(5th December, XX68)
In a world of alchemy and balance, there are things that were never meant to happen. Such things so encased in darkness that saving them would mean stepping into the shadows yourself.
Yet everything was stolen away I lost my close friend to death, a place where nobody ever returns. All my existing faith - a single burning light amidst an emptiness of shadows- was smothered out in an instant, and the purity of my soul became inked, with hatred.
As a diplomatic alchemist, I used to despise those who gave themselves to the temptation of evil. Those who murder like hunting prey; those who kill and destroy for the sake of self-fulfillment; those who believe that power can conquer that of righteousness. But that was all before it hit me.
It was a Winter's day, 21st of November XX68. Jett Ryder, aged 25, died in an overnight assassination. The murderer? Unidentified.
What drives now me isn't ambition, loyalty, or anything vapid like that. Horrifying enough, my long-built aspiration has been replaced purely with a vengeance- a vengeance for the one who mercilessly took the life of my friend. I am not the same man I was before. I've sworn to his blood to become stronger, more deceptive, more heartless. And there's nothing that will stop me now in my path of revenge.
May the dead forever rest in peace.
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Side note: The story is told from a male protagonist's perspective. I hope you enjoy! xx
1. Death, Voice
The word haunts me. Death. It haunts me non-stop. Death. And I hate how it takes control of my sanity.
Fuck it. I take an overloaded mouthful of alcohol and set the thick glass on the table. Probably my third glass today, is it? I can't remember. Everything in my mind is a haze of grey flashes. I touch off my cigarette butt on the ashtray and take a breath through the smoke. Grey flashes. Grey smoke. What else is grey? Jett's face before he died, that's what. I feel myself clench a fist as I hit the wooden table hard, not for the first time that day. The glass of beer wobbles on the unsteady table.
Damn, it hurts. The skin on my knuckles looks like they are already peeling from continuous impacts. It hurts like ripping off a piece of my limb, a piece of my body. He died and that's what he left me. An empty void in which he was always meant to fill. An open wound just for him left raw and painful. Why did he have to leave me in such a damn mess? My sanity chipped away at the very memory of him, taking my anguish and shaping it into hatred.
But I'm delusional. I hate a dead person. He doesn't know I hate him. Because he's dead. He's fucking dead, moron. The screams of deaths’ voice deafen my ears.
I claw my fingers through my dirty unkempt hair. It was filthy from days without a wash. I was filthy, from days of disgusting cigar and alcohol. How long has it been? A week? A week since he got murdered. I've lost my sanity for a week. Pleasant. And how long will it be before I find it? I'm stupid. I don't want to find it. I don't want to be sane, that's why. It's far too painful to be sane. It's better if I'm stupid.
Looking at my red knuckles, I flash the metal ring on my index finger in the sunlight. It is almost dark, twilight one might say, with the fading orange sun streaming its remaining light through the window. There was a point in time when I admired the ring because it was something I made myself a very long time ago.
Slowly I remove the ring and a sense of bareness strikes me around my finger. It was a ring I never took off, partially because drift rings are never supposed to be taken off in the first place. Unless the other pair is lost, at least, like mine is now. Drift rings are special rings that alchemists use to communicate with each other, one of those things that give alchemists self-pride in wearing because it indicates that you belong to a group that accepts you.
Jett had suggested it when we were both still studying in the academy, bright-eyed and ready to graduate as apprentice alchemists. To believe we were actually excited to face the horrors of real-life alchemy, I can't help but scoff bitterly at all these past memories buried inside my drift ring. Such a beautiful piece of broken, scrap metal, barely worth a single nickel now that its pair is missing.
Still I hear his voice in my ears, haunting me, refusing to be carried away by the wind of time.
“Trust me when I say I know how to use this thing,” I remember he had said when we went finally managed to tinker a pair of drift rings out of silver alloy we found in the metal-works room. “I’m pretty sure it works like long-distance telepathy, at least that’s what my dad tells me. I see him use one all the time. Every alchemist has one when they work with a comrade. And you’re my lifelong comrade, right Cruz?”
Yeah right. Comrade? More like the one you betrayed and abandoned.
Something hot blurs my vision and my fists tremble again with anger, subsiding into poisonous agony at the back of my throat. What right did he have to leave me like this- a corpse barely breathing, feeding on self-agony and hatred, wishing the death of himself and the murderer making me suffer this way. My life had always meant nothing without his purpose and his presence beside me. I can do nothing by myself. I can only kill, out of hatred and insanity. I can only kill, in hope to silence the ghosts in my head.
I circle the ring around my trembling fingers, twirling it clumsily back and forth in my hand. A pity this ring brings such pretty memories. Taking in another half bottle of alcohol, I start to feel slightly faint in the head. My vision sways and all I can hear is the loud throbbing of my heart beat, before everything silences and my fingers collide with each other, numb and slack without coordination. The ring falls out from my loose grip and rolls off the mahogany table.
Even the sound of it falling sounds pure and so innocent in my head. It makes a little tinkling sound on the tile floor, becoming quieter and quieter as it settles down. My eyelids feel heavy as I lose sight of the ring underneath the table. I close my now empty palms, clutching tightly onto thin air, onto the only remnant of Jett. Maybe it’s time to end my own life. Maybe, that way, I wouldn’t have to bear this excruciating agony that cuts my heart with guilt every time I think about him.
Darkness floods my vision as my head thuds hard on the table. As I stare into a blackness of empty space, if through a dream, a hazed voice enters its way into my mind. Is it a dream? No, my mind is bloody stuffed up but it can’t be asleep yet. An unfamiliar woman’s voice flows into ears through my unconscious mind, her voice jarred by static but still somehow hauntingly pure.
“Cruz,” she calls.
How does she know my name? Gravity weighs down my eye lids as I try to pry them open. No, it can't be.
I feel a shard of ice run down my spine, jolting me awake as I slowly realised the impossible. I tumble off from my chair and start searching for my drift ring. Not far away from the table’s leg, I see my own drift ring burning in a white flame. Its engraved runes blare a soft faint light, its remaining quintessence energy fading into the cold air that hung. It was burning because someone had used its pair to speak to me. Someone has Jett’s ring.
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2. Drift Ring
“Cruz…” the voice calls. “At Marsq, tonight. I will be waiting for you…”
The faded blazing of the drift ring signifies that the message has ended. But the reminiscence of her voice echoing in my head continues to send a shiver down my spine, running me cold with questions. Who is she? What does she want? And why, in all fuck, does she have Jett’s drift ring?
Struggling, my mind rummages through a number of options. Someone waiting for me has Jett’s drift ring. But who could have a dead man’s drift ring? Jett’s family were probably returned with his possessions after the crime inspection. Yet I highly doubt anyone in the Lyder family would ask me to meet them at a swank nightclub in the middle of the night. The only other option was someone who took Jett’s drift ring before his death. The wind empties my train of thought as soon I realise it. His murderer has his drift ring. Whoever murdered him that night was speaking to me through his drift ring.
Silent chuckles escape my lips at the thought of a murderer asking for their death sentence. And so eagerly too, asking me to meet her in the middle of the night at the most shrouded nightclub in all of Copenhagen. It must be fate that has given me this perfect opportunity to destroy her life, just as she has destroyed Jett's. I'll make her scream in agony, cry in pain. Killing someone has never looked so appealing- a merciless death will be my only gift to her. Perhaps it will even take some the pain away. Perfect, all the better.
Drinking up the last of my beer, I feel a raw sense of exhilaration burn down the length of my throat. Drop the empty bottle onto the table, I lick the remaining alcohol dripping down my mouth. Marsq, did she say? Not a bad place to choose one's death. Although I’ve visited it a few times before, with my only purpose to enjoy the beautiful ladies there, unfavourably, it isn't a place I'm overly familiar with. But I guess it'll have to do for a last minute murder. They say what happens in Marsq stays in Marsq. Guess I'll just have to make sure it works itself out.
The only real problem right now would be my unforgivable fuck-up of an appearance. Looking like I do now, I doubt I would even pass the security guards outside the entrance. Ah, such a pain. I take off my sweat-drenched shirt and take a few Hydrodols first to relieve my fuck-up of a brain.
After an extensively long time showering and scrubbing the days of stench off my body, I try to clean myself up by adding cologne to hide the overriding scent of alcohol and cigarettes. Harder than I thought. I must have been rather stoned these couple of days. I give myself a fresh shave and roughly dry my hair, cutting off a few loose messy ends to pull off a darkly disheveled yet mature look. Some fringing hair covers a part of my eyes so I trim a little there as well. I usually like to make my eyes stand out; they are a nice faded teal colour, so I have been told.
Choosing to wear casual but not too disordered, I put on a pair of dark jeans and a clean navy dress shirt. I undo the first two buttons of my shirt and step backwards to look at myself in the mirror. Not too bad for a half-drunken guy. Taking my drift ring from the table, I slip in onto my left index finger, where it had used to always sit undisturbed. Let's hope I won't be needing it again after tonight's bloodshed.
As I open the tall cupboard beside my study, I inspect a collection of weapons from my past years of combat and alchemy training. Although some were given to me by professors and senior alchemists, most of my weapons were hand-made by myself and fully customised to suit my own needs. Swords, axes, a whole shelf of guns and knives, a steel whip from my late mother and ah, my trusty transmutation needles. I laugh to myself at the temptation to bring all of these brutal weapons to try out one by one on Jett’s murderer. It would be amusing seeing me carry a slaughter plate.
Finally, I decide on five transmutation needles, a thin sharp blade, and my all-time favourite pistol loaded with silver alloy bullets. At the back of the cupboard, I glimpse the sight of a sealed long sword chained tightly with a black alchemy lock. It had belonged to Jett who had given to me about a month ago before he died. Thinking about it, it was almost as if he had decided to give it to me coincidentally before his death, yet I never really remembered him being in possession of it before. A few more of his bits and pieces of weaponry still remain in the closet, reminding me painfully of that unorganized personality of his that always used to tick me off. But now that he’s gone, the silence of corridors that used to ring with his voice, the empty spaces of the cabinet that used to store his favourite weapons and knives… The disappearance of it all continues to strike a wounded pang of hollowness in my chest.
Suddenly feeling a gush of rage, I forcefully slam the cabinet door shut and close my eyes, forcing the image of his death out of my mine. Draping a leather coat across my shoulder, I step out of my apartment door without looking back.
It is almost dark outside, the soft evening sunlight fading into the horizon, tainting the clouds a rich violent and red. A strong cold wind blows at my slightly damp hair and I shiver, pushing my cold hands deep into my coat pockets. Streetlights cast waning shadows onto the sidewalk as I make my way to the parking lot of my apartment complex. Starting up my black BMW coupé, I curse myself for letting his death linger in my mind. Taking a high-way south to Copenhagen, I watch the neon lights fly past outside the window, and make a silent resolve to never mourn over his death again. Because revenge is already awaiting.
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