Chapter 10! Hopefully, I'll be updating again soon. Like, actually soon, not two and a half months too late. Enjoy!
Now I'm a one-man jury and I got all the facts
Do you want to change your story
Before the judge gets back?
No one's calling you a liar, but there's no smoke without fire
~James Hunter, 'No Smoke Without Fire'
"Mmm…" Yuan opened his eyes and stretched. "Ah. I don't think backs are supposed to crack like that."
"Shh." Sitting up, Yuan saw Martel kneeling on the ground, praying. Mithos was beside her, glaring at him. "Shut up," he hissed.
Yuan dropped beside Martel. After a few minutes, she finished her prayers and turned to him. "Feeling better?"
"Well, I don't have a delusional maniac with a scythe chasing me," he answered. "So far, it's been a good morning."
"What are we going to do when he wakes up?" Mithos butt in. "Is he going to hang around with us?"
"I don't know," Martel said. "Assuming he doesn't try to kill or capture us, I suppose he'll go home, wherever he lives."
"And where are we going to go?" the boy asked. "Back to the island?"
"What island?" Yuan asked curiously. "Where did you live before the Compound, anyway?"
"It's a long story," Martel said hastily. "I'll tell you some other time. But, no, Mithos, we aren't going back there. Yuan is going to help us find a place to live."
Yuan smiled at Mithos comfortingly. Mithos gave him a look of disdain. "I don't want to live with him."
"Mithos, stop it. Apologize to Yuan." Martel gave him a harsh look. "Now, young man."
"Why should I apologize? It's the truth!" Mithos folded his arms. "We can take care of ourselves, Martel, why do we need him?"
"It's not a matter of taking care of ourselves," Martel snapped at him. "A friend has offered to help us, and I think it's pretty lousy of you to treat him this way."
Mithos looked taken aback, but sighed. "…Sorry," he muttered to Yuan.
"Um…well, I'm going to…go…" Yuan backed out of the room, watching as Martel glared at her little brother. "…food."
From the kitchen, he could hear the two siblings talking in low voices. Martel would say something in her soft whisper; Mithos would answer in a clipped voice. Yuan quickly started pulling pots and pans down from the cabinets, making as much noise as he could. He got the feeling that this wasn't meant for his ears.
As he cooked, Yuan caught snippets of the conversation, words here and there. He'd just put bacon on a skillet when he heard a knocking. He ignored it, assuming it was coming from the other room. After a few seconds, however, he realized it was coming from the basement door. He grabbed a knife from the counter. Cautiously, he unlocked and opened it.
The human, Kratos, stood on the other side, looking disheveled and tired. His burgundy hair was sticking up at odd angles and his face was slightly pink. "Where am I?" he mumbled, looking around in confusion. His eyes lingered on the knife in Yuan's hand. "How did I get here?"
"The better question is, how did you get untied?" Yuan asked. He relaxed a little as the human stepped forward, his hands raised in surrender; he had calmed down from the night before.
"…I…don't remember." Kratos drifted over to the table and sat down. "I…why can't I remember?"
"What's the last thing you do remember?" Yuan asked, sitting beside him.
Kratos took a breath. "I was walking in the desert. I didn't have water, and then I fell…" As if the memory suddenly came back, his voice became stronger. "I tried to keep moving, but it was too hot. I remember lying on the sand and…and watching the sun go down. After that, bits and pieces…"
"Do you remember me at all?" Yuan asked.
Kratos shook his head. "No…all I remember is the sun." He fell silent while Yuan stood up and continued cooking.
"How are you feeling?" Yuan asked. "Sick at all?"
"No. I'm actually..." His stomach gave a growl suddenly and Yuan felt a smile form on his face.
"Good timing, human. I'm making breakfast. Martel! Martel, come in here!" he yelled into the other room. Both his companions came in.
"What is it?" Mithos asked, annoyed. When he saw Kratos, his eyes widened. "Wh-what's he doing untied?"
Martel shushed him and walked over to Kratos. "Are you feeling okay?" she asked, touching his forehead gently. "Your fever's gone down."
"Stay away from him, sissy!" Mithos said shrilly. Martel gave him a dirty look. "He tried to kill us!"
Kratos frowned. "I did?"
"Mithos," Yuan said, "Kratos doesn't remember anything since he collapsed in the desert. He doesn't remember last night."
"What did I do?" Kratos asked, strained. "Why…don't I remember?"
"The fever affects memory," Martel said, businesslike. "Of course you don't remember. You were hallucinating."
"…I tried to kill you?" Kratos sounded lost, and Yuan felt a twinge of sympathy for him. "Why?"
"You were having a delusion," Martel said soothingly. "It's not your fault, Kratos."
"How do you know my name?" he asked, alarmed.
"I'm from Tethe'alla," she answered simply. He nodded. "Listen, we'll talk later. Right now, just eat something. Yuan and I are going to take care of you."
"Yuan…that's a strange name." He looked at Martel. "Are you his wife?"
"My…wife?" Yuan caught sight of Martel's face, which had turned red. "Uh…"
"And that is your son?" Kratos pointed to Mithos, who bared his teeth.
"No way! If Yuan was my dad, I'd…I'd…" Mithos was apparently unable to think of anything, so he settled for making a disgusted face.
"No, we're not married," Yuan said hastily. "Martel and I…um…we…"
"My name is Martel, and this is my younger brother, Mithos." Martel pointed to Yuan. "Yuan is a friend of ours. We aren't a family, just…a few folks in the same boat."
"I'm…sorry. I didn't mean to offend anyone." Yuan slid a plate of food in front of Kratos, whose stomach growled again. "Thank you."
"Are you making bacon?" Meg appeared in the doorway, with Kinna trailing behind her. "Look, Kinna, bacon!"
"That's right," he said cheerfully. "I'm making toast, eggs, and bacon. Anybody want anything else?" He put a plate in front of Martel.
"Looks good to me," she said, smiling. "I didn't know you could cook, Yuan."
"He probably spit in it," Mithos grumbled.
"Only in yours." Yuan slid a plate across the table to the boy.
"Kinna's hungry!" Meg said, bouncing in her seat with excitement. "And so am I," she added as an afterthought.
"Here," Yuan said, setting two more plates down. "Where's everyone else?" he asked.
Meg shrugged, trying to feed an egg to Kinna. "Marina and Audrey went to the market early today with Daddy."
"They left?" Martel said. "But they always wait for me…" She looked disappointed.
Yuan shrugged. "Maybe they figured you would want to sleep in today. We did have a long night." He turned to Kratos. "This is Kinna and Meg. Their family helped us when we found you in the desert."
Breakfast was an awkward affair. Martel seemed preoccupied, her mind elsewhere. Meg and Kinna giggled and played as they ate. Kratos was silent, while Mithos glared at him ferociously. Yuan didn't say anything, just observed. Finally, Kratos cleared his throat.
"You said you found me in the desert?" Yuan nodded. "Did I still have my sword on me?"
"I have it," Yuan said. "I'll give it back to you, on one condition." Kratos raised an eyebrow. "Tell us who you are."
"You already know," the human mused. "Or, at least, she does." He pointed to Martel. "You know my name, and I'm sure you've heard a few stories about me."
Martel blushed. "Well…there are some rumors, but I ne-never thought any of them were actually true."
Yuan gave her a curious look before turning back to Kratos. "Well, I'm from Sylvarant, so I don't know about any stories. I just want to know whose side you're on."
"Side? Hmm…I suppose neither, at the moment."
"That's not very helpful," Yuan answered. "Let's start with who you are."
"…My name, as you know, is Kratos Aurion. I'm the son of Drake and Felicia Aurion. I was a soldier in the Tethe'allan Royal Army for five years, until a clash of ideas forced me to reconsider my career choice."
"What the hell does that mean?" Yuan asked. Mithos sighed. "What's that, brat?"
"Stop calling me that. It means that he's an AWOL soldier." Mithos glared at Yuan. "AWOL means 'absent with-"
"I know what it means," he answered loudly, turning to Kratos. "Well? Is that true? You're a deserter?"
"…Yes," he admitted. "Right now, I'm the most wanted man in Tethe'alla and Sylvarant."
"I can imagine," Martel said. "The general's son, deserting the army? It must've been quite a scandal."
"My family's used to scandal." He looked up and caught Martel's eye, and for a moment, Yuan felt like they knew something he didn't. But the moment passed.
"You shouldn't be wanted that badly just for desertion," Yuan said suspiciously. "...You did something else."
"..." Kratos seemed to be mulling something over in his head. "...Yes, I did."
"Well, what?" Yuan demanded. Kratos didn't answer. "Answer me!" Kratos was still quiet, shaking his head. Yuan reached over the table and shook his shoulder. "Come on, spit it out!"
"Yuan," Martel said quietly. She motioned for him to follow her into the living room, where they stood close and whispered. "Yuan, if he doesn't want to tell us, he doesn't have to."
"But-" he began, but she put a cool finger to his lips to shush him.
"We haven't told him anything about us," she said. "Why should he trust us if we don't trust him?"
"But what if he's on the run for…for murder or something?" Yuan asked. "He's a wanted man."
"And so are you," she answered evenly.
"Ma-Martel!" They both turned to see Mithos, his face pale, hanging in the doorway.
"What's going on?" The two adults ran into the kitchen, where Mithos was pointing. Kratos was staring out the window, his face tense. "What is it?"
"They're coming." He gestured outside, where they could see at least two dozen people marching towards the only house for miles: the one they were currently inside of.
"Soldiers," Yuan muttered. The Tethe'allan flag was flying beside what appeared to be the leader, who was riding a horse. "Why did they send an entire army just for us?"
"…Well, we were supposed to be interrogated," Martel said. "Yuan, did you know anything important?"
"No. Demitri was the only one who knew anything. What about you two?" Both siblings shook their heads, before the three of them turned to Kratos. "...Well, I think there's only one other wanted man in the room. Whatever you did, my human friend, it must've been bad."
"Kratos?" Martel said uncertainly, touching his shoulder gently. Kratos didn't respond, or even seem to notice her hand there.
He was still staring out the window, but there was a hardness about his face. He seemed more aggressive, more alert than he had that morning; more like the man who had swung a scythe at Yuan. But he was also calmer, less scared, more composed. Slowly, he turned and held his hand out to Yuan.
"I'm going to need my sword back now."