HA\LF: Dead nor Alive
“You found them?” Ruby asked as she saw Archie come back with Vincent and the others. “Where were you? I couldnt contact you with the radio,” she asked as she looked at Vincent.
“We were hiding inside a cave not far from here, we hid there and I think that was the reason why we cant communicate with the radio. The reason why we were hiding was to escape from the parasite that we saw. You saw it too, right? Archie said that you guys saw it up close,” Vincent replied.
Ruby nodded and explained what happened to them earlier.
“So that thing is the king of parasites? Not to mention that theres more than one?” Ruby asked as he looked at Archie.
“As I said, I dont know the details but thats what I know so far,” Archie said. “Anyway, we cant waste our time talking about this, we need to find the nomad. Fortunately, while I was looking for them, I saw some light that came from the northeast and I believe thats where theyre staying,” he continued.
“Oh? Thats convenient, lets head there now while the sun hasnt raised yet.” Ruby said to Vincent and the others.
All of them nodded and followed Ruby and Archie from behind.
After walking for hours, they found an outpost above the cliff and they saw a torch on each side. Ruby and the others were smiling happily and immediately went to find a way to go up there.
Archie couldnt sense any parasite since the first time he entered the forest, he felt a bit unease with the peacefulness of the forest but at the same time, he was glad that he didnt have to fight them. He might know the reason why there were no parasites in the forest and that reason would be that dragon-like parasite.
Ruby lifted her hand and clenched it. “Hold…” She said and everyone stopped moving and looked at Ruby.
“Theres a person guarding the tower outpost, lets walk casually and dont do anything suspicious,” she ordered.
All of them nodded and walked on the narrow path up to the mountain.
“Hello?” Ruby said as she waved at the guy on the tower outpost.
The guy pointed his flashlight at them, he furrowed his forehead and immediately grabbed his pistol then pointed at them. “Who are you?” He asked calmly.
Ruby covered her eyes with her left arm. “We are from the capital city, we came here to look for you guys,” Ruby answered.
The guy lowered his gun and walked toward the railing to see their faces. The torch made them able to see the guys face, an old man with white hair and mustache and beard.
“Ruby?!” The old man said with a surprised expression.
Ruby squinted her eyes and gasped. “Colonel Fanheim!” She replied.
Vincent, Daniel, and Tommy ran hurriedly and stood next to Ruby to see the Colonels face. They knew him and they waved at him with a huge smile on their face while Prince and Resse just stood there and didnt say anything.
Fanheim climbed down the stairs and approached them. “Tommy, Daniel, Vincent? What are you guys doing here?!” He asked as he looked at them one by one. “What happened to your arm?!” He asked as he looked at Rubys prosthetic arm.
“A lot of things happened in the city, Colonel,” Ruby replied while she tried to hide her arm.
“I see…” Fanheim said with a sorrowful voice as he nodded with understanding. “Come on, I will lead you to the village, you guys must be tired since you traveled quite far,” he continued as he waved at them and tilted his head on the road.
As they walked in the dark with trees on the sides, Fanheim looked at Ruby. “So, hows Julia? Is she still being carefree and living as she pleased?” he asked.
Ruby lowered her head and went quiet, not just her but the others as well. Fanheim took a deep breath and exhaled deeply as he stared at the bright night sky. “Nothing can be expected in this kind of life, huh?” he said. “I know that youre blaming yourself, but it wasnt your fault. If she dies, then it was her decision, that was what I told you guys back then, remember? If you die, you cant blame anyone else but yourself for whatever reason.” he continued.
Fanheim stopped and turned around. “Welcome to the small village of ours, its not much but we cant ask for more because we have been living here peacefully,” he said as he pointed his hand to the vast area behind him with so many small cabins there.
The village was so dark with zero light and it was so quiet because everyone was asleep. Fanheim guided them into the village and brought them to his cabin and told them to sit down at the long table next to his cabin. He went inside his cabin and Ruby was following him to help him prepare coffee for everyone.
“Whos that old man?” Archie asked Vincent.
“As you heard, hes Colonel Fanheim or used to be,” Vincent replied. “Colonel Fanheim used to be a close friend with Marshall Marlon before he decided to use the humans for the experiment. Colonel Fanheim didnt hate that they discovered a new way to make ordinary humans to be Axis humans. The problem was that Marshall Marlon treated those experimented Axis Humans better than us and created discrimination amongst ourselves including the ordinary humans.” he continued.
Archie could tell by the way Prince and Resse separated themselves between them and Vincent, Tommy, and Daniel by sitting on the other side of the table.
“After that, the bridge collapsed and Colonel Fanehim decided to leave because he couldnt be in the same place with Marshall Marlon anymore. So, the moment he left, some of the Axis Humans followed him and left the rest of us in the city. He was like a father figure for all of us the Axis Humans, not for those that came from the experiment,” Vincent explained. “Ruby and Julia were close to him but because of his request, they both stayed in the city and lead the rest of us because he believed in them,” Vincent said and sighed.
(Inside Fanheims cabin.)
“So, tell me about your story, Bubby…” Fanheim asked as he poured the hot water into the wooden cup. “Oh, do they still call you Bubby?” Fanheim smiled as she looked at Ruby.
“They still do,” Ruby replied and scoffed while she smiled.
“Sorry that I made that name, it sounds like a kids name but youre still a kid in my eyes though,” Fanheim said as he chuckled. “So, what happened to your arm?” Fanheim asked.
Ruby explained the things she wanted to tell him, and then the topic changed to the death of Julia and said that it was her fault. Fanheim listened to her as he stirred the cups of coffee, Ruby started to fill her eyes with tears and sniffled but Fanheim didnt comfort her and just kept listening. He wasnt pretending to not care but he wanted her to let all the weights on her shoulders disappear.
“Bub, its so easy to make a mistake that you can do that without even realizing it,” Fanheim said. “But you know whats easier than making a mistake? Doing nothing,” He explained as he looked at Ruby. “Its better to make dozens of mistakes rather than doing nothing, do you know why?” he asked. “Because you will learn and realize who you really are. You will understand that with every mistake you made, you become someone new by not making the same mistake again,” he answered.
Ruby looked down and looked at the cup of coffee in her hands. “But I made the same mistake twice now…” she said.
“Is it really?” Fanheim asked as he raised his eyebrows. “You didnt let them die, you tried to convince them that it was dangerous but you werent in charge of that expedition, it wasnt your fault but you think it was your fault,” Fanheim explained. “And Julias death, that one was indeed your fault but that wasnt the same as back then,” Fanheim said. “Look at your arm now, you can interpret it as a redemption for your mistake, and trust me, losing someones life under your command isnt something new or rare because I have killed hundreds of them because of my mistakes,” Fanheim rubbed Rubys head gently.
Fanheim took a sip as he looked outside the window. “Look at you now, you became stronger, youre promoted to Major because youre capable. Thats proof that the you now is made because of those mistakes,” he said. “A hero never called themselves a hero, they knew that they survived because of the decision they made whether it was a mistake or a right one. In the end, there are only regrets and guilt for what they did or what they didnt do, and that makes both of us human with hearts, people tend to follow people with a good heart than people with good skills but with no heart. You have proven yourself by the people that are following you here, am I wrong?” Fanheim said.
Ruby slightly smiled and nodded.
“Okay, I can give you another life lesson but for now, lets give these cups of coffee to them before they get cold, yeah?” Fanheim said.
Ruby chuckled and nodded then brought them outside with Fanheim.
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