Wowzers, this chapter took absolutely forever to write. Enjoy! XD
Tira stared in horror at Voldo, too shocked to move. His clothing was in tatters and the gold and silver had now turned to crimson – and who knew how much of the blood staining his outfit was his? Part of the fabric had been ripped away, exposing his torso, which was a mess of scarlet, and his now maskless face was covered in cuts and bruises.
How could he have been beaten?!
Tira looked hurriedly around the room. It was clear Voldo had defeated the bandits before succumbing to his own wounds. She quickly grabbed hold of his pale wrist and felt for a pulse. After a few agonisingly slow seconds, she found one.
Relieved, Tira dislodged Voldo's weapons, which were still loosely in his hands.
She surveyed the man's bloodied body. He was much taller than she was, and, no doubt, heavier than her, too. Nevertheless, Tira thought back to her assassin training. She had been taught to lift things – including people – that were twice her size when learning how to fight.
She had to put it to good use now.
Tira swiftly – although not without some difficulty – picked Voldo up and lifted him over her shoulder. It would have looked comical if the situation wasn't so serious.
Glad she knew her way around the chasm, Tira thought carefully. This particular room was not very far down, so it would be easy to quickly go in and out of the entire vault should she need something. However, she did not want to leave Voldo alone in here in case somebody else attacked. As far as she knew the nearest room with supplies and a comfortable enough place for Voldo to rest was… his quarters.
Tira felt slightly apprehensive when this particular thought crossed her mind. Yes, she had been taught her way around the money pit as there had been an unspoken agreement between her and Voldo previously that she would be staying here for, well, who knew how long? – but, funnily enough, he had avoided showing her the room in which he slept – which he rarely did. She had seen the location, but as for the room itself…
You're wasting time, you idiot! He could be dying as we speak and you're just standing here deciding on whether or not to invade his personal space. Hurry up!
Picking her way through the bodies littering the weapon gallery, Tira made her way swiftly out of the room and through the winding tunnels that she had grown so familiar with. She passed a considerable amount of bodies on her way upwards, she noticed. The room she was headed for was located near the entrance of the pit, among the deadliest of the traps – presumably to set said traps and take out any intruders as soon as possible.
After a couple of minutes of swift walking, Tira reached the hidden alcove that led to Voldo's room, near her own. Well, strictly speaking it had been Voldo's master's chambers – one of many – but she had used it for the time being.
Pushing her slight nervousness aside, Tira gave the door a hard shove with her shoulder and it swung silently open.
Her eyes widened when she saw what awaited her inside.
What shocked her wasn't the large, low bed covered in rich, red and gold fabrics, nor was it the fantastic carpet similar to that of the top of the main vault where Tira had ended up all those weeks ago. It wasn't the fact that none of the torches on the wall were lit – what use would Voldo have of them if he was blind? It wasn't even the collection of alarmingly sexual outfits including a considerable amount of fishnet, spikes, strings, helmets, harnesses and gags – which were arranged in an oddly neat, almost perfect way in the large wardrobes and drawers, most of which were half-open.
What stunned her was the light-coloured wall opposite the doorway. In contrast to the other three bare walls, this one had clearly been attacked over and over again, exposing most of the brickwork underneath the paint, rendering it a mess of beige and red. It looked as though someone had viciously clawed the entire wall with either a blade or extremely sharp nails, filed to the point where they resembled talons rather than taking a normal shape. Perhaps both.
Tira walked slowly forwards and gently laid Voldo on the bed, before making her way shakily to the wall, running her fingers lightly over the marks. Upon closer inspection, it was not only the brickwork that was red – but it seemed to be infused with… dried blood?
There seemed to be years' worth of anger and pain and fear and madness speaking out through this one wall.
It was… harrowing.
Tira slowly turned her back on the wall and faced the unconscious man on the bed. Slowly kneeling down, she took one of his cold hands in hers and studied it carefully. His nails were long, sharp, and deadly, and the pale skin on his knuckles was dry and cracked – clearly from gripping his weapons for, well, who knew how long? It was clear that this man had aged – and it was far from graceful.
Had he done this?
What was going through his head half the time? Why had he done this? What was causing him so much distress?
How long had this been going on?
Tira thought back to Yoshimitsu's words.
Hast though never wondered why he has lost the ability to speak? Why the garments he wears make him look as though he belongs in a brothel? Why he stays all day in a pit, earning the nickname of the 'ghost guardian'? He went insane.
Tira pondered carefully. Yes, ever since Tira had wound up here Voldo had seemed odd, there was no doubt about that, but not as mad as Yoshimitsu made out. She had never imagined this…
Tira thought she had grown to understand his body language due to the fact that he couldn't speak, but whenever he made excuses to reset the traps or to check the treasure, especially at strange hours during the night… is this what he did?
Releasing Voldo's hand, Tira suddenly snapped out of her thoughts. Though a lot of the blood had clotted, he was still bleeding badly – perhaps he had only a little time left!
Dashing quickly out of the room, Tira headed down to the storerooms which were, annoyingly, right at the bottom of the chasm. She ran as fast as her legs would carry her, desperate to reach the items which would aid her in helping Voldo.
You know, you're so stupid, Tira. Why do you care so much what happens to him?
…are you for real?
Yep. A few weeks ago you were thinking about killing him. You've never cared about anyone in your entire life, except for Mother Bird – and we all know what happened to her!
Aw, come on! That isn't fair!
What is this, you've gone all soft? You're starting to forget who you are, Tira…
That's rubbish and you know it.
Humph. I beg to differ.
Like I care what you think!
Oh, but you do care what I think. I'm the only person you can trust; open up to… the blind mute shouldn't replace me.
You're a part of me, stupid. Nobody can replace you. You're special.
I'm starting to think otherwise. But anyway – back to the topic: what are you thinking?!
Ugh, look, he saved my life; it's only fair I do the same to him.
Have you gone mad?! Since when did you care about fairness?!
I don't! But Voldo… he's different. We're… we're similar.
That is no excuse. You're a ruthless killer who takes pride in other people's suffering. Remember that!
I am remembering! Did you see the way I battled the intruders? Besides, I –
You're speaking as though you've taken on a role as the guardian's apprentice! 'I battled the intruders' – you care too much.
Stop it –
Oh, but I'm right, aren't I?
Yes I am. You're growing soft. I thought you were a free bird, free to do whatever you wanted?
That didn't work out! Even people like me get bored sometimes –
Get bored? Oh, do me a favour. This isn't getting bored, killing innocents is never boring. You've grown to – dare I say it – actually care for someone – it's like you're incapable of thinking for yourself!
Shut up –
You are incapable of deciding what to do with yourself, aren't you?
Shut up –
You need to follow orders, have someone to guide you – even if it is a blind, mute, psycho! And what's funnier is you're taking orders from a slave! Do you notice the way he dresses? Yoshimitsu was right; he does belong in a brothel. What are you going to do now, with him passed out upstairs? After all, there's nobody to show you what to do now. Who knows, he might even be dead by the time you get back –
Tira's roar of rage echoed throughout the tunnel she was emerging from. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, she had arrived at her destination.
It was extremely dark in here, and rats often scurried about the corners of the room. Tira usually hated it, and tried to spend as much of her time away from this part of the chasm as possible. It was full with everything from spare blankets to old trinkets that had been long-forgotten. However, also in this room were the items that gave Tira the chance to perhaps save Voldo's life, and for that, she had never loved this room more.
After taking almost as much as she could carry about her person – everything from makeshift bandages and treatments to canisters of water – Tira headed back up to where she had left Voldo, but not before making a quick stop en route to pick up some food. She had been on a hunt a few days ago and there was quite a bit of wild boar left, as well as some fruit and wild plants which Tira had recently learnt were edible.
Tira hurtled back into Voldo's room in record timing and, though she had only been gone for a mere five minutes, felt the need to check Voldo was still breathing. Grateful to find that he was, Tira got to work immediately, ignoring her own wounds.
Come on, Tira, she thought, this is a chance to prove yourself.
Tira set the items she had gathered down beside her. The truth was, although Tira possessed a fair amount of medical knowledge from her assassin training, she was at a slight loss as to how use the treatments here in the pit. Looking over the small collection of bottles, most of which were unlabelled, she came to the conclusion that almost all of them contained products made from the plants and other living things outside. This was different to what she was used to, as there had been a doctor and his apprentice at the Bird of Passage who had been responsible for teaching everyone how to deal with their wounds using concoctions from the assassins' apothecary – and they had been anything but natural. Tira knew how to make these concoctions, and used to carry with her small vials containing the most important ones whenever she went out on a mission, however as far as she knew none of the desired ingredients were on this island – and there was clearly no time to go out searching for them. Tira sighed. She would just have to make do with what she had at her current disposal.
Tira bent over Voldo and gently removed the blood-soaked, tattered remains of his top, exposing his lean, muscular chest, which had turned from ghostly and pale to a shocking scarlet from the large number of wounds on his body. Looking frantically about the pile of things she had brought with her, Tira quickly inspected the bottles. She had learned what a few of them contained from her spars with Voldo – although he hadn't meant to hurt her, injury was quite often inevitable – and so she had watched him as he had carefully treated her wounds, making a mental note of what he did. Eventually she had learned to do it herself, and was quite confident in her ability – however, the cuts and bruises she had sustained during her sparring sessions were nowhere near as life-threatening as Voldo's appeared to be currently.
Tira grabbed a medium-sized cloth and opened a canister of water, tipping some of the clear liquid onto the fabric. She slowly brought the cloth over Voldo's torso, gently wiping the blood away to reveal three monstrously large gashes – two across his chest, from one shoulder to the other, and the other a horizontal slash over his stomach – as well as a number of smaller cuts and grazes littering his body. Thankfully these wounds had stopped bleeding so furiously, but it did not change the fact that they were likely to be deadly if they were not treated soon.
Tossing the cloth aside into a shallow dish, Tira reached for a new one and opened one of the bottles she had brought with her from deeper in the chasm. This one smelled faintly of coconut, but there also seemed to be a hint of ginger somewhere, too. Tira knew this to be the strongest treatment out of the ones she recognised, but she was still doubtful as to whether it would do enough. Nevertheless, she cleaned Voldo's wounds with it, taking great care not to open them up further. She would have attempted to stitch them up, too, just as the Bird of Passage doctor used to do, as she had seen various sewing items previously in the store chambers, but she did not know the first thing about sewing and was far too reckless to be accurate. She just hoped she had done the job correctly.
When Tira was finished with the worst of Voldo's wounds on his torso, she quickly cleaned the minor ones before turning to his arms, which were marred with grazes and bruises all over. Shortly after dealing with them, Tira started on Voldo's face and neck, which were, not surprisingly, also covered in blood. She worked around the bindings covering his face, but ultimately decided she needed to remove them in order to get rid all the blood that may have seeped underneath.
Tira unclasped Voldo's gag without hesitation, but her hands stopped just inches from his blindfold. He had never shown her his eyes, ignoring all the hints she had given him, and she had quickly learned not to try and take off the blindfold by force lest she be subjected to Voldo's somewhat unpredictable temper. She was slightly apprehensive about what was lying underneath the blindfold, yet she knew it had to go.
Pushing her nervousness aside, she gently lifted Voldo's head a few inches off the pillow he was resting on, reached behind and undid the blindfold.
That was when she heard a low hiss and felt movement beneath her.
He was waking up!
Had she been in any other situation, Tira would have been glad at his regaining consciousness so soon. However, she was not so sure now: waking up half-clothed to find that your companion had not only discovered your anguished state of mind but was about to take away the last piece of secrecy you currently possessed could not be a good feeling.
Tira had gently set Voldo's head back down and was about to lift the blindfold away when a hand swiftly came up and grabbed her wrist, attempting to pull it away from his face. The grip was not firm, Tira noticed. He was clearly too weak to cause her harm.
'Please, I have to,' she said quietly, staring beseechingly at Voldo despite the fact he could not see her. His hand trembled slightly.
After a few agonisingly long moments, Voldo's grip on Tira's wrist slackened and fell away.
'Thank you,' she whispered.
Tira slowly lifted the blindfold off of Voldo's face, uncovering his eyes which were, in fact, closed. He seemed determined not to show her his eyes. Either that or he was waiting for her to finish. After a moment of deliberation she continued her work and wiped the remainder of the blood from around his eyes.
He seemed surprisingly calm – although it was probably down to the fact that he was still incredibly weak. Was he aware that he was in his own room, and that Tira had seen the wall that told her so much about him?
She doubted it, as he had done nothing to push her away just yet. It was only a matter of time before he realised, though – and Tira was not looking forward to seeing his reaction.
She finished wiping away the blood, and set the cloth down carefully, looking at the man lying before her.
She touched his shoulder gently. 'Open your eyes,' she breathed. It was not an order, but more of a… request. She just hoped he would understand that. 'Please,' she added quietly.
The atmosphere was silent and tense, and Tira waited with apprehension. After what seemed like hours, Voldo's eyelids fluttered slowly open.
His irises were grey and clouded, and the pupils were non-existent. He stared blindly around, as though he had not opened his eyes for years. Perhaps he hadn't, Tira wasn't so sure.
She gazed into the depths of his unseeing eyes, and it was only then that she felt his hand feel for hers. She gasped slightly at this sudden, unexpected gesture of… what was it? Need? Comfort? Affection?
Or perhaps he knew… yes, Voldo knew exactly where he was, and what she had seen. Weak and disorientated though he appeared to be, Tira was certain he was aware of his surroundings.
She took his hand in both of hers and held it tightly. Whatever state of distress he was in, Tira would be here for him. She would make sure of that.
...yeah, not much happened in this chapter, sorry about that. ^^' But we get to see Voldo's eyes! I hope I described them okay, I don't know much about blind eyes.
The action's not over yet, though, so stay tuned for more! As always, reviews greatly appreciated. :)