24. A New Beginning

Chapter 24

A New Beginning

            When we blinked into the outskirts of a town, I felt a familiar horrid heat and noticed the endless patch of cracked, deadened earth that stretched out to the horizon. …We were back in the Wastelands, of all places. Satel immediately placed a hand at the small of my back and began guiding me into town and wherever he wanted to go.

Strangely enough, I wasn’t feeling as hot as I remembered- I could feel the moisture in the air and the sun burning at my skin, but everything under my clothing was only getting a little clammy instead of soaking with sweat. Was this because of the falucite hormones changing my body? Or was I just really dehydrated? It had to be the latter- it was too soon for me to start seeing changes… and, come to think of it, I hadn’t had any fluids at all yesterday. Hell, I hadn’t had an alcoholic beverage in forever- I would need to fix this.

As we approached the center of town, I began spotting some familiar structures, signifying that I had been here before. It wasn’t until I noticed the earth goddesses and mermaid statues inside the central fountain when I realized where we were- Osel. I knew it because only they had such a distinct fountain- and I remembered thinking of the irony of mixing mermaids with earth goddesses.

I stopped instantly and quickly stared up at Satel. “Why are we here?”

“This is part of my territory- and it’s been my favorite since this is where I first became interested in you,” he replied before he nudged me to keep walking. I’m sure he was trying to be sweet, but I had bigger worries to focus on.

“But I’m a wanted fugitive here,” I reminded him with a hiss as I kept my eye out for law enforcement. It was his fault that I became a fugitive in the first place, so I doubt he had forgotten that little fact. “Are you trying to get me in jail again?”

It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if that were his plan- I could see him doing it just to recreate the situation that ended up in us sharing our first kiss. …But why go through the trouble when he could just steal one now? I wasn’t going to fight him- at least I wouldn’t once we were in a better place than this.

“Oh, don’t fret my dearest- no one would think a murderer would mingle with the public in broad daylight. And- if anyone does happen to say anything, I will simply prove your innocence,” he reassured me, awarding me with a grin that was something between sly and evil. …He was probably speaking from experience. I doubt that earl was the only human he had ever killed, and he probably liked to flaunt himself in broad daylight, knowing that no human could catch him and bring him to justice.

I assumed that meant he would terrorize everyone to prove that there was a falucite in their town- just as I had told the police before when they questioned me. However, I wasn’t sure how that would help me since I was blatantly associated with the true murderer. To them, I would still be considered an accessory to the crime and they would want to punish me for that… provided they could catch me without Satel killing them in the process.

Still, I suppose the bastard had a point- I’ve been missing from Osel for quite some time and I doubt they’re looking that closely for me within the city. But, I shouldn’t let down my guard because of that- all I needed was one person to recognize me and there was no guarantee Satel wasn’t purposefully dangling me in front them just to cause trouble.

Actually, if I wasn’t the bait, then that would’ve been kind of fun.

I held back a sigh and let him continue to guide me wherever. I tried hard not to appear suspicious as I held onto his arm and acted like some lady out on a date. Oh, wait…

We ended up walking to what appeared to be a fancy outdoor café with thin metal chairs bent in all sorts of curls and weaves to make an art out of a common piece of furniture. The tables were made in the same fashion and had only one leg in the center to support the top. The legs were wide at the bottom and narrowed at the top, and they were in the same intricate swirl pattern as the chairs.

Each and every one of the sets were painted in pristine white and had beautiful plates, cups, and silver laid out on fancy embroidered napkins. Dear Elit, this was too much for me. Every pirate had a goal to be filthy rich, but we couldn’t figure out which spoon to use or raise our pinky when sipping tea. I don’t think anyone would want to act that way either. It didn’t matter if I was with Satel- I was going to make a fool of myself and get plenty of stink eyes from the waiters.

…But I did nothing to stop Satel as he led me past the polished metal fence that served as a small barrier between the upper class establishment and the dregs of common society. I let him pull out a seat for me and sat down without any protest. I could worry and speculate all I wanted, but even I was interested to see how this would turn into a fun disaster. It’s been too long since I’ve seen a riot- not that I made a habit of purposefully starting them.

The menus were already there, placed on top of the delicate plates. I watched as the über hat man seated himself across from me, positioned himself in a way that made him seem spiffy, then picked up his menu to casually glance over the contents. I slowly did the same and bit my lip once I was sure most of my features were hidden from him.

Satel didn’t know that I couldn’t read, and I wasn’t sure how to let him know. I was actually worried of what he might think about it. Would he ridicule me, or be ashamed that the woman he chose for a mate was so uneducated?

It was hard when Cegil first discovered it, but I was much younger then and he was very understanding. Some part of me wanted to learn how to read, but it was so hard and the lessons were so boring. But now that I’m faced with the possibility of embarrassing myself in front of Satel, I wished I’d tried harder to learn.

I squinted my eyes and tried to find the very few words that I did know, but I couldn’t even get a gist of what this place had to offer.

“Is something the matter, ‘Tia-dear? You don’t look very happy,” Satel inquired, noticing the furrowing of my brows instantly.

“I-It’s nothing,” I replied quickly as I tried to hide more of my face from him. “There’s just so many choices and I’m not sure what to get.”

I wonder if they had specials of the day like what most taverns had? Usually I just asked for that to save myself the trouble of having a menu that I couldn’t read shoved in my face. But it wasn’t long after I had said that when he let out a sigh.

“You don’t like it here, do you? I thought you might like to try out the things you were denied as a pauper, but if you’re not comfortable…” He then trailed off, waiting for me to confirm his theory.

“No! It’s not that- I could get used to places like this… It’s just…” I glanced away from him as my lips pursed to prevent me from saying anything more. I couldn’t do it- I just couldn’t admit to him that I was illiterate. I really should trust him since he was willing to divulge his secrets to me, but this was something that was too humiliating.

Ordinarily I wouldn’t care what other people thought about me… but he was different. Satel was going to permanently be in my life and well… his opinion mattered just as much as Cegil’s did.

“You’re not used to it, I suppose,” he guessed with a slight tilt of his head. “Or are you still worried over being caught?”

“…No, I trust you,” I replied as I tried to think of some way to either change the subject or work up the courage to tell him the truth. It wasn’t that big a deal, was it? I now had centuries to learn how to read… but Satel already knew several other languages and he wasn’t an adult yet. What if he thought less of me for being so far behind?

Thankfully, the waiter came before I had to explain myself. He was an upright man wearing black trousers, a white shirt, and a red and black vest. He also had something fuzzy growing under his nose- I would almost say it was a mustache, but it looked too ridiculous and unmanly to be one. “Welcome, what will you be having?”

He spoke in a silly accent, too- hoo boy, was that considered classy for the nobles?

“The lady and I will have a fli’d sulun and coffee,” Satel replied without missing a beat. But then he paused to look straight into my eyes and asked, “Is that fine with you?”

I didn’t even know the menu was in another language. I could’ve used that as an excuse without any shame. The upper class have been known to learn one particular language so that they could seem superior to the commoners, so it was no surprise that it bled into their fancy restaurants. I had no clue what Satel had just ordered, but I figured that it couldn’t have been that bad. After all, we were in a human eatery and if he was having something, then it had to have been something that involved fruits or vegetables.

“It’s fine,” I replied, not thinking to say it in an elegant way to fool the waiter. No sooner than after the words had left my mouth when the man’s gaze fell on me.

He had an unreadable expression as he simply stared down at me- it was almost as if he recognized me somehow… Damn, did he know that I was wanted by the authorities?

“I am well aware that she is beautiful, but she is also mine. Move along,” the blonde snapped in a calm manner, dismissing the waiter.

“Oh! I apologize- I will bring out your order momentarily,” the man responded hastily before he walked away briskly. I watched him as he flagged down another waiter and started talking frantically to him. The man wasn’t very crafty about it…

“I think he knows about me,” I muttered as the second waiter quickly rushed off with a concerned look on his face.

“I doubt it- they never bothered to create wanted posters for you. All they gave as a description was ‘a young woman with seafaring features’,” he reassured me as he watched the man enter into the building. I hoped he really was getting us some food- I was kind of hungry.

So all they gave was a vague description? I had a feeling they only did that because I was a woman and they didn’t believe I could survive for long. I guess it would be strange for what society deemed to be an ignorant seafaring murderer to show up in a place like this… But…

“Even so- that fuzzy lipped man is acting strange …at least as far as stuck up waiters go. He must suspect something,” I pointed out as I shook my head. Of course, chances were that Satel was expecting that- my theory that he was deliberately trying to cause trouble wasn’t disproved yet.

But the über hat man thought it over seriously and seemed to come to another conclusion. “His actions might not be about you. You’re not the only fugitive around here.”

Satel then explained to me how he didn’t always present himself to others as an evil falucite. Sometimes he would just seem like an ordinary human with villainous intentions. His reason behind it was so that he could get closer to potential targets and get the information he needed before deciding to kill them off or let them live.

After hearing it, I was remembered the night of the earl’s death. Satel was able to go to a bar and order drinks like an average human- not one person suspected him of being anything else, even after he murdered more than half of the men in the room with his magicks- though it was a little late to properly identify him at that point.

Of course, his other reason behind it was for more playful purposes. He liked to lead on groups of would-be heroes and distract them from being a true nuisance to his clan or other higher order creatures. There were some ‘heroes’ out there that did make a difference and helped other humans, but there were others that were too absorbed in their vainglory and had to inhibit others that were only thought to be evil.

I’ve heard stories of how innocent greater demons were slain for colonizing a town that had been long since abandoned by humans. I could imagine them doing much worse, like saving destructive humans that Satel or other members of his clan were targeting. Apparently, there were some well-known rag-tag groups of adventurers that knew what Satel was, but the über hat man was careful in revealing his powers so that not everyone would believe them.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if some sworn nemesis of mine warned areas about me and that man is worried that you are actually my hostage or something of the kind,” he finished, still looking pleasantly cool. He didn’t seem concerned one bit over the possibility of someone coming to fight us. Then again- we were just talking about regular humans.

“So were you hoping to deal with them while we’re here?” I inquired, wondering if that was where his mischief was coming from.

But he shook his head and denied it. “No, I wasn’t expecting them today… Though, now that I think about it, my actions yesterday probably garnered some attention. I vented my frustrations on a small town East of where we had first met.”

It took me a moment to realize what he meant by ‘where we first met’. He was speaking of Ranosia- and the town he attacked must’ve been somewhere Cegil and I never visited. I suppose Osel was close enough for someone to come searching for him- at least I made it here in a day.

Still… it figured that this could be a bad result of his temper tantrum.

The waiter soon returned with two cut crystal bowls filled with various slices of fruits and berries. I then discovered that ‘fli’d sulun’ was most likely their term for ‘fruit salad’. Along side it, the waiter poured a rich brown liquid with a wonderful aroma into the cups. He then retreated to the other side of the sequestered space, acting as though he wanted to be as far away from us as possible.

I never had coffee before- I never had the money for it either. I found it extremely bitter to the taste… until Satel showed me that I could sweeten it to my desire with sugar and cream. Even then, it still wasn’t something I would kill for. I almost balked at how he could drink it straight without anything in it- then I imagined that Cegil would probably like something like this. I wasn’t implying that he was a ‘bitter’ man, but that he was more likely to enjoy these mature and refined drinks than I was.

I grabbed the first fork I saw, not caring if it was the right one for this situation, and placed a slice of Rynrir Spear into my mouth. It had been a while since I had last tasted that sweet, mushy, yellow substance on my tongue… but something seemed off. It wasn’t terrible, but I detected a light sour taste that accompanied it.

“Hmm… Be wary, my sirsa. It seems they’re trying to drug us with sleeping powder,” the blonde warned me as he plopped a Fruit of Kotija in his mouth, using only his fingers.

“Wait- what?” If they were drugged, then why was he still eating!?

“No need to worry about it. You should be immune to most human drugs now. These…people simply don’t know who they’re dealing with is all,” he reassured me before I could have a panic attack.

I see… so he was taking advantage of his body and wanted to just mess with the waiters by eating the drug. But would I really be immune? I know I was spared from the poison of the ba’sra beetle, but why was it that some changes would come to me later while other aspects of my transformation applied immediately?

I decided not to question it and continued to eat. If he was wrong, then at least I could trust him to get me out of it. Besides, a nap could never hurt me.

“Hey, ‘Tia?” Satel suddenly called out to get my attention. I glanced up from my bowl to acknowledge him. “If Cegil decides not to join the clan, do you want to continue to travel with him?”

The question shocked me so much that I nearly dropped my fork. Was he being serious? Or was he just curious to see if I would choose Cegil over him? I had a feeling that Satel understood full well what kind of relationship I had with his elder brother, and that there was no reason to be jealous of that, but my preference on who I would rather spend time with would be enough to hurt him.

“You would let me do that?” I countered cautiously, feeling both awed and confused. If he went to so much trouble to take me as his mate, then why would he allow me to go back to the way I was living?

“Under certain conditions,” he clarified before adding. “You would still spend the evenings and nights with me and Cegil will have to tell me where he’s going every day so I can take you back home by the end of it.”

Ah. In other words, he wasn’t letting me go- he was just making a compromise so that I would still get to spend time with my guardian. However, his idea wasn’t a bad one- I had spent most of my time with Cegil during the day, when we were traveling. So this arrangement would be most ideal if I wanted a steady transition into a new life.

But thinking this way was pointless if Cegil happened to decide to stay home. I love Cegil, of course, and I wanted to do everything I could to help him, but I couldn’t use him to help me decide my own path. No matter what I chose, Satel was willing to give me wiggle room to adjust my life so that I could have everything.

“I’ll think on it,” I replied, earning myself a pleasantly shocked look from him.

“Really?” he asked in disbelief. “I thought for sure you would say ‘yes’ instantly.”

“I could’ve, but then I remembered some jackass telling me that Cegil’s happiness doesn’t necessarily equal my own,” I told him in a teasing tone. Besides, with my record of wanting time to think things over, how could he think I would make hasty decisions? Maybe that was a trait of his that he thought I shared with him- like how I thought he would hold grudges.

I could argue to myself that Cegil deserved to be happy, but I knew my guardian well. He said it many times before- he wanted me to settle down and find happiness for myself. Maybe staying with Satel would make him happy in some strange way (strange at least to me).

“Heh. This ‘jackass’ sounds like a charming and very handsome man,” he chimed as he picked up a red berry. I rolled my eyes at his ‘enormous’ modesty. He clearly remembered that he was the one who told me that- though I was glad that he wasn’t rubbing the fact in my face.

About halfway into my bowl, I began to feel a little drowsy, but not to the point of passing out. It seemed the drug still had a little effect on me, but I could easily keep myself awake. I risked a glance at the gathering of waiters on the other side and nearly laughed at the bewildered looks on their faces that we were still conscious.

“Ah, it seems that my lovable group of idiot heroes has arrived,” Satel noted with his head raised in an arrogant style.

I glanced over to where he was looking and saw a group of five men approaching the shiny fence from the direction of the fountain. All of them seemed to be wearing old-fashioned breastplates under leather dusters. It was an odd fashion statement, but I was one to talk.

None of them seemed very pleased to see Satel and glared the entire trip from the fountain to the café perimeter. They didn’t even bother to use the entrance- they simply jumped the fence and stood on top of the tables and chairs so they could look down at us from above. They then drew theirs swords and pointed them at the falucite- one of them actually possessed a gun.

“So we meet again, Satel. Your rein of terror ends today! We will avenge the people of Tetan- those whose lives you ruined yesterday,” the lead man announced passionately.

To me, they appeared like a gathering of morons, but I was able to see things from Satel’s perspective. Thanks to what I’ve learned from Cegil, I knew falucite were involved in human politics and protected most towns through secret control. But, for the most part, the uninformed humans just believed them to be evil and thought they were doing the right thing in fighting back. Technically, I had no right to belittle them- outside of accusing them of sticking their noses where they don’t belong.

If anyone should come to punish Satel, it should be the townspeople of this ‘Tetan’ place. Oh well… by the sound of it, I would have to assume that Satel had a long history with this group. The über hat man was starting to sound like a classic super villain from children’s stories- and I wouldn’t be surprised if that was what he was modeling himself after. I could easily see that he was having fun with it, even though he was putting on a front that he was annoyed with them.

“Must this be done now?” the bastard inquired in a bored tone. “Can you not see that I am in the middle of breakfast with my lovely mate?”

I shot him a glare. Don’t you dare pull me in this!

The band finally noticed me and gazed at me in confusion. Why was it that no one knew I was here unless directly pointed out? It must’ve been Satel’s platinum blonde hair- when it caught in the light, it was practically a beacon to the eyes.

“Does your treachery know no bounds? How dare you kidnap a young, innocent girl for your own perverted needs!” the hero growled in disgust.

…My only issue with that statement was that he was assuming that I was a child. He was actually correct with the rest of it- Satel did kidnap me, but I suppose it was debatable if it were for ‘perverted’ needs. Technically mating wasn’t a perversion, but a natural ritual for bonding and producing young… Oh how it annoyed me to admit that- in doing so, I was acknowledging that Satel captured me for good reasons.

“An’ how would ye feel if ye knew ah ain’t that young an’ that ah’m a seafarer?” I inquired, curious to see how fast their opinions might change. It was one thing to rescue a pretty girl, but to most people, it meant nothing if she happened to be a dirty sea rat.

“…Well it may make sense as to how you’ve come into his possession, but even someone like you doesn’t deserve to be tortured by this monster,” he replied with a little less enthusiasm. It didn’t take much for me to catch the implication that he thought I was stupid and that I was tricked into accompanying Satel.

“Excuse me?” I intoned before I reached for the most acidic fruit I had and flicked it at him. Unfortunately, it only hit him in the forehead- I was aiming for his eye.

“How wonderful that you are getting along with my toys, ‘Tia-dear. I can tell you’ll be fast enemies if this keeps up,” the über hat bastard chimed as he rested his chin on both hands.

I didn’t even get the chance to tell him to shut up or to get rid of the idiots when the tables and chairs they were standing on suddenly gave way to their weight. Before I could hear the loud crash or the shouts of surprise, Satel’s hand landed on mine and we were teleported out of range of the chaos. It didn’t take much for me to figure out that he had something to do with that little accident.

“Well, I suppose we were finished anyway. Time to go my sirsa,” Satel announced before he turned to the nearby waiter and tossed him a gold cedit. “This is for the wonderful food- but I fear you will have to take it up with them if you want compensation for the damaged furniture.”

Oh please… that fruit salad wasn’t even worth thirty crijok. I swear these cafés overcharge just because their patrons are usually rich. The waiter just stared at us slack jawed and wide eyed as the rectangular coin bounced against his nose and landed at his feet.

I took Satel’s arm when he offered it and followed him out to the city again. For some reason, I felt pleased with how that turned out. Perhaps it was because I thought it was funny when those men fell over- or maybe I was happy that they had a comeuppance after that crack about me being a stupid seafarer.

“Just how many mortal enemies do you have, anyway?” I inquired when we were far enough away. From how he explained himself earlier, I was under the impression that group wasn’t all there was.

“Too many to count. I make it a point to annoy every human I come across,” he answered me with an amused grin before bushed back some strands of his white-yellow hair from his face. …Yeah, that sounded about right- he tried to annoy me when we first met.

“So was this why you brought me to Osel? To show off some of your ‘toys’?” I guessed, hoping that was all to this visit. I know he said that he wasn’t expecting them, but their appearance was almost too perfect- temper tantrum or no.

“No, that really was an accident. I was hoping to introduce you to them much later. But that’s not important right now- where do you want to go next? It’s your turn to choose,” he prodded before I shook my head.

“I’m not trying to be stubborn, but I don’t know where to go. Save for Cec’re, I’ve only traveled to human cities and I don’t particularly want to see any of them again,” I responded, being completely honest with him. I’ve seen much on my travels- and they were nothing that impressive that deserved a second visit.

Satel stared ahead of us as he thought it over. But once he had an idea, he quickly changed directions and led us down an alley. “Right- you don’t like crowded places. You prefer peace and near solitude.”

I did? Well, I could admit that I wasn’t fond of Osel or that town, Cahoa, because of the thick mass of people, but did that really mean I wanted near solitude? …Come to think of it, that sounded about right- I just wanted Cegil’s company back then and to hell with the rest of the world. Though now that I was with Satel, I was finding that being alone with him wasn’t that bad either.

One second we were walking down a random alley- the next we were in a forest. My eyes widened and my breath caught in my throat before I could even register the fact that I was stunned. It was beautiful– there were trees, vegetation, vines, and green everywhere. We seemed to be on a crude path that only gave enough space for us to walk through the area. Satel guided me until we reached the edge of a cliff that allowed us to see a breathtaking sight of rest of the forest from above.

“Where are we?” I inquired once I found my voice again.

“It’s an undiscovered forest close to the center of Rynrir,” he answered me while gazing out at the same scenery. So we were on the continent of Rynrir? I knew the teleportation abilities of falucite were only limited by the places they had been to, but I was still amazed that Satel could move us so far in only a split second.

He then explained to me how he came to discover this forest. Someday, when he reaches adulthood, he is expected to leave the homestead and start a settlement of his own with his mate. Of course, he was originally supposed to be with who the Fates have chose for him, living together with her in her dragon enclave. But once the elders abandoned their beliefs he vigorously took advantage of his newfound freedom to choose. Satel was looking in places that had not already been claimed by the higher order species.

This unnamed forest was one of his choices, but he had yet to make a final decision. He was waiting to find me, his mate, and allow me the chance to form an opinion on the places he’d found. I was, after all, expected to live with him when it came time for him to move out, so I had equal say about it.

“Wouldn’t starting a settlement out in the middle of nowhere be difficult? I mean- if you kidnapped enough humans to live out here, how would they survive without imports and stuff?” I asked, wondering how it would work out. I knew between the two of us, we could survive through his magicks alone, but Cegil told me that we would have to live with others. I didn’t think Satel would be able to care for so many on his own.

“That’s why I’ve asked for territories exclusively in the Wastelands- they’re all experiments and practice for when I do start a settlement. Not all of them have seen the success as Osel has, but they are still thriving in the direst of places. I can help towns learn to survive in far away places, so I’m confident I can keep my settlement alive,” he replied before he let out an almost sheepish smile and let out a laugh. “Though I suppose I’ll have to stop human baiting- I wouldn’t want my toys to attack my pets like they’re enemies.”

It was both cute and a little disturbing how he kept referring to those heroes as ‘toys’ and the future inhabitants of his settlement as ‘pets’. I thought he held a slightly higher regard for humans than that, though I suppose he was a lot nicer than some other falucite. I still couldn’t wrap my mind around the idea that I somehow surpassed those degrading monikers and became something valuable to him. However, Cegil did mention once that Satel did think of me as an object in the beginning. I guess his feelings changed that when they surfaced.

I began to reflect back on his answer to my question. I was a bit stunned to hear that he actually had been helping the towns in the Wastelands, much like how Maetira cared for her Creskaela. It didn’t really look like he was doing anything beneficial at first glance, but he didn’t have to be a benevolent leader to arrange protection and other advances. He could be as much of a jackass as he wanted and still have towns like Osel surface in the world’s largest desert.

“So, what do you think of this location? It’s pretty, right?” he asked, wanting to hear what I thought about it.

I took another glance out to really take in the scenery. The trees seemed to be a mix of evergreens and the seasonal kinds. Since it was summer, every leaf out there was a vibrant shade of green- and the color only ended at the horizon where the ever blue sky took over. To my left, I noted the ridge we were standing on continued on and curved outward to join in the landscape and give it a ‘closed in’ look. The other rock wall seemed to be far away from where we were standing and was only a small flat line of grey among the tree line.

“It’s beautiful,” I answered, but not in as an enthusiastic tone as I wanted it to be, “But if you want to know if I could live here, ask me in a few more years. I’m not in the mindset for settling down yet.”

Hence why it was so hard for me to make a decision on Satel. I felt that I was still too young and not ready for all of this and it was going to take me a while to get used to it all.

“Heh. Fair enough,” he responded, not fazed at all. Of course, he wasn’t really thinking about the future either- he had other things in mind.

To be honest, I wasn’t aware that there was a tree near me until he suddenly backed me up against the trunk and placed a hand beside my head.

“Well, we can’t let this isolation go to waste- there’s no one around to see us, and you can’t run far if you wanted to,” he growled seductively as I was torn from pushing him away or submitting to his whims.

He didn’t give me much time to decide- he disarmed me by taking off his über hat and placing it on my head before he crushed his mouth against mine. Once I realized that the hat was supposed to protect my head from the rough bark behind me, my arms wrapped around his neck and my hands clung to his braid and the back of his head.

I can stop this at any time, I reassured myself as I tried to see if I could push his tongue back and invade his mouth. But for the time being, I didn’t want to stop- I just did what my body desired.

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

We didn’t go any further than heavy kissing and maybe a few undone shirt buttons. When the discomfort of being outdoors got to me, I finally began hinting that I wanted to stop and he gradually calmed down and pulled away. I knew we were out in a place where no one was likely to find us, but I didn’t want to take that chance that someone happened to be lost around here. Or worse- what if someone from Satel’s clan knew of this area and blinked in to find him?

It was past noon when we decided to go back to the homestead and ask Lioa for something to eat. We could’ve gone to a tavern to save her the trouble, but Satel insisted that it was her job and that we should give her something to do. I was about to argue that he was being a jerk to an otherwise good human, but he did have something of a point. Lioa was a servant of the clan and cooking for Satel was her main job. At least it didn’t seem like he was treating her the same way he treated others.

Plus- going to see her would give me the perfect excuse to stay behind and talk to her later.

However, unlike all the other places, he chose to teleport directly in the kitchen and surprised the poor lady. She ended up dropping the various pots she had been holding and made an incredibly loud crash on the hard floor. I wonder if he did it out of amusement…

“Oh! Lord Satel, Lady Tia, do you need anything?” she inquired sweetly after the noise subsided. I was about to move and help her pick up the cookery, but Satel stopped me with a gentle squeeze to my shoulder. I glared at him from the corner of my eye and wondered what his problem was. There was no crime in wanting to help someone- and it’s rare for me to actually do it for people other than Cegil.

“We missed lunch and we’re hoping you could whip up something small and quick for us,” the falucite told her with a twinge of authority to his tone. He then turned and pulled out a seat for me, without so much as waiting for her confirmation.

I wrinkled my nose and glared at him before I reluctantly took my seat. Why was he being such a jerk now? I knew he was her master, but there was no excuse to act like a spoiled brat.

Of course, no sooner than I had that thought, Satel used his magicks to pick up the pots and placed them on their respective hooks or in their cupboards. He even gathered the necessary vegetables from the garden in the back when she requested for them. So, he wasn’t being a jerk… he was just making sure I didn’t do anything. But why?

“Here you go,” Lioa said before placing down two bowls of salad. Salad again, huh? I suppose I was going to have to get used to it while living with falucite. But the woman surprised me again when she walked back to me and sprinkled some chopped dried meats on my food and put down a small jar of some kind of dressing. She then gave a wink and added, “Here’s something extra for you- you still need meat every now and then.”

Oh thank Elit! There was meat here! For a moment, I thought I was going to have to give it up altogether. Satel made a face at Lioa’s actions, but chose not to say anything and stuffed some greens in his mouth. I was about to ask what that was for, but then I remembered how meat was like candy to falucite- he was probably reacting with mild disgust that his version of sweets was being put on someone’s lunch.

There was some mild conversation as the chef worked about the kitchen. I was finally able to discover how Satel usually spent some of his afternoons. He liked to sit in and watch Lioa cook, and he would often tell her the news about the clan. He wasn’t as close to her as he was to me (as I was initially expecting), but he couldn’t stay quiet about some things when he was excited. One good example was me- he told Lioa and his entire family about me since we first met. So, I had nothing to worry about- I was Satel’s one and only confidant. …Not that I was really worried…

Feeling unusually generous, I decided to gather the bowls when finished and stood up. “Would you like me to wash the dishes, Lioa?”

I was inwardly stunned myself that I even offered, but some part of me wanted to see if doing that simple chore really did clear my mind, like it did the day before. I felt that it helped greatly- along with Lioa’s advice. I also wanted to see if I could get rid of Satel long enough so I could speak to her privately.

“You don’t have to, Lady Tia,” she replied kindly.

“I want to- and please don’t call me ‘lady’. It’s unnerving,” I muttered as I furrowed my brows together to show how uncomfortable I was from hearing it. If I was going to have an honorific title before my name, I would only accept ‘captain’, but I didn’t have the credentials to be one.

“Why would you want to do work?” Satel inquired, sounding a little upset. “I didn’t think you liked manual labor.”

Why would the idea of me washing dishes bother him so? I wasn’t completely taking away Lioa’s job and it wasn’t as if it would take up all of my time in a day. But the matronly lady seemed to understand what I wanted and quickly clarified the situation to him without incident.

“I don’t expect you to understand this completely, Lord Satel, but sometimes we human women like to spend time together and talk over work while the man is away. Some call it ‘girl talk’,” she explained with a knowing look in her eye.

The blonde falucite seemed confused for a second before he turned to look at me again. “Is that all you want? You just wish to speak with her in private? Why not just say so?”

Again, Lioa answered for me. “It’s because she’s trying to make you voluntarily leave without having to make you think that she doesn’t want you around. At least- that’s what I believe she wants, of course.”

“…Actually… that’s kind of it- not that I don’t want to spend more time with you… it’s just…” I trailed off awkwardly, unable to figure out what to say next.

“See? The poor girl is too clumsy with her feelings to know what to say. That’s why I’m trying to sort it out for her and help her learn how to properly speak her mind.”

“…Hey!” I grumbled in indignation as a rather cheeky smirk came to her features. Satel finally seemed satisfied with that answer and held back a chuckle from my reaction.

“All right, I understand,” he said in cheerful resignation. “You may stay and talk with her and I’ll be back for you in an half hour or so.”

That wasn’t enough time, but I had a feeling Lioa could negotiate more when we got to that point. I noted that he still didn’t think I was going to wash the dishes- what in five hells was his issue with that? Was I going to have to ask? Satel soon teleported out, leaving Lioa and I alone. I was about to head over to the sink, but the woman stopped me midway and took the bowls from my hands.

“Ah, maybe you shouldn’t today while you’re wearing those nice clothes. If you want, you can wash tomorrow. I’ll have a spare uniform tucked away so you can change and help out if you want,” she told me before she headed over to the sink and began to roll up her sleeves.

“Oh…okay,” I replied almost quietly as I watched her. I glanced down at the crimson jacket I was wearing and wondered what the big deal was. I could easily take it off and roll up the sleeves of my dress shirt. But I guess it was a bad thing if I accidentally splash myself. I recalled that magicked clothes weren’t waterproof.

“So, did my advice help you any? You do seem to be in better spirits today,” she pointed out as her large (or rather, larger than mine) hands cleaned a plate.

“Yeah,” I confirmed with a nod as I stood almost awkwardly behind her. I then glanced away to stare at the floor. “I wanted to thank you for it- I don’t know what I would’ve done if you hadn’t been there to knock some sense into me.”

“It’s no problem- I’m happy to be of service. Now that you’ve talked things over, do you have a better idea of what you want to do with your life?”

That was a good question. I wasn’t as worried as I was before, but I still had no firm answer yet. I actually had a great time with Satel today- even when we went to Osel. The life he was showing me wasn’t bad at all- all that was missing was Cegil, but I suppose in a few years time, I could learn to accept that. All girls had to let go of their fathers someday and focus on raising their own family. I was no exception, was I?

“I think I might… but I suppose that’s okay if I still don’t know. At least I won’t have to face it alone,” I said, more to myself than to her.

“That’s the spirit! I know Lord Satel will always be by your side no matter what- and I will be here if you need more ‘womanly’ help.”

That’s right- I had Satel and Lioa to help me. And if I decide to continue traveling with Cegil, then I could have his support as well. I was about to say something else, but I was interrupted by Satel’s sudden re-arrival. What the hell? That wasn’t even fifteen minutes!

“Come with me, ‘Tia-dear- it’s important,” he ordered as he held out his hand to me. There was a look in his eye that told me he was being serious. He didn’t appear to be concerned, though- it was more like he was a little excited.

“You better go,” Lioa prodded with a gentle smile. “I enjoyed our little chat and I do hope you can visit me again.”

I raised an eyebrow at that- she sounded like she was thanking me for visiting her store, rather than giving a casual ‘see you later’ speech. I wondered if she was just being cooperative to Satel to appease him? If that was the case, then I was outnumbered if I wanted to fight him. All I could do was nod to her before I grabbed his hand. Almost instantly, he teleported us outside to what appeared to be the entrance bridge.

“Okay, what’s so important that you had to…” I trailed off when he smiled at me and pointed towards the bridge. My eyes followed the length of his arm, then his finger, until they drifted over to the center of the stone structure.

There was a familiar mass of long lavender hair swaying in the breeze around a very tall creature. Without even thinking, I took a few slow steps toward the figure before I broke out into a full run. “Cegil!”

I missed him so much that I didn’t care about my surroundings or that I left Satel behind in my invisible dust. My guardian didn’t seem to expect to see me and glanced upwards at the sound of my voice. When I close enough, I leapt at him and wrapped my arms around his torso as tightly as I could. He quickly caught me and pulled me closer as his giant hands covered my upper back.

I spent the last two days worrying about him- of wondering if I would ever see him again. So when I pulled away, I wasn’t too surprised to feel a few hot trails crawling down my cheeks. It wasn’t a full-blown cry- only a few tears.

“Dantia,” Cegil muttered in relief before his massive thumbs wiped at my cheeks. “I had been very worried about you. Are you well? Has Satel been treating you fairly?”

“I’m fine- well, I did go a little crazy at first, but there was a nice woman who helped me cope,” I told him, rambling from happiness. He did appear a little curious as to who this woman was, but chose not to ask any further for the time being.

There was a small smile on his face as he nodded and then knelt down before me. “I am glad to hear that. And what of your injuries? Are you healed now?”

“Forget about me- what about you? Did you get your powers back?” I inquired, wanting to know about what he had been up to for the last few days. There was so much I wanted to tell him- like how I didn’t hold any grudges against him for not being able to protect me from Satel, or how I believed that I just might be able to stay with his brother.

“I did and I apologize for not coming to see you sooner. I have spent the last few days in my uncle’s home at his settlement, thinking of my future and of how to support you should you require my assistance. As you are well aware, I am against my elders… however, I recently came to an important decision,” the giant replied, explaining vaguely what happened to him.

Apparently his uncle was one of the falucite that had to settle somewhere else and he had chosen a location that was far enough away from the Daedeleth for them to be unable to find him. Since Cegil could’ve teleported here once he received his powers, I supposed that that meant he did a little more thinking after that. Of course, I had no idea when exactly he got them back- he might’ve been saying sorry for not bending the laws of the Maker to come see me when he was still powerless and in hiding. …I honestly would not be surprised if that were the case.

I kind of knew where this was heading, but he locked his red-brown eyes on me and finished before I could stop him. “I have decided that you and Satel mean more to me than my own grievances. I will stay so that I may continue to protect and help you.”

“You don’t need to!” I said instantly afterwards. I knew it- he was the self-sacrificing type who would choose to do something unpleasant for other’s happiness. “Satel said that I could continue to travel with you during the daylight hours- and as long as we can spend time together, then I’ll be happy- umph!”

This was new- Cegil only placed one large finger on my lips to get me to stop talking. There was a gentle look in his eye as his smile grew.

“There is more to my decision than just your happiness. It would dishonor my mate’s memory if I turned against the clan now. After all that we had worked for, I must ensure that we do break free of the Fates or else her death would have been in vain. And- I would like to take that second chance so that I may raise my falcie in my ancient home, even if she is now my younger sister.”

I stared back at him, not knowing what to say at first. So it was more than just my future he was thinking of- he was tired of the traveling and probably wanted to come home a long time ago. His only problem was the elders and if he could find a way to tolerate them, then he could ignore his grievances. Plus- didn’t he say he had no reason to stay before? I suppose honoring Oria and wanting to raise me was enough.

I could’ve argued and said that I wanted to continue traveling, but it wouldn’t have been fair to Cegil and Satel. But as I thought back on it, would I really be living a simple life within the walls of the homestead? It seemed I could go anywhere I wanted and go on missions. I wasn’t limited to being a simple ‘housewife’ as I had feared.

“However, Dantia, should you ever feel the need to leave Satel and the clan for any reason, I will be there to help you. I can take you places where my brother has never heard of,” he offered, giving me an escape route even though he didn’t have to. Cegil knew me well enough to know that I always felt better if I knew all of my choices.

“Thanks, but, I don’t think I’ll need to. But if you ever want to leave again, then I will accompany you- as long as you don’t mind if Satel knows where you’re going,” I replied, thinking back on the conditions that the blonde mentioned.

Cegil nodded once. “I do not mind. So then it is settled- we will both stay here until one of us cannot take it anymore.”

Of course, we both knew that if it did come to that, then we would never be able to completely sever ties with the clan. I was forever bound to Satel and Cegil had his memories linking him to his siblings. But I suppose that was okay- I liked Satel and Cegil loved his brothers and sisters.

I decided to do something that I couldn’t normally, because of Cegil’s tall stature- I wrapped my arms around the back of his neck and head before I pulled him into another hug. “Well, if that’s the case, then… Brother… Welcome home.”

Even though I wasn’t looking for one, I found a new family. Thanks to Cegil, Satel, and Lioa, I was able to trust again, and learned to love myself and humanity just a little bit more. But while this is a new beginning, there’s still so much more I have to overcome. My past refuses to die- and now it’s coming back to haunt me; threatening to destroy my budding relationship with Satel. I can no longer run from the sea or the debt I have to repay.

 To Be Continued in Book Two: ‘Fatesbane – The Living Legend’

Return to Title Page | To the Optional Story (Falling the Hard Way) | To the Second Book (The Living Legend)

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