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Collecting on a wager
#21
Everybody dies. "You don't have to tell me."


A wise man should absorb the comment and mull over its meaning. Not snap in return. It was immature. And dangerous when dueling with a beautiful woman. When he cared about said beautiful woman's opinion, the threat was exponentially raised. At least he didn't stop, clench her shoulders, and ask what under the Light she thought he should do with his days in exchange for the life she thought he should live. Or, a quick glancing at her curving shoulders, with his nights. Light.

But bungled lashing-outs were one of those flaws nobody notices when a man's seventy-two hours deep into mind-numbing fascination of code obsessing. Not that taking so long as three days was a common occurrence. He lidded the rest threatening to boil over. Forced to toss the whole pot in the void's incinerating consumption. A mere seven hundred ninety-two steps ago, instinct touched hilt to heart over the small thing as a loose tongue and honest captivation with crystalline eyes. But as she said, inevitable death should have no hold over the life of today.

He was fully aware of that grip. Could practically feel it tugging on his thread right now. Or maybe that was Nythadri's eye of daggers digging points into his back. He had the feeling she wanted to see him duck for his life as she chucked them his way. For which he had no idea why he was the lucky recipient of their attention. However she had taken it, his answer was clearly wrong to earn such a stare. The moment passed, their sharing realism. Back to the normal grind it was. Numbers and Fire. His life. Pretty typical. Yui would likely smirk with her famous digging smug grins if she knew how stuck in quicksand he was. Having found a woman not batting her lashes and giggling every time he winked. He didn't look at the man to confirm, but Daryen's amusement would likely eclipse Yui's. Like some testament to the strange nature of their relationship.

If she was coming, as seemed to be the case, Nythadri was going to have an interesting witness, if she cared to pay attention in his overt and calculated shift in personality. Seeing how their previous stroll turned out, he doubted she would. Now that itched his skin, her sudden turn of mood. She was a river bordered in ice, like shore edging an ocean. Too wide for him to see her other side and one he could not cross even if he made it out. Maybe he could make it up to her, if she'd let him.

A frowned look around the courtyard uncovered no evidence of Bandar Eban. Just gardens and sky. Scent of stables on the air. Given the King's casual attire, which Jai's just as casual an eye roamed the silk-draped shape beside him, and lack of Black, their feet must be gracing the grounds of one of the man's famous private estates. Or Fate's. Or both. Light. As such the line between a King's domain and the hooks of the White Tower was blurred, if not well-approximated. As much as he shadowed the country's ruler and endured the Merchants, he had little understanding over their gubernatorial hierarchy. And family trees apparently. He knew Daryen had a sister in Tar Valon. But it never occurred to him that was Fate. Likewise just as small a clue as to which dot on the map represented the estates surrounding them. The ignorance was almost as stifling as the air, but discipline ignored it for now as easily as he ignored the temperature. It mattered little anyway. A Gate into the familiar city streets was an easy enough task for an Asha'man and it would happen before this journey was ended. He didn't intend to stay in Daryen's company once the bet was fulfilled.

Like taking up opposing battlements, the two men watched the women's negotiations. However Daryen was looking, it was likely his usual charming, royal smug. Jai, on the other hand, flashed Nythadri an equally as charming, if not apologetic smile. For what, though? She could interpret it better than he could explain anyway. Best let her do what she did best.
Only darkness shows you the light.


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#22
He might have the luxury of snapping at her, but she couldn’t afford to indulge her every sarcastic whim, and so she said nothing. Nythadri did not forget, but she didn’t tend to hold grudges either. Certainly not against strangers who had probably not intended to offend, but had done so merely by virtue of the demons Nythadri carried. She shouldn’t have asked the question when, deep down, she had known that no answer he could have given would have been satisfactory. Because the answer she knew was real and the answer she wished was real were irreconcilable.

In normal circumstances, her ire would have dimmed after its expression, when control returned and she simply unhooked feeling from thought. Unfortunate, then, that this unusual turn of events channelled her frostiness into something far more common of her defiant nature, and that he might feel responsible for the entirety of her darkened mood, or think that it was all aimed at him. Feeling as though she had walked unknowingly into a trap thickened the ice, and she couldn't quite disconnect from the dark frustration roiling within.

She focused entirely on the woman who knew her name but did not think to introduce herself. And apparently expected her to walk through that Gate without even truly knowing where it led - let alone that to do so unsanctioned might see her exiled from an institution that she disliked, yes, but was about the only thing she had left. If there was one thing Nythadri did not like, it was not having control. Even with saidar a woman made the conscious choice to submit – and Nythadri had no problem submitting, freely and wilfully. Take away the choice, though… It made her defiant beyond common sense. Force Nythadri to do something she wanted and she would not fail to dig her heels in, even if she ultimately suffered for it.

Through her frosty expression, there was clearly thought running through her head. Perhaps even conflict. Yui's explanation came in the form of a crisply folded note, which Nythadri read with a thread of suspicion. That she should be expected was impossible - wasn't it? She resisted the urge to roll her eyes – not particularly at what was offered, and more in long-suffering resignation. There was no escape here, and should she really be fighting? What had she just said about living? Opportunities like this were not often thrust in her path, and what did she have to go back to but monotony?

The intensity of her gaze broke, and she looked a little wistfully at the world that lay beyond the Gate. She caught Jai’s expression by accident. Why is he smiling at me? She had offended him, or suspected that she might have come close to it, on more than once occasion during their short walk. And she wouldn’t apologise for it. Maybe he had known Fate's plans for her from the beginning. An uncomfortable notion, and surely too narcissistic to have a base in reality. The Tower was full of coincidences. Yeah. Right. Still, nothing to be gained by standing here, so she passed through the Gate as bid.
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#23
Continued at The Hunt
Only darkness shows you the light.


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