I really wanted to give Kohak a longer POV in this chapter, but it just didn't happen. Hisui calmed down earlier than I thought, and Shing is still being secretive about Creed.
And I still can't write her properly T.T
Also, those familiar with Baten Kaitos might notice I'm taking some liberties with the world. I'm doing it in a way that actually makes sense (or at least I try), but I apologize for the deviation from canon.
Chapter-specific warnings: Do not read before eating. It contains blood and description of not-so-clean wounds. Character death. Creed being a possessive psycho. Swearing. And I think that's it 8D
Chapter 2: A cairn at my back
When Hisui finally blinked the colours back into his vision, all he could see was chaos. Sharp rocks from the path and riverbed were lying everywhere, splintered, and some of them were covered in blood. The old man was propped against a boulder, somehow still breathing, and Kohak…
He turned in panic, remembering her scream. She was behind him, motionless on the ground, free of blood but her clothes torn. He ran to her.
He caught her upper back and head, supporting them with his arm. She stirred and blinked.
Her voice was hoarse, and he winced.
"Kohak! Are you ok? What did she do to you?"
She wiped her eyes and forehead with her hand.
"I'm… ok. She didn't really hurt me, it's just…"
She sat up suddenly, nearly hitting his chin.
"Hisui! Where's Shing? And his grandfather?"
"Woah, calm down. The old man is just there, I dunno where Shin-"
She pushed him away and stood, swaying for a second, then walked over to Zeks.
"Mister Zeks? Are you- oh, the Whale bless…"
Hisui came up behind her, and was nearly sick. Zeks's stomach and chest were lacerated, blood covering skin and wounds alike. From the smell, Hisui was pretty sure he wouldn't make it. It was a miracle the man was even conscious.
Zeks opened his one good eye -the other had been crashed during the fight, and Hisui was doing his best not to look at it- and coughed, the sound of his breath damp and unnatural.
Kohak snapped out of her horror first and kneeled next to him.
"Mister Zeks, hold on! Hea-"
She stopped, suddenly tense.
"Kohak? What's wrong?"
"I can't cast. My magic, it's… gone. I can't reach it."
He winced. There was too much pain in that voice, too much fear. He moved aside as Shing ran past him -he wasn't even stable on his feet, Hisui noted absently- to kneel next to Zeks and grab his hand. The old man had lost consciousness again.
"Grandpa, can you hear me? Open your eyes… please!"
He blinked at Kohak's voice and took out a magnus, drawing on its energy to power his spell. The wave of light reached forwards and drenched Zeks, but it was drunk away all to fast. He went cold. He had expected the wound to be bad, but from the way his magic was being drained into the man's body, there were probably other internal injuries.
Zeks opened his eye, better awake this time, and it wandered across them until it settled on Shing. His gaze softened and his hand on Shing's tightened.
"Shing… you have to stay strong…"
"Don't talk like that! You're the one who has to train me to be strong, remember? Don't go, don't leave me…"
He was nearly hysterical. Hisui swallowed. Memories echoed in the desperation, of being in front of another dying loved one, and too small and weak to do anything. It wasn't by chance that he had worked so hard to master the healing magic the Children of the Earth had created.
With Shing's voice choked in panic, he hadn't noticed he was crying until he saw the tears falling, lost on the damp stones of the path.
"Grandpa, please… Hisui, help him! Help him, I'll do anything…"
Shing turned to him in indignant disbelief. His eyes were reddened and it made the brown in them stand out even more, accusing and lost.
"I can't. There's too much damage, my power just got eaten up… maybe if Kohak was at full power, and with Kaya with us… but there's nothing I can do alone, not against that kind of wound…"
Shing seemed to choke, his eyes still wide. His breath accelerated, and then as if someone had hugged him he relaxed and curled up, sobbing. Zeks coughed and drew his hand closer, causing Shing to move forwards, nearly in his arms. His eyes hardened and he looked just past Shing, at empty hair.
"Creed… I know we don't like each other…. but take care of Shing. If you don't do it for me…" he coughed, "do it for him. As much as I hate it, he needs you."
It was Shing who nodded before clinging to his grandfather's arm even closer.
"Shing, listen to me. Keep your heart strong. Don't let pain and fear make you hate. I believe in you, ok? Show me you're as strong as your mother."
"Promise me, Shing. Be strong, and never underestimate the power of your heart."
"I… I promise. I'll make you and Mum proud…"
"I know you will. You're my grandson after… all…"
It took Shing five seconds to really register the loosened grip on his hand. He screamed and Hisui clenched his eyes shut. The cry reverberated against the rocky walls of the riverbed, torn and bloody, before wasting to sobs, syllables intertwined with gasps in a litany of loss.
Shing tried to block out the sound of the river and the light that filtered from behind his crossed arms and closed eyelids. Rock asperities bit at his back, but he nearly welcomed it. It was nothing compared to the pain he felt inside, the burning weight in his stomach, the scorching of his bleeding throat. Pain coming from outside was a reminder that he was alive, something his heart had trouble accepting at the moment.
There was an embrace around his heart and shoulders, a constant soothing caress. Without it he wasn't sure he wouldn't have lost it.
He didn't answer. Concern filtered from their link, along with a bit of hurt.
Shing… you're not alone. I'm still here for you.
He wasn't being fair. Creed was doing his best to help him, but at the moment what he needed most of all was a hug, contact, someone to hold him and shield his senses against the world until he could get his breath back, but Creed couldn't give him that, and his care made it even harder. Warmth was pouring into his consciousness, but there was nothing he could hold on to.
It was unfair, though, because Creed always gave him so much, and he felt like there was nothing he could give back, except a chance to see this world. And Creed didn't seem to particularly be fond of it.
And it wasn't his fault he didn't have a body.
I know. I know you won't leave me alone. I'd be lost without you.
And then, a painful breath later.
You don't need to thank me. I'm here for you. Always.
That's not what I meant. Thanks for promising to Grandpa.
I didn't do it for him.
I know. But you promised him anyway. Thank you.
He breathed in deeply, then raised his head and opened his eyes. The cairn where they had buried Zeks was only a few meters away. He swallowed, forcing himself not to cry. He'd done a lot too much of that already, and Zeks had told him to be strong. It was the only thing he had left, now, this promise. He had to grow his heart stronger, as big and lively as his mother's had been.
He heard footsteps coming from his side, and Creed's animosity rose to a tangible level.
"It's no use. No matter what spell or magnus I use, there's no undoing the curse."
Shing stood, looking at him. Hisui was still tired from the fight, and angry.
"What exactly happened?"
"Her magic is sealed, that's what happened. There's something in that bastard's darkness that binds to it and keeps it blocked."
"I might be able to wear it down over time, but right now…" Kohak appeared behind her brother, looking sad and worried. "I guess we have no choice but to move forwards in the meantime. We can't stay here doing nothing while people are losing their hearts."
"Losing their hearts? Hu-"
"It's your fault you idiot!"
He barely had time to see Hisui's fist flying at him. He flinched and felt the hit to his temple, was pushed a couple of steps back, hitting the rock wall.
He felt anger that wasn't his rise again, and blinked to clear his vision.
He hit you!
I know. Just… calm down. I'm sure he has a reason. He's right anyway.
"Hisui, stop!" Kohak grabbed her brother by the arm, stopping the second blow.
Creed was seething, but none of his power flowing out. Shing relaxed slightly and stared at Hisui.
"'Sorry' isn't gonna make you get away with it, you bastard! Why did you go back? We'd have gotten away without you! Now Kohak's magic is blocked, and maybe her intuition too!"
"I couldn't leave Grandpa alone! I had to go back!"
"And what good did it do? He's dead anyway!"
Shing gasped, and Hisui winced, noticing he'd gone too far. Kohak drew him further away, frowning.
"I would have gone back myself anyway. Zeks saved us, I couldn't just run and let him fight alone."
Hisui kept glaring at him. Shing looked down.
"I'm sorry. I know it's my fault. I'll…" he searched for a way to make it up to them. Catching sight of his grandfather's grave, he made up his mind.
He didn't have anything left here, anyway.
"I'll go with you guys. I'll help you and fight in Kohak's place until she recovers."
What? Shing, you can't be serious!
Hisui just stared at him, shocked.
"You think we're just gonna trust you?"
"I trust him."
Kohak stepped forwards, putting her hand on Shing's shoulder.
"He's already helped us, and he can fight. We need all the help we can get, especially now. And we don't have any time to lose."
He tried to smile, grateful.
Why are you going with them? We have to hide from that bitch, not follow those she's after!
It's my fault she got hurt!
It's not! That idiot girl followed you of her own accord. It's not like you needed her protection. I'd have taken care of you.
She couldn't know that. And besides… I want to help them. And I can't stay here. Where do you want us to go? Nashira? Everybody knows me there. I don't even know the way to Sheliak, I haven't gone since I was a small child.
Hisui huffed, cutting their conversation short.
"All right. You'd better make yourself useful. But before that…"
He stepped closer, and Shing swallowed. Hisui closed the distance between them, grabbing his jacket without jerking on it.
"I believe you have something to explain, boy. The sorceress called you a spiriter."
Shing's blood went cold.
It was too much, she decided. Shing had just fought a hard battle, lost his grandfather, and she knew he'd hit his head several times and that needed to be looked at. He wasn't ready to discuss this, and could tell them later when he'd calmed down. She was pretty sure she knew already, anyway. Zeks had seemed very eager to get this Creed person's promise.
She was about to tell Hisui off again when Shing looked down and spoke.
"Yeah… I'm a spiriter. That's his power you saw earlier. I can't do magic."
"And you were planning to tell us this when?"
"We were looking for Grandpa! There were other things to do."
"And that spirit of yours doesn't even introduce himself? So polite."
"He's…" Shing seemed to hesitate for a second. "He's shy. He doesn't like talking to other people. So generally I just don't mention him, so he doesn't have to talk with them."
There was more to it, she knew it. When Hisui had hit him he had merely been surprised. It was only a second later that he had been afraid.
She wondered if her brother was aware of just how dangerous it was to threaten Shing.
"Shy? What kind of excuse is that?"
She stepped in front of him, pushing him a bit to the side.
"Creed, is that right? I'm sorry. It's my fault that Shing got dragged into this. But he wants to help us, so… will you help him in turn?"
She watched Shing's face closely. At first he was mostly surprised, but then he winced. Finally he seemed to relax.
"He said he will."
There was probably more to it again, but she let it drop. In their situation, it was better to accept what was given and not try to delve too deep. They needed to move on, and they needed most of all to get out of there in case the woman Shing and Creed had beaten was still alive and came back.
"Thank you. Then it's settled. Right, Hisui?"
Hisui sighed. She had won, for now at least. He would probably argue later.
"Right, right. Don't get in the way, boy."
She smiled to him, taking his hand for a few seconds while Hisui was walking away.
"Welcome to our group, Shing! So, do you know the way to the next town?"