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“Bark!” said Cherub. It didn’t resemble the sort of sound a dog would make in the slightest; instead, she simply spoke the traditional canine onomatopoeia aloud with great enthusiasm. “No matter the number of shadows, one light rebukes them all! There is no need to worry, servant Mine.”
A wave of reassurance spread through Ángel, and his furrowed brow relaxed. “Yes...” he said, smiling softly. “You’re right. The uncertainty is daunting... but our path remains unchanged. It won’t help to waver now.” Cherub always made his doubts feel distant. With her by his side, Ángel could face any problem with the calm that it required. “...In truth, my friend, it’s not how many foes we face that vexes me. It’s the way they dance around us with such synchronized precision. Perhaps the power of prophecy explains that, but... would that mean they share this same advantage? Would that mean these villains work together?”
Cherub rolled over onto her back. “A most unholy possibility... but one We need not let concern Us. The Witch would sooner feast upon what strength a friend might offer. The Death Cult serves none but their shrouded master. And, in the earliest days of the Activity Consortium, it was Davy Jones whose blade sundered the Great Sphinx.” A placid smile joined four paws in pointing towards the heavens. “That is not a slight a prideful wight forgives, however fractured its desire for revenge
“To think the man has fallen from such heights...” Ángel remarked. He shook his head reproachfully. “But then, no matter their aim, the Consortium—Jones, my father, Doorman, all of them—at that time, their work already served destructive ends. Without the Great Wights... no, when the quest to see them vanquished first began, the world of spirits became but one more frontier for humanity to conquer.”
Cherub’s bell chimed softly as she wiggled around to stare Ángel in the eyes. “Consider, lamb of light, the comfort this might grant you. Should We suspend all sense and entertain the notion that Our enemies align, one truth remains to put your fears to rest.”
Ángel’s expression darkened. It was a cold comfort she had offered him this time. “...They all surely seek what only one can claim. The power of a Great Wight, born anew.”
“Woof!” Cherub chirped approvingly. “We may take on faith Our foes remain divided, for what alliance could survive such singular, self-serving aspiration?”
“Ours,” Ángel replied, rising slowly to his feet, “for in our hands the dream is selfless. You will be the next Great Wight, my friend, with your pure heart and infinite compassion. There will be no greater force for good than you.”
Cherub wriggled back onto her belly and into a modest bow. “...If that would be the answer to your prayers,” she hummed, as she had countless times before. “I am but a humble chalice for the faith My flock has placed in Me.”
Ángel beamed down at his spirit partner. Cherub could claim she only channeled the responsibility she was given—indeed, that was her power as Ángel had come to understand it, the ability to receive and redistribute strength to those who’d use it selflessly—but she meant more than just that role to him. The kindhearted spirit had been the locus of his hope for many years now. When his life had fallen apart, Ángel had found a refuge in her wings. He’d watched her do the same for Doorman, for Nin, for Forge—all beings scarred by shadowed pasts, healed by the simple gift of her comfort, shared through him while she recovered in her bell. Her form was meek, her powers modest, but Cherub had the potential to be something so much greater. He wouldn’t let anyone snuff out that light... not when the future so desperately needed it.
“I’ve spent too long wallowing. We are not without our boons in the fight to come.” Ángel’s gaze drifted over the lantern he had hidden on a high shelf. “Penny’s, er... well-intentioned, aimless larceny, shall we say? has put the ghost train and its power in our hands. That means, should it come to it, Isabel and all the rest can pass through the barrier and flee... leaving me to face the destruction that the Sphinx of Truth foretold without fear for my loved ones.”