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Thread: [Fate/strange fake] Desire and the Apocalypse

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    [Fate/strange fake] Desire and the Apocalypse


    Desire and the Apocalypse





    It is hope—and so, to seek it is to admit despair.



    The two of them left the desert land that their children's duel had marked with fearsome scars.

    The two of them left the desert land, but not together.

    Enkidu had fled to the forest in the west, to his conclave of trees, water, and the fruit of life, where he could be free.

    He has fled back to his Master's side to protect him from the cold north wind that has interrupted their game. Troubled by the mere presence of something that could have such an effect on Enkidu, Gilgamesh has a great desire to stand his ground and to do battle with it – battle that would certainly overwhelm and destroy any ordinary enemy. However, he trusts Enkidu's words and the look in his eyes when he had announced the enemy's approach.

    Having agreed to a contract, a promise to continue their fight another day, Gilgamesh has no choice but to part ways with Enkidu and to avoid engagement with the Servant who would dare to interrupt their reunion. He sets out northward, in the direction Enkidu had looked with fear shadowing his face, but he fades from view. Taking on spirit form, he is able to move with less chance of further interference. He can feel that the magical energy flowing into this form, sustaining him, is but a trickle in comparison to what it had been moments before.


    There is nothing else to interest him in this desolate place, and so he returns to the young girl, his Master.

    He finds her not far from where he left her. When he finds her, most of her weight is shifted to one arm and her legs are crooked at the knees. She is outstretched, a little, but her dark hair hangs to either side of her face, almost concealing it as her head hangs low. It is as if she is bowing to no one.
    Appearing before her, Gilgamesh speaks.

    “You look as though you mourn,” he accuses lowly and without much danger in his voice. Instead, he sounds perhaps a little disappointed. His arms are folded over his chest.

    It seems as though these things happen too quickly for Tiné to respond to them at once. She looks up, only long enough for her eyes to lift to his face, and then she is hiding them again. She pushes her hair back from her face, using her ears to keep it out of the way. Her legs draw up beneath her and she curls into a more orderly shape upon the ground. In one way, she seems to have curled up like an infant. In another, she seems to be bowing reverently once more.

    Gilgamesh raises his eyebrows, awaiting further response. He notices the seemingly involuntarily way her arms wrap around her body, somewhere that is likely at the bottom of her ribs. In spite of the honor paid to him and her stillness, her breath comes a little deep and hard. Her lowered and still features show no sign of it, but the girl seems to be in some measure of pain.

    “Can you stand?” Gilgamesh asks her curtly.

    Her chin inclines upward a little, but she does not lift her eyes.

    “Your... Your Majesty?” she asks. Again, he cannot tell if her hesitation comes from pain or awe. It annoys him.

    “You may stand,” he says instead, his arms still folded.

    Tiné starts with her eyes, glancing up at him to be sure. Her arms straighten before her and small fists brace against the ground as she gets to her feet. As she straightens, her eyes are again the last thing to rise. This time, she seems neither frightened nor calculating. Beneath her eyes, purplish lines were visible just beneath her skin.

    “Perhaps you will need the elixir of youth I gave you after all,” Gilgamesh suggests when he takes in her appearance. His arms start to loosen the barrier they formed across his chest. His golden armor rattles against itself, the sound carrying with it a clarity befitting his presence. It is a little cold and sharp, like the bitterness that he tasted at having no choice but to walk away from him when they had only just begun their celebration.

    “No, Your Majesty,” Tiné says. She focuses her eyes on his and does not look away. Her hand pulls the lustrous bottle into view and draws it close to her chest reverently. “I am grateful.”

    “If you are grateful, then why have you not yet begun to look like a child?” Gilgamesh asks. His arms have fallen to his sides, but his armor and demeanor do not allow him to look any less imposing.

    Rather than looking down or bowing, the little girl takes a small step back.

    “I will try harder, Your Majesty,” she says.

    “I am a king,” Gilgamesh reminds her. “You are aware of my name...” These proceedings may have taken on more purpose and form than he would have ever hoped, but there are still unbearably dull spans of time to be passed when he cannot act as he most desires. His small Master's empty recitations of respect will do nothing but make the time spent waiting unbearable.

    “... Your Majesty?” Tiné asks.

    Gilgamesh feels yet more strain on his patience and is about to reprimand her when she brings her hand to her face. With the other, she still clutches the elixir in her hand, but with this one she rubs beneath her eye as if to brush some impurity away – some fleck of dirt or sand, a strand of her loose hair. Seeing this change in her movement, he has some small change of tact.

    “You would do well to think on what it means,” he suggests, his voice kept low and steady. “I am the King of Heroes.”

    He watches her, long enough to see that there is some sign of understanding in her eyes. When he finds it, they still look too dark and hollow.

    “You are tired,” he adds, his voice lifting a little into a higher tone – lambs and children are the same.

    Tiné's brow furrows tightly, and for all her apparent might in overwhelming and consuming the jester who had summoned him, it is the first time he sees anything in her that might prove at all interesting. He cares not for her magic, nor for her empty wish, nor for forms of obeisance that show no special quality among any of those who would be his subjects. It is when he sees the little spark of anger beneath her determination that he begins to see just what it is that makes it so difficult for her to obey, for Tiné Chelc to simply be a child.

    “I am strong,” she insists.

    Gilgamesh also does not care to argue about the relative strength of a mongrel girl when she looks at him with deadened eyes, utterly unbecoming any child or subject of his.

    “You are tired and you must rest,” he says, leaving no room for argument. “Where will you sleep? You must have provision and shelter, and it seems that you do not wish for yonder eyesore to provide it,” he continues, nearly smirking.

    Tiné looks left and right and repeats the movement with a little more inclination of her head, visibly thinking something through she had not yet considered.

    “What provisions do you require, Your—King of Heroes?” she asks, correcting herself and glancing up only to confirm that this is right. “We can go to my people...” she offers.

    Gilgamesh nods and gestures for her to lead. There is a little wobble to the girl's stance as she begins to obey him, but soon she chooses a direction and tracks her way across the arid land with apparent purpose. When she has started to show him the way, he speaks as he keeps pace with her.

    “I require nothing from those you have brought with you this night,” he says.

    Tiné pauses for a moment and looks back over her shoulder.

    “... King of Heroes?” she asks, faltering a little.

    Gilgamesh affords her a little, borrowed smile that carries with it a light scoff.

    “Have them prepare for me a palace to rival Eanna in splendor,” he says with more expression than before. Were it not for the lingering trace of a smile, the order might have been to be believed and acted upon at once. As it is, he seems to be making fun. “But not tonight,” he says, in case there is any doubt, as he suspects there may be, watching Tiné's eyes.

    Tiné slowly faces forward again and continues leading them on their short journey.

    “Your power is impressive and leaves nothing to be desired,” Tiné says after a few more steps. Her words are soft, but audible, and seem to carry with them a rhythm set by her feet. “There is none who could stand against the power I felt...” she continues.

    Gilgamesh frowns at the back of her head but does not demand explanation. He does not believe that she could press her way into his mind when he has forbidden it. He does not know how she felt his power, only how she didn't. It is unsurprising that she could feel some part of it – the world she knows trembling and ready to crumble, just as she has asked him to do, a mere rehearsal of things to come.

    He frowns not because she knows but because of how she speaks of it.

    He anticipates something – words to follow, but not what they are. He has some faint sense that for all the promise she has shown thus far as a potential subject for him to call his own, she is about to say something she should not say.

    “... none but that which opposed you tonight,” she says, almost as quiet as the cool night wind.

    “You presume to spy upon my affairs?” Gilgamesh asks, almost before he can consider her response. As he considers it, he looks ahead and expects her to pause again, to look to him for forgiveness. Instead, her feet keep trudging forward.

    “The Earth cried out,” Tiné explains. “I felt it from the land that grants me my strength,” she continues. “And no, King of Heroes. My condor could not follow you any better than I could.”

    She admits that she had dispatched some creature under her control to follow after him, but Gilgamesh does not find the will to scold her. He had not explained where he was going. She has no need to require one, if she trusts in his power to settle this petty conflict for her.

    “There was someone to whom I owed a proper greeting, before our battle begins in earnest,” he says in spite of owing the girl no part of it.

    The girl slows their progress again, but only at the base of a hill she is about to ascend. Another shallow scowl is just barely visible when she glances at him.

    “These are things not meant for you to understand,” Gilgamesh says with a dismissive gesture for her to continue.

    She does not hesitate in beginning to climb up the hill, holding her garment in one hand and the gift he had given her in the other.

    “That was a greeting,” Tiné says softly. “Only... a glimpse at your power,” she continues, making it apparent that it is the words more than the climb that are taking her breath.

    “No,” Gilgamesh admits without shame. “There would be no greeting for him but the one I gave. One that does not make mockery of his power.”

    “Is he an enemy? A great enemy of the King of Heroes,” Tiné suggests.

    “No,” Gilgamesh repeats. “... He is my friend,” he adds with the same authority he would carry when giving a command.

    Saying this, he passes the girl to be the first to stand at the crest of the hill. They have come to a flatter space where a number of vehicles are parked.

    They are crude and quite ugly, but Gilgamesh settles his focus on one that is taller than the rest. He considers it, noticing that there is a man who appears to be adjusting stores of supplies in the back of the vehicle.

    Without waiting to see if Tiné will follow, trusting that she will, he makes his way straight to that particular vehicle and that particular man among Tiné's followers. As the man takes notice of his approach, he sets a case of something on the ground, nearly dropping it in his haste to stand upright before starting to kneel.

    “Take care of her,” Gilgamesh says, ignoring the man's effort to bow before him. He looks to his right where he knows she will be. As he expects, Tiné steps just into view beside him. She rubs at her wrist and shifts the elixir from one hand to the other. She is looking up at him, curious and with a frown, but he ignores her silent complaint. “Provide her with water and shelter in which she can sleep.”

    Then he turns from the man without waiting for acquiescence. He knows that he will not be questioned and his turning away is dismissal enough. He looks down upon Tiné. She is frowning more deeply.

    “I don't need to sleep yet,” she insists, and he finds that her voice for argument has grown weak, even as timid as it had been before.

    “A glimpse of the full splendor that is to come has exhausted you,” Gilgamesh says. “You have seen what is to come, but I will not have need of such displays for these other knaves,” he assures her. “As you are my subject, you will live tonight.”

    His words carry with them the full weight of the promise a king makes to his subjects. He has granted her nothing more than that which he intends to mete out. He watches her eyes until she looks away from his, turning to the back of the vehicle. She climbs inside, sitting down so that her legs dangle without touching the ground.

    As Gilgamesh turns away, he notices that she has carefully set aside the gift given to her and has accepted a vessel containing mere water into her hands.
    Taking his leave of the throng of people that have followed Tiné to bow before his feet, Gilgamesh seeks out a higher vantage point. The air that comes up to meet him is fresh and clear, but no matter how it whips at his skin or tries to deceive him, he can think of nothing but what had driven them to part. When he finds a vantage point that allows him to see the encampment below from the corner of his eye, he sits upon a rocky structure dusted by the sand.

    Where he has perched, his feet only just touch the ground. Unseen by anyone, not even by a bird in the sky, Gilgamesh draws one leg up to brace toward his chest. He looks out over all that he can see, and by far the most prominent structure is the sprawling city Tiné and her people have come to despise. Looking at it – the way its white, yellow, and red glow taints the clear night – he knows even more certainly that he hates it, too.

    He decides to take great joy in leveling this city, returning it to the dust and scant trees from which it began. Or he will build it anew, making small work of fashioning a new city more befitting this landscape – less ugly, at least. It would reach out and rejoin the edges of the space to the west of the city. A space filled with trees, water, and the fruit of life. The only place he would choose to be.

    The knowledge that he is in the world again enthralls him as nothing else ever could. The summons to an affair such as this would always be an insult and a waste of his time. The mechanism called upon to wrest him back into the world is only supposed to call upon those who have need of the thing sought after.
    He has never had any need. He would always answer a summons such as this one with the same grim focus. The treasure, if real, is his already. He does not truly believe that such a wishing machine could be, though. He has no choice, then, but to direct humanity's course away from this blinding folly.

    Only now, he considers for the first time what he would do with such a machine. The presence he senses to the west of the town is one that had been gone from the Earth and nowhere to be found. The knowledge of that presence calls out to him, but not enough. He is restless, and he has a purpose in this war now – a reason beyond the simple fact that he must to win. He would never have considered wishing for anything, but now there is a pressing thought that perhaps the universe has honored his kingship once more to bring them both to this place to vie for something to defy that which even rebelling against the gods had not made possible.

    Until now, Gilgamesh has never thought of any use for a miracle.

    Until now, there has never been need of hope.

    * * *

    Orlando Reeve was the Chief of Police of Snowfield. He had been the Chief of Police for a long time. For a long time, he had been preparing for this day, for this hour, when a public servant of his caliber would be needed in this town. There were thousands and thousands of people who depended on the protection of the police force he had forged absolute command over, a call to their unwavering loyalty.

    There had been coming a day when a public servant would need to become a master. The Master of a Servant in the Holy Grail War system, ripped away from its original form and place and brought here to be enacted under a different banner. The Master of the others, those who carried the weapons forged by this Servant's web of carefully constructed lies. The Master of Justice, the Truth that would be their salvation.

    As he walks from his office to the place where the briefing will be, his shoulders hunch forward and constrict the breathing in his chest.

    As he walks from stairwell and into the room where his forces are assembled, his shoulders fall back and make him appear almost entirely calm.

    “Men and women,” he addresses them, as personable as he can be under this grave circumstance, “the hour has drawn near.”

    He speaks with a cadence that carries with it the weight of the air around them. Unlike their previous, perfectly aligned and ready state, those who brandish the counterfeit Noble Phantasms appear to harbor some doubts. They no longer stand as one, but instead some have scattered to find places to sit down, to breathe through the thickly oppressive air of the storm to the south of town.

    As he speaks to them, they begin to fall back in line without direct orders. They have all been prepared for this day, and no shadow of fear can let them turn back now. Instead, it must inspire them.

    “The battle of our lives has already begun,” Orlando Reeve says to them once they have formed an only slightly staggered line. He says so without flinching, without allowing anyone – not even himself – to believe that they have been woefully outdone already. “To the south of the city, the King of Heroes, Gilgamesh, has chosen to open this battle with powerful blows toward an enemy we have not yet been able to identify,” he says in a familiar tone, more befitting an ordinary day of police work.

    The normalcy in his speech seems to have some visible effect on some of the officers before him.

    Others keep strongly on their guard.

    “He will tire with this opening gambit, and we have to be ready,” he says, trying still to make them believe that the task before them is one that can be achieved. If they do not believe that there is even a small chance that they can win, then they have already lost. “I know that some of you can feel more strongly than others what we're up against, but do not let that weaken your resolve. Nothing has changed since the last time you stood before me except the amount of power he has already released upon our world, upon our town. We will go to him, and we will help his adversary bring him low.”

    Just as he begins to believe that he has persuaded those who all look to him for command, there is a phone ringing.

    Someone answers the phone.

    “Sir,” a trusted voice calls out after an indistinct murmur. “... The battle is over,” the voice says.

    Orlando looks back toward the door, toward his aide. He tries not to let indecision play out on his face, even for a moment. He has no choice but to consider what it might mean, though.

    He searches deep within the reserves he has saved for this day, touching something more magic than human that reassures him that even more than an ordinary man facing this threat, he is a mage. He is able to strike things no ordinary weapon, no standard issue firearm, could ever reach.

    He opens his eyes and looks along his row of officers, noticing at least one thing about each of them. It might be the last time anyone notices them while they yet breathe. They all are aware.

    “No Servants have withdrawn from the War,” his aide updates him as he watches them.

    “Do you hear that, men and women?” Orlando barks with more verve than he can usually find. It is almost theatrical, and if ever he needed that quality it is now. He wonders, somewhere in the back of his mind, where it comes from. “The enemy has already been laid low. He has not been destroyed, but his opponent must be on our side – the side of justice – and we will go to his opponent's aid. We will finish what has been begun tonight.”

    Intelligence must be gathered. Reconnaissance must be done. There will be much more to this – their first and possibly only shot – than joining an already active battle. They will strike decisively. They will be quick. For the retreating King of Heroes, there will be no hope.
    Police Chief though he may be, Orlando Reeve speaks to them as a Master.

    This night, of all nights, Orlando Reeve could even be said to speak to them as a king.

    * * *

    No matter how his heart had been returned to him, Enkidu is keenly aware that it beats.

    Fleeing from the desert land, back to the forest and to his Master – making his way in leaps and bounds – it beats.

    Those first moments with his Master had been calm, quiet. There had been a threat to his Master's life and he had sent it way. He had been surrounded by the softness of the forest, by the running water, and by the soft, chirping sounds of the things that scurry and hide in the trees.

    Out in the open of the more desolate, desert land, Enkidu is still aware of the life all around him. It is more sparse, but it is real and everywhere. The life he is now most aware of is his own. It beats.

    As a Servant, he is powerful and fast. He is strong. By the very nature of what he is, he can keep running, as long as his feet will carry him. He had run wild with beasts.

    With the sense that Death might follow him anywhere he went, he had flown faster than he had since before he had known the touch of civilization – the longing of both a body and a mind.

    He only begins to feel safe when the ground beneath his feet is more lush and solid than malleable and made of sand. Mud is cool and smooth in comparison. Moss is like a carpet to his feet. His body heaves for air and draws it in, flooding power and feeling back into his limbs. His feet slow down and he stops by a tree. He holds onto it, picking at its bark gently without tearing it away. He examines it until his eyes focus clearly on it. He walks.

    It is not difficult for him to find the snaking path of the stream with nothing but his ears and nose. He walks at the cool edge of it, briefly wandering out into a shallow and stepping over rocks to wash the sand away from his feet. He can use the special, high-ranking skill of Presence Detection granted to him by the system that has drawn him here, but he does not. He is aware of each little life around him, but he does not need any trace of external power or magic for that. He lets the awareness filter in with little licks of wind that give fresh scents to his nostrils and tie and untie knots in his hair. Soon, a newborn but innate familiarity overtakes the panic that had welled up in his heart.

    He moves around a bend in the water's path and comes to his Master and the shelter formed of trees. He lifts his hand and makes a soft sound between his fingers. A birdsong, one of soft alarm, rises up as one flutters from the bowed trees. They straighten and make way, allowing him to see the silver coat and the last remaining traces of blood. His Master's breathing rises and falls steadily at his first sight of him, then comes in more deeply as the wolf-creature awakens from his sleep.

    The wolf rolls over onto his belly, keeping low to the ground. His eyes fix on Enkidu's and his ears press flat back against his head.
    Enkidu crouches low to the ground and holds out his hand. Leaning forward, he slides a little closer on his knees to reach his Master. When he places his hand atop his head, his Master seems to relax.

    You have begun to heal,” Enkidu says in a language this beast can understand. “I returned to you,” he explains soothingly. They do not know each other well yet, but their bond has formed through a means that will be difficult to shake. At least, Enkidu hopes that his Master feels the same.

    After what seems like a period of consideration, in whatever form the chimera is able, a cold, damp nose that attests to the returning health of the creature bats up against Enkidu's hand. The chimera gently licks his palm before lowering his nose to the earth, starting to sniff with interest – trying to understand.
    A low, long, and somewhat disgruntled whine eventually issues from the chimera's vocal cords. This Master could have no need of and no desire for the Holy Grail, were it to truly appear. Still, it seems that the creature understands that its time for rest is drawing close to an end. There is an anxiety hovering over it now, like that before a long journey for which there may not be enough provision.

    No matter what it understands, the Master makes no attempt to get up and certainly none to issue a command. Instead, it lowers its head back to the ground and lets its body roll a little back onto its side. A great huff of air draws in and then is let out from its chest.

    This body language is not dissimilar from what Enkidu feels. He sees it and he understands – waiting for something's approach, not wanting it to catch up, and feeling that there is little hope of getting away. The forest provides shelter and water and is the safest place he could be. And yet he knows its approach.
    It will never stop.

    Those first happy moments with the ground beneath his feet, knowing that the king he knew walked upon the same ground somewhere else, he had almost been able to forget. But it was coming and it always would be coming. There had been no delicate way to tell Gilgamesh, but somehow he had understood.
    Death was coming.

    Death is coming, and he knows its slow, cold approach more than anyone. It is his antithesis, the very opposite of what he was made to be. It is also what took him out of the world the first time – too quickly and not quickly enough. It had given him time to curse and gnash his teeth against the impending end. It had also given him time to assure Gilgamesh that it was alright, that he was replaceable and that it was inevitable – never to be believed enough, he knew.
    It is here with them, as it always would have been. It had been the judgment of the gods against them, to separate them this way.

    Enkidu's fingers find his Master's fur and hold on tight. This does not seem to cause the Master any pain, so he adjusts his body so he is outstretched beside him. He smooths down the silver coat and takes note of its warmth. Every part of Enkidu slowly slides down, lying against the ground. His arm hooks upward to provide some support and slides between the two paws folded just beyond his Master's nose.

    “I would like to see him again,” Enkidu admits, still in the beast's tongue.

    Strange eyes – not human, not animal, not god, not demon – peek out from beneath the animal's eyelids. He is familiar with those sorts of eyes, finding them more warm than the eyes of any pure thing.

    “We are safe here,” he promises when he hears a soft question from his Master.

    He closes his eyes before he continues to speak. A gentle smile appears on his face.

    “There is no need for us to fight to win this war,” he says with no hint of regret and certainly no disagreement from his Master. “He will win, and then I will win in battle against him. It is a very nice thought...” The smile turns to something more like a smirk. There is some hint of mischief in Enkidu's eyes when he peeks at his Master once more before being claimed by sleep.

    “He promises that I am his only friend. I cannot change his mind, anymore than I can easily destroy him. But I made no such promise. I did not ask for such a promise. And so, I can promise you: as long as we both live, you will be my friend.”


    Enkidu knows that Death will not stop coming for him. It will not stop, even to let him sleep.

    He remembers fever. He remembers the heaviness of his eyelids. He remembers words becoming fewer and fewer. He remembers silence.

    It stops.

    It does not happen just as he awakens. The sun has already warmed the Earth. He and his Master have risen from their sleep and approached the water's edge. They have had their fill to drink and more old blood has slipped downstream.

    Enkidu washes his face in the water. He tries to find a place still and dark enough to see his own face. To see if it is, as Gilgamesh had said, nostalgic.
    He finds plants that are good to eat. He does not need to eat, and he imagines that his Master may have more hunger for the flesh of other beasts than of berries and trees. However, it does not take much coaxing to have his Master share a simple, sweet-smelling meal with him.

    Then, it stops.

    The knowledge that Death is coming, that this is only one peaceful day with no guarantee that more will follow, that illness colder than the ground and hotter than the sun simply waits to overtake them – it stops.

    It turns. It changes course. It is no longer, as it ought to be, bearing down on Enkidu – sniffing at the back of his neck.

    It beats
    .

    His heart seems to dip lower in his chest as it beats with all its might. Then it springs into a gallop, aware before he is of what is happening. Death has turned away from him and instead has turned its attentions to the north – to where he is.

    His limbs are rigid and they cannot move. Then he feels nearly fluid, as if he could pass through the space between them with nothing but one more thought.

    He has to go to his Master first.

    Under ordinary circumstances, his Master's fragile and temporary form might have been damaged beyond repair in the struggle that had brought about his summoning. But with Enkidu as his Servant, this forest as his protector, and the magic circuits that were coiled around everything inside his body, the chimera is able to stand. It is able to move.

    It takes every thought of control, containment, Enkidu has to walk softly up to his Master's side. By the time he reaches him, his Master has already ascended a hill on his own, up through brush and over gnarled roots that would have tripped anything not capable of paying attention. The Master looks back to him with a confused, short yelp.

    He is as impatient as he is frightened. He expresses that he does not know what or whom they seek. Enkidu joins him at his side, his fingers stretching out to gently drum along the creature's neck in companionship, as if he is not afraid. He considers how to answer the question, every breath drawn feeling like wasted time. He reaches out for either side of the wolf's head and coaxes him to look around at him as he crouches down.

    He is ready to draw his Master's head close, to allow him to sniff the loose, flowing fabric of the clothing he wears. Then he stops. It will not work. It is strange, but he cannot explain this way. They had not touched. His clothes will not smell of him. Not enough.

    Instead, he thumbs behind either of his Master's ears several times. He meets his eyes and gives him one more gentle smile.

    “Do you trust me?” he asks, with no agenda for the answer – only a little hope.

    In response, the Master gives a great, inelegant and eager sniff. He ducks his head and points with his nose, with a lifting of his paw. He points north and sets out at a trot. He veers a little to the east, going faster.


    When they are in the clear, Enkidu finds ways to transport his Master. He changes form as he must and carries and runs as he must to make their way faster and to make his Master's way safer. It does not matter if Enkidu forfeits this battle. It only matters that he protects those whose survival is not already doomed.

    It does not take them long. They are only a little slower than wind but not fast enough.

    Neither in the cover of the trees to the west, nor in the dark of the caves to the north, Enkidu knows when he has found Gilgamesh. As there always would be, there was tumult somewhere along the surface of the ground. The walls shake in the square that closes in where he knows that Gilgamesh has given in to a challenge to fight.

    Once he is close enough to make some sense of the distinct, moving presences all around him, he understands something strange. The numerous presences he senses all around are not unarmed bystanders with no place to flee. Instead, it is not the presence of a Servant he senses but many powerful presences. Tiny pinpricks of light in the night sky, juxtaposed against the sun.

    Only, the sun is setting. Golden, vivid light, tinged red and the black of smoke drapes across the street and the sandy ground beyond it. It reflects harshly off the flat, unbroken panes of glass in some of the window frames. The light is even brighter like this, but it is so low and so harsh that it can make it hard to see. The light is too close to the ground.

    Enkidu perceives all of this in an instant, and in that instant he sees that Gilgamesh too has been driven low. With so many little lights shining beside a light so bright, Enkidu could have expected to see many of the little ones burning out, scattered on the ground and broken up concrete – dying to explain their weakness. Instead, he sees only a few who have been dispatched – to death, or otherwise.

    They are all carrying weapons. Fine weapons. Weapons that could rival him. Each of them on its own would be a sporting fight, but there is something about them that seems different from the weapons that the King has in His Treasury. One of them might be surmountable, but a dozen of forms a formidable army, blessed – cursed – with something more banal but frightening like the fever sent from the gods.

    And they have cornered him.

    Under these circumstances, Enkidu knows Gilgamesh well enough to know that indignity would be forgotten in favor of rage. Their insult to His Treasury would have long since passed from deliberation to punishment, to vengeance. In spite of this, they are not where Death lingers here.
    He cannot rise from the ground.

    Knowing that itself, in this War, makes Enkidu's heart pound with panic. It beats.

    He swallows, as if remembering that he has a throat.

    It is not the same presence, the same Death he had been expecting. It beats.

    He does not know how this has happened. He knows that Gilgamesh is alone.

    Every time the King could find an opening – could rise above them and strike them down – he is stricken with another of the strengthened, impossible, false Noble Phantasms. It is watching a lion being subdued by a thousand tiny knives, not one with a blade long enough to reach its heart, to pour forth its blood – to kill it. It is a predator with no feet; it is prey with no heart.

    They have trapped him here. Enkidu does not know how. As he watches it happen, he cannot understand why. No granted understanding of this War and no innate understanding of Death could ever tell him that – how anyone could look upon this and not cry out with grief.

    He sees that the blade of an axe – ornately carved and black as night – swing down over him. The curve of the blade catches cruelly behind his shoulder in a motion that would have taken any ordinary man's arm in one strike. Gilgamesh evades it and another of his weapons is sent to deflect it. The gleaming weapon catches the man wielding the axe in the throat, bypassing the offending Noble Phantasm entirely. The man dies quickly, but the King hardly responds to this shallow victory.

    Instead, Enkidu sees his hand tend to the back of his arm. Enkidu sees his blood.

    Enkidu is close enough now. Enkidu senses his Master, crouched under makeshift shelter somewhere – hiding, as he ought, but with teeth bared. Enkidu his voice and the heart that is beating its way up his throat. He cries out in the way that Gilgamesh – King of Uruk, King of the Sheepfold, shepherd and civilized human being – will not.

    It is enough to make liquid blood anywhere freeze.

    Enkidu draws from the Earth itself. He calls up life into his voice. It is the growl of the predator and the helpless, dying scream of the pray in one sound – the moment when the fight is over. The desert town's little street is already torn out from its roots, broken beyond repair. Beneath it, there is earth and sand and water. All of these things rise up. All of these things are Enkidu.

    They coalesce.

    They are silent and they rumble like a storm, the likes of which these men and women have never heard nor are likely to ever hear again. Anything they had depended on for footing, anything they had counted on as shelter, and anything they thought they knew about the gravity that held them down – the world that held them up – has turned to dust. And dust surrounds them. On waves, like water. Like knives, sharpened by sand.

    Buildings shake. Walls crack. Somewhere, a first building starts to crumble.

    Some of the men and women will breathe again. Some of them likely never will.

    They never see him before it is over. They never know what it is they fight.

    Just as the sun is impossible to miss in all its gleaming, Enkidu drifts across like the wind.

    If any of the survivors were particularly strong and brave and were to open there eyes, there would be no hint of the storm left for them to see. With open eyes, she would see...

    A young man walking to another. The other is on the ground, pushing all his weight against his arms. The ground gives, but he is going to get up. With each movement, with each shift, more blood leaks. The first man crouches down. He helps the other up. If there are words exchanged, they are too soft to be heard by any but them – lost on the wind.


    Gilgamesh is hurt, and though there is only a manageable flow of blood that seeps from his wounds, Enkidu encourages him to rest. He encourages him to lean on him and not to speak, though he wishes nothing more than to speak with his friend. There are two of them now – his Master and the King – and Enkidu knows where he must take them both.

    The caves to the north. The place where Gilgamesh's Master will be.

    When they are close enough that Enkidu is certain he will retain this present form, he speaks.

    “Why are you alone?”

    If it is an accusation, it is a gentle one and full of pity.

    “I'm not,” the King replies stubbornly. He shifts his weight and straights his back. He moves his shoulder in a way that seems stubbornly determined to cause a sting at which he can hiss without shame. “It seems that a certain doll of mine and his pet came to assist me. And just when I was beginning to believe Ea might like a bit of fresh air... I believe you might have been jealous.”

    “Hush,” Enkidu tells him, more sound than word.

    The silence is short lived as four feet speed up and dart ahead of them. The ring of vehicles that enclosed the mouth of the cave are drawn back from their starting points, some leaving tracks like the largest snakes in the world. At the mouth of the large cave in which Gilgamesh had been summoned, a fire burns.
    It is contained to a single pyre, carefully guided along a shaped frame and licking up toward the clear, darkening sky.

    The chimera, as a Master, tries to do his part. He darts ahead, sees it, and growls at it.

    “Quiet, you mangy creature. You'll make them kill you with one of their reeking vehicles. They do frighten easily,” Gilgamesh complains.

    In spite of the wounds and the worry in his heart, Enkidu's elbow jabs deep against one of Gilgamesh's bruised ribs.

    “... My friend's Master, a silver mongrel,” Gilgamesh corrects, a little. When he exhales, he looks a little weary once more. They walk through a wide gap in the arc of cars and vans and trucks that form some guarded barrier around the entrance. No one moves to stop them. Who would stop one who brings back their wounded king, after all? It does not seem so different from long ago.

    There is an echo at the mouth of the cave.

    “Why must it be a dog?” Gilgamesh asks, the fragmented pieces of a conversation.

    “He isn't one,” Enkidu explains.

    “He appears to be one. In this case, I believe you should listen to my judgment,” he says.

    Enkidu is immediately looking for a place to lower Gilgamesh down so he can rest. Almost any place would have suited him in the sheltered expanse of the cave, enclosed and warmer than the cooling air outside. But a king is particular.

    He is grateful when, as close as this, he can sense her without Gilgamesh's help. He moves past a stony pillar that divides the great cave and finds her not far from another contained fire – this one built for heat. She is curled small and clutching her head. When she looks up, her eyes burn bright like the fire she sits beside. She sits upon a blanket – one woven with a circular pattern that seems to give off its own warmth, too. It is large, enough to enfold her twice.
    She shifts her weight, ready to stand. She touches her ankle as if she is calm enough to be mindful of an itch. Then she sees his Master. He breath draws short and she eyes it for a moment. Then she is searching for ways to run away. She has noticed that her Servant is bleeding, but every time her eyes pass to him she seems a little more distant, a little more mingled with the fire in her own eyes. If he is beaten, she is anything but resigned to defeat.

    For some reason, she is far more frightened of the wolf than of the Servant.

    Gilgamesh laughs. It is a shallow one – the low hum of a chuckle with a grumble of complaint.

    “Tiné, if he wanted you dead, both of you would have been dead already,” he says, exhaling a sigh with his words. He glances at the edge of her blanket as if considering it. He steadies his stance on his feet. “I'd have killed him of course, for insulting me in favor of a little girl.”

    Tiné swallows. Her narrowed, fierce eyes focus on Gilgamesh – seeing him again, rather than just his blood.

    “Who hurt you?” she demands.

    “Not him,” Gilgamesh replies, stubborn even if it benefits him nothing.

    She seems unperturbed. Enkidu supposes that anyone who is to work with him must learn to be this way. He wonders if she was like that before him or if she has learned from him, too.

    “The wolf,” she says. “Why is it here?”

    In spite of her strength, the little girl reaches up and presses her hand to her throat – protecting it, or trying to.

    Enkidu glances at Gilgamesh – first his face, the set of his jaw, then down the line to his damaged armor, split at places it ought to join together, and his torn flesh, and finally at the bend of his knees and the stance of his feet. Satisfied, he slowly pulls away from him. He crouches down, fingers smoothing the edge of the blanket and beckoning the chimera.

    When he feels the damp nose touch his hand, he coaxes him a little closer – right to his side.

    “This is my Master,” he explains. “And he will not harm you. He wishes to hurt no one.”

    Tiné's eyes narrow. She drops her hand from her neck but otherwise does not move.

    “We do not desire the prize of this War, and have no reason to harm you,” Enkidu offers.

    This seems more satisfying than the other response, and Enkidu can see why. The girl's eyes are dark and tired. She needs rest, and she has just been made afraid.

    “Gilgamesh is hurt, but you do not need to worry. He will heal tonight. Is there anywhere he can rest?”

    Enkidu never looks away from the girl's eyes and is gentle, kind.

    “The cave was chosen for its chambers,” Tiné says. “The easternmost chamber – is not a palace,” she says, and this seems to be for Gilgamesh by the turn of her eyes, “but was to be the bedchamber of the mage who came here. It has been prepared. He never slept there.”

    When Enkidu glances back to see Gilgamesh's reply, he mostly notices lifted eyebrows. He turns back to Tiné and nods for her.

    “He will survive to see his next battle,” he promises as he stands.

    “You're the one,” Tiné says clearly when he has turned back to Gilgamesh.

    His Master has not followed and instead as toed onto the edge of the blanket. Glancing back, he sees that the girl's hand lifts and that her fingers find the side of his neck. She grips fur and lets it go. The chimera seems to decide he is not afraid as he moves so the rest of his body will lie on the blanket with her. He forms an arc as the girl leans against her arm – leaning into this, accepting it.

    “Take that as you will,” Gilgamesh murmurs as if to give himself some chance to deny it.

    The last time Enkidu checks on the girl before they have left their Masters alone, resting by a fire, he believes they both will sleep. In front of the chamber of the cave deemed most a room unto itself, there is a curtain. It is different than the blanket the girl sleeps upon. It seems a bit more fake, sharp, and new, but it is the color of the bluish depth of night.

    Holding it aside for Gilgamesh to pass through, Enkidu takes in the little room. There is a cushioned surface, making up bed across a section of the floor, thick in soft bunches. There is a built-up circle of stones that enclose a flame, one side easier to reach than the other. There are the trappings of one who uses magic, but they have been arranged like offerings rather than items to be used. To be a room in a cave, it is beautiful, and he does not ask that Gilgamesh agree.

    “You should sit,” he reminds him. He seems to be helping him down, but he cannot remember how long he has been leaning against him again. Reaching for him seems easy, now that there is no need to be afraid. Still standing when Gilgamesh as settled onto the low and humble bed, he examines some of the translucent bottles that reflect the light of the low fire. While he considers them, he crouches down and carefully tends the fire so it burns a little hotter, a little brighter. Behind him, he hears the soft rattling of Gilgamesh's armor as he moves, a little loose at a joint. “And remove your armor,” he adds, putting the iron tool he had been using for the fire aside. He selects one of the bottles, opens it up, and sniffs it.

    “You've become presumptuous,” Gilgamesh responds, but he hears him sit up straighter. Then there is a strange sound – like the far-off clanging of a symbol and like sound of a sharpening blade. The sound is neither of these but the sound of the King obeying him, his armor dispersing to some place apart from here. As he looks over his shoulder at him, Enkidu sees that what remains to cover him is a familiar garment of heavy linen, covering him much more loosely.

    “I need to see what they have done to you,” Enkidu says, insistent that this is more than another of their games. Over his eyes, his brow furrows a little. He feels it, a little surprised by his own cross expression.

    Gilgamesh lifts his hand but then waves it off dismissively.

    “I will recover. The girl isn't without power, nor am I.”

    He makes an effort to shrug, but Enkidu turns his attention back to the bottle once more. It is the oil from a plant he recognizes as safe but just a little sharp and bitter. For lack of a healer, this will have to do. He hears a little hiss come from Gilgamesh's lips in response to that weak little act of defiance.

    “Yes,” he says, only then. “But they were able to hurt you.”

    “Only a little,” Gilgamesh says. His eyes fix on Enkidu as Enkidu reverently carries the bottle over to him.

    Enkidu knees down and uncaps it again. From a bottle that crackles and gives a little beneath his fingertips, he pours clean water into a bowl that seems to have a matching pestle with it. In a cupped hand, he reaches up, and starts to wash a bit of blood and a bit of dirt away from Gilgamesh's skin.

    “They were still able to reach you,” he says, prompting Gilgamesh to continue. He keeps his eyes focused downward, on the work of inspecting the small tears in his skin.

    “I was simply inspecting the lay of the land,” Gilgamesh replies, being sure to indicate that he was bored and that this is boring. “I did not anticipate a band of children with overly-confident toys to accost me when the sun had not even set.”

    Enkidu tilts his head a little as he presses against the back of Gilgamesh's shoulder, prompting him to roll forward a little to let him see the worst of his wounds. The bleeding is not profuse, as he is a powerful Servant and more than a man, but the area around it is still wet with blood. Enkidu's fingers edge toward it. When he presses a little closer and more blood oozes out and starts to trail down toward Gilgamesh's ribs, his fingers shake just a little.

    “I'll be better in the morning,” Gilgamesh says.

    Enkidu can feel the catch in his breath. There is a tight draw in his chest, though he knows that there is no danger of death from this. Not for Gilgamesh. It feels like guilt in his stomach, especially when he knows how those words are meant for him. His fingers move closer, until they touch the wound itself.

    “It does hurt,” Gilgamesh complains, his voice rushing out a little quickly, as if it were a choice between that and some less articulate expression of pain.

    Enkidu's fingers come away slick, and it is difficult to draw them away without feeling that they will slide through a little more of his blood. There is a sick flood of saliva beneath his tongue – the very opposite of hunger or thirst. It beats – harder in his chest and too fast. He looks at his hand and sees it coated in red, almost to the center of his palm.

    It beats
    like he is fleeing as prey, hunted and not-hunted at the same time. Even if there is no touch or taste of Death in this room, even though there is no danger to the king, to the man, before him, he feels it. He wonders if it has changed course. He hopes that Gilgamesh just got in its way. The men and women with the dozens of weapons were not the Death that was coming for either of them, but they could be its instrument, just as he was Instrument.
    For one of them, there would be no escape.

    His hand splashes down against the bowl of water. This time it is no longer clear but tinged with pink. His hand seems clean, so both his hands go to work. He pulls at the bottom of his garment, steadying unsteady fingers that seem to tremble with the racing drumbeat in his chest. It tears and for a moment the sound drowns out the way it beats mercilessly in his ears.

    He pulls away at it, until he has a long strip pulled clean away in his hands.

    “Enkidu...” Gilgamesh says. He looks at him, and all Enkidu can see is curiosity. His eyes are wide – not man, not beast, not demon, and not dog – and clear in a way that he remembers. He has envied that expression, no matter how many times it has been his.

    “I will bind your wound, my king,” Enkidu says, choosing the phrasing too fast. He has to speak with the drumming of his heart.

    “It isn't... necessary, I—” Gilgamesh speaks. He stops, eying the torn strip of fabric in Enkidu's outstretched, then clenching hand. He visibly swallows and nods. “Very well.”

    He leans forward and slumps his shoulders, deliberately this time so Enkidu can see to do his work.

    Enkidu washes away the blood with his cupped hand. He treats around the wound with oil – imbued with magic he does not understand. And when the wound is ready to be dressed, he rises to his knees.

    With Gilgamesh slumped forward and Enkidu at his knees' full height, for once – even in this form – Enkidu is taller than the king. He looks down upon him, but his eyes must focus on the wound he cannot bear. He unravels the fold of fabric and drapes it at an angle over him. It is difficult to find the proper way to wrap the wound without preventing Gilgamesh from moving. He knows that Gilgamesh, unless forced to by his little girl Master, will never stay still.

    Finding a way to cover the chance wound that mars Gilgamesh's skin, Enkidu works at wrapping the strip of fabric around quietly. It is difficult to position, to flatten and double, but he finally ties it in place. It will not last for long. It does not need to. Gilgamesh's blood will slowly soak the fabric through beyond recognition, and then it will fall away as if it had never been needed. It does not matter that it will not last any longer than a night. Enkidu starts to sit back, satisfied.

    For the time he had worked, Gilgamesh's head had been bowed. He feels it mostly by the lack of its weight – barely pressed to his shoulder and gone when he lifts his face. His neck straightens slowly, and not without a sideways peek up at him. It is a glance through a length of hair that momentarily drapes across his cheek before sliding free.

    When his back is nearly straight again, Gilgamesh has picked up a section of Enkidu's hair and is letting it fall through his fingers. By this time, Enkidu is nearly lowered to his heels.

    “This hair has always been ridiculous in a fight, you know,” he says, looking down as their heights are nearly even.

    “It has never been to me,” Enkidu replies with a sly arc of his lips, pulling at laughter he does not need to voice – only feel. When Gilgamesh lowers his head and Enkidu catches sight of his crown of hair, he leans closer.

    Gilgamesh has searching fingers and the moment he leans in, more loose hair swings into them. He grips it as Enkidu touches him – chin briefly perched at he top of his head. Gilgamesh moves and he thinks he feels the tip of his nose brush against his throat. He settles and breathes against the hollow, right below his voice.

    Enkidu takes his turn to bow his head, lifting his chin only enough to lower his lips to the golden crown of his head. Then, he settles to sit against his heels, taking the sheltering curtain of his hair only to meet warm breath with his own.

    Gilgamesh opens his mouth to speak. As he does this, Enkidu gives a little, side movement of his head. The side of his nose bumps Gilgamesh's nose – on purpose. Finding this point, Enkidu parts his lips – not to speak.

    Open mouth to wider open mouth – it is not the most elegant contact. But Enkidu draws in the taste of his breath – like tasting the life held in his breast – and lowers his mouth until he finds his lower lip. There is a soft, momentary suckle and then another audible noise of his pulling away. The only sound Gilgamesh makes for a moment is another, heavier breath.

    Then he seems to discern Enkidu's purpose, all at once gaining control of his lips and his slackened jaw. He closes his eyes, and like one blind he reaches for hair, then neck, and then pulls Enkidu forward, finding a place to hold onto. Enkidu eagerly falls back to his mouth.

    The next-first touch is testing and gentle. Both of them now prepared, their lips are parted more slowly and in tandem with each other. One moves and the other moves, slowly and strategically enough to draw impatience from them both. They could breathe each other all night, but they draw apart with another popping sound.

    Enkidu blinks to clear his focus when Gilgamesh opens his eyes. Enkidu props an arm – his wrist – against his unhurt shoulder.

    “You're biting your lip, by the way,” Gilgamesh says. Then he leans in the instant Enkidu lets his lip go.

    He means to do it for him. And yet the touch of teeth is gentle and something – even now – Enkidu almost finds it difficult to understand. At any second – as it feels that cold night is creeping up his spine, met by the beating down heat of a summer day, the sun high in the sky – he feels that Gilgamesh could bite down. He can make him taste blood this way – the blood on his hand and the blood that is to be between them – but instead he lets him taste this.

    Gilgamesh brushes his hair behind his ear when he sets him free – as silent as the creatures that hunt their prey at night. Enkidu opens up his eyes, realizing that they had fallen shut – leaving him alone with that feeling in the dark. It beats – and his heart does not know fear of Death. Only the salt and sweet taste of hunger to outrun it, to defeat it.

    “If I am to rest until this wound is healed, this will never do,” Gilgamesh complains, his voice familiar but altogether unexpected. Enkidu's body flinches. But Gilgamesh does not pull away from him. Instead, he seems to mean that he wishes to lower himself along the bed. His hips slide forward and his elbows crook, and with that start of motion he slowly lengthens himself to the full height of his back. He favors the side that is not bound and hurt, and Enkidu crouches to the side of him. Then he settles a little more, only to lean alongside him and help him find a way to remain on his side so the tear in his flesh will not hurt him more than it has.

    By the time he has coaxed Gilgamesh to extend his arm so it stretches out past him – to keep from pinching against the wound – he can nearly remember that breathing steadily and life go hand in hand. Gilgamesh squirms closer, like he is seeking warmth, until Enkidu's hand touches his chest.
    Enkidu looks across to familiar red eyes.

    “... And if I am to rest, it must be seen to that I am not bored,” Gilgamesh adds after a moment when neither of them seem to do anything. With his words, Gilgamesh has stubbornly pulled his hand close enough again to brush his fingers along Enkidu's face. First, his fingertips trace the shape of his jaw. Then, the backs of close-worn fingernails brush the relative softness of his cheek – they are not long, and there is not a point to be found. They are perfect half-moons, and their faint coolness briefly – harshly – reminds Enkidu of fever.

    “You won't leave in the middle of the night, will you?” Gilgamesh asks, seeming not to notice the bodily shudder. “I know how fond you are of it, but that beast may want nothing more to do with you.”

    Enkidu closes his eyes a little too tight, but then lips brush against the furrow of his brow.

    “He is safe, and I will not go back,” he recites as the warmth is touched by the cool that comes when air reaches where lips have been. “I can never go back...” he says, and it is still true. As much as it would be a lie to say he will not return to his Master's side, to protect him for the duration of this War, he trusts Gilgamesh to know exactly what he means – his joy and his grief that go with it.

    Slowly, he unclenches his hand and opens up his eyes.

    “Tomorrow will bring to you a battle that will not dishonor your glory,” Enkidu says – blessing him with a little, quick smile. “And I will take the things that accosted you today, and those men and women who remain will watch as I return those stolen weapons to the earth...” he explains, almost like a lullaby. “And when the other Servants have faded from this land, we can finish what we began... with none in our way...”

    The words he says are sad. The words he says are also a promise – the long-awaited end, stolen from them.

    One they keep stealing from each other. And no curse from the gods, no looming shadow of death, can be worse than that. It will happen at last, because it has to. Because there is no other reason that they would be granted this time, this place, and this chance. They will never want their game to end, but they will fight until there is a clear and perfect plaza where it must.

    Gilgamesh responds to the blessing with the touch of his lips – and only just the touch of them, barely reaching his. His hand pushes back through hair and he finds the side of his neck, cupping against a thudding heartbeat. He breathes in and breathes out, the warmth of his breath taken in by Enkidu's mouth. Then, he says something, the moment before he leans into their shared silence – to avoid scolding. He mashes his mouth to his – right then – because it is something a king must never say –

    “ – We can only hope.”


    All heroes are broken beyond repair. And all villains are just heroes who chose truth over dare.


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    Let Sakura say fuck and eat junkfood you weirdos.


  2. #2
    死徒二十七祖 The Twenty Seven Dead Apostle Ancestors
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    “Who hurt you?” she demands.
    Honestly Tine, this is the question we all need answered about this guy.

    I really enjoyed this though. The self-important characterization on the police chief was both believable and hilarious, and the second half was very touching and very bittersweet. I actually ended up feeling sad for Gilgamesh. Who'd have thought?

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    Lay beside you and pulled you close, and the two of us went up in smoke. Prix with a Silent X's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Glow View Post
    Honestly Tine, this is the question we all need answered about this guy.

    I really enjoyed this though. The self-important characterization on the police chief was both believable and hilarious, and the second half was very touching and very bittersweet. I actually ended up feeling sad for Gilgamesh. Who'd have thought?
    Now that you mention it, I definitely agree. I hadn't thought about her question in that tone, but it's totally true.

    Thank you so much. I am fascinated with the other Masters in Strange Fake, but the Police Chief is the one who seems the most absolutely-certain that what he's doing is both risky and so important he cannot possibly fail. It makes me feel sorry for him, honestly.

    Enkidu seems to act as such a regulator for Gilgamesh that I think Gilgamesh around Enkidu is Gilgamesh at this most human. I think that it is sad greatly because it's so difficult for them to ever be around each other that this was never supposed to happen, and they both know that it has to end in a very specific way. They cannot just run away from this. Although, I recommend it. Just run away with their little girl and their dog. Maybe???

    All heroes are broken beyond repair. And all villains are just heroes who chose truth over dare.


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