[505 words – Word-A-Week]Nala watched Shui’s chest rise and fall a few times before she placed her free hand gently on it. “Shui?” She whispered.
His eyes opened, and she witnessed a sliver of surprise before he grinned. “Yes?” He replied.
Nala took a breath and held it. She looked away from his eyes and bowed at the waist.
“What are you doing?” He asked, not bothering to conceal his surprise.
“I am sorry, Mi’Lord.”
The words felt strange in her mouth, but she knew they were the right ones. They were words she should’ve said before, but even without seeing the murderabilia, she had been blinded by rumor and conjecture. She had allowed hearsay to taint her perception of a man she had suspected of being pure of heart.
“I am sorry for my assassination attempts. I am sorry for the cruel things I have said. I am sorry for the misery I subjected you to…” Her voice faded and was caught in her throat. “I will understand if you do not wish to see me again,” she finally said, “but I will atone for my behavior.”
Shui responded with silence. Nala wanted to meet his gaze, but the knowledge of her wrongdoing sapped her courage.
Her courage might have faded, but her mind was sharp. Shui had never shown malice. He couldn’t have been capable of the worst humanity had to offer. Nala hoped he would forgive her.
She knew he would forgive her.
It was present from their first encounter: kindness.
She saw it each time they met. She heard his kind words. She felt his kind presence.
“Look at me, Nala,” he finally said.
“No, Mi’Lord, I can not.” Her protest was barely audible, but she couldn’t come so far and not follow through.
Nala slowly lifted her head and met Shui’s eyes.
His eyes locked with hers. He searched her, his eyes conveyed something Nala couldn’t quite place. She felt self conscious. He read her soul she finally bared to him. He could see the turmoil of emotions: guilt, shame, loss, fear and confusion.
At that moment, she was at her most vulnerable. The honesty of the moment eroded her mask of strength. Shui’s pull on her intensified. Nala was incapable of escape.
Why do I feel this way? she asked herself.
She knew why. She had felt it for some time. Only in this intimate moment with him could she start to admit it.
“I understand,” he replied and squeezed the hand intertwined with his.
She looked into his eyes, and she knew.
He had known pain. He had known loss. He had known loyalty. He had known love. He never faltered. He never stopped believing in a slave girl.
“My name is Nala,” she whispered. “It is a pleasure to meet you, Shui.”
Shui’s eyes danced in reflected light. He grinned lopsided and replied. “You look familiar, Nala. Have we met before?”
The two met again. Not as an ill-rumored Champion Standing, nor a filthy slave girl, but simply as Nala and Shui.
Nala’s Story, Project Page