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Great [Monster] Journey 25

RSanon Mar 22nd, 2014 1,476 Never
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  1. Galen stared.
  2.  
  3. First it was at the ceiling, lying back in his bed as he tried to drift off like the doctor and his companions had told him to. Next was the window, hoping the thinning clouds would offer some mental distraction from his weighing questions. Finally, the door, closed and silent, the only thing that dared to stare back at him. The ripples of wood cared little for his mood, offered no shirking from his anger and distress. Nor did they attempt to give advice or solace. They just stared as if that was all they were ever meant to do, ever cared to do.
  4.  
  5. Galen relented, slapping a hand to his forehead as he sat up. Trying to sleep like this was hopeless. He could twist and turn, groan and grumble for hours and still not feel any better. He needed answers, not silence.
  6.  
  7. But who could possibly have them?
  8.  
  9. Grumbling, he threw off his covers, ignoring his aching body as he swing his feet over the side of the bed. Rest could come later. He pushed up off the bed… and promptly fell back down onto it. His feet refused to take his weight, shivering, shaking, and collapsing at a hint of pressure. He rolled his eyes. Great. He’d need something to help him stand, at least for a little while, and there wasn’t a certain manticore around to help him this time.
  10.  
  11. His eyes fell on a staff, likely meant for people or monsters in his exact position, resting against a wall on the far side of the room. Completely unreachable from the bed, meaning he’d have to crawl over there to get it. Another frustration, but what was another upon a mountain of them? In a last attempt to at least retain some of his pride, he got on his hands and knees and started to crawl, but he didn’t even make it a few feet before his legs slipped out and he slammed onto his stomach. The air rushed from his lungs in a pathetic grunt. Scowling, Galen pulled himself the rest of the way to the staff.
  12.  
  13. What would his father say, seeing him on the floor like this, a lonely little killer trying to stand on his own two feet?
  14.  
  15. ‘This is why I told you you weren’t allowed to go.’
  16. ‘You rushed into things without thinking.’
  17. ‘I expected more.’
  18.  
  19. His fingers slipped from the staff, sending it to the floor with a clatter than rang through his ears. His eyes immediately went to the door, waiting for someone to rush in and see him struggling about, but it seemed that was one annoyance the world would spare him today. He scrambled back to the bed, staff in hand, as quickly as he could. With considerable more grunting and effort, he was able to climb back onto the bed.
  20.  
  21. Two harpies and a mothman. His first victims. Somewhere out there, their families and companions would be going about their lives, completely unaware to what just happened, until someone gave them the news and it all came crashing down on them at once. That’s assuming, of course, someone ever found their bodies. It was likely their memories would fade into nothing, a day at a time until even their closest ones forgot to be sad.
  22.  
  23. He’d set out to do something, something he’d brooded over, pondered, and decided on. He’d set out his mission all in preparation of the day he could finally leave Nox, and while things hadn’t been smooth, he’d still kept his goals in-tact. Now one of them had been shattered by a moment of weakness. A surrender to his deeper desires, his instincts. There was enough beyond his control already; he didn’t need to be ruining the few things that were.
  24.  
  25. His hands crawled up the staff, fingers rubbing up against the coarse wood. They gripped tight and he planted the base of the staff between his feet to keep it from sliding out from underneath him. With a deep breath, he rose from the bed.
  26.  
  27. His arms and legs shouted in anger at the strain, trying to get him to lie back down, but Galen had had quite enough of that damn bed. Though his legs shook like a boat in a storm and his arms burned like oil in flame, he kept his feet. Slowly but surely, he rose until his knees locked and his head was just below where his hands gripped the staff. He wanted to smile, but all that came out was a scowl of determination. He was up. Even if he hadn’t taken a step, he was up.
  28.  
  29. Breath coming out in short huffs, he dragged himself up the staff until his back was straight. The staff quivered in his hands, threatening to slip and bring him crashing back down, but his feet held it in place. He wanted to walk out right then and there, but he knew he needed to take it slow or else he’d be right back on the floor where he started. A little bit at a time, he bent his legs until he felt he’d fall back down, then straightened them out. He repeated this process several times, slowly, eating up the minutes, a subtle worry of intrusion growing with each iteration. He couldn’t rush it, but he couldn’t take his time, either. Once he got to the point he was able to squat and stand back up with relative smoothness, he ventured forward with his first step.
  30.  
  31. The staff almost got away from him the second his foot came off the ground, but his reaction was quick enough to keep it steady. He swallowed, pausing to take a deep breath. Sweaty palms weren’t helping. Silence beckoned him onward, the harsh apathy of the empty room aggravating his ravenous frustration. One step. It was only a few inches, and he wasn’t so much stepping forward as he was dragging his protesting foot along, but it was progress. Two steps. The step was shaky, but his devout grip on the staff kept his body up. Three steps. A little further this time. The door wasn’t so far away any more.
  32.  
  33. What’d he do to deserve this, anyways? Some gross deficiency of luck? Did he anger someone unintentionally along the way? Was whatever power that ruled over humans toying with him? Shouldn’t the harpies and mothman been grateful he spared them and left him alone?
  34.  
  35. He grunted, both in annoyance and effort. It’d taken what felt like an hour, but he was finally at the door. Carefully, he reached out for the doorknob and opened it. Unfortunately, the door swung inwards, forcing Galen to scoot back and maneuver around the door before making it into the hallway. Smiling, he looked at the ceiling, finally free from that small, oppressive room
  36.  
  37. He was spotted at once.
  38.  
  39. “Do you need help?”
  40.  
  41. He shifted himself to face the stranger. It was a succubus, of course, the same height as Galen and in the familiar garb of a doctor. Luckily, it wasn’t his doctor--she probably would’ve had no qualms just picking Galen up and tossing him back into his bed. He was about to ask if he looked like he needed help when he realized exactly what he looked like at the moment.
  42.  
  43. “Umm…” Where was he headed, anyways? Just for a walk? His hands dug into the staff as he pondered, the grain coarse against his palms. “Actually, yes. I came here with a manticore. Do you know where she is?”
  44.  
  45. “Ah, I do remember seeing a manticore brought in. I can take you to her.” The succubus spun around to lead Galen, but he stopped her.
  46.  
  47. “Actually, could you just tell me where she is? I can get there on my own.”
  48.  
  49. “Of course.” The succubus’ glance over Galen’s body suggested she wasn’t so believing of his last statement, but she answered anyways. “Down the hall and to the left. She’s in the last room before the stairs.” She started back off the way she’d been heading earlier, then stopped herself. “Try to be careful.”
  50.  
  51. “Uh huh.” Galen had already started shuffling down the hall toward Seira’s room. He’d heard enough of doctors for quite a while.
  52.  
  53. His hobble took him forward at a pace that would have supremely frustrated a younger Galen, but today he was a bit older. Older by trial, perhaps. His feet scraped against the ground in a morose rhythm. It sounded not unlike a dog scratching a door, waiting to be let in, or maybe a craftsman taking fine sandpaper across his work in slow, deliberate strokes. Galen was too focused on his destination to worry about running into his doctor any more.
  54.  
  55. He couldn’t say why, but he felt his answers might be in that room with Seira. Maybe seeing her alive would be justification for his actions. All he’d known was darkness and weakness in exchange for those deaths. Maybe seeing something good would help.
  56.  
  57. Galen hit the turn in the hallway. He grit his teeth, a sour frown on his face. A trade-off, huh? Just like his dad had always said the world was like. That thought alone made him want to scream. Screw trade-offs. Screw bending to that world. He wasn’t on this journey to see more of the same, just to watch as everything played out exactly as he’d always been told. The second he got out of this stupid hospital, he’d… well, he’d do something.
  58.  
  59. Maybe Seira was the key to finding out what.
  60.  
  61. After a short struggle with the doorknob, Galen made it into the room the doctor had directed him to. It was much like his own, only a bit larger and holding an extra piece of furniture. Off in the corner was a cabinet full of various liquids, most in smaller jars, but some were stored in vials so small he could hardly tell the color of the substance inside. The whole thing was locked up tight. The stuff in there was probably pretty dangerous.
  62.  
  63. Galen gave it no more attention, instead turning to the bed near the far wall. Just like him when he was first brought to the hospital, Seira was fast asleep, covered to her neck in sheets. Her arms laid atop them, however, quiet and still, those sizable paws and fearsome claws now pacified. Her face was… oddly familiar. Galen swallowed, stopping to take a hand off his staff and wipe something out from under his eye. He knew that look anywhere, even asleep. A curious sort of smile on her lips, peaceful yet yearning. Cheeks smooth but for the smallest wrinkles near her lips. Her eyes somehow still had that inquiring look to them, even if all she was searching was the back of her eyelids. Thinking to herself, maybe?
  64.  
  65. A gust of air coming from the closing door made Galen jolt. He felt much like an intruder now, but stubbornly refused to leave. Instead, he shambled forward to a chair at Seira’s bedside and plopped down in it with a grunt. His collarbone wasn’t happy with the sudden drop, but right now it was just one voice of annoyance amongst many.
  66.  
  67. He leaned against the back of the chair, planning on napping until Seira woke, but he didn’t get the chance.
  68.  
  69. “I’m trying to sleep here.” Her tone put the dusty Lands to shame.
  70.  
  71. “You’re a--“ Galen stopped himself, shaking his head. He couldn’t bring himself to smile, but his voice wasn’t lacking for smarm. “I’m so terribly sorry for wanting to visit.”
  72.  
  73. “You smell awful when you’re being sarcastic.” One eye opened and fixed on Galen. “Even the stale air in here was better.”
  74.  
  75. “Well, while you’re stuck in that bed, you don’t get to choose.” He shifted in his chair. “Glad to see that razor edge of yours hasn’t dulled.”
  76.  
  77. “Don’t really have a choice with obnoxious kids like you around. Someone needs to pick up the slack when you do something stupid.”
  78.  
  79. “Ah.” Anything resembling a smile vanished from his face. “I have been having trouble with that lately, haven’t I?”
  80.  
  81. Seira squinted at him. “Did you finally realize I was right about the harpies and mothman?”
  82.  
  83. “Umm… I think so. Sorta. Doesn’t really matter.” He turned to look out the window.
  84.  
  85. Seira groaned, shifting around in the bed to prop her head up further on the pillow. “It’s more difficult than I thought it would be looking up to you when we’re talking,” she grumbled. “Now what do you mean by ‘doesn’t really matter’?”
  86.  
  87. Galen let out a sigh that in no way did his austerity justice. “They’re dead. They knocked you out and afterwards I… killed them.”
  88.  
  89. “Don’t be so beaten up about it. You did what you had to.” The words came out lacking the confidence she often had. Her eyes focused on Galen harder.
  90.  
  91. “I guess I did. Sybyll and Mino said it wasn’t my fault, but I don’t think so.”
  92.  
  93. “Not your fault? Why, because of what the Lands were doing to our heads?”
  94.  
  95. “Yeah.” His gaze fell. “I used Toneruth, but it did something different. Sybyll said it responds to will, and that the Lands brought out something in me that made it, well, activate.”
  96.  
  97. Seira cocked her head. “Activate? So it can actually do magic after all?”
  98.  
  99. Galen squinted at her. “Of course it can. Why would you ask that?”
  100.  
  101. She rolled her eyes. “Healthy skepticism, Galen. Yeah, it’s done some interesting things, but I’m not one to believe something unless I see it. Besides, how could we know how much of its power it’s lost over time? It could have just decayed like everything else does.”
  102.  
  103. “Well, it didn’t. Not a bit. One cut was all it took.” He explained the other details as concise as he could. Mino’s help, what Toneruth turned into, the lightning, and falling unconscious afterwards. Trying to recall everything, he found a strange cloud over his memory, one he hadn’t expected. The flashes of death seemed so clear before… so why was it so vague now?
  104.  
  105. “I don’t see why you’re so beaten-up over it.” A touch of annoyance entered her voice. “You didn’t have a choice. You weren’t even completely in control. You did what what necessary, even if it meant killing.”
  106.  
  107. He glanced over at the window. “Yeah. I guess that’s the sort of person I am.”
  108.  
  109. Seira’s paw twitched, but Galen wasn’t watching. “The sort of--“ She swallowed her words, sealing her lips shut, then fidgeted around in the bed. Galen could tell she was much the same state as him, if not worse. The bandages around her arms and chest didn’t help. But just like Galen, she wasn’t about to let that stop her. With a mixture of grunts and winces, she scooted up the bed so she could sit up against the headboard. Galen reached out to help, but she shot him a glare and he backed off.
  110.  
  111. “Why don’t you just stay laying down?”
  112.  
  113. She ignored the question, adjusting herself until her back was flat against the wall. Like this, she was at Galen’s eye level. She covered a cough with a paw before speaking up again.
  114.  
  115. “Just so I’m clear on this: the waypoint was broken down, so we had no protection from the Lands. I had since been knocked out and was pretty much bleeding to death. That slime was keeping you from falling over. Your anger got away from you, and while you were using Toneruth it did something it’s never done before and in the end was able to kill the harpies and mothman, even though you didn’t realize it? And since that could only happen if you wanted it, you’re afraid you’re some sort of heartless killer now?”
  116.  
  117. Galen opened his mouth to speak, closed it, considered the explanation again, then said, “Yeah.”
  118.  
  119. Seira didn’t even hesitate. “You idiot.”
  120.  
  121. “Wha?”
  122.  
  123. “I can’t believe you. You stupid, demon-cursed IDIOT!”
  124.  
  125. “I… I don’t underst--“
  126.  
  127. “Eeugh, I’m Galen, I don’t understand,” her mocking voice spat as she placed her wrists against her hips and bobbed her head back and forth. “I think I’m mean, I think I like to kill monsters. I’m such a terrible person.”
  128.  
  129. Galen’s face flushed a deep red. “Seira, mocking me--“
  130.  
  131. “Shut UP! I think I might scream if I hear your stupid voice say one more word!” she barked. “In all your deep thinking, your self-conflict, your delving into the roots of morality, you didn’t even have the sense to use your own two eyes and look in front of you!”
  132.  
  133. “I--“
  134.  
  135. Seira seized his face in one paw to shut him up.
  136.  
  137. “You didn’t use the other sword!”
  138.  
  139. Unable to speak, Galen could only squint, one eyebrow slowly lifting in confusion.
  140.  
  141. “Look at your waist!”
  142.  
  143. She didn’t wait for him, yanking his gaze down by the paw gripping his face. Galen’s eyes wandered aimlessly. What the heck did she want him to see? His crotch?
  144.  
  145. “Your swords, idiot.”
  146.  
  147. Attached to his waist like always were the two swords he’d been carrying around for the journey. Toneruth, which he picked up in Silere, and the plain iron sword he brought with him from Nox. The second hadn’t really been put to use since he found Toneruth as his iron sword just couldn’t match up.
  148.  
  149. “Now think.” She spat the second word out with such force Galen’s vision spun for a moment. “You have two swords. One broken twice, so short that even a dagger could do a better job, and liable to break off even more. The other, full-length, in good condition, with a blade at least adequately sharp. The ONLY other difference between the two is that one kills when it strikes and the other does not.” She yanked his head back up to meet her eyes. “Do you understand?”
  150.  
  151. “But Toneruth grew back into--“
  152.  
  153. “You didn’t know that! I bet you didn’t even realize it WHILE you were using it!”
  154.  
  155. “W-well,” Galen stammered as he thought back, his eyes anywhere but on Seira, “I g-guess? I don’t see how--“
  156.  
  157. “Stop distorting the truth just so you hide behind fear!” She finally released his face, throwing him into the back of his chair. “I swear, nothing angers me more than idiots like you! You want to be an inherent killer so you can run from the responsibility of what you did, then you twist your thoughts and perceptions so that’s all you can see. Face the truth! You’re an ignorant, reckless kid who messed up, and now three monsters are dead!” She spat on the floor in front of him. “A killer? My father was a better killer than you, and he had a hard time stepping on insects!”
  158.  
  159. “It’s just, I don’t, uhh…” Galen’s excuses trailed off. Could she be right? Was he hiding? He never took himself for someone to run away; that’s not how he’d been raised. ‘Face everything with confidence where you have knowledge; enthusiasm where you do not,’ his dad had said. And it’s not like he’d been denying anything. He accepted he killed those monsters and bore the guilt of it. He wasn’t running away, he couldn’t be.
  160.  
  161. So why did what Seira said make so much sense?
  162.  
  163. He rested his forehead on the staff he held on to. What made a killer anyway? Was it the act, or a disposition toward it? How much of his will was his yesterday, and how much of it was the Lands? And why had it taken so long for him to start asking these questions? A whimper came out of his mouth as he squinted his eyes shut. He needed his father here. He’d have the answers. Or at least some way for Galen to start looking for them.
  164.  
  165. “Galen.”
  166.  
  167. He dragged his face along the staff as he raised it. Seira’s demeanor had since calmed, her grimace since turned into a concerned frown.
  168.  
  169. “It’s okay to be wrong. Everyone--“ She scrunched her lips together, clearly having a hard time saying something that wasn’t an insult, “Everyone is, sooner or later, and it’s going to happen again. The only real way to mess up is not to learn from it. Don’t--“ She shook her head. “This is something Sybyll would say, not me.” Lowering her head, she covered her face with a paw. “All I’m trying to say is that you should learn from your mistakes and not dwell on them.” She paused. “The latter has gotten me in enough trouble already. I had to learn that the hard way.”
  170.  
  171. “Do you… do you want to talk about it?” He’d talked plenty about himself, any more whining about his problems would be pathetic.
  172.  
  173. “Let’s not and say we did.” She slumped back into her pillow, trying to appear smaller.
  174.  
  175. Galen nodded silently, then stared at the floor. There wasn’t much to say, really. Heat rushed into the space between them, like it’d been waiting for some break in conversation. Maybe the wind from their words had been pushing it away.  But while he wasn’t running away from things…
  176.  
  177. “I want to talk about Mino.”
  178.  
  179. Seira groaned. “Please. Anything but.”
  180.  
  181. “I want to know why you hate her so much and why you won’t give her a chance.”
  182.  
  183. “This is stupid. I already told you why.”
  184.  
  185. “No, you didn’t. All you said was, ‘She’s a slime’ like that’s some kind of explanation.”
  186.  
  187. “It is. You just don’t understand.”
  188.  
  189. Galen bit his lower lip. “Then help me understand. That’s what I’m asking.”
  190.  
  191. “Look, I can’t spell things out for you if you don’t already see them. I gave her a chance way back before you even knew she was with us, and she blew it. That’s all the proof you should need. Slimes are, and always have been, trouble.” She crossed her arms and turned to the window, as if to say the discussion was over.
  192.  
  193. Galen knew this would only get harder, but it had to happen sooner or later, and he didn’t see a better time than now. Who knew when he’d muster up the guts to bring this up again. “I think you’re being irrational.”
  194.  
  195. “Irrational?!” She slammed a paw down on the bed, making Galen jump. “How old are you? Eighteen? Twenty? I’m a hundred and fifteen, don’t try to tell me you understand something I don’t! Try growing up before speaking like you know something!”
  196.  
  197. Galen did his best to keep his back straight and his eyes forward. Seira would pounce on any weakness. “That doesn’t really address my concern. She was dying and did what she had to survive. I don’t think I need to remind you she’s saved you twice now.”
  198.  
  199. “Twice?” Her eyes wavered, then darkened. “No, you didn’t. And that doesn’t change the fact that she’s a slime.”
  200.  
  201. “That argument doesn’t even make sense! ‘She’s bad because she’s a slime and being a slime makes her bad’? Tell me why, Seira. Because after all she’s done for you, the least she deserves is for you to not hate her.”
  202.  
  203. “She deserves nothing from me but a good kick to the--“
  204.  
  205. “Seira!”
  206.  
  207. The room reverberated with the force of Galen’s staff slamming on the ground as he stood up. He immediately regretted the decision, his legs on the verge of collapsing after such a sudden movement. He got the effect he wanted, though. Seria’s words died in her mouth, her eyes widening at Galen.
  208.  
  209. “I don’t know where you got this hate or why you hold onto it so strongly, but it’s crippling you. You’re a smart manticore, I’ve known that ever since I’ve met you, but clutching to such a… toxic belief when there is a mountain of evidence screaming to the contrary just isn’t smart! There’s not a lick of sense to it! She helped you get out of jail and never asked for anything in return. She kept you alive and carried you here, but hasn’t expected you to even thank her for it. And all this, knowing you have this ridiculous hate for her. Where does it stop, Seira? Where does this lead? Because if you can’t face yourself like you’ve told me to so many times, then what are you supposed to learn? How will you ever really know if you’re making a mistake or not?” His legs wobbled and about fell out from underneath him, but he tightened his grip on his staff and pulled himself back up. Now he sort of understood why Seira was so mad at him earlier. “I… I shouldn’t even be here. Sybyll and Mino and even that doctor of mine will be mad at me for getting out of bed, so I’m going back.” He shambled back toward the door as fast as he could, not knowing if he could back up his argument if Seira called to him. Just before leaving, however, he paused and glanced back at Seira. Her eyes were fixed on him.
  210.  
  211. “Mino’s my friend. And I want her to be yours, too.”
  212.  
  213. The grating sound of his shuffling footsteps followed him all the back to his room. And nothing else.
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