x x x

She had fled and then thought about it, her order as confused as the rest of her, the twisting guilt in her gut matched only by the hollowness of her palm. Arashi had weighed each alternative carefully, then not carefully, then not at all. Going back was out of the question, as was running home to Ise. As was everything else.

She went to the Dragons of Earth only when she was certain she was out of alternatives, and ran into Subaru instead. His hair had grown longer, he was wearing black gloves, and Arashi felt nothing at all around him. Safe, then.

He hadn't asked and hadn't pretended to care. He took her to his apartment and made coffee that neither of them had touched. He hadn't spoken, she hadn't replied. The days scraped by.

They asked eachother no questions, not even with she caught him with blood staining his shirt-cuffs, not even when he caught her sitting with her back against the wall, curled in on herself with red eyes.

Subaru was safe.

On the eighth day, he glanced over at her from where she sat against the wall, his eyes two colors, flat and dull both. "You haven't eaten since you arrived."

She licked her dry lips before answering. Subaru's posture at the table was falsely relaxed. "You've returned with blood on you four times now."

"He left his task to me," Subaru said.

"He can't protect me from this," Arashi replied.

x x x