The universe had it out for him. Ludwig was certain of it. It had had it out for him since the day he was born when his mother hadn’t even made it to the hospital and had instead squeezed him out in the car parked on the emergency lane next to the highway.
His brother thought he was being dramatic, which was a little hypocritical considering Gilbert’s default was dramatic while Ludwig’s was not, so he thought he was being quite fair. And even though Ludwig had learnt to prepare for the worst (arriving an hour early to any appointment, preferably earlier if public transport was involved; keeping a set of spare clothing in his bag; emergency contacts on speed dial), life still made sure to trip him up every now and then.
Today seemed to be another one of those days. The weather had been abysmal all night, causing a power outage, and thus Ludwig’s alarm hadn’t rung on the morning of an important client being assigned, which Ludwig had been hoping to claim. When he woke up and discovered it was two hours past his alarm, he tripped on his way to the bathroom, put on two different socks, nearly spilled coffee all over his suit, saw his bus drive away and thus had to dig up his bicycle from the shed. Halfway there, the sky had decided to open up and drench him to the bone and, when he finally got to his work, the client had been assigned to his rival and Ludwig collapsed in his chair, which, as a small consolation, didn’t collapse on him.
Rubbing his face, he took a moment to recollect himself. He should have a set of spare clothes in the cabinet, but he didn’t feel as if he deserved them yet. It had been a while since his luck had run him this much into the ground, not since his graduation at least.
“Honestly, what did I do to deserve this?” he asked no one in particular before leaving to the bathroom to change.
When he returned, his desk had been piled with manila folders to be looked through and Ludwig resigned himself to desk work for the remainder of the day. It at least meant the universe couldn’t screw him over any further.
But the moment it turned five o’clock and Ludwig left the building, he could find no sign of his bike and, as the bus app announced it wouldn’t be driving for the remainder of the evening, Ludwig began to trudge his way back home.
And of course it had to begin raining again.
Sighing, Ludwig stared up at the sky for a moment before glancing around for somewhere to seek shelter. The best he could find was a lonely park bench barely covered by a tree’s canopy, lit by a flickering street light. It was better than nothing at all, so Ludwig sat down on the cold metal and stared out into the night.
The wind shifted, the street light died, and the bench creaked.
Ludwig buried his face in his hands with a groan.
“Yeah, your luck sure is something else,” said a deep voice from next to him.
Startled, Ludwig glanced up, but there was no one there.
Well, that was a wonderful end to the day, wasn’t it? Losing his mind just to top it all off.
“Ah, right, mortals.” There was a snap, the air crackling with energy, and then the street light turned on again, bright and slightly golden, revealing a man seated on the bench next to Ludwig. The man brushed his auburn hair from his eyes, a brown-green-golden that made Ludwig sightly light-headed, before casually leaning his arm on the backrest of the bench. His suit was pristine-looking despite the rain, as if it didn’t even touch him. “There.”
“Um,” Ludwig said eloquently.
The man eyed him for a moment. “You know, I don’t normally go out of my way to keep a mortal company.”
Ludwig didn’t really know what to do except stare, but his curiosity eventually got the better of him. “Who are you?”
“Ah, there’s many epitaphs.” The man thought for a moment. “I suppose Lovino works best in this time. God of bad luck, misfortune and calamity.”
“Oh.” Ludwig fiddled with the cuffs of his coat. It was quite the figment of his imagination, surely. “It’s, er, nice to meet you. I’m Ludwig.”
Lovino’s lips quirked in a smile, but it seemed unnatural, just like everything about this man. He was entirely too ethereal to be real. “That’s not people’s usual response to meeting the god of calamity.”
“I suppose I’m not one too invested in mythology.” Ludwig frowned. “Nor in indulging in the figments of my imagination.”
“That’s fair.” Lovino rolled a strand of his hair between his fingers disinterestedly. “Yet here you are, indulging.”
Ludwig sighed. “Honestly? With the day I’ve had, this might as well happen.”
Lovino laughed. “Unlucky for you, you’re still quite sane.”
“Hallelujah,” Ludwig said dryly.
The rain continued to pelt the asphalt, but the world was strangely quiet beyond it. No people passed by his bench and even the noise of traffic seemed muffled and distant. Ludwig glanced back at Lovino, whose eyes hadn’t left him, meeting Ludwig’s resolutely, dizzyingly.
“You can’t really be the god of bad luck,” Ludwig said, frowning.
“Yet here I am.”
“Then, why me?”
“Why you?” Lovino tilted his head. “Oh, you think I have any sort of influence over who does and doesn’t experience bad luck. Sorry, I’m just the personification. I’m drawn to incidences, generally a bucket load of them, which is why I’m here, but I cannot influence just who gets the brunt of it all. Just like my brother can’t give fortune to people; he’s just drawn to it.”
“What’s the use of gods then?” Ludwig realized it had sounded better in his head and scrambled to add, “I mean, no offence. I meant, as in, well, um—” He flushed as Lovino laughed.
“Comfort,” Lovino said. He glanced away from Ludwig for a moment, eyes going distant. “Mortals have difficulty understanding random chance and fortune, so they invent personifications as placeholders. My brother and I are two halves of the same coin, but the world only seems to care about him, even though we are inherently linked. Without bad luck, there is no good luck. Without misfortune, there is no fortune. Without calamity, there is no hope. It’s all a little unfair, but you didn’t hear that from me.”
Ludwig mulled that over. “But you’re still here.”
Lovino shrugged. “People still believe in the same concepts. We just stay out of people’s business.”
“If you normally stay out of people’s business, why show yourself to me?”
Lovino looked up at the sky for a while before meeting Ludwig’s eyes. “Like I said, I’m drawn to incidences, and your whole day was one. And then you just… looked so defeated when you sat here, I couldn’t just leave you like that. You might just blame me for it.” Lovino’s sharp eyes sparked with amusement.
“I see.” Ludwig gave him a hesitant smile. “Thank you, then.”
Lovino winked before tilting his head up at the sky, his brown curls soaking within seconds, light grey of his suit darkening.
The rain began to clear not much later. Ludwig stared up at the sky for a moment, watching the clouds disperse. When he looked back at Lovino, he found him no longer there. The street lantern had started flickering again.
“It was nice to meet you, Ludwig,” Lovino’s voice said from somewhere on his other side. “I’ll ask Feli to watch over you as you walk home. It tends to help.”
“And will I see you again?” Ludwig found himself asking.
Something tickled the back of head, like a brush of fingers threading through his hair, and he could hear the amusement in Lovino’s voice as he said, “Knowing your luck, yes.”
Ludwig smiled as he slowly stood. The world finally seemed to fall back into its usual state, traffic and human noise filling the air.
As the wind rustled the leaves of the trees around him, a smattering of droplets raining down on Ludwig, he heard the faint echo of Lovino’s laughter follow him home.