Goodbye to the Cross Part 2

Franz scooped some ashes off of the fire cake he was making to see if it was done. Fire cakes were a very simple makeshift bread soldiers could make in the field, needing only flour and water for ingredients, a bowel to mix them in and a fire to cook with. While there were many methods, Franz preferred to make his by simply burying the dough under the coals, as if with an extremely simple oven. 

He turned his head when he heard the Harpy moan and groan as she awoke. She was rubbing here eyes as Franz approached her, canteen in hand. He noted that they were bright green when she looked up at him. 

“Drink”, he said, holding his canteen out for her. She blinked a few times, obviously very confused, but took it anyways, taking great, big gulps of what was left. Franz grimaced once more when she handed it back to him, empty. 

“Th…. thank you”, she said, her voice light and soft. Franz said nothing as he walked back to his campfire, little more than three yards away but quite the challenge for the wounded Harpy. 

Still though, she tried, but couldn’t even find the strength to stand, only an immense amount of pain and tears. She wailed as she curled up, clenching here eyes and teeth together. 

“You’re wound will take some time to heal, best not to stand for a while”, Franz called from his campfire. 

“Uh?”, the Harpy stammered as he looked down at her thigh, a bit of blood soaking the bandages. 

“You can’t even manage to take flight if you can’t stand, so don’t try, less you open your wound up again”

“Did you do this?”, she asked, a bit astounded. 

“Indeed I did”, Franz replied. 

The Harpy was about to thank him again, but she noticed the Order emblem on Franz’s shoulder, and her words were suddenly lost to her. While it was indeed taught amongst Monsters that men of the Order made good husbands, they were extremely dangerous if one could not bed them in time. She looked down at her bandaged thigh once more, her fears abating for a moment. 

He returned to her shortly, two fire cakes in hand and offered one to her. She meekly took one from him, sniffing the unfamiliar morsel before taking a bite. While not delicious, it was better than having an empty belly, but a simple biscuit was certainly a welcome treat in her condition. She watched him while she munched on the fire cake. He chewed on his own meager meal, sitting well away from her.

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Evening had come when he approached her again to change her bandages, though to her he seemed rather wary as he did so now that she was awake. Perhaps due to the power of the Demon Lord, his every touch upon made her skin tingle wherever her fingers caressed, though the same effect was greatly diminished by one with such calloused hands as Franz, who took great effort to ignore it on his end. 

It grew cold as night came, and Franz, not having a heart of iron despite his profession, carried her over to the fire so she would not freeze to death. He sat her down on the opposite end of the fire as he curled up to sleep, the fire good enough to last the night before the coals burned out completely by morning. The Harpy simply watched him as he curled up by himself, without even a blanket, and she felt sad for him, especially considering why he had done for her. 

She waited for him to fall asleep before pushing herself off the ground. True to form, Mamono were quick to heal, though her leg still pained wound still pained her greatly, she suffered through the pain to hobble over to him, covering her mouth so as not to alert him with her pained hissing. While Franz indeed did hear her pained noises, he simply assumed it was just because of her wound and resolved to try to fall asleep.

She sighed in relief and she dropped to her knees next to him, her wound opening up a bit, but it merely looked like a scratch compared to how it was when he had first found her. Then, gently, she laid herself down ext to him, her wings sheltering him from the cold, the warmth between them radiating onto her exposed flesh. She nuzzled her head against his chest and gently fell off to sleep with him, her savior. 

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If there’s one thing unusual to hunters and soldiers, it’s a sense of calm and peace, largely because it means they’re probably going to be ambushed. 

Being cuddled by what can be considered one’s sworn enemy certainly counts. Franz immediately disentangled himself from the Harpy, backpedaling on all fours and back against a tree before she could react. His heart pounded with such force that it visibly shook him with each thunderous beat. 

“By the Chief Goddess, what is wrong with you!?”, Franz demanded, getting back on his feet. The Harpy looked up at him innocently, not having the slightest idea what she could have done wrong. 

“I……”, she said, but not getting much further than that. 

“Argh! Demon Lord take me, what am I doing?”, he wondered aloud to nobody, much to the Harpy’s confusion. 

Despite himself, Franz once more changed the Harpy’s bandage, the wound having healed at least twice the rate it would take for a human. He took extra caution, both considering how he had woken up and that she was fully lucid this time as opposed to practically unconscious. 

“Can you move?”, he asked, stowing away the extra bandages. 

“I…. I think so”, she replied. “But……”

“What?”, Franz asked, eyes narrowing in suspicion. 

“What is…. what is your name? Mine’s Viri and well…… thank you, for what you did”

“My name is Franz, and don’t mention it”

Franz nodded and sighed, looking behind him towards the woods before looking back to her. “You’re healing faster than normal, perhaps we’ll have the chance to go our separate ways before I’m supposed to report back”

“Report?”, Viri asked, tilting her head to the left. 

“Yes, my mission was to scout ahead and report back in a week”, Franz replied. “If I don’t report back in time, well at best I can say I was evading capture and they’ll think nothing of it. At worst, they’ll figure out I’d been too close to a Monster for comfort and burn me at the stake”

“They-they’d kill you?”, Viri asked, her eyes growing wide with fear.

“Well I’d more likely spend the rest of my life in a dungeon being tortured at the hands of Order Inquisitors”, Franz replied nonchalantly. “How are you feeling, by the way?”

Viri had suddenly becomes quite cotton-mouthed, unable to form even the simplest of words. Frowning once more as he sensed her discomfort, Franz reached for his canteen, but his frown worsened as he remembered it had emptied just the other day. 

He remembered there had been a small stream not terribly far from the camp, but the condition of his charge did not warrant him to leave her unattended, at least as far as he was concerned. 

“We’ll have to get more water, but since I can’t just leave you here, I’ll have to carry you”. Franz knelt down and allowed Viri to climb onto his back, her stomach pressing against his head as he rose back up to his full height. 

The Order Scout walked stiffly along the way towards the stream. This was quite a different experience compared to rescuing a wounded girl form a ravenous, snarling beast. His mind wondered back to before his conscription, charming the girls as a brash young hunter back from the hunt. He hummed and smiled to himself, drawing Viri’s attention, who looked down at him, her chin resting on the top of his head and digging into his blond hair. 

“Something the matter, Franz?”, she asked innocently, her wing hands unconsciously placing themselves on his chest, her feathers draping over his own body like a blanket. 

“No, nothing”, Franz sighed, letting his guard down as he suddenly began to feel very warm and relaxed. “Just thinking back to before……:

“Before what?”, Viri prodded, pressing herself closer. 

“Before the Order, before the war. When I was just a simple hunter and not a scout for the grand army of the Chief Goddess”

“You don’t like being a solder?”

“Using my skills in service to humanity and heaven as opposed to just feed people? Not exactly fair to compare the two, but if I had to go back, I suppose I would”

“Well then what’s stopping you?”

“My honor. We each give our word of devotion. To betray our word is to betray humanity and aid those who would doom us all. At least that’s what our leaders tell us”

“Are you afraid that us Monsters would destroy you all?”

Viri didn’t know if she really wanted to hear his answer to that. While it was true that some Mamono did indeed delight in playing into the lie, if only to make bedding a man all the more fun, most could not even begin to fathom the idea of harming a human. 

“In all honesty if they hadn’t conscripted me, I wouldn’t have put any thought towards it. But it’s too late for that, I suppose”, Franz finally said after a pregnant pause. 

“What do you mean?”, Viri asked, her heart growing heavy at his words. 

“I have given my word and cannot break it. I can’t rightly cal myself a man if I were to abandon it”

Viri began to tighten her grip on Franz, but he suddenly stood straight up, his face brightening. This time, she did not need to ask why. Before them was a clear and beautiful stream, the surface glistening marvelously with reflected sunlight. 

The Harpy whined a bit as Franz let her off of his shoulders, her thigh still quite tender. While she had hoped that Franz would take her hand in his and lead her to the stream, he simply walked straight over and filled his canteen. Viri sighed dejectedly and sat down to pout.

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