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When Uluki, Rollick, and Dash returned to the family’s living area after saying their goodbyes to Julen and Soubrette, Kira was gone.
“She wanted to be by herself,” Zee told them, biting her lip and sounding worried. “Do you think I made her mad?”
“No, sweetheart,” Uluki said gently, as she healed the fang-bitten lip; Zee frequently forgot about her teeth and injured herself that way, so no one was very surprised by the sudden bead of blood from the small puncture wound. “This is a difficult night for Kira. It’s not because of you. We should go talk to her, though. Do you know where she went?”
Zee did indeed, and Kira hadn’t gone far— they would find her by the garden, if it could be called a garden without any plants. After exchanging hugs and affectionate words with their family, Uluki and Rollick went to their bedroom to wash and change before they sought out Kira. While they didn’t want to put off that conversation, it didn’t seem like it would help matters if the girl saw them soaked in her father’s blood, as well as her godfather’s.
Uluki washed her face and hands, then her body, and pulled on a clean dress. She turned to see if Rollick was also ready to go, but he hadn’t yet even finished washing. He had cleaned his sword blade and armour, and now he was scrubbing his hands— which he had rubbed red and raw, even though any traces of blood were long gone. Uluki’s heart ached for him. She took the cloth from his unresisting fingers, dipped it in the bowl, and gently washed his face instead. Her touch seemed to bring him out of his reverie, and he quickly finished washing and changed into civilian clothes. Rollick smiled at her, and offered her his arm with a courtly flourish.
“You look very handsome tonight,” she informed him as she took it.
“I just look like I always do.” He sounded surprised by the compliment, but far from displeased.
“Exactly.” She winked at him, glad she’d succeeded in making him at least a little less gloomy. This conversation wasn’t going to be easy, but it might as well get off to the best start possible.
Kira was by the garden, as Zee had told them she would be. The girls had already removed all the rocks, but apparently in need of something to do, Kira was repeatedly unearthing the same small stone and then reburying it. It didn’t seem like much of a pastime, but Uluki doubted Kira had the concentration for anything more right now, and it beat trying to make small talk, or just sitting there waiting to hear your father was dead.
When Kira saw Uluki and Rollick approaching, she stood and brushed off her hands, then waited awkwardly until they reached her. “Did you kill him?” she asked bluntly, before they had a chance to say anything at all.
“Yes,” Rollick said quietly. “I am sorry to have to give you that news.”
“Did you like it? Did you like killing him?” Kira’s eyes were wide, but her voice was without emotion.
“No,” Rollick told her honestly. “He was my friend once. He used to be a good man. I regret that his fall made his death necessary. I believe I did my duty, but there was no joy in it. Only sadness for a life so corrupted, and for the pain he caused others. The pain he caused you.” He met Kira’s steady gaze, allowing her to search his eyes, to read the truthfulness on his face.
“Do you miss him?” Kira’s voice was becoming more intense, yet more childlike.
“I miss the man he was. But that man is not the one I killed tonight. That man has been dead for a long time, and I would miss him no less if the person he became yet lived. Do you miss him?”
Kira thought about that for a moment. “No,” she said finally. “Don’t miss. He hurt me. It’s better with you. But…” She trailed off, uncertain.
Uluki nodded encouragingly. “It’s alright. Whatever you want to say, whatever you feel, it’s alright. We don’t expect you to rejoice in the death of your father, nor do we expect you to mourn the man who tortured you. We don’t have any expectation of what you’ll think about this. Whatever you’re feeling… it’s the right thing to feel, because it’s real, and it’s yours. Even if you feel a lot of things, and they’re all tangled.”
“He was my father,” she said simply. “He’s dead.”
When it became clear she had nothing more to say about the matter, at least not just yet, Rollick took Panterras’s ring and necklace from his pocket and held them out to Kira. “These belong to you now, if you want them.”
She turned away and shook her head. “No. There’s another thing too. A necklace. Obsidian. I hid it in case I needed to… to trade something, so you wouldn’t hurt me, but I know you won’t now. I don’t want that either. You can keep all of it. Or your girls, if you two don’t need it.”
The thought of Panterras’s jewellery hanging around the necks of his sweet daughters made Rollick feel a little ill; it seemed like a desecration of something holy with cursed gold. Panterras’s things were finer and far more costly than the simple silver butterfly earrings Rollick had given Uluki… but price wasn’t what mattered, and there would be other gifts, gifts not tainted with evil and blood. “Perhaps we could put it in the treasury, so it can help support the refugees? It would do more good that way.”
Kira looked doubtful. “I can’t. My father wouldn’t have let me.”
Uluki said gently, “It isn’t your father’s choice. These things belong to you now. It’s about what you want, what you choose to do.”
Kira pondered that. “Who do I belong to, now that he’s dead?”
Uluki and Rollick exchanged a glance, but she answered. “You belong to yourself. But you always have. He was wrong to pretend you didn’t. Your body was never his to use; that’s what’s so evil about what he did. No one owns you, but that didn’t change because he died. No one ever did own you. You do have people who care about you, though. Our family, our friends, all the people here. If you’re wondering where your place is, it’s here, if you choose for it to be. Not because you’re our goddaughter and we inherited you, but because we want you to stay, because we love you.”
Kira’s brow furrowed at this alien concept, but she seemed too confused to question it. “I want the refugees to have those things. To help take care of them. Because it’s mine and that’s what I want.” She said the word “mine” a little clumsily, as though she was cautiously trying out a foreign language.
Rollick nodded. “Very well. I shall see that it is done. Your gift is generous; thank you.”
Unsure how to respond to being thanked, Kira just shrugged. “Can I talk to Dash?” she asked abruptly.
“Of course. She’s upstairs. We can all walk up together, then you two can find an empty room and speak privately,” Uluki suggested.
Since they were prepared to give Kira as much space as she needed to process her emotions, Uluki and Rollick were startled when she took one of each of their hands in hers as they walked together.