Intermission: Mask pt. 2

Alder bolted from where he stood and straddled the man that was tossed on the bed. He struggled with trying to get one arm low enough so he could strap the brother’s wrist down to the side bar. The other two men helped to keep him from flaying Alder.

Alder then shouted to Mien. “Get Kiao,” and then said to the woman, “Madame, go upstairs and wake up the priest up there.”

She took off running. Mien gathered Kiao by the arm and pulled him towards the first empty bed in his line of sight.

“No, private room,” said Kiao.

Mien did as he was asked even though it was more than twice as far away than the nearest bed. When they were in the room, Kiao slid on the high bed.

“Damn that stupid son of skane,” he hissed while slipping off his smock wincing in pain. It revealed the shirt he wore underneath had a growing blood spot. Kiao looked down and grimaced. “He cut me in the breast, great.”

Kiao started unlacing his shirt.

“I got it,” said Mien tossing a cloth to him from the table in the room. “Cover the wound.”

When Mien stood in front of him, Kiao took hold of his wrist and held it. He looked him in the eye and said, “You’re going to need to get me some bandages.”

“Why, I can heal knife wound,” he said and then saw that Kiao was wearing something around his chest. It looked a bit like a women’s breast band.

“Keep going. I need to get this off,” instructed Kiao.

Mien released his hold on Kiao’s shirt and stepped back.

Kiao let out a sigh and finished taking the shirt off himself. “I will explain later, but you need to clean this wound so I can heal it.”

He undid the lacing and tossed the cloth device on the bed. Mien could only gape at Kiao who revealed himself to having two small breasts. The left one was lacerated at the bottom. Mien felt his face starting to burn. However, instead of gaping at her, he pushed his mind to focus on the injury, not the person. Kiao was the one who instilled that thought in mind.

The injury not the person, the injury not the person, he repeated in his mind.

He walked forward and inspected to wound.

“That was a sharp knife,” he said looking at the skin and the cut flesh. He tried not to touch it too much, but he wanted to see how deep it was. He could see rib.  “I’m surprised it didn’t chip a rib.”

Kiao swallowed hard and stretched out on the bed. “Wonderful.”

Mien then rushed to a small floor cabinet in there pulling out a small bottle of alcohol and a cloth. Mien stood up and tried not to stare at Kiao’s chest too long, but it worried him that he was taking in such short shaky breaths. Or was it she? Mien didn’t ask, all he did was pour the disinfectant on the cloth and dabbed it too the wound.

Kiao sucked in a sharp breath and clinched his jaw.

The door then swung up and Alder stood there and immediately shut the door behind him.

“Kiao, really…” he exclaimed.

Kiao pointed at the door. “If you don’t want to look at them get bandages.”

The young man hurried out and slammed the door.

“Honestly,” muttered Kiao.

“I’m done,” said Mien.

Kiao closed his eyes and concentrated on healing the wound. Alder come back and tossed Mien the bandages. “Let him finish, we need to talk.”

Kiao opened one magic lit eye. “I’ll do it.”

“But-”

“Alder,” growled Kiao and pointed to the door again.

The young man threw his arms up leaving.

Kiao and went back to healing stitching up the wound magically until it looked as if it never happened. When he was done, he sat up drawing his knees, and leaned forward, covering his face. Mien didn’t know if he was crying and stood there, looking around as if someone was there to help. Instead of continuing to stand there awkwardly, he took a step forward with his hand quivering. Kiao come back alive and sat up straight.

“To answer your first question, yes, I’m a girl,” she said looking at him straight in the eye. Mien squirmed, fumbling the bandages in his hands. “To answer your second question, yes Alder knows. So does Brother Hickory, Brother Nimbus, and Brother Oli. Now that you know, you must swear to secrecy on your blood and honor as well as the life of your first born child. If you tell, the child is to be sacrificed to me and I will make them my minion.”

Mien stared at her.

Kiao lips spread into a grin. “Oh come on. I’m trying to lighten the mood. I’m serious about the not telling though.”

Mien realized that the steady hands he had learned to possess were shaking. He hid them behind his back.

“I supposed I’m being unfair because you probably don’t know what to think about this,” she said gesturing to the bandages in his hands. “I’ll tell you the long story later. But all you need to know this is where I want to be.”

Mien mind was still stuck on the fact that Kiao was a girl let alone had time to question why she was in the Brotherhood. Of course, her saying that made his mind start racing. Was Kiao really her name? And why didn’t he notice before then? Kiao looked like a young man though his features were fine, but whose young male elf’s features weren’t. Well, Soletus’s, but he was the exception just because he looked older and had very strong features. Kiao was very lean. Even with her breast noticeable, she didn’t have much of a body of a woman. Her hips were narrow. As Mien help her with the bandages, she took on that narrow shape even more with broad shoulders.

“Don’t wrap me too tight. I still need to breathe,” she said.

When he was done, she got dressed again oblivious to him assessing her as she inspected her torn smock and put her fingers through the knife hole.

“I’m glad he didn’t manage to stick me with that knife any deeper,” she said. It was the first time Mien noticed her slender hands. No one in the infirmary ever questioned those nimble fingers. He didn’t even question them. Though it wasn’t like he had large hands either.

Oh her voice, he thought. Why hadn’t he read anything off  her voice magically? How many lies had she told to make him think she was young man? Why hadn’t he felt them? Were his abilities just that unreliable? Maybe Dias didn’t want him to know. Even still, it would’ve been nice to have a little warning.

Through normal ears, her voice was deep enough to be a male sounding voice. Her singing voice didn’t climb to high octaves either. It wasn’t unusual so he never questioned it once. Maybe it was all the grunted she did in reply or how she spoke. Was she even deepening her voice? It didn’t sound like it. Her voice was apparently so androgynous he couldn’t tell.

Kiao placed the smock on the bed and faced him. “Okay, I’ve had enough of your staring,” she said and then grimaced.

Mien was able to process that she needed to sit down again and pushed her back to the bed.

“Your silence is unnerving too.”

Mien exhaled and inhaled, feeling the air go through his throat but his tongue and larynx refused to corporate. He didn’t want to say he felt lied to but he kind of did. Then again, could he blame her for not telling him? That wasn’t something one should tell or go spreading around in an all-male order. Why was she in an all-male order? Why not the Sisterhood?

Kiao’s brow flattened changing her expression to concern. “Mien, I’m about to get Brother Hickory. Find your voice, say something.”

Mien could only swallow. He didn’t know what to say, but tried anyway. “I…you’re…” Kiao rolled her hand in the air to encourage him. “I’m surprised.”

A wry grin spread on her face. “I would be too.”

“You don’t look like a girl,” he said then grimaced at his statement. Great, not only am I tongue tied, but now I’m being insulting.

To his surprise, Kiao mouth spread wide in proud smile. “I’ve been blessed with looking and sounding masculine.”

“You’re smiling,” he noted. That didn’t seem like an expression one would wear after being discovered. However, Kiao wore and it lifted into her checks.

“Well yes, I do smile,” she said. “I’m actually glad that you know. I didn’t like hiding it from you.”

There was a polite tap on the door and Kiao become somber again.

“Come in.”

Brother Oli stood in the doorway. His distraught eyes locked on Kiao. “Are you alright?”

She nodded. “Yes,” and stood to her feet. “I’ve still a little pain up otherwise I’m okay.”

The older elf shuffled in passed her and inspected her torn smock and blooded shirt she wore, as well the breast band she had been wearing.

“It wound was deep, but he went downward, thank Dias, and not straight,” she assured him. “Is he okay?”

“I put him off to sleep for now,” said Brother Oli and directed his attention to Mien said to him sternly, “You’re not to say a word to anyone. Kiao is a brother of this order, got that?”

Mien bobbed his head.

He then switched attention on Kiao and turned into a doting father. “Lad, you look pale.”

“I’m fine. I need to get back to work,” she said.

“You need to change shirts. I’ll get you a new smock, but go to your room, rest, and then come back,” he said.

“I feel okay,” she assured.

“Room, new shirt, and rest. You were just stabbed, lost a bit of blood, and in clear pain.”

She resigned with a sigh, “Yes Sir.”

“As for you, Mien, I need you to make a flush for me.”

Mien nodded and escaped the room. He didn’t make eye contact with the disturbed man’s family members and went straight to the basement stairs that led to the infirmary’s alchemist table. Once he was at the bottom of the stairs, he stepped to the side and leaned on the wall to breathe. He breathed through his nose for a count of three and exhaled the same way just as Oeric taught him to do. Soon his found his heart slowing down and his insides stop churning. However, it did nothing for feeling cold. He rubbed his arms and gather his thoughts. They didn’t go very far from where they were before. Kiao was a girl. And he didn’t know what to feel about that.

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