“Pretty sure he said he would make a veggie chili,” I replied, peering over the side of the cart to see if I was correct.
Tobih looked a bit excited. “I love a good hearty meal.”
“We’ve had hearty meals for the past… well, I can’t remember not having something so heavy on the stomach now.” I slumped a bit, confirming that it was indeed chili. “I wish that I could have something sweet for once, you know? I love his cooking, but.. well… I guess- I guess I come from a place that sweets are more than common.”
“You lived on Manor Hill, huh?” He could guess so easily.
“It wasn’t really a choice I got to make.” I was reminded of how my ‘parents’ had treated me more like a runaway child who was likely to do it again. “…. I guess I did anyway, huh?” The last part followed without my realizing.
“So you did get to make that choice?” Tobih attempted to clarify.
“Oh, no. I didn’t… I guess I was quite lucky to live there so I can’t complain about the location.
“No, the people who found me, they took me to live with them while I was still dazed and disoriented. I guess they became attached to me and became afraid of letting me out of the house. I always just thought it was innocent and they didn’t want me to make a fool of myself by blurting out something I shouldn’t have. The more I think about it, though, the more I think that they were keeping me there for other reasons.”
I brushed my hair behind my ear and adjusted my legs. “Anyway, I was just thinking that they treated me a lot like a child who would run away if I could set foot outside of our district. In the end, I suppose I did.”
“Wait a minute.” A look of confusion swept across his face. I suddenly realized that he had never heard about my life story. I had been so comfortable with him that I assumed he knew everything about me. Angel’s voice was ringing in the back of my mind, however, telling me not to spill too much.
But that was unfair, wasn’t it? He had so much trust in me and yet I couldn’t trust him with this. No, I could trust him with this, even if Angel didn’t.
“Can I tell you a secret?” My voice lowered to a whisper.
He followed suit, “You know it’s a really good secret when you have to whisper it.”
A sense of embarrassment rushed over me, as if I knew he wouldn’t believe me and knowing how stupid it would sound. I paused and rethought it, trying to think of a possible scapegoat secret I could tell him instead.
“You can tell me anything.” His response was reassuring.
I felt my face grow red and I looked straight into his eyes, “I just really hope you believe me.”
Tobih smiled, “I’m absolutely gullible.”
So he did know.
“I came from Ascalon City, over two centuries ago.” I put that information up first. It was really the hook of my story.
“I’m currently immortal…” I continued while tapping my fingers nervously on my leg.
“I know.” He was serious and confident in his words. He must have seen the dumbfounded look on my face because he continued, “It wasn’t difficult to figure out. You and Angel and Ragnvaldr don’t hide it very well. I can hear you and Angel talking at night. I know why she doesn’t sleep and I know why this is so important to you.
“That’s exactly why I said I wouldn’t let anyone else die before you, but it seemed to slip by unnoticed.”
“You just went along with it all, then?” I asked.
His face had gotten a little more serious since I started my story and it only became completely serious just then.
“Angel would have blamed you for telling me if I let on that I knew about it. I know that with these serious topics, she tends to want payment in blood. You remember how she reacted at the Granite Citadel. I had only just saved you from having even more injuries.
“Sometimes I don’t know what she’s thinking. She isn’t mean on purpose, I don’t imagine. Seems more like tough love to me. But an amnesic elementalist versus a skilled warrior? You can prove your skill to her, sure, but that won’t stop her. When she fights, she forgets herself completely. She would kill without hesitation and only realize what she’s done after.” I hadn’t seen him so passionate with his words before. He only ever spoke so politely and suddenly it was as if the floodgates had opened and he began to vent to me.
“I absolutely love her to death, but if she ever injured you even close to seriously, I would never forgive her. I couldn’t.” His hair had fallen in front of his face. I instinctively pushed it back behind his ears, as I had done for my own hair earlier. He grabbed my hand and sighed. “You’re so brave.” Tobih stayed like that for several tens of seconds.
“In these hands of someone who was to be a soldier are the hands of a scholar – a scholar who is braver than any soldier or person I have ever met. A scholar who has been through so much and still has trust left for me.
“Claire… Alucardalina… I respect you more than I ever have for coming to me about this, for trusting me with this.”
“Even though you already knew it all?” Emotions were running really high at the moment and my heart was beating faster than I could imagine.
He cut through the tension with a small smile, “Even though I knew it all already. It isn’t an easy subject is it?” I shook my head.
Tobih let out a huge sigh and followed that with his usual smile. He used my hand, which was still in his, to pull me into a hug.
“You shouldn’t tell Angel that I know,” Tobih warned.
I tapped my fingers on my leg again. “I really hate keeping secrets from friends, you know.”
“I know, and I’m sorry for that. This one doesn’t have to be a secret if you don’t want it to be,” he assured me.
Perhaps everyone has a secret side to them that only a select few know about. I had stood against Angel in battle and soon after saw her true motives. While earlier I thought that perhaps Tobih was a little slow on picking up things, now I realized that he was really intelligent at reading others.
Sitting upright again, I finally returned that smile back to him.
“So I want to hear more about your life on Manor Hill and about your parents…” he requested, which kept the two of us talking until it was time to eat that evening.