No Illusions

Who: Zinovia, Akio, Yukijiath
When: Month 10, 203 AT
Where: Field, Honshu Territory
What: Akio is determined to arm Zinovia. She proposes something else entirely.

Akio waits in the portion of the field he’s claimed for his revolver practice, a good two hour ride by horseback outside of Silverfield Hold. He knew it would take Zinovia less time to meet him, so he left her the request to meet him here earlier in the morning and headed out. He wasn’t fond of riding dragonback, and wouldn’t think it proper to request her green to take him here when he was capable of coming on his own. He has three targets set up at varying distances, shapes and sizes. With his leg propped up on a rock, he idly cleans the revolver with a cloth to get the steel to glint in the sunshine.

For Yukijiath, it’s only a short blink Between to the nearest landmark suitable to use for such a jump, then a few minutes in the air to reach the field that Akio has chosen for his target practice. With her keeping close to her rider, there’s little danger likely to befall Zinovia out in the wild, but Phoenix has come along for the ride as well, her perch on the Lady greenrider’s shoulder one that she doesn’t look set to give up without a fight. Very rarely does Zinovia dress in riding leathers, and today is no exception, one of her usual, heavy, gowns on beneath her midnight-blue leather coat. Once Yukijiath has landed and settled down in the grass, Zinovia strides across the field and towards Akio. “Some might think you plan to assassinate me,” she dryly greets.

Akio watches as Yukijiath lands, moving a step back involuntarily as her wings blow wind against his face. He’s got the revolver still in his hand when Zinovia makes her way towards him and he looks to it in startelement and then back up to her at her quip. He can’t hide the embarrassed flush that hits his cheeks as he clears his throat and bows to her. “My apologies for having it appear that I put your safety below others,” he tells her, keeping his head down as he does so, “I had not intended to make the revolver public when I requested you to attend. I should have asked Akemi to come as well, so that your safety would not be in question by my presence.” He straightens, shifting his shoulders as he strives to shift into a more confident posture. “Since I came here we haven’t spoken freely on my Smithcraft project that brought me here in the first place.” He pauses, looking at the revolver and then to her. “With you in mind, actually, I redesigned this and made it lighter and easier to shoot. I thought you could have it to maintain your safety.” He steps forward, turning to offer her the revolver by the handle.

“If you were to hurt me, Akemi would hurt you, here or not, so I think I can trust that you don’t intend to do me any harm.” It’s possible that Zinovia could be joking, but her words are a little too deadpan and her confidence just a touch too secure for them to only be a work of amusement. “I can defend myself, besides. I might have to pretend to be a delicate flower on occasion to avoid offending some Holder sensibilities, but I was given the same training as any other rider.” And there’s Yukijiath, besides, now occupied with stalking some small creature through the grass. None of it keeps her from regarding the revolver with plain interest, Phoenix convinced to go and aid Yukijiath in her hunt before she reaches to accept it. “To arm holders would be to risk your life,” she murmurs. “Given what happened to the others… I don’t think those who oppose your project would hesitate to try again.”

“I’m not arming holders,” Akio insists, drawing closer so he can trail his fingers along the revolver and then encourage her to hold it up with a few touches to her arms. “I’m choosing to arm you. I know you have Yukijiath. There is power in this that supersedes even a dragon, I think, in certain circumstances.” He weights until she’s done assessing the weight of the revolver before he takes it back. “If you don’t mind, I’ll give you a demonstration.” Rather than waiting for her to say yes, he turns in swift succession, and fires of three quick shots at the targets. Before he speaks, he lets the silence stretch out and then he swings to look at her plainly. “If you want, you can go down and confirm I hit every single target in the center from here. If you’re interested, I’d like to be able to teach you to do the same.” He digs into his jacket and retrieves three fresh bullets to put in the revolver’s chamber as he waits for Zinovia’s answer.

Just as Akio mentions her, Yukijiath crows delight as she captures her prey, making no effort to conceal her joy in abruptly turning the poor dead thing inside out to inspect its entrails. Zinovia glances her way while he adjusts her posture, knowing full well that her lifemate hasn’t kept her mental touch contained, a look given Akio in the moment before she surrenders the revolver back to him. The noise it makes as he hits the targets sends Phoenix into a squall, but Yukijiath only tilts her head and hunkers down over her kill. “Why me?” she asks, narrowing her eyes a little to focus her vision on the targets. “For Akemi? Because your posting to safety lives and dies with me? Pride?” She slides her dark gaze back to Akio. “This might not be all that I would ever ask of you. Perhaps I would ask you to have a more personal reason to protect me.”

Akio turns the revolver in his hand side to side, visually inspecting it to give himself time to consider his answer. “It isn’t for Akemi. It’s for you. And it is personal,” he adds, moving to hand the revolver over to Zinovia again. “I created this for a purpose. It could serve a purpose if you had need of it. I can come out here and practice every day and get //good// at it, even find ways to perfect it, but it doesn’t have the same meaning. If you were to have this, and some asshole tried to… hurt you,” he’s careful around his words there, a flash of something in his gaze as he looks to Yukijiath and her entrails. He might know something about people who hurt Zinovia. If Akemi told him. “And it would be better than leaving it up to Akemi, or your hand-to-hand skills. Why not simply have the upper hand?” He pauses as he takes a breath and then tilts his head slightly at her in consideration of her last. “What is it you wish of me, my Lady?”

Zinovia accepts the revolver back and turns slightly, angling both her body and aim away from Akio, arm lifting as she takes aim at one of the targets. She doesn’t fire, her arm and hand as steady as one might expect for a former Healer and present dragonrider, but she shifts the weight of the weapon until it’s about as secure in her hold as it’s going to get. “Sometimes, it’s better to let people hurt you if it keeps others from being hurt,” she says, as if she were merely commenting on the weather, what follows presented in much the same manner. “The Lords of Pern would have me secure my line with another child within a set time if I don’t wish to surrender my people to another’s hand.” She lowers her arm, seemingly about to hand the revolver back again, only she abruptly takes aim and fires, skimming the edge of one of the targets. “Zaimika’s father insists he is capable, but he is not the man I have in mind.”

Akio steps behind Zinovia, “May I?” he asks, moving to help her stance and angle with her arm once more raised to hold the revolver. He takes her other hand and moves it to help her steady the revolver. “Look here,” he taps the tiny guide on top of the revolver, “breathe out, then shoot.” He takes a step back and waits for a moment longer before he asks, “Akemi has shared with me very briefly the state of that man. I can understand both of your disinterest in him fathering another. But forgive me, my Lady. I am confused. Has he not come to visit the child?” It had been the rumor flinging around Silverfield since the bronzerider came. He folds his arms in front of him and looks to the closest target. “Aim higher when you shoot,” he points out and then goes silent.

Inclining her head a little, Zinovia acknowledges Akio’s instruction and takes aim again, once more in no hurry to actually shoot. “He no longer has any legal power over her or claim to her,” she states, tilting her head now. “In that alone, he is no threat.” Yet evidently still considered to be in other ways. “He deserves a chance at redemption. If she can be his, he deserves to see her. Should he squander that opportunity or seek to harm in her any way, he will not see her again until she is of legal age to decide whether she wishes to know him or not.” She angles the revolver a little differently this time, though her decision to fire is just as sudden, or seems so. The target is struck, if nowhere near the centre. “You could take his place. You needn’t worry about my having any expectation of pleasure or romance.”

Akio’s considering her shot when she discloses his niece’s biological father, his tight lipped frown more a grimace for the situation than against her shot. He turns when Zinovia mentions taking his place, shock clear on his features as his brows are lifted and he stares at her for a handful of moments. “Me?” he finally manages to ask, his voice contorted with derision. “Akemi would have my head,” he doesn’t hesitate to hide that from Zinovia, “were we to remotely get in those circumstances.” He rubs at his cheek, trying to bring some grounding to his fluttering thoughts. “Don’t take that the wrong way. If this is a duty you need done and I’m the, the only one? I wouldn’t not help you. I don’t want you to lose Silverfield.” He shakes his head in wonder and looks back to the target, arms moving to fold in front of his chest as he considers the target.

Zinovia barely blinks at Akio’s reaction, whether she truly feels anything at all or not. It’s impossible to tell if she’s merely become that accustomed to and good at concealing her feelings or is truly indifferent to what faces her. “It is my duty, not anybody else’s,” she states, raising her arm to take aim again, this time using her left to brace and steady the right. “I don’t want someone unwilling. Obligated. If nothing else, Zaimika’s father was… willing.” There’s a flicker of something there; distaste or hurt or another emotion entirely. “Akemi is Zaimika’s mother. She is hers in every way that matters. But the fact remains that to ask you would be to seek the closest thing to us ever having a child by blood.” Firing again, she’s closer this time, but not quite close enough. “I know that I’m not as beautiful or refined or distant enough that a man might consider me a proper Lady. I have no illusions about myself. Zaimika was conceived through pain and bargaining and I don’t want that again. If not you, I will find another. But perhaps… you should talk with your sister.”

Akio watches the bullet hit the target and then turns to face Zinovia. “You are absolutely beautiful and refined. Your people at Silverfield adore you. You welcomed my sister into your life when she had no one to support her. She’s found love in a way I never thought someone could, yet she’s blossomed for it.” He shakes his head and reaches to gently take the revolver from Zinovia, moving to set it down on the rock beside them and keep it out of the way. He steps forward, moving to clasp one of her hands between both of his. “I hadn’t considered the fact that a child from me would be a gift to both you and Akemi. I’ll talk to Akemi about it, though I’m assuming you two already discussed my virility,” he snorts at that and lifts his eyes towards the sky with a wry grin. “How odd,” he says, looking back at Zinovia, traces of his earlier doubt already eroding away. “I would never hurt you,” he tells her, feeling the need to emphasize that, “and I have nothing I’d want to bargain for.”

“You are just as biased as Akemi is, it would seem,” Zinovia remarks dryly, letting Akio take the revolver from her hands and set it down without any resistance. When she likewise surrenders her hand, Yukijiath looks up from her investigation of blood and bones to watch them instead, the facets of her gaze slowly shifting through curious hues. “…She said that too,” the greenrider murmurs. “That you wouldn’t hurt me. Whatever else she feels about you, she trusts you enough to believe that.” She tightens her hold on his hand for a fraction of a second. “If it turns out that it is something that you feel you can’t do, I won’t think any less of you or think that you’re a bad person. I mean it when I say that it’s my duty and no-one else’s. I got myself into this and I will find a way to achieve what I have to in one way or another.” Her lips quirk in what could be a tiny smile. “And I understand that no-one really expects their sister-in-law to ask them to go to bed with them.” Leaning towards him, she moves to plant a kiss against his cheek and steps back, saying, “I should return home; I have an afternoon of meetings ahead of me.”

“Knowing the circumstances of how you came to be Lady of Silverfield, I disagree with you that it’s you got yourself into this situation,” Akio replies bluntly, “And the fact that Holder institutions are still so archaic as to force bloodlines into the conversation constantly is as exhausting as it was when we were traders. Only our family was far less educated than most Lord Holders on that Council.” He sighs then and is forced into stillness after Zinovia’s kiss lands on his cheek. He feels the heat of a blush touch his cheeks and looks completely at a loss for words as he stares at her. “I’ll talk to Akemi,” he manages, taking a step back to collect the revolver and hand it to Zinovia. “Don’t forget this,” he tells her, “I meant it when I said it was a gift to you.” He presses two fingers to the part of his cheek she kissed and then gives her a hasty bow. “Have a pleasant day, Lady.” He turns and walks quickly towards the horse he left tethered in the distance, not trusting himself to stay any longer in her company and not continue to look like a blushing school boy.

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