Strength – Chapter 3

(To read the previous chapter of Strength, click here)

Hector took a deep breath as he stood in front of the door, his fist raised to knock. He had fought assassins, a dark sorcerer, and even a dragon, but they all seemed mere child’s play compared to this. He sighed. He knocked on the door. “Go away!” The young girl’s words hurt more than any blade, any spell. But Hector had to be strong for her. “Lilina, sweetie, it’s your father. Please let me in.” “I knew it was you, daddy. That’s why I told you to go away! I’m not sparring with you! Never again!” “I’m not here to make you spar,” Hector lied, “I just want to talk.” “Why?” Lilina asked, “Am I in trouble?” “No,” Hector said, “You’re not in trouble. I’m not mad. I just want to talk to you.” “You’ve never wanted to talk to me about anything!” Lilina said, “All you ever care about is fighting! You love fighting more than you love me!” “That’s not true, sweetie,” Hector said, “I only want to protect you. If it would keep you safe, I’d never touch an axe for the rest of my life.” “You’re just saying that!” Lilina said, “Do you think I’m stupid?” “No, of course not,” Hector said, “I just… please open the door, Lilina.” “No!” Lilina said, “Why don’t you just break the door down, if you’re so strong? Fighting is the only thing you’re good at because you’re such a big dummy!” “I can’t force you to talk to me,” Hector said, “I need you to want to talk to me.” “Well I don’t want to talk to you!” Lilina shouted, “So go away!”

 

“Hey, Lilina,” Hector said, “Do you want to hear a story?” “A story?” Lilina said excitedly, before remembering that she was angry, “I mean, no! I don’t! It’s probably another one of your boring war stories!” “It takes place during the war,” Hector said. “Booooooooorriiiiiiing!” Lilina interjected. “But it’s not about the war,” Hector said. “Then what’s it about?” Lilina asked, trying to hide her curiousity. “It’s about drama,” Hector said. “Drama?” Lilina echoed. “And love.” “L-love?” “And a little bit of… magic.” “MAGIC!” The door suddenly swung open. “I wanna hear the story!” Lilina said, her face beaming. She quickly scowled. “But I still don’t like you, daddy,” she said. “That’s OK, sweetie,” he said, “Even the closest family gets into fights sometimes. It’s impossible to like someone all of the time, but you can still love them all the time, even if you don’t like them. And you love me, right?” “Right,” Lilina said, smiling, “I… I love you, daddy.” She started scowling again. “But I still don’t like you,” she said. “Ah hah hah!” Hector laughed, “You really are too cute. Now, may I come in?” “I guess,” Lilina said, with an exaggerated eye roll. She jumped up on her bed, while Hector sat in a chair that was far too small for him. “Say,” Lilina said, “If it’s impossible to like someone all of the time… does that mean that you don’t always like me?” “O-of course it doesn’t!” Hector said, “Daddies are different. They always like their precious little angel, no matter what!” “And what about mommies?” Lilina asked. “Mommies, too,” Hector said. “Yay!” Lilina said, snuggling up under her blankets, “Now tell me the story!” “Er, it’s not a bedtime story,” Hector said. “I know!” she said, “I just want to be comfy in case it’s boring.” “You better not fall asleep on me, alright?” Hector said. Lilina nodded.
“Once upon a time, there was a young lord of Lycia, a dashing noble who was so handsome and strong that the mere mention of his name would cause the ladies to swoon, and his enemies to shake in their boots. And that young man’s name was, of course-” “Uncle Eliwood?” Lilina interjected. “What? No!” Hector said, “He was Hector! Me!” “Daddy, I don’t like this story,” Lilina said, “It’s too unrealistic.” “It really happened! I swear!” Hector said. “Whatever, dad,” Lilina said, “When’s the magic?” “Fine,” Hector said, “I was going to build up to it, but since you’re in such a hurry…”
“As you know, the sorcerer Nergal took control of a group of assassins called The Black Fang, so that he could use them to gather quintessence. And, I know how much you love magic, but-” “I promise to never practice dark and forbidden arts,” Lilina said, mockingly, “Daddy, you make me promise that every time.” Hector laughed. “Well, after we defeated The Black Fang, we still had to stop Nergal. He was incredibly strong.” “Even stronger than daddy?” Lilina asked. “Yeah,” Hector said, “Even stronger than daddy.” Lilina smiled. “Hey, don’t smile at that!” Hector said, “The man was seriously evil! He wanted to start a war just so he could get even stronger! So to stop him, we had to get stronger.” “With magic?” Lilina guessed, excitedly. “With weapons,” Hector said. “Boooooooooooooo!” Lilina said. “Magic weapons,” Hector said. “Oh?” Lilina said, “Wait, you’ve told me about this before. Durandal and Armads, right?” “That’s exactly right,” Hector said, “I should’ve known you’d remember.” “But magic weapons are lame, daddy!” Lilina said, “That hardly counts! And I’ve heard this story before! You’ve told me about how you and mommy and Uncle Eliwood saved the world a bajillion times!” “A bajillion isn’t a real number, sweetie,” Hector said. “Geez, dad, I know that,” Lilina said, “I was exaggerating.” “Ah, yes, well, anyway,” Hector said, “Since you’re such an expert, why don’t you tell the story?” “Ugh, fine,” Lilina said, “To prepare for your final battle with Nergal, Greybeard teleported you to the resting places of the weapons of two of the legendary heroes. Durandal, wielded by Roland of Lycia, and Armads, wielded by Durban of the Western Isles. You had to fight some ghost soldiers or something and overcome a trial to prove yourself worthy. Once you got Armads and Eliwood got Durandal, Eliwood accidentally hurt Auntie Ninian because-”

 

“Yes, well, we both know how the rest of it goes,” Hector said, “But the story you just told me is wrong.” “Nuh uh!” Lilina insisted, “That’s exactly what you told me!” “I know it is,” Hector said, “But… it’s not the truth. I’m sorry I lied to you.” “Huh?” Lilina said, “Then what is the truth? And why did you lie to me?” “Well,” Hector said, “The truth… is that I never claimed Armads. As for why I lied… I guess I just wanted you to think I was a cool hero, like Eliwood. I’m sorry.” “What else did you make up?” Lilina demanded, “I bet you weren’t even the strongest in Eliwood’s army! Did you even fight at all?” “I did fight,” Hector said, “Your daddy helped save the world. And I was at least one of the strongest.” “So why didn’t you take the axe?” Lilina asked, “Didn’t you want to be stronger so you could beat Nergal?” “I did,” Hector said. “I overcame the trial, and was standing before the axe. It spoke to me.” “The axe was talking?” Lilina asked, skeptically, “Daddy, that’s silly.” “It was a magic axe!” Hector said, “I don’t know how it works!” “So what did it say?” Lilina asked. “It said that if I took it, it would grant me the power I needed to strike down my enemies. But it said that power came at a cost. That axe… was cursed.” “Really?” Lilina asked, “What kind of curse?” “It said that those who live in battle die in battle. It would have cursed me to meet a violent and painful end.” “Are you sure it was going to curse you?” Lilina asked. “Of course,” Hector said, “Axes are the most honest things I know.” “I don’t think a curse like that is possible,” Lilina said, “It may have been more metaphorical. Like you said, if you live in battle, you die in battle. Any time you fight, you risk dying. If you think of it like that, you could almost say that EVERY weapon is cursed.” “I…” Hector had never considered that. “Well, anyway, at the time I thought the curse was real, and maybe it is! We can’t know for sure.” “But still, why didn’t you take it?” Lilina said, “I thought you said you’d die to stop Nergal.” “I thought that at the time, too,” Hector said, “But when I reached for the axe… I suddenly remembered your mother’s face. Neither of us dared to admit it, but we were in love, even back then. It’d break her heart if I died before she had a chance to confess her feelings. She’d regret it for the rest of her life. And I was willing to die… but I wasn’t willing to do that to her.” “So you did it… for mom?” Lilina asked.

 

“That’s not all,” Hector said, “I remembered my brother, whose death I was still struggling to cope with. I remembered my parents. I remembered how sad mommy looked when mourning her own parents. I remembered when Nergal killed Eliwood’s father right before our very eyes. I remembered how cold and lifeless and broken Leila’s body was, so different from how she was in life, and how Matthew-” Lilina began shivering in fright under her covers. “Sorry, sweetie,” Hector said, “I didn’t mean to scare you. It’s just… I’d seen a lot of death. I’d seen and felt the pain of losing someone dear to you. And I didn’t want to do that to anyone. Not to my wife, and certainly not to my daughter.” “What?” Lilina said, “But this was years before I was born! You and mom weren’t even married yet!” “That’s true,” Hector said, “But I knew I’d marry your mom and start a family with her.” “But how could you know you’d have a daughter?” Lilina asked, “That’s impossible!” “Can you keep a secret?” Hector asked. She nodded her head vigorously. “This is something I’ve only ever told Eliwood, and even that was years ago. Not even your mother knows.” “What is it? What is it? What is it?” Lilina asked, desperately.

 

“The truth is… I had a prophetic dream about you back then,” Hector said. “What?” Lilina said, “That’s silly, daddy! Prophecies aren’t real!” “If only that were the case…” Hector said. “Huh?” Lilina asked, “What’s that supposed to mean?” “Er, nothing, sweetie,” Hector said, “But the dream I had is real. You can ask Eliwood; I’m sure he remembers.” “Whatever, dad,” she said, “It was real!” Hector insisted, “I was there, but I had this kick-ass beard, so I didn’t recognize myself. Oh, uh, ‘kick-ass’ is a grown-up word. Don’t tell mommy I said it.” Lilina nodded. “And you were there,” Hector said, “The cutest girl I’ve ever seen in my entire life. And when I thought about how I might put you through the suffering I’d seen time and time again… I couldn’t.” “So you didn’t take the axe?” Lilina said, “But what if you weren’t strong enough to beat Nergal?” “Well, I was, wasn’t I?” “Eliwood was,” Lilina corrected. “Ah hah hah! You’re exactly right!” Hector said. “I didn’t take the axe because I believed in Eliwood’s strength, and mommy’s strength, and the strength of all of my other friends. And because I love you more than I love fighting.” “Wow,” Lilina said, “If you would throw away that power for me… I guess you’re right. I’m really sorry I said you love fighting more than you love me.” “That’s OK, sweetie,” Hector said, “I’m sorry I lied to you.” “Daddy… I’m sorry I said I didn’t like you,” Lilina said, “I like you again.” “Thank you,” Hector said, smiling, “I like you too.” “This means I don’t have to fight, right?” Lilina asked, beaming joyfully.

 

Hector’s face hardened. “I’m… afraid that it doesn’t, sweetie.” He said. “Wh-what?” Lilina began crying. “B-but you just said! You said that fighting sucks and if I do it I’ll get cursed! I don’t want to get cursed!” “You’re not getting cursed, sweetie,” Hector said. “But why?” Lilina sobbed, “I don’t want to fight. It’s hard and it hurts and I HATE IT!” “That’s life, sometimes,” Hector said, “Sometimes it’s hard, and sometimes it hurts. And sometimes, you hate it. But you have to keep living it.” “That’s stupid!” Lilina shouted, “You’re stupid, daddy! I don’t like you anymore!” “Do you think I want to do this, Lilina?” Hector asked, losing his temper, “Do you think I enjoy hurting my daughter? Because I don’t. I hate it more than anything!” “THEN STOP!” Lilina wailed, “JUST STOP! NO ONE WANTS YOU TO!” “THE PEOPLE WANT ME TO!” Hector shouted. “THEN THE PEOPLE ARE STUPID, AND I DON’T LIKE THEM, EITHER!” Lilina said.

 

“Lilina,” Hector said, his voice gravely calm, “You can talk to me that way because I am your father, and I will love you no matter what, but you must never speak ill of the people you are sworn to protect.” “If I can talk to you that way, then I will!” Lilina said, “YOU’RE STUPID, DADDY! STUPID STUPID STUPID STUPID STUPID STUPID STUPID!” Hector sighed. She’d been spending too much time with Matthew. “I’m being serious, Lilina.” Hector said, “When you are Marquess, your subjects won’t respect you unless you respect them in turn.” “I DON’T WANT THEM TO RESPECT ME!” Lilina screamed, “I DON’T WANT TO BE MARQUESS! I DON’T WANT TO PROTECT A KINGDOM THAT WANTS MY DADDY TO HURT ME!” “They don’t want me to hurt you,” Hector said, “They just want you to be strong. That’s why you have to train.” “But I don’t want to,” Lilina sobbed, no longer possessing the strength to shout. “I don’t want any of this. I never asked to be Marquess. Can’t you find someone else?” “It’s not that simple,” Hector said, “We’re descendants of Roland, or so the story goes. It’d be tough to get the people to accept a ruler who didn’t share the blood of the legendary hero.” “Then why do I have to be strong?” Lilina asked, “Why do they care? Isn’t it too dangerous for the Marquess to actually fight on the battlefield? Wouldn’t it be better to have a smart Marquess who’s good at strategy to lead her troops to victory?” “Maybe it would be,” Hector admitted, “But that’s not what the people of Ostia expect of their Marquesses. We come from a long line of men of action. Men who didn’t just speak of protecting their subjects, but actually stood on the front lines and risked their lives to protect their kingdom.” “Then we come from a long line of idiots!” Lilina said. “That may be so,” Hector said, “But if you don’t join their ranks, the people won’t trust you. If they revolted, not just Ostia, but all of Lycia would be thrown into chaos. You don’t want that, do you?” “I DON’T CARE!” Lilina shouted, her voice hoarse, “I DON’T CARE ABOUT THE PEOPLE, OR BEING STRONG, OR YOU, DADDY! I DON’T LIKE YOU AND I DON’T LOVE YOU! I HATE YOU!”

 

“Lilina…” Hector was holding back tears. But he wouldn’t cry. Not in front of her. “I know you’re upset,” Hector said, “But please don’t say that. You can say any other nasty thing about me you want, even if you have to use grown-up words. Just… please don’t say that you don’t love me.” “YOU’RE A GODDAMNED SON OF AN ASS-BREATHING MOUTH HOLE!” Lilina shouted, “AND I DON’T LOVE YOU! I HATE YOU! I HATE YOU I HATE YOU I HATE YOU I HATE YOU!!!” “I’m sorry,” Hector said, his voice as calm as the eye of the storm, “But you leave me no choice. You’re a clever girl. One day you’ll understand why I have to do this. I can only hope that you’ll forgive me then.” “Wh-what are you doing?” Lilina asked. Hector stood up. “If you won’t listen to words, I guess I’ll just have to use brute force. That’s all I’m good at, isn’t it?” He took a step towards her. “D-daddy, you’re scaring me,” Lilina said, “Are you going to hurt me?” “I’m not your daddy right now,” Hector said, “He tried to talk some sense into you, but you wouldn’t listen. So now, I must do my duty as marquess, and ensure that a strong heir succeeds me. If you don’t want to get hurt, fight back.” “But I don’t want to hurt you, daddy!” Lilina sobbed. “Don’t want to, or can’t?” Hector asked, “That excuse may fly with Eliwood, but it won’t fly with me. I’ve made it too many times to fall for it. You’re not holding back, you’re just weak!” “Daddy… thinks I’m weak?” Lilina said. “I’ve given you plenty of chances to prove otherwise, haven’t I?” Hector said, “Yet every time, you’ve come up short. And it’s fine to be weak, so long as you’re getting stronger, but you’re not! Because you’re too busy with your silly little books to train!” “MY BOOKS ARE NOT SILLY!” Lilina shouted. “One last chance,” Hector said, “I’m giving you one last chance to come with me to the training grounds before I pick you up and carry you there myself.” “No!” Lilina said, “I don’t want to!” “Well that’s too bad,” Hector said, “Because you’re too weak to stop me.” “I’m not weak!” Lilina said, “I’ll… I’LL KILL YOU, DADDY!” “I’d like to see you try,” Hector said, lunging towards his daughter.

 

Before he reached her, Lilina shouted something that Hector didn’t quite understand. There was a flash of light, a loud bang, a wave of heat. Hector was knocked backwards, crushing the chair that he was sitting in as he crumpled to the floor. “Daddy!” Lilina panicked as she rushed to her father’s side. “Daddy, I’m so sorry! I didn’t mean any of the bad stuff I said! I love you so much, daddy! So please… please!” “What… what just happened?” Hector asked as he sat up, disoriented. “Daddy!” Hector winced in pain as his daughter hugged him. “What’s wrong?” Lilina asked. “I don’t know,” Hector said, “It almost feels like I got burnt.” “I’m so sorry, daddy!” Lilina sobbed, “I didn’t want to hurt you! But the way you were talking… it sounded like you hated me!” “Wait a second,” Hector said, “You did this to me?” “Y-yeah,” Lilina said, “I used a fire spell. I’m really sorry, I… are you crying?” “I am,” Hector said, brushing the tears from his eyes.” “I… I’ve never seen daddy cry before.” “Because you’ve never seen me this happy before,” Hector said. He hugged his daughter tight, ignoring the pain. “I’m so proud of you, sweetie.” “I… I don’t understand,” Lilina said, “Am I not in trouble?” “No, not at all,” Hector said, “You don’t have to spar today. It’s okay, now. Everything is going to be okay.” “Does that mean I don’t have to be strong anymore?” Lilina asked.

 

“No,” Hector said, “It means you already are.” “B-but you said I was weak…” Lilina said. “And you knocked me flat on my ass, didn’t you?” Hector said, “A weakling couldn’t do that. I only ever thought you were weak because I’m a big dummy. To me, strength has always been about swinging around a piece of metal. But you taught me that it’s more than just that.” “I think I get it,” Lilina said, “Even though I’m not strong with axes, like you, I can be strong with magic?” “Exactly,” Hector said, “You will never truly be strong if you have someone else’s idea of strength forced upon you. You must find your own inner strength.” “My own inner strength…” Lilina said, “It’s not just about using a different weapon, is it?” “Huh? Uh, well,” Hector said, hesitantly. “Like with you and Uncle Eliwood,” Lilina said, “Even when you both use swords, you’re completely different. And even when you’re not fighting, you have different ideas of what it means to be a strong ruler, and a strong person. Everyone does. And I guess I have to find that for myself.” “Ah hah hah hah!” Hector laughed, “Eliwood explained this to me a few days ago, and I’m just now getting it. But in just a few minutes, you already understand better than I do! You really are clever.” “Thanks daddy. And… I’m sorry I hurt you and said all those mean things.” “I’m sorry too, sweetie,” Hector said, “But it’s OK. Because we still love each other. Right?” “Right!” Lilina said, “I love you, daddy!” “I love you, too, sweetie,” Hector said.

 

(To read the next chapter of Strength, click here)

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Author: havocmantis

I am Havoc Mantis, Skullmaster (like a headmaster but spookier) of The School of Havoc. I am a scholar of mathematics, mysticism, and memes, as well as the intersection of all three.

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