Chapter 26 –Grief
Haru finished the training that Erith had left him. Midway he’d begun to feel strange, as if something was wrong. Something inside of his mind, instinct perhaps; was telling him something was wrong. Diligent student that he was, he persevered and finished his routine, but as soon as he did he ran out of the dojo not even taking the time to wipe the sweat off his body.
He ran towards his home. ‘Something is wrong. No nothing is wrong… I hope nothing is wrong.’
The moment he was within sight of his home his heart stilled as he saw the broken down doors. He stopped for a moment, his instinct screaming at him that something was wrong and now his mind was refusing to listen. Taking a moment to prepare himself, he walked through the door to see his parents on the couch. His mother being embraced by his father.
A moment, for one moment his body relaxed as a weight was slightly lifted off his shoulders until he heard his mother crying. In-between sobs “Lily… Lily..is..gone..”
Haru’s heart lurched as he looked at his dads reddened eyes. He’d been crying as well, one look said enough.
“Where? Where is she?” he shouted.
“She’s gone Haru.” Was all Dillan could muster. It was all he would allow himself to say.
Haru’s mind didn’t comprehend the situation. He felt dumbfounded. “What do you mean? I don’t understand… Did someone take her? Is she lost? Why aren’t you looking for her? Why isn’t anyone looking for her!?” Haru turned around and ran out of the door.
Eve weakly reached out for him and Dillan didn’t stop her but she couldn’t bring herself to do much else.
“LILY! LILY!!” sobbing shouts resounded through the streets as Haru ran at full speed, bumping into people left and right, shouting as he searched for Lily.
After reaching Baron Hil’s manor, Hill had already prepared a caravan and cover. Two carriages were ready and packed along with 10 guards to act as merchants and 5 men to act as “guards” in the open. The moment she was within sight she was hefted inside one of the carriages like luggage. Hill stared at her like a hungry wolf. It was not a sexual greed, but one of gain. She was a prize, a gold star that would bring him untold benefits the moment he handed her over. She was his golden ticket and she was in his hands.
Morth, Hill and Lily sat in a caravan as Lily heard Haru’s shouts. She could feel as he passed her carriage running in the opposite direction and she had to bite her lower lip to stop herself from calling out to him. Her tears falling down her cheeks silently as she held it all in.
Remembering all the times Haru had made her smile when she was sad, held her tight and hugged her when she was scared, given her a portion of his food when she was hungry. He’d been the big brother she’d always wished she’d had. Living all those years with him had been a blessing, and her only regret now wasn’t leaving him but rather the guilt of having lied to him all those years.
‘It’s okay.. It’s fine. This is fine. He’ll be safe now. They’ll take care of him, and he’ll be safe.’ She repeated to herself like an overly long mantra. It was the only thing keeping her in the carriage, the only thing stopping her from coming apart at the seams.
He scoured the whole town, shouting and searching every street, every path, every sketchy location he could find, looking for any traces of Lily. He even ran along the borders of the town thinking the worst but unable to bring himself to believe she’d been taken outside of the city. He searched and searched and found nothing.
He ran and searched as night came and went and still he searched until he couldn’t run and so he jogged. Then he could no longer jog and so he walked.
His throat had long since gone hoarse and dry from the shouting. Regardless of the pain his body he felt he still propelled himself forward, until finally his legs buckled and gave way underneath him.
He fell to the ground with virtually no one around, but he didn’t care. His mind solely focused on his sister and whether she was hurt, in danger, crying and alone.
He wanted to keep looking, wanted to keep searching but he couldn’t even get back up and so he collapsed on his back staring up at the sky and cursing himself for being so weak.
‘I trained for years… Why am I still so weak…?’
The last thought in his mind before he couldn’t stop his eyelids from closing and his mind from falling asleep. Finally, as he passed out, Erith appeared beside him. He’d been following Haru discreetly the entire time. No one had seen him and even as he appeared beside Haru and picked him up off the ground, no one saw even a glimpse of him as they disappeared as if they’d never been there at all.
“You found him. Thank the gods. I was sure he’d run off and do something crazy…”
Erith noticed their almost indifferent demeanor as they continued to pack even as he carried their son’s body back in. He recognized it wasn’t trust that was making them act so calm.
Dillan was already ready. Their minds had already been made up.
“You were right. We can’t keep him safe. Our faces are known. They’ll keep people around to keep tabs on us. At least so long as we leave, and you take charge of him they won’t make a move. I doubt they’ll give any information away to anyone else as long as they think Haru has some value, and if they don’t they wouldn’t be so ridiculous as to make a move on you.” Dillan said it more for his own benefit, for Eve to hear rather than Erith.
“Is Eve on board?” Erith asked walking into Haru’s room and laying him down on his own bed before walking back.
“She was the one… Who made the decision.” Dillan said through clenched teeth.
Erith could see the pain in his friend’s eyes, he just didn’t have any words that would remedy the situation, lessen their pain, or change his own mind.
“Eve is writing a letter for Haru. I’ve been packing necessities.”
Erith stayed quiet hearing his friend stop himself from breaking into tears.
“I never thought we’d have to run again. No that’s a lie. I knew we would, I just hoped we wouldn’t have too. We built a life here… It wasn’t one they deserved… They deserved better… But we were happy Erith.”
They could both hear Eve’s sobbing in the next room as they stood silently.
“I’ll keep him safe.”
“I know you will. If we didn’t think you would… We’d be taking him with us.”
Erith couldn’t help but voice a thought as he clenched his fists and fought the urge and failed “Do you have to go after her? She’s not yours. She was never yours.”
Dillan turned and glared at him as he spat the words out “We may not have birthed her but she is ours! We raised her, we cared for her, she’s our child. She needs us.”
Erith could see the venom in his friend’s eyes. ‘He’s not the same man he used to be.’
“You betrayed your kind once by taking her in… Are you really going to make that choice again?”
“We would make the same choice again and again if we had too! We don’t get regret a thing. After all of this time… I truly thought you understood that.”
“How could I!? She’s literally the threat that looms over all of our heads!” shouted taking a step forward without even realizing it.
Dillan’s eyes followed Erith’s movement but didn’t waver “So what now.”
Realizing what he had almost done, Erith took a deep breath and walked over to the door looking outside and making sure no one was around. With his back turned to Dillan he asked the question that had weighed on his mind for the last decade “Just tell me why. You didn’t do it then, and when we saw each other again three years ago I thought you would, but you didn’t.”
“Why?” Dillan asked seemingly unaware of his intent.
“These people… They all walk around oblivious to the war we’re fighting. How on any given day humanity could fall to any one of a dozen different races outside the walls we’ve holed ourselves in. The territory we encompass within the scope of the 4 major outpost cities are but a fraction of what once was. Our numbers no longer anything, we’re not even free to walk outside our walls without every race wanting to kill us. We’re a flickering flame in the night, and you go and shelter that child. You were both crippled saving her once, haven’t you done enough?” Erith’s tone wasn’t bitter, wasn’t angry. It held but a since ounce of feeling. It was forlorn.
“Her family saved our lives. We would have died and she is a child, she never deserved to die because of some prophecy. She was a child that had a right to live.” Dillan could see the pain in his friend’s eyes. He knew the price he had paid by not taking a side all of those years ago, for not choosing his country, his family over them.
He felt obliged to give his friend more, but he simply didn’t have more to give. “You know… When we took her in. It wasn’t just because of a debt, or because we wanted a child. We took her in because we thought we we’re doing good. Saving a child and if we did things right, teaching her not to hate humans. That we could change everything that was to come. She was so kind… So pure… What she did for Haru… You know he wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for her.”
“Don’t Dillan.” Erith’s gaze turned cold as he looked at his friend.
At that moment they had both felt the change in the air. The boundary Dillan had reached.
“Why him and not her?” Dillan whispered.
“He’s part human Dillan. He’s not related to them. He’s not the one they wrote about.”
The words hung in the stale air as neither of them could speak any further.
It was Eve that broke the silence as she entered the room. She had stopped sobbing but she’d heard the entire conversation “That’s exactly why we need to go after her. She needs us Erith. You might not understand of agree with our decision, but if we can stop this war If-.”
Erith put his hand up to stop her “No more. Saving her doesn’t stop this war. Killing her doesn’t either. Saving her does nothing but endanger us all. Killing her does nothing more than keep the status quo. You’ve made up your minds. We’ve said enough.”
They stayed in the room, in the silence for a few minutes before Dillan grabbed the rest of their packs. They both kneeled by Haru’s side as they kissed his forehead and tousled his hair softly. Eve fought back the urge to cry. Reminding herself to be strong while Dillan reminded himself that this was the best for him. These reminders were the ropes keeping them together, keeping them from going forth with their choices, with their mission.
Having made their peace, Dillan walked past the door giving Erith a nod and stepping outside as Eve followed by his hand as she glanced back at the table indicating Erith should look.
“A letter? The truth?”
“Yes and no… He can’t know.” Eve’s eyes reddened.
Erith nodded as she whispered a ‘thank you’ under her breath as she look one last look at Haru before leaving.
Erith watched them leave and looked at his new found responsibility as he contemplated how he would handle things from now on.
‘He’s going to have a very rough rode from now on.’
He’d promised to keep him safe, but he was a neutral party. What he could do was only so much, even if he had taken him as his only disciple.