The Titan and The Witch
“Ooo!” Shinjiro murmured in pain. On one hand, Lilly was surprised that he was having such a small reaction to having alcohol poured into what were essentially gaping holes in his flesh. On the other hand, she was surprised that he was having any sort of pain reaction because he was so massive and built! His wounds were puny in the context of his near inhuman body.
Well, she supposed that it was a good thing because, with how awful the stab wounds alone were, if someone smaller and weaker had been attacked instead…well, the best-case scenario would have been months of bedrest and recovery.
Even so, it was still too awful, that anyone would just be able to attack someone and try to murder them in broad daylight! Lilly wanted to ask Shinjiro what he had done to make the men so angry, but she thought better of it. She didn’t want to pry too far. She was just an weirdo woman who happened to have been lucky and gotten the men to stand down to leave him alone. She had no right to ask him such personal questions about something so traumatic.
“…” Shinjiro started to say something, then went silent. Lilly kept working; washing his wounds with water, flushing them with alcohol, and bandaging them up. She knew he had something on his mind; she could feel his eyes following her movements intently. It was rather awkward; he was so much taller than her, even while sitting down, that he was a few good feet above her own head! It felt like she had nowhere to hide, like she was exposed and vulnerable. Or like she was a dumb little child! She wondered if she should ask him what was troubling him. He didn’t seem too troubled; just more confused and curious than anything.
Maybe it was just her appearance that had gotten his attention. She was clearly American, with her golden curls down to her butt and her green eyes. She was basically a Western poster-child, especially to people in an isolationist country in the days before there was wide-spread interaction with Westerners. Her clothing was also…unique…even by the standards of her own time. She was wearing a lavender, cheongsam-type dress with slits all the way up to her waist that left basically all of her legs exposed. Its top was tight, sleeveless, and a little low-cut. But to fix that and cover herself up, she had on what was essentially a black, long-sleeved leotard under it. Its sleeves ended in fingerless gloves, too! She also had on detached sleeves; like kimono sleeves; that were tied onto her upper arms with ribbons. Those were nice; they were so pretty and flowing! And, since they were detached, they didn’t constrict her shoulders or arm movements.
Lilly knew she looked bizarre. Her clothes looked more like 21st century sexy-ninja cosplay or something than actual clothes. But she did it for a reason; kimono’s and other traditional Japanese clothes here were too heavy and she hated them. It was a tactile-sensitivity thing for her. She didn’t like the weight, the fabric, or the fact that all her limbs were basically trapped when she wore them. She could run and move freely in clothes like this, even if it was considered revealing and scandalous for dumb cultural reasons.
She also didn’t have any shoes on. She weirded people out with that because, even though it wasn’t like people didn’t go shoeless here occasionally, it was out of the norm. Even the poorest people could make simple straw sandals. She never wore shoes and was proud of it. Her feet were tough; back home, her mom would yell at her for walking outside barefoot in winter. It just didn’t bother her. She would sometimes wear metallic anklets made of thin chains that attached to her toes, but not today. Though those were also considered odd. They were delicate and looked fancy, with tiny flower and butterfly shapes charms in between the links. They were more for show than anything, since they weren’t actually shoes. She’d always hated shoes and if no one was making her wear them, then why bother?
This was all part of the reason that people thought she was a witch or a prostitute. While, from the locals’ point of view, her clothes were revealing and immodest, but she had no bad intentions behind it. It was what was comfortable to her, and no naughty bits were showing. As long as the crucial areas were covered up…bodies were bodies. She never got why people would be so shocked and horrified to see skin, even in her own time. It was natural and normal. But exposed skin, especially on women, still created assumptions in people’s minds for reasons that she didn’t understand.
And in this time…well, it went without saying that it repulsed and scared people. Add to her outfit the giant pink bow in her hair and the one on her back from her sash, as well as her giant, stupid glasses, and Shinjiro probably had no clue what the heck kind of girl had come to his rescue! She was immodest, odd, feminine, childish, and dorky, all in one! An odd, indiscernible mixture of some of everything. A weird, undecipherable person.
“What are you thinking? You were going to say something, right?” She finally asked, not looking up from his wounds. “You don’t need to be hesitant. If I’m uncomfortable about something, I’ll just let you know. You can say whatever’s on your mind around me.”
The large man frowned, clearly awkward and unsure of himself. Lilly was surprised. Most of the men she knew were cocky, loud, and assertive. Very few were quiet and careful with their words. Well, it may have just been that she didn’t know many people in general because she preferred to be alone, and men in general confused and scared her. She never talked to males outside of her own family, unless they were children. But something seemed different about this man. He intrigued her. He stuck out for multiple reasons; his scary appearance; the fact that something seemed ‘soft’ about him, despite his looks; the fact that he had to have some sort of interesting back-story because of what had just happened to him; his hesitant mannerisms and the fact that she still couldn’t figure out his personality and what was going on in his head…she just wanted to get to know him better. She wanted him to ask her whatever he wanted; it would tell her something more about him without her needing to pry.
“Why…did you help me?” Shinjiro finally asked in his soft, quiet voice. “Why…why did you save my life?”
Lilly jumped in place and her gaze snapped up to meet his. Shinjiro instinctively flinched away, startled by her quick action. Lilly briefly wondered why; it’s not like she could hurt him!
“What do you mean?” Lilly asked in confusion, folding her hands in her lap and staring up at him. He was a person who was literally being killed in the woods for no reason. Why wouldn’t she intervene and protect him?
She answered honestly. “I thought you were going to be murdered! Why wouldn’t I do something if I saw someone being killed? Well, I know some people would be too scared or downright evil and apathetic about it to do anything, but in general…I think its basic human nature to help someone who’s being hurt by someone else. Or, at least, that’s the way it’s supposed to be, because it’s evil and wrong to hurt other people. It’s the right thing for a good person to do, because life is precious, so I did it! That’s it.”
Shinjiro looked at her in amazement, as if she had said something profound.
“What?” She asked, blushing in discomfort. “All I did was be honest about what I saw and thought. Did…did I upset you?”
“N-no.” He said quietly, looking down at the ground. “It’s just that…I’m surprised that you would find my life worth saving.”
* * *
Shinjiro was perplexed. The girl…Lilly…had the most profound look of confusion on her face. He could clearly see that she was struggling and failing to grasp an answer or understanding. Her face was highly expressive. Her emotions and thoughts were largely easy to see on her face. It was a bit jarring to meet someone so open and honest. It was almost considered rude to show your true emotions around here. It was odd, but surprisingly refreshing. It was a little bit scary to be alone with anyone, but it was less scary when he knew the person was being very open and honest. It was reassuring and made him feel compared to be honest back.
* * *
“It’s just that…well, I never thought that anyone would care about whether I lived or died. I’m so surprised that someone would care so much that they would be willing to offer their own life in exchange.”
“But…you’re a human.” Lilly said confused. “I really don’t get why you’re saying these strange things. You’re a human, so your life is innately valuable and that’s why I chose to help. I don’t get why you think they’re has to be another reason. It was the right thing to do and I’d hate myself if I didn’t step in.” She turned back to his wounds.
“Well…I’m almost done. I just need to bandage these last few wounds on your chest.” She tore at the cloth and got a few good, long pieces and set to work.
‘This is weird.’ She thought as she wound the bandages around his broad torso. ‘Maybe I’m imagining things…but I could swear that he keeps flinching when I touch him. That’s He’s probably just shook up after nearly being killed.’
“Thank you.” He told her, not meeting her eyes. “Just…thank you. I…I’m sorry you had to get involved. I did nothing…bad…if you were worried about that. I…was looking for some herbs in the woods near one of the farmers’ fields and I frightened him. Then I tried to run, but he got scared and panicked. I…I was chased all the way here and they attacked me. They were …just…scared. I scared them. It was a mis-misunderstanding. A violent one but… it’s…it’s nothing new. I didn’t…hurt anyone. I wouldn’t have hurt anyone. Thank you for helping me, even though you didn’t know if I’d hurt you or if I was dangerous.”
“It’s okay. I don’t know why, but you didn’t strike me as someone to be feared. I’m just happy that you’re safe!” Lilly sat back on her knees and grinned up at him. “Okay, so I’m done now!” She shoved her stuff back into her bag. “Are you…okay? Do you need anything else?”
“I’ll be alright. I live a little way off, but I can get there on my own.” He insisted as he struggled to his feet.
“Whoa! Are you sure you’re okay?” Lilly asked, grabbing his arm. “I can help you home. You’re still hurt and unsteady. I don’t want you to collapse on the way back!”
“Thank you for your concern, but I’m okay, I promise. If I need to, I can stop on my way back and rest. I’ve traveled and lived a nomadic life for a long time, so I can take care of myself and sleep outside if I need to just rest and recover.” Shinjiro said, looking away from her.
“Are you… sure?” Lilly asked, worried. She wanted to help him more, but she was so awkward. What should you do in a situation where you really want to help someone, but they are very insistent on you not taking the trouble? It was too intimidating and big to deal with, so she just took the cowards way out.
“All right then.” She gently let go off his arm. “Be safe, okay? Shinjiro.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll be careful.” He gave her a tiny smile that made Lilly wonder what he would like if he did a true, full-on smile that reached his eyes. “Thank you for your kindness…Lilly…I will never forget it.”
Lilly quickly turned, picked up her pack, and got back on the trail, hurrying to get out of sight. That was a rather…intense and unexpected event! Her heart was thudding and adrenaline was flooding her veins from the shear social and emotional demands of this intense situation.
She felt a little happy inside, though, knowing that she had been able to help someone. Maybe today was a good day after all! Still, she wondered about Shinjiro. He seemed like a very gentle person…but also sad and troubled.
She was sure there was far, far more to the giant man and his story than she could infer. She was intrigued and would like to see him again to try and figure him out. She also just thought that he’d be a good person to spend time with. He seemed liked he would be friendly and a fun person to be around, if it was a peaceful, normal situation. She’d never really had friends, but he seemed like the type of person who’d make a good friend.
But she’d probably never see him again. She planned on living a nice, isolated life, after all! And she would hope that he’d try to lay low after this incident, just to be sure that no one tried to come after him and hurt him again. She was sure there was more to what happened to him today than just a misunderstanding. He …well, to put it bluntly, looked like a monster, and they were so intent on killing him even though he had committed no crime. Was…was discrimination really what it had been about? Was it really that horrifyingly, illogically simple?
At first blush, he looked threatening and possibly murderous… until you actually talked to him. He was a very calm person; very easy to get along with. And this was just what little Lilly could gather from briefly being around him for only a little bit one time! And yet, she had been so terrified to approach him, even though he had been bleeding everywhere. How much had he suffered for his appearance? She of all people knew how cruel people could be to others who were different, and she had still been hesitant to approach him. Her mind had quickly gone to thinking the worst, just because of how he looked.
He must have been misunderstood and had…a very painful life. He was like her, in a sense. She knew what it felt like to feel like the whole world was against you, to never feel emotionally or spiritual safe anywhere. She sighed and looked up at the sky again.
“This was a strange day.”
* * *
Shinjiro leaned back against a large tree. It was dark and he could see glints of the stars through the waving canopy of leaves above him. The evening breeze felt nice and there was just an incredible feeling of…peace. It felt nice. It what he really needed right now. He had specifically chosen to stay out in the woods overnight because he wanted to be alone. The other men would be worried, especially the older ones, but he just really didn’t want anything to do with people right now. They were kind, but they would freak out and be concerned and angry about him being attacked. He just wanted to be able to freely be emotional and wallow in his misery.
He winced. His wounds hurt. The rocks and blunt objects hadn’t done much more than bruise and scratch him, but the knifes…the stab wounds hurt immensely. Once he got back to the farm, he’d be able to get some of the good medical salves. It was a perk of being part of a government-sponsored farming operation that supplied herbs and other raw materials to doctors. He also got to live by himself in his own, small house on the property. The other men teased him about wanting to be alone and not sharing a house like everyone else did, but it was all good natured and they knew when to leave him alone. He may not have exactly been given a choice in his employment, but it was arguably the best thing that had happened to him in his whole life.
And, ironically, that was all he was doing in the woods earlier. There had been a personal request from a well-known doctor who knew some of the other men for a rare plant. It grew in rural areas near the ocean, like this part of the island. He specifically wanted a wild one so he could cultivate it on his own and continue to use it. It was just as well, because it was too high-end for their little operation to grow simply because it was so rare. Shinjiro enjoyed wandering the woods, and there were some other things that they needed, so he’d volunteered to go out scavenging for the plant. He had also secretly been interested in trying to find more of the rare plant so he could transplant one to the farm. If it was that rare and sough-after, it must have strong medicinal properties so, if he could grow it himself on the farm and make it more widely available, if only a little bit, then more people would be able to be treated. That was all he had been doing in the woods.
But things had gone wrong. He…should be used to this by now. He’d been attacked many, many, many other times in his past because of how scared people would be of him. He…wasn’t human; he was a monster, an abomination. People would feel the need to chase him out of town. He had purposely tried to lie low ever since he came here. His coworkers were kind; they accepted him without a thought, even though his presence here had been forced on them by the government. The other people though…they still were scared. The men said that it would be okay; everyone would adjust to his presence eventually and he’d at least be accepted as a normal part of this town. But the independent farmers especially…well, rural areas tended to be more superstitious. They saw him as some sort of evil creature or spirt. Not that it really mattered. He’d been told often enough that he was a “non-human human”; a monstrous, evil creature that should have never been born. Being seen as a mythological evil wasn’t really all that different.
Shinjiro sighed and tears silently rolled down his cheeks as he stared up at the sky. He had spent his whole life being treated as a monster, never knowing much peace. This life as a farmer was new…it was a hard adjustment, simply because it was so normal! And no matter what he did, it seemed that he would never be accepted. It was hard to just live. He wanted to be able to have a quiet, normal life, but it seemed that he couldn’t escape the barbs of hatred that constantly came from others.
““I thought you were going to be murdered! Why wouldn’t I do something if I saw someone being killed?... It’s the right thing for a good person to do, because life is precious, so I did it.”
Shinjiro stared at the bandages on his chest as he remembered what the young woman had said to him. She…she had surprised him. There was something…odd about her. The way she talked, her looks, her clothes, what he had seen of her personality; they all seemed out of place, like she wasn’t supposed to be here. It was like she was an outsider. Maybe it was just because she was a Westerner; she had hair the color of gold, pale skin, and bright green eyes. But there was something more to it, he was sure. He is sixth sense was tugging at his mind in response to her presence. But beyond that, there was something that was…off about her.
Her simple, straightforward thinking; her inability to understand why anyone would become violent; her lack of socially appropriate mannerisms…even if she was a Westerner, something seemed…skewed about her thought process. He wondered about her. Did she have some sort of mental deficiency or defect?
That was an uncomfortable thing to think about. Such things didn’t bother him, personally, but he knew that, should that be the case, she’d have a hard time living in this land. Honor and respect weren’t kind to those who were different. He knew that all too well.
But, logically speaking; he reasoned; that probably wasn’t the case. He wasn’t very knowledgeable on the subject but, from what little he knew… people who were…” mentally defective” …people who were considered to have weak minds… were barely able to understand reality or think for themselves. They were supposedly nothing more than wild beasts. Odd as she may be, Lilly was clearly intelligent and independent, if not inappropriately so. Even if she was strange, there was nothing “wrong” with her, per say. She just didn’t care what anyone thought of her.
He shook his head, wondering why he was analyzing the girl so deeply. What was rendering him unable to stop thinking about her.Well...it was actually quite obvious.
She hadn’t feared him and had even offered her own life for his. Even though he could tell that she had been scared, she still intervened on his behalf. It was unthinkable! No one had ever…talked to him so normally and so kindly before! The men at the farming project were kind, but they already knew that he hadn’t had an easy past, so they treaded lightly out of a desire to help him. She had no knowledge of that and just approached him as naturally as any other person.
He looked down at his side and touched the bandages carefully, remembering how gentle her hands had been. It wasn’t just that she had treated him well, like a human being, but she had touched him without any fear whatsoever!
She had even looked him in the eyes! No one had been brave enough to actually look at his face before. There had been a brief look of fear on her face…but then it had quickly went away and never returned during their encounter. He had thought that he had only imagined it at first; it felt like someone had truly looked into his soul and saw him, actually saw him. Not his body or his face, him; Shinjiro.
Lilly...she was something else. As long as he lived, he’d never forget what she had done for him. Part of the reason for his tears was because of how much her simple act of kindness had moved him, but also…
He’d never known any peace in all the years he had lived. He was considered a monster; a demon; someone who wasn’t truly human and didn’t deserve to be treated with basic decency, much less live. It was normal for him. There was only one other time that anyone had saved him but that…
His mind flashed with horrible images that he had tried to block out, tried to forget. Three sadistic, smiling faces leering at him. Running though cities turned into battle-ground, smeared in blood. So many dead bodies and horrified faces…the smell of blood and death, the feel of the gore on his skin…he’d never be able to erase them from his mind. He pulled his knees to his face and buried his face in them. His tears were coming fast and furious now, like a waterfall.
He just wanted to live, that was all. He didn’t want to hurt anyone, but all his life, he’d been treated like he needed to be feared, or even killed to protect others. The self-hate, the fear, the despair…it was a never-ending prison for him. He didn’t know what to do! It hurt…it hurt so much. His heart hurt every day that he was alive. He was so confused. He’d spent so long believing that he was a monster, born to be a tool for death and destruction. He was still getting used to living normally. He just wanted to be alive and left to himself.
He cried harder and stronger, not caring about any sort of stigma of showing emotions. He felt so lost and alone. He couldn’t put his pain and feelings into words, but it hurt and was an ever-present struggle and wound in his heart and mind. He didn’t know how to overcome it for good, just temporarily avoid it.
All he could do was weep. He’d spent so long as an empty shell, not allowing himself to feel anything. He hadn’t been allowed. Now, he didn’t know how to handle the intense feelings of regret and pain that bombarded him from the past.
“It’s okay. I don’t know why, but you didn’t strike me as someone to be feared. I’m just happy that you’re safe!”
He remembered the girl smiling innocently up at him. Lilly. A fitting name. Her smile had been bright and beautiful. He had been struck by her eyes and how out of place they were compared to her words and actions. They looked like pretty emeralds but…they… seemed so sad and contrasted starkly with her outwardly joyful demeanor. He wondered if she understood his situation more than he thought. Had she known a deep, existential kind of pain and self-loathing, too? But if it was true, in spite of it, she was still so sweet and kind!
Shinjiro found himself wanted to see Lilly again. He just wanted to be with her; to just talk with her. No one had ever been so kind to him before. No one had ever been happy that he was alive or said that he deserved to be treated with kindness and respect before. No one had looked past him…his ungodly strength and large body, his face that looked like that of a wicked devil…no one had ever been able to see beyond his appearance. She left an impression on his heart and mind. He just wanted to be around someone who he could be at complete ease around, someone who he didn’t have to fear or worry about scaring. He just wanted someone to be around and spend time with, like a normal person.
But as he was now…he couldn’t do that. He wouldn’t do that. Even if she truly didn’t fear him, he would never seek her out. A witch, the men had called her. She was an outcast, too, then. Friendship with him would further turn the villagers against her and could even endanger her life. He had felt the killing intent of the villagers and knew that they had only spared him because of the effort involved in slaying two people; they hadn’t done it because they didn’t want to hurt Lilly. They didn’t seem to care about her life, either.
He would never bring such danger and condemnation on anyone, not even for the sake of his own happiness! And he frequently wondered if he even deserved to be happy or know peace. His hands were stained with blood. He’d committed many crimes…so many…there was so much evil to his name that he could never blot out. He had never wanted any of it! If he could, he’d trade his own soul to turn back time and fix what he had done! But that was impossible, and now he would have to live with the consequences of his sins for the rest of his life. He had no right to be willing to sacrifice anyone’s well-being for his own desires, much less a right to even be happy at all. He had no right to desire friendship with anyone, after all the lives he had senselessly took.
‘God…if you’re out there…someone…something…please, help me!’ He pleaded internally as he continued to weep, progressing to screaming into his knees.
‘I’m…so weak…all I can do is cry in the dark and regret. I just…I just want relief from this pain, this burden. Just a little bit. I know I have no right to ask that…but it hurts so much! I’m drowning in despair and I…just want a tiny bit of hope. I don’t want to be damned…but I fear I already have been because of the things I’ve done. I want hope, but I also feel like it would be wrong for me to have any. Please…someone! Anyone! …help me. I’m…really so pathetic.’