A stranger looked up at him from the murky surface of the pond, framed by a moon hovering far behind. He looked exactly like Frey, but with eyes that must've been decades older than his young face. His hair was in black unkempt spikes, and a two-day stubble had grown on his chin. Caked on his cheeks were spatters of dark red blood that had since dried.
The man staring up at him wasn't Frey. It was a murderer. He took off his gloves. He was far enough from Liezel that his mark didn't glow. It's the last thing he wanted to see right now. He cupped freshwater in his hands, doused his face cold with it.
How does it feel, crossing the line? His devil mocked as he let water drip from his face.
"Shut up." he muttered.
I had no choice.
But you could've walked away.
I needed info from the boy.
Is that all there is to it?
Frey plunged his head deep into the water. That seemed to have stopped the voice in his head. He stayed under for a second, two, his eyes closed, breath steady. He could hear nothing but the pressure knocking on his ears.
He wished Shin was there to guide him. He would always know what to do.
Frey got out of water and wiped his face down with his hands.
"Chilling night, isn't it."
He turned around, to find Tack walking toward him, eyes skyward.
"I'm used to it." Frey answered.
"How long have you been traveling? On your own?"
"You don't have to know that." he slipped on his gloves and sat in a seiza.
"Right. I apologize."
"Where's that girl?"
"Resting and alive, thanks to you."
"I didn't do it out of kindness. And I certainly didn't think of saving her. She just happened to get involved while I was saving you."
"I won't beat around the bush. You have something I need, that's why you're still alive."
"I... figured as much." the boy heaved a sigh. "You're looking for Boss, aren't you?"
Tack sat beside him, mimicking his posture, with legs folded underneath his body.
"Like the captain said. He must be in the dungeons of Redel right now. Rest assured though they will not kill him. He's too valuable."
"Start with why they captured him. Does it have something to do with him being a Player?"
Tack shook his head. "No oh. The King only apprehends the new Chosen. Boss Barton got caught, because he was helping the Chosen escape. We were."
"Is that so... Still, I don't get why they're so dead set on hunting us, the new generation."
"It has something to do with the King's soothsayer. The soothsayer prophesized the end of his reign will come by the hands of a young Chosen from the other world."
"And he believed something so reeking of bullshit?"
"The whole kingdom believes it." Tack sighed. "The Chosen are powerful and unpredictable beings. That's why, before their powers grow, the King is hunting them."
"So if I go to Redel now and behead the King, I'd have made the prophecy true, right?" Frey joked.
"... Could you be,"
"No don't go there. I was just thinking how much bullshit prophecies are. I don't plan on overthrowing a king."
Tack heaved a sigh of relief. He doesn't take jokes too well, Frey thought.
"What's your name?" the boy asked.
"Frey. Frey Alcott."
"An otherworldly name indeed." Tack chuckled. And for the first time, Frey saw anything but hopelessness in his face. "Hey Frey."
"You're a good man."
"Huh? You must have a few screws loose, kid." Frey snorted. "I've just become a murderer tonight, with a dozen signed under my name."
Frey lifted himself up. He dusted off his coat, and looked up at the midnight sky peppered by a hundred stars flickering to a dance. In the middle of it all was a crescent moon, smiling moonbeams upon the arboreal pond stretched out before them.
Murderer. That's what he was from now onwards.
"You chose not to run away. You chose to save us."
"And I killed people for it."
"But you were just doing what you thought was right, weren't you?"
Frey looked down, at the boy who stared at him with eyes that saw everything.
What he thought was right. Frey nodded. He liked the sound of it. Like an actual justification for his actions. It was naive thinking, but one he wished was true.
"I wouldn't know. But it'd be great if I was." with one vague answer, Frey turned heel and went for the road, leaving Tack's gaze glued to his back.
"Where are you going?" Tack asked.
"Redel. I have a prisoner to break free." Frey replied without turning around.
"What about us?"
"You don't owe me anymore, if that's what you're asking. Do what you want."
Frey walked, not looking back even once. He tucked his hands into the pockets of his black trench coat. It was indeed a chilly night.