Chapter 18: Eighteenth Phase.1

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic

Reads: 92

Emeravwe, Mudiaga, and Akpokene walked through the southern limit of Joyovwi Market, making their way down Use road, the city’s main road which ran from the southern gate all the way to the palace. They were on their way to the Bureau of the Capital Police, for Akpokene’s supervisors charged her with obtaining records of all protests which occurred in the capital in the past two years. The two guards of her office were otherwise engaged, however, so the head Aye had come to Emeravwe’s office and requested that Mudiaga be her escort. Akpokene took the opportunity to talk Aye Chioma into letting Emeravwe accompany them, as well, insisting she needed someone to help her copy and carry the reports back. And since Mudiaga was given the afternoon off by the Palace Guard, the Aye allowed that they could take their time coming back to the palace.

As they stood at the edge of Joyovwi Market waiting to cross the busy intersection where Kerhi road, which ran from the western to eastern gate, bisected Use road and divided the city into the Inner and Outer City, Emeravwe questioned Akpokene, “Why has the director of the bureau asked your office to organize records of protests? Does it have to do with the case of Onorogu disappearances?”

Mudiaga placed a shielding hand in front of Emeravwe as a caravan of merchants passed before them, the luggage strapped onto a camel swinging too close. “I doubt it,” he said. “Anything related to the Okémeh case would be assigned to our office.”

Akpokene flashed Emeravwe a teasing smile at Mudiaga’s protective gesture, and Emeravwe rolled her eyes. When she introduced them earlier, Akpokene jokingly whispered that it seemed she handpicked the men she chose to befriend and wrapped them around her finger, for not only was Eunuch Aslan appealing and devoted to her, Oga Mudiaga appeared far from unpleasant and was clearly interested. Emeravwe tried to explain that Mudiaga was interested in anything with a skirt, but Akpokene insisted that was not the case.

Akpokene said, referring to the Eunuch in charge of her office, “I heard Eunuch Omena saying that it was Onótu Odafe, the Minister of Defense, who requested the records, though I am not sure for what purpose.” The road cleared, and they began making their way across. “I have also heard of the Okémeh case your office was assigned. How is it going?”

“The case was formally handed over to the Bureau of Investigations,” Mudiaga said. “They’ll only call our office now if they need a lap dog to eat their crumbs or lick their—”

“Mudiaga!” Emeravwe berated.

Akpokene laughed. “Leave him alone, Emeravwe! It is true the Bureau of Court Affairs is only an afterthought to the Bureau of Investigations.”

Mudiaga heaved a mock sigh, looking relieved as he smiled warmly at Akpokene. “Finally, a woman who understands me.”

Akpokene shook her head, wagging her finger in warning, “Oh, no. It is Emeravwe you want to understand you, not me.”

Mudiaga raised a brow at her knowing smile. He grinned, flashing Emeravwe a wink.

Emeravwe quickly changed the subject, asking him, “What do you intend to do once we finish at the Capital Police?”

“I was going to visit some shops in Esiri Market before heading home,” he answered, referring to the market in the southeast corner of the city. “I’ve been on rotation for night duty, so I haven’t been able to see my family.”

“I hope we shall not be intruding by accompanying you,” Akpokene said.

Mudiaga paused, realizing. “Oh.” He waved a hand after a moment in thought. “No worries. They can’t throw you out.”

The girls exchanged bewildered looks at his statement; he urged them onward.

The Bureau of the Capital Police was located just within the Outer City in an imposing compound not too far from Joyovwi Market. Once there, they were directed to the archives where they spent the morning copying and organizing records of protests in the capital. By early afternoon they had finished the assignment and made their way to Esiri Market. It was the first time Emeravwe had been to the Outer City, and as they walked further within, the cobbled roads turned to dirt and individual homes became long row houses. Children played in the streets while adults went about their business, at times stopping to speak with neighbors.

They heard the din of the market long before they reached it. Integrated with the residential homes, it consisted of several blocks of row houses and small shops with various goods arranged on stands before them, and people packed into the streets. Emeravwe welcomed the smells that rushed at her; of brilliant ornamental rugs treated with spearmint and lavender and displayed for admiration; of clean fabrics blown by the warm breeze gliding through the market; the pungent taste of ripened passion fruits, durians, and papayas that hung thick in the air, and the delicious fried smells of puff-puff buns, chinchin, and sweet plantains. A crowd of people, carts, and animals milled about, the musk of bodies and stench of droppings mixing with the other smells. All around was the buzz of vendors and buyers, of street performers and the cheers of their onlookers.

Mudiaga took Emeravwe and Akpokene around the different sectors of the market, but they lingered mostly at the food stalls where they first sampled akara, scrumptiously seasoned sticks of suya, and sweet egg rolls stuffed with whole boiled eggs. They then settled for lunch at a stand with benched seating where they bought samosas and small bags of jollof rice which they bit at the corners and squeezed into their mouths. They stopped for dessert at other stands, purchasing crunchy squares of chinchin and coconutty shuku-shuku to take along with them on their market escapade.

As they wandered through the streets, like an eager boy at a carnival, Mudiaga zealously guided them to see painted and costumed performers who danced to the beat of tambourines and chanted with talking drums. He encouraged them at game stands to compete, then laughed boisterously at the face Emeravwe made when she bit into the bitter kola nut at a blindfolded taste test. Emeravwe thought he seemed particularly conscious of her, for he watched her every reaction as they went about the market, shielding her from crowds and animal droppings, and casually touching her at every opportunity.

She became fully aware of his attention when he came behind her as she struggled to pull a bow at a fan shop where, as promotion, the owner promised to give the gift of a fan to anyone who could knock one over with a rubber-tipped arrow. She was wrestling with the bow and arrow, attempting to aim at an intricate lace fan, when Mudiaga approached from behind, resting his hands over hers.

“Hold it like this,” he instructed, pressing close.

Emeravwe jerked away, her heart skipping at his closeness and soft touch.

“I’m just showing you how to hold the bow,” he said innocuously, but grinned his dimpled grin, the look in his eyes flirtatious.

She eyed him warily. “Go away—do not show me.”

He laughed, drawing nearer. “Don’t be so coy, we’re not strangers.”

Emeravwe put out a hand to keep him at bay but quickly withdrew it when it pressed against the hard plains of his chest. “Maintain yourself. This is hardly any way for an officer to behave toward a Maiden!”

He smirked, leaning forward. “We’re not in the Inner City, Emeravwe, or in the palace. This is the Outer City; no one would mind if I held you in my arms here.” Her breath caught at his brazen statement. She looked disconcertedly to Akpokene. “Don’t look at her, Akpokene won’t help you. Right?”

Akpokene beamed, seeming to be enjoying herself. “I have no problem with this.”

Mudiaga cheered, “I knew we were cut from the same rugged cloth!” He turned to Emeravwe. “And I’ve seen you can be just as bold,” he took her hand, pressing it to his chest again, “and that you don’t dislike me.”

Emeravwe’s stomach fluttered violently at his daring move, her face flaring with heat. She yanked her hand away, staggering back in a fluster. “Outrageous! That does not mean that-that I like you!”

“We can change that.”

His confident smile completely unhinged her. Tensely, she placed the bow and arrow on the stand and walked silently away.

“Running won’t help you, either!” he called after her as he and Akpokene followed.

Akpokene burst in laughter. “You are outrageous! If only I had been assigned to your office, I could enjoy such fun every day!”

“I’m glad I could bring you some cheer,” Mudiaga said. “Take it as my thanks.” He nodded to Emeravwe. “You made up my mind to advance by blurting out my intentions.”

Akpokene answered smugly, “You are welcome. But a word of warning; you are not the only daredevil intent on courting a Maiden. And though I have no problem with it, I know one Eunuch who might.”

Emeravwe’s ears perked at Akpokene’s words.

“You don’t mean Eunuch Aslan?”

“Oh! You know of him?”

Mudiaga marched forward to be in step with Emeravwe, demanding, “What exactly is your relationship with the Eunuch? From what I last saw, it’s way too close!”

Emeravwe’s face grew warmer at the mention of Aslan, and a twinge of guilt gnawed at her, for she had let Mudiaga’s advances ruffle her. Yet, why should she feel guilty? Her goal was to be with the king, not with Aslan or Mudiaga. But she had seen neither hide nor tail of said king since entering the Bureau of Court Affairs, and distractions swirled around, confusing her.

She shook her head. “We are simply friends.”

“You may simply be friends,” Akpokene intoned smoothly, “but the Eunuch is also simply enamored of you!” Emeravwe glared at her. She flashed a teasing smile, linking her arm with Emeravwe’s and bumping her hip. “You cannot deny it. He even helped us steal into the Eunuch’s Library to study for the Bureau of Court Affairs’s exam. We both know he did not do so for my sake.”


“Oh?” Akpokene peered at her, “Are you flustered?”

Emeravwe wrenched her arm away, burning with embarrassment.

Mudiaga declared with alarm, “Don’t tell me you have feelings for the Eunuch—you’ll regret it!” He cautioned, “There’re a couple things he doesn’t have that you’ll find disappointing later!”

Emeravwe and Akpokene turned curiously to him.

Akpokene asked, “A couple of things like what?”

“Uh…” He froze, a look of confliction overcoming him. He huffed in frustration, brushing a hand over his coiled hair. “I can’t spoil the innocence of Maidens!”

Emeravwe squinted suspiciously. Knowing him, it was doubtless something inappropriate, so she decided it best they change the subject. “Did you not say you would see your family?”

“Yes, let’s stop at one more shop then head over. It’s not far from here.”

They went to a fruit vendor where he purchased two long sticks of sugarcane, a bag of garden eggs, and a soursop, then led the way to his home. It was part of a long stone building with several entrances, each entrance stationed with a stall so that there was a row of stalls before the building, displaying jewels, perfumes, and miscellaneous goods and accessories.

Mudiaga quietly approached a doorway with two stalls on either side, one displaying wooden bowls and utensils, the other laid with intricately designed necklaces, bracelets, rings, earrings, and carved trinkets. Behind this stall sat a girl of about thirteen years, so focused on the tiny beads she was stringing together that she did not notice their approach. Mudiaga leaned slowly across the stall laden with accessories, furrowing his brow at the girl as she did hers in concentration. When she still did not notice his face just inches from hers, he issued a rumbling succession of barks like an angry dog and the girl leapt to her feet with a shriek that sent her beads flying. He pulled back with raucous laughter; Emeravwe and Akpokene could not help but join him.

“Mudiaga!” The girl’s voice was a mix of surprise, cheer, and annoyance. But the cheer and surprise disappeared, and she complained bitterly, “You ruined my bracelet!”

“Okay, okay, dou. Look, I brought you soursop.” He presented her one of the bags he carried for atonement, but she continued to eye him broodingly. “What, you wanna cry over beads you can fix? Fine.” He withdrew the bag.

“Fine!” The girl stepped from behind the stall to seize the bag and grabbed one stick of sugarcane, as well, declaring, “I’ll take one sugarcane, too—you can’t bribe me with just soursop!”

The young girl was dressed in a long teal skirt and sleeveless, pale yellow crop blouse with no outer robe or headscarf. Her skin and eyes were the same light brown as Mudiaga’s, her bright orange coils in a pixie cut atop her head. In her forehead glimmered a yellow cabochon-cut apatite, her arms decked with bracelets nearly to her elbows.

Leaning forward, Mudiaga quietly inquired, “Is Naborhi home?”

The girl said, still brooding, “No, she went to Mama Loho.”

He straightened with a look of relief, asking, “Well, you forgot how to greet?”

Miguo,” she said begrudgingly, quickly bending her knees.

“And them,” he nodded to Emeravwe and Akpokene. “Greet them properly. They’re from the palace.”

The girl took in Emeravwe and Akpokene in their pink Agaenaye uniforms, her eyes growing large. She turned a stricken look to Mudiaga. “Mudiaga, you brought Onorogu from the palace?” He shrugged, unconcerned, and she immediately spun around, racing through the entrance of the home calling, “Mama! Babo!”

Mudiaga turned to Emeravwe and Akpokene who watched him with wonder. “My little sister, Efemena,” he said by means of explanation.

He seemed unfazed by his sister’s reaction, but Emeravwe shifted uncomfortably. “Um…”

“It looks like we are unwelcomed guests,” Akpokene said. “Should we leave?”

He scratched his head, his expression revealing uncertainty. “Well, my family isn’t the most welcoming when it comes to Onorogu, especially those from the palace. But it’s not like they can turn you away. You’re Onorogu, after all. Come on, I’ll introduce you to my mother and grandfather.”

Emeravwe and Akpokene exchanged disconcerted looks before following him through the entrance.

Submitted: August 23, 2019

© Copyright 2020 OE. All rights reserved.


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