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The Sin and I rode the cramped elevator down from Amoroth's soaring perch, and soon enough we stood outside again in the cool, cloying rain. As Darius' blood stopped seeping into his ruined shirt and the wound healed, his eyes blackened until the whites disappeared into the inky dark. The wayfarers made their way onto his face before we stepped from Klau's main doors.

Breathing heavily, Darius abruptly stumbled to the roadside and caught himself on a parking meter. People edged from his proximity, muttering to one another as they shot the panting Sin wary glances from the corner of the eyes, and Darius leaned on the parking meter, hand covering the fresh tear in his shirt, though nothing could hide the growing bloodstain. Thankfully, the rain diluted the color, and the palpable disquiet cloaking Darius had most people hurrying about their business without lingering to catch a second glimpse.

The shriek of metal filled the street. My head swung from side to side, strands of my wet hair clinging to my face as I searched for the source of the sound—just as the parking meter under Darius' hand exploded in a wave of shrapnel. A woman screamed and a passing car swerved when the metal pinged off his windshield.

Wide-eyed, I snatched a handful of Darius' jacket and yanked him into motion, urging us both into a steady jog. The parking garage was in the opposite direction, but I was more interested in simply escaping the scene before someone came around asking difficult questions.

I don't know how far we walked. The blocks passed in a haze of uniform storefronts, modern skyscrapers first giving way to shorter high-rises, then to older, heavily retro-fitted buildings crowding the narrower streets. It was difficult to decipher where we were headed in the rain, but as I spotted more domestic stores like groceries and pharmacies with the odd residential building spliced in-between, I figured we were moving west, where the various districts of Verweald melded into one.

The deluge of early evening traffic dwindled as we crossed lanes and byways, striding swiftly from one block to the next until the streets we walked were barren of moving vehicles. Most of the remaining cars were parked along the curbs and the cracked sidewalks were empty but for the occasional Verwealdian hustling by under a raised umbrella. The gutters overflowed with the late summer downpour, water washing over our feet wherever we passed a sloped driveway. My hand was still fisted in the hem of Darius' jacket, but he was the one leading as I trailed behind like a flagging add-on, desperately trying to catch my breath.

It was dark, light only available from the occasional streetlight or illuminated market sign. Beyond the sound of rain, I could hear the plaintive bark of a dog left outside by his owners. The gutters dumped into a nearby culvert, and the smell rising from the rushing water was unsavory, but not horrendous. Quacking aspens dotted the parkway with the rain soughing through the wispy limbs.

From his stiff posture and choleric expression, I gathered Darius would rather be alone, but since he was fully capable of brushing me off if he wished or disappearing in a puff of ashen air, I believed he didn't completely mind my presence—or he had forgotten it entirely. Twenty minutes later, we were sopping wet and far from Klau's industrial court, though the spire remained a looming staple upon the skyline behind us. Darius came to a stop, his head snapping up as though he had heard something I hadn't. He turned from the sidewalk, stomping through a dripping gate to a maintained courtyard.

A church appeared from behind a wall of thorny hedges and shaggy oak trees. The building was dated, the cross on the steeple crooked and the roof's shingles frayed at the edges—but it was evidently crowded, as the interior lights blazed in every window, and now even I could hear the solemn voices of evening vespers risen above the thunder in praise of God and all creation. I couldn't find a sign to tell me what denomination the church was, and the cross was simple, unadorned wood. Darius stopped just beyond the edge of light seeping from the crack beneath the door's threshold, his hands shoved into his jacket pockets as he glared at the religious symbol. Uncertain, I remained next to him, wincing at the fresh blisters formed by my uncomfortable shoes.

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