Phobos cautiously pushed open the door to her mother's cell. The interior was shrouded by darkness and even with her being a shadow mage, she could only make out the outline of the feline form of her mother's Feral state. There were iron bars separating the room into to unequal halves, the narrower one for the visitors to stand in.
As she closed the door behind her, the big cat stirred slightly and opened its eyes. They shone like two yellow lamps in the darkness as they fixated upon her.
The eyes of the daughter and the mother met. The former filled with sorrow tinged with hope; the latter filled with indifference and cruelty. The light of hope in Phobos' eyes died as she failed to find any trace of recognition in her mother's gaze.
Tears streamed down her cheeks and she couldn't help but give out a choked sob.
The sound attracted the panther locked away behind the bars and she walked up to the front of the cell until her head was nearly pressing up against the metallic bars.
In her Feral form, as a Tier 3 beast, Phobos' mother stood a head and shoulders taller than Phobos. As she brought her large head down to inspect the weeping girl, something flashed past in her eyes. Something akin to recognition. The feline huffed gently, the warm breath blowing upon Phobos' face, blowing back her hair. Pleasantly surprised, Phobos looked up and mother and daughter regarded each other again.
"M-other?" she choked out questioningly.
The panther rumbled deep in her chest in reply.
Smiling through her tears, Phobos wiped her eyes hastily and tried to approach but was stopped in her tracks by a warning yowl. What little sanity had returned was now struggling fiercely with Vita's will, trying to prevent it from harming her.
"Okay. Okay I'll stay back," said Phobos hastily as she retreated almost to the door, her back pressing up against the stone.
The struggle in the Feral's eye reduced until it was calm again.
"Mother, how… how have you been?"
The panther huffed in a close approximation of a sigh and raised a paw. There, around the wrist was a band of metal attached to a chain made of the same material. Mana suppressing chains. With a clank, she put her paw down again.
"Oh…" Phobos continued hesitantly, "Uhh… mother… I just wanted to say…"
The panther snorted and Phobos could just imagine her mother rolling her eyes and saying, "Just get on with it." The image made her eyes prickle.
"I mean, dad..." seeing her mother's hackles rising, she hurriedly powered through. "Dad wouldn't have wanted you to follow him!"
The panther bared her teeth and growled again; a deep rumble that shook the bottom of Phobos' heart. The hate and anger in that sound was palpable.
"Mother, please!" pleaded Phobos desperately, "Please don't leave me too!" Her voice cracked in the end.
But her pleas fell on ears deafened by revenge and vita's whispers as the last bit of sanity holding back the madness receded from the Feral's eyes and with a thunderous roar, it threw its body against the bars to try and get to her.
Phobos tried pleading a few more times but it only served to agitate the beast her mother had become. Sobbing hard, she fumbled with the door and rushed out, closing it behind her. Pressing her back to it, she sank to the ground. Hugging her knees, she buried her face into them and cried.
After a while she felt a small but calloused hand gently rubbing her back. Looking up, her distraught yellow eyes met the sympathetic green of Deimos'. Throwing herself into the younger girl's embrace she began to wail in earnest, wetting the front of Deimos' dress with her tears.
They stayed like that for a long time until Phobos' wails reduced to sobs, and finally whimpers that died down as she fell asleep in Deimos' arms. Deimos sighed as she rubbed the girl's back. Phobos hadn't slept for more than a few hours the entire way back to their estates from Firang. Her dark circles were even more pronounced and she had lost some weight in the three days it had taken them.
Slowly, carefully so as not to wake her, Deimos carried her body onto her back and began walking towards the bedroom.
She should let Phobos get some rest otherwise she would fall ill. Even the enhanced body of a mage had limits.
Phobos' mother along with all the other widows from Patera had been brought to the Felidae estates and housed in the cells. Their families had been contacted and most were on the way to retrieve them. Most of them would re-marry. Either some bachelor or a Tamer with a slot free. Then there were others who wanted to follow their husbands into the afterlife. Not many but including Phobos' mother, there were three.
They would stay on in the estate, waiting in the cell for an opportunity to arise so that they could unleash their vengeance upon the perpetrator of the violence that had separated them from the love of their lives.
The head of the Kirin Clan: Ragyo Kirin. Deimos narrowed her eyes as she thought of that name.
Then she sighed helplessly. It wasn't in her hands. The matter was far beyond her capabilities. All she could do now was comfort her sister-wife. After all, she knew what it felt like to lose parents.
She thought of Mars and Ceres who were holed up in the technique pavilion of the clan reading the notes of their predecessors had left on the topic of magic.
In the Felidae clan, the norm was to cultivate to Tier 3 before they started to test which Aspect available to the mage was most suitable. Then they would allow the mage to access the contents of the pavilion related to that Aspect and after using it, the mage was obligated to leave their experiences there to enrich the collection.
They hadn't known about it because the Felidae believed it would distract the young mages from the legitimate path of mana accumulation.
But since Mars had taken a different direction, he had been granted full access.
He had holed himself up the moment he had arrived, trying to find a solution to the problem. Ceres was helping him.
If they could somehow help the women stave of Vita's curse…
Hope was quite uncertain, after all it was a problem that none had solved in the millennia that had passed since the Apocalypse.
Deimos prayed for their success. Maybe, just maybe, her beloved Master would pull off another miracle.
1 left... phew.
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