Chapter 67: Kind Killer
“Well, to be honest it wouldn’t be that much of a problem for others, it’s just something that’s been bothering me for a while.”
Trying to attach as little importance as possible to his own problem, Henry seemed unwilling to talk about it.
Nisha understood that there might be issues he couldn’t mention to other people, just like she couldn’t casually reveal that she was not really an elf.
Waiting for Henry to open up on his own, as pushing him was likely to be useless, she simply admired the beautiful garden.
After some time, the young man had finished gathering his thoughts.
“Like I said, calling it a problem is probably too much. As you know, I am currently attending the academy, I train to safely graduate. I only reached the late second rank in aura although I’m in my third year, so you could say that I’m a bit behind compared to my classmates, still since this is the royal academy, most noble families supplement their children with resources to help their progress, whereas my father wants me to rely on my own efforts. Most commoners in third year are in the mid second rank, in either aura or mana, so I’m actually slightly better than the average.
And that’s not what I’m concerned about.
Actually, it’s the dungeon, I came across the problem there. Remember how I saw you enter the first level?
On that day, we were assigned by the Academy to form a group and enter the second floor for the first time. I have a few friends in my class, so it wasn’t too difficult, we knew it was just to get us used to the second layer anyway.
The second floor contains fiercer creatures than the first.
I’ve always been more skilled with the sword and shield; and since the school offered classes to train in both together, I attended them. My grades are excellent and I have already been knighted, you could say I’m amongst the best of my class.”
He must have been bothered by this for a long time. It is unusual for Henry to talk so much at once.
“In the Dungeon , my job was to hold the front, thus allowing my friends to deal damage to the monsters while I was occupying them. Hurting a living being for the very first time is hard on everyone, so a teacher had accompanied us on our first hunt.
After killing our first monster, we had all thrown up.
A few years after, my friends are more or less alright. It’s just … I still can’t bring myself to kill, even monsters that would kill me if I don’t fight. When I’m about to pierce them with my sword … I think of the pain I’m about to cause, the suffering, how I would feel if I or my friends had to endure it.
As a noble, and with my father being the Marshal, becoming a knight is a given. How could I not? I actually like the thought of wielding a shield to protect people. It’s just… the blood, the pain, the deaths, all those things scare me. I really want to be successful and to fulfill my duty; and at the same time I know I hurt myself whenever I hurt others. Freezing up, hesitating, looking away, any of those cowardly actions could get my friends killed in the dungeon. Recently I’ve been avoiding missions, and now it’s getting suspicious. I don’t know what to do anymore.”
He stared off in the distance, his uneasy expression striking directly into Nisha’s heart.
I didn’t think he would be so burdened when he can smile so happily with me. I really want to help him, but what can I do?
Walking in patterns only she could see in the flower garden, Nisha silently accompanied Henry, sharing his pain without uttering a word.
The usual music had been replaced by silence, and it was in this fashion that the sun slowly made its way through the sky.
Finally, Henry spoke up again.
“It was relieving to talk about it, thank you for listening. I guess I’ll find a way to deal with it eventually. Don’t worry, I’ll manage, somehow.”
As he was preparing to leave to another of his responsibilities as a young nobleman, Nisha suddenly called out to him.
“Wait! Do you have a day off soon? I want to show you something, it might help.”
Surprised, Henry turned around to face her again. Between the green stalks growing in the Dharnas’ estate background, a faint glimmer of hope could be seen surfacing on his face. Even though he couldn’t admit it, as shallow as the chance that Nisha knew the solution to his problem was, it was enough to give him hope.
“Well, yes, actually. If we skip the next court session, we both should have a day off. Why, what do you want to show me?”
“Secret. Wear your armor and bring your sword and shield with you on the Day of Light. We’ll meet outside when you’re ready.”
Recalling the hardships she had overcame in the past, the dragon steeled herself. Even if she had to reveal one of her secrets, if it was for the sake of her older brother, it would be worth it.
On the Day of Light, both Nisha and Henry excused themselves to Luthais, pretexting respectively a headache and a prior appointment with academy friends.
Henry immediately went back to his room and equipped his knight set, and then walked to the gate. Unsure on whether the elven girl was going to join him or if she had been faster than him, he approached the guard on duty.
“Excuse me, do you know if my sister has left the house?”
Saluting the young master, the soldier didn’t dare to delay his answer.
“No, sir! As a matter of fact, apart from you and the Marshal, no one has left today. Should I relay a message if the miss comes by?”
“No, thank you, Alan. Please resume your guard duty, I wouldn’t want to distract you from your job.”
Having grown up with most of the guards, that were already employed by his family at the time, Henry naturally knew their names.
A figure waving at him caught his attention, he thanked the guard again and departed.
Standing in the alley between their estate and the neighbouring one, Nisha was waiting for him.
“How did you get out? The guard said he didn’t see you.”
Suspicious of Nisha, who was wearing a set of leather armor, he questioned her, worried that a secret passage was ruining the security of their home. Smiling brightly, Nisha calmed him down.
“Don’t worry, I have my ways. Just because Alan didn’t notice me doesn’t mean I can’t get out. Let’s go, I don’t know how much time we’ll need.”
This will give him something to think of for a while, he won’t realize where we’re heading before it’s too late.
Indeed, Henry was lost in thought, and they peacefully passed through the gate separating the noble district from the commoner district.
Only when they neared the harbor did he notice where he was.
“Wait, where are we going? You said you wanted to show me something, what did you mean?”
“Just a bit more and you’ll see by yourself. Come on, it isn’t far.”
Refusing to answer his inquiries, the elven girl sped up again, taking her stepbrother’s hand, forcing him to follow along.
When they entered the large building erected over the staircase leading to the dungeon, Henry finally caught his breath and stopped her.
“We can’t go in there with just the two of us. I can handle one or two monsters, but if we come across more, I won’t be able to protect you. Didn’t you listen when I said you shouldn’t go there without a reliable group?”
Since he had understood what was their destination, Henry wouldn’t budge, causing a small jam as people had to avoid them, the morning being especially busy, a lot of adventurers heading inside to spend a day there. To Nisha’s surprise, a few of them had beasts or monsters with them.
“I need you to trust me, Henry. I want to show you something, and I promise we won’t go further than the first level. I wouldn’t do anything too dangerous, really.”
Insisting, Nisha pleaded with him.
“Look, I know you have something in mind and I appreciate it, but even then, it doesn’t change the fact that this place is not safe, we could die. The Guild allows everyone in, but in truth staying alone in the first layer before reaching the E rank is plain suicide; and between one and two people, there isn’t much of a difference.
You want to help me and I appreciate that. It isn’t too late to come back when you reach the E rank after you started attending the Academy, alright? At that time, I’ll come with you again and you can show me whatever you wanted to show me this time, okay?”
Trying to compromise using his own rank as an example to distract her from her current plans, Henry hoped she would relent.
“Oh, do you swear we’ll enter the Dungeon together once I’m an E class adventurer?”
The elven girl’s crafty smile barely hidden, her step brother could have an inkling about something being amiss; nonetheless he had no way out since he had himself suggested it.
“I swear. It won’t be too late at that time. Come on, let’s go back.”
I got him!
Grabbing her hand to take her back, he was surprised by Nisha’s brilliant grin.
“Go back? Why? Here, take a look. You are right, it won’t be too late at all, since we’re going in right now!”
Taking out her guild card from her space, the dragon girl lightheartedly handed it to the bewildered Henry, who was slightly uneasy, yet refused to believe that the delicate elf had achieved the same rank as him.
“How did you get this?! Is this a real guild card?”
Giving her the card back, Henry still couldn’t link the big E on the top right hand corner with Nisha’s small frame.
They had spent quite some time together, but he had never felt a shred of power coming from her, at least not enough to put her on the level where she would be at the same rank as him.
“I told you about my friend, right? The one I am afraid to see? To be honest, she works at the Guild. When I first visited the Guild, I signed up and Aubrey – my friend – was the one at the counter, she explained everything to me. The evaluation went fine, and I was allowed to start as an E rank. When we got to the training grounds the next day, she had volunteered to be my guide; and after something happened with some other adventurers and I had to run away.
I’ve been avoiding the Guild building since then, I was coming here instead. Thanks to you I finally found the courage to go back and apologize, I’ll do that soon.”
As she was talking, she climbed down the stairs and entered one of the doorways.
Henry tried his best to follow her explanation. He would have never thought that the elven girl had come here more than the one time when he had spotted her, at most she had been curious and had ceased her expeditions after his warning.
He wanted to voice his objections, but Nisha picked a path without giving him the opportunity to.
“Wait! Do you use mana? If you do, at least let me walk at the front. Although most of the rooms around here have been wiped clean, you don’t have a weapon, it’s not safe!”
“What are you talking about? I have my swords right here.”
Turning around and swinging the [Taurith Short Swords] she had just taken out of her [Soul Space] in the air, she once again baffled Henry.
“When did you … ?”
Most of the adventurers around the stairs waiting for their party had only given the duo a quick look, entering solo was unusual yet small teams with one aura practitioner and one mage, especially two youths like them, weren’t particularly rare, many young ones earned a living like this.
To keep up that pretense, she hadn’t hung her swords at her waist earlier.
Ignoring her stepbrother’s questions, Nisha spoke again.
“These are weapons grandpa gave me to protect myself, it’s important to keep them out of sight, he said.
Anyway, from the way you explained your problem to me, I think I had had a similar issue.
I told you already I think, that I fought and killed humans, right? And I regularly hunt monsters.
Maybe it’ll help you if I tell you what issue I had and how I got rid of it.
You remember, when we first met, I had been injured and I even went to the temple?”
She felt him nod, they were progressing deeper into the first floor, and Nisha was closely observing the rooms, looking for a target.
“That was around the time grandpa died and we encountered hostile soldiers in [Blackquarry]. I wanted to protect my friends, Annabelle and Lydia, so I went off on my own. Looking back at it, it was a stupid decision, but at the time I thought it was the best option. Anyway, at first I didn’t think and blindly fought the soldiers. I hacked them in pieces, I was frenzied and I didn’t exactly have time to consider my enemies’ feelings.
Only, I was eventually reminded that they had loved ones too. Family, waiting for them at home, whom they would never see again because of me. I froze. I was terrified. Wasn’t I causing them the same pain I had experienced when Eldrin had died?
The battlefield isn’t a place where one can falter. It’s you or them there. Bracing myself, I persevered and saved my friends.
I got injured really bad later, although I was healed at the temple. I still couldn’t decide by myself, had I done the right thing? I was scared and internally hurt, how could I have caused suffering to others? I even felt like I was a monster.
I held onto my resolve to protect the ones dear to me, and after thinking the events through, I could determine that I hadn’t taken their lives lightly, there was nothing I could have done to change the outcome back then. It was hard, but I made me grow character-wise.”
Stopping for a second in an empty room, Nisha checked their position on the map. They hadn’t been walking for long, yet they had already strayed from the main path that lead to the second floor. It was unlikely they’d cross path with other groups here.
Henry was still lost in thoughts, reflecting on Nisha’s revelations. He knew that the elven girl had been in some predicaments since she had been heavily injured; but she had never talked about it with him, hence he was shocked. Her last words caught his attention, he was curious to know what kind of promise she had made to herself to allow herself to freely slay her foes.
There! This way.
Reacting to the sound and smell coming from the passageway on the right, Nisha established the nearest monster’s position.
Seeing that Henry was attentively listening, she walked in the direction of the enemy.
“It might not sound incredibly great, but I decided I would retaliate. It’s a decision you have to make when you go to the battlefield, I am not going to leave my loved ones just because someone else has loved ones too. I am betting my life when I strike to kill, there can always be an accident or a stronger opponent. If my foe doesn’t have the same resolve or takes things lightly, that is not of my responsibility.
If someone wants to hurt me, that person should be prepared to experience pain too. The same goes for killing. I won’t deny that I go out to hunt. I like hunting, because it’s a contest of strength, I enjoy the thrill of clashing with a powerful being, laying your life on the line.
On the other hand, I won’t torture someone uselessly. I might get injured while hunting, or lose to a stronger monster, and that is a price I am prepared to pay.
I think that is what you need, Henry. Something to fight for. The thrill. Protect someone. Prove your strength. Live another day. Anything.
You could also stay as you are, unable to handle blood and dislike inflicting pain on others. I’d even think it’s admirable and a good trait of yours. I know I don’t mind it, and maybe I’m in the wrong to feel this way.
If you believe you’re doing the right thing, you’re likely to overcome your fear. So far you battled because it was expected of you, or you were forced to. We’re simply gonna change that.
Today, I want to show you something, and you should know that I won’t demand you to fight or expect it from you. If you want, you can go back after seeing what I’ll share with you, or just come along and watch.
On the other side, I’d be really happy if we could do this together. Maybe it could help.”
As she finished her speech, the two of them arrived in a room filled with monsters.