Lords of Chaos, Part Sixteen: Status Quo

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(September 8th)

“I still wish we could come with you.” Nadia impulsively hugged Jhim, earning a wry smile before he gently disentangled himself.

“I know, and I appreciate it.” Adjusting his jumpsuit, Jhim looked at his friends. “But you’ve got work to do at home. Just because Ecchs isn’t trying to take over the world doesn’t mean he’s not causing trouble for a million people.”

“Not the same.” Nadia pouted. “Anyway, they don’t even need me. The three of them have been doing fine.”

“For a certain definition of ‘fine’ in which we get beaten up almost half the time.” Amber interjected. Nadia noted the comment with a shrug.

“Either way, it’s not your choice.” Jhim said to Nadia. “You’ve heard what the first scouting reports said. The Varrn have been using Earther influence as a way to claim that the Adari aren’t truly Sayleen anymore. If we have more than a token human presence in our counter-forces, it’ll just flock more people to our banner.”

“Which is why you aren’t coming.” Jhim froze, turning to the doorway in shock. Matriarch Ahliss was standing there solemnly, and she continued before he could speak. “You are too large a target for the rebels. To them, you are the embodiment of everything that they’ve claimed about our connection to Earth, our hewing to old traditions and hiding ourselves from the world. That’s why you are remaining here, with the Patchwork Champions.” After a fraction of a second, she belatedly added. “If they will have you, of course.”

Jhim stammered. “What have I done wrong, mother?”

Ahliss’s expression softened, and she stepped across to Jhim, taking his hand. “My dear son – you have done nothing. It is the enemy that have made this necessary.”

Jhim frowned. “The enemy, or the neutral nations?” When Ahliss didn’t answer, he nodded slowly. Seeing that all of his human friends were watching him blankly, he elaborated for them. “I left Sayleen… in something of a political fit. It only got worse when I spent two years pretending to be human. If I’m back, it’s a way for Kyall to claim that nothing has changed, and try to sway the people who are probably watching him in terror. He’s got the Yocanu, so we can afford some human soldiers, but I’m more of a political liability than a military asset.” He looked to his mother. “Is that about right?”

“As always.” Ahliss nodded slowly. “But here, you are a rallying cry, that we work with the humans, not for them. Remain on Earth. Be a part of this team. Show your pride.” She tapped his new hat, the one that showed his antenna, lightly. “Do not hide.”

Jhim bowed. “I will do my duty wherever you would have me, Matriarch.”

“Oh, Jhim.” Ahliss glanced at the humans, then took Jhim’s hand regardless. “I would have you by my side, for the rest of my life. The world rarely gives us what we want.” Stepping away, she bowed her head to him, then turned to go. “We will save our world, Jhim, never fear. Be here to make sure that our relations with Earth do not suffer for what has happened. Rally the Sayleen of Earth, remind the humans that we are glorious as well. It is the most good that you can do… and it pleases me that it allows you to follow your heart.”

Before Jhim could answer that, she slipped out the door. Nadia turned to him. “Wow.”

“Yeah.” Jhim sat down heavily. “I don’t know whether I should be glad to be staying, furious that she wants to leave without me, glad that I won’t be in another war, or terrified that I’m going to lose it all.”

“So what will you do?” Lucky dropped down beside him. Jhim looked up in surprise.

“What my Matriarch tells me to, of course.” He smiled after a moment. “Creative interpretation is one thing, but her orders were very clear. We do not disobey our parents, Lucky.”

“Right.” Lucky nodded slowly. “Sorry, shouldn’t have said anything.”

“Nah, I understand.” Jhim looked down, and grinned. “I’m going to need a new suit. Something a little bit Sayleen formal, and a little bit Handyman.” He looked up at his friends. “I’m going to make my mother proud.”

“We’re glad to have you back, Jhim.” Amber turned to Nadia. “And you.”

“The gang’s back together.” Nadia considered. “Oh, man, Ash is going to be surprised.”

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