Chapter 29 - Flipside
Once again on his own, One approached the nearest wall and walked through a CPD into the Shoran tower of Muonsol Palace. The main room was much like that of the vuestan tower; there was a large tree in the center, surrounded by benches and chairs. There were a few computer consoles as well, but not nearly as many as were in the Galden tower.
One scratched his head, wondering which of the six identical doors lead to Teria's room.
Shrugging, he walked to the first door on the right, straightened his shirt, and tapped on the knocker.
Moments later, the door next to him opened, revealing a striking pair of wide, purple eyes. "One?"
"Oh! Sorry, Tirinia, I was looking for your sister."
Tirinia shook her head. "I'm sorry. I haven't been able to find her since the marketplace."
"Probably still royally pissed at me." One shook his head before giving Tirinia a kind smile. "Thanks, Tyr. Take it easy, okay?"
"Oh, please don't go!" Tirinia opened the door so he could come in, "I was hoping to have a chance to speak with you."
"Sorry," One said, "I love a good conversation, but I really need to see Teria."
Tirinia quickly blocked his path. "Then wait and talk with me until she gets here. It's not every day I get the chance to talk to a Dreamer."
One raised an eyebrow. "I thought you were supposed to be all shy and timid."
"Well, it's not like we're strangers." Tirinia leaned forward and whispered in his right ear, "Right, Glen?"
One's eyes widened. "On second thought, I'd be happy to have a word with you."
Bowing his head, One stepped past Tirinia into the room.
The Shoran guest quarters were surprisingly similar to the Galden quarters. Actually, it wasn't really all that surprising; the Galden and the Shoran tribes have always been pretty close in terms of sociological development, though Shoran technology was still a bit behind that of Ronisgald.
There were differences of course; the bed had a thick, furry comforter, and the computer was less sophisticated, but aside from that, the rooms matched the Galden guest rooms perfectly.
"You know," said One, looking at the bed, "I've always wondered why the Shoran prefer beds with fur blankets."
"I don't know if it's the same with everyone, but when I sleep in fur blankets, I feel like I'm in my mother's embrace." A wistful look fell over Tirinia's face, but she didn't say anything else.
"Sounds nice." Coughing, One said, "Look, I'm gonna be honest; I don't remember you."
"I know. Mikaen told me about your memory problems." She tilted her head to the side. "Do you remember anything from that time?"
One looked at her. As pleasant as she was to look at, what with her strong build, her gorgeous face, and her ample bosom, he couldn't recall having seen her before … or had he? Even as he was looking at her, an image formed in his mind of a young Tirinia running to her sister's arms. Smiling, One said, "Yeah, I do. You ran out and hugged Teria after that mess with the Sorceress Ackibar."
Tirinia's smile broadened. "You have no idea how happy bringing Teria home made me, though to be honest, at the time I was a little afraid of you."
"Because I was a Galden?"
"Not really. I was just shy. I still am, really. Still, a warmed up to you by the end." She let out an embarrassed laugh. "You and Teria were the only people who ever listened to me."
After a few moments of uncomfortable silence, One asked, "Tirinia, how did it end?"
Sighing, she said, "I don't know the details. I just remember Teria coming home really late that night looking like she had been crying. I asked her what happened, but she never said."
"Maybe that's because it wasn't any of your business."
One and Tirinia both jumped as Teria slammed the door behind her.
Glancing back at Teria, One said, "Whoa. I didn't even hear the door open."
Teria continued to glare at One. That horrible look of hatred was still in her eyes. "What do you want now, Dreamer?"
Wincing at the way she spat the word 'Dreamer', One replied, "I was looking for you."
"Oh? Not content to just mess around with Mikaen, are we?"
A little annoyed, One said, "I'm not here to cause anyone any trouble, Teria."
"Hmpf. Y'know, I've heard about your kind. Meddling with us 'norms' and pretending to be gods."
One swallowed an angry retort. "It's not like that. We help people who need help, that's all … and we are definitely not gods."
"He saved Mom's life!" Tirinia blurted out.
The shock of that announcement was enough to keep Teria silent…for a few seconds, anyway. "What are you talking about? I know mom was sick while she was carrying me, but-"
A light clicked on in One's head. "Wait, you mean Saera? She's your mother?"
Teria stared at him, disbelief in her eyes. "Saera Glissbet."
"Yeah, I remember her! Heck of a Slamm player in her day too, as I recall." One nodded at Tirinia adding, "Runs in the family from what I've heard."
Tirinia blushed at his praise even as Teria's expression grew more dour.
Sighing, One said, "To be honest, it was really just a lucky coincidence. I was supposed to be helping an idestan guy in the burn ward, but I got lost and ended up near your mother's room instead. I recognized her and went in to say hello."
"And cured a hitherto incurable disease." Tirinia said, beaming.
One shrugged, trying to play it off as though it were nothing. "Well, she did have a baby on the way. It'd be awfully jerkish of me to just leave her like that when I had an elixer in my pocket."
"And the burn guy?" Teria asked, looking stern. "You just let him die?"
"Rosen? Nah, he wasn't a burn victim; he just worked there. His mother had recently died, and he was feeling a bit glum."
Teria gave him a flat glare. "You just talked to him?"
"Well, yeah. Sometimes all a guy or gal really needs is someone to talk to. Or someone to listen." One shrugged again. "Not the most exciting of assignments, but there you go."
Teria crossed her arms and faced One dead on. "So you've been messing with my family for a while, huh?"
Angry words jumped to One's mind. He did not like being cast as manipulative, even if it was the case. Still, he was here to apologize properly, not to start a fight. "No, I haven't ... and I wasn't messing with you, Teria. I remember that much at least.
"Then why are you here?" Teria demanded, her hands on her hips. "If you wanted to forget me so damn bad, then why come back at all?"
Taking a deep breath, One said, "Well, for starters, I'm here to apologize."
Teria's eyes went wide as One continued, "We were close, I know. I may not know how close, or remember much of the context of our time together, but seeing you look this angry ... it bothers me, Teria. And yeah, I do still care about you. Why do you think I started remembering? Why do you think I'm here now? I'm sorry I forgot you, Teria. I don't know why I chose to forget, but I really wish I hadn't. I hope you can believe that."
One blushed and rubbed the back of his head again nervously. "Look, I'm not asking for things to go back to what they were, and I'm definitely not expecting you to still want me as your first after all this. Still, I hope we can at least be friends."
Teria didn't reply. She wouldn't even look at him. Tirinia's gaze shifted between her sister and One, anxiously fidgeting with her hands as though she wanted to do something but couldn't figure out exactly what.
After a minute of silence, One nodded. "You don't have to say anything. I'll go."
One gave Tirinia a nod. "I'm trusting you to keep Mikaen out of trouble when I'm not here, okay?"
She cracked a smile. "I'll do my best."
One looked to Teria, but she had turned her back to him. H started to say something, but he really couldn't think of anything else to say. With a final sigh, he left the room and closed the door behind him.
Trying to ignore the empty feeling in his chest, he started to head toward the newly formed CPD when he heard a nearby potted bush rustle.
Sighing, he said, "I guess you heard everything, huh?"
Jeronem shuffled out from behind the bush, looking strangely solemn. "She's crying, you know."
He looked back at the closed door. In his mind's eye, he could see Tirinia comforting Teria. Even just imagining it filled him with guilt.
"I … I feel horrible. She must hate me." He said quietly.
Jeronem smiled and stood on his tiptoes to give one a reassuring pat on his slumped shoulders. "She doesn't hate you; it's just the whole memory thing's a bit of a shock."
One's heart lifted slightly. "Really? Cause right now, I'm thinking she still wants to beat the crap outta me."
"She's a tigreth, dude. Aggression is a part of tigreth intimacy."
The laugh came to One's mouth, but he merely smiled instead. "Did you just call me 'dude'?"
"Yeah, I did. So what? I picked it up from Mikaen." Jeronem snapped his fingers. "Tell you what; tigreth are supposed to respect strength, right? Why don't you help us sneak out of the palace tonight?"
"How did you-" One narrowed his gaze at the young vuestan. "You've picked up a few of your dad's bad habits, you know that?"
Jeronem grabbed One's sleeve and started tugging on it. "Come on, tell me what's going on!"
"Nothing." One tried hard not to think about specifics but his mental control wasn't particularly strong, especially when compared to that of a curious vuestan.
Jeronem's eyes went wide. "No way!"
Shaking his head, One muttered, "Well, I guess you'd have just followed Mikaen anyway."
"And that's gonna happen tonight, right? What time? What kind of spells should I get ready?"
Unable to suppress a smile at Jeronem's enthusiasm, One knelt beside him and whispered, "He's gonna sneak out around midnight. You might want to have a few stealth spells ready. Miraak's silver cloak, moonbeam melody, maybe even a limited Veil of Silence."
Jeronem nodded. "Inviso, songshot, and not here. Got it."
One ruffled his hair. "Good."
Jeronem ducked under the Dreamers hand and ran off down the corridor, his long tail bobbing behind him.
"He's certainly excited." said a voice from behind One.
One turned to see Teach close the CPD behind him and approach. "Just told him about the evening entertainment, right?"
"Does having someone read your mind count as telling?" One shook his head and headed for the CPD without waiting for an answer.
Teach asked, "How did your meeting with Teria go?"
One shook his head as the image of her crying passed through his mind. "I'll have to earn her trust again if I want her help."
Teach smiled reassuringly at One. "That won't be a problem for you. I'm sure you two will be as thick as thieves in no time. Maybe closer, if you're still thinking about rekindling your old romance."
One smiled back, comforted and slightly surprised at Teach's praise.
"Tell you what," Teach said, walking One to the CPD, "Why don't you go ahead and turn in for a bit? I'll keep an eye on things for you here."
"But I don't-"
Teach shooed him through the door. "Nonsense! If you don't rest, you won't be ready for the big fight."
One stopped Teach. "Wait a sec, I didn't say I was going!"
"Well, aren't you?"
Rolling his eyes, One said, "Yeah, but-"
"Good. Now, go get some rest. Go watch a movie or play one of those games you and Two are so fond of."
Before One could respond, Teach pushed him through the CPD into the Matinee.
One turned around in time to see the door vanish. Sighing, he ran a hand through his hair, muttering, "I guess I could use a break."
The Matinee was currently in its evening phase; the lights were dim, the stars shone through the open windows, and the television was currently off. Most importantly however, he was the only person there.
It was a strange feeling, after being among people for so long. Taking off his shoes and socks, One wandered around his floor, enjoying the feeling of the plush carpet rubbing against his bare feet as he glanced through the shelves for something to watch or play.
He had almost decided on something when he heard someone knock on one of his doors.
Ignoring the interruption, One chose a movie and headed to the television. Whoever it was knocked again as he put the movie into the player, and again as he sat down with the remote.
The fourth knock came just as One was about to start the movie. Sighing, he put down the remote. "What?"
A muffled voice replied, "One? Can I talk to you for a minute?"
"No one's here right now."
"Then who am I talking to?"
"The quiet voice of your own insecurities?"
A moment of silence passed.
"Look, I'm just tired. Can whatever it is wait until tomorrow?"
The door slowly opened.
Annoyed, One stood and turned, saying, "Can't I get one moment of peace without someone just barging in to my-"
His voice fell flat as Luck approached, a hurt look on her face. "I just wanted to see if you were okay."
The anger drained from One's face. Sighing, he fell back into the couch. "I'm sorry, Luck. It's been a long day. I don't mind you being here."
Smiling timidly, Luck took off her shoes and walked quietly over to the massive television panel. Sitting beside One with her feet curled beneath her, she watched the movie with him in silence for a few minutes.
"I didn't know you liked this movie." She commented idly during a lull in the on-screen action.
"It's a classic story of good versus evil, a classic love story, and it has a happy ending. That's important." Smiling, One added, "Mikaen said the same thing to Tirinia earlier."
"About stories needing to have happy endings. I agree with him. People say that life isn't fair, but that's bullcrap; life is plenty fair. It's the people who aren't fair. If more people believed in happy endings, there'd be a lot more of 'em."
"I agree." She smiled at him.
As they continued watching the movie, One couldn't help but notice Luck glancing at him every few minutes.
Finally, she asked, "One, are you feeling all right?"
One shrugged in what he hoped was a carefree way. "I feel the same as I ever do."
"You look tired." Luck put a hand to One's forehead, her usually smiling face filled with concern.
One gently took her hand by the wrist. "I'm fine, really. It's just been a long day. I appreciate the thought though."
Luck blushed, saying, "I just worry about you. You do so much, but you never seem to think about yourself."
"You kidding? I think about myself all the time. When I'm helping someone, it makes me happy. Take this situation with Mikaen and Tirinia; when I'm done, and Mikaen's finished his little adventure, he and that girl are going to be married and happy. And I'm gonna be there to see them married. I'm gonna eat the food, maybe dance a little, perhaps even give 'em some nice fireworks when they leave for their honeymoon."
"Is that a promise?" Luck asked.
One chuckled. "Yeah, I guess it is."
They sat in silence for a long moment.
"You're tired. I'll leave." Luck uncurled her feet from under her and tried unsuccessfully to stand up.
One caught her before she could fall. Luck blushed, but didn't avert her gaze from his.
"You don't have to go." He told her. "Stay, watch a movie. Eat some popcorn." He gave her his best smile, "Throw it at me, if you want."
It was the closest thing to a pass One had ever made to Luck, and as calm as he looked, his heart felt like it was about to burst out of his chest.
Her smile faded, but only a little. Slowly, she leaned forward in his arms, her lips moving closer to his.
Wong leapt out from behind the television, cupped his hands to his mouth, and went, "Wooooooooooo!"
Her cheeks crimson, Luck slipped out of One's grasp and headed for the nearest exit.
"Luck!" One called out just before her hand could close around the door handle.
She turned and looked at him, a faint blush still on her cheek.
One pulled the fake ring from his pocket and tossed it to her. "Keep it. Keep them both. I don't mind, as long as it's you."
She caught it, her face going an even deeper shade of red. Without another word, she left his floor.
One walked back to his chair, making a point to thump Wong on the head. "I think I know why Two finds you so annoying."
Wong grinned back at him.