“If you can’t keep him under control, then kill him,” Atlas ordered, closing his DS to avoid having to speak anymore to Stefan.
He had sent him to the Mud Castle to take care of the golem-maker, Indigo, so that the reptilian-man would be far enough away that he didn’t have to listen to his dissenting voice for a while. Unfortunately, there were quite a few unforeseen problems going on down there that the administration teams stationed there hadn’t thought necessary for him to know. Apparently, the catkin had come enough to his senses to realize that he was being held captive and was now refusing to make golems. Stefan had been saying for the past two weeks or so that if they would bring Amadhay in on it, she could easily calm Indigo.
Atlas knew that was true. He just doubted that she would actually do it. She was angry and hurt, though she had no right to be, and he was positive that anything he suggested, she would refuse just to spite him. Besides, he doubted seeing her old servant being held prisoner by them would make her any happier. No, he was going to keep her in the dark as long as he could.
When the door to his personal room was thrown open, he was a bit surprised to see the girl standing there in his doorway, breathing hard as if she had been running for a while. They, for the most part, hadn’t talked to each other unless absolutely necessary since he had made the mistake of yelling at her. She had actually been doing a good job of avoiding him, choosing to stay around Sha’adahk and her own room instead of communal places, as she had been apt to do before. But there she was, narrowing her eyes in thought as she took a step inside his room.
For a moment, he wondered where Scarlet was that she had allowed Amadhay in, but then remembered that he had sent her away as well, to the Candy Castle to oversee the labs. At least that was going as planned. He could always depend on Scarlet to get the job done. Unlike Stefan and Ribbon, who couldn’t seem to get their jobs done without involving Amadhay. He hadn’t saved her from the Phoegani to use her the same way in the Palnoki. She was better than that.
“What do you want?” he asked her, still not ready to be the bigger person.
She pursed her lips and moved further into his room. “For you to stop being an ass?”
He scoffed and rolled his eyes. “Amazing. I thought you might be here to admit you were wrong. Obviously, I was expecting too much maturity from you. You know where the door is.” He picked up his DS and turned his attention from her, leaning back in his seat.
She made an adorably irritated sound in the back of her throat, but didn’t leave. He chose to ignore her as well as he could, focusing on the blank screen of his DS as if he were reading something. He didn’t feel like reading and he didn’t feel like talking. He wasn’t, actually, sure what he felt like, other than irritated.
“I’m not leaving until we work this out,” Amadhay said, sounding closer than before.
Atlas put a lot of effort in not looking at her. He kept his eyes focused on the blank screen. “What is there to work out?”
“Are you kidding me?” she asked exasperatedly. “You won’t even look at me.”
His eyes flickered away from his DS, to her, and then back. She was looking pretty as always, if a bit ruffled. If he had to guess, he would say that her hair had sand in it because she had been out racing with Sha’adahk. She did that a lot. Her loose top was sticking to her chest, telling him that she was sweaty, backing up his idea that she had been running. The running shoes and tight leggings were just unneeded additions to cement the idea. He wondered if she was getting any faster under Sha’adahk’s tutelage.
“I’ve looked at you more than enough,” he said with a shrug, forcing his eyes to go back to the screen, instead of focusing on the sheen of sweat on her olive skin, the stray hairs making her asymmetrical, the lack of make-up on her young face.
“Have you? Because I’m not sure you’re seeing me.”
Atlas rolled his eyes. “I can assure you that I see you just fine. The real question is whether you see yourself.”
Atlas finally gave up the pretense of reading and set his DS on his lap. “When you look into the mirror, who do you see, Amadhay? Do you see Amadhay Hakinato, an aelfen lady of the Roadesian court? Do you see Red Robin, an asset to be used by someone powerful? Do you see Red Bird, a girl who is Palnokian in all but birth? Or do you see Amadhay? Because I see Amadhay, a girl who is fiercely loyal to those she deems worthy of her, who is immensely powerful but doesn’t know how to use her gifts to their highest level, a girl who is beautiful and strong and curious and brilliant and stubborn. I see more than an asset or noble blood or confused loyalties.
“But you don’t, do you? You still see yourself as an asset. You haven’t seen yourself as Lady Amadhay Hakinato in a long time, but you definitely don’t see yourself as Amadhay either. You’re trying to juxtapose Red Bird on top of Red Robin, but guess what Amadhay? It won’t work. I won’t let you. You mean too much to me to become just a part of yourself.”
Amadhay stared at him for a few clicks. “You don’t get it,” she finally said, shaking her head slowly. “You think you get it but you don’t. Just because you knew little me for two months, just because someone has fed you information on me, just because we’ve been close for five months, you think that you know me better than I know myself. But you don’t, Atlas. You just don’t.”
“Don’t I?” he countered, leaning forward in his chair and bracing his elbows on his knees.
“No, you don’t. You think you understand my reasons for everything. You don’t. You don’t understand why I want to be of use.”
“No, that’s the problem. I do. You want to be of use to us. You want to hurt and kill people because that’s all you know. You need to feel useful and the only way you think you can be useful is if you’re killing someone. You want to replace the Phoegani and Lord Phoeganis with us, with me. I don’t want that. I’m sorry, Amadhay, but I don’t want to replace your uncle. I don’t want to be anything similar to your uncle at all. He tried to ruin you. He made your choices for you. I don’t want to be that person.”
“I don’t want you to be that person,” Amadhay argued, now standing directly in front of him. “But that’s what you’re starting to become on your own. I say I want to help, you say no. I want to fight, you say no. I want to learn more magic, you say fine, but I can’t use it. Is that the choice you’re giving me? The choice to follow your decisions? Because that sounds a lot like you’re making my choices for me, only leading me to a different position.
“I don’t want to be some lady sitting around with a whole bunch of knowledge, but no way to use it. I don’t want to be useless. I’m not calling myself an asset when I say I want to do something that will be of worth. I believe in you, in the Palnoki and in the others. I want to work with you because I want to make sure that all of you stay safe.”
“You have no idea what we’re doing here. So tell me, how is that any different from working for the Phoegani? You didn’t know what their end goal was, just followed their directives blindly. You were only there to keep your cousin and the phantom safe.” Atlas leaned back in his seat, looking away from her.
“It is completely different,” Amadhay asserted, crossing her arms over her chest. She rocked back and forth on her heels for a moment. “I was there because I didn’t have a choice. It was either be part of the Phoegani, or be part of the Phoegani against my will. I’m here because I chose here over going back to the Phoegani. I wasn’t there to keep Benjy and Monkey safe. I was there to keep myself from being Controlled by Alphonse. So unless you’re going to try to use your Gift to force me to do what you want, I can honestly say that the situations are completely different.”
Atlas scoffed. “You don’t even hear yourself.”
“I hear myself plainly. Maybe you don’t hear yourself.”
Atlas shook his head. “We’re done here,” he said before picking his DS up again. “I have work to do.”
“I’m not leaving,” Amadhay said stubbornly. “You can’t make me.”
“I assure you that I can,” Atlas retorted, standing up. He leaned forward to say the next words directly into her face. “But the difference is, I’m not going to.” With that, he walked out of his own room, going right past her without another glance. He felt her watching him walk away for a three clicks before she followed.
“I’m not going to let you just walk away from me,” she called after him, hurrying to catch up. She grabbed his hand and attempted to pull him to a stop. He kept walking. “Atlas!” she exclaimed, moving in front of him and walking backwards. “Listen to me.”
“I did,” Atlas stated, still not looking at her. His eyes went right over her head.
“No, you didn’t. You stopped listening when you didn’t hear what you wanted to.” She pushed against his chest, making him pause for a moment. “Just because we don’t agree doesn’t mean we don’t listen.”
He laughed. “Do you really think you’re the person to say that? If it isn’t the sun calling the fire hot.”
She blinked quickly. “Are you calling me a hypocrite?”
“That is exactly what I’m calling you,” Atlas said, giving her a long look before he began walking again. Amadhay didn’t let him sidestep her, instead continuing to walk backwards to keep up with him.
“I’m not the hypocrite here,” she exclaimed, glaring at his hair.
“No, because you’re obviously the victim. You keep making all these claims that you don’t need to be saved, but then in the same breath, make yourself a victim. If you don’t want to be treated like a child, stop acting like one. Stop claiming I’m taking your choices from you and just make them.”
“Every time I try to, you get angry!” Amadhay yelled, pushing at his chest again to make him stop. He did, just so that he could glare down at her.
“Have you ever thought that maybe I’m angry because you aren’t making decisions? You keep letting everyone and everything else make them for you!”
“Like what? Give me one example,” she demanded, clenching her fists.
“You were too scared to talk to anyone about becoming an asset again, but when danger came, you jumped right into that role. No, I don’t want you to be a damned asset, but I want you to let the choice be made for you even less.”
“Oh, shut up!” she yelled, “You wanted to make that choice for me from the beginning. Every time I brought up maybe working for the Palnoki, you say the same dumb things, Atlas. You claim I’m just a little girl, that I’m worth so much more than that. Well, I say otherwise! You can’t say I was too scared, because if anyone is scared, it’s you. You’re scared that if I work for you, that you’ll become Lord Phoeganis. You’re scared, not me.” She was breathing hard now, her chest heaving as she clenched her fists, visibly trying to calm herself.
Atlas froze, staring at her, taking every movement in. Her hair was a mess and she didn’t seem to care. Her eyes were blue again, the same sky blue that always caught him off-guard, the same blue he wanted to protect. “You have no idea what you’re talking about,” he said in a much softer tone than the rest of their argument had been.
“Don’t I?” Amadhay asked, focusing on his face. He wondered what she saw there “You’re scared. You’re scared that if I become your assassin that you’ll see me as an asset. You’re scared that I’ll become just another pawn, that I’ll stop being Amadhay or Red Bird, and will only become Red Robin. You’re scared that you’d be using me just as much as Arne Riff did, that you’ll be taking all of my choices from me. And most of all, you’re scared that if that happens, if you change me, that if I have the choice again, that I’ll go back to the Phoegani. You’re scared of making the Phoegani the lesser of two evils to me.”
Atlas didn’t say anything, only stared at her because he honestly didn’t have anything to say. He wouldn’t admit that she was right, because she wasn’t. Was she? He hated that he wasn’t in control of the situation. He hated that she was such a mystery to him, that even though he knew thousands of little things about her, her mind was still a mystery to him. She was still a mystery, an unknown card in his hand. He didn't know how to use her, didn’t know where to place her. He didn’t even know if he could use her, if she truly wanted to be used or if it was all more of whatever game she was playing with him.
He hated that they were playing a game where she had all the pieces and he was running out of strategy for how to best her.