The first meeting between Andrew Watkin and the Jeffersons went great. After exploring the fields, the affluent merchant was extremely pleased with how the crops were being grown, and how the villagers were doing their best to ensure that the cotton plantation was free of pests and other hazards. After the preliminary inspection, Bawil offered that Gawil bring the guest on a tour of the village, to help his son build a bond with the merchant.
Gawil naturally obliged. Bringing Andrew Watkin to the various places in the town; but since the village was rather small, the tour managed to end rather quickly. Just as the merchant was getting bored, a peculiar sight caught his eye.
“Is that a Shuthe Serpent?”
Glancing at the carcass of the once-perilous beast, Andrew Watkin asked his guide.
“You have a good eye, mister Watkin. That beast had been haunting our village for the past few days. Just yesterday, we launched a hunting expedition to bring down the serpent. Thankfully, no one was injured.”
Gawil explained how the Shuthe Serpent died and anything that the merchant wished to know.
“Since you know that much, you must be one of the brave hunters who brought down this thing…”
“I’m not worthy of such praise. All I did was defend my home.”
“There’s no need to be modest. A Shuthe Serpent is a powerful beast. For someone of your age to be able to hunt it is rather remarkable.”
Andrew Watkin slapped his paper fan shut as he started to contemplate something.
“Is something the matter?”
“No… It’s nothing… Gawil, right? Do you mind if I call you that?”
“Of course not! Please, ask anything you need.”
“Then I won’t be courteous. Why don’t you work for me for a few years? As I understand, there are still a few more years before you officially take over your father’s position. During that time, why don’t you work for me in my shops? I am in a severe need for capable Spirit Users to protect my products and could really use a hand…”
Andrew Watkin put forth a proposal for Gawil to work for him. A little shocked by the sudden turn of events, Gawil was unable to think straight for a short period of time.
“As someone inheriting the village head position, don’t you think you should gain more connections outside? Working at my store will help to broaden your horizons! Furthermore, I will pay you a fair amount.”
Seeing that Gawil was still shellshocked by his sudden words, Andrew Watkin continued to press, in hopes of convincing the young Spirit Core cultivator to join his ranks.
“That… I think I should discuss this with my father first…”
“Then I’ll await your good news!”
Putting his pearly white teeth on full display, Andrew Watkin flashed Gawil the brightest smile he had ever seen. Of course, in future, Gawil would continuously curse this day where he listened to the fat monster’s words…
Naturally, Bawil was elated when he heard that the wealthy merchant had invited Gawil over to work for him. The thing his son lacked the most was not strength or cultivation, but experience in the real world. Only by exposing him to the perils of the world outside of the village, could Gawil continue to grow and become stronger. Hence, when Andrew Watkin offered his son a job, Bawil happily threw Gawil straight into the merchant’s arms.
Thus, Gawil embarked on his first job outside of the village. Andrew Watkin was rather kind to the country bumpkin when he first arrived in his store. The wealthy merchant introduced Gawil to many of his affiliates and family members. Additionally, he never underpaid or mistreated the newbie, making Gawil’s early days under him a cakewalk.
The Jefferson Village was close to Chilyoja Waypoint, Andrew Watkin’s base of operations. Hence, Gawil was always given a few days off a month to report back to the village and meet his precious wife and inspect the cotton plantations.
Everything was going smoothly for Gawil. His village was prospering, and his cultivation was improving at an exponential rate. And just like that, three years had passed since Andrew Watkin first visited the town.
“What did you say?!”
Bulging his eyes out, Gawil blankly stared at his wife. Widening his mouth so large that an apple could fit in, the young man, who had quickly grown into a responsible adult, made the dumbest look he had in years. Bemused by her husband’s reaction, Hewla gently used her delicate fingers to push Gawil’s jaw up.
“Hehehe, I’m pregnant you silly…”
“You’re joking… Is it true?! Is it really true?”
Reaching out to Hewla’s soft stomach, Gawil’s fingers trembled in excitement. And she couldn’t blame him. When she first heard the news, Hewla had the exact same reaction he had. The couple had been married for years, and they had tried to have a baby every single night that they were together. Unfortunately, due to the both of them being strong Spirit Users, it was a little more difficult for them to produce a child. However, that did not bother Gawil. After all, they were still very young.
“Yeah! My grandmother personally confirmed it! You’re going to be a dad, Gawil!”
“Me? A father? HAHAHAHA!!! I’m going to be a father? Oh my god! My love! Come here, my love!”
Immediately after he got the news, Gawil brought his wife close to him and embraced her. Smelling her fragrant hair and stroking her smooth back, the man felt as if the world had turned pink with joy. He had wished for a child ever since he got married and he had to admit, the numerous times he had been let down over the years really struck down his confidence.
“Hey! Hey! Don’t be so violent! What if you scare the baby?”
Pushing her husband away, Hewla lightly admonished him.
“Right! I’m sorry! Hahahaha! I’m going to be a father! We have to celebrate! Let me go get… Wait…”
“Hmmm? Is something the matter?”
Seeing that her husband’s jubilant mood had suddenly turned bitter, Hewla grabbed his sleeve.
“Mister Watkin is sending me on a mission tomorrow… It might take me a few days to return… Arghhh!!! What timing!”
“It’s alright, Gawil. Work is more important… It’s not like when you return, I won’t be pregnant anymore.”
Hewla gently smiled when she heard her husband’s reason for feeling despondent. Caressing his head, she comforted him like the good wife she was.
“Don’t worry, I’ll work extra hard on this mission! Getting it done for one day won’t be a problem!”
“Okay! I’ll wait for you!”
Like Gawil said, one day after he found out the news of his wife’s pregnancy, Andrew Watkin had summoned him to his chambers. With a sparkling smile, Gawil walked straight into the office that he had been to so many times before and impatiently headed towards his boss.
“Mister Watkin, I have arrived!”
“Oh ho, seems like you are in a good mood!”
“Yeah, I’d just received some great news!”
In the familiar chambers, there was an obese man busily reading documents with a brown-haired young man assisting him in moving the enormous stacks of paper. Noticing the new entrant into the building, the merchant stopped what he was doing to welcome his subordinate.
“That’s good. You need to be in tip-top condition for your next mission anyway, Manald! Bring me that document!”
“Yes, master Watkin!”
The attendant turned to a nearby table and reached for a piece of yellow parchment paper.
“Gawil, I need you to follow this map and find a cave. I’ve heard that a pregnant Mandalac Tiger had been spotted near there. If you find it, abduct the baby cub for me. Your Blorgte Chameleon Spirit is perfect for the job. A Mandalac Tiger cub can be sold at an auction for a substantial amount of money.”
After interacting with Andrew Watkin for so long, Gawil began to have a basic understanding of how the prosperous merchant’s mind works. He would do anything if there were profits to be made and hardly cared about the livelihood of those affected. Gawil had done many missions similar to this one, but he had always detached himself by saying that it was just work.
However, now that he was going to have a baby, he could not help but feel for the pregnant beast. He wondered if it was the right thing to do.
“Mister Watkin, do we really need to do that? After all, the Mandalac Tiger is not disturbing anyone…”
“Did I ask for your opinion, Gawil? Need I remind you that I’m paying you to do as I say? Enough of this useless blabber… I hope that you can get it done quickly…”
Venomously striking back at his subordinates unwillingness to accept the mission, Andrew Watkin put on a displeased face. Occasionally, when Gawil was doing something that annoyed the merchant, Andrew Watkin would leak a little of his real character. Domineering and calculative, the man would lash out without care of his worker’s feelings.
“Oh right, I nearly forgot…”
Before Gawil could leave the room, the obese man brought out a small little medicine box. Opening the wooden lever, a pungent herb scent filled the office.
“This here is a vitality enhancement pill. I expect your fight with the beast to be messy so I specially ordered someone to make this.”
“This… The pill is too valuable mister Watkin! I can’t possibly take this!”
“Don’t worry about the cost… Just complete the mission.”
Standing up from his chair, Andrew Watkin picked up the tiny, yellow pill from the box and handed it over to Gawil, urging him to swallow it down. Touched by the man’s goodwill, the Spirit Core cultivator naively devoured the pill.
“I will not let you down!”
Tapping his chest twice, Gawil gave his boss a salute and resolutely left the room. He wanted to complete the mission as soon as possible so that he could return to be with his wife. As the figure of Gawil disappeared into the distance, the pleasant smile of Andrew Watkin slowly changed into a detestable frown.
“Master Watkin, must we really do this?”
Manald, who had been quiet all this time, finally spoke up.
“There’s no choice… Funds are low and to open a new store, I must cut away some costs. If I eliminate the Jefferson Village, we will be able to possess the entirety of their plantations nearly doubling the income generated from that place. Furthermore, we don’t have to deal with those backwater bumpkins anymore.”
Nonchalantly explaining his rationale, Andrew Jefferson looked like he could care less about the lives of those villagers that he despised.
“Unfortunately, there are two very high-skilled warriors in that village. Gawil and his father. Sending Gawil away to that trap would take away half of their fighting strength. For the rest of the village, I got some hired hands to quietly eradicate them. After all, who would notice if a remote community of fewer than fifty people disappeared from the face of the earth…”
Unaware of the dangers that his family was facing, Gawil innocently bolted towards the cave where the Mandalac Tiger resided. Since it was close to Chilyoja Waypoint, it took him less than five hours to accurately locate his target.
“This should be it…”
Looking at the map, Gawil tried to find similarities between the drawing and the surroundings. Happily, for him, everything on the map matched the environment, indicating that he was at precisely the right place. In fact, the drawing was too accurate that Gawil had to rub his eyes in disbelief for a while.
“Wow, mister Watkin’s means are incredible… To think that he could find a map this precise.”
Astounded by his employer’s prowess, Gawil carefully walked into the cave. Aiming to find the Mandalac Tiger cub as soon as possible, his steps started to move more frantically and eventually, he found himself deep inside the cave.
“That’s weird, I scoured the entire place, but there are no signs of any living thing…”
Thinking out loud, Gawil scratched his head in confusion.
“Of course there isn’t!”
At that moment, a loud bang echoed through the empty cave as a voice bellowed out behind Gawil. Turning backwards, he saw a gigantic explosion destroy the entrance of the cave, letting rocks fall and pile up. A second later, the exit to the cave was entirely sealed up. Looking up, Gawil saw three burly men, each with their own unique Spirits, staring him down. Shockingly for him, Gawil recognised those three people.
“You guys! What are you doing?!”
Amongst Andrew Watkin’s close associates, there was a division that focused primarily on completing tough missions. Hence, nearly every single one of its members were high-level Spirit Users with most of them being Spirit Core cultivators. Even Gawil was part of this elite group.
“I’m sorry, Gawil. It’s nothing personal… Master Watkin just doesn’t want you and your stupid backwater village around anymore.”
One of the burly men blurted out, much to the dismay of Gawil.
“Well, business is business… Don’t struggle. I don’t want you to suffer before you die.”
“You think that I’ll let you?! I…”
Before Gawil could mouth out another word, he suddenly felt a throbbing pain pulsating out of his body. Losing control of his body, Gawil fell to his knees.
“Hoho, perfect timing. It looks like the drug Master Watkin gave you is finally coming into effect…”
The leader of the gang smiled slightly edging closer and closer to Gawil.
“Hah… Why are you so naive? Did you really think that Master Watkin would give you a vitality enhancement pill? Let this be a lesson for you in your next life… Don’t be so trusting of others.”
Pulling out a knife from his back pocket, the burly man violently thrust the blade into the left stomach of Gawil.
Screaming out in agony, Gawil felt a cold, metallic object lodged in his body. The pain was amplified by the weird drug that he consumed back in Andrew Watkin’s office. Using his right hand to grab the knife, Gawil tried to push away the burly man’s hand.
“It’s no use, Gawil… Just relax, it will be over in a mom…”
Before the burly man could finish his sentence, he saw a brilliant flash of light that blinded his eyes for a second. When he was about to come to his senses, he felt his throat being cut through. Looking down, he saw Gawil’s left hand, which was holding a small dagger, right in front of his neck.
“You… think… you’re… the only… one with… a knife?!”
Gasping for air, Gawil struggled to put forth his words. With his dagger piercing the burly man’s throat, Gawil ended his former co-worker’s life in an instant before pushing away the corpse.
Seeing their partner’s life taken away without him having the chance to react, the other two men angrily prepared their Spirits to end their target’s life. However, Gawil was not going to let them have to chance to even get close to him. Summoning out the Blorgte Chameleon, Gawil entered his spiritual body enhancement mode and turned invisible.
“Be careful, his Spirit specialises in concealing himself. Other than that he has no other offensive abilities that we need to worry about!”
One of the men warned the other.
Unfortunately, his warning came a little late. Glancing to his side, he saw Gawil’s transformed claw penetrating his partner’s heart. Gawil’s mint-green scaly arms had been dyed crimson-red as blood dripped everywhere.
Before he could launch an attack, a meaty reptilian tail whipped through the air and crashed into the last man’s body, flinging him up high. Colliding with the rocky surface of the cave, the assailant spat out a mouthful of blood before looking at Gawil with extreme shock.
“You… Hid your strength?”
Everyone in the Watkin company knew that Gawil had the Blorgte Chameleon Spirit that specialised in concealing itself. Hence, they had the assumption that physically, Gawil was not as gifted as the other Spirit Users. Never did they expect that Gawil was actually that powerful when it came to fighting.
“I… never… needed to… show it…”
Still in pain, Gawil grasped his wound and slowly approached his final assailant. With a backwards roundhouse kick, Gawil violently pushed the man’s head into the cave walls, turning it into nothing but red paste and brain matter.
However, he did not take any pride in taking down three Spirit Core opponents. All his mind was focused on was his beloved wife that was in severe danger.
Finding a path out of the sealed cave took Gawil much longer than he anticipated; but once he did, the man rapidly rushed back to his village as fast as his legs could carry him. Due to the grievous wound in his stomach and the diabolical drug in his system, Gawil fell over a couple of times while running. However, every time he felt his legs weakened, he thought of his loving wife and their unborn child. With that image in mind, Gawil willed his legs to move and desperately pleaded to the immortals above that his family would be safe and sound when he arrived.
But the heavens did not hear his call.
Night had fallen. The cold moonlight illuminated the pitch-black curtain of the night sky as the darkness embraced every living soul. In the midst of the chilling night, there was a pile of ash, that was out of place for something in the middle of the forest. The black dust still retained a bit of its heat, indicating it was not long since the burning had occurred.
Walking through the place that he had once called home, Gawil stumbled around in disbelief.
“No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! THIS CAN’T BE!!!”
Running around like a madman, Gawil ran straight towards his lodgings, in hopes that his wife had managed to escape. Although there was a large wound in his stomach, he was unable to feel the pain as he bolted.
After a minute, he reached his humble abode, or rather, what remained of it. Charred and broken-down, the cottage that Gawil once loved had long been burnt to cinders. Still hoping that his wife had managed to escape the devastation, Gawil fearfully dug through all the dust and dirt. Two minutes passed, he had not found anything. Ten minutes passed, still nothing. And after twenty minutes, Gawil started to smile. If he had not discovered anything, there was a real possibility that Hewla had managed to escape!
Just as he was about to stop his search, he saw ‘it’.
A scorched human corpse, with its hands and knees tucked into its chest, could be seen at the end of the cottage, where the couple’s room was located. Blackened beyond belief, the body was indistinguishable when placed in the middle of the ashes surrounding it. However, even in death, there was no way Gawil wouldn’t recognise ‘her’.
With a weakened voice, Gawil kneeled down in front of the corpse and reached his hand out. For some reason, the body was holding on to something in its hands. As if it were the most precious thing in the world, the corpse was protecting the item as if it was more important than its own life.
Opening up the corpse’s hand, Gawil felt all energy leave his body. A tiny cotton sock that was specially made for a baby lied comfortably in Hewla’s hand, untouched by the flames and embers that surrounded it.
No one was more excited of her pregnancy than Hewla herself. She had loved children and was always jealous when her many peers started to get pregnant, leaving her behind. Thus, when she had heard the news, Hewla felt her heart leap out of her body. After Gawil left for the mission, Hewla immediately got a sewing kit together and prepared to make the best clothes that she could for her unborn child.
Memories of his precious wife started to flood Gawil’s mind. The first time they met as children. Hewla would often pull his nose and call him a snot-nosed brat.
“No, this can’t be…”
The first time they saw each other after their confirmed engagement. Embarrassed and shy, the two could barely look each other in the eyes, much to their parent’s amusement.
Their first time in the wedding chambers. Both of them were inexperienced and were clumsy in the beginning, but eventually their lust for each other took over as they indulged in their first night as a couple.
At this point, Gawil was unable to hold back his tears. Like a broken dam, his eyes released a torrent of tears while his hands shivered, holding the unfinished sock. His shoulders trembled as he fell onto the floor. Bringing his face closer to the burnt corpse, Gawil gently caressed the nape of his wife one last time.
While he was wallowing in grief, an image of an obese, despicable man came to mind. The anguish in his eyes quickly turned into a rage that boiled hotter than the divine sun above as he thought of the man that caused him so much hurt.
An outraged roar bellowed out from the now burnt-down Jefferson Village, cursing out the perpetrator behind the mindless massacre.
“And so, I swore to take vengeance on the bastard who took everything away from me…”
Gawil Jefferson, who was currently being detained by the constables of the waypoint, recounted his story in front of the many people in the Watkin Shoebox. Shin, Ariel, Lady Seph, Lewis and the First Elder all wore bitter expressions as they heard the tragic tale. Initially, Shin and Ariel loathed the man and couldn’t wait for him to get punished. However, after listening to his tragedy, the two of them had second thoughts about giving the poor man any form of penalties.
“If you had come to us, we would have brought him to justice…”
Lewis suggested if Gawil had come forth to the constables, things might have turned out differently.
“What good is the law? Does a barbarian like him deserve to be tried? What about my hate? He killed my family! He killed my wife! HE KILLED MY CHILD! What sort of justice can anyone enact on him?”
At his outburst, even Lewis had no choice but to keep quiet.
“So I immediately headed to the waypoint, and in the darkness of night, I managed to sneak past the gates. Thankfully, I didn’t have to wait long to find that fucker. Turns out, he was out celebrating the opening of his new store. HE FUCKING WENT DRINKING WHILE MY FAMILY WAS BURNT ALIVE!!!”
Hearing how heinous Andrew Watkin was, everyone in the room felt surging hate rising from the depths from their hearts. Turns out, the dreadful merchant deserved what he got.
“While he was drunk and defenceless, I brought him to a stable and unleashed all my hatred. At first, he was tearing out words of remorse. He begged, and he begged, but that only made me angrier. When he found out that it was useless, he reverted back to his despicable self. Tell me, officer… Does someone like him deserve to live?”
“Why have you gone silent? TELL ME! DID HE DESERVE TO…”
Before he could finish his sentence, Gawil coughed out blood once more. However, since his blood replenishment was still low, the red fluids that popped out of his mouth had started to dry up. Feeling the last ounce of spiritual energy leave his body, Gawil knew that his time had come.
“Ha… Ha… All I wanted to do, was to do my father proud, by leaving my mark in history. But because of that bastard, now no one will know my name…”
Closing his eyes, Gawil felt a warm darkness beckoning him. Tempted to just let himself into the arms of mistress death, the decrepit man blankly stared into the air. However, before he left the living world, he eyed the young boy, who had so excellently defeated him. Shin’s talented fighting acumen and his desire to save his beloved greatly resonated with the dying man. Looking at Shin, Gawil could see a part of him inside of the young ten-year-old.
“Tell me, boy… Will you remember my name?”
Not knowing why, Gawil felt that one day, Shin could amount to something huge. If such a person remembered his name, wouldn’t that be the next best thing?
Shin gave the man, who was on his deathbed, a resolute nod.
“Haha… Then it’s sufficient… At least my name will be remembered by someone…”
As he said those words, his eyelids started to become heavier as his body ceased to function. His chest stopped moving as his breathing slowed. The beating of his heart gradually came to a halt as the light in his eyes faded. Finally, the Watkin Murderer, no, Gawil Jefferson, took his last breath as his soul dissipated out of existence.