Had she been anyone else, Aloy would have jumped at the voice next to her ear. As it was, she always knew when Nil was creeping about. It wasn’t her focus (her cheat as he sometimes called it), but mostly because they had hunted together so often that she could feel when he was around.
Turning to face him, Aloy stifled the smug grin that tried to form when she saw his disappointed pout. Light and innocent, she asked, “Did you need something, Nil?”
Steel grey eyes studied her for a moment more before flicking to their surroundings. While she was used to Nil and to Meridian’s mess of people and noise, the aftermath of their battle with Hades surrounded them and the chaos was almost overwhelming.
If it was a lot for her, then it was probably worse for Nil; this battle was the first time she had ever seen him even get close to civilization. To be honest, she had thought he had already left - and was ignoring the twinge she felt at that thought.
As he studied the people around them, she studied him, trying to figure out why he was still here when the bloodshed was over and the only thing left was cleaning up.
Aloy kept her eyes on him even as she shredded the plants in her hands for their leaves, waiting in silence for him to answer her question. When Nil’s gaze landed on her once again, her heart stuttered before resuming its path.
Tilting his head towards the nearby group of Nora doing the same thing she was doing, he murmured, “Seems I’m not the only one who followed your trail of fire and blood out of my normal hunting grounds.”
She felt the amusement drain from her face as she watched the Nora. A group of braves she did not know and had not met, who whispered as their glances found her time and again. When they saw her watching, they bowed their heads before continuing their work. Aloy couldn’t help the grimace that spread across her face and she did not answer Nil.
“I’ve learned many new titles for you, huntress, over the last few days.” Nil’s tone was nonchalant but she could feel his sharp eyes on her face as he spoke. “Aloy, Seeker, savior… Anointed One.”
Aloy threw him a fierce glare before turning back to her task. “And? Do you have a point with this, Nil?”
“Not quite so different, the Carja and the Nora. Both caught in their superstitions and their awe of the warrior who walks with violence in her steps.”
She couldn’t help the sigh that escaped her, the ache as she felt the stares of the people around them. It had only gotten worse, this… worship for her. After she killed Hades, the Nora had come to her for guidance; even Sonya had treated her with her own type of reverence and respect.
And Aloy hated it.
With every piece of her soul, she hated the way that they looked at her now. Thankfully, the Carja still looked to Avad for their glory, but her people… No, the people who had shunned her. Not hers. No longer Aloy of the Nora, but just Aloy. The way she wanted it.
“The day you say what you mean without the bloody metaphors, Nil, is the day I give up my bow.”
His deep laugh caught her attention and she turned away from the people around them to focus on her hunting partner. Nil wore an easy smile that she had only ever seen him wear during battle and the presence of it now made her concentration slip as her eyes caught on his lips.
Voice lower and huskier than normal, Nil said, “Then that day shall never come, huntress.”
She snorted. “So you aren’t in awe of my violence?”
Silence met her question, for long enough that she met his eyes once again and the intensity of them burned into her. Aloy felt caught in that gaze, as he let her see the awe that he did hold for her. “They exalt you for the wrong reasons, Aloy. For the beliefs they cling to and the role they thrust upon you. You should be worshipped, but not for those reasons.”
“For what, then?” Her voice was a whisper, unsteady in a way she never was.
Reaching out, Nil let his fingers trace over one of her loose braids. “For the grace of your movements and the beauty of your dance. For the mercy you show and the lives you end. For the care you give to a world that showed none to you, in a way I cannot replicate and with a passion that leaves me breathless.”
Aloy felt like she was falling, as her breath left her in a rush and his thumb brushed against her cheek. The people surrounding them were forgotten and she felt only his gaze on her.
“Why are you still here, Nil?”
He grinned at her soft question, tucking her braid behind her ear and chuckling at the blush that spread across her cheeks. “How could I resist the pull of your gravity, Aloy?” Before she could respond, he rose to his feet. “I’m on my way now, but don’t fret. I’ll see you again, my goddess.”
Stunned, Aloy could only watch as he strode away from Meridian, gaping at his back and the wave he threw her way before he disappeared. Uncaring of the stares now focused on her for entirely different reasons, Aloy buried her burning face into her hands and groaned.
Stupid poetic Nil.