Synopsis"You cannot escape your hunger, Warriors of Purgatory."
With those words, the whole of the Junkyard and its warring Tribes are catapulted into a fight more brutal and chaotic then anything faced before. In the wake of a blinding light, soldiers begin to lash out at each other as a deep, terrifying hunger warps and twists them into demons intent on killing and eating each other.
Argilla, sniper of the Embryon, finds herself grappling with this new power as her Tribe fights for victory and the promise of reaching paradise. Jinana, leader of the Maribel Tribe, faces similar conflicts as she struggles to command her forces and her demon form…And both soldiers find themselves inexplicably drawn towards each other as their factions make an alliance. It's a strange bond, and only becomes more complicated when it causes the joint battle against the Solids Tribe to take an unexpected turn.
But even with that attraction, do the two women have a hope of surviving the war, their own demonic hunger, and their awakening emotions when they can't even figure out what they're becoming?
ExcerptArgilla groaned as consciousness slowly seeped back into her body, along with a wave of cold that told her she was resting on the ground instead of a bed. Her ribs and shoulders were fighting over which deserved more attention, and she wanted nothing more then to go back to sleep so she could put off deciding which hurt more.
“You are awake.” She almost jerked up when she heard the voice, just a little above her. What stopped her was a flare of pain that lanced through her as her muscles all twitched. For a moment Argilla thought it was concentrated around her sides, but an instant later she couldn’t tell. It hurt everywhere, and she couldn’t pick out a single spot where it was the most intense.
“Hhhhnnn…?” She tried to speak, but somewhere along the way her throat forgot how to form words, and her voice was raspy and almost bruised sounding. When that failed, Argilla forced as much air into her lungs as she could, and started to turn her head towards the speaker.
She didn’t get to move an inch before a hand was placed on her forehead, holding her in place even though the touch was light on her skin.
“Try not to move. You are not at your best.” The same voice, but this time Argilla focused on it instead of trying to get up; monotone, so it couldn’t have belonged to Heat, and richer then Serph’s. It was the low tone that identified who the voice belonged to, and once Argilla grasped the name she lost the need to find her.
“…Jinana?” It took effort to get that out, but she was rewarded when the hand shifted on her face. Argilla realized that was also the only thing she could feel touching her face; no rain, and even the air was still around them.
“Yes.” The Maribel commander answered, and the fingers brushed at her bangs as the hand moved over her forehead. Even though her sides still stung, something about that made her breath come quicker for an instant, before Argilla could force herself to take steadier lungfuls of air.
“I decided…” Jianan’s voice trailed off. For a moment, Argilla could swear she was hearing her own voice instead of the Maribel leader’s. The other woman’s voice wavered, with a hint of uncertainty in it that she KNEW hadn’t been there before.
“I did not want to leave you behind. Or alone.”
“Wh-“ A cough interrupted her, and Argilla spent several second wheezing before she had enough breath to ask again. “Why?”
“Because…It did non feel right.” Jinana’s fingers stopped brushing at her hair, and Argilla felt a pang of something heavy, and almost painful go through her. (‘Sorrow’ seemed to be the right word for it, she thought for an instant.) There was a small hollow settling between the soreness in her lungs, and somehow it felt worse then all the scrapes, cuts, and bruises on her. Jinana continued, talking over the new feeling.
“You fought, and would have died for me. I do not understand why you would do that, so…I made sure that you would live, so I could find out.”
“…Why I…?” Argilla found herself staring, her eyes finally opening wide enough to let her see. Wherever they were, it was out of the rain…Although it was also a far cry from being indoors. Her eyes picked out a long stretch of stone stretching above her and Jinana, massive pillars holding it up every few feet, and after a moment she realized they were underneath an old, elevated ruin of a road.
Jinana was speaking again, and some of that hesitation in her voice had vanished.
“You…Are not required to answer right away. But I wish to hear an explanation eventually.” Argilla nodded, or at least TRIED to nod. All she really managed was a slight twitch of her head before her neck muscles told her that they wouldn’t tolerate any more of that.
“C-could I…Ask you something as well?” Her voice came out shaky, and Argilla forced herself to take more of those deep breaths, even while they made her lungs burn. She thought she could feel the pain settling into long strips running along her sides…And finally decided that THOSE ached the worst, compared to what was starting to feel like bruises settling over her shoulders and back.
“…You may, although I can not promise you an answer.”
“Are-“ Argilla knew, KNEW that she should have asked about the success of the mission, the state of the battle and her own Tribe, or if someone had somehow managed to kill Mick. But what came out on her tongue was completely different.
“Are you okay? You were-“ Her chest burned, this time from something other then cuts, or even the Atma on it. “You were hurt when I got there. Are you still-?” The hand on her head also went startlingly still, and Argilla herself was a bit confused as the question slipped out. Even while she was determined to hear Jinana’s answer, and could feel her arms tensing up as she waited.
“I…Am well enough. I may have scars, but the damage is not irreparable.” The Maribel’s hand slowly relaxed again, but didn’t move.
“…Will you answer my own question, now?” Argilla was certain she didn’t imagine a touch of confusion and impatience in Jinana’s voice. Her own voice was sounding more steady and less rough in her ears, and her lungs were starting to manage a full breath without screaming, so she tried to manage.
“It’s because…You said it yourself. It felt right, protecting you. And we…We’re alike, and I didn’t-“ Argilla could feel something constricting tight around her chest, and a strange ache that she couldn’t even put into words. She tried to ignore it, and talk over the feeling.
“…I don’t want to lose someone like that. We…We get along, don’t we?” Her back screamed as she turned her head to look at Jinana, but Argilla ignored it. Between the pain in her body and the weird sensation forming around her chest, the latter won out.
Jinana was staring down at her, those green bangs brushed out of her eyes so the Maribel was regarding her with both eyes. The road above meant that part of her face was in shadow, but Argilla thought that she looked confused. And…Had something else flickering over her face, that made her features look less sharp and piercing. Almost vulnerable in some way, even though her thoughts told her that was crap; a Tribe leader was never anything like that.
“Argilla,” her voice was quiet, barely a whisper, and something about hearing her name like that made Argilla shiver. Jinana’s hand moved down from her forehead, settling just behind her ear. “I-“
This time, Argilla knew she wasn’t imagining that flicker of green in Jinana’s eyes. It was only there for a heartbeat, maybe even less then that, but she could easily see it in the gloom.
“…I can…Not fully understand that reasoning.” She didn’t sound angry about it, though, if that hush in her voice was anything to go by. “But…There is a great deal I do not understand at present.”
A deep breath, and then,
“…Will you accompany me back, until I can make some sense of this?” Argilla wondered for a moment if Jinana was just referring to Manipura, before deciding in the next moment that she didn’t really care. Instead, she nodded, and managed a slight,