Disclaimer: I don't own it, Atlus does.

Random insane plotbunny. My friend is disappointed it's not crack.

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His throat hurt.

Ever since his vocal cords had healed wrong in the battle where Argilla had gotten her own scar (they'd been almost out of rations, and a good leader looked after his men and women first), speaking was something he avoided like the plague.

He and his lieutenants had developed a private language of hand signals, and Heat especially could read his expressions like a book, so he rarely needed to actually use words.

A lot of the new Embryon swore he was telepathic or something, or they all were. It was part of the legend developing around the leader who looked like he would become the one to finally win his tribe the right to enter Nirvana, the thing they all fought for.

Now, however, he almost sighed with relief when one of the enemy managed to render him mute. It meant he could use a physical attack, or not attack at all, and have a brief respite from casting various variations of bufu or healing his comrades, time for his throat to recover.

Argilla had been looking after him, casting dia when they were away from water or didn't have the time to grind up a ration and dissolve it in water so he could swallow it easily. He had to do violence onto his enemies even after they were dead, cutting their corpses into blood-slicked pieces that would go down easily, letting Heat have anything that would tear at his throat even after chewing, like the bones.

Heat in return gave him the softest parts of his own kill, even when Agni was ravenous.

Little things like that were why he hadn't been able to fight Heat. He should have known better, understood right away what Heat was planning. So much for being telepathic.

"What's wrong, Serph?" Sera asked him worriedly.

He smiled at her. It's nothing.

"Your throat, mon? Again?" Cielo tsked. "You need to let us know dis things, ja?"

Argilla slipped out to collect some rainwater while Heat fumbled in his pocket for a ration in a ritual practiced a hundred times.

"His throat?"

It's nothing to worry about, he signaled with a wave of his arm. He knew that Sera understood him as well as the others did, and it was one more thing to wonder about.

"That idiot got his throat torn out in a fight. Gale got to him with a ration in time, but it didn't heal him completely, and he didn't take another one." Heat snorted. "What good is a leader who can't give orders?" he asked rhetorically as he tossed the ration at Serph, who caught it easily, cheered by the barb. Heat was in fine form today.

"Serph's a great leader!" Sera understood him, but Heat not at all.

Sera seemed to be a littleā€¦ clingy when he was around. He didn't understand it, but he was glad Heat always took her off his hands. Around him was where the most danger was, and she was unique in the Junkyard in that she wasn't a warrior. He didn't want her to become one, either. So strange.

He couldn't let any uncertainty show.

"Ja, the best!" Cielo agreed as Argilla returned. The dry ration dissolved easily and Serph gulped down the water gratefully. No words were needed: they knew he was grateful.

His 'comrades.'

Perhaps that word, that concept, was worth all of this.