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Chapter Thirty Three

To Toke's surprise, it was nearly sundown by the time he and Inaska finally disentangled themselves from each other. The white-haired girl propped herself up on her arms and smiled at him.


“That was amazing, Toke,” she whispered. “Thank you.”


Toke blushed, but couldn't tear his eyes away from the unclothed beauty beside him. “Um, thank you too?”


She shook her head. “No, I mean it. I never thought I would get to experience... this.” She blushed too at that, but still smiled. “Being what I am...”


For a second, Toke was worried that she would start talking about her past again, and her Calix Cura scars. Her smile faltered a bit at the memories he knew must be flashing behind her eyes, but then she shook her head, grinned, and then leaned in and kissed him. Toke kissed her back, and reached up and traced his finger down her cheek, her neck, and her—


“Nuh-uh!” she said, pulling out of the kiss and playfully slapping his hand away. “We've been in here long enough.”


With that, ignoring Toke's sigh of mock disappointment, she threw the covers back and got out of his cot. Watching her saunter across the cabin to where her clothes lay on the floor, Toke could feel the heat and the hunger rising up in him yet again, despite having spent almost the entire day giving in to the demands of both.


Holy smite of smites, he thought as she dressed herself, hiding herself from his insatiable gaze  Of all the fish in the ocean, how did I get lucky enough to catch that one?


And I'm using Vlangurtian sayings again.


She was right, though. With another sigh, he got out of bed and began searching for his clothes. How many hours had they been locked in his cabin together? Six hours? Seven? The times they had passed out in between... togetherness... made telling time difficult. He doubted Treyn would have wanted him up and working after the injuries he had sustained last night—injuries he had almost forgotten about during his time with Inaska—but that didn't mean there wouldn't be questions. What had he been doing all day? Where had Inaska been? He shuddered to think what would happen if Ludsong was the one asking those questions.


Once he had retrieved his pants, he stepped up and hugged Inaska from behind. She jumped a little at his touch.  He sympathized. That ever-present nervousness was almost as close a companion to him as Zashiel was. But then it was gone, and she tilted her head back and kissed him again. Toke held her for a minute, reluctant to let her warm touch escape.


“We'll, uh,” he began, and then trailed off, his face burning.


Inaska laughed. “Yes, we'll do this again soon.”


She raised her hand, and Toke noticed something glittering in the dim light. Her mask. She brought it up toward her face with the speed of familiarity, her other hand reaching back to raise her hair so the string didn't get caught in it. Before she could put it on, though, Toke caught her by the wrist.


“You don't have to wear that, you know,” he said into her ear.


Inaska froze. “I... Yes, I do.”


“I don't care who or what you are,” Toke insisted. “And, you know...” He reached up and traced his other finger along the curve of her scars. “I actually kinda like them.”


He had felt Inaska begin to lean into his touch, but when he said that she stiffened and stepped out of his embrace. “You might not care, but I still do. I need this. I doubt I'll ever not need it.”


Looking into her eyes, Toke could see how much this pained her. At first, he'd thought she wore the mask because she liked it. He, himself, had come to think of it as her personal fashion statement. It added to her mystery, giving her allure beyond even beyond that of her natural beauty. But now that he'd gotten to know her, he was surprised by how clear it was that she hated it. The hand that held the glittering paper mask shook, like she was fighting the urge to tear it in half and throw it out the window. That mask was, he realized, a symbol of everything that had gone wrong with her life. Because of what she'd done when she was too young to understand her own actions, she couldn't set foot out her door without having to cover her face, and that was never, ever going to change.


“I- I'm sorry,” he stammered. “I didn't know.”


She had the mask on again in an instant, and then she flashed Toke a smile. “Don't worry about it. It took Daddy over a year before he stopped trying to tell me to take it off.”


Toke perked up a little at that. “The rest of the crew...”


She nodded, frowning. “They know. The fact that they haven't turned me in... I'll have to work here my whole life.”


“To make sure they don't tell anyone?”


“No. To repay them.”


Toke frowned, but couldn't think of anything to say. More and more, he was beginning to feel ashamed whenever Inaska talked about her past. Not because he'd had any part in it, but because after focusing so long on his own problems... well, they suddenly seemed trivial in comparison hers. And yet, she hadn't spent her life on the run. At least not the same way Toke planned to. She was all but trapped on this barge, but when Toke looked into her eyes he could see—behind the pain, behind the shame, behind the grief—true happiness. She was happy to work with Treyn and perform in his circus. She was glad that she had managed to find some life, any life at all, that didn't involve running from city to city, always keeping her head down, looking over her shoulder for assassins and bounty hunters.


Toke's next thought made him stand up straight with surprise. If we get married, what's going to happen? Either she'll have to run away from all this with me, or I'm going to have to...


“What's wrong?” Inaska asked, seeing the look on his face.


Toke looked at her, and realized his mind was already made up.


“Nothing,” he said with a smile. Crossing the room, he took her hand in his own. “Just wondering when we should spring the news.”


Inaska arched an eyebrow. “News?”


Toke's smile widened. “That we're getting married!”


Inaska froze, going as stiff as a board. Toke narrowed his eyes, and tightened his grip on her hand a little.


“You still want to get married, don't you?” he asked.


“Of course I do!” she exclaimed without hesitation. “I just... I have to think about it.”


This time, Toke was the one who asked, “Is something wrong?”


“No,” she answered, too quickly to be telling the truth. “This is just... it's all so much to take in. You actually love me, Toke.” Her voice cracked with emotion just saying it. “I never thought anyone would ever say that to me. I need some time to take it all in.”


As soon as you let go of her hand, she's going to run, the pessimistic voice in his head sneered. If she really loved you, she wouldn't have anything think about!


Toke fought to keep from cringing at the unwelcome voice's input. He wouldn't listen to it. Not about Inaska. If they were going to make this work, eventually he was going to have to trust her. Even so, he couldn't stop himself from squeezing her hand a little tighter.


“Take all the time you need,” he forced himself to say.


Inaska smiled at him, and leaned in to give him one last kiss.


“I need to get ready,” she said, reaching for the door.


Toke cocked his head. “Get ready for what?”


“For when we make port, silly!” she giggled. Then the smile fell from her face. “You should talk to Captain Treyn too. He'll probably want you to do Saldo Gunn at our next stop.”


Reality, which had been kind enough to leave Toke alone for the past few hours, came rushing back and slammed into him like a tidal wave. Right. He had broken Pruyal's leg, been given the lead role, and then lost the Chiyuka ointment that was his only chance of getting out of this mess. His heart sank into his stomach.


“I will,” he promised.  On a whim, he retrieved his jacket and shrugged it on. “But first Zashiel said she needed to talk to me.”


Inaska nodded, and pulled open the door. The warm, bright light from the corridor washed into his room, making Toke, who had hours ago grown accustomed to the darkness in his cabin, squint. He could hear the sounds of the evening meal line nearby. A spike of fear drove itself into his chest, and he grabbed Inaska's wrist and pulled her back inside.


“Toke, wha—” she exclaimed in surprise.


“Shh!” he told her, and stuck his head out the door. He looked left, then right, and then left again before nodding uneasily and beckoning her to come out.


“What was that?” she demanded, rubbing her wrist. “That hurt!”


Toke blushed. “Sorry. I just didn't want Ludsong seeing us coming out of there together.”


Inaska snorted at that and shook her head. “Daddy isn't as bad as you think.”


“He nearly crushed my windpipe just because you weren't on the ship!” Toke protested as they made their way down the hall. He knew she was right, though. If they got married, Ludsong was going to be his father-in-law. As terrifying as the idea was, he was just going to have to get used to him being around.


They reached the line, and said goodbye as Inaska joined the end while Toke made for the doorway onto the deck. Happy little fireflies still fluttered about in his chest when he thought about what had just happened, but they died one by one with every step he took toward the door. Once he found Zashiel, real life was going to officially begin again, with all its pains and worries.


He stepped out onto the deck, and stopped for a second to let a cool breeze wash over him. His skin was warm and sticky with sweat, and the night air felt good on it. He stood there, eyes closed, breathing deeply. In the darkness behind his eyelids, he was transported back to the night before.


“Come find me, and we'll end this.”


The old man... whoever he was... and Toke got the strangest feeling that he did know him, even if he couldn't remember anything about him... had a piece of Navras' armor. Not only that, but he knew what was happening to Toke. He knew about Toke's power surges, about the feathers he'd been growing. More importantly, he knew why.


“Come find me.”


“Something's coming,” he whispered to himself. “Something big.”


What, though? Why would the old man...


A voice seemed to whisper into Toke's head, Shen.


... why would Shen want to do this to him? Making his powers go crazy, increasing his strength, growing feathers, what was the point of it all? Toke folded his arms, groaning through his teeth. It didn't make sense. If Shen had been doing this to himself, he could understand that. But to someone else? And to Toke, of all people? He was tempted to think that Shen was simply insane, but he knew better than that. His movements were too calculated, too perfect for him to be anything but entirely sane.


He frowned. That was what he had thought about Navras too. Calm and collected in a way even Zashiel couldn't pull off, he had been the epitome of self-control even as insanity gnawed away at his mind from the inside out. It was entirely possible that Shen was insane, he supposed, but that didn't mean that he didn't have some kind of plan.


But what was it?


Toke felt himself teetering, and snapped his eyes open and righted himself at the last moment. His head spun for a few seconds.


“Smite,” he muttered, “maybe I'm more injured than I thought.”


“Are you okay?”


Toke spun around, nearly falling over again, to find Zashiel standing behind him.


“I- I'm fine,” he said, trying to pretend his stumble had been intentional by brushing nonexistent dust off his shirt. “How are you?”


Zashiel held something out to him. A canteen. “Here, drink this. You obviously need it.”


Toke hesitated, and then took the canteen and raised it to his lips. As soon as the cool water touched his tongue, he realized how parched he was and drained the entire thing in a series of long gulps. He had to gasp for air as soon as he lowered it.


“Thanks,” he said, wiping his mouth on his sleeve. “How'd you know I was dehydrated?”


Instead of answering, a knowing smirk rose to Zashiel's face. “I take it you and Inaska enjoyed your time together?”


Toke's face immediately turned a brighter red than it had ever been before. She knew? Of course she knew, he realized. He and Inaska had done it in her bedroom. In fact, that must have been why she'd left in the first place. Suddenly, the wink Zashiel had given him on the way out made far, far too much sense.


“I'm certainly not going to talk about it with you,” he snapped, trying to return his cheeks to their normal color. The words came out sharper than he intended them to, and Zashiel's smirk grew into a full sadistic smile.


“I wouldn't dream of asking. Come with me.”


She turned and started back toward the door leading inside, but Toke hesitated. “Where are we going?”


When she looked at him, all traces of humor were gone. “We have things we need to talk about.”


The look in her eye sent a chill down Toke's spine, but he followed behind her anyway. They did have things to talk about. Very important things.


To his surprise, though, instead of going through the door, Zashiel stepped up onto the wall.


“Come on,” she said. “There’s only one place on this piece of driftwood where we can get any privacy.”


Toke looked around, suddenly wary of what the crew would think if they saw him, and then shifted his gravity and scuttled up to the roof behind her. The wide, flat surface was only a quarter of the entire ship's size, but that still left more than enough room for two people looking to have a private conversation. Toke glanced backwards, down at the deck, and couldn't help but take in the swirling colorful patterns down below. At first those colors had struck him as chaotic, but after living on the ship for so long, he was able to see the patterns in them. Like a river of spilled paint, being carried by the current but somehow not mixing together. Just like the circus performers who scurried this way and that on top of it.


“Okay,” Zashiel said from behind him. “We—”


Toke raised his hand without turning around, cutting her off. “No, me first.”


Zashiel seemed caught off guard, but backed down all the same. Toke kept staring out over the circus barge for a few more seconds, thinking. He would probably only have once chance to do this. One chance to convince Zashiel to abandon their plans, scant as they were, and do something entirely different.


He took a deep breath and turned around. “Zashiel, I...” His voice trailed off.


Zashiel raised an eyebrow. “What?”


“I,” he pointed over her shoulder, “don't think he was there ten seconds ago.”


Zashiel spun around, and recoiled visibly—a rarity in and of itself—when she saw Captain Treyn sitting in the exact center of the barge's roof. He was facing their direction, but if he knew they were there, he didn't show it. On the floor—roof—in front of him sat what looked like a wine glass, filled a little more than halfway with water. He was running his finger around the rim, creating a clear, high note that stretched on and on, going up and down with each rotation of his finger.


“What's he doing?” Toke wondered, what he'd been planning to say to Zashiel already forgotten.


Zashiel shook her head instead of answering and, to Toke's surprise, began to march resolutely up to the captain.


“Uh, what are we doing?” Toke asked, catching up to her a few seconds later.


“There's something about that man I don't like,” she answered. “Something wrong.”


“Wrong how?”


Zashiel faltered, thinking. “Just... wrong. I can't explain it.” She didn't stop walking, though.


Toke grimaced. “Well, just don't do anything that's going to get us thrown off the ship, okay?”


As they drew closer, Toke began to notice something else odd about the captain: while his finger played the note on the rim of the glass, his lips were moving. He was speaking too softly for Toke to make anything out, but the gentle murmur of his voice was barely audible under the strange music of the glass. For a second Toke wondered if he was talking to them, but realized he couldn't be. His eyes were as unfocused as a blind man's, staring straight ahead but seeing nothing. He probably had no idea that Toke and Zashiel were even there.


“Hey,” Zashiel said loudly.


Treyn didn't respond. He just kept muttering to himself, his finger circling the glass over and over. Toke glanced at Zashiel, who shrugged. A small bit of concern for the captain began to worm its way into Toke's head. What if he had suffered a stroke or something up here? He wasn't a doctor, but he had heard strokes could leave people braindead. What would happen to him and Zashiel, not to mention his parents and friends, if the ship's captain were to suddenly be rendered bedridden, unable to think, move, or speak? Ludsong, as first mate, would be made captain.


“Smite,” he whispered, “we'll get thrown over in a minute!”


Zashiel cocked her head. “What's that?”


“We need to wake him up!” Toke knelt beside the catatonic captain and waved his hand in front of his face. Treyn didn't so much as blink. “Treyn? Captain Treyn, can you hear me?”


More muttering. Curious despite himself, Toke leaned in closer to see if he could make out what he was saying.


“... not coming home,” the captain said, just loud enough that Toke could barely hear him. “Still... work to...”


“What's he saying?” Zashiel asked. Her arms were folded and her voice spoke of nothing more than bored curiosity, as if she didn't care whether or not Treyn lived or died.


Toke shook his head. “I'm not sure. Something about not coming home?”


A weak chuckle came from the captain's mouth, making Toke jump, but Treyn was still as unresponsive as ever.


“Always... pleasure... you, Dad,” he said.


Toke narrowed his eyes. “I think... he thinks he's talking to his father.”


“So he's crazy after all,” Zashiel huffed, as if this was something she'd suspected all along. Truth be told, Toke wasn't sure if he was surprised or not himself.


“I'd have to be to let you two on my ship,” Treyn said.


Treyn's eyes turned to look at Toke, and Toke recoiled with a yelp.


“C- Captain!” he exclaimed. “I wasn't- We were just—”


He'd been so absorbed listening to what the captain was saying that he hadn't noticed when his finger had stopped rubbing the rim of the glass, and the sound it had made ceased. He turned to Zashiel for help, but she looked just as impassive as ever—except for the subtle quirk of her mouth that told Toke she was struggling not to burst into laughter.


Groaning and stretching, Treyn stood up. “Don't you two know it's rude to eavesdrop on another person's conversation?”


Toke looked from him to the glass that still sat on the roof in front of him. “You were... talking to someone?”


“Maybe I was,” the captain said, picking the glass up and nonchalantly dumping the water out around his feet. “Maybe I was just messing with a couple idiots who don't know how to keep their noses out of other people's business.”


Toke's face turned red, but Zashiel immediately shot back, “Or you could be insane and talking to cups.”


“Ah!” Treyn raised his finger. “But I've already acknowledged my insanity. And since I know I'm insane, there must be a reason why I'm talking to cups.”


Zashiel raised her eyebrows. “Which is?”


“None of your nul phutting business!”


He turned to leave, heading back in the direction of the ladder that would take him to his cabin.


“Aren't you going to ask us what we're doing up here?” Zashiel called after him.


Treyn waved dismissively. “As long as you don't go smashing up the roof, I couldn't care less.”


Zashiel grunted, frowning as if she had expected—or hoped—that Treyn would put up more of a fight. The captain reached the back of the ship, turned to climb down the ladder, but then stopped.


“Toke,” he yelled across the distance between them, “when you get done here, get your aft into the ring. We're making port tomorrow, and I want to put on Saldo Gunn first thing.”


Toke froze, and his face turned paler than it had when he'd nearly been kidnapped the night before. He opened his mouth, trying to force himself to say something, but his throat seemed to clench shut on itself, keeping his words trapped inside. Treyn looked at him for a few seconds, and then shrugged and went down the ladder, leaving him and Zashiel alone.


“So, what was it you wanted to talk to me about?” Zashiel asked.


What was I... oh, right! It took Toke's brain a few seconds to catch up after everything that had just happened. He didn't answer right away. He had to figure out how to say this right. One chance was probably all he would get. He wasn't Boam, though. Words didn't obey his every command the way they seemed to for his story weaving friend.


Finally, he took a deep breath. “Zashiel, I... don't want to leave the circus.”


He wasn't sure how he expected the Sorakine girl to react to this. Anger that he was changing their plans at the last minute? Disbelief that he would be willing to compromise their safety by staying in the same place for too long? He had arguments against both of those, but his stomach clenched anyway at the thought of the fight that was surely coming.


To his surprise, though, Zashiel just smirked knowingly at him again. “You really love her, don't you?”


Toke stared at her. “Am I really that transparent?”


“Maybe not to most people,” she said with a shrug. “But I can read you like a book. You want to stay part of the Seventh Swordfish so that you can marry Inaska.”


Toke hesitated, but when he looked into her eyes and couldn't find any trace of mocking, he nodded.


“What, you're not going to tell me I'm moving too fast?” he asked. “Or that I'd be putting too many people in danger?”


She shrugged again. “We’ve already been over this.  For someone else it might be, but not for you two.  It's obviously going to happen sooner or later, so you may as well do it now when times are peaceful.” She paused, then chuckled. “If someone had told me you'd be getting married not even two weeks after getting on this ship, I probably would have sunk it.”


Toke gave her a flat stare. “Well, let's all be thankful you didn't do that.”


The sun was completely below the horizon now, and the stars were coming out. Zashiel looked up at them. Her wings were the only source of light up here, but they were more than enough to see by. Toke was surprised to see that her expression was calm. Not the forced calm she usually wore, with eyes that could out-freeze a blizzard. True calm, as if there was nothing in the world she was worried about.


“We've got a good life here on the Swordfish,” Toke ventured to say. “Plenty of food, decent work...”


“And the ship's moving around so often that we'll never be in the same place more than a few days,” she finished for him. “You don't have to convince me, Toke. I agree.”


Toke jumped a little. “Y- You do?”


“Of course I do. It's common sense.” She gave him a look from the corner of her eye. “Why did you think I wouldn't?”


“Well, just because, uh...” Toke scratched his head. “We hardly ever seem to do that anymore.”


He regretted saying that as soon as it came out of his mouth. Zashiel lowered her head, her eyes immediately clouding with concern. Suddenly, the memory of stealing her Chiyuka ointment felt like a punch in the gut. With a hammer. From Ludsong.


“The longer we're together,” she said at last, “the more obvious it becomes that we're two very different people, Toke.”


Toke shook his head and forced himself to smile. “I'm not sure how you can say that after we worked together to bring down Navras.”


“Our goals and our ideals might be the same,” she said, almost whispering, “but we aren't.”


Toke narrowed his eyes. “You're not about say you need to leave, are you?”


Zashiel's eyes widened, and she spun on him as fast as if he'd slapped her. “Leave? What on Fissura would give you a stupid idea like that?”


Her words were sharp and her eyes were hard, but Toke found himself breathing a sigh of relief anyway.


“Nothing,” he said. “You were just acting funny is all.”


She stared at him for a minute, her eyes piercing him like drills made of ice, and then slowly shook her head. “I'll always be here for you, Toke. Don't ever think otherwise. I'm just saying... maybe Inaska is better for you than I am.”


Toke's hand shot out and grabbed her by the elbow. “Don't say that. Don't you ever smiting say that!”


“I am not,” she shoved him away from her, “saying we aren't still friends, you idiot! No matter what happens, that's one thing that will never change. Got it?”


Toke hesitated, then nodded.


“Good.” Zashiel folded her arms and turned the other way. “All I meant is that Inaska is special to you in a way I can never be.” She held up her hand. “No, don't even say anything! You know it's true, and there's nothing wrong with that.”




“Smite it, Toke, she's going to be your wife! I'll be your best friend, but can you honestly tell me that your best friend should be more important to you than your wife?”


Toke opened his mouth to retort, but then closed it and looked away.


“Smite,” Zashiel spat. She folded her arms again. “I didn't mean for this to turn emotional. Inaska is good for you, and you're good for her. So yes, I think we should stay on the Swordfish.”


Zashiel still had her back to him, and she jumped when he wrapped his arms around her from behind.


“Hey, what are you—”


“Thank you,” he said over her shoulder. “I thought I was going to have to fight you about this. The fact that I don't means a lot to me.”


“I know,” Zashiel replied. “I may not love you the way Inaska does, Toke, but I still care about you more than anyone else in the world. I want you to be safe, but I also want you to be happy.”


Toke wasn't sure what else to do, so he said again, “Thanks.”


“You're welcome already. Now let go! You shouldn't be hugging other women when you're about to get married.”


Toke let go and stumbled backwards like she had shocked him. “Uh, r- right.” He took a breath. “So what did you want to talk about?”


Zashiel's face, which had begun to show hints of happiness, grew cold and stony again. “That man last night. Who was he?”


Shen. Toke shivered. “I told you, I don't know. I've never seen him before. Or at least...”


“At least what?”


“At least not that I can remember. He said something just before he knocked me out, though.”


He looked up at Zashiel, and took a step back when he saw her eyes. They were bright, bright as the moon. He had always said she looked like she had a fire inside of her that made her eyes glow when she really cared about something. Lately, it seemed like that fire had been going out a lot. Being betrayed by Finch, being robbed by Toke... things like that stole her confidence, and that in turn extinguished her sense of purpose, leaving her an empty shell compared to the fearsome Sorakine warrior who had helped him save Hashira.


But now that fire was back.


“What did he say?” Her voice was soft, and yet she didn't ask, she demanded.


“He told me...” Toke closed his eyes, trying to bring back his exact words. “He told me not to forget this time, and to come find him. And then we would end this.”


“So it looks like you do know him after all,” Zashiel mused, hand on her chin.


Toke frowned, but nodded. “I guess so. I just don't remember it.”


Zashiel spun on him. “But how?”


“I don't...” Toke's voice trailed off when a thought tickled the back of his mind. Without hesitation, he sat down crosslegged where Treyn had been a few minutes earlier and rested his chin on his fist.


Zashiel came to stand in front of him. “What—”


Toke held up a hand, stopping her. “Let me think.”


He closed his eyes, summoning the void again. It was quiet up on top of the ship, the bustle of the circus down below nothing but a faint rumble, but he blocked it out anyway. He wanted every ounce of his concentration to figure this out.


A dart that knocked me out, he thought, his inner voice filling the black nothingness. Him telling me not to forget. And... he knows about my changes.


There was a connection between those three things. But what on Fissura was it? Shen was causing his transformations, of that he was certain. But how?


Inside his head, he felt like he was looking at a puzzle. A puzzle that he could only see parts of, but could feel the rest of it. If he took his time, concentrated, worked slowly, he would be able to solve it piece by piece.


Dart. Poisoned. No, not poison. A tranquilizer. A... chemical.


Part of the puzzle slid into place.


A tranquilizer to knock me out. What for, though? So I would forget whatever he was doing to me. Except I didn't forget, so there must be another chemical for erasing my memories.


There went another piece.


Two chemicals. One to put me to sleep, one to make me forget. But forget what? Whatever he's doing to make these changes happen, obviously. But why would he want me to forget? Would knowing the process make me know how to use the powers? No, he said he was disappointed that I wasn't progressing fast enough. So... to keep me from chasing after him?


That made sense. If Toke had known that someone was messing with his body like this, he would have chased him down weeks or months ago. Another piece fell into place with a satisfying, if imaginary, clunk.


But how is he doing this? That's the real question. Flashes of strength. Growing feathers. Becoming more sensitive to the way gravity shifts around me. It's almost like... almost like I'm becoming a Sorakine! But that can't be the case. Zashiel said it was impossible.




Toke started a bit. Juryo... yes, that makes sense. I got my powers from juryo. Juryo is a chemical. Shen likes using chemicals. He must be injecting me with it to increase my powers, and then making me forget it afterward. But why? And...


He stopped, and shook his head. No, that can't be it. Zashiel said...


It's the only logical answer.


But Zashiel—


The only! Logical! Answer!


With that, the void shattered, leaving Toke sitting on top of the Seventh Swordfish with Zashiel in front of him again. He looked up at her. He didn't want to believe it. He wanted to trust her, but...


“Zashiel,” he said tentatively, “am I turning into a Sorakine?”


Zashiel flinched visibly when he said that, and his heart sank into his stomach.


“I am, aren't I?” he whispered.


“No, of course not,” she snapped too quickly “I told you, that's nonsense!”


Toke's expression darkened. “Zashiel Kal'Brynden, don't you smiting lie to me!”


Zashiel looked left, then right, as if she were contemplating making a run for it. Then, clenching her fist, she sat down heavily with a sigh.


“All right,” she said, all the strength suddenly gone from her voice. “You win. I'll tell you everything.”



NEXT TIME: The truth comes out!  But is it a truth Toke wants to hear, or the Lovecraftian cosmic horror kind that will leave him babbling in a corner?  Sorry Toke, you’re turning into Cthulhu.  Oops, spoiler alert!

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