Chapter 35:

My Retainer

Afflicted by Snow

     Surprisingly the Shells had lasted through the night–at least most of them did. Two of them, although not ranging on animalistic, did start to have their skin flake so Haetia burned them accordingly just to be safe. He feared that it would set off the others somehow but unexpectedly or expectedly they didn’t react in the slightest, the manticore included.

Over the course of the day he tested some directives on them, starting small with things like walk or run before moving onto more specifics like hunting an animal–though he stopped them at the last second. And in every case they followed his orders immediately. It amazed him how they retained some inherent understanding of language yet couldn’t imitate it themselves anymore, but if it worked it worked.

By nightfall however he started to grow more wary since he doubted they would last another day, considering that he didn’t even expect them to last more than 24 hours in the first place.

Right when he was thinking to stop for the night and cut his losses, he heard faint snoring not too far off in the distance and if it weren’t for that he wouldn’t have been able to pinpoint the origin since the man blended in completely with the dark. And with a sight he was almost excited to see: black and red armor.

He slowly and carefully removed the soldier’s sword then had the manticore put a paw over their chest to prevent them from moving before violently shaking them awake.

Fret in a panic the first thing the Seronite tried to reach for was their sword and became only more anxious upon realizing its removal. His eyes bounced between Haetia and the manticore, quickly noticing the mass of Shells as well.

“W-What do you want!?”

“You know who I am right? Of course you do. The group I was with, where did you take them?”

“T-They’re up ahead in the temple! Please just–”

“The same one you captured them in?”

“Yes! P-Please don’t kill–!!”

“How many of you are there?”

“O-Only thirty or so! We’re spread across but there’s no more than two hundred of us total in the first place–I’m begging you–”

“You want to live?”


Haetia smiled. “Well, so do I, but you hunt me anyways.”

Before the Seronite could utter another plea Haetia’s dagger had already drawn a line across his throat. The soldier wrestled against gurgles to breathe and in a useless attempt tried to cover the wound but the blood flooded through his fingers in droves, and from the moment the blade made contact with his skin until the moment the life left his eyes Haetia watched with a detached gaze.

He cleaned the steel on his own clothes, sheathed it, then stood up.

“I can deal with thirty. If they have their soldiers that are supposed to be standing watch sleeping on the job then I doubt they’ll do anything but run.”

Haetia looked to the Shells and the manticore. Utilizing the blood from the soldier was tempting, but he didn’t want to take any further time than necessary nor risk any unpredicted behaviors so he left the body as is.

Once the scorched temple started to come into view he felt his heart skip a beat.

It felt surreal. He could hardly believe that he was so close after everything that had occurred to get here. And of all times, he needed to calm himself now to the best of his ability because if anything went wrong again, he’ll likely not be fortunate enough to escape a second time.

“...All of you prioritize chasing them off–anyone you see.” He turned and ordered. “And if you get a chance to kill them then kill them.”

As soon as the words had left his mouth the Shells dashed past him in an instant, whisking his hair as they rushed by while he stood still and observed as the chaos rapidly unfolded. Alarms were sounded off and what few Seronites were outside were quickly overrun and the presence of those from within the temple didn’t help in the slightest if only adding to the frenzy.

The less he made his presence known the better, though he doubted that even if they did see him that they’d try to target him in all of this mess if they couldn’t even fend for themselves. Most of them had already started to take flight into the forest, quickly understanding that between the difference in numbers and the sudden attack that they had little chance of properly fighting back. Even without the difference in numbers, the manticore alone had the strength of all the Shells put together and more.

He watched closely each person that had left the temple, hoping against hope that his retainer wouldn’t be amongst them. And instead, a different familiar face eventually appeared.


Unconsciously he stepped closer and closer to verify the sight.

Flames for hair, ebony skin, golden circlets, short scaled dress.

It was her.

It couldn’t be anyone else.

Just like those before her she attempted to kill what Shells she could, and in a brief moment, met eyes with him until the looming threat of the manticore encroached. Seeing the havoc and fleeing Seronites, she gave up on the affair and fled as well followed by other members of what he assumed to be her clan who she vigorously defended more than her own self.

But that didn’t matter to him in the slightest.

She was with him. She was with him this entire time and she didn’t even bother to help him. While he met with death on both ends more times than he can count just to get here and she could’ve done something–anything–this whole time.

Animosity and resentment beyond belief rose within him almost to the point of redirecting the Shells–but, he withheld it. For him.

Shortly after came Drosera and he held his breath, then sighed it in relief as no one followed after. Steadily the chaos became more and more distant as the Shells led and pursued them into the forest.

He held the locket within his apprehensive hands and the path of azaleas recreated itself, leading off to the doorstep of the temple. Even with the Seronites gone he took slow steps, being aware of every fraction of a sound including the ones created by himself.

Inside things were just as disorderly as out but he kept his eyes and steps on the path. It curved slightly to a hidden passage he recalled Myrin had found when they were here, which led down a flight of stone stairs and into an equally stone hall.

He’d lost track of how many times his rapidly beating heart not-so-pleasantly reminded him to breathe as he turned corner after corner. Until finally, the azaleas snuck under a doorway.

Only now did it cross his mind that they could’ve killed him. Killed him and left his body for him to see and laugh at his efforts.

Haetia vehemently erased the thought. He’d never find out if he continued to stand idly by.

For once matter prevailed over mind as his hand was on the door’s latch before he could collect himself. Gradually he pulled it down, and even more gradually did he slide the iron door open, and slowly it peered into view.

Black messy hair with slivers of brown. Dark coat with beige fur. And scarred silver-hazel eyes that looked up at him as the hung head incrementally raised.

“..Mas..ter?” He muttered in a barely audible voice more in astonishment than anything else.

A word that he couldn’t believe how desperately he wanted to hear again. As his vision glistened so too did it blur and his body carried him faster than his speech. Skin scraped against the stone as it collided and he lugged him into a tight, full force embrace, wetting his retainer’s shoulder in the process.

Linias-! Linias I’m–I’m sorry I’m so sorry–!!” His speech quivered and broke as it left and by the end of it his overwhelming tears had taken over, and for only a moment did he finally allow himself to become lost in his amassed sentiments.

And before his retainer could make any attempt to inquire, Haetia removed his once smothered face and wiped whatever lingering streaks remained, forcing himself to calm and focus on arguably more pressing matters. “I’m sorry I should–I should get these off you.”

He held the chains binding him and slowly they began to freeze over until ultimately shattering completely.

Linias glanced between his freed wrists and the shards of ice that had fallen and then to his Master, all with a confused leer.

“You can..use magic?”

“It’s…a long story. All of it is, really. I…have so much to tell you Linias’s better we leave first.”

Haetia was the first to stand and hence he offered a hand to his retainer who slightly wobbled after not using his legs for so long, and even with that Linias still towered over him.

It still felt like a dream that he was standing in front of him again, making him feel the need to resolidify that he was indeed there physically in front of him–not some apparition or manifested hope.

“Can I-..Can I hug you one more time…please? It’s fine if you say no–”

Linias barely managed to get half of a nod in before Haetia leapt for the opportunity and embraced him once more. And soon enough albeit with slight hesitation, Linias returned his embrace.

The body that was much larger than his own, much warmer than his own. It was almost as though his self knew that all was well with him since the long forgotten desire for rest finally came back to him.

But Haetia again forced himself to eventually create some form of distance, as miniscule as it was, despite how much he longed to stay in silent solace with him forever.

Now that the tears had subsided and he was standing face to face with him, he noticed a bruise along his cheek–not to mention the stripes of red left behind from the chains.

Reading the concern on his face, Linias stopped his Master’s hand before it could reach his face. “I can heal it later–”

“Healing it doesn’t change the fact that it wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for me.”

Linias’s eyes momentarily widened then donned suppression instead. “...We should help Myrin. He stayed, but Revi-...”

“I know.” Haetia tried to conceal his enmity which he ended up emitting as a sigh. “I doubt you know which of these cells he’s in so I guess we’ll have to play trial and error.”

The obvious plan would’ve been to split up and look now that the Seronites were gone, but after having so recently reunited with his retainer Haetia couldn’t bear to let him out of his sight so he followed closely by his side as they checked the rooms, eventually finding the siren in his dehydrated state.

Just the same as Linias once before, Myrin’s eyes widened at the sight of the pair although more permanently.

“Hah! No fucking way. I would’ve sooner expected Revi to change her mind than to see you–don’t get me wrong I’m grateful please get me out of here.”

Ignoring his own bitterness at the comment, Haetia shattered the chains again and Myrin rushed to the canteen in the opposite corner of the room and downed it immediately.

“Can you believe they kept this here just to taunt me? Such fucking assholes–Wait you can do magic?! Since when! And how did you even drive them off?! And wow do you–”

Haetia waved his hand. “Can we leave first before all that?”

“Oh right-pfft! You don’t have to tell me twice!”

And he lived by those words as he was the first to dash out into the hallway and out of the temple, leaving Haetia and Linias to follow after him.


They left the temple in any of the opposing directions from where the Seronites had fled, traveling only enough distance to put the temple out of sight and out of mind which luckily for Myrin was by a small river. So the first thing he did was rush to the water, allegedly not caring enough for Haetia’s story to be around for it, thus leaving the Master and his servant by themselves.

The moment Linias tried to start a fire Haetia beat him to it, tying his hair back as he did so and making sure to place it a fair distance away from where his retainer was seated while he waited patiently for him to return.

Haetia made sure to sit a comfortable distance away, not so much that he was intruding on Linias’s personal space but not far enough away that he couldn’t feel his presence by him.

“...Master, you don’t want to..wash up in the river?” Linias was the first to speak.

By now he’d completely forgotten the mess of dried blood, dirt, and the like that stained him all over.

“If it bothers you I will.”

“No, it doesn’t, but I thought it would bother you.”

“Not really.” Haetia paused, then heavily exhaled. “Linias…Ugh, I don’t even know where to start. I…I’m sorry. I know an apology isn’t enough and never will be but it still warrants saying. I’m sorry for everything I’ve ever done and said to you. I’ve treated you horribly and I honestly don’t even have a right to try and fix things but I want to–and yeah it can be seen as selfish like I just want to make myself feel better or something but it’s the only way I know how to try and make up for how I’ve treated you and I still don’t feel like it’ll be enough. There’s been many times that I’ve directly made things harder for you–and indirectly sometimes too–and you’ve put up with all of it and you shouldn’t have and I won’t let you anymore–not that I plan on doing anything like that again. From the manticore from when we were kids and even before that to now, with you and everyone else getting captured and I would’ve for sure died if it weren’t for you. I don’t deserve any and all of the things you’ve done for me but still…Thank you. I could thank you for the rest of my life and I still wouldn’t have felt like I really expressed it because words are words but I mean it. So please, Linias, if you’ll let me, I want to do what I can for you to make things right for however long that takes, even if I die before then.”

He finally concluded, awaiting his retainer’s response with trepidation writhing within him.

Never had Linias known his Master to apologize for anything, not to mention to him of all people. He’d debated for a moment if something had happened to him in his journey to get here, maybe some sort of memory loss that altered his personality or anything along those lines. But with how genuinely disheartened and anxious his Master seemed, he gradually came to understand that he meant every word from the bottom of his heart, at least at the current moment. And yet, this perturbed him more than if he actually was under some spell or making a joke to the point of speechlessness.

They exchanged idle eyes for a while, until Linias finally mustered something to reply with.

“...You don’t have to apologize to me. I’m your servant, it’s fine.”

“No it’s not fucking fine!” Haetia rose to a shout then settled down again. “Sorry it’s just–this is exactly what I’m talking about! You treat yourself so insignificantly when I’m no better than you or anyone else and you’re not less than me or anyone else! And you’re just conditioned to believe that what you feel or think doesn’t matter and it’s entirely my fault because I never cared about you in any sense at all in the past and you learned to not care about yourself either and you shouldn’t feel that way you shouldn’t–fuck just–how can I explain this to you?”

He momentarily paused and thought to himself, trying to remember any time that Linias had ever displayed his real self in the past.

“Oh! Okay. You like flowers and animals right? How would you feel if…I deliberately tore up a garden. No reason at all.”

“Upset.” Linias responded much quicker than Haetia expected.

“Okay good, so imagine you’re that garden that I deliberately tore up for no reason at all. So you should be upset with me, you should hate me!”

“Oh.” His retainer steadily began to understand.

“How about we start there? Think of yourself as a flower or a garden, whichever is easier for you, and any time anyone–including and ESPECIALLY ME–does anything to you, good or bad, you translate that to yourself by thinking about how you’d feel if that same thing happened to something you care about.”


Haetia sighed, partially in exhaustion and partially in relief. He knew he couldn’t hope to mend his self-destructive ways with just one talk and that he was probably in over his head, but he had to try.

“...Can I ask a favor? I know after everything I said and it is..a hundred percent selfish but if at least just for tonight…if I can…sleep…with you?--Not like that! Like, normally.”

Rather than verbally responding, Linias adjusted his sitting position then gestured for him to come closer. Although still hesitant, Haetia sat between his legs with his shoulder and cheek against his retainer’s chest.

A tender flush filled him like soft sunlight. Again he felt the sudden urge to sleep overcome him, but he wanted to stay aware of this moment just a little while longer. Now that he was with him again, he became even more aware of the fact that he only truly felt safe with Linias. No matter where they were, as long as he had Linias with him he felt like nothing could ever happen.

“Are you sure it doesn’t bother you? How messy I am I mean.”

“I’ve bathed you more times than I can count, it really doesn’t bother me.”

“Is that your way of saying I’ve looked worse before?”

“N-No I–”

“I’m just teasing you.”

Haetia smiled and Linias lightly trailed the rim of his ear.

“Before I forget by the way,” Haetia unlatched the locket and handed it off, “it means a lot to you, right? I’m grateful that you trusted me enough to keep it safe, but you should keep it. If it weren’t for it I would’ve never found you–not to mention probably have died at least three times haha.”

Linias wore the necklace, and almost sounding surprised asked, “It helped you?”

“Yeah, was it not supposed to or…?”

“N-No that’s good. I just thought…nevermind.”

The curiosity within Haetia wanted to ask further, but if his retainer didn’t share it himself willingly then it was better left alone until he was comfortable doing so.

“..I could tell you about everything that happened if you want? Kind of like a bedtime story.”

“If you wish. Though, with how many times you’ve said you nearly died…I’ll let you choose how much you choose to tell me.”

“There’d be no story if I left out those parts.”

Haetia teased again and Linias slightly scowled.

“I’m kidding I’m kidding! Sort of. I guess you’ll just have to listen and fill in the blanks for yourself.”

The ivory prince softly chuckled then finally began, while his retainer attentively listened to every part from start to finish.

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