Whatever morale remained was
shattered in that instant, if not even that managed to kill him, what could do
it? He couldn’t be defeated.
And only one thing I knew matched that description… I mean, there is no way that noble asshole we were meant to escort was an actual dragon, right? It would be madness… Insanity even!
They were meant to be huge creatures, not some arrogant fool like Azreth… Or that is what I believe back then.
“It can’t… Be…” Niles eyes widened as if he was coming to terms with it, but that was not giving Azreth pause.
He walked with his head lowered,
his mind adrift and deep in though. He once again waltzed up to Niles. “It
can…” Azreth said with menacing grin… And somehow, a different attitude. “You
know what, you were right… I do rely on it….”
He gazed back at the blow up cart and shook it sideways. “But I was blinded before, There is something else I should have said, because this was not really about me… I was caught up in the heat of the moment.”
“SHUT IT!!” Niles screamed.
But Azreth stood there halfway between the two of them and shouted. “Vernon is not a wimpy brat, he took your abuse, your rage and your prejudice and just shoved it off like it was nothing… You couldn’t even take a jab, a mean little comment, you couldn’t take anything he has! Not even a tenth of it!”
“He is weak!” Niles shouted. “He had no choice!”
“WRONG! He sat there in silence
allowing you to anything you wanted, not because you are that much stronger but
because he was thinking of a way to get us out without harming anyone, EVEN
“That ‘wimpy brat’ manage to take you down and beat your best fighter by himself all while handicapping himself because he is just that kind of idiot…” His eyes were filled with a fiery passion and his voice resounded deeply as he addressed the remainder of the soldiers. “If he had died there, I would have personally splashed the brains out of every single one of you!”
“But he didn’t, and the only reason why you all breath now is because I want to honor his wish, to do the right thing like he tried to do… Even if for me you’re all thrash!” Then he gazed down onto Niles. “But I guarantee you one thing captain… You are going to remember the mistake you made here for the rest of your life! Because unlike him… I want to hurt you!”
This time the half-bred went on
the offensive… And so, he dashed towards his target!
He closed in on Niles as he did before, again the racoon responded with a punch, thinking he had learned Azreth’s trick… But he didn’t… Before getting beneath him, Azreth landed his hands onto the ground using the momentum he built to pressure his arms and propel himself from the ground assaulting Niles directly in the face with both his feet.
The powerful move caused the racoons whole body to bend backwards and land solidly on the ground before grinding on the dirt for about two whole meters before stopping completely and lading still.
Azreth went along with him, lading feet first onto his face, I could hear bones breaking even from the distance.
And with that single powerful
move… It was done.
This whole fight lasted for less than five minutes, and then there was silence.
Anything that could pass as
commander was down, in my eyes Niles had died with that attack, Emmerich and Reka
who were the smarter ones were also down… Having no one else to turn to in face
of the terror that was this man before us, they turned to me.
I didn’t want to fight, I didn’t want them to get hurt either, this was pointless we never stood a chance from the very start… Their eyes begged me for release, begged me to order them to flee and so I stood up, and ordered… “Stand down! The fight is over…”
Azreth seemed to pick up on the fact that they were afraid and their will broken to turn to me. “So… I guess there is only you now, right Alex?” He seemed a lot less smiley than he was before, I believe maybe talking to Niles like that soured his mood.
I looked down to Vernon, then up to him, wondering if this had all been worth it, the convoy, locking him up… Even my own job at the army I questioned. “Yeah… It’s just me.”
“You know… If you want to, you can order them to fight me, have them lunge themselves at me… Maybe that will help you gain an edge.” I could tell he was joshing me… As he always does… It felt fitting for him, it was his way of easing the tension.
“No… I won’t…” I said trying to hold myself still as the only responsible officer here. “I won’t waste my men’s lives like Niles… I never believe in senseless violence, that is just not who I am.” I then reached for my sword that was still laying to the side of the captains tent just were Vernon left it, I kneeled and took it, before walking towards him.
Me and him meet halfway, only a few steps of distance between us… I was shaking, terrified of his previous threat… And yet he was so calm. “You ever wonder if maybe this isn’t the job for you Alex?”
“I don’t… I need this!” I said… Once again… My heart pounding, I didn’t want to die there, but even though he was looking friendly he was still terrifying.
“It’s the only job that pays well enough, right?” He then smiled, but not his usual cocky smirk that makes you want to punch him in the face, it was friendlier and gentler, a smile of his I never saw before… I didn’t even know he could look at people like that.
“I… Do…” I felt for a second there that he got me, that even though we were never close and never talked that he just… Got me.
“How about this… Since you’re in charge now, we will trade, I have something that is worth a substantial sum and in exchange, you will let Vernon go with me.” He smiled again… I wondered if that was the real Azreth? If this how he is like when he is not locked in a jail cell.
This confused me to no end, if that is what he wanted he could just take him… Why was he doing this? “W-what do you have?” I asked hesitantly.
“Hold on…” He then opened his mouth ever so slightly revealing a row of teeth, he touched one of his canine teeth in his fingers and started to push on it, I could tell it was hurting a lot but he did anyway… He plucked out a tooth right then and there. “Ere you go, I am bribing you.”
“What the hell am I supposed to do with that?!” I asked in shock.
“Sell it… Take it to a jewelry, or a weaponsmith... It’s fresh from the source.” He then approached further and gave me the blood-soaked teeth, it was mildly disgusting, but I held it as I didn’t want to upset him.
“Trust me… It’s expensive.” He answered before I even finished. “Just don’t be the standard good guy and tell everyone I gave you this or someone else is going to take it from you… Keep it hidden, keep it safe!”
“I…” I had the strangest feeling, it’s not like it’s a standard occurrence for someone to give you a tooth as payment… For anything really… But I also didn’t think he was lying or playing some stupid game. “… I won’t… I’ll save it.”
“Good…” He smiled again, now with the broken teeth clearly missing and blood dripping from his chin. He noticed me starring and completed. “Don’t worry, it grows back.”
“I hope so…”
“Well… I take my leave now.” He
non-chalantly just walked past me, I had a sword in hand an was still unstable
and declared enemy, but he just ignored all that and moved over to Vernon.
“Thanks for the help…” He said happily while lowering himself to grab the small canine..
But I couldn’t let it end like that. “HEY! STOP!” He stopped on his tracks and turned around like he was thought this was over. “Why did you do all this? If you could have just left like that and were so strong as to ignore our combined efforts, why didn’t you just leave? Or made a deal with Niles? Why do any of this?”
“That’s his name?” He pointed
towards the still immobile Niles who was now being helped by one of the other
soldiers who jumped and rolled upon Azreth even motioning towards him…
I nodded a silent yes. “I needed to unwind…” He said shrugging callously. “Your friends here were dicks to me, but if that was all there was to it, I wouldn’t have even bothered. The way you treated Vernon was just… Unacceptable… I just couldn’t leave in good conscience knowing all of you had your bones unbroken.”
“if you’re worried about your friends, don’t be, I made sure not to be lethal… Though they might need a few months to get back to work.” He said with a gentle smile that just didn’t fit what he was saying.
“But… What did I do to make you so kind all of the sudden? I’m just as much to blame… No, I’m more to blame! If it wasn’t for me Vernon wouldn’t have gotten shot!”
“Vernon did what he thought was
right, and you did the same, you both did good things just with opposite goals,
it’s them I cannot forgive… You’re a good guy Alex, I always liked you.”
To which I irked unsure as to what he meant, and he shrugged with a smile. “I’m a tough love kind of guy.” He smiled with a certain glee, it’s like he was amused by how confusing this was for me.
“But why me?” I asked.
He then took a moment, he was clearly trying to make a proper speech, he approached me wrapped his arm across my back and onto my shoulder, just like you do an old friend. “Because you cared… Vernon was confused and though you didn’t, but I saw that you did… You cared so much you were willing to let him go, you turned a blind eye when you noticed his ropes were loose and when you saw him leave, you only stood in his way when he wanted to come back… And even then, you didn’t call for back up even after you lost, because you didn’t want to endanger him.”
“I… I…” It was true… My mind didn’t want to admit it, but it was… I wanted him to leave, I wanted him to be free.
“Well, now you both got what you wanted… Vernon gets to walk, I’m free, and you still get to bring money to you little one.”
My eyes widened with that last bit. “What… How-?”
“You just told me… It was just a guess before. How old is… uh… he?” He asked unsure of how to complete.
“Ten… And it’s she… Her name is Alice.” I answered awkwardly… Wondering if I did anything to tip him off.
“Makes sense… Well, I do need to go, I think one of your guys just ran off with the radio and I still want to cover my tracks.” He then looked around awkwardly and scratched behind his head. “SHIT! I almost forgot, good thing you stopped me… Do you have a preference?”
“For what?” I asked innocently, unaware of what came next.
“Ah… Yeah, I wasn’t even gonna
ask… It’s just we talked about you kid and I didn’t want that to be followed by
this with no warning so… Good night!” He shrugged… And then it hit me.
Literally! I felt myself lift of the ground half a meter before plummeting back down like a brick and lading spread out on the dirt with a single hit.
I don’t remember anything after
that… One of the privates that was still awake said I was out cold for a good 2
hours, in that time help had arrived and I was in the medical wing of one of
the Man’o Wars… The propellers buzzed outside really loudly outside, so I could
tell we were in the air.
As he promised, there were no deaths, just some serious injuries, broken bones and a lot of hurting all around…
Even Niles managed to recover, albeit much later and he’d have a surgical scar in the middle of his face to remember Azreth by for the rest of his life… Again, just like he promised.
Laying there with a killer headache
and a dislocated jaw I remember thinking, I got off easy, he could have
murdered us, all of us.
Still, he chose not to… He stilled his rage, and then acted like it was nothing, like this was just the kind of beating your mother gives when you don’t behave, he was smiling and making jokes at our expense.
Well… I can name one person that
beating made into someone better, I look at him in the mirror every day… And I would be Hoping, that maybe one day we’d
meet again and I could properly tell them how much that day changed my life.
I took some solace on the fact that these two weren’t your average joes, that they weren’t going to disappear and I wouldn’t hear from them ever again, that I would still get to see them on the newspapers every other month after that… And a part of me would feel rather warm whenever I did.
I’m still in the army, mind you,
I got off easy compared to Niles who got the whole blame for letting not one
but two high profile prisoners escape… I even profited off that, got myself a
promotion and that helped pay for better medication for my girl.
Nowadays whenever I faulter and think about quitting I remember that day… I remember how frustrated and miserable I felt having to treat someone like that because of a stupid order, I remember that there are few like me around this line of work, and I remember how one day another person might be in need and someone else will be forced to silence themselves and go through with the same shit I did.
I promised myself that day, I would never let that happen under my watch… As a thanks for them to have shown me I was so immature… It’s not the same thing, I know, but it’s the best someone like me can do.
And here is to hoping one day,
they will let me repay my debts…
That teeth was worth quite a lot… Sure…
But what I learned in that one day, was a lesson I valued for the rest of my life.