This story is shortly after the game, when you choose evacuation. This is also my first fic for Bastion, so I'd really appreciate any feedback you might think of. Thanks, enjoy!
Zulf hadn't been actin' like himself.
I hadn't really expected things to go back to the way they were before, not after all that all that had happened since he read that journal. That's why I hadn't thought much of his loner behavior. Zia and the Kid seemed awful worried though.
Oh don't get me wrong, not everything had changed. Zulf did his share of the chores, didn't complain about nothin', and pulled his weight, just as he'd done before he left. But these days he only spoke when spoken to, and spent most of his time alone. He wouldn't even come to dinner. I'd see him sneaking food out of the kitchen at odd hours instead.
First I figured that he skipped dinners because of me. Zulf seemed to have a soft spot for Zia and the Kid, even after he'd left the Bastion. The two of us still had our issues though, so I figured that he wouldn't come to dinner because I was there too. That theory ran dry when Zia told me that he didn't come even when I was elsewhere.
Still, I didn't look into it. After all, it was Zia and the Kid who were on good terms with the man. If anyone should be talkin' to him and gettin' to be more sociable it was one of them. Or maybe I was just a stubborn old man who was also havin' a hard time lookin' past the bad blood between us. Either way, it was clear that Zia and the Kid weren't makin' any head way. I didn't like it. The Kid had already gone through so much, he shouldn't have to be worryin' bout somethin' like this, and I hated seein' Zia's pretty face all scrunched up with that same worry.
So I decided me and Zulf should talk.
I find him in his tent, seems to be his favorite hang out these days. Strange, considering how much he enjoyed being out and about when he first came here. Maybe the novelty of seeing a place in one piece has worn off on him.
I rap my knuckles on the tent pole, close as I can get to knockin'. He calls that he's there, so I walk in. He's surprised to see me, it's easy to tell. We stare at each other for minute. Finally, he asks me if something is wrong. I say that I was hopin' he could tell me. I let him know how much the youngsters have been worrin' bout him, and that I'm startin' to worry bout their worrin'. The Ura just narrows his eyes at me.
He ain't sharin', so I start guessin'. Maybe our anklegator bit him, or he's upset about the Pith statue. I guess that maybe he's still recoverin' from his escape with the Kid, and I see him flinch. I see now, he's still recoverin', just not in the physical sense.
He knows I saw the wince, so I watch him and wait. He can't take it anymore and spills. He spills about his regret for the Kid and Zia getting hurt by the Ura he lead to the Bastion, the pain of havin' the same Ura turn on him, and the guilt of the Kid nearly getting killed getting him out. At the end of it all he asks me how he's supposed go on with all that weighin' on him.
I don't answer his question right away, but ask my own instead. He knows that Zia and the Kid have forgiven him for all that, don't he? He nods sadly. I understand. The youngsters have been sayin' they forgive him, but that's really more about them than Zulf. They see forgiveness as a way of saying things are alright, and that things can go back to normal. It's their blessing to carry on. But just because someone is saying you can carry on doesn't always mean you know how.
So now I do answer his question. I tell him this:
"It don't really matter what they say, does it? You ain't ever going to forgive yourself for the past. It ain't sad or pathetic, it's just a fact, and you have to accept it. While tryin' to get revenge for what Caelondia did you hurt people you cared about, and hurt their hope for the future by threatenin' the Bastion. That's not the kind of wrong that can be undone. But wallowin' in self pity ain't going to help either. We've started a new journey, trying to rebuild a broken world. There are still plenty of fights ahead, and plenty of things to fight for. Zia and the Kid for example. If you can't fight for yourself anymore, then fight for them. Fight for the others that we'll someday find out there. That's a good way to go on."
He looks like he's thinkin' hard after my little speech, so I decide to leave him to it. Right before I step out, he asks one more question. Why do I care? Why did I bother to tell him all that?
I turn around and look old Zulf in the eye.
"Because you ain't the only man here who's never going to forgive himself."