11. Business As Usual

Chapter 11

Business As Usual

            The next few days were pure bliss- with Satel back and no worries about pissing off Tiata, I was in my most relaxed and happiest of moods. Satel’s attitude seemed to improve as well after that night- if he was ever angry again, then it wasn’t in my or Rutan’s presence. The reason I had to say that was because I did get a few complaints from my men of an irritated falucite bullying them, so he wasn’t completely better. But at least he was making an effort not to take it out on me or the boy.

I couldn’t say that was very fair, but as long as I wasn’t the target, I could get him to calm back down and lecture him that they’re ‘my men, not his’ and that I’m the only one who should be yelling at them. For some reason that always made him laugh… I get the first few times I’ve said it, but he always found it funny- we were getting into his fifth offense this week.

Now that Tiata was granting me a little trust, I had to board the ships of the other captains and inform them that the course had changed. We raided and destroyed the closest port city within the kingdom of Bynai in north Orja within nine days and continued on our way to Grand Zuan. Though, I had to say goodbye to the other captains right after the pillage.

There was one thing I didn’t think about when agreeing to come to Tiata- I let myself believe that I could easily reach the Sea of Anatil before winter came around. After some number crunching, I realized that I might end up cutting it close, should I continue on at normal speed for the benefit of my allies. But using magicks occasionally to speed up should cut off almost three weeks. I did not want to be here when it got cold- thanks to the decreased falucite body temperature and the side effects of mating with one, the cold was brutal on me.

To be fair, they didn’t really need me after they fully replaced their cannons and such, and they now had an area of Orja to pick off until I took care of the next place. I also didn’t have to keep them around now that my biggest concern was gone.

I decided that once Grand Zuan was done, I would go after a distribution island that helped with the imports of weapons and ammunition on my way to Anatil. It wasn’t a ‘town’ or anything, but its destruction would further slow down weapon production and cripple the defenses of many towns touching the sea. Thankfully we didn’t have to worry about any land cities offering their weapons to help- if they did, their resources would be stretched thin and leave them open to attacks from bandits and the like.

Besides, it wasn’t like they would be permanently down and out- I bet Grand Zuan alone could make enough repairs and be back in business within a year, though they’ll probably not be as big as before. In fact, I might not be needed as much should I return in about a year- perhaps I would just need to take down one facility and then more in another year, but that’s too far ahead for me to think.

For now, all I wanted to think about was Grand Zuan- or the Wastelands… or Satel in those leather pants… yeah… warm thoughts…

Autumn had just begun for the northern hemisphere, and the closer I came to Kotija, the colder it became. For everyone else, it wasn’t so bad- crisp mornings and mild days, and maybe some nights dipping into the uncomfortable zone. But for me, COLD!

Usually the closer I was to the hemisphere border, the warmer it was no matter the season. This was mostly because there was more sunlight shining down there, and the days and nights were more evened out. Standing at the helm wasn’t helping, nor was my designer double lapel frock coat doing much to stop anything, despite it having packed cotton and leather on the inside. Ugh, should’ve known that the more expensive the product the more useless it was for practical use.

Though I shouldn’t really blame the coat- after all, I stole it from a rich snot who lived in a warmer climate. This probably wasn’t made for the average freeze of Kotija.

“How in five hells are ye cold, Capt’n?” Rohje inquired when he noticed that I was still bouncing in place by the helm.

“Lower body temperature,” I replied automatically, resisting a strong shiver. My quartermaster rolled his eyes, seeming to disbelieve me, but I didn’t care. Let them scoff- I had my fun going to sweltering hot places and laugh when they’re too ‘hot’.

Rutan, who was standing on my other side, peered up at me curiously as he tilted his head. “How come ye an’ Pappy get this cold an’ ah don’t?”

“That’s ‘cause yer Pappy has cooties an’ he gave it ta yer Ma,” Rohje muttered, snickering.

“Gross!” the boy shouted with a disgusted face. For some reason he was familiar with the made up disease that affected children who didn’t want to be associated with the other gender. It was more of a land human thing, so I was surprised that Rohje even knew about it- I had only heard of it way back when I used to travel with Cegil.

“Really Rohje? Cooties?” I intoned as I stared at him, “Wot are ye? Five?”

“Couldn’t resist Capt’n,” he replied with a smirk. Actually, this seemed like the perfect thing for a big brother to say to the little brother just to mess with them. Sometimes I forget that I dump Rutan on Rohje so much that they should have that sort of relationship going on.

“But wait, only girls have cooties- Rohje said so,” Rutan said, emphasizing ‘girls’ like they were a disease.

…Okay, so there was my proof of where the boy picked it up, but where did Rohje learn it? From someone in Kagma perhaps? When I think about it, I kind of forget that not all Kagmans were seafarers- the barbarian clans actually liked pirates, even if we raided some ports, so it was sometimes hard to tell the difference.

The red haired teen soon warned me that he wasn’t done messing with Rutan’s mind as he snickered and said, “Ah hate ta break it ta ye, Rutan, but Capt’n is a girl.”

“Wot!? Ye dirty liar!” I yelled in mock outrage before I pointed to the quartermaster and then glanced at Rutan, “Sic ‘em lad!”

At my command, and with a wild grin on his face, Rutan slid into a tackling position. Rohje laughed, knowing that it was all a game before he deftly evaded the boy and ran down to the main deck to start a silly game of chase. Rohje may have been a mature teenager, but even he still needed to play sometimes- times like this, I was grateful for him being there as a sibling for Rutan.

Finally! I thought they’d never leave,” a new voice proclaimed before I was enveloped in wonderful warmth. I immediately recognized the feel of my mate’s arms and leaned back into him.

I must’ve been slipping- used to I’d feel his presence if he was standing there for a while. Hm- he’d probably just got here and was exaggerating his ‘waiting’.

“Ye know, ah don’t mind hugs in front o’ the lad. Feel free ta give those whene’er ye want, especially if it’ll keep me warm in this blasted weather,” I commented, watching the two boys zip around the deck.

The blond bastard let out a laugh before he nuzzled near my ear and puffed hot breaths against the near frozen shell. He then whispered seductively, “I fear you are far too temping to hold back- either I touch you all over or not at all.”

I bit back a moan as one of his hands trailed up my hip, over the skirt, while his lips pressed fully against my ear. Ooh, I needed this- now if only he could get the blood rushing down to my feet, that would be great.

“So how are things wit’ Savage an’ the others?” I inquired, curious to hear his report. It’s been long enough for someone to have raided something, so I wanted to know if they were going to get attacked, or if the entire affair was truly related to stolen cannons.

“Oh, it’s awful,” he responded, not really sounding as foreboding as his words implied. I waited eagerly for an elaboration, only to have him add, “It’s much warmer down where he’s at than it is here.”

“No shit,” I spat crossly, annoyed that he was dodging my question. The worse part was that his comment wasn’t even about his report- he just made it offhandedly on purpose.

“But I did get something that should make everything better,” he continued after a quick laugh. I quirked an eyebrow- what could he have possibly obtained that would make the situation in Naia better?

“An’ wot might that be?” I asked, caving in. He was obviously waiting for me to take his bait- and he was most eager to slide a hand up and shove some object covered in silk between my breasts in response. “Hey! …Ooh…”

“Garroe and Cegil made us some fire charms when I stopped by for a visit,” he declared smugly, letting his fingers linger a little longer than was necessary.

I was probably grinning like an idiot as I felt a warming sensation cover my body and further push back the frigidness. Fire charms had a lifespan of at least six months, and since Satel had almost no control over fire, we had to ask his brothers to make new ones for us from time to time. I didn’t exactly appreciate it being placed in my cleavage- oh who cared? I was warm.

“An’ wot does this have ta do wit’ Naia?” I inquired, wanting to force him back to the original subject.

Satel had the audacity to act confused and clueless as he countered with, “Naia? I was talking about the cold.”

I could almost believe him if I couldn’t feel that smirk and his slight movements from stifling his laughter.

“An’ ah was askin’ fer yer report,” I retorted, barely restraining my frustration.

“What report?” he inquired teasingly.

“Ye know, once Rutan’s done wit’ Rohje, ah could always sic him on ye,” I threatened flatly as he rested his cheek against my hair. I don’t know why he was doing this- though it had been a long time since he messed with me like this.

“Now don’t be that way my sirsa- you know that getting you flustered is what makes me warm,” he growled in delight, earning a slight sputtering from me as I registered the meaning of his statement. “If I’m going to be punished, then I want you to put me in my place, dearest,” he added seductively.

I recovered fast, not wanting to be completely disarmed. I was upset with this game, and a little worried that this was turning into a repeat of Lostil and the Fodaren clan. “Why won’t ye tell me if the situation in Naia is serious or not?”

“No, it’s not bad over there,” he finally admitted after a sigh. Then his tone became serious, “Savage and a few others raided in other ports and have yet to see any late night visitors, but… I saw the warehouse that started everything. It’s in the territory of the Fodaren clan.

“I’m not certain exactly why, but their warehouse has many holes that seafarers could exploit. I would think they’d fixed the problem already, but no. …You’re not going to like this, but I snuck in and found the Listri-780 on display within- likely the one and same,” he said gravely, causing my stomach to plummet.

The Listri-780 was said to be the first long range cannon of the era, and the ‘legendary’ piece of shit that took down the Lord of the Sea. Oddly enough, it disappeared not long after its maiden firing, and no other model like it was ever seen again. I didn’t think I managed to destroy it, though it was hard to say what I did or didn’t obliterate back then. I was in such a blood rage that I barely knew what I was doing.

“So the Fodaren have it,” I muttered lowly, uncertain as to how I felt about that. It was very hard to say if there was a significant reason behind it- they could’ve allowed its development with the intent to use it on targets like myself, or they confiscated it after the debut and was making sure no one else used it ever again. It was a thin line to tread there- and with Satel already forming bad blood with them, I wasn’t sure where to allow my thinking.

“Though I have no particular loyalties towards them, I do have to defend them some,” Satel said, surprising me a little, “Regardless of however it slipped past them, they did seal it away, along with many other technological advances that could prove dangerous to both demons and falucite. But any forbidden technology must be destroyed, and I am wary of the fact that they’re keeping them intact- sealed or otherwise.”

At least it made sense as to why the Fodarens would want anything from that warehouse back- even in the hands of pirates, that kind of technology could be dangerous for all creatures. But despite their rather mysterious ability to reclaim property, it was scary how easy my allies were able to get their hands on them. Satel was right- they needed to be eliminated before anyone else would try to use them.

“Satel, ah need ye ta go back an’ destroy it- be careful when ye do it, an’ make sure none o’ the pirates are nearby ta be blamed fer it-” Suddenly the hand that was tracing my collarbone flew up to gently press against my lips to stop me from speaking.

His finger soon began tracing my lips as he explained himself in a smooth, but relieved tone, “For a moment I was worried that you were going to want it for yourself, or that you would want to destroy it by your own hand.”

I shook my head to move his finger out of the way. “Why in five hells would ah want something that killed Rutan? An’ ah would like ta do the deed, but ah have me duties here at the moment- ah can’t leave long ‘nough, an’ ah don’t want that thing ta exist a day longer,” I replied, wondering why he was even concerned about it.

I soon had my answer when he gave a dark chuckle and seemed to press even closer against me. “Good. I already took care of it- but I didn’t just destroy the cannon, I burned the entire warehouse. None of those creations should exist in anything but blueprint form.”

I was so stunned to hear that that I let go of the wheel and pulled away from him. When I glanced up at his face, there was a rueful smirk on his face that almost made him look evil. It’d been a long while since he’d made that expression.

“What’s the matter ‘Tia-dear? You seem troubled,” he noted as he reached out to touch my cheek.

“Jus’ surprised,” I clarified as one hand went back to the spokes of the wheel and the other cupped over his. “Ah understand that it’s somethin’ that needed ta be done, but I worry ‘bout Savage an’ the others. Ah don’t want them targeted wrongly. Did ye e’er confirm wot’s been getting on their ship, or if the Fodaren had been doin’ it personally?”

After all, they had been targeted before just for stealing forbidden technology- I’d hate to think what might happen if they were accused of the destruction of it. Though I would like to think that they wouldn’t, as a pirate would sooner use a weapon for themselves, rather than get rid of it so no one could use it. While blowing up property was a pirate trait, it was highly uncommon for us to leave behind valuables. Hopefully that might throw everyone off.

“I’m afraid not, but I did leave behind a lot of evidence that would indicate an accident. At least other humans should believe that, but I can’t be certain of the Fodaren. I can confirm that the late night visits they used to have occurred weeks to even months after the theft, so it would have to be a third party, likely contracted by my brethren. If they suspect anything, these ‘creatures’ would likely be sent out as spies to confirm the true culprit. I think your men have nothing to worry about, so long as they remain ignorant of what happened,” he reassured me.

But then a contemplative, yet concerned look crossed his features, “Though I would like to think that other humans, save for pirates, never laid eyes on the warehouse and the treasure within. It’s one thing to confiscate and keep something for a short while before dismantling, but it’s clear with the Listri-780 that they were just storing everything- that’s dangerous. There’s always a threat that someone could take it.

“And with the way they cater to their royal pets, it frightens me to think that they might lend such technology to them for the sake of accomplishing a goal-”

I stopped him there before he could run away with that thought. “Now don’t try ta start something- if yer tryin’ ta insinuate that Bardam’s pappy or grandpappy might’ve used the cannon on Rutan wit’ their permission, then save it. We won’t have any proof o’ wot happened that day ‘til Rutan gets his memories back,” I told him, not willing to start up a blood grudge on my old toy.

I was upset enough with him wanting me for a bride- I didn’t need to wage war on the off chance that his ancestor did something to my child.

“No, even if that were a possibility, they still have other royals to spoil- not just Bardam’s line,” he agreed amicably. “But there are other concerns regarding as to why they would keep overpowered mech- I did upset them a while back, and what would stop them from wanting to use the same weapon that stopped the Lord of the Sea?

“They’re playing with a dangerous theory that they could trust a human to deal with a more powerful human- all without having to do the work themselves and risk angering a goddess.”

Actually what he said made sense- I didn’t think before that the falucite had been avoiding striking Rutan and I directly out of fear of the goddess. What better way to get rid of a pest than to send a peon and hope they receive all the blame and punishment… though considering who we were talking about, that implied that the nameless person who killed Rutan was likely not of royal blood.

“But even more dangerous is the fact that they’ll risk keeping a weapon that could potentially harm fellow falucite and leave it in the hands of humans. The Fodaren clan might not like what I’ve done, but even the Daedeleth clan would agree that ridding the world of that equipment is for the good of everyone. If the Fodaren suspect me or any of the pirates, then they can’t fight me over it- not unless they’re prepared to have their secrets strewn out and become the next pariahs of the world,” Satel finished with a self-satisfied chuckle.

Dear Elit, he found a way to extort his own kind- Elati should be proud of him, since she wanted him to be a villain to his people.

“But if they’re willin’ ta go that far jus’ ta harm me, an’ if they can’t take it out on ye, who’s ta say that they won’t send someone ta bother the pirates?” I asked before a dreadful thought came to me. “Wot if the sneaky bastards that had been raidin’ the pirates come back ta kill them?”

“If that does happen, then what will you do ‘Tia-dear?” he asked rhetorically before answering for me. “You would stand up and fight the culprits as Lord of the Sea and embodiment of Elati’s wrath. Without that cannon, they don’t have their safeguard- and I doubt they have another Listri model around. Having one should have made them nervous enough.”

In other words, the Fodaren’s hands were tied- they kept sensitive objects when they were clearly not supposed to, and might’ve been using it at the risk of having a human turning against them. They can’t have another one built and bring about the risk to their kind again- nor could they exact vengeance without the rest of the falucite race knowing about it. Maker, I hope that warehouse was the only one they were hiding- even if they were carrying one of a kind items, I’d hate to think they have other collections of prototype inventions dotted around Rynrir.

“Ah can only hope they have the fear o’ the goddess- wit’ the way ye told me ‘bout yer last encounter wit’ them, they seemed ta think they were above me,” I commented. In some respects I was thankful that earth goddesses didn’t seem to care about interacting with the lower creatures, otherwise I might have to worry about falucite running to them for protection. I didn’t want to see an elemental war happen either.

“Actually…” Satel trailed off, sounding sheepish. “After I calmed down, I realized that I might have exaggerated a little. The elders themselves didn’t seem to want to start a fight, nor did they believe they granted us any privileges- that damned prat was the one making the asinine statements, and they didn’t necessarily agree with him. We might not be dealing with the entirety of the Fodaren clan, but perhaps a small radical faction. They do crop up every other century.”

Well, that made me feel better, though a small faction was still trouble enough. I suppose the fact that their…agents (for a lack of a better word) only took back the weapons without harming my allies indicated a level of respect. Though I had to wonder if this Delar person was walking the same path as Cegil, having radical ideas and rebelling against his elders.

Though I guess the real question was what was that man’s problem? Was he a self-proclaimed Fatesbane, or just a brat wanting attention? Hmm… if it were the former, maybe we should arrange for Cegil to intercept him and try to reason with him before he makes a huge mistake. If Delar was opposing his elders because of some emotional scars, then Cegil would surely be able to sympathize and sort him out.

“Well, that’s the situation anyway. Have any orders?” the blond prodded after some silence from me.

“As long as that blasted cannon was destroyed, then there’s nothin’ pressin’ ta do there. Jus’ continue ta monitor Savage an’ the others, but ye don’t have ta visit as often. Ah want ta make sure there’s no form o’ retaliation,” I replied, not having much else to say. I did feel a sense of satisfaction knowing that the garbage that had hurt my baby was gone- and I wouldn’t have to worry about it bothering him again.

Though I should also express some relief that it wouldn’t be used against me either. Maybe I had a bit of arrogance myself, but I had a feeling the only reason the Listri-780 was successful was because Rutan wasn’t expecting something to actually hit him from so far. Surely I wouldn’t be caught off guard if that were true.

…But if Satel was nervous about it, then maybe there was more to it than just firing a cannon ball from a long distance. I didn’t understand how some inventions were bad for all life – particularly the ones that seemed really beneficial to daily life – but there had to be a reason he, and his other kin were being cautious.

“Are you certain that’s all? I could ask Savage to take me to Naia’s priestess and negotiate a fair visit to her waters for when you get there- or I could scope around to see if the Fodaren are hoarding more forbidden toys,” he offered, not satisfied with the order I had given him. Actually, I should’ve known better- Satel was used to doing many missions a day, so he needed more to do.

I just shrugged. “Ye’ll probably still do it even if ah told ye not to- ah ain’t yer boss anyway, so do wote’er ye think is best. …But please try an’ hold back on the scoutin’ thing fer a while- no need ta attract more attention ta yerself. Wait ‘til they’re not waitin’ fer someone ta strike,” I suggested, not fazed by the idea of him seeing the dragon priestess of Naia. Naia hated me somewhat less than Tiata, so if he could easily handle this area, then surely Naia would be just as agreeable.

“Do whatever I want… hmm…” he muttered behind me, musing to himself. I almost winced upon realizing that that’s what he got out of my words, but it was basically what I was telling him. He’d been so used to following his elders before that it must’ve been strange for him to decide his own course. That wasn’t to say that he couldn’t think for himself, but that he was more of a willing follower.

I wonder if that meant he couldn’t be a leader, or if just needed more time to get used to the idea of being his own captain. I guess it didn’t matter either way- I’d still love him regardless of him being a leader or a follower, but would he be satisfied with what he is? I had this feeling he’d set up an expectation for himself.

But I should’ve realized that I had set myself up for a trap- there was a long silence as his mind started thinking of things that had nothing to do with the conversation we’d just had. I quickly caught on when his arms tightened around me to hold me flush to his body, and my eyes widened some when I felt something hard poking against my bottom.

Where in the five hells did this come from? Save for his little comment of being ‘put in his place’, we hadn’t said anything sexual. In fact, I thought I had completely taken his mind off it with insisting on the report!

“Ah might jus’ take ye up on that offer,” he crooned in his accent, sending a delightful shiver from my ear to my feet.

“Ah…Ah got a meetin’ ta hold later,” I said, not entirely willing to drop what I was doing. …Though, I suppose I didn’t mind the thought of taking a break from the chill- and Satel could easily warm me up more than a fire charm. I think I was only protesting for the sake of protesting, and to further enforce the idea that I couldn’t always be pulled away for fun during work hours.

“Then ah won’t keep ye fer too long,” he reassured me in a darker tone before his lips brushed against my ear, “Now call fer someone ta take the wheel.”

It was like my body was in a trance as it did as he commanded. As soon as I was able to get the attention of the nearest experienced hand, I allowed my mate to teleport us directly to bed to snuggle, warm up, and, of course, get intimate.

********************

The days following my unusual full surrender of Satel’s advances came with increased encounters that nearly made me stay in the cabin most of the day. But with me planning for the next raid, and Satel going out to monitor the Sea of Naia, I couldn’t exactly say there was a problem. On the outside, it appeared that we were going by our old schedule of work first and play later.

But, I couldn’t deny that the feeling I’d had increased tenfold since the first time I suspected something was off. It was getting more and more obvious that things were not as they used to be, and I wasn’t sure exactly why I wasn’t speaking up about it. Surely this couldn’t be due to a fear of Satel or his moods, but at the same time I couldn’t believe that I was keeping quiet just because I also happened to like it.

I believe it was simply because while it was new and unexplainable, it didn’t seem dire or urgent. He wasn’t doing anything that really frightened me – though I could do without the arguments – and he didn’t seem as though he was sick or anything. Maybe if there were any indications of his life being in danger, I’d be much more vocal about it.

Unfortunately, as much as I didn’t want to believe it, the only explanation had to be because I had a perverse pleasure with his new sexual appetite. After all, I really couldn’t deny that everything he did to me felt so amazing. The only things that seemed to truly hold me back were my duty to both my crew and to Rutan.

Nothing seemed to really bother me when it came to the mating… at least until one morning when I woke up to see his face contorted in bliss. Seconds later, I discovered that he was inside me and that he was in the middle of his release. I didn’t think this would bother me at all, save for the fact that I had missed out on everything. But knowing what I did about falucite anatomy, I knew something wasn’t right.

Satel shouldn’t have been able to release at all without my feeling anything. Hell, he couldn’t even touch himself to feel aroused- it had to be done by my hand. So unless he lied to me this whole time, something must’ve happened. Considering his nature, and the fact that I had known him for about sixty-odd years, I highly doubt his words about needing his mate’s pleasure to feel any for himself were made up. There was too much evidence to support it- and too little to disprove it.

I waited until his orgasm passed, while noting that I felt as though I had experienced one myself despite not remembering it. When he pulled out and carefully draped his body over mine, purring contently, I finally spoke up.

“Why couldn’t ye wait ‘til ah was awake?” I inquired, inwardly surprised that I couldn’t muster a scolding or disappointed tone. I felt too sated to muster anything angry, indicating that I might’ve came in my sleep. I suppose that could happen, though I couldn’t remember if I had ever done it before.

Satel tensed for a second before he pushed himself up to look at me, his face expressing confusion before he smiled. “What do you mean? You were the one who woke me up.”

“But that’s impossible, ah jus’ opened me eyes a moment ago!” I said back, resisting the urge to lightly punch his arm. There was just no way this was my fault. How could I possibly want sex in my sleep? I would think I would’ve awakened much sooner if he was responding to a wet dream. I couldn’t deny I had one of those once upon a time… but if I still had any, I didn’t remember them- like with any dream I might have.

“Really?” I had to give him credit, he did sound shocked, but his face slid back to appear amused as he commented, “You were responding to me and answering my questions, so I honestly thought you were awake. But,” he then gave a laugh, “now that you say that, no wonder your eyes were closed for most of it!”

I didn’t find it funny- this wasn’t right. Something was wrong and I couldn’t put my finger on it. Up until now, I’ve been given plausible reasons as to why everything was happening, but nothing had settled my unease- I always felt this little tension within me. It didn’t compare to the nauseating clenching I felt when Satel was angry with me, but it was enough to bother me because it never really left me.

All of those questions surfaced again, wondering if this was all my doing, or if he was the cause of it all. …Damn it! I couldn’t even begin to understand why I was getting so worked up over this. It could be nothing- or it could be something, and I felt as though I had no way to figure it out. I couldn’t pretend nothing was happening anymore- I just had to ask and hope that I didn’t somehow offend him and start a new fight.

My mate eventually noticed that I wasn’t smiling with him and gazed down at me with worry. He then pressed his forehead against mine for a second to check my temperature, before he asked, “‘Tia-dear? What’s the matter? You don’t look well.”

I had to think for a moment before I decided to reply, “This ain’t normal… ain’t it?”

“What do you mean?” he responded with furrowed brows, not comprehending what I was talking about.

“This.” I gestured to us, unable to find a better way to describe it. “We ne’er done this before- not in me sleep.”

For a moment, I felt like my younger self trying to explain my troubles to Lioa- it had been a long time since that happened. Nowadays, I could express myself better than this, but I also knew more things. Now that I had no clue what was going on, of course I couldn’t give name to it.

“Are you talking about mating?” he asked, completely confused. When I nodded, his expression worsened and his brows furrowed more as he struggled to understand the problem. “It’s true that you’ve never woke me up like this before, but that doesn’t mean it’s abnormal. There likely is an explanation behind it.”

“Aye? Wot?” I asked as we both sat up. We both winced as the icy air hit our bare skin, causing me snuggle up against his chest, and for him to grab the blankets and wrap them around our forms. Damnit, I knew we should’ve left for Anatil sooner …

“You seem to be stressed lately. Garroe once told me that it’s not uncommon for mates to seek comfort in their sleep if they’re feeling uneasy, so maybe that’s what happened,” he replied, one arm sliding around me while the other kept the ends of the blankets clenched shut behind me to trap our body heat.

Stressed, huh? I couldn’t deny that, though I couldn’t fathom how it caused the earlier incident. I knew Satel and his kind viewed mating as a way of expressing love, but I didn’t know it was considered a ‘comfort’, too. Though the touching and the relaxed feeling in the aftermath of it was pretty comforting.

I let out a big sigh. “Ah… Ah don’t know. Lately ah’ve felt like somethin’ has changed, an’ ah’m not sure wot. It’s been botherin’ me fer a long while,” I confessed, finally saying something I’ve been wanting to address for quite some time.

I couldn’t quite identify what that ‘something’ was, though it was related to Satel. But there was no way in five hells I was saying that out loud- I didn’t want to risk him getting the wrong idea and create a repeat of that fight we’d had days ago. I wasn’t even worried about his anger anymore- I just didn’t want to hurt him.

“The only thing that is different is that I’m home more often,” he reassured me in a soothing tone before adding, “Really, I should be the one stressed, considering that I’m transitioning into a new kind of career. …Or are you insinuating that my being around more often is bothering you?”

“No!” I quickly responded as I pulled my head back and shook it. I then looked him in the eyes and said honestly, “Ah like havin’ ye ‘round. ‘Sides, ah don’t think it has anythin’ ta do wit’ work or us spendin’ more time together. Ah can’t describe it, but it’s more like somethin’s different ‘bout ye,” I mumbled before my eyes widened and I quickly added, “Or me- ah can’t really tell.”

Though it was probably accurate to say that- I still had no proof if Satel was truly the one who was different, or if I was actually the one with the problem. When I think about it, Satel reacted to a lot of my bodily signals, so the increased mating might actually point back to me. Though I had no explanation for his irritability- in fact, I had no idea if that was even related. For all I knew, that was caused by his own stress.

“I don’t want to point fingers, but I think you’re just worrying over nothing- you have a habit of doing that,” he chimed in amusement, earning a nasty glare from me. “Think about it- how many aspects of my kind did you ever understand on your own? And how many of it sent you into a panicked frenzy until I, or Cegil, explained it to you?”

I paused at that. He had a point- whatever was happening could have something to do with falucite culture and I just didn’t understand it. It’s happened before, back when Satel wanted me for a mate- hell, it even happened when he wanted to kiss and date me. But, I almost couldn’t believe that the issue at hand was something related to his kind- it would explain why I had a hard time accepting it, but I didn’t think I would still be having these problems after so long of being with him.

“So ye know wot this is about?” I inquired, almost desperate to hear that he finally understood what I was trying to tell him, and that there was nothing wrong with us.

He nodded. “I think I understand what’s bothering you, and what you think is ‘different’. It’s not our mating, but how we’ve been doing it.”

Relief flooded me and the unease in my belly lessened significantly. He did pinpoint the problem I was seeing- we were on the same level, and he managed to describe it better than I could.

“Now that we’re older, and have a little more time together, we’re exploring our relationship at a deeper level. If you’ve been resisting me this whole time because you thought what we’ve been doing was wrong or deemed unacceptable among your fellow humans, then stop. This is completely natural, and all it means is that we’re finally accepting our true selves, and we’re showing it to one another,” he told me in a soothing tone, his hand rubbing at my back.

“Our true selves?” I echoed, wondering what that meant. I didn’t think I was hiding anything from others, nor could I equate that to mating.

“Think about it- we’re both born for the purpose of serving Elati, and even though I’m not doing as she wants, we’re still both the villains she intended us to be. We don’t act as others do, and our actions might not be accepted by a wide variety of other people,” he began, not really clearing things up for me. He quickly caught my look of confusion and explained, “That also covers our views of mating, and how we want to express our love for each other. All those touches in risqué places, the games, and us being domineering toward one another- that’s just us experimenting outside of what we’ve been taught because we want it, and we like it.”

I was starting to get the gist of it now- he was basically saying that we were just growing up and deciding for ourselves what we thought was right, as opposed to what society, and his elders, thought. When I thought back on it, it did make a lot of sense, because I had times when I was stifling who I was just to be accepted. My violent tendencies and love of starting fights is not considered acceptable behavior, but it’s who I am.

I had to accept that what I liked wasn’t going to be liked by others, and I shouldn’t have to stop because of their opinions. I wasn’t meant to be a hero, a meek servant of the clan, or an upright citizen for others to look up to- and, apparently, I didn’t want to limit my relationship with Satel to just after work or when I could break away. As long as I wasn’t hurting others in the form of not being there when needed, then I shouldn’t have to feel ashamed for wanting his touch. It wasn’t anyone’s business but my own to love my mate.

Satel then moved the hand that was at my back, sliding it along my side and arm until it was out of our warm cocoon and cupping my face. He then titled my head up and said, “But, I can accept that it might be too much for you. If you’re resisting me because it truly makes you uncomfortable-”

“If ah was actually uncomfortable, ye wouldn’t be able ta make me relent,” I interjected with a grin. At least knowing this made me feel less guilty and confused- all this time I was enjoying it all while thinking that I wasn’t supposed to.

“So does that mean you’ll let me pull you away from work more often?” my mate inquired in a hopeful tone.

I gave a smirk as I shook my head. “The rules still apply- ah may like wot yer doin’ ta me, but ah still don’t want that ta disrupt me work.”

I knew I wasn’t insisting on work over pleasure because that was a social norm- that was definitely all me, because my work was not only important to me, but one of my many purposes in life. I’d only lose a part of myself if I gave it all up to only fulfill the other important aspect of my life.

“I want to make an amendment to those ‘rules’, ‘Tia-dear,” he said, tilting his head and giving me a mischievous look, “If there are no impending raids, and if all you are doing is manning the helm, then I will summon for someone to take your place and pull you away after two or three hours. There’s no reason to stand there all day where there are other sailors who can do the same thing- and your quartermaster can easily take over while you’re indisposed.”

I hesitated on that for a moment, thinking it through before I replied, “…Okay, fair ‘nough, but stormy days don’t count- ah’m the only one who can steer through those.”

He kind of did have a point- there was no reason for me to spend an entire day doing one thing. So his ‘attacking’ me before heading off to raid points weren’t really out of line for him- I was just worried he was going to do it no matter what. Now that wasn’t the case, perhaps I could finally lose that tense feeling when he was around…

No, maybe not yet- he still needed to figure out his life and calm down. He seemed to get angry just by stepping outside of this cabin, and until that stopped, I’ll always be wary of his mood.

“I can live with those terms,” he responded with a grin before his face sobered a little, “As for your rules about Rutan, I’ll recognize them, even if I don’t fully understand it yet. Parental instincts can be stronger than mating ones, and while I am fond of the boy to that level, I just don’t have the same instincts as you do, so…

“If you honestly feel that you need to stop, then do whatever it takes- I won’t hold a grudge. I say this because I fear that I no longer have any ability to stop once we get started,” he admitted, then added with a smirk, “You’re just becoming that irresistible to me, my sirsa.”

I wasn’t sure if that confession was something to adore or fear. He was telling me this like it was something casual, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something very important about what he’d said. There might’ve been a clue he’d just given me, but I couldn’t figure out how or what.

“Ah think ah can live wit’ that,” I replied, repeating his words with a smile. I probably shouldn’t, but I decided to ignore that feeling I was getting- I actually liked the explanation he’d given me. It made sense, it explained what was happening, and it made me feel better. No need to add more complicated details to it, lest I go back to my previous frustrations.

Besides, there were times when I honestly wanted to pull away, and I was not confused. Now that I knew a little more, I shouldn’t have any problems identifying those moments and get away. I had plenty of tricks to pull on him, after all.

“Good, now let’s settle down and warm each other up. It’s still early,” the blond suggested in a purr as he quickly guided me down to lay on my back.

The last thing I caught sight of was him descending upon me with the blankets held above his head before I was cloaked in semi-darkness and had a hot mouth clamping down on the top of my breast.

But while the rules had changed, the situation was the same as ever. Satel’s explanation of us growing up and accepting our inner selves was true, but it was only a small portion of what was happening- and it only came about because of the real cause. In the end, the conversation lessened my frustrations, but it still left a bit of doubt in me. As for Satel, that morning planted a seed of suspicion in his mind that not only threw him off from figuring out the truth, but also made the problem far, far worse.

To the Next Chapter

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