“Kiyah, come inside,” Emersyn called out to him. Kiyah looked back at her curiously, but he followed her instructions like an obedient child might. Jeriah wondered why she hadn’t called him, but he just kept sitting quietly in the grass. “Jeriah, Zhai wants to speak with you. Will you hear him?”
Jeriah bristled a little, but he slowly nodded. “As long as he doesn’t yell at me.”
“There’s no danger of that. He just wants to explain himself,” Emersyn said.
Then the sound of footsteps could be heard and soon enough Zhai was sitting next to him where Kiyah had once been. Jeriah glanced at him and saw his sharp profile glowing in the moonlight. Everything about him was as if he’d been chiseled out of stone and yet hadn’t entirely been removed from the stone. He wasn’t always cold, but he was always a bit stiff.
“I’m sorry for my reaction,” Zhai began.
“It’s alright,” Jeriah nodded as he began picking at the grass near his feet.
“I wanted to explain myself,” he ran his fingers through his pitch black hair. His hair was long and usually kept in a ponytail or bun, but it was free right now. “I know your Twin Soul nature very well and it terrifies me.”
“How can you know that if you’re not a Twin Soul?” Jeriah muttered.
“Because I knew Twin Souls before you,” Zhai said simply. “This group wasn’t the first group I joined. I was born many years before you.”
Jeriah’s eyes widened and tilted his head as he looked at Zhai again. “What? But Twin Souls are rare.”
“Yes, and apparently I am very unlucky,” Zhai said with a small smile as he glanced at him.
Jeriah scoffed and rolled his eyes in agitation. “Well, that’s nice of you to say,” he said.
“I was a few months older than these Twin Souls. Their names were Cherry and Quintian,” Zhai said with a small smile. “They were beautiful souls. Warm and kind and laughed easily. They were fearsome warriors and I learned a lot from them.”
Jeriah could only imagine how this ended, so he remained quiet and solemn. “Why did you never tell us about them before?” he asked softly.
“Because it’s too hard to think about,” Zhai said. “My memory is all that keeps them alive in this world, and I hate that I’ll never see them again.”
“What happened?” Jeriah asked.
“There was a battle...we were defending a city,” Zhai explained. “Cherry was slaughtered during the fight and Quintian was devastated.” His expression darkened and Jeriah was certain he could see tears shining in his eyes.
“What happened to Quintian?” Jeriah prompted. He knew as a Twin Soul that it likely would have been too difficult to go on. He knew he wouldn’t be able to go on without Jakob. The only thing keeping him alive now was the fact that he had a chance to save his brother.
“She…” Zhai hesitated and then took a deep breath and cleared his throat. “I tried to take care of her after Cherry died, but she wasn’t the same. She couldn’t function anymore. She left me a note one day that said she couldn’t be this way anymore. I spent an entire day trying to find her, and I did. I found her, but only as she had finally gotten the resolve to throw herself from a cliff.” He looked down at the ground as the emotions of that memory seemed to overwhelm him. “She couldn’t live without her sister. Her Twin Soul wouldn’t let her.”
Jeriah’s eyes widened and he reached over to take Zhai’s hand gently. He felt that he had to comfort him somehow. “I’m sorry,” he said softly. “I had no idea you had been through all that.”
“Emersyn is the only one who knows. I was summoned to her shortly after Quintian had ended her life, and I was still grieving. Emersyn became a very good friend to me during that time, and helped me through a lot of my grief,” Zhai explained. “When I found out that you were a Twin Soul I felt that terror again. I didn’t want to get close to you. I knew something like this was going to happen.”
Jeriah looked sympathetic, but he didn’t know what to do to comfort him. He was what he was and he couldn’t exactly change his inner nature. “Well, that makes sense why you were so cold towards me for so long,” he said with a small smile. “But, Zhai, you know I can’t change who I am.”
“I know,” Zhai moved his hand out of Jeriah’s grasp. “I don’t know what the solution is here.”
“Just let us go to the Halls of the Dead,” Jeriah begged as he leaned towards him. “I promise we won’t do anything that will cause harm. If...if Prudentius and Renatus say we can’t have the Life Stone, then we’ll find another solution.”
“Do you mean that?” Zhai asked. His tone was harsh again, but he probably didn’t believe him.
“Of course I do. I really don’t want to risk any of your lives,” Jeriah insisted. “I know it’ll be dangerous, but I think it’s a risk we have to take.”
Zhai groaned and shook his head. “I guess in order to resolve this issue we will have to have some involvement with Immortals, but I don’t like it,” he said.
“Maybe Prudentius and Renatus will agree with us that Ari is a fool,” Jeriah offered a small smile. “The Immortals don’t always get along, either. It might be an opportunity for them to help us sort out Ari, too.”
“I want nothing to do with Ari, I just want to help the Monarchs out of their slumber,” Zhai said firmly. “The Monarchs will have to change their ways once they’re awake, as well. They cannot go on as rulers of the humans. In fact, they’ll have to get used to the fact that humans are not kind towards us anymore.”
“You think they didn’t experience that before their slumber?” Jeriah asked. “The humans turned on them long before they turned on us.”
“I suppose that’s true,” Zhai nodded and slowly rose to his feet. “Come on, let’s get some sleep. I think we’ve talked enough.”
“You’re really going to let us go to the Halls of the Dead?” Jeriah asked as he stood up to follow Zhai.
“We’ll talk about it in the morning,” Zhai said. “But yes, if we can find a way down there then we can go. But if things go sour and the Immortals of the Halls of the Dead want nothing to do with us, we leave immediately.”
Jeriah hesitated and then slowly nodded. “We’ll look for another solution.”
“Very good,” Zhai nodded and walked inside the cabin.
Jeriah just hoped he could keep that promise.