Chapter 173: Unwanted Past

…Yes. The first time when I met Bonny was when a rapist got his hands on her. I walked through the respective gang by coincidence, but when I understood what was happening, my mind blanked and in a hurry I took an iron bar and rushed at him, leaving my friends behind to strike that man multiple times, making him enter into a coma then die in the hospital shortly after. I wasn’t thrown into prison because I was underage at the time, but my parents got a fee large enough which they were unable to pay. My father took the blame and was thrown behind the bars because he was unable to pay it while the mother left us for good after she divorced my father… All my friends left me, and after my brother died from a car accident, I was left alone until Bonny finally approached me, only to leave me as well… I’m not completely sure though what kind of experiences you have gone through in life before arriving on Sario to have such a strong mind, but I know that I had my share of events… so trust me on this one, man. I can handle pain and sorrows as well. Maybe in a different form than you, but I can say that the amount must still be quite a bit. → Ryu

Shen couldn’t help frowning. It was true that many more people had it worse than him, maybe even worse than Ryu, but if they were able to pass their past and grow stronger, or hide their heads and live in terror, this was known only by them as nobody else is able to drill inside their hearts and tell. But even so, the fact that Ryu had such a tragic past didn’t make Shen inclined in letting him take part in this parade of death in the slightest. However, something still made him approve of it. The only fact that made Shen change his mind was the fact that no matter when, Ryu would always show a positive smile on his face. Always laughing and in high spirit when talking with him, showing no weakness, just the might of a king. This only proved to him that Ryu was able to absorb and consume the experiences he went through to a level high enough that actually strengthened his mentality to ridiculous levels.

… Alright. I will wait until you get here. But you alone. I won’t accept anyone else to come and partake in this. → Shen
Understood. When I’m finished with everything here I will ask Sylvia to teleport me there for other reasons. → Ryu
… Alright. Just be sure Sylvia won’t be part of it. → Shen
You too. → Ryu

They finished their conversation and Shen remained outside the cave entrance while staring through the huge trees in the distance at how the sun was rising. But suddenly his expression changes into shock and indignation as he sees beside the trees, three silhouettes nearing the cave. One was Alexander, the other was Elsey, and the last one was-

“Sylvia…?” → Shen
“Oh? Johan? You were here?” → Sylvia
“And you didn’t know I was here?!” → Shen
“H-how was I supposed to know…?” → Sylvia
“….Right.” → Shen

After having her read two to three steps in front of him, Shen forgot that not always her future-telling will let her know of what he’s doing. Adding the fact that he also tried to be as secretive as possible lately. But at this moment he was simply too shaken to understand what was happening.

“Just why are you lot here?” → Shen
“You told me before to find the players that ran through the woods Elsey talked about. Right now I need Elsey to inform everyone else about the news. I suppose you already finished the job you needed my men for. Right?” → Alexander
“Yes, but why is Sylvia here?” → Shen
“I had nothing else to do and I thought I might be able to help in finding the players together with Alexander and Elsey. I wasn’t aware that you’re here, Johan.” → Sylvia

Sylvia answered while feeling rather confused as to why Shen seemed so nervous at the moment.

That’s right! Sylvia didn’t know I was taking part in a raid with the bandits, and neither did Alexander know that Sylvia was part of the experiments long ago and that I asked her to stay away from this. God! What a disaster! → Shen

Shen ruffled his head in despair as he was unsure what to do anymore, then Sylvia asked surprised after hearing the news.

“So you left and did something with Alexander’s crew?” → Sylvia
“Eh? She doesn’t know?” → Alexander

Even Alexander seemed surprised, expecting the two of them to divulge everything to one another. He glanced troubled at the three of them, then Elsey felt like she got something as she stared at him with a sharp glare.

“Sir Johan. Going with a group of bandits at night beside a village, only you lot a group of men… Don’t tell me you… went and searched for the services of some prostitutes?” → Elsey
PPFFFTT~~!” → Alexander

Alexander burst out laughing after hearing what Elsey just said, while Sylvia looked his way with big eyes, somewhat revolted for some reason.

“She- I mean, Johan. If your carnal desires are too much for you to control, then there is no need to suppress them around me, you know? Or… am I not good enough…?” → Sylvia
“Are you lot messing with me?!” → Shen

Sylvia’s blushing and shy expression made him understand that she wasn’t really joking, this only making Shen more restless. However, just then, another voice resounded from behind.

“Lord Johan…? Sire, are you alright?”

The white tiger woman Shen first saved appeared from inside the cave, still wearing only the cloak Shen stole from one of those mad-men. She got closer but when she saw the three newcomers, she immediately hid behind Shen out of reflex, a habit she got to hide behind things after experiencing all those terrifying things inside the laboratories.

“Sire… Who…?”

She weakly asked as she stared terrified at the three, even clinging to his cloak. Also out of habit for having his personal space invaded by a stranger, Shen took a step forward, out of her arm-reach, and answered her in a rather annoyed manner.

“No need to hide. They’re allies. And next time don’t hold onto my cloak or I’ll take it that you’re reaching out for something on me.” → Shen

At his cold words, the woman twitched lightly in shock then she bowed her head. Sadness flashing through her eyes.

“Y-yes, sire… I apologize.”
“Oh. So she is one of the-mff?!” → Alexander

Don’t! Sylvia knows nothing about this! → Shen

Just as Alexander was about to spill the beans, a shadow palm covered his mouth in the last moment while Shen’s voice resounded inside his mind. Alexander was still confused but even with Shen’s intervention, Sylvia still understood what was happening.

“S-Shen… Is she….?” → Sylvia

Even forgetting about Shen’s cover, Sylvia stared at the tiger woman behind him with big eyes. Anyone was able to read the pain and nightmarish memories from her eyes.

Seeing that he had no way now so hide the news from her any longer, Shen shook his head then commanded Alexander and Elsey to retreat inside the cave.

“You two… Please let us alone.” → Shen
“Sir Johan! So you and your group did indeed had some fun at night! How can you do such things when you have Miss Sylvia-” → Elsey


“Elsey.” → Alexander

Although her misunderstanding and getting angry at such a view was justified, Alexander’s serious tone and expression made her stop her words short, staring surprised at Alexander who patted her shoulder.

“Let’s go, I will tell you everything.” → Alexander
“O-okay then…?” → Elsey

Understanding something, Alexander quickly calmed her down and showed her toward the cave. Both of them disappearing inside the cave.

“S-sire…? Is it fine to let them… go inside?”
“…”

The tiger woman got closer to Shen, worry shining in her eyes while looking toward the tunnel Alexander disappeared into, while Sylvia was still frozen stiff, an indecipherable expression on her face.

-Grab-

The woman instinctively clenched on Shen’s cloak once again, feeling the safest around him, only to have her wrist grabbed and tightly clenched. She turned around in shock, only to meet eyes with Shen’s red eyes of anger.

“S-sire…?”
“I’m sure I ordered for nobody to follow me. I don’t remember for you to be deaf, so are you already disobeying orders, thinking that once you’re outside those places you can simply do whatever you want?” → Shen
“?!”
“Eh…?”

The woman froze in place as she was trembling in fear, while even Sylvia’s eyes opened wide at his words, remembering the image of an old man that told her similar things long ago. She then looked at Shen, only to see the old man’s silhouette slowly overlap his.

Unaware of what was happening with Sylvia, Shen then pushed the tiger woman away as she tripped and fell on her behind, a cold stare in his eyes.

“Get back now. Don’t forget that until I decide what to do with you-” → Shen

D-don’t… → Sylvia

Sylvia’s eyes started to wetter as she wished to cover her ears, familiar memories engulfing her mind while stabbing at her scarred heart.

“-You’ll listen to-” → Shen

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Please… don’t say it! → Sylvia

Unable to bear the image of Shen and the old man’s silhouette overlapping more and more, Sylvia rushed with tears flowing down her face.

 “-my every command! You unwanted child!“

“Shen! Stop!” → Sylvia
“Eh…?” → Shen

But I didn’t even finish my sentence…? → Shen

Shen looked confused at Sylvia that suddenly appeared in front of him when he reached only at “-listen to-”, unable to even say the rest, which was: “-our words as you’re still unable to live alone in this world just yet.”

Sylvia then helped the tiger woman to get up, the woman staring at her with big eyes of confusion. However, feeling Sylvia’s kindness and the tears she was shedding, the woman reached out faltering, Sylvia patiently waiting for her to accept her helping hand then pull her up.

“What’s your name?” → Sylvia

With a mild smile, Sylvia asked in a calm tone, making the woman relax her tense nerves.

“I’m… When my parents were still alive… they called me… Lucy.” → Lucy
“Then Lucy is it. Nice to meet you, Lucy. My name is Sylvia, wish we’ll be able to know of each other better in the future.” → Sylvia
“Yes…” → Lucy

Completely taken aback by her kindness, Lucy wasn’t aware of how to react since she was already used to be treated like an animal, just like any other experiment Shen and his group have saved. Even so, she still felt like smiling, at least ever so slightly, expressing positive feelings through facial expressions once since who knows how long ago.

Shen stared at this with a complicated expression on his face, not knowing what to say now that Sylvia was aware of this.

“Shen…” → Sylvia

Sylvia then slowly turned, sadness and pain reflecting through her eyes. With a weak voice, she said.

“Someone who went through such horrifying experiments would suffer deep traumas… Please don’t be too brusque with her…” → Sylvia
“O-Okay…?” → Shen

Shen was shocked by how sad Sylvia’s eyes could be at this moment and simply kept quiet, trying not to worsen her state of mind as he was unaware of what he could do now.

Lucy was at first perturbed by Shen’s sudden change in character: turning more careful, more sensible with the ones around. She then looked at Sylvia and finally understood something after her confused mind calmed down and her rationality returned.

“You are… like me…?” → Lucy
“Yes…” → Sylvia

Sylvia turned toward Lucy with a mild smile after she heard her question. But immediately after, a saddened expression replaced her smile as she lightly bowed to Lucy.

“Miss Lucy. I can tell you that you wish to have a chat with Johan. But may I please have some time alone with him? I promise you it won’t take long.” → Sylvia
“E-eh? Huh?! Y-yes! Of course!-Agh…!” → Lucy

Suddenly flustered, Lucy overused her still injured vocal cords and a sharp pain made her stop talking. Sylvia became aware of her injury and gently touched her neck, focusing on the injury.

“Please let me help you.” → Sylvia
“Ah… Huh?” → Lucy

Lucy obediently let Sylvia touch her neck gently, and after a few minutes of feeling a comforting warmth around her neck, she suddenly felt able to talk without difficulty anymore.

After thanking Sylvia and bowing to her numerous times, she then stared at Shen and bowed to him as well, then left back inside the cave once again, not saying another word.

““…””

Shen and Sylvia were now all alone while a silence that left even the gentle wind to be heard how it was whistling through the moving leaves of the tall trees.

“…Come. Let’s find a better place to talk about this.” → Shen
“…”

Not knowing what else to do, Shen simply said while he turned around and took a few steps, only to hear no footsteps behind. Confused, Shen turned around wishing to ask what happened, but a sudden hug surprised him completely, Sylvia’s head now resting on his chest while she was tightly embracing him from the front, her hands even trembling ever so slightly.

“Uh?” → Shen
“Shen… I beg you… don’t be cold with the ones that went through such experiments…” → Sylvia
“What?” → Shen

A trembling tone resounded from her voice, making Shen even more confused while he was unable to understand what Sylvia concretely wanted from him.

“Wait. You wish for me to be kinder with them? But aren’t I kind already? I’m not punishing her for disobeying orders, am I?” → Shen
“No, Shen… The way you treated Lucy just now… it made me remember how my foster-father treated me when I was but a child… I saw you in his silhouette, Shen. When you lashed out at Lucy… I felt like you did that to me.” → Sylvia
“W-what?! I might be a crude and a rather unrefined person, but not this crude with you!” → Shen
“… Just promise me, Shen… That you’ll be kinder… not just with me…” → Sylvia

Her request seemed ridiculous for Shen, but he couldn’t help seeing her like this, patting her head once then saying:

“Alright. I’ll try. Not sure if I’ll be able to change so fast, but I promise I’ll at least try.” → Shen
“Thank you,  Shen…” → Sylvia
“… Alright. Now let’s go. Here is really not the best place to have our conversation.” → Shen

Shen then thought of a way to separate himself from Sylvia, but only to see that there was no other way than to hold her hand. He simply did so while strolling through the woods, in silence, none saying a word while strolling through the dead leaves which were yet to decompose and mildly snowy environment, until they found a ravine of which’s edge left for a calming view over another tall forest.

It seems that this place is higher than anticipated. Didn’t know there was such a tall natural barrage behind the mountain. → Shen

Shen stared amazed at the beautiful view, then took out two wooden chairs from his inventory and placed them one beside the other a little further from the edge, having the perfect view in front of them.

“This place will do. Now we can talk.” → Shen
“Yes…” → Sylvia

They both sat down but only another awkward silence befell both of them, neither saying a word, just like before only the blowing wind and some rustling leaves with dry branches being audible. Although it was still mid-winter, many trees were still green, some just barely rusted, but most only had a few shriveled leaves that were ready to separate and fall at any moment as a gentle but cold wind threatened with blowing it away. A thin layer of snow covered the branches, making the view seem clean and pure, almost completely white.

…This kind of silence is no good for my health… But I’m not sure if I should be the one to start the conversation… → Shen

Shen’s mind spun while trying to find the most logical answer to this predicament, unable to come up with anything useful. He then remembered something and spurted out seemingly unaware while staring at the white snow.

“What happened with the white rose…?” → Shen
“Huh…?” → Sylvia

Sylvia’s lowered head moved upwards, staring somewhat surprised by his question. Feeling ridiculous for asking such a question, Shen froze in place as he wasn’t sure how to repair his mistake. But still, Sylvia still smiled as she answered sincerely.

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“It’s just so beautiful, I asked Yuri to create a little spatial magic circle inside the ring so I can always have it with me. Look.” → Sylvia

She touched her ring and a little, yet-to-bloom pure white rose inside a stone-cup, appeared in her hands, holding it dearly while looking at it mesmerized.

“Yesterday night I stared at it until I fell asleep while the blue rays of the moon shone atop of it. It gave the rose such a holy appearance… it was magical.” → Sylvia

A sweet and calm smile appeared on Sylvia’s face while talking about the rose, making Shen sigh amused.

“Now you understand how I feel when I look at you…?” → Shen
“Huh…?” → Sylvia
“Ah, damn…” → Shen

Lately, I can’t control my mouth it seems. → Shen

Somehow annoyed with himself, Shen covered his mouth while turning around, but Sylvia continued to stare at him with a bright blush on her face. She then lowered her head and leaned on his shoulder at first, only to slowly fall and lay down on his lap with her head while putting the rose back inside the storage ring so as to not harm it, surprising Shen hard enough to make his eyes open wide.

“… Sylvia…? Wasn’t the man supposed to take such naps?” → Shen
“I don’t remember such rules.” → Sylvia
“Okay…” → Shen

Shen gave up on trying to make her get up, and simply looked at her beautiful face, at first only admiring, then faltering reaching out with his hand and started to gently pat her head.

Feeling his gentle touch, Sylvia opened her eyes then, with a sad glint in her eyes she asked.

“Shen… you already know that I was an experiment like Lucy as well, right?” → Sylvia
“Yes… You told me about it.” → Shen

A grave tone escaped his mouth after remembering how he found Lucy. Thinking that Sylvia might have gone through similar experiences made Shen feel his blood boiling for some reason.

Feeling his anger, Sylvia smiled helplessly then she continued.

“Then… do you remember the fact that I was also adopted by the head-priest from a monastery inside Leorio Kingdom…?” → Sylvia
“That… I wasn’t aware.” → Shen
“No… you were… but you forgot.” → Sylvia
“Sorry…” → Shen

Shen gently caressed her long hair while apologizing, Sylvia feeling more relaxed at his every suave touch. Shen who listened intently while at the same time, admired her distinct yet sensible features gently and easily caressed her head, neck, and face, a frown visible on his face while listening to her story.

“It’s fine… It wasn’t your fault, I can understand that.” → Sylvia

Sylvia raised her hand and touched Shen’s face as well, feeling his warmth and trying to make him relax his furrowed eyebrows. She then continued with vacant eyes while thinking of the past with a slight pain in her heart.

“Even since I knew of myself, I was already inside one of such cages, so they had all the time to do many things on me until the age of 12 when I had to take part in later known as my last experiment… It was indeed the last one because afterward, I was unable to see, smell, while my body would be unable to bear a child from there forth, my body failing to handle the number of chemicals and miasma forced into my body, such slowly degrading. Ah! But don’t worry now. You did something incredible enough to repair my body completely. At this point, I can say I’m indebted to you, while the forms of meditations taught by the priests helped me slowly recover my vitality.” → Sylvia

Sylvia tried to quickly finish her sentence as she felt Shen’s heartbeat sing a wild beat, just like that of a person in rage. However, when Shen heard the continuation, his heart calmed a little bit and another tone of guilt was also added to the fiery beat, feeling guilty for being unable to remember all this news.

“…I remember nothing of this…! Are you sure everything is fine now?” → Shen

His hands trembled in frustration and asked with worry and frustration still unsure while staring intently at her eyes, but Sylvia then laid down on her back atop his lap and looked at Shen from below, a small and calming smile on her face.

“I’m all fine, Shen. No need to worry anymore. If you don’t remember, then it’s still fine as my memory of that time is still vivid in my mind.” → Sylvia

- my thoughts:
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