Not too late.

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Chapter 14: Gasping

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Kid came to be with his hands around Black Star's throat, his Wavelength coursing through him. Kid recoiled, more out of surprise than pain. Black Star's wavelength was sudden, energetic and stinging, reflective of his character, but this was weak, as if stung by static electricity instead of lightning.

Then the rest of Kid's mind caught up to his surroundings, of the water and darkness and floating decaying flesh coming up from piles and piles of half-eaten bodies covering the well's bottom, of Black Star pressed against the protruding bones, of Black Star's half-lidded eyes staring at him before closing completely while Kid scrambled to pull him close.

The moment Kid had a firm hold on Black Star, he acted on the opposite of his instinct and activated his jets, rocketing them off the well and into land. As Kid came down as gently as his frantic mind would allow him to, he realised the sudden acceleration had been dangerous; but Black Star shouldn't have spent a second more underwater. He also realised Black Star wasn't breathing.

Shoving all questions and confusion aside, Kid begun chest compressions before taking a few moments to clear out his own water-clogged lungs.

All the while, his previous questions resurfaced, spurned by Kid's rising dread his clunky technique. How had he and Black Star ended up deep in the well? Had Kid been attacking Black Star? Was he pushing too hard or not hard enough? How many repetitions were there supposed to be between each rescue breathing? Why hadn't Kid woken up sooner?

There was movement behind a pillar by Kid's side and he acted on instinct this time, his Wavelength forming into sharp-edged shadows that lunged at the culprit and dragged them out of their hiding place, revealing the Priest's form.

"You-!" Kid let out but cut himself off to do another rescue breath. Black Star didn't stir.

His shadows dragged the Priest closer, until he was in front of Kid who still had most of his attention in trying to resuscitate Black Star.

Kid switched to chest compressions and glanced up at the pinned Priest. It must be hard to appear intimidating while trying to resuscitate someone, but judging by the Priest's wide eyes, the Grim Reaper was doing an excellent job at it. Still, she only hung limply, blinking rapidly between Kid, Black Star and the shadows.

"What did you do?" Kid dragged each word before letting out a curse -he had lost count of his compressions. Fuck, Kid was estimating how many were supposed to be between each set but Black Star hadn't woken up yet and he had lost track of time…

"Don't you dare die on me Black Star," Kid grit out with hollow anger. He switched to another round of rescue breathing. Still no reaction.

As Kid began another set of compressions, he cursed himself for not paying more attention to first aid classes – he knew they were important and it was vital skill, but he details kept slipping his mind no matter how much he tried…

"You've survived so much worse, I'd be embarrassing if drowning is what got you…" Kid continued as another set was finished. He didn't dare use his Soul Perception for fear of seeing Black Star's soul, so vibrant and bright, dulled and stilled by…

Another set complete. Kid's movements slowed. "Come on you stubborn idiot, you keep saying you've surpassed me…" Kid was pushing too hard against Black Star's chest. At this point, was he doing more harm than good?

Kid stared at his hands, recalling them wrapped around Black Star's throat.

Black Star spasmed, his whole body seizing up before throwing up several gulps of water and it was the most comforting sight Kid had witnessed on this damned island.

Kid pulled back, but Black Star stopped shortly after, so he resumed his presses, wanting to cry in relief each time one of them resulted in more expelled water. Black Star kept throwing up more water, more than any human lung should have the capacity for, but Black Star was always an infuriatingly extraordinary person.

After seemingly an eternity, Black Star started breathing on his own. His eyes were closed but at least his chest steadily rose and fell, even if a bit too slow for Kid's liking.

His hands were resting against Black Star's chest when he noticed the healing bruises and scratches on them. Had Kid been attacked before waking up? He and Back Star were alone in the well…

Oh.

Black Star. His Soul Wavelength attack must have been a last resort move, his last attempt to fight back against…

Kid retracted his hands. Were they fighting against each other in well? Kid didn't remember anything, and any theories of controlling him were impossibly frightening, as that would something stronger than the Madness of Order itself…

Kid's shadows alerted him to slight resistance, and he looked ahead at the Priest, straining against the restraints. Kid's first thought was to have the shadows restrict further, but a longer look at the Priest's frail joints as his shadows railed across them made him reconsider.

The shadows morphed back into immaterial Wavelength before trailing protectively closer to Black Star, letting the priest collapse against the floor. Kid watched her tenderly pick herself up the floor carefully, ready to restraint her again if she tried anything.

"What happened?" Kid asked, glancing between her and Back Star -still breathing, thank goodness. Maybe he was being too cruel, but all Kid could remember was her rudeness towards Black Star, her cryptic remarks towards them...

A terrible thought crossed Kid's mind. His hands had been around Black Star's throat.

"Did I do this?"

The Priest didn't respond, not making a move ever since falling to the floor. She was conscious, as evidenced by her breathing and slight movement, yet she stayed silent.

Right. Waste of time as always, and Kid had more important things to care about, looking over Black Star once again. He was breathing but he hadn't woken up. Was he still in danger? Had Kid overlooked something?

"This," the Priest finally spoke up, slow and uncertain, "this isn't usually what happens-"

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" Kid snapped back, not looking up to her even as his Wavelength materialised into cackling shadows. "I want answers, not useless cryptic remarks-"

He went silent as voices echoed across the Temple's smooth stone.

The Priest stood up with renewed vigour. "Intruders-!"

The Grim Reaper's shadows pinned her face-down on the floor again.

"You're staying put," Kid said as he stared at the direction of the voices, more of his Wavelength materialising around him and Black Star.

A quick glance with his Soul Wavelength revealed the approaching souls were human.

Kid stayed by Black star's side as the two villagers they had met before appeared around the corner carrying torches. Though their robes hid their physical appearance, Kid recognised the souls as the duo that had been accompanying them during their short stay at the village.

The village! They should know how to treat drowning victims, even if their methods were archaic!

The mystery as to why the two just showed up did not escape Kid's mind -had they been followed?- but took a backseat considering Black Star's condition.

"We shouldn't be here, Archiereus," the shorter figure let out as they walked carefully, hugging the wall.

"Nonsense, we have to get him out and back into our village where it's safe," the taller figure interrupted them, rambling to themselves. "We were so close, you saw how the two acted around each other, he wasn't like the all the other poor souls…"

Kid was about to ask for help and give away his position -he and the Priest were in complete darkness- but paused at their words.

The Priest let out a grunt as she tried to shift from her position causing the two figure to startle and approach them.

The taller figure's fre light fell on Kid and they gasped. "No!"

The younger disciple dashed to them, stilling when they too noticed Kid and Black Star "What happened-?"

"What always happens-!" the taller figure despaired.

The numbness in Kid's body ebbed away to be replaced with relief and rising dread. "He's alive," Kid managed to let out, cutting them off. "But he needs medical attention." One of his hands had been holding Black Star's and it was ice cold. Should he have tried to warm him up? "Please help him."

Why had Black Star made them leave the village? The locals weren't, they couldn't be of any threat to them.

The two figures stood frozen and Kid's dread gave way to frustration, then anger, then fear at what this situation must look like to them.

"I woke up to find us both underwater," with my hands around his throat, left unsaid. Kid's own throat tightened. "I have no idea what happened before that. I got him out as soon as possible and managed to stabilise him, but he needs care I cannot provide." Kid's voice broke slightly at the end, but a small pause stabilised it. "So please."

The two figures kept staring. After seemingly an eternity, the shorter figure stepped forward. The Archiereus put up a hand to stop her, but they pushed through and kneeled by Black Star, whose breaths were steady but slow, occasionally gurgling. Kid's shadows retracted back to his form, sans the ones holding the Priest down.

The short figure pressed a hand over Black Star's forehead, the other pressing a finger against his throat.

Right, checking his pulse. With Black Star breathing Kid had completely forgotten that, another mistake on his part.

"We should get him back to our village," the shorter figure said after a minute. "He will recover, but he will need plenty of rest, and may catch a disease,"

"Of course," Kid immediately said and made a motion to scoop up Black Star.

The Archiereus took a step forward. "We should carry him-"

"I won't hurt him," Kid snapped back but smoothed his glare into a neutral expression. Being stressed did not give him the right to be rude to others. "I can get there faster and without disturbing him much."

The two figures looked at each other, confusion emanating from their souls and Kid's dread returned. Their previous words reverberated in Kid's head.

"What did you mean when you said 'what always happens'?" Kid asked up, startling the two. All he had was insinuations, scattered and missing puzzle pieces.

The dead god and the mourning goddess, a duality halved, their supposed Champions, the strange night-time fatigue that plagued Kid, the disorienting mornings where Kid awoke with vague foreign memories, as if coming out of a dissociative episode.

His hands around Black Star's throat.

Kid realised hadn't slept while on this island. The loss of consciousness was the only superficial similarity in the dreamless state he'd ended up, as if ceasing to exist. Even now, Kid's numbness was due to fatigue, and it was his worry that kept him awake. With the relief of the villagers' presence, his eyelids felt heavy again, and…

Their previous words echoed in Kid's head.

"How long have we been on this island?"

If Black Star's goal as Champion was to 'romance' then what was Kid's supposed goal? Why had their words suggested Black Star wasn't the only Champion? Were there others? Had there been others?

His hands around Black Star's throat.

Where did all the bodies in the well come from?

Their previous words repeated in Kid's head.

"How long have I been here?"

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Life is still a mess, but I've gotten back into writing. Hopefully updates will be more regular. Feedback is appreciated.