Interlude 19 – Father and Daughter

Cyrus hummed “The Lover and the Dreamer” under his breath as he walked through the halls of Castle Valondrac; the song felt fitting, in many ways, dedicated as it was to the idea of two divine beings from separate tribes coming together in passion and romance. Granted, said romance ended quite terribly so it hopefully wasn’t too fitting for dear Jules’s situation…That, and the two beings in question were more demonic and…Hm, what was that word? 

Divine was for Rakuli, demonic for Ouza, so what were the Laut? Dreadful? Dismal? Deific? Not Deep, that was Fathom…augh, this was going to bother him now. It had to be something with a D, that was the only thing that fit the theme, but the only words he could think of to describe the eldritch gods were various synonyms for “uncanny”…Disparate? No, that didn’t work…

He started snapping his fingers along to a different beat, drawing the attention of a few lovelies walking along the hallways as well. So many interesting people lived in this castle–many of whom had become quite used to and amused by him in a wonderfully quick time; his dalliances with dear Marcusson had certainly established him as a trusted individual–and so many were so very exotic, at least when looking from a Light Land perspective. 

But getting to know any of them would have to come later. For now, he needed to find his daughter. Which still felt incredibly weird to think of, even after having a week or so to figure out how he felt about…all of that. 

He had kids. He’d never planned on having kids. He’d made his way through life all to 44 years old without any expectation of having children, and here he was, with a number of kids from a number of lovers all around at least half of the world. Hymn’s bells, that was a frightening thought…

Not so much because of the responsibilities, but the fact that he’d been so ignorant. The idea he’d let this all happen, just by not thinking enough…No matter. He was going to make the effort now, and that effort would start with his eldest daughter.

So with that, he opened up a door into a rather lovely library, where he almost immediately spotted his daughter and that oh so imaginatively named lightning elemental, sitting at a table together where Mira seemed to be continuing Lightning’s education, much like Hans suggested she would be.

He really needed to have a longer talk with that old warlock one of these days. He really needed to have a talk with a number of people, one of whom was right in front of him. And as such, the show began.

“Bonjour ma fille~!” he greeted, spreading his arms wide and beaming as he walked on in, “Ah, et la belle femme de la foudre~! Quoi de neuf?”

“…I understood maybe half of that,” Mira replied, her stare as deadpan as ever when he was being silly. It was still strange, seeing those vibrant green eyes of hers when he knew with certainty that neither he nor that horrible monster of a human being had eyes like that.

“Ah, my apologies. If you would like, I can give you some lessons when you have the time!” 

“If I ever feel like trying to seduce someone with an outworlder language, sure.”

“Oh it has many more uses than that! A language few people know is one that makes for an excellent cipher!”

Mira blinked, then frowned–bemused, not annoyed–as Lightning continued looking between them both. “Isn’t that an active language in Outworld? I don’t think it would make for a good cipher if anyone could come over and explain it.”

“Ah, but that could be the case for any code, no? All it takes is a happenstance meeting and sudden knowledge to shatter any secret! In life, one must be willing to take risks!”

“…Sure-”

“Mine turn?” Lightning interrupted–not intentionally rudely, but merely not knowing of space and etiquette–leaning in front of Mira, who didn’t seem bothered by the sudden invasion of sightline in the slightest, “Speak? Speak turn?”

“Yes, it’s your turn to speak, Lightning.”

“Mine turn! Lightning turn!” She nodded firmly–such an earnest girl–then turned to Cyrus, her bright green teeth bared in a smile as she raised a hand in greeting–chipper, well-meaning, and utterly, delightfully adorable. “Good af-noon Mira pop!”

“Heh, bonjour Foudre~! That’s, ‘hello Lightning’, comprenez vous? Oh, and that means ‘do you understand’, understand?”

“Pops, I’m already trying to teach her one language,” Mira complained–with no real anger, only mild annoyance and far more amusement, “Don’t give her another one already.”

“Comvene vo!” Lightning chimed in, beaming wide as Mira sighed. 

“You see what you did?”

“Yes I do, and it is adorable. However!” He held up a finger, the apparently universal sign of one attempting to halt conversation and garner attention. “I have some very important things to discuss with you. Approximately, three things, which would be ‘trois choses’ in French, as far as I know, and it should be noted that I am most certainly not a native speaker.”

“…Well yeah, you’re from a different planet,” Mira replied, her stare as unamused as ever. But that was life, as it was, and not everyone would understand the brilliance of his humor. Not even his own children!

Cyrus wiped an imaginary tear from his eye, then claimed a chair from a nearby table to seat himself properly across from his daughter. “Now, first and foremost, are you aware of Lady Valondrac’s plans, going forward?”

“Why would I be? I’ve been kinda stuck on caretaker duty for Lightning here. Not that I mind, she’s easy to deal with and it’s interesting to interact with someone who’s so completely altered from whatever she once was.” Mira grinned and gave Lightning a small pat on the head, earning a confused chirp from the curiously conductive creature–maybe not creature, that was alliterative but it implied too little intelligence, like she was animalistic rather than a person in her own right…Something to decide on later.

“Well, to make a very long story quite short, it appears we’ll be resolving over three thousand years of conflict between two continents via treaty, whereupon the Light and Dark shall agree to peace. Or, at the very least, a coalition of the Light Land countries and the overarching empire that has claimed dominion over all the civilized people of the Dark Lands, and a number who are entirely uncivilized by the standards of those who really have no right to decide such things in the first place but oh well, have endeavored to cease their ceaseless hostilities on a governmental level, whether or not that will actually work for those among the common populace who may hold deeper grudges.” 

It had a better chance of working than in many cases on the Dark Lands side, in Cyrus’s informed opinion–Valondrac was quite careful and considerate with her words and driving actions, acting as though the lightlanders were not enemies but friends misguided and yet to join, emphasizing a new era in propaganda untainted by past hatreds, appealing to a sense of protective yet ambitious and overreaching virtue to those “mislead”–but many grudges were still held on the Light and the choices made in the coming days would matter immensely.

“…” Mira squinted at him. “Could you summarize it in ten words or less?”

“…We. Are. Sailing. To. Shioneri. Island. To…Talk. Of. Peace,” Cyrus carefully counted, suddenly reminded of a haiku parlor in Gorokiva he had enjoyed some popularity. At least until he slipped up with that Daimyo’s wife and oh gods did he have another kid over there?? Jules said he made a list, he should ask for the list–

“Alright. So, I’m guessing the second thing you’re about to talk about is who’s going?”

“Exactement,” he answered as he tried to focus on the there and then instead of the how and when, “Now, with that detail, we have something of an issue. You see, what first brought on this sudden decision making was a letter from Douglas, mon vieil ami, who suggested a great many things to help the negotiations go more smoothly. Such as returning the stolen Lightning core.”

“Ah.” Mira slowly nodded, glancing at Lightning, who seemed to have decided she wouldn’t wait for Mira’s aid and was squinting at the book like she suddenly knew how to read. Which she very well could; elementals were strange beings at the best of times, and the dear dame de foudre was even stranger than the wild walking storms he’d seen far in the Frosty North and deep in the Sunny South. Expeditions were fun things, up until one caught a glimpse of wild magics that were deeply disturbing in many ways. “Yeah, that’s not gonna go great.”

“It could,” Cyrus replied–not argued; it wasn’t a fierce denial, merely a simple rebuttal–shrugging with an optimistic smile, “Many things that seem misfortune burst into joyous delight, when timed and treated right!”

“…Do you think of those sayings on the spot or is there just a bag of quotes you pick them out of?”

“A bit of both. I’ve learned many quotes and often combine them for fun, but we have a topic to stay on and I’d like to ask, do you want to come along–?”

“Yeah, of course,” Mira promptly replied–confident, if a bit suspicious; or perhaps thoughtful would be a better word? She was waiting for more, so…apprehensive, not quite, but anticipatory, certainly. “I don’t have anything else going on-” Ah, deflection. “-and Lightning would probably be happier if I was still around to help her out, right?”

“Those are some good points, oui,” he agreed with a smile–kind and agreeable, not condescending, “Et certainement, there are other benefits to going, like meeting important people of many types, both professional and personal!”

“…Personal?” Ah, wary there.

“Bien sûr, one of my daughters, and by extension your sister, will be there as well.” 

Mira blinked–genuinely surprised and caught off guard. “Huh. Right, Goldforge mentioned…Huh.” 

“Is everything okay?” 

“Yeah, I’m just…I haven’t ever thought of meeting a sibling of mine.” She shrugged–the index and middle fingers of her right hand, the human one, were tapping against the table.

“I do hope you start thinking about it. I would prefer if all my children knew one another.” Cyrus smiled, projecting a relaxed air. 

“Aren’t you banned from a ton of places? That’s gonna make it pretty hard to do that.” Ah. Awkwardness. His mortal foe…

“Rather than banned, it’s more they would greatly prefer if I wasn’t there. And besides, what kind of father would I be if I wasn’t willing to bend a few laws to meet them?” Even if he couldn’t rightfully call himself a father, he knew he had to make an effort. And if they didn’t want anything to do with him, so be it, it was their choice. He couldn’t just push himself into their lives. It was more of making sure they knew he was out there, and that he was aware of them.

Ah, though he should make sure to at least have something to give. Not as a bribe, but as an apology. 

“…Right.”

Now for the far more awkward part. “One last thing. The third one, which I mentioned beforehand. You see, I…” There was no good way to say this, so he decided to bite the blade, so to speak. “I am going to handle your mother.”

The genuine shock in her eyes quickly faded to confusion, wariness, and not a little anger. “What the hell does that mean?”

“Valita is a dangerous monster with no sense of morals or even basic kindness. I made a horrible mistake in not immediately telling everyone from my team that I encountered her, and because of that, you had an absolutely hellish experience growing up-”

She was getting angrier. “Yeah, sure, but that’s my-!”

“Mira. Please. You’re young. I know you can handle this.” That caught her off guard, her eyes going wide and her scowl dropping for an instant. “But I don’t want you to. You should be free to live your life without her shadow hanging over you. I know people who can help, and I intend to ask them, so it’s not like I’ll be rushing off into danger like an idiot without any plan in the slightest, like certain people I could mention, but regardless. I am a terrible father who wasn’t there for you when I should have been. I want to fix that. Namely, by being around to actually be fatherly once I’m done killing your horrible fiend of a mother.”

“…” Mira’s eyes were narrowed again. She still seemed angry, but there was a less obvious mix of emotions in there. “…That’s fucking stupid, and don’t take this away from me. She didn’t do shit to you. I want her dead, and I’m going to be the one to do it.”

Push or don’t push…She was angry now, but if he went too far here, she could bolt just to get away from him. But if he didn’t, she might stew in that anger and decide she’d rather leave than go anywhere with him and he’d completely ruin what relationship-

“What’s this word?” And then Lightning was holding up her book towards Mira, who blinked, the non-sequitur snapping her out of her rage, for the moment.

“…Uh, what? Wait, did you just ask a full question?”

Lightning blinked and tilted her head. “What’s. This. Word? Word here, what is?” She tapped the page emphatically, and more than a little impatiently.

“…Uh. ‘Familial’?”

“Ah…What’s mean?”

“…”

“‘Relating to or occurring in a family or its members,’” Cyrus recited, leaning a little to look at the grammar book.

“Ah! Thank you!” Lightning beamed and nodded, before sitting again.

“…Hey, Lightning, did you…do that deliberately?” Mira asked, mumbling somewhat–embarrassed, which was good to see instead of annoyance, and was also adorable.

Lightning blinked and looked up from the book. “…What’s dellibraetly?”

“Intentionally, on purpose, performing an action with a specific intent,” Cyrus answered, starting to grin. It was surprisingly fun, explaining words.

“Ahhh…um. Inten…shunly? In tent?”

Mira just sighed and sat back down, shooting a frown at Cyrus. It wasn’t a serious one. “You realize we’re going to be here all day if you keep using big words around her, right?”

Cyrus shrugged. “Oh well. I don’t mind. I can’t think of anywhere else I’d want to be.”

“…” Mira huffed a little, not quite smiling. “Just try to keep up with us, pops.”

“Ha! So you say to one of the greatest wordsmiths known on Estus?”

“…You’re a singer.”

“And a songwriter! Well, sometimes, not often, but I most certainly can and I am more than capable of teaching anyone the wonders of language!”

So that was a lie, but Cyrus did have fun with the impromptu tutoring. He still had some…many concerns, certainly, but at that time, in that moment, he let himself forget about them. Such problems could be saved for the future.

Family came first.

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