Five minutes. That’s all the time there was left. When that time was up, Julianni would be face to face with the wife of the man she watched be strangled to death by Sakala. The man that she could have ended herself, and very well should have. The man that wouldn’t have died if she would have been more careful.
For days since she’d returned, she knew she wanted to speak with Inu-haan’s wife. She knew she had to face the woman out of respect of both the husband, as well as for the woman herself. Life was so, so precious. Julianni envied the baseliners. Each and every moment had such a deeper meaning than they did as a capsuleer. Time was limited. Each interaction could have been the last. A smile exchanged between two close friends, a hug linking a mother and their son, a kiss that bound two lovers together- priceless treasures to be held close to the heart, because tomorrow may not have come. The very person each moment was shared with could be whisked away as God willed it. Such was life. Real life.
The woman swallowed hard and wiped a small bead of sweat that had formed at her forehead, hands trembling. Retrieving her hand to peer at the glisten of salty fluid, she frowned upon seeing just how much her hands were shaking.
Some days had been alright. Her body had mostly come to terms with the lack of drugs in her system, thanks to the treatment at the med facility. But there were some days, days with increased stress, that she’d feel the cold sweat, the nausea, and the thought dancing across her mind that maybe, just maybe, it was alright to have one dose, if but to alleviate the symptoms. What would people have said if they saw her like this, after all?
Her thoughts became interrupted at a beeping echoing from her desk. The shadow of a smaller figure looked to stand outside her doorway, giving sign to Julianni that it was time. It was now or never. Lightly pressing her hand to the button at her desk, she stood from her seat and walked around to face the woman fully as she entered.
Inu-haan’s wife was quite beautiful, really. Small in stature, a delicate frame, and some of the most beautiful blue eyes Julianni had seen. Though, while their beauty was unable to be ignored, so too was the look was she was giving Julianni. Anger. Sadness. Blame.
It stopped the Ni-kunni-Ealur blooded woman in her tracks briefly, almost even taking her breath away. A moment passed by while Julianni gathered her senses again, standing as Inu-haan’s wife stared her down without a word. To say the bow she gave to the wife was deep would be an understatement, and she kept lowered before the woman as she spoke.
“Thank you for coming to s-”
As if the woman’s eyes weren’t enough, her voice echoed out with a cold hatred, as if each and every syllable was a stab into Julianni’s ear.
“How did he die?”
Silence. What was she supposed to say? Should she be honest? That he was in such a drug induced haze that he didn’t notice the man squeezing the very breath from his body? That Julianni could have stopped it? Done it herself? That the entire situation should have been called off before the capture? She stood there, bowed and speechless.
“Tell me how he died,” the woman said louder, her voice shaking from the intense wave of emotions.
“He…it…” Again, Julianni found herself struggling. She’d practiced this moment so many times, but nothing could have prepared her for this. “He…died with honour. It w-”
“Don’t you dare talk to me of honour. You have no idea what it means to us. To my people. You have no clue. And you dare say he died with it? Just who are you to say that you…some…some puppet from the Empire would know anything about how we view honour?!”
Julianni squeezed shut her eyes and internally folded within herself. She wanted so bad to console this woman, to help her find peace. But most of all, what she so selfishly wanted, was to be forgiven for causing such a precious life to be taken. She wanted it from this woman, she wanted it from God, and she wanted it from herself. The more the situation unfolded, the more she knew all of these were out of control and likely impossible.
But she had to face her. She had to try.
Her head raised and she straightened from the bow. There was no way she could look this woman in the eyes, no matter how hard she tried. She just couldn’t do it. Dark brown orbs darted to the side at the floor and she began to speak again. “I beg of you, please listen-”
And that’s when it hit her. Quite literally, actually. The hand across her face let out a loud crack that made Julianni’s ears ring and head spin, almost knocking her off her feet.
“You all think you’re invincible, you capsuleers. You think that we’re so expendable. You both were gone. You could have died and made sure he came back instead. You could have taken his place. You would have lived.” Inu-haan’s wife yelled towards Julianni with tears streaming down her face.
“YOU LEFT HIM TO DIE!”
With that, the woman stormed out of the office. Already, a guard was in the way to stop her and try to restrain her, simply doing his job as he likely heard the altercation. Julianni glanced up with tears in her own eyes. “Let her go,” she managed to choke out.
The Internal Watch guard frowned as Inu-haan’s wife struggled in his grip, sobbing her heart out, a sound of true loss. True heartbreak. Finally, after what was likely a consideration of whether or not to second guess one of the directors, he released the woman, allowing her to push past him. He then quickly moved into the office to check on Julianni, hand on his ear as if ready to call for someone. Likely medical.
“Please leave me.”
“Please.” Her back was turned now, arms wrapped around her own body in an attempt to hold back what she knew was coming.
The guard bowed, though Julianni didn’t see it. “I’ll be right outside,” he said, as if it was some sort of comfort.
The moment he left her office, she pressed that same button on her desk to shut and lock the door. And then she crumbled, folding into herself on the floor behind her desk. With her head resting in her arms, she wept tears of her own as quietly as she could.
These were moments that would last. Inu-haan’s wife would die one day, free of the memory of the loss of her beloved husband. But Julianni would still be alive, and she would remember. She would remember the look on Inu-haan’s face when he ceased to be. She would remember his wife’s reaction this day. But most of all, she would remember the pain in her heart she felt to know that she could have prevented all of this.