It felt surreal when she they came back to the infirmary. She didn’t prepare for the feeling of the emotions associated with the aftermath. She sank down in one of the wooden chairs in the lobby of the infirmary with her mind hanging somewhere between relief and disbelief that she was still there.
Alder had opened the door for her and watched her a moment before asking tentatively. “Are you okay?”
She bobbed her head.
Brother Oli paused in front of her. “Do you need a moment?”
Kiao shrugged and then nodded.
He nodded and went in. Alder left the door and sat down beside her. “I thought you would be more in a celebratory mood. You know, being silly and twirling in your dress like a princess.”
She would’ve a glared at him if it wasn’t the truth. She would’ve twirled around just to see how much she could move in the dress and how it flowed. It was a very comfortable dress.
“Well, I’ve felt sick the entire time there,” she said. “I didn’t even want to leave my room before I left. And ugh, this day feels too long already, and it just started.”
Alder wrapped an arm around her shoulder and squeezed. “But you’re still here. You should be happy. I’m happy. We still get to work together.”
Kiao patted his hand that held her. True, they still got to work together. They could be a team and help Oli as that was always the goal.
The door that led into the infirmary cracked. Lionel's head appeared, and he stepped out with a mug in his hands. He handed it to her.
“I thought maybe you would need this,” he said and seated himself across from her.
The mug smelled of lavender and mint.
His bright eyes reminded Kiao of blue bird feathers and hair that was a wispy golden straw. In fact, he kind of looked like a baby bird full of tawny fluff than real feathers.
“Thank you,” she said. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you the truth.”
“Well, it makes sense,” he said, rubbing his arm. “I can pick up on distressed and pain. You were sick a few weeks ago. And uh…it felt familiar. Not only that, the tea that Mien made for you. It was chamomile, raspberry, and spearmint. I smelled it. Not a combination I would use on a young man.”
Kiao blinked at him.
Alder groaned. “Mien wasn’t careful.”
“He was at least helpful,” retorted Kiao. “Unlike you who runs and hides. And besides Lionel would’ve figured it out on your own. He’s observant.”
“I mean,” he said. “I was thinking it. I guess you two don’t sense pain and distress at all.”
The two shook their head. It wasn’t the most common chanter ability. In fact, some character could soothe pain away with there phrased of healing, but they usually didn’t heal wounds as well.
“Well, I feel a light sensation of tightness on my own body where a person hurts if I’m close enough to them. So, you know that location generally indicates…”
“Oh,” said Kiao. “You would’ve figured it out.”
“Not only that, but your timbre doesn’t sound very…male to me. It’s strange, I know. I’m not timbre sensitive. Not like Mien, but I can tell things. Yours and Alder are similar in potency, but yours just as a certain flow to it. He is more resounding. And Mien’s, he always reminds me of the breeze that comes before a storm.”
Alder then sighed. “I told you, he’s harmless.”
Lionel swayed his head. “It not what he did, it’s his voice. What did Dias say? Some chanters will be the reckoning light. He sounds it.”
Before Kiao could question him further, the door to the infirmary opened and their first patient came in; a skinned knee that required five other tods had to assist him. That was the start of the wave of young curious warders and junior wardens. She took their array of terrible reasons to waste her time in stride while Alder had a fit.
When it finally slowed, Briar burst through the door, calling for her.
Kiao flinched, still wishing she had some place to hide as both Lionel and Alder gave her goofy looks.
“Ko-ko,” said Alder, grinning from ear to ear.
“Yes, Ko-ko,” said Briar, enveloping her in a tight hug. “Lyndon told me about her harrowing escape from being kicked out today.”
“He over-exaggerated my struggle,” she said, accepting the hug. “What do you want?”
She held her away from her and said, “I decided that you need a party held in your honor at my house.”
“Because you beat the rules and are inside the walls that have gated us girls. And because of that, we want to make you an honorary huntress.”
“But I can’t fight, and I have no desire too,” she told her.
Briar waved her statement away. “Pfff details.”
“Be honest. You just want to have a party,” stated Kiao.
The young woman hugged her again. “You’re so smart.”
“And you want something else, don’t you?”
The huntress held her away from her. “Can’t you take my flattery without thinking I have an ulterior motive?”
“What do you want?”
Briar sighed. “The party is tomorrow evening. I know its short notice, but father wanted to speak with you too. He just wants to bore you with details. Though he really likes you. Said that you were impressive.”
“I got that impression as well.”
Briar beamed. “It’s settled. Come to my house instead of going to that grimy mess hall, bye!”
She then dashed out just as quickly as she dashed in.
“Ko-ko,” said Alder behind her, snickering. “What a wonderful name.”
“Oh, shove it and get back to work,” she said, pushing him aside.
Lionel remained staring at where Briar once stood, as if his mind just caught up to him.
“Who was that?”
“That was the Patriarch’s daughter. You’ll be seeing her around a lot more.”
Kiao didn’t like the fact that she was throwing a party for her. Kiao knew she would sit there being asked all sorts of ridiculous questions about her experiences in the Brotherhood. She was also eager to see what will come of it. Her world had opened for the first time in a long time, and like before, she found herself enjoying it.
After Briar showed up, Kiao was certain that Mien would appear. He never did. In his absence, it gave her mind enough time to churn on what the Arch Priest had shared with them. It’s full weight on her mind. She always considered a child an impossibility. She was told and shown that fact and suddenly the Arch Priest told her not to believe it. Clearly, she would have to adopt and the only reason she would adopt someone, if she had support. That support could only come from a person she married. Thus, Mien was most likely the father. That was the only thing that made sense. His vision of her changed recently and the only change she experienced was the timbre bond with Miens.
She didn’t know what to feel about that. She didn’t even know what the purpose of him sharing that with them was. The Arch Priest didn’t describe the child as he said he saw it faintly and that on its own was a telling sign. Either the future wasn’t clear, or the vision wasn’t clear because of something on the Arch Priest's side of things.
Kiao tried to purge it all from her mind, but it only came back for her to pick apart some more. That was the danger of being told a vision. They weren’t things you actively thought about, bring them about, or avoid. There was a time for everything, but that didn’t mean she didn’t want Mien’s opinion on it. In fact, that was the only way she figured she would stop thinking about it. She got her wish when the dinner horn sounded. He pushed the infirmary door open and stepped in while she was checking over notes alone.
The infirmary was empty. All injured were sent home or to the dorms.
She leaned on the podium and said, “It’s about time. I thought I would have to fetch you from the chapel.”
He paused midway to her and stated, “I wasn’t there. I was out riding with Soletus’s father.”
“This entire time?”
“Well, I started off with Brother Hickory. Then Oeric came and took me.”
“Why,” she asked.
“He wanted too. He wanted to tell me important things a young tod like me needs to know. Anyway, I think there’s something I promised you.”
“Can it wait? I mean, I would like to start with what the Arch Priest shared with us.”
Mien started walking forward and speaking, looking at the floor. “You rather start with all of that?”
“Yes, it’s been on my mind all day. We need to discuss,” she pressed.
Mien stopped short of her and met her gaze. “Humph,” he said from his chest and clasped his hand behind his back.
“You don’t want to?”
Mien nodded and inhaled deeply. “Yes, because I came here all prepped and ready to tell you that I think you’re cute. That’s why I look at you that way you always see, because you’re doing something that I find very attractive.”
All the words that Kiao had thought flew straight from her mind. The girl inside was pleased, if not overjoyed, squealing at those words. Then panic sat in because she didn’t know how to respond. She knew Mien did like her, but hearing it from him was different. What did she say in return?
“You can focus on the future later,” he said. “Right now, I came here to tell you the Arch Priest was right. I saw the prettiest girl I ever seen on that bridge, and I like her. I like her a lot.”
Kiao’s jumbled thoughts slowly the snapped back into place and realized she couldn’t say it back. It wasn’t that she disliked Mien. She didn’t know enough about him to say she liked him or not. Well, she knew enough, but not enough. There were more things she needed to figure out before she could figure that out herself. How could he even say that? At least it wasn’t a “I love you.” What if that was what he met? How could her? She let the girl panic in her mind. While she, forever the priest tried not to panic then.
“I don’t know what to say to that,” she said to her podium.
“I’m not looking for you to say anything,” he told her softly. Then she saw his hand appear. He plucked the red ribbon she used as a bookmark from beside her ledger and placed it between the pages. With a flick of his wrist, he shut the book and folded his arms on the top. She was the greeted by a candid expression on his boney face.
“I’m not looking for you to return any of that,” he told her. “What I want is a chance. A real chance.”
“The Arch Priest said—”
“I don’t care what he said. This is what I’m telling you. I want a real chance. Or as much of a real chance I can have. I know you have your issues; I don’t care. If there is a child in your future, then that’s the future. Right now, it’s just you and me.”
“You feel I’m getting ahead of myself, don’t you?”
He nodded his head. The look he gave her suggested that she needed to move. He was likely scared.
“Okay, you promised to be privy to your thought. You are thinking something now.”
He let out a giddy laugh. “I really regret telling you that now. I just wanted you to not be afraid, and that was the only encouragement I could think of.”
Kiao then realized the state he was in. That calm was very surface level. His heart was fluttering along, given the pulsing on the side of his neck. He wasn’t shaking, yet, but she knew it was coming. She was about to suggest that he sit down, but he continued onward.
“Anyway, I say this because I don’t want to be your friend. I can’t be the person who Soletus is to you. I want more than that.”
“Why are you bringing him up into this,” she asked confused.
“Because had you had an interest in him and I hung back a little because of that. I figured I should let you figure out what you truly wanted. And if that wasn’t me, then it was him. But something changed. You act as if you don’t want to be near him half the time.”
“That’s because I don’t want him and I’m trying to stop feeling silly for liking him.”
Mien arched a brow. “Oh, you asked him.”
Kiao leaned forward. “No. There’s another reason.”
She then saw that smug expression he would wear. It took her off guard sometimes.
“Oh, so you know he’s neth,” she said.
“I didn’t say that,” he told her, becoming serious faced.
“Did he tell you?”
“No. I figured it out. In fact, I wondered about it early on. He said something that struck me as odd. And he’s repeated it. You know that saying about find a woman is like walking a road is full of stones. A man will look for the pretty gem among them and carry it around with him?”
“He’s his own interpretation of it. ‘Girls are likes stones, they are everywhere. Why should I have to pick one up?’ He’s said that more than once.”
“I’ve never heard him say that.”
“You never gone with Lyndon on his hunts. Maybe two months ago, Lyndon made an off comment about his behavior. And he’s been kind of weird around us since. I think he might’ve realized it.”
“He has because he came to me weeks ago thinking he thought he was. And he likely is given what he told me. Which is why I just have to forget him.”
“Really,” said Mien raising his brow and straightening up.
“Yes. Maybe you and Lyndon can reassure him you’re not going to reject him and think less of him.”
“I will,” he told her, with on corner of his lip working up more than the other side.
“That made you too excited.”
“That means I have a greater chance with the ruby gem I found in front me,” he told her.
Kiao could feel her ear tips getting warm. “What did you do when you were out? Read a book on flattery!”
He smiled enigmatically at her. “Anyway, I want to earn your trust and admiration. What do you want from me?”
“What do I want” she mouthed, wondering why he would ask that. It was a strange question but a refreshing one because they had been floundering until that point. She guessed that’s why parents were there to help guide first time matches.
“I don’t know what I want from you. I want your patience mostly so I can figure everything out. I don’t have this bond attaching me to you.”
“It actually just enhances what I feel towards you. I liked you before the bond, remember?”
“True,” she said. “But it doesn’t change the fact, you are the first boy who said you liked me. You think I’m pretty. Though I question your eyesight.”
“There are pretty girls out there, and your one of them. But none of them can have made a song out of naming all the major internal organs in the body. Or have cute noses.”
“My nose is large.”
He then leaned forward and quickly kissed the tip of it and huddled back down, looking like a boy who was caught doing something bad. But he wasn’t the least bit remorseful.
“They make it easier to do things like that,” he said.
Kiao was then at odd with herself. She wanted to be mad at him. Wanted to swat him. But he was incredibly sweet. She had her ideals. Things she thought she wanted. However, maybe she didn’t need a monk. Maybe she just needed a sweet, smart chanter who liked to give her rocks and wouldn’t stand for her being insulted.
But could she eventually love that? It made her feel all warm and fuzzy inside, like having a warm blanket around her.
“You’re making it hard for me to say no,” she told him.
Mien started down at his hands. “So, you want to try to be me? Even though I’m neurotic.”
“You’re not neurotic,” she exclaimed. “You’re a timbre sensitive chanter and that’s the least annoying part of you.”
“What is the most annoying part of me then,” he said.
“It’s still the same thing when we me. You didn’t like yourself. And if someone doesn’t like you, you have this habit of beating yourself about it. You should care so much about that sort of thing. Anyway, it’s getting late. We need to do eat.”
“Yes. I’m starving,” said Mien.
She expected him to question her assessment. Instead, he straightened up and hurried down the aisle to open the door for her. He held it open for her and said,
“Lady Priestess, dinner awaits.”
“This is not how I imagined going out to dinner with the boy who like me to be,” she said, jokingly. The again she couldn’t imagine anything different.
The Archive returns September 6th.
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