Chapter 17: Painting of the Truth or of Lies?
A very loud gong rang throughout the entire palace. I jumped out of shock at the abrupt end of my dreams. The gong’s ring still vibrated throughout my body, and I eventually fell of my body. My flames weren’t reacting fast enough, and I fell to the floor with a hard thunk.
“Damn gong, damn morning routine, damn floor, damn sky, damn clothes, damn—” I started to grumble.
“What on earth are you doing?” I heard a familiar voice say to me.
“Damning everything,” I said simply.
“Why aren’t I surprised? First morning back after you just burst into your own palace like that, and you’re already damning the floor.” He rolled his eyes.
“I don’t care. The damn floor deserved it for being hard. So, anything planned. . . . Fire Seeker?”
“It’s Akyro. You can’t remember a name to save your life, can you?” He turned around, and started to walk away from me. Before I could ask what the heck he was doing, I saw the people that were trying to talk to him all at once.
“When did they get here?” I murmured to myself.
They were trying to talk to you and Akyro there for at least two minutes. You two were too busy yelling at each other to notice.
“Of course. We do like to argue,” I agreed.
“Whom is she speaking with?” One of the people talking to Akyro said.
“The voice in her head,” Akyro replied.
“Damn right it is! When’s breakfast? I’m starved,” I said, getting up from off of the floor. I started to sway as I walked past them. The people, I guessed they were nobles, looked at me as if I were crazy or drunk.
Akyro suddenly picked me up and placed me back into my room.“It’ll be ready in a moment. Please tidy up before you think of leaving this room,” Akyro said, slamming the door in my face.
“Asshole!” I screamed over the door.
“Just get dressed.”
“So some clothes do suit you,” Akyro said looking at my outfit. It was a short-sleeved, wraparound tunic with a body of red, and trims of gold. It had a gold belt and it was slit up the side. Then for trousers, I had soft, flexible, black fabric covering my legs instead. I had large boots going all the way up to my knees.
“Ha ha ha. You’re so funny.” I pushed Akyro, or at least tried. He was sturdier than a tree. That was annoying.
“I am a master of comedy.”
“Could’ve fooled me. So, what’s going on with all those people outside of my door this morning?” I asked.
“Remember that man before that wanted to talk to the Lord of Fire without knowing it was actually you?”
“Yeah. They related?”
“Well, yes if what both parties claimed were true. I just barely managed to keep all under control,” Akyro said.
“What? I’m too hungry to think. Can we talk about this during or after breakfast? I haven’t eaten in, like, a year.” I clutched my stomach.
Stop griping. You got food. Granted it was all flames and just a figment of your imagination as I sustained your body through my spiritual powers, but it was food.
“Shut up, Cahin. I’m too hungry.” I waved him away.
“Sure. The table’s over here,” Akyro led me to the dining room, and revealed other people were sitting there, waiting for me. There was a middle-aged woman who had dull brown hair. She didn’t look the least bit interesting. She had two young adults surrounding her. One of them was a female; the other one was male. And they looked like the middle-aged woman, extremely dull. The women were smug and made me want to hit them. The young man was staring at the floor. If I wanted answers, I had to get them from him.
“Who are these people?” I whispered to Akyro.
“Say hello to your family,” Akyro whispered back.
“But I don’t have a family.”
“That’s not what they say.”
“Well, they’re wrong.”
“They brought ‘proof’.”
“Kaira? I’m Herika. I’m your aunt.” She looked nothing like me. That’s how families worked, right? They’re supposed to look like each other? She held out her hand for me to take, and I simply stared at the hand.
“Did you know that you’re being extremely rude right now?” The girl had a know-it-all voice that reminded me of Haroj. It was more likely they were related to him than me.
“Did you know I have no idea who you people are?” I said.
“We are indeed related to you. We have a painting of you as a baby,” the woman smiled, thinking she had won. She then went to ramble about how I used to hate apples so much as a baby or something.
What’s with that kid?
“Which one?” I whispered.
Dude. I have a bad feeling about him.
“Hm,” I hummed while I stared at the guy, wondering why Cahin had a bad feeling about him. I mean, he was shaking a little bit, but Cahin would have a bad feeling over shaking. Or would he? After a little bit, I noticed Akyro also hovering around him. Akyro’s hovering wasn’t the same when he hovered me. It looked like he was looking for something.
“Do you paint often?” Akyro asked. The boy tensed up immediately and his shaking became way more visible.
“That’s a ‘yes’ if I’ve ever seen one,” I laughed. I walked over to the guy as well to hover him. “That’s some really red paint. Wonder what he was painting that had really red stuff in it?” I ran my fingers through my hair.
“Here’s the painting, Lady Kaira,” The guards brought over the painting.
“That would be it,” I pointed at the painting.
“Wow, you can do something with that mind of yours.” Akyro clapped his hands.
“Asshole,” I said immediately. I looked at the painting, and there were two adults, presumably the ‘mother and father’, and they both held a baby in their hands. The baby looked somewhat like me. The hair was as bright red as mine. Well that was certainly wrong, I wasn’t born with red hair, I think. . .
That’s not important.
That’s not important.
“Cahin. . .”
It’s not important. So, relax.
“What’s relaxing like? Like this? I kinda forgot.” I sat down in front of the painting as I stared at it. I was playing with the idea of having parents. How different would I have been?
You would’ve been dead.
“Why do you say that?” I asked as I stared at the woman who was my mother.
Trust me. I know what I’m talking about.
“Are they them?” I pointed to the painting.
It really doesn’t matter.
“How am I supposed to trust you on this if you won’t answer me?”
Your parents don’t matter anymore. So drop it.
“Do you recognize them?” The woman asked hopefully.
“Nope. Why would I? My first memory is the streets.”
Great. Now get them out.
“Hold on, hold on.” I didn’t know what I was thinking. Something in my gut was pushing me to say that as I looked at the painting. It was weird.
What could you possibly say to me for me to ‘hold on, hold on’?
“Akyro, do we have a painter?” I asked.
“We don’t appoint one specific artist for the works in the palace. We commission certain artists that catch our eyes,” Akyro explained.
“What if we did and it was him?” I asked.
“It’s possible. However, he would have to agree and we would have to prepare a room for him. What exactly would you have him do?” Akyro stepped in between me and the three other people in the room.
“Paint. I don’t know what it is that’s telling me that I need more of these paintings,” I crouched down in front of the painting. “I really don’t know. I’m not into art but there’s something about this!” I slapped my hand on the painting right over the baby’s face.
“Are you sure?” Akyro said coming to my side.
“Yeah, why?” I asked.
“These people just tried to con you out of a lot of money.”
“They can’t con me. I have you.”
“Still doesn’t change the fact that they tried.”
“Look at him. He looks like he’s going to cry any second.”
“Probably because you terrify him.”
“Are you sure that wasn’t you?”
“Akyro. I can do the name calling thing too.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes. I can’t tell you why, but yes.”
“I can tell you why.”
“It’s because you’re an idiot.”
“I’m going to burn you.”
“Breakfast, Lady of Fire, is ready,” servant told me.
“Great!” I sat down and waited for the rest of the dishes to be served to the rest of the guests, and once the covers were gone, I started to shovel the food into my mouth. I didn’t care what it was or how it tasted, I was glad to have actual food on my plate.
The self-proclaimed relatives of mine looked at me as I shoved the food down my gullet. They went nowhere near the food that was set out for them, worried it was made out of flames or whatnot. Even though Akyro was eating it, they weren’t going to trust it.
“Wha? Uuuh aeffen feen a ferfff fee feefoo?” I said, my mouth filled to the brim.
“What did she say?” A person said.
“’What? You haven’t seen a person eat before.’” Akyro translated.
“She does that on a regular basis?” One of the teenagers asked.
“Yes,” Akyro and I said at the same time.
“She’s disgusting,” the girl wrinkled her nose. “Why is she chosen? Why her of all girls? I bet there are more girls suited for this than her. Like me.”
“Bitch all you want, I’m not going to care.” I said calmly.
Both women stared at me, gagging. “Are you sure. . .?” the daughter pointed at me.
“Doubt all you want. I’m not gonna care,” I said, shoving more food into my mouth.
“She really isn’t,” Akyro agreed with me.
“Oh hey. Where’s Sorak and Bragor? They were here yesterday,” I paused eating to look at Akyro.
“They’re back home, doing what they’re supposed to be doing,” Akyro said.
“Ruling their country. What you’re supposed to be doing.”
“But that’s boring.”
“Excuse me!” The woman shouted, slamming her hands on the table, drawing our attention to her.
She was about to talk again, but I interrupted her. “What are the rest of them doing here? I only want the guy who painted that fake picture of me,” I said.
“What?! You-you can’t separate us! You’re trying to break up families! You’re a terrible person!” The girl shouted.
“That’s certainly a leap of logic,” Akyro commented.
“Do you want to stay here in a place full of weird strangers like me, or go home with your family?” I asked.
The boy who hadn’t spoken the whole entire time looked at me. He actually lifted his face to look at me for once. Maybe it wasn’t the painting, maybe it was something about him. It was a feeling similar whenever Akyro was looking for me, like searching for me. It felt a little weaker than when Akyro would do it. It also didn’t feel like it was looking at just me. It felt as if it were looking at all of me. . . I couldn’t explain it, but he was someone different.
“This is ridiculous. Come on. We’re going home,” the older woman huffed. She was about to pull the boy with her, but my flames interrupted her hands from grabbing him.
“Let him make his own mind. Well, what do you say?” I asked.
“You can’t just make him do stuff!” The girl snapped.
“Your voice annoys me. Shut up,” I growled. Flames threatened to come out of my body, and they knew it too. The two women slinked back.
“Lady Kaira asked you a question. Please, give her your answer,” Akyro stepped forward.
“Seriously? Do you have to scare him?” I asked. Akyro closed his eyes and gave a long sigh. “So? As much as I hate to admit it, he’s right. I did kinda, sorta, definitely asked you a question and I kinda, sorta, definitely want your answer. Like, kinda, sorta, definitely now.” Tone.
Stop that. Seriously. It’s not funny. It never was funny.
The boy nodded, and the two women looked at him incredulously.
“Great. You start whenever you’re ready. Give the guard to my left your address and he’ll get your belongings and crap. Can I finish my breakfast in peace now?” I asked.
“I’ll escort them out,” Akyro said.
“This-this is an outrage! Just wait until the public finds out about this!” The older woman shouted.
“Yeah! Kaira is a cheat and a liar!” The teenage girl shouted.
“When did I do that?” I looked to Akyro, who merely shook his head.
“You break up families because you didn’t have one! No wonder they left you! Who wouldn’t?!” The teenage girl shouted.
“You done?” I asked boredly. She opened her mouth again. “No, you’re done. Now, get out. Good-bye.”
“Who do you think you are?!” The woman shouted.
“I’m the bitch who can control fire!” I laughed loudly. “I’m also the person who is telling you to get out. If that can’t get through your head, I’ll say it again. Get out.”
“You can’t--” The girl started.
“I can. I’m not sure what you were about to say, but I’m pretty sure that I can. So there. Get out,” I said as I got to my feet. Before they could even open their mouths, I interrupted. Wait, would that count as interrupting? “If you don’t get out now, I’m going to make sure you do in tiny, tiny pieces. By that I mean ash. Ash is tiny pieces, right, Akyro?”
“Incredibly so,” Akyro said.
“Great! Do I have to say it again?”
I’ve never seen someone run that fast away from me. I mean, they weren’t Akyro fast, but no one was Akyro fast. Well, except for Akyro.
“I’ll go make sure that the guards remember those two and don’t let them in without an invitation,” Akyro said before leaving.
I sat down at the table again, looking at the boy as I put more food in my mouth. “Tell me about yourself.”
“You’re unlike what they say,” the boy said. He had an unusually deep voice.
“That’s not about you, but okay. What do they say?” I asked.
“You’re hot-tempered, ill-mannered, and you’re cruel,” the boy said.
“Meh.” I shrugged. “To be honest, I feel my life’s kinda--” I flailed my arms around. “--and I changed with it.”
“I see.” He went quiet again. “D-do you think it’s possible that I could change?”
“Why wouldn’t it be?” I asked without missing a beat.
The guy paused. He stared at his hands as they shook. “I don’t think I can.”
“That’s a terrible attitude to take up in the first place.”
“What should I do, Lady Kaira?” He grabbed my hand and fell to the ground on his knees. He held onto my hand with his shaky one. “I’ve never been on my own before! I don’t know what to do!”
I blinked at him as tears streamed from his eyes. I cleared my throat, thinking of some kind of crap to say. I looked around and my eyes landed on his painting. “What kinds of things do you want to paint?”
“What?” He stopped sobbing all over my hand to make eye contact with me.
“Well, you’re here as a painter right? What kinds of things do you want to paint?” I asked.
“I-I don’t know. I painted whatever they told me to,” he murmured.
“Same with this painting?” I asked.
The guy looked at the painting and there was a hint of a smile. “I painted that on my rest days. I wanted to keep it a secret from those two because I knew what they would do with it. However, they got curious on what I was painting and they forced me to finish it.”
“Did you have fun painting it or did they take that fun away?” I asked.
“It’s not that. I wanted to. I needed to. I can’t explain it, but something inside me forced me to draw this family.”
Akyro came back into the room, sighing. “I’ve informed all of the guards in the entire palace about your ‘family’ and what they’re supposed to do when they try to come back.”
The guy immediately sank back down.
“Shoo.” I flicked my hand at him as he crossed the doorway.
“Excuse me?” Akyro raised his eyebrow. I kept waving him away, increasing the violence of the wave, but he didn’t budge. He folded his arms and started to tap his foot.
I sighed and turned to the guy in front of me. “Was it like something possessed you or something and you were going at the painting like some crazy person with a brush?”
“No. It felt as if it was an urge that refused to go away. I couldn’t sleep without seeing their faces, telling me I needed to complete the painting. I haven’t been getting good sleep recently because I had to redo that painting.”
“Why? Do you have to do it several times until the things possessing you are satisfied with the work you’ve done?”
“I’m not being possessed. It’s because the first one had the family in modest clothes. It wouldn’t do apparently because that would mean that you weren’t a noble and it was very good because we’re a ‘noble’ family and we needed to make it believable,” the painter guy said.
“Hm,” I said as I turned to the painting that leaned against the wall. I got up and walked to it. I sat in front of it, staring at the two people with the baby.
“What are you thinking about?” Akyro asked.
“Does this look like me?” I asked.
“I suppose,” Akyro shrugged.
“Hm,” I hummed before staring at the painting again. They stared back with blank expressions.