She came to her senses and felt pain like she had never felt in her life. Her body had been crushed, destroyed beyond belief. All the bones were broken, there was a metallic taste in her mouth: her organs were most likely spilling out of it. God… it was pure agony.
Then, with the most disgusting noises and hideous smell, it began to revert itself. Bones rearranged inside her flesh; her organs began traveling to their rightful place inside her anatomy.
She heard gasping, a rasping sound breaking the stillness around her, but she couldn’t feel its source, which left only three people as probable sources…
“Harrow?” His voice came, interrupted by rasps and mouthfuls of air. “Kid? Oh miracles, are you okay? Are you back with us?” She felt his holy power washing over her and had to grit her teeth, she had few precious moments… she HAD to focus, to move cell by cell in her eyes, to make this believable.
Finally, she opened her eyes and stared at the man near her, looking the same as he always had: Dark hair, brown skin, hideous monstrous eyes, his shirt stained with blood and gore and, in his arms, an unconscious Ianthe was being carried.
John stared at her and sighed, but she wasn’t sure if it was either in disappointment or gratitude.
“There you are, Gideon the sequel.” He greeted, his mouth forming a tight smile.
Her mouth opened and she tried to remember the words she should use. What she would use to greet God himself.
A long time was spent with God healing her and Ianthe, Gideon the First was nowhere to be found but John didn’t seem concerned at all. He seemed relaxed in fact.
“Your si- Well, yes, technically she’d be your sister still, just in another, stranger way. Either way, Ianthe is completely fine now, which means we can look at your little problem.” He came closer to her form, sitting on the floor of the Mithraeum, and (she was sure) looking like a kicked puppy. He reached his hand to her and she tensed.
“Relax, my child, I’ll just call Harrow forth.”
“Shouldn’t you get ME a body to live in first, dad?” She emphasized the last word, hoping to stab his pride and whatever twisted sense of parenthood he still carried. It didn’t seem to work.
“Don’t worry, my daughter.” He put a hand on her cheek and she wanted to bite it. “You’re my only child, I wouldn’t risk you.” His words seemed truthful, honest and trustworthy.
Then again, they had always sounded like that.
She felt a pull from inside, a painful one, everything moved and, before she even had a chance to panic over him discovering the truth, it was over. He was looking at her with a furrowed brow as he gasped from the effort. But in her, nothing had changed.
“Wha-…she’s, Harrow is resisting me.”
That didn’t sound even logical to hear.
“She’s… resisting… YOU?” She kept the pitch down just by pure will and was grateful for it.
“She.” He took a deep breath and combed his hair back, arranged his shirt and went to Ianthe’s unmoving (but breathing, she noted) body, bending to pick her up. “She has proven herself capable of incredible deeds, deeds that even my saints were not able to predict or even notice. I’m actually happy that you would find such a worthy necromancer as your play companion.” With a relaxed gaze in his inhuman eyes, he shrugged simply. “I’m not sure if allowing Mercymorn of ALL people was my worse mistake here, maybe taking care of Harrowhark myself would have been a better choice. Hell, maybe even Gideon OG would have been a better teacher.”
She bit her tongue and waited for his conclusion.
“The Mithraedum should hold for now, I’m tired… and Ianthe needs her rest. We’ll postpone this daughter-father Hallmark movie reunion for later. I’ll leave your sister in her bed and get myself some tea. Gideon, please get some rest, and please take care of that body.”
With that, he turned away, but she caught his look, his body slumping just a bit, his eyes closing in a flinch, his face growing old for a moment. He looked tired, defeated.
She tried not to run to her quarters, well, where she knew Harrow’s quarters were, the girl had stopped sleeping with her sister, right? She chose an affirmative answer to that and went to the familiar place, closed the door behind her and collapsed on her knees, gasping loudly, patting her own body, bristling with pain and cold.
The nerves felt all wrong, everything around her was too much, there was so much noise even when there was no source for said noise. Her brain felt as if it was buzzing painfully, and she couldn’t stop it. The recent pain that should be there still was faded, as if the body she was in had long given up against it, as if it had accepted a life with it torturing her. Touch was shaken, everything felt too real or not real enough.
This was so disgusting! So uncouth! EUGH! Why did she had to inhabit this broken body now?!
She went to the light switch and turned it off, the lights were too bright, they damaged her eyes.
She stumbled to the broken mirror, fear grasping her very heart like it had not done in myriads. The newcomer to Harrow’s body saw her reflection and hated it right away, too small, bony, nowhere near beautiful, nowhere near strong or assertive looking but that was not her main concern at the moment.
She looked at the eyes and released her own strain, letting the cells change, letting them go back to their original color.
She waited for the body to react and once again she fell on her knees, this time in relief.
One of her eyes was her original color, her truly original one: brown (milk chocolate brown, she used to say), the other, the other was a beautiful shade of hazel, untarnished and pure.
She gasped and shakingly brought her hand to her mouth. Mercymorn was trembling now, unable to contain her tears, unable to move, afraid of having any kind of hope for it could be taken away for her so easily. The woman knew she wouldn’t survive that again. Still, with a deep breath, wanting to prove herself brave for the first time in 10 000 years, Mercy focused and felt herself floating. She had not left the borrowed body, but now she was in between realms.
She reached inside her, fear coming to her in tidal waves, and felt a familiar touch, a gentle caress. Weak and worn, but still there.
Her mismatched eyes opened once again and she stared at the reflection in the mirror, oh how she wanted to insult the body presented before her. Her mouth tightened and she wanted to just drag her.
There was so much to do, and the baby decided to take a nap, just, pathetic. But she couldn’t voice her thoughts, not when she felt the other soul curled around her, lovingly, softly, calming every negative feeling, soothing every thought until she found peace. Just as she had done 10 000 years ago
She tried to lower her sobs, least someone could hear her, but her tears kept rolling down her unfamiliar skin. Mercy hugged herself.
“Crystabel.” She whispered in reverence, in love, in need, and the soul continued to soothe her. This new body seemed to have made a compartment, a way for two souls to be together without one burning the other.
Mercymorn whispered the words she had used to describe this child: “A once-in-a-lifetime genius, an insane imbecile, or both.” It was evident that it was both, and thanks to that she had one more chance, however small, to fight John, and gain the knowledge she had craved for so long: To know if Crystabel Oct was still with her, if she would have still loved her after all these years, or if she had been lost forever, turned into a human furnace and consumed until there was nothing left of her.
The words the former Saint of Joy, now undercover agent trying to kill the King of Nine Renewals, said to her once-trainee were perhaps the softest ones she had uttered in myriads:
“Rest calm, little sister.”