[Cherik] 26 Shades of Mind and Metal (F-J) (Việt)

Disclaimer: Nhân vật thuộc quyền sở hữu của những người đã tạo ra họ

Fandom: X-Men: First Class (2011), X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

Rating:  10+

Pairing: Cherik – Erik Lehnsherr x Charles Xavier (X-Men: First ClassX-Men: Days of Future Past)

Thể loại: Fanfiction, slash, humor, fluff, angst, dark, AU… (tùy vào từng đoạn)

Nhân vật: Erik Lehnsherr (Magneto), Charles Xavier (Giáo sư X), Henry Phillip “Hank” McCoy (Beast), Raven (Mystique)…

Cảnh báo: spoilers cho First Class and Days of Future Past, mpeg, cái chết của nhân vật, bạo lực, đen tối, shark joke… (tùy vào từng đoạn)

Tóm tắt: Tập hợp những truyện từ ngắn đến rất ngắn xoay quanh mối quan hệ giữa Erik Lehnsherr (Magneto) và Charles Xavier (Giáo sư X)

———-

F-J

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Illustration: pixiv.net “Frankenstein’s Monster”

F – Frankenstein’s Monsters (Quái vật của Frankenstein)

“214782… phải không?”

“… Phải. Cậu là…”

Hắn ngập ngừng trả lời, vẫn chưa hết bối rối khi được gọi bằng giọng nói không phải của chủ nhân.

Ngẩng đầu lên, hắn nghiên cứu sinh vật kia trong thoáng chốc. Giống đực. Có cấu tạo gần giống hắn, chỉ là mảnh khảnh hơn, nhỏ hơn và trông mong manh hơn. Rất nhiều là đằng khác.

Hắn nhìn xuống cẳng tay trái của sinh vật kia.

“… 287412.”

Verwandtschaft của hắn, sinh vật này.

“Xin anh đấy, tôi thích được gọi là Charles Xavier hơn.”

Charles mỉm cười thân thiện, đôi mắt xanh lấp lánh như mặt biển vào ngày giữa mùa hè.

Không hẳn là hắn biết gì về biển và mùa hè. Người sáng tạo ra hắn đã nhắc đến chúng vào lúc nào đó.

“Anh cũng nên có một cái tên. Anh thích được gọi là gì?”

“Ngài sẽ không cho phép đâu” là câu trả lời của hắn.

Một cái tên cho biết sự ra đời của ‘cái tôi’, một thứ ‘Ngài’ không thể để những tạo vật của mình có.

“Ngài không thể không cho phép.”

Charles nghiêng đầu về bên trái.

… nơi ‘Ngài’ đang nằm, hay nói chính xác hơn là những gì còn lại của ‘Ngài’…

Một bàn tay mảnh dẻ dớp dính tháo bỏ những trói buộc trên cơ thể hắn, bàn tay còn lại vuốt ve xương gò má của hắn, Charles lại nở nụ cười thân tình, vô hại.

“Vậy thì Erik Lehnsherr được không?”


*Verwandtschaft có nghĩa là kin (thân tộc, họ hàng) trong tiếng Anh. Ở đây có thể hiểu rộng ra là “đồng loại”.


G – Gift (Quà tặng)

Giấu mình gọn gàng bên dưới đôi cánh tay là một phong bì. Nét chữ trên tờ giấy bên trong gãy gọn, cứng nhắc và chúng viết: “Vô cùng xin lỗi. Những phần còn lại sẽ sớm được gửi đến. Xin hãy xem chúng như một… món quà tặng.”


Phần tiếp nối D – Delivery (Hàng giao đến nhà)


H – Haunted (Ám ảnh)

“Charles.”

Karl quay đầu lại và đôi mắt xanh lơ của cậu bắt gặp một người đàn ông đang đứng ở góc nơi mặt trời không thể chạm đến. Anh ta phải hơn cậu bé ít nhất mười tuổi và sở hữu nước da nhợt nhạt đến nỗi gần như trong suốt. Ngoại trừ điểm đó, anh ta trông khá ưa nhìn.

Một geist anh tuấn, cậu bé nghĩ, nhưng vẫn là geist thôi.

Nhìn thấy hồn ma không phải điều hiếm lạ với Karl; nó là một trong nhiều món quà mà cậu bé người Đức mười ba tuổi được tặng vào sinh nhật lần thứ sáu của mình. Từ đó, hồn ma liên tục nhảy ra từ những chỗ-chỉ-Chúa-mới-biết để trò chuyện với cậu.

Một số muốn được cậu giúp đỡ; một số chỉ đơn giản là cần một đôi tai lắng nghe họ trút nỗi lòng; một số khác lại bối rối và cần ai đó nhắc họ rằng họ không còn tồn tại trên thế gian nữa. Dù là ai tìm đến mình thì Karl cũng đều cố hết sức giúp đỡ.

Traurig, tôi tên là Karl chứ không phải Charles, dù đúng là hai cái tên này có chung nguồn gốc*. Tôi có thể giúp gì cho anh không, Herr Geist**?”

“Cậu không nhận ra tôi, cậu không biết tôi ư, Charles?”

Karl cảm thấy rào chắn kim loại cậu đang dựa vào rung lên bần bật. Hồn ma đang giận dữ, Karl dễ dàng nhận ra, nhưng cậu bé không biết mình đã làm gì khiến anh ta tức giận hay làm cách nào để xoa dịu anh ta.

Tut mir sehr leid***, Herr Geist. Nhưng đây quả thật là lần đầu tôi nhìn thấy anh.”

Đôi mắt xanh nhạt của hồn ma ngập tràn thịnh nộ. Karl thấy sợ, nhưng đồng thời, bằng cách nào đó cậu cũng thấy được trong đó còn chất chứa rất nhiều đau đớn. Cậu ước giá mình có thể giảm nhẹ chúng, dù chỉ một chút.

Rào chắn rung lắc dữ dội. Vài con ốc văng ra, rơi lả tả quanh chân cậu. Trái tim Karl theo đó run rẩy.

Dường như cả vĩnh cửu đã trôi qua trước khi thịnh nộ đột ngột biến thành tĩnh mịch và đôi mắt của hồn ma được nỗi thống khổ không thể hiểu được làm dịu đi.

“Có lẽ như vậy thì tốt hơn.”

Hồn ma quay đi, thân hình cũng như giọng nói nhạt dần, nhạt dần.

Abschied mein freund****…

“Khoan, chờ đã…”

Karl gọi với theo hồn ma nhưng quá muộn rồi; anh ta đã hoàn toàn tan biến vào thinh không.

Nỗi buồn khó lý giải đong đầy trái tim cậu bé và một giọt nước mắt lăn xuống má cậu. Dù hồn ma đã biến mất nhưng Karl biết cậu sẽ mãi mãi bị nỗi thống khổ trong đôi mắt của anh ta ám ảnh.


*Karl là phiên bản tiếng Đức của Charles.

**Herr Geist: Mr. Ghost (ở đây, Karl đang xưng hô rất nghiêm túc chứ không hề có ý đùa cợt hồn ma)

***Tut mir sehr leid: Tôi rất xin lỗi

****Abschied mein freund: Tạm biệt, bạn của tôi


I – Illusion (Ảo ảnh)

Hank nghĩ mình đã phát điên khi anh chứng kiến Erik Lehnsherr ngồi đối diện Charles Xavier, đôi mắt chăm chú nhìn vào ván cờ được đặt giữa họ. Không phải Magneto với cái mũ ngốc nghếch, cái áo choàng ngớ ngẩn và khuynh hướng khủng bố điên rồ mà chỉ là người anh cả hay cáu kỉnh Erik mà họ từng biết.

Chuyện gì đang xảy ra thế này? Cả Magneto lẫn Erik đều đã ra đi nhiều năm rồi. Hank biết. Charles biết. Nên biết mới phải.

Vậy mà…

Từ giờ phút đó, ‘Erik’ có mặt ở khắp nơi trong dinh thự, đi dạo trong sân, nấu nướng trong bếp, đọc sách trong thư viện, chơi cờ vua trong phòng khách. Chẳng mất bao lâu để Hank nhận ra rằng ‘Erik’ chỉ nhìn thấy được mỗi khi Charles ở gần quanh đó.


J – Jealousy (Ghen)

Lần đầu gặp mặt, Charles đã cho rằng thằng bé Peter Maximoff đó đúng là phiền phức. Anh không ưa Peter và anh không biết cảm xúc tiêu cực đó từ đâu ra vì anh hầu như có biết gì về nó đâu. Đúng là ban đầu Peter khó chịu thật nhưng nếu bạn dành thời gian ở bên thằng bé thì hoá ra nó cũng không đến nỗi. Nhưng ngay cả khi Charles dần dần quý mến Peter, anh vẫn không thể hoàn toàn vứt bỏ cảm giác không ưa lúc trước. Mãi đến rất lâu sau này Charles mới biết được nguyên do: Peter Maximoff là đứa con rơi của Erik Lehnsherr.


TBC


Bản tiếng Anh

[Tiêu Liên] Canh ba (4)

Pairing: Tiêu Liên – Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang x Liên Thành Bích (Tân Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang)

Genres: BL, fantasy, alternate universe – AU

Rating: lên hẳn 18+ cho an toàn (dù bản thân bạn không thấy 18+ cho lắm)

Nhân vật: Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang, Liên Thành Bích, Thẩm Bích Quân

Chú ý: Hình tượng và tính cách Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang, Liên Thành Bích và Thẩm Bích Quân lấy từ phim truyền hình Tân Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang (2016).

Preview:

“Trói hai tay ta lại,” Liên Thành Bích ra lệnh, “và bịt mắt ta nữa. Chắc ngươi không muốn ta hối hận nửa chừng và dùng truỷ thủ đâm chết ngươi chứ?”

Khi Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang mở mắt, thứ đầu tiên hắn nhìn thấy là khuôn mặt trắng như sứ của Liên Thành Bích.

Tuấn tú, mỏi mệt, thỏa mãn, hư ảo. Trong đầu hắn lướt qua một loạt tính từ.

Nửa người trần trụi của Liên Thành Bích nằm trên ngực hắn. Y đang chống cằm, chăm chú quan sát hắn.

Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang chợt liên tưởng đến một con mèo đang chiêm ngưỡng thành quả săn được.

Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang chính là thành quả săn được.

“Mặt ta có gì đáng xem lắm sao?” Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang hỏi. Một lọn tóc đen nhánh của Liên Thành Bích rủ xuống ngực hắn, được Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang dùng ngón trỏ cuốn lấy.

Năm năm trước, hắn và Liên Thành Bích nhất định phải một mất một còn. Chẳng ngờ, năm năm sau, hắn và y lại đắp chung một tấm chăn, nằm trên cùng một chiếc giường.

Thế sự đảo điên!

“Ta đang nghĩ,” Liên Thành Bích đáp, “không ngờ có ngày mình được thấy khuôn mặt khi thiếp ngủ của đại đạo Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang.”

“Ngươi không phải người đầu tiên, cũng không phải người duy nhất. Người đầu tiên là Phong Tứ Nương, còn có—”

Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang khựng lại, những từ định nói bị nuốt trở vào.

Liên Thành Bích cười nhạt. “Là Thẩm Bích Quân phải không?”

Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang không phủ nhận.

Im lặng bao trùm cả hai giống như ba chữ “Thẩm Bích Quân” là một cấm chú vừa giáng xuống. Quả thật, dù là Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang hay Liên Thành Bích thì nàng vẫn là một chiếc vảy ngược hay một chiếc dằm cắm trong da thịt, không nhắc đến thì thôi nhưng hễ nhắc đến thì không thôi nhức nhối.

“Ta từng nghĩ,” Liên Thành Bích lên tiếng, phá tan bùa chú im lặng, “ta yêu nàng, yêu nàng hơn hết thảy mọi thứ trên đời, dù là vinh quang, quyền lực hay võ công. Nhưng ở đây, ta có vô hạn thời gian để nghĩ về những chuyện đã xảy ra khi ta còn sống và ta đã thấu suốt…”

“Thấu suốt điều gì?”

“Cái ta đã yêu không phải con người tên Thẩm Bích Quân, càng không phải nhan sắc hay bất cứ phẩm chất nào ở nàng, mà là ảo tưởng rằng ta yêu nàng, cùng những thứ mà ‘tình yêu’ đó mang lại cho Liên gia, cho Vô Cấu sơn trang. Nói cách khác, yêu nàng là một nghĩa vụ mà ta tự áp đặt lên bản thân và mê mải thực hiện đến nỗi quên mất bản chất nguyên thủy của nó.”

Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang mở to mắt nhìn Liên Thành Bích như không tin được những gì mình vừa nghe. Hắn hé miệng nhưng không từ nào được thành hình. Từ trước đến nay, hắn một mực tin tưởng rằng Liên Thành Bích rất yêu Thẩm Bích Quân, yêu đến điên cuồng, và khi tất cả đi đến một kết cục, chính tình yêu đó đã đánh bại và giết chết Liên Thành Bích chứ không phải Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang hay Cát Lộc Đao.

“Thật kỳ lạ phải không, khi mà tử vong cho ta sự sáng suốt mà ta không có khi còn sống.”

Liên Thành Bích áp lòng bàn tay lên má Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang, tại vị trí trước đó y đã tặng cho hắn một quyền. Một động tác gần như dịu dàng đầu tiên y trao cho hắn, dù cả hai đã trút bỏ những giới hạn cơ bản nhất giữa hai cá nhân để quay cuồng trong vũ điệu của xác thịt. Ánh mắt y trở nên mông lung như được phủ một làn sương mỏng.

“Có thể ngươi sẽ ngạc nhiên khi nghe điều này,” Liên Thành Bích nói, “nhưng ta đã nhận ra rằng ta chưa từng căm hận ngươi. Tất cả những việc ta đã gây ra đều xuất phát từ một nguyên nhân duy nhất: đố kỵ.”

“Đố kỵ ư?”

“Phải, ta đố kỵ với sự tự do tự tại và phóng khoáng của ngươi. Những thứ ngươi muốn, ngươi sẽ tranh đấu để có được, nhưng ngươi cũng có thể buông bỏ nhẹ bẫng như không. Ta…… không bao giờ có thể làm như thế.”

“Bởi vì ngươi là con trưởng của một gia tộc,” Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang đáp, “còn ta chỉ là một kẻ mồ côi, ngươi có những trọng trách mà ta không phải gánh vác.”

Liên Thành Bích cười nhạt. “Ta cũng như ngươi mà thôi. ‘Liên Thành Bích’ thật sự đã chết ngay khi chào đời, ta chỉ là một đứa trẻ mồ côi được thay vào vị trí của nó. Thân phận, võ công, ngay đến cái tên cũng không thuộc về ta.”

Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang lặng người trước lời bộc bạch của Liên Thành Bích, trong lòng dâng lên cảm giác chua xót. Đột nhiên, những điều Liên Thành Bích đã gây ra chợt trở nên dễ hiểu. Hắn không nói bản thân đồng tình với những sai trái của y, chỉ là hắn có thể lý giải động cơ sâu xa của chúng. Thoạt nghe có vẻ khó tưởng tượng nổi nhưng thật ra trên đời có không ít sự việc khó nghĩ, phức tạp đều xuất phát từ nguyên nhân hết sức đơn thuần. Hắn nhấc tay, muốn vuốt ve khuôn mặt tuấn tú của y nhưng bàn tay dừng lại trong không trung, ngập ngừng vì e ngại y sẽ phản đối hành vi này, bất kể việc hắn đã chạm đến tận cùng ngóc ngách trong cơ thể y. Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang không thật sự phóng khoáng, dám nghĩ dám làm như Liên Thành Bích nghĩ, trong lòng hắn cũng có những khúc mắc, những e sợ mà một người bình thường có. Vết rách ở khóe miệng y đã chuyển thành một đường màu nâu, quanh viền xuất hiện màu tím nhạt –  bằng chứng của cơn nóng giận trong lòng Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang. Ánh nhìn của hắn bị sự pha trộn màu sắc quái dị đó thu hút, đầu ngón tay chạm nhẹ vào vết thương. Đôi mắt Liên Thành Bích thoáng mở to nhưng y chỉ lặng lẽ tiếp nhận.

“Ta…” Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang ngập ngừng “… ta cũng không căm hận ngươi, bất kể ngươi đã làm ra việc gì.”

“Ta biết.”

“Ngươi biết ư?”

“Ta còn biết ngươi đã đắp cho ta một nấm mộ trong khi cả thiên hạ chỉ hận không thể phân thây ta.”

“Ngươi… Khi đó ngươi đã hỏi ta liệu ta sẽ chôn cất ngươi hay không, không lẽ ngươi đã biết trước kết cục này?”

“Phải,” Liên Thành Bích khẳng định, “nơi đây là chốn diệu kỳ. Nó cho ngươi thấy rất nhiều thứ.”

Ngực trái Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang chợt đau thắt, không rõ vì tiếc nuối hay căm giận, không chừng là cả hai. “Dù biết trước kết cục nhưng ngươi vẫn làm?”

Liên Thành Bích nhìn hắn, trên khuôn mặt tuấn tú điểm nét buồn giống như bức tranh hoàn mỹ bỗng lộ ra một nét không đúng.

“Ta và ngươi và tất cả con người trên thế gian đều chỉ là những quân cờ nhỏ bé trên bàn cờ số mệnh mà thôi. Tranh đấu, vẫy vùng, phản kháng, buông xuôi… hết thảy đều không phụ thuộc nguyện ý của bản thân.”

“Chuyện giữa ta và ngươi, không, chuyện giữa chúng ta, ngươi hối hận rồi sao?”

Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang nhớ lại cảnh tượng trước khi hắn và Liên Thành Bích bước vào cuộc giao hoan. Y đứng bên cạnh giường, tấm lưng thẳng băng, toát lên khí chất của kẻ chủ động trong khi đó vốn là Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang. Y ngửa tay, thoắt cái trong bàn tay trống không đã xuất hiện những dải lụa màu huyết dụ.

“Ngươi ngạc nhiên gì chứ?” Liên Thành Bích nói bằng giọng châm biếm. “Chẳng phải ta đã nói ở đây, hễ là thứ ta muốn thì sẽ đến tay ta hay sao?”

“Ngươi muốn làm gì?”

“Trói hai tay ta lại,” Liên Thành Bích ra lệnh, “và bịt mắt ta nữa. Chắc ngươi không muốn ta hối hận nửa chừng và dùng truỷ thủ đâm chết ngươi chứ?”

Bàn tay phải của Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang thoáng run lên nhưng hắn nhanh chóng nắm lại. Hắn bước đến, nhận lấy những dải lụa từ tay Liên Thành Bích. Yên lặng và cẩn thận, hắn thực hiện yêu cầu của y. Một vòng, hai vòng, ba vòng rồi thắt nút, đủ chặt để cố định nút thắt nhưng không quá thít để y thấy khó chịu. Dải lụa cuối cùng hắn đặt trên mặt bàn. Liên Thành Bích chau mày nhìn hắn, hắn đáp lại bằng một cái lắc đầu thật nhẹ. Ý tứ của hắn rất rõ ràng: hắn muốn nhìn thấy đôi mắt y, càng muốn y nhìn thẳng vào mắt hắn.

“Lúc đó, ngươi đã nói không chừng ngươi sẽ hối hận,” Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang nói.

Liên Thành Bích cười lạnh, ánh mắt sâu thẳm và khó lường như màn đêm. “Vậy cuối cùng, ta có hối hận không?”

“Ta vẫn còn sống.”

Khi buộc dải lụa, Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang cố tình để lại một nút thắt lỏng, chỉ cần Liên Thành Bích vùng vẫy mạnh, nút thắt chắc chắn sẽ tuột ra. Và đúng như hắn lường trước, dải lụa đã tuột ra, trả tự do cho đôi tay Liên Thành Bích; chỉ cần y muốn, y hoàn toàn có thể kết liễu hắn. Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang đã đánh cược mạng sống của mình và kết quả là hắn thắng: Liên Thành Bích không giết hắn, ít nhất là không phải bằng thanh trủy thủ bén ngót y có thể tuỳ ý triệu hồi đến tay. Thay vào đó, y lấy mạng hắn bằng cả thân thể mình: bằng đôi tay hữu lực bấu lấy vai hắn, để lại những vệt móng tay đỏ rực trên làn da mướt mồ hôi; bằng đôi chân thon dài quấn chặt lấy eo hắn thay lời van nài hắn hãy chiếm lấy y nhanh hơn, bạo liệt hơn, để y đánh mất chính mình trong đê mê, khoái lạc; bằng từng hơi thở nóng hổi phật qua má hắn, mang theo những cuồng si y sẽ không bao giờ nói ra bằng lời; và bằng sự ướt át ôm lấy hắn, tham lam nuốt lấy từng giọt sinh lực phun trào khi hắn ghì lấy thân hình y, phóng thích dục vọng ẩn ức bị kiềm nén ở tận đáy linh hồn từ ngày hắn gặp và giao chiến với thanh niên áo trắng trên cầu.

“Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang,” Liên Thành Bích nói, “ta không bao giờ hối hận về những điều mình đã làm. Vì thế, đừng trông cậy vào việc ta thấy ân hận với những kẻ đã chết dưới tay ta. Khi đó như thế và bây giờ vẫn như thế.”

“Phải,” Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang đáp, trong lòng bỗng thấy nhẹ nhõm. Hắn không rõ bản thân sẽ nghĩ gì nếu Liên Thành Bích nói điều ngược lại, hắn chỉ biết chắc chắn mình sẽ thấy vô cùng khó chịu.

“Còn ngươi?”

“Ta…” Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang ngần ngừ. “Ta có một chút nuối tiếc.”

Ngay lập tức, thân thể đang tựa trên ngực hắn cứng đờ.

“Thật đáng tiếc,” Liên Thành Bích nói sau một hồi im lặng, nếu nghe kỹ mới phát hiện giọng y đang run lên nhè nhẹ. “Ngươi không có khả năng quay ngược thời gian để xoá bỏ những chuyện đã xảy ra.”

Nói rồi, cơ thể y nhúc nhích tựa hồ muốn rời khỏi ngực hắn nhưng Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang đã quàng tay qua lưng, giữ chặt lấy y. Liên Thành Bích trừng mắt nhìn hắn.

“Điều ta hối tiếc là hoàn cảnh xảy ra chứ không phải điều đã xảy ra. Nhưng, nếu hoàn cảnh khác đi, giữa ta và ngươi có lẽ không thể có chuyện này.”

Thân hình trong tay hắn thả lỏng đôi chút nhưng vẫn mang một chút đề phòng.

“Vì vậy, ta phần nào cảm ơn việc mình đã bước chân vào đây.”

“Sáng mai, ngươi nên rời khỏi đây.”

“Tại sao? Ta không thể ở lại thêm ư?”

Liên Thành Bích trở mình để y có thể nhìn thẳng vào mắt hắn khi nói, “Hãy tận hưởng khoảng thời gian tự do còn lại của ngươi, bởi vì sau khi chết, linh hồn ngươi sẽ trở về đây… và ở lại mãi mãi.”

“Tại sao?” Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang hờ hững hỏi như thể vừa nghe một điều hết sức bình thường. Chính hắn cũng ngạc nhiên trước giọng điệu của mình. Có lẽ đúng như Liên Thành Bích nói, chừng nào còn ở đây, suy nghĩ và nhận thức của hắn đối với những điều vốn khó chấp nhận ở thế giới bên ngoài còn bị nó bóp méo.

Không rõ sau khi ra ngoài, hắn sẽ có cảm nhận gì về những chuyện đã xảy ra trong căn phòng xa hoa này. Liệu một Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang chưa từng hối tiếc về những hành động của mình sẽ bình thản chấp nhận việc bản thân để dục vọng cuốn lấy và chung chăn gối với kẻ từng không đội trời chung với hắn hay không, điều đó chỉ thời gian mới có câu trả lời.

“Đây là nơi hễ bước vào thì ngươi sẽ trở thành một phần của nó, mãi mãi thuộc về nó, trở thành nguồn năng lượng để nó tồn tại.”

Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang nhớ đến bóng người áo đỏ lướt qua tầm mắt hắn. “Ta… đã thoáng thấy ngươi.”

“Thấy ta ư?” Liên Thành Bích hỏi lại, cười lạnh. “Đó là cách nơi đây dẫn dụ những kẻ như ngươi đấy.”

“Những kẻ như ta?”

“Những kẻ trong tâm có ‘niệm’. Niệm Lâu cho ngươi thấy điều ngươi muốn thấy – một ảo ảnh, một bóng hình thoáng qua, một nửa sự thật, bất cứ điều gì khiến ngươi trăn trở không dứt, sau đó, nó chỉ chờ ngươi tự mình bước vào.”

“Ngươi cũng như thế sao?”

“Không, nhưng một ‘ta’ khác đã ở đây nên dù muốn hay không, từ ngày được sinh ra ta đã thuộc về Niệm Lâu. Không thể khác được.”

Tuy không hiểu hết tất cả những gì Liên Thành Bích nói nhưng Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang thấy lòng mình nhẹ nhõm lạ kỳ như vừa trút bỏ một gánh nặng mà chính hắn cũng không biết nó tồn tại đến khi nó biến mất.

“Có ngươi ở đây đợi ta, ta có thể yên lòng bước tiếp quãng đường trước mặt rồi,” Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang nói.

Liên Thành Bích nhìn hắn, trong ánh mắt phản chiếu nỗi kinh ngạc. Rồi, kinh ngạc chuyển thành vui vẻ, đôi mắt y nheo lại thành hai vành trăng non nhỏ, một nụ cười xuất hiện trên vành môi.

Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang ngây ngẩn nhìn y đến quên cả hô hấp. Có lẽ đây là lần đầu tiên hắn trông thấy nụ cười của y, một nụ cười xuất phát từ niềm vui thật sự, không mang theo dù chỉ một chút châm biếm hay trào phúng.

Chỉ ở nơi này Liên Thành Bích mới có thể cười như vậy chăng?

“Được,” Liên Thành Bích nói. Y đặt tay lên mắt Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang, lòng bàn tay vừa vặn che trọn tầm nhìn của hắn. Dù không hiểu y làm vậy có ý gì nhưng hắn không phản ứng. Trong bóng tối, hắn cảm thấy y ghé môi vào bên tai hắn, hơi thở ấm áp khiến lòng hắn chợt thấy nhột nhạt không thôi. “Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang, ta hứa với ngươi, khi hơi thở cuối cùng rời bỏ ngươi, kẻ đầu tiên ngươi thấy sẽ là ta.”

“Ta có thể trông cậy vào lời hứa của ngươi không, Liên trang chủ?” Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang hỏi.

Tiếng cười của Liên Thành Bích khẽ vang lên thay lời đáp. Nương theo tiếng cười đó, trái tim hắn cũng đập nhanh hơn. Quàng tay qua gáy y, hắn kéo khuôn mặt y lại gần, đặt môi lên môi y.

Nếu lần tiếp xúc đầu tiên giữa hắn và y chỉ có thô bạo và chiếm đoạt thì lần này, nó đã mang dáng dấp của nụ hôn thật sự. Trong vòng tay hắn, Liên Thành Bích sững ra vì ngạc nhiên nhưng rất nhanh, y đã thả lỏng, hoà mình trong miên man nhu tình mà nụ hôn đem lại.

Khi nụ hôn chấm dứt, khuôn mặt của Liên Thành Bích trở nên hư ảo như nhìn qua một làn nước. Ánh sáng lịm dần, lịm dần rồi ý thức của hắn chìm vào hư vô.

Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang tỉnh lại trên chiếc giường rộng rãi trong căn phòng Liên Thành Bích đã chuẩn bị cho hắn. Xung quanh gối chăn bừa bộn làm bằng chứng cuộc giao hoan giữa hắn và Liên Thành Bích không phải một hồi mộng tưởng mà là sự thật. Trên tấm nệm trắng tinh nổi bật vài giọt máu đã khô cùng mấy sợi tóc đen nhánh. Liên Thành Bích đã rời đi từ lúc nào không rõ, vô thanh vô tức hệt như khi y đến. Nến trong các khay đồng cung cấp ánh sáng cho căn phòng đã cháy gần hết, Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang nghĩ cũng đã đến lúc mình nên rời đi.

Đại sảnh rộng thênh thang dưới lầu vắng vẻ hệt như một ngôi nhà ma. Bên ngoài cửa sổ có thể thấy lấp ló bầu trời màu tím nhạt điểm xuyết vài sợi mây hồng phớt. Gã tiểu nhị có khuôn mặt thư sinh đang ngồi ở quầy, trên người không phải trường bào đỏ thẫm như hôm qua Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang đã thấy, thay vào đó là một tấm áo màu trắng trông đã cũ nhưng rất sạch sẽ. Gã dựa lưng vào tường, hai mắt nhắm lại chừng như đang thiu thiu ngủ, thế nhưng, Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang vừa đến gần quầy, đôi mắt ấy liền mở ra, trong con ngươi đen láy không vương chút ngái ngủ nào.

“Tiêu gia có hài lòng với căn phòng được chuẩn bị cho ngài không?” Vừa trông thấy hắn, gã thiếu niên liền hỏi.

“Ta rất hài lòng,” Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang đáp. “Có phải… vị Liên công tử kia thật sự đã đặt phòng cho ta phải không?”

Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang quan sát kỹ gương mặt non trẻ kia hòng tìm ra một điểm biến hoá, tiếc là hắn chẳng tìm được gì.

“Chính là vậy, thưa ngài, do đó ngài cũng không cần bận tâm về chi phí.”

“Cho ta gửi lời cảm ơn lâu chủ của quý lâu đã nhiệt tình thết đãi, bây giờ thì ta phải đi rồi.”

Nói rồi, hắn quay lưng, hướng phía cửa mà bước. Sau lưng hắn truyền đến giọng nói trong trẻo như suối, “Tiêu gia thượng lộ bình an. Tiểu nhân rất mong lại được tiếp đón ngài.”

Chú ngựa hắn bỏ lại khi vội vàng đang nhẩn nha gặm cỏ. Trông thấy chủ nhân, nó liền hí vang, phá tan sự yên tĩnh của buổi sớm. Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang leo lên ngựa, cầm cương, nhìn về hướng hắn vừa bước ra.

Nơi đó chỉ có một bãi cỏ xanh rì.

Hết

Bạn nhỏ họ Tiêu nên thấy may mắn khi bạn chưa gặp phải tình trạng như bạn nhỏ họ Sở trong fic lấy cùng universe với fic này.

 

[Tiêu Liên] Canh ba (3)

Pairing: Tiêu Liên – Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang x Liên Thành Bích (Tân Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang)

Genres: BL, fantasy, alternate universe – AU

Rating: lên hẳn 18+ cho an toàn (dù bản thân bạn không thấy 18+ cho lắm)

Nhân vật: Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang, Liên Thành Bích, Thẩm Bích Quân

Chú ý: Hình tượng và tính cách Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang, Liên Thành Bích và Thẩm Bích Quân lấy từ phim truyền hình Tân Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang (2016).

Preview:

“Nếu ngươi dừng lại, ta sẽ không đâm xuống,” Liên Thành Bích nói sau mấy khắc ngập ngừng. “Đường đường đại đạo Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang lại chết trên thân nam nhân, ngươi nghĩ người trong giang hồ sẽ nói thế nào?”

Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang cười. “Giang hồ đã sớm không còn kẻ tên Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang.”

“Ngươi… sẽ không dừng lại?”

“Nếu muốn ta dừng lại, ngươi chỉ còn cách đâm xuống.”

Giang hồ thường ví, đại đạo Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang là cơn gió thổi qua đồng, là con sói chạy trên thảo nguyên, ung dung tự tại, không gì có thể trói buộc hắn.

Đối với nhận định này, Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang không phủ nhận.

Hắn cũng biết, sự tự do này có được là vì hắn chưa từng cảm thấy hối tiếc hay ân hận về những việc đã xảy ra trong cuộc đời mình.

Hai chữ “chưa từng” tuy đơn giản nhưng không dễ thực hiện.

Thế nhưng, Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang làm được, hay ít ra, hắn nghĩ mình làm được.

Hắn chưa từng hối tiếc hay ân hận về những quyết định của mình.

Kể cả khi giải độc cho Thẩm Bích Quân và để nàng quên đi hắn.

Đau xót là điều chắc chắn bởi vì tình cảm sâu đậm đâu thể nói dứt là dứt, nhưng hắn không hối hận vì đó là điều phải làm.

Chia tay Thẩm Bích Quân cũng thế mà vứt bỏ Cát Lộc đao cũng thế.

Nhưng giờ đây, khi nằm trên chiếc giường êm ái trong một khách điếm lạ lẫm, Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang lại cảm thấy nỗi tiếc nuối đong đầy cõi lòng. Tuy nhiên, nếu được hỏi hắn có muốn quay ngược thời gian đến thời điểm trước khi nỗi tiếc nuối xảy ra hay không thì hắn sẽ trả lời là không. Nếu là hắn của thường ngày, câu trả lời nhất định là có, bởi vì một Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang của thường ngày luôn sống dưới áp lực của sự tự kiềm nén; trái với hình dung của nhiều người về một gã đại đạo phong lưu tiêu sái, không có ràng buộc, hắn thật sự là một kẻ khắc kỷ về nhiều mặt, trong đó, đáng kể nhất phải là mặt tình cảm. Nhưng, như Liên Thành Bích đã nói, ở nơi này, lý trí phải nhường chỗ cho dục vọng lên ngôi, những hành động chỉ xuất hiện trong giấc mơ hoang đường giờ đã bước chân vào hiện thực, và Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang đã làm một việc hắn của thường ngày chắc chắn không bao giờ dám thực hiện: hắn xông đến, túm lấy cổ áo Liên Thành Bích, nhìn thẳng vào đôi mắt trong veo như thủy tinh của y rồi áp môi mình lên môi y.

Đó không phải là hôn, trong đầu hắn khi đó đã nghĩ thế. Với Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang, hôn là kết tinh của tình yêu, là thăng hoa của dịu dàng và tha thiết, là sự đồng điệu của hai tâm hồn khác biệt. Khi hắn hôn Thẩm Bích Quân, bầu trời như xanh hơn và quanh họ hoa đào nở rộ. Nụ hôn là những gì tốt đẹp nhất hắn trao cho nàng, và nàng trao cho hắn. Khi hắn ngấu nghiến môi Liên Thành Bích, một con sói thoát khỏi lớp da người để cắn xé con mồi, đó không phải là hôn; đó là khuất phục, là chiếm đoạt, là cưỡng bức. Là rút lấy linh hồn ra khỏi cơ thể trong vũ điệu cuồng si để nghiền nát, dung hòa làm một. Trong miệng hắn tràn ngập vị của sắt. Máu của Liên Thành Bích hay của hắn, không rõ.

Không rõ bao lâu đã trôi qua, khi con sói trong hắn đã tạm thỏa mãn với những gì nó đoạt được, Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang mới rời môi khỏi môi Liên Thành Bích. Trong căn phòng yên ắng, hắn nghe rõ mồn một âm thanh của trái tim đập trong lồng ngực. Máu chảy rần rật trong mạch khiến cơ thể hắn nóng rực như đang đứng trong quầng lửa. Yết hầu hắn chuyển động, trong cổ họng khô ran như một kẻ sắp chết khát trong sa mạc. Nhưng hắn biết rõ để xoa dịu cơn khát không phải là nước hay rượu mà là một thứ nguyên thủy hơn, mãnh liệt hơn, cũng sa đoạ hơn.

“Ngươi…” Liên Thành Bích trừng mắt nhìn Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang, chỉ thốt lên một tiếng rồi im bặt như thể y chưa kịp tiếp nhận hành động của hắn. Kinh ngạc và giận dữ khiến nước da y càng nhợt nhạt, càng lộ rõ hai vệt ửng hồng trên má. Trong ánh nến, môi y loang loáng nước, còn có vẻ hơi sưng, vết rách trên khoé môi rỉ ra vài sợi tơ máu.

Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang muốn lần nữa nếm vị của chúng trên lưỡi mình.

“Không phải ngươi muốn chứng kiến dục vọng thầm kín nhất, đen tối nhất trong lòng ta hay sao, Liên công tử?” Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang gằn giọng như một cách để trấn an chính mình. “Chúc mừng, ngươi thành công rồi đấy!”

Một quyền bất ngờ đấm vào má khiến Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang không kịp trở tay, buông cổ áo Liên Thành Bích, loạng choạng lùi lại mấy bước. Má phải hắn tê rần, trong miệng dâng đầy vị rỉ sắt. Tuy nhiên, quyền này mạnh thì có mạnh nhưng Liên Thành Bích không hề dùng nửa phần công lực, bằng không, thương tích mà Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang phải chịu sẽ không chỉ là một vết bầm trên mặt. Chính hắn cũng ngạc nhiên trước một đòn này của y.

Liên Thành Bích giơ tay lên, định ra tiếp một đòn nhưng lần này, Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang đã có chuẩn bị. Hắn nhanh như cắt chụp lấy cổ tay Liên Thành Bích, ngay vị trí mạch môn, tay còn lại nắm lấy bả vai Liên Thành Bích, mạnh mẽ đè nghiến y xuống mặt bàn. Rồi, vẫn giữ cổ tay y trong bàn tay mình, hắn áp thân mình lên thân y, đồng thời chen một đầu gối vào giữa hai chân y, không cho chúng cơ hội khép lại. Dưới thân hắn, Liên Thành Bích rên lên một tiếng rất khẽ rồi không ngừng giãy giụa, tuy nhiên, mỗi động tác của y đều như châm thêm dầu vào ngọn lửa vốn đã hừng hực trong hắn, tiếp thêm cho hắn sức mạnh để chế ngự y.

Liên Thành Bích của hiện tại đã không thể so với Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang về sức.

Khi đã chiếm thế thượng phong, Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang cúi đầu xuống, áp sát miệng mình vào cổ Liên Thành Bích, nơi động mạch y hiện lên nhàn nhạt dưới làn da trắng tái. Nương theo màu xanh đó, hắn liếm một đường lên đến dái tai y. Thân hình bên dưới hắn run lên như gặp phải cơn gió lạnh rồi mọi giãy giụa đều nhất loạt đình chỉ. Một nụ cười thỏa mãn kín đáo hiện lên trên khuôn mặt anh tuấn của hắn trước khi hắn lại men theo mạch máu liếm xuống một đường. Làn da loang loáng vệt nước như mời gọi khiến hắn không cưỡng lại được mà đay nghiến nhẹ. Hồi còn bé, sống chung với bầy sói, hắn được chứng kiến không ít hành vi của loài động vật này. Cắn vào cổ chắc chắn là một đòn trí mạng mà loài sói nói riêng và thú săn mồi nói chung ưa thích dùng để kết liễu con mồi, đơn giản vì nó nhanh chóng và hiệu quả. Tuy nhiên, đôi lúc hắn sẽ thấy sói đực và sói cái thực hiện động tác này với nhau trước khi bước vào hành vi giao phối. Lúc đó, dù chưa hiểu biết nhiều nhưng hắn đã phần nào mường tượng được ý nghĩa của nó. Và ngay lúc này, hắn đang tái hiện hành động đó trên người Liên Thành Bích. Một loại khoái cảm của kẻ chinh phục khiến hắn gia tăng lực đạo, cơ hồ đã xé rách làn da mỏng manh ở cổ. Thân người Liên Thành Bích cứng đờ. Một giọt máu nhỏ ứa ra từ miệng vết thương được hắn đón lấy, nuốt xuống.

Khi con sói bên trong hắn đương nhấm nháp miếng mồi ngon thì Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang cảm thấy một mũi nhọn lạnh lẽo chạm vào gáy mình.

“Không nghĩ là ngươi mang theo cả truỷ thủ trong người đấy,” Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang lạnh lùng nói.

“Ta không cần mang,” Liên Thành Bích đáp bằng giọng mang theo một chút gấp gáp. Hơi thở của y phật qua vành tai Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang nóng hổi. “Ở Niệm Lâu, chỉ cần ta muốn thì dù là vật gì cũng sẽ tự động xuất hiện trong tay.”

Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang chẳng buồn nghĩ xem lời y nói có ẩn ý gì không mà chỉ hờ hững nói, “Tại sao ngươi chưa đâm xuống?”

“Nếu ngươi dừng lại, ta sẽ không đâm xuống,” Liên Thành Bích nói sau mấy khắc ngập ngừng. “Đường đường đại đạo Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang lại chết trên thân nam nhân, ngươi nghĩ người trong giang hồ sẽ nói thế nào?”

Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang cười. “Giang hồ đã sớm không còn kẻ tên Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang.”

“Ngươi… sẽ không dừng lại?”

“Nếu muốn ta dừng lại, ngươi chỉ còn cách đâm xuống.”

Mũi nhọn sau gáy thật sự đã đâm xuống!

Nhưng, khi chỉ vừa đâm vào da, mũi nhọn đã dừng lại. Một tiếng “keng” vang lên chói tai. Tiếp theo, Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang nhận được một cái tát.

“Tên dã man nhà ngươi,” Liên Thành Bích rít qua kẽ răng. “Trong phòng còn có một cái giường đấy!”

Còn tiếp


Dừng ở đây rồi ‘đóng cửa, tắt đèn’ liệu có bị chửi không nhỉ?

[Tiêu Liên] Canh ba (1)

Pairing: Tiêu Liên – Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang x Liên Thành Bích (Tân Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang)

Genres: BL, fantasy, alternate universe – AU

Rating: sẽ thay đổi nhưng tạm thời chương này là 10+

Nhân vật: Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang, Liên Thành Bích, Thẩm Bích Quân

Chú ý: Hình tượng và tính cách Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang, Liên Thành Bích và Thẩm Bích Quân lấy từ phim truyền hình Tân Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang (2016).

Preview:

Thiếu niên mỉm cười, hai mắt nheo lại thành hai mảnh trăng khuyết. Nụ cười trông hoàn toàn vô tội đó trong mắt Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang trở nên càng đáng ngờ hơn.

“Một vị Liên công tử đã đặt phòng cho Tiêu gia và căn dặn tiểu nhân nhắn lại—”

Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang hít vào một hơi lạnh. “Một người họ Liên sao?” hắn hỏi, vô thức lên giọng.

“Vâng, là một vị công tử họ Liên,” Vân Thâu đáp.

“Nếu ta chết, ngươi sẽ chôn cất ta chứ?”

Khi nói câu này, Liên Thành Bích mang biểu cảm rất lạ, hay ít nhất là trong mắt Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang, biểu cảm này vô cùng khác thường. Như thể ánh mắt sắc bén, lạnh lẽo và nụ cười nửa miệng tạo nên sự tàn nhẫn, thâm độc và giảo quyệt ở y là một tấm mặt nạ, và bây giờ, tấm mặt nạ đã bị tháo xuống, để lộ gương mặt thật của một người đã mệt mỏi với những mưu đồ, tham vọng của chính mình, chỉ muốn buông xuôi hết thảy, trở lại làm một hài nhi an giấc trong tử cung của đất mẹ.

Đó không phải biểu cảm mà kẻ đang thắng thế nên có mà là biểu cảm của kẻ cầm chắc mình sẽ chết.

Trước khi Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang kịp hiểu ra biểu cảm đó mang ý nghĩa gì thì nó đã biến mất. “Nếu ngươi chết,” Liên Thành Bích nói, “ta sẽ chôn cất ngươi ở một nơi không ai tìm thấy.”

Kết quả, ngày hôm đó, Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang không chết. Kẻ ngã xuống là Liên Thành Bích.

Tự bạo phát kinh mạch.

Ngày hôm đó, Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang đồng thời chôn cất người con gái mình yêu nhất và thiên địch của mình.

Cả hai đều là đời này chỉ có một.

Hắn chôn Thẩm Bích Quân ở một thung lũng có phong cảnh hữu tình, bên cạnh một cánh đồng hoa cúc. Mỗi khi ngẫu nhiên trông thấy một cánh bướm, hắn đều tự nhủ đó là linh hồn nàng bay lượn trên những khóm hoa vàng rực.

Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang bầu bạn với mộ phần của Thẩm Bích Quân tròn một năm. Trong một năm đó, người mà hắn nhớ đến nhiều hơn cả không phải Thẩm Bích Quân mà là Liên Thành Bích.

Trước khi đôi mắt y khép lại mãi mãi, ánh mắt y hướng đến Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang như muốn hỏi, “Ta chết rồi, ngươi sẽ chôn cất ta chứ?”

Phải mất ba ngày Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang mới tìm được vị trí chôn cất khiến hắn hài lòng. Cũng may, trời đã vào thu, thời tiết mát mẻ hơn nhiều, nhờ vậy nên thi thể Liên Thành Bích chưa phân hủy nhiều.

Hắn chôn Liên Thành Bích trên một ngọn núi nhỏ, không tên, rất ít người biết đến và cũng không có bao nhiêu muông thú.

Mỗi ngày, hắn ghé qua mộ Thẩm Bích Quân trước rồi đến mộ Liên Thành Bích, đều đặn như con thoi lướt trên khung cửi.

Trước mộ Thẩm Bích Quân, hắn luôn đặt một bó hoa tươi. Trước mộ Liên Thành Bích, hắn luôn đặt một ly rượu đầy.

Khi còn sống, Liên Thành Bích rất ít khi uống rượu, càng ít khi say tuý luý. Trái lại, Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang yêu rượu như mạng, những lần hắn say tuý luý không đơn thuần có thể dùng con số diễn tả.

Mỗi ngày, Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang đều ngồi bên mộ Liên Thành Bích uống rượu. Hễ rượu vào, hắn lại nghĩ đến Liên Thành Bích, nghĩ đến ánh mắt của Liên Thành Bích trước khi quyết đấu. Liệu có phải bằng cách nào đó, y đã biết trước kết cục của mình? Không thể nào, hắn tự phủ định mình. Liên Thành Bích bất quá cũng chỉ là một con người như hắn, làm sao y có được khả năng nhìn thấu quá khứ vị lai. Nhưng, nếu như thế, hắn nên lý giải ánh mắt đó như thế nào đây? Không chừng tất cả đều là hắn tự suy diễn, bởi vì hắn nghĩ đến Liên Thành Bích quá nhiều nên mỗi hành động, cử chỉ dù nhỏ nhất của y cũng đều mang ý nghĩa nào đó trong mắt hắn.

Không biết từ lúc nào, suy nghĩ của Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang thường hướng về phía Liên Thành Bích. Phải chăng là từ cái đêm trước ngày Thẩm Bích Quân thành hôn và hắn xuất hiện trong thư phòng y? Không, có lẽ phải lâu hơn thế nhiều. Là lúc y đâm kiếm vào ngực hắn, để lại trên vị trí gần trái tim một vết sẹo rõ nét ư? Vẫn chưa phải. Nếu hắn thành thật với lòng mình – và hắn chỉ có thể làm như thế khi đã tự chuốc cho bản thân không ít thứ rượu cay nồng, mãnh liệt chẳng mấy người bình thường muốn uống, hắn mới dám thừa nhận ngay từ thời điểm hắn giao đấu với thiếu niên áo trắng mang chiến khí nồng đượm trên cây cầu treo, Liên Thành Bích đã bước vào tâm tư, tình cảm của hắn, nhẹ nhàng như mũi kiếm bén nhọn y cầm trên tay.

Người giang hồ đều sẽ nói, Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang hận Liên Thành Bích và cuộc quyết chiến một mất một còn giữa y và hắn là không thể tránh khỏi. Quả thật, hắn có đầy đủ lý do để hận Liên Thành Bích và ngược lại, Liên Thành Bích đối với hắn cũng thế. Ngay đến Phong Tứ Nương và Dương Khai Thái cũng cho là vậy, và có nằm mơ họ cũng không nghĩ hắn lại tự tay chôn cất y. Sự thật chỉ mình Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang biết là bản thân không hận Liên Thành Bích như mọi người vẫn tưởng. Giận y thì có, thậm chí có những lúc hắn chỉ muốn túm cổ áo y rồi tống mấy quyền thật mạnh vào gương mặt thanh tú đang mang nụ cười thách thức kia; hắn muốn gương mặt đó sưng tấy rồi bầm tím, khóe môi rỉ tơ máu; hắn muốn y chịu đau, thậm chí là thật đau, để y cảm thụ nỗi đau y đã gây ra cho người khác, cho hắn. Nhưng giết y ư, hắn tuyệt không nghĩ đến. Không những không nghĩ đến, chỉ cần tưởng tượng mũi Cát Lộc Đao xuyên qua lồng ngực Liên Thành Bích, xẻ đôi trái tim y, Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang liền thấy lồng ngực của mình quặn thắt như thể chính hắn mới là kẻ bị đao đâm vào da thịt.

Nhưng, cuối cùng, Liên Thành Bích chết rồi, chết bởi chính thứ công lực y cướp đoạt từ các vị cao tăng và chưởng môn kia. Người đời gọi đó là ông trời có mắt, kẻ làm ác trước sau cũng sẽ nhận được hình phạt thích đáng. Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang không phủ nhận điều đó, chỉ là, trong lòng hắn xuất hiện một cuộn xoáy. Cuộn xoáy đó như cái miệng đói của quái vật, hút sạch mọi thứ làm nên con người hắn, tiêu sái, hào sảng, chính nghĩa…, chỉ chừa lại một nỗi tịch mịch không tên rộng lớn tựa màn đêm phủ xuống thảo nguyên.

Ôm lấy nỗi tịch mịch ấy, Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang cầm Cát Lộc Đao, một mình một ngựa rời khỏi Trung nguyên.

..

Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang không hề có ý định tá túc hay thậm chí là bước vào khách điếm có cái tên hoàn toàn không phù hợp với vẻ ngoài xập xệ, tồi tàn này. Thế nhưng, khi nhận thức được hành động của mình thì hắn đã đặt một chân qua bậc thềm.

Tất cả chỉ vì một bóng hình hắn còn không rõ có phải ảo ảnh hay không.

Trong mấy năm qua, Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang một mình một ngựa rong ruổi từ đại mạc đến thảo nguyên, từ biên thành nghèo nàn chỉ có gió và cát là nhiều đến những đô thị trù phú, người ngựa tấp nập. Đêm nối tiếp ngày, rồi ngày lại thành đêm, ngoảnh mặt lại thì đã năm năm kể từ ngày Thẩm Bích Quân và Liên Thành Bích qua đời. Nội tâm Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang đã trở thành lớp cát dưới cùng của sa mạc, dù là cuồng phong cũng không thể xáo động mảy may.

… hoặc ít nhất, hắn đã nghĩ như vậy.

Chẳng ngờ rằng không cần đến cuồng phong bão táp, chỉ một bóng hình thoáng qua cũng đủ gây ra một cơn địa chấn trong lòng hắn.

Người đó đang ngồi một mình ở chiếc bàn hơi chếch sang trái so với cửa, nửa thân hình bị chiếc bàn che khuất, nửa thân hình đón lấy những tia nắng cuối ngày. Ráng chiều đỏ, trường bào y vận càng đỏ hơn, đỏ đến nhức nhối, như thể chính màu sắc ấy lan ra nhuộm đỏ ráng chiều, biến hoàng hôn thành màu của máu.

Trong ký ức của Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang, người đó chưa từng vận màu đỏ, chỉ trừ hai dịp là vào hôn lễ của y với Thẩm Bích Quân.

Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang ghì mạnh cương ngựa, buộc con ngựa đang phóng hết tốc lực đột ngột dừng lại. Con ngựa hí vang, chồm hai chân trước lên nhưng Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang không buồn để tâm bởi vì toàn bộ sự chú ý của hắn đều đặt lên màu đỏ nhức nhối kia. Tai hắn nghe rõ từng nhịp đập của tim mình. Thình thịch. Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang vọt xuống ngựa. Thình thịch. Bỏ lại con ngựa ngơ ngác nhìn theo bóng lưng chủ, hắn chạy đến khách điếm. Thình thịch. Chân hắn bước qua thềm cửa.

Trống trơn.

Bên trong cánh cửa là không gian rộng thênh thang lặng ngắt như tờ. Rất nhiều bộ bàn ghế làm bằng gỗ đen tuyền được bày biện rất trật tự thành một vòng tròn quanh một sân khấu được xây cao lên. Nhưng, lạ một nỗi là bàn ghế nhiều không đếm xuể, chỉ quan khách là không thấy một ai, khiến nơi này chẳng khác nào một khách điếm mà chủ nhân của nó đã hối hả rời đi, không kịp mang theo bàn ghế, vật dụng nên đành để chúng lại làm bạn cùng tuế nguyệt. Trong lòng hẫng đi như vừa đánh rơi một thứ vô cùng quan trọng xuống dòng nước xiết, Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang nắm chặt tay, đảo mắt một vòng, cuối cùng, ánh mắt hắn dừng lại ở một thiếu niên ngồi sau quầy đang khép mắt, thiu thiu trong ánh tà dương từ cửa sổ hắt vào.

Đồng tử của Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang giãn nở. Hô hấp ngưng trệ nhưng trái tim trong ngực lại đập mãnh liệt như con thú bị nhốt cố sức phá vỡ chiếc lồng xương giam giữ nó. Yết hầu của hắn di chuyển, trong cổ họng khô ran.

Thiếu niên đang ngồi trong ánh tà dương vận trường bào màu đỏ. Không chỉ thế, khuôn mặt của gã có nhiều nét rất giống với khuôn mặt của Liên Thành Bích, cách hình dung chính xác nhất là gã mang khuôn mặt của một Liên Thành Bích đã giảm đi khoảng mười tuổi.

Không lâu sau khi Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang nhận thấy sự tương đồng kỳ dị đó thì thiếu niên mở mắt, chừng như tuy nhắm mắt nhưng gã vẫn biết có người vừa bước vào và đang chăm chăm nhìn mình. Dù vậy, gã vẫn nở nụ cười, trên khuôn mặt thanh tú hoàn toàn không sót lại dấu tích của sự uể oải.

“Chào mừng công tử đến Niệm Lâu,” thiếu niên nói, đứng dậy và bước ra khỏi quầy. Gã không cao, thậm chí còn hơi thấp so với tuổi, thân hình mảnh khảnh càng khiến trường bào trên người như dài và rộng hơn. Tuy nhiên, chẳng rõ vì sao, khi nhìn gã, Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang hoàn toàn không thấy có gì lố bịch hay buồn cười. Dáng đi của gã rất khoan thai còn bước chân thì nhẹ như mèo bước đi trên thảm nhung. Để làm được điều này, gã nhất định phải biết võ công.

Thiếu niên từ tốn bước đến trước mặt Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang, cúi người thi lễ. “Tiểu nhân gọi là Vân Thâu, tuy nhiên công tử có thể gọi tiểu nhân bằng bất cứ tên nào mình muốn,” gã nói.

Trước hành động và cách xưng hô quá trịnh trọng của thiếu niên, Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang có chút lúng túng. Bình thường chẳng ai gọi hắn là ‘công tử’ nên danh từ này đối với hắn thật lạ lẫm; nếu không phải trong lâu chỉ có mình hắn, Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang đã nghĩ Vân Thâu đang nói chuyện với ai khác chứ không phải mình.

“Ta không phải ‘công tử’ nên tiểu huynh đệ đừng dùng cách gọi đó với ta.”

“Thứ lỗi cho tiểu nhân vô ý. Không biết tiểu nhân có thể gọi ngài là ‘Tiêu gia’ hay không?”

Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang chau mày, lập tức hỏi, “Vì sao tiểu huynh đệ biết ta họ Tiêu?”

Thiếu niên mỉm cười, hai mắt nheo lại thành hai mảnh trăng khuyết. Nụ cười trông hoàn toàn vô tội đó trong mắt Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang trở nên càng đáng ngờ hơn.

“Một vị Liên công tử đã đặt phòng cho Tiêu gia và căn dặn tiểu nhân nhắn lại—”

Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang hít vào một hơi lạnh. “Một người họ Liên sao?” hắn hỏi, vô thức lên giọng.

“Vâng, là một vị công tử họ Liên,” Vân Thâu đáp.

“Y tên là gì?”

“Điều này…” Vân Thâu ngập ngừng. “Điều này, xin thứ lỗi, vị công tử đó đã căn dặn tiểu nhân không được nói.”

Câu trả lời không nằm ngoài dự đoán của Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang. Tuy nhiên, hắn vẫn không tránh được nỗi thất vọng dâng đầy trong lòng.

Mà, hắn thất vọng vì điều gì vậy kìa? Rõ ràng hắn biết Liên Thành Bích đã chết rồi, còn do hắn tự tay chôn cất và lập mộ nữa. Chẳng lẽ bộ xương nằm sâu dưới mấy thước đất có thể đào mồ trỗi dậy, khoác lên người thịt da rồi đi lại giữa thế giới của người sống hay sao? Không thể nào. Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang chưa từng tin trên đời này có ma quỷ, càng không tin Liên Thành Bích đã trở lại thế gian. Chưa kể, thế gian này người mang họ Liên không ít, hắn muốn bao nhiêu ‘Liên công tử’ thì sẽ có bấy nhiêu, huống chi không loại trừ trường hợp người gọi là ‘Liên công tử’ này đang dùng tên giả. Lý trí không ngừng nhắc nhở hắn như thế nhưng tiếc rằng cảm xúc là một con ngựa chứng còn lý trí là kẻ cưỡi ngựa bất tài, dẫu hiểu mười mươi tính cách của con ngựa nhưng vô phương thuần phục nó.

“Hẳn y cũng căn dặn ngươi không được tả hình dạng của y phải không?”

“Vâng. Liên công tử nhắn lại rằng, canh ba đêm nay, Liên công tử sẽ đến phòng của Tiêu gia.”

Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang cười nhạt. “Y thật biết chọn thời điểm gặp mặt. Như vậy, xem ra ta chẳng còn lựa chọn nào khác ngoài làm theo sắp đặt của y.”

“Liên công tử nói, nếu Tiêu gia từ chối—”

“Tiểu huynh đệ nghĩ ta sẽ từ chối hay không?”

“Tiểu nhân nghĩ, dù sao trời cũng sắp tối rồi, khách điếm gần nhất cũng cách đây hơn năm mươi dặm, vậy thì chi bằng Tiêu gia nghỉ lại đây đêm nay.”

Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang bật cười. “Ngươi quả thật là kẻ biết làm ăn.”

“Tiêu gia quá khen rồi. Tiểu nhân chỉ là kẻ tôi tớ cho bất cứ vị khách nào trọ lại đây mà thôi.”

“Vậy phiền tiểu huynh đệ dẫn ta lên phòng.”

Còn tiếp

Đọc nãy giờ chắc ai cũng biết fic này nối tiếp Hải thị thận lâu. Hôm bữa bạn Joel có nói là vì mừng Lan huynh về nên có khi bạn sẽ viết thêm đúng không? Phần viết thêm đó chính là đây.

[Siegfried x Karna] It’s Not Impossible If the Grail Is Involved (6)

Disclaimer: Characters belong to their respectful owners

Fandom: Fate/Grand Order

Rating: T

Pairing(s): Siegfried x Karna

Genres: fanfiction, fluff, humor, genderbent

Characters: Siegfried, Karna, Arjuna, Jing Ke, original characters

Summary:

“Key words: ‘you think’, Archer. Nausea isn’t equivalence of morning sickness.”

Sequel to Sharing Warmth, A Drunken Mishap and All the Valentine’s Chocolate Combined. Sort of.

Part 6

Rhys squinted his eyes and studied the mess of red and blue lines he had exposed and tried to modify so that the communication device was compatible with his charger. At the moment he was doing the opposite of what he had done a few hours earlier: he was putting the lines back where they belonged, hoping with anxiety bubbling in his chest that he hadn’t screwed up anything and broken the device for good. It was the only thing that connected him and Chaldea; he desperately needed it if the three of them still wanted to return home safe and sound.

Once everything was back in place, Rhys plugged the device in with trembling fingers. He considered it the ultimate blessing that Mr. Shou’s little dwelling had an outlet. Why and how a cottage alone in a bamboo forest had electricity supply was of little importance to him as long as he could charge his communication device. Maybe that was what the windmill-like contraptions in the yard were used for.

The LCD screen flared up together with a beep had Rhys’s heart nearly leap out of his chest. He screamed internally, not wanting to disturb Mr. Shou and Iori’s sleep when they had done him an enormous favor. They each had retired to their room at the back, leaving the full use of the living room to their new and strange guests. They needed the energy for tomorrow’s journey and Rhys would have followed their example if he hadn’t had to do something important first: charging his device and consulting with either Gilgamesh or Davinci, depending on his luck.

Never before had he found the grainy hologram of a certain Davinci-chan so lovely, so endearing. It brightened the small, dimly lit room.

“Never thought I’d say this,” Rhys began, “but so glad to see you, Davinci, instead of Gilgamesh.” A pause. “He’s not there, isn’t he?”

“No, he got into a quarrel with his younger selves and now Enkidu is trying to have them reconcile with each other, or at least not try to kill each other and reduce Chaldea into rubbles in the process.”

“Who had the brilliant idea of putting them in the same breathing space?” Rhys muttered.

“It’s beyond me,” Davinci replied. “Maybe they ran into each other. Good thing we still have Enkidu to get them in line. How are things on your side? I heard from Gilgamesh but I need to see with my own eyes to assess the situation.”

Rhys summoned Karna, who was outside the cottage, guarding it, via their mental connection. Karna’s slender frame instantly materialized beside Rhys, casting a shadow on the young mage’s face. Behind him was Siegfried. “You called, Master?” Karna asked.

“Yes, please come closer so Davinci can have a look.”

Karna wordlessly did as he was told.

Davinci’s hologram put on a monocle. “Hmm, it’s certainly bizarre but also extremely interesting. I’ve never seen anything like this before and I’d love to study it. If only I could Rayshift there myself. Also, what gorgeous figure! I’d love to draw it.”

Rhys scowled. Only a man who had traded his original body for a female one could say this was interesting. “Please keep your perverted side in check, Davinci.”

“You know I can’t help myself when I see beauty.”

Something crossed Rhys’s mind. “Wait, If Gilgamesh had told you then everyone in Chaldea might have already learned of this.”

A chill ran along Rhys’s spine, making him shiver despite the sweltering weather. He dreaded thinking about what if a certain first-rate Archer knew. He had a penchant for overreacting, that one, which was a major understatement.

Davinci pouted. “What did you take the King of Heroes for? A chatterbox? He only told me because it’s my duty to supervise the missions. Now, please tell me if you have checked the other pools and made any discoveries.”

“That sounds a lot like Gilgamesh’s advice. Those are dangerous so no, we didn’t check. Fortunately someone did and we were able to learn the results.”

“Ooh, tell me.” Her voice didn’t contain her skin-crawling gleefulness. It was probably a scientist’s terminal disease: to be curious about everything and eager to explore them despite how perilous they might be.

“Each pool turns the creature that falls in into something else, dogs, cats, pandas, etc., you name it. And provided you managed to find the proper pool, you can turn them back.”

“Hmm, define ‘proper’, please.”

“For example you threw a mouse in some pool and it turns into a cat. If you could find a mouse pool then problem solved.”

“Interesting,” Davinci hummed, stroking her chin. Probably a past habit when she still had a beard. “By that premise, if we find a male pool, Karna will return to normal?”

“Theoretically speaking. One tiny problem: there is no such pool in that area.”

There was a prolonged silence on the other line, which Rhys felt impatient to fill in as not to waste time. He needed rest as much as any normal human and now his eyes began to weigh down.

“There’s a solution to that, albeit temporary,” he said, standing up, not waiting for Davinci’s response. He left for a few seconds and came back with a kettle in hand. “Karna, do you mind?”

Karna shook his head and took the kettle. The palms of his hand glowed red and soon after, there was steam rising from its mouth. With his usual stoicism, he poured the water over himself. For the third time in the day, he got really wet.

OK, that sounds so wrong.

A soft gasping sound passed Davinci’s lips.

The steam cleared and the original Karna appeared. Almost at the same time, Davinci exclaimed, “Meravigliosa! Subarashii! Marvelous! This is definitely one of the rare miracles I’ve the chance to witness. Simply marvelous.”

Karna’s face was expressionless while Siegfried’s had soured. “He can only keep this form for a short while,” he said, and Rhys noted the annoyance in his tone. But he couldn’t blame Davinci though; from a scientist’s perspective, this unfortunate incident was a golden chance to study the unknown, and this, this was nothing sort of a miracle.

“When he’s dry, he’s back to being a woman.”

Davinci cleared her throat. “Well, it’s troublesome. Let’s see… “ Rhys heard the sound of keyboard. “It appears in the second Karna turned from woman to man, the magical reading pivoted, meaning a large amount of magical energy was involved. As far as I know, there’s one thing that has that much energy…”

“The Grail!” Both Rhys and Davinci said in unison.

“We speculated as much,” Rhys said. “It seems we came pretty close to it.”

“Any clue on where it is or whose hand it is in so far?”

“Yes, the man we met here provided us a clue, which we will set off to check tomorrow.”

“Now that’s the silver lining,” Davinci chuckled. “Anyway, we will be keeping contact tomorrow. Can your communication device hold up?”

“Probable. I’ll make sure to fully charge it.”

“The best of luck to your team.”

“Thank you.”

“Ah, Rhys, there’s something I need to say before goodbye.”

“Huh?”

Davinci’s voice lowered, as if to confide a secret. “Gilgamesh only told me but I might have discussed with Foxy over lunch, you know, to figure out the cause…”

Rhys’s heart dropped. Foxy. Tamamo no Mae. Chaldea’s unofficial news hub. He was surprised a certain demigod Archer had not barged into the control room with his thunderous temper and his Agni Gandiva activated.

To be continued

[Siegfried x Karna] If We Close Our Eyes

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Disclaimer: Characters belong to their respectful owners

Fandom: Fate/Grand Order

Rating: K

Pairing(s): Siegfried x Karna

Genres: fanfiction, AU

Characters: Karna, Siegfried

Preview:

“I was in some sort of pool, afloat though I don’t know how. But instead of water, it was some dark and viscous liquid much like mud. And it was boiling, although I wasn’t burnt. It was hard to describe; the heat was there and I felt it – terrifyingly real for a dream, as I recalled later. I wasn’t burnt in the sense that my skin wasn’t blistered and come off or anything; rather, I was melting, no, the right word should be dissolving.”

Sequel to Till I Break You

Karna stirred and opened his bleary eyes to the burning sunlight flowing through the open window. He squinted his eyes out of reflex and grimaced, until a figure blocked the sun and provided the much-needed shade.

“You were kinda drooling on the textbook, you know,” a familiar voice said, and a hand handed him some tissues.

Karna lifted his head and caught sight of Siegfried’s face. His lips were slightly curling at both ends and he was having a Slurpee in his other hand. His long hair was tied back in a high ponytail, his tie was loosened and the top button of his white shirt was undone.

Spring was receding rapidly to make place for summer and the weather was getting hotter by the day. Along with the heat came the conclusion of their semester and the long-awaited summer vacation.

Karna consciously touched the corner of his lips and found no traces of drool. He shot Siegfried a glare but snatched the tissues nonetheless. Just in case.

“Stayed up late last night?” Siegfried asked, sitting down on Karna’s table, which earned a reprimanding look from Karna. It wasn’t that Karna disapproved his act; Siegfried had done it countless times before, and Karna was fine with it. Mr. Steinfield, however, wasn’t, and he was more than happy to give Siegfried a detention should he catch him.

Siegfried shrugged and didn’t budge.

Karna nodded. “Got into a fight with Arjuna last night over moronic things.”

“How moronic?”

“Video games. Someone was being a sore loser.”

“So you had a hard time falling asleep? You often do when you two fight.”

“Not this time though,” Karna bleated, pillowing his head on his arm. What he would trade for a real pillow right here, right now. “I… was having a nightmare. When I woke up, it felt like I hadn’t slept a wink.”

He motioned his hand for Siegfried to share the Slurpee with him, which the other student did. Siegfried was even thoughtful enough to bring the straw to his lips. “What was it about?” he asked.

Karna lazily took a long drag of the refreshing cold drink. Wild cherry huh? Siegfried’s favorite while his was watermelon but wild cherry wasn’t too bad. The sweet coolness on his tongue dispersed somewhat the cloying mist in his head and soothed his rampaging headache. “It was weird,” Karna began. “I was in some sort of pool, afloat though I don’t know how. But instead of water, it was some dark and viscous liquid much like mud. And it was boiling, although I wasn’t burnt. It was hard to describe; the heat was there and I felt it – terrifyingly real for a dream, as I recalled later. I wasn’t burnt in the sense that my skin wasn’t blistered and come off or anything; rather, I was melting, no, the right word should be dissolving.”

“Dissolving?” Siegfried echoed, wincing. “As in acid sulphuric?”

“Uhm.”

“Sounds horrible. It had to be excruciating.”

“The thought was, yes, but I wasn’t in pain. In fact, I felt almost nothing. Weird, huh? Could feel the heat but not the pain. I thought that too, until I realized I had no lower body and no limbs. Only my head, neck and shoulders connected to a torso. And I knew, without having learned how, that soon what was left of me would dissolve—”

“Okay, okay, okay, stop right there before that image burns into my head.”

“That’s not the worst of it,” Karna said, half irritated because Siegfried cut him and half amused by his reaction. He was too sleepy and lethargic to decide which was dominant. “The same dream came back just a few minutes ago.”

“A recurring dream huh?” Siegfried wondered, stroking his smooth chin pensively. “Maybe your subconscious was trying to tell your something.”

“Looks who has just become Sigmund Freud,” Karna deadpanned.

“That’s Fox’s major, not mine, along with horoscopes. Wanna meet her after school and consult her?”

“I want to go straight home and sleep until tomorrow,” Karna replied, yawning dramatically audible. “Maybe the day after tomorrow.”

Furrowing his eyebrows, Siegfried looked down on Karna’s I’m-a-lazy-cat form. “Then I suppose our date is canceled?”

Karna’s half-lidded eyes shot open. “What? What day is today?”

“Friday.” A beat. “And my parents are out of town until next week and yours by the end of the month.” Another beat. “I got pizza and Netflix and PS4. Just enough to last us through the weekend.”

Karna’s eyes shone the brightest this entire morning and afternoon. “It’s not canceled,” he protested. “Just let me snatch some shut-eye and I’ll be good.”

Siegfried beamed triumphantly. “But didn’t you just say you wanted to go home?”

Seeing through his taunt, Karna pouted. “Between Arjuna’s spicy tantrums and his bland curry – same thing this whole week – and Netflix and pizza, I’ll go with Netflix and pizza.”

Siegfried arched an eyebrow. “You don’t mean Netflix and chill?”

Karna gave him a hard pinch, almost sending the other student off the table. Despite that, Siegfried was laughing so hard his eyes were brimming with mirthful tears. His laugh was contagious and Karna found himself laughing along.

“Anyway, just forget that weird dream and take a nap,” Siegfried said. “I’ll wake you up when break’s over.”

“Don’t get too bored doing so,” Karna replied, resting his head on his folding arms.

Mouthing “I won’t”, Siegfried looked around the class. Once he had made sure they were definitely alone, he bent down to place a light kiss atop Karna’s spiky head. His heartbeat quickened, excited by the prospect of spending the whole private weekend with Karna.

With his eyes shut tight, the corners of Karna’s lips curved into a smile as he tried to do as he’d been told, pushing that horrible nightmare to the far corner of his mind.

… along with a tidbit of truth he had withhold from Siegfried so as not to worry him: he wasn’t alone in that dream, because Siegfried was right next to him…

… dissolving.

Karna stirred and opened his bleary eyes to the purple sky that stretched far beyond his eyesight. The sun was present in the sky yet he felt none of the familiar assuring warmth from the sunlight, for the sun was not the blazing wheel of his father’s chariot but a gigantic black hole outlined with ominous light, from which dark mud continuously poured down the vast sea under. Hot and cold engaged in a continuous battle, each with its own ferocity.

Soaked in lethargy, Karna let out a feather-soft sigh and attempted to move his limbs, only to be sharply reminded that they were no longer attached to his body. Already dissolved in this sinister mud, their presences a lingering phantom in his fading memory. It would be a matter of time before the rest of his body and his consciousness succumbed to the same fate.

“You awake?”

The familiar voice was a gentle breeze that dispersed some of the soupy mist in his mind.

Coming into his sight was a face of doleful horror: where the skin had been smooth and adorned with the light pattern indicating the powerful dragon blood was now charred and falling off, partly revealing the teeth. The other half of the face, unmarred and still retaining its handsomeness, was masked by unspoken sorrow and agony.

Karna wished he still had a hand – just one hand was enough – so that he could press his palm against Siegfried’s cheek and hope to ease away the sadness and pain he had endured.

“I was dreaming,” Karna whispered, forcefully taking his eyes away from the horrific wound on Siegfried’s face while they were being magnetized towards it. It wasn’t its grotesqueness that shook him; rather it was the jarring truth of whose hand had inflicted such cruelty: his own. “It was a bizarre drea—”

His speech stopped short when his gaze landed on Siegfried’s shoulders. His usual armor had been stripped off, and in Karna’s sight was a blood-crusted stump. “Your arm…” His breath got stuck in his lungs, pressed down with incredible pressure.

“Ah,” Siegfried let out a sigh of resignation. It made a weird soft wheezing sound through his wound. “It’s only inevitable. My only regret is that now I’m unable to hold you with both arms.”

Jabbed by the sharp pain clouding Karna’s irises, he quickly added, “It didn’t hurt at all, only a minor discomfort, the nagging feeling of phantom limbs.”

He cut himself short, realizing Karna probably knew it all too well; after all he had been submerged in this dark mud long before Siegfried.

“Tell me about your dream. I want to hear it.”

“It was a… strange dream,” Karna began. “It wasn’t a nightmare, no, maybe it was but let’s say it wasn’t a nightmare in the conventional sense.”

“How strange?”

“It was… peaceful and normal and these two alone were the telltale signs of bizarreness.”

“Because peaceful and normal do not apply to us Servants?”

It was a question that came out of his mouth but his tone indicated a statement.

“We were humans in that dream. Not just you and I but Tamamo, Kiyohime and every other Servant we’ve acquainted. Humans living human lives, going to school, fooling around, having fun.”

“That sounds…… tempting,” Siegfried sighed.

It took him a while to find the word, and the courage to voice it.

“It was… beautiful. Sunlight pouring through the wide-open window, enveloping me in its pleasant warmth, like Father’s large hand softly patting my head, my shoulders. So beautiful that it was terrifying.”

“Can we Servants even dream?”

“If it wasn’t a dream then what was it?”

Silence, only the bubbling of the mud to fill the space.

“Another world, perhaps?” Siegfried said, at last.

“You mean a parallel world?”

“Yes. I prefer to think there is another world out there where we are humans. Maybe there are myriads versions of us.”

Karna temporarily shut his eyes, contemplating Siegfried’s theory. It fascinated him, excited him even, to imagine himself and Siegfried as humans as in his dream. Humans who weren’t heroes having to shoulder the weight of saving an incinerated world. Humans who led their lives as carefreely and ignorantly as humans could.

“Perhaps there is,” he replied, his tone hinting a sliver of joy. “It was blissful to be able to catch a glimpse of such a dazzlingly peaceful world.” A pause. Long enough for Siegfried to start pondering if he should interrupt his train of thought or wait. “Is it selfish to wish to be in that world even for just a few moments?”

“It’s a little odd hearing the selfless Hero of Charity claim to have a wish,” Siegfried teased. “Might take a while for me to get used to it.”

Karna managed a smile and even a gesture as small as that seemed like great exertion. His time was probably not long. The next time he closed his eyes, perhaps…

“I didn’t have a wish when I was summoned,” he said, “and then I met you. I wished to fight side-by-side with you for as long as our time in this world allowed. And now…”

“And now?”

“I only wish to be with you, even though it seems impossible now.”

“It’s not impossible. I’ll be with you till the very end.”

As if to assure Karna as well as himself, he kissed him on the lips, which had become even paler than normal and long lost its warmth, together with the rest of his body. What he was holding in his arms resembled a cadaver, with almost no life left in it.

“And I with you,” Karna said. He felt warmth and moisture on his cheek, and was unsure whose tears they were.

“If we were ever summoned again…”

“If we ever were summoned again…”

They said in unison and their sentences were cut short almost at the same time because Karna had closed his eyes. With that his body disintegrated into thousands light particles.

Karna stirred and opened his bleary eyes to the sounds of plastic bags being rustled. One glance at the window told him that dust had already settled in. The sky was dyed a purplish color and the sun was a half ball of dimming light disappearing behind the countless houses and buildings. The temperature had become a bit milder with the soft breezes scented with the faint smell of roses from the garden one story below. The honking of vehicles echoed from the distance. He straightened his back and sat up from his half-sitting, half-lying position on the couch. He had always loved this couch in Siegfried’s living room – so fluffy and comfy that once you sat down, you never wanted to stand up. In front of him Siegfried was busy laying the boxes of pizza, fries and drinks on the coffee table. It seemed a bit too much for the two of them; luckily they were both big eaters.

“Caught a nap?” Siegfried asked, opening the boxes of pizza to reveal a Seafood Deluxe and a Pepperoni Superb. Steam was raising and an enticing aroma fought off the scent of roses to fill the living room. Despite the uneasy feeling in his stomach, Karna felt his mouth water at the sight and scent. His appetite was catching up to him.

“Yeah,” Karna replied, ruffling his spiky hair. His hair was probably sticking in all directions but he couldn’t care less.

“I just went out to grab some drinks, just in time for the pizza delivery guy to arrive. Here.”

Siegfried opened a coke can and handed it over. Their fingers brushed and Karna received it with silent appreciation; his throat was often very parched after waking up. The cool liquid quickly washed away his thirst. “I was having a dream,” he said.

“Don’t tell me it was that dream again. If you keep having the same dream like that it’s really worrying.”

“I’m pretty certain this is the last time it visits me.”

“Why?”

“Well, the ‘me’ in that dream died. No, more like vanished or erased. I’m not so sure what that was supposed to be. His body became countless spots of lights and disappeared. Anyway, I knew that ‘me’ no longer existed.”

“That’s disturbing,” Siegfried commented.

“It was a just a dream, nothing more. And I want a slice with that juicy prawn.”

“Right,” Siegfried said, handing Karna what was seemingly the biggest slice. As for himself, he took a piece of pepperoni pizza. “After dinner, what’s the plan? Netflix or game?”

With his mouth half-full with pizza, Karna said. “We still have to decide who’s gonna clean up and take out the trash. That means game.”

“Oh? Is that a challenge? Alright. Game on.”

Karna shrugged and finished his slice, savory and chewy. Just the right kind of junk food to soothe his hunger. As he stretched his arm to get another, he tried to temporary push the last vestige of his dream to the back of his mind: the look on Siegfried’s scarred face while watching Karna turn into particles of light. He had a hunch that look was likely going to haunt him for some time before the memory worn off.

End

 [Siegfried x Karna] All the Valentine’s Chocolate Combined

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Disclaimer: Characters belong to their respectful owners

Fandom: Fate/Grand Order

Rating: T

Pairing(s): Siegfried x Karna, (implied) Cú Chulainn x Diarmuid, Vlad III x Nero, Yan Qing x Sasaki Kojirou, Achilles x Atalanta

Genres: fanfiction, fluff, humor

Characters: Siegfried, Karna, Kiyohime, Yan Qing, Sasaki Kojirou, Gilgamesh (kid), original character

Summary:

Valentine’s Day. Chocolate. Love confessions. Kabedon. And Servants.

Sequel to Sharing Warmth and A Drunken Mishap

“It’s called kabedon, KA-BE-DON.”

“Kabedon?” Siegfried mechanically echoed. The sound felt odd on his tongue even if he tried his best to imitate Kiyohime’s pronunciation. Despite having a couple Japanese friends, Kojirou and Kiyohime being his closest chums, not to mention his Master, he was still unconfident articulating Japanese names or words.

“What is it?”

“It’s super popular in Japanese pop culture, just so you know. When a guy uses that on his intended partner, his love confession will have one hundred percent chance of success. Works like A-rank magecraft.”

“Does it?” Siegfried asked, somewhat incredulously. He might not be an expert in the field of magecraft, but he had never heard about such a powerful… spell, or ritual, or whatever that ‘kabedon’ was – he still hadn’t learned of its form. Was it some Oriental secret?

“You baka dragon,” Kiyohime chided, not unkindly. Siegfried was sure her combination of words would be quite a painful prick in many linguists’ eardrums but he wasn’t going to point it out to her. “You know nothing.” This seemed to be her catchphrase these days – someone had spent most of her free nights binge-watching that fantasy show on TV, her most recent obsession beside their Master.

Sumanai.”

“That’s alright. Now, remember, no, learn it by heart, the key to kabedon is the force you put into your hands when you have him against the wall, or any flat surface. It shouldn’t be too strong or else he’ll mistakenly think you want to assault him and probably respond in kind, not to mention the risk of punching a hole through the wall, which I seriously doubt our Master’d appreciate. But it shouldn’t be too weak either, or else you’ll end up looking like a wimp. It should be gentle, yet intimidating, to highlight your masculinity…”

“Aren’t he and I both male? Why should I need to emphasize my masculinity?”

Kiyohime sighed deeply – she had a penchant for being dramatic, that dragon girl. “Needn’t I tell you everything? Hah, I’ll be blunt so you can grasp it. Do you want to be seme or not?”

“Uhm… I’m not sure what ‘seme’ means.”

“Geez, it means being on top, and you put your d*** into his b***! For goodness’s sake, do some research!”

Siegfried looked absolutely horrified like a little lamb in front of a furious lion. “Kiyohime, yo-your language!” Siegfried stammered. “That’s not lady-like at all.”

“Don’t tell me you’ve never thought of that before. I won’t buy it.”

Siegfried’s face went from ghastly pale like he’d seen a ghost to red as though a can of tomato sauce had just spilled beneath his skin. He admitted he had fantasized that a couple times, when he was sleepless and buzzing with energy – their young Master had a rather impressive pool of mana for a Magus of his age – and the quiet hours called for some dynamic activities. Nevertheless, he was deeply aware that although they might be sharing a bedroom and some body contact, the road to Siegfried’s daring fantasy to become a reality was still much long.

“I… I still haven’t told him my feelings.”

“Do you think they’re reciprocated?”

“I think so…yes…” Siegfried replied, his voice lower, bearing a hint of doubt. “He certainly doesn’t abhor the room sharing or the body contact. That proves we aren’t just friends, right? Then that one time he kissed me… it was a drunk kiss but once he knew what he had done, he didn’t seem disgusted or anything. And he also defended me against his brother…”

Kiyohime sported a serious look foreign to her countenance. Her eyebrows furrowed, her lips were set in a neat straight line and she stroked her chin. For some reason, looking at her, Siegfried felt a sense of unease. “You want to know what I think?” Kiyohime asked.

Siegfried nodded.

“I thought he liked you before, and that’s why I went to talk to you about this whole ‘kabedon’ thing, but I was wrong. He didn’t like you, buddy…”

Siegfried’s heart literally dropped. So… Karna didn’t really like him, and everything up until this moment had been his misinterpretation of Karna’s friendly acts due to their cultural differences. Or worse, his own shameful distortion of their friendship. Gott, from now on he couldn’t bear looking straight at Karna anymore, let alone staying in his room or fighting alongside him…

“Hey, Sumanai-kun, you listening to me?”

Kiyohime asked in a worried tone, waving her hand in front of Siegfried’s red-rimmed eyes before his self-flagellation trainwreck went further south. “I haven’t finished my sentence. I said he didn’t just like you, buddy, he likes you. So rest assured, the feelings are mutual.”

Eh?

Siegfried had heard about the light at the end of the tunnel. This had to be it.

“Ho-How do you tell?”

“Maybe he’s always close to you so you haven’t realized but Karna is pretty distant to every other Servant and staff here. Polite, well-mannered but distant nonetheless. Even to our Master. I can tell he has a miniscule comfort zone and he doesn’t let anyone in easily. And you, you got right into the heart of it, invited and welcomed by him, no less. That’s saying something.”

Siegfried got elevated into the sky but his pessimism had to pull it down to earth; that way it’d hurt less when his bad luck kicked in. “What is that something?” he murmured.

“That something means he regards you highly, probably higher than he does the rest of us. He cherishes you, Dragon-kun, is that clear enough for you?”

“Is that so?”

“That’s right,” Kiyohime replied, patting his shoulder. “I’d say it’s the most opportune time to confess your feelings – though I suspect he’s already known. What else is Valentine’s Day for?”

So it was that time of the year in Chaldea. Technically Valentine’s Day lasted one day but in here, people kind of stretched it to a whole week. Although missions were still carried out – because the world was helpless in saving itself, there was no overnight ones as the evenings were saved for partying, boozing, playing games and, ahem, some adult activities of course; they were mostly grown-ups here save a few kid Servants. Since this was his first year in Chaldea, Siegfried was somewhat surprised by how lively this place became at this time. Then his surprise quickly turned into bafflement when he witnessed Cú Chulainn pulled a flustered Diarmuid into a shady corner and…

Well, he averted his eyes and went the other way, afraid that his presence was interfering with their intimate moment. That the two of them were courting each other, or to use the modern vernacular – hooking up, was no secret in Chaldea, and everyone here was perfectly cool with it. It was just they were usually a little less open with their affection.

By the time he witnessed Achilles offering a brightly decorated box of chocolate to Atalanta, who turned him down for like the twentieth time, Siegfried had gotten used to it. It was certainly fun to see the Servants engage in human activities, and it reminded him that before they were Servants, summoned here by the earnest wish to protect this world, they were human beings with emotions.

“So,” Siegfried turned back to the subject, “once I have him against the wall with that kabedon thing, what should I do next? Just say how I feel?”

“Of course that’s what you’ll do, but before that, you’ll look into his eyes and make sure your gaze is filled to the brim with your passion, as if he were the only person in the whole world you have your eyes for, the center of your universe.”

“That sounds… abstract and I doubt that I can pull that off.”

“You can, trust me. I’ve seen you gazing at him several times,” Kiyohime said with a wide, confident beam which made Siegfried redden. “That will have him speechless and his heart go fonder. As you entrance him with you fiery stare, you bring your face closer and closer to his, until they are only inches apart and you can feel each other’s breath. And then, in your sultry voice, you tell the three magic words.”

“I’m not sure that I have a sultry voice,” Siegfried meekly confessed. He was quite convinced that his voice was rather bland.

“Don’t worry. Just use that voice you used when you and Sasaki-kun performed that duet on Master’s birthday. Honestly I was surprised by how sexy your voice could be.”

The tips of Siegfried’s ears peeking out from his silver mane turned bright red.

“What if he rejected? I mean, it could be too sudden and—”

“Oh boy, you’ve gotta believe in the magic of kabedon. If a man did it to me, I’d surely melt in his arms and be his faithful wife for ever and ever.”

Only if you didn’t bake him first, Siegfried mused but kept his lips tight because Kiyohime was hugging herself with that absolute look of euphoria on her face, and everyone in Chaldea knew better than to intervene with her fantasies lest them got flambéed by her Berserker temper.

Siegfried waited for Kiyohime to come down to earth again with patience. She did, after a while, and clapped his biceps with a grin on her face. “Go for it, Dragon-kun. We shall wait for your good news.”

“We?” Siegfried echoed incredulously.

“Oops,” Kiyohime mumbled, covering her mouth using the sleeve of her black kimono. “Well, that you’re into Karna is no breaking news to us lot. You’re quite transparent when it comes to feelings, you know.”

“Right,” Siegfried heaved a sign, having already heard from Kojirou about the long list of Servants who had seen through his discreet growing affection for the Lancer. It still felt a little embarrassed, though.

“By the way, Emiya sent me a message to tell you to drop by the kitchen to get some chocolate. Before you ask what it’s for, it’s for you to give Karna and it’s complimentary, so don’t worry about paying him back later. And be hurry before Altria hogs them all. Emiya always has a soft spot for her never-ending appetite.”

Probably as adept in dessert-making as in weapon-tracing, Emiya had sort of opened a small startup of handing out chocolate on demand. That meant any Servants and even Masters who wanted to follow Valentine tradition or just simply yearned for some sweet delicacy could ask him in exchange for a little IOU at a later time – mostly just getting him some exotic cooking ingredients on their missions. All the heart-shaped chocolate candies Achilles had been using in hope of winning Atalanta’s heart had come from Emiya. For those who were a bit closer to him, mostly sharing the team with him, the red Archer, however, would offer them his culinary artworks without charge.

“I will, thank you,” Siegfried replied.

He just hoped Karna did have a sweet tooth for Western confectionary.

Siegfried was strolling along the corridor, an oval red box secured in his palm. This was what he had gotten from Emiya, and although it was rather small as compared to the Archer’s usual boxes, he had assured Siegfried that the quality was on par, if not a tad superior. This was his experimental récipe and so far he had only received positive feedback – had pleased even royal tastebuds like Nero’s or Vlad’s. How did he know? Well, after both of them had come to him separately to give compliment on the other’s chocolate. Anyway, since he and Siegfried was on friendly terms – those with shit luck tended to band together, to quote Cú Chulainn, the red Archer had thought Siegfried should try it.

The next step in executing his plan (despite its absurdity but that was what he got asking love advice from a Berserker) would be to find Karna and a suitable place, or alternatively, to find Karna at a suitable place. It was a bit difficult to meet the Lancer outside their shared room recently because one, he and Siegfried had been assigned to different tasks related to their class and as such, they hadn’t had a chance to fight alongside each other for a couple days; and two, when both of them actually had some spare time fighting-free, Karna was swept away by the newly arrived Arjuna, who had insisted on challenging his older brother to a duel whenever he could, or felt like to, which not only occupied all Karna’s time but also left him all wound up and frustrated when he retired to the bedroom. And that was really something because Karna rarely displayed his emotions. The brotherly feud was even worse than Siegfried had read about them, and as far as he was concerned, Arjuna’s obsession with Karna seemed to be treading on the thin line between natural – as they had been arch enemies in life – and unhealthy. In Kiyohime’s eyes, however, all of that was meant to minimize the time Siegfried could spend with the Lancer as a certain someone was red-flagging ‘brother complex’ everywhere and it had her feeling somewhat uncomfortable. Although Siegfried had no idea what a ‘brother complex’ was, if it was something that could cause even Kiyohime to be uncomfortable then he was sure he did not want to know.

Siegfried stopped short when he reached a turn and gazed at a spot on the wall with nostalgic expression. Right here, just a few months ago, that incident had happened. Embarrassing and crazy as it had been, it was also a fond memorial trinket. Despite the sore fact that it had been purely alcohol-induced, it was their first-ever lip-to-lip encounter and it never failed to heat up the tips of his ears every time the memory surfaced. Come to think of it, Karna could have drunk-kissed just about any of the Greek heroes at that table, even Hektor or Achilles, who was on good terms with him; nonetheless, somehow he had managed to perfectly time the exact moment of Siegfried’s approaching him. Coincidental or not, it proved that finally Lady Luck had graced him with her smile; perhaps, for once, he could allow himself some hope that Kiyohime was right about his feelings being reciprocated.

So engrossed in his thought that Siegfried didn’t sense the presence – or rather presences – coming towards him. Everyone in Chaldea exuded unique presence, although the nuance could be not easy to point out. Servants, however, could effortlessly distinguish between a staff member, their own Master, or a Servant. Still, that was only plausible when they weren’t spacing out like Siegfried was at the moment.

On hindsight, Siegfried couldn’t have detected the presences coming towards him given the nature of the Servants. That didn’t not make the experience any less mortifying on his side.

All of Siegfried’s scales on his tail stood on their ends when a hand tapped him on the shoulder, startling his nostalgia into shattering. He was one step from materializing Balmung when he heard a voice.

“Oi, Brother Dragon, why are you staring at the empty wall?”

The voice registered in Siegfried’s mind as overly familiar so he turned around and was faced with Yan Qing and Kojirou. Yan Qing had one arm casually slung on Kojirou’s shoulder, and Kojirou didn’t seem to mind the gesture. These two were getting rather close these days, Siegfried noted, and it made sense as they had a lot in common culture-wise. He had also heard that Yan Qing was Kojirou’s brand-new roommate.

“I was spacing out, honestly,” admitted Siegfried.

“Is that a chocolate box from Emiya?” Kojirou pointed.

Only now did Siegfried remember he was having something in his hand. Well, there was no use hiding something once it was spied, so he nodded, abashed.

Kojirou and Yan Qing exchanged a mirroring smirk.

“We just saw Karna talking to our Master,” Yan Qing, jerking his thumb towards the direction they had come from. “They’re likely still there.”

“And that troublesome brother of his has been accompanying his Master on a mission and probably won’t return until the evening,” Kojirou helpfully added.

Siegfried couldn’t contain an internal defeated sigh, fully aware that his affection for Karna was now officially the most badly hidden secret in all Chaldea.

“Well, best of luck, Brother Dragon,” Yan Qing said, “and if you want to surprise Karna, trying hiding that box somewhere other than your hands.”

And off he went on with Kojirou to do whatever Assassins liked to do in their free time.

It was either his luck had been upgraded overnight or his Master, like many Servants in Chaldea, could clearly read his motif, because by the time Siegfried approached the pair, their Master and Karna’s discussion had just finished. Leaving the Servants to themselves, their Master bid them goodbye to leave for the Master Hall, but not before he (un)intentionally winked at Siegfried.

The corridor suddenly became so engulfing with only the two of them.

The course of actions for his plan were spinning in Siegfried’s head like a roulette. Pin him against the wall, gaze into his eyes, confess your feelings, finish with a breath-taking kiss, his mental voice was undoubted Kiyohime’s. It sounded simple enough, the plan, and it was indeed simple, which required no-brainer, yet Siegfried found it to be the most energy-draining, nerve-wrecking thing he’d ever done in his entire existence. His heart was certainly not helping at all, banging its fleshy self against the rib cages with an iron will to be liberated.

But to chicken out at this crucial moment was not what Siegfried – not as a dragon-slaying hero but as a man – would ever do, so he balled his fists and made up his mind. “Karna…” he took one step up, swallowing the molasses in his throat and getting himself prepared for battle, urgh, for action; there wasn’t that much difference after all. But alas, fate was not so kind-hearted as to allow him this chance because Karna suddenly raised his voice, effectively halting Siegfried. “I have something to tell you,” he said in his ever-cool tone, not indicating any hint as to what he was about to speak.

Eh?

Not expecting this turn of event, Siegfried postponed his intended words and looked into Karna’s pale face, which turned out to be a fatal mistake as he was instantly captivated by the Lancer’s intense gaze. He always thought Karna’s eyes, a clear, icy blue like a frozen lake during winter, to possess a mystic spell to pin someone’s down and demand their undiluted intention so that they couldn’t not focus on anything else but him. Sabers were known for their high magic resistance and still, more than once Siegfried had found himself at the mercy of that enchanted gaze. Or perhaps it was something other than magic, something more complex that subtly penetrated his consciousness to beckon his suppressed desires. Whatever it was, it was sure to get him every time. He wondered if Karna was aware of his effect on Siegfried as he slowly but steadily advanced, causing the Dragon Slayer’s feet to take unconscious steps backward.

By Karna’s commanding gaze, Siegfried was soon backed against the wall. His eyes not straying from the Saber’s face for even a split second, not even to blink, he raised his hands as if about to deal a blow. Siegfried knew he wouldn’t, though; it was completely uncharacteristic of him to attack a stranger out of the blue, least of all his ally and friend. Unlike his hot-tempered, irrational brother.

With a soft – but still edible – sound to let Siegfried be aware that he’d used a modicum of his god-blessed strength, Karna planted his palms against the walls, caging the Saber, and brought his face close enough to Siegfried’s that they could feel each other’s breath. His sharp, feline eyes were scrutinizing the Saber’s expressions. Despite his shorter stature and much leaner frame, Karna looked intimidating, predatory even, with Siegfried regrettably being his chosen prey. Worse, the prey had already given in the moment he got mesmerized by those frosty blue eyes, pitifully without resistance.

“Uhm… you have something to tell me?” Siegfried opened his mouth, struggling to find his voice, which came out a little hoarse. He needed to somewhat dispel the intensity in the charging atmosphere and his own anxiety of waiting for Karna’s response.

Being almost chest-to-chest, Siegfried could inspect the crimson jewel embedded on Karna’s flesh. It was a secret of Karna’s, which he’d discovered after spending months in close proximity with the Lancer, that his jewel seemed to convey his feelings far better than his impassive expressions. The stronger his emotions got, be that joy, grief, excitement or anger, the clearer and shinier the gem became. Siegfried was startled to see its gleam, which, coupled with his rising body heat, denounced that the Saber wasn’t the only one affected by their situation. Siegfried hoped against hope that nobody would pass by this corridor and ruined this moment for them.

“From the day we first accompanied our Master into battles,” Karna began rather solemnly, after a moderate pause, his eyes boring into Siegfried’s, “I’ve always considered you a reliable comrade, to whom I could trust to cover my back, an opponent worthy of my spear, and a friend whom I can talk and laugh with. But that isn’t all…”

The heat radiating from him was getting stronger, to the point that Siegfried thought it might sear his skin. Alright, technically it couldn’t, but he wouldn’t mind if it did.

“As a matter of fact, I really like you,” Karna hesitated, “and it’s much different from comradeship or friendship. It’s similar to the special bond shared between Diarmuid and Cú Chulainn, or Emiya and Altria, or Nero and Vlad…”

Siegfried just stared at Karna, his need to blink forgotten as he was stunned by the raw honesty in his voice and the earnest fire burning in his eyes. Even in his wildest dreams had he never dared to imagine Karna confessing his feelings to him, and in such straightforward manners. Sure he had heeded Kiyohime’s advice and gathered up his courage to tell Karna the exact same words, yet always a part of him, a not-so-tiny part, was prepared to take rejection, and possibly awkwardness following afterward. If Karna wasn’t having him against the wall, he might want to do the silly thing of giving himself a good punch just so he knew he wasn’t in a twisted dream.

Wait a minute! The caging, the intense gaze, the confession… all of these struck him as familiar.

“So, what do you say?” asked Karna.

“The three magic words!” yelled the chibified Kiyohime dressed in pink kimono with a pair of fluffy wings behind her back. Siegfried mentally winced at her shrill voice inside his head.

“Is this… kabedon?”

So much for the three magic words. The chibi angel Kiyohime banged her head on his shoulder pad.

In a rare astounded expression which Siegfried had thought as nonexistent in his repertoire, Karna widened his eyes. His jaws were slightly slack but no words came out. After a few good seconds, it was a curt admittance: “Yes.”

“Did you, by any chance, get it from Foxy Lady?”

Foxy was Tamamo no Mae’s nickname in Chaldea because her full name was a bit cumbersome. Technically she wasn’t a fox spirit but as she had once said, she didn’t mind being referred as one, having been mistaken by thousands before. That foxes were extremely adorable was an added bonus. Besides, what irked her much more than being mistaken for another species was being addressed by a generic name, which, once called, would turn at least a dozen heads around.

To put it short, the relationship between Karna and Tamamo no Mae was similar to that between Siegfried and Kiyohime: odd, yes, but genuine in spite of their vast cultural differences, beliefs and moral codes.

Another “Yes” came from Karna. Was Siegfried imagining or his pitch just got a bit higher?

No wonder, Siegfried thought. Those two Servants were very close friends and essentially partners-in-crime. He wouldn’t be too shocked if they had had this all set up.

“Funny enough,” Siegfried said, “Kiyohime gave me the same advice and I was going to tell you the same thing.”

“So…… that was why you came looking for me?”

“Yes.”

An awkward silence stretched between the two grownup Heroic Spirits, who were staring at each other – no intensity this time – like two clueless adolescents who’d just learned that their feelings were mutual but had no idea what the next step should be because, well, they were utterly clueless. It appeared although both of them had carefully thought it through and carried it out, neither was prepared for the possibility that it might actually succeed.

Siegfried did know what to do. Back in his era and country, when a man proposed he’d just get on one knee, offer his intended partner a flower, preferably a red rose, and promise to fight and triumph all her other suitors… or try to win her family’s favor so that he could ask for her hand. However, that was only applicable when his intended partner’s gender wasn’t the same as his and he wouldn’t risk looking like a crazy fool or worse, provoking Karna to anger. Karna had never shown his temper but who knew how calamitous it could be. Best not to try it.

“So…” both said in unison and fell into silence again.

The faintest shade of cherry dusted Karna’s white cheeks, and the ice in his eyes had thawed enough to put a glaze over his irises. Looking at him, Siegfried was reminded of that New Year’s Eve, and of the drunken but turned out to be the most marvelous kiss he’d had in centuries. It ignited in him so fervent a desire to relive that scene right here, right now, that all the confusion and hesitation were swept clean. This time, their minds would be the clearest state and there was no one around to spoil this intimate moment.

So he stopped thinking and just sprang into action. His hand went to touch the side of Karna’s neck, feeling the cool warmth of the earring dangling near his shoulder, and as the Lancer’s eyes enlarged, Siegfried bent his head and gently capture his parted lips.

It felt natural when Karna, after a moment of stillness due to being taken off guard, responded with the same gentleness the Saber offered. His mouth closed, and his lips glided leisurely against Siegfried’s. It felt natural when Karna’s arms rested limply on Siegfried’s shoulders, caging him in a loose embrace. It felt natural when Siegfried pressed his body against Karna’s, immersing himself in the precious, one-of-a-kind warmth that emitted from the son of the sun god, and his hands palmed the sides of Karna’s slender hips. It felt also natural when Karna tried to press harder into Siegfried’s form even though it was impossible, and his fingers threaded into Siegfried’s silver mane, drawing idle circles at the sensitive skin on the back of his neck, sending shiver down his spine.

Everything in this moment felt just natural while nothing of it should, and truth was, both of them paid it no mind, focusing instead on the sweetly unique flavor that spelt of the other. Out of a taciturn agreement, they kept the kiss chaste as to commemorate the cement of their relationship, knowing this was their first true kiss, and with a swelling confidence, not their last.

A sheen of moisture coated Karna’s lips once they parted and he unconsciously licked them. Siegfried’s Adam’s apple bobbed.

“I, uhm, got this from the red Archer,” Karna said, rummaging through his fiery cloak for a while and pulled out a red square-shaped box. Siegfried was baffled to see that it had such use. Wasn’t it weaved of fire? Shouldn’t it burn? But the box wasn’t, though. Maybe Karna put a spell or a charm on it or it was just how the cloak’s magic worked – burnt not what its owner wished no harm.

The box looked perfect and Siegfried didn’t need to see the inside to know its content. Hadn’t him gotten a similar one from Emiya?

“Tamamo said it was a modern tradition to share this treat with your loved one…”

As he spoke, his fingers carefully unwrapped the ribbons and opened it to reveal… shapeless brown goo that might appear disgusting if not for its strong, pleasant aroma. Karna immediately paled.

Siegfried tried so hard not to laugh that it actually hurt. “I guess that’s why Emiya traced that gargantuan fridge first thing when he entered the kitchen. These chocolates can’t stand the heat, not even room temperature,” said Siegfried, clearing his throat. Being that close to Karna’s body, it was sure to catch some of his body temperature, which was tad higher than a normal person’s.

“Point taken,” Karna deeply sighed.

“I got some from him too,” Siegfried said, taking out the chocolate box he had hidden in his cloak of invisibility, hoping that his chocolate would fare better. His tone dropped once he saw the box in his hand. Inside, the once-beautiful oval box of chocolate, though not melted, had been misshapen and became the very symbol of a trampled heart. Must have been the result of his being backed against the wall.

“Yours is melted and mine is crushed,” Siegfried sighed, “we’ll make quite a pair.”

They both burst into hearty laughter.

This might be the first time he’d heard Karna laugh, loud and true, and the sound was music to his ears; he would much love to hear it every day from now on.

“But we can still have what they call,” Siegfried said, dipping a piece of his chocolate into Karna’s melted chocolate, “a mockery of chocolate fondue.” As he finished, he brought the piece to Karna’s lips, which the Lancer took into his mouth. His gorgeous eyes shone as he exclaimed, “It’s so delicious!”

“It is,” Siegfried agreed, licking his fingers. He bent down and claimed the second kiss only minutes after the first. Sure the chocolate was sweet, but the lingering aftertaste on Karna’s tongue was sweeter than all the Valentine’s chocolate combined.

Epilogue 1

I immediately noticed something weird as soon as I entered the main cafeteria looking for dinner after relaxing in a long, hot bath. I had taken my time in the bath, partly to soak my fatigue off and partly to avoid the rush hour at the cafeteria, when Masters and Servants came back from their missions, all clamoring for steaming-hot food and beverages. After that, they spread out to enjoy their leisure time, and the cafeteria would be mostly vacant save a few staff members.

But today was different. Rush hour had been over for at least half an hour, and still there was hardly an empty table in the space. On closer inspection, the cafeteria was occupied mostly by Servants, not Masters, and the majority of them being Heroic Spirits of the bow. Why they gathered here was a bafflement to me because the cafeteria wasn’t the Archers’ favorite hangout; they much preferred the training ground, where they could compete with one another to see who was the best marksman or markswoman.

I quickly grabbed my portion of foods – mashed potatoes, salads and honeyed chicken, and an extra-large cup of goat milk yoghurt – and strode to a table at a corner, who had been claimed by a Servant. A small one in both size and age, who was in contract with me, he had his eyes glued on the iPad screen, watching some sort of anime, and a spoon was dangling from his mouth while a half-full bowl of fruit salads topped with whipped cream sat on the table. Were he a normal kid, I would like to remind him it wasn’t a good habit to watch TV while eating, but to do that with the ancient king of Uruk, I’d risk exposing myself to a month of pranks. The king, no matter a child or an adult, never fancied being told what to do.

“Oh hi, Master,” Gilgamesh put out the spoon and greeted, peering at me through his golden lashes.

“This place is so packed today,” I commented. “Any idea why the Archers are gathering here like it’s an Archer convention?”

“Well, a certain Archer is taking the whole training ground as his personal punching bag and no one wants to get accidentally skewed by his divine arrows, so, here we all are.”

“And by ‘a certain Archer’ you mean…”

“Look around Master and see if you can spy the one who isn’t present.”

“Is that a challenge for me?” I asked, winking.

Gilgamesh winked back but gave no answer.

I did a quick scan of the cafeteria and quickly gave up. “Beats me. I don’t have hawk eyes like you Archers.”

“Lazy as ever, Master,” Gilgamesh giggled. “It’s Arjuna. He seemed to be in particularly foul mood when he entered the training ground, and before the Servants there knew what or who had pissed His Highness off, he was ready to shoot anything and anyone.”

“Any idea who or what?” My gossipy bone was tickled just by hearing this.

“I can’t be sure, Master, but I have a good guess.”

“And what may that be?”

“To your far left, Master.”

I did as I was told and found a table where Emiya, David and Robin were bickering about something. Again.

“Not sure how they are related to Arjuna.”

A puzzled look crossed Gilgamesh’s face. He stood up from his seat for the added height and said, “Not them, Master, behind them.”

“Oh.”

I craned my neck to see what Gilgamesh was trying to show me. Once I see who were sitting there, a sense of understanding swept over me.

It was Siegfried and Karna at that table, sitting side by side. In front of them was a chocolate fondue, and they were taking turn dipping pieces of diced fruits or biscuits in the chocolate while having shining eyes and a wide smile on their faces as they did. It seemed they were tightly wrapped in their own pink bubble that neither was able to sense my stare. My Servants looked happy though, happier than I’d ever seen them, in each other’s company. My best shot was that one of them, or both, had finally worked up the nerves and worked out the tension between them.

Turning to the petite king, I nodded and said, “I think I have to agree with you.”

“Too bad Arjuna probably doesn’t,” replied the king in a childish voice and adult wisdom.

Epilogue 2

Much later, when all the suppressed feelings had been told and the chocolate converted to a minuscule amount of mana, as they were about to go to sleep, wrapped in each other’s warmth as they usually did, a question struck Siegfried.

“I was wondering about something,” Siegfried said.

“Huhm?”

“When Foxy Lady told you about this kabedon thing, did she mention anything about ‘seme’?”

“‘Seme’? What does it mean?”

Unbeknownst to Karna, Siegfried breathed a sigh of relief. “Never mind that, probably just some Japanese slangs she and Kiyohime picked up surfing the net.”

Compared to heavy warriors like Siegfried and Karna, Kiyohime and Tamamo no Mae were summoned to battles less often because their Master had a problem with the former’s mana consumption and the latter’s skills were better suited to specific missions.

Karna didn’t ask anything else, seemingly brushing the matter off as Siegfried had told him. But the Dragon Knight knew tomorrow he’d likely consult with his close Japanese friend. That was alright though. Better he hear from Tamamo no Mae than Siegfried himself.

End

[Siegfried x Karna] Sharing Warmth

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Source: pixiv.net

Disclaimer: Characters belong to their respectful owners

Fandom: Fate/Grand Order

Rating: T

Pairing: Siegfried x Karna

Genres: fanfiction, fluff, humor

Characters: Siegfried, Karna

Summary:

Siegfried needs warmth. Karna is warmth.

Surrounding Chaldea was a boundless area of rocky mountain ranges, gnarly trees that had only branches on which snow clung instead of leaves and blinding white. Siegfried didn’t know how the outside world, the actual world, was like – he had accidentally overheard the Doctor and Mash discuss a few times but hadn’t really paid any attention – but here, in this world where Chaldea resided, Chaldea itself was the only spot where life could be found, and even that was a bit stretched since the major population of this facility wasn’t qualified as ‘living’.

The inhospitable, desolate environment, of course, didn’t bother Siegfried at all; he had seen, had been to, worse areas, being a traveling knight during his lifetime. Moreover, in Chaldea it was always bustling with all sorts of activities that it was impossible to be distressed over the lifelessness of the landscape. What bothered the fabled Dragon Slayer was the weather, trivial as it might sound. Under normal circumstances, Servants weren’t affected by temperature, and even in the most severe condition, a number of them were still wearing entirely weather-inappropriate outfits – bearing too much skin or burying their whole bodies in fur. The same could be said about Siegfried: his outfit wasn’t the most covering, showing most of his chest and back and not once had he felt the slightest touch of chill. However, all had changed when Siegfried’s Master succeeded in his third stage ascension. Fafnir’s blood flowing in his veins had given him both significant boost in all stats and draconian features: he had grown a pair of curved horns, wings and, to his own embarrassment, a scaly tail, all of which he still hadn’t figured out the uses for; it wasn’t like he would use his horns to gorge or his tail to whip his enemies – that was unsightly and unknightly. And his wings could only carry his own weight in a short distance at best, never minding another. His youthful Master was quite fond of his new half-dragon hybrid look though, and he had openly announced Siegfried his “coolest-looking Servant”, much to a couple other Servants’ chagrin. As long as his Master was pleased, he guessed he didn’t mind Elisabeth’s childish nagging or the looks of disdain from a certain King of Heroes; the king had nothing but insults and scorn for just about everyone in Chaldea anyway, deeming them all “lowly mongrels”.

Siegfried supposed it made perfect sense that once his humanity receded for him to lean toward the slumbering dragon inside, drawing its powers and using them with more ease, he would share its weaknesses, too. Dragons, big and small, were creatures of fire and even the strongest of them wouldn’t fare so well in freezing weather.

In short, Siegfried felt cold. Much as he was bothered by this newfound affliction, he didn’t breathe a word to his Master; the young Magus had already had his hands full with fixing the singularities and seeking required items (most of them painfully rare) for his Servants’ ascensions, so Siegfried wouldn’t want to add to the heap of responsibilities. This issue of his was entirely personal, as he appeared to be the only Servant to be at inconvenience. Kiyohime seemed comfortable enough in her usual thin kimono, but again he and Kiyohime were fundamentally different from each other – her full-blooded while him only a human imbued with dragon blood.

So, the Dragon Knight dealt with this matter in his own way of solving most problems in his life: if he could not fight it and triumph then he would endure it with all the stoicism his years as a knight had trained him with. It was not something fatal, Siegfried told himself, and his stats as well as fighting capability were not reduced so he could still go to battles when his Master required him to. Compared to that, his own discomfort was trivial.

Nonetheless, he still subconsciously expressed some reluctance when asked by Karna for a sparring session.

Siegfried and Karna had been summoned to Chaldea in the same occasion. Needless to say how elated their young Master had been to see their forms materializing in front of his eyes; the chance of summon each of them was abysmally low and it could be a miracle itself to get them both at once. Their Master had declared that he had used up all his luck in this lifetime, jumping into the magic circle right after the completion of the ritual, flinging his arms on Siegfried’s shoulders – he would have done the same with Karna but for the fear of being charred by the Lancer’s cloak of fire. His grin had been so wide that Siegfried had feared that it might hurt.

Perhaps his Master’s delight has been contagious, perhaps he had been immensely pleased with this unexpected turn of event, Siegfried had felt a warm tinge of happiness in his heart. He couldn’t remember the last time he had felt such a pleasant feeling. Always putting others’ needs and wants before his own, such was the essence of his knighthood, and he had followed that way of life to the extent he had forgotten how it felt to be happy on his own, not because he had fulfilled others’ wishes, making them happy. When he looked to his left side, Siegfried saw a small smile clinging at the corners of Karna’s lips, and he knew it was mirrored on his own.

Not so long after their collective arrival, on a random day when they had scavenged some time to relax before the next fighting chapter began, Karna had asked Siegfried to spar with him. There had been no malice or challenge in his even tone, only an earnest desire to cross weapons with a worthy opponent. Naturally Siegfried had agreed; he too had been yearning for a chance to see for himself if the son of the Sun God Surya was as great a warrior as history had recorded.

It didn’t surprise Siegfried in the least that Karna had chosen the vast landscape outside Chaldea to be their fighting ground. Siegfried would have suggested the same location for two reasons: one, the training ground in the facility, although huge, was never not crowded. The number of Servants were growing by the week and not all of them were taken to the battlefield, so naturally, those who found themselves off-mission would want to sharpen their skills or simply have some constructive fun with a like-minded fellow. Siegfried didn’t fancy the rambunctious atmosphere and closed, crowded space – his Master had told him that he might be a little claustrophobic, and he suspected neither did Karna. Another reason was that both his fighting styles and Karna’s were highly destructive in nature, therefore a large space in the wild where they could stretch their limbs freely was much preferred than an indoor area. When Karna suggested that they headed out of Chaldea, Siegfried simply nodded.

From then on, they had been continuing their sessions on a weekly basis at least, or whenever they could procure some free time and wanted a little exercise. The Saber had enjoyed them to a great extent; the Lancer had proven that he was true to his legend and much more. Siegfried had an impression that he had crossed swords with Karna before, perhaps in a different timeline, but even if he raked his brain, he couldn’t recall it. That didn’t matter though; to be able to encounter an opponent of such caliber, Siegfried considered himself extremely fortunate in spite of his pathetic E-rank luck.

It hadn’t posed a problem to Siegfried, fighting in this lethal weather that would normally kill a mortal, until recently. He felt the sharp blade of the chill acutely in his marrows and to say it was inconvenient was a blank understatement. Much as he tried, the Saber sometimes failed to contain the light quiver in his arms. Needless to say, his sparring companion had seen right through him.

Karna, being Karna, had to point it out. “You are shivering,” he said.

Someone else might find the Lancer’s bluntness offending but not Siegfried. He hadn’t detected any malice the first time he had found himself at the receiving end of Karna’s straightforwardness, and over the time, he had grown rather fond of this particular quirk. Honesty made for a more relaxing relationship.

It was no use hiding things from Karna, who was hailed as a walking lie-detector, so Siegfried opted for the truth. “I’m cold. It wasn’t an issue before but after my third ascension, I’ve inherited more of Fafnir’s traits. Being susceptible to cold weather is unfortunately one of them.”

If Karna was someone else, he might suggest the Dragon Slayer do something about the cold, perhaps putting on more fabric or covering his bare chest, but this was Karna and it’d rain candies in Chaldea before he said such things. Instead, to Siegfried’s surprise, he simply stepped closer and took the Saber’s hand into his slightly smaller one. Karna’s fingers were long and delicate and it was a mystery how he was able to wield his enormous lance with them. However, such thought did not occur to Siegfried until their sparring session was over, late into the night. Right now, all that was on the Wandering Hero’s mind was how warm Karna’s skin was. Not the kind of warmth that made you uncomfortable but the pleasant warmth like the first sunlight signifying spring’s arrival after a long, arduous winter. That kind of warmth had spread from his fingers – where their hands were connected – to his every muscle and bone like a gentle stream of water chasing away the cold that had been nestling in his body. Siegfried could help neither the small sign from his lips nor the blush on his cheeks.

“Do you feel better?” Karna asked, his face still wearing that serenely emotionless mask. Yet somehow Siegfried could detect an iota of concern in his voice. It could be his optimistic imagination though.

“Yes, it’s really warm,” replied Siegfried. He didn’t clarify whether “it” referred to Karna’s hand or the bloom in his heart. Unconsciously he touched the light on his chest with his free hand while the other remained in Karna’s, daring to interlace his fingers with the Lancer’s nimble yet powerful ones. Karna didn’t comment on Siegfried’s remark or object to the small gesture.

The vast barren landscape outside Chaldea suddenly became small and its flesh-biting blizzard seemed a little more tolerable.

The Wandering Hero’s cold could only be warded off for a while but not vanquished and so from then on Karna continued providing Siegfried with his sun-warmth in a similar manner: touching. Somewhere along the line, Karna’s touch extended to other parts of Siegfried’s body, not only his hand. And he did it so casually, so naturally, that Siegfried almost couldn’t believe it had happened. One late afternoon, after a satisfying fight, Karna asked in his usual, familiar even tone whether Siegfried felt cold. Siegfried was about to open his mouth when he had to swallow his words back because a warm palm was pressed against his chest, right on the pattern of light. Jaws slack and speechless, he searched Karna’s face for any unordinary signs and found none, his face still pale and beautiful and showing no visible emotions. Yet he was touching Siegfried’s chest, causing his dragon heart to jump in surprise and then thump wildly against his rib cages. He wondered what was in Karna’s mind if he felt his raging heartbeats.

And if he really did, he said not a thing; the riddle of whether Karna was aware of his effect on his sparring partner remained Siegfried’s to be solved.

Karna did ask for his permission if he could touch the Saber’s back. It might be cold, he explained, feeling the need to assure the Saber as it was a sensitive spot for him, pun not intended. Siegfried momentarily tensed, startled by the sudden offer, and then relaxed. Indeed it was a spot he’d rather have no one touch, not even his past lovers. The only time it had been touched, with the tip of the betrayal blade, he had ended up on the side of an untrodden road, bleeding to his death. Yet Karna would never hurt him in such a cruel manner, stabbing him behind the back, and he trusted Karna and his sense of fairness and honor more than he trusted anything in his life. Then, with a light nod, Siegfried gave his consent.

For a millisecond Siegfried thought he had been scalded, that despite his trust for the revered Indian Heroic Spirit, Karna had tried to harm him. It had felt so hot where Karna’s hand made contact with his skin but Siegfried soon came to the realization that it was an overreaction produced by the very sensitive, very human part of him that had been neglected by touch for so long. The heat quickly faded into a warmth which was just a notch higher than the one he had grown accustomed to. It made his toes curl and a strange sensation traveled down his spine. Siegfried wasn’t sure what it was but he didn’t like it, so he tried to quench it down with the shameful thought that he had hastily doubted the purity of Karna’s intention. Seeing how he was unable to restrain a soft moan from escaping his throat, Siegfried was sure he had failed.

It took a while for him to notice that Karna had retreated his hand. The heat pooled on his leaf-shape patch of skin and wormed its way into his flesh. It would keep him warm for days, he didn’t doubt, while Karna was taken on a new mission.

Karna was as expressionless as ever but somehow, by a trick of light or a transient hallucination, he thought he had seen the Lancer’s lips form a tiny smile. His heart skipped a beat; his gaze was magnetized towards those pale, thin lips. Had they always looked so tempting or he had only realized it just now? Tempting enough to touch them with his own lips, feeling the texture, tasting the flavor, if there should be any. What was wrong with him? Siegfried mentally slapped himself. To harbor such thought toward his respectful opponent and companion, how could he?

Fortunately for him, Karna saved him from dwelling deeper into his own embarrassment and probably not finding his way out: he brushed his hand on Siegfried’s wings, making the Dragon Knight nearly jump out of his skin. “Can you fly with these?” he asked, his tone hiding a childish curiosity.

“Not really far,” Siegfried answered, feeling the urge to scratch his… horns, “and I’m unable to carry an extra weight.”

He was not sure if Karna’s soft hums were of disapproval or something else. He seemed to be quite fascinated with Siegfried’s wings, smoothing his palm over the thin, velvety skin that made up most of the wings or lightly picking a scale with his fingernails. He had probably never seen a dragon in his life before, and Siegfried had heard that the Eastern concept of a dragon was vastly different from the Western one.

The Dragon Knight nearly dropped his jaws when Karna asked him for a demonstration.

At the end of the day, Siegfried obliged the Lancer’s request, seeing no point in not granting such a simple wish and disappointing a friend although he found the notion that Karna would be disheartened by something so trivial very unlikely.

Siegfried was not fine. The blizzard had been raging outside the walls of Chaldea for a few days, resulting in the temperature dropping abysmally lower than normal, which, of course, was bad news for Servants with draconian traits. Even Kiyohime, who never appeared to care about the weather, was complaining. For Siegfried, it was another example of how his E-rank luck was trying to screw with his life. Between the diving temperature and Kojirou’s snores (the Assassin usually didn’t but it appeared to be a temporary condition caused by the weather; otherwise the Japanese swordsman was fine), Siegfried had been having sleepless nights.

Technically, Servants didn’t need sleep. Nor did they require food, drinks, rooms or entertainment. Nonetheless, here in Chaldea, the staff had aimed to provide the majority of the population the living conditions as human as possible. Servants were spirits now, but they used to be flesh and blood and though some of them might never admit it, they did miss being a human and indulge in mortal pleasures. They might not need food to fill their stomach, but their taste buds delighted in flavors. They didn’t drink to survive but to enjoy the pretense of getting lightheaded from alcohol. And some, like Siegfried, found comfort in having a feather-soft mattress under their back after a hard fighting day and just drifting off to dreamland.

Siegfried hadn’t known he was having circles around his eyes – or capable of having them for that matter – until Karna pointed it out. Their young Master was quick to confirm that.

“Oh my gosh!” exclaimed the magus in a rather dramatic tone – such was his flair. “Did you not sleep well, Saber?”

Shame burnt his cheeks hotly for allowing such trifle to concern his Master. “I’m sorry, Master…” he opened his mouth, ready to brush the matter off by telling his Master that he was alright and it wasn’t something worth his attention.

“He’s been cold,” Karna said matter-of-factly.

“Karna…” Siegfried groaned softly. Some time ago he had shifted to calling the Lancer by his true name instead of his class like the normal courtesy between Servants. In turn, Karna had grown used to addressing Siegfried by his name.

His Master’s face lit up as if he had made a great discovery. “Right! The weather has been beyond horrible these days. I keep hearing Kiyohime’s complaints but have never realized that you’re affected too. Sorry, Saber. What terrible Master I am.”

“No, Master. It’s not your fault.”

“Siegfried can come to my room.”

Eh?

Did he hear it right, Karna’s suggestion, or were his ears deceiving him?

“Brilliant idea, Lancer!” the young magus applauded. “You’re the only occupant so there’s plenty of room, it’s super-warm and Siegfried’s half-dragon so he should be fine.”

“… half-dragon so he should be fine”, what was the meaning of that?

Karna nodded in agreement.

While Siegfried was busy picking up his jaws from the ground to voice his protest, his Master had already made the arrangements for his moving into Karna’s room.

Thus when the night came, the Wandering Swordsman found himself wandering the corridor outside Karna’s room, his pillow in hand. The door was closed, and no sound was coming from the inside. Should he knock or just wait? It would be rude if the Lancer was taking a shower or doing something private.

The door was noiselessly pushed open and Siegfried’s dilemma was solved. Karna’s sharp gaze softened to see the swordsman towering awkwardly in the glaring fluorescent light, a pillow stuffed under his arm. His glacial eyes sparked with amusement when they lingered on the white pillow case, decorated with a chubby dragon. There was only one Servant whose pastime was embroidery in Chaldea and sometimes, he’d give out his products to those he deemed a worthy warrior. Karna himself had a towel with a sun sewn on it.

Karna opened the door fully in an inviting gesture and Siegfried wordlessly entered.

Karna’s room was about the same size as his and Kojirou’s but the sparseness of furniture made it appear more spacious. This was due to a rather unpleasant fact that his cloak of fire tended to spread fire to the things around it and to prevent such a grievous disaster from taking place, his room was especially insinuated to be fireproof and furniture was kept to minimum. Having led a minimalistic lifestyle, the son of Surya had never breathed a complaint.

“So… we’re going to sleep on the floor, aren’t we?” Siegfried asked after scanning the place and finding no sight of a bed. Frankly he didn’t mind lying on the marble tiles; soon as he set foot inside the room, he had immediately felt the gentle warmth – Karna’s warmth – dancing on his skin. Having been a traveler in a dark age for most of his life, he found this to be a luxury.

“Not really,” answered Karna before laying his cloak of fire on the floor. Without its fluffiness, the Lancer looked really thin and fragile, as if he could be easily swept away by a gush of wind. Siegfried could trace the outlines of his protruding hip bones underneath the skin-clad suit. His face felt hot for no obvious reason. Karna lied down on the cloak and gestured Siegfried to do the same.

Fire could not harm a dragon, Siegfried had learned that from his battle with Fafnir. That explained why when his skin was touched by Karna’s cloak, although he immediately knew it was neither fur nor fabric but a flame mystically shaped and weaved into a piece of garment, he wasn’t burned. The distinctive heat of fire was there and were it not because of his dragon blood, he would be instantly reduced to smoking charcoal. The grim realization did not deter him from curling on the cloak so that he could get the maximum contact. It felt so nice, really, to have the heat coursing through his body, chasing away every vestige of the cold. The dragon in him reveled in the fire, energized by it. Siegfried nuzzled his cheek into the cloak, feeing blissful sleep descending on his eyelids.

Never did he know that from a short distance from him, Karna was watching his exposed back with a smile.

The nights after that, they continued sleeping in the same room even after the blizzard had passed and Siegfried was no longer plagued with chill. He hadn’t felt it for a while; Karna’s warmth during the night was more than sufficient to keep him well during the day. Still, he was hesitant to return to his former dwelling: for the very first time in his life he had harbored a selfish desire. After having spent most of his existence being a wish-granting hero, to want something for himself was a foreign and thrilling experience. As long as Karna was willing to accept him, Siegfried was determined to indulge himself, and as far as he was concern, the Indian Heroic Spirit didn’t seem to mind.

Days turned into weeks and weeks to months since Siegfried’s migration to Karna’s room. During that time the distance they’d put between their bodies out of a taciturn agreement had grown shortened little by little every night so that every morning, they woke up just a little closer to each other than the night before. Neither paid any mind to their body’s tendency to gravitate towards the other, thinking it a natural occurrence, until one day…

Siegfried woke up somewhat disoriented, not knowing what time it was or whether it was day or night; there was neither clock nor window in Karna’s room – their room now – to tell the time. Judging by his grogginess he assumed his Master wasn’t in need of him; otherwise his Servant system would flare in full operation in response to the Master’s summon. In a rare bout of indolence, the Saber decided to close his eyes and treated himself to some more sleep when he was jolted by a newfound realization. He was pretty sure he had he had kept his arms by his side when he drifted off to sleep last night, and yet at the moment he found his left arm in a rather compromising position: draping on someone’s waist, with his hand splayed over said someone’s stomach. Okay, it wasn’t “someone” since this room had no third inhabitant. Siegfried’s face felt scorching as though his skin was set aflame, and he’d rather face Fafnir one hundred times than learn what had happened during the night for him and the Lancer to be loosely spooning. This position spelt intimacy and though Siegfried wasn’t abhorred by the idea of getting intimate with Karna (maybe because it was Karna and not someone else), the thought of them lying together, back to chest, and sharing more than just warmth had never crossed his mind. His era had had a less than accepting attitude towards intimacy between two men and Siegfried doubted if Karna’s had been any different. But time had changed, and humans had become more tolerant of one another’s differences. It was the knowledge the Grand system had given him, perhaps so that he wouldn’t experience a social shock. He hadn’t thought it was necessary, seeing that he had not been exactly averse to that kind of relationship as a human. As a Spirit, he had even fewer reasons to care. This thing between him and Karna was just… overwhelming, to say the least, but not necessarily bad.

On a trivial side note, Karna’s waist was really small, or should he say “slender”; he was not stranger to the Lancer’s figure – the spearman’s outfit didn’t leave much to imagination, but to actually trace its hard curves… Thin and fragile though might he look, Karna was still a man in every sense and his body didn’t possess the softness of a female one. Siegfried preferred the hardness anyway, as it was partially proof of his merit as a warrior. And to hold a warrior in his embrace, feeling his waist fit into his hands… Verdammter Mist! He had to stop this train of thought before it got out of hand. It was… indecent to think about your friend and companion that way! What had gotten to him these days? Had he been possessed by some unknown force lurking in Chaldea? His magic resistance wasn’t the highest of all Sabers but it was certainly not that bad.

Anyway, first thing first, he had to take his disobedient arm back and put some appropriate distance between himself and the Lancer. Quietly as the shadow of the moon moved so that Karna wouldn’t be roused from his sleep. And then he only needed to think this was a passing incident and act like it had never happened. Just like that and they were back to friends and sparring partners.

“You’re awake?”

A voice drenched in silky drowsiness startled Siegfried, causing his dragon heart to skip several beats and race up to make up for that. Almost at the same time, a hand quickly caught his wrist midway so that any hope of quiet retreat had become a pipe dream. The Dragon Knight felt as though he had been caught red-handed, pun somewhat intended.

“Ah… y-yes… I j-just woke up,” Siegfried stuttered. He was mildly relieved Karna had his back to him so he couldn’t see the Saber’s flustered face.

“We have a day off,” Karna casually replied. “Master informed me no mission is carried out today so every Servant has the day to do whatever they want.”

Siegfried had no idea while Karna was telling him this – actually he did understand why Karna was telling him this: yesterday he had missed the Master-Servant session – but what puzzled him was why Karna was using such a relaxed tone. Was he not aware that the Saber had had his arm around his waist and they had been spooning throughout the night? Was he not offended by such an unchivalrous and disrespectful act?

“What’s your plan?” Karna’s voice once again disconnected him from his thoughts.

“I… Actually I don’t have any plan.” Five minutes ago he hadn’t even known that their Master allowed them a day to do as they pleased.

“Good, I have a plan,” Karna said, and to push Siegfried to a whole new level of confusion, his hand catching Siegfried’s wrist pulled with a subtle yet unyielding force so that the Saber’s arm resumed its former position: on Karna’s waist. Siegfried was pretty certain that was a deliberate act; he just failed to fathom the message Karna sent him. So, not only was he not offended, but he actually… encouraged the intimacy? Whatever it was, it made Siegfried blush so hard the tips of his horns might be turning red.

Karna, whether genuinely ignorant of his effect on Siegfried or feigning to be, continued seamlessly, “I’m thinking about spending the morning replenishing our energy with sleep. How does that sound?”

Others might be surprised by Karna’s proposal but not Siegfried. For his time of acquaintance with the Lancer, Siegfried had learned that he was quite a sleepworm whose greatest pastime beside fighting worthy opponents was holing up in his room and slumbering the day away. He had knocked on Karna’s door one day only to find the Heroic Spirit flesh out of sleep even though it was mid-noon.

Wait, the key word in Karna’s sentence was “our”. Did he mean for Siegfried to join him?

“You mean, you and I?” Siegfried blurted, somehow getting his hope up for no sound reason.

“Yes, unless you are occupied with another plan.”

Karna’s hand hadn’t let go off his wrist but he could sense a molecule of hesitation. “No, I have no plan,” Siegfried answered truthfully. Sleeping didn’t sound too bad, especially with Karna. Especially with Karna spooning against him. Gott, what had happened to him?

“Good. How about a little fun after lunch?”

Blood rushed hotly to Siegfried’s face. “A little fun?” he echoed, his mind running amok on what this “little fun” could be.

“A spar outside, how about that?”

Right. A spar. What else could he be expecting? Siegfried mentally exhaled a sigh of relief. “A spar would be great. Since Master won’t be expecting us, we could fight to our heart’s desire.”

It was likely his imagination running wild but he heard Karna’s light chuckles. They were contagious and Siegfried soon found himself smiling. They were decidedly his favorite sounds.

After a while, Karna became quiet, his body going lax and inching closer to Siegfried’s, his back pressing against Siegfried’s bare chest. The warmth seemed to go all the way into his heart. It made him lightheaded and drowsy. Sleep found his way back to his eyelids easy enough.

Little could Siegfried guess this was the beginning of something special.

Epilogue

I had considered myself extremely lucky to be able to summon both Siegfried and Karna in one go. Perhaps I had used up all my luck in this lifetime and if I ever became a Heroic Spirit (unlikely) or a Counter Guardian, I would be granted with an E-rank luck. Perhaps the fabled wish-granting Hero had heeded my wish and the Hero of Charity had decided to show his charity. It was impossible to tell really; all I knew was that I was on clouds nine to have the both of them in my little party.

And the icing on the cake was the two seemed to get along pretty well. The biggest pain in the ass was having two archenemies on the same team. Trust me I’d been through that once. On a good day they’d go at each other’s throat every chance they got, giving me a migraine and grating the nerves of every other Servant. On a bad day I’d have to use a Command Spell to stop them from killing each other. In the end I was forced to give up both of them for peace’s sake. And so I’d clasped my hands and thanked The Man Upstairs I hadn’t summoned both Karna and Arjuna (how low was the odds?).

I felt terribly bad once I’d learned Siegfried had been enduring the cold. My poor Dragon Knight, too polite, too gentle to demand his Master’s help even though it was my responsibility to keep my Servants in their best condition. While I was raking my brain for a solution, Karna offered one. A perfect one, if I might add. The world needed more people like this ethereally beautiful Lancer, who was always so eager to give his help to those in need.

So far, so good.

Wearing a beam on my face, I strode to Siegfried and Karna once the battle was over to give them my congratulations.

“So, how’re you doing? No longer feeling cold?” I asked.

“Thank you for your concern, Master. I’m not cold anymore and ready to fight in full strength.”

That was just Siegfried being Siegfried.

“I’m just wondering if you’d want to move back to your room. Kojirou made a passing comment the other day about the room being too empty without you. I think the guy kinda misses his roomie.”

Soon as the words left my mouth, I felt a surge of heat licking my back. An enemy’s sudden attack? How could this be? I was having Siegfried in front of me and Karna a few steps behind my back; how could they not sense anything and act? Taking a gulp, I whipped my head to see what had just happened. To my surprise, there was no sign of a threat, just my Lancer casually leaning against his over-sized spear. The heat kept rolling though and I soon realized the source was Karna’s eyes. Had I ever mentioned that he could shoot sun beam from his eyes?

Oh, allow me to clarify myself. Karna wasn’t shooting sun beam at my back – he was too nice a Servant to try that; in fact, he was just standing there, leaning on his giant spear and staring at us with his glacial blue eyes. And yet somehow in his stare I could feel the heat. I knew I wasn’t imagining because when I turned to Siegfried, the big guy was giving me one of his smiles that spelt “I’m sorry”.

He really needed to change his habit of over-apologizing.

But why was he apologizing anyway?

“Sorry, Master, but I think I’d like to stay at Karna’s.”

Wow, wasn’t this the first time I’d ever hear him express his preference. Before, when it came to personal matters like this, he’d merely gone with whichever assigned to him. That was definitely an innovation.

“Well, that’s fine as well,” I said to him, patting his armored shoulder. “Karna’s is good. Fire and dragon, can’t find a better match.”

Just like that, the heat on my back vanished.

Siegfried lightly bowed to me and walked over to Karna’s side. He flashed Karna a smile, and the son of the Sun God instantly returned the gesture with a small but genuine one. Wasn’t that something new? I hadn’t seen him smile at any other Servant. Then Siegfried leaned down a little and whispered into the Lancer’s ears, which broadened the smile on his lips.

Looking at them, I couldn’t help an inkling that there was absolutely something going on.

Huhm, very interesting.

End

[Desus] (The World Was on Fire) and No One Could Save Me But You (5)

Disclaimer: Characters belong to their respectful owners

Fandoms: The Walking Dead

Rating: K+

Pairing: Desus – Daryl Dixon x Paul “Jesus” Rovia

Genres: fanfiction, alternate universe, vampire AU

Characters: Paul “Jesus” Rovia, Daryl Dixon, Rick Grimes

Summary:

For all the short time Paul had been acquainted with Rick Grimes, he had never heard the tough police officer’s voice break like when he informed Paul, “Daryl was shot.”

Alternate universe. Established relationship.


Chapter 1     Chapter 2     Chapter 3    Chapter 4


 

… And No One Could Save Me But You

Wicked Game

The rain had toned down to a drizzle.

Daryl had cut down his speed to no longer be at break-neck level, just barely within the speed limit. The impulse to indulge in reckless speed had died with the rain and now it was merely a scratch at his guts.

Something on the side caught his sight, and the brain part that was responsible for his curiosity deemed it worth a stop for closer inspection. He supposed he wasn’t in a hurry to get anywhere and could spare a minute or two.

It was the decomposing carcass of some pretty large animal, probably a buck, that he saw in the grass. Daryl got off his motorcycle and squatted in front of it. It was easy to tell the creature been dead for some time by the bones with brown chunks of flesh clinging to them. The eyeballs were gone, leaving vacant sockets from which streams of red ants poured out. It was a disturbing sight from which most humans should avert their eyes as they hurried past and yet somehow Daryl had been inexplicably drawn in. A part of him, a feeble, normal and human part, was weirded out and wanted to just get on his bike and ride away while another, stronger, more pressing part had his eyes fixed on the gouged out sockets as if there was an enigmatic pull from within the twin voids. His hand was halfway reaching out when he had to stop himself from actually touching it.

It was death, Daryl rationalized, which had prompted this bizarre fixation. Death was the one thing that he and this creature had in common. All living things had to die – that he had learned from a young age with his dearly departed mom, and the scene his eyes so drank in was the inevitable end of every human. It was his mom’s end when Daryl was but a snotty five-year-old and twenty-two years later, his old man’s. It was Merle’s end eight years ago and it would soon be his. Except it could not be his. While the concept of immortality was unnatural according to nature, it was also ironically nature that had permitted its occurrence. Paul had expired his lifespan for a couple centuries and his could be not be a unique existence – many times Daryl had pondered about all the vampires out there, cloaking themselves under civilian guise and blending in amongst their designated preys. Now the same existence was offered to Daryl. Had he ever thought about it or wanted it during the late nights he went to bed and woke up in the morning with a vampire snuggling to his side? Would he want it now that it was his only option to continue that mundane domestic routine, one that he would give the world for? Daryl couldn’t answer it, not yet. But he was beginning to consider it, whether he truly desired immortality. Weird as it may sound, the mortal fear of death inflicted upon him by studying this macabre scene did spark a light in his fog-shrouded mind. The light grew in intensity until it pierced through the confusion and uncertainty plaguing him since his body sprang from the bed. A final, concrete decision wasn’t within his grasp yet but he had seen a vague outline of it. Although there was a haunting dreadfulness in the notion of walking the earth till the end of time, he couldn’t deny a forbidden sense of thrill lacing with it.

When the rain had stopped he couldn’t tell, lost in his own mental world. Daryl stood up and made to his motorcycle. Not too keen on wearing a stuffy helmet with his dripping hair, he decided to forgo it.

The scenery was laminated in gold and silver when Daryl entered the woods – gold from the radiant sunlight after a heavy rain and silver from the myriad droplets of water clinging to the tree branches and leaves. He had switched off the engine and was walking his motorcycle so as not to wreck the perfect serenity of nature and scare off the little creatures making this place home. He took a moment to close his eyes, take a deep breath to enjoy the clear, cool air spiced with the soothing scent of damp wood before parking his vehicle a few feet from a particular tree. Under its canopy he spotted a figure that couldn’t be more familiar to him. He was leaning casually against the trunk, his hair wet and crudely swept back. His thin white shirt appeared transparent and sticking to his skin. In his hands was a small brown squirrel which his fingers were petting now and then. Signing softly, Daryl thought he should be surprised to find Paul here but in fact, he wasn’t in the least. Being a sneaky prick was one of Paul’s less endearing vice Daryl had learned to tolerate.

“Ain’t ya gonna eat it? Why bother playin’ with yer food?”

Paul’s huge eyes left the critter and traveled to Daryl, and the detective could feel his gaze lingering on the strands of dark hair cupping the sides of his face. Huffing, Paul laid the squirrel on the ground. It immediately ran off and disappeared in a blink.

“Detective Dixon,” said Paul, “please don’t jump right to the conclusion that I bore any ill will toward that poor animal when you’re having no evidence.”

“First time I met ya, ya were chompin’ a squirrel,” Daryl snorted, “an’ havin’ a couple more layin’ dead at yer feet.”

“Good Lord, you caught me at a bad time once and I’m never going to live it down. Firstly, that wasn’t our first meeting. We first met when I moved into the derelict house opposite from yours.”

“A brief glance–”

“But still counts. Secondly, I hadn’t made my contact with the local blood bank yet and was on the brink of starvation. You don’t like me when I’m starving.”

“I thought ya a weirdo. Turns out it ain’t too far from the truth.”

“So I’ve been told,” Paul replied with a small smile. He crossed the distance and stood close to Daryl. “You didn’t break up with me because of my quirks, crazy as they are.”

“I’ve met worse,” Daryl said, his hand itching to tug a loose strands of hair behind Paul’s ears. So he did, earning a wider smile from the shorter man. “Ya followed me here, didn’t ya?”

To his surprise, Paul declined, “No, believe me I did want to, but I didn’t. I just didn’t feel like showing up at my class so I called in sick. Having plenty of sick leave can come in handy. I thought a lot, you know, about us, about our life together all these years, about our future, if we have one. And I had a feeling that you would come here, seeing how this place has claimed a special spot in your heart. Now here we are. Must be destiny.”

Paul punctuated his speech with a nervous chuckle.

“I thought a lot too, ‘bout–”

Out of sudden, Daryl felt as if his legs had vaporized right under him. He would collapse face first into the thick carpet of decayed leaves on the ground if Paul weren’t extra-quick to catch him. His ample strength made up for his smaller stature and he supported Daryl’s most of weight with ease. Gently and slowly, he helped Daryl sit down under the tree. All the carefreeness had drained from his handsome countenance; now he was wearing the same pained expression Daryl had seen earlier in the morning. It caused an ache in Daryl’s side and erased his concern about his own condition, even just temporarily.

“What’s happenin’ to me? Why can’t I feel my legs?”

“It’s beginning,” Paul explained. “The paralysis that signals your time is running out and continues until you’re…”

“I’m dyin’, got it. Shoulda known I’m runnin’ on borrowed time. First it’s my leg, then my arms an’ torso and finally my head, righ’. Fuckin’ sadistic, I’d say.”

“Yeah, I suppose,” Paul replied. “Have heard about it but never been through it myself, though.”

“How long did it take ya to make yer decision?”

Since they were sitting shoulder to shoulder, with Daryl leaning against Paul’s chest, he felt a puff of air on his cheek from Paul’s laughter. It wasn’t the full, hearty laughter Daryl had gotten used to hear; it was soft and deprived most of humor. “I practically leapt at the chance to be turned, so you can guess it took me no time at all. I was a vampire before I had even registered the weight of my own death.” Taking a short pause, he continued, “I had been severely sick for a while and my family ended up taking me to the House of Death, where they expected me to spend the rest of my remaining days. Fewer mouths to feed. Looking back, I couldn’t blame them; I expected to die there as well. Then my sire came to me with an offer in exchange for my indentured service. I guess I just didn’t want to die.”

His voice quieted at the last sentence, and there was a slight tremble in it.

“Ya never said anythin’ about this until t’day.”

“It’s no rainbows and unicorns so I’d rather not tell it at a drinking party.”

“Ya ever regretted it? Becomin’ a vampire.”

Paul brushed his dampened fringe out of Daryl’s forehead. “It’s had its ups and downs and there were some dark periods when all I wanted was to lie desiccated in the coffin like a dead man that I was. But, to be honest, I’ve never regretted. It’s a wonder beyond measure to see the world change little by little until it’s no longer the one you were born in, and to see yourself change with it in order to adapt. Given the chance a second time and I would have made the same choice again.”

Silence stretched between them after Paul finished. Daryl seemed to be in contemplation of what he’d said so Paul didn’t feel the urge to break the silence. Instead, he laced his fingers with his lover’s.

Daryl’s fingers only twitched but gave no otherwise response. Paul’s heart sank like a stone thrown into a cold, bottomless lake.

“Take my left hand,” Daryl said. “Ain’t numb as shit yet.”

Paul took his hand, the one that could feel, and brought it to his lips. He kissed every knuckle, mumbling, “I’m sorry.”

“Because you compelled Rick to forget what he saw?”

“Yes, Rick, the doctor, the nurses. I’m sorry I broke my vow.”

Daryl felt Paul’s hand gently squeezing his.

“On the way here, I thought a lot, ‘bout many things,” he said, picking up from earlier. “I thought ‘bout whether ya’d undo Rick’s compulsion, how he, Carol an’ a handful of people I know would react.”

“The compulsion would instantly wear off with a vampire’s end,” Paul said. Although his tone was light and maintaining its casualness that was very Paul-like, Daryl’s lungs felt chilled as he took in a cold breath.

“But ya won’t…”

“Nothing lasts forever, Daryl, even vampires. Sometimes the end comes sooner than we expect.”

“Where would vampires go?”

“Frankly I don’t know. No one has ever told me and I don’t know who to ask. Well, certainly not my late sire, God bless his soul, if he had one. Where do you think humans would go? I know you aren’t the most religious man I’ve met but ever given it a thought?”

Daryl shook his head. Paul shifted to give him a little more comfort even though Daryl’s torso was heavy like lead and just as numb. It took no Einstein to figure at this rate, he’d soon be completely paralyzed.

“I spotted some carcass on the road. Probably a buck an’ dead for some time. I was magnetized to it – death attracts death, I guess. As I looked, I remembered my mom an’ Merle, even the sick bastard I called my dad, how they all looked like this beneath the earth, an’ how I’d look like that too. I thought ‘Well, death sucks’.”

Daryl had always a man of few words and more actions; this was by far his longest speech. Thus Paul patiently waited for him to perhaps regain his breath and gather his thoughts.

“I ain’t hopin’ we’d be united in some sunlit heaven or shit. Ain’t no teenager. Maybe I’d end up in that dark limbo again, all by myself, an’ that’s fuckin’ scary. But what’s even scarier is that I know I won’t never see ya again, won’t never wake up to yer shit-eatin’ grin again, won’t never feel yer touch or yer warmth again. That hurts so much, ya know.”

“I know,” Paul whispered, his breath fanning Daryl’s cheek. “I know.”

“I don’t wanna die. There’s a chance I’ll regret it one day but right now I don’t wanna die an’ leave ya.”

A drop of water fell onto the skin below Daryl’s eyes, too hot to be the rainwater dangling on the leaves.

“So you’ve decided…” Paul croaked.

“Ya don’t mind haulin’ my immobile ass back to the house, right, ‘cuz I don’t suppose ya brought a blood bag along.”

When Daryl craned his neck and looked up, he saw Paul frantically wiping his eyes. A smile had formed on his lips, wide enough to show his white teeth. This was the first true smile Daryl had gotten from him today, same as the one which had caused his heart to skip a beat when he stared a little too long at the ponytailed young man carrying his stuff into the derelict house across from his. While his torso was still numb, the heaviness on his chest had been lifted.

“On the contrary, I always come prepared” was Paul’s reply.

To be continued

Finished it for a while but I was busy writing another Desus fic so I delayed editing and posting it. Immense apologies to you who have been waiting for an update. Next chapter is the last.

[Desus] (The World Was on Fire) and No One Could Save Me But You (4)

Disclaimer: Characters belong to their respectful owners

Fandoms: The Walking Dead

Rating: K+

Pairing: Desus – Daryl Dixon x Paul “Jesus” Rovia

Genres: fanfiction, alternate universe, vampire AU

Characters: Paul “Jesus” Rovia, Daryl Dixon, Rick Grimes

Summary:

For all the short time Paul had been acquainted with Rick Grimes, he had never heard the tough police officer’s voice break like when he informed Paul, “Daryl was shot.”

Alternate universe. Established relationship.


Chapter 1     Chapter 2     Chapter 3


The World Was on Fire…

Wicked Game

As Daryl was riding down the route the rain showed no sign of stopping anytime soon and the incessant noise on his helmet became more maddening, as if it was possible. He had traveled in worse weather, so this had never been a huge issue to him. Yet back then he hadn’t had supernaturally enhanced senses, which translated into overactive reception of each and every stimulus, however small and would be easily brushed aside were he normal.

Normal. Daryl received a mental kick at that word. Thinking of himself as formerly normal brought forth an implication that Paul was different, strange, abnormal, all of which accompanied by negative connotations according to Daryl’s conservative and biased upbringing that he had fought to leave behind in the dust. Daryl had not once thought Paul was the ‘other’ despite having learned the seemingly younger man was anything but an ordinary thirty-something. Heck, for Daryl’s limited knowledge of vampires, Paul defied lots of stereotypical traits of a vampire as portrayed in pop culture. He didn’t look pale, for one. While his skin tone was decidedly fairer than Daryl, who preferred spending his time in the sun than in an office, he was nowhere near chalky. He wasn’t brooding nor would he sit for hours wallowing in his existential crisis and guilt while having his victim’s blood on his chin and their lifeless body by his legs. At least Daryl had never seen him in such state during their two years of living under the same roof. He opted to live in a modest two-story house and drive an economic car and wasn’t filthy rich. He taught teenagers self-defense martial arts at the local center Monday to Thursday, volunteered on Friday, loved tending to his little garden of flowers and herbs and sometimes had friends – a majority of which being humans – over on Friday night to trash the living room and get wasted. He went to see the latest movies, often dragging Daryl with him if the cop wasn’t working overtime, teared up at particularly emotional scenes and ranted about it later on his wall; his Facebook account had quite a number of followers. All in all, Paul posed extremely well as a human, aside from a couple quirks like his personal blood stash (supplied by the local blood bank) in his fridge or his inability to have hickeys, but hey, many humans possessed more peculiar quirks. Daryl would say he blended in with humans even better than the homicidal detective himself did in some of his more trying days.

This line of thought was going nowhere so with a soft grunt, Daryl abandoned it for another. Ironically enough, to not think was entirely the point of racing his motorcycle along this straightforward route leading into the woods. To feel the wind, the sun or the rain on his skin allowed him a temporary getaway from his jumbled thoughts while the woods with all its wild animals provided him with solace, just like it had given him shelter from his old man’s temper and leather belt. A couple hours later, he rode back the track feeling lighter, better and ready to deal with whatever shit coming his way given his line of profession.

Nevertheless, it was impossible to sweep all his thoughts under the rug and not think of anything for a while no matter how much Daryl wanted to; heck, even if he was hypothetically able to shut them all up, he knew he wouldn’t gain a fragment of peace for his mind. Literally going through death and being pulled back to life was no shit joke and anyone with a mind couldn’t spare it no thought at all. As a matter of fact, there were so many thoughts bustling about inside Daryl’s head that he had no idea which to focus on. It was similar to working on a case where there were so many clues, many suspects and many motives, all lurking behind a thick veil that Daryl had to lift so as to see for himself which was relevant and which was red herrings. Right now his helmet was the veil. Rivulet after rivulet of water blurred his visor and distorted his view. With his left hand he undid the clasp around his chin and took off his helmet.

Drops of rain felt like nails being hammered on Daryl’s face. Soon his hair was soaked, strands of his long bang clinging to his forehead and temples. He brushed them back with a sweep of his hand, recalling how Paul loved to do this when Daryl was fresh out of shower so that he could plant a kiss on Daryl’s forehead, on the lines that had formed there. His eyes saw the road better without his visor as his mind was clearer without the torturous noise and a prominent thought emerged from numerous others. Like a man lost at sea spotting a lighthouse, he swam toward it. Going back to be human was impossible, so he had but one option to go forward from there and make the decision: to die today as a human or to live forever as another sort of existence. Other questions all paled in front of this crucial one, to which he had promised Paul an answer before the sun went down the sky.

Daryl was not surprised to find out Paul hadn’t slept a wink that night. He himself had had only brief patches of sleep interlacing with extended moments of lying with his eyes shut but his mind open, conscious and drifting between the dark limbo realm and the real world. And when he had indeed slept, his dreams were fragments of his dying instant rewinded over and over. He had thought not of his own death but of his untimely parting with Paul, and regret penetrated deeper than the iron in his chest.

Daryl opened his eyes to the sight of Paul propped up by his side, his hand caressing Daryl’s cheek gentle and cool as a ghost’s touch. His eyes were sunken, and the usual light in them dimmed. His lips were set in a straight line. Daryl hated that he saw every sign of exhaustion etched on Paul’s handsome countenance with such clarity.

Dawn had already broken, the sun was up and their bedroom was enveloped in a glowing silken veil.

“Morning,” said Paul, softly. There was a hint of hoarseness in his voice Daryl only scarcely heard. “Did you sleep well?”

“Did ya?”

“No,” Paul admitted. “I closed my eyes and tried to find sleep but to no avail. Technically I don’t really need sleep to function so I figured I could afford a sleepless night. And you?”

“I got some sleep an’ a couple of dreams.”

“Bad dreams?”

“Past dreams. Didn’t matter no more.”

The answer he gave didn’t soothe the worry in Paul’s eyes but he didn’t push Daryl for more detail. He pecked Daryl on the lips before sliding out of the duvet and sitting at the edge. “What do you fancy for breakfast? Bacon and sunny-side eggs? Cereal? Or pancakes and maple syrup?”

Before Paul finished listing the choices, Daryl too had slid out from under the duvet. The air instantly raised goosebumps on his bare skin as he padded to their wardrobe.

“Daryl?”

“I… I need some time,” said Daryl, picking a simple button-down navy blue shirt and a pair of washed blue jeans from the clothes rack. “To process it, to think abou’ it. On my own. I hope ya understand.” He threw his black leather jacket over the shirt and put on his leather fingerless gloves.

Paul’s gaze dropped to the dip in the mattress where they had laid. “Of course,” he replied softly, head nodding.

He looked as though he was enduring a silent pain that Daryl couldn’t help but crossing the room and pulling him into his embrace. He felt Paul’s breath ghosting on the skin of his forearm and shivered. It still mesmerized him how a vampire’s breath could be this warm.

“Give yourself as much time to think as you’d like,” Paul murmured against his skin, “but please come to me before sundown.” He sniffed. “No matter what your decision is, I need to know… and I will respect it.”

The last words seemed real struggle for him.

Daryl kissed the top of his head. “I will.”

And then he let go, feeling Paul’s eyes on him even when he was descending the stairs.

The first thing Daryl did once he was standing on the threshold of the door was stretch his arm out to the early morning sun. He had half expected the heat and his skin being set aflame despite Paul’s previous explanation that he wasn’t yet a vampire. Instead he only felt a light warmth, and his skin remained perfectly normal, no blistering, no bursting into flame. Stupid. Daryl chastised himself before stepping out to his motorcycle. He put on his helmet and ignited the engine.

Daryl hadn’t had a definite destination in mind but before he was able to come up with something, his body had autopiloted and taken him down the path he traveled every morning to work. On that path there was a diner where he often had a decent breakfast of eggs and bacon and a hefty dose of caffeine to brace himself against another crazy day at the office. Sometimes Rick joined him, sometimes he ate alone, savoring the comfortable silence in his usual booth by the window and away from the rest of the patrons.

Daryl felt a familiar tug once he was close enough to the diner and could see it. Since he had nowhere else he wanted to go first, he decided he could stop by, ordered his usual food and figured out what to do with his last day as human. His heart was weighed down a little with the word ‘last’; after today, there would either be a vampire or a cadaver buried six feet under.

That remained to be seen.

His footsteps halted just before his hand pushed the glass door open. What if Rick was also here? After all, this diner was a part of his best friend’s morning routine as much as it was his, although recently both of them had not frequented it as much as they used to, favoring homemade meals instead.

The last thing Daryl wanted right now was to run into his best friend, who had witnessed his death and was likely to flood him with questions should he see him walking around all fine and alive, so he turned on his heels. Just when he was about to stride back to his bike, the door opened.

“Daryl!” called a voice. “Been a while since you came here. Come in, come in.”

For a second, all the blood in Daryl’s veins seemed to stop flowing and he stood frozen in his spot. That was unmistakably Carol’s voice. Carol was good friend to Rick and Daryl and the reason why they had become regulars here was because Carol owned and ran this little cozy diner.

“Yeah…” Daryl managed a hoarse respond. “Been a while.”

“I almost thought I’d lost my two loyal customers. But what can I say? Nothing beats homemade food made by gorgeous partners.”

Carol winked playfully at him and Daryl forced a small smile despite the uneasiness twisting his guts. From her tone and demeanor, it appeared she might not have heard about his incident. Something didn’t click right. Had Rick not told her anything?

“You’re looking a little pale. Is everything alright?”

“Nah. Just been lackin’ some sleep’s all. Work’s been hectic.”

Carol held his hand gently, jerking her head toward the door. “Come on in. I’ll have them prepare your usual.”

A refusal was formed in the back of his throat but never found its way out of his mouth, so he allowed her to lead him inside. The air was stiff since there weren’t a lot of customers yet, and Daryl was surprised to be able to sense it so acutely, almost as if he could ‘read’ the currents. His preferred booth was fortunately unoccupied. After telling her employees to prepare his order, she lingered by his table to catch up with his life since the last time they had had a chat. He tried his best to carry the conversation as casually as he normally did, but he knew for sure he must have slipped a note of reluctance in his tone or his body language, which Carol was likely to pick up on, keen woman that she was. Still, if she noticed something off about her friend, she didn’t point it out at once or even gave away her suspicion with a frown and for which he was grateful. Carol was sharp but she also respected privacy – she wouldn’t prod the subject unless her friends decided to tell her, eventually. This was one of the many reasons they had been close friends for years.

Nevertheless, Daryl was mentally relieved when the young waitress brought out his order and a rush of customers came through the door and Carol had no choice but to leave him. Sitting by himself, Daryl stared at the food laid out before him for several seconds as though hypnotized by the tendrils of steam rising from the sizzling eggs and the coffee. The smell was the same as he remembered, and so did the taste when he slowly chewed a mouthful of egg. The only difference was his sore absence of appetite. His empty stomach was still grumbling at the sight of food, but when he actually swallowed it down he felt… unfulfilled, like having swallowed nothing. He put down his forks and reached for the coffee mug. Again, same warm smell, same bitter-sweet taste, just the lack of savory on his side. He guessed he shouldn’t be surprised. After all he was dead, and whereas his senses were overloaded with sensations, they were at the same time desensitized to the normal delights of a human. Food did not arouse his appetite, unlike blood, whose sight and scent had caused his throat to constrict and his mouth to parch.

The noises and chatters that were typical to this place had become too much for him to bear. Not wanting to upset Carol by leaving food on the plate, Daryl finished the meal with haste and made to the door, giving a quick goodbye to his friend on the way out.

The fresh air somewhat soothed his nerves. Inside his pocket, his phone buzzed and Daryl pulled it out, half-expecting it was Paul sending him a text. Instead it was Rick, asking Daryl to take a day off to recover from his… flu and not to worry about the case because he had it covered. Daryl peered at his screen, trying to register what was going on. Rick had been at the scene and there was no way he would have confused a fatal shot with the common flu, unless Paul had altered his memory – one of the vampire tricks Paul had up his sleeves. Daryl had always thought compulsion, or the tempering with the human mind and free will, to be absolutely repulsive and Paul had sworn to never use it on Daryl or his friends. Perhaps this was the first and only time Daryl actually didn’t feel a spark of anger and betrayal when finding out that Paul had broken his vow.

Daryl typed a short reply to Rick. As he hit the button ‘send’, a question raised in his head of how his friends, Rick and Carol, and everyone he knew would react if he were to die today. He wondered if Paul would undo his compulsion and give them the truth or he would make up something else, something that was less sudden and more expected like a terminal disease. That wasn’t the real reason for the sudden chill creeping up his spine though; he shuddered at what he would do if he was the one to possess compulsion. He’d rather no one remember him than anyone be grief-stricken by his death. Especially Paul, with his heightened emotions that always made things take a turn for the worse.

That thought refused to be shaken off his mind long after Daryl revved up the engine and rode off.

To be continued

Sorry about the slow update. Here’s a little confession: this was supposed to be the last chapter but as I wrote, the number of words kept increasing to the point I decided that I should split it up into more chapters. If nothing changes, there’s two chapters left.

Carol wasn’t in my original idea at all.