Chapter XVI
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As they made their way deeper and deeper into the grey jungle the atmosphere between the two companions became more and more tense.
The little tiger, although a puppet bound to serve its master, seemed to be questioning the recent actions, a story told by the small hints of reticence behind every step.
Arun on the other hand grew more and more bloodthirsty the closer he got to his target. He was now holding Black Rose out at all time, inspecting it with great interest. Although the weapon drew a small river of blood during the engagement, as evidenced by the bloody mess that was Arun's current clothing, no trace of blood could be found on it. It's as if the rose absorbed it, like a real flower would absorb water. As Arun continued to stare into the gruesome a mad glint shined in his eyes. What would happen if I use this weapon again? If I feed it more, I wonder...
Paradox, who was watching his master intently, hastened it's pace. No more hesitation, now he could only hope that what was at the end of the road could pull his concentration away from his grisly sister.
The end of the road. Paradox felt something here. They must be close. As the little tiger tried to sniff out the enemies Arun got his blade ready in case of an ambush. There is nothing here after all. Just an usual back-alley, granted smaller and darker than usual. An ambush would make perfect sense. Or maybe a hidden trapdoor? Whatever the case may be Arun strengthened the grip on Black Rose. He was ready.
Paradox jumped on top a garbage bin than looked at Arun. The smell lead him there.
* Huh? a dead end? you gotta be kidding me! Still, won't hurt to check I guess, maybe there really is a hidden entrance of sorts, although the stench is killing me... * so, Arun, still maintaining his guard up, got close to the bin and opened it.
Arun jerked back. He almost dropped his weapon as he started puking. Now... now he knew where the stench was coming from. It was the tall thug, the boss he was looking for, together with his henchman. A piece of them... at least. None should see what he just saw Arun thought to himself.
Yet, even so, a feeling of anger soon overtook them. How dare they die, and by someone else's blade to boot? They were his pray, his to take revenge on! The more he thought about it the more it angered him. He gripped Black Rose pacing back and forth. This in not what he wanted, not the revenge he wanted. Than he snapped.
" Whoever killed them, I will make them pay... " A lightning strike appeared before him halting his descent into madness.
" Paradox. " His eyes switched to the steel tiger met them eyes with a cold gaze.
" Why are you looking at me like that? STOP LOOKING AT ME LIKE THAT! "
But it's eyes didn't flinch. They stared right into his soul.
" Stop. STOP. You think I wanted everything to turn like this? NO! I've been too soft all this time, LOOK AT WHAT THAT DID! If I would have killed them that night she would have still been alive. She was innocent! Got killed because of a petty squabbles by some petty humans! Why? Why should I let them live? Why did I let them live? Why would I let those like them live? Why should I let those who killed them live? WHY?? " a single tear ran across Arun's cheek as he exploded.
Paradox didn't voice a response to Arun's desperate questions. He couldn't even if he wanted to. But he could do something else. Turning nk
his head away and started walking. Arun's grief deepened as he thought his companion was simply going to abandon him, but just for a moment, for after a few steps Paradox stopped and looked back.
* Follow me * was the message which Arun finally understood.
Through the mazes of darkened alleys once more, although this time they were clearly back-tracking.
Only eerie silence between the two travelers. The little tiger was ambling through the streets as the boy was following, reddened eyes directed at the ground and trembling hands on his weapon rested on the shoulder.
Soon an indistinguishable sound appeared breaking off the silence. As they got closer the goal was confirmed. They were travelling towards the sound.
A high pitched sound... a... wallow and coming from around the corner. The tiger stopped but pushed Arun forward. The boy reluctantly accepted.
Cautiously, he peeked around the corner. At first he recognized the place by its cuts and charred walls. Then he recognized the four thugs he beat before. What he didn't recognize was the little girl with blonde hair crying atop a person. And than... he saw the pool of blood.
His eyes have already seen everything but his mind, it didn't want to believe. It was the same thug he's wounded with Black Rose. The girl was shouting " father " as she cried. What happened, what was happening before his eyes was clear.
" Just what have I done " Arun murmured, his widened eyes still glued to the scene. The consequences of his actions shook him awake from the bloodthirsty madness as he finally realized..
He killed a man. He killed a man and left a small child fatherless. He killed a man and left a small child grieving. Just a few minutes ago he was hell bent on killing. Just what was he thinking? He did exactly what was done to him. That little girl... she didn't deserve this.
Arun finally peeled his eyes away from the scene. With his back turned to a wall he slid down. His hand had finally dropped Black Rose, the bloodthirsty weapon fell to the ground with a silent yet uncontent clang.
He covered his face in his hands as streams of tears ran down his face.
" How can this world be so cruel? I thought I was doing good, beating the villains up. I just ended up becoming one of them... a murderer, or maybe even worse... if you hadn't stopped me now... what, oh, what would I have become? Why is the world like this? There's no way, no purpose in such a world... " a new kind of madness befell Arun, this time, one induced by his own actions.
Yet, even so, even a boy whose pure heart had left him, replaced with the cold beat of the grim reality, his guarding angel wouldn't live him.
Paradox jumped in his belly, clawing at his face trying to get his attention. Arun's defense was strong yet his companion's persistence was stronger. Finally his eyes finally mustered the power to meet with Paradoxes. The cold, inanimate eyes was now replaced by a warm look while his maw was holding something... familiar to Arun.
Arun ran his shaky hands down his Tigers maw, liberating the object. It was... an old wristwatch... his grandfather's...