Author:Yunzo/Alicemagic Update: 2017-05-27 [Prev] [Next] [Top]
"Um... I'm really sorry for everything."
After finishing everyone's treatment, Eliza lowered down her head while in a sitting position.
The sudden and unexpected gesture prompted the soldiers' eyes to gather on the giant healer. It was due to being at a loss on how to react, but Eliza, who perceived these silent stares as ones of anger and fear, was unable to meet their gazes and could only bring herself to mumble "you're mad at me after all... right...?" while diverting her gaze to the ground. She wondered, how could she get them to forgive her with these conditions where she is so feared?
Hearing her question, the vice commander turned to the commander and asked, "what will we do?". In this situation, what could they possibly do but forgive her?
"What do you mean, 'what'll we do"...?"
The commander blurted out with a stupefied voice as he turned back up, and his eyes met Eliza's, who were already centered right on him. The elevated stare that almost seemed to be hanging from the peak of a watchtower made his body contort unconsciously, but after a beat, he replied to Eliza with "it's fine, don't worry about it".
Eliza's eyebrows rose in response, and she blinked in awe a few times.
"Are you sure?"
"What's done is done, and besides, you already healed us anyway."
"Is it really okay? If there's anything at all I can do for you, please don't hesitate to ask."
The giant healer did not relent. From her position, she speculated that the soldiers only forgave simply because the fear of her strength did not leave them with any other options; as far as the commander was concerned, however, the way her overwhelming sense of presence and insurmountable strength contrasted with how her emotions fluctuated so much with each of their actions was- now that the pressure had been somewhat alleviated- almost comical.
"It's fine, really."
He continued by turning around and asking "right, boys?". Several soldiers nodded their heads without a moment's delay.
"Of course we forgive you. It's not even a question!"
"What you did was just a miracle, no two ways about it."
"Hell, there's nothing we can even do anyway."
"If you ask me, the only problem is how you ruined our time off!"
The warriors chimed in one after another with random quips, and in response, Eliza gently lowered her head with a slightly bashful smile on her face.
After ordering a head count from the troops just on case, the commander and the vice commander formally introduced themselves to Eliza. Their names were Bradeau and Lionos, respectively.
"Pleasure to make your acquaintance", said Eliza and bowed from a sitting position.
The reason she seemed oddly jovial for a while now was likely due to the soldiers forgiving her earlier. When he saw her joy manifesting in her expressions and gestures alike, the commander who up until then feared her every action and racked his brains trying to figure out how to handle her wondered to the point of self-deprecation what his concerns were all about. However, the fear of death he felt when she lowered her palm to the ground was nonetheless genuine. Just thinking back on that overwhelmingly enormous shadow which closed in on him with such stupendous velocity made it difficult for him to breathe.
"Chief, head count's done."
Upon being called, Bradeau paused this trail of thought. He looked over at Lionos who gave the report; the soldiers already stood in a neat row behind him.
Once he heard the report that nobody was missing, Bradeau gave the word to return to the city; but Eliza then interjected with "Please wait!". She lowered the basket that was hanging from the back of her shoulders to the ground and opened its side hatch to face the soldiers.
"I'll carry you, so please get inside."
Eliza said and motioned the soldiers to walk in. Over twenty feet tall and around 17 feet wide, the basket was comparable in size to a somewhat luxurious house.
"You want to carry us in this?"
"Yes. I imagine it'll get bumpy, but it'd be much faster than going by foot."
Eliza answered Bradeau's doubts with a modest smile. She wasn't wrong- it'd certainly be quicker that way, but would that really be fine? The commander's eyes drifted towards Lionos, seeking his opinion.
Lionos simply offered a wry smile and shrug his soldiers, as if to wordlessly say "might as well let her do what she wants".
Bradeau hung his head with a sigh, then looked back up and answered "alright".
As soon as she gained his approval, Eliza picked up the catapults and ballistas and placed them in the basket, followed by around forty soldiers making their way in. With this, the basket was now filled almost to the brim, leaving no room for the remaining cavalry and pack horses.
Noticing this, Lionos signaled to the cavalrymen to turn back.
"Very well, then we'll follow you from behind."
He turned up and conveyed his suggestion to Eliza, but she almost immediately responded with "Please wait", halting the vice commander.
"I can make the basket bigger. How about it?"
An utterly unexpected proposal. Everyone stopped their movements at once and looked up at its source.
There was no change in how the soldiers were constantly startled by every other action Eliza made, but she could tell that there was no longer any fear in their bouts of bewilderment. Seeing as there was no longer any need to concern herself with their reactions, her tongue may have loosened up a bit.
"If I grow in size, the basket will grow with me, and-"
Her explanation was interrupted by a sudden shout. Of course, the clamor wasn't due to the knowledge that the basket can grow as much as the knowledge that she, herself, can still get bigger, and in hindsight, the mere idea that they even tried to pick a fight against such an adversary.
"When you say "bigger"... how much, uh... how much bigger would that be, exactly...?"
One cavalryman managed to squeeze out a question. Eliza, who did not expect this degree of shock, was at a loss on how to answer, but she figured there was no point in lying if it was not a situation where she could avoid answering altogether.
"Let's see... the last time I tried, I could grow to about 1/4 a kilometer tall."
Her cheeks reddened a bit as she answered truthfully, while the soldier who asked the question, having just about expected such an answer, lowered his gaze to the ground and stiffened up. Expressing your height in kilometers was already abnormal enough as it were, but when it came to scales of hundreds of meters, it was difficult to immediately imagine a structure to compare it to. The soldiers mulled over that as they exchanged stunned glances with one another, until one of them spoke up in a near-whisper.
"Come to think of it, the center watchtower was about 20 meters high..."
At 250 meters tall, that would've made her well over ten times the size of the tallest watchtower in town.
"Meaning it was around ankle-height for her, huh...?"
Lionos continued the soldier's words as he looked up at Eliza's face, then with a half-dropped jaw, slowly raised his gaze higher and higher...
"I... guess so..."
She did not know how she looked like in the eyes of other people when she grew, so being given a specific comparison made Eliza stop and think. Her colossal self, standing behind an ankle-height watchtower, looming over it...
Eliza hurriedly shook her head to the sides. It would be a disaster if she started carelessly imagining such strange things only to end up repeating what happened this morning.
When she looked over at the cavalry once more, the two men at the front began approaching her, stopping just ahead of her knees. The remaining cavalrymen stared up at Eliza in blank amazement as well.
Eliza contemplated how to explain things while lightly scratching her forehead with an awkward smile, but the right words just wouldn't come.
A stifling silence followed. It was Bradeau who eventually broke it.
"I-is it over?"
He spoke in an unstrung voice- unusual for him- as he slumped his shoulders with a sigh. When Eliza started growing, he really did think she might grow to 250 meters tall right then and there. Just when he felt like he might be crushed any second now, her knees drew closer as they expanded outwards, and the panic made him incapable of so much as pulling on his steed's reins to turn back.
Judging by how drained he looked, Eliza finally realized the sense of danger the soldiers ought to have been feeling. "This happens sometimes when I envision the wrong size", she explained apologetically.
After waiting for the soldiers to come to terms with her explanation and calm down, Eliza blurted out "well, let's be on our way". However, Lionos suddenly interjected as if remembering something important.
"Oh. Could you wait a bit?"
He waited for Eliza to look his way before continuing.
"Before we go, I'd like to notify the town."
He then promptly got off his horse and produced some flint stones, a bundle of straws and a small green oil jar from the saddle bag; after placing the bundle of straws on the ground and slathering some oil over it, he began striking two of the stones together.
Eliza watched this go on for a while before finally leaning forward and making a suggestion.
"Want me to light it up for you?"
The cavalrymen who thought it became cloudy all of a sudden and heard a voice coming from above them looked to the sky instinctively. Since their eyes had met, Eliza too smiled by instinct. After a short silence, Lionos responded with "Please do" and impaled the bundle of straws on a spear, pointing it towards Eliza. Eliza touched the bundle with her index finger which was thicker than Lionos' torso and in no time at all smoke began to rise from the straws, followed by flickering flames. Lionos drew back the spear once he confirmed that Eliza pulled away her finger and upper body, then swung it back and forth to check the condition of the rising smoke.
One could say that that lighting a fire this quickly would, under normal circumstances, be naturally impossible.
After confirming that the smoke rose sufficiently high, Lionos gently swung the spear as if drawing a pattern through the air. As there was no wind, the pattern's outline broke off little by little as the smoke climbed higher to the sky. Eliza watched over with her left hand covering her mouth so as to not accidentally breathe on it, and once she saw that the pattern rose higher than her head while still roughly retaining its original outline, she asked for the first time, "What does this signal mean?".
"Oh, that's our personal identifier."
"What about the color, then?"
"Green stands for 'Situation resolved, no assistance needed'."
Lionos answered while surprised on the inside that she needed to ask such basic things, but thinking about it, he himself did not experience an awful lot of battles that required smoke signals, either.
"Chief, should I raise a 'Discourse' signal next?"
"Mm. Just do as you see fit."
Bradeau responded as if finding the whole thing a chore.
'There sure are lots of different signals', Eliza mused to herself as she stood up and alternated her gaze back and forth between the smoke and the city of Balam. The city was about 90 feet away from Eliza's perspective, and about five miles away in actuality. Looking closely, she could even see the soldiers who were standing by on the watchtower's rooftop. As she blankly stared in that direction, she brooded over how things would've gone much more smoothly if she could just talk to them, when all of a sudden her thoughts were brought to a halt by the distant sound of a furious shout.
Confused, she looked directly beneath her, but the atmosphere between the troops did not seem so intense that they'd be screaming at each other. She shifted her gaze back to the city, and upon squinting, she could see that the two soldiers on the watchtower were apparently in the middle of some sort of dispute. They were probably arguing over how to handle the smoke signals, or Eliza herself.
"...obviously not the case! Look at her, she's alive and well!"
"But that's exactly why we need to reply somehow!"
Their voices reached her ears again, but this time she could hear the contents of their discussion.
"Yeah, maybe, but then what'll we do about everyone in town?"
The soldier on the right shook his head while grilling the one on the left, who was scratching his chin and grumbling.
"...so what are you suggesting?"
He returned his question with another question after a pause. The soldier on the right thought about it for a while then voiced his suggestion with a low tone.
"I say we buy some time and use it to evacuate the citizens."
"W-wait a second!"
Eliza reflexively sprung up and interjected with a booming voice. She ran her eyes around her surroundings after realizing what she had done, and sure enough, soldiers who received the full brunt of her voice were cowering in place, and horses were neighing in a frenzy. Moreover, the soldiers on the watchtower blushed as they opened their eyes wide and stared in Eliza's direction.
"O-oh, um... sorry, but please just wait a second..."
After saying that to the soldiers on the watchtower, Eliza gently petted the horses to calm them down while making sure the cavalrymen don't fall off, then lowered her left hand in front of Bradeau and Lionos, adding "please get on. It seems we can talk to the people by the city", beckoning them to mount her palm.
They were hesitant at first, but given the unusual circumstances, they concluded that going along with her offer would be for the best right now and climbed on top of her hand. Eliza hurriedly raised her hand in front of her face, and after turning back to face the town, focused on the watchtower a third time and positioned her hand so that the two men on top of the watchtower would be visible. Upon noticing that Eliza was looking at them, one of the men on the tower began shouting.
"How long were you listening in on us?!"
His roar might have come off as quite intimidating at a close range, but the distance between the two greatly reduced what impact it would've otherwise had.
"Not too long. Around when you were considering delaying your response to the smoke signals."
Eliza answered and continued speaking without waiting for a reply.
"I'd like you to talk to the commander first, so could you hold off on issuing an evacuation order, please?"
She then spoke softly to the two men on top of her palm.
"Can you hear the guards on the watchtower?"
The two soldiers exchanged glances with each other, then Bradeau looked up at Eliza and answered.
"No. I can tell that they're saying something, but I can't quite make out the details..."
Eliza nodded with a relieved expression on her face, figuring that discourse might go smoother than she expected. The two men on the palm sat down and took off their helmets.
"Should be a bit easier that way."
"Indeed. Now, then..."
Eliza then carefully raised her left hand near her left ear and prompted the soldiers to try talking to the watchtower guards. Bradeau cleared his throat twice and began speaking loudly with a deep carrying voice.
"What the hell are you two planning?!"
Visibly surprised by the voice, the two soldiers at the watchtower immediately jumped and looked in its direction. It seemed like Bradeau's words reached them just fine.
The guard's call was audible from Eliza's position as well.
"What on earth is going on over there?! Please explain!"
Their question more or less illustrated the confusion at their side, but this situation indeed was one violation of common sense after another, to the point where even Bradeau himself was conflicted as to how to even begin explaining it.
"Err, long story short..."
Bradeau's reply stopped right there, however, instead mumbling "let's see..." as if stuck for words. Eliza stared at him, but as she couldn't interfere in a discussion between fellow soldiers, she remained silent. A few moments passed like that until Lionos eventually decided to speak up.
"The girl bears no hostility. She claims she's a healing magician and that she simply wanted to visit the city."
A beaming smile spread across Eliza's face on hearing that, and she nodded in agreement while disregarding the two soldiers who were being tossed around from the resulting tremors. Eliza herself thought that this bit of information was what the people in the town wanted to know the most. The guards in the watchtower, however, only looked at each other and bickered about something. They were speaking in a voice too low to pick up on from this distance, but one of them could clearly be seen shaking his head at the other. After the short dispute, the pair turned back in their direction and asked.
"Why do you believe such a blatant lie?"
Eliza reiterated that one word in response, but Bradeau pulled on her earlobe and said "now hold on", restraining the giant healer.
"It's not a lie. She did injure us once, but has since healed us and everyone's perfectly fine now."
"Th-that's not a very good way to put it, is it?"
Eliza responded to Bradeau's explanation with a whisper. It was an accurate description of the events, but the watchtower guards weren't likely to let the fact that she injured the soldiers once slide that easily. Hectic, Eliza tried to supplement her own explanation, but...
"U-um, no, wait, about that 'injury' thing... all I did was pull on a string in front of my eyes, so..."
...the information she gave was much too fragmented, this time prompting Lionos to pull on her ear and restrain her by saying "now calm down". He then prepared to offer the guards his own account of the events, prefacing it with "So, I'll explain things in order...".
- First, he told them of her affiliation and objective;
- Then, he explained that it was their side who attacked her first;
- He explained that Eliza did not strike back even after being fired at;
- However, she did pull on a rope that was dangled in front of her eyes, which lead to some damages.
That was how Lionos recounted the events, but rather than listening attentively, the guards seemed to have been focusing on the city behind their backs the whole time. Just then, another soldier entered the scene, peeking out upwards from the watchtower's window. The exhausted man's shoulders rose with each of his ragged wheezes, and after calming himself down he uttered his report in one breath.
"We're at our limits! We can't restrain the citizens any longer!"
The trio in the distance could hear each and every one of his words.
Eliza lowered her gaze and left palm down to her lap and mumbled,
"I guess this couldn't work out after all."
She came to this town to with the intention of helping out, but what was it that she ended up accomplishing? Hurting people due to her own negligence, causing mayhem in the town... not even being able to make two guards budge on her own.
She clenched her right first and grit her molars. Her downcast gaze seemed to have been aimed at the two men by her lap, but her eyes were anything but focused. To them, Eliza's expression above indicated sorrow as much as it did frustration.
All of a sudden Eliza lifted her face, inhaled deeply and audibly through her nose, and exhaled. She then then looked back at two men on her left palm, and carefully lowered her hand to the ground.
"Well then, I think I'll take my leave now."
Her voice shook a bit as she said that. The two soldiers felt some guilt in their hearts as they dismounted her hand, and when they turned around to face her, she was bowing her head towards them.
"I'm sorry for all the trouble I caused."
"N-no, it's... fine."
That was all Lionos could say to these eyes that looked at him as they welled up with tears of solitude before he lowered his gaze to the ground. However, he soon lifted his face back up and began speaking the words that came to mind without hesitation.
"I'd like to persuade the townsfolk of your innocence as soon as possible. When I do, would you care to drop by again?"
When she heard his offer, Eliza smiled with her eyes still wet and nodded. Lionos relaxed his shoulders in response, seemingly relieved. Seeing this, Bradeau poked his face and quipped with a mischievous voice.
In the end, after arranging to meet up in the same spot tomorrow morning two hours after sunrise and for the soldiers to raise a yellow smoke signal if they absolutely require help, Eliza began walking out of the city's range with tremorous footsteps, and the soldiers returned to the town in order to pacify the distressed citizens.
Eliza turned around many times on her way back to the border, but never once saw yellow smoke coming from the city. She had no way of knowing whether it was because everything went by without a hitch or conversely because the situation was so grave that they couldn't so much as afford to call her over.
Despite the sun still being out, Eliza did not encounter any travellers going to or from the town, and the path back to the mountain range was incredibly agonizing for her.
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