Warning: This work has been rated 18+ for language.
Chapter 24: Coral, Crimson, and Cream
“How do we know for sure that it wasn’t Hades?” Jase questioned; arm rested on the old wooden table in the center of the Grande Hall’s massive library.
Josephine shoved a stray strand of blonde hair behind hear ear before responding, more focused on the book she had in front of her. Josephine came straight from the Healer’s Den to the library, hoping to find some information on the beam of light that caused a hole in the ballroom floor. Jase must’ve sensed her presence because he showed up shortly after she got settled in.
“There’s nothing in here about light—artificial or divine,” Josephine sighed and shut the book, glaring at the golden cover that resembled the Styx River, “Hades cannot control light, nor create it. I believe Persephone, I don’t think it’s him.”
Jase studied her and grabbed the book, flipping through the index before finding something worth mentioning, “There’s a section for Tartarus; light never shines through and how that’s relevant to the torturing of souls. But, other than that, you’re right. Dammit.” With the flick of his wrist, Jase flung the book back into its holding place, a few shelves up from the section on Divine Entities, “Back to square one.”
Josephine pursed her lips and glanced around them, eyes landing on one particular book too high for her to reach. The God who Shone Light. She looked back at Jase, a smile forming across her face, “Grab that one for me, would you?” She pointed at the silver book, the orange binding standing out amongst all the gold surrounding it.
Jase nodded and conjured his magic, a long strand of blackness extending from his fingertips to the book Josephine was looking at. The book flew into his hands, and he wiped off the dust layer, blowing the access off with his breath, “Apollo? I mean… it’d make sense.”
Josephine snatched the book from him and flipped to the first page, reading the introduction to Apollo’s biography:
It dawned on Josephine that not only Hades was a prophet, but also his nephew—Apollo. If he had reasonable cause, a reason to attack, it would all make sense.
“What if Apollo saw something?” Josephine asked, moving the page so that Jase could also read, “It says here that he can foresee the future. He’s a prophet. Maybe he saw something he didn’t like…”
“No,” Jase shook his head, “Apollo wouldn’t attack Olympus directly. He’d go through someone else. He isn’t that stupid—I’m sure Zeus is already questioning him now as we speak.”
“Okay, but he could lie. Like it says here, the Gods fear him. He could lie to his daddy and then go behind his back.”
“Anything is possible, yes. But like I said, he’d need some help,” Jase furrowed his brow, “You aren’t thinking of going after whoever did this, are you?”
“And if I am?” Josephine looked up at him, crossing her arms.
“If you were, I’d advise you not to,” Jase’s eyes met hers. There was a sense of confusion and worry in his voice, causing Josephine to break eye contact and look elsewhere. The doors to the library opened, and the sounds of Athena’s daughter’s laughter filled the large dome-like room.
Josephine tilted her head downwards and lowered her voice to a whisper, “So if I were, you wouldn’t help me?”
Jase looked at the girls who walked by them, one of them winking at Jase suggestively. Josephine rolled her eyes. Of course, the new Champion of Olympus would get all the attention. Jase has served Zeus for almost four years now, so these faces were most likely familiar to him. She tried to hide her jealousy. Jase wasn’t hers—he was a cunning and charming bachelor. Any woman on Olympus would be lucky to call him theirs. She also didn’t blame him if he wanted to live while he was still technically young.
He turned his attention back to Josephine, “If you were going to find whoever did this, I’d definitely help.”
“Good,” Josephine smiled, slamming the book shut, “Let’s meet tomorrow. My mom’s. 10’o’clock AM sharp.”
Jase’s eyes widened, “Why, how demanding. I love that,” he winked.
Josephine rolled her eyes, once again, before sticking her tongue out and gathering her things, “10’o’clock, Vitalis. Don’t be late.”
“I wouldn’t dare.”
Returning to her mother’s palace was the one thing she looked forward to most. Josephine longed every day during the Trials to see her mom again, but hadn’t since after the first Trial. She hoped that her mother saw everything—knew everything already. That way, she wouldn’t have to explain herself for the trillionth time.
The bond between kin and mother or creator was both unbreakable and unique. Even after death, the bond stays strong, allowing each child to speak to their parent in times of need or wisdom. During the competition, those bonds were completely blocked.
Josephine’s home-away-from-home was her mother’s abode—gardens surrounded by the richest of lakes and vegetation. Small, stylish boutiques lined the outside of the palace, which ran all the way through Central Square. Most townspeople could tell just by the architecture that the palace was Aphrodite’s, from the rose-colored brick to the inviting pull of the blossoming front yard. The guards that stood before every entrance nodded at Josephine as she passed through.
As soon as she entered, her mother’s aura warmed her core. Josephine almost forgot how insanely appealing the inside of her mother’s home was. Pink, velvet couches laid in the middle of the white marble floors, surrounded by flora in her mother’s complementary colors: coral, crimson, and cream. A large, diamond encrusted chandelier peered down at Josephine, and the candles lit over the Victorian style fireplace gleamed in the dimness of the room.
“My love!” Aphrodite’s warm voice echoed throughout the main room.
Josephine smiled at the sound of her mother’s high heels on the marble, “Hey, mom.”
Aphrodite took Josephine into her arms, hugging her daughter tight as if they hadn’t seen each other for centuries, “How have you been? Are you well?”
The Goddess of Love pulled back and held Josephine’s face in her soft, soothing palms. In no world was it possible for Josephine to forget how her mother looked, but because of being away she’d almost forgotten how her mother’s eyelashes resembled butterfly wings, or how the room brightened whenever her mother stepped inside it. Josephine savored every moment.
“I’m okay. Tired is all,” Josephine responded, her smile growing wider.
“Let me get you settled back in,” Aphrodite picked up Josephine’s bag and walked seamlessly up the stairs. Josephine followed, but at a much slower pace. She wanted to feel the wood railings again, she wanted to feel home.
If it was up to her, she would’ve always lived with her mother. But, of course, Ares always needed to be in control. Her father insisted that Josephine live with him, as he’d teach her ‘more valuable life lessons’. Zeus agreed, and as she was the Forbidden Child, Aphrodite had no say in the matter. It was the best-case scenario at the time, because… she knew, deep down, that Zeus could’ve had her killed.
Josephine’s old room was completely untouched. Clothes that were now too small for her laid scattered across the floor, the mirror was still smudged from when Josephine practiced her kissing skills as a teenager, and her bed was still unmade as if her father just pulled her to live with him. She allowed one singular sigh to escape her lips as she sat down on the mattress, feeling the quilted satin with her pointer finger.
“You’re old enough now, you know. You can choose where to live,” Aphrodite interrupted Josephine’s daydreaming, “I think you should come stay here, with me.”
Josephine didn’t need to think twice about it, “I was planning on coming here all along, mother. But, I’d like to get my own place soon.”
Her mother’s beautiful seafoam eyes met hers. The slight yellow in Aphrodite’s iris’ glowed in the beam of moonlight that peered in through the oval window. The Goddess of Beauty’s red lips curled into a smile, “I thought you’d say that. I’ve arranged for my maidens to move out of the guest house. It’s all yours.”
The guest house was located behind the courtyard, secluded from most of the palace. Josephine was grateful for her mother’s suggestion, “You didn’t have to, mother, it’s quite alri—”
“The pleasures all mine,” Aphrodite nodded her head, “Now, get some rest.”
Josephine contemplated bringing up her near death experience a few days prior, but decided against it. Her mother most likely already knew. For now, she needed to get some rest and prepare for her day tomorrow with Jase.
“Okay, mom. Goodnight.”
“Sweet dreams, my flower.”