Episode 78 – Fate needs two pairs of hands to hold
Kiel shook his head and thought about Elaru’s explanation that couldn’t even be called an explanation, considering how lacking in details it was.
He understood that she didn’t want to talk about what happened. That she had many secrets she didn’t want to share. If he asked her how she defeated the Shadow or obtained the antidote, would she even answer?
Was it even a good idea for him to know the truth?
He wanted to know. He really wanted to know.
But if she told him about it, he would become an accomplice to a crime.
Perhaps her choice to skim over it was not just a matter of trust. Perhaps she was protecting him in her own way. There were many ways to extract information from people in this world. Ignorance was sometimes the best defense.
Not to mention that it was perfectly understandable why she wasn’t willing to share her darkest secrets with him. They only knew each other for several days. If he were in her place, he wouldn’t be sharing his illegal activities with her either. He would never let his emotions take control and prevent him from being cautious.
Aetherneal bond connected their minds and souls, but it didn’t make their hearts one and the same. They were still just two people unwilling to share their innermost self with others.
Kiel’s eyebrows furrowed as he dissected what happened and carefully chose which questions to ask. As he searched his memories, he realized he had no idea how he got poisoned in the first place.
Was it the perfume? He did remember how nauseated he felt by the scents. But that didn’t make sense. If it was in the air, why didn’t anyone else feel sick?
Did someone prick him with a needle?
He remembered girls swarming around him. Grabbing his arms coquettishly. There were also people who introduced themselves. But surely, he would have felt it if someone pricked him?
Finally, he squeezed out a question: “How did I get poisoned?”
This was something he absolutely needed to know. He never wanted this situation to repeat. What he despised the most in this entire world was being weak, being unable to protect himself, being a damsel in distress.
Familiar bright red flames flashed through his mind.
Only when his fist started producing cracking sounds did he realize just how hard he had been clenching it.
Elaru glanced at him from the corner of her eyes and couldn’t help but sigh. “It was a rare poison called Fever Touch. It is transmitted through physical contact. The Shadow rubbed it on his palm.”
Kiel’s eyes widened. “A handshake! I got poisoned through a handshake?!”
Suddenly, a deep sense of helplessness swelled up within him. “There is such a thing? How am I supposed to guard against that? Jump away in fright from any physical contact? Cover my whole body in cloth leaving no skin exposed? Wear gloves and a scarf?”
That time, he promised that he would never again allow himself to be so helpless. That he would become strong. That he would work harder than anyone else, surpass everyone else.
He thought that he could learn from this experience so that nothing similar would ever happen again, only to realize that he couldn’t find a fault in his previous behavior. Should he stop shaking people’s hands just because one person poisoned him through a handshake?
Should he wear gloves for the rest of his life because of one time he was poisoned?
Elaru smiled wryly. “You’re right. Living like that… always on your guard… suspicious of everyone… it isn’t a nice way to live. And for you, who is trying to be a social butterfly… it isn’t an option…”
Kiel chuckled self-deprecatingly. “Are you saying that there is nothing I can do about it? That I cannot prevent this from repeating in the future? That I’ll always be someone’s prey?”
Elaru’s eyes glazed in thought. “There are measures you could take to protect yourself… You could develop an immunity for some of the poisons that are the hardest to defend against.”
“There are a countless number of poisons out there. I will never be able to develop an immunity to all of them. A weakness… there will always be one that is my weakness.” Kiel argued.
Elaru didn’t respond. He was right.
He could select a few to guard against, but different kinds of poison were so numerous that one couldn’t even learn all of their names, let alone develop immunity to them.
Kiel’s laugh became louder and more bitter. “Does that mean that no matter how hard I try, no matter how powerful I become, I will never be able to hold fate in my own two hands?”
Elaru remained silent.
Just like Kiel, she had always sought to control her own fate. She worked harder than anyone else, she had more opportunities and backing than anyone else. And yet, no matter how “in control” she felt while dealing with the world around her, in reality, there were far too many things out of her control.
Eighteen years of struggle and she was still no closer to changing her own fate.
Elaru looked down to her left hand that was slightly trembling. “Perhaps, fate is not something one can hold in a palm of one’s hand.” She murmured, her eyes glazing over with sorrow.
She stared at that hand, covered by dark markings, for a while. Suddenly her eyes widened until they became as wide as saucers. They brightened up, like two balls of flames.
Her sorrowful expression morphed into enlightenment. “Fate isn’t something that can be held in the palm of your two hands.”
Her right hand that was holding Kiel’s arm suddenly grabbed Kiel’s hand instead and brought their intertwined hands upwards to their eye level. “Perhaps, fate is something that needs two pairs of hands to hold!”
Kiel’s heart skipped a beat, his mind froze, and he stared at their intertwined hands in a stupor. His eyes landed on Elaru’s face. She was glowing brightly like the sun, excitement flickered in the depths of her eyes.
“Perhaps that’s what Aetherneal bond is all about. A way to control fate!” Her eyes moved from their intertwined hands and locked with Kiel’s. “It takes two! It takes two people to control fate!”
Kiel opened his mouth several times to respond, but his mind was completely blank.
“Kiel, alone, you will never be able to fully guard against your enemies.” Elaru exclaimed confidently.
Kiel’s face fell. That’s not good news. Why are you saying it in such an uplifting tone?
“But, you are not alone!” She smiled brightly, and the whole world stood still. “Not anymore. I am with you.”
The brilliance of her smile grew even further. “I will always be with you. It is alright if there are things you can’t do. What you can’t do, I’ll do in your stead!”
Kiel’s heart was thumping so hard that if she wasn’t speaking telepathically, he would surely not be able to hear her voice over the loud sound of his heartbeat. Even the loud sounds of wind got completely overpowered by the frantic beats.
His emotions stirred. He could feel her sincerity through the bond, her emotions spilled into him. There was no greed, lust, or desire, no hidden agenda. Just pure and simple…
…pure and simple what? What emotion is that?
Kiel’s heart skipped a beat.
Elaru’s bright smile turned gentle, and she looked at him with a strange sentiment. “And what I can’t do… for that… I have you.”
Kiel felt a strange burning sensation erupt in the center of his chest. He could almost feel his always frozen heart melting under it.
Abruptly he turned his face away from Elaru to hide the pink spreading over his cheeks.
Silly. Sappy. Foolish. Ridiculous.
I just don’t understand how the brain of this girl is wired.
One moment cunning and secretive, the other innocent and honest like a new born baby.
If it weren’t for the fact that emotions he felt through their bond couldn’t be faked, if it weren’t for the strong resonance between them, he would have thought that she was trying to seduce him.
And ironically enough, it was working.
He fought desperately to regain his calm. He didn’t want to feel this way. These… emotions… were doomed to cause him endless trouble. Emotions… were better left frozen and buried in the deepest parts of his consciousness. Replaced by calm logic.
“I don’t want to rely on anyone. I want to be strong enough on my own.” Kiel exclaimed, his eyes still avoiding looking at Elaru.
Elaru stared at him for several seconds before retorting: “Relying on others isn’t a sign of weakness. No one can be invincible by themselves.”
Kiel’s pupils shrunk and the disarray in his mind suddenly stilled.
If he had been told this at any other time by anyone else, he would have paid it no attention. He would have thought it to be an excuse for personal weakness.
But in the light of what happened today, Kiel realized that if he didn’t have a connection to Elaru, if he didn’t have a true ally, he would have been kidnapped and locked within the Rroda mainhouse. His dream of enrolling into Muni would have shattered into dust.
And he would have been powerless to stop it. Not even gods were invincible, let alone he, a mortal. No matter how powerful he became, he would not be able to control everything by himself.
If it were so easy to defend against a Shadow, then they wouldn’t be as dreaded as they were. Even heads of noble families wouldn’t want to antagonize a Shadow.
And the more brilliantly Kiel shone, the more enemies he would attract.
One day, something like this would repeat itself. And there would be no one to help him.
An ally, huh? Kiel looked at Elaru from the corner of his eyes. Will you really be my precious ally, Elaru Wayvin? Are you truly someone I can trust?
Kiel spoke out: “For the sake of the argument, let’s pretend that I want to be your ally.”
Elaru smirked and gave him a knowing look. “Sure.”
Kiel ignored the look and continued. “The question is, can I trust you?” His icy blue eyes locked with Elaru’s teal ones.
Could he really trust such a secretive person with unknown origin or goal?
Kiel was neither naïve nor optimistic. Logically speaking, she was not trustworthy at all. Yet, a part of him couldn’t help but feel like he could trust her.
Elaru didn’t respond to his question right away. Her smile vanished and was replaced by a solemn expression.
After a while, she sighed and finally replied. “Friendship and love might fade. Allies might become enemies. But… as long as you remain my friend, my ally, I will remain yours. You can trust that I will not betray you unless you betray me first. You can trust that I will guard your back. You can trust that I will help you to the best of my ability. You can trust that your enemies will be my enemies. That your troubles will be my troubles.”
Her vow was resolute and sincere. And her actions validated her conviction.
He didn’t know what Elaru needed to do to overcome this tribulation, but he knew that it was dangerous. Yet, she didn’t hesitate at all to come to his aid. And she didn’t even complain how tricky it was. For all he knew, she might have gotten injured in the process. But even if she did get injured, would she even tell him?
He got the feeling that Elaru Wayvin was the type of person who could get stabbed right through the chest and still walk away from the event smiling and claiming to be fine.
A person who could get all her limbs cut off and still crack jokes about it.
Regardless of right and wrong, like and hate, this type of person… he couldn’t help but respect.