Tea looked at me with confusion. Not saying a word. The look on his face cycled between disbelief and serious consideration over and over again, as if he was trying to convince himself that I was playing a joke on him. He knew though, he knew that I was being serious.
“That… that is certainly something. After the last few weeks I really thought that nothing could surprise me anymore, but now there is this.” Tea said after what felt like forever
His answer still unclear I continued to study his face, looking for a hint as to how he was taking it. With the look of bewilderment on his face however I began to wonder if he knew how he was taking it.
“Does that mean… you want to hurt people?” He asked, his voice shook slightly as it did
Rather than fear, however, it felt more like he was fighting back sadness.
“All I want is to keep myself and my friends safe. I have no plans to start any fights, but I won’t lay down and die for those that will hunt me.” I answered
His expression cracks slightly, as a glimmer of relief shows on his face. However, he clearly understood the implications in the answer I gave. I’m sure he wishes as much as I do that the answer could simply be “no”.
“I… I understand. If someone wanted to hurt you or Kiel… I think I would fight back too, though at this point I don’t know what I would be able to do.” Tea answered, fighting to put resolution in his words
“I’m… I’m one of the people you care about? You hardly know me, and I just told you that I’ve been lying to you all this time!” I snapped back, almost as if I am trying to convince him to hate me
I was surprised at myself. Why did I snap at him like that? I don’t want him to hate me, but it felt wrong to be included. Knowing that he cared for me… it made me feel like I had tricked him somehow. After all, what had I done to deserve his care?
“Your right… that hurts. Kiel has been my only family for quite some time. Lately, when the word family came up, I started to think of you too.” Tea said with pain in his voice
The anger I felt towards myself only grew at his response. I was his family? How was that fair? Because Tea is naturally kind he started to think highly of me, and even got wrapped up in the danger that I caused. Was asking him for help the right thing to do? Doesn’t this just mean that I am going to be taking advantage of him even more?
“I don’t know what hurts me more honestly. You didn’t trust me… but I understand why. I… when I think of what I would have done if you had told me right away.”
Tears started to well in his eyes as guilt began to wash over him. He grabbed my shoulders and pulled me quickly into a hug, sobbing softly out of view as my head rest in his shoulder. He held me like this for nearly a minute, neither of us saying a word. An awkward silence as we both tried to think of the right thing to say.
I tried my hardest to get my emotions under control, to make a decision about what to do next, but the more I tried to think on it the more my anger began to twist into something new. Regret, anxiety, and sadness filled my mind to it’s brim. I remembered all of the destruction I had seen over the last few weeks, and the people unlucky enough to become casualties. Imagining finding Tea in that rubble… it added fear to the mix.
Suddenly, with a yank, I am pulled out of my own world. Tea, having gathered his resolve, held me at arms distance and looked me in the eyes.
“Tell me what you need of me. I said I was going to be there for you when you needed me, and I will be.” He said in a firm voice
“Why? I don’t understand why you would go so far for me? Me being the Maou… it clearly upsets you. It clearly makes you uncomfortable, so why? I thought all I was to you was a friend of Kiel, and I’ve only known you for a short time, what could I possibly have done to deserve you caring about me like this? Don’t you understand the kind of danger I am putting you in?” I asked, indignant, as tears began to stream down my face as well
Why was I acting like this? It’s not like Tea was the first person to accept me being the Maou. Why was it that him accepting me or caring for me gave me such conflicting feelings.
“What are you talking about? Are you seriously asking me why I would go so far for someone that is effectively a stranger? Mano, in the past few months you have helped the only person I have considered family for decades gain the freedom he always wanted, freed me from a debt that was going to take a lifetime to pay, and now you are offering me a dream job. Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned the fact that most of that involved fighting a life or death tournament against the strongest people in the world! What part of all of that isn’t deserving of a bit of sentimentality?” He responds with a look of disbelief on his face
“All of that was for my own goals! The only reason I was trying to help you was so that I wouldn’t owe you anything…” As the words rolled off my tongue I began to notice how ridiculous they sound
Why had I gone so far for him? Sure, he helped me out when I really needed it, but was that really worth all the effort I have put in? Was it because Kiel asked me to?
sigh “You and Kiel both.” Tea said with an exasperated tone as he shakes his head
“You are both dumb, dense, and can’t seem to keep yourselves out of trouble no matter what. It’s why I can’t help but watch over you. Listen, you could have walked out of town and never talked to me again. I refuse to believe that someone that goes through that much effort to pay back a favor as small as what I did for you isn’t a good person, and so long as you are good at heart I suppose it doesn’t really matter if you are the Maou does it?” Tea said as his expression softened
“That… isn’t…” My words failed me as I tried to take in what he said
It does matter though. Whether he accepts me or not doesn’t change the fact that this will put him in danger.
“So I’m going to say it one more time. Tell me what you need of me, I want to be there for you.” Tea said with an steeled resolve and and earnest expression
A small smile broke out on my face as I stared silently at his face. I could see how much he cared for me in his eyes, and his assured confidence helped clear my head a bit.
“Even if it ends in disaster?” I let out meekly after gathering myself
“I trust you.” He responded simply with a nod
Again, his words felt like they sent barbs into my heart, but I took a deep breath and continued.
“So, I am making a village…”