He fought his eyes open at a sound of a call.

Then he heard it, the screeches of the world, metallic clashes around him, within his head, wails of soldiers morphing into other ungodly shadows of fallen foes, the mere shadow of the egret that was the shadow of his past days that stretched into centuries of nightmares, scurrying, hired workers. He was but a speck, the world spun and whirled and complained in the same distressed noise that woke him in the first place.

Then he saw her, holding her sword in the way that he told her not to; she was panicking, they were too many, she thought her allies buried. There was also something else, the bright blue plumes at the corner of his eyes. He reached for her, through her, she couldn’t see him, couldn’t hear; he couldn’t call until his throat gave way, his eyes failed.

Then he fought his eyes open. The first blink sent himself into a chasm of spinning visions and a crushing weight upon his skull. He gasped, even breathing stung. He clearly felt the binding of thick bandages where they were crushed against scabbing gashes and oozed of blood, pus and the inadequacy of human medicine. That was more than a nightmare, more of a vision, and a foreboding one at that.
“You ought to not move so much,” He jumped a little when his dulled senses failed to detect the doctor, who slunk to his bedstead with a critical eye and a tray of medicine. “Still, you are quite something to be awake within a week. Your healing abilities are even more monstrous than what the books make your kind to be.”

“It’s unlike many had treated Nokshans in real life,” God, his voice sounded like a fly; still, he took the cup of water offered to him in wordless gratitude.

“Relax,” He would have done so since arguing costed too much effort and peaceful slumber seemed an unreachable, dreamy concept that his body was crying to welcome, but no, no the noises that woke him returned, jolted him to his senses.

Oi, dumb crow.

The voice was familiar, high and cold, Who are you? Where’s Lyra?

The girl is refusing my help and effectively getting herself killed by your sister, The voice pretended nonchalance. It’s quite frustrating to watch. It admitted.

He gritted his teeth, this short conversation was hurting his head, You pest, your host was her father. Stop torturing her with his image.

An unbothered chuckle was not the only answer he deserved, I had been with her father before her birth, I might as well be her father.

The more the reason to leave her alone, demon.

The Fallen was entertained, I suppose we may settle this debate later, especially when her life isn’t in danger.

“God,” When he finally mustered enough strength to swing his legs around the bed, all of his six senses screeched at him to stop, his world flashed ink black.

“You cannot protect anything in this condition,” The diagnosis was one he realized long ago, long enough that he already accepted his choice of ignoring it.

The Fallen chuckled in the background, How pathetic.

“Doesn’t matter, if I can’t help her then I would die from not fulfilling the contract, anyway.”

“By technicality, there is a good chance that she would get killed first,” Athlem questioned her stubborn patient’s logic, firmly shoving him to sit on the edge of the bed. “By that, she would be the one to fail her end of the contract and you would be free from the contract. Isn’t that what you would like?”

His mind was too muddled to conceal truths and distinguish words from thoughts, and so it tumbled forth, “No, that’s not a concern…”

Athlem raised a brow, “Then what is your true intention stubbornly staying by her side even when you are clobbered by death?”

“She’s…I…,”  He met those odd-colored eyes, saw their steely resolutions counterbalanced by the gentleness of love, almost motherly. “My…”

Brief senses returned and he turned away, and Athlem had the answer she needed so continued in cold amusement, “You can’t aid her by throwing away your life haphazardly.”

Aldebaran slipped out of her grasp to the other side of the bed, tested standing, searched for his sword and cloak and familiar.

She scoffed, a hand pulled an ancient drawer free, dug out the contents which he sought. With an unannounced snap of her wrist she hurled the sword and cloak at him, and his involuntary reflexes triumphed over agony and caught. Jiube announced his presence with a hoot.

“Go then,” She beheld him in grave solemnity, as though inspecting to see if he was worth breaking her promise for. “I shall join you shortly.”

He nodded his thanks, wasting very little time to take to the sky after brushing aside the weight of irrevocable disaster with each beat of his wings and heart.

Athlem didn’t simply stare at the fading dark spot of the messenger raven this time. Screw Horatio’s warnings to their sticking place.

Cladded in stubborn resolve and a deceptively plain cloak while armed with her ungodly concoctions and a vague plan of action, she bid the worrying villagers — Goddammit, she told Horatio to not let others know of their child, but these kind souls somehow found out regardless and had been peppering her with the finest abalone porridges and scallop soups and their most sincere care and worries thanks to their devotion to their benevolent prince — to stand aside, which only happened when she agreed to take Ophie on as a guide, as she saddled Horatio’s steed, hers having been consumed by the fog forms earlier.

So, she set forth as well, the anxious beats of hooves against the earth in a race against times, against the cruel turns of fate that so often rendered loved ones nothing beyond specks of dust that followed the fisherman’s daughter and the doctor’s hurried trail.


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