Chapter 35.5: She Who Was So Loved
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Rinn tossed and turned in her sleep. Recently, she had not been sleeping as well. She was visited by dreams that continuously told her a different tale. The stories in her head were not that of her own but someone else. It was odd… it gave her the feeling of living yet another completely separate life. Though she knew not who this girl was, she knew the young girl she was dreaming of seemed familiar.

Where was this? This setting must have been long before the time that she knew….

“Aias! Aias!! Mama said not to venture past the ravine. There’s witches there that will eat you up.” This young, red haired girl ran up to the other child before him.  

“There’s no such thing as Witches. You know this. Besides.. It’s not as if you’re scared anyways. You’ve never been scared.”

“Jeez. You’re such a bothersome brother, you know that?”

The young white haired boy, simply sat on the boulder that faced the river. His feet swung lightly within the river, caressing the tiny minnows that swam within. “And you’re always so annoying. All of you.” His soft-spoken voice made it seem impossible for it to be taken coldly.

A stone flew and hit the child in the back of the head. He angrily turned around, rubbing his white hair. “Calm down! I was just joking.” 

“And I wasn’t throwing it that hard. Anyways.. Its time we head back. Mom’s making us dinner. Let’s hurry before it gets cold, yea?”

Aias nodded and stood up. The thick dense forests that surrounded them were like that of a web. Constant vines tangled each route, and the very ground was cluttered by roots. The walk was quite silent the whole walk.

“Are you okay, Aias? What is it that's got your mind so tied?” 

Aias quickly snapped out of his thoughts. “Ehm...nothing actually.”

This was not convincing at all. “You know, sis….”

“I was just thinking your forehead’s getting pretty big.”

“Y-” The redhaired  girl’s cheeks puffed up in annoyance. She attempted to slap Aias, but only for him to quickly duck and run away laughing. All of her attempts to hit him kept failing. The kid was extremely agile and fast. Unlike the clumsy girl.

They ran most of the way back home as fast as they could. There was still a good 20 minutes of time left before they would make it back. That’s when Aias stopped altogether. His eyes teared up as his sister caught up to him.

“Heh. This time for sure, I’ve got y-”

“Huh? What's wrong Aias?”

He wiped his tears with his sleeve. “N-nothing… nothings wrong at all.” When he removed his hands… more tears kept streaming from his eyes. And eventually he dropped to his knees. “Why… this isn’t even that big of a deal… how annoying.”

The young girl walked up to him and placed a hand on his head. “C’mon Aias. Somethings definitely bothering you. You’re always crying like this.”

“You’re right… I don’t know how you do it sis…. You’re always so composed. You’ve never cried… and you always know what to do.”

“That’s right.” She proudly beamed. “So that’s why you should trust your big sis, when she says let’s go.”

“That’s why… I’m sure if it was you, the result would have been different.”

“Hmm? What ya mean, snowpeak?”

“Earlier… in the forests, I saw an eagle swoop in to eat this baby rabbit. It was still a newborn and could barely fight back… and so.. I thought I should stop it. I threw a rock at the eagle and free’d the rabbit from its talons. But it was too late… the talons had already sunken in and killed the poor rabbit.”

“Mhm… you know, its not your fault right? You tried to save it. At the end of the day, we can only do what we can.”

“...then a couple meters later, I found the same bird I had struck. I had struck its head with the stone and it eventually also died. In truth, my actions saved nothing. They only unnecessarily killed.”

She thought about the best words to say for a moment. “That is true… you managed to kill something pointlessly. But your intentions are good. At the end of the day, at least they’re both at peace now.”

“At peace?”

“Mhm. They won’t have to fight any longer.”

“Lucia… will dad ever be at peace too?”

“I think the wars will eventually stop. Yes. And if not, the dragons will eventually do exactly what you did and stop everything. Except, they’ll definitely do a better job haha.”

She crouched next to Aias. “Now come on… stop crying already, and lets head home.”

“You’re right. A man shouldn’t be crying.” He stood up and composed himself. The rest of the walk, he remained absolutely silent and walked ahead of Lucia. He remained facing forward, never looking back as tears silently trailed down his face.

At the top of this hill, in a very nice clearing, was where her mother lived. They lived separate from the town nearby. Their mother had a strange aversion to high crowds, and places with too many people. So, they remained just outside of the town, overlooking everything there. It made things a lot more complicated when it comes to retrieving things from the market, but as she had always said, hard work, creates strong people.

“Mama, we’re home!!” 

“Oh. Welcome back.” She clasped her hands “Just in time for dinner. Did you guys make any new friends on the way there?”

“Aias made friends with an eagle.”

“Oh? Maybe when you’re ready, you should invite him for dinner.” 

They both laughed. Aias on the other hand simply pouted. “You guys… are all annoying.”

This was the family they grew up to. The mother was a kind and very caring mother. Lucia… Rinn wasn’t certain who that was, but she was beginning to get a very clear picture of the era and time.

The love of their mother was almost eternal. She was perfect in about every way that Lucia could see her. This was evident in the lens that she constantly viewed her by. Yet, with every interaction, there was something unsettling deep within her. 

“Psst.. Lucia..”

Lucia woke up and yawned. “What are you doing waking me up in the middle of the night Aias..?” In a classic reversal technique, she took the opportunity to say it. “You’re annoying.”

“Do you know that time a couple months back… about the eagle.”

“Hm? Yes yes. The one with the rabbit. What of it?”

“I’ve recently been feeling… scared. That bird… it wasn’t a type of eagle I’ve seen before. The red eagle… doesn’t live in these forests.”

Aias had spent many of his days out in the forests, exploring, and observing the wildlife there. He also spent most of his time reading in the wild. He was a very strange child. Perhaps it was a mannerism he picked up from his mother’s seclusionary ways.

“The red eagle… they’re from the beastmen tribe far south of the forests.”

“So one got migrated this far. It’s bound to happen.”

“No… I’ve seen many recently. They’re fleeing something..”

Though she could have never taken those words seriously during that moment, a year later, they would come to know the full extent of all the terrors that plague this world. In the form of flames, in the form of steel and blood, death came for everyone in Ilreien. 

Their allies, the beastmen to the south had fallen. And with that, their advancement continued onto their country. Aias was the first to feel the disturbance within the forests, but could not get the words fast enough. His feet ran and ran, until he was out of breath. By the time he came to warn Lucia and his mother from the forests, he could see smoke fleeing the town.

The sounds of screams filled his head. The clanging of swords and the sound of a thousand cicadas made a melody one could never forget. As reached the doors of his building, he could hear the scuffles already within it. The sound of flames burning the wooden frame of the building was enough to make him freeze up.

Lucia burst through the door as the flames went on. She could still hear her mothers screams and the screams of several other men within the building. She grabbed Aias by the hand and immediately dragged him away. “We only have a little bit of time to get out of here. Let’s go.”

“But… what are you saying?”

“She’ll only be able to hold them off for so long. But don’t worry. We can escape and eventually regroup with some beastmen survivors. There’s nothing to be afraid of.”

“But… w..-...we can’t just leave mother behind!”

Lucia slapped the child, hard enough to send him flying. Tears continued to pour from his eyes. He got up and pushed past her, running towards the doorway. It was blocked. It wouldn’t budge an instant. “Mom!!! Hurry  WE CAN STILL GET OUT OF HERE!! HEY… CAN YOU HEAR ME!! LUCIA HELP ME PUSH THE DOOR OPEN.”

Lucia simply looked disappointedly at her younger brother. “WHAT ARE YOU DOING, HURRY. THE FLAMES ARE GETTING STRONGER.”

They could hear continuous screams, and coughing from the men inside. “Aias...please…. Just go. I can hold them off.”

“NO… I WON’T LEAVE YOU!!! I CAN’T. I WON’T. I WON’T. I WON’T!!” He continued banging against the door. “Lucia…. Take Aias and run… I can at least do this. The rest of them will be coming soon…”

Aias’ teary eyed assault proved to be useless. He hit the door with everything he had, yet to no avail. When his hands became bloodied and too damaged to do anything, he used his head. He clawed at the doorway as if that would do something. Until eventually, it fell silent inside the room. 

Lucia sighed internally. “And grabbed Aias from the back of his shirt.” 

“Hurry, Lucia!! We can still save her. You have t-”

“She’s dead.” she said coldly. 

“No!! You don’t know that for sure! There’s a healer in the town. There’s medicine. If we act soon enough we can save her and we-”

“She’s dead.”

She kept dragging the defeated Aias by his collar. Luckily, to escape into the forests, they only had to go downhill. It was not too much effort on her part. 

“No… I refuse to believe that… she’s not dead… this is a cruel joke..”

Lucia shook her head. “She died protecting us and making sure we would escape unpursued.”

“Then why….” 

“Why are you acting so calm about it!!”

“You… you just watched our mom die… and you can only be so nonchalant… as if it was just another day. Come on, Lucia!... that’s … that’s too unfair.”

“It’s not unfair. I’d rather not be an emotional wreck like you.”

“No… she loved you… and you don’t care. That’s… that’s just… too cruel.”

Lucia stopped and threw the young Aias down the hill. He was beginning to get too heavy. The child that looked back at her just then… was a face that she could never understand. From his bloody hands, to the gash on his forehead, staining his white hair red, he looked as if he was an enraged beast.

Yet, the look in his eyes was different. There was one way to describe it. He felt sorry for her.

“Lucia… I’ve always wanted to be like you. You… you were always so calm. You knew what to do every time.. You always helped and almost virtually everyone in the village loves you. Because you could be brave at any moment, and kind in others. Everyone….everyone really looked up to you.”

Lucia continued walking. “Especially mother. She saw you as the best thing that had ever happened to her. She told me constantly. She’d often praise you in front of me. She’d go days without eating some times to ensure that you and I could eat… she’d even block the door and allow herself to burn inside the building… to keep you safe.”

“Aias. We don’t have ti-”

“But… you really are terrible.” 

“To be emotionally unwavering…. I understand… but you… you’re too much. You don’t feel at all!!”

“I can’t believe I ever wished to be like you!!”

“I can’t believe I ever wished to be like someone that- that.. Could not even return the love of her mother!”

Lucia calmly went to her brothers side, knelt down, and gave him a hug, patting him on the head like his mother would often do whenever he cried. This just broke him even more. He could only sob into her shoulder.

“You always… act in a way like everything is alright… like you know what to do in every scenario… I hate you.” he continued sobbing. 

“Aias… let’s go. If we don’t leave now, her sacrifice will be for nothing.”

Rinn’s eyes shot open and she panted heavily. Yet again, another dream kept spinning tales in her head. Her eyes looked over at the young Lusha that slept on the floor before her. On the opposite side of her, was the nocturn behemoth, with his piercing green eyes glaring back at her. 

She quickly went back under the covers and pretended to fall back asleep.

 

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Pssst... yes, the spelling of Lucia is intentional.
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