"We tried to be better, but we aren't. I don't think anyone could last more than a week here if they weren't willing to do bad things." - Alba Reyes

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Grim Wolf
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The Very Best
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Mizore Soryu was skinny--skinnier, even, than Naoko Raidon, which was saying something. More wiry, certainly--far more of she was muscle than just lack of mass--but still, light as things went. Raidon could not help but be a little proud of himself on the way down the stairs and out the door. She didn't weight that much; he could do this.

Until his arms started to ache under the weight of their bags. Until his legs began to feel leaden with their joint weight.

Once they'd cleared the residential district--and the beeps had been getting frighteningly fast by then, so close together that Raidon swore he felt something stirring in the collar around his neck, twitching at his jugular, waiting to...

Well. Suffice to say he'd found it in him to put on an extra burst of speed.

Once they'd cleared the Residential District, they'd wandered farther north. At some point, she noticed him lagging and insisted he let her off. His protests were half-hearted; he simply wasn't strong enough to carry both her and the bags for long, and unlike the bags Mizore could, in a slow, hobbling sort of way, move.

She was lying when she said it didn't hurt, and the guilt and anxiety that thought brought with it stabbed into his lungs and nearly robbed him of his breath. It was his fault she had ended up hurt; his attack had startled her off the banister.

Victoria.

He winced.

Soryu sat without warning, by a pile of logs in the middle of a thick cluster of flowers and plants. He recognized none of them, but their scent was heady and relaxing; his worries and guilt drifted away of their own accord.

"You need to rest," she said.

"I need no such thing-" he started, bristling, but Soryu's implacable gaze and more-implacable words brooked no argument.

"And I need to eat," she added. "And I'm going to give you a backrub, because you saved my life, and I owe you that, at least."

He wanted to protest further, but he ached too much. It won't help at all if I wear myself out, he reminded himself. Rest is a part of travel. Otherwise I'll just get exhausted.

So he obediently sat, and buried his head in his hands as Soryu's nimble fingers worked out the kinks in his back. He would feel his aches (some, at least) ebbing away, driven out by steady outward pressure. He leaned back a little, into her hands--the last massage he'd received had been from a rather forward girl at a debate tournament, who had more or less forced him into the chair.

Soryu was not so forceful. Soryu was infinitely more seductive.

His mind went, after a little while, into the darkness his hands created. They smelled, on the surface, only of Soryu (paint and grime and sweat and of this odd, almost acrid smell he didn't quite understand but which he identified instinctively as her scent), but beneath that smell was something else--something horrible.

The smell of blood, and death. The smell of Victoria Logan and Jacob Charles.

I killed them.

Would that the deaths had been as frenzied as had their predecessors. The death of Scott McGregor had brought Raidon nothing but horror and guilt; he'd let his instincts overwhelm him. Alison, too, had suffered for his haste and stupidity. Jacob Charles and Maddie Stone had earned their deaths, but...

Alice had suffered for his stupidity. And, in the end, so had Victoria. They had been together for so long...

He could barely stand to let Soryu die, and he'd known her so briefly. He could understand now, finally, why Alice had refused to give up her gun, and why Victoria had fired without hesitation.

Soryu's hand moved away from his back. The second hand was not quite so hypnotic as the first, and he drifted out of his darkness and looked over. She was waving at someone; he frowned severely, hands trailing to his gun. They couldn't trust...couldn't she...

She trusts me. She can do what she wants.

He left the gun on the ground and got to his feet. Followed the direction of her wave. Saw the person walking towards them.

Shit.

He immediately fell to one knee, grabbed his gun from the top of his bag and brought it up. Julian Avery was about twenty feet away by this point--more than close enough to realize what Raidon was doing. By the time he'd aimed his gun, Julian had his own gun trained on him.

Raidon swallowed.

I don't want to aim this damn thing anymore.

But he'd heard Julian's name on the announcements. Julian had killed someone, and it had been someone armed--on their last encounter, Julian had sure as hell not had that gun.

Still. Neither of them had fired yet.

"I think the only way either of us walks away from this alive," Raidon said slowly, still on one knee as though he were about to propose with both hands around his gun. "Is if neither of us moves."
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Broken Like the Sun · The Felled Forest: North