Chapter 23: Kailani
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“Pretty lady,” he said softly, “I’ll do whatever you want me to.”

She gaped in silence for a moment. Across the table, Mabina said, “Conrad…” in a voice full of warning.

Behind her, Taro scoffed, “Yeah, right.” She ignored them both.

“Anything?” she asked him. This was one of those tricks, one of those sentences loaded with extra meaning that were so common here, verbal traps she was only beginning to understand. She knew it was a trap, but the painfully sad expression he wore made her wonder just who he was trapping.

“Anything at all,” he confirmed. Even watching his eyes, she could see the tip of his tail twitching, but human body language was difficult enough; she didn’t even bother trying to figure out the non-human portions.

“What’s the catch?” It was a safe enough guess; everything around here had some giant catch, even the knights in shining armor. Especially the knights in shining armor.

He smiled at that, almost his old self for a minute. “Smart girl,” he murmured. She frowned at him. Of course she was smart, it was just at this sort of thing that she fell short, social machinations in lieu of straight answers.

He nodded, almost a bow, and spoke with a low intensity. “You can have anything at all you want from me, every answer I know…”

“You already offered me that,” she cut him off, too frustrated to deal with word games.

“If he did, he was lying, like he’s lying now,” Taro interjected helpfully. “There’s no way he can tell you everything. This-”he faltered, and finished lamely, “-he just can’t.”

She didn’t turn to look at Taro. She couldn’t; she’d start crying again if she did. But she couldn’t help but wonder if he was being in any way accurate; she kept looking at Conrad, watching his eyes and his twitching tail. “Well?” she asked, her anger overriding her rising shock at her own gall.

He shook his head. “I told you I’d explain everything I could, and I have been. That wasn’t a lie. But Taro’s right. Under ‘ordinary’ circumstances – what passes for ordinary down here – there’s stuff I just,” he frowned, his hesitation almost an echo of Taro’s, “just can’t tell you.”

“Then what are you talking about?” she demanded, ready to throw things. “How am I supposed to figure anything out when I can’t get any answers?”

This time, he hesitated long enough that she wasn’t sure he was going to answer. Finally, after a deep breath, he said, “There’s a way around it.” Talking quickly, he added, “You can Own me. It gets around the… the problems.”

“Fucker,” Taro swore, outraged-sounding. “Of all the underhanded, sneaky, bullshit stunts to pull…”

Kailani was inclined to agree with him. “I told you I thought it was horrible.” Her voice was spiraling louder and louder and she didn’t really care. “This stupid Belonging thing you have here, you know I think it’s disgusting. One human being should never consent to subjugate their will to another!”

She gulped softly, realizing she’d shouted the last line, and glared at Conrad through renewed tears. He nodded, flinching a little bit maybe, as both of them ignored Cassidy’s muttered “who’s human, then?” and Taro’s rough laugh.

“I know,” he said, his voice low and scratchy. “But it’s the only way to get past,” he paused, taking a long gulp of his water, “the geas.”

She picked up her own drink and took a few long gulps of it. Yelling at him wasn’t going to solve anything, and he’d been nice to her up until today. So had Taro, of course, but she still wasn’t sure what to think of that. She focused on Conrad’s words instead.

Geas. A geas was some sort of prohibition or taboo, or vow, that bound a person. They were supposed to be magical. She wondered if maybe they fit in the same mold as the Laws Conrad had told her about, an Oath that was binding forever once spoken. Then how could he get around it? She set her drink down and looked at Conrad again.

Cassidy beat her to the punch. “You can’t get around the geas,” he said flatly. “I’ve tried.”

“There’s a loophole,” Conrad replied, still looking straight at Kai. “I swear to you, Kailani sh’Moonchild cy’Regine, that what I am about to say is truth,” he said solemnly. The air seemed to thicken, pressing in on her ears and sinuses, as he spoke her name. As he finished his sentence, a tingle ran down her arms to her fingertip, as if both arms had fallen asleep, and her ears popped, the air snapping around her. “There’s a loophole in the,” he frowned, “in the geas. If you,” he stopped again, “Let me start from the beginning. “If you Belong to someone, there’s an inherent obedience. It’s like the Law of Oath that I told you about. You can’t, physically can’t, break an Oath. You physically can’t disobey an order given to you by your Keeper if you are Kept. So there had to be a loophole in the geas, or your brain would break.”

She listened carefully, dissecting everything he said. Assume he was telling the truth, that the snap in the air hadn’t been another trick like the dance. “So you’re saying that the only way to get around this geas,” another thing to assume he was telling the truth about, that some sort of geas existed at all, “is to Belong to someone who then tells you to tell them.” She glowered at him. “You’re saying you have to Belong to me to tell me the stuff I have to know.”

“You’ve got a lot of questions you want answers to,” Conrad said earnestly, “and more you just don't have enough information to ask. This is the best way for you to get answers you can trust.”

“Questions I don't know to ask?” she asked doubtfully. Getting anything she could trust out of him seemed unlikely right now. She felt betrayed and set up.

“I’ll give you one for free.” He leaned in towards her a little bit, and she found herself leaning towards him, frowned, and sat back angrily. "Why aren’t you freaking out?”

She stared at him. “I'd say I am. Running out of the dance was pretty freaked out, for example.”

“But that was in response to a normal, human stimulus - I was being a moron.” She let herself smile a little at that one, and was rewarded with a somewhat-bitter smile from him. “But what I mean is more that, in the last two weeks, you’ve found out that you’re in a school full of mutants. People have suggested you’re going to mutate, too. There's been some small demonstrations of magic. People are trying to manipulate you into being their possession, in a way that wouldn’t be possible in the outside world –“

“But it would,” she interrupted. “That's what dating is, after all. Possession and control.”

“Ah,” he said, his smile now somehow both knowing and sad,” I see I didn’t explain as well as I should have." She wanted to slap the smug look off his face, but she let him keep talking, needing more answers. But instead of elaborating, he held up his tail, deliberately showing off his seven-fingered grip while he did so. “Tell me, why isn't this freaking you out?”

She stared at the tail. “Because I want to know more about...” No. Even she wasn’t that coldly scientific. “Why didn't that freak me out?”

He opened his mouth as if to tell her, but all that came out was a soft choking noise. His forehead creased in concentration; he looked as if he was lifting a very heavy weight. “Mind…” he choked out.

“…Control,” Cassidy said lazily. “Don’t be a moron, Con. You’ll burst a blood vessel in your brain and bring the Administration down on our heads.”

Conrad slumped in his chair a little, nodding mutely at Cassidy, though his eyes were still locked on Kailani.

“Mind control,” she muttered to herself. Was that even possible? “Is that even possible?” She glanced at Mabina when she asked, needing to have someone to believe, however arbitrary the choice was.

It was Taro that answered, laughing shortly. “You’re in a room full of fae godlings and you still ask if magic is possible? How thick are you, anyway?”

She tensed, still unwilling to look at him. “Not thick enough to Belong to you,” she told him, hoping she sounded cold and not strident. She was rewarded by the sound of the table creaking – under his clenching hand, she assumed. She looked back at Conrad. “I can accept magic as a working hypothesis.” It was even comfortable, a way to fathom all the strange things she’d seen. Fae. They could look like anything, couldn’t they? And cast magic, and geasa. Of course, being fictional, they could do whatever they wanted.

“This whole thing is crazy, but, I guess I can go with ‘magic’ for the time being.”

“It will get less crazy,” he answered solemnly, “if you let me give you more facts.”

She slumped a little in her chair. There was so much she didn’t understand, and somehow, she didn’t really believe that Regine’s “research” was going to make everything clearer. And Conrad wasn’t asking to Own her, after all. He was putting himself in her power. And he would give her more answers. She sighed.

Her purse was sitting forgotten on her lap; she squeezed it close for a moment, not looking at Conrad, or at any of the crew. “Okay,” she said softly. No-one said a word, and she thought perhaps she’d been too quiet. “Okay,” she repeated.

“Kai,” Mabina said, her voice very careful, careful enough that she turned to look at her. She wore the kind of serious expression that Kai associated, normally, with funerals and tragedies. A sick feeling rose in her throat; after all this, had she failed another test?

But Mabina was talking. “You need to understand, if you do this, how serious it is. If you bind Conrad to you by the Fourth Law of Belonging, then you are both bound, until both of you consent to release that binding, or until one of you graduates from Addergoole. The Law works on our psyche; it’s not just written on paper. “

“So…” she gulped softly. This seemed to very serious, but the answers – this was her life she was trying to figure out, wasn’t it? “So we’re stuck with each other, until we’re both ready to be done with this binding?” Mabina nodded slowly, those golden eyes holding hers. “I… I really need answers, Mabina.”

The other woman nodded again. “Then do it, as long as you know what you’re walking into.”

She looked back to Conrad, who still wore the same mournful expression, and back to Mabina. “How?” she asked. “Is it just the words?”

“It can be as simple as ‘mine,’ but do it right. The formality is good when you’re doing something like this.”


She nodded. “Say his name, and then ‘You Belong to me.’ And he’ll reply.”

She looked back at Conrad, swallowing hard to clear the lump in her throat. “Conrad,” she started, and was mortified to find her voice squeaking. She drank the last of her juice, and glared at him. “I’m really annoyed with you,” she told him, feeling a little silly for saying it but, at the same time, feeling a little better to get it off her chest.

“I know,” he replied forlornly. “It’s Conrad sh’Lori cy’Luca,” he added, not quite meeting her eyes. “Mother’s name and then the Mentor.”

“Thank you.” Somehow, that made him wince all the more, and it had, she realized, sounded very angry. “Conrad sh’Lori cy’Luca,” she said, trying to sound level and solemn and not terrified, “you Belong to me.”

“Kailani sh’Moonchild cy’Regine,” he replied, finally meeting her eyes, “I Belong to you. I’m yours, Kai,” he added, with a faintly desperate sound to his voice. The air thickened again, and a tingle ran down her spine, then out to her toes and fingers, leaving her feeling slightly energized.

“Yes,” she said, trying to smile. Until today, he’d been a good friend to her. What was she going to do now? “You’re mine.” For whatever that meant.

“Good,” Mabina said, as if they’d just finished doing the dishes. “Now go buy him a collar, Kai.”

“What?” she squeaked.

Behind her Taro chuckled meanly and, in front of her, Conrad echoed her and yelped “What?”

“Is that necessary?” she asked, trying not to make a face.

“Not necessary,” Mabina said, “but a good idea. It’s a visual representation of what you’ve just done, Kai, a reminder to you both. And, remember, you can both agree to end this at any time. Now go, shop. Put a collar on the boy before he gets too full of himself.”


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