Chapter 17 (or, “Deliver Us")
The ground below Canberra’s feet was still sand, but it had changed consistency somewhat. Now instead of just being sand, it looked completely clear, like a sea of glass was laid out before him. The dark skinned girl who had joined their group -- Rosa -- had said this would possibly be a good place for him to find a lot of his cards. He certainly hoped so -- he had found the Glass Girl back in the beach in the sand, but that had been a very rocky area. He figured their groups would find more earth or water-type heroes there, but as far as spirit heroes...that was a bit more tricky to pin down, as far as geological location.
Canberra knew that spirit heroes were the odd ball out. Not based off of one of the four elements, tthe cards could be nearly anything, bound together by their strength and dedication to justice and purity. Glass was often seen in Digital Merge as pure, characterized by cards like the Glass Girl and some of the gift cards. Spirit also represented the spirit of East Asia and embodied traditional figures and motives from history.
Canberra believed that, even though the spirit cards did not have an element per se, they represented everything the countries had fought for so long ago. They were the purest form of Rhiannon's idea for a card game, a way of never forgetting the war.
They had slept through the night, each to varying degrees. Jason and Rosa had fought about something for a few minutes before they both figured out how to make tents for them to use, snapping them outunder two of the big trees in a clearing. The girls had slept in one tent, which had meant that Canberra had listened to Jason's sleeping for the entire night. Thankfully they had gotten up early, had had to skip breakfast because they had ran out of food (totally Growl's fault), and made it on their way, Rosa telling them where to go. The ground was sand, and big palm trees with huge fronds surrounded them, thankfully giving them a nice shelter from the heat. A cool breeze whipped through the trees every once in a while, but other than that, there wasn't any deviation, and the trees and sand could go on for miles.
Canberra wondered if all of this world was like this, similar land going on and on.
Jaci was still riding on Growl's back because she, according to her, had "not slept well last night." Canberra thought anybody sleeping in a tent on glass sand wouldn't sleep well, and he himself had been a bit fitful, but thinking of Rikimo had made him finally sleep. Not the fact that she was far away from any group and could be in danger at any moment and not have help -- no, Canberra didn't think of that. He thought about the Rikimo who would go fearlessly into the mountains and who was, all things considered, probably just fine.
And Canberra liked her for it. Heck, he probably even loved her for it, but he wasn't going to make that judgement based on watching her from afar and being unable to get close to her. It had been his fault for confessing at Incheon before he was ready to -- and now, he didn't know if he'd ever be able to know her.
That would have to wait, though. Right now, he just needed to find his heroes, and to help Storm find hers. She marched on beside him, her navigator Pegacat sitting on her head. She had her Sen Tohr and Canberra had his Glass Girl, so he figured they were covered better if they ran into any more villain cards.
They just had to find more cards -- the sooner, the better.
"So you had no clue which deck you'd like to specialize in?" he asked Storm, trying to get a good conversation going. If they could talk for a while, the time would pass quicker.
Storm nodded. "I brought all my cards with me, so I could start anywhere."
"Okay." Canberra thought about how he had made his first deck. "Let's start at the very beginning. When I was making my first deck, I made it because I wanted to use the Trio of Light Dogs card, and so I made a spirit deck surrounding that. Do you have a favorite hero that you like to play with?"
Storm looked away, uneasy. "That's the problem. I have lots of favorites!"
Canberra didn't let it faze him. She must have some preferences as to which cards she actively liked and which she could simply deal with. "Okay. List them."
"Well, I like the dogs, like you, I like the Glass Girl, the Puddle, the Chollima, Flame Burst and Water Blast and Earth Smash...oh, and I like the Sea Horse too! I think that card's so cute. Did I mention the Lava Lad and the Copper Man? I think they're both really good cards and I like their abilities. I'd love to find a way to put both of them in a deck, but I can't really think of it. Wait! I forgot to mention the Bold Fish..."
Canberra let Storm continue, trying to think of a plan. She liked all of these cards? This was going to be a bigger problem than he thought. “I’m certainly a fan of playing with the cards that interest you,” he noted, “but...we’re going to have to narrow that down somehow.”
“Aww.” Canberra could tell Storm was trying not to pout. “I was hoping we could use them all somehow.”
“Well...just take a couple of days to think about it or something.” And as he thought out loud, Canberra had an idea. “In fact, we’re all running around looking for our cards as it is. I’m sure as you make friends with some of these cards, you’ll end up getting favorites. We can just build you a deck from there."
"Okay. That sounds like fun." Storm peered ahead of where she and Canberra were. "Do you see something up there?"
Canberra strained to see, but it was true -- there was another clearing up ahead. "Let me lead," he said. "I want to make sure that there's nothing dangerous up there."
Jason and Rosa stopped walking, and Rosa moved so Canberra could go first. The clearing was open and grassy, with thin trees surrounding the area. It was the first grass Canberra had seen in this world, and he could see past the clearing to note it continued onward past this location.
There was a figure standing in the middle, dressed in a long coat. Upon further investigation, Canberra saw that it was a long happi much like his, and he was dressed like a samurai down to the one-edged blade by his side. He held up his arm. "We must give him his space."
Jason ran right into Canberra. "What was that for?" he asked the slightly taller boy.
"This is Takeru Yamato, the Deliverer," Canberra said. "He is one of my cards. He is a samurai by the code, based loosely off of one of the old Japanese heroes. He will sense us coming and attack if he is provoked. I must approach him alone."
"Okay. We understand." Rosa turned toward the other kids. "Let's stay here, so we can be safe."
With the others behind him, Canberra turned and faced Takeru Yamato alone. Each step he took with his geta was soft against the grass, muting the sound. If he had met Takeru Yamato in the sand, he wouldn't have stood a chance. But then again, Takeru Yamato had to know he was a card, and therefore, Canberra was his owner, like Sen Tohr had for Storm...right?
With a simple turn, Takeru Yamato faced Canberra, his hard dark eyes framed by his pulled back traditional hair. His hand immediately went to his sword, and Canberra noticed he didn't relax at all, even though he recognized the person standing in front of him. They stood, silent, in the clearing for at least three entire minutes like this.
Then Takeru Yamato took his hand off of his sword and bowed in front of Canberra. "I have judged your character, master. You are the only one worth of my service."
"Thank you." Canberra had to remind himself to breathe. "That means a lot."
Takeru Yamato got off the ground and pulled out a parcel, sealed at the top with a string. "I have delivered a package for the girl named Yamazaki."
Canberra turned toward the other kids. "Storm?"
She scurried over to him, hiding behind his happi coat. "This is Yamazaki-san," Canberra said, making sure to use the right suffix. "She is the one you requested."
Takeru Yamato gave the package to Storm with both hands; she accepted it the same. "Please take good care of it."
"May I open it?" Storm asked Canberra.
Canberra turned to ask Takeru Yamato, but he had already reverted back into his card form, laying in the grass. "I don't see anything wrong with that. Go for it."
She pulled on the string, and it unraveled easily, revealing...nothing at first, and then, the liquid fell from the package and onto the grass. Storm jumped. "I wasn't expecting that!"
Canberra blinked, then stared in shock. "You have got to be kidding me --"
The Puddle card looked up from the grass it had landed in, a huge smile on its "face" as it looked up at Storm. "I'm so glad to see you! I've waited a long time for this moment!"
So Takeru Yamato had delivered another card? Canberra just shook his head as Storm made friends with her Puddle. This was getting to be some adventure, all right...