Dark Light

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Chapter 12

I’ll always love you and make you happy

If you’ll only say the same.

But if you leave me to love another,

You’ll regret it all one day


I cussed profusely, looked at the paper again, and continued bombing the air with profanities. Hopefully, no one was listening outside the hotel room. I continued the storm as I further realized that there was only one challenge left anywhere near Europe. The rest were in far Asia or The Americas. I wanted to save this one for last, but that meant a long flight back here. Besides, it would probably be best if I checked on her...

No. I would avoid her at all costs. I had to sneak into the lightsy realm and stay for a week and sneak out. As long as she did not see me or recognize me, it would be fine. Nothing would happen. She wouldn’t turn me in. I wouldn’t hurt her. I just had to plan this carefully.

I stayed in France for a month, growing out a beard and my hair. That put her in there without me for two months, which meant that she was with her father as long as she was with me. That should have at least balanced the scale and put her back the way she was. I hoped she was happy. I hoped she loved her father. I hoped she had gotten over me. Truthfully, what I did to her haunted my dreams.

I had heard a ton of things about King Amora. He was a jovial giant. Apparently, he was a few inches taller than my father, which put him around 6′ 4". He smiled a ton and could remain content and happy in the most stressful situations. He led his people well, and like his father before him, incorporated human technology into his people’s everyday life. That was the reason why my dad never broke the treaty terms. Because the Lightsies could stand light, the little glowing phones worked for them. Our scientists were still working on screens that emitted darkness, so we were stuck with landlines, even then, King Zinx didn’t want to spend tax money on installing said lines.

That was only the communication advantage the lightsies had. I was glad that they weren’t into war and bloodshed, for by my calculations, if they wanted to wipe us out, they could within a year. If the darkies had that type of advantage, there would be no more lightsies. I didn’t want a war, but I knew that even the king only had so much power. If the people wanted a war, the king could do little to stop it.

All of that to say, King Amora was rumored to be a pretty good guy. If the king wanted to go to war, there was very little the people could do to stop him. He was the one that kept the peace treaty renewed, even though his father was the one that initiated it. That was why I assumed he would not kill Sunshine, and he would take her in.

Once I was satisfied that my beard was big enough to hide my jaw line and high cheekbones and my hair long enough to mostly cover the points in my ears, I set forth my plan for entering the land of eternal light without signaling that I was a darky. I left most of my things under a bush and kept my wings in. I hadn’t had them out in weeks. Then, I took a metal bar and beat myself up within five miles of the lightsy land. I gave myself a concussion (that really hurt), at least two broken ribs, and a very badly broken nose. I spread evidence of another person and tore my clothes before lying on my back, pretending to be knocked out.

Eventually, I heard the flapping of wings and a worried voice. “Hey, who’s this guy?”

“I don’t know. Did you see him last lap?”

“No. That’s why I asked you, dumbface.”

A hand moved my head, and I remained relaxed, breathing shallowly with my eyes closed but not too tight. Hands searched my pockets and clothing. I heard a low whistle.

“They really did a number on this guy. No ID, and not even a cent on him. Think we should take him in and help him get better?”

“What was the policy on knocked out seeming humans?”

“Either wait ’till they wake up or check their back.”

“Right. He looks bruised, not bleeding, so I think we should wait.”

“Okay. I’ll wait. You patrol.”

“Sounds good.”

One took off, and the other sat next to me. A policy to prevent darky break ins. Smart, but inconvenient for me. I needed to wait a bit before I began to stir, so I adjusted my plan in my head. The guy waiting on me placed his hand on my shoulder and prayed quietly. I inwardly scowled.

The lightsy religion baffled me. I hadn’t yet heard of it in full, but I was raised to believe they were stupid. We agreed on the existence of angels and demons, but we disagreed on which were good and which were bad. We also disagreed on the existence of an all-powerful God. We darkies, if we thought about it, would say there was a type of force making things right, but we didn’t think we owed him anything or he really cared about us.

I waited roughly ten minutes before I groaned and moved slightly. The guy next to me stopped humming and hurried to kneel next to me.

“Hey, there. What happened?”

I opened my eyes only slightly, squinting up at a brown face shrouded in black dreadlocks. I groaned and moved feebly to lift myself up.

“Nothing,” I grumbled.

“Whoa, that’s a lot of pain from nothing. Can I help?”

“No.” I grunted in pain as I struggled to my feet.

Usually, I ignored my pain, but I needed to milk it, so I let a bruise from my shin make me fall to my knees. I grunted in pain, put a fist on the ground, and glared straight ahead, but the pain was too much to stand. The guy shook his head and put himself under one of my arms, making me lean on him.

“I know a healer. We can get you patched up quick.”

I tried weakly to push him away. “I don’t need lightsy help.”

I felt him tense.

“Well, you need some kind of help. Want me to bring you to the nearest hospital?”

“Just leave me alone!” I protested.

I finally pushed away from him, stumbled a step, and fell flat on my face, barely catching myself.

“Ok, you’re coming with me. You can’t even walk.”

I sighed into the dirt and tried to stand again. “Fine. But I’m gonna go unconscious if we go in the land of eternal light.”

“I know. I’ll get you to a healer. Can you fly?”

I laughed bitterly. “If I wanted to get my wings out, sure.”

“Why wouldn’t you?”

I mumbled to where I was sure he couldn’t hear me. “My wings are white.”

“What was that?”

I groaned and flipped over. “I don’t wanna let my wings out, okay!?”

“Okay. Okay.” He held out a hand to help me up. “C’mon, we’ll walk.”

I groaned as he helped me up and limped, leaning on his shoulder.

“So,” he asked, “what happened?”

I spoke past my teeth. “The stupid prince saw me and surprised me.”

“Which stupid prince?”

“Dirg.”

“Why did he attack you?”

I shook my head. “That’s none of your business.”

He stopped, making me stop. “I am rather sure that it is indeed my business. I am helping you, here.”

I scowled. “I told you I didn’t want no lightsy help.”

“Why did he attack you?”

I sighed. “I’m an outcast. Any darky that sees me tends to think I’m a punching bag.”

“And what did you do to deserve this?”

“I was born,” I muttered.

He looked at me funny. It felt weird hanging onto some guy’s arm.

“How does being born make you an outcast?”

I let my head fall. “My wings are white.”

He looked even more confused. “White?”

I nodded sadly. “Yeah. I’m pretty much just a human with wings. And my gift is stupid.”

He continued walking. “Do tell.”

“I glow in the dark.”

He tried to hold back a laugh. “Yeah, I can see how that would be bad for a dark.”

I growled slightly. “Well, what’s yours, Mr. High and Mighty?”

“I can smell blood.”

Like Mira, I thought. I wrinkled my nose. “What is that useful for?”

“I can tell if people are related. And, it helped me notice you from way up high in the air.”

I let the silence drag on for a bit before I spoke. “Well, thanks. My name is Kolm, by the way.”

“I am Benaiah, but most call me Ben.”

We approached the barrier, and I winced as he put me down.

“I’m going to get some help. You stay here.”

" ’Snot like I can go anywhere.” I said as I sprawled out, catering to my injuries.

He smiled as he took off. A few minutes later, he came back with two other men.

“Are you sure we can trust this guy?” One asked.

The two new men looked identical in every way possible. Same hair, same clothes, same face.

“I don’t know. That’s why I brought you two.”

They looked into each other’s eyes, both light brown, like Sunshine’s. Their hair was golden like hers too, but their skin was much darker and their features were different.

They looked at me. “What is your name?”

“Kolm.” I answered.

“Why are you here?”

I gestured at Ben, “Because he dragged me here.”

“No, why are you in Europe?”

“This is light territory.” The other said.

I groaned as I sat up, looking back and forth between them. “Exactly. There are pretty much no darkies here.”

“You avoid your own kind?”

The way they talked was freaky. They switched every other sentence as if this was rehearsed.

“Yes, I do. You think I like this pain?”

Ben jumped in to explain. “He said that he is an outcast because of his wings.”

The twins looked at each other and back at me simultaneously.

“Show us your wings.” They ordered in sync

I glared at them. “No.”

“Then we cannot let you in.”

I started to stand. “Fine. I don’t even want in.”

I ground my teeth as I stood and then put a hand to my head and cursed. The world was spinning. Giving myself a concussion was not the best of ideas. I took a step away and my leg crumpled under me. I guess I bruised my knee harder than I thought.

“He needs a healer,” a twin noted.

“Yes, but Dad will kill us if we let him in without checking his story.”

“He could help with Lucy...”

I mentally froze. No, no, no! I couldn’t help with Lucy! I again tried to stand, but this time I actually fell over. My ears started ringing, and they looked down at me in pity. I didn’t need their pity; I stinking did this to myself. They lifted me up, and my world went black.

I drifted awake. Why didn’t I set an alarm? Oh, well. Sleep..

Ice cold water hit me, and I shot up, a hand going to the sword that wasn’t there.

“I’ve always wanted to do that!” A twin said cheerfully. We were in a room painted gray with a large window looking out into the barrier. I calmed myself and felt around my body where I hurt myself. No bruises, no concussion, no broken bones. I looked at them in amazement.

“How-”

“A healer.

“You’ve been out for two hours.

“Come on, we’re going to be late for dinner.”

I rubbed my head. I was in new, black clothes. I followed them out. “You have black clothes?”

“Yeah. We never wear them, though.”

“You’re to stick with us until Dad takes care of you.”

I feigned ignorance. “And your dad is...”

“King Amora. I’m Ed, by the way.”

“And I’m Theo.”

I blanched and stopped. “Last king I met exiled me.”

“Yup. Come on.”

I hurried to catch up, actually surprised at the lack of pain. We entered a grand room, and I gaped. They had a cafeteria for the entire realm! The line was long, and I just gaped the entire time. Several people shot me suspicious glances, but I ignored them. The twins talked with friends; at least one eye on me at all times.

The servers, mostly humans, smiled as they gave us our Tex-Mex. They had willing human slaves? How did they manage that? I mean, I had heard that they were nice, but no one was nice to a slave! That was my original plan, get caught and become a slave for a week. I kind of wished that had worked just so I could see how they did that.
I sat with the twins and several of their friends. I expected them to pick on me or something similar, but once they got over the fact that a darky was sitting with them, they relaxed into usual conversations. There was no couple making out in a corner and no drunkards singing off key and no fight about to ensue. Everything was odd and so opposite.

One twin elbowed me. “What are you staring at, dark?”

I gestured around. “Everything. You are so... Different.”

“How so?” Asked the other.

“There are more than five skyrunners in a room, and a brawl hasn’t started yet.”

They laughed. “Is that normal for darks?”

I nodded. “Quite. Along with make out sessions along the walls.”

They all looked disgusted.

“That sounds deplorable,” someone said.

I shrugged. “It’s pretty fun. Why do your slaves-”

A twin cut me off. “They are not slaves.”

“They are servants,” the other clarified.

“They are paid.”

“And they want to be here.”

“So don’t ever call them slaves again.”

I lifted my hands. “Whoa guys. Sorry. Do you always do that?”

They grinned and spoke in sync. “Do what? Talk together? No, never.”

All of their friends cracked up laughing. A friend grinned at me and tapped the side of his head. “Those two have a link, or at least they practice every night when only the two of them can hear them mess up. We’ve been watching for slips, but in sixteen years, we haven’t caught one.”

“You never will,” one declared.

“Because we are awesome.”

They high-fived over my head and then stood.

“We have to go, guys.”

“We apologize for leaving so early-”

“but this guy needs to be authorized-”

“or kicked out.”

“That would be fun-”

“but it’s our Dad’s decision to make.”

I stood and followed them out. The enchiladas weren’t near as good as mine, but they were filling. I started to get nervous, hoping that I would not run into Sunshine. I didn’t need to ruin whatever progress she had made or get killed. I was well aware of that possibility.

The twins knocked on a door in sync and a call came from inside. “Who is it?”

“Ed-”

“And Theo-”

“With the dark.”

“Come in.”

They opened the door to the smell of burnt food, which tightened my stomach with dread. Burnt food meant Sunshine, and sure enough, she was sitting at a table with the king, queen, and princess, picking at a burnt piece of chicken.

King Amora smiled at his boys. “Remind me next time that Lucy is as bad a cook as I am. Put him in interrogation room one.”

I gulped and acted scared. For darkies, interrogation meant torture.

“Um, I’ll just leave. I mean, I don’t even want to be here, so uh, sorry, and uh, can I just go?”

The twins cracked up laughing and each grabbed one of my shoulder.

“You are not to leave until we say you can-”

“and we make sure you are not a spy.”

I widened my eyes in fear and struggled slightly but eventually just went where pushed.

“Do you think we should use the water?” A twin asked the other.

“I prefer the saw.”

“But that one is so messy.”

“We can always pull out the scream.”

I fought harder, and they laughed.

“We’re just kidding, Kolm.”

“Chill out.”

“We don’t torture anyone.”

“Unless we are at war.”

“But we haven’t been as long as we have been alive.”

“Unless you start one, we aren’t going to hurt you.”

I nodded and went into the room they opened for me. It was just a normal room with a table, two chairs across from each other, and a large mirror on the wall. I stared at myself for a few minutes as I sat where I could see the mirror. I did not like the beard. Bristles were fine. Beard was not.

I was in there by myself for quite some time. I eventually just laid my head on my arm and started to drift to sleep.

I jerked up and awake as the door opened. I blinked rapidly, trying to focus up at a smiling king.

“Sorry, I did not mean to leave you waiting so long.”

I nodded and yawned. “No problem. I’m used to naps in random places.”

He sat across from me. “My sons said that you have white wings?”

I flinched. “Yes. You’re going to exile me too, aren’t you? Then where am I going to go?” I sighed and put my head in my hands.

“Australia does not have heavy skyrunner traffic,” King Amora hinted.

I groaned. “I don’t have money for a plane ticket.”

“You have wings.”

“I hate my wings.”

“At least you have them.”

“I wish I didn’t, but then maybe someone would have claimed me, so maybe it was a good thing?”

“What do you mean by claimed you?”

“Made me a pet or a toy or a slave.”

He looked confused. “What do pets and toys have to do with anything?”

I looked at him incredulously. Sunshine hadn’t told him? “Pets and toys are humans that a darky might take for personal uses. Pets are that, pets, usually given a job. Toys are toys... As in you play with them... If you get my drift.”

The king went stiff and seemed annoyed, but he quickly hid it.

“I get the drift. That is... Disgusting.”

I shrugged. “It is darky life. I would get one, but since I am seen as a human, I’m not allowed to claim any.”

“If you’re seen as a human anyway, why were you outright exiled?”

“The king didn’t know about me until recently. And when he learned about me, he exiled me. Simple.”

The king shook his head. “That makes no sense. Just because you have white wings?”

“Exactly! So I am now a punching bag! It’s annoying.”

“Well, you are human, and darks don’t like humans.”

I nodded.

“But we lights have no disposition either way.”

I stared at him, mouth hanging ajar. “What are you saying?”

“I’m saying you could stay here if you wanted. We have rules, and you would have to follow those rules. If you stayed here, you wouldn’t run into any more darks.”

“The prince is still out there, he could sneak in here.”

The king laughed. “No he can’t. If he could or did, I would catch him and beat him to death with my bare hands.”

I raised my eyebrows in genuine surprise. “He didn’t beat me that bad...”

He chuckled dryly. “No offense, but it’s not because of what he did to you. No, you were easy to heal.”

I made sure to look confused. “Who else did he hurt?”

He tilted his head. “My daughter. She is a dark light, and he broke her spirit. I was actually hoping you would help me with something.”

I shrugged, outwardly. Inwardly... I cringed. I didn’t want to see her. I didn’t want to hurt her any more. I didn’t mean to break her, but I told myself it couldn’t be that bad. A lightsy couldn’t possibly measure just how broken someone was, and as her father, he would overreact.

“I need a dark to help me summon her wings.”

“My wings are white, sire. I have never been able to summon wings.”

“Ah, but I am a king. Not only am I a pureline, but also I’m an over-powered pureline. We should be able to balance each other out. I think. I pray.”

I sighed. “Sorry I’m so useless, but I will try my hardest. May I stay here, your majesty?”

He looked at me steadily for a while, judging me. “If you vow to me to try to conform. Act like a light.”

“Can I act like a human?”

He shrugged. “As long as you don’t act like a dark.”

“What specifically do you not want?”

“Don’t hit on women like they are nothing but cattle to own and have sex with.”

I blinked. Yeah, that’s how we treat women.

“Don’t drink or party or brawl, and treat others as you want to be treated. Do those things, and you won’t end up in so much trouble.”

I nodded. “I can do that.”

“And get a job.”

“Are there any available in the kitchen?”

He laughed. “They are always available in the kitchen.”

I smiled. “Great! When do you want to do the wing thing?”

He stood. “Right now might be a good time. I’m praying getting her wings might lift her spirits.”

I stood with him. “How low are they?”

He sighed and his shoulders sagged. He ran his hand over his baldhead. “So low, I still haven’t seen them. Come, and you will see. Would you mind evaluating if she was a slave, pet, or toy?”

I nodded and followed him out. “She was most likely a slave or toy, since you said she was owned by the prince. Guys don’t usually have female pets.”

The king looked annoyed. “If she was a toy, and I ever run across that boy...”

I rolled my eyes, since his back was to me. She was not my toy. We arrived at a door on a different wing of the castle than the king’s. He knocked loudly.

“Lucy, it’s me.”

There was a minute of silence before the door opened. I had to stifle a gasp when I saw her. She looked submissive and scared. Her head was tilted down, and her eyes were almost locked onto the floor. She stepped aside for us to come in, and I felt her eyes on me as I passed her.

“Do you recognize him?” the king asked.

Sunshine shook her head and went to sit on a chair.

“Did you look at him?”

She nodded, fiddling with a seam on her shirt.

“So you’ve never met him before?”

She nodded. I felt my eyebrows meet in confusion. She wasn’t talking? If she was back to how she was when I got her, she would have turned me in. This was very not good.

“Well, he is a dark and he has agreed to help me summon your wings, if you wish.”

She looked up at him, her eyes slightly widening in shock. Her eyes transferred to me, the question clear. I nodded slightly, hoping the king wasn’t looking at me. She quickly looked back down.

“Do you want wings?” he asked.

She nodded.

“Then go put on a winged shirt.”

She smiled ever so slightly and rushed to go do so.

“She doesn’t talk?” I asked.

“Yes. All she will ever do is nod or shake her head. She wrote to me once, but never again.”

“Have you ever found her cleaning something when no one else was around?”

He tilted his head. “On occasion.”

“Okay, does she tend to not wear clothes?”

He scowled. “No. Why would you ask that?”

“Because that’s what toys do. They wear very little clothing. If she doesn’t do that, she’s not a toy.”

She came in after that, in a shirt with holes in the back, still grinning slightly. The king smiled so huge I thought his face might crack. We went behind her and both placed a hand lightly on the back of her neck. I couldn’t help the slight smile as her back started to move. She grunted a little but mostly remained silent as the wing arms grew out.

I sucked air in quickly when I saw the feathers begin to grow out. I couldn’t help but stare in wide-eyed admiration when they were completely out. The king took his hand off, so I did too, and we stepped back. She looked back at them, her eyes wide too, and a giant grin on her face. She gently stroked the feathers, obviously thrilled.

The shaft of each feather was gold, and the little parts started black at the shaft and faded to a shiny gold by the edge of the feather. Near the tops of her wings, there was more black than gold, and near the bottom there was more gold. They were... breathtaking. She turned quickly and hugged her dad tightly. He looked shocked but quickly hugged her back.

I bowed silently and left as quickly as I could. I wandered around for a while before I found the cafeteria again and went to the kitchen, where people were still working at cleaning up. A human came up to me, wiping her hands on an apron.

“Can I help you?” she asked.

I nodded with hesitance and looked around. “The king said I need a job, so I was wondering-”

She cut me off and gestured to behind her. “Go help in the dish pit. And no wings in the kitchen.”

I nodded and she was off doing something else. I went to the “dish pit” and quickly realized why it was called such. There were dishes stacked nearly to the ceiling. There were people scrubbing and singing Veggie Tales songs that were blasting from a speaker on the wall. I joined in the scrubbing, and one of those who were scrubbing went to put clean dishes away.

We weren’t done until late, or at least they said it was late. I couldn’t tell because there was light and light and no darkness. Not even shadows, which gave the world a weird 2d look. One of my new dishwashing buddies asked me if I had a place to stay. I said no, so he let me sleep on his couch. Another of them ungraciously shoved me from behind as we were headed out and muttered something about dark trash.

My friend did not retaliate to this upstart but simply frowned over his shoulder. “That’s Simon. He is anti-treaty.”

I nodded. We had several of those back home, and they would have been much more violent to a lightsy in their midst.

This was going to be a busy week.

I managed to avoid Sunshine. One or both of the twins sometimes jumped in the kitchen to help out with lunch or dinner. We didn’t make breakfast, but we had to work nearly all day for just those two meals. It was a fun job, except for the few times Simon managed to “accidentally” step on my toes or burn me with a pan that he swore was not hot.

The end of my week was approaching fast, and I was beginning to loathe leaving, but I was well aware of the danger my presence presented in the land of eternal light. Additionally, the light was giving me a near constant migraine, and rashes were starting to form on my chest. I hid the pain, though. I almost always hid my pain.

Ben was talking to Gabi, the manager. I saw him but thought little of it until he came up to me.

“Hey, I need to borrow you for a bit, Kolm.”

I shook water off of my hands and smiled at him. “Sure. What for?”

He didn’t look so happy. “Not here. Come with me.”

I followed him, curious as to what was going on. He led me down corridors I had not yet been through. My curiosity turned to confusion as we passed a guard and entered a dungeon. There was a drunk man in a cell, but we continued on past rows and rows of empty cells. Finally, he turned and stopped, facing me.

He pointed to the open cell on my right.

“What did I do?” I asked.

“You broke the princess, but you let my son and I free a few months ago. I’m not entirely sure if I should turn you in or not, Crown Prince Dirg.”

I sighed. “Great. Why didn’t you recognize me earlier?”

“Your smell has been bothering me all week. It wasn’t until today that I put two and two together as to where I remember it. Now, get in the cell.”

I obediently stepped in and he closed and locked it behind me.

“Why are you here?” He asked.

I leaned on a wall. “King Zinx gave me a list of challenges to complete before I take the throne. One of them was to sneak into the land of eternal light, stay a week, and then sneak out.”

He looked thoughtful. “So you were going to leave tomorrow?”

I nodded.

“How do I believe you? For all I know, you just wanted to spy on us for a week.”

I shrugged. “I spent most of that week washing dishes. This is the furthest I have been away from my room, I can tell you that.”

He nodded, seeming to believe me.

“I will let you go tomorrow and then I will tell the king about you. That at least gives you a chance to run.”

I nodded. “Thank you.”

“Consider it returning a favor. Your life for those of my boy and me. It won’t happen again.”

He turned before I could reply and strolled quickly away. I banged my head on the wall once. I should have recognized him. I slid down the barred door to the floor with my back to the hall. I remained there for quite some time, until I fell asleep. That’s what I did when I was bored. I slept.

I awoke but didn’t understand why. I blinked and looked over my shoulder. I froze when I saw Sunshine sitting against the wall behind me, her eyes locked on me. I scowled for her benefit.

“What are you doing here?”

She remained silent and still. I looked back into my cell, away from her.

“Go away, Lucy.”

I heard her feathers shift. She had her wings out, that was good. I hoped. There was silence for quite some time. I began to grow restless, so I stood and did some forms, keeping my back to her. If I ignored her long enough, she would maybe go away. She didn’t need me in her life. Finally, I spoke again, sitting back against the door.

“What do you want?”

Again, silence broken only by an odd croak and her trying to clear her throat. About five minutes passed before her voice came out. It cracked and sounded worn. I cringed inwardly. I did that to her. She didn’t need me.

“I want to talk to you.”

“Why? I have no interest in listening.”

“I know. You don’t have to. I just wish to speak.”

I growled. “Then speak. I’m gonna sleep.”

I situated myself but didn’t even close my eyes. I silently willed her to go away.

“I haven’t spoken in so long. Not since you left me here. It hurts King Amora, I can see it, but I didn’t have the willpower to get my vocal chords to work. I don’t even know why they are working right now. He is my father. It’s weird. He dotes on me. He got me paints. He talks to me and tries to pry information out of me in yes or no questions. I’ve only lied to him once, and that was about you. The beard doesn’t fool me, Dirg.”

“I figured it wouldn’t.” I cursed silently. I told myself I wasn’t going to talk.

“Then did you think I was going to turn you in?”

“No. I figured I would kill you if you turned me in. You didn’t, so I didn’t.”

I heard more movement but didn’t look. I should have looked.

“That makes sense. It is so weird having a family. The twins are fun to listen to. Lilly is cute and knows how to have fun. Queen Pat took me in as her own daughter. I have a job with a healer named Jill, and she appreciates my help. They all love me. They want the best for me.”

She laughed bitterly. “You’ve never cared. You beat me. You used me and then dumped me here, probably hoping the king would kill me. You are terrible and closed and confusing and bipolar. You said thank you once. I should hate you. King Amora has tried to convince me of that. Instead I- I...”

I cursed under my breath. She loved me. That’s what she was saying. It hurt yet felt so good. It warmed my heart and hardened stomach with dread.

“I keep hearing your voice in my head. What you told me when you left me. King Amora tells me he loves me, and then I hear you say you’ve always hated me. He smiles and I see your glare. We all sit down to eat, they pray and chow down, and I sit there staring at it. I try to eat, I really do. But I can’t. I also try to talk. It doesn’t work. Only here, only right now, and I think it’s because I’m trying to make you happy. I’m trying to do something for you because I hate loving you.”

She was trying to make me happy. I felt a tear slip out of my eye and soak into the beard. I wanted to tell her that just being near her made me happy, and that her words were cutting me, not making it any better. I couldn’t. First of all, I was too prideful. Secondly, I thought the best thing for her would be if she still thought I hated her. I figured she was just getting this all off her chest, helping herself heal.

“I know you meant to break me,” No I didn’t “but I don’t think you realized that you didn’t have to say all that to break me. All you had to do was tell me you no longer wanted me and leave, and I would have fallen to pieces. I’m kind of glad you told me the truth, though.” I actually cringed. “The truth set me free, in a way.”

She paused for a bit. I could hear her breathing heavily, and I thought she was about to cry. Her voice was weak when it came back.

“So I- I wanted to say... Thank you, Dirg. Do you remember the time- the time you said I should have a list of top ten ways to die?”

I nodded because I didn’t trust my voice not to betray my tears.

“Well, this is not my top choice, but I think it holds a close second... My top choice would be you killing me in any way you want, but I think it’s much... too late to ask that of you.”

I froze as she spoke. Oh no. I jerked around and it took my brain a moment to understand what my eyes were seeing. A knife lay beside her, and her hands were shaking, for there were several cuts all the way up her forearms. Her lap and nearly a foot of the floor around her were covered in her own blood. She smiled at me, a weak, watery smile fraught with fear and pain.

“Are you happy?”

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