LVIII.

Eridani confirmed that the Taurian clan had very little concern for what became of her: their continued ignorance of her disappearance was proof enough.

The fact was no shock.

Ever since she was born, she knew: mother was too fatigued rebuilding the clan to bother hiding her disdain for the child that lived in her mate’s place. The prophecy diverted when she was born, she often mused with her important advisors about her younger child. It’s as though her cries silenced the Creator.

Yes, she knew that by defying the texts of the Creator’s foretelling, her birth had doomed her people into this unforeseen period of utmost confusion.

So, she thought she was so lucky to have a brother who treasured her. She thought she was blessed to be protected by the prophesied “great King,” the raven with the same blood as her, the blood of the strongest warrior and the greatest healer in the history of Nokshan existence. She thought Aldebaran saw her simply as “his bluejay,” his precious little sister, and not the child cursed into isolation for her tenets-defying existence that he needed to pity.

And so she was wrong. He probably only shielded her for the praise of their clansmen. He chose a mere human over her. It made sense, Eridani supposed. Even he, her sole protector, could not help but thought it better if father didn’t die for her, that she should have just been a stillborn, mourned than forgotten.

Interestingly enough, she realized her brief days of life as a stillborn would have left her at a better opinion amongst the clan, anyway.

But she digresses. She embarked upon this strain of thought merely by the sight of the crumbled corpse upon the floor. A few spots of snowy feathers remained, and while she knew the owner of those egret plumes also possess half of her blood, it was difficult for her to be moved.

“Ha, I won, again,” She choked out bitterness and bile: the reason she was alive was the reason she had to be cursed.

Did she ever choose to be born? The father she never met allowed himself to be blinded by his love for his mate, his children, yet never thought about the broken pieces his loved ones would be left in at his death; and the shards of broken hearts cut her infant mind and her wounds remained, if not multiplied stubbornly each year she struggled on.

“I won,” She recalled a comment made behind her wings: why is she a bluejay? Aren’t Lord Aldebaran and our King ravens?

The bright color is a warning, the mother answered her son. Warning for all to just stay away.

But aren’t bluejays common and weak? Back then, Eridani cared enough to peer back and glare, saw the eagle fledgling be led by his mother to the other side of the street.

“How am I common and weak?” The common ones won’t be isolated.

And weakness? She strode over towards the entrance of the temple, followed the trail of crimson, his blood, she could tell from the smell. The blood of the almighty King of Nokshans, spilled by her puppets. By her.

She was capable of wounding the so-called prophesied King.

Unlike him, she was not distracted. No traumatizing pasts or useless sentiments haunted her, no human bewitched her. She was far greater than him, a raven. Shame on him for losing to a little, common bluejay.

“Very well done, Eridani,” Claud followed the trail of blood to her. “Now that they are without their Nokshan, we will see how they fare against your minions.”

“Shut up,” She needed not the priest to remind her of her hypocritical diagnosis of her brother; besides, the Priest was far too talkative for her liking, anyway.

“It’s a pity three of your minions were dispatched of,” He mused. “And, our most useful one, too.” Of course, he meant the egret.

“No matter, we still have plenty.”

“And I thought you had some qualms about the whole operation of using your dead clansmans’ wings?”

Eridani gritted her teeth, “Did you give me a choice?”

“No, but you didn’t take half the persuasion that your brother endured,” Claud mused, feeding upon the young Nokshan’s rising rage. “And, he still persisted.”

Weaknesses, weaknesses, “but what good did that do for him?” He would just continue to be weighed down by his sense of purpose, protecting humanity and their selfish interests. “It seems to me that he needed no persuasion when it comes to the princess. Perhaps the problem is not about the subjects to be persuaded, but the persuader?”

“Ah, but you cannot blame me for not being equipped with the art of seduction,” Claud had little qualms for entertaining Eridani’s nightmare and largely inaccurate interpretation of Lyra’s character. “My methods are a lot more…forceful.”

“Yet forceful methods will only get you a common bluejay,” She muttered more to herself than anything, whatever line of flawed logic her mind pondered upon before was forever ruined as she considered her own self worth altogether crumbled like the antiquated, obliterated temple about her, obsolete. “It surprises me that you think yourself in possession of any methods at all. A man with methods would probably allow me to attack them now since they are at their most vulnerable?”

“Oh, I am sure they already weaseled back to their little den behind that old geezer’s talismen. Their paranoia will be their adversary enough, we can wait,” Claud belittled the young Nokshan’s temper too much to take any insults she hurled at him seriously: who was he to deprive the young Nokshan the means to normalize her enslavement to their contract? “I am sure they noticed our operations on the other end of the mountains and would eventually come to us…”

Eridani growled at the idea of idle waiting, kicked at the loose pieces of debris until they tumble off the clipped stairs and down the jagged hills.

“So be it.”

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