He could keep it together when she deigned to talk about his family. When she dared to suggest that his anger at their deaths meant that he was dishonoring their memory. He could stand there, fists clenched, his body rigid with anger, as she flouted her superiority as some stupid fucking cat in the sky over his head. Like he would even give a shit about that, nursery rhymes be damned.
”Consider those words you just spoke.”
The grass burning. Fire. Death.
”Could it not be applied to your very own constellations?”
A sea of corpses. Buildings crumbling, decimated landscapes. The stench of death burning in his nostrils. His planet burning. Everything burning. Shit shit shit —
The images were crowding his mind, forcing their way back to reality. Like a taut wire, he snapped.
”Shut up!” Arden roared. Fire sprang to life on his arms, flickering, volatile, angry. His body practically seethed with hatred, and a hurt so deep he would do anything to burn it out of his chest. ”How fucking dare you compare grass to an entire planet of people! Grass doesn’t have a brain, or a heart. It can’t feel shit like people can. So you can turn your nose up at me and spout your philosophical bullshit all you want, bitch. But if you don’t shove the fuck off in the next five seconds, I’m going to make you wish you had. I don’t fucking care if you’re a god.” He was going to make her bleed, even if she broke his bones in retaliation. He was going to make her hurt.
And then, she said something that changed everything.
Arden’s flames, which had moments ago been flaring with vitriol, suddenly sputtered uncertainly. For the first time, the Tiger was saying something that held his interest.
She was talking about survivors. And the first thought Arden had was that she was lying.
She had to be. He’d been alone for so long, had traveled the Earth for so long. Surely by now he would have found someone, anyone. And for her to say that she knew two…
”I… what?” Arden gasped, his voice barely above a whisper. His hatred was still there, boiling beneath his skin like a virus, but it had become muted by shock and disbelief. If what she was saying was true…
He had to know.
”Arians? Or other Celestials?” His voice was still edged with doubt, but it definitely held less venom than before. He had nothing to lose, after all, and everything to gain. If she was telling the truth, then he had the opportunity to meet members of a civilization that he’d long thought was dead and buried. He had the chance to not be alone anymore.
If she was lying, however, then he wouldn’t rest until he found her and burned her heart out himself.