A SILENT NIGHT
Lino sat slightly dazed, subconsciously sipping a few gulps of rather strong mead now and again while looking at the starlit sky. [Northern Frost] was by far the best weapon he’d ever created and though it wasn’t his make alone, he still couldn’t help but grin with pride. One thing that worried him, though, was whether the news about it would spread; while he still trusted Chwek and Sena, that wasn’t the case for the other smiths.
He didn’t care all that much if people went after him, but Felix was a different story. Chwek did reassure him repeatedly though that he’d see to it that the weapon’s existence doesn’t leak to anyone outside the room which eased his mind a little bit.
He wasn’t all too focused on the weapon, though. Even Freya’s story wasn’t on his mind as he’d already ascertained she was just fine, if not slightly overwhelmed. He was wondering whether he should contact Ava before leaving for the Central Continent. A positive of it was that she’d most-likely offer him a quicker way of transportation, while a negative was that he’d be stuck with her and most-likely her Clan for a while.
One of the reasons why he asked Ella and Eggor not to directly travel with him was as to not stick out all too much. The two of them, though, were a completely different story when compared to Ava, whom he’d already made a promise with. While he wasn’t above rectifying a promise, he would rather not do it so cheaply.
“What you’re thinking about?” Lucky quickly slumped next to him and took the gourd of mead from his hand, drinking some of it.
“Stuff.” Lino replied taking another gourd from his void world. “What are you doing up?”
“Couldn’t sleep.” she replied, glancing at him. “Besides, that kid’s causing so much ruckus I have a feeling I’ll stab him dead if I have to listen to him for a minute longer.”
“Ha ha ha, yeah, his reaction was pretty funny when I gave him the gauntlets.”
“Ha ha, yeah, passing out was definitely hilarious. What about that girl?” she asked.
“Freya? She’s fine. It seems they’ve agreed to let her bury her grandma and mother in the Ancestral Grounds. We were quite dispensable as bodyguards, no?”
“... what now?” Lucky asked after a short silence.
“... it’s time I moved on.”
“Are you thinking about coming along?” Lino asked, glancing at her.
“I am coming along.”
“... that’s not the best idea you’ve ever had, I gotta say.”
“None of my ideas involving you were ever good,” she said. “So I’m just keeping up with the tradition.”
“If it’s about the cultivation method, I’ll secure one---”
“I don’t care about that shit,” she said, turning toward him and looking deeply into his eyes for a moment before continuing. “For better or worse, you’re the only family I’ve got left. And while I wouldn’t dare presume on your levels of care for me, I’d assume you at least find me tolerable.”
“... it’s not about that, L’.”
“Don’t call me that!”
“You’ve seen it yourself,” he said. “And it won’t ever change. My life will continue to be a road of struggles that will weave in indiscriminately anyone even remotely connected to me. Aren’t you tired of living that sort of a life?”
“... aren’t you?”
“Then why persist on it?” she asked.
“’Cause I’ve got no other choice,” he replied, smiling faintly. “You do, though. And you’re choosing wrongly.”
“Are you really the one who ought to be deciding whether what I do is right or wrong?”
“I suppose I’m not.”
“... you didn’t kill me when I was ready to die,” Lucky said, suddenly leaning her head over onto his shoulder, closing her eyes. “You can’t run away from that.”
“... oh my. Are you falling in love with me at last?”
“You really ruin every good moment, do you?” she mumbled, chuckling lightly.
“Ah, so my charms can’t reach you? It’s unfortunate...” Lino sighed.
“It’s not about your charms,” Lucky said, getting back up as she rolled her eyes at him. “If I met you just today, chances are you’d most-likely break a dam down below.”
“... wow. That’s one way to put it.”
“But, whenever I look at you... I don’t only see your smiles and your jokes, Lino.” she said, taking a gulp of the mead. “I see the stories behind them. I see mountains of baggage that ought to be sinking your shoulders. Rather than making me horny... it’s more like you inspire me.”
“Yeah... that’s what every guy wants to hear.”
“Oh please,” she glanced at him smiling lightly. “Turning the woman on is rather easy. Inspiring people to do better... to be better... that’s a different story. Besides, if you’re that hellbent on it, I’ll let you screw me once or twice to get it out of your system.”
“... thanks for the offer,” Lino turned toward her and ruffled her hair gently, smiling. “But I’ll pass on it.”
“Your loss dude.”
“You should head back inside,” he said, getting up. “You’re not a cultivator anymore. You need sleep.”
“Where are you going?”
“... who knows?”
Lucky didn’t immediately go back inside, rather staying, sitting at the same place and staring at his fading back weaving through the empty streets till he faded from her view. Staring at those slightly hunched back... standing behind... felt rather safe. It always has, she realized. No matter the place, no matter the occasion, no matter the wall, she felt that so long she stood behind him, nothing would happen to her.
“... you and the Master sure have an interesting relationship.” Felix suddenly joined her as he looked toward the distance where Lino just took a turn and disappeared.
“Are you finally done fussing over that toy?” Lucky asked, offering him the gourd which he happily took and drank some from.
“Aren’t you older than him?” Felix ignored her jab and sat down next to her, asking.
“Then why are you the one being treated like a kid?” he asked with seemingly genuine curiosity.
“... it’s always been like this.” she replied, shrugging her shoulders. “Back when I first met him, I think he was like sixteen-seventeen years old. Everyone in our group was older than him... yet all of us still, for some reason, looked for him to give us the answers. Gimme that.” she took back the gourd from Felix and resumed her drinking session.
“... what exactly happened to you guys?” Felix finally braved himself enough to ask, unable to push away his curiosity any longer.
“...” Lucky looked up for a moment toward the sky before replying. “The city we were at got invaded by Demons and Devils,” she spoke in a solemn, heavy tone. “While he was away. By the time he’d gotten back, he only found Lady Aeala and me alive. From what he told me, she died shortly after he arrived, leaving only the two of us.”
“You seem to have already suspected something?” she asked, seeing his somewhat understanding expression.
“I followed him once,” Felix replied. “And I found him standing among a few gravestones, one which had ‘Aeala’ engraved on it. I already figured something tragic happened, and I even suspected it had something to do with the whole war, just never had enough balls to ask him for a confirmation.”
“At least you’ve got enough balls to admit you didn’t have enough balls.” Lucky said, handing him back the gourd. “Don’t worry too much about it.”
“Did he always seem as carefree?” Felix asked suddenly, surprising Lucky.
“Hmm... I suppose?” Lucky replied after a short thought. “Don’t let that cheeky smile fool you though. You do not want to piss that guy off.”
“I’ve no intention of pissing him off,” Felix shrugged. “Though I did notice you’re trying your damn hardest to do it.”
“It’s a game between adults. You wouldn’t understand it.”
“You do realize that I’m only like a few years younger than him, right?”
“Oho, watch out, we’ve got a grown-up here! What-ever-will-I-do?!”
“Yeah, I suppose an old hag like you wouldn’t understand.” Felix replied in same fashion, grinning strangely for a moment.
“Oh no, a kid called me an old hag. I suppose I should break out in tears now, as to not hurt his feeble ego.”
“... m-my ego’s not feeble!”
“Really convincing there, you old stud!” Lucky laughed lightly, slapping Felix’s back who turned away quickly and looked away. “Anyway, I’m gonna hit the bed. I really am freaking tired. Oh, right. Think carefully about what you want to do from now on,” she added shortly before entering the inn. “Following him around on this Continent is one thing. Going any further... might not be the smartest thing to do.”
“... like you’re the one to talk.” he mumbled faintly into the wind, thanking the gods she hadn’t begun cultivating again and was unable to hear him.