“What are you doing?”
Elias Gilfax turned, guilt washing over him anew.
“You’re going to kill her if you keep doing this.” Elias cringed. He didn’t want to think of it that way. He wanted to believe that Aura would forget about him and move onto someone that could actually give her the life she deserved.
Elisa obviously didn’t think that way. She was Aura’s best friend since forever; obviously she wouldn’t want her friend to be hurt. Standing in the theater aisle with the light of a lone floating candle on her, Elisa was partly masked in shadows, but where the light stuck her, golden hair shone like gold. Her skin was smooth and almost soft, belying the power of the fighter within. Every curve was a well-toned muscle. With a hemmed shawl thrown over her back and trailing along the length of her arms, she looked more like an eagle than a person. An eagle with eyes the green of the smallest summer leaf and strength and stubbornness of the thickest root. Elias mentally hit himself in self-disgust. He was probably the only boy who found his sister hot.
“I—It’s just tonight. “
“Excuses,” Elisa snapped. “I’ve been down here for almost a week and every night you’re heading off to Rebecca’s room or some other dark corner of the Chateau to make love or something perverse like that.”
“I’m not meeting with Rebecca,” he said.
“Who’s then? Have you found some other sex toy?”
“You could think better of me, Elisa,” he said, but even as he said it, he felt repulsion. He did sleep with too many women. He wasn’t always, and he wasn’t heading off to now, but that didn’t change anything.
“You broke my respect for you a year ago,” his sister replied coldly.
He flinched. He didn’t need that reminder, no matter how much his body protested that that night had been the best of his miserable years. He couldn’t defend himself and crumpled on the stage of the theater and stared at his hands.
Finally, Elisa sighed, probably out of pity more than forgiveness. She sat next to him, staring down at the instrumental pit. “Aura said she let you willingly. She isn’t that kind of person though, so I doubt that was all there is to the story.” Another pause and another sigh. “I’m not going to make you explain. It was rape any way you put it. And it’s in the past either way. There’s nothing more to say about it.” She turned to look at him for a moment before looking back at the dark pit.
“Elias, it doesn’t matter. None of it does. You’re supposed to make use of your life on Ashrieka. Not spend it murbling around in your memories and self-pity.”
“I don’t want to break her heart again,” he whispered, but it came out more as a hoarse croak.
“Whose? Aura’s? Grandmother’s? Mine?” Elisa scoffed. “Rebecca’s?”
“Aura,” he whimpered. He hated himself for everything he had done to her. Since they were young he and his group of noble friends bullied Aurasine Windrose for being of lower rank. When he was only 11 and she 10 he had nearly drowned her in the lake outside of Gilfax mansion. At 13 he’d locked her in the bathroom for a week and not let her for food out until she did all his homework, including the essay, in perfect handwriting. Later at 15 repeated the act, only this time it was in his closet; when a peer came over, he’d helped bind her to a pole so the peer could whip her for amusement. He’d forced her do most of his chores for the better part of 16 years—she was the daughter of one of their household servants, after all, and only Grandmother would think that giving noble-people chores would help develop their character and work ethic. He’d been kinder during his 17th year of life, even buying her the dress of her dreams—except at that party she was nearly killed by a group of assassins working that he’d been cajoled into working with. During the Rift Wars his bad decision had led to her being tortured for nearly three weeks. Then her captor spelled her into hunting him down for the Rift Heart he was holding, and instead of trying to break her bonds he had taken his knife and nearly sliced her apart. His insanity later led to her sacrifice. She’d woken up only a year and a half ago, on a different planet, her memories stolen from her. After that he had vowed to keep Aura safe. But since that promise he had nearly let her die at the hands of chaos-beasts, drained her energy to nil to keep himself alive, and pushed her off a skyscraper. Every time he was in need, Aura would always be there to fight at his side, to support him, to heal him, to comfort him. And he repaid her by cornering her in her room after a party one night and convincing her to sleep with him whilst he was drunk on another planet’s wine.
Elisa was waving her hand in front of his face now. “Snap out of it. You’re doing it again. No more self-pity,” she reminded.
“But what do I do?” He buried his head in his arms. “I can’t do anything for her here. I don’t have rank, money, power, nothing she doesn’t already have herself now. Why-Elisa—Why does she still love me? Does she? Why would she?”
“Elias, you sound like a whining idiot.” Elisa huffed. “Scratch that. You are a whining idiot. I haven’t the faintest idea why anyone would love you, much less a sensible person like Aura, much less after all you did to her, but whatever the reason is, she never cared about your phooey rank or power. She had me for that. As for money, if she loved for money she would have loved Japhedel Alder.
“I don’t know why she likes you so much. I doubt even she does. But the point isn’t why. It’s the fact that she does.”
“She doesn’t deserve me--”
“More like you don’t deserve her.”
“—Someone as twisted—“
“Elijiah, are those tears I see? There will be no wasting water on this ship!” Elisa’s voice suddenly swelled with command. She was standing over over him, and her voice radiated a powerful energy around her.
The imitation worked. Elias snapped to attention and out of his slump. “Sorry—“
He stopped, frozen for a moment. “That’s what Grandmo—oh right. No reminiscing.” Elisa continued staring down at him pointedly. Slowly, he stood up.
“Treat her well,” Elisa said finally, breaking the silence. “I don’t know why she doesn’t wish you dead, but if she loves you, and you care for her, then the last you could do would be to watch her back and treat her well.”