Yorin- Doubt and Pride
Updated: Feb 23, 2019
The apartment was drafty. Yorin thought about talking to the landlord, but he didn't have the energy. He'd only been back in Elnian for a day, and his rooms had been empty for the two weeks he'd been at home, trying to put the pieces of his family back together. He hadn't even seen Ayre yet.
That thought chilled him more than the air in the room. When he'd first received word that his youngest brother was sick, Ayre had offered to go with him. He'd wanted to accept, wanted to bring her home to meet his family before telling them all that he planned on marrying her, but the timing wasn't right. How could he celebrate when Jayr was dying? Besides, Ayre was scheduled to present her thesis to the Law Council in three days, and to miss it would set back her studies a full year. No, there would be time for her to visit later. He would make this trip on his own.
But she had promised to meet him at the gates when he'd returned to the capital, and she was not there. He had gone to her apartments first, needing to see her after the loss of the brother he'd barely gotten a chance to know. She was not there either. At first he'd been worried, had assumed something terrible had happened to her, and had scoured all her favorite places to find her. Finally, exhausted and defeated, he returned home to find a note written in her scrawling hand.
I am sorry I was not there to greet you, but something has happened. Your thesis was reviewed during your absence, though I begged them to wait until your return. The Council found it contained parallels with Liveos' work, even passages taken directly from his own thesis. It was determined to be surreptitious. The Council immediately ruled your work unacceptable and nonredeemable, and have voted to remove you from the law program. I am doing all I can to reverse their decision. I will come to see you tomorrow.
The draftiness of his room was the least of his concerns. If he truly had been dropped from the law program in Elnian, his career was over. He would never be able to practice law with a mark of surreptitiousness on his record. The fact that it was a lie wouldn't matter; once made, the Council's decision was always final. Even Ayre's charisma would not persuade them to change their minds.
What to do with Liveos? The man had been jealous of Yorin since his arrival in the capital, though Ayre refused to see it. She'd tried countless times to convince him that Liveos was not the small-minded mouse Yorin perceived him to be. He was not used to competition, she'd said. He was nervous about being in such a prestigious program. He couldn't read social cues well.
Ayre's compassion was one of the things he most loved about her, but he could not understand her attachment to Liveos. Now at least he had proof of the man's treachery; Yorin's thesis had been finished months before his presentation to the Council, just a few days before he'd received word about Jayr. How Liveos had managed to convince the Council that Yorin had stolen his work was beyond him, but at least Ayre knew that the accusation was a lie.
He longed to see her. Though she had promised to come to him the next day, he knew he would not be able to wait. He would get no sleep that night; his time would be better spent with Ayre, planning a way to overturn the Council's decision.
So he left his cold apartment and went back into the cold night.
The walk to Ayre's home was a short one. His feet knew the way, leaving his head free to wrestle with his new reality. All he'd ever wanted was to become a lawyer; it had been his dream since his father had first taken him to the capital as a child. Could it really all be over now? All his plans, gone, because of one lie. Light flickered beneath the door to Ayre's apartment, and Yorin found himself smiling. At least he still had her. Together, they would overcome whatever Liveos and the Council and anyone else tried to do to him.
But as he approached, the sound of voices from within made him pause. He could not distinguish the words, and didn't try to, reaching his hand for the door and intent only on seeing her face again.
"Liveos, don't go," Ayre begged.
"You said Yorin would be back today," Liveos said. "If he finds me here..."
"You must go to the Council," Ayre pressed. "You must tell them it was a mistake."
"There was no mistake, and you know it." The sound of footsteps clomped toward the door, but still Yorin did not move.
"This is Yorin's dream," Ayre went on. The footsteps stopped. "You must talk to the Council. For me."
A sweeping sound, and Yorin pictured Liveos pulling Ayre into his arms. His vision blurred. "Even if I went to them, it would make no difference," Liveos said softly. "Their decision has been made. I cannot lie to them, even for your sake."
Liar. You have poisoned them against me already, and now you would poison Ayre as well.
He could not allow it. Yorin staggered forward, ready to rip the door from its hinges and use it to beat the man inside, but it opened before he had the chance. Liveos stood in the threshold, silhouetted by the candlelight within the house. When he saw who barred his way, he recoiled with a satisfyingly small cry, his hands raised to deflect a blow Yorin was not delivering. Ayre's eyes met his from across the room- too far away from Liveos to have stood in his arms a moment ago- and her face mirrored the anguish he was feeling. Yorin cursed himself for doubting her.
"Y-Yorin," Liveos tried to sneer, but his voice wobbled in a way that made him sound like a child.
"Get out," Yorin said.
"No," Ayre argued. "He can-"
"I don't want him to." Yorin leveled a long, deliberate look at Liveos' half-raised arms, letting his contempt bleed through the calm mask he'd been wearing. "Let him go; he's done enough."
Liveos dropped his arms and stepped toward the door, pausing just long enough to shoot a smirk at Yorin before turning back to Ayre. "You will have lunch with me tomorrow," he said, and left before she could answer.
Yorin threw the door closed behind him, hoping the noise made Liveos flinch. Then he turned to Ayre, ready to take her in his arms, ready to spill his news about Jayr.
"Is it true?" Ayre asked. The candlelight blazed in her dark eyes, turning her black hair red and orange.
"Is what true?"
"Liveos' accusations," Ayre answered. She had not moved toward him. Yorin's arms dropped to his sides, falling behind the folds of his cloak.
"You believe him?" The words should have been strong, but they came out a whisper.
She folded her arms. "He showed me his notes, Yorin. I just want the truth."
"The fact that you need to ask tells me already who you believe," Yorin answered.
Ayre scowled. "This is not a judgement on you. Any good lawyer desires the truth, and must ask questions to find it."
"And a good fiancee?" Yorin pressed quietly.
The light in Ayre's eyes flashed, and her face darkened. "If the accusations are false, deny them. It is all I ask."
Fury rose up in Yorin's mind, clutching at his chest and clawing through the mask he'd held over his expression. "You should not have to ask, Ayre. You should not have believed Liveos over me." He turned toward the door, afraid to speak with his control over the rage already slipping.
"Where are you going?" Ayre demanded.
He paused in the doorway and turned his head, but she still had not moved toward him. Her eyes were angry, though her expression was calm, and it only infuriated him further.
"You should have met me at the gate," Yorin said, and closed the door between them.
The next day, Yorin received a letter from his father. It had been sent the day after he'd left home, and had followed him to Elnian with a caravan of shepherds. The note was written so hurriedly that Yorin could barely read some of it, and when he finally deciphered it he wished he had not been able to.
Redge, his stupid, impulsive, and now only-remaining brother, had run away from home to join the army. His father thought he might be headed toward the Awnian border to join some unit posted there, which he had apparently heard about a few days before Jayr's death. I am sorry to put this on you, his father had written. I know this is an important time for your studies. But your stepmother is worried sick over him, and I am afraid to leave her alone. Perhaps you can use your influence in the capital to track him down, and bring him home.
Yorin had almost laughed at that. He'd had little influence before the charges of surreptitiousness; now, he could not hope that any connections he may have had would help him. He could not even go to Ayre. He thought briefly of returning home, but dismissed that as well; though he loved both his father and his stepmother, he knew he could never be happy with their quiet life in his hometown.
There was nothing for it, then. He would go after Redge himself, and if he could not convince him to return home (which he suspected would be the case), then he would remain with him at the border. Yorin had friends among the guard in Elnian and so had a little experience with the sword, and he was a quick study. Besides, nobody in the army would know or care about the false charges laid against him.
His position at the university had already been terminated, so he did not need to inform them of his departure, and he had very little to prepare for the journey. After some consideration, he decided to take a packet to his landlord which included a few months' rent and a letter explaining his abrupt departure. These he would deliver on his way to the stables, where he would buy a horse before he went on his way.
That left only Ayre. He knew he should go to her, should tell her his decision in person, but he could not. The sting of her doubt was still too fresh in his mind. Maybe he was afraid that she would talk him out of it, or that she would insist on going with him. That was more likely, and that he could not allow. Or maybe he was a liar after all, and only wanted to hurt her. Yorin couldn't tell, and didn't care to dwell on it. The only thing he wanted from Elnian now was to leave it.
In the end he left her a letter, knowing he was a coward and unable to convince himself that there was a better way to say goodbye. He did not tell her where he was going, except that he had been asked to retrieve his wayward brother. He did not say that he would be back. He did not say that he loved her.
He regretted leaving the moment his horse trotted through the city gate, but he did not turn back. The decision had been made, and Yorin was not one for second-guessing his choices. Ayre would be angry, and would perhaps mourn him for a time, but she would find new love before long. She was the kind of person who could not help but draw others to her, and she had her career to focus on. She would be well enough without him.
And Yorin was content to never love again.