LIGHT AND SHADOW
Lucky was currently sorting through a small pile of parchments, her brows furrowed together. She sat in a rather humid, dimly lit room, barren of any decorations past the necessities. Her usually short hair had grown slightly, giving her a rather feminine look. Sighing, she put one of the parchments down and went over the one beneath, quickly exclaiming in surprise. Tumbling inside of her mind for a while, she finally seemed to have made a decision as she whipped out a talisman and burned it.
A few moments later, a screen in front of her lit up as a familiar -- yet eerily distant -- face appeared. Lino still had the same features she remembered, yet his expression was dismal, the look in his eyes one of depression. She had to rub her eyes twice just to ensure she wasn’t seeing things.
“... Lino?” she mumbled, still in disbelief.
“... yeah?” Lino replied dispiritedly.
“What the fuck happened to you?!” she asked.
“... L’... are you having fun?” Lino suddenly asked instead of replying. “Please tell me you’re having fun. You must be having fun! If you’re having fun, then I can have fun through you!”
“... seriously, what the fuck happened to you?! Did you get caught?”
“... no. Worse.” Lino shuddered. “I’ve... I’ve met the Devil. The Devil!”
“Eh?!! You mean the Father of all Devils?! When?! How?!”
“... no. Worse--”
“Alright, stop with your dramatic shittery,” Hannah’s voice suddenly cut in as she appeared on the screen. “Just ignore him. He’s throwing a tantrum because he’s forced to train for a change. What’s up L’?”
“Oh, right.” Lucky mumbled, shaking her head. “Nothing. I was just going after some reports, and came across an old friend. Remember the Emperor Rex?”
“Sure. What about him?” Hannah asked.
“Well, apparently, he’s reached out to the Heaven’s Chosen for asylum.”
“Oh. I know that.” Lino joined in from the side.
“Huh?” Hannah and Lucky exclaimed at the same time.
“Non told me.” Lino shrugged.
“Oh. I always forget about that fucking dog...” Lucky chuckled bitterly. “Do you want me to do anything about it?”
“Nah, it’s fine,” Lino shook his head. “He’s still an useful pawn.”
“Oh, alright. I’ll still keep tabs on him, just in case.”
“Sure.” Lino shrugged. “Anyway, thank you for taking up my free daily time. Thank you L’. Thank you so much. I can’t express how thankful I am.”
“... your sarcasm is still on point.” Lucky grinned, shutting the transmission down. Glancing over the parchment with the Emperor’s information one last time, she put it on the side pile as she began rummaging through the rest.
Aside from cultivating regularly, most of her day was eaten up by going through the reports of her subordinates. While the Holy Grounds had drew back the size of the invasion, there were still hundreds if not thousands of members scattered around the world, and tracking them all was practically impossible, so she had to settle on tracking down the most dangerous ones first. From the initial hundred, Shadows of Entropy had doubled in members, though most of the newly drafted were still in training inside the fortress. While she enjoyed the increased level of responsibility, it was also quite tiring.
It was at that moment that the doors to her room swung open as Valkryia sauntered in, carrying another stack of parchments, prompting Lucky to groan audibly. The former chuckled as she saw her expression, putting the parchments down as she sat across from her.
“No rest for the wicked, eh?” Valkryia said.
“But I’m not wicked though,” Lucky said pitifully. “I still need my beauty sleep, you know?”
“Bleh, you’ve picked up all of Lino’s bad habits. Just use Qi to disperse your tiredness.”
“It’s not the same... I feel much more refreshed after a nice sleep.” Lucky said. “Have you ever tried it?”
“No,” Val shook her head. “It’s just a waste of time.”
“... how can it be a waste of time when you’ve got all the time in the world?” Lucky questioned.
“... it’s a strange paradox,” Val replied after a short silence, chuckling. “The more you live, the less time for things you feel like you have.”
“... eh, that’s freakin’ dumb. Just give it a shot.” Lucky said. “Trust me; drinking yourself to sleep, then waking up with a sky-splitting headache... ah, it’s fucking sublime.”
“... why would you purposefully inflict pain on yourself?” Val questioned with a dubious gaze.
“... god, you straight-laced cultivators are fucking weird. I’m actually kind of happy I met that prick before I met you lot.”
“Ha ha ha, I imagine he would be very happy to hear that.” Val smiled wryly.
“And you would be very dead if you ever told him.” Lucky replied with an innocent smile.
“Ha ha ha, alright, alright. I’ll let you get back to work. I need to get back to mine as well. It’s been a busy few weeks.”
“And it will be a busy few years. That’s just like him,” Lucky said, sighing. “Unload all the work on others... and run away.”
Val left immediately after, leaving Lucky alone in the room to sift through the remaining parchments. Halfway through, however, she seemed to give up, throwing them aside and getting up slowly, walking over to the barred window on the far end of the room, glancing through and gazing toward the ghastly-looking clouds. The sun was yet to dawn ever since Lino killed Eos, making every day more depressing than the last.
She suddenly gagged, crashing onto her knees and falling all the way down, leaning against the slightly chilly wall, beginning to sob silently. She pulled her knees up to her chest, cradling her head into her knees, holding her arms over and above, her body beginning to shake as though naked in December’s cold. Meek cries soon hugged the room tightly as her voice cracked, tears soon streaming down her cheeks.
Hurt seized her heart like a pair of arms wounding tightly around, ache cradling her soul in a tender embrace; barely a month has passed since Felix’s death, and holding up the facade was more exhausting than rummaging through all the papers in the world. She suddenly whipped out a pair of cyan-shining gauntlets from her void treasure, holding them tenderly. A whole slew of memories jolted her mind, tracing all the way back to when she first met him, inside those ruins, following Lino like a little pup.
What at first she only saw as a way to pass the time turned into something much bigger, much greater than she ever expected. She didn’t even know when or how, but that little pup managed to sneak his way inside her heart like no one has before, leaving her entirely defenseless. She has yet to actually go to sleep, contrary to what she told Val; she was too terrified of the nightmares that would undoubtedly swallow her whole. Even drowning herself in booze hardly helped, as the memories were still too vivid, too real. It always felt like he was there, and if she’d just reach out with her arms, he would be back. It was beyond terrifying, she knew, losing herself in that sensation.
She wept long and hard, wound inside the four walls where no other soul could see her. It was her brief moment of respite; whatever she shows to the world is irrelevant in lieu of what she does when alone. However difficult it may be to walk out with a smile on her face, with an even voice and a clear gaze, she knew she had to do it, if for no one else then for Lino. She still had the liberty of cracking and falling apart at her own discretion, but he didn’t. Whenever she thought of how difficult it was for her, during those moment she was close to giving up, she would think of how difficult it must be for him. Perhaps ironically, they were each other’s propellers; he encased himself in a strong front for her, and she for him. It was almost an unspoken pact, a bond that can hardly be described in words.
In the end, however, her promise still held on; however painful it may be, and however irrecoverable the damage is, she would endure. Fight to live every day. As with every other event in one’s life, there is always a choice to be made; she could choose to crown herself the queen of despair and either shut herself off or wane away, or to continue living, not allowing a single event to define the rest of her life. It was an universal struggle, a bond all of mankind shared regardless of their status. He was the light and she promised to be his shadow; as long as he shone and blinded the world, she would be there, picking off the strays. Whatever may come after, she thought as she put back the gauntlets, got up and wiped the wet corners of her eyes, may. Life was an unpredictable road that may lead everywhere and nowhere; whatever the final destination may be, all live for the journey -- as would she.