AN: Man. I keep forgetting about this story... and my chapter titles are so lame. X
Chapter 4: Don't Want to Lose My Friends
The sun was already starting to set by the time Klonoa reached Breezegale again. He'd left Volk with a new feeling of enthusiasm, thanks to Guntz, but as he got closer to home he felt his drive gradually fading away as easily as it had come. His motivated pace had lessened significantly by the time he reached Bell Hill. Guntz had helped Klonoa assure himself that there was definitely a way to resolve this issue with everyone walking away happy in the end.
Yet Klonoa still couldn't think of the right words to use that would convince Lolo that everything was all right. Not only that, but he really had some apologizing to do. Lolo was only worried for his safety—he knew that. Yet he'd so readily snapped at her for accusing what he was doing as dangerous. Klonoa didn't know why he'd reacted so strongly to it in the first place.
Maybe it wasn't what Lolo was saying about what he did, but what she said about Guntz himself that drove Klonoa off the edge. She'd called him dangerous and might as well a murderer. What right did she have to talk about his friend that way? Klonoa could feel himself getting angry all over again just thinking about it.
He sighed heavily and sat down atop the hill, knowing well enough that talking to Lolo now in his current mood would only lead to more problems. His back faced the quiet town as he rested his arms and head on his bent knees, staring absently at the forest ahead of him. The large golden bell that gave this hill its name was hanging to his left, and to his right he could barely see the sparkling horizon where the Sea of Tears was located.
The setting sun gave everything a bloody red tint and it left Klonoa feeling lonely and insecure. He was used to having someone there for moral support. There was usually somebody there to give him a helpful suggestion or two. All Guntz had told him was to apologize. Of course that was what he ultimately had to do, but how could he ever make up yelling at Lolo? And of course, even after finding a way to apologize, she wasn't going to suddenly approve of Klonoa spending time with Guntz.
Sure, he could just ignore her concerns altogether, but what kind of friend would that make him? He could lose his friendship with Lolo entirely by doing that. On the other hand, he could also stop seeing Guntz. However that still wouldn't work because then he'd lose Guntz's friendship, not to mention never see him again.
Klonoa sighed again, shifting his gaze blindly as he kept thinking. Wasn't there a way that everyone could be happy and he wouldn't have to lose any of his friends at the same time? It was so unfair. Why did things have to turn out this way?
The more Klonoa wallowed in self-pity, the more frustrated he got. His eyes were practically starting to get moist by the time he heard the soft sound behind him. He twisted around very suddenly, catching Lolo by surprise as she slowly approached him. Klonoa's own look of surprise soon turned to reluctance as he turned forward again, still seated, not sure what to say.
He was afraid to look at Lolo as she silently sat beside him, staring aimlessly at the forest ahead. He couldn't read her expression from the corner of his eye and almost didn't want to. She was probably furious with him. The next few moments of silence were torturous for Klonoa. Was she expecting him to say something first? What should he say? He had to think of something that wouldn't only make the situation worse.
"How are you feeling?"
Klonoa almost jumped when Lolo spoke. Her voice didn't exactly sound concerned, but it was certainly far from angry in any sense. She didn't look at him until Klonoa finally turned his head toward her first. She was wearing an expressionless mask, as though she too were unsure how to act around Klonoa right now. Klonoa hesitated, though he gave his answer without really thinking about it.
"A little frustrated," he admitted quietly, looking away shamefully.
Lolo was still looking at him, possibly uncertain of how to take Klonoa's answer. She said no more, though, and Klonoa knew he would have to elaborate. "Lolo, I… I'm really sorry. I didn't… mean to yell at you. I just got really angry for some reason. I couldn't help it… I just…" Klonoa couldn't remember a time when words had been any harder to say. Lolo wasn't looking at him directly anymore, staring off thoughtfully as though considering his apology.
"Lolo, Guntz is my friend. And, well… I'd even say that I might be the only friend he has." Lolo seemed a bit surprised by this. She'd never considered Guntz's feelings for this whole situation. For all she knew he could care less or love whenever Klonoa went over there—though she instinctively assumed the first.
Klonoa had no way of knowing if any of his words were coming through to Lolo. The only thing he could do was keep going. "Guntz's never done anything to hurt me before. And when we go on missions, he always takes on the stronger ones—and just yesterday, after I got hit on the head, he saved me from this thug… I would trust him with my life."
Lolo closed her eyes, not very happy to hear that last part. However, her expression never visually changed, and it was just torturing Klonoa. "I know you're worried, but… He's changed a lot since I first met him. He's a lot more patient now; and he doesn't get mad as easily—and he certainly doesn't kill people." He wasn't going to add in the word "anymore" in there. For all Klonoa knew—and liked to believe—Guntz had never murdered a soul in his life.
"I really like doing things with him; as much as I like hanging out with you guys. I just… Lolo… I don't want to lose any of my friends," Klonoa finally finished, his voice starting to falter at the end. He felt drained now—exhausted—though relieved that he'd been able to get out everything he wanted to say, and he waited for Lolo's response stiffly.
Klonoa looked over quickly, unable to reply for a few seconds. "What?"
Lolo didn't look at him, looking very thoughtful. "You're right. I'm being very inconsiderate."
"That's not what I—"
"I was just talking without thinking." Lolo looked at him. "I didn't mean to make you upset, either. I was just so determined that what you were doing was wrong… that I didn't bother to think how you'd feel about everything I said." She smiled both in apology and amusement. "I guess that makes us even."
Klonoa stared at her, a little confused. "Y-You…"
Lolo looked away from him sharply. "I won't object to you going over there anymore, if you just have to do it. So long as you make sure you come home safely," she compromised in a mock-scowling voice, a smirk the only thing assuring Klonoa that she was teasing him.
He smiled, feeling as though a huge weight had suddenly been lifted off his shoulders. "Really? Thanks, Lolo!"
"You don't need to thank me. I'm not your mother. I can't make you do or not do anything," she remarked, amused.
Klonoa felt a little embarrassed and shifted in his seated position. "W-Well, yeah, but… I mean, I don't want to do anything that would make you upset," he admitted hesitantly.
Lolo gave him an appreciative smile. "Thank you."
She leaned against him and suddenly all the tension that had been between them disappeared as though it had never been there at all. Klonoa finally felt that grateful feeling of companionship again, making him feel more secure and happier than he'd been all day.
The sun was completely out of sight by now and a feeble chilling breeze was working its way through the village behind them. Klonoa felt himself subconsciously move closer to Lolo to share her warmth. They stayed like that in blissful silence, watching as the insects of the forest started to display their colorful lightshow to one another.
Klonoa was beginning to get a little drowsy when Lolo started to speak again, her tone still light. "I still don't trust him."
"I trust him."
"I trust you."
They looked at each other. "I trust you to know who you should trust," Lolo continued. Klonoa was so tired right then that the way she worded it almost confused him.
"I trust you to trust me… to know who I should trust," he smirked. Lolo smiled with a gentle chuckle.
"So you'll come home safely, right?" She asked quietly, still smiling.
Klonoa smiled too, thinking back. "Always."
Lolo nodded, as though finally satisfied. She stood up slowly and turned toward the village, then looked back at the still sitting Klonoa, smiling mirthfully. "Now that we have that settled, you still haven't tried my cookies yet, have you?"
Guntz stared at the sky absently. It was very dark up there and there wasn't a star to be seen. He could tell the sun was well past set, even though the clouds in the sky were darkest now and Volk itself was still very lit up. No longer was the city shrouded in an eerie orange tint; as now everything was a relaxing gray color. Volk seemed to fall asleep at night, even though crimes were still about.
Guntz cared not for the petty thieves that were too afraid to rob in daylight. It wasn't like anyone was going to try and stop them no matter when they did it, but they still felt safer in the darkness. Criminals like those amounted to little demand and a small reward. He couldn't be bothered with them.
He exhaled softly, seeing his breath in the air for only a few seconds. However, it wasn't cold. Volk didn't get cold—ever. It might have been because of the limitless amount of burning smoke that emitted ceaselessly from all the factories and industries scattered everywhere amid the city; shielding the kingdom with a hot, thick barrier from the chill and snow. Consequentially, the summers were scorching hot and the winters were mildly warm.
Guntz walked aimlessly down the quiet city streets. Few people were out in this area at this moment. There were other places in Volk where people went to specifically at night to get drunk and party. Guntz couldn't say he himself hadn't gone there every now and again to drink his pathetic life away, though he hadn't been there any time recently. Trouble was started there more often than not; many times people got hurt there and even killed. And, in the careless bliss of their obliviously numbed emotions and common sense, some would run off to commit crimes elsewhere.
Guntz liked to say that he didn't partake in such activities because he was above starting trouble with a bunch of immature, drunk failures at life. However he knew that wasn't the whole truth. It'd only been a year or so since he actually had stopped doing things like that frequently. A year—which was not coincidentally the same amount of time that Klonoa had been doing jobs with him.
Ah, Klonoa: that noisy little kid and his infectious do-good policies. Guntz had never before attempted to show his "targets" any mercy. They received treatment that was most convenient for himself. If the reward money was the same dead or alive, it was usually easier to just kill them; if they were required to be alive, he'd usually beat them down until they were only just about half-dead.
However, with Klonoa he was only allowed to knock them out. He could imagine the Force liked that better, too, no longer needing to waste precious medical supplies on someone who was no use to society. And, in truth, Guntz himself liked it a bit better that way, too. He was learning to restrain his violence—control it—rather than just thrust it all out at once in an untamed fury of hostility.
Guntz felt a little less like a monster when he hurt people less. Nothing would ever really repent for the horrid he'd done in his past, but anything was better than continuing to do them now. As well, he was finding this less violent life much more pleasant. He was able to sleep a full night now undisturbed, something that was rare only less than two years ago. Mornings were also more motivated, now aware that he wouldn't be forced to kill someone suddenly that day.
Guntz started to think back to when he'd been ordered to do terrible deeds under the command of someone who ruled over him, but he didn't want to and thought about something else. Klonoa sure had come to Volk upset that afternoon. Although he was mildly pleased with himself that he had managed to send Klonoa home with a newfound smile on his face, Guntz honestly couldn't fathom what the big deal was. So Klonoa's friend said a few bad things about him; who really cared? But of course that wasn't the only problem. His friend also hadn't wanted Klonoa to see him anymore.
That wasn't a big deal, either. Yet as much a Guntz tried to convince himself so, an involuntary feeling of regret and maybe even loneliness crept into him when he thought about never seeing Klonoa again. He almost growled at himself. Such feelings violated his own policies—policies to never become dependent on someone, to never even get close to someone. Yet after a whole year of getting used to seeing his partner nearly every day, how could he not start to rely on the kid's ceaseless enthusiasm to make the dark streets of Volk a little brighter for just one day?
Guntz sighed aloud and it was at that point that he realized he was being followed. He didn't have to look. It was the sound of one trying to stay hidden that gave them away. It was a nearly inaudible sound that came from one trying too hard to approach silently. There was that sound, as well as his natural, ever-aware hunter's intuition, that warned him to be on guard.
Guntz continued onward casually as though nothing were wrong, though his spy would eventually realize something was up as the area gradually became less populated. Guntz suspected that there was more than one, though that wasn't out of evidence or intuition—just a hunch. No one ever faced him alone nowadays.
It was only after he turned a corner to a completely deserted street that Guntz decided it was time to make this interesting. He suddenly dashed off, causing his followers to hesitate in surprise before springing into action. Their unexpected pursuit forced them to reveal their locations. As Guntz had suspected, there was more than one. Yet he wasn't worried one bit. It didn't matter how many there were. There could be a whole army after him and they'd never have a chance at catching him.
Once Guntz started running, he knew it was in the bag—but that didn't mean he couldn't have a little fun in the meantime.
The next chapter is entirely about Guntz running. Aren't you excited?