On a sunny afternoon in Vesuvia, the real one filled with much less red and more of the blue, orange, white, tan, and multiple hues of a city vibrant with life and devoid of zombified monsters, the former Count Lucio wades in the canal with his lover, Eridæus. It is a peaceful moment for them both, with the reckless warrior finally recovered after his four week possession under an agitated Mare. Lucio has long been convinced what he’d experienced was nothing more than the cruel tormentings of the aforementioned creature, as Eridæus and the others have updated and informed of the previous actions they saw him do the night before he found himself in that horrid place of sorrow, flesh, and blood.
But, if he had travelled further down the canal that day, he would have seen it.
The limply afloat notebook is damp, the text has faded, its edges are worn from all the sweat, blood, and viscera that once stained its pages, but, regardless, it is a familiar face one that the blonde Count would know all too well.
Strangely, despite its worn condition, the tide manages to flip some of the pages and slowly, a bloodied red inscriptions, written like a madman in the middle of his meltdown fill the remainder of the pages. The passage overflows the pages, the text repeated ad nauseam as if the person, or thing, that journalled it was on their final breath of life. The repeating passage is written in a foreign, other-wordly text, but if one were to translate, it would read as follows:
The plate lays in a now dilapidated, blown to pieces underground room, shattered to many particulate, minuscule, broken pieces.
Raked in the blood of a man that once stood are a group of beasts, laughing; laughing in what can only be a sorrowful concoction of elation and anger, joy and frustration, bliss and anguish, all at the same time as the force beyond them, the name that was once called He, H.A.E. and “they,” vents out his rage through them while they celebrate. The beasts once called Muriel, Julien, and Portie celebrate that their friend has returned home, as he should have, even if they are trapped forever in the world of crimson, flesh, and false autonomy. Meanwhile, their commander, their god, darkens the sky and sends more creatures on the hunt to rip apart the surviving bystanders--what little left there are of the denizens to feast on.
To satiate the god.
The god vows to find him again, he will find his target again, and fulfill that insatiable desire of vengeance and torture even if now, more than ever, it could never be obtained. The god’s original target, the man who tore a hole where his soul, of what was once one person, lay--has been permanently vanquished.
A scent, a trail ... something will come and allow for him to take what was, and still is, his. To watch Lucio suffer--any Lucio suffer--is the only purpose the god has left now. He must hunt and he will never stop hunting until that desire is filled even if it spans across the infinite multiverse itself.
The beasts, his pawns, laugh now but soon they will all unite again under his control, and he will be far less lenient this time--underestimation and arrogance will not be repeated twice.
I WILL find you, Lutzokh Lucio.
Perhaps, it is best the Count and his partner never went further down the canal.
Let mere coincidences and nightmares remain as such, and nothing more.
“Ahh, finally!” I stretch my legs, now that I was finally able to use them normally again, “No more crutches, I can use the ol’ leggies all over again!”
“Yes, it is a relief,” Ery echoes me as he sets down our stuff in our room, “But still, do be careful, Lushiyo.”
“Don’t worry, don’t worry,” I reassure him, coming behind him and wrapping my arms around his waist, “I will, baby. I don’t mind taking it slow for a bit.”
Laughing, Ery turns around and kisses me on the lips, “We must do more to make up for your incapacitation period.”
“Well, hey,” I grin, “Those collars are still good you know; and I think it’s about time you got the chance to wear yours, too~”
“Then,” his voice lowers, clearly eager for this, too, “If you leave me a moment to prepare and send the dogs outside, I will take you up on that proposal.”
“Go right ahead~” I purr, watching him head downstairs. As I’m waiting for him, I notice there’s an empty chest on shelf with the dog toys, my hunting pendant, and the candles Ery bought for the two of us.
I spot one of the small pieces of paper we used to make the bulletin board list that is currently hanging on the wall across from the shelf. I’ve never been a writer, but something came over me. I take the piece of paper, and begin scribbling down:
To anyone who reads this,
My name is Lucio (AKA Count Lucio). I once went by the name Montague Montagesson, and I once nearly ended the world because I used to be selfish.
But I’m no longer that person anymore, and I’ve never been happier with my life than now. I have a loving boyfriend, maybe one day he’ll be my husband, two dogs, and a giant fish at The Palace.
Maybe it’s not “big,” but it’s something that feels big and I’m not looking back.
Thank you for everything, Ery. I would have never felt any of this without you.
″Lushiyo?” Ery calls from the bathroom as I seal the piece of paper inside the small chest. “Are you ready?”
I step back, feeling pleased before heading over to our bedroom, “Born ready, tiger~ now c’mere!”
Maybe coming from a guy who’s, um, danced with the Devil, made a bunch of shady deals and avoided them, maybe spontaneously lit people on fire because fire’s cool, killed a few people here and there, and maybe was a fugitive in a magical realm while said Devil came after him for his deal, it sounds like I’m being dramatic, but hearing the barrier breaking down and the noises of Portie, Jules, and Muriel was terrifying.
I can already feel my arms trembling just a little, gripping onto the pedestal for dear life and watching the Djinn I guess ... charge himself? It was kinda hard to tell over the sound of what were my friends roaring and the room shaking like there was an earthquake. I close my eyes, the red glowing marks were getting so bright that they were beginning to hurt my eyes.
The last wham against the barrier and the sound of four primal roars rung in my ears as I could feel Muriel’s thick arms wrap around my neck, Jules’ talons digging into the wounds Portie already made from earlier, and Portie biting into my neck. I cry out in pain, as best I can while being choked, but I hang onto the pedestal despite my heart beating out of my chest.
It’s getting harder to breathe ... everything hurts ... my legs are starting to give out beneath me...
Can’t let go... I keep reminding myself as the Djinn seems to be taking his sweet time--my eyes are still shut so I can’t really tell, but I had to listen. If I let go in this moment, even as I felt myself panicking, my mind blanking out as I struggled to get air into my body ... I would lose everything if I let go.
I’d lose Ery.
I’d lose myself.
I’d lose my home--I wasn’t going to let this place take that away from me; I did not lose Phillis for this.
My friends... I can feel my body wobbling, giving out like it normally does when I’m about to pass out. I’m not gonna let go of you, too ... I’m going to come back, I’m going to hold on.
No, my grip-- Was the last thought that crossed my mind before one of my hands begins to slip off the pedestal, and then everything went black.
″...He can’t hear...”
“But ... I saw...”
Wha’... I thought in confusion. Is this ... is this real?
Slowly, though they feel super crusty and sticky, I open my eyes to see--
″...Ery?” I weakly choke out in joy.
I don’t think I’ve ever heard Ery’s voice get that loud, but I can only weakly place my other arm around him as he embraces me in the world’s tightest, loving hug. I can’t really understand what he’s saying, but all I can really tell is that he’s been stressed, worried, and now he’s super happy--at least, that’s usually what happens when he starts speaking full-on in his native language.
Although I still feel super weak, and breathing seems like a chore to do, I manage to see Az also standing over both of us, looking relieved, “I’m glad we were able to rescue you in time, Lucio.”
“Az...” I croak, ”...I thought ... I’d never ... you were dead...”
He tilts his head in concern, “Dead? Oh my ... that Mare really did do a number on you.”
“Mare...?” I sluggishly repeat him, making Ery close my eyes and rest my head back onto the pillow.
″Lushiyo, do you remember anything from the past few days?” he gently asks me, “You do not have to say much, just anything--”
“Flesh ... monsters...”
I think the silence I heard was them both being confused, before I hear Az sigh, “Okay, so that is safe to assume that Mare warped everything on you. Lucio, I don’t know what kind of nightmare you had, but that wasn’t real. What really happened was about ... four weeks ago, we were having a sleepover with you, Eridæus, myself, and Muriel at an old, haunted cabin in The Dark Forest.”
Az's fluffy white hair shook at bit as he quietly laughs, "Well, you being you, Lucio, you found a spirit board and deliberately tried to 'piss off the Mare for laughs,' and, ultimately, the spirit board summoned it and it possessed you, rendering you unconscious for four weeks."
I slowly blink, processing everything and trying to orient myself at the new information, "...You're both ... real?"
"Lutzokh Lucio," Ery shakily grabs my weak hand and presses it against his warm cheek; I can already feel are tears slowly running down his face, "...What is more real than us?"
My vision got all blurry, too, as I limply pulled Ery in closer and held him in a fatigued, tight hug that I'd owe him for weeks. Everything felt so ... right. Yeah, I was doubtful earlier but the warmth of Ery's body, the delirious murmurings of Xaranian in my ear and Az watching us ... no, this was home.
I made it, Ery... I sigh in pure bliss, I made it, Ery, I love you so much...
"...Four weeks, Az?" I ask the magic guy again, still a bit weak.
"Yes, four weeks Lucio. I don't know what you thought of, but whatever it was ... it was likely just a nightmare."
"Argh..." I hiss into Ery's nape in pain; the wounds from the ... fake? Fake Jules, Muriel, and Portie were stinging bad this time, "But my sides hurt..."
"Well, yes," Az shook his head, "It scratched you up and stabbed in you in your sleep while Eridæus and I were trying to exorcise it from your body. It really wanted to feed off your pscyhe, I really hope you don't act so reckless again."
"But Phillis..." I mumble, "It felt real..."
"It just felt real..." I state again, still confused as to how all these wounds I got weren't from flesh monsters or Scout biting me. "...Just really, really real."
Ery draws his head back kissing me on the forehead, "Whatever that creature of darkness did to you, we dispelled it now, Lushiyo. Please rest, I am just glad you are back again and that I didn't..."
He chokes up and I manage to shift to a more steady laying position to reach my other hand out and stroke Ery's hair in comfort, "Easy, Ery, easy. Yeah, I'm back, okay Tiger? Don't worry, I won't ... mess with ghosts from now on, and I only paused because I really don't remember doing it."
"Yes, 'don't mess with ghosts' is a good lesson to take from all of this, Lucio," Az kneels down next to Ery, "Eridæus, it is best we let him rest."
"Does he have food?"
"Nadia is preparing something for him, a soup with bits of ox tartare. Come on, let the poor guy rest. That Mare drained every ounce of soul out of him, he needs a moment to recover."
I shakily raise my arm and give Ery a thumbs up, "I've always wanted to taste your cooking, Ery, heh..."
He kisses me on the lips before whispering in my ear, "Please, Lushiyo, never do that again."
"I won't," I kiss him again as he goes in for another, "I promise you, I won't."
As Ery rises up to leave, I clear my throat and manage to call out, "Ery?"
He stops, glancing over to face me.
"I love you, Ery, you're ... you're everything for me."
"And you are my soul, Lutzokh."
I shut my eyes, feeling the drowsiness take over as more tears pour out from me.
Maybe you guys were never real, I think to myself as I drift off to sleep, But thank you, Scout ... Portie ... Jules ... Muriel ... and Djinnie. It's good to be back home.
During the weeks of Lucio’s recovery, and my recovery from the hurt his recklessness caused, I decided to try out reading a book to him.
“A book?” he tilts his head at me, “It’s been a while since I even read one of those, Ery. I mean, I guess it’s good for putting me to sleep and all, but I don’t think that’s what you want?”
“Well, no, it is not,” I state with a bit of a sigh, “But, it is at least helpful as you should be resting, given your injuries. That, and if you rest, it’ll help the healing spell Julien-kos and Asra-miir put you on work more efficiently.”
I open the book in my lap, skimming the pages, “I think you’d like this, too. It’s a simple folktale that was told in my tribe. I am unsure where this book originated from, but it seems whatever culture it was based off of was similar to mine.”
I look over at him, “So, would you like to give it a try?”
Lucio’s lips purse in thought for a long while before he finally answers me, “Yeah, we can try it, but I’m not being mean if I do fall asleep, it really is accidental, Ery, I promise.”
I nod, “Then, let us begin.”
Surprisingly, Lucio was actually awake for the rest of the folktale. I think it was an appropriate choice; the short story was about a tribesman granted everything the Arcana could grant to man--a wife, children, a hunting dog, the position of chief, and power amongst his tribemates. However, he was forever unhappy, stuck in a hellish loop as, at the end of the day, he could never bring himself to realize that his quest for power pushed away the people most important to him. The story ended on a tragic note, the tribesman losing everything he ever cared about by the time he realizes the error of his ways. I’ll always remember the scene as the wife told him that no amount of love in the world could aid him, that it was up to him to resist the issues that tormented him.
″...He really didn’t know ’til it was too late huh?” Lucio finally speaks after another heavy silence between us.
“Yes, that is true,” I confirm, “I think most people do minor forms of this, but it’s not always the case.”
″...Ery, gimme your hand?”
Tentatively, I reach my hand out towards his and Lucio firmly clasps it, ”...I won’t go that far, Ery, I promise. Not with you, I can’t afford to ever go that far down and lose you. I really mean it, Ery, it was an oopsie and it’s an oopsie I’m never going to do again--just like all the other oopsies I’ve done. So, don’t worry okay? I’m not gonna be like the tribesman, I really promise it.”
“I’m...” I choke up, opting for a gentle kiss on his lips instead, I’m glad to hear that, Lushiyo.
“Wha’ do you mean I gotta dig?!” I shout incredulously at the Djinn, “You’re telling me to get my hands all filled with mud and dirt?!”
“That is where the passage is located, Count,” the ghostly guy began prying apart the stone tiles with no problem, “Don’t stand there, get to work.”
“Haven’t we already done enough with walking for forever?!” I nearly wail before unwillingly doing as he did, removing the painted stone tiles to uncover the dirt beneath it at all.
“I gave you rest.”
“I just wanna go home...” I sigh, wincing as the Djinn easily phases through the dirt. Ugh, what a show-off...
"Yuck..." I close my eyes, digging my fingertips into the soil, and start digging, "Yuck ... ew ... gross..."
The grimy feeling of the squishy dirt getting into my fingernails was the worst, but I manage to push through because I really do want to see Ery again. No matter how much I hated getting dirty like this or how lonely I felt because of the Djinn ... I wanted to see him again. I'd come this far, I wasn't going to give up now--not in a million years.
At least I could still feel the air of the room pushing through as I kept digging down further into the ground--oh! And it was easy to tell when I hitting whatever weird wall was made for this underground path versus the soil I could dig away at. It became darker the further I went down until I practically fell onto my face at a small, sudden drop.
"OW!" I shout after my rough landing, "You could've warned me?!"
"I did, you weren't paying attention."
"I was too!"
"Is that why you didn't answer when I said to you, 'Count, tread carefully, the path shifts from here?'"
"I ..." I huff a bit in a pout, not liking I couldn't really argue with him.
Damn it, I hate it when a demon is right...
"Sooo, this is a tunnel now?" I ask, appreciating that there are more lights this time around and something that at least looks kinda like a place as opposed to one long neverending hallway, "I mean, I do like it. It's dark, stone-wall, but the red color lamps and torches are a nice touch, and, I gotta say, when you do decorate you sure go all out Djinnie."
"If you mean careful inscription detailing the rise and fall of man and their follies," the Djinn sounds annoyed, "Then, yes, thank you. Of course I put my utmost effort into this as no one is supposed to come down this far."
"Oh ... right..." I look around the place, "Well, that's not gonna work because no one can read any of this--what's gonna stop them?"
I think all Djinnie did was sigh because he didn't say anything after that. As we made a right turn into what looked like some giant room with pillars and various paintings, out of the corner of my eye I see two figures dart behind something. I turn around, looking behind us to see if they would show up again but I see nothing.
"Weird..." I say that, but something just ... feels weird. But, given that I didn't see anyone, I continue walking behind the Djinn. It was when we pass by a weird giant statue of the Djinn himself and some weird symbols everywhere, I see the figure again, but this time ... I hear something.
You know that noise a cat makes at like ... a bird? Or something? It was that noise, that weird chirping noise cats make when they're looking at birds.
"Hey, Djinnie," I stop in my tracks, "Watch--"
I don't finish what I'm saying before a familiar, red-headed blur stretches her arms towards me and as I raise my arm to block her attack, I can feel her claws digging into my sides and tearing at my skin.
I grunt in pain, trying to headbutt her--no, Portie--or, what was Portie; my head starts throbbing after I hit what I thought was her mask, but it doesn't feel like it anymore. What was some kinda hard plastic stuff now felt like ... bone, like it'd become part of her face. As I'm struggling with Portie, I can hear the sound of someone else scurrying and yelp as I feel something stab me in the back--someone is now behind me and my hands are too tied up to even stop them as they dig their bony fingers deeper into my back.
"HEY A LITTLE HELP!?" I roar before I hear the inhuman noise of the other assailant cawing in pain.
Wait, a crow?! I grit my teeth as I manage to kick Portie's stomach hard enough to make her let go and claw the side of her face with my metal arm while she's winded, So he got you too, Jules...
The pain is unbearable but I still fight through it and turn to see the Djinn wrestling with Jules--the man's arms are now covered in feathers, like wings; he really did look like some weird doctor crow sleep paralysis creature from hell.
"Where do we go?" I call out to the demon, keeping my eyes on Portie as I start to see her stepping towards me, getting ready to charge.
"Just..." the Djinn hissed, "You're doing what I think you're doing. When I say, 'now,' bring her, understood Count?"
I nod, "...Think so? Worse come to worse, I've been in more dangerous fights than this by myself."
The grin on Portie's face looks like it breaks her entire jaw as she sprints on all fours towards me, before leaping with her claws outstretched. For a moment, it feels like everything's in slow motion as I sidestep and watch the Djinn, with all his strength, toss Jules off of him and straight into the crow man's sister.
The sounds of them shrieking and roaring in pain and anger are what snap me out of the weird daydream-like feeling as the Djinn whooshes past me, "Lucio, come!"
"Hey," I wince a little, feeling the sting of Portie's claws and, probably, the stabs of Jules' talons into my back, "I'm not some kinda animal you know--even if I was a goat for one time!"
I run after him, following down another set of tunnels and feeling relieved to hear the noises of Jules and Portie slowly dying down. After what seems like an hour, the Djinn reaches a giant room--one wayyy bigger than the ones we had been through--and speaks in some weird language as he seals the entry behind us against some weird, tentacle-looking barrier.
The demon floats over to what looks like to be some dusted over pedestal sitting out in the center, "Lucio, stand here."
"Yeah..." I smile, trying to pretend that my back and hips were not on fire, "Yeah, hang on a second, Djinnie, haha..."
"Fight through it," he replies with a tone, for once, is of genuine concern, "Hurry. They likely know where we are and have recovered."
"Yeah..." I hiss in pain as I speed-limp towards the pedestal, "I know."
Finally, I make it to the pedestal, collapsing my upper torso onto the surface for balance as the pain was kicking up so much to the point my legs felt like jello, "What do we do now...?"
"My plate, Count, you'll see where you need to place it."
I feel my chest, sighing in relief as I feel the glass object still there--wow, I was on fire, and not in a painful way, "Wow, surprised they didn't take it."
"I took precautions, especially with a human like you."
I roll my eyes, "'Love you too,' Djinnie."
Taking a deep breath of courage and calm, I place the plate into the circular indention on the pedestal's surface; the room hums to life and I close my eyes as a lot of bright red energy starts filling up the weird markings all along the walls--kinda like blood.
"Okay... now what?"
"Whatever happens," as the Djinn floated to the center of the red glowy patterns, revealing some huge, giant circle, "Do not move your hands off the plate."
I move my hands over the glowing plate, feeling weird about the warmth hitting it, as I ask, "Okay, but wha' are you--"
The banging on the barrier protecting us cuts me off and I suddenly realize the situation I'm in.
I couldn't let go.
″Urgh...” I groan, not approving of being trapped in the bed and hurting everywhere. “Noddy, c’mon, don’t keep looking at me like that...”
She sighs, rubbing the top of her forehead, before re-composing herself, “My beloved ex-husband, do you really lack a sense of self-awareness and inhibition? This is precisely the kind of horseplay I’d expect of you during the Plague era. How do you think Eridæus is going to feel; didn’t he entrust you would not hurt yourself?”
Noddy turns her focus onto the poochies, who were unharmed thank god, “Even Mercedes and Melchior were put in danger--haven’t you learned to listen enough from Eridæus?”
I fall silent, already wincing at Ery’s reaction towards all of this; I got hurt bad, one of my arm’s all busted up and bruised and I think I got some kinda break on one of my legs. Jules at least said so long as I rest up and don’t do anything, I’ll be fine in about two months but I’m gonna have to walk around with those crutches or something.
It was my bad though, I was just going fast and didn’t pay attention that I’d turned too sharp, and one of the wheels I didn’t put on tight enough, and then ... yeah.
Noddy takes a seat next to my bed, “I will certainly leave Eridæus with you for whatever thoughts he may have towards you regarding this incident, but do remember, Lucio...”
Those scarlet orbs of here narrow sharply, “You’re not a young, brash, reckless person anymore. Don’t act like this is your first time learning lessons when you’ve already been taught.”
I hear the door click open and, turning my head to the source of the sound, I see Jules step in with an Ery that looks like he’s about to break. Noddy and Jules only nod at each other, flashing me a certain look before they leave the room, leaving Ery and I to ourselves.
“Uh, hey, Ery,” I shakily start, “Funny to see you--”
″...For what reason did you have to not take my advice or listen to me?”
“Hey, Ery, listen, it’s just ... I just made a bad oopsie--that’s all. It’s just a bad oopsie,” I try to plea with him, “C’mon, Ery, you know, I--”
″...I feel maybe,” his voice is trembling, “It’s my fault. I don’t speak up enough for you when I should. I could have prevented this if I said more and tried to stop you...”
“Wha’? No!” I insist, “No, Ery, no, this all on me, okay? All on me, and I’m ... I really am sorry, it was just a bad oopsie I shouldn’t have done. I should have listened, I should have had someone help me instead of...”
My voice gets all soft, “Instead of trying to be proud.”
He slowly sits down onto my bed, “Are you going to be okay?”
“Yeah, Jules said two months...”
Ery finally looks up at me in tears, “Okay.”
At least in this set of long, never-ending hallways, the lighting color was different. ...What? I’ll take it, I mean, c’mon! It was getting boring and dull having to see the same lights over and over and over again.
The silence is killing me, I don’t get how this Djinn can’t just be normal and talk to me. What am I supposed to as we keep walking, do that deep thinking stuff I see Ery do a lot?
Out of sheer boredom, I take my metal arm and drag it along the wall, the noise of the gold scraping across the stone wall being the only thing that gave me some kinda laugh as we keep traveling down.
The Djinn didn't react--man, he has the patience of a tree--and so, I was left to keep making the noise and trying not to sigh too much since I know all that damn demon would do is just nag me. Though, I do have to say, it's pretty cool I'm leaving behind a steady line as I go along.
Come to think of it...
An old memory hits me; I'm at the beach, my swimwear showing every part off my body as it should, and while I'm standing in the sun, Ery's under the trees moving a stick around. At first, I'm thinking he's got all his attention onto me, but when I realize that he's busy doing something with the stick in the sand, I head over there and sit down.
"Eryyyy," I wave my hand at his face, trying to get his attention, "Wha're you doing? I was trying to show you my awesome skills earlier!"
"Xae, xae, I know Lushiyo," he nodded his head in reply, still focused on the stick, "But, I need to do this first, it is a daily practice I am trying to incorporate more into my life."
"Wha'..." I stared at him moving the stick across the sand, confused, "Wha're you doing, Ery? You're just drawing a buncha lines everywhere!"
"Xae, that is correct," he smiled at me, finally staring up, "It is a mental exercise, meant to help one be aligned with control."
He gestured for me to come sit by him, "Come, try it."
I tilted my head at him, slowly making my way around the markings he'd made in the sand--they all looked like different circles, swirls, lines, squares ... it was all kinda simple, especially for Ery.
I sat down next to him and he handed me another stick as he started covering up the markings he'd made, "Just run the stick through the sand, and choose what feels natural to you. Let go of the urge to draw what you want, and let the stick choose for you instead."
I plopped the stick in the sand, staring at it before staring back at him, "...Uhhh, Ery?"
"Just move the stick, Lushiyo, and it'll come to you," he laughed, placing his wrist above mine like he was about to guide me, "Here, would you like me to help at first?"
I nodded at him, focusing on his soft, gentle hand as clasped my wrist and guided it to the right. I followed the gesture, feeling the sand loosely moving around as the small branch plowed through it effortlessly.
"See? Just follow where it feels most natural," he then guided my hand toward the left and I noticed it felt harder to move the stick, "And now, that is when you know that you cannot move that way, for it is not what nature wishes."
Ery then let go of my hand, beaming eagerly as he made himself comfortable in the sand, "So, I look forward to seeing you try now, Lutzokh."
I stare at my arm is doing against the stone wall, and the easy feeling from just letting my hand run along and draw one straight line ... yeah, it really is like that time at the beach; being okay with control, letting my ... um ... body control me and stuff. I'm already bored since the Djinn won't talk and thinking about Ery helps pass the time even if it hurt just a bit.
I slowly raise and lower my arm, watching the line trial I'm making go up and down and keep going at it until, the next thing I know, I've been drawing one giant ocean wave as the Djinn and I travel further down this green-lit hallway. What felt like a long hour now felt like ... I guess a walk around Vesuvia? Yeah, a walk around Vesuvia--classic Ery magic right there.
"Let us rest." the Djinn orders outta nowhere, and I finally see something else other than a long hallway--a giant stone wall! With weird symbols--again!
I groan in relief, collapsing onto the wall adjacent to the big picture with the funky-looking symbols, "I thought we'd never stop walking!"
"You act like a human child."
"Yeah, well," I huff at him with my face buried tiredly into my arms, "You act like a, uh ... rock!"
I stare up at the weird drawing that looked like what I'd draw if I was blindfolded, "...So, are we even there yet?"
"Almost," the Djinn floats down, "Based on your complaining until now, I thought it'd be best if we had a brief rest. This next part is going to require work on your end."
"...Are you sure this is all just one, giant 'protective measure' like you said earlier?"
"I did tell you that I didn't want 'you' repeating that little stunt you did a second time, Count."
"Ughhh..." I flopped over onto my stomach, briefly glancing back at the control exercise I made along the way, "...Guess that's not too bad, felt nice."
I shut my eyes, trying to see if maybe some shut-eye would help me out, but I can't sleep. I guess I'm too anxious, since I'm so, so close to finally coming back home and seeing Ery again. I wonder what he'd do? Is he gonna be hugging me tightly? Maybe he'll get vocal? Maybe I already wondered about all this with Phillis, but...
'Right,' I say in my head, 'Phillis is gone now, it's just you and the demon 'cause Scout...'
It hits hard on just how much of an evil ... creature H.A.E. is. To be messing with my friends like that and turning them against me? That's just ... I guess given the Ery--fake Ery--that I saw before maybe it's just natural.
He's angry and hurt and...
"Hey, Djinnie?" I ask aloud in the darkness.
No answer from the demon, but I continue anyway, "You think I made things worse by trying to talk it out with Ery? You know ... before our big escape and all?"
"That is not a question I can answer, human."
"...What do you mean?"
"You are asking something beyond me, the subjectivity of whether or not you should have tried to help Eridæus of Flesh, or not. That is not something I can answer for you."
Normally I would've said something but ... I dunno; for whatever reason, I just felt too tired and buried my face into my arms again, "...Fine, whatever."
At least, even though it feels so lonely without Scout, at least I didn't have to fight anyone. Hopefully ... hopefully, it stays that way, too.