Part 31: I Choose Me
Oh. Hello again.
What was that about?
Nothing. I just like making grown men squeal.
That wasn't what I meant. And you're not old enough to think it was.
What wasn't what you meant?
You're too clever. I don't think I like you.
What are you really doing?
So answer it?
You know about the monsters on the plains, don't you? Have you ever wondered why they never wander too close to town?
I suppose I have, now that you mention it.
You're looking at the answer. I put barriers up to repel them.
Little trick I learned in Samiad. We have to make do without big, fortified walls.
Why not tell people you do that?
Why would I?
...because they'd probably treat you better if they knew?
Like how they treated you after you saved their princess? No, I think I can manage without their gratitude.
Besides, I'd hate to spoil the irony. The one person here I've actually hurt is the only one who doesn't think I'm evil.
I wouldn't go that far just yet.
Ouch. Is it cold out here or is it just you?
You and I should have a chat. Come with me.
That sounds familiar.
No more tricks, I promise. I haven't forgotten what you said.
...alright. But I'm staying on your side of the table.
I think I have a confession to make.
What exactly did my grandmother say about me?
Not much. I told her what happened, and she said not to be too hard on you because you did it for her.
...yes. That's only half true.
When Anwar arrived in Rhoan, I told him where to find you. That, Olly made me do. But before that, the trapdoor...that was me. My decision.
I didn't want to kill you. I just didn't want you going free.
Why? What did I do?
Not what you did. What I thought you'd do.
Do you remember this tablet?
I couldn't read it, but my grandmother could. All she told me was "A great power will destroy the world." And then in you come, doing magic I could only dream of and pretending not to know anything. Then I read your fortune.
I think you know what I saw.
I used to dream it. It was the only dream I ever had.
I'm sorry. When that happened, I just did what everyone else does, didn't I? Everyone I act like I'm above. I assumed. I judged. "I don't understand this, therefore it must be stopped." If anyone should have known better...
I forgive you.
Could you excuse me? I have some thinking to do. Perhaps I'll see you at the tournament.
The one coming this week. You don't know?
Every ten years, there's a martial arts tournament between the four Kaleilan schools. Eastern Sword, Northern Hammer, Western Bomb and Southern Flight.
Western Bomb? There's a school for those things?
Yes. From what I hear, there aren't many students. Left.
That was very mature of you. To forgive her like that.
I only said it to make her feel better.
I just wanna let you know, I already filled in your form.
For the tournament. You were going to join, right?
I...wasn't planning on it, no.
Seriously? Why not? You'd win the hell out of it.
I actually didn't hear about it until just now. And I've got a lot on my plate already.
Aw, come on. Everyone's waiting to see the big Kaleilan hero throw down! You can't disappoint your fans!
How come you're so chipper today?
Am I? Crap.
Look, if you go down there and tell them you're not competing, I'm gonna look like an idiot. Just think about it, alright?
You should do it. It'd help get your mind off things.
I don't want my mind off her.
...I didn't say "her." I said "things."
What other "things" are there?
I assume you want to lift her spirits.
Which is why you must first lift your own. If she sees you upset, she'll blame herself for causing it. You'll only make things worse.
I agree. What she needs right now is something happy to think about. Fight in the tournament. Win it for her. Go to her with a smile and show her you can be strong for her.
You think that'll work?
I know it'll work. She doesn't want to share her sadness with you. She wants you to share your happiness with her.
You're right. She's always smiled for me. It's past time I returned the favour.
Now's as good a time as any to start practicing.
...thanks for the advice, everyone.
(Hah. Didn't do anything, still got credit. Eat it, losers.)
(But yes. What they said. Probably. I don't know. Who cares. Your girlfriend is stupid. I don't even like her.)
Neaki says you're welcome.
Excellent! Ah, this will be a good year for us. We'll have our biggest audience yet, I'm sure.
With you participating.
You're a hero. A celebrity.
Oh, that. Right.
Your timing is superb, actually. I was just about to meet with the four-
When's the last time you blew something up?
Too long ago! Everyone's calling you a swordsman!
I sort of am, though.
No no no. You were a swordsman. When I gave you those bombs, you evolved.
Swords are relics. They're ugly vestiges from a time when picking a thing up and hitting someone with it was the height of ingenuity. From when we were apes. They are ape weapons. And we, my boy, are humans. We don't walk on our knuckles, we don't live in trees, and we don't use swords.
If there is to be violence, let it be explosive! Let it be short and final! Let it end with blood and viscera strewn across the blackened earth!
Low-yield ordnance in the tournament, of course. Reasonable margin for error. Shouldn't cause any deaths. Directly.
Ah, Northern Hammer. Thank you for interrupting.
What are you doing here?
...I thought you didn't like humans.
Tournament involves hitting humans.
Where is the Southern Flight master? I've not heard word of her arrival.
Sorry I'm late.
You are not Olly.
Yes I am.
Amazing what a little skin cream can do, isn't it?
I'm sorry, I wasn't made aware of this. Is the Southern Flight master not attending?
Unforeseen circumstances. I'll be taking her place this time.
Fair enough. Now, Yumil, there is just the small matter of which school you-
Yumil will be representing Eastern Sword.
Wow, Yumil. You said that without moving your lips. And in the third person.
Save it, witch. Why would he choose differently? Can any of you claim to be his teacher?
Yes. I taught him everything he knows. About whatever it is he does.
I appreciate everyone's enthusiasm, but I'll have to hear it from Yumil himself.
What if I wanted to enter without supporting anyone? Is that an option?
Er...there's no actual rule against it, but-
Perfect. Let's do that, then.
But it's not exactly in the spirit of things. The contest is between schools, not individuals.
The only one I've actually studied is the sword. And not for very long.
Be that as it may, the tradition of the tournament is to foster camaraderie, esprit de corps...
Can't the hero of Kaleila represent himself? Haven't I earned that right? Throw me a bone here.
...that's a difficult point to argue.
Very well. I'll put you down as an independent participant. Hopefully your bravado will be a crowd-pleaser. I'll have to put some spin on it.
There is nothing more to be said, I think.
Gustav left without a word. The others bid me good luck and went on their way.
That was rude, Yumil.
I think it's fair. Choosing one over the others, that would have been rude.
Yes, but he could have explained himself instead of snubbing them like that.
If they were kind enough to teach you, you owe them some respect.
They didn't teach me anything. The book is the only reason I can do what I do. It's the only reason anyone cares if I enter at all.
Might as well have signed it up instead of me. I'm just the one holding it.
Okay, this isn't the attitude we had a minute ago. What's going on?
So. Five days.
Any plans in the meantime?
I'm not sure.
'Cause we had a talk while you were walking home. We think there's one thing you might be able to occupy yourself with. Besides writing, I mean.
Oh, I dunno.