The Beginning After The End - Chapter 106
Chapter 106: Logic’s Biggest Foe
REYNOLDS LEYWIN’S POV:
I hated myself for what had happened. A part of me wished I had told Arthur that it was okay… that he was still family.
But a bigger part of me, the part that I hated, wished he would’ve just never told us.
I had known since early on in Arthur’s life that he was different. He had always been much more composed and mature for his age, and even when he acted his age, it seemed… rehea.r.s.ed. Since early on, his actions always displayed a certain sense of foresight; there was always a reason he did something, a goal or plan of some kind.
Maybe due to that, I was so caught up on his reason for telling us this. Wouldn’t it have been better for everyone, even for himself, if he had kept it a secret? What was the reason? What was his goal?
Why was it so hard for me to accept this? Was it because it went against my own pride? My own selfish pride that maybe, just maybe, I had sired and raised a genius that only came once in a millennium?
The signs were always there. His strange behavior from an early age, his unexplainable prowess as a swordsman and talents as a mage.
Again… Did I subconsciously choose to ignore all of those signs so I can maintain my petty ego? Deciding just to accept the fact that that my own flesh and blood, my… son, could be so b.l.o.o.d.y impressive.
I couldn’t help but laugh at myself at how difficult it was to say ‘son’, such a simple term of endearment.
It took me a while to drag my sorry feet back to the cave. Looking around, the only one I could see was Elder Rinia, who was cradling something by the fire. I glanced at the tent my wife and daughter was in, but for some reason I couldn’t bring myself to go inside. Instead, I sat down next to our benefactor.
“He left, you know.” The aged elf’s eyes remained glued to the bundle of blankets she was cradling in her arms as she spoke.
“I figured,” I sighed, feeling like a child being scolded.
“I was afraid of the day when he would tell you.”
“Y-you knew, Elder Rinia?” I peeled my eyes off of the fire and turned to the elf seated next to me.
“I see many things, but only for that boy do I have to grind my old head to try and piece together what is in store for him.” She met my gaze, her eyes dim with weariness.
“Heh, he’s hardly a boy,” I scoffed, leaning forward as I got lost in the flames dancing in front of me.
“Bah! He’s still a child to me, much like how you’re still a child as well,” Elder Rinia chortled back. Leaning back carefully in her seat, she continued. “I always found it amusing… the preconceptions people have about age and intelligence: The older someone is, the more wisdom he or she should possess, and the more intelligent someone is, the more logical he or she should be. Pair those two traits up, and the intelligent senior should be some cold, calculating shrewd… don’t you agree?”
Noticing my puzzled expression, she revealed a soft smile and gently set down the bundle she was holding and leaned closer to me.
“Do you see me as a cold, calculating shrewd?” The aged elf gave me a wink.
“No, of course not. But… I don’t get what this has to do with Arthur,” I stammered back, caught off guard.
“Weren’t you wishing Arthur would’ve just kept his mouth shut? That you would feel better ignorant of who the boy really is? I bet you were also wondering why the boy told you in the first place, right?”
Before I had the opportunity to reply, the aged elf poked me softly in the chest… right where my heart was.
“The heart remains the brain’s biggest foe. Well actually, for men, the brain’s most formidable foe is probably…” Elder Rinia’s gaze dropped below my waist. When I realized where she was referring to, my immediate instinct was to cross my legs, but I soon found myself laughing alongside the old elf.
Elder Rinia straightened up and continued. “As I was saying, emotion—the heart— constantly clashes against things like validity, efficiency, utility… anything logical. That’s what gets us hurt or even killed, yet, we can’t seem to help it. It makes us lesser as an individual, but greater as a group.”
“So… Arthur was running more on emotion than logic when he told us this?”
“Bah! How could I know what he’s thinking?” She shook her head, “I do know this, though. I’ve known the boy since he was a mere toddler in this world and he’s come a long way since then. Much of that cold sh.e.l.l of his has slowly melted. Perhaps his ‘coming out’ was a large step he had to take to break out of that sh.e.l.l he once found safety and comfort in.”
Elder Rinia got up and stretched painfully before handing me the bundle of sheets she had been cradling. “Hold on to this for me so that I can prepare some food for your wife. I suspect she won’t have much of an appet.i.te but she still needs to care for her body.”
“Thank you, Elder. What is this, anyway?” I bowed slightly before asking.
“Arthur’s master only told me it was a gift for the Leywin family.” There was a mysterious grin on her face causing me to be helplessly curious as to what it could be.
After carefully peeling away the layer of blankets, I couldn’t help but gape.
It was a mana beast, an infant mana beast to be more precise. The small bear-like creature was dark brown except for two dark spots above its eyes that made the beast look like it was scowling and a tuft of white fur on its chest.
“Awww! So cute! Papa, what is it? Can I keep it?” Ellie’s sudden exclamation startled me, nearly making me drop the mana beast.
“Honey, you scared me! And, I’m not sure if”—just then, the mana beast woke up and locked eyes with my daughter—“it’s a good idea…”
My voice trailed off as both my daughter and the beast’s eyes began glowing a faint gold. I sat still, witnessing what I could only a.s.sume to be the bonding process. I had yet to bond with a mana beast, but both Arthur and Ellie now have.
I sighed to myself, bitterly acknowledging the fact that it would be better for my daughter to have a bond to protect her as the image of me riding atop a mighty bear mana beast into battle slowly crumbled.
The glow subsided from both their eyes as a gold insignia imprinted itself onto my daughter’s right collar bone.
The bear-like mana beast stretched out its arms, as if wanting to be picked up by Ellie, and let out a soft whine.
“Hehe! I’ll name you Boo,” my daughter giggled as she picked up the mana beast.
“B-Boo?” I sputtered, imagining the ferocious mana beast it’ll grow up to be being called something so cute.
“Yup! Because the black spots make him look like he’s always mad! So, Boo!” she declared.
“Let’s go help out Grandma, Boo!” My daughter skipped off, just to stop and turn around. “Oh, right! Papa, Mama is awake.”
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I immediately got out of my seat and made my way to the tent. Elder Rinia’s tent was much larger inside than it appeared to be from the outside. Quietly stepping into our room that was separated by another flap, I smiled when I saw my wife sitting up.
“How are you feeling?” I gently asked, taking a seat next to her.
“How long have I been sleeping for?” she groaned, rubbing her temples.
“Only for a few hours.” I put my arm around her and pulled her close so she could rest her head on my shoulder.
“W-Where’s Arthur? Is he… gone?”
“Yeah.” I held her tightly as she began trembling.
“Am I a terrible person, Rey?” she sniffed.
“No, you’re not. Why would you ask that?”
“I-I called Arthur sick. I didn’t take him seriously when he told us his secret… I didn’t want to take it seriously!” She looked up at me, the corner of her eyes filled with tears.
“That’s normal. I wouldn’t trust anyone who could easily accept what Arthur had told us,” I consoled, gently running my fingers through her hair.
“Then am I a terrible person for doubting whether Arthur is our son?”
I wanted to tell her no, but how could I when I called myself terrible for thinking the exact same thing? The pain and hurt I’ve been feeling ever since learning the truth about Arthur was from the selfish desires and dreams I placed on the child I called my son. Alice was the one who actually birthed Arthur. She went through the stress, discomfort and pain of pregnancy for nine months before enduring the agony of labor. She nursed him, fed him, took care of him when he was sick and taught him the ways of this world. Now, everything she knew about the child turned out to be a lie…
I bit my quivering lip, trying to keep silent.
I needed to be the strong one…
I needed to be the one that my wife could rely on…
“I’m sorry,” my wife suddenly whispered. Her head was still leaning against my shoulder so I couldn’t tell what sort of expression she had.
“You did nothing to be sorry about, Honey. We… we just need time to sort out our feelings. Arthur knew this, which was why he told us before he had to leave.”
“How long will he be gone for?” she asked. I might’ve been hearing wrong, but my wife’s voice sounded somewhat brusque as she asked.
“He said a few years,” I replied, expecting Alice to be surprised. Instead, she gave me a slight nod as she muttered, “I see.”
“Alice, what’s wrong?” I pulled my wife an arms length away, trying to get a better look at her face. Her eyes were dull, almost lifeless, as she refused to make eye contact with me.
“I wonder what our son would’ve been like if Arthur hadn’t taken over?” she mumbled looking at the ground.
“A-Alice… please don’t say that. Don’t ask something like that,” I said, my voice coming out in a sort of whimper.
“Would he have been courageous and outgoing like you? Or maybe he would’ve been a bit more careful and shy like me…” she continued, tears rolling down her cheeks.
“H-Honey, don’t. Just don’t…” Tears began rolling down my face despite doing all I could to steady my voice. “Arthur is… Arthur…”
“Arthur is what? Our son?” My wife met my eyes and I could see how desperate she was… how lost she was. “If you haven’t noticed, Rey, not once have we referred to Arthur as our son since we started talking!”
I specifically remembered opening my mouth, trying to refute, but no argument came out; no sound, no words… only silence.
I took a deep breath and wiped the tears off of my wife’s face before speaking. “Just as it is for you, It’s hard for me to confidently call Arthur our son. Hopefully, that’ll change the next time we see him, but Alice, it doesn’t change the fact that we have considered him family for over thirteen years now. We laughed, we fought, we celebrated, we shed tears together. Isn’t that what brought us close? Not the blood running through us, not who we once were in the past, but what we went through together?”
Embracing my wife tightly, I continued talking. “Remember when Arthur sacrificed his life for you in the mountains on our way to Xyrus? He did that expecting to die that day. You know very well he wouldn’t have done something like that if he didn’t consider you important. So don’t dwell on the ‘what if’s and let’s try to accept what’s happening around us.”
I could feel my wife trembling in my arms as she broke down and cried. I now remembered where I recognized that dull, lifeless look Alice had in her eyes. It was the same look she carried after we thought Arthur had died. It was her trying to escape reality.
We sat there for a while in each other’s arms until our tears ran dry and our sobs were reduced to soft whimpers.
“Alice, you’re not a horrible person. Believe me, I’ve thought worse than you. But it is going to take us time to wrap our heads around this…” My voice trailed off as I held my wife’s face and gazed deeply, studying every detail of the woman I loved.
“S-stop staring. I must look disgusting right now,” she croaked, her voice hoa.r.s.e from crying.
“You’re beautiful,” I stated while staring at her puffy red eyes and runny nose.
My wife softly closed her eyes and leaned forward. I pressed my lips gently against hers when Ellie’s voice rang just outside the tent.
“Mama! Are you feeling better now? Let me show you Boo!”
“Now now, come play with Grandma. Your parents are… resting, yes resting!” Elder Rinia’s voice rang just outside the tent as well.
“Aww, okay. Come on, Boo. Let’s play with Grandma!”
Alice and I locked eyes in what felt like a long time and she finally smiled.
“What is this ‘Boo’ that Ellie is talking about?” my wife asked, raising a brow.
“I’ll tell you later.” Shooting her what I supposed to be a wink with my swollen eyes, I wiped another stray tear from her face and resumed where we had left off.