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Understanding

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The young Shepherd is such a great listener that he earned the label of ‘understanding’. He never once complained when Rose would tell him about her shitty her day was, or when his seraphim family would drag him aside to talk to him about their concerns. He truly appreciates listening to people, seeing their face go through a rollercoaster of emotions finally becoming a smile after recalling some good memory of theirs.

It’s in his nature to help others. That’s just how Sorey’s been for as long as he could remember.

He always believes that he’s capable of understanding any situation he’s faced with.

—————–

After a long purification process thoroughly through Glaivend Basin, the whole party was growing in exhaustion. Wishing for rest, they decide to stay at the inn in Gododdin. There, Lailah and the others discuss their next plans to stop the spread of malevolence.

They all agree on Pendrago as their next destination, although the fire seraph suggests they stay another week to regain their strength. All of them reluctantly agree except Sorey. Concerned over the ever growing malevolence continuing to spread, he urges them to press forward. Lailah rests her hand on Sorey’s shoulder.

“Sorey, we must rest. I understand that you’re worried about the status of Pendrago, but we cannot take any risks. All of us our in need of rest after our long battle.” Lailah’s voice pleas.

“Especially not with you, Sorey. If you were to collapse, we won’t be able to save anyone. Take care of yourself first, idiot.” Mikleo adds, staring at him sternly.

Sorey lets out a sigh and rests back on the mattress. This is an argument he clearly wasn’t going to win, so he simply closes his eyes, allowing rest to take him.

—————————-

Not wanting to burden his friends, Sorey decides to try his own method of purifying malevolence the only way he’s known how: with understanding.

The sound of shuffling and string fastening lightly fills the room. Sorey takes one more glance back at his team members, feeling regret for leaving them behind. A note sat neatly folded on the nightstand beside Rose. One foot steps out through the door as his whole body followed.

Being the Shepherd, he easily had access to transportation. He thanked one of the townsmen for lending their horse, and off he went.

In roughly two days, he arrives in Pendrago. He can feel the toll on his body, but he reassures himself he’s fine.

Stepping of his horse, he feels a presence besides him. He jumps in surprise at the sight of who it is.

“Sorey, you really are an idiot, you know that?” the voice belongs to no other than the sacred water seraph himself.

“M-Mikleo! What are you doing here…?” Sorey stutters, although he already knows why he’s here. Of course Mikleo would follow him.

“You really think I would leave you alone? The last thing I want is to have you tainted with malevolence.” Mikleo sighs. That brings a small smile on Sorey’s face.

“Heh, come on Mikleo! Have a little faith in me, would you?” Sorey teases, his arm lightly nudging Mikleo’s side.

The two of them engage in laughter only the other had known. It’s becomes their own secluded world in which only each other’s presence can fill. After the two ceased their joy, Sorey began explaining his reasoning. The water seraph’s expression remains unfazed.

“Of course you would want to try that. Think of yourself for once, Sorey. Lailah told you your decision would have consequences. Why don’t you ever listen?” Mikleo murmurs, head turned to the side.

“Lailah’s still feeling the effects of fighting earlier. There’s no way I could force her to come with me. Besides, can’t you feel how heavy the malevolence is here?” Sorey pouts.

“Sorey, that’s not going to work. You know that.” Mikleo sighs once more.

“Please, Mikleo, let me try.” Sorey pleads, his eyes sparkling with hope.

“I can’t say no to that look. Just be careful okay?” Mikleo let up. Sorey nods with excitement, his hands resting on his hips. He’s unsure of where Sorey’s decision will take him, but he trusts him to lead the right way.

—————————

When Sorey announces his presence to Sergei, he gladly assists the Shepherd in informing the rest of the town of his arrival. In immediate response, the town square becomes packed with citizens. Sorey convinces himself that this will work.

Everyone is enabled thirty minutes with the Shepherd. They are free to speak their minds in anyway, while Sorey simply agrees to listen and prove comfort.

Sorey sits patiently in one of the cushioned sofas in the castle as citizens began one by one seeing him individually. He asks Mikleo to wait outside, hoping that he will respect their privacy. When Mikleo argues that they can’t see him anyway, Sorey pushes him lightly out the door. He knows that Mikleo will understand. He always understands.

There, Sorey hears all sorts of issues in the individual’s lives. In fact, some he had never considered or even heard of. People complained about the economy, their husbands, wives, children, their personal lives, and almost every other subject worth complaining about. That was only the lighter portion.

Sorey listens as some contemplate living right in front of him. Quickly, he rises from his seat to comfort them in a state of panic, trying everything in the fiber of his being to convince them to keep fighting and that they’ve come so far in their journey. He sees vulnerability in them as tears roll from their eyes. He’s moved by how much they trust him to tell him, and how much he wishes he could do more than simply sharing words of healing to them.

Sorey never heard of the word ‘suicide’, nor why it exists. When he questions for a definition, the other is skeptical. Sorey smiles awkwardly at his ignorance and once hearing the meaning, is quick to apologize. After their chat, he gifts every single person a single feather. He beams at them and tells that they are alive. Some react with indifference, while others cry into his shoulder.

Sorey can’t understand why, but he forces himself to understand anyway.

——————

Mikleo stands near the door with his arms crossed. Sorey lifts an arm, wearing an overbearing smile for him, although it doesn’t convince the water seraph.

“Everything turn out okay?” Mikleo asks. Sorey only nods and slings an arm over the water seraph’s shoulder as a friendly gesture.

“Oh, Mikleo! I’m fine! Is that worry I hear from you?” the Shepherd teases.

“Y-You wish! I just want to protect you.” Mikleo blushes, avoiding his gaze. This makes Sorey show his true smile, giving Mikleo’s hand a gentle squeeze. He really is glad to have Mikleo.

They walk to an inn to stay overnight. Sorey knows there’s much progress to be done, but he can’t shake off the weight of worry hanging over his chest.

The water seraph’s sure he’ll understand in the morning.

———————

Sorey slowly learns each and every name of the citizens. He keeps them written down to memorize when time allows. He invites them to come back whenever they wish, asking them about their day and how they’ve been feeling.

When they let up a smile, Sorey can’t help but find himself sharing the warmth. It makes him feel accomplished, like he’s truly making a difference without relying on his Shepherd powers.

Some seem happier while others seem to be doing exactly the same as when they first came. Those are the ones that concern Sorey the most. He attempts to simply have conversations with them, much to their discomfort. He makes a mental note to work harder to make them smile.

One of his ‘friends’, as Sorey calls them to get familiar with each individual, gets especially irritated with the Shepherd. They spew harsh insults at him, saying that he will never truly understand the pain they go through. He’s not striving to get by, and that he doesn’t know half of what true human struggling is. Sorey feels conflicted, but smiles nonetheless at them. Was it because he lived with seraphim all his life that he never knew how humans acted or lived? When they begin sobbing, Sorey reaches a hand to comfort them, only having it violently pushed away, storming out.

He doesn’t allow the words to get to him, and gently brushes them off. It’s probably just the malevolence. He agrees to himself that he cannot truly fathom someone else’s pain, but he wants to help them nonetheless. He makes another mental note to check up on them tomorrow.

The day exhausts Sorey. He fills himself with the thoughts of his ‘friends’ and doesn’t know how to act on them. Mikleo takes him back to the inn, confused by the unreadable expression on Sorey’s face. He reaches for the Shepherd’s hand, but holds himself back.

Sorey can handle it, he reassures himself.

—————————-

There’s one day where Sorey’s smile seems especially fake. That particular night resting at the inn, Mikleo doesn’t hear his beloved Shepherd’s snoring. The only thing he hears is bitter silence and a distinct sob.

Mikleo quickly jumps off the bed, racing to Sorey’s side. He hears him mumble something incoherent, apologizing rapidly. Mikleo wraps his arms around him, cradling him for the rest of the night.

The next morning, Sorey shows signs of spacing out in silence. When Mikleo tries to speak to him, he blinks, facing him with a gleam of plastered reassurance. He’s quick to rush back to the castle for further meet ups with his ‘friends’. Mikleo pleas for Sorey to allow him to go with him. He reluctantly agrees, although there’s clear discomfort in his eyes.

Mikleo observes the way the Shepherd treats these ‘friends’ of his. Some of them seem genuinely grateful for Sorey’s company, while others seem to be taking advantage of Sorey’s kindness. Those are the ones Mikleo are sure are the cause of Sorey’s pain.

It’s so difficult to tell who exactly is hurting his Shepherd, since all Sorey does is show that goofy smile of his to every single person he encounters.

Mikleo hears the compassion from Sorey’s voice flowing like an orchestra. He doesn’t waste a breath. He chooses his words carefully, making sure that nothing comes off as offending. Those emerald orbs of his soften with each conversation. Mikleo isn’t sure how Sorey can manage with such strength and love hearing the personal thoughts of others, but he wants to believe that Sorey’s choice is for the best.

Mikleo tries to understand and give his support, hoping that things will return to normal.

—————–

Things don’t return to normal. Sorey still shows signs of withdrawal much to the water seraph’s concern. Mikleo figures that tonight is the night to have a talk with Sorey before things take a turn for the worse.

After the Shepherd finishes his talk with his ‘friends’, he takes a stroll with Mikleo back to the inn which they’ve become regulars too.

It’s been an entire month and the malevolence actually seems to be lighter than it once had been. Mikleo never would have thought that Sorey’s plan would be a success. He had to hand it to Sorey for never giving up.

When they stepped into their room, Mikleo speaks up.

“Sorey, we need to talk.” Mikleo calmly states, Sorey making himself comfortable on the bed.

“About what, Mikleo? Don’t tell me you’re jealous that I haven’t spent enough time with you.” Sorey lightly laughs, much to Mikleo’s disapproval.

“N-No! It’s not that. It’s about you. You’ve been acting strange ever since you had these ‘talks’. Something you want to tell me?” Mikleo looks sternly at him, his arms crossing. He’s got Sorey where he wants him.

“Well…. It’s nothing, Mikleo. Seriously.” Sorey scratches his cheek, averting his gaze from Mikleo.

“Sorey.” Mikleo says, almost commanding him to speak. That voice always gets to Sorey.

Sorey stiffens and lifts himself to relax on the mattress.

He knows Mikleo understands the situation, even when Sorey himself can’t.

“I really can’t hide anything from you, heh.” Sorey begins to speak. His eyes never once looked in the water seraph’s direction. He brings up the fact that some of his ‘friends’ committed this foreign ‘suicide’, and he felt that he was utterly failing them. Others relapsed into their sadness, while others were actually doing better after their meet ups with Sorey. His words fall flat afterwards. He’s shaking lightly.

Mikleo looks at him skeptically. This really is getting to him and he had no idea. Mikleo puts one hand on his shoulder and makes contact with those emerald orbs.

“Sorey. You tried your best. It’s not something you can blame yourself for. Think of the people you did help not only here but throughout our journey. That’s one of the most selfless things anyone could do.” Mikleo’s eyes soften at the sight of the dullness in Sorey’s eyes.

“I know that I helped some people, but how about those I couldn’t? It makes me feel terrible, Mikleo. There’s this sharp pain in my chest and I can’t ignore it when I think of all the suffering these people go through. It’s not fair…” Sorey once again averts his gaze, his voice so small.

“Sorey… Your feelings are important too. Please, take care of yourself first. All humans go through suffering but that doesn’t mean you alone can help every single person. It’s okay to care, but please. Don’t think of yourself any less and you have to focus on living too! I don’t want to see you hurting either!” Mikleo says, raising his voice. Mikleo can feel tears welling in his eyes, wanting nothing more than to see the most important person in his life happy.

Sorey shyly takes a glance to look at Mikleo. Those violet eyes warm his heart, and he feels himself unable to contain his feelings. Tears slowly form and he wraps his arms around Mikleo for an embrace. Mikleo shares the sentiment.

“Don’t feel like you’re doing this alone, Sorey. You can express your feelings to me too. The two of us, Lailah and the others, we’ll figure out something.” Mikleo loosens himself from their tight hold, and cups the brunette’s face with his slender hands.

Sorey let’s out a laugh, their foreheads pressed gently against one another. Sorey shares small prayers of gratitude for Mikleo’s presence. Time is confined to the two of them as they share words of encouragement and understanding to one another under blankets and warm confirmation.

The two of them know they’ll be okay.

———

In all of the Shepherd’s life, he’s been labeled understanding, habitually trying his best to lessen other’s pain.

He thanks his stars that someone understands him too, never leaving him in the dark where others have been.