15 Second Shard PT. 3
"Where are they?" Bai Qi hoarsely asked the old man.
The old man didn't bother turning around.
"My family. Where are they?"
The old man remained silent, peering out at the growing darkness, as the rays of light slowly climbed down past the horizon. The wind stirred the room, a soft cold breeze floating playfully around.
"Answer me!" Bai Qi felt his eyes tearing up. "My family. My two younger brothers. Uncle. My father. Where are they?"
"I thought by coming with me you severed ties." The old man sighed. "Unfortunately, if only it was that easy."
"They are still my family, no matter what. My brothers were innocent."
The old man turned to face Bai Qi, and smiled warmly. "You already know what happened. Do you really want to see the truth?"
Hot tears streaked down Bai Qi's face, lines washing the dirt and dried blood away. "Please," he begged, "Don't let it be true."
The old man sighed, before turning away. "It's too late to regret. Believe me, I would know."
The scene on the screen changed again, though it became a bit fuzzier. It was the same study, the same books, the same furniture, but there again was Bai Qi's father. He was sitting at his desk slumped over, as screams could be heard coming from outside his house. The area around his father's face was just as blurry as ever, obscuring Bai Qi from making out the details. Bai Qi noticed his two brothers, huddled at the corner, crying into each other's arms.
The door to the study was closed, and knocks could be heard.
"Do you even need to knock at a time like this?" Bai Qi's father asked.
A gruff voice laughed, one of the men that had attacked Bai Qi during the night. A man, matching that gruff voice opened the door. "I thought I'd give you one last piece of respect."
"After attacking my village, my clan, my people? Please do take that piece of respect back."
The man laughed. "The alliance had a deal. The head's son gets to look good, we all get to look good, we move up in the chain, and everyone benefits. The clan thrives, we get extra resources, the next generation is better off. All you had to do on your end was control your son."
"You saw what happened. You guys failed at controlling him as well."
The gruff man laughed. "And in the end he broke off ties with you, and killed the head's only son."
"He only took the best route that he saw fit."
"And you still protect him even till now." The gruff man twirled his knife in the air, playing catch with it. "Why is that? Even after everything you worked so hard for comes crumbling down because of him."
"I don't know either." Bai Qi's father seemed tired, about to fall asleep. "He's still my son."
The gruff man laughed. "Any last words?"
His brothers, hearing those words, started to cry louder.
"I've worked so hard, just for the good of our village."
"I didn't have a choice. I had to choose between him and everyone else."
"And you made the right choice. He made the wrong one. But what can you do, he couldn't understand the bigger picture."
"He's too young to know about the burden of the choice. I fear he only sees me as this broken off person."
The gruff man laughed once again.
"I've made many mistakes," Bai Qi's father murmured. "I've tried to do the right thing. And everything turned out this way." He sighed. "I hope he doesn't come back. I hope he forgets us, forgets this carnage. It's not his fault."
"Forgiving him with your last breaths. How fitting." The gruff man moved forward to stabb Bai Qi's father in the chest. "Rest now. I'm sure he hates you just as much as you love him."
Bai Qi's father laughed, with the knife in his chest. Blood started to seep out, pooling around his chest.
He tried to speak, but coughed out blood. Looking up at the heavens, he said "Goodbye, cruel world," as his body slumped over.
Bai Qi's brothers, crying in the corners, wailed louder. The gruff man looked at them and sighed. "I'm sorry little ones, it's my job." He raised out his arms and grabbed their necks. "I'll make it painless, this is the least I owe your father." He twisted, and a crack followed, as their bodies stopped resisting, limp and lifeless.
The scene on the screen faded away, and the screen slowly dissipated into the air.
Bai Qi's face was full of tears, as he looked up to the old man. "Why?"
Why didn't you save them. You knew what was happening, you could have done something."
"I thought you broke off ties with them. Isn't that what you meant with your whole coming with me."
"They still were my family," Bai Qi screamed. "My brothers, they were innocent." He cried, blubbering, "The villagers, they were innocent."
"Innocent of what crime?" The old man looked over. "What exactly were they innocent in?"
Bai Qi opened his mouth, only to close it again. He had no words.
"Even now you deny the truth," the man harshly said. "Even now you refuse to say that they were innocent in the choice you made."
"No," Bai Qi said, his voice cracking. "It wasn't my fault. You could have saved them."
The old man laughed. "Why should I care about your choice?"
"You only had to lose maybe a year of your life, and just live out the rest as comfortably as you could, and all this could have been avoided."
"It wasn't my fault. I didn't have a choice."
"Of course you had a choice." The old man turned around, his hands behind his back. "And look where your ambition got you."
"I didn't have a choice," Bai Qi repeated, tears streaming down his face, trying to turn away, from looking at the old man's eyes.
"You damn well had a choice, boy!" The old man barked. "Look at me, look into my eyes, and look at the face of your brothers when they died, and tell me, to my face, that you didn't do this."
"Tell me to my face that your ambition made you forget the bigger picture. Tell me it wasn't your fault."
"Stop trying to look away, and look at me in the eyes, and tell me what excuse you had for those innocent, the hundreds that died at your hands today, because you couldn't accept a single loss."
Bai Qi looked the the old man's eyes, and saw no emotion. "I didn't mean to -- "
"Mean to what?" The old man asked. "Mean to have blood spilled on the streets, for something you couldn't understand? It's one thing to have ambition, it's another to refuse to look at the mess you created. You disgust me. Grow a pair, look deep inside that naive self, and ask yourself where that good person went."
"Ask yourself where you made that mistake, where you let your arrogance take over, let your pride take over, let that coward take over."
"A real man would own up to their mistakes, to grow from them."
"They all died," Bai Qi said weakly, "because of me."
"Because of you, they died"
"They all died, because of me." Bai Qi repeated, eyes bloodshot.
"Hundreds, mothers, fathers, children, your brothers, your father who tried to protect you."
"Dead, all of them." Bai Qi looked up. "Why"
"Because of you."
"Because of me?" Bai Qi began laughing eerily. "Dead, all of them?"
"All of them"
"They didn't deserve to die."
"They were innocent."
"Because of me." Bai Qi laughed. "Dead all of them."
He abruptly stopped laughing, and looked the old man in the eyes. "I deserve to die, don't I?"
"The worst possible death."
Bai Qi laughed again. "But they died, not at my hands."
"But because of you."
"I need to kill them, don't I? Bai QI asked. "The people that killed my family? It's only right? I'm going insane aren't I?" He once again started laughing. "There's this crazy in my head that won't stop repeating it. My fault, my fault, all my fault, they died, they died, they died."
The old man sighed, and waved his hand. The restraints on Bai Qi were removed, and Bai Qi body crumpled on the ground. "Boy, the path you take from here is your choice. I'm neither your teacher, nor your friend, nor someone who cares about you."
Bai Qi looked down, and slowly pushed himself up, with his left arm. Reddened eyes from all the tears, he made for a very sorry sight. "Help me get stronger."
"So I can hold the others responsible."
The old man stepped forward, until he was face to face with Bai Qi. "No boy, you misunderstood, why should I help you?"
Bai Qi laughed. "I've already lost everything, nothing left to give."
With those words, Bai Qi felt his head start to spin, before everything started to fade into the darkness once again. His chest felt restricted, he couldn't breathe, and suddenly the dream shattered, waking him up, sitting up, gasping for air.
He was sweating, his bed damp, the air hot and humid. The sun was just peeking over the horizon, the mornings rays about to come in.
And that concludes the second shard. Hope you guys enjoyed, comment down below what you thought.
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