The Upgrade: Human 2.0

In a not too distant future a war changed the Earth forever.
On this different Earth Neida lives in a small village with her brother, Deon. When the Crimson Death attacks their village, they are forced to escape to Village Xion since the disease only attacks the mutants - in other words, Deon. Follow Neida as she fights for her brother’s life, (along with fighting the urge to kill her brother for his stupidity).
Will she prevail, perhaps even find love in unexpected places, or will she fail and pay the ultimate price?

Winner of the NaNoWriMo competition Denmark

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9. Chapter VI - Subject 256, Status: Deceased - Part II

 

They are almost at the end, and there is still no sign of Deon anywhere.

     Room 251, no Deon. Neida’s breathing is loud.

     Room 252, no Deon. This time it is not only because she is running down the hallways.

     Room 253, no bloody Deon. She is only stopping to look into small windows in the doors, which makes it possible to look into the rooms.

     Room 254, no Deon. This cannot be happening again.

     Room 255, no Deon. This cannot be happening! Deon is here, he has to be.

     Room 256, no… Deon! Neida’s breathing ceases. Deon. Through the small windows in the door, she is looking straight at Deon on a metal table.

     “Akari!” she all but yells. “He’s here! He is really here!” Immediately Akari is at her side, looking through the small windows. He looks down at the handle, and without a second thought he breaks opens the door.

     Cold. That is the first thought Neida has as they enter the room. It is not as cold as the cooler, though. Quickly, she is at her brother’s side, and upon reaching him she realizes that he is not responding to her touch.

     “Deon?” she calls him, but he does not react and his eyes are closed. “Deon!” She looks over at Akari for a split second, and then she tries to feel Deon’s pulse. His pulse is far too fast, too erratic. His skin is also warm, too warm and moist. She looks back at Akari with a pleading look.

     “What?” he asks. “What is wrong Neida?” he asks in a softer tone when he notices the scared look in her eyes. “Neida?” he asks again as he walks closer. She realizes that her eyes are filling up with tears.

     “He’s… his skin is too hot and--and his pulse is erratic,” she explains, and looks down at Deon again with concern in her eyes. She finally notices how pale he looks.

     “Hey, calm down, no panicking,” Akari says as he puts a hand on her shoulder. “We have to get him away from here, and over to Katherine--”

     “No! Not Katherine!” she interrupts. “She’ll know that we defied the General’s orders, and we’ll be thrown out of Xion.”

     “Then where are we supposed to go with a guy who has been experimented on?”

     “You… You don’t know that…” she says with wide eyes.

     “Neida, I don’t think I have to explain to you what he is doing in here.”

     “I…” she looks down at Deon and back at Akari. “We take him to the refugee camp then.”

     “What? But we don’t have any money to pay for--”

     “You found that money in the cooler, didn’t you?”

     “--nor are Deon in any shape to be working. You need to take care of him, leaving only me to make enough for us to live on. I don’t think it is very possible,” he argues.

     “So, what? You just want him to die outside Xion instead?!”

     “...mhn…” a sound catches Neida’s attention, and she looks down at Deon.

     “Deon?” she asks softly and gently shakes him as he does not respond again. “Deon!”

     “It’s no use. We have to carry him out of here, since he’s in no condition to be leaving on his own.”

     “Are you going to or am I?”

     “I sincerely don’t think you can carry him that distance,” Akari says.

     “And can you carry him?” she asks, afraid she will get a negative response.

     “What do you mean by that? Of course I can!” he says like she has hurt his manly pride.

     “Then… get going!” she commands, looking towards the door in hope that no one will suddenly appear.

     “I will, don’t worry.” With that last sentence, Akari reaches out under Deon’s knees and back and lifts him up over his shoulder. This time they only have to hide once on their way out and it was never any of the people who works here, but the General's guards. However when they reach the cooler, they see the General barking up orders to her guards.

     “Crap,” Neida whispers and voices what they both had been thinking. She looks away from the scene and to Akari. “There must be another way out.”

     “I’m sure the other way is the front door, and I don’t think that is an option either,” he says.

     “I think I saw an opening in between the walls in the hallway we just walked down. Not big, but maybe we could squeeze out?” she says and looks back at the General.

     “We will take the chance, lead the way.” In a matter of minutes they find the opening. Two meters tall, but only a couple of centimeters wide.

     “There is no way we can get through,” Akari says a little out of breath.

     “Yes we can!” Neida insists. “You go out first, then Deon and then me.”

     “And how am I supposed to get through?”

     “Just put your arms out first and pull yourself out. I can always push if you need,” she arguments. “And no witty comment!”

     “Fine… I’ll try.” He puts down Deon on the floor in a manner that Deon is sitting up against the wall. Akari then first pushes his arms through. Then the head. Then the beginning of the right side of his body.

     “I think I’m stuck,” he says after not moving for a few seconds.

     “Can’t you wiggle your way through?”

     “Does it look like I can do that?”

     “Sorry. I’ll give you a push then,” she says and starts pushing Akari though the opening.

     “Ouch,” he hisses. “You’re pushing too much.”

     “Stop being a baby and use your arms!”

     “Ouch, shit!” Akari continues to swear, as he eventually comes out on the other side of the opening.

     “See? Not so hard afterall,” she says a bit out of breath because of the pushing.

     “Just you wait till it’s your turn!” he pants in exhaustion.

     “Ha!” she exclaims. “I was the smart one! I’m the smallest and you two will widen the hole and then I can easily get out.”

     “--like we’re the only ones left,” the voice of the General sounds down the hallway.

     “No,” Neida whispers in horror and looks down the hallway. “Akari. I will now push Deon out and you will pull without any complaint. The guards are coming.” She does not wait for answer before pulling Deon up into a standing position. “Deon, this might be a bit uncomfortable,” she says to her unconscious brother. “But you have to promise me not to say anything. Please,” she pleads before she starts to push him out the opening.

     When Deon is halfway there he starts to whimper slightly. Akari is fast and puts a hand on Deon’s mouth before he can say another sound.

     “Just a little more…” Neida whispers, aware of the approaching guards. Then a slight popping sound escapes Deon’s body and he starts to stir. “What happened!” she hisses at Akari.

     “You try to pull with one hand then! I’m doing my best. You brother is still whole and alive. Now push,” Akari bites back at her. Finally Deon is out, but through the opening she can see how his face is covered in pain. Akari still holds a stern hand on his mouth and without it Deon might have screamed in pain.

     “--said she might have seen something move?” the voice of a guard says.

     “You know her. Everything needs to be checked out. Nothing left to chances,” another voice answers. Neida’s heart starts beating faster as the guards get closer to discovering her.

     “My turn, see if you could pull just a little,” Neida says in a hurry.

     “You try to pull! You do realize your brother is kinda awake and trying to fit my hold of him right?” Neida takes a deep breath before she pushes herself through the opening. Even though a sharp pain in her thigh appears she does not stop. She can see Akari on the other side, looking back and forth and watching out for any sign of trouble. Deon is laying on the ground, with Akari trying to hold a hand on Deon’s mouth, whilst Deon is groaning and stirring in pain.

     Behind her, Neida can hear the guards approaching faster, and she needs to get out fast. She places her hands on the outside of the wall and pushes with every fiber in her body. The pain in her thigh grows stronger, but she does her best to ignore it, as she needs to get out.

     “--hear it, too. Listen.” She pushes one more time and this time she is free. She feels something warm run down her leg, but she ignores it as she makes her way to Deon. One of his arms is laying limp by his side, while the rest of his body stirr in pain.

     “What is wrong with his arm!?”

     “Don’t worry, it’s just pulled out of its socket. He will be fine once we get it back in,” Akari answers in a calm tone.

     “--eneral, someone’s here!” They hear a guard yell from the hallways they just came from.

     “Well, no time now. We need to move!” Neida says and stands up. Akrai nods and rips a piece of his shirt off. He stuffs it in Deon’s mouth to prevent them from getting discovered by his noises. Afterwards, they pull Deon up from the ground together, and make their way to the refugee barracks.

 

When they finally make it to the refugee barracks, they are greeted by the sight of a u-shaped building. It is made of stones, just like the one from the walls surrounding Xion. Around the main building, there are smaller rectangle buildings, tightly packed beside each other. Some are even still being build.

     There are refugees everywhere, even outside. Some are sitting on the ground, begging. Some are up and working. A child runs past them while another one follows. Both of them laughing. It brings a small smile on Neida’s face.

     “This way,” Akari says.

     “How do you know which building we are supposed to go to?” Neida asks.

     “It might be because of the huge sign which says ‘REGISTER HERE’,” he says with a smirk. Neida does not answer and they continue walking with Deon in tow. His painful sounds have died down after they put his shoulder back in place and then they removed the cloth from his mouth.

     “Next!” a woman yells. The line moves with an even pace and soon it is their turn. “What do you three want?” the woman in charge asks annoyed when they reach her. “Is that young man dead?”

     “No! He’s my brother!” Neida says angry.

     “Well he looks dead. Pale and not moving,” the woman sneers.

     “He’s not dead!”

     “Of course not,” she rolls her eyes. “Tell me what you want before I remove you from the line.”

     “We need three beds,” Akari says, causing the woman to laugh mockingly.

     “Oh, I’m sorry. But there is only one bed available, so I can’t help you.” She grins as Neida and Akari look at each other. “Now, was that all?”

     “Are you sure there’s only one?”

     “Don’t you only need one? I mean the dead guy do not need one and then you and your sweetheart can share?”

     “He’s not dead!” Neida yells.

     “Please refrain from yelling, or I will have you forcefully removed from this line for disturbing the peace.”

     “I apologize for the outburst, but are you sure? How about only two beds then?” Akari suggests.

     “Perhaps… We have two beds…” the woman looks meaningfully at Akari. “It’s not cheap though, since there are so many who could make good use of them.”

     “I can work,” Akari says.

     “Two beds mean two meals, you are aware of this?”

     “I guess that will do, as long as we have two beds,” Neida interrupts. Akari looks at her. “We can make do.”

     “If you say so…”he mumbles.

     “Great,” the woman says. “Scan your eyes in the machine and continue along. You will be staying in B-8. Please enjoy your stay.” She smiles, but it does not seem real. Akari scan himself first, then he and Neida holds Deon’s eye open for him to scanned. He gives a protesting sound, but that is all. Neida scans her eye last before they continue along.

     The next thing they need before heading out to the barack is today's food and supplies for the beds.

     “Two beds right?” a man asks while looking down at his interactive screen.

     “Yes,” Neida answer. The man looks up with a stern expression. “Sir?”

     “Better. Here are your assigned blankest,” he says and places a pile on the table. “This is your food.” He places two boxes on the table.

     “Thank you sir,” she says and take the things from the table, leaving the task of carrying Deon to Akari alone again. He walks first out and Neida follows.

     “Hey there Missy!” a voice stops Neida in her steps. She looks back to see a guard with a smile on his lips walking towards her. She casts an eye around, but she is the only female he could call ‘missy’.

     “Me?” she asks unsure and all she wants to is for Akari to be at her side. However he has not noticed that she has been stopped by the guard and continues walking with Deon.

     “Yeah you,” the guards says when he is closer. “I overheard your troubles inside and I can help you with your problems,” he says in a raspy voice. She frowns.

     “What do you mean?”

     “I mean. I can relocate you to a better place. Single room with enough beds. No need to share with another hundred people. Peace and quiet,” he says and licks his lips.

     “Isn’t that a little over my worth? My brother cannot work, I need to take care of him and Akari is the only one who can work,” Neida asks uneasy.

     “There are other ways to pay you know,” he says. “The guards patrol for days at a time and it tends to get lonely and stressful. If you provide us with some… Special services, then you need not to work at all. A young lass like you could be… Profitable,” he says in a low voice, clearing looking anywhere else than at her face with a lustful expression.

     “I… I don’t think…”

     “Oh, come on,” the guard walks closer into her personal space. “You want to have a nice place to live, don’t you? And you won’t even have to work… Much,” he adds and grins. “An open mouth there and a spreading of legs here… Surely, it doesn’t sound like much work. At least not for you,” he says and chuckles.

     “Uhm… I really should get back to--”

     “With your face and long red hair,” he reaches out a hand to touch her hair. “I don’t think the boys have had a girl like you yet. I even think you could catch some regulars and earn a steady income. Perhaps even two at once, you can multitask right?”

     “I-I don’t think… I…” she stammers, trying to look around and spot Akari. The guard in front of her, however, steps closer and she can smell his breath as he looks down at her. His tongue wets his lips, and she tries to step back in fear.

     “Where do you think you’re going?” he asks, grabbing a hold of her wrist to prevent her from going anywhere. “I thought you wanted a nice place to live?” he laughs, suddenly pulling her along against her will and towards a gap between two buildings. She tries to pull away from him, but he is strong and she still has the blankets and food they need to survive in her hands.

     “Let go of me!” she tries to yell, but he places a hand in front of her mouth and the sound is muffled. His hand is mosity and reek of something rotten. “Stop!”

     “I do love feisty girls,” he whispers huskily into to her ear. “They are always the ones with the most energy.” In a matter of seconds, she has lost the blankets and food and she has been taken into a small building that resembles that of a bar inside. The air is heavy and thick. The men inside smile at the guard when they see them, even congratulate him and some are already asking for their turn after he has had his fun.

     “Stop…” Neida tries again, fear taking root in her body. “Please don’t…”

     “She’s already begging for it,” one of the men laughs and the others join in. “Let’s all show her a good time…” The sound of a man’s zipper is what finally sets her off. Screaming, and trying to bite the guard’s hand on her mouth, she succeeds in making him let go. Immediately, she sprints towards the door, but before she can open it, a nother guard grabs a hold of her hair and drags her back. Screaming, she tries to hit him with an elbow, but he only takes a hold of it also.

     “Let go of me!” she yells, but all she does in earning a sea of laughter.

     “She’s a fighter, all right?” they laugh. The guard holding her back with her hair, decides to let his hand wander from her elbow. While he bends down and kisses her neck, his hand wanders into her shirt and onto her breast. His tongue finds her ear, and she tries to break away, but he holds her close and pulls her hair. She lets out a painful scream, due to her hair getting pulled. He uses her scream do bury his tongue into her throat. She bites down on his tongue hard, causing him to let go of her hair and she pulls herself away. Her shirt ribs open because of his hand inside it.

     “Fucking bitch! Almost bit my tongue off!” he yells. A man whistles at the new skin available for all to see. She quickly pulls her arms around herself and takes a step back from the men. They take a step forward and they continue until she feels the wall against her back. The guard who brought her in here steps forward.

     “Well, well, well… I think you had your own fun. Biting Jeff tongue and trying to run. It’s time I had my fun,” he says and walks closer to her. He grabs her and lifts her up over his shoulder. She kicks, scream and hits him in back, but it has no effect.

     He takes her out back. Through her hair she can see more guards, however this time they do not consume alcohol to pass the time. They enjoy themselves with… Special services. He ends up with setting her down and pushing her up against the wall. He kisses her neck like the other one did, and she feels the saliva running down her back.

     Suddenly, a door opposite her breaks down, and the guard bites down, in shock, on her throat. She lets out a painful shout and tries to force him to stop biting down on her throat, and that is when she hears a familiar voice.

     “Neida!” Akari yells. She gets eye contact with him over the guard’s shoulder, and slowly the look in his eyes turn to murderous as he takes in her position and state. The other men in the room does not stop their act, and does not really seem to care about the intrusion. The guard holding her pushes her to the wall and looks around at Akari.

     “Wait for your turn!”

     “Oh, I don’t think so,” Akari hisses, walking towards both of them. The guard lets go of Neida and walks towards Akari.

     “What? You looking for a fight or something? The General will have your necks if you harm her guards!”

     “I couldn’t give a damn about the fucking General. But I think she would mind what you are doing here.”

     “What she doesn’t know--”

     “--cannot hurt her. Well, she doesn’t know what I’m about to do to you,” Akari says with a wide smile and clenches his fist before he suddenly attacks the guard. “I am going to enjoy this,” Akari grins.

     “Where is Deon?” Neida asks when they have put some distance between the men and them. “And... Thank you Akari,” she says softly. “If there was fewer of them I could have beat the crap out of them.” He found the blankets she lost, and puts one around her, but the food is gone.

     “I know you could, but the look on his face when I punched him was priceless,” he says with a wide smile. “You also gave some good punches yourself!”

     “I did, and it felt great,” she answers. “But how did you know where to find me?”

     “Oh, I have my ways,” he says and runs ahead.

     “Akari!” she yells laughing and follows him. Then he stops.

     “I tied your brother to his bed,” he says without any expression on his face. She frowns.

     “What?! He’s sick and you just tied him to a bed?!” she exclaims, but all Akari does is laugh.

     “No. Relax. When I found out you were not behind me I found someone who could keep an eye on him,” he says. “I went back and a boy said you were taken and by who. Then I found out where he took you. You know the rest.”

     “Yes, I do,” she says and shivers at the thought.

     “Are you cold? Your shirt was ripped pretty badly,” he asks concerned. She shakes her head in response. His eyes search her body, not with the lustful look like the man, but with concern and worry.

     “I’m fine Akari. I just need time to get the bastard out of my head that’s all. Tomorrow I will be great,” she says with a small smile.

     “Guess I have to work to earn you a new shirt then,” he changes the subject, but the concern still lingers in his blue eyes. She laughs at him.

     “Yes, I guess you do.”

     “Come we need to go back to your brother,” he says and starts walking again. “Then I will look at your wound on your thigh. Again.”

     “But you said you fixed it. Back when we were clear of the General,” she says confused.

     “Yeah, well… I did not have in mind you needing to fight for life and virtue,” he explains. “And do you not feel the blood running down your leg?”

     “Not… Really,” she admits. “I had other things on my mind…” They look at each other with a knowing look, and they decide not to pursue the conversation any further.

     Eventually they end up with the ones who take care of Deon, and Neida is stunned when she realizes that she knows them.

     “Alicia? Damian?” she blurts out as she gets a good look of them. They both look up at her and Akari with a not so puzzled look.

     “Neida,” Damian says, reaching out a hand again as they meet again for the second time. “I thought I might see you again,” he greets when she shakes his hand. “When this young man here asked us to take care of Deon, I knew you would not be far away. Funny, how fate works,” he laughs.

     “Yeah… Fate sure is funny…” she mumbles.

     “Huh?” Damian asks.

     “It’s nothing,” she smiles a forced smile and looks over at Alicia. “Hello again,” she greets. “This is Akari. In case you haven’t officially met,” she introduces Akari.

     “OH, we met alright. But the exchanging of names were not involved,” Alicia says. “He just showed up out of nowhere, demanded that we took care of this bo--of Deon,” she corrects herself. “We didn’t have much say in the matter.”

     “Oh, no need to be so moody, Alicia. Deon is a nice young lad, no matter how much he hides it,” Damian scolds her lightly. She merely bows her head slightly in apology, but then she looks up at Akari and smiles.

     “Now then, mind actually telling us what’s going on? I mean, the bod--Deon here isn’t exactly talking,” Alicia says. Neida glares at her slightly as she keeps hearing Alicia refer to Deon as just a body.

     “I think it’d best if we talked somewhere else,” Akari explains, looking around at all the other refugees. “Deon needs an actual bed to lay in. He’s had it rough these past few days…” Damian and Alicia eventually agree, and Akari once again picks up Deon. Neida feels the fear creeping inside once again when he does not make a sound. Not even a sound of pain.

 

Akari moves Deon into Barrack B-8 where their beds are located. Barrack B-8 has three floors with perhaps a hundred buck beds on each floor. The bunk beds fill the entire floor with less than a meter between each bed. The barrack is made of stone and it is colder inside than outside.

     People are everywhere. Old and young. They watch with worried eyes as the four of them have an unconscious body with them. Neida tries to resist the urge to yell at them angrily, as she can feel their stares prodding into them. Akari walks to their bunk bed and lays Deon on the bed at the bottom.

     Alicia and Damian have silently followed without a word, aware of the situation with Deon’s almost lifeless body.

     “Are you alright, young man?” Damian asks as Akari groans after letting go of Deon.

     “Yeah, sure,” he pants. “Just not used to carry around weights like that…” he admits sheepishly. Damian laughs softly at his response, already seeming to like him a little. Neida remembers how hostile Deon was towards them, and she almost looks away in shame when she is still presented this kindness.

     “Do you mind telling us what’s going on now?” Damian asks, curiously looking at them as Akari and Neida exchange a look.

     “Well…” Neida starts. “It hasn’t exactly been easy gaining entrance to the village…” She shifts uneasily.

     “How come?” Damian asks in confusion. “As long as you’re not carrying the Crimson Death, you are allowed entrance.”

     “Yeah… well.”

     “Don’t tell me he carries the Crimson Death?” he asks, and backs away a little along with Alicia who looks at Deon with disgust.

     “Deon was… Kinda taken when we arrived. Even now I don’t know why he was taken,” she admits. “But do you really think they would let him in at all if he had Crimson Death?” Damian studies Neida for a little while, before looking over at Deon with a contemplating look.

     “No, I suppose you’re right,” he admits. “Do you know where he was taken then?”

     “Yeah, it--”

     “--It was an unknown building where he was beaten in order to find out information about him,” Akari interrupts. Neida looks over at him, but he is not looking back at her. “He’s still recovering.”

     “Yeah,” Neida suddenly adds in. “They also gave him drugs to subdue him better,” she explains his odd behavior. “And I think he caught something. The flu or something of the like. His living condition was … Bad.”

     “Oh…” Damian looks over at Deon with sympathy. “How horrible,” he exclaims, wrinkles appearing on his forehead as he frowns. “I guess you cannot be too sure with these high tech villages,” he says absently.

     “Indeed,” Akari agrees.

     “Isn’t it about time to go?” Alicia asks. “We need to work if we want to survive for another day.”

     “Ah, I suppose you’re right,” Akari smiles. “I’m sorry, but it wasn’t really planned to meet up with you.”

     “True,” Damian says. “Do you think you’d mind meeting up again some time?” he asks Neida. “You and Deon when he gets better, of course,” he adds.

     “I suppose it couldn’t hurt to have friends,” Neida says, causing the old man to smile.

     “Excellent,” he says. “Then, we’ll be on our way. I’m sure we’ll meet again soon.” With the last sentence, Damian and Alicia walk out of the barracks. Damian turns around to wave, but Alicia could not care less.

     “Now let’s tend to that wound of yours,” Akari says just when she starts feeling a little dizzy.

     “Yeah,” she agrees a little hazily and sits down on the foot end of Deon’s bed with the blanket around her shoulders.

     “Yeah, you’ll need to stand up…” he says after she has been sitting down to catch her breath for some time.

     “What?” she asks hazily.

     “Stand up,” he commands, taking out a gaze to bind her wound. She blinks a few times before she does as he says and stands up. “Uhm, lost a little too much blood there?” he asks as she staggers.

     “Perhaps… Just fix it up and I will get better,” she mumbles. He says nothing further and sits down at where she sat previously.

     “Well, you need to lift it up if I shall tend your wound,” he says, and once again she blinks a little before lifting the middle of the blanket to the side, exposing her thighs.

     “Can I just … Lean on the bed meanwhile?” she asks.

     “Sure,” he answers as the starts working on her wound, his lips pressing tightly together. Neida does not think further of it, as she is busy keeping her balance by leaning her hands on the bed. She hisses as the old gaze is removed and her thigh along with her wound is exposed. Akari keeps a straight face as he cleans it, only occasionally looking up when she hisses too loudly in pain. In the end, she has almost leaned all the way over Akari, giving him total access to her thighs.

     “...Wha.. Are you… Pawing my s-sister?!” a hoarse voice sounds from the opposite side of the bed, causing Akari to slip up in shock and touch the wound with his hand on accident.

     “Fuck!” Neida yells in pain, the wound itching and hurting and… “D-Deon?” she asks in wonder with a hoarse voice, with only one eye open to look. “You awake?”

     “Pawing? Who’s pawing? I was just… She needed…”

     “..Someone’s hand on h-her thigh?” Deon voice gradually grows in strength as he gets angrier.

     “No, I--”

     “...Why are you… letting him touch you in an in-ina--inappropriately way?”

     “Deon! Akari was just…”

     “Touching you,” he sneers.

     “No! I was not!... Yes, but she has,” Akari tries to argue.

     “...’tis fine,” Deon mumbles. “You dun’ need to hide it… from me… just know that I-I’m gonna … skin you alive,” he threatens, and ignoring the fact that his voice does not sound threatening at all, Akari very much feels the intent behind it.

     “Seriously, we haven’t--”

     “...Haven’t fucked yet…?” Deon grins tiredly. “...I suppose that isn’t blood from having it… It popped. Guess it doesn’t ex-explains the … blood on your thighs. ‘upose you’re not… pre--pr--pregn--preggo,” he slurs.

     “Deon!” Neida yells outraged. “What’s wrong with you?!” Beside her, Akari gapes openly in shock.

     “Not...hing,” he mumbles, closing his eyes. “‘m tired. Gonna sleep…”

     “Deon?” Neida asks, coming down from the shock as he does not say anything further. “Deon?!” she asks again, almost about to walk the small step over to his side. She is stopped by Akari, however.

     “Don’t move. I still need to wrap your wound.” He does not look up at her as he says it, and his tone is unusually dark.

     “Right…” Neida mumbles, holding onto the bed tightly as he wraps it. Not another word is said between them until he is finished.

     “I’m done,” Akari mumbles, still not looking up at her. “Look, I have something I need to do… I’ll be back soon,” he explains, and runs off without explaining himself better or even give a reason for his odd behavior. She looks after him for a second, but decides it has to wait.

     She lays down beside Deon and looks to the side to look at his face. He has gotten a little more color since the last time she looked properly, but it is not a healthy one. She reaches out a hand to feel if his temperature has changed. She realizes it definitely has, but it is to the worse.

     She slowly lowers her hand and just stares at him. He is so close, and yet so far. Not even awake or healthy enough to stay conscious.

     “Oh Deon…” she mumbles. “Xion was supposed to be our salvation, not damnation.” She lays a hand on his, ignoring the scrapes on his knuckles as a sign of how he has struggled. The thought of how much he has fought again and again, only to fail, scares her. “How much have you been through just to survive… and at what cost?”

     She closes her eyes to refuse the frustrated tears from escaping, and before she knows of it, she has fallen asleep.

 

(This chapter is continued into the next)

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