‘I have no other choice,’ Rila whispered. ‘They still have my mother.’
Ilami was about to reply to that when they heard a shout from someone familiar. Footsteps grew louder as Gael ran towards them. Distracted, Ilami turned to him and Rila used the opportunity to knock away Ilami’s sword with her dagger. As she was about to stab Ilami with it, Ilami’s hand quickly held hers, squeezing the wrist to loosen up her grip and let the dagger to fall to the ground harmlessly. Ilami pinned her other hand to the ground and locked her legs by putting pressure to them with her knee.
‘You can’t kill me,’ Ilami said softly. ‘And I unless I kill you, you won’t stop. You’re making things difficult.’
‘Kill me then!’ Gael already arrived as Rila shouted the dangerous words. ‘Kill me. If you want so much to help me without surrendering your life, kill me.’ She couldn’t bear to think what would the Church do to her mother and her if she arrived there with failure. Even if both of them somehow survived through the punishment, she couldn’t bear to continue her assassination knowing she did it with a false cause. A lie. ‘Please, kill me.’ Tear went down her cheek.
‘If that’s what you want.’ Gael positioned an arrow on his bow, stretched it, and was about to release it when Ilami stopped him.
‘No,’ she said, ‘I have a better idea.’ With a flash, she knocked Rila’s head, putting her into subconsciousness.
She opened her eyes and saw the sky had turned white before realizing she was staring at the ceiling. The pain on her head pressed her and the sensation was like having a bee buzzing there. She looked at her side and widened her eyes when the sight of Gael polishing a dagger - her dagger - met her. She quickly got up and tried to stay away from him, but scrapes of clothes tied her hands to the bed’s upper corners.
Gael looked up and raised his eyebrows. ‘You’re awake,’ he said, stating the obvious. He looked down at the dagger, then looked back at her. He shrugged. ‘I’ve nothing else to do while waiting for Ilami.’
‘Where am I?’ she asked, grateful her voice wasn’t tinged with fear.
‘Ilami’s bedroom. After you passed out, we kept you here. It was difficult to enter her house without anyone noticing. Mrs. Venaria had her guards at every corner.’ He continued polishing the dagger on a blunt rock. ‘Now she’s making sure no one is to enter this room.’
‘But why?’ She frowned. ‘Why keep me here?’
Gael raised his shoulders. ‘I’ve no clue. Didn’t have a chance to ask her about it when we were getting here. You should grateful though. She’s more merciful than I.’ At that, he bared his teeth in a grin. Glee, obviously, but perhaps for a reason Rila didn’t want to assume.
‘The Church will look for me when they know I’ve been out for too long. They’ll search, and they’ll find you and -’
‘Are you sure?’ Gael interrupted her. ‘For one, no one knows you’re here but Ilami and me.’ He leaned forward. ‘And two, I know the Brother Gods Church. Ever since I was a priest, Serra made me find out their secrets, and while I suspected they had assassins, I had no clear proof of that until now. If the fact of the Church’s assassins are not known, why would they risk that by looking for you?’ He looked at her from up to down. ‘Also, you aren’t wearing the assassin’s clothes. I bet there are more skillful assassins out there you. You’re expendable.’
Fear now clutched at her throat, making her difficult to breathe. She could see now why Kestari wanted Gael’s death. He must have been aware of the priest’s prodding. And the part about her being expandable... Her face darkened. No one told her about it, but she suspected Gael was right.
‘You know too much,’ she said, looking at Gael. ‘That’s why the Church wants you dead.’
‘That, and also because I resemble someone Lio is against,’ he said, putting the dagger and stone on the table next to Rila. He leaned back on his chair. ‘I’ve looked through the history about past assassinations. Remember Danizen?’
Rila nodded vaguely. ‘He was from a noble family, aiming to be the lord of Xian city.’ Talking to Gael about Danizen distracted her from wondering what Ilami wanted to do with her. ‘He promotes acceptance of sinners, saying they have a second chance.’
‘Some of them,’ Gael said. ‘He also thought love was beyond gender compatibility, wasn’t he? That a man can love a man and a woman can love a woman.’
‘He did - wait.’ Rila frowned. ‘Are you telling me -’
Gael sighed. ‘For Lio, I’m a sinner, because my existence doesn’t help him expand his army. By liking men, I deny having intimacy with a woman. I don’t put my ability to contribute in reproduction in good use.’
Rila’s mouth opened a little. She had been wondering about the truth of such love that meeting someone who had it seemed surreal. ‘What do you mean by Lio wanting to expand his army?’
‘You didn’t know?’ He paused. ‘I guess you are an assassin first and foremost. It’s what Serra and Xesar are against. Lio’s forcing people to be in his army against the Hollows, the inhuman race that wiped out the Naturals. Before we served them as deities, they were a race, and they called themselves naturis. Those who bend the nature. He’s also aiming to control Estagar based on fear and loyalty.’
Rila took a deep breath. This was too much to handle. Kestari had a bigger plan for his god. The assassins for one thing, and now an army? The Church didn’t want people to serve the Naturals; it wanted them to serve Lio. He wasn’t Rila’s god. All of her assassinations - they felt awfully wrong now.
The door opened to reveal a silver-haired girl. Ilami looked at Rila and closed the door. ‘The guards and maids have been notified. I think we can keep you here for a week or two before we save your mother.’
Rila’s eyes widened. ‘Y-you what?’
Ilami went to the corners and untied Rila. Rila saw Gael giving her a disapproving glare but Ilami didn’t care. Rila suspected she knew Rila wasn’t going to harm them now that she had mentioned her mother. ‘The three of us are going to get your mother out of the Church. It’s the only way for you to stop assassinating people.’ She moved to the other binding. ‘Once both of you are free from it’s clutch, I can find some jobs for your mother and an institution for your education.’
‘Why would you do that?’
Done untying, Ilami stared at Rila. ‘Isn’t it obvious? I’m Xesar’s priestess, and if there’s anything I can do to weaken Lio’s hold of Estagra people, I would do it. Plus, you’re not fit to be an assassin. You have better use somewhere else.’ She didn’t say what it was. ‘I’ll gather a few friends of mine to join this mission. They know I’m a priestess and they trust me.’ She tilted her head. ‘What do you say, Rila?’
She called her Rila, not assassin. A future in which she didn’t kill people, living freely with her mother. Rila nodded. ‘I’m in.’
A/N: And we’re done! So for the last section, part 6, I’m going to ask you guys if you prefer to skip the saving scenes to the ending part where Rila’s mother is saved, or do you think we’ve had enough actions for today and want things to wrap up nicely?