Chapter 19:

His Name is Caelus

Code: Zero Defect

"Excited?" Mother asked.

I scoffed. "Why would I be?"

"You get to see your older brother again. Isn't that a cause for excitement?"

"Hah, I wonder."

To be honest, I am excited. I haven't seen that monkey in over two years. We'd often video chat with each other, but it wasn't the same as seeing him in person.

The taxi driver stopped at a massive train station. We got out, and already, I was overwhelmed by the sheer amount of people walking around. There were mostly men in business suits on their way to work, but there were some who didn't seem like they belonged in the Golden District. Beggars, I'm assuming.

Finally, after waiting for about five minutes, the train pulled in, and out came the number one douchebag in the entire world.

He lifted his sunglasses, revealing those narrow slit eyes of dark red, the same color that we both inherited from Mother. His usual pale complexion seems to have darkened a bit, what with being out in the sun every day. I remember when his hair used to be as short as mine. Now, it's way longer and tied up in a ponytail. Like me, he has a natural middle split which was evident by the two big strands that were left to dangle in front of his face.

Even now, heads were turning left and right to admire his muscular and slim figure. He has a natural scowl for some reason, so he always looks mad. However, the moment he saw us, those intimidating eyes lit up.

"Mom!" he shouted as he began running towards us.

Mother opened her arms with tearful eyes to which Caelus embraced her.

"Oh, my baby," Mother spoke affectionately. "Are you okay? Any injuries?"

"How many times do I have to tell you not to worry about me?" Caelus chuckled. "I'm fine, totally clean, and as fresh as the day I left."

Mother laughed at his boisterous attitude. He was always like this, even with me. I always found it annoying back then, but now... It's not so bad.

"What's going on, Lil Bro?" Caelus turned to me with a huge grin.

"Not much," I replied. "But my eyes kinda hurt now that you're here."

"Oof, that's rough. Good thing you got used to it after looking at yourself in the mirror every morning."

We both threw our hands into a tight handshake as we patted each other on the back.

"Good to see you again, Caelus," I smiled.

"Likewise, Solas," he chuckled.

While I inherited my height from Mother, Caelus got his height from Father, which made him tower a whole five inches above me. It's just not fair.

"Alright, let's get out of here," Caelus said. "I'm freaking starving."

"Shall we go to the café we always went to?" Mother suggested.

"Oh, that sounds tempting. What are you feeling, Lil Bro?"

"I'm down for anything," I replied.

"Then the café it is. Let's move out!"

We called another taxi to take us to the Jeweled Sector. Along the way, we made small talk like how I was doing in school, or Caelus's most recent ventures beyond the walls. He told us of a magnificent valley covered in snow, and that he encountered primitive humans there. It was very interesting.

As for me, I'm not the best student in the world, but I'm also not dumb enough to fail my classes either. I also told them about how my last name was revealed to the entire school. As a result, I've become quite popular.

After a twenty-minute drive, we stepped out into the front entrance of the Jeweled Sector's main plaza. No matter how many times I come here, I'll never get used to how bright it is. All these signs that light up a bunch of different colors, and the excessive noise... It's blinding and deafening at the same time.

"Dang, it's been a fat minute," Caelus chuckled. "Looks like a lot has changed. I'm seeing some new stores."

"But our favorite café is still here," Mother said. "We should grab a seat before rush hour, hm?"

"Right behind you, Mom. Oi, Lil Bro, move your ass."

"I'm going, I'm going," I sighed.

We might seem like we hate each other from an outside perspective because we talk so much shit to each other. On the contrary, the bond we share is very strong. I'll never admit that to him, though. Either way, I'm sure he thinks the same way.

Just like last time, the café was pretty crowded. Thankfully, there were some empty tables scattered across the patio, so we sat down at one of them. It didn't take long before a waitress swung by to jot down orders for our drinks. I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure I saw her eyeballing Caelus.

"Be right back!" she said as she went off into the building.

"I think someone likes you, dear," Mother giggled.

"What can I say?" he said. "I have that effect. What about you, Lil Bro? Got a girlfriend yet?"

"I don't have time for a girlfriend," I scoffed.

"That's a pretty weird way of saying you're not as good-looking as me, so you can't pull one as easily as I can."

"Tsk... Piss off, dickhead."

Mother let out a soft giggle. "I'm going to use the restroom. If the waitress comes back, get me a bread bowl. No more fighting. Got it?

"Understood, commander," Caelus grinned.

With that, Mother left to go inside, leaving the two of us to sit at the table. Immediately, the mood shifted. Although the smile was still on Caelus's face, his eyes spoke a different tone.

"The old man... After all this time, he still hasn't come home, has he?" Caelus asked.

"How'd you guess?" I scoffed.

"Mom's eyes still show a hint of sadness. We could easily say that it's because she hasn't gotten over Nelia's death, but... a huge part of that is also because of Dad's absence."

"You're telling me. I try my best, but I don't think it's enough."

"Don't say that, Solas. You're more than enough. And I... I also feel bad for leaving all of this to you."

"Well, it had to happen eventually, right? We've all got our own lives to live. You chose yours, and I chose mine. Mother needs someone beside her. Might as well be me."

"That's not fair to you."

"Heh, it never was."

He looked at me with a frown. I remember those eyes. They were the same eyes he would always make whenever he disapproved of my choices. In all cases, he chose to go along with it because he knew there was no convincing me otherwise.

It's not like my current life is that bad. During the day, I go to school and take care of Mother. During the night, I fight coatsmen in the undercity, thus marking myself as an enemy of the High Order. These are all things I want to do. Well... except for going to school.

"You still haven't augmented yet, have you?" Caelus spoke again.

"No, and to be honest with you... I have no plans to," I declared.

The brows that furrowed above his eyes only sank deeper. Of course, he disapproves. He's a member of the army—a lieutenant in the expedition unit. As such, he reports directly to the High Order regarding activities from beyond the walls. If I don't play favorites, he's essentially what I call every coatsmen out there: slaves of the High Order.

"What, you gonna condemn me?" I scoffed. "Mark me as a defect and detain me?"

"Even if I wanted to, which I don't, it isn't my job to do that," he said. "But, Solas... You must know what it means to evade augmentation."

"I know. It's the reason why I'm doing it."

At that moment, the gears in his head began to turn. The way he's looking at me now proves that he knows. He knows what I've just implied. He knows... that I'm a defect.

With a heavy breath, he sighed. "Look, Solas. I won't say anything about this. I'm sure you know what you're doing. Just... be careful. Mom can't afford to lose another one... and neither can I."

"... I know."

Right then, Mother came back and sat down next to us.

"Did the waitress come back yet?"

"Not yet," Caelus replied. "Oh... Speak of the devil."

"Here you are!" the waitress beamed as she rested our drinks on the table. "Are we ready to order?"

For some reason, Caelus went first. The way they spoke to each other was nothing short of flirting. Mother went next, and I went last. It didn't take long for our food to come out, which is why I like this place so much. Despite how busy they get, they always manage to whip up our orders in no time.

As we enjoyed our meals, my mind was drifting away. What Caelus told me before was something I've always thought about, but to hear it coming from him was something different.

It's fine, though. One of these days, I'll die for real, and that's totally fine. Everyone has to die at some point. It's just a matter of making a difference before that time comes.