Geisai waited till Biran’s uneven stride mixed in with the going ons of the villagers outside before opening his mouth.
“Well, it was less than what I was expecting, but we did get some bits of useful information. That ‘True Warrior’ thing is interesting and using that is a better explanation than having none at all whenever light up in front of people. Still, that lost era stuff and what he said about elven rangers left me with more questions.”
He’d dropped the villagers’ strange speech pattern he’d been mimicking and spoke with his usual clear voice. His uncaring attitude wasn’t an act, there’d be no reason to keep it up with just us here.
“Maybe we can delay our leave for a day or two. See what else we can learn from these people. With any luck we⎯”
“Geisai do you remember what I told you? What we talked about after our first encounter with the sell-swords?”
Geisai’s posture became rigged when I cut him off, and a faint red glow peeked through the his visor. However, as quickly as it appeared the light vanished and the tension left his body.
“What does that have to do with anything?” He tried to speak in his usual tone, but there was an unmistakable edge in his voice that hadn’t been there before.
“I told you that I didn’t want us to become monsters, that no matter what we had to do to survive we couldn’t allow ourselves to become as bad as people would view us. Herding a minotaur into a helpless village for our own gain is one of the most monstrous things I can imagine doing!” I couldn’t hold back my anger and disgust at our actions any longer.
No matter how you looked at, we could’ve inflected the same tragedy we suffered on people that hadn’t done anything to deserve such a fate. Even now, I couldn’t get the image of mangled bodies and bloodstained wreckage out of my head. One slip up, one mistake, that was all it took for a stream of blood to flow across our hands. We would never clean away what was already there, but I’d rather kill myself than force someone else to go through that nightmare. There was⎯
“I don’t get it.”
“Huh?… What’s not to get?” I’d expected angry denial or a sorrowful apology, so the genuine confusion behind his simple statement was perplexing.
“The minotaur was going to attack the village even if we didn’t choose to intervene. All we did was speed thing up a little, that’s it.” His was completely calm and even with that helmet on I could tell he was giving me a strange look. He honestly didn’t see what was wrong with what we did. I’d been wondering how he could act like nothing was wrong while carrying the weight of what we did on on his shoulders, but it turns out all he’s been carrying were feathers.
“Ho-How could you say that?”
“It’s the truth. The villagers had been prepared to abandon this place by the time we arrived. The first group had been ready to throw away their lives to buy the others the time to escape. We sped things up half a day at most. Our involvement saved more lives than our neutrality would’ve ended.”
“Don’t you get it!? The moment we intervened we placed the lives of every villager in our hands. If we failed and they all died, all the blame would be on us, not the minotaur. We’d be the ones that took life with reckless abandon. We’d be the ones that destroyed the survivor’s lives…” My temper fizzled out, and I was left feeling like I’d been dunked in a frozen lake. Were we already too far gone to interact with civilization?
“Ahh. This is about your home, isn’t it? Sorry, I didn’t take that into consideration when I came up with the plan. In the heat of the moment, I cast aside all unnecessary matters.”
My body moved before I realized I’d gotten out of my seat. My right arm shot out faster than Geisai could react and a stinging sensation ran through my fingertips as the slap echoed throughout the room.
“How could say that about our home?! If you ever cared about it at all, knowingly sending monsters into another village should be incompressible!” Despite all the effort I spent trying to keep my cool, here I was shouting like a child.
Geisai rubbed his cheek for a bit before he spoke up again.
“Well, we know the helmet works, I only felt half of that slap.”
“Why aren’t you taking this seriously?!⎯”
“The place you called home was never mine. My home was a small shack in the middle of the forest. Half of my life was contained in those four walls.” The glow began to peek through his visor again, but the intensity behind his voice was as captivating as it was frightening.
“My memories of that place were of people insulting and threatening my mother because she dared to bring me into the village. Of a woman trying to strangle me to death as the world collapsed around us. Of my mother dying in vain, because, despite everything thing she taught me, she decided to risk her life to save those ungrateful pieces of shit instead for running away and hiding!”
The golden light suddenly erupted from Geisai’s body, and I had to fight the urges to draw my hidden blades or run away. He was clenching his fist so hard that blood was dripping onto the floor. His breathing had become erratic, and the glow from his eyes was so intense I was surprised it didn’t melt through the visor.
Anger… No, he radiated hatred in its purest form, and the slight thing would set him off. Or so I thought.
Instead, he took a deep breath and slowly unclenched his fists. A faint golden glow clung to his body, that and the blood trickling down his hands the only indicators that I hadn’t just imagined his outburst, no matter how much I wish I had.
“People easily fall back on cruelty and violence when under distress or it suits them. Personal experience, especially recent events, have driven that fact home. You say we should treat people as people no matter what and I did. By gaining their admiration, we’ve lessened the chances of them harming us and gained vital information from these people. I won’t apologize for that, but I do apologize for involving you in the plan. I didn’t consider your feelings about the attack a village. Next time, I’ll do it myself.”
With that, he turned around and headed towards the entrance.
“Did you ever consider the parents and children whose lives you endangered?” Geisai froze just as his hand reached for the door handle. He didn’t look at me, but he eventually responded.
“No, no I didn’t, but it doesn’t change anything. Our safety and well-being is more important than other people.” It was a simple but honest response. I couldn’t ask for more.
“Keep that up, and you end up becoming an example of the very thing you hate. Next time, I’ll make the plan. Your judgment is faulty in these types of situations.”
He didn’t say anything and quietly left the building, the door gently closing shut behind him. Noise permeated throughout the village, yet I was left alone in silence.
“ Haa… I guess we were both in the wrong here…I’m an idiot.” I felt utterly drained. Somehow a simple conversation was more taxing than fighting, and I had only myself to blame. I’d allowed time to delude my memories of the past. We’d been together so long that I’d began to think Geisai and I had always been together.
He had every reason to mistrust and hate others. I’ve personally bore witness to the results of his previous encounters with people, but so long as he had that stupid grin on his face, I was able to overlook things that were too complicated to deal with.
He only carried a few scars on the surface, but inside he was…unique.
“why was he so insistent on leaving the forest, then?” If anything, recent events should’ve drove him to go deeper into the forest. Maybe he just wanted the chance to strike back at those who hurt him. But he could’ve accomplished that by staying in the forest and killing any sellsword we came across.
“Lady Aiyana, pardon the intrusion, but is everything alright?”
A sudden knock drew my attention. The voice at the door was female and seemed to be concerned about me.
“Lady Aiyana?” I could ignore her, but what good would that do?
I did my best to put everything else aside and tried to put on a presentable face.
“Ughn… Let’s do this.” I stood up and prepared myself for another round of uncomfortable conversations.
I opened the door and got my first look at the person brave enough to visit me.
“Ohh…” To say that I was unprepared for what greeted me was an understatement.