The Laid Back Hero of Atlas – Chapter 38: A Hero’s Day Job

Before leaving the room for the day the women back home wrote me a note on the notepad.

“After your meeting we need to talk…”, I read trying to think what I did.

Looking back in the past month I couldn’t think of anything I did. It could be a miss understanding about what I do down in the Black Market. Thinking of all the things I could have done that might be mistaken for something bad I realized it was higher than I could count off the top of my head. There were other things they might want to talk about such as Clarissa’s inn, Lucilla’s lab, and a few other things that the women wanted to do. I placed my hopes in that it was one of those, and not something that would come to bite me in the butt.

“Alright, where to first?”, I asked leaving the inn with the two of them.

“What in particular are you interested in?”, Joan asked showing off her white sundress with a small twirl in front of me.

“Hmm are their any unique shops? Stuff like antiques, ancient armor and weapons, paintings, and other things like that will spark my interest.”, I said.

“Hmm…”, they both said.

While they were thinking I realized that we were attracting a lot of attention. Not only were tourists looking at Joan in her white sundress, but also Crystal in her blue sundress. Strangely the women stuck to wearing the same clothing as one another just in different colors. It made shopping easy, but the flip side was I heard rumors that people thought it was me being cheap with them. In reality I had asked them to choose different dresses…that never happened though.

Leading me to the other side of this level we enter a shop that had quite a unique sign. On the front of his building he didn’t have just any sign…he had a boob sign. Seeing this I thought that the women would appear behind me to kill me thinking this was a whore house. Looking at the two of them they both started laughing.

“Don’t read too much into the sign.”, Crystal said, “The man who owns this place just collects weird, random, and strange things.”

“I can see that.”, I said still wrapping my head around the situation.

Walking into the store sure enough the place was quite different. Armors that looked out of fantasy books lined the wall making my eyes sparkle with excitement. Running around through the store looking at everything it took me nearly all day to see his complete collection. Only stopping for lunch the women watched with smug expressions as they knew they had chosen wisely.

“So where is the old man?”, I asked.

“He actually doesn’t live in the capital. This place is operated by golems, and theft is prevent via magic.”, Crystal said.

“Well I’d like to meet the owner one day.”, I said, “These armors incredible. That completely silver one I think is called DoomBringer, and that violet one covered in spikes is called Poison Rose.”

“How do you know the names?”, Joan asked.

“They all look like armors I have read about in books from my world.”, I said, “It’s just really cool to see them in real life.”

Smiling the women said the store would be closing soon. With a sigh I nodded my head leaving the store regretful I hadn’t brought my phone with me today. The next day I wanted to return with my camera, but the women looked hesitant about it.

“Is bad if I take photos of them?”, I asked.

“No…that isn’t the problem.”, Joan said rubbing her arm, “Staying at the inn prepping for tomorrow sounds like a much better idea.”

“I agree!”, Crystal said.

Looking at them closely both were sweating quite a bit. Knowing that they were lying to me I asked them to tell me the real reason. Looking at each other they sighed with resignment.

“I am sure you know that some countries make examples of those they capture, correct?”, Joan stated.

“Yes, its understandable as they are war criminals.”, I said, “I’d expect nothing less after what most war criminals have done. If that is the only reason I can get past that issue.”

Grabbing the back of my shirt Crystal looked at them floor.

“Not all countries do so to war criminals only…”, she said.

“I mean I guess I could see regular criminals being treated as-“, I started to say.

“Even if they were charged for living on disputed land.”, she said, “That would make them enemies of the state.”

“…I mean I can think of it as illegal land claimers…”, I said.

“James, we all saw how you reacted when a baby was killed.”, Joan said holding me in place, “We are both begging you not to go out.”

“…why not…”, I said starting to think of what could be going on.

“Today is the weekly execution of criminals of the state.”, Joan said, “The death is swift for demons, but for others…”

I stood there looking at her not wanting to think about it.

“The country is very serious about defending its claims.”, Crystal said, “They aren’t going to chase off families who were only trying to make a home.”

Those words were enough to put an image in my head I didn’t want to think of. Running out of the room I want to go to the edge of this city level to confirm I was making things up. Instead of calming my nerves one of my worst nightmares was shown to me. Not even making out the front door I saw what the two of them wanted me to not see. Outside in the entertainment square they were making a public demonstration for everyone. In the center five children under the age of twelve lay bleed from whip lashes.

Looking on stage their parents, both human and beastman alike, stood pulling against their chains trying to get to their children. Watching the crowd pelt the children with anything they could get their hands on my heart shattered. These children hadn’t, most likely, done a single thing to deserve this treatment. Trying to protect one another they huddled together with the oldest taking the most hits. Getting fed up with it one of the men in the crowd ran up to them.

“…stop it…”, I said clenching my fist in anger, “…they are innocent…”

Repeatedly kicking the with his boot the man laughed at them calling them every name he could think of. Watching the scene unfold I felt Crystal, and Joan grab a hold of me.

“James, don’t do it!”, Joan said, “You will only end up in trouble if you help them!”

Drawing his knife the man grabbed the youngest child yanking her from the others.

“Not my baby!!”, the child’s mother said almost choking herself on her chains, “She hasn’t done anything wrong!!”

Not paying a bit of attention to her he proceed to stab the child in the chest laughing like a maniac. Crying her family the little child only held out for a few moments before giving up the ghost. Dropping her to the ground like a dead animal he started kicking her corpse as the crowd cheered for him. Seeing the childs expression reminded me of my four children, and that’s when I snapped.

“YOU BASTARD!!!”, I shouted as my blessing activated.

Blown back the two women caught themselves on the railing outside the inn. Closing the distance with the man instantly he didn’t have a chance to utter a single word. Grabbing his neck I crushed instantly before ripping it off his body. Igniting his body in black flames I turned to the crowd tossing his head at him.

“Any one of you lays a hand on any of these people you will answer to me!!”, I snapped pouring all my rage out, “You call yourselves civilized yet you make merry murdering children!! You’re no better than the humans, and beastman that you despise! What did these people do to you! Is simply breathing a crime to all of you!? I have seen the way each of you glared at me simply for being human! Other than killing that man for brutally murdering a child what have I done to you?! What have I done to make you hate me the instant you saw me! I am not even from your fucked up world! What could I have done to upset you?”

No one could look me in the eyes as they tried push this whole thing out of their heads.

“What if this was your child…”, I said picking up the young girl closing her eyes, “I am a father myself, and I am sickened by this. I am married to demihumans, humans, and demons. I love each of them more than I could ever express, and to see an innocent child murdered in cold blood solely because she wasn’t a demon hurts me. What could this young child have done to offend you so much it was fair to kill her? She could have been someone who respect demons in the future yet you killed her for being different…I don’t look at children as human, demihuman, or demons. I look at them for what they are, CHILDREN!! They haven’t had enough life experience to say without a doubt they hate you.”

“You don’t know that!”, a few people in the crowd said.

“These people were just trying to make ends meet, weren’t they?”, I said.

“We were just trying to find a home…”, the daughters mother said, “Our village was wiped out by the Decay, and the three of us watched as everyone we loved die!”

The crowd silenced.

“We only wanted to have a home again after we watched our two older children die!”, she shouted, “I wanted to see my daughter smile again, and it almost happened! You attacked us without warning in the middle of the night in our half built home! You beat us, raped us, and then dragged us through the mud all the way here! My baby didn’t do anything to any of you!!”

The crowd started looking around restlessly. The guilt had finally set in now. They realized just how far they had gone for the sake of justice. These families were no different from them. They loved, they cried, and they had all experienced the lost of the people they carried about.

“You claim to want the hatred to end, but slaughtering children on any side won’t end the war!”, I shouted, “All you do is throw more wood on the fire of hate every time you kill them! Killing children of any race is barbaric!! If these adults were among those that killed your loved ones you have every right to be angry, and seek justice from them! These children aren’t responsible for any loss of life on your side!”

“He’s right…”, one of the men in the crowd said, “I lost my wife in a raid led by humans. I came every week to these events hoping I feel better, but I always end up feeling worse! I am so ashamed!! What would my peace-loving wife think if she saw the animal I have become!! I can’t bear the thought of the look she would give me if she knew what I have done!!”

Others in the crowd started thinking like that. Looking at the battered children they started thinking, “What if that was my child saw me like this…” As those thoughts spread they dropped their stones, and bricks looking at the prisoners. Starting to realize they were only killing innocent people some of them started to puke. Had it been people who had done them harm they wouldn’t feel regret, however these people were only looking for a home. Many people in this town were looking for the same, and yet just because these people were different made it a crime. Unchaining them the crowd expected them to shout at them. Instead the first thing the parents did was embrace the children. Forgetting where they were their only focus was the children. Running up to me the little girls parents asked for their daughter.

Spinning around they saw she was breathing, and started bursting into tears. Embracing their daughter tightly the couple broke into tears showering her with their love. Turning to the crowd I asked them one question.

“Who among your kind devised such a barbaric act!”, I shouted, “Tell him I want a duel him to the death! I want a one on one with the person responsible for these horrible acts against the innocent! If he isn’t a coward he will fight me head on for what he believes is right!!”

The crowd started talking amongst themselves before the same man from a short time ago came forward.

“I know it won’t atone for my actions, but the man you seek is Duke Redmond.”, he said, “He is the one they told all of us this was the only way to get the peace we wanted.”

“Let me ask you something…when was it going to be enough to satisfy you?”, I asked them, “How many people had to die for you to find peace?”

No one could answer me which meant no one had thought of it. Leaving them to return to their lives I took the families back to my mansion where I left them in the capable hands of George, and Darius. Asking me what I had in mind I said a debt has to be collected for the slaughter of thousands for sport! Returning back to the inn I marched up to the royal district with Joan, and Crystal following after me.

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