664 - You must remain in safe ignorance
9 Merjin 4977 | City of Arko
It’s so hard to write and send those “Everything is fine!” letters when I wish so badly I could send you these. And not lie by omission to you about what is truly going on in my heart! Someday… someday I’ll look back on all this. I know it could be tomorrow, if I quit. But… you know.
Yesterday, Alchaen told Chevenga there was a transcript of what the Arkan general said to him, that was taken while he was under truth-drug. This morning, he’d obviously been thinking about it before I got there, because he said to me, “Kanincha… something I don’t understand about that transcript… Alchaen was talking as if it was more than a line or two… have you read it? Is it?”
“Yes,” I said. “You had better not be trying to lead in to asking me to tell you what it says, because I won’t… you know better than that, yes?”
“Of course, I know, Alchaen said I was not strong enough yet. What confuses me is… well, do you know anything about truth-drug? Usually you can answer only in a word or two… not more than one meaning. How could Krero have gotten so much out of me… word by word, ‘What did he say next?’”
“No,” I told him. “You said it all, fluently. They had to stop you at first so someone could take notes.”
“You were there?” he said, amazed. Mamin, I am not suited for this life! I don’t know when to keep my mouth closed.
“Yes,” I said. “Krero said he’d never seen the like, and that the words must have been absolutely graven on your memory.”
“Really... then how could I have forgotten them?”
“It’s traumatic amnesia,” I told him, using the Haian words. “Forgetting because something hurt so much. Same as when you were tortured, you know how you don’t remember much of that?”
“But in that case how could I remember it for… I know, I know, truth-drug brings out things we do not know we know.” He stared off for a bit, thinking, rubbing one eyebrow. His eyebrows are grown back in enough now that they are sort of black so he looks sort of normal. At first they were itchy, and it drove him crazy—first that he could not, and then that I would not let him, lift a hand to scratch them, so he had to ask someone else to do it for him. “It’s right back to when my arms were in casts!” he’d sometimes whimper. Now he can, but the itching is past, and I think he does it now and then just because he can. Like a child, growing out of helplessness. “But then why…? You say it’s traum... whatever you said, forgetting because it hurt so much; why hasn’t Alchaen mentioned that?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “But he’s the psyche-healer, so if we differ, you should believe him.”
He lay thinking, rubbing the other eyebrow, his expression uneasy. I wish he would think less. He always thinks about problems, so it strains him. “You know, Kanincha,” he said finally, “Farnias’ death… it should be easing up. Instead, it’s haunting me worse. I know that it’s not just that there are things about it I don’t know. It’s that things are being hidden from me… even by people very close to me. Don’t ask me how I know, I can feel it.” Spirit of Life, of course he can! I tried to tell my heartbeat not to increase.
“Don’t take me wrong, it’s not that I suspect anyone of anything malicious,” he said. “I trust them all, I know that whatever they’re doing is for my own good, at least in their minds, at least in their intent. Or at least not for my ill. But it’s still… unsettling. I’ve never had it before and I don’t like it… I know I’m not supposed to be in control anyway… but… ehh, I know what you’re going to say. The only cure is that I heal and regain my strength. I know, I know, I know.”
I had been planning to say it, but the words caught in my throat. He looked at me again, and I saw by the flash of expression on his face that he was having a new thought, that struck him. “Kan… it’s even you, isn’t it? Is there something you know that you’re not telling me?”
Mamin… I almost urinated involuntarily then. But his eyes flashed away, with a touch of alarm… he was weapon-sensing something. I heard running boot-steps outside the door, and a voice calling “Cheng!” The door banged open, and Kunarda came running in, in his full arms and armour, kicking the door shut behind him. “I should not do this,” he said, and pushed past me to throw his arms, wristlets and all, around Chevenga in the bed. “I had to see you one last time, before I do what I must. To say goodbye.” He broke into tears.
“Kuna, no!” Chevenga threw his arms around Kunarda in return, hard enough I knew he’d lose a day’s healing. “You don’t have to do this… you should not have done what you did but you need not punish yourself so…”
“Wha…? Oh! No no no, don’t worry about that, Cheng, suicide is for those too cowardly to put up with hard living. Ehh... I mean… sorry, Cheng, it’s different for you, I know. No, the worst pain will be missing you. At least once this hangover goes away; Shininao pluck out my soul before I drink like that again.”
“Kuna—what in kyash happened that you should go on the lam? You were overzealous in defending me; a Yeoli judge will give you a slap on the wrist for that!”
“Oh no no no no,” Kunarda said, and leaned down to kiss Chevenga on the brow. “You must remain in safe ignorance, my semanakraseye. I do this for you as much as myself.” He kissed him again, raining tears. “Go with All-Spirit… well! You always do.” Then he sat up straight, glancing worried towards the door. There were more booted steps, fast-marching, more than one pair this time, and voices outside the door. “Did Kuna come in here… curse you, we’re supposed to, you know, Kunarda! Are you in there?” The voice was familiar, belonging to one of the elite darya. “Of course he is,” another voice, a man’s, said. “Of course he was going to come here!”
“Kuna, what the—”
The straight-haired Yeoli cut Chevenga’s words off with a kiss, and hiss-whispered, “I love you, Fourth Chevenga Shae-Arano-e. I hope in my life I will see you again.” Then he pushed Chevenga, who’d sat part way up, back down on the bed and sprang up. Mamin, we were in one of the other rooms—see, there was this Arkan craftsman who had the idea of making a mesh of glass and gold tubes, filled with water, hung on the ceiling of each room in the Marble Palace, so that if there’s a fire, they’ll release water and put it out. Chevenga and Skorsas both liked the idea, had it tested in a storage room, found it worked, and so are having it done in parts of the Imperial section. So what Chevenga does now is have himself carried to wherever they’re working, so he can watch them, as it fascinates him.
So, we were in one of the rooms next to an atrium, with the soft blue light of before-Rim-dawn, as Arkans call it, coming in. Kunarda ran out the glass door into the atrium, spun around, leapt up onto the wall and began scaling it, so I could see his silhouette rush past each window. He was like a spider. I didn’t think a human could climb that fast. His foot had barely cleared the top window when the two guards came in. “Cheng, is Kunarda in here?”
“No,” he said. “If you do not believe me, you have my leave to search the room.”
Well, all right, I thought to myself. If you are hiding things from your own, I don’t feel so bad about hiding things from you.