Chapter Eleven (Book 1 Finale) || Good Night

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Gentle light quivered through the soft, sun-bronzed room along with the ticking hands of the all-glass clock. Billows of tepid, equable air fluttered the chiffon overlay of the drawn, thin, charmeuse curtains. The drifting fabric cast blurred, undulating shadows that reached languidly toward the sleeping girl on the nearby bed. Her thick, sable hair was scrawled across the duvet which nestled up to her chin. A single arm was tucked neatly at her left side, on top of the puffy covers. Palm up, the girl's hand curled limply around the outstretched hand of a sedentary boy who had fallen asleep in vigil.

The weak flick of a few fingers faintly grazed the boy's rough knuckles, prompting the tips of his eyebrows to crinkle ever so slightly. Two pairs of lashes flickered in unison, and sore limbs creaked into listless motion.

"Darren?" The girl croaked quietly as her dim, lavender eyes latched onto his russet-brown ones. Her hand had slipped from his as she wearily sat up.

Darren's mouth was slightly ajar, vaguely shifting as he struggled to overcome his speechlessness. She had finally awoken, and he could only blink blankly at her stupor. She had been asleep for several days now, and he had only just woken up three days ago himself. Essairyn was stronger than Darren, so he was hopeful that she would wake up soon after him. But as the first day dragged into the second, and then slouched to the third and fourth today, a burning guilt began gnawing at his core should his friends never wake up.

"...Sairyn." He managed to whisper gutturally before swiftly leaning forward to embrace her gently.

Startled, but sluggish, Essairyn let Darren hold her for a second before reaching up to pat his back softly. "Hm, it's okay." She had read his micro-expressions when they contorted from dazed to distressed. If she weren't so enervated, her own face might've mirrored his in reaction.

Darren pulled back, holding her at arms length. His concerned eyes carefully inspected Essairyn to double check she was fine. This once over induced the corner of her lip to curl up in languid amusement.

"Just a little knock out and you're staring at me like a mother would a child."

Darren froze, and then glared at Essairyn. "Hey! It wasn't just a 'little' knock out! You were asleep for almost a week!"

Her eyes shot open in shock. "You're kidding me!!" She nearly shrieked. "I was asleep for that long?!" Her mind spun in all sorts of directions, trying to grease the gears for calculation of how she could possibly be knocked out for so long and how injured she must be then. In haste, she patted herself down to check for the function of her limbs and any lacerations. But finding none, she halted her hands in confusion and looked briskly around the room in full realization of her circumstances.

"Where... are we...? And—!!" She jolted, spinning around to face Darren with rising panic. "—where's Aispin?! Is he awake?" Her last question was softer in worried anticipation as she remembered him saying he wanted to take most of the hit. "And, Leœss? Akari?"

"Akari is fine—she was the one who brought us here." Darren peered grimly into her eyes before continuing slowly. "As for Aispin... he's just like you were—asleep. But...he's in worse shape than you. Whatever spell or trick he set up, he..." His eyes flashed about nervously. "..he definitely took the brunt of the reflected damage." Darren stared at the bed covers with narrowed, dark eyes.

"It was due to his actions that I guess you came out mostly unscathed, b-but, I'm not sure... it just... doesn't feel right. It doesn't make sense to me after brooding over it for several days now. Dr. Cyanmay said that the injuries don't line up based on the magic cast and reflected. But he's not certain either since he's not magically adept with only a weak mana flow..."

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