Chapter Two: Merciless Encounter
An assassin? Surely this lunatic wasn't here to escort him to the councilman. At this hour? Unlikely a random assault, pain in his ass—this hooded hired harlot remained masked, bearing a cat skull headpiece, her face painted charcoal black. This could possibly be one of many secrets Mhalfoynt kept to himself, and evidently, kept for Cabil.
To accuse Cabil of treason—it seemed nothing this nefarious councilman did received retribution. Mhalfoynt would drive civilians into demon infested lands, but not before deceitfully starving their resources. He'd send hordes to poverty stricken natives, breaking their knees into a hopeless surrender, watching them become meals for a demonic cult. That was his little game, a game Cabil slowly discovered. He's been suspicious of the criminal councilman for as long as he was a solider, and when Mhal became wise of Cabil's reports to the King, he sought out to have him… dismembered from Aegelleon. As the snake-like weapon dangled between them, he could hear Mhalfoynt's raspy assertions of threats upon his behalf—
You know, one day, Hargann, that prying of yours will get you killed…
He tottered, but his will insisted on the flight of flame as he lifted a hand before his unsteady vision. The air thinned around him, his breaths shallow. Unable to start a spark, he dropped down to his knee, begging his body to summon up enough chi to defend himself.
"Fucking bitch…" He slurred, helplessly glaring at the rushing assassin pulling out a side dagger. Within close proximity, he greeted her in kind, rolling back against the ground before plunging a kick into her abdomen. The smooth forward motion allowed him to use momentum against her as she flew, crashing head first into the pavement behind him. He couldn't lose this slight advantage, quickly jerking at the chain and dragging her to him. With one sudden burst of energy, he propelled her off the ground and swung her into a storefront window.
The shattering debris fell on her still body as black mannequin heads rolled down the stage floor. He didn't bother approaching her, nearly draining himself from that last energy tap. Spotting the dagger she dropped across him, he took it to his belt draped under his thermal. Boldly walking away from the mess, he sighed in relief.
"Who said you can leave?"
A cold sweat slithered down his neck forcing him to turn, but before he could contort his person, a firm kick to the side of his knee accompanied by a headlock dropped him defenseless. A firm blade locked against his neck as a taunting whisper rippled through his ear, "On your knees…right where you belong…"
"Are you here to kill me, or arrest me? You can't seem to make up your mind." He jested.
"Hmm, good question. See, Mhal wants me to bring you alive. In what condition, well, that he didn't specify." She grinned, tightening her arm around his neck.
He grunted, his grip around her arm pulling harder, "Seems like you want me all to yourself."
"Perhaps. I mean, it's not every day a hit by the High Order falls on a militant's head. I guess you can say I'm being a little greedy with the opportunity, but could you really blame me? You're one hell of a prize, waiting to be perched perfectly on my mantel like a proud trophy." She pressed the blade on his flesh, the warm liquid oozing to her excitement.
"Well aren't you the sadistic little cunt?" Cabil snatched the dagger tucked against his belt before an unexpected deliverance rescued his hide. It flew over his head so swiftly; a zipping white light glinted before her blood smacked his lips.
"… Priest?" Cabil croaked, looking up to him wide-eyed, absolutely stunned at the presentation he witnessed. Dressed in clerical garments, yet wielding a long blade katana? He turned to Narus' focus; the assassin across them stood there shaken, utterly distraught by the sudden assault. Streaking her fingers down the cheek of her mask, red coated her gloves.
"Coward!" She cried out, leaping like a tiger on the street light and into the darkness atop the brick dwelling.
"She's gone." Narus reassured.
"I didn't need your help."
Narus enclosed his weapon in its scabbard and knelt by Cabil's side, cradling his back, "This is no time to be stubborn. Allow me to heal you."
"Just—sht!" His hands dropped as he attempted to buck upward, his blood stamping the ground beneath him. "Heal?" Only a scarce number of people in all of Khorgathe had the rare ability to heal wounds, nevertheless, this power does suit his title. "My… apartment isn't too far from here… just take me there…" He panted, body growing weary. His vision hazed as the streetlights shimmered like starbursts in an azure abyss. "UGH!" His screams penetrated the streets and into the homes of many, triggering some folks to peep between the crevices of their boarded windows. It was like Narus brought him back to life and killed him all at once, watching as the priest completely detach his innards from the hooks. His body now seized by shock, his entire person began to tremble, eyes rolling to the back of his head. Gurgling blood, he muffled, "2889 Lanyier Blvd, se—sev-en…B, tell her—"
Ten minutes to twelve. The antique wall clock ominously ticked as seconds turned into minutes, minutes to hours. Syreene sunk her head back into the cushion as she stared down the front door. Her mind started to wander; still no sign of him. Letting out a bothered sigh, her eyes strolled across the apartment— a warm nuance of oriental simplicity.
Across the elevated living room, she watched as the dinner she prepared continue to sit there and cool on the black coffee table surrounded by four bamboo floor cushions. Beyond the table, a wide mahogany sliding screen door to the apartment balcony. Every weekend morning, Cabil would sit out there before sunrise, among her little garden in the sky, and stay in solitude. Syreene would always study him, tucked behind the screen door stalking, wondering what her brother was musing. When he finished, a hot cup of tea would be sitting on the kitchen island, and she'd be perched on the barstool with a warm smile on her face. He'd snicker, and she'd answer, Morning big brother! Her dear, big brother…
Her hand folded, slamming the book to a close while she got off the couch and looked outside the cloudy window panel. It started to pour. She settled the book on the shelf as a sudden knocking scurried her bare feet to the front door.
She swung the door open, hand already angrily pinned to her side. "Took you long enou—" She gasped, "Cabil?!" Her broken voice cried out, her bloody unconscious brother slouched over a man's shoulder. She looked up, studying the stranger bewilderingly...
A short silence stood between them, a shared sensation of déjà vu. Left mouth agape, Syreene soaked in his appearance, from his long dirty blond hair to his towering persona. Her panic resigned to confusion. She stood there gawking at him, and he the same as her cheeks reddened in hue. "Oh, goodness. I'm so sorry." She stepped to the side, "Please come in."
He bowed his head respectfully, "Oh, uhm, thank you!"
"Just rest him on the couch, I'll get some towels." She closed the door behind them before rushing into the bathroom and out with a stack of fresh towels along with a bucket of lukewarm water. She kept them by her side while the man relaxed Cabil's head on the black leather armrest. Swinging a towel over her shoulder, she later removed Cabil's thermal overhead. She gave him a once over, not finding any signs of injuries on his torso. So why was he so bloody? Maybe his victim's blood?
"He was attacked by someone in black." He said to her, "She wore a skull mask. I managed to thwart her, but, not before she impaled Cabil." Her face sunk to a pale terror, and he'd quickly reassure her, "But with all that I could conjure, I healed him. The wound from his chest sealed nicely, but he did lose a lot of blood, leaving him in this crude predicament. He just needs rest and nurturing. Cabil should be fine in no time under your care."
"Thank you for this. Really." She smiled.
"You need not thank me, Syreene." He flustered, almost choking on his words after he recognized his slip up. Quickly redeeming himself, he offered his hand in greeting, "I'm Father Narus Benoventeg. It's a pleasure meeting you."
"Father…Narus?" Puzzled, she focused on him. Earlier she had noticed the blade he carried on his back, the priestly garments, but the two features were so far off that she didn't challenge her assumptions. She leaned into him, her interest peaked, "From Dovve District? The clergyman with whom my brother had an appointment with?" She took his hand, "A paladin! How fortunate!"
"Heh, more or less. I carry many titles."
Syreene aided him in cleansing Cabil the best she could in his senseless state. Cabil wasn't particularly heavy, weighing just under 160 lbs at 5'10, but he was still unconscious. The bucket water to her feet foamed wash-red as she squeezed out the towel, standing herself to Narus. "Seems like you need to wash up yourself." She snickered. "You can use the masterbath in my room. I'll lay out some clothes for you on the bed. I'm sure my brother wouldn't mind you borrowing his stuff after you practically saved his life." She sighed, "I just… feel like this was all my fault. If I hadn't forced him to meet with you so late, he wouldn't have gotten hurt."
She looked up to him with his hand on her shoulder, "Don't burden yourself with guilt. Just be grateful he had a guardian angel watching his back tonight."
"I'm a little surprised actually. Cabil never brings anyone home for dinner. I'm glad you were there with him. Cabil usually carries his own around these streets; I rarely see him come back home this beaten up."
"Heh, well, ehm—yes. Even he can drop his guard sometimes. He is only human, after all." He smirked, "Don't worry. As long as you can keep him out of trouble, he will heal just fine."
"I'm going to toss these in the wash. Hurry back and join me for dinner, okay?" When they parted ways, she took the towels and Cabil's top into the washer and started a cycle. In her brother's room, she rummaged through his dresser and pulled out a fresh set of clothes for her guest—a long-sleeved black V neck shirt and grey fleece pants. As the long legs dangled over her arm, a set of buds dropped to the floor. She scoffed, another one of his secret hiding places exposed. Syreene tossed them out of the window before making her way down the hall.
Slipping through the door ajar, she tip toed on the wooden maple floor and into the depth of her bedroom, leaving the folded clothes on the bed. Before she turned to exit, her little elf ears picked up the soft steps of Narus preparing to step into the shower. He mustn't have gotten in yet, given the absence of running water. Then suddenly, butterflies. Her stomach turned to the sound of the doorknob clicking. Her face sunk, eyes engaged with both shame and excitement. As she stood there utterly frozen in her childish tip-toeing gesture, the topless priest walked out of her bathroom draped with a mere towel around his waist.
'Holy crab cakes, he's…'
Mesmerized—so much so that she illuminated his 'godly' wet presence as the steamy heat bathed his lean muscular physique. With that, he provoked her squeaky cry, and immediately pardoned herself for such a silly act while she tried to recompose herself. He too jumped, startled by her comical girly scream. "Oh! Oh, mmmyyy... I mean!" She sharply veered her person, giving him her back politely.
"My apologies! I didn't know you were in here."
"My fault! Heh heh. I didn't know you could get naked so fast." Her hands flew over her hasty lips, 'Crap, did I just say that?!'
"HEY!" Cabil slammed the door open, "Are you hitting on my sister, priest?!"
"Cabil!" Syreene rushed to her limping brother.
He jumped, "No! I would never—"
"—Cover yourself up, clergyman!" Cabil hissed.
Syreene interjected as she pushed them both out the door. "Sooo so sorry that I totally accidently walked in on you like that! No harm done, yes? We will give you some privacy now, Narus. Please excuse us!" She closed the door behind her, letting out a heavy sigh. "Why are you even up? You should be resting!" Syreene grunted under her breath.
"Oh, did I interrupt your gawk fest?"
She blushed, biting her lip. "I was not gawking at him!" She shushed her loud mouth with a finger, her eyes zipping side to side inconspicuously. Cabil huffed, her cue to exit into the kitchen. "Hey, how about I warm you up some dinner?" Her voice lightened.
"I'm not hungry."
"Cabil, you haven't eaten since morning. At least let me get you som—"
He enclosed himself in his room, the dull lights beneath his door suddenly snuffed out. She stopped preparing a plate for him as Narus approached.
"My apologies. I truly didn't mean to—"
"—Don't worry about it!" She flickered her hand, "Please sit. I'll warm you up a plate."
"Don't bother yourself with heating my meal." He smiled, "I'm used to non-traditional dining habits." He pulled out his hand, a sign for her to sit across him.
"Well I guess it isn't that cold." She shyly replied while she took a seat. "Please, help yourself. I hope it's not too spicy. Cabil and I love spicy food." Syreene fixed herself a plate, scanning over the assortment; grilled salmon, hot dumplings, steamed cabbage, white rice...
"Mmm, simply delicious! It is spicier than I'm used to, but tasty, no doubt."
She giggled as he stuffed his face, amused by the delighted boyish expression on him. She asked him about sword wielding, his healing skills, and his favorite place in Dovve. While they continued to exchange light pleasantries, Syreene affixed her eyes sternly to Narus, "Do you know who she was?" She asked as he placed the glass of juice on the table. "The bitch who attacked my brother."
"No, I—" He furrowed his brows, "I don't know, sadly. To be honest, I now question whether she was a demon. She was quick, but not inhumanly so."
"Why didn't you kill her?"
Narus nearly choked on his meal, dropping the fork to his plate and taking a napkin to his lips. "I couldn't take her life. She escaped us. Even if I had the opportunity, I wouldn't."
"You know, my biological parents were killed. I'm not sure whether or not the damned took their life, but I do know they were taken from me prematurely. I don't remember much; I was very young at the time. That night… such a blur, dark… cold… could almost taste the blood in my mouth. I could still hear his voice, not sure what he said, but… I could hear it." Distraught, she idly ran her fork against the empty plate, "It was daunting… this vicious figure hovering over my father, taking his life right before me…"
The sudden harsh grazing between porcelain and stainless steel triggered his delayed response, "I'm sorry…"
She pulled herself from her dark memories, turning her attention to him, "So am I. I vowed to find him, wherever he is. I'm going to become stronger and avenge my parents. I may not be gifted like my brother, but this is what I live for now. Murderers shouldn't be given a chance to live in peace while innocents die…" She stopped herself, "Narus, I'm forever in your debt. All I have now is Cabil, and I don't know what I would have done if he…" Suppressing her tears, she grabbed both their empty plates to the sink. "Please… stay the night."
A static resonance, a film of coarse black over unenclosed walls—the hollow darkness immersed him as he sat there, wrists and ankles bound to the extremities of a wooden chair. With the seam of unconsciousness disturbed by a slamming metal door, he opened his eyes, the blur clearing to reveal his inescapable dilemma. Sweat streamed down his fore, the heat around him rising. His head slung over his naked torso as he looked down to his bare feet. Mouth dry, his attempt in talking translated into a cough. And as he coughed, his chest burned, almost as if his wounds tore open. The echo of approaching footsteps triggered a vigilant Cabil as he writhed and bucked against the rope, jerking his head back to plunge himself backward.
"Nah, ugh, ah…" She retorted, pushing the back of the chair and leveling Cabil. "We can't have you breaking out, now, can we?" She taunted as she tucked her head over his shoulder, turning to the most haunted expression on his face.
"You little bitch!" He cringed, his chest heaving in and out from the uproar of pain in his chest.
"Hurts, doesn't it?" She withdrew from him, "I mean, how can you be an elite and get caught off guard like that?" She chuckled, "God, it's almost embarrassing."
"What the hell is this?!" Anxiety pumped through his fired veins. His eyes zipped to and fro, studying the room in its immenseness. Nothing, just a blackened vastness with no end. Burn through it all, he thought, as he tightened his fists, summoning its power, but no flame. Inches away from madness, he strained every muscle in his body to break free, but the pain in his chest became too excruciating to bare.
"My, aren't we sinking to an all-time low? The all mighty Hargann has fallen! Well, how about we pick you up? Reel you in from your pathetic state of succumbence…"
He tightened, bracing for an inevitable impact as he suddenly felt a blade plunge between his shoulder blades. A grunt broke through his gritted teeth, and he would give his tormentor nothing more as he jolted his body forward.
"How can you protect your dear sister if you can't even protect yourself?" Another dagger embedded itself, piercing his tanned flesh once more.
"Fuck you…" He shuddered.
"So sad… pity really. You could have been an S tier solider, but now, you're an A-bsolute failure!" She stabbed. Another, and another, and another—lung collapsed, muscles torn, bones shattered. The river of red began to soak his soles upstream. Maybe this was fitting; a punishment for his weakness. Maybe it's time to let it all go, fade into the abuse, indulge in defeat. As he slipped into sweet despair, a crooked smile cracked upon his tired face, eyes heavy….
"Don't listen to her, Cabil."
He gasped, the familiar voice caressing his broken spirit into a full blown repair. His eyes widened, now on his bed sitting upright, clothed in his plaid sleeping slacks. The morning sun washed over him like a warm shower. Stretching his arm against the windowsill, he sighed, relieved in realizing it was all just a dream. His hands fell over his chest, a sudden surge of anguish corroding him as those hands were soon accompanied by hers. Her breasts cushioned on his bare back as she perched her head on the nape of his neck. "You've gone so far… done so much..." She straddled him lovingly, grazing her lips over his shoulder, her fingers combing through his tussled hair. Cabil winced, feeling her hot breath over his neck as she kissed him gently.
"Stop this…" He begged, his body crippled by her touch.
"You're not weak, Cabil... You're strong, brave…" Her compliments cleaved a complexity of raw emotion as her tongue coiled about his looped earring. Frantic, he conquered, slamming her against the bed, his grip fastened around her neck as he straddled her.
"Stop it." The depth in his voice trembled threateningly, her softened eyes never moving away from him. He absorbed her angelic yet carnal beauty; from the silky lucid lace gown dangling over her naked mound, to that fixed lustful stare. She was… tempting, tormenting, taboo…
"For once, just let out all the pent up sexual frustration." She caressed his face, "Stop resisting…"
Exposed, this wild desire left him vulnerable. A place of no return, and this, its catalyst; this sultry seductress now grazing her leg against his growing member. It hurts, this insatiable craving, this desire to drive his piece into her untouched taint, over, and over again. He could already taste her sex as she parted her legs, her blooming heat ready to be devoured. His lips stroked hers lightly, "I can't… do this. Not to you…" As he pulled his hand from her, a splatter of red tinted his fingertips—
Like a million needles on his back, he jumped up on his bed, face completely flushed. Was he… finally awake? He touched his chest—nothing. The wound, all psychological, yet very much real. He delivered his morning routine and got dressed for battle after noting the alert in his pad. As soon as he left his room, he noticed Syreene standing in the living room with a letter in hand. Cabil walked pass her for the front door.
"Well, good morning to you too, bro." Syreene called out to him. "Narus already left. Something about business in the temple. Where are you going?"
"—You're not going out to fight, are you?!" She approached him and grabbed his wrist. "You just got out of a serious injury, Cabil! They can't expect you to go into battle right now."
"Are you really? You're only human. You need to give yourself time to recuperate." He snapped, pulling his arm in sharply, thrusting her against the floor. Cabil glared at her before he turned to the door with a scornful remark,
"Hmph. You need to learn to mind your own damn business." Slamming the door behind him, he furrowed his face in fault, trying to brush off the terrified look on his sister before he left.