Like everything else with his life, Nick was once again reminded of his failures. For once, he would like something, anything to go off without a hitch, but no. There was always another catch, a snag simply waiting to trip him up when it was most opportune. First there was the whole debacle with the lounge lizard down in the mines, combined with everything leading up to and during that horrendous experience, and now he came back to the mound, ready to talk with one of the traders to ask if he could hitch a ride to the next town only for Naiyala to be there.
He didn’t notice in his anger-induced stupor, but, sobered now, the air on the mound was very tense. If he had a knife, he bet he could cut the air with it and then add a nice jam –had to be a jam; salty and sweet just went hand-in-hand. It was, also, colder, and he almost suffered a coldsnap as Naiyala rushed him. She threw her arms around him, crying his name, bringing him to a complete stop lest they both tumbled down the mound –which, given the daggers being flung from their eyes, was probably the better outcome.
Naiyala cried into his shoulder, repeating his name over and over. Her nails dug into his back, while her arm tufts smacked and grasped at him, velvet red almost instantly. This didn’t seem a happy occasion, though, from the external and what she held internally, but she finally eased herself away, smiling up at him with such sweet sorrow.
“Nick,” she repeated for the umpteenth time, sniffling, and her smile broke, turned to an ugly scowl. “I heard what happened to you and the others. After what happened at Leyshun, I thought my luck couldn’t get any worse... but here you are, still, all in one piece.”
“Naiyala,” Nick coughed out, already sick of saying her name. “What are you doing here? D... did you come after me?”
She nodded, hanging her head a little. “I know. You promised you would return-”
“I actually promised that we would meet again, but okay.”
“but I could not wait,” she continued, not even noticing what he said. “Leyshun was not the same when you four left. Without Rylo and his ideals, they returned to mundanity.” He was surprised they had such a word in their vocabulary, but it was the closest one Nick could think to fit into the gap. Her hands slithered down his shoulders, his arms, and into his hands, squeezing them, stilling her shaking. “There were talks, saying that I talked Goshu into doing those deeds. I helped you four leave the city, so it was only a matter of time before they turned on me next... I left not only for you, but for me. For us, Nick.”
She smiled, and flung herself into his embrace again, clawing at his back once more. A different place this time, thankfully.
“Now we can be together. At last.” She sniffed, looking up from his chest into his eyes. “I was just talking to the people here, asking if it would be okay for me to stay.”
“How much did you tell them,” Nick asked, his voice breaking a little.
“She recanted to us what befell Leyshun, and how you aided a sinner out of the town,” Sur said, and what was once intrigue in those soft greens was now hard, cold fire.
“Okay, first off, I was getting around to telling you about that. Second, we were taking her away from Leyshun and to here to be dealt with... I think... when we were attacked by the dregsao. Really, I have no idea what Rylo was thinking; perhaps coming here first to settle everyone’s mind and then taking her -Goshu- to another city? It was all so sudden. I had no idea what was going through his head, and he wasn’t keen to share it to the rest of us the entire trip.”
Sur... sighed, releasing the fire in those eyes with it. However, they kept their coldness, glaring at Naiyala.
“You have been nothing but kind to us, so I’ll trust your word. Also, given the... circumstances, we have agreed to allow Naiyala to stay.”
“Really!” Naiyala squeaked, cooing as she hugged Nick harder, once more repeating his name.
“There’s an open room. You two can settle in for your yarro. However, after that, I want you both out of this village.”
“That is fine!” Naiyala said, looking up at Nick again, her eyes filled with tears, silently streaming down her face. “I couldn’t be h... Nick? Who is that?”
“That’s Lon, my supervisor- I mean guide... She’s like Rylo from Leyshun.”
“And that other one coming up the hill?”
“Nick!” Vaer Losh shrieked, and he was really starting to hate hearing his name. “I know you denied my request, but I think you should think about it again. You don’t have that many years, and it’s not like styr are just... throwing themse... Nick? Who is this?”
“I’m Naiyala, dex soul tender. One and only soul tender.”
“You, Naiyala, being Nick’s soul tender?” Vaer laughed, boisterously, bombastically, but no matter how loud it was it couldn’t hide the venom that slithered in her voice and words. “Oh, Nick. I had no idea you liked jokes.”
“As in the idea of Naiyala being my soul tender being the joke or playing jokes?” He said.
“Both, actually.” Vaer grabbed Naiyala’s right hand, squeezing it until Nick could feel the nails pull free, then wrenched it up and away as she walked around, glaring so at Naiyala. Naiyala pulled her hand away, her other hand leaving Nick, as well- Nick had heard of cat fights before, how women squabbled over such petty things. He never witnessed them first-hand, but there were enough recordings to know when one was coming. “There’s only one fate Reyla Bulath, Theus, and Kaalma have for you, daughter of sin, and that is to be alone and barren for your kin’s crimes. The fact you even considered someone like Nick as a soul tender is the cruelty of Lonsu, giving you false hope.”
“Vaer!” Sur barked. “Hold your tongue.”
“I refuse! I refuse to allow this sin to taint Nick with even her air or even her wildest dreams. Someone from such an exotic background, a rich history behind him; he is no doubt meant for someone within the good graces of the Ilos.”
He knew Ilo meant four, but Nick could not bring himself to understand that in his tongue. That would become fours, which clashed against his senses so to even consider that proper form. There was only one time on the entirety of his planet where saying fours was even close to being a reality, and that was in poker. However, the way they said that word, Ilos, it felt like it meant more than just the number, anyways. Could Ilos also mean Gods, big-G?
Regardless, he found himself in a situation he really didn’t want to be, in a position he never truly considered nor desired. Back at home, he found it hard enough to stay at zero women with the occasional fling since he left Her. He didn’t want to deal with the drama that they usually brought with them, and was simply looking out for himself. Here, though? Still the same attitude, still the same outlook and approach; he still told them no, but they were adamant to have him, so much so that they traveled an entire village to get him... Can he go back to the way it was?
But no. This was now happening. He tuned it out entirely after Vaer’s denouncing, but they were still yelling, Sur was still barking orders, and a nice ring of people closed in around them. He would have wondered why nobody else was trying to stop this, but he remembered Lon’s advice. He remembered how she tried to warn him about Naiyala, how her demeanor in giving it was, and he had no doubt that she was the kindest of them. And now he could understand why Naiyala left Leyshun; nobody was going to save her if something happened. In fact, he could see them reveling in it, as Ralai was doing now. Her value as a person was little more than a vermin to the others, waiting to be dealt with by somebody with the proper motivation to get close.
“Lon,” Nick uttered, making her jump. The air had grown constricting, his voice almost stifled with its weight alone while lifting the screams of the three before him. “Where do you keep your spears?”
“Nevermind. I see one.” He hummed a little as he pushed his way out of the ring, heading towards the market. Most of the traders already left for the day, but there was still one in-town, in the ring and completely ignoring anyone who might approach his wagon. It was easy at first, all eyes locked in the center of the ring, but then it all hit the fan when he took out the main problem.
“Are you mad!” Sur shrieked, turning green as he pulled the spear free from the back of Vaer’s head. The last four residents of the village screamed as she fell with a sickening plop, rising to hysterics, released onto the wind after so long of being held down. They tried to run, but tripped over the bodies of the others slain around them. Lon was still alive, stunned, paled by how... simple he made the task. Sur took a step towards Nick, pointing at him, but Nick wasn’t sure what made it shake more: fear, or anger. “S-sinner! Killer!”
“I am a killer, but sinner?” Nick huffed, shaking his head as he pointed the spear at the others. “I decided to clean up your heretic problem. After all, isn’t it against your teachings to condone violence? Isn’t your way to find a way to defuse a situation like this!” He growled, and jutted the spear towards Sur, making him reel back... but Nick simply smiled, pulling it back. “You know, I have to thank you. You’ve shown just how... human you all are.”
He bowed to Sur, then spun, heading for the road again. Though he would have loved to stay and see what their mine had to offer, he thinks he just overstayed his welcome. He’ll try a different town, one not so... corpsy. For that, he’ll simply continue west, with his new favorite weapon in t-
“Nick?” Naiyala said, grabbing his free hand. She was shaking, but stilled a little as she felt his warm. “Where are we going?”
“‘We’? There is no we.” He turned to face her... but he wasn’t proud of what he was about to do. There was no anger, no bitterness in how he looked at her, how he spoke to her. She earned that much, at least. “Naiyala... Go home.”
Tears welled in her eyes as she shook her head.
“I am coming with you.”
“Didn’t you see what I just did? I’m not exactly a good person to be around.”
“But you are. You did it for me.” Sort of... She sobbed, and threw herself into his embrace, burying her face into his chest. “You did what was right. You’ve shown what you were willing to do for that.”
Again, sort of... He sighed, patted her head, shaking his own... but he couldn’t find the words. Not what he could say, but what he should say at this moment... Dammit. This was why he preferred to keep it simple. This was why he stayed single, kept his friends to a minimum. Too much-
“She’s right, you know,” Lon said. Her voice shook, but at least it was a part of her that seemed to be able to move. “That was... wrong. What they all did was wrong... and I was no better... I couldn’t find the strength to step in, either... I’m so weak.”
“You’re not weak, Lon,” Sur said, stepping forth at last. “And those people dex slaughtered were not wrong. All blame can be placed solely on that sin’s shoulders... and my own for even allowing myself to hear styr tale. I should have turned Naiyala away from the town the moment styr arrived, so the blame of all this is on my s-”
“No!” Lon cried out, and moved at last. It was more a collapse, but baby steps- oh! She managed to flip onto her back and skitter away as Lon almost fell on her. Such progress. He now had a matching hole in the head to all the others, prettying up the tip of Nick’s lance as he rested it on his shoulder again. She looked up at Nick, humming as he turned away again, heading down the mound, and screamed. It took every ounce of strength she had left, but it boomed off the mound, making the stalls, the earth rumble in its wake from the force and terror and hate behind it. “Monster!”
“Monster... yeah. That’s what I am,” he mused, still humming. He kept humming to himself, celebrating with one of his favorite songs, the same one he played before leaving for work that fateful day, but stifled it as they reached the crossroads. He turned to face Naiyala again, still holding his hand, still walking with him, standing by his side... and shoved her away. She gasped, exclaimed, but stopped as her eyes focused on the spear being jutted between them. “I am only going to say this one more time. Naiyala, go home.”
“Don’t you get it? I am a monster. Wherever I go, death will follow in my wake... I know you believe me right, or at least want to believe I am, but I will keep on killing. I will continue to feed the earth with as much of your kind’s blood until it turns blue. I have no reason to give a single fuck about any of them and want nothing but to destroy their hypocritical, passive-pansy ass way of life. As much as that thrills you, I don’t need you slowing me down... I cannot protect you and fulfill my plans, so go home... You’re nothing but a burden.”
Tears streamed down her face as he spoke, contorted to such an ugly mask, but the red on her arms gave away what her true feelings were. Even after what he said. He withdrew the spear, shaking his head, and turned his back on her.
“Go home,” he repeated, his voice much softer, and started down the path... and felt a sting he hadn’t in so long as he didn’t hear any feet follow. On and on he went, but no steps followed after, instead going the other way, towards the forest. From beginning to end, the day was a train wreck, but at least he ended it with one good deed... for someone he truly cared about.