30 Pieces of a Whole
((Dak, what kind of flower is that?))
Aldrea pointed up towards the branch only a few feet above them. Dak looked up and quickly caught sight of the said plant.
It was a small flower, about the size of his palm. Its petals were a pinkish white hue with a red tint, their middles and speckled with orange dots near the edges.
Recognizing it, Dak said, "That's the Milast Flower. They're a rare kind of flower but you would always see a bundle or two near the Western tribe Tree or sometimes at the Southern Tribe Tree."
Aldrea took a second to absorb this. ((I remember once seeing another Hork-Bajir male giving one of these flowers to another female while I was a Chadoo. Does it mean anything?)) She asked, keeping her stalk eyes on the flower and her main eyes towards Dak.
Dak nodded. "It's supposed to represent true love for another, never-ending friendship and fondness and willingness to be with the other always. It's often used when Hork-Bajir males are courting other females but rarely since the Milast's seeds are hard to find and grow."
Aldrea's eye-ridge rose ever so slightly as she turned all four eyes towards the flower. ((That Hork-Bajir must've loved the other very much.))
"No doubt." Dak agreed, giving his companion a thoughtful side-glance.
The Hork-Bajir male and Andalite female continued to look at the flower in silence for a few moments. Dak was the first to break it by asking suddenly, "Do Andalite males give flowers to females of their choice?"
((No.)) Aldrea shook her head as she began to walk a couple paces away in thought. ((We Andalites simply court another until one either proposes or waits for arrangements made from their elders. To marry the one courting her or the one that her father picked for her is always uncertain. Sometimes, some Andalites don't even marry at all. Which is ludicrous considering that the Electorate decreed for us to have more marriages.))
"Why would they decree that?" Dak pondered aloud.
((. . . So there would be future children to raise and train for the war going on.)) Aldrea couldn't help but feel her voice falter at her own words. Not wanting to appear disturbed, she then quickly began to ramble, ((Personally, I'm not one for marriage myself. Many of my friends often told me that any male who married me would probably slit his throat with his own tail-blade or become a computer designer rather spend the rest of their lives with me –))
She wasn't even aware that Dak wasn't listening until –
Suddenly, Aldrea blinked in bewilderment at the sight that had just swung in before her. Dak was now hanging upside down casually as he held out something towards her; something that made her face grow hot. Clutched carefully in his fingers, was the Milast flower.
"Here." Dak said simply with a smile.
Eyes wide in shock, Aldrea stuttered incoherently as she kept her eyes on the flower. Finally gaining some of her senses after a moment or two, she looked up at Dak in confusion, ((Um, thank you, Dak. But what exactly are you doing?))
Dak smiled as though her question was a dumb one, "You looked like you wanted the Milast, so I got it for you."
Aldrea blinked again. ((That's very sweet of you, Dak. But why would you –)) She paused to consider her words carefully. ((I mean, didn't you tell me a minute ago that this flower was used for –))
"I remember what I said, Aldrea." Dak said, cutting her off. "I also said that this flower is a sign of never-ending friendship and eternal fondness, right?"
((R-right.)) Aldrea's face grew hot again in spite of herself.
"So . . . There would be nothing wrong with giving this to you if we are just friends, right?"
((. . .)) Aldrea didn't know how to respond to that. She looked down at the flower, its delicate features sharply contrasting against the grotesque claws of the Hork-Bajir holding it. Briefly catching the gentle glint on Dak's eyes and looking back down at the flower, her hearts began to race involuntarily.
Without furthur ado, Aldrea slowly raised a delicate, seven-digit hand. Hesitating for a second, she brought it forward, brushing it against Dak's, and carefully took the Milast. Aldrea cupped the plant in her hands, fingertips tracing the spots in silent awe.
Just friends. She told herself. Just friends.
((Right.)) Aldrea stated, her bright green eyes smiling.
As she held the flower to her chest, unaware to her, Dak smiled.