MYRIAD OF HEARTS
Faint whispers of candles’ flames lit up a squared room, giving it gentle and warm radiance. Walls surged in faint coral, their sheen cascading down the stacks. The floorboard beneath creaked slightly as Lino walked over from the corner and sat on the bed, looking at the pale Lucky lying beneath the sheets. A whole day had passed since Hannah knocked her out, and her state hadn’t changed much.
Though Lino was very much unaware at the moment of the global consequences his antics had spurred, he didn’t care much for them either; he refused to leave the room until she woke up. He’d also eventually kicked Hannah out as she had far more pressing issues to deal with than being a hand propelling him up when Lucky wakes.
Perhaps others couldn’t understand it, but to Lino Lucky represented far more than just a friend; save for Ella and Eggor, she was among the first to befriend him despite his antics. She was there through everything, and even with all her snide comments about him, he knew very well she never once thought about leaving. He’d long since stopped thinking of her as a friend and more as a little sister, a title she would certainly flare about as she was a few years older than him.
By showing her the world, he exposed her to its vultures; he promised himself he’d protect her and Felix no matter what, even at the expense of his own life, yet he’d failed -- failed so spectacularly that he was half a mind away from getting up and running away from everything, too fearful to face the reality of it all.
Following Aeala’s and others’ deaths, she barely managed to crawl back -- and now, after she’d finally rekindled the fire in her heart, it was snuffed so abruptly she didn’t even have a moment’s goodbye. Right there in front of her eyes it was cut permanently while all she could do was stand and scream. That was the thing that scared Lino the most; it wasn’t whether she would blame him or the world, but that she would beholden the whole burden onto herself.
Glancing out the window onto the empty streets, he couldn’t help but sigh audibly. For all of mankind’s simplicity, he mused, altogether it formed a complex structure that hardly ever played the tune of the ‘supposed to’. It’s that eventual uncertainty despite all his ‘heart’s wisdom’ that drove dread into his soul like a cold-tipped spear.
“... straighten your back.” a meek and mellow voice jolted him back from his thoughts as he hurriedly turned around and met a pair of hollow eyes looking at him.
“... hey.” he replied, almost choking. “I compensate with other parts, don’t worry.”
“... disgusting fucker.” she mumbled faintly, sitting up. “I can’t believe you sent your girlfriend to knock me out. Not cool dude.”
“It was kind of hot, though,” Lino smiled faintly, “She carrying you and touching places.”
“...” he chuckled bitterly at the stink-eye. “How long was I out?”
“About a day.” he replied.
“... did... you kill her?” she asked, lowering her gaze.
“Aye,” Lino said. “And in the process pretty much declared war on the world.”
“... good.” she growled. “It was about time someone did.”
“... this moment feels eerily familiar.” he mumbled, sighing.
“Reminds you of something?” she glanced up through the distorted strands of hair falling over her face. “Ah, at least last time you didn’t have a girlfriend to knock me out, so you had to face me squarely.”
“And boy did I fuck it up, heh.”
“... not really,” she said. “Your ten-year-promise was pretty much my fuel back then. Won’t work this time around, though, if you’ve got any funny ideas.”
“... I’ve failed, L’,” Lino said, lowering his head as well. “Failed him, failed you... failed you two’s trust in me. This time,” he continued, his voice cracking slightly. “I was right there. Right... there. I wasn’t miles away... but right there, right next to her.”
“... heh,” he suddenly chuckled bitterly. “So many dub me a natural leader... so much so actually that I’ve begun believing it. But I ain’t no fucking leader. I’m at best an idiot.”
“... you are.” she mumbled. “But, you were right there, you said it. Right after her. I saw your legs rip, your fist scramble into a mush of bones and gore. Then, I saw the same thing happen to your heart. We tend to throw a lot of blame around,” she added, looking up at him. “But, for some reason, we never blame those actually responsible. It was that cunt that decided to go after him. She didn’t go after you. Or after me. She went after him. And Annar and Scarlet. She went in knowing she would die. I don’t think we need to blame anyone else.”
“... funny, how easy it is to lie,” he looked up and faintly smiled before scuffling over and lying next to her, pulling her into his arms and hugging her tightly. “But, I won’t let you do it, L’.”
“...” Lucky said nothing, letting herself be wrapped into the muddied and bloodied arms. She didn’t even say anything of the stench, knowing full well he hadn’t washed since that day.
“You ever heard the tale of the Fox and the brave Hero?” he asked, stroking her hair gently.
“... no.” she replied lowly.
“It’s quite a fascinating one,” he continued. “Once upon a time, far, far away, there was a village. And near the village lived a Fox who regularly stole village’s sheep, chicken, and even people, who named the fox Sneaky Fox. So, one day, the village’s Hero armed himself and decided he’d go and end the Fox’s tyranny. He marched alone toward the Fox’s den, cheered after by the villagers, and eventually entered it, meeting the evil Fox eye to an eye. The Fox, however, wasn’t as terrifying as the stories made her out to be; she was small, like a pup, cuddled up in the corner. She was sleeping, but instead of killing it right then and there, Hero waited her until the Fox woke up.”
“When it did, the Fox was surprised to find the Hero there and asked ‘What are you doing here?’? The Hero replied, ‘I came to kill you, evil Fox!’. ‘Then why didn’t you kill me when I was sleeping?’, the Fox asked. ‘Because that would have been sneaky, and I would be exactly like you!’ the Hero’s reply surprised the Fox. Thinking the Hero rather foolish, the Fox said, ‘Instead of fighting, why don’t we play a game? If you win, I’ll never bother your village again, but if you lose, you’ll become my slave forever.’ Hero agreed after a short thought. ‘What’s the game?’ he asked. ‘It’s very simple’, the Fox said, ‘You just have to catch me and you win’. The Hero agreed and put away his sword. ‘Fine,’ he said, ‘I’ll catch you then!’. The Hero then ran toward the Sneaky Fox, but the latter didn’t even move; the Hero thought that the Sneaky Fox wasn’t so sneaky after all and quickly picked it up and wrapped it in his arms. ‘Hah, I win! Evil fox!’ the Hero exclaimed proudly. The Sneaky Fox, however, grinned and said ‘Idiot...’ before lifting its head and biting the Hero’s neck, killing him.”
“... eh? That’s it?” Lucky asked as she realized Lino had gone silent for a while.
“Yup.” Lino replied with a faint smile.
“Are you trying to tell me that, despite your stupidity, there are even stupider ones out there?” Lucky asked, suddenly bursting out into the laughter.
“Hey!! It’s a beautiful tale of learning, young lady! Don’t dismiss it just because of my personal agenda!”
“Oh, so there was some personal agenda involved?”
“... I refuse to confirm or deny that.”
“... ha ha ha, god you’re an idiot...” she mumbled, pressing her head deeper against his chest.
“Oof, that one hurt.”
“... he proposed to me.” Lucky spoke out, surprising Lino.
“Just recently,” she said, her voice cracking as Lino felt his shirt growing slightly wet. “He asked me to marry me... and I said yes.”
“The stupid idiot nearly blew himself up trying to create some gem to give me,” she chuckled through tears. “When... when he could have just asked...”
“...” Lino remained in stunned silence, halfway proud that he’d finally grown enough balls to ask, and halfway further broken as he realized what it all compounded to.
“... and now... now he’s... he’s just gone...” she sobbed silently, her body shaking like a boat on a wave in his arms. “Just gone...”
“...” he didn’t know what else to do but hold her as tightly as he could; his expression growing sour as he held back a curse inside his lungs. She wept freely on his chest, letting go of her inhibitions, as he held her; he couldn’t say anything, couldn’t reaffirm that things would be fine, couldn’t console her, couldn’t even encourage her. Just stay silent and hold on with all his might and accept all she had to let go. Like a house built brick by brick, her cries compounded together as she held onto him tightly, afraid to let go.