Secret of the Tenei Star Chapter 12
The man lay back against his pillow, thinking about his former bedmate. Ah, it was just a shame he had to let that unfaithful wench die. Not like she was worth anything to him anyway. After all, she had lied about the paternity of her child. . .making him believe it was his. . .he was glad her no-good life had come to an end.
Aaron snickered, his demented mind not even feeling the need to justify what he had done. The twisted collection of responses that apparently was his brain made him believe that it was Emily's fault he killed her. Her fault.
Why did you make me do it, Em? You know I don't like to hurt you, but. . .you should have thought about that before you decided to dump that loser Gremio and made me think you were havin' my kid. You know I don't like to be mad. Why did you make me mad, you disgusting tramp? I'm glad you're dead. You deserved to die. You deserv-
*KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK*
Aaron jumped off of his bed. "What the-?"
The door to his apartment swung open, the wood slamming hard against the wall. Aaron's eyes widened in horror as a red-faced young man barged in, fuming.
"Gremio?! What the hell are you-?"
"Shut up! JUST SHUT UP!! Shut up before you give me even more reason to end your worthless, cowardly life!!" Gremio shrieked at Aaron.
"Uh, w-wait, Gremio, man, why don't we try to talk about this, try to reason-"
Gremio's expression somehow turned even more enraged as his ears tried to soak up what the murderer was trying to say. He cast to Aaron the most hateful look he'd ever given anyone in his life. "Are you sick or something?!" Gremio snarled at him. "Don't you know I'm past the point of talking or reasoning?! I think reasoning is something YOU should've done before you killed her!"
"I did reason," Aaron answered back nonchalantly. "I reasoned what a loose little whore she was."
Gremio let out a groan as he shook his head in disgust. "How dare you," the servant growled. "Even after she's dead, you continue to insult her. You continue to abuse her. You continue to hurt her. But I guess that's all you were ever good at, hurting others." Gremio's eyes narrowed in utter contempt. "But not anymore." He reached into his pocket, his eyes piercing deeply into Aaron's.
"Oh, like it was a big loss for you?" snorted Aaron. "What did Emily ever do what was good? What was she worth to you? Because she sure didn't do me a whole lot of good."
"She was the love of my life," Gremio snapped, appalled by Aaron's sickening words. "She was more to me than anything else ever could be, more than you will ever know."
Aaron looked truly amused. "Ha! That's a good one," he snickered. "Well, all right, so the sex was good, but when she-"
Aaron was cut off as Gremio charged forward, ramming into him until Aaron's back was slammed violently up against the wall. He grunted and found himself staring into Gremio's face, which was twisted into a mask of pure rage.
"I said to shut your trash-talking lip," Gremio ordered him quietly after a moment. "You've no reason to act mighty. I'm the only one here. Your stupid little weasel friends aren't here to cheer you on. Emily isn't here." His tone of voice turned suddenly thunderous as the anger took control once again. "EMILY ISN'T HERE AND IT'S ALL YOUR FAULT!!" he screamed into the frightened face of Aaron.
Aaron only stared back in shock, the fear leaving him paralyzed.
"And now, you're going to pay for it," Gremio informed the scared man in a disturbingly calm tone. Backing off, he reached into his pocket again, and quickly whipped out a small object. "You're going to pay. You're going to pay for killing Emily. And our child. You're going to pay for killing my son!!"
Aaron's eyes widened in horror as he realized what it was. A revolver.
Gremio aimed the gun at Aaron's head. The frightening, merciless look in his eye told Aaron just how dead serious Gremio was.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa!" Aaron cried out, shielding himself. "You are serious, aren't you?!"
"I hope you rot in hell," Gremio hissed at him, clicking the gun.
"NO, NO, WAIT!" Aaron's plea came out in shrill cries as he dropped to the floor, shielding his head. "Please! DON'T! I beg of you!"
Gremio felt no clemency for such an evil man. "It's too late for begging. Prepare to die." His finger moved back on the trigger, with Aaron just seconds away from death.
Aaron only whimpered as he shook from fright, not quite eagerly awaiting his demise. This was the only time Gremio had ever seen him truly afraid, when he'd finally met his match instead of just bullying defenseless people that were incomparable to him in strength. . .or maybe hostility. Wow, what a man.
. . .a damn coward was all he had proven himself to be.
The air wracked with intense stillness, and Gremio felt his heart about to burst. His throat felt dry. He couldn't believe he was standing there about to kill Aaron. But was it right? Aaron had taken Emily's life, so revenge had to be.
Gremio's arm trembled.
No! He shut his eyes, trying to force such logic out of his mind. He couldn't let these thoughts overtake him now. He couldn't let himself be weak again.
Gremio gasped as another hand placed itself on the gun, lowering it. "Pahn?" he said aloud, releasing his hold on the trigger.
Pahn took the revolver as Gremio's hold loosened. "Gremio, what are you doing?!" he demanded in a fierce voice. "Killing this fool isn't going to change a thing! You know it won't bring back Emily. . .or your child."
Gremio staggered back, a horrified look on his face. "I. . .I. . ."
"If you kill him, you'll just be as bad as he is," Pahn continued, cautiously bringing the gun down. "But I know you, Gremio. You're a good person, and you're better than this. You're better than this scum! It's about time you realized that."
"I-I. . .oh," he groaned in response, bringing his hands to his forehead. "I can't believe I almost-I don't. . ."
"It's. . .it's all right, Gremio. Just. . .try to calm down for a few minutes."
"Uh, y-yeah, that's right!" a muffled voice said from the ground. Aaron lowered his arms and looked up, then started to rise. "You can't kill me."
"Keep your miserable carcass on the floor!" Pahn shouted at Aaron, turning the gun back on him. "Gremio might be too good to be taken down with you, but me, I still have a few things to learn, so don't think for a moment that I won't kill you!"
"Okay, okay!" Aaron squeaked, dropping back to the wooden floor.
Pahn rolled his eyes in exasperation, uttering a groan.
"Is this Aaron's home?" a deep voice bellowed from the entrance.
Pahn and Gremio turned around to find themselves looking at three Imperial soldiers. They nodded, then Pahn gestured to the lily-livered fellow who was curled up on the floor.
The first soldier walked in, then stepped aside to let his partners through. He then took out a sheet of paper as the other two soldiers walked over to Aaron.
"Aaron, we are placing you under arrest for the murder of Emily Verlyn." He then brought the paper down to stare at Aaron. "Please come with us."
Aaron's mouth remained open as the two soldiers helped him up, shackling his wrists behind his back. He did not resist, most likely due to the fact that he was still in shock over almost losing his life in the previous moments.
"First off, where in the hell did you get a gun?!"
Gremio's cheeks reddened, and he avoided Pahn's stare. "I made a quick stop by a weapons' shop near the blacksmith. . .it wasn't hard to get one, you know."
"Yeah, yeah, I know," sighed Pahn. "I just can't believe you, of all people, would actually have the nerve to take revenge on somebody like that. . .
Gremio scoffed. "What, because you think I'm just some weak little-"
"No!" hissed Pahn. He stopped, then changed his tone of voice. "No, that isn't what I meant, Gremio. I meant-I just meant that you never seemed like the type to be so violent. You're not a heartless bastard like that Aaron. You're too good a person. You're too good a friend. And you sure as hell have a lot worth living for, so I don't know what the hell you were doing about to throw it all away!"
The words seared into Gremio, and he felt the dejection come upon him once more. "Well," he started after a while, "it sure didn't feel like I had much to live for when he killed her. . .and even now, I'm not sure if there's anything to live for. She's gone. They're. . .they're both gone."
Pahn's expression softened. "I'm really sorry about that Gremio. The last thing I ever wanted was for that to happen. But. . .you need to know that even though you don't think so, there's a lot for you to be living for. After Emily left you, I thought you were starting to realize that. I mean, you were finally starting to live your life without having to worry about her! And you were just fine, weren't you? Weren't you?"
Gremio lowered his gaze. "Yeah. . .I guess I was starting to move on. . .but I admit I clung to the hope that one day she would come back to me." He let out a sigh. "I guess she did. . .but by then it was too late."
Pahn's eyes dimmed. "I know," he gravely stated. "But. . .but you have to admit, you were getting along without her. Your friends were there for you. Me, Cleo, Master Teo, even the Young Master, we were all there. And we'll always be there. And. . .and we'll help you through this. You got over her once, and in time I know you can get over her again. . ."
Gremio smiled faintly. "Yeah. . .I know." He took a deep breath, then exhaled. "You're right. You're absolutely right."
They continued their path to the McDohl residence, which was finally coming into view. It was here, Gremio began to further ponder Pahn's words.
"The Young Master knows much for his age, doesn't he?"
Pahn turned to Gremio with a puzzled expression. "Huh? What do you mean?"
"Well," started Gremio. "I remember one time-it was a few months back-when I was still getting over what Emily had done to me. I was watching the Young Master, still feeling somewhat depressed, but was trying to keep it secret. But I guess I let on more than I realized, because in the middle of the day, he just walks up to me, then out of nowhere, asks if I'm sad because of Emily."
Pahn's face showed astonishment. "Really? I didn't know that."
"Heh. Yeah," Gremio chuckled. "It took me by surprise. I guess he really was there for me during the last few months like you said, 'cause he seemed to behave a lot more than before the breakup happened."
"Wow." Pahn was dumbfounded. "That just blows my mind."
"Yeah." Gremio almost laughed, but his thoughts went to Emily once more.
"Hey, wait a minute!" Pahn suddenly said. "You mean, while the Young Master was being a little terror to me and Cleo. . .he was being nice to you?! The same kid who sets traps on the floor so you'll trip? The same kid who tries tickling you while you're in the middle of doing something? The same kid who climbs up on the table and pulls your ears while you're trying to cook. . .was behaving?!"
"Huh?" Now it was Gremio's turn to be surprised. "What do you mean?"
"Well, let's just say he didn't cut us any slack." Pahn shook his head in bewilderment. "Damn. You're right, Gremio. That is one damn smart kid."
Gremio smiled. "Yeah, he is."
They finally arrived at the McDohl house. Pahn and Gremio stopped in front for a moment, a rather anxious one at that.
"You know what's hard, though?" Gremio said. "Knowing that I'd lost her again before I had a second chance with her. And then. . .knowing my third chance was killed before it could even breathe in life. Then knowing I went after Aaron, but not having the heart to kill him. It's still hard getting used to everything that's happened."
Pahn nodded. "Yeah. But you know what's the hardest thing of all?"
"What?" inquired Gremio.
"Explaining everything that happened today. . .to Master Teo."
The two friends exchanged apprehensive glances, both reluctant to enter the house.
"Well, it seems that Shark cracked under the pressure when he was taken in by the Imperials," Teo was explaining to Gremio. "They arrested him shortly after the attack, then one by one, he ratted out his friends. It was only a matter of time before Aaron was pointed out."
"But how did they know Shark was guilty?" Gremio asked. "I mean, I was practically in a coma for a week! I sure couldn't have told them!"
Teo smirked. "Well, apparently Shark isn't as. . .neat and crafty as he made himself out to be. He left a trail of blood. . .your blood. . .leading up to his own apartment. Red shoeprints covered the floor starting from where you had lain, all the way up to his place of residence. Evidently, he doesn't know how to clean up a mess after he's made it."
"What a moron," Pahn scoffed.
"Clearly, he wasn't any brighter than the rest of his hoodlum friends," Cleo added with matching disdain.
"But it's over and done with, the criminals are arrested, and now we can get on with our lives, huh?" Teo half-heartedly cracked, then loudly cleared his throat. "Why don't we celebrate?"
"I shall get the stew ready, sir," Gremio offered.
"No, we'll do it," Cleo volunteered. "Pahn and I will do the cooking this time."
Pahn cast Cleo a strange look. "Huh? Wait a minute, Cleo-" he began to protest.
With a strained grin on her face, she nudged Pahn with an elbow. "I said, 'Pahn and Cleo will be preparing the stew this time,'" she repeated through gritted teeth.
It finally registered with Pahn. "Oh! Oh yeah," he nervously spoke, before Cleo grabbed his arm and dragged him off toward the kitchen.
Gremio turned around to face Teo, who was looking through some papers. "Master Teo, I. . .I want to thank you."
Teo didn't look up. "For what, Gremio?"
"For everything. You've. . .you've taught me so much. And even though I came to serve you, it is you who have given me a lot. I would like to repay you for all you've done. I want to repay the debt to you."
"Huh?" Teo lowered the papers and brought his confused gaze upon Gremio. "What are you talking about, Gremio? You don't owe me anything."
"I know, but. . .I feel you've done a lot for me," he responded. "I can tell you'd put up with a lot when it came to Emily and me. And I know you put in a lot of effort helping me move on without her. . .then when the incident happened, you worked hard to help me recover. And just when I think I've been enough of a burden-"
"Gremio, you're not a burden to me."
"But I felt like one. I'm still shocked you didn't turn me away after what I did today. Going off with a gun, intending to kill-"
"Gremio," Teo cut in, creating a moment of silence. "You know what? Given the circumstances, I honestly don't blame you one bit for going nuts. You'd put up with a lot of bull already, that I was actually surprised you didn't crack sooner, pardon the expression."
"It's all right."
"I-I mean, not that you have a screw loose to begin with," Teo nervously continued. "I just don't know how you managed to endure so much." He became quiet for about a minute. "I'm not saying I am pleased with what you did today. . .but I understand your reason for vengeance. I know I wouldn't let anyone get away with hurting someone I cared for. Now, I'm not happy with your actions. I mean, you did something extremely dangerous that-"
"Then why did you keep me here if I was a danger-"
"Because," Teo interrupted, "I do not see you as a danger. At least, not here. Not to me, not to my son. Gremio, when you're here, you're everything a servant needs to be. You give one hundred percent to your work. You do everything I ask you to, just like Cleo and Pahn, and I have no complaints about you. You've been here long enough for me to know that I can always count on you no matter what. . .and I hope you choose to continue working here."
"O-of course I will, Master Teo," Gremio stammered. "And-and I can't thank you enough for everything. I do want to continue working for you. I want to continue serving you and Young Master."
"Good," Teo responded, sounding pleased. Not a second passed before he spat out, "Now get out the damn mop and hop to it!"
Gremio only eyed Teo warily, startled by his words.
Teo laughed. "Ha ha ha, I'm just kidding, Gremio," he snickered. "I want you to just sit back and relax for today."
"Y-yes, Master Teo," Gremio obeyed, then headed upstairs.
Teo chuckled again before picking up his papers once more. He let out a sigh. "Some things never change."
"Gwemio!" the young child whined. "You pwomised!"
"In a minute, Young Master," Gremio assured him.
"Man, I'm sure glad Master Teo didn't end up kicking you out or anything," Pahn was telling Gremio.
Gremio raised an eyebrow at him. "Really?"
Pahn nodded. "Yeah, 'cause then I wouldn't have any time off with Cleo, hehehe!"
Gremio rolled his eyes. "Knew there had to a reason," he muttered under his breath.
"Heh heh, I'm just joking," Pahn continued, grinning. "But seriously, it just wouldn't be the same without you, ya know? We started working for Master Teo at about the same time, and even though I don't mind having Cleo around, heh, heh, I'd hate to see you go. You're one of the best. . .no one could ever take your place."
"Oh." Gremio stared back at Pahn in surprise. "Thank you, Pahn."
Suddenly, the little boy ran over and charged into Gremio. "Come on, Gwemio!" he demanded. "You pwomised me we were going!" Scowling, he reached up and tugged hard on Gremio's arm.
Gremio looked down at the boy. "Yes, I know I did," he said to him with a tiny smile. "I'll be there in just a little bit."
The child groaned impatiently, but he accepted Gremio's answer. He went over to the other side of the room and jetted outside of the door.
Pahn, who had been watching the boy exit, suddenly let out a laugh. "Gremio, why do you let that kid push you around?"
Gremio turned to Pahn, looking confused. . .or just trying to avoid giving his friend an answer. "I don't. . .really."
"All right, all right, maybe I do," Gremio admitted. "But. . .I'm not sure why. I guess there's just something about him-"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, I feel that. . .maybe it looks like he pushes me around to you, but that's not how it is to me. I can't explain it. It seems like we've shared this sort of. . .bond since I'd started working for Master Teo, and it's just gotten stronger ever since. . .the incident. . .as if I now had a purpose in life. As if I were meant to watch over the Young Master, to make sure he grew up the way that. . ." He trailed off, having no desire to further dig into the memory. "My chance with Emily is gone, but perhaps I could make up for it. I can no longer protect her or our child, but, perhaps, maybe I can devote my life to protecting the Young Master."
Pahn's eyes dimmed, and he lowered his face. "Yeah. . .I guess I see what you mean." He cleared his throat. "Uh, you know what, Gremio?" he began again uneasily. "You. . .you go ahead and do that. Make sure the Young Master knows right from wrong. I know you'll do a great job of doing so."
Gremio studied his friend's expression. "You really mean that?"
"Yeah," Pahn retorted softly. "You know I'll be helping too. And Cleo. We've all got to look after the Young Master. But just don't ever quit on us, you hear me?"
"Gwemio!" the childlike voice shouted from the main room.
Gremio whirled around in the direction of the voice. "Heh, I'd better not make him wait any longer."
Pahn nodded again. "All right. See you when you get back."
Gremio started toward the doorway, but stopped to turn around once more. "Later. . .and thanks again," he told Pahn, a sign of a smirk on his face.
"No problem." Pahn returned the smile as he watched Gremio disappear through the door.
"No problem at all."
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