Chapter 8:

Hearts of Iron and Gold.


It felt like I was swimming in an ocean of blood, when I looked at the sky in the twilight, the red sun was just beneath the horizon when I felt like something was moving beneath the "water", then something grabbed my foot and pulled me down, the last thing I heard before I woke up was the growling of an animal…


He slowly opened his eyes, thinking that maybe he was waking up in the afterlife, but when he looked up he saw the crumbling roof over his head. Scorch let out a light sigh as he realized he was still breathing. He slowly got up and looked around, he was in some sort of abandoned house made out of wood with an old fashioned style, located in the middle of a big flower field, surrounded with mountains as far as the eyes can see. He was lying on a medical bed and the table next to him was full with bloodied scalpels and scissors.

Scorch: "Oh god please tell me this is some kind of a joke…"

It took him a minute or two to realize that his arms were no longer broken, he looked down to check them out. They were tied up together and covered in bandages with stains of blood all over them. A knock echoed throughout the empty room, Scorch jumped out of fear and took a defense position. The door slowly opened and from it an old man, wearing a lab coat emerged. The man was around his sixties, barely had any hair, his eyes had the tired look of somebody who has seen a lot, nothing really stuck out that much, except the fact that he only had one leg, the other one was cut off and replaced by one made out of steel.

"Oh it looks like you are finally awake! I was beginning to wonder if you would ever wake up-" - he said in a friendly tone before Scorch interrupted him.

Scorch: "Stay back!" - Scorch grabbed one of the scalpels from the table next to him with his mouth, since he couldn't move his arms, then said in a vicious tone. "Where am I? Who are you?"

The old man stumbled a bit out of fear and said reassuringly. "Don't worry, I'm not going to hurt you.. the man who did this to you is not here. I'm trying to help you!" The man took a few steps closer as if he was talking to an animal.

Scorch: "You didn't answer my question!"

"My name is Foalan… I'm a s..s-scientist. And right now I'm the only friend you have. When I saw you on the battlefield your heart was barely beating, I could feel that it was full of anger and sadness, which is what I think kept you alive, your regrets that you couldn't live the life you wanted, begging for a second chance. And it looks like fate has decided that you should receive a second chance and I saved you! But oh god you were in a terrible shape, your heart was severely damaged, you were losing so much blood and the bones in your arms were shattered to pieces."

Scorch: "So you just so happened to walk by? And how did you even heal me from such brutal injuries? Are you some sort of mage?"

Foalan: "A mage? Unfortunately I'm not blessed with the gift. I had to perform a very dangerous surgery, piece the bones one by one and strengthen them with steel, so that you can still use them, but if they break one more time it's all over for them. As for your heart, I had to replace it with a modified one, a heart mixed with modern technology. It's the prototype made to prevent cancer, so in order to save you, I had to replace your original one."

"He completely ignored my first question…" - Scorch thought to himself.

Suddenly a little fox girl entered the room, she looked no older than 12 years old, she had two big pointy ears, long strawberry red hair that ran down to her waist, of which three fluffy tails were coming out of.

The girl: "Is everything okay, Foalan? - she said in a concerned way with her ears pointed down.

Foalan: "Everything is okay, Rally. He didn't hurt me and he is not going to hurt you." - He patted her head.

Rally: "But that man looks so scary, are you sure he is not going to hurt us?" - She said as she covered her face in Foalan's coat.

The way the girl looked so terrified of Scorch was enough to show him that he needed to calm down, he felt bad deep down in his new heart and wanted to make her relax as well. He crouched down to her height and leaned towards her, she stepped back out of fear, but then he smiled warmly and said.

Scorch: "Sorry if I scared you, I didn't mean to. I just got a little excited because you have something very important stuck in your ear…"

Rally: "What, where?!"

Scorch: "It's right here…"

He leaned behind her ears, but when he leaned backwards he was balancing a golden coin on his nose and made a funny face with his eyes looking at the coin. The fox girl looked amazed by what Scorch did and stared at him with admiration and amazement.

Rally: "That coin was inside my ear the whole time?!"

Scorch: "That's not just any coin, legends say that If you throw it in a well it's going to make anything you wish come true! Take it, it's yours."

Rally: "Ahhh thank you so much, mister! I will go do it right away!"

Scorch: "Remember, it's only going to come true if you really believe in it!"

The girl nodded and ran outside to throw the coin in the well. Foalan gazed directly at Scorch's eyes and smiled proudly.

Foalan: "You handled that well, do you have a little sister or a daughter? Most men your age already have a family."

Scorch: "Yeah, actually, I have neither." - He giggled.

Foalan: "I see, that's okay, take one step at a time. But I can notice that you are a pretty good actor, am I right?" - Foalan said with a big mysterious smile on his face.

Scorch raised an eyebrow. "What are you talking about?" He asked.

Foalan: "Oh it's just that the way you move, the way you look, the way you smile, the way you laugh, I can see that you are a happy person. But I can also see that those emotions are not genuine…"

As Foalan said those words, Scorch's expression turned ice cold, his arms were shaking and he just stared at him.

Scorch: "How did you know?" - He asked coldly.

Foalan: "I can tell when somebody is truly happy or not. The little wrinkles that appear on the side of their eyes when they smile, the way the body flows much more naturally through the air and how your eyes shine, they are all indicators that somebody is happy. However, when I look at your eyes they just feel empty, your movements are forced and your smile is not genuine, why are you pretending?"

Scorch: "I guess there really is no point in trying to deny that, eh?" - He smiled gently as he looked at the ground. "It's been a while since I felt true happiness…"

Foalan: "Why are you hiding your true feelings then? Are you perhaps afraid that somebody will judge you?"

The atmosphere in the room suddenly felt gloomy, unpleasant, cold and dark. The wooden floor beneath their feet quietly cracked, the wind outside started to pick up and created a roaring sound. Scorch's voice filled with sadness and a thin grin appeared on his face as he began to speak from his heart.

Scorch: "I'm not afraid that somebody will judge me, I just have no reason to smile, it doesn't have to do with anything material, it's just that I've been through so many things that even if I tell somebody about them, they will need a therapist after that. I simply do not want to bother anyone with my own problems because they are not important, nobody cares, if I talk about it I will change absolutely nothing and they will see me as weak.

I pretend to smile because I know It makes people feel comfortable, despite how painful it is to me. In my core I'm nothing but a coward who's afraid of showing his true feelings and hides behind a smiling mask.

"Should I tell them?"

"Would they pity me if they knew?"

"They are just going to think that I'm a coward or something, it would be best if I keep quiet, am I right?"

Those questions always repeat on the back of my mind in a never-ending loop. I tried to stop them one time, but I failed…"

Foalan: "You tried to commit suicide?"

Scorch: "...I have…"

Foalan: "What made you change your mind?"

Scorch: "I guess I wasn't ready to die yet… I wanted to survive so that my ideals, that I have sacrificed so much for, don't go to waste. The war so far has taken so much from me and I know if somebody doesn't do anything about it, more and more people are going to suffer just the same way I did. I want to redeem myself and avenge my sister, so that I actually have a purpose in this world…"

Foalan wrapped his hands around his shoulders, placed the palm of his hand on Scorch's head, closed his eyes and just allowed the warmth to spread across his body as he said with a proud smile on his face. Rally watched from around the corner curiously as Foalan began to speak.

Foalan: "Listen to me, boy! You are still young, you will come across all kinds of pain and suffering. The fact that you still have the will to fight is incredible! Most people would have given up on life if they were you. You are not weak! If someone punches you in the face you fight back, am I right? Then what's the difference between the attacker and life? There isn't! If life punches you, guess what? You fight back! It's as simple as that. Sometimes you have to remember that there is more to life than just sunshine and rainbows. We go through pain, battles and heartbreaks, but at the end of the day the only choice we have is to keep moving forward and learn from the pain. Pain is what makes someone strong, just because you have been through so much that doesn't mean that you are weak, it means that you are stronger than those who haven't felt any. You deserve to live because you have a heart of gold, something that this world is in desperate need of.

I see that you are holding back your tears… Please go ahead and cry, crying is the way that humans deal with pain, is it not?"

The moment he heard those words Scorch took a deep breath and the tears flooded his eyes, he leaned on Foalan's shoulder and just allowed them to flow into his clothes. Seeing a grown man like him cry like that was truly heartbreaking.

"I almost felt like my heart was pierced by a thousand needles, my chest felt heavy and it was like I couldn't breathe. I don't know why I allowed myself to cry like that in front of a stranger, but there was just something in his words that truly made me feel emotional and released all that pain I stored inside of me all at once. At this point I don't even know for how long I cried. Maybe an hour… or two? But he never left my side, he just stood there and allowed me to cry without saying a single word. The whole experience felt like I was a little kid and my father was trying to comfort me because I got injured. Eventually I stopped crying and I genuinely smiled for the first time in fifteen years…"

Scorch: "I don't know if I can even repay you, sir! You saved my life and made me feel true happiness, is there even a price to that?"

Foalan: "Please, you don't have to repay me for anything! I'm just looking after the young ones, after all you are the future of this world!" He smiled mysteriously. "But I'm afraid I can't let you go just yet, your arms still haven't healed completely, but that's all little Rally can do for a girl at her age."

Rally rushed inside the room and jumped straight into Scorch's chest to give him a warm hug.

Scorch: "Are you really the one who healed my arms?!" - Scorch smiled and patted her head.

Rally: "Foalan did most of the work, he was the one who pieced your arms back together, It was my blood who made it possible to use them again." - She blushed.

Foalan: "Rally is a Kitsune, a forest fox spirit that takes the form of a girl. Her blood possesses extraordinary healing abilities, though they haven't fully developed yet. We gave you a large amount of her blood to heal you."

Scorch: "I'm going to be able to use them again?!"

Foalan: "You will be able to use your arms just like normal, but I have to warn you, once you break them again, there will be absolutely no way for us to heal them."

Scorch: "Why can't I just drink some of her blood again?"

Foalan: "Because it weakens every time it's used on the same person, meaning it will gradually get worse for your body, until the effects become deadly."

Scorch: "I see, well I guess I'm going to stay here until I'm ready to leave."

Foalan: "I also have new clothes for you and a new sword, when you are ready to leave. Your old ones were pretty messed up so you can have the new ones."

Scorch followed him to the next room where a red, leather jacket sat comfortably on top of a mannequin. The jacket was short; it only reached beneath the chest area, completely made out of red leather. It looked quite stylish and nice to look at, together with the black t-shirt beneath that showed off his muscles and served as armor.

As for the sword, it resembled a long katana, that shined brightly from light and it was as clean as a mirror, while the handle was entirely made out of steel with a black and white handle thread.

Scorch: "How did you get this stuff?"

Foalan's expression changed, he had a thin grin on his face that seemed to be forced.

Foalan: "They… They used to be my son's, he was a very ambitious young boy around your age, he wanted to fight in the war for the same reasons as you. I guess that's why I saved you, because you reminded me of him. He passed away in a battle not long ago. I want you to take them, so that you can honor his sacrifice and make him know that his legacy still lives on even after he died. You see, this isn't a gift, it's a request."

Scorch: "What was his name?"

Foalan: "...Akio…"

Scorch: "Very well, I'm going to honor Akio by wearing his clothes. You have done so much for me today, it's the least I can do!"

Two days passed after Scorch was rescued by the mysterious man. Throughout those days, where he couldn't move his arms because of the bandages, he was fed by Rally and tried his best to help around with the housework. Eventually he regained his control over his arms and the bandages were finally untied. When he took a good look at them he was disguised by the scars all over his previously beautiful arms. They were filthy, painted in red from the blood and looked like little white snakes wrapped around his arms. Foalan saw his expression so he handed him over another bandage.

Scorch: "What's that for?"

Foalan: "To hide them up, you can't reverse what happened, but you also don't have to look at them all the time."

Scorch let out a deep sigh before he wrapped the bandages around his hands to cover the scars, but he was still able to use them like normal. He put on the new outfit and rolled the sleeves up to his elbows so that he could show off the bandages.

Foalan: "Is it time?"

Scorch: "(sigh) I'm afraid it is, I can't just sit around and relax while more and more people are dying in the war."

Foalan: "Ahh always trying to be a hero, eh? Trust me there's nothing wrong with wanting to accomplish something good, but my son died just because he had that same hero complex as you do. Try not to get blinded by your pride or you will die just like he did."

Scorch: "I will take your advice to heart. Thank you for everything, sir! I will never forget your kindness!" - He bowed lightly.

Foalan: "You are welcome, kid! Now go, time is short and before you realize it, you will be my age and you will be the one helping the young ones!"

Scorch smiled before shaking his hand and leaving, as he got further away he turned around and waved goodbye at Foalan, who stood there and watched him like a proud father watching his son.

Foalan: "Foolish kid…"