Avalon:Volume 0 Chapter 15 Old
Chapter 15 - The Path of Resolution
"Isn't this too weird?" I asked as I mentally switched the AR display panel from one channel to another and then another. "Entertainment shows or technical difficulties, all of them! Not a single detailed report!"
"In war, truth is the first casualty," Kayeten declared as he leaned back against the wall. "I forgot who said that; some Greek writer I think. The 1st District is likely still trying to figure which media station they could rely on to spin things their way. They could transmit broadcasts from Avalon, but they probably knocked out all of the main network's relays to disrupt communications. Either way, we do know what happened, both on ground and in orbit, and nobody will grasp the full extent of the damage or casualty counts until things start settling down -- at least on this planet."
I had passed out for a few hours before they had revitalized me, and in that short window of time what little balance this world retained had collapsed. The 2nd District fleet was in tatters, its command structure destroyed and its planet invaded. Nuclear strikes had been launched against ground-side targets that the initial detonations failed to destroy, including -- an attack on the battle at Château de Falaise.
Fortunately, Shirayuki's Thermonuclear Suppression aura was able to nullify the attack. That gave her lieutenant Midori enough time to teleport all the 3rd District, Seventh Cross, and Moonlit Eclipse members out to another safehouse on Brocéliande before 1st District ground troops could arrive. The 2nd District soldiers, being a liability, were ordered to disperse and seek refuge on their own.
Unfortunately, this old place lacked a teleportation beacon to guide 3rd District's few interplanetary teleportation experts. It was also magically warded to scramble targeting from those unfamiliar to the location. As such, we could only wait for Midori to recover from her magical exhaustion before she could take some of us to Kunlun, the main planet of the 3rd District.
"How's your arm, Princess?" Kayeten inquired with sincere worry.
The healers from the Moonlit Eclipse had mended my shattered arm and began bone and tissue regeneration spells even before I awoke. But they had my arm wrapped in special bandages and in a sling while my body's natural healing caught up with the spells' progress, making my current injury look far worse than it felt.
But more than that, it were his words that drew my attention. The way he said that, the tone, the expression, everything... was exactly like that of the Captain. It also wasn't the first time.
"Numb. Stings a little, but otherwise fine. Thanks..."
I faltered for a few seconds, unsure. But then, this was probably a consideration he either knew or should know.
"You know... sometimes you sound just like the way Arkadi talks."
Kayeten threw me an intrigued, inviting look with a nod and a tilt of his head.
"Uses over-flattery, bit dramatic, similar demeanor when not being serious, all that."
He nodded and thought it over for a few seconds...
"Well honestly... it sounds like he's copying me--"
His face lit up in a grin, then a lopsided smile as he continued with a nostalgic voice:
"--Sheesh, I knew he was jealous of my social prowess back then but, really!? Still, I have some trouble thinking that frustratingly serious mule-headed stubborn jerk could..."
Kayeten trailed off in an instant, looking alarmed and uncomfortable as though he suddenly thought of something unpleasant.
Unsure of what to say, I returned my focus back to searching for information.
"Still... I'm kinda glad," Kayeten turned towards me again with an approving voice. "I'd been worried that you'd be one of those in denial of unpleasant facts like casualties--"
My eyes slowly turned back towards Kayeten.
"I... I probably do suffer it at times. But by and large, I'd pick information over nothing any day... Do I come off otherwise?"
A calculating grin crept up the corner of his mouth.
"Well, Shirayuki mentioned that you were Arkadi's Tactical; so mother wondered if you were Speer to Arkadi's Hitler persona."
Kayeten took a few seconds, probably concentrating on retrieving some information through his implants, before he began to recite in quote:
"My inclination to be relieved of having to think, particularly about unpleasant facts, helped to sway the balance. In this I did not differ from millions of others. After years of frustrated efforts I was wild to accomplish things. For the commission to do a great building, I would have sold my soul like Faust. Now I had found my Mephistopheles. He seemed no less engaging than Goethe's -- by Albert Speer, Hitler's architect and Minister of Armaments for the Third Reich."
The few sentences of words hit me like hammers, knocking the wind out of my lungs as I forgot to breathe for several seconds.
Relieved... about unpleasant facts: all the time.
Frustrated efforts, I could not deny.
Commission -- the ever-sought recognition.
Sold my soul: perhaps if Shirayuki hadn't taken me, that was my inevitable path.
"There's... I wouldn't have..." mingled words and half-completed retorts filled my mind in an instant. Then: "I tried to persuade him otherwise."
"I have no doubt." Kayeten replied in all seriousness, without a hint of mockery. "Although whether you would have succeeded was debatable. What would you have done if he kept pressing his ambition?"
The first answer that surfaced into my mind was kicked aside instantly.
Relieved of having to think...
I dragged the thought back and re-examine it once again.
(I would have followed.)
Survival needs aside, it was because my only motivation thus far had been to prove myself to others, rather than decide for myself.
"All right pretty-boy, save the rest for later," came Shirayuki's voice as she stepped through the door, her white Miko outfit adorned once again and a challenging stare directed towards the Colonel.
"Sorry; carried away. I have a habit of quoting the movers of history, hoping their experienced wisdom may wear off on me."
"I know for a fact you don't read much history; you're just trying to impress girls with the quotes Sidika teaches you," Shirayuki countered. "Anyhow, I've finished my confirmations. This imbecile," she gestured towards Captain Arkadi, still unconscious in the bed at the room's center, "has over two dozen spell auras of his own magical signature on himself, all enchantment-compulsion types."
I was getting used to seeing Kayeten's surprised expression:
"His affinity is in enchantment but... that's...!"
"Pretty liberal use, that's for sure," Shirayuki finished for him.
I looked towards the two of them, still confused and unsure...
(Or perhaps simply not wanting to acknowledge.)
"It means," Shirayuki explained in a consoling tone, "that the entire personality you knew of Arkadi was a fake, wholly conjured by him and enforced by his spells to accomplish his goals."
Time slowed down as my mind replayed the moments aboard the Somerset: of the fatigued Captain taking everything upon himself, of his friendly interactions at dinner, of his encouraging words yet downtrodden world views in the crystals' light...
Was everything a lie?
(No, not everything.)
"Stand up for the sake of our beliefs and ourselves..."
To be kind and gentle one moment, yet callous and cruel the next. To kill a trusted comrade without blinking, yet push himself to exhaustion for the sake of those who remain. The inconsistencies within his personality were obvious, even if the means were not. It may have been a fake, but the one who decided how to shape that mask was still him.
It was also why I always felt sincerity in him. Why he rarely 'lied'. Because his whole enchantment-driven self, possibly even selves, truly believed in his ways and his cause.
"I will seize the throne of the demon king and bring holocaust upon this irreparable system! I will use every medium of power to prove just how intolerable this structure is! I will give them a thousand years of notoriety, to ensure responsibility by fear, to force the return of true representatives that shall stand for the masses, as our parents once did!"
These compulsion spells had been the ultimate declaration of his conviction: to deny his very own self, to kill his very own being, all for the sake of his sense of righteousness, as twisted by hatred and the thirst for revenge as it was.
"In the end, the source of all his evil was just one big lie to himself, huh? Talk about danger of escapism."
Kayeten spoke flatly, his tone composed again, almost unnervingly calm. Yet simmering, near boiling anger laid beneath the surface as his eyes swept over the Captain's unconscious body once more.
"To take history as foul as Evian and the Holocaust and uphold it as excuse and justification rather than tragedy; is there anything in that shell that still resembled the justice we once spoke of?"
Neither me or Shirayuki spoke. Neither of us could answer such a question.
"Can it be Disjunctioned?"
"Then let's be done with it," he continued in an executioner's voice as he turned his back on the room. "On this day Arkadi Kernow, the Black Prince, is dead of his crimes."
With those parting words, the Colonel turned and strode straight out the door.
----- * * * -----
Sitting within a sterile-white room where I was the only conscious occupant, I finally found the event that Kayeten tipped off with only a single word:
[ The Evian Conference: Convened from July 8th to 13th, 1938 A.D., when representatives from thirty-two countries met in Evian-les-Bains, France, to discuss the issue of increasing numbers of Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi persecution. Hitler responded to news of the conference by essentially saying that if the other nations agreed to take the Jews, he would help them leave. However, with both the United States and Britain, the major democratic powers of its time, refusing to take in any substantial number, the conference was a failure, leaving the Jews no escape and ultimately subjected to what was known as Hitler's Final Solution... ]
(The greatest tragedy of the Industrial Age could have been prevented merely by saying 'yes'.)
It wasn't that different from many of the problems in this world.
(No, I refuse to view Arvitors as mere tools. They're people.)
(No, I will not support a bill proposed to further the aims of tyranny.)
(No, I have my own will in this world.)
I leaned back in my chair and pondered over the quote entered into the article:
"The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing -- Albert Einstein."
To do without my own purpose was little more than nothing.
Nothing brought decline, brought ruin.
To cease positive action was to falter into stagnation, decline, and ultimately destruction. This was the basics of any business; life and society were no different.
That was why Captain Arkadi choose his path: because he saw a world in stagnation and decline, a world where people were satisfied to do nothing. He wanted a historically-proven catalyst that will return them to action, however horrible the process may be. He wanted a lasting effect on humanity, and choose the literal application of the Chinese proverb a thousand years of fame, ten thousand years of infamy -- notoriety persisted even if renown could not.
(Of course I don't agree.)
Yet Arkadi had been right about one thing:
"One must stand up not for the righteousness of our ideals, but for the sake of our beliefs and ourselves."
It was not about proving my opinions to others. It had never been. It was about earning a place for myself and my beliefs in the world, through my own hands. A place where I could stride in confidence, freed from the fear of being scorned, of being oppressed.
It didn't matter if Captain Arkadi's pessimism may be more realistic.
It didn't matter if history may prove Marshal Sidika's wish for reformation as idealistic.
In my beliefs, the correct path was obvious.
Tragedy didn't have to repeat. The Holocaust wasn't the only way to change.
We still had the chance to say 'no' to evil, to right everything. If the process had to start anywhere, then it must be from the Arvitors, as well as the others being threatened and oppressed by the existing system.
(But I'm a normal person...)
For the first time, I realized that my fears weren't just denial and cowardice, but also hypocrisy. Were the Arvitors not normal people? Did Shirayuki and her companions not smile and laugh and dream and live like everyone else in human civilization?
Besides, as Shirayuki said:
"Only those without true goals, true meaning in their lives, would seek mediocrity and normality."
I never sought normality. What I sought was acceptance.
Now, there was a goal for my own sake, but at the same time it was also a push for this world.
That goal, that motivation was obvious.
It was also shared by countless others: some like Sidika with the power to influence, others without but still trying.
A pang of guilt came through me as Korey's words repeated itself in my thoughts:
"Mediocrity and powerlessness is the worst frustration one could feel, and I've cursed my birth far more than I could count for not being born elite, with the opportunity to do something about it all"
Here I was, with the unique opportunity that thousands dreamed and craved of. There wasn't a shred of excuse for continued whining and complaining and denial.
(Then... if maybe, just maybe, I really, truly, is the Eternal Chronicle, then...)
"Your heart alone holds the key to your life, your universe... as long as your heart is set, you can accomplish anything."
Mother was right. It was time to accomplish that anything.
(I'll also be protecting Arkadi's dream, but in my own way...)
After all, there was still faith in this world, belief that mankind will return to a better path. There was still light in the darkness, guiding us to an Avalon beyond the eclipse.
It was time to talk to Marshal Sidika, to Miko-Hime Shirayuki, to affirm that I was not merely a participating ally, that we share a common goal and dream.
(If this world is my origin, then I'll help rebuild its Avalonian dream.)
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