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you call her lady

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She is introduced to you as Lady Eona. Your father insists you call her by her title, even in this small fishing village where she is no more than a runaway, an enemy of the state, just like you. (She is barely as old as you, both of you born in the last year of the Mirror Dragon.) You call her Lady because your father demands that certain rules are maintained in his rebellion.

 ..

On the road to Laosang, after she destroyed your village and killed your friends your fiancé your trust, you call her Lady because you must. You have to do your part to keep up the disguise of a bereft mother and faithful servant. You say it through gritted teeth, thinking of the murderer of your village and how she doesn’t deserve any such respect.

 ..

You must keep calling her Lady now the Emperor is here. You know the stories of his short temper and you see how he looks at her. (How she looks at him in turn.) You value your head more than your pride. But each time you speak to her the knife in your heart twists a little more.

 ..

You watch her struggle though the palace toward Lord Ido. The man who betrayed the kingdom, Lord Sethon, and, most of all, her. She fights her way to heal the only man who can teach her to control the dragons. The man who, above all, wants to kill her. You freeze when you see her arm, drenched in blood and she can barely stand but she keeps moving forward until Lady Dela is forced to carry her. You call her Lady and your fear for her life overrides the pain of fading faces.

 ..

In the East, you call her Lady because you cannot trust your voice. You keep professional, play your part of the ladyservant to the Mirror Dragoneye, the Emperor’s Naiso, the hope of the rebellion. You are an excellent actor. If you call her without the honorific, you do not know if your voice would betray whatever these new feelings are. You are not ready to face them.

 ..

You call her Lady Eona until one day, months, years after the Emperor has settled on his throne and the world has turned with the new cycle of dragons, she comes aboard your ship. You hadn’t thought she would know you were in port today, but although she no longer has her dragon, she is still the Naiso and has her ways of knowing. You start to bow, the honorific about to fall from your tongue as it always has. She touches your shoulder and you straighten. Your voice cracks and dies because she is looking at you like she used to look at the Emperor all that time ago.

“Please, Vida, just Eona.”

..

 

..

(The next and last time you call her Lady Eona, your father is presiding over the ceremony a few miles out to sea. Lady Dela is there and so is Eona’s mother, Rilla, and Chart (who has strengthened in these years and grown tanned with salt spray). She calls you Lady Vida and you see her smile and her eyes are alight with fire. When she kisses you all you can taste is her happiness and the faint undercurrent of cinnamon.)