I knew I was guilty, and I knew at least two other people knew as well. If I had the choice to go back and change this, I wouldn’t take it. Because no matter what, Luke deserves better than pond scum like Marino. He was probably taking advantage of Luke’s obliviousness, manipulating him into a relationship. He probably masterminded the whole thing, laughing behind closed doors about a plan to break my heart.
Although, in hindsight? This situation is probably the exact reason teenagers with magic as strong as mine aren’t usually trusted very much.
I still don’t regret it.
“Tyler, how do you wish to explain your actions?” I still don’t get why Shiro’s dad got to question me, sure, Quintin makes sense, but him ? The guy that beat me senseless gets a say in this?!
I glared down at my clenched fists, still trying to hide behind a smile. “He deserves better than pond scum…” I muttered darkly. “Marino was laughing and making fun of me and he wouldn’t shut up but I made him shut up. The levels were just a nice bonus…” I added, smile growing a tad wider as pride rushed through me at the memory.
“That doesn’t qualify as an explanation, Tyler. That would make your actions childish and would only make things worse for you, are you sure that’s what you’re going with?” Quintin asked, masking his disappointment with a faux calm, fatherly tone.
“Are you calling me a liar?” I asked coldly, clenching my fists tighter. “I’ve been itching for a fight all day, old man. When Marino started laughing at me, laughing when I just had my heart crushed beneath someone’s boot , I couldn’t take it anymore! He’s been a little shit to me all week, ever since that stupid test that I barely passed. I thought he’d changed, but nooo! No, I was wrong again! He’s like a snake in the grass, just lying low, waiting for the moment to strike. And believe me, if I hadn’t been the one to take him down then it just would’ve been someone else. I finally did something… I’m not useless anymore!” I explained disjointedly, voice going high and broken towards the end. I’m not useless… I took down the biggest monster of them all! With barely a scratch!
“So, would you say that this is an act, fueled by love?” Shiro’s dad paced in front of me, I didn’t like it. “Because if so, that’s not necessarily a reason to murder someone. This is a very serious situation and I don’t think you realized the consequences for this Tyler. Not only was it murder, but It cannot be proven, and there’s no evidence anyone but you was involved, so we can’t say that it was self defense. Even though, clearly, you’ve said yourself that it wasn’t, correct?”
I laughed, clutching my stomach and gasping for air. “Self-defense? Hell fucking no! D’you think I’d let that shitstain anywhere near me with that weakass fencing bullshit he does?! There’s no way to dress this up, Pops. Murder’s murder, and you’re lucky the party system kicked in when it did or you might’ve had two corpses on your hands! Man, ain’t that a plot twist?!” I snickered, forcing the words out between gasps of air. God, self-defense?! Didn’t I already say I did it? Shiro refuses to use magic, and Luke’s too dumb to learn it, poor thing. No… Only I have this kind of power… It’s… intoxicating.
“Well, if you’re sure. We can give you a sentence now.” He said, putting a hand on the large table in the room. Quintin gave me a look, then looked at Shiro’s dad. W-what have I gotten myself into?
“Public execution.” Quintin said, looking down. “I’m sorry to say it, but there’s no negotiation in this decision.”
Part of me wanted to run screaming, or fight back. The rest of me? Well… The rest of me just wanted recognition. Attention. Any sort would do. A thought occurred to me, and I started snickering again. Shiro’s dad glared at me. “What? What’s so damn funny?” he demanded, forcing my head back so I was looking up at him.
“Oh, nothing. Just thinking about how I should’ve let Shiro run me through in that cave after all.” I replied, hiding my grimace as he tightened his grip on my loose hair. Where had the tie gone? Did I lose it in the portal?
Shiro basically fell through the door. She had been eavesdropping. “D-dad, you can’t be serious? Public execution?! He killed someone, but does that mean he should die?!” She grabbed his hand and pulled it off of my head, thank god. That man has a tight grip… and warm hands.
I tilted my head, looking at her questioningly. Why is she defending me? “Shiro, don’t you remember? I almost killed you in that cave in Mount Bloom. Shouldn’t you be the one leading the pack for my punishment?” I asked, still smiling. I don’t know how to deal with this… With any of this.
“That was me though! This is your life, I had a better chance making it away from you alive than you have surviving execution, and that’s because you won’t! 100%!” She was almost screaming. “Dad, you have to be able to do something, anything?”
“Shiro… Just let me die. I… I’m just human garbage. You seriously didn’t notice? All the times I tried to pick a fight with anyone who looked stronger than me, every time I asked to spar ‘just one more time!’ when I was clearly exhausted… Me begging you in that cave. I’m a glutton for punishment, you know? I deserve to hurt, I’ll just keep hurting others if I stay here.” I said, before my smile turned sharp and cold. “How many more people do I have to kill before you’ll finally leave me?” I asked rhetorically, narrowing my eyes at her. I idly tugged on the cuffs holding my hands together. Weak chain… Could probably melt it if I wanted. Should I? Oh, it’d be worth the hassle just to see the surprise and fear one more time…
Shiro’s hand suddenly whipped back and slapped across my face. “Don’t say that you idiot! It doesn’t matter how many people you kill, you shouldn’t kill anyone, but I’m not gonna hate you because of it. We’re friends, so why should I hate you for doing the wrong things sometimes?!” Her dad grabbed her hand, turning her to face him
“Shiro, this isn’t your fight anymore. He’s already admitted to doing it for a seemingly invalid reason. He’s due to be executed in 3 hours.”
I smiled nastily at her. “See? I told you to give up on me.” I sneered, twitching slightly when the first drop of molten iron hit my leg. Bingo. “Wish I could give you a hug, but….Oh wait! I can!” I said, faking surprise as I pulled the cuffs apart. I shook out my hands, flexing them and running through some of my stronger spells. Nothing. Maybe they weren’t as stupid as I thought, and actually remembered to use some sort of magic-dampener ward, probably on the room. Weaker spells worked though, as I discovered when a small jet of flame swirled up in my palms. Sweet. Let’s go out with a bang, shall we?
Before I could move, I looked up and a sword was pointed directly at my face. Shiro. “Don’t, you’re already in deep enough, I won’t hesitate to actually use the blade this time…” She said coldly, clearly intending to use her sword this time. “Sit there and let what happens happen Tyler.”
I decided to test my luck, shooting a few sparks at her. Nearly immediately, the blade of her sword was pinning my hands to the table, the sharp edge digging into my overlapped wrists. “Ow, ok, I get the message!” I hissed, freezing for fear of chopping my hands off. Kiiiinda need those.
She lifted the sword off of my hands, but didn’t lower the blade. “Good, remember it.” This is the most serious I’ve ever seen her, how delicious. I doubt she’ll expect a physical attack, she never would. I dipped left and threw a punch at her face. I expected to either hit her, or be stopped by one of the adult men in the room, but she did this weird move with the sword, threw my arm to the left, and kicked my legs out from under me. My face hit the table and I slinked onto the floor, half in shame, half in pain. “Nice try Tyler, but I wouldn’t fall for it that easily, I would have Marino teach you that move, but he can’t now.” She deadpanned, lifting me off of the floor. “Sit.”
“Why should I?” I challenged, rubbing the new bruise and spitting out a bit of blood from where I bit my tongue. Like hell I’m going down easy, this is way too much fun! “C’mon Shi. Tell me why I shouldn’t melt the rest of these useless cuffs off and go down swinging?” I added, smirking at her. She hates that nickname, something about bad luck. She knows I know that, and I end up with a hard shove towards the chair for my troubles. I scowled. “Jeeez… You’re one tough nut to crack, Shi.” I complained, taking my sweet time sitting down.
My cockiness got me scowls from Shiro’s dad and Quintin, and a head shove from Shiro. “Stay there, move again and I’ll use the sword, and do not call me Shi.” She said, keeping that sword she seems rather attached to pointed at my throat. Of course, I’m set to die anyway, so why not go out my own way?! All this time, I had been melting any metal on my body, waiting for the optimal time to strike.
Which was now! I swung my leg with a metallic snap, nailing Shiro in the shin. “Looks like the great Shiro has fallen!” I shouted in pure excitement as I drove my best front kick into her stomach. “HAHAHAHA! Look who’s winning now!” I screeched, bringing the axe kick I had been practicing down into the back of her neck. As she fell to the floor, probably unconscious, I looked up to Quintin and Tanaka. “Come on guys! Gonna let your favorite little Collector get beaten down over here?!” They remained still, just making me feel more agitated. “WHY AREN’T YOU DOING ANY-” Before I could get my sentence out, I felt a sharp pain in my ankle. Shiro wasn’t knocked out at all, she was fully awake and ready.
And my foot was missing…
“I’m sorry Tyler, but I warned you” She muttered, coughing a small amount of blood onto the floor from the kicks.
Too shocked to even scream, I just collapsed onto the floor as I lost my balance. “Y-You just… My foot… Kh...Khyahahahahhahaa! Oh man, you’re just as bad as me!” I gasped out, clutching my ankle desperately, instinctively trying to cut off the bloodflow as I coughed out my hacking laughter. She did it! Looks like it’s my move now. I grit my teeth, squeezing my eyes shut through the pain as I rolled up the pants leg and grabbed the wound. “Oooooh, this is so unsanitary…” I muttered, wincing as I heated my hands enough to cauterize the wound. That time… I did scream. It felt like I was melting my skin off, each damaged nerve crying out in agony.
Shiro tried to lift herself off of the floor, panting. “Dad… take him somewhere… I’m done with trying to get through to him through words or force…” That… I’ll be honest that hurt a little, deep in my soul. Very deep, not enough to show, but I felt it. Shiro was my first friend, after all. It’s not like I could just cut her out immediately or something. Crazy I may be, but heartless? No.
I’m far from heartless. I care so much that it hurts . Wish cutting out friends was as easy as chopping off a foot apparently was. Life would probably be a whole lot simpler...
“Come on Tyler, we’re taking you to a place so you can be held until it’s… that time.” Shiro’s dad, a man I used to consider my own father, told me. He was sentencing me to death, and I trusted him with my life. Ain’t that irony.
I swallowed my hurt, shoving it away in a deep, dark corner of my mind, and rolled my eyes, determined to keep up my nonchalant facade for as long as I could. “God, you’re a grown-ass man and you can’t even say execution? How boring. You look like you just got hit by a despair truck or something! What, it finally catching on what you did?” I sneered, barely fighting as new leather cuffs were secured around my wrists, pinning them behind my back.
“Hardly, I just don’t enjoy putting people I considered family to death. I guess it is too late for emotions isn’t it, Tyler?” He shoved me, “Go on, face your execution .” I didn’t appreciate the way he stressed every part of execution, it stung worst of all, like the reality of it all was finally setting in.
Maybe… maybe I was the one who got hit by the despair truck. I finally got what I’ve wanted for years, I was finally about to get all the attention and punishment I’ve ever wanted, all at the same time! I was finally getting what I deserved... so why did I feel so….empty?
“Not moving? Come on now, start walking- or should I say hopping. It’s time for your execution Tyler. Isn’t this what you wanted?” Shiro said. Of all people, Shiro was saying this to me… This is the one that really stung. Tanaka was replaceable, I didn’t care about Quintin, but Shiro was my first and closest friend, and now she hated me.
It is… It is what I wanted… That’s right. No more shows, no more games. Just me and the sweet release of death. Finally… After so long… “Keep your pants on, Shi. If you wanted me to move faster, maybe you should’ve let me keep my foot.” I snarked, with a pointed glance in the direction of said appendage. It still had my boot on it. Somehow, the sight struck me as funny. It looked more like a slipper now…
“Hurry, I don’t have all day.” She hissed, shoving me forwards. Wait… what does she…?
“What do you mean you don’t have all day?”
“You moron. I’m the one doing it…” I hadn’t realized... Shiro is the most accurate and powerful with most weapons, of course she’d do this… one swing is all she’d need.
My eyes widened, and I absently hopped to the door as I let out that weird, raspy chuckle again. “Really? Man, I kinda assumed it’d be like a hangman thing, to be honest. You gonna make it quick? Or are you gonna make me suffer? ” I asked, tilting my head back to grin at her. Felt more like baring my teeth, but whatever. A smile’s a smile, right?
She grabbed my hair and pulled me backwards. “I can do it now, nice and slow if you want.” The young Collector turned executioner grumbled, thrusting my head forward. “Now keep moving, I don’t need you holding people up.” Everything she added made the reality of the situation sting just a little more. I couldn’t show it, but I was nearly ready to break down and cry.
So of course, I reached for the tried and true humor to lean on. I just don’t know when to quit… “Oh come on, you can always go on a- head , can’t ya? Don’t worry, I’ll catch up. Otherwise, you might get hopping mad.” I teased, fighting back tears. God, is this what Marino felt? Or that Caveling? The terror of knowing your death is right in front of you, but not knowing when it’s going to hit… It was almost worse than the actual deed.
Shiro sighed, “Just cry already, I can hear it in your voice, and I know you pun when you’re panicking.” Damn, she knows me too well… I was truly tempted to take her offer and break down right there. I mean, I’m dead anyway, why not leave my dignity in a pool on the floor…?
I sniffled, trying to wipe my eyes on my shoulder. I don’t want her last memories of me to be some scared little kid who can’t even back up his trashtalk. I acted so high and mighty this last hour, I kinda want her to remember me as someone cool, not this… Not this useless wimp. Hell, even if she remembers me as the crazy asshole I’ve been today, at least that’d be better than a girly dork who cries at a papercut. I felt dampness on my cheeks, and realized the point was moot anyway; I’d already started crying without noticing. Well… There went all my plans of hopefully being remembered as someone who’s as cool as Shiro...
“Alright, go on out and face your audience. They’re excited to see your performance.” She said coldly, while also mocking me. I never knew she could be so… like me. If it weren’t my execution I was facing, I’d almost be… proud?
I took a second to wipe my eyes and compose my face, settling on the wide grin everyone probably expected. I lifted my head high, hopping my way out to the courtyard, where a large stage had been set up. There was a surprising turnout of people baying for my blood, but at the front of the crowd was the last person I expected. Luke stood across the stage from me, glaring at me. I shoved down the pain and shot him a cheeky wink, dying a little more inside when he flipped me off with red-rimmed eyes.
“Go stand center stage, I’ll be there in a second. And don’t try to run. Oh wait.” She snickered, walking towards Luke.
Before she got too far out of hearing range, I figured out a comeback. “Wow Shi, never realized you could be such a bitch. Guess I rubbed off on you a little too much, huh?” I called sweetly, still smiling innocently as I tried to figure out a way to get to the little table thing in the middle without falling flat on my face.
After what seemed like too long, she hugged Luke and walked towards me with a new expression, like a controlled version of the one I had in the cave… I’ve made a mistake. “It’s time Tyler, I won’t lie, this might hurt like hell.” She grabbed her sword, of all weapons, that sword that’s slapped me so many times felt like an insult.
I threw back my head and laughed, like she’d just told a hilarious joke. “Good! Make me suffer.” I said carelessly. My heart felt like a shriveled date, all gross and hard. Well… Who the hell needs sadness anyway? I’ve got about five minutes anyway, might as well get what I deserve without bitching about it, right?
“Good, keep your head that way.” She muttered, I could feel her sword press against my neck lightly, then lift up and move back. This time, the swing wasn’t gonna be the flat of the sword, this time I can feel just how hard Shiro can really swing that thing… and I was scared. “This should only take one swing.”
Trembling, I tried to think of any last things I wanted to say to her. Suddenly, I remembered what I gained earlier, when I lost everything else. I looked her in the eyes and smirked, tensing as I watched the blade. “Enjoy all this EXP, Shiro. You’ve earned it for defeating the boss.” I said, closing my eyes as she started to swing. Finally I know what it’s like on the other end of the blade…