Upstairs, I stood timidly outside of Jiyong’s bedroom door. It was firmly closed this time, he made sure I wouldn’t walk in accidentally again. I took a deep breath, not really sure if I wanted to talk to him.
The anger in his eyes had been true anger. While he may have quietly seethed about my presence before, when he saw me smash the picture something inside of him had really snapped. I felt guilty about it, sure – but mostly I was afraid; afraid that I had damaged our flimsy tolerance beyond repair. My hand strayed over the wood of the door, knuckles brushing against it half heartedly.
There was no reply, but I expected that. It hadn’t exactly been a knock.
I took a deep breath and rapped on the door. I heard a shuffle from inside, and Jiyong’s deep voice called from within.
It didn’t sound very happy.
“I – I just wanted to…”
“Oh – it’s you. What do you want?”
That almost took the tiny amount of confidence I had given myself on the way over away.
“Just to apologize.”
There was a long pause. I turned to leave, until I heard the door being unbolted with great cachunk. Jiyong swung it wide, standing in the frame. I swallowed hard.
“I didn’t mean to break the photo… I didn’t know it was your room I just – I didn’t know…”
He scrutinized me. His eyes weren’t as furious as I had seen them when he dragged me from his room before, only hard; like he was trying to figure me out.
“That’s your excuse?”
“Y-yes,” I replied, my voice catching.
“An apology isn’t an excuse, you know. It’s owning up to what you did wrong and feeling genuinely sorry for it.”
“Doesn’t sound like it.” He was waiting for me to say something else.
“I’m waiting.” He crossed his arms and leaned against the wall, watching me carefully.
Suddenly it clicked – what he wanted me to say. “I should never have entered your room without your permission. I should have known that it was off-limits and it was wrong of me to touch your things. Breaking the photo was completely my fault, I’m sorry.”
The deep scowl lessened, and he pushed the door wider.
“Better. That was a real apology.”
He walked into his room but left the door open, and I stood on the threshold. He sat in an old wooden chair, resting his back. He glanced at me.
“Well come on in,” he said impatiently.
“I really think I should just head downstairs…”
He raised an eyebrow. “I insist.”
My survival instincts were going haywire. They were telling me to go downstairs where it was safe, where Red and Daesung and Aquilla and Seungri were probably sitting around and talking good naturedly. I wanted to be down there with them, but I also didn’t want to insult Jiyong further.
“O-okay,” I said, shuffling in and standing awkwardly by the wall. He shook his head, indicating the soft bed at the side of the room with thick red covers and stars sewn in with steel coloured thread. My eyes bugged slightly – touching his bed seemed way too personal for me.
“I can just… I can just stand.”
“Don’t be stupid, I’m not going to do anything. Just sit.”
I did as I was bade, placing my hands stiffly on my lap and making my back stiff as a board. He smirked as if amused by my discomfort – but the humor never reached his eyes, there was no joy in it.
“I just want to talk,” he said, his voice more gentle than before. When I looked at him, I caught a glimpse of my face in the small mirror which was hung on the wall, I looked as if I was a deer about to up and bolt from the room. I tried to slacken by expression, but I managed only a kind of shaky calmness.
“About what?” I asked.
He shrugged. “I don’t know… anything really. I haven’t said two words to you since you arrived.”
A long silence. Neither of us had anything to say.
“Why did you carry me home?” I asked.
“Daesung said… that you found me in a crater, not far from here. Why did you take me here?”
His hands tightened visibly. “I didn’t want to leave a little girl out alone in the city at night. If someone other than us found you – it could have been very bad.”
“But why save me? You didn’t know me at all.”
He chuckled mirthlessly. “Your opinion of me must be very low, if you think I’d just leave an innocent person to their death, or worse. This city eats girls like you and spits them out as wizened cynics. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.”
My two words seemed to have an effect on him. He looked away from me, and his expression darkened, he stared at the floor. “Don’t mention it,” he said in a low voice.
There was another long paused.
“How… how are you doing with Daesung’s lessons?” he asked. He was trying to force simple conversation with me, and I wondered why. I thought he wanted to be as far away from me as possible.
“All right. I find histories and geography the easiest; I can never remember the names of the Gods though, there’s just so many. I know most of the major ones, but the ones like the Goddess of Silks always escape me completely.”
A small chuckle from him.
“What’s so funny?”
His chuckle halted quickly, and he shook his head. He struggled with an excuse for his laughter. “It’s just that that’s the first thing most children in Ironthane memorize. When I was in school I struggled with learning the histories of Antene, I found it so boring. The Gods were always the most interesting thing to learn for me.”
“Believe me, it’s the Gods that interest me the most right now. Especially the Blue Lady.”
There was a flash of something in his eyes I couldn’t place. When he next spoke, his voice was incredibly curious.
“And why would that be?”
“The dress, mostly. And what you and Red said – about maybe being from Nothos, and the bird… and the book I read.”
“What did it say?”
“That the acolytes of the Sky Spire wear robes of white, blue and gold; just like my dress.”
“An interesting theory… though difficult to prove. We couldn’t visit Nothos even if we wanted to… but the ruins in the south are easy enough to get to. If Daesung clears it he might be able to take you.”
I genuinely smiled. “I’ll ask him tonight,” I replied. I fidgeted in my seat, and began to ask another question.
“When we first met… why did you – “I stopped myself, not really wanting to ask anymore. I would just try and move on. “Never mind.”
Unfortunately, I had piqued his interest. His eyes narrowed, and he stared at me.
“No, it’s all right. I’ll just head downstairs…”
“Stay. What were you going to say?”
“Don’t worry about it –“
“Tell me.” It wasn’t a request this time, it was a command.
I took a deep breath, and looked away from him.
“When we first met… why did you hate me?”
I snuck a peek at him from underneath my lashes and the hair that had fallen over my face to shield my quickly reddening cheeks. There was obvious pain there, as well as regret. Immediately his expression hardened again, pushing back the vulnerable feelings underneath a stone mask.
“I didn’t hate you, I’ve never hated you,” he said. There was a wavering to his voice I couldn’t place.
He took a pause before continuing. “I suppose the past just has a way of sneaking up on you.”
A breath, and he continued. “You think that one day, you’ve paid your dues – and what you’ve been running from just… stops chasing you. But it doesn’t seem like that’s the case for me.”
I was immediately confused. He saw that, and chuckled again – I guess something about me was darkly amusing to him.
“I guess I’m not making much sense, am I?”
“Not really, no.”
“I don’t expect to be. Most people can’t follow what I say, don’t worry if I lose you sometimes.”
Wait – I have something for you.”
He stood and opened a drawer in his desk near the bottom, shuffling around the contents until he found what he was looking for. He pulled out a paper bag with a store’s cursive written on the front; probably from one of the shops Daesung said made their business a few streets down. He handed the bag to me by the woven string handles. ‘Swath’s Emporium’ it said in curled, girlish letters.
I reached inside and felt something incredibly soft. I pulled out a white stuffed bear, with visible stitches of pink thread and a rosy ribbon around its neck. Its eyes were shiny black buttons, and it was perfect size to nestle in my arms.
“It’s… thank you,” I managed, overwhelmed. I don’t know what I had expected him to give me, but it would never have been this. When did he even buy this? It was obvious he never wanted me in his sight until today. He read my mind.
“I bought it quite a while ago – a long time before you came here. I figure someone might as well have it.”
“It’s beautiful, Jiyong.” I stroked its ears, they were like touching clouds. “Thank you,” I said again. My lips pulled into a bright smile without my consent, and my arm tightened around the bear, bringing it to my chest.
“Take good care of it,” he said. I saw the most subtle hint of a smile playing at his features as well, but he was very good at hiding it. Maybe it was that we had finally been able to speak as equals, or that whatever confusion I had about his feelings towards me were less morbid, but I felt a lot better than I had before I knocked on his door.
“Daesung’s probably wondering what’s taking so long. If I were you I’d get back down there before he comes for my head.”
I stood, still grinning.
“I should. I’ll… I’ll talk to you later?” I realized what was supposed to be statement turned out to be a question – a hopeful one. In truth, I did want to speak to him again; Jiyong was different than I thought he would be.
“Sure. Go put Dae out of his misery.”
Dinner was much better that night. The food tasted the same – but the atmosphere was so much brighter. Seungri and Red teased each other about their strengths (Red bet she could best Seungri in a fight, while Seungri bet he could win a strategy game) and even I found myself laughing at their comebacks. Jiyong kept mostly to himself, but the dark storm cloud that had hung over his head was less so now. It was still there, but its presence was less foreboding. Daesung found my visit to Jiyong’s room pretty amusing, but Red didn’t seem to find it very funny.
“I still can’t believe it. I expect you to come down in tears, and what do I see instead? You’re grinning and holding a bear. Where the hell did you even get it Yonggie?”
He shrugged. “It’s been collecting dust up there for years. I never figure Red for a stuffed animal girl, and someone might as well get some use out of it.”
“It’s still pretty funny. I was ready to console you,” he joked. Jiyong flinched at that, and his angry demeanor showed up again.
“What – I’m that bad a person I would deliberately make a little girl cry?”
Daesung backed off instantly at the venom in his voice. “I didn’t mean – Sorry.”
Jiyong’s frown turned into a smirk. “I’m kidding, Will. You’ve got no sense of humor.”
I crossed my arms, and felt my mouth curl into a pout. “I’m not that little…” I mumbled, not to anyone in particular.
“Pretty tiny to me,” Jiyong said, giving me and arrogant smirk. I felt myself get riled up at that superior grin, but refused to let it show.
I bit back a retort.
Red jumped in and halted an argument quickly – good thing, too. “Dove – mind helping me with something later? I need a girl’s opinion.”
My attention was diverted, and I smiled at Red. “Sure – but I don’t know how much help I’ll be.”
“Don’t worry. You’ll be fine.”
Red sat me down on a chair in her bedroom, after pushing off a pile of clothing. I was in front of her mirror, and she was running a brush through my long hair while humming an absent minded tune. Red’s room was just as messy as I had last seen it, but she seemed to know where everything was even though what she was looking for could be buried in a pile of clothing; hanging off a gas lamp on the right wall; tucked beside her pillow where the eye couldn’t see; or packed into one of the shelves with perfumes and books and hair curlers and other little things I couldn’t place a use for.
“I thought you needed me to help with something?” I asked when she started twirling a piece of my hair in her fingers.
“I do. If you’re going to stay with us, you need more than clothing of mine that doesn’t fit or that I don’t wear. I’m going to size down some of my things for you.”
Red started taking small bunches of hair and brushing them out, weaving them together in a few small braids which she pulled behind my head. She tied six of them at the back of my skull, letting the bottoms of the small braids rejoin the rest of my hair which was flat against my back. Her fingers worked expertly, not a single hair was out of place when she was done.
“That’s… incredible,” I said. Red grinned at me, and went to get a few clips.
“Loads of practice,” she replied, clasping a clip where the braids met, and two small rings on either side of my bangs in the front. She seemed to be enjoying herself, at least.
“Could you teach me how to do this?” I asked her.
“Of course. Though – this is the only Nothos fashion I know.”
I lightly touched my hair with my fingertips. “Where did you learn it?”
Red sighed, remembering something. “I used to know a girl from Nothos, when I was little. Her name was Nanna, from north of the spine of the mountains which divide our countries.”
“Do you still talk to her?”
I shouldn’t have asked that. I squirmed uncomfortably, but Red just kept playing with my hair. She didn’t seem to notice the effect her words had on me – though didn’t seem affected by them either. Maybe it was so long ago that it didn’t cause her pain anymore.
“Can I ask… what happened to her?”
“You can. Nanna and I were at the square when a riot broke out; Seers started to let their powers loose, and we couldn’t fight them off forever. The Steel Cloaks were trying to keep order, you see – citizens were starting to murder refugees from Nothos in paranoia, after a large number of our troops were given away by spies. Nanna’s mother had been taken from her the night before, and her father that morning… we went to the square to try and find protection for her.”
Red paused here, and so did her hands. I saw her fingers tighten on a piece of my hair. My skin shivered.
“Nanna’s hair was blonde, her skin was snow tanned… and her eyes were the strange light violet of Nothosians – a man in the crowd shouted when he saw her. He knew she was one of them, and the mob turned on Nanna. I was pushed back, small as I was; and my friend was swallowed by the crowd. I saw little bursts of ice where she tried to defend herself… but they got her. The last time I saw Nanna was when I glimpsed her lifeless form on the ground, trampled by the rioters.”
I had nothing to say – what could I?
Red shook her head, as if trying to dispel the memory. “Enough of that though – I’m sure we have better things to talk about.”
I had read about the riots in one of the books Daesung showed me. It wasn’t a long entry, but from Red’s story I could gather the feel of them. Thousands of yelling people, bloodthirsty and in pain from the ones they loved… it would have been horrific.
The Steel Cloaks were the name of the peacekeepers, those who enforced the law in Ironthane. It was strange that they were named that, since the regular forces hadn’t actually worn cloaks in over a hundred years – but the name stuck around. Only the commanders actually wore them now.
They were known for being ruthless. All Steel Cloaks are Seers, it is law. That way power is kept in the right hands. Those closest to the king were the most brutal, trained from childhood to serve the next Rodanis; they were almost always Bone Seers like Ailie, or Blood Seers. Once given an order to kill – they do not hesitate.
“Stand up, let me measure,” Red told me, and I did as she said. She wrapped a measuring tape around my waist, marked the tape and pulled it off of me. She was still humming as she pulled clothing from her closet, and she forced a small billowy green dress over my shoulders.
“Green was never my colour,” she explained, and began to pin. The dress fell to my knees in a baggy way, but red cinched it around my waist with a white ribbon. She pulled the thin shoulder straps back to fit me, scrunching the flaps of lace that fell from the straps to perfect their size. When she was satisfied with the fit, she told me to pull it off.
She then forced me into another outfit – this one a floor length, maroon skirt and loose white top made of some coarse kind of material. There were beads up and down the skirt, and brown threads which sewed flowery patterns around the collar and cuffs of the shirt.
“Too long for my taste.”
Another outfit, and then another. It seemed like ages I was up in that room with her, but it wasn’t dull. Red was great at keeping conversation going, even if the topics were dull she made them interesting enough to chatter about. She was bright and charismatic – but also quite blunt.
After forcing me in to a bright red, long sleeved shirt with ruffles on the chest, she shook her head.
“No way. Your body isn’t suited to this at all, take it off. I need to find something flatter…”
I felt my face burn as she pulled it off of me and passed me another article of clothing to try on.
“What’s wrong?” she asked, peering at my blush.
“Was it about what I said? Sorry dove – but you’re going to need to get used to that. I’m not one to hold back on what I say… I don’t to hurt ya all right? It’s just how I am, don’t take it personally. I do it to everyone… though admittedly mostly to Jiyong.”
She laughed, and I giggled with her. She fussed over my hair and clothing, eventually kicking me out of her room so that she could work on stitching where she had pinned. When I stood at the door, she shocked me by wrapping her arms around me and pulling me into a quick, tight hug.
“I’ll leave some clothing out for you, dove.”
I was getting rather fond of her nickname for me.
“Why do you call me that?”
“Because you remind me of one.”
“Well – your hair, for one thing. But you’re gentle, and you get scared easily like a little bird. I got the idea from your dress, but honestly it suits you – it’s not like you have another name.”
I smiled, and thanked her for the clothing. “Good night Red,” I said.
“Sleep tight little dove.”
Sleeping was so much easier than the last time. I was becoming accustomed to the soft sheets and blankets, and the sounds that came from outside my window at night were easily ignored once I closed my eyes and tucked the blanket under my cheek. It no longer bothered that a black-eyed, demon of a man slept only a few walls away – I felt silly for even thinking that of him before. He was just another person, if a little scarier looking than the others. I yawned like a cat the next morning, and got dressed using the small pile of clothes Red had left just outside my door as she said she would. I took the nice green dress with the puffed, lacy skirt and tied the white ribbon around my waist. I paused by the mirror in the bathroom and frowned a little – was Red trying to make me look like a children’s doll?
When I got downstairs, I saw that Jiyong was already awake. He was eating a slice of toasted bread smothered in sweet jam for breakfast, and reading a greyish printed newspaper. He never looked up when I came into the room.
“Good morning!” I greeted brightly, smiling.
“I suppose,” he said in a flat voice. He still didn’t as much as glance at me.
“Very chipper, you are,” I said with sarcasm. At least that got his attention, if only slightly. He looked over and raised an eyebrow at me.
“Is that a problem?” he asked in annoyance. I scowled at him, sitting across the table on one of the polished wooden chairs.
“Not really I guess. You could at least fake it though.”
“No point. You’d know I was pretending.”
What was making him so sour this morning? He seemed fine the night before – of course he was irritable and somewhat rough – but he was downright depressing right now. My morning had felt nice until I started talking to him, now I felt annoyed. I took my own piece of bread to eat, not responding to him. He didn’t want me to anyway.
“How did you sleep?” he asked. He really didn’t want to talk to me, I could tell. He was forcing himself to be polite with me.
“Really well, actually. You?”
I scowled slightly. “Did something happen? You seem… angry.”
“I always do.”
“Not like this. Something’s getting to you.”
He glared at me in a way that clearly told me to back off of the subject. I held my ground and waited for his response though. The black eyed glare still sent bolts of fear to my body, it told me to run. I easily ignored the idiotic instinct now though, after seeing there was no ground to the terror.
“Perceptive little bugger, aren’t you?” he grumbled, taking a large bite of bread.
“Thanks,” I said dryly.
“Nothing’s getting to me that concerns you. I’ve got a long day ahead of me, that’s all.”
I leaned forward, interested now. “Doing what?” I asked curiously. The dark look Jiyong shot me told me I wasn’t going to get a straight answer.
“Working,” he said coldly.
I sighed, leaning my chin on my hand. “All right, I get it. I won’t ask.”
My scowl became more pronounced at how ill-tempered he was being. Here I was, only trying to make casual conversation, and he just felt like shutting me down. It wasn’t nice, and frankly quite mean.
“See, this is why I think you hate me,” I grumbled passively.
I disarmed his cold glare with those words. He seemed hurt for only a moment before the irritation with me returned with fervor.
“And it’s times like this where I wonder why I don’t,” he growled. I tried not to let it show, but that comment stung deeply. Even with my efforts, I winced slightly when the edge to his voice cut me viciously. I looked away from him, hurt, and stood up quickly. With a glare as venomous as I could muster – eyes narrowed and brows knit together – I stalked from the room without responding. My arms crossed over my chest as I left, the corners of my eyes stinging from angry tears which threatened to make their presence known. I absolutely refused to let those show, I would not let Jiyong see me as weak. Even though – even I couldn’t deny it – I really was.
I paused at the doorframe, throwing one last word over my shoulder as I left.
I saw him flinch at the hardness in my voice, but he never looked up again. I turned quickly and moved away from him, down the long hallway into the living room.
I ignored him when he left that morning with Red to head to the training field. His eyes were apologetic as he saw me sulking on the couch with my arms crossed, but he never said anything once I stuck out my bottom lip and turned away. I heard him sigh, and the door clicked behind him when Red snipped at him about being late.
Daesung came in a little later and showed me what I was going to be doing for the day. Apparently Jiyong had told him that since I was going to be living here, I had to help out a little. It was fair, but I could only imagine the snide pleasure he had in making me work. I agreed easily to do whatever he needed, but I found the tasks to be much simpler than I initially thought they would be. Help clean up the kitchen after meals – everyone else did, it made sense I would too – clear up my books and papers when I was done with them, keep my room clean, clean my own clothing. It seemed so rudimentary I felt like I didn’t need to be told to do it at all. I had no problem with the tasks, which made Daesung happy. It was so easy to make him smile.
Daesung pulled out a few books for me to read, opening them to pages he said I would find interesting. One was on history, and the other was on medicinal plants. I found the latter much more entertaining to look through, there were plenty of diagrams and brightly coloured drawings to catch my eye. He left only an hour after Jiyong and Red, not all too eager to go to class. It was only after he left did I see Seungri and Aquilla.
“Think fast!” a voice called, and I turned to see a bright green apple hurtling towards me. I raised my hands and was overly delighted when I was able to catch it, even though it almost slipped through my small fingers. Seungri loped in with a certain kind of swagger, his black hair painstakingly styled with a spike at the front. Red had whispered to me in hushed tones before that Seungri thought himself somewhat of a lady killer.
“Nice catch!” he praised, grinning. He was dressed immaculately; as he had been in the few days I had been here, and very bright. He wore a soft green shirt with golden coloured buttons and pleated black pants, an expensive leather belt around his waist. He pulled on a long brown jacket over the top, the cuffs large and impressively detailed with etching in the leather. Even his shoes were shining and polished, the tops gleaming like the carapaces of large onyx beetles. Aquilla followed him, the older man in simple functional clothes without much detail: white shirt, brown pants, and heavy boots. Seungri was dressed to impress, Aquilla was dressed to work.
“You gonna be all right by yourself?” Seungri asked me.
“Yeah, it’s no problem. Daesung’s already given me some stuff to do. Keep the house in shape and all that, you know.”
Seungri looked like he was considering something for a moment. “You know – while you’re cleaning you could always give my room a once over. Haven’t had a woman in there in a while.” He winked at me. Aquilla smacked him in the back of the head, but not that hard.
“Cool it champ,” he said playfully, and Seungri laughed.
“I know, I know. I happen to value my life,” he said to Aquilla.
I had noticed that out of everyone in the house, Aquilla was closest with Seungri. He hardly talked to Jiyong and Red, but really teased and jibed Seungri like he was his own son. Especially when his ‘son’ was up to something.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“I’m pretty sure Jiyong would set me on fire if I tried anything. He was… explicitly clear of what would happen to me if I touched you. Something about death and dismemberment… can’t remember the details exactly. Pity really, how little trust he has in me.”
Aquilla laughed at him. “Looks like you’ll have to find your own woman then, Gri. How about that nice girl down at the Captain’s Mark? She seems to like you, you know.”
“Yeah, but she’s not my type.”
“And what would that be?” Aquilla said, obviously interested
Seungri laughed. “Pretty.”
Aquilla laughed at him and I giggled, making Seungri grin at me cheekily. “You’re going to get yourself in a lot of trouble you know,” Aquilla warned lightly. Seungri shrugged, unconcerned.
“Never. I’m too smart for that.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Aquilla said in mock exasperation, “We all know you’re the genius, Seungri.”
“Don’t forget it!”
Aquilla rolled his eyes, pushing Seungri’s back forcefully to push him from the door. “See you tonight!” he called over his shoulder. Seungri made a motion as though he was tipping a hat – even though he wasn’t wearing one, and winked at me before Aquilla shoved him out of the house.
“Until we meet again, my lady!” he said flashily, Aquilla pushing more forcefully. I was laughing, and I waved goodbye at them from the window as I saw Aquilla put his arm over Seungri’s shoulder as he made fun of him. They were both smiling and playful, and I felt such a desire to go with them the house seemed almost sorrowfully empty when they left. I leaned against my hand, staring at their backs until they were well out of sight, and then stretched and set myself to work with the tasks I had been given. The little objects of the house ticked and whistled and clicked and clanked in a rhythm I was becoming quite attuned to, and I did my tasks fitting into the subtle beat and melody of their noises.
Unfortunately, the incredibly small list of things Daesung had given me to do for the day dwindled down to nothing in a very short amount of time. I flipped onto the couch and pulled the book on Antenean histories onto my lap, flipping through the thick pages with much interest. War, famine, drought, and discovery – the last word caught my attention in the large index on the back page. Underneath the heading were tons of things I saw in my daily life here – as well as others I had only heard about or never even seen before. It listed gas lamps, steam engines, cooling units, the electrical circuit, mechanized industry, production techniques, air ships, water pumps, and a ton of other small inventions and contraptions.
The airships caught my attention. I turned to the page, and smiled when I saw that a beautifully sketched drawing was included in the entry. It was light beige, copper and canvas fins protruding from the bottom to move it forward, giant propellers built into the back to push the enormous vehicle through both quiet air and deadly storms. Underneath its sharp oval body hung a control hub, ringed in glass windows and formed of what should be shimmering, polished copper. To me, it looked like someone had stretched fabric over a frame and inflated it – sort of like a gigantic, man made floating fish. Even the sections between the framing resembled the curved scales of sea creatures. The entry was long and incredibly detailed, describing how they worked and were created, even down to how many people it took to operate the different sizes and types. I read most of it, but found the parts about the war vessels more interesting than the ones on trading ships or civil transporters.
Of all the sorts of airships employed by the Antenean Ironguard the most heavily armored is the Dawn Singer, the vessel launched only in defence of the king himself. The Dawn Singer is double the size of a regular airship, and with its size comes a deadly power and control of the Iron skies. When the city is threatened the vessel is called into action upon clearance from the Rodanis, the thirty seven cannons aboard primed and ready for action at any time. It is flanked by only the most elite of the Ironguard’s airships, which must be trained to evade fire from the Dawn Singer, whose crew is volatile and viciously ruthless. The crew has been known to fire through their own allied ships in order to hit the enemy on the other side.
The Dawn Singer does not leave the city of Ironthane. It is unknown whether the second, sister vessel, the Dawn Screamer, will ever be completed. Because of the extreme cost to build the ambitious new ship, which is rumored to be three times the size of its sister, the new airship is left in a state of incompletion in the Royal Air Harbour for an indefinite amount of time.
I had only faintly heard the buzz of the airships as they made their rounds above the walls of Ironthane, but I had never seen one. During the day they operated above the clouds to avoid the lightning strikes and high winds, and during the night I was usually asleep when they did their drills. I had seen only the faint twinkling lights of a small scout ship from a very far distance, but had yet to even glimpse the great and powerful machines. I wondered if they looked the same as the drawings in the books.
I changed chapters and moved on quickly. I swapped books not long after reading on the discovery of electricity. Apparently the city was powered by the water mills along the great Rusted River, as well as by Lightning Seers charging enormous copper and acid based batteries the size of buildings. I picked up the book on plants, even more eager to learn about them. Unlike the other book – these were things I could only read about. There were no plants in Ironthane. Not that I had seen, at least.
When the others finally came home, Jiyong was not among them. I wasn’t exactly disappointed.
Daesung had brought home some food from a restaurant instead of cooking, so we all sat down to eat immediately. The dinner table was strangely energetic without Jiyong sitting on his end, everyone was smiling and teasing more than they were the last few nights. It also felt very strange – as much as I didn’t want to admit it the table felt a little off without his being there.
“Jiyong not back yet?” Red asked me from the next chair. I shook my head. Instantly, Red’s happy expression turned slightly foreboding.
“Was he a little… weird this morning?”
I scowled and sawed at my steak with a little more venom than usual. “If by weird you mean a complete jerk, then yes.”
"More of a jerk than usual?"
Red’s expression saddened. “Damn it,” was all she said, looking back down at her plate. I watched her suspiciously, but the others seemed not to notice our small exchange. She didn’t say much for the rest of the meal, but kept glancing at a small silver watch on her wrist. Checking the time, every minute compulsively. With every check, she seemed to grow more impatient.
I helped clean up everything after dinner, drying the dishes that Seungri washed and passed them to Red to put away. She didn’t seem to be paying attention to anything we chatted about, rather receded into her own little world of worry. She still kept checking her watch. When the dishes were done, she left immediately for the living room and sank down into one of the armchairs without a word. I saw her glancing at the window every so often. Why didn’t anyone seem to notice how she was behaving? They seemed too fixed on an old sea story Aquilla was telling. I left them and followed Red into the other room, sitting in the couch opposite her.
“Are you all right?” I asked her. She looked over for a moment, and gave me a weak smile.
“I’m fine. Jiyong’s just late getting home,” she said simply. That didn’t cause me much worry – even though it looked like Red was incredibly anxious.
“Is that not normal?” I asked her. She shook her head.
There was a strange way to the way she said ‘sometimes’. I disregarded it, intent on asking her another question when the door opened. I saw Red exhale deeply in releif and close her eyes for a moment, before they locked onto Jiyong standing in the doorway. He was drenched from head to toe and moving with slow, almost automatic movements. He glanced at Red, and then at me. I shivered at the dark, incredibly frigid look to his eyes. Something was wrong here – neither of them were speaking, but they both knew what was going on. Jiyong nodded and Red, and I saw her jaw clench. She stood and clenched her fists, walking from the room brusquely without so much as a greeting to Jiyong. He seemed to curl away from Red’s sudden anger, and hung his jacket.
“W – welcome home,” I managed. I’m not sure why I said it, but the Jiyong I saw now didn’t seem like the one from this morning. He looked sad.
He looked over at me slowly. “Thanks,” he said, his voice deadpan.
“Uh… there’s food in the kitchen. We saved you a plate,” I said lamely.
He started to walk away from me, trailing drops of water on the dark wood floors. I sat quietly, trying to figure out what had happened here. Red was angry at Jiyong for something – but before she seemed worried. Jiyong was acting abnormal, but it didn’t seem like he would share with me why. If he didn’t want to this morning, I highly doubted he would in the state he looked like he was in right now.
“And I’m sorry,” I heard him say gently. “For this morning, I mean.”
I couldn’t stop the surprised stutter. “I -- it’s nothing. Don’t worry about it.”
He left me shocked and more than a little confused when he left and vanished into the other room.
shorter than I intended - but that's okay?
trying to do fast updates while keeping the storyline intact, hopefully not too sloppy
who do you think "Dove" is?
any suggestions/found spelling errors/weird word errors? let me know in the comments below!
[Edit: I figure if I'm going to ramble on about a faraway place that doesn't exist I might as well show you all what it looks like? Here you are, the contient of Eiseris! Took me a while to do, still learning all the shopping tools. Open in new tab to zoom in. As photobucket absolutely killed the resolution, the actual photo is here as well.
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