New Best Friend
Meiyin contemplates what her life will look like now, with the help of Viola.
Meiyin sits in the clinic bed, just staring. Watching Ivory's chest rise and fall with her breathing.
Reone's in-depth evaluation says that although her body has been under a lot of strain and she's going to want to do nothing but sleep for a few days, the ether is out of her now, and her injuries from her rampage are minor. She'll make a full recovery.
But, the voice in Meiyin's head whispers, You didn't know that would happen when you gave her all that ether. You didn't know she'd survive.
It was better than letting her go insane in Gaelan hands, Meiyin whispers to herself.
Even now you play God with her life. Even now you know what's good for her better than she does.
Meiyin curls in on herself. I am a trained medical professional, and she is right to trust me-
Did she know she was trusting you as you risked her life? Did she tell you she'd be happier dead than under Gaelan control, or did you just assume that?
Meiyin knows the answer, but dares not say it. Giving her the knowledge that her body might burn up from the sheer effort of it would have only scared her. It scared me.
Meiyin's argument with herself is interrupted by another short half-elf, leaning on her bed. "Who're you talking to?"
"That is no concern of yours," Meiyin says harshly. But then she catches herself. This innocent curiosity matches Ivory, before... before everything Meiyin did to her. They look to be about the same age, too, this new girl and the Ivory in her memories. The hurt look in the newcomer's eyes mirrors Ivory's disappointment every time she was told she couldn't have the answer to a question. Meiyin sighs. "I apologize. I was merely talking to myself."
"Kay." The newcomer looks over at Ivory, grabbing on to the steel bar that forms the foot of the bed and leaning back, using it to hold herself upright. "What's her name?"
"Her name is Ivory," Meiyin says. After a moment of silence, she adds. "What's yours?"
"Viola." Viola chews on her lip. "Is she sick?"
Meiyin notes out of the corner of her eye that the elf she saw on the way in, the one who was with a crying Viola, has appeared near the clinic door, but is making no moves to get closer. Viola doesn't seem to have noticed, either. "Um, no. She... She had too much medicine, and that made her not feel well."
Viola nods. "So she's sleeping during the day?"
Viola considers this thoughtfully. "When she wakes up, can we play?"
"I don't... know, Viola," Meiyin says. "She and I might have to leave after she wakes up." Judging by Emota's reaction to the two of them, being asked to leave might be the least of their problems.
Viola's brow furrows. "... Why?"
"Because we don't live here. So we can't stay."
Viola leans back again, holding on tight to the bar. "Oh... You have to go home, right?"
Home? Does either of us have a home? Meiyin's stomach aches with that sick, longing sensation. "Actually, Viola... I don't know where we'll go. But some bad people are looking for us at home, so we can't go there."
"Then you can stay here, right? My mom says I can't go home either, so this is my home. This can be your home too. You can stay with me and my mom if you want, but my bedroom is kinda small." Viola pulls herself back upright on the bar. "And then me and Ivory can play together."
"I don't think your mom would allow that," Meiyin says, allowing her gaze to drift to the elf's face. It's surprisingly impassive. "... I'm sure Ivory would love to play with you after she gets better. But we'll have to see what happens with the leader, okay? It's her town, so she has to say yes."
"Miss Emota is mean and smells, though," Viola says, pouting and leaning back. "Don't worry. I'll tell her that you can stay with me."
"I don't think that's what she's worried about. But you're very generous, Viola," Meiyin says. "I'm sure Ivory would love that."
She looks to the elf, still impassively standing near the door. If Emota can't be convinced to spare us, then maybe at least she'll allow Ivory to remain here and be cared for. To have a friend. Her eyes desperately hope to transmit this message, but... the elf shows no sign of having received it.
She looks over to Ivory. You deserve that much.
"Viola, it's time for you to practice panflute with Joisse," the elf finally says, alerting Viola to her presence.
"Sorry, I was just talking to Ivory's mom," Viola says, skipping over to the elf.
"I don't... think I really deserve that title," Meiyin mumbles to herself.
As Viola and the elf leave the clinic, Meiyin returns her attention to Ivory in her bed. Here, sleeping and pale and weak, she looks so small and vulnerable. A mother would protect her daughter. A mother would not have hurt her for her own selfish gain. A mother would have led her to a home.
Viola's words still ring in Meiyin's ears. The thought of a place to call home - a normal place, not the strict home where her mothers only gave her anything resembling love when she got good grades as she was growing up, not the dormitory where the studious Meiyin was completely out of place among her rambunctious friends, not the laboratory where success and belonging alike were measured by output, not the research facility where fraternization was frowned upon, not the battle barracks where paranoia, fighting, and bravado reigned supreme. Just... a home. With a family, and friends.
For Ivory, too. For Ivory, who had been ignored until she was worth 20 gold pieces, and thrown into Meiyin's... "care".
Ivory deserves it more, Meiyin thinks, and then she lets herself drift off to sleep as well.