A few of us lounged in the lobby of the God Complex, a little down time between work, letting us catch up with one another. Today, Clio, Eros, Apollo, and Urania were there, stationing themselves around Dinlas and myself and chattering away. I watched Apollo and Urania absently, something stirring me as they fawned over one another. I did not begrudge them that, PDA did not bother me. But it made me think of Dinlas and I, and what we would look like in the future. He was very much a large part of my life now, though how much he knew that I was not aware. As the conversation drifted around us, my thoughts meandered their way down a darker path, and I found myself observing Dinlas, an ache in my chest growing. What if something happened to him, and I couldn’t be there for him? What if another Estrella came to be, ready to try and take him from this realm?
My heart was pounding, and I took a deep breath to steady myself. I was being foolish, I knew this. But…I had to know. I turned to Dinlas casually, a half smile on my face.
“Amata, would you spar with me?”
The ensuing raised eyebrow I was expecting. He sat back in his chair, regarding me closely for a moment. “Spar with you? As in swords?”
I shifted on the arm of his chair where I was perched, digging a nail into the leather and not quite meeting his eyes.
“Not…quite. I wanted you to use your pistols, actually.”
The immediate wave of reluctance and suspicions washed over me as he straightened up.
“Nyx, those aren’t toys. I can’t take a bullet back once it’s fired. Plus, these were forged by Uncle Heph; they may not even shoot at you.” We sat quiet for a moment, before he added, “Besides, how exactly would one spar with a pistol?”
“Well,” I started, gauging his lack of enthusiasm, “you shoot at me, and I deflect the bullets with my sword.” As soon as the words left me, I knew he was entirely disinterested.
“Absolutely not, Nyx. That’s simply ludicrous. What would that possibly prove?”
“I want to know if I can do it.”
“No, I’m not doing that. How about if instead you fly me up to the top of the Complex and I’ll jump off so you can show me how to fly?”
I snorted at the absurdity of that, then stopped and realized he wasn’t laughing. “Dinlas, I will be fine. This is just something I need to prove to myself.”
He continued to stare at me, then replied, “No really, throw me off the roof of the building, I will be fine. I’m sure I can learn to fly before I hit the ground.”
I leaned in towards him and took his hand. “Please, Dinlas, this is important to me.”
He sat staring at me for several moments while his eyes searched my face.
“Meet me at the range,” he said slowly. “I have to go to the warehouse and get my pistols.”
He stood to teleport away and a split second before leaving said, “Don’t ever ask me to do this again.” With a pop, he was gone.
I glanced over at the others, Clio, Apollo, Urania, and Eros. “Any chance you are going to stay here?” They all looked at one another then shook their collective heads. “I figured as much,” I said as I stood and then teleported away to the range.
I arrived first and the others arrived within a minute, individual pops announcing their arrivals.
Eros put his arm around Clio and walked her to where I was standing as Apollo and Urania stood off to the side talking.
Clio glanced around the arena, eyes glancing at me nervously. “I don’t like this one but. If I see blood, I swear…”
Eros was close beside her, frowning at the sword that shimmered into my hands.
“That’s the sword you’re using? Not your kopis?”
I gave him a smile. “It is too short for what I would like it to be for this. And Clio,” I added, tilting my head at her playfully, “if you see blood, get a vial – it’s gold.”
The muse’s face paled as Eros shook his head. “Your kopis is much faster than your sword, you know.”
I shrugged just as Dinlas popped in with a leather case in his hands. He glanced around at the small crowd, then walked over to the gun bench and opened the case. Inside were two highly decorated, .44 caliber Desert Eagles, crafted by Hephaestus. Dinlas turned to face me.
“Three rules,” he said, “they are non-negotiable.” I nodded and he held up a finger. “No shooting at you.” A second popped up. “You do not jump in front of the shot to prove you can block it.” The third came up. “If you are harmed in any way, we stop immediately and I heal you.”
I nodded once more. “Of course, Dinlas.” He went back to the case to load the pistols while I turned to Eros.
“I’m going to use my longsword, I feel more comfortable with it for this task.”
Eros frowned. “The longsword is wider, more room to block, but… ”
I looked at Dinlas – he had his back to me and was making no attempt to disguise how much he loathed this entire exercise. “Amata,” I said to him to try and draw him in, “which do you think I should use? I am proficient with both, you decide.”
Dinlas shook his head, but refused to turn and look at me. “This is your decision, Nyx, only you know what it is you’re trying to accomplish here.” Inwardly, I flinched a bit that he didn’t call me amorcito, but rather called me Nyx.
“Definitely take the wider longsword,” said Apollo.
I nodded my head and said, “I will take the longsword.” I eyed the ancient weapon in my hand. It felt so comfortable, in many ways another deadly extension of my body.
Dinlas clicked a magazine into each gun, pulled the slide back on each, then laid them on the table ready to fire.
“Would someone please bring in a large pile of dirt to serve as a backstop for the bullets?” he asked as he continued to avoid eye contact with me. I waved my hand without looking and a large pile appeared. It would serve to stop any errant shots.
I swished the sword several times, then twirled it to loosen my wrist. When I was ready my armor appeared, covering and protecting me. Dinlas had finally turned his attention to me, his face unreadable. I knew he wasn’t happy with me. When I was done and ready, he spoke.
“I will shoot the first six shots into the dirt next to you. It will give you a chance to see how fast the bullets are coming at you. From this distance, it will be about 1/10th of a second.” I nodded at him and stepped to the side.
Eros said, “Nyxie, this is crazy. Why?”
“I need to do this, Eros, you don’t need to understand why.” I saw him flinch slightly, but I turned my attention back in front of me.
Dinlas gauged me for a moment, before calling out, “You’re ready?”
“I am,” I said. “I will call the first shots?”
Dinlas nodded and said, “Into the dirt next to you, one at a time – there are six shots. I will not shoot at you.”
I exhaled slowly, repositioning myself before him and facing toward the dirt mound. “I am ready.”
His movements were minute as he trained the barrel to my right, and squeezed the trigger. The dirt exploded, and I heard the gasps from the small group beside us, but I barely flinched. Dinlas waited for my nod, and fired two more shots to my left side, and three on my right. I shifted as he lowered his guns, popping the empty magazine from the gun to reload as I turned to face him, sword gripped tightly and I took my stance. His eyes narrowed at me, and I tried to give him a reassuring smile.
“Trust me,” I murmured, knowing he would hear me. I tilted my sword upwards as he took a two-handed stance, steadying himself. I saw Clio covering her ears already, her face paler by the moment, and I wondered if perhaps she should leave.
“I have to trust you,” I heard Dinlas reply, his lips barely moving. “For you so trust me.” He took a deep breath, rolling his shoulders. “Ready?”
I narrowed my vision down to the barrel of the gun. “I am ready.”
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