(Swear Warning in this chapter. Not a lot, but if anyone is offended by cursing, please be cautious. It is later on in the chapter.)
Warm, happy, and full, my brother and I set out with a group of three Darkbloods to head back home. The camp had promised to send people to other pockets of Darkblood population to tell them about what happened, and they also promised to take turns hiding in the Valley so that they could reach me through telepathy. Several of them were impressed by my sheer telepathic power, though it also led to them being afraid of what my other abilities were. Overall, Terrance and I left with our escort on a good note, and I had a skip in my step as we got closer to our home. He couldn't keep a slow pace, and we found ourselves practically running through the trees, laughing. My mind was clearer, and even if there was a punishment waiting for me back at the castle, my mood couldn't be dampened. I was over the moon about rescuing my brother and being able to focus on training and spending my days with Kai.
And after that, all I had to do was bring the two bloods together to avoid an all-out war.
It won't be easy. But I'll have to figure it out, I told myself firmly, grinning as a Darkblood with webbed fingers jumped at me. I met him midair, poking the webbing in between his fingers. It was sensitive, causing him to squeal as we landed and kept running, keeping up with the others. A Darkblood who could project her dreams onto thin air threw silly images at us as Terrance grabbed my hand, pulling me with him as we pushed through the branches and bushes.
After what seemed like only seconds of playing, we were spat out on the other side of the forest. It may have very well been the farthest point of the Valley from our farm, but it didn't matter as we quickly bid goodbye to the Darkbloods before they melted away into the night.
Goodbye, Gray One.
Call me Cloud, goofballs, I responded happily, letting Terrance pull me onto the sidewalk. Gradually, I felt the natural connection slip away, but the smile on my face remained.
"H-How is everyone?" Terrance blurted, breaking me from my thoughts. I paused before answering, thinking of our mother who hated me.
"They'll be happy to see you," I answered, not quite lying but definitely keeping the whole truth from him. He grinned, watching people go by as we walked down the street. Some turned to study me, but the darkness helped conceal my features enough for them to blow off their suspicions. I could only hope that the royals would find a way to get the citizens off my back.
Streetlights illuminated the dark roads, since it was long past sunset with the moon hanging above us. Not too long ago, I would've been afraid to walk at night. Afraid of criminal Lightbloods and Darkbloods in general, but now, with my brother by my side and my power to back me up, I strolled confidently down the dark roads. Even with my Darkblood form hidden, I felt stronger. Smarter. Ready for a fight, ready to defend those I was loyal to.
Truly loyal to. Whether the Queen and her people fell under that category would be something I decided on my own time. For now, I was content to return home for a fleeting moment before I'd rush back to the castle to recieve a slap on the wrist.
Or maybe emprisonment, who knows.
"Cloud," Terrance said gently as we passed the fountain, getting closer to our family's farm, "where are you going once you return me home?"
I sighed, watching my shadow transform and shift along the dirt path. "The castle. I have to go back."
He sniffled, hand dropping from mine. "And you won't let us come with?" He prodded, meaning himself and our brothers. I winced, rubbing my arms as a breeze blew past.
"I can't," I said, the volume barely above a whisper as my voice cracked. "I can't do that to you."
Terrance stopped suddenly, causing me to trip as I followed suit. I turned to him, looking as the face I hadn't seen in what felt like eternity. The shadows sculpted his features in an unfamiliar way, but it was still my oldest brother all the same. Taken by clawed monsters who hated our half of the species.
"Cloud, you're so stupid," Terrance coughed, and I noticed a shiny trail leading from his eye to his chin. I was shocked, seeing my brother cry again. "You're so fucking stupid," he hissed, a tear dripping off his nose.
"We want to protect you, Cloud. We want to help. It doesn't matter if you're some super amazing hybrid freak," he snapped, tears streaming down his face faster. I choked on a gasp, unable to stop him as he balled his fists, voice rising. "You're not invincible, Cloud! You're still my baby sister who didn't have magic for most her life. Just because that changed doesn't mean you're suddenly on top of the world. We're supposed to protect you, Storm-Cloud!"
He sputtered, sniffling as he begrudgingly wiped away his tears, his frustration simmering down.
"You may be powerful, maybe, but you still need us, Cloud. We're not gonna sit back and watch you get yourself killed playing hero," he spat, stomping by me. I watched him, too stunned to move until he slowed down, glaring at me over his shoulder.
"Get your ass over here, kid. I'm still your brother."
A hint of playfulness smoothed out the anger in his tone, and I bit my lip to keep myself from smiling as I caught up to him.
You may act all worried and tough, big brother, I thought as our footsteps echoed down the mostly-empty street, but you're just looking out for me because you love me.
And Terrance, I thought, keeping it to myself since I didn't need to use telepathy to know he knew it.
I love you too.