A Long Life to Live
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In the shadowy underbelly of the city of La Marcen, a beacon of hope returns. The legendary figure known only as the Destroyer, a timeless force of justice, steps back into the fray, his immortality waning. Yet, his fight against the city's rotting core is a candle flickering in the dark; his days are counting down. The perilous balance between order and chaos hangs by a thread. The lawless encroach further, ready to consume the city whole in the absence of their ageless nemesis. The mantle must be passed, or the city is destined to plunge into the hands of the wicked. The question echoes in the rustling alleyways, in the hushed whispers of the hopeful and the fearful alike - is there another, trained under the Destroyer's vigilant eye or an unknown prodigy, ready to rise and carry the weight of the city's fate? As the last grains of sand trickle down the hourglass of the Destroyer's reign, a hero must emerge. With powers untold, they will face the criminal underworld, armed with the legacy of an immortal vigilante. The city's salvation hinges on the rise of a new champion; time is running out. Will they rise in time or will La Marcen fall into the abyss?
“Well, it’s been a long time since I’ve been here,” a man muttered, shouldering a large case with a grunt.
It was covered in stickers, some so faded there was no telling what they’d once been about, and his memory was too faded to remember properly. There was no way to tell, and there was even less to care about when everything he needed was kept in a backpack and an apartment with the best security he could get his hands on. He took a deep, slow breath and felt the rush of magic swell towards him, denser than the smog and the rush of living creatures. It was nearly intoxicating, and he shook his head a little as he shrugged the case off his shoulder and sat down cross-legged, twisting a gold ring round and round on his left pointer finger, the rough callous of his fingers at odds with the smooth body warm metal.
“Right,” he murmured, closing his eyes and holding his hands loosely in his lap. “Let’s see who’s out and about.”
The spark and curl of magic pulled him down and then up, like a spring’s tension being released and he felt himself shift and move before he was staring at a sea of color and brilliance, too dense to be sorted out to the undiscerning eye, though there was only one that had piqued his interest the last month, reports from informants that he half believed and even then, that was a threadbare hope, fragile as the tenuous grasp of religion in La Marcen. A few deep, slow breaths had the colors draining away, bit by bit until it was all grayscale, sharp and distinct, and somehow more painful to look at than when he was letting everything in at once, even if the colors were pretty to look at.
“Please,” he whispered. “Please, be right.”
A moment that stretched into eternity passed as he cast his senses through the city, zipping through streets and buildings, bypassing beings and people that were doing their damn best to hide in plain sight and succeeding with the masses. He made a mental note to check out the pair that were walking with a literal church grim, a pair of women that had brilliantly colorful halos even in the grayscale of his current worldview. It took a lot to tear his gaze away from them and instead return to his search.
It took another moment before he found it, brilliant royal purple that crackled and sparked to the faintest touch, investigative rather than painful.
“Destroyer,” the man breathed.
Or he would have had his mind not been separated from his body. He followed the Destroyer along for a while, watching their path and making note of it before grabbing tight to the wisps of magic left behind them, so much stronger than it had ever been before, and that was a jarring thing all on its own. There were flecks of gold and rich black magic that was familiar, but he pushed it down. Some magics were more common than others, but the Destroyer’s wasn’t that much he knew. Though he didn’t expect the stronger magic out of the Destroyer, there was always room for surprises, it seemed, and there was nothing that they did better than surprises.
The man came back to his body with a rough noise and shook himself out, his hand tingling and the gold ring on his fingers buzzing, and he smiled. He wasn’t going to let the Destroyer slip out of his fingers again, not this time. He bent and picked up his things, then pulled his hood up and started for the main road, pulling out his phone to order a taxi to get to the bank. He had a lead, finally.
* * *
It had been almost two months since they’d been home, settling back into a routine. Edwin was still only on office work and the occasional hit, which would always have at least three people as a backup just in case something happened. Usually it was Carla, Brandon, and Brian, and while Edwin knew he’d be comfortable with Carla and Brandon, Brian was new and yet he felt almost a sense of relief of seeing her. Her green-gray eyes were familiar, bright with humor like she was in on a joke that no one else was but was slowly coming to understand. Edwin wasn’t sure what that joke was meant to be, but she was warm and kind, and the boys loved to be around her, so he was happy enough to spend more time with her. Andre had also returned home, barely a day before Edwin and the boys had tanner and looked refreshed, at least until he learned about what had happened in the facility almost two months after the fact. Edwin wasn’t sure how they’d managed to keep the details under wraps for so long.
“I leave for a three-month vacation, and this is what happens?” he’d demanded, gesturing to all of them.
“I mean, to be fair, you were on a job,” Brandon said with a small grin as Andre looked at him and then at Edwin, who had turned to spin his hair stick through his fingers to keep himself occupied.
“Any time spent out of La Marcen is a damn vacation, but there are always exceptions.”
“Do Carla, Brandon, and I get hazard pay?” Edwin asked with a grin.
Andre full-stopped and looked at Edwin, opening his mouth to respond before he paused and hummed, looking more thoughtful.
“You know, you probably should. You were injured at work.” Andre ran his hand through his hair and Edwin and Brandon shared a look. “I know it was a joke, but you two died and Edwin suffered trauma. So did Fiona, at that point.”
Edwin and Brandon exchanged another look and quietly slipped out of the room as Andre pulled up his laptop and spreadsheets. That had been a week ago, and Edwin was happy to let the other man work out the whole business of finances and logistics of such things. Given that Leonard and Tammy paid their employees - those not in the crew, through the actual businesses they ran, and Andre, Terri, and Heather headed, and there was a sense of income for the rest of the crew, on top of what they took out from their heists. Hazard pay had never been something that came up, not for the crew in the means by which hazard pay would even be something they needed. Between being immortal and just generally not having to think about such things, hazard pay tended to be a slightly larger cut on the jobs they took.
Edwin chuckled to himself as he remembered the conversation from two weeks previous. Andre had finally emailed him about sending a sum and he was logging in to check his bank account. It was a far larger amount than he was expecting, but not nearly as much as a low-stakes heist or a low-tier job. Edwin idly wondered if he could use it to buy Spacey a better cat tree that spanned the wall, something for him to keep exercising with, and maybe get the Boys something as well.
“Hey, Eddie, can we talk?”
Brandon’s voice startled him, and he looked up, putting a hand to his chest.
“Jesus, Brandon,” he said, turning around to look at the other man. “Why are you so damn quiet?”
Brandon just gave a noncommittal noise, moving around the couch to sit down properly, his laptop in his hands, glasses perched on his nose, and his arthritis wraps around his wrists.
“Couldn’t find your gloves?” he asked.
“Hm? Oh, no. They’re somewhere. Not important. What’s important is that I think we’ve got a breach.”
Brandon frowned at his screen, brows furrowing as he pulled up a few tabs.
“So, the main one is a Reddit account that goes through several years of your activity and has a lot of your movements from the past pulled up through some obscure news articles. They would’ve had to either have saved them or gone to the library to find them, but Hailey says that there’s no way to keep track of old newspapers from the library. Then there are also a few accounts here and there that are spreading information about you - from what I know now it’s false, but I’ve been collecting this for the last four months to make sure that I had everything. I can’t find the IP or anything that’d give me a solid lead. Which makes me even more concerned.”
Edwin looked over at his screen and hummed. “Huh, that’s a higher count of comments than I was expecting, but not too bad. My essay on my movements did a lot better, though.”
“Hold up, you wrote this?” Brandon demanded, eyebrows making an impressive attempt to fly off his forehead.
“Yeah,” Edwin said with a small shrug. “Wasn’t too hard. I’ve got newspaper articles saved, figured I should do something with them, and you said a while back that you couldn’t find anything really on me. Shane made me a Reddit account and taught me how to post to it as soon as we got computers from Leonard and Tammy, and I just started working on it. He and I’ve been going back and forth for a while on points, countering each other so much that the small community around me is torn on who they believe more. Really goes a long way to making my name muddier. No one knows what’s real, what’s fake, and what’s mostly true.”
“So, you just… decided to up and muddle your name? Why?” Brandon asked incredulously.
“Easy,” Edwin said with a lazy shrug. “It really helped in organizing my memories, back when I was an amnesiac. Now that they’re coming back, I can go back to my written stuff, which is all true by the by, and get leads on anything I would’ve left in the city before. I came here and then left for a bit before I came back, and I think I was looking for something.”
Brandon gave him a frankly unimpressed look. “You don’t even remember what you were looking for?”
Edwin shook his head, reaching up to pinch at the bridge of his nose, pushing his glasses up a little. A dull headache pounded at the base of his temples and Edwin made a quiet noise.
“Not really?” he started. “I just... I remember it was important. I think...I think it was a journal. Or there was a journal with it.”
Brandon gave him a worried look, putting a hand on his shoulder. “Hey man, don’t push it. You’ve been trying to sort through those memories for three months, it’s okay that you don’t fully remember.” he paused, gnawing on his lower lip for a moment, thinking. “Would... You are okay if I used some magic on you? You know I’m a luck caster, right?”
Edwin nodded a little, pulling his hand away to look at Brandon, pulling his hair stick out of his pocket to start fiddling with it.
“Okay, well, I could give you a little luck for the day, I guess? That’s the only way I can explain it. Maybe it’d make it easier for you to remember.”
Edwin nodded slowly, head tilting to the side a little. “Is that how that even works?”
Brandon shrugged. “Hell, if I know. Offers there if you want it though, dude,”
“Fuck it, sure. Lay it on me, Mr. Magoo.”
Brandon snorted in amusement, giggling. “Mr. Magoo, really?”
“We’ll have to start calling you that as your code name,” Edwin said with a grin. He held his hand out for Brandon to take, smiling at him. “Hit me up, Mr. Magic Magoo.”
Brandon laughed again and put his hand in Edwin’s. “Right, well, let’s hope this works, then.”
His eyes are filled with a gentle golden light and sparks at the corners of his eyes like a sparkler. The light trailed down and around like sunshine fracturing through a crystal. It was beautiful to watch spread down through his body to his arms and finally over Edwin’s hands, sinking into him easily. It was like a jolt to his system that left Edwin gasping and shivering, blinking rapidly. He slowly pulled his hand away, shaking out his fingers a little and looking down at them, fully expecting that something was lingering on his palm or along his fingers, but there was nothing. Brandon was faring a little better, massaging his palm with his other hand.
“Jesus, Eddie, what’d you do that for?”
“The whole spark thing!” Brandon gestured with his other hand.
“I legit have no idea what you’re saying,” Edwin said frankly. “You shocked me.”
Brandon looked at his fingers, curling them slowly. “...Weird. I think we shocked each other. Like a dual static shock.”
Edwin nodded, flexing his fingers slowly. “Stands to reason. What reason that is, haven’t got a clue. Though, don’t feel much different in terms of luck.”
Brandon shrugged. “It’s magic, man, not an exact science. Just don’t tell Heather I said that.”
Edwin grinned. “Deal.” He looked out the window and hummed. “I think I’ll go wander around the city for a bit, see if there’s anything out there.”
“Good idea. Take your phone and when you get back, you’re showing me how you and Shane keep up all the stuff on you without giving away all the secrets. Or pointing me in the direction of shit on you because I need to keep track of that. I’ve been going through the government papers with Brian and Andre, we’ve found a fair amount that may help you.”
“Yeah, when I get back,” Edwin promised absently, standing quickly and heading to the door to grab his shoes, stuffing his phone in his jacket.
He quickly left after that, not wanting to be caught up in another conversation about the governmental papers. There was so much of his life caught up in that, and with the returning memories, they still flinched before settling into place, and even then, there were holes and grayed-out spots that were difficult to find again. Instead, Edwin pushed those thoughts down and away, ruffling his hair while sighing. His hair was brushing his shoulders and had some streaks of color in it from his boys’ little experiment. They tried to make Edwin feel a little more comfortable with the idea of a cooler look. It was appreciated and did make Edwin feel a little normal. It wasn’t perfect, but then nothing he felt was.
The elevator ride down was quiet, and he tilted his head back as he simply let himself exist for a precious few contained moments. Edwin felt like he was raising all three boys on his own again, the drained exhaustion that came from going too hard to try and keep food on the table and then pretending that things were fine for Joseph, Shane, and Maurice, knowing that they knew but still appreciated the attempt at some form of normality. There was an uncomfortable rolling weight in his chest as the elevator slowed, like a ball of tension that wouldn’t let him go no matter what he did. He knew he was immortal, knew that he was so much older than any of them thought he was, but where that landed was still a mystery. So many things were snapping in place and then snapping back out just as quickly, and it left him feeling lonelier than he’d ever been. His sons wouldn’t be immortal. They were going to pass away, and he would continue on. It felt like he was echoing something, though what t
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