Liam stared down at the pair of gauntlets curiously.

He couldn’t piece together exactly why or how, but he couldn’t think of any way to explain it besides that the gauntlets themselves were actively granting Glen the swordsmanship skills that he’d witnessed the younger man wielding. It certainly explained the suspicious and outright bewildering circumstances he’d seen, but it was hard to accept at face value because he’d never seen anything quite like it.

If those skills belonged to someone with a stronger body, they’d be a practically unstoppable swordsman.

What could the enchantment on these things be? It was magnificently intricate; he had absolutely no idea how many individual commands must be engraved into the plating to create a pattern this complex.

Just looking at it was… intoxicating. He almost felt like trying them on.

Suddenly, he felt a cold, sharp sensation on the back of his neck.

Purely out of reflex, he dodged forward as fast as he could, leaping over the unconscious body of his acquaintance. He flipped around as fast as he could to gauge the threat, and there he saw Xerxes. The blonde was somehow already carrying Glen’s unconscious body in their arms. It looked like they were about to pierce Liam’s neck with their rapier.

“You’re lucky I didn’t sever your brain stem.”

They had a cold look on their face. It was nothing like what Liam had seen of them over the past several hours.

“Xerxes! What are you doing? He was clearly trying to defect to-”

Before finishing his sentence, Liam’s attention was caught by an unnatural motion. He witnessed Xerxes ears shifting and extending in a fluid motion. It looked like the flesh was melting and reshaping itself.

“To my side. He declared that he intended to join us, so I’ll consider him my ally for now. That makes you my enemy.”

The carefree demeanor and warm, round eyes that they used to have were nowhere to be seen.

Their eyes were sharp, their pupils undilated. Their glare was unfeeling and frigid.

“You… You’re one of them! I should’ve known! You b-” Liam was interrupted yet again.

“You would’ve killed me on the spot if I told you. Return Glen’s gauntlets.”

The only two people he’d grown to remotely appreciate over the past several days of virtually uninterrupted suffering had both betrayed him. Or, perhaps that wasn’t the correct way to phrase it.

Neither of them were really his friends to begin with. He was naïve yet again. He let his friendliness and chivalry get the best of him, and he once again paid dearly for it.

“Over my dead body. These are proof that I’ll never abandon the human race like he did!”

Liam hardly even knew what he was talking about at this point. Even to him, it was a weak attempt to justify the fact that he couldn’t bring himself to let go of the only tangible proof he ever even tried.

“That doesn’t make any sense. You’re delusional.”

“Maybe so, but at least I’m loyal!” Liam shouted back, spit flying. Xerxes let out a disappointed sigh.

“I’m not willing to risk combat with you here, especially when those guards may step in to assist.”

The androgynous blonde glanced down and muttered at the unconscious boy in their arms.

“Sorry, but I’ll have to leave them behind.”

And just like that, Glen in tow, the spy dashed over the wall. It looked like they were floating as they leaped in slow motion, falling like a feather.

Liam knew it wouldn’t be worth risking tailing the pair. He simply stood still, tightly gripping the gauntlets and cursing his foolishness for what he desperately hoped would be the last time in his life.

Liam turned to face the crowd who just watched the entire incomprehensible scene unfold without a word.

They all looked like they had absolutely no idea what to say. He slowly walked toward them without hanging his head.

“I need a room. How much for a night?” He asked in a matter-of-fact tone, completely bewildering the random city guard he was speaking to.

He couldn’t really blame them for not knowing what to say, given the utter emotional whiplash they were likely still suffering from, but he still needed an answer regardless.

“Do I need to repeat myself?”

“Oh! Uh… no. It’s, uh… about fifteen half-coins.”

Liam nodded and pulled out his coin purse, which the guards had apparently never bothered to remove when they confiscated his armor. He held a few coins in his hand so he’d have it ready when he arrived, then walked through the crowd.

They parted as he walked, like there was some sort of royal procession. He already remembered where the inn was because he passed it on the way here.

Liam had a lot in his head that he needed to sort out.

The past hour or so was an absolute blur.

The last he remembered, he could see… actually, Glen literally couldn’t remember a thing. He definitely seemed to recall his identity and language… where he was from…

But he had no idea what his most recent memory was.

Everything seemed completely shuffled around chronologically.

Oh, yeah… The Palisade fell.

He knew that had to have happened relatively recently since the enormous barrier was present in all the other little splotches he could recall. But why were his memories so jumbled… Actually, where was he? He was so occupied with where he’d been in the past that he forgot to get a solid account of where he was presently.

Glen opened his eyes and… Wait, or maybe he didn’t?

He definitely tried to open his eyes, but everything was still pitch black. What was going on?

“Have you finished fooling around?” A voice echoed around him.

It sounded like it was coming from inside his head, or perhaps everywhere around him all at once.

Suddenly, a blurry silhouette appeared before him. It looked like a crude drawing, made mostly of strange white strands. He could certainly make out that it had some sort of hard exterior, perhaps armor?

“Boy. Cease this nonsense. We have business to discuss.”

The voice was speaking rather politely. Were the figure and the voice related? He thought the voice might be addressing him, but he wasn’t really sure.

“Holy SHIT, you are insufferable. Get up, I’m trying to talk to you. I'm finished talking like a tight-ass.”

The figure stepped toward him and he felt a vague sensation of being slapped across the face.

“Ahhh! Oh, I can speak?”

The figure didn’t have any discernible facial expressions but he could nonetheless somehow comprehend that they looked utterly baffled.

“What the fuck are you… Yes, you can speak. You are permitted to speak. Can we talk now?”

“Uh… I guess? Who are you? Where am I? Why is my-” Glen began asking his endless list of questions only to be interrupted immediately.

“I know I said you can speak, but by the Herald can you shut the fuck up? Your friend pulled off the gauntlets and you were rendered unconscious. I don’t know what happened after that because I only know what you know, at least when it comes to the present.” The voice vaguely described the circumstances surrounding his present situation which jogged Glen’s memory a fair bit.

“Oh yeah, I was in Tabre! And I-” He was interrupted yet again.

“How did you get this jumbled up from just-... Ahh, whatever. I’m not one to talk as my memories are still extremely fragmented as well. I don’t remember what my name was, but I managed to glean a little bit about what I am based on what I can remember. I’ll try to explain a bit if you promise not to interrupt and ask stupid questions.”

Glen was already confused, and apparently they hadn’t even started explaining anything yet. He figured that he might as well agree if he wanted to find out anything at all.

“Uh… sure.”

“Good. I seem to be the recovered consciousness and memories of a sword prodigy who was, to my recollection, only referred to as 'The Blademaster'. The name does sound pretty cool, I guess. Those gauntlets you found were enchanted somehow to contain a captured rendition of his mind. It would appear the Blademaster held some famous dwarven craftsman captive and forced him to do it.”

“What’s a dwarf?”

The faceless figure had been moving around what could be assumed to be its arms while speaking, only to freeze after Glen spoke up again.

“Did you not… just promise not to ask stupid questions? And how do you not know what a damn dwarf is?! Filthy little cave-dwellers. Short, bearded. Like mining and blacksmithing. Ring any bells?”

They were being awfully patronizing, but Glen figured it must’ve been common knowledge.

“Uh… not really.”

“Who did I get dropped into… actually, wait a second. I think the guy who I guess was me… I think he lived an awful long time ago. Are dwarves not around anymore?”

“Well… not that I know of. How come you seem so messed up? Did that ‘famous craftsman’ not do his job very well?”

Glen thought it was a reasonable question, but he was once again stared at like he just asked what color the sky was.

“No, you fool, he did an excellent job. It’s just that it takes a long damn time to overwrite all the little bits of your head, so I didn’t get finished. Remember how you didn’t ever take those things off? Yeah, that was me. You know how you avoided death by a miracle several times? Also me. I even had to take over your dumbass a few times just to keep you alive. Reckless fool.”

Glen stared up at his conversation partner absolutely baffled.

It was no wonder he managed to survive those several encounters over the past few days despite how weak he was.

“So, I was borrowing your sword expertise because of those gauntlets? Am I going to lose it now because that prick pulled them off?”

Honestly, he wasn’t sure if he’d manage to survive after he woke up if he didn’t have his sword-saint-godfather watching over him.

“I mean, I’m still here, so… It looks like I just lost access to the memories I was pulling to form myself and try to take over your head. So, I’m clearly a failure, but I’d also rather not just… fade into nothingness. I’ll probably just hitch a ride in your head and give you whatever I can still remember to keep you alive. You know, because my existence depends on yours.”

Glen had absolutely no idea what the figure was talking about, but he gathered that he would still have a little bit of help, so he was relatively content with that.

“Well uhh… Thank you?” He was probably visibly confused.

“Yeah, ‘you’re welcome’, you little shit. Anyway, whaddaya’ figure is going on outside? I got no clue what happened after that crazy bastard tricked me.”

They continued speaking for a while.