The end of friendship

Hello,

Fourth chapter of Deus Ex Machina! is not everyday that I do things quickly so you’d better like it! Also due connection problems, I will have to to post the other stories tomorrow – deepest apologies from me. So, until next time!

Deus Ex Machina

4 – Amor et melle et felle est fecundissimus

Ace was a good person, really, despite what his actions tell. He was a righteous man and a doting brother to all of his siblings; he disapproved on Brian’s underage drinking because it would cause harm for him, and he would always scold Michael if he were to steal from others because it would bring no one any good. Since he was the most experienced fighter in the Naitt family alongside Annette, the two would teach the other Naitt children some fighting techniques and some uses of a wide range of weapons – except for Vivianne, for she had expressed her disinterest of the subject very clearly.

He was close to all of the Naitt children, but he would always be the kindest to his youngest sister, Erin. No matter how wicked and wrong she may be, Ace would always defend Erin with everything he has; he once claimed Erin innocent after she had clearly set up a prank on the teacher (the teacher argued no further because he was intimidated by Ace’s fury). He was known in the town as the God of War and Bloodshed because of his love for violence and his trademark fiery red hair.

Even though he’s like this, he would always be liked by the Naitt children.

That is, until a certain incident.

* * *

Erin was finally cured and so she could join the Naitt children on their adventures. That morning, they were discussing on where to go for the day and with the dominating vote, they all decided to go fishing down the river near their home. Gathering their fishing equipments from the shed, the Naitt children went out for the day’s adventure.

It was Erin’s first time fishing so Ace was delighted to have everyone teaching her how to do it; putting her reputation aside, Erin could be bearable if you push the right buttons, though it will never be the same when with Vivianne (and they were glad Vivianne takes pity on fishes). They had to walk through the woods to reach the river – after the hunt three days ago, Ace and Dea had successfully eliminated danger from the woods for the time being. There rattling of buckets, glinting of fishing hooks, whistling of youths; the birds were quiet despite such a lovely day, and the solemn whispers of the trees were like a nature instruments ensemble played just for the day. Now that the weather had warmed up after winter, the children felt lighter than they had in months.

Ace and Annette lead the group, followed by Hiero and Abel, and Dea trailed at the back with Erin. The head of the train was the loudest while the tail didn’t make a sound, so to break the awkward silence, Dea pulled out a nagging question from her head. “You were right about Zach not coming for Christmas and New Year,” Dea said lightly.

Erin snorted, “He won’t, considering the position he’s currently in…”

“Again, you’re leaving the big pieces – what’s up?”

“…Alright, since we’re outside, I’ll tell you about Grandpa –”

“He’s dead, isn’t he?” Just then, sudden realisation struck Dea like a blow from a cricket ball. “…No way…”

“He was assumed dead, not declared,” Erin said blandly, “Grandma told me that when Zach shot Grandpa, he just left without checking if he was truly dead or not; turns out he was mortally wounded but not enough to send him to the Afterworld.”

“So… Grandpa Cornelius had been snooping around the house all this time?! Wouldn’t he be really old?”

“He’s not that old – sixty is still a healthy age, you know,” Erin couldn’t stop rolling her eyes like it was the most obvious fact in the world, “Anyhow, I’m not really sure on the details but Grandpa had been messing with Zach’s business for some time now and Zach’s just in a really deep trouble.”

“Right… Erin, want to make a truce?”

Erin looked offended at this as if someone had just spat an insult, “Sleep talk when you’re sleeping, Dea – the last thing I want to do is to make treaty with an enemy.”

“Why do you consider me an enemy?”

“Alright, so maybe rival. Truth, I harbour envy to your existence.”

“Why?” Dea asked, genuinely curious.

“You were blessed with great beauty, pure personality and endless talents, whilst I was cursed with wickedness and sickness throughout my life; of course, I’d be deeply jealous of you.”

Dea hadn’t expected Erin’s confession. She could only look at her slightly shorter half-sister with surprise imprinted on her face. “Why – um… thanks? But Annette and Vivianne are both well, too.”

“Annette’s a living pillar of principality, all lines with no waves, and Vivianne’s a vain brat who takes things for granted. But you’re as free as the wind and as modest as first snow; you show confidence when needed, not all the time, and you are loved by many. In my eyes, you are the ideal form of a true maiden.”

“Okay, sometimes I find you speech older than Grandma – but thanks, for the compliments. I mean, you are pretty yourself, you know, if you were to at least show your face and smile more.”

“Thank you for the advice, Dea, for it was appreciated.”

“No problem. So is this the beginning of truce?”

“…I don’t see why not,” Erin huffed a small laugh, shaking her head in fondness.

A few more minutes, the Naitt children heard the soft trickle of river water which became louder as they approach it. Crystal clear water reflected the holy sunlight with the utmost glamour, giving the place the otherworldly beauty of spring. Environment agencies had been keeping the river clean ever since they set up their stations in the town so the Naitt children were grateful for their work because they were able to see the rocky riverbed and also different kinds of river fishes that lived there. Once in a while you would spot some dragonflies skimming at the water’s surface like figure skaters and sometimes you’d see jumping silver or pink fishes, depending on the species of the fish.

The Naitt children proceeded to setting up their fishing equipments, unfolding chairs, unravelling lines and hooking baits onto hooks. Erin was taught the basics by Ace, leading her arms to move a certain way which he deemed true and giving trivial fishing tips such as to make sure the worm is pierced through by the hook to prevent it from being snatched so easily by the fish. Ace instructed Erin to ask Abel for more advice since he was the best in fishing among the Naitts (Uncle Nathaniel personally taught him fishing when he visited for New Year).

By thirty minutes, Abel had gathered the most fishes – fifteen – and Hiero took the second place with twelve. Erin learned quickly though and had gathered herself eight fishes – more than what Dea had gotten on her first try. Ace and Annette were still holding their competition, throwing remarks at each other and swearing on victories. Unexpectedly, Erin’s hook snagged out of the string and she needed a change, so she went over to Abel to ask for a new hook. “Sure; we have lots, actually. It’s right here…”

Abel beckoned Erin to come with him to get the hook from the fishing box. He opened the lid and let some stuff out to reach for the hook which was placed pretty deep inside the box. To their annoyance, the hook was stuck on a piece of plastic that was covering a pretty big box of unused baits. Seeing it impossible to let it free easily, Abel decided to just pull it free to save time, and so he tugged at the hook, tugging harder each time and when it finally let fo, his fist hit a rather unfortunate Erin, who was crouching just behind Abel.

“Oh my – Oh, Erin, I am so sorry! Are you okay?” Abel was flustered, helping Erin up and inspecting her face, cringing when he saw the ugly bruise on her cheek.

“Yeah, I’m okay – nothing troubling,” Erin said reassuringly.

“Really? Because it looks pretty nasty –”

“Erin? What’s wrong?” That was Ace, jogging up to see what’s wrong with his sister and when he set his eyes upon the nasty bruise, rage brewed in his eyes. “What did you do?” he growled at Abel. Abel was frozen, unable to form words to explain the accident.

Erin tried to calm him down, speaking soothingly, “Umm, Ace? Ace, it’s okay, it’s not –”

But Erin’s efforts were put to no avail, for Ace reached forward and grabbed Abel by the collar, shaking him around like a ragdoll, mercilessly threatening his life. Abel tried to twist his way out of Ace’s grip but his success lead him to his downfall; when he finally got Ace off of him, he stumbled backwards, tripping on a rock and fell into the river headfirst – the Naitt children could hear a faint thud when Abel’s head sunk into the chilly water.

All but Ace, who turned away and yanked Erin from the river to return home. Erin, on the other hand, looked back hopelessly, concern and guilt etched on her face, looking at where Abel had fallen. Meanwhile, the rest of the Naitt children panicked.

Dea was first to react, following where Abel’s body had flowed along the river, shouting his name in order to get a response; Annette and Hiero followed, Annette instructing Hiero to get a string-less fishing rod in order for her plan to work. At some point, Abel’s body was halted by a boulder and Dea didn’t spare a moment to dive in and swim towards her twin. “Abel – ahck! – Abel! Hey, Abel – Oh gosh, wake up! – cough! – Abel, no!” Dea cried as she swam towards Abel, shaking him to consciousness when she had reached him.

He was out cold, a bump at the back of his head but otherwise he was alright. Annette called out to Dea to grab onto Hiero’s rod, which extended long enough to reach the boulder. Dea grabbed the rod awkwardly but as best as she could with Abel in her other arm, kicking the water towards the shore as Hiero pulled. When Dea was in arm’s reach, Annette scrambled for Abel and hauled him up to check on him while Hiero tried to calm a bewildered Dea down. A successful CPR brought forth a coughing Abel, who seemed to not realise what just happened and fell back into unconsciousness.

“Dea, you okay?” Hiero said as softly as he could, “Abel’s fine – Annette said so. Yeah, Annette’s a great person so she knows what to do, so you’ll just have to let her do her thing and –”

“…itor…”

“Hmm? What?”

“..aitor…traitor…he’s a traitor…”

“…Dea, you know how he’s like; he’ll calm down soon enough –”

“He’s a traitor!” Dea screamed, getting out of Hiero’s comfort zone and pacing about, “He’s a traitor and a bull-headed idiot! He almost killed Able over an accidental punch – it’s a bruise over a life, for God’s sake! How is that rational?! He’s just like the others, just his mother – just like Jenny, that selfish witch! Oh, how I wish they would just perish this very second!”

“Dea, calm down,” Annette offered, “You shouldn’t get too worked up –”

“And what about you all?” Dea addressed Hiero and Annette, angry tears spilling free, “How would you feel when someone you trust so much suddenly tried to kill you over something so trivial? Sure I understand how it is to care so much for your real sibling but he’s got plenty – he’s got other siblings, he’s got a mother, while I only have Abel! And he’s getting all worked up over a punch?!”

The two stayed silent, letting Dea’s words sink in. It was true – Dea nearly lost her only whole family just then and a twin to boot. If it were Annette’s or Hiero’s mother, they’d feel the same too. Ace was lucky to be one of the legitimate children of Zacharias Naitt, blessed with good birth status and unimaginable love from every side.

Annette heaved a sigh and beckoned Hiero to carry Abel back while she gathered the fishing equipments and placed a hand on Dea, saying “Let’s go home.”

* * *

Dea hadn’t left Abel’s side since they stepped inside the mansion, regarding his pale complexion worriedly, holding his hand as if he were about to flee any moment. After the doctor had attended to his wounds, he had told Dea some precautions and upcoming symptoms such as dizziness and then he left the twins alone. Annette had dropped by to give food for the two of them when Dea had decided to skip dinner; Annette had said it was a great decision to skip dinner.

Dea was just nodding off when a knock resounded through the door. “Come in,” Dea answered.

To her dismay, it was an apologetic-looking Ace, looking awkward when he was shuffling his feet and looking at Abel sympathetically. “Is…Is he okay?” he asked, testing the words carefully.

Dea gave a scornful smile, coldly looking at Ace, “Why? You were the one who pushed him to near-death and not bother to even look back.”

Ace winced at the poison in Dea’s words, “I’m sorry – I guess I wasn’t thinking straight because I was too heated up with the bet with Annette…”

“Trying to use someone else as a scapegoat? How low can you go?” Dea mocked.

“Dea, really, I am sorry –”

Before Ace could even blink, Dea had a handful of Ace’s collar in her iron grip, levelling Ace’s gaze with one filled with pure anger. Ace, not knowing what to do, threw his hands up in defeat. “You may say that until your death and you may even crawl like a peasant for eternity, but there will never be a time when I will forgive you. Never.” Ace could only nod in understanding; he had gone too far, and there will be no chance that Dea will ever forgive him for almost taking her twin’s life. “Now get out before I do something that I’m sure I won’t regret.” Dea released Ace abruptly and stepped back, arms crossed. Ace looked at Dea, glanced at Abel and then back at Dea, then he nodded as his dismissal and exited the room. A slight figure was standing out of the way, waiting to enter to talk to the fuming maiden.

“You did well on the threat; it’ll take years for ordinary people to get him to back off,” Erin said lowly.

“I don’t know – he’s just…too brash,” Dea sighed.

“I’m apologizing on my and Ace’s behalf. I really feel guilty for his actions and for my weakness and clumsiness.”

“No, it’s not your fault. Now I’m starting to think you’re much better than him.”

“You’ll take that back soon.”

“I sure will,” Dea chuckled, sitting back down.

“It’s today.” Dea nodded. “Be sure to lock your window.”

“I installed locks and some sensors on the window so it’ll go off when the knife tries to slip through,” Dea said wearily.

“But I doubt he means any harm, because he could just cause a casualty anytime he wants,” Erin pondered.

“Who knows? It’s better to be safe than sorry,” Dea said. She gave a last look at Abel and kissed his forehead before switching off all the lights and slipping out of the room, readying for her own share of rest.

-rookieMANGAKA

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