"Well, that's unfortunate..." Detra whispered with somber eyes as she gazed at her list.
"Indeed..." Xadi agreed while sitting on the ground in front of her while observing the list as well and watching Gustav's name being erased, "But we still have a lot of options, don't we? We can just pick someone else to fight..."
Detra stared at the fur frog toy for a couple of seconds, "That's not the problem here..."
"Oh... Right..." the toy replied as he looked back and observed an immense air of gloominess spreading over the air.
The whole group was crouching on the ground with either their eyes bawling, their head buried on their legs, or trying to comfort someone next to them by holding their hand or giving them a hug.
Evlin was holding Ellie in her arms while the two continued to sob with Claire holding Ellie's hand.
Daren and Lilith were hugging each other while embracing Lance between them with their heads down and their eyes closed. These two were not new to the pain of losing someone but they still were not ready to hear the news of their friend's passing.
Ria and Auren were doing the same while holding Marcia and trying their best to hold their tears.
Dia was sitting nearby observing thinking about what she should do. She never really knew Gustav that well nor was she that close to Ria yet. She didn't know if she should try to comfort her sister or just leave her be, but eventually, Ria glanced over at her and just extended her hand for the girl to grab.
Once she did so, Ria pulled her new sister closer and buried her in her embrace as well. Dia couldn't tell if this was helping at all, but if that's what her sister wanted, she felt it would be best to just stay there for a moment.
Joseph also was not really that close to Gustav so he just sat next to his frog teacher and tried to observe the progress of the list as well.
Eclipse and the griffin Evlin brought with her were trying to comfort Sphinx as well as they could feel something was upsetting him and stayed by his side cuddling themselves.
Ashley was sitting on top of a rock while embracing Marcus in his sword form while thinking about her time together with Gustav and trying to remember if she ever did show how grateful she was to him. She was afraid that during their time she could have forgotten to be a true friend to him as well.
Leona stayed by her side in case Ashley needed a shoulder to lean on but the woman just kept quiet the entire time.
"They're not taking this very well..." Xadi noted, "Aren't you concerned that we should be focusing on the plan?"
At that moment, Detra gazed at the group and suddenly the image of Marcella popped into her head, "People need time to mourn those they lost... Leave them be..."
Joseph looked back as well and started to wonder what everyone was feeling right now. He was the only person present that had never experienced the act of losing someone in his life.
Evlin lost Dalla when she was just sixteen, Ellie saw her aunt almost dying while having her body stolen by Mia, saw Flora dying by her own hand during her adventure in Hana's garden, and saw many mages perishing during the war to rescue her aunt, Ashley lost her parents when she was just a child, Daren had her wife killed by a spirit, Lilith was once drunk with power when using Marceus and murdered an entire squad of soldiers by herself which caused her to be afraid of blood, Ria saw her father be killed by her own mother and aunt under her sister's orders right in front of her, Auren also saw Ria dying in his arms once until the goddess of the west appeared and saved her life, and Marcus' first memory after coming to exist was seeing his father Marceus vanish completely.
Even Claire also already knew that feeling from being separated from her father due to an accident involving a robbery.
Death was definitely not a stranger to any of them, but that did not make it any easier whenever they had to encounter her once again.
"Why...?" Evlin whispered.
The rest of her group began to lift their heads and look at her.
"Why him...? Why would Knucker want to kill him?? Why did he have to die???" she continued while her tears proceeded to fall, "He had no reason to kill him!! We were going to accept his dumb game! We were going to do everything he wanted!! There was no reason for him to die!!"
Ashley stood up and walked towards her. Daren did the same while pulling Lilith's hand so she could follow him. Ria and Auren stood up as well.
"Evlin..." Ashley whispered, forcing the crossbow mage to lift up her head and gaze at them as they looked back at her.
They had no answer for her, they had no words to comfort her. All they could do was let her know that they all shared the same pain, and that they were there for each other.
Ashley pulled Evlin's and Ellie's hand and the two stood up to be embraced by the whole group as they continued to support each other.
Claire and Leona moved closer to Joseph and watched as the crossbow family mourned as one the loss of a family member.
"You not gonna join them...?" Detra asked Leona.
"I wasn't close enough to him to share their pain..." she replied, "It wouldn't be appropriate..."
"Do you know death...?" Detra bluntly asked.
"I- I do... Yes... I also have those who are not with me anymore... That's one of the reasons why I decided to join the followers of the east, to begin with..."
"Then you share their pain very well..." Detra explained, "Death comes in many ways... Many forms... It can happen as fast as the blink of an eye, or it can take as long as the years it takes a seed to grow into a tree... But in the end, it's always the same feeling...
Something that used to be there... Simply isn't there anymore... And there is nothing that you or anyone can do about it..."
Joseph absorbed these words and looked at Claire, noticing that she too was trying to contain her tears, not because she was sad for Gustav, but because she was being reminded of her own loss as well.
Claire eventually couldn't take it anymore and asked to join the group embrace as well, and of course, none of them were opposed to that.
"Sensei..." Joseph whispered while looking at Xadi, "Do you know this pain too...?"
Xadi remained silent for a moment and soon began to speak while crossing his arms, "Yes... I lost my parents and my wife when I was not that much older than you... It's like the ice lady said... Death is the same for us all... It will probably happen to you as well at some point... So get ready for it by not creating any strong attachments to anything or anyone..."
"Anyone...?" Joseph repeated.
"Anyone..." Xadi answered, "Bonds just weaken you down and let you vulnerable for the enemy to strike when your guard is down..."
Joseph stared at the crossbow family, at how they each stood side-by-side and carrying each other while reaching their lowest point. The boy would often hear every now and then from his parents about how one of his uncles died, or how one of his grandparents might have passed, but neither he nor his mother and father ever showed this kind of reaction.
"I don't know..." The boy whispered, "They don't seem weak to me at all..."
Joseph then stood up and began to bow while looking at Detra.
"Eh...?" the ice mage mumbled.
"I wanna fight too! Can you please put my name on the list?"
Detra raised an eyebrow, "Pardon me...? Where did that come from...?"
"Please!" Joseph begged, "This is the first time I ever felt what it means to be a true family! I wanna fight for them as well!!"
Detra began to rub her chin while looking at the kid and suddenly noticed Daren coming closer as well.
"Me too..." he said, "Let me fight in this battle!"
"You!?" Detra gasped, "You wanna fight? But... How...??"
"I can use magic now! Leona showed me how to do it! Please!" Daren insisted.
"Me too!!" another voice spoke, Ashley's voice, "I wanna fight as well!!"
"Wait, what!? You're not even a fighter!" Detra tried to argue.
At that moment, Marcus began to glow and finally changed from his blade form back into his human form.
"She can!" He declared, "I saw it! With the right weapon, she definitely can!"
"Wait, wait, wait... Hold on a second..." Detra tried to beg while raising her hands.
"Detra..." Evlin said with a look of resolution as she and her whole family came forward, "Please, let us fight for our friend!"
Detra looked at their eyes. These weren't the eyes of people who wanted to fight for revenge. They were not the eyes Daren used to show, that Evlin used to show, or that Hana used to show. They were different. As if they had no anger inside their hearts, only a desire to let their fallen comrade know that he can count on them to bring forth the victory.
"You people are crazy... You know that...?" Detra commented, "You think just because you want to win you will have no trouble against the dragons?"
"Yes..." Evlin bluntly replied, "Because our reason to win is much bigger than any reason Knucker might have..."
"Why?" Detra asked, "For revenge...? It's always about revenge when it comes to you guys..."
Evlin began to think about how Daren and his group almost killed themselves by trying to go after Detra with no plan due to their hatred for her, and how she herself almost lost her life to Mia because she would go after her with only the desire to get revenge in mind, making her commit many mistakes in the process.
She did not know how she would feel the next time Knucker appeared in front of her, but right now, there was no anger or desire to get revenge on him, only a deep hole in her heart from knowing that she would never see Gustav again, and a fear that the same might happen again.
The woman then understood, she loved her family more than she hated her enemy. She didn't want to get payback on him, only to keep them safe, and for that to happen, he needed to go away.
"No... Revenge never goes anywhere... I just want this to end... This is about survival..." Evlin corrected, while wiping her tears, "I just wanna stop that guy and end this... Before I lose anyone else..."