Chapter Seven

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The candlelight was warm against my cheek when I woke. I cracked my eyes open, squinting at its orange shine. The tiny flame was placed in a wooden box, and the shards of glass on its sides reflected the light across my murky room.

It was the first time I was allowed a moment to admire the chamber I had been given. It was covered in stone, wood and gold, polished mahogany constructed into shelves, chests, tables, and yellow illustrations dancing across it. It wasn't a large space - though certainly larger than what I was accustomed to - but I didn't mind. Fewer corners meant fewer places for shadows to lurk in.

Only one shadow inhabited my room at the moment; Rin's scanty frame was perched on the window, dressed in blue and leaden textiles that clashed hideously with my room's warm ambiance. She regarded me with a brash tilt of the head as she said, "You know, your body doesn't really compliment your bold mouth."

I slid up to my elbows and winced at the dull protest of my ribs. My insides felt rotten. "Maybe it's for the best."

"You mean their best."

"Yes, it's always for their best," I laughed bitterly.

A small smile escaped Rin's stony exterior, which she quickly hid by jumping on her feet. "Despite your little tantrum," she called behind her shoulder as she grabbed a slender plate of food, "we ended up eating those rabbits anyway."

The odor of freshly boiled meat reached my nose. It turned my head with longing, the hunger I had suppressed for so long emerging and reigning over my senses. I breathed long whiffs of the pleasant smell as the handmaiden placed the food where her parchment had been.

The thought of Erhan crept into my mind, uninvited and unwelcome. Where was he now? Had our argument upset him more than he let show? All the words I had spat at him swam in my mind, obnoxiously casual next to the image of his firm face. Suddenly, the hare next to me didn't seem so appetizing anymore.

"Wait," I called as Rin approached the door. My eyes couldn't meet hers. "Has Erhan... visited, at all?"

"The big-headed diplomat?"

I nodded.

"No."

Something stung my chest as an uncomfortably audible sigh left my lips. It wasn't like him not to intrude into people's private space. I slid deeper into my blanket, searching for warmth when my heart failed me.

Why should I care? With a shuddering breath, I realized I shouldn't. Yet the scariest part of emotions had always been their haughty defiance of logic, and I didn't expect that to change now.

"Hey, Yumi?"

I glanced up, my eyes narrow with a weird sense of shame.

Rin's lips were twisted with all the words she wanted to say but couldn't. She slowly shook her head - was it disbelief or defeat that darkened her eyes? - and said in the lowest tone, "You should be careful. Things aren't looking so good."

With no further elaboration, she let the door click behind her.

The silence was obstinate, making the hollow room seem crammed. Even the wind seemed to have died down to allow my thoughts unbothered roam. The day had felt like an eternity. The mere reminder that countless more eternities awaited my broken body made me quickly clear the platter beside me, blow out the light and shrivel into my sheets.

There were no thoughts in darkness. Only a fragile lull I knew to cherish.

This dream differed from the rest.

There were no colors, no lively scenery. I wasn't a part of all the other bizarre visions, but a bystander; watching silently, like a play in the Grand Theater. I couldn't interfere, as much as I wanted to, but there was something comforting about knowing I couldn't worsen the turmoil unfolding before me.

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