.: Chapter IX :.
"Friend or Foe"
. . .
The sun hasn't even had the chance to grace London, the city's buildings still cloaked in shadows. Yet the two had already boarded a train bound for Preston. They felt their cabin lurch forward just after the whistle's howl, and the city-dwellers crowded just meters away from their window were slowly swallowed by the distance.
Wynn abandoned the scenic countryside to canvass the bruises peeking from beneath the sleeves of her gown. "You shouldn't have provoked him like that, mother."
Gwen Kingsley, quite fair for a lady twenty years into a marriage, pulled the fabric down over her wrists and eyed her son sternly. "I will not allow him to make a fool of you."
"I don't really care what that twat says about me, so what does it matter?"
"Wynn, I've made many mistakes in the past, but you are certainly not one of them."
"You can't be coddling me all the time." Wynn scratched back of his head and pretended something out the window caught his eye. "I can handle myself. But I'm worried about you—"
"Shh." Gwen reached across the gap between them and patted his head."Enough of it, okay? Besides, no matter how old you get you're always gonna be my baby boy."
He frowned and lowered his head, hoping the shadow could hide the colours flying to his cheeks.
. . .
The carriage trotted through a street teeming with happy faces, stopping right outside a particular building painted more brightly than the rest. The coachman didn't need to bother getting down from his seat; Gwen had nearly leaped out, throwing herself into the arms of a man dressed in garments powdered with flower.
She buried her nose into the welcoming scent of sugary cake batter. The refreshing hint of mint leaves and cinnamon veiled the stench of hardwork, but he could be greased like a pig and she would still run into his open embrace without a care. "I've missed you."
"And I've missed you ten times more." Raeleigh pulled the both of them together until not even air could slip in between. His hands roamed the inches of her waist, caressed the curve of her shoulder, and dragged through the length of her umber hair. He wanted to document in his mind how much it had grown, how much weight she had gained or lost, how she lost her breath when they touched; she seemed to fit in his arms more perfectly since they've last reunited.
Wynn couldn't think of a more fulfilling sight than his parents lost in their own world. Whenever he and his mother got the chance to visit, everything would always feel more complete. He turned around to pay the coachman for his services and almost dropped the money when something clung to his back like an escaped zoo animal.
"Yaaaaaaaaay~!" That childish wail could only come from one person.
"Rilly! My back hurts!" He jerked his body like a worm in an effort to shake his younger sister off.
"Stop being an old man," she pouted.
"Do be careful with your brother, honey. He's been training hard." He heard his mother's chuckling from behind. Wynn turned around with Riliane's fingers hooked onto the corners of his mouth, pulling it into a wide and painful smile.
"Training? For what?"
"I've been...been sword-training...at the palace with a couple of the queen's..s...servants," grunting and pausing between words, he struggled against Riliane's resistance to let him go. He knew he wasn't going to get any help from his parents, with them laughing at the sight. He must have looked ridiculous."Rilly, come on!"
"Well, that's great, Wynn," Raeleigh beamed proudly. "You'll have to show me what you can do sometime."
"But our boy's at that age, dear. He should also be looking for a nice girl."
Wynn's shoulders slumped. Marriage was a topic that his mother always seemed to snake into the conversation. "I'm not really interested in women right now."
"Oh! Is that your way of saying you don't know how to seduce them? I should tell you some of the tricks your father used on me."
"No, no! I'm good, mother."
Raeleigh's deep, bellowing laughter put an end to their little quarrel. "Gwen, let him be young while he still can." He looked at Wynn and winked. "Tell us some stories later, alright? We're a bit busy this time of day. I'd close shop, but all the food would go to waste—and we're the only bakery here."
"Oh, I'll help, dear." Gwen squeezed his hand and smiled. "What do you need done? Deliveries?"
"I'll help Riliane with those."
Wynn noticed the tense look on his father's face and cut in, "It's a nice area, dad, what's the worse that could happen? Get lost on Rilly's poor sense of directon?"
Raeleigh chewed on the decision for some time before finally relenting to the attack of pleading looks and quivering lips being given to him. "Alright, alright. There aren't many today anyway. Just be extra cautious, please."
. . .
He always knew that he was a bastard, a child born from breaking wedding vows. Heinz never let him forget it, but Gwen Kingsley gave her son enough love to make him feel like a prince. Wynn grew up in fine clothes tailored to his desire, he played with expensive toys, and he slept on heavenly silks. Whenever they could elude Heinz's watch, he and his mother would escape to Preston, specifically to a street called Forever. He admired everything about the place, much more than the manor. It was like a cheerful little village that came straight out of a fairytale. The people were welcoming and the shops were like chests filled with curious treasures. However, the real treasures there were his father and sister. They never had the same luxuries he did, yet they were twice as happy. And the family was happiest when they were together. During those times, his parents always relished at how fortunate they were.
Yes, Wynn was born very lucky, but that didn't stop fate from screwing up his life and certainly didn't stop it from ruining his sister.
Back then, Rilly was an innocent flower with the freshest view of the world. Everything was always so positive and light in her eyes, and that was what everyone needed. Reality was a vicious bitch, so everyone needed little birds to serenade them with pretty words. But the girl that Damian brought back was only the butchered remnants of that stainless angel. She couldn't smile or laugh, and for the longest time Rilly was completely terrified of him. Wynn spent the next years piecing her together again; trying to breathe the life back into her, trying to put the stars back in her eyes.
It was early into a morning of gray skies. Wynn and Riliane sat in his study, chatting and occasionally quarreling over their differing opinions about the guns and swords scattered around the room. They both shared a passionate obsession for weapons, and quality-checking the new models with his sister was one of Wynn's favourite pastimes. He recited a joke he'd heard from one of the servants, making Riliane nearly run out of breath from giggling.
She doesn't sing those pretty words anymore, but thank God she smiles again. Thank God that the darkness didn't take her wings. He would slaughter anyone that ever tried. He made that promise to himself; the vow to wipe out everyone that had torn their world to shreds. That's why Damian was still there. Wynn was determined to slay all the monsters from Rilly's nightmares, and it would only cost him his soul. He considered that a small price to pay.
But Rilly was stubborn and had her own aspirations. Now that she was willfully diving back into the black hell of England's underworld, Wynn couldn't just die and leave her vulnerable. He had to make sure there was someone who would protect her in his stead.
His gaze flew briefly to Damian. It was safe to trust him for now, but it would be foolish to trust a demon forever.
Then came the thought Charles Grey, who paraded through his halls the other day offering to take Riliane's hand in marriage. Wynn wasn't so grateful at first, but he had to put personal feelings aside. After much thinking, he found no cons on the list. Grey was the strongest swordsman he's ever known as well as the sharpest blade in the armory. Him being highborn was an added bonus. The only bad thing about Grey seemed to be his habit for breaking windows. Other than that, Wynn thought him to be an honest and loyal man. He was perfect. Until he found one fatal flaw in this plan:
Riliane didn't seem to like him.
After her little tantrum, he sent a messenger into the city with a letter asking for Grey to come at his earliest convenience. In this depressing weather, who would have thought that would be so soon? Within hours he heard a ruckus coming from the drawing room, only to find a startled maid and the man in question.
Grey was eccentric, maybe even close to bizarre. Wynn should have remembered that. He shouldn't even be surprised to find the wet glass scattered all over the floor.
"That was fast," Wynn stated flatly, watching Grey twirl an umbrella around like a toy. "Please close that, it's bad luck.
Grey obliged. "Your messenger did look a little nervous, so I assumed it was urgent business." He crossed over the broken glass in crunchy footsteps, causing Wynn's attention to fly to the gaping hole that would do no good in keeping out the weather.
"You could have at least taken the front door."
"I'll pay for it later."
"Do you say that to everybody?"
"I'm assuming you didn't call me here to flirt. So~ Is she my bride-to-be, or what?"
A small pink flush dusted Wynn's cheeks, and he turned away hoping Grey didn't notice. "Hardly. I don't think you made a very good impression last night."
"Oh? My bad. I must have been too much."
The two of them sat across from one another on a set of plush, burgundy sofas. Grey relaxed into his seat as if this were already his own home, tilting his head back as he slammed his heals on the coffee table between them. Wynn was bit more attentive. He delicately broke it to Grey how Riliane had outright refused, but the albino waved it off as playing hard to get.
"I'm having second thoughts myself."
This time Grey lifted his head and waited for Wynn to continue.
"I'm sorry. I do agree with you, that I need to find her a husband that will protect her, but I'm afraid it can't be you."
"...She'll warm up to me."
"She has a hard time warming up to anyone these days."
Neither of them said anything for a while. Wynn preoccupied himself with the weather just outside the broken window. The drizzle he barely noticed earlier had grown into a soft pitter-patter against the sill. He looked at Grey from the corner of his eye and nearly jumped. He'd been staring holes into the side of Wynn's face the whole time.
"I truly am sorry, Grey."
"I'm sorry, too." The apology sounded genuine, and for the first time since Wynn's met him, Grey actually looked pretty glum. Heartbroken, perhaps.
"You have nothing to apologize for."
"She's different from before isn't she? Not quite the same."
Faint creases appeared on Wynn's forehead as he looked at Grey, dumbfounded. He hoped that this wouldn't lead to where he thought it would.
"I have to confess; I knew your father and sister before their bakery caught fire."
Wynn had no idea how to maneuver around this. He only wished he had a gun on him in case this conversation took a turn for the worse. "What...what are you talking about?"
"Don't play dumb with me, Wynn. You act just like him. He was a good man, Raeleigh Evans."
He sat their thrown off his calm at the mention of that name, a name which he hadn't heard out loud in years. "H-how did you know them?"
"Phipps and I had an assignment in Preston four years back, and that's when I had the pleasure of meeting them. After that, I visited them a few times. It was your sister I wanted to see, actually." Grey gave him a quaint smile. "She lifted my spirits."
Wynn began to mellow, but not enough to stop picking at old scabs. If this conversation didn't turn around, he'd end up opening old wounds all over again.
"Wynn," Grey leaned forward, clasping his hands between his knees. "It's hard to talk about it, I know. Your father dies and your sister goes missing the same day? That must be hard on a man, but I have to ask. What happened? To you? To her? When I spoke with your sister last night, she was just a shadow of the girl I once knew."
"Do you love her?" Wynn asked suddenly.
Wynn chewed on his tongue. This was a subject he wouldn't touch with a ten-foot pole. It wasn't meant to be thrown into the air in choked up words, because he kept it all stored away to fester and feed the flames. There weren't enough words to describe how painful all of it was, anyway. But Grey did seem to care for Riliane, and he sat there like a friend lending an ear rather than a suitor looking for marriage.
"...We've been planning a picnic in the countryside for a while and my mother and I were finally able to sneak away from my stepfather that day—damn him for keeping all of us apart."
"Heinz Kingsley?" Grey leaned forward. "What did he do?"
"Heinz Bauer, " Wynn corrected. "He wasn't a Kingsley but he did a damn good job parading around like he was the head of the family. My mother was supposed to run it, but that bloke let the title and money go to his head. Do you know the dive off the cliff our reputation took? That all started with him. That blasted idiot was a prideful, greedy twat. And a jealous one, too. He knew my mother didn't love him, but he acted like he had every right to command her like some pet. When she was pregnant with me—everyone knew she was expecting, and it wasn't like Heinz could send me away without cementing any rumors. He ended up keeping me around to save himself the embarrassment. But when my mother got pregnant with Riliane..."
He stopped himself from saying anymore. Wynn hadn't intended to ramble on like that, but the words and bitter resentment slipped from his tongue so easily. "I'm sorry, I sidetracked. I should—"
"No, Wynn." Grey looked him in the eye, "Bottling all this up isn't healthy. Consider me your diary for today."
"I'm sorry, but I don't know if I can trust you."
"I have no need to tell the queen that you're not Heinz's son. Everything the Kingsleys own is rightfully yours now, isn't it? Besides, I don't want anything bad to happen to you or Riliane." Grey winked. "I'm a friend, not a foe."
Wynn gave him a bittersweet smile. Even though they don't speak on a regular basis, Wynn had already considered Grey his friend.
"When...when my mother got pregnant again, Heinz went ballistic. Furious! He wouldn't allow anyone to find out about it, and he chased my father from London as soon as Riliane was born. After that, everything in the manor got much...much worse. That arse practically made it a law that my mother should never set foot out the door again...I...I can't count the number of times I've seen him beat her...and he cowed me and the other servants into silence. I remember him mention once or twice that he got rid of anyone else who knew about it, about everything—I'm sorry, Grey, is this too much for you?"
He was taken aback to see that Grey's eyes had begun to water. Was he really that touched?
"Oh! No, no, I'm good. Tell me about the day your family was going to have that picnic."
That was the day everything had fallen to ruins, and unfortunately one of the days that lingered in Wynn's mind as clearly as he could see. "My mother wanted to help with the bakery so she took Riliane to make a few deliveries. After a while, they never came back. I still remember how wide-eyed and full of panick my father was. I was scared, too. We nearly lost it trying to look for them. Then we find them, two of the best people in this world, being shoved into crates like animals! My father...he didn't think, h-he just attacked the men around them. That was the first time I've ever seen him throw a punch. He fought so hard, Grey, but it didn't end well. Those guys used something that knocked us out cold. When we woke up they were...they were gone."
Wynn buried his face into his hands and dragged them through his hair. He took a deep, shuddery breath before going on. "That was Heinz's doing."
"How do you know?"
"Because I heard one of the guys say his name! I've seen his desk littered with black market deals, I've known what malicious creep he was, what he was capable of!" He felt a fire in his chest grow hot as his vision became red. "We found the bakery in flames! My father didn't die that day, Grey, but what happened to him afterward was worse. I watched him go mad. I watched him ruin himself—tearing apart the world looking for them! That's when he—"
He stopped immediately, knowing he couldn't speak of something as blasphemous as demonic contracts. Especially knowing what it led to in the end.
"...Wynn? That's when he what?"
The smell of rain soured into the musk scent of copper.
The feel of his sister's body, limp and hopeless in his arms. The sight of his beautiful mother's stiff corpse, ugly with months' worth of rot laying across the carpet. The sound of his father shouting as he mercilessly stabbed Heinz through the heart, and his dying gasps as Damian took the life out of him. All of it returned to him as fresh as the day it all happened.
"He hired Damian to bring them back." 'And he paid the ultimate price for it.'
It was after Damian devoured his father's soul that Wynn began to see everything in red hue. His entire life went up in flames and ashes as bad and bloody as the day the bakery burned down. His deal with the devil wasn't just about slaying monsters. It was all for the mother who suffered for her children, for the father who was driven into insanity, and for the girl who came out damaged beyond repair. But most of all, it was for himself.
He wanted justice for his family, for all the happiness he's lost. And that justice is well worth the price.
. . .
a/n: A big thank you to those who have faved, followed, and or reviewed! Even if you just took a second to look at this, thank you! :'D I hope you enjoyed the first look into Wynn's mind~! :3
I hope you enjoyed the first look into Wynn's mind~! :3