My deepest apologies for this very late addition. It is still alive, I haven't abandoned it! I will complete this. I truly appreciate those of you who have waited patiently. Please Enjoy.
Chapter 7: Fires of Truth
Against the intense crimson blaze, I shot a relentless streams of water lasers in a desperate attempt to quell the inferno.
My face was hammered with sweat from the heat, my lungs grew heavy with the dense clouds of black smoke that deprived me of the oxygen I so badly needed.
Raven and Gaius, while unable to use any useful magic, ran back and forth from my house to grab buckets of water to assist me in the only way they could think to help.
But, what I tried desperately to ignore the fact that a crowd gathered around me. A crowd who did nothing but watch the inferno ravaged Raven and Gaius's home. However, I had no time to be concerned with that at the moment. I would later make the petty excuse for them that they were simply in shock.
I wasn't sure if it was my silent pleas to have the fire die out, having used up all my rune to extinguish the blaze, or that the fire simply had nothing left to burn. Regardless of the reason, the fire had smoldered down to ash. The clearing of smoke revealing all that remained.
A few wooden support beams still stood strong against a blackened surrounding. Fallen boards of the upstairs and roof had all collapsed during the fire, leaving a mess of wood and unidentifiable valuables that could never be truly replaced.
I closed my eyes to try and regain my composure. I pretended for a mere moment, it was a dream, that I could still walk through those doors and greet Gaius at his anvil that he never leaves, and smile at Raven as I greeted her polishing accessories with care.
But, in a single flash of black orange, my eyes were forced to face the truth that those memories, those days, were gone forever...
I turned toward Gaius and Raven, scared of the looks they would have on their faces. I imagined the face of a broken and defeated heart.
However, I was surprised to see that my suspicions were way off base. Neither of them bore a look that had any semblance of despair. In fact, not a single tear fell from either of their faces.
No, the look they wore was one of resolution and vigor. It left me confused as to how this didn't seem to affect them. I was about to go ask them when the mayor appeared before us and spoke.
"Terrible, terrible tragedy here..." he began, a deeply troubled look on his aged face.
"It is deeply clear now something must be done to stop this from happening again..." he spoke slowly, coughing slightly during pause from the residual smoke.
"Yes, don't you see how important it is for us to catch this person now?" I pleaded with him, assured that he understood now how crucial it was to find this monster.
The mayor gave me an odd look.
"Catch him?" he asked, looking at me as though I had asked something strange.
"Yeah...I mean, isn't that what should be done...?" I responded, his questioning look making me feel confused.
"No..no...You misunderstand..." Wells shook his head.
"It's clear that having a dwarf working in this town is clearly a problem. It has caused this town nothing but distress." Wells begins.
"Why just the other day, I heard some customers at the general store saying how they feel more comfortable buying their goods from humans, as they found it awkward to buy from the blacksmiths..." Wells rambled on.
I was at a lost for words, I was hardly registering the nonsense he was sprouting. The next words he spoke, are what got my blood boiling.
"Therefore, we have decided that Gaius should move out and find some other place to live until the culprit decides to stop." Wells concluded, with slight nods from others around.
"What!" I shouted?
I turned to see that Gaius had beat me to the punch in response. He stormed closer to Wells, fury clearly written on his face.
"That's your answer!?" he shouted. "Rather then make a effort to actually find this crook, you think it's better to just throw me out!?" he continued.
"Now... see..her..." Wells tried to injected but was quickly intercepted by Gaius.
"I, who have spent almost my whole life in this town, slaving away to produce weapons that will protect all of you, and this is my treatment!?" Gaius growled.
I approached Gaius to try and calm him down, worried he was about to make his situation worse then it already was. I reached a hand out, it was knocked away.
"No, Micah, you don't even know the half of what goes on in this town." Gaius snapped at me, about to say more when Raven intercepted.
"Gaius...no..." she spoke, her voice the calmest of anyone right now.
"No, Raven, it's time he saw this town for how it is..." he
"So...how perfect was all of this for you?" Gaius asked.
"What do you mean?" Wells responded, clearly getting agitated himself.
"A criminal happens to be racist toward monsters and targets us, and you just overlook it and only see us as the problem." Gaius spoke coldly.
"I've overlooked nothing" Wells stated firmly.
"Oh yeah? How about all the physical and mental abuse Pia gets from Shino and Sakuya? Or how Daria is so conveniently located just outside of town? And don't even get me started on the "experiments" on monsters Majoraie performed when she was younger" Gaius rattled off, leaving the mayor gritting his teeth.
"How dare you accuse them of such things! Do you have any proof that any of what you said happened?" he challenged turning toward the crowd.
The crowd, up to this point had been deathly silent, not wanting to get involved in this dispute. They tensed up when the mayor turned to them. It grimly reminded me of soldiers coming to attention.
"Shino, Sakuya, have you two done anything wrong to Pia?" he asked in a disturbingly polite tone.
Both of them shook their heads.
"Absolutely not." Shino stated simply.
Gaius shot a glare at them. "How about you have Pia speak for herself." he told them.
"Of course... Sakuya go grab Pia for us." Shino motioned toward Sakuya.
A few minutes later, Pia was with the rest of us, her face down and wearing more clothes then I've ever seen her wear.
"Pia..." Shino began speaking kindly. "Have we ever mistreated you?" she asked.
Pia, seemingly on instinct immediately shook her head.
"No... never ever...ever..." she shot out, sounding desperate.
"Do you have any wounds?" Shino asked.
"Nope..none at all..." Pia shook her head violently again.
Without being told, she rolled up her sleeves to show her skin which had no signs of any cuts, bruises or scars.
The mayor turned to Gaius, a smug look on his face.
"See, Pia is treated just fine at her home they provided for her." Wells stated.
Gaius clearly didn't look convinced. There was always the possibility that her wounds were healed after to avoid any scarring.
I remember how she was treated when I went to question them, although without any physical evidence there wasn't anything we could say to prove it.
Wells continued. " As for Daria was given the house that was available to her and had no complaints have been made from her. And I personally approved of Marjorie to prove those test, as it was necessary for her research."
Again it seemed Gaius did not have anything to back his claims. As I stood there watching everything unfold, I could no longer turn away to the truth Gaius was speaking
All those times I spent with the town, I noticed the small shifts in tone and the changes in expression when they spoke to a monster. From Daria's living arrangement, which I remember her mentioning how lonely she felt sometimes, to Pia's frequent confinement to the Inn. Yet, I endlessly made excuses for them, passing it off as me simply looking to deep into it.
Seeing how Gaius had no rebuttal, Wells took it as his win and continued from his early decision.
"As I was saying, I believe it best if Gaius spent time away from this town in order to prevent any future problems." he finished, gaining nods of relative approval from the townspeople.
Gaius remained silent for a moment longer, looking at his surroundings, his chest expanding as he took a deep breath as if to absorb all his time spent here.
"Your right..." Gaius began, expressing his usual relaxed tone. "It's about time I left this place..." he agreed causing Raven to react.
"Gaius...you can't leave..." Raven pleaded, her fear of losing someone important clearly expressed on her face.
Gaius smiled in a very assuring way that seemed to calm Raven down.
"It's alright Raven..." he rested a hand on her shoulder. " The only reason I remained here was to maintain the shop..." he trailed off, looking back at the remains of the shop with a sombre expression.
His expression quickly faded as he turned toward us, who were clear with worry at his wellbeing. He smiled again, though his smile seemed uncertain and subject to break at any moment.
"I'm feeling pretty hungry how about we grab something to eat?" he asked, finding an excuse to get away from everyone. After every thing that had just happened, I was more then happy to oblige his request.
I laid out the curry on the table, unfortunately I didn't have much energy to cook anything special, so I felt a little bad. The events of today had already worn me down, although Raven and Gaius didn't seem to have much of an appetite anyway.
"Are you... really leaving?" Raven asked, still in disbelief.
"I have to..." Gaius told her, mixing the curry and rice together for the third time.
"This is...my fault.." Raven confessed.
"That's not true..." Gaius quickly replied. "Even if you are the real target, the last thing Wells needs to know is your a half..." Gaius said with certainty.
"But...what happens when another attack happens...someone else...might get blamed..." Raven added, giving a point I wanted to deny but couldn't.
I rested my hand on Raven's startling her for a moment.
"Then I'll make sure to catch him before that happens." I assured her with a warm smile.
Raven smiled back, her worries seeming to settle for the time being.
I looked toward Gaius.
"So, do you have someplace you can stay?" I asked, already going to miss him.
"Yeah... I have a cousin in a small village in Sol Teranno that will probably let me stay with him." Gaius responded, also somewhat depressed about the conversation.
"That's good..." I trailed off, too uncomfortable to continue the topic any further.
When lunch was over I went to work outside, having to make the best of the small amount of rune I got back from lunch.
By the time I got to my animals I was running on fumes. I was hoping that my plants that reached harvest would have provided some runes, but I received nothing.
"Just a little bit more..." I struggled to push myself, trying to ignore how comfortable the haystack looked for a nap.
The click of the barn door snapped me out of my drowsiness for a moment as I watched Raven walked inside, the monsters greeting her with warm familiarity.
She kneeled down and affectionately petted the monsters who came to greet her. It was times like this I got to see her smile a rare radiant smile that I never got to see anywhere else. It showed the deep care and love she had for those she treasured.
"I'm relieved... I'm glad you can still smile like that..." I told her, having not seen her smile for the past while with everything she's had to go through.
"Mm..." Raven responded, her smile fading a little as her thoughts shifted back toward our current situation.
"Everything is changing...isn't it?" she added, calmly petting an orc.
I saw no reason to lie to her, despite how much I wanted to say otherwise.
"Yeah..." was all I could muster as a response.
"Maybe...I should leave..." Raven began.
I went silent, having considered that option for a while. On the one hand, I didn't want to grant the culprits wishes and sent her off on her own. But, it's true that the attacks won't stop simply because Gaius was leaving. The current "message" was much more extreme then I had ever imagined. The fact that it happened so quickly after the attack made it clear how desperate the culprit wanted Raven gone.
Since Gaius was going, maybe it was best for her to go along with him. At the very least neither of them would be alone and could come back once this whole thing blew over.
"That's a good idea..." I began, Raven looked at me with an unexpected expression as I continued.
"I mean things have gotten really dangerous around here, and it would just be safer if you weren't around." I told her.
Raven stood there looking at me for a moment, giving me a very eerie kind of quiet. Not the one of peace I was use to.
"...In the end...even you..." Raven said defeated, quickly leaving barn.
At the time, I didn't realize the massive misunderstanding I had just created. If only I had...
I didn't see Gaius or Raven for the rest of the day.
I woke up that night in a fright, sweat stained on my body and clothes. I stepped out of bed, rubbing my temples and taking a deep breath to collect myself.
In my dream, the image of the crimson fire burning the building as I feebly tried to put it out, very realistically of what had actually happened. But within the dream I saw a faint glimmer of a person within the inferno.
I called out desperately but heard no answer. I dove into building toward the silhouette and was paralyzed when I saw crimson hair. Seeing who it was, I frantically tried to reach for her, but the moment I reached out to her, a flash, and pile of black ashes was all that remains.
I leaned over the kitchen sink, taking in water to cool myself down as I tried to erase the dream from my mind.
Fearing sleep, I decided to check up on Raven to affirm what I knew to be real. However, to my shock she was gone, as was all her belongings. I quickly checked Gaius's room only to find the same.
"Why didn't they tell me when they were leaving?" I asked myself. Maybe they decided to leave at night, and didn't want to wake me?
I took that answer as a suitable one, as I saw no other reason why they would leave without a word. I was simply relieved they could be away for a while and maybe get some peace.
In the meantime, it was my job to make sure I found the one responsible. However, I was quickly realizing it would be difficult alone. In my mind, I already knew who was the likely culprit. But I would need some serious help to take him down.
I had an idea, I would ask the help of a close friend, one who can I can fully trust to side with me even if she was going against her own grandfather.
Thank you for reading, look forward to the next chapter. As always feel free to review.