Curse of the Were-Rabbit Chapter 7
Ouranos cleared his throat.
"Now you have all arrived we can begin. The question is… what do we do about Bell Cranel?"
Ouranos's chamber erupted with noise as all the gods shouted at once. Utter chaos reigned as all the god's tried to express themselves at the same time. Various shouts echoed through his chamber. Many were calling for Bell's execution, others just prison or exile. Hestia stared at her feet in despair. Hephaestus gently put her hand on her shoulder to reassure her friend, despite being quite aware that this meeting might well end with her expulsion from the city or worse, her return to tenkai. All of Hestia's friends surrounded her at that moment, Takemikazuchi, Miach, Demeter and then to her surprise, Loki joined her side and then to her utter shock, Freya walked over with a smile and stood with the group as well.
Fed up with the shouting Ouranos roared. "SILENCE!" His voice boomed across the chamber.
"May I remind you all, that despite what we have witnessed in the war game, Bell Cranel has committed no crime."
Uproar began again. The god's indignation would not be tempered by the fact that Bell hadn't technically committed a crime. In the eye's of many of them and the majority of the population of the city, Bell was a mass murderer and everyone had witnessed it, live, as it happened.
Ouranos lost his temper and snapped his fingers, using a small amount of Arcanum to place an artificial silence across the chamber. No matter how loud they shouted, the god's voices were silent.
"Hestia." The old god called out gently. "Do you have anything to say about this situation?"
"BELL'S A GOOD BOY!" Hestia screamed out in desperation. "He's never hurt anyone since he arrived in the city. He has been through four moon cycles now and each time he behaved himself, no one was hurt. No one was killed and he certainly didn't go on any rampages." Her confidence built as she spoke. "He's smart too. One of the first things he did when he arrived is ask the Miach Familia to make a mask to block his sense of smell, so that even if he did get exposed to blood in his rabbit form, he would not lose control of himself."
"Is that true?" Ouranos asked looking at Miach.
"It is my lord." Miach said with a bow.
"Understood." Ouranos replied, before looking back at Hestia implying she should continue.
"He's a good boy." She repeated again, speaking more quietly and with less desperation in her voice. "He only wants to be a hero, to save people. He's not a killer at heart, he's a kind and gentle soul. He really is! He surprises me as a child, that he is so kind and gentle when life has been so horrible to him. He…" Her voice cracked for a moment. "He had nothing before he met me. No Familia wanted him. He never knew his parents." She glanced very briefly at Freya, she tried to make it as subtle as possible, but Ouranos noticed and slightly raised an eyebrow. "He… was abandoned by the person who raised him." Technically not a lie Hestia thought to herself. Bell had been abandoned in a way by Zeus when his change had occurred.
"Life has been cruel to him, but he still smiles on regardless. It's not his fault that some stupid god challenged him, us, to a wargame. As you said, he has not committed a crime. Death is an expected, if undesired fact of a wargame. He does not deserve to be punished, nor does he deserve exile either. Bell has done nothing wrong, he has committed no offence in this city and he certainly does not deserve your judgement."
She looked up staring into Ouranos's eyes with some defiance.
"Don't we base our system on innocent until proven guilty? Do we execute innocents because we fear them? Do we exile them because of potential harm? It could happen with any high level adventurer, particularly those with the berserk skill right? I mean… what if…" She glanced at Loki for a moment. "No offence Loki, but what if one of your Amazons got into a bar fight and went berserk? Or Finn… He has that skill too." She looked towards Freya now. "Or even Ottar. What might he do if someone harmed his goddess and it sent him into a rage? Many adventurers have the power to destroy the city on their own, but we don't cast them out due to fear! My Bell deserves to be treated the same as the rest of them. If he commits a crime than he should be punished! But, he has not… and knowing my Bell, he won't. He's not a threat to anyone. Well, anyone who isn't stupid enough to grab a Were-Rabbit's ears." She glared at Apollo. Despite Hestia winning the wargame, dealing with Bell had to come first before the consequences of Hestia's win.
Ouranos stared at Hestia for a moment as she stopped speaking. "You are correct Hestia. Bell does deserve the same treatment as any other adventurer. But that perhaps puts him in more danger. Many are very frightened of him. If he remains in the city, there is a good chance." Ouranos shook his head. "No, considering the fear the city has, he will be attacked and killed by someone and if he is attacked, especially during his rabbit phase, the consequences could be dire for the city."
Hestia hung her head. Ouranos was right. There was nothing more she could say in defence of Bell.
To Hestia's surprise, Loki raised her hand to speak.
Ouranos briefly raised his hand and lifted the artificial silence from Loki.
"Well…" Loki scratched the back of her head and opened her eyes a little, forming small slits as she gazed at the elder god.
"Much as I hate to defend chibi here. There are two things on my mind."
Hestia looked up at Loki in shock. Loki was going to defend her? Why? Hestia wracked her brain but the only thing she could come up with was Aiz Wallenwhatsit. Yes the pair were obviously in love, but Loki hated that as much as she did. They both wished that the pair had never met.
"The first is we need to look at the rabbit as an asset to the city. We already know that Rakia is on the march and will be here in a month or two."
Loki cracked a massive grin, the trickster goddess couldn't help herself.
"Why not give them a surprise? Seeing that kid in action, he could take on the whole army and not just beat them up and send them home like we do. He'd slaughter all of them. It would send them a message 'Don't fuck with Orario, we have a were-rabbit'."
"Hmmm…" Ouranos hummed to himself. "An interesting idea. As much as I would like to avoid any bloodshed, Rakia and it's constant invasion attempts harm this city a great deal. I would also like to avoid the difficulties they bring." Ouranos was thinking back to the last few wars with Rakia. They always cost the city dearly. As the city was besieged, food supplies would run low and people would starve. All trade was cut off, condemning the cities economy. If Rakia and especially Ares be harmed enough, they would certainly think twice about attacking again. Loki's idea had a lot of merit.
"And your other thought?" Ouranos asked.
"Well… He's been good for my Aiz." She said after a quiet moment. "She…" Loki really didn't want to admit this, but the point Hestia had made about adventurer's early was very true. "She has a skill that is rather dangerous. I don't want to reveal it, but…" She paused for a moment, trying to choose her words carefully. "In the right circumstance… She has the potential to destroy the city."
"And… Bell has been good for her. She's… happy because of him. I don't want her to lose that."
Hestia looked at Loki in shock, she didn't know how to feel about that.
"That and we all saw it." She glanced around at the silenced gods. "She can control him when he's like that! She's stronger than him! We all saw her restrain him, calm him down. She's good for him too. I'd suggest that, when the full moon is out, Aiz escorts him. That would help keep the city and the civilians happy."
Hestia was even more shocked now. Loki was offering her help? She didn't know what to say.
Freya raised her hand now, wanting to speak.
"Speak Freya." He waved his hand and lifted the silence from the goddess of beauty and war.
"I would like to offer my Familia's protection for Bell." She said with her usual smile.
"WHAT?" Hestia screamed at the top of her voice in utter shock.
Freya turned to Hestia and looked her in the eye. Hestia was even more surprised when she saw Freya's tearful expression. She had never seen the goddess look sad before. Freya was always in control of herself, that slight confident smile she wore all the time never wavered. She was always composed in public. Hestia was beyond confused at this point. Loki had helped and now Freya was looking at her with tears in her eyes.
"Hestia… I recently learned that I did something many years ago that has deeply hurt Bell."
"You know!" Hestia said quietly, covering her mouth with her hand in shock. "You know why he hates you."
Freya nodded sadly.
"I cannot undo what I did. But I can do everything I can to make it up to him. I would like to offer you my Familia's protection for him."
Hestia frowned. She didn't understand, why did Freya care about Bell at all?
"Why? What is my Bell to you?"
"He is… was my Odr." Freya said with a sad smile.
"Was?" Hestia was even more confused.
Freya wiped the growing tears from her eyes and gave Hestia a brief ironic smile.
"He was so beautiful. His soul was like none other, absolutely pure, transparent but shining with a light that seemed to come from heaven itself. How could I not love him? How could he not be the soulmate I have searched so long for?"
She gave a bitter sigh.
"But… when he learned of what I had done. I tainted him. His hatred for me roars in his very soul now, a black flame. A tainted black flame of my doing…"
She held back a sob.
"What did you do Freya?" Ouranos asked.
Freya looked down, ashamed of herself.
Hestia however, stared straight at her.
"She had his parents, who were part of Zeus Familia, executed when they tried to return to Orario." She said coldly.
"That is a grave shame." Ouranos said quietly, feeling deeply for the poor boy.
"Does anyone else have anything to say in defence of Bell Cranel?" Ouranos asked the room.
Takemikazuchi, Miach and Hephaestus all raised their hands.
Ouranos waved at the three of them, allowing them to speak.
Takemikazuchi spoke first.
"Bell Cranel has shown himself to be an honourable young man. Despite my Familia pass parading him and his party, he showed us no ill will. He became our friend instead and his Familia our allies."
Takemikazuchi bowed as he finished speaking.
Miach spoke next.
"Bell and his Familia have become good friends of my own. He is a kind and considerate young man."
Miach bowed in turn as Takemikazuchi had done.
Hephaestus was the last to speak.
"He is a remarkable young man. He managed to give my Welf something he never found in my Familia. A family. I have been watching them grow, both my Welf and Bell since they met and I couldn't find such upstanding young gentlemen anywhere else in the world. Bell is a young man to be respected, not punished. Understood and managed perhaps, but certainly not punished."
Ouranos nodded and then waved his hand rendering silence upon the room again.
"I...Ill come with you Shakti." Bell replied to the Ganesha Familia captain as he looked nervously at the Ganesha guards that surrounded him.
Aiz gave his hand a gentle squeeze to reassure him, he responded with a brief but nervous smile.
"Am… Am I in trouble?"
"I don't know the specifics Bell." Shakti said with a shake of her head. "How much do you remember?"
Bell shook his head. It always took a few days for the memories to return after a rampage.
"Well, the whole city saw you Bell. Honestly many of them are very scared, the moment you won the guild was overwhelmed by people wanting either your execution or exile from the city. The gods are current discussing what to do, but nothing has been decided yet."
"I…" Bell didn't know what to say, but there was something he did want to know.
"How… how many?"
"How many people did you kill?"
Bell nodded, his eyes downcast.
Bell gasped in horror at himself and hung his head in shame.
"I'm a murderer."
"It's not your fault Bell." Aiz pulled him closer as she tried to reassure him again. "They brought the fight to you and knew the risk they were taking Bell."
But Aiz's words didn't help. Bell had killed again, something he'd been trying to avoid ever since he arrived at the city. He couldn't help but feel that every effort he had taken to keep himself under control had been a waste. The city knew what he was now and his potential.
Bell bit his fist in frustration and despair.
Shakti looked at him with sympathy, she didn't know Bell very well except by reputation, but standing before her at this moment was a young man who obviously regretted his actions and carried an overwhelming guilt. He certainly didn't seem like the murderous rabbit she had witnessed through the magic mirror.
"Come Bell. The sooner we get you to the guild the better." She said softly placing a hand on his shoulder.
Bell nodded without looking at her, his eyes still downcast with regret.
The Ganesha Familia members moved to surround him as they walked down the main street. This served two purposes. To make it look like they had Bell under control and that, even though he was currently in his human form, they were there to protect the public from him. But also to protect Bell from the public themselves. As soon as he had stepped foot in the city, people had begun to stare at him and whisper. As they travelled down the main street many members of the public began to follow them. It didn't take long for the shouts to begin.
"MURDERER!" Someone shouted and threw a rock at his head. Bell was a level two adventurer though, so he easily dodged it. He may have dodged the blow to his head, but he certainly didn't dodge the blow to his heart that came with it. He knew now, this was how the city saw him. Not as a young man or adventurer, but a threat to them and their very existence. He hung his head in shame as he walked.
"WHO THREW THAT?" Aiz shouted at the top of her voice, very angry that someone had dared to attack her precious rabbit. Her hand flew to the sword at her side ready to take on anyone that threatened her rabbit.
"Easy now." Shakti said as she grabbed Aiz's arm.
"IF ANOTHER PERSON ATTACKS BELL CRANEL THEY WILL BE ARRESTED!" She shouted at the top of her voice, glaring at the crowd. Shakti's job was to keep the peace, she would not tolerate people attacking someone in her care.
The Ganesha guards closed ranks around him, to protect him from the growing crowd that were following them.
However, Orario was a big place. It was at least a twenty minute walk from the gate to the guild so Bell had to suffer the taunts and jeers from the crowd as he walked. Soon tears began to fall down his face, both from the regret of his actions but mostly due to the fear and hate of the crowd. Bell had never been hated in his life and the whole city had turned against him. Each taunt or jeer was like a dagger to his heart. By the time they reached the guild, he was a very depressed young man.
Aiz didn't know what to do, what to say. She just held him close, letting him know that no matter what people said about him, he still had her by his side. Every now and then he would jump a little as a particularly nasty insult or call for his execution was heard. She would squeeze his hand every time, just to let him know she was there for him.
As they entered the guild Eina saw him as he passed through the door. Her heart broke in an instant. Bell looked terrible. She had never seen him down like this before. Even during the weeks after he learned how his parents died, he'd been mourning and was obviously upset, he had never looked this depressed. She reached out her hand, wanting to call out and lift his spirits, but he was immediately led to the back of the guild and towards Ouranos's chamber. She didn't get a chance.
A few moments later he entered the chamber of the sky god.
"BELL-KUN!" Hestia shouted as she ran too him and grabbed him in a hug.
"Kami-sama." He whispered, trying to hold back the tears in his eyes. "I'm sorry."
"It's OK Bell." She said gently, reaching up to stroke his cheek. "Everything's going to be fine. I promise."
But it was all too much for Bell. The stress, the hatred of the city and his own self loathing finally broke him. He dropped to his knees and began crying like a child into Hestia's bosom.
Hestia stoked his hair and whispered reassuring nothings into his ear. That everything was alright, everything was fine and he had done nothing wrong.
Once Ouranos had made his decision about what to do with Bell, the majority of the gods had left the chamber. Only Loki and Freya remained, both looking down at the crying young man with sympathy.
Ouranos sat and patiently waited for the young man to calm down. After a good ten minutes of venting his feelings into Hestia's chest he had finally stopped sobbing and Ouranos spoke.
Bell pulled himself from Hestia's chest and looked up at the old god, wiping the tears from his eyes.
"Y-yes?" He asked nervously wondering how the god would condemn him.
"After much debate I have come to a decision. As several gods pointed out, you have committed no crime and will not be executed nor exiled from the city. However before I explain how we will deal with the situation I would insist you watch what happened and understand your actions."
Bell nodded slightly. "I-I… Understand."
"Then observe." Ouranos said as he waved his hand opening a magic mirror in the centre of the room.
Bell, still on his knees on the floor watched as he saw himself on the bridge of the castle. He winced slightly and reached for his own ear as he saw the arrow strike his rabbit self.
But then his rampage had begun. His jaw dropped as he saw just how brutally he ripped the throat out of the archer who had shot him. He gasped in shame as he watched himself drink down the blood of his victim, horrified that he showed so much pleasure. Bile rose in his throat as he disembowelled the next one with a slash from his clawed feet. He silently thanked Welf as he saw him guide him into the castle away from the majority of Apollo Familia. He gave a sigh of relief as he saw himself recognise Cassandra and leap over the girl without hurting her. He watched in despair as he killed again and again, terrified at his own blood soaked image. He understood already just how brutal he could be when bloodlust descended in his rabbit form, he remembered exactly what he had done to the bandits after all. But seeing himself in action was very different from remembering. He was horrified at himself.
Finally, he turned away as he saw himself kill Apollos captain. Now he was ashamed. He hadn't simply killed the man he realised as he watched, that he had enjoyed killing him, enjoyed the fountain of blood that rained down on his rabbit face. Finally the horror of what he watched was too much. He collapsed on all fours and threw up onto the floor, sickened at his own brutality.
"I'm a monster…" He gasped out.
Hestia grabbed him in a hug again. "Bell…" She said quietly. She wanted to reassure him, tell him he wasn't a monster. But she couldn't. Now that he had witnessed himself, what was there to say?
"Bell… please, you were only defending yourself."
But Bell shook his head.
"No… No I wasn't… I enjoyed it… everyone can see that! The whole city saw that!"
He clutched at his head in despair.
"I should… I should leave the city. I'm too much of a risk!"
He slowly began to stand up.
"Ill… find a place in the mountains… away from people… I can't…"
Both Aiz and Hestia grabbed him at the same moment.
"Your not leaving me Bell!" They both said.
"You are a valuable asset to this city Bell Cranel." Ouranos spoke. "As such, I would ask you to stay and continue being an adventurer."
"But…" Bell began to say as he looked up at the sky god once again.
"For the next few months, you will be escorted around the city by Ganesha Familia. Four members will live at your home at all times. This is both to reassure the population that you are under control and to protect you from those that wish your death or expulsion. During the full moon you will have a choice. Voluntary incarceration or escort by high level adventurer's. Aiz Wallenstein."
Aiz looked up at the god on the throne.
"We saw how you calmed Bell in his bloodlust state."
Aiz went bright red at this statement, knowing full well exactly why she could calm Bell in that state.
"As such, we would ask you to be Bell Cranel's escort during full moon."
Aiz gave a happy smile. "I'd be happy to Lord Ouranos."
"Freya has also volunteered her champion, Ottar to escort you as well."
"W-w-what?" Bell asked in utter shock.
Freya stepped forward and bowed to Bell, surprising him. He had been so wrapped up in his own emotions, breaking down when he saw his goddess, then the despair and self loathing that had overwhelmed him as he watched himself murder thirty four people, that he hadn't even noticed she was in the room.
He looked at the bowing goddess, utterly confused, his hatred for her forgotten for a moment.
She stood and began to speak.
"Bell-kun." She reached out her hand and stroked his cheek. A single tear rolled down her face as she smiled gently at him. She wanted to apologise, to explain it all to him, but her voice caught in her throat and all she could do was smile sadly at him. Knowing her very presence would bring him pain she whispered "I'm sorry." just loud enough for him to hear, before turning away and leaving the chamber and an utterly confused Bell.
"What was that about?" He asked out loud as he watched Freya depart.
"Ill explain later." Hestia said. "Now come Bell. It's time to go home. To our new home."
"New home? What do you mean Hestia?" He asked, now even more confused than ever.
"Well, you did win the wargame Bell. Apollo's Familia has been disbanded and we now own all their assets. Including the mansion they owned. It will need some renovation, but we have a proper home for the Familia now!"
"Wow" Bell said as he stared up at the newly renamed Hearth Mansion.
"This is really ours?"
"Yes Bell. Lili, Welf and Mikoto are already inside sorting things out. It's full of statues of Apollo! Utterly appalling for now! But don't worry. I have arranged for Goibniu Familia to do some remodelling for us. We even have an eastern style bath being fitted, knowing how much Mikoto loves hot springs after we found one in the dungeon I thought it would be the best reward for her!"
"Hmmm…" Bell thought to himself for a moment as he stared at the mansion that was his new home.
"What happened to Apollo?" He asked deep in thought.
"Oh!" Hestia replied with a dismissive wave of her hand. "He was expelled from Orario, he was thrown out of the east gate with those of his Familia that stayed loyal to him. It wasn't very many, most like Daphne and Cassandra decided to find new Familia's."
"Hmmm…" Bell thought again, his hand on his chin. He'd made Apollo a promise and intended to keep it.
"Well, you go inside. I'm going to walk Aiz home." He said giving Hestia a head pat.
Hestia couldn't stand it any more though. She knew the pair had gotten closer, it was quite obvious looking at them. Holding hands all the time, the subtle glances at each other. The fact she had managed to calm him down after his rampage in the castle. They had been gone for a couple of day's afterwards, Hestia could only speculate what had occurred between them.
"Just how close are you and Wallenwhatsit exactly Bell?" She asked with an angry look.
Both teenagers glanced at each other and went bright red.
Bell looked down for a moment, slightly ashamed. He wasn't ashamed of his relationship with Aiz, but he knew how Hestia felt about him. She had made it rather obvious over the last few months and he really didn't want to upset her. However there was no point denying it. He loved Aiz from the bottom of his heart.
"We… We love each other Kami-sama." He admitted.
"Well I knew that!" Hestia exclaimed. "But your different from before. Closer than you were."
Both of them now went an even deeper shade of red, but stared lovingly into each others eyes.
A look of utter horror appeared on Hestia's face as she began to realize exactly how Aiz had managed to calm the enraged rabbit.
"You… You have done.. that… haven't you…" She said quietly looking up at the pair.
Bell, still staring Aiz in the eyes just nodded gently while she smiled back at him.
Hestia wanted to explode with rage, but looking up at her rabbit, she couldn't do it. Bell didn't deserve her ire after the day he had just had. It was bad enough that even now, as they stood in front of their newly acquired mansion, surrounded by Ganesha Familia members that she could see people staring at him with hatred. Much as she wanted to berate him, scold him, she couldn't do it. Bell had suffered enough. With a resigned sigh, she turned and walked into the mansion.
"You can stay… If you'd like…" Aiz whispered into his ear as they stood in front of the Twilight Manor, Bell embracing her to say goodbye.
"I would like that… But, I have something I need to do." He whispered back into her ear.
She pulled back and gave him a serious look.
"Apollo." She said quietly.
"Yes… I did make him a promise after all." Bell said with a grim smile.
"I can.. help if you'd like." Aiz offered.
Bell shook his head though.
"No Aiz. I don't want you to. This isn't hunting monsters in the dungeon. Your not a …" He paused for a second. "Your not someone who kills others. Not like me."
"Bell.. Your not…" She tried to say but he quickly silenced her.
"I am Aiz. I… accept it now. I understand what I am. Who I am. Even now… I feel it burning inside of me. They hunted me Aiz. I won't… I won't feel better until…" He trailed off. He didn't want to say that he wouldn't feel better until he killed all those who had hunted him.
"I'm coming with you." She said with some determination. "If your successful, once your done you will pass out with a mind down. Won't you?"
Bell nodded, she was right.
"Then you will need me to protect you."
Bell sighed. She was right he either wouldn't calm, as shown during the wargame, or once all were dead and no threats remained he would pass out and be rather vulnerable. Despite monsters on the surface not really being a threat, he didn't need to wake up to a half chewed leg due to a wandering monster. What he was doing was risky and he knew it.
The Ganesha Familia guards had escorted them to the east gate as Bell requested of them. Bell was a free man after all, he could leave the city whenever he pleased. He explained to the guards that he would be back in a few days and to expect his return.
Once the pair had passed through the gate, Bell changed into his rabbit form and sniffed the air.
Quickly catching the Apollo Familia's scent on the wind, he smiled.
The Were-Rabbit went hunting.