712 - I could change the smell of his farts
6 Jin 4977 | City of Arko
I think Kilalulana is truly serious about me. Oh, I don’t think I’ve told you; we’ll be visiting. Leaving here Jin 30 (though we are divided on how; she wants to fly, I want to sail) to Thenai to visit her family, then there to visit you, aiming to be back in Arko no later than Jil 20. But we have not talked marriage, and DON’T WORRY, I won’t until you’ve grilled her!
I guess I am truly serious about her. I swore the oath Chevenga asked me to, to let him tie me to the mast if necessary. I hope that will put your mind at ease, too.
Anyway, this evening she asked me, “Are you planning to stay with Chevaga?”
You know, Mamin, I’ve never thought about how long I should continue in his employ. Can you believe that? It never crossed my mind until she asked. I guess I have just lived day to day. Maybe because being in his employ is so much the antithesis of dull. I hardly have a moment to think before I’m getting called to save him from yet another pointy thing that has somehow found its way into his body. Or this month’s assassination attempt. I hear those words in my dreams sometimes: “Kanincha asako sae Chevenga!” Then I have the thought that has become instinctive: I hope I will be able to save him this time.
Maybe I haven’t thought much of the future because I’m assuming at some level that one of these times, I won’t. He doesn’t seem like the kind of person who lives long, does he? But then if Arkans end up liking what he’s doing as Imperator enough that they quit trying to kill him, and he hands more of the fighting off to other people as he did towards the end of the war and then at Anoseth, which he will more and more as he gets older, and as his security gets better at protecting him with more practice…
Anyway, Kilalulana asked me, so I had to ask myself, and then, since it was taking too long to answer, tell her the truth. “I’m not sure,” I said. “For now, yes, but… maybe you’ll think I’m a fool, but I haven’t thought about it.”
“I can see why not,” she said. “You have a good life, I can see why other things would not tempt you. And it’s a consuming life, that’s obvious enough.” That made me worry that I’d talked about Chevenga too much, and bored her, or maybe even made her jealous. I’ve been told by a person or two I have that tendency. (Though not She Who.) Maybe it’s because I love my work and want to talk about it, but no one wants to hear about lancing boils or stitching wounds or the minutiae of choosing the right medicine. So I talk about my employer, whom most people find much more interesting. “It comes down to this, Kan,” Kilalulana said. “Do you like working for him enough not to want to do something else while he lives, until you retire?”
You know, Mamin… I wanted to say, “Do something else? What is this strange tongue you speak?” I realize, I’m at a point where I can’t imagine doing something else. I mean, I have my practice, because Chevenga doesn’t require care all day, normally. So that’s something else I’m already doing, and I enjoy it very much… it’s more like, I can’t imagine not being his healer. After just four years of it.
As if she read my mind, Kilalulana said, “You’re still not sure? You should try imagining it then, saying to him, ‘I quit,’ and then…” Who made her a Yeoli?
It was a bit of a rude reminder, that I’ve already done that. Then went back. Of course the circumstances were… let’s just say, highly unlikely to be repeated. Even if there was another Arkan Empire around somewhere for him to conquer, I don’t think he’d make the same mistake of not giving the order to keep his army out of their capital city again.
She was asking me to do chiravesa. Which is generally a good idea, so I did, imagining quitting not in anger but just to do something else. And I realized I absolutely don’t want to. I know, you are going to laugh at me for thinking I’d surprise you, of course you’ve read between the lines of all my letters.
I’d miss him. I’m not even sure what it is about him that I’d miss, since we hardly ever talk now like we did at the start, but… well, he’s still a friend. No one else tried to cadge an oath out of me to let him extricate me from this relationship if it goes bad, for instance. And I bet no one else on the Earthsphere pays his personal physician so well. To be utterly, completely, absolutely honest, I’d miss the money, too. Not every Haian gets to add another lab to the University’s research wing (four-fifths of the way there now, right?) Maybe I’d miss the prestige… Fourth Chevenga Shae-Arano-e’s personal physician, you know. I’d miss Niku and Kallijas and Skorsas and the kids and all the madness that goes on. There’s a lot of love between them… I’d miss that. You stay with people and you just get attached, you know what I mean?
But you know what would keep me from leaving him more than anything else? Worrying about him. In my heart I think, ‘He could never do without me.’ I know it’s the height of conceit to think of myself as better than other Haians, but… well, I know him as no other Haian could, at least for four years. His medical history is huge and complex as you know, and I have it all by heart. As the saying goes, I could change the smell of his farts. And now he’s Imperator of Arko, what other Haian isn’t going to defer if he bucks? He didn’t lose a bet to any other. He’d completely walk all over anyone else instead of just partially as he does with me.
So I imagined, while we were sitting right there in the restaurant, and said, “Yes, I do like working for him enough not to seek out something else. So I guess I am staying put, Spirit of Life grant him long life.”
“Good,” she said, with one of her big pleased smiles. “That means you’re going to stay in Arko.”
“Maybe not for good,” I said. “It’s not mentioned in his official mandate, but he talks about it in private. He wants to set up Arko as a voting nation with fair laws, then end the occupation. Which would mean going back to Yeola-e.”
She signed charcoal and smiled as if to say, Kaneeja, you adorable naïf. “He won’t do that,” she said. “He’s Imperator of Arko. It’s against the nature of men to give up that much power willingly… ehh, not just men, I should say; look at how we Hyerne choose queens. Only way anyone ever leaves the Marble Palace, if he’s sat his butt on the Crystal Throne, is feet first.”
Historically, I could not argue with her. And it’s not as if Chevenga has given up much power… he plans to, to the Arkan Assembly, but he keeps saying the time isn’t right yet, there are other changes that are necessary before he loses the power to do it with a stroke of the golden pen. To be fair, his butt hasn’t been on the Crystal Throne for even two years yet. But you can’t help but wonder.
“I’m saying it’s good because I want to stay here, too,” she said. “You know the first time I ever heard someone use the expression, ‘She’s a city girl,’ it was like it struck something deeper in me. Right away I knew that’s what I was.
“I grew up in a little village clinging to a bit of beach on a rocky coastline. I love everyone there, but they all think the same way and it doesn’t even occur to them to question it, ever… and what’s there to do? Fish. Grow vegetables. Pray in the Temple. Play fivestones. Backstab the neighbours. You understand it gets a little dull after a while?”
I signed chalk emphatically. That’s another thing I like about working for Chevenga; he travels, so I do, too.
“The first time my mother took me to Thenai, I was like an Arkan in their Selestialis. The people, the sights, the buildings, the things in the market-stalls, the smells, the weirdness down in Pirai, in the harbour—it was wonderful. And Arko is five times as big as Thenai. I love it even if it is chock-full of Arkans—ehh, they’ve been fine since we sacked them, it’s what their big heads needed. I’ve been thinking about it for a while. Oh, I’ll visit home often, of course, but I want to live here for the rest of my life.”