The Story of Tata Chapter 4

Too Much Death, So Close

By The Man

It was two days later that Tata got the news: the war against Magus was over. Apparently, a trio with magical properties had entered Magus' castle, defeated him, but didn't return themselves. Tata really hoped that they hadn't perished. Such hero's came very rarely.

But then, a week later, a scout ship from the town of Chorus had found a fort on a neighboring island. The crew of the ship had seen no real indication of activity, but had informed Gaurdia that there was always a possibility of Mystic rebellion, and that they should keep a keen eye on the island.

But Tata was just happy it was over. He still had to content with his own every-day problems. But with the war over, everyone and everything seemed more relaxed.

Yet all did not remain happy. A week after, Tata's dad died. He had suffered a heart attack, and died in a small hospital. Tata had seen many of his friends there at the funeral, such as Tony, his grandpa, (who later had a nervous breakdown) Grengy, and of course, Minka. After the ceremony, he was pulled aside by her. For a minute, she said nothing. Then, she threw her arms around him and cried softly onto his shoulder.

"Hey, hey, rainy face." Tata said in a soothing tone, also embracing her. "What's wrong?"

"I-I hate it here." She said through sobs.

"But why?" Tata asked as he held her tight. "You have a nice home, a good family-"

"Tata." Minka said with more control as she drew he head back to the point where she could look him in the eye. "It's them that I hate." She said, motioning toward some people. "They hate me."

"Oh." Said Tata with a sigh. He knew what she meant. Every Mystic, no matter if they were in the war or not, were treated as second-rate. And Minka, being the sister of one of Magus' generals, had it real tough with humans.

"I c-can't even go for a stroll without someone insulting me or abusing me." She said, putting her head back on his shoulder. "They, they hurt me so much. I hate them! I can't stay here! I can't!!"

"Not even for me?" asked Tata pulling away so he could see her face.

"Tata, please don't make me stay for you." She said. "I don't have a life here."

"Minka, you may not need me that much, but I need you." Tata said in a soft tone. "With my father dead and my grandpa gone crazy, you're one of the only things that matters to me anymore."

Minka stared at him and lightly smiled. "You do matter to me, Tata. More than anything else in the world."

"Minka," Tata said in a serious tone. "I'm making a dedication right now. If I see or hear of anyone abusing you in any way, I will make it my personal duty to make them scream in agony. That is a promise."

Minka leaned froward and kissed him. It was a long, loving kiss. One that meant she loved him more than life itself. Then she rested her head on his shoulder again, no longer crying, and whispered: "Thank you, Tata."

* * *

The next day, Tata made his way to the café. It wasn't a sunny day, and the sky was rolling with clouds. As he a approached the small stop, he heard some hooting and laughter. As he approached, he saw the last thing he wanted to see that morning: Len and his gang. As he approached calmly, he saw that they were harassing someone. Minka.

"Nothing greets happiness than the usual filth that can be found in this café!" hooted Jake. The rest of the café's people appreciated this display, except for one man that was watching with content.

"She's so stupid, when she walks through the forest, she bumps into all of the trees!" exclaimed Dip with his bad joke.

"So." Said Len punching her in the arm. "What's on the agenda for the baby-killer?"

Tata wasn't close enough to physically hurt them, but that was soon to change. Naturally, the rest of the café's customers did nothing to stop any of this. As much as they hated Len and his gang, helping a Mystic was as low as anyone could get, as far as they were concerned. But as much as Minka was a pacifist, she had enough self-pride to stand up for her rights.

"Well, I was going to have breakfast." Said Minka, meeting Len's gaze. "But with your year-old odor and cows' ass looks hanging in the air in front of me, I've lost my appetite."

Tata was near the entrance now, and had gotten that comment in. Len and his gang took it pretty hard.

"C'mere, Mystic filth!" Len said through gritted teeth. With that, Len grabbed hold of her throat and dragged her out the back exit. Still, no one stopped him.

Tata saw the customers' reaction, and shouted: "Isn't anyone going to stop those jerks?!"

"Hah!" shouted one man. "I hope they make the world cleaner by killing her and all of her kind."

Tata threw up his arms and rushed to the exit door, but not before turning to the insulting man and saying: "I wish you could be a Mystic for one day. Maybe then they'd kill you, too." With that, Tata bolted out the door.

At first, Tata didn't see them, at first. But then he heard a small abrupt shriek. Tata turned toward the sound of the noise. It had come from the left. Tata ran over in that direction. Then, as he rounded the corner, he saw Jake, Clem, and Dip holding Minka still and silent as Len threw his fists at her tense body. From where Tata was, Jake and Clem were facing away from him.

As Tata watched the abuse happen so violently, he remembered what he had said to Minka a few days ago.

"If I see or hear of anyone abusing you…"

Tata looked at his enemies.

"..In any way,…"

Tata wondered if he could take them all.

"…I'll make it my personal duty.."

Tata saw Len land another blow.

"…To make them scream in agony."

Tata had to. Even if he died. Because…"

"…That is a promise."

Before he could stop himself, Tata was charging them, sword drawn, and screaming like a maniac.

"Die, you sonsabitches!!!" screamed Tata as he confronted his first victim, Jake. Jake didn't even have time to see Tata's blade come crashing through his back. Jake uttered a short shriek before falling limp and sliding off of his sword. Clem was able to start some movement, but in vain. Quickly turning his attention away from Jake's corpse, Tata sliced his sword across Clem's back. There was a loud crack, and Tata saw that his blow had gone deep, and had split Clem's spine.

But Tata didn't care. He couldn't care. The only thing that mattered was their death. Their blood. Their suffering. Tata looked for the remaining two, and saw them fleeing away. Tata knew he couldn't get them both, but he could sure as Hell get one of them. Drawing his hunting knife, he tried to figure out which ones they were. He had gotten Jake and Clem, so that left him with Dip and Len. But as the two ran farther and farther away, it became increasingly difficult to tell them apart. He wanted to get Len, knowing full well that Dip couldn't pose any kind of threat alone. Finally, Tata decided to take down the one on the left. Drawing his hand back as it gripped the blade, Tata took careful aim, and then thrust his arm outward. Tata was amazed at how far the knife flew. But he was even more surprised when his target jerked and fell to the ground, while the other continued to run away.

Tata rushed to the fallen body of what he hoped to be Len. But as he approached, he realized that he had gotten Dip instead. Tata knelt before the corpse and drew his knife out of it. Then, while still kneeling, wiped his victims blood that ran freely on his sword on the grass, along with the knife.

Then, looking back to where Jake and Clem's bodies lay, he saw Minka huddled against the café wall. Tata quickly ran over to her, and saw the damage done by Len's former gang. Her forehead was cut a little. He saw that her cheek had gotten bruised badly, and was swelling a little. But what really hurt Tata to see on his best friend, was that her elbow had popped out of the skin. She was weeping softly. Tata knelt down and examined the fierce wound.

"Ow, Tata, don't touch it. Please." She said softly.

Still, Tata put his hand ever close to the bleeding wound. It didn't hurt him, but he felt liked moaning in agony.

But then, a rainbow glare formed around him. Tata jerked back away, not from pain, but from surprise. The bright light glowed brighter, and then, rushed forward and surrounded Minka, hiding her from Tata's view. The rainbow glow shone light at one point, then dimmer the next. This seemed to be only a few seconds long, when the rainbow light faded and left a surprised Minka on the grass. Without a mark on her.

"Tata, you, you…" But she couldn't finish, because at that moment, three burly men came charging into view.

"There he is!" shouted the leader, pointing to Tata. "Get him!"

"What?" cried Tata as his hands were twisted behind his back. "I di-umph!" coughed Tata before being knocked unconscious.

"No, what are you doing?!" cried Minka as she rushed to his side.

"We got a report of Tata here attacking three boys." Answered the leader, motioning with his head to Jake and Clem's dead bodies. "Looks like our sources speak no evil."

"You don't understand!" Minka yelled. "They were attacking me. He saved me!"

"Then he has no real cause for his actions." Responded the leader as Tata was dragged away.

"Please, do-" she started.

"Shut up, Mystic!!" hollered the man and backhanded Minka across the face. With that they left, leaving Minka crying on the grass.

* * *

Tata groggily awoke to find himself in a stone cell. As Tata surveyed his surroundings some more, he was able to realize that he was in the Porre jailhouse. The lack of maintenance said it all. Across the way, he spotted a young man that had his head down. He appeared to be studying some papers. From what Tata could see, he was a man in his mid twenties. He wore a very professional orange silk vest, with a blue shirt that shimmered a little. He had normal pants on, which totally didn't match his silk torso. And on top of his head was a red turbann that covered everything but his face. Finally, the man looked up at Tata and smiled.

"Ah, good. You're finally awake." The man said as he set the papers down and stood up.

"Uhh.." moaned Tata.

"Oh, I'm sorry." Said the man. "I forgot to introduce myself." He held out his open hand in Tata's direction. "I'm Ericson. Jacob Ericson."

"Oh." Said Tata and shook his hand.

"I'm supposed to be your lawyer." Continued Jacob. "I'm going to represent you in-"

"Wait, wait a minute." Said Tata leaning forward. "What lawyer?"

"New orders from Guardia." Said Jacob picking up the papers he had been studying. "Every criminal is put on trial. If he is innocent, he walks. If he is guilty, CHHCCK!" he made an imaginary line across his neck with his finger.

"Oooookay, then, mister Ericson." Said Tata, as he leaned forward and Jacob sat down. "How am I going to be found innocent with you at my back? How can I trust you?"

Jacob looked a little offended. "Tata, whether I like it or not, I am to do everything in my power to see that you are innocent. It is my job-"

"How do you know my name?" asked Tata.

Jacob held up the papers. "It's your file. Ever since you were three."


"Now, Tata," said Jacob as he straitened out the papers. "Since we have been properly introduced, I would like to go over the events that placed you in here, and how to get you out. Would you mind telling me how this all started?"

Tata inhaled deeply, then began his story. "Well, I was going over to the café, as usual. It was around the time that I reached the place, when I heard hooting and wild laughter. I was able to see Len and his gang inside, picking on someone. Getting close, I saw that they were picking on my g-, uh friend, Minka."

"Ah, yes. The Mystic." Mumbled Jacob.

Tata heard that and slammed his hands on the bed and got up. "Dammit, why does everyone hate Mystics!? They have the same love and compassion as humans!!" he yelled as he walked over to the cells window.

"Tata, Tata, I didn't mean it as an offense." Said Jacob. He sighed and said; "Here." And with that he pulled back the bottom of his turban to reveal an elongated ear. Upon seeing this, Tata gasped.

"Y-you're a Mystic!" he said a little too loud.

"I know, but keep it down." Said Jacob. "Don't tell anyone."

"If they find out, they'll-"

"Find me guilty of fraud, I know." Said Jacob as he stood up. "When I heard about the beating of a Mystic, and that the ones who were beating her didn't get the blame, but the one who saved her, I instantly took the job."

Jacob walked over to Tata, and put his hand on his shoulder. "Tata, I really am on your side."

* * *

The court-room was filled with the light buzz of chatter when Tata entered. Most of the jury looked on with doubts crossing their faces. Tata was followed by Jacob, who wore his usual suit and carried a small sack with many papers sticking out. And the two sat down at a small table. Jacob began unloading some papers, giving them one final look, and then setting them down. He looked over at Tata with knowing eyes.

"Our plan will work." Said Jacob. "Trust me."

At that moment, the prosecuter entered, followed by… Len. As they passed over to the other table, Len looked at Tata with hateful eyes. But Tata was not going to be intimidated. He glared back with the same hate in his eyes. Finally, Len sat down. Around that time, the judge walked in. He wore a bronze-colored robe, that shined in the sunlight that streaked in from the windows. He looked fairly old, with a white goatee that framed his slender lower jaw. As he sat down, he picked up a small hammer and rapped it on a wooden tile. Instantly, the jury became quiet.

"This court will now come to order." Said the judge calmly. He then gestured with the hammer to Len's lawyer. "You may start, mister Ebens."

Ebens slowly stood up and strode to the center of the room. Then, he looked right at Tata. Tata didn't tell anyone, but Mr. Ebens look gave him the creeps, on account of the fact that they seemed to be able to search a person's mind on a mental scale. Then he started.

"All of you may be familiar with Tata here." He said pointing his hand in Tata's direction. "And possibly my client, Len. But a few days ago, Tata was seen slaying three of Len's friends."

Ebens cleared his throat, and then continued. "For my first witness, I call a man by the name of Edgar McCree, who was witness to the dastardly act."

On cue, a man entered. As he approached the stand, Tata instantly was able to recognized him as the same man that Tata had insulted before going to Minka's aid. Once on the stand, Ebens started again.

"Mr. McCree, do you know either my client or the defendant?"

"No, I never really spoke to either of them until… that day." He said turning to look at Tata.

Ebens pulled McCree's look back to him. "And what exactly did you witness?"

"Well, I didn't exactly look until about a minute after he had exited." He drew in a breath, then continued. "When I did, it was in time to see the first boy drop dead. I was witness to another one getting killed, until calling for help."

Once done, Ebens turned to the judge and said; "I have no further questions for this witness." And took a seat next to a grinning Len. The judge looked at Jacob, indicating for him to put forth any questions. He did.

"Mister McCree." Said Jacob, rising from his seat. "In your last statement, you claimed to have seen my client slay two of the boys, correct?"

"That is correct." McCree said simply.

"And you also stated that was all you saw?" he said.

"Yes, why?" said McCree with a hint of annoyance in his voice.

Jacob walked over to the stand and leaned his hands on the small wall that Solomon stood behind. "Would you like to know what you missed before looking out behind the café?"

"I think I have a pretty good guess." He said.

"Then why did you make no attempt to stop it?" Said Jacob as he leaned in more.

"Stop what?" he said resentfully.

"Don't play stupid with me." Said Jacob, raising his voice in the process. "The second you saw Len drag the victim out behind the café, my client even asked you for help! Didn't he??"

McCree hesitated. "Yes."

"And what was your response?"

"I told him to do it on his own." He said stiffly.

"In those exact words?" Jacob persuaded.

McCree sighed. "Well, I told him that if he liked the Mystic so much, he should do it himself, because I couldn't care less."

"So you knew something was happening, but you didn't want to get involved?" Jacob went further.


"So is this a case of racism?!" Jacob fumed. "Those boys were the aggressors, and my client saved the victim!"

"I didn't want to get involved!" shouted McCree.

"Then why did you put in the call to arrest my client!!?" hollered Jacob.

"ORDER IN THE COURT!!!" shouted the judge and slammed the hammer on the wooden tile. Again, the court was dead silent. The judge leaned inward. "Mister Ericson, you will keep the shouting to a minimum, or I'm going to throw your client in jail and clear this court, understand?"

Jacob stiffened a little, but kept a calm. "Yes, your honor. I am done questioning this individual."

Jacob then walked back to the table that Tata sat at, and sat down himself, as McCree exited the courtroom. Once out of the room, Tata whispered to Jacob; "Why did you let him go on that?"

Jacob lowered his head shook his head. "We weren't getting anywhere with him. It was the only smart thing to do."

Just then, the judge spoke. "Mister Ericson, it is your turn." He said quietly.

Jacob rose again from his seat and made his way to the center of the room. Once there, he started. "Tata is known throughout most of Porre as a kind gentle person. He has no violent nature to speak of, and the reason for any out-of-line behavior would have a good reason. That brings me to my first witness, Tata's friend, a boy named Tony, from San Dorino."

On cue, Tony entered the room, looking a little nervous from being the center of attention at the time. He made his shaky way to the witness stand. Once there, Jacob started.

"Tony, are you familiar with my client?" asked Jacob in a more gentle voice than the one he had used with Solomon.

"Of course." Said Tony with a hint of surprise in his voice. "I've known him for years."

"And in all the time you knew him, did you ever notice any violence in his personality?" Jacob asked.

"No." responded Tony.

"Did he ever attack you or anyone else?"


"Did he even have surly attitude?"


Jacob cleared his throat, and started again. "So, why do you think he would kill anyone?"

"Probably if that person, or persons, really made him mad." Tony said simply.

"Do you think the beating of one of his friends, a Mystic, would have done the trick?" Jacob ventured.

Tony thought about for a minute, then came with an answer. "I think it would for just about anyone, wouldn't it?"

"Yes it would." Said Jacob as he turned to the judge. He had his stern voice back in him as he spoke. "Your honor, this should be all the proof you need to realize that my client is a very honorable person, in all respects, except for the small fact that, like every living thing, he has a breaking point. His actions were done in self-defense. It was a justifiable homicide."

With that, Jacob sat down. He looked fairly content with his speech, but now it was Mr. Ebens' turn, and even Tata knew that he wasn't just going to lay down and let this roll.

"Tony, precisely how long have you known Tata?" asked Ebens, standing up.

"Around five years, I think." Responded Tony as he leaned against the small wall of the witness stand, obviously weighed down by the stress of so many questions.

"Then you've known him since he was nine." Said Ebens.


"Well, then. You don't know about a little event that happened nine years ago." Said Ebens, as he picked up a sheet of paper. "On the day that Tata turned five, Tata was seen pushing a girl off of one of Guardia Castle's towers!"

There was a loud murmur among the jury, but Ebens continued. "She had been brought up there by a Mystic, but Tata aided the monster in tossing her off!"

Ebens turned to the judge. "Tata has been in league with Mystics his whole life. I wouldn't be surprised if the Mystic girl had been the original one to assault the four boys!"

"Objection!" hollered Jacob, rising from his desk. In the same motion, he grabbed Tata's file. Tata was able to snag a quick glance at Len, who was still grinning.

Jacob looked quickly at the papers, then said. "Uh, Tony? You may step down."

Tony did, as Jacob continued his tirade. "The defendant had nothing to do with the murder! The defendant was in the castle the whole time!"

Ebens 'tsk-tsked' at Jacob's defense. "Incorrect, Mr. Ericson." With that, Ebens motioned towards himself with his hand. On that note, a middle-aged man entered. He looked thoroughly fatigued, and Tata was able to make out a few battle scars on his worn, leathery face.

"This is Sgt. Daniel Mokahan, of the knights of the square table of Guardia, who was witness to the crime."

As soon as Mokahan was able to make his way onto the stand, Ebens started right in. "Mr. Mokahan, were you in the battle that occurred on August 15, 591, the day of Tata's fifth birthday?"

"Yes. I was guarding the entrance of-"

But Ebens cut his short with a chuckle. "Don't get ahead of me, please." He cleared his throat, and went on. "What exactly did you witness?"

"Well," said Mokahan, coughing a little. "As I said before, I was guarding the entrance to Guardia Forrest. Our men had been able to ward of the attack fairly well, so I guess I just had guard duty. I was getting fairly bored, when I heard a loud scream. It had come from behind me, so I instinctively looked behind my shoulder in time to see Tata drop the woman off of the castle. I, I was too far away to do anything about it."

This certainly made both Len and Ebens smile in satisfaction. It also set the crowd off on a loud murmur. But the judge intervened.

"Order in the court." He said dully, rapping his small mallet on the tile.

"Thank you, your honor." Said Ebens coolly, turning towards the judge. "I have no further questions for Mr. Mokahan."

With that he sat down at his desk. Now it was Jacob's turn.

"Mr. Mokahan." Started Jacob, rising from his desk and slowly walking over to the witness stand.

"I seem to recall Mr. Ebens saying that Tata had helped toss the girl off the tower, yet you say that he dropped her. What exactly did happen?"

Mokahan sighed, then responded. "He dropped her."

Jacob rested his hands on the witness stand. "But Mr. Ebens clearly stated that a Mystic was up there with Tata at the time. Did you notice anyone else besides Tata and the girl on the tower roof?"

Mokahan rubbed his chin for a moment, thinking. Finally, he answered. "No, I didn't see anyone else."

"So, that would mean that something happened to the Mystic. Was there a damage check on the castle?"

"Of course." Said Mokahan, sounding a little offended. "It is standard routine to check for any damage after a major siege."

"And did you find any Mystic bodies around the tower, or any where on the border of Guardia Castle?" asked Jacob.

"I, I think so." Said Mokahan unsteadily. Then he gave a look that could only come from hitting a very old memory. "Yes! Yes, it was a Grimalkin! It had suffered a sword slash to the chest. I guess that made it fall backward."

Jacob slammed his hand on the top of the stand in satisfaction. "A sword slash to the chest!" said Jacob in a very loud voice. "If I'm not mistaken, one of the gifts that Tata received from a friend was a sword. He had kept the sword on him the whole day. And if I'm not mistaken again, the girl had no sword on her. How could the Mystic suffered a death by sword if Tata, the only one carrying a sword, had helped it drop her off?"

Jacob turned to the judge. "I'll tell you how. Tata killed it. He did it with his sword. How do you conceive that a small child had gone through the whole trouble of getting up there to kill her if he could've just stabbed her? He climbed all the way up the castle, only to kill the Mystic and her. Why hadn't he stabbed her too??"

He turned back to Mokahan. "He never intended to kill her. Tata climbed all the way up there to slay the monster that originally brought her up there, and to save her. My suspicion is this: the monster, once being slashed by Tata, lost his hold on the girl. The roof had been slippery, and she slid off the edge. But Tata attempted to grab her, and even succeeded. But being only five years of age, he was only able to hold her for a very short time. After loosing his grip, all he could do was listen to her scream as she fell to her death."

Again, Jacob turned to the judge. "I have no more questions for this witness."

The judge looked at Mokahan and said; "You may go, Mr. Mokahan."

As Mokahan left, Jacob wasted no time in getting on with the case. "For my next witness, I call Len to the stand."

Len was in no hurry to get up there. He let his eyes wander around the room, like he was surveying unexplored territory. Finally, he rose from his seat, and slowly strolled over to the witness stand, as if it was all one big joke. Once on the stand, Jacob started.

"Len, how long have you known Tata?" he began.

"For ten years." Mumbled Len.

"And in that time, did you ever make a move to seriously harm him?" asked Jacob.

Len sighed, then said; "Yes."

"And why did you hurt his friend?" persuaded Jacob.

"For the same reason Magus had to be put down: she's a Mystic." Said Len, folding his arms.

Tata was the only one in the room that knew Jacob was a Mystic, and he knew that Jacob was burning from that last remark. The worst part was that almost all of the court agreed with Len. But through all odds, Jacob remained cool.

"So is that cause to beat a person down? Because they are different?" asked Jacob in a strained tone, obviously from anger.

"The Mystic deserved to be taught a lesson." Spat Len.

"And what lesson would that be?" shot Jacob. "That one man speaks the personality of an entire race? What would that kind of thinking be saying, huh? That if on person decides he should attempt mass genocide, that everyone would do it too?"

Jacob leaned on the witness stand. "What if a group of people decided to start a war? From what you said, that would mean that everyone that even shared the same species with this group would be murderous, and for the war."

Jacob was turning beet-red from anger now. "Why does one man speak for all? When had the girl ever hurt you?"

Jacob expanded his arm, with his hand open, towards the jury. "As far as anyone knows, she has never done anything to hurt anyone. But how many times have you dealt pain and suffering?" asked Jacob, emphasizing on 'you' by jamming his pointer finger in Len's face. "I seem to recall you admitting to seriously harming Tata before. And now you beat his friend. And has he-"

"Objection!" shouted Ebens, rising from his chair. "The girl had never been harmed! Right after Tata was arrested, she was seen without a mark on her."

"Do you care to respond, Mister Ericson?" asked the judge quietly.

Jacob looked over at Tata with lost eyes. He didn't know what Tata did. All Tata could do was hang his head. Jacob looked back at the judge. "No, your honor. But I would like to postpone this trial until this time tomorrow."

The judge sighed, rubbed his head lazily, then said; "Very well, Mister Ericson."

The judge stood up and rapped on the wooden tile. "This case will continue, same time tomorrow." With that, Jacob headed back to his desk and began packing up his papers. Tata looked over at Len with such hate, he thought he might explode. And the triumphant look that was plastered on Len's face just made it worse.

* * *

Back in Tata's cell Jacob was again sitting in the cell's chair. Jacob felt very lost at that moment, like he had lost the trail on an important journey. And he had. Jacob was a great negotiator, the best in Porre. He had heard the compliment from so many people, that he wondered that if he revealed his true identity, that they would still like him.

Looking over at Tata, he shook his mind away from his wishful fantasies and got on to more important things. He had always been against war in general, but he knew that if he didn't pull through in this case, both his client and the victim would probably executed.

At that moment Tata was looking through the iron bars of his out onto Porre. The cell looked out at his house, the Cursed Woods, and most of northern Porre. He would have basked in that view for several hours, but he had other things on his mind. Like his case, his trial, but mostly, he thought about Minka. This case wasn't just about him anymore. It was about her now. If he were found guilty before the jury, Len would be free to hurt her. And he wouldn't be there to defend her.

"Why didn't she have a mark on her?" asked Jacob finally.

Tata didn't take his eyes off of the scenery. "I healed her."

Jacob looked at Tata. "What do you mean?" he asked quietly.

"I healed her." Said Tata turning his head toward Jacob. "All I did was think about her as she usually was, and this… energy surged out of me and covered her. The next thing either of us knew, she was in peak condition."

Jacob sighed. "Are you sure you aren't a Mystic or a mage?"

"I know I'm not." Said Tata sighing. "I just have some magical talent."

"You don't have some." Responded Jacob, leaning back in his chair. "You have a lot. It is so easy for a person to harm others, physically of magically. But it takes the pure power of a heart of compassion and love to heal."

Tata snorted derisively. "Some good that will do me now. From what I've seen, so-called 'justice' comes before love."

"So then." Said Jacob rising from his seat and walking over to where Tata stood. "What's our final strategy?"

Tata looked up at Jacob and smiled. "I thought you would never ask."


The girl sat up in bed that night with a gasp. She had been dreaming again, about her friend.

Poor guy she thought. She kept picturing the same picture, as she had been for two days now. Her friend had been arrested, and she knew he was surely dead by now. In her mind she could see him being shoved roughly onto the half-circle that was the bottom half of the guillotine. He held no emotion on his face, for he was upset on the inside. The priest was standing a few feet away, calmly saying prayers for him. The holster was locked firmly in place. The executioner held the blade of his axe a few inches away from the rope holding the deadly blade up. The executioner raised the axe above his head, just as the priest said "God bless you." With that the, the executioner yelled and then-

"No!" sobbed the girl, now in tears. She scrunched up her legs and leaned against them. "I wish he-he wasn't dead." She prayed quietly.

"He isn't."

Again the girl gasped and recoiled in terror, realizing there was someone else in her room. She looked quickly around her room, only to see a young man sitting in her chair. The man was staring at her with serious eyes. How long he had been there, she did not know.

"Who-who are you?" she asked meekly.

"You do not need to know, yet." Said the man, calmly. "But he still needs you."

* * *

The courtroom was filled with the loud buzz of chatter when the judge entered the next day. Len was leaning back in his chair, feet up on the desk. He could've just been crowned King of Guardia, and he would have looked nearly the same. He lazily looked over at Tata with a grin as big as… well, it was bigger than usual. Tata returned the look with a calm, knowing gaze. Len placed his hand with his finger out on his neck. Then, he moved it slowly across his neck. Tata simply looked back at Jacob who was leaning forward on his desk with his hands folded. Tata leaned over and asked; "Did you-"

Jacob answered before Tata could finish. "I did."

Tata smiled. "Good."

At that moment, the judge rapped on his wooden tile with his small, wooden hammer. "Order in the court."

At once, everyone quieted down. The judge looked over some papers, then spoke again. "This is the second session of this case, Lawrence Ebens versus Jacob Ericson. Mr. Ebens, do you have any final witnesses you would like to present?"

Ebens, looking equally content as Len, said: "No, your honor."

The judge looked over at Jacob and Tata. "Do you have any more witnesses that you'd like to present?"

Jacob quickly stood up. "As a matter of fact, I do your honor."

Len looked worriedly at Ebens, who simply shrugged.

"Members of court." Said Jacob, turning toward the crowd that made up the jury. "I now bring forth my final witness."

Jacob extended his outstretched arm towards the entrance of the court. "Your honor, the victim: Minka."

That was all it took for the judge to show an expression of surprise for the first time, and for the crowd to explode in conversation. The court was filled the ear-piercing sound of chatter, so loud, that Tata had to cover his ears. But all of this was drowned out by Len's thundering voice.

"Your can't be serious!!" shrieked Len quickly standing up, knocking his chair backward.

Jacob turned back around to face Len. "I'm afraid I'm dead serious, Len."

"Order in the court!!" the judge shouted loudly, slamming his hammer on the tile so hard it cracked. Almost instantly, the court was silent once again. "Mister Ericson, you may proceed."

At that moment, Minka made her timid way to the witness stand. More than enough eyes burned into her, but she paid them no heed. Once on the stand, Jacob started.

"Minka." He said clearing his throat. "Are you familiar with either of the clients?"

"Both." Said Minka, looking down.

"And which one would you consider your friend, and which one your enemy?" asked Jacob.

"Tata would be my friend, Len would be my enemy." She answered, making eye contact with Tata.

"Why is Len your enemy, Minka?" persuaded Jacob, nearing the stand.

"Len attacked me and Tata more than once." She said simply. "He hates everyone but himself, and feels it is within him to kill them all."

Jacob turned and fixed his gaze on Ebens. "From what Minka here says, Mr. Ebens, it was your client that was the aggressor." Jacob turned back to Minka, who still kept a steady gaze on Tata.

"What exactly did happen the day Tata defended you against Len's gang?" asked Jacob, leaning on the stand.

"Your honor, I object!" shouted Ebens, rising from his desk. "How can we trust this bratty Mystic girl?!"

"Overruled!" the judge shouted leaning forward. "She is a witness like all the others. Now sit, down." He said, emphasizing on "sit down" with gritted teeth and a deep, growling voice. It was enough for Ebens to place himself calmly back into his chair. He then motioned to Minka.

Jacob turned back to Minka. "Go on, Minka. We're all listening." He said.

Minka took a deep breath, than began her tale. "I had woken up that morning around 7:30, which was earlier than I usually got up. I was hungry for breakfast, but my mother wasn't up yet. Plus, I had planned the night before to go to the café. I was hoping I'd see Tata there. But when I entered the café, I saw Len and his gang giving one of the waitresses a hell of a blow-off over the fact that there bread didn't have butter with it."

She stopped abruptly. Len had given a little derisive snort. She started again.

"I sat down and ordered a bagel. But I was a little too obvious, and Len and his gang recognized me. I… kept a low profile as the sat down with me. For several minutes, all I did was take in their mocking insults and their tasteless remarks. But then, out of a window to my right, I saw Tata approaching. I figured that if I just stalled for a minute or so, he would arrive and drive them off. When he was almost there, Len asked what I was doing, and I told him off that he reminded me of fungus. It was then that he pulled me out around back. They outnumbered me, and I really couldn't do anything. But then Len grabbed a hold of my arm and bent the forearm so had that the elbow popped out of the skin. I tried to scream, but Jake clamped his hand across my mouth. They were able to give me a bruise and a cut before Tata rightfully slew them."

"One more thing." Said Jacob, now wearing a wide, yet pleasant smile on his face. "You appear to bear no damage from such a recent and brutal injuries. Why is that?"

"I, I really don't-" she took a deep breath. "know how he did it, but he he-healed me." She said unsteadily. "He, just looked… at me, and the next thing I knew, I was fine. I don't even think he knew how he did it."

Jacob was still smiling warmly. He turned back to the judge. "No further questions, your honor."

With that, he sat down next to Tata. Tata looked over at Len and Ebens. Ebens knew that his chances were not good, and all he could do was lightly place his head in his hand. Len could've been eating red hot peppers recently and he would have looked the same. He was on fire on the inside. Then the judge spoke.

"Members of the jury." He said in a loud voice. "You have five minutes to make your final decision. Once done, send your chosen representative to me to report your vote."

With that, the whole jury left. For the longest time, all every one could do was wait. The judge was not a very emotional man. He himself was surprised the day he got married. It was his wife that had gotten him hooked up in the judge program when it first came out about a year ago. The judge really liked it, and despite it being rather boring at times, he liked the ability of being the boss in a large room of people. But in this particular case, racism was a hard thing to judge on. He really didn't have anything against Mystics, but he had to be fair.

He looked over at Mr. Ebens, who was having thoughts of his own. He had been in the lawyer business the day it was introduced. He was a very good person underneath the hard lawyer character that he had always put on for everyone. He was representing a boy that had a bad reputation in Porre, and he hated representing someone that was as evil as Len.

Len was evil. And he wasn't afraid to show it. At that moment, he was having such terrible thoughts about how to harm his rivals, that if he put them into action, the people would have to clean it up with a spoon. He hated Minka, and Tata. The boy had interfered with his attack on Minka and had killed his friends at the same time. He would hate the boy into death, and he would love to put him down.

He sneaked a hateful look at Minka, who was also deep in thought. He kept nervously glancing around the room, mostly at Tata. She felt like she owed something to him for all the compassion he had shown her, and all the sympathy and the love. She felt like running over and hugging him that very instant. But she was able to hold back that strong urge. Instead she continued to wonder about the case. She was hoping it would come through in their favor, in the end. If not, Tata and herself would be put to death. This was a fact.

She was looking again, but this time, she was looking at Tata's attorney, Jacob. He was sweating profusely. This had been one of the hardest cases he'd ever done, but then again, he had only done a few. He thought his last statement had won him the case, but he was still worried. Tata was a good boy, and he shouldn't have to go to jail for killing to save another. That, Jacob knew, was not justice.

But Tata's mind was probably in his sub-conscious more than anybody else was in theirs. His thoughts flew through his head quick and clean, then came back, as if they all were caught in a hurricane inside his own head. He looked at Len, who was infuriated beyond measure. Len, who had had such an impact on his life that it seemed lost in their conflicts. Tata never had figured out why Len had chosen him to be his whipping boy. He hadn't started it all those years ago. Not really, at least. When he was only four, he saw Len for the first time in the middle of town. All he had done was laugh when he saw Len trip. That was all it took. He had come that day to his house dirty, bloody, and crying. Maybe Len was like Minka said he was; hateful of everyone and filled with malice towards everyone but his former gang. He looked at Minka, who seemed to shine in the bright sunlight that filtered in the windows of the court. He could look at her all day she was so beautiful. He felt so sorry for her, being a public menace because of being a Mystic. It wasn't like the kind of hate that Len had attracted to himself through years of making everyone as miserable as him, this was the kind of hate that was given to hated enemies. Just for being a Mystic. Poor, poor Minka. He thought to himself. Hated for something she can't help to change at all.

At that moment, the jury entered. Without a word, they all sat down. This was it. This was the deciding moment. They mumbled a few things to one of the members, an elderly man, before that same man got up and made his way to where the judge sat. The man stopped short by a few feet.

"Your honor." Started the man in a stern voice. "A verdict has been reached."

Every mouth in the whole court couldn't be heard, as they all were holding their breath. That is, except for the jury and judge.

"The defendant is…" the room was icily quiet. "…not guilty."

Now, after that fateful moment, the court was once again filled with small chatter.

"Order in the court." Said the judge, rapping his mallet. But the court continued to buzz. "ORDER!" shouted the judge. That calmed everything down. The jury representative continued.

"We, the jury, also find the prosecutor's client guilty of assault of the first degree. He is sentenced to five years of hard time."

"Thank you." Stated the judge. "On that note, the court is adjourned." He rapped his mallet for the final time that day.

Minka ran over to Tata, who was still sitting in his chair. She barely gave him time to stand up before barreling into him, hugging him tightly. He gratefully returned it.

"We did it, Tata!" exclaimed Minka pulling her head away so she could see his face.

"Indeed we did." Said Jacob, patting them on the shoulders. "We did."


Tata and Minka and, well, everybody turned to the source of the noise. It was Len. All that stored anger was released as he hurled himself across the room towards Tata and Minka.

"Get out of here!!" shouted Tata, flinging Minka out of range, just as Len plowed into him, knocking his wind out. Jacob was knocked out of the way by them that hurtled into a nearby wall. Fireworks exploded inside of Tata's head, as his head made contact with the wooden wall, making a hard, loud 'crack', which, thankfully, was the wood cracking. He was able to contain the pain, for he had more important problems to worry about. Like the fact that Len had just pulled out a knife to gut him with.

"Now you DIE!!" shrieked Len, drawing back his hand. Then, a second later, it arched forward, the blade flashing with reflecting light. Tata was too weak, and waited for the blade to pierce his chest. But the second before the blade would have cut into his heart like a person cutting up an apple a strong hand grabbed a hold of Len's arm and pulled him upward.

"Back off, Len!" Jacob said, as he held the berserk kid with his left hand, away from Tata. "It's over!"

With that, Jacob swung his fist at Len. It connected with his reddening face, making a solid "smacking" sound. Len fell back, stunned by the blow. But he was quick to regain himself, and flung himself at Jacob. Jacob was prepared, and knocked the knife out of his hand with his left. Without the weapon, Len resorted to grabbing his neck, or at least attempting to. Jacob kept ducking out of the way of Len's waving hands.

But then, it happened. One of Len's waving hands accidentally grabbed a hold of Jacob's turban. Taking a split second to realize that he finally had a grip on something, Len tugged hard, causing the turban to come off, revealing his ears.

For the eternity that passed after the incident, no one spoke. No one moved. No one breathed. A still scene: Jacob, staring numbly at Len in utter shock and embarrassment. Len, still holding the unfolded turban, equally shocked, as was everybody else. It was total stillness. It was almost unreal. No ones nose flared. No one twitched. No one even blinked, practically. Tata stared sleepily, yet alertly at Jacob and Len, knowing that his attorney's cover was blown clear off. Literally. Minka was staring at Tata with a questioning and worried look, as if she wanted to say something, or do something, but lacked the willpower to do anything. No one swallowed. No one coughed. No one felt alive, almost. Then, the silence was broken.

"He's a Mystic." One of the jury members stated plainly. From that one remark, many followed.

"He's a Mystic."

"He is a filthy Mystic!"

"Only a Mystic would defend this case."

"A Mystic! How?!"



The last cry had come from Len, who now had a triumphant, eager toothy grin, and was lightly laughing in a maniacal and high pitch. For some reason, many looked in his direction. But once realizing he was on the spotlight, he bolted toward the exit. Still getting over the shock, the officers didn't think to follow Len in time.

"Catch him!" shouted the judge, pointing to the exit.

"We can't, your honor, he's already long gone. We should form a search party." Said an officer.

"Make it so." Said the judge, before training his eyes on Jacob. "In the meantime, arrest Jacob Ericson."

This time, there was no hold-back. Before Tata could stand up to his full height, Jacob was roughly grabbed, with his hands thrown around his back. He was punched across the face, as if to sedate him. But Jacob put up no fight or resistance as his hands were hastily tied behind his back.

Tata reached over and grabbed Minka's hand. They each exchanged looks of horror as Jacob was brought in front of the judge, who had stepped off of the stand and was now on the actual ground.

"Jacob Ericson!" he said in a louder than normal voice. "You have been found guilty of fraud on a mass scale, a charade, even! Your client and his friend will be allowed to leave, but you, Mr. Ericson, will be immediately be put to death!"

With that, Jacob was roughly shoved out a side exit. The two that held Jacob were led to the door by a hooded man. He had a muscular build, which was easily shown, for he did not wear a shirt. Just black pants and a black hood. As they approached the door, he opened it, and let them pass into a dark hallway.

Getting over their fear and shock from it all, Tata spoke to Minka.

"We can't let them, Minka!" he said, gripping her arm tightly. "He's done so much for us."

With that, they both bolted toward the doorway leading to the dark hallway. They raced through it, there feet pounding the floor, which echoed forever in the hallway. The, up ahead, clashing metal could be heard. Instinctively, they raced towards the sound.

Rounding a bend, they saw them. Jacob was just being strapped onto the head hole of a guillotine. He held no expression on his face. The man wearing the hood held an axe just above the rope holding the blade up. Tata spotted the other two guards standing on either side of the entrance.

"No!" shouted Tata, rushing Jacob's executioner. The executioner lazily looked at the pair.

"Hold them." He said in a voice that was a cross between a hissing snake and a growl. Tata found it hard to believe he was human.

But at that moment, Tata was grabbed and pulled away from Jacob and the executioner. One of the guards had a strong hold on him, gripping his arms behind his back. Looking to his right, he saw Minka in the same fix.

But Tata wasn't giving up. He swung his foot back, then up in a small arc, connecting with his guard's crotch. Giving with a loud grunting sound, Tata leaped forward and landed hard on his knees before Jacob.

"Jacob!" Tata said as his eyes began to water. "I'm sorry, Jacob. I'm so sorry for getting you into this!"

Jacob was calm, not worried at all. "Don't be." He said, making a slight grin. "I died defending what I believe in: Equality of the races. I think that's something worth dying for to preserve."

After hearing this, Tata was grabbed roughly by the scruff of the neck. It was the executioner. Without a word he threw Tata clear out the dungeon gate, as was Minka by her guard. They landed together, and watched the brutal event that was about to take place.

Tata noticed Minka was crying too. He held her close as the executioner raised the axe above his head. Then, without a word, he brought it down on the rope, breaking it. The scraping of iron was heard briefly as the deathly blade was released and dropped, dropped, dropped.

It dropped until; "SCCHHRRUUNCH!!"

The sight that followed was absolutely horrifying. The blade had cut clean across Jacob's neck, completely covering the large blade with fresh, warm, red blood. The blood sprayed the room, caking even the ceiling. It splattered across the floor, on the guards, and on the executioner. The scent of blood flooded filled the room, as some of it dropped sloppily onto the floor.

Jacob's head had rolled onto the hard stone floor, his face looking lazily up at the ceiling. His eyes were completely devoid of life and awareness. His neck was bleeding almost as much as the ceiling, and his severed spine was visible, though it was oozing blood. At that moment, a big drop of blood dripped from the ceiling and fell right onto Jacob's lifeless face.

Neither Tata nor Minka could bear the sight, and the both turned away. Their tears mixed into each other, then fell as one big tear of sorrow onto the cold ground.

* * *

Back outside, Tata had decided to release all of his anger on the trees of the Cursed Woods, which was relatively close to the Porre jailhouse. At that moment, another tree was giving its last regards to life.

"KAACHUNNK!!" screamed the tree in agony as it smashed into the ground. Tata stood before it, expressionless, for only a minute, before moving on to the nearest one. This one was smaller than the last and stood that much less chance.

"AAAAAAUGHH!!" shouted Tata in and anguished tone as he swung his mighty blade into the bark of the tree. It made a loud sound of splintering wood, as his was cut completely through.

Minka stood off to the side, crying in sorrow. The two of them had been there for awhile, after walking there strait from the jailhouse. It had been a few minutes ago since Tata had gone on his rampage on the trees; he had already taken down five. And he wasn't showing any signs of tiring.

Finally, wiping the tears from her eyes, Minka made her way to where Tata was now getting ready to hack into another tree.

"Tata I'm" he struck the tree. "sorry about Jacob. He was such a nice guy."

"It was all that @#%*-ing Len's fault." Tata spat sadistically, cutting further into his latest victim. "The bastard."

Minka still tried to reason. "Tata, he died for a noble cause. He would have wanted you to honor his death, not mourn it."

Tata gave her barely a glance before slicing into the tree, already halfway through it. Minka was still hopeful of bringing him out of his rage.

"Tata, please stop." She said

Finally, Tata sheathed his sword and turned to her. "You have your way's of expressing mourning, I have mine. You shouldn't berate me for it."

"Tata, I know your angry, but-"

"Angry?" Tata cut her off in such a calm voice, it scared even him, more her. "Angry?! You think that covers it?? I'm furious!! Len has ruined my life in more ways than you can know! You cannot comprehend the hatred I hold for him. He is the only living being that I truly hate! No one else comes close!!"

Tata was through talking. Once again, he drew his sword, and was just about to start up again on the tree massacre, when he was grabbed by Minka and spun around. Before he could say a word of protest, she embraced him, kissing him deeply at the same time. The kiss lasted at least a minute, before he pulled away.

Tata felt that he knew what it meant. "I, I'm… sorry."

Minka was gazing at him with such care, such compassion. It just happened to be the two things Tata needed at that moment. "Tata, I want- no- I need you right now more than I ever have."

She ran her hand slowly through his hair, stoking him like a puppy.

"Jacob was a great man. He was a true and caring person, who cared for everyone's wellbeing. He saved our lives, Tata, by giving his. We need to honor that faith."

Minka noticed a small tear forming in Tata's left eye, but continued. "These are hard times for us. And I don't think that I can face them by myself. I need you to be there for me, Tata."

For a long while, no one spoke. Minka held her thoughts in place, wondering what effect they just had on her friend. She hoped it had had the right effect, because Tata was evidently already weighed down by sorrow.

Her thoughts were cut off, as Tata pulled her close in a long yet tender kiss. Minka noticed that his lips were already wet, obviously from unseen tears. Minka felt herself dropping into her sub-conscious, completely surrounding herself in Tata's love, embracing it, holding it, yet finally letting go of it as Tata slowly pulled away again.

"We will get through this, Minka." Said Tata, staring into her eyes. "We'll get through it together."

* * *

Screams. Everywhere, all around him. Tata heard them. They were the screams of death, of mourning, of severe pain. But Tata saw nothing but blackness, blackness that went on forever. More screams. More, and more, and MORE! On and on, over and over, screams of rage, of anger, of pain; it was everywhere!! Tata couldn't see anything. He felt nothing.



Pain in it's most searing, most unbearable form, ripped at Tata's body. It tore at him with such fury, such anger. He felt his own flesh begin to melt off of his sinews, his muscles. It fell as liquid flesh, burning and smoldering, and puddled on the ground. He bone marrow rippled, going faster than any normal human being, at least until his bones themselves melted, becoming one with the marrow.

Now it was Tata's turn to scream.



No ore screams. No more pain. No more darkness.

He was awake, gasping for breath as if he hadn't been breathing at all the whole time. He quickly snapped his head around the room, trying to find out where he was. It was dark, yes, but the soft, comforting glow of the moon that streamed in the window in front of him reassured him that he was still alive. He looked out of it at the sleeping town of Porre. A few shops still had some lights on, but nothing else.

Tata raised his right hand up in front of his face, checking to see if it was still there. It was. Now Tata fully realized his surroundings. And, unfortunately, remembered what happened the day before. The trial. The verdict, the executioner, the blood. The blood. The blood! Blood!! BLOOD!!



Oh, yeah.

"Tata, what's wrong?" asked Minka, rushing to the side of his bed.

Tata didn't answer. His mind was elswhere.

"Tata, please talk to me. Please!" said Minka in a more concerned tone.

Finally, he looked at her. He remembered. She had stayed with him, as he had offered her his bed for that night. He had taken to his father's old one.

"I'm… fine, Minka." He grabbed his forehead with his left hand, as he looked away. "I just had a… bad, dream, I guess. Go, go back to sleep. I'll be alright."

"I hope so." Said Minka, standing. "You were screaming so loud, I'm surprised that all of Porre is still sleeping." She touched his arm. "Are you sure you're alright?"

What the hell do you think? Tata thought angrily to himself. His eyes began to water. But he was able to hold it back.



It assaulted him from all sides, slipping down his spine and into his soul. The goose bumps that appeared on his arms- heck, his whole body- looked ready to pop. Tata, shaking profusely, wrapped his arms around himself in a vain attempt to keep warm. It was no use. The cold was unbearable. He looked around, to check to see if any windows were open, but none were. All was still, except he felt the blistering cold. He looked up at Minka, but to his great surprise, she appeared unaffected by the cold wind. Her tank top was still, the ends of her loose, red pants were the same. Even her hair remained in its fixed position; in its usual ponytail.

"Tata?" said Minka, with a hint of worry on her voice, as Tata shivered and shuddered in mad convulsions.

But to Tata, Minka's voice seemed far away and distant, as if it was a long off shout, an echo.

Then, his vision became blurry, his whole world melding together like a melting painting. It was all replaced moments later when he found himself in a small bedroom. Tata, after surveying his surroundings, found he was in Minka's room. He'd been there before, and, through many visits, knew the place by heart.

But Tata turned to the sound of thumping noises on the outside wall. Somebody was climbing it. Looking at the window, Tata also heard footsteps coming up the stairs. Two people would enter in a few seconds, and Tata, not wanting to be seen, dove into Minka's wardrobe. He was just in time, too, for a second later, Minka entered the room via the door. She slowly, drowsily strode over to her bed, and Tata couldn't help noticing that her tank top was torn at the left shoulder.

Normally Tata would have leaped out of his hiding spot to say "hello," but he froze in shock as a humanoid form flew into the room through the widow.

Minka never saw it coming, but then again, neither did Tata. Whatever it was moved so quickly it was impossible to make out any features. The figure tackled Minka, and the two went rolling on the floor, Minka struggling to get free from the assassin. But the attacker was obviously stronger than Minka. Physically, that is.

Minka summoned a small fire spell that sent the figure sprawling into the opposite wall. But he was quick to recover, and flung himself across the room at Minka, drawing a dagger as it flew. It knocked her down again. But this time, the figure was quicker. To both Minka's and Tata's surprise, it telekinetically flung Minka into one of the walls. Not giving her a second, it jumped over to where she had landed. He grabbed her shirt, drew back his dagger, and with a loud roar of rage-

"NOOOOOOOO!" cried Tata, lunging forward.

The assailant turned in surprise, just in time to have Tata grab him roughly by his shirt.

"Tata, stop that! Let go!" protested the assassin.

But Tata didn't let go. He yanked hard on the attacker's shirt.

But then, Tata wasn't there anymore. He was back in bed. But he was still holding a shirt. He looked at it. It was a shoulder strap from Minka's tank top.

"Tata, what's wrong?" pleaded Minka, almost oblivious to the missing sleeve.

Tata didn't even acknowledge her presence. Slipping out of bed, Minka looking on, he strode over to the window. He was almost at the window, before purposely slamming his head into the wood right next to the window frame. He held it there, muttering: "No more, no more, no, no, no…"

Minka slowly rose from her kneeling position. Trying to fix her torn sleeve as best she could, and walked over to where Tata continued to hold his head against the wall and mutter. Minka tried to look at him in the eye, her face illuminated by the moonlight. She lightly placed a hand on his left shoulder before speaking.

"Tata, whatever is bothering you, you can talk to me about it." Using her other hand, she reached over and lightly pulled his chin so he was facing her. "Please, Tata. I want to know."

Minka regretted saying those words as she realized he was crying. Tata reached a hand up to hold his head, just as some tears began to run freely down his cheeks. Finally, he reluctantly spoke.

"It's all going downhill, Minka." He said, succeeding in holding back his cracked voice long enough to carry out his speech.

"Ever since the war ended, everything has been dropping like a rock. The war had nothing to do with it," he sniffed. "it was just the starting point of the worst part of my life. I don't know if it's going to improve."

Tata coughed, then continued. "The average teen shouldn't have to face the kind of horror I have seen within the last two weeks. Why did it have to be me?!" He said, emphasizing on "me" by pounding the wall.

The tears had returned and streamed down his cheeks. He quickly wiped them away. "I witnessed my father's death, I had to kill three people, I had… sniff… had to see Jacob die a brutal death. Now I live by myself, alone, and what's more, now I'm hearing screams, seeing murder before my very eyes."

Tata held the back of his hand to his left eye, as if to stop the tears. But they kept coming.

Minka put a serious look on her face before gripping his shaking shoulders. "Tata, listen to me." She tilted his chin up to meet her eyes. "Tata, my life is just as tough in its own right as yours. Don't you remember this? This was you telling me to be brave as I whimpered. Well, I took your caring words to heart, and I am stronger now than before. But I still hurt."

She stroked a stray strand of hair out of his face, noticing that his tears had almost all but evaporated. "You aren't alone, Tata. You-"

"You don't understand!" he said more maturely now, pushing her hand off of his chin. "I was screaming because I heard things, felt… things, saw things that tore at my soul. Then this… cold wind ripped at my skin. Did you even feel it?"

"Tata, you had a nightmare. Sometimes, they-"

"They hurt me!" yelled Tata, more angry, now, than sad. "I could feel my flesh sizzle off of my bones. I-"

"Tata!" shouted Minka roughly grabbing his shoulders again. "Get a grip Tata! I know you have it tough, but it's probably gonna get a lot worse before the end arrives. But the important thing is to hang on to what we hold dear and near, and never let go. I need you, Tata. And the only way we will be able to get through is to stick together."

She let it hang at that. The message had gotten across she could see that. But whether it had made any affect that was still unknown to her. All Tata did was hang his head. There was no sign of the tears anymore, and he was indeed feeling better.

After several minutes, Tata looked up at Minka, a warm smile on his face. "Did I really wake you up with my screaming?"

Minka cocked her head in an admitting motion. "Actually, I was already awake before you screamed."

"Why were you still up?" asked Tata, regaining his humor.

"I was cold." She said looking knowingly at him.

Tata's smile widened, and before either of them knew it, she was in his arms and in a loving kiss that, for both of them, lasted an eternity. Minka was right. The only way through it all, was together. And as they held each other closer, they realized it all. Finally, it ended.

"That's much better." Said Minka lovingly, gazing into Tata's eyes.


End of Chapter 4


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