Chapter 55 – Protector of the Past

1 Day Later

Skydia, Skydiath 6, 8034

“Can’t believe I came back here… the shithole of the shithole. Commonly known as ‘Nock’…”

Davídrius glared at his sun-bleached surroundings as he perched on top of an old, abandoned apartment building. The twenty-story structure was the tallest around for kilometers, allowing the Velocitechnic to casually scan the capital city of Treséd. Such a vantage point offered no true advantage, however — all it served was to allow Davídrius to watch from above as he took in the dirty slums, abandoned and crumbling multi-story buildings, filthy streets, and the sandy wasteland horizon. He glanced toward the city docks, but even those were dirtied beyond reasonable belief with dirt, sand, sewage, and oil lathered over the piers and polluting the water for kilometers. Nock was, effectively, an old, abandoned, post-apocalyptic wasteland inhabited by gang members, bounty hunters, criminals, and slaves, none of whom possessed even one iota of determination or care when it came to cleaning or maintaining the well-being of the city.

“And this is supposed to be the capital… ha!” Davídrius snorted in derision before jumping down to the streets below, paying no heed to the several tarps he broke through on the way down. He landed with a roll before standing and double-checking his Sword Box harness, followed with a quick glare toward a small group of shady-looking men until they scrambled off down a back alley. Still got the glare, he thought to himself in amusement before taking off down the streets, blowing past people, stalls, and garbage piles alike until he found his way to the commercial district — if it could even be called that. The area was just as dirty and run-down as the rest of the city; the only differences were the significantly larger crowds in the streets and the vast multitude of signs attached haphazardly to poles and walls just outside of every door entrance.

“I hate this place…” the Velocitechnic grumbled, but began slowly walking down the street anyway, torn between spitefully walking slower than the crowd around him and stubbornly shoving ahead at his own pace. No no, c’mon man, focus on what’s relevant. News of the Bleeders. What’ve they been up to, where are they, is Riken okay…

He looked up to find himself in the city square: a large, run-down plaza filled with stalls and stands and bulletin boards of all kinds. Using his height to his advantage, he slowly scanned the area in search of a bounty board. Upon spotting one, he quickly moved toward it, ignoring the countless salesmen and peddlers along the way who attempted to grab his attention. Mere moments later he was standing in front of the board, tapping his foot impatiently as his eyes jumped from poster to poster, from announcement to announcement.

“Oi, Davídrius! Is that you?”

“What?…” The Velocitechnic snapped his attention toward the origin of the call, quickly searching the crowd until laying eyes on a dark-haired, tan-skinned woman of height roughly equivalent to his own. She grinned and waved back at him before adjusting her shoulder strap and quickly approaching.

“…Wait…” Davídrius responded, astonished. “Selind, is that you?”

“Ha, nice to know you still remember my name, pup.” She smirked. “Long time no see!”


30 Minutes Later

“Still as much a fan of alcohol as ever, huh.”

“Shut it, you,” Selind replied as she led Davídrius up to the counter at the front of the bar. “The drinks in this place are well worth the wait.”

The Velocitechnic scowled. “Ain’t nothin’ on this continent that’s worth the wait.”

“I see you haven’t changed at all,” Selind remarked with a smirk before turning to wave the bartender over. Davídrius watched as she ordered two of something he barely recognized before returning her attention to him.

“I could say the same for you,” he commented flatly.

“Ha. If only that were true.” She sighed, and then glanced down at Davídrius’s sides. Even while sitting in the bar chair, he had yet to detach either of his Sword Boxes. “Lookin’ to make some trouble?” she quipped.

“Says the woman with a sniper rifle slung over her back.”

“A woman’s gotta protect herself, you know. This thing ain’t failed me yet.”

“A sniper rifle ain’t exactly a defensive weapon.”

“Not true, I find it makes a surprisingly wieldy club. Very effective in brawls.”

“Mhm,” Davídrius grunted, glancing away as the bartender arrived and unceremoniously slid two glasses toward Selind. She quickly caught both before either could slide off the counter and downed one of them in one go.

“But enough with the banter.” She smirked as she punched Davídrius playfully in the shoulder. “How’ve ya been? I don’t think I’ve seen you in… what, two years?”

“Sounds ‘bout right.”

“Heard you finally took care of Strén.”

Wish I could say that.” Davídrius sighed wistfully. “It was… it was actually a couple of foreigners who finished him off.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah. Came by randomly one day, asked me to join some squad that was supposed to check out the Chaos Quake. Told ‘em I’d only join if they could take care of Strén and the local Bleeders. Well, they did, so I did.”

“Wow. Guess that explains where you disappeared to, then, huh.”

“Eh? You knew I’d left?”

“You were only one of Treséd’s most feared Compound Guardians, of course people would hear if you left. Riken was one of the safest places to be with you around. Almost as safe as Tresnon.”

“Keh,” Davídrius snorted, mildly amused at the quip. “Think you’re better than me, eh? Desert sun must’ve finally got to you.”

Selind punched him in the shoulder again, slightly harder this time. He simply smirked as she paused for a moment to down her second drink and then shoved her glasses back across the counter, gesturing for the bartender to refill them. She then turned back to Davídrius. “So you finally left Treséd, huh?”

“’Finally?’” he echoed incredulously.

“You were always a fierce Guardian, sure, but it was easy to tell you didn’t like it here. Especially with that speed of yours, the only thing keepin’ you around was some misguided sense of duty.”

“’Misguided?’”

“Are you gonna actually talk to me or just echo everythin’ I say like a dumbass?”

“…Hmph.”

“Any sane man or woman would leave the moment they could. Not you, though. All you had to do was run across the gulf to Tekdecé or Relédiaka. But you never did.”

“Findin’ a way to live in the other nations ain’t that simple. Runnin’ across an entire sea ain’t quite a walk in the park, either.”

“How’d you get back here, then? No transports have arrived since last week.”

“…I ran from Nimaliaka.”

“You’re sayin’ you ran across the entire fucking Ineridé Ocean?!”

“If I’m runnin’ in a straight line, without havin’ to focus on dodgin’ anythin’, then I can hit Mach 8 easy. Maybe even 10, not sure. Barely skimmin’ the water’s surface, at least.”

“That’s still several hours, Davídrius!”

“Yeah, well. I was determined.”

“So much for ‘not a walk in the park,’ huh?” Selind drawled, glancing up and reaching forward to retrieve her two recently-refilled glasses. “Why the hell’d you come back? If you were comin’ back from Nimaliaka, then whatever you were doin’ over there had to be better than protectin’ this shithole.”

Davídrius sighed wearily. “I got… well, I won’t be doin’ anythin’ over there for a couple weeks ‘cause of… reasons.”

“This have anythin’ to do with the shit goin’ down over in CSA space?”

“So the news even reached here, huh?”

“Don’t be surprised that news reaches Nock. People are well-versed in current events here. It’s the Compounds out in the wastelands that never hear anythin’.”

“Well, you ain’t wrong.” Davídrius paused to yawn, taking the opportunity to lean back and stretch. “So, seein’ as I had some… free time, I decided to check on Riken. See if the Bleeders are up to anythin’, anythin’ that I could stop. Make sure they aren’t an issue anymore.”

Selind frowned, turning her attention down to her glass as she slowly swirled its contents around. “…Of course that’s why you came back.”

“…That a bad thing?” Davídrius narrowed his eyes, giving Selind an apprehensive glance.

“I’d be tempted to say yes.”

“The hell’s that supposed to mean?”

“You were always attached to Riken. You took those Bleeder attacks pretty hard fifteen, twenty years ago. I thought you leavin’ was a sign that you’d managed to move on, but… guess I was wrong.”

“Move on?” Davídrius scowled. “Shitty as it is, Riken is my home. The hell is there to ‘move on’ from?”

“From thinkin’ that every little screw up in your life is your own fault.”

“What? Since when have I done that?”

“Since you discovered your super speed, that’s when. No one should saddle themselves with stickin’ around and tryin’ to fix this shithole. But you did anyways.”

“You keep sayin’ that. If you’re so convinced that everyone should leave, then why the hell haven’t you? You’re two years older than me and you’re pretty good with guns, I wager you could’ve easily found work with the RPF or SFC.”

Selind sighed warily. “I… can’t. I’m stuck here.”

“Sure ya are,” Davídrius deadpanned. “Just two minutes ago you were lecturin’ me about comin’ back, and now here you are sayin’ you can’t leave. Never could take your own advice, huh?”

Selind’s only response was to take a long drink before slamming the cup down on the counter haphazardly.

“What’s ‘stuck’ supposed to mean, anyways? This have anythin’ to do with your boyfriend?” Davídrius snorted as he began glancing around the bar distractedly. “Where is he, anyway? Last I saw you, the two of you never let each other outta sight.”

“…We had a kid.”

“…Really.” Davídrius turned back to face Selind, who was again engrossed in the liquid swirling in her cup. “When’d that happen?”

“’Bout two years ago.”

“Yeah? Boy or girl?”

“Girl. Named her Relia. Austilad’s idea.”

“I’m guessin’ they’re back in Tresnon, then?”

“Yeah. Austilad makes for a great father. Almost wish I had one.”

“Mm. When’re you goin’ back?”

“Not sure I am.”

“What?” Davídrius snapped his attention back to Selind after having it wander to the dark shelves in front of him. “Say again?”

Selind sighed again before downing the rest of her drink. “I left him.”

“What?! The hell did you do that for?”

“I couldn’t handle it, okay? I’m too young for this shit. Settlin’ down, raisin’ a family. I can’t do it. I can’t anchor myself here.”

“So you just left your boyfriend and your kid behind?” Davídrius retorted, “you really gonna force that on ‘em?”

Selind scowled. “Don’t get high and mighty on me, pup. You ain’t the only one here who grew up without parents.”

“Exactly. You know how it feels. So why the hell d’you wanna inflict that on your own kid?”

Selind refused to respond, instead choosing to take a swig out of her second glass.

“…So that’s why you were confused about me comin’ back. Ha!” Davídrius laughed bitterly. “That’s why you were glad I left. You wanted to do the same.”

“You saw right through me,” she smiled hollowly.

“What about Tresnon, huh? You’re the primary Guardian. You just gonna leave the whole compound to itself, too?”

“…”

“Damn. I knew you were carefree, Selind, but I never thought you’d fuck someone over with it. And you haven’t even properly left, you’re still on this shithole of a continent. Leave it to you to half-ass fuckin’ someone over.”

“Hey,” she cut in sharply as she shot a glare at the Velocitechnic. “You weren’t there. You didn’t know what it was like. What I was goin’ through. What I am goin’ through.”

“No, but I know what growin’ up without parents is like. I know what it’s like to lose someone close to you, too. But I’ve never left someone. So between you, Austilad, and your kid, I can empathize with two of you. Guess which one I can’t?”

“Never left anyone, eh?” Selind chuckled bitterly. “That’s a lie. That’s a solid lie. You left Riken.”

“First you were confused that I came back, now you’re mad I left? Get a grip, woman, which one is it?”

“Neither.” She paused to take another drink. “…Both.”

Davídrius shot her an incredulous look. “How drunk are you?”

Selind shook her head warily before finishing the drink and shoving the glasses back across the counter. “Not drunk yet, just buzzed. Need another three or four of those to get drunk.”

“Right,” Davídrius drawled. “The shit you’re drinkin’ would knock out most men half again your size at that point.”

“I’ve built up a tolerance over the years.”

“Sounds like a shitty way to spend the time.”

“Not really any other way to spend the time.”

“You mean aside from gettin’ knocked up and abandonin’ your kid?”

“Look, I know I’ve made some mistakes. No need to get crass or snappy about it.”

“Oi, oi, since when’ve you cared about bein’ crass? You started this when you got on my case for comin’ back, anyways.”

“I’m just tryin’ to look out for you, Davídrius…”

“Maybe you should start lookin’ out for yourself, huh?”

Selind sighed warily, leaning forward with her elbows on the counter as she waited for her glasses to be refilled. “I know I’m not the best person to be givin’ out advice, but… I think that applies to you, too. You should really think about yourself more often.”

Davídrius snorted. “When’ve I not thought about myself?”

“You give off the impression that you’re self-centered, and it’s enough to fool most people, but not me,” Selind countered. “I’ve known you since you were just a wee lad, you know.”

“You say that, but you were just a ‘wee lass’ yourself.”

“Stop internalizin’ things, Davídrius. I know that’s why you never left. You blamed yourself for your parents’ deaths, for your siblings’ deaths… for Hanas’s death.”

Davídrius scowled deeply at the name, but didn’t interject.

“That’s why I was happy to hear that you left, I think,” Selind continued, reaching forward to grab her glasses just after they were refilled. “I thought you’d finally gotten over ‘em.”

“You think I’d really just get over Hanas?”

“I’d hoped you would. Did you?”

The Velocitechnic looked away, sighing wistfully. “I… don’t know. …I thought I did…”

Selind took another drink. “And?”

“…And nothin’.” Davídrius shook his head before standing up. “Look, I’m grateful for seein’ you again, and for the talk, but I’ve really gotta get goin’. Info on the Bleeders won’t find itself.”

“Wait.”

“Eh…?” The Velocitechnic paused mid-turn, glancing down at his right arm where Selind had just grabbed him. He then looked up at her face, though she herself was once again absorbed in her drink.

“…You stickin’ around?” she questioned without making eye contact. “Goin’ to check on Riken?”

“Well, yeah.” Davídrius shook her off and turned to face her completely as he crossed his arms. “That’s the whole reason I came down here. Why would I not check on Riken? It’s my home. …Was my home.”

“You got the past tense right.”

“…What?” He narrowed his eyes, watching tensely as Selind finished her drink and moved on to the other. Before drinking again, though, she sighed.

“Riken’s gone.”

“…Say what?”

“Bleeder attack,” Selind muttered, her gaze pointed straight down into her cup. “Barely a month after you left. I guess they wanted revenge for you takin’ out Strén? I dunno. But by the time I’d heard, it was too late to do anythin’. Whole crew of Bleeders, attacked Riken, cleaned the place out. It was… a massacre. No one survived.”

“Wha… what…?” Davídrius responded quietly, stunned. Mere moments later his face contorted with rage as he reached over to Selind and roughly grabbed her by her collar, forcing her to face him. “Why the fuck didn’t you tell me earlier?!”

“Because I knew this is exactly how you’d react!” she snapped back, knocking away his arm and accidentally knocking over her drink in the process. “I was tryin’ to look out for you! Help you move on! Not drag you back into the stupid affairs of this stupid shithole!”

“By hidin’ the fact that my entire home was slaughtered?!” Davídrius shouted back, ignorant of the attention he was beginning to attract. “You think hidin’ the fact that everyone I knew is dead is supposed to help me ‘move on?!’”

“Yes! …No! I don’t know!” Selind countered, turning away in frustration. “I just— I don’t know!”

“Damn right you don’t know,” Davídrius growled. “And here I thought I could still trust you. So much for havin’ someone in my life who’d understand me.” He turned his back on Selind. “Because, apparently, they’re all dead.”

“Davídrius—!”

“I’m gonna find the Bleeders responsible, and I’m gonna make them pay. And then I’m gonna leave. I bet that’ll make you real happy, huh?” He paused for a moment. “…Goodbye, Selind.”

She simply stared forward, unable to respond before the Velocitechnic suddenly disappeared from sight.

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