The kids were still as they watched the murder of crows fly away. As silent as the stones on the mound. It wasn’t until they couldn’t hear the crows’ caws and the flock were just tiny specks, barely visible, that they dared to breathe.
They glanced at each other, but especially at Cooro.
And his wings.
With a shivering hand Cooro touched the feathers on his arm, trailing up to the marking on his shoulder. He let out a shaky breath and started tearing up again. Senri placed a hand on the boy’s other shoulder, concern on his face. Cooro met his eyes, remembering what he said. "Cooro’s wings."
It was his anima. He could feel it.
It was back.
“Cooro, are you ok?” Husky murmured.
“Yeah,” he nodded, his voice thick. He looked around at his friends again. “…You guys came back,” he said, voice breaking.
“Cooro, I’m sorry!” Nana repeated. “We..I shouldn’t have left, and I didn’t mean what I said…about saying goodbye.” She looked down, unable to meet the boy’s face. She felt sort of at fault for the whole thing. If she hadn’t had drug the others with her when she left, would they had been able to stop Cooro from having the surgery? In fact, this whole thing may not have happened if she hadn’t poked him to visit his old church. She really had been too curious about Cooro’s past for her their own good.
“I just,” she continued, “didn’t understand why you would help Fly like that. I still don’t..!”
“Our animas saved our lives,” Husky explained to Cooro. “We wouldn’t be here today without them. That’s why it feels so wrong that someone would just get an anima implanted into them.”
Cooro looked at the ground, folding his wings closer around him. “I’m sorry,” he mumbled. “I never thought about that… being a man-made +anima and all.”
“What?” Nana said, stunned.
“You’re not a man-made +anima Cooro,” Husky said.
Cooro blinked. “But… that’s what Fly told me,” he said slowly.
A ripple of shock went through his friends. “But.. that’s not what Mr. Newt said,” Nana spoke, looking at Husky.
The silver haired boy frowned. “I don’t trust anything Fly says. Why else would Cooro be here?” He gestured to the stone table they were still sitting on. Senri nodded; if Cooro hadn’t gotten his anima in Lilt, why would he have walked all the way there?
“You’re right…!” Nana said. “Fly must have lied to you, Cooro.” She clenched her fists, bristling with anger.
“Wh-what do you mean?” Cooro said, not knowing what his friends were talking about.
“A guy named Aaron Newt told us how you were born. We met him in that underground room near Astar,” Husky continued.
Aaron Newt…Cooro had heard that name multiple times before, back in the facility…
Husky explained everything the man had told them. When he finished, Cooro slowly stared up at the sky in the direction the crows had gone. His eyes shimmered with a mix of pain, content, and longing. So he was a regular human, like his friends; just a +anima by unusual circumstances. Is that why he had come here? To try to get back his anima he had lost? He recalled just how… empty he had felt just a while ago before… before his friends came. How he had wanted…
Had he had just tried to...?
Cooro shut out that grim thought, though a lump suddenly formed in his throat. He looked back again at his companions. “Thank you, so much guys. I…” Against his best attempts, his voice cracked, and he stifled a sob.
Senri reached out and brought the boy close in a hug. Startled at first, Cooro returned the hug, grabbing Senri’s shirt with his fists.
“Oh Cooro..!” Nana said, almost tearing up herself as she joined in the hug, wrapping her arms around the two of them. Senri looked at Husky, and the former prince’s eyes softened; he joined in too, placing a reassuring hand on Cooro’s back. Feeling his three friends around him, Cooro couldn’t hold back a few sobs, tears starting to fall down his face.
They stayed like that for a couple minutes, until Cooro had composed himself. They drew away from each other; Cooro wiped his face with his feathered arm.
“You okay?” Nana said softly. Cooro nodded. “Then let’s get out of here.”
“You should probably ride on the horse for a while, Cooro,” Husky suggested. “You just had a surgery and walked all the way here from Astar.”
“I know,” Cooro replied. “But… I’d like to fly a bit first.”
Nana and Husky exchanged a glance. How could they say no?
“Okay,” Husky said, though still concerned. “Just don’t push yourself.”
Cooro nodded, his lips upturned. He stood and gave his wings a test flap, before pushing himself into the air. A large grin immediately came on his face. His friends smiled back at him, and together they made their way off the stone slab and and out of Lilt.