Author’s Note. It has been over a year since we last heard from Sai’Li and things have changed substantially. This is a bit of fallout from a failed assassination attempt.
“I am disappointed.” Sai’Li snapped her fan closed, and fixed Ignis with a glare. He had never seen her express this much emotion outside of a nearly unhinged frenzy brought on by a battle where his mistress had expended her absolute utmost effort to literally and completely destroy her enemies. It was mildly terrifying to see that barely restrained fury on her face while he was in a room alone with her.
“Your father did seem to act outside of the normal bounds of good faith.” He said guardedly. His great scythe sized claws carefully gripped the cask of whisky so as not to crush it and lifted it to take a drink. Why did he still feel vulnerable in front of this tiny humanoid? His true tiger form was ten times her size, but he had seen her let down the barriers of propriety that she wore like armor and what he had seen was what nightmares were made of.
“He insulted me.” She all but hissed, “Summoning me here only to pretend I have gotten soft? To threaten my followers? To DARE to suggest he could use them against me? As though my loyalty was in question? As though I couldn’t defend what is MINE?”
Ignis noted that her canines were much more prominent than they had been moments before. Instead of their usual seafoam green, her eyes seemed to be darkening to gray. Instead of responding, he gathered his legs beneath him in a position more suited for a leap to one side or another and took another drink.
“If he dares to offer such an insult again we will END him my Tiger.” She flicked her battle fan open and looked at him over the razor sharp tips that were almost concealed by the delicate looking silk. A shiver ran through him; she had never given him a look that demanded such obedience.
“I tried to be what he wanted. I built an empire.” She continued, and Ignis noticed that the flowers on the table beside her had died. “I am the trading mistress of an entire city in a kingdom that has never given any credence to an outsider before. A sovereign nation in the very heart of one of the most exclusive and xenophobic kingdoms on the Prime. I have left nothing behind but vanquished foes and loyal allies and he acts as though I am expendable.”
The potted plants in the room didn’t just wilt, they crumbled to dust. Sai’Li noticed him looking at them and took a deep breath in. She didn’t let it out. Minutes passed before he set his cask down and nodded slowly. This seemed to be what she was seeking.
When she let her breath out, he could smell graveyard soil. “I do not doubt your loyalty my Tiger. I know you began as my father’s hireling, but by this point you must realize he is not going to give you what he swore, what you need.”
This hadn’t occurred to Ignis, he narrowed his eyes but didn’t speak. His Mistress knew him. She saw his expression and she knew his mind. He shuddered even as she smiled.
“I have seen thousands die. I have killed dozens of members of my own family. I have even murdered the innocent without the slightest hesitation.” She inspected the nails of her right hand, taking out a tiny knife and trimming them until they were even. “I am not a good person. I am not, to be brutally honest, even a person at all my Tiger. But I am an entity and I do wish to continue to live. Do you wish to stay by my side?”
Ignis considered her for a few moments. The more he looked, the more his instincts told him she was a true predator. The awestruck way in which she had been referring to her father before had given him pause but this fierce defiance was what he had been waiting for.
“There will be none who can stand against us and live mistress.”