Rei continued to push limbs out of the way. Occasionally they swung back and hit Keena or Bard, as if she had forgotten they were behind her.
"I think it might be a good idea to set up camp, Rei. It's the middle of the night. We've been walking since we left Titansburg this evening." Keena stated.
"Then set up camp. I'm going to keep moving. Sorry Mom and Dad aren't as important to you."
"Rei, I didn't mean it like that."
"I'm sure you didn't." She said with a sarcastic tone.
"What is wrong with you?"
Bard stopped. "I do apologize to have to interrupt your…feud…but I can see a small light ahead. I believe that there are others camping here."
He was right. Just ahead was a single man sitting on a stump. He was tending to a small pot hovering over a fire. A tent was pitched close-by. He wore a jacket with a familiar emblem. Rei rushed forward. Bard tried to stop her, but he wasn't quick enough.
"Ah, it's nice to spend time in the outdoors every once in a --"
The man appeared startled. "Huh? W-who are you?"
Rei grabbed his collar. Her cutter was already in hand. "You ought to know! Where are they?! Where are you keeping them?"
"I don't know what you're talking about! I swear!"
"You're with a group called Magnum Chaos, aren't you?! Don't you lie to me!"
"I-I-I left them months ago! They were trying to use me as a guinea pig for those evil machines! I didn't sign up for any of that!"
"Don't change the subject! Tell me what I want to know!"
"I don't know anything!"
"Then you're USELESS to me!"
"Wait! Don't hurt me, please!"
Rei swung. Inches from his face, her blade was intercepted by Bard's bō.
"Don't interfere with my business, Bard!"
"You're going about this the wrong way, Rei. Using force is not the proper way to get answers. If you remain calm he might respond to your questions with more clarity."
"I'll do this my own way! I know how they are! Without a blade at their throat they won't say a word!"
Keena tried to jump in. "Umm, guys? He's leaving the --".
"I will not allow you to take another innocent life. If you make any attempt to harm someone else without adequate reason I will stop you!"
Rei noticed the man had already fled the area.
"Ahh! You let him get away! I didn't even get to at least find out where their base is! It's all YOUR FAULT!"
Rei repelled him and lowered her sword.
Keena placed a hand on Rei's shoulder. "Rei, you're being too --".
She shrugged her off. "Save it! You aren't helping. Neither of you are! 'Let's take breaks!'. 'We need to stop here!'. 'You're being too reckless!'. You two have done nothing but hinder me at every corner!"
"What? No! We've been helping as much as possible. Let me remind you if it wasn't for our help you might have been arrested by now. Or possibly killed!"
"Shut up! I can fend for myself! I am so sick, of everyone trying to hold me back!"
Bard's expression was stern. "Keena is right, Rei. We've only been doing everything we can to not only help you, but to watch over you as well. Your reckless methods have left you to neglect your own health and safety."
"Don't lecture me. I know what I'm doing!"
"Rei. I want you close your eyes, take a deep breath. Then exhale slowly, and calm yourself. There is no need to get so worked up."
"Don't tell me to calm down! I had an opportunity! And because of you, it's gone! I don't want your so-called 'help' anymore, nor do I need it!"
She held up her sword. Keena began to panic.
"Please, we don't need to turn on each other! We've already come so far!"
Rei ignored her. "Get out of here. Don't make me have to kill you."
Bard wore a remorseful expression. Another voice entered his mind.
"…Why do you have to be such a soft stick-in-the-mud who's always too afraid to bear his fangs! Until you want to stand up for what you know is right and not let anyone tell you otherwise I don't want to ever see you again! "
He closed his eyes for a brief moment. "Rei, it's your quest and you have every right to dictate whether I accompany you or not. However, this is most unlike you. When we first met you, you were simply a determined girl with a mission. As time progressed you've begun to slip into insanity. I refuse to rely on your judgement any longer."
"Then leave. If you don't like me, why are you still here? It's not like you ever cared."
"I do care, Rei! If this meant nothing to me, I would have left you crying on the outskirts of Olympia. I was never expecting to gain anything by coming with you. I hate more than anything to see families break apart."
"No! You're lying! He says you are!"
"Someone…in my head…it's Dad's voice…I know it is! He says you can't be trusted!"
A small tear formed in the corner of Keena's eye. "Rei, listen to me. You're only imagining. We are trying to help you! If we were untrustworthy, why would we have stayed with you this far?"
Rei's eye was starting to twitch slightly. "You…you both are trying to deceive me! This is all a lie! Get away, or DIE!"
Bard sighed. "Very well. I do not like it, but if fighting is the only way to get through to you, then I'll do what I must."
"You will try…"
Rei made the first move. Bard could easily defend himself. He made a counterattack, but Rei parried as well.
Keena tried to get in the middle.
"Stop it! Stop it, both of you!"
Rei simply slashed at her. When she jumped back, Rei aimed her attention back to Bard. Again their weapons clashed, and repelled. On Rei's next attack, Bard sidestepped and forced the rod into her abdomen. She was thrown backwards and fell to the ground.
"This is your final warning, Rei. Stand down."
Rei growled with rage. She got up and rushed Bard, only to be knocked down again.
"You are still an amateur in combat. Stop this complete foolishness!"
"You underestimate me!"
Once again Rei arose. When they were forced into another clash, they repelled.
"I failed Rei. I thought I could talk sense into you."
"I should have known that you were only trying to use me for some gain of your own! All I can trust is Dad's voice."
"Rei! That voice isn't real! I'm not trying to take advantage of you!"
"From his point of view you are!"
"Then you are lost!"
Rei continued to try fighting. Bard was suddenly aggressive, and hitting with much more force. Rei could block a few, but she missed a direct blow to her thigh. She fell to the ground and dropped her cutter. Bard then sent her rolling after he whacked her with a golf swing.
Rei tried to get up again, but she could not. The pain in both her arms and legs wouldn't allow her to move. There were tears in her clothing, and she was covered in dirt.
"You…! I'll…kill you!" Rei was crying out of anger. She grabbed at the ground and tried to drag herself forward.
"…Rei, I'm very sorry. I could do nothing to bring you to your senses. I thought you would appreciate my company, not treat me like a simple tag-along! I was supposed to help you, not have to hurt you!" He picked up Rei's cutter and turned.
Rei's eyes were red and puffy. She still attempted to move in vain.
"I hate you!"
"You were almost like a relative of my own, Rei! I loved you! …I'm sorry, Rei. I'm sorry."
He began to walk away. Keena stood speechless, her expression full of worry.
"It's time to go, Keena."
"But what about…"
"It is up to you. Between herself and I, our paths must now part. Whether you continue to go along with her or not is up to you."
Keena looked back toward Rei. "How pathetic…I had never imagined she would become so twisted. It's not your fault, Bard. I hoped that a fight wouldn't break out but you did the right thing."
"Did I, Keena? I've accomplished nothing other than severely hurting a sixteen-year old girl."
"She's not the same person we met. You stood up for your beliefs, and fought accordingly. If she no longer wants our help, there is nothing we can do."
"…Keena. There is something I should have told you much sooner. I was just too afraid to bring it up."
"Yes? What is it?"
"I…I'm…Nevermind. It's not important anymore."
With those words, Bard departed. Keena looked back at Rei one last time before following him.
Now alone, Rei continued to blindly drag herself along the ground. When she got to the nearest tree, she used the last of her strength to flip herself up against the trunk. It took her everything to keep from screaming out in pain.
"D-Dad…I couldn't do it. But I'll still save you. I'm just a bit delayed…"
"I am closer than you think, child. They meant nothing, let them leave. We will meet soon in due time. Don't you dare die before then."
Exhausted and hurt, she had no more energy left to stay awake. Her head slumped over, and she was fast asleep.