16. Impending Storm

Chapter 16

Impending Storm

            When Cegil returned, the glare had not left his face. He was still upset with whatever he had heard inside and couldn’t seem to get out fast enough. Satel immediately dropped his stone wall act to approach and ask questions.

“What’s wrong? I thought you would be happy,” he said once the lavender haired falucite was close enough.

Happy?” Cegil echoed incredulously. “How is this right? The elders just decided this after my daughter’s death? Why did she have to die in the first place! How many deaths must it take for someone to come to their senses?!”

The über hat bastard fell silent over that as I stood up. I wasn’t sure what was going on, but I had a feeling my guardian would tell me later. All I needed to know was that we were certainly not staying here.

Satel waited until his brother passed him before he continued with, “But they’re willing to forgive you- they can give you back your powers and you can be with us again.”

“What the elders did was punish me, then realize they had made a grave error. They should be apologizing to me- not forgiving. I am relieved to know that the clan has strayed from the path and that you are in no real danger, but I want no part of this secrecy. I have no use for elders who let my mate and falcie die because of the Fates,” he replied without sparing him a glance.

Cegil glanced down at me to confirm if I was ready to go. I shouldered my travel pack and nodded back to him. After that, he sighed and turned his head towards Satel. “Even with this new change, I have no reason to stay. Too many bad memories.”

He began to walk away and I took that as a cue to follow him. I was curious to find out what was going on, but first we had to leave the jackass behind.

“…Then I suppose this is farewell,” the platinum blonde said, sounding almost downtrodden. I risked a glance behind me to find that he was staring at my back. His features didn’t display any anger- only pain and depression. For a moment, I mirrored that expression, but then pulled myself together to put on a stoic face and march onward with my guardian.

We headed south from the homestead, and walked quite a distance in silence until we found a flower field on the side of the road. Cegil finally broke down and destroyed an innocent boulder in blind rage. Even with his powers gone, he still had more than enough strength to smash it with his sword.

For some reason, I wasn’t surprised that this had happened, but at the same time, I had never seen him act this way. I knew he had been holding in his emotions this entire time, so he needed an outlet. I was simply grateful it wasn’t me- not that I believed that he would ever harm me.

When he finally calmed down, he sat amongst the flowers and beckoned me over.

“I apologize that you witnessed that,” he began as I sought for an area where I could sit without crushing any of the mix red-yellow blossoms.

“It’s okay- I think I do something like that often, but in smaller doses,” I admitted, thinking of my visits to the tavern. When I really think about it, I take my grief and anger out on the drunks.

“That does not make my actions right. It seems we should both find more positive ways to channel our anger,” he said as he buried the fingers of one hand into his thick hair.

Now that we were alone and calmed down, I wanted to ask what had happened, but I wasn’t sure if he was ready to tell. The fact that the cool, calm, and collected Cegil lost control meant that the news was pretty serious.

“…The elders finally decided to turn against the Fates,” my guardian eventually told me on his own after a moment of silence.

He then explained how Dantia’s death made the elders see the Fates for what they truly were- fakes. Everyone was under a misconception that the immortals could tell us our guaranteed futures. But all they were really doing was telling us what to do. Cegil’s daughter wasn’t supposed to die, nor did the Fates warn anyone that she could be in danger.

When the elder’s realized this, they knew they could no longer follow them and risk more lives. But the Daedeleth clan didn’t see it like that and assumed Dantia’s death was retribution for Cegil’s betrayal to the Fates. They were just as, if not more, loyal to the Fates now and would easily turn against the Xanaturis if they knew.

This was why Cegil’s clan was being so secretive- they didn’t want to destroy more lives with some silly religious war. As it turned out, Satel’s ceremony was going to be staged and not official- giving him the freedom to later find a mate if he wanted to. However, if Cegil were to participate, then the elders hoped to ‘save’ the life of one of the Daedeleth members and have a real ceremony. They figured the tall man deserved a second chance, even if he could possibly never fall in love with a second mate.

“They are well aware that it is difficult for one to move on from a lost loved one, so they are not going to force me into it. Since it is all a ruse to throw off our clan neighbors, we no longer need to be involved. Satel will be just fine,” he finished as he picked a young bud and stared at it.

I huffed some at his last statement- who cared if he would be fine? I couldn’t even believe I was worried over him in the first place! All of that running around and being kidnapped just to find out that the clan had secretly turned over a new leaf? How anticlimactic and annoying! And what was with Satel’s ‘I wanted to enjoy my last months of freedom’? What ‘freedom’ was he talking about? He sure liked to make his predicament sound bad. I just- ugh! I didn’t want to think about him right now!

I glowered some and thought back on the whole journey through the Wastelands and the reason we came in the first place. “There must be more to it than that- didn’t you come here because of the rumors started by Maetira?”

“Everyone wanted me to know what was really happening- before the Daedeleth decided to step in and take matters into their own hands. By luring me home, the clan actually spared me from being captured by them and forced against my will.”

Suddenly everything Satel and Maetira told us started to fit. They were guiding us away from the Daedeleth, the real enemy, and were trying to lead us to safety- all without compromising the true mission of the clan. So, his clan wasn’t really bad- they were just…messed up. They thought they were doing the right thing back then and were now trying to make up for their mistakes. I believe Cegil recognized that, but couldn’t completely abandon his grievance with the elders.

The bud was tiny in his massive hand- and easily crushed it when he clenched his fist.

“Ever since I had first gone against my reading and professed my hatred of the Fates, the elders did everything they could to silence me. My mating to Oria was a ‘gift’ you could say, but she ended up believing in my ideals and supported me. Together, we were the antithesis to the will of the Fates- we went against them despite the shame it brought both our clans. We were blessed with a daughter, even though they began to condemn us.”

I listened quietly as Cegil talked about his past. He did promise to tell me about it once the ordeal with the clan was over, but I didn’t anticipate it being so soon. I thought it would take him a few more days. He mentioned the happier times with his mate and the birth of his daughter- then he came to Satel’s birth and the call for a sacrifice by the Fates.

His face darkened as he told me how he protested the Fates’ decision and swore to save his father. Both he and Oria disrupted the ritual, only to have his mother sacrificed, too, as punishment for his behavior. Ordinarily, Cegil should’ve been killed, but the Fates claimed to have ‘mercy’ on him since he had a falcie. Apparently having daughters granted couples special privileges.

I privately wondered how much of that was the Fates fault over what the Daedeleth believed. Most of what Cegil described was the actions of his mate’s clan, almost like they were using the Fates as an excuse. It was the Daedeleth that held the sacrificial ritual, since no one would expect Cegil’s elders to destroy one of their own. And it was also the Daedeleth who decided to kill the mother to rebuke Cegil.

“They really had it in for you, didn’t they?” I commented. “But what happened to Oria when it was over?”

“Even though she was no longer part of their clan, her former elders called her back and made an example of her. Unlike my clan, they didn’t care about the weight of a life and most likely wanted to chastise me further. They believed I had poisoned her and that she had no right to live and spread our heresy. They would have gone for my blood if they could- but all they could do was pressure my elders. I am certain exile was the last thing they would have wanted for me,” he responded bitterly.

“What? That’s…that’s…” I stumbled to find the right words to express my outrage. How could anyone decide another’s right to live? “How come you didn’t fight them?! If the Daedeleths are that cold hearted, then maybe they shouldn’t have the right to live!”

“I did fight them… I stormed their homestead alone, seeking revenge for my parents and for my mate’s freedom. But all my actions caused was Oria’s death,” Cegil told me solemnly before he closed his eyes. “Maybe if I had not been so brash, they would have let her live.”

…So that’s what Cegil meant when he told me about the price of revenge. And all this happened just because he didn’t want to follow the Fates? It was just so… wrong- he didn’t deserve that outcome and both his clan and the Daedeleth had no right to treat him and his mate the way they did.

“Cegil…I…” I wasn’t sure what to say. I didn’t expect such a sad past like his- it was so similar to mine, with only a few minor differences. I understood exactly what he was going through and knew how much it hurt to not only lose loved ones, but to also be betrayed my own family…well- crew.

Though, unlike Cegil, I haven’t tried to exact revenge on those who had wronged me. I wanted to, but I didn’t think I would ever see them again. I was somehow whisked away to the other side of the world with no way to get back. Even to this day I still didn’t know how I managed to get to this continent.

“You need not console me- it is in the past and I should move on now,” my guardian replied before he fell back. The move was so sudden that I’d thought he had collapsed, but he was still conscious and had a rather relaxed look on his face.

“The elders should have listened to me long before now. If they had, none of the tragedy would have happened. It is a bitter victory, but I have won in the end,” he continued, sounding both resigned and relieved. “I still hold some grief and despair, but I have finally obtained closure.”

Nothing more was said as he closed his eyes and meditated. Then again, he could’ve been taking a nap- I couldn’t blame him, since he went through so much emotional drama. I couldn’t help but reflect on the irony of it all- the only living person I trusted walked the same path I had and felt the same pain. I suppose it made sense that I came to be by his side.

But now that Cegil had had his closure, he was never the same again. The weight had been lifted from his soul and he was finally able to let go and move on with his life. He vowed that his mate and daughter’s sacrifice would not be in vain- and he knew he couldn’t do that while being shackled to his past.

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

It had been five days since we had visited the homestead. We managed to traverse through three towns before we settled in a place called Cahoa. During the first day, we walked as if we were survivors of some natural disaster. But when the second came around, we became more lively and hopeful that things would return to normal.

On the third day, a messenger from the Xanaturi clan told us to stay still for a while. Even though Cegil was still upset with them, he chose to follow their orders for the time being. All they were doing was keeping us safe and arranging means for us to travel. They were having a small cart constructed for us and we had to wait until the carpenters were done.

Until then, the clan covered the lodgings and whatever expenses we made. The place we were staying at wasn’t as opulent as the inn Satel paid for in Si’anduxki- but it was adequate and contained the basic needs. It was a good-sized room in the same design of a typical two-bed living spaces and it had an adjacent bathroom with all the necessities. The walls were an interesting mint green color and the floors were shiny hardwood.

Cahoa itself was a lot like Sodola with stone and brick everywhere. The town square was more of a ‘circle’ and the entire city circled around it. Cahoa was much larger than Sodola and had less of a story, but the town had a special feature that outmatched the other towns of the west coast. They perched a giant stone balcony off the edge of the cliffside, allowing people to hover over the ocean and gaze at its beauty.

But the inn we stayed at was far from their landmark, and so I didn’t dare stray from Cegil’s side to see it. My guardian and I had been spending much more time together as of late- we even started going to the tavern together. Ever since his meltdown in the meadow, he had been acting less stiff and formal. He attempted to express more emotion and actually seemed a lot happier.

He told me that he was trying to recover his old self, back before the tragedy happened, but he knew it would still take some time before he was able to completely move on. He had lived in depression for so long that it warped his personality and changed who he really was. All this time, I only knew the stoic guardian, but I was a little curious to meet the ‘old Cegil’ from the past.

I was happy with the change and the extra time we spent together, but every now and then, I would think back on the fight I’d had with Satel. I couldn’t get him out of my mind and I still didn’t know if I had done something wrong or if it was just him in a bad mood. Some part of me couldn’t believe I had actually apologized to him- usually, when I had to verbally strike out against someone, I meant it.

This was the first time I honestly regretted my actions and I had to wonder if Cegil’s lessons were truly starting to sink in. But why did I want Satel’s forgiveness? Did I just want to feel better? Or did I actually care about what he thought?

Even with Cegil’s company, I felt lonely without that white-blonde bastard around to pester me. In the times I was alone to bathe or get dressed, I would think back on the short time we had together and mentally kick myself for some of the things I’d had said to him. I think… I might actually miss him…

I still wore that torn nightgown, even though I never told Cegil what had happened that morning in Cec’re. Embarrassed, I had been waiting for him to go to sleep or leave the room before I would get in or out of bed. But sooner or later, I need to get a new one, and I will have to mention something to my guardian. I just… didn’t want to right now. Because, even though it came from an awkward situation – it still brought on a memory of Satel.

I think I now know why I cried at the homestead. It wasn’t my hormones- I was upset that we’d had that fight and that we’ll probably never speak to each other again. I didn’t want to admit it, but I did like Satel- and perhaps if I had known him longer, I could’ve even loved him. But I guess it’s over now.

It was kind of surprising that I even thought that way though- I didn’t want a relationship to begin with, and yet Satel had somehow managed to change my mind. I just… couldn’t stop the feelings I’d had when we kissed…

I couldn’t deny that there was something there, but I wasn’t sure if that was good or bad. I would like to have more control over situations where I’m alone with others, but Satel overwhelmed me at times and made me want to back away again to regain my space. But at the same time, I liked it when he took charge.

It bothered me, how much that fight affected me. I wasn’t sure why I couldn’t just let go and forget about him- it wasn’t like things would have worked out between us anyway. I wasn’t sure what was going on with the ceremony, but I was under the impression that we weren’t getting into anything serious.

But when I really thought about it, I realized that I didn’t want to end the relationship with hard feelings. I believed that was why I’d had that lingering sadness hanging over me. Since he pushed me away, even after my apology, it was clear that he wanted nothing to do with me anymore. Or- did he decide that long before I had tried to confront him?

He did avoid me without my influence and tried to say as little as possible to me. Was that even my fault? Or was his mind elsewhere and my annoying him made him snap? I kind of wish I could ask him, but I don’t think I’ll see him again. He’d have come by already if he’d wanted to see me.

I tried not to let it get to me, but even Cegil noticed my down behavior after a while. He usually respected my privacy, but after seeing how I wasn’t in good spirits, he did try to get me to talk. I only gave him little detail about the fight we’d had and tried to act as though I was upset that Satel had had the last word.

But my guardian saw through me and quickly figured out why I was really sad. I denied it, of course, but that was my pride trying to protect me from ridicule. Though after it was all said and done, Cegil didn’t have any sardonic remarks for me- he was sympathetic and tried to console me.

“I am sorry for what has happened and the pain you must be feeling. Not everything works out the way you want it to, but sometimes it happens for the greater good. If you were not meant to be with my brother, then that simply means that there is someone else waiting for you,” he told me as I lay down on my bed.

“I don’t want anyone else,” I mumbled, not catching the implication of my words at the time. What I was trying to say was that I didn’t want to go through this again with another, but it came out as if I were truly set on Satel.

I suppose not all relationships ended the same and I shouldn’t assume that it would happen again, but how could I kiss another man and not think about him? I’m not even sure how I came to feel differently for him in the first place. Satel was the first and the only one to really get my attention- I don’t think at this point that I possibly could become interested in anyone else.

“So you say, but over time the pain will dull and you might feel ready to move onward. Do not let past experiences inhibit you from forming bonds again,” Cegil reassured me as he resumed staring out the window. Sometimes I wondered what the giant was looking for out there. Surely he would eventually tire of the scenery?

“You’re making it sound like I’m heartbroken or something. I just feel bad about what I said to him, that’s all,” I insisted in a loud voice to ensure that he didn’t misread my problem. I was no expert, but I thought one had to be in love in order to be heartbroken. …Though even I felt like that was an excuse- while what I had said was technically true, I shouldn’t be feeling this way over a petty squabble.

I should be angry and thinking of reasons why Satel was in the wrong. Instead, I’m just lying in a bed, moping about how much I missed his presence. I could be picking on dunks at a tavern by now (or doing something else that didn’t cost money)- but no, I keep thinking about him!

I rolled over and eventually jumped out of bed.

“I need some air,” I announced as I headed for the door.

“That might not be a wise choice,” Cegil warned me as he kept his eyes trained on something he could see outside.

I figured he was worried about me heading off to the tavern and decided to reassure him. “No, I’m not going anywhere far. I just want to take a short walk.”

“That is not what I mean. There is a storm approaching,” he pointed out cryptically as I tried to see past his long hair to view the sky.

Sure enough, the horizon showed darkened grey clouds from the West and it made it seem like it was getting dark early. It didn’t appear as if there were any clouds over the town yet, so I could get away with a small excursion.

“That’s okay- I’m not afraid of getting wet,” I reassured him as I opened the door. It wasn’t as if I had anything better to do- and I didn’t want to be accused of moping around.

“Very well, but be careful out there. If you feel you are in peril, do not hesitate to call for me,” he called to my back as I headed out. I paused for a moment and glanced back at him curiously.

Where did that come from? I could understand him being worried that I might get struck by lightning, but he was acting as if I could run into someone dangerous.

“Okay,” I replied slowly before heading off. I dismissed it as him going into fatherly mode since I was not in my usual good cheer.

We were on the top floor of a two-story building and it didn’t occur to me that Cegil could’ve been watching someone from above. It wasn’t until I opened the main door that I realized that my guardian had been speaking of a different storm- outside stood Satel, wearing the same serious façade as the last time I had seen him.

Perhaps I should’ve seen this coming with the way Cegil gave that warning. I had a feeling he didn’t want me to panic over the news that his brother was nearby and decided to let me find out the hard way if I insisted on going out. Of course, who knew? Maybe the tall man was having a private laugh over seeing us encounter each other- though I couldn’t imagine him being so cruel.

Initially I was shocked to see him there, then I felt a slight rush of happiness before it faded back into my earlier mood when I noticed that he was still acting strangely. But unlike last time, Satel was able to look me in the eye as he crossed the distance to stand before me.

I wasn’t sure why he was standing outside of the inn, but I couldn’t imagine he was waiting for me to come out. There was no way he could’ve known that I would come out that night, but at the same time, he might not have expected it either. I remained where I was and gripped the wood of the door like it was a shield to cover me. I had no reason to hide, but I couldn’t stop myself from preparing preventative measures in case something went wrong again.

Satel held his hand out to me before he ordered in a controlled tone, “We need to talk- come with me.”

I stared at his hand for some time as I wondered what he was up to. Even though I was glad to see him, I couldn’t prevent myself from putting up a front. I didn’t want him to know how much I had missed him or how much his words affected me that day. I feared that it would either go to his ego or somehow anger him further.

“Why should I go anywhere with you? If you need to say something, say it here,” I insisted stubbornly. I wasn’t in the mood to follow his instructions- but he was also not in the mood to deal with my stubbornness.

“I wish to go somewhere a little private and away from my brother’s ears. We really should talk about what happened between us, else we’ll both end up having regrets,” he replied before he reached out and took one of my hands.

Before I knew it, I was yanked away from the entrance with the door slamming shut behind me. He didn’t wait long to firmly wrap his larger hand around mine and started leading me away from the inn. I knew he was right about the fact that we needed to talk about our last fight, but I was a little unnerved about his attitude. He didn’t seem mad- it was more like he was holding something back. Perhaps he was bottling in his emotions like Cegil had done and was only a few biting words away from exploding.

I tried to pull my hand free from his grasp, but he was holding me fairly tight. When that failed I dug my heels into the cobblestone and demanded, “Where are you taking me? And what about an apology first?”

At this he did pause for a second before he effortlessly pulled me toward him and resumed walking. “You’ll see, and yes, I forgive you for what you had said. …In truth, I understand why you might’ve thought the way you had.”

I gritted my teeth and chose not to growl in frustration- that wasn’t what I meant! I wanted an apology from him for brushing me off as he did and being so confrontational. I temporarily ignored the fact that I was trying to grill answers out of him before and possibly agitated him to that point, but still- his last remark to me really did hurt.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure why I wanted an apology, really. I think I just wanted the upper hand or reassurance that I wasn’t at fault. But, I found myself calming down a little and felt a little relieved that he forgave me. I had been worried about that and knowing that he didn’t really hold a grudge against me took away my concern that the fight was completely my fault. I’m sure I still had some blame to partake, but it wasn’t all on me.

Satel led me all the way across town to the stone balcony over the sea. I was almost reminded of the time I was in Osel- Cahoa was just as crowded as the city and we had to squeeze by the masses to get to our destination. The balcony was void of other people and most of the sky was covered in clouds. Only a small portion of the eastern horizon was still clear, but it was already darkened and showing stars. I couldn’t tell if the sun was still setting or if it had been long gone.

Once I realized that the falucite had let go of me, I cautiously wandered over to the guardrail to peer down at the sea. It appeared angry and churning as the winds picked up. I could see the waves getting bigger and they were colliding almost violently against the cliff. This meant that the approaching storm was strong and it was probably not a good idea to be out in the open like this.

I soon realized that Satel was standing beside me with both hands on the railing. The breeze was strong enough to make our braids fly, but it wasn’t loud enough to drown out our voices- yet. But his über hat stayed diligently on his head, most likely due to magicks. I found myself backing away slightly as my ears picked up a rumble from the distance.

When I was little, I had actually loved storms- though being on a ship during one was actually very dangerous. Back then, I was ordered to stay inside, but I had fun jumping on the moving furniture as the ship swayed strongly against the volatile waves. The Wise Man never did appreciate the mess my dirty feet made of his bed sheets…

But now, I feel differently about the rain and lightning. I wasn’t afraid of them, per say- it was more of an anxious feeling, like I was expecting someone to come and scold me. Perhaps I was feeling ashamed- after all, I haven’t been on the sea for almost twelve years and Elati, the goddess of storms, was a goddess of seafarers. Hearing her thunderous call made me worry that she held a grudge against me for walking upon the land for so long.

But I was being silly- this was merely a creation of hers sent to quench the thirst of the earth goddesses. I doubt Elati would leave her waters to punish an insignificant whelp like me.

Suddenly, the electric street lamps came on, signaling the start of nightfall. There were four of them on the balcony- two at the points where the railing meets the town wall and two spaced evenly apart close to the center. They cast a whitish light down on us and gave Satel’s fair skin an almost ghostly appearance. As for me, my tanned skin just appeared darker, like it had been bruised. …What a hideous lighting system.

“‘Tia,” he started to say, still facing out at the ocean, “I’m so sorry about how I had treated you the other day. I had thought it was time to end the relationship and had mistakenly believed that it would have been easier for us if you left me while angry. But, I was wrong and I take no pride in making you cry.”

“I-I didn’t cry,” I stammered, embarrassed that he had caught me. “I just had something in my eye.”

Damn… Was that the best I could come up with? No one believed that excuse! I could hear a soft ‘heh’ from the bastard as he shook his head. His braid gently swayed with it against the wind.

It was then that I picked up what he was trying to tell me. I had finally gotten the apology I was waiting for, but I also found out that he was trying to break up with me. I was starting to understand what he was trying to pull off then- he assumed that I disliked him enough that I would cut things off with him if we were to get into a fight. And- I did try to give him that impression…

“Even so, I truly regretted the outcome. I acted like a falcie when I should be acting more like an adult. I wish to rectify my mistake by explaining my intentions,” he continued, choosing not to call me out on my blatant lie.

How was calmly telling me that we were breaking up going to make things better? …But as I reflected on it during the following silence, I realized that it was a more favorable outcome than feeling lingering resentment towards him. I was miserable since that fight, so if we could end on mutual terms, then maybe I could return to my normal life.

Now I was somewhat glad I had decided to bring my-his sword with me. If we were truly cutting ties, then I should return it. I didn’t want to carry anything that would make me reminisce about him. Of course, that would also mean I should find a new sheath for the knife and throw away that nightgown, too…

I wasn’t trying to act like a spoiled brat with that idea- it’s just that it would feel strange to keep his gifts if nothing was going to come out of the short relationship I had with him. As for the nightgown- I kind of needed to get a new one anyway.

“Well…okay,” I responded in a tone that was nearly inaudible against the wind. “But please be quick about it- that storm must be getting close.”

As if to prove my claim, there was a flash of light, followed by a deep rumble about five seconds later.

Satel didn’t seem to care about it- perhaps his magicks could protect him or something. He did nod to acknowledge my concern, but still needed time to gather his words. I knew he didn’t want to hurt my feelings again.

“It has come to my attention that I need to be decisive and take responsibility for whatever I choose to do. I can no longer play around as I used to and I have the ceremony to think about…” he began as I listened carefully.

I still didn’t know what was going on with that, considering it was supposed to be staged, but I could see where he was coming from. He made it very clear that he wanted to help his clan and probably realized that he needed to grow up in order to do that. Satel shouldn’t have time to fool around with other women when he had work to do.

Knowing this didn’t make it any easier, but I felt less like I was the cause of the termination. I knew this was supposed to end- I was just hoping it would last a little longer. I steeled myself to hear the last bit of his speech so that I didn’t appear upset or make it obvious to him that I was a bit disappointed over it.

I couldn’t see his face, but I could see his ungloved hands gripping the guard tightly. “…So you should know that I have finally come to an important conclusion- I am ready to shoulder any burden that may come along and I will not run away from my responsibilities.”

Satel then sharply turned to face me and then drew close to the point where our noses were only a hairbreadth away. He then announced the exact opposite of what I was expecting-

“You will be my mate.”

“Huh? …What?!” I nearly shouted as I backed away. It took me a moment to really determine if I had heard right. But there was that predatory glint in his eyes along with that familiar smirk to his thin lips. He wasn’t laughing over my reaction- he was serious.

“You will be my mate,” he repeated for me as he closed the distance between us again. I shook my head slightly and continued to back away to retain some breathing space, but he ended up following me.

“W-wait a second- I don’t follow. I thought you wanted to end the relationship?” I said incredulously as I tried to turn away from him. He sidestepped around me to cut off my attempt to escape. Unless I could somehow run around him, I was trapped between him and the crashing sea behind me. I nearly jumped when one of arms managed to snake around me and rest on my lower back.

“I attempted to, but I care too much about you to just let you go. You’re constantly on my mind and I know it would be impossible for me to forget you. So, you’re mine now,” he declared before his lips descended upon mine.

I was overwhelmed by the rapid change in tenor and could barely respond to it all. One moment, I was bracing myself for an official break-up and now he wanted to have a life-long commitment with me? That was waaay too fast!

I tried to get away by placing my hands on his chest, but he soon cradled my jaw with his free hand and tightened his arm around me. I had no choice but to let him end the kiss and wait for my moment to talk him out of it. I just wanted to date him for a little longer- not mate with him! I wasn’t ready for such a thing- and I only knew him for as little as a month. That wasn’t enough time for me to know if I could live with him for the rest of my life.

…Or should I say the rest of his life? If I were to become his mate, then my life would be extended so that I could live as long as he would. A millennium was a long time- and it wasn’t attractive enough of a perk to just convince me to throw caution to the wind like that.

During the kiss, my traitorous heart fluttered a little and I almost felt like melting in his embrace. If I hadn’t received that shock, I could’ve been enjoying this. I soon felt his tongue tracing my mouth, demanding that I allow him entry, but I kept it firmly shut in hopes that he would back off and let me have my say.

“Wait- stop for a moment!” I pleaded in a near breathless voice when he finally relented.

“Wait?” he echoed dubiously, “I’ve waited long enough to find you and I’m not waiting another day. I want you and I will have you.”

I embarrassed myself by accidentally letting out a panicked squeak and turned my head so he couldn’t kiss me again. Somehow I managed enough strength to push away from him and regained my balance before I could hit the rail behind me. I took only a second to examine my surroundings before trying to run past him.

Some part of me knew it was going to be a futile attempt, but I was too panicked to give up on the hope. Satel easily caught an arm before I could get past him and effortlessly spun me around so that my back was flush against his chest. One of his hands rested firmly on my belly while the other drifted dangerously close to my breasts.

“No need to be worried, mate. I’ll take good care of you,” he purred against my neck before he nipped me through my clothing. My heart was pounding in my ears so loudly that it almost drowned out the next boom of thunder.

Worried? I was so discombobulated that I couldn’t tell what I was even feeling anymore. I was expressing something akin to fear- only because I wanted time away to think and I wasn’t getting it. I struggled almost violently to gain my freedom, but he seemed to anticipate my every move.

“Let go! I don’t want to be your mate!” I yelled as I grabbed at the hand that tried to cover my chest.

“Oh? Why not? I distinctly remember you admitting that you wanted me,” Satel replied coyly into my ear.

“I was drunk!” I screeched with a blush, instantly remembering that moment. All because I was curious about the idea of sex with him didn’t mean that I wanted to be his mate- or did I? I don’t know! “I’m not ready for this and I barely know you!”

“There’s nothing to be ready for. All I’m giving you is a home to stay in and a family to be apart of. You don’t have to change yourself or your lifestyle,” he explained, keeping his lips close to my cheek, “As for knowing me, you may not know my past or my aspirations, but you do know who I am. You might even know me better than my own siblings.”

Did I truly know him? Was everything I had witnessed about him all that he was? I’ve done nothing but accuse him of things he didn’t do and push him away because I was worried about getting attached to him. If anything, why would he want to be with me? And why would I want to be part of a family that did Cegil wrong?

Of course, I also couldn’t forget about my guardian- being mated to Satel may mean that I would never see Cegil again. I knew he was capable of living without me, but after the time I spent with my father figure, how could I abandon him now? In fact, Cegil was one of the main reasons I didn’t want to be in a relationship in the first place. I didn’t want to lose another father.

The only reason I hadn’t pushed Satel away from me on day one was because he was attractive to me, and he was the first man I had ever been genuinely interested in. This was why I was so uncertain and confused… and I couldn’t take it anymore!

In all honesty, I was surprised I hadn’t gone berserk sooner. I pulled every move I knew, even though he was ready for me. Somehow, I managed to slip out of his arms and I immediately kicked the back of his knees so he would fall. I then used the short opportunity to run back into the city and immersed myself in the dense crowd of people.

All I wanted to do was get away from him and have a moment to myself. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to refuse him or if I wanted to entertain the thought of ‘married life’ with him. I needed time.

But Satel didn’t seem to understand what I was going through. His decision was made and he was going to follow through with it. I pushed against many people and earned some derogatory remarks for my lack of manners, but I couldn’t care less about them. I couldn’t seem to get away from him- every time I turned, I could see his face amidst the sea of bodies.

“Oh, ‘Tia-dear…” a voice purred near by. I whipped my head around to ascertain where he was, but I couldn’t see him. I nearly screamed when he suddenly appeared before me. But he didn’t reach out and try to grab me- he was content to let me plow through another group. It wasn’t long before he was in front of me again.

He let out a grin as he tipped his über hat at me. “You know, you should have told me you didn’t want to stop playing games. I’m more than willing to play Cat and Mouse with you.”

“I’m not playing! Leave me alone!” I growled as I changed direction. By the time he blocked my path a third time, I realized that this was just an illusion- he wasn’t really in front of me. All he was doing was slowing me down so he could catch up.

I had to somehow break it before I ran into the real Satel. Without really thinking about it, I raised my hand and bit down hard enough to draw blood. Cegil once told me how illusions worked, and while I didn’t really understand the details of it, I knew intense pain could help disrupt it. My eyes began to water as I tasted iron on my tongue, but soon the image of Satel began to fade.

Very clever.

I believed that was him throwing his voice with his magicks so I could hear him from the distance. I wasn’t sure where he really was, but I felt I still had a chance to get away.

But I fear you are outmatched.”

Just as that reached my ears, there was some screaming. I turned towards the source and found that bystanders were being slightly tossed in the air. The mysterious wave that was causing it was heading straight for me. I raised my arms to defend myself, only to have a strong breeze hit me. When it was over, there was a straight line void of people, and at the end of it was the grinning monster.

No one seemed to be really hurt from his antics, just surprised and a little winded. I noted that it became really silent as everyone in the spacious area wondered what had happened. Satel began walking down the cleared path, causing me to quickly come up with my next plan.

“RUN EVERYONE! IT’S A FALUCITE!” I shouted at the top of my lungs. The reaction was instantaneous- there was more screaming before everyone panicked and ran in random directions. They didn’t know whom I was referring to or if my warning was legitimate- though with that shock of people being knocked down, I doubt anyone had the grounds to dismiss me.

The ensuing chaos gave me the distraction that I needed. I could see Satel being jostled around and unable to pull any tricks for the time being. Though at the same time, I was being pushed and pulled in random directions as well. I tried to follow the flow away from the center and eventually found myself clutching the corner of some building. I pulled myself into the alley that was next to it and was given a short moment of peace.

No one wanted to come here and I assumed that was because the electric lamps didn’t reach into the recesses of the concealed paths. Thankfully, it wasn’t completely dark in the alley and the frequent lightning from the storm helped show me the smaller passages. I decided to use them in hopes I could get back to the inn and under Cegil’s protection without fighting the crowds or being in plain sight for Satel to find me.

No wonder why the über hat man dragged me all this way- I was too far for Cegil to hear me call out to him. But was he really trying to prevent his brother’s interference, or did he have another reason behind it? When I thought about it, Satel could’ve easily subdued me sooner. Maybe he wanted the thrill of the hunt?

I cursed darkly when I turned a corner and found a dead end. From here, the only way out was to go back into the streets or backtrack a little and find a new path. I wasn’t too keen on the idea of going out in the open again, so I was about to turn around. But before I could do so, I heard a grunt and found that someone had landed behind me.

Before I could control myself, I let out a gasp and whirled around to face the person. I then placed a hand on my chest and let out a sigh of relief upon finding that it wasn’t Satel.

“Oh thank Elit- it’s just a thug,” I muttered. I had to rely on flashes of lightning to be able to distinguish his features, but he seemed to be a man around my age, dressed in tattered clothing and had facial hair around the chin and above the lip. His hair was short and matted, like he hadn’t groomed in weeks and had used a knife to cut it. Unfortunately, that was all I could make out about him.

The strange man made a noise as he acted offended by my remark. “That’s rude y’know. I can be Kajros’ gift to women if you’d let me. Then again- why should I allow you to feel any pleasure? You’re the one trespassing on my turf after all.”

“Oh, pardon me,” I replied sardonically as I reached behind me for the gun tucked into my belt. It was still unloaded, but I figured it would be enough to scare him away. I wasn’t in the mood to beat up some overbearing idiot, nor did I have the time to. I pointed the barrel at his chest and added, “If Kajros sent ye, then ah should give ye a return gift from Elit.”

I deliberately went back to my native accent since I felt that it sounded ‘tougher’ than when not using it. For a moment, the man did seem shocked and backed away a little, but then he adopted a smug attitude and crossed his arms.

“Heh, this isn’t the first time a woman tried to draw a gun on me,” he declared proudly, as if he knew something. “But you’ve never killed a man before and would never dare to pull that trigger- not unless you want to see blood.”

Was that a theory? Or had he managed to take advantage of another woman who pulled a similar stunt? If it was the former, then it was a fairly stupid assessment. When it came to a life or death survival choice, we end up doing things that we’re not proud of.

“Ah’ve killed men before- twice in fact,” I told him honestly. One was an accident and the other was done out of survival. But it was true that I was not aiming to kill this man- however, that didn’t mean I couldn’t take him down if I had to.

“Heh, cute. Trying to sound tough when you’re probably a scared little girl under that seafarer act.”

“Fine, ye want me ta beat ye up the ol’ fashion way, then so be it,” I responded in an annoyed tone as I stored the gun in my belt once again and punched the man square in the jaw. I wasn’t sure if he was sly or a total idiot- I didn’t care, as I was more preoccupied with ignoring the pain from the hand I had previously bitten. I instinctually used it instead of my other one. I ended it quickly by grabbing him by his shirt and tossing him over against the dead end wall.

He let out a groan of pain as he recovered on the ground and I assumed that he got the message that I wasn’t someone he could mess with. Strangely, I felt a little better after dealing with him- it was proof that I wasn’t easily intimidated and that I could still handle my own protection. It was just Satel that apparently could reduce me into a quivering woman- …I wasn’t sure if I liked that…

It wasn’t until I turned to head back the way I came when I heard a war cry and realized the man was back on his feet and charging at me. He had what appeared to be a strip of wood and he intended to bludgeon me with it. I managed to dodge his first swing and was about to draw my sword to defend myself, but the man was suddenly lifted off his feet and flung harshly against the side of the wall.

His body slowly slid down and his head slumped forward, showing that he was unconscious this time. My gaze traveled from the delinquent’s prone form to the shadowy figure at the mouth of the alley. He was covered in the backlight of the lamps, but I easily recognized the silhouette of that über hat.

“There you are, sirsa. That was another interesting trick you pulled,” Satel commented smoothly as he causally walked in. “You are proving to be quite the adversary in this little game- in fact I’m more convinced than ever that you do belong by my side.”

He didn’t seem to acknowledge the other man, even though he had just used his magicks to fling him aside. I felt myself swallow nervously as he raised his hand towards me. There was another flash of lightning before I felt a fluttery sensation at the back of my head. I saw my hair band in the corner of my eye as it flew past me and into his waiting hand. Cool strands then floated down against my back, arms, and over my shoulders before I realized that he had loosened my hair.

“Much better,” he cooed as he took a few more steps closer. “I can’t wait to see your hair splayed on my bed when I take you.”

Damn it, he made me make that panicked squeak again. I couldn’t stop the blush as a vivid image of being trapped beneath his body in bed came to mind. At the very least, this ordeal with Satel was helping me invent new ways to escape situations. I unsheathed the sword at the last second and pointed the tip at him before he could get too close to me.

The falucite paused mid step and lowered his eyes to examine the blade before he raised them to meet mine. “Are you challenging me, ‘Tia-dear?”

Raising a sword to another was a traditional way of calling for a duel, but the implications to falucite were much more severe. To challenge someone stronger than oneself gives the opponent the excuse to kill when otherwise the strong should spare the weak.

“O’ course not! Ah know ah have no chance against ye- Ah’m jus’ tryin’ ta get out o’ this situation with me virginity in tact,” I replied, blushing more when I had to acknowledge that I knew exactly what he wanted to do to me. In the blink of lightning, I could see his grin widen at my words.

“Is that so? You should know there is nothing special about being a virgin- in fact losing it isn’t as scary as you humans try to make it sound,” he quipped, not one bit daunted by the fact that I was holding a sword tip near his chest.

“Tch! Don’t talk ta me about that! Yer still a virgin yerself!” I growled with a sneer. But, his species were well informed about sex without having to actually experience it. Technically, it didn’t matter if he was one or not- he still knew more about it than I did.

“Actually, ‘virgin’ is a human term- I’m simply unmated. But I won’t be that way for long,” he finished in a deeper tone, leaving me to imagine the primal smirk he must’ve been making in the darkness.

I backed away quickly until I was close to the dead end wall before I let out a battle cry. I raised the sword and swung down like I really wanted to strike him. As I suspected, he raised his arm and used some kind of invisible shield to protect his self. In that instant, I dropped the hilt and ran past him. I could hear the sword clatter to the ground, but I didn’t dare to look back and to see if I had really stunned him.

I was back on the public street and everyone was pretty much hiding indoors thanks to my warning. I immediately ran as fast as I could, desperately trying to get back to the inn- or at least within hearing range of Cegil. There was yet another bolt of lightning, this time it seemed to strike within the city limits. It brought along a boom so loud that I thought it could knock me off my feet.

It was at that moment the rain began to fall- and it came down in a torrent. I was soaked within minutes and water kept pouring into my eyes, but I couldn’t stop running. A mist began to form from the cool water hitting the sun-warmed cobblestones and the tiny particles caught the light from the street lamps to create an eerie glow all around.

I let out a shout when something caught my foot and I fell down. Thankfully, I managed to prevent my chin from hitting the hard ground by catching myself with my hands. The tumble still hurt, considering one hand was injured and my knees took the brunt of the damage on my lower half, but I didn’t have time to worry about that.

Just as I managed to regain my wits about me, something rolled me over so that I was on my back. It didn’t take much for me to figure out who did that. I sat up, and instantly spied the dark figure stalking towards me. I wanted to get up and start running again, but I found my body was paralyzed. Huh. Why didn’t he do this sooner?

I wasn’t sure if it was because of the spell he used on me or if it was somehow voluntary on my part, but I couldn’t tear my eyes away from him. Against the ghostly glow and the flashes of lightning, he appeared confident and powerful. The rain also pelted him and misted around his über hat and shoulders. His hair and clothing also appeared damp and I could see droplets of water fall from the ends.

“Why?” I found myself asking, my voice barely audible over the rain and thunder. “Why must this be done now? Can’t you wait like a month or something and let me think about it?”

Satel didn’t say anything until he was right in front of me. He then knelt down to my level and placed his hands on both sides of my head so he could run his fingers through my drenched bangs. “This can’t wait- you humans age so quickly that a month for you is only an hour for me. Sometimes I worry that I might blink and find you turned into an old woman.”

That was a total exaggeration- one month or a year wouldn’t make a difference to my appearance. But I suppose I could somewhat understand his concern. In twenty years, he would still look the same whereas I could (hopefully) appear to be in my thirties, older than him. But it wasn’t like I was asking for that much time- I would think it wouldn’t take me that long to figure out if I want to spend close to a millennium with him.

Plus, shouldn’t I have the right to refuse? Is it so hard for him to believe that I might not fall in love with him? In fact, how could he be so sure that he is in love with me? Infatuation doesn’t last for very long- when it wears off and he doesn’t think I’m that interesting anymore, could we honestly get along?

I was quickly pulled out of my thoughts when I felt a finger at my chest. It started at the base of my neck and gently trailed down to the underside of my breasts. I felt cool air hit my skin and realized that he used his magicks to unbutton my dress and reveal some of my camisole.

Forget the future- what about now? Was I ready to give him my body? It seemed that I didn’t have a choice as he had me trapped. I was still too far from the inn to cry for help and I couldn’t move. My heart leapt as I felt his arms wrap around me, his face lowered to kiss me.

“C-CEGIL-mmph!” He claimed my mouth as I gave it a try. There was a slim chance that my guardian could hear me amidst the storm- all I could do was hope. I wasn’t even sure if he could help me, given how determined Satel was right then. If anything, I wanted to see him one last time before the über hat man spirited me away from him.

The blonde pressed against me until we toppled over with me beneath him. One of his hands rested at the back of my head to protect me from the impact of the hard stone.

“You don’t need Cegil anymore- I’m here. I’ll protect and provide for you from now on,” he muttered feverishly against my lips after he broke the kiss. He then pushed himself up to stare down at me fondly.

You will be mated to a monster.

That old bitch’s voice echoed in my mind. I tried so hard not to let that prophecy come true, but apparently this was the one thing the Fates had managed to predict correctly. Still, seeing him against the light of the lamps with the rain falling from his face and hair… didn’t make him look that much like a monster to me.

He then shifted so more of his body was covering mine as he prepared to teleport us off to who knew where- most likely his bed. All I could to was look up at him in a mix of panic and partial resignation. I was still nervous at the idea, but all this confliction I was feeling was making me tired, and I didn’t think I had it in me to fight him for much longer…

“Now, let’s go home and get you out of those wet clothes,” he suggested with a sly undertone as he playfully rubbed noses with me.

To the Next Chapter

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