[Aq] Week 240(?): HILA IHLA Pt I

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Valero

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Haud Ignota Loquor

Is He Lying (Again?) Pt I


[Wordcount: 2,616]


The faint moonlight barely seeped through the windows into the small flat. The only noticeable glints were reflected from a small desk in the center of the room. The first came from a short glass filled with an amber liquid. Webbed fingers wrapped around the glass and pulled it into the darkness. The velen consumed the liquid and grunted as it burned his throat. When he placed the empty glass down again, it still gleamed, though nowhere near as much as the second item.

A small crystalline orb. Despite its size, it seemed to luminescent in the darkness. Yet when Deni had looked away, it had not seemed anywhere near as bright in his periphery. Nor when it was tucked away in his jacket. The rogue’s blue eyes stared at it from meters away. He reached his hand out to touch it. His arm froze in hesitation. He didn’t know what he was going to see. The visions changed from time to time, though most of the time Ignis was involved. Except for one time when it showed his family. That was the most disconcerting of them all. Deni had not seen or spoken to his family in almost a decade and he could have sworn that they were there with him while he held the orb. His mother gently caressed his cheek like she used to when he was a child and his father’s face was so clear that Deni almost hurled the orb at him. He pulled his arm away. Perhaps it was for the best.

“A curious item indeed.”

Deni leapt out of his chair. The serpent's kiss, his auritium pistol, was in his hand in an instant. His eyes searched for the source of the voice. Somewhere in his mind, that soothing masculine baritone seemed familiar. Something told him that he was not a danger, but he refused to lower the pistol.

“Step into the moonlight where I can see you,” Deni ordered, his tone firm. Black robes in the shape of a man meandered to the table. The purple embroidery caught the moonlight and something else. Green eyes, that of a laicar likely in his thirties. Ruffled blond hair and an almost blemishless face seemed to scratch at a corner in the velen’s mind.

“I am not here to harm you. I am here to give you a second chance.”

Puzzled, Deni’s firing arm relaxed but the pistol remained fixed on the mysterious figure.

“A second chance for what?” he asked. An amused grin reached the man’s face.

“I am going to ask you a series of questions about yourself. If you answer all of them truthfully, I shall answer one question about anything in Araevis.”

“Any question?” the rogue repeated skeptically.

“Any question,” the man nodded.

The enigma might well have had a wealth of knowledge hidden within him. He certainly held himself highly by the way he carried himself. All Deni could do was laugh. Of course he wasn’t going to get an evening alone.

Serves me right for messing with the heart of an Arch-daemon.

“Yeah, fuck it. Why not?” he said with a bitter grin. “All the weird shit I’ve been through recently, might as well add this to my résumé.”

The velen pulled his chair to himself and slacked into it.

“Ask away.”

“Do you have siblings or family members near your age? Which are you closest with?”

Deni’s smile slid off his face immediately. He should have known the questions would have delved into topics he didn’t enjoy. His blue eyes stared at the man. The mysterious figure seemed so serene and patient as he waited for an answer. The rogue shrugged his shoulders and shuffled uncomfortably. Speaking about his family, even to a complete stranger, seemed a lot easier after he nearly died fighting hordes of daemons.

“I have a sister,” he said slowly. “We never had much in common, she was always in everyone’s good books, loved by everyone. Sure, we fought sometimes, but when times were tough, I guess you could say we were close. I haven’t spoken to her for years.”

“Of course. Now, what is you relationship with your mother like? And your father?”

Deni picked up the bottle of whiskey and filled his glass up again, releasing a grunt as if the glass bottle was the heaviest thing in the world. A warm smile briefly made itself present on his face.

“My mother is the best. I love her and miss her, like I do most of my family. She was always so caring and comforting. I wish she weren’t so damned naive though. My father, however…”

He shook his head and the smile fell once again.

“He’s a right spunk trumpet. Only cares about the name of the family, not the people within his bloodline. Gets volatile when he doesn’t get his way. Nothing much else to say about him.”

The green eyes of the laicar seemed to intensify with every honest answer and Deni felt something draining out of him with each question, though he was unexpected to find himself feeling relieved to be talking about something he has kept secret for so long.

“Have you ever witnessed something that fundamentally changed you? Does anybody else know about it?”

Deni sipped the amber liquid and brought the glass down.

“Uhh, yeah. Two things. That whole daeman shabang was a big one. I don’t think anyone came home from that forsaken island the same. Ignis and Aeria, Red, some kinner and probably half the Conexus, Fraternitas and Arcanum know about that one. The other thing was in Pelagia and only one person alive knows about that. I hope I never see them again.”

“Do you have recurring themes in your dreams? And what about your nightmares?”

Deni barked a mirthless laugh.

“Oh, yeah. All the nasty stuff. I don’t normally dream of the nice stuff, except those weird sexy dreams from time to time. Most of the time, it’s either bad shit I’ve done in the past or the horrors I’ve lived through reminding me that they still lurk in the back of my head.”

“What’s the most afraid you’ve ever been?”

The enigma’s tone never changed. Always that soothing monotone, questions asked so casually as if they were part of everyday conversation, instead of topics that Deni had avoided with everyone he knew, including Ignis. And yet, something inside himself compelled him to answer truthfully.

“On the way to destroy the Black Portal, aboard the ship. I tried to leave in Navale, but Ignis and Aeria convinced me to stay. I was terrified, pacing back and forth, smoking whatever I could get my hands on, drinking whatever alcohol I had brought with me. When the battle starts, it’s so different. Beforehand, when you’re waiting to find out if you survive or die is when the terror sinks in.”

His scaled hand quivered on the glass, until he realised what he had just said.

“Can’t we talk about nice things?” he groaned.

“If you insist,” the man smiled. “What can be found in your pockets on an average day?”

Deni’s mischievous grin returned, invigorated.

“Now we’re talking! Guns, smokes, lighter, hip flask, exa and if it’s a good day, Ignis’ hand.”

Unfazed by his quip, the robed terran continued.

“Do you feel more comfortable in more or less clothing?”

Deni didn’t even have to think to answer.

“Less. Definitely less. If I could walk around the streets naked, I would. Well, here in Terminus it’s less viable, but I have been known to get in trouble for revealing too much after a few bevvies.”

“Are you preoccupied with money and material possessions?”

Deni removed his hand from the glass on the table and sank further into his chair, crossing his arms behind his head as he began to relax.

“Yeah. Money, money, money. I love money.”

“Why?”

The question raised Deni’s eyebrows. He stared at the man as if he had asked why the sky was blue.

“What can’t money buy? Weapons, mansions, vehicles, alcohol, drugs, sex… anything I want. Anyone that says it can’t buy happiness has clearly never been rich.”

“Which do you idealise most: happiness or success?”

For a moment Deni hesitated. The first question he actually had to think about.

“For the longest time, happiness was unobtainable to me, no matter where I was or what I did. So I prided myself on being successful at whatever it is I’m good. Because of that, I guess the latter.”

“Are you more likely to admire wisdom or ambition in others?”

Deni took a sip of the amber liquid from his glass as soon as he heard the question. Another one he struggled to answer. He thought a lot of Ignis, and of Aeria when considering the answer. All of them were ambitious together and without either of them he likely would not have been the same person.

“I admire ambition,” he began defensively. “Without the combined ambition of myself and others, I likely wouldn’t be where I am today. But I’m reckless and been in this game so long that I forget how much I’m hurting people sometimes. As much as I hate to admit it, I need a wise one to ground me sometimes. I admire ambition more, but I probably wouldn’t have made as many mistakes if I had someone wiser than I to guide me along this ugly path.”

“Is your current socioeconomic status different now to when you were growing up?”

Deni couldn’t help but chuckle. His mood seemed to lift again.

“Oh, very much so. I grew up in a strict, well-off family. Have to say the right thing to the right person, be careful not to piss off such and such a person. Rules and regulations, money and class. I hated it. Instead, I ended up fighting for my life most weeks, drinking and fucking my life away on my days off. It’s much better this way. Middle-class wonderchild, to filthy rogue and vagabond.”

His laughter continued into a deep rumble.

“Do you remember names or faces easier?”

Deni’s eyebrows raised. The questions seemed about such mundane things. But if he could get an answer to any one question about anything in Araevis, he would answer as honestly as he could.

“Uhh, faces. Definitely faces. Half the time I can’t remember what I ate for breakfast, but I recognise any face I’ve seen before.”

The questioner’s wry grin seemed to deepen for just a brief moment, but perhaps it was the way the shadows seemed to arch around him. A hand produced itself from beneath the baggy robes and pointed to the velen’s auritium handgun.

“Have you fired one of those before? If so, who was your first target?”

Deni looked to the serpent’s kiss and hesitated as he tried to recall the memory. Everything that had happened that day was so swift and clumsy that it was a struggle to remember much of what had happened.

“I’ve fired this bad boy alone hundreds of times,” he replied, bringing his eyes back to the robed laicar. “My first target was a shopkeeper in Pelagia. I needed the money and the sight of the gun didn’t scare him enough to hand the exa over. So I shot him.”

“Are you bothered by the sight of blood?”

“Not anymore,” Deni answered quickly. A short, humorless laugh left him. “Would you believe I used to be squeamish? I guess exposure has gotten me used to it. It doesn’t bother me at all now.”

Deni sighed, agitatedly.

“Do we have to go back to the grim questions? I thought we were starting to become friends.”

“You must answer all of the questions honestly,” the man replied smoothly. He didn’t move from his position a few paces from the table, nor did his knowing expression shift even for a moment. Deni threw back his head and brought the edge of the short glass to his mouth. One tip and then he placed the empty glass back on the table.

“Alright. Let’s get this done then,” he groaned.

“What is your biggest relationship flaw? Has this flaw destroyed relationships for you before?”

“Owch, man,” Deni grunted. “I guess I’ve always been a danger to people around me because of my lifestyle. That, and I wasn’t always as nice as I am now. I’ve always manipulated and used people and I’ve always been aware of what I’m doing. That flaw has crippled every relationship I’ve ever had, until now.”

“In what ways do you compare yourself to others? Is this more for self-validation or self-criticism?”

“Wow, another tough one. I guess I’ve never really thought about it. I don’t really compare myself to others. Everyone is different. If I did, though, I doubt it would be self-criticising. So probably the first one, I guess?”

Deni shrugged his shoulders and the questioner opened his mouth to continue. If he was displeased with an answer, it didn’t show on his face.

“When something tragic happens, do you feel like you may have caused or deserve it? Are you quick to blame others?”

The velen’s smile deepened. It looked odd on a darkening countenance.

“There’s so many answers to that question,” he spoke after a brief pause. “I’m usually at the centre of tragedy. A lot of the time I deserved it, other times I don’t think I did. As for blame, yeah I throw it around. Recent events are evidence of that.”

Deni’s head jerked upright. It was late and he hadn’t caught up on sleep after the Black Portal mission yet. His eyes burned, his muscles ached and his body longed for rest. Not that he usually gave it what he really needed.

“You are exhausted,” the laicar said in that same unchanging tone.

“You’re so perceptive,” the tired rogue grumbled.

“Four more questions and I will leave.”

Deni stared at the cloaked man, as if considering. He drank the rest of the whiskey in his glass and groaned.

“Fine.”

“What do you like and dislike in other people? How quick are you to trust - and also suspect - others?”

The dark look seemed to slide off Deni’s face as he thought of those he had associated himself with lately. A fiery redhead, an adventurous avian, an all-too-busy spurii.

“Unbound individuality,” he answered. “That’s what I like. No two people are the same, and nobody should feel like they have to be someone they aren’t. I respect those free spirits that refuse to fall into line. As for dislike, well that’s easy. Racists, abusers, the pretentious, all the judgemental types. I’m such a Vis-damned hero.”

Deni heaved himself out of his seat with an effort. His legs almost caved under his own weight. Whiskey and exhaustion didn’t mix well.

“It takes months, sometimes years for me to trust anyone, and even then I still might write them off. As long as they think that I trust them though, we don’t usually have any problems. Needless to say, that makes me suspicious of everyone. It’s hard to betray me if I’m always suspecting a betrayal. Such a cynical mindset is how I’ve managed to survive so long. That and a little luck.”

Deni stifled a yawn and let the air out in a big sigh.

“Now, if you don’t mind, eerily familiar and mysterious intruder, I need sleep.”

Without another word, the velen started towards his bedroom.

“We’ll meet again.”

Deni turned to say farewell, but the enigmatic laicar was no longer there. Scratching his head, he continued towards the door into his bedroom.

“Man, I need to lay off the booze.”
 

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