Chapter 25 can be read below the cut.
Rahka Hiljachetsu stood on the opposite side of the glass. Nymue’s attention was immediately drawn to his hair – it was curly and long enough that it reached his waist. The next thing she noticed was his tunic. It was the same white color that soldiers wore for a week after they killed demons, and it was wrapped in the same style – right over left.
“I need you to answer a few questions for me,” said Nymue.
“Not even going to introduce yourself, are you?” said Rahka.
“Nymue Rozenbarr. I’m pretty sure Veitlen told you about me,” said Nymue. Rahka nodded. “You’ve been disappeared from all records except one. That’s how I found out your name and spirit weapon.”
Rahka raised his hand. “I have a question.”
“Um, yes?” said Nymue in confusion.
“What exactly were you looking for in the first place?” Rahka asked.
“I was looking for someone with a spirit weapon like my own,” said Nymue. “I asked a professor at the Military Academy about it, and she said she knew someone with one who died. But the records I checked said that the latest recorded person with a fluid spirit weapon died before she was even born. So me and my friends were searching for a while until one of us found your name and spirit weapon in an old record his mom had. She had it since she used to analyze them-”
“Wait,” said Rahka. He held up his hand, looking baffled. “This professor at the Military Academy. Was it Sajikitin Jukikynai?”
“Yes. Do you know her?” Nymue asked.
“It’s seriously her?” Rahka exclaimed. “She’s seriously a fu – a professor?”
Nymue frowned. “Do you know her?” she repeated.
“She was my girlfriend in high school! And I’m pretty sure she’s the one who sends me the newspaper every week. And the books every now and then,” said Rahka.
“So she definitely was talking about you. Good to know I wasn’t being suspicious for no reason,” said Nymue. “I doubt you’re the only person who’s been disappeared recently. Do you know if the others here are in the same situation?”
“I don’t even know who the others in this prison are,” said Rahka. “I’m sure you can write down their names and look them up later.”
Nymue opened her mouth, but Rahka cut her off before she could say anything. “You seem to be under the impression that we didn’t choose to be in here. That’s not the case,” he said.
“What?” said Nymue.
“I don’t know who the others in this prison are or what they’ve done. But I know for certain that we are here because we choose to be. None of us want to leave,” said Rahka.
“You chose to be here?” Nymue said skeptically. “Why? What could you possibly accomplish by doing that?”
Rahka grinned. “I’m so glad that there’s someone who thought ask me that question! But you do still seem to be thinking of me as some poor, unfortunate victim. I’m not going to answer your question until you change your thinking.”
“Excuse me?” said Nymue sharply.
Rahka waved his hand at her. “Leeeeave. There’s nothing more you can say to me today.”
“I can’t accept that,” said Nymue. “I came here for answers and I’m not going to leave until I get them. I don’t care what you think about that.”
“That’s too bad,” said Rahka. “I’ve been in here seventeen years. I’m very good at wasting time.”
Nymue pressed her palms against the glass. “I have one question that I’m sure you can answer. And don’t give me that shit about me thinking about it or you in the wrong way. It has nothing to do with that.”
“Alright, whatever,” said Rahka.
Nymue pointed toward one of the bookshelves. “You said Professor Jukikynai sends you books every now and then. What are they about?” she asked.
“My books?” said Rahka. He picked one of them up off of the ground and looked at the cover. “Most of them aren’t even real books. They’re just research journals that only get distributed among scientists-”
“What. Kind,” said Nymue flatly.
Rahka looked up at her. “Mostly history and science. A lot of biology. Saji teaches biology, right?”
“Yes,” said Nymue. “What sort of history journals? Early history? Current history? The history of Old Talassa and the Old Humans?”
“All three,” said Rahka. “Mostly Old Humanity’s history and the early history of Tsurennupaiva. Hey, is Saji an archaeologist or something? She’s named on a few papers, but I can’t really figure it out.”
“How difficult would it be for you to get me copies of those early history journals?” Nymue asked.
“Not difficult at all,” said Rahka.
“What? Seriously?” said Nymue.
“Stand back a few feet,” said Rahka.
Nymue backed up. Rahka stepped forward and pressed his hand to the right side of the glass. He pushed it, and the glass started pivoting around the center.
“I can’t really remember where the early history journals are,” said Rahka. “I’m sure they’re all over the place. I don’t really organize things in here. Come in and help me look for them.”
Nymue stood there in shock. “There’s no lock,” she said. “There’s nothing preventing you from leaving.”
“Yep!” said Rahka.
Nymue tentatively took a step in. Rahka looked back to the bookshelves. “See what I mean about not being a victim? I can leave any time I want. I’m choosing not to,” he said.
Nymue frowned. “Why don’t you?” she asked. “Why would you choose to be in here? What can you possibly gain from it? Liberation?”
“That’s not possible when you kill people, so no,” said Rahka.
“Well, staying in here won’t help you atone for your actions,” said Nymue.
Rahka turned back to look at her with a book in his hand, scowling in disbelief. “Look, kid. You didn’t come here to lecture me about my life choices. If that’s what you’re going to do from now on, then you need to leave. I’ve spent most of your lifespan thinking over things you’re barely even starting to consider,” he said. He stopped scowling. “Now, I think this might be one of the books you’re interested in.”
Rahka held the book out toward Nymue, and she took it. “Tsurennupaiva history from years zero to twenty-five. It was printed about fifty years ago,” he said.
“Oh. Thanks,” said Nymue. She looked down at the book.
Rahka stood in front of her with his hands on his hips, still looking annoyed. “I’m gonna need more than ‘thanks’ to make up for how much you insulted me,” he said.
“Mm,” said Nymue absently.
Rahka bent down so that he was at eye level with her. “Are you going to apologize?” he said.
Nymue looked at him, her face neutral. “Right. I’m sorry,” she said.
Rahka didn’t look convinced. He straightened back up. “You don’t sound very sincere, but whatever. Anyway, it’ll take me a little while to organize the rest of the books. You can sit down if-”
“No, this is good,” said Nymue. She glanced back down at the cover.
“What?” said Rahka in confusion.
“It’ll take me some time to go through this one and make notes. You can organize the rest of them and I’ll come back and pick them up later,” said Nymue.
Rahka didn’t look pleased to hear that. “You better actually come back and get them. I’m not going to be pleased if I end up doing all this work for nothing,” he said.
“I’ll be back tomorrow,” said Nymue.
One and a half months later
Veitlen sat in front of Chanda in one of the meeting rooms of the Avatar’s Palace. “I couldn’t convince Morgaine to come here,” he said.
“I see. That’s disappointing,” said Chanda.
“She refused immediately!” Veitlen continued. “She wouldn’t even hear me out. She said so many things, like ‘I’m old and traveling would be too hard on my body’ and ‘I’m not vaccinated against any of the diseases in the city. I’d get sick immediately’ and ‘Do you really think I’d believe something like that?’.”
Chanda sighed, only the slightest bit surprised by his ranting. “That’s such a disappointment. I really wanted to speak with her. You said she’s older than me, right?”
“Yeah, mid-sixties,” said Veitlen. “Did you end up talking to Lillin?”
“I went to pay her a visit yesterday. She also refused to speak to me,” said Chanda.
“And you just gave up?” Veitlen asked in surprise. “You’re the Avatar.”
“There’s only so much I’m willing to do, Veitlen. I’m not going to force someone to talk to me if they don’t want to,” said Chanda. She clasped her hands together. “So, I’ve been researching the other gods.”
“Oh? Have you found out which god I’m an Avatar of?” Veitlen asked. “They don’t even have names, do they?”
“Not in Rennukat, no. But our gods and religion are based on the gods and religion of the Old World, and there are many surviving texts which discuss those things,” said Chanda. “It’ll take some further study.”
Veitlen frowned. “You’re really going to make me go public about this, aren’t you?” he said.
“Of course!” said Chanda cheerily. “We can’t keep this news to ourselves. That wouldn’t accomplish anything.”
“Oh,” said Veitlen. He let his shoulders slump.
Chanda noticed his obviously hopeless expression. “If you’re uncomfortable with making a public appearance, you could always write something and have it published in the newspaper,” she suggested. She noticed Veitlen still looked uncomfortable, and continued. “Actually, I should write that notice. Nobody’s going to believe you’re an Avatar if you say so.”
“Okay,” said Veitlen flatly.
Chanda frowned. “I’m going to do this in the next few days, you know. You’ll be in the news again,” she said.
Veitlen looked at her, wide-eyed. “It’ll only take a few days for you to figure out whose Avatar I am?” he asked.
“I have an idea already,” said Chanda. “I just want to spend some more time making sure I’m correct.”
Veitlen stared off into space. Chanda was silent for a moment before she started talking again. “You’re not planning to return to the Military Academy, are you?” she asked.
Veitlen snapped back into reality. “Of course I am. Why wouldn’t I?” he asked.
Chanda frowned. “Everyone’s going to know what you really are by the time you return to the Academy. You’re going to be getting a lot of attention. More than you already are,” she said.
“It’s fine. I can handle it,” said Veitlen.
Chanda raised an eyebrow. “You were just upset about people knowing this. Now you’ve decided you aren’t?”
“I can handle it if it’s people I know!” said Veitlen. “Not strangers! I don’t want strangers talking to me.”
Chanda didn’t look convinced. Veitlen decided to change the subject. “So what about Nym? You know which Avatar she is?” he asked.
“There are no records of any person with a gold spirit weapon, so I haven’t been able to give her the Avatar test,” said Chanda. “But she does fit the pattern of being a witch, so I should be able to work something out.”
Veitlen headed toward the Promenade and immediately went to Barak Jewelers. He pushed open the door and started talking before he even saw anyone. “Lillin! I need to talk to you,” he said.
Lillin was the only one behind the counter, and she didn’t look pleased to see him. “Why are you here?” she demanded.
Veitlen leaned against the counter. “So, the Avatar,” he said. “Did she actually talk to you?”
“Uh, no?” said Lillin. “I told her to go away. And she did.”
Veitlen sighed in relief. “Good. Don’t let her talk you into anything,” he said. He rubbed his face and looked up to see Lillin frowning at him. “She wants us to go public about the whole Avatar thing.”
Lillin kept frowning. “So what does she even want us to do? Join her and rule the country?”
“I don’t really know,” said Veitlen. “I can’t tell what she’s trying to accomplish.”
“And you’re telling me this because…?” said Lillin.
“I don’t think you want to get involved, do you?” asked Veitlen.
“No,” said Lillin.
“Then don’t let her talk you into doing anything. Especially not taking the Avatar test,” said Veitlen.
“I’m not going to,” said Lillin. She narrowed her eyes. “I don’t know why you keep talking to me like I’d do something stupid.”
“Because I’m stupid!” said Veitlen, pressing both his hands to his chest. “I honestly regret agreeing to help the Avatar. I don’t want anyone else making the same mistake.”
“I’m not you. I won’t,” said Lillin.
She sounded so convinced of her own words that Veitlen was momentarily baffled. “I…you don’t need to be so rude,” he said.
“And you don’t need to keep hunting me down and talking to me randomly,” said Lillin. “But you’re not going to stop doing that, are you?”
Veitlen sighed and let his shoulders slump. “Alright then. See you later, Lillin.”
“I hope not!” said Lillin, loud enough that he could hear her words as he left the shop.