8. A Desire to Help

Chapter 8

A Desire to Help

I wasn’t sure why, but Maetira seemed to insist on sitting directly in front of me. I was sitting on the edge of my bed while she sat on Cegil’s. Her crystal ball rested beside her and she had let her hood down. Her hair had spilled free and I was able to see that it was mid-length- coming past her shoulders and to her chest. I thought all falucite prided themselves in having long hair, but I suppose it was more of a male thing. Both Cegil and Satel’s hair came to their lower backs.

For the most part, Maetira basically repeated her words by saying ‘things were not as they seemed’ in different ways. She also took the time to berate him for not listening to anyone or following advice. She didn’t give any information at all- she only insisted that he go home to at least talk to one of the elders. Satel said the same thing before…

After a while, I grew tired of listening to her and I couldn’t really feel comfortable with her staring at me like that. Her eyes were unmoving, even when she expressed different emotions from Cegil’s offhand replies. I eventually tried moving my hand to see if she would follow it, but I received no reaction. I periodically tried other distracting things to get her eyes off my face and nothing worked. I was then tempted to clap my hands before her eyes, but by that time, Cegil stood up from his seat at the table, grabbed my wrist, and shook his head while giving me a stern look.

I felt like I was being scolded for doing something mean…

I sighed as I gave up and moved to lie back in my bed to, staring at the white ceiling and the cream-colored walls. I chanced a look in the girl’s direction and found that her eyes still didn’t follow me. What in five hells was her problem? At least her gaze wasn’t on me anymore.

Apparently, even the high and mighty Maetira made mistakes and the conversation suddenly turned heated when she finally slipped up. That mysterious informer, the very one who started everything and led us here- that was her. Creskaela was located on a popular thoroughfare so it was easy for her to order her many human servants to find and meet with Cegil and plant vague traces of information. She knew he wouldn’t come if the information came directly from her.

“Why would you do such a thing?” he asked, sounding rather betrayed. “Do you wish to see me go through with that ceremony?”

She didn’t appear embarrassed, nor did she blush. Her features were cool and calm as she replied, “No, I did this because I wanted you to come home. I wanted you to see for yourself what has become of the clan since you left.”

“And what? Are you saying the elders miss me? Or are they letting you believe that so they could use me? It seems rather convenient that I am being asked to return home now of all times,” Cegil responded with a cold stare. “Furthermore- do not think that I would forget the small fact that you are excluded. You are unmated as well and should also be considered. It leads me to believe that this ceremony is intended to discipline someone.”

“It is true- this ceremony, while being made under good intentions by the Fates, is intended to punish. But if anyone should be rebuked, it should be Satel. If he hadn’t been born, we would still have our parents and you would still be with us.”

“Maetira!” he shouted in mix horror and anger. “You would dare condemn a falcie for being born? Our parents are to blame for his birth and it was my decision to act against the Fates.”

I couldn’t believe how harsh she was being. Did Satel really live with this? Had he been told before that he was to blame for his parents’ deaths? That was going too far. What kind of child could go on knowing that?

“I was merely making a point- logically he has not been punished for our parents’ sin, but you have for yours. Why condemn you a second time? But…” she trailed off and this time she seemed a little sad, “We do not want him to go through with the ceremony. It may sound cold, but we wish for you to spare him. You have nothing left to lose and you deserve that second chance- even if you will never-”

“Why go through with it at all?” he inquired, cutting her off. “If the elders do not wish to punish anyone, then why are they agreeing with this?”

“It is because of the Daedeleth. They have acquired an Oracle and learned of this occasion. They want to ensure the Fates’ prophecy is fulfilled and have already chosen to send one of their own, should you decide to go through with it,” she explained, making me even more curious. So more than one person can go through with this ceremony?

Sooner or later, I knew I was going to break down and ask. I really didn’t want to know about something that sounded bad, but I was getting the impression that it wasn’t supposed to be that way. But… if I asked, would he tell me? I knew he trusted me, but sometimes I was still afraid to ask questions. When we first met, he was so distant with me and ever since we’ve become close, I didn’t want to chase him off again. I didn’t want to pry in his business unless he invited me to.

“Of course- as always, it is about the public image,” Cegil muttered with scorn.

“Say what you wish, but it is better to worry about image than to willingly sacrifice one of your own. The Daedeleth will throw away anyone for the Fates- you know that,” she replied before she shook her head. “Never forget that our elders exiled you when Oria’s elders…”

Maetira couldn’t finish her sentence. Both she and Cegil seemed a little down when she brought up this ‘Oria’. I wondered who she was. …Well, I assumed that was a ‘she’- it sounded like a feminine name to me. I didn’t need to hear the end of the sentence to pick up the cue that the person met an ill-fated end.

“They…had no right,” he muttered, sounding very sad and depressed. I wasn’t used to seeing so much emotion coming from him. I wondered what those Daedeleth bastards did to him and this Oria character.

“…I know,” Maetira solemnly agreed in a quite tone.

I hated to see him like this. I wished I knew what was going on so I could try to cheer him up. If only I had the power to deck those that had wronged him… Huh, the only thing I could think of doing was violence- I guess I wasn’t really smart or clever enough to think of better revenge schemes. Well, yeah, I could swindle stupid people, but not creatures that were probably smarter than me. Damn my human limits.

             I wanted to say something, but I didn’t know what. I was utterly powerless- more so than usual, anyway.

I was torn from feeling relieved or frustrated when someone knocked on the door. The person outside didn’t bother to wait for an answer- he just barged in after knocking. I wasn’t that shocked to see Satel there, leaning against the doorframe with a proud and arrogant expression. “I’ve come to collect ‘Tia, if you don’t mind.”

He wanted me for one of those ‘dates’, no doubt. Some part of me wanted to stay and try to find out more, but the other side wanted to leave. It was getting a little awkward with the heavy silence and I felt like I was intruding on something I wasn’t supposed to know about. But I couldn’t help Cegil if I didn’t know what was going on.

I glanced over to my guardian and saw him nod his head at me, giving me permission to go if I wanted to. Maybe it was best that I did leave… I could probably work up the courage to inquire what was happening later when Maetira left- hopefully she would be leaving.

“What? No flowers?” I joked dryly as I sat up and swung my legs over the bed. I earned a confused look from both Satel and Maetira.

“It is a common gesture for a human male to bestow flowers to a female when courting,” Cegil answered, clearing up their confusion. “Humans use flowers for aesthetics- they do not eat them.”

“Hmm…silly human pleasantries,” Maetira muttered before she scoffed my kind for ‘wasting food’. It seemed falucite ate flowers- interesting to know. When I was younger, I picked flowers for Cegil and I never saw them again. I had thought he tossed them away, but now I wondered if he ate them behind my back. It was actually kind of funny envisioning that.

Though it wasn’t until Cegil explained what my kind did for ‘romance’ that I realized that falucite really were different from humans. Sometimes I tend to forget- I was too used to their superior outlooks to notice anything different. To most humans, there was a widespread belief that they were bloodthirsty beasts that they should fear. But that was far from the truth- they simply controlled humans by whatever means worked for them. We were basically cattle.

I could see why my kind didn’t like that and it was petty of them to use their fear to come up with negative stories. Of course, in reality, not many could tell the difference between a human and a falucite. So long as one wasn’t terrorizing the citizens, anyone could confuse a falucite for a normal human with an odd hair color. Cegil’s kind only had light shades of lavender, rose, green, blonde, silver, and white- they didn’t have any dark hues. Thanks to the invention of hair dyes, anything was possible for a human.

“Flowers, huh?” Satel mused as he thought it over. “Forget that, I have something better. Let’s go, ‘Tia.”

“Yeah, yeah,” I muttered, trying not to seem that eager to leave. My act wasn’t meant to put off Satel, but to reassure Cegil that I wasn’t running away from his problems. I didn’t want him to think that I had no interest in helping him. I wanted him to ask me outright, but I had a feeling that I was going to have to come out and volunteer.

Satel moved out of the way so I could pass him and then he glanced back at his sister to give her some parting words. “Good luck trying to convince him, Maetira-dear. I’m sure you’ll fail wonderfully.”

She scowled at that and raised her had to point at him- actually, she pointed in his general direction. “May all your falcie be males.”

“Maetira…” Cegil muttered sternly at her dark curse. Girls were more valuable to falucite because of the low chance in bearing one. It was considered highly unfortunate if a couple couldn’t produce at least one female.

But Satel didn’t take offense. He just shrugged and muttered, “Whatever.”

He then closed the door and started walking away. I heard him add under his breath, “…My falcie would be more productive to the clan than you, anyway.”

I wasn’t sure if he was afraid to say that to her face or if he was being kind to her in keeping it to himself. I held in a sigh before I followed after him and headed out the inn.

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

I couldn’t really focus on anything. My mind kept wandering back to Cegil and the current problems that I knew almost nothing about. I’ve realized that this was the first time in my seven years of traveling with him that I wanted to know his business. I was used to staying out of it and making myself useful when he needed me, but I knew that whatever was happening was going beyond anything we’ve ever encountered. This wasn’t some bounty hunt or a call to help someone- Cegil had to deal with his past and his family. It wasn’t as if he could fight them and make them go away…

I wasn’t really paying attention to what was going on in town. All I could manage to do was trail after Satel as I kept to my thoughts. It didn’t take long before he sent annoyed glances over his shoulder. He then reached back and pulled me by the arm.

“You’re not my servant- walk with me,” he insisted as he placed my hand at the bend of his elbow.

“Oh… sorry,” I mumbled, unable to concentrate long enough to get angry at his attitude.

“Is something on your mind?” he inquired when he noticed my distant features.

“…It’s nothing I want to tell you about,” I replied as I let him guide me through the town and past busy crowds.

He ‘humph’ed at me and let it drop. The silence between us didn’t last much longer before he decided to ask, “Did Cegil figure out a way to stop the ceremony?”

I looked away from him and chose to stare at the passing ground. The plan was to speak with a dragon to come up with an idea, but who knew how long it would take us to reach one? The increased encounters with the eneavra were going to slow us down- in fact I heard it might take another week before we get to our destination.

“I take it that means ‘no’,” he said when I wouldn’t answer. “In that case, tell him to stop trying- I’m okay with going through with it.”

“What is the ceremony?” I immediately asked, finally allowing my curiosity to break free. I felt like I could ask him anything without fearing consequences. Perhaps it was because I didn’t care what Satel thought about me. The blonde falucite gave me a stunned look before he faced forward to watch where he was going.

“You don’t know? How come Cegil never told you?” he wondered, purposely not answering my question.

I blushed and refused to reply at first. It was too complicated to explain- I cared about Cegil enough to stay out of his business, but I was really worried about him and I didn’t want him to suffer anymore. “Because I never asked before now.”

“Why?” He seemed genuinely curious and I couldn’t figure out why. Why did I have to have a reason to suddenly get involved? Why did it matter?

But then I figured that he was just tormenting me. He probably had no intention of answering my questions and decided that I had no right to know. After all, I was just a human- what could I do?

“I know it’s none of my business and I usually stay out of it,” I replied, thinking it was what he wanted to hear, “but I hate to see Cegil this upset. I want to do what I can for him- even if he doesn’t want me involved.”

“That’s a noble desire… but why now? What were you doing this entire time?”

“Doing?” I echoed, surprised at his response. What did he mean? “I came here with Cegil like always. Wherever he goes, I go and I never question why.”

I was then really confused when he shook his head and gave me an incredulous look. Why wasn’t he agreeing with me? I thought humans had no ‘rights’ in his opinion.

“That doesn’t bother you? You do realize that you’re not Cegil’s pet. You’re free to do what you wish and you have a right to know what’s going on. Otherwise you’ll just be a burden to everyone,” he told me as he stopped in his tracks. I didn’t think I would hear that from a falucite like him. He didn’t strike me as the type to make exceptions for some.

Besides, Satel was wrong- I wasn’t a burden. I didn’t need to know the details as long as Cegil gave an order. …But I suppose it did get a little difficult in those few times there wasn’t an order.

“I just don’t pry into other people’s lives,” I insisted as I pulled away from him. “And no- it doesn’t bother me. I’m perfectly fine living this way.”

“Somehow I doubt that,” he muttered before he moved closer to me. “Every living creature needs a purpose- even you. Are you honestly trying to say that you have no life of your own? Don’t tell me your little visits to the bars are the only thing you do for yourself.”

“What’s it to you? I don’t need a purpose! Whatever Cegil wants is good enough for me!” I growled at him as I started to become uncomfortable with the conversation. Metaphorically, I died a long time ago and my guardian picked up the pieces and made a new ‘me’. My life wasn’t really my own- even if Cegil didn’t think I was indebted to him.

“Then what use are you?” he snapped, sounding annoyed with my answer. I stood my full height and glared at him with indignation. Coming with him was obviously a bad idea and I wasn’t going to stand for his tone a moment longer.

“This was a mistake. I’m leaving,” I announced darkly as I turned on my heel to storm back the way I came. But before I could get far, his hand found my wrist and held me back. I tried to pull away, but he kept a firm grip on me.

“If I did tell you anything, what would you do with that knowledge? If you think Cegil won’t let you help him, then why trouble yourself?” he continued on once he was sure I couldn’t leave. I sighed when I realized that he brought on a good point.

It wasn’t as if my guardian was forbidding me from anything- I just didn’t know how he would feel if I did involve myself. …I really needed to talk with him and make sure where we stood. I knew the main reason he kept me out of his business was to protect me, but this was a family matter. Unless his clan wanted to kill me, there shouldn’t be any problem. Plus- it wasn’t as if the Daedeleth was making life any easier. I was involved to some extent and I was entitled to some self-defense.

“I…I chose to live this way- Cegil had nothing to do with it. Now I want to help, okay? So if you could give me any information, I’ll use it to aid him in any way I can,” I replied as I relaxed. Satel considered my words and stared at me for a long while. I resisted the urge to look away as he tried to confirm that I was telling the truth.

“And what would you do after that? Go back to being his pet?” he inquired mockingly as he finally let me go. I rubbed my wrist even though he didn’t hurt me.

“What I do with my life is none of your business,” I retorted. This time I earned a dry chuckle from him.

“I suppose it isn’t but… I can’t stand to see someone as interesting and clever as you limit yourself like that. I’ll tell you what I can about the ceremony, but in exchange, I want you to find meaning in your life. It doesn’t have to be anything significant- just set a simple goal for yourself and I’ll be satisfied,” he offered with a serious expression.

I tilted my head as I regarded his words. “Why do you care?”

“Because you have so much potential for a human. Why waste it?”

“And if I don’t find purpose?” I inquired, humoring the idea for a bit. Suddenly that smirk returned to his face and he lowered his eyelids. Somehow the cinnamon color of his irises darkened into a more reddish hue that made him seem more sinister.

“Then I’ll make you find it,” he responded in a deeper tone. It was probably an idle threat- after all, what was so hard about creating a small goal? I could say ‘I’ll save puppies for the rest of my life’ and that would satisfy him. There had to be some ulterior motive behind it- I just needed to dig deeper to find out what.

“But before you answer,” Satel said abruptly before I could open my mouth. He walked over to the door of the nearest building and opened it for me, “think about it first while I take care of some business in here.”

I stared at him for a moment to see if he was up to something, but he didn’t seem to be hiding anything this time. I soon walked inside after he gestured for me to hurry up. I found that it was a rather fancy armory. There were mannequins and sets of armor set out to show the skill of the blacksmith and it seemed they crafted a number of good swords as well. I noticed that even a few guns were for sale. I wasn’t sure if the items were made locally or if they were imported from all over the world.

I soon started to wander around, looking at wares as they gleamed in the waning sunlight. It was then that I realized the time- twilight was approaching and it would soon be time for the townsfolk to retire to their homes or start gathering in taverns. Satel left me to browse as he walked over to the counter to speak with the proprietor. As nice as the inventory was, I was curious as to what the falucite needed here. Did he need a new weapon or something?

“Good evening,” Satel greeted smoothly as he rested his gloved hands on the counter. “I’m here to pick up the order I made about fifty years ago, do you still remember where it is?”

“Ah, Lord Satel, I do remember- in fact Lady Maetira told me that you would be coming for it any month now. I’ve already pulled it out of storage and polished it for you,” the storekeeper replied with a grandfatherly smile.

The man seemed to be pushing his eighties and I had to wonder why he was still working. He had barely any hair left on his head and what little was there was snow white. His green eyes were starting to get clouded over and it seemed they were very weak. He had to see through thin metal-rimmed glasses that supported two very thick lenses. I could see that the material was very heavy on his nose- he skin sagged in that area, creating yet another set of wrinkles on his already aged face.

I marveled at the fact that they kept an order for so long- most humans would forget about it in less than ten years. Something told me that the old man was the one who had taken the order all those years ago. I almost had to wonder why Satel would have someone hold on to something for fifty years, but then I had to remember that time was almost nothing to his kind.

The old man was in rather good health for someone his age. He had no trouble walking and seemed to be able to carry things just fine. He disappeared to the back of the shop for only a moment before he returned with a long, black case with a leather cover. I guessed it contained a sword or something. It looked like it was brand new, not a single speck of dust anywhere in sight. The leather still had a dull shine to it like a pair of expensive hunting boots.

“Looks like the right one,” Satel commented, trusting that it contained his item without checking inside. “I assume there is a storage fee as well?”

I wasn’t really sure how much the storage fee was considering the time it stayed there, but I had a feeling the sword still cost more. It nearly made me sick to my stomach when Satel put down three bound stacks packed with ten cedit each and five bundles of crijok (each bundle designed to carry twenty within). He didn’t even cringe or bat an eye at the price. That sword cost more than what I could earn in a year.

The blonde soon lifted the box and rested it on the crook of his elbow, letting it lean against his chest and shoulder. The top of it came to at least two feet above his über hat. The expression on his face clearly indicated that he was proud with his purchase- and that just pissed me off. I sharply turned to face the counter so I wouldn’t have to look at him and noticed some leatherwork on display.

“Hey, can you guys make custom sheaths for small knives?” I asked, seeing an opportunity to get something to accommodate my newest stolen weapon. When the elderly man confirmed my inquiry, I leaned against the counter to take out the knife to show. I grimaced a little when I found that my stockings had been torn from it, but it seemed my skin remained unscathed. “Do you have anything already made that this can fit into?”

The man adjusted his glasses as he examined the knife. His eyes appeared enormous in the few seconds it was pulled away from his face. “I’m sorry, young lady, but we do not have anything pre-made available. I can order one and have it ready in as little as two days if you wish.”

I tried not to look disappointed. We were probably going to leave town by first light tomorrow. I couldn’t wait for it- and I doubt it would be cheap to commission for something to be made in two days. I had also been hoping to ask about my newly acquired gun, but I had a feeling that the old man wouldn’t know anything. It would still be fairly new technology to the likes of him.

“That’s fine,” Satel answered in my place before he placed down another three bundles of crijok, “I’ll pick it up for her when it’s ready.”

It took me a moment to realize that not only was he offering to pick it up and give it to me, he was also paying for it as well. I could accept the former since it was no trouble for him to teleport everywhere, but paying for my things was going too far. I had no problem in taking things that I’ve stolen or tricked people out of, but it was a different story when it was something willingly given to me. I’d end up feeling indebted to them.

“H-hey! I’ll pay for it if I want it!” I shouted at him, desperately trying to sound upset. It was hard to stay mad since he was being nice, so I quickly rationalized that he was only doing it for something in return. That helped a little, but he quickly dispelled it with his next response.

“Just relax and take the gift,” he said in a sincere tone before he scoffed. “It doesn’t cost that much and you need it. If you continue to run around with an exposed knife in your boot, then you’ll risk cutting yourself.”

‘Doesn’t cost much’- my ass! He just gave the proprietor sixty crijok! That was twice the amount I could earn on a Class S bounty hunt!

“Urrgh! Fine! Do what you want!” I growled as I turned away and crossed my arms. If he wanted to waste his money, then I had no say. More stuff for me, I guess. But he was right- I did need the sheath if I intended to keep the small blade. I had to leave the knife behind so that it could be properly fitted. The extra money Satel gave was to ensure it was handmade and not machine made. These days, handmade items were getting more expensive, but they were more reliable.

“Isn’t it wonderful when you agree with me?” the falucite cooed in a mocking tone before he wrapped his free arm around my shoulders and started guiding me out of the armory.

“Shut up…” I muttered as I allowed him to guide me. I really should be thanking him, but I wasn’t too pleased with the idea of humbling myself to him. I decided to wait until I cooled off and until he wasn’t thinking about his little good deed. I wasn’t completely against thanking him, but I didn’t want him to lord it over me after all that protesting I did.

Once we were back outside, I finally noticed that the townspeople were still out and about. Since I was so distracted before, I hadn’t noticed the strings of brightly colored flags hanging between the buildings, or the many tables that were being set up. It looked like they were preparing for a festival, judging from the decorations and the festive foodstuffs that were being gathered.

“What’s going on?” I had to ask, even though I wasn’t sure if Satel knew anything.

“It’s an annual festival the people celebrate to honor the day Maetira decided to protect their town. It’s easy for her to receive the love of her humans since she approached them as an Oracle- they’ll do anything for someone who can protect them through divinations,” he explained with an annoyed, but calm expression.

For all of Maetira’s arrogance, I hadn’t expected to hear that she was actually a beloved public figure to humans. She seemed to take very good care of them and even went out of her way to ensure their town prospered in the desolate Wastelands. I had to guess her outward attitude was just a front she put up so she wouldn’t seem weak.

“But why are they setting up now? Is this a night festival?” It wasn’t often anyone would celebrate in the dark- unless it had something to do with lights. But honoring someone after sundown was kind of rare.

“It’s an allusion to the fact that she’s blind,” Satel responded as he glanced around, “but they still light up a lot of torches and use fireworks anyway.”

Wait- Maetira was blind? Suddenly it started to make sense- no wonder she wouldn’t look anyone in the eye or respond to sudden movement. …And that’s why Cegil stopped me from trying to annoy her. Now I felt bad.

Satel caught the stunned look on my face and tried hard not to laugh at me. A small chuckle managed to escape him, but he controlled himself in time to confirm that his information was true. “You wouldn’t be the first who couldn’t tell- she likes to talk as if she could see, but she only goes by what others say. She keeps calling Cegil a ‘mountain’ even though he’s more like a giant beanpole. …But if you said anything callous to her, then don’t worry. She probably deserved it.”

It was my turn to laugh- hearing that did make me feel a little better. It seemed he liked making fun of her despite her condition, but she most likely brought it upon herself with her attitude. Suddenly my smile faded when I noticed him stare at me with an intense look in his eyes. My good cheer faded into nervousness as I wondered what he was up to this time. I felt my heartbeat accelerate when his arm lowered to wrap around my waist and pull me closer.

His grin soon became a seductive smile and I berated myself for not preparing to deck him for his next words. “Let’s go somewhere more private to watch the festivities.”

He was trying to make it sound perverted, but he actually had good intentions. I couldn’t think of a retort to that- my body wanted to respond to his heated implications and I had to resist the strangest urge to kiss him. I had no clue why I wanted to react that way, but there was no way I was going to cave into those urges in the middle of a public place.  Hmm. Maybe I shouldn’t follow him after all…

“Knowing us, we’ll be tempted to mess with them if we stay in their presence for too long. Maetira doesn’t want anyone to bother her humans.”

I felt a smirk come to my face after he fully explained himself. It was true- this was the territory of another falucite and we didn’t have permission to play around. But what I really liked was how he acted like I was his equal. I wasn’t just a dumb human to him, it seemed.

“You have a point- and frankly I’m not much of a sociable person,” I replied before he began to guide me to our next destination. And it was true- if given a choice when sitting amongst a crowd of people, I would rather sit and watch them than communicate. But since many guys come up to talk to me anyway, I didn’t see a reason not to insult them if they couldn’t grasp my hints to be left alone.

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

We found an incline near the outskirts of the town that was far enough away for the others not to notice us, but close enough for us to watch them. It was nice viewing them from afar. As long as I wasn’t among them and listening to their ignorance or their self-serving views, then I could come to enjoy humanity in general. Down there, they were working hard to make the festival happen and once it started, they indulged in the good cheer by making sure everyone was having fun. It was one of the rare times I could be proud of my kind.

It was too bad that not everyone could be nice and considerate to others on a daily basis. I could accept that this town was different because of Maetira’s influence, but I knew other places had people who would sooner sell their mother than offer food to the hungry. But who was I to judge? I came from a crew that thrived on stealing from others.

For the most part, Satel and I just talked and occasionally laughed over the silly antics some of the townspeople got into. I found myself having fun even though I was sitting uncomfortably close to him. After a while, I forgot about my nervousness and just enjoyed his company.

“So…” he said after we had fallen silent, “have you thought about my offer? I could tell you about the ceremony right now if you want.”

In all honesty, I had forgotten about it the moment I entered that armory. In fact, Cegil’s dilemma was far from my mind until he brought up the ceremony. How in five hells could I forget something so important!? I had to quickly thing up something to say…

“I’m… not sure why you want me to think of a life goal for myself…. I suppose I shouldn’t complain, but I’m surprised you’re not asking for a heavier price,” I admitted with a side-glance to him. So far, most dealings with him involved a kiss, but this was less degrading to me.

“I just want you to live, is all,” he replied with a shrug. “I’m sure Cegil would like to see you try something for yourself once in a while. He mentioned that he was worried about you, you know.”

Had he? This must’ve been a conversation they’d had when I was away. Come to think of it, there were many times when he would let me do as I pleased, and he would only step in if I were in trouble. That’s probably why he let me get away with disturbing the peace- it was the only thing I did for recreational purposes.

“Why can’t making him happy be a life goal?” I asked as I thought it over. All I wanted was to stay by his side and I only started to involve myself when I noticed that he seemed to be upset.

“It can be a goal- but first you need to actually do something about it,” he reminded me. I was finally starting to see his point. I couldn’t help anyone if I continued to stay out of the issue. Satel wanted to make sure I was ready to dive right into Cegil’s business before he said anything. There was no going back if I changed my mind.

“Right… I’ll do what I can. So tell me about this ceremony,” I requested, determined to press onward. I wasn’t even completely sure if there was anything I could do, but surely I could think of something that would make a difference. At the moment, Cegil didn’t have much of an idea to go by.

“Well…” Satel began as he tried to search for the right words. “The simplest way to describe it is that it’s similar to what you humans call an ‘arranged marriage’. It was originally started as a way to honor the traditions of human mates, but now it’s also a binding pact between two, usually incompatible, falucite.”

He went on to describe for me how the falucite usually find a mate. Any female creature could be their mate, but only if their pheromones were compatible with their senses, and also possessed a personality they could get along with. To force a falucite who hadn’t found their mate (or lost their partner) into a binding pact with a woman they didn’t love was a cruel, but necessary ritual. Satel was able to tell me why the Fates called for a ceremony.

“Due to a few …accidents, if you will, there’s a suddenly not enough young to continue the line. Currently I’m the youngest of my father’s brood and there is only one falcie due to be born in a couple of years. The Fates just want someone to step forward and start producing offspring to balance out the population.”

“I see… that does make sense, I suppose,” I replied as I drew up a knee and rested my chin on it. I didn’t like how the Fates seemed to be controlling what should be a natural process of falling in love and having children, but I could see why they’d be asking for a ceremony. Satel’s clan needed more heirs, or something like that.

But forcing them was wrong. I could understand why it was so terrible and how both Satel and Cegil would be miserable, but I didn’t get why Satel would volunteer himself like that.

“Because the Fates already chose my mate for me. Even if Cegil took my place, I would still have to go through a ceremony. It’s better to spare him, even though the elders think it would be for his own good to take it,” he answered when I asked.

Cegil was getting on in years- I believe he was in his third century in terms of age (close to forty in human years). They probably wanted him to have falcie so that someone would take over his bloodline. Unfortunately, I didn’t count since I was neither his blood daughter nor a falucite.

“So you’re doomed either way… I wonder why Cegil is so against you going in his place if you can’t escape it?” I didn’t mean to sound so uncaring about Satel’s plight, but it was hard to sympathize with him. He didn’t seem to care either.

“You know the answer to that- he hates the Fates. He’s hated them since long before I was born,” he said with a fond smile. “But he probably wants me to be able to choose my mate and live how I want.”

“Why don’t you? Is it really that important to go by what the Fates say? I’m sure they won’t care if one person disobeys them once,” I commented as I shook my head. Hell, I know I’ve gone against the Fates several times and yet I was okay.

“I’m sure they wouldn’t care, but the Daedeleth would. They’re so blinded by them that they would willingly start a war in their name. Someone has to appease them before they cause any more damage. It’s not as if my clan can’t fight the Daedeleth- we just don’t want any more wasteful deaths,” he explained as he adjusted his über hat by the rim.

Suddenly it became clear to me that I just witnessed another side to Satel that I didn’t think existed. It was surprising enough that I had this heart to heart with him, but I didn’t expect to find that he was actually selfless underneath that arrogance. He was sacrificing his freedom for Cegil- and Cegil was trying to find a way to spare him.

For whatever reason, the Daedeleth seem to be the root of the problem. They wanted Cegil for the ceremony (though I wasn’t sure why yet) and they were practically forcing Satel’s clan to obey the Fates. There had to be some way to stop them. If they weren’t pushing any of this, we probably wouldn’t even be here.

“It’s not that bad, really,” Satel continued when I wouldn’t say anything. “I’m prepared to do my part for the clan and I do know what I’m getting into, unlike you and Cegil.”

“What exactly does that mean?” It sounded like he was implying something, but he wouldn’t elaborate. I dismissed it with a sigh before I added, “Whatever. All I know is that Cegil wants to help you- and if that’ll make him happy, then I’m going to help you as well. Okay?”

If I hadn’t heard Satel’s view on the matter, it would’ve killed me to say that. But I believed it to be the truth- Satel and the ceremony was the reason for Cegil’s sadness… I also suddenly didn’t mind the idea of going out of my way for Satel. He was a good person deep down.

But he almost made me change my mind when that arrogant look came back to his features and he chuckled at my declaration. “And how do you propose to stop the ceremony?”

Damned if I knew, but I wasn’t going to admit that out loud. At least I felt a little more confident in asking Cegil more questions now that I knew what was happening. Maybe I can better understand what he had in mind. So to save face, I sat up, crossed my arms, and put on the snootiest look I could muster. “I’m not telling you anything- it’s a secret.”

He let out a bark of laughter as I tried to maintain my look. It seemed he was back to his usual self. I let out a breath before another thought crossed my mind and I had to voice it out. “By the way, if you’re that resolved to be bound to another woman, why are you here messing with me?”

Ordinarily, I would be disgusted at the thought of someone being unfaithful to their partner, but this was one exception. He didn’t seem to love his chosen mate and I was under the impression that nothing was official yet. Still- if he had no intention of breaking free from his prophecy, then why was he playing around?

“I’m not sure,” he eventually confided in me, giving me one last view of the not-so-annoying side of him. “I guess I’m trying to enjoy my last month of freedom… or maybe I’m trying to find some way out of the arrangement.”

I wanted to inquire why he just didn’t leave the clan so that no one would have to go through with the ceremony, but then I figured it would only cause more problems. Cegil wasn’t even part of the clan anymore and yet he was still a candidate.

I let out a small humming noise before I did something rather unexpected. I leaned closer to him and rested my head against his shoulder. I wasn’t sure why I chose to do so- I decided that I was just trying to be nice. From what I’ve been hearing, Satel’s life was no picnic and there was no shame in trying to comfort him a little.

I didn’t bother to see how he reacted to my move, but he didn’t say anything about it. We ended up staying like that as we watched the townspeople celebrate. Not another word passed our lips until we decided it was time to go back.

To the Next Chapter

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