Chapter 25

115 21 25

"I had another sister." Teshin settled back in his chair, one priyon-decorated arm resting on the table beside him. "Mikai's twin. Her name was Nalia, and," Teshin said with a smile, "in many ways, she was the best of us. She was a warrior, like Xef and me. And she was so good to Mikai – she could even make her laugh. No one else could, though it wasn't from lack of trying on my part."

That made Leithan smile. He didn't interrupt, the moment felt important.

"Nalia also had something the rest of us didn't share," Teshin said, a shadow crossing his eyes despite the lightness of his tone. "A respect for rules and traditions. She cared about things being a certain way, saw the importance, the . . . balance of things, where we did not. Xefen wanted to change everything, and Mikai and myself, well, we ended up taking his side. I don't want to bore you with the details."

"You're not boring me," Leithan said. He realized he'd been leaning forward, just a bit. He pulled his chair closer to the table, and rested his right arm on it.

Teshin smiled, and looked away. "Maybe I'm the one who's not ready to tell the whole story," he admitted. "Anyway, there was a conflict within Nekaida, and the clan leader's son . . . was killed. And he was Nalia's partner. So, she grieved him, spent much time alone. She seemed more heartbroken, much more bereaved, than when our parents had died a few seasons prior."

"Even so," Teshin said, frowning, "we had no idea how bad it was. A few days later, Nalia took her own life."

Leithan let out a breath. "Spirits' fucking sakes, that's just . . ."

Teshin gave a slight nod. "Mikai found her. And she took us there, Xef and me, without a word, so we could see for ourselves. I remember falling to the ground, screaming and crying when I saw her. Nalia had . . . thrown herself off a cliff, high on Ashira. She'd been dead for a while. Body broken and half-devoured by vultures."

Leithan had brought his hands together. He pressed them to his chest now. He couldn't find any words.

"Still, we brought her back," Teshin said. "So we could give her a proper Death in Fire. And in the days and weeks that followed, it was hard on all three of us. We all grieved in our own ways. Which included some klar abuse, in mine and Xefen's case, I won't lie. But Mikai, she . . ."

Teshin shook his head, sorrow darkening his eyes. "She isolated herself, wouldn't talk to anyone, not even to me. Though I was the only one whose presence she tolerated. She blamed herself, I think. Well, we all did, but . . . Mikai took it literally. She punished herself."

He reached out and took Leithan's arm again. Made it seem like such a casual thing too, though Leithan's heart fluttered and thudded all the same.

"This is the part of my story where I get to the point," Teshin said, with a fragile teasing smile.

Leithan cleared his throat. "Like I said, I wasn't bored or anything, so."

"Mikai cut herself like this," Teshin said.

Then, Teshin ran the tips of two fingers, index and middle, down Leithan's arm, touching every line, every scar, taking his time. Feeling the varying textures, maybe. It felt surprisingly . . . okay. Soothing, even. Like the sound of his voice.

"She did it on both arms. And her legs, too. Sometimes, she'd tear at her hair. Also, she . . ." Teshin looked chagrined. "She refused to eat anything I brought her."

Teshin shifted back in his chair, hands in his lap.

"I remember how it made me feel. So . . . helpless. I tried everything." He gave a wry chuckle. "Anger. Sobs. Pleading. Reasoning. Nothing I said or did changed anything. Actually, she seemed to get worse."

Son of No CityWhere stories live. Discover now