Rika made a funny grin. “Not too fast, after all you have been unconscious for more than a week.”
“A week??” I asked surprised. “Thats… impossible.”
“Well, that is just the time I’m been in this room with you, not including the several days that I was in surgery. The doctors said that you really did yourself a number by trying to fight and move across the city while poisoned. They say that you aren’t tough, you’re just stupid.” She laughed a little, “I guess that makes two of us.”
I shook my head in surprise. Had I really been unconscious for that long? It seemed like a long time but if Rika said it was true then it must be. Finally I looked back at her and asked, “And Kirk is he alright?”
She huffed, “That lucky bastard managed to escape with practically no injuries. He has been visiting the hospital every day since the incident making sure that we were being taken care of. I’m sure we will be in later today if you want to say hello to him.”
“And the others? Elizabeth, Alfred, and the other Hunters.” I asked.
She grimaced a little bit. “Well Elizabeth and Alfred are both alive. They had some bad injuries but not as bad as ours though. I came by yesterday to tell me that they were being released to the hospital. One of the other Hunters however didn’t make it. The injuries that the Duke had given him was just too much for him to recover or the doctors to fix.”
“I see.” I looked down at the sheets. “Had I not been reckless in that first battle I might have been health before the battle with the Duke. If I had been there from the beginning then that might have never happened.”
“No human goes through life without making a mistake.” She looked sorrowful. “It is my fault as well. I had planned that battle and I was unable to protect all of them. I knew that I might not be able to save them but I saw no other way to beat the Duke.”
We watched each other from across the room in silence for a few minutes neither of us wanting to talk first. Finally I managed to speak, “You said Elizabeth and Alfred came by yesterday. What did they say? We risked a lot of lives in the city, what is going to happen to us and them?”
Rika grabbed the upper portion of her broken arm with her good hand. She held it while she spoke, “I told them it was unnecessary but they took responsibility for my plan. There was a panel of Istan government officials who gathered to decide what to do.”
She sighed, “I guess it was better than I expected. The two of them are being stripped of command and being put on indefinite retirement. Most of the other Hunters are being reprimanded and some military command is going to be put in command of the Hunters for the foreseeable future.”
“Sounds bad.” I said feeling some sympathy for them. Being retired for a Hunter generally meant the removal of privileges to leave the city and go into the Jungle. It was a painful punishment for a Hunter.
“Yes but there is a silver lining.”
“It won’t last. Smaller cities like Istan are always struggling for Hunters. I expect that the two of them will be reinstated sooner or later. There is also a reason why normal humans are only rarely placed in charge of Hunters. They can’t handle the threat of Beasts and ordering around Hunters in the field without a strong instinct of your own generally ends in failure.”
Rika shrugged with only one arm, “It might be a few years but I expect this place to be back to normal eventually.”
“Will they be safe from Beasts until then?”
“Probably. Most Beasts aren’t much of a threat to a city anyway and those that are would be wary to attack a city that managed to fend of a Duke.”
“What about us?” I asked.
“It seems we are being left out of it. Since Elizabeth and Alfred took responsibility for the plan we became just Hunters from another city that helped and followed orders. Unless they wanted to file a complaint with Districts then there isn’t much that they can do to us.”
Feeling adventurous I turned to one side as I spoke, “That is good at least. Do you think that Districts will question our involvement in this.” I tried pushing myself off the bed but found my arms weak and instead just collapsed backward onto the bed again.”
“You shouldn’t push yourself too hard. After all you have just been in a coma for a week. Also the doctors said that we weren’t going to be released for another week at the earliest.”
I stuck out my tongue and make a frowning grimacing face. “Eh, I don’t want to be stuck here for another week. That sounds horrible.”
“You have barely been up ten minutes and already you can’t stand being here. Suck it up. How do you think I feel having been unable to do anything for a week.” She stared fire at me trying to force me to share her suffering.
I threw up my hands, my back still on the bed, “Fine, fine. I’ll wait, at least until I have strength to throw you over my shoulder and run away.”
Rika chuckled, “Not dignified but certain better than staying here.” She looked down at the bed and then curse, “Darn it, you made me lose my place in the book.” Rika picked it back up and began paging through it looking for her place.
I laid on the bed while she did that. Despite not being up for very long I already felt tire again. However my sleep was forced to wait. Not even a minute latter several nurses burst into the room. They then proceeded to poke and prod me, making sure I was alright and that all the effects of the poison had worn off.
Finally they left after making sure I knew that I shouldn’t leave until I was totally better. I felt exhausted, more than I had from any battle and I didn’t think it was due to the aftereffects of the poison. I could see Rika sitting on her bed smirking at me.
“Having fun are you?” I softly yelled at her.
She didn’t respond and just looked back down at her book, continuing to read, still smirking. I relaxed for a while however things from my poison addled dream began to come back to me. That moment in the dream when I attacked Rika. I shoved it away and then sat up.
It had become late in the evening. Maybe I had drifted off for a short moment and hadn’t realized it. Rika was still reading her book but she looked farther along in it. Something gnawed at my mind and finally I asked, “Rika, can I ask you a question?”
She looked up at me, “Sure.”
“During your battle with Duke I head you.”
“You did? Weren’t you a bit aways recovering until Kirk came to find you?” She asked.
“Yes, but I could still hear your voice. It was just a bit before Kirk showed up. I heard you calling for me. You were commanding me to come and help you.”
Rika sat there on the bed in silence. I waited but she didn’t say anything so I continued to speak, “I thought I was imagining it until Kirk came and told me what was happening. Then I couldn’t resist any longer. I felt compelled to come to you aid. Why is that?” Now that I had finally brought my concealed thoughts to the surface I felt a small amount of anger bubbling to the surface.
She continued to stay silent for a moment and just before I was about to speak again, this time in anger, she spoke, “Do you want to hear some excuse, some justification?”
“Are you saying that it was you?”
“Yes, I called you to me to fight the Duke even though I knew that you were weakened from the poison.”
I furrowed my brow. I didn’t know how to react. She wasn’t reacting how I expected to so I had difficulty figuring out how to respond. “What was it that you did?”
She looked away from me and toward the window, looking outside like she was trying to avoid looking at me. “I commanded you. I can’t tell you how I do it, I just can do it. When I speak in the right way Beasts and Hunters obey me.
“And you used this against me?”
“Yes, I used it against you. I also used it against the Duke’s Court, and the other Hunters. I felt it was necessary to win. I think it was necessary in the same way just letting the Duke into the city was necessary.” She continued to stare out the window.
“I don’t like that.” I said growling at her.
“If you want to hate me then do. I controlled you, forced you to do me bidding. You have every right to hate me.” There was shame and sorrow in her words.
I forced myself to the edge of the bed. I managed to stumble to my feet. It was difficult to keep my feet but using the edge of the bed for support I managed it. I felt like I couldn’t effectively walk so instead I pushed myself off the bed and stumbled a few feet. Before I fell I managed to grab hold of Rika’s bed. I pulled on it and managed to keep my feet. I loomed over the injured Rika.
She looked away from the window and toward me. “Do you want to take revenge for what I did. I suppose you have that right. Even if I wanted to stop you I don’t think I would be capable.
I reached out grabbed her by the collar of the hospital gown. I pulled her face toward me. Then I shook her. “That isn’t want I didn’t like.” I continued to shake her, “Necessary? Necessary? I hate that word. They told me that it was necessary for them to lock me up, to protect people from me.” My frustration and angry began to overflow forcing tears out my eyes.
“I don’t care that you ordered me around, you did that during the entire beast siege. How is this any different? But what I don’t like is your righteous attitude where you think you can justify yourself because you where just doing what was necessary. Fuck necessary.” I was screaming at Rika
“Then what?” Yelled Rika back, “Should I just let everyone die? Or maybe try to save everybody and then fail because I am not strong enough? What am I supposed to do?”
“Be strong!” I shouted, “Be strong enough to be selfish!” I was crying while yelling at her. “If you have the ability to be strong don’t be afraid to us it. If you only do what is necessary everybody will eventually end up trapped by their own beliefs.”
“What if I’m not strong enough? What if I fail? It isn’t just me that suffers, everybody suffers.”
“What about now? Is everybody happy? Is everybody smiling because you did the necessary thing? Are Elizabeth and Alfred happy that they were forced to retire? Are those dead Hunters happy? Doing what is necessary doesn’t make people happy.”
“The what does? Losing? Could they be happy if they were all dead?”
I stared at her directly into the eyes, “I would be happier to be dead then I would be to return to that cell. At least I died fighting to be free. If you died that day to the Duke would you have been satisfied with you choices? Everyone always regrets failure but I never again what to regret success.”