Chapter Two: Merciless Encounter
An arrest, or an assassination? Surely this hooded assailant in black wasn't here to escort him to the councilman. She remained masked, carrying a cat skull headpiece over her painted charcoal face—even so, he could still feel her cold, stinging grin greeting him as she leaped gracefully onto concrete grounds.
To accuse Cabil of treason—it seemed nothing this councilman did received retribution. A deadening silence lingered between them, soon turned by her twirling fingers around the chain linking them both as she paced forward.
"Fucking bitch." Cabil tottered, but his will insisted on the flight of flame. With his palm before his unsteady vision, the air thinned, his breaths growing shallow. Unable to start a spark, he dropped knee down, begging his body to summon up enough chi to defend himself. He grunted, hearing Mhalfoynt's raspy assertions of threats upon his behalf surge through his head,
You know, one day, Hargann, that prying of yours will get you killed…
She stopped, an air of arrogance cocking her head up, "You know, you're much cuter when bleeding to death." Her snatched tug against her weapon shook Cabil unexpectedly, but he kept his grip tight on the chains. "Too bad Mhal's gonna' nip you this time. No more free passes, sugar."
"I never asked for any passes, but this isn't about the past, now is it?" He smirked. "Mhal wants to snuff me out before his ass gets so deep in his shit tub of lies. I don't blame him, but the motherfucker could've grown a pair and tried to take me out himself."
She braced a hand over her hip, intrigued. "You have no idea what you're talking about."
"Really going to pull that blind eye shit, huh? Figured the shit show he's running is all secret, but if you spend enough time with him, he tends to slip up and boast about the little skeletons in his closet."
"You're one to talk," she retorted.
"Don't fuck around like you haven't a clue. Of the profit he's been hoarding from cults? Of the villages and cities he's been exploiting to the demonic masses for noble bonds? He's playing with innocent lives like a game of predator and prey, for his sick narcissistic gain."
She shrugged. "I don't bother myself with political affairs. As long as I get paid, I honestly couldn't care less what happens to those pathetic Gathians and their feeble minded militia." Her hand released the snake-like weapon bolted to her belt's side, swapping out an alternative. "But it was cute of you to try to coax me."
Cabil grimaced, helplessly glaring at the rushing assassin's dagger. Within close proximity, he countered, 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 pursuing 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?" Her voice was like a cold sweat slithering down his neck— before he could contort his person, he fell defenseless to a sharp kick to his knee, his head wrangled in by a headlock. With a blade drawn to his neck, she laughingly whispered, "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 in alive. In what condition, well, that he didn't specify."
He grunted, his grip around her arm rigid. "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 pierced flesh, the aura around her sky rocketing with excitement.
"Well aren't you the sadistic little cunt?" Cabil snatched the dagger tucked behind his belt just before the unexpected rescued his hide. It flew at her mask so swiftly; a zipping white light overhead as her blood smacked his lips. The striking katana was implausible, as too the cleric image standing before him.
"P… Priest?" Cabil croaked, looking up to him wide-eyed, absolutely stunned. Dressed in clerical garments, yet wielding a long blade katana?
The assassin behind him stepped back, distraught by the sudden assault. Streaking her fingers down the cheek of her cleaved mask, red coated her gloves.
"Coward!" She cried out, leaping like a tiger onto the street light and into the darkness atop the brick dwelling.
"She's gone," Narus reassured.
Cabil scoffed, "I didn't need your help."
Narus enclosed his weapon in its scabbard and took to Cabil's side. "This is no time to be stubborn. Allow me to heal you."
"Just—shit!" His hands dropped as he attempted to buck upward, 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 did suit his title. "My… apartment isn't too far from here. Just take me there…" Cabil panted, body growing weary. His vision hazed as the streetlights shimmered like star bursts in an azure abyss. Then, Narus lashed on.
With no mercy, his screams penetrated the streets, triggering some residents to peep between the crevices of their boarded windows. Helplessly he watched the priest completely detach his innards from metal, his body suddenly surrendered, seized by shock and unbridled agony. Trembling, his eyes rolled to the back of his head, and in faint, he muffled, "2889 Lanyier Blvd, se—sev-en…B, tell her—"
Midnight. The antique wall clock ominously ticked as seconds turned into minutes, minutes to hours. Syreene sunk her head back into the cushion with her book 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 continued to sit there on the short coffee table. Beyond the table and the bamboo cushions, a wide mahogany sliding screen door led 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. Withdrawing from the sofa, she looked out the cloudy window panel, sulking at the rain starting to pour. 'Why is it taking him this long to get back?' She settled the book on the shelf, a sudden knocking scurrying her bare feet to the front door— although, it wasn't like Cabil to forget his set of keys…
She swung the door open, hand already 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. Mouth agape, Syreene soaked in his appearance, from his long dirty blond hair to his towering frame. 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. "Oh, uhm, thank you!"
"Just rest him on the couch, I'll get some towels." Syreene closed the door behind them before she rushed 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. The young elfin looked him over after stripping his thermal, not finding any signs of injuries on his torso. So why was he so bloody? Maybe his victim's blood?
"He was attacked by a woman in black," the clergyman 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 quickly reassured 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."
"I appreciate this, really. Thank you." Syreene craned her head in guilt for kicking him out; if she wasn't being so pushy about him seeking guidance, this wouldn't have happened. Luckily, the rarest of people had an eye on him tonight, a healer at that.
"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 with a smile. "A paladin! How fortunate!"
"Heh, more or less. I carry many titles."
Syreene aided him in cleansing Cabil the best she could. Cabil wasn't particularly heavy, weighing just under 160 lbs at 5'10, but he was still unconscious. The bucket of water foamed red as she squeezed out the towel, finishing up. "Seems like you need to wash up yourself," she addressed Narus with a soft snicker. "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 choked. "Don't worry. As long as you can keep him out of trouble long enough, 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. Now 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 past the ajar door, her elevated senses suddenly marked her as an amateur detective, studying her own bedroom before she cartoonishly tip toed down the maple floor. Leaving the folded clothes on the bed, she turned to exit, her little elf ears picking 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 gesture, the topless priest walked out of her bathroom draped with only a mere towel around his waist.
'Holy crab cakes, he's…'
Absolutely captivating… so much so that she illuminated his godly wet presence with an arch of shimmering light as the steamy heat bathed his lean muscular physique. And like that, he provoked her squeaky cry, and she immediately pardoned herself for such a silly act, trying to recompose herself. He too jumped, startled by her comical girly scream. "Oh! Oh, mmmyyy... I mean!" She veered her person, giving him her back.
"My apologies! I didn't know you were in here," he blurted.
"My fault! Heh heh. I didn't know you could get naked so fast." Her hands quickly flew over her hasty lips, her body rigid with embarrassment.
"HEY!" Cabil slammed the door open, nearly knocking Syreene out in the process. His glaring bit at Narus, to which she turned away, hiding her guilty grin. "Are you hitting on my sister, priest?!"
"Cabil!" Syreene barked.
Narus jumped, "No! I would never—"
"—Cover yourself up, clergyman!" Cabil hissed, trying to hide his limp partly out the door.
Syreene interjected, pushing them both out of her room, "So 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!"
"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. "How embarrassing," she mumbled to herself. "Hey, how about I warm you up some dinner?" Her voice lightened, the utensils rattling as she fished down the drawer.
"I'm not hungry."
"Cabil, you haven't eaten since morning. At least let me get you som—"
Slam— He locked himself in his room, the dull lights beneath his door suddenly snuffed out. She stopped preparing a plate for him as Narus approached.
He came in with obvious hesitation, sliding a hand over his dipped head. "My apologies. I truly didn't mean to—"
"—Don't worry about it!" She reassured. "Please sit. I'll warm you up a plate."
"Don't bother yourself with heating my meal," he said, smiling. "I happen to be used to some non-traditional dining habits." He pulled out his hand, a kind gesture for her to sit across him.
"Well I guess it isn't that cold." She took to his side, clearing her voice from the not so subtle nerves. "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 a bit spicier than I'm used to, but tasty, no doubt."
She giggled as he stuffed his face, amused by his delighted boyish expression. Syreene figured it was the best time than any to break the ice, asking him about sword wielding, his healing skills, and his favorite place in Dovve. While they continued to exchange light pleasantries, she suddenly affixed her eyes sternly on 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, perhaps too quick."
"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 a cult 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… can almost taste the blood in my mouth. I can still hear his voice, not sure what he said, but I can 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 and placed them in the sink. "Please, stay the night."
In the still night, a static resonance, a film of coarse black covered 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 slipped her head over his shoulder, a poignant expression burrowed in 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?" The torturess withdrew from him, merry in step. "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, tightening his fists, summoning its power, but no flame would erupt. 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."
His body tightened, bracing for an inevitable impact as he suddenly felt a blade plunge between his shoulder blades. His body jolted forward, a grunt breaking through his gritted teeth. And he gave his tormentor nothing more, nothing to satisfy her sadistic pleasure.
"How can you protect your dear sister if you can't even protect yourself?" Another dagger embedded itself, piercing his flesh once more.
"Fuck you," he shuddered.
"So sad. Pitiful 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. He felt the river of red beginning 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 cheek on the nape of his neck. "You've gone so far, done so much." She straddled him, 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 cherry, 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, and with a heavy breath he urged himself, "I can't… do this. Not to you." As he pulled away from her, a surge of pain hunched him over and grabbed his chest, a splatter of red coating his fingertips from that once gaping wound—
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. Catching his breath, he squinted his eyes to the brightness of his room. And he'd sit there, trying to distract himself with the sound of the morning commune bubbling beyond his room walls from thoughts of her.
For fuck's sake… just one night without all of that…
He delivered his morning routine and got dressed for battle after noting the alert in his pad. As soon as he left his bedroom, he spotted Syreene standing in the living room with a letter in hand. Cabil walked over to the front door as quickly and indifferently as he could, giving her not even a passing glance. But of course, his sister wouldn't let him just waltz out the apartment without saying something.
"Well, good morning to you too, bro," Syreene called out to him with sass in her voice. "Narus already left. Something about business in the temple. Where are you going?"
Cabil gripped the door knob with a certain misguided abhorrence that forced him to keep his gait forward. Beneath his breath, he answered, "Out. Aeg—"
"—You're not going out to fight, are you?!" She cut him off, grabbing 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."
She triggered him, Cabil pulling his arm in before thrusting her against the floor. He glared her down, veering against her.
"Hmph, only human, huh? 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.