Intelligence is an accident of evolution, and not necessarily an advantage. Someone wise once told me that when I asked them why we hadn't won. Why there were still millions on the front lines.
The funny thing is, I still remember what the world around me was like at that exact moment. I was sitting right at the bench outside the Continental Congress Building in the capital.
One of the Chairmen of the Senate had decided he would join me. The air that day was also crisp and cool, with a scent of cherry blossom there to seemingly sweeten everything already present.
Shortly after he told me those words, I replied back, saying 'What do you mean by that? Doesn't the Chancellor always say that through technology peace is possible?'
The old man shifted his posture a bit, most likely to get more comfortable. As he did that, he said with a diluted sigh, 'That is true.
However, if we were truly going to win the war, I believe we would've been eating a nice Durtano Roast this time of year, wouldn't you think so, Akiko?
If it were truly to be, I ask you why are millions being forced to evacuate to the capital and its surrounding areas? I would look at the future a bit more grimly if I were you.
The future has never been a pleasant one, and won't be probably for the next thousand years.'. As he said this, the old man would begin to lay back on the bench.
A few people in the surrounding area winced at his words as they passed by. Admittedly, I did too. How could 500 years of discovery and perseverance draw up nothing? But, I saw what he meant.
If intelligence was to be truly sought after as a weapon to win the war, why haven't the Riktans or the Tofs attempted to use those same means? Why were we still losing ground?
Why did our people, the ones who wished to have peace the most, have to suffer at all costs at the hands of the Riktans and Tofs? It was blatant from the papers how the war was going.
Newsstands broadcasted clearly through the streets on how we had lost over 90.1 million Oslionians in three years. And on how we lost thousands of miles in territory in one day.
As I began to stand up, the old man said,
He then began to try to stand up as well.
His knees nearly gave way as he continued, 'Just because I said Intelligence isn't necessarily an advantage, that still doesn't rule out the possibility that it is one.
In fact, I believe our people might have been doomed at the beginning of this war if...'
Oh yeah, that's right, the beginning of this war. Sure, I can learn when it started, but I can never understand why it did.
'And that's why turnips are not to be used in hot sauce.', the old man said with a daunting scowl.
'Wait, What?' I said, with my eyes looking towards the city.
'Ah, so you weren't paying attention I see. Is that how you treat the Senator from your Hometown?' The old man said with a chuckle.
'As if you could consider Continopolis a town. My goodness, your age is really showing these days.' I said in reply with a passive attitude as I turned my attention towards the sky.
'Well, you know, being 160 years old is no small feat in itself.'. He proclaimed proudly as if 160 was not a small feat.
'Whatever you say.... Mr. Cacayan, do you hear that?'.
As I said that, I could see some people near us also looking towards the skies, with some slowly backing into the building while others began to crumble at the sight of what was just above them.
'Now why would an old man be able to hear anything that isn't five feet away from him?'
'Mr.Cacayan, please get down to the shelter.'
'Inia, what's the matter?'
"Mr.Cacayan, just get to the shelter, now.'
'Well what the hell is that noise then Inia?'
'It's the sound of propeller planes. The only ones still using those are...'
'The Riktans... Don't tell me they're attacking the Capital?!?'
'The Shelter, go now. This is the only chance you'll get to stay alive.'
'What about you? From the sound of it, you plan to fight them off or something, but you wouldn't do something so suicidal, would you?'.
Silence begins to fill the once cherry blossomed air, with the old man stammering towards me. I quickly drew my hand up. He stopped for a second before yelling at me,
'Miss Inia Akiko, what can you possibly do?!? Do you expect to come out alive if you remain out here?!?
Do you plan to play the part of a hero, and save the people out there, when there is essentially nothing you can do?
Now is not the time for that! I cannot stand here and watch you while you'll be the one to die. You go out there and you'll only raise the death toll.'
Stunned by his words I quickly turned to the city before looking back at him. 'What do you mean?!? If no one is there to hel...'
'We have no chance, Akiko. Please, just come with me. Your family needs you to survive. Let our troops handle this. Please, I need you to survive. I promised them I would keep you safe.'
'Caro, I... I can't. If I go down there and live, sure I can wake up to a new morning, but how can I live with myself knowing I didn't do anything?'.
As we argued, multiple soldiers from the enemy planes start jumping out from them. Thousands of soldiers from our own side ran past the building towards the enemy.
'Didn't you hear me? No matter who goes down there and no matter how many are there, they are all practically dead. Their sacrifice will be in vain.
Just like your family's, if you choose to stay out here.'
'Damn the consequences! If I die out there, so be it.
At least I won't have to deal with the fact that I sat in the corner scared for dear life while millions are scared for their own as well!
I have a duty as an Oslionian, no, as a Ern, to save anyone I can.'.
The old man tried to protest, but I didn't give him a chance. I ran into the streets, with a high likelihood of tears coming from my eyes.
Running through the streets as fire engulfed the city felt liberating in one sense or another.
The last words I heard from him before I ran into the streets were 'Inia, my only family.'
After a minute of running through the streets, I spotted one of Them, a Riktan soldier.
He stood there, right in front of one of the houses, as what seemed to be a father trying to protect his kids.
As I came closer to the scene, it seemed as if millions of people had gathered all at once to run away from the singular soldier.
Bumped and pushed to the ground, I quickly covered myself, bracing for the continuous amount of people fleeing.
After what seemed like a eon, I caught a glimpse of the the father distracting the Riktan as much as possible, with his left hand focused on ushering his kids to flee.
With a clear opening after the stampede, as fast as my legs allowed me, I charged at the soldier.
I had no idea what I was doing, or why I didn't simply try to think up a quick plan, but I guess it's because those kinds of rational thoughts left me as I charged in, head first.
But you know, things are always bright and sunny in the stories you read at night. Reality has a way of being cruel though, and miracles we have hope in never come when we need it the most.
I guess that's why even with my life on the line, I heard agony. I felt the soul of a person burning up. I saw a body turn into charcoal.
I was right there, and... he.. Died. The weight of the situation hit me all at once as I got on my knees and stared blankly at the fiery abyss. I knew the Children were next.
I knew I could at least help them, but....
The Riktan Soldier didn't even notice me at first as I gave a blank expression to the kids and their cries for help. I looked right at them, with my eyes locked on them, with theirs on mine.
But, my face nor my body gave a response. And with a simple hand twist and kick, the house was up in flames, with the children's cries for help ever present.
The soldier, after looking pleased with himself, locked his sights right at me and smirked. I could tell right there he knew I wouldn't fight back, how could I? I had lost the will to fight. Mr.
Cacayan was right. No matter what I did, it would all be the same. I would simply become another number on the already hundreds of millions in the death count.
But that's when it hit me, literally. The stock of a gun hit me in the head as the Riktan's dagger went for my throat.
In my place I saw an old man with the clothes of noblemen, and a gentle smile, which reminded me of the cherry blossoms earlier.
As a group of soldiers surrounded us, and with his smile still there, the old man said 'You are indeed still a child, Inia, a child with a bright future ahead of you.
' he said as his mouth began to fill with blood. The wound at his side wasn't doing good either, with it expelling what seemed to be never-ending amount of blood as well.
With tears covering my face, I attempted to object while placing pressure on his wound, 'Caro, don't you dare die on me! Don't you dare leave me, you hear!?! YOU SAID WE WOULD...'
With a raspy shake in his voice, and with his body quivering, he said 'Please, don't protest. Let this old man die in peace knowing he did at least one good thing in his life.
Can you do that for me?'
With that, I simply nodded. I couldn't protest. Instead, I sat there and watched him slowly fade, as if finally making peace with himself.
But before I could close My.Cacayan's eyes, lightning flashed, and before I knew it, everything was gone. Not even the sacrifice he made for me would be kept for long it seemed.
I guess in the end, war is indeed constant, as it has for the past 500 years. Peace can never happen, and will be always robbed from you at the last moment.
And Death? It will always be there with a timer, waiting for zero to hit.
Even in death, I still managed to hear voices, though these were not the same as the one in the capital. I couldn't hear a single worry, nor a sense of urgency in them.
Is that what peace is truly like?
Thank you to all of you that have read this first of many segments into the world of Ern, in War, Elements, and Magic Stay tuned for more!