Celyz sways from the shock of Leomi’s question. She swishes her tail to keep her balance as she pushes her roots deeper into the ground, her feet disappearing within a few moments.
The warriors surrounding us grow agitated, many trotting back and forth on their pointy legs like they’re looking for a threat. The fact that they don’t turn to Leomi reassures me as it means she isn’t throwing these accusations aggressively.
“It was war, they would have been directly killed otherwise.” Celyz tells us in a calm resounding voice accompanied by a sour odor. I reach out to my symbiont, feeling her emotion through it, the sadness and regret.
“You treated those people like drones. No, worse as you likely had knives ready to butcher them when they fell.” Lance spits out. “Do you think I forgot how you acted when you had the upper hand and little to lose? You used meals to pressure Jessica who was willing to work for her stay despite the fact you took our freedom. You treated her like a drone.”
“I offered a bargain that each survivor took.” Celyz explains quietly. “Refusal lead to imprisonment or execution in the case of those too injured to survive for long.”
I shiver, briefly plunging back into the terror of the days I spent in the tunnels after losing my arm. Leomi tries to speak but she’s about as shaken as I am which allows Celyz to continue without needing to raise her voice.
“I had pushed my research as far as I could with animals to make it as safe as possible for humans. Of the dozen that died, all accepted my offer in the end for they were injured, greedy, or simply wished to be freed. Most were thieves who would have been hung had they been caught by humans but freed if I succeeded. I will not apologize for you know my reasons for doing this.” Celyz says in an emotionless tone, yet her shame and fright are clearly communicated to me through the Little one. “I treated them with care, soothing their pain and even tried to save each when it became clear that the experiment did not succeed instead of using their dying bodies to learn more. I will not pretend my actions were fair to them but, once again, it was war.”
“You don’t even sound like you care.” Leomi utters with disgust.
“She does care.” I whisper, stretching up to talk in her ear. Leomi’s expression closes up as she throws me a look of betrayal. “Look at her, really, please.”
“This is for your own good, Liz. You need to see this Rykz for what she is.” Leomi replies gently, refusing my request or simply unable to see past Celyz’ foreign appearance.
“What she’s done is no worse than what I have and no worse than what you will.” I make my plea with all the emotion I can gather, trying to open Leomi’s eyes.
“In a way, I agree.” Leomi sadly nods. “But, her victims were unrelated to the harm done to her Hive and had no other options than to agree, die, or be reduced to drones, to slaves. Our opponents can surrender, join us, fight us, or run away.”
“You engineered this confrontation, to force me to react in your favor.” I accuse Leomi, breaking our embrace.
“No. I tried to tell you.” She shakes her head.
“But you kept most of it for yourself!” I counter, growing angry.
“I was protecting us by taking it slow since I had no proof of it and it is not a subject I wish to linger on.” Leomi explains in a quiet voice. “You’re trying to avoid facing the truth. I’m sorry that she cornered you into agreeing to her offer but it’s the least of her cruelties.”
“Rhyyyy.” Celyz growls, yet her posture with her tail hanging low is one of defeat.
“Stop, stop.” I utter. Leomi opens her mouth but my cold glare makes her pause. “I, you’re, she’s… We’re all cruel in our own way.”
“Elizabeth…” Leomi starts.
“No, look at her.” I interrupt.
Leomi locks eyes with me under the moonlight, intently refusing to look at the Princess. I can detect that both are trembling. Celyz from the tip of her tendrils to that her toes whose shaking disturb the earth covering them, Leomi from her lips to her thighs.
It is clear that Celyz does not want to be here any longer for she has to remain silent about so much to protect my secrets when talking would win her the argument, she does not even bring up the simple fact is that Leomi is the one who cornered me into accepting Celyz’ unfairly vague proposal to grant me another arm for revenge.
Break her. No, I need to heal this, first, or Leomi will entirely blame Celyz. I can’t rely on my Princess to have my revenge even if that means it fails for doing so will turn my two loves against each other even more than they already have.
“Leomi, what do you plan to do about the Nobles who want to join us?”
“Forgive their past crimes. Pragmatism is the key to any lasting change because otherwise there is no end to the enemies that will lack any other choice than to fight back.” Leomi replies with a grimace, having likely already aware that her response would argue against her own position about Celyz before she gave it.
“This is in no way different.” I affirm. “You’ve already said you believe that Celyz’ feelings for me are honest. If it’s all you can do, at least recognize that you’re wrong in saying she doesn’t care.”
My Lady reluctantly turns her light gray abysmal eyes to Celyz who returns the look, her ovaloid head shifting down. Leomi’s expression crumbles, she grows anguished as she observes Celyz and fails to find confirmation of her claim that she doesn’t care.
“She gave you something that’s eating through your life.” Leomi responds, still disbelieving that I would not resent Celyz.
“She gave me a double-edged sword and has offered to remove it when she learned how bad it was.” I quietly counter. “She is my closest friend.”
“They ate mine alive.” Leomi expels the anguished words out of her tight throat, bringing her palms up to cover her eyes.
“Everything is meat, it’s the truth of this world right now. Most are born cattle like me, a few with sharp knives like the two of you.” I utter coldly.
“I… arh.” Her voice dies out in a small cry.
Lance’s fingers clench around her forehead, her nails biting into her flesh as she appears to fight some interior battle. I gently reach out and pull her hands away with mine before she harms herself.
“But the two of us stand to change that, I expect you to live up to your own ideals Leomi Lance.” I exhort her.
She clasps at my wrists with her palms, wet from her fresh tears. It takes her a while but she looks up to me with gratitude and resolve. I turn away, now more concerned about Celyz’ fragile state.
She seems to be awaiting my direct judgment of her actions towards those who died to create my hybrid symbiont. I have to push away my plan to shatter Leomi and change it to fit my goal of fixing these two’s view of each other as much as possible.
“Celyz, it’s not even a matter of trust that I believe you’ve been respectful and as fair as you could be to those you offered freedom in exchange for their agreement to participate in the experiment. I don’t think that you’re even capable of acting in any other way.” I tell her but aim the words at both. “I am beyond convinced that you would never have done anything resembling this if it wasn’t for your sister and that you won’t ever proceed in this way again.”
“Cetyz, will not speak to me because of what I did. She, said so yesterday.” Celyz replies in a calm but shaky voice. “I, went too far, Leomi Lance is correct.” I remain there, unable wrap my head around the hurt she must feel from that.
“No, I am not.” Leomi mutters. “You showed more restraint than I have for a lesser crime committed against someone who wasn’t as close to me as your sister is to you.” She confesses between grit teeth. “Yet, you held back when you could have caused untold damage to Caeviel with little to no cost to your Hive.”
Celyz and I fail to react, both of us stunned silent by the fact that she’s helping. Leomi closes in on me from behind, she reaches up to my cloak and pulls it off my right shoulder. She then shifts the Vuskyt mail and my shirt’s collar aside to uncover my skin.
“Leomi, I swear that if you’re trying to establish dominance right now, I will tear you to shreds.” I threaten.
“I’m, making peace by it.” She grunts, opening her mouth wide. “Give this a moment since you want the two of us to at least be able to stand each other.”
Leomi bites down at my exposed flesh without restraint, piercing my skin with her canines under the moonlight. A shiver of pleasure runs through the length of my spine as she starts sucking my blood in her mouth.
Celyz rips her feet out of the ground, her tendrils unraveling and tentatively reaching out to me without crossing the distance. She seems utterly distraught by what she’s seeing which immediately makes me regret the leeway I just gave Leomi.
“You don’t get to mark me.” I inform Leomi in a commanding tone.
Leomi slowly unclenches her jaw, using her lips to keep my blood in her mouth as she pulls back. She swallows a tiny gulp before spraying the rest on her right palm and extending it out to Celyz.
“We both have her blood on our hands.” Leomi declares.
“You are not aware of the degree of truth that your statement holds.” Celyz replies in a grave resounding voice.
“Know this, Princess. As I would have opposed Cenwalh and Mother’s actions towards your sister had I known, I therefore will not forgive you for the war the Rykz have brought to so many innocents over it.” Leomi warns.
“I would not expect anyone to.” The Princess acknowledges.
Celyz reaches out to Leomi’s hand with one of her tendrils. She curls it inside the Countess’ palm to cover it in some of my blood as the two share a bizarre handshake as none of their respective appendages close around the other’s.
I feel pride at breaching the divide between these two beings, it may only be a little but it’s a first step that I had a hard time believing they would ever take. Leomi’s lays her trembling left hand at my back, apparently seeking support.
“There is one thing I need to say, Leomi Lance.” Celyz speaks up, swiftly pulling her tendril away.
“You don’t need to.” I quickly interject, telling her not to get involved as she is clearly very different in personality from Leomi or I. “I want the two of you to try to get along, please.”
“Let her.” Leomi says.
“You claim that Elizabeth Vil belongs to you.” Celyz affirms.
“She does.” Leomi turns to me. “Don’t y…” She cuts herself off before asking me to confirm, apparently realizing that it would come close to an attempt to affirm her dominance. “Until she says otherwise.”
“Would you trade Elizabeth for what I know of the fate Jessica suffered?” Celyz asks in an icy tone of voice, purposefully choosing ominous words.
Leomi freezes, as I do but to a greater degree. The question is beyond unfair, it’s a trick, it’s perfectly fitting. The mere fact that my Lady doesn’t instantly reply both hurts and pleases me to an equal degree. That being said, Elizabeth deserves the hesitation for all I’ve done in my, in her, name.
“How could you even hesitate?!” Celyz explodes, out of patience mere seconds after asking.
“Because you could be holding her prisoner and threatening her life for all I know! My word and pride aren’t worth a life.” Leomi growls, biting her lower lip so hard that her mouth fills with blood again. “But, I… I can’t. I’ve.” Leomi grabs my right shoulder with her left hand clasping hard to help her stand straighter. “Beyond my oaths to both of them.” She says, referring to the fact she promised nothing to Jessica and swore not to betray Elizabeth. Leomi’s abdominal muscles are contracted, there is blood flowing down her chin, the corners of her mouth twist from fright, her eyebrows furrowed in a sign of internal agony. It takes her several minutes to gather herself enough to continue. “I have no right to agree to this, even if Elizabeth did and I had every guarantee she would be treated like a Queen among the Rykz. Her life isn’t mine to direct.”
“Your objections clearly indicate that you don’t value Elizabeth as much as Jessica.” Celyz pitilessly exposes.
“Jessica, rightly, broke us off. I, wish I could, let go as well. But I… can‘t.” Leomi stutters. “I truly am falling for Elizabeth, it just, takes time.” She adds in a desperate voice.
“Again, again, and again.” I crack, furious to hear this for the third time. I shove her hand off my shoulder. “You, don’t care about, me!” I choke.
“No! I do!” Leomi protests, her eyes swishing side to side in panic. “How could you say that? I was scared to death for you but I didn’t say a word to stop you from coming to Court! I kept my mouth shut and trusted you even as you risked your life against my will because it was something you wanted to do, because I do trust you!”
“Then trust me when I say that you need to make a final choice.” I utter angrily.
“No! Why?!” Leomi asks.
“Because you’ve thrice professed to be falling for me. Again, ag…” I bite my insane tongue. “You are trying to force feelings that I think are simply nonexistent.” I utter in a sad, defeated voice, pouring Elizabeth’s heart of hearts out.
“That’s not true.” Leomi denies, vigorously shaking her head. “You moved my heart by touching it, by almost dying on me to make a point.”
“Yet, all you seem to care about is owning my love without risking yours.” I say, wishing that she’ll deny it.
“It’s… please don’t do this to us.” Leomi pleads. “Not now. Maybe in a month? In a year together, let the two of us… work or fail.”
She closes the distances without letting me answer, pressing her perfect breasts against my shoulders, her left hand already invading my clothes as her right one reaches for my mask. She closes her eyes and leans down, trying to initiate a kiss in the worst manner at the worst time with the worst rigid partner.
Celyz’ head snaps to the side and she takes a huge step back, away from us. Leomi is cruelly imposing our relationship on Celyz, trying to divert the conversation through lust. Elizabeth’s heart breaks a little. I violently shove her back, she stumbles but doesn’t fall.
“Is this all we are to you? Sex?” I ask in a cold voice.
“No!” Leomi yells. “Why are you doing this? I’m trying to kiss you! I can’t put what I feel for you in words, it’s…” Her voice dies out.
“Say it.” I demand through grit teeth.
“I want to hurt you, I want you to hurt me. It’s not, good, it’s not love, not yet.” Leomi admits with shame. “But don’t you dare say we don’t exist!” She suddenly exclaims in fury.
Leomi flashes forward, throwing a punch at my belly by following through with her entire body to add to the power. I catch her first with my left hand. I try to twist her arm but she opens up her fingers and escapes my grip because I can lock her articulation to make full use of my strength.
I detect Celyz withering away from us, her tendrils wrapping back around her torso as she hurriedly departs. I, should have told her to leave but instead, I hurt the three of us. Leomi brings her hands together and then in front of her mouth.
“She won’t want me. I can’t be allowed near her. This… this is what we have, please don’t destroy it.” She begs.
“There is a wonderful being who is to be whole with me if only I give up on you. She can’t even handle seeing this, that’s how much better she is.” I say, hating myself for still choosing the all-consuming love I want to experience with my Lady once again. Leomi grips at her own hands until they turn white, struggling to control herself as she clings to the hope that I would stop. “Neither of us is entirely faithful but the one holding us back, is you.” I accuse.
“Why, won’t you give us time?” Leomi asks, her light gray eyes boring into mine.
“Because I can’t stay if you won’t choose me, it’s too hard.” I reply honestly.
Elizabeth’s jealousy for Jessica will reach a breaking point if she doesn’t go away. What kind of madness is this? I am me! They are I. I giggle, unable to help myself. Leomi’s expression grows outraged as she interprets my laugh as me taking this as a joke.
“Raaaah!” Leomi screams as she charges me.
I manage to catch her by the shoulders but her momentum along with her advantage in height and weight make me lose balance. I start falling so I drag her with me to the ground.
We start rolling downhill together, accelerating past our ability to physically control. Our hands gripping at the other out of fear, not affection; a good metaphor for what Leomi Lance and Elizabeth Vil’s relationship has been.