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BOOK II - GREAT DESCENT

VOLUME VIII - HELL-FORGED

CHAPTER 176

CUT FROM THE SAME CLOTH

A rather warm, southern wind blew, caressing the building tops of the lively town, yet seemingly invisible to the eyes of the passerby. While the town drowned in its daily liveliness, in one of the large-standing inns, Lino currently sat by the window, drinking and looking out into the sky. It had been a week since he’d arrived here, yet he hardly felt as settled as he thought he would.

His thoughts were interrupted quickly with the doors of the room opening and Lucky and Felix walking in, both seemingly exhausted and parched. They stared at him dangerously for a moment while he merely flashed a smile before reaching into the desk and taking out two glasses of wine, one for each.

“You guys had fun?” Lino asked, taking a sip.

“Fun? No,” Lucky replied. “I was merely reminded as to why I hated your sorry, lazy ass so much.”

“Ah, come on now. It can’t have been that bad.” Lino said.

“Yeah, have you left the inn today?” Felix asked. “It’s literally ten billion degrees outside. And you asked us to go to the mountain ranches -- full of horses who shit all the freaking time -- and expect us to have had a fun time?!”

“... yeah, alright. Maybe you don’t deserve to be made fun of.” Lino said, turning toward them. “Did you buy it at least?”

“Yeah,” Lucky nodded. “But... are we really moving to a ranch? Seems rather dumb.”

“Not we,” Lino said. “You two.”

“Huh?” both Felix and Lucky exclaimed at the same time.

“I’ll be leaving soon,” he elaborated, withstanding the twos’ murderous gazes. “To a place... neither of you can follow. Whilst I’m away, I figured I’d secure you guys a permanent residence.”

“... is that it?” Lucky asked after a short silence. “Just... ‘hey, I’m leaving. Here, have a house! Goodbye!’. Really?”

“What do you mean a place we can’t follow you to, Master?” Felix asked.

“This place will soon be plunged into a war,” Lino said. “I’m merely leaving to make some preparations.”

“... ain’t that familiar-sounding.” Lucky said, quickly downing the bottle.

“Yeah... life really is quite ironic like that, isn’t it?” Lino said, smiling faintly.

“...” Lino suddenly lifted his arm to shield his head as a bottle came flying at him; glass shattered with a loud bang, creasing over his arm and face, gashing several wounds across as wine sizzled over them. “You’re a fucking piece of shit, you know that Lino?” Lucky spoke in a dark and hardened voice as Felix felt as though strained between two realities.

“I--”

“You’re doing the exact goddamn thing as the last time!!” she yelled at him, interrupting. “What’s this time, huh? Is it resources again? Maybe you fancy some fat ass? Or... are you just running away? Is that it? Are you that much of a coward?”

“L’--”

“Felix, stay out of this!” Lucky glared at him for a moment before shifting her gaze onto Lino. “Answer me. What is it? Or are you going to be cryptic, saying some stupid shit you think is charming?”

“... well, I was going for the latter one but you ruined it.” Lino said.

“... Lyonel,” Lucky said. “If you leave... I swear to god you won’t find me when you come back. Or ever again.”

“... maybe that’s for the best.” Lino mumbled faintly as he took a sip.

“Really... now?” Lucky’s eyes shined momentarily as she slowly walked over to Lino and leaned into his face. “At least look me in the eye when you’re throwing me away you cunt.”

“...” Lino looked up, meeting the already teary eyes. “You’ve seen--nay, you’ve experienced the hell back there, Lucky,” he continued. “Tell me... what part do you believe you have to play this time around, huh? I can’t protect you two.”

“Nobody asked you to protect us!!”

“I dragged you over,” Lino sighed. “Of course I have to protect you two.”

“Why?!”

“Because you two are the only ones I’ve got fucking left!!!” he roared angrily for a moment. “Fuck,” he sighed as he saw Lucky’s and Felix’s startled expression, getting up and walking over to the window, leaning against the ledge. “I... I truly wanted to stay here with you for a little while longer. I wanted to see just how awkward Felix can get around me whenever I smile at him dubiously, I wanted to see how far the two of you will be able to make it in this world... I wanted to witness all of this myself.” he turned around and glanced at them, smiling. “But the world doesn’t seem to give shit about what I want. And about what you two want. Hey,” he walked over to the two of them and put his hand on their heads, caressing gently. “I won’t be gone forever, you know? Besides, you’ve got each other now, and all that without me to pester you.”

“... go to hell.” Lucky swatted his arm away and angrily stomped out of the room.

“Right. Well, I’m gonna pay for that dearly eventually.” Lino said, sighing as he sat back down and began drinking again.

“... I’ve learned many things from you,” Felix spoke out after a short silence. “And one of them was to always be free... to be open to possibilities. To never let the world dictate my thoughts, my ideas and even less so my actions. I wholeheartedly believed you stood behind that belief. Looks like I was wrong though.”

“...” Lino glanced at him and saw it in his eyes -- the disappointment, sadness, even tinges of pain swirling about the sea of honesty and innocence. “I’ve told you many times before Felix, but I’m quite a hypocrite.”

“... no,” Felix shook his head. “Hypocrites are merely cowards who don’t practice what they preach.”

“... you’ll watch her for me, won’t you?”

“... goodbye, Master.”

Felix shifted on his heel heavily and left, his back slouched. Lino stared at his fading figure for a moment before sighing; though he very much liked to play the role of a bad guy, it wasn’t as pleasant when he was doing it to the people he cared for. Yet, he remained firm in his conviction. He knew couldn’t involve them into whatever was to come.

“... you’re maturing.” a robotic voice quickly chimed in, causing Lino to scoff and even laugh for a moment.

“You can say it,” he said, taking a sip. “I’m turning into you, bit by bit.”

Is that so bad?” the Writ asked.

“The mere fact that you have to ask tells me you haven’t been paying much attention, have you?”

... you’ve realized it, haven’t you?” the Writ continued, ignoring Lino’s jab.

“What? That I have to be a complete twat to two people I care about because I want to keep them safe? Ay. I’ve figured it out.”

It’s a thankless occupation.” the Writ said.

“... why did you pick me?” Lino mumbled. “Why not some loner who hates everyone else as much as he hates himself? Why not some narcissistic whacko who would happily go around and kill people on your behalf?”

The mere fact that you have to ask tells me you haven’t been paying much attention, have you?

“Hah.. cute... real cute.”

You could have chosen to tell them the truth.” the Writ said.

“It wouldn’t have changed anything,” Lino said. “They would have still decided to follow me. The only difference would be that the chances of them dying would increase exponentially.”

... then you did what you had to do.

“Do you know Hannah?” Lino asked suddenly.

“... I do.

“Hah, so you really have been scooping around my memory lane, haven’t you?” Lino scoffed for a moment before continuing. “After Ally left, I pretty much lived to kill those involved in all her misfortunes. I figured I’d be like those avengers in the stories she used to read to me... I’d fan the flames of fury till they unkindled and I became just another needle in the heap of corpses. I knew she would come back for me one day, so I wanted to leave her with a final message. I wanted to let her know that I’ve never given up... and that she shouldn’t either.”

“...”

“After Hannah helped me kill Barry,” Lino took a deep breath, staring at the bottle in his hand. “She refused to help me kill anyone else, saying I wasn’t cut out for it. I’d have done it anyway, but...”

“... she never left you out of her sight.

“Yeah...” Lino chuckled. “She was rather stubborn like that. I’d have probably died long ago if it wasn’t for her.”

“... is that why you hid from Alison when she came to look for you? Because you didn’t want her to think you’d given up?

“... no, it’s the opposite,” Lino said, taking a sip. “I wanted her to think I had. Or, rather, that I’d already fizzled out. Hannah had told me long ago that Ally was having a hard time adjusting... and I knew I was that crutch, the boulder holding her back. It was time she let me go.”

... isn’t it time you let go the other one as well?

“... I will. Eventually.” Lino said, taking a deep breath and putting the bottle down. “For now, though, it’s high time I looked into Ethwart’s offer, don’t you think?”

... indeed.

“Great Descent... huh? I really do wonder what kind of weird whackos I’ll meet over there...”

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About the author

beddedOtaku

Bio: Bad writer, worse painter, terrible singer. Accumulation of all things gone wrong. Rather proud of it, actually.

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