Episode VIII: Titles and Waves, Pt.1

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The guilt-ride followed him back from the mission and carried along throughout the seven hour trip home. The pile of hot flesh on the butcher table was all Cabil could envision whenever he closed his eyes. He had made that kid a promise, one he was sure he could keep. The pyromancer felt his edge against the horde fading, his advances meaningless in a solo battle. Perhaps the lack of rest between militant missions doused that spark in him; Mhal has had him hot on call ever since he paid the good King a visit, assigning him and his team more assignments than usual. Well, at least his sister has been kept off radar.

Syreene rinsed the last bit of blond off his hair, the temporary mask running thin down the bathroom sink drain. From the linen closet she handed him a towel, and he was anxious to see that chestnut crown on him again.

"Are you sure you got all of it out?" He questioned, vigorously running the towel through his skull as he marveled at himself through the mirror.

"For the umpteenth time, Cabil, yes." She smiled, cross-armed. "I still don't know why that mission was seen as a bust. You blew up the operation and stopped them from harboring more kids."

"We needed to find where they were doing the deals; the heart of the operation is within the Hyude, so we didn't get far. Besides not locating their seed, we couldn't even get any intel off that body jacker."

"Hmm, I guess you're right. But I'm sure you'll get another chance. You always find a way."

"Yeah, well, that's not how Mhal sees it." Cabil swung the drooping towel over his eyes away and veered to her, suddenly struck with shame. That mission in the ranch went south in more ways than one, and Cabil had to deal with the consequences shooting at him from all angles. He looked at her puzzled innocence before pulling away from his awkward staring. Clearing his throat, he dropped the towel aside to wash his face. The cold splash of water couldn't quell the burning hate he harbored for himself at the moment, but there was no taking back what transpired that night...

"Cabil, are you okay?" Syreene crept up behind him, and in the narrow lavender dollhouse she called a bathroom, it felt like she was on top of him. He felt her palm on the arch of his back, wincing from the bruises beneath his v-neck tee. Cabil was sure she noticed, Syreene already fetching the miracle paste from the medicine cabinet overhead. His mother's special herb grown fresh from the garden; it was one of many countless recipes she would whip up for her careless flame-dancers.

Syreene folded the toilet seat cover down, prompting Cabil to let out a grunt and strip off his top. He took his seat, Syreene happily pulling out hers behind his lean muscular back bearing bruises and burns combined. He noted the elfin's readiness to tend to his wounds, just like his mother would.

"Geez Cabil, looks like you got into a wrestling match with a bear. And why aren't you using your Sarener armor? The heat ducts are there for a reason."

"Pfft, really didn't have an hour to strap it on."

"Stop exaggerating. If you keep this up, you're going to end up not needing it anyway." She masked his burns with the healing paste before reaching for the first aid kit. Cabil was never a fan of needles, his cowardice a complete contrast to his sister. He tightened his back and took a deep breath in, bracing for the first prick against his tan skin.

"Can I ask you something, Cabil?"

He grunted. "What is it?"

"Do you think I'm weak? Is that why you don't want me training for Aeg? I won't be offended if that's the reason, it's just, I want to feel like I'm actually doing something in this fight against the cult. It just feels like I'm living in some façade, sheltered from what's actually happening to this country. It's like I'm segregated."

"It's not your war to fight, Syreene."

She paused. "I have every right to vengeance too, Cabil."

"I'm not doing this for vengeance, Sy. I'm fighting for a decent quality of life, for you. Look, you're not weak. I just don't want you exposed to the bs that goes on out there. For fuck's sake, you had to witness a ton of shit when you were younger. I'm the only strength you'll ever need. Don't worry about getting your hands dirty."

"But Cabil, they are killing us... " She tensed, and Cabil winced at her anxious grip over the needle. "I hadn't realized it before, but, my race is quickly dwindling down to nonexistence. There's only seven of us left in my entire school. And the district doesn't care about the reports of missing elfin girls spiraling since the last three weeks! I mean, it's bad enough that everyone at school hates me, but for my own country to treat our kind like stray, it's just, not right."

Cabil swung over to her, cupping her shoulders with an intensity in his eyes. "Hey, now you stop talking that nonsense. Who gives a rat's ass what other people think. What matters is what you think of yourself. Don't go around lowering your self-worth for the sake of making others feel confident. What they really are is scared, Sy. Scared that the passive nature of elfin will soon turn against them. They figure since they are stronger, then naturally, they will revolt. And that's bullshit. I've been around for nearly three decades and I have yet to meet an evil elf. Maybe a dark elf, but certainly not an evil one."

Syreene chuckled at his jest.

"You are loved, Sy. You have no idea how much you are loved."

"I just want to put in an honest effort into the cause, not only for me, but for everyone who had to go through loss. You're going out there every day fighting for me because I can't do it myself, and if I can just—"

"—no, I'm doing this because I want to. We are cursed, living in a cult infested civilization in an endless attempt for survival. There has to be more than this durja shit-show, something on the other side of this world where a better life awaits us." He cupped her face, his thumb stroking her cheek. "Sy, if there's the slightest chance of making it out here with you, I'll fight for it." He opened another side of himself, a fuzzy, softer side that Syreene wasn't accustomed to. It left him vulnerable, steered away from the common Cabil with his guard always elevated, and his hot head just as high. She was so foreign to it that his sister gave him a look of genuine concern, forcing Cabil out of his shifted persona. "Now can you finish sowing me up, I'm dying here."

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