Secret of the Tenei Star Chapter 11
The nightmares flashed in his mind, as if the torture he had endured within the past few months wasn't enough. He'd lost her one too many times. And now, even in his dreams, he would lose her once more. It occurred suddenly, as if he were undeserving of even a short time of happiness.
In the conscious world, he was lying down, breathing hard, his heart palpitating. A group of people surrounded the young man, their faces sad and forlorn. They visited him a few times a day since the attack, praying he would come out of his surrealistic world and greet them with at least a desire to live.
But despair plagued him within the unforgiving phantasm. In the dream, Gremio and Emily were walking in the streets, enjoying what was supposed to be their reunion. Without warning, the earth split between the couple, threatening to devour Emily. It all happened so fast. Gremio was trying to pull her up as she grasped a hold of the ground's edge, but once again, she slipped away.
"Gremio, help me!" Her shriek was still ringing in his ears.
"Emily!" He reached for her, but she was clearly too far away.
"Gremio. . .!"
He hung his head in defeat.
. . .Gremio?
"Emily?" he called out. He lifted his head and looked at her. She was floating on air, glowing, a soft breeze passing about her. She smiled warmly at him, perfectly all right.
"Farewell, Gremio," she whispered softly.
"Please don't go," he pleaded weakly. "I don't ever want to say good-bye." He extended an arm again, but she moved away, and gave him a wave.
"I'll say good night, but never good-bye. And don't worry, I'll see you again in time, my love," she assured him. Beaming lovingly, she turned. . .and disappeared into thin air.
Gremio. . .
Finally, he broke through the horrid dream, and began to come out of his unconscious state.
A light hovered about his eyes.
"Gremio, can you hear me?" the female voice questioned soothingly.
"Ugh. . ." He stirred, and finally came to. Slowly, the blurring ended, and he found himself looking directly into the face of the girl, her lips slightly parted, her face pressed with worry.
Her expression relaxed, and she gave him a smile. "Oh, Gremio. . ." She then quickly faced downward, her face growing warm.
He did not seem at all surprised as she came into view. "Cleo. . ." Grunting in pain, he attempted to sit up, but found his strength had not returned. "Argh." He collapsed on the bed and scowled.
"Don't try to move, Gremio," ordered his friend. "You've been out for over a week. You aren't strong enough to do much yet." She bit her lip and lowered her gaze, her eyes dimming. "I'll go inform Master Teo that you're awake." With that, she hastily exited the room.
"What. . .what was that all about?" Gremio wondered aloud. Then a new thought entered his mind.
After consulting Teo McDohl, Cleo stood outside Gremio's room, listening. She held a small stack of folders in her arms, waiting for Teo to come out so he could instruct her on them.
"Look, Gremio, you're too weak to do anything right now," she heard Teo insist. "I'm going to have Pahn and Cleo working around the clock until you get back on your feet. In fact, if it comes to it, I might hire another servant."
"But Master Teo-"
"Don't argue with me, all right?" Teo said firmly. "You're very lucky you ended up only with a punctured lung. It could have been worse. . .but fortunately, your aggressor had bad aim." He uttered a sigh. "Even though the doctors used a lot of their medicines and healing runes, you still need time to recover fully. And that's what I want you to do. So leave all the work to the others and me."
Gremio reluctantly nodded.
"Good." Teo turned and started to leave, but Gremio stopped him.
"Master Teo, what did they do with. . .with Emily afterward?" He spoke the words as if he were ignorant of the subject. . .and afraid to find out the truth.
Teo remained still, his back to Gremio. Exhaling after a moment, he faced Gremio once more. "You know, Gremio," he began, "I never meant any harm when it came to Emily. I did not doubt for a second your feelings for her were true, and that you would do anything for her. I-I mean, you took a brutal attack-"
"Master Teo, don't-"
"I'm sorry. I'm just. . .well, I was just saying, you know." He scratched the back of his neck, feeling tense. "You almost died on us, Gremio. You nearly bled to death out there, but thankfully, some Imperial soldiers found you. I think you already knew it was too late for Emily."
Gremio's eyes dimmed. "Yes. . ."
"I do not know where to begin apologizing to you, Gremio, about everything. Just knowing what you had to endure, the terror that went through you, what it must have been like knowing death was near, what it must have felt like when that knife went across your face. . ."
It was at this moment Cleo couldn't take it anymore. She silently bolted from where she was standing and hurried off to her own room, a guilt-ridden look on her face.
"I've seen and experienced many things in my time, Gremio," Teo continued, still as uneasy as ever. "But this. . .I just couldn't imagine what you had to go through."
"Master Teo," Gremio suddenly cut in. "What happened. . .to the child Emily was carrying?"
"So you knew about that." Teo lowered his gaze as if in disappointment. "I'm. . .sorry you had to hear about that. It must be horrible knowing she was going to have that. . .that hoodlum's child."
Gremio's face flushed red briefly. "Yes," he said uncomfortably. Just the thought of Aaron's hands all over Emily sickened Gremio. He was tempted to make a confession, but decided it wasn't the best thing to do at the moment. "Do you know what happened to the child?"
"Well. . ." Teo began. "They managed to retrieve the kid, but they couldn't save him."
Gremio eyed the man cautiously. "'Him'?" he repeated. "It-it-you mean. . .it was a boy?"
Teo nodded. "They took him from Emily, but he was already dead. Never even took a first breath."
Cleo entered her room with her expression turning sorrowful. She pushed the door shut, but it stopped a few inches away from the hallway. As the guilt returned, she slammed the folders down, creating a loud noise as they crashed with the floor. Lowering her head, she folded her arms and began to weep silently.
Unbeknownst to her, Pahn was walking through the hall, and heard her. Curious, he headed toward her room. "Cleo?" he called, pushing the door open. He found her leaning up against the wall with her head bowed, stifling her sobs.
Cleo glanced at Pahn, then quickly looked the other way. "Not now, Pahn," she said quietly.
"Cleo, what's wrong now? Did something else happen to Gremio?" He spun around anxiously and advanced toward the door, then came back to her. "I-is he all right? What?"
"He's okay, Pahn," Cleo told him calmly. "Physically. But mentally. . .I don't know. I don't know how he's going to deal with everything. I just feel so awful for him right now."
"So do I, Cleo, but-"
"Yes, but not the way I do." She sniffled. "I'd been waiting for hours before Gremio finally woke up. Then when he came to, I wanted to throw my arms around him and rejoice. But. . .but I couldn't. One glimpse at him and I had to get away from the room. Away from him."
"What-what do you mean?" inquired Pahn, his face filled with concern.
"I couldn't stare at that scar of his. It just kept reminding me of how he got it. Of how he must've felt knowing he was about to die out there. . .and they probably killed Emily first just to make him suffer. I can't even begin to imagine what he went through. And-and all I could think about was all the times I spoke badly of her, you know. I just keep thinking, maybe if I'd been nicer to her, maybe if I hadn't shunned her so much, maybe-"
"Maybe Emily might be alive today and Gremio wouldn't be suffering right now. Maybe I was responsible for that. All I know, Pahn, is that I couldn't even look him straight in the face for a full second without turning away 'cause. . .I-I. . .argh! God, I just feel so bad about everything, and can't help thinking that if I'd just been a little nicer, Gremio wouldn't be going through all of this right now!"
"Cleo, it's not your fault."
"I know, but-"
"Listen to me, Cleo," insisted Pahn. He walked up to Cleo and put his arms on her shoulders, looking directly into her eyes. "Everything that's happened in the past few days-in fact, everything that's happened in the past few months. . .none of it is your fault. I don't care what you say. No one could have predicted what happened last week. Hell, we thought it was all over a few months ago when Emily left! If it's anyone's fault, it's those jerks that pulled the knives on Gremio and Emily! You are not to blame."
Despite his attempt to make her feel any better, the anguish continued to tear away at Cleo's heart. She avoided Pahn's gaze guiltily as a tear rolled down her cheek.
The next few days seemed to pass by rather quickly, though Gremio still hadn't yet let on to anyone his secret.
Why are you still keeping it to yourself, Gremio? he had questioned himself multiple times. Emily's dead. Your kid's dead. It's not like it matters anymore 'cause they're both dead.
Gremio finally came to, and slowly sat up. How long have I been out this time? he wondered. Ah well, who cares anyway? Not like I actually have anyone to meet or. . .anything.
He scoffed, carefully moved himself to a standing position, and quickly dressed. In the past few days, he had been doing everything humanly possible in order to regain his strength. Fortunately, he was making progress, the exhaustion now attacking only after he'd done more than just get up. Most of his wounds were healed. . .most of them. . .
Gremio brought a hand to his face, feeling the large, tightly bound gauze concealing the monster of a cut he knew was underneath. The doctors had set the compress on his face shortly after he regained consciousness. It was the first time since the attack in the last week or so that they'd covered the wound. Gremio suspected they did so in order to not upset anyone who had to look at Gremio, who had to gawk at that unsightly injury.
Yes, he was hideous now. Long after it was all supposed to be over, here he remained in the torment's aftermath, set to be punished for life. Only now, the people who greeted him would be doing the punishing. They'd probably scorn him for the way he looked. But what did a stupid cut matter to them? It's not as if they were the ones bearing it. With one swipe, Gremio tore off the bandage effortlessly, barely wincing.
"I lived like a loser. . .and this is what I have to show for it." His words came out clean and enunciated, as if he had been practicing the line for weeks. "No use in hiding the scar. Everyone knows it's there anyway."
He reached up and felt the wound itself for the first time. Though not fresh, it was still quite tender, and he groaned, feeling a throbbing sensation come over the appalling lesion. "Argh! That stings. . ." He moved his hand down. "That Shark. . ."
A seed of anger planted itself inside of Gremio as he thought about the brutal incident. Yes, Shark had slashed him twice across the face, then for good measure, stabbed him twice on the body. His chest still hurt. . .and it sometimes hurt to breathe, but he was still alive. Alive only to endure the pain of losing, it seemed. . .
He brought his eyes to the floor. "Emily. . ."
Poor Emily. She had gone to Aaron, and paid dearly for it. The fury stirred within him just at the thought of that monster. Aaron, in his mind, was the reason all of it happened. Aaron was the one responsible for their hell. Emily had finally come to her senses and realized this, but her fate had already been sealed. Fair Emily, a victim of Aaron's. According to her, he had brought her nothing but misery for months. First he poisoned her mind, and then lured her in. . .it was only a matter of time before he would inevitably destroy her.
But why Emily? thought Gremio in frustration. Why did Aaron have to choose Emily? Was it because she was an old friend of his? Or was it that he couldn't leave a happy couple alone? Did he really have to break up two good people? Was it necessary for him to ruin their bright future just so they'd be just as doleful and pathetic and hateful as he was?
Gremio made his way out of his room. He was glad everyone had left for the day, even Master Teo, who had taken his son along on his errands. He didn't want to have to face anybody right now as the dark thoughts crossed his mind. He was tired of everyone asking him how he felt today, or how he was dealing with everything.
How am I? Oh, I just returned from a trip worthy of hell, got stabbed a few times and was left to bleed to death, watched my girlfriend die after finding out she conceived my child, but other than that, I'm just fine. He was half-tempted to snicker at his own sarcasm, but instead frowned at its very accuracy.
He entered the main room, still scowling. He couldn't believe Emily was gone. He couldn't believe Aaron had murdered her just as easily as he'd stolen her away from Gremio. Gremio couldn't tell which was worse though; the fact that she was dead, or the fact that he was powerless to do anything about it. He just stayed there, held up against the wall by Aaron's henchmen, watching her as her throat was slashed, witnessing the terror on her face, but most importantly, seeing the life escape her very eyes as she stared back at him.
I couldn't protect her, I-I couldn't. . .
Gremio quickly shut his eyes and brought his hands to his face. It was a sight he'd never forget. One minute they were sharing a timeless moment, and then their beautiful world was shattered in a flash of silver. Emily's eyes widened at Gremio shockingly, pleadingly. . .perhaps even accusingly, as if he were at fault for it all. And maybe he was. After all, he was the one to suggest they disappear from society for a few minutes while they caught up on things. They could have gone elsewhere, somewhere safe. How could he have been so stupid?
I'm so sorry, Emily. . .
But what could he do now? He couldn't go back in time. She was dead.
Please forgive me. . .
She was now dead, along with the child that was to be. And he couldn't protect them. He had proven himself a failure, nothing short of utterly weak. The images danced around in his mind yet again, from the gruesome incident he so desperately wanted to forget.
How he wanted to forget. . .
But all the injustice of the world was still glaring in the face. Everything he had worked so hard for, everything he hoped could be, everything he believed could never go wrong. . .it was all falling apart before his very eyes. How overwhelming it felt. All of it. The pain was overwhelming, as was his sadness, but most of all, his anger, the anger which had already begun to consume him, took control at last.
Taking control over the injustice that had taken place. . .the injustice that did him wrong.
The injustice that did nothing but keep on staring him in the face.
Tearing into his heart, punishing him further, for being a blind fool, for being so weak, long after all had taken place. He could not believe how long he actually put up with it.
But not anymore.
Yes, yes. He would put a stop to its cruel nature. He would not take it any longer.
He opened his eyes, breathing faster and faster, chest heaving up and down. He took a very deep breath, then, finally, let the rage take over.
"DAMN IT!" he shrieked, violently shoving any and everything off of the table that stood in front of him. In blind fury, he picked up all that was unfortunate enough to have been in his path, and threw them ever which way. He grabbed a vase that was still standing on the table, and heaved it at the wall, smashing it to pieces. Snatching up each and every item he could, he swung them with all of his strength at the window, missing it by just an inch.
Die, you wicked bastard.
"WHY DID THIS HAVE TO HAPPEN?!" he snarled, completely furious with it all. Stepping up to the table, he took another breath and clenched both fists, pressing them on the counter. He stayed there for a brief moment, fuming, then he reached for one last object before turning around. Not even seeing what it was, he snatched it up, about to cast it somewhere, then stopped, finally realizing what it was.
Emily's gift. The squirrel statue she had gotten him.
Gremio slowly sunk to his knees, studying the ceramic surface of the reddish sculpture, seemingly horrified. Then his face contorted. "ARGH!" he roared, tossing the statue aside. It landed on the floor with a clink and rolled its way to one of the back doors. Placing his hands on the floor, he hung his head, letting the tears flow forth. Although it hurt as the tears broke free, it felt even worse to have kept it all inside. The salty liquid stung his wounded flesh as it poured down his cheeks, but he didn't even flinch. Such bittersweet pain. Shutting his eyes tight, he remained on the floor, sobbing ever so silently.
"Forgive me, Emily. . ."
A few blond strands that escaped the hold of his hairband were disheveled about his face, though hardly concealing it.
"Forgive me for not protecting you. . ."
A creak of the door.
"G-Gwemio?" a child's voice called out.
". . .and don't forget those, Pahn," Teo was saying as he pushed the door further, carrying in a load, following after his little boy. Turning back as he walked in, he spotted the distraught Gremio on the floor, the room a total mess. "Oh my goodness!" he gasped. "Gremio, are you all right?!"
The young servant managed to nod, yet he remained in that position.
Teo, finally realizing what had happened, turned back to Pahn, who was approaching the house. As he handed the box to Pahn, he gave him a nod, and took his son by the arm, leading him out of the house.
Pahn almost stumbled at the force of the box being shoved into his arms, but managed not to fall over. Then he noticed Gremio, knowing what he needed to do.
"H-hey, Gremio," he called out, setting the package down. "Um, anything you want to talk about?"
Gremio's voice came out muffled. "What is there to talk about?"
Pahn walked over to his friend, then knelt down beside him. "I don't know. Maybe about what's happened before you destroy the rest of the house?"
Gremio reached up with a hand in an attempt to dry his tears. "Pahn. . .I. . ."
"Can you. . .keep a secret?" he asked, sniffling. Bringing his hand back down, he slowly turned to face Pahn.
"What is it, Gremio?"
"The child that. . .Emily was carrying. . ."
". . .was mine."
Pahn looked at Gremio with a blank stare. "Wh-what?"
Gremio nodded. "Yeah."
Pahn's expression turned horrified. "Gremio, man, why didn't you say a word?"
"I don't know," whispered the young servant. "I. . .was in total shock, I guess. I was still trying to get the fact that she'd cheated on me. . ."
"I'm sorry, Grem-"
"I mean, why did she do that to me?" he demanded aloud. "How could she hurt me this way?! I loved her so much! I-I loved her. . ."
"I'm sure she realized-"
"But-but if you really want to know. . .I couldn't say anything 'cause I'd just gotten the shock of learning she was going to have my child, then the shock of being assaulted like that. . ."
"Gremio. . ."
"Watching Emily die right before my eyes. . ."
"Gremio, if it hurts to-"
"And the shock of knowing I couldn't even protect her. I couldn't protect her! Knowing that I was weak! I couldn't protect Emily! I couldn't save her or her child. Our child! My child! I couldn't protect my. . ." He paused. "My son."
Pahn gave Gremio a sympathetic look. "So it was a boy?"
"Y-yes. Master Teo said. . .um. . ."
"Oh. I'm. . .sorry, Gremio."
A moment slipped by, but Gremio could not let go of the fact. He shook his head. "It's so hard to get used to the fact that I would've had a son. But. . .I would've done my best to teach him all the rights from wrong. I know I would have. Even if Emily wasn't there. . .I would've made sure he grew up to be a good, moral person. I loved Emily so much, and I know. . .I know I would've loved that child also. I know it sounds crazy, but even now, I miss him. I miss them both so much."
"But Gremio," Pahn cut in, "Even if Emily was here, y-you're both so young. I mean, here you are. . .you're only seventeen. Would you have been able to handle all that responsibility?"
"I don't care!" he insisted. "All I know is that I would've raised him to be a good person, and not evil like that. . .Aaron. . ." His eyes suddenly darkened, filling with absolute hatred.
Pahn backed off and sighed. "I know you would, Gremio."
"God. . .I can't believe what she had to put with. Enduring nothing but physical pain from him for months. For months!" He uttered a groan of disgust at the thought of Aaron, then sadness overcame him once more. "What he did was wrong, wasn't it?" Gremio asked Pahn, a pleading look on his face. "I-I mean, hurting Emily and all, isn't that wrong? I would never have treated her so badly!"
Pahn lowered his head. "What he did was wrong. I would never hit a woman, no matter how mad I got at her."
"I can't believe he hurt her for so long," Gremio continued, feeling his despair overtake him. "He never loved her. All he did was take advantage of her. He took her mind, her body, then at the end of it, he. . .ends up taking her life too." Gremio stopped, trying to keep it together. "And it just isn't Emily he murders. He kills the baby she's carrying." A pause. Then, he began fuming again. "How dare he take the life of that innocent child," he growled quietly, his face twisting into a mask of contempt. "How dare he kill Emily. God help me, Aaron is going to pay for that."
A look of alarm crossed Pahn's face. "Gremio, I don't like that look in your eye."
Shaking his head, Gremio did not hear Pahn's words. "He's going to pay," he repeated, his voice rising. "He will pay. I'm hunting him down. I'm hunting him down! He's going to feel firsthand what pain is, what suffering is, but most of all, he's going to know what sweet, sweet revenge is. . .with him at the losing, despicable end of it! He's going to suffer by my hands. I will make sure that Emily will not have died in vain." With that, he arose.
Pahn's jaw dropped open in shock. "Gremio, wait! Listen to yourself!" He moved himself to a standing position as well and put a hand on Gremio's shoulder, hoping his friend would stop to reason for a moment.
But Gremio shoved Pahn's arm away. "Out of my way, Pahn! I'm going to kill him!" With that, he stormed out of the McDohl residence, leaving Pahn behind, a frightened yet bewildered expression on his face.
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