708 - To capture the nature of the national soul of Yeola-e
Now that I was capable of hauling myself out of bed to start right in on the next thing—I was up to three-quarter days of work—I undertook to do so, despite the hangover. (I was strictly forbidden even a drop of drink, of course, but the abolition of slavery in a huge empire does not happen every day.)
Niku smacked her hand on my chest and shoved me back down. “Oh no you don’t,” she said, as Kall put his elbow on my shoulder and leaned on it, pinning me. “You’re taking a day off to bask in the joy of yesterday. You have no appointments and no paperwork at all today, omores. It’s all been arranged with Binchera, behind your back.”
“Healer’s orders,” said Kaninjer. “You always dwell too much on the bad you’ve done, and not enough on the good. Your plan today was to take on the next nerve-wracking, overstrain-inducing problem, and so forget all about the magnificent thing you did yesterday. So I’m not letting you. Your orders are to do nothing all day but healing sessions, as much exercise as you feel like and whatever else you want that is not work, such as flying, or having a long hot soak, or snoozing, all the time relishing that all Arko’s slaves are free.”
“But I’ve done so much lazing lately and there’s so much aiigh!” Skorsas, near my head, pinched my nipple gently, as you do with a sensitive spot that is tender with disuse, between his fingers. I’d been straining upwards with my head; now I couldn’t help but let it fall back.
“Whatever else you want,” he said, fixing me with his blue-eyed pleasure-boy smile. “Kan, with no work, you can clear him for a little light sex, can’t you?”
My healer signed cautiously, but his hand was definitely turned up. I looked more than once, to be sure. “Not more than one orgasm, though.” That was the end of my protests.
They’d grown closer sexually in my sexual absence, incidentally. Niku, who had never had any distaste for Kallijas, of course, was continuing his education on sex with women, determined that he would in future not only impregnate but pleasure the Arkan wife he wanted to someday take; Skorsas and Kallijas were well-matched, of course, understanding each other as only two Arkan males can. But Kallijas encouraged Skorsas and Niku to take pleasure in each other, too. “You are both good-hearted, wonderful, beautiful, loving people,” he said. “What can you possibly see as wanting or wrong in each other?” They did try, as I understand it, but sparks did not fly as they should. It would perhaps just take more time.
I obeyed my healer, basked and lazed. As he had planned, my heart glowed residually, as I knew those who had been slaves yesterday were going where they willed today. Scenes kept repeating in my mind: hands seizing mine and lips pressed against the backs of them, voices chanting “Freedom!”, eyes streaming and cheeks streaked with tears of joy, the feeling of lifting the fifty Mezem chains off my neck and the lightness afterward, as if each one had weighed a hundred times what it really did, and I had not known it because that was not possible before they were gone.
This was not only the happiest day of my life, but perhaps the happiest day that anyone could ever have—though of course different things make people happy, so one cannot say. I did feel sorry for everyone else in the world for never knowing this, though. Despite everything I have suffered, I will always say that my life has been blessed. Freeing the slaves of Arko made every torment I’d taken at Arkan hands worthwhile. I cannot say how hard I cried when I realized that.
Perhaps because my life has had so much pain in it, I am capable of a very intense happiness, having learned to seize the good times when they come and savour them to their utmost, like a citizen in a siege rationed to one apple a week, who will find ways to make tasting it last a day. Or like my three loves, who were all desperately hungry for me, and had to figure out who would get what share of my one climax. What they did was savour me, and it, to an extent that Kaninjer probably would have forbidden, had he known.
I can let happiness wrap all around me like a warm lambskin, and penetrate deep into my centre, like the magical balm, sometimes tingly, of the perfect Haian medicine going in. I can lie blessed and content in the world, everything seeming beautiful to me so that I know if I were a painter or a poet I would feel compelled to depict it; leaves seem more green, the carven stonework of the Marble Palace more luscious, a sunset more spectacular, fragrances more delicious, the touch of lovers more cherishing. All feels right and perfect and in place, and my heart is certain that all in the world is well, even if my mind knows it isn’t; what problems remain, though, seem distant and trivial and easy to overcome. The heady whisper of possibility charges the air; I sense that incredible and astonishing changes that I cannot yet envision but will be pure joy to enact, so much will they improve life for the people in ways we cannot yet conceive, lie just around the bend. I feel a richness and thrill and perfection in the world as only a child feels it, everything vivid and intense, and life free of cares since I have what seems an infinity of years before me, if I were a child again.
Most of that day I stayed in that state, and I could feel it doing its good work in me, and how badly I had needed it. I am not in this place often enough, I thought. Tomorrow it will be back to the grind, but perhaps I can bring some of this spirit into my work, so it infects others. What had I conquered Arko for, ultimately and in truth, if not to give them this, even if part of my heart had been black-rotten with vengeance and that’s what had turned my hand palm-up? I would set them free… Now I had done so for millions of them, in the most concrete way.
But as afternoon turned into evening, my mind felt drawn to the future. I needed to use this free time to put careful thought into something that had been bothering me. Since every time, all day, the smile on my face had seemed to fade, one of my lovers had brought it back by saying something about abolition, I faked a nap to be with myself.
I saw much more clearly now, at twenty-six, than when I’d signed chalk, at twenty-two, what I had been concealing from my people as I’d accepted the mandate. I would not be able to finish it. I did not have time. I had to make provision for that; I’d thought of it in passing but not made proper plans, caught up too much in the day-to-day. Artira would have to take it over. I had to leave her in the best position possible to make it work… her and the new Servants of Assembly of Arko, once I had them, and the entire national staff, and indeed the whole Empire.
I have the written words of the mandate, to turn Arko’s people toward our own way of governance and life to the benefit of them, Yeola-e and the world, and I have been deleting and amending and putting new Arkan laws into writing in accordance with it. But there are no words for how I have been doing it; nowhere are the principles that rule Yeoli law spelled out; we know them in our hearts as sacred traditions handed down from generation to generation. The path by which the mandate becomes the revised statutes of Arko is only in my mind, which makes me indispensible. But I must not be.
I saw what I had to do. Raised not only in the Yeoli but the semanakraseyeni sensibility, same as me, Artira knew it all cold, too; but she didn’t know Arko or Arkan well enough, nor Arko’s history, where enlightened ways can be found, to translate it for Arkans. I needed to put it all into writing; to create a document that would guide whoever crafted the laws of Arko to do it in a way that held sacred all that should be held sacred in law. I had to capture the nature of the national soul of Yeola-e, along with what was akin to it that is entirely Arkan, in Arkan words.
It began to write itself in my mind, but now, of course, I couldn’t leap up and grab pen and paper. My loves caught me anyway; “Sheng, your lips forming words and the intense look that I know is in your eyes even though they’re closed both look suspiciously like work to me!” Kall snapped. I filed it away to begin penning tomorrow, resolved to permeate it with my ecstatic mood. I fell asleep that night in the arms of my loves, with several of the clauses etched on my memory.