I rise to my feet with Celyz’ help, setting the forging awl into the ground for stability once more, and because I still feel weak. I realize that I can detect flow in silver when Celyz dismantles the construct weaved in my brain.
I pay close attention to the darkness caused by the blindfold over my eyes, noticing the fact that there is a silvery aura coming from the sun’s position and that there are flickers of silver that last mere split seconds erupting around me.
It isn’t too hard to assign those flickers to Yvonne, Celyz, and Cetyz. So this is useful but I’ll have to pay attention to it because the silver flashes do not last. I take a deep breath to steady my nerves.
“Thank you, Queen Grikyz.” I speak up.
“May you find fertile ground and sunlight to shine on your endeavors, Jessica Elizabeth Vil.” Grikyz responds.
“I wish the Silver Hive a safe return home.” I quickly answer, caught by surprise by the abrupt end she’s putting to the encounter even though it is typical of the Rykz.
Flashes of silver accompany her every step as she pulls herself out of the water. As helpful as it may be in the future, it really doesn’t help me find my way. I frown at the idea of standing there in resignation.
“Is Fenyz around?” I ask whoever will answer me. “Or Idali for that matter.”
“They came over and left, they shouldn’t be far.” Celyz answers me.
“Do you mind leading me to them?” I ask.
“I do not think exerting yourself is a good idea.” She tells me.
“I’ll remain until my eyes have healed, Celyz.” I say with a smile. “We’ll have plenty of time alone together.”
“Hmph.” She exhales with a touch of humor. “It is quite vexing for you to be this perceptive but it makes me happy.”
I hold my hand out for Celyz to take hold of, which she takes hold of along with my waist, using those holds to guide me as we head out side by side. I hear Yvonne trail behind us from afar.
As we progress, Celyz sustains me with her tendrils, helping me walk. I gently tap her tendrils with my elbow to tell her to quit it, which she does. It does a lot for my state of mind to be putting the effort in instead of behind helped.
The ghostly pain in my left arm has yet to vanish but it doesn’t bother me as I take it as a reminder that I have a long way to go to become powerful and not enough to get there, shortcuts have a steep cost.
“Elizabeth!” Idali exclaims front a dozen meters in front of me. “You’re a lot different.” She adds after a pause.
“I may be missing a few things.” I agree.
I catch a bright silver flash at about the same time I hear a thump. Celyz’ tendrils suddenly turn bright silver and someone, likely Idali, crashes and skids on the ground. A cold sweat runs down my back as I would not have been able to stop this attack.
“Aaah, fuck!” Idali yells out.
“What do you think you are doing?” Celyz explodes, shifting me behind her.
“I don’t know!” Idali whimpers. A Princess stomps towards her, probably Fenyz.
“Stop.” I quickly speak up. “Idali, what went through your mind?”
“Don’t know, felt rage all of a sudden.” She tells me. “Jumped before I realized.”
“To do what?” I ask.
“Flatten you?” She asks, sounding uncertain and guilty. “It wasn’t an attack, not really.”
“Okay.” I mutter. “Please, settle down Celyz. Also Fenyz, right?”
“Yes.” Fenyz replies.
“She’s having a hard time handling the symbiont, give her a break.” I say.
“Did something occur between the two of you?” Celyz asks pointedly.
“Yea, my symbiont went alpha on hers.” I answer.
I adjust my grip on my spiky marching cane to slowly and carefully make my way to Idali, going around Celyz who apparently deems it unwise to restrain me. It takes an embarrassingly long amount of time to not only find Idali but also where her right leg is. I’m quite thankful that no one present tries to help.
I set my knee down in front of the symbiont and rest the back of my hand against the cloth covering it. It remains still so I give it the time it needs to assess my odor. I can feel that Idali is slightly shaking, likely struggling to come to terms with herself.
“It’s alright, Idali. You were caught by surprise.” I tell her.
“I was.” She agrees.
“Now you know, right?” I ask.
“I do, it won’t happen again.” She affirms.
“It will not because you will leave for Hetlan and then Kruzser.” Fenyz utters from very close-by, clearly the reason why Idali’s symbiont is so subdued.
“And why is that?” I ask, rising.
“Because it is Caeviel’s most defensible region behind the Izla and one of the centers of the brewing rebellion.” Celyz replies calmly. “Kruzser will be to deliver our treaty proposal directly to the Emperor’s tomb.”
“A veiled threat.” I comment.
“We believe that delivering it to the tomb makes the threat rather clear.” Celyz humorously corrects. “Making contacts in Hetlan will help us assess the timing and keep this woman away from you until she learns to control her symbiont.”
“That’s good.” Idali mutters.
“You okay?” I ask her again.
“Am fine.” She replies shortly. “Spear training with it helped as you said, but clearly not enough.”
“Is there somewhere we can sit to talk?” I ask Idali.
“Couple of rocks over there.” She tells me.
I hold my forearm out for her to take if she needs help getting up. She doesn’t take the offer, she prefers to keep her distance with me and Celyz as we head there. I can tell that the sun is gown down on the horizon by the fresh taste of the wind on my skin.
“I can’t believe I haven’t eaten in hours.” I tell Celyz outside of Idali’s hearing range. “I actually enjoy the lack of urgency to my hunger, but I should probably have something.”
“I’ll have something brought over.” She replies.
I nod and speed up my pace a little, following Celyz’ discreet indications while also probing the ground in front of me. I take my time to find a seat because it’s hard but also to give Idali time to cool down.
Once I take a seat, I start recounting the incidents I recall between me and the Little one for Idali to benefit from my experience. Celyz turns out to be very interested and struggles to restrain her questions as I’ve never really gone into detail about this with her.
Yvonne clearly states that she’s listening from the start but remains quiet and on guard a distance away without intervening. I probably would have sent her away had she not stated her presence as I detected silvery fluctuations from her, and the others, as I spoke.
I decide to wait for our meal before breaching the subject of Aisha. Celyz sadly pulls her tendrils back to let me eat comfortably since I need to set my bowl on my thighs. I hate the fact that I get edgy without her or Yvonne at my side, even though I’m merely sitting.
“All I’ll say about the Shade is that her objective has been Suxen and the flow data, I’ve given my word that I wouldn’t expose her more dubious actions if she didn’t betray me and she hasn’t because she opened the door to Cetyz’ cell without the knowledge that I had made my way in already.” I explain. “She didn’t as far as I know at least.” I add. “Either way, I would not have succeeded if she had acted to hinder me.”
“I’ll get that bitch back for leaving me to die after all the years we’ve known each other.” Idali utters coldly.
“I can affirm that Aisha had no tangible plans towards the Izla and what we’re doing. She will act according to what the Emperor orders which makes her impossible to predict as long as we do not know what his opinion is of our efforts.” I add. “In absence of orders, she’s likely to help Cecil and act against any threat to the Empire regardless of the side it comes from.”
I hear something scrape on the ground nearby and immediately seize my weapon. My reaction causes some alarm around me which creates chaos as I fail to distinguish between my companions and the threat, not that it matters since Celyz is the only one I truly trust.
I swipe the forging awl at an angle in front of my legs, aiming to then swing it around my back but it’s stopped dead on its tracks with a dull thunk. The thing I made contact with flashes silver, it is in the shape of a shin too large to be that of a human.
Multiple cries of warning arise from Cetyz in the distance and Celyz nearby. Fenyz is silent, which scares me as she’s the most dangerous being here. An informed attacker would take her out first while I am likely to die if she’s the one assaulting me.
“Jessica! Wait!” Idali calls out.
It rises above the many voices I hear in my panic but there are too many sounds and indications of movement around me to sort them out. Unable to find the threat, I throw what little flow I’ve regenerated into a lion’s step to jump away and into an empty space, tearing my weapon away from whatever blocked it to
I almost fall over backward so I lean forward while swinging in a wide arc in front of me. I end up over-correcting and falling to my knees. It’s difficult to assess the size of the small silvery strings swiping in the darkness as they quickly appear and disappear.
I conclude that they are tendrils but still swipe towards them without aiming to hit to keep them away. I hear human steps rushing over so I pull a knee up to set a foot on the ground and kick myself away.
I land in the dust on my side and start madly swinging my weapon, terrified as my imagination pulls bloody figures out of my memories. I roar at the cacophony of sounds assaulting me, so confused that I’ve even lost track of Celyz. It takes me a while to get back on my feet with my trembling legs while remaining on my guard.
“Jessica?” Yvonne calls out from close-by, confirming that she’s the one I dodged. There is a certain tension in her voice which doesn’t help calm me.
“What’s going on?” I hear myself ask with crazed panic.
“Idali’s foot slipped as she tried to serve herself a bowl, she is still having issues coordinating her movements at times.” Celyz tells me carefully. Something in her voice tells me that she’s said as much multiple times.
“Are, you sure?” I question, failing to control my tone.
“Yes.” Celyz and Yvonne both reply tensely.
“I’m sorry.” Idali speaks up. The tension in her voice tells me that she’s on her guard.
I slowly lower my weapon. Shortly after I’ve set it down, I catch two branch-like patterns of silver strands to my left folding into a resting position. Those are likely tendrils, meaning two Princesses.
“Fenyz?” I ask.
“Yes.” She answers flatly. “I believe I have told you long ago to never again harm my sister.”
“I tell you, Little one is little mad, mean no harm.” Cetyz gripes.
“I fail to comprehend how that argument falls in her favor in your opinion.” Fenyz responds quietly.
I experience deep relief and embarrassment. From what I understand, I went off when I heard an unexpected sound too close to me for comfort and hit… No. A burst of anguish seizes my chest.
“Celyz?” I call out, feeling a pit in my stomach at the thought that I hurt her.
“You did not harm me, Jessica.” She replies gently.
I listen carefully for her approach, still feeling on edge. I hear multiple sets of Rykz feet shifting, from drones to Princesses. I even catch sabers being sheathed. From what I can gather, Fenyz and Cetyz are being pushed aside by Celyz.
“I, I need to go.” I mutter. “I relaxed too much, rested too long. Something.”
“You are exhausted.” Celyz counters as she heads towards me with small steps.
It hurts me more than my episode that she is being so careful but I don’t complain. I would throw my weapon aside to appease her but my hand is refusing to let go. I fail to overrule Elizabeth’s call on this because we don’t feel confident enough to discard the spike.
“Let us go back to the tent.” Celyz tells me, taking hold of my waist to pick me up and turns me in the right direction.
“Sister, she is clearly unstable.” Fenyz protests.
“I am, I should leave.” I concur.
I hear a smack followed by a groan from where I recall detecting Cetyz and Fenyz. The two depart immediately after, the dragging sounds I catch tell me that one of them is definitely in disagreement but that the other absolutely does not care.
“Night will fall soon, Jessica. It will get colder out.” Yvonne tells me.
I hesitate but decide to wait in the end, feeling rather grateful that she isn’t using the fact that I’m still blind and clearly prone to wild mood swings to keep me from going.
“Hey! I’m not little, I’m average!” I yell at Cetyz, suddenly recalling her earlier words.
“Maybe tall as me if jump and add head tendril.” Cetyz replies innocently from a distance.
I can’t help but laugh at her response, knowing that she isn’t so oblivious as to compare my height to that of a Princess. I soon lose my smile as I can hear the drones breathing around us from a lot closer than they were.
Added to that is how Celyz is standing still by my side, clearly concerned about making any abrupt movements. I start walking ahead without further delay, angry at myself and impatient to find out if my sight will recover.
It feels like it takes forever to get to the tent, which I don’t mind as I enjoy Celyz’ company and it allows me to cool down. My issue is that I can’t tell distances without seeing my surroundings. I literally crumble on the bed as soon as we arrive.
“Stay for the night, if you don’t… mind.” I mutter.
— — —
I wake up already feeling down. I grow fully depressed as I recall my behavior the day before. The multiple parts of my body radiating pain don’t do anything to improve my mood as I consider those self-inflicted for my recklessness in using the symbiont.
I spend the next three days in the tent, utterly unwilling to head outside before my sight returns. I try to convince myself that it’s to prevent another incident but the truth is that I’m simply scared of going out.
It is far from easy to cloister myself as I’ve relied so much on forging ahead towards my goals that I now feel a constant pressure to keep moving forward at even the cost of offending my friends.
Celyz helps me deal with that by spending hours helping me train the constructs she taught me on the way to Port-Odo even though Grikyz left during the first night and the Rykz are folding their fortified camp.
Yvonne, somehow, manages to guard the entrance to my tent for all this time without losing her mind despite the fact that I rarely call for her help or even company with Celyz there.
My Oak and I flirt some but she seems to have taken the incident to her cores as she does all she can to avoid agitating me, which agitates me but less than the fear I now carry of harming her by mistake if she comes close.
I have no doubt that my reaction to her touching me in a more than friendly way has a lot to do with the distance she’s keeping. She conceals her pains about our relationship well but my frequent heartaches can testify to the fact that she isn’t very good at it.
I fully recover my sight on the morning of the fourth day, they remain sensitive but it isn’t an issue as long as I don’t stare directly at the sun. I step outside to observe the rising dawn, witnessing a magnificent scenery of orange, red, and silver mixing together over the deep blue sea.
Celyz heads out and plants her roots by my side while Yvonne remains a ways away, always discreet but alert when she isn’t part of the discussion. I can’t wait to return her to Leomi, I enjoy her friendship but I’m feeling increasingly stifled.
I run my gaze over the encampment, finding that there are only trenches left and Rykz drones scurrying about in patrols. The lake they dug is a hundred meters away at the most when I wouldn’t have been surprised if I was told I walked a kilometer to get to it.
“I really need to get moving.” I tell her, the sunrise making me restless to the point my back starts itching. “Tonight at the latest.”
“So soon.” Celyz sighs.
“I’ll make my goodbyes, where are your sisters?” I ask.
“Likely on patrols.” Celyz replies, emphasizing the last word to make it clear it’s a euphemism.
There is a point of jealousy to her voice that I let pass, taking it as a wake-up call to the fact that the surprise I owe her is now long overdue. I’m human again and I can see, all that’s left is to leave her in the best possible mood.
“Where’s the symbiont then? And my case?” I ask.
“The case is back in the tent.” Celyz replies.
“And the parasite?” I question coldly.
“Jessica…” Celyz trails off.
My new sense allows me to catch her movement as the turns her head in my direction. I refuse to look back at her, knowing very well that there is a chance it’ll turn into a fight if I’m faced by her justified fear for my tendency to throw my life away.
“Follow me.” She says with a sigh.