"Courage!" he said, and pointed toward the land,
"This mounting wave will roll us shoreward soon."
"The Lotos-Eaters"- Alfred Lord Tennyson
"You look worried."
He looked up from his untouched cup of tea, steam still curling up.
"You look worried." Mai repeated. "You shouldn't be, though. We got farther with her today than we ever have."
After seeing the girl, they had come to the near-empty hospital cafeteria, which was decorated nicely but still couldn't contain the bleak, detached atmosphere that came with medical care. A small folder lay open in front of Mai.
"You're still not going to tell us who our client is?" She asked.
"You realize how unfair you're being, right?"
"I do. But it's my right as your boss to withhold information that I don't think you need to know."
"You don't think we need to know who it is? Why?" Her eyes shone with a liveliness that he envied. "Is it someone famous?"
"And if it was?"
"If it was? Would that make any difference?"
"I suppose not."
"One thing baffles me about this, though." She looked at him and he continued. "Why did she get out?"
"Don't you mean how?"
"You know as well as I do that this whatever is in that forest is most likely a sentient being, Mai. I mean why. Why did it let her leave?"
"Maybe it felt like being nice."
He stared at her and sighed. "No one ever just feels like being nice. It's usually for profit or gain of some kind. Every action has motive."
"That's not entirely true. I don't want anything from people and I do it all the time."
"You may be the only human exception, then."
"Is that why you are what you are?"
"You're never 'just nice' for no reason. Is it because you don't want anything from anyone?"
"Probably. And being the way I am is far easier than the burden of acting like I give two damns about unimportant things."
"I like it that way. It makes the nice things you do memorable."
"Indifference is not exactly an admirable trait, Mai. And furthermore, if you don't expect reward from people, why do you bother being kind to them?"
"Well...when you grow up like I did, you learn not to expect much of anything from anyone. You usually just have yourself. If people are just kind for reward, then what kind of world is that?" She shrugged, staring into her tea where the dregs were settling to the bottom. "
"Look at us." He smirked and she looked up. "Having discussions on morality in the hospital cafeteria."
"Well, I suppose someone has to." She said, smiling. He stared at her for a moment before reaching across and taking the folder, his eyes raking over the details.
"We've got to be exceptionally prepared for this case." He said, examining a few photographs. "That girl upstairs went into Jukai with all her memories and came out little more than a conscious, walking coma. To say this thing will be dangerous is an understatement."
"And you still won't tell us who hired us?" She asked and his gaze told her to drop the subject. "Alright fine. Let it be said now that I don't want to end up a Lotus-Eater."
"I—how did you know about that anyways?"
"What, I can't know these things?"
"No, you can, but usually I'm the one with the useful information."
"The teacher in English mentioned it last week."
"Well that's a relief. I knew you weren't that culturally educated."
"It is a testament, though, that you remembered a fleeting detail, even after a week."
"Was…was that a compliment?"
"Did it sound like one?"
"Sort of." She said, scrunching up her nose. "But those are hard to come by from you, so I'll just keep the status quo." She got up to refill her cup, missing the fleeting look on his face.
He turned his gaze to anything else, to a passing nurse that was wheeling a patient past Mai, who leaned back to avoid them, smiling kindly.
It just didn't make sense.
Why did this girl upstairs live? Why wipe her memory, but keep her alive? To tease the crowd? He would have to talk to his father later, and get more facts about Blackfriar. Maybe there were others like Argall and this girl, who simply didn't remember the forest. There must be. These things simply didn't happen…yet his line of work proved that yes, they certainly did. It was too early to rule the illogical out.
He also knew he couldn't keep their client in hiding for long. The group would get antsy if things didn't go to plan or if they weren't getting the results they wanted. They would want answers that he wasn't sure they could handle. But for now, it was his sole burden to bear.
"Do you think it was right to lie to her?"
He looked up at Mai as she sat down.
"The girl?" He clarified and she nodded. "Well it's not like she's actually going to remember."
"You made her believe her parents were still alive." She said quietly. "And I know that she won't remember tomorrow, but for the rest of today, which will feel like years to her, she's going to have to deal with an emotional crisis."
"It happened ten years ago, Mai, she can't still be upset about her parents—" He stopped at the look on her face.
"When do we have to meet up with the team?" She asked.
"Not for another hour." He said, allowing the change of subject. He could hardly blame her; it had been an incredibly callous thing for him to say. Of course she was still hurting about her parents. She had every right to be after what happened. And, concerning Gene, it wasn't like he was one to talk.
"What are we going to do until then?"
"I need to make some calls."
"To your dad?"
"I can tell you've been thinking about it since we were upstairs." She said, smiling softly as she sipped her tea.
"It was that obvious?"
"Well not really, but you get this face when you're thinking about them."
"What face might that be?"
"It's kind of a combination of serious and distant, really very similar to your normal face—"
"—But there's little differences."
"I suppose it's just a mark of our friendship that you can tell."
"Or I can read your mind."
He looked at her and smirked. "Yes, because psychic latency is known to morph into telepathy overnight."
"It could happen."
"Very well. Tell me what I'm thinking."
She leaned forward and stared at him for a moment. Her eyes were lighter today, he noted silently. A dusty whiskey color.
"You're wondering if your dad will put your mum on the phone, and if he does, what you'll say to her that won't be embarrassing if anyone is listening."
For a moment, a brief blink, he truly believed that she had read his mind before logic took over.
"How did you know?"
"You always drum your fingers when you're dealing with your parents. At least when I've seen you on the phone with them you do."
"So you spend your day watching your boss? That's neither healthy nor professional."
She smiled, but didn't answer, and stood.
"We should get back. Your mum is probably waiting on the other end of the line."
Thank you to everyone who has reviewed! Reviewing really does make me write faster; it lets me know people care about this story. Cheers!