Paths

What is a path? Nothing but a choice made to go in one direction or the other. What happens if you choose the wrong direction?
(Last Sentence challenge, Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson)

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4. Chapter 3- Fortunate life

 

I woke to the sound of someone playing the flute softly. I lay there for a little while, in a kind of half trance state, listening to them play. What was that song? It was so light. So free. It reminded me of soft lights. Rooms, decorated in gold and silver. Soft dresses, and powdered makeups. 

No. That couldn’t be right. Those weren’t my memories. Those were the memories of a noble. Some rich, pampered child who wouldn’t last a minute on the streets.

But where was the music coming from?

I tried to move, only to find that doing so would only reward me with a solid wall of Pain. I stilled myself, my breath catching. Cold lines found their way down my face, and I realized I was crying. Why was I crying? 

There were the memories. The right memories. Memories of blood and Pain. Of fighting. Winning, losing. Joy, Pain, suffering, defeat… All of it hit me with too much force. The tears came harder and faster. I was still crying. How could I cry?

Of course. My final memory. Bazta. He had stood over me, holding his spear. So brave. Why had he risked himself for me? He should have run. He should have tried to escape. He hadn’t. He was such an idiot! Why did he have to stay and die with me?! He would die, I would die. Why did it matter when we died?

Why was death so  important to me  all of a sudden? I had seen death hundreds of times. Eternity knows I’ve caused most of those deaths myself to some extent. 

The flute was still playing. Was that Eternity I was hearing? That couldn’t be right. Eternity could never play those notes so sweetly, so purely… 

There was only one person it could be, really. 

Nita?!” My eyes flew open. 

There was a loud CRASH from next to me, indicating that Bazta had probably fallen out of his chair. I ignored him. He had a hard head- he’d be fine. I was focused on the chair that had been set up in the corner of the room. 

Sitting on it was a small girl. Her grey eyes sparkled like little chips of diamond as she saw I was awake, and she waved with one hand, the other clutching the flute I had heard her playing moments before.

“By Eternity’s seventh name, it is you!” I said in disbelief. “When did you get here?”

“Sometime after you got yourself stabbed, Jai.” She hopped off the stool, and walked towards me, a grin crossing her young face. 

Nita was the only one who called me Jai. I’d tried to tell her that in my line of work, nicknames meant too much familiarity, but she’d never paid much attention to me when I’d told her. Eventually, I’d given up. If she wanted to call me that, fine. Besides, no one told Nita what to do. She just… did. If you tried to mess with her way of doing things, you’d just get hopelessly confused. Better to just let Nita be… Nita. 

“I thought you were halfway across Dominai!” I protested. Nita had disappeared a few weeks ago, leaving a message that said she’d be gone for a little while, and wasn’t sure when she’d be back. Then she’d vanished. No connections in the underground could find her. And now here she was again. It was still a mystery to me how that girl traveled, and it was annoying!

“I was. Then I heard you were hurt, and came running back,” she shrugged, like that made any sense at all. “So did you miss me?”

I stared at her in silence. What was she doing here?! Nita never showed up for no apparent reason. Usually when she made an appearance, something was about to happen. Something important.

The answer was obvious. “Yeah, of course I did.”

She smirked, and poked at my shoulder. Her touch didn’t hurt me- surprisingly. “Bazta’s been taking good care of you.”

“Bazta-“ I finally turned, to see his head pop up from the ground. He was smiling.

 “You’re conscious. You lost a lot of blood. I was worried you wouldn’t make it, but you Empaths heal so fast!”

I tried to sit up again, but both of them firmly pushed me back down. Irritation burst around my head, and Bazta flinched back. Nita, however, just laughed, her small hand still on my shoulder.

“Shame,” she scolded lightly. “Lashing out at the people who are trying to keep you from hurting yourself. I’m disappointed in you.”

“I’m lying here unable to move and you’re disappointed in me?”

Nita’s smile grew. “You are so funny when you’re mad.”

I stared at her, Disbelief making an appearance along with Irritation. That only made her smile more.

“Now,” she said, her tone like one you’d use to talk to a small child, “you’re going to stay here and rest, until that shoulder of yours is healed. You were half gone when Bazta brought you back. You’re lucky. And now you’re going to enjoy that luck by resting.”

“I have training to do-“ I began to protest.

“Training can wait.”

“But-“

    “No buts. Stay there. Lie down. Rest.”

I let out a groan, letting my head drop back against something soft. a pillow. Who had put a pillow there? Had that always been there? Why did it matter so much to them that I rested?

“Nita, can you leave? I need to talk to Bazta.”

Nita’s eyebrows went up. “Is this something sentimental that I’m missing? Something important? Something so special that I can’t even be in the same room?

I found myself blushing. “No, it’s not. But it’s none of your business, so go.”

She did what I said this time, turning and leaving without another word.

I waited until I heard the door close behind her, and then I forced myself up into a sitting position, wincing as Pain added itself to my emotions. Then I turned to face Bazta, who looked really worried.

“Why did you save me?” I asked. I’ve never been one for subtlety. If I have a question, I’m going to ask the question. 

“What?” 

Obviously he wasn’t thinking very quickly. I forced myself to breathe. Slow down. Then ask the question again.

Why did you save me. You know the law of the streets, Bazta. Every man and woman for themselves. If your partner is hurt, you leave them. You risked yourself to save me. Why?”

“I couldn’t just… let you die,” he blushed. “It didn’t seem right.”

“Well that works for me,” I replied, surprising him. I think he’d expected my answer to be a bit more on the dramatic side. But hey, who needed drama anyways? He said it wasn’t right. I took it as what it was. If he wanted to save me because of moral obligations, that was fine by me. 

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