Sehuta, eğ søngabu søi! Seğ nigavøḥaiḥa gavøsu tagamnil lejeḥ helai Kuta fas medtė ødya. Sø topo eğil.
Sehuta, I need you! We can’t try it in the first decad of the month because Kuta has backed out. Come meet me.
Kuta must be a person. Rain makes no sense in the sentence otherwise. Liga, do you know someone named Kuta, perhaps with a name suffix, in the Daybreak Movement of Galasu? Liga, will you contact me? I have seen some of your messages, but I want a face-to-face conversation. You cannot treat me like this! I talked to Suka via chat, and le agrees with me.
The situation I occupy stands between two walls that are quickly closing in on each other. It doesn’t matter what the name means and what its origins are because someone plans to murder another person, and ler actions are backed by Daybreak.
The conspirators did not use the Shiji word for murder, which does not seem to exist in my Narahji-Shiji dictionary or Tveshi-Shiji dictionary. It must be something in the phrase rajeḥ gopeseğ nothahil that the program returns when I try to find the word. Nothing like that appears in their conversation!
Liga, the first question I would have if I were you would be what happened after Aneti was summoned away. I did not see lim at all today. Ler supervisor said that le called in sick, and ler fever was verified by an uncle of some kind. Whatever Daybreak has decided to do, we at least have time. Kuta backing out has afforded us this luxury.* Le has shown signs of stress, Liga. Anyway, take from that what you will.
This afternoon, I passed by one of the holographic gardens in City Center, and a male voice called out behind me. Le said, “GIRL WITH THE GYENA!” and ran up to me. When I turned around, I recognized lim almost immediately as Adviser Tenes.
“Mesahelepui, I trust that you’re doing well this afternoon?” I asked.
“Well!” Le smiled like a young boy caught doing something untoward, and said, “I forgot your name, but I wondered if you were going inside.”
I smiled and continued to walk past the holographic garden. Le kept pace with me. We used formal language, but truth be told, continuing to walk away from lim would have been considered rude for non-Narahji. I don’t think le noticed. I said, “The holographic gardens cost a large portion of my family allowance. I can do them at most once every week.”
Adviser Tenes laughed. “Such austerity. You should come to a light show with me.” Le slid ler arm around my back, and I stiffened. Ler hand landed on my hip, and I pushed it away because everyone has heard about lim on the gossip fora, and le has no excuse for that kind of behavior.
I said, “Why?”
“I know someone who once liked them, and you remind me of lim.” Adviser Tenes smiled.
I said, “I’m in a relationship,” and I stopped walking. When I turned to face lim, I moved out of the street traffic. Nobody else approached us, and the air felt chilly against my skin.
“It’s not that,” le said.
“How many people in the Progressive Movement knew this woman? Is it the one who causes all of the sideways glances from Akah Kara, Akah Khera, and the others?”
“You know what I mean.”
Adviser Tenes blinked, and the crowd pulsed towards us again. Le hooked ler arm in mine in a chaste social gesture, ler body an acceptable distance away. While le had changed tactics, I think that ler intentions remained the same. Men cannot control their impulses or think strategically.
Le leaned close to me and whispered, “Yes, le enjoyed the light shows.”
I sighed. “I suppose I will come with you, then.” There was nothing much I could do. Liga — as much as I wanted to, this man holds power, and I can accept a certain amount of unwanted social attention provided that nothing escalates.
The light show happened in a large warehouse covered in graffiti about five stops towards the edge of town. It had boarded-up scars of war with the Taritit on the outside, some of it covered in soldered metal sheets. A large sign above the rolling doors read HYDROPONICS LABORATORY, but the word hydroponics was missing several vowels. Inside, it transformed into a giant, square auditorium. Large columns supported the roof. Seating lined three of the four walls, and a great, white sheet hung from the fourth. Adviser Tenes laughed when I asked about sailing.
Most audience members looked over forty, so when the two of us walked in to take our seats, the back of my neck prickled from their gazes. Adviser Tenes navigated us through the cramped seats. Three-quarters of the participants had brought their own ćukuseh and alcohol.
Adviser Tenes stopped next to a jomela. The jomela looked up at us. Le wore ler hair in high khañiptị! That natural hair fell over ler shoulders in braids, and le wore a headdress that radiated out in a half-disk. Small coins dangled over ler forehead and cheeks. It was lightweight enough to not need a neck brace. Le wore the sunrise pattern, and the fabric teemed with embroidered pastoral scenes. This was incredibly audacious.
Two meters away, our eyes met, and I realized their color. I winced, and le smiled. My mind raced to the conversation with Akah Kara.
Le set aside a fume bowl and rose to greet Adviser Tenes. They kissed each other on the cheeks and hugged warmly. Adviser Tenes stepped back and canted ler head towards me. “I would like to make a formal introduction between you and Nitañi, who works in the Progressive Movement’s headquarters.”
The jomela made the traditional greeting gesture and said, “Most people dispense with high formality with me and say Karatau Meiyenesi or Kurutimi. Formally, Mainė. How long have you known Tenes?”
“We met at my house,” Adviser Tenes said.
“Salus Kobsarka-Nitañi Niksubvya,” Karatau Meiyenesi pronounced and stressed my name perfectly. Le clicked ler tongue against the roof of ler mouth. “Matriarch Mohata and I have known each other for decades. Please wish lim well next time you talk.”
I bit my lower lip. “Akah, I had no idea.”
The show started, thank Tsemanok, with a flash of fire onstage that sent me into my chair in surprise.
The lasers made artistic light displays as they coiled around dancers on the stage. A man in the center somersaulted through the jets of flame, and the music crescendoed from an imperceptible hum to the cacophonous throttle of an electric ksibja orchestra. I have never seen acrobatic performances this daring. The Shiji do not climb as well as we do, but their people twirled and flew through the air as if they had transformed into birds. The heavy scent of ćukuseh in the air made my head giddy and calmed my racing thoughts about Grandmother. Without ćukuseh, I would certainly have stayed. I would not have enjoyed myself.
When we emerged from the building several hours later, Adviser Tenes and Karatau Meiyenesi spoke quickly to each other in something that sounded like Atarahi, but wasn’t. Adviser Tenes left before I could say something. My head ballooned from the ćukuseh, and Karatau Meiyenesi offered to walk me home. I did not protest as much as I should have.
Karatau Meiyenesi touched my arm and said, “I understand your facial expression. Your parents’ generation raised you all very traditionally. It is the way things happen.”
“I don’t want the muakanua.”
“Do you know how rare that is?” Le stopped mid-chuckle. “I understand the concern. It does not flow like a river. It does not follow the path of least resistance as the highlands lead to the flat saltwater marshes. Besides, we are not talking about the nuamua. You have met one of my people before, in Narahja, and you are fine.”
I shook my head. “I don’t believe you. I met a nuamė named Okiyot at the end of Hikol. I have met another named Deisurås who knows a cousin. To use your metaphor, you are following me like debris running downstream. How do you know my grandmother?”
Karatau Meiyenesi clicked ler tongue. “Okiyot is not in the nuamua. I am not in the nuamua. Okiyot and I were once in the nuamua, and Deisurås has never been in the nuamua because le is young enough to have always been under my aegis. Yes, one can contract the muakanua from me, or from Okiyot, or from anyone under me. We have a connection to the nuamua that creates the same impossible eyes. Its effects do not flee even in the together-bound pathway. But you would not have the muakanua nuami.”
“What do you mean by ‘together-bound pathway’?”
“We say Kofahjenya lyịbasub in Narahji,” le said. “It is the sense of coming together of one mind, with a sense of equality. You may have heard Kohjenya or Kohjenyakri, and that is a shorthand that loses most of the nuance. The Tveshi say Equilibrium Nexus, and that, too, loses the nuance. It is a different collective, overlapping with the nuamua, yet not completely the same. Unattached. I am its nexus. Are you hungry?”
My matriarch knows an Iturji person associated with the Kohjenya. Karatau Meiyenesi is an Iturji jomela. Karatau Meiyenesi knows lim. Is this the organization my grandmother wanted me to seek out, one filled with nuamua-who-are-not-nuamua? I tried to clear my head. I am more anxious now writing this than I was, the fault of the ćukuseh, and so I said, “My grandmother did mention you. Le likes you. Are there Kohjenya who are not in the collective?”
Karatau Meiyenesi smiled. “We have known each other for decades. Of course le mentioned me. I was going to find you and introduce myself after you settled in, before anything happened, but it seems I have failed at that. I am starving and want food. Will you come with me? I could tell you more about us if you like after we order. Ah — to your question, right. No.”
“Yes,” I said. I held back the questions I wanted to ask, Are you Kohjenya more or less dangerous than the nuamua and the Karatha? What are you that you were once in the nuamua and are now in something else? Is this something that any nuamė can do? Any Karatha?
Le put ler arm around my waist, and I stiffened. I am from an elite family. A nexus must be something elite within a collective, perhaps the most elite thing. At the same time, touching one of the nuamua? It is not as if we are two people on equal footing. The nuamua were put to death on sight until half a millennium ago in Tveshė. Some blood crime must have caused that. Karatau Meiyenesi might even have been part of it.
Karatau Meiyenesi broke the silence with a story about a drinking party a long time ago at an old-fashioned Galasuhi bar that once stood where we now have modern apartments. Le had casually dated one of the men there for three years, and it was their last drink together before the man’s marriage. They played a prank on the bride-to-be’s family that nearly went wrong. It involved a daraiga and one of the family homes’ inner courtyards.
I forgot the punch line, but it appears that Karatau Meiyenesi once wore contacts when le was out to avoid suspicion. I don’t know where one might have found colorful contacts. They’re illegal, and they always have been.
We went to a late-night restaurant and ordered fluffy steamed cakes covered in a sticky ground meat sauce, cold summer fish soup, and an assortment of sliced fatty fruits. Le ordered a surprise for dessert, chunks of frozen fruit juice that we ate with our fingers. Le knew my favorite ice flavor.
This openness from me was not the ćukuseh. We hit off so well that I forgot to ask lim about the Kohjenya! I genuinely like lim, and the ease of our conversation reminded me so much of those late nights talking to other people in my school cohort. Also, of talking to Kelis. I miss Kelis so much.
What does it mean about me that I have listened to the recording of our conversation twice, skipping over the boring pieces when neither of us had a thing to say, and that I feel so torn about lim? Le has, as the hymns to Likhera go, a quick-tongued mouth whose words unfurl their target, and le is the most well-mannered jomela I have ever met. I would go out with lim again if given the opportunity. Le would make such a good friend, but I fear my family’s opinion. My grandmother might know lim and even like lim, but my parents, aunts, and uncles would have so many unkind words.
Liga, have I been a hotåkhi ass? Please don’t leave a message about that! I would prefer that you talk to me face-to-face.
* Yes, this definitely affords us more time. We had a spike of chatter last night in the resources that we started monitoring a few months ago, and I tunneled in and placed malware on several computing nodes. It’s possible that we will have additional information soon. I am happy that we have a good break.↩