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I remain as still as I can so as not to provoke the Princess but she’s growing more and more agitated, confused. I don’t think my symbiont is getting through to her, or at least not in the way I intended.

Krrr. Cetyz’ toes scrape against the stone ground, leaving ridges but apparently unable to break through. With how unstable she is, I wouldn’t be surprised if she just fell down any second now.

Thick streams of black flow move out of her hand in waves, expanding into her surroundings with purpose. They pass through me without stopping and I don’t dare to seize or disturb the energy as she might be able to tell where I am if I did.

Not that she should still be looking considering she’s holding my left arm. Cetyz falters and drops backward, falling on one of her knees. My symbiont reaches around her back to support her. Her tendrils briefly squeeze it in thanks.

Flow keeps pouring out, I wouldn’t be surprised if I was told she used ten thousand portions even though it seems to me like she’s already burnt through a good five thousand just to heal herself so quickly. Did Suxen’s experiments increase her access?

Doubtful, she would have said so to strengthen her position, not that I understand how the various factions determine who has the upper hand in any given situation.

The Rykz are united, it’s more likely that the entire species moved as one to give Cetyz as much of their regeneration as they could spare. There’s no way she’s going to entirely run out of flow, which is… good? How do I… Rumble. The cubical room’s walls start shaking.

Rhyy.” Cetyz exhales, sounding exhausted.

Trembling, she starts slowly bending her other knee to rest it down next to the other one. She falters near the end and it impacts the ground a bit roughly. Her rib-cage splits down the middle under her dry rubbery brown flesh with a small crack.

Hraaa.” She cries out, ovaloid head pointing up.

Her bones aren’t fusing back together nearly as quickly as her flesh is. Meaning her head is especially vulnerable and I think she needs it to breathe and remain conscious. Pshhhhh. A fountain of water suddenly bursts out of a crack in the floor, guided by a flow construct.

More and more cold water gathers around the Princess, passing around me. I shiver but can’t move out of the way as her tendrils are wrapped around my symbiont and pulling it closer.

Some of them are scouting out her surroundings. Luckily, she finds Turpin before me and starts pulling his body closer, struggling. Snap. One of her tendrils breaks at the base.

Iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii.” She screams in agony and starts wavering.

The water breaks out of her control and spreads into the room. More and more of it is coming out of the crack, apparently guided by a separate construct.

I reach out with my symbiont and catch her by the waist to prevent her fall. She leans into the touch, resting her weight on my left hand. I buckle as she’s pretty heavy and I’m not in a position to support her.

One of her tendrils finds me as a consequence, soon joined by two others. They search and find my throat, soon strangling me. My symbiont lets go of her to slip between my trachea and the appendages. It almost tears them apart but I seize control.

Ykz?” She says, sounding like a question.

Soon after, I detect her trying to shape a construct but it shatters before reaching completion. I need to start communicating or this is going to go sideways very, very fast. She is hesitating because of the symbiont but I can already feel her trying to squeeze tighter.

Cetyz.” I whisper.

Rhyyy!” She exclaims.

She shoves me to the right with the tendrils around my throat while trying to pull my symbiont in at the same time which stretches them to the breaking point. I end up making the call to let go of her tendrils because otherwise they’ll end up breaking and hurting her even more.

Cetyz! Celyz sent me!” I exclaim with the last of the air in my lungs.

She doesn’t see to hear a thing, or just doesn’t get it because she keeps trying to kill me. She is clumsily trying to get back up on her feet but her knees don’t have the strength to lift her up. Her erratic movements tell me that she’s somewhat out of her mind from pain and fear.

My symbiont is vehemently projecting a desire to fight back and take control. It seems to be taking this like a challenge for supremacy between them but Cetyz is growing more and more aggressive so I’m rather certain that she’s interpreting the pheromones it’s emitting like an encouragement.

I waver, feeling dizzy. Well, fuck me, I’m out of air. I use my right hand and deliver a quick palm strike to the middle of her chest. The shock dislodges her split rib-cage, making both sides wiggle.

Iik…” She cries, her voice dying down.

I struggle for control over my symbiont who wants to strike her to defend us. I force it to raise my left arm up, slowly so as not to rip the tendrils holding onto it which is pretty difficult while it isn’t willingly cooperating.

I bring my forearm flat on the tendrils strangling me and apply a slow downward pressure. Celyz’ tendrils start slipping off my neck. She could likely have held on but she’s in pain from my previous blow and has to make the choice to either let go or lose four tendrils, and she doesn’t have that many left.

My left limb finally defers to me, understanding what I’m doing or reading my end-goal. Without its interference, I have the free rein to start twirling my forearm around the bundle of tendrils, wrapping them around the rest of hers.

She gives more and more ground on my neck, choosing to grip onto the symbiont instead with trembling, exhausted, tendrils. I start seeing a dark cloud on the edges of my vision from lack of oxygen but decide not to hurry and mess this up.

I gently but firmly close my arm on itself, trapping almost all her tendrils between my forearm and my biceps. She doesn’t even try to unwind and free them so she might not be too worried about that, but perhaps she is simply out of energy, her tendrils have been moving rather sluggishly.

Rhy?” She repeats, uncertainty plain in her voice.

Ffffuuuuuhh.” I inhale, having reached my limit.

For once, she doesn’t panic. It mustn’t have sounded very human. She’s making small sounds in the back of her wobbling head, panting, catching her own breath while gripping my left forearm as tightly as she can. I feel bad about having struck her, seeing as how she’s still reeling from the attack.

She occasionally jerks up, apparently trying to remain on alert but physically unable to. I worry that she’s going to lose consciousness but during the few minutes that follow, I notice that the water, infused with her energy, is flowing back to her.

Cetyz isn’t doing anything with it apart from gathering it around her feet, likely drinking it. I take a moment to observe her. The burns on her trait-less face are healing but not very quickly, her ovaloid head seems thinner than Celyz’ but that could be from malnutrition.

Her twelve breathing holes are almost in the same places as Celyz’ are but not so much that anyone could confuse the two sisters with one another. Even the blindest being would realize that Celyz looks august, in both senses of the word, and knowledgeable; but also warm and graceful while Cetyz seems younger, scattered.

Although, I can’t really arrest an opinion on her with what she’s been through. I can detect fading scars all over her body, a few of the cuts were messy which means Suxen isn’t responsible for those.

I can easily imagine the madwoman cutting the Princess while explaining that one needs a stable hand for those sorts of delicate procedures. Unfortunately, the Director will be out of Meiridin by the time I get out of here with Cetyz. If I get out of here at all. It should be okay, she’s exhausted.

C… c, c, c.” The sounds she’s been making turn to stutters which sound to me like she’s shivering from cold.

I immediately assemble a fire construct, sending everything I have and regenerate into it. It burns above my left shoulder. Her head snaps in the direction of the fire, leaning so close to it that I fear she’ll burn herself.

Wwww!” She buzzes giddily.

Cetyz angles her head down to my symbiont’s forearm, covered almost entirely by her tendrils. She follows it up to the shoulder, pauses there for a second before turning straight to my face. Her tendrils tremble, she then stops moving entirely, even her flow appears to have frozen.

She suddenly rises up to her full height, pulling me half-way up because she isn’t letting go of my symbiont. She raises her left foot out of the cold puddle of water and slams it into my stomach, not very hard but that’s likely because she’s exhausted and doesn’t have a good angle.

Guh!” I groan, pushed back.

Iii.” She exclaims in pain, having basically pulled on her own tendrils by kicking me.

Yet, she doesn’t set her leg down but brings it back to deliver a more powerful attack. Alright, enough of that. I stand up and jam my shoulder into her belly. I passing my right arm behind her back to go around her thigh and grab her left ankle before she can set it down.

Aiiii!” Cetyz screams in panic, pushing with her torso to try to get rid of me.

From her position on one foot, there isn’t much else she can do so, after a while, and a series of frightened cries, she slumps back down. She’s calming down. I let go of her foot, rather glad that she didn’t escalate and unwilling to aggravate her by holding on.

Crrrk. The cold water at our feet suddenly loses all of its heat and freezes over, entrapping my feet. An instant later, her left foot slams into the side of my head. I drop and hit the ice with the side of my fact, my mask hits my nose hard and blood starts running down my nostrils.

Her root-like toes grab my neck and I feel her push on it while pulling on my symbiont. I redirect my fire construct to melt the ice around my boots, with very little hope that it’ll actually work considering how much energy she’s been throwing around.

My symbiont’s getting angry at her attempts to separate it from me. I need to get her to listen or one of us isn’t walking out of this room alive. I assemble a signaling construct and hurriedly repeat the word friend into it before sending it directly into the Princess’ foot.

She dismantles it as soon as it touches her skin and slaps the ground next to my face. Is that a warning? No, she froze the entire damn area, she doesn’t have a clear enough picture of her surroundings to tell where I am.

I double up the signaling construct and send it again, one from my symbiont and into her tendrils, another from my neck to her foot. She dismantles the latter but I merely lose my connection to the former.

The pressure on my neck is hard to bear and my ribs are starting to hurt from being indirectly pulled on. Luckily, the signaling construct consumes almost no energy so I keep producing it, throwing in variations and adding friendly feeling like the kind I sent my symbiont before, along with Celyz’ name.

The addition of her name seems to work, she pauses and brings the signaling construct out between us, making it show her name in front of my face. She even lets go of my symbiont with a couple of her tendrils and starts urgently pointing at the name.

Use your words.” I groan, using my left hand to remove her foot from my neck.

Clyz!” She exclaims, almost a roar.

So you can understand me.” I sigh, relieved.

Ceeeellyyyzzzz!” She repeats in a whine.

She sent me.” I tell Cetyz.

Ere?” She asks.

She sent me here, she’s probably a few weeks south right now.” I explain. “I’m a… hybrid.”

Yrid?” She shakes her head, pulling on the symbiont. “Uxen id dis!?”

Not Suxen, Celyz did this to me.” I reply.

I, i, ih.” She utters in a sad tony.

She crumbles, sitting down. Her odd articulations make it so that her waist rests on her ankles. She pulls her tendrils away from my symbiont to wrap them around herself. The sounds continue and, after a while, I realize that she’s crying.

I struggle to get to my feet because of my hurt knee and stinging abdominal muscles from the kick an injury I don’t even remember receiving, or just forgot about. I slowly approach Cetyz, careful not to slip on the ice, and wrap my arms around her torso.

Her head is at the same level as mine even like this. Princesses really are tall, might be why I find Celyz so… grand. I shake my head and focus on comforting Cetyz. She tries to push me away but seems far too tired to put energy into it.

She keeps sobbing in my arms for a long while. I don’t press her, starting to think that she might simply have been trying to help me, or rather my symbiont, thinking that it’s one of Suxen’s experiments.

I admire this Princess, she suffered so much yet her first conscious impulse after awakening was to help the strange being that she thought in similar circumstances as her. She did attack but that was instinct. I’ve proven with all I’ve done that I would not have had that reaction in her place.

I volunteered if that’s what you’re worried about.” I tell her, keeping under silence that I didn’t know what the procedure truly involved.

Urh.” She replies negatively.

Once she calms down, she firmly pulls away and stands up to put some distance between us. She explores the room a bit until she finds Turpin. She raises her legs one by one and unhesitantly plants her roots into him, first the stomach and then his neck, breaking flesh.

Cetyz then melts down the ice and gathers the water around the corpse. I start worrying about the amount of time I’ve spent here, it can’t have been more than one but it feels like an entire day.

I tell my symbiont to focus on healing. Immediately after I have, Cetyz turns her ovaloid head to me and waves one of her tendril in its direction. A few seconds pass but I soon feel a burst of compassion coming from my limb.

The two seem to be communicating at some level, which is a huge change compared to earlier. I grab my double-bladed staff, knowing that it’ll make her tense up but we need to get to trust each other sooner rather than later.

I walk up to her, noticing that the amount of flow in the water between us is increasing. She’s taking precautions. I hold the weapon out on my open palms, trying to appear as non-threatening as possible and deposit it in front of her before stepping away.

O.” Cetyz shakes her head.

She unwraps a single tendril and slides it back towards me. I nod and pick it up. She seems to be scrutinizing me, it’s hard to tell because there are no eyes for me to follow but I can somehow read her hesitation.

What is it?” I ask.

Oid.” She replies, shaking.

Oid?” I question.

Vvvoiiid.” She articulates.

Void?” I blink.

She reaches out to my symbiont with one of her tendrils and wraps around the wrist. I feel a wave of complicated feelings, of emptiness, of cold, of desolation. I equate all the terms and emotions that pop to my mind with darkness except it seems like the Rykz equivalent is coldness and emptiness.

B, ad. Void, bad.” She tells me with a short sob, apparently talking about what she went through.

It’s like sleeping.” I explain. “You always wake up.” Ah, shit they don’t sleep. “It’s what we do to rest our senses, we, um, we dream.”

Dreeeaam?” She asks, having apparently somewhat recovered her voice.

We see images of things that don’t exist.” I tell her.

Is hat why uman mad?” She questions, sounding afraid.

I… no.” I shake my head, realizing that I’m not doing this properly. Can’t blame her for her view of humans. “It won’t happen again, I’ll make sure of it.” I promise.

Kh.” She makes a small dismissive sound.

She takes her tendril back to wrap it around her torso, she then inclines her head down and her entire body starts glowing black. The slight shaking of her body fades away as her internal temperature rises.

I walk away to give her some space, feeling physically and emotionally drained. We came very close to killing each other and it might have been entirely my fault, because I’m so focused on conflict that it’s all I can see.

That stems from an arrogantly overinflated view of my importance as well as the fact that I’ve begun to enjoy battle way too much. Aisha was never really interested in the fact that I’m a hybrid, yet I focused on it and Suxen might have survived because of it.

The Princess seems somewhat childish. It might be because of her speech but I recall seeing a few of the nodes I found in her body inside vials upstairs. If that’s where her consciousness resides… then Suxen did something beyond terrible that we’ll all pay for.

Thankfully, she seems capable to defend herself, to a point. I swing my double-blade staff to test it, almost stabbing my thigh. The balance is perfect but I’ll have to refrain from overhead strikes unless I hold the very end.

I took rather long, I wouldn’t be surprised if we have to fight out way out of the institute. If possible, I’d like to wait a day to recover my reserves but… I check them, finding that I have way too much flow, about a dozen portions.

What? I take the energy out, finding that it’s almost entirely golden with very little black to it. My reserve seems to be regenerating six times as fast as before. Which means I have more than a hundred times the normal access.

Did you message Celyz?” I ask, baffled. It’s all I can think of, that the Rykz took oaths towards me.

No ossible.” Cetyz replies. “Cant. Don kno how.”

Okay.” I nod.

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