Chapter 86:

Gwyn and Grimes 1

The Nonpareil of Resh (Act 1)

The bandit leader, Grimes, examined Gwyn from top to bottom with a slight movement of his tired red eyes. One elbow rested on his metal throne and supported his head, while long black hair ran down in front of his face and slightly obstructed the view. He sighed and made a small chuckle before speaking. Gwyn couldn’t help but feel immense pressure when facing the intimidating Netzian.

“And what are you supposed to be?” Grimes asked Gwyn

Gwyn looked around the empty room before settling back on Grimes. It was long and narrow and had been cleared out of the furniture that once made the space a mayor’s office.

“Are you the leader,” he asked, though he already knew the answer.

Grimes tapped on his metal throne.

“I’m not just the leader, boy; I rule this whole town,” he answered.

Gwyn took a hesitant step toward Grimes.

“I need you to stop,” he said with a slight quiver in his voice. Grimes laughed again; it had a friendly tone.

“And here I thought you might make some kind of threat!”

Gwyn took another cautious step toward the leader. Even with the welcoming tone of the enemy’s voice, the Nonpareil got a feeling he wouldn’t be able to talk his opponent into surrendering.

Grimes sighed.

“Boy, if you take another step, you will be entering into a world you are not prepared to face,” the Netzian leader said in a tone that had no hint of malice. As he spoke, he pushed some of his long, black hair away from his face to look at Gwyn properly.

Gwyn froze as his mind ran with thoughts. The Nonpareil hardly expected to defeat the leader, especially with an unknown ability under his control.

Gwyn took a slight step back. He took a deep breath and began to speak.

“Why did you want to control this town?” he asked. Gwyn figured he could keep the leader distracted to stall for time. Rheba or Hal would be freed by the others, and they would all join him for a final brawl, he thought to himself.

Grimes chuckled as he sat up straight on his throne. He put out his arms to stretch as he smiled.

“Well, boy, when you invade a town of any size, you have to be calculating and playful. It’s something like winning a game of czaric.” Grimes stood up from his throne and slid his arms behind his back. His toga-like clothing slid smoothly as he began to pace back and forth. “My former employers were a bit... much… but they did know a thing or two about planning. You see, a takeover of a large city will be well noticed and well defended. However, a small, unnamed village will be easy to conquer. Then there is maintenance; a large city is difficult to maintain, especially if you don’t want anyone outside to notice. We have to continue normal deliveries to the other towns to keep up appearances. Are you listening?” Grimes stopped his pacing and turned to look directly at Gwyn. The nonpareil was only half-listening to the leader's monologue.

“You mentioned former employers,” Gwyn said to keep the leader talking. Grimes chuckled and began to pace again as he spoke.

“Very astute,” Grimes said, “Yes, I used to be part of an organization known as Array. We had a little conflict of interest, and I parted ways with those loyal to me. We ended up traveling as a band of bandits after that….” Grimes kept talking, but Gwyn became distracted by Mem.

Partner, he is distracted. Now is the time to strike!

“I don’t know….” Gwyn replied. Grimes held a refined pose as he paced and the overclocked crimson Needaimus growing across the leader’s chest made Gwyn nervous.

If you don’t strike, we will never win! Mem said.

Gwyn sighed as he balled his good hand into a fist. His bad hand ended up resembling a claw in shape. He looked down at the beads gifted by the young Bonfilia, wrapped around his left wrist, and took a deep breath. Stalling was not guaranteed to work, and he couldn’t simply back down given the situation. Gwyn gathered up every little bit of motivation to fight he had. He thought of the happy child’s face once they won.

The Nonpareil shook his head. He had decided not to fight when they first set out, but he was facing down the leader of the whole group. Harlan had left him to take on the leader alone and fought her own fight. When the others were free, they would surely fight. Could he be the only one not to take a stand? The thoughts ran through Gwyn’s mind, and he found no way to quiet them.

His mind turned to the winged beauideal that invaded the castle. He had hesitated to even throw his fist at her, and she went on to kill the king. Gwyn didn’t care about the king that tried to kill him, but he cared about enough people within the town. What would this callous leader do to them once he won, the Nonpareil thought. Fiona, Odell, Harlan, Rheba, even Hal—they would all certainly be treated severely in the aftermath. He gritted his teeth and looked at the small, beaded bracelet on his wrist as he considered what to do. With one last breath, Gwyn charged across the room at Grimes.

The leader didn’t break from his concentration as he described the time his gang of bandits invaded a farm and burned down their crops.

Gwyn found himself suddenly thrown across the room. It felt like he had been punched in the stomach. Grimes didn’t even turn in his direction, but Gwyn was suddenly slammed into the closed door behind him. He slid to the floor and got back up on his feet.

“So, then we found our way to this tiny little town. It turned out to be the perfect size for my range, so I said, ‘why not conquer it.’” Grimes continued his story of conquest with a casual tone and a light shrug.

Gwyn looked around the empty room for something to use. He pressed his hand against the wall behind him when he could not find any objects. It began to liquify, and Gwyn threw the chunk of liquid wall across the room at the leader.

Grimes did not bother looking, and the liquid attack suddenly turned 90° in the air to splash against a wall on the side of the room.

“You have no intention of listening any longer, do you?” Grimes asked with an almost sad tone.

“I have to defeat you,” Gwyn said while gritting his teeth.

“’Have to’ is a bit weak, boy. It sounds like you simply are carried by the desires of others. Where is your own drive?” Grimes replied with a sigh.

“I will,” Gwyn said in reply as he took a step closer. He wasn’t sure what he was saying.

Grimes laughed.

“After I teach you a lesson, I wouldn’t mind you joining my crew,” he said as he laughed. He sat back down on his throne and leaned on the arm that was encased with the crimson Needaimus.

Gwyn charged at the throne once again. He got halfway across the room before he was suddenly knocked back. He was pushed back and down and ended up rolling several times before crashing back into the door.

Gwyn banged his good, Needaimus fused fist on the ground as he stood back up.

Hey, don’t take it out on me! Mem said.

Grimes made a lazy sigh before smiling at Gwyn.

“What was that about taking me down?” he asked with a friendly smile and a tone that resembled someone sneering.

“I have to take you down,” Gwyn repeated as he gritted his teeth and took a more offensive stance. He eyed the beads on his arm before glaring at the leader again.

Grimes frowned.

“Persistence will not win you this battle, boy; you ought to give up while you have a chance. However, I do admire this new resolve you have. I must ask again that you join my forces.”

Gwyn was not listening to Grimes and had begun charging at the leader before he could finish talking. He was thrust back to the wall once again and crashed into the door.