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Cause [1.5.1]

The black spot hung ominously in the prismatic sky of the Reaches, and it was the first thing Yasen saw when she woke up. The dreams of Raziel’s death and the memories of three years ago were etched into her mind, and she remembered them lucidly as she came to. Zack and Serafina were dozing quietly on the other side of the island; Yasen didn’t begrudge them for it, for it had been a tiring day and they were far from trained professionals.

Quietly, she nudged Kushel awake, and he turned to her with a smile.

“Is everything alright?” he whispered.

“We’ve slept for around eight hours. The children have fallen asleep, but there are no lost ones in sight, so we can consider ourselves lucky. Time for us to take the next shift.”

“I’m glad.” Kushel replied. “But that was not what I was asking. You look… troubled.”

Yasen cast her eyes down, unsurprised that Kushel saw through her so easily. “…If I did a bad thing for a good cause, would you forgive me?”

“Yes.” Kushel replied simply. “For our King’s safety, sometimes we have to do bad things, because if we don’t, other people will do worse things.”

“…Yeah. You’re right. That sets my mind at ease.” she said.

“Can I ask what it was that you did?”

“I’d rather not talk about it.” Yasen replied, keeping her eyes downcast. “It’ll disappoint you.”

“Alright, Yasen. Do not worry.”

They sat in silence as the island sailed on, and Kushel took a moment to glance at the omen above. “It grows day by day.”

“It’s worrying, that’s for damn sure.” Yasen replied.

Kushel shrugged his massive shoulders, and seeing his stoic confidence made Yasen feel a little safer. “I do not worry about it, for I know we are all doing what we must to stop the coming of Antumbra. That thing’s existence is a reminder that for all the threats to the universe, Zion and Void have overcome them all. We will protect the universe. That is not a promise; that is a fact.”

“Man, Kush- uh, Raziel…” Yasen said, giving a faint smile. “Sometimes when you say things, I genuinely believe they’ll happen, even if I’ve no idea how.”

“They’re asleep. You may call me my name.”

“I don’t want to take any chances.” Yasen said, eyeing the dozing children.

Kushel nodded.

“Yasen. Those children… don’t they intrigue you?”

“In what way?” Yasen huffed. “They’re kids in way over their heads. Raz- you lured them here under pretenses of being a hero, when we knew for damn sure that non-Officials would never be able to pull a plan of this magnitude off.”

“That said…” Kushel replied. “They have spirit. They are almost indistinguishable from Zionids, in my eye.”

“Mm. I suppose.”

“Also, you say that non-Officials could not have pulled this plan off, and yet… and yet they were close. And they may get the last laugh anyway; as you said, we cannot achieve the incubator’s true purpose without fighting the kings.”

“I can’t.” Yasen said hollowly. “I just. Can’t.”

“If it came down to it, if the survival of the universe depending on fighting and defeating the kings… could you?”

Yasen looked at Kushel with a resignation in her eyes. “I have no particular love for the universe; I’m not one of the idiots who lives in it. But I protect the universe because King Malak decrees it. I would let the universe burn – I would let myself burn – if it meant ensuring the King’s survival. I am his vessel, now and forever.”

Kushel remained quiet, staring out over the endless expanse of colour, imagining how impossibly big the universe was, and equating that with Yasen’s unwavering devotion. It was borderline impressive, her dedication to her king and job.

“You would extinguish trillions and trillions and trillions of living, breathing, thinking creatures, from billions and billions and billions of galaxies…” he murmured.

Yasen shuddered, racked with sudden guilt, but she batted her demons down and regained her composure before Kushel turned back to her.

“Your sense of duty is admirable. And yet… completely incomprehensible.”

“The island is veering.” Yasen said. “We’re going to need to move.”

“There are no islands in the vicinity. I believe there are some lost ones approaching, however. We can switch once we deal with them.”

“They’re a way away.”

“Perfect. Enough time to have rations.” Kushel said, smiling. Yasen nodded.

“Yeah… that might be a good idea. Do we wake the kids?”

“Not yet. We will carry them to another island with us, when one comes by.”

In silence, eating the meagre rations from their backpacks, Kushel and Yasen observed the screeching, crying figures dragging themselves across the vast expanse to the island. Kushel moved over to Zack and Serafina’s sleeping bodies, and fitted his sound-muffling helmet onto Zack’s head. He glanced sidelong at Yasen, who grimaced, but complied, putting her helmet on Serafina. It wouldn’t fit perfectly with Serafina’s sunglasses on, so Yasen removed them and placed them beside the girl’s backpack, being used as a makeshift pillow.

By this time, the lost ones had lurched their way to the base of the island. Drawing their spears, Kushel and Yasen prepared for battle.

Cause [1.4.14]
Cause [1.5.2]

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