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Orphans & Outcasts: Chapter Twelve

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Exhaustion. He had not known the likes of it since he was a cub. It was debilitating and frustrating. It plagued him, even in his sleep. The lingering part of him that was vaguely awake knew he was in Zafiashid’s cabin, sprawled out on her bed. His weakened chest rumbled with the infection of the persistent Human illness. It was miserable, Denvy concluded, the state he was in—simply miserable.

“You really should do something about that,” an affluent voice said from behind him.

Denvy turned sharply, swaying as he stepped onto the surface of a dune. The abrupt change in scenery was disorientating. He had not experienced a dreamscape for sol-cycles. The notion that he had returned to the zone within the Secondary Realm was both elating and terrifying. The wide expanses of the burning-sea blanketed the horizon as far as he could see, and a Sunrise capped the dunes in a crystal shine, igniting tall spires in the distance. Alone beside him stood a tiny, delicate Zaprex, wings of energy fluttering rapidly enough to make the sand dance around its ankles.

“Sekhmet.” His voice hitched with emotion. “Gibo!”

If Hazanin-sama had been the Zaprexes’ embodiment of time, Sekhmet had been their finest protector, a warrior of the highest calibre, despite appearing to be anything but. The ancient being had been left in a Tower—forever protecting a world that did not want protection. The sorrow Denvy had always perceived in the sapphire eyes of the delicate cyborg was evident as it stared into his inner being, assessing him as though looking for damage done over the centuries of his life. He felt immeasurably old, weighed down by the sol-cycles that separated them. Sekhmet wore the very last thing he could recall it wearing. A simple body-suit, primed for battle, protecting a fragile body that had been grievously abused.

Antennae tweaked rearward in curiosity, and a smile graced the forlorn Zaprex’s lips. Sekhmet turned towards the rising Sun. “Maahes, look at my beautiful desert. I saved Utillia, as best I could. It is up to you to finish what I started.” Sekhmet drifted away, fading into the light.

Denvy held out a paw. “Gibo, please. Wait. Please stay.”

“I cannot stay when I was never here, Maahes.”

His hearts raced, thudding against his ribs. “Don’t leave me alone. I never wanted to dream alone.”

“Denvy, is that you?” The intrusion of another voice was startling. He almost jumped in alarm. It had been so long since he had linked with anyone in a dreamscape. Not since the Dreamers Who Dreamt at the House of Flames, and Titus’ young wife, Rein, had he experienced the sensation of another mind linked with his own.

Nixlye stared at him in confusion, the fur of her cheeks still damp, as though she had been weeping. Tears, he was sure, shed for Ryojin—and the lives lost in Ishabal. Denvy raised his brow at the sight of her wheelchair in this dreamscape desert. Despite the situation, he smiled. The young queen was a wonder. For her to picture herself in her chair, even in her dreams, revealed how holistically accepting she was of herself. Her avatar within the Seco