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I ignored Storm as he followed me until we were further from the house. Then, I slowed down, and leaned against the wall. Storm came up behind me and put his hands on my shoulders.
“Should we go behind the guard house…?” His voice was shaking, and he sounded like he was going to cry too. I nodded, and we walked together to the large guard house. Few people actually slept and lived there, but it was a place to get orders and socialize with other guards and hunters- the line between “guard” and “hunter” was only defined by how much time one spent outside of the Village. Behind the guard house, there was a private area set aside by thick blankets. It was easy to tell if there was already someone there by whether one of the blankets was tied to make it easy to look in or not. When we got there, it was empty. We both stepped in and I roughly pulled the blanket down to close it off, before sinking to the ground.
Storm and I looked at each other for a second before we both started silently silently crying. The dungeon… It was difficult to even think about going back there. We had no idea what would lie inside the ruins. Would all the corpses of our friends and siblings still be there? Would there be ashes where they once lay? Would it be how it was when we left it, or would it be completely destroyed…
Storm and I sat in absolute silence. I watched as he closed his eyes, and let his wings, arms, and legs all rest against the ground. He had his head leaning against the back of the guard house, and looked as sick and terrified as he often had when we were there.
...Even the thought of the dungeon scared us so much that we had run away from the mention of it. From the memories, and the scars, and we had both become how we were when we were there. That realization set a lump in my stomach that made me wonder if I was going to vomit. I just wanted to move on…
“I still have nightmares, too…”
I hesitated. “I know, Storm…”
They had never bothered to take us, or our siblings, out of the room. Just tied us up and shoved us away if we tried to get close to what was happening. But by the time we could speak, we generally knew that we didn’t want to get any closer anyway. If we got too close, we could see our mom’s tears, and that whatever man they wanted her to have children with next was in pain… many times, also crying. Storm and I were the only ones who had made the mistake of getting that close. We made sure all our siblings knew not to repeat it.
Storm opened his eyes and stared at me for a few moments. “...Do you want to know what pains me the most sometimes…?”
“If you want to tell me, then yes.”
“I probably have children somewhere in the village…”
I nodded. “Assuming they weren’t… like mine, at least…”
“Yeah… yeah…” He closed his eyes again. “I never want to cause a woman as much pain as you and mom have gone through, but I probably already have…”
“It was never you. The scientists forced it.”
“But I should have fought back-”
“Storm, they would have killed you.”
“And maybe that would be be-”
I didn’t let him finish the sentence before I pulled my legs up under me and jumped across the tent to force him to look me in my eyes.
“Don’t ever say that again, Storm. You know damn well how much more pain I would be in without you.” He looked down in what seemed to be shame. “You know who is the one the world would have been better off without? Whoever had the cursed idea to make the dungeon in the first place. Or maybe the scientists who liked to watch us tortured and broken. But you weren’t at fault. You were a victim, just like the rest of us, and now we finally have a chance to get our revenge on the people who did it.”
“But… what if one of my children survived, and the woman is stuck with them…?”
“Look at it this way: if one of my children had survived, I’d still be a huntress. It would be harder, yeah, maybe. And I’d need to team up with other huntresses with children, so that someone was always looking after the little ones. But having a kid isn’t a death sentence for the woman, and it never will be. You’ve seen how many huntresses in the village have children, right?”
Storm nodded, smiling a little bit for the first time. “Yeah… you’re right. Thanks, Gray…”
I nodded, leaning back a little bit and resting my head against the wall. “...Damn it, my head hurts now. Worrying about you is going to kill me one day.”
“You say that like you’re not the one who was dying in my arms a couple of times…”
We looked at each other and sighed at the same time, before leaning our shoulders against each other.
“I still don’t want to go to the dungeon ever again,” I admitted.
“Neither do I,” Storm said. “I just… why would it even be considered…?”
I felt a pang of guilt, because in all honesty… I had seen the dungeon, less than a day after we were out, and I saw the dust before we knew what it was, coming out of the dungeon after us. But it had looked so innocent at the time; like it could have been a hallucination that my mind was making to tolerate the pain from my injured back and the miscarriage I didn’t know yet was going to happen.
And while I did remember it… I had never connected the dust to that memory, because I thought it was a hallucination. But in that moment, I knew that the presence of the elves was just delaying the inevitable.
Rune’s research would have led us back to the dungeon regardless, and if that didn’t, future generations would want to go back to learn more. So perhaps it was best if we went there first, those of us who had already lived the horror, so that it didn’t scar another generation of Chimeras...
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