Halfway Living – Tristan Excerpt

*A VN excerpt taken from my WIP Halfway Living (Working Title). Created in mid 2019.

[-]: Tristan kneels down so as to get on my level. He hovers his hand over the fresh tourniquet on my arm, afraid to even touch me. His mouth is trembling, trying to say something but at a loss of words. Fortunately or unfortunately, his face is easy to read. Those calm eyes of his are dilated and shaky, worried that he’s about to lose something precious. It’s reminiscent of a kid in the market, afraid he has lost his family forever. 

[Evelyn]: Tris-

[Tristan]: It’s my fault. I’m so sorry.

[-]: He speaks before I can but his eyes never meet mine. Tears fall from his eyes while mine are still wet from before. 

[Tristan]: If only-

If only I had just killed him!

[-]: With incomparable force, he berates himself. A mixture of sadness and anger overwhelms him within arm’s length. 

[Tristan]: That damned bastard! Why didn’t I just shoot?! Now you-

Why am I so weak?!

[-]: Through sharp breaths, he shouts. His fists clench with enough pressure to form diamond.

[Evelyn]: No. No, don’t say that. It wasn’t your fault. 

Look at me.

You were trying to be fair. That’s all!

[-]: In my attempts to reassure him, I only succeed in aggravating him even more.

[Tristan]: Fair?! And where has that gotten me?! Telling me to look?! How about you look!  You’ve been around long enough now to see it, right? Even before you became Her shadow, it was frightfully evident!  That damned Vincent walked into your home, painted the walls red, dragged you out and beat you ragged! Do you know why?! Because being fair doesn’t work! Immunity by way of royalty or prestige; it’s just an easy way to weasel out of responsibility! And for that commoner?! If I had just blown his brains onto the road, you wouldn’t be bleeding right now! We wouldn’t have had to take refuge in this place! Bollocks to arresting him! The man should rot in hell and I should’ve sent him there!

Fair?! Nothing’s fair! Nothing ever was and nothing ever will be! Don’t try and tell me otherwise because I’ve tried! I’ve tried more than anyone in this world and oh how it loves to spit in my face! 

On the frontier, we’re killing people that are fighting for their homes! Their kingdom be damned! Their very homes are behind them in the countryside and the army is either burning them down or using them AFTER killing the people inside. But it’s alright. Because it’s fair. This kingdom, our wars, it’s just! We’re just! We are justice itself! All is fair because we say so!

Evelyn, I killed people. So many people that were just like me! So many families that were just like me! Do you think they were all soldiers? That they all had the means to fight back? 

I wasn’t always a commander you know? I followed orders! I was hypnotized by the dream of honor and glory too! How much better it became when I was a commander though! I was the one who ordered deaths on both sides! I could choose how people died! If they lived…

But here I am. In the Interior, the general of it. I was too weak. I couldn’t bear the blood once I was the one giving orders. My hands were stained and I finally looked down. 

I thought I could wash them. If I made the Interior better, those voices would stop haunting me. But it’s just as bad here, Hell, it may be even worse. There was no need to hide our sins on the frontier. At the end of the day, I’m sure we knew we were demons on a crusade. Now, I’ve got to deal with devils cloaked in perfume and jewelry. I’m seeing beggars in the alleys, lying in their own filth. Nobles tossing out food because it’s a color they don’t like. Every single one of them is at my throat despite me advocating for the whole. Day or night, asleep or awake, my soul is being dragged deeper into a darkness too thick for me to escape. 

There’s no point to being fair. The next time someone nips at my heels I’ll-

[-]: Violently, he draws his gun and points it to the doorway to emphasize his point. While he talked, there was an evident glint in his eye. But he’s reached the end of his rope. Any hatred has firmly regressed back into himself, waiting to resurge. 

Exhaling tiredly through gritted teeth, his arm falls limp. All he can manage is to hold his gun up to him, solemnly looking at it. Shaking, not out of anger, but out of sadness and desperation. He knows; as much as he insulted his fair and compassionate nature, it’s not possible for him to live any other way. Malevolence is a word far from his vernacular. A pure heart such as his couldn’t bear any more unnecessary bloodshed. 

Unnoticed despite an audible groan of pain, I take both my hands and put it on his cheeks. Tears are raining down them silently and I gently pull him towards me. Finally meeting eye to ear, his lips tremble while mine are in a strained grin of reassurance. Still embracing his face, I begin to speak.

[Evelyn]: You’re so strong, you know that?

[Tristan]: Please. Stop-

[-]: He tries to look away but I keep him focused on me. Even if it hurts a bit, I need to speak with him now. 

[Evelyn]: I won’t. You’re going to listen to me. 

[-]: I pause for a second and let silence sit in the air. I need his full attention.

He does seem to have a semblance of shock on his face masked by other emotions so I hope it worked.

[Evelyn]: Thank you. 

[-]: His eyes go wide and his whole body begins to shake even more. The dam breaks and he begins to cry even more than before.

[Evelyn]: Thank you, because no one has said it before. No one has said it enough. It can never be said enough. You’re the most wonderful man I’ve ever met and you are stronger than you even know. 

It’s so easy to be angry but you never lose the reigns. No matter what, your hand is diligent. Your past is- It’s a lot to take in. It seems like you still haven’t even processed it yourself and that’s fine. We have time and we’ll do it together. I promise. But please, never disregard yourself or your actions.

Even if people aren’t grateful, take pride in the fact that you’ve done the right thing. The right thing isn’t easy. In fact, it’s never easy. It’s the hardest path you can take because there are no shortcuts, no cheating. And that’s why you’re so strong. No matter what you face, you’re still going down the same path you always have. Can you fault a man who’s always trying to do right? 

[-]: He’s begun sobbing loudly, his shoulders high and tense.

[Evelyn]: You have me right by your side. At home, the palace, you have everyone as well. Anya, Elizabeth, Victor- They would gladly stay by your side and support you on the darkest of days. That’s why you continue to fight for the good of the world. Tristan, I love you for everything you are. Stop doubting yourself.

What happened today was far from your fault. In fact, it was expected. Maybe I wasn’t exactly hired into this position, but I’m still here. I’m walking forward knowing the risks and this blood running down my arm- it’s just proof of who I am. This is my path and no one else’s. If you weren’t here- If you never trained me- who knows if I’d even have been able to defend myself. 

Hold my hand. Feel it.

[-]: He lays a few fingers on the back of my right hand.

[Evelyn]: Hold it. Tighter.

[-]: And so he does. It’s not exactly tight, but it’s good enough.

I bend forward and push my forehead onto his. Our breath is hot, exhaling so close to one another. 

[Evelyn]: You can feel it, right? My warmth? This is me. I’m right here. I’m alive and I will be tomorrow too. You don’t need to worry. 

[Tristan]: I’m-

I’m sorry.

[Evelyn]: You don’t have anything to be sorry about.

[Tristan]: I know- I know but.

[Evelyn]: You don’t need to say anything. It’s fine. Stay close to me, alright?

[-]: He mumbles a quiet “okay” and sinks into my chest. I embrace him lovingly, patting his head and caressing him at the same time. While I still feel a tingle of pain in my arm, all my thoughts are centered on his well being. Sporadically, he jolts a bit with every sudden inhale. But this is good. Let it all out. We continue to hold each other, unaware of time.