Chapter 8: Two of Spades

Tayu ran through the pouring rain, ignoring her soaked clothing and people staring at her as she bolted onto her street and sprinted toward her apartment. The evening sky was even darker with the dark clouds overhead, letting only glowing lanterns and large bolts of lightning light her way on the cobblestone path leading from the downtown hospital to her harbor apartment. She ran quickly; the storm was becoming more dreadful by the minute, and the lightning overhead looked awfully blue, suggesting a magic-polluted rain. "Oh, Amy, please be alright, please be alright," she gasped, running quickly to her building and fumbling for her key.

As soon as she reached the door, the sky flashed bright blue before everything went black. Tayu gasped and hugged the wall, her heart pounding as a few surprised shouts and quick screams echoed around her. A moment later, the thunder rolled through her, shaking both her and the building she was pressed against. A moment after that, a few lights flickered on in the distance, but the area around her remained dark. "Oh, vix it, not the lines!" That bolt was no doubt made of solid magic, and must have struck one of the large towers that ran the invisible lines through the city. They provided the power for all of the magic-run things through the city, including the lights on the street and her own building, which was far too old to have its own supply built in as a reserve. "Oh, no, Amy! Oh, no, no, no! Oh, vix it!" Amy was absolutely terrified of storms, and all of the lights were out in the building-! She opened the door quickly, bolting up the stairwell without waiting to lock the entrance behind her. Her wet shoes slipped once, but she managed to climb to her floor with record timing. She grabbed the handle and burst in without knocking. "Amy! Amy, are you alright?" she shouted, looking frantically for her sister in the dark room. "Amy?"

A sliver of light appeared to her left—she turned to it quickly. "Tayu?" Amy's voice came, cautious, but not scared, along with it. "Are you okay?" The sliver of light, Tayu saw, was coming from underneath a blanket tossed over her dinner table. A pair of tiny hands grabbed the bottom of the cloth and lifted it up, revealing the outline of her little sister and accompanying dog. "Are you all better now?" she asked, clambering out from under the table, her face lit by a small marble of moonstone in her hand.

Tayu nearly cried in relief, shutting the door behind her before running over to Amy. "Oh, I'm fine, sugar," she sobbed, holding her sister tight and kissing her forehead. "I was so worried about you—I saw the lines go out, and I was so afraid! Oh, I'm so sorry—I didn't know it was going to storm like this. I would have asked Ji to watch you."

"Augh, Tayu, stop it, you're all wet!" Tayu let go, apologizing quickly and standing back a bit awkwardly.

"Oh, uh, sorry." She was dripping all over her floor. "I'll wipe all this up and change in a bit. Are you sure you're okay?"

Amy's face lit up immediately. "No, we've been fine! Amun came while you were gone, we've been waiting for you to come home!" She turned quickly back to the table, where another, darker figure had lifted the cloth and was lounging comfortably on her floor, bathed in the strange gold light coming from a large, swirling orb in his hands. He was in his fey form, complete with four glowing, silver eyes focused on her own. "He's been teaching me games with cards. You should play with us!"

Tayu stood still, unsure of what so say. "I…" she swallowed. "I…"

Amun chuckled. "Why hello to you too, kitten." He smiled, the light casting eerie shadows across his face. "Chicky and I remodeled your dining room while you were gone; I hope you don't mind. So, would you like to join us for a few games?"

Tayu swallowed and looked down at Amy, who was waiting anxiously for her to join them. "I might as well," she said with defeat, slowly making her way to the table. Amy ran ahead and ducked under the table, where Tayu could hear the shuffling of cards. "Um, I might just have to peek in, though."

Amun laughed. "Oh, come on now, kitten. You're not leaving us that easily. Here. A table for three." He reached up and grabbed the table and tablecloth, pulling them outward. Tayu stepped back uneasily as her dining table stretched and expanded like taffy being pulled in front of her. Amy gave a delighted gasp as the table suddenly solidified, more than twice its original size. The tablecloth quickly followed suit, draping itself completely over the table and resting on the floor on all sides. Again, he lifted the tablecloth from inside and beckoned her inside. "Come on," he said calmly. "I locked the door and window—no one's going to catch me here, I promise. Now, don't cause a scene."

Shuffling in the small puddle forming at her feet, Tayu looked away from his intense gaze. "Um, I should probably get a towel first—"

"Don't worry about it. Come here." His voice remained bright and cheerful, but his grin snapped quickly into an impatient glower. Tayu swallowed nervously and made her way to the makeshift tent, where Amy and Amun were already shuffling cards. She lifted a corner of the cloth cautiously, unsure of what to expect; the scene was surprisingly normal, containing only the fairy, girl, and dog. With, of course, the pack of what appeared to be very expensive playing cards and a large golden orb sitting in the fairy's lap. "Now, come on, make yourself comfortable."

Tayu shuffled into some sort of sitting position, resting on her legs uncomfortably. She looked up at the table above her with a bit of a glare. Of course, with her legs tucked away, she fit easily under the table and was in fact only an inch or two above the small spirit beside her. He looked up at her suddenly, making her flinch and almost look away. "Um, yes?" she squeaked, her voice cracking slightly.

"So," he asked with false interest, beginning to deal out the pack of cards he had been shuffling into three small piles. "What did the doctor say? Did they find anything interesting?" His voice remained concerned, but his smirk never quite disappeared.

Tayu bristled. He was playing with her! She looked away. "They couldn't find anything," she said evenly, glaring at the ground a little. "They said I'm not eating well enough, probably…" Although something was most certainly wrong with her, and he knew exactly what it was.

"Well, then, that's a relief." Something poked Tayu's shoulder, making her jump a little. She turned to see Amun pushing a small stack of cards into her sleeve, his expression strangely calm. "It's good to know it's nothing important. Now, take your cards."

Hesitating, she looked down at the small, flowery cards. They looked like they were printed on parchment, or even treated silk—the backs were etched with a motif of small white flowers and black birds. They looked to be handmade, old, and extremely expensive "Oh! Um, my hands are still wet. I don't want to—"

"Oh, for goodness' sakes, child," he snapped, tapping her shoulder again a bit more roughly. Tayu froze as a hot shock, like lightning, ran through her. She jumped, leaning away from him. "There you go. Now, take the cursed cards already." Tayu began to reply, but stopped, realizing that the cold feeling of the rain had left. She looked down and patted her dress, only to find that it was completely dry, just as it was when she had left the doctor's office. Only a puddle around her and a trail of water across the room remained as any sort of proof that she had been wet at all.

"But—how did—you can't just—" Tayu's arm snapped out and grabbed the cards without her consent. The hairs on her arm stood on end, but she kept her grip on the stack even after the force left her. The cards were soft in her hands; when she touched them, they felt almost like down. "O-oh… um… thank you…" She flipped one over to see the face, delighted to find a beautiful picture of a white flower she did not recognize . The fancy script was difficult to read at first, as the cards' numbers and suits were written out instead of being put into symbols but she deduced that it was probably the two of spades. "These are beautiful," she said softly, mesmerized, shuffling through more of the cards. Each one had a different flower or bird painted on with impeccable realism.

Amy grabbed her own stack from Amun, grinning from ear to ear. "Aren't they? My favorite is the queen of hearts—it's a white peacock, and it's so pretty." She sighed, shuffling mindlessly. "I would love to have cards like these someday."

Amun laughed, taking the final pile. "Well, then, you're going to have to become a mighty fine mage or hedgewitch. Only fey make these kind of cards, and you can only buy them from their maker."

Amy frowned a little at that. "Well," she said sadly, "I don't think there's any chance of that happening… I'm just about as magic as Tayu is." Amun laughed loudly at that while Tayu fidgeted uncomfortably. "But who did you buy these from?" she asked curiously.

"Mmm… I didn't buy these, per say. They were a gift from my lovely wife a few hundred years ago, after my last set was… ah, irreparably damaged." He grinned. "It was my fault, anyway. I was cheating. Although Lelouch could stand to loosen up," he complained. "He knows I always cheat with him, just to get on his nerves, and he gets worked up every time. Hence, why I cheat."

"Lelouch! The Wind Spirit?" Tayu echoed, a bit surprised. When everyone turned, she blushed and ducked her head. "Oh, um, I'm sorry. I just keep forgetting, I guess…"

He shrugged. "Oh, it's perfectly alright. I'm told I'm that kind of guy." He flicked his cards around effortlessly, shuffling them through his fingers in a weaving fashion. "He's a very close friend. Though, it's not so strange to have friends in your area of profession, am I right?"

Amy looked up with wide eyes. "You play cards with a lot of Sprits?"

He nodded, stroking his chin. "Every year or two. Lelouch is a regular, along with Marson and Boko. Firix tags along with Boko, usually—they're friends, of sorts, along with Manen and Fate and…" He trailed off, lost in thought. "Well, it's usually a crowd. We play for food, usually, and when a select few are gone, drink." He laughed, effortlessly flipping his cards back into a neat pile in his hands. "So, do you want to start already? It's a very, very old game—I hope you're all good at bluffing."

"Um… One ace." Tayu carefully placed a card face-down in the center of the pile, then quickly returned to looking at her own hand. She sneaked a look up, only to see two very disapproving faces looking up at her. Finally, Amy crossed her arms and huffed.

"Cheat!" She called, flipping over the card Tayu had just placed, smiling triumphantly when it was revealed to be, in fact, a seven of clubs. "I knew it! Now, come on. You have to take the pot, Tayu."

"Oh, for Pete's sakes," Tayu grumbled, picking up the pile of cards in the middle and adding them to her already-stuffed hand. "Why do I even bother?"

"Which means…" Amy threw down her last cards, throwing her empty hands in the air. "Three twos! Yes! I win again."

Tayu couldn't help but scowl at the enormous pile of cards in her hand. "I know, I know," she mumbled, annoyed. She had tried to be a good sport about everything, but it was becoming increasingly difficult as she kept losing game after game that they played. While Amun and Amy switched back and forth between first, with the tide definitely shifted in Amun's favor, Tayu never managed to budge from dead last. "I guess I'm just not very good with cards."

"It's not your cards, kitten," Amun laughed, with Amy giggling behind him.

"Okay," she snapped, feeling like a bad sport, "so I'm just not good with games in general." It wasn't her fault that the game was ridiculously tilted in everyone's favor but hers. "Or maybe I'm just not as good a liar." Bluffing games had to be the stupidest form of entertainment in the entire world… and she wasn't entirely sure that Amun wasn't cheating sometimes.

Amy yawned loudly, making the sleeping dog next to her lift its ear once before drifting off again. "I'm kind of sleepy," she mumbled, rubbing her eyes. "Can I stop after this game?"

Tayu reached over to pat her head. "Oh, we can stop right now if you want, sweetie."

Amy scowled a little. "Don't call me that," she complained, sneaking a look at the Spirit. "I'm not a baby."

"Oh, she's practically a mother hen, now isn't she?" Amun commented, sweeping up the cards from the floor and tucking them into a small wooden box. "I do think that it's about time to head home—even I have to sleep sometime."

"Really?" Amy asked, rubbing her eyes.

He nodded. "Well, no, but yes. I don't have to, but others do. Have you never heard 'dead as a sleeping Spirit?'" Amy shook her head. "Well, once a Spirit falls asleep, they won't wake for anything in the world, much like a dragon. But you'll have to take my word for it.

"Now, come on, let's put the table back where we found it—our tent will have to go for now." When the table was cleared of occupants, Amun tapped it lightly and watched it snap back into its original size and place. He reached down to ruffle Amy's hair. "It was nice playing with you, chicky. I'll have to come by sometime when your poor mother's left you behind. Oh, and by the way, now that the cards are up…" He turned suddenly to Tayu with a bit of a smirk. "While you are an absolutely terrible liar, I think you should be aware that your eyes change when you lie."

Tayu's mouth dropped open. "Wha—you mean this whole time—" She blushed bright red as the two laughed at her expense before quickly returning to a different conversation. She covered her face in frustration. "I can't believe—I—augh!" How long had this been happening? How did they change? And more importantly, had anyone else noticed? "And I thought I was just the world's worst liar," she mumbled. "They're the world's worst cheats!"

She gave up worrying and leaned against the wall in defeat. Tayu watched the two chatter a bit uncomfortably; she didn't like the way that the Spirit was so friendly with her sister, especially after she saw just how dangerous he could be. Amy hadn't seen that side of him yet, and she was honestly afraid of warning her. Still, she thought with a trace of hopefulness, he didn't seem to treat Amy in the same way that he treated her at all. Amy was like a child to spoil, in a way, while she was…

What was she, exactly?

"Well, I'm going to head out. I need to eat as well as sleep, believe it or not." He began to walk to the door, stopping to turn and look to Tayu. "Oh?" he asked, raising an eyebrow.

Tayu gulped. "Um, yes?" she asked hesitantly.

"What, you aren't going to show your guest out…?" He cocked his head, beckoning for her to follow. "We'll have a chat on the way out—what do you think?"

She froze in place. "Um, well," she stammered, "o-of course. I, uh, just need, uh, my shoes…" She stumbled quickly to the door, avoiding his eyes.

"You're leaving? Can I come too?" Amy started towards the door.

"No!" Tayu said quickly, throwing one hand to her sister while she struggled to pull on her boots with her other. "You should, uh, be getting ready for bed. I'll, um, be back in a minute…" She slipped but caught herself on the door.

Amun opened the door calmly, walking into the stairwell in his human disguise. He looked back and waved once at Amy. "Bye, chicky." She waved enthusiastically back, and was still waving when Tayu closed the door.

Tayu took a deep breath, standing up straight for the first time in a while; her back hurt from crouching in the room. "Um, well, I guess, this way," she mumbled, leading the way down the stairs. The spirit behind her laughed darkly, his voice mocking.

"Um, well, I suppose, thank you, uh, kitten." He snorted. Tayu blushed at his teasing. She was right—he was most certainly nicer to Amy.

He noticed her sulking and pouted. "Oh, come now, kitten. I'm only teasing you. Have a little fun in your life… Besides, I promised you I would give you a talk, and here we are." His footsteps stopped behind her; she turned around to find him leaning against the wall of the stairway, staring down intently at her. "I can't promise that I'll tell you everything, but I'll most certainly try. For your own sake."

Tayu hesitated, looking around at the doors all around her. "Um, do we have to do this—"

"Oh, come on, Tayu," he snapped impatiently. "I've already frozen the place. No one can hear us right now." She stiffened, still not quite sure. Her hesitating made him snap. "Oh, for pete's sake's, child! You're as jumpy as your father!"

Tayu froze, her eyes widening. Amun made a quick face, then rolled his eyes with a deep sigh. "Oh, here we are," he complained mostly to himself. "My big mouth."

She was speechless for a moment. "My… my father?" The world spun a little; she leaned against the wall behind her to steady herself. "How… how do you…? How do you know…?" Her mouth felt more dry than usual. "I…"

Amun shook his head, clearly upset with himself. "Now, just wait a minute, Tayu. Calm down. I told you, I—"

"You know my father?" Tayu said a bit more loudly, staring up at the spirit. "How do you know my father? What's… That's ridiculous. I was—I was dropped off at an orphanage—I was dropped off the day I was…" She began to babble, her head racing ahead of her mouth. "There's no—you can't know my father… I mean… But if you know my father—" Her head snapped back up and her eyes began to brim with confused tears. "How do you know? And what about—do you know my parents? Did—you met them, didn't you? How long—how long have you known about them? How do you know? Are they—are they alive? Did—do they—do they know—" She stopped speaking, burying her face in her sleeve to wipe away her falling tears. "Do they… do they know me? Do they know where I…" She began to cry without meaning to, sobbing into her sleeve. "Do they… Who… Do they know where…" Her crying began in earnest, confused and scared as she was. "Oh, God," she sobbed. "I don't…"

A hand patted her arm, making her flinch. Amun was suddenly in front of her, his expression in a troubled sort of frown she hadn't seen before. "Oh, kitten," he sighed, his voice strangely gentle, "I'm afraid nothing I say is going to make you happy at this point. I can't say much, and I'm fairly sorry for it." He stepped back and scratched his head, silently debating. "I'm genuinely lost for words."

"W-why?" Tayu choked, feeling awful and sick with herself. "Why can't…" she couldn't even finish her sentence, lost in her sobbing again.

"Again, for your own good, and for others' sakes, kitten." He gave a deep sigh and turned back to her. "Well, as long as the cat's out of the bag, I might as well tell you everything I can, alright?" He petted her arm again. "I promised you answers, didn't I?"

Tayu bit her lip and willed her crying to go away. It didn't work right away, but after a minute of crying to herself along with the Spirit's consoling, she managed to take a few deep, shaky breaths. Her tears never stopped, but she swallowed the lump in her throat and managed to speak a little on her own. "Who—can—can you at least tell me if—if they're alive?" she asked, keeping her head buried in her arm.

Amun reached in his blouse and pulled out a handkerchief. "Here, kitten. Don't dirty your clothes." When she reluctantly took the cloth, he leaned against the wall himself and sat down next to her. "Your father is alive. Your mother died before you were born, most likely."

Tayu blew her nose before looking up, understandably confused as she digested the information. "That's… how is that possible? How could I be…"

He scratched his head. "Well, that brings me to what I originally wanted to talk to you about. As your Healer so kindly proved for us today, you're not human, Tayu. Not entirely, anyway."

She sat quietly for a moment, swallowing loudly. "Well," she breathed as calmly as she could, "I guess I knew that since this afternoon." She looked to him with a bit of disappointment. "I don't suppose you'll be telling me what, I am, though."

He made another face, clearly at war with himself. "Hmm… This is quite awkward for the both of us, isn't it?" He pulled back the hair falling into his face, thinking. "Well, fine. It's relevant, so I might as well.

"You're half merfolk, Tayu."

Tayu laughed, smiling in earnest. "Okay, okay, I guess I won't press anymore," she said with a shaky laugh. Even though he was obviously not going to say, it was enough that he was trying to make her feel better. "You don't have to tell. I'm… I'm really happy with what you've told me already." She turned to let him see that she was alright, honestly surprised to see such a flat expression on his face.

"I'm not joking," he said a bit tartly, a bit offended. "Your father was a merfolk, and your mother a human. I'm not entirely sure of the circumstances—I most certainly wasn't there, and I never particularly considered it relevant until our meeting a week ago—but of that I'm certain." He shrugged. "Normally, a mutt like you would be born normally, but it's very likely that you came from egg rather than womb, which would explain much more than I would like to believe."

"I…" Tayu continued to stare down at him, not quite believing her ears. "I… can't quite tell if you're playing or not. How…" Merfolk? That was absolutely impossible. They didn't communicate with anyone outside of their race—they were even more secluded than drow. No one had even caught so much as a glimpse of a merfolk for over a century in Astar. "I—is that even—" She began to feel a bit queasy at the thought.

"I'm being completely serious, kitten, and it's not as unheard of as you would like to think. The problem lies in the fact that no sane merfolk would allow their child to be raised on land. It causes far too many problems, as your lovely doctor discovered today." He frowned up at her. "Not to mention that those ridiculous legs stand out like a glowing thumb!"

Tayu stared down at her hands, the wheels in her head beginning to turn once again. "I… you mean that's what's wrong with me? I'm… I'm practically a fish?"

"Oh for heaven's sakes, no," he snapped, obviously impatient at that point. "That's what I'm saying. You've been raised on the bloody land—you've had the fish sapped out of you long ago. So please don't try anything so brainless as, say, trying to breathe underwater, because your body's given that up long ago." He tapped her skirt with one of his bare feet. "You'd drown and sink like a chunk of lead."

"But…" She continued to stare down at her hands. "I don't understand. Are you saying that I'm not really sick? Are you saying this is just normal? Am I going to stay like this?" Her heart began to race. "Is it going to get any worse?"

"Oh, don't get your bloomers in a wad. You're shriveling up because it's summer, that's all." Amun yawned once before standing up and stretching. "You just never had the symptoms because you had half of your blood sealed away. Just drink a lot of water and take a nice soak once a day. You'll be fine and dandy by autumn."

A huge weight felt like it had been lifted off of her chest. "You mean… you mean this will all go away?"

"Hmm. Most of it. You'll want to be a bit more careful in the sun, of course, but that's just common sense."

"What about my nightmares? Will they go away too?"

Amun cocked his head. "Nightmares?"

"The… about the same time all of this started happening, I started having these terrible nightmares. Well, nightmare, really. It's like a dream, but not. It… it feels so real, it's almost like a memory." She could tell by his confused face that he had no idea what she was talking about. Her heart sank as she continued talking. "But… it's not me… it's someone else, but I'm seeing everything through their eyes… and… they're always asking me for help… and when I wake up, my head hurts so badly that I feel like it's about to burst…"

His eyes flashed dangerously at that. "Headaches? Really?"

She swallowed and nodded. "D-do you know what it might be?"

Amun didn't say anything. He stared down at her as he tapped his foot impatiently, thinking quickly. "It's probably nothing," he said finally, though his hesitation made her think otherwise. "You've been taking puckermint, right? Just keep having a leaf in the mornings. You'll be fine." He began to descend the stairs, not looking back at her.

Tayu wiped her nose again before standing up, sighing a bit. She followed him wordlessly until they reached the door leading outside. "Um, thank you, again," she said quietly as she opened the door for him. "For saving us, and for being with Amy. She's terrified of storms—I don't know what she would have done without you there. And, um…" She forced the growing lump in her throat back down. "Thank you for telling me about my parents, even if it was just a little bit." The thought brought stinging tears back to her eyes. "I really can't tell you how much it means to me to know… even just a little. I guess... I guess it's just my luck with everything that's happening."

"Hmm..." Amun stepped out into the rain, then turned around to face Tayu. "And what kind of luck would that be?"

Tayu started to answer, but hesitated. "Well... my luck, I guess," she said noncomittally, looking away uncomfortably. When she looked back, she gave a squeak, seeing that Amun had become slightly transparent. "I! Uh. Oh." She tried to recover a bit of dignity. "Sorry."

He smiled, already fading. "You are a very lucky child, Tayu," he purred, "though whether that luck is good or bad has yet to be seen. Keep that in mind before you do anything rash-there's no such thing as a curse... or a blessing"

It was only after he had completely vanished that she let her shoulders slump. "I think I have a pretty good idea already," she mumbled.

Author's Corner:

Longest chapter so far by far. Yeah. Progress. That's how I roll. Oh, and while I'm here, I would like to address something really quick:

Please don't put any spoilers from the previous version in the reviews.

I know it's really tempting, and I'm SO HAPPY to see you guys who somehow made it through the previous version. However, not everyone has read it (note: I am not saying go and read it unless you're very prepared to deal with my thirteen-year-old writing… hahahah…. #SHAME)! I would absolutely LOVE to hear what you think about what has happened so far in this story, but please please please please PLEASE don't put anything that might spoil anything for everything else! I probably won't go so far as to delete comments, but please be courteous!

Now, on a lighter note, I now have a beautiful tumblr! It's mostly just silly pictures of my drawings, but there are a few portraits of Tayu, Amun, and Lelouch up if you would like to take a look! -edit- Okay, FPress doesn't like my url, so I'll just tell you my tumblr account is chrisrhyanne. :P

VTDark: Change is good! Especially from thirteen-year-old drama… Ahahah… So, here's a new chapter! I hope it was worth the (shorter!) wait!

d12e8k6: Ditto! –insert pink blob here- Here you go! :D Hope you enjoy.