A few months later, Loras went to check up on Nadalia. He had been talking to Ryan about everything, and wanted to reassure Nadalia that she had only done what was necessary.
"Hey Loras," she said when she opened the door. She looked as though she hadn't slept in weeks.
"Hey Nads. Mind if I come in?" he asked.
"Sure." Nadalia stood back and let Loras in. "How's Isolde doing?"
"Better. They reckon she can come home next week," Loras replied. Isolde had taken a while to recover from her injuries, but seemed to have got over the worst of it. "Levon and Rehan have announced their joining, too. We're all invited once they set a date for the ceremony."
Nadalia smiled half-heartedly. "That's nice. I'm glad they've got together. What about Alaric? Did he get elected?"
"You mean you didn't hear?" Loras said, disbelieving. "It's been all over the radio the last few days, he got in with pretty much everyone's vote. Yuni's pleased," he said with a grin.
"I bet she is. Nazar was here the other day," Nadalia said, changing the subject. "He says you and Eznik have been trying to educate the hemsepans."
"Yeah," Loras nodded. "It's going to take a while, but I think we'll get there eventually. Actually, there was something I wanted to talk to you about, Nads. I've been talking things through with Ryan, and…"
"I only did what I had to, I shouldn't blame myself for anything that happened at Saphrax's base," Nadalia cut in. "Eznik told me the same thing last week. I'm not concerned so much about what I did, I know it was necessary. What worries me is how I felt at the time." She took a deep breath. "I… a part of me enjoyed it, Loras."
Loras looked sympathetic. "Nads, that's what I was talking to Ryan about. He says it's probably part of a natural feeling. The guy killed your partner, your dad, your best friend, and a whole bunch of other people besides. But I think you need to talk to someone. Come back with me, I'll introduce you to Susan. She's a sort of mind doctor, she might be able to help you through this."
Nadalia sighed wearily. "Alright."
Alaric looked around his new home. He'd moved in to Korian's old place, partly because it was a nice, central location, but mostly because it seemed right. After being elected, he had made a promise to fix everything Saphrax had messed up and continue what Korian had started. It would be hard work, but he knew he could do it. Especially while I'm sitting in this chair, he thought, dropping into the cushioned seat and purring in utter contentment.
"Al, sweetie, Tsoline's here. She wants an exclusive interview," Katayun called.
"Okay, tell her I'll be there in a minute." Alaric stood and looked around the office. He headed down the stairs, smiling to himself.
"Here she is, recorder and all," Katayun said and headed off to the kitchen.
Tsoline waved enthusiastically when she saw him. "Hey Alaric, how are you? Enjoying your new position?"
"Most definitely. It's certainly an improvement over my last abode," he said with a wink. "Who's your friend?" he asked, noticing the shy young feline next to Tsoline.
"This is Noyemi, she's working as my assistant," Tsoline said, introducing the girl. "Apparently, she was held prisoner as well, weren't you?"
Noyemi nodded. "Valamir held me captive. He seemed to think I was the Thirteenth Kat, which I wasn't. Who was she, do any of you know?"
"Korian's partner, Nadalia. That reminds me, I've got to call her soon. Anyway, shall we get this interview started?" Alaric said.
Tsoline nodded. "Of course." She switched her recorder on. "So, you've told us all that you're planning to carry on with Korian's plans?"
"That's right. The first thing I want to do is to get rid of that awful edifice Saphrax had built in Region Five. I'm hoping to replace it with a contemplation garden, or something of the sort. I'm also going to rebuild the large pool that used to be there," Alaric replied. "Then I plan to take a trip out to Insectus, to try and repair the damage done to our relations out there."
"Sounds like a good plan," Tsoline said approvingly. "But enough politics for now. Everyone is asking about your relationship with Katayun, and the biggest question seems to be when are you two making it official?"
Katayun heard and poked her head back through the door. "We're not in a rush. We just want to take things slow, and let it happen naturally, don't we Al?"
Alaric stifled a laugh. "Something like that. I was planning to surprise her with a proposal next week," he whispered to Noyemi. "Don't let on though."
"Right. Our little secret," she said. "So, are you still in touch with any of the rebels who helped you escape? Besides Nadalia, I mean."
"Actually, yes. I'm sure you've heard the rumours about the hemsepans," he said, talking normally again. "I'd like to clarify a few points there. It's true that the rebels found hemsepans in a state of suspension, and convinced them to help in overthrowing Saphrax. However, it's not true that once Saphrax was dealt with the hemsepans killed and ate everybody in sight. I've met them, they're actually quite pleasant," Alaric told both of them.
Tsoline nodded. "I met them too. Well, some of them, and they seemed okay. Do you think our history could be wrong, Alaric?"
Alaric shrugged. "Who knows? I do think we've generalised their species a little. If we based our history on people like Saphrax, we'd come across as a lot worse than we are. I know some historians are working with the hemsepans at the moment, so we should get a much clearer picture of the facts in the near future."
Levon and Nazar sat staring at each other. "I know you think I'm crazy, Naz, but we're his kids too. We turned out alright," Levon said. "Rehan and I are going to raise the girl properly. She'll be just like any other normal kid."
Nazar sighed in exasperation. "Lev, you and I have our mum's genes too. Viviane has Melicia's genes, and Melicia was a psychopathic bitch. That kind of stuff runs in families," he told his twin brother. "I'm not saying you should give her away or anything, I'm just saying you'll need to watch her as she gets older."
"Can I say something here?" Rehan asked. Both brothers turned to look at her. "I don't see why her birth parents are such a big deal. What matters is that she's got two big brothers who care about her, and are going to look after her. Besides, she was barely five months old when we took her in. I doubt she'll remember anything about either Saphrax or Melicia."
"Precisely. You're just being paranoid, Naz. Come on, come and see her. She's just learning to walk, it's so cute to watch," Levon said, leading Nazar into the next room.
"Ahh," went Nazar when he saw the little girl tottering around the room holding the furniture. "Okay, you've got me. She is adorable," he said with a big, silly smile across his face.
Rehan gave him a funny look. "You want one now, don't you?" she asked shrewdly.
"No," Nazar said, not quite convincingly. "I would like to come and babysit her though."
Levon laughed. "I'm sure we can arrange that. Hey, have you heard from Parvona and Antrias? Did they manage to get back to Insectus okay?" he asked, suddenly curious about the fate of their ex-spies.
"Yeah, they got back last week. Get this, they took Meb and her family with them!" Nazar exclaimed. "They feel a lot more comfortable over there, apparently. Meb and her lot, that is."
"Good for them. You reckon we'll see them again?" Levon asked. "I wouldn't mind thanking them properly for helping us."
Nazar shrugged. "Maybe. We might be able to go over there and visit them sometime, Alaric's planning to go over and sort out the political mess Saphrax caused when he threatened all their ambassadors with death unless they left."
"Sounds like a good idea, brother."
Nadalia fidgeted in the chair. "Is this going to take much longer?" she asked the hemsepans called Susan.
Loras translated Susan's answer. "Not long now. She wants you to describe exactly what you thought and felt when you pulled the trigger," he said.
Nadalia thought for a moment. "I was thinking about Mari, and Korian, and my dad. About all the people he'd hurt and killed, all the things he'd ordered done. I just felt so angry, like he was never going to change, and the only way to stop him hurting everyone was to kill him." She waited for Loras to catch up with the translation before continuing. "When I did it, I was pleased, and relieved that he wouldn't be able to do any of it anymore. Is that normal?" she asked nervously.
Susan spoke, and Nadalia could tell she was reassuring her before Loras translated. "It's perfectly natural. Susan says your feelings at the time were normal, if not entirely rational, and the remorse you're feeling now is natural too. She says she'd be more concerned if you weren't beating yourself up over it," Loras told Nadalia.
"So it doesn't make me a bad person, that I was glad he died?" Nadalia asked hopefully.
Susan shook her head. "You want talk again, you come me," she said, using the fragmented speech she had picked up so far.
"Thank you, I feel a lot better now," Nadalia said, smiling properly for the first time in months. "I might take you up on another… session, did you call it?"
Loras translated for Susan. "Session, yeah. So, what are you going to do now you're feeling better?" Loras asked her as they left the room.
Nadalia looked up at the sky. The dark clouds Saphrax had seeded up there were beginning to clear, and sunlight was leaking through again. "I think I'll go for a swim with Nazeli and Drystan. Maybe see if I can find Leniya," she said. "I haven't spoken to her in ages. Say hi to everyone else for me."
"I will. Eznik's going to be pleased you're okay again," Loras told her. "He's been worried about you."
"There you are, Loras," Ovsanna said, popping out of the lounge. "Can you come and help us with some of these books, Mihran and I are going to start translating them… Oh hi Nads, how are you doing?"
"Much better now, thanks to Susan. I was just going for a swim. How are you doing?" Nadalia asked in return.
Ovsanna shrugged. "You know, distracting myself with my reading. Annoyed because I don't have a band anymore," she said with half a smile. "Still, I can always become a music teacher. Lucy has some very strange songs on a little box, they sound like they could be interesting to try and play."
"Hey Nads, you want to come swimming with us?" Drystan asked, coming out to see why everyone seemed to be gathering in the hallway.
Nadalia nodded. "Yes I do. I'll race you there," she said. "See you guys later," she called over her shoulder to the others as she ran to catch up with Drystan.
Nazeli came out behind them. "What a pair of kids," she commented. "I suppose I'd better go and keep them out of trouble. Bye, everyone."
Author's note: hope you enjoyed reading this, please let me know what you think :) I plan to upload more (different) stories soon