745 - The most important thing in the world
11 Sipim, 4974 | City of Arko
I’m worried about Kil and me now. You know how people talk about how there can be an issue that gets between two lovers? Something that’s just there, even though they don’t talk about it? I think we have one now.
I can’t tell whether it’s there for both of us, though, or just me. I don’t think she’s acting any differently, but I am not sure… maybe my own feeling is making me not see clearly. She seems to smile and to be loving and accepting as much as always. But I know it’s there for me. I’m feeling bad that I didn’t just say yes, and I’m worried that maybe I’ve made a terrible mistake, and hurt her unforgivably… but then, if I did that, she’d say so, wouldn’t she? We’ve always been very frank with each other.
I made the mistake of answering honestly when Chevenga said to me while I was massaging him a few days back, “Kanincha, I’m sorry I haven’t asked, I’ve been distracted; how are things with you and Kilalulana?” (He can rattle off Hyerne names easily; I think it’s because they’re like Yeoli.) I told him, and he jolted right back into the tension I’d just spent half an aer kneading out of him. “You said what?” he said. “You said anything but ‘yes’?”
“It’s as I said… I don’t know what’s going to happen now, where you are going to be.” (I didn’t tell him the secret move I’ve made… I’ll get to that in a bit, Mamin.) “Besides, I thought you wanted to tie me to the mast.” (I couldn’t resist saying that.)
He turned over to face me. “Kanincha. She loves you. She truly, truly loves you; every sign shows that she is true. This is what you have always wanted, and have been denied, sometimes in the bitterest of ways. It doesn’t matter where I am going to be! I’m not semanakraseye any more; the people of Yeola-e won’t pay for me to have a personal physician.”
My hands, that I had back on him to get him relaxed again, froze right where they were, on his left pectoral. Can you believe I am fool enough not to have thought of that? “You mean,” I said, hearing the weakness in my own voice, “I’m… fired?”
“No!” he said fast. “I don’t mean that; that’s for people who are falling short of their task. You’ve been…” He seemed to struggle for the words. “Beyond exemplary. I’ll write you a letter which will compel whoever reads it to hire you. Well, I mean, if it comes to that… I have to talk to Skorsas… I’m sorry. I should have thought of this, should have settled that matter before I mentioned it.”
I didn’t understand him. “What do you mean?”
“Your pay would have to come out of the family funds,” he said. “Skorsas manages all that. I have no idea even how much there is. But, Kanincha…” He sat up, staring into my eyes with that intense look he gets, and gripped both my hands in his. You can’t look away. “Being my healer is just a position. You could get any other; you’ll be offered a bag full of excellent ones, I am certain, and will be able to take your pick. There might not be another Kilalulana. She’s wonderful, she really is; seeing the two of you together is a joy; I take back everything I ever said about tying you to the mast. If you have to choose between her and me, it’s obvious which way you should go.”
“But…” I didn’t know how else to say this, Mamin. “If I’m not there, who’s going to keep you in one piece? No one else knows how.”
“That doesn’t matter so much any more. I’ll go to the local healer, like most people do; there are very good ones here, and in Vae Arahi, so I’ll be fine either way.”
I stood there and felt a bit as if my heartbeat had stopped. That doesn’t matter so much any more… Why did that feel like a wound across my brain? I couldn’t stand to say anything, couldn’t think of anything to say, except, “Lie back down. That’s an order.” This was well after midnight—everyone else was asleep—and he’d been reeling with fatigue; he should be asleep under my hands now, but he was wide awake thanks to this conversation. “If we must speak more of this, it has to be tomorrow.”
He lay back down, but said, “It’s love, Kanincha. Love… the most important thing in the world. You’ve got her asking to marry you; don’t be a fool.” I touched my finger to his cheek, which I do because he was so sensitized to fingers on his lips when he was tortured; he knows what it means, “no more words out of you.” I told him to close his eyes, too, and with a little auric work he fell asleep.
I remember Kil asking me if I’d ever leave his service, and me saying, in effect, no. I thought it would never be relevant! All of us here, his family and me, we’re all disoriented. We never imagined this whole life could change so fast. Skorsas lay lightly snoring, perfect of face even without any face-paint, and I thought what will you say, when he talks to you about the money? I never knew he was so important.
Mamin—you felt the same about tying me to the mast as Chevenga did. Do you feel the same as he now does?
I said I’d tell you about my secret move… I’m so confident of letters not being intercepted now, I’m sending this anyway. It’s not revealing anything the world doesn’t know. This was this morning; his sister got here last night. Without letting him know, I begged a private word with her. She let me right into the room she’s staying in right now, one of the spy-proof ones in the Imperial section, and shut the door. “How is Chevenga?” she said. She has that intense look, too. It’s different with hazel eyes instead of dark brown, but it means the same thing. She didn’t want a “He’s fine, thanks, how are you?”, she wanted the exact truth of his condition.
“Afflicted with exhaustion again,” I said. “Nearly as badly as after Chinisinal, though it is not so physical. He is not accepting that diagnosis, or the prognosis, that he will have another collapse… or if he is, he’s indifferent to it. This is what I wanted to speak to you about. When he is done handing things over to you, I expect you mean to ask him to stay on in some position… am I right?”
“I’m not certain,” she said. “I was planning to see how things go, whether I feel I will require his help. But if you say he is in such a bad way... maybe I shouldn’t even consider it?”
It was strange to hear her say that, that she’s not sure she’ll need him. But—you know what he suffers from, Mamin? Being needed too much. He’s just been handed the best cure. “It’s exactly that I’m asking of you,” I said. “That you wait half a year before you get him to take responsibility for anything, to let him rest and finish healing. He would be so much better off.”
She sat thinking for a while, and my mind was suddenly seized with the idea that she’d say, “You’re personal physician to the semanakraseye of Yeola-e, that’s your contract, so you’re my personal physician now.” I don’t know why I thought that, because of course it’s always been by my choice. Being her personal physician, actually, would probably be much easier. Except I’d probably spend half the time worrying about how he is.
“I’ll take that under advisement,” she said finally. “I might need him before that, but I will promise you this: if I do, I will order him to work half-days only, by healer’s prescription. Not as good as full rest, I know; but I might be all right without him, in which case he will get that. Sorry to be so uncertain, but I have to learn what I have to learn here.”
You know, it’s really weird to hear someone talking casually about ordering Chevenga to do anything. I mean, other than me. As if he were just any warrior. Part of me is thinking Who do you think you are? What a mainland thought! I’ve been here so long.
Anyway, I figured that was the best I could expect, so I was happy. I thanked her, kissing her hand Yeoli-style. “You’re welcome,” she said. She has a cooler way about her. Typical of Yeoli women, I know.
“Now, Kanincha,” she said, looking at me with that I-mean-this look again. “I heard that beautiful Hyerne woman you love proposed to you, and you didn’t say yes, but put it off… what were you thinking?”
What is this, Mamin, does news travel as fast around here as it does in Assembly Palace in Vae Arahi?