Returning to the Free Company house in Shirogane was awkward for Amon. Stepping inside for the first time since he left, he’d noticed the abode was now fully decorated. It certainly looked nice… but it was also very different. As if something about a place that was once simple and familiar had moved on without him.
It also felt still and silent. Maybe he’d gotten used to the days on the road, or the constant clamor of ships and people on his journey. All he knew was the lack of motion and sound was almost excluding.
Or maybe it was all in his head.
Somewhere in the house, he knew that Scylla resided. She avoided him, and he couldn’t really blame her. There was a lot he needed to work out for himself. About the truths he thought he knew. The motivations that drove him. And the people he stepped on to reach his goals.
There was no breakfast in the lower room that morning. Just a few pastries that appeared to be leftovers from the day before. Amon helped himself to what he found, feeling like a stranger in what had once been his own kitchen.
“There’s usually more than this for breakfast,” Mocho’s unexpected voice carried from a chair on the other side of the room.
Amon nearly started, not having noticed the presence of the Lalafell until he spoke. If that had been an assassin, the Elezen would have been dead. Surely, he was slipping. He needed to take better care.
The Bard shook his head to cover his surprise, “Tis of no matter. I didn’t expect a big welcome.”
“Good,” Mocho said, voice firm but not unkind. “Only duty to Eorzea sees us taking you back in, you know.”
Amon swallowed the bite of pastry, the food feeling a bit like lead in his gut. He knew his choices would not be looked upon favorably, but he didn’t realize he’d undone so much of his effort to make friendly connections with these people.
“Mmm….” The Elezen tossed about to find something to say. “Even Koh?”
The heaviness within him grew. It was a feeling he didn’t fully understand.
After all, these people were merely resources. Things he chose to utilize to maintain his existence and continue his own survival. If things fell sour here, he could just move on. Find new people. Make a new existence.
…or… could he?
The Eorzeans were starting to figure him out. It wouldn’t be as easy to disconnect and reestablish himself. Koh, and especially Noah, knew too much about him. Dangerously so.
“I’m… not sure I understand.” Amon spoke slowly. He understood well enough, he just wanted to hear Mocho’s take on it. Obviously, the Lalafell knew more about the situation than he did.
“You broke Koh’s heart, Amon.”
These words froze the Allagan to his core. He didn’t even know why. But they did. His gold eyes flicked up. There were no words.
Seeing this, Mocho continued. “You made her a promise… several promises, if I understand correctly. And instead of standing by your word, you threw it all to the wind at the very first opportunity you saw.”
“You don’t understand. I…” The Elezen tried to explain away his behavior.
But the Lalafell was having none of it. “She saved your life, Amon. And this is how you repay her kindness. With lies and manipulation?”
The Bard turned away, feeling a strange heat rising in his face. Could it be shame?
Everything Mocho said was true. If it hadn’t been for Koh and Noah’s dedication and ingenuity, Amon would have likely burned away in the wrath of his own wild aether.
“Aye. I did.” Amon’s voice was thick. He felt his fingers brush against the stone of his choker before he realized he made the motion. “And it’s too late to take it back.”
“So what are you going to do about it?”
The Bard shrugged and shoved the rest of the pastry in his mouth with a careless motion. This was the point where he usually just wrote the situation off and cut his losses. These people were on to him now. They saw his intentions. Knew he was playing a game, even if they didn’t know what part he’d placed them in.
That knowledge made them useless to him.
The Lalafell’s eyes were fixed on the Bard, sharp and focused, as if seeing beyond his careless expression. He always saw through Amon’s masks, even from the start. It should have been obvious that Mocho was planted there… but his somewhat bumbling nature had covered the true depth of his ability.
“You plan to run away from this,” Mocho finally concluded. “Is that how Allagan masters dealt with interpersonal conflict?”
“Something like that,” Amon gave a bitter laugh.
“There’s a reason why our society was on the decline, my friend.”
“I believe it,” Mocho sighed and glanced up. “It doesn’t have to be that way, Amon. You’re very capable of connecting with people when it serves you. I know you can use it for the right reasons, too, if you try.”
“What’s the point?” The Bard frowned darkly. “Even if I fix it now, I’ll just mess it up again somewhere down the line. It’s nothing but a cycle of hurt.”
“The point is… that it matters to Koh,” the Lalafell argued with a shake of his head. “We all mess things up with the people we care about from time to time. It’s not a ‘cycle of hurt,’ it’s a natural part of understanding others.”
“Which was not the greatest skill of my people.”
“Well,” Mocho shot him a droll smile. “You have the exciting opportunity to change that, now don’t you?”
Amon just sighed. For an Eorzean, the Lalafell could be clever when he wanted to be. As much as the Elezen hated to admit it, Mocho seem to instinctively know the right things to say to appeal to his pride and ambition. It was hard for him to back down from a challenge when it was presented as such.
“Is Koh around Shirogane today? I’m somewhat banned from Mor Dhona for the time being. So if she’s gone to her study there…”
Mocho gave a quick laugh at that. “No. Koh’s gone where all the lasses do this time of year.”
The Lalafell pressed a wrinkled flyer into Amon’s hands. “I’d do a bit of research on this before you go.”
The Bard frowned as he studied the bright colors, overuse of flowery images, and happy faces that made up the advertisement. It was for some cultural event called “Little Ladies’ Day.”