Chapter 70: Thoughts and Actions

For the next few weeks, I continued to aid Ginah’s Crew in carrying out systematic strikes against the Elise; we specifically targeted only their enuim depots. Or at least, I only took part in those attacks.

I was pretty sure Ginah’s Crew did other such strikes against them, but I took no part in those. I was concerned with one thing and one thing only— as per my deal with them.

Unlike our initial strike however, we did not carry out similar scorched earth tactics where we left no one alive; that would simply be cruel. That was done to sever the potential for alliance between the Dark Crusaders and the Elise before anything substantive came from it. And so far, it appeared to have worked.

Our attacks now were short, and much less bloody. Without any spellcasters to combat, I did not have to use my magic either. We often let those who wanted to flee, flee. And we even spared most of those who stayed to fight.


The thug swung his axe at me, and I barely ducked under the swing. I brought my dagger low, slicing at his feet as I pivoted to his back. He jerked, but even that did not elicit a scream. He turned back to face me, his face burning red, and the veins in his pupil bulging… blue?

That was right. It was one of the side effects of the enuim; that was how you knew someone was taking them. Another indication that someone was high on the drug was their incredible pain tolerance. Which was why he was still standing even after I had cut his legs open.

“Listen,” I said, trying to project my voice as assertively as possible. “Put down your weapon—”

“Give it back!” he screamed, charging at me once more.

I rolled out of the way of his attack. I was exasperated; the enuim supposedly also put you in a state of mind where you were more likely to agree with others. So why wasn’t it working?

He whirled around, bringing his axe down wildly at me. I stepped into his attack, slashing at his arms. He could not feel pain, but his body— his muscles— were unchanged.

The thug dropped his axe as I went to knee him down below. He barely even registered the hit, and grabbed for me with his remaining good arm. I pushed at him— trying to get him off me. And I managed to do that, just in time for Braz to reach him.

“I got you!” The pirate grabbed the thug by the neck, and pinned him to the ground, choking him out. Sighing, I watched as the thug finally passed out after squirming on the ground for a good five minutes.

I cleaned my dagger of the blood on it, before sheathing at my waist. “Thanks Braz,” I said, nodding gratefully at him as he shot me a thumbs up. “I was worried I’d have no choice but to kill him for a moment.”

“Well, we wouldn’t want that would we? Good thing I was here to save the day!”

I rolled my eyes, but he just chuckled. He picked up the unconscious thug, and began bringing him out of the room. I headed for another already-open door, and paused just outside of it to assess the situation inside. It was empty, save for Kai with his face mask.

“Where are the others?” I asked, stepping in. “And where’s all the fighting?”

“Taken care of,” he said, glancing at me briefly. “I sent Elda to escort them out, as well as drag their unconscious friends away.”

“And you only sent Braz to help me?”

“No.” He shook his head. “He went to help you of his own volition.”

I frowned. So he still doesn’t trust me, huh? Not that it mattered to me— beyond possibly endangering my life. It was something I probably had to bring up to Ginah later, but for now, I focused on the task at hand.

“And this is the last of the enuim in this area?”

“That we know of.” He stopped pouring the oil over the crates of drugs. It wasn’t just the enuim, but a mixture of it— or at least, that was what I saw earlier. Now, it was just the enuim.

“You know,” I said, deciding not to comment on that. “I was told the enuim made you listen to others. Think less clearly, and more like a child following their parents’ words.”

He took out a lighter, producing a small flame. “That is correct.”

“So why did that thug keep coming at me even when I kept telling him to stop and leave with his life?” I folded my arms.

Without warning, Kai casually tossed the lighter into the oil, and fire plumed out. Then it started burning the wooden crates and barrels, quickly spreading across the room. He started walking off, as I followed behind him.

“As a member of the Elise, he probably had been warned there might be an attack in this area. He would not want you to take away his free supply of it, and the enuim is addictive. It makes you want more of it. Whereas it simply makes you more open to suggestions by others. So your suggestions lost out to his wants— or what he views as needs.”

The fire continued to spread at our backs, slowly engulfing the rest of the room. The walls, however, were made of stone and concrete. It was not nearly a large enough fire to destroy the entire factory, or even a section of it.

We were an hour outside of Luke. The amount of time it would have taken any city guards or reinforcements from the Elise was far too long. And it was not like we were trying to burn the entire building down.

It was in hopes that the Elise would have the factory resume its daily business to maintain an air of normalcy, so the workers would not be out of jobs. After all, an entire factory shutting down after a minor arson in only three of their rooms would arouse suspicion. Sure, they had the underground of the city mostly under their control, but this was the Capital city of Laxis. Even if the King fled years ago, law enforcement officials still existed. They were not fully corrupt just yet.

We returned to the cove a few hours later; there were very few complications besides treating the people we injured too grievously. We did not bring back any captives— Ginah’s Crew could barely sustain itself, let alone dozens of additional prisoners. Plus, they did not want to torture anyone for information.

It was… odd.

I would have expected them to do that, but they didn’t do it out of their own choice and not any objections I raised. In fact, I was not too sure whether I’d have raised any objections in the first place. I would be vehemently opposed any form of unnecessary torture, but if it was absolutely necessary, I began to feel more uncertain.

Perhaps I’d have opposed it, or perhaps I would not.

Luckily for me, it was not a bridge I had to cross since these were noble pirates. It was relieving knowing that I wasn’t working with evil people. Morally ambiguous? Sure. But I had been thorough, and I was certain none of the pirates were secretly evil like Victor was.

Key word being ‘pirates’, I thought, as I caught a glimpse of Lisa in the crowd.

Jack had not come with us, and instead accompanied his partner who had also just returned from a separate mission; we had come back after midnight, so there were very little people around.

The duo had not been exactly acting suspicious, and they were in fact helping out where they could. Lisa was always in charge of the intel and the logistics of the two, so she would gather information in the city to help us plan our attacks like she did today while we were out. In fact, our recent attack at the textile factory was based on Lisa’s help.

I was not sure how I felt about that fact since I wasn’t able to follow her on many of those information gathering trips; I could not tell if she was scheming against us, or actually aiding us. But still, if she wanted to betray us to the Elise, she could’ve done it many times by laying a trap— like when Ginah, myself, Kai, and Braz all coordinated a hit on one of the Elise’s smuggling ships for the enuim. Yet she did not.

Actions spoke louder than words: Lisa was a liar, but so far she did not seem to be a traitor. And why should she betray Ginah’s Crew or Jack? Ginah’s Crew had been one of her allies for years, while Jack was her partner from the very beginning— and that was not mentioning her own personal relationship with him.

However, all those were reasons for Jack or Ginah to trust her. I had no reason to trust Lisa. And that was why I still held my reservations about her.

I ignored her for now though, and turned my attention to the Dwarf and the young man approaching me.

“Yer back, lass,” Gennady said, holding up a mug of beer. He burped loudly, before wiping the foam off his beard. “Glad to see ya fine.” He tried to reach in for a hug, but I pushed him back.

“You smell.” I pressed my mask against my face to ease the stench, and spoke in a muffled voice. “How much have you been drinking?”

“Far too much,” Sevin piped up from beside him. “I’ve been trying to get Master Gennady to stop, but he doesn’t listen.”

“Oh come on, this ain’t half as much as what I can drink.” The Dwarf smacked me across the back. He took a large gulp from the mug, before lowering it and grinning. “And we’re celebrating! Sevin has just made his first original mana tool! He’s been working on it for weeks now, y’know? So come on, drink!”

He tried offering it to Sevin who politely declined, before turning to me and stopping himself as I indicated at my mask.

“Fine, if no one wants it, more for me!”

Gennady downed the last of his beer, as I looked over at Sevin.

“You’re finished with your pistol?” I asked, cocking my head.

He nodded excitedly. “Yes— although it’s not just a pistol. I designed it so you can fire two kinds of bolts. The first is nonlethal. It’s supposed to stun you. The second fires mana bullets. It’s slightly stronger than regular ones, but nothing too impressive. It probably pierces as well as or slightly better than a crossbow bolt.”

“That’s… amazing!” I said, staring at the young man.

I felt rather embarrassed about not having produced anything notable just yet. Sure, Sevin had been tinkering for far longer than me, but I should have been able to make more than just a simple lighter— which was my greatest creation so far.

And yet, I still felt a flush of pride for his achievement. Because it was an achievement. He had made something he could call his own, and that was something to be praised.

Sevin eagerly reached for his belt. “It really is! Although some people”— he glanced over at the drunk Gennady— “think it’s mediocre.”

“And that’s because it is,” the Dwarf said simply. I glared at him as Sevin sighed, but he just shrugged. “Listen lad, I think it’s good that you’ve made your own mana tool, but it’s nothing groundbreaking. Maybe if you designed it so you can just flip a switch to alternate between lethal and nonlethal, I’d say it’s good. But the fact that you have to manually change mana crystals to do that makes it too inefficient for me to say it’s anything beyond ‘alright’.”

“Manually switch mana crystals?” I looked between the two in confusion.

Sevin shuffled his feet uncomfortably. “You have to, uh, swap out mana crystals to use the different types of bolts.” He held up the pistol, and gestured at the small recess where the mana crystal was supposed to go. “If you put an Inferior mana crystal here, the pistol will shoot out stunning bolts. But if you put a Lesser mana crystal in there, it will fire a regular bolt.”

“Wait, you can do that?” I frowned.

“‘Course,” Gennady snorted. “Why wouldn’t you be able to do that? A Lesser mana crystal would be able to provide more mana for the bolt, making it more deadly since that’s how this gun in specific is designed.”

“And that works too if you put a Superior mana crystal in it?”

“I wouldn’t do that, but you can. It’d be a waste of a Superior mana crystal. As far as this pistol goes, the power of the bolts increase at a decreasing rate. It’d be more deadly, sure, but it wouldn’t be worth it.”

Sevin scratched the back of his head as he added, “Yeah, it isn’t too… good. But it’s something I made, at least.” I pursed my lips as I noticed his face fall a little bit.

I reached for the pistol, and he let me take it. I inspected it for a moment, before turning back to him. “I think it’s great,” I said. “And ignore Gennady, he’s drunk so he’s being more insensitive than usual.”

“Huh? I’m not drunk!” the Dwarf sputtered, but I ignored him.

“So I can just use any Lesser or Inferior mana crystal, and it works?”

“No,” Sevin said. He fumbled for his belt pouched, holding out a handful of shards of mana crystals. “You have to use these ones. If they run out, I’ll have to make more. But it only works because the runes on the mana crystals connect with the runs in the hole here, see?”

I carefully listened to the young man as he explained. When he was finished, I looked back up to him and nodded.

“Alright. I’ll buy this from you?”

“You— what?”

He stared at me in shock, but I just reassured him.

“Look, I was thinking about this earlier today. I need a way to fight in a way that doesn’t kill someone. And this gun’s stun bolts are perfect for me.”

“No— but…” he protested. I simply waved a hand nonchalantly.

“Whatever price you name, I’ll pay for it. And I’ll pay for the mana crystals as well.”

Sevin slowly worked his mouth. “Err… maybe 10— 12 gold?”

“Done,” I said, grabbing a handful of gold coins and handing it to him. I was not sure if that was a good price— in fact, I felt like that was rather cheap. However, whether or not he was ripping himself off was none of my concern; he named his price, and I paid for it.

I held up the gun, aiming it in the direction of the rock wall and firing a few shots.

“So with this Inferior mana crystal in, it won’t be able to kill anyone, right?”

“Yes. Just make sure to delicately control the mana inside of it when you switch between Lesser or Inferior mana crystals. You don’t want to accidentally push the mana too hard when you’re using the Inferior, like you would with the Lesser.”

“Right,” I said, “don’t want it to blow up on me.”

“It’s not going to blow up on ya, lass,” Gennady chimed in from the side, having gotten himself another drink. “I taught the lad how to make it so it won’t explode if you destabilize the mana crystal. Real Tinkerers design all their tools with that in mind. All of my weapons have that safety precaution on them. He’s a fast learner, unlike you.”

“I’ve been busy.” I scowled.

“Excuses, excuses.”

I rolled my eyes, focusing back on the topic at hand.

“So what happens instead?” I asked.

“Nothing,” Sevin said. “Or at least, it’s not supposed to do anything.”

“It’s not going to fire some sort of supercharged bolt, is it?” I looked dubiously at him. But he quickly brought two hands out placatingly.

“It can happen, but that bolt itself wouldn’t be very… stable. I wouldn’t trust using a weapon like that that can blow up in my face. And once again, it won’t be incredibly powerful. Maybe it’d be more powerful than the regular bolt fired with a Lesser mana crystal? But it’s not worth it since it will destroy your mana crystal.”

“Hah.” Gennady folded his arms, gaining a look from me. “That shows you’re still inexperienced, Sevin. Tinkerers have to be open minded. They have to expect their weapons to blow up in their face if they want to improve.”

“So if I accidentally destabilize the mana crystal in one of your weapons, it won’t explode on me, it would just fire something that could explode on me,” I said, voice flat.

He held out a finger smugly. “Or it could just fizzle out. Or it could do something completely unexpected. Or it could just waste a mana crystal, doing absolutely nothing.”

“I take it this is a last resort sort of thing?”

“‘Course,” Gennady said, confident as ever.

“Well, I don’t want to test my luck— I don’t have good luck.” I sighed, lowering the pistol. Turning to Sevin, I addressed the young man. “Thanks for this. I’ll probably be using it a lot, so keep making mana crystals, and I’ll buy them.”

“And I can teach you how to make them too,” Sevin quickly said.

“Sure. But tomorrow. I need to grab a bite to eat, then rest.”

I bade farewell to the two of them, going to the dining area. It was a wooden building that could fit about 30 people all at once, and rummaged through the boxes for any dried food to eat. Their cook was asleep, but there was a pot of stew left in the open, so I grabbed some of that along with some dried meats before heading back to the ship. I never made it there, however, as I was intercepted by Braz.

“Yo!” He waved a hand cheerfully at me.

“Hello,” I said, nodding my head at him before trying to sidle around him. “If you’ll excuse me, I have to go—”

“Nope,” he cut me off. “The Captain wants to speak with you. And me. It’s important or something.”

I sighed. Well that’s just great.

I said farewell to my delicious meal, before following after the man.

“Melas,” Ginah greeted me as I entered the door. “Sorry for calling you over so late, especially after you had a long day of fighting.”

“It’s fine,” I lied. I glanced over at Lisa and Jack standing in the corner of the room, then to Kai was who was standing across the table from Ginah. “What’s wrong?” I narrowed my eyes.

“Nothings wrong— sheesh, why are you always so uptight?” The pirate Captain rested her hand on her forehead. “If anything, you should be asking what is right, because we have news from Lisa.”

News? I cocked my head, but refrained from speaking.

“She told us that our attacks on the Elise have actually been working. So good job to you, Kai, and Braz.”

“No probs!” Braz flexed an arm casually.

Kai and I sighed simultaneously, but did not remark on it. Ginah continued.

“In fact, our attacks have been working so well, we’ve drawn out the Half Elf himself: Bahr.”

My head snapped to Ginah. “What?”

“Yes,” she said. “Bahr himself will be overseeing the arrival of his next supply of enuim reaches the docks of Luke without any trouble. This presents for us a perfect opportunity.”

“You want to cut the snake off at the head.”


“I…” I turned from face to face, meeting everyone’s stare. I paused for a moment at Lisa. Is this a trap? I thought. But I shook that thought out of my mind. Figure out what’s happening first, before judging.

“So what are we doing?” I asked.

“Right now? Nothing.” Ginah crossed her arms over her chest. “We’re not going to begin our plan until we know whether you’ll be joining us or not.”

I frowned. “What do you mean by that?”

“Kai has told me a lot about you, Melas,” she said, and I felt my heart jump for a moment. Panicked thoughts crossed my mind for a moment… until she continued. “He told me that he thinks you’re reliable. Trustworthy.”


Kai straightened, then nodded in my direction. “I’ve seen you fight, Melas. You fought the Dark Crusaders without hesitation, and you’ve also helped us against the Elise. If you haven’t betrayed us so far, I have no reason to believe you’d betray us now. And against Bahr— a Dark Acolyte Apostle— we need every help we can get. Especially from a spellcaster like you.”

I paused. Wait, so he trusts me? I had assumed he didn’t. I thought he was still skeptical of me, but apparently he wasn’t. So the reason why he didn’t send anyone to help me earlier was because he thought I could take care of myself? Was that it? I frowned, but another, more important question pervaded my mind.

“So you guys just called me here to ask me whether I’ll help you out on this?”

The two of them just nodded.

I considered it for a second, thinking about the consequences of my actions. If I did this, I once again went directly against the Dark Crusaders. It was a dangerous thing; they were an incredibly powerful group. And yet, I had made a decision like this before, so I answered with certainty.

“Of course I’m in.”

“Good,” Ginah said. “It’s late, so you can go get your rest. We just needed to get confirmation so we can start planning.”

“…that was it? I can leave now?” I felt my nudging me to quickly go, but I had to make sure.

“Yep,” she confirmed, and turned to Jack and Lisa. “You two, too. You could’ve left earlier, you know?”

Lisa just shrugged. “I wanted to see what she had to say, that’s all.”

“And I was waiting for Lisa,” Jack grunted.

“Alright then,” I said, slowly backing out of the room. I pointed a thumb behind me. “I’ll just leave now…?”

I waited for a moment, and when no one stopped me, I quickly left the room. I started back to where I left my food, feeling triumphant that I could not only finally eat my di— supper— but also possibly get to the Taw Kingdom sooner than I thought.

I was just gathering my food, before Braz interrupted me… again.

“Melas,” he said, striding up to me. “You sure about this?”

Sighing, I lowered the bowl of stew back down to the table. “Why wouldn’t I?”

He hopped up onto the table and sat on it. He patted on the wooden surface, indicating for me to join him, and I did it begrudgingly.

“They were giving you a choice, you do realize that, right?” He cocked an eyebrow. “You don’t have to do this. You’ve already helped us enough.”

“My deal with Ginah was to help her halt this enuim trade.”

“But this goes above and beyond that,” Braz said. “You’d be helping us in severing the head of the Elise, not just stopping the spreading of these drugs.”

I wanted to answer sardonically, but I paused. I looked at Braz curiously— this was the most serious I had ever seen him before. He usually was goofy and laid back.

I spoke slowly. “But that’d be achieving the same results, no?”

“But you’ll be doing more than just that.” He shook his head. “Goddess grace us. If we kill Bahr, the entire underground of Luke will explode into chaos. There’ll be many different factions clambering to fill the spot he left behind. It’d be a warzone.”

“That’ll be your guys’ problem,” I said simply. “You guys caused it, so you’ll have to fix it.”

“Of course Ginah wants us to help calm things down. Make things return back to normal like before the Elise popped up. Maybe even make things better. But… that’s too much, don’t you think?”

I shrugged. “I don’t know.”

“Haven’t you put any thought into it at all?” Braz asked. “Ginah has been stressed about what will happen once— or if— we actually win against the Elise. And I have too.”

“I have no reason to,” I said. I turned to face the man. “That’s your guys’ problem, isn’t it? I agreed to help put an end to a problem, not to fix the other problems that will appear once that problem is gone. If I did that, I’d be stuck here forever.”

“So you’re just going to help us kill this Bahr, and then you’re gone?”

“Yes.” I nodded.

“Isn’t that thoughtless?”

I felt my lips drawing into a thin line. “What do you mean?”

“You’re just acting without any care in the world if you do that, aren’t you?” he said. “That’s thoughtless.”

“How exactly am I being thoughtless?”

“You’re joining a fight that doesn’t affect you in any way. And what do you have to gain? A free trip across the sea? It doesn’t sound like it’s worth it.”

“It’s worth it to me,” I said. “And don’t act like it doesn’t affect me. It does.”

“How?” Braz asked, his gaze boring into me. “How has the Elise affected you? What have they done to you?”

“Done to me? Nothing.” I brought a hand up, stopping him from responding as I added. “However, I hate them. Or that Half Elf, at least. He’s detestable. True scum. And that’s one of the reasons why I chose to join in.”

The man cocked his head at me. “Why do you hate him so much?”

“He’s a terrible person, Braz,” I said. “He takes advantage of weak people. People who are desperate. People who just want to live better lives. Why should I not hate him?”

He frowned, folding his arms across his bare chest. “But it doesn’t matter to you, does it? Whatever happens to these people— they’re just one of the many bad things happening in this world.”

I stared at the man, slightly aghast. Slowly, that feeling turned into annoyance. It was so obvious. Why was he asking such a question? I bit back any venom I had, and simply answered the question.

“Because it’s happening right in front of me, and I can do something about it. There’s a difference between a tragedy happening a thousand miles away, and a tragedy happening in front of my eyes.”

“And what is that difference?”

My eyes flickered up, meeting his gaze. “I’d feel terrible if I don’t.”

He simply sat there, waiting; when it became clear I had nothing else to say, he placed a hand on his chin and nodded. “Makes sense.”

“Of course it does,” I said, sighing. “I’m not being irrational. I’ve thought this through.”

“You’re right,” he agreed, almost too happily.

“I just want to survive, but I will help people when I can.”

“Totally rational!”

I pursed my lips. “You’re being sarcastic, aren’t you?”

Braz gave me a blank look. “Why would you think that?”

I shook my head, exasperated. “Look,” I said, no longer hiding the dissatisfaction in my voice, “if there’s anything wrong with my logic— with my philosophy— explain it to me. Don’t just mock me.”

He paused, considering it for a moment. Then, he leaned forward, losing his laid back posture as he looked at me curiously.

“So you want to survive?”

I nodded. “Yes.”

“But you want to help those you can?”

“Yes— and stop repeating what I just said.”

Braz ignored that comment. “And to do that, you put your life in danger… which significantly decreases your chance of survival. And that’s counterintuitive, no?”

I stared at him for a moment, processing what he had said. He had more depth than I thought. Since when was Braz more than just the friendly, goofy pirate? However, I was not trapped. I did not hesitate before giving my reply.

“That’s only if I charge headfirst into a situation with no context behind it. I judge them not by some general rule, but on a case by case basis,” I explained. “I am strong. I could be stronger, but I know I’m already strong. If I assess a situation, and determine it’s too much for me to handle? I will not fight. I will not intervene, for my life is more important than my conscience. “

“But what if you assess it wrong?” he asked. “What if you think you can win— but you lose? And you lose your life.”

“It’s a risk, but everything comes with risks, Braz,” I said simply. It was not some esoteric way of thinking I was espousing; it was rather straightforward. “Leaving your house comes with a risk, for you can be attacked by a Monster and die. Eating food— any kind of food— comes with a risk, for you can get food poisoning and die. Even just talking to others— what happens if they have the Noxeus? You could catch it and die too.

“Helping others may not be the same as that, of course. I understand that there is a distinction between going about and living your day-to-day life, and saving a child from a burning building. But I was that child once— I was trapped. I needed someone to save me. And someone did come, however he did not save me. He only made me think he did, to get what he wanted. I was still surrounded by flames. I was still locked in that burning room. And I had to break myself out.”

I looked away from Braz, and towards the cave opening into the night sky.

“I had to break myself out, but it wasn’t easy. So when I see someone else in that same burning room, I am compelled to break them out. It is as simple as that. And that’s the thought I’ve put behind this. That is why I do the things I do.”

Braz paused, considering this. He looked away from me, at some far off thing, before turning back.

“You’re like a Saintess, aren’t you?”

I hesitated, chewing my lower lip. Saints and Saintesses were the equivalent of heroes and heroines in this world; the terms heroes and heroines existed, of course, but they were synonymous in concept.

I closed my eyes for a moment, blocking out all other sensations as I focused entirely on my answer.

“I am not a Saintess,” I said.

I opened my eyes, then turned heavenward, facing the dark rock ceiling

“Saintesses— they dedicate their lives to others. They fight for the weak. They lift up the misfortuned. They save those who need to be saved. I don’t do any of that. I simply help those I can: that is the difference between me and a Saintess.”

I cared not for others; I helped people for the sake of myself, not for them. It could be argued that all lives were equal— and perhaps a neutral third party could carry out this philosophy for others so easily. But to me, an interested party, it was different.

It sounded cruel to even think it, but I believed from the bottom of my heart that my life mattered more than the life of a stranger dying in the street. If I could somehow reverse our roles to save that stranger, I would never do it. I held my life above theirs specifically because it was mine.

Was it selfish? Was it narcissistic? Was it a self-centered worldview predicated on my egotistical desires?

Yes it was.

But I had died once. I had my life unfairly taken from me. And I had suffered a lot in the past year. It was not the worst thing to ever happen in this world, sure. However, to die so soon after all that, and without living a fulfilling life? I did not want that to happen.

So I lowered my gaze. I placed one hand over my chest, and spoke honestly.

“I do not care for others, Braz. I care only for myself. For my needs. For my wants. For my fears. That is why I’m doing this. That is why I hate those thugs at the Elise who would permeate the enuim throughout the city of Luke. That is why I hate that Bahr for being behind all this.”

Braz just nodded, listening to me. I thought he would say something back— either revert to his usual self and make an unneeded comment, or ask me another infuriating question— but he didn’t. Instead, he spoke softly.

“I was like that once.”

I cocked my head, confused, but otherwise said nothing.

“Before Ginah became my Captain. I served under her father. We did terrible things, Melas. Terrible, terrible things. And I was fine with it.”

I froze; my mind flashed with all the possibilities, as I edged away from him. I instinctively reached for my dagger, but stopped myself.

‘…what do you mean?”

“I mean,” he said slowly, “I was just as bad as this Bahr, one time. As wicked as you think he is. I partook in these terrible acts you’re probably thinking of right now, and I only changed once Ginah changed me.”

I felt my perception of Braz slowly twist. I had always seen him as a goofball; someone who never took life seriously. But I realized now how obvious of a farce it was. I remembered seeing him passed out drunk many times since I came here, and I realized now why he did that.

“If I told you what I did and why I did it, would you ever forgive me?” he finally asked.

“I—” I bit my tongue, stopping the reply. “Why are you asking me this?”

He shrugged, finally getting up off the table.

“Just something for you to think about,” he said. And with that, he left me alone.

I stared at his back as I watched him leave. I didn’t even realize I was tightly gripping the hilt of my dagger. I just sat there, unmoving.

Just for me to think about? I shook my head. Does he want me to give this Bahr a second chance or something?

I would not do that; I had been fooled into thinking that was possible before. And I did not personally know this Bahr. But there was no way he would have ever wanted to change. And even if f he wanted to change—

…would I let him go free?

I didn’t think so. I didn’t want to. How could someone who had committed such vile crimes wash his hands and walk away from it? But if he was willing to work to right all his wrongs, and spend the rest of his life repenting and dedicated to charity—

I stopped myself, as I realized Braz had achieved what he wanted to achieve. He wanted me to think about it. And that was what I was doing right now.But I spent too much time thinking before. Thinking allowed others to suffer. So I pushed these thoughts aside, and focused on what I could do now. Maybe I would consider what Braz wanted me to think about later. For now, I acted.

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