“Your language has too much nuance.”

This complaint wins me a sardonic look from Haraa, who is sitting on the windowseat with her books spread over her lap. But that’s fine. I can handle sardonic looks… it’s why I came out with this comment in front of her instead of the Calligrapher, or Shame, whose responses would have been far harder to handle.

“So what,” she drawls, “has you so confused this time, aunerai?”

“’Life,’” I say. “Is as. Why can’t I just conjugate that to get the verb?”

“Because it would be ugly,” she says dismissively.

“But you can conjugate other nouns to get the verb form!”

“But living is a lot more complicated.” She puts a bookmark in her journal—a kadkabini, because naturally I have the word for something esoteric, like “bookmark”, but not something as basic as “to live”—and leans over the closed book, brows lifted. “So go ahead. Ask.”

“How do you say it?” I ask.

“It depends.”

I try not to put my head in my hands. She grins.

“The words for having,” she says. “We combine those with the word for life to derive ‘to live’. And we use them accordingly.”

“You have five words for ‘to have’,” I mutter.

“Yep,” she says, leaning back, amused.

“So? Explain?”

Astemin,” she says. “That’s living like you’re creating your life, with intent.”

“Naturally,” I say. “You would have a word for that.”

“The astonishing thing is that you don’t,” she says. “Astemir, though, that’s to live like you’ve earned it. Something you say of people you admire, who’ve done good things.”

“But not made them,” I said. “I would have thought you would value making-as-value.”

“We do,” she says, cheerful. “Farren both lives-through-making, and has reached the point of living-through-earning.”

I really do put my head in my hands. “Don’t tell me there are another three words for living.”

“You’re in luck, there’s only one more. Asim, to live by being given your life as Divine duty and gift. That’s where most of us are.”

I look up, squinting. “But there’s no asimai…?”

“No one lives just because they exist,” she says. “Living’s not like being pretty or smart, something you’re born with. If you’re born at all, you’re already living because you’ve received a gift, from your parents who made you. There’s no…” She waves a hand. “No living in a convenient vacuum, where you get to deny that your existence doesn’t rely on other people.”

“Of course,” I mutter. “So… asim, astemin, and astemir.” I cock my head. “Astemshe?”

“Only,” she says, “if someone who is about to kill you stays his hand.” She grinned. “Kind of an ancient and bizarre construct, but I won’t say it hasn’t been used.”

“How do people even speak your language,” I say, resigned.

“If they’re you, badly.”