The conversation didn't turn out to be terribly uncomfortable as the two friends had suspected. Once surrounded by music and literature Roderick became almost animated. McGill had had the good sense to draw the conversation away from art as soon as their host arrived and made it his duty for the remainder of the night to keep it away, far away. Instead the trio spoke about songs they liked or had heard recently and tried out Victor's ukulele and some of Roderick's many instruments. His favorite, apparently was the violin, which he played beautifully. He played all of the instruments beautifully. Fernandez supposed this was out of necessity, as playing the wrong notes would hurt, however, he hated to imagine the hours of torture the other boy must have gone through simply to be able to play properly. He listened diligently as Roderick gushed softly about the ancient literature he enjoyed, which apparently like his art had a fair amount of violence and gore in it.
“Why aren't these classics the ones they make us read in school?” McGill asked. “I feel cheated.”
“Old stories are always the best.” Roderick agreed.
“But I like to think we've evolved past this.” Fernandez pointed out, though enjoying the stories as well. “There's so much violence and grandeur, like Beowulf- seems a bit far fetched, doesn't it?”
“Yes, or maybe we've just gotten weaker.” Roderick said softly. “Perhaps there were men like that, long ago, and one day we got too strong, too violent, and now we've hidden our carnage away deep down in order to save our humanity.”
He sat quietly, wide eyed and numb again, and Fernandez was unsure of what to say to bring him back.
“I learned a story when I was in elementary.” McGill cut in. “About a man that slowed the sun so that his mother's cloth could have time to dry.”
He told the story, which Fernandez thought was still very far fetched but oddly inspiring despite that. At any rate, it pulled Roderick back from wherever dark place he went. It was interesting to tell and hear stories about men who where so strong that they could simply say- you are troubled by a monster? I'll kill it. The sun is too fast? I'll rip off some of it's legs so it's slower. One couldn't really say that there was much of a thought process behind their reasoning, but the sheer magnitude of the task was astounding and that is what captured an audience. It was funny, Fernandez thought, as he, like many other young gentlemen, were taught from an early age that violence and brute strength rarely solved anything. They grew up under the premise that they were better than that and strived to be educated and witty, as that is what a true gentlemen is, and yet here they sat, drawn to stories of men of simple mind and astounding strength, who could not have accomplished such tasks without their strength. And for such simple purposes! To help people one doesn't know? So your people can finish chanting before the day is out? It seemed so strange. When he expressed this his friends shrugged simply.
“They were acts of chivalry.” Roderick explained. “Very often men with great strength or other physical gifts are depicted as doing random acts of good for those they know or meet. That's what makes them heroes.”
“I know.” Fernandez shrugged. “I simply meant to point out how odd it is that we are drawn to stories of great strength and thoughtless good deeds and in reality we strive to be very thoughtful and rarely do good for others without expecting something in return.”
“It's practicality.” McGill responded.
“Yes, but...” Fernandez struggled to explain. “Surely there are some people that wish to be chivalrous.”
“This is romanticism?" Daniel asked, startled. "But I have never met a courageous Romantic!”
“Most romantics are more into the theatrics than transferring the lessons into reality, honestly.”
“It's self sacrificing and impractical, like I said, with little to no rewards other than good karma, which is not instantaneous, and good nature, which is very seldom recognized.”
McGill looked at his friend sadly, who was still struggling to grasp the concept of this mass self preservation. When did it become more prevalent than looking out for one's fellow man? Why? We have to go back the poor doctor thought.
“Allow me to explain it in a different way.” his friend offered. “I think you misunderstand that these stories were never really reality. They are more like propaganda to uplift do-gooders who did things for others, as this is ultimately the courageous and right thing to do. In truth, if we could all trust and rely on each other, we could progress quicker and function better. However, due to human nature the ultimate truth is that we can't. Now, think of the stock hero- the 'knight in shining armor'. He is the person who decides to live by the morals of these stories, the person you are looking for. The reason he is in shining armor is because it is new and untested. The truth is there are many chivalrous heroes that go off to do good, but over time they are met with the harsh reality that it isn't practical and very seldom rewarded, if not punished at times for it's stupidity and trustfulness. The reason you never here of any knights in battered armor is because, eventually, they either submit to reason or they die.”
Roderick nodded and bowed his head as if in mourning, but Fernandez looked at his friend determinedly.
“I refuse to believe that.”
Roderick looked at him, startled, but McGill chuckled.
“That's fine, I simply gave you an answer to your question.”
“Well then why do you do it then?” his friend countered.
“What?” McGill asked, surprised.
“When we started this you never asked for any money, you just took it when you were offered it. So why were you helping people solve their family murders or find their lost things if not out of chivalry?”
“I was bored.” McGill smirked.
“It's still chivalry.” Fernandez said firmly.
“Yes!” his friend laughed. “The bored knight! Here to help whenever I don't have anything better to do!”
Roderick chuckled as well, which sounded a bit like air escaping from a popped balloon.
“And I'm the afflicted minstrel.” he added, happy to be apart of a group. “Composing songs in what frequencies I can tolerate.”
The two continued to chuckle and Fernandez, beaten, slumped into his seat and crossed his arms.
“Laugh all you want.” he grumbled. “Deep down, you're a chivalrous person.”
“Ow!” the soldier whimpered when Mina kicked him.
The young man had been under fire for the last three days and therefore hadn't been able to sleep. Surrounded by the almost quiet in the safe setting of the hidden room his wits began to give in, or rather collapse. He began to wonder where he was and what he was doing. Sleep. No! He couldn't sleep because....Danger, yes that was it, there was danger outside. They mustn't find him. Sleep. Find...what was it he was looking for? Sleep. He peered around the room. What was it? Sleep. He stumbled forward a bit, falling onto the carpet. Ah yes, that was it- he was supposed to find a place to sleep...because of the danger, or...something. It didn't matter. I found you he thought as he curled up happily.
“A close call.” the soldier smiled when Mina roused him. “But a miss is as good as a mile. I'm not saved yet, though.” He glanced at the clock. “This group is still passing through- you don't mind if I wait a while do you?” he asked sheepishly.
Mina didn't see how she could refuse so she nodded. He smiled cheerfully, in an oddly good mood for someone who had only just cheated death, she thought.
“I owe you my life, which is a bit awkward given my current position. I wish I had joined the American army now instead of the Mexican....I'm not a native Mexican.” he added, wondering if this would change her scornful expression. She seemed oddly upset for someone who's life was not in any danger.
“No.” Mina mused. “You're one of the German soldiers sent to help Mexico get this state back in return for help overseas.”
“Yes, no, kind of.” he sighed. “I'm a professional soldier. I joined the German army at the beginning of the war because they were closer to where I was at the moment. Don't be angry with me, it's just my job and your country won anyways.”
“I'm not angry.” she lied.
“Yes you are.” he argued. “You look as though you are angrier with me now than when I was pointing a gun at you.”
“Oh!” Mina squealed, which caused the soldier to jump.
“Ah! What! What is it!?”
“It's just....your gun.” she said, walking over to the couch. “It was right here the whole time.”
“Is that all?” he snapped, annoyed.
“It was staring the officers in the face.” Mina pointed out, wondering why he was so vexed, then added. “But so sorry I frightened you.”
She tossed it towards him.
“Here you are, protect yourself from me-oh!” she giggled, seeing Kenzo sniffing at the confused soldier. “And him too-he can smell fear.”
The soldier chuckled at the sarcasm but lay the pistol on the side table.
“It's no use, it isn't loaded.”
“Then load it.”
“No you misunderstand.” he smiled. “It was never loaded- what use would a pistol be in an airship battle? For the most part I just carry chocolate inside, but I ran out of that a few days ago. What?” he asked when he saw her gaping at him, looking almost offended.
“You're a child.” she said, stunned. “You honestly carry around sweets as though you're in elementary school, even on the battlefield?”
“I like chocolate.” he said defensively. “And it's not childish, it's practical. As I said, I never use my pistol, I might as well use it to carry my favorite food.
What are you doing?” he asked nervously when he saw her get up and leave. He remembered how friendly she had been with the policemen and added quickly. “Don't think I'm unarmed- I still have my saber you know!”
She returned and dropped a box in front of him.
“I'm sorry I've eaten the rest.”
The soldier looked at it wide-eyed, not completely believing what was in front of him, before attacking what was left in the confection box ravenously. Mina quietly set up two cups next to the empty pistol and began to pour some hot tea, which she knew she would need if she was going to stay up any later.
“You're an angel.” the soldier exclaimed when she handed him one. Kenzo, meanwhile, having decided he wasn't a threat, hopped up beside the young man and began to nudge his hand with his head. The soldier chuckled, giving in, and scratched the pup behind the ear.
“You really are too nice for your own good.” he said, turning to Mina.
“Am I?” she mused, setting the teapot down.
“Well yes.” he smiled sadly. “I held you at gunpoint and threatened you terribly and you saved me and gave me something to eat and drink. I'm very grateful but you seem more at ease than you really ought to.”
“I am incredibly at ease with you, but that's because your so pathetic.” Mina replied. “And I have no reason to be frightened.”
“Because I have no ammunition?” he guessed, brushing over the insult. “That isn't a huge disadvantage, and your sword is behind the couch out of your reach.”
She held up the teapot.
“This is my teapot.” Mina explained. “My parents gave it to me for my birthday last year. It has plumerias on it to instill positivity and long life.”
“It's very nice.” he said politely.
“Now pick it up.” she commanded, placing it on the table.
“It's heavy.” he said, startled.
“Yes, it's cast iron.” she explained. “And filled with hot tea. If I get frightened I'll hit you with it.”
“Valkyrie.” he corrected. “Forgive me for bringing it up, and falling asleep in your room, and snapping at you earlier. I haven't slept for three days- I've been under fire so I'm very tired and nervous. If I were at camp they would play all sorts of tricks on me. Do you want to see me cry?” he asked.
“No.” Mina said quickly.
“Ok.” he said, peering into his cup numbly. “Because all you would really have to do is yell at me.”
“I have no desire to see anyone cry.”
“Are you sure? I know I made you fairly upset and-”
She studied his glazed expression and was reminded of the time Victor had stayed up for more than 24 hours and broke down crying about how cold he felt and how he couldn't sleep and he didn't know what to do. (He collapsed in his chair shortly after making the later statement.) Sleep deprivation was a frighteningly strong thing. (She knew that she herself got very cranky.) The boy closed his eyes, exhaling, and, seeming to gather what vigor he had left, got up.
“This band has gone, it will be about ten minutes until the next come through.” he explained. “I should go before the chance passes- I don't want to bother you any longer than necessary.”
“Oh, um, thank you.” Mina said, startled by the change. “Are you sure? You seemed fairly... not quite in your right mind.”
“I know, but this isn't the worst I've been.” he said firmly. “The good thing is that when I know something needs to be done, I can almost always muster up the energy to do so.”
“Wait.” Mina cut in as he walked towards the door. She ran and got the coat Victor had worn when he disguised himself- it was a simple weather beaten thing that he had meant to give back to the theater but which everyone seemed to have forgotten about. At least it would be able to cover the soldier's uniform.
“I'll return it as soon as I'm somewhere safe.” he said, taking the coat gratefully and gingerly lowering himself out the window. “I owe you my life, my lady, and am very sorry all the things I said to you when I was frightened and hungry. Guet Nacht.”
“Goodbye.” Mina responded, waving as he climbed to the ground. She wondered if she would ever see him again.