The crab arrived shortly after Jane had finished yet another random topic of discussion that only interested her and Duke Tourney. Eason’s sour mood quickly improved once he saw the luxurious food placed in front of him.
“Well, I suppose I’ll suffer some of your company if you’re treating.” Eason smiled at Jane widely, his teeth clearly showing. Fearsome, Aoi thought, at the sight of the bared fangs. Jane softly smiled back, and then continued talking with the duke. Aoi had to wonder why Jane was so pleasant, compared to the usual intimidating presence she had. She decided to put her extra worries aside and enjoy the meal. Aoi had been creating several additional worries for herself for a while now, and if it weren’t for Fidel’s easygoing influence, she may have had even more.
She bit into the soft crabmeat. It was indeed a noble’s restaurant. The food was just good enough to remind Aoi of something she had forgotten. The seafood of the water kingdom surfaced in her mind. The taste and smell weren’t the same, but they were close enough to remind her of her real home. Slowly, memories of the people, the atmosphere, and the culture flooded back into her. Aoi took a few moments to savor the feeling. She laughed to herself as she stared at the food.
Quietly, so that not a soul could hear her, Aoi said, “I’m glad I came.”
Someone behind Aoi coughed, breaking her concentration. She snapped to attention, and smiled again at the food. Jane and Duke Tourney had gone into a conversation about seasonings, specifically about the ones that went best with crab and other shelled fish. She looked to her right to watch Eason as he happily ate. He looked as happy as any lupus eating something fleshy would. He turned his eyes up while taking another bite and noticed Aoi. He finished the bite, then pleasantly smiled and nodded. She replied in kind. Aoi thought for a moment, and then decided on what to say.
“Ah–” she started, however a loud cough interrupted her. She was about to start again, but she noticed that Eason was no longer looking at her. He was staring behind her, at the table where the cough came from. The sound of another loud cough made Aoi cringe. Another one followed, which sounded even worse.
The human man behind Aoi coughed again and again, each time harsher and more violently than before. Eason watched intently with a look of concern. Aoi turned her head to see behind her. A few people from other tables, and a few waiters, had started to gather around the coughing man. He was holding one fist to his mouth as he coughed, and shooing people away with the other. She heard him say that it was nothing to the people around him.
With the next cough, the man’s hand was covered in blood. He coughed repeatedly, dropped his fist, and coughed blood into his soup. Aoi turned back towards the table when she heard a chair move back. It was Eason. He had scooted his chair back, and was reaching down. He pulled a bag up into his lap. He didn’t get up; he continued watching the scene intently. More people had gathered, and the rest of the waiters had arrived, including the headwaiter. The headwaiter took three seconds to look over the scene. Aoi couldn’t tell what was going on any longer due to the crowd behind her.
“This man needs a doctor, quickly!” The headwaiter shouted for help. But no one moved. The other waiters who should have been rushing off were still stuck to their places, observing.
Eason then stood up, holding his bag at his side. He started pushing people aside as he walked towards the coughing man. He got up to the waiters, who weren’t willing to let him push through them.
“Move aside!” Eason commanded. “I’m apparently the only doctor here. It doesn’t appear to be nothing, after all.” The staff looked at each other, and then let Eason through. Aoi turned back towards her own table. Unlike the rest of the room, Jane Melonscone was enjoying her dinner. She didn’t pay any attention to the commotion that was going on around her. Duke Tourney was sipping his water while watching Jane.
“I wouldn’t worry, Eason is one of the best physicians,” Jane said. In a very rare moment, Jane had offered honest praise for another person’s skills. Somehow, it was reassuring to Aoi when Jane spoke like that about Eason. Still, it did nothing for her appetite, which Aoi had long lost due to the ever-louder ordeal.
“This can’t be!” Eason shouted. “This, this just can’t be!”
Aoi turned to look. The crowd wasn’t obstructing her vision at that moment. She saw Eason at the man’s side. His face was extremely pale. He dropped his arms and put his supplies back in the case. Eason stood up and walked away as the man behind him continued coughing and moaning in pain. The woman who was at the table with the man grabbed Eason’s arm, then pleaded with him to stay. Her face was swollen from crying.
“Wait, where are you going?” she asked between sobs. Eason turned and looked at her, his eyes devoid of emotion at that moment.
“There is nothing I can do. Nothing any of us can do. This condition, it, it doesn’t exist in Rising. The medicine to treat it doesn’t exist here, either.” Eason said each word bitterly, but didn’t let any trace of anger or pity escape from his tone. Eason had given up.
“Not here? But he’s never been anywhere else! Rising is our home. How can he have something that isn’t from here?” the woman asked while pulling harder on Eason’s arm.
“As interesting as that is, it doesn’t matter at this point. I’m sorry.” Eason didn’t have to remove the woman’s hand. She let go by herself, and put both hands to her face as she cried.
Aoi swallowed as she watched, which took great effort. Her throat had started to dry up. She felt like she should cry, but she didn’t have tears to spare. Eason walked back to the table and sat down. Jane was still eating, and periodically watched the other members of the table. Eason cast his eyes towards a glass of water, and simply stared at it. Aoi summoned the courage to speak.
“What was it?” Aoi asked quietly.
“Cough. Vomiting blood. Yellow eyes. Green fingernails. Blue lips. Just how?” Eason muttered towards the glass of water. He was speaking more to himself than to Aoi, but he had answered her question nevertheless. Aoi swallowed again. She lowered her right hand into a pocket near her leg. She felt around until she touched a bottle inside. She grabbed the bottle as she sat. After sitting still in thought for half a minute, she started to clench the bottle harder. She swallowed again, grabbed the bottle even harder, and then stood.