nico took her side, lifting the collar of his aviator coat, and zipping up, hiding the skull shirt.
– It looks like we might be here for a while.
– Yeah. – Morgan sighed – when I said I was going to Detroit by train, everyone suggested I’d take a plane just because of the bus trip. But traveling through the sky doesn’t seem, to me, a truly healthy option.
– I understand you perfectly.
They sighed together.
When Morgan learned the whereabouts of the book shewas looking for, days ago, never occurred to her that she would have company to travel. She lived in Brooklyn with other five brothers and an aggregate of the family. Titania, the oldest daughter of Hecate in the house was who rule it all, while Morgan and the others scrambled to gather and ensure the safety of other children of Hecate scattered around, before the construction of the Cabin at Camp Half-Blood. The task was hard and involved great difficulties and distances, but all were accustomed to the hard and severe training from Titania, so travelling looking for people was a breeze. The house was always bustling and noisy, so travelling were felt in a lonely way and the time was perceived in a very slow manner, so Morgan had become accustomed to taking things that could distract her. The company of Nico was nice and easy to deal with, but only when they arrived in Toledo she realized how much she was rusty in this thing called “social interaction”.
– Well… and what are you going to do in Detroit?
– About that … – he shifted his gaze to the road – it’s complicated.
She realized that she was entering an undesired ground, and then fell silent. Rehearsed what to say next, once or twice, but the funny thing about conversations, was that they were, usually, a two-way street.
– Don’t take me wrong, but…
– No, no It´s okay. – she made a gesture with her hand – sometimes I just ask what I shouldn’t. But don’t forget that I owe you one. If you need something that is within my reach, ask. A child of Hecate always pays its debts.
– Thanks, really. – he gave a discreet smile
– Don’t mention it. – she smiled, looking for something in her backpack next – you know … my dad is the best magician in protection spells I know. His masterpiece is an enchantment that he perfected over the years which can hide my scent from monsters.
– That seems convenient.
– A lot. – she kept looking for something in her bag – so I can travel with my electronics without fear. But you’re here, and risk you just to dispel our boredom is not cool, so…
– Ah, I found it. – she took a box from inside the backpack – the only analogic distraction I have is this.
She showed the deck with dozens and dozens of Mitomagic cards. Her traveling companion seemed genuinely surprised, but at the same time there was something in his expression that she couldn’t tell read, as he watched a card after another.
– If you don’t know how to play… well, I can teach you. The game is simple and we have time. But of course, only if you want to play…
– You have the whole steampunk expansion! – he smiled – that is so cool, I’ve never played with it.
– We can end this “never” right now.
And with that, they spent the next hour playing, only realizing the time had passed when the bus finally arrived and passengers began boarding. They continued the game along the way, until Morgan started to get sick of spending so much time sitting sideways, looking out the window of the bus on the back of Nico. But the half-dozen matches had been enough to consider the son of Hades a player of her level.
– Ooookay … you play well. Few people were able to see through my strategy of the Troll’s Embrace.
– “Troll’s Embrace“? – he laughed – the name is more unexpected than the strategy, honestly.
– No way, the name is great! – she opened a small smile – Me and my father are the most creative and fantastic people to invent names for strategies and other things.
– Oh really?
– For example…? For example … – she looked around, obviously trying to remember something – Ah! This!
She raised her sleeve in the right arm and ran her hand over it, revealing bright blue symbols that glowed and then extinguished itself after a few seconds. Nico’s eyes widened with a mixture of surprise and wonder.
– This is part of the protection spell that my father created; the other part is on the left arm. We call it Anglerfish’s Light.
The boy looked incredulous.
– Light of what?
– The Anglerfish… You know… in Finding Nemo when Dori and Marlin are looking for a scuba mask and they descend to a place very deep in the sea… then they are attracted by a light, to a large fish full of teeth. That fish is a Anglerfish.
He blinked a few times, processing that information, before bursting out laughing. Morgan did not understand what was so funny, but at that moment she was more worried thinking that the boy was really cute when he laughed like that.
– Hey, what’s so funny?
– Me? How so? – she smiled, falsely indignated
– The way you explained it was funny. – he wiped the tears of laughter – you and your father seem to get along well, that’s cool.
– Oh… it’s pretty easy if you think that we only see each other twice a year. We don’t live together since he told me I was a demigod. – she gave a curt smile, staring at cuticles she was trying to rip with her nails – not that it’s bad to live with my sisters and brothers, but it’s not the same, can’t even nail it…
– But being away from someone you care about is always bad and always hurts, even when we are near our friends. I understand.
– Yes, but this really hurts only when we know we cannot see that person again, isn’t it?
He nodded silently, looking away. Morgan bit her lower lip, thinking how the conversation had unfolded itself. Again, the youthful and light appearance had been replaced by the distant and taciturn look, that introspective posture. She wondered who he would have lost, but it was a futile reasoning. Demigods were not known for their long, happy and successful lives.
– Can I ask… who was it?
She didn’t want to be inconvenient, but as always, the words just jumped out of her lips. She reprimanded herself mentally for being so curious, believing that she had ruined everything and made the boy retract further into his shell. She felt an inexplicable sympathy for Nico since she met him on the train, initially thinking that he reminded her of one of her favorite brothers, Manson. The boy had had a difficult childhood and Morgan would never forget the day when Titania, her older sister, arrived with him at home, clinging to her skirt. Skinny, dirty, scared as a stray cat. Her first impulse that time was to welcome Manson and show him that everything was fine, regardless of what had happened in the past. And this impulse arose now, once again, as the silence that had settled between her and Nico pressed every muscle in her body and chest. She was mentally torn between jumping through the window of the moving bus or hitting her head in the front seat repeatedly until her skull turned into pudding because of the vexation, when he finally spoke.
– My sister. Her name was Bianca.
– Bianca … – she repeated the name, in an almost dreamy voice – she must have been strong and sweet as the name.
– She was both, indeed.
– Older than you?
– Yeah. – he stared at his shoes – when she was on a mission, passing through the Junkyard of the Gods, she sacrificed herself to save our friends from a robot of Hephaestus.
Morgan agreed, raising the eyebrows a little, as if she was choosing the right words to say next.
– That was brave of her. Brave and stupid.
– Well, yes. – she shrugged – Let me tell you a secret: all older sisters are stupid and overprotective. She took care of your friends and died. I embraced a war that was not mine, I failed miserably in my goal and went home crying. Not pretty, most of the time won’t do good to anyone, but brotherly love is that.
– You know that makes no sense, don’t you?
– Hah! Of course I know. – she laughed, and shrugged again – but you know what makes even less sense? I’d do it again, for each of them. And I would die a hundred times more if that avoided that any of them left. I understand the feelings of those who stay. The impotence. But it hurts a lot less when we couldn’t do anything to prevent what happened and we are aware of it, than when we think we had this power in our hands and we make a mistake in some choice at some point. Then we start to retrace all our steps, thinking what we did wrong. And that is what kills you. And even then, I’d do it all again.
– Sorry, I digressed. – she laughed – now I ‘m the crazy girl of brownies and ramblings. But… isn’t it great to think that somehow we’re here now because someone loved us enough to get rid of their lives in our name? To think that we were so important to this person that it simply thought more in us than itself? That a part of us, now, is the act of that person and we will remember it our whole life and that is precisely what makes it all worthwhile?
– It is … but still … is sad.
– It is. But being sad all the time usually doesn’t help anything, so… – she rolled the bag – we eat brownies! They are sweet as happiness and warm as… um … they aren’t warm now, but that doesn’t matter.
She felt she was no longer able to hide her tears, so she let the pot of brownies on Nico’s lap, rushing to get up under the pretext of saving the backpack in the trunk. She tried to control her body’s impulse reflection of shaking as if it were -20 ° outside, even with the sun coming through the bus window, nice and warm. She breathed deeply and slowly, controlling herself not to falter. She was so concentrated in disguise all of that, she was taken by surprise when the boy wrapped her in a warm and comfortable embrace. She surrendered, leaving a couple of tears fall, solitarily, while her chin rested on his shoulder. Dried them as soon as she could with the back of her hand, gesturing for them to return to the seat, as the other passengers began to look at them, in a strange and suspect way. But the embrace had been comforting and invigorating.
She retake the pot of brownies, eating a piece in a short time, realizing the look of Nico upon herself. After some quiet time the son of Hades resumed his lost look to out the window.
– You know… it’s a pain that’s hard to get used to.
She did not know what to answer, or even if she should. She drummed her fingers on the pot of brownies, still wondering what to do when she turned to the boy, encountering brown eyes, now fixed in the eyes of Morgan. She was surprised, blushing a little with the depth of that look, and getting the certainty there that he had been able to understand what she had said. He gave a slight smile, returning to his usual countenance as he took a piece of brownie.
– This is the first time I play Mitomagic since Bianca died. I had almost the complete collection… just missed the card of Hades. It was her who activated the security from the Junkyard of the Gods, taking the card of Hades for me. – he looked down – I was so angry with me and the game that I got rid of all the cards. But I had fun playing with you today. Thank you.
– G-good. Don’t mention it, really. – she didn’t know what to say – I’m avaliable whenever you want to play.
– Good that you said that. We still need our tiebreaker game.
– You are absolutely right.
And she put herself into shuffling the deck.
She had never thought that a game of Mitomagic could bring so many things to light at once.
So many revelations from both sides! >.<
But Nico’s mission is far from over!
And, what about this book Morgan is searching?
More responses within a week!