Intermission: Unmasked pt. 13

Dear Reader: extremely late, so sorry, I’ll have more to say about it another day.


Kiao prepared herself to expect the unexpected for the rest of her day. The one thing she could somewhat control was settling things with Lionel because she imagined he would act tighter around her. However, approaching on getting back, the young tod was relaxed and curious.

“How did it go,” he asked.
“I’m still here,” she said. “And as I stated before, I’m sorry I didn’t tell you.”

“It’s okay,” he answered. “I knew something was up.”

“How?”

“Well, your voice for one thing. You’ve never sounded male to me,” he said. “And it’s nothing to do with pitch just, you’re timbre wasn’t like any of the other chanters I met.”

“I was beginning to think none but Brother Hickory could figure it out,” she said, feeling rather stunned. “To be honest, I’m nearly timbre deaf when it comes differentiating timbres.”

“Oh, well chanters timbre’s all sound and feel different to me,” he said. “Yours and Alder is similar in potency but, Mien’s, his is different in that I don’t want to be near him when he’s angry.”

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.”

Kiao wanted to question him further on that, but Kiao’s first patient come in. It was nothing more than just a skinned knee that required five other tods had to assist him. And that was what Kiao had to deal with that day, curious tods. She took their array of terrible thought reasons to waste her time in stride while Alder had a fit.

After midday, Briar came barging in to visit.

“Oh, Ko-ko!”

Kiao flinched still wishing she had someplace to hide as both Lionel and Alder gave her a look. “Ko-ko?”

“Yes, Ko-ko,” said Briar enveloping her in a tight hug. “Lyndon told me about harrowing escape from being kicked out today.”

“He over-exaggerated my struggle. What do you want?”

“The huntresses and I decided that you need a party held in your honor at my house.”

“Why?”

“Because you bet the rules and are inside the walls that have gated us girls from ever joining. 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.”

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 the skeptical cynicism?”

“What do you want?”

Briar sighed. “The party is tomorrow evening. I know its short notice but, father wanted you to come to dinner to speak with you. And I thought why not make a party of it. He really likes you, just so you know.”

“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.”

Lionel remained staring 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 want to like that she would. She didn’t like the fact that she was throwing a party for her. Kiao knew she would be sitting there being asked all sort of ridiculous questions about her experiences in the Brotherhood. She was also eager to see what come of it. It was the first time in a long time she had a chance to be around different people for a change and like her world opening up a little more.

After Briar showed up, Kiao was certain that Mien would appear again. He never did though. She needed to talk to him about what the Arch Priest had shared with them. It was the thought about the child that weighed on her mind. She always considered it an impossibility. She was told and shown that fact and suddenly the Arch Priest told her not believe it. That she could indeed have a child and if that was the case then Mien was must likely the father.

She didn’t know what to feel about that.  She didn’t even know what the purpose of him sharing that with her.  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 side of things.

Kiao ended up purging the thoughts from her mind because of how much she rolled it around in her head trying to pick it apart. That was also a 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 couldn’t seek Mien’s opinion on it and he finally appeared again when the dinner horn sounded. He pushed the infirmary door open and stepped in while she was checking over patient’s notes alone.

She leaned on the podium and said, “It’s about time. I thought I would have to fetch you from the chapel.”

He paused at the doorway and stated, “I wasn’t there. I was out riding with Soletus’s father.”

“This entire time?”

“I was with Brother Hickory and after that I went with him, we talked, and rode back.”

“What would he need to talk to you about?”

“Things. Personal things.” he said keeping his distance from her. “I’ll talk about it later but I think there’s something I promised to talk about.”

“Can it wait? I mean, we just had a bunch of things dumped on us today like what the Arch Priest shared with us on how this bond work and my being a mother.”

Mien started walking forward and speaking looking at the floor. “You rather start with all of that?”

“They are current topics that we need to consider not with moving forward.”

Mien stopped short of her and met her gaze. “Humph,” he said from his chest and clasped his hand behind his back.

“You disagree?”

Mien nodded and took a deep breathe. “Yes because I came here all prepped and ready to tell you that I think you’re cute. That is why I look at you like that because you’re doing something that I find very attractive.”

Kiao found herself being rendered speechless.

“Now if you want to focus on the future and things that matter but don’t matter fine. But, I think right here and now, you rather focus on the fact that I’m the boy who thinks you’re beautiful.”

The girl inside was pleased to hear that. “You think I’m beautiful,” she asked in a small voice.

“On the bridge were we met, was when I decided you were the prettiest girl I ever seen. The Arch Priest was right. I saw something pretty and I liked it,” he told her.

Kiao’s jumbled thoughts slowly the snapped back into place and regret nested in her chest as well as guilt. She wished Soletus could say those words and she didn’t want to think that.

“I don’t know what to say to that,” she said to her podium, wondering if she needed to tell him about the thoughts that had been plaguing her.

“I’m not looking for you to say anything,” he said and then 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 his wrist, he shut the book and folded his arms on the top of the podium.

She glanced up and was greeted to a candid expression on his boney face.

He then said very softly. “This is what is in front of us now. And somehow, in the future, it grows enough that we end up having a child. Do you know how utterly terrifying that is?”

“I wouldn’t call it terrifying as I would call it confusing because Mien, I really need to-“

“Let me finish first before you throw something else out there. I know he meant to tell us that as a way to probably encourage us. That this is something that’s going to happen but I don’t want you to believe that’s going to happen unless my uncle is dead.”

“What are you talking about?”

Mien swallowed and said spoke very slowly. “He’s not a good man, Kiao. He’s a terrible one. He’ll hurt you just to spite me. I don’t want him knowing about you. I don’t want him knowing about our bond. That’s how terrified I am about your safety let alone our future child.”

“You’re assuming that it’s yours which by the way, I really need to talk to about something-,”

“Let me finish.”

Kiao pursed her lips and began to get irritated.

“I think it’s a reasonable assumption to make even though you’re barely over that threshold of just giving this a chance and I committed myself to it.”

She found herself having to stand there a moment to take in his calm. It was off compared to when he admitted having the bond with her. However, there were signs of his distress there. His breathing was shorter than it needed to be. His heart was fluttering along, and she could the beginning of his shuttering. She didn’t want him to go past that point until he could barely speak coherently.

“We’re pausing this conversation,” she said moving from behind the podium.

“But I’m not-“

She took him by the hand and led him to a bed. “Sit!”

He plopped down without protest and she went over to a shelf on the other side and plucked off one of the extra blankets off of it. The young woman then took the blanket and draped it over his shoulders. She knew it’ll make him feel better.

“I think it’s wonderful that you want to tell me all of this but, a little care for yourself is nice,” she told him and seated herself behind him. “You can continue when ready.”

Mien pulled the blanket tight around himself. “I’m going to keep things moving right along. I know you don’t like me as much as I do. I knew it would be hard and unfair to you because you’ve had your eye on Soletus and that’s not something you just drop and move onto the next person. I couldn’t.”

Kiao sighed. “I’m a stupid girl, I know.”

“I wouldn’t say that. Logically between the two of us, why not him? He’s a rather velvety husky voice and he has the looks to go along with as well as the personality.”

“And I have to ignore it.”

“You don’t have to if you don’t want to,” said Mien quietly. “I mean, he’s a really good fellow and I think for now you should-”

Kiao cut him off. “No. I’m not doing that. It’s unfair to you because you don’t even care about anyone else. If we both had eyes on different people then obviously we need to focus on the spiritual aspects. However, you really like me so logically I need to learn to appreciate you. You’re not the only one who needs to grow. And besides that, we wouldn’t work out at all.”

Mien arched an eyebrow at her. “Did you approach him?”

“Absolutely not,” said Kiao. “It’s just a fancy. Besides, he’s untouchable. He isn’t mine. I can’t be with him. I already feel bad enough for being so infatuated with him when you so attached to me. So no more talk about that, okay?”

She could see the corner of his mouth lift. “If that’s the case, then what do you want from me? I’m not exactly a prize among males. And I want you happy more than just trying to make this work.”

She wanted Mien to be a mature, strong, and confident person.  She wanted him to stop overthinking and being high-strung. She wanted him to be an ideal. But she knew that she couldn’t have that.

“I don’t know,” she said. “That’s something I can’t tell you right now. The only thing you can do is be the best you that you can be.”

Mien let out a chuckle. “That seems to be the common advice being thrown my way today. But I like that you said it.”

“Clearly personal bias, I just said it in a way that you thought attractive.”

He grinned again not even bothering denying it.

“So who else told you such wise words?”

“Soletus’s father,” he replied.

“Really?”

“Yes, he’s a little easier to talk because we relate to reach other,” he said. “I mean, I made it through this with minimal destress with his advice.”

Kiao would have to agree.

He patted his stomach and then asked, “Dinner?”

“Certainly,” said Kiao rising to her feet and offered her hand to him.

Mien looked at it and he got that same expression on his face as well as laughter twinkled in his eyes.

Kiao sighed. “This is getting infuriating. How am I being cute now?”

“You know, traditionally, I’m supposed to be the chivalrous one. And while we’re on the subject, you bowed in front of the Patriarch. It would be more appropriate if you curtsied.”

“And you find me getting my gestures confused humorous and cute?”

“Yes. You’ll probably lead if I danced with you,” he said taking her hand. “I don’t mind. I like that about you. ”

Kiao pulled him up. “You’re showing signs of being a typical male elf.”

That statement caused the other side of him mouth to lift. “And that’s an issue because?”

“Not an issue, just an annoyance. You’re going to be ogling me more and more when we need to be working,” she said then picked up the blanket and folded it again before walking back to the shelf. “And honestly, I think the priest assembly is going to be watching for things like that. They’ll probably don’t want us to show the most tiny bit of affection for each other.”

As she place it back down, she heard his footsteps behind her and before she could turn around, he slid his arms around her waist and leaned on her back. He was warmest living thing she ever felt. He then spoke into her ear.

“You mean like this?”

“Uh Mien this is…I uh…”

“To forward I know. It’s hard know what not and what to do when I feel as if I known you forever.”

Kiao felt a current moving between them. A warm fluffy current of comfort and after a long day like the one she had, it felt nice.

“This feels much better than a blanket,” he said.

Kiao wondered what it would feel like with a blanket draped around the both of them. Not just for the fact she think they would enjoy it, but for observation sake. It was part of the bond and she wondered if outside stimulus would enhance it.

Their moment though was cute short. There was movement from upstairs.

Kiao patted Mien’s hand. “Let go. Brother Oli’s on his way down.”

He gave her a squeeze before releasing. It was thankfully not bone crushing. He was gentle and more aware of his strength than the three huggers she knew.

 

-the end

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