Chapter 21 – Theirs But To Do And Die
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It was a couple hours until morning, so not many people were left wandering the streets of the slums.

Daylight brought with it a profound feeling of reflection that everyone would rather avoid. After all, darkness was to hide secrets, while daylight was to unmask the ugly truths.

Nobody in the slums wanted to be seen for who they truly were… even me.

I avoided even the night by lurking in shadows, so I was the most reluctant to be truthfully seen. We all hide behind faces in the end, and mine was just a bit darker than everyone else's.

I felt uglier than ever before as I walked the semi-busy streets of The Red Light Area. My battered body had stopped aching, and my leg no longer bled as intensely as previously.

This was not due to my injuries suddenly healing… No, it was because the pain in my heart outweighed what my senses could perceive from my body.

Luckily, my swollen face did not attract much attention because similar injuries filled the streets every time people fought for food.

Survival was never a pretty ordeal, it chipped away at your humanity the longer you stayed alive.

I limped along the shadows of the streets with a listless look in my eyes. I kept squeezing my hands repetitively to determine the feeling that now plagued them.

Was it guilt, relief, happiness, sadness, or something else? Did my hands feel the weight of the person I killed or were they just as light as any other day?

I could not tell what changed within me, but I knew something did.

I knew what it was… it was the question that all transgressors asked before being pulled into the depths of Hell.

'How far was too far?' I thought 'How much was too much to sacrifice for survival? Your mind, your heart, or maybe even your soul?'

If you were not able to tell, then you already have your answer – It's already too far!

The memory of Kim's death replayed in my mind a hundred times, then a thousand times. The worst part about being a genius, I rarely forgot anything.

Every moan that echoed from the nearby Prostitutes' rooms did not sound like pleasure to my ears, instead, I heard the cracking of Kim's neck.

*Crack*

*Crack*

*Crack*

Over and over again.

Karl killed Slim, and Slim, in a way, killed Karl so their deaths did not weigh on my mind, but Kim's did.

I killed her, and now I was extremely fearful of what I had done. I felt strangely used to the feeling of killing someone, but also new to the experience.

Every fiber of my being wanted to scream, cry, and then throw myself off a bridge, but every fiber of my being also cared nothing for the life lost.

'How could I look Aurora in the eyes after this?' I thought painfully.

I was somehow stuck between the feeling of not wanting to lose anyone, but also not having anyone else to lose.

The contradictory feelings were so convoluted that they almost canceled each other out.

Almost, but not exactly… the guilt of tonight's events still ate away at my sanity.

The guilt was not born from my actions but from the state of knowing what I should feel but not being able to feel it.

It was like knowing you should cry at your parent's funeral but not being able to, and that just made everything worse.

So much so that my stomach churned and my mind blurred just from the intensity of my own emotions.

'Focus! I need to focus!' I yelled inside my mind.

Then, like a single ray of sunlight in the midst of a storm, a passage from a poem untangled inside my mind and my mouth voiced the words unconsciously.

"Forward, the Light Brigade!"

Was there a man dismayed?

Not though the soldier knew

  Someone had blundered.

  Theirs not to make reply,

  Theirs not to reason why,

  Theirs but to do and die."

The ease with which the words of the strange poem rolled off my tongue made me calm once more.

The words resonated with me at the deepest levels, and I felt like I had whispered this poem enough times that it held more than just words to me.

However, as quickly as it came, the poem also retreated into the depths of my mind once more.

Regaining my wits, I dipped into a building and swiftly exited on the street behind. A couple more twists and turns and I was climbing the stairs of an abandoned factory workshop slum-dwellers rarely frequented.

I didn't even make it all the way up the stairs before I was tackled by a small, sickly, skinny girl. Luckily, she wasn't that heavy and I managed to support both our body weights even in my injured state.

"I told you it's dangerous to do that," I said, raising my voice slightly.

This seemed to startle the girl as she jumped back and stared at me vigilantly. There was clear guilt and fear in her eyes.

The unpleasant smell of her body lingered on my clothing, but I didn't mind.

I was immediately regretful at raising my voice, even though I knew she couldn't understand what I said.

Even amongst other kids in the slums, the girl in front of me could be considered the most pitiful.

Linzi was born deaf-mute, so she could neither hear nor speak. To add even more pain to her suffering, Linzi later developed severe schizophrenia.

I would often pass the orphanage and witness the other kids beating her senseless in the yard. The adults did nothing to stop this, and I didn't interfere where I had no business.

I am pretty sure that her brain was damaged in one of those beatings. Only one girl named Betty treated Linzi kindly, but alas, one child could not protect Linzi from the horde of them.

She was tossed out of the orphanage half-dead about a year ago. She was about two years younger than me so I knew a brain-damaged child on the streets of the slums would never make it.

At that time, I helped her in hopes of finding where the orphanage stored their food. I had no qualms about starving the kids in the orphanage to death, but Linzi was too unstable to provide any useful information.

Not finding any useful information, I left Linzi to her own devices for about a week. When I returned, I noticed that she didn't eat and became thinner than she already was.

That's how I knew that the girl wanted to die more than anything, but she didn't have the courage to take her own life.

Her eyes often pleaded with me to make the final blow, but I could not stomach the action at that time, I am not sure about now.

One thing led to another, and I kept feeding her. She grew a sort of attachment to me, and I became the reason that she wanted to live.

As for what she was to me, I hid that secret deep in my heart. I moved her to the highest location I could find so that if anyone found her someday, she could just jump through the window to commit suicide.

Young females in the slums were not treated appropriately, and I doubt Linzi would want to experience that.

Ever since then, I would drop by every so often to check on her. Linzi always remained in this factory location, hidden from everyone and everything.

She couldn't socialize and her schizophrenia made her a danger to everyone except me.

Betty and Eliza were the only two who knew of her existence. Betty knew Linzi from their time together at the orphanage, while Eliza, Karl's childhood lover, was naturally sympathetic to Linzi.

Seeing I was calm, Linzi darted into my arms and started licking my face in a frenzy. She had seen a dog lick my face once, and thought it was the way to show her appreciation I guess.

Luckily, she didn't see me kill that dog later that day.

"You're not supposed to lick people," I scolded.

"Augugug Rerararara?" Linzi said, but I could more-or-less understand her inquiry.

She was deaf-mute and brain-damaged, but the basics of communication could be discerned from her tone.

I laid against the opposite wall, and Linzi found her usual place in my arms as she reached into my back pocket and pulled out a nutrition bar.

The nutrition bar was one of the many snacks I confiscated from Erin before she left the slums. I was hungry as well, so I pulled a couple pieces of candy from my pockets and began munching.

"I had a rough day today," I said.

"Mmmmahmmmahhhh," Linzi replied.

I wasn't sure if she was replying to my statement or just enjoying the nutrition bar that had smeared her dirty face from her reckless eating habits.

"At some point, I think it becomes a question of 'Do I deserve to survive' rather than 'Should I survive'," I murmured.

Linzi, as if sensing my chaotic thoughts, reluctantly offered me the plastic of her nutrition bar. Inside the plastic were a couple crumbs, and I appreciated the gesture.

Nothing went to waste in the slums, so offering me crumbs was like a rich person offering their guests a decent meal.

"A-a-a-a-t-t-t-t-e-e-e-e?" Linzi asked, and I reeled in shock because I was surprised to find that she could barely manage a word.

Deaf-mute didn't mean that Linzi couldn't speak, it just meant that she could not hear what she, herself, was saying.

Still, I didn't have time to applaud her efforts because we heard footsteps coming up the stairs. My heart felt heavy, and my breathing quickened because I knew who it was.

"Oh," Eliza said, "Both of you guys are already here?"

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