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The backroads winding through Verweald's hills were quiet in the late evening. Thunderstorms once more threatened the seaboard, leaving a slick shine of dew upon the sage bushes and brush. Darius drove my car, his hands creating permanent dents in my steering wheel whenever he clenched his fists. I didn't care. I was simply relieved we had escaped Techie-Goods before it collapsed on top of us, and that—by some miracle or twist of fate—had escaped the police line before it cinched shut around us.

I cradled my wounded hand against my chest, wincing whenever the muscles or bones shifted. I had bit quite deeply despite my lack of serrated teeth or fangs. The skin was bruised and the bite itself was inflamed, leaving the cut red and irritated. My thumb hurt from where the overlarge pistol had recoiled and wrenched it backward.

Darius saw me grasping the injured limb. "I'll retrieve Saule in the morning," he said, disturbing the hush that had settled within the car once the red and blue cruiser lights had faded. "I do not think I am capable of looking upon a witch at the moment, let alone asking one for her assistance."

I watched the hills undulate beyond the guardrails, rising and falling like waves of pebbles and earth lapping at the roadside. "It's fine," I told him as I lowered the hand to hide it from the Sin's observation. "I'll visit Saule in the morning—if she's willing to treat me. If not, I can go to a hospital for something small like this." As I talked, a thought abruptly rose from my subconscious. I laughed, startling the Sin.

"Sorry. It's just, I used to ask for my sister whenever I went to the hospital. You're not supposed to, technically, but I did anyway. She was a resident, you know. She had already been published in journals, and people would call her a prodigy." I stared at my bruised knees as my smile died. "She was perpetually busy with work and patients, but she would always make time to take care of my checkups when I went to Verweald General."

I sighed and eased farther into my seat. Tara. The hospital was undoubtedly missing her by now. I wondered about that from time to time. I wondered what arrangements Darius had Danyel set up to ensure Tara disappeared without any problems. "I was just thinking...she would have been fascinated by blood witch magic. She spent years and years of her short life studying how to better people. I think she would have been utterly thrilled with the prospects magic opened up. She would have found a way to integrate it into her own work." I simpered as I recalled the way Tara's eyes used to sparkle when she was discussing medicine or science. She would speak with animated hand motions, whacking innocent bystanders. "She and Saule would have been good friends."

Darius shifted to ease one hand from the damaged wheel. "Aren't you and Saule...friends?"

"No. Saule's terrified of me." She had admitted as much when she had crafted my mana ampoule. "You can't make friends with people who are terrified of you."

The Sin snorted. "The irony of your words is lost upon you."

I frowned as I tenderly rubbed my aching hand. "Darius..." I began, averting my gaze out the dark window. There were no streetlights here, no signals, and seeing that this highway didn't circumvent travel times to and from Verweald, it had very little traffic. No oncoming headlights crossed our path. Soon we'd crest the hills and be able to see the airport, and perhaps the beginnings of Evergreen Acres. "Do you think I'm...evil?"


"Yeah, evil. I killed that man. I don't feel remorse over that. I don't feel remorse over any of their deaths, whether I was guilty of them or not. I'm still filled with so much anger. So much hate. This cold feeling of loss and the desire for vengeance sit upon my heart and I cannot dislodge them. You've known far more people than I ever will and have seen more evidence of human nature; shouldn't I feel remorse? Isn't that the normal response? Shouldn't I feel sorry for what I've done?"

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