Part 3: Together

The young girl, dressed in expensive robes, opened the basement door and quickly fled down the stairs. She adjusted the clips in her hair as she walked down the dark hallway. She ducked into the familiar alcove…stumbling over the body curled up within.

“A-ah…!” The girl screamed as she fell to the floor. Aislin jumped up, now wide awake, and looked around the darkness. A nearby torch slightly illuminated the other girl’s outline. She sat up and turned to Aislin.

“I apologize for falling onto you. Are you injured at all?” Her voice was light and quiet. “Who are you, anyway? Are you hiding?”

“I…” Aislin struggled to find the correct words. “Just…had to get in somewhere for the night.”

“That’s understandable.” The girl nodded. “If you’d like, I could try to bring some food or clothes to you…”

“You will do no such thing, Your Highness.”

The two girls looked up to two armored guards standing above them. Both carried long, decorated spears as weapons.

“Princess Ki-Lin, you must stop running off every day! Do you not understand the importance of the meetings with your advisors?”

“Oh…but I was not in a meeting, I just wanted to walk around.”

“It’s still dangerous, my lady.” One of the guards grabbed the girl known as Ki-Lin by the arm, pulling her close to him. “I’ll escort you back to your room.” He turned to Aislin “And this girl…”

Ki-Lin spoke up. “She is a harmless traveler, only seeking shelter. Let her stay here.”

“B-but Your Highness…!”

“Let her stay.”

“Y-yes…” The two guards glared at Aislin, though it was hard to tell due to their helmets. Aislin herself was silent. She was also slightly confused. Why was this girl of such high standing protecting a stranger?

The four of them left the basement, walking back up the narrow stairs. Outside, they walked along the palace walls for a short time before heading through a door to the inside. The inside of the palace was as magnificent as the outside. The wide halls were bright from skylights evenly placed across the ceiling. The floor was made from what looked like bamboo surrounding the stone path they were currently walking on. Cloth tapestries adorned the walls, red with gold and white designs on them.

They arrived at a set of double doors. The guards opened them, and the two girls walked in alone.

“Ah…I’m sorry for this mess. But I suppose this is the best outcome, right…um…” Ki-Lin tilted her head slightly. “Your name, traveler?”

“…Aislin Reinard. Just Aislin is fine.”

“A strange name…where have you traveled from?”

Aislin was silent. She couldn’t tell this girl that she was a wandering soul trying to come back to life. What could she tell her, anyway? She knew nothing about this world, let alone countries. Ki-Lin noticed her struggling.

“If you cannot tell me, then it’s fine. You can call this country your home if you were exiled.” She smiled, then briefly ducked out of the room. When she reentered, she knelt on a pillow by the table sitting low to the ground. “I asked a servant to bring us some tea and snacks. Dinner will be served later, I believe we’re having fish tonight.”

Aislin sat across from Ki-Lin. “…I…don’t know anything about this place. Could you tell me…ah…Lady Ki-Lin?”

“Just Ki-Lin is fine when we’re alone together like this.” She smiled again. “And I would be happy to tell you about my country.” She started at the beginning, from the history of the discovery of the land to the present day people, agriculture, and cities. Aislin listened intently to her girl’s sweet voice, somehow finding it interesting. Or was it just her voice that captured Aislin? Even after the servant delivered their snack, Aislin paid more attention to the girl than the food in front of her.

“I believe that’s enough for now. I can see that you enjoyed the history lesson, Aislin.” Ki-Lin sipped her tea.

“Thanks…” Aislin also drank from her cup of tea. The warm drink relaxed her, and she realized how exhausted she still was. Her sleep the last night had been uncomfortable. The stone floor was coarse and painful to lay on, and basement had been rather cold.

Ki-Lin stood up. “If you’re tired, I’ll take you to your sleeping quarters. I’ll see if the room next to this one is open.” She extended her hand to Aislin, who took it and also stood up. Together, hand-in-hand, they went to the adjacent bedroom. Ki-Lin had servants bring in a futon and bed linens, along with a few sets of clothing for Aislin.

“Sleep as long as you need to, Aislin. You can ask any of the servants for a meal no matter when you awaken. Rest well.” Ki-Lin smiled and returned to her own bedroom.

Aislin took off her school uniform, folding and placing it in a pile near the door to be washed. Not putting on another outfit, she crawled between the blankets on the futon. She sighed, thankful for whatever luck she had been graced with to fall into such a good situation. She was also thankful for Ki-Lin’s kindness, though she wouldn’t say it out loud to anyone.

She had someone. She was together with someone. Briefly, Ria flashed through her mind, but the thought quickly faded. Ki-Lin seemed to be a much better person than the strange girl of the library. Sleep overcame the girl quickly as she curled up more underneath her blankets.

Afterlife: Second Tale – Chapter 3

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