Shattered Feathers Chapter 5

By Tsarmina

I woke up in Rasha’s bedroom—in her large and comfortable bed—not the small bed she had designated for me. Sure, I had woken up periodically during the excruciatingly long night, but in my state I hadn’t recognized my surroundings. Now that I did, I felt distinctly uneasy about the whole thing. Why did she put me in her bed, of all places?

I heard soft breathing next to me and was surprised to find the owner of the bed snoozing on top of the blankets. I jerked in surprise, jarring my injuries. They came screaming back into awareness and I flinched, all my energy put into not making a sound.

Rasha rolled over, bleary-eyed and having the just-woken-up look to her face. She sat up, mumbling something. “Oh!” she exclaimed once she realized what had woken her up.

“You’re not going to point out the obvious and say ‘You’re awake’, are you?” I growled, voice rough.

“How are you feeling?” she asked, genuinely concerned.

Almost as stupid a thing to say… “Like someone tried to kill me. Three someones, actually.” Speaking of which…

“I’m…glad you pulled through,” Rasha said. She frowned as the words stood. “That sounded awfully silly, didn’t it? Like some love—” She stopped and put a hand to her mouth.

The slip didn’t help my mood any—she just had to bring that up again, didn’t she? “What’s going on here?” I demanded.

“What do you mean? You were hurt, and I was—” she began, startled.

“Not that. Those thugs were pretty serious. They were sent by Rich, and I’d just love to know why they were so anxious to see me broken and bloodied in a ditch somewhere. That’s not a normal thing to do if someone is late for their rent, I would imagine—at least not as far as I’ve seen,” I spat.

“Oh, and you aren’t keeping secrets from me?” Rasha hissed. “Like, for starters, why do you have a tail like Zidane?”

I stared at her and realized, with a slowness I attributed to my injuries, that I was unclothed… And she was the only one that had been there all night, so she had— I shuddered. “What makes that your business?”

“And what makes Rich any of your business?”

“It almost got me killed!” I snarled. “My secrets won’t—” Will?? “—endanger your life, or have any effect—” Really… “—on it at all. Why your secrets are ready and very much willing to kill me!”

Her mouth worked as she sought for a reply. It came after a long pause. “You—you—bastard!” she stammered.

“People have that general impression about me… I’ve grown to like being called that,” I replied. …there’s a lie…

“It’s not meant to be a compliment,” Rasha said icily.

“Ah, well, the intention doesn’t matter too much in light of the result,” I commented.

“Do you delight in making me angry?” she cried.

“No, I don’t delight in that… I just take a grim satisfaction in knowing you’re just as frustrated with me as I am with you.”

“If this is the way you express gratitude for saving your life, then I don’t think I’ll do you any more favors again,” Rasha snapped.

“It’s your fault in the first place!” I exploded in reply.

The thought process of women… One minute she’s flaming angry and trying to murder me with words, the next minute she’s in tears calling me cruel.

“W-wait. Don’t do that!” I exclaimed. Angry people are easy enough to deal with, but a blubbering idiot…? I threw up my hands in irritation. I despised it when people cried—to much show of emotions. Emotions are not meant to be that disgustingly blatant! It’s like running up and hugging a friend you haven’t seen for a month. They know you care about them, but why be so obvious in front of everyone? Simple words would mean the same as a hug…

When no reply came from Rasha, I pushed myself out of the bed, noted the lack of any clothes whatsoever. My breath hissed angrily through my teeth at the pain. I stumbled backwards onto the bed, plopping down.

“What are you doing?” Rasha asked, her voice losing the sniveling tone for a more incredulous one. “Don’t you realize it’s too early to be getting out of bed with those wounds?” Her voice was taking on the tone of “You-Silly-Oaf-I-Would-Have-Warned-You”.

I started laughing, the sound surprising me and Rasha. Though I could not see her, I could hear her sharp intake of breath even with the peals of laughter erupting from my guts. It took me a while to stop laughing—even the pain caused me to laugh harder. Everything was just so absurd!

“Why are you laughing?” Rasha demanded once I had quieted down into gasps. “There’s nothing funny about this situation!”

“Oh, but there is. I’ve been living for the first time and yet I’m complaining about the cause of life!” I exclaimed. I turned to face her. She looked frightened—eyes wide and hand covering her mouth. And also awfully confused—it made sense to me

“…what are you ranting about? Did those wounds damage you that seriously?” Rasha asked skeptically.

I shook my head. “…I don’t expect you to understand.”

“Why not?” Obviously, I had pricked her pride. A good tactic for getting her out of certain moods and into a more tolerable one. “What would I understand about it? Other than you acting like a maniac?”

“What it’s like to live,” I said softly, humor dripping away. Visions of that day in the Iifa Tree swarmed in my mind.

Rasha scoffed. “I’m living right now, in case you hadn’t noticed! What makes you so special, so different?”

“…I’m living for the first time in my life, while you… You’ve been living since the day you were born. That’s the difference.” And isn’t it? I haven’t truly been alive until now… These days living like a person, not a Genome… I’ve lived. I’ve lived a life. I haven’t simply performed a life.

I realized something then. Before I had almost died in the Iifa Tree, I had been a character in a play—someone manipulated by a writer who made things go his way, not the way the character would go.

But…I lived! I was the unpredictable character imaginative writers love so much. I was alive… living… human. I didn’t feel like a Genome, an Angel of Death, the Dark Messenger of Garland. I felt like a person, living a life.

“…maybe it is the wounds…” I murmured.

Rasha was watching me closely, her face a mix of concern and curiosity. “Who are you?” she asked after nearly a minute of silence and studying.

I thought for a moment before answering and I found myself smiling. “Kuja, a man…” …A man, not a Genome, I added to myself.

Something playful and understanding twinkled in Rasha’s eyes. “I’d say so… You might want to cover up, man.”

My face burned as I grabbed the blankets. It was a wonder to me that someone could do that to me—another part of living in a world of unpredictability. Life was unpredictability itself, wasn’t it?

“…Kuja, a man of many secrets,” Rasha said softly.

“Rasha, a woman of secrets,” I replied playfully.

A smile twitched across her face. “You keep up with the smart-ass remarks and I’ll see that your ass smarts!”

I noticed something in her face. Exhaustion. “You didn’t sleep last night, did you?” I asked her, throwing her off guard.

“N-no. I was—”

I held up a finger. “Go to sleep. I’ll be fine. No sense in both of us losing sleep over me. I can’t sleep anymore, so you can get some.”

“…Kuja, a man of wisdom, as well…” Rasha pulled back the top blanket and slipped under it—two blankets between us, I noted.

I could tell that she fell asleep almost as soon as her head touched the pillow. I couldn’t help but smile and stepped gingerly out of the bed. My injuries put up a great protest, but not nearly as clamorously as they had earlier. I slipped on some clothes.

I walked quietly, and rather slowly, towards the window. It was a great deal larger than the window in my room, and it even had a cushioned seat. I sat down, leaning against the wall, my legs bent and up in the seat with me.

The window looked down on the main street right in front of Chantarelle Tavern. I could tell it must have been almost noon—the sun was almost centered and the crowds were mainly headed towards places to eat, including a few irked customers approaching the tavern. Rasha had probably placed a “closed” sign on the door.

With so many people milling about, they all seemed insignificant. I couldn’t help but wonder if that was all life was—being a speck of dust on a bookshelf, only to be swept aside when things became too dirt, too crowded. Yes, I lived… But at what price? Before, it was more like I mattered…but even then, I didn’t.

Is all that lives doomed to be as purposeless as all that merely exists? Is life really that important, or is it just something everyone has and it doesn’t mean anything?

But I couldn’t bring myself to think that all this had been for nothing. That would be giving up all over again, but this time on everything—life, friendship…everything I had found. Because life was important—it had to be. And Rasha… She was someone to watch my back. I knew it.

What about the secrets? Friends don’t keep deep secrets from friends. But I realized—if you can’t allow someone to keep their secrets, then isn’t that not being a friend? Everyone needs secrets—if it weren’t for those, our souls would be wide open for anybody to rend. Besides, secrets have to do with trust. You either trust someone with a secret, or you trust someone that their secret is so important to them that they cannot tell you—that it won’t harm you in the long run. But aren’t her secrets harming me? Or is that my own fault?

And Rasha saw me as more than a friend, and that worried me. Yes, I cared about her…but not anything like the way she wanted me to. Besides, how could someone who had never had a heart—who had never known love—love someone? Even slightly? I cared, but nothing more than that.

Rasha was just foolish. She had seen someone and fallen for him—it just so happened that someone was me, and I would have much preferred it be someone else.

A heart of stone wasn’t to be given away…not to someone who deserved more. A person could claim my resistance to love being a form of love…but that wouldn’t be true. It was just an attempt to explain something that no one really has every understood. I didn’t understand, nor want to understand, love and the way it worked. Life was complicated enough without mixing love in with it. But then, Rasha had managed to spill some into my life. I was receiving love from her—not the unquestioning love of a friend, but the fiery demanding love of someone who is in love.

I had used to believe women made sense… Maybe I’m just the foolish one…


Chapter 6

Final Fantasy 9 Fanfic