“Why don’t you gestate here?” Sujela choked on what she heard. “Pardon me?” Tophan advanced towards her, she clearly saw his shape against the darkness, a stick poked her in the belly, going through Tophans center, dissolving the illusion. “I didn’t say anything.” Grateful for the darkness Sujela took the end of the stick, realizing it was a thick branch, the other end in Tophans hands. “This way we’ll know that other is where we think the other is.” he stated dryly, also thankful for the darkness. Again both of them saw each other peeled out of the darkness, holding on to the ends of the branch, confused the two stared at each other, realizing the absurdity of their former hatred, now frightened and confused holding on to the ends of a branch to know the position of the other. “It isn’t morning yet.” Sujela stated dryly, looking around, as Tophan did, neither could make out the source of the dim light. Behind a tree a croak made both grab the branch tighter.

Hopping from branch to branch into vision was a Phoenix, his feather extending into the ethereal gave off a dim light enabling the two to see each other. “What is that bird?” Tophan had heard their croaks before but never paid them much attention, until standing in the perfect darkness, holding a branch that connected him to a fungal guard. “The Albin call them Phoenix, they migrated from their lands as conjury waned.” she admitted that there was a small flock living in the mountains above the capital, elevated far above the semi-dead fungus, but that these had flown away as well. In secret she had always admired the birds. Very few birds lived in the fungal empire, most were migratory birds, just passing through, except the small Phoenix flock, that had left after magic disappeared in most parts of the world. Unable to turn their gaze away from the strange bird both kept staring at it, as the Phoenix kept staring at them. Neither could tell how long they stared at the bird as the black roof above their heads started showing tiny holes of violet, followed by pink and rose colors and finally blue in all intensities of the color. With the fading night the visibility of the Phoenix vanished until it was only barely distinguishable from the darkness around thanks to its colorful feathers. Ever so slowly with the fading night did Sujela and Tophan turn their gaze away from the Phoenix, looking back at each other. Sujela put the branch down and dug free her feet, observing Tophan do the same.

Tension had risen in his body again, he kept his right hand close to the dagger. “I said I won’t fight you.”

“How do I know you’re not a figment of my imagination, while I am going insane?” insecure, disturbed and scared, unsettled and still full of hatred for anything remotely fungal Tophan defended his tension. “How do I know that you aren’t my mind going insane?” she stemmed her hands on her hips. “I don’t, but the branch felt real enough as it poked me, and I’m certain the rock I threw at you was real enough?” Tophan felt his nose, it still hurt. “Yes.” he admitted.

Sujela turned around, locating the nearest dead body, she pointed at it and asked Tophan to remember it as it was lying there, afterwards she marched off, Tophan followed her. Though he feared and hated her for what she was and represented, she was better to be around than the cadavers of her comrades, or the ethereal, beautiful, but very eerie bird.

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