I found myself back here again, a dark forest where no life can be found but the sound of my past echoed through every leaf. I slowly walked through the forest knowing I can’t leave till I wake up. No matter where I turned there were only trees surrounding the dark starless night, well it’s usually starless, but this time there is something there. One bright star stands by itself in the night far above the trees.
Something came over me and without reason, I ran in its direction ignoring the voices that tried to beat me down. As I ran everything got colder as the world was being consumed by darkness, but my eyes were stuck on the star. I was so focused on the star I didn't even realize that I left the forest and with it the voices.
I looked around to find myself on a cliffside, a colorful cliffside littered with flowers of all kinds and fireflies blinking everywhere I looked. The dark cold wind had become a calming light wind. I looked up back at the star and watched it move towards me placing itself in front of the cliff. “If you want it, your going to have to jump for it”. I heard a feminine voice from the light. The voice sounded familiar but I couldn't remember whose voice. I looked over the cliff, it was so large I couldn't even see the bottom.
“Are you scared, scared to take the leap”. I looked behind me to see the dark forest, The ground started shaking, the cliff started falling apart on my left and right slowly. I slowly backed up towards the forest, the star floated there.” So you're going to run away again”. I looked back at the forest, the darkness I knew for so long, do I really want to go back.
I was running out of time, almost all of the cliff was gone, I had to make a decision. I ran over as the ground fell below me and jumped for it, I grabbed the bright light and fell into the void. But I felt no fear nor regret that this was the right decision,” no more running”. It felt similar to the forest cold and dark, the voices returned worse than before, my past sins beating the life out of me. That was until the star I held started shining, it left my hands and flew up to the sky, the darkness chased after it slowly reaching it until it stopped and was consumed by the dark.
Suddenly light spilled out until a bright light appeared, a large moon stood where the star was and with its appearance, the darkness left along with the voices, I found myself no longer in the void but yet in a lush green field where grass and flowers were everywhere just like the cliffside. In the distance, I could see someone else.
When I got closer I realized it was me, well a darker version of me,” I leave the rest to you”, he said and disappeared into dust that was blown away in the wind, behind him was a tree in the distance.
Another day has come, and each morning when I wake up my memories seem to refresh. No matter what things must be done, after getting dressed I headed over to her room and knocked on the door, no response. The door was unlocked so I let myself in to see an empty clean room, which means she's already downstairs.
I grabbed my stuff and headed downstairs. All the tables were empty except for one where two people were playing chess, an old man with a short white beard and white hair. Across from him was a young girl with long silver hair in a ponytail with a stumped look on her face. Which makes sense because last I checked Luna wasn't good at chess. I checked the board just in case, the old man was the black pieces and she was the white and it was indeed very one-sided, he had only lost a few pawns, his horses, and a rook. While she had lost half of her pieces and was about to lose her queen.
I called out to her, she looked up and waved at me,” so you're finally awake, hurry up and help me”. She seemed as cheerful as ever.``good morning sir did you sleep well”, the old man said to me, I greeted the innkeeper as well of course. I handed Luna a piece of paper and a small brown bag with coins in it,” Luna, when you finish this game I need you to buy supplies”. She looked at the list then gave me a confused look,” wait what are you doing that you trust me to buy these, or maybe have you realized how amazing I am”
I shook my head,”I just got something to do”, I said before I left. I headed straight to the bar where we agreed to meet, though it’s so early in the morning the town was busy with people with everyone doing something, carts passing by with horses pulling them along. Birds soared through the sky and small rats could be seen down alleyways.
The bar itself wasn't packed either, but there were still quite a lot of people. Luckily the guy I'm looking for stood out. Wearing a fancy hat with a feather attached to it and a fancy coat like he’s some kind of magician. I wish sometimes he at least tried to blend in, but since he’s gambling I guess it doesn't matter.
I watched them play poker in silence betting money, but it seems he will be done since he ran out of money to bet. I decided to step in and drop some coins on the table. Alister looked at me in surprise,” cor I never thought you were a gambler”. I sighed,” I'm not but I can see you're a bit short on funds”. He gracefully took the money with a smile and luck may have it he won. With a laughing smile, he took half the money left. He turned to me and pointed to a table in the corner, honestly what he’s wearing were still going to stick out.
Once we sat down he got himself some wine and me some alcohol.``You know drinking wine doesn't make you look fancier”. He chuckled,” of course I know that's what the feather is for”. I put a bag of coins on the table. He put his hand out,” you have a map” I grabbed my rolled-up map, he spread it across the table and circled three towns, Cali, Lucio, and Alimgram.
”From what I learned the horse you seek is in Cali, seems like some rick hoarse racer has it”. Great, I love dealing with hoarse racers,” that will be fun”. He pointed to Lucio,” Before I tell you this I suggest you give up the chase, cause the man you're hunting is very dangerous”. I took a sip of my drink,” how dangerous are we talking high tier?” He looked around,” have you heard of the grim reaper, a man who could take on three mal beasts on his own”. I sat there shocked, if what he said was true then we are way out of our league, plus Lucio is so far away he will probably move before we reach him.” I see I will talk to luna about it”.
Lastly, he pointed at alimgram,” This is a message from zhou ''. He then handed me a letter,” meet him in alimgram”. I put the letter on my back,” another problem I have to deal with”. Alister grabbed his money,” you seem to have quite a lot of problems, I heard your bounty has gone up to 3,000”. He threw me a wrapped item that I personally ordered from him,” that was hard to get you to know”. I finished my drink,” thank you Alister”. He looked at the coins,” don't get the wrong idea”. He flipped the coin in the air,” It’s just business alright”.
I was hoping to leave this town with no problems, sadly no. Some rando barged in yelling to everyone in the bar,” I'm here for the gunslinger named for, come out here and face me in a duel or else I...”. I stood up,” let's get this over with”, he smiled,” Thanks for making it easy, come on boys”. We all left outside many people coming to see, all the carts stopped long with people making a dead silence. Alister came out as well it seems he passed by me,” don’t get yourself killed”
It was 5 guys with one of them upfront with a large cocky smile, I can guess he’s a gunslinger but probably a mid-rank. Midranks act like their hot stuff only to die to the first mal beast they fight.``Let me introduce myself, my name is Jack and as you probably guessed I'm a gunslinger trying to get his hands on that bounty of yours' '. I checked my pockets for a cig but sadly I had none. My lack of paying attention angered him,” Hey listen to me, we're doing this 1v1 old-style, ten steps back, turn and shoot”.
Old style huh, been a while since I did that,” alright but don't throw a fit when you lose” WE got into our position. An overseer was chosen and began counting, with every step I began thinking where he might aim for, a simple guy would go for the chest, a cocky guy like himself might go for my head. A smart guy would aim for my heart, but at least I know where I'm shooting.
Once we reached nine the tension in the air was high and it was dead silent one he said ten we would step, turn around and shoot, to everyone's knowledge only one person or maybe none would leave alive and even their lives are in danger. Such is the risk you take when a duel is held. Once he said ten we took our last step, I pulled out my gun and quickly turned around to fire. If you were the audience you would hear guns fire, the sound of something hitting a nearby wall, and a scream.
And just like that it was over, I won with a cut on my cheek and he lost with a bullet in his leg, his gun on the ground.” Cocky guys like yourself always aim for the head no matter how hard it is to hit”. He was on the ground holding his knee,” you ******* how dare you, I will kill you for this, boys end him”. I quickly took cover as they started firing at me, everyone scattered trying not to get hit. Now I have another problem I have to deal with, I peaked in the corner to fire back and almost got shot in the head.
Suddenly there was a loud boom and yelling, I peaked again to see a large smoke cloud covering their eyes.``hey cor over here”. It was Luna with a horse, I quickly hopped on.”The smoke quickly disappeared so I shot at them to make them take cover while we got away.” What the heck happened”. I took control of the horse,” I will explain once we are out of town”.
Well, we would have to get out of town first, there's no way they are going to let a 3,000 bounty, bullets begin flying by,” cor we have a problem”. It seems that they have horses of their own and wish to continue the chase.” Hey Luna, can you take care of them?”. She loaded her gun,” If I couldn't there would be no point in the gun.” Luna can shoot quite fast and precisely even while moving.
I focused on getting out of town and heading to the forest to try and lose them in the trees. Luna tapped my shoulder,” cor do you smell rain”. I looked up, rain clouds were coming from the forest. I can only pray our luck isn't that bad today. I heard yelling from the gunslinger guy,” After him don't let them escape”. She looked back at me,” seriously what did you do”. I told her to focus on the guys shooting at us.
And just when I thought things couldn't get worse, chills went down all of our spines when we heard a tree fall in the distance, the horses stopped in their tracks. No one fired for we feared the worst. Then another tree fell, then another, then another, from the forest came a loud roar, the roar of a malbeast, instantly the horses were filled with fear as they began to panic as the mal beast emerged from the trees. A large beast covered in fur with a skull-like head walking on fours, it has a long tail to boot.
This could be trouble, I yelled to our chasers ``well should we continue the chase”. The others were struck with fear except for the gunslinger. He seemed just mad but secretly he was probably scared too.``I would say I will kill you later but you probably won't survive”. They quickly left heading back to town for safety like the cowards they are.
But how are we going to survive, it’s too big to be a weak malbeast and there are only two of us. Luna reloaded her gun,”I was hoping to meet a malbeast”. Luna seems to always be rather calm around malbeast. Most people instantly get scared but she gets blood lust. Such things get a person killed.``No, we run into the forest towards the rain”. If my plan works we will get out of this unscathed.
We finished setting up camp and decided to take a break and keep from getting wet, we were both tired and hurt from that recent battle. So we silently watched the rain fall onto the ground and listened to the rain brush the leaves on its way down. It was surprisingly relaxing and Luna seemed to love it.
“Hey cor, are we doing the right thing”. I was wondering when that question would come up, I asked myself the same question many times and only recently found the answer.``well we are trying to take your horse probably by force back and hunting guys who were told to hurt others by their boss. To us we are the good guys but to them, we are the bad guys and for all I know we could be ethier”. She looked at me confused,” so are we are good or bad your explanation is quite long”
I chuckled. I knew she wouldn't quite understand,” calling someone good or bad is too simplistic. People are too complicated to categorize so simply. Believe it or not, most gunslingers don't consider themselves heroes or villains since depending on your experience two people can believe that you're either. She looked back at the rain,” I think I understand”. I asked her what side she thinks she’s on.
“I don't know, on one hand, I'm trying to avenge my father but on the other hand what I'm doing only causes more violence and death and doesn't help anyone at all”. I sighed it is quite a dilemma one I don’t have an answer for,” welcome to adulthood kid where you will be given questions with no answers or for at least now who knows maybe you will find such an answer”
The rain was setting down so I started packing up to go,”the question you should be asking is what will you do after, what consequences will come after, and did you do your best to better not only your future but others as well.” I'm not going to tell her but she taught me that, on this journey to hunt down those who haunt our past I watched luna people she don’t know above herself helping every chance she gets and her reward was a peace of mind that she helped someone that day, unlike me she’s a much better person. Slowly her kindness is changing me as well.
The rain finally stopped pouring,”hey luna lets hit the road and keep going before someone else comes for our bounty”. She nodded and started packing up as well, she was definitely still thinking about it. I think I will wait to see what answer she decides upon, I'm curious to see what she thinks.
As we trekked down the road a thought came to my head, if violence creates more violence then kindness creates more kindness, which means it may be possible to create a kind world, one kinder than the one we have. I wonder if Luna will be part of such a world. She caught me staring at her,” hey is there something on my face”. I shook my head,” nothing I can see”.