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Edmond only remembered flashes of that.

He didn’t remember Aaron picking him up as if he weighed nothing and bringing him down the tree before he was placed on Woof’s back who ran quickly toward the Hamlet. 

He didn’t remember the Chief walking out personally to escort them to the Healer’s Cabin, where the Energy Manipulator started to work on him.

He didn’t remember his eyes being repeatedly opened while the healer checked whether he was alive and responsive.

All he did remember was one image that appeared in his mind over and over again.

It was the image of his father- the man who had raised him being imprisoned and bound in barb-filled chains which made blood flow from his shoulders, back, and chest.

He also remembered the screams which had reverberated in the underground cell, which were of his father begging the soldiers that his son be taken away so that he wouldn’t have to watch his father being tortured.

Although this had happened only a few days ago, he had already buried it deep in his mind, where it flew out from now that he only had his twisted self for company.

That moment had broken him, and the only reason he was alive right now was the hope given by the leader of those soldiers who had promised that his father would be released, alive, if he managed to obtain a powerful Tera and defeat the one he chose.

That motive was the only thing pushing him forward.

He had lost too much blood, and this had given birth to a permanent darkness that wanted to engulf him and take him into its clutches, forever, so that they could be one.

Yet, there was no way that he would give in.

He clung on with all he had to the last straws which were helping him avoid that pit of darkness. No matter how much it hurt, no matter how sleepy he got, he hung on, knowing that giving up now meant a frustrating death.

Each time he even went close to thinking about giving up just like how he had done in front of Aaron the night before, that image of Aaron looking at him with those eyes of disgust would float into his vision, giving him renewed strength to not look pathetic in the eyes of that guy.

Finally, after an inestimable amount of time passed, that darkness receded and disappeared, following which Edmond completely lost consciousness.

On his bedside, Aaron was sitting and staring at him with an indecipherable expression on his face.

“Oow wow wow rarr.”

Woof, whose tail was touching his legs while it, too, gazed at Edmond’s face, made this sound without looking at Aaron.

“Yes, of course, he was dumb to let his legs hang! But, cut him some slack. You remember how bad I was when you first found me?”

“Ooow! Ow Ow Ow!”

“Don’t laugh! It is commendable that he hung on, you know. Remember that time when I lost so much blood after my back was mauled by a young Fire-Breathing Elephant? He lost even more blood than that. I had to run for a long time to make them confused. By the time I got back, he was so pale that I thought he was dead. I was even going to say ‘Sorry’ and bury him.”

“Whoa, there! That’s it? You were just going to say ‘Sorry’? He trusted you and entered that forest!”

Interrupted by the Chief who had appeared at the door a few minutes ago, Aaron turned to him with raised eyebrows, as if asking what was wrong with that.

He had already felt the presence of the Chief as soon as he entered, even though the man had been thinking that he was silently eavesdropping.

Walking forward and shaking his head, the Chief first checked the round, transparent container in which there was a fluid that was being pumped into Edmond’s body.

This was apparently a mixture of certain mutated plants and other materials which was designed to allow a body to fight against an injury and even regenerate flesh slowly, provided the injury wasn’t too serious.

Apparently, it was a restricted resource distributed by the World Government to only authorized settlements. 

Even though it was magical in its own right, at the end of the day, at least, in this case, the Healer had said that it all came down to Edmond’s will to survive.

And in that department, Edmond hadn’t disappointed.

After making sure that the solution was still moving, the Chief took a seat on the opposite side of the bed and looked at the 18-year old and the dog admonishingly.

“You two are responsible for this. Even if not completely, you do have a part in it. If he had died, it would partly have been on you. And because of that, you should have felt regret and anger.”

Huh? Really?

With a puzzled expression, Aaron pondered on the Chief’s words for a few moments before replying.

“Why? I already told him to be careful, and that I’m not responsible if he dies. All we have is a mutual agreement, like when a Spike-Tailed Beaver partners with a Razer-Tooth Squirrel to fight off a predator when going after a spot with food. The two fight together, but if one is careless and ends up dying, the other goes ahead without any remorse.”

This example made the Chief feel flabbergasted.

He realized that telling what he wanted to say normally wouldn’t have any effect. This guy had grown up in a terrifying world where power and survival was everything. He had probably led a simple life where emotions like these didn’t figure much into his life.

So, the Chief thought for a moment, and finally hit on an idea.

“Look, Aaron. That might be so with Teras, but humans are different. Humans feel compassion, love, respect, and a host of other emotions. I’ve heard people say that in this age, Teras feel them, too, just like us, but I’ve never seen a Tera like that yet. Let me put it to you in simple terms. Even in the forest, a family is everything to a Tera, right? It would do anything to protect its family?”

Of course! Was that even a question?

Aaron simply nodded, while the Chief continued.

“We humans are one big family. That is how we survive in this world. We help each other. We care for each other. We strive to grow better, together. This is also why the World Government set up the Path to the Stars: so that it could give a Path for all humans to grow stronger without greedily desiring power only for itself. Look, Aaron. I don’t know if Teras are also capable of thinking like this, and I don’t care. All I know is that if a human dies, I would feel regret and sadness, as it means that even if that human was my enemy or someone I didn’t like, at the end of the day, the human race lost a soldier who could have done a lot to fight back against the Teras. Some might argue otherwise, but this is my opinion. You can take it or leave it. My advice is this: even though you grew up in the jungle, you should understand that you are among your own species now. Do not think of other humans in the same way in which you think about random Teras. Your outlook needs to change. I can only say this much. The rest…you should learn by yourself. Observe. Think. Reflect. But above all, grow.”

Leaving these words, the Chief left the room.

However, Aaron’s sight remained on the spot where the Chief had been sitting while he tried to understand what he had just been told.

Humans were all…one big family?

One big family.

Big family.

Family.

This word stayed in his mind, and as he looked at Edmond, he tried to feel something like what the Chief had said.

He failed, as it just didn’t make sense to him that he had to care for this useless guy whom he had known for a single day.

Still, Aaron didn’t give up. He stopped attempts to make him feel something, but he did continue to think on the Chief’s words.

Yet, he was constantly interrupted by Woof, who kept sending thoughts of food to his mind, which made Aaron sigh and get up to find Mrs. Ernst for more buns.

However, just as he was about to leave, he felt a hand grab hold of his.

It was Edmond, who looked straight into his eyes and exclaimed weakly:

“I’m not pathetic!”

 
 
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About the author

KillerHemboy

Bio: I'm an aspiring author who fell in love with writing the moment I wrote my first story.
Most Notable Work: World Domination System, an 800,000 word ongoing fantasy novel which can be found at https://www.webnovel.com/book/11413811606356705/World-Domination-System

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