Polymath Redux Annex
Chapter 30 – About Roland and Cecilia’s relationship
The crackling of fire. Warmth like a mother’s embrace. Sparks flew across as the night and cold descended upon the two. Mordred peered towards the unfamiliar, starry sky. The darkness occasionally glimmered with a phantasmal purple. This strange phenomenon, it was not the first time he had beared witness to this foreign sky. He wondered to himself, how long it would take for this new reality to sink in.
Cecilia sat opposite him by the campfire. She stirred around the logs to maintain the fire in between taking bites of her dinner. Judging by appearances alone, she seemed no different from Mordred, age-wise. That said, the aging process for Elves were still a mystery to him and in fact she could be centuries old. However, ‘probably not,’ considering that Roland, a ‘Human’, was a father figure to her. She was most likely faithful to her appearance.
Noticing his quiet gaze upon her she asked, “hmm? What’s wrong? Don’t like your food? Well too bad, this is the only thing we brought so either eat that or starve. Up to you.” She took a mouthful of hard bread and took a sip of her hot soup. Watching her rough and frisky attitude towards him, it was impossible not to see the great dichotomy of the idealized version of ‘Elves’ and the one before him. ‘They were supposed to be more… elegant and womanly,’ he wryly smirked to himself. In truth, many things in this world did not play by the same rules as the fantasy he had in his mind.
‘Who was it that raised such an un-Elf-like elf?’ following the thought, the image of a heartily laughing Roland came to mind. “If you don’t mind me asking, what kind of relationship do you have with Roland?”
Cecilia’s hands stopped. She gazed daggers at him as she frowned. “Why do you want to know?”
“I was simply curious.”
“Curious… you say,” she shook her head. “I guess a greenhorn like you still wouldn’t know all the rules, huh?”
“What do you mean?”
“It’s something I noticed on our trip here. You…” she paused. A sigh, “since you’re such a greenhorn I’ll tell you: your idea of what a ‘mercenary’ should be is so idealized it’s painful. It’s almost like you think we’re knights or something. If that’s the way you want to go about things, you should think about joining up with the military or the Royal Knights, or whatever. Look, I think it’s best that you know this beforehand, but we’re not some merry bands of clowns that prance around solving everyone’s problems.” Her grasp on her hardened bread tightened until it broke and fell to the floor. “This isn’t an ‘adventure’; we don’t do this for fun, we do it so we can make a living out of it. Many of us do this because we’re all out of options. A lot of the times, the kinds of missions we receive may be something we don’t want to do or goes against our morals. However, we do them anyway, because there’s nothing worse than a mercenary who cannot be trusted to do their work.”
Mordred remained silent. He couldn’t deny that.
“Things like a person’s past and relationship. While you’re in this line of work, it’s best if you didn’t spread around that kind of sensitive, personal information so liberally without a good reason. Even if they’re your comrades today, there’s no guarantee that they wouldn’t be your enemies tomorrow.”
Upon reflection, there is logic and wisdom in those words. ‘It happens all the time in fiction,’ Mordred thought. A scene where a villain or enemy takes the protagonist’s loved ones captive, or where they blackmail them with a sensitive secret about their past. This was yet another facet of ‘reality’ that differed from his perception of fantasy. When everything behind a screen, it was very easy to divulge personal information to strangers under the guise of anonymity. People would often come online to complain about their real lives. About their bosses at work, their co-workers, parents, children, teachers, students… etc.
This wasn’t that kind of adventure. The girl in front of him was not someone else that was playing a character, safe in their homes, behind a monitor. She was an actual person with actual problems and vulnerabilities. Unlike him, she couldn’t hide behind the persona of an ‘avatar’. So, it was a matter of course that she couldn’t just blurt out whatever personal information she kept secret. The very ‘bonds’ of friends and family can always be used against them. “Yes, you are right. I apologize for asking.”
“Well… it’s that you know? You don’t seem like too bad of a person,” she shook her head, disbelieving that she was going against her own advice. “I’ve known Roland since I was a child. Actually, that old bastard is about twice my age so yeah… he’s kind of… sort of… maybe, like a father figure to me?”
“And your actual father?”
She shook her head, “I don’t know.” Silence overtakes the two with only the sounds of crackling wood within the fire to keep them from complete void. “The only thing I know for sure is that he abandoned me before I even had the ability to think for myself… and that he left me with this letter.” She pulled out a small parchment, folded so it couldn’t be read. “I can’t even read the words written here; not our language.” She shook her head, “I wonder, if that kind of person could even be called a ‘father’? By the time I knew it, I found myself wasting away in the corner of the Solaris slums.” She paused to recollect her deepest memories. “It was Roland who found me. He took me in. Gave me food. A place to call home… and raised me.”
“I see… he was nice enough to me as well. I suppose you really can’t judge a person by their looks.” Mordred agreed.
“Yeah, that’s pretty much it. Once I got a little older, I decided to alleviate some of his burdens and go into the mercenary business after him. Even though he wanted me to enrol in the military academy… well, I wanted to help out with his job so I refused.” Cecilia let out a small chuckle beneath her breath. A small, satisfied smile etched upon her face. “Although, if there’s one thing that bugs me about him, it’s that he still treats me like that child he found all those years ago abandoned in the slums.”
“By that you mean…?”
“It’s those ‘important jobs’ he’s always taking. He thinks I don’t know that they’re less than wholesome kind of requests. If you’ve been in this line of work long enough, you sort of just… ‘know’ what kind of things he’s being made to do. Tsk, if only he asked me.”
“I’m sure he just doesn’t want you to get hurt.”
“Are you stupid? Of course, I know that! That’s why it’s frustrating! Argh! Whatever! I’ve talked enough! I’m going to sleep!” Cecilia jumped back to her small sleeping bag, which was really just a few layers of thin blankets and refused to continue the conversation.