The strong vanilla tea seems to pierce my nose as I tip the liquid into my mouth. The hot tea burns my tongue and the inside skin of my mouth, and makes my eyes water. I part the cup from my mouth and breathe in cool air to assuage my stinging lips and tongue. My fingers are already numb and sore from holding the overheated porcelain cup but I dare not set it down on the small, coffee table. I glimpse at Leila, who was holding the cup with her slender fingers and taking gentle sips of the tea in a composed, regal, and serene manner. She inhales the odor and closes her eyes to let the sweet scent comfort her weariness. We are currently alone in the living room while Yanira brews some more tea for the rest of the witches.
“Doesn’t the tea burn your tongue?” I whisper at Leila, lifting a finger off the cup to let her see the red mark it has leave behind. “How can you drink this?”
Leila snorts, and I can swear it is the most graceful snort I’ll ever hear, “it is a matter of knowing how to drink tea properly,” she moves the cup around gingerly, then lifts her head and raises an eyebrow, “I don’t suppose you know how to do that.”
I scowl at her comment and set the tea on the table, grateful for being able to finally release it. I rub my fingers against my palms, trying to soothe the burning sensation. We are finally in Atala, closer to the enemy than I ever will think possible. The sound of feet trampling on the streets is louder and continuous, signaling the start of a new day. The sky covering Atala is denser and foggier than that of Syltra, wind currents are strong but not strong enough to move the thick sheets of clouds that covers the entire town and clouds the sun. Atala’s general appearance is that of murkiness and calignosity, living forevermore in apprehension and oppression.
“It is a beautiful day,” Yanira’s voice sounds from the doorway of the living room, as she emerges with a tray and several steaming cups of tea.
“You really think that?” I ask unconsciously, with my gaze transfixed in the sky. Realizing my sudden comment, I turn my head to face Leila, a guilty expression in it. She only glowers at me from behind her cup and continue drinking away the silence that settles among us.
Yanira chuckles, placing the tray on the minute table, “it is consider a beautiful day,” she says affectionately, looking out of the window. “We don’t receive much sunlight filtering through the clouds as we do today.”
Leila nods, “well spoken, you’ve given us a good reason to start searching despite being tired.” She finally sets her empty cup in the table and stands. “Thank you for the warm welcome and the comforting tea. We must now search for that window.”
Yanira nods, “very well, my child, do inform us when you know its precise location,” she takes Leila hands and squeezes it slightly. “Hope you have a successful search, we will be expectant of your return tonight. May Light guard both of you.”
“Thank you,” Leila responds, bowing her head. She exits the house, with me trailing behind her. A gust of wind meets our faces once we step out of the warm comfort of the house; I pull my trench coat closer, shivering from the cold. Leila walks down the steps, ignoring the wind howling in her ears and biting her skin. Sometimes I wonder how she can do that, it seems as if her personality blends in perfectly with frigid weather conditions. I am not surprised. Her pale skin looks even paler in the gloom that envelops us and her long, blonde hair and blue eyes are very outstanding in this environment. What did I make of Leila? I enjoy her company… that much I know for certain.
“Coming hunter?” Leila looks over her shoulder at me.
I grin and walk down the steps to stand by her side, “you know, people will think you are mad talking to the air.” I see a light, rosy color rise to her cheeks, but quickly subside.
“I don’t need to be reminded of things I already know for certain,” she argues. We are crossing the vast plaza, with firewood stacked in the middle of the place. My eyes bore the stake with revere and slight contempt. “Tell me, hunter, how many women did you condemn?” Her voice is soft and restrictive, almost a murmur.
A man can never live with a guilty silence; it only withers his heart and makes his life insufferable. However, he can learn to amend his mistakes and ignorance by the simple act of confessing. “Twenty women throughout the kingdom,” I respond, a bitter sensation settles in my demeanor. The wind doesn’t seem so uninviting right now, it is almost soothing.
“Forgive yourself, Adryan,” Leila spoke her words with softness and compassion, “you acted based on others’ ignorance and your own shattered feelings.”
Embark me into the path of redemption, I plead silently. “Thanks Leila,” I lower my head and close my eyes. After some time of silent perusing through the houses and windows, the faint orb in the sky now lingers close to the horizon, with no signs of success on our behalf.