It only took Iris a couple hours to get full maneuverability. After that it was too late for Selena to stay up. Since the High Priestess was out sick, it became the Acolyte's responsibility to do the morning ritual five times a week. The other two were filled in by the Bishops.
Iris and Levi stayed awake for an hour or so after she'd left, then readied themselves for sleep. There were still certain things she'd wanted to ask the God Leviathan that she felt uncomfortable doing in front of Selena. About five minutes or so after she'd left, Iris had begun her interrogation of sorts.
"Why won't the other gods fight the Charybdis themselves? Is it stronger than you guys?"
Levi chuckled cockily; "Don't be absurd. Of course we could take down that thing. We're just not allowed to.. The gods are not allowed to fight amongst ourselves. If we did, Poseidon would punish us."
Seeing Iris' smile turn into a frown at his words, Levi continued; "If the gods were to start fighting each other, the amount of power released word shred whatever galaxy they were fighting in. If more than two fought.. It would quickly turn the universe into a war zone. Everything would be destroyed in the aftermath.."
Iris' eyes went large as Levi explained the gravity of her suggestion; "So what you're saying is that even if the gods did intervene, that the damage caused would defeat the purpose?"
"Yes, and in more ways than one. The Aquarians needed to decide for themselves to do the ritual. Remember the discussion about free will that we had? If we had chosen for them, they'd lose all choice. All we can do is guide certain individuals on occasion.."
Iris looked at him sourly; "Then why even get involved if you guys can't actually help?!"
"Have I been helpful to you so far?" Levi asked with annoyance plain in his voice.
Iris shrunk back a bit; "Yes.. You have. Sorry, I'm just really tired, but I'm kinda scared to fall asleep."
Levi's eyes went soft; "Why would you be scared? I'm right next to you."
Iris flashed a weak smile; "Because if I go to sleep and wake up like this.. It really isn't a dream, is it? I might never see my home again.. Do, do you think my friend is alive?"
Not sure of what to say, Levi simply looked at her sympathetically. The expression that came over the girl's face was one of heartbreak. The Leviathan had no concept of romantic love, but he understood the attachment mortals felt.
"Did he know you loved him?" Levi asked bluntly.
Iris didn't even look at him as tears began to silently flow from her eyes, and into the water; "No.. And now he'll never know. I'm almost sure he died. Unless you know of anyone else that's been acting weird, or talking strangely?"
As Levi remained silent, Iris answered herself; "Didn't think so. I hope my mom's ok.. I wonder if.. she misses me.. Did they.. find my body? ...So weird...think about..."
The release from her tears was the final nail in her clam bed-shaped coffin. Iris slipped into a deep sleep before she'd even finished her thoughts.
The Leviathan liked this being. She was honest and opinionated, which was a combination he'd rarely seen in the Aquarian mortals. He wondered what these 'humans' were like..
'I wonder if they're all like her.. Probably not. She says she's an ordinary mortal in her world, but I doubt Fate would leave such a task to someone like that. There must be something specifically unique about her, I just need to observe her.'
As Iris slept, the Leviathan switched between watching her and staring out the window. It was a beautiful, gentle night.. The calm before the storm. As Levi finished off the few bubble bites that were left, he glanced out the widow frequently. Feeling eyes upon him always made him impatient..
Selena broke down as much as she possibly could for the 'new Iris'. From memories that her Little Flower had told her about, to the hierarchy of the various races. It was an insane amount of information, making the learning curve steep.
The weeks went by as Iris acclimated to her new.. everything. The way she had to constantly be twisting or moving her body was tough to get used to, but once she did, she felt like a cat with a case of 'the zoomies'.
The courtyard attached to her chambers was pretty large with high walls. Iris spent a good chunk of her afternoons zooming back and forth, getting used to the movements and speed of her new body.
Levi spent nearly every moment with her. It would've been twenty-four seven, but she had drawn the line at bathing and dressing. Both he and Selena thought that she was being weird since he was a sea dragon god, but she would say; "Just call it unnecessary human propriety, and leave it at that, ok?!"
Out of everything she had to learn, Iris found her priestess duties the most tedious. She'd been 'well enough' to read the morning sermons, but otherwise she'd stayed within her chambers. The council was beginning to talk about having her relinquish her power since she refused to see any doctors.
Only a dozen of the thirty members were on the queen's side now. The rumors of her preforming the ritual without the council's consent was getting out of hand. People were starting to gather outside the palace gates daily.
Most wanted to see if 'the Queen's condition had improved'. The general population loved their queen, and wouldn't take the news of her sacrifice easily. The new Iris did nothing but practice for seven weeks straight before the council finally attempted to make a move.
Iris didn't understand why she had to maintain the crown to save everyone, but Selena explained; "There will be a war, no matter what. Do you want to be able to control whom moves where? Or do you wish to risk the council making rash decisions about things when Fate has deemed You to be the one who chooses?"
She didn't want the responsibility that came with it, but Selena swore she'd help Iris through it all. Ruling a kingdom couldn't be easy.. 'I remember everything, and Nothing she just said! What the hell?! This is just like what happens before finals! But here, I don't have my coffee, or my phone to listen to music! Ahhh! I need to refocus!'
Iris had been studying their nobility system when she couldn't take it anymore. She called out to Levi and Selena that she was going out into her courtyard for fresh air, and swam through the archway leading out. The two were so engrossed in a discussion about revealing Iris' true identity at the Delegation Hearing that they hadn't even noticed her leave...
The cold night water felt good against Iris' skin. She was staring up towards the sky at the speck of light that she assumed was their moon. Realizing how late it was, excitement started to build within her. 'It's almost time!'
As she stared out at the dark and vast water, tiny lights started to randomly appear in the near distance. They moved and flowed together as more and more tiny lights joined. Thousands of tiny neon white-blue lights began to head towards her.
The closer they came, the easier it was to make out their shapes. The lights were actually hundreds of thousands of small glowing fish. They traveled to a feeding ground every night at the same time. They looked like a flowing river of shooting stars streaking across the night sky..
It had left Iris in awe the first few times, but now her curiosity was swimming away with her. A devilish smile spread across her face as she looked at the doorway, then back at the approaching lights. Looking around and seeing no one, Iris took off at high speeds towards the lights.
She had figured out that the walls were high enough that Iris needed a good start to get over them without being seen. As she swam hard at a steep angle, she realized it'd be the first time she'd gone outside the palace. A wave of anticipation hit her, making her flick her tail harder.
As Iris cleared the wall, the glow fish were passing by. The were surprised by the unfamiliar shape in their path, so they swirled around her to investigate. With no malicious intentions to be felt, the fish continued to swim in circles around the Undine.
Iris felt like she was in a dream. Hundreds of bright, beautiful tiny fish swarmed around her in a cylindrical pattern. She stuck her arms out to her sides, inviting the tiny fish in. They began to encircle her arms in large hoops, then slowly coiled in.
One little fish floated in the palm of her hand, bring a giant smile to Iris' beautiful face. She had no idea that she wasn't the only one enjoying the marvelous show. As the fish danced around her, the man watched with awe as he tightened his grip around his trident...