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Among the four personas, the Songstress was one of them. She didn’t talk too much, but she did sometimes, so Right Hand Man dutifully took note of her when she did.

 

If anything, Right Hand respected her, just a little bit. It was rare to see a human be so gutsy. She gladly peeked into the memories that the Songstress didn’t guard closely.

 

Never sing that song, the priest had scolded her. Never call out to the goddess unless you are ready to carry the weight of justice upon your shoulders. The sun goddess may be all loving but she is strict. She expects a price to be payed for her power. Of course, Rye didn’t care–she had only seen the priests slip into the restricted catacombs beneath the holy temple of Sitara, and sought to see what could have possibly been so secret down there. Turns out it was Sitara’s holy song, carved into the walls of the most sacred chamber. It didn’t take the priests long to catch the wandering cleric, and they knew the futility of their task, but they tried.

 

Now it was her turn for a trial against the impossible, of a day gone horrifically wrong. It was simple, the girls were to go to an open mic even a town over. They had been singing songs as Rye and Luna walked the dirt path of the countryside, and the tremor they felt had at first seemed minor. Rye had experienced earthquakes before. It wasn’t until the ground gave out and Luna’s hand caught hers that she knew that this was far beyond that.

 

“We’ll never make it out of here,” Luna lamented, frantically pacing the small pocket of air they were trapped in. It couldn’t have been larger than a bathroom. Stuck many feet below the earth’s surface, separated from the living world by stone, they had miraculously survived the collapse of a cave system that pulled them below. But making it back up–that was the tall order.

 

“Calm down, Loon. We’ll be saved.” Rye was seated upon a boulder that didn’t put her head too close to the fragile ceiling. Her power to burn wasn’t going to help her here, and nor would Luna’s ice. Together they were quite the lousy pair.

 

“I don’t know about that! It’s been hours!” Luna pulled at her hair, making more increasingly desperate gestures at the other girl. “We’re going to die down here!”

 

Rye wondered, hypothetically, not because she was entertaining the idea–if it were heresy for her to sing the song if she was no longer a cleric. They had kicked her out of the clergy years ago for her unruly teenage behavior.

 

“We have no choice but to wait.” For once, it was Rye who was the voice of reason, sitting calmly. The way she saw it, things were out of her hands now. Anything she did wouldn’t change what was going on above her. They’d either be saved or left to rot all based on the perceptiveness of those performing the rescue. “You might as well stop moving and conserve air.”

 

Luna stopped, dropping to sit like a puppet with its strings cut. She was the image of panic, all bundled into a tattered black dress.

 

“Who knows if we’ll even see tomorrow.” Luna murmured, her head tilted downwards. “We were so close, Rye. It would have been our big break.” Ah. So much for the concert, Rye had forgotten about that the moment the ground collapsed beneath her feet. There was no point in worrying about exposure from a musical event anymore.

 

Rye’s fingers twitched, and only out of curiosity, she thought to see if she could recall all the words from the goddess’ hymn.

 

“There’s another chance.”

 

“You don’t know that.”

 

Rye shrugged, shifting again so one knee was tucked up to her chest. “What good does it do to believe there is no hope?”

 

“Then you’ll be ready for your demise,” Luna countered, her voice straining. “If you’re already broken, there’s nothing left to be destroyed.”

 

Rye glanced up, and a single stream of sunlight barely reached through a gap in stone. It wasn’t even an inch wide.

 

“We’re not going to make it.” Luna sounded so weak, like never before. “I’m sorry, Rye. If I hadn’t convinced you to come with me, then–then we could have lived another day!” Tears welled up in the blue haired girl’s eyes, and Rye stood up as tall as she could, breathing in deeply.

 

So she sang, hitting the first note hard, with all the poise of an opera singer.

 

The words were in archaic, but Rye could remember the sounds that chased the melody as she sang the forbidden song. She kept her eyes on the sliver of sun, praying, no–expecting that the goddess to hear her.

 

When the hymn ended, the final note echoed in their chamber, along with the sound of Rye’s harsh breathing. Did nothing come of this?

 

“What was that?” Luna asked, and Rye opened her mouth to answer, but she was struck by a blinding flash.

 

There was no cave, no damp and cold cage, no Luna–Rye was staring into the infinite abyss of space, a burning heat at her back. She turned, and what should have robbed her of her vision again was blocked by a massive figure. A woman taller than possible, with a gown that fluttered and shifted in brilliant oranges and yellows of a setting sun, marked with glowing hair and a radiant gold crown upon her head.

 

I am Sitara, firstborn child of Ohma, Bringer of Light. Why have you called me? The goddess’ voice filled Rye’s mind, deafening, unable to be avoided. She did not hesitate.

 

“I need your power!” Rye demanded. “On my own, I can’t escape our deaths! With a proper push, I could blast our way to freedom!”

 

Do you believe you are the first to ask for my strength to avoid death? The goddess tilted her head ever so slightly, and a dark purple seeped into the hem of her dress.

 

“No, but–it’s not for me.” Rye saw no reason to beat around the bush. “My friend, more than me, deserves another chance–and for that, I will shoulder any weight.”

 

Sitara did not speak right away, and she leaned forward, looking over Rye’s tiny form as if sizing her up.

 

You would trade everything for happiness that is not your own? Another bold claim. Such is an easy belief, but a difficult experience.

 

“Listen, I don’t have time to wax poetic–” Rye scoffed. “If I end up regretting this, then that’s MY fault, not Luna’s. If you don’t want to help, then say so! I’ll claw my way out of that pit if I have to, with or without you!”

 

The goddess spent more time in silence, and finally a smile broke.

 

Such an honest heart. Her voice was almost proud. Go forth. Live without regrets. Do not waste your conviction.

 

Luna was calling, her voice cracking, and a cool hand touched Rye’s shoulder. She was trapped in the cavern again, alone, and Sitara was gone.

 

“What on earth just happened? You sang something and then you started glowing! Are you alright?” Luna shook Rye, and Rye blinked. She glanced down–true to Luna’s word, her body was shining with a warm glow.

 

“I’m fine,” Rye reassured her, putting an arm around the other girl. Luna felt so cold. “Now, about escaping…” She didn’t know how she knew to do this, but Rye raised one hand to the sky, to the ribbon of light. It felt so warm, and the power of fire ignited at the brunette’s fingertips. Fire would not burn stone, she knew this, but this flame erupted with a strength unseen. Like the sun reaching down, the fire shot up, incinerating earth into ash, and Luna curled into Rye’s shoulder for protection.

 

When the dust began to settle, the noon sun was shining down upon them, and Rye could hear distant voices. There was hope of rescue after all.

 

“Would you look at that,” Rye murmured, smiling. She had a red brand on her hand now, and it was shifting from smoldering like fire to a simple red mark on the back of her hand. “Maybe they were right about Sitara.”

 

“WHAT?” Luna pushed away from her spot of clinging to Rye, looking up in shock. She saw the brand. “That’s what you did! You made a contract! Heavens above, do you know how dangerous that is?”

 

“Yeah. Don’t tell the elder of the temple. He’ll kill me,” The brunette answered, and Luna hesitated before rolling her eyes.

 

“You’re unbelievable,” Luna muttered. “… I hope you know what you’re doing.”

 

Even as they waited for rescue, Luna’s chilled form was still close to Rye, and she allowed herself the indulgence of keeping an arm around the other girl’s waist. Was she always this cold, or did the sun goddess make Rye warmer?

 

“Of course, Loon.” Rye flashed a wide smile. “I always know what I’m doing!”

 

An honest heart, she recalled Sitara saying so. The goddess was quiet good at flattery. Rye had no idea what she was doing at all.

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