Miko's Heart, Beyond Lawful Good (Part 5)

Fate is cruel, for it seems my need to be anywhere but with Hinjo was taken far too literally. I see Lord Shojo reclining in a pillowed chair, enjoying some beverage I care nothing about. I keep from drawing steel, for if I am here it must be by the Gods. It seems little use to slay the dead. “You! First Hinjo and now you?!”

Shojo’s usually nonchalant insolence is broken with genuine surprise, “Miko? I don’t understand, why are you here?”

I confront this old codger, advancing as surely as though I held my blade, “Does it matter? Your betrayal, your cursed lies…how could you?!”

Shojo averts his eyes for a moment before matching my assault, “I lied about many things Miko. But when I took you from that monastery I did not lie, and it truly broke my heart to tell the truth. The Gods, and it seems Fate, had chosen you. In my duty to the people of Azure City, it is easy to forget the personal cost. I threw you to the wolves and never was there for you, or provided someone to be there. Of all my questionable choices, Miko, I cannot excuse that one. I treated you like a casualty of war, forgetting that I could prevent it.”

He speaks…the truth; his sorrow is clear…but how? If he was wrong, then HOW?! In the monastery I was comfortable and had purpose, order, meaning. Training for the Sapphire Guard was ordered, meaningful, and had purpose, but there was no comfort there. I followed because what choice did I have? The words rise from me, and only force of will keeps my blade sheathed, “You…stole…my…life…from me. Threw out false comfort that I was doing my duty, that I was obeying the Twelve…you who openly mocked that very duty! Those very laws!!! ‘Why yes, little girl, I will take you from the only family you’ve ever known and use you until you die defending a cause I only believe in by proxy and mock that very purpose while you bleed and suffer for it’!!!”

I see a sharp retort die on his lips as he jerks as though I had slapped him. It seems the truth cuts all equally, even this cursed man! Yet he makes excuses even now, “I had hoped that purity I saw would serve you and keep you, Miko. I may be rather creative in applying the law, but I knew a truly good heart and soul. I am sorry for my part in tarnishing it.” A long moment of silence between us, as I grind my teeth and Shojo closes his eyes. But suddenly he draws breath again and his disgraceful self in full once more, “But hey, at least that Charisma score didn’t fail you.”

I am wearing…a skimpy two-piece swimsuit? Why am I oiled? !!! “You dirty old man, stop this nonsense right now!”

I am once more wearing my combat armor, and am NOT blushing as I confront him, “What are you playing at!”

Shojo shakes his head sadly, “Miko, it is true that I made a grievous error. Perhaps my nephew shares some of the blame, having taken more after me than he believes. Perhaps the rest of the Sapphire Guard shares blame, for just not trying to be human with you. But Miko, regardless of who else, is to blame, you allowed it to happen. You closed off and never really reached out to what or who was there. Is it the Twelve’s fault for everything that happened in your life just because they made you? Is the blacksmith truly to blame with how the tools he sells are used? Even if it is a mastersmith weapon with gold embroidery he took twenty to Craft…”

The blush threatens me again as I assert my own control over my clothing again, “Stop it! How can you say that I have blame here?”

Shojo is abrupt now, “Miko, we make choices. That is what makes us human. And we…are…responsible…for…those…choices. Whatever forces act on us, we must take responsibility for our choices, and I do take responsibility for mine. But take responsibility for yourself, Miko. A Lawful alignment is not an excuse to blame a Chaotic Neutral world for all your troubles. Do you think I went blithely through my life? That I never had moments while being groomed to rule that I questioned myself, the Twelve, everyone else? You’re not the only NPC who’s had to suffer through pain in their back-story, Miko; you’re part of a world’s population of them.”

He mocks me! Even now he mocks me! Suddenly I realize he is not as old as I remember, only bordering into grey hair with thick black hair, and his body in those swim-trunks shows a lot of family resemblance to Hinjo’s…by the Twelve, what is this madness?! Shojo chuckles at my renewed blushing, “What? You’re not that only one with freakishly high Charisma and used to keep in shape, you know. How else do you think I managed to rule a city and keep citizens mostly free of those moronic nobles’ politics for so long?”

I tried to reason with this lunatic, “I have accepted that you and Roy were not working with Xykon as I thought, that I misunderstood my purpose, because otherwise I would not have faced such trials, much less be here having this ridiculous conversation. Do not mock me on my quest!”

Shojo speaks, “Your quest? But you’re like my old girlfriends and dead like me…oh. Oh, dear.” He immediately becomes fatherly, concerned, “Miko, listen to me. Much as I was a paranoid old man who had some issues with the truth, I swear to you before the Twelve Gods, may they damn me to the pits of the Abyss if I lie, that I speak the truth now. You are in real danger now, but if you come through so much will be set right.”

This honorless dog has sworn such on an oath even he cannot break, but still it is hard to listen to him, “Remember that little girl, Miko. Remember what it was like in the monastery when you weren’t training, the times in the Guard when even all you paladins acted like decent human beings to each other. Sometimes, even among pain and sorrow, there is a gem of a lesson that will shape your life for the better, forever. Law and order, much as I cannot bear to watch the farce of it sometimes, has a place but do not let them take your very humanity, Miko. Not your heart. You can still shine like the sun! Remember.”

No…no-no-no-no-NO! I shove Shojo away, this lying, treacherous old dog in an undeserved paradise and flee. This injustice…he must be twisting the truth somehow! I cannot face his words, his perversion, his disgracefulness! I need so hard to be away that once more I am in my body, awake and exhausted beneath the moonless night. I must know the truth. I must. KNOW. There are ways to find out, ways I am no longer bound to avoid…how can I think such a thing?! I lie awake and am alone with my torment, beneath the cold, glinting stars…

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