There must be a way to move forward from here while protecting those under my command. It takes an hour for me to see what needs to be done, and I should’ve admitted it to myself sooner.
My friends need to become immortal.
The problem is that even though we have the instructions and the ingredients to make a susuji, the potion to create immortality, taking it is an immense risk. Immortality isn’t guaranteed. In order for the human body to sustain near- eternal life, the susuji must make all-encompassing changes, and some people don’t survive the process. Yes, my squad will be protected from so much danger if the susuji makes them invulnerable, but first, they’ll have to suffer through a days-long evolution which just might kill them.
Is it worth it? There’s no way to know for sure, and there won’t be until I can look back on the whole year and weigh out losses and gains.
The very risk is why I will not—and would never—make this an order. They’ll make their own choices, same as they have every step of this journey. I will ask, and they will answer, and I have no idea how the conversation will go.
“You’ve been thinking loudly.” Tessen’s eyes are closed, and his head is tipped back against the wall, but his attention is still on me. “What has you tied up in knots now?”
“Something I need to talk to everyone about.” I touch his wrist and he turns his head, opening one eye to look at me. “Help me gather our squad? Just the original nine—” My stomach flips, and I correct myself. “The eight of us. We’ll meet in one of the alcoves.”
Although he sags against the stone for a beat, exhaustion in the line of his shoulders as much as it is in the lines around his eyes, he pulls a reserve of energy from somewhere, straightening and running his gaze over the crowded cavern. “What about Ryzo? Cutting people out of the loop didn’t help us before. I don’t think it’ll do us any good now.”
I hesitate. Doubts rise in my mind like a plague of insects, burrowing into my thoughts and showing me every way this choice could go wrong, but all I say is, “It’s about Kaisuama. Do you think we should bring anyone else in?”
“Yes,” he says after a moment. “Ryzo first, and then we’ll see. More is probably better if we’re going to survive this.”
Although I nod, I must not do a good job of keeping my uncertainty off my face.
Tessen frowns. “There’s more. What are you so worried about?”
“Immortality, Tessen.” I don’t understand how the idea doesn’t worry him. “We’re asking our friends to risk their lives, to possibly die. As if that isn’t bad enough, we’ll have to live with the consequences if this works. Yes, we need to better our chances against Varan, but what happens when this is over? If even one of us decides to play gods the way the bobasu have—”
His eyes widen the longer I talk, the words pouring out in a rush I can’t seem to stop.
“We can kill most immortals, sure, but we already know it doesn’t work on everyone. If we’re right about why Zonna survived, it won’t work on any other hishingu, either. And people change, Tessen, and not always for the better. If we give someone the potential for centuries, they might not willingly give up that chance. I know we have to fight, but we can’t ignore how what we do today could impact the next hundred or thousand years.”
Sighing, he squeezes his eyes shut and rubs his temples. “I remember when the biggest problem in my life was convincing you not to hate me. Never thought I’d miss that.”
“I never hated you.” I ease closer to him, resting my hand on his hip. He startles, but relaxes as I brush my other hand over his shaggy curls, and his gray eyes soften when they meet mine. “I envied you, Tessen, and I wanted to be better than you, but I never hated you.”
There’s very little he could ever do to make me hate him.
Other Books in the Series:
Island of Exiles (The Ryogan Chronicles #1)