13. Child

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The End

I should have killed him.

I should have said something - anything - to anyone as soon as I knew something was wrong. Why would it have mattered if they believed me initially or not? Things would have been fine!

I should have said something after I killed the man, or after I spoke with Atossa, or after the Study collapsed, or before the sermon.

I should have been on time to the sermon in the first place. I should have sat in the seat I'd sat in every single sixth day of every single quarter moon of my entire life successfully, when it didn't even matter. When my absence wouldn't have made it look like I had worked with Xerxes, betrayed our empire, bombed the city.

I should have killed him.

I should have killed him.

I should have killed him.

I crawled my way over to a perfectly smooth porcelain vase that was probably thousands of years old and worth at least half the Eastside of the Southern Imperial City's property, rested it between my knees on the cold, tiled floor, and then vomited inside of it. Mostly, it was a dry heave with a bit of spit. I hadn't eaten anything in three days, and I'd already emptied more than my stomach had to offer two days earlier.

I wiped my mouth.

I vomited again.

I leaned away from the vase.

I leaned back in and vomited.

My chamber was neat. Immaculately, unnaturally so. My silk bed sheets were tucked tightly, not a single wrinkle in the fabric; I hadn't slept in them anytime recently. Not a speck of dirt, a grain of sand occupied my floor. My desk was clear - no books, no paper, no ink, no wax. My drapes blocked the suns' light. The golden double door was shut completely. Only three things sat out of place - my coronet and the headscarf attached to it, rolled somewhere under my bed, my knees, bruised on the hard floor, and my vomit that hadn't quite made it to the expensive vase. Or, rather, four. Me.

My hair stuck to my burning forehead with cold sweat. I only wore my shalvars, the way Izzet used to, and I was pale, paler than pale, my energy extinguished like that of the Ashbahi phantoms. There in my ancient Pasargadaen Shah's chamber, I'd never felt more Ashbahi.

I should have killed Xerxes. Or I should have let him kill me.

My stomach twisted over and over like a tumbleweed, devouring itself. I shut my eyes so tightly, the images in my head began to distort in shape and size. The pressure in them from vomiting was almost unbearable. My head spun. Air fell short of my chest, thin like I was shooting up an endlessly tall elevation.

My father always knew just how to punish me.

He'd done nothing. Nothing.

After more than three days, I was still waiting for him to summon me.

I vomited.

After leaving Kağan that day, I'd immediately found Takehiko's energy on the roof of Abu's home on the Eastside. Creative, Abu. But not surprising. He had never been good under pressure. 

Takehiko had glared when he saw me.

"Well?!" he'd demanded. "What happened to Xerxes?!"

"He got away," I'd told him. But then my energy had betrayed me.

Takehiko had lunged for my throat with the safic that killed his mother. He'd been a wild animal on top of me, pulling my hair and shouting things like "traitor", and "liar", and "coward". I'd pushed his safic away from my throat by its hilt, too tired from Xerxes to fight back, thoughts of what I had really done to him dancing around in my mind. Abu yelled and tried to pull Takehiko off of me. Effat had prayed at the window. Takehiko had punched Abu hard in the eye I'd stitched up. Abu'd screamed and released Takehiko.

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