Artist: Fate Stay/Night Unlimited Blade Works OST - Song: Sorrow - Word Count: 2,050
He had no expected such a sudden admittance of a loss and he didn't expect her to begin to cry before his very eyes either. In fact, most of today wasn't even going according to what he had originally planned to do for the day by himself. Steiner had originally planned for this day to be a day of study and practice, but it had now become a day that he had made a girl cry. Internally Steiner felt horrible and on the outside his facial expression matched that feeling completely as his eyes went wide in shock and he stood completely still as he stared at her as she turned away from him. He knew something was wrong, something more than what this argument had been about, but he couldn't place his finger on it. With a position such as hers maybe she was under a great deal of stress working for the Vanguard? Or perhaps she was having issues with something of a more personal nature? All in all, he felt horrible for making her feel the way she did, and looked down at himself in disappointment for what he had done only moments ago.
The people around him were judging him harshly, he could tell from the way they were looking at him as he glanced around, and he knew there was only one thing that he could do to make things right. So he did what any sensible man would do in this situation and ran in front of her to make her stop from walking away from him. For a moment, he would look at her with an odd glance and then without hesitation reared back and punched himself in the face. For a moment the crowd let out a gasp of confusion as to why the young man had done such a thing, but in Steiner's mind it made perfect sense for him to punish himself with a quick right to his face for making a young lady cry. "It is not my place to judge you.
", Steiner stated as he felt his cheek, clearly realizing that he had socked himself real good at that point as a small drop of blood came from the side of his mouth.
"A year and a half ago I was captured by a group of Arrancar while I was on a routine patrol route ensuring the safety of the roads leading out of Karakura. I was captured due to my own rashness, I dove head first into trouble because a group of kids were on their way into town from some kind of field trip or something, and I decided to jump into action without backup to intercept the Arrancar. What followed was a few weeks of torture...they would beat me up, break me in ways that I could never fathom, and watch me struggle to cope with the pain that they had put me through. Every day after their beatings they would ask me to beg them for death and I would spit in their face...every damn day I did this, but they would heal me back up. They took some sick pleasure in having me be fresh for the next day of torture, they wanted me to feel whole, and then take it away again, and for a few weeks that would happen.
", Steiner looked down, he still wasn't used to telling this story, and he didn't feel good talking about it in front of a total stranger, but he felt she needed to know more about him to understand him. "Eventually they grew bored with just beating me up and expanded their horizons by bringing back some poor soul they had found in the wastes...they would...
", Steiner tried to get it out, but his breath had become ragged as he had tried to speak.
"They tortured people in front of me, chained me up so I could fucking watch as they murdered innocent people in front of me.
", Steiner let it out, his own eyes clouding with tears as he looked dead straight toward her face. "They would beg for help...I would struggle in my chains, begging them to hurt me instead...to pick on someone who could at least fight back! But every time they would end them, every time they would grin at me, and tease me as I stood their drained. Eventually they grew bored of that though and decided their fun was at an end. So after killing my Ziamichi spirt and severing me from my source of power, they impaled me on my own sword.
", Steiner said slowly as he wiped the tears from his eyes and let out a deep sigh before continuing on. "They didn't kill me there though...they wanted me to bleed out from the wound. They said I was too weak for a proper death and opted to let the vultures pick me dry instead of just ending me. Even in their last act they were ruthless, there was no mercy there. They left me to die in the wastes, alone, and dying from blood loss. I crawled for hours, calling out to anyone to save me, and no one came...not a single person came.
", Steiner paused as he looked around as the crowd had gone silent that had originally been judging him poorly. They now instead saw the broken man that Steiner Franz was, what had once been a hero of honor was now nothing more than some left over scraps of what he had once been.
For a moment there was silence as Steiner tried to best focus himself on recanting the next part of his tale. She needed to know, she needed to understand, but more importantly, he needed to get this off his chest. He had never told a soul about this story and even his report to the Vanguard when he had recovered had not covered the trauma he had been through, it just told a bit, but not the whole thing. He felt it was better that way, he didn't want their pity, and he sure as hell didn't want some kind of medical pay for his services rendered. He had joined the Vanguard to be a hero and protect people, nothing more, nothing less. "Luckily some old lady with some kind of knowledge in herbal remedies patched me up...I ended up spending a few months on bed rest, but after my time with that was done I was back to business...I tried so hard to get back to business.
", Steiner paused again as he leaned against a nearby store front, and brushed the hair from his eyes.
The tears continued to stream down his face as he took deep breaths, willing himself to continue on with this tale. "About a month in to being back, I was placed on desk duty due to the nature of my circumstances, and that is when the pain started. I went to medical and then they hit me with the bad news. I was dying. My soul had been damaged from the events that had transpired in the wastes...and in essence my soul was destroying my body due to some kind of 'imbalance' is what they said. In truth...they had no idea what was wrong with me, they just said something that sounded right, and even gave me the expiration date on everything that was me. Hell, they even explained that due to the nature of my 'illness' that they didn't even know if my soul would survive after I die...so...no afterlife for me!
", Steiner tried his best to give her a mock smile as he said the last part. Just remembering all this was painful, but he kept on going.
"They said you have a few years, but don't do anything except sit at a desk, and file paperwork. They even tried to offer me severance pay so I wouldn't have to work...so I quit. I had joined to save people, to protect people, and now they didn't even want me on staff. After all, who wants to play around with damaged goods am I right? Maybe it was out of some kind of spite or something...some kind of frustration with the cards that I had been dealt that I just put everything into doing what I could for the little guy. I practiced heroism...some times for days I wouldn't sleep. I would just fight the good fight wherever I went and for a while that made things better, but that is when everything started to go out on me. I coughed up blood, my body parts began to go numb, and my skin began to visibly turn gray while black veins began to pulsate around my skin.
", Steiner looked at himself in the window of the shop front, the reflection he saw was a complete wreck, and he wondered how he looked to the young Vanguard officer in front of him.
She probably judged him as some idiot for spilling these kind of beans in public, but Steiner wanted to explain himself to her. "The doctors told me that due to me over-exerting myself the ailment had accelerated. Every day I would look in the mirror and I would see...I would see...
", more tears began to roll down his face, and he tried his best to conceal them by looking down. "I got depressed, I tried to cover myself up so I could go places, and I even made a bucket list to enjoy my last few weeks. I gave up, it was so fucking easy to just accept that I was gonna lose everything. I hid myself from people, I didn't interact with anyone because there was no reason to. I was basically a dead man walking and I didn't want to burden anyone with that knowledge. Eventually, I found myself in Russia, and a girl named Ritsuko...she made me realize that even though I was dying... I couldn't stop being me.
", Steiner nodded as he looked up at Chifuyu. His eyes were red and his cheeks were flushed, but he still had more to tell.
"So, I came here, and as I began to believe that I could beat this thing...I started getting better. I met Mirja and though we don't see eye to eye on what heroism means she still taught me and ever since then I have striven to get better, to be better. Because I won't let anyone go through what I went through. But you are right though...I am reckless, I'm an idiot, and I've made you upset. And for that I deeply apologize. Still, if I had the choice to change what I did, and wait for back up to arrive while those Arrancar slaughtered those kids...I would still dive head first to stop them. I would repeat the same ordeals, I would struggle through all the depression, the pain, the medicine, and the overall self-loathing all over again to make sure that those kids have a future. That is what being a hero is, that is what Azure was, and that is what I am willing to put my all into being. Because the best way to honor his memory is to keep fighting the good fight and keep giving even if there is nothing left to give because you can't let evil win. You can't let yourself give up! You have to keep fighting because if you stop for even a second... that is when you let evil win and that is when you let yourself lose.
", Steiner spoke the last bit with absolute conviction in his eyes and in his stance as he stood before Chifuyu.
He felt ridiculous for saying all that, but maybe his story would help her understand, and maybe even make her feel better in an odd way? He didn't know, he just felt like he had to explain his stupidity, and himself in a way that would make her understand his point of view. "I know I can be an idiot sometimes, but I just hope you can forgive me if I offended you.
", he finished as he looked at her with a weak smile, his eyes were now brimming with confidence and a bit of ease. He felt better after getting that off his chest.