“I always asked myself... is it possible to herd cats?”
“You are a surprisingly good mother. I think that this is the first genuine smile I saw coming from you.”
I steel my expression and glare at Zane, who was watching me playing with the babies. Okay, maybe I made a few faces for them, but that’s no reason to imply that I am a cold stone. We are in the living room and Castella is busy with acquiring some things, so it fell on me to watch after the kids. My mother made a lot of progress since she joined me on Illum. From getting more control over her stuttering to going outside on shopping trips.
Placing my hands on my hips, I stand up to confront Zane. “And why shouldn’t I be? I’ve more experience in taking care of kids than most adults will ever have.” Though, I really don’t like wasting my time with them. Nonetheless, it isn’t their fault that they are stupid, helpless, or cuddly.
He raises his hands to appease me and enters the room, instead of standing in the doorway. “No offence, I just didn’t think of you as the caring type. I suspected that you would hand the babies over to Castella and Janice, but you seem to be taking a lot of your time to be there for them.”
“I have principles. I brought them into this world, so I am responsible for them. And besides, I want them to be loyal to me. All this hassle would be pointless if they just turn into two additional vassals,” I explain and tuck in the blanket around the girl. I am so glad to have remembered some magical cleaning spells to take care of the ugly side of being a parent.
“So, we still have no names for them.”
“Give me a breather,” I complain. “It’s been just a day since their birth. There is so much to do. Picking names is the least of my worries.” I point at the girl. “That’s Casey, and the boy is Ashok.” I actually looked the names up. They are commonly used among the Mirai.
“W- wait! Just like that? You aren’t even asking me?” Zane asks, flustered.
“Just like that and without asking you.” I nod. “I like the names. I am the mother, the one who had to endure all the misery to bring them into this world, so I get to name them. It’s final!”
To my surprise, he looks down at the babies and smiles. “They are good names. I like them. Much better than what I came up with.”
Raising an eyebrow, I squint my eyes at him. “That’s surprising. I thought that you would complain. Is there a reason for this change of mind?”
Zane sits down next to Ashok and places a hand on the baby’s belly. The sleepy boy immediately wraps his hands around Zane’s index finger and gurgles happily, recognizing his father. Zane sighs. “I don’t get you. Why don’t you just tell us what your end-goal is? You won’t even talk to Janice.” He looks at me. “Do you trust anyone, aside from yourself?”
That’s actually a good question. I look up at the ceiling, pondering the matter for several moments. “No. It’s not that I trust nobody, it’s that you guys have no need to know. I am doing this on my own. For better or worse, the results of my actions will be on my head. It’s not like sharing the information with you will change the outcome. Completely aside from trusting you, it only adds unknown components to my plan. I took on this task, willing to put my own well-being on the line. Anyone who can’t accept that may leave at any time.”
He looks up to me. “You are too strong for your own good. How long will it be until the other reincarnated are willing to take matters into their own hands? Up until now they only acted through their agents and societies. It will change, especially with that pyramid, which you unleashed.”
So he talked to Janice. “I spent a lot of time studying this world’s history. The reincarnated who are steering this world are cowards. They won’t attack us so easily. That’s why I need to lure them out.”
“Cowards?” Zane sounds surprised.
“Yes. They are. Just look at the Mirai. Their presence on this island is the result of Janice being an outsider among the rest of the reincarnated on this world. They united to force her into exile. Why is that?” I tilt my head and sit down next to Zane.
“She is a strong and independent woman. She also has a certain degree of ruthlessness to her. I suppose that getting along with her isn’t easy. Had I met her under different circumstances, I am sure that we would be enemies,” Zane answers, cautiously.
So they aren’t enemies, which means that they are allies. What he said is as good as admitting that they are sharing information about me. I dismiss his analysis with a gesture of my hand. “Since Janice helped you to recover some memories of a previous life, you got a glimpse at what it is like to be a reincarnated. How many lifetimes can you remember? Ten? Fifteen?”
He purses his lips, searching his memories. “I am often trying to sort the memories, but some are too jumbled up to assign them to a certain lifetime. Only the memories of one lifetime are very clear, but there are more. It must be something between at least five and at most fifteen. It’s not easy to be sure.”
I nod, showing that I understand him. “Don’t worry. It won’t get easier, assuming that what Janice did to you will carry over to your next life. The shorter a life, the harder it’s to remember. That’s why we seek to live as long as possible. The longest lives are those which shape us and stay with us. I can remember hundreds, maybe thousands of lifetimes. Much of it I don’t even want to bother remembering.”
Tapping my temple with a finger, I continue. “Honestly, I wouldn’t really care if I died right this moment. It’s just another life in an endless string of lives. Certainly, I’ll lose people I care about, but that’s how it goes. If you can’t deal with the realities of being a reincarnated soul, you will turn mad sooner or later. The only real solution is to treat your surroundings with a certain detachment. Never get too hooked to your life.”
He looks uncertain, but he nods. “Okay. I can only imagine what you went through, but I’ll bite. So, people like you, and maybe me after a few hundred reincarnations, are either emotionally detached cripples, or psychos. Though, I think that Janice is dealing with it a lot better than you.”
I smile, not failing to recognize the little jab, labelling me an emotional cripple. “You are quite right. But let me assure you, people like the reincarnated are only afraid of one thing.” Raising I finger, I underline my point. “The end.”
It takes a while for Zane to understand. “Janice’s soul magic.”
“Yes. She already told us about it, but I think that the point didn’t really sink in. If Janice gets her hands on one of her enemy’s souls, it could mean the end for them. That’s also why I am so eager to learn from her. Soul magic is a powerful deterrent for all of our kind. The others are afraid of facing Janice. They are afraid that their journey could end. That’s why they fight her only through proxies.” I get to my feet and dust off my skirt. “That’s why I don’t think that they will come after us in person. Not unless we force them to.”
I clap my hands and smile at Zane. “And now that you are here, you can take care of the babies, Daddy! I am off. Illum still needs a lot of restructuring and Janice invited me to dinner with the rest of her family. I need to prepare myself for that.”