Who: Zinovia and Akio
Where: Silverfield Hold, Honshu Territory
What: Akio tells Zinovia who it was who ordered the attack on C’aol.

That Zinovia doesn’t exactly make life easy for herself in terms of running Silverfield has been quite obvious from day one. Delegating is something that she remembers to do only when periodically reminded, and then only for a short while after, and rarely does she turn away any who work for the Hold when they seek to speak with her. Since the early hours of the morning, she’s been keeping office hours, waiting for any who want to be heard or who need her advice or go-ahead for one thing or another to walk through the open door. Lunch has been and gone without her escaping, and only now does there seem to be a lull in traffic seeking the Lady’s attention.

Akio has found more than enough work for his craft within Silverfield since joining the Hold. The issues that the Smithcraft had encountered seems to have been lost over time. No one has come seeking Akio out for the knowledge he has carried over the years. He’s perfected his revolvers and has a store within Silverfield should they ever need it. The revolvers no longer hold his interest like they once did. He comes knocking at Zinovia’s office and enters with a tray of food that looks like it’s what’s left from the afternoon lunch. He doesn’t say anything until he’s sat the tray down on her desk and settled himself down in the chair opposite her. “You really should try and eat lunch when it’s served,” he notes wryly with a smile, “It tastes better fresh than it does as it’s cooled.” He tugs a piece of paper out of his pocket and hands it her way. “The Hall’s requested I begin working on this project. It’s a simple lock mechanism but they’re stumped on it. I was wondering how much you’d like to charge them for my services?”

“If it’s a choice between me getting lunch and someone feeling that they’ve been heard and listened to, then I’m afraid I’m always going to be behind schedule for the former,” Zinovia replies with a small smile of her own to mirror Akio’s. “Thank you, though. Excusing myself for a meal feels… frivolous.” She shrugs a shoulder and reaches for the piece of paper offered her. “Before we consider the financial element,” she begins, having given the paper a onceover, “there’s the matter of whether you //want// to work on this. If I can afford my people some freedom in their choices, you’re no different. If it’s not something that you’re going to find fulfilling, I can request your attention be given elsewhere, even if it means bending the truth a little about what Silverfield needs from you.” She wrinkles her nose. “Though depending on what they believe as to where Zio came from, they could well think me biased.”

“I know that Akemi adores you for your self-sacrificing ways,” Akio tells Zinovia with a lifted brow and a droll smile as he slouches down in the chair. “I’d prefer if you’d at least allow yourself food. No one will be hurt if you were to allow yourself a decent break now and then.” As to the subject of the Smithcraft, he shrugs and waves his hand in front of him like he were swatting a fly away. “It’s not an issue to me. If it allows us some marks that we can repurpose in some way for the Hold, it’s time well spent.” The mention of Zio draws a wide grin from him. “Let them believe Zio is mine. He has his mother’s looks and has my gorgeous bone structure,” he teases with a wink before he kicks his feet up on her desk and folds his arms in front of him. He levels a look at her. “Are you going to eat?” he pushes her, waiting for her to take a bite.

Zinovia rolls her eyes and picks up her fork to brandish before her just so that Akio can get a good look at it before she starts to eat, muttering a teasingly venomous, “Satisfied?” around a mouthful as she does so. She keeps on for at least a full minute in silence before she pauses and declares, “I have no problem with anyone knowing full well that Zio is yours.” The fork gets set down again. “My only concern is what your superiors might consider my interfering in your life, whether as your lover or the mother of your son.” Her eyes narrow ever so slightly, her dark gaze shading distant. “Anyway,” she continues, blinking back focus to pick her fork back up, “I even said as much as Fort’s Weyrwoman when she was here. She seemed very set on ensuring I wasn’t on bad terms with Zaimika’s father and I’d harbour no ill-will towards him, should he sire further children. Frankly, someone of Fort’s line worrying about mine seems baffling.”

“My most trusted Masters died because of an invention,” Akio answers with blandness, his face impassive but his eyes are still dull after all this time. “The Hall does not ask me to do mundane tasks these days. We will take their money and be thankful for it.” He watches the fork go down with a frown and only holds himself from comment when it goes back up. Mention of Fort’s Weyrwoman lift of a brow as he listens. “Zaimika’s father?” he wonders aloud, brows furrowing in momentary thought as the reality of it dawns on him in slow comprehension. “Is Fort’s Weyrwoman with child?” he asks, moving from his slouch to sit up straighter in his chair. He glances back towards the door and then once more to Zinovia. “You haven’t told Akemi yet, have you?” he presses, “and if you haven’t, do not tell her Fort’s Weyrwoman came with questions of Zaimika’s father.”

Zinovia’s expression softens slightly to something sadder as she murmurs, “If she was expecting, I would have thought the trip here and back would make sure that she no longer is.” She twitches a shoulder. “Her queen is on the Sands, so it was a bronze who brought her. Yukijiath was intrigued.” The fork gets waved midair. “Not by the bronze,” she seeks to clarify. “Why would I not tell Akemi the Weyrwoman was here?” she questions between bites. “The woman has no jurisdiction over us. If her Blood were lesser and she were seeking a family with her Weyrleader, then I would have been concerned for potential leaning on Zaimika in the future, but one of Fort can’t possibly ever need anything from her, save a sister’s affection, if C’aol would ever wish them to meet.” Looking down at her plate, she bites down on the inside of her lip for a moment until adding, “She wanted to know if I was a willing participant in Zaimika’s conception and held some long and bitter hatred for her father. None of it might have been what I wanted, but I was //willing// insofar as there was a purpose to it. Hating the man when I’m half-convinced he hates himself would be worthless and bad for Zaimika.”

Akio is quiet for a longer amount of time than he normally would be during a conversation with Zinovia. His face remains schooled, revealing none of the conflicting emotions that are dominating his thoughts during the silence. He finally takes a breath and lets it out as he straightens in the chair and looks to Zinovia with a level of sharpness he rarely shows her. “It’s likely I’ll be able to test and receive my Masters knot in the next year or less. So, if what I’m about to tell you, causes conflict between you and myself, and subsequently my sister,” whom he has never quite been able to repair a relationship with, despite sharing Zinovia’s time, “I will leave rather than create further rifts between you and my sister. Akio will know me, that much I’ll promise. I love him too much to not be part of his life. And yet..,” he sighs and tips his weight forward, to burrow his face in his hands as they are braced against his knees. He exhales loudly and then shoves his fingers through his hair before he lifts up and levels a straight gaze at Zinovia. “If Fort’s Weyrwoman has come calling, it’s likely because it’s finally been found out that Akemi put a hit out on C’aol. It didn’t end his life, but it ended his involvement with you.” He allows a weighted pause. “I was there when Akemi contracted it.” He waits for her response, his face pensive.

Zinovia sets the fork down and sits back in her chair to watch Akio as he makes his decisions, her eyes narrowed a little throughout her observations. Despite how she’s drawn herself back and into herself, it doesn’t prevent her from looking sick to her stomach by the time that he’s shared all he has, her, “She doesn’t think it was Akemi – she thinks it was me!” a snapped thing full of the heaviness of her realisation. “What were you thinking?” she demands. “What was //she// thinking? I made my choices and they were mine to make. What other options did I have at the time that wouldn’t have put me in some Lord’s debt? He’s Zaimika’s father!” She covers her eyes with one hand. “I gave Zaimika her name instead of his and all this time… My wife could hate my daughter.” Lifting her fingers away from her eyes, she levels a cold stare at Akio. “Was this all your idea? Engineered between the two of you that you would be the one I looked to with C’aol out of the picture? That I would ask you to sire Zio?”

Of all the questions that Akio thought would be leveled at him, the one that Zinovia asks has him looking shocked. “What? No! This was before anything between you and I!” He shakes his head and lifts both his arms as if he could hold back her words from his body. “My sister planned it all. You’ll have to ask her the why of it. I went with her,” he lowers his hands, allowing guilt to flush his face with red. “Because I owed it to her to make sure she was safe.” He frowns at the mention of C’aol being Zaimika’s father. His voice low, and a little hard, as he reminds Zinovia stiffly, “Remember that he may be her father and yet it has been Akemi by your side to raise her. She can’t help that she was unable to give you a child.” There’s a flash of hurt and indecision in his gaze. “If she were male, none of this would have happened.” A sigh as he shucks his hands through his hair and once more slouches back in his chair, choosing to look at a wall instead of Zinovia.

In a moment of deep bitterness, Zinovia snaps, “Both of you have options that have never been open to me, so, if this is so intolerable for you, I suggest you explore them.” A ripple of sound too full of glee and despair drifts through the Hold, Yukijiath reveling in the dark of her rider’s mind. “For all I know, Akemi has looked at Zaimika these past years and been unable to bear her. Because that is what it sounds like in seeking to avoid his siring another on me. Do you have any idea how many times I tried to offer her her freedom? To make my burdens not hers?” Zinovia crumples up a spare sheet of paper and flings it into the fire rather than permit herself anything more destructive. “…All she’s done is decide //for me// that my choice was unacceptable. And you were complicit in it.” Unable to lift herself from the shadow she’s fallen into, she murmurs a dark, “I’ve already lost my whole family. What’s two more? This… The two of you. Me. It was selfish from the outset to even think of it. I suppose we’ve all served our purposes… If this is untenable, I’ve no need of anyone else. You both have the means to make your own way.”

Akio’s face hardens in the moment of Zinovia’s bitterness. He sits up more fully in the chair and moves his arms to the chair’s armrests, his hands moving to grip the wood beneath them. “How quickly you are to dismiss us,” his voice is cold, “now that you have what you needed for this Hold.” He shakes his head and rises, his entire body tense with restraint as he holds back angrier words. “From what Akemi told me, Zinovia, you were returning home bruised beyond recognition and she feared he might kill you in his lust. Those were the rumors of Honshu. That he took pleasure in beating women. How much further could he have taken it?” He shakes his head again. “This is between Akemi and you.” There’s a warning in his gaze as he adds, “You once told me to repair what was between my twin and I if you and me were to continue. I am warning you now, that if you push Akemi away, or hurt her because you’re conflicted over the man who gave you Zaimika having been injured years ago? There will be no repairing what you’ll have broken. Between her and you. Between me and you.” He waits, allowing her a response, before he quite obviously turns to leave.

“Conflicted?” Zinovia echoes, her voice full of disbelief. “You fail to see the bigger picture now, just as the two of you did then. The same man you thought would kill me believes that //I// tried to have him killed and he has the full force of one of the most conservative Weyrs at his fingertips! You’ve put me and my children – //our children// – and this Hold directly into his line of fire. The //least// of what he could do is petition the Conclave to have me removed!” Her jaw set, she shakes her head. “Threats of who will no longer be at my side or in my bed are nothing compared to what the two of you have brought upon us. Push her away? Hurt her? You’ve planted a target on my back! On Zaimika’s; on Zio’s! You weren’t thinking of me when you did this, that much is perfectly clear.” She straightens, lifting her chin the tiniest bit. “I gave my body for this Hold. What’s the rest of me? Get out of my office.”

The reality of Zinovia’s words and the true impact of that fateful decision that he and Akemi made all those years ago flash across Akio’s face in a snap of realization. Color drains from his normally tanned face and then, without a single word, he turns and does exactly as she says. He leaves her office, slamming the door behind him. He’ll find Akemi ahead of Zinovia and the two of them take to the skies on Maozheth’s back. Though the pair have never repaired their relationship to anything that it was in their childhood, there has come a certain understanding between them. As it was in their youth – family first, ahead of all other things. The two remain away from the Hold for the rest of the day and do not even return when evening falls. It is late the next day, near dinner time, when they return without any word for where they have gone.

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