Xia lied on the ground in silence, but her eyes were aimed toward Ying – not that she could see anything, though. She called, “Sister…”
Xia’s voice was very soft. It was so soft that you couldn’t hear it over the noisy environment and crackling flames at the spot. However, I heard her voice. Perhaps I heard her, as I was paying attention to her. I had my sights on the side of her face the entire time. Xia looked at Ying, who was next to her; rather, she turned in Ying’s direction and weakly smiled. Her smile was subtle that it was hard to tell if it was a smile or not, as she had reached her limit. She did her best, yet all she could produce was a shaky smile for her sister. I was unsure what her emotions were. I didn’t know how Xia felt when she heard Ying say she was sending Xia back. She definitely heard her sister and definitely knew what her sister did. She finally returned to her sister’s side, yet her sister insisted on sending her back. I wondered what Xia thought.
Xia maintained her barely noticeable weak smile. There was no sadness or grudge. Instead, she cherished every second with her sister. It was tantamount to a short and temporary dream, but she smiled, nonetheless.
I pondered, “Has she reached despair, too? Is she at the point of despair where she no longer believes she can be with her sister? Is she in so much despair that she’s given up trying even when she has found hope? Does she perceive it to be a dream?”
Ying just wanted to maintain her current life. She used her sister as her tool to atone, but that made her feel guilty, and she blamed herself. She didn’t want to see her sister, as she was worried her nightmare of the past would come haunt her. Her past tormented her. Her past was rainfall, and she needed a cave to avoid the rain, but she refused to take a step forward. Xia was a dream of the past to Ying. Xia was her fear and guilt she never wanted to recall. In reality, Ying didn’t need to run away. She didn’t do anything wrong. Xia didn’t want to blame Ying, either. I was certain Xia willingly gave herself up for her sister back then, for the simple reason Ying was her sister. This time, she turned to Ying again.
“Take Xia back… It was all my fault… I am very sorry. I have caused you trouble… Sorry… Sorry!!” Ying lowered her head. It was the first time that I heard her shout in such a loud and sad voice. I wondered if I’d see her tears if I clasped her face at that moment.
“Place Xia there! We’ll take her! Get rid of these outsiders! Kick them out! You’re supposed to protect us; shouldn’t you kill these outsiders who attacked us?!”
The crowd behaved as if they acquired a mysterious power, and their shouting was some sort of magical chant. Even the man, who had his arm chopped off, arrogantly got to his feet and shouted at us. It was as though they could bring the small shrine down with their anger. Nevertheless, their courage was still not enough to break Nier, who was still gripping her sword. After all, a clown remains a mere clown even if he has someone backing him up. Excuse me there. A group of clowns.
I went to go and stand in front of Ying. I turned around, and then drew my handgun to fire a shot in the air. After being startled, the villagers fell silent again. In a cold tone, I commanded, “Nier, I’m changing my orders. If these people dare to charge inside, kill whoever enters. Don’t allow any of them to lay their hands on Xia!”
“How much more trouble do you people want to give me?!!” Ying thundered
I turned around to see Ying staggering to her feet. As I thought, her face was smothered with tears. She bit down tightly on her lip. She tightly clenched her fists and shouted at me, “This has nothing to do with you! Why are you meddling? Why did you bring Xia out! She’s very well… very…”
“You can’t even continue with your lie, can you?” I asked before turning back to the villagers. “You’re trying to trick yourself with your lie, right? Haven’t you noticed that you even deceive yourself, though? Ying, we didn’t bring her out because she’s your sister. We rescued her solely because I can’t accept a girl, who didn’t do anything wrong, being subjected to the abuse. I want to save an innocent young girl. I’d save her even if she wasn’t Xia.”
“This has nothing to do with you!!”
“Their lives have nothing to do with you, either. Ying, their lives only matter to you, for the reason that you feel responsible towards them. The same goes for me. I helped this girl, as I felt she needed my help. It has nothing to do with you.”
“If you hand Xia to Ying, we’ll be dead for sure!! We might as well fight!!” Shouted one individual in the crowd.
“That murderer will kill us if she has no misgivings! We tortured her sister! If Xia returns to her, she’ll have no qualms left and definitely kill us!! We can still snatch Xia back instead of just waiting to die!!”
“I won’t!” exclaimed Ying. She rushed back into the shrine after a moment of hesitation. She came back out with her sabre used to combat the wyrm. She drew her sabre and aimed it at me.
Nier swiftly spun around and aimed her sword at Ying emotionlessly. Ying wiped her tears then took in a deep breath. She held her sabre steadily an, in a serious tone, said, “Last warning. Hand Xia over to them for my sake and Xia’s. That’s the best option for us.”
I crouched down and gently picked Xia up. Xia powerlessly leaned onto my chest. In her soft voice, she asked, “Who are you…? Sister… Where’s my sister…?”
I whispered, “Your sister is here. Your sister is next to you. It’s all right. It’s all right. You won’t be separated from your sister again. I promise you won’t have to separate from your sister again. Leave it to me. Leave it to me.”
Ying brayed, “Don’t spout nonsense!! Xia. Xia, you must go back! Did you forget about us?!! You must go back!! You must go back!”
Xia listened to her sister from my arms, and then slowly turned her head toward me. She couldn’t open her eyes. Even if she did, she wouldn’t have anything, as all she had were empty sockets. Humans destroyed her innocence with their evil and hypocrisy.
I held Xia’s hand and solemnly told her, “Trust me, Xia.”
“Let go of her!! Xia!” Ying roared in my direction. Her gaze was so complex that it made one have an urge to cry.
“… Thank you,” said Xia, revealing a reassuring smile then gently placed her hand into mine. I gently held her hand and stepped aside.
Ying screamed at the top of her lungs: “Let go of him!!”
“If you want to take Xia, you’ll have to get past me first.”
Nier looked at Ying and raised her long sword. The two understood what each other meant in spite of the language barrier.
“Last warning. Let go of her,” demanded Ying.
Firm in my stance, I shook my head, “Not happening.”
“Don’t blame me, then,” responded Ying.
Ying raised her sabre and charged over. Nier lunged over.
“Don’t hurt her, Nier! And don’t let yourself get hurt, either!!”
“I can accomplish the second order without question, but I can’t promise I can accomplish the first one.”