“We need to talk,” were the first words out of Vex’s mouth after a relatively silent supper.
Kirin shrugged at this, but said nothing. Overhead, the three moons were all up in the sky; large white-faced Cassiopeia and her smaller blue twin Andromeda were halfway across the ocean of stars while nearer the horizon, little red Gorgythion was sullenly following his half-sisters. At the base of the cliff, the Hansui river reflected the light of the moons in uneven fractal patterns. On the rivers banks, a pair of bearlike kanetsus were curled up in a ball, head tucked away under one arm as they slept.
Vex climbed up Kirin’s boulder with deft ease, settling herself by his side with her long legs tucked away under her. Kirin shifted a little to the edge of his perch, leaning his back against the broad trunk of the tree that the boulder was propped against. His right leg dangled over the edge of the cliff and thirty feet above the river far below.
“That’s quite a view you’ve got here,” Vex said admiringly.
They sat together in silence for a few minutes, listening to the thrum of teldrean insects, the distant cry of a hunting nighthawk and the soft whispering of the forest trees as a gentle breeze passed over. Kirin stole a sidelong glance at his captain, noticing for the first time that night that she had short red hair and chemical green eyes, as well as a grim scar over her left cheek.
“You’re still in disguise.” Kirin said softly.
Vex started, one hand going up to feel her face. “You’re right.” She closed her eyes for a brief moment, and when she reopened them, they were their usual startling purple. Her hair grew longer, a silver stain spreading from the roots and drowning out the red as the hair reached waist length. The angular, scarred face was replaced by her original, softer features. “Better now?” She smiled.
Kirin grunted, then turned to look out over the expanse of forest that stretched out to fill the horizon.
Vex looked in that direction also. “I wanted to ask you-“ she began.
“About my abilities?”
“Yes, that. That time in Gorea when we fought the Luminoth Sentinel…those aerodrones…Kaliban’s men today…” She glanced sidelong at him, saw only a moody young man’s face and sighed inwardly. “It was you using that…power?”
Kirin nodded, saying nothing to the question.
“It’s not that I think you’re a freak of nature, Kirin. But-,” Vex sighed, aloud this time. “I have to keep everyone alive. It’s my responsibility as captain and a fellow shellbreaker. When you pull off stunts like that, I have to know the danger it poses to the rest of the crew.”
The young man kept his silence, and Vex reached over to lay a hand over his free left one. “Please,” she pleaded.
Kirin kept his silence for only ten seconds. “Will you tell the others?”
“Eventually, I’ll have to.” She said sadly.
Shinoda’s son nodded, as if he had been expecting that. “Very well,” he said then paused.
Vex waited with her hand still over Kirin’s.
“It’s like seeing a mirage,” the young man began slowly. “Some part of your mind knows it’s not real, but you find it hard to disbelieve your eyes. I can’t really explain how or why it works that way…but it does.”
Vex nodded encouragingly at him. “Go on.”
“I don’t have a name for it. But when it happens, everything becomes crystal clear and very slow…like watching molasses or ekto flowers growing. And I see this hazy double image of the…attacker…and the image shows me where and how the attacks are going to come. The image is clearer when the threat is something alchemic.”
“And all of a sudden I know what I have to do, how hard I have to strike, where I have cut, when to jump and why I’m being attacked…amongst other things.” Kirin shook his head, as if trying to clear his head of memories of having to use his abilities. “It’s almost as if I become another person.”
Vex said nothing to this.
“It started when I was still a kid. My stepmother used to beat me a lot anytime I made a mistake, or was too tired to do any more work. One day I broke one of her precious antiques by accident, and right before she could punish me for it, that was when this ability came to me.”