The Shinigami: Act 4 "Pretentious Innocence"

3407770024?profile=RESIZE_710xThe next morning was colder than the usual winter morning. It was completely silent. The winds weren't even howling. The clouds covered the Jerall mountains so the Pale Pass was blanketed by fog. Gradually, the chattering of a small crowd grew louder. There was a girl lying in the middle of town. Dead. She was an orphan of a farmer who was killed by a bandit raid a few years back. She sold flowers for a living.

“Vampire dust. There was a skirmish right here a few hours ago. Shinigami was unable to save the poor little child”, Halfdan said while inspecting the corpse. He looked for Eljar to inspect the scene since he had proven to have the brains for it, but he was nowhere to be found. They carried on with the investigation without him.

Lady Risa arrived at the scene moments later. She knew what to do immediately. She ordered to burn the corpse first before burying the ashes. “But Daimyo-Sama, such is our tradition. The child deserves a proper Nord burial”, Halfdan said, but Risa was very insistent on this. “Bind her hands and feet on the pyre, as well”, she said to Halfdan then with a look of disbelief. He hesitated, and continued to look at Risa as if pleading not to commit the act. “That's an order”, she added.

The retainers proceeded on the Daimyo's order. The burning was not meant to be public, however, there was no other place to do it. The order was immediate and had to be done quickly. They had no choice, but to do it in the vicinity of the settlement. A commotion would definitely stir, and it did.

“Yuto would've disagreed to this, Risa-San”, Halfdan said to Lady Risa while the pyre was being set up.

“I respect that you knew Nii-San (elder brother) very well, and had become like family to us, but I am not my brother. That is why he is dead, Taichou”, Risa replied coldly implying that her style of leadership was necessary. “You'll see why, soon”, she added.

The moment the fire blazed, the child's red eyes opened with fury. She screamed with a voice from Oblivion, clearly not hers. As she continued wailing in pain, her mouth revealed her teeth, fangs. Halfdan turned paler than his already pale Nordic complexion. “Shor's bones! The girl is back from Oblivion”, he thought loudly. Then he looked at Risa with amazement. He thought that this woman was really meant to rule. She had a kind of resolve not seen in her older brother.

The townsfolk, shocked with what they just saw, fled the scene in horror. They all went back indoors and shut the windows tight, fearing the vampire might escape the pyre. Then Lady Risa spoke to Captain Halfdan and asked him, “have you ever seen a vampire before when you and my brother were members of the Blades?”

“No milady. But I have heard of horrific tales. This is a first for me. The feeling is very different from the stories than when it's real”, he replied.

“Imagine what this ‘child vampire’ could do. Innocence disguising a sinister soul. She would've fooled the common folk and fed on them.”

“And before you know it, she would've turned everyone into blood sucking fiends.”

The vampire girl was still wailing in pain when Eljar appeared out of nowhere. He approached the pyre, drew his wakizashi, and stabbed the monster through the gut. Before pulling it out, he slashed it from left to right then he wiped the blade and sheathed it. And with one swift motion, he unsheathed his katana beheading the child. She turned into ash, and was no more. He wiped the katana blade as well, and sheathed it. He went down from the pyre, and spoke to Risa. “Daimyo-Sama, Halfdan-Taichou, the girl's name was Ingrid. She was of Akaviri descent, as well, just like us.”

Come to think of it, no one even bothered to know the girl's identity, Risa thought. Everyone was hurrying to burn the corpse upon her orders. Despite being a joke more than half the time, Eljar did an honorable gesture. “What do you think you're doing? No one gave the order to kill that girl”, Halfdan spoke to Eljar, a bit confused.

“I am off duty, Senpai. I am not on anyone's orders. Besides, the girl was dead, anyway”, Eljar answered. “I think I speak for most of everyone here. I couldn't stand the screaming”, he added.

“He seconded the girl's death by decapitating her, Halfdan. Only that he also did the ‘sepukku’ for her to at least inter the corpse honorably”, Lady Risa spoke. “You did quite a noble thing, Eljar. Everyone was too afraid to do such a thing”, she added looking at Halfdan wide eyed implying he should've done the act. Eljar, nodded at the Daimyo, but looked somehow disappointed. She gave a worried look at him, but spoke no words. He then walked away towards the retainers' quarters.

Eljar was alone when he entered the headquarters. He then logged on his time of duty, and started to change into his uniform. Then the captain entered the room. “Now you're finally on duty. A word”, Halfdan said sternly. “Was I supposed to be impressed with what you did?”

“I wasn't trying to impress anyone, Halfdan-Taichou. The screams were really starting to get annoying. Too early in the morning, you know”, Eljar replied half jesting once again.

Halfdan, half annoyed, still managed to smirk. The boy's got humor, can't deny that, he thought. “I was looking for you this morning. You weren't in your house.”

“As I've said, I was off duty. I go where I please, Taichou.”

“I wasn't trying to forbid you from doing your personal activities. I was merely asking you. Why be on the defensive? Did you have anything to do with the girl's death?”

Eljar remained silent. Disappointed with his silence, Halfdan stared at him for a moment. There was no use pressing him to answer. He was, after all, a free man living in a free country. “What's with you and the Lady Risa?”

That caught Eljar off guard. It took him a while to answer that question. Captain Halfdan seemed like an older brother interrogating his sister's suiter. He was the closest person alive to be Risa's elder sibling, after all. Even hearing Risa's name from another person already made him feel a sense of awkward joy. His wits were lost for a moment. He knew very well that he was deeply infatuated by the Lady before. However, after spending so much time with her for weeks, he might have developed deeper feelings for her already.

“Taichou, what I did today was to honor Ingrid's dead body. What the Daimyo and I have had nothing to do with her favoring my actions and not yours”, Eljar said this time with serious intent.

“I wasn't referring to that. You did not answer the question”, Halfdan answered. Eljar realized that he did indeed, not denied the fact that he and Risa have something special. He was being defensive. He had completely lost his ability to get out of uncomfortable situations, at least in anything that involves Risa. “So you're not denying you two have something going on? Interesting”, Halfdan added with a grin on his face.

“Of course not. That would be inappropriate. She is my Sensei and our Daimyo”, flushed, Eljar snapped.

“It is. People will think. The common folk whom she rules over.”

“That also. I do not want the people to think of her like that.”

“So you do care for her.”

“Yes, of course. But not the way you think of it. That's just wrong.”

“What do I think of it? I don't think something is wrong, Eljar”, then Eljar was silenced again with Haldan's last comment. “I just worry of what people think. It is best for the Daimyo to keep her reputation at its best. But there's nothing wrong with the Lady being happy. It's been years since I last saw her smile like that”, the captain added then walked out of the room.

Whatever Risa and Eljar had, it was best kept a secret like the Shinigami's true identity, Eljar realized. He didn't want people to think the Daimyo was hitting it off with a low born like him, her very own student and retainer. There really was nothing, anyway, save for an unexplained closeness and some flirtations, he thought. Nevertheless, it had to stop. The Taichou was somewhat getting a wind of it. And soon common folk would too.

That afternoon, during Eljar's break, he went to the long house to talk to the Daimyo. She wasn't there in the main hall. It was quiet. No one else was there. The retainers must've been busy patrolling the grounds and fortifying walls. Only the winds of the Jerall mountains were heard blowing against the window panes.

It was also dark. The candles and torches were put off. All the fire were concentrated on enchantments for weaponry. Sunlight was barely going through the windows revealing a big portrait in the middle of the hall. It was Miyamoto Makenzo, one of the Akaviri Dragonguard who invaded Tamriel in the first era, and eventually became one of Emperor Reman's most trusted bodyguards, his ancestor. “You're a good looking man”, Eljar said to the portrait, joking.

“He does look like you”, Risa replied when she was suddenly beside him. Eljar jumped. He didn't notice that she was already there before. At the same time, he flushed due to his Daimyo's comment. “But you're probably taller. You're more Nord”, she added.

“Daimyo-Sama, my apologies. I did not know you were there”, Eljar answered. Risa, somewhat disappointed with Eljar's formality even though it was just the two of them in the hall, squinted as if instinctively assuming something was wrong with him that day. “How quaint,” she said. “Suddenly addressing me like that. It's just the two of us, El-Chan”, she teasingly added.

Then an awkward silence followed. Risa stared curiously at Eljar for a while. He looked away. After a few moments, he took a deep breath.

“What was that about? She was just a child”, Eljar answered, suddenly changing his tone referring to the incident earlier. Lady Risa was shocked with his higher tone of voice. No one has ever dared to answer like that to her before, not even her late husband and her father.

“Excuse me. I do not know of that sort. Why are you raising your voice at me? I am your Daimyo, soldier”, she replied, a little lost.

“You left Ingrid's body to rot in the snow. She deserved better.”

“You and I both know that she wasn't rotting, Eljar. A vampire has been feeding on her. She was transforming.”

“And you let her.”

“So the people can see.”

Eljar was not exactly enthusiastically inclined that Risa made an example out of a child. But the people did deserve to know what they were up against. However, there could've been other ways to let skeptic townsfolk believe that there truly was a vampire menace. And he could not hide his disappointment towards his Lady.

“Then what would you have me do? Reveal who the Shinigami is? You know the implications, Eljar”, Risa said implying that the child's manner of death was the only opportunity to let the common folk be involved in the matter.

“Yes. Tell the people who you really are. Let's stop keeping secrets”, Eljar replied.

“Why, Eljar? Is this secret too much of a burden for you? This isn't just about Ingrid, is it?”

“This is wrong, milady. We have to stop this”, Eljar said, suddenly realizing the conversation swung in an awkwardly different angle. Just as he thought that he had enough awkwardness already, the Lady continued to press on and asked, “what is ‘this’ that you're talking about?”

“What we have. This. Right now”, Eljar replied, waving his arms towards her and himself in a desperate attempt to relay his intent.

“What do we have? Other than my secret nightly activities, we have nothing else.”

Once again, silence followed. It felt like he committed ritual suicide with a katana instead of using a wakizashi, Eljar thought. He had no rebuttal. It hurt him definitely, embarrassed him even. “Exactly. Excuse me, Daimyo-Sama. I have to be on patrol”, Eljar said, squeezing the sentence out of his throat then walked away.

Lady Risa had denied him. His very purpose to go to her was to end whatever relationship was building between them because it was wrong. In the end, there really never was anything. She said there was nothing, Eljar thought. That was one less problem in actuality, but he felt betrayed, and deeply hurt. Rejected was the perfect term for it.

“I wasn't done with you yet”, Risa stopped him.

“Yes, Sensei. You'll never be done with me because it's my duty to protect you and your people until I die. Now, I'm late for work”, Eljar answered while he continued walking away to hide his shame.

Lady Risa did not see Eljar much in the days to come after their talk. He was obviously avoiding her unless he had to report on duty. She usually just saw him patrolling and manning the walls. In his free time, he probably just stayed at home or drank himself to Sovngarde, the Nordic afterlife, in the tavern. She thought he might've even got drunk enough to hookup with tavern wenches.

“What a pig”, she thought with a little bit of jealousy. But she could not stop thinking about him. She missed those casual conversations with him. Conversations they had were something she could not have with other folk for they see her as their Daimyo. With him, she felt like she was the true her.

“Daimyo-Sama, are you alright? The blacksmith asked you about the repairs”, Halfdan repeated himself while she was away in her daydream.

“Yes, I'm fine. Just feeling a little empty sometimes”, she replied. Although it was true that she felt empty in a way that her only living child was in Windhelm in school, Eljar's lack of presence lately made her feel the same as well. During times like these in the long house, she always had long talks about missing her children so much with Captain Halfdan. After losing her first two children during childbirth, she cherished her son so much as if she could give him the world.

But since her husband went into politics, he sent their son to school in Windhelm just to ensure his safety since he was a supporter of the idea of an independent Skyrim. Their son was very young back then. She wondered what he looked like since.

She could not leave her duties as Daimyo. She could not go to Windhelm and see him. Halfdan assured that even if her husband died, the child was safe in school as long as they paid the fees. But the longing of a mother for her children's embrace was emptying Risa inside. She could talk to Halfdan about this all day.

However, when Eljar started to feel closer to her, the talks with Halfdan stopped. Halfdan even noticed that she was happier. But again, he was somewhat gone. She shouldn't have rejected him. “You miss 'em, Risa-San? You can just go there, you know”, Halfdan said.

“Why would I? I am the Daimyo, he should go to me”, Risa snapped.

Halfdan stared at Risa for a moment, confused. Then he said, “him? Who's him? I was referring to Alesan, your son”. Risa looked away for a moment, trying to hide that she probably turned red. Flushing could be very obvious with her ivory white skin.

“Oh. Of course I miss him, Halfdan Nii-San. I still think it would be better if he stayed away for the time being. Just to be safe”, Risa swiftly and miserably avoiding the issue.

“No use keeping the one's closest to you away, milady”, Halfdan said while bowing then walking away.

“That was close”, she thought, almost revealing her true feelings for Eljar. She went ahead to her quarters after. She removed her robes leaving only her sleeveless under tunic on. Bare-legged, and only slightly revealing her essentials and undergarments, she looked at herself in the mirror, twisting and turning every once in a while. Her injuries and scars in skirmishes with vampires from the previous weeks were almost gone.

She thought maybe she could go on another round of hunting that night. “These potions work like magic, I'm almost fully recovered”, she thought. Then she started thinking about Eljar again, and his alchemy lessons. She just couldn't stop thinking about him. Suddenly, she donned her armor, took her katana and wakizashi, then bolted through the window. If there was one thing that could keep her mind off everything, it was combat.

You need to be a member of THE SKY FORGE to add comments!


Email me when people reply –