Chapter 443 – Amana’s Anger

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Rod agreed in the end, but we didn’t go immediately to ask Mireia, for two different reasons. First, she wasn’t present. She had convinced Rod to let her go to the attack site, the destroyed Narses Army Headquarters, to use her healing powers on the many still in need of care. And second, I needed to brief Amana about the situation with Viscount Amalis before he reported to the castle as I had ordered.

Okay, those are excuses, and it was nothing we needed an excuse for. The real reason was that neither of us would ever make a request of that magnitude so lightly. You don’t say, ‘Would you become a royal concubine’? with the same casual attitude that you suggest ordering pizza.

“Why would Amalis come back here?” Rod quizzed. Naturally, this was after Genette grabbed me and forced me to stand still until she could dress me properly, after I forgot I was still dressed only in a chemise. He was standing on the other side of the folding screen, waiting for us.

“I ordered him to,” I replied. “I invoked Royal Knights authority, so I’m sure he won’t ignore it.”

I had done so in a quiet voice, so his colleagues didn’t hear, but I made sure the Viscount had understood.

“Exactly when did you do that?” he wondered. “I’m certain I was by your side the entire time that Amalis was with us.”

I hesitated, then realized I didn’t want to tell him just yet. I was going to get scolded for it by both him and Amana, so I might as well limit the number of times it happened by telling them when they were together.

“I’ll tell you once we meet with my sister,” I answered.

“Tiana…” he said, a statement made in a tone that said he knew I had something to feel guilty about. He never calls me ‘Tiana’, you know?

“Anyway, he’ll probably come in the morning, given how late it is, but he might come tonight, so I need to brief Amana before he arrives. Given all the issues between him and her, she needs to hear a third-party account first.”

“I really want you to go ahead and tell me now, but I’ll wait,” he groused.

Genette finished fitting my petticoats and made me raise my arms so she could pull the dress onto me. Apparently, she had spent the entire time since I escaped with the seamstress, re-designing one of Mother’s backless, strapless gowns with a sort of shawl-like back flap, repurposing it as a rather fancy visiting dress. It was ridiculous to be getting into something like this so late in the evening, but she had intended for me to wear it in the morning, and it was the only thing ready to go.

“What to do with your hair…” Genette muttered to herself.

I replied, “Just leave the ponytail. I don’t have time for a hairdo.”

“I’ll brush it out first, Young Mistress,” she answered primly, undoing my hair-tie. “Your hair is frightful right now.”

My humorous side wanted to reply, Hypersonic flight in the stratosphere does that, you know? but I suppressed it. It’s not really true, anyhow. In order to move at higher speeds, I’m largely moving a cocoon of air along with me. I still experience a fair amount of wind but not multiples of the speed of sound.

I could tell she was warming the brush with her mana as she worked. Apparently it helps, although I’m not clear exactly how. Then she quickly tied my hair with a new ribbon that matched my dress and at last, blessed my departure with her approval.

“Better,” Rod judged as I came out from behind the screen.

“Oh, so it meets your approval, Your Highness?” I asked with a tone that was trying to suggest I didn’t need his approval.

“Well, it’s certainly better than what you were about to go out there with,” he answered, ignoring my sarcasm. “Your maid stopped you before I could, but there’s no way I was going to allow that. Aren’t you embarrassed to fly around dressed like that?”

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“I’m half fairy, Your Highness,” I stated, heading for the exit of my suite. When the maids went to fetch Rod, he had been with Amana in the private dining room at the other end of this floor, which was currently repurposed as a war room. I could sense that she was still there.

“It’s nothing like you, though,” he muttered as we reached the hallway. He probably didn’t intend for me to hear, but my ears picked up everything.

“It’s… less difficult for me than for your old Tiana, Your Highness,” I admitted. “But even she dressed like that to fight the dragon. She had to, after all. She couldn’t fly in her armor. That’s why I had it remade.”

He remained quiet as we passed through the conservatory to reach the dining room. Perhaps because my words reminded him I wasn’t the Tiana he grew up with.

Amana and Colonel Morgas, the acting headquarters commander, were gathered with some officers around a huge map of a mountainous terrain with markers showing the positions of military units. I could tell as soon as I entered that the discussion was about developments at one of the fronts. Aides armed with croupier’s rakes were moving pieces marking friendly and enemy units into new positions.

Amana’s face showed obvious relief as she looked up to see me. She left the table to rush over.

“Thank god, you’re safe, Your Highness!” she gushed, although in a hushed voice that she didn’t use until she got close enough. “I was worried sick!”

Had they been keeping my absence a secret?

“I was never in danger, Sal’nedo,” I insisted, accommodating her with a similar quiet voice. “I just had to go back to Relador for a bit.”

Her eyes bugged. “You went all the way to Relador and back in this time?”

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“I’m pretty fast, you know?” I answered, with a little smirk. A typical fairy could have made it there in this time, but not complete the round trip.

“There better be a good explanation,” she warned.

“It’s… not for public consumption. I also need to tell you about something I encountered with Viscount Amalis, and that also needs to be confidential. But it looks like you’re awfully busy…”

She shook her head. “We’ve just about wrapped up. There was a small enemy breakthrough this morning in the Kasar Pass region, but then General Provis turned it around. They were still countermarching at nightfall, but it looks like most of the lost ground has been made up. We’re just sorting through all the intelligence. Let’s go into the conservatory to discuss it.”

“Somewhere more private,” I insisted.

“The guest suite, then,” she amended. “I’ve been using it for private conferences.”

And thus, we ended up in the guest suite sitting room, with Lady Halet, the female knight from his party, serving tea rather than a chambermaid.

After a sip, Amana stated, “I’m waiting, Tiana.”

“Stop imitating Mother,” I retorted, causing her mouth to quirk. But she managed to remain serious and raised her nose slightly.

I sighed. “Fine. But is the good knight really going to listen to this? It might be difficult for her to hear.”

Rod glanced over at her and gave a quick jerk of his head. She nodded and left the room.

“Do you want a [Realm of Silence]?” Amana wondered.

“Yes.”

She nodded and closed her eyes, and I felt the circle of Light spread out across the floor, then the sphere of Wind mana surrounded us.

I nodded, then stated, “First of all, I went back to my mountain… to Mount Ciddan. I wanted to consult with Gaia about the… pregnancy issue.”

Amana hesitated, then nodded. “I suppose I can understand why. Speaking as a fellow woman who has yet to give birth. I personally have serious misgivings about the whole thing.”

It was nice to hear someone else say so, even though…

“Well… I’m going to do it. I’ve accepted that it needs to be me, and it needs to be soon. The reasons it has to be me are hard to explain, but…  even an Immortal much older than Gaia or Oranos says I’m the right choice for it.”

“A what?” Rod asked, perplexed.

“I’ve told you before that the gods you know are not the lords of everything. They’re only in charge of this world, Your Highness. It’s probably hard to believe, but my original mother, the one who gave birth to me the very first time, was an Immortal– what you call a goddess– and she is much, much older than any of Huade’s gods. More than a half-billion years old. And she encouraged me to accept Gaia’s solution.”

He stared at me, wearing a slightly baffled look. “A goddess gave birth to you? Wouldn’t that make you one, too?”

I had previously given him a very limited explanation of who Senhion was, and I guess I hadn’t made her origins clear enough.

“Well… a very minor one, yes,” I admitted. “What we call a celestial maiden. I was never on the same level as Huade’s gods. And I gave that up when I descended to Huade to become an Elder, so I’m not one right now.”

Amana broke in. “And this… half-billion-year-old goddess spoke to you?”

“I’m her daughter, so of course she spoke with me. We had a long conversation, Amana. Gaia was there, too, and Mother as well. This life’s Mother.”

“You mean, our Mother? Princess Deharè?”

With a nod, I explained, “The place I went is on the edge of Heaven. It’s possible for Immortals and inhabitants of the mortal world to meet there. If the Immortals so choose, of course.”

I indicated Gaia’s amulet and explained, “Gaia is letting Mother have a sort of waking dream there while she’s stuck in this thing. Apparently, it’s helping the amulet last longer. But she can’t guarantee it for long, so… we have to take care of the problem very soon. The amulet can’t last for long.”

Rod frowned. “Do you mean, we need to do it immediately? Are you ready to go ahead with it?”

“Um…” I bit my lower lip, then admitted, “Not literally right now, but very soon. But there’s one problem. My Immortal Mother also said that Gaia’s method was too risky. It might not work at all. We have to do it a different way.”

His face immediately bunched up. It was a very definite ‘Rod getting angry’ response, so I hastened to say, “Not that way! Not… exactly. At least, I won’t be doing… that… with you.”

I could hear a distinct, suppressed under her breath fairy laugh from my sister. But Rod was still frowning. That wasn’t what had bothered him?

“What the goddess told you was in error?” he asked, his tone dark.

Oh.

“Your Highness,” Amana told him. “The gods do make mistakes. I can cite specific examples from history, if you wish…”

I waved my hands. “Her method had a chance of working, but…” I pressed my lips together, uncertain how to say it.

“But this other, much older goddess knew things that Gaia did not?” Amana suggested.

I nodded. “That’s pretty much the problem. Huade’s gods are not the Immortals who created the Elder species. My Immortal Mother knew things about us that Gaia did not. It’s actually fortunate that we didn’t follow Gaia’s method.”

“Then what do we do?” Rod asked.

I blushed, then stated, “We have a couple other things to take care of first. And I need to talk to Amana about the coming visit by Viscount Amalis.”

They both clearly knew I was dodging the question, but Amana nodded. “Alright. Why is our dear Lord Orgo coming for a visit, then?”

For a moment, I didn’t recognize the Viscount’s given name. Then I nodded and gave the two a recounting of what happened on my way back. When I was done, they were both glaring daggers at me.

“So… that’s what happened,” I finished weakly.

“Tiana!” Amana practically yelled in my face.

And Rod thundered, “You told me you didn’t do anything dangerous!”

“It wasn’t dangerous! I was never in any danger!”

“In what way is that ‘never in any danger’?!” Amana retorted, then turned her glare on Rod while adding a raised eyebrow. He nodded, and she turned back to me.

“You’re grounded, young lady!” my older sister declared.

“W,what do you mean, ‘grounded’?!” I stammered, astonished.

Rod raised his hand. “Enough! Calm down!”

Amana was trying to ground me, and Rod was telling me to calm down. This couldn’t be reality.

While Amana and I stared each other down, he actually began laughing slightly. Shaking his head, he said, “Amana, we obviously can’t ground her. And some slave smugglers probably couldn’t get the best of her. But Ti… Don’t carry your daughters into danger anymore. Please. You can always run into something unexpected. You don’t know when the demons will come after you again.”

Subconsciously, my hand moved to cover Gaia’s amulet as his words settled in my heart. It wasn’t possible to say he was wrong, after all.

- my thoughts:

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Posting late again. I need to get my schedule back on track.

Although Tiana is holding her own now, she's up against some strong personalities, who aren't going to back down. And probably, she's starting to see their side a bit.

Doesn't mean she'll consent to 'grounding' though... Amana was dreaming for a bit, there.

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