Steadily, everyone on the ship began to drift off to sleep, wherever they chose to make their beds. Kye stayed in the crow's nest, preferring the cool night air over a cramped bunk somewhere below the deck of the ship.
The following morning, as everyone gathered on the main deck again and resumed milling around the ship as they continued sailing, Kye mustered the courage to climb down from his perch. Caiden and Percula had not yet reappeared, but it was still early yet.
With Rosette on his shoulder, Kye wandered until he found Marcus. He still wore his human disguise, despite how uncomfortable and self-conscious that made him feel. It was a toss-up as to whether this form or his true form made him more uncomfortable right now.
But as he approached the Inquisitor, he found Stevan and Sarael nearby as well. The Templars approached him, and Rosette could almost sense Kye's fear as the demon-kin tensed. Stevan, however, offered a smile and held up a hand slightly in an attempt to tell him to relax.
"You're fine, Kye," said Stevan. "In fact, we're here to tell you... You're off the hook."
Kye stared dumbly. Finally, he managed to ask in a small, stupefied voice, "What?"
"We're not turning you in - we're not going to put you in the reports. Wrong as it may seem, it'd probably be worse still if we got you imprisoned or killed after all we've been through and all you've done for us. The only catch is that you can't stay with us, but that doesn't mean you're a criminal... I doubt you want to travel with us Templars, anyway," Stevan added with a good-natured smile.
Then, Stevan offered Kye a hand. "You're one of a kind, Kye. It was a pleasure to fight alongside you. Maybe our paths'll cross again someday... Until then, may Astra watch over you."
Kye still hadn't spoken, but he shook Stevan's hand, still in a kind of daze... And his eyes looked rather reddened. All at once, his human disguise dropped, like he couldn't focus well enough to maintain it anymore, and his spearheaded tail immediately resumed waving back and forth behind him.
No one had ever done something so kind for him - especially without wanting something in return. Kye was moved to tears, though he tried to fight it back, even if he was doing a rather poor job.
"Thanks," he finally managed to choke out around the lump in his throat, though he swallowed hard immediately afterward and glanced away from the Templars, crossing his arms tightly over his chest to try and pretend he was in a casual stance. It looked anything but.
Another moment passed before he turned to Marcus next, having recovered at least somewhat from his bout of emotion. Kye trod up to Capulet and forced a tiny little smile.
"Hey, um... Marcus?" he said hesitantly, rubbing the back of his neck with his right hand as he spoke. "I was just gonna ask... well... I had this stupid idea - before now - to run away, and stuff, because I thought the Templars were gonna throw me in a cage or something, but uh..."
He paused, realizing this was irrelevant.
"I guess what I wanna ask is: if you're going back to Veritshire for now... Can I come?" He glanced at Rosette and added, "And Rosette, too, probably?"
The demon fidgeted briefly before he caught himself doing it and stopped as he went on, "I don't have anywhere else to go. Ever since Tom left... I dunno, I miss him, and you guys are my friends - my only friends." He swallowed. "I don't want to just abandon all this - but I don't want to go back to Veritshire if you don't want me there. If you don't - I get it, it's okay, I mean I know nobody really wants a demon around. I just..." he shrugged, "wanted to ask."
((I'll continue character interactions, but I'm also wrapping things up, so: more after the break...))
It wasn't long before everyone learned of Caiden's miraculous return to a human form... only to quickly learn that it wasn't a permanent fix. Everyone's elation with his human guise didn't last long as the following night brought with it a unique horror. It was not often that Caiden screamed - it was a sound so rarely heard it almost sounded unreal, even after witnessing his mutations into a monster. But on that moonless, dark night, out on the pitching sea, the lower deck of the ship echoed with his terrible screams. Three times he cried out, and then it stopped.
On the following morning, he said little of it. All he admitted was that neither he nor Percula fully understood what had returned him to a human form in the first place, or how it worked, or when he might change...
Fear hung over the ship as a result, but it wasn't every night that Caiden was in pain. Still, it was clear whatever had happened to him was far from a cure.
For the next few days, they continued sailing without issue, until one morning, Caiden arose to the main deck again and told his friends he had something to say. He told them that he had plans to leave, saying he wanted to find a true cure for his curse, so that he wouldn't hurt anyone and no one would have to lie just to keep him safe... And he made all too clear both of these were the last things he wanted.
Before Plexaura could jump in to protest, Caiden assured them all that, even if he didn't find a cure and this was as good as it got, he wasn't going into self-exile. He would return and resume his duties as a Venator, or at least return to be there for his friends and family... But he had to know if - at least - Percula's magic would continue holding the curse at bay at least this well, as neither of them knew if the spell would even last.
He assured them he'd see them again soon - and he made clear he didn't want anyone following him and risking their lives further for his sake. This was his curse, his burden, and he would find a way to bear it before he returned.
As they reached the mainland once more, each of them went their separate ways. Some went together, others went apart... And the only two who remained inseparable were Caiden Voros and Percula Saffron. Again they bid their farewells, and Marcus received a rare, great bear hug from Caiden - an emotional display spoken of only in legend when it came to the Venator, and he could see why, given his crushing strength even while attempting to be gentle.
He promised all of them they'd meet again, particularly those whom he had traveled with for so long. Stevan seemed all too used to the parting, though Plexaura got considerably more emotional, and she had to drag several promises from Caiden that he would come back to Redfield and to Templaria and Veritshire before long, no matter what form he took when they saw each other again.
Eventually, though, everyone headed out. Caiden didn't even wait until nightfall before he was on his horse and riding off. None of them saw Percula with him, but they felt certain she was still there, following her cursed Venator into the unknown. If there was one thing that all the mutations, all the violence and fear and hardship of the past few weeks had only strengthened, it was their love.