Chapter Twenty-nine: Freedom

In under an hour, we have Kenlyi stabilized. Aside from his broken nose, there is little real damage. There were no breaks or fractures anywhere else, thankfully. The Groyin medical team sedates him in order to give the medicines time to work while reducing his pain.

“He… fought you just to be free of his dominus?” Kehl sighs and shakes his head. “Camfurdian culture is so bizarre, Janil.”

“Yeah… I suppose it is. They’re far too fixated on the concepts of duty and honor that they don’t realize the devastating effects their obsession can have. I’m… glad I’m not like that anymore.” I approach Kenlyi as he sleeps on the medical table. I help to rig a splint using Groyin supplies, and we pack one side to help with the bleeding. I touch his cheek. “I’m still by your side, even if you were an idiot.”

Kehl looks at me. “After all that, I can’t understand why you are still defending him.” I can feel him probing my mind gently, so I relax, letting him in. “Ah… promises go a long way, and I agree, we ought to find a way to bring him into the fold.”

It’s still surprising to me how easily complex ideas can be transmitted within our collective mind. In just a mere moment, I explained a lifetime of my understanding of Camfurdian culture regarding the heirarchies of submission. Yet… there is a great satisfaction that comes with simple conversation. It’s slower, more awkward, yet it gives us the chance to savor it more.

“Kehl, you didn’t have to do what you did. I… would’ve found a way.” I look down, embarrassed.

“I saw the opening. You are Groyin now… and we are one. I couldn’t let you get hurt.” He motions me over, so I leave Kenlyi’s side and approach Kehl.

His foreclaws wrap around my waist while he gently places his hands on my chest armor. I wanted to keep you safe.

I bite my lip gently and drape my arms across his shoulders. You did, Kehl. Thank you.

An awkward silence fills the room as he continues to hold me against him. I… hadn’t expected to feel… this kind of tension… yet I suppose this is twice I’ve felt it with Kehl.

When he realizes the tension, he releases me and looks away. I’m sorry.

No, Kehl, don’t be. I just… it’s awkward. I’m not… sure how… or if… we could ever get close. And… in spite of it all, I’d want Kenlyi’s blessing. I reach up and touch his face, my clawed hand gently tracing the ridge as I’ve done before.

I’ve seen, felt so many of your emotions and memories now. You have such passion, Janil. I know you care about me. He says as he reaches up for my hand, gently squeezing it.

Were our kinds closer physically, maybe there could be more. I just… don’t think it can work, as frustrating for both of us as it is. I sigh and pull my hand back.

Kehl nods. Time will tell, but the fact that you are…

His thoughts trail off, but I feel the need to complete it. I’m attracted to you, Kehl. I’ll say it so you don’t have to. A small smile slips onto my face.

I… feel the same, but I think it’s the thought that has more meaning than any physical expression of it. His eyes stare into my upper eyes.

“Maybe someday, somehow. Until then… I’m proud to be with you, however it may be. I love you, Kehl. Without you, I wouldn’t be the person I am now. You… gave me a reason to trust.” I close my eyes, and I can feel him living the memory as I remember it.

I love you, too, Janil. He smiles, then looks back at the still unconscious Kenlyi. I… hope he improves. I hope he realizes that we all care for him, too. We never wanted him to be harmed.

I want him with us. If he can’t stand as one of us, hopefully he’ll at least stand beside me. Slowly, I approach Kenlyi, placing my hand atop his.

“Unh…” He groans and reaches for his swollen face.

“Careful, Ken. Broken nose, lots of bruising.” I wrap my fingers around his, and to my relief, he squeezes.

“Thank you, Janil. I… had to fight. I needed to be free of Gouhr, and that was the way.” He coughs at the end of his rushed sentence.

“I know. I disagree with it, but I get why you felt you had to. It’s over now. As I promised, I’m still by your side.” I smile at him, then motion to Kehl. “Kehl is, too. He’s been terribly worried about you.”

“I… panicked when I talked to them, Janil. I heard his voice and all I wanted to do was please him, to make him proud of me.” Kenlyi’s sad eyes are only telling part of the tale.

“I… understand. I really do. I’d have done the same if not for the Groyin. Kenlyi… what all did you tell them?” I lift his hand and kiss it.

“Everything, Janil. I’m sorry. I… told them that you joined the Groyin collective somehow. I told them about the Aevocar.”

“Oh, no.” I look down and sigh. “Ken, if they reach then Aevocar before we do, they may could influence them. We… have to get to them as soon as possible.”

My mind focuses on the collective mind, explaining the situation in a few brief thoughts.

“Stay here, Ken. The workers will take care of you, but we have to get moving as fast as possible. We need to make sure we reach the Aevocar before they invent some lie to cut us off from them.”

Kenlyi sniffs through his one open nostril and I can see tears in his eyes. “I’m sorry, Janil. I’m sorry.”

Kehltanril reaches out and touches Kenlyi’s arm. “We forgive you. We just have to act quickly.”

I stand over him and gently kiss his lips. “I still love you, Ken.”

“I… love you, too.” He says softly, weakly.

Kehl leads me out of the room and towards the lift.

Hopefully, the slingjet is ready to go.