Chapter XVI


A week had passed since Khimi’s duel with Omar. Ennui had returned the night of the duel with news regarding her encounter with the vulpo woman. She had tracked her through the streets of Rhaz and onto the docks, where she happened to catch a glimpse of her leaving on a vessel. Ennui seemed irritated at the prospect of losing the only witness to Omar’s murder. She also revealed to them that while Khimi was dueling the shape-shifter, she had eliminated no small number of other combatants that Omar had lying in wait. While Lumi had doubts about the number of foes, he was still pleased to know that she had actually arrived to assist when they needed her most.

Lumi’s wounds had largely healed, though it had taken him two days to awaken completely after his botched attempt at restoration magick. Afterward, he had returned to the shrine to offer his thanks to Cecilia and the other acolytes for their kindness. With him, he brought his intention to leave the order and pursue his own course in life with Khimi. The news came as a disappointment to many acolytes who had enjoyed their encounters with him.

Rashid had returned just hours after Khimi’s arrival back at the estate with Lumi. When he had learned of the events that transpired with Omar, he became outraged with Khimi’s brazenness, opting to leave the estate for several days before returning with a clear mind.

 Revya performed a brief visit to the Zeybek estate and brought with him many questions regarding the untimely death of Omar Kappas and the sudden disappearance of one of his many children, Jilliana. Khimi denied any involvement with the death of Jilliana, though he never denied he had traveled to Omar’s on the day of his death. Revya seemed willing to overlook certain details of the evening along with his Vizier. They departed from the estate, satisfied with Khimi’s responses, though they warned him of the repercussions of Omar’s death.


In the Grand Hall, Lumi lies on his side, rubbing the area beneath his ribs where the dagger had penetrated his flesh. Khimi sits beside him, cross-legged on a colorful golden cushion, his fingers resting atop Lumi’s, skimming across the smooth skin. Ennui sits across from them on a low cushioned chair, the back of her head just beneath the window. She leans her head back, releasing a heavy breath.

“Watching the two of you is disgusting,” she states loudly, cocking her head to the side. “Can’t you like…I dunno…control yourself?”

Lumi glares at Ennui, his expression softening while he remembers her kindness back at Omar’s. “I was just showing him how well it healed,” he chimes.

Ennui scoffs, “You’re just using that as an excuse so h–”

“Listen,” Rashid interrupts, standing in the door frame. “When we finally caught up with the Dolmans, those that remained were quickly subdued…but the issue is when under interrogation all of them claimed Omar wasn’t the one that hired them.”

Khimi’s brow furrows. “Did they say who hired them?” He asks.

“They have to be lying,” Lumi grumbles. “Omar had to be lying…who else would have sent a bunch of mercenaries here?”

Ennui clicks her tongue, “Oh…maybe one of the hundreds of angry merchants who hates the Cerulean Star. It’s a shot in the dark.”

Rashid shifts against the archway. “It doesn’t matter who it was, it only matters that it wasn’t who we thought it was. And I’m still furious, Khimi. Furious, you’d be so hasty in your decision to confront Omar.”

“You don’t understand, Rashid!” Lumi shouts. “He wanted to kill Khimi anyway…isn’t it better that he is gone now?”

Mm,” Khimi sounds, placing his hand on Lumi’s shoulder. “Rashid has the right of it. We’ve only created a vacuum, and whoever takes Omar’s place as the head of the family will be sure to come back to us for this.”

Ennui leans forward in the cushioned chair. “Well, how many kids did Omar have?”

“I don’t see how that matters,” Rashid mutters, stroking his chin. “We had just better hope whoever takes his place isn’t going to seek vengeance.”

“Then, why don’t we just leave, Khimi?” Lumi asks, his ears lowering in worry.

Khimi lays back over the small mound of cushions behind him. “Revya would prefer if we stayed in the city…and I’ll need to make sure the estate is in order before we lea–”

“But…you said…you’d leave,” Lumi interrupts, looking slightly deflated.

Rashid grimaces, “Khimi’s place is here for the time being, Lumi. You’ll just need to accept that.”

“It’s alright, Kitten,” Ennui chortles loudly. “You can explore Rhaz with me. I’ll show you where all the best places to eat are. This way…you don’t have to rely on Khimi for everything,” she says with a soft laugh.

“I-I don’t rely on Khimi for everything…” Lumi replies.

Mmhmm,” Ennui sounds, crossing her legs. “Right, right.”

Lumi rolls onto his back over the cool tile, managing to keep himself from fighting with Ennui. “So, how long do we have to stay here before we get to travel?” He asks.

Khimi looks contemplative while he playfully places his foot atop Lumi’s legs. “Maybe a month or two. At least until everything gets situated.”

“Once we know that the estate is safe and Omar’s heir has been selected…we’ll look at the situation again and determine when it’s safe for travel,” Rashid begins, pausing briefly. “In the meantime, I’ll be taking some time away.”

What?” Khimi asks, sitting up suddenly, a look of dismay on his face. “Your place is here…in Rhaz.”

Rashid tilts his head, a frown forming on his lips. “Quite honestly, I am still displeased with ya for going to Omar’s in the first place. I need some time to clear my head and think…traveling will help me come to a decision on where I stand in this family. With this family.”

“We’re a family now?” Ennui asks, smiling coyly.

Rashid snorts, “Fat chance of ya ever being part of my family. I know too much about y’re escapades to let ya get close.”

“Come now, you can’t hate me that much…I told Khimi about Omar…even put a knife in the knave’s back for you,” Ennui says quietly.

Rashid shakes his head, turning to Khimi. “I’d offer you a suggestion…though you may not hear me out, watch the friends you keep.”

“I trust Ennui,” Khimi whispers defiantly and nods. “She’s proven to be a dependable asset…so far.”

“Wait, Rashid!” Lumi says, bouncing off the floor quickly. “When are you leaving?”

Rashid moves from the archway, “Soon as the caravan is packed and loaded we’ll start our first trip to Porat then head to Betset.”

“Can’t you teach me before you go?” Lumi asks, looking frustrated at the sudden realization that his only tutor may be away for an extended period of time. “I thought maybe you could teach me more about healing…”

“Maybe if you didn’t hastily throw in your resignation to the temple, they could tutor you there,” Rashid replies with a hint of annoyance.

Ennui stands from her chair, “In fairness. Lumi truly was under the impression that we’d be leaving Rhaz soon.”

“Certainly they will still take you back, Lumi,” Khimi offers, giving him a reassuring smile. “Or maybe Cecilia can come here and tutor you if you’d like. She seemed up to the challenge.”

Lumi looks at Khimi, “I think I’d rather have her as a tutor than crawl back begging,” he adds quickly.

Rashid glances from Lumi to Khimi, then to Ennui. “I leave them in your hands, Devilkin. If harm comes to them…you’ll have more than the Hells to answer to,” he says gruffly.

Oi, Rashid,” Khimi chuckles. “Leave Ennui be, we wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for her.”

“She surprisingly did come to my aid…” Lumi agrees, giving Ennui a short nod.

Ennui stretches, cracking her neck brusquely. “Look, even the Little Lion thinks I’m not so bad, old man,” she says, walking towards Rashid. “But…as you’ve asked…I will uphold my end of the bargain. Should a hair be harmed on their precious little heads. I’ll answer for it.”

Rashid gives her a brief and judging look, before extending a hand. “Very well.”

Ennui’s sharp black tail sways behind her, revealing a sudden joy that overcomes her. “Shall I accompany you to the wagons, my good knight?”

“If it pleases you,” Rashid mutters, then glances at Khimi and Lumi, giving the two of them a knowing and solemn expression. “Be safe. Just because Omar is dead…doesn’t mean someone else doesn’t wish harm upon us,” he pauses, exhaling before he begins again. “Just remember, Khimi. I’ll always think of you as my own…promise to be smart and take care of yourself.”

Khimi stands from the cushions, embracing the older man. “I promise, Rashid. I’ll take care of myself and the estate. I wish you safe travels.”

“May you find shade, Khimi,” Rashid replies.

“You as well,” Khimi whispers, releasing his grip.

 Rashid leaves the room with Ennui by his side and pauses, taking a look back at Khimi and Lumi before vanishing behind the archway. Lumi turns to Khimi, giving him a curious look.

“You promised to tell me about what Omar meant. You said you’d tell me when we were alone,” Lumi says quietly. “I’ve been thinking a lot about it…”

Khimi sits in the low cushioned chair Ennui had just vacated. “I think what he meant is…many people find themselves indebted to our family.”

“And?” Lumi asks, sitting on the edge of the chair. He fluffs the loose sarouel covering his legs. “What does that mean?”

“It means that people who can’t pay their debts are forced to pay them off in other ways,” Khimi says plainly.

“Against their will?” Lumi asks, staring at Khimi.

Khimi shakes his head, “Typically an agreement is reached, and they will spend a certain amount of time performing tasks in service to our family. Though, I can assure you…we give them a percentage of their wages to live on,” he explains.

“So, you don’t go capturing people and sell them as slaves?” Lumi asks, looking dumbfounded. “Then why would he make it sound like your family was into the slave trade?”

Khimi squeezes Lumi’s leg. “No, we don’t do anything nefarious. In Dolmas…the situation is much different. Now, I will tell you people believe that my family intentionally creates situations where people are forced into debt to them.”

“Is it true?” Lumi asks, his tail flicking from side to side.

“Honestly, I wouldn’t know,” Khimi replies, pulling Lumi from the edge of the chair onto his lap. “It’s not like my father would tell me something like that.”

Lumi places his hand over Khimi’s. “But is it something you think your family would do?”

“Hells, Lums,” Khimi sighs, leaning against the cushioned back. “Why are you interrogating me?”

“Wasn’t meaning to…but I just want to know. I’d heard things about your family back at the temple. Bad stuff,” Lumi whispers, moving onto Khimi’s lap. “Some Acolytes mentioned your family was involved with the slave trade and people like Omar. Others said the Zeybeks were terrible people.”

Khimi pulls Lumi against himself, “I mean, everyone is entitled to their opinions. Though compared to most of the merchant families, I’d hardly say we are worse. Either way…there are things I would wish to change…for the better should I ever live to become Emir Zeybek.”

“But you are already a Lord.”

“It’s different. Emir Zeybek is the title that my father holds…people call me Lord Zeybek because I am the incumbent. But…yes, there are certainly things that I think should be changed. Things that I am aware of.”

Lumi pauses, situating himself on Khimi’s lap. He embraces Khimi in his arms. “It’s okay, I’m sure if that’s how you feel, then that’s how it is,” he whispers and gives Khimi another long look, “You’ve been so quiet since the whole…thing with Omar.”

“I’ve just had a lot on my mind,” Khimi replies, “You seem to be…back to normal,” he chuckles, his fingertips running along Lumi’s waist.

“Yeah!” Lumi exclaims, his tail wagging between Khimi’s knees. “I wish I could have been more helpful. But I’m happy that things are looking up!”

Khimi pauses for a long moment, embracing Lumi, squeezing him in his arms. Lumi purrs against his chest. “I’m really happy for us, too.”

Lumi’s heart races at the sound of Khimi’s heart beating against his ears. “Khimi…you’re hiding something,” he whispers against Khimi’s chest.

“It’s not anything to concern yourself with,” Khimi replies, brushing his fingers through Lumi’s blonde hair and scratching roughly behind Lumi’s rounded ears. “I swear it’s nothing,” he chuckles.

Lumi pulls back from their embrace and stares deeply into Khimi’s cerulean eyes. “I love you,” he whispers, edging closer to Khimi.


Lumi smashes his lips firmly against Khimi’s, his fingers reaching for the edges of Khimi’s shirt. The fabric pulls and tugs until he frees it from over Khimi’s chest. Bounding with lust, Khimi rips the shirt from over his head and gnashes his lips against Lumi’s, their teeth clinking together. Lumi’s thighs tighten against Khimi’s hips while he straddles him. Khimi’s arousal bobs through his sarouel between Lumi’s rear, and Lumi’s tail flicks with excitement. He lifts his half-shirt over his head, Khimi’s hand slides into Lumi’s linen sarouel, squeezing his soft cheeks. While Lumi presses his bare chest against Khimi, their lips meet once again. Slowly, Lumi sucks on Khimi’s lower lip and pulls back, the lip snaps back in place and Khimi winces, pulling Lumi snug against his abdomen. Unable to control himself, Khimi pushes himself up from the chair and Lumi’s legs coil behind him while their foreheads meet. Lumi’s arms rest over Khimi’s shoulders, their lips locked, moving in a dance that seems unending.

 Lumi withdraws from their kiss, admiring the rugged and natural beauty of his partner. Khimi’s normal serious expression, now radiant and cheery. He’s so perfect. A servant walks through the archway, color rushing into her cheeks at having spotted the two of them. She turns, rushing back down the hallway, and Lumi tilts his head only to catch a glimpse of her vanishing behind the corner.

“Maybe we should go somewhere more private,” Lumi suggests, giving Khimi a knowing look.

Khimi’s lip turns into a confident smirk. “Garden or bedroom?” He asks with a nip at Lumi’s ears.

“It’s still light out…what if someone comes into the garden?” Lumi asks quietly.

Khimi whispers delicately into his ears, “We’ll be the only ones coming in the garden.”

A warmth floods across Lumi. His skin reddens at Khimi’s words. “Garden, then,” he stammers quietly, the heat from his desire spreading across his body. “Let me down.”

“Why? I can carry you,” Khimi laughs while walking through the archway to the courtyard.

Lumi blushes, “Khimi, the whole staff is going to see you carry me,” he says, pushing against Khimi’s chest. “Khi— stop! They’ll see!”

“Wouldn’t be the first time,” Khimi jests and jerks Lumi higher in his arms.

“Fine! But you’re the one who is always worried,” Lumi groans while Khimi passes beneath the archway into the courtyard.

Khimi shakes his head and smiles in response. “At least at the estate…” His voice trails off, seemingly lost in thought.

“Khimi,” Lumi whispers, being carried into the bright midday sun.

Khimi tugs Lumi higher against his body. The light pierces through the rich foliage of the courtyard. “Yeah, Lumi?” He asks, giving Lumi a smug smile.

“I’m sorry,” Lumi replies, his heart drumming in his chest.

Khimi kisses Lumi’s forehead once they walk through the garden gates. “Don’t be,” he says, gradually releasing Lumi from his hold and placing his hand on his shoulder. “You’ve brought me so much happiness.”

Lumi’s eyes brim with tears while he watches Khimi close the wooden door to the garden courtyard. He shakes his head from side to side, his ears lower. He looks to his feet and shuffles, hiding the wet marks beneath his eyes. “I never knew that I could be this happy,” he sobs suddenly.

“You’ve brought me…so much joy,” Khimi says. He turns to Lumi, placing his finger beneath his chin.

Lumi tilts his head to Khimi, wet lines trace beneath his eyes and run down his cheeks. “You’ve already done so much for me…more than anyone ever has.”

“I know you’d do th–”

“I couldn’t do half of what you’ve done for me,” Lumi says, embracing Khimi. “I’m not…” His words escape him.

Khimi’s arms fold behind Lumi, his fingers reach the coarse fur along the base of Lumi’s tail. Gently stroking the fur between his fingers, he murmurs, “You’ve done more for me than you know.”

Lumi groans softly while he stands on his tiptoes, holding Khimi tight. “I don’t know what I’ve done, but it makes me happy to hear,” he whispers in reply, rubbing his face against Khimi’s shoulder.

“I…have never seen myself being with anyone,” Khimi says, his fingers compressing over the bony base of Lumi’s tail.

Lumi’s body shakes with each of Khimi’s pinches along the sensitive joint, his knees bending. Waves of pleasure flow through him. “J-just p-promise you’ll ke-eep me,” he says, the thumb massages forcefully over the base.

“I promise,” Khimi whispers while he swipes his scruffy chin back and forth across the top of Lumi’s head.

Lumi presses his lips against Khimi’s chest and kisses along his muscled abdomen before he brings himself low before Khimi. His tongue flicks along Khimi’s naval, his eyes glance up, wanting approval. Khimi replies to Lumi’s hungry eyes with a sheepish grin. The loose sarouel lowers before Lumi, the purring in his chest rises to a crescendo.