As a recap page, all spoilers below have been unmarked. You have been warned.
- Su-Yeong: I hate [Philomena], and even now I want to burn her house down. Its taking all of my self-control not to do that, so were not going to talk about her. I want to know what youre going to do with me. How are you going to keep me from doing that? I dont want to be told not to worry about it, or that everything will just be fine. Can you fix me or not?
Isra: No, I cant. All I can do is help you to treat and manage yourself.
The chapter opens late Sunday night on a wide shot of the island where the fourth round took place, which zooms in to reveal Joe Rothart and Tobi, in the same face-obscuring cloak he wore at the close of the last chapter, rowing out to it. Though their trip to the island is silent, we hear what Tobi and Joe said when they initially met up earlier this evening:
- Tobi: Please,I need your help. You You probably dont remember me, but I was Morgans friend. I know youre close to Dr. Malliet. Theres a husk trapped on the island, and Please Shes all alone out there! Only the Magisters Ladies or a guard can get through the seal, and -
Joe: Tobi. Of course Ill help you. Ill do whatever I can.
Tobi: Oh. You do remember me
As the pair reaches the barrier, Joe uses the diamond patch sewn into his uniform to cast a spell that creates a diamond-shaped passageway through the shield. When they reach the shore, Tobi, Joe, and Peony, who had been hiding underneath her cloak, disembark. Tobi offers to let Peony stay and watch the boat, but she refuses. They set off into the island, Joe reminding Peony that they need to hide from the seeker stones Lapointe is using to search for Su-Yeong. The three make their way through the woods, passing by trees burned by Su-Yeong until they reach the site of her fight with Ivy.
She's not around anymore, so Tobi suggests to Peony that she sing a song that Su-Yeong is familiar with. Peony nervously obliges, singing a nursery rhyme about a pair of friends, one of whom has not developed magic yet. Peony sings the part of the friend who speculates on what color their friend's magic might be. Once she finishes her verse, the woods are silent, and the adults console Peony, saying it wasn't a bad idea... until they hear a new voice, singing the part of the friend who still hasn't developed her magic. Peony leaps from Tobi's arms and rushes towards the source of the sound until she finds Su-Yeong in her larger form, sitting in a bush.
Once again, Su-Yeong asks Peony what she's doing on the island, as it isn't safe for her to be there. Peony explains that they don't care how Su-Yeong looks, and Su-Yeong realizes that Tobi's there. Tearfully, she rushes forwards, and as she shrinks into her smaller, more human form the two embrace. Again, Su-Yeong attempts to explain what's happened to her as Tobi reassures her. She's interrupted, however, by Tobi realizing she's stark naked in the middle of the woods. Joe offers her his coat to cover up with, and her anger is briefly triggered when she recognizes the crest on his uniform, but Tobi rushes to explain that it's Joe, their old friend who helped them years ago.
Su-Yeong calms down and puts on the coat, but she takes a turn for the despondent — there's a reason she ran away to the island, and it's not like they can neutralize the danger she poses. She's so terrified of losing control and hurting someone she cares about that she's convinced she deserves to die.
- Su-Yeong: I came out here to keep you and Pea and everyone safe from me. Nobody should be near me. I keep losing time, I dont even know how long Ive been out here. And I get so angry at everything! What if I got angry at you? Or at Pea? What if you cant stop me? I cant stop me! I tried to hurt Vasillia, I would have! And there was that kid, and the cat, and Its all an angry red blur! I know what I am! I know what I could do, I know whatll happen to me! Husks are monsters to be destroyed! And Ill deserve it! I couldnt live with myself if I ever hurt you. So why live?
Tobi's distraught by this sentiment, accusing Su-Yeong of being selfish for thinking that she could erase herself from his life so easily, or that her absence wouldn't hurt him deeply. He begs her to come home, telling her that he needs her. Realizing that Tobi and Peony are stubborn enough that they won't give up on helping her, even if it means getting caught, Su-Yeong agrees, but she's not optimistic about what they'll do with her — if they're not caught looking for her on the island, they'll get caught harboring her at home. Joe clarifies that they're not going to where Tobi lives...
And we cut to Isra in her office, working as Neith brings her another cup of tea. She's got a map of the city and island with eight red pins in it up on the wall and a stack of books, but she's frustrated at the lack of information available to her — she'd asked Tetsu to get Philomena's testimony, but without Lucy's take or the ability to go on the island and look for Su herself, Isra can't help but feel surrounded by dead ends. As Neith apologetically explains that her old uniform no longer has the enchantment necessary to bypass Lapointe's barrier, there's a knock on the door.
Neith opens the door to see Joe, who apparently hasn't visited them in a while despite being a close friend. She excitedly calls her wife over, and Isra wastes no time gushing to Joe about the opportunity they've got to go and fetch the first husk in years! Neith calms her down, asking Joe if he needs something, and Joe sheepishly gestures to the door, where Su-Yeong stands. Joe introduces Tobi (who's holding a sleeping Peony) and Su-Yeong to Neith and Isra, whom he explains are the experts on husks.
Isra can barely contain her excitement at meeting Su-Yeong, asking a flurry of questions before Neith gently steers her into another room to fetch some new clothes for her. Isra hurries off, and Neith asks Su-Yeong if she needs anything else. Su-Yeong isn't thirsty or hungry, but she does have a question about something Isra mentioned earlier: what's a tier two form?
- Neith: Oh! Well — Tier one is when a husk is able to keep themself together. And its not easy to stay that way. You can only tell them by their eyes. Tier two, uh like you, is still obviously a person, and still mostly lucid. Only different. You know, like your horns, and - your hair wasnt always that long, right? Tier three is just more of that. When they become something else. Theyre unstable, more emotional And incredibly powerful. And tier four Tier four is where the term husk came from. When theres nothing left of the person they used to be. When theyre just a shell of magic and emotion Theres no getting them back from that.
Isra bursts into the room with a bundle of clothing, assuring a terrified Su-Yeong that they don't yet know if there's a way to revert a husk from tier four, as at that point a husk is typically killed. She affirms that she's not going to let anyone hurt Su-Yeong, and gently ushers her into her office to change clothes.
While Su-Yeong changes, Neith asks Tobi about Peony. He explains that he and Su-Yeong are familiar with a handful of kids, but that Peony is the only one of them who doesn't have a family to return to, so they look after her. Su-Yeong, getting dressed, overhears Tobi tell Neith about how they looked after Morgan, whom Peony in some way resembles. Joe's familiar, Romeo, pokes his head out of the pocket he'd been in and strikes up a conversation with her, mentioning that he's been worried about Joe's emotional welfare, but he soon realizes that Su-Yeong isn't aware of what's happened to Morgan and Dr. Malliet. Suddenly nervous, Romeo urges Su-Yeong to not worry, then scampers out of the room.
As Su-Yeong nevertheless starts to worry, we cut to Tobi talking with Isra about how long it's been since Su-Yeong transformed. He tells her that an argument with Philomena about three weeks ago resulted in Su-Yeong being fired from her job working at the Vasillia estate, after which she never came home. Isra's somewhat incredulous that Philomena "spends a small fortune in baked goods for kicks" Vasillia would get an innocent person fired, but she agrees to believe Tobi if Su-Yeong confirms. Almost on cue, Su-Yeong enters the room:
- Su-Yeong: It is. She has no conception of how people outside her little bubble feel. Or whats at stake for them when things go wrong. Nothing gets through that thick skull of hers unless you spell it out, and even then shell just hear whats easiest. I hate her, and even now I want to burn her house down. Its taking all of my self-control not to do that, so were not going to talk about her.
She's dissatisfied with being told not to worry — in her eyes, she can't feel like everything's going to be fine until someone tells her what they're going to do to make sure she's fine. She's still terrified of losing control over her emotions, since she knows that such a lapse could easily end with blood on her hands. Isra produces a pair of ruby earrings and explains that while there isn't a way to "fix" Su-Yeong by making her no longer be a husk, she can use a magic focus to direct the excessive magical power she's producing into a safer outlet:
- Su-Yeong: Why would you give me rubies? Thatd just make me stronger!
Isra: Er, well yes and no Its a bit different for husks. Your eyes are where you draw your power from. Constantly generating magic, so close to your mind. It was our theory that thats whats responsible for the mental decay. You need something to siphon it off. Rubies dont make you stronger. Theyll make you stable.
With that, Isra clips the earrings onto Su-Yeong. Although she's still got the inverted eyesnote of a husk, all the other husk traits she had in her tier two form — horns, darkened skin around her hands and feet, red fingernails, and a glow around her eyes — have disappeared, just like Neith had mentioned. Tobi, delighted, picks Su-Yeong up and kisses her on the cheek. His excitement fades when he realizes that, since she's still got obvious husk eyes, she wouldn't be able to go out in public without someone noticing, but the Karims have a solution for that: tinted eyeglasses. Isra admits they're not a perfect solution, but they'll have to do.
Isra begins excitedly detailing the preparations she'll make for the following week, to Tobi and Su-Yeong's confusion. They'd assumed that once a solution was in place, she'd be able to go home. Isra offers several reasons why Su-Yeong should at least spend the night before finally admitting she wants to have Su-Yeong around to study. Tobi asks why they couldn't stay with Morgan and Dr. Malliet, people they already know, and is embarrassed when everyone reacts in horror.
We focus on Joe having a flashback while Neith quietly explains that Malliet and Morgan have been dead for years. A younger Joe in winter clothes leans against a wall, too shocked to do anything else, and looks on helplessly at a house on fire. Not much is visible from the wreckage except the silhouette of a husk standing on the roof. The husk is backlit by firelight, so we can't see any of the husk's features except a long mop of hair that obscures even its eyes.
We return to the present to Tobi's anguished outburst that he'd assumed that Malliet and Morgan had stopped caring about him and Su-Yeong, since nobody had told him a single thing and they'd abruptly stopped talking to him. Tobi demands to know exactly how long ago this happened, and Joe finally speaks up, numbly describing his flashbulb memory of the night Malliet and Morgan died five years ago, starting to cry. He apologizes for not telling Tobi or Su-Yeong, and Su-Yeong interrupts him.
- Su-Yeong: Joe That happened and you still wanted to help me? Even knowing what I could do?
Joe: Its not about what I want. Its what he would want. He dedicated his life to helping people like you. He gave his life for it. It was never a question. He wouldnt hesitate to find you and bring you back. Hed have rowed out himself. Thats what I loved about him. And its why Im helping you. For him. No matter how much it hurts to think about, I know what happened wasnt the husks fault. Anything you could do wouldnt be your fault either.
The two embrace, and Su-Yeong announces that she's decided to stay with the Karims. Even though she was pessimistic at first, hearing that Joe, of all people, is willing to help her even with his deep grief, has renewed her sense of purpose. Isra rushes off to prepare the spare bedroom, and Su-Yeong sits down to tell Peony the news. She wakes up briefly, curious about Su-Yeong's horns disappearing, but once she has an answer, dozes off in Su-Yeong's arms. Su-Yeong passes Peony to Tobi, who's disappointed that she isn't coming home with him. She wryly points out that it's safer for both of them that she lay low and avoid where she lived before, since it's only a matter of time before the magistration discovers that she's not on the island anymore. Su-Yeong reassures Tobi that she'll be fine, standing on tiptoe to kiss him.
Neith sits next to Joe, who's a little forlorn watching two youngsters happily in love, and asks if he's going to be all right. She extends an offer for him to stay the night, which he initially declines, but as he explains just how tiring the day is, she manages to talk him into taking the day off tomorrow.
- Joe: Im so tired, Nee. This has been an incredibly long day. January met Lapointe today. She came back to the office so excited, talking about a sponsorship and calling her Fidelia. It just reminded me so much of Yvette
Neith: Ugh, no kidding
Joe: And then this falls into my lap on my way home. I havent had a single moment to just breathe. Its just been painful memories piling on top of each other. Todays felt like a whole year. Isra going on about husks She reminds me so much of him. They could talk for hours and hours about their ideas and new theories Im sorry Ive been so distant. You both lost a friend, too. I may as well have made it two.
Neith: Its alright, Joe. I understand. I wouldnt be much better if anything ever happened to my Izzie. Take tomorrow off, youve earned a rest. Stay with us. Please. Would you really rather go home to an empty flat tonight?
Joe: No Youre right.
Neith gets up to let Tobi and Peony out, urging them to visit tomorrow morning. He expresses that he doesn't want Su-Yeong to be alone, and we cut to her lying sleeplessly in bed. She finally manages to doze off, dreaming about being in the forest in her tier three form, and we transition to Joe, Tobi, Su-Yeong, and Peony in the woods, right after Joe told them he wasn't taking them home. The shot zooms out to reveal that Thierry Rothart is watching the scene on loop through a seeker stone. The chapter closes on Ivy looking tiredly up at Rothart, the two of them resting a paw/hand on the stone.
In summary: Tobi, Joe, and Peony act outside the law to rescue Su-Yeong. They bring her to Isra and Neith, husk experts who promise to do whatever they can to help. We learn of Joe's, Tobi's, Su-Yeong's, and Peony's troubled pasts, that Tobi and Su-Yeong are dating, and that Thierry Rothart has been scrying on Joe.
- Beast Man: Husks as a whole, as explained by Neith. Their transformations, levels of magical power, and emotions are all linked. Su-Yeong's anger in specific is triggered by Philomena and by city guards.
- Because You Were Nice to Me: Tobi towards Joe. He and Malliet helped Tobi and Su-Yeong out in the past, leaving such a strong impression on Tobi that even when he thought Joe had forgotten about him he sought him out to help rescue Su-Yeong from being killed.
- Break the Cutie:
- Tobi, one of the most caring and nurturing characters in the comic, suddenly stopped hearing from his surrogate baby brother, Morgan, and the magician who took him in, Dr. Malliet when he was fourteen. He assumed that Morgan had stopped caring about him and that they'd moved without bothering to tell him.
- The truth isn't much nicer, since Malliet and Morgan were killed, traumatizing Joe and causing him to withdraw from his closest friends.
- Isra's conversation with Tobi about Philomena has Isra remembering Philomena casually spending large amounts of money at her bakery, and Tobi remembering Philomena coming across as not caring about Su-Yeong's livelihood.
- Crystal Ball: The seeker stones.
- Dark and Troubled Past:
- Tobi and Su-Yeong grew up on the streets with no magic and only each other for support. They raised Morgan, until he developed magic and was apprenticed by Dr. Malliet.
- Peony, a ten-year-old, would have nowhere to sleep at night if not for Tobi and Su-Yeong and refuses to talk about her family, even to people she trusts.
- Joe lost Dr. Malliet and Morgan, his romantic partner and someone he saw as a son, in a house fire five years ago.
- Flashback: To Joe witnessing the house fire, and the husk, that killed Dr. Malliet and Morgan.
- Good Angel, Bad Angel: When Tobi tells Isra about Su-Yeong's argument with Philomena, Isra envisions an angelic Philomena sunnily entering her bakery while Tobi envisions an infernal Philomena smirking that she doesn't really care about Su-Yeong.Philomena (Isras imagination): Hello Miss Isra! What a nice day, right? Ill be spending a small fortune here today! Hee hee!
Philomena (Tobis imagination): Hey, Tobi, Im just so torn up by what happened. Not gonna do anything about it, though.
- Power Incontinence: Husks in higher tiers have a harder time controlling their emotions, and therefore their powers...
- Power Limiter: ... so Isra gives Su-Yeong ruby earrings, which would normally have the opposite effect, to siphon her excess magic.