For Your Sake
Elysium paced back and forth in front of the street-facing wall of our room at the inn. The curtains were drawn, but the orange light of the sunset still filtered in through the thin fabric. Across the table from me, Rosalind sipped her tea, seemingly unperturbed, but I could see the shadow of a frown on her face. An uncomfortable silence settled between us. Elysium was the first to speak.
“I think we should refuse.”
I felt the tension leave my body, relieved at the fact that I was not the one who had to put forth that opinion. I wholeheartedly agreed with her, but I felt that it wasn’t my place to make such an assertion. Though Elysium and Rosalind often treated me as an equal in our enterprise, I was still technically just an employee – top-level decisions like these were beyond the scope of my job. Without waiting for our responses, Elysium continued to state her viewpoint.
“I don’t think the possible prestige is worth the logistical nightmare this would cause – we have only three weeks left to the concert. We don’t have the time to do the preperatory work needed to hire another layer of security. Our current workers aside, we won’t be able to conduct adequate background checks on the rest of the hires. Not to mention how we would handle attendance on the day itself – We would need to secure the Emperor a protected route into and out of the venue.If he wants to make his attendance a secret – which is likely – we would have to conceal his attendance while still providing him the best view of the stage – no small feat. We would need to hold the rest of the audience in the venue until he left – and if he asks to see Rosalind before or after the show, we’ll need to arrange security for that, as well. I don’t think the possible benefits are worth the detriments. Glint, your thoughts?”
I jumped at being suddenly called upon. I had expected her to ask Rosalind, not me. I quickly recovered my composure and responded.
“I concur. I don’t think we should accommodate this request. But even so, this is a direct request from the Emperor… there will be consequences for refusal.”
In the worst case scenario, we might be tried for treason or lèse-majesté and executed. Even if we avoided that outcome, there were other ways to ruin us – the Emperor could have the operating licenses of the Ezov revoked, or could forbid Rosalind from holding concerts. Either of these outcomes would put a halt to Rosalind’s career, and effectively destroy all she had built up over the last four years. When we took that into account, we didn’t really have much choice in this matter.
Elysium growled, annoyance apparent on her face.
“We’ll deal with it when that happens. We can arrange for a private performance at a later date, if it’ll appease him.”
“We don’t know if he’ll be that amicable.”
“I said we’ll deal with it when it happens.”
“We have no way of knowing if he’ll be open to alternatives. If he’s not, it’ll be too late by the time we find out. Even though I agree with your concerns, our hands are tied. We don’t have a choice but to accede.”
“I said, no.”
“Elysium. Be rational. This isn’t like you.”
“For fuck’s sake, Glint, I said-!”
“Ely, I think we should do it.”
As we began to raise our voices in turn, Rosalind cut into our rapidly escalating argument, her clear voice ringing through the room and silencing us. Elysium turned toward her with a pained look.
“Ros, not you too.”
“Ely. Glint’s right. We don’t have much of a choice. We have to accede. I’ll help with the logistics, if necessary. You don’t have to do everything yourself.”
“That’s not the only problem!”
“Then we’ll deal with the other problems when they happen.”
Elysium walked over to Rosalind’s side and seized her by her collar.
“Don’t be an idiot. I know you understand. The Emperor doesn’t want to hear you sing.”
Rosalind was unresisting, smiling even as Elysium accosted her.
“I know, Ely. I’ve heard the same rumours you have. It’s likely that his intentions are rather… base. He probably wants to add me to his collection of wives, or at least to see if I’m worthy of that consideration.”
“Then why? Why are you still so willingly agreeing? Don’t tell me you’re okay with that?! With becoming the mistress of the Emperor?”
Rosalind’s eyes narrowed dangerously. She forced open Elysium’s hand, releasing herself from Elysium’s grip.
“Don’t insult me. I’m not such a loose woman. Of course I’m not okay with that.”
Elysium let her hands drop, but didn’t apologise.
“So why? Why aren’t you with me on this? Why do you want to go through with this?”
“Because if I gain the Emperor’s favour, I can convince him to give you a permit to exit the country to look for whatever you’ve forgotten.”
Elysium blinked, bewildered. Then she slapped Rosalind. When she spoke again, her voice was low, her tone filled with anger.
“This again. I don’t need you to do that – especially not at expense to yourself.”
Rosalind cupped her cheek where Elysium had hit her, but her face bore a soft expression.
“You’re my friend, Ely. If it’s something that can help you find what you’re looking for, I want to do it.”
“Well, I don’t want your help. I told you, I’ve long given up.”
“And I told you that I’m not going let you give up.”
The two women stared at each other for some time. Then Elysium turned her back on Rosalind.
“I’m against it. This is a bad idea.”
“I know. But I still want to do it.”
Elysium clenched her fists, looking like she was about to turn back and shout at Rosalind again. But then her hands relaxed. She walked toward the door of the room, seemingly indicating that she had nothing more to discuss. I turned toward Rosalind, wondering if she was really fine with this outcome. She was biting her lip, on the verge of tears. I wanted to say something, but decided against it. There would be no point if this quarrel was resolved through my intervention.
As Elysium placed her hand on the doorknob, Rosalind finally collected herself enough to speak up.
“You said you would support me in what I chose to do, right? You said that it was up to me to decide what I wanted to do. You said that you would follow me in my decision. In that case, this is my decision, Ely. I want to help you to find whatever you’re looking for, any way I can. And if performing for the Emperor can help me achieve that, then I want to do that, too.”
Elysium paused, her hand on the doorknob. Then she turned it and swung the door open.
“That’s unfair, Ros. As always, you’re unfair.”
The door slammed shut behind her. Rosalind sunk down, resting her forehead against her arm on the low tabletop. She made no sound, but the shaking of her shoulders made it clear that she was crying. Looking at her sobbing form, I sighed, awkwardly standing in a room with a crying woman. I gently patted her on the shoulder twice in reassurance, then grabbed a long bundle by the foot of the bed. As I walked out the door, I spoke gently to Rosalind.
“Try to understand, she just cares about you too much. I’m going after her. We’ll see you tomorrow. Try and get some sleep.”
With that, I closed the door softly behind me and headed for the rooftop. Knowing Elysium, that was probably where she went to clear her head. I couldn’t do anything to intervene in their quarrel, but I could at least keep a friend company in her time of need.