My eyes took a moment to adjust to the interior. It was exceedingly dark, no light sources aside from the distantly bright cyan down the hallway. My footsteps made no sound, no echoes, as I walked down the pitch corridor towards that light. As I neared, the figure I was expecting slowly became apparent against the light, orange wadji barely registering in comparison.
“You’re a long ways away out of town,” Surgriel noted as I drew close enough for us to casually converse.
“Just checking in on the communion,” I responded calmly. “Is it getting impatient?”
He laughed. “Something this old? Hardly. Just wanted to confirm that I still had our original agreement in mind. Don’t tell me it’s already time for us to leave, though?”
“What, you’ve lost track of time that badly? Yes, we should leave within the next day if we want to actually make it on time.”
“Don’t want to keep Celdan’s new leaders waiting, no. And nothing’s changed so far, right? No new crisis, everything’s going peacefully…?” he inquired, voice bordering on his customary fatigue without crossing over to it. Things had definitely been getting better for him. Sleeping better, by my guess.
“We haven’t heard anything bad happening so far. If anything, quite the opposite. Those of us being welcomed in Palatecan villages say they’re being treated very well, in spite of some initial misunderstandings and rough patches. If it’s not overstepping too much,” I added in, “I think this really could have a good ending for us. All of us.”
“You’re gonna put an eye out with that optimism,” he chuckled. “Well, alright, I’ll wrap things up here and meet you outside. Oh, and make sure the equipment we’re gifting is working right this time!”
I did my best to pull the string back, but wow. I hadn’t thought about how hard this would actually be, once it was in my hands. Was too used to crossbows at this point. I let out a growl of frustration as I tried to prepare the weapon, and the arrow wound up slipping out of my fingers and falling into the grass. Sighing to myself, I bent over to pick it up.
Janus chuckled from behind me. “I told you it was harder to use bows. You sure you want to keep this up, Meisha? Don’t have to work on it right now.” I turned to look at him, raising my eyebrow, and found him gazing skyward. “It’ll probably rain again anyways.”
“I’m gonna figure this out, sir. Rain’ll have to wait.” As I set to steadying my bow again, I saw that one blonde kid walking around off past this little shooting range. Having her called to mind made me freshly wonder who she even was. Of course, I’d be the first to admit that I was pretty young myself, but this kid looked like seven or eight. A seven year old kid got to roam freely while we were confined to the training grounds?
Not to mention how stern her face always was, and whenever I could overhear her, she sounded more like my old schoolteacher than like an actual kid. If she was the child of someone in this camp, they had to be raising the most stuck up brat I’d ever heard of. Shouldn’t someone have stepped in and given the kid some decent education on how to be nice to people or something?
Ended up really distracting me from what I had just resolved to make the rain wait for, huh. Shaking my head, I turned my attention back to the bow in my hand, frowning at the weight I still wasn’t getting used to. I took up the stance Janus had been drilling into me, knocking the arrow and pulling back the string slowly. Thankfully this was just an exercise at this point, because it was still really hard on my arms. After several seconds, I finally got to a ready-to-fire position, and triumphantly… set it all down.
“You’ve pretty much got it,” Janus encouraged, stepping closer. “Just a matter of building up muscle and getting used to it.”
I nodded a few times too many. “I can do it. Right now I’m just wondering who the bratty little kid I keep seeing around the main camp is. You know her, sir? Is she an actual member?”
His answer took a second or two too long to come, so I looked back at him. His gaze was focused intently on the entrance to the camp, brows furrowed. Was he… upset or something? I couldn’t tell what could be making him react that way. Then, without even turning back to me, he replied.
“Yes, she is. She’s one of our most senior members, next to Ekkan and Aysa. Bratty is a bit much there.” Ah, well, assumptions sure screwed me over there. I hadn’t even met Aysa yet, but I knew she was the boss for sure, at least. And the kid was right up there with her?
“Uh, ehheheh… you’re not gonna tell her I said that, right? Wait, how’d she even get that spot at her age?!”
“It’s complicated,” he answered, waving a dismissive hand. “I might tell you later. For now, just focus on your exercises.”
He was starting to sound as bothered as he looked. In spite of his command, I couldn’t help but track his gaze, trying to see whatever it could be that he was focused so intently on. All of a sudden, he ordered me to continue practicing, then began walking out of the training grounds towards the direction of the entrance. I was also starting to see what had to be his target. There were two people walking in.
They came close enough to identify a bit, soon enough. One was a tall, pale man with really light hair and a pair of glasses, and the other looked like a tanned girl with short, black hair. I knew I recognized them from the main camp, but had little idea why Janus was so interested in them. Or, what, were these the other two higher-ups that he’d just told me about? Were they gone somewhere previously?
As he walked closer to them, I saw the kid approaching as well. They stopped in front of the newly arrived pair, and that’s about as much detail as I could ascertain about the situation. The training grounds were too far off from the main encampment for me to get much detail beyond general shapes, colors, and movements. Speaking of which, they soon started moving as a group, passing closer by the grounds while not actually coming over here.
I thought about just carrying on like Janus ordered and keep practicing, but he looked so bothered while leaving. What could possibly have been going on that had him like this? I didn’t like seeing that look on his face. Between him being upset and my own curiosity, I couldn’t help wanting to know what was happening. I glanced over towards my fellow initiates further down the range, none of whom seemed to be paying attention to me. They’d be none the wiser.
Feeling sneaky, I set my bow off to the side, where it would be kept safe and dry, and began to walk off the range towards the main camp. Initiates weren’t really allowed around here for whatever reason, at least not on their own. So, it couldn’t be so bad as to be unsafe, right? I didn’t see anything that seemed unsafe. I was fine.
Others, however, looked less fine. Walking into the camp itself, I came across plenty of unpleasant faces. Everyone who wasn’t working had a really dour look to them, and the ones that were working looked like they needed a nap. Each conversation I overheard while walking past seemed to be uttered in monotone, or otherwise in a tone of exhaustion, or sometimes flat out whispering.
Janus and the others had gone into one of the wood lodges, which I probably wouldn’t be able to enter legitimately any time soon, and didn’t feel safe sneaking into. Barring that, I put a good amount of effort into walking around with an air of purpose, if only to look like I actually had a right to be here. Otherwise, I was still utterly absorbed in what I was seeing around here. It was like a different place entirely.
With the initiates, we were always having a good time, it felt like, to the point of developing a bad habit of staying up late. We showed off, we got excited, we couldn’t wait for the real deal, even though that real deal would mean risking our lives. Now… everyone just looks like they aren’t getting enough sleep. Especially the two I’d just walked past. They were seated on a large stump, just hanging out with each other I guessed.
One was a man in a long jacket, with gaunt features and hair that looked like brown straw in both color and almost in texture. The other was a blonde, disheveled woman with a… a missing hand. She was missing a hand. The reality of that hit me straight in the face, and I must’ve been staring as a result, because the man glared daggers at me. I could just imagine what he was thinking about me right then, and that combination drew my gaze away from the sight. The image, though… that stayed. It wasn’t like the stump was visible, but it didn’t take a genius to figure out what was going on underneath those bandages.
Out of nowhere, the loud sounds of wood colliding with wood came from behind me, startling me straight out of all those earlier thoughts. A bunch of shouting immediately proceeded the wooden impacts. I whipped around to see what could possibly be going on, and saw Janus exiting the nearby building, followed by the kid, the tall man, and the tanned girl. Holy crap they were all right here.
If the people around here were having a bad time, then this girl looked like the queen of it right now. Her hair might’ve only been chin-length, but it almost looked like a child cut it for her. All choppy, and looked like it hadn’t been washed in weeks. Her eye sockets were uncomfortably pronounced, and the green blouse she wore was stained with dirt and looked as if it’d been rained on multiple times. Even having seen her before, she never once looked this bad, at least not to me.
In a slight panic, I immediately ducked around the nearest corner of the adjacent structure, which Janus and the others had just exited. The first words I could clearly make out were a woman belligerently yelling, “-n’t do that, Mana! Locking someone up like this, and for what?!”
The response seemed to come from the girl I’d called a brat earlier. “I’m aware it has little precedence, but this wasn’t some benign opinion being held to himself. He was trying to organize a mob against you.”
“Don’t bullshit me! Since when was he the kind of person to do something like that?! I handled his problem myself, before you decided to-”
“Both of you,” an unfamiliar man’s voice interrupted, “this isn’t a constructive way to handle things. Besides, right now we need to focus on the meeting. Aysa, what we discussed-”
“Not now, Dores,” the girl – Mana? – cut in. If she weren’t constantly cold in tone, that would have sounded more venomous, I imagined. “You left me here to maintain order on your behalf. I did that. I ensured that there would be no risk of returning to a riot against your authority.”
The infuriated one, who I had to assume was Aysa, had begun pacing out further beyond the lodge they’d all exited, but Mana’s words prompted her to whip around and face her again.
“You don’t know any of that! Where’s the proof of their conspiracy, of any organization against me?! That’s right, there isn’t any, because all you have is one guy fucking locked away!”
In a huff, she turned to a nearby member in some sort of leather get-up, beckoning him impatiently towards her. Once he was near enough for her to not need to scream orders, she spat at him instructions to release Xander and bring him over here immediately. Ricor was surprisingly unmoved by her tone, nodding obediently before heading towards one of the larger, more distant lodges. Aysa, meanwhile, turned back to Mana with lingering rage on her features.
“This never happens again. Do you hear me?”
“I hear you,” the girl answered in a flat voice. My angle wasn’t good enough to see her face very well, but I felt like I could see a scowl having formed as she took all that in.
In the meantime, Aysa stood there, looking as impatient and aggravated as ever with her arms folded over her chest. It didn’t take too long for Ricor to emerge from the building he’d entered, at least, and he was followed by a darker-skinned man with distinctly short hair. The man, presumably Xander, looked at Aysa with what seemed like a mix of surprise and relief, which again seemed strange given the woman’s demeanor.
Just as that thought crossed my mind, though, Aysa’s furious expression began to relax in reciprocation, before being replaced with a stern gaze. It was piercing and intense, like what you’d expect from a responsible leader, but I couldn’t shake the impression that it’d been at least partially practiced.
“What’s been going on here, Xander?” she asked, kicking things off.
“I honestly don’t know. I’ve pretty much just been talking with people on the latest news, discuss some of our policies, nothing bad. Suddenly, in comes the damn inquisition to burn me at the stake.” He shot a glare at Mana as he said that. “Came out of nowhere like she was watching us the whole damn time as well.”
Aysa glanced back at the girl. “Did you imprison him for trying to spark debate on Ophentum policies? It’s not a crime as long as everyone’s being civil about it, Mana. What is a crime is breaching people’s privacy by monit-”
“I wasn’t monitoring anyone,” Mana replied with indignity. “Trigali informed me about it, so I decided to ask around and see if what she told me was actually happening. It seemed potentially risky enough to warrant investigation.”
At the name ‘Trigali’, Xander immediately looked around the growing crowd around us until he found whoever he was looking for. Probably the girl who had apparently snitched on him. I couldn’t see her myself, but I could plainly notice him mouthing the word ‘why’ to her. Then I noticed Aysa glaring in that direction as well, and I more or less pinned down who they were talking about: a fair-skinned woman with long, light-brown hair. Hadn’t seen her before.
“You two need to lock it down, starting today,” she warned the both of them. Felt like I was missing some kinda context here. “And Mana, I’ll repeat myself: This will not happen again. Am I making myself clear?”
I couldn’t see Mana’s reaction from this angle, now that more people had been gathering around. It seemed safe to go out into the open a bit more, so I began to move out of my hiding space, trying to blend in with the new audience. No one seemed to notice me at first, but all too quickly, I saw Janus’ eyes flit towards me, and they narrowed in recognition. Crap, guy had eyes like a hawk. Crap, now he was coming this way. Several people were still discussing something over there, but my attention was forced entirely on my superior as he approached.
“What are you doing here?” he asked me pointedly. “I told you to keep practicing.”
“I’m sorry, sir,” I began answering, eyes coming to rest on the muddy, trampled ground, “I just wanted to know what was making you that upset. It looked like something was wrong, so-”
“-That’s ALL I’M ASKING,” someone shouted, bringing both of our attentions back to the others. That sounded like Xander’s voice. “I just wanted to know why people are being forced to work like this. Seriously! Ask any one of them! How is this right?!”
That was quite a topic change, and also what the hell were people actually being forced to work here? Where was this coming from? Is that how these people did things…?
“Who is being forced to work?” Aysa cut in, a dangerous edge to her tone. She didn’t know?
“I’ve had the civilians from Celdan doing some work while staying here,” Mana answered defensively. “Nothing unfair. It was simply a price that made sense for giving them refuge.”
“You told me they were volunteers, Mana.” Aysa was practically growling now, the emotions rising into her expression and voice almost more frightening than earlier.
“This isn’t a charity, Aysa, and this sure as hell isn’t Belenon. We don’t have the luxury of letting them become a drain on our food stockpile without having them at least help us in return. It’s not just logic, either. Everyone earns their keep here.”
Things were getting even more heated, and Janus had tactically placed himself partway between the scene and myself, making it hard for me to tell what was going on. I tried looking over his shoulder, but dang was he tall.
“Sir, please, what’s going on over there?” I asked, though he didn’t have a good opportunity to reply.
“They’re refugees, for Christ’s sake! Why are you insisting on kicking people while they’re down?!” I heard Aysa exclaim, sounding more and more like she did before. From past Janus’ side, I could see Xander stepping backwards, edging himself away from the conflict.
“And why are you insisting on wasting our time?” Mana spat back, obviously starting to lose her cool by now. “We wouldn’t even be having this problem if you weren’t so obsessed with that bounty, with hunting people down! And for what, all the people you lost? You think you’re the only person who’s lost someone here?! We all have!! If you could just grow the fuck up and start acting like the adult you are, you wouldn’t-”
She was entirely cut off by someone practically screaming, wild and unrestrained. A series of shocked gasps and startled cries followed from the surrounding crowd. Whatever was happening, it prompted Janus to take action himself, and once he had rushed forward, I could see the situation plainly. Aysa was… looming over Mana. She was choking her, growls and other guttural sounds of hatred still audible in spite of the flurry of action. Mana was clawing at the woman’s hands, and that guy I think was called ‘Dores’ was trying to peel Aysa off of her. It only worked after a couple of seconds.
Almost directly after Aysa was forced away, Ricor dashed towards her, wrapping his arms around her so as to pin her arms against her sides. In a blind fury, the woman began to flail around, kick her legs, the whole thing, and Ricor was as unmoved as ever as he dragged her back further away from her victim. Then, suddenly, Aysa’s head ducked down. It looked like her mouth clamped down onto the man’s leather bracer.
Despite being ostensibly protected, a cry of agony escaped his lips, and my blood went even colder than before. Forced to be released due to the pain inflicted, Aysa was free to rush at Mana again. Dores had prioritized moving to help Ricor, which meant he wasn’t there to stop Aysa as she lifted the girl full-on into the air, like a doll being held very violently by the neck. This time, though, Janus stepped in himself.
Aysa seemed to yelp outright very soon after Janus’ movement had stopped. Mana fell to the ground, practically kicking at the dirt in her scramble to get away from the larger woman. From the brief glimpses of her face I could get, she seemed to be looking up at Aysa with a mixture of fear and utter bewilderment, hand resting on her own battered throat. Aysa, who I wasn’t able to see due to Janus, stepped out from behind him and into view, wrists clutched and arms shaking.
Before she could do anything further, Janus moved again, coming up behind Aysa and taking hold of her arms solidly. She cried out in some measure of pain as Janus basically manhandled her, then lifted her entirely off the ground, if only by a few inches. Again, her legs began thrashing about. Her previously incoherent wailing soon took the form of a furious, screeched command, apparently aimed at the girl she’d just been trying to choke to death.
“GET OUT OF MY CAMP! GET HER OUT OF HERE!!” she ordered, though I couldn’t tell who she was trying to target with that order. Aysa continued to yell in her frantic rage even as Janus pulled her into the building they had previously been in. Dores had already began hauling Ricor away to another lodge, with the man having gone completely limp and unresponsive. What the hell could she have done to him?
Everyone in the crowd, myself included, stood silently. Had to imagine most were feeling the same way I was, which consisted mostly of being utterly speechless at seeing something like this actually go down. At least that probably meant this was strange, not what I should be expecting, but… I almost wished I hadn’t come over here. Just to get my eyes off Mana, I looked around, instinctually fixating on things that were at least somewhat familiar.
I saw Xander off to the side, looking inscrutably miserable, as he was approached by a woman of similar complexion and features. Almost looked like she could be his sister or something. She wrapped one arm around the man’s shoulder, trying to comfort him for some reason I didn’t have the context to. Further off, I saw Dores running to the building Aysa had been dragged into by Janus. Even now, no one dared moving after that display, not unless they were directly in Dores’ path and needed to step aside.
Mana was still sitting there in the dirt, just as unwilling to move as anyone else. Her stillness was laced with more fear than anyone else’s, as her eyes darted across all the faces present. Time seemed awkwardly frozen. After perhaps a minute, however, the woman I’d learned was ‘Trigali’ walked towards her, a disgusted expression on her face. Mana, turning to view the person suddenly moving towards her, recoiled defensively. Again, the girl was towered over by another.
“It’s time for you to leave.”
Mana stared up at Trigali with incredulity, which I echoed. Was that order actually meant to be taken seriously? She was in a blind fury! I mean, I guessed that was exactly why no one else was really moving until now… but it didn’t seem to matter. Trigali was now acting on it as if it were an official command. Just a few moments after she broke the silence, Xander stepped forward again.
“Teneya, don’t d-”
“Weren’t you a part of this?” Trigali snapped, head turned in his direction. “Aren’t you the reason this happened in the first place?”
Having quieted Xander, she now turned to address the crowd at large. “You all heard Aysa. She wants Mana out, so Mana is leaving. I don’t imagine there’ll be any objections to our leader’s orders?”
At this, Mana finally pushed herself up off the ground, dusting off the black longcoat – it still counted even though it was kid-sized, right? – she wore and straightening out her disheveled hair. Despite being a child, her expressions hadn’t ever seemed the least bit diluted or ineffective, and that held even more true now, as she glared up at the woman with pure, unfiltered hatred.
“Don’t insult me with your faux-authority, Trigali. You don’t have any. None of you have any. I should’ve known this operation was a waste of time from the moment I saw it being headed by an infantile adult.”
After having said her piece, Mana turned with a huff and began walking towards one of the further-off lodges. Trigali followed her. Once that reached the girl’s awareness, she turned back and once again stared her down.
“Why are you following me? Are you so incompetent as to expect me to leave without my property, without even so much as some food? I’ll be gone within the hour, and then you’ll be left to your ridiculous-”
Whatever she was about to say was interrupted as the taller woman grabbed her by the collar of her coat. Without even another moment’s hesitation, Trigali yanked her back and hurled her into the dirt, in the vague direction of the camp’s entrance. People in the crowd began parting in the wake of that, not eager to have a little girl thrown directly at them.
“No,” Trigali insisted, voice low and dangerously cold, “you’ll be leaving right now.”
Mana’s defiance up ‘til now had been maintained in spite of the lack of any apparent support, but at the thought of being forced away with none of her belongings and nothing to survive the trip to a nearby settlement, she once again adopted a look of fear. I could feel my own gut wrenching a bit at the thought of these people forcing her to die out there, like this.
“Are you- are you serious?” she asked, voice truly wavering for the first time since I saw her. “With nothing? Are you trying to starve me to death?!”
“I’m sure you can find someone else to order around out there,” said Trigali, scathingly. “Aysa’s word is final.”
Mana’s stare had gone distant, like she was looking at something in the distance far behind Trigali. If she really was looking at something, though, I couldn’t see whatever it was.
“Then I’ll see myself out,” she returned, voice hoarse and small. With that, she turned about to face the entrance slowly, and stood there for a moment. Then, before any further protest, the girl walked forward, pace quickening steadily into a brisk, hurried walk. In mere moments, Mana had begun to walk into the forests of Faenon.
I heard the door behind me open up again, making me jump a little. Also made me realize I hadn’t been breathing during that last exchange. Twisting my neck to see, I caught Janus exiting the building and walking to the center of the crowd, towards Trigali. His eyes did meet mine for a few moments, trepidation plain on his face, and then he turned his attention back to the situation.
“Where’d Miss Corsea go?”
As if suddenly realizing the meaning of the split crowd and its obvious pathway leading out of the camp, Janus dashed toward the forest for a few moments, as futile as it probably was. The crowd continued watching in silence, though several had begun breaking away, likely feeling that everything was over. I almost felt sick.
He turned back towards us. “Where is she?!”
“Aysa told her to leave,” was Trigali’s only answer, spoken in a flat tone.
Janus’ face, filled with apprehension and a sense of trying to desperately piece something together, said it all. Which was good, since he himself said nothing, simply staring in shock at the meaning of Trigali’s words. Then, he began striding past the woman, locking his expression into one of professionality and determination, or so I felt.
“Go out and get Corsea back here,” he ordered to no one in particular before looking at me again. “Meisha, get back to the initiates’ quarters and stay there.”
Not even having paused during that, he continued on towards the building where Ricor had been taken after his… injury? In the wake of a direct order, one far more calm and rational than the previous, several in the crowd finally took to movement. Seemed to be organizing to head off into the forest that Mana had vanished into. Trigali followed along, though she didn’t participate much in the actual organization. Xander, I noted, simply sat on a nearby stump, face buried in his hands.
That man who’d glared at me for staring earlier – what felt like an eternity ago, before that public debacle – was looking towards me now. Had he been staring or something? For how long? …Was that some sorta payback for me staring earlier?
“Initiate, huh?” he noted. I nodded sheepishly, averting my gaze to the dirt for a moment before correcting myself. He smirked, but there was no humor. It felt purely sardonic. “Welcome to the Ophentum, then. Better get going.”
I couldn’t get out. The fucker was crushing me and I couldn’t get out, no matter what I tried. Was almost seeing red as I kicked, pulled, did everything possible, but Janus kept me held. The sudden pain on my arms broke through my anger with a spike of worry, and then a twist in my gut. Were my- were those things seriously breaking here?! The compression wasn’t stopping for-
“Aysa, stop!” he implored, grip tightening for a moment. The pain got worse. I screamed, equally in response to the wounds on my arms and to my own fury. He then started dragging me towards my bed. “Stop and I’ll release you! Please!”
In the midst of Janus’ pleading with me, the door before me opened, and in came Ekkan, looking pale and distressed over some bullshit. Just pissed me off to look at. Without wasting another second of getting compressed, I tried calling out to him.
“Ekkan…” I barely squeezed out, quickly devolving into a snarl, “Help.”
“Janus, let her go,” came his command. “Get to the medical ward. We need to treat Ricor, now. I’ll take care of her.”
Thank fuck, he finally let go of me, god. My knees buckled aggravatingly as I first tried standing on them again, and in spite of the inherent pain in doing so, my lungs sucked in a large, greedy breath. Janus quickly shoved his way past me, meanwhile, moving to the exit. Ekkan had approached me at some point, but for the moment, all I wanted to do was ignore him. Climbing onto my bed, I pressed myself as close to the adjacent wall as I could, just trying to keep steady. My arms still ached with every movement, ever since that shithead attacked me.
Compulsively, I pulled back one of the sleeves of my blouse. Ekkan was saying something… somewhere. It was quiet, now. Distant. Unintelligible. All I could focus on were these- the cracks that had begun to bloom all across them, the blood that slowly oozed out where they met my skin. How could there possibly be cracks in these? I’d been slashed and bitten innumerable times by now, and every single thing I killed was incapable of penetrating these.
Couldn’t look at them. Couldn’t keep steady. I drew myself into a fetal position just to try and shake less. Ekkan’s voice – at least I think that’s what that was – had dissolved into a distant drone, hardly even recognizable as being there. I felt what had to be his hand on my arm, much closer than the rest of him, and I instantly recoiled. Even a touch like that was enough to exacerbate what I was feeling.
Whatever I was feeling. It all felt fuzzy, and incoherent, and aggravating. It made me want to growl, an expression as much aimed at the physical pain as at my mental situation. At the situation in general. That aggravation returned clarity to what I was thinking, but that just made it all worse, and more intense, and horrible in the same way that it was before. Some tiny part of me knew I was slipping, but I couldn’t stop it, didn’t even want to linger on that knowledge.
Of course Mana would do this to me. I fixated on her, I had to, and it fed into everything else. Of course she’d do this to me, just like everyone else was doing. Ekkan did it too, as soon as he tried talking me out of killing her. He wasn’t with me anymore, and neither was Mana, and neither was anyone else. Why would Mana doing this all behind my back even be a surprise, that little bitch; I couldn’t even trust- no, but he said he wasn’t trying to do that, back at the meeting. But what did that matter if it amounted to this?!
And Mana was just the same. Worse, she was worse, and I knew it from day one. I should’ve trusted my gut and kicked that piece of shit out from the very beginning, not let her get into a position of power just to abuse it, abuse me, my trust, that’s all she ever did to me! And Ekkan was-
“Aysa, just keep breathing right now,” he said beside me, tone restrained. Of course he was gonna try to shove this shit on me again. “Everything’s fine right now, okay? It may have been stressful, but it’s over now. Don’t worry about any of the details right now. May I see your arms?”
It’s over now, my ass. Don’t worry about them, my ass. He’s always talking like he knows- well, so maybe he does know sometimes, but he- I let out another involuntary growl, shifting positions to sit up properly. I knew he was right about the breathing, at least. Everything else needed to shut the hell up. Thankfully for him, Ekkan allowed me to right myself and calm down without any further prodding.
After about thirty seconds of this, I stuck my arms out, eyes averted to keep myself from looking at them as Ekkan tended to the damage. I wanted to keep myself as far removed from him as possible right now, but I had enough of myself under control to know that allowing him to help me here was logical. If he kept going on about the same bullshit, though-
“If there’s anything you need to say, I’m here to listen,” he said softly, which somehow made it grate on my ears even more.
“Just- just get my arms done and leave,” I spat out in response, desperately trying to keep myself from slipping into further aggravation at him. Well, I already was, but I just wanted him gone. I wanted him not to see it.
It only took a couple minutes for him to bandage up the wounds on my arms, thankfully. Once he’d finished, Ekkan stood up and gingerly stepped out of the room, leaving me with one last ‘I’m sorry’ before exiting completely. Being left on my own let me actually calm down most of the way again, but the answer spinning around my head still wasn’t changing. It didn’t matter what Ekkan’s intentions were anymore.
Taking one last, steadying breath, I stood up fully. There was a pack in the corner I often used on excursions. Was glad to see it here, in easy reach. Once I’d grabbed it, I began filling it with whatever I would need for survival, and as much money as I could find lying around.