A rift between the elves becomes clear to Gray, and she's right in the middle of it.
CW: Homophobia, Suicide mention
“Safiena, this is my choice,” Valla said, standing a little taller. Safiena shook her head. Fayne and Nayila were watching her with wide eyes. I watched as Fayne, in particular, looked at Safiena in shock.
“Valla, you’re making a mistake, and I can’t just watch any longer.”
“Safiena, what are you talking about?”
“I’m talking about the fact that you…” Safiena scoffed, glaring at me. “Do I have to say it out loud?”
Valla hesitated, but then nodded. “Yeah. You’re going to have to say it out loud if you want to stop me.”
“You were in prison for kissing another woman. You were almost executed for wanting to sleep with another woman. And yet, here you are again, asking another woman to catch you when you fall! This is why the nobles don’t like you, princess. Because you keep making the choice to be with other women, even after being punished for it!”
Safiena was standing right in front of Valla at that point, just a foot away from her. They were trying to stare each other down.
“You don’t understand what it feels like, Safiena.”
“Oh, you think I don’t understand?”
I stepped forward, putting myself between Safiena and Valla. “Is this really necessary, Safiena?” I asked.
“Excuse me, Gray?”
“She just wanted me to be the one to catch her. That’s all. And I don’t understand the problem you have with women being with other women.”
“Oh, maybe you’d understand a little better if you saw what it led to!” Safiena said, raising her voice. Now that it was me she was facing instead of her princess, she let go of some of her courtesy. “My sister was like her- like you, too, it seems. And you know what happened to her? Hm? She was beaten, and thrown in prison, because she broke the law and broke the Temple’s rules!”
“Safiena.” Fayne was standing next to his sister, but she ignored him.
“And you know what? I don’t care if you chimeras don’t have the Temple. I don’t give a fuck! Maybe that’s why you have this goddamn dust everywhere!”
“Safiena!” Fayne harshly grabbed her shoulder and pushed her back, before putting himself in front of me. I held my arm in front of Valla a little bit as she looked out from behind me. Nayila was watching us all, eyes wide and with her face pale. Harold wasn’t standing far away from Fayne, ready to step in at any second, his eyes looking at Safiena, then at Fayne, monitoring the situation. Fayne’s voice was loud and shaking with anger, like he was about to cry. “Safiena, go fuck yourself! Go fuck yourself for using Lita like that! How fucking dare you?!”
“Fayne, you know what I’m talking-”
“For the love of the divines, don’t fucking pretend that we’re on the same side, and don’t even try to take the moral high ground! Lita killed herself. Lita killed herself, and you’re thinking it’s okay to turn around to our princess and bully her for being like our sister who fucking killed herself? What the fuck is wrong with you, Safiena?! You’re older than me! You knew her better than me, or so I thought! How the fuck did you miss the moments she broke down? The moments she was sobbing because she thought we all hated her? The moments she wanted to run away to be with her love, because she couldn’t share it with any of us?”
“See, that’s the problem, she wanted to run away-”
“She wouldn’t have if we had just accepted her! She wouldn’t have if you, and mom, and dad, had just told her it was okay to be like that!”
“It’s not okay-”
“Fuck you! You’re wrong!”
Safiena and Fayne stood face-to-face. Valla was clinging to my arm. I wrapped my tail around her calf, trying to calm her down in a way that wouldn’t further enrage Safiena and escalate the situation.
For a moment, it seemed like there was the potential for a fight to break out. I was prepared to back away and protect Valla. Then, Harold walked up, putting a hand on each of their shoulders.
“The Chimeras do not work by the Temple’s rules, nor do they abide by Akalai’s laws,” Harold said. “Nor should they. They are not Akalai.”
“It would make them more civili-”
“Safiena.” Harold gave her a sharp glare that stopped her. “Regardless of your opinions of the Temple, and of same-sex couples like Lita and her partner were… Valla will not be in that danger here.”
“And when we go home? Hm?”
“Valla will return to Akalai when she wants. Until then, she is safe here, and beyond the temple’s judgement and punishments.”
Safiena was looking at Harold, then at me, then at Fayne, then at Valla. She shook her head.
“You’re all unbelievable. Absolutely unbelievable.” She turned to Nayila, who looked away from her, seeming to not want any part of the argument as a whole.
“Your ability to ignore what our sister wanted and needed is what’s fucking unbelievable,” Fayne growled, turning to me. He looked at Valla and I, and I looked at Valla over my shoulder. She was staring at the ground, and took a deep sigh.
“...I should have known,” she muttered, shaking her head.
“Don’t blame yourself,” I said, but she shook her head more.
“This wouldn’t have happened if I just let someone else…”
“No, Gray’s right,” Fayne said. “You’re fine. Safiena just doesn’t have a clue.”
“But will Safiena still be okay with protecting me…?”
I narrowed my eyes at Fayne and Harold. I didn’t know enough… though the idea of Safiena being around Valla while she was vulnerable suddenly seemed much more dangerous than before.
“If she isn’t, she can set up her own tent and rest away from the rest of us,” Fayne said.
“I’ll talk to her in a minute,” Harold said, glancing her direction, then looking at Valla. “The sun is beginning to set. We’re running out of time, fast.”
Valla nodded. “I know, I know. We need to get it done…”
Nayila started walking towards us. Safiena was still glaring at me, but I pointedly ignored her.
“What is it, Nayila?” Valla asked, standing up a little straighter. Nayila took a deep breath.
“...Safiena is hurting, guys.”
“And you think our princess isn’t after that? And Gray?” Fayne snapped. Nayila seemed to shrink back, but Valla held up her hand to Fayne, and he scowled, but didn’t continue. Valla straightened up and looked at Nayila before speaking.
“I know it’s painful for her to talk about these matters, but I didn’t intend to bring it up. I enjoy Gray’s company, and that’s that. I’ll be more careful around her in the future.”
Nayila slowly nodded. “I think she’ll appreciate that. I just don’t like it when we start fighting against each other, you know…?”
“It’s hard, yeah,” Valla said, seeming to only relax a little bit.
“So… if I convince her to apologize to you, would you be willing to apologize too…?”
“...For…” Valla sighed. “Yes. But if I apologize for anything, I want her to understand that I’m allowed to make my own choices in this.”
Nayila nodded, but her face dropped a little bit at that. “Understood, my Princess.”
Nayila walked back over to Safiena, and started talking. Valla was looking towards the sun.
“...Do you want me to start setting up the circle, princess?” Harold asked. Valla nodded.
“Yeah. We can’t waste time.”
He nodded, and walked to the center of the clearing.
Fayne looked at me, and sighed.
“...I’m sorry, Gray.”
“Huh? For what?”
“That you had to be involved in that drama.”
I flicked my tail and narrowed my eyes. “Don’t be. That wasn’t your fault.”
I couldn’t say anything else before Safiena and Nayila were walking back towards us. I could feel the tension and anger from Safiena still, but she took a deep breath before speaking.
“My princess, I apologize for earlier. I was surprised that you would have preferred… Gray over my brother, who has protected you for longer than anyone else.”
“And I apologize for that choice, but it was my choice to make.”
Safiena wanted to ask why. She wanted, more than anything, to start trying to talk Valla out of it. But we were all too keenly aware of just how little time there was for the ritual. “I respect your choice, princess, and I will protect you the same as before.”
“Good.” Valla nodded, giving a small smile. Her body was still tense, and the only reason I didn’t reach out to try to calm her down was the fear of causing more of a fight. “Harold is preparing the circle. Everyone, follow me. Gray?”
“I’ll tell you where to stand, so that your presence won’t be overwhelming in the message, but you’ll be ready to catch me when I fall.”
We started walking, me and Fayne on either side of Valla, and Safiena and Nayila right behind, though I was keeping my focus on Safiena’s aura. It was still sparking with anger, but not directed at Valla any more, and also only barely focused on me and Fayne. She was beginning to focus more on the ritual again.
We walked towards the circle that Harold had drawn in the ground. On the closest point of the circle to the setting sun, there was a rune that I didn’t recognize carved into the ground. Harold backed out of the circle without touching it.
“It’s ready,” Harold said. He looked at the elven guards. “You all know where to stand. Valla, will you show Gray?”
“Yeah,” she said, stepping over the edge of the circle. I followed her lead as the elven guards took positions on the outside of the circle, forming a triangle. Nayila and Safiena stood towards the beach and Fayne stood opposite the rune in the ground. They were all facing out of the circle, standing in a guard position. Valla led me to a point in the circle near Fayne, a few steps away from the edge of the circle. “Here. I’ll start out in the center of the circle, then walk towards the rune. When I start backing away from the rune, start walking forward, because as soon as my magic starts dissipating is when I’ll collapse.”
“Understood. Be careful.” For a second I thought about giving her a hug, but knew better. I stood there, looking towards her, and watched as she approached the center of the circle.