Have you any interest, lord, in the world?
It’d been the last question that Kiwi had asked of him… well, the last asked while still in the loft at Lucretia’s home. Zarik had changed course then, in promise that he would answer, once they had something to eat. He didn’t know whether the man required food or… simply didn’t want to burden him, but Zarik intended to show the visitor hospitality. He wanted Kiwi to stay longer.
So the Biqaj led the Quacian down the spiral staircase into the one-room suite that housed both the study – lined with numerous bookshelves filled with various tomes ranging in subjects; the couple of long tables covered in research implements, books, and scrolls; a few benches of stone and chairs of wood; a kitchenette with white stone stools and a counter that could be used for dining.
Lucretia sat at the head of a table. The heavily mutated empath didn’t glance their way. Her cyan-lit gaze was stuck on the middle of a book. Every half-a-trill, she turned the page with a swift click of her tongue to accompany the turn. In a faintly strained voice, she managed to greet them, “Morning.” It was all she could do, compelled by her spark to spend all her attention and energy to finishing the book that was in her hands.
At the kitchenette counter, a human girl of 8 arcs jumped from a stool. Blond with widely curious eyes, she looked between the two men. She narrowed her eyes with suspicion then, and asked Kiwi in common, “Where’d you come from, mister?”
The shorter, darker blonde stared at her for a trill but said nothing.
Zarik set a hand on the top of her head, ruffled her hair, and said, “This is my friend, Kiwi. Kiwi, this is my daughter, Hazel.”
Kiwi inclined his head in a polite bow. “Hazel.”
“And,” he gestured over to Lucretia, “that is Lucretia Clement, author, scholar, and one of the most brilliant minds I have the honor of knowing.”
A scoff sounded from Lucretia, then she clicked her tongue, and flipped the page.
“Do you have a preference for tea? There’s mint and rot-root and a blend that I made myself from a mix of spices and herbs,” offered Zarik as he walked to the kitchenette. He retrieved a kettle and busied himself with the chore of preparing tea, while Kiwi remained still, staring intensely at Lucretia.
“Clement?” he echoed, apparently disinterested in Zarik’s offer of refreshment. “The author of the Inquisitione Scintilla Meam
There was no indication that Kiwi’s question was intended for Lucretia or Zarik - or even Hazel -, but Lucretia replied with a distracted, “Yes.”
For a moment, it seemed as if Kiwi were going to say something more, but, instead, he offered Lucretia a proper bow and a quiet, “A pleasure to make your acquaintance.” after which he turned to address Zarik’s previous question as if it had only just been asked. “It would be a waste to serve me anything, but I recognize your hospitality.”
With that, he settled onto one of the stone stools, posture rigid - but more so out of what seemed to be habit than a sense of discomfort - as he calmly observed Zarik’s preparations. Patiently, Zarik assumed, waiting for the answer he’d assured him would come once there was some food in him.
Lucretia’s cyan-lit eyes flickered from the book. The shadows at her back flared, gathering darkness around her before settling again over her shoulders like a cowl. She said simply, “Lord Zarik.”
Zarik winced. So much for not having a name. He had already collected water and gotten it over a small flame with the help of Hazel. The girl moved around to peer at Kiwi, whose head turned to stare silently back in return, before she ran past and disappeared up the spiral staircase.
The blond Biqaj sighed. He glanced over at his guest and said, “Lucretia appreciates your recognition, but due to her spark, she is unable to easily detach herself from what she is reading.” He assumed the Dreamer, after everything they discussed, would understand such a thing.
“I see,” Kiwi murmured, glancing at the darked haired woman, the bright glint of curiosity in his eyes.
“Why would it be a waste?” Zarik questioned. He set four ceramic cups along the counter. With a small spoon, he started to scoop a small amount of crushed leaves into each.
“I have no need of it,” the other replied, seemingly dragging his focus away from the author and back to his host. “Better to save it for yourself and yours.” He seemed to possess that Quacian frugality - one of the few things about him that supported Zarik’s assumption - and from his clothes alone, he was perhaps one of the many far less fortunate; though… his manner of speech and general demeanor suggested otherwise.
Zarik was no stranger to the oddity of a Heap capable of speaking and acting above the level of expected peasantry. The economical thought of the other man brought a smile to him. It felt almost nostalgic, even though it had hardly been even a season’s worth of trials since he’d been much the same. He’d gradually started to lose that aspect of himself, torn asunder by wealth and then his Becomer spark.
“It is no trouble,” he said regardless. Kiwi opened his mouth as if to decline yet again but seemed to think better of it and, instead, sat and waited quietly, stare gradually shifting to settle on Lucretia once more. Zarik checked the water but it wasn’t hot enough yet. He returned to the counter, opposite of the human, and he rested his elbows on the surface. He leaned forward. The irises of his eyes had warmed again, a faint amber and topaz yellow light that soothed the previous blues. “Did you desire anything to eat as well or would that also be a waste of something you don’t require?”
“A waste,” Kiwi absently replied, the corner of his left eyebrow twitching as Lucretia clicked and turned a page.
“You wish for my answer, don’t you?” said Zarik. His voice lilted in an almost teasing tone. He smiled again, though slyly, and the yellow in his eyes glittered against the cyan lights of the study. The windows, after all, were heavily boarded up and covered by the bookshelves to block any sunlight from peeking through.
That seemed to get Kiwi’s attention. The dreamer turned again to face him, grey-green eyes piercing as ever. “I do, yes.”
Zarik left the counter, to retrieve the kettle of water that had started to boil. He swiftly rotated his body with ease, a graceful step to his bare crystalline feet, and he brought it over to pour the water into the cups at equal portions. All the while the now expectant stare never left him.
Did he have any interest in the world? He’d been thinking of the question since it’d been asked in the loft. Though he wished to answer for Kiwi, he wanted to answer as sincerely as possible. He set aside the kettle, only a bit of leftover water remaining in it. Zarik glanced at Lucretia, then looked at the spiral staircase. From the top, he could see the young Marcoveran girl watching them.
“I do,” he said quietly. His smile faded when he watched Hazel retreat into the loft once she’d been caught in her observation. He stared for a few trills more before gradually bringing his gaze to land on Kiwi. “If I didn’t have interest in the world, would I be here?” Kiwi raised a brow at that, but didn’t interrupt as Zarik continued. “I have...”
He paused, a hand already placed on his chest, but the spiel he normally would give in such a moment… he felt his heart weaken and his enthusiasm became muted. He lowered his hand and his gaze, surrendering to a momentary sense of vulnerability. Zarik slid over one of the cups for Kiwi to either ignore or sip. Instead of his usual words, he said, “I have chosen this world over others, in moments of great pain. I care for Idalos immensely.”