Chapter 19

Vigau, Arielle, Bonaventure

The visit by Altai Turco was a close call, too close. There was no time left for them. They needed to pool all their resources and act quickly, no matter the risk. It was just a matter of time before they were caught anyway.
This line of thinking led Giger to Kamellia's house, or more specifically, the Kamellia who was the mother of the awakened reincarnation of Mordekai. He informally dubbed her 'Alpha Kamellia' as she was the one he found first.
Ordinarily, someone in Kamellia's position would have never been able to afford her own house, even as a rental, but the decline of the town after the Mage Ban drove down prices as the landowners were desperate to hold on to tenants. It was a quaint little house, a little bigger than Giger's cottage but not by much. Beta Kamellia's house was a little nicer and poor Gamma Kamellia lived like a beggar in some rathole boarding house.
Standing there at the door, Giger found himself hesitating. Thirteen years he had been watching her from afar. He had pretty much resigned himself to it staying that way, but once Mordekai told him about what was happening to her, he knew he would have to face her sooner or later. He was hoping he would have better news, but it could not be helped.
Finally mustering his nerve, Giger knocked on the door. Kamellia opened the door.
"Yes, can I help you?"
Giger stood there tongue-tied. This was the closest he had been to her since the Vigau Incident. She was still the most beautiful woman in the world, at least as far as he was concerned. He had loved her ever since the moment he first saw her, the day he enrolled at the Academy. She always took care of him like a big sister, even before he became Mordekai's apprentice. He always dreamed of it becoming more, but she never saw him as anything more than a little brother.
He forced his feelings back down into the dark corner where they belonged. There were more important things to deal with.
"Kamellia, we need to talk."
Mordekai appeared in the entryway behind Kamellia.
"Barz, what are you doing here?"
Kamellia looked at Mordekai and then back to Giger. Only then did it dawn on her.
"Barz? Barz, is that really you?"
So even now she was being left in the dark.
"Mordekai hasn't told you, has he?"
Kamellia glanced back at Mordekai.
"Told me what?"
"Barz, I thought we had an agreement on this," Mordekai said.
He did not openly express any anger, but there was a familiar tone of disapproval both Giger and Kamellia were all too familiar with.
"Mordekai, what's going on?" she asked him.
Giger did not let him answer, afraid he might try to deflect from the truth.
"There's no time," Giger said. "The Witch-hunters are closing in and I haven't found anything in the Lost Technology to help us. Our only chance is to get you and the other Kamellias to join your power with us."
"What do you mean by 'the other Kamellias'?"
This time it was Mordekai who stepped in.
"Let me explain it, Barz," he said. "Come inside. We can't be standing out here talking about it."
Somewhat reluctantly, Giger stepped inside. Kamellia fetched some slippers for him. He was reluctant enough just to enter the house and even more so to doff his shoes and go past the entryway. Instead he just stood there. Kamellia might have encouraged him more to come inside, but under the circumstances, she was more focused on the explanation Mordekai promised her.
Mordekai held her hand and said, "Kamellia, as you know, when I stopped your rampage, our essences merged, but they also split as part of the counterreaction. I into two and you into three. The other versions of us are living here in town. I've kept you away until now because I wasn't sure what might happen. I might have kept it that way, but then I realized something.
"There's a problem, a serious one. When we split into multiple versions of ourselves, our lifeforce was divided among those versions. You have been expending your lifeforce at three times the normal rate ever since the Incident. Unless we reunite the different version of you, you may only have ten, fifteen years left.
"Barz has been watching over us all this time, but he didn't know about division of your lifeforce until a couple months ago. I called on him to accelerate his research into the Lost Technology in hopes of finding an easier way to fix this."
Kamellia slipped her hand free and crossed her arms.
"By easier, you mean a way to reunite the different versions of me whether I was willing or not."
"Kamellia, please..."
"Let's not mince words, Mordekai Grummond," she replied severely. "You know I'd never let you or Barz take these kinds of risks for me, so you went behind my back to do it anyway. That's why the Witch-hunters have become more active, isn't it? How many people are going to get caught up in their net because you had to take a stupid risk?"
"Kamellia, we're talking about your life here."
It was so strange, seeing someone as proud as Mordekai Grummond practically pleading with her, but Kamellia was not so easily moved.
"It's my life, Mordekai," she insisted, "and I'm sure the other versions of me would agree." She then cast a bitter look to Giger and said, "But maybe you two would like it better to have more than one of me to go around."
It would have been kinder of her to take a fork and jab it in his eye. Mordekai did not seem to take it much better, but unlike Giger, who was struck dumb by her accusation, he actually had the wherewithal to rebuke her for it.
"Kamellia, that's not fair," he said, "not to me or to Barz. You know we love you."
This was not enough to make Kamellia relent, though.
"If you loved me, you would've never turned me away all those years ago. I would've done anything for you, Mordekai. I sold my soul for you and if for my penance I die a little sooner, that's a small price to pay when weighed against all the people I killed."
She then turned to Giger and said, "And, you, Barz, do you think that throwing away your life to be an outlaw peeping at me from the bushes would make me happy? You could've been a great man and you ruined all that for me. Or maybe you just did it all for yourself."
That was all he could take. He could not bear it, not one more word of it.
"If you're in such a hurry to die, Kamellia, I'll leave you to it," he said bitterly. "Sorry I wasted my time on you."
He swung the door open and stormed out. Mordekai hurried after him.
"Barz, wait!"
Giger stopped, but only for a moment.
"If you want to save her, Mordekai, you're on your own."
And with that he kept on walking.
Mordekai continued to call out to him, "Barz! Barz!"
Kamellia added her voice, crying out, "Barz, wait! I'm sorry! I didn't mean it! Barz, come back!"
But Giger was not listening. He just kept on walking and never looked back.