To A Thief - Chapter 40: MonsterA Chapter by Jobyn
What's going to happen now?
So apparently, after I had gotten back to Jeuno, completely exhausted and in tatters while dragging Gazo's heavy a*s body with me... I collapsed onto the floor.
I didn't come to until about two days later.
Okina told me that most of everyone whom was taking refuge in the palace were updated on my fight against Gazo as Claire and the others watched through the linkgem.
A bunch of people had apparently been cheering me on, treating the fight through the linkgem like it was some official boxing bout. As flattered as that made me feel, I know the main reason for that was that everybody wanted revenge.
This was, after all, an empty victory. We may have saved Jeuno from falling to the enemy's ranks, but that still wouldn't bring the countless lives that were lost back.
I felt no form of victory when I had finally come to and walked out of headquarters into the array of handshakes and hugs from friends and residents alike.
How could I?
The only reprieve in my heart was the fact that all the bodies of the many innocents who were killed during the invasion were removed from the streets and given a proper cremation sending. If I had walked out that door and seen those bodies again, I dunno how I would of reacted...
Still, I couldn't help but feel the tears well up in my eyes. Just how many of these nice folk were forced to press on without their loved ones?
As a Brigadier and supposed "Avenger," as some of the people had titled me, I felt that their deaths were in my hands. We as the Brigade, with our skill and ability, as well as our pledge to Vana'diel, should not have allowed so many innocent lives to be taken.
It was our duty to protect the people... but we had so failed them for the most part.
Nobody told me anything when they saw my tears. I knew they wouldn't, because they had felt the exact same way while I was unconscious. I guess it just happened to hit me a little harder because I was a bit too familiar with this scene.
And they all knew just as much as we did, that the Brigade would not stop until justice was absolute.
As for everybody else, they could do naught but press on, as our forefathers did during the Great Crystal War.
Kinda funny, don't you think? Before this bloodshed began, I was seen as nothing more than a monster; a freak for what I had.
Now, I'm supposed to be some kind of avenger of the people. Both me and Draven.
Two catalysts that went from Warchief Wreckers, to Avengers of Jeuno. How about that?
Lower Jeuno, later that day
Construction on the Grand Duchy of Jeuno had already begun. Any able bodied carpenter was ordered to see to the city's repairs. Everybody else was in charge of either cooking meals or helping to move the injured around the many temporary infirmaries set up around the city. With Jeuno having been made a mess, all shops and auction house activity was suspended until further notice. The only place that was still up and running en course was the Archduke's Palace.
They had their hands full contacting the other nation's consulates and investigating the bodies of Daan and Gazo, sharing information with the others. Jeuno could not withstand another attack at this point, so whatever support they could receive, be it supplies, provisions, or soldiers was absolutely mandatory. It was nice to know that their friends on the outside still cared about them... even if they were merely bound by treaty.
"Are you okay, Stiffy?" Okina turned to Stiff as she laced her fingers around his to get his attention. "You've been a little quiet, quiet..."
The two of them had decided to take a walk through the busy city, wanting to offer any help that they could but were continuously pushed aside humbly by those that were working, being told something like, "You soldiers have done your part, let us do ours."
Pulled out of his thoughts, he squeezed her hand in response and kept a firm hold on it. "I'm fine," he smiled at her. "I just wish we could do something, you know?"
They strolled along the walkway heading towards the gate to Rolanberry Fields, occasionally stopping to look off to the side at the crystal sea.
Okina just smiled helplessly, swaying their hands together and giving him a shrug. "Me too, Stiffy... but they seem very convinced that we've done more than enough, enough."
Stiff sighed and lowered his gaze once again, echoing her words. "More than enough..."
She stared at him for a moment, just watching him wallow in his own guilt for a minute before she finally pulled his chin in her direction and looked him sternly in the eyes. "Listen, mister, everyone has done what they could, okay? We all fought, some of us with our lives... I don't care what anybody says, but Jeuno never fell. Jeuno survived. You have no right to feel guilty for those that were lost, lost."
Stiff couldn't help but look at her with eyes full of surprise. He had never seen Okina so stern before. Surely her words rang clear through his head. His look of surprise slowly turned into a light smile. "Thank you, Okina," he said.
Wrapping his arms around her waist, he brought her against him and looked into those blue and green gems of hers - those eyes of hers. She looked back into his, and for a few seconds, the two remained in this way. Finally closing the gaze with a kiss, Stiff shut his eyes and melted into her soft lips.
He felt her do the same after him. Much like their first kiss in Ru'Lude Gardens on the day of the Sunbreeze Festival, under a sea of fireworks, the two kissed over the view of the crystal sea itself. It was their second kiss since that beautiful night, and he didn't plan to have each other pull away so quickly this time.
Your eyes are my sky.
Your lips are my glistening sea.
Your soft, tender skin define the golden hills under my sunset.
Your silken hair is my autumn
and my spring
and my summer.
Your voice is my life, my energy, and my Goddess.
As the two finally pulled back, slowly, once more looking into one another's eyes, Stiff smiled and caressed her soft cheek. "When did you get so tough, huh?"
Okina gave him a playful smile in return and pressed her finger against the tip of his nose, flattening it like she always did. "Well, I'm your girlfriend aren't I, aren't I?"
Eventually, as they always did, Mel and Annie had come for Okina and dragged her off for their usual quality girl time, usually led by Nanaa. Those girls were just like sisters nowadays.
So, left alone with nothing else to do, Stiff had decided to go back to H.Q. and see if anything had come up yet. Moku was still busy being important at the Archduke's Palace, what with him knowing plenty about those Descent, and Draven was still M.I.A.
"Have you guys seen Draven anywhere? I've been meaning to talk to him," Stiff poked his head into the linkshell common room.
Veronaut was speaking to Wert; the linkshell blacksmith about some new prototype metals being created out of special ore that came from the far east while continuously pointing at his axe. He simply shook his head at Stiff's question, answering with an indifferent, "No."
Bear was on his favorite stool at the mini bar beside his baby wyvern, drinking until the pain from his bandaged wounds would numb out. He had sustained some injuries while defending the palace barricade during the invasion, but nothing too grave. Raising his shot glass without turning around, he stuck out his index finger and shook it. That was a no.
"I think Moku said something about Draven hanging out in that necropolis what's under the hills," Flint, whom stood shirtless and sweaty at the far end of the common room on a workbench melding some add-ons into his custom rifle shouted over the noise.
Stiff rose a brow and squinted his eyes for a moment. "You mean, Eldieme Necropolis? 'The hell's he doing there?" He asked, not really looking for an answer and simply walking back out the way he came.
"Yeah," Flint started to add, keeping a concentrated look on his weapon as he fumbled with another piece. "I think Draven said he wanted to be left alone."
Stiff had already left.
The Eldieme Necropolis
Stiff had made his way out into Batallia Downs from Upper Jeuno and trekked along the hills until he found one of the multiples entrances into the necropolis. He knew where and how to get inside, but he never really planned to, or wanted to for that matter. Especially not after such an event had taken place.
Nonetheless, he wanted Draven out of there so that he could talk to him and just hang out for a while.
"Guh, I hate this place," Stiff felt a shiver run down his spine as little by little the dark, damp coldness of the necropolis began to pull him away from the bright warmth of the outside. It wasn't pitch black, thanks to a few conjured up flames lined up along the walls in torches, but it was still dark enough to fit the setting of a ghost story.
Every long stone staircase that he would come across only ever led down. "Sheesh... why does this place have to be so deep underground? The deceased shouldn't be buried in such dark and lonely places. They should be buried somewhere nice, like a big cozy hill overlooking the sea or their former homes..."
After another series of downward staircases, Stiff finally came to an intersection. Two hallways leading left and right stood before him. And this would be one of many intersections and pathways that led to different parts of the necropolis. After all, this place is supposed to be as big as Batallia Downs itself. However, to a skilled Brigadier, a person's trail could easily be seen as clear as gold in an emptied out mine.
Stiff looked to the many upturned pieces of stone that had long since crumbled off the halls and gathered dust only to be kicked up by he who had only recently passed through. It also helped that there was a footprint here and there.
The further in Stiff would go, the colder it became. At this point, Stiff could see his own breath in the air. He started coming up to some sarcophaguses made of stone, but no sign of Draven. Remaining hot on the trail, he continued to follow. Now there were bigger openings that the trail would lead to, some of them large square rooms with some rather chilling square pits of bones; some humanoid, some beastmen. Judging by the way they were set on the center of the room in such pits with the plaques of knights framing the walls, it was probably safe to assume that the bones in the pits once belonged to enemies of Vana'diel.
The air was freezing in these particular rooms, and quite frankly it made Stiff uncomfortable just being there... so he continued to follow the trail as quickly as he could, until he finally crossed a long hallway into a very large rectangular room. This room had a strange warmth to it, and was the brightest area of the necropolis Stiff had come across. There were many pillars lining the walls, each with similar conjured flames as the ones you'd see on a smaller scale in the other rooms of Eldieme.
On the center of the left wall was a large statue of a gear, the design on the center of it resembling towers. On the center of the right wall stood two statues of gryphons, both of them crossing great spears. Just above the entrance that Stiff had walked in from was the statue of a giant tree, its many leaves forming a great star. And at the far end of the room, opposite to where he now stood, was the large design of a sun. Everywhere else one could think of, were countless plaques etched into the stone floor, each bearing a name and date.
On the far end of the room, near the design of the sun, Stiff could see Draven.
"Draven!" He called him, hurrying over to his friend and giving a sigh. "I've been looking all over for you. Let's ditch this joint and get some fresh air!"
Draven stood on one knee with his sword set on the floor beside him. His eyes traced two particular plaques before him, one with the name 'Cadence Thorne' and the other reading 'Alven Thorne'. Upon each of their plaques laid a carnation flower.
"Draven?" Stiff repeated, looking over his shoulder at the plaques. "What are you doing here?"
"Stiff, you're late," Draven told him, picking his sword up and pushing himself on his feet.
"Eh?" Stiff blinked, scratching the side of his head. "I am?"
Draven kept his back turned to him. "The Final Rest..."
Stiff squinted his eyes, trying to grasp what Draven just said. "The... what?"
"The place where all souls; civilians and soldiers who lived and died together during the Great Crystal War regardless of nationality... come together as one," he continued.
Blinking once more as the words flew over his head, Stiff gave a helpless smile and went over to Draven, putting a hand on his shoulder and pulling it back. "Okay, I think you've hung around the dead long enough. Let's go hunt some slimes! It's been a while," he beckoned him, shortly before the edge of Draven's blade flew at him.
"What's the big idea!?" Stiff exclaimed, holding up the length of his dagger. He had parried the blow of course, but he sure as hell wasn't expecting it. "You could have just said 'No', sheesh!"
But something wasn't right. It wasn't until Stiff got a good look at Draven's eyes that he saw it. Yes, those malevolent eyes belonging to emptiness, almost blackened out entirely.
Draven kept an empty smirk on his face, holding the tip of his sword towards Stiff. "We... are monsters."
Stiff rose a brow as he lowered his dagger. "That's not funny."
"There is no such place for us in a world that abhors monsters," Draven muttered, looking down at his hand before clenching it into a fist.
"Stop saying that!" Stiff growled. "We're NOT monsters. There is too a place for us in this world! People don't see us as monsters, they see us as avengers. We are Brigadiers! Remember?"
Draven chuckled and began to pace around Stiff. "Avengers? Monsters don't seek to bring vengeance to the world... only revenge. Catalysts like us, we have such history, you and I," he said, pointing at Stiff. "We are who we are because of our pasts."
"That's enough Draven," Stiff grunted. "I've heard enough. We are more hume than you could possibly imagine. Monsters give in to the darkness. Humes never give in. The emptiness... is just clouding your hume judgement. Don't let it take over!"
"Hmph," Draven smirked, turning away. "I have full control over the emptiness, Stiff. It does not own me, I own it. Utilize the power of the darkness, and join me! Join me, and together we can forget about this world, Stiff! We can leave everything behind. All our sorrow, our pain, our suffering, and live in a world made just for monsters like us!"
"Listen to yourself!" Stiff yelled at him, growing frustrated. "Don't you see who you sound like!?"
"Then, what have you!?" Draven swung his arm into the air angrily, causing some of the flames along the pillars to sway in a fierce manner. "Would you rather remain in such a war torn world, barren of hope? Of family? Of love!? It is impossible because a monster can have neither! There is nothing left in this world but to fight for a petty future! In the end, the scars will always remain."
"Alright, that's it. You are coming back to H.Q. with me right now," Stiff muttered. Every word Draven spoke stung like poison.
Paying no heed, Draven continued his rambling. "You would prefer a world where you fight for a stupid, meaningless dream then? You can't live for everyone when you yourself aren't fit for living, Stiff!"
"Hey, shut it!" Stiff retorted, starting to get offended by the personal attacks.
"What is a world without your precious Sister Eri, huh!? Without a mother and father!? How about knowing that you ruined an innocent girl's life!?" Draven just went on.
"That's enough, Draven!!" Stiff shouted, going over to him, the words piercing at his chest.
"You know it, don't you! You know it as well as I do, Stiff! Sister Eri's death, your family, the experiments on Okina, it all happened because of YOU! All because you were born to be a CATALYST!"
Stiff grabbed Draven by the collar of his shirt and slammed him against one of the pillars, punching him square on the face while screaming, "WHAT THE HELL'S THE MATTER WITH YOU, DRAVEN!?" He trembled and tensed up for a few seconds, growling in a convulsive manner as his eyes began to show the signs of the emptiness. But he was reluctant and fought it back just like before. After the pain subsided, he reconnected his glare at Draven through bloodshot eyes. He released the grip on his supposed friend's collar and stepped away, catching his breath while keeping his head lowered and hiding his eyes.
Draven stood frozen with his face looking off to the side, eyes showing a bit of surprise either from the punch or having at least come to a few of his senses. He slowly turned to Stiff and began to back away, breathing a little heavily. His face had grown sweaty by now. Finally turning, he ran down the opposite end of the room and held out his sword. Upon doing so, he charged an extremely familiar attack up around his blade and didn't stop. It was a darker-colored version of what Stiff had come to call, the Pulse Attack. His was of a black and dark purple hue, as opposed to Stiff's white and red one.
Running up along the wall with the use of Flee, Draven blew a large hole with his Pulse Attack into the ceiling of the room that led straight out into the open hills of Batallia. He jumped out and simply disappeared.
Stiff remained standing there in the large room, alone. "Draven," he muttered silently. "You... you idiot."
Continued in Chapter 41: Welcome to the Jungle
© 2011 Jobyn
Added on December 2, 2011
Last Updated on December 3, 2011
Tags: adventure drama comedy brotherly
To A Thief
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