Kain waited until breakfast the next morning to talk about the findings from the library. Honestly, he didn't want to stress her out anymore, but the sooner she knew the sooner she could work on it. That morning he fussed to get her hair into a proper ponytail. It was a team effort really, as she had never done anything to her hair and he had been wrapping it up under a hat or scarf for the most part.
It was a moment he genuinely enjoyed and enjoyed her enjoying. Paili sipped her tea as Kain tried not to stare. He put his hand on top of her head. "How are you feeling?" he asked, his tone softer than Paili had ever heard it.
She shrugged. "I'm okay. Are you okay?" Her green eyes met his.
"Y-yeah. I'm fine. I just wanted to make sure you were alright after the library incident."
She looked back to her cup. "That man who took me...he said he was my father."
The color drained from Kain's face. "Was he?"
"I was raised by the skulk," she replied. "I had never seen him before that day. He said he was sorry."
"I'm sorry you had to go through something like that. "
Paili shook her head. "When we went to the place with the books did you find out why the fire happens?"
He nodded. "It's something that I've never seen with my own eyes but I have heard of it. Some people refer to it as essence."
"What's that? "
"It's a little hard to explain. Um... Think of it as something like... When I make a fire in the fireplace. You are the fire and the fire is the log."
Paili tilted her head then looked up at him. "But, fire is fire. Why?"
Kain swallowed the bread he was chewing on. "If we have no logs we can't make fire, right?" She nodded her understanding. "Your essence is the energy that keeps you alive- according to some overseas scholars."
"So what does that mean?"
" That means you have harnessed your living energy and given it a physical form. I don't know how but you have and it's amazing. "
"So, I will make more fire." Paili's shoulders slumped and she looked to her lap.
Kain pet her head. " That also means you can learn to control it. This is really good, Paili. "
A knock on the door beckoned him. He returned with a letter. It was Yali again.
Dearest Kain and Paili,
I hope you're satisfied with how jealous our correspondence has made me of your steadily growing relationship. The two of you have grown so close I almost feel like she may be better off with you;however, I have saved enough money to bring Paili to Seila with me.
I will be coming next week to pick her up. Please have her things ready when I arrive. We can talk more once I'm ashore. I can't wait to have Paili all to myself!
Kain put the letter away with a frown. "Well, I guess this means we won't be seeing as much of each other. Paili shook her head. "But... You promised you'd stay with me! You're gonna send me away-"
"What? No, honey, I'm not sending you anywhere. Don't you remember? Yali was always going to come back for you."
" I don't want to go with Yali! What about Cylus and Uncle Quinn and Aunt Beali? "
"We will come visit you," Kain replied. " We can still see each other, just not everyday. Look, you can talk to Yali when she gets here, okay? Tell her everything."
Paili pouted but didn't argue anymore. She knew he wouldn't give her what she wanted or say what she wanted to hear. She got down from her stool and ran to his room. "Paili?"
She returned with her boots. He
Kain took her to the sofa. "You know I would want nothing more than for you to stay with me."
" But? "
"There is no 'but'. Paili, please, don't be mad at me."
She finished lacing up her boots. " I'm not mad. I wanna go play with Cylus. "
Kain nodded and she ran out the door. Outside, she found Cylus waiting by the door. He grinned at her and pat her head. When she didn't give him her usual smile he stopped.
"What's wrong?" He put an arm over her shoulders and they started to walk.
" I can't stay in the city anymore. "
"Why not? Did something happen?"
She shook her head. "Yali's gonna take me away next week to live with her."
Cylus made a face. He had only seen Yali in passing, even when she lived in the border city. She was a strange woman who always clung to Kain. His sister didn't like either of them and that was enough for him to avoid both of them.
They were surprised when they learned that Kain was taking care of a child. She was doing well though and he seemed better for it. If everything was going well, then why was she going away?
"Yali promised she would come back," Paili said with a sigh , "but now I have friends here and I like staying with Kain..."
They walked to the bakery and bought wild berry tarts to eat while they conspired a solution. Paili really liked the honey drizzled on top. The thought of the city not having one of her favorite things was upsetting to say the least. If only there was a way to see what Seila was like before going there.
"You know, my sister lived in Seila when I was younger. Maybe she can tell us what it was like."
Paili's eyes lit up and she agreed to follow him back to the shop. She hadn't known him for too long, but Cylus was a pretty reliable human.
"So, if you don't finish your tart before we get to the shop, you have to hide it," Cylus said. My mom's a little... Well, a lot sensitive about her baking. If she sees I've bought someone else's pastries I'll never hear the end of it."
It was far too sweet to finish so she stuffed the tart into her pocket when they arrived. Cylus held the door for her. Kaila was at the counter. Cylus looked into the display case with feigned interest.
"Would you like one?" she asked sweetly.
"You know mom doesn't like when we eat the food from the display," Cylus whispered.
Kaila just smiled and leaned across the counter. "Mom doesn't mind that- what she does mind is you bringing in sweets from outside." Cylus' eyes widened and she nodded knowingly. "Throw it out and I'll give you a fresh tart just cooled."
Cylus looked to Paili and took the half eaten tart from her pocket. They tossed them and Kaila gave them some from the kitchen with tea and milk. Now settled with more sweets than Paili cared to eat, Cylus asked his sister about her time in Seila. She sat across from them with a cup of tea.
"I was apprenticing in a kitchen in Seila," she replied. "The food there was amazing though you wouldn't guess it looking at the town. The town is rather crowded, and there are many tiny alleyways all over the city. It's like a maze. There are no trees like there are near here. If you go high enough you could see Seila from here."
Paili sipped at her milk, not fond of the taste.
"What is interesting about the city, is that there is a train. It goes from one side of the island to the other and it's very fast. Faster than a car. When I was there, I rode a bike because the kitchen was so far from where I was staying. It was kind of nice. We only have carriages but there are all kinds of ways to travel in Seila."
"Is it as big as Matchtal?" Cylus asked. "Paili will be going to live there soon."
Kaila's eyebrows shot up. "You will? Is Kain leaving too?"
Paili shook her head. "I will be going to live with Yali."
"Ah... Well, Seila is a very big city. The houses are close together but they have tall houses and wide roads. I think you will like the city." She tried to smile but Cylus could tell something else was wrong.
"That sounds nice," he said, "but what does she need to know about the people? Are they friendly?"
His sister took a long drink from her tea. They waited patiently for her to return the cup to the table. "Seila is not Matchtal. You can find people from all over passing through here to sell and buy.
"In Seila, there is only Seila. You may see many strange things and people there but they do not like things nor people that are different. If you are really going to go there, you have to keep your head low and wit sharp. Seila is far more dangerous than this city."
She said what she had to then left them before she had to say anymore. They wanted the truth and they got it. Paili was stricken silent at the table. In Seila, there is only Seila. Paili looked to Cylus. His expression was apologetic, lips turned down and brow knit.
"I'm sorry, Paili."
She shook her head and stood from the table. "Will you walk me home?"
Cylus walked her back out into the cold to the doorstep of Kain's house. This was home. The forest was home. First the fire and now she would be taken from there as well. Where was she meant to be?
"It'll be okay." Cylus patted her head and she turned to look at him. "I promise. See you tomorrow."
Paili went inside, quickly closed the door then shrugged off her coat. The sound of laughter from the kitchen gave her pause. There was another coat hanging in the closet beside Kain's.
"Hold on, I think I heard Paili come in." Kain walked into the living room with Yali in tow. "Hey, look who's here!"
"Paili, hi!" Yali said. " I couldn't wait to see you again so I came early. Right after I sent that letter, in fact. "
Yali smiled brightly but Paili only moved to put her coat back on. Kain handed off his glass and hurried to catch her. "Hey!" She snatched her arm from him. "H-Hey!" He grabbed her shoulders and looked her sternly in the face. "Do you want Yali to see you acting like a brat again?"
Paili turned up her nose. Yali put down their glasses. "Well, there's a lot going on here. Mind explaining?"
"I don't want to go anywhere with you!" the little Shiera snapped. "I'm staying here with Kain."
The man in question covered her mouth and shook his head. "She is not staying with me."
Paili pulled his hand away from her mouth. "I am staying! If I leave he'll die!"
Yali's eyes widened. She looked to Kain. He rolled his eyes. Mimicking him, she knelt down in front of the small girl. "Why do you think he'll die, sweetheart?"
"I know he will!"
Yali pushed Kain's face. "What happened to you?"
"First my human parents gave me away, then Tau made me go ahead of him and I never saw them ever again..." She hid her face in her hands. "If I go away he'll die!"
Kain hugged her tight as she sobbed, ignoring the daggers Yali was glaring at him.
"What the hell did you tell her?" she hissed.
"How is this my fault?" he whispered back. "I told you she wasn't a normal kid from the beginning."
They took her to the sofa and tried to calm her down. Several minutes passed before the girl was done with her tears and could look them in the face again. Kain stroked her thick curls and Yali elevated her feet. Paili looked between them.
"Why can't we stay like this?"
It was an innocent enough question but it had them changing colors.
"That's just not possible, dear," Yali said. "We would never live together. Ever."
"B-Because," Kain spoke up suddenly, "it just isn't right if a man and a woman lived under the same roof and aren't joined in marriage."
"I'll tell you when you're older! For now, let's change the subject." He tried to stop the words with his glass and tilted his head all the way back.
Yali was shaking her head. "This is why you should come live with me," she said with a sigh. "You're a growing girl and your body is going to change and Kain cannot help you through what comes after those changes. Surely you've noticed the differences between male and female humans."
Paili sat up and crossed her legs. "Yeah."
Kain nearly choked on his wine. He ran to the kitchen to escape the conversation. Yali moved closer to Paili and whispered something in her ear. Her eyes narrowed.
"No way! I don't believe you!"
Yali looked to the kitchen where Kain was still dying then back to the girl. She took her small hands between hers. "How about this. You come with me for a few days. We'll hang out, I'll buy you anything you want and I can tell you all about that stuff."
"What stuff?!" Kain shrieked between coughs.
"Lady things you need not concern yourself with."
Once Kain was sure he was going to live, he returned to the sofa rubbing his sore throat. "Look... Paili... She's right. There are things I'm just not going to be able to help you with. The way little boys and little girls grow up is different."
Paili hugged him tightly. "But if I leave..."
"Hey, I said I was going to live for sixty years, didn't I? I promised." She looked up at him with tear rimmed eyes. "Aww! That's not fair." He hugged her tightly.
Yali was envious of their exchange. She hadn't expected them to get so close so quickly but then maybe that was because she was a Shiera. Animals get accustomed to people quickly. She thought for sure he would be throwing the girl at her but he didn't seem to want to let her go any more than she wanted to relinquish her hold.
No one could say she was heartless except for Kain. Their previous relationship was not ended on good terms but she had grown so used to seeing him that she popped by whenever she had the free time. He was as much a part of her life as she was a part of his. This child gave her an excuse to come back but she also really did want to nurture and grow the girl into a proper lady.
If she left this impressionable youth to such a slouch as Kain Ward she couldn't forgive herself. She cleared her throat to remind them of her presence. "My offer still stands," she said. "Come with me for a few days just to see if you like it. Honestly, I couldn't stomach leaving you here for the rest of your life."
The two in question looked at each other. Paili's eyes pleaded but he was sober. "Go see the city. I think you'll like it once you see it."
It was decided then that she would leave with Yali in the morning and stay in the city for three days. When morning came everyone came to greet her and remind her not to fall in love with all the wonderful things in the city. Especially the food. Paili was too busy keeping the tears from her eyes to really hear them.
"I'll be waiting when you come back, okay?" Cylus said.
She nodded then took Yali's hand and they boarded the ship. Kain waved until his arm hurt and they were far enough away not to see him duck behind Quinn to wipe away his tears. It would only be for three days but he knew she would fall in love with the city and Yali's quirkiness just as he had.
A/N: I hope you enjoyed this story. It is the background story of a character in an upcoming series titled Eternal Essence. There will be more stories shared from this world all taking place in different parts of the world at different times. Thank you so much for reading!