Leaning against the bathroom mirror, I stared down at my left hand as I copied the ID number from it. 254-181-056-492-3. Scrawling it onto the outside of the manilla folder, I wrote a name next to it as I did so: the life of Carl Gordon summed up in digits. I didn't know him, I didn't have enough time to find out much about him beyond a number and a name, but sometimes in this line of work - you're asked to do a lot with only very little. This was no exception. Placing the file against the surface of the vanity, I scrubbed my hands clean of the blue ink.
With each rub, I could feel the ink absorbed from the surface of my skin, but a trace of it never left - faint blue squiggles etched into myself, like an irremovable tattoo. It was a reminder: regardless of whether it was my case or not, Carl Gordon's life was in my hands. I had to create a good life for two people - one who had been made to dangle within Dalton's claws, and the other who had been left derelict in a pile across the floor. Staring into the mirror, as I splashed my face with water, I stood there for a moment - staring at myself. I didn't want to help Esmeralda, but at the same time - I couldn't forget the fact that I was helping others as well.
The internal conflict persisted in my mind as I stared at myself in the mirror. Rinsing my face once again with water, I tried to cleanse myself of my perpetual fatigue. My emerald eyes weren't as bloodshot as before - but even still, the bags beneath them remained, hanging against my eyelids like a pair of shackles. I felt as if they trying to cuff my eyes closed, forcing me to surrender myself to slumber. I resisted its call.
As I washed my face once more, ridding myself of the salty sweat that hung across my brow, I smiled at myself in the mirror. Wiping away the water with a piece of coarse hand towel, I glanced at the woman I'd become. This place was one where endurance was not measured in the limits of the body, but the limits of the soul - and though I may have been wearied, it would take more than Esmeralda to douse the fire of my spirit.
I grabbed the folder as I left the bathroom, headed over toward the elevator as I went to ascend the floors. So far, I had two cases - both which I would try to finish in tandem.
The first was the "Carl Gordon" case - one which I had little in the way of information on. Most of my research would have to come from whatever I could gather inside the Inspeculator, and beyond having a name, the rest of his identity was a mystery to me. The second case, however, gave me much more to work with. From the manilla folder, my second case was that of "Fyette Dorsorvin" - a young goblin girl with a green thumb, who'd had little opportunity in her short life to follow her passion. Beyond enjoying gardening, Fyette was a passive girl averse to violence - living amid a rather violent community.
It made me recall memories of some of the younger goblin children I'd met on the road as an adventurer. There were many different kinds of tribes, all with vastly different lives and cultures, all vastly different people. Back in that life, the guild leadership saw little difference between them. They were indiscriminate. Goblins were goblins to them, all tarred with the same brush. The actions of one, however small, could lead to the massacre of many. As I read the end of the report, the account of her death seemed to mirror that.
"Cause of Death: Stabbed by Adventurer"
Safe to say, I wasn't surprised. That was, after all, the cause of death that befell most goblins I'd ever had the chance to run into: whatever world she was from, it was likely quite similar to my own. Stepping into the elevator and shuffling between the elevator's occupants, I squeezed myself into the corner of the lift, as I pressed the button for Floor 44: standing aimlessly as the claustrophobic coffin began its slow ascent.
I held the file by my side, as I longingly gazed at the light of the elevator ceiling. I thought back to the warmth of the sunlight. I missed it, so dearly. In my mind, I could see my own son, racing beneath the radiant orange glow with a smile - telling me that someday he was going to be a strong adventurer like I was. Fyette's story, of a girl with a dream at odds with her world, reminded me of the life I'd once lived.
It was torturous and turbulent, trying to do better than the lot that you'd been given. Rejecting destiny was a painstaking and unending process in the life I'd came from, as I imagine it is in most lives, where the world seems bent on tearing you down for daring to dream of more. When I'd tried to escape from the adventuring world in my old life, I felt shackled to it - that violent world wasn't simply a career, it was something that was chained to my very identity. The blood of that world had stained my soul.
I might never, truly, be able to escape that. However, I could still help someone else to escape the clutches of their past - to live a good future away from it all. Whatever it took, helping others was enough of a consolation - that knowledge helped me too.
As the lift shuddered to a halt, the lifeless people began to slowly drift out of the elevator at the ring of the high-pitched bell. Staring out at the Inspeculator machines once more, I smiled a little. Regardless of Esmeralda, there were people who needed my help, stories that still needed to be heard. Even though I felt uneasy about the road that lay ahead, I reminded myself of that.
I was here to help people - and that was exactly what I would do.