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the path to do further good.

I hope, in your future, you will find joy, and in your past, you will find wisdom.

You say the past is dead to you. I hope, selfishly, that is not true, for I am part of your past. But more than that, the past is not something to be killed off and forgotten. You have overcome much, and those experiences, if you have the strength to embrace them, are all that can make you whole. I wish I had been of more assistance in this regard.

For you have brought me much happiness, and I wish no less for you.

I am proud of you. And I love you.

Galen erased the message. He didn't want to think of it. He must not think of it.

268,435,484.

I am proud of you. And I love you.

Those last three words. In all their years together, Elric had never said that to him.

The message read like a farewell.

The thought froze him in place.

Elric deteriorated further each day. Was that why Elric had praised him today? Was that Elric's way of saying good-bye?

Elric couldn't die. Galen couldn't imagine a life without him.

Galen took deliberate, calming breaths. He should be helping Elric through this time, as Elric had always helped him. But he could not. He could do nothing for Elric. For either of them.

He put the thought from his mind, forced his feet back into motion. He must maintain control, above all.

He realized that, for the first time in many months, he had lost track of his mind-focusing exercise. He took a shaky breath, quickly began again. The comforting walls of the exercise rose up around him, narrowing his thoughts, protecting him from all that lay beyond.

One. Three. Six.



Chapter 3



Galen stopped outside the observation room, and in his mind's eye visualized the equation to access its systems. It requested
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