((A little encounter for my characters in BDO which is where I’ve been RPing of late))
Ethan swatted away another questing mosquito, then with an annoyed grunt pulled at the wild herb beside him, inspecting it.
“Good enough,” he grumbled and smeared the mane grass over his exposed skin. If he did not smell like a person, then he was not worth eating.
He lent back against the gnarled trunk of the olive tree he sat under, glancing around the ancient grove that had somehow escaped the ruin of the city. The last time he had been under these trees he had been a boy. He sighed to himself, then looked up. The sky was deep black and studded with a myriad of stars. He had often slept outside growing up, just to get himself lost in the enormity of the Mediahn sky.
A rare smile tugged at his lips. He was used to his life taking odd turns, but the latest twist had his head spinning. He had not been anywhere near Altinova in some time. The feeling of nostalgia that struck him as he stepped off the boat had been a surprise. He had thought his memories of the city would be tainted.
No, he felt comfortable to be in Altinova. It had an openness that the cities of the west lacked. The likes of Calpheon made him feel trapped. All hard edges and grey stone.
What he had not felt comfortable on was that cursed ship. He frowned at the sky. How could they eat while the boat rolled and pitched so? He remembered seeing Garrett eating cheese and an echo of queasiness pulled at his innards. Bastard probably had done it on purpose.
Small wonder Boyd had hired him for a job and not come himself. The sea was vast and the boat was…not. Could giants sail? He was unsure. Would not a boat have to be customised?
He shook his head and ran a hand through his green hair. None of the crew even half trusted him. That was fine, he did not trust them either. If things got rough he knew he would be the one left for the guards to find. It would not be his first arrest, or the last. His Sister would see him right. She thought she owed him.
He would have to watch that Captain, she had given him a look that said if he breathed in a way she disliked then he would find himself filleted. The one in red was annoying, but he knew better than to judge her yet. Miss Hat was fun to tease, but having seen a vanishing staff when she was drunk he knew he had to step lightly there also. He was unsure what to make of Garrett, other than he had an eye for the lasses.
A snapping twig alerted him to the presence of another. The intruder was quickly identified without even needing to look away from the bejewelled sky. The scent of jasmine oil curled up his nostrils.
“Trading’s making you sloppy Sui,” he grunted. He should have known she would find him. In fact, he was surprised it had taken her so long. This was her market. She would be buying up stock to transport back to Heidel… Or that was what everyone thought. Unknown to most was what her main source of profit was, it certainly was not spices or furniture.
He worried about her sometimes, but she was smart; smarter than he was and she deserved her success. It was hard won.
She sat silently down beside him, looking up at the sky as he was. He could feel it in her, feel the background buzz in his ears. Familiar and alien all at the same time.
“When my contact at the docks said you had stepped off a boat I thought you had come for a visit,” she paused and her hand brushed against his briefly.
Guilt tore at his gut, though he did not move nor change expression. He grunted a reply and he felt her shrug in the darkness.
“Then, he described the others with you,” she paused again, choosing her words with care. “You will be careful?”
He nodded and that seemed to placate her. Her warm, lilting tones took him back to the stories she would read for him. Drowsiness rose up and he yawned.
“Are you… planning to spend the night out here?”
He nodded again. He did not want to look at her, he did not want to see her face. The sadness mixed with affection would be his undoing.
“I could… get you a room…” she spoke slowly, knowing she was stepping over the gap that must remain between them.
“No,” he cut her off sharply.
The silence stretched and his anger flared. He knew he was hurting her, but he was not a child anymore. She had to let him go. If anything, the debt between them should be driving her away. Yet, she remained. Their upbringing was still dictating how she acted, no matter how far she distanced herself from their childhood.
“Sorry,” she whispered into the darkness. The wind sighed through the leaves above them, making him feel like it was whistling through the gulf between them.
“They were talking about a trader and unregistered ships. This was your idea?” It was not really a question, more an accusation. He knew the answer, this had his sister’s fingerprints all over it.
She pulled her knees up and wrapped her arms around them. The chill of the night was setting in and she shivered.
“I’m an investor,” she muttered. “It’s in my interests to see them do well. I will get a better…”
“Bollocks,” he grunted. Picking one of the cruder curses he had heard from a mercenary in Glish.
Again a long silence, he let it fester, knowing she would not be able to stay quiet. His patience was rewarded.
“I know what it is like to yearn for freedom,” she whispered at last. “To feel trapped by your choices, but know you could not have made better ones,” he could feel her eyes on him now. Deep green, like his own. “Existence is not the same as living. It’s for survival.”
He knew what she meant, how many years she had endured. In the end the solution had been simple. He shoved that particular memory back down where it belonged.
“So, you had to say something?” he grumbled. “Give them an idea?”
“Yes,” came the reply from the darkness.
She stood, leathers creaking a little.
“These are not ‘good’ people Sui,” he pointed out.
“And we are?” she countered. Her tone was mild, but he felt as if she had punched him in the gut.
“People are people,” she continued. “We do the best we can with what we have. They are no different, we are no different. Half of Mediah is no different.” She took a step away. He had an urge to reach for her, to hold her close and tell her he would be fine. She could stop, she did not need to keep putting herself at risk. He forced himself to remain seated. He could not change her mind and did not deserve to offer her comfort.
“We do what we must for those we hold dear.”
He had no response for her.
She turned and was gone. Jasmine fading from the air gradually.
“Be safe, Sui,” the words left his mouth, but his voice failed him.
She would not have heard.
The young man found no rest that night under the boughs of the grove. Lost in memories of his older sister and how he now hardly recognised the woman she had become.
That, was his fault. He had made her what she was. His deeds had driven her to the path she now walked. Yet it was her stubbornness that had led to his need to act.
His sister was his mirror and yet his opposite. He was unsure they would ever be a true reflection of each other. Perhaps, in time, he would learn to accept her and not long for what they once were to each other.