((Maxwell Lombardi continued from Paint it Black))
As Maxwell quickly moved through the woods in a generally eastern direction, eventually finding himself working his way up the tall mountain that dominated the centre of the island, he decided to check out the small gun which he had recently liberated from his would-be assailant.
It wasn't particularly impressive as far as guns went, he had to admit, at least compared to his old handgun anyway. It was fairly small for starters, and didn't look as though he could carry as much ammunition as his old gun. Its general shape vaguely reminded him of a Lugar, but something told him that it was an entirely different make of gun altogether. Not that he was the most knowledgable person on earth when it came to firearms.
Still, small or not, it made for a perfectly adequate replacement for his old handgun nevertheless. Even if his old handgun had proven to be such a handy tool on more than one occasion. Just thinking about it reminded him of all the times it had proven itself to be his single most reliable weapon in times of crises. He remembered all the times it had saved him in a tight spot, or when it had been used to dispose of his enemies in an efficient and well executed manner. Which made it even more annoying when he thought back to the moment when his favourite weapon was stolen by that thieving oriental bitch Mizore Soryu.
Mizore... Whilst a part of him was glad that she died on that boat with the rest of those assholes who thought they could escape, he was still disappointed that he couldn't have been the one to end her life himself. The same thing went for that Sarah Xu girl, who Maxwell was partially hoping to bump into at some point so he could leave Reiko Ishida a surprise during the next announcement.
Oh well... Still, on the bright side, at least now I have decent sword by my side instead of a clumsy shotgun. Can't wait to test it out on the next unlucky bastard I come across...
...Speak of the devil, there's one right up ahead.
Maxwell stopped suddenly behind a nearby tree as his eyes caught a peculiar sight directly ahead of him, namely a dishevelled-looking boy staring out into the distance. There was something odd about the way he stood there on the mountain's edge, as if he was trying to spot something floating in the vast ocean that seemed to go on forever in every direction.
Which also meant that he left himself wide open to an attack.
Anxious to take advantage of this perfect opportunity to eliminate the competition, Maxwell slowly made his way closer, making sure to tread lightly to avoid giving his next target a head start. He gripped the pistol in his hands tightly as he stopped behind a particularly large boulder, aiming his gun directly at the other boy's back with both his hands to make sure that he wouldn't miss. It wasn't often that he was able to find someone alone and unaware of his presence like this, and Maxwell was determined not to let this one get away should things go badly.
But then... Just as he was steadying his aim, Maxwell suddenly realised that he'd seen this boy somewhere before. He couldn't recall where exactly, but there was just something distinctly familiar about him. Something about his hair and clothing which reminded Maxwell of a person whom he'd recently bumped into...
Then it clicked, and a wide smirk appeared on Maxwell's lips.
Could it... No, surely not. The chances of bumping into HIM of all people must be astronomical. Then again, we ARE nearing the final stretch of the game aren't we? So perhaps this reunion isn't so unlikely after all.....
Either way, Maxwell couldn't just shoot this gun in the back anymore, not when he had the potential to taunt another one of the bastards who had crossed him and gotten away with it. He'd still be fully in charges of the situation of course, thanks to his trusty little pistol, but now that he recognised his target there was no way he could kill him in a manner as anticlimactic as a bullet to the back of the head.
And so, with this thought in mind, Maxwell stood up from where he was hiding and slowly made his way towards the other student with his gun trained at the back of his skull, making sure to walk silently until he was only several metres away from his target.
"Well, look who it is! Fancy bumping into you here of all places..."
(Naoko Raidon continued from Radio Nowhere)
"Well!" came the voice, but Raidon was already turning--he'd heard the light scratch of pebbles underfoot, the sounds of another soul making its way up this lonesome mountain. He felt a little light-headed and woozy from lack of food and from his recent bout with sickness, but the past few days and the injuries he'd acquired over their course had sharpened his instincts, honed them until he could react surely, confidently, without fail.
Except then it was Maxwell Lombardi and he couldn't fire because he suddenly felt the weight of the jacket around his shoulders and all his thoughts came whirling back to life.
He'd left the Logging Road in something of a daze, his dead friend's jacket around his shoulders, his conversation with God temporarily forgotten. By now he had a decent sense of direction--he knew where the Residential Area was, where he could enter the tunnels, he could have found the swamp and the different coastlines by instinct. There were too many memories scattered in all directions, and he was trying his very best not to think at this moment.
So, he'd gone somewhere no stubborn memories persisted. He'd gone to the mountain. Found an edge on which to sit, to stare out over the island that had brought the students of Bayview so much loss and tragedy.
He examined Maxwell Lombardi. Lombardi examined him. Raidon suspected they were both evaluating each other's wounds--the bruises all along their faces and arms. They'd inflicted those on each other; Lombardi was stronger than him and better in a figh, but he was also much less clever.
Keep that in mind.
"If I'd had time to stay behind, you'd long since be dead," Raidon mused, more to himself than to Maxwell.
"True. I guess I should be thankful."
They were staring at each other, but there was nothing knowing or familiar in Maxwell's gaze. Raidon waited a moment, struggled to figure out why. When it came to him, he could not quite believe it; no other reason, however, made sense. There was something both funny and annoying about it, but he had to confirm it first.
"You don't remember me, Lombardi?" Maxwell cocked his head, then shrugged. Raidon smiled, half in actual amusement, half in livid dissapointed anger--the man who'd become his target had no idea who he was. "Naoko Raidon. We had U.S. History together for a semester, before you transferred out."
He wasn't sure Lombardi had heard this second part; after he'd said his name, the killer's face had practically glowed with excitement, and a broad grin snaked its way across his face. "Oh, so you're that Naoko Raidon the Announcements keep mentioning!" Credit where credit was due, mentioning the announcements made Raidon's blood turn to ice in his veins; he swallowed and focused on the deadly weight of the gun in his hand. "How many has it been so far now?" Maxwell asked. "Five? Six? Damn, that's almost half as many as me."
Raidon remembered their fight--the thorough beating he'd suffered at Maxwell's hands, until his gamble had turned the tables.
"Fine by me," Raidon said coolly. "Means I've got enough bullets to finish the job." He waved the gun a little, just enough so Maxwell's eyes were drawn to it. They widened in recognition.
Neither of them moved for several seconds. Neither of them said anything, either. In those seconds, Raidon wasn't thinking about Maxwell Lombardi--at least, not directly. He was thinking about Peter Siu and his denial of any moral right; he was thinking about Julian Avery and his indecision; he was thinking about Mizore Soryu and the unparalleled commitment to her ideals; he was thinking about Simon Grey, waiting for Lombardi behind a truck.
"Why are you doing this?" Raidon asked, and when he had done so his question took on an importance every bit as fundamental as his urge to kill Lombardi and his urge to get Soryu out--it was related to who he was, and to what he had done. He did not merely want Lombardi to answer; he needed him to.
"Why not?" Maxwell Lombardi asked, shrugging, and the casualness of his answer made Raidon's whole body go numb. "I mean, let's face it, you heard how well that whole escape plan went, didn't you? The only guaranteed ticket off this island is by playing along like a good little boy and not giving a damn about who the hell you have to crush beneath your feet along the way." The words were different but the substance was not--Of course killing boosts my chances to survive. Probability alone dictates it will. "That's how I've played," Lombardi continued. "And apart from the odd mishap it's worked very well. Not that I have to tell you that, after all you've been doing a pretty good job yourself, haven't you?"
Raidon's anger and vengeance were giving way to doubt; he struggled to hold onto his cold certainty. "I'm playing to live," Raidon growled. "You're just playing."
"Oh, come now!" Maxwell scoffed. "Surely you enjoyed it to some degree? Hasn't the thrill of the hunt ever gotten you fired up?" He saw Victoria Logan fall as his cold certainty let him pull his trigger without hesitation; he felt the rush of air past his face as he leapt forward, racing Jacob Charles for Soryu's life. "Doesn't the sheer adrenaline of the kill make you feel more alive than anything else in your entire life? That sweet satisfaction of someone you hate lying dead at your feet..." He remembered Peter Siu; he saw Maddy Stone struggling beneath him, heard her satisfying screams as he pulled his trigger. He rained blows upon a fallen Maxwell and felt his heart accelerate as he thought of new ways to hurt him.
"N-no," Raidon started, and cursed his once-sure tongue for the stutter. "This isn't about enjoyment, it's...it's about..."
Maxwell's smile had widened. "You don't sound so sure."
Raidon swallowed, tried to ignore the doubts that now besieged him. He had given Maddy Stone stigmata wounds, and he had killed Victoria Logan so easily. Had Roland Harte really posed a threat, or had he just been desperately trying to justify his fear?
"By the way," Maxwell continued. "I couldn't help but notice that you didn't get on that boat alongside Mizore whatshername. Pity, I guess that means you weren't there to comfort her when she got blown to pieces alongside the rest of those idiots who thought they could cheat their way off the island."
There was something so petulant and petty about Maxwell's tone as he said this that at once a part of Raidon's confidence returned to him--he remembered that Lombardi wasn't some ideal killer, that he had until a few days ago been exactly the same as any other high school student. "Don't be an idiot," Raidon said, laughing. "They're alive."
Maxwell's eyes narrowed. "Oh?" he said, and Raidon could hear how forced the attempt at casualness really was. "What makes you so sure?"
"They're playing their own game," Raidon answered. "You don't tell your pawn there's a way off the board that doesn't involve getting taken by the opponent's piece." He thought for a moment--remembered Soryu facing off with the guards of the boat. "Not that it matters to us, I guess. We're in until checkmate."
Maxwell thought for a moment. "I suppose that's one way of looking at it," Lombardi conceded grudgingly. "Although, if you ask me, it sounds like you're trying to come with another excuse to hid the fact that you actually enjoy this game a lot more than you'd like to admit."
Raidon's mouth twisted to one side. "Why are you trying so hard to convince me that we're the same?" he demanded.
"Why are you so determined to prove we're different?"
Raidon wished the question had a complicated answer, an abstract philosophical point he could have argued about. But the truth was, it was frustratingly simple. "You killed Simon," Raidon replied, remembering the bloody, rotting pulp that had once been his face.
Maxwell cocked his head to one side, his brow creasing in thought. "Simon?" repeated the Brit. "Simon who?" A look of dawning realization. "You mean that fan ginger who didn't know when to run?"
Thank you, Maxwell Lombardi. Thank you because by saying that you'd temporarily banished Raidon's doubts and made this issue as uncomplicated as his answer to your last question. Whether or not you and Raidon are different is no longer the point; you killed Simon Grey, and you had the gall to disrespect him to Naoko Raidon's face.
Raidon pulled the trigger and threw himself to his right.