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Damaging Devotion

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It was quiet. The Jambastation was always quiet in the twilight hours. But it was always hard to tell what time was day and what time was night, since the station wasn't extremely close to the Gamble Galaxy's sun nor did it orbit any nearby planets. The large, foreboding station shining in a dark metallic black and red sheen drifted lazily on its path, coursing through the very vast expanses the galaxy spanned.

Within the many walls was a small army, an army of ten thousand. Yet, there was no soul within that could tell what their true purpose was. Only their generals and their leader could explain, but they wouldn't dare give anything up willingly, it was a secret to all but this close inner circle.

Their main purpose was to resurrect an ancient darkness known as Void Termina. The cult consisted of four main members; any others were unknown as far as intelligence goes, but their power was undeniably strong. All four of them were able to control magic from three of the elements, but the leader of the cult beared mastery in the magics of Ice, Fire, and Electricity.

And right now, within the walls of the station, dark rituals were being performed by said leader; a strange mage in a white robe named Hyness. His three generals, the Jambastation Mages, were unaware of what was going on. They had no reason to question it either; all of it was business their leader dealt with, and all three of them knew not to cross Lord Hyness when he was deeply focused on their mission.

Past experiences of interference during his research or experimental summoning techniques never boded well for any of the three mages. Hyness was so devoted to the resurrection of Void Termina that, to him, it was a sin to neglect their Dark Lord during this crucial time. He was so sure this time this ritual will work. Each ritual he tried cost more and more. If he wasn't careful, Hyness could easily cause his own demise. None of his generals wanted this to happen, especially his Lightning General.

Zan Partizanne was the most loyal of his three generals, and it wasn't even to the Dark Lord she was loyal to, she was loyal to Hyness himself. The members of the Jamba army that were culled together wondered how the three generals could remain loyal to their leader; they wondered how Zan always stayed loyal to Hyness. He did not treat her well at all as far as they knew, hell, he doesn't even remember her full name, and has known her for almost 30 years.

Did she stay because of his charisma? Her sense of duty? Did she owe something to Hyness? Was her devotion simply for money? For all they knew, she's probably given him something that gives him the right to treat her like a toy. Yet she stays. Only her sisters know why.

Zan Partizanne was in love with Hyness. She could not deny herself this fact because that was what she felt. Things were different at one point of time. His devotion wasn't as deep, and there was once time to actually speak with each other. She was the first one of the three he spoke to, long ago.

His ship landed on a planet in ruins that was once a Halcandran colony. He was 23, only recently leaving Halcandra four years earlier. He didn't see any signs of life except for overgrown mutations of native flora, and only corpses of native fauna. He was genuinely surprised to see three people living- in a cave- but alive no less.

Three sisters, a teenage girl with yellow hair, a preteen girl with red hair and tanned skin, and a young girl with blue hair. He watched them from afar for a very long time; his first meeting with Zan Partizanne happening completely by chance. She was fetching water from a creek at the exact time he was going back to where his ship landed.

Zan did not trust Hyness when she first met him. She assumed that he was going to do something to hurt her younger sisters. Seeing as she had to raise Francisca and Flamberge when their parents left them, she was the sole person responsible for them, their well-being her responsibility, her mission. It was a lot of work for her, seeing as she was only thirteen when that responsibility was set on her shoulders.

And out of the blue, this… stranger comes along. The first person she's seen aside from their parents. Zan was unsure how to act seeing this new face, this strange young man in a long white robe with glowing yellow eyes underneath his hood. She was unsure how to react to seeing him for the first time. On instinct, she attacked.

Zan Partizanne made a mistake that day trying to attack Hyness. But that mistake also shaped her future. When she was sixteen, she was completely unable to control her powers. Electric Magic surged through her body, and because of that, she was as fast as lightning itself, zipping around when she attacked, being able to dodge anything with ease. That is how she is now.

When she was a young girl, Zan was unable to control the lightning magic at all, and it always caused her body to surge erratically when she moved. It was very painful for her to move to begin with when the surges happened; they would drain so much energy from her body that she was unable to move at all for hours, sometimes even a day. Zan was always angry at herself for being weak.

So she attacked Hyness to protect her sisters and prove herself that she was powerful, that she was strong. Her body surged again, and she landed directly into the creek, causing herself to get electrocuted. She wound up unconscious for several hours, waking up on a small Halcandran spaceship. There, she saw Hyness, tending to her burns.

Her hands were bandaged fairly well, but there was a shooting, deep pain in her back. She remembered passing out once again and waking up in the cave in the later hours of the night. The bandages on her hands were taken off. When she checked her reflection in the water caught in a small bucket, her face was perfectly fine. Even the dirt that was on her face beforehand was cleaned off.

The days that followed cemented the change in Zan's future. The demonbeast Buggzy attacked her as she was gathering food for herself and her sisters, and Hyness came to her rescue, firing onslaughts upon onslaughts of magical attacks with the powers of Fire and Electricity.

Zan was surprised, to put her reaction lightly. The same strange young man whom she attacked just a few days before was saving her from this demonbeast. The control of his abilities, how strong his magic was, and the simple fact that he was using two Elemental Magics at once was something to behold. The monster was burned to a crisp, and on that very day, Zan made a pact with herself to stay by this young man's side with unfaltering loyalty. But how was she to do that when her sisters were still mere children?

Fortunately for Zan, Hyness was stuck on the ruinous planet for a while. Despite the fact his ship didn't crash, it ran out of energy and was unable to fly. The power core was able to get charged with solar energy, but there was a thick canopy of trees above the panels that the charging would be very slow going. So, Hyness passed the days by talking with Zan and training her to control her power better.

"There's always a root to one's power, Zan. If you know the root to your power, controlling it will be much easier."

"But Hyness, how will I know what my root is? It's not happiness or sadness, not anger; anger only seems to make me more unstable. Please, my lord, tell me! What is my root?!"

"You don't have to call me "my lord", Zan, and I can't tell you because I don't even know! You have to figure it out for yourself. It's how every one of us figures out their magic abilities and just how far we can go."

Just how far we can go. Those words added to her motivation. She wanted to push to a new limit of power. She wanted to be strong, she wanted to know she can protect herself. She wanted to know if she could protect her sisters. All that mattered to Zan at that time was if she could protect her sisters.

Then it finally came to her on one foggy day. Another demonbeast was ready to attack, this one being a Blocky. Usually, these monsters are ordered to seal entrances and exits away, then cause a building or another structure to collapse on the people trapped inside. This technique was useful for efficient kills when there aren't any windows for people to escape from, and the monster's main disadvantage was its speed; Blockies were some of the slowest monsters Nightmare ever made.

The beast was blocking the only exit to the cave, and was jumping up and down, causing great shaking beneath the sisters' bodies. The thunderous sound that followed was enough to wake the dead if that was at all possible. Zan, Francisca, and Flamberge awoke to the cave walls crumbling apart around them. It was a matter of minutes before the cave was completely leveled.

On that day, Zan acted without thinking, finding the root of her powers. It was the determination to protect her sisters. Why it was not unlocked sooner was still a mystery to her even to this day. The battle was a blur to Zan, however. The only thing she could remember from that whole battle was zipping toward the monster at such high speed that she ended up breaking through its very tough stone body.

Zan Partizanne owed a lot to Hyness. He saved her life, taught her how to control her powers, and provided shelter and clothes for her and her sisters. Life was fine and peachy, and the first ten years that the group spent together were some of the best years of Zan's life.

Everything changed fifteen years ago, however. In an effort to resurrect Void Termina, Hyness planned to use himself as the vessel for the Dark Lord to return. He plugged his mind into one of the Dark Hearts to try and get a direct link to dark deity of destruction. This failed to resurrect Void Termina, but Hyness paid a very big price. His mind, which was slowly crumbling into ruin because of the many failed attempts to resurrect the Dark Lord, was completely shattered.

The strange mage Zan met those many years ago that she was so in love with was gone, this… madman now in his place. Yet she still loved him. All she hoped for was that his insanity could be reversed. If only she knew what really drove him over the edge… in a sense she already did, and it was the lack of restful sleep.

Plugging his mind in the Dark Heart caused Hyness to bring something into his mind that causes him to see horrifying nightmares and dreams that even Nightmare himself would envy. The only way Hyness was able to rest without seeing these dreams was by taking melatonin, and in the midst of his devotion, he would neglect doing even that.

Now, he was in the ritual room doing gods only know what, and Zan Partizanne couldn't shake the feeling that something is going wrong down there. She could feel her heart beating in her chest, her throat closing up, and her hands perspire and shake.

"Zan? Zan? Zan! Are you alright? Answer me!" Francisca was the first to notice her older sister's nervousness, attempting to grab her attention, but it seemed that Zan was having a panic attack. Her breathing was shaky, her whole body was starting to quiver, and her hands were shaking erratically, nothing could calm her down.

Flamberge came over to see what was going on. Her efforts to calm Zan down were much different than what Francisca was going for. The Blazing General backhanded her older sister in the face, leaving a burning red mark behind. She then started shaking her older sister and superior back and forth.

"Zan! Calm down, you better calm down!" She screamed. Francisca shoved Flamberge off of Zan and blocked her from reaching their older sister.

"Flamberge! Jamblast it, what is wrong with you?! That'll just make it worse!"

"Franny, I'm sorry, I panicked! But Zan keeps shaking, and-"

"She's having a panic attack… gods above, help us. Something must be seriously wrong for her to be panicking this bad."

Her sisters' voices faded out to where she couldn't hear anything but garbled murmurs. She could sense very dark energy coming from the ritual room… energy that seemed very harmful. And she had to investigate.

So Zan left while her sisters were still talking. Her body was still shaky, but it did help with the speed of her movement. In her still somewhat panicked state, Zan Partizanne was moving even faster than normal through the maze-like halls of the Jambastation. The lower she went, the darker everything got. The ritual room was at the bottom of the station and the largest room out of all of them except for the Divine Terminus. With her swift speed, she wound up at the bottom of the station.

The foreboding steel doors of the ritual room glared down at Zan as she tried to compose herself. She swallowed hard, her throat still feeling tight. Her heartbeat was racing even more, however. She tried her best to remain calm, it was all she could do at this moment in time. She took a deep breath, inputting the code to open the doors to the room.

There was nothing but blackness. Darkness. The room was so large that the little bit of light Zan Partizanne could see appeared as flecks of small dots. She could hear a voice chanting. Hyness's voice.

"Void Termina! Hear my plea! Return to this world, I beg of thee!"

That's his voice alright. Why does he sound so… pained? Zan thought to herself. She hovered down the steps to the center of the ritual room to get a better look of what was going on. The sight she was greeted by horrified her.

There was a giant red rune on the floor surrounded by candles. A Dark Heart was behind Hyness, facing in Zan's direction. There was a small gout of fire to his left, a crystal made from ice on his right. Zan guessed there was some form of pure electrical energy to the front of her lord; prior experiences with rituals showed that Hyness needed the elements of Ice, Fire, and Electricity in order for Void Termina to be resurrected.

Something that put Zan off, however, was the fact that Hyness was not wearing his robe. For the very first time, she saw what he really was, and true to his words, he was indeed a Halcandran, based off of his floating hands and lack of arms. For the oddest of reasons, he still wore a flowing white tunic underneath his robe. She noticed something else as well: something was dripping from his hands.

Then it came to her, the reason why he sounded like he was in pain, the red liquid dripping from his hands, and the red rune on the floor… Hyness was using a blood ritual to summon Void Termina, and it looked like he was trying to make himself a vessel once more. Zan's stomach twisted when more thoughts entered her mind, main one being: how long has he been bleeding?

"Do you enjoy seeing me suffer, Dark Lord? Do you enjoy the sight of blood dripping from my head and hands? The blood rune I painted with my own essence?! Why will you not answer me?! Must I carve the pentagrams deeper in my hands and peel the very skin off of my very face?! Is that what you want, Dark Lord?!"

Hyness pawed at his face, leaving it stained with his own blood. Tears were starting to fall, staining his clothes with splotches of red. His breathing was starting to quicken as he reached for a dagger that laid on the ground.

Hyness started cutting into his left hand with the dagger, making the pentagram shaped wound even deeper than before. The blood began pouring from the cut, spilling onto the floor, making a mess that made Zan Partizanne's stomach lurch.

"Must I carve runes all over my body for you to use me as your vessel? Must I have to die before you are reborn in all your true glory? Please, Dark Lord! Answer me!"

Hyness stared at the dagger in his right hand. Perhaps if he did what must be done to please the Dark Lord, he might return. There was always the possibility that he would return if someone were sacrificed in his name. Why not sacrifice himself? It would function better for him to die than one of the mages; though in reality, he couldn't bear to see any of them put themselves through the abuse he was putting himself through.

"If I must spill the blood in my body, I pledge my lifeless corpse to you, Lord Void Termina."

Hyness, you wouldn't… Those words struck Zan deeply. Her heart was beating faster than ever before, her hands shaking from fear. He wouldn't be so mad to kill himself to bring the Dark Lord back to life, would he? Hyness…

Zan Partizanne was frozen where she stood. The fear of punishment from interfering with her lord conflicted with the fear of losing the person she was so deeply in love with, the person that she owed so much to. She didn't even notice the tears streaming down her own face. All she could do was watch. Her fear was too great for her to force herself to move in order to intervene.

But the hand of fate determined that she did not have to be done, however.

The blade fell to the floor, landing behind Hyness, close to the Dark Heart. It wasn't long before he too fell. Zan thought her worst fears were realized, and finally advanced into the blood rune. Hyness was face down on the floor, and when Zan turned him upwards so she could get a better look at him as well as check his pulse, she almost threw up. He not only carved pentacles on his hands, he carved a small rune with Void Termina's face in it on his forehead, and his whole face was practically painted red with blood! She checked his pulse. It was fading, but he was still alive, though it seemed he was going into shock from the blood loss.

She had to stop the bleeding. But there was no way for her to do so in the ritual room, there was nothing in here that she knew of that was clean enough to keep the wounds from getting infected. In his current state, infection would cause the wounds to become fatal, and Zan wasn't willing to take that risk. The best course of action for her to take was to go to the medical bay, and that was three floors above them. Fortunately, Zan had her lightning fast speed, but even so, she had to hurry before Hyness bled to death.

So she zipped out of the room like a bullet being fired from a gun, in the efforts that she could save her lord. The blood from his forehead dripped down on the back of her uniform, and his hands stained the front of it. She didn't care if his blood ruined her uniform, all she worried about was saving him. To her, it felt like she was zipping for hours. Fortunately, she was moving along only for a few minutes, and got to the medical bay in less than ten minutes. Without hesitation, she inputted the code to open the door.

The lights within the medical bay were dimmed. It gave the room a very ominous atmosphere that made Zan feel even more uneasy. She was glad that none of the doctors were in the medical bay right about now, despite all the time they worked in the Jamba army, none of the doctors knew what Hyness actually looked like underneath his robes. Strangely enough, not even Francisca or Flamberge knew his true appearance either. Zan Partizanne was the sole person who knew what her lord actually looked like. If one actually saw him and looked at her, they would think she was crazy for being infatuated with him, heck, if he knew her real feelings, he might tell her that to her face.

Thinking about her feelings for her lord was the last thing Zan needed at the moment. She set Hyness down on one of the beds and hooked him up to a heart monitor. She was far from being a medical expert, but she was glad that the doctors taught her a little bit about how everything works in the med bay. If there was something she wasn't familiar with, at least there was a computer she could consult.

The heart monitor beeped at a steady rhythm. It was slow, and Zan was unsure just how much blood Hyness lost overall, but if it was enough for him to lose consciousness, it was obviously more than 25% of it. She stared at the cuts in his hands. The bleeding was starting to slow on the right hand, so it looked like there was actually going to be some scabbing. As for the left, blood was pooling into his palm, staining the blue of his fingers into a darker red, as blood was still smeared in his palms from where his hands met with his face before he picked up the dagger.

Concern was what defined the features on Zan's face at that moment. Worry and concern is what she felt. She couldn't hear him breathe, and his face, hands, and clothes were a mess. Zan walked to a sink and wet a washrag, then grabbed some gauze and hydrogen peroxide. She set the items down and turned on the computer.

"Computer, scan Lord Hyness's body. How much blood has he lost?"

A strange spherical object attached to a metal rod was lowered from the ceiling and began scanning his unconscious body. It took a few minutes and when the scanning was complete, Zan started cleaning the blood off of Hyness's hands and face. The monotone voice of the computer came through.

"Subject has lost 58% of their blood. A blood transfusion is required to remedy the hemorrhagic shock."

"Hemorrhagic shock? But there was no blunt force trauma… it was just cuts bleeding out for so long. Ugh, is there a compatible blood type on board the ship?"

"Subject's blood has only one match. Blood sample 577A-3, belonging to Zan Partizanne is the match."

The words seemed to surprise Zan, but she took the computer's word to heart, as she only had one formal check up a day in her life, and was almost completely incompetent when it came to modern medical practice. All she knew healing wise was a powerful healing spell that Hyness taught her that can close wounds to the point that there won't be a scar remaining.

Her priority right now was stopping the bleeding. She wasn't as concerned for the right hand as she was for the left. The bleeding had slowed down considerably on the right, the left hand was probably cut so deep that bleeding would take a very long time to stop naturally.

Time was the one thing Zan didn't have right now. So she cleaned up the left hand first, dabbing a little bit of peroxide on the rag, then cleaning up the blood pooling in the palm of her lord's hand. After that, she wrapped his hand in the gauze, tightening the bandaging so the bleeding will slow. She wrapped enough around it to see only a few splotches of red through the layers on the left hand. Then she repeated the process with the right hand, only she didn't wrap it as much.

The last area Zan had to stop the bleeding from was on Hyness's forehead, where the rune that had Void Termina's face was still bleeding. Somehow, somehow, he managed to carve a perfect circle into his forehead that went to the bridge of his nose without cutting his eyes. It was bleeding almost as bad as the left hand was, probably because he tried to carve the rune deep into his skin, maybe intending to leave the mark of his devotion on his body.

Zan wanted to cry. Cry, throw up, rip out her hair by the roots, and scream in agony and fury. This devotion, this cult, devoting himself to Void Termina to the point he was willing to commit suicide... it wasn't healthy. He already went insane from this damaging devotion, but now, just as she feared, Hyness was near death.

Zan glanced at the heart monitor. His heartbeat was a little faster, but it was still dangerously slow. She went back to tending the wound, cleaning it of the blood, then patching it up with bandages and the gauze.

"Computer, what should I do for the transfusion?"

"Insert an IV line into a blood vessel on the subject. It is suggested to stick the line in the abdomen."

The machine had a point. Halcandrans lacked arms to stick something like an IV line in. The only reason why their hands are able to float and not get lost if they were to get caught on something is because of a strange gravitational pull brought upon them by the magic in their blood. Other species in the Gamble Galaxy had arms of this nature, but the mystery behind the biology was never solved. Therefore, technology had to adapt to the bizarre biological structure of many of the galaxy's inhabitants.

Zan held the needle connected to the IV line. There was no blood to be given to her lord, and it seemed his heartbeat was starting to slow down once again. There was no way for her to fill up the bag in time that didn't warrant for her to cause severe harm to herself.

Zan glared at the blood stains on her uniform in distaste. While she didn't care that he bled all over her as she carried him to the med bay, she did care if her own blood were to seep through in the event that she had to cause herself to bleed out in order to fill the bag up faster. She had no choice but to do just that; the wounds might have been bandaged, but Hyness already lost a lot of blood. The shock will only get worse, even if she uses the healing spell to try and close up the wounds.

She threw off the uniform, casting it aside on the floor, leaving herself in a gray undershirt-like garment with matching colored shorts underneath. She looked around for something that could pierce her skin and open up a wound that could bleed out quick enough to fill the IV bag. There was a scalpel on a tray. Zan washed it off with hot water and disinfected it with the peroxide. She grabbed a tube and connected it to the IV bag while checking on the heart monitor. The heartbeat hadn't changed.

Zan stared at the scalpel in her hand. Could she bear to stab herself after witnessing what Hyness did to himself? The event was still very fresh on her mind, his agonized voice speaking the tongue of a madman cycling through her head on repeat; Zan was barely able to keep herself from throwing up just a moment ago.

Then she looked at Hyness. The bandaging on his hands and head made him look like a casualty of war. His strange chameleon-like eyes almost appeared open, and for all she knew, they probably were, he was probably blacked out with his eyes open.

Zan was not about to allow Hyness to die on her watch, and upon promising herself this, she stabbed herself in the side with the scalpel, crying out in pain. How her lord was able to manage not screaming from the pain of pushing the knife deeper into his hand to make the wound of the pentacle go deeper was beyond her. Hot tears stung her eyes, burning as they fell from the trails on her face. She was still wincing from pain as she plunged the IV tube to collect the ruby red blood into the bag.

During that whole time, she stared at the heart monitor. Hyness was still hanging on for his life, but his heartbeat slowed even more. If Zan didn't hurry, the monitor would probably flatline. The bleeding of her self-inflicted stab wound was pretty fast, and the IV bag was starting to fill up pretty fast as well. The heart monitor was still reading a heartbeat.

Finally, the bag was filled. Zan closed the bag up after yanking the tube from her side and out of the bag, hooking it up to the tube connected to the IV needle. She used the computer to scan for where the needle should be placed, which was just below the ribcage. She pierced the needle through the skin, and the IV began to fill the body with the needed blood. To quicken the healing, Zan began to use the healing spell. She used it for thirty minutes before she ran out of energy to use it. Most of the blood was also out of the bag in that time as well.

Now, it was a waiting game. Zan laid down on a bed to the left of her lord. She wondered if her sisters even noticed she was gone or if they went down to the ritual room to see the blood rune on the floor. She forgot that she was bleeding, and felt a wetness on her left side. In a hasty panic, she grabbed a large bandage and stuck it her side, laying a rag on the area on the bed that had blood on it.

She looked at Hyness once again. His breathing was actually visible, but it sounded shallow. Zan sighed, then laid back down on the bed.

She waited, and she waited, and she waited, and she waited even more. The heart monitor was reading a faster and steadier heartbeat now, but why wasn't he waking up? Zan wanted to slap him, to shake him awake like Flamberge did earlier when she had a panic attack. But would it be wise to do so when he could wake at any moment?

So she waited some more. And waited. And waited. She eventually dozed off, the hours passing like days. Very very slow days. Zan soon awoke when she heard a thump from the other bed followed by a quiet groan. She looked to the right and saw that Hyness was finally conscious, and was rubbing his head.

"My lord, you're finally awake! Thank the gods!" Zan happily exclaimed as she got off the bed.

"Juh? Z-Zan? How did I end up in the medical bay? Ugh, my head…" Hyness was trying to sit up, but Zan laid him back down.

"Don't try to sit up yet, Lord Hyness, you're going to have to stay here for a little while. Do you remember anything about what happened earlier?"

"I remember carving pentagrams into my hands and a rune on my forehead as well as painting a rune on the floor of the ritual room from my own blood. I had to have been down there for a little more than two hours. Then I ended up here, and… ugh, my head… why do I feel so dizzy?"

"You went into shock. You lost more than half of the blood in your body, causing you to collapse on the floor. I brought you hear and tended to the wounds."

Hyness looked at his hands. Both were bandaged up with a couple layers of gauze underneath it. Splotches of red were more prevalent on the left hand than on the right, though that was clearly due to the fact that he caused the wound to bleed even more.

Then he looked at Zan Partizanne. His most trusted general wasn't even in uniform, she had a gray undershirt and shorts on, not to mention the shirt was small enough for her stomach to be exposed. His face reddened somewhat. At least she wasn't completely exposed.

"Zan? Why aren't you in uniform?" Then he looked closer at her, spying that she had a very large bandaid on her side. He looked around some more and noticed that he was hooked up to an IV line.

"I had to give you a blood transfusion, the spell could only heal the external damage. You won't have scars, but you're going to have to take it easy for a little while."

"Why didn't you call one of the doctors?" Hyness asked. He was glad to be alive but why didn't she get a doctor? He might have had an inkling of an idea why she didn't, but his mind was so hazy right now, he wasn't sure what to think.

"Do you remember, Lord Hyness? The time I first saw your face? I promised to keep your true appearance secret from everyone, including Franny and Berge. I don't intend to break my promise not now, not ever; I haven't for 20 years, why should I break it now?"

Her answer seemed to sting him. Either that, or it was just latent pain where the wounds were. She was so loyal to him of all people. It hurt that she had to witness the ritual, hurt that she saved his life. Hyness didn't know what to think; he thought that he didn't deserve this level of loyalty, that all of her devotion should go only to the Dark Lord. Zan shouldn't have to worry about him, she should only worry about Void Termina.

"Why did you do that to yourself?"

Zan's voice was cracked with very deep emotion all of a sudden, something rather… out of character to her dutiful nature. It seemed she only showed this level of emotion whenever they were alone, and Hyness never really understood why. Perhaps it was due to the mutual trust they had with each other. Hearing that calm and collected voice sound pained seemed to hurt even more than the fact that she worried about him.

"Are you so far gone that you're willing to kill yourself just to resurrect Void Termina? Hyness… you aren't the same as when we first met. What happened to you?" Tears started to well up in her eyes.

"What do you mean "what happened to me"? Weren't you there when that accident with the Jamba Heart occurred?" He asked.

"All of us were there. I had to carry you to your chambers because I didn't want Flamberge trying to sneak a look at your face while you were unconscious. You were screaming all that night and the nights after that for months."

"That was when the nightmares started then… ha, funny. The first time in fifteen years I didn't have one of those jamblasted nightmares was just earlier. Amazing that nearly dying from shock was what it took for me to have a sleep without horrifying visions for once in a red moon."

His voice sounded very bitter upon saying those words. A chuckle escaped his lips, but it sounded harsh and callous, there was no joy or mirth in it at all. His voice almost made it sound like all the happiness was sapped from his body.

"The visions… if I shut my eyes to rest even for a little bit, I can see them. So many bodies… so much blood. And they keep coming back, every single night. Melatonin isn't helping as much as it used to. It only numbs the full effect of the nightmares.

Think of the dreams like… juh, what was it…? Horror movies? Yeah, think of it like those horror movies some of the soldiers seem to like so much. But multiply the fear factor up exponentially and have the same dream every single night. Over and over and over and over majaja majaja majaja; over and over and over again again and again."

Hyness shook his head and buried his face in his bandaged hands. Zan could faintly hear him murmuring something, but she couldn't understand what it was. A shudder escaped her lord, and he wrapped his hands around his body in an attempt to secure himself. Why he did so, she did not know, nor understand.

"Have you ever thought of your sanity as a castle, Zan? The walls that border the outside that protect the precious structure within represents your mental defenses. And my walls have crumbled. My castle has crumbled to ruin too. All that's left is a tower. And even that is beginning to fall into ruin. Will I ever be the same again? No… probably not.

You are right, I have changed, I am not the same as when we first met. I am a jamblasted madman, a crazy fool that doesn't deserve to have someone like you that's… so loyal. You could be doing something so much better than this, Zan? Why do you choose to stay? What do I have left to offer to you or your sisters?"

"I only know my sisters are here because they'd follow me to the ends of the Gamble Galaxy and back, Lord Hyness. As for why I stayed, I have a debt to repay. You gave my sisters and I a future, even if we are devoting ourselves to this desire that you have. We have food, clothes, shelter, and a purpose. I live to serve you, however, my lord. I don't owe my loyalty to the Dark Lord, I only pledge allegiance to him because of your devotion."

"Your loyalty hurts me." Hyness sighed, wiping away at his eyes. Silence fell between the mage and her leader, and one party wanted the other to say something, for whatever they had to say, at least they knew the other party will make an effort to listen.

"I only wish for the visions to end. I wish to stop failing to bring him back. These failures… I've spent so much of the life I've had trying to bring Void Termina back to life… what will I do for the rest of my days after he is back? Will thousands of years really pass by like shooting stars on a planet's surface? Just thinking about living as long as 10,000 years or more terrifies me. The eldest members of my family might be dead if I even get that old. Dying alone, with nobody to call family anymore… kind of makes one want to bawl their eyes out…"

At that last statement, Hyness felt Zan hug him. Then she began crying, which led to a hiccupping sob, staining his clothing with more tears. The crying confused Hyness very much… he wasn't sure what to make of the sight, but he knew seeing Zan in this state made his heart burn with sympathy and guilt.

"Please stop saying bad things over yourself. Don't make yourself a vessel for Void Termina EVER again! And Lord Hyness, I beg of you, don't cause yourself harm ever again. My lord, your devotion will be your own demise if you continue pursuing resurrection with these Dark Magic spells that would be better suited for a curse." She looked up at him, straight in the eyes.

"I care about you, my lord. My loyalty isn't just because you gave us so much… I still remember when you saved me. I attacked you a few days prior, and yet you still saved me. You risked your life to save mine. I didn't believe that a stranger would be so kind as to do something so brave… but look at yourself now. A shell of the brave young man you once were.

And here you are in front of me now, talking about ending your own life because of nightmares and your insanity. It hurts me. It hurts to see you like this. And I fear that I really will lose you… please… don't do that to yourself ever again."

Tears were still coming down from her eyes, Zan's voice was swollen with emotion. It was painful to see her cry, even moreso than his self inflicted cut wounds. It seemed like the mage and her master both had their own damaging devotion. But that was what held them together.

Hyness held Zan close to his chest and let the tears soak through. He will resurrect the Dark Lord even if it kills him. But after everything that has happened, he didn't seem to care right now. No. Comforting Zan was all that mattered to him right now, at least let her know that the one that saved her so long ago was not completely gone.

"I won't harm myself to resurrect him anymore. At least I know now… I have someone else to live for…" Hyness trailed off, falling asleep with Zan still close by. She sat up by her lord's side, wiping the tears from her eyes, looking off in the distance of the dim lights of the medical bay.

No matter how bad everything gets, no matter how deep this devotion goes, I will always be at your side, no matter what happens. In spite of all, that is all I can hope for, is that I am always welcome at your side.