As promised, she returned the next day, but Vrox wasn’t there to greet her. He was too busy entertaining unconsciousness.
The silence didn’t discourage her from talking to him, wiping his forehead with a wet cloth, and checking his back for any signs of scaling.
She brought Vee into the room and allowed him to sniff Vrox’s hair. Part of her hoped that he would wake up to shoo the pet away.
“Is he better?” she heard Ak ask from the entrance.
“No,” Ni’ev replied.
Ak left after that. His disappointment silent but heard.
Kira combed through Vee’s fur, staring at Vrox’s sleeping figure. His stomach rumbled loudly, demanding food, but he didn’t arouse.
Setting Vee down, she palmed his stomach and raked her fingertips up the planes of his chest. He was warmer than usual, but not feverish. When her knuckles bumped against the waistband of his loincloth, she didn’t hesitate to unclothe him.
The bridge that connected her cunt with pleasure was on fire. It was erect, demanding to be ridden. A pool of semen now coated his thighs, but it seemed to have done little to relieve him.
Af if it was second nature, Kira picked up the cloth she placed on his forehead and began to mop up the mess on his thighs. Cooled semen trickled down her fingers. It was full of life, moisturizing her dry skin. As she took care of him, she felt no raging disgust or lust.
She dipped the cloth into a bucket of water and wrung out the excess. Vrox’s seed was thick, to say the least. It was no wonder that he impregnated her during their first try.
“Kira,” Ni’ev called out from the entrance.
“One second,” she replied, realizing that she had lost track of time.
She took Vrox’s loincloth and tried to clean it. The task was hard, given that she had no soap. When she was done, she departed with a kiss to his forehead and picked up Vee.
“Sorry. I’m sure you get bored out here,” she told Ni’ev as she passed him.
“There is no need to apologize. Would you like to get to work?”
He was antsy. His arms were crossed over his bare chest, biceps bulging.
“Yeah,” Kira replied, also needing a distraction from Vrox’s critical condition.
“I’ll ask Nebula if she can watch over him. Let me just hang these furs to dry.”
After hanging the fabrics, she grabbed Nebula and thanked her for watching over Vrox. Soon enough, she and Ni’ev were messing with paperwork. She had a harder time concentrating. Not only was Vrox still plagued by the mysterious condition, but Rokan, Draekon, and Ak had to look after the camp. They fed the animals that they trapped, hunted for the group, and patrolled. Ni’ev was too busy looking after her. She was afraid that the men were exerting themselves to exhaustion.
“Your mind is not with us,” Ni’ev noted.
She smiled. “You used to notice things silently. You’ve become more vocal and present since we met.”
He shrugged. “The world has changed. I would be a fool if I did not change with it.”
They spent a few more hours drawing sketches of pipes and discussing calculations. Vrox slipped into her thoughts often; every visit making her body feel more concaved. She missed his hand at her hip, at the small of her back, on her stomach.
She dropped her quill in the leaf-full of ink and laid on her back.
“What is it?” Ni’ev asked.
She took a moment to observe the roof. The edges were so straight, the angles so precise. No one could design such flawless art by hand.
Sitting up, she pointed to the roof.
“Let’s go to the top level.”
Ni’ev shook his head. “Negative.”
“Oh, come on, you guys already made sure that there are no men or animals in this place.”
“Yes, but we do not know if the level is stable enough to hold our weight.”
“We were exploring with Nebula a few days ago. What’s the difference now?”
“The difference is that if anything goes wrong, we will have to look after both you and Vrox.”
She sighed. “You’re right. We can wait until Vrox recovers, then.”
She tried to focus on her numbers. “So, as I was saying, the Pythagorean theorem can be used to determine a, b, or c, as long as you have the value of at least two variables.”
She rubbed her side as she spoke. She had been sitting on the hard floor for hours, and her body was used to sitting on Vrox’s fleshy lap.
“Wait,” Ni’ev sighed. “Very well. I will take you, but you must stay close at all times.”
“Why the change of heart?”
He pointed to her hand. “You are uncomfortable. A walk will be good for you.”
With a bright grin, she rushed to collect her things.
“You must stay beside me,” Ni’ev reminded her.
"Okay. What’s on the top floor, anyway?”
“The royal family’s dwelling. It also has the throne room, where the commander and the council strategized.”
Ni’ev helped her to her feet and then led her to the northern staircase. The walk was endless. When she got high enough, she looked down at the lower levels. She spotted Nebula sitting by Vrox’s room. She was weaving together straw, and Vee was chewing a leaf beside her.
She couldn’t see Rokan, Draekon, or Ak, but she knew they were going about their daily tasks.
She took a moment to look at the horizon. The jungle looked lusher than ever. Their future citizens were somewhere out there, and so was Kyros.
At least I hope so.
“Do not stare for too long. I do not want you to faint,” Ni’ev warned.
She laughed, scanning the horizon a final time.
“The green doesn’t terrify me anymore.”
She remembered when she met Vrox. She had run through a maze of leaves in search of anything familiar– glass, chrome, concrete. In the end, she found nothing but frightening green.
What once represented terror now meant possibility.
She turned to face the stairs and resumed walking. When she reached the top level, Ni’ev took the lead and walked through one of the entrances.
Like the lower levels, this one had weathered paper lying haphazardly. There was much more vegetation on the cracks of the walls and floor. She even saw a few flowers. Small jewels glittered on the floor– bits of treasure that looters dropped as they ransacked the place.
She followed Ni’ev, staying close as she had promised.
These walls had more engravings than the lower levels. Words were running across the upper parts like an endless banner.
“Be careful here,” Ni’ev warned.
She looked at the floor.
Bending down, she picked up a shard and lifted it. The clarity was impeccable. It served as further confirmation that Ezronian technology had once been booming.
They continued walking, crossing tethered carpets, rusted swords and shields, blood spatters, and what she hoped were animal bones. The hallway led to a collection of rooms, which were destroyed and partly burnt.
“It looks like this is the meeting room.”
Ni’ev stepped through the door, not needing to bend his head because the doorframes were ridiculously high.
She followed after him and found a long cedar-colored table that was toppled over. The wood still looked flawless. No layer of dust had been able to coat its polish. The table was so grand that it reached her chest even while lying on its side.
“This is...” she drew out, staring at the colors on the tabletop.
“It is a map of the capital,” Ni’ev confirmed.
She nodded and looked at the walls. This room had tall french-door windows. Most of the glass that once covered them was shattered.
“Be careful,” Ni’ev insisted as she navigated around the glass.
She kept walking to the head of the table, staring at the two massive thrones that were overlooking the room.
“The thrones of our leaders,” Ni’ev explained.
She walked over the three short stairs and peered over the seats. They were equally large, composed of sheets of gold, silver, rusted iron, and other materials. Spikes shot out of the chair’s perimeter, each containing an Ezronian symbol she couldn’t read.
"Wow. They used iron to make this. I wonder why? If they have so much gold, why bother with the cheaper metals?”
Ni’ev pointed to a turquoise-colored part.
“I do not know, but this is the metal I was thinking of using when you requested one that does not weigh much.”
“This seat... was it the commanders?”
“No. The commander’s seat is on the left.”
With hesitation, she reached out with both hands. She felt like she was in a museum, and she was disrespecting the art. It was intimidating to wrap her head around the idea that this throne was hers.
She gripped the turquoise sheet and tugged.
“What are you doing?” Ni’ev immediately intervened.
“We need this metal, don’t we?”
“Yes, but owning this makes you queen of Ezron. Why would you want to destroy it?”
She grunted as she tried to pry the sheet of metal.
“If there’s one thing Earth history taught me, it’s that a title or a seat don’t make a leader. Now, can you please help me with this?”
A stunned Ni’ev stepped forward and helped her strip down her throne.
She collected some glass shards on her way down. Ni’ev was silent, and she wondered if she had discomforted him in some way. Was he upset that she took from the throne?
When they reached the second level, she checked over Vrox. He was still unresponsive to her voice and touch, but she didn’t let this discourage her.
“So this metal is pretty light. It’s still sharp, though. I think that Ni’ev can shape it into a dagger for me. It wouldn’t be heavy at all.”
She kept talking, trying to breathe life into him.
It was late in the afternoon. She had skipped lunch, but she had a hearty breakfast, so she wasn’t too hungry. When she found herself yawning, she laid beside Vrox with her back against his arm and slept.
She wasn’t sure how much time passed when a hand appeared on her stomach. She knew it wasn’t Vrox’s because his arms were bound together.
The hand was masculine. It was strange, having one of Vrox’s brothers touch on an area that she was fiercely protective over. She wasn’t angry, though. The men were childishly curious. They had done so much for her that she couldn’t deny them the small joy of embracing Ezron’s hope.
The hand disappeared after a minute. She remained still, feigning sleep to avoid embarrassing them.
After about five more minutes, Ni’ev called out, “Kira, come. It is time to eat.”