Warning: This work has been rated 18+ for language.
It might have been centuries since the last time Mireya had heard a silence like this.
She stared at Kasumi for a long time, wondering if this meant she knew. She couldn’t know, and yet from the determination on her face, it seemed like she did. Why else would she ask such a pointed question when…?
Mireya’s gaze flicked back to Cyrin and the magic flickering under their skin, and then to Shane, similarly lying still. Anger sparked within her, and she felt the urge to ignore the question and push past Kasumi and rush to them. If this was Sparrow’s doing, he’d be taking his last breath soon.
She saw Cyrin’s chest rattle with a shaky breath. He, too, probably only had a certain number of those left. If he was lucky— or unlucky, given how agonizing magic poisoning was said to be— he could see most of tomorrow. It was highly possible he wouldn’t even wake before then. And then—
The lights overhead flickered several times, getting a surprised yelp from Dawn, and Mireya realized it was her again. She snapped her gaze back to Kasumi, meeting her eyes again.
“Well?” Kasumi asked, impatience tinging her words.
As Mireya forced herself to relax enough to keep from inadvertently tampering with the lights, she felt the weight of four gazes on her. Leilan’s, shining with near-tears and aching with sadness. Dawn’s, full of confusion and fear. Kaja’s, now suspiciously examining her. And Kasumi’s, staring at her with confidence and an expression that was otherwise hard to read.
This wasn’t good. None of this was good.
“Why is that the question you’re going with?” she asked instead, a little sharply.
“Usually, questions get an answer, not another question,” Kasumi responded dismissively.
Mireya shook her head at her in disbelief. “I don’t understand why that’s somehow the most important thing happening here,” she said. “Clarity got caught, we don’t have the spell she was working on, you said we don’t have the First Spell, and two of us are unconscious. One of us is—”
She swallowed, unable to say the word dying.
“What’s wrong with Shane?” she asked faintly instead, her words coming out strangled.
Kasumi looked like she still wanted to object, but Leilan cleared his throat first.
“I’m sure you’ve seen the magic poisoning,” he said very quietly, reaching up to wipe his eyes with one hand. The other was holding Shane’s. “Shane had it first, when Clarity cast a spell on him. Then Cyrin transferred the magic to himself. Shane will be fine, but—”
Leilan faltered, taking a shuddering breath, and Mireya stared at him. Clarity? Was this part of Sparrow’s plan once he’d discovered her? There was no way she could see her friend willingly doing this— she knew Clarity didn’t always think things through when it came to magic, but casting magic poisoning on someone was no different than intending for them to die, and die painfully. And that was never something Clarity would do, not to someone innocent.
“I’m sorry, Mireya,” Leilan said in a hushed voice. “They’re a hero.”
The word echoed through her mind. Hero.
She wasn’t saying Cyrin wasn’t one, but it made her blood boil to hear it. Dante had been a hero, and where had that gotten him? It had left him as a dead pirate who no one knew about, outside of the history textbooks that called him the unknown battlemage who had killed millions on behalf of two rogue Houses. He’d been an artist, an adventurer, a dreamer, a friend, and he should’ve gotten to be those things first and foremost. But even in being a hero, he didn’t get the honor of it. Just the blame pinned on him, a butterfly specimen fixed by the wings to a frame and displayed as an example of how humanity was capable of the darkest things.
To hear Leilan sentence Cyrin to the same label, as if it were something she should take comfort in, made it feel like there was lightning in her veins all over again.
“Hero,” Mireya repeated flatly. “You think that helps to know?”
“No, I don’t,” Leilan said, almost too softly to hear. “I’m sorry, I don’t mean to make it all seem fine. There’s nothing that can—”
“You don’t know what you’re saying,” Mireya snapped, and she felt a flash of guilt to see his eyes— still teary— widen slightly, but she kept going. “You don’t know how many other heroes there have been, responding to the Houses’ shortcomings. Why do you think someone like Sparrow has the motivation to work against you and the influence to carry out his plans? Because he’s angry towards you. And countless more people are angry too. While his way is wrong— because it leads to things like this— he’s right about one thing. You need to be stopped. You’ve abused the power you were given and claimed more for yourself. If you weren’t in the wrong, then there wouldn’t be heroes cleaning up after your messes.”
Faint shock and a much deeper hurt flickered over Leilan’s face, but his expression was soon blocked from view by Kaja stepping in front of him.
“What would you know?” Kaja snapped, and Mireya from five hundred years ago might have flinched at the venom in her voice. Not anymore, however. She hadn’t let anyone like Kaja scare her in a long time now. “Is it really enough to go after us like that?”
“I know plenty,” Mireya retorted. “What, do you think I wouldn’t notice what a threat you are just by existing? There’s no redeeming you. I used to believe there was a chance at it. And now I haven’t thought that in a long time.”
Kaja inhaled sharply through her nose, tilting up her chin regally. “Alright. Who are you really talking about here?”
“The fuck do you mean? The Houses,” Mireya seethed at her. “I was perfectly clear about the subject.”
“We are the Houses, Mireya,” Kaja said, with more dryness than anger. “You hate the Houses. We get it already. What none of us know is whether that means you hate the five of us too.”
Mireya faltered, and she wasn’t sure what went through her head, but her reaction was to take a small step back. The words left her as her head buzzed uselessly, trying to process. She didn’t have an answer. But she was pretty sure what not having an answer meant.
As if seeing it, Kaja nodded.
“Good,” she said stoically. “Because there’s enough going on here already, and Dawn is crying.”
With some realization, Mireya turned back to her left. Dawn’s cheeks were shining with faint tear streaks, and she was staring blankly at Cyrin and Shane. The dull look on her face made it seem like she hadn’t heard a word spoken around her, and yet, Mireya knew she’d absorbed them all. She felt a pang in her heart, which made the rage in her bones ebb away— and then another pang when Dawn spoke.
“We can’t be here to talk about this,” she said quietly. “I’ve called the cars. We need to carry them to the elevator and out onto the street.”
And, while Mireya stood there helplessly, the four Heirs moved, all to different tasks. Kasumi went to the door, holding it open. Leilan and Dawn lifted up Shane, carrying him upright and draping one of his arms over each of their shoulders before taking him out of the room. And Kaja scooped up Cyrin all by herself, with barely a grunt of effort before she followed. His arm dangled limply from her hold, golden magic still peeking out from the cuff of his dark sleeve, and Mireya didn’t know whether to follow it with her gaze or look away. She ended up closing her eyes, taking a shuddering, deep breath.
“Mireya.” Kasumi’s voice burst into her haze. “He needs you.”
“I can’t—” Mireya started helplessly.
Why were all her thoughts failing her now? Where was she supposed to get rid of the chasm that was ripping through her heart?
“—do anything for him,” she finished, quieter than ever, blinking her eyes open.
“You can be there,” Kasumi said. “Sometimes, that’s all you can do. But that might be all he needs.”
Mireya stared at her, feeling her vision blur. It was impossible to be there for everything she needed to do. She needed to hunt down Sparrow, get back the First Spell, and then make him pay for everything he’d done. She needed to find Clarity and talk with her so she could understand what was going on, why she’d done this horrible thing. And still part of her needed to run far away from this situation and hide from the world in shame all over again.
But she did need to be with Cyrin. If there was even a possibility she might get to have a last few words with him, she needed to be there. There was no chance that she’d be letting them wake up alone, without someone there for them in their last hours.
Kasumi was just a smudge of colors in her vision now. She needed to move before she lost sight of her and the open door.
Mireya pried her feet off the ground, taking one numb step after another towards the exit. Kasumi followed her with her gaze, keeping the door open.
“We will be going back to that question,” she said, rather quietly. “But I was wrong to ask it then. I’m sorry. I was angry too, but I should’ve allowed you to have your grief.”
Grief. It had been a long time— five centuries— since she’d properly experienced it. And yet, she wasn’t completely sure the feeling had ever completely left her.
She went through the door, heading to the elevator with her movements on autopilot. Standing there in that hallway, under bright lights that were blending together uselessly before her eyes, Mireya had to wonder if she still knew how to properly cry.