012 Those Who Watch the Sky - 12
12 – Children Left Under the Sky 3
The next few days were uncomfortably quiet as the group continued to trek through the wilderness following the ever distant Foreigner city that had destroyed their home. Link on the other hand had next to no energy to speak of and eventually was seated upon Cliff’s back as she seemed to have no desire to press on, the weight of guilt crushing her completely. Her despondent state was even enough to keep Squawk from complaining about one thing or another. The silence though benefitted Cliff at least as he had no desire to speak further on the matter at hand though the concern shown by Clover ate at his conscious ever so lightly. Elliot was not one to accept Link’s misery unending however and when their journey found them at a small pool at the foot of a waterfall by the end of yet another day in the wilds he finally confronted her.
Stepping away from the main group after they had settled down to sleep Elliot pushed his way through the lush growth that surrounded the natural oasis. Approaching the water’s edge he spotted Link seated with her arms wrapped around her legs and pressing her knees into her chest. Her head was hung but she was the first speak as Elliot drew near.
“Can’t sleep still?”
“Not with you like this Link.”
Taking a seat beside her Elliot grabbed a nearby stone and flicked it out across the surface of the water. Watching the stone for only a moment he then turned to offer Link a smile but ended up donning a lopsided one as he found her looking at him with her face laid upon her knees.
“You’ve never been a good liar Elliot.”
“I don’t believe I told a lie Link.”
Staring at him for a long quiet moment Link finally sighed and turned her gaze to the stars above.
“Maybe you don’t, and maybe if you had been sleeping period I could accept it as the truth… but the thing is Elliot I’ve been watching you for a while now and it’s occurred to me that you haven’t been sleeping at all. It’s honestly amazing you haven’t collapsed at all. I don’t even know how a human being can stay awake for well over a ten day. I didn’t think it was possible.”
“Anything is possible with enough will power Link…”
Turning his own gaze to the stars Elliot offered Link indirect confirmation of his lack of sleep. He did not elaborate further though and another moment of silence fell upon him and Link.
“Have you been having nightmares, or… or are you afraid of having nightmares? We’ve been out here for a while now and I know I’m starting to. I can… I can see everyone looking at me accusingly whenever I close my eyes and it’s starting to be more than I can take.”
“Link, it’s not your fault, or your father’s.”
With a sigh Elliot wrapped an arm around Link and pulled her close.
“Even if your father did set the machine sentries against the town I doubt he planned for things to go like they did. He couldn’t have planned for that Foreigner city to destroy the town because if he had why even set the machine sentries against us? Even then how endangered would the town have been really? Cliff, your mother, and as it turns out even Melody could destroy them easily enough. To me it almost looks like your father was trying to create distance between him and everyone else. I honestly think he probably left with that Sa·B·er in red before the Foreigner city ever reached town.”
“You’re not suggesting that father is actually out there somewhere are you?”
Link lowered her gaze down to Elliot and looked at him almost bewildered and hopeful. He offered her a smile as he lowered his own gaze back down from the star.
“Maybe I am Link. I mean Cliff and Sister got out and Cliff even had a chance to grab a saddle for her. Though I am wondering what some of the other supplies are he has.”
“They’re probably from the workshop. His saddle was one we kept there and he probably figured he’d need money and just grabbed what he could…”
“Is something wrong Link?”
I don’t get it…”
Letting her head sink Link pinched her chin between the thumb and fore finger of her left hand.
“If Cliff could best the machine sentries, why run? No less grab supplies for a journey as if he couldn’t go back. Then he also wasn’t that far ahead of us when we found out he was alive… Maybe father is alive and with that Sa·B·er in red.”
Pulling away from Elliot, Link rose to her feet and took in the night sky anew. Elliot watched her with a smile as it seemed she tried to piece something together in her head.
“I think maybe that Sa·B·er in red knew about the Foreigner city but was after father and used it to get him to leave with him… If that was the case then Cliff would have been with him up to find out and get ready to leave. The only thing I don’t get is the machine sentries attacking… not unless father programmed them to turn hostile only if he left… That doesn’t make any sense either though… maybe… Oh well, I guess I’ll just have to find him ask. It shouldn’t be too hard if I just research that Sa·B·er in red and track him down.”
Her optimism earned a laugh from Elliot and Link turned a pout onto him while placing her hands on her hips.
“And what’s so funny Elliot.”
“Nothing Link. I’m just glad to see you getting better.”
Link’s pout deepened but only for a moment before she broke out into a smile herself. Spinning on a heel and clasping her hands behind her back she again took in the oasis before her.
“We~ll… I want to be an adventurer so I can’t let myself stay sad like this, especially since I’m on an adventure. And as easy as it is to feel guilty for what happened I can’t just take all of the blame onto myself. Father always just wanted a peaceful life and always said he was done adventuring. I don’t think he would honestly do anything to compromise any town he was living in or the peace and quiet he had there. And his smile… Father was just generally happy so I think… I think he didn’t want what happened to happen. I just think things got of control and he had to act in the moment. But If I really want to find out I just have to find him and put these phantoms haunting me to rest. Then I can go out and find my own adventures. Before any of that though we have to get to a town so you can recover.”
“I appreciate the sentiment Link, but I won’t be getting better.”
Confusion overcame Link and she watched Elliot rise to his feet and dust himself off, his smile hinting at a secret he had no desire to share. Link desired to know what he was talking about however and pressed the matter as he rested his left hand on the head of scabbard.
“What are you talking about Elliot? You’ve never had any health issues that were… that were…”
“No I haven’t, but sometimes life changes in ways we don’t expect. Like that Foreigner city coming out of nowhere to wipe out our home… I’m still honestly wrestling with that but supporting you is more important to me right–”
“Who cares about me⁈ If you’re…”
“Link, it’s okay.”
“No it’s not! It’s not okay at all! You and Melody are both supposed to be with me and we’re supposed to see the world together. We’re supposed to see the world following a Foreigner city and meet all the people who see it pass by in the sky! We’re supposed to find and explore ancient ruins from times long past and forgotten unlike the technological ages and find their treasures! We’re supposed to become the most famous adventurers in the world together so that way even Melody can enjoy a life where people might mistake her for a monster at first sight… But we’re supposed to do it all together…”
The smile on Elliot’s face did nothing to stay the tears that streamed down Link’s. Her eyes trembled as she looked at how accepting he was of the fate he kept hidden from her she clutched at her breast unable to cope.
“How can you smile Elliot⁈ How can you be smiling when you just said you want to support me⁈ How can you just accept–⁈”
“I haven’t accepted it Link, but there isn’t anything I can do.”
“There has to be something!”
“I can’t put my faith in ‘something’ Link. And don’t bring up the legends of the base of Atheaeldre. We have no idea where in the world Atheaeldre’s true form stands to chase after that fairytale. …Besides, even if it were true that reaching the trunk of the Great Tree would earn you a wish from the goddess I would ask for something completely different anyway…”
“What could you ask for other than saving yourself⁈”
“That’s my secret Link.”
“Fine, but what about Sister⁈ Can’t her magic do anything for you⁈ Or couldn’t you just ask Cliff to take you ahead⁈”
“Sister can’t help me and Cliff…”
“What about Cliff⁈”
The smile that had been persisting on Elliot’s face finally fell and he hung his head and looked away from Link. Taking a hesitant step back towards Elliot, Link repeated herself as she pressed him to explain.
“What about Cliff, Elliot? Why would Cliff not help–! No…!”
Realization dawning on her Link’s tentative step forward became a step back. Looking at Elliot with heartfelt terror she shook her head and tried to deny the reality that was settling onto her even as a smile returned to Elliot’s lips.
“No…! Don’t tell me that…! Don’t tell me that’s why you haven’t been sleeping…! Don’t tell me that‼ When would it have even happened⁈ I was with you the whole time‼”
“Link, it’s okay.”
“No it’s not‼”
Link’s sobs had given way to vehement screams of denial and she looked upon Elliot with growing despair. Elliot simply continued to smile though.
“It’s like I said the other day Link; you are my everything and I would do anything for you. But this is something I can’t control and it’s only a matter of time until my willpower gives out.”
“Then you just need to hold on until we get to a town. Then the Cardinal Church–”
The desperateness in Link’s voice simply earned her a shake of Elliot’s head. Losing the strength in her legs Link slumped to the ground as Elliot highlighted the horror that befell him.
“It’s been well over a tenday Link and we haven’t seen a single sign of human passage. No work of nāti pilgrims or the tracks of merchant and salvager vehicles. And all of Melody’s scouting has only been spoken with between her and Cliff. I don’t know how he managed to convince her to do so–”
“Stop it…! Stop it Elliot…! Please don’t paint Cliff as a villain…!”
“I’m not Link. He’s only doing what he is supposed to.”
“He was supposed to protect us from the Foreigners‼ This isn’t protecting us from the Foreigners at all‼ It’s just waiting for your will to give out and…”
“It’s my fault Link. If I had just let him abandon me in the first place–”
“NO‼ You were trying to help people‼ You didn’t do anything wrong‼ Why should you have to punished for that⁈”
“Because Link, that’s how we keep people safe and how Sa·B·ers prove they have something to offer to society. And now I too have to prove I possess that worth or lose myself trying. But I can’t do that Link if I keep following you and trying to be your support. You just have to accept that you’ll have to move on without me since I’ve been infected by the Foreigners. So Link, this is goodbye.”
Copyright © 2019 Joshua D Tarwater