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"I'm sorry, but I should really go now." Kamila said.
"Please, stay. I don't want to be alone. Not now." Lith opened his hand yet he opposed a tenuous resistance, leaving to her the choice to broke the contact or not.
"Alone? How?" She looked at the stone ring with suspicion, her mind was now messier than ever.
"Solus's not a thing. She has her own grief and, in moments like this, we have to sever our link to not let our negative feelings flow into each other until they drown us. Quylla was the first person that approached us back at the academy without a hidden agenda.
"Solus cared a lot about her and being unable to attend her funeral in person, to give Quylla a eulogy like everyone else only makes her pain deeper. Thanks to you, I managed to console her, at least a bit." Lith replied.
He had been sending Solus several happy memories that they shared with Quylla, to remind Solus of the way their friend had lived rather than the image of her disfigured corpse.
'Thanks, Lith.' She half-sobbed and half-laughed while remembering the fiasco of Quylla's first dungeon raid. 'Thank Kamila for me and bring me home. I don't want to stay in my ring form one second longer.'
"Look, I don't want to be rude, but if you want me to stay, we need to go somewhere that's not your house and you have to take her off." Kamila said while never moving her hand.
"I don't feel like facing your whole family and I want to make sure that I'm talking only with you."
"Belius?" Lith said.
"I don't live there anymore. I go to the apartment only between shifts, barely once a week. The place is a mess." Kamila shook her head. "We can go to Zinya's. The kids are dying to see you again and it's close to your home in the case something else happens."
Lith tried and failed to perceive the energy signature of the Camellia on her, making his heart tighten.
'She doesn't have it on herself and she doesn't live in Belius anymore. I guess she must have let it wither. Maybe we are really done.' Lith thought.
Jirni canceled the wake she had planned after the funeral, sending everyone back to their respective homes. Deirus's stunt had nauseated her and brought the rest of the Ernas family on the verge of madness.
Her children and husband needed peace, not wasting the little focus they had left entertaining their guests and talking about things that would deepen their wounds.
Once they arrived at the Gate in the barn, Lith entrusted Solus to Elina, who briefly hugged Kamila before walking away.
Elina went to the site of the mana geyser in the Trawn woods, allowing the tower to form so that Solus could finally cry all of her tears while enjoying the soft warmth of a mother's embrace.
Her energy body quivered as Solus inwardly thanked Kamila again for having taken Lith away. Solus didn't want him to see her so weak nor to worry about her.
"Why am I so frail while you are so strong?" Solus sobbed, holding Elina tight while making sure not to hurt her.
"Because you need me to be strong." Elina kissed her forehead while caressing Solus's long golden hair. "Poor child, you've lost so much, yet you have always been so worried about Lith that you never allowed yourself to feel."
"What do you mean?" Solus sniffled.
"That maybe, as long as you considered yourself just a tower, you lived Lith's life instead of your own. You never had the opportunity to love someone he didn't, to hang out with someone he didn't like." Elina said
"You didn't even try to find out what happened to your mother or what happened to her belongings and relatives. Quylla's death is a terrible event, yet it can be your first opportunity to not worry about him and focus on yourself."
"There's no Abomination side to contain here, no battle to fight, just you and me." She hugged Solus tighter while carrying her to the nearest sofa and covering her with a blanket.
'Thank the gods for Lith's lack of imagination. The kitchen is identical to that back home.' Elina thought while preparing warm tea with milk.
"You did the right thing by leaving Lith's side. Unless you learn how to take care of yourself and to separate your feelings from his, you'll never be your own person. Everyone has the right to be selfish sometimes.
"It's what makes us human and happy. You can't learn how to share with others if you don't have anything of your own." Elina bit a cookie, almost chipping her teeth.
"Did you make these?"
"Yes. They are a bit too crunchy, but they are tasty, right?" Solus asked.
"More like stone-hard dear. Not everyone has the maw of a Tiamat or of a tower." Elina threw the cookie, making it bounce on the floor and yet coming out unscathed from the impact.
"Oh, gods, I'm so sorry Elina. Did you get-"
"Hush, child. There's no need to apologize." Elina ruffled her hair. "Now drink your tea and bawl your eyes out. We can worry about your cooking skills later."
"Can you teach me?" Solus rested her head on Elina's womb as exhaustion finally caught up with her, making her eyes droopy.
"Of course. What's a mother for?" Elina said, obtaining a loud snore in reply.
For the first time since the day Quylla had died, Solus's mind was finally at peace.
"I'm back Zin. We have a guest." Kamila said while walking through the door.
"Welcome back uncle Lith. We've missed you a lot. Where have you been?" Frey and Filia said while hugging him with joy.
"I'm really sorry, kids." Lith swallowed his grief and did his best to put a smile on his face while he ruffled their hair. "Aunt Kami and I had a bit of an argument so I had to give her some space."
Zinya turned around from the stove to glare at him, her eyes reduced to slits filled with doubt and suspicion.
"But she's at work for most of the day whereas you're still unemployed. Why didn't you visit during office hours?" Lilia, the oldest of the two siblings, asked.
"Because I was scared of your mother." He honestly replied, making the two kids chuckle.
'Visiting the kids meant visiting Zinya and she would have asked me questions that I can't answer.' He thought.
"An Archmage is afraid of Mom?" Frey looked at his mother with renewed respect. "Don't worry, uncle Lith, she's harmless. The worse she can do is to fatten you as she did with Volgun and Brionac."
He pointed at the two magical beasts that lay at Zinya feet with their exposed bellies, in the hope to either be pity-fed or at least catch any ingredient that slipped off her hands.
"He has a point, though." Filia said with a pensive face that was adorable in a ten years old girl. "Even uncle Zogar is an Archmage and he's afraid of Mom. He often runs away for no reason. She must have some secret skill."
Normally, Zinya would have blushed at her daughter mentioning how Vastor left the moment things got too romantic for his taste, but the chaos in her mind kept her from showing any emotion that wasn't silent reproach.
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