After my duel with The Shakiri, the competition had finally come to end with my clan victorious. I could barely move after the battle, it was brutal. Everyone was fussing over me, especially Reia who had been very worried when she saw my power go out of control. Even my servants were treating me as if I was some kind of porcelain vase, thinking I would break at any moment.
I was quickly ushered to the Grand Council tent after the match despite my injuries, I had to hold on to Reia just to stand. It was part of the ceremony, but I wouldn’t be the official victor until I had gone to the Old Capital and returned.
The reason why this was necessary was never actually explained, these Demihumans were too caught up in their traditions, whether good or bad. What The Shakiri had told me was still heavy in my heart and it was something that would eventually need to be addressed.
For now, I need to go along with the traditions until I have full control over the clans. Once the meeting with all the Khans was complete, I was brought back to my tent to rest and heal. I slept for almost an entire day.
“How are you feeling?” Allein was clearly concerned about me but had waited patiently until I woke up.
“I’m fine Allein, don’t worry. I was just tired.”
“I can’t believe that brute hurt you this much! I am going to kill him!”
I was happy to see she had been concerned with my well-being even if she was over exaggerating the danger.
“Haha, it’s not like that. We both had a lot to fight for… he’s not such a bad guy actually.”
She looked at me doubtfully but said nothing more about it.
“Where’s Reia?” I looked around the tent but I didn’t see her.
“Oh, she stepped outside for a minute. She is talking to that giant meathead. He came to see you.”
She must have been talking about The Shakiri.
“He came? Well then don’t make him wait, invite him in!”
Through my battle with him I had come to understand him and felt he wasn’t much different from me in some ways. I actually liked him quite a bit.
“But you are hurt! You should rest more… and you lost so much of your strength….”
“I said I am fine, Fieral, where are you?”
Fieral appeared out of nowhere like usual, she was almost always somewhere nearby. Very reliable.
“Yes my Khan, I am here.” She bowed her head slightly.
“Help me up, I want to meet with The Shakiri, have the servants tell Reia to bring him in.”
Fieral frowned and it looked like she wanted to dissuade me from getting out of bed but she thought better of it and helped me up while instructing one of the Rej’gan to carry out my request.
Fieral helped me walk over to one of the cushions which had been placed in an area of the tent designated for accepting guests and I sat down with a slight wince of pain. My body was aching all over and I could barely stand.
“Fieral, brew some tea for us please, and bring some food. I’m starving!”
As I was shooing Fieral away, Allein sat down next to me and Reia soon joined us with The Shakiri and his sister in tow.
I was surprised to see that The Shakiri was not injured at all. As a matter of fact, he looked completely fine as if he had never fought me.
“Haha! Look at you, are you really a demon? Not even a scratch on you! I wish I had your healing ability.” I called out to him as he approached and he laughed at my words.
“Hahaha! And you look half dead! Maybe I should just finish you off right now!”
I forced out a laugh and coughed, he’s joking, I hope.
“I’d like to stand but unfortunately if I get up, I might fall down again.”
It was proper etiquette to greet a guest standing before sitting down on the cushions but I couldn’t get up without help just yet.
“Don’t worry about it, you know I am not much for protocol and customs anyway! OH! Fayde, this is my sister, Laila. I mentioned her yesterday!”
I remembered he had mentioned he wanted me to meet someone, looks like it was his sister.
“Again, I apologize that I can’t stand to greet you but it is an honor to meet The Shakiri’s beautiful sister.”
she smiled at my cheap attempt at flattery and curtsied just like I would imagine a proper lady should.
“I have been waiting for this moment so the honor is all mine.” Her voice was lovely and she smiled brilliantly.
I couldn’t help but feel a little intimidated by her beauty and I felt a little embarrassed that she had to meet me in my current condition.
Allein noticing the way I was acting grumbled something under her breath but Reia seemed to be lost in thought.
“Please sit, both of you. What brings you here to see me today?” I made a gesture with my hands for them to sit on the cushions provided.
Fieral soon came with tea and food and I started eating while everyone sat.
“As you know, you have won the Grand Council competition and there will be some…. grumbling about this among the Khans I am sure.” As The Shakiri spoke, I nodded my understanding and continued to eat.
“We, the Demonkin are no longer apart of the tribes of the Plains and as such, we do not follow their rules and laws. You winning this competition means nothing to us and we are not obligated to follow you.”
That was a little bit surprising and perhaps a bit hypocritical, but not completely unexpected to me so I just continued to eat while waiting for him to finish.
“You showed me your resolve in our duel and I was forced to submit, but I have my pride and I carry the responsibility of my people. My clan will never follow someone who is not of my family.”
I could respect that and I sipped my tea as I listened to his words. I admired these proud people and their fortitude.
“So if you want to lead us, then you will have to become part of my family and it so happens I have a sister who is unmarried and she has taken a liking to you and so, marry her!”
I coughed and almost choked on the tea. I was expecting something, but not this. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised about it though since I had already experienced this multiple times now.
Laila stood and curtsied again.
“If you will have me, I would be honored to be wed to you. Long have I hoped to marry someone worthy but my father demanded that I should never wed until there was a man who could defeat my brother in battle. I thought that I was fated to be forever alone, until I met you.”
I immediately looked at Allein and Reia. I was at a loss for words and was met with two very different expressions. Allein had a look of begrudging acceptance while Reia seemed pleased for some reason. They must have already known about this.
“Fayde, don’t just sit there, say something to her. It took a lot for her to ask you this. She showed proper respect and came to me first and asked my permission, I have already assented. She was very concerned about how to ask you so hurry up!”.
“Um, well… I wish someone would have told me this earlier.. But it seems that it’s common in Demihuman society to….. Ah, nevermind… I accept.”
Reia was glaring at me so refusing was out of the question.
“I am not….” Allein stopped mid sentence after Reia gave her a look.
“Thank you for accepting my unreasonable request. I am truly honored to be the wife of The Great Khan. Please take care of me.” She was very polite and well mannered.
It would be good to have someone like her around, I just hoped she didn’t have any weird quirks.
“Before anything else, I want you to show me the real you, not this facade.”
She was startled for a moment but she understood what I meant.
She trembled before she spoke.
“Are you sure you want to see…. but they are not pretty…”
I understood her reaction well. The reason why they killed the children of mixed Demihuman relationships was to kill any who might be born with the ‘Demon eyes’ or the ‘Demon’s Rage’. I never found out the reason why these traits were so dangerous that needed to kill children, but to me, Laila seemed like any other woman.
Laila’s eyes changed into a scarlet red color. I hadn’t seen them up close, only glanced at them from a distance, when I noticed her watching me. Seeing them up close, I could only say that they were beautiful and I couldn’t imagine the need to hide them.
They weren’t expecting me to try to stand but I struggled to my feet and Reia rushed over to help me. With her aid, I stood and I walked over to Laila who for some reason began inching backwards as if she was afraid.
Her brother was surprised by the way she was acting, he had never seen her act afraid, not even once. In his eyes, his sister was the bravest and most fearsome woman he had ever known. Even when they were surrounded by the Imperial army when they were children, and it seemed as if they would die, she never showed any fear. But in this moment, she seemed like a lost child.
Her fear was not because of Fayde, or anyone else. Her fear was of rejection, What if he is disgusted by my eyes? She thought to herself.
I raised my hand and gently placed it on her face, pulling her towards me.
Looking deeply into her eyes I said, “Beautiful.”
Laila wasn’t sure she heard me correctly and she doubted her own ears, “what?” She didn’t mean to say it, but the words escaped her.
“Your eyes, they are beautiful. You never need to hide them from me, or anyone. You will never be scorned again because of your eyes.”
She didn’t know how to respond to my words. She had lived her entire life believing herself cursed because that was what the Demihumans believed. Of course, her own family had never once judged her and had accepted her despite her curse.
She had been careful to never show her true eyes to anyone other than her family, not even to the other Demonkin. They were all the product of mixed breeding, but only Laila had ever been born with the ‘Demon Eyes’. They kept it a secret because they didn’t know how the others would react and so Laila hid them and continued to grow stronger so that she never had to fear anyone.
Laila had taken a great risk using her eyes over the last few days, but she had done her best to be careful. Being useful to her brother was important to her and that was why she took the risk. She almost had a heartattack when she saw that the Human she had been watching happened to notice her using her eyes carelessly. She was afraid that the man would hate her or that the other Demihumans might discover it, but when nothing happened and no one came looking for her, she was relieved and grateful.
Reia and Allein hadn’t known about the eyes and they gasped when they saw them. Fieral was also present but she had already sent out all the servants earlier so none of them were there to witness this.
A strange feeling built up in her chest and tears began to form in her eyes. She wanted to say something but nothing came to her.
“Don’t cry, you will ruin your beautiful face.” I wiped her tears and whispered to her as she smiled at my words and laughed.
“I… I am so happy, thank you..” That was the best she could do.
She never thought she would ever find such happiness and at such simple words too.
Her brother watched from the side and he couldn’t help, but smile himself. He too never thought that something like this would happen and the fact that it was a Human who had made his sister happy was the most shocking to him. He grunted, satisfied and turned away, not wanting to watch his sister cry, even if they were tears of joy.
Reia, Allein and Fieral remained quiet as they watched as well. The three of them held a mixture of different emotions which was not apparent by appearances alone.
They talked for a while more and it was decided that Laila would come to live in my tent just as his other wives, and The Shakiri pledged his loyalty and submitted to my rule.
“One more thing, I will no longer be using my title, it is meaningless now. It has been a while since I used my own name, but from now on please call me by it. Accadeas.”
“Accadeas… okay, will do.” We shook hands and I felt the weight of responsibility in his grasp.
“Fayde, I heard you won! Congratulations!” Tris had been secluded for the entirety of the competition but now that it was over she was given permission to visit with Fayde.
“Thank you! It was a difficult fight but somehow I won, hehe.” Fayde was still feeling sluggish and tired from the fighting but it was only a matter of time until he was fully recovered.
“So, what is the plan now?”
“Well, even though I won, it’s not yet official. There is a ceremony that will take place after a little trip I have to make.”
“So where are we going?”
She knew she was being a little pushy but she couldn’t let him go without her.
“We? I think it’s best for you to remain here, this is sort of a Demihuman thing.” His response was stiff and she decided she needed to be a little more forceful.
“You have to take me with you! We are a team. Don’t leave me here. Am I a prisoner? It certainly has felt like that lately!”
“Tris, are you sure you want to do this? It could be very dangerous, something might happen to you.”
“You don’t have to worry about me, I can take care of myself. I need to be there with you.”
He didn’t say anything at first and he had an almost sad far off look on his face which she didn’t understand.
“Okay, you can come, make sure you are ready.” Tris smiled at Fayde and thanked him for trusting her. She left his tent to make preparations for the journey including finding an opportunity to send a missive.
I watched Tris leave and I couldn’t help but feel disappointed and maybe a bit of regret. She had been adamant about coming with me which could only mean one thing. I had hoped she would give up and remain behind.
If she comes with us… I might have to kill her. I didn’t really want to do this though. I don’t know what her motivation is, but I am certain that this is what they were hoping for. She would probably never get another chance like this so that was the reason she must be so determined to come.
Of course I can’t be absolutely certain, but it is most likely that whoever she has been working with will try something on this trip. I will have to make preparations.
“Fieral, please summon Accadeas, I need to speak with him.”
I calmed my nerves and waited patiently, it would take a bit of time for Accadeas to arrive. I looked around the tent and observed my servants going about their business. Allein was somewhere with her brother and Reia was most likely practicing. Only Laila was in the tent, she didn’t like to go outside too much and enjoyed relaxing and being waited on. Not the most attractive of traits but I let her be herself.
It took a while but Accadeas finally arrived and we sat down, he could see that what I had to say was a serious matter so he skipped the small talk.
“Soon I will be heading towards the old Imperial capital as you know. I can only take a small group with me. Nes, Allein, Reia, Tris and I will be the ones to go. As you know, that is the tradition and since my power hasn’t been solidified yet, I need to go along with it.” None of this was news to Accadeas and he just grunted his understanding.
“What do you need me to do?” Accadeas was not dumb, although many mistook him for being unintelligent. He already knew there must be a reason that we were having this meeting.
“The human woman, Tris, you’ve seen her right?” I asked him calmly.
“Yes, I have seen both of your human companions.”
He hadn’t been happy about it but I told him he needed to get used to being around humans.
“Tris is a traitor, she has been working against me for some time now. I have a strong suspicion that they are going to make a move on this trip. I don’t know how many, or how strong they are, but I want you and your sister to follow us from a distance. Keep yourselves hidden and observe. Do not reveal yourselves until the enemy has fully shown their cards. Do you understand? You are the only ones I can trust to do this since I know you have no problem breaking tradition.”
Accadeas listened attentively and nodded his understanding. He knew exactly what he needed to do and I was relying on him to save me if it came down to it. My power had weakened significantly but this was something I absolutely had to do and there was no time to get stronger.