Chapter 25 - Talking Bones

“All right Gurden, you’re free to roam around with the others. But make one mistake from my orders and know there will be consequences.” The human turned and walked back to join another group of humans sitting around a fire. The sun was up, and pleasant smells wafted in from the wind carrying the scent of burning fish. Though he felt delight in this moment from being freed from the cage, the entire process of being captured by humans wasn’t as carefree as he had once thought. He never expected them to be so cruel. But now he could start his true purpose: use the humans to help him grow in strength.


“Good to see you are finally free, Guile.” Chya smirked. “You got let out on an easy day. We’re all just loitering around on the outskirts of the camp.” She pointed toward a large group of Higher Being staring out into the forest. “I’ll introduce you to the rest of us. They didn’t want to meet you until you were let out of the cage.”


Chya walked forward and Guile followed, taking in as much of the camp as he could. Tents set up all throughout the forest flapped with bursts of wind, most ragged and dilapidated, though a few comprised sturdier material than cloth. Surely, the human leaders were in those.


It had been about a week since Guile had been here. Mouthwatering food arrived before him every day, much of which he had never tasted until this point in his life, and though that might have seemed ideal, rigorous training greeted him at the last bite of every meal. The human took him out of the cage and chained him up, demanding Guile to obey its every order all day, every day. Forced to endure beatings to determine how well he could keep his ground after being attacked. Forced to lash out on trees, bloodying his body. Forced to stare only forward wherever the human led him. Forced to feel nothing but humiliation.


“Ah, the slave comes,” a creature with bones for a head and a tail faced Guile. “Wasn’t sure if you were going to make it. You were looking pretty grim a few of those days.”



Guile said nothing but followed Chya and seated himself beside her. He recognized the undead-looking Higher Being from the one time he was in the Parti Tab when he scanned through the list of everyone the humans had enslaved in the same network of Parti Tabs. Never did he think it was an actual Higher Being. He thought it was some kind of joke, perhaps a symbol to show that that specific Higher Being had died.


“You know you can talk now,” the bones said. “I’m not quite as bad as the humans, or even Chya over here. The little plant thinks she runs the show.”


Chya yanked her head toward the creature of bones, the small leaf on her head slapping back against her forehead.


“It’s true, you’re in love with our master. What do they call that again?” The bones sat down on a tree stump. “Ah, whatever. Just take it easy, Gurden. We don’t get too many days like this. At any moment they can force us to fight something, let’s just hope it’s better than the last thing we all encountered. Why would our human even send us against something like that? Obviously we stood no chance. We even lost two of our comrades, and yet you still defend them, Chya. Pathetic.”


“It’s not as if we can defy them, Skell.”


“Not yet. Perhaps someday we’ll be able to slit their throats in their sleep,” Skell cackled.


Guile didn’t know what to think. He already knew that things were going to be much harder than he originally thought. He had tried to defy the punishments once to gauge the human’s reaction, and he suddenly felt tension rise all over his body as if his body was screaming at him to obey whatever the demon said. Even when he was forced to strike the tree with an exhausted body and tried to take a break, his body refused to listen.


“When does this feeling go away?” Guile muttered.


“Which feeling?” Skell said. “The feeling of hopelessness? Never.”


“I feel as if my body is constantly sending out a signal waiting for an answer to get permission to do every single thing.” Guile scratched his head. “How do those Parti Tabs work? Why can I still feel it? I’m not even close to it now.”


“You don’t need to be close. Once it captures the root signal of your energy, it can pull you back whenever a human wishes. No matter how far you are.” Chya massaged her small leaf. “It really isn’t as bad as you and Skell are making it to be. If we are ever in danger, our master will pull us back and the Parti Tab will heal all our wounds.”


“Your leaf wasn’t healed completely though?” Guile said.


“It was torn off. The Parti Tab can only regrow limbs or heal you if you feed it new energy, then that energy gets converted into Parti and is used for that purpose. I’ve been on vacation for being such a great Zinnal to our master, it’ll grow back quickly once I give the Tab new energy,” Chya said, and Skell scoffed, shaking his head.


Guile’s face scrunched up. He had no idea what she was talking about, but it seemed all his current wounds from the human could be healed easily with that. Was that it? There was no growing stronger with humans? Only a return to his default state? His mind was at a blank, and he was too afraid to ask if growth was possible. If it turned out this had all been a lie, he doomed his friends to a lifetime of torture. He stared out into the dark forest ahead of him as grass rustled in the chilling breeze.


“So what now? We just sit until we are called upon?” Guile stared deeper into the grove of darkness ahead.


“Pretty much,” Skell said. “Days like these are rare. Well, except for Chya, who is the demon’s pet.” The bones glared at the Charthu. “Haven’t had a free day in about a week now. I plan on sitting out here all night, enjoying the tiny freedom I am given and letting the moonlight reflect my skull.”


“What were you doing the past week?” the Gurden asked.


“Going on expeditions with the human. I guess it’s better than sitting inside the Parti Tab all day, but not by much. I was only captured about a couple months ago, they snuck up on me in a volcano of all places. Tch, thought humans weren’t able to go to such areas. Now, I’m forced to fight other Zinnals, all for the purpose of collecting ‘Parti’ and whatever else the human wants from us. I managed to reach level 9 now though. Apparently, I’ve grown stronger, but I don’t feel any difference. Whenever the other Zinnals leveled up a bunch they changed in ways that were very noticeable, but not me. Still the damn Voice keeps telling me my numbers are increasing with each battle, but I don’t buy it. I only feel worse after each serious fight. Duels on the other hand…” Skell paused as they saw Guile’s questioning face. “And now I’m just rambling on and on.”


Chya interjected, “Skell, I’ve told you before, each Zinnal species is different when it comes to how the Parti System works. In time you will grow like the rest of us.”


Skell shrugged. “The rest of us? You’re saying this is a stronger version of yourself?” He laughed, then sighed after looking at Chya. “If you say so, I hope I don’t have to stick along long enough to find out.”


“Is it true, though? That with humans we can become much stronger than if we were alone?” Guile stood up, feeling nauseous. The moment of truth.


Chya nodded. “One hundred percent.”


Guile took a deep breath and felt relief fill his body. “Okay, I can do this then. I have to. I will grow stronger until I find a way to break out.”


The Charthu cackled. “There’s no escape.”