Quest for Pandaria

Part 2 of 4

Catelyn seemed skeptical, but she agreed and took the pearl, cupping it with both hands as Li Li had done in the Royal Library back on Shen-zin Su. Catelyn's eyes became unfocused, and she stood stock-still on the gently rising and falling deck of her ship, staring into the surface of the pearl. After a minute or two had passed, she blinked and shook herself. She gazed over the top of Li Li's head, off into the distance, a thoughtful expression on her face.

"What did it show you?" Li Li asked, taking the pearl from Catelyn and carefully replacing it in the knapsack.

Catelyn eyed Li Li. "So, you knew it predicted the future?"

Li Li shrugged. "It grants visions. I'm not sure if they're true or not."

"I saw myself at the helm of a ship," Catelyn said. "Not too different from this one, really, except somehow I understood that she was mine. Legitimately mine," she added, looking back at Li Li. "Not the Blackwater Raiders', and not the Steamwheedle Cartel's." She was silent a moment. "My own ship," she said quietly, and didn't speak again, too lost in thought. Li Li picked up her pack and slung it over her shoulder. As she descended the steps, she glanced at Catelyn. The young woman smiled serenely, staring out across the azure sea.

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***

That evening, safe in Gadgetzan, Li Li and Chen settled into their hammocks at the inn. Li Li marveled at how long it was taking her to reacclimate to the feeling of walking on solid ground. Her legs felt rubbery, and everything was so still.

"You've been awfully quiet, Li Li," Chen said, looking over at her. "What's up?"

Li Li didn't answer right away. She lay down on the hammock and laced her fingers together behind her head.

"Uncle Chen, when those magi saved us from the Bloodsail Buccaneers, did it seem a bit odd to you?"

"What, that four powerful members of the Kirin Tor just happened to teleport to Booty Bay, hop onto our ship, and lay waste to our opponents? Not at all. I'm sure that's totally normal."

"I saw myself at the helm of a ship," Catelyn said. "Not too different from this one, really, except somehow I understood that she was mine. Legitimately mine," she added, looking back at Li Li.

"Very funny," Li Li said. She could practically hear Chen's grin. "I meant when Catelyn's father told her that she'd always be his daughter and that he'd never forget that. No matter what."

"What about it, Li Li?" Chen's voice had quieted.

"Do you think..." Unexpectedly Li Li's throat constricted. "Do you think that was true?" Before Li Li could suppress it, another thought popped into her head. Does my father think the same of me? Or does he think I'm completely hopeless? She sat up suddenly and lost her balance, her hammock nearly dumping her to the floor.

Chen caught and steadied her, then kneeled, holding her upper arms. Li Li averted her eyes, wiping at their corners. "It's just dust," she mumbled.

"Li Li, look at me." She raised her head.

"I have no doubt about it at all," Chen said.

Tears spilled down Li Li's face as Chen hugged her close, leaving wet rivulets in the fur on her cheeks.

"Thanks, Uncle Chen," she whispered.

"Your father loves you like nothing else," Chen said. "I would bet my life on it."

Li Li nodded and buried her face in her uncle's shoulder as night fell softly across Gadgetzan and the desert of Tanaris.

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