This, incidentally, is the last segment in Chapter 2 of In Which.
Next, we finally return to Red Sky At Night and see what they're up to.
â€œSo you see why itâ€™s important for you to come with us.â€ Nash, having wrapped up his â€˜Defenders of Creation and Guardians of Fateâ€™ speech, made careful eye contact with Millia. â€œIn fact,â€ he added with a sidelong glance, â€œwe usually prefer to make our case alone with the new Sidereal.â€ Alakazar, leaning against the wall, studiously ignored the comment, while Serafin simply smiled blandly.
â€œWell, youâ€™re making the case alone with the new Sidereal and her foster parents.â€ Milliaâ€™s features were a study in perfect innocence, and Nashâ€™s slight frown failed to make so much as a mark on her enthusiasm. She turned away from him for a moment, and her face fell as she looked at the two beings who she had come to call parents. It was only for a moment, but Serafin saw the uncertainty and worry there before Milliaâ€™s usual cheerful disposition forced itself back onto her face.
â€œWell, it looks like Iâ€™m going to have to get used to a third home.â€ There wasnâ€™t much passion behind the quip, and Serafin quickly stepped forwards and gathered her foster daughter into a hug. After a moment, Serafin whispered quietly.
â€œAre you sure you want to do this?â€
â€œI donâ€™t.â€ Millia smiled again, tears welling in her eyes. â€œIâ€™d like to just stay here forever. But I remember enough of my last incarnation to know thatâ€™s not an option. I have a duty.â€ She kissed her mother on the cheek, and stepped backwards. â€œYou understand.â€
â€œA sacred calling.â€ Alakazar stepped forwards, with a nod, and kissed Millia on the forehead. â€œYou have always been such a brave child. How could you be otherwise, now?â€ He sighed heavily. â€œI fear it is my fate to have those I love leave me.â€
Serafin punched him in the arm, and he staggered slightly. â€œI was gone for three months.â€
â€œYou leave so often, though.â€ Alakazarâ€™s clearly faked mournful expression drew laughter from both women, and he turned to Nash. â€œSurely, however, our young ward can leave tomorrow instead of today. We must have time to give her a proper sending off.â€
Nash nodded, after a moment. â€œThat shouldnâ€™t be a problem.â€
â€œGood, because it wasnâ€™t a request.â€ Alakazar smiled brightly. â€œYou will join us, of course.â€ Nash blinked, and then nodded again, looking slightly confused, which drew a wider smile from the raksha. â€œIf you will excuse me, I must inform the staff.â€ With that comment, he inclined his head and withdrew from the room.
â€œMillia, why donâ€™t you go tell the others youâ€™re going to be leaving.â€ Serafin smiled brightly, giving her daughter another hug. â€œIâ€™m just going to chat with Nash for a moment, alright?â€
Millia nodded, and turned to leave. She paused, turned back, bowed to Nash, turned back, and hurried from the room. Nash bowed in return, straightening as he turned towards Serafin. â€œWhat did you want to speak ab-oof!â€
With a single, fluid motion, Serafin lifted the Sidereal by his collar and slammed him into the wall of the room. Dust settled from the wall, and Nashâ€™s vision blurred for a moment from the surprising strength of the blow. The little woman stood there for a moment, looking up at the Sidereal. â€œYou murdered her parents.â€
â€œI haveâ€¦ no idea whatâ€¦ you are talkingâ€¦â€
Serafin cut off the labored reply. â€œDonâ€™t treat me like a fool. Sidereal shards enter the soul at birth, not at Exaltation. You people track them ALWAYS. There is no. Possible. Way. That she could have been attacked by the fae without you discovering it immediately. And yet, somehow, she stayed with Lord Mallin for over a week before we rescued her, after they butchered her entire village.â€ Her voice lowered to a hiss. â€œYou knew we were coming. You let her village die because you wanted to have a Sidereal become close to our Court, so that you could decide whether or not we were a threat.â€
â€œIf you couldâ€¦ lower meâ€¦â€ Serafin let go of Nash with a single motion, and he dropped to the floor. Smoothing his shirt, he tried to keep his expression calm. â€œYouâ€™re half right, as it happens. But youâ€™ve gotten it backwards. I didnâ€™t send Mallin towards Millia. I sent you.â€ He met her grim-faced gaze with a stony look of his own. â€œMilliaâ€™s village was the smallest in the area that Mallin roamed. I did try to divert his attention there, but only because it was the least amount of destruction that I could manage. And then I arranged matters for you to get the information you needed to reach Mallin, so that you could save Millia. I hoped that you would take care of her from there, but it was not the goal.â€
â€œYou could have stopped him yourself.â€ Serafin glared at Nash, who took a half-step away, keeping his expression as neutral as possible.
â€œYou overestimate me. Iâ€™m the only Sidereal assigned to this region, and believe me when I tell you that you have a good eighty years of experience over me â€“ and many of my abilities work poorly against those outside the Loom of Fate. I would have been killed, and Milliaâ€™s town would still have died.â€ He sniffed. â€œYou live in a world of stories, Madame Serafin. But Creation does not follow narrative laws. Indomitable spirit is not, in fact, a match for experience and power. I did what I had to, and Iâ€™m not about to apologize for it. I did not enjoy it, but it was a necessary sacrifice.â€
â€œFine.â€ Serafin drew closer, her eyes narrowed to slits. â€œBut you should know â€“ if any of you decide that Millia is a â€˜necessary sacrificeâ€™, I will know. Iâ€™m not going to forget her, and Iâ€™m not going to forget you. And I will make sure that whomever is responsible will bleed for it.â€
â€œNoted.â€ Nash smiled shakily. â€œIs that all?â€
â€œFor now.â€ In a moment, Serafinâ€™s expression melted into a friendly, welcoming one, and she patted the Sidereal on the arm. â€œIf youâ€™re going to stay the night, youâ€™ll need a room. Come on. Iâ€™ll take you to the guest suites.â€
As they left the room, Nash chuckled nervously. â€œYou can be a very frightening woman.â€
Serafin smiled brightly. â€œI know.â€