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  1. Faust clasped his hands around Almerich’s and breathed.
  2.  
  3. Breathe.
  4.  
  5. Just breathe.
  6.  
  7. The old Herse’s weary eyes peered into Almerich’s before their hands parted. Taking the helmet into his arms, he was careful not to poke himself with the horns before helping Almerich don the ceremonial piece. It all felt very much like playing house, waiting for your parents to come pick you up from a home you didn’t belong in.
  8.  
  9. “You look tired.” Faust stood by the throne, fixing the last of Almerich’s clothes. “You know what—“
  10.  
  11. The king shifted his arm. His expression was one of someone numb. His head was held high, averting the gaze of the tall redhead. Faust shifted onto the armrest, hair hanging.
  12.  
  13. “You shouldn’t be sitting here,” a faint murmur came from the dark figure. It was quiet, almost withholding energy.
  14.  
  15. Faust smiled, eyes narrowing.
  16.  
  17. “What?” Almerich’s eyes met the Herse’s. Green, he noted for the first time. How strange, he had always assumed they were blue.
  18.  
  19. “When this is all over, then you can forgive me.” Faust stood, feet never leaving the ground. “We don’t have much time,” he adjusted his sword on his waist, “listen.”
  20.  
  21. The king’s ears were washed by the sound of eerie silence, every once in a while, a clink of metal, a gasp, a thump, and then silence. The emptiness only grew as both men felt the encroaching, stalking towards the doors.
  22.  
  23. Faust winced as he heard the sounds of a fight, no doubt it was Hildegard as the conflict grew louder. Then, there it was again.
  24.  
  25. Clink, clink, clinking of boots.
  26.  
  27. “I’m not ready,” Almerich whispered.
  28.  
  29. Faust readied himself to step forward. Would he die now? A hand readied on the sword’s hilt, and even without looking back, he could feel the king’s gaze disappear.
  30.  
  31. So this is what the hero looked like.
  32.  
  33. It really was like Lilieth, back, in the flesh. Faust was at a lost for words as the bloodied boy hurried towards him, a glint hidden beneath his sleeves. The tired Herse raised his sword.
  34.  
  35. And it was over. It was no wonder, his old and unfit body too weak to match up against the hero. It was a wonder that he was still alive, as his breathing shortened he felt the pain of the hits he had taken, back of the neck, legs, and his stomach. It was enough to start seeing black.
  36.  
  37. He could smell cornflowers.
  38.  
  39. Amidst the hazy vision, Faust could hear the hero taunt the king.
  40.  
  41. “Look at me!”
  42. “Look at me!”
  43. “You can’t hide from what you’ve done.”
  44.  
  45. “…this is torture.”
  46.  
  47. The king’s voice sounded stiff. Faust sat up slowly, unsure of how long he had been out. It almost seemed like a dream, except the blood tricking down from his lips was very much real. The taste of salt in the air followed to the discarded weapons on the floor, the trail of blood to the king. Nikolai, the trident in his hand, stood over the king.
  48.  
  49. Ah, It’s over.
  50.  
  51. The hero sheathed his blade. Almerich hung his head low as his fingers trembled, searching his armour. He was broken.
  52.  
  53. “You’ve lost,” the hero declared, tossing the trident. Then, as quick as he came in, he fled.
  54.  
  55. Almerich’s gaze followed up to the doors, gasping for air. He pulled out his pistol and pointed it at himself.
  56.  
  57. Faust felt a flash of fury. Scrambling forwards with more urgency than he had ever felt, a flurry of flame dispelled around them. He found himself knelt by the king, eyes wide.
  58.  
  59. “You’re—”
  60.  
  61. Faust clasped his hands around Almerich’s and pulled the trigger.
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