Chapter 5: Killer's Remorse
I sigh inwardly as the villagers of Alech let out another cheer of thanks for saving their people and ridding the area of the bandit scum. Yaaaaaaay… A bit of a quick summary of our return as the 'Heroes of Alech': they prepared a massive feast for all of us, which I decided not to partake in (killing tends to kill my appetite… and so do unintentional puns…). Garrett was welcomed in with open, if not hesitant, arms. Krysta was hailed as a town hero, her father (at least I assume it was him) with a beaming smile on his face as he watched her carried through the streets by the villagers. Marco and Myra mostly kept to themselves, letting the other two bask in the limelight, though I did see a few men and women looking at the two of them during the festivities. Of course, Inigo was still up to his old game: from the time we left the fortress to right now, he's done nothing but flirt with anything wearing a skirt. (Good God man, learn what it means to have standards…) As for me, well, aside from upsetting the handful of girls that had asked me to dinner, I'd kept to myself. At the moment… it just seems wrong to celebrate. I swear, if they let out another- I let out another sigh as the townsfolk apparently have ESP, letting out another cheer. That's it, I'm out. Standing up, I quietly steal out of the inn and head out into the night, taking in a quick breath as the cold night's air hits me. Considering I have no sleeves on my jacket, I should honestly be freezing.
It's not like I mind the cold. Heck, winter is my favorite season just for that reason, as odd as it may sound. At the moment, though, the cold feels… cold, for lack of a better analogy. As redundant as that sounds, it's the best I've got. "Guess I deserve to be cold, don't I?" I mutter to myself as I just… start walking. I'm not sure where I'm going but I just need to walk, collect my thoughts. And God, don't I have a lot of them…
I guess… the first thing on my mind would be… me. Or rather, what I've become. I shouldn't… I mean, how am I able to do all of this? "Alright, 'Kale', when did you suddenly become a murderous badass?" I mumble to myself. Not a single thing makes sense to me. I'm not nearly this coordinated, quick, strong… any of it! The closest thing I've come to holding that was a sword was a machete and the only time I've come close to fighting using a sword was back in the fourth grade, when my friends and I wouldpretend to sword fight, and even then it was only with soft foam bats. Granted, it hurt like hell when you got hit hard enough, but still. I've changed… definitely. This world, I think my body's adapting itself to it. Or maybe, the world's just bringing out things that I could already do…
"Things that I could already do… like kill?" Saying those words leaves me chilled, not from the night air. I can't really deny the fact that I've pretty much become a killer. I saw the bodies at the fortress, the blood on the ground and on my blade; I'm a killer, whether I want to admit it or not. It's an odd feeling, knowing that you've taken lives: you feel weighted down, like the person that you've just killed is now resting on top of your shoulders, reminding you constantly of what you did.
It isn't a pleasant sensation.
I stop mid-walk as I realize that I'm doing something, a bit of a nervous habit. My thumb and index fingers on my left hand are rubbing the base of my right hand's ring finger. I smile faintly as I realize that I still have that small trait; whenever I would wear my class ring, I would always twist it around my finger whenever I was nervous or anxious or upset. Kinda funny that I'm missing such a small object, like my class ring. I mean, it was nice looking and all, but it wasn't anything too special. I guess it's true what they say: you never quite know what you have until it's gone.
H- Kale, focus! This isn't the time to start missing a damn ring! I shake my head, trying to focus, when I notice something: my hands are still bloodied. Looking down, I see all of my garments are stained in a similar manner. "Son of a…" I let out a sigh as I realize that, in the 'festive and excited' moments after we returned to Alech with the villagers in tow, I'd forgotten to clean myself up. Well, that's fucking wonderful. I probably look like a butcher that just had a bad day at work. Glad I decided to skip the food tonight… As a sudden thought hits me, I draw my sword and hold it up to the moonlight, the corners of my mouth turning downwards as I see blood still caked on the blade. "Did I just completely forget how to do anything? Now I've got to find something to clean this with…" With a growl, I sheathe my sword before balling up my fist and punching the walls of one of the, thankfully empty, houses. "I shouldn't even have toclean a bloodied sword, dammit!" I shout to the sky. I can feel a few tears forming in my eyes as I slowly slump down the side of the house. "I shouldn't have to kill anyone to survive… I shouldn't have to kill at all…" Why am I even here? I ask whatever deity is listening. I know… that I'm either dead or dying in my world. That's great and all, but what does that have to do with me being here? Am I even here? Is this just some dream my mind's created to help me… deal, with the fact that I'm about to die?
God help me, it seems that every single time I try and figure out something else about my situation, I just wind up wanting to rip my own head off. I can understand how none of this would make sense. It's not everyday that you wind up in a completely different world, one that you thought only existed in a video game, and go around messing with stuff, fighting bandits, and slaying zombie-like monstrosities. "Just wish I had some clarity, something to help me understand what put me here."
I'm interrupted from my thoughts as a gold coin bounces onto the ground in front of me. Looking up, I see Garrett standing in front of me, a slight grin on his face. " 's for your thoughts, kid." he says quietly before sitting down on the wall next to me. I can tell he's been drinking, though its not just because of the fact that he has a bottle in his hand. His breath… Well, there's just one more reason to never drink. "You were kinda missed at the party, mate. Marco had all the hicks quiet down for a bit so he could thank you for your 'brilliant' strategy. Should've seen the look on his face when you didn't show up; I'd stay away from him tonight." He takes a sip of his drink before he continues on. "So, what the hell are you doin' out here? You're the man of the damned hour! Come on, celebrate and enjoy life for a little! Marco told me that we'd be moving out in the mornin', saying something about us heading north to Ylisstol. Dunno why though…" He shrugs before taking another sip of his… whatever they have here for beer, and lets out a loud belch.
"Lovely." I mutter, earning a slight chuckle and a grin from the bandit/ex-bandit. Still not quite sure of what I should refer to him as. "Garrett, mind if I ask you something? Something serious?"
The smile on his face immediately disappears. "Killer's remorse, eh?" he asks, as though it were an everyday thing. Then again, it might be in this world. If it is, they sure didn't stress it enough in the game. He sets his bottle down before leaning back against the wall, a frown creasing his face. "Its not some lucky guess, let me tell you that right now, kid. Just about everybody I've met that's killed someone, even the guys that I ran with, felt it at some point or another. Most of them were lucky enough to feel it right off the bat; they managed to get the pain and suffering of it out fast. The others carried it inside of them for a long while, letting it bottle up until they just collapsed from it all. Scary sight to see a full-grown man, strong enough to break your neck with his bare-hands, collapse to the ground sobbing like a newborn. It's… unsettling, to say the least. What's worse is when it happens in the middle of a fight. One of my old buddies, Naga bless him, though I can't remember his name, had it happen to him during a raid. He just froze as we burst into the town and dropped his lance, tears running down his face. Earned him an arrow to the eye, it did."
You sure one of your old nicknames wasn't 'Garrett the Rambler'? "So, are you trying to tell me something?" A sudden shock of surprise hits me as the big man puts his hand on my shoulder and turns to face me, his eyes dead-set.
"Look. I know this is just killing you right now, alright? But you've got to look at it this way: you're feeling it now, when the blood's still fresh. It means you've got something a lot of folks don't have anymore: a heart." He gives my shoulder a pat before grabbing his bottle of… whiskey, I'm guessing, and standing up. "Well, I think I'll head back to the inn. Met a fine looking lass back there and, well, let's just say the girls around here love scars." He points to the one going down the side of his face before grinning and turning around.
"Garrett, wait." I stop him just as he's about out of earshot. Before he can turn around, I ask him my question. "You've said you've seen other people experience it. Well, how'd you deal with it? The remorse, I mean." I notice his shoulders visibly slump as the bottle in his hand nearly falls. I just hit a nerve, didn't I?
"Never said I went through it myself, did I?" His voice is nearly emotionless, though there's sadness behind it. "I'm twenty-four and I've been killing and stealing for half of my life. Not once have I ever felt sorry about any of it. Like I said, count yourself lucky, kid. You have a heart, at least." Before I can say anything, he walks off, leaving me alone with several things running through my head. Three thoughts immediately pop into my head. One: Holy shit, he's only seven years older than me? Two: Damn, I feel bad for him. And three: So, I have a heart apparently. Good to know that wasn't changed when I came here…
But the question still hovers over me. Garrett said that almost everyone's gone through this at some point or another. While that's good to know, as it doesn't mean that I'm some heartless beast, it does make me afraid of one thing. I don't know when it'll end. Or, if it even will.
Can I get over the fact that I've taken a life?
Shaking my head, I feel my feet start moving in the direction of the inn. Good, because I think I need some rest.
As I crack open the door to the inn, which, by the way, was harder to find than I'd expected, as I'd apparently wandered across the entire village, I'm glad to see that no one's around. The townsfolk have all apparently gone to bed, for which I'm grateful. I doubt I could handle someone trying to thank me for saving them. Yeah, I'm glad I saved them, but it doesn't mean much when I feel horrible for killing bandits. How am I so hung up over killing bandits? They're murdering scum who would just as soon put an axe into my gut than try and be friends. Of course, I don't know why any of them were bandits in the first place. Any of them could've just been lost souls, people who needed the money and had no other place to… I stop midstride to bang my head against one of the wooden poles in the inn, trying to get the debate inside my head to stop.
"That's… probably pretty bad for your health, you know."
Krysta's voice startles me and I immediately spin around to see her standing at the foot of the stairs, wearing a white nightgown and carrying a lit candle in her hands in one of those… weird candle holder thingies. "Why are you up? Wait, why are you even staying in the inn? Don't you have a father and a house where you can stay?" Wait, Garrett did say that he'd found… She's from the village and her hair is a bit of a mess… Oh God and Naga, please no! That… just no! NOT RIGHT! UNDO, UNDO! Ctrl + Z! BAD IDEA UNI-
"Well, since I'm going to be travelling with you all, I thought it'd be best if I stayed the night with you. I… wanted to get used to how staying with all of you would be. That, and…" Even with the only light coming from the candle, I can still see the blush on her face. "…I guess I was worried about you. Ever since the battle, you've been really distant from the rest of us. I never even got the chance to say 'thank you' for rescuing me from those bandits."
Alright, somewhat disturbing crisis averted. All clear. "Well, to be fair, Inigo got two of them. Plus, he was really the one who saved you. If he hadn't been there, I doubt I would've gotten there in time. So, if you want to go thank someone, go thank-" I'm interrupted as she suddenly places a kiss on my cheek, my face turning red and suddenly feeling like its on fire. "Uh, y-you probably shouldn't do that. I'm still kinda bloodied from the battle and-" Her sudden coughing and sputtering tells me that she either got the message or the taste.
"Agh, for Naga's sake Kale! Why haven't you cleaned up yet?" She looks me up and down once, her brow furrowing in confusion. "My goodness, have you looked at yourself lately? You looked like you just stepped out of a blood-bath." Apparently, she realizes what she says just a fraction of a second too late, as she immediately puts her hand to her mouth.
"I kinda just did, didn't I?" I ask, my voice losing all emotion again. "Cut-and-run, slice-and-dice, hack-and-slash; its all I did today. It shouldn't exactly be surprising that I look like this, now should it?" Sighing, I shake my head. "Look, do you know where I can wash up? I'm tired of feeling all of this… grime on me." She merely raises her free hand and points off to a door near the back of the room. "Thanks. I'll just leave my clothes out. I guess someone will pick them up and clean them." I quickly make for the room, leaving her by herself. Upon entering, I find that its not much more than a basin of water and a few buckets, but it'll work. I quickly undress, fold my clothes, wash up, and wrap a towel around my, erm, area before heading back to my room. I smile faintly as I see a set of bed-clothes laying neatly folded on the sheets. They're nothing special, just a white cloth shirt and similar pants, but they're something at least. After putting them on, its not long before I drift off to a dreamless slumber.
At least, I wished it had been dreamless.
This is kinda fun actually. I think to myself as I do a breaststroke through the white void I'm in. The place is remarkably easy to move around in, almost like a pool, minus the possibility of drowning. I've always enjoyed swimming, especially after having a bad day, so being able to do this now is somewhat of a boon. It helps me relax a bit, at the very least.
"Why do you insist on meddling?"
I stop my 'swimming' as the voice begins to echo out again, turning around slightly so that I'm looking up towards the top of the area. (At least, I think it may be the top…) "Okay, would you mind telling me how I'm 'meddling'? The message kinda loses all meaning whenever I don't know what you're talking about."
Surprisingly, the voice actually answers back, though not by speaking. The air in front of me starts to shine for a moment before a small figure appears before me. My eyes widen in shock as I recognize it almost instantly. I mean, how could I forget saving them when I had to kill my first person to save them? "You mean that baby? I 'meddled' by saving a baby!? What was I supposed to do, let the two bastards cut it apart?" I shout, though my voice seems to become lost in the emptiness of the void. I slowly shake my head as I receive no reply. "Well look here, buddy. If you're trying to make me feel bad or something for saving a baby, a baby, then you're an absolute idiot! Besides, its not like I don't feel bad enough. So yeah, I meddled: what of it?"
In answer, the floating baby disappears, being replaced with a small black butterfly. As it slowly beats its wings, I frown. You've got to be… The Butterfly Effect? "So, by saving that baby, who was apparently supposed to die, which is extremely fucked up, I might add, I've started something which is, I assume, bad and counts as 'meddling'. Am I getting this all right or should I try again?"
"Just stop meddling."
I don't have time to reply, as the entire area goes dark, the voice's words ringing in the darkness.
I wake up to someone pounding on my door. Ugh, I thought I might've been able to leave this behind back in my world… "Alright, alright, I'm up! Just stop the racket, alright?" I say as I walk over to the door. Throwing it open, I have no time to react as Marco grabs me by the collar of my shirt and pulls me close to his face. "Guessing you're kinda pissed off, huh?"
"A bit, yes. Garrett told me about what you're going through." he says after a small period of silence, releasing me. "You should've told me, told any of us. Damn it all Kale, we're a team, aren't we? I thought we were going to be working together. If you're suffering, then you shouldn't have to do it alone." Even though his expression is extremely pissed off looking, I'm at least somewhat touched by the fact that he was worried about me. "I've gone through this myself. It's a real pain, but I managed to pull through. You know how? I had my sister with me. This isn't something that you can deal with by yourself, at least not very easily."
I let out a brief sigh (I've been doing that way too much) before I respond. "Look Marco. I appreciate the fact that you're worried about me, truly I am. But… This is just something that I'm going to have try to get through on my own, alright?" I hold up my hands before he can say anything. "I've always been this way. If I have a problem, I need to face it myself. I can't let someone else help me out. Yeah, it makes me a complete jackass but that's just the way it is. I will promise you this, though: if it does become too much for me to handle, I'll take your help then."
"I… suppose I can accept that." he says, folding his arms and nodding his head. "Even I'll admit, I'm a bit of the same way. Myra had to force me to accept her help. I'm not going to force it, but I am going to hold you to your promise."
"If there's one thing I'm good for, it's holding a promise." I say, extending my hand. He gives me a small smile before taking it firmly. "So, Garrett says we're heading to Ylisstol. Any reason why? I thought you might want to avoid that place, given… the circumstances, you know?"
"Eh, I thought about that myself. It's a risk, but its one that we'll have to take. Wandering around looking for jobs won't get us anywhere. If we have a place where we can settle down and establish a headquarters, the jobs will come in a bit easier, with any luck." He closes his eyes as he starts to think. "We'll be facing competition with the Shepherds, given the fact that they're much more famous and they have Prince Chrom as they're leader, but that doesn't mean they can do everything." If only you knew, my friend. If only you knew… "I figure that we can take some of the smaller jobs: bandit extermination, ending feuds, and adding our forces to someone's army, so long as they aren't doing anything too horrible."
"Sounds like a plan to me. So, we leave today?"
He nods once. "Yes, we will, though not until later. Garrett is currently… indisposed, after last night. We'll have to wait for him to recover. After that, it'll take us about two days to reach the capital." He starts to turn to leave, only to stop halfway. "Since you're up, I'll have Krysta bring up your clothes. She washed them for you this morning. Gods Kale; how did you forget to clean yourself up after a fight like that?" He must've caught the expression on my face, as he immediately turns his eyes to the ground. "Ah, right. My apologies. Your sword has also been cleaned; I'll send it up with Krysta and your clothes." With that, he walks through the doorway, closing the door behind him.
To Ylisstol, huh? Wonder if I'll run into Chrom and the Shepherds. Then again, they may already be heading to Regna Ferox, so probably not. I shrug and plop down on my bed, staring up at the ceiling as last night's dream starts to catch up with me. So, I save an innocent child and I apparently start something. Guess that's life for you; no good deed goes unpunished. Seriously though, how can a single child cause trouble? I frown slightly as I remember the butterfly. Well, its not like the voice said the kid would cause any trouble. Maybe he'll turn out to be a good person. Granted, he could turn out to be worse than Grima, but…
"Let's take this one step at a time…" I mutter to myself as I hear someone knock on the door. Besides, how could he be as bad as Grima? That's just not possible, right?
*Right, first things first. I'm sure that you all know the drill by now, but thank you all for reading this. It really brightens up your day when something you make can make someone smile, no matter what the smile's for. I'm sure you're all getting tired of hearing that and I understand, but there's a bit of bad news with that: I'm just that kind of guy. WAY too thankful sometimes, I guess.
Anyway, I apologize if this chapter might not have been up to snuff when compared to the others. I'm fighting off a bit of a cold at the moment and I'm worried it may have affected me a bit. If there was any glaring problem with this chapter, I'd really appreciate some feedback on what it was.
So, that's my little bit of a ramble. As always, thank you for reading and have a nice day.*