Chapter 016: A man of his word

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Many years ago, in its more prosperous days, the city of Raman had covered essentially the entire eastern half of Calbia. While there were patches of nature that had been incorporated in the design of the city, where the city ended in the east, so did the island. Western Calbia, on the other hand, had always consisted of entirely undeveloped lands. Even if the decline of the city had made the exact boundaries of it a bit more muddled these days, western Calbia was a place where the remaining citizens never felt any reason to venture and where trying to build anything wouldn't have been anywhere near worth it. The area directly outside of Raman consisted mostly of cliffs, with sparse clusters of low trees, and further west was a thick undergrowth covered by a canopy that barely let any sun through. As there was not much wildlife to speak of, hunting had never been a worthwhile profession on Calbia, and as such the west remained as it was - almost entirely untouched by human hands.
 
The days immediately following Galt's last visit to David Flint's clinic passed by with nothing out of the ordinary happening. Galt's Marine ship was even no longer anchored at what once had been the docks of Raman. Markus and his father resumed looking after their staying patients, currently five of them, in addition to the occasional visitor who just needed quick help.  They did not talk about Galt at all, not even to each other. David seemed to want to forget him as soon as possible, and was glad he was gone - his ship had been staying at Calbia for a little over a month, and while he and his crew had been largely amicable to the rest of the citizens, he had still partaken of the city's limited resources without giving much back. David appeared to have been the largest thorn in his side and reason to remain, however. He had never shown any fear of Galt, and kept on what he was doing without worry, despite what Galt had told him. Because, he told himself, in the end Galt was still a Marine - he was in employ of the World Government to ensure justice in the world, and would protect the innocent over everything else...
 
It was the night of the sixth day after Galt had left. Where Raman of the past had been a city that appeared to never sleep, the only ones roaming what remained of the streets after sundown nowadays were the homeless and orphans. There was no law enforcement to speak of, most people cared only to protect their own. David was not the only exception to this, and those that still had businesses found it important to maintain a good relationship with those that remained, but there was no sense of community any more.
 
David and Markus were asleep in their bedroom on the bottom floor of the clinic. The room contained two beds in opposite corners, each with a nightstand beside it and a dresser at the foot end. On David's nightstand was a picture of a woman with black, curly hair, hazel eyes and a big smile on her face. David would always wish Miranda good night when he went to bed, and good morning when he awoke. Markus normally slept well, but ever since Galt's last visit, had been more restless. He was tossing and turning, and sweating... perhaps a little too much. He felt the room was much hotter than it should be, enough to wake him up. He heard the sound of something crackling, but didn't immediately figure out what it was.
 
He shot out of bed. He ran over to his father and started shaking him.
"Dad! Dad, wake up!" he said loudly.
"Markus... wha..." David said, groggily.
"There's, something's burning!" Markus said. "There's a fire!"
"Wha-" David said and sat up. "Fire?"
"It's, it's hot and it sounds like it and-"
"Okay, let's... we have to get out," David said. "We have to get the patients out."
"Alright," Markus said as David got out of bed and put on a pair of pants.
 
Of the patients currently staying at the clinic, one couldn't walk on his own due to one broken and one slightly less damaged leg. The others weren't as hurt, but since only those who needed the most help were housed at the clinic and the only way up and down to the patient's rooms were the stairs, David and Markus would have to provide assistance to get them down and out. They had to work together to get the one with the bad legs (and his wheelchair) down, but otherwise gathering all the patients on the bottom floor posed no problem - but they had still not been able to locate the source of the fire, and it was increasing in intensity. It didn't seem to have made its way too far into the building yet, so as long as they got out, even if they couldn't do anything about the fire, all they'd lose would be...
 
David unlocked the front door and tried opening it - but it was stuck. "What the-" he said as he tried pushing on it, Markus coming over to help, but it wouldn't budge. Something was blocking it from the outside. He kept pushing, ramming into it with his shoulder, but nothing.
"The- the window is barred too!" Markus exclaimed as he tried to open the window in the room. David came over to look, and so it was - someone had boarded it up from the outside. And as the window, as the door, opened outwards, there was not much they could do... breaking the window to remove the boards without getting cut up by broken glass would take too long.
"This is... it has to be..." David mumbled to himself.
"What are we going to do?" Markus asked.
"Check the other windows," David said. "The one in the bedroom is too small... that leaves the kitchen window."
"Alright," Markus said and ran off. David kept trying to get the door open, and could at least feel that whatever was blocking the door, it was... not completely immovable. But he couldn't get the door open far enough to see what it was.
"It's no good," Markus said as he came back. "All the windows on this floor are blocked..."
"Then... we're trapped?" David said as the fire increased in intensity. Their bedroom was already burning, and flames had started creeping through the walls. If the walls came down, the house would collapse... so waiting for a hole to open there was no option either.
"I'll try to get out through a window upstairs!" Markus said and started running towards the stairs. David started following, worried.
"Markus, it's-" he said, but as he was approaching the stairs, burning debris from the ceiling fell down in front of him. He looked up... the fire had really started picking up speed, there were flames everywhere, and it wouldn't be long now... Markus was their only hope. He returned to the front door, wondered if he should say something to the patients, but couldn't think of much... he wasn't sure how well they had picked up on the situation, some of them were medicated, and two of them including the guy in the wheelchair had fallen asleep again. He stood in front of the door, looked up to the ceiling, and screamed.
"AAAAAAAAH!" he let out before running at the front door... and stumbled forwards as it swung open without any issues. He fell down, face first, and as he looked up, saw a short figure standing in front of him.
"Ragnar," the person said calmly.
"Wha-" David started saying. He only barely managed to see another figure to his left, towering over him, having something raised. The next thing he knew, that something came crashing down hard on his legs, and even if he wasn't a doctor he'd know they had both just been broken. As the pain took over, he felt someone lift him and throw him back inside the building. He managed to look up from where he was lying, and saw someone he recognized standing in the doorway... even if he wasn't wearing his Marine clothes right now. "Galt!"
"Oh, doctor Flint," he spoke, "you should have listened to me..."
"Is this what the Marines have come to?" David asked with contempt in his voice.
"I am only doing my job, doctor Flint," Galt replied.
"Murder isn't your job!"
"Justice is my job, doctor Flint," Galt said and looked at the open door, removing the key from its lock. "Tragically, the Flint clinic burned down in a terrible accident... with the doctor and all his patients trapped inside."
"You're not going to get away with this!" David exclaimed.
"It's nothing personal, doctor Flint," Galt replied and closed the door, locking it from the outside as David could only look on.
"Gaaaaaaaaaalt!" was the last thing he managed to scream before the ceiling started falling over him.
 
~~~~
 
A little while later, Markus stood in front of the charred remains of the clinic. He had managed to get out through a window on the first floor, but as he had started making his way around the building, he had noticed the people in front, and heard them talking to his father... and it was clear to him that if he made his presence known, then he was definitely going to die too. So he had stayed out of sight, but still able to hear everything that was said... he had never felt such anger, and it took every ounce of willpower he had to not run to his father's aid. Even though he wouldn't be able to do anything, and it would get him killed... Galt and Ragnar had remained until the building started collapsing, and then left... but they hadn't walked towards the docks, instead making their way towards the west. The last Markus saw of them, they were climbing one of the cliffs that led to the Calbia wilds. Markus waited until they were completely out of sight, and then...
 
The debris was still warm, even if the fire itself had died out. He kept digging around where the front door should have been... and his first find was a charred corpse. It wasn't his dad, at least... it wasn't the first dead body he had seen, but this... he almost threw up, but kept on searching. Soon, he heard a sound, a very muffled sound, a small grunt... he used what strength he had left to remove some planks, and found...
"Dad!" he exclaimed. His face badly burned, what could be seen of his upper body burned and bleeding... but it was David Flint.
"Ma... Markus..." David managed to say. Markus sat down in front of him, with tears in his eyes.
"Why... why did they do this, dad?" he said.
"Some... cannot be reasoned with..." David said with a cough.
"I'll get you out of there!" Markus shouted and stood up.
"It's... no use..." David said. "I won't..."
"Dad..." Markus said, tears flowing.
"Oh, Miranda..." David said. "I'll... be with you..."
"Say... hi to mom for me," Markus said with a pained smile. Neither he nor his dad were strong believers in any kind of afterlife, but when you had spent several years taking care of dying patients, it was easy to catch on to anything that would put both the patient and those close to them more at ease.
"Promise me... Markus..." David started saying and took a raspy breath.
"Y... yes?"
"That you'll... always help... those in need. Pro... mise..." David said before his head slumped down.
"Dad? DAD!" Markus shouted and started shaking his father - but there was no life left in David Flint. Markus stood up, wiped away his tears with his sleeve and looked down at the body in front of him. "I promise."
 
Markus Flint left Calbia the same day. He had managed to save a few things from the ruins of the clinic, but even if he had wanted to give his father a proper burial, he felt it best to leave it much the same as it had been, to maintain the idea that everyone in the house had perished should Galt return to the scene. He had stowed away on a trader ship, and even if he was discovered only a few hours after the boat had left Calbia, they allowed him to stay on the ship until they reached their first destination. He didn't tell them his name, only claimed he was an orphan living on the streets of Raman - which, technically, had been true for about nine hours. While still young, and with no money to his name, he became a traveling doctor - he helped where he could, earned some beli here and there, but never told anyone his full name. And even though he had promised his father to help anyone, no matter who they were, he would try to stay away from the Marines when he could - while he observed that most of them indeed were friendly and helpful, he did not want to risk Galt finding him... not yet. As he grew older, this feeling would find itself displaced by one wanting to find Galt, to make him pay for what he had done... but as he did not want to appear suspicious, any investigating he did was done quietly. Galt still had his men, it would probably be hard for Markus to do anything on his own...
 
And so the years passed for Markus Flint. Two years, three years, four years... and so, on the fifth year after the death of David Flint, Markus could be found on the island of Midu, in the more southern regions of North Blue. He had been there for a few months, helped out at a local hospital in exchange for food and shelter. He had started training for a potential future confrontation with Galt, or any other dangerous people he might run into - he had purchased two swords on his travels, figuring that as a doctor, a cutting weapon was the best choice for him. He hadn't yet tried to get any proper training from someone more knowledgeable, but was reading up on swordsmanship in books. He thought he had the basics down, at least.
 
One evening, when he was walking down to one of Midu's many beaches to practice, he spotted a small boat being pulled towards the island by the current. He didn't see anyone in it at first, but decided to take a closer look. As he came closer, he spotted a person lying down inside, face down. He couldn't tell if they were alive... he quickly took off his boots, socks, pants and shirt and waded out in the water, grabbing onto the boat and dragging it up on the beach. He inspected what was inside it... it was a young woman, mostly covered by a dark grey coat. She had long, black hair with a single streak coloured dark red, and some decoration consisting of a red flower and blue feather over her left ear. He put a hand on her shoulder, shaking her slightly, starting to turn her over so he could see her face.
"Are you alright, miss?"
 

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