The Kohjenakri associated with my cousin, Deisurås, came to my door this morning with a slim package. The day hadn’t yet slipped into 14 Poråkol, and I stood on the balcony watching birds dive at prey in the small park between this apartment unit and the one beside it.
Ler presence diverted the path of an indigo-crested bird with six pebbly wings, which had just gone into a dive towards one of the small slithering things in the grass. A smaller black bird swooped in and pulled an obelisk thasa out of the grass before the thasa could poke holes in its wings. The black bird came up to my balcony and ate the small creature with its three-tentacled tongue pulling it in. Deisurås stepped just beneath the black bird as the indigo-crested one dove to intercept it, showering the grass with blood.
Deisurås jumped back. I heard a faint yelp, and I flinched when le met my eyes. Le had no blood on lim.
Le waved at me and pointed at the door. I went down to meet lim, and I asked, “Do you want something?”
The parcel contained paper and several data disks. I searched Deisurås’ eyes for some explanation, and le said, “Liga gave these to me. Do you have water, Akah Nitañi?”
I nodded and showed lim up to the apartment. Le removed ler shoes at the door and approached the household shrine, where le made a flawless oil offering to the household gods. The entire apartment smelled like fresh nuts when le finished.
While le drank water, I fried kifu in a pan with sugar and spices, mixed in puréed fruits and nuts, and served it with cold meat from one of the refrigeration drawers. Deisurås thanked me, and we talked about current events in Menarka.
The metalworkers have started striking again, as they do during every monsoon season, but the Narahja United Movement wants to start another protest. Hopefully, this one won’t end with the same mass executions as the ones five years ago. There must be some way for us to win our rights without people dying.
Le said, “You need to trust Liga,” once the conversation died down.
The alarm in Kati’s room started ringing.
“I just want to know what is going on with lim.” This was a true statement. I do want to know what is wrong with you.
Deisurås said, “Liga is a complex case. We’re working on lim.”
“What is the complexity?”
“Le has a daughter from a marriage. They reestablished contact a few years ago, and the emotions there are complex. The daughter is old enough to marry, and you understand that some connections are undesirable during marriage negotiations and can even stop them altogether if they are known. Liga is careful and a worrywart.” Deisurås smiled. “Your opinion actually means a lot to Liga, Akah Nitañi. Thank you.”
Le rose, and before Kati came out of ler room, le left. I remained seated, staring at Deisurås’ empty bowl, and thought about what le said. Everyone travels a hard road, certainly, but it’s irrational to think that me knowing something like that could damage a marriage negotiation. I examined the package that Deisurås brought to me. Inside, on traditional paper, I found a message in your handwriting:
The photographs that our people took provided a lot of useful information. The ones I received from you, Nitañi, have a complementary angle that is good for contextualizing our images. The man standing beside Sehutañi has a very identifiable traditional tattoo that runs from ler neck to just below ler eyes on both sides. Ler bracelets contain the names of family members. Before the Occupation, Galasuhi sons who married into good families were given bracelets with the names of their host families’ resplendent dead at the breakfast after the marriage ceremony.
My associates say that the crest belongs to the Meitasako family. Records state that most family members fled to Atara and Mntaka when the Taritit fell. There are only about eighteen in the family home now: Eight men, one jomela, and nine women. A man named Jikuvė married into the family seven years ago. Le has a son, Heivenau, aged five. Jikuvė married Meiti Galasu-Niokateñi Meitasako. Jikuvė belongs to the Daybreak Movement, as does everyone else in that family, and comes from the Thesaptako family. That one is split evenly between Cradle and Daybreak.
I have a way to read Sehutañi’s messages now. Le will meet an associate in a place where audio bugs are viable. I will see if that gives us what we need. Do not engage, Nitañi.
Obviously, this is a task for someone like you who already knows the stakes. Do not worry that I will go after lim. I have professional engagements and a woman to seduce.
I found another photograph of my double today. It is glossy, in color, and the size of a standard sheet of paper. Le is standing slightly behind the Fadehin with ler hands behind ler back. Our great Fadehin is shaking hands with the top leaders of the Progressive Movement, including Akah Kara and Adviser Tenes. The joy in ler face is palpable.
One day, I would like to meet the Fadehin — hopefully after I have matured enough to offer policy expertise.
I slid the photograph into the inner pocket of my hepteri vest and smuggled it out of the archives. This time, I will keep it close. Akah Kara never returned the previous one. The new archivist likes me and noticed nothing. The security bots have mechanical eyes that favor no one, and they missed the theft, too.
This evening, I removed it from my pocket while Kati cooked and talked about ler gig playing for Kissing the Nine. It’s a one-act play that describes a Shiji satellite home in Menarka. The play sounds unoriginal. The writer really should have focused on the Menashi, not recent transplants. I described Narahji-Shiji fashion for Kati and corrected some of the costuming styles in the annotated script le showed me. Kati made notes over them after le took dinner off of the heat. I wonder how this must sound to lim — specifically that the Shiji living in Menarka have adopted the gyena and most local customs, including humanoid statues of gods as foci within the temples. I don’t know that Kati has worshipped at a Shiji-style shrine with anthropomorphic images. I showed lim images from the Temple of Likhera in Menarka, which I visited shortly before coming to Galasu, where the Shiji sat in silence during one of the musical performances for the goddess.
I don’t know how to write to you, Liga. Perhaps you think I am naïve for threatening to stop talking to you. How old are you? Do I seem like a child to you? What I do know is that my personal and professional lives are barely holding together. It is so hard to see Sehutañi day after day while knowing that I will betray lim. It is even harder to see Kitesrati at the breakfast table with my family while they guide me towards lim. Le knows how my fiancée died.
I wonder how much money my family would offer lers if the two of us married. Le seems just as ambitious as me. I have had nightmares about Sehutañi choking me with ler hair while Kitesrati watches on. Akah Kara continues to ask about my health.
Professionally, I want assurances from you. Personally, I need them even more. It’s not enough for Deisurås to hint at things. You need to have the courage to say them yourself.