Carpathia III: Episode 32 - Distance

Unassumed Lands, Vayhama House

The silence of the house weighed heavily on Kaoru. He was often alone and he could only clean so much before it was pointless. Quilyon was hunting again. Reuli was with Wolfram somewhere. Ixon was in town, as he often was, for town meetings. This time, however, Tarja was in the basement, cutting up meat to sell in the town across the river.

Karou sat alone in the kitchen, resting his cheek in the palm of his hand. His body and mind felt numb and he lacked the motivation even to get out of his chair to go lay down on his bed. It was a miserable feeling and he didn't quite understand why he was feeling that way. Even when everyone was home and the house was bustling with activity, he felt withdrawn and distant, like an interloper at someone else's party.

Tarja: Are you okay, Kaoru?

Kaoru jumped a little. He was always amazed at how silently Tarja could move about the house, especially given how old and creaky the floors were.

Tarja: Oh, I'm sorry. Did I startle you?

Kaoru: Yes! I mean no! Well... maybe a little.

Tarja pulled out a chair next to him and sat down. She leaned in and looked at him with intense interest.

Tarja: You can tell me whatever you want.

Kaoru: I don't know how to explain it. I just feel... weird. I just... don't feel like doing anything.

Kaoru paused for a few moments, as Tarja looked at him, waiting patiently for him to continue. Kaoru looked down at the table, unable to accept the kindness in her eyes. A kindness of which he did not feel worthy.

Kaoru: I'm not supposed to be here... I'm not supposed to be anywhere, really. I was an accident, you know. My parents never meant to have me.

He had no idea why he was suddenly telling her about this, but she remained quiet and listened attentively, which made it easier for him to continue.

Kaoru: My youngest sister is 14 years older than me. The others are grown and married. I hardly ever see them. They're retired and they often go on vacations suddenly without telling me, leaving me alone. Even when I was a kid, I was usually by myself. It sounds awful, but I really don't miss them much. I barely remember what they look like. Now I'm here, and...

Kaoru sniffled a little before he continued.

Kaoru: Um... I don't know how to say this... By all rights, I belong here even less. I can't tell you how much it means to me that you took me in, even if I don't deserve it. I don't have a choice now which place I live, here or back home... But I still ask myself which I'd choose if I could... Sometimes I think that I would prefer to stay here than go home...

Kaoru wiped a tear from his cheek.

Kaoru: I'm awful, aren't I?

Tarja smiled sadly at him before she reached out and pulled him into a tight embrace.

Tarja: No, you're not awful. You can't help your feelings. And you're welcome to stay here as long as you want. You've done a wonderful job cleaning up the house.

A mother's embrace. It was a feeling Kaoru hadn't known in a very long time and though she was not his mother, he felt the same comfort from it.

Kaoru: I've never even had many friends until recently. And now I've lost them too.

Tarja: There may come a day when you'll have to go out and look for yourself. I'm afraid Ixon tends to overestimate how much information he can get outside of the Unassumed Lands. However, that's up to you. If you decide to do that, we'll make sure you're ready for it.

Tarja continued to hold Kaoru tightly. Kaoru, for a time, felt at peace for the first time in a long time. When she released him, it was as though she also released his anxiety.

Tarja: For now, we need to find you a job to do. We have an old field behind the house. Do you know anything about farming?

Kaoru hadn't considered the field, though he had noticed it. He didn't know anything about farming, but his desire to be useful overrode that concern.

Kaoru: I don't, but I can learn.

Tarja: Excellent! I'll talk to Ixon and see if he can take you to town and get some seeds and tools tomorrow.

Suddenly, the front door banged open and the sound of heavy footsteps clomped inside.

Ixon: Ugh! That Ghestalt! I just had it out with him about how much he has been abdicating his responsibilities! Doesn't show up for town meetings! Disappears for days on end! I should never have placed Kaut with him! He deserves better!

Tarja: Have you been fighting?

Kaoru looked up at Ixon and even through his watery eyes, he could see that he looked terrible. His face was bruised in several places. The frames of his glasses were bent, and his clothes were covered in dirt.

Ixon: He started it! Can you get me some ointment?

Tarja fixed on him with a menacing glare.

Tarja: Dear, Kaoru and I are having a conversation. You can go find it yourself.

Ixon looked at both of them for a moment. Tarja was still hugging Kaoru, whose face was puffy and watery. It took a few moments for comprehension to dawn on him.

Ixon: Oh... um... I'm sorry for interrupting... Why don't I go find the ointment myself then?

Ixon shuffled quickly towards his bedroom.

Tarja: Yes, I do believe that would be a good idea!

Ixon disappeared into the bedroom as Tarja looked down at Kaoru to see if he was feeling any better. The exchange amused him, and he had a smile on his face.

Kaoru: Thanks.

Tarja: For what it's worth, you're part of our family now, so you can come to me any time you want.

Kaoru: Speaking of that, I would like to get to know you better. Ixon is great, but it seems like I'm with him all the time and he's kind of tiring. Could you take me to get seeds and tools for the garden instead?

Tarja smiled.

Tarja: I know what you mean. I think I can make time for that.

A knock at the door distracted them once again. Almost instantly thereafter, Ixon came rushing out of the bedroom, holding a tube of ointment in his hand.

Ixon: I'll get it! I'll get it! Don't get up!

Ixon rushed to the door and opened it. Kaoru couldn't see who was on the other side, with Ixon blocking his view, but for a moment, he thought he could see some white fur poking out in between the gaps between Ixon and the door.

Ixon: Scratches! Well, this is a surprise. What brings you here?

Kaoru sat up right away and started rubbing his face.

Scratches: Is Kaoru here?

Ixon: Um...

Ixon turned to see if Kaoru was ready. It was only a few seconds more that he needed to straighten himself out and then he nodded at Ixon to tell him it was okay.

Ixon: Sure, sure! Come on in.

Ixon stood away from the door, allowing Scratches to enter. Kaoru desperately hoped he didn't look like he'd just been crying.

Kaoru: Hi...

Kaoru's greeting came out as more of a gurgley croak. He hastily cleared his throat and repeated himself.

Kaoru: Hi!

Scratches: Hey. I was on my way into town and I thought you might want to come with me and get a beer or something.

Kaoru was stunned into silence for only a short time.

Kaoru: Um... Sure, that sounds great! That is, if you guys don't need me for anything.

Tarja: Go on ahead. I think we can make do without you for a day.

Kaoru: Thanks! I just gotta go get my shoes.

Kaoru rushed from his chair to the bedroom. He emerged a few seconds later with this shoes, put them on, and left with Scratches.

Commissioned art in this episode from:

All city pictures from SimCity 4

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