XXXIV.

Days dressed up like decades to swim by her little window, unwilling to take her with them in their lazy meandering. Those days are so far away now, when just the three of them cruised the mountains of clouds; she hid, they sought, and all laughed while the sun smiled along.

Her wrist itches, and Eridani imagined scratching as she tugged at cloth, her eyes squinting at the chrome blue distances. She pretended disinterest as her door creaked open, knowing from the shuffle of steps that, as always, the priest came flanked with guards.

“Good afternoon, Lady Eridani,” She found a cloud in the distance, pretended that it’s as fluffy as her brother’s familiar: if only Jiube’s here to eat this horrible man who invaded her illusion of privacy. “I see that you are still attached to the window.”

She allowed the sound to zip past her ears, the man speaks too fast and his lips are not worth suffering the sight of his face to read. An absent-minded hand tugged at the cloth about her wrist again.

“I don’t know of your culture, Lady Eridani, but ignorance is quite childish and rude in mine. Perhaps a piece of news regarding your dearest brother might amend that attitude?”

She held onto her mask of indifference, a hand clutched painfully to her wrist. The itch was almost unbearable.

“It seems that he has fallen under the charm of the princess–”

“–I am not completely clueless about that,” of course, she recalled the last time she saw him standing between her and that foolish witch with a skin handsome enough for a human: ‘tis a fact that still scratched her mind.

“–To the extent that he aided the Emperor in vowing to restore the order of the Empire, quenching the rebels and ‘usurpers’ to the throne. Do you have any ideas as to why he might turn his back to his own rebel brethren?” Eridani knew the attempts of division were deliberate, but there are certain echoes to truths.

At this point, denial and doubt was her only sword, “You are not merely spinning a net of lies to trap me.”

“Doth a caged bird need a net to be trapped? I merely pity you, a poor Nokshan made expendable by the rebels, betrayed by your brother: you deserve at least the truth, don’t you think?”

She was peeved by the suggestion, contemplated the possibilities, wondered of the massacre.

“How about this: I will set you free after you complete a favor for me?” The tone spoke treachery, and it hurt her head to even doubt everything so readily.
“What?”

“Come, I will show you.”

Tempted by the possibility of escape with the notion of being outside her cell, she followed the Grand Priest while the many guards followed along. This marked the second time she saw the corridor, damp and darker than her spirits lined with torches that have no heat but a show of light. She searched for anything that she could turn into a weapon, but the walls are bare and the handles of the torches smelted into them. A few twist and turns later he ushered her into a room not unlike her own, but lined with a row of…tables, she assumed, with objects hidden under white cloth in small mountains.

“What is this?” She sought for a more definite aura within the chaotic airs of this strange room.

“Your path to freedom, Lady Eridani,” A riddling smile she grew to hate, Claud guided her to the nearest one. “It’s quite simple: I need your ability of transferring spirits and reconciling them.”

That’s probably too simple, so she set it upon herself to investigate. She approached the object, a tentative hand stretched over the unknown entity. There was a form, an idea, then as she drew the spirits from one place to another, a drumming, a sigh, a scream. She flinched and withdrew. A pulse. The familiarity of the spirit alarmed her, spoke her tongue, told her a tale she was too young to bear witness to. With renewed courage and panic she seized the white cloth and pulled, ripping the clean mask from monstrous truth.

“…What?” As the veil fluttered to the floor, Claud scoffed, she gasped. “Why?”

The priest strode over to the ungodly creation, the figure laid on its face, its back bones and sinews a bloodless pallor distinguished by two sores between the shoulder blades from which messes of twig-like feathers hung on dried bones. Eridani made out stitches like notes of pain and treachery, understood, retched.

“Do you understand, now, Lady Eridani?” Calud was proud of the effects. “This is but a continuation of what the Emperor aimed to do when he attacked your people: he harvested their wings, their spirits, and wanted to be the Creator and remake mankind with powers not their own.”

She saw it now, the mercenaries, beheading and slicing off wings of her people, “No…”

“I am sorry, Lady Eridani, but what can we do but continue this so at least your people’s deaths would not be for waste? Part of them shall live on, and thus are we not honoring them?”

She retched again, the flawed logic of the priest not the voice that she heard as she heard the harmony urging her on. Her people’s tormented spirits distorted by years of uncertainty were desirous of only one thing, life. She crawled onto her feet, unsteady as an apparition took the priest’s place: he looked just like how she imagined him to be, just like Alde, yet unmarred by the fierceness that one adapt to combat tragedy and the piercing eyes from their mother. The pure white wings were halos and the gentle voice the only timbre worthy of carrying the words of the Creator.

She teared, “Ba?”

So it wasn’t the voice of the Grand Priest that speaks, “Child, save us. Do what you must.”

She stretched a bandaged hand, the cuts itched and answered.

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