Chapter 83

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Leithan and Sunzar both showed prompt reflexes, climbing up a few stairs so they could hold Jorand by the arms. The bullet had got the right side of his chest. Blood spilled down his expensive suit, and fast.

"Leithan," Jorand panted, "I – I'm sorry. I tried—"

"Don't talk right now," Leithan said. Fuck . . .

With Sunzar – who was turning out to be stronger than she looked – they laid him down across a beige rug that quickly turned red around Jorand's chest. Cara and Fiona had scampered back to the other girls. Leithan didn't spare them a look.

"Oh, Jorand," Sunzar said, and for once there was a hint of emotion in her voice.

Then, realization slammed into Leithan like cold fire. The pouch of tuly.

Leithan reached inside his jacket, found it. Kneeled on the carpet next to Jorand's shoulder, Leithan stared up from the pouch, to Sunzar, remembering something else.

"Do you have gloves?" he asked her.

She frowned at him. "Yes, but why?"

"Go get them. Now, hurry!" Leithan told her, unfastening the pouch. Sunzar leapt to her feet and ran across the basement.

On the carpet, Jorand's breathing was turning into hoarse wheezing – the bullet must've pierced his lung.

Sunzar, proving quite resourceful, came back mere seconds later, long veil of auburn hair spilling over her shoulder as she sat back down, slipping slim black gloves on.

"What's happening, Leithan?" she asked, her eyes wide as she searched his for some kind of explanation.

"I need you to take a leaf from this pouch," he instructed, voice low and firm. "And cut it in half."

He was trying to remember the few things that Teshin had taught him about tuly. Those four leaves in there were quite large. Half of one should be enough for this. Fucking hopefully. He didn't want to put Jorand in a coma.

Sunzar looked very confused, but she acted fast; she snipped the leaf in half, and glanced up at him.

Before she could ask, Leithan said, "Jorand, open your mouth, Sunzar give him half the leaf, now."

They both did as they were told. Leithan supposed that when someone manifested authority in a life-or-death situation, people saved their questions for later.

Once the piece of tuly was in Jorand's mouth, Leithan felt a small part of him relaxing. He sat back, fastening the pouch again.

Blood stopped spreading on the carpet. Jorand soon seemed to find his breathing again, though it wasn't steady yet. But then he looked like he was trying to speak, and couldn't - right.

"Your tongue will be numb for a few moments. It's normal," Leithan told him.

His brown eyes were watery and full of confusion, but also grateful, as they looked up at him. Their shape reminded him of Shay's eyes. He hoped, with a sudden ache in his chest, that Jorand was going to make it.

He has a fucking family.

So did Kovishi. He had me, and Val.

Henten Eagle-Eye didn't give a shit.

Leithan realized he was shaking. He shifted back, and away. Secured the pouch in the inside pocket of his jacket. He hadn't felt such powerful, all-consuming loathing for Henten, not since he was ten years old. It had faded over the years, somewhat. Time seemed to have that effect on most things.

But now, Henten just shooting a man like that – a husband, a father . . .

It doesn't even matter.

The thought drenched over him, and Leithan saw the truth of it. It wasn't about being a father, or having a family. Shooting any person was just fucking horrible.

Nix had shot Mikai, but it had been an accident – or so that asshole claims, anyway.

But Henten . . .

The bastard had shot two people now. Shot to kill. On purpose.

"Leithan!" Sunzar's voice, breaking through the frenzied thoughts.

She sat beside him now, and held his shaking hand. She actually looked concerned.

"You need to calm down," she said firmly.

He looked at her, and realized she was right. He was freaking out, trembling, fists clenched so tight in anger that his nails dug into his palms, drawing blood.

"I'm sorry," he said, not much louder than a whisper. "I just . . . I just fucking hate him. Henten . . . he killed my father." It felt right to say. He wasn't sure why he was telling her, but there you go.

Sunzar's gloved hand squeezed his arm, gently. Her eyes gazed at him, concerned, under long red eyelashes.

"Your friend Rilien seemed pretty convinced that all of this would end soon," Sunzar told him. She took a deep breath, as though steeling herself. "Maybe we should have faith in him."

Beside them, Jorand's breathing evened out. He seemed to be doing better. Well enough, in fact, to speak. Though the words came slow.

"Thank you, Leithan. You . . . saved my life."

Like a line from a bad theater drama. Leithan wondered why his life had become like this, these days.

"Think nothing of it, Jorand," Leithan said tiredly. "You risked your life for me."

Probably just because Jorand thought Leithan was the love of his daughter's life. But, well, they were best friends, did that count?

Leithan decided now wasn't the best time to ponder such details.

"How are you feeling?" he asked instead.

From the small crowd of on-looking girls, Cara approached.

"Can you help me . . . sit?" Jorand asked. "Please?"

Frowning, Leithan nodded, and helped Jorand sit up, holding his shoulder. Cara came to sit by Jorand's other side and helped him too.

"I think," Jorand said, panicking. "The bullet . . . I think it's coming out."

"Take off his jacket," Leithan said, and Cara nodded.

Together, they pulled down the blood-stained garment. Underneath, Jorand wore a white shirt, which was painted red too. But, sure enough, a small black bullet had slid out of his wound, and Cara was the one to reach out and grasp it as it protruded. She looked up at Leithan, amazement in her eyes.

"I can't explain it," Leithan whispered, shaking his head. He was in awe too. Sunzar was snug beside him, watching everything.

When it was over, they laid Jorand down again – he fell asleep, or maybe passed out, soon after. But his breathing was even, and it looked like he was going to be okay.

For some time, no one moved. The girls whispered among themselves.

Belatedly, Leithan realized Sunzar must've kept the other half of that leaf. Must've hidden it on herself somewhere, in a pocket maybe. For some reason, he didn't ask about it.

Maybe later. 

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