What Lies Beyond: Chapter 27

“Please, try again to tell me what's bothering you” he said, pacing around the room.
Sister closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “It all started when I got trapped with Michelle. I started thinking that I might never get back, and all I could think about was you. There were so many things I wished we could have done together... things I could have shown you...”
Corsair shrugged. “But you got out of there, and we even helped Michelle find Steven. I don't see the problem.”
“That's just it. That should have made me feel better, but it didn't. We're back together again, but somehow it's not the same. Every morning, I still feel like I'm going to lose you forever. And when I saw you kiss Lay, I was sure that it was happening again.” Her eyes were full of tears again. “Corsair, I just wanted to make everyone happy. Really, I did.”
“I still think you're getting yourself worked up over nothing. I'm not going anywhere, and neither are you. Now, why don't you stay here and try to relax for a little while, I promise nothing will happen to you while you're here. I'm going to the deck to see if there's any sign of Pack.”
She nodded weakly. He squeezed her shoulder with his paw and walked out of the cabin.

Corsair gently closed the door behind him and walked to the railing of his ship. Pack's ship was nowhere to be seen, but truth be told, that was just an excuse for him to get some fresh air, seeing her like that really bothered him. He wanted to help, but he felt powerless to do so, everything he said or did only seemed to make things worse. How had things come to this? Before, he knew he could always handle any situation the world might throw at him, but now he felt completely at the mercy of the rising tide.

Another paw appeared on the railing beside him. “How is she?”
“Still not good.” he said, hanging his head over the railing.
“And you still don't know what's bothering her?” Sabre asked.
“No. Or at least I don't understand it.”
They stood there in silence for a few moments, looking out over the water.
“Why do you hate riding horses?” he asked.
“It always seems to bother you.”
She looked away. “Because I'm no good at it.”
“So what? You're a good fighter.”
“The strangers don't care about that. They look at me and wish they saw something else, so they take my sword away and put me on a horse no matter how many times I fall off.”
“Loss of control?” he mused, remembering something he'd heard before.
“It's not that, I can break away from them if I want to. I just wish I didn't have to.”
They stared out over the night sky again.
“There's something else I wanted to ask you.”
“What is it?” she replied.
“Have you thought much about that day we found Steven? We all worked together, and we really accomplished something. It's like nothing we've ever done before.”
She brushed her forehead with her paw. “I guess. I haven't really given it a lot of thought.”
“You've been thinking about the night when we had the party instead?” He teased.
“Forget it.” She replied tersely and turned to walk away. “Now you're doing it too, trying to make me into something I'm not.”
“Wait!”, he said, grabbing her arm. She turned to face him. “Sabre, I won't ever ask you to change who you are, but maybe there's more to you than you think.”
“Like a woman you can kiss and dance with?”, she asked pointedly, pulling away from him. “I've never wanted to be that, but you made me wish I could be. In the end, though, I'm not. I'm just me, the same as I've always been.”
She turned to walk away again. “Maybe there is more to us than we know, but I'm not sure it's something good.”
Corsair sighed. Every time he went looking for answers he just found himself more confused.

“Any sign of Pack's ship?” he asked Cross, who was manning the wheel.
“Not yet”, he said. “Do you think he's found the Black Ship already?”
“If he's using the same technique I did, he probably has.” Corsair remembered falling from the window and seeing the sky above him go dark. He shook his head and forced the memory away. “I hope he's okay, but unfortunately I have bigger problems.”
“Sister's still not well?”
He shook his head. “Do you know what's up with Sabre?”
“I didn't think anything was wrong with her.”
“She's been acting strange lately. One moment she confides in me, the next she pushes me away.”
He shrugged. “That sounds normal to me.”
“I don't know, she seems different. Less sure of herself.”
“She's strong, I'm sure she'll be fine. Why are you so concerned, anyway?”
“Because I'm the captain. It's my job to protect everyone.”
“You can rely on us too, you know. If you did, maybe Sabre would feel confident again.”
“Right now, I don't know if I can even rely on myself. So much has happened, and this time I don't have the answers.”
“Maybe you should relax. We'll pull through, we always do.”
Corsair wasn't convinced. “As I recall, you were feeling a bit concerned yourself about the way things were going.”
Cross nodded. “I was. You were right, though, spending time with the others did make me feel better. Maybe you should take your own advice.”
“That's the problem. The more time I spend with them, the more worried I get.”
“Well, I can handle things up here for a while. Why don't you give yourself the night off?”
“I can't”, he said, sadly. “I told Sister I'd be back, and she needs me.”
Cross sighed and returned to the wheel.

Corsair opened the door to his cabin find her huddled up in a ball on his couch. “You okay?” he asked, leaning in close to her.
“No.” She didn't even look up. He gently rubbed her head with his paw.
“I miss the old days, when we were all together and everyone was happy. It seems like everything has just been getting worse lately. Why does this have to happen?”
“I don't know”, he told her, looking down at the floor. “I wish I did. If there's anything I can do to make things better, I'll do it. I promise.”
“Just stay here for a while.”
He snuggled up close to her and she put her arms around him. “Does this help?”
“A bit”, she said, burying her face in his chest.


“How are they doing out there?”
“Okay, I guess”, Corsair responded absent-mindedly.
“You seem distracted.”
Corsair took a moment to survey his surroundings. He was in a tent, it was hot and sunny out, and a light breeze was blowing sand in through the opening. A man wearing a tan-coloured army vest was seated a short distance away, polishing a rifle. He felt around for his own gun, but it was lying on a nearby table, and the situation seemed peaceful for the moment. He wasn't sure what he was supposed to do, so he simply continued looking through the tent flap, waiting for something to happen.
“Is there something bothering you?”, the man asked.
He was about to give an excuse and deflect attention from himself when a thought came to him: Steven seemed to know something about the problems they were having, but he hadn't had much of an opportunity to ask him about it. Now a stranger was asking him if something was bothering him, so what harm was there in telling him?

“Lately, everything just seems to be getting worse and I don't know what to do about it” he said, avoiding any specific details until he knew how the stranger would respond.
“I know what you mean”, said the stranger, fiddling with the sight on his gun, “keeping the peace is harder than fighting the war.”
“That is so true”, Corsair agreed. “Being a soldier is something I know how to do, dealing with people's emotions is much harder for me.”
“Problems back home? You should probably get it out of your system, you need to be able to concentrate when you're out in the field.”

That caught him off guard. Did the strangers really know that they came from somewhere else? He was tempted to ask about that, but he didn't want to risk losing this opportunity, so he continued on his current line of thought:
“The main problem has been with this woman I know...”
“Of course.”
“We've been close for a long time, but lately things have really started to deteriorate. She wants to be with me all the time and whenever I spend time with anyone else it really upsets her.”
He had laid his issue on the table, now all that remained was to see how the stranger would respond. He tilted his head upwards in case the floor was about to fall out from under him.
“Women are jealous creatures”, the stranger said, “she probably feels that you're starting to drift apart and worries that someone else is going to come between you.”
He had never heard anything like that before, and that excited him, but he tried to keep up the ruse.
“But nothing has really changed between us. What's the deal with this 'jealousy'?”
The stranger put his gun down on his leg and turned towards him. “It's the same fundamental issue that causes war, you know: mankind's inherent tendency to view everything in terms of better and worse. When a woman sees a man she likes with another woman, she fears that he likes her better. When people encounter others who live differently than they do, they think their way must be worse. No one understands that different things can be good in their own way. Or maybe they do understand, but deep down some part of them doesn't believe it.”
Corsair's eyes lit up. “So what can we do about it? How do we make it better?”
“If there was some great answer to that, we wouldn't be here.” His heart sank. The stranger pointed the gun towards the door and looked through the sight for a moment, then put it down. “At best, people can try to be aware of the darkness that lies inside them and try not to be controlled by it.”

Another man lifted the flap and walked into the tent. “Are you two still here? We could really use you out there”, he said, calmly.
Corsair leapt to his feet and grabbed his gun from the table. “What's going on?”
“Nothing so exciting”, the stranger replied. “We're building a school for the local children in the centre of town.”
“A school? What's the point in that?” Corsair had been to school once or twice, but he didn't see how it would help here.
“Learning is the key to us ever getting out of here. The more people learn, the more they realize there are better ways to solve their problems.”
“That's it!” Corsair said, jumping out of his seat. “That's the answer I've been looking for!” He ran straight out of the tent and into the sunny street beyond.
“What's with him?” asked the second man.
“Maybe he suddenly realized the satisfaction of helping people?” the stranger mused, but all Corsair wanted to do was get back to his ship as quickly as possible.


“I know what happened to you!”, he exclaimed proudly as he burst into his cabin. “It's called 'jealousy': 'When a woman sees a man she likes with another woman, she starts to worry that he likes the other woman better, even if she doesn't realize it'. Deep down, you're worried that because Lay and I are getting along better it means you're no longer special to me, but that's not true. You don't have to be sad anymore!”
She looked up at him inquisitively. “I guess that makes some sense, but where did you come up with all that?”
“A stranger told me” he said, still excited, “I told him about what had happened with you and Lay and he knew all about it.”
Her mouth hung open. “Oh no, no... Corsair, you can't tell the strangers about us! You've seen what happens when they realize that we're not like them!”
“No, don't you see?” he insisted. “When Steven told me that I'd have to choose between you, he was trying to warn me about this! They're trying to help us, but we haven't been listening!”
“It doesn't seem like help when we get dumped into freezing water because they realized we don't belong there. It doesn't seem like help when our friends get lost and never come back again.” She pleaded with him through tear-filled eyes. “Corsair, you mustn't do this. Promise me!”
He gave her a stern look. “I already promised that I'd find a way to help you, and I'm going to.”
Sister buried her face in her paws. Once again she'd made things worse.

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