"Well, if it's not too much trouble," the Poupe began, trying not to seem too eager to answer the lioness's kind offer, "I had a few questions I was hoping to get answered. There weren't...many others I could think of who could help me other than a Shrinekeep, and lucky for me..." his voice trailed off, and he suddenly looked embarrassed.
Things were going perfectly. And while it made the male sick inside to be acting the way he was, he knew it was all for the greater good--his greater good, that is. But, he hoped...it was also for someone else's greater good. If things went according to his plan...if certain individuals complied. If fate really did exist.
Safi continued to smile at Uovu, glad to help a pride member in need, especially if she could be of service to someone in some way. "Oh, of course," Safi answered calmly, stepping ever-so-slightly closer to the male. She was careful to mind the proper etiquette when meeting with someone for the first time, but she also felt the instinct to close any gaps between other individuals if she felt that they were becoming fast friends. She felt that way with Uovu. Still, she hesitated. Something in her held back, but she wasn't sure why.
"All right, well...first thing is...I've got some questions about the Loa," Uovu continued. "I wondered...how you go about getting to know them?"
Safi's lips parted and she looked genuinely surprised by his question. It wasn't what she had been expecting, that was for sure, but it certainly was something she planned on doing her best to answer. But how to answer? There were many different ways of talking to the Loa and getting to know them--their likes and dislikes, their past and their present...
She wondered briefly why the young male had an interest in speaking to the Loa, or more that she wondered why he didn't already know how, but she didn't question it for long before she began to give her answer. It was only the right thing to do, after all.
"Well, there are a lot of things you can do to get to know the Loa," Safi said quietly, ears folding as she thought. "For example," she continued, turning and gesturing to the Hounfor up ahead. She began to walk towards them, continuing to explain as she did so.
Uovu was drowning out every word.
He had decided long ago that the Loa and Mawu and heaven and hell didn't exist.
It was a load of s**t.
And this lioness...this air-headed, blind-sighted little Shrinekeep's life was completely and utterly ruled by the pride's beliefs. She lived for these "Loa"...she lived for them, and they didn't even exist. Her entire existence was being wasted on air. It was empty. Her life meant nothing, like so many members of the pride.
It made Uovu sneer with contempt.
He followed the lioness somewhat closely, pretending to listen as she yammered on and on about the "Loa" and their "personalities" and what some of them have "told" her.
Safi was blissfully unaware of the feelings of the male behind her. She had no knowledge of his smile-turned-scowl or his blatant act of ignoring her every word. She only knew that he seemed very nice and gentle, and that their personalities were surprisingly alike. She felt that she possibly had a new friend--her first male friend. It was a bit of an exciting idea, but she tried to put it out of her mind. She had important explaining to do, after all. Uovu had asked her about the Loa--the very core of the pride and their beliefs. She had to do the best job she could to show what she herself knew, and to prove that she was a capable Shrinekeep.
"If you come up to any Hounfor," Safi explained, moving towards a random grave, "you can just lie down and close your eyes and--and--just," she attempted to explain, getting caught up in her own eagerness, but also suddenly painfully aware of how much she was talking to her almost-friend. It was unusual for her to talk so much, and once she was aware that she was, she began to stammer. But she swallowed and continued regardless, shaking her head to get back into her train of thought.
"You can just clear your head and listen and, sometimes, you can hear them...if they talk to you," Safi said gently, lowering her tone at the mention of the voices of the Loa.
Uovu smiled down at the Shrinekeep who was so doefully staring up at him from her reclined position. She had no idea he was a Poupe. She had no idea he had been force-fed all of that same information growing him. Some of the things that had been regurgitated from the mouths of his "teachers" were absolutely nauseating. Why did they waste their lives? Why did they believe so steadfastly? It made no sense to the lion, but he kept the act up. He didn't really outright lie, though. More like...he just never opened his mouth.
"I never knew it could be so easy," Uovu said, expression melded into his Safi-inspired mask. "I've been kind of nervous about approaching them for a while, so thank you."
Safi seemed to choke on oxygen for some moments before she stood and was nearly beaming. "Ple--Please, no, no," she stammered, "I'm so happy to help."
What a waste, Uovu thought.
What an absolute waste.
"I can see that," the Poupe responded, eyes narrowing in his false mirth. "I'd like to come back tomorrow, I think...and try to get to know some our ancestors better," the male said, eyes wandering to the vast groups of Hounfor surrounding them. "Are you..." his voice trailed off.
"...going to be tending to them tomorrow at this time, Safi?"
The Shrinekeep was caught up in how spiritual a look Uovu gave to the graves--she felt a strange emotional...movement inside of her at his look. Here was a male who was genuinely interested in the Loa. He might even want to be a Shrinekeep. How wonderful it all was...but the strings of her memory tugged at her mind and tried to tell her he already had a rank. Of course he did--he was born into the pride and raised to know something. She just couldn't remember what. His mother had been a Mambo and his father had been...she couldn't remember. Whatever he was, Safi was sure Uovu already must've known about the Loa. Perhaps she had rambled too much...then again, just because he knew about the Loa didn't mean he knew how to talk to them. A lot of the pride members didn't really pray much or speak to their deceased ancestors, so it was only natural to have questions. Of course, of course, how could she have doubted the male's honesty for an instant? How silly of her!
"Oh--" Safi exclaimed softly, jumping back into reality. "Yes, I will."
"Great," Uovu said, grinning happily for the first time in their meeting.
Safi's heart skipped a beat.
Uovu bowed his head in farewell. "I hope I see you tomorrow, then," he said, and then took his leave.
"Bye..." Safi called quietly.
Tomorrow...tomorrow couldn't come soon enough, she thought...
And Uovu was thinking the exact same thing.