"Back then, we both wanted to get rid of this bond," Snow simply declared and ZaiWin couldn't help wincing, especially because he had no way to deny it. "And they told me that, since our bond is incomplete, that there might be a way."
ZaiWin was immediately alarmed by those words.
"So they know?"
"I didn't tell them!" Snow immediately replied, his pale eyes looking urgently at him, obviously begging him to believe him. "I never told them anything about you! Not even your name! They just ... knew," he added, lowering his gaze in defeat. After all, he'd done Snow more than expected ZaiWin to have lost his trust in him. He just hoped he could still believe him this much.
"That girl," ZaiWin muttered, pensively, immediately capturing Snow's attention. "RimJan. She always seems to know more than people are willing to say. Like how she kept monitoring your health. Or how she knew you were getting sick even before you collapsed. I guess it must be her markings' power, although I have never heard of such a thing. Markings mainly have their effect on the material world around us. They basically serve to help us with our everyday, mundane tasks. But that girl's markings, they somehow have the ability to allow her to see within other people, to see that which is not supposed to be visible, much less palpable. She must have been able to determine as much about our bond as well," ZaiWin concluded and Snow couldn't help staring at him in amazed gratitude. So he hadn't doubted him, he couldn't help smiling at this wonderful realization.
"So they took you to meet that other guy, right? YunZen."
Snow nodded, now more eager to answer his questions.
"They told me where to go. I ... escaped from the inn, and met them again in a small cave, in the forest," he confirmed and ZaiWin couldn't help noticing how he had skillfully left out MenTar's part in that escape of his. So, he was still trying to protect him! It pissed him off just thinking about it!
Averting his gaze, ZaiWin leaned back, propping an elbow on his bent knee to rest his chin on his hand.
"I found that cave. And then I followed that guy's energy print all the way to the cavern where I found you."
Snow lowered his gaze. Now that he'd first-handedly seen the toll those jumps could take on him, Snow could easily imagine how hard it must have been, jumping all the way from Woodbridge, in Sur, to the northern mountains of Pon. He was amazed that ZaiWin hadn't outright collapsed or, even worse, lost control of his daitai and ended up getting seriously injured, if not killed.
"I'm sorry ..." It would seem that that was all he kept saying of late.
"Don't be," ZaiWin replied with a sigh. "What happened back then was all my fault to begin with. I'm more than aware of that, believe me. And even though I know you've forgiven me, that even after all that you still chose to stay by my side, I will never be able to forgive myself for causing you such high degree of pain that you'd be willing to risk your life just to get away from me."
Snow squeezed ZaiWin's hand. In fact, he wanted to hug him. He wanted to show him that none of that mattered anymore. But, somehow, he couldn't help feeling that he had lost the right to do so.
"So, you never met them again?" ZaiWin guessed. End of the World was a considerably small village, and he more or less knew everyone living there. Unless they had come up with some other way to maintain communication, he was pretty sure Snow hadn't met them again until just a few days ago.
As to be expected, Snow nodded.
"They apparently lost track of me, after you took me away from that cavern. RyuXin told me that they searched for me, but that they couldn't find me," Snow declared. "And then, that night, when I came downstairs to fetch water, RimJan was suddenly there. She told me that she had ... felt my energy, and that they'd immediately come to find me."
"Felt your energy?"
"I don't know much about that either," Snow confessed. "I think she might have felt when I raised that ice dome, or when I tried to help you restore your energy. I'm not sure. But this wasn't the first time they told me something like this. Apparently RimJan was also able to feel me, when I healed the fields of Last Tree."
"They told me that this was the first clue they got about my whereabouts. That they had been looking for me since the day I was born."
ZaiWin seemed pensive for a moment.
"And that's when you met the others, when that RyuXin guy took you to that house," he once more guessed and Snow nodded again.
"RimJan told me that I was actually born in Seven Waters. They knew this because, back then, they had come to try and rescue me, like they normally do whenever they learn that a Tien'Elhar is about to be born."
ZaiWin couldn't help staring incredulously at him. Snow had been born in Seven Waters?!
"That house ... That house was my family's house," Snow added in an increasingly smaller voice, and ZaiWin frowned.
"Your family's house? Are you sure?" As in, are you sure they didn't lie to you?, ZaiWin wanted ask. By now he was more than certain that they would have told Snow whatever was needed, in order to make him willingly follow their plan. But Snow simply nodded.
"I wasn't sure at first, either. But then ... When RyuXin led me into that bedroom, I was sure. I could ... remember a few things. Maybe not remember remember, the same way you remember what you did yesterday. But I just ... knew ..."
ZaiWin couldn't help tense up at the sound of those words. Had he remembered what had happened to his family as well? Had he remembered about him ...?
As if he had heard his silent questions, Snow raised his head and looked him straight in the eye.
"You also knew, right?" he asked, even though that hardly sounded like a question. "You saw it happen. When you activated my daitai. When I tried to control them. The memories I couldn't recall. That's why you refused to tell me what you had seen."
ZaiWin clenched his jaw, not knowing how to answer that. Would Snow blame him for hiding that from him? Had he really remembered everything? Even what had led to that horrible event?
Snow took a deep breath, averting his gaze, looking as if he felt deeply ashamed of some terrible thing he'd done.
"You could have told me. RyuXin told me about that, the first time we met. He sounded very happy and proud too, as if I had achieved some amazing feat, worthy of being praised. Even though when I first heard about it I could hardly breathe, my mind refusing to believe a single word out of his mouth.
"But then, when RimJan told me about the house and asked me if I didn't want to see it with my own eyes, I just had to make sure. I didn't want to have to carry RyuXin's words inside my head for the rest of my life, forever wondering if he had been lying or telling the truth. I wanted to know, and I wanted to see it for myself. And so I also readied myself for the possibility that he might have been telling the truth. Which, as we both know, he had. I did murder my entire Clan."
Grabbing both his arms, ZaiWin pulled him closer, his urgent blue gaze staring anxiously at him.
"You did what you had to do in order to survive! And you were only a baby! You didn't even know what you were doing!"
"I know. I know all that. But that still doesn't change the fact that I did kill them all. Even people that had never even seen me. Probably people that didn't even know I existed."
ZaiWin clenched his jaw even tighter.
"But, then again, people are people. No matter if they're my family or not. And I've killed a lot more people since then. The women that worked in that pleasure house. The prisoners that were dragged into my prison cell. Your men, that were just trying to rescue us. This is the amount of blood that I have to carry in my hands. And, as long as I'm alive, I may end up killing many others. I almost killed you as well."
It wasn't so much what he had said that left him a feeling of ... urgency, but the way he'd said it, ZaiWin realized. With a cold detachment and a deep belief in the inevitability of it all. And ZaiWin couldn't help remembering what he had told him when they had first started practicing his daitai control. That every piece of memory he recovered made his heart colder. Which now also made ZaiWin feel as if Snow was somehow getting increasingly farther away from his grasp.
"But you didn't!" ZaiWin immediately declared, giving him a curt shake as if that could force his words to sink into Snow's brain. "And even though I know how much the knowledge of what happened hurts you, I'm glad you killed them! I'm glad you found a way to survive! If I had been there, I would have killed them myself!"
Snow's lips twisted into a bitter smile.
"RyuXin said more or less the same thing. In fact, they seem to think that it's a shame that they weren't able to do the same to their own families. And he wanted to know if I'm able to control it. The red array."
ZaiWin's eyes widened in alarm at that.
"Don't worry. I told them I have no idea of how I did it. Which isn't a complete lie. It's true that I can't control it," Snow added. Which, on the other hand, meant that he did know how to activate it, ZaiWin realized.
"And that's ... when they told me ... that you were also there ..."
A/N: Somehow this cold side of Snow can be a bit scary … 😖
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