Too many pill bottles. The concept of taking medicine on a schedule was not as foreign as it might've been to others; his life before had been so reliant on taking birth control, after all.

I'll get to drink coffee with Neda.

The thought froze him.

He hadn't thought of Neda since he had left.

He set the bottle down, and covered his mouth, other hand clawing down into the sheets.

Really, what he had done... was so unfair to Neda.

When had she ever asked about, or for, such a thing?

He had been so selfish...

Would Neda even want to see him? Had she realized the truth?

That he stole her first kiss on purpose, out of nothing but selfishness, cowardice...

Someone knocked on the door.

" Come in," he answered without thinking; it was most likely either Nova's servant or the doctor. Maybe the nurse.

" ... You've finally let me in."

A voice that made him freeze. Not anyone he wanted to see.

" ... Lanta."

He stood in front the door, closing it.

" I can't accept you as Lyena," he said.

" I am already Lyena. There is nothing you can do about it."

" You're too weak."

" Says one who Brother has already disgraced three times, by age of twenty-six. I am only seventeen and I have claimed the eye of Fausta."

" You disgraced the empire so senselessly. And yet you plan on leaving again."

" It was only ever meant to earn me freedom I couldn't have gotten otherwise."

" Then you are a shrew."

" Leave, please."

" No."

" Leave."

" No!"

" Leave!"


Lanta's expression became harsh again, and reproachful, and he backed away, holding a hand up to his face.

" As you wish, Lyena," he spat, and turned on his heel to leave. He passed Kaama in the doorway.

" ... Kaama. Will you get me a cloth for my hand? This blood... is unclean."