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It is a strange kind of half-sleep, he muses—those musings slower than a stream defrosting as the seasons change—but it is something he accepts, the way he quickly accepted what it is to be immobile, for his mutable body to be stretched out across the earth, his face pointed always to the sky like that of a howling wolf as he breathes through his skin. It is not in his nature to question overmuch.

This is in many ways the same as it once was to sleep within the deepest Mist, to let its fell power crawl into his skin and invigorate his overtaxed body. It gave him restless dreams about complicated things he never understood and never cared enough to investigate—although Cort would have known the answers if he’d asked.

If the Juggernaut understood much about human legends he would have scoffed at them—or perhaps just been confused by them. Now, though, he would at least agree to the part about his similarity to a mountain. He feels almost a part of the earth—although the union is nearly parasitic, it is still peaceful. He could spread his body out further and enjoy that tranquility if he wished.

He does not wish for such a thing.

There is only one thing that is important now, and that one thing is his partner’s life. Although the rest of his body is in a quiescent state, the Seru’s great heart beats furiously, feverishly, trying to nourish the guttering life cocooned within.

It was not a problem to endure the collapse of the fortress—he was not so weak—but Cort is only human, his flesh easily rent, his life frail. The Rogue fragment embedded in his back kept him alive long enough for his partner to catch him, for the assimilation to be completed, but… after that he didn’t have the strength to sustain them both. Cort’s life hung by a thread—he needed life drawn from some other source to survive.

He had not needed Songi’s suggestion to go there. He cared little for the man’s plans and less for his sadism—that village possessed many things that made it the optimal shelter to save his partner, the only human of worth in this world. Vibrant human lives—riotous plant growth—the open sea, source of boundless energy—the first awakened Genesis Tree.

The Juggernaut will drain them all within inches of dying if he must. If they suffer, so be it; humans are weak, but not so weak as to perish from such a thing. Cort is all that has ever mattered, all that ever will.

…If he were a better partner—perhaps it would not have come to this.

…He should have been awake, should have been there to lend Cort his strength. Because he wasn’t—

Those thoughts lead nowhere productive; the Juggernaut eases closer into the slumber of the earth, the pulse of their heart vibrating the porous castle of flesh his body has become.

Cort’s life is no longer quite in danger, but he is still very weak. His sense of humanity is splintered, and if awakened he will act more the beast than any Seru born. It will take time for his mind to recover—and once it does, then they can leave this place. The Juggernaut has no conscious plan for what to do when that time comes; he will leave that to Cort, because Cort is by and large the better thinker of the two of them. He does not mind this. He prefers to support, to lend his considerable strength.

If the Ra-Seru were to challenge him now, that would be his answer to them: A partnership exists for support, does it not? Then he is doing the only thing he can, and he is proud.

Not out of rancor or spite or hatred—he does not know of such things. This is simply an act of the purest love: He will protect his only partner. It is the reason for which he was born, and his only joy.