Lino and Lucky stopped in front of the tall gates, waiting patiently as they slowly creaked open, showing a familiar path both had taken once already in the past. Light shook their sights for a moment and as they came to, both had rather peculiar expressions; Lucky’s was that of quaint amusement, partway to bursting out into laughter, while Lino’s was of pain, one he expressed audibly through a low groan.
“Your Majesty!!!” thousands sank to their knees, plastering their heads into the mud without any form of hesitation. The loud cry shook the earth beneath, shocking all members of Evelyn’s and Althone’s party who stared at the spectacle with eyes wide open.
Only one person besides them didn’t bow -- Valkryia, who stood by the side, staring at Lino’s expression with a faint, queer smile. He turned toward her shortly after and met her playful gaze as the corners of his lips twitched, curling up into a sarcastic smile.
“It seems you’ve failed to pass on my distaste of... well, this.” he said, sighing.
“Oh, I most certainly did pass on your distaste of... well, this,” Valkryia chuckled. “I just imagine their hearts are so filled with emotion they do not know of another way to express it.”
“Right, of course,” Lino scoffed, walking forward slowly as Lucky followed him, her shoulders shaking. “God, please... just... get up everyone,” he growled as he realized nobody was moving a muscle. “Yes, that’s it. Good job. I’m proud of you all. Now go. Shoo. Go away.” as the crowds slowly began dispersing, low chatter filling the air while Lino was forced to endure all sorts of weird and questionable glances, he sunk away and rubbed his temple, turning toward Valkryia. By the end, only five people remained -- including Evelyn and Althone. “Was that your version of revenge since I failed to keep up?” he asked.
“Eh, something like that.” Valkryia chuckled.
“... I may be one evil son of a bitch,” he said, smiling bitterly and hugging her as a greeting. “But you are certainly the most maleficent one.”
“Oh my, thank you for the praise. I’m wholly undeserving of it.”
“... of course you’re not,” Lino shook his head, turning toward Althone and Evelyn, both of whom wore rather complex expressions on their faces. “Why don’t you three ladies go and catch up in Val’s room,” Lino said, turning toward Lucky. “Al’ and I will join you in a bit.”
“I’ll fashion a meal for you,” Valkryia said, opening up a portal to her room and escorting Lucky and Evelyn, who greeted each other awkwardly. “What do you want?”
“Anything with meat.” Lino said dismissively.
“... so my--”
“I’m a happily taken man I’m afraid,” Lino chuckled, interrupting her. “So feed your goods to another’s tongue.”
“Ha ha, very well.” Valkryia’s laughter slowly dissipated as the portal closed, leaving only heavy silence behind.
“Your poison?” Lino asked, sitting down onto a rock.
“... ale.” Althone replied, sitting down as well.
“Here,” whipping out several bottles of booze, he threw a few them to Althone, opening one for himself in the process. “Those were the only survivors?” he asked.
“Aye.” Althone replied.
“... shame,” Lino mumbled, sighing. “I’m sorry.”
“... so... you’re the Empyrean,” Althone suddenly chuckled. “I’m right in assuming you’ve killed my Father because he found out?”
“... he was a very perceptive man,” Lino replied. “For better or worse. In this case, well, definitely worse.”
“... it was a mistake we ever began dancing the tango with you,” Althone said after brief silence. “From the get-go, I felt there was something off with you. Should have listened to my gut.”
“... I’m really sorry for the way things transpired between us,” Lino said, leaning back and looking up at the cloudy sky. “I actually quite liked both you and Gustav. You were the royal ilk I genuinely respected.”
“... I can’t say I forgive you... or that I ever will,” Althone said, glancing at him. “But, at least now I know why. And I definitely realize I’ll never stand a chance. Your growth... is fucking scary.”
“Ha ha ha,” Lino laughed out freely, looking sideways. “You ain’t bad yourself. Give it a couple of centuries and you might earn yourself a Title.”
“... nah, I’ve no such high aspirations,” Althone said, chuckling. “If the reward is being part of this world,” he looked outside the walls. “Then I don’t want anything to do with it.”
“... smart decision.” Lino said.
“Thank you, by the way.”
“For saving us,” Althone said. “I know you didn’t exactly have an imperative to do it.”
“Eh, wouldn’t say that,” Lino said. “My days have been pretty shit lately. It was nice, feeling useful again.”
“... we all have our bad days.”
“Felix’s dead,” Lino said, startling Althone. “Well, he was killed actually. I was planning on coming back anyway, to bring his body back home. Just never thought it would be under these circumstances.”
“... what happened?” Althone asked.
“Another Bearer got him,” Lino said, sighing. “While I failed to save him. That’s really all there is to it. I’ve seen that only his Grandfather survived. Well, if he ain’t nailed in the head yet, it seems I’ll make sure he is.”
“... he’s a tough brick,” Althone said. “But, yeah, good luck with that.”
“Any news from the Western Continent, by the way?” Lino asked suddenly.
“Nothing, really,” Althone replied after a short thoughts. “Our advance scouts say that the whole Eastern Shore is baked in fog and smog. The last report was about a month ago.”
“So the Devils have formed their nests, huh?” Lino mumbled. “God, sometimes I really hate this fucking world. Anyway, wanna join us for the supper?”
“No, thanks.” Althone said.
“Very well,” Lino said, getting up. “Stay here as long as you want.”
A portal opened up next to Lino who walked right through it after smiling at Althone faintly. Disappearing, it took but a moment for him to find himself back in a familiar room, where three ladies were sitting and sipping tea. Glancing at the distant wall, Lino’s brows immediately furrowed as he realized he may as well have been looking into the mirror.
“Handsome lad, isn’t he?” Valkryia said playfully, getting up and standing next to him. “I believe I’ve captured him almost perfectly. What do you think?”
“... at least it’s not a fucking sculpture.” Lino sighed, sitting down.
“Oh, we thought about it,” Val said. “But, well, I forgot to take your exact measurements. Your arrival really saved us on that front.”
“... ah, whatever, do whatever you want.” Lino groaned, waving a white flag in defeat. “Where’s my meal?”
“On its way.”
“So, you two ladies caught up yet?” he turned toward Lucky and Evelyn who still seemed rather awkward around each other. “Or was it just awkward silence galore.”
“Mostly the latter one,” Valkryia joined. “So why don’t you break the ice?”
“Nah, I rarely see L’ this flustered,” Lino smiled wryly. “It’s a sight for the sore eyes.”
“... yeah, go fuck yourself.” Lucky replied in kind, growling.
“Come on, don’t be so embarrassed,” Lino chuckled. “Isn’t she adorable?”
“Can’t say she isn’t.” Valkryia fanned the flames further with a faint smile. “So, you said you’re a happily taken man. Who’s the lucky lady?”
“He he,” Lino suddenly chuckled, puffing his nose in pride. “You’re gonna be quite proud of me when I tell you, you know?”
“Oh? Do I know her?” she asked.
“Well, not know her per se, but you definitely heard of her.”
“Well, you’ve got me on the bed of nails. What are you waiting for?” she chuckled.
“It’s the Elysian.”
“Ha ha ha, god, that expression is priceless, ha ha ha ha,” Lino suddenly burst out into laughter as even Lucky was unable to hold it back any longer, seeing Val’s utterly gobsmacked expression. “I’ve aimed for the moon, yet I grabbed the star. Ain’t I a lucky bastard or what?”
“W-w-wait! Wait! Does... does she know?!” Valkryia asked, flustered.
“You mean about how I swing for the Chaos legion? Yeah, it’s come up.” Lino chuckled.
“And... she’s... fine with it?!”
“To be honest I think it turns her on a bit,” Lino said. “You know, taking the whole ‘bad boy’ thing to a whole new level.”
“... wow... this...” Valkryia took in a deep breath, trying to reconcile it all together. “I... I don’t know what to say.”
“You’ll meet her one day,” Lino said, smiling. “And you’ll understand it. L’ over here practically already worships the ground she walks on.” Lucky groaned, shaking her head.
“What do you mean I worship the ground she walks on? She’s pretty much just you with tits and a cunt. Well, yeah, she’s not as bad, but she’s getting there. Give it a year or two and you two will be universally the most hated couple to have ever existed.”
“... oof.” Lino sucked in a cold breath, smiling faintly. “I don’t think we’re quite deserving of the honors, but, hey, if it comes from your lips, there’s truth to those tips.”
“... oh god...” all three women audibly groaned, lowering their heads.
“Ah, I can’t help it; my effect on the fairer sex is simply beyond my control. I don’t know what it is, you know?”
“I regret inviting you over here,” Valkryia chuckled bitterly. “But, it’s good to see you haven’t changed. Still as big of an ass as always.”
“Actually I think I’ve flexed my bum quite a bit since we last saw each other,” Lino said, getting up and shifting sideways, pulling his pants over until they bent over his behind perfectly. “See? It’s more rounded, more firm. Hannah says slapping it is like punching a brick with your head, so--”
“Just shut the hell up!!” all three exclaimed angrily, their cheeks flushed.
“... ha ha ha, alright, that’s enough of teasing for now.” Lino said, laughing and picking up the bottle of ale from the table. “I bet it ain’t as awkward now, right?” he winked stealthily at Lucky and Evelyn who shook their heads, smiling bitterly, as they watched him swagger off into the other end of the room, throwing himself onto the bed and falling asleep. But, he was right, they quickly realized; after seeing a grown man brag about his behind, things certainly became less awkward between the two.