Monday, January 27, 2014

Chapter 7: The Life I'm Too Scared to Live

One would say that loneliness and solitude can be considered the same thing. It is basically so, but there's one appealing difference. Loneliness is the fear. Solitude is the glory. We are social beings, we lust for solitude but yet fear of loneliness. Those who chose the path of solitude are the ones who fears loneliness, and is willing to chase solitude to be noticed by others. But in reality, there are also people who chose the path of loneliness. A path which most people say is a path of a mad man. A path which will take someone to utter desperation and eternal anxiety. A path of sheer destruction of one's self. But truth be told, the more lonely someone is, the more human they are.

West of Stoneridge was the infamous ridge, which legend says was due to a battle fought back in the older age. It was the story of The Battle of Stoneridge. A massive war broke out between two factions. Stonehaven, a famous city known as the crossroads of the world, was believed as the capital of the losing side of the battle. At that time, the opposite faction had already attacked the western side of the city. The losing faction's supreme leader was faced between two choices; to admit defeat to the opposition, or to turn the tides by destroying more than half of the city. The leader had chosen to turn the tides by destroying his own city rather than admitting defeat. He ordered his warriors to prepare explosives and create a barrier for the blast. They threw everything they had to destroy the other half of Stoneridge.

In the final days of the battle, the losing faction emerged as the victors, but has made a selfish decision. More than 8000 lives were sacrificed just to achieve a glory. Innocent blood mixed with blood of killers stained the west side of the once glorious city. This was believed as a downfall of the empire, as chaos spreads out of control due to a single man's decision. Alas, it was simply a story of how the mighty have fallen.

I sat on top of an old 20-story watch tower near the ridge facing towards the ridge. It was a regular place for me to be, as I always came there to think. In my mind was a scene that happened 3 days ago, the moment I left Ridgeview without giving an answer to Barrios or Val.

I knew they trusted me, but I was the one who had problems with trusting someone. I grew reluctant to the fact I am living with other people in this world, both the real world and this world. I live by myself and for myself. But now, I felt guilt as I have distrusted those who believed in me. I can see it from Val's eyes, the look of broken hope. I knew I am used to live my own way, but I always had a sense of righteousness deep down. I had always ignored it, but now it wants to change the way I am.

The next morning...

I woke up to a bright light shining down on my face. It was the sun blazing straight to my eyes. I didn't realize I slept on top of the tower. I checked my menu and noted that it was already 10. I climbed down the watch tower and aimlessly walked through the town. Before I realized, my feet took me to Ridgeview Crest. I looked at the door and realized that it was closed. I felt that there was something wrong.

I rushed around town, hoping to be able to see Val and apologize to her. I know I messed up, and I want to make it right. I went everywhere I might think she might be, but wasn't sure where she is either.

I rushed around town, hoping to be able to see her and apologize without knowing why. I rushed towards the market, knowing she might be buying some supplies for her restaurant. She wasn't there. I checked the square for a possibility she might be taking a day off. She wasn't there either.

I noticed that Barrios was in the town square. Apparently, he noticed that I was too. I tried to slip away, but he was able to get to me before I left the scene.

"Strange of you not to use Stalker.", Barrios said.

"I can only Stalker if I'm in-", I was cut off before I continued.

"The shadows.", Barrios said while pointing at where I was standing. I realized I was standing in the shadows this whole time, but it never hit me that I could just Stalker away.

"You're really off today, huh? And 3 days ago you wanted to finish off your business with that underground guild.", he reluctantly said.

"I get it. You can skip the 'I told you so' section and cut to the chase", I replied.

"Straight forward as always, aren't you X? Well, I dispatched some of my guys to investigate this matter. They found a lead somewhere near the first floor gate.", he told me. " Still, if you're thinking about soloing this thing, I'm not letting you.".

"Why aren't you just letting me go?", I asked him.

"There's something about you that will kill you sooner or later. I don't want anyone I know to die pointlessly. So I'm basically preventing you before that happens.", he said.

"Since when are you my guardian?", I asked him. However, he acts as if I did not ask him anything.

"What were you doing here? It's not like you to be wandering in a crowded place like this.", Barrios asked.

"None of your business.", I reluctantly said.

"If you're looking for Val, she's taking a day off to go hunting. She's in the South Crater Forest.".

"Is that... The forest to the southwest of Stoneridge?", I asked. Barrios noticed the panicked look on my face.

"Yeah. Why?", he asked.

"I was ambushed in that forest last time", I replied. Barrios looked panicked after hearing what I said. He rushed immediately into the direction of the forest. I knew what was on his mind, but with a sense of panic, it would be a disadvantage on our accord.

"Wait up Barrios!", I caught up to him at the south gate of Stoneridge. He stared at me as if we don't have much time left. I am aware of this but I needed to calm his insecurity for it to be a winning fight.

"Look, you can't panic at a time like this.", I said.

"How is it that I won't panic? You know Val's in danger.", he said with an enraged tone.

"If you panic, we'll lose for sure.", I replied. This seemed to have calmed him down.

"We don't know how many of them are there at the moment, but we do have the element of surprise. I want us to use this to our advantage.". Barrios nodded in agreement.

"I'll act as a scout until we find Val. I'll stick to the trees and give you heads up from there. I need you to be as stealthy and focused as you can. If I tell you to take down a target, I want you to take him down the fastest way possible.", I continued. Barrios nodded that he understood. "Be warned, that as a scout, I will not be able to help you in combat, since it will blow my cover. At least, until we find Val.".

"Let's get on with it already.", Barrios said. I nodded in agreement. I was about to go scout but Barrios held my shoulder. "Thanks. You calmed me down a lot.", he said. I nodded.

"You can be a great leader I think", he continued.

"We both know that would be impossible.", I said. I started my scouting as Barrios prepared his new-and-improved backsword.

I sticked to the treetops to scout out targets for Barrios to take out. There were some monsters, but no sign of those hooded guys yet. The day turned into night, still no sign of Val or those hooded guys. South Crater Forest is one of the largest are in the first floor, so I did thought that it will take some time to find Val, but not this long.

I was about to tell Barrios that we need to pull out for the night as it was dangerous for the both of us, but suddenly a scream came from somewhere nearby. It was a female scream. Both Barrios and I stared at each other and nodded in unison, we're going to the direction of that scream.

"Let me go!", the voice shrieked. I moved faster through the treetops and found out who the voice belonged to. It was Val's. She was surrounded by 5 other guys, all with gray hoods.

"Calm down miss. We're not going to hurt you. After we're done with you, you will be set free", a guy said followed by an evil laugh. I knew where this is going, I have to stop them.

Another guy was grabbing Val's clothes, attempting to strip her down. I threw a throwing knife at a guy beside him to start creating a distraction. The guy shrieked, this caused all the others to look at him. I used this moment to get close to them with Stalker and stabbed the guy holding Val on his back. This causes panic on those 5 guys. They weren't prepared for this.

I threw the guy I stabbed at the guy I hit with a throwing knife earlier. They were knocked off their feet, giving me time to handle the others. Among the remaining 3, one was a rogue, another one was a fencer, and the last one was an assassin. The rogue immediately pulled out his katana and attempted a slash at me. I dodged him, but the rapier used a blowback attack which knocked me over. It didn't end there. The assassin did a form of double slash with his butterfly sword.

I was ricocheted and fell near Val. Val checked my face, wondering who is it that tried to save her. As soon as she saw my face, she looked shocked to found out that I was the one saving her. I smiled at her and got up to fend off the attackers. All 5 of them are ready to fight, whereas the other 2 were a defender and another rogue. I checked my health bar, it was somewhere lower that 50% left.

"What do you think you're doing kid? Playing a hero?", the defender asked. Obviously, I did not answered him.

"My my.... Looks like this guy is mute. I do have one piece of advice kid, anyone who plays a hero will die out of his overconfidence.", the assassin continued. I smirked. All the attackers and Val noticed this. The rogueran out of patience and charged at me. I threw my dagger at him to startle him. The moment he was startled, I rushed at him and kicked him on his torso. I snatched his katana and took back my dagger.

I held the katana on my right hand, and my dagger on my left hand with the blade pointing downwards. I plan to use the katana for offense, and my dagger for defensive purposes. Everyone was looking at me. They never thought that snatching an opponent's weapon was available to do. I was also surprised by this, as I just noticed that I could do that.

"What the heck? How can he do that?", the fencer said. Everyone was shocked but prepared to attack me either way. The rogue,from which I acquired the katana from, equipped another katana for him to use. He charged at me and used a skill called Crescent Moon. It was a skill which shoots some kind of energy based slicer shaped like a crescent from his katana. I dodged his skill and charged at him. I used my Double Cross skill at him, but nothing happened. It seems as if you can't use any skills you know with a weapon from a different class, or a weapon not from your inventory.

The rogue just blocked my attack and seemingly created an opening for his peers to attack. The defender was about to slash me, but suddenly Barrios was there to block his attack with his shield. He pushed away the defender's sword and bashed him backwards. This caused the other rogue behind him to be pushed away too.

I kicked away the rogue blocking my attack and slashed the fencer about to attack me. He jerked backwards, but the assassin was about to do a follow up attack. I pointed the katana I was holding at him in order to distract him. He slowed down his speed, and I used this to my advantage. I tossed the katana aside and threw 2 throwing knives at him. As he blocked the incoming throwing knives at him, he didn't have enough time to react to my follow up attack with my dagger. I slashed his left eye and sent him flying backwards.

"Retreat!", one of the rogues said. They all ran away from the battle. "You won't get away from this, Extorsion!", the assassin said. I was shocked they knew my name. It seemed as if they are doing research about me.

"Damn.. They even know your name now, X", Barrios said. "Not only that, it might be possible that they know about Val's connection to you to.", he continued.

"That's why I told you guys, stay out of this.", I said as I faced Barrios and Val.

Val stood up and walked towards me. Barrios tried to ask if she's okay, but she ignored him. I didn't move as I was rather shocked that she isn't acting as friendly as how she is supposed to be. As soon as she's near enough to me, she slapped me. At this moment, I was speechless. All I could feel was the pain on my cheek and guilt in my heart.

"One slap... You deserve one slap because you worry me to death.", she said as she cried in front of me. "I don't care what are you going to do to me as payback. But you deserve it!", she continued as she cried even louder. The setting was filled with the sound of Val's cries for quite some time. Soon after, rain fell to wash away all the blood spilt on the grounds.

"I'm not going to do anything to you.", I said after some time after the rain started. "Either way you looked at it, I deserved it. This was my fault entirely.", I went on.

"Barrios, take her back to Stoneridge.", I told Barrios. He nodded.

"What are you going to do?", Barrios asked right before he and Val left me.

"Some matter I have to attend to.", I said.

"Don't do anything stupid.", he replied. I nodded to assure him I won't. Afterwards, it was just me in the middle of the raining forest. I took the katana I snatched from the rogue before and stabbed it to the ground. I never intended on snatching it, so I just thought to leave it there in hope that the owner might go back to the battleground.

So there I was, standing in the middle of the rain, reflecting on what has happened. All this time, I was living behind a mask, a mask of loneliness with no solitude. Living as someone else who is contradictory to my old self. The guy who I was back before I put on the mask was the guy I'm traumatized to be. He was the life I'm too scared to live.

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