After Iselia... Colette's team
"Hello!" Colette smiled, waited, and sighed. This was the sixth hill she had done this on, and Kratos was heartily annoyed by the practice. He wasn't the only one either.
"Colette, whatever are you doing?"
"Colette are you looking for someone?"
"Then please stop doing that, there are monsters and bandits out here, we don't want to call them over."
"Whatever you say Professor!"
The older woman looked at her pupil. She considered the young girl for a long moment with unblinking dark blue eyes. With a pen calloused hand the professor pulled a strand of silver hair from her eyes. Colette seemed unfazed by the scrutiny, she hummed a little ditty and smiled at her mentor after the staring dragged on for a minute.
"Colette, do you know what a bandit is?"
"Yep, Lloyd told me!"
"Lloyd's definitions are tentatively accurate at best, what did he say a bandit was?"
"A bandit is someone who hurts someone else and takes their money."
"A bandit," Kratos growled, "is someone who i kills /i someone else and takes their money. Let us not tempt fate by lingering here."
"Is it really all that dangerous here, Mr. Kratos? I mean we are only two days from Iselia."
Kratos didn't reply, only walked farther down the path. He felt Raine's eyes boring into him, but ignored that as well. He wanted to get this over with, to move on with it, and he radiated that feeling with every step he took. Neither of his two companions were stupid, they could sense his attitude, and he could feel their disapproval. He ignored that as well, and by Raine's reckon Kratos was the type of man to ignore i everything /i except his goal.
"I guess Lloyd was right," Raine said to Colette in a tone that would easily carry to the mercenary's ears. "Kratos is a jerk."
"Professor, that's not nice!"
"It's the truth though, but I will admit Lloyd's word choice does leave a great deal unsaid. It doesn't cover all the levels in which Kratos is a jerk, nor is it specific enough to point out all of the man's flaws. Though," the older woman pulled a strand of silver hair behind a pointed ear. "He does give a good starting point to do that."
Kratos winced at the woman's tone. She was making a point, bringing him up like a naughty student. What really brought the woman's point home however was the Chosen's response, the complete lack of defense that she offered him. She agreed with Raine, this innocent empty headed child agreed that he was a jerk. Had things been different he would have shrugged off the insult. He had endured far worse in his life. Words far fiercer stained a crimson hue of the life blood, which fell from the lips of his dying foes.
Yet in this case such a lack of being liked was not a good thing. It would hinder him later on when their trust was needed, when they entered a truly dangerous situation. He could not allow matters to continue like this between himself and his client. He would have to... Talk. He grimaced, his mouth curled in distaste at the idea. The idea of making small chat, of explaining himself, was about as attractive as eating a foully cooked meal.
"I apologize if my manner is offensive Chosen, I am only doing my job in seeing to your safety and getting you where you need to go."
"I think that's the whole problem Mr. Aurion." The elvish woman snapped at him. "You forget that there is more to this world then breaking the seals. Colette and I need small things, such as rest, talk, and other non-necessities that you probably find morally offensive."
"You have been pushing us very hard Mr. Kratos..." Colette chimed in, the mercenary noted how the girl slid a bit behind her teacher as if the older woman would shield her.
"But then you were hired for a reason, you know what you're doing, you've shown off your expertise with your swordsmanship on the various beasts we have ran into so far. I will admit though that Lloyd, or even one of the city guards, could have done much the same."
Dead quiet fell between them. Kratos could have taken the last as a serious insult, and he was tempted to. He merely gritted his teeth; his gut told him that this willful woman was not yet done speaking.
"Tell me Mr. Aurion, how knowledgeable are you with the bandits in this region?"
"I do not know the various leaders of each group by name." The mercenary rose an slender eyebrow at the woman. "I recognize various markings indicating their territories though."
"Have you seen any so far, or any sign of pursuit, or any hint of danger?"
"Then I guess we can rest here then."
It wasn't a question; he'd get Hell over it if he insisted that they continue now. Gritting his teeth at yet another delay Kratos grunted. He watched as his two companions set down their packs, and after a bit of a conversation settled on making the hilltop a picnic spot. A blanket was rolled out over the soft green grass, rocks gathered to hold it down. He said nothing, did not aid them, only stood and radiated disapproval like the sun radiated light. They ignored him; it felt a bit strange to be ignored. He focused on the terrain, paid their words not heed as they chatted about insignificant matters.
The mercenary blinked, came back to himself at the girl's voice.
"We're making lunch, do you want something to eat?"
"When we move on I will snack on the jerky in my packs."
"That seems rather silly." Raine said, in her hand was a jar of what appeared to be a jelly of some type. Six slabs of bread lay on the pink blanket, by her knees, Kratos looked at the bread and mentally sighed. He was going to have to have lunch with them, there was no graceful way out of it. "We are going to be resting here for an hour or so after we eat, you might as well rest with us."
"An hour?" Kratos growled.
"Yes," Raine's tone brooked no tolerance for opposition. "An hour."
"As you wish."
Kratos watched as the Chosen of Regeneration happily smoothed jelly and peanut butter on her teacher's sandwich. Raine's voice lost it's sternness that it held whenever she spoke to him. She asked the girl to put a bit more peanut butter on, and politely declined the offer to have a layer of cut apples added to her meal. Knife still in hand the girl looked at him, he considered the options before him and asked for peanut butter and apple slices.
"I'm so happy someone else likes it too!" Colette beamed at him. "Everyone else thinks I'm funny because I like to put apples on my sandwiches. I love apple and jelly sandwiches! Lloyd always says it's too sweet, he likes it like you like it..." Colette prattled on about sandwiches and who liked what.
It was amazing really, to say something so small to make her happy.
She must have been an innocent, that or she was simple, whatever trait it was it made her circumstance all the more tragic.
"Here you go!"
Kratos tried a smile when he took the sandwich, at Colette's shudder he knew that he failed, and it must have been a miserable failure too.
"You don't smile all that much do you Kratos?" Raine noted after she finished the last bite. "My Goddess -no offense intended Colette- but you look like you're going to rip someone's head off with your teeth when you do that."
"I shall refrain from smiling in the future then." Kratos retorted, at that Colette laughed.
"Don't do that, if you do you wont get any practice, and if you don't practice you wont get better at it!"
Kratos shrugged, took a few bites of his food while standing, and did his best to ignore Colette. This child was confusing him. Fearful one moment, cheerful the next, if she was always like this it was going to be a very long trip...
As if sensing his thoughts Raine glared at him, he returned her glare with an expressionless facade. The tension that swept over the little picnic was so thick it would have dulled any knife passing through the air. Then suddenly the silver haired woman smiled at him, the smile was sweeter then the sandwich. That said a great deal, for he could barely tolerate eating the sandwich.
"Colette, when you're done eating I'm going to run through today's history lesson, alright?"
"'K!" Colette wolfed down the last three bites as fast as she could, carelessly smearing jelly on her face. Yet she seemed oblivious to the mess she had made. Her whole attention was focused on her teacher.
"Do you remember where we were last lesson?"
"You talked a lot about the treaty at the end of the Kharlan War, the one Mithos wrote."
That's right." Raine grinned at him, she saw him squirm at the words Kharlan War. "There was a lot that happened after the War. Many of these events have lead to the more prominent changes in the old world, following these links of change that occurred due to the Hero's efforts we can see how they have affected our world today. We'll start with the social ramifications of the Karlan War Treaty, and go through it declaration by declaration, that way you can get a fuller understanding how things were back then."
"Mithos made several faults of humanity well known; he spoke passionately against slavery and other atrocities. In the course of his travels, he wrote these atrocities down, and declared them to be morally wrong. You see back then such things as slavery were acceptable. People even go so far as to say that Mithos' ideals were used to sculpt the moral outlook of the world today. But if this is the case Mithos did not only did it affect the moral outlook, but his works influenced several laws. The first of those speaks of those in-between, or half elves, and the fact that they are entitled to certain rights..."
As the lesson continued Kratos toned out the woman's words. They weren't important, he knew about Mithos, about the declarations. He grimaced, took another bite out of the sandwich though he had no real appetite. He knew a great deal, this one woman's spin on it really didn't mean all that much.
Damned observant elf, Kratos mentally growled as he took another bite. Raine had noticed his boredom when she had first lectured her pupil on history. That had been what had motivated her to start talking about this now. She didn't like him, and this was her childish means of getting even with him for some perceived wrong.
He mulled over his actions for the beginning of the journey. He had not joined them for breakfast, had mutely walked alongside them during the first day of journey as their conversation floated around him like sparkling mist. A lone rabid wolf had come for them, it had charged out of the bushes and he had killed it before it could attack the Chosen. He recalled with a grimace the child's horror at the brutality of his actions, but he couldn't change that. He had to keep her safe no mater what, altering that side of his personality was out of the question.
Kratos took another bite, and had to admit, the blonde Chosen was not bad at making sandwiches. He wondered idly I this was not the first journey she had taken. Considering her two friends he wouldn't have been surprised to learn that she had gone on little trips or picnics in the forests surrounding her town.
He shielded away from such thoughts, ordered himself to not think like that.
She didn't matter, in all probability this girl was going to die on this journey, he could not get attached or grow too curious.
i Colette and I need small things, such as rest, talk, and other non-necessities that you probably find morally offensive." /i
He almost smiled as he thought of the raw fire in the woman's vice. She was spirited, he'd give her that. Raine was also knowledgeable about children; and that was the only reason he had not protested when the mayor had appointed her to represent Iselia and basically blackmailed her into coming along. He knew little of children, and absolutely nothing of little girls… such a glaring lack of knowledge on his part could be dangerous for the Chosen. Add to the fact that the Chosen would likely unburden to her teacher rather then him… that was a bonus.
It was also turning into a problem.
She had to trust him, he had to be able to protect her, and if she didn't trust him she'd protest every step of the bloody way.
"Mr. Kratos, do you want to sit? The grass is really soft!"
He looked at her, stared for a long moment into her sky blue eyes.
So innocent, so sweet, she was genuinely worried for him.
"I told you Colette, you're wasting your time."
Colette paid Raine no heed, only looked at him with open concern.
He shifted his sword, and sat, absently folding the ends of his sparrow tail cloak under him. He ignored the elf woman's gawking, worked his blade out a little so he could fully draw I at a moments' notice even though it now lay across his lap. She smiled at him, just happy that he had joined her. Now that her small world was complete the Chosen turned to her teacher and asked about some obscure part of the treaty.
"It is rather complicated isn't it, all right; let's see… how to explain this… A private militia is an army that someone owns. They aren't like the guards in Iselia, they don't protect one area, though they did sometimes have fortresses and the like. A private militia goes from place to place fighting other people, kind of like…" Raine looked a bit flustered as words abandoned her.
"Much like a large group of wandering mercenaries." Kratos supplied.
"But why were they outlawed?" Colette asked, eyes going to one to the other adult.
Raine shot Kratos a grateful look, than did her best to answer the Chosen's question. "The reason they were outlawed was because very rich people were using militias to hurt innocent people."
"But why would soldiers hurt innocent people? I understand if that was happening why they were outlawed, but why would mercenaries hurt other people?"
"Chosen, not every person in the world is kindly, not ever mercenary in the world is good. A large group of…" He mentally winced at the childish explanation, but pressed on. "Bad mercenaries could destroy towns, cities, and so long as the pay is good they wouldn't care."
"But if there were mercenaries, and big militias, then they were needed some time long ago weren't they?"
"Very good!" Raine beamed at the Chosen. "Yes, the Kharlan war was a massive fight between two very large groups of people, and large armies were needed to keep the fight going. Once the Treaty was made old organizations, such as privatized armies, were outlawed. That way the fighting could not be easily be resumed, it was believed that if the war were to start up again the very world would have perished. Other war-like organizations, like mercenary bands, were discouraged. Because of these changes that were made due to the Treaty, Slyverant more or less peaceful for as long as anyone can remember."
"But if Mercenaries were discouraged…" Colette looked at him pointedly.
"Mercenary bands were discouraged; there are still a few lone mercenaries in the world… After all there is sill a need for violence to maintain order, as long as that need exists there will be mercenaries and soldiers."
"I…I guess so…"
"Is there some fault in my explaination?" Kratos asked, turning to Raine since she would be the expert in this.
"I think it's your attitude that's a bit hard to swallow." Raine looked at him, her expresion nutral. "Colette, could you please go get some firewood, we're running a bit low." When Colette was well out of earshot Raine regaurded him. Her gaze was intense. "As I understand it Colette's training as a Chosen has shielded her from a great deal of the world. It's a stupid practice, I don't like it, but I i will /i honor it. Keep that in mind when you talk in the future."
"So you enfource innocence on her, by keeping her stupid?" Kratos allowed scorn to touch his voice.
"Hmm that's almost funny, it's the exact same thing Lloyd said to me when I took her outside when we talked about in detail about the attrocities of the Kharlan war."
"You've skitted on the edge of telling her a great deal already."
"I know that, I am a teacher after all. I will teacher her, the priests' rules keep me from doing my job, so I bend the rules a little every now and then. It's not so much what we say though Mr. Aurion, but how we say it. Your negative outlook on humanity is alien to Colette. She's been raised to think that everyone has the potetial to do good, to be good, and that everyone i is /i good deep down inside. If you would be so kind as to keep your pessimism to a minimum as we travel it would make my job a great deal easyer."
Kratos said nothing, then stood. She looked up at him, daring him to protest.
"I would almost ask what hold the priests have on you to make you keep a promise that you must find professionally amoral."
"It's not proffesionally amoral, it's personally amoral. Raine snapped, anger colored her normally steady voice. "And they have no hold."
She lied, she had hesitated on the last part, that's how he knew she lied. Kratos snorted at the woman's poor attempts at falsehood, he then wiped the remains of his lunch from his hands. He took a step back, sheathed his blade, and absently kicked a rock off the blanket.
"We are moving on Ms. Sage, if you will excuse me while I go find my client."
"Your client?" Raine sounded angry, "is that all she is to you?"
"What else is she supposed to be Ms. Sage? I was hired to protect her, that makes her my client. I will do my job no matter what, and that's all there is to it."
"Tell me Mr. Aurion, you mentioned that there were 'bad' mercenaries, are you one of those?"
Kratos didn't respond, only turned his back on her and went to look for the wandering Chosen.
He found her, it took him less then a minuee's search once he got deeper into the trees. Her humming helped him considerably. He lingered in the shadow of a tree while he watched her gathering branches and the like.
"You shouldn't hum Chosen, you give away your location."
She squeeked, dropped the wood she had been gathering, and hopped back. As was her habit whenever she moved, she staggered back, and her arms spun wildly. Right as rain, she fell to the earth with a soft thump. He stood back and watched as she rubbed herself and "oww"ed at no one in paricular.
"Are you alright?" He asked, still not leaving his place in the shadows.
"I'm all right!"
She seemed a little disapointed somehow, but she did listen to him when he suggested she go back to the hill and return to her teacher. He offered to take the wood, and spent a little bit of time gathering it from the moist forrest floor. It was while he was at this task that he realized his mistake. He should have gone to her, she had wanted him to go to her, to help her up. A friend would have done that, in his lack of action he had possible marked himself as someone she could not count on as a friend.
i I am under her employ, I am not her friend, I am doing a job. That is all this is, a job /i
And yet that too might be a mistake, she obviously trusted her friends, she might be one of those people who i only /i trusted thier friends. It was hard to believe that, hard to accept it considering her sunny manner, but it might be the truth. The more he though of it the more true it sounded.
If that was the case, if he was right...
It would make a hard job even harder.