A Paladin: noble, strong, defender of the weak and poor. Sworn to the principles of honor, justice, and loyalty; he rides forth into battle, conquering those who stand for evil and corruption. Bearing the sword of the heart, standing among the clouds…
This was his chance. The moment he had been preparing for his entire life. The day he would finally become a man.
Cautiously he pulled back the bush, careful to not surprise his prey.
“Pichu?” a little, yellow creature cried out, half in fear and half in curiosity. The dim morning sun fell upon her pale, yellow face. She squinted up at the boy, trying to see who he was.
Instinctively, the mouse raised her battle scared tail, preparing to fight. The tail, discolored with blood, bruised, and cut off at the top, clearly marked the battles she had fought.
He heard stories about entire armies wiped out by these creatures. The history books told legends of these grand and costly battles. His teachers had taught him that these monsters were dangerous, violent, aggressive; and needed to be killed if mankind were to survive.
“All monsters, in whatever form they carry, shall be destroyed,” reminded his elderly teacher, “That is the First Law, the law that your ancestor, the Grand Emperor, decreed.”
“You have to be careful,” he croaked to the wide-eyed boy. “One wrong move, one false step, and suddenly you’re missing a leg, or an arm, or a head.”
The old man slashed the air with his sword to emphasize his point.
“I was 35 when this happened,” his teacher continued, pointing to his missing leg, “Was separated from the main army when I came upon one of those creatures. It was one of those giant green wasps with scythes for arms. Immediately I drew my sword and charged it, but it was fast. We parried a few times, before finally we both scored a hit on the other. It took my leg… and I took its life.”
He pulled out what looked like a blade, but one without a handle.
“I always take a little memento from my kills. Unfortunately, this was my last one. It’s a little hard to fight without a leg, you see. I only managed to collect 216.”
Suddenly the old man grasped the boy’s shoulder and pulled him close to his face.
“Remember boy, be on your guard when you fight these monsters. All of them fight differently and if you aren’t ready for them, you’ll end up like me, or worse. I’ve seen men burnt to a crisp, men frozen to death, men gone mad simply from fighting these beasts. As soon as you spot one, swing hard and fast. Else, it might be the last thing you see…”
The boy knew he needed to strike immediately. Every second he paused gave the creature time to attack him, possibly killing him in the process. He quickly lifted his sword, knowing well that he should be able to slice through the creature’s fur and bring her life to a swift end!
But… he paused.
His eyes adjusted to the burrow’s darkness, and he noticed that behind the young mouse there was another creature. The other one appeared bigger, older… and lifeless.
And there was something odd. The way the little one seemed to cling to the larger one, as if asking for comfort, protection… love? It was the creature’s mother…
“Pichu?” the tiny yellow mouse seemed to ask, nudging her mother to wake up.
“Don’t you understand?” he whispered hoarsely, “She’s dead. Your mother is dead.”
“Pichu.” she responded, shaking her head, “Pichu!” The mouse pushed at her mother’s head with her tiny body. But, her mother would not respond. She could not respond. She fought her last battle.
And then, the little mouse realized that maybe… maybe her mother wasn’t going to wake up this time. Maybe… she was alone. Slowly she fell to the ground, her eyes blank. Her cut tail drooped to the floor.
She looked up into the boy’s eyes as he gazed into hers. They connected and at that instant, the two recognized the other: Hated Enemy. The mouse knew that it was man who killed her mother, who stole away her world. The boy understood this as well. It was the order of things.
With the last ounce of her strength, the tiny mouse tensed, her body lowering to the ground. Only her wounded tail betrayed her fake courage, quivering with a terrible fear. The static in the air began to crackle.
The creature was ready to fight, preparing to duel, about to charge. How long had he trained? How many days had he dreamed of this moment, the epic battle between man and beast!
He would be a man.
The boy raised his sword. The mouse closed her eyes… then dashed forward.
The sword fell, plummeting like a stone, slicing through the air, before finally striking the ground.
The boy slowly gazed downwards, his hands dropping from the blade. His young eyes fell upon the still-trembling body of the Pichu. His eyes welled up.
He could not do it.
The Pichu hugged his leg. Like a child clasping onto her favorite blanket, the Pichu had chosen to embrace rather than be embattled. Her tiny arms gripped tightly around him.
The warmth of her light touch spread throughout the boy’s soul. In a blink of an eye, he experienced the pains and joys she had endured. The warmth of a sunny spring, the peace of a whispered hug, the howls of sharp blades, the loss of a family. To her, the world was more than a lonely battlefield, a forever war; but rather a dream built upon the hopes of children. She still believed, had to believe, that the sun will always shine.
A tear formed in his eye and a tear formed in hers. Hatred disappeared into the winds of time.
The boy reached down, and gently lifted the Pichu in his cupped hands. She was small, delicate, but strong inside.
“There has to be another way,” the boy softly whispered to the Pichu and to himself, “There has to be another way…”
The boy knew in his heart that he would never become a man, and perhaps rightly so.
Some things were worthless… compared to Love.
"We love Him because He first loved us." 1 John 4:19
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