25. The Daughter

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The End

Takehiko had not taken my advice.

Zoltán and Kağan were essentially gathering all of us in one place and broadcasting the signal, willing transforming us into sitting ducks. I knew that. But still, how would it look if I was the only one who didn't show up? It was like announcing to them I was not on their side. Which I wasn't, of course. I wasn't even sure they really even had a side. But if they did, I wanted to know what they would be doing with it.

Two suns rose high in the night sky, completely illuminating the night sky just as bright as day. It felt idiotic, hiding in the garden at night when both our energies and the suns gave us away, relying on circadian rhythm like a cloak. We'd have been less conspicuous just talking in the daytime. I walked straight and let my footsteps echo normally.

Let Amirhan and Hakan hear.

It changed nothing.

"Really? Mirza? Are Cyrus and Kian also coming?"

Zoltán, Kağan, Takehiko, and Mirza - who was eight and had an energy projection less powerful than an ant bite, and not even a poisonous one - looked up at me approaching from their crouches.

"Could you keep your voice down?" Zoltán whisper-yelled as Kağan chided, "You're late," and Mirza asked, "What's wrong with Mirza?"

I ignored him and sat cross-legged under the bonsais. A duck might as well actually sit. Crouching just wasted energy.

Zoltán opened his hand in a weary wave. "You aren't dead. We thought father might have killed you in secret."

"Not yet."

"Where's your partner?" Zoltán elbowed Kağan in the rib, but Kağan just shook him off. "I can't say I'm not impressed. First the city..." He did not say the rest.

"Father sent me to stop Xerxes. And he did not do... this."

"Maybe not Xerxes himself, but you're blind if you don't think he wasn't involved," Kağan said. "She's his mother."

Zoltán nodded with a laugh that sounded like it could have been a cry. "I heard it was while they were..." He made a gesture with his hands and I held up my own to block it.

"Minos-" Kağan started, and I could just tell the words were sour in his mouth. "I know we've had our... differences in the past-"

"You've had differences," I interjected.

Kağan's jaw clenched and unclenched. "Fine, I've had my differences. But this is larger than the both of us now." He glanced over his shoulder. "Xerxes is here."

We watched him and Effat approach in silence, two tiny dark silhouettes against the colossal setting second sun. Our energies - at least, their energies - melted together to form a bitter concoction, for once, unified. Xerxes had always been our mediator of sorts. Now, he'd made an enemy out of all of us - Kağan, Zoltán, and Mirza for bombing the Square, for building the downward slope that led to our father's death, Takehiko for the death of his mother, me for trying to pin it on me, for the Square, for our father's death, for Takehiko. I'd never felt so together with my brothers - as when Xerxes wasn't. Perhaps there had only ever really been room for one of us.

"Who's the girl?" Kağan squinted against the sun.

"Camel-shit insane," Takehiko muttered.

"Xerxes used her to contact the green fire suppliers," I explained. "She thought the gods wanted her to set off the green fire bombs."

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