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God of Ruin: Chapter 23

MIA

“What happened?” I sign as I frantically take in Nikolai’s bloodied state.

He’s half naked, his face a map of purple bruises with a split lip and a swollen eye. What’s worse is the manic, detached look in his darkening eyes.

“Just the usual fight,” Jeremy offers diplomatically, not bothering to hide the fake tone.

Killian leads Nikolai to the living area and throws him on one of the sofas with zero softness, then goes to a cabinet and retrieves his first aid kit.

“More like he got beaten up for nothing.” My cousin jams an alcohol gauze against Niko’s blood-coated nose. “I didn’t become a med student to fix your fuckups.”

“Is someone going to tell me what’s going on?” I sign at the three of them.

Ever since Maya and Gareth fell asleep, I’ve been pacing the mansion’s entrance and imagining all sorts of scenarios. I just didn’t think it’d be this bad.

Imagine my reaction when the three of them come back after one in the morning. Killian’s wearing an annoyed expression and Nikolai looks to be on the verge of murdering an entire village.

Jeremy is the only one who seems grounded enough as he says, “He fought with Landon.”

My heart jolts so hard, I have to swallow a few times to catch my breath.

“Who invited the other?” I sign.

“Landon,” Jeremy says. “He sent the four of us texts, inviting us to watch him make a fool out of Niko.”

That motherfucker.

That’s why Kill and Niko abandoned the dinner without a backward glance.

How dare he ruin my dinner with my family? To beat up my brother, no less?

I stand in front of Nikolai and force him to look at me. “Did you lose to the bastard?”

“I beat him to within an inch of his life.”

“Good,” I sign, and yet a strange spark of pain slithers its way to my heart.

“He only won…” Killian applies ointment without practicing any form of gentleness. “Because Landon forfeited.”

“I would’ve won anyway,” Niko growls. “You’ve seen how I used him as my punching bag.”

“Then you let him go because someone happened to shout for you to stop.” Killian clicks his tongue at him.

My brother’s hands ball into fists and he fishes in his pants for a cigarette, then jams it between his lips. “Temporary lapse of judgment.”

“Was the parking lot also a temporary lapse of judgment?” It’s Jeremy who asks. “We had him in our claws and could’ve buried him alive then and there, but you chose to let him go.”

“You also let him go.” My brother points his cigarette at Killian, who’s finished cleaning the blood. “And you, too, motherfucker.”

“I’d love nothing more than to cut him to pieces and use his body as my forensic practice, but there’s a small problem.” Kill slams the first aid box shut. “He’s Glyn’s brother, and no matter how much she says she doesn’t get along with him, she worries about him and never stopped seeing him as her brother. I’d rather the mosquito stays alive, as annoying as he is, instead of risking losing her. Besides, he’s never satisfied with the lengths he goes to or the chaos he inflicts. In order to keep the same level of entertainment, he has no choice but to increase his diabolical plans. He can’t possibly get away with it for eternity and will eventually self-destruct. When that happens, I’ll make sure to offer Glyn a shoulder to cry on.”

“Kill is right.” Jeremy runs a hand over his face. “I’d love to punch him to death, but the better choice is to watch him dig his own grave. Maybe even help him dig faster without being directly involved in his demise.”

I stare between them as the ache in my heart blossoms and spreads throughout my chest. What is this all about?

Why am I completely taken aback by their animosity toward Lan, when I shared it until recently?

My lips part as the weight of my own words crashes against my chest.

The keyword being shared. Past tense.

Not too long ago, I hated Lan with a passion and personally orchestrated his downfall. Hell, I went on that spying mission for Jeremy so I could participate in Landon’s destruction.

And yet that plan has morphed into something carnal and utterly unrecognizable. It’s a haze of dangerous lust and intense desire. A red mist that I can only see him through.

I still hate the bastard’s guts, but I can’t seem to come down from the high he knows how to drag out of me so well.

What am I supposed to do in this situation? It’s only a matter of time before he targets my family or they target him. There’s just too much bad blood to ignore.

When that happens, I’ll be stuck in the middle and will be forced to break this new version of myself into irreparable pieces.

“Fuck that.” Nikolai kills his cigarette on one of the dirty gauzes. A black and orange hole forms in the middle before it’s smothered by the blood. “I’m going to kill that bastard. I don’t care how, but his life is mine.”

No, it’s mine.

I catch myself before I sign that. Thankfully, Nikolai goes up the stairs, not bothering to say good night.

He’s in a foul mood, worse than when he’s on one of his usual bursts of violence.

“You’re welcome,” Kill shouts at his back and gets a half-hearted wave from my brother.

“You need to keep him in check,” I sign to Jeremy. “No one knows what he’ll do when he’s in that state.”

“I’ll try, but I can’t promise anything.” He pauses as if trying to weigh his words. “How should I put it…? On the way back, he crashed his bike against a tree.”

My lips part.

Kill circles his index finger near his temple. “He’s going whacko.”

“And it’ll only get worse,” Jeremy supplies.

After years of constant observation, he, of all people, recognizes Niko’s off mode more than anyone else. Usually, he’s able to put the brakes on it or propel Niko into diluting his intense mania.

It helps to present him with fights and people to punch. However, not even Jeremy’s methods work when Niko slides down into the black hole of his brain.

I don’t like it when my brother loses grip on his mind and falls into the mindless, animal instinct side of himself.

“It’s all because of that waste of space Landon.” Killian clicks his tongue again. “If that asshole is out of the picture, I’m sure Niko will return to being himself.”

He’s right. It’s all because of Landon and his stupid provocations and tendencies to cause trouble with every breath he takes.

It’s also because I chose the normal option of having dinner with my family. If I hadn’t pushed him aside, he probably wouldn’t have challenged Niko and yanked out this side of my brother.

My phone vibrates and I flinch and then cautiously check it. If it’s Landon, I’ll kill him—

My murderous thoughts pause when I see the name on the screen.

Bran: Can I see you for a minute?

I reply in the affirmative and agree to meet him at the beach. Kill goes upstairs, but Jeremy stays behind.

“What?” I sign as I slide my phone back into my pocket.

“The mission about spying on Landon is terminated. Effective immediately.”

“But—”

“Not another word, Mia. If Niko finds out about this, I’ll lose him for good and that’s not a risk I’m willing to take.” He pats my shoulder. “Landon asshole King isn’t worth it.”

I nod, for once feeling his words instead of hearing them.

Jeremy’s right. Landon isn’t worth it.

His enigmatic presence and his intense touch and safe company are not worth jeopardizing my brother’s mental state.

Metaphorical darkness lurches in my chest during the whole drive to the beach. The decision I have to make is loud and clear, but my heart still resists, floundering and twisting in its binds and refusing to submit to its fate.

When I arrive, I find Bran leaning against the hood of his car, absentmindedly looking at his phone.

I park behind him and step out of my car. Goosebumps erupt on my skin at the night beach breeze, and I taste the salt on my lips.

The waves crash against the rocky shore, creating a wild, turbulent chaos similar to the clash between my heart and mind.

Bran is scrolling through a familiar IG, but before I can figure out whose, he notices me and makes his phone screen go black.

We briefly hug in greeting before we lean against the car’s hood so that we’re both staring at the angry sea. Under the headlights, he appears pale, unsettled, even.

It’s disturbing how much he looks like Lan but doesn’t share any of his characteristics or intensity. They’re the same on the outside but completely different on the inside.

“You wanted to see me?” I type on the phone.

“I want to tell you a story,” he says with his usual calm.

I nod, even though I’m not sure where he’s going with this. Especially since he’s been avoiding me lately.

His eyes appear as bottomless as the ocean when he speaks. “When I was in secondary school, high school for you Americans, I was targeted by a group of three excruciatingly rotten guys. They made it their mission to not only ridicule me, but to also spread nasty rumors about me, including, but not limited to, my mental state and sexual life. I ignored them because they’re not worth it, and usually, these types of rumors die out when they find a fresh target.

“Landon used to hang out in their circle and actively participate in the mayhem they brought to other people’s lives. In fact, he could’ve even been their leader and the instigator of the chaos they caused. However, after I became their newest toy for the week and he found out about it, the situation quickly escalated to absolute carnage. He beat them up and broke enough bones that they had to be admitted to the hospital. But do you think he stopped there? Not even close. As soon as they started recovering, he planted drugs in their lockers, spread rumors about their sexual inadequacies, and turned them into the joke of the school.

“Just like that, they became the outcasts and the targets of bullying. Then he threatened their parents with incriminating pictures of their adulteries and tax evasion proof. He shattered their reputations, jeopardized the foundation of their families, and completely destroyed their minds. At some point, one of them lost it and attacked Landon. He stabbed him in front of the entire school and got arrested. He’s still serving time for that. The second guy had a mental breakdown and is in the psych ward as we speak. The third one hasn’t left his house in six whole years.”

I cup my mouth, unable to control the shock that rattles me to the bone. So the scar on Landon’s stomach is a result from that stabbing.

Brandon continues in the same tone, “I’ll never forget the look on his face when he was stabbed. He was smiling triumphantly for driving someone to the edge and giving them the final shove over it. He didn’t even care about the pain as long as he got what he wanted.”

He tilts his head in my direction. “Do you think Lan did that because he cares about me or my well-being? No, and no. It was for himself. Due to my being his identical twin, Lan has always seen me as his property and an extension of his being. He considers any disrespect toward me a direct attack on his person. Which is why he likes to keep me on a leash. He did the same to Glyn, which is why he hates Killian with a passion. Not only was he not intimidated by Lan’s antisocial tendencies, but he was also the first boyfriend that she chose on her own. All her exes were personally picked by Lan and threatened with bodily harm if they touched her inappropriately.”

“What are you saying?” I sign, not sure if he understands it.

Apparently, he does, because he releases a sigh. “Landon suffers from an antisocial and narcissistic personality disorder. Like Killian. The only difference is that Killian makes an effort to care and I have no doubt that he treats my sister right. Lan would never care or try to. He sees everyone as pawns or possessions. It doesn’t matter what effort he puts into a relationship, he only makes it for egotistical reasons to benefit himself. I like you, Mia, and I don’t want you to be one of the people he destroys.”

I stare at my boots that are covered by the sand, then type on my phone, “How did you know?”

“He likes announcing his possessions. Besides, you’re a bit obvious when he’s around.”

“And here I thought I was discreet.”

He smiles a little. “If it’s any consolation, I’m probably the only one who could pick up on it.”

I smile back. “You’re right. Tonight, I had two wake-up calls. The first was him hurting my brother and the second is this.”

Bran straightens. “Is your brother okay?”

I shake my head.

“Was…he badly hurt?”

“Physically? No. Mentally, however, it’s highly debatable.”

“And it’s because of Lan?”

“The one and only devil lord.” I smile sarcastically as I type, “I almost forgot that he nearly killed my brother with his shenanigans. And now, he’s done this. I should really stay away from him, shouldn’t I?”

“You should.” His brows dip. “I don’t even know what you see in him.”

Danger.

Thrill.

Illusion.

The monster who can fight the other monster.

“I know, right? You’re a good guy, Bran. I should’ve totally fallen for you.”

“But you didn’t.”

“Unfortunately.”

He smiles. “You have terrible taste, but if it’s of any consolation, I understand why girls flock to him. They’re attracted to his charm and, most importantly, to the prospect of being the chosen one who can fix him.”

I shake my head, but I don’t type anything.

Never have I thought about fixing Landon. If anything, I slid down his rabbit hole as if it were where I always belonged.

In the thrilling darkness.

The animalistic chasing.

The explosive fucking.

But now, I realize with clarity that some desires are better left unfulfilled for everyone’s greater good.

“He’s too set in his way of thinking,” Bran continues. “After years of futile clashing with our father, Dad gave up trying to correct him and eventually left him to his own devices. It’s hard to speak reason to him and impossible to change him.”

“And yet something tells me you’re not giving up?”

“I’m an idiot and stuck with him for life. Everyone else should save themselves while they have the opportunity.”

“You’re not an idiot, Bran. You just care.” I show him my phone and then pat his shoulder.

“One of us has to.” A bitter smile crosses his lips. “I’m sorry if your acquaintance with me has caused this trouble—”

I put a hand on his mouth and shake my head, then I type, “Don’t you dare blame yourself. I made this choice about Landon and I’ll handle the consequences. Besides, meeting you is one of the best things that’s happened to me, so don’t avoid me again. We should probably meet outside, though.”

“Why?”

“Because I’d rather not cross paths with your psycho brother.”

“No, I meant why do you still want to see me if Lan is out of the picture?”

My lips part and I type furiously, “Don’t tell me all this time you thought I was befriending you to get close to Landon?”

“Weren’t you?”

“Of course not. I liked you and hated the asshole from the beginning.”

He grabs the back of his neck, a shy smile appearing on his lips. “Thanks. You’re the first girl who’s actually liked me and didn’t fake interest in me just to get close to Landon.”

“They do that?”

“Yeah. Apparently, I’m the boring twin and he’s the hot one.”

“I’m going to need names so I can teach the blind bitches a fucking lesson.” I punch the air, then kick it.

Bran throws his head back and laughs. I laugh, too, even though no feelings of joy penetrate my heavy chest.

After Bran and I part ways, I drive to the Heathens’ mansion. My screen pings with a text from Landon and I hit the brakes, coming to a sudden halt.

The ache in my heart spreads and causes my throat to restrict as I tap the screen.

He attached a half-naked mirror selfie, showcasing the dark purple bruises on his chest and his bloodied lips.

Devil Lord: Your brother did this. Come kiss it better?

While I saw glimpses of his manipulation tactics before, I had a veil over my eyes. But now, I can distinguish it loud and clear. Landon has the fascinating ability to use his own pain as a weapon to make his will a reality.

Just like when Bran said he was smiling while being stabbed.

Still, I can’t control the pulsing pain in my chest as I type.

Mia: I’m bored. We’re done.

Then I block his number and his IG.

Best way to get rid of a rotten limb? Amputate it. Even if it hurts like crazy.

I don’t know if it’s because I’ve lost the safety illusion, but as I drive past the gate, I sense the monster’s eyes following me and his breath trickling down my neck.


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