Chapter 91

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Clan of the Nekaida had improvised a celebration in Xefen's honor.

Xefen was done giving his let's-come-together-and-vanquish-all-of-the-Rengleam-people speech. He sat by the fire now, finishing his meal. Koral watched him from a distance.

Nekaida comprised more people than Raven, maybe close to two-hundred in total. The compound was vast, compared to Koral's home.

There were more children, too. A group of them played nearby right now, flying their rudimentary kites, laughing whenever the kites fluttered down. The wind was whimsical tonight, sometimes gusting strong, other times abruptly still.

Koral watched, a smile playing over her lips, as five musicians set up their tam-tam sets a few feet away from the fire. Five of them! This would be interesting. And their tam-tams were in varying shapes and sizes. Maybe she'd take a closer look later. Maybe they'd even let her play with them, if she asked.

But it wasn't time for music just yet. Koral turned, gazing at the western sky over the canopy. The sun was on its downward course and with it, the promise of a stunning, blazing sunset. So Koral started walking.

Things were nice and calm in the clan right now – Etrikis and Xefen would survive a few moments without her. Probably.

Koral hadn't been to this area of Asheth in some time. She ambled past the mudbrick huts, smiling at the children, who chased one another across the west side of the compound.

It made her think of her parents, who kept asking her when she would finally choose a yaklizi, so that she could give them some grandchildren. They seemed in a rush, even though Koral hadn't even been alive for forty seasons yet. At least, she didn't think so. It hadn't felt like that long.

She knew, from memory, that if she kept a westward course, she would soon emerge from the forest and step upon Cho Tali. So, she kept moving, faster as anticipation rose, excitement fluttering within her. It had been too long. Why don't I come here more often?

As she approached the beach, she passed more palm trees, and the wind smelled like salt, and fish, and the ocean. She could hear the waves already, and she smiled.

Koral often found herself thinking that, if she did, one day, end up calling someone her yaklizi, then maybe they would come here together and watch the sunset.

Beneath her sandaled feet, the forest ground changed, evolved, the density ebbed, and eventually morphed into black sand, spreading out before her, and on either side. She grinned, taking off her sandals so her feet could feel the lingering warmth across the sand's surface. The rushing of waves filled her ears, soothing, as the ocean spread out before her, infinite.

She was alone.

Which made sense – everyone would've wanted to be back at the clan for the celebration.

As Koral approached the waterline, wind blowing her hair, she saw a delicately curving white and pink seashell and picked it up. She also saw a crab, scuttling past her feet. She avoided it, smiling, and stepped closer to the water. Until the foamy waves came tickling her toes.

She let out a content sigh and looked up at the cloudy sky, where pinks and oranges vied for dominance.

Then, a short few moments later, she felt a presence behind her – very soft steps across the sand. Somehow, Koral had a strong inkling of who it was even before she cast a glance over her shoulder.

Her intuition was correct – Xefen.

She hid a smile as he came to stand beside her.

After a moment, during which she wondered if he would speak first, she asked, "Tired of all the attention?"

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