Interlude III

Interlude III

Matured Heart

            Oria had been everything to me- she was the only one, other than my parents, who had listened to my words and supported my ambitions. She was willing to question everything her clan had taught her and stood by my side as I fought against the Order of the Fates. But there was more to it than that- she had made me so happy. With her I had felt invincible and alive.

But in only one year, my joy and confidence was destroyed after I had failed to save my parents. All I could do was protect Satel from the rage of the Fates- and Oria tried to help me in any way she could. That was why she had answered the summons of her former clan- she wanted to plead to them to let me alone.

The Daedeleth were perhaps the most devout followers of the Fates, and when someone thought differently from them, they sought to destroy them. They wanted nothing more than my annihilation after my attempts to stop the sacrifice.

But my sweet Oria… When she faced her former elders, they held her captive- they had easily dismissed the blood they shared with her and used her to lure me into their grasp. I was still raw from the pain of losing my parents, but I was also young and passionate then. It did not take much for me to take up my sword and charge into the Daedeleth homestead, much to the chagrin of my own elders.

I knew it was a trap- I knew they wanted to find an excuse to have me executed. But I also knew they were planning to take her life under the ‘crime’ of being ‘seduced’ into my lifestyle. All I thought and cared about was saving her life, even if it was at the cost of my own. I also thought about Dantia and how she needed her mother more than she needed me- Oria’s life easily outweighed mine.

But when I reached the farthest depths of their homestead, I found my mate’s lifeless body, her wounds fresh from the execution. Upon my assault of their defenses, they took her life and waited for me- now that I was there, they had had no more use for her.

When I had seen her, all thoughts of revenge faded away and I acted before they could. I grabbed her body and fled long before the elders could disrupt my powers and capture me. I returned to the homestead broken and distraught, cradling her form in my arms.

It was that moment, and the later memory of my daughter’s funeral, that had plagued me for the rest of my life. Losing my two precious loved ones took away everything that I once was. I became a shadow of myself, simply wandering my old territories and performing good deeds, especially those that went against the Fates- acts that I felt Oria would have wanted me to do.

It wasn’t until I had met and adopted Tia that I finally felt some stirring of love again. My grief and resentment towards my elders and the Daedeleth slowly began to wane the more I focused on her and her upbringing. And while I had not been with my real daughter for long, I did still love her very much and had wanted the best for her, so that naturally bled in my interactions with my new daughter.

I could barely call myself a father with so little time with her, and at first I feared the consequences in trying to be one for a human child, but everything came to me naturally. I cared for her as much as I had for Dantia. Once I had overcome my hesitation in attempting fatherhood again, I felt no guilt in the idea that I was replacing my daughter. I could love both, and it was possible to have more than one falcie. Had Oria been alive, Dantia could have had a younger sibling that I would love just as much as I did her.

…But I could not love another woman as I had with Oria. This was why I feel so conflicted when I see Lioa’s face. She was a human woman- one who matched me in maturity and life experience. She had also lost her love when she was younger, and she could relate to the pain I felt when thinking of the past.

Tia had lost someone herself, but she had never been in love before meeting my brother. She did not know the torture it was to be parted from them. She could sympathize me on the same level of having lost someone through death, but her love for that person (which I assume was a relative or a parental figure) was not the same kind of binding love for a person one connected to very deeply. She had only just had a taste of that torment when Satel nearly lost his life, and I hope that she will never have to experience that, or worse, again.

I connected to Lioa in a very similar way as I had connected to Oria, but she was nothing like my late love. She was wise and mature, while Oria had been young, brimming with energy, and only had dreams instead of experiences.

Oria and I had become close because of our shared desire to change the world and free it from the Fates, while Lioa and I shared a desire to guide a young girl who was suffering from the cruelties of life. Both women were vastly different, and yet they were both exactly what I needed by my side. The only issue, one that disturbed me the most, was the fact that Lioa was the more practical choice for me

That was not to imply that I had fallen out of love with Oria, or that I was ungrateful for the sacrifices she had made for me. It was simply that my ideals and goals had matured as I aged. I was certain that had my mate lived and grown older with me, she would be much like Lioa is today. However… she was not here- and she was unable to age in my memories of her.

In my heart and my mind, I wanted Oria to be here, but that was not possible. I missed her and our daughter very much, but there was nothing I could do to bring them back. All I had were their final wishes- they both wanted me to be happy. If moving on would make them happy, then what right did I have to refuse it? I could no longer cling to the memories- I had to let them go and rest.

Lioa was here now and I felt a bond that was deep enough to bring me the same emotions I had felt with my past love. I also could not deny that I wanted her by my side. And with both my love’s blessings, I had no reason to hesitate.

…But even so, I could not completely forget the past- it would take some time before I could completely devote myself to her, but I had to make my intentions known today. I was seriously contemplating taking her for a mate, but unlike with Oria, I will not move so quickly. I do not wish to make the same mistakes I had done before, and I wanted to ensure that I could properly plan a secure future for the both of us.

I could sense that she felt the same way as I did- and my instinct told me that she was compatible with me. Someday we could both fondly recall our pasts and find comfort with one another without feeling guilty, of that I was certain.

I honestly did not think I would be walking down this corridor so soon, but after hearing my younger brother’s words about Dantia and Oria’s wishes, I knew I could not stall for much longer. With Lioa being human, I could not wait- I had to seize my opportunity to be happy with her while she was still among the living.

I had stalled for two days after my secret conversation with Tia and Satel. I had tried to focus completely on my investigation, but my mind kept wandering back to Lioa, and Oria’s wishes. If I wanted to maintain my focus, then I would have to face her and make my intentions known.

Aside from Garroe and Tia, Lioa was the only other person in the homestead I could confide in, and if I continued to hesitate around the matter, I might start to avoid her for no reason. Some part of me wanted to still my feet and wait a little longer, but I believed that was merely my reservations on taking a new partner.

I had no reason to think she would refuse me, but I did not have the resolve to move on just yet. …And yet, if I wait, that resolve will never come to me. Oh…

It was frustrating when I realized that I was going in circles- I must have agreed several times already that this needed to be done, only to justify my hesitation with excuses. I should just simply admit that I was nervous, scared, and partially guilty for what I was about to do.

Some time during my frantic musings, I had reached the door to the kitchen unit that Lioa worked in. I was still trying to sort out my thoughts and ended up just standing there, staring at the wood. When I realized this, I shook my head to clear it, then drew myself up to my full height before I knocked on the door.

I prayed in my mind that she was in there- I did not think I had the courage to face her in her… private chambers.

“Um… Come in.” Her voice was hesitant- she was likely surprised to have a visitor at this time. Since Satel had taken Tia with him on his missions, she did not have much company during the day. I will have to rectify that once I ascertain the problem with Elati and the other sea gods.

Usually the door was never closed, but we were in a three-day mourning period to fool any guests that might reveal the truth to Cyirlie. It was best to let her believe that Satel had passed- and it would not be unheard of for her to send an agent to confirm it. The elders had placed a massive barrier to keep her and other sea dragons out, so she could not see to the task herself.

Until the mourning was over, servants had to work behind closed doors and were not allowed to fraternize in the halls.

“Oh, Cegil, what a pleasant surprise!” Lioa greeted me with her usual smile. “You’ve returned awfully early.”

“I must confess that I have not yet left- I still have some business to attend to here,” I replied as I …nervously closed the door behind me. I was not so uncontrolled that I would allow my instincts to act, nor would it be considered improper if I so chose to become intimate with her in the privacy of the space, but…

It was simply too soon- I was not ready to push completely forward. I had thought about it on occasion since reluctantly developing these feelings for her, but I have yet to banish the guilty images of Oria creeping in the back of my mind. At least she was smiling in them now, rather than giving me a betrayed glare…

“I see- I still appreciate the visit. It has gotten lonely since Tia started going on missions. How long can you stay for?” the short woman inquired, her green eyes beckoning me closer. I loved her eyes, just like how I loved Oria’s.

“As long as you are willing to listen. …My business is actually with you.” I watched as a shade of pink dusted across her cheeks- I had to wonder if she already knew what I wanted to say. Lioa seemed to have been stirring a pot of stew when I had entered, but now it was completely forgotten.

“I-Is there something the matter with Tia?” she ended up stammering, covering up her initial thoughts with something more logical. Tia was the reason we had met, and she was often the focal point of our conversations.

But this wasn’t about Tia. “No- it is about you and I… and perhaps the nature of our future together.”

Her body tensed for a second, as she was clearly stunned from the implications of my words. Her reactions were completely understandable- after all the conversations and near tender moments we have shared, I never tried to seize the moment and progress our relationship. She knew there was something between us, but she had never said a word- perhaps fearing that pushing me would strain what we already had. She was always waiting for me, whether it was to speak on simple matters or to just enjoy each other’s company. Oh Lioa, how long have you been waiting for me to address this?

I could tell she wanted to reply, but the words seemed caught in her throat and she was unable to vocalize them. That was rather surprising, since she normally does not hesitate to speak her mind. It was then, when she faced me fully, that I became entranced by her eyes once more and could not stop myself.

There was really no need for words between us- all she was waiting for was a signal from me that I was ready to try. I placed my hands on the edge of the oven, taking care not to touch the hot area where the pot was simmering, before I leaned down and pressed my lips against hers gently.

A split second later, I was surprised with how forward I was being- I had planned a speech and a proposal to her, but all of that was forgotten in my desire to satisfy that one urge. It had taken her a moment before she recovered from the shock, but soon I felt her hands clenching my vest as she responded back to me.

This did feel right- I knew she was compatible with me and I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her. …But I had also desired the same notion with Oria. It was difficult acknowledging my love for Lioa when I still had feelings for someone who was no longer with me.

When I pulled away, we both had small grins playing upon our lips. Still, as enjoyable as that was, I had to make my position clear so that she would not be offended should a memory of my past haunt me.

“I apologize- I did not mean to be so bold,” I began after realizing that I had been rather rude in initiating a kiss without prior warning. I could have startled her and cause accidental harm should she have backed into the hot stove. But after that smile of hers turned into a knowing smirk- she usually did that as a silent way of insinuating that my words were not appropriate for the mood of the setting. Apparently she thought there was nothing wrong with what I had done.

Had I always been this clumsy in expressing myself when I was with Oria? Or was this something that only she could bring out in me?

“That’s fine. I didn’t mind it at all… but are you sure you’re ready? It wasn’t too long ago when you spoke fondly of your late love,” she pointed out, showing how supportive and understanding she was. I knew then that she had the patience to wait for me as long as needed- she was my pillar of sanity in the madness of life.

“I wish to try, though I would like to move at a steady and comfortable pace. For now, may I simply call on you?” I inwardly winced at my choice of words. While Lioa was close to the equivalent of my age, she was from a vastly different generation, and might not understand that I was merely asking permission to court her.

But thankfully, she did know and chuckled lightly before she gave a small nod. “Of course you may call on me, though I must warn you that I’m a busy woman. I might need to teach that girl how to make her own dinner if we want more time together.”

Thinking back on it, we already have spent a considerable amount of time together, and we know much about each other and our experiences. Though I was being formal when I asked to court her, I mean to do more than just talk. I wanted to freely giver her kisses and treat her to things she likes.

“Cegil,” Lioa called out, pulling me from my thoughts. She appeared a little serious, even a little shy as she told me, “If you wish to kiss me again, please do warn me beforehand.”

I was taken aback from her unexpected request before I grew concerned. Had I done something wrong?

But soon my worries were dispelled when a brilliant smile came to her features. “I would like the chance to stand on a chair so that you won’t hurt your neck trying to reach me.”

I laughed a little over the jest- at my height, I towered over everyone, and I had even had to bend down low to kiss Oria back then. But Lioa was even shorter than her- she was nearly half of my height.

“There is no need for that,” I replied before I leaned forward and wrapped my arms around her waist and under her backside.

“Oh my,” she muttered cutely in my ear as I lifted her with ease.

“You are not heavy at all- I can simply hold you up when we kiss,” I said with a smile as I stared straight into her eyes. She wrapped her arms around my neck for balance and returned the smile.

“Ah, I see. What a smart idea,” she commented as another blush threatened to color her cheeks again. This time, she initiated the kiss without fear or shame in regards to her own past and I did not think twice about returning the gesture.

I felt warm and content to have her near- I knew I was finally healing from my past wounds, and that I would be happy now. I can love both women, but I will devote myself to Lioa and protect her from any danger that may come.

I can now accept that Oria was my past, and Lioa is my future.

To the Next Chapter

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