Chapter IX

Return to Duty

Khimi sits restlessly in his bed and tosses his sheets aside. The fuck is wrong with me? He asks himself. His dark locks fall across his brow, and he quickly brushes it from view. Maybe he’s right, maybe I am the one who needs space. All I’ve thought about since he’s come to Rhaz is how poorly I have been handling things…I can’t have these distractions…I can’t have him. He sighs aloud, sitting up in his bed and looking over at the wading pool where Lumi had left his garb. He had not bothered to pick up Lumi’s things, nor did he have the courage to bring them to the shrine. It had already been a week since Lumi left, and within that week he felt he had clarity for the first time in what felt like ages.         

Forcing himself out of bed, he walks towards the bundle of black fabric, the golden metallic bits catch the light through the open windows. Golden anklets lie scattered around the area. He imagines how Lumi must have felt entering the room after his brawl with Rashid. He envisions Lumi ripping off his clothing and running into the cool water. He crouches down, picking up theloincloth by the string. This…thing. It barely covers anything…he never even wore this when I was around. Shame. He chuckles to himself, then brings the cloth closer for inspection. The smell is strong, Lumi’s scent, a sweet sweat. There is an alluring nature about it that Khimi struggles to comprehend. A pain at the back of his head, a pinch of desire. The few memories of the times he had laid against Lumi rush back to him. He thinks of all the things he wanted to do to Lumi, to do with Lumi.

Khimi finds himself aroused at the imagery filling his head while he takes a seat beside the pool. He grunts and lowers his back against the ground, his body tenses against the cold tile. With a sharp breath, he inhales Lumi’s scent from the dark fabric while he begins to imagine Lumi laying on top of him, his tail flicking across his thighs. Lumi’s expression is pleading, and Khimi can not help but touch him. Khimi’s thick fingers grip into Lumi’s supple ass, rubbing his cock rubbing between the soft cheeks. He begins to stroke himself, allowing his imagination to run rampant. His breathing becomes labored after several moments, his hips thrusting from the ground into his hand, imagining Lumi atop, riding him. The thought of what it must feel like to enter Lumi, the warmth he so desperately craves, the soft body. He’s always so fucking cute, Khimi growls, his tongue reaches out and runs along the inner lining of Lumi’s loincloth. The saltiness of Lumi’s dried sweat fills his mouth. He imagines Lumi’s cock against the soft fabric, his small form glistening with sweat, Khimi groans. After thrusting hard against his hand, Khimi releases a lusty groan, arching his back. Thick ribbons of cum spray across his abdomen, a string of white across his copper skin. He lowers his back against the tile, running his hand across his slickened stomach. He regains his breathing. The thick fluid sticks into his coarse bed of pubic hair. Releasing a lengthy sigh, his hand teasing through the coarse hair, separating the sticky substance.

The fuck is wrong with me? He can not help but think about Lumi, no matter how hard he tries, thoughts of the aslan are invasive, permeating every corner of his mind. He spread his arms wide across the floor, his body cooling as he lay alone on the cold tile floors. A loud knock on the door startles him, and he leaps to his feet and places Lumi’s clothing beneath the colorful pillows on the bed.

“A moment,” Khimi calls loudly to the door.

Rashid grumbles through the door, “I don’t like standing around.” BANG! BANG!“Wake up, boy!”

Khimi shakes his head in frustration and walks into the pool, splashing water over his semen soaked abdomen to rinse off. After grabbing a bottle of perfumed oil and pouring the liquid into his hand, he rubs the jasmine scented oil across himself. He cannot help but remember bathing with Lumi back at the temple and finds himself becoming aroused. Dammit! He wraps his fingers around his throbbing member and attempts to clear his head, pushing the thoughts of the Lumi to the fringes of his mind. Pervasive thoughts continue against his wishes, images of Lumi laying against himself, naked with a cheerful grin. Khimi scoffs, that stupid fucking smile.

KHIMI!” Rashid calls through the door, his fist slams against the wooden door, “UP!”

Khimi rushes from the pool, water splashes across the tiles in his haste. “Fine!” He replies with a hint of defiance in his voice.

Khimi dresses in his linen trousers, yet Lumi’s words, infectiously return to mind. ‘Do you wear loose trousers cause your cock is so big?’ A smile forms on his lips, the memory of their impromptu journey into the alley returns to him. He buttons his shirt, and arranges the brightly patterned waist-scarf around his hip, then takes a moment to appreciate his appearance in the mirror. Admiring his form, he looks at the stubble on his chin, thumbing over the length of the hair. Not wanting to keep his advisor waiting any longer, he marches for the door and removes the bolt to the sight of an angry Rashid tapping his foot.

“Did you enjoy grooming y’reself?” Rashid grumbles, impatience clear in his tone. “We’re keeping Omar waiting,” he says brusquely. “Bloody Omar!”

 Omar, a constant source of grief for Khimi. The Merchant Prince, known throughout the Desert Cities for being one of the largest advocates of the slave trade, had recently become quite fond of harassing the Cerulean Star. Over several months, men under Omar’s employ had interrupted caravans and made it a point to ensure their employer was known.

“Omar can stew for a few more minutes. He could sweat off a few pounds anyway,” Khimi replies sharply.

“Best not to talk about your esteemed guests in such a way,” Rashid mocks, looking over at Khimi with a grin. “Though, he could afford to shed some of his excess baggage.”

“Sorry, Rashid,” Khimi sighs, pressing his fingers to his temples. “My damn mind is poisoned, I swear it.”

Rashid glances out of the corner of his eye at Khimi while they walk towards the courtyard. “Don’t worry. I know y’re going through it…at least it’s sorted. It’s sorted, right?”

Khimi groans, his tone strained, “I would like your advice on something after we meet with Omar.”

“If it’s about the aslan, ya know my thoughts,” Rashid says, his eyes narrowing before they approach the courtyard. “We can discuss this later, now clear y’re mind. The only thing that is heavier than Omar’s weight may be his intellect. Can’t have ya actin’ a love struck fool now.”

Khimi exhales deeply, “Right, of course,” he replies, staring at the large man sitting at the small round table across from them.

The courtyard is quiet, not a sound can be heard other than the movements of the palm fronds. Several servants from both the Kappas Estate and the Zeybek Estate wait beneath the awning. The small table at the center of the courtyard is dwarfed by the massive man. To Khimi it appears almost comical. But he hides his smile and forces himself forward.

Omar places his hands on the table as if to stand. He stops when they draw near, “Lord Zeybek,” he smiles, hardly out of his seat.

Khimi flashes his teeth in a smile at his approaches, “Merchant Prince Omar. May the win–”

“Enough pleasantries,” Omar cuts, a wicked smirk on his lips. Moisture wicks across his wet brow. “We’ve got business to discuss!” He adds, wringing his hands together. “Please, be seated.”

A sense of fury wells through Khimi at being offered a seat in his own home, “Thanks, Omar,” he smiles coolly.

Rashid grimaces, then takes a seat between Khimi and Omar. “Alright then, let’s begin, shall we?”


Hours later, the grueling meeting comes to a close, Khimi sighs in the iron chair beside Rashid. Together they watch Omar stride through the rounded archway towards the street, followed by two servants. Khimi looks to Rashid, noticing the look of discomfort on his advisor’s face. Omar’s veiled threats had become expected by Khimi at this point, but it was clear that Rashid was disquieted by the rival merchant. Rashid had warned Khimi before he agreed to operate his family’s trade routes through Rhaz that there were many dangerous men in the business, and he knew that Omar was one such man he should never let his eyes off.

“What’s the matter?” Khimi asks, leaning back in his chair, tilting it onto two legs. “Does big Omar put the fear of the Gods into you?” He asks with a laugh.

“We need to watch him, Khimi,” Rashid says in a whisper. “If we lose that trade route to Sidi, ya won’t just have Omar to worry bout. Ziad I am sure will have something to say about the matter.”

Khimi’s lips turn into a thin line, “I would kill him before I’d allow that to happen,” he says, becoming suddenly serious. His eyes narrow at Rashid. “You know how much my family sacrificed to secure that trade route?” He asks angrily.

“Aye, Ziad told me a dozen or so times when you were a kid,” Rashid begins. “The Zeybek family forfeited most of their wealth for the opportunity to take over what would become the richest trade route on Talmus,” he adds in a playful sing-song manner. “It’s the pride of the Zeybek name. I know, I know!”

“Then you know that I’d never allow Omar to take control of that route,” Khimi responds, pulling a stiletto from his boot. He growls while he digs the cuticle from around his nails.

Rashid sighs. “I am y’re advisor and protector, Khimi…I don’t enjoy hearing ya speak of murder. Just say the word though, and I’ll send a message to Ziad,” he adds, folding his arms on the colorful glass table. “Ziad can and will have a hundred mercenaries here in two days time…then the murder would be on his hands.”

“Don’t involve him,” Khimi whispers, folding his own arms on the table. He leans forward. “Or else, Rashid…” he says, playfully brandishing the dagger towards him. “I want to handle this myself.”

Rashid laughs thinly, staring at Khimi’s brandished stiletto. “Now what did ya want my advice on?”

“Right, well..I’d been thinking about this throughout the week,” Khimi begins, tapping the Sidian stiletto on the glass table. “Since I’ve been away from Lumi, I’ve felt a strong sense of lucidity so to speak…for my duty to my family and to my station,” he pauses, gauging the elderly man’s expression. “Yet, I’ve felt a sense of emptiness at the same time…a longing.”

Rashid sighs and leans over the table. “I’ve already said it before, after Lumi and I had our little match. The aslan has a lot of life in him, I like him…but he’s young and immature. He’ll end up hurting someone or himself. I just don’t think it’s a proper fit. But…I’ve also told ya for years, ya should have spent time being a kid and enjoyed y’reself instead of worrying about y’re duty. So, if he makes you happy, then so be it,” He shrugs. “The Zeybek’s have enough money to hire any number of staff required to run this place.”

“I am the last of my family’s line,” Khimi responds, his fingers pressed against his forehead.

Rashid slams his fist onto the glass table. “Khimi! I’ve raised ya as my own! Do ya understand how painful it is for me…” Rashid says angrily, he turns his head. “I’d do anything to see ya happy, if it means forsaking your family and walking y’re own path in life. Then do it! I’d gladly protect ya from whatever displeasure y’re father sends,” he adds with a zeal befit a Paladin of Balance. “But long as y’re here…I will make sure ya act the part.”

Tch, always with the speeches,” Khimi replies, putting his hands over his face. “I will…take your words into consideration.”

“Far be it from me to attempt to hurry you along on your path, but an old friend of mine from the shrine told me Lumi’s taken up with some new friends. Travelers, from my understanding, a Lorian and another beastkin. A canis I believe,” Rashid says, leaning in to Khimi.

“I told him I thought he needed space…and time,” Khimi says, leaning back again with an exasperated sigh. “I said that maybe the time he was spending here in Rhaz was too much for him…I offered him my chambers. I even said I would stay in the main house.”

Rashid’s eyes widen at his words. “Y’re…atrocious with relationships,” he says, shaking his head. “I understand why the aslan left now. Ya told him that he needed time…when ya were having second thoughts?” He scoffs. “I may not like him all that much, but at least I understand him.”

“You’re the one that said he needed time,” Khimi groans and looks about the empty yet comforting courtyard, its lush landscape speaking to The Zeybek’s success. “I…have feelings for Lumi,” he whispers, somewhat saddened. “I just feel my duty should outweigh my personal desires.”

Rashid pulls on the short beard along his chin, “There is a line that you can walk between the two, Khimi,” Rashid whispers. “It doesn’t have to be one way or the other. If y’re worried about how Ziad will think about his son being the last of his line, perish the thought. That isn’t something that ya need to worry about.”

“Ignore my duty to continue the family line? The one my parents begged the Gods to continue?” Khimi scoffs, tilting his chair dangerously far back. “Imagine it, if Aleyna discovered I threw aside all of her efforts to continue the Zeybek name…for nothing.”

Rashid leans halfway across the table, “I am serious, Khimi,” he says, slapping his hand on the glass. “Aleyna and Ziad will still love ya no matter what, y’re their only son!” He pleads.

Khimi scoffs. “Aleyna…yes,” he begins, “But you know as well as I, Ziad…is not the same. If I don’t produce an heir…”

Rashid remains silent, only nodding his head at Khimi’s words. The truth, plain on his face.

“Anyway, let us change the subject,” Khimi sighs, allowing his chair to fall forward with a loud clang.

NO!” Rashid insists, he bangs his arms on the glass table once more. Small cracks forming across its face.

“Settle down, Rashid,” Khimi says, his eyes dart away from Rashid while he continues. “I just need some time…I need to figure out what I think is right.”

Rashid shakes his head, “While I told ya to take some time…I didn’t mean that ya should allow the only person ya care about, the first one, might I add. To just walk away,” Rashid groans, his cheeks turning red in frustration. “Ignore what I think about him and follow y’re own damned heart!”

“I-I just need to think!” Khimi spits, slamming his arms on the glass table. Splits in the colored glass run across its surface. He exhales sharply, looking at Rashid. “I just need some time, Rashid…it’s difficult…I’ve never been one to express my emotions…the thought of loving someone…it’s like giving myself a weakness…something that can be exploited.”

Rashid scoffs, “Love is like that, though,” he says softly. “It’s a weakness ya learn to accept. It’s something ya just learn to deal with. But I assure ya, throwing away y’re chance at happiness…that is just foolish. I may feel y’re pairing isn’t perfect, but if it makes ya happy…don’t let it escape ya.”

“Noted,” Khimi says pointedly, crossing his arms in defiance. He sits staring at the red-faced Rashid until a calm comes over him. “I suppose I should prepare for Omar’s feast tonight, it would be in bad taste to not show up.”

“I don’t believe I will be going tonight,” Rashid mumbles, standing from the table. He looks down at the cracked colored glass. “Sorry about the table,” he mutters. “I need ya to take my advice seriously, though, Khimi.”

“I have always considered your advice,” Khimi says under his breath. “I suppose I’ll see you tomorrow?” He calls out to Rashid while his advisor turns his back on him.

“Course,” Rashid responds, waving his hand behind him before he walks beneath the arch of the courtyard.

Khimi sighs and stands from the table. He takes a moment in the silence of the empty courtyard to look at the glass table. The cracks running through it create a beautiful and dazzling effect when the light shines through. With his stiletto, he smashes the pommel against the top, the glass breaks and scatters onto the sandstone. His eyes brim with tears of frustration, he thinks back on the conversation. Even though you so clearly dislike him, you’d want me to pursue him? Blood drips through his fingers before he notices the gash left from a stray shard. He snorts and pushes the stiletto back into his boot, then returns to his room deep in thought.

Omar’s Feast

Khimi climbs the marble stairs of Omar’s estate. He reaches the top of the stairs and shakes his head at the excessively outlandish nature of the feast. Through an archway, there are hundreds of men and women flocking about, tables filled to the brim with unique dishes ranging from braised and buttered cuttlefish to veal shanks. Around the courtyard, covered walkways stay lit with large chandeliers, pillar candles drip bits of wax while they burn. Billowing red silk curtains hang around the pillars, providing a bit of privacy to those skulking along the walkways. Figures walk in and out of the grandiose estate through the seemingly endless number of entrances. A vulpo woman sings near the backside of the courtyard, her voice is soft and melodious. Khimi approaches one of the tables, taking a small almond and orange blossom pastry from the silver tray. He holds it to his nose. Not like I could smell poison anyway. Or that Omar would murder…everyone, he thinks and shrugs to himself before he breaks off a bite. Chewing on the pastry, a sudden fear pops into his mind; struggling internally over whether Omar’s baker is more skilled than his own. I think his is better… Hells.

“Something wrong, Khimi?” A taunting voice asks from behind.

Khimi smiles to himself, “Ennui,” he says, turning as his pastry crumbles, bits falling to the ground. “Shit,” he grumbles, panicking to pick up the crumbs adorning the spotless floor.

Ennui laughs, “Just leave it. Everyone here is trash anyway.”

“Surprised to see you here,” Khimi says with a startled expression. “And you aren’t in leather, another surprise.”

“You like my look?” She asks, performing a playful twirl. “Do you think it’s too much?” She asks cautiously. The gentle silks cling to her form in the blues and golds of the Zeybek estate.

“I’m not the most fashionable person…but the blue silk and the golden embroidery looks nice,” he says, looking around the room curiously. “So who did you come with?”

“No one that important,” Ennui replies with a chipper laugh. “Oh, and you’re looking rather dapper yourself,” she smiles, slapping his arm while she walks past him. “Back to carousing.”

Khimi stands by the table, watching Ennui walk towards a large crowd of men. Must be looking for her next victim, he thinks to himself. Walking around the open courtyard, he spots various merchants he had worked with in the past. Several of them offer gestures of greeting from a distance but none approach. Cowards. Annoyed by the success of Omar’s feast, he climbs a set of alabaster stairs to the second floor. Along the balcony and above the covered pathway, Khimi finds himself enjoying the view of the fête. The show is a treat for the eyes, and he finds himself enjoying watching the way the merchants interact among one another. A mental list of those who approach Omar and those who keep their distance begins to form in his mind, while Rashid’s words of warning about Omar ring in his ears.

The spectacle undergoes changes with the passing time and the crowd continues to pour in. His eyes trained on Omar, Khimi watches the merchant prince make his way around the courtyard, making sure to stop and speak with the most prominent merchants. Khimi chuckles to himself. If they don’t see through his bullshit, they’re the dumbest sacks of shit. A sudden unnerving feeling comes across him, his hairs stand up on the nape of his neck and he turns. A woman approaches, a large colorful glass in her hands. Her lengthy red hair sits just below her shoulders, and she brushes the strands aside to reveal her shoulders peppered with freckles.

She lifts the cup in greeting, “Wine?” She offers with a golden chalice held up to Khimi.

Khimi shrugs, “S-Sure,” he stutters, taking the golden chalice. “And who do I have to thank for this libation?” He asks, leaning back against the balcony railing.

The woman remains silent, her fingers brush against a large golden choker about her neck, an emerald in the center matches the green of her eyes. After a moment of hesitation, “Just call me Jilliana,” she says, smiling coyly.

Khimi itches the scar on his cheek, “It sounds familiar,” he says, racking his brain to remember why the name echoes through the depths of his mind.

“My family comes from Loria, I am not too familiar with many people from this city,” she says, clinking her glass chalice against his. She takes a long drink of wine, then clears her throat. “Besides, I find it’s better to forget ourselves at these things.”

“Well then, Jilliana…what brings you up here?” Khimi asks, swirling the wine around the chalice before taking a careful sip.

Jilliana flashes a bright smile, “If I were to tell you that I saw a beautiful man standing alone,” she says with a smile. “I just couldn’t leave him alone, I guess,” she adds, tapping her palm against the side of the chalice.

Khimi recoils uncomfortably, “I don’t know if beautiful would be the right word,” he says with a grin over his chalice.

“Certainly dashing at least,” Jilliana corrects herself.

“Some say handsome,” he corrects, laughing while she shakes her head from side to side, her red locks covering her cheeks.

“I don’t even know your name and I can already tell you’re a fun one,” she says, smirking and drawing closer. “And what name does the handsome stranger go by?” She asks, sitting next to Khimi on the rail, her silvery voice is smooth as satin.

Khimi musters a smile, “Friends call me Khimi,” he murmurs, looking down into his chalice of wine.

“Well then, Khimi. How about we forget about our worldly duties and indulge in excessive libations to make this…event a bit more enjoyable,” She says, putting a hand on his arm.

“I can’t say I am opposed to a drink or two,” he replies, looking over his shoulder while more individuals flow into the estate. “I’d like to ask you something, Jilliana. If I may?”

Jilliana smiles, “Of course! After all, I believe that is the whole purpose of these types of things…to get to know others. Is it not?” she asks, following his eyes into the crowd.

“Do you have anyone important in your life?” Khimi asks suddenly. His stomach churns, his thoughts becoming muddled.

She looks at Khimi with a look of shock, before her expression gradually becomes one of curiosity. “No one that matters,” she replies, shaking her head while she looks over the groups of merchants. “I’d ask you the same, but I couldn’t care what the answer is,” she says, chuckling with a flirtatious laugh.

“I’ll go get us some bottles,” Khimi says, peeling himself from the railing. “I have a feeling this event will last much longer than I can endure,” he adds with a grin.

Jilliana’s soft lips curl into a smirk, “I’ll keep our spots,” she says. “They’re the best seats in the house, after all.”

The two polish off several bottles of strong reds before he feels the effects of the drink. The courtyard spins and everything seems to shake up and down slightly. Jilliana, seemingly unfazed by the drinks, switches to the more potent ouzo. Khimi, not wanting to be outdone by the lean red-head, begins to drink more heavily to meet her pace.

After hours of watching singers and performers from the balcony, the two begin to explore the estate, the drunken Khimi stumbling slightly. Jilliana offers to help stabilize him while they walk down the beautifully decorated hallways and past gaudy marble pillars. The estate is just how Khimi had anticipated, an ostentatious display of wealth. Alabaster statues line the halls, figures Khimi would recognize if he could see straight. They continue onward, a familiar figure walks past Khimi, hanging onto a man’s arm. Ennui pauses a moment, raising her eyebrows, and watches him walk past her with Jilliana. He whips around and looks at Ennui, while she turns back to look at him. He can see her mouthing something to him, confusion clear on her face. Khimi smirks drunkenly. What in the blazes is she doing? They round the corner, Jilliana opens a door and Khimi looks at her with a baffled expression while she tugs him into the darkness.

“I thought you may want a bit of privacy,” Jilliana says, leading him by the hand to an upholstered chair with a Rhazian pattern.

Khimi looks about the room, “I should prob-baly go home,” he stutters, while Jilliana removes her sandals.

Jilliana glides toward him and pushes him onto the chair. Khimi leans back while she eases onto his lap and faces him with an excited grin. Khimi can smell the strong scent of roses from her hair. His nose sweeps across her hair while her fingers run beneath his shirt, scraping across his abdomen.

“You’re muscular for a merchant,” Jilliana whispers into his ear, then peers into his eyes. “I’m so glad you decided to look around the estate with me.”

“I-I try to keep up with myself, I suppose,” Khimi replies, watching the woman on his lap.

“Suppose,” she laughs at his choice of words. “This,” she begins with a teasing squeeze on his chest, “is more than ‘I suppose’. THIS is craftsmanship. Hells, the girls would eat you up in Loria.”

Khimi tilts his head back, again pervasive thoughts of Lumi flood into his mind like a plague. His cheerful laughter and stupid smirk are enough to cause Khimi’s heart to thump.

Jilliana sits up, looking directly into Khimi’s eyes. Khimi stares back into the woman’s bright greens. Her hand grazes against the nape of his neck while she pulls him towards her and presses their lips together. Jilliana’s lips part, attempting to press her tongue into Khimi’s mouth. What am I doing? Khimi thinks. His lips slowly open, allowing her slick tongue to brush against his own. He closes his eyes, feeling his shirt being lifted under his arms. She pulls back from their kiss and pulls Khimi’s shirt over his head. Her fingertips press against his chest, squeezing his musculature and without warning brings her lips back against his, her hands move down his abdomen, tugging at his sarouel. Khimi pulls on the knot of his silk waist cloth, feeling it slide from his hips. Why? She reaches into the trousers, palming along the base of the softened cock.

“Something the matter?” She asks, pulling back from their kiss. “Too much to drink?”

Khimi closes his eyes, “Perhaps it’s the drink,” he whispers, pressing his eyelids shut.

 Khimi struggles to become aroused. Jilliana pushes herself against him. He tilts his head to the side and begins to imagine Lumi. The boyish figure laying on his bed, the smoothness of Lumi’s skin beneath his fingers while he traces along his body, the heat which had enveloped his fingers. Desperately, he finds himself imagining entering Lumi, pressing inside. He can hear the soft whimpers from Lumi’s lips. His cock gradually hardens and Jilliana’s hand moves more rapidly. She slides his trousers down to his mid-thigh, his erection leaps firmly before her. Khimi opens his eyes and Jilliana pulls her shift up, exposing her fattened pale lips. She grips the base of Khimi’s girth, then flicks the swollen head between the wet slit. He closes his eyes again and imagines Lumi atop of him. The cheerful laughter, the soft lilting accent, his sing-song voice. The way his ass feels in his hands, how his cock wants to pierce into Lumi’s warmth.

“Are you enjoying yourself?” Jilliana asks, observing Khimi’s expression.

Khimi shifts his head, “Can’t say I’m not,” he mutters. The memory of Lumi lying naked before him after their night in the alley pops back into his mind. Fuck me. Hells. Desperately, he wishes to relive that night. He would wake Lumi and have his way with him time and time again, yet instead he suffers with regret. No matter how much he tries, each time he opens his eyes, he finds himself wanting to close them again. He forces himself to imagine Lumi, to feel Lumi. The sharp aetherial eyes stare back at him, piercing through his soul. Even now, he can feel Lumi’s want. The desire that Lumi expressed for him, and he so callously denied for the sake of his duty.

Jilliana presses her lips against Khimi’s neck. I can’t do this…I can’t. I’ll never see him again. Khimi puts his hands on Jilliana’s shoulder while she begins pressing herself down over his girth. She gasps loudly once the swollen head pushes into her. I can’t. Khimi grasps the waistband of his sarouel and pulls them up. He tucks his cock away, pulling his trouser back on. Jilliana stares confused at Khimi and presses her hands against his bare chest. Everything he had been building with Lumi would crumble if he found out, yet he knew he had to tell him everything that transpired.

“Wh-What’s wrong?” She asks, a worried expression on her face. “It’s only natural to be a little shy.”

“I’ve got somewhere I need to be,” Khimi replies, pushing her off of his lap.

Jilliana growls, “Excuse me?” She asks angrily.

“This isn’t a good idea,” Khimi replies, collecting his waist scarf from the floor. “It’s late.”

Khimi rushes to the door, the immense guilt of his actions weigh down upon him. What have I done? Aslan keep multiple spouses…maybe he won’t think anything of it, he thinks, knowing better. He rips the door open to find Ennui standing on the other side, her pinched face a mix of anger and disappointment. His head aches with pain.

“What the fuck,” Ennui says in an angry whisper, looking first at Khimi, then Jilliana behind him. “I…thought we talked this through?” She asks, with confusion.

“Look, Enn-” Khimi begins, stumbling forward and leaning his arm against the wall. He empties the contents of his stomach on a beautiful hand woven Rhazian rug.

Ennui shakes her head, “How much did you drink?” She grumbles, watching Khimi hurl repeatedly, “Seriously, Khimi? Get the fuck up.”

“Apparently, too much,” Jilliana says, slamming the door in Ennui’s face.

BITCH!” Ennui shouts against the wooden door.

“It wasn’t the drink,” Khimi says quietly. “I feel…I made a horrible mistake.”

“Yeah, no shit,” Ennui agrees, shrugging in frustration. “You’re lucky I have a soft spot for you,” she groans, grabbing Khimi by the arm and lifting. “I suppose it would be too much to ask her for your shirt?”

“Ennui, let’s go,” Khimi says, looking at the door. “I’d rather go shirtless than spend another moment here.”

“Fine, let me find your shirt first,” she chuckles, then rips the door wide open, returning a moment later with Khimi’s linen shirt.

“Thanks,” Khimi mouths while they begin walking down the extravagant hallway.

“I know you’ve had a lot to drink…any chance you’d want a bottle for the walk home?” She asks with a grin.

Khimi smirks sheepishly, “You know I can’t turn down a drink.”

Khimi watches Ennui dash down the hallway then vanish around a corner before returning with two large bottles. He cannot stop himself from smiling and begins to chuckle. Palming the bottle over in his hand, he struggles to see the vineyard’s mark. The cork slides out with a pop, and he takes a swig while Ennui does the same with hers.

Ennui raises her brow. “So, shall I escort you back home?” She asks while walking down the marble stairs.

Khimi looks up to the stars, “I’d like to walk around a bit before going back home,” he says, turning to face Ennui. “I think there is something I-I need to do.”

Broken Trust

Khimi and Ennui flounder through the streets of Rhaz, their path illuminated by the golden glow of the ever burning lanterns. Palms sway gently in the wind, the bellies of their fronds shining with the light. Khimi thinks back to several weeks ago when he had carried Lumi past this very spot and remembers telling the sleeping aslan about the origins of the city, hoping to make conversation. Lost in his thoughts, he sighs loudly. Ennui cocks an eyebrow at him and tosses the emptied wine bottle down an alleyway. The sound of it breaking against a wall brings a smile to her cheeks, and she chuckles drunkenly, gripping onto Khimi’s arm. Just ahead of them is the shrine, a location that Khimi had been circling for some time, he wanted to rush in and tell Lumi everything. Every step up the sandstone stairs is a battle, and Khimi gathers his courage bit by bit.

“I want to watch,” Ennui says, grinning drunkenly. “I did all that work, and I never got to see the boy that caught Master Zeybek’s heart…or cock, whichever it is.”

Khimi looks up to the stars. “It’s late, I doubt he’s still up, only a few hours till sunrise.”

“He’s up,” she insists. “Felines enjoy being up during the night and sleeping in the sun, just like their beast counterparts. Hells, that’ll be something for you to look forward to, being woken up at the wee hours of the morning when he begs for his morning meals.”

“W-We can, we can look,” Khimi says, taking his first step onto the path to the shrine. “Morning meals?” He asks with narrowed eyes back at his friend.

“Yes!” she exclaims, squeezing Khimi’s arm and bringing her hand to her mouth in a lurid sucking motion. “You know, his morning milk…but anyway, I’ll stay back and let you do the talkin’.”

Khimi grimaces, “You really are a devil, aren’t you?”

They walk up the small sets of stairs into the shrine, the sound of trickling water grows louder. Atop a set of sandstone stairs sits a large arch, water drips across its front to create a screen of rain. Torches on iron sconces burn low around the vicinity, the area much darker than the streets they just left. Khimi shrugs to Ennui, and they walk through together, the trickling water soaking through their clothes. He takes one last sip of the flask, wiping his mouth with his arm after he finishes. Ennui stands back, allowing Khimi to continue past her for some distance before she seems to mysteriously vanish into the darkness. Walking deeper along the path, the surrounding area grows darker by the moment, the distance between torches growing further apart. Eventually, Khimi hears the sound of several men laughing, and he perks up at the sound of Lumi’s voice. Of course, he’s up. Beneath an overgrown palm, Khimi spots Lumi seated on some uneven cobbles, a small group of acolytes playing cards. That familiar feeling comes across him, filling him while he steps forward. Lumi’s tail sways behind him across the tiles. He brushes his hair from his brow, and another man reaches forward, pushing it back for him. The drunkenness leaves his body, instantly sobering him, while he watches Lumi flash a smile and laugh. Who the fuck is that? His thoughts break the moment Lumi’s eyes look up and meet him. Khimi stops in his tracks and Lumi stands swifter than Khimi can blink, cards falling from his trembling hands.

Time stills, their gazes fix on another from across the short distance. Khimi wants to run, to embrace Lumi and hold him in his arms, but he waits; frozen. The acolytes begin to rise around Lumi, surprised by the disturbance. Feet like lead, Khimi takes the first step forward, their eyes continue to pierce into each other. Lumi. Lumi’s cheeks brighten and Khimi can see the excitement across his face.

“Khimi?” Lumi shouts, his body shaking.

The man next to Lumi shields his eyes from the nearby firelight. “Who is it?”

Feeling overwhelmed with emotions and the effects of the alcohol. Khimi stumbles for words. “Lumi,” he whispers so softly it is almost inaudible to himself.

 Lumi jumps over the few seated acolytes and dashes to him, the heat radiating from Lumi warms him. He wraps his arms around him, his face pressed tightly to his chest. His tail jerks and flicks from side to side in excitement. Unsure of how to respond, Khimi brings his arms around him, pressing Lumi’s face against his chest, his hands coiled in the blond locks. Lumi’s scent is fragrant as ever, and Khimi inhales deeply in an attempt to cherish every bit. For a moment, the two stand in silence, the figures stare at them from a distance. Khimi holds his embrace, Lumi’s rounded ear near his chest. The weight of his guilt makes his heart race, I have to tell him. But…not– I must. He bends his head forward and lets Lumi’s scent fill his nose once again. Lumi’s thick ear twitches against his nose, knocking him back to his senses.

“Can we talk…?” Khimi whispers while he pushes Lumi back to arm’s length. His hand on his shoulder, he continues, “somewhere else, maybe.”

Lumi shuffles his feet nervously, “Sure,” he mumbles after a moment, looking back at the other acolytes. “You guys keep going without me! I’ll be right back!” He shouts.

Khimi and Lumi turn back towards the trickling archway, walking in silence, they make their way along the shadowy path. Under the dancing shadows of a small copse, Khimi takes Lumi’s hand and brushes his fingertips over Lumi’s soft skin. Lumi’s fingers twitch and reach out, intertwining between Khimi’s. He begins to pull himself closer in the quiet. The uncomfortable guilt stabs him, a pain in his chest, his heart drops.

“I-I have to tell…there is something I need to tell you,” Khimi stumbles, averting his gaze, glancing into the overgrown bushes alongside the stream. He looks for any sign of Ennui before continuing. “I made a mistake tonight,” he says, his fingers squeezing Lumi’s tightly.

Lumi chuckles nervously. “It couldn’t have been that bad,” he says, following Khimi’s eyes to the bushes. “Just speak plainly, Khimi…it’s just us. There are no acolytes hiding in the brush…they’re weird, but not that weird.”

“Fine, I’ll just be out with it then. I…thought about what I said, about you needing time and space. That was wrong of me. So wrong, I never should have said that to you…” Khimi starts again, he squeezes Lumi’s hands and continues. “But I felt I owed myself the time to think about the future…about the duty I owe to my family, how I would be tossing that aside to live my life with you.” He pauses gauging Lumi’s expression then sighs again, “Tonight, I felt a moment of weakness in which I drank until I felt nothing anymore…I wanted nothing more than to be with you, but I wa–”

Lumi interrupts, “What’re you saying?”

Khimi continues, “I was in the company of a woman. We had been enjoying one another’s company and…I found myself in a room with her.” Khimi stops, watching Lumi’s face change from upset to enraged.

“You…slept with someone?” Lumi asks, his face screwing up in rage, throwing Khimi’s hand aside. “You TOLD me that you’ve NEVER, you n-never…had been with a-anyone,” he sobs. “You BASTARD!!”

Lumi!” Khimi exclaims. “Listen to me, LISTEN!

Lumi, filled with determination and rage, continues, “I don’t understand. Did you need time away from me, or did you need time to think? Did you just want to put your dick in something? I would have given you that! I would have gladly given you that! HELLS, I EVEN TRIED!” Lumi shouts, the pace of his speech increases rapidly.

“Lumi…” Khimi pleads. “It meant nothing, I was drinking…she put her lips on mine…”

Lumi’s aqua eyes flash a piercing crimson, “And drinking is an excuse?” Lumi asks, cocking an eyebrow in anger. The braziers along the path grow in heat, their fires reaching for the sky.

A strange heat pulses through the air, an unusual dryness forms in Khimi’s throat.

“Khimi…” Lumi growls, his hands shaking while he crosses his arms over his chest. “I…just…tell me what happened,” he whispers, tears pool in his eyes.

“Well, she forced me into a chair and climbed atop me…” Khimi replies, a hint of nervousness in his speech. “Are you sure you want to know?” He asks.

“I’d rather know. I need to know,” Lumi prattles manically. He bites his nails and turns to Khimi.

“She..pulled off my shirt and kissed me, I insisted I needed to leave, but she pressed on. Then she put her hands in my trousers and attempted to mount me.. Lumi, this is enough,” Khimi pleads again, his hand reaching out towards Lumi. “I’d rather you not hear this. You don’t need to hear this.”

Lumi slaps Khimi’s hand to the side, crossing his arms again, “Khimi! Just! Tell! Me!” Lumi shouts, panic in his eyes.

“If it helps, I had to think of you to even get…aroused,” Khimi says plainly, shuffling on his feet. “And, she began to force me inside of her. I knew I couldn’t do it, so I got up and left the room…then felt my stomach knot right as I walked out of the room,” he adds anxiously.

Lumi shakes his head, “You..could have told her at any point, Khimi…” Lumi says, looking down at his feet. “You could have told her that you were taken. You’re not weak…you could have pushed her off.”

“I doubt that would have stopped the woman,” Khimi mutters, looking at the distance between the two of them.

“And you were completely…helpless?” Lumi spits in anger. “You weren’t strong enough to stop her advances?” He asks, trembling. “I’ve…met very few men stronger than you, Khimi…you can throw me around like I am nothing…and yet, this?”

“I don’t know, my mind wasn’t where it should be,” Khimi replies quietly. “I would do anything to take it back,” he adds quickly, and takes a step forward.

Lumi grits his teeth and recoils. “You don’t know?” he growls, shaking his head in fury.He doesn’t look up from his feet. “I may be leaving at the end of the month,” he whispers quietly, his ears drooping. “I think it’s best that maybe we just forget each other…”

The distance between them vanishes and Khimi grabs Lumi’s wrist, “Why?!” he snarls, in a flash of anger.

Lumi’s eyes flare red again, that unusual heat appears again and a glow similar to those of evening fireflies appears around them then fades just as quick. “Why…?” Lumi replies, looking up from the ground. Wet streaks run down from his eyes. “Because, an opportunity somewhere else suddenly seems a lot more promising. Because the person that I love will never love me how I love them, because he’s a bastard!

Lumi’s tail swings from side to side, his ears laid down. Khimi understands after spending some time with Lumi the way his body moves, he can tell how upset Lumi is…yet in desperation, he attempts to reach out. Lumi allows Khimi’s hand to cup his chin. Lumi’s words weigh heavily in Khimi’s heart, and he is not sure if he had ever loved anyone, but seeing Lumi like this is painful.

Ziad’s words appear once again in Khimi’s mind. Only a weak man apologizes. He does not care, he just wants Lumi to be happy.

Khimi sighs, “I told you I was sorry. I was wrong about what I said, I shouldn’t have put this distance between us. I made a mistake…can you accept that?”

“I…love you,” Lumi cries.”I’ve loved you from the moment we met, my heart hurt the first time you wrote to me. Every second you weren’t near me, I felt as though I were breaking. Then…you asked me to come to Rhaz with you, and I was happy. So HAPPY…then you asked me to leave,” he sobs, his voice trailing. Wet tears run over Khimi’s fingers. “Then you do this! With some woman! Khimi it’s too much!” Lumi shouts and shoves Khimi away from himself. “I think you need to go back home. I need to get away from you,” he says quietly, turning back to the path back.

Khimi stares at Lumi’s back, “You don’t get to just walk away!” he barks. “You don’t!”

“I do!” Lumi exclaims, turning on his heels. “Because you did it first! I NEED time. Time to think if this is what I really want. Someone who can’t even tell me how they feel, someone who will constantly put me behind everything else.”

“I’ve made up my mind. I swear it,” Khimi replies in haste, “I’ve thought about you every single moment since we had our talk…I wasn’t thinking properly.”

“I’ll talk to you…when you’ve had time to think. Perhaps when you’re ‘sorted’ we can continue this conversation,” Lumi says mockingly before walking away, his tail swinging back and forth in frustration.

Khimi sits in the near darkness of the pathway. If I just shut my mouth and didn’t say anything, then…everything would have been fine. He walks back towards the entrance of the shrine, passing through the trickling archway. He pauses, the cool water licks against his form. I’m a fool.

“You’re gonna get sick,” Ennui chatters quietly in a sing-song voice. She looks up from the stairs at Khimi, watching the water drench him. “That was pretty sad,” she teases.

“I told him what happened. Then I apologized,” Khimi replies, tapping his hand against his leg. “What more could I have done?” He asks with a sigh.

“For one,” Ennui says while chuckling. “Someone tells you they love you. They typically would like to hear it back. Hells, even I know that, and I have never used that fabled word in my life. ‘Love’,” she says, speaking the word like it’s a curse.

“Fuck!” Khimi exclaims, slapping his cheeks. “What is wrong with me?”

Ennui snorts, “Maybe you aren’t as smart as you think you are?” She asks playfully. “Besides, nothing is wrong with you, you’re just…different from others. Maybe your daddy really did a number on that cushy organ in that head of yours.

“I’m starting to think that,” Khimi says, walking down the sandstone stairs towards Ennui.

“That whole exchange was kind of just…sad,” she laughs. She adjusts the golden jewelry adorning her horn. “Look, you said how you felt, and that’s about as much as you can do for now. Go home and get some rest.”

“Right,” he replies, suddenly overwhelmed by feelings, he grips Ennui by the shoulder.

“Oh,” she says quietly. “It’ll be okay,” she whispers, embracing Khimi and pats him gently on the shoulder twice.

“I fucked up,” Khimi whispers, his voice breaking while he attempts to continue speaking.

“You’ll be okay,” Ennui says again. “You’re very wet,” she grumbles.

“Sorry,” Khimi sniffles.

“I’ll walk you home,” Ennui says, forcing space between them. “Oh, and Khimi…”

Khimi turns to Ennui, wiping his nose, “What is it?”

“He’s a cute boy, I guess,” she shrugs before flashing a quick and playful smile. “If he tries to leave…I’ll capture him for you.”

Khimi leans his head against his shoulder. “Really?”

“Anything for you, Khimi.”