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Good Omens
Topic Started: Sep 3 2016, 09:56 PM (621 Views)
Rorick Skyve
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[ *  *  * ]
((Maxim Kehlenbrink continued from The Land Across))


There were buildings up ahead, quite a few. An entire compound, really. Not exactly what he'd have considered inviting, but just about lifeless enough to make him consider the possibility of them not being 'inhabited' yet. Some of them, at least.

Maxim wiped some sweat off his brow and checked his bag to make sure nothing would fall out for the umpteenth time now. He was being paranoid, of course he was, but it was better to be safe than sorry. Or how Lenin had put it: Trust is good, control is better. Yes, he much preferred that saying, the former had always struck him as rather plump, ugly sounding really. Though fancy words weren't going to get him out of this, unfortunately.

Upon closer inspecting the compound from afar, he decided the best way to approach it was to take the way around it, alongside the exterior walls of the buildings. If he could avoid being seen, then he'd do so, no question.




He didn't know how many minutes had passed. To him, it had seemed like at least ten, though he knew it was probably far less than that. Maybe he was being too careful for his own good. If he kept moving at that speed, every possible hiding spot would be long discovered and taken by the time he reached them. Then again, as long as he remained unspotted, he had no reason to complain.

Maxim had moved around the backside of several buildings now, passed a single smaller shack or lodge of some sort on his way. He had ignored it, despite his curiosity almost getting the better of him. A small place like that stood out far too much for it to be a safe haven where nobody would find him. So he had continued his path, lurking next to those gigantic blocks of concrete, until something peculiar breached the silence and almost made him trip out of surprise.

Somewhere on that godforsaken island, bells had started to ring.
Edited by Rorick Skyve, Sep 5 2016, 04:55 AM.
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Morning in Paris, the city awakes

To the bells of Notre Dame

The fisherman fishes, the bakerman bakes

To the bells of Notre Dame

To the big bells as loud as the thunder

To the little bells soft as a psalm

And some say the soul of the city is

The toll of the bells

The bells of Notre Dame


It was tempting, so very tempting to continue the lyrics in his head. Maxim almost caught himself humming the melody along as well. As stupid as it sounded, that little tune was actually sufficient to lift his mood by a considerable bit. He had thought of it as soon as he had heard the first ring of the bells, echoing from far away. Not just anywhere though, the sound clearly originated from where he had took off, back from the asylum, now that he listened closer. One more reason for him to be glad he had left earlier. Now people would swarm the place all the more, like vultures circling around their dying prey. Not really prey, but he couldn't think of a better term to use.

He smiled a little. There had been others in the distance, as he had crossed the bridge, as he had walked across that eerily yet almost comfortingly empty terrain. He had ignored them and they had either done so as well or simply not spotted him altogether. Either way, it worked out for him. He was still by his own, with the only person he could truly trust around here. Well...almost.

Looking to his right on the bridge earlier, he had seen nothing but ocean. Or sea, whatever hopelessly large body of water had been chosen as their prison. More like a cage, really. Speaking of cage, he had to consider trying to get into one of the many buildings around him, standing out in the open like this was bound to get him into trouble sooner or later.

Once again, he saw himself faced with a choice to make, decide where to go next. Only this time, it seemed the actual decision had to be postponed. Maxim was certain that he was making out movement, not too far away, a sort of crunchy sound, steps. Someone was on their way towards him and fast. Coming from around the corner of the building.

Maxim had almost no time to react, think about what he'd be doing. So in the old tradition of people being caught off-guard, he remained frozen on the spot, his hand tightly clutching his bag. Just in case. Maybe he'd have to try and pull a bluff, depending on who had just decided to drop in at this rather inconvenient moment.
Edited by Rorick Skyve, Sep 4 2016, 06:46 PM.
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The footsteps stopped. Whoever was there, around the corner, they obviously had a reason for stopping. Since spontaneous death was both silly and unrealistic as an option, it had to mean they had somehow noticed him as well, despite his best efforts to remain hidden. Though those efforts had only consisted of not moving for a few seconds, so this had been foreseeable, really.

Maxim could feel his heartbeat becoming more and more noticeable to him, hammering against the inner walls of his chest. This wasn't good. In the best of cases, the other person had stopped since they were afraid too, trying to hide their own presence. In the worst case, they were preparing to ambush him. Running around the corner and knocking him flat out or worse would have been sufficient for that really. Unless the other person was of small stature, he could have probably defended himself against that, tried to at least.

Just then, he heard a voice speaking and it took all but one sentence for his hopes to be torn apart violently. 'It's Ben.' Now, Maxim knew there was another Ben in school, had heard of him because of stuff relating to tabletop games. He recognized the voice though, no doubt in his mind, This was the other Ben, or rather the Ben. The one he had avoided ever since-

Maxim's first instinct was to take a step backwards, causing more rustling. Goddammit.

This boy was a homophobe, he knew that. Someone who despised him, probably regarded him as the lowest possible sort of human being. Maybe he even wanted to deny him that too, who knew what went on in that guy's head?

Whatever it was, it was bad, it had to be. Ben was probably someone who wouldn't have shed a single tear over Maxim's death. Hell, maybe he'd even be inclined to induce it himself? If he had a weapon on him, a gun, a knife, anything that was useful for killing a man, then he was as good as done for.

Maxim's hands began to tremble slightly. No, that was not how he'd go out. Not by that boy's hand, never. He started walking backwards, slowly. Running would have given him away immediately. Ben knew he was there, but he didn't know who he was, not yet. He had to try and sneak away without the other boy noticing. Count on Ben being cautious and remaining where he was for a good bit. That was his best hope of getting away, his only hope.
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Maxim stopped walking backwards for a moment. His heart beat had gotten even faster or so he felt. It began to hurt, like small needles being rammed into his chest area over and over again. He wasn't used to his nor did he want to be. Ben spoke again. Damn right he was nervous. Though Ben couldn't possibly understand why, of course, unless he came looking around the corner. So he was completely fine with the other boy remaining ignorant to his plight.

A gun, what would he have given for a gun now. Not to use deadly force, of course. As a tool of prevention, to scare that son of a bitch of. Yes, it all came back now. How much he despised that boy. Even though it had been mostly his fault, all that happened on that goddamn birthday party. Still, Ben was the way he was, a fucking homophobe, scum. He deserved to be here. Maxim didn't. But since when had life ever been fair?

He started backing away again. He didn't pay any heed to what Ben was saying. Words, hollow words, they meant nothing. He didn't know it was Maxim who he was talking to. Ben would have spoken differently had he known, so none of this was relevant in any way. He could stay in that corner and speak to the wall for all eternity, for all he cared.

Another step back. He could turn around, of course. But then, he couldn't have kept an eye on that corner. Then again, if Ben did come around there and had a gun on him, he was screwed either way. But he wanted to see it, at least. If he was going to die at that boy's hands, he at least wanted to see him coming. Not from behind, not like that. So he didn't turn around.

He took another step, then another. He'd have to be able to turn another corner soon, how far could it still be? Another step, left leg, right left, le- His heel came in contact with something. Something that gave in, started twisting and - fuck, was it a twig or -

Whatever it was, it had made him loose his footing. Before he had to time to register it, his torso was falling backwards. His other leg shot up in the air instinctively and his left arm followed, while his other still held the beg tightly clutched against his lower body. The moment was over in less than a second, but Maxim felt like he was freefalling for an eternity, a sudden rush of adrenaline raced through him and all thoughts besides 'Shitshitshitshitshit' were momentarily wiped from his brain

He cried out, only briefly, but loud enough to frighten himself while he was still in the air. Then his back and bottom made contact with the ground simultaneously and he gasped sharply as the air was pressed out of his lungs.

Edited by Rorick Skyve, Sep 4 2016, 02:10 PM.
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Maxim had closed his eyes immediately upon impact. A reflex. His head felt like it was plagued by a mix of spinning and stinging ache. Being unable to see anything only made it worse, somehow. Like he didn't even have other sensations to concentrate on, only the pain; sharp goddamn pain, fuck.

What had even happened? It had went so fast, taking step after step and suddenly- right, he had to have slipped on something. Of course he had, how silly of him to assume he'd be able to make things go his way. Sadly, even cynicism wasn't enough to ease his headache in any way, let alone his spine.His eyes opened, slowly at first, then shot wide open. He remembered, goddammit. Ben was still there, he had to have heard him take that fall. He'd take advantage of it, no doubt, he'd come around the corner and-

And there he was. Maxim couldn't see it, having his eyes staring up at the not quite comforting sky, but he could hear the steps. If Ben wanted to truly end him, then there was nothing he could do about it now. It was probably the first time in all those years that Maxim wished he'd knew Ben a little better. Then maybe he'd have been able to get a better picture of his situation: For all he knew, Ben hated his sort, had a history of disdain for him and was possibly armed.

The smart thing would have been to jump to his feet, at least try and be able to defend himself if he had to. But his limbs failed him or rather, his willpower did. All he had to do was issue the command to himself. Something didn't click though. Something kept him down there, on the ground. Why, why now, why was his body acting illogical now of all times?

His heartbeat was still killing him, with how fast it was going. It only got worse now. It was too late, he had wasted too much time. He had completely failed and he was going to pay for it, god, god, he was going to-

'You alright, dude?'

What.

That sentence made no sense, not coming from Ben. It was him, undoubtedly, he recognized the voice, no way he had forgotten. Was he mocking him? Trying to toy with him? Whatever it was he was doing, he'd not give him that satisfaction. Maxim didn't even bother lifting his head to look at the other boy, instead bringing up one hand to his own forehead and clutching it. His hand was shaking. He hoped Ben didn't notice. "What are..." Even speaking hurt a little. "What do you want?" He tried not to sound aggressive, he wasn't going to lose his cool, not openly at least. Not for Ben to savor.
Edited by Rorick Skyve, Sep 4 2016, 07:27 PM.
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As soon as Ben started talking, Maxim slightly lifted his head, looked up at him, only to get a load of sarcasm into his face. Less than flattering image. It was Ben, not like there had been any doubt about it, but now he could at least see him with his own eyes. Bent over, hand still extended. He couldn't quite understand. If this was a game, then the other boy certainly did keep a stiff upper lip. Either that or he was a masterful actor.

Either way, he'd remain wary. His heart was at least going at a slower rate now, the pain subsiding. He could not see a weapon on Ben, not in his hands, not worn on his belt. Maybe hidden somewhere under his clothes? Maxim's eyes scanned the one towering over him for a second, head to toe - no, didn't seem likely, no real room for it. Maybe in his bag, but then again, he'd have no time to draw it without Maxim noticing.

Maybe he really was safe, for now. He wanted to believe it, though the fact that it was Ben of all people who he'd have to trust in made that decision infinitely harder.

Maxim put both his hands on the ground, lifting himself into a seated position. Ben's hand was still directly in front of him. He considered ignoring. Really, the last thing he wanted to do was to accept help from the likes of him. Still, it wasn't a smart move to make. It was already peculiar enough for that boy to aid him, him disgruntling Ben any further could have easily had consequences he'd rather forgo. So only one thing to do.

Maxim grit his teeth, simultaneously chewing on his lip. Then he extended his own hand to take Ben's. A shiver went through him as soon as he made contact and it was purely unpleasant. Slowly, he got to his feet, one corner of his mind still expecting Ben to conjure a dagger out of nowhere and shove it between his ribs.

Finally, he was standing again, though he immediately took another step backwards. He'd keep his distance from that one. "So you're telling´me you're unarmed then?" His tone was skeptical, estimating. Three people he ran in so far and none of them truly armed. What were the odds?

He stayed silent for a second, pondering about whether or not to say it. Doing so was practically admitting he had erred in his assessment of Ben. At least about his current intentions. Damnit. It was common courtesy, he had to do it, even when he'd have to forcibly expel the words from his throat.

"Also, thanks."
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Alright, maybe he had been wrong in his initial judgment, maybe his paranoia had been less than justified. Even so, hat boy standing in front of him, with that bag casually tossed over his shoulder, it was still Ben. Didn't look like much on the surface, but Maxim knew better, he knew about the bigot beneath all that harmless looking crust. Which made the fact that so far, he was acting the most rational and unbiased of all the people he had met even worse.

Maxim stopped with the lip-chewing, instead wiping his mouth with his palm. He really didn't want to have to trust Ben. All he had to do was excuse himself and walk away, continue looking for a hiding spot somewhere. But even then, what was his plan after that? He had limited resources, his food and water supply would run out eventually. Realistically, there probably wasn't a spot he could hide in that others wouldn't be able to find as well. And then he'd be at their mercy, with only his bare fists to defend himself, unless he was able to master archery somehow. Yes, only his fists.

His hopes of being able to hide himself away had faltered just like that. It was an ill-conceived plan, he realized that now. Then again, whatever Ben was saying right now didn't make much more sense either. Keep looking for people and rally them to not kill anybody, that was what he got from Ben's words. That was simply delusional. People would start killing each other sooner or later, it was only logical, it was in the nature of humans to tear each other apart in situations like this. Maybe he had overestimated that boy's craftiness after all.

"Well first of all, I am in the same predicament as you. I have no weapon I'd have use for on me." He raised both his arms to further illustrate his vulnerability.

"And as for your plan: I don't see it." Hopefully, it wouldn't sound more snide than he intended it to. "The more people you run into, the higher the chances of one of them attacking you. It's that simple. You don't go around actively looking for more; if anything, you try and keep your group as small as possible. More people, more distrust, more potential for danger. More potential for one of them..." He ran a single finger across his neck, his bare skin brushing his collar. Maybe a bit overly dramatic, but at the same time, it felt sort of satisfying to do so.



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It had almost slipped from his memory, the fact how much taller he was than Ben. Of course, his only memory of him had been one that was several years old, one which he had tried to repress and wipe from his mind the best he could at that. But now, now that they were both here and Ben was apparently in no position to pose an immediate threat to him, all of that now seemed so much farther in the past. Yet, Maxim would not find it in himself to ever respect that boy in front of him, he was sure of it.

And he didn't need to. It was evident Ben felt the same way about him, that was a given. Who could know, maybe he secretly wished for Maxim to die, didn't have enough guts to admit it to his face, let alone strike him down himself. Or he was just playing it smart.

There he was again, assuming the worst. This was more than just healthy paranoia though, he knew that. It was simply too hard to try and admit that Ben might not have been a complete heap of humanoid garbage. Useful even. A potential ally. He seemed willing to admit to his own shortcomings, at least. Didn't even try to defend his mess of a plan. Though his last sentence, Maxim was not sure how to interpret. Sounded like an attempt to provoke him at first, but it was clear it was not. Sounded too dry for that, like a simple observation. And honestly, he did have a point, in a way.

Maxim didn't respond to Ben's final assertion of him, not immediately. He let out a mix between a hum and a sigh, not out of annoyance, but rather curiosity. Finally, he gathered the words he wanted to use in his mind.

"Well, yes. What it boils down to is - to put it like you did - that I don't give a fuck." He put particular emphasis on the last word and despite its crudeness, it rolled over his tongue with much more gusto than he'd have thought it would. "But I do give a fuck about surviving, I'm sure you can relate. And the way I see it, we have two simple options here." He cleared his throat. Yes, he was basically just spelling out the obvious, but someone had to do it.

"Part ways right now or carry on as well..." Team was too strong a word too use. "Carry on together. Though of course, the question of trust is a whole different story."
Edited by Rorick Skyve, Sep 6 2016, 06:35 PM.
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Maxim's facial features didn't move much as he listened to Ben's take on their situation. He still felt the ever existing urge to chew on his own lips, but he held back this time. Even when he could have cared less what the one standing in front of him thought about his peculiarities.

He found himself agreeing with the other boy's assessment, it all sounded reasonable. Even all his deep-rooted disdain for Ben aside, allying himself with him was not necessarily the best thing he could do. Although, granted he had feared that he'd put an end to his life a mere minute ago, this had all gone considerably smoother than he'd have thought.

And to be honest, that fact was somehow fascinating to Maxim. Here he was, standing in front of this guy he had avoided for so many years, wouldn't have shed a tear if he had simply dropped dead; this guy he'd have drawn a gun or any kind of weapon on upon first sight, if only he'd have been in possession of one. And yet, there was some feeling within him that contradicted all of those previous sentiments. Had he been forced to take a guess, he'd have gone with - respect? Some sort of spiteful respect.

Yes, that felt appropriate. Even for all his flaws, Ben had remained reasonable here, logical. That was probably what he respected. Ben was nothing but waste as a human being, but he wasn't stupid, at least for a homophobe. In the end, wasn't that what he'd have to look for? Someone who understood the situation as much as him, someone who he'd be able to work with, lack of trust aside. Basically, his respect for the guy also indicated that he'd be of use to him. For a while, at least.

Ben was suited to help Maxim keep himself alive. That was more than he could say for most people he knew personally. If so, then he knew what he had to do.

"So I take it you'd prefer we part ways here, yes? Well, I can't stop you if you see it that way, of course, but-" Now that part was tricky. He couldn't just tell Ben what he had just weaved in his head, obviously. He'd have to follow it up with something though.

"Look, we're out in the open, so I don't feel like taking my sweet time to spell out my take on it here. All I'm going to say is, I think we should at least try. Maybe it'll work, maybe not, but you can ditch me at any given time if you feel it's the latter, no? My point is, I don't see any harm in trying."

Not the best of arguments, but maybe enough to convince him.
Edited by Rorick Skyve, Sep 6 2016, 07:32 PM.
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Well, he had accepted this. Resistance, doubts, all that. He had not provided Ben with enough arguments of his own, that much was obvious. Besides, the guy was most certainly still held back by his own inability to look past his prejudice, in some way or another. That was a bit disappointing to say the least, but again, he had expected it. Maxim himself was better than this, obviously, he would not let his disdain for Ben cloud his better judgment, he was above that. Convincing Ben of doing the same was a challenge, of course. But with what he stood to gain, it was one worth taking on.

Raising a brow slightly, he brought a hand to his chin, feeling at his own stubble. "Well, that's where I'd like to differ: I don't see this as a risk the way you see it as much as a clear calculated risk. Having to split up resources? Well, why not have each of us stick to what's in our own bags, nothing more. We wouldn't gain anything this way, but not lose something either. And as for your 'multiple targets' story-"

Maxim cleared his throat again. Talking this much only helped make it more rough than it already was. He'd have to take a first sip or two of his water soon, couldn't hold off on that forever. "Presenting more targets to take down is one thing, but wandering off alone a complete other. Someone sees one single person walk around, they'll feel more safe in taking that one down. They see two, they'll have to consider the possibility of one of them being armed. Less likely for them to try and attack." He'd have to partially go back on what he said earlier now, contradict much of his earlier behavior and plan. That was okay, he was mature enough to admit he had been wrong in some regards.

"Look, I don't really believe in 'safety in numbers', it has more drawbacks than benefits I'd say, but - small groups, they work best for this. Only problem left is that trust issue, but we can work around that. You're smart enough to see that, right?"
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Maxim felt like something was beginning to gnaw at the back of his mind. Unpleasant and annoying, he was all too familiar with it. And he knew very well what was causing it too. Ben was starting to, for a lack of better words, piss him off.

He had been willing to give this guy a chance, to look past their differences, to actually try and appreciate his more redeeming qualities. Not that it had been easy for him, but he had managed. Ben on the other hand? Oh, it seemed he was still stubborn as ever, trying really hard to spout whatever came to his mind, object to Maxim's points just for the sake of objecting. And all just to hide the very obvious fact that he couldn't stop being an ignorant homophobic-

No, no, he couldn't let himself be carried away. He was better than this, he wouldn't just get provoked that easily, no matter how stubborn Ben was being. Though at least the guy had enough brains in his head to recognize he was being dumb, only he didn't even seem bothered by it. Maxim couldn't help it, his next words were fueled by nothing but spite.

"Yes, yes you are." A scowl returned to his features and he let out a troubled sigh, though barely audible. This Ben, he really wasn't going to let himself be convinced, was he? If so, then that made him a stubborn idiot and as such, no more valuable to him than Nadia or Jasmine were. And he had had no problems letting those two go. Still, just for the sake of demonstrating he held no grudges, that he wasn't as susceptive to childlike obstinacy, he was going to give Ben a last chance. A last chance for him to prove that maybe he was smart after all.

"Look, you're free to leap to conclusions all you want, yes? Doesn't change the fact that you're making a mistake." He didn't want to sound threatening, it would only help to further alienate the other boy. But if some sort of aggressive undertone had slipped into his voice, then he hadn't noticed.

"You're not being reasonable and that will end up getting you killed sooner or later. I'm offering a hand here, free help, alright? Are you sure you just want to ignore that?" Maxim performed a few forceful hand gestures to accentuate his words, just in case those would be able to somehow make the difference there.
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Maxim stopped whatever movements his hands were making and instead brought them together, creating a single short clapping sound. Ben had already made his choice, was ready to leave, wouldn't even let him finish what he had to say. Not only stubborn, but goddamn insolent at that. It was enough to make Maxim's blood boil a bit, that was for sure.

Wringing his hands, he opened his mouth to utter a resentful comment in Ben's direction, but shut it again just in time. It wasn't worth it, getting upset because of that idiot. The least he could do was stay calm on the outside, not show it openly. That would be embarrassing.

"Alright then."

His throat really had gotten pretty dry; so much breath and words wasted on Ben. Shame, really. He almost couldn't believe he had seriously considered the possibility of Ben being valuable to him, respected him even. God, he had been naive, let himself be blinded by a few smart sounding words out of that boy's mouth. Well, he knew better now, knew the guy was stupid on top of being a bigot, rotten to the damn core. Good riddance. Not like he needed a mule as an ally.

Still, how all this went down felt wrong, in a way. He had been rejected and left to himself. Granted, he was glad for it now, but that was not the point. Ben probably felt very satisfied with himself, like he had showed him, humiliated him, all out of pure spite. No, he couldn't just let him leave on that note. This might have very well been the last time the two of them were ever going to come face to face; he couldn't let Ben have that. That guy had to know what a goddamn fool he was.

Maxim took a few steps in the direction of Ben, who had just begun to take off. "You know what that means then, right? You refusing to work together?" He made a short pause, barely a second; he had no intent for Ben to answer, after all. "Means we're not allies, and in a situation like this, not being allies means being enemies." He liked that line, sounded like something he had heard or read somewhere before. 'He who is not with me is against me', something like that.

"So if you ever come across me again and you need some sort of help, because you're starving, injured, dying, whichever - don't expect any from me. Though chances are, you'll end up dead somewhere and we won't meet again, in which case, tough luck."
Edited by Rorick Skyve, Sep 10 2016, 03:09 PM.
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And off he went. Without even giving him any sort of response at that. On the one hand, this at least meant Maxim had spoken the final words of their conversation; didn't have to fear some witty or hurtful retort from Ben. Part of him simply wanted to see the other boy's silence as resignation. Of course, the other part of him wasn't convinced of that at all.

Ben was just simply ignoring him. No sign of anger, irritation or even intimidation, nothing. Just nothing. In a way, this was even worse than any insult the guy could have hurled his way. It was almost enough for Maxim to want to follow him, say more to him, try to get his attention. But he wouldn't stoop so low, no goddamn way he would.

He even went so far as to force himself not to look after Ben as he wandered off. That chapter was finished, end of story. Whatever the future held in store for the other boy, Maxim was most likely not going to be part of it. Mostly because he was certain that Ben's story was going to end with his untimely end. Maxim didn't need to be around to witness that.

It surprised him a little, of course. Him writing the boy off that easily, accepting Ben's death as an inevitability and not even being that bothered about it. Then again, had there not been times in the past where he secretly wished for that exact guy to just drop dead? He hadn't been serious about it of course, or so he thought at least. But now that it was suddenly so very, very possible and real, he wasn't sure anymore. He wasn't sure about a lot of things, except that he needed to get himself moving, to somewhere not out in the open like that.

Maybe he'd seek refuge in one of the many buildings around. Or maybe he'd just keep walking, hoping to run into someone both capable and trustworthy. Did he even know such a person?

Maxim shook his head, as if to rid himself of all the excess thought in his head. For once, overthinking things wasn't going to help him out any further. He just had to go and see what he'd stumble across next. Then he could still lay out new plans. He really wished he'd know how to use that stupid bow in his bag though.

((Maxim Kehlenbrink continued in Prince of Nothing))
Edited by Rorick Skyve, Sep 16 2016, 02:44 PM.
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