- Wake up, slowly it’s time to go – shakes Lucas the shoulder of Walter.
- What is the time now? – he asks drowsily.
- About six o’clock. We shall enter the village.
- What has happened?
- Two new sentinels had come to watch for the previous ones. They are still wrapping Pierre’s arm, but Charles stubbornly does not let anyone even examining his leg. He wants to do it himself, though I believe he, alone did more damage to himself than those two beasts who had attacked him.
- All right. I go, see if he lets me help him.
- And so what shall we do with the two horses that…
- Take them as backup ones – cuts the younger Helsing the words of his brother.
He does not have to say whose horses he is talking about. They belonged to good friends. They were comrades, who fell in combat. That is all. They shan’t, they must not mourn the past right now. They must turn towards the future, what is still in front of them that they can trip on, not watching how many obstacles they had in the road behind them. Now they can only concentrate on this.
Walter got up, fixed his clothes then pulled the belt on which he hung his sword. He was kicking the coin of his boots to the soil to entertain himself whilst he was looking for his peer. Charles was his second best friend, right after his elder brother, besides being his confidant. They had met each other when Walter and Lucas moved to their uncle. His father was also a hunter, but when he married Charles’s mother, he gave it up in order to protect his family. The bloodsuckers took cruel revenge on every hunter, mercilessly to their relatives and beloved ones neither, as it could be seen on the Helsing family, too.
All in all, Charles was very important to Walter. Back in those days, when they very small, it was Charles who taught Walter how to climb a tree. With his great sense of humor he was always able to cheer Walter up, and even though he was very hard to understand, Charles could see every change in the mood of his friend. For Walter, he was so very important, small wonder why he got scared after noticing the wounded.
Blood dripping from his trousers, he was sitting on the ground, trying to tie a bandage around the cut on his thigh, hissing, moaning, and cursing. Although Walter could have laughed about it, as their peers would have done it, seeing the comedy in the scene, but as it happened with his best friend, he approached him worried.
- Wait – he said softly -. Let me help.
- No need – he answered briefly, sullenly.
- No, the hell no! You make more damage than benefit for yourself! Give that thing to me! – he kneeled down next to his peer stubbornly.
He seized the bandage from his friend’s hand, then pulled out a snow-white linen cloth from his pocket with which he cleansed the wound, using up all the water in his flask. Walter tried to work carefully but also fast and well, while Charles groaned as if he would be in great pain, even though he was only exaggerating.
- Calm down. It could have been much worse.
- That’s what worries me, too, young lady!
Walter flashed a striking glance at the wounded. He doesn’t like if somebody calls him this manner, especially when they are traveling. It is excessively dangerous.
- Never ever say this again! – he hisses between his teeth, almost piercing through his friend with his poison-green eyes.
- I am sorry. But you know… I could never look at you as a man. For me, you will stay forever who you really are. Though, for you to be happy I promise I will keep my mouth shut for ever.
- I hoped so – he confirms with a short smile.
Suddenly, like he was stricken by lightning, she stops for a moment, eyes opened widely, the bloody cloth falls out of her hands. Whenever she travels, she always uses a male name. Usually the name of her father, as this is the closest to her heart. As a woman, it is much more risky to travel. And to fight. As a woman, everything is so different, more hazardous, and she has much less possibilities than her friends, or her own brother. It can be seen now, why she has flinched. She was afraid that somebody could have heard that.
- I… well… I just wanted to say…
- Are you afraid?
- Yes. Kind of.
- You are not obliged to come with us. Even coming with us so far has bounded me to eternal gratitude.
- No, you don’t have to. Calm down and turn back, if you would like to. We, who are going there today, will surely decease.
- Let me explain. I am not afraid in the way you believe. I am not afraid for myself, but for somebody else, who is more important.
- If not for you, than who else for?
- For you, Lucy.
He takes the disguised girl’s face in his palm, so that her glance that was watching his wound now meets his gaze and sinks in it. His always bright eyes now measure the fragile looking but unbreakable creature hiding beneath a hunter’s clothes. His whole body radiates a feeling, unknown to the girl. As if she could discover fear, worry and desire at the same time, but she cannot put the pieces together.
- Fear not for me – she gently pushes away his friend’s hand -. I must go there, and if necessary, die for my parents, for my friends. For my family. I must take a revenge. I want to defeat that monster so badly. Even if it costs my very own life.
- Please, Lucy. I will go there because I would battle the bloodsuckers for you, instead of you, even alone, and I will beat them if you wish, but I cannot let you fight. Please, don’t go!
- I am really sorry, but this is a must. This is my battle, this is my war. Please don’t wish to fight instead of me – her voice becomes serious.
- You don’t understand.
- I can’t let you get hurt.
- And so why?
- Because I am afraid for you too much. Open your eyes and see how much I love you! Please remember: your parents died because they loved you and they wanted to protect you – the young man begs -. I would do the very same, sacrifice my own life if I knew yours would rest in safe.
The girl is listening in shock to the words of the boy in love, while her flask slowly slips from her fingers and the last drops of water roll down on its side. The dry soil covetously soaks up the fresh fluid. Charles stretches his arms, wraps them around the beloved lady, and pulls her to himself tightly.
- I love you, Lucy. Yes, I do love you. For a very long time, but I never dared to tell, not even to mention this. I was and I am still afraid that you cannot see else in me, but a simple friend, a peer. However, I know, maybe this is the last chance that I have to say this, so I could not procrastinate any more this confession of mine. Please, do not go there today, I beg you!
Suddenly the world fades away around them. One falls into desperation, the other into confusion, the silence is hurting. Lucy, in her anxiety, points her look on the ground. Charles, getting the best out of the moment, that the girl is not paying attention, gives a soft kiss in her lips. His arms would hold steadily his love even if she would be only a ragdoll.
What is it? My God, what is he doing? And what am I doing? No, this not may be! But… in a strange way it is so pleasant… My heart feels like it is beating in my throat. But this must not be!
She draws back, freeing herself from the arms clutched around her. She is confused, nervous, but mostly impatient. When Charles would draw her again, she doesn’t let him. She tosses him away, then a slap bangs. The young man looks at the girl uncomprehending, holding his palm to his face, where girl slapped him.
- Why did I receive this? You do not love me? I was standing right by your side during all these years; I was your counselor and best friend.
She cannot answer, tears rolling down her face. She is trembling, and even though she is afraid of this new, strange and, for her, unpleasant situation, she tries not to show her awe. No matter how much she feels him important, she knows that right here and now, there’s no place for any feelings. Her heart was toughened for battle, there was place only for rage, revenge and self-conscious will.
- Lucy, please tell me honestly, you do not love me, right? I am sorry for being so carried away by my heart.
It’s too late, he scared the girl away. She draws back picking up her flask with shaky hands and stands.
- We are ready to set off. What about you? – a voice asks them from behind.
Lucy realize, she doesn’t even care who it is. She turns away and runs past her other peer. She enters the forest until she reaches a deep part, to be a little bit alone. She wants to hide from the others,so that they cannot see her momentary weakness, vacillation. Collapsing to the roots of a tree, she starts crying heavily. Don’t knowing why and how is this all happening around her, remembering only that last morning she was strong, aimed and determined, but now everything is so messed up.
Nothing is sure now. I have nothing. Not a fix point, not a handle, nothing that could save me. Or, maybe I have everything; it’s just that I cannot see where and how. I am not even sure about what I exactly want, or what does it worth that I wave, or what it will worth, in the future. I am young, but I am on the verge of death. I was the one who opened the door. The world is going on and is cruel.