Sunday, January 25, 2015

Page 964

Hector didn’t much care for the aberration’s enthusiasm. Even if it wasn’t carrying malicious intent, it still reminded him of Geoffrey.

Eventually, Ibai rounded on Hector and Dimas.

“So what are your names?” he asked. “You never did tell me. Mine’s Ibai, but I bet you knew that, eh?”

Hector didn’t feel like answering, and apparently, neither did Dimas.

Ibai’s smile lessened somewhat. “Mm. You don’t like me. I get it. Some of my own family members don’t like me very much, either. Fidel, for instance. I always beat him when we thumb wrestle. He hates that.”

Was that supposed to be a joke? Or did he actually think that way? Hector honestly couldn’t tell. Maybe it was a bit of both.

At their continued silence, Ibai shrugged. “You two don’t like to talk much, do you? I understand. And I don’t want you to worry, either! I thought this might happen, so I came prepared!” The man reached behind his seat and began pulling out several long, flat boxes.

They were all board games, Hector realized.

Hector didn’t need to refuse to talk anymore. He was genuinely speechless. This fucking guy had brought board games to play with the two people who had been assigned to kill him if he did anything wrong.

“See?” said Ibai. “This way, you don’t have to talk. You can let the game speak for you!”

Hector couldn’t decide if this was one of the stupidest ideas he’d ever seen or one of the most brilliant.

“What should we play? Hmm, maybe not Monopoly. Probably shouldn’t have brought that one...”

What followed was, without a doubt in Hector’s mind, the most uncomfortable game of Snakes and Ladders that had ever been played on the face of Eleg.

The second game was slightly less tense. For the third, they switched to Parcheesi; and for the fourth, they played a game called Waterwall, which Hector had never even heard of. The objective was to trap all of one’s opponents by building dams and rerouting water, which moved every turn and was represented by a cluster of squiggly-lined pieces.

Ibai won every single game. It didn’t seem to matter whether the game was skill- or luck-based. Horatio almost beat him once, but every other time was a complete trouncing.

Hector kept Garovel apprised of everything that was happening--or not happening, rather--and by the time Hector and Dimas’ shift ended, Hector was even more confused than when they had started.

Page 963 -- CX.

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Agh, holy oasis!’ said Qorvass. ‘I knew your memory wasn’t the best, but wow! Even for you, this is a new low. You’re only forty-five years old, man. Are you already going senile? Should I stop you from aging any further?

I... I’m sure I would’ve remembered it if things had ever become too desperate.

Oh, you mean like when we were fighting off three people at once? Or when Darktide was stomping the hell out of all of our comrades?

Hey, everything worked out in the end, didn’t it?

Yes, and if things had gone differently, you would have let us both die like idiots.

You’re partly to blame, too. We were sharing memories for quite a while there, and you didn’t remember, either.

How was I supposed to know that you had forgotten something so important?!

You should have checked. You just said that you knew I had a bad memory.

I cannot believe you, right now... Agh. If it is that powerful, then you should have just put it on and never taken it off.

I was afraid it might blow up.

It’s a ring. Why would it blow up?

Because Haqq made it.

The reaper hesitated. ‘Okay, fair point. But why did you not test it, then?

There wasn’t time! He gave it to me as I was leaving!

Agh...

Would you stop saying that? I apologized!

AGH.

Asad pursed his lips and looked over the Rainlords and Hector another time. ‘...Let’s never tell anyone about this.

...Agreed.


Chapter One Hundred Ten: ‘O, curious devil...!’
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Hector didn’t let Garovel anywhere near Ibai. Lord Dimas kept the unconscious Iziol on his back the whole time, but Hector didn’t have that much confidence. He had Garovel stay with Chergoa and the Elroys, instead.

The reason he’d volunteered was to see for himself whether or not this aberration could be trusted, but so far, there was little clarity to be found. Ibai didn’t do or say anything particularly volatile or dangerous, but perhaps that was only because they were all stuck in a limousine together as their host of Rainlords embarked on the long trip to Moaban.

The Blackburns had chosen Horatio and Silvia for their two bodyguards, and Ibai seemed to enjoy their company greatly, talking about all manner of subjects with them, asking their opinions about what would be fun to do together. Ibai acted like they were all going on a pleasant trip to an amusement park or something.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Page 962

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Asad eyed the young Lord Goffe. “Are you sure?”

Hector’s expression suggested he was. “I just... I would like to know more about this aberration.”

“I see no problem with that,” said Salvador, slapping a huge hand against Hector’s shoulder. “He held his own against Darktide, didn’t he? And myself, of course. I’d say he qualifies.”

The lone Sandlord frowned. Salvador and the others didn’t know about the shield, but Asad recognized his brother’s work well enough. Hector and Garovel hadn’t explained the details--which was their right, of course--but it still left Asad slightly concerned for them.

He held his tongue, though. He certainly understood the desire to keep one’s true strength a secret. He’d been able to do something similar in his youth, thanks to his tattoos. Without a doubt, they were the greatest gift his mother had ever given him, though he certainly hadn’t thought so while receiving them.

And while Asad reminisced to himself and watched the Elroy children hovering around their sleeping father, his hands drifted into the pockets of his still-tattered robe.

Something metallic was there, he realized. Small and round. A ring.

He pulled it out and stared at it with wide eyes. It was simple enough in design--featureless tungsten carbide on the outside, concealing a row of tiny black spikes on the inside. They would tear into his skin if he put it on, Asad knew, but it was indeed meant to be worn on either one of his middle fingers.

Qorvass noticed the item. ‘A new ring?’ he said privately and in Valgan. ‘When did you get that?

...Before we left Kuros,’ Asad said, also in Valgan.

And what does this one do?

It enhances the effects of my tattoos.

The reaper paused. ‘Enhances how, exactly?

It allows them... to absorb more damage and reflect it back at my opponent.

What?! You had something that useful on you this whole time?! Why didn’t you ever use it?!

...I forgot about it.

Asad! Are you kidding?! Do you know how helpful that would have been?!

I... yes.

Why didn’t you just show it to me when you first got it?! I would’ve remembered it for you!

...I’d already forgotten by then.

That quickly?! Asad!

I’m sorry! I remembered it later, on the plane to Rheinhal, but then I forgot again!