349 RTYY 345 - Two Different Kinds of Darkness

"But …" Snow started, raising his head, ready to argument, but immediately shut his mouth, pursing his lips.

Unnatural. That's why he had always felt that there was something … wrong about them. Just like ZaiWin, he thought, looking at him, the cold hardness of his blue eyes telling him that he had easily guessed Snow's thoughts. He too, had black markings. But in ZaiWin's case, he now knew what had caused them to become like that. But RimJan? Even though her markings had been dark, they had still been beautiful, the small pair of wings made of delicate and elegant swirls. They could never compare with the sad, cruel net of crisscrossed lines that covered ZaiWin's back.

"You said it yourself. That they were also corrupted," ZaiWin reminded him, and Snow's throat couldn't help feeling a bit tighter at the way he had said those words, clearly including himself in that statement. "This is something you can feel, right?"

Snow lowered his gaze and nodded, recalling the many times RyuXin had said those horrible words in front of ZaiWin, his voice filled with contempt and despise.

"When you look at us like that, are they like me, then?"

Snow couldn't help flinching, his throat constricting even more as he quickly shook his head.

Noticing his pained expression, ZaiWin released a deep sigh and placed a heavy hand on his head.

"It's okay, Snow. It's not like I didn't know."

Snow took a hesitant peek at him as if to confirm the truth of his words, and ZaiWin gave him a reassuring smile.

"They're ... different from you. It's true that I can sense that … something isn't quite right with your energy," Snow admitted in a small voice. "But it's like I said before. It's your energy. And I now know it wasn't always like this. Before I even used to think that you might have been born like this. A bit like me … Simply born different from other people. What I mean to say is that, although it feels … wrong, it also feels natural. I know this sounds like a contradiction, but it's just ... the way it feels. Also, even though it is your energy, I can feel the way you constantly struggle to keep it under control, the way you're always trying to bend it to your will. I can feel it every time you use it. And I guess ... I trust the righteousness of your intentions." ZaiWin couldn't help smiling at that. "So, even though your energy may differ from what I know it should be, the end result is still … right.

"But RyuXin and the others … Now that I've spent all this time near them, I can clearly tell. They're ... more like the opposite of you. Indeed their energy is equally corrupted, but it's like they never tried to make it their own. On the contrary. They summited to it. They allowed their energy to dictate the nature of their actions, even their thoughts. They allowed their will to be molded according to its unnatural nature. It's hard to explain," Snow sighed. "It's almost as if this dark energy could have a will of its own. You are constantly fighting to resist it and to bend it to your will, to use it to achieve your goals. While they are happily submitting to it, glad to do its bidding."

And you still blindly followed them!, ZaiWin wanted to berate him, but successfully held his tongue. Even though he still felt angry at the reminder of that, he also knew that Snow had also been hurt by all that had happened, and that he was partially, if not totally, to blame for that. Also, he couldn't help feeling inwardly happy, knowing that Snow didn't see him the same way he saw those bastards! That, even though his energy had been completely corrupted, Snow was still able to see some good in him. That all his hard work, all the hardships he'd faced, all the battles he'd painfully fought against himself, hadn't all been for nothing. Now he was really glad he hadn't given up, that he had kept pushing forward no matter the pain, no matter the condemning glares he'd received from everyone else. If he hadn't persisted this far, Snow would have probably never agreed to stay by his side.

Taking a deep breath, and even though he knew Snow wouldn't be pleased, ZaiWin still returned to their main topic. There was still a lot he needed to clarify.

"So, they were the ones who told you about that suicidal way to break our bound," he declared, and Snow was immediately tense again, but he still nodded.

"They told me that, even though they are Tien'Elhar, they're able to remain unbound. That what people say, about how Tien'Elhar have to find a Chosen One in order to survive, that it's all a lie. That, in truth, we're perfectly fine on our own, and that this is true for every Tien'Elhar. That we're more or less forced into these binding agreements and that, because of that, we're easily exploited for the rest of our lives. This is why they constantly travel around the Empire, searching for newborn Tien'Elhar so that they may take them away and keep them safe, away from the Temple. And I mean ... it actually makes sense. After all, I've lived this long without a Chosen One. I never even knew I was a Tien'Elhar."

ZaiWin held Snow's hand and gently unfisted it, just needing to touch him.

He didn't know if he would have been fine without a Chosen One. If what those bastards had told him was true. What he did know, however, was that their bond hadn't been established only a few months ago. Which meant that the idea that Snow had, of how he'd been able to live just fine without a Chosen One, was basically false.

He wondered how snow would react, if he told him that they'd been bound to each other since the day he'd been born, maybe even from before that. Would he feel unjustly robbed of his perceived freedom then? ZaiWin knew how keeping his freedom was important to him, especially taking into account the fact that Snow had been deprived of such basic rights most of his life. Would he question the validity of his choices if ZaiWin told him that they were always meant to be together? Would he feel as if he had never had a choice, to begin with?

ZaiWin didn't want that! He didn't want him to simply conform with some potentially predestined destiny. He wanted Snow to be able to freely chose his next steps without the weight of something as heavy and unbending as fate weighing down on him. Above all, he wanted Snow to want to be with him because he simply wanted to, and not out some unbreakable obligation like the link they had shared since before the time he'd been born. And so, once more, ZaiWin chose not to say a word about that. After all, whatever might have happened back then was all in the past. And if he didn't remember, well, maybe it was just how things were supposed to be.

Snow took a deep breath and his cold fingers instinctively wrapped themselves around ZaiWin's, leaving a small smile on his lips.


A/N: I guess Snow was the first person ever to validate and appreciate ZaiWin's efforts without any judgment. So how can he not love him? 😊

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