- Shari -
After scolding Liqu excessively for an absolute break of my privacy, a topic she was more understanding than ever before about, I think my mind has settled a bit.
Having someone to shout at is apparently some kind of therapy.
- It isn't all bad.
While I feel still like myself, without having any of the unsettling thoughts I would expect to find in Liqu's mind, and surely have found, she on the other side shows for maybe the first time ever an understanding about what I'm exactly angry about.
And that is uncommon.
Maybe she really got an idea about me and now tries to act in accordance with it.
In the end, it can just be helpful if like this she develops a bit of common sense.
"That this is clear, the others are not at fault and have to be treated like this! You're not going to dissolve any of them! " (Shari)
"Mhm, but they didn't help and I don't like what Elin did. Yet you gave her your word. I understand!" (Liqu)
I will take this as a benefit.
But now the unpleasant part has to commence.
I have to go back and face the others.
- This won't be nice.
Hesitantly I walk back to our big mining opening.
I find Jacob with a sullen look and Myra weeping over the corpse.
Seeing the rest I left again from the distance it truly doesn't look good.
I am not even sure if it's possible to transport what is left without issues.
And any attempt to identify him by his face will be truly an impossible act.
All but Myra notice me the moment I come back.
After all, it seems that the two had a deep relation.
And I have ended it.
Maybe it is wrong to give Chris a higher standing than those who were killed before, but I believe that albeit one might question his moralities regarding non-human creatures he was at least more decent than these thugs were.
If nothing else, that he had to die like this is something I am sorry for.
While Elin is okay like it seems, the others might turn hostile any second.
But for sure I will have to deal with some harsh words.
And this while I'm still this troubled.
Nonetheless, something has to happen about that and when they won't start I have to.
"H-hey guys." (Shari)
- I've never said it would be a good start.
Well, there is no way I could expect a better mood.
"I-I know this is all messed up and that there is probably no way to fix this. We are still not hostile or something like this. That I want you to know." (Shari)
"Just to confirm: We all agree here that this was simple self-defense, right?" (Elin)
- Seriously? You're going to brush over your involvement in this incident just like this?
"Maybe. But someone died." (Jacob)
"So I would suggest we bury him properly and back in town blame the goblins. We can tell some heroic story how he solely slew most of them while protecting us before one got him from behind." (Elin)
"Don't speak about him like this! As if you would know anything!" (Myra)
"What I do know, is that this guy was rather keen on killing a person who didn't harm anyone who didn't deserve it. And I'm not speaking about our green calamity here. Even you got in the crossfire. The vigor he showed against our blue friend was more than confirming. Or am I the only one who has seen that Shari aimed only for his wrist when there had been much better zones to target? There are limits to sparing people!" (Elin)
This undertone was surely a hint regarding Cid.
I would right now love to do something about that complacent attitude she handles this discussion with.
As if I'd forgotten about her!
Yet I need to say that she makes a good advocate.
Even for mostly ulterior motives, since we will have to be able to get back into the town if we shall kill Cid.
Wasn't there something about I don't want to become an assassin?
"I just... just want you to know that I didn't want this. I am deeply sorry." (Shari)
Small droplets come out of my eyes.
It's still too fresh.
"Please, leave me alone. I need some time." (Myra)
This is hard.
No matter how justified I was, this doesn't matter if you are a loved one of the killed person.
I cannot expect her to say: "Oh yes, it's fine how you killed him!"
And that Liqu is holding my hand doesn't help me with my difficult mood.
But the least I can do now is to grant Myra some private moments.
This leads to all the rest of us gathering in front of the room.
Since I have to speak with Jacob this is helpful.
He initiates the talk.
"Shit. What a mess!" (Jacob)
"I can actually understand if you never want to see us again." (Shari)
"It's... difficult. This brings some unpleasant memories back." (Jacob)
Might be about his old team.
- But hell will I do and address this topic!
"Oh, your old friends were also dissolved by a slime?" (Liqu)
Without hesitation, I swing my arm through Liqu's head, which kind of splatters.
- This stupid, stupid, stupid slime!
- And if nothing else, for me it is too soon yet.
"I am desperately sorry for my company." (Shari)
"Pft! I can understand. What I've learned about Liqu until now is that she has a far way to go. But I believe it's good that she is with you. If not for this she might right now destroy a town on her own." (Jacob)
Sadly this isn't too farfetched.
"I know this might sound impudent, but if you are done with the pointless stuff, can we talk then about what we will do now? I still want to fulfill this order." (Elin)
"Tsk. As things are we have now the maximum of what we can transport. As soon Myra calms down we should bring... Chris out and bury him. Then we will just take the voidstone with us back to town. The problem is, without Chris' strength this might become much more difficult. Myra might be stronger than she looks and I can hold a burden, but he was planned to carry the main load." (Jacob)
"You have seen that we cannot stay too long close to this stuff." (Shari)
"I know. So all I can come up with is leaving that what is too much here." (Jacob)
"We also have Elin." (Shari)
"Just so you know, brute force is not my proficiency!" (Elin)
"We are talking about almost more than a day of traveling with the extra load. Even if we leave everything that isn't absolutely necessary here, something I wouldn’t want to do, we have an extra thirty kilos in stones. I doubt the three of us who are able to carry this stuff could each take a third of this and haul it all the way back to town. And this doesn't include Chris' stuff." (Jacob)
It is a problem in the way that they now have to transport Chris’ equipment as well which has despite the emotional value the point that this is purely their wealth we talk about.
I can't really tell them they shall leave their money behind.
"If we take some of the supplies it might be possible to distribute some of the load on Liqu and me. We aren’t that weak." (Shari)
"Maybe we could try to go for the thirty kilos then, but that will strain our limits! And this while I don't know how Myra will fare in her state." (Jacob)
"I will leave her to you. I think she wouldn't want to see any of us others." (Shari)
"Understood. If it just hadn't happened." (Jacob)
After a while, Myra seems finished.
In every sense of the word.
Jacob helps her to drag Chris back out and they dig a grave at a nicely shined place.
By the way, the sun has a slightly soothing effect.
Good thing it was now daytime right now.
The funeral is quiet and only Liqu and Elin don't seem to be affected.
I am through and cry a little at the scene which I watch from the distance, but soon we are all ready to operate again.
The voidstone is distributed fifteen kilos to Jacob and five to Myra and ten to Elin, while Myra is mostly taking Chris’ old stuff with her and rather cumbersome his bag as well.
It wouldn’t make sense to make me and Liqu carry the stones and like this more than necessary burn our resources.
Not even considering the impossibility to ever get Liqu again close to these stones.
In a rather downed mood, we head back to town.
The journey back to town proceeds rather undisturbed.
The reason might be for once that most monsters have a sense of territory and we already exterminated half of them on our way here.
Like this, until new ones are starting to inhabit the now vacant space it should be rather safe around in these parts.
For the other, we carry this huge amount of voidstone with us.
Even packed away I can feel an unpleasant drain from these stones.
Not so much that it would really matter, but enough to feel bad.
This stuff is like the opposite of the promise of a successful hunt.
If any other monster notices that it should refrain from getting too close.
That this is something like a monster instinct of mine is... distressing at best, but I can endure so that overcoming this makes me feel a little bit more human.
- Something I really need now!
Yet apart from not having to fight that much the general mood is clearly down.
I'm a little anxious if the transition through the gate will be without problems.
After all, I've killed Myra's friend.
So it might be that she is just playing an act to get us at the most difficult moment.
However, I don't judge her to be this cunning.
On the other side, her demeanor is very dark and she didn't speak one word the whole time we traveled.
Everyone is walking at a fast pace.
Probably to bring this unpleasant venture behind us and split apart fast.
I am not sure how much these two condemn me but having to rely on a person who killed someone of your party can't be pleasant, no matter what excuses that one has.
And then there is Elin.
I truly had to promise her to assassinate Cid.
I don't like him and the fact that he sent these thugs after us shows he neither.
More accurately would be that he already is our enemy.
And something tells me that bringing the guard into this won't really help that much.
At least it could be difficult to go through a trial while staying the whole time covered.
But becoming a killer?
I am certainly not a person of exceptional morality, yet here I have literally bargained with lives.
And the one I've got in exchange was Liqu's!
- Damn, what is just wrong with me?
Even if she is the one doing the deed that is no way of stealing oneself out of responsibility.
After all, it was requested that Liqu shall be the one killing.
Yet as it goes for me we both are in this.
Although it might be right if Liqu does it, as like this we wouldn't have to deal with a corpse when she's done.
- Brrr, since when do I think this dark?
However, I want to delay any talks about killing people until Myra isn't there anymore to hear them.
I would feel even more terrible than I already do.
Killing Chris is until now that what weighs the most on me.
While he was a delusional monster killer, he was just that.
He killed monsters for a living.
Until now this wasn't a bad thing to do.
He kept people safe and was like this much better than any bandit.
On the other side, I am a monster.
It is hard to accept this, but I have just dissolved a human.
So there is not much ground to argue against this.
Saying I would be something else would just mean deluding myself.
Admitting this feels terrible for me.
In fact, I've exchanged two lives for Liqu.
He would have let me escape.
No idea how I would have proceeded after this, but he was at least an honest person.
Well, aside from the moment when he utterly betrayed us.
But if you think about it, Liqu is a genuine monster.
She might have killed countless humans.
Scared of her answer, I never asked if she had killed innocent people.
Those who didn't attack her first.
Even if not, this is just an excuse.
Objectively seen Chris as a monster hunter was in the right to fight against such a dangerous being as Liqu.
Liqu has done so much wrong one might say she's irredeemable.
But then why did I protect her?
The thought to be alone was terrifying.
Having no one by my side, if not for my parents who I don't want to drag down with me, this was a perspective I did not want.
And also I didn't want Liqu to die.
I am convinced that all the bad she did was simply because she never had someone to teach her right or wrong.
So it appeared wrong to me that she would die when she just started to make some progress.
But again, just excuses.
The true reason is...
- I like her!
Acknowledging this might be the hardest part there is.
Despite all she has done to me, when I know this slime is around me I feel more secure.
An invincible force that backs me up no matter what.
Much more, she is always there to help and would do anything for me.
And then there is that she only shows me genuine affection.
It is hard to hate someone who cares so much about you.
So if I count it all together, I need to admit that I like having her around.
But I don't know yet how deep these feelings on my side are.
Though, apparently deep enough to kill.
However, she would too.
That I'm sure about.
Like this, I spend the way back to Ekora, musing about this crazy stuff.
However, as we departed midday and with the additional load it starts to get dark before we can make the whole way.
Since at night the gates are closed anyway and those of us who have no night vision might get attacked by monsters, we set up our camp.
So tomorrow will be the fifth day, as we started our journey on the first, arrived on the second, where we after the extermination immediately started the work.
And on the fourth, the incident happened and we departed.
Naturally, Myra and Jacob stay quite far apart from us and I totally can understand them.
Elin on the other side doesn’t seem to have any problems with staying close to us.
Rather weird if you consider that she is on Liqu’s bad side.
But she seems confident that she won’t get suddenly attacked.
Ridden by guilt I go despite their reservation to the two remaining adventurers to apologize.
“Ummh, I-I just wanted to say how sorry I am.” (Shari)
“I can understand how you acted. To be true, now that it's over I blame myself how I could have acted better. I could have shot his leg to stop him, but I was just paralyzed when it happened.” (Jacob)
“Nonetheless, We’ve caused it! And for that, I need to apologize.” (Shari)
“As their group leader it was my responsibility and like that my fault. And to make it worse it opened old wounds.” (Jacob)
“Your old team, right?” (Shari)
"I can tell you. Anyway, half of the town knows already. Orcs were responsible. When the mine was going to get abandoned, all the equipment had to be fetched from there. My team had the job to escort the people who transported the stuff since the way already got quite dangerous. The path started at that time already slowly to get more dangerous but we thought that we could cope with anything that lurks on the way. Well, that didn't count for a complete warband of orcs. From our five members only two made it out. After that Relia couldn’t just proceed like nothing happened together with me and left for good. Seems this mine means bad luck for me." (Jacob)
- Great. I've traumatized him again!
“I, I understand why you’ve done it. But please, can you leave? I just can't stand your presence right now.” (Myra)
Before it gets worse I leave.
I am truly in no position to berate her for this as ultimately Chris was her friend.
- And I’ve killed him.
After that, I go back to our side.
There is one thing I have to attend now.
And this regards a certain assassination assignment.
I tend to Elin.
"I guess you know how angry I am and how much I'd love to properly rant at you. Yet I'm also sure you couldn't care less and nothing I say will outweigh the feeling of fulfillment that you've got us to do it. Am I right?" (Shari)
"Can't deny it." (Elin)
“I just want to ask, is there really no way around this regarding Cid? Any other way?“ (Shari)
“Do you have any idea who we are up here against?” (Elin)
“Does this mean no?” (Shari)
“This means that Cid is backed up by nobles who hold all the power! The guard isn’t on our side here! At best they go for us if we would try to expose his deeds! Even more, nearly every business in town is dependent on his deliveries, as there are no other suppliers for adventurer goods! So in addition there is no way that the city uppers would risk this kind of economic chaos! There is simply no way to get him done in any other way than completely eradicating this pest!” (Elin)
Unfortunately, she does make sense.
“Urgh, I don’t like killing. And then you say we will also anger nobles? Great!” (Shari)
“Would it maybe help to tell you that even without my involvement you had no choice? If you don’t know it, Cid put a bounty on you two!” (Elin)
“A bounty!? Why?” (Shari)
“Well, you must have done something to make him angry and if you forgot, you killed his men. As far it concerns him you are already at war. And he is not really the kind of person who holds no grudge .” (Elin)
- Damnit! So to all my troubles, I can now add a price on my head!
- Just wonderful. Not!
“Don’t worry, Shari! I will take care of this for you! You don't have to do anything!” (Liqu)
Seems there is no way around this.
“Sorry Liqu, but we are both in this. I am as much involved as you are, so we do this together.” (Shari)
This was a rather critical strike on Liqu who now blankly stares at me.
“Seems we have no choice. Elin, take all the provisions you want for yourself out now, the rest Liqu and I will consume now!” (Shari)
Otherwise, it will become quite difficult to leave the residue elsewhere behind and in addition, this will lighten the weight we carry.
“Everything? I really don’t like this bread stuff! It has almost no sustaining value.” (Liqu)
“Everything! And I know myself how much it brings, so don’t try to fool me!” (Shari)
Like this, we share the rest of our provisions.
Considerately Liqu gave me the remaining woodpiercers since she knows how much I’m troubled by dissolving bigger things.
Or simply greater amounts.
At least she knows now after her privacy intrusion in my mind.
I let the flesh get cut by Elin and take it with me behind a tree.
The smaller pieces I can simply throw into my mouth and mimic eating while those who are still too big for that I dissolve in a ball I form between my arms.
While doing this I come again back to my full capacity.
I feel how my mass does increase and I gain more control over my movements.
After all, I must have been quite drained.
Like always, I have mixed feelings about dissolving.
If now someone would suddenly come and surprise me I couldn’t be held responsible for what I’d do.
What is noteworthy would be that if I’m right the mass I control now is exceeding my former limit.
Not by much, only a neglectable amount, but the change itself strikes me.
It isn’t too strange, since as far I know Liqu controls around ten times my mass, which becomes especially apparent when she grows to full size.
At these times she becomes a real calamity.
And with this newest change, I came one step closer in this direction.
- Urgh, unpleasant!
I decide to deliberately blend those thoughts out and start to rest.
To my dismay, it is far too short.
- We all know that my standby mode doesn’t cover the night.
When all of us are awake we hurry to take our stuff and get going.
Since it wasn’t this much distance left we soon arrive at our destination.
And finally the gates of Ekoras rise in front of me again.