Chapter 9: (v.2) Ninth Phase.2 (Continuation)

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

Reads: 79

That night, Emeravwe met Akpokene in the gardens separating the Maidens’ Quarters from the front offices and classrooms of the Maidens’ Compound. There, they waited till the first hour of the guard exchange then, sneaking along the shadows of the tall walls surrounding the Maidens’ Compound, made their way to the gates opening onto the Court of Celestial Wonders. All was silent in the great courtyard except the tinkling of water as it flowed down the curved surface of the spherical fountain at the center of the green island, and the sound of the wind weaving playfully through palm trees and flowerbeds. The luminescent glow of the yellow marble fountain was rivaled only by that of the two crescent ponds that flanked the island, and with the help of these gleaming bodies Emeravwe and Akpokene quickly made their way across the courtyard, past the towering golden gates that led to the Inner Palace, to the gates leading to the Eunuchs’ Compound.

Though the gates stood closed, Emeravwe knew they were not locked. Normally, she used the gates facing the Compound of the Ministry of Defense to gain access to the Eunuchs’ Compound, as they were closer to the garden where she met Aslan, but she knew the only gates which were locked each night were the gates to the Inner Palace, the palace’s main gates, and all others leading outside the palace. She motioned Akpokene to help her push the gates open and breathed with relief when they did not squeak. Once inside the compound, they pushed the gates shut again with a soft clunk, and just as they did a whisper came from the shadows of the wall to their right.

“Eme, I am here.”

Emeravwe recognized Aslan’s voice and stepped into the wall’s shadow with Akpokene.

“Aslan, I—” Emeravwe began in a whisper but Aslan shushed her.

“Come quickly,” he said, taking her by the hand and leading her forward.

Emeravwe took Akpokene’s hand as she hurried after Aslan. They walked silently in the safety of the wall’s shadow till they came to the rear of a stone building with a door facing the tall granite wall, the lock on it firmly placed.

“How will we get inside?” Emeravwe asked.

Aslan reached into the folds of his sleeves and pulled out a flat metal key. He flashed a smile.

Emeravwe rolled her eyes. Of course. “I forgot who you are.”

“Who, exactly, is he?” Akpokene asked.

Noticing her for the first time, Aslan turned questioningly to Emeravwe.

Emeravwe guided Akpokene forward. “This is Omote Akpokene. I told you she also wished to join the Bureau of Court Affairs.”

“Ah, yes.” Aslan turned back to Akpokene. “I am pleased to make your acquaintance, Omote Akpokene.”

“This is Eunuch Aslan,” Emeravwe said to Akpokene.

Akpokene bowed her head and bent her knees. “Miguo for your help, Eunuch Aslan. May you forgive me for not greeting you properly.”

“Be at peace, Omote,” Aslan said, “it is no trouble. Now, shall we enter?”

Emeravwe nodded and he faced the door.

Akpokene whispered to her, “Just who is he that he has a key to the Eunuchs’ Library?”

Emeravwe whispered back, “The Onóturode’s son,” and Akpokene’s mouth opened in surprise.

There were no windows in the rear wall of the Eunuchs’ Library, and they found themselves surrounded by pitch darkness when they entered. Aslan instructed Emeravwe and Akpokene to wait where they stood and trod further into the dark library. He returned with a lit candle which he placed on the floor.

“We shall study here,” he told them. “There are tables at the front where we might be more comfortable, but there are also windows through which candlelight will easily be visible.”

Emeravwe and Akpokene nodded, settling on the floor.

That night, Aslan began by teaching them the basics of politics. He arranged a schedule wherein they infiltrated the Eunuchs’ Compound every so often so Emeravwe and Akpokene could make use of both the Eunuchs’ Library and his tutelage. He instructed them in politics and economics and discussed with them aspects of the Four Classics they did not quite understand. There were many nights wherein he was unable to make their appointment, and on such occasions Emeravwe and Akpokene returned to the Maiden’s Compound and studied books which Aslan allowed them to borrow from the Eunuchs’ Library. Emeravwe did not ask on whose authority he let them take the books; she figured his status as the Prime Minister’s son was authority enough.

During this period, she occasionally met Aslan in their garden, but their time together was often filled with studies, and Emeravwe was grateful for Aslan’s help. She knew he had duties of his own which occupied his days, for he had often seemed weary when he came to the garden, so she could only imagine that having to instruct both Akpokene and herself was an added burden. Even so, his demeanor when they were together indicated he did not mind.

In June of the following year, a few months before the Bureau of Court Affair’s qualification exam was to be held, the bureau was once again inspected by the king. This time it was given passing marks and Emeravwe rejoiced with Akpokene, for the exam would go on, and their studying for the past year had not been in vain.

The exam took place in the third week of September. On that morning, Emeravwe and Akpokene received excuses from their duties in the Bureau of Halls and Chambers and walked together to the Compound of the Ministry of Justice. The exam was proctored by a few officials, Eunuchs, and Maidens of the Bureau of Court Affairs in an inner hall of the bureau, with Maidens seated on rugs to one side, and Eunuchs to the other. Emeravwe was not surprised to see that few Maidens took the exam, since Maidens were not customarily educated in the subjects tested, but she was surprised to see that not many Eunuchs were present for the exam, either. She assumed the Bureau of Court Affairs was not an office many were eager to join, but it was just as well as it meant less competition.

A week after the exam, the names of those who qualified to be trained as part of the bureau were announced. Emeravwe and Akpokene quickly finished their work for the Bureau of Halls and Chambers that day and rushed to the Bureau of Court Affairs to see the names. They were both selected, and though they kept their composure while still in the bureau, they jumped in each other’s arms and burst with joy as soon as they stepped out.

“Aslaaan!” Emeravwe cried, running to him as he entered the garden that night. “I passed, Aslan! I passed! Oh, miguo, miguo!” she thanked him, grasping his hand and squeezing it. “I could not have done it without you! Oh, what would I ever do without you, Aslan?” She released his hand, clapping hers together as she enthused, “Akpokene also passed, and from now on we are excused from our duties in the Bureau of Halls and Chambers while we are trained by the Bureau of Court Affairs!” She furrowed her brow. “If we are unable to complete the training we shall be dismissed by the bureau and will have to resume work in the Bureau of Halls and Chambers. But I must join the Bureau of Court Affairs to be able to meet the Orodje! You will continue to help me, will you not?” she asked, looking pleadingly up at him.

He was silent and simply stood watching her, the hand she casually grasped in her excitement still held out. The questioning look on his face did not tell her what he was thinking, but his disposition seemed somewhat saddened. Emeravwe blinked up expectantly, awaiting his reply.

Aslan glanced at his open hand, his voice low, “You wish to see Ovye…” He lifted inquiring eyes to her. “But Eme, what am I to you?”

“You are…Aslan, of course,” she answered gently, the hurt in his voice giving her a pang. She wondered at his sullen mood when she had just reported such great news.

His smile was faint as he reached forward to take her hand, squeezing it tenderly. “You are the only one who sees Aslan. And I want my being Aslan to have a greater meaning to you.” His amber gaze was soft yet pierced hers.

Emeravwe averted her eyes, her heart skipping. Silence engulfed them, and Aslan stroked the palm of her hand, setting off butterflies in her stomach.

“I am glad your hands will no longer have to suffer,” he said and released her.

Emeravwe could hardly sleep that night. She was excited to be starting her training with the Bureau of Court Affairs, but her mind kept turning to Aslan. Since he revealed his interest to her, she had come to know what his soft gazes meant and often caught him gazing at her just so. But he had not brought up the subject again until now, so she had been relieved. She cherished Aslan and did not want to lose him, but she also could not give him her heart—she would not.

He is a Eunuch! No matter how prestigious his birth she could have no future with him. She would have no future if she was with him. At best, she would be a Eunuch’s plaything, as Aya Oluchi once said, and at worst, a homeless and disgraced former Maiden. Emeravwe was not content to settle for the former, and most definitely could not tolerate the latter. She wanted distinction—to be more than a worthless valued child. So she told herself firmly, Your future lies only with the Orodje!

Submitted: July 20, 2019

© Copyright 2020 OE. All rights reserved.


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