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A note from YJarex

Shorter chapter today.

Enjoy!

“Well,” Said the Wolf “since you have somehow managed to lose the only shield I was able to scrounge up within hours of me procuring it, we will not be practicing shield combat today.”

Yeah. That’s on me. Oops.

“Instead, I will give you a lesson on the body and the soul. You have been practicing your breathing, haven’t you?”

“Yeah, yeah, in through the nose, out through the mouth.”

“Then can you tell me why that is important?” he had his lecturing voice on. It wasn’t much different than his normal voice.

“Because a strong body makes a strong mind?”

“…and a strong mind makes a strong soul.” He said, finishing it for me. “And what does a strong soul do?”

“It lifts both to greater heights.” I said.

“Good. Now, what can you tell me are the flaws of this line of thinking?”

That was a new question and I had to consider it for a while before I could get the pieces together.

“Well, how does plundering soul from others apply to that? That’s neither making your body any better, nor your mind. It’s just murder. And thievery. Probably blasphemy as well.”

He nodded. “Moral opinion aside, you raise a good question. In short, soul gathers together. It is simply in its nature. Yet without a sun to guide it all, it seeks even the palest imitation of it to gather within. Thus, after you have slain a foe, a part of that soul diverts off and flows into you. Much of the rest simply disperses. That is my understanding of it and that of most scholars in your far future.”

He let that sit with me as I thought it through. It implied a lot. And not small things by any measure either.

“So, you’re saying that it gathers in us because we’re the closest thing to the sun then? Because all souls come from it?” It sounded ridiculous but, in a way, it was uplifting. And more than that, it was believable.

“Yes.” Was his answer. Simple and direct.

“So, we really aren’t in hell then? And I’m not a demon?”

“Yes.” Came his answer again.

Over the course of the past months, I had started accepting the possibility that I wasn’t in hell or a demon somewhere in my mind. Now, the step to full acceptance felt almost too easy. Like what I’d believed before was just a reflection in a pond, and when the Wolf threw in a pebble, I saw how it was merely an echo of my own thoughts and fallacies.

I’m not a demon. I am not. A. Demon. I am me. I came back from the dead. I was given a second chance at life.

There were no happy tears. Just a pervasive warmth that filled my chest and crept up into my face. I didn’t think about the bad side of the implication. That I was two thousand years in the future. That there was no light because the sun was absent. That everyone I had ever known, loved and hated was dead.

Ok, maybe I thought a little bit about the darker side of things. But for now, my joy prevailed, and I was ready to continue the lecture, the training or even fight the world this moment if need be. Luckily, today it was only the lecture.

“…you have a soul that glows. Be thankful for it. Not everyone is so lucky. Though on the flipside, it paints a massive target on you. Be wary of archers and crossbowmen. You won’t see them coming and someone wielding ranged weapons for all intents and purposes has ‘I kill bright folk’ written on their face.”

I nodded along.

Makes sense to me. Even the furthest light I've seen someone radiate was ‘only’ around forty feet of dim light, a third of which was bright. Not a lot of time to use a bow if something comes barreling towards you at that range. The thought of someone who didn’t have light, like the Wolf or Harris, wielding a ranged weapon against me? Yeah, nothing I could do about it. Instant death.

It almost happened once before too. Yet another reason never to return to the swamp, ever again.

“However, you also have to realize that it is a good threat. If you encounter a person with over a hundred feet of dim light, you can be sure that their soul is lifting up their capabilities, even if they are possessed of particularly poor bodies and minds.”

“Wait, slow down. I think I missed something about that. How does the soul make you stronger?” He inclined his helmet slightly and I got the impression that I wasn’t that great of a student.

“As I said” He began. “Your soul pulls your mind and body upwards. A large soul will increase the strengths you already possess. It will allow you to recover from injury more quickly. It will guard you against diseases. With a strong soul, you will find it easier to jump, run, lift, deal and take strikes that would normally be lethal. You will find your mind working faster and capable of concentrating longer. If you are good at using the sling, counting beans or perhaps even reading faces, you will find your capabilities increasing much as well. The list of benefits goes on but suffice to say, you still require a strong body and mind as your foundation for your soul to leverage. It can only do so much on its own.”

I raised my hand.

“Does it also help me remember who I was?”

The Wolf stayed silent for a long time.

“Yes.” He eventually answered. “Though, you would do well not to lose yourself in nostalgia. Take comfort in it, but always remember: You will never be who you once were.”

I nodded again, more to affirm that I had heard him than that I understood what he meant.

So, soul is the solution to everything. And the only way to get it was to steal.

“But” He said, nearing rambling speed. “be aware that gaining soul is not an affair to be taken lightly. Gain a little at a time and you will find yourself growing beyond what you thought was possible. Gain too much, especially over a short period of time, and the resulting strain will lead to inebriation, bad decisions and delusions. Ultimately, gaining large quantities of soul at once is highly addictive.”

“What’s addictive?” I asked.

“Gaining soul.” He said.

“Nono, what does it mean exactly? ‘Addictive’?”

The blinking inside his helmet was almost audible.

“Right. Two-thousand-year-old knowledge. You probably have a different word for it, if you have one at all. It means that if you do it once, you are tempted to do it again. And then you repeat it again. And again. Before you know it, you cannot live without it. It is like... have you ever felt the warmth of alcohol?”

I rummaged through my memories before stumbling on one that proved that yes, I had drunken something before. Cali had snuck two bottles of wine from the cellar and me, him, Max, Sam and Eri (a girl from a neighboring farmstead; she had a big crush on Cali at the time) got absolutely wasted in the Grug barn. I think that’s when she confessed to him.

It went more than well.

After some much required prodding, poking, pushing and embarrassing comments, they were left to themselves, and I was left with looking for my boots. Everything after that was… hazy.

While my the two lovebirds enjoyed their time, I on the other hand woke in a pile of messy hay, itching like hell and with my soles pointing skyward, boots nowhere to be found. When I eventually did stumble upon them, they were full of frogs. They always were when I left them unattended for more than an hour. Everyone knew I hated frogs. Especially Max and Cali. So yes, I did experience the alcohol.

I nodded, wiping a single tear from my eye.

Thinking about those times always makes me feel sad.

“It is a similar affair. Be sure to know when you’ve gorged yourself and take time to digest. A hundred steps are a better measure than ten leaps.” Said the Wolf “Now, we shall inspect your arm. Your right one. Glom has given me permission to remove the splint. By her reckoning, you can start exercises involving it as soon as today.”

I had to do a double take at that. “Wait, Glom said so? Why? How? When?”

He didn’t answer any of my questions and one affirmative grunt and some finagling later, I saw my right hand uncovered for the first time in one and a half months. Compared to my left, it was awfully thin. The skin was sensitive, and I touched it, the feeling of that being weird as hell.

I immediately noticed something off.

“Try moving your fingers.” He said.

I turned my arm left and right.

“I am moving my fingers.”

But they weren’t moving. My hand was completely stiff. I tried wobbling it around. It didn’t do much. I tried moving my thumb, then my index, then my middle finger, then my ring finger and my pinky.

Nothing. Is. Moving.

“I am moving my fingers.” I said again, in the hopes that saying it would make them listen.

They didn’t. Fingers had no ears. And they wouldn’t move an inch. I grew more frantic, flexing my arm but to no avail. It was like it just stopped obeying me below my elbow.

“Stop.” Said the Wolf.

But I didn’t. I was just breathing faster and faster.

“Stupid…”

I hit my hand with my arm and finally, the Wolf grabbed me and forced me to look at him.

“Stop. It. You are hurting yourself.”

I just stared at him with wide eyes.

“But I can’t move my fingers.”

He looked at me for the longest time. My heart was racing. My mind was in disarray. All my plans, all the calming techniques in the world were for naught because in that moment, what little power I had over my life felt like it was wrenched from my grasp once more.

The Wolf only had one thing to say as he tried to put a comforting hand on my shoulder.

“It was a bad break.”

And that among so many other things he could have said failed to console me entirely.

“It’s not fair.” I sniffled. The tears were back, and they had good reason to be. “It’s not fuckin’ fair.”

“Rye.” He said, shaking me slightly. “Rye. Look at me.”

I glanced up at him, his worried face still hidden behind dusk and a rusted visor.

“Do you still want to be a knight?” he asked.

Really? This shit again?

I tried to answer but found that my voice had left me. Questions and worries warred for the limited attention in my mind and for a moment, I gave in.

Do I really want to?

Is this what I should expect if I keep on doing things as I have?

Is this all there is?

Why can’t I just be good at something for once?

This is all my fault.

No.

This is all not my fault.

It’s that monster woman. That Bekki demon. That fucking-

“Rye. Listen to me. Who’s in control of your body, mind and soul?”

Not me, that’s for sure.

I was astonished that he could read even a smidgen of all that from just my crest-fallen expression.

“If it at all comforts you: additional soul will help you heal faster. Still, I implore you to not go out on an ill-conceived adventure. You need to strengthen your core. You need to learn patience and control. Nothing lasts forever Rye, not even the sun. You will heal one day. If not, mayhaps you will happen upon a remedy, sanctic healing water or some of the stronger burnsalve. Or a boon, to heal, enhance or replace your broken parts.”

Despite his well-meaning words, they just didn’t have any effect on me. I wasn’t in the mood for lightening up.

“Thanks.” I said, not entirely meaning it. “But I… I think I’m done for today.”

He understood and after going back, I crawled into my bed and stared at my arm for hours.


A girl and her mother were playing on a chair.

“Here comes the tickle bird!” the mother said. Her face was an owl.

“Noooo!” the child yelled. She was having so much fun.

Tickletickletickletickle.

A smaller hand grabbed the owl’s attention from the left.

“Oh, looks like you’ll have to share the tickle-bird, my precious little Elia-Egg.”

“Noooo!” said the little girl. She still wanted to play with it. It was hers. It wasn’t supposed to leave her.

Another figure came into vision. He was a man and a father, and his face wasn’t there. It was a rock.

“Here, play with this instead.” He said and gave her fire.

The girl took the fire. It jumped and leapt across her hand. It tickled. It fizzled. Pop!

Fun.

But the fire hissed and sizzled like a cat. With a frightening POP! the girl saw her whole arm up in flames.

“Mom. Mom. Mom!” She said but her mother couldn’t hear her. She was playing ticklemonster.

“Dad. Dad. Dad!” she said, but her father had a rock for a head.

“This is yours. Don’t share it. You carry it, first and alone.” He intoned with a mighty grinding grumble.

Her arm grew heavy, and her fear grew dark.

“But I’m not alone” she thought “I have you and mum and everyone else.”

But no one gave her an answer, not a nod, not a cry. And her arm was burning all the while.

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A note from YJarex

Sad chapter. But a necessary one. In exchange, have an extra chapter on Saturday!

Until then!


About the author

YJarex

  • A hip new place called 'Germany'

Bio: Hi, I'm YJarex. Unaccomplished wordsmith, maker of names, procrastinator of things.
The 'Y' is silent.
I enjoy writing almost as much as I enjoy wasting the day away reading and playing video games.
In spite of the convincing profile pic, I am in fact not a cat.

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