Chapter 18: The Weakest

Ro: “The Eyes of Truth, huh? So, is us coming here part of your plan too?”

Ro asks while looking at Ethan furiously. Ethan sighs in response.

Ethan: “Isn’t it strange how you all have started to treat me like some kind of mastermind? It’s almost as if anything that happens to you that you don’t like happens because I planned it.”

Ethan says so with a completely, uncharacteristically, serious look on his face. His response doesn’t sound like a joke, which means it could either be truth or … a deception.

Barry: “Are you saying you are uninvolved?”

Barry asks with a serious expression while trying to figure out his next move.

Ethan: “No, I’m not. I never said that.”

He doesn’t say anything further than that. Seeing so, Sneha sighs.

The exchange between them has been bizarre to say the least. Two of them, the more powerful ones, are on guard against the other who is speaking without any regard for his safety.

Barry: “You sure are an interesting person, Ethan. Can I ask you a question?”

Barry says so while straightening his back which has been on guard until now. He looks Ethan in the eye as he says so.

Ethan: “Wasn’t that a question?”

Sneha: “Stop screwing around, will you?”

Sneha sighs in irritation on Ethan trying to act like a comedian. At the end of the day, it’s not like she wants to answer any of Barry’s questions, though she definitely wants to know what questions he wants to ask.

Barry: “I’ll take that as a ‘yes’.”

Ethan: “How was that a ‘yes’?”

Ethan still tries to distract Barry from the topic but he would not be distracted so easily, and so Ethan sighs and gives up.

Barry: “What are you trying to gain from all this?”

Ethan: “All this?”

Barry: “Getting involved with people who can kill you in an instant.”

As Barry elaborates what he meant, he gives Sneha a glance. Ethan sighs and says.

Ethan: “You want to know what I am trying to gain from ‘all this’, do you?”

Barry asks a question that both Ro and Sneha want to ask as well.

Ro: “Yeah, I want to know as well.”

Sneha: “Yes, you should answer.”

This isn’t a question anyone except Ethan could answer. This man has never told anyone what his goal is in all this, so only he knows what he wants. The choice to answer and to not answer falls upon Ethan.

He sighs. Seeing that, Sneha looks at him sharply as if to say he won’t be spared from this situation. But he already knows well what he has to do. This choice will affect the actions of at least these three people in the future. Seeing that they are all more powerful than him, he wouldn’t want to stay on their bad side. And hence, Ethan Kales decided he would answer with the truth.

Ethan: “Nothing.”

But what if the truth is something very hard to swallow?

Barry: “Don’t mess around.”

Not doing that. Ethan says to Barry but only in his mind.

Ro: “Tell us already.

Already did so. Ethan says to Ro but only in his mind.

Sneha: “Come clean.”

I have nothing more to say. Ethan says to Sneha but only in his mind.

Barry: “Tch!”

Irritation is clear on his Barry’s face. Ethan right now is standing among monsters, all capable of tearing him apart. Even Ro who was not so powerful when he was a living has become capable of a lot of things as a ghost. There is no one here who he can defeat if it ever comes to that.

Ethan: “I have already answered your question – I plan to gain nothing here.”

He doesn’t plan to gain anything. It’s the truth. It’s the truth because he doesn’t believe he’ll gain anything by doing what he is trying to do.

Any one of them can tear him apart at any moment. He is completely defenseless. And even now, more monstrous entities would be coming his way. He is the weakest person on this island and there is no one coming to save him from here – but, he himself decided to come to this place, and he already knew this is how it would be. There’s no room for excuses, no room for mistakes, and no room for shaking in fear.

Ethan: “I know why it is hard to believe. It is human psychology to think one would want something in return for doing anything dangerous, and I guess this psychology works for ghosts as well.”

He pauses, tries to calm his own nerves, and then looks straight at Barry.

Ethan: “But I don’t gain anything here. That’s the truth. Whether you believe me or not, that fact that it is the truth does not change.”

Hearing him say that with a serious face, the three monsters there would really believe him, that is, if he wasn’t Ethan Kales, they would have probably believed him.

Barry: “We all know how good you are at deceiving people. This is the first time we have met but I already know I should never trust you. You will have no luck with such a petty excuse, come up with a better one.”

Ethan expected this reaction, so seeing it happen doesn’t faze him. But the fact that someone capable of turning the whole island upside-down would say this to him in almost a threatening tone – there’s no human being who would not be terrified by that.

Ethan: “Tch!”

He hides his fear, he hides his anxiety. There’s a mask on his face – the mask of the devil – so he needs to keep playing the part.

Ethan: “I guess it is fair for you all to think I am lying, but as far as I remember, we didn’t come here to chat, did we?”

He has to say these lines to someone more powerful than him. He has to say this to someone who can crush him in an instant.

Sneha: “I’m sorry but you just have to answer that question properly.”

Ethan looks at Sneha with a fake grin on his face.

Ethan: “And who the hell said that you can force me to do anything?”

He’s terrified alright. But he knows how to deal with it. He won’t just break down in front of them; he’ll keep up the act. He’ll put this precious life he has on the line and gamble. If even a single time his gamble fails to pay off, it’s over for him.

Sneha: “Are you saying you have something to use against me?”

She looks at Ethan with scorn and suspicion. She thinks he’s a mastermind who can come up with something to defeat a monster like her.

Ethan: “Of course I do. Do you think I’ll come here that unprepared even after knowing I’ll be among you monsters?”

Ethan says so with confidence; fake confidence.

Barry: “So you are implying you have something that can help you keep someone like me and her at bay?”

Barry asks while reading to attack him. Ethan doesn’t want to answer. He wants to drop to his knees and beg for mercy, but …

Ethan: “Keep you at bay? Don’t take me so lightly, I can wipe your existence of the face of the planet. Sure I may suffer somewhat in exchange, but I’ll stay alive while you’ll be gone forever.”

The last statement he made is to keep them from thinking he’s bluffing. By adding a condition at the end, he made it sound like he had some sort of contract that will help him defeat Barry in exchange for going through some suffering. Now Barry just has to consider the possibility of him telling the truth so there’s no way he would do something that may only end up in him being defeated.

Ro: “I see. You have become quite a force to deal with, haven’t you?”

Ethan smiles and looks at Ro with eyes filled with malice.

Ethan: “Tell me something, you do know you only became a ghost instead of having your existence erased because I wanted you to? Or do you think that this situation is out of my control?”

Ethan keeps the bluff going. Sure he knew that Ro would turn into a ghost and sure he knew he’d come here. But he also knew that he can’t just beat him. He knows there’s no way to actually defeat him or anyone else here for that matter. He hasn’t taken this course or made anyone else take it. It’s a fact that this was just an inevitable thing to happen.

Why? Because the real mastermind had to make it happen anyhow.

Ethan: “What’s wrong? Why are you all silent all of sudden?”

He asks with a smug face, needless to say – a mask showing a smug face.

He knew full-well Ro would have died that day because someone else was out to kill him. After that, he was bound to meet Barry, realize that they need to get to Kais before their opponents do and henceforth, come to the island. Furthermore, there was no way to protect himself against Sneha if she decided to attack him.

So, he got to Ro before the other person could. He killed him and put a sense of wariness inside both Sneha and Ro. Looking at the fact that he is Ro’s killer and his actions led Ro to team up with Barry against him, Barry would be bound to be wary of him as well. With just that much, this ordinary human being would become an object of concern and wariness for three monstrously powerful beings.

He would become the scapegoat of the real mastermind, just like that mastermind wanted.

Ethan: “That’s right, that’s exactly right.”

He starts laughing as if he has lost his mind.

Barry: “You …”

His laughs grow louder.

Ro: “What the hell are you doing?”

They grow louder and louder filling every creature on the island with a sense of wariness against this maniac.

Sneha: “Stop laughing already!”

He doesn’t stop but does calm down a little as he looks at the three monsters surrounding him. But he also sees their eyes. The expression in their eyes – is one that he loves to see. If his reason for doing this, the reason for knowingly putting himself in the line of fire to let the actual culprit get away, is to be asked, this answer is closest to the truth – seeing those expressions on the faces of monsters.

Ethan: “HA! HA! Ha! Ha! Ha! God … damn right! You should be scared of me.”

That is to say, the monsters priding themselves as being capable of killing hundreds of humans with a flick – should be scared of this human. This notion is the only source of true happiness for Ethan.

*******************************

While speeding through the forest, it is pretty easy to miss a few things here and there. I can’t really keep track of every single detail I come across after all. So, it was pretty easy for us to miss this spot, but somehow we didn’t.

Dragon: “What do you think?”

As we were running, we came across the corpse of a dead beast. It’s a bear-like large beast that had golden fur and looked like a decoration. That is, it would have looked like that if the scarlet liquid wasn’t coming out of its stomach.

Kais: “If I remember correctly, his name was Hans.”

I think he matches the description that girl gave me for ‘Hans’ pretty well.

Dragon: “Yeah, I believe that’s the name she gave this creature, not that it needed any names.”

I wonder if the dragon feels any remorse over this creature. His reaction doesn’t suggest anything like that but he is kneeling in front of the corpse trying to see if he can do anything to help.

Kais: “Does this affect the forest or you in some way?”

Dragon: “He was the biggest predator in the forest so the ecosystem will surely lose its balance for a while but why the hell would it affect me?

The dragon says so in a mater-of-fact tone. I guess that stands to reason. I myself wouldn’t really care about a dead animal all that much, especially one I never even seen before. Sure I feel bad for it and all but in the situation we are in, one of us might end up in this situation and that would be far worse.

Dragon: “You are worrying one of us will be found dead like this one of these days, right?”

I hate it when someone else reads my mind. I mean, I don’t read people’s minds even though I literally can so stay out of mine. But I guess he’s right.

Dragon: “Don’t worry. I am pretty sure I know who did this to him. And that person is probably not targeting any humans right now.”

I agree with that. The bear died because of a hole in its stomach that opens up to the back. It is almost as if a bullet, the size of big rock, went past there. This has to be the work of that rabbit-like spirit used by the woman who would have reached this place sometime ago.

Dragon: “She’s only targeting me.”

Kais: “Well, I doubt it will be good for either of us if we let her get to the beach before we do. We can catch up too, so why are we wasting time here?

I urge him to start running again. I don’t think he is actually feeling remorse about anything. If I am to be honest, I would say he is waiting for me to start running by saying ‘I’m going ahead’ so he could get a valid excuse to be behind me.

Dragon: “Ah! (Sighs)”

That won’t happen, dragon. Now get moving. I almost want to scream this at him but I know there’s no point to it.

Dragon: “Well sure, let’s get going.”

Saying that, the dragon starts running towards the beach again with me following behind him.

At this point, I’d say I’m the weakest person on the island. Though if Ethan is also here, then maybe that honor would belong to him, making me the second weakest. But in either case, I can’t win against any of them except Ethan.

The auras I am sensing from the beach are all much larger than mine. The dragon is obviously stronger than me as well and I really doubt I stand a chance against the rabbit-like spirit Sona controls. In this situation, I guess I should be scared, but somehow I am not. I should be thinking about how to get out of here but I can keep my cool and focus on doing what I can while I am here.

Kais: “Damn!”

My own mind is incomprehensible to me. I can’t understand how and why I am acting the way I am acting. This just feels off. My mindset and emotions are perfect for this situation, almost too perfect. I really doubt a normal person would act like me in this situation.

Dragon: “You seem worried.”

The dragon says so while looking at me with one of his eyes. It is kinda impressive how he can run so well with one eye facing backwards.

Kais: “Well,”

Though I am surprised he bothered to look back to see my facial expressions at a time like this, maybe the reason he turned back was different.

Kais: “Guess I am.”

I shouldn’t try to act when he has already caught on. But what I should do is mislead him.

Kais: “I am worried someone I don’t want to meet ever in my life might be on the beach.”

By saying that, I shift his attention back to the beach. If I tell him a reason for worrying besides anything related to the beach, he would lose focus.

Dragon: “I see. Then I guess the only way to find out is to get there, huh?”

Thinking that I was also worried about something related to beach would help him concentrate on the road. That in turn, allows me to concentrate on my thoughts.

Dragon: “Or do you want to stop?”

The dragon says almost as if to tease me.

Kais: “No, that won’t be necessary, but be sure to tell me if you want to stop.”

I decide to backfire on him.

Dragon: “Don’t try to be cheeky.”

A smile comes to my face seeing the dragon acting salty. But regardless, now he would not get distracted by my worries and would not stop without telling me, so it should present no more problems for me.

Kais: “Ah!”

And there it is. This whole calculating approach to the situation, trying to manipulate the dragon the way I want to. This is exactly what I am worried about. My mind is working like a machine’s. It’s as if something like this is only normal for me.

Kais: “Well, I guess we’ll see what happens.”

The dragon looks back curiously to try to understand what I mean. But there’s no need for me to tell him. I decide to act like I didn’t notice his gaze and soon enough, he turns away.

I can’t really say if I would even get any of my answers, but I hope I do. In this situation, I am pretty sure the dragon is incapable of understanding whatever’s wrong with me. Even if he does understand, it’s dangerous to rely on him because he may try to twist the facts to benefit him. So I guess the only way to find out the cause of all this is to meet Ozyllus. But that would have to wait. For now, I need to focus on whatever is going on at the beach … which we should reach in five minutes.

*******************************

Ethan: “That said – it hasn’t been two days here, has it?”

Ethan says while looking at the forest.

Barry: “What?”

Ethan: “You know time passes differently here and than in outside, right?”

Barry: “I do.”

During this conversation, the other two are staying silent, not because of any mannerisms, but because they just didn’t wanted to talk to Ethan.

Ethan: “According to what I know, two days should have passed on the island between us coming here and the night we killed Ro.”

Ro: “Tch!”

Ro clicks his tongue hearing that. It’s natural for him to get annoyed on hearing something about his own death in such a matter-of-fact manner.

Barry: “That’s what you are worried about?”

Ethan: “I guess I am. Do you know anything about it?”

Barry looks at Ethan suspiciously and then turns his eyes away from him to the forest.

Barry: “Hmm … how about I not tell you?”

Ethan: “(Sighing) Well, I guess that’s how it will be.”

They all turn to look towards the forest as they sense someone coming.

Barry: “Well, I know that aura. I guess he is here to greet us, huh?”

Ethan: “From your tone, it almost sounds like there is only one person coming.”

Barry: “From yours, it almost sounds like more than one is coming. I wonder why you may think so.”

Barry says so as if to mock Ethan’s eyes.

Dragon: “I see you’re back.”

The voice echoes from the forest as the figure of the slightly muscular, tan-skinned man emerges.

Ethan: “Guess we’ll hold that off for now.”

Hearing the dragon’s voice, Ethan mutters so under his breath as he sees Barry focusing on the dragon.

Barry: “Didn’t I say I will?”

Dragon: “You did. And you see –”

???: “So it was a lie after all.”

Another voice comes from the forest. This time, this voice comes from someone the five people present on the beach very well know.

Ethan: “Well, I guess all the main players are here.”

Ethan says so at the same time Kais walks out of the forest.

Facing his long-dead brother, the man who came to kidnap him, the woman who helped in kidnapping him, the dragon who tricked him into going in the tomb and the man who is an ordinary human but somehow is the most dangerous and mysterious of them all, for some reason, at this point in time, there forms a smile on Kais’ face.

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