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To Find, and Not to Yield (Closed)

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((This thread closed to all but those who were present at Jin'li's death.))




They approached him together.


"Ser," Osric said as he dropped a burlap sack before his feet.


Jin'li Epinoch stared at them with blank eyes, blood oozing from his nose as his left hand shuddered, the gunblade held tight.


"The lovers wish a return to service? This male would know what is in this sack."


"Adin's gift. Rema's is Master Kanaria." He bowed to the male he had come to hate so deeply... and yet...


"Nothing is impossible. There's always a way."


Jin'li twitched, his one remaining ear flicking back and forth. "What is this? There are no more masters."


"Begging your pardon, ser, but I had it from your own mouth. You only ever call yourself humble before a master, ser."


"Mm." Kanaria Galanodel bit down gently on her lower lip as she took a step forward toward the Garlean, lavender eyes focused on the Miqo'te. Osric knelt before her as she passed him by. "Jin'li...."


"There are no more masters," Jin'li said flatly as he lifted his gunblade up and aimed it at Kanaria. "The Lady is kind, but is not a master, else I would have killed her. This male could never hurt the Lady Kanaria. Do not make me hurt you, Lady." There was almost a plea in Jin'li's voice, his tone not entirely devoid of emotion as his blank expression faltered for a moment. "Do not make this free male call you master. Please."


Osric shifted in place, feet finding purchase on the stones of Highbridge as he inhaled slowly, as he gathered himself in his center and prepared to let go....


A burst. It's a burst. From everywhere, all at once. That's what he said. That's what I felt, practicing all night long.


Kanaria swallowed hard before she shook her head. "I would never have you do that... you know that... just... just put the gun down, please...."


"Lady Kanaria, please, just take my gift and walk away. This male does not wish to harm-" Jin'li coughed violently, coughed up blood. He dropped to one knee, whimpering as he shuddered. "No... just one more hour," he gasped, staring down at the stone of the bridge. "I just need one more hour, Althyk. One more-" the shuddering stopped and the male gasped painfully as he rose to his feet, his right hand reaching into his coat, pulling out a jar and tossing it to Osric. 


The midlander caught the jar one-handed as he lifted the burlap sack from the floor and tossed it to Jin'li in turn. 


"This male's final, kind gift to the lovers." Osric drowned out the rest with his own thoughts: the Garlean had gone mad. He hurled the "gift" aside, just as Epinoch glanced inside the burlap sack and blinked. "This male does not understand... an empty jar?"


"Simple enough, ser. You listen to the Lady... or you go into the jar, just as Rema did."


Kanaria shook her head again, lavender eyes still on the runt of the litter. "Please don't do this... stand down. I- I don't want to see your head in that jar." Her eyes filled with worry, brimmed with tears. 


Jin'li Epinoch, a humble slave-servant, stared at the jar... then at Kanaria. He stepped forward, spun the gunblade around in his hand, shoved the handle and trigger into hers as he pressed the barrel of his gun to his forehead. "Then kill me. Pull that trigger and let this male sleep at last."


Osric sighed, tensed muscles unwinding as he released his hold on his aether. He walked up to Kanaria and covered her hand with his, their index fingers slipping over the trigger as he whispered to her...


"He's done suffering. Let him rest. Together. We'll do it together."


The woman gasped as her fingers curled around the handle, her index finger hovering lightly over the trigger, barely touching it. "But..." Sorrow filled her eyes as the tears started flowing. "I... of course." She took in a deep breath and let it out slowly, her quaking finger easing the trigger back as she started to look away...




So he did. He pulled the trigger together with her, and the gunblade roared with a flash. 


The albino's eyes never left Kanaria's face. His black eyes were on her lavender ones when the gun erupted, sending the bullet straight into his broken mind. Jin'li flew backwards, blood oozing from his forehead as the bullet exited the back of his skull. The miqo'te's body slammed onto the stone. The black eyes stared up at the sky, unseeing, a content smile pressed onto his lips as a single tear rolled down from his lifeless eyes. Free. The body shuddered, the soul departed, and there was only the blackness of the void 


The others, the ones behind them, those they'd brought along - friends, family, acquaintances - spun around at the thundering bark of gunfire. 


Osric took the gunblade from Kanaria's hand, tossed it to the side, and held her tight, rocking her gently back and forth. 


"Franz," he called. 


Natalie Mcbeef walked over, kicked the body a single time, then drew her sword and poked it repeatedly. Osric blinked, let Kanaria go, and walked over to shove the other woman back. 


"This man killed thousands of people," Natalie snarled. 


"The man is dead." Bartolomeo Filangieri, slowly marching up the bridge towards them. "There is no need to defile his corpse."


Osric pulled a knife and handed it to Franz hilt first. 


"I need to insure he's dead," Nat retorted. "You already said he could regenerate his wounds."


"We do this right."


"Excuse me?" asked the large Garlean thug.


Nat paused. "...ah. Of course, you're right."


"Head. Jar. Nat... I'm taking the body back to Erik."


"Bring fire, and be done with his corpse!" came a call from behind them. Kahn'a Od'hilkas.


Osric ignored that, and continued to stare at Natalie. "Don't push me on this." He turned back and took Kanaria in his arms again.


Zachary Evans came forward, looked down, picked up the gunblade, and inspected it as though he'd rather be looking at the dead body. 


"I'd suggest you leave the blade alone," said Franz. "Jin'li did bleed on it."


Zachary turned to look at Franz before sniffing. He tossed the blade over the edge of the bridge, watching it fall as he leaned against the railing. 


Nat took Franz by the shoulder. "Oy... let's let them handle it. Osric isn't going to be as soft on him as I feared. Nothing more for us to do here, Franz."


"Osric," called another voice. Chalahko, the free paladin. "I once stabbed that son of a bitch through his chest. He needs to be burned."


"Vials won't do him any good if his head isn't attached, Sizha'to."


Natalie again. "We're headed back.... make a clean job of it, Osric."


He nodded after her as she walked off, then glanced up at Franz...


"My job was to simply have the two of you meet," said the big man. "That's over. I merely stayed to observe."


"...it can't be me. Bart?"


"...so be it. I shall do it."


"Someone else will need to make the first cut." Franz. "I can finish it from there."


"What do you intend to do with his head," Sizha'to asked flatly.


"It will go with the body. They'll be delivered to Erik. We'll explain things to him. There'll be a pyre, I'm sure."


"Whining and complaining about who will do it," growled Zachary as he turned around. "Quit dawdling and move!" He took his axe off his back and walked over to stand over the miqo'te...


"N-no, w-wait..." Kanaria pulled free of Osric's arms and moved quickly around him, dropping down to Jin'li's side. Her hand rested on his coat, fingers curling to take something into them as she whispered softly, as her other hand closed his eyes. 


"...alright, Zac. Give her a moment."


Bartolomeo stared. "Seems the gladiator insists."


Zachary surprisingly planted the axe blade in the solid stone of the bridge before returning to the railing.




Kanaria's fingers brushed several strands of hair out of Jin'li's face before she rose up. "You're free," she whispered, before turning to Osric and stepping into him, her left hand and right cheek against his chest...


"Alright, Zac. Make it quick."


Filangieri eyed the corpse for a few long moments before marching on... "May the Twelve guide him in the next world."


Zachary Evans walked back to the axe, wrenched it free from the stone with one strong tug, raised it over his head with the same movement. For a moment, he actually hesitated... before bringing the axe down with an echoing yell. 


The lovers looked away.

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Zachary Evans - dependable, noble, good - was clearly agitated as made his way over to the former sergeant and held out the head to him. The gladiator deliberately avoided meeting anyone's gaze. "Here."


Osric glanced over and scowled. 


That's what you are to these people, came the familiar silken voice of the Whore, behind it the rumbling of the Beast. Each and every time, they come to you. And for what? To clean up whatever mess they've made for themselves. Here and now you stand due to their carelessness, his and hers. You warned them, and they didn't listen. Now that the rest have, they refuse to deal with the afterbirth of their labor. And why? Because you're the one who sullies himself so that others don't have to. 


That's who he is, came the familiar cadence of the Soldier, behind it the silence that belied the stoic resolve and unbending will of the Man. Who we are. That's our duty, and we see it through. 


"Right," he growled, as he parted from his beloved and took the head by the hair. He walked past the Garlean highlander, who muttered something under his breath, and knelt beside the body.


"Are we done here?" came Zachary's voice. "I need to get back to Carteneau."


Osric pulled the glass jar close, unscrewed the lid, slipped the head inside, and sealed the jar back up again. "...we're done."


"Just, make sure you burn that son of a bitch, Osric." Sizha'to again. "Please."


Osric, listen. Saravena needs rescuing. Osric, help. Roen's been kidnapped. Osric, please. Osric, Osric, Osric...


I never asked for this, bellowed the youthful voice of the Boy, behind him the fears and terrors of the Gutterborn. I could have had it easy! Could've left my family t'rot, could've made my fortune carving shites up in Limsa, could've looked out for number one! He chose differently! He cared, and now we suffer for it! I NEVER ASKED FOR THIS!


"Kahn'a," he called, and it was a wonder his voice didn't crack right then and there. 


"I hear you."


"The body needs to go to Erik. Tell him to burn it."


"With fucking pleasure."


"Why? Why does it need to go to him?"


"Because, Sizzie...."


Why do I do this?


"...because I'd rather not cause you all pain. I'm a selfish arse that way."


"You're a little too gods damned late for that."


And there it was, out in the open. He'd chosen love over friendship, had gone to radical lengths, and now he'd pay for it. He'd burn in the hells for it. 


"...I know. Sorry about stabbing you."


Od'hilkas growled from somewhere behind him, and Osric flinched. There came the sound of clenched leather; he paid it no mind, instead staring at the face in the jar for a moment before standing and turning around...


Natalie and Franz had left. Bartolomeo and Zachary were only just taking their leave. That left only Kahn'a, Sizha'to, and... and... and Kiht?


"The least you could do is make sure that body is fucked up beyond all recognition. I'll accept your apology once you've done that." And with that came the squelch and rattle of chainmail and plate armor as the male took off.


"Zha'to, wait!" 


And there went Kahn'a. Love over friendship... they kept to the same principle, and yet they blamed him for following it through to the end. 


Why do I do this?


He scowled again and turned to the Keeper female. The woman who should have understood, the woman who'd been collared just as he had been... by more than just the metal choker around his neck. 


"Alright, Kiht. Out with it. I'm tired of tryin' t'make amends. Just... out with it."


She walked up to him. Pulled her mask off, revealing her own scowl. Her arm moved, and she slapped Osric across the face. He took it. What was the point in doing otherwise? He deserved it.


"...I'd explain, but I don't think you'd care to listen."


Kiht Jakkya quivered, shook with barely contained anger. "...why. Why are you free when Roen is in jail?"


He blinked. "Roen is in jail...? Since when?!"


"You did not know? She is in jail for charges of desertion."


Kiht's eyes welled up with tears, and behind them lurked blame, judgment, condemnation. She wanted to know why he was free when Roen was not. He didn't have the heart to tell her. He was too overwhelmed by his own failure. 


Roen had not escaped. After the high price and toll she and others had paid... she had not escaped. Her suffering had been for naught. Askier's, for naught. His own efforts had been for naught. 


Why do I do this?


"...shite!" He paced back and forth across the width of Highbridge, agitated beyond reason. "Who has her? Blades, Flames, 'sworn?"


"Sultansworn...." Kiht grit her teeth, seething in her own frustration. "What is wrong with the Ul'dahn justice system?"


"People like Natalie, that's what... how in the hells did they even find her?"


"She turned herself in!"


"...she wha- Gods."


Kiht averted her gaze. "I... it was stupid, but she trusts the 'sworn."


"...Crofte. It must have been Crofte." He turned to attend to what Kahn'a had not. He reached inside the burlap sack and pulled out a body bag. Into the sack went the jar, and into the bag went the body. He tucked the former under his arm and threw the latter over his shoulder, then turned back, walked back.


"I got as far as the Sultansworn prison on Hustings. There was a female paladin with red hair."


"...that'd be Crofte. Kanaria... time to go."


His beloved's eyes were still transfixed on the spot where Jin'li had fallen... but she glanced up at the sound of his voice, and answered, "Yes, Ser."


He pivoted back to Kiht... and spotted someone over her shoulder. 




Leilani Belle's eyes shifted from her sister to her sister's partner. "Hmm?"


"That really you?"


Buttons glanced down at herself, gave herself a quick inspection, then looked back up. "Might as well ask my spoon, Ossy."


"I'd rather not upset Mr. Scoopers by doubting him."


Kiht turned to regard the other female just as Kanaria stepped forward and answered, "that's the real Buttons...."


Osric sighed with relief, then turned again to regard Kiht. 


"Talk to Erik. He'll vouch for me."


Silence. Long, hard, cold silence. 


"Very well," she finally responded. "I will indeed talk to Erik. He has either lost his mind or has a good reason I do not know about..."


There it was again. The doubt. Always now, they were doubting him. Once they had trusted him... never again.


Why do I do this?


He glanced over at Kanaria... and found the thief who had stolen his heart in a heavy embrace with her sister. Then, finally, at last, there came an answer... and the answer came in two parts...


"You will be a force, saving the women of others, and never be seen. You will be a shadow."


Erik Mynhier - 


...Erik had spoken of the Red Wings as an impurity, and impurities as the source of a jewel's strength... but, while valid, that was only a partial answer. Gems needed protecting. Sapphires, emeralds, rubies... diamonds...


- and from within, a voice he had not heard in years. A voice he had locked away, had hidden from the world in order to keep it safe. The voice of a child. His own voice, from when he had been young and innocent and full of hopes and dreams. 


I want t'be a knight, Da, just like in Tabby's books, and fight dragons and save princesses! I want to be a hero!


He set his jaw and looked over at Kiht one last time. He reached inside a belt pouch for the small shards of aetheryte crystal he always carried with him lately... and stopped. He didn't need them anymore. He could feel it. Feel the crystal he had attuned with, so long ago.


He could feel it calling him... calling him...


He pulled out a shard anyroad, for the sake of appearances, and crushed it in his hand. A portal opened up behind him, behind the sisters, and he gave Kiht a sad smile. 


"I am the rough, Kiht. And I've found my faith."


They went home.

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