Chapter 49:

A Cruel Reality

The Children of Eris

“I’m sorry for your loss,” the receptionist said, passing Kella three large brown envelopes. “These are the death certificates for your brother and his party, and also letters of compensation to give to the bank in order to receive the life insurance and the Rhams that Prince Julius has given the families of the deceased. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask any member of the guild whenever. All of us are here for you.”Bookmark here

Kella said nothing, took the envelopes and slowly stumbled out of the Stonefall guild branch.Bookmark here

Her vision was blurry.Bookmark here

Her thoughts were in disarray.Bookmark here

Her heart felt cold and empty.Bookmark here

It took all Kella had to even keep walking, her legs threatening to give out at any moment from the pain inside of her.Bookmark here

She could see images of her brother’s smiling face.Bookmark here

Of the girl she looked up to like an older sister.Bookmark here

Of the good friend she’d made as an adventurer. Bookmark here

Connor, Alisa, Tiergan…did you leave me behind because you knew you’d die? Bookmark here

If you did…Tears formed in her eyes. What was the point?Bookmark here

Kella’s knees started to give out.Bookmark here

Just as they did, someone grabbed her from the front and held her up.Bookmark here

“…I heard about what happened at Black Port,” the cloaked masked man said, helping her onto her feet. He then reached into his pocket and handed her a handkerchief. “I’m so sorry.”Bookmark here

“…Allaric,” Kella whispered with a sad smile. Bookmark here

“…Yeah?”Bookmark here

“…Walk me home.”Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

By the time Kella had led David to her home, a small one floor house in the eastern part of the city, her tears had dried, leaving her eyes a painful red.Bookmark here

It had no interior walls, four beds, a kitchen, wardrobes, a table and chair set, and treasured belongings hanging on the walls, from paintings and spare equipment, to what David guessed were mementoes from their adventurers.Bookmark here

“Want something to eat or drink?” Kella offered.Bookmark here

“Water, thank you,” David replied, awkwardly taking a seat at the table. Bookmark here

Kella got out two glasses, then placed them one at a time beneath a pump, dispensing water into them. She handed one to David and sat beside him, her eyes focused on her hands.Bookmark here

I did this to her and yet I’m the one here comforting her, David thought, trying his best not to let his anguish show. Bookmark here

…How fucked up can someone get?Bookmark here

“…Who did you lose?”Bookmark here

“…My brother, Connor, the girl he loved, Alisa, and a good friend, Tiergan,” Kella whispered with a tiny smile. Bookmark here

Even now she’s still trying to stay positive.Bookmark here

“…What about their bodies?” David asked softly.Bookmark here

Kella nodded. “They’re being sent home for a funeral at the cemetery here in the city. Prince Julius himself is apparently going to be in attendance.”Bookmark here

“…I see.”Bookmark here

He was the one that gathered and led the army to Black Port. He sprung into action as soon as he could and sent extra money to the families of the dead adventurers…he sounds like a great guy.Bookmark here

Silence fell upon the house.Bookmark here

For many minutes, neither of them spoke and just sat uncomfortably in silence.Bookmark here

Once she was done with her drink, Kella stood up and moved over to a weapon’s rack near one of the beds. She picked up a wooden training sword and held it lovingly in her hands.Bookmark here

“My father bought this for Connor when he was four,” Kella began, stroking the wood gently. “When Connor said he wanted to be an adventurer when he grew up, my dad roared with laughter and said if he trained with this sword for two hours a day, he’d allow it. Connor did three hours a day just to show off. His muscles hurt so much every time but that never stopped him.”Bookmark here

Kella placed the weapon back in the rack and then moved to a painting of Kella’s family.Bookmark here

“This was the last birthday gift my mum got me before I left home with Connor to become an adventurer,” Kella said, touching her brother’s face. “I was sixteen when I left to take the exam and we both managed to pass with flying colours. The examiner said we might be two of the best adventurers he’d ever seen.” Kella laughed bitterly. “If only that was true.”Bookmark here

David’s face went ghost white. Bookmark here

He recognised the faces of the people in the picture.Bookmark here

…They’re the ones I killed. The world began to spin and time slowed to a crawl. I…I did this…I killed them.Bookmark here

I did it myself.Bookmark here

Beneath the picture on a bedside table was a small, fancy blue box which Kella didn’t touch. Bookmark here

She just looked at it and her body began to shake.Bookmark here

“…Connor told me that he was going to confess to her at year’s end this year,” Kella whispered. “He said that he wanted to make it special, so he was going to wait for the right moment to do it. I said it’s so far away, why bother? You missed the last one, so just do it on her birthday or something. Connor said he’d think about it, but Tiergan said he should just man up and do it, before it’s…too late…before she’s taken by someone else.Bookmark here

“We told him that weeks ago and he still didn’t have the courage to do it.”Bookmark here

As Kella had bitterly gone through her treasured memories, David could only sit back and watch in agony.Bookmark here

Every time she told him more about someone he’d gotten killed, David had been shivering, he had been sweating, and he was being crushed by a weight far heavier and more painful than anything Eris had done to him.Bookmark here

…I, my people, my army, took from Kella her family, her friends and made her like this, David thought, digging his nails deep into his thighs, trying to draw blood, but he couldn’t. If I had just told Kella back in Themis not to let her brother go or maybe if I hadn’t attacked Black Port, or maybe if…if I had just done this outside of the Empire, they’d still be alive.Bookmark here

David’s face went ghost white.Bookmark here

…I did the same thing that Eris did.Bookmark here

She took me from my family and I took Kella’s from her.Bookmark here

David wanted to throw up, but he couldn’t.Bookmark here

He had to swallow it every time it crawled up his throat, he had to ignore it every time his heart whispered in his ear; he had to bear it.Bookmark here

What’s done is done. I have to keep this from Kella, no matter what.Bookmark here

David stood up, forcing every other thought but Kella from his mind and hugged her from behind, shutting his eyes. Bookmark here

“…I don’t know what I can do to help, but I’m here for you,” David said, holding her tighter. “If you need to cry, then I’ll hold you. If you need someone to comfort you, I’ll do my best. If you need anything, I’ll get it for you.”Bookmark here

Kella began to weep and relaxed against David, tears streaming down her face. She turned around and buried herself into David’s chest and cried loudly. She tried to say something to David, but he didn’t hear what she said; he just kept his eyes and ears closed as he embraced her.Bookmark here

“…Allaric.”Bookmark here

“…Yeah?”Bookmark here

“Stay here with me. Please.” She looked up at him with a fragile expression. “Don’t leave me alone.”Bookmark here

David swallowed hard. “I won’t.”Bookmark here

Kella forced a small smile on her face, then brought her lips to David’s.Bookmark here

When David didn’t reject her advances, Kella continued kissing him and wrapped her arms around his neck. Bookmark here

David didn’t try to stop Kella as she pulled them over onto her bed. She laid down and began pulling her shirt off as she kissed him.Bookmark here

…I-I…I’m so sorry, Kella. Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

Long before night had fallen, Kella had fallen asleep in David’s arms.Bookmark here

He lay by her side and stroked her hair whenever she stirred in her sleep.Bookmark here

Kella, the kind, sweet woman that David had met in the capital, who told him he wasn’t a monster now looked so frail and weak lying beside David.Bookmark here

With his own two hands, David had destroyed Kella’s life.Bookmark here

Then, he’d been the one to comfort her.Bookmark here

To save my life and my family’s, I killed hers. Bookmark here

It was the most heart wrenching and distressing feeling in the world.Bookmark here

He had sentenced others to death, ordered them tortured and destroyed a city to keep his family safe and, in doing so, he had hurt the person he treasured most in this world.Bookmark here

“…It’s selfish of me to even say this, but please don’t hate me when you find out,” David mumbled.Bookmark here

The next day, David left Kella’s home after she told him she was going to be with her family at Pilgrim’s Post.Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

In her darkness, Eris watched on bemused, an evil sneer on her face.Bookmark here

“I wonder what kind of face she’d make if she ever found out who killed her precious family,” she wondered, giggling. Bookmark here

Her sneer grew into a vile grin, one that she hadn’t shown David yet and one so terrifying, so sadistic and so evil that even other Gods that saw it trembled in her presence.Bookmark here

Bookmark here

“I wonder, David Athelward, how much longer can you lie to yourself?”Bookmark here

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