Chapter 65 – Just the Two of Us

It took some time, but the white cat finally tracked down her target. After fighting her base feline urges, getting swatted away by merchants, dealing with large crowds of bystanders, and contending with a trio of punk alley cats, Klavdia Orlova's search finally reached its end point.

Following the scent of Sol, the white cat ran along a trail away from town and into the woods, where their cabin resided. Before she could get there, her nose sent her to a small clearing by the river. She noticed a large red and white-striped blanket laying on the grass with a picnic basket and a tea set. Klavdia approached the teacups, recognizing a peculiar scent. One of them was full, while the other was empty. The cat's heart sank. Which could only mean one thing…

Sol had been poisoned. Blair tricked him.

"Oh, gods…no…where did they…?!"

Panic spreading through her body, the cat began to sniff around the picnic area. She needed to connect the scent to somewhere. Where could they have gone? She had to hurry! Thankfully, Sol's scent returned. She followed it again, away from the river and traveled deeper into the woods. She ran and ran and ran as fast as her little paws could carry her.

"Hang in there, Sol! I'm coming for you!"

The scent ended at the one place she didn't expect: their cabin. The same cabin where Klavdia and Sol took refuge.

Klavdia swallowed hard. What would she find in there? Was she already too late? Her feet kept going without her consent as she climbed the wall and peeked in the window.

Sol lay unconscious on the wooden floor, arms and legs splayed with ropes tying him down. There was a long, slender piece of paper was plastered on his forehead with illegible calligraphy written in black ink. Candles circled around him as Blair lit the last one below Sol's feet. What kind of ritual was this? How could Klavdia stop it?

"I won't let her lay a finger on him! She's going to regret the day she stormed into OUR cabin!"

She jumped off the wall and frantically searched for anything that can help her get inside the cabin. There must've been some way to break in and rescue her partner. Just then, a solution was found when she noticed a big tree. It was risky, but she could worry about the injuries later. Her dearest friend's wellbeing was at stake, and she wasn't going to give him up so easily. So, she climbed up the tree, and lined herself to the window carefully. She jumped on top of a long branch and began to jump on it like a trampoline. Once the white cat gained enough momentum, she jumped on the branch one last time, glided towards the window and…

CRASH!

Glass shattered everywhere as a white ball of fur zipped through the air and landed on top of Blair's face, interrupting her incantation. Both cat and girl shrieked as they struggled against each other. Klavdia extended her claws and took a swipe at the girl's eyes. The scratching cut deep into flesh, earning a pained scream from the cultist. Soon enough, the cat was grabbed by the neck and tossed aside like a football. Klavdia's back slammed against the wall as she landed with a grunt. Using her magic, Blair nursed her bleeding eyes back to health. Her vision came back, revealing the cat standing in front of Sol, protectively as it hissed.

"You disgusting little beast! You followed us here after all, huh? What a nuisance. Should've turned you into a snail instead."

"You're damn right, I followed you here! You weren't going to take Sol from me that easily!"

The snow-white feline caterwauled before charging towards the witch. She may not be in her prime now, but that didn't mean she wasn't going to put up a fight. She tried to scratch at the girl, but the cultist kicked her away. Klavdia gained her footing on the floor and jumped at Blair again, only to get swatted away like an annoying fly.

"Stupid pest. Can't you see the odds are stacked against you?"

Again, the cat charged forward only to get slapped across the face. Yet, still, Klavdia fought on. The unamused Blair kicked her much harder than before. When she tried to get back up, Blair kicked her yet again.

"Knock it off, already!" Blair harshly chided. "What do you hope to accomplish in that form?! You've lost the moment you were cursed. Besides, your friend is in good hands. With him at our side, we can accomplish so much more for the All-Father's sake."

The weakened cat shook itself off and growled at the witch, paying no mind to her taunting. As long as she still had a fighting chance, she would keep at her, odds be damned. When her enemy turned her back on her to return to her ritual, the cat took her chance to strike. She arched her back and approached her slowly. Blair clasped her hands together as she continued murmuring,

"I can't trust that this boy will come back with me willingly. Just to be safe, I'll need to use a mind control ring on him. He will be my pet until we return to the stronghold."

Just then, she thrust both hands together and electric sparks transferred from her palms onto Sol's head. He screamed suddenly in pain and agony, and his body convulsed violently, struggling to break free.

Klavdia's blood boiled. Enough was enough. She would not lose Sol. Not to anybody, least of all Blair. Suddenly, a potent surge of energy spread through Klavdia's veins, and her fierce determination buoyed. With renewed strength, the white feline charged forward. Just as she leaped out to her, smoke and stars swirled around her body as she finally shouted at the witch,

"GET YOUR HANDS OFF HIM!"

Startled, Blair turned around only to be greeted by a hard punch to the face by a white-haired, purple-eyed girl, sending her flying into a wooden table. While Blair groaned and writhed, taken by surprise, Klavdia panted heavily as she stood on her two feet. Surprised, she examined herself. She had her human body again, as if the spell never happened. The only thing that was missing…were her clothes, which she quickly realized when her eyes lowered.

Even though Sol was still knocked out, Klavdia blushed heavily and covered herself out of instinct. She quickly found the same white dress, stockings, and black silver-buckled shoes left behind during the transformation and went to dressing herself while Blair slowly stood up.

"Impossible! How did you revert back?"

"Your guess is as good as mine," Klavdia panted, regaining her axe from the wooden floor. "Perhaps people truly are capable of crazy things, especially when they're in love."

"Well, isn't that sweet. Makes me want to puke!"

"Then you'll never understand the lengths one will go to protect what's dear to them."

"I understand that your slayer kind have been a thorn in our side for too damn long! You stand in the way of the resurrection of our beloved God."

"And that's why you betrayed us?" Klavdia challenged. "Because we were trying to save people? Is that why you took advantage of Sol's kindness? Of Lulu and Joyce's hospitality?" The grip on her battle axe tightened. "They actually believed you, you know. Sol thought you were being sincere. He even said you were brave for defecting from the cult."

Blair laughed long and loud in response.

"And he fell for my ruse easily. Like bees to the honey! I could totally tell he was sheltered."

"All he wanted was to be your friend, Blair!" Klavdia insisted. "Even when I suspected you of foul play, he supported you every step of the way, because that's the kind of man he is!"

"What is a man?!" Blair growled, manifesting her black lance. "Just a worthless, miserable little pile of secrets, that's what! I'm done with idle chatter! Come at me!"

Klavdia sighed deeply, expecting this. Of course, it was pointless to get through to a devout zealot. As much as she hated resorting to violence, now wasn't the time to be picky. Sol would be certainly cross with her after this.

"Then you've left me no choice…"

With fiery gusto, Klavdia swung at Blair's head, but she jumped away. Blair hurled her spear towards Klavdia, aiming at the girl's heart. The Slayer blocked the thrust with the flat of her axe with a loud clang and moved to riposte, but the witch opened her palms and summoned several balls of ice, tossing them at the teenager, who gracefully dodged with a gliding sidestep. She leaped toward Blair, spinning like a discus. With a shout of effort, Klavdia swung her axe downwards. However, Blair caught the blade in-between her hands and pulled Klavdia close, for a melee attack. She slammed her palm into Klavdia's stomach, and fire burst forth, blasting the slayer against the wall, hard. Despite her injury, despite all the hardship she had endured up to now, Klavdia stood back on her feet, unyielding.

"So, Klavdia," Blair taunted, "was it fun being a stray for two days? Did Sol walk you around the park? Did he feed you? Scratch you in all the right places?"

"How dare…!?" Klavdia shouted, flustered. "That's none of your damn business, you witch!"

"How typical. Even after admitting your feelings, you barely do anything with him."

"I might have if you hadn't barged back into our lives!"

"Oh, dear, you're right." Blair quipped, hand to her chest, feigning regret. "I should've waited outside until you two were finished. My sincere apologies~!"

Determination shone through Klavdia's lilac eyes. Blair glided through the air with a wicked smirk as she attempted to slam Klavdia back against the wall, but the slayer jumped into the air above her and wrapped her arm around her opponent's. As the cultist slowed, the other teenager positioned her feet on the wall behind her and pushed off, flipping herself over Blair and tossing the witch across the floor. Blair landed on her feet.

"What's the matter?" Klavdia taunted. "Giving up already?" Blair scoffed.

"It'll take more than that to beat me! I came here with a job to do, after all."

Despite being fully aware of the witch's readiness, Klavdia was hesitant to continue the battle. Even when she had her suspicions the first time they met, she had a tiny ounce of hope that the bespectacled girl truly was an ally. Sol's refusal to fight her was evident enough that he still cared for her. He still wanted Bree to fight for their side. He still wanted to be her friend.

"Stop this madness, Blair. It's not too late. You can still atone if you surrender peacefully."

"In your dreams!" the witch hissed. "As if I would ever betray my people!"

"And what have the Children of the Dark done for you?"

"They gave me freedom. Hope. A reason to live! If not for them, I would've been at the mercy of those revolting pigs at the foster home. They experimented on us and locked us up like animals! The Children of the Dark put a stop to all of that. For that, I am in their debt. They wanted to help me!"

"And you're repaying them by attacking villages and abducting children?" Klavdia questioned, incredulous. "Can't you see how corrupt that is?!"

"The All-Father wishes it! He wants all his children to flourish. We are trying to secure a future for them!"

"Well, good for you. But guess what? That's why Slayers exist! It's because misguided fools like you wreak havoc for the wrong reasons."

"Shut the fuck up, bitch! All you talk about is right and wrong. We are doing this for the GREATER GOOD!"

Reclaiming her weapon, Blair glided across the room, while Klavdia charged to meet her with her axe. They clashed in the center of the cabin, practically standing over Sol's still-unconscious form. Spear and axe collided with metal singing of a tale of rage, love, and misguided loyalty.

Klavdia slashed at Blair's light blue dress, heavily scratching her leg. Blair stumbled, stunned from the wound, allowing Klavdia to slam her elbow into her opponent's abdomen and pushed her over. As the witch careened backwards, Klavdia followed up with a punch in the eye. Then another punch. And another. And another. At last, Blair caught her hand in time, and a black lance pierced through Klavdia's side, earning a cry of surprise and pain.

Before she could figure out what had happened, Blair flung the slayer like a ragdoll and manifested dozens of knives to pin the girl down on the wall.

"No more games! I'm ending this, here and now!"

She summoned an energy ball from her hand, growing from the size of a marble to a soccer ball within seconds.

The white-haired warrior watched in horror of the magical bomb about to explode. She struggled against the vice restraint of the knives. No, it couldn't end like this! Not when she finally gathered the strength to tell Sol her true feelings!

Just then, something stirred from within the unconscious Sol.

Except, it wasn't Sol.

He opened his eyes, revealing glowing orange orbs. The same flaming glare whenever he entered that form. The form that he kept hidden until now. Instantly, he broke the ropes binding his hands and feet apart and ripped off the charm stuck on his forehead. Klavdia noticed the half shirtless boy slowly advancing to them.

"Sol, no! Get back!"

Suddenly, his body was engulfed in a swirling dark aura. His hair blasted upwards, as if blown by a hurricane. Wordlessly, he zipped through the air, heading straight towards Blair, who turned around too late. She tried to drop the bomb on him, but he swatted it away like an errant mosquito. The large ball was sent flying into the celling, creating a gaping hole in its wake. Before Blair could do anything else, Sol grabbed her arm still and swung his free hand in a punch, breaking it instantly. Blair screamed in agony. She tried to kick at the islander. Instead, Sol broke her leg in the same quick fashion, as easily as one would a stick.

Finally, he landed a powerful punch into the cultist's chest, knocking the wind out of her and sending her flying towards the wall. The knives magically disappeared as Klavdia landed on the bed, pulling out the spear stuck in her side. Sol (or whoever it was) could tell between friend and foe. Could it be that his hidden power was beneficial after all?

His demonic state left as soon as it came, and Sol collapsed on the floor with an exhausted groan. With her half-demon body instantly healed from her injuries, Klavdia raced to her partner. Much to her relief, the golden-haired lad was sleeping like a log, snoring loudly. She moved a strand of hair away from Sol's face as she smiled fondly. But before she could savor the moment, she heard a groan of pain, reminding her of the foe still facing her. Blair lay on the floor, helpless, her arm and leg broken, and her chest practically caved in from Sol's punch. She coughed out blood as it trickled down her mouth.

"Damn it all…how could this happen to me? I'm one of the twelve disciples. How could I have lost to a couple of weaklings?!"

With the battle finally over, Klavdia picked up her axe and stood over her enemy. The slayer glared daggers at the witch. Her dark, flared purple eyes flickered with vengeful scorn in the dimly lit cabin.

"Tell me, Blair: do you enjoy deceiving those who care about you? Do you enjoy working for a community that's done nothing but wipe out villages and tear families apart?"

Blair growled as a chair floated up in the air and was flung straight towards Klavdia. The half-demon, without even glancing back, sliced the chair in half easily with her axe.

"Spare me your self-righteous bullshit!" Blair snapped, mouth practically foaming in fury. "We carry out the will of the All-Father! He needs children of pure hearts to do his work and worship him with genuine love. The longer they live, their hearts and minds are tainted. And if that happens, their purity and youth fades away. We kidnap the children for their own good!"

The former princess' hand on her axe tightened. Like a lawyer in court, Blair thrusted out a shaky finger at Klavdia.

"You should be thankful that we exist! We're making the world a better—AAARRGGGHH!"

An axe severed Blair's arm. It fell off and hit the cabin floor, finger still pointed at Klavdia. Blood sprayed everywhere like some horrific fountain. The teenage witch unleashed an ear-splitting screech, unable to bear the agony. Klavdia sighed, bored of the same fanatic spiel these cultists were spewing.

"You know what? Forget it."

She walked closer to Blair and aimed her axe near her neck.

"I don't give a fuck what your justifications are. You're a broken record at this point. So, instead, you're going to tell me everything there is to know about Azazel."

Any arrogance left in the witch evaporated into the ether at that name. Blair began to shiver, whimpering. Klavdia's eyebrows furrowed slightly, confused by the reaction. Just minutes ago, the cultist was displaying formidable skills in combat. Now that she was bested, battered, and at the mercy of the half-demon girl, Blair was now a docile, trembling mess.

"Start talking!" Klavdia demanded, pointing her axe towards the cultist. "I said talk, dammit!"

"I…I can't…"

Blair shook her head, back and forth. Back and forth. Back and forth.

"I c-c-can't t-t-tell y-you…"

Blair began to sob, her whole body still shaking. No, she was no longer Blair. Instead, she was Bree again. Was the All-Father so powerful and fearsome that even his dedicated followers couldn't bring leak out information about him?

"I j-just can't tell you. I can't. I can't! I can't! I just can't!"

Klavdia stepped back, unnerved by the witch's terrified mantra as she writhed, trembled, and shook her head repeatedly. All Klavdia could smell from the witch was fear. She was trembling down to her bones, sobbing like an infant. Suddenly, out of nowhere, Blair shouted in fury as she stood on one foot. She relocated her remaining arm with a sickening crack and glared viciously at the white-haired girl. Her fingernails extended, turning longer and sharper.

"Die, Slayer filth!"

With her last ounce of strength and a guttural scream, Blair charged forward, thrusting her claw forward to slit Klavdia's throat.

"DIIIIIEEEE!"

Klavdia easily sidestepped out of the way. She gave her a chance to talk, and she just wouldn't take it. She took advantage of Sol's kindness and mercy. She spat on that kindness and tricked him. It's only fair that she paid the price for intruding into her life. Both her life and her Sol's.

Holding her axe with both hands, Klavdia swung her axe and sliced off the witch's arm. Blair collapsed on the floor, writhing in anguish over her bloody stump. But that wouldn't be enough to finish her off. Her cries had to be silenced. Forever.

Her axe dropped down and a loud thud reverberated through the cabin as a head dropped down onto the carpet floor.

Instant silence.

Klavdia panted heavily, her arms shaking and numb. She dropped the axe as the reality of her actions registered in her brain. The headless corpse was splayed on the floor. The decapitated head was a couple of feet away. She blinked, and, much to her confusion, found herself outside her childhood cottage. A different corpse lay on the ground in front of her, in a brown tunic and grey, baggy pants. Klavdia's eyes widened as she recognized the body.

"Papa…?"

The headless corpse lay in its own pool of blood. But…where was the head? Then, from the corner of her eye, she saw something else, hiding behind thick layers of grass, painted red. A head of snow-white tresses and crimson eyes that were duller than a cloudy night. Dead, lifeless eyes stared right back at lavender orbs, unblinking.

Klavdia shook her head, trying to will the image away. But instead, she was brought to her uncle's empty throne room. It was just her and a freshly decapitated corpse next to her as she held a bloody axe. The body of a rebel leader, with blonde hair and blue eyes. The head stared back at her with the same dead-eyed expression. Her mouth gaped open, as if desperate for air and clawing for the surface of water.

The girl gasped and blinked again. She was back at the cabin. Suddenly, Klavdia felt a strong burning in her throat and emptied it out of her system. Three times. Only after the third round of vomiting did Klavdia finally regain her senses and realize her deadly deed. She killed someone. Not just some demon or monster. She killed a human being. The first one in almost two years. And worse still, it was a child. A human child no older than herself. A child, just like her. But what choice did she have? She struck first, didn't she? It had to be done! She stood in the way of her love. Blair made the choice to pursue them. She drugged and threatened Sol. She picked a fight, and she paid the price for it.

Why, then, did she have to relive that memory again?! Why did one moment of self-defense lead her to going back to the worst day of her childhood? Was her past scheming to haunt her for the rest of her days? If only her father was still alive. Perhaps he would've told her that she made the right choice.

As the adrenaline in her veins receded, the half-demon girl took in her surroundings. The cabin was a complete mess now, caked in blood and guts from the floor to the ceiling. She was not much better, drenched with Blair's blood. So much blood. She suppressed the bile in her throat once more. She had to snap out of it. Sol's well-being was still at stake. He had to be treated for the poison if he was to ever wake up again. Was there still a chance to remain here? Not likely. There was a massive hole on the celling, blood splattered everywhere. Even the smell of it was still evident in Klavdia's nostrils. No. They couldn't stay here now. They had to relocate elsewhere. Where could they possibly go, Klavdia didn't know. But… if Blair was able to find them so easily…

Suddenly, Sol coughed in his sleep, alarming Klavdia. After cleaning herself up, she kicked over Blair's candles everywhere in the cabin, allowing the flames to consume everything and grow. She picked up Sol and helped him walk out as the cabin was engulfed in fire. Without looking back, Klavdia kept walking. Theirs wouldn't be an easy journey from here on out. But Klavdia hardly cared.

If they had to live the rest of their lives on the run, so be it. If it meant keeping her beloved with her and only her, she would gladly be a runaway.

»»»»»

Two hours later

The smell of cough medicine stirred Sol Nakos awake. His eyes flew open, adjusting to the intense lighting in the room.

He was no longer outside with Bree on their date. Instead, he found himself lying on a hospital bed, facing a covered window. A nurse tended to a needle under his skin. That must've been what woke him up from his strangely long slumber. The middle-aged, dark-skinned nurse was alerted by Sol's fatigued grumbles and turned to the islander, delighted.

"Well, hello there, sleepyhead," the nurse said kindly. "Good to know you're still alive."

"What…where…?" Sol eked out.

Confused and uneasy, he tried to rise from the bed. The nurse immediately pushed him back.

"Oh no you don't! You stay in bed, young man!" the nurse rebuked gently. "Your body hasn't completely healed from the poison."

"But I need to find my friend," Sol tried to protest. "Have you seen a teenage girl my age, with white hair and purple eyes?"

"Oh, yes! She brought you in here. Let me get her."

The nurse went to the door and opened it. In stepped Klavdia herself, clad in a simple long-sleeved black shirt and matching pants, hair tied in a ponytail. Quivering lavender eyes still focused on Sol, fraught with concern.

"You can speak with him, now. He's awake."

"T-thank you, ma'am. Sorry for the trouble." she said politely, her Orlovian accent slipping out a little.

The nurse pat Klavdia on the shoulder before making her way out the door to give the teenage pair some privacy. Klavdia wasted no time rushing to Sol's bed and engulfing him with a nearly bone crushing hug.

"Thank the gods you're awake! I was so worried…!"

Although he was surprised by the close contact, the islander returned the embrace regardless. Despite having appreciated the feline appearance of Klavdia, Sol was relieved to see his best friend back to normal. He chuckled lightly as he broke away from her gently.

"Sorry, but it will take more than that to get rid of me."

Klavdia took a seat next to the bed, never laying her eyes off him. Sol noticed something else, too. Her facial features weren't as youthful. She looked…exhausted. What could've happened to her between his fake date and before he woke up that made her so worn out?

"How are you feeling now?" she asked her partner.

"Well," Sol admitted, "lousy, to be honest. My body feels like jelly."

"That poison did a number on you, did it? I'm sorry I didn't show up sooner…"

"No, I brought this all on myself. I shouldn't have been so gullible. Speaking of which, where is Bree?"

Klavdia's eyes lowered to the floor. Despite her success in rescuing Sol, she had to resort to drastic measures. To do the one thing she avoided since running away from her old life in Orlov.

"She…"

Just then, the flashes came back to her again. The blood. The mayhem. Blair's head lifelessly staring right back at her. Klavdia inhaled sharply and placed a hand on top of Sol's.

"Don't worry, Sol. She's no longer a concern. She's not going to bother us anymore."

Sol's eyebrows furrowed slightly, confused.

"What do you mean?"

"I took care of her," Klavdia replied, eyes darkening. The soft red glower flashed in her orbs for a brief second.

At that chilling reply, Sol's brown orbs grew wide. Sol couldn't explain why but he felt something… sharp coming from that response.

"Klavdia, did you...?"

The Orlovian shook her head, not wanting to think any more about that brutal melee. She just wanted to return to what she had before. When she first chose to strike out on her own with Sol and leave the others behind. Before Blair barged into their cabin.

"Sol, just forget about her, please. I want us to pick up where we left off. If you still want to, I'd rather just live out my days with you. Away from the slayers, the cult, and everything else."

"Klava..."

"We don't need anyone else. I know I don't. All I need in my life is you...my love."

Sol's hand slipped out of her grip, and he offered a firm yet soft look. He wasn't going to let anything slide so easily, no matter how grateful he was to her.

"You didn't answer my question."

Klavdia sighed deeply, anticipating this. There was no use in hiding it.

"Yes, I killed her. And I don't regret it either. I had to save you."

She fully expected Sol to be horrified or angry, but much to her surprise, he seemed rather relieved. He lowered his eyes and nodded, as if realizing the solution to a complex puzzle.

"Probably for the best." Klavdia's purple orbs widened slightly.

"Really? You seemed earnest to talk her out of her schemes two days ago."

"Yeah, and look how that turned out. I was an idiot. You did the right thing, Klava."

"I wished it didn't come to that, but sometimes, Sol, we do what we must. Even if it isn't something we like."

"Oh, believe me, I've learned that the hard way, for sure. At least we're still alive."

"Da. Alive and together. And we'll always be that way. We are survivors."

Sol nodded. Indeed, they had survived trials most would never undergo. Both had saved each other's lives more times than they could count. But playing hero all the time could be draining. Perhaps Klavdia was right. Perhaps the best thing for him was to leave everything behind.

"Still…I can't believe she lied to us. I really thought she wanted to make things better."

"That's what scum do, Sol," Klavdia reasoned. "They say they want to change to make you let your guard down and stab you in the back."

Sol sighed, tiredly. He didn't see it at first, but now he did. Dawn was right. Klavdia was right. The outside world was no walk in the park. A kind soul and a brave heart wasn't enough to solve everything. Here he was, trying to improve his skills, wanting to become a stronger slayer. He wanted to work hard in his training to take on the cult. But after what he had been through these past days, he had grown weary and unsure of his path. His comrades' ambush. Dawn's sacrifice. The revelation that his trainers didn't trust him. Bree's betrayal. An eerily strange power from within him, the source of his comrades' mistrust. It was just too much to take in.

"As much as it pains me to say it," he thought aloud, ruefully, "the whole world is full of bastards like Bree. And frankly, I'm tired of those people. I'm tired of being a Slayer. I'm tired of…everything. I've had enough of putting myself out there and nearly getting killed each time. The only person in this world I know I can trust…is you, Klavdia. So…I'm ready to live a more quiet life...with just us."

At that revelation, Klavdia smiled. At least he could see reason when the writing was clearly on the wall. He was born stubborn, but not blind. At last, she had what she wanted.

"It's a relief to hear you say that Sol. Let's start over. Just the two of us. No one else."

Klavdia reasserted her grip on his hands, which only pulled her toward him gently.

"Yeah," he whispered. "No one else."

Growing bold, her lips gingerly touched his, as if afraid of what he might do. But he didn't recoil; if anything, he welcomed it.

It was the connection of a century, and nothing would interrupt them this time. Not even a devastating earthquake. Not a conniving witch. Not even the end of the world itself. Wet and dry lips pressed together, their very first kiss carving itself into their memory. Nothing else seemed to matter in that moment. It felt like an eternity before they broke apart. They were lost in silence, resting their foreheads against each other, gazing into the other's eyes. At that moment, they were one.

Suddenly, a gentle cough from the nurse shook them both from their idyllic, daydreaming state of mind.

"I hate to interrupt, but it's getting late. The patient needs his sleep."

Klavdia rose reluctantly at that news, still clinging to his hand.

"I-I understand, ma'am. Apologies..."

The two youngsters hesitated to part, but the nurse only chuckled to herself. There was nothing quite like young love.

"The patient should be fully recovered by tomorrow. You will be free to go then."

Both Sol and Klavdia's eyes instantly lit up at the news.

"R-really!?" The nurse smirked.

"Yes, really. Oh, and if you're looking to disappear for a while, I know a nice, secluded place you can go..."

»»»»»

The Next Day

A giant passenger ship loomed over both Sol and Klavdia. Painted in pristine white, the ship boasted at least 10 decks and spanned over 300 meters from bow to stern. One funnel for exhaust sat at the back, and the stern itself was almost squared off, indistinguishable from the other decks. Atop the gangplanks, crewmembers dressed in blue and white welcomed boarding passengers, and deckhands took their luggage for storage in their compartments. It was a veritable hotel on water.

Sol couldn't help but sense a case of nostalgia just from staring at the ship itself. He used to see ships like these come and go all the time on his home island. He often wondered where they were going and longed to travel among them. For the longest time, his father barred him from such things, and encouraged him to get his head out of the clouds. Yet he always returned to the sea, looking out, wondering what lay beyond the horizon.

If someone told him back then he would now be standing as a slayer, together with a former princess and demon girl, he probably would have dismissed it as a crazy story. But it was real. As real as the salty air wafting through the docks. As real as the gentle grip of Klavdia's hand in his. If this was a dream, it was one he wanted to never wake up from.

"Well, this is it," Klavdia said, adjusting her grip on her luggage. "Are you sure you still want to go, Sol?"

"It's the only place we can go," Sol reflected, somewhat forlorn. "I don't want to take my chances with Lulu or those crazy cultists. I've had my share of that."

"I think we both have…"

Klavdia glanced behind her, where a long, winding road led back to their cabin. Their now destroyed sanctuary. They were like fugitives now, running from consequences and problems neither knew nor wanted to know. But after all they had endured, all they had lost, it was better to be a hunted fugitive than to be put at the mercy of crazed demagogues and distrustful mentors. At least they could trust in each other. They could hide in each other.

Maybe the couple was just burnt out. Maybe this was a mistake. Maybe they were running from everything. But in that moment, neither of them cared. They were still human, in flesh and in mind. Their bodies were still breakable. Their spirits were still heavy with burden. They needed to replenish. To recuperate. To heal. Someday, when the time presented itself, they would return. But until that day came, it was better to remove themselves from the chaotic conflict.

"Even so," Klavdia thought aloud to herself, "I can't believe it turned out like this. If only things were different…"

"I know. But that's why we're here, right?"

Sol squeezed her hand affectionately, pulling her closer to him. Klavdia blushed but didn't retreat. Instead, she welcomed his advance openly. It was one good thing to come out of this ordeal. They were finally honest about their feelings, not just with each other, but with themselves. Perhaps that was enough.

"Right..." she said softly as they moved to the gangplanks. "To a fresh start, then."

"To a fresh start," Sol affirmed, embracing her tightly.

The ship's whistle blew, signaling its approaching departure. Sol and Klavdia purchased their tickets, dashed up the gangplank, and boarded, never looking back to the shore. They could not afford to look back. They could only keep moving forward.

With one final ring of the ship's bell, they pulled away from the docks. What lay ahead of them and over the great oceans, neither knew. But it had to be better than what they had found here. At least over there, they had each other to rely on.


Author's note: Hey everyone! It's been a long while since I made one of these, hasn't it? I just wanted to let everyone know that I will be putting this series on another indefinite hiatus for now. Much like Sol and Klavdia, I am also feeling the burnout from everything that's happened so far. And since I'll be starting school once more, I need to conserve all the energy I can for the fall semester. Of course, that won't stop me from writing completely. I'm just taking a much needed break, that's all. So, with that said, I hope you have enjoyed Slayer Edge so far. Until next time, take care!